In Tim Walker’s fascinating interview (“We’re now close to an elected dictatorship”, TNE #269), Ken Clarke is right to say that the government is facing “widespread discontent about the government in unlikely places, such as the home counties and the south.” However, I fear Ken is very much mistaken if he believes this is all to do with moderate Tories being shocked by Brexit and Boris Johnson’s sundry disasters.
What is really worrying for the Tories is not the idea of moderates staying at home, as they did in Chesham and Amersham, but the thought that issues like migrant boats might be weaponised by a new party, attracting the kind of Little England populists who Johnson depended on to both vote for Brexit and then back him in the 2019 general election. Hence the current noise about the issue from Tory MPs and the bizarre idea that Priti Patel might not be right-wing enough.
Like Clarke, I do not think Keir Starmer has done nearly enough to win back most people who switched to the Tories last time, but if Labour, the Lib Dems and the Greens can take a chunk from the Tory left and, say, the Reform Party do similar on the right, the next general election could be very interesting indeed.
Ken Clarke’s views on the subject of Britain becoming an elected dictatorship offered a perceptive insight into the workings of Boris Johnson’s government. My grandfather was proud of our family connection with Lord Hailsham, but even he could not have foreseen the threat of Johnson becoming a tinpot dictator like Viktor Orbán.
Clarke’s quest for a written constitution should be linked to proportional representation. In a time of serious climate change this would give the Green Party the prominence it deserves.
David Hogg Bristol
I am afraid I cannot join in with your recent love-in involving right-wing Tories such as Ken Clarke and Anna Soubry. Both voted for some dreadful stuff during their time as Tory MPs; Clarke palled along with Margaret Thatcher until she was no longer an election-winning asset, and worked for British American Tobacco.
Next to the likes of Peter Bone and Michael Fabricant they look like giants, but so would the Chuckle Brothers.
I was enjoying your Ken Clarke interview until it got to the bit about him not wanting to criticise Boris Johnson personally and saying they get along well.
This is why, despite his obvious qualities, I cannot get on board with the lionising of Clarke or any of the moderate Tories such as Rory Stewart, Dominic Grieve etc. The Labour Party have torn themselves apart over the decades, arguing about worthwhile matters of policy. The Tories seem happy to march behind any old zealot as long as they get elected. It indicates a fundamental lack of principle.
What “useful lessons” can we learn from the apparently botched attempt by Boris Johnson’s team to take legal action against The New European over your article (“His callous disregard for decency”, TNE #269)? 1. The prime minister is happy to employ others to do his dirty work. 2. The prime minister is happy to threaten any individual whose actions or words do not suit him. I await the official announcement that the UK is to be twinned with North Korea.
Your Mondo Europe news item on the man hospitalised after jumping from Berlin’s Holocaust Memorial (TNE #269) took me back to the 2000s, when I followed keenly the discussions about the design and construction of the memorial.
The entire project, first mooted in mid-Nineties, was controversial from the outset and required two competitions to find a design acceptable to all.
Misgivings were expressed as to the impact of the chosen abstract design, incorporating 2,711 huge blocks of stone representing “a supposedly ordered system that has lost touch with human reason”, according to the designer, Peter Eisenman of New York.
I remember an English tour guide with whom I was working at the time remarking: “Surely that’s an open invitation to graffiti artists.” He was also concerned that, in the hours of darkness, all manner of potential crimes might be perpetrated within the dense labyrinth of stelae.
The memorial attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors to the city every year and reactions are mixed. On the whole, it has not attracted many graffiti artists and it is very rare for someone to jump off one of the slabs, as you report.
For my money, the Jewish Museum in Berlin or indeed the house at Wannsee, where the infamous conference on the Final Solution took place, both tell the chilling story of the Holocaust with much more eloquence, and of course the gold standard is Yad Vashem in Israel.
Migrants who can’t integrate
It’s staggering that the otherwise excellent article about island migration by Stan Abbott (“Island life goes viral.. at a profound cost”, TNE #269) fails to mention the most important impact of wealthy English people moving to Scottish islands (or as he calls them, “UK islands”).
The impact of wealthy, mostly retired or semi-retired people, on house prices is well documented but sadder still is the attitude that comes with a dominant culture. Socially, many people don’t integrate or even acknowledge local culture at all, then they wonder why neighbours get annoyed when they fly a huge union flag in their garden, fail to even try to understand local accents and idioms, and disdain local customs.
There’s a huge class divide and local people are often left out of self-organised events. This isn’t deliberate but a symptom of different levels of access to cultural and social capital.
There is a need for more writing on the cultural impact of this and I’d welcome further articles by some Scottish writers. Lesley Riddoch or Andy Wightman spring to mind.
A word of praise for Megan Nolan’s review of Rebecca Hall’s Passing (“Rivalry, race, resentment”, TNE #269). Like all the pieces I have read by Nolan – particularly on Netflix’s Maid – it was sharp, insightful and made me think for a long time about the issues involved. An excellent hire by The New European. The film’s quite good too.
Although I am of the generation of England fans for whom Diego Maradona’s undoubted genius will always be outweighed by his disgraceful cheating at the 1986 World Cup finals, I very much enjoyed Nathan O’Hagan’s account of his late-career spell in Spain (“Maradona’s Seville War”, TNE #269).
What infuriated me in the aftermath of the “Hand of God” incident was not just Maradona’s shameless posturing but the way he was indulged by FIFA afterwards. Irish readers might remember much the same happening when Thierry Henry shamefully used his hand to knock the Republic out of the 2010 World Cup finals in the play-offs.
Elsewhere in the same issue, Rob Hughes’ column castigates the loathsome Sepp Blatter. It was Blatter who scoffed at the brokenhearted Irish when they asked for a replay after Henry’s handball in 2009 and it was Blatter who rushed Maradona back into football in 1992 so he could play in the World Cup finals.
Maradona then had just completed a lengthy ban for taking cocaine and it was well known that he was an active abuser of the drug. The correct course of action would have been to keep one of the game’s greatest ever players out of football and in rehab until he had made a full, and fully tested, recovery. Instead, football decided to indulge a superstar. That indulgence coloured the rest of Maradona’s life, ending it far too soon.
Compulsive In response to Richard Corbett and Bob Turner, (Letters, TNE #269), proportional voting systems work best when they are regulated by mandatory attendance at polling stations.
In 1924 a private member’s bill introduced by Senator Payne shaped the future of Australia’s democracy, and meant voting became both a right and a duty for all Australians. People who don’t vote when it is optional tend to be the socially disadvantaged, who politicians can then afford to ignore. Kenneth R Jarrett
How can we trust Iran?
I was very pleased to see you gave so much coverage to Nazanin ZaghariRatcliffe’s case (“Betrayed by Britain”, TNE #268).
There is one question, however, that your article doesn’t answer: suppose the UK government pays the money and Iran still doesn’t free Nazanin, but simply makes up another excuse for holding her?
Positive train of thought
Now the UK government has decided HS2 is a bad idea up north, but still a great idea down south, could they please spare a thought for us in the west?
For instance, some of the cash saved could be used to reverse the decision of renowned transportation expert Chris Grayling to cancel the electrification of the South Wales main line west of Cardiff.
Improving the efficiency and UK and EU-wide connectivity of this strategically important line instead of, in effect, reducing it to branch line status, would be consistent with Cop 26, and genuine “levelling up”.
Dr Charles Smith
Goodness, gracious, plate balls of ire
Following Brian Rumrary’s letter (TNE #269) about the government’s totally unnecessary change of vehicle nationality code from “GB” to “UK”, your readers may be interested to know that a friend solved the hassle of buying new stickers by designing his own licence plates. A picture is enclosed of his vehicle just before he travelled to France earlier this month. He has given The New European readers an open invitation to use his custom-designed plates, subject to a small donation to the anti Brexit campaign group, Led By Donkeys.
Dewi Jones Pontypool, Gwent
Not so pie and mighty now
Surely, being unable to export real British pies to those pesky Europeans should create a vast opportunity for home-grown purveyors of delights such as chicken and mushroom, minced beef and onion and, of course, steak and ale.
This government has already excelled at negotiating groundbreaking trade deals across the globe, and I truly cannot see why we cannot expedite free pie trade with the likes of El Salvador, Nepal and The Maldives without delay.
I can almost hear that inimitable sound of breaking pie crust from Kathmandu to San Salvador as I sit here salivating.
I enjoyed Nadine Dorries’ tweet about the new series of I’m A Celebrity… (“Best of luck to the contestants – who knows what might happen afterwards”).
In Nadine’s case, she ate a camel’s toe and an ostrich’s anus, before then going on to work for a horse’s arse.