Letter: The search for ideas to stimulate Labour's electoral resurgence

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Sir: David Selbourne criticises the Labour Party for intellectual vacuity. As the alternative, he advises rereading Hobbes and Locke. This prescription does not deserve a serious hearing.

Hobbes has been dead for 314 years and Locke 289 years. Both predate industrialisation, universal suffrage, the secularisation of society and the emancipation of women. A return to these ancient sources for inspiration is a counsel of despair on a par with postmodernist rambling.

Any valuable contribution to today's debate has to tackle problems of the present. At the root is an intellectual failure. We need to understand what has happened since the Second World War. Why have attitudes to family life and sexuality been fundamentally revised? Why are crime, drug abuse, homelessness and unemployment increasing decade by decade in spite of ever greater wealth? Why is discipline breaking down? All these changes have to be understood before any remedy can be proposed.

The blunt truth is that the intellectual capital of the Enlightenment has been exhausted. The whole world, not just the Labour Party, languishes in the absence of new ideas.

Yours faithfully,


Swanley, Kent

17 February