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Letters: ‘The Quintet of Chaos’ will soon fall silent

The Tory reign will shortly come to an end, and this bunch of incompetent charlatans will not be remembered fondly

Image: The New European

As the “Cheerio!” front page of TNE #386 so wittily announces, the Tory reign will shortly come to an end. This prompted me to consider how the last decade-and-a-half will be summarised by future historians. 

Perhaps the five PMs will be grouped under the heading “the Quintet of Chaos” or “the Five Tellers of Twisted Truths”. Their period in office as “The Big Con Trick”.

As for the key mishandled issues their governments will be infamous for, well that’s as a simple as ABC – Austerity, Brexit, Covid.

Comfortingly, the only thing for us not to forget is that this load of incompetent charlatans will soon be history.
Paul Stein 
Pickering, North Yorks

How wonderful to read Suella Braverman’s advice for Rishi Sunak: “The hole to dig us out is the PM’s and it’s time for him to start shovelling.” Most people would think that continuing to dig when you are in a hole is not the best way out of one, so thank goodness for original thinkers like Suella.

Keir Starmer may indeed have “the charisma of a peanut”, as Braverman said in her unhinged rant on the Laura Kuenssberg show, but there can be no doubt as to which politician has a brain the size of one.
Diane Evans

Along with TNE, I subscribe to South Africa’s Daily Maverick, which is also a small but world-class newspaper that punches above its weight. 

On the letters page of the latest issue, UK-based South African Angela Dyer notes a wall plaque she saw earlier this year on a trip back to her native country. 

It read: “If serving is beneath you, leadership is beyond you”. Ms Dyer writes: “If only politicians the world over would consider this.” Absolutely. The current UK government, and particularly the prime minister, immediately come to mind.
Will Goble 
Rayleigh, Essex

I have just returned from voting for three Labour North Tyneside councillors, the Labour candidate for North East mayor and the Labour candidate for police and crime commissioner. Hardly surprising. I am, after all, a member of the Labour Party. Then, back home, I began to reflect on what exactly I had voted for. A party that has:

Ditched its £28bn green investment pledge, ruled out a wealth tax when in office, agreed to stick with Tory financial rules and turned down the EU offer of a reciprocal youth mobility scheme.

One that has, in addition, rowed back on its commitment to outlaw zero-hours contracts, decided to continue the practice of pouring NHS money into the pockets of private health companies, and taken an age to decide on the fate of Britain’s first trailblazing black female MP for a relatively minor if careless infraction, for which she immediately apologised.

I do not regret the way I voted. Anything to get rid of this wretched Conservative government. 

But I do slightly fear that by writing this letter I may risk being expelled from the party.
David Isaacs

How to fix elections
“Ruling on borrowed time” (TNE #386) was excellent, but James Ball need not worry – our parliamentary system is too far divorced from a presidential one. 

A simple reform would fix general election dates into the future (the repealed Fixed Term Parliaments Act was no such thing).

First, mandate that elections must take place on, say, the first Thursday in May in 2024, 2029, 2034, 2039, etc. Just like US presidential and congressional elections.

Second, allow parliament or the PM to call a snap election in between, but with the proviso that the newly elected parliament may serve only until the next fixed election date.

So an opportunistic PM going to the country three years after the last election gains only two years, not a full five-year term. Problem solved.
Philip C James 
Bath, Somerset

Peer pressure
Re: Everyday Philosophy on paternalism (TNE #386). I am a teacher at a small school that mostly takes children who have struggled in mainstream education. A lot of them have anxiety and find social connections difficult.

In the past, when a child struggled making friends, or had problems with their peers, they could go home to their family and have time to disconnect, re-centre themselves and, most importantly, have a safe space away from the stresses of learning how to navigate a social group.

Now there is no escape. These young people can’t distance themselves from their social group because it follows them home. The social pressure to be available 24/7 is huge. To not respond to someone immediately is the biggest faux pas. 

This constant demand for participation is leaving young people burnt out. Not enough parents are restricting phone use at night and children are staying up all night, not getting enough sleep, and not getting time to disconnect and recover. We know brains don’t finish developing until age 25, and yet we are expecting 16-year-olds to operate with an adult’s level of self-control to something that is as addictive as a drug.
Leah Thorber

Impatient in-patients
Like Alastair Campbell (Diary, TNE #386), I have nothing but praise for the NHS, having received successful treatment for several cancers over the last 31 years. Yes, I have, on occasion, had to wait my turn while other patients in more urgent need have taken precedence in the queue for treatment, but that is only fair in what should be an egalitarian society.

On many occasions too, whether at a hospital or my local GP medical centre, I have had to wait my turn in a waiting room and been forced to listen to others complaining, among other things, that their mobile phone battery has run out as they wait. I learned, many years ago, that a large good book (whether fiction or nonfiction) is the best weapon to fend off impatience in such waiting rooms and make the time pass quickly.

While I haven’t yet read any of Alastair Campbell’s books, perhaps one day I shall do so during a four-hour wait while someone more deserving is receiving treatment. I shall let him know what I think of his volume and doubtless express further praise for the NHS, as long as it is not owned by US corporations.
Androw Bennett
Llanarthne, Caerfyrddin

Don’t worry, be wealthy
Josh Barrie’s “The masters of Margherita” (TNE #386) mentioned Peter Boizot, who founded Pizza Express. It made him a millionaire.

It reminded me of the occasion I met Boizot at his hotel, The Great Northern, in Peterborough. Over a drink in the lounge, he asked me if I knew the best thing about being a millionaire.

I said, “No, what’s that?” He said: “It means you don’t have to worry about anything.”
Alan Clark 
Borrowash, Derbyshire

Would someone please inform Josh Barrie that a chausseur is a shoemaker and a chasseur is a hunter? If Josh really ate poulet chausseur with Les Dennis (TNE #385) it would have been tough as old boots.
Dudley Aries

Freedom of movement
Patience Wheatcroft’s “A stupid and stubborn betrayal of British youth” (TNE #386) highlighted the problem our young people have studying and working in other European destinations closer to the UK.

However, if you are from Northern Ireland, it is different. Students at Northern Ireland universities can still participate in the Erasmus scheme under an arrangement with the Irish government. It has stated that €2m a year will be provided to allow students in Northern Ireland to access third-level internships and semesters abroad across Europe.

On top of this, if the individual was born in Northern Ireland then they can obtain an Irish passport while retaining the UK one, and go to the EU to work or study as any EU citizen can.
Philip Suter 
Speen, Buckinghamshire

Off the rails
Re: “Tunnel vision” (TNE #386). The day the Eurostar wasn’t brought north of London (or even west of London) one could argue, in retrospect, that Brexit was always on the cards.

Eurostar from Birmingham New Street could very well have been the HS2 of its day. Eurostar to Leeds via a new alignment would have brought Europe closer to the north via, say, Sheffield, maybe Nottingham, too.

Sure, it would have been expensive, even then, but it could have been done. Look at the Shinkansen network in Japan, from 1964 to today. It took time, it cost money, but it’s amazing. Meanwhile, we won’t have a proper HS2, let alone an HS3.
Em Jackson

Français s’il vous plaît!
Re: “Living language” (Letters, TNE #386). In France the Toubon Law, named after Jacques Toubon, mandates the use of the French language in official government publications, etc. Wits refer to its originator as Mr Allgood, and to the law itself as La Loi Allgood.
Graham Guest 
Bromley, Greater London

I have long taken the state of British roads as a metaphor for the state of the country after 14 years of malevolent, wrong-headed and incompetent governance.

Bumping along an A-road recently that was in a not-untypical state of disrepair, my Anglo-French grandson, who lives in France, observed, “Grandad, les ouvriers ont oublié de réparer cette route” (Grandad, the workmen have forgotten to repair this road). A sound observation from a three-year-old that, sadly, could apply to so many aspects of Britain today.
Roger Sykes

Strong resistance
Thank you for publishing my response (Letters, TNE #386) to Matthew d’Ancona’s piece on conspiracy theories and my recollection of the way some students succumbed to relentless indoctrination by the Moonies in a remote camp in the US in 1973, while others resisted.

It is worth adding that those who successfully resisted were the committed Christians and convinced Marxists, who because of their own strong contrary beliefs were able to sustain their resistance to indoctrination. Strong beliefs – religious, political, philosophical – can also help us resist conspiracy theories, and other delusional narratives.
Anthony Thacker 
Hinckley, Leicestershire

Important Pointer 
I fear Alastair Campbell may have started a trend with his Greatest Claret of All Time musing (TNE #385) and the follow-up from Iain Noble (Letters, TNE #386). May I, as a supporter of Leicester City and thus with no skin in the game, nevertheless join the fray?

As a lad in the early 1960s I went to Filbert Street to watch the fabulous Burnley team of that era face Fulham in an FA Cup tie, played at a neutral ground as it was a second or maybe third replay. It was a thrilling game in which the Clarets triumphed 6-2.

There is no doubt in my mind that the greatest player on display for Burnley that night was the wonderful Ray Pointer, goalscorer supreme. Perhaps fans of other clubs could offer their own opinions on the subject.
Lynton Guest


Comments, conversation and correspondence from our online subscribers

I thoroughly agree with Paul Mason (“Labour’s golden opportunity”TNE #386) that introducing a UK ID card would solve many issues of identity-related crime. Almost all European countries seem to have ID cards. 

I had been living as a Brit in Belgium from 1987 until 2015, when the uncertainties of the Brexit outcome forced me to apply for dual nationality. Belgium has had an ID system in place since 1909. 

Once signed up, if you move to a new address, you will receive a visit from the local constabulary to verify your identity and that of other residents. I would have thought the right wing would have jumped on this as the ideal way to reduce crime and illegal immigration.
John Thompson

Tom Baldwin and Marc Stears’ “In search of Englishness” (TNE #386) was a refreshing look at our national “story” and long overdue. Raised on the exploits of Drake and other Elizabethan “buccaneers” (a beautifully polite term for a pirate in any other language), it is only very late in life that I have found the time to look more closely at the patriotic stories we were raised on. I knew that they were the glossy version, but digging deeper actually exposes a lot more than one might want to know.
Patrick Cox

Tanit Koch asks (Germansplaining, TNE #385) why the British aren’t also obsessed with white asparagus. Part of the reason is because of Brexit. With a German wife, my liking for Spargel dates back nearly 30 years. In west London, where we live, there is a German school. A German ghetto grew up around it, complete with a couple of delicatessens importing Spargel at least once a week in the season. Since Brexit this has stopped. We have spoken to the proprietors and the import of Spargel has been made prohibitive by bureaucracy and cost.
Clive Mabey

Re: Isabella Redmayne’s “Finding my French connection” (TNE #384). When I was Isabella’s age and recently graduated, I moved to Rome and spent a year teaching and working in a theatre company. Then I returned to London. Later, I worked in Belgium and the Netherlands. Then I went back to Italy for a few years. And no one ever asked if I had permission to be here, there or anywhere. I was an EU citizen – simple as that.
Richard Riddle


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