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Our dire economic situation began with the Thatcher years

Europe may have led the Tories to destroy themselves, but Thatcher had already set in motion the destruction of the country

Prime minister Margaret Thatcher attends the 10th EEC Summit at Lancaster House, June 1984. Photo: Bettmann/Getty

Ken Clarke (“The surreal party”, TNE #365) is a cut above the collection of Ken dolls, aristotwats, park bench shouters and weapons-grade sociopaths who make up the current parliamentary Conservative Party. Odd then to see him put his faith in “nice” and “serious” Rishi Sunak, who has carried on the worst of his predecessor-but-one’s serial lying while presiding over a regime whose gross incompetence is matched only by its rank cynicism.

Clarke says antipathy to the EU sent the Tories mad. What I suspect he cannot admit to himself is that the rot set in with the Thatcher government of which he was a member.

Thatcher may have come late to Euroscepticism but she certainly threw herself into it. Even worse were the callous monetarism that created the gulf between London and the rest of the country, the tax giveaways and penny-pinching social policies that widened the divide between rich and poor and the funding of all of the above by stealthy borrowing while selling off the family jewels.

In thrall to her supposed economic success, successive Conservative regimes have carried on with this disastrous course of action. Now the cupboard is empty and the bills are due. Europe may have led the Tories to destroy themselves, but Thatcher had already set in motion the destruction of the country.
Anna McCourt

Kenneth Clarke is absolutely right about the right wing misremembering the Thatcher years. Her early budgets raised taxes. Not cut them.
Phil Watson

Master of evil
Re: Mitch Benn on David Cameron’s regeneration being inspired by Doctor Who (TNE #365). I think Cameron is The Master. He’s manipulative, evil, keeps coming back and he was prime minister back in the day.
John Davenport

Re: “You’ll like this (not a lot)”, TNE #365. Just imagine the job interview before Rishi Sunak pulled off his latest crap trick:

“Hi Dave, I want you to be the new foreign secretary. Do you think you’ll be any good at it?”

“Well, I ruined Libya, for a start.”

“Great! You’re in!”
Donald Barker
via Facebook

Sane asylum
Re: “Here’s how we should deal with asylum seekers: give them a job” (TNE #365). Patience Wheatcroft is absolutely right. If we then follow DHSS rules and take a portion from whatever benefits they receive in recognition of the fact that they are now earning, it would be a fairer system.
David Weaver

I wonder how many people who voted for Brexit genuinely saw the current spike in migration coming? The answer as to why it is happening has nothing to do with small boats, despite what Suella Braverman, Rishi Sunak and cohorts will tell you.

Reciprocity has caused the current spike – we are allowing more non-EU migrants in as a result of new trade deals and also to fill gaps in the workforce left by EU workers who went home after Brexit. We are also reliant on foreign students to prop up our underfunded university sector.

Surely this will only increase as we do more post-Brexit trade deals and other countries seek work permits and study visas in return? How richly ironic, Brexit has opened the door to more migration, not closed it.
DC Kneath
Swansea, Wales

I was taken aback by Charlie Connelly’s suggestion in “Conquering the world elsewhere” (TNE #365) that early Shakespeare buyer Sir Edward Dering “treated himself to a tin of marmalade” on December 5, 1623.

Did Dering use a time machine? The internet is reasonably consistent in suggesting 1810 or shortly thereafter as the start of canning.
Claire Bowden-Dan

Charlie Connelly writes: “While researching that piece, I consulted no less than four sources quoting or listing the contents of Sir Edward Dering’s account book that day. I’ve just gone back to check and three say he bought a box of marmalade while one said he bought “tinned marmalade”. I don’t know why I picked that one. It really, er, jars.”

Re: Charlie Connelly on the Canadian author Anne Michaels, who only writes one novel each decade (Books, TNE #364). Could she please have a word with Nadine Dorries and save us all a lot of bother?
Angie Nicholson

Citizen science
Dr Ron Iphofen (Letters, TNE #364) laments the loss of citizenship in the school curriculum, recalling its brief existence during the interwar period. In fact, it was reintroduced in differing forms across the UK around 2006. An internet search suggests it is still alive today but perhaps struggling for breath.

Rather like previously lauded initiatives such as eco-schools and media studies/literacy, the delivery of such approaches requires dedicated staff (in both senses of the word) and allocated space in the curriculum. It would be interesting to read feedback from people who experienced it.

It would be useful, too, if all schools dedicated Fridays to cross-curricular projects and initiatives drawing on all subjects, to promote the development of citizenship, of media literacy and strategies to tackle the climate crisis – not as separate chunks of the curriculum, but through consciously joining the dots.
Helene Witcher

Ship shape
One small observation on “The Brexit Ship of Fools” (TNE #364) – Jonty Bloom might have drawn the parallel between the Brexit British cargo ship as shown on the press release from the Institute of Economic Affairs and Turner’s painting The Fighting Temeraire.

In Turner’s work, the old ship is being towed up the Thames to be broken up. As the sun is shining from behind the ship and the journey up the Thames would be going westward, it must be dawn, or soon after. Possibly this is more a celebration of “new” technology epitomised by the steam tug towing the now obsolete ship.

The press release appears to show, as Jonty Bloom states, a ship ploughing through the waves taking British exports to a “grateful” Europe. If this is the case, we must be looking towards the west, into a setting sun, possibly bidding farewell to the last of British exports?
Reginald Martin
Eastbourne, East Sussex

In “The Brexit Ship of Fools”, Jonty Bloom revealed that the business and trade secretary, Kemi Badenoch, had misled the public by wrongly claiming – despite evidence to the contrary – that figures produced by the discredited IEA proved EU-UK trade had expanded since Brexit. I guess that when it comes to trustworthiness, the first three letters of Kemi’s surname sum her up.

If only Sir Keir Starmer could come out and say Britain would be better off in the EU. The first four letters of his surname could then define him.
Roger Hinds

Cynical Suella
After reading Patience Wheatcroft’s insightful article on Suella Braverman (“Hurricane Suella plots her revenge”, TNE #364) I found myself yet in a lather of disbelief at her latest machinations and how she has been allowed to take centre stage for so long.

I then skipped a few pages to Eurofile and found myself staring beatifically at Harriet Backer’s lovely picture Blue Interior, which did my rising blood pressure and associated ire no end of good. The country, and my blood pressure, will continue on this dire trajectory until we have a much-needed general election.
Judith A Daniels
Cobholm, Norfolk

I wrote the lead letter on the letters page of TNE #362 suggesting that former home secretary Suella Braverman did not deserve to top your 50-place Shit List. Having since read her comments on various matters, I wholeheartedly recant!

To refer to such unfortunate people, whatever their reason for being on the streets, as exercising a “lifestyle choice” is so abhorrently cynical and downright wicked as to shock even many right wingers. Add to this her subsequent hate-speak about peace protesters and her meddling in police impartiality.

TNE was totally justified in placing her at the head of the Shit List. My apologies to any readers offended by my original comments. Finally, might I suggest that readers donate a copy of TNE to a homeless person?
James Turner
Thatcham, Berkshire

Pet project
It was a pity that in the excellent piece on Auf Wiedersehen, Pet in TNE #362 there was no mention of the show’s contribution to democratic debate.

In one episode, they decided to paint the inside of the site hut. Barry (the Brummie) ran a poll to decide the colour using preferential voting – because they were in Europe – awarding two points to every first choice and one point to all the others. He carefully totted up the papers and, as the returning officer, announced that the hut would be painted “yellaw!”

There was immediate shock at this, so he explained that different colours had all been voted first choice so yellow, which had been the second choice of many, had won. This drew the comment from Dennis (Tynesider): “That’s a smashing system, that; everybody gets what nobody wants!” To which Barry replies: “That’s democracy, Dennis.” Despite this, I still support PR.
David Cockayne
Lymm, Cheshire

No empathy
Last weekend my breakfast was ruined by the drone of Michael Gove, who’d been invited on to the BBC to pontificate at a less-than-pedestrian intellectual level about William Shakespeare and why he (Gove) did not want “empathy work” in history lessons.

This dull-as-dishwater drivel was only instructive on one point. It very soon became clear that Gove does not understand the basic concept of empathy.

He described it as understanding someone else only after you’ve been through something similar to their experience. At best this could be classed as second-hand sympathy with a selfish twist.

Empathy in fact belongs to those who can understand others and their problems even if those others are NOT like them. This explains a lot.
Amanda Baker
Edinburgh, Scotland

Voting toolbox
The right to vote is the most powerful tool we have to hold our politicians to account. Yet in areas like the one I live in, it’s likely that more than 12,000 eligible citizens will not be registered to vote. Nationally the number is around eight million.

These voters are more likely to be young, on low incomes, or be part of an ethnic minority group. All people who often feel let down by our politics.

It’s time to register every voter.

Citizens should be automatically registered to vote when they apply for things like a driving licence or benefits. It’s a scheme used in dozens of countries called Automatic Voter Registration.

It’s both secure and will save money. It gets more people registered to vote, which is good for our democracy.

It is also worth noting that a further tranche of voters who are in fact registered risk being disenfranchised by the government’s Voter ID requirements to produce a photo ID from a restricted list to gain access to the ballot box.

Any government that is confident in the message it is putting across to voters would not try to restrict voter access – particularly to poorer and disadvantaged people who may be less likely to have the suitable ID or may not return to the polling station having once been turned away.
Robert Smith
Totnes, Devon

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See inside the Resurgence edition

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