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The parallels with the 30s are more than linguistic

The poisonous cocktail of ideologically driven nationalism and gradual erosion of our rights is worrying indeed

Photo: Leon Neal/Pool/AFP/Getty

Those who label Gary Lineker’s views as “lazy” should read what German nationalists actually wrote during the century preceding the Holocaust. The parallels between the political language adopted by the new Tory Party and the public discourse of the early 1930s are obvious to anyone who has taken the trouble to acquaint themselves with the literature.

One only has to read the writings of Heinrich von Treitschke, professor of history in Berlin (1834-96), who in 1879 sparked a new wave of antisemitic feeling with his slogan Die Juden sind unser Unglück (“the Jews are our misfortune”). During the following years he wrote, for example, of a horde of trouser-selling young men from the inexhaustible cradle of Poland (aus der unerschöpflichen polnischen Wiege) streaming over the eastern borders of Germany, indeed he talked about an inundation (Überflutung) of Jews and Poles, using derogatory and dehumanising language in a chilling foretaste of what was to come. He wasn’t the only one, by any means.

But the parallels are more than linguistic. The attempt to replace “lefties” with right-thinking people (excuse the pun) bears an uncanny resemblance to the policy of Gleichschaltung (the Nazification of German society) during the Third Reich. And we all know what came after Gleichschaltung – it was Ausschaltung in the death camps, not just for Jews, but for anybody who did not toe the party line. Nobody is suggesting we are there yet, but the poisonous cocktail of ideologically driven nationalism, dehumanising language and gradual erosion of our rights in the name of national sovereignty and destiny is worrying indeed.
Jonathan West

Inscribed on the wall of BBC Broadcasting House, beside a statue of George Orwell, are the words, “If liberty means anything at all it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear”. It is therefore ironic that an ex-footballer should be censored for tweeting about the government using language of 1930s Germany over its immigration policy, only to have the censorship that that implied applied to him. The difference between right and “the right” has never been clearer in this generation.
Hugh Janes
Plymouth, Devon

Majority note
Paul Mason (“If the Tories are crushed, they’ll be replaced by something even worse”, TNE #332) worries that a Conservative collapse might lead to the formation of an even more extreme right-wing party.

This strange argument relies on two assumptions: that Labour wins the next election, and then, crucially, does nothing to alter our dismal, archaic voting system that gives us Tory rule for 75% of the time without them ever winning the popular vote.

Why is Labour so committed to a patently unfair voting system?
Robin Prior
Wargrave, Berkshire

I want to see an end to this government but not a 300+ majority for Labour. Our system works on the basis of a strong opposition holding the government to account. We can see what an 80-seat majority has done when coupled with an ineffective opposition. The Tories need to move back to the centre. We forget how far they’ve moved to the right, but a more centrist Tory Party is important to hold Labour to account.
John Robb
Via Facebook

No political party should ever have a huge majority. Scottish devolution constructed their voting system to try to ensure no one political party could be dominant; it’s about time the UK voting system was also changed.
Alison Briggs
Via Facebook

I suspect Paul Mason’s fears of a Tory wipeout will not be realised. There may well be some economic uplift between now and the next election, but the Tories will inevitably claim all the credit for it, whether deserved or not. They will cut Labour’s opinion poll lead, probably substantially. The election is going to be much closer than many pundits currently predict.

For me, the greater danger is one that Paul hints at: the presence of people like Scott Benton in the Tory Party and the wider problem of far-right “entryism”. There are other Bentons – and characters even worse – at various levels in the party. The party as a whole is being dragged gradually but relentlessly to the extreme right.

If Paul thinks Sunak’s recent behaviour over the Windsor Framework heralds the return of “sensible moderates” to the leadership of the party, he is sadly mistaken. The “moderate” Tories have gone and they aren’t coming back.
Tony Stopyra

Paul Mason’s article and its talk of “sensible moderates” is already out of date. Any pretence at decency from Sunak is now gone. He is promoting a bill that will deny refugees arriving in the UK their legal rights, and his party uses blatant lies and resorts to deliberate incitement to racial hatred to justify its actions.
Ian Anderson

Paul Mason suggests that, based on current polling data, the Conservatives will be reduced to a much smaller number of seats at the next election. He predicts that these will be in the rural counties, eg Somerset.

This comes from a common mistake; the assumption that national polling data translates equally across the country. In reality, the south-west is the home of Liberalism; and in many of the constituencies, the Liberal Democrats are the ones in second place. This is generally ignored in the national calculations, and is why those often inaccurately predict Labour will win seats.

Based upon recent local elections and the byelection in Tiverton & Honiton, with even a relatively modest swing at a general election the Lib Dems could easily take more than a few of the seats in the region from the Tories.
Tony Sutcliffe

No beef
James Ball’s “Where’s the beef, Keir? (TNE #332)” sums up a lamentable situation. Labour should be far more radical.

Proportional representation should be introduced. The House of Lords should be replaced with a senate elected with PR to represent the regions of Britain. In addition, Labour should advocate a better deal with the European Union, which could include the Erasmus programme and Horizon cooperation on scientific research.

Labour needs the ambition of Clement Attlee to create a New Britain.
David Hogg

James Ball always has a ready explanation for Starmer’s inertia. It seems that everything will be hunky dory so long as we all pretend that Brexit can be made to work. Is this something to do with that fiendishly clever “long game” that worked so wonderfully well for Corbyn?
Don Adamson

Radical action from Labour will happen, but Starmer will not move before the time is right. If he did this now the right-wing media would be all about this and not the appalling mess the Tories are making.
Sally Churchill
Via Facebook

Poison fields
Re: “Sacrificial lambs of Brexit” (TNE #332). I am afraid that farmers do have some public owning up to do before they will get much sympathy. Farming has never taken responsibility for the pro-Leave advertising hoardings seen in every field during the referendum campaign. They may claim that the vote share for Leave among farmers was only slightly higher than the national average, but these campaign hoardings will have influenced countless others, and for that, they must take responsibility.

The post-Brexit direction of travel was clear – that we would import more cheap food – but the NFU insisted on a “we don’t campaign for either side” stance, with a brief swerve to “maybe Remain could be better for farmers” at the end. When it was way too late.

Farmers have harmed themselves, but the advertising campaign they endorsed has caused a mountain of misery for others, too.

Petra Suckling
Via Facebook

Brexit lies
In his issue #332 Diary, Alastair Campbell reports on a speech he recently gave at Stirling University in which he stated: “I will continue to point out that Brexit was a decision made by one generation, in response to a campaign led by a now utterly discredited leader, that will affect all generations to come. Younger generations have every right to fight to have the decision revisited.”

To which “one generation” is he referring? The older one who might vaguely remember the second world war, postwar austerity, industrial strife? Or the younger one, whose opportunities have cruelly been reduced due to the break with the EU? Or perhaps the middle generation, which never understood the benefits of EU membership because these were not explained to them?

Perhaps it is due to the company I keep, but I know very few people above the age of 50 who think Brexit was a good idea or voted for it. I know many younger people who envy me the opportunities I had, being able to choose which European country I wanted to go and live and work in.

When examining why Brexit happened, surely we need to avoid generalisations like this. The public was lied to: some swallowed the lies, and others recognised them. We are – sadly – where we are.
Janet Berridge

Alastair Campbell (Diary, TNE #332) described Boris Johnson as “the Lying Putrescence”. What an excellent and appropriate turn of phrase!
Martin Griffiths

Local benefits
We are currently snowed in, so I can see how the 15-minute city concept (“Tip of the iceberg”, TNE #332) would work brilliantly. No one can use their cars, so get your boots on and walk, just like your grandparents’ generation did – work, shops, school, doctors, everything within walking distance.

You’ll still get these conspiracy theory nutjobs saying it’s a dictatorship, but if you want to spend hours every day sitting in your car, no one in government is stopping you.
Chris Carter

No act too tiny
I am always interested to read Nigel Warburton’s philosophy column, but I have to take issue with “On symbolic gestures” (TNE #331).

He says that individual “symbolic gestures” will at best have only minor effects on world events. I disagree: well-placed, well-timed, or even everyday “gestures” tend to attract curiosity, and this gives one an opportunity to explain why one is doing it. Enquirers can be engaged in conversation, and might go away thinking differently.

It is wrong, and very defeatist, to say “it is all too big, there is nothing I can do to make a difference”. Leading by example does work: look at Skolstrejk för Klimatet led by a Swedish teenager…
Professor Roger Bayston
Woodthorpe, Nottingham

Miles earlier
It was great to see Jason Solomons’ piece on Miles Davis (“Mood music”, TNE #331). Miles’ pioneering of the muted trumpet sound goes further back than the article suggests.

Solomons refers to the release of The Birth of the Cool album in 1957, but this was a compilation album of the original music, which had been recorded and released as 78rpm records back in 1949-50, well ahead of the Prestige albums such as Cookin’ and Walkin’.
Steve Penny
Beaufort, South Wales

Jazz is an international language and I was very pleased to find Miles Davis in your pages. Many years ago I played some jazz in Spain with a German trumpeter. I knew no German and his English was confined to the names of the tunes he knew, but that was all we needed to play together.

Significant European cooperation indeed and I can’t imagine that any serious jazz enthusiast would have voted for Brexit.
Graham Colombé
Sheringham, Norfolk

What a turnip
In response to the food shortages (Cover, TNE #331), perhaps the government should have told us “there is no magic tomato plant”.
Michael Prince

I am distraught at the way your publication has derided the turnip recently. You would hang your heads in shame if you tasted my Green Stone turnip fresh from my garden.

I am forming a new pressure group, the Turnip Understanding Rehabilitation Discernment Society (not sure about the acronym).
Eddy Jones
Mapperley, Nottingham

Late arrival
This morning I watched the latest British prime minister arrive in Paris to meet Emmanuel Macron and was amazed to hear this was the first time in five years that any of our numerous prime ministers had bothered to meet the president of our closest neighbour, in office since 2017.

It’s a fair question to ask the Tory Party what were May, Johnson and Truss doing all this time, apart from dreaming up slogans to distract our attention from the disastrous effects of Brexit, and playing musical chairs?
John Simpson

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