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Sunak is starting a very nasty election campaign

His comment at PMQs was absolutely calculated. He knew full well it would appeal to a certain group who might be on the fence about voting Reform over Tory

Photo: Dan Kitwood/Getty

Is Rishi Sunak a clown, a joke to be laughed at as your cover and Matthew d’Ancona suggest (TNE #375), or is he something far worse?

The lines of attack he is pursuing against Keir Starmer – the “terrorist sympathiser”, the jokes about “women with penises” – will do more damage to our politics than stupid bets with Piers Morgan. This is going to be a very unpleasant election campaign.
Rebecca Rose

Make no mistake, Sunak’s comment at PMQs was absolutely calculated. He knew full well it would enrage people who would never vote Tory, but would appeal to a certain group who might be on the fence about voting Reform over Tory. Cynical and vile.
Jonathan Polley

Never mind the PopCons. Given the proliferation of Tory splinter groups, wouldn’t it be more appropriate to call them all Ex-Cons?
Richard Dennery

I’m setting up the Fantastic Kneejerk faction of the Tory Party. Would anyone like to join the FanKnees?
Amanda Baker

Local heroes
While Paul Mason is right in his diagnosis of the problems of local government and its finance (The worst of the Tory-created council cash crisis is yet to come, TNE #375), his proposals for solutions are far from perfect. They seem only to involve fine-tuning discredited council tax. Two major reforms are needed.

The first is, as he correctly writes, for central government to take total financial responsibility for all statutory services. That will reduce the impact on council tax and perhaps give a tax reduction to local taxpayers, although local taxes do not come high in the priorities of a Tory government. A cut in income tax does not help a beleaguered pensioner to pay their council tax.

Second, council tax and business rates themselves have to be replaced by a form of Land Value Tax (LVT). The Welsh government has recently produced an excellent consultation study on LVT, which makes the case very strongly.

LVT has three huge plus points. First, it is inflation proof; second, land cannot be taken to tax havens as can money and ownership; third, these two reforms, central responsibility and LVT, could allow local councils to restore some of the lost facilities and do what local councils do best, namely look after their local populations.
Alan Craw

Media bias
As Patience Wheatcroft notes (TNE #375) Labour has been constantly goaded about the costs of implementing its green prosperity plan. However, the media rarely asks the Conservatives how they would fund their plans, such as they are, for adapting the economy to cope with climate change.
This is part of a wider pattern of the media’s unbalanced treatment of financial questions.

The opposition is relentlessly quizzed about precise details of its ambitions despite not yet knowing what it will inherit. In contrast, the government is not regularly challenged on the sources and consequences of its spending plans.

For example, having discovered some magic fiscal “headroom” the chancellor promises tax cuts without being asked how much this will cost and whether this money would be better spent on the NHS.
Dr Colin J Smith
West Kirby, Merseyside

Four letters attacking Sir Keir Starmer and a very unpleasant attack on Ed Davey by Mandrake in TNE #375? A reminder: the Liberal Democrats are the only political party to openly advocate repairing our relationship with the EU via a closer trade agreement – it’s in their conference manifesto.

Labour are the only viable alternative to a far-right party whose leader is happy to utter transphobic slurs in public, and whose elected members are deliberately destroying our NHS and dismantling many of our basic human rights.

Leaders come and leaders go, as evinced by the recent rapid turnover in the Tory Party. Eyes on the prize, people.
Carol Hedges
Harpenden, Herts

In Bloom
The “Total disaster of our own making” suffered by British manufacturers and reported on by Jonty Bloom (TNE #375) was just as predicted by Remain and denied/lied about by the Brexit-backing mob.
Graeme Brown

Reading Marie Le Conte’s “The return of the farmers”, I recalled that before the 2016 referendum, most of the farmers I encountered were strong supporters of Brexit. Now these self-same farmers are complaining that they no longer receive money from the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy.

The Conservative Party promised to pay the same or even better than the EU. This money has never materialised.
David Hogg

Brain drain
Nigel Warburton in his article about Elon Musk’s brain implant (TNE #375) brings to our attention a new “acronym”, namely BCI, for brain-computer interface.  Me and my wife have been discussing this and it has become quite heated. I believe that the correct term should be initialism because the letters are pronounced separately, but my wife is happy for acronym to be used in this instance and says that to insist on using initialism is simply being pedantic.  Perhaps Peter Trudgill could adjudicate in this matter?
Graham Heap
Lewes, East Sussex

Peace please
Re: Letters, TNE #375. I am so disappointed with the New European at the moment. I always thought you were fair-minded, but the failure properly to call out what is happening in Gaza shows that you are not.

The genocidal destruction of the people of Gaza, by far the largest number being women and children, is out of all proportion and should be deplored. No one would condone the attack by Hamas, but it appears that one Israeli life is worth about 27 Palestinians. The numbers are becoming absurd, and the threatened starvation a true war crime.  
Chris Shepherd (Mrs)

It is time to stop talking about the terrorist acts on both sides, and to think about what will actually bring about peace. The Palestinians have shown they are well able to run their own state, and they have every right to do this. This is a necessary first step to peace in the region. It will need international organisations to ensure this happens, because the Israeli government has always believed that control over Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank is what is needed for peace. This idea has been shown to be badly wrong, and it is time to let others make the arrangements for a Palestinian state.   
Brian Pollard
Launceston, Cornwall

Very occasionally I read something that resonates to a degree that I cut it out and re-read it from time to time. Jonathan Powell’s five central principles at the heart of any peace process, as mentioned in Alastair Campbell’s Diary (TNE #374) has joined the small collection. I wonder if Benjamin Netanyahu reads TNE?
Alan Wood
Morden, London

What we want
I enjoyed “Beginning again” by Oliver Jeffers (TNE #374). He suggests that we focus on the world we want, not the one we don’t want.

Could you please apply that idea to the front page and content of the New European? The continuous feed of lifesize pictures of Johnson, Truss, Rees-Mogg, Farage, Gove, Trump and Putin turns me off wanting to read the paper. These figures are the “baddies” of the piece; why not give us the “goodies”? Please give us more on the good things that are happening in the EU.
Pauline Gill

Pee brained
Liz Gerard is to be commended for drawing our attention to the behaviour of the right wing press (“Smear Starmer”, TNE #374).  In Scotland, we are well used to this daily ranting against the SNP and the government in Holyrood. The kind of venom and bile which those newspapers specialise in is an affront to decency and constructive democratic debate.

The only consolation is that their circulation numbers may be in decline. One would wish that it could be swifter.
R Ross
Lothian, Scotland

The pillorying of Keir Starmer by the Mail can be compared to the treatment used by the Evening Standard against Ken Livingstone at the mayoral elections in 2008 and 2012.

Sometimes for a full five days of the week, their front page would denounce Livingstone as soft on crime, a supporter of the IRA, against the royal family etc. You didn’t have to buy it as their front page was displayed outside every tube station in London, treating residents to a daily drip-feed of hatred.
C Cronin
Battersea, London

Next weekend we get a new puppy. While we toilet-train him, there will be old newspapers used on the floor.  Other than TNE, when Sainsbury’s hasn’t sold out, I buy no newspapers. However, we get donated the Daily Mail from a friend (a Brexiteer, but still a friend). Puppy poo and pee seems an appropriate use for this rag.
Kerry Schofield

Anti social  
I read James Ball’s “the antisocial Tories’ epic fail” (TNE #374) with interest apropos using social media as an effective means to cut through to the public. Rishi Sunak, an evangelical proponent of this type of communication, needs to appreciate that vacuous, insincere messaging turns the public off.

Labour also needs to watch this proclivity, because their attack ads last year were simply crass and dire.
Judith A Daniels
Great Yarmouth, Norfolk

Re: “The antisocial Tories’ epic fail”, TNE #374. Spare a thought for Isaac Levido, whom Sunak has employed as his political guru to win the election. The impossibility of the job must make it extremely stressful. So, give it up Levido – before it stifles your libido.
Roger Hinds

Digital life
Nigel Warburton (“On Simulations”, TNE #374) suggests we may be simulations in some super-intelligent being’s computer. If so, can I do anything to get the super-intelligent being to improve my world – without them switching it off and on again? – or is that what’s needed to avoid a rerun of the President Trump routine?

The chances that we are in a computer simulation are put at one in four or one in five. If computer programs pass Turing tests, how do I know I’m not in a computer program? I think such a program would need to protect itself by preventing someone like Nigel Warburton (and me via the TNE letters page) from exposing us to questioning our reality. The simulation has surely failed if we, the simulated people, become aware of our own unreality.
Roland Lazarus
Billericay, Essex

Numbers game
In “The AfD’s plan to repeat history” (TNE #374), Jane Whyatt states: “Fifteen million ethnic Germans were driven out of Poland and Czechoslovakia after the second world war. Nine million starved or froze to death on the journey to the new Germany.”

As the partner of a German, and with a reasonable knowledge of 20th-century German history, I was surprised to read of these large numbers. Some short research linked these figures to a book, Crimes and Mercies: The Fate of German Civilians Under Allied Occupation, 1944-1950 by James Bacque, which seems to have been widely challenged, if not discredited, by academic historians. Ms Whyatt may be in danger of unintentionally repeating AfD propaganda.
Elizabeth Coates Thümmel

Split level
Matt Withers’s interview with Jamie Hepburn, Scottish minister for independence, on the TNE website reasserts the SNP myth that Scotland could achieve membership of the EU if it gained independence. It’s an accepted fact in Brussels that there is no way this can happen.

Under no circumstances could Spain allow the precedent of a breakaway province being granted membership. The politicians in Catalonia are watching Scotland with interest. I also believe the Belgian and Italian governments are now seeing that any scenario where a new country that was previously part of an EU member can gain all the benefits of membership after splitting from the mother country is not in their interests. The SNP should be honest with the Scottish voters.
Paul Connellan

Date cake
Following Colin Price’s letter on early Easter eggs (TNE #374), I saw an advert for Christmas cake decorations on January 31. Is this a record?
Carolyn Beckingham
Lewes, Sussex

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See inside the Brexit Benefits: Complete and Unabridged edition

Image: The New European/Getty

‘Pompous prick’ Rees-Mogg wanders into the farmers’ fields of ire

Agriculture is in a crisis created by Brexit, and farmers are furious.. as Jacob Rees-Mogg found out

Credit: Tim Bradford

Cartoon: The Legend of King Boris – should they bring him back?