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Satire helps us cope with this government

We need Have I Got News for You and The Last Leg just as we needed Spitting Image in the 1980s – to reassure us that we aren’t all going mad

HIGNFY is really important for us to hear this ridiculous government being taken to task. Photo: Leon Neal/Getty

Re: Will Self’s “The end of satire” (TNE #381). Could it be that modern politics has become so ridiculous that satire has now simply caught up, giving HIGNFY the appearance of a regular current affairs programme?
James Sutherland

Maybe Conservative voters don’t watch HIGNFY but it is really important for the rest of us to hear the panellists ridiculing the government (and others being ridiculous). It’s good to see a little part of the BBC which the Tory nasties have not censored out of existence.
Sally Churchill

Satire is a vital element in democracy, as vital as effective challenge. Programmes like HIGNFY, and The Last Leg, could have been on prescription at a time when people’s mental health has been so battered by a powerful but hostile (to many) and inept central government. 

We need satire just as we needed Spitting Image in the 80s, just to check we aren’t all going mad.
Steve Hardiman

Satire is galling – it’s a toothless balm in the face of adversity.
Benedict Marshall

Bad taste
I won’t be the only person to have said this, but while you had no reason to know quite how inappropriate the cover of TNE #381 was when it was published, it was always potentially so, even before the announcement, as clearly there was something going on. 

For someone like me who didn’t open the package until two days after the announcement, it is in desperately bad taste.
Jane Moore

Fresh ideas
Lucy McCormick’s informative and provocative “The case for citizens’ assemblies” (TNE #381) was exactly the kind of article I would like to see more of in the New European.

My own reservations concerning these assemblies lie in the selections of the experts and the evidence presented to citizens. If these can be seen to be biased, then the whole idea falls. 

But at least CAs are an attempt to reinvigorate our democracy. Without these, disillusion and populism will take root.
Mary Gibson

I’m neither black nor a woman so I can only imagine what Diane Abbott has been through and continues to endure. Bonnie Greer’s open letter to Kemi Badenoch (TNE #381) gave me a brief insight into a world I will never experience.

Another outstanding column from an outstanding writer. Let’s hope that someone in Whitehall will leave an open copy of TNE on the desk of the secretary of state for women and equalities.
Andy Mardell 
Cardiff, Wales

Bonnie Greer’s letter to Kemi Badenoch highlights the self-serving attitude of Tory politicians. 

Badenoch is certainly, at best, a hypocrite. Her “let’s move on” continues to put black people, and women in particular, in a very dangerous place.
David Nelson
Wilmslow, Cheshire

Labour pains
The “Heart of Starmerism” described by Patience Wheatcroft (TNE #381) can not be delivered without a big increase in public investment. And the austerian Rachel Reeves has pretty much ruled that out.
Phil Tomlinson

Unless Starmer backs single market membership and freedom of movement there is nothing to get behind. These are imperatives. 

Either he knows this and is lying to the detriment of the country or he doesn’t know, in which case he’s not fit to lead the country.

The disappointment felt by all those pinning their hopes on him will be exploited by the resurgent NatCons, who will use FPTP to storm back.
Lauren Smith

I have thought for some time what Alastair Campbell writes in his Diary (TNE #381): that Keir Starmer will be better suited to government than to opposition. Let’s hope it’s true. But let us, please, leave the name Thatcher out of Labour’s electioneering.
Cara Lockhart-Smith

I’m afraid I do not buy the “Starmer is a blue-sky thinker” spin (Alastair Campbell’s Diary, TNE #381). To me, he is closer to Johnson than he is to Blair. He is determined to pursue Brexit despite all its disastrous effects so far, for the sake of his own political ambitions.

I have heard nothing from Starmer or any of his devotees that in any way assures me that they will repair the damage the Tories have done. His betrayal of future generations makes him totally unfit for government.
Jonathan Fogell

Starmer is a red Tory. He has no plan, and no vision to improve the lives of ordinary folk.

And he’s not popular, he’s where he is because of the Tories’ criminal irresponsibility and ripping us off, misappropriating public funds to their pals and destroying public infrastructure.

But worse, he’s not even a democrat. He refuses to acknowledge Scotland’s status in this alleged union, and denies us our right to determine our own future.
Jim Taylor
Edinburgh, Scotland

Wrecking ball
Reading Jonty Bloom’s “The state we’re in” (TNE #381) made me think about the Conservative European Research Group, which led the right wing campaign for Brexit.

Clearly this group was incompetent because any serious research would have reached the same conclusions as Jonty Bloom – that civil service numbers would have to soar as the government undermined its own response to Brexit.

All that the European Research Group has achieved is the wrecking of the Conservative Party.
David Hogg
Bristol, Avon

Trump effect
In “The Tories are in moral freefall” (TNE #381), Matthew d’Ancona refers to their cheap culture wars in the pursuit of votes. It seems Donald Trump is to blame for the increase in inflammatory rhetoric as, apparently, his extreme statements generated record levels of free publicity for him during his campaign, launched in June 2015, to become Republican presidential nominee – worth $2bn, according to the firm mediaQuant.

It was a tactic widely used by the Brexiteers during the EU referendum and, as Matthew mentions, has continued with right wingers such as Suella Braverman and Lee Anderson pandering to people’s prejudices. If the media have any sense they will  ignore them in the interests of social cohesion. But that’s unlikely.

Perhaps the answer is to drown out this “gormless populism” by appealing to people’s better instincts – the approach of inspirational leaders such as John F Kennedy and Nelson Mandela.
Roger Hinds

Re: “The Tories are in moral freefall”. The government is suffering from RSI: Rishi Sunak Indecisiveness.
Richard Dennery
Buckingham, Bucks

The Economist recently described Rishi Sunak as having a weakness for silly ideas, citing Brexit and the Rwanda policy. Hard to disagree with this; but Rwanda is worse.

Funding Rwanda’s war in Congo will create more refugees. It would be great to see an article in the New European where you look at the awful impact it is having and will continue to have.
Teresa Norman
Look for an article by Paul Knott on this subject in the near future – Editor

Linked up
In writing about Germany’s so-called winter of discontent (Germansplaining, TNE #381), Tanit Koch states: “Passengers must disembark at the German station Basel Bad Bf and take public transport to Basel to continue within the Swiss system.” That may have been the case years ago, but nowadays most trains passing through or stopping at Basel Badischer Bhf now continue the short distance down the line to Basel Hbf. 

The reason is that Basel has become more integrated into the European transport system. Its airport is also linked to north-east France and south-east Germany. Hence, the airport is known as EuroAirport Basel-Mulhouse-Freiburg. It is linked to Basel Hbf by a frequent bus service.

It is not pedantry that leads me to point this out. Years ago, I landed at Basel airport and caught a bus to the “railway station”. On attempting to buy a rail ticket to Freiburg, I was directed to the Badischer Bahnhof – a tram ride away. Before entering the platform area, one was required to show one’s passport to the German border guard. Indeed, if I remember correctly, it was not possible to enter the station during the period from late evening to early morning.

I would suggest that the above is an indication of how integrated the mainland European economy is becoming. It is in complete contrast to the narrow margin with which English voters brought about Brexit.
Dr Eric Owen Smith

What is a win?
While I accept much of what Paul Knott says regarding the likely consequences of Russia gaining control of the whole of Ukraine (“What if Russia wins?” TNE #380), his article does not consider the possibility of a long-term ceasefire or peace agreement in Ukraine, with Volodymyr Zelensky’s government continuing to control most of the country as at present, and in due course joining Nato and the EU.

If there were to be a ceasefire and maybe a peace agreement, with Russia continuing to control the territory it currently occupies in the east, would this amount to Putin “winning”? Certainly not, as regards his original ambition to control the whole of Ukraine and reduce the threat he claims that western nations pose to Russia. The war has actually resulted in the enlargement and strengthening of Nato, with Finland having joined in 2023 and now Sweden in 2024.

Would such a ceasefire or peace agreement amount to condoning Russia’s unprovoked war of aggression? Not while the UK, most EU members and the US continue to denounce Russia’s aggression as an affront to civilised human values and to the international order, and while Russia continues to be subjected to sanctions until it has made adequate reparations to Ukraine for all the loss and damage the war has caused.

If Russia were allowed, at least temporarily, to keep control of eastern Ukraine and Crimea, would this encourage Putin to attack other nations? Unlike Paul Knott, I do not think this is highly likely. Russia has encountered great difficulties, and suffered very heavy casualties and economic and diplomatic harm, just by trying to subdue Ukraine, which is not (yet) a Nato member. 

A ceasefire would immediately end the killing and suffering of large numbers of civilians, as well as combatants on both sides. Ukraine should consider a transparent consultation exercise to find out what its people think. If a large proportion of them want a ceasefire, their president should respect this.
Roderick MacLeod
Bristol, Avon

George who?
It is fascinating to witness the outrage about the alterations made by Nike to the flag of St George on the new kit worn by the England football team. Apparently, some people are furious that this ancient flag has been changed for corporate profit. It has been revered, they claim, for centuries.

And maybe they have a valid point. In retrospect, Nike might concede that the new design was somewhat ill-considered. I doubt the Scots would wish to see the Saltire “reimagined” or the Italians have the colours of their tricolour reversed.

But watch footage of the England football team’s finest achievement: winning the World Cup at Wembley in 1966. There are many flags being waved, but there is barely a flag of St George among them. The union flag totally dominates.

It seems that at the moment of England’s greatest triumph, a mere 58 years ago, very few people cared about the flag of St George. Devotion to it seems far more recent than some adherents might have us believe.
Michael O’Hare
Northwood, Middlesex

Comments, conversation and correspondence from our online subscribers 

James Ball (“The price of politicsTNE #381) is right about political donations. In effect, our politics is in danger of being bought and sold like a commodity. 

A strict cap on donations and rigorous checks on origin, which other European countries seem to manage without a problem, is essential. A tightening of election expenses rules, especially at national level, is also a key reform. 

A more level playing field plus the introduction of proportional representation would hopefully open us to a better standard of debate, something we used to have before the 1980s, when politics became so tribal.
David Rolfe

Current legislation requires local party branches to be extremely, possibly even excessively, vigilant about the eligibility of modest donations. This is exasperating and frustrating when there seems to be much less control over the really big donations.
Gina Ford

Re: Marie Le Conte’s “The English language doesn’t exist” (TNE #381). The Adventure of English by Melvyn Bragg talks about how all our kitchen words are from French because the invaders got the peasants who worked in their castles to learn it. Hence plat/plate, boeuf/ beef etc. However, English also has words from the Vikings and we stole words (as well as everything else) from colonies, and of course Latin. Shampoo is from Hindi, khaki is Persian. I like to think countries “borrow” words and don’t give them back.
Amanda Webb

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