Thank goodness for Sunder Katwala bringing some sanity to coverage of the issue of patriotism and the Labour party (“The problem is not the flag but the left’s needless anxiety over patriotism”, Comment). As the news stacks up daily of British businesses having to deal with the damage caused by the Brexit trade agreement, the binary myth that wishing to remain in the EU was somehow “unpatriotic” needs to be comprehensively nailed.
If Labour is being perceived as anti-British for having resisted Brexit, it now needs a considered debate about what the national interest is and how it seeks to demonstrate its commitment to that. Kneejerk responses to the leaked findings of a focus group will not achieve this, but Katwala’s thoughtful analysis may help to advance the discussion.
Andrew Rawnsley states quite rightly that Keir Starmer should use May’s elections to show progress beyond the polling (“Keir Starmer must use May election battles to prove Labour’s progress”, Comment).
Where I feel Rawnsley is wrong is when he says Labour will be hoping that door-knocking and leafleting will be permitted because they have many more activists to put on the streets than the Tories.
Over the last few months, the Labour party has suspended constituency and branch chairs and secretaries and lots of its most active campaigners on the most spurious grounds. It’s the unpaid activists who tend to do the vast majority of campaigning and they’re the ones whose experience and knowledge is so key to winning local elections. This divisive behaviour has also led to tens of thousands of members leaving the party.
Shipley, West Yorkshire
Don’t cut payout – double it
Toby Helm is right to point out the huge pressures on the poorest in our society (“Benefit claimants face mounting debt burden”, News). But an economist in the article refers to the emergency £20 a week added to universal credit and due to end in March as a “vital uplift”, as if it were an extra that the chancellor benignly supplies. It isn’t. The income of families in the bottom decile has fallen by about £1,800 a year since the Conservative government imposed a benefit freeze in 2016. The additional £20 a week is partial compensation for cuts visited most harshly on the poorest. The least we can do in the March budget is to double it.
Those in glass houses…
Simon Tisdall (“The world’s bad guys are winning. Is anyone going to stand up to them?” Foreign affairs commentary) writes as though the moral high horse the west likes to sit on has not been ridden over piles of corpses, many of them – like the 40,000 victims of US sanctions in Venezuela or the 233,000 killed in Yemen by Saudi forces with US and UK backing – recent.
Accentuate the positive
Thank you, Anna Tims, for your positive column highlighting readers’ experience of companies giving excellent customer service (“After lockdown, these are the firms we’ll remember”, Cash). In these dark Covid days it is always a breath of fresh air to hear good news. A while back, Anna’s name elicited a positive response from a company I was having problems with. So keep up the good work!
Pipe down, men
As Gaby Hinsliff points out, the domination of men in mixed discussions has been well established by research for decades (“Don’t mess with Jackie Weaver, boys. She’s got a mute button and knows how to use it”, Comment). As feminists have observed, the amount of talking women do is often judged as too much whenever it exceeds silence. I used to keep a rough tally of who did the speaking in classes I taught at university and it always astonished me that even in a course on gender in education there was no occasion when the men did not take up a disproportionate amount of speaking time.
Dr Lorna Chessum
Parcel force? Not after Brexit
Your Focus article shows the widespread and devastating effects of Brexit on UK business (“Border chaos!”). Another unexpected casualty might be something closer to home, namely those with families abroad: a parcel sent on 30 December to Sweden has resulted in import taxes having to be paid before the parcel can be delivered, so a “saw this and thought of you” moment has taken nearly seven weeks to arrive and an unintended cost to the recipient. Present-giving will never be quite the same again.
Kick the Amazon habit
The excellent Barbara Ellen is quite right – we, collectively, definitely do need to talk about Jeff (Bezos) (“Spare a thought for Amazon’s staff, not Bezos and his millions”, Comment). She writes: “Most of us use Amazon, so it would be hypocritical to fully slam the Bezos business model.” In light of the many justifiable complaints against the man and his empire, surely it would be more hypocritical to continue to use Amazon. I stopped 16 years ago and my life is no poorer for it. Other retailers are available. Please don’t let Bezos and his ilk off the hook any longer.
Scotland worth a wager
Eddie Jones shouldn’t lose any sleep over Scotland beating England at Twickenham for the first time in 38 years (“‘I accept responsibility for Scotland defeat,’ says Eddie Jones”, Sport). Scotland won the first match between the two countries in 1871, the centenary match in 1971 and the 150th anniversary match on Saturday. At that rate, Scotland are a good bet to beat England again at Twickenham in 50 years’ time.