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Max Hastings’s assessment of the Tories now is compelling

An old Tory slogan was: “Britain’s better off with the Conservatives”. Now we’d be better off without them. It’s time they went before they ruin us irreparably

Sir Max Hastings has condemned the Tories for bringing “Britain to the point of disaster”. Photo: Leon Neal/Getty

It was good to read the excellent article by Jay Elwes quoting Max Hastings’s lambasting of the Conservative Party as “Flat Earthers” and “delusional”. For some of us, however, his realisation that the Tories inhabit a fantasy world has come 44 years too late.

The ideas which Hastings derides do not have their origins in recent political chaos, but in the election of the Thatcher government in 1979. It was Margaret Thatcher who believed that there was “no such thing as society”, in the primacy of the nation state and in the truly insane economic theory that long-term, sustainable growth could be achieved by unfettering the inherently unstable and volatile free market.

To my knowledge, Hastings has never acknowledged that Thatcherism did little other than create a short-lived boom in the south-east of England, centred on London, while simultaneously sucking the life out of the rest of the UK.

Hastings would do well to listen to Hilary Benn’s excellent speech in which he likened Brexit to a revolution that had not succeeded. Instead of admitting failure the revolutionaries, according to Benn, conclude that, “comrade, it was not applied with sufficient vigour and purity”.

Hastings is consequently wrong to deride the Conservatives as “delusional” and “Flat Earthers,” as though they are trivial and their beliefs silly. On the contrary, they are “good comrades” trying to defend the Thatcher revolution and apply it once again with “sufficient vigour and purity”.

Not that long ago, Hastings was one of them, and if he does not like the direction and destination of the revolution, he should not have supported it in the first place.
Mark Grahame
Trowbridge, Wiltshire

“Flat Earth” Tories? Perhaps “Scorched Earth” Tories would be more appropriate!
Benedict Marshall

Sir Max Hastings condemns the Tories for bringing “Britain to the point of disaster” – not least through their inability “to grasp the problems the country faces, let alone solve them”. This is a compelling assessment.

An old Tory slogan was: “Britain’s better off with the Conservatives”. Now we’d be better off without them. It’s time they went before they ruin us irreparably.
Roger Hinds

Jay Elwes’s summary of his chat with Max Hastings is the best article I’ve read in the TNE so far and confirms my intention to vote Labour in the next election.
Jake Forman

Plans for Nigel
If Nigel Farage did become PM (“Yes, it could happen”, TNE #360), at least he would bring in big trade deals with Russia and North Korea.
Ian Michael Betts

Matthew D’Ancona is right about Nigel Farage’s prospects in a post-defeat Conservative Party. A major asset he has is Donald Trump. No other right wing figure has a closer relationship, and if Trump wins the US presidency then he gains in every way.

George Osborne understands the skill of Farage, having lost the 2016 referendum in a contest where Farage was the enemy feared by Tory Brexiteers as much as the anti-Brexiteers. To develop the flexible and penetrative approach to the “frontiers of the conceivable” d’Ancona rightly calls for, it is vital to see Farage as the most dangerous politician progressive politics now faces, and he is key to the future of the Tory Party.
Trevor Fisher
Stafford, Staffordshire

As a regular reader, I was shocked and disgusted that you printed a full-page photo of Nigel Farage on the cover of TNE #360. He is the worst kind of politician, and to splash his picture was the worst kind of editorial judgment.

Why do you give oxygen to this person who stands for all things your publication is against? It sounds mad.
AT Noorani
London NW9

Bad experience
Transport secretary Mark Harper featuring in Lie of the Week (TNE #360) prompted a thought:

I seem to remember that when Ben Wallace was made defence secretary, great play was made by Downing Street of Mr Wallace’s military background, and how much experience he would bring to his new role. Can any TNE reader remember the last time anything similar preceded a transport secretary’s appointment?
Andrew Rolph
Bradford on Avon, Wiltshire

Polish lessons
Cited by Dennis MacShane in “A battle for Poland’s soul” (TNE #360), the journalist Eugeniusz Smolar provides a warning for us as he describes the advance of far-right politics in Poland. It is a checklist by which we might judge how far/fast the UK government is moving our society in the same direction.

There are “unabated attacks on the laws, institutions and norms of liberal European democracy, including independent media and civil society” (as we have seen from the likes of Suella Braverman); getting “like-minded individuals into all levels of central and local government administration, including the military, security services, the foreign service, police and courts” (“Boris Johnson alone created 87 peers”, reports Mandrake in TNE #360); introducing “nationalistic orthodoxy in the curriculum at schools and in the cultural institutions it controls” (Michael Gove’s antics).

As Charlie Connelly writes in “How fascism grows” (also TNE #360), “Fascism, we are reminded, doesn’t take hold through dramatic beer-hall putsches but by degrees small enough to seem normal.” The internationalism of TNE can help us learn from the instructive stories of other times and societies. And act on those lessons.
Val Walsh
Crosby, Merseyside

Time of gifts
Alastair Campbell’s repetition of the Nolan principles (Diary, TNE #360) reminded me that the right wing press had a go at Keir Starmer some months ago because he was late in registering that he had been to a football match paid for by someone else. In the summer we learned that Labour MPs went to the Glastonbury Festival, with someone else picking up the bill of some £3,000.

If MPs accept gifts like this they are subsequently beholden to the donor. Will Keir Starmer ensure that all Labour MPs are squeaky clean in future?
Mark Davies

Re: Alastair Campbell’s request for subjects to discuss on The Rest Is Politics (as mentioned in Letters, TNE #360). What about discussing the 70% of the UK electorate whose voting intentions make no effect on the outcome of an election because, like myself, they find themselves imprisoned in a “safe seat”?

Commentators like Alastair will gloss over the failings of our infamous FPTP system because he knows it represents the best chance for an occasional Labour victory. Why, however, should one person’s vote be more valuable/effective than someone else’s?

In my opinion, the electorate in the UK is median centre left, but this system gives us swivel-eyed right wing governments more often than not.
Tim Allen
Petersfield, Hampshire

Scots progress
What’s all this “Britain” and “the UK” in James Ball’s “Our prison system is criminal”? In Scotland, crime levels are at a 40-year low, some of our modern prisons recently built to replace many of our Victorian facilities are well under capacity, and the first drugs safe injecting room is about to be established, in line with the model used in many countries that has reduced drug-related deaths and criminality.

It is instructive just how much social and economic progress can be achieved when the English ruling class are not in charge, but that is not a lesson that the writers of the London-based media will ever contemplate learning, since it places the social grouping to which they themselves belong in a very bad light indeed.
Ian Anderson

In “Costly rise of the high street casino” (TNE #359), James Ball writes: “Campaigners go so far as to argue that there would be no gambling industry without problem gambling”. Is this supposed to be an undesirable outcome?
Rory Cunningham

American ills
I enjoyed “A brief case for Americanisms” by Peter Trudgill (TNE 360). In my own field of medicine, there are plenty of examples.

“Check the boxes below” (instead of “tick”) appears on patient information sheets on a new treatment. At international conferences, summaries and recent findings have gone, replaced by overviews and emerging data. “Patient did not attend” becomes “patient did not show”, and it is only a matter of time before all patients get sick, rather than falling ill. And when they get sick, they will probably be “diagnosed with” a disorder. When I was at medical school you diagnosed patients, with a stethoscope and tests, as suffering from a disease.

It’s not just the words, but also the intonation. Many of us now speak as if we are asking a series of questions, the constantly upturned voice being a kind of shorthand for “you know what I mean?”

I’m trying to resist these influences myself, but they are insidious. They get past the host defences because our immune systems do not recognise them. 

Friends tell me I should move with the times. Cool down, chill out, get a life, they say. No way, is my reply. In fact, I’m founding a new organisation called BUPA (British Union of Physicians opposed to Americanisms).
Dr John King
Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire

Heavenly sight
Nigel Warburton’s fascinating piece on immortality (TNE #360) passes by one obvious context for such discussion: religion. This might be fair enough, as he is really discussing Earth-bound everlasting existence. But some of the questions he raises connect with religious concepts of heaven, and he does mention how ideas of hell did not put off the Spanish philosopher Miguel de Unamuno from wanting personal immortality.

While the reality of immortal life in heaven goes beyond human experience or human capacity to put into words (the apostle Paul suggests that even experiencing a glimpse of heaven is beyond human expression), language is used in the Bible, and has to be taken as indicative rather than descriptive.

And the key observation is that future immortality – heaven – is both continuous and discontinuous with life as we know it, or in the Bible’s language, “a new heaven and a new earth”, ie, a transformed reality, both spiritual and material. This suggests an answer to Warburton’s conundrum: only such a transformed self could find this transformed eternity not boring but wonderful.
Anthony Thacker
Hinckley, Leicestershire

In his piece on the felling of the Sycamore Gap (TNE #359), Nigel Warburton quotes Gerard Manley Hopkins celebrating trees. Here is an extract from Tree-felling by the Polish poet and playwright Tadeusz Różewicz (in my translation).

Published in 1981, it anticipates the ecological movement by three decades:
beside men and beast
the only living sentient beings
created in the image
and likeness of gods
Trees cannot hide from us
Trees of childhood cut burnt
poisoned dead
turn green over our heads
in May
shed leaves in graves
in November
grow within us
unto death

Adam Czerniawski
Monmouth, Wales

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