Jeremy Corbyn drew a huge round of applause at a recent hustings for the leadership of the Labour Party when he said that he had no interest in personality politics. Andrew Grice’s summary of the current state of the main British political parties (“The Tories have laid Thatcher to rest, but Blair still haunts Labour”, 20 June) shows that he has no interest in anything but.
The Tories have not, as he claims, “laid Thatcher to rest”. On the contrary, her ideas have become the norm in the Conservative Party, with the landed and old money factions (whom Thatcher hated for their “wetness”) now happily signed up to her brutal anti-state, anti-welfare perspective. The Labour Party embraced this perspective too, well before Blair, and their problem, as shown in their current, hideous leadership, campaign, is to continue to embrace it while claiming to offer an alternative.
Blair never seemed very interested in politics; he was a careerist who saw which way the wind was already blowing and blew with it, cuddling up to the American presidency, the corporations and the right-wing press. After the invasion of Iraq, most Labour voters probably voted Labour in spite of Blair, not because of him, although in Grice’s perverse formulation, this grotesque event, which visited death and suffering on a huge scale on the Middle East, becomes merely “a stick” for “Blair’s enemies” to beat him with.
It may be that Liz Kendall can, as Grice prescribes, “carve out a centre left position’ for herself”. But neither this, not the equally vacuous candidatures of Andy Burnham or Yvette Cooper, offers any hope for a fairer society.
Corbyn’s unlikely but principled presence in this contest is the ultimate refutation of Grice’s argument: the Labour Party has plenty of new Blairs, fresh out of Oxbridge and looking for a job with prospects; it’s socialism that they haven’t quite laid to rest.
Andrew Grice is right: it’s time for Labour members to accept Tony Blair’s major contribution and achievements.
Blair was wrong on Iraq, but right on other foreign policy issues, notably Europe. Brownites are right to claim credit for progressive policies like the minimum wage. But Gordon could not have introduced it if Tony hadn’t first led Labour to victory, so Blair deserves credit too. He won three general elections out of three; his two predecessors and two successors have lost five out of five.
Labour’s next leader would ideally combine Blair’s charisma and willingness to “make compromises with the electorate” with Brown and Miliband’s strong commitment to social justice. Which is why I will be voting for Liz Kendall.
After watching the first Labour leaders’ debate I am left frustrated. Four decent people wanting a better society but no sign of leadership potential. Plenty of policy rehash but no big ideas; no vision to catch the imagination of the voting public.
The country is crying out for reform of the voting system, more power to the regions and an economic system that works for all, not the few; yet I heard little or nothing on these issues which could form the basis of a modernising programme that would attract many voters.
From what I have seen and heard so far we must brace ourselves for 10 more years of Tory partisan government.
A Muslim who rejects victimhood
I applaud Avi Malik (letter, 23 June) for having the guts to agree with David Cameron that the impetus for tackling radicalisation and the recruitment of young Muslims to Isis must come from his co-religionists.
After virtually every case of Britons disappearing to Syria, it transpires that they were influenced by radicals in their own community. How refreshing to hear that Mr Malik is proud to be part of this great country and what it has to offer, instead of wallowing in victimhood and playing the “this might further alienate the Muslim community” card, as many have done.
We should all support the Prime Minister’s efforts to prevent this tragic waste of young British Muslim lives.
Finish with this fake Gothic parliament
The scandal surrounding MPs’ salaries, expenses and second home fiddles will soon seem beyond trivial if MPs get away with their next wheeze.
The people of Scotland were outraged when their new parliament cost £414m, but Westminster MPs are now queuing up to spend at least 15 times that to renovate the Palace of Westminster. And that’s a conservative estimate, as grand public projects have a habit of costing twice as much as the estimate
The argument for wasting all this money is that we must preserve tradition and a historic building. In truth the building is a fake, a mock-Gothic confection built just 160 years ago, designed to house an outmoded 19th-century two-party democracy, an unsustainable building unfit for the modern world.
As with our voting system, the establishment is seeking to preserve its power base at the expense of the nation. The thousands of pounds trousered here and there to pay for the upkeep of moats and duck houses will pale into insignificance if Parliament does not seize the opportunity to build a new environmentally sustainable parliament fit for a multiparty democracy in a 21st century nation. Time to leave Gothic kitsch where it belongs: in Dracula movies.
Sue Thomas (letter, 23 June) suggests following the example of Scotland and Wales with a new building. One advantage would be the opportunity to escape from the confrontational design of the present chamber. There is one major question: should it be a British Parliament building or an English one?
Be ready for a bear market
Hamish McRae argues a conventional viewpoint (18 June), that inflation will return, interest rates rise and bonds decline. This ignores the deflationary forces threatening the global economy.
Creating cheap credit to feed asset prices is indeed a failed experiment. Borrowers now pay positive real interest rates (ie borrowing cost less inflation) and therefore financing costs are compounding. Consumers, businesses and governments face variations of the debt trap. Greece, already stuck with unaffordable debt, is just an example.
Sooner or later there will be a deflationary bear market in equities and property. Those who preserve their capital base will then win compared to those who ride those equity and property markets. This is the case for investing in bonds.
Maths without bars of wood
A new method of teaching maths, from Singapore, was praised in The Independent on 18 June. Perhaps my old brain is too furred up, but I couldn’t grasp the logic behind the approach from the example given. Pupils were asked to find three consecutive numbers that together add up to 42 with the help of three wooden bars. They take one from each bar. Why? This seems arbitrary. They then divide the new number by three, without any help presumably from the wood.
All you need to do is to divide the number itself by three, and the result with the two numbers either side of it will total the original number. Just what role do these wooden bars play?
Let our young people train as nurses
Before the election, David Cameron spoke of giving our young people a chance to use their “God-given talents”. So how come 37,000 potential nursing students were turned away last year?
In the short term, it may be cheaper to recruit trained nurses from abroad, but this has condemned thousands of young people to unemployment or to a lifetime of dead-end jobs, and to a sense of being undervalued. Hiring overseas staff also aggravates the strain on our housing supply and infrastructure.
Also, it is hardly helpful to the countries from which nursing staff are poached.
So, let’s reverse the immigration rules for the time being, and put an end to this practice of recruiting nurses from abroad.
How to stop the tax merry-go-round
I agree with David Cameron that it is ridiculous to tax low-paid workers and then pay them back more through tax credits. He wants a high pay and low tax economy. Again, I agree. The solution is simple: increase the minimum wage to £10 per hour, increase the tax free allowance to £15,000 per annum, and abolish tax credits.