Re: Liz Gerard’s “How Fleet Street missed the Post Office scandal” (TNE #371). They didn’t miss it, they ignored it, like all the other big stories that make the Tories look bad: the Russia Report, Partygate, Covid corruption, the failure of outsourcing and privatisation, Brexit.
The list is long and it all gets ignored, gaslighted or buried by client journalists and sycophantic media barons. Whenever I see a Meghan Markle story I think, what are they distracting us from? We have a media that seems to primarily concern itself with shielding the government from accountability while at the same time attacking those who seek to scrutinise it.
It is disappointing to see a respected paper like TNE play into the Tory right’s misinformation campaign about Ed Davey and the Post Office scandal (Mandrake, TNE #371).
Many government ministers were responsible for the Post Office while it was persecuting sub-postmasters. There were doubts about the Horizon computer system from the late 1990s until 2019, when the postmasters won their High Court action.
A succession of Labour, Liberal Democrat and Tory government ministers did nothing to address the plight of the sub-postmasters during that time. Yet Mandrake chose to single out Davey, who held the position for two of the 20 relevant years.
Davey is being targeted as the only culprit because in many constituencies the Liberal Democrats are a credible threat to the Tories.
Catherine Wilson Eiles
Re: your coverage of the Post Office scandal (TNE #371). It’s generally accepted that sub-postmasters who phoned the Horizon helpline to report problems were all told the same lie – “you’re the only one who’s reported this”. They were not told this lie by members of the Post Office board nor apparently by senior management, but by regular call centre staff. Were any of these staff aware that they were playing a key role in a criminal conspiracy? I hope not, as this would indicate that the culture of lying, evident within our political elite, has spread so widely that we find ourselves in a world where “the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing”.
If it is the case that the lying culture has become ingrained in British life then action is needed by all good men, and the Speaker of the House of Commons has an important role to play. The rules may well need to change to expose the cynically guilty, especially at PMQs where glib, untrue statements go unchallenged both on the day or subsequently.
Ross on Wye, Herefordshire
Bonnie Greer writes that despite Kemi Badenoch’s politics, she would still like to see her as Tory leader as a representative of people of colour. Be careful what you wish for. The same argument was used in the 1980s about women; we got Margaret Thatcher and in the US they got Condoleezza Rice.
Patience Wheatcroft (“Addicted to lies”, TNE #371) uses the term “tax burden”. That’s emotionally weighted. It assumes tax is bad. National funding would be a neutral term – or just call it tax, but tax itself is a negatively coloured term.
Our tax can be wasted or well spent, regressive or progressive, used to improve society as a whole, save lives in hospitals or ruin lives by sending it to Rwanda. If, when and where tax is well spent it should be our proud duty (a better term) to pay it.
Liz Read (Letters TNE #371) admits that 40-odd years ago she did not expect Feargal Sharkey and Carol Vorderman to be at the forefront of political discourse. I did not expect in the 1980s that Gary Winston Lineker would be leading the revolution in the 2020s, never mind his footballing successors like Marcus Rashford (then aged minus 12).
Bexhill-on-Sea, East Sussex
Back in the 1980s, Liz Read may not have expected an Undertone and a Countdown mathematician to be leading the revolution. However, I bet she knew back then that the country would be being led by wealthy, arrogant, incompetent former public schoolboys.
I hope William Blake would be pleased that we are still arguing about his writing almost 200 years after his death (Letters, TNE #371), but I submit that we can clear up the question of the “satanic mills” by going back to the source.
The poem Jerusalem appears in the preface to Milton, written between 1804 and 1810, a poem where the poet John Milton descends from heaven and is incorporated into Blake, who was living in Lambeth at the time – hence lines such as “The Surrey hills glow like the clinkers of the furnace: Lambeths Vale Where Jerusalems foundations began” and “When shall Jerusalem return & overspread all the Nations Return: return to Lambeths Vale” (Blake’s punctuation did not conform to modern standards).
Nothing in Blake’s work is straightforward, but it is tempting to imagine that his visions were inspired not by the mills of the industrial north (the sugar mills of the West Indies are more likely) nor the “University” of the preface (which one, by the way, and are we to take this word at face value?), but by the landmarks he saw around him in Lambeth, the spires and towers of the churches, where the “Hirelings” grind out sin and death in the “Starry Mills” of Satan (one view of the Church of England even today).
Investigating Blake’s metaphorical imagery turns out to be the work of a lifetime, but even a cursory reading reveals that Book I of Milton is firmly rooted in south London.
The pundits predict that Reform UK will cost the Tories seats at the general election by taking more votes from them than from the opposition parties. But best not to be complacent.
Of concern are Reform UK’s recent attempts to discredit Sir Keir Starmer with references to “Starmergeddon” and Nigel Farage’s attempt to smear him for not intervening in the Post Office scandal when he was director of public prosecutions (despite the vast majority of the sub-postmasters being the subject of private prosecutions). Such attacks seem more likely to discourage people from voting Labour than to encourage Tory defectors to Reform.
There is also the possibility of an agreement between Reform UK and the Tories, as appeared to have happened in the last general election when Farage asked Brexit Party candidates to stand down in Tory-held seats after a conversation with Boris Johnson.
With research showing that people’s average attention span has dropped to 47 seconds – the time it takes to read about 120 words – clever graphics and cartoons like Tim Bradford’s “Can only the Reform UK party save Britain”? (TNE #371) must be a good way of getting a message across. In this respect, opposition parties in marginal constituencies should find this publication a useful source of material.
In a street in Osnabrück, there is a large, elegant house. It belonged to my Jewish family. When my grandparents finally realised that the German people were NOT, as they had assumed, civilised individuals who would resist Hitler, they tried to emigrate to Palestine, then under the British Mandate. They were refused entry as “their papers weren’t correct” and sent back to Germany, where they subsequently perished at Auschwitz.
The victorious allies who signed the Paris Peace Treaty in 1947 washed their hands of the thousands of Nazi camp survivors who came back to nothing. This was compounded by the refusal of this country and the United States to take in many desperate Jewish refugees at both the outbreak of the second world war, and during the war.
With its usual penchant for hyperbolic scaremongering, the Daily Mail ran headlines decrying the “German Jews pouring into this country”. Emigration to Israel was the only way these traumatised Jews could rebuild their shattered lives in the face of European indifference.
My family home lies derelict, its walls covered in graffiti. The “owners” refuse to return it. In his excellent article (“Blame Bibi, not ‘the Jews’”, TNE #370), Jason Pack refers to “centuries of Jewish victimhood”. I suggest a focus on recent history might throw some light upon the current terrible Middle East situation, and who created the victims. On both sides of the conflict.
Pedant’s Corner alert: in Alastair Campbell’s Diary (TNE #370) he refers to Millicent Fawcett as a suffragette. She was not. She was a suffragist and led the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies (NUWSS). Her approach was non-violent and constitutional, over many decades of campaigning.
Many years ago, a friend who belonged to the Fawcett Society, knowing my great interest in women’s fight for the right to vote, gave me a NUWSS badge. On a metal base, the name of the organisation is written in gold on a background of red, white and green (the NUWSS colours). It remains one of my most treasured possessions.
It is remarkable that opposition parties continue to be so timid in tackling such a self-evident political blunder as Brexit. Calum Paton’s assertion (Letters, TNE #369) that Labour should defer proposing rejoining the EU until after two or three parliaments can be of little comfort for this generation. They have to contend with the constraints of the 90-day visa and other Brexit red tape now. Life passes by and they may have to miss out on the opportunities of free movement altogether, which other Europeans take as part of their birthright.
Labour should at least support re-entry to the single market. A YouGov poll last November found that 57% of Britons support re-entry to the single market, including freedom of movement.
Labour states that improving the National Health Service is a priority, yet it would fail to tackle one of its central problems, recruitment. Just training up British workers sounds too much like the existing Conservative Party policy. There are 125,0000 unfilled vacancies in the NHS, but for other Europeans, there are now far easier alternatives in Germany or elsewhere without visa constraints.
The opposition parties mustn’t assume people will vote for them just because they are not the Tories. If they won’t tackle the glaringly obvious disaster that is Brexit head-on, then why should people bother?
Thank you for turning the New European into an exciting and trusted source of cultural information as well as news. Josh Barrie’s Taste of Europe column and recipe is a fantastic example of how you educate, inform and entertain.
Can I suggest as an addition to the TNE product line a book collecting Barrie’s columns in one volume adorned with some of your signature cover art?