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Time for the tawdry, tinpot, toe-curling Tories to trot on

After four failed prime ministers in four years, the Conservatives are belatedly realising that all they have to show the electorate is failure

Rishi Sunak with Italy’s far-right PM Giorgia Meloni at the Atreju 2023 Conservative political festival in Rome last month. Photo: Franco Origlia/Getty

Re: “Rishi Sunak is showing Britain at its worst” (TNE #369). How much longer do we have to endure the teeny-weeny, titchy tetchy, talentless tiddler Tory whose terrible tenancy at No 10 has torn up truth with tacky treaties? He is a tawdry, tainted, toe-curling, tinpot trader in tragedy.
Amanda Baker
Edinburgh, Scotland

After the news that Rishi Sunak has axed plans to return to imperial measurements, will his pledge now be to “stop the groats”?
Mark Sims

After four failed prime ministers in four years, and the return of another in David Cameron, the Tories are belatedly realising that all they have to show the electorate is failure.

As “Liars of the Year” (TNE #369) shows, the result of this realisation is their wholesale adoption of the Trump/Johnson strategy of “alternative facts” to distract and blame others. Given the nature of a live interview and PMQs, their “alternative facts” or lies are allowed to go unchallenged, enabling them to constantly deny responsibility and blame Labour for Tory failings; they seem to have forgotten which party has been in power since 2010.

One thing we should learn from the last 50 years is how repetition of unchallenged lies about Europe – like Boris Johnson’s straight bananas – led to the ongoing disaster of Brexit. If those who gave us Brexit and Liz Truss’s disaster budget are allowed to continue uttering untrue statements, safe in the knowledge that they will not be challenged, there is no hope. 

These lies need to be instantly challenged. The Speaker must protect parliament and interrupt Tory ministers when they give us “alternative facts”. It will be painful to watch, but if supported by mainstream media it could be the first steps towards rebuilding respect for parliament, politics and our country’s position in the world.
John Simpson
Ross-on-Wye, Herefordshire

Kyiv’s fight
Thank you, John Sweeney, for “Christmas in Kyiv” (TNE #369). It gives a most moving account of the pain caused by war, an account all the more forceful because it is delivered in the words of those feeling that pain themselves. If only those voices were heard and listened to by those who believe that disagreement can be resolved by violent conflict.
John Weeks

Milei’s appeal
I read with interest “Milei and Maduro, riders on a storm from the south” (TNE #369) by Bonnie Greer and was disappointed to see well-rehearsed prejudices about Argentina. Yes, many Nazis came to Argentina, but we also welcomed many Jews who escaped from Europe.

My bigger issue with the article is that it gives no context as to why Milei was voted in as president with such a significant majority. People are fed up with the previous 20 years of Kirchner governments which wasted opportunities to improve the economy, aligned themselves with Russia, Iran, China and Venezuela, and allowed corruption on an unprecedented scale. Argentina has become a safe country for money laundering and drug trafficking to the point that in Rosario, locals had to attack the dealers because the police did nothing.

People did not vote for Milei because they loved him necessarily but because they were angry at the state of the country. You can’t put him in the same bag as Trump, Bolsonaro and Orbán without understanding the context.

I am a Christian member of the Labour Party, who has lived in the UK for over 20 years. I don’t agree with a lot of Milei’s economic policies but he is trying to rebuild the country’s institutions, security, education and economy.
Marcos Martinez Del Pero

Image rights
Your photograph of the arrest of Greta Thunberg, chosen as one of the images of 2023 (TNE #369), was reminiscent of a much older photograph, that of the suffragette Annie Kenney, who was arrested in Manchester in 1905 after heckling a Liberal politician.

In neither photograph do either of the women look anything other than vindicated in their beliefs. We can only hope that Thunberg’s campaign is as successful as Kenney’s.
John Dallimore

In your Christmas issue (TNE #369) you omit a mention of the artist who created the image of Baba Yaga on the Great European Life, the Russian Ivan Bilibin.

Just because the place one most often sees his art is in the large fairy story books one finds in the children’s books sections of charity shops does not mean that he isn’t a great illustrator, up there with Charles and Heath Robinson, Arthur Rackham, Edward Detmold, Frank Cheyne Papé or Charles Keeping.

I suggest you remedy this by making him a future Great European Life.
Paul Ricketts
Yatesbury, Wiltshire

Stop ageism
Re: “Britain’s Most Unwanted” (TNE #368). Sam White’s feature about Just Stop Oil includes this quote from a member of JSO who had left Extinction Rebellion (XR): “You’d expect there to be something going on but there was nothing… Oxford XR was like five old women. No offence, they were doing their best, but just leafletting or running community stuff.”

I am a 72-year-old woman and a member of XR Oxford. The group attracts people of all ages and genders. As is the case with many political and charitable organisations, much of the unseen hard work is carried out by older women. The quote is ageist, sexist and dismissive of the value of community organising. It is also wrong.
Ros Carne

Foreign affairs
Reading Gisela Greenaway’s letter (TNE #368) made me feel ashamed of Britain. Sadly, the xenophobic attitudes she describes extend to officials, too; an Italian friend told me how in September 2016 he was hassled by Border Force, and that was long before we had officially left the EU.

And the attitude of the government, that it is OK to override our international obligations to refugees, is beneath contempt. Let us bear in mind that Britain helped to destabilise the Middle East, which has caused a lot of the increase in refugees.
John Ball
Penryn, Cornwall

Liberal plans
I must respectfully disagree with those criticising the Lib Dems for not embracing Rejoin (Letters, TNE #368). The Lib Dem position is in principle to return to EU membership when the time is right. In the meanwhile, there is a four-point plan for the immediate future to rebuild bridges and trust, step by step, after the ravages of Boris Johnson and his successors.

Europe is currently low in voters’ priorities. The Lib Dems are therefore sensible to concentrate on other, more pressing issues and to target enough seats to return to third-party status in the Commons. Once achieved, that will surely be the time to be bolder.

I believe Ed Davey will stand down as leader after the election. He has several very able potential successors, including Layla Moran, Daisy Cooper and Wendy Chamberlain. Politics is the art of the possible. The time to pursue a new membership application is some way off.
David Rolfe
Dipton, County

Musical chairs
Many creative artists are imperfect human beings and Wagner was no exception. No one can condone or excuse his antisemitism. However, it does not infect or affect his work.

Alberich in the Ring is not an antisemitic character, as Paul Mason suggests in “Why we can’t cancel Wagner” (TNE #368). Nor, incidentally, is Mime, as Wagner himself said it was impossible to show a Jewish character on stage.

The subject of the Ring is the destructive result of the quest for power, shown in the renunciation of love by Alberich and the subsequent curse on the ring. Yes, this can be interpreted politically, as Bernard Shaw demonstrated long ago, or psychologically, as Robert Donington did in the last century, but it is mere confusion to bring the Nazis or antisemitism into it. The pro-Nazi sympathies of Wagner’s daughter-in-law Winifred, long after his death, have nothing to do with it.

Bernd Weikl, whom Mason quotes, is quite right to say that there is nothing antisemitic about the work, and music lovers, including the politically aware, are getting rather tired of the Ring being treated as a political football and traditional productions being regarded as reactionary political statements.
Stephen Barber
Witney, Oxfordshire

Crystal clear
As the archivist for the Royal Commission for the Exhibition of 1851, I was delighted to see that Prince Albert, our first president, is your Great European Life in TNE #368. However, the Crystal Palace was built in Hyde Park, not south London. It was only in 1852, after the exhibition, that it was moved to the area we now call Crystal Palace, before burning down in 1936.

The 1851 Royal Commission continues to this day as ground landlord for much of “Albertopolis” and promotes science, engineering and design through its various award schemes.
Angela Kenny
Harrow, Greater London

Dis United
I enjoyed the cover of TNE #368, depicting The Departed of 2023. But as a lifelong fan of Manchester City I noticed that while you displayed Bobby Charlton front and centre in the image, you did not find room anywhere for Francis Lee, who died on October 2.

“Franny” played 500 matches, half of those for City. He played 27 times for England – including the 1970 World Cup – and scored 10 goals. His was not an insignificant career and yet he was either left out or ignored, presumably to make room for a Caramac bar?

I have no gripe with you giving a prominent place to Bobby Charlton; after all, he was a truly great player. However, I would like to remind you that there are two clubs in Manchester, one of them current European champions.
TJ Jackson

Tories out
My new year’s wish is to see fewer Tories on the cover of TNE. Actually, how about living up to the title and reflecting some wider European issues and people on the cover in 2024?
Volker Wedekind
Nottingham, Notts

“If you spend too long opposing things, you forget what you are in favour of. I joined the Labour Party to see things change, not to complain about what other people are doing, and if we don’t get another Labour government we are never going to get any change at all.”

It would be refreshing if TNE could pay heed to the advice from the late Alistair Darling (quoted in Alastair Campbell’s diary, TNE #367) and spend a bit more time discussing ideas for the future and a little less moaning about Brexit, Boris Johnson and the Tory Party. Could we have a bit more positivity and inspiration, please?
David Hill

English roots
I cannot believe Peter Trudgill (“United States of East Anglia”, TNE #367) failed to mention Harwich in Massachusetts, as a place name that was taken across the North Atlantic.

Our very own Harwich, in Essex, was at one time home of Captain Jones, Master of the Mayflower (his house still stands), several crew members and, it is now believed, of the very Mayflower itself. It was in historic Harwich that the Mayflower was either originally built or later refitted for its most famous voyage. It was from here that it set sail to Rotherhithe and thence to Plymouth and if you want to hear some authentic yod-dropping this is the place to be.
David Laing
Harwich, Essex

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See inside the 2024: The year of living dangerously edition

Guaranteed not to happen in 2024: Jacob Rees-Mogg renames himself J-Dog and gets down with da kids. Image: The New European

After all the pundits’ predictions.. now for things that WON’T happen in 2024

Initially, I thought about attempting to predict the new year’s events. Then I realised that in the case of THIS new year, it simply isn’t possible

Credit: Tim Bradford

Cartoon: What will 2024 bring?