Yes, we have seen chaos before – but the mood of the country is darker now

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Wednesday 09 January 2019 14:03
Anti-Brexit protester Steve Bray (left) and a pro-Brexit protester argue as they demonstrate outside the Houses of Parliament in Westminster on Tuesday
Anti-Brexit protester Steve Bray (left) and a pro-Brexit protester argue as they demonstrate outside the Houses of Parliament in Westminster on Tuesday

Splendid Editor’s Letter from Sean O’Grady (“We’re on the brink of chaos – but we’ve been here before”). I cannot agree more with the sentiment, it is surely sobering to reflect on such trauma in the past.

From my personal experience, I used to work next door to Harrods – luckily I missed the explosion by nine years – and I remember the harrowing stories from those present, plus the still present bomb-retardant material on the windows.

I remember industrial disputes – Grunwick, always springs to mind, when we think about excess – and I also must add the attempted kidnap of Princess Anne on the Mall in 1974. I mention this occurrence as at the time many people thought it would start a stream of similar criminality. It did not.

However, having said all that, the one thing that I truly believe is different in this era is the pure hatred and anger that I see, hear and read virtually everywhere. And it is not all about Brexit either.

I am naturally an optimist, but even I am starting to despair at the present situation in our country.

Robert Boston

A second referendum would not be hypocritical

In response to Alan Brown (“Remainer hypocrisy”, Letters) if Theresa May does ask for repeated votes on her deal it would substantially be the same question, with no new information offered to those voting, and could therefore legitimately be denied. A second referendum would surely be a different question to that of 2016 and with a great deal of new information for the voters, and thus entirely defensible in a democracy. So no hypocrisy there.

Deborah Everett

May’s negotiating skills are indefensible

A recent poll shows almost three quarters of MPs think Theresa May has done a bad job of negotiating Britain’s exit from the European Union.

Could someone please check the pulses of the other quarter?

Sasha Simic

A future Labour government should scrap right to buy

Ben Chu’s article on the need to build more social housing (as against “affordable housing”) makes the valid point that, from the viewpoint of the Tories, building more social housing produces more Labour voters. He mentioned the right to buy legislation brought in by the Thatcher government which drastically depleted the stock of council housing. One could reasonably speculate that Thatcher’s motive for bringing in this legislation was to create more Tory voters on the basis that property owners would be more likely to vote Conservative, as well as removing the cost of maintenance from the public purse.

Because right to buy is still extant there is no incentive for councils or housing associations to borrow money to build social housing if it can be bought at a discount by the tenants after a few years. Although no Tory government is likely to repeal “right to buy”, if for no other reason than this would suggest the blessed Margaret got it wrong, a future Labour government must seriously consider this even if a few Labour voters who aspired to own their own home at a discount changed their voting allegiance. As a Labour Party member I believe this is a price worth paying. Otherwise the criminal shortage of affordable homes will continue forever.

Patrick Cleary

No deal would be difficult – but it could be the best option

In view of the antics of the lunatics in charge of the Westminster asylum, I wonder if we wouldn’t be better to jump ship with no deal. It’s going to be such a shambles anyway – I cannot see the benefit of signing a pre-negotiation deal which would simply make things more difficult.

If we start post-Brexit negotiations in the summer, after the EU elections expose the soaring deficits in Italy, France and Spain, the strain of German industrial recession, and the horlicks Deutsche Bank is making of the euro, we would at least be spared any pompous Brussels lectures.

Of course it will be the kind of “Year Zero” Germany faced after the war and you’re definitely on your own. Not a good time to be old, ill, in debt, looking for a job, starting university or planning a foreign holiday. Stock up on your medicines and find granny’s wartime cookery book.

Rev Dr John Cameron
St Andrews

Paddy Ashdown’s wishes could be granted in 2019

Living and working as internationalists, we much appreciate the efforts of the late Paddy Ashdown to lance the Brexit boil. Previously he had campaigned for proportional representation (PR) as a means of reviving our parliamentary democracy. Both his wishes could be fulfilled in 2019.

The first-past-the-post electoral system has hit its nemesis, with both major parties split on the EU issue and both led by determined anti-EU cliques pitted against the pro-EU moderate majority of MPs. Neither clique wants a second referendum, so this is unlikely to happen. Anyway it would be better for the country to return to parliamentary democracy, with the moderate majority of MPs having their say and revoking Article 50.

This could be achieved using the existing electoral system if a number of moderate Tory and Labour MPs were to temporarily join the Lib Dems, giving it sufficient strength to attract most pro-EU voters. A vote of no confidence in the government would force a general election. Failing outright victory, the Lib Dem coalition could still hold the balance of power in a hung parliament. They could force a revocation of Article 50 and retrieve the country from Brexit chaos. They could also introduce a manifesto mandate to replace the first-past-the-post system with a system of proportional representation, as present in most progressive democracies. In subsequent general elections, the Lib Dems and the other smaller parties would get the number of MPs they deserve in a revived parliamentary democracy.

John Nissen – chair, Arctic Methane Emergency Group
Professor Peter Wadhams – head of the Polar Oceans Physics Group, Cambridge University

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