Letters: Labour needs a leader the Tory press can’t trash

These letters appear in the 17th July issue of The Independent

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Have members of the Labour Party learnt nothing from history? If the polls are correct and Jeremy Corbyn is indeed ahead, then there is a real danger of a repeat of 1980, when Michael Foot, who was also popular with the left of the party, become Labour leader and was subsequently thrashed by Margaret Thatcher after three torrid years of vilification by the Tory press. We have seen how badly a less left-wing leader was treated by that same press during the recent election campaign.

In order to be elected in this hostile climate, Labour needs a leader that the right-wing media struggle to criticise, such as Tony Blair. Even though he was unpopular with many at his party’s grassroots, at least Blair got into government and enacted progressive measures that the Tories would not have considered: civil partnerships, equality legislation, the minimum wage, Sure Start and so on.

This majority Conservative government has an overtly political and vindictive Chancellor who has singled out the poor and vulnerable for especially harsh treatment and who, on the back of 37 per cent of the vote, considers himself to have a mandate to neuter the BBC. In these circumstances, robust opposition from an electable leader is the very least the voting public has a right to expect.

This is not a time for the Labour Party to indulge itself in yet another leader whose talents lie in preaching to the converted.

Ian Richards



It should come as no big surprise that Jeremy Corbyn leads the Labour leadership race.

Whole swathes of public opinion have hitherto been excluded from public debate in Britain by the mass media. Opinion polls regularly show that a substantial number of people reject austerity and privatisation; support public ownership of the railways, gas, electricity and water; oppose US-led wars and Trident renewal; and are critical of the EU for anti-austerity and anti-big business as well as for democratic reasons.

Yet these views rarely feature in media coverage of political issues. Coming after the televised party leaders’ debate during the general election, Mr Corbyn’s campaign is now opening up fresh breaches in the wall and giving people a chance to hear and vote for popular policies.

Robert Griffiths

General Secretary, Communist Party of Britain



Although a fan of the late Margaret Thatcher and a Tory voter, I sincerely hope that Jeremy Corbyn is elected Labour leader, as what you see is what you get and the next election would have a clear difference of choice.

Dominic Shelmerdine

London SW3


It may be a surprise that Jeremy Corbyn is leading the race for Labour leadership, but perhaps on reflection it shouldn’t be. He at least represents an alternative to the interchangeable, time-serving Vicars of Bray that make up the rest of the field, and indeed much of the Labour hierarchy.

If nothing else, a vote for Corbyn may well be seen as a vote for “none of the above”. 

Gerard Bell



Iran comes in from the cold

Philip Hammond is right to rebuke Israel for its blinkered approach to the nuclear deal with Iran. 

Despite Iran’s interference in some of its neighbours’ affairs (Lebanon, Syria) and despite its being still a repressive state, we should remind ourselves of the following: that modern Iran has never attacked another country; that Israel has nuclear weapons and that Iran has vowed never to have them; that the hardliner Ahmadinejad was voted peacefully out of office in 2013, and replaced by the more liberal President Rouhani; that the latter and his allies will now be strengthened in their battles with the Iranian hardliners; and that Iran still has a prosperous Jewish community, about 20 synagogues and a Jewish MP (Siamek Merreh Sedq). 

Bringing Iran in from the cold will be good both for the Iranian people and for the West.

David Simmonds

Woking, Surrey


Measuring the gender pay gap

We welcome the Prime Minister’s announcement that new legislation will require every company with 250 employees or more to publish the gap between average female earnings and average male earnings. But businesses should report on more than just average pay rates. Given that the gender pay gap is widest at the top, it’s vital that companies track pay across different job levels.

And, of course, the pay gap isn’t the only problem facing women at work, as the lack of women in senior roles is still a huge problem.

Transparency is the most powerful driver we have for achieving change, and this legislation will be good news for business. The new measures will help unblock the talent pipeline. Clearer employee data, improved recruitment and a reinvigorated focus on business culture will pay dividends for all employees. The evidence is clear: diverse teams make better decisions and deliver better results for businesses. 

Petra Wilton

Chartered Management Institute

London WC2


When I started my first job as a new graduate in 1962, the salary of the identically qualified woman at the next desk was 20 per cent below mine. Jane Merrick (15 July) writes that the starting-pay gender gap is now 19.1 per cent.

These figures suggest that it will take nearly 1,200 years for the average starting pay of women graduates to catch up with that of male graduates. Can anybody defend this?

David Hewitt

London N1


Expect some bizarre union ballots

Apart from being a self-serving Tory wheeze to emasculate the unions and beggar the Labour Party, the proposed trade union reform throws up the possibility of some bizarre ballot results.

Should 50 per cent of a workforce minus one employee cast their votes, and all vote yes for a strike, the strike fails. But if in addition two extra votes are cast against a strike, the strike is lawful. This shows that those employees against a strike could be more likely to prevent it by not voting than by voting against.

This is a blatant piece of gerrymandering by the still nasty party.

Eddie Dougall

Walsham le Willows, Suffolk


When the Government’s Bill on trade unions comes before the House of Commons, then Labour ought to put down an amendment restricting all personal donations to a political party to the level of the political levy – £3 per annum – and banning corporate donations outright. Who could possibly object to that, and why?

David Lindsay

Lanchester, Co Durham


Army fails to learn the lesson

When is the Army going to learn its lesson about sending young men on route marches in dire temperatures?

Again this happens (“Inquest finds ‘gross failures’ over soldiers’ deaths on SAS selection test”, 15 July). As an ex-Army brat, wife and mother of soldiers, I would be incensed if one of mine had died under those circumstances.

Yvette Sfakianos

London NW8


Don’t sneer at former polytechnics

In announcing her horror at the scrapping of the maintenance  grant, Julia Hartley-Brewer (11 July) almost got to the end of the first paragraph before the mandatory sneer at former (steel yourselves!) polytechnics (which have actually been universities for rather longer than they were polytechnics).

She affects to want peasants’ kids to study at degree level but fails to accept that more students means more universities.

So far as standards are concerned, she confuses popularity with quality. If the Hartley-Brewers of this world were to hold their noses and visit a vibrant former polytechnic, look at the syllabuses, reading lists and the learning, teaching and assessment methods, they might find out why such places are at the forefront of innovation in higher education.

They could even stay on after tea to see it done all over again for the benefit of older local peasants who didn’t do it on leaving school because there weren’t enough places.

At least we were spared the usual sniff at media studies.

Professor Chris Barton



English votes for Scottish laws

If, as now seems to be the case, any issue in England and Wales can be said to have a Scottish dimension justifying SNP MPs voting in Parliament, is it not time for English and Welsh MPs to be represented in the Scottish Parliament so as to monitor how Scotland spends that proportion of the Barnett formula money that is disproportionately generous to Scotland and paid for by taxpayers in the rest of the country?

Richard Williams