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Letters: The Tories destroyed what they did not use

Cameron and Osborne were not centrists; their brutal austerity, destruction of local government and the harm they did to young people were the result of hard right policies

Cameron and Osborne: ‘in favour of change and social liberalism’ or the architects of 14 years of misery? Photo: Daniel Leal/Olivas/WPA Pool/Getty

Re: “Goodbye to all that”, by Matthew d’Ancona on the Tories (TNE #390). I have to disagree that Cameron and Osborne were centrists – those were the clothes they pretended to wear, but they made the hard Thatcherite decision to shrink the state using the financial crash as cover. 

Cameron and Osborne destroyed what they did not build, understand or use – the parts that gave chances to those who did not come from wealthy backgrounds. Their brutal austerity failed on its own terms (that it would lower our national debt) and having wrecked the public finances, they removed any easy possibility of restoring the funding they slashed.

I will never forgive them for the destruction of local government, the harm they did to young people (not just the malnourished children but the cuts to youth services – the lives wrecked by this, the chances dashed), the closed libraries and swimming pools. Add Lansley’s utter ruination of the NHS, the public sector stagnant wages, the gifting of money to house builders to inflate asset prices but not create homes for people who needed them… the list of unforgivable acts goes on and on.

So no, not centrist – but hard right.
Louise Burton

What a great piece “Goodbye to all that” was. Matthew d’Ancona could have added the background collapse of public services, including local government and the justice system, not forgetting disabling the effective regulation of the private sector owners of public utilities, from post offices to water and railways, and there is a fine record. 

Also you could add corruption, money-grubbing MPs, the protective shield offered by media owners, a bloated House of Lords, and the tangled network of individuals who benefitted from Tory government becomes clearer. Disentangling that is a tougher task for the next government than defeating the rotten blue oak tree in the polls.
Roger Wilson

As the election was announced, I happened to be reading the US Conservative writer Christopher Buckley’s 2008 novel Boomsday. In it, an ineffectual president seeks re-election, while saddled with high inflation and numerous policy disasters, campaigning under the slogan: “He’s doing his best. Really”. Against expectations, he wins.

Perhaps, given his achievement-light premiership and dismal campaign so far, Mr Sunak might be advised to consider adopting a similar slogan. After all, life does sometimes imitate art.
Rob McIvor 
London SE13

In 2017 we got a hung parliament from an election that Labour could have won. In 2019 we got a Tory landslide in an election that Labour could have won. I shudder to think what Labour are planning for 2024.
Don Adamson

Grace and dignity
Re: “The fall and lies” by David Walmsley (TNE #390). The recent BBC documentary on the 1994 Chinook crash is well worth watching. 

I was particularly struck by the Jeremy Paxman interview, seeing it again after all these years. The sneering arrogance of the senior RAF officer was truly astonishing. 

My admiration of the grace and dignity shown by the families of the crash victims in the face of such attitudes is beyond measure.
Andrew Morrow

As ever, David Walmsley knows this story inside out and has never failed in his support of the families from day one. He has our heartfelt thanks for his unwavering support. I am quietly confident at this point.
Ann Magee, widow of Kevin Magee RUC(GC).

Mordaunt’s weakness
Re: Mandrake on Penny Mordaunt as a Tory leadership front-runner (TNE #390). Mordaunt’s chief weakness is that she is MP for a marginal seat.

I am sure that the swing against her in the general election will be less than against the likes of Jacob Rees-Mogg, but I am equally sure it will be enough to throw her out of parliament.
George Emerson

Tackle legal immigration
The thing about “A man disunited from reality” (TNE #390) is, as Labour will soon discover, that a majority of the British people agree with Sir Jim Ratcliffe. The UK can’t cope indefinitely, or for much longer, with the growing swell of immigrants – most of whom, it should be said, have a perfectly legal right to remain.

Never mind the small boats, the arrival each year of between one and two Southamptons is clearly unsustainable. For Jonty Bloom to suggest that a steady rise in numbers to 70 million or more is somehow good for the economy and the NHS is evidence that, on this at least, it is he who is out of touch with the public mood, not Ratcliffe, notwithstanding the latter’s idiotic call on Brexit.

If Labour doesn’t get a handle on legal immigration, it will be bundled out of office in 2029. The good news is that if it does, the country can set about the task of integrating all those people into a more liberal and progressive Britain.
Walter Ellis

Equine dining
Silvia Marchetti’s article on Italian horse meat (TNE #390) reminded me of Lewis and Clark’s expedition to search for the Northwest Passage.

On October 2, 1805, Clark recorded in his journal, “Hunters killed nothing excep a Small Prarie wolf. Provisions all out, which Compells us to kill one of our horses to eate and make Suep for the Sick men”.
Phil Jones 
Bourne End, Bucks

Re: “Italy says yay to horsemeat”. What makes killing horses as food any more cruel than killing any other animal?
Gordon Titchmarsh

Nietzsche was no nihilist
As a philosophy student, I love reading Nigel Warburton’s articles, and I am often amazed at how he explains such important concepts in such little space. However, I was disappointed by how he brushed off Nietzsche as a nihilist in TNE #390. 

Nietzsche was far from it. In fact, his entire philosophical project aimed to re-evaluate all values to save western culture from nihilism. 

As he saw it, Christianity itself is nihilistic. He argued that Christian morality was rooted in a denial of life, and its values were valueless, and so therefore was the most widespread form of nihilism. 
Jacob Syndercombe 

Nigel Warburton’s excellent piece (Everyday Philosophy, TNE #389) reminds us of the enduring significance of Bertrand Russell’s humanism, but one detail is incorrect. 

Peter was not the name of Betrand’s eldest son. He was named John Conrad, after his father’s friend, Joseph Conrad. John Conrad became the fourth Earl Russell in 1970.

Peter was the nickname of Patricia Russell, Bertrand’s third wife. She was the mother of Conrad Sebastian Robert.  He became the fifth Earl Russell in 1987, upon the death of his half-brother. From 1990 until his retirement in 2003, he was professor of British history at King’s College London.
Clive Coen 
Emeritus Professor of Neuroscience, King’s College London, London SE1

Belt and races
I very much enjoyed Charlie Connelly’s sympathetic telling of the tragic death of racing driver Alberto Ascari in Great Lives (TNE #389). 

One small point: Ascari would not have been wearing a seatbelt when his Ferrari plunged into the harbour at Monaco, as racing cars in the 1950s were not fitted with seatbelts. This is because drivers preferred to be thrown clear of their cars in an accident, even if that involved breaking arms and legs, than risk being trapped in their car if it caught fire, as was so often the case. 

Seatbelts didn’t become mandatory in Grand Prix racing until the 1970s, and some might remember Graham Hill’s fearful accident in late 1969 when he was thrown out of his Lotus and shattered both legs. 
Guy Wrench

Pipe dreams
I was delighted by the tailpiece to Alastair Campbell’s Diary in TNE #387. I have made and played bagpipes for a living for over 40 years.

I am honorary president of the Bagpipe Society (, catering to the interests of those who love bagpipes of whatever description worldwide.

We publish a quarterly journal, Chanter, where we can report examples of anti-bagpipism (or simply “bagpipism” as we tend to call it) whenever they are brought to our attention. 

As for Greek pipes, I was at an international bagpipe conference in Bulgaria last March, and had the great pleasure of seeing and hearing an 85-year-old maker and player of pipes from northern Greece. 

He also enthusiastically and energetically danced to the music of pipes from Bulgaria and Turkey. 

It was not lost on this observer that the extended and enthusiastic dancing together by members of all three of those nations was a striking example of an entente cordiale brought about by the music of the bagpipes.
Jon Swayne 
Glastonbury, Somerset

No can do
In response to James Ball’s “The bizarre planning stand-off on Starmer’s doorstep” (TNE website, May 25), there is a right place for intense 24/7 online grocery distribution centres, and it’s not in the backyard of a primary school, densely populated housing and an elderly care home.

This is indeed “a story repeated right across the country” and this case must not set national precedents. Policy change is required to ensure growth that is mutually beneficial to community and business. 

Such distribution centres should not open within 400 metres of vulnerable communities such as school children, the elderly, people with disabilities or facilities such as hospitals. And such centres should require planning permission to acknowledge any damaging effects.

This is another example of a corporate not looking at the detail and wasting millions of shareholder, local authority and local residents’ money and resources. 

If Ocado were awake on the job, they would have noticed from day one that they had been sold a pup by the landlord.
NOcado campaign group 
London N19

Hotels are a dog’s dinner
I have been trying to book a multi-stage trip by car to Austria. No problem once we’re across the Channel (390 road miles away) – there are plenty of places offering B&B at reasonable prices, any night of the week, in Belgium, Germany and Austria. 

It’s a different story in England. Restaurants in en-route hotels are nearly always closed from Sunday pm through to Wednesday or even Thursday due to – would you believe – staff shortages. 

Strangely though, some places say they can feed a dog any day of the week… in the end, we have given up on staying overnight in this country.

When are any of the main political parties going to admit that Brexit is a total disaster? The above is just one example. It really is a dog’s dinner.
Phil Green

Comments, conversation and correspondence from our online subscribers

Re: “What Starmer should say about Brexit” (TNE #390). Keir Starmer is probably right in his calculations: First, that Rejoiners will vote tactically against the Tories, which in most places will mean for Labour. So it’s still the Red Wall he needs to keep onside to maximise his vote.

Second, that huge numbers of other people just want rid of the Tories, so the less he commits to the better (on the grounds that everything annoys someone, and the media will give him a grilling over anything they can).

But he needs to realise that the total collapse of the Tories will mean other parties arising during his five-year term. So he only gets one chance to show Rejoiners that he deserves our vote again next time.
Tony Jones

I am sure Keir Starmer is as keen to rejoin the EU as us TNE readers. However, it will still take years for Brexit-voting Labour supporters to admit to themselves that they made a big mistake, and were completely fooled by the lying Boris Johnson.
Andy Wright

Re: Alastair Campbell on new towns (Diary, TNE #390). I used to work in Washington, Tyne and Wear, designated a new town in 1964. A book about the process of creating the new town was published, titled It’s Quicker by Quango. Setting everything up was the work of over two decades.

So I think the proposition that Labour will not complete any new town in just five years is correct. 
David Rolfe

Re: Marie Le Conte on her difficult relationship with Arabic (Dilettante, TNE #390). This is very much like my relationship with Czech until I was 58. 

As the child of refugees from the Nazis, and born in Britain, I had often heard Czech around me but we spoke English at home. At 58, after the fall of the communists, I visited the Czech Republic, felt a hugely strong pull to my roots, and set about finding a way of living there and acquiring the language.

I am now 82 and I and my daughter, both with dual nationality, live there permanently. I have a small dollshouse museum, speak ungrammatical but fairly fluent Czech, and relish my chance at a second, different, life. I have little patience with people who say they are too old to learn. I wish you best of luck, Marie!
Gil Bomber

Marie Le Conte discusses “chouf” – in Moroccan Arabic, “to look at”. This word also gives us “shufti”.
David Pollard

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