Our historical reputation for fair dealing and kindness is what brings people to risk their lives
Damian Green sneers at “more delicately minded Observer readers” who refuse to see the light of “post-Brexit, Tory-voting Britain, Boris’s Britain” (“France and Britain must not allow the diplomatic disaster to continue”, News). He obviously thinks we should be more tough-minded in our response to refugees drowning in the Channel.
The assertion that refugees find Britain more attractive because of Brexit is both delusional and insulting. This country’s historical reputation for fair dealing and kindness, our rejection of tyranny and corruption, which is surely the reason people seek asylum here, is currently being trashed by the very government Green supports.
His article offered no fresh insights and merely parroted the Priti Patel line of blaming “criminal gangs” preying on “vulnerable people”. He ignores the fact that it is the government’s refusal to provide viable, legal routes for refugees that lets such criminality thrive. The article by Mark Townsend on the same page (“Patel blames the ‘evil’ gangs. On the front line, they know different”, Analysis) shows what a simplistic and self-serving view this is of a complex situation.
Damian Green’s description of those attempting to enter the UK in search of asylum omits to mention that the number involved is in fact truly minuscule compared with applications for asylum throughout the rest of Europe or that most of the tiny number who do wish to come here have a special reason for doing so, be it language or family connection.
A coalition could succeed
If Keir Starmer is the pragmatic realist that he claims to be, he needs to follow the advice of Best for Britain and form an electoral alliance with the Lib Dems and Greens to stand a chance of beating the Tories (“Cooperate in key seats to beat Tories, parties told”, News). Even with Boris Johnson’s tenure rapidly unravelling, the loss of dozens of Scottish seats over several years and a hostile rightwing press means that Labour will still be defeated.
An alliance does not have to be a negative, cynical, electoral calculation. He could take inspiration from the new German “traffic light” coalition government and the brilliant way that Clive Lewis and Caroline Lucas work together on climate justice.
There is more that unites the centre-left parties than divides them in terms of constitutional change (proportional representation, federalism and a senate to replace the House of Lords), a radical green revolution, tackling inequality and pro-Europeanism.
William Keegan (“Even Macron hopes Brexit Britain will come to its senses”, Business) is surely right when he says it is no good Labour trying to make Brexit work because it never can work and the majority can now see what a dreadful rightwing con-trick it has turned out to be.
Johnson’s innate inequality
Nick Cohen argues a strong case (“Why do we Britons still genuflect before age-old class caricatures?”, Comment), but
he is wrong about Boris Johnson in one respect. He is not an empty vessel. He is committed to a view of society in which privilege and inequality are good; it reflects natural intelligence or so he believes.
Shake the cornflake box and the clever ones – like him – rise to the top. The poor are there because that is their place. He also believes in the “great man” theory of history and for some reason, he thinks he’s one of them.
Dr Lorna Chessum
Nazi Germany and the Crash
Torsten Bell notes that the banking crisis in Weimar Germany in 1931 triggered a bank run and contributed to rising Nazi support (“A banking crisis isn’t just bad for business, it can poison politics”, Comment).
Discussions of the 1929 Wall Street Crash seldom give sufficient attention to the grievous knock-on consequences for Germany and subsequent world history. From about the mid-1920s, Germany began to build its economy towards a state of stability and had attained growing prosperity for its citizens.
This was largely owing to great investment from US banks that, as a consequence of the Crash, rushed to pull the plug overnight. The country was tipped into crisis and, yes, the poisonous politics that resulted in panicked support for that arch chancer, Adolf Hitler.
Exeter College’s woes
The article by Rowan Moore celebrating the completion of Exeter College’s Cohen Quad hides a much sadder story, New Review. The site in Walton Street was once the proud home of Ruskin College, “whose only-fairly-good 1913 facade and part of its flanking wall have been retained”. The 19th-century institution that brought thousands of adult trade unionists to study cheek by jowl with privileged Oxford undergraduates thrived until the Thatcher government, as part of its war on the unions, ruthlessly cut funding.
Since that time, the college has suffered from a lack of Department for Education comprehension of its unique offer and mission and with adult education funding frozen by the Cameron government for the decade after 2010, Ruskin was forced to sell the Walton Street building to Exeter College.
The decline does not stop there. Costly and mismanaged “merger schemes” have wasted time and money and the college has floundered into administration with its whole future in doubt. So much for levelling up.
New Malden, London
Greeks had a gift for it
How opportune to have Natalie Haynes responding to the significance of the Roman mosaic at Rutland with scenes from Homer (“The Iliad’s epic power endures… even in Rutland”, Focus).
She quotes Aeschylus, saying that his tragedies are slices from the banquet of Homer. At their best, the Greeks are indeed always timely as well as timeless. With his radical compassion and feminism, Euripides always blazes a trail.
Moved to tears
Chris Riddell frequently makes me laugh (often bitterly). “The tragedy in the Channel” (Comment cartoon) is the first time he has made me weep.