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Letter: Political demons and witches

Sir: The controversy surrounding the Conservative Party poster, depicting the Labour leader as a demon, appears to have failed to register the ironic confusion and inversion of witchcraft imagery involved in this curious episode.

In societies where beliefs in the power of witchcraft are taken seriously, the figure of the satanic witch represents above all anti-social, self- centred ambition and greed, the antithesis of communal interests and good- neighbourliness. The witch is essentially the opposite of the good, socially conscious citizen. Accusations of witchcraft are, thus, typically made against individuals who embody what we may conveniently call the spirit of individualistic capitalist enterprise, in the Thatcherite mould. These values so shamelessly flaunted by the Conservative Party leadership are, of course, the opposite of the essentially social values of the Labour Party.

While it is not too difficult to envisage the zealous Dr Mawhinney in the guise of the 17th-century Witch-Finder General, Matthew Hopkins, one might have hoped that Lord Saatchi would have done a little more in-depth research to earn his new title.


Emeritus Professor of Anthropology

London School of Economics

London NW5