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Thin-skinned Tories are hell-bent on zero dissent

One reader questions what Boris Johnson is scared of, after he purged his party of all those who dared to question him.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson during a media briefing in Downing Street, London, on Coronavirus . Credit: PA

The fact that this government has become accident-prone, leaving the glaring weakness at its heart exposed, should not disguise that it is still dangerous (“A litany of lies and laziness”, TNE #270).

Its contempt for being questioned about its dubious practices and its willingness to ride roughshod over procedure to get its agenda through are seen far beyond its recent encounter with TNE. We have already witnessed the culture secretary, in charge of BBC funding, using social media to tell a BBC correspondent what to think. Now we have the government banning so-called “woke” academics and writers who disagree with its policies from speaking to its civil servants. Boris Johnson purged his party of all those who dared to question him.

What is he so scared of? So much for viewpoint diversity, and who are the real snowflakes here?
Conor Burton

Nadine Dorries is using her position to push crude attempts at media censorship. Your own experience shows the independence of all media is under threat. Threatening phone calls to editors and media owners appears now to be standard practice for this government.

Dorries does seem to have a real chip on her shoulder about the media. Some reviewers have been dismissive of her “clogs and shawl” genre novels, but unfortunately for her it was not just the left-wing media who were the most dismissive.

Her use of social media to attack detractors led one Daily Telegraph writer to remark, “It makes it hard for us to respect parliamentarians in general. They should be like us, of course, but at our best. She comes out of this looking very thin-skinned and at best eccentric.” She had previously used social media to compare radio presenter James O’Brien to a hate preacher and called for him to be fired!

Reviews in the Irish Times of her books complain of lazy Irish stereotypes and quote a noted author as saying: “Calling Nadine Dorries an author is like saying cannibal Jeffrey Dahmer was a chef.” Ms Dorries’ attacks on social media abuse are undermined by her own record online. As one political observer remarked, “People in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones. Unfortunately for Nadine Dorries, she seems to be trapped in a conservatory with a trebuchet.”
Andrew Milroy

Blame game

I am sure that in “Now we’ve all got buyer’s remorse” (TNE #270) Matt Kelly’s “shame on us all” was meant as a rhetorical flourish rather than literally. Otherwise it seems rather unfair – I doubt that the majority of TNE readers “bought” Boris Johnson in 2019.

I had already written to my Tory MP stating that if Johnson was elected leader/prime minister, I could not vote for her. Unfortunately, that much-respected pro-Europe MP did not stand again and her pro-Johnson successor maintained a majority of nearly 25,000.

I have since written to him suggesting that rank-and-file MPs could do something about the preposterous behaviour of Johnson and his pantomime Lord, but I received no reply. I am however encouraged by the stirrings among backbenchers, and we will soon find out from North Shropshire which way the wind is blowing. I have done what I can.
Nigel Britton

When we have stopped laughing about Peppa Pig, can we remember that thousands of pigs have had to be culled because of a shortage of workers in the meat slaughter industry, partly caused by Boris Johnson’s Brexit ending the free movement of workers?
John Phillips

Fitting tribute
I cannot comment on whether Janet Berridge is correct (Letters, TNE #270) over whether the gold standard of museums telling the story of the Holocaust is Yad Vashem in Israel, although I do not doubt her recommendation. What I do know is that 20 years ago I visited the Holocaust Museum in Washington DC.

What I saw there reduced me to tears, repeatedly. I’m haunted still. I learned that day that when any nation or race tries to set itself up against any other as superior (for whatever reason) they, and the cause they purport, diminish humanity. Not just the people they oppress but, more significantly, their own.
Michael O’Hare
Northwood


Paying Iran is the right move

Carolyn Beckingham (Letters, TNE #270) asks what happens if Britain pays up and Iran still refuses to free Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe. The answer to that question is that the British government will have displayed an overdue and unaccustomed sense of fair play and honesty on the world stage.

Who knows, this may become habit-forming on both sides of this and other disputes.
Roger Blassberg
St Albans


We can’t win being negative
Can I say to Tony Dench (Letters, TNE #270) and others that if we are going to achieve a return to the EU, we need the support of the many Tory-voting Remainers we marched alongside in 2019 and 2020. Many of my Tory-supporting friends are as appalled by Brexit as we are, but alienating them for having moderate, right-of-centre politics is a negative step.

We cannot win with a narrow “left-of-centre: good, right-of-centre: bad” attitude. So please, let’s be more inclusive.
Kev

Britney’s case isn’t Brexit
I am impressed by the sophistication of Nigel Warburton (Everyday Philosophy, TNE #270) inventing a Britney Spears (BS) analogy for Brexit, analogous to the Brexiter analogies, thus arguing against analogies by analogy!

But it isn’t a “weak” analogy – it is the opposite of Brexit.

BS was put in conservatorship, Member States (MSs) freely choose to enter the EU (and can only do so with the unanimous sovereign agreement of existing members).

BS was held against her will, all MSs remain in only if they want to.

BS and all her assets were controlled with no say from her – nine MSs contribute about 1% of GDP, and all MSs are partners jointly and severally responsible for all decisions on everything.

BS only exited because a third party allowed her to; any MS can leave at any time purely by its own sovereign decision.
P.E. Basford
Herts


Tartan barmy

A reasoned article on the future direction of Scotland from Alain Catzelis (“Secession: Is this UK drama reaching its finale?”, TNE #270). But oh dear, a first and hopefully last, use of the phrase “tartan independence.” Let’s leave the “tartan” to tourists and weddings and build a progressive future. The word “separatism” is exclusively used in Scotland by advocates of the status quo.

Scotland voted overwhelmingly, along with Northern Ireland, to stay in the EU.

Separatism from Europe was something foisted on us by the decision of our southern neighbour. The use of phrases and words are important.
Stuart Campbell
Dumfries and Galloway


Pardon my French

Will Self (“Multicultural Man… on prejudices”, TNE #270) is showing his own prejudices if he thinks inhabitants of Cornish towns don’t read The New Yorker or consider mid-20th-century French culture as much as most people.
Mary Fletcher
St. Ives

Single minded

Kenneth Jarrett (Letters, TNE #270) may be right to admire the Australian system of compulsory voting, but more voters won’t help much if we retain FPTP. Supporters of progressive politics need to work together urgently to achieve a modern, fair electoral system, but which system?

I would advocate Single Transferable Vote (STV). It allows voters to rank their preferences from a wide range of individual candidates and delivers groups of MPs for large, multi-member constituencies, with very proportional results.

A modified form of STV could match individual MPs with smaller sub-constituencies, similar in size to existing ones. This would retain the personal relationship with the MP that we are used to in the UK.
Bob Turner
Ponteland, Newcastle upon Tyne


Mind your language

Peter Trudgill’s article (TNE#269) about the prefix un- in English and all the modern Germanic languages brings to mind its counterpart an- in Cymraeg, the language of Cymru/Wales. The preposition anad happens to have the meaning “before” as well as an adjective meaning “special”, but the usage of an- is otherwise often very similar to un- in English.

A word like anabl is a virtual transliteration of unable, the noun anlwc (“bad luck”) and the adjective anlwcus (“unlucky”) are the opposite of lwc (“luck”) and lwcus (“lucky”) and obviously similar to English. While there are a number of similar historic transliterations, with some no longer in everyday usage, there are also words such as anufudd (“disobedient”), the opposite of ufudd (“obedient”).

The use of mutations at the beginning of words in Cymraeg gives rise to many interesting results of which bodlon (“willing, pleased, content”) becoming anfodlon (“unwilling, discontented”) and daearol (“earthly”) becoming annaearol (“unearthly”) are a couple of examples. There are many such negative usages of an- in Cymraeg, but it can also appear at the beginning of words with, maybe unexpectedly, positive meanings, a good example being annwyl (“dear” in the sense of “loving”) as well as, of course, the near transliteration anifail (“animal”).
Androw Bennett
Caerfyrddin/Carmarthen


A new hope?

I never like to be too hopeful when it comes to Labour politics, but the thought of Yvette Cooper opposing Priti Patel as shadow home secretary is giving me a little positivity in what is looking like another bad end to a bad year. Likewise, the idea of Lisa Nandy v Michael Gove. Dare we dream? Probably not!
Sue Hutchinson
Manchester


It’s looking more and more as if Priti Patel is just another one of Johnson’s Cabinet members who is incapable of doing their job. It’s about time she stopped blaming the French for everything and took a good long look in the mirror.

In two years of dealing with the migrant boat issue, she has come up with nothing sensible or caring.

A good starting point for her would be to organise safer routes and have a more humane understanding of the desperation of would-be refugees. But that’s something which Patel obviously appears to lack.
John Byrne

The tragic recent deaths in the English Channel and Boris Johnson’s outrageous letter to Emmanuel Macron, which he decided to publish on Twitter, reveal that Brexit has not brought us back control of our borders.

Had we remained in the European Union, we would have been entitled to return illegal immigrants to France. Labour should never have voted for Johnson’s awful hard Brexit.

Now it is time for Sir Keir Starmer to propose a new relationship with Europe, which would enable British citizens to travel freely in Europe and give us access to the Common Market and the Customs Union.

We could also make arrangements permitting refugees to apply for asylum at British embassies in France and Belgium so that refugees with asylum status could cross the Channel legitimately by ferries or by Eurostar to gain access to the United Kingdom.
David Hogg
Bristol


No trace of success

Wasn’t there a time when our “world-beating” test and trace service was going to be our protection from the worst outcomes of Covid? Sadly, by allowing daily rates of c. 40,000 new infections (in the name of “freedom”), the trace aspect never seems to have been effective, yet now is the time that we may really need it to work.

However, when we need people to be testing regularly, the people handing out the free lateral flow tests at stations and supermarkets have vanished. Ask at a pharmacy and you are told that you need a “code” – no code, no tests.

Given where we are, and all that we have come through, is now the right time to put an unnecessary blocker in place to stop people testing as much as we need?
Nick Roberts
Selly Oak, Birmingham


We’re the pick of the litter

While we were away for the weekend recently, our neighbour fed our cats, and spotted an interesting article peeking out of their litter tray. Intrigued, he retrieved a page or two of The New European that my wife had re-purposed, and, bumping into her in the street today, asked her to pass on his thanks.

Impressed by what he read, he subscribed. I hear he has now received his sixth issue, and is thoroughly enjoying the experience.
Peter Haydon
London

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