Letter : Come back Billy Bragg, Labour can't afford to lose you

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Many of us who care about the Labour Party, democracy, young people and the need for radical change will greatly regret the departure of Billy Bragg from political activism within Labour ("New Labour loses Billy Bragg's voice", 26 May). With the relentless ditching of ideological commitment it may be that people like him are needed more now than ever.

He also rightly says that Arts for Labour, of which I was the founding secretary in 1981, has become a photo-opportunity for candidates and soap- opera stars. This need not have become the case, nor remain so.

When political ideals cave inthere remains one territory where ideas, ideals and convictions can be noisily aired and spread. That territory is loosely what we call "the arts", including Billy Bragg's own form of creativity.

When elsewhere the political going has been rough and politicians have lost their ideological guts, people like Mercouri, Havel and Arthur Miller held fast and, happily, sometimes proved victorious in the long run.

We are precisely in such a position in Britain today. No political party is fit to govern, in the sense that all lack the imaginative and purposeful sweep that our country desperately needs.

Frankly we failed entirely in the 1980s to create an arts movement to oppose the barbarisms that were being perpetrated. But it is not too late. Come back, Billy Bragg. Join forces with others who share your passions. Between us, united, we can still force politicians to glimpse something of our beliefs and even compel them to adopt them. It's worth the try.

Ian Flintoff

London SW6

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