Letters: Johnson and Patel, take note: xenophobia has no place in our city | Refugees


Nick Cohen’s excoriating analysis of the government’s unforgivable response to Ukrainian refugees illustrates this perfectly: Boris Johnson and Priti Patel belittle us all by assuming that most of us are racist and xenophobic (“The Conservatives claim that we are worse than we are – and it is the Ukrainians who are suffering”, Commentary). refuge. But Johnson and Patel only pay attention to that minority who don’t. And whip them.

In my own small town of Hastings, local refugee support groups have a strong presence and collectively many thousands of social media followers. When tiny boats full of desperate refugees arrived on our beaches a few months ago, there was an outpouring of support, including more than £34,000 raised in a matter of days thanks to hundreds of donations from locals. The response to people now fleeing the tragedy in Ukraine is equally powerful. More than 1,260 people have signed a petition to our MP urging her to oppose the Nationality and Borders Bill and vote for the Lords’ Amendments which rejected so many of its inequities. In the streets, in the pubs, the cafes, the churches, we find an empathy that goes far beyond the repugnant narrative so falsely claimed as what “the British people want”.

A local fisherman told me a few days ago that he had been ordered by Border Force to report all dinghies in the English Channel but to let them drift. “I do not do it !” he stated. “At sea, no matter who it is, no matter where they come from or why, everyone is my responsibility – let them drift? Ha!”

We are desperate to be listened to by our own parliamentary representative, a party colleague with Patel and Johnson. Patel and Johnson may not have the slightest imaginative capacity needed to sympathize with our fellow human beings fleeing for their lives – but most of us are better than that.
Felicite Laurence
Hastings, East Sussex

Why museums are important

The title of your article gave the impression that museums make no difference in the lives of students (“Why a Day at the Museum Doesn’t Lead to Better Exam Scores”, News). Nothing could be further from the truth – museums across the UK have worked hard throughout the pandemic to ensure children have access to captivating experiences of culture, art, science and the story. These experiences are not designed to help children pass specific exams, but to contribute to their development and understanding of the world.

As your article acknowledges, there are many other recent studies that demonstrate the broader developmental and well-being benefits that museum visits can provide. Museums are great places to discover who we are, where we come from and what we could become. There is no exam for that.
Maria BalshawChairman, Board of Directors of National Museums; Sharon HealDirector, Association of Museums; Andrew LovettPresident, Association of Independent Museums; Jenny Waldman, Director, Art Fund

Reframing Corbyn’s ‘disaster’

I have to take issue with the wording of some of Rachel Cooke’s statements and questions in her interview with Ed Miliband (the new review). It is irritating to read that “the Jeremy Corbyn years (were) a disastrous time for Labour”, with no qualification or analysis as to whether this was really the case.

In 2017, Theresa May was to increase her majority; instead, Labor tore it down, winning over 40% of the vote for the first time in decades. Corbyn was able to communicate Labour’s optimistic and transformative agenda precisely because so few figures in the mainstream press believed he was a serious contender.

The result appeared to terrify Liberal and Tory journalists, who spent the next two years redefining Corbyn as something of a popular devil, even as Labor’s membership rose to more than 560,000 and its MPs enjoyed the fruits of their – temporarily – vastly increased majorities. Their efforts largely contributed to the real disaster of the 2019 elections.

I was and remain agnostic of Corbyn himself, believing him temperamentally unsuited to the role of party leader. What his leadership represented, however, was something quite different: a genuine belief in the abilities and capabilities of ordinary people, to which millions of voters responded in some way. If it’s a disaster, I don’t know what success is.
Lynsey Hanley

Durability, not shiny toys

While I agree with Will Hutton on the need for a rapid transition to renewables, having spent the last 20 years working as an engineer in the space sector, I doubt that micro-solar radiation will waves to Earth from space could ever be part of the solution (“Warmed Thatcherism was never going to be the answer. Now that would be a disaster,” Commentary). Can you imagine the planning process? How does “Residents oppose plans for death ray from heaven” sound like a headline in the local newspaper? And this before we come to energy security: what exactly will we do when the satellite of a hostile power “accidentally” collides with our orbiting power plant, and how do we deal with it if something goes wrong?

But what’s most frustrating is the unchallenged techno-utopianism that underlies much of the net zero talk. We’re constantly on the hunt for the next shiny toy, betting the farm (and our children’s future) on the chance that even more marginal gains and elaborate projects will keep pace with our ever-growing appetites. Where in all of this is the discussion of demand reduction, or an honest assessment of how to live sustainably on one planet with limited resources too much for us?
Kevin Middleton
Stanford in the Valley, Faringdon, Berkshire

Don’t focus on phones

It is surprising to see the president of the social mobility commission, Katharine Birbalsingh, affirm that “it all starts with smartphones” (“Remove children’s phones to boost social mobility”, News).

The past decade has seen the devastation of Sure Start children’s centres, a cut in education spending that has hit the most deprived areas hardest, and drastic cuts in social security benefits that have increased child poverty. Each of these factors will have harmed social mobility. Focusing on smartphones follows a long tradition of blaming individual behavior to distract from deep structural inequalities. The commission is supposed to hold the government accountable for its actions. It is not difficult to see why Birbalsingh was chosen by the government as president.
Dr Kitty Stewart
Associate Professor, Department of Social Policy, Associate Director, Center for the Analysis of Social Exclusion, London School of Economics and Political Science, London WC2

Not all Russians are Putin

Hans Kundnani’s article makes the crucial distinction between Vladimir Putin and the Russian people (“First, we have done too little to oppose Russia. Now are we in danger of going too far the other way?”, Remark).

We must not make the mistake a second time of not respecting and working with the Russian people after Putin’s inevitable downfall. The “West” – including the United States in particular – got it wrong the first time around by not supporting Mikhail Gorbachev and thus allowing him to achieve a much smoother and more constructive break-up of the Soviet Union. The cataclysmic implosion it suffered fatally destroyed Gorbachev’s credibility and contributed significantly to Russia’s estrangement from the west.

Disastrously, the United States, encouraged by other Western governments, encouraged exploitative capitalism to feed on the fall of the Soviet Union and it was this that produced the oligarchs who quickly seized the sale of state assets. The collapse of the ruble in 1998 was the straw that broke the camel’s back, not least because it increased the poverty of millions of Russians. They blamed Gorbachev and his successor Boris Yeltsin and instead of following democracy they looked for a strong nationalist leader – and there was Putin waiting in the wings. Putin is really the collateral damage of the West’s mistakes. The Russian people are rightly very proud of their culture, much of which, in its music, opera, ballet and even its literature, is European. We must constantly emphasize that we also recognize Russian culture and bring Russia after Putin into a closer relationship.
Michael Meadowcroft

Your news article states that “Russians over 65 are 51% more likely to watch TV than those under 25” (“Moscow’s Family Divide”). That still leaves 49% of over-65s no more likely to watch TV, and all 51% don’t swallow the propaganda. Russian blogger Ilya Krasilshchik’s 110,000 subscribers is not a major proportional ratio of a vast country to confirm your article’s impression that older Russians are pro-war in Ukraine. Is it the over 65s who massacre, mutilate and rape civilians in times of war?
Liana Marlette


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