There is little to object to in Keir Starmer’s article; there is even less to be inspired by, or to set the blood racing (“We must be bold and end the idea that inequality is inevitable. Let’s get Britain working again”, Opinion). Faced with a government doing more to dismantle democracy than any in living memory and abusing its position to favour friends and supporters, surely this is a time to stand tall and proud for the values that matter.
Where the Tories are about division, fear and loathing, Labour must be about unity, hope and tolerance. Where the Tories seek to evoke a nostalgia for a past that never existed, Labour must make palpable a post-carbon society that offers something for all. Most of all, Labour must be honest that we are living in a time of fundamental change that can create a better future. To do otherwise boxes Labour in to being no more than a slightly less toxic alternative to the Tories which, while still desirable, is not enough to make the difference.
Keir Starmer comments on a long list of shocking inequalities in the UK, many of which are related. He omits the most far-reaching inequality of all: that of political representation. Only if every voter believes that his or her vote counts equally with all other votes do we live in a true democracy.
Keir Starmer is quoted as insisting: “I’m now looking forward to taking the mask off and opening the throttle” (“I’ll take my mask off and show why I should be prime minister”, News). I really hope he can, but far better than promising then failing to deliver, as is Johnson’s wont, is to let actions make the rhetoric superfluous. The phrase “opening the throttle” is too similar to when Iain Duncan Smith avowed, to no effect: “The quiet man is turning up the volume.” Starmer must turn up the volume to 11.
Walsham le Willows, Bury St Edmunds
The shocking story of Easter
Barbara Ellen contrasts the widespread popularity of Christmas with the lack of public impact of Easter (“At Easter, I can cope without church and chocolate. But how I miss people”, Comment). There are two reasons for this. Christmas was originally a midwinter festival of pagan revelry which was baptised into Christianity in the fourth century. In a secularised Britain, it happily reverts to its previous role of feasting and fun. Easter, on the other hand, proclaims a story that is so shocking and unsettling it cannot easily be placarded in public. That is why the early church tried to shield this mystery from public view with its disciplina arcani.
What happened on Good Friday and Easter Day is so threatening to how we think of ourselves that the only way we can cope with it is to tame it into chocolate eggs and bunnies. However, in those churches which did manage to open last week people could still be found before the cross on every day of Holy Week.
Shoddy, cynical race report
Your editorial is right that the report by the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities is based on the “apparent belief that people of colour should stop complaining and be grateful for their lot” (“Race report shuns evidence in the service of ideology”). For instance, Dr Tony Sewell disgracefully claims: “There is a new story about the Caribbean experience which speaks to the slave period not only being about profit and suffering but how culturally African people transformed themselves into a remodelled African/Britain.”
This is the same as telling Irish people to just get over the “great hunger” and concentrate instead on the “positive story” of how mass death and emigration led to an Irish reinvention that was so successful it produced the first Catholic US president. This shoddy, cynical and disingenuous report is about putting race at the heart of the Tories’ divisive culture wars. But it does nothing to help tackle the very real problems of racial inequality in modern Britain.
Biden’s monumental reset
Last Sunday’s paper contained two of the most significant and exciting reports in almost half a century. Will Hutton writes of Joe Biden “ending a 45-year embrace of Wall Street neoliberalism”, calling it a “monumental reset” (“With Biden’s own audacious New Deal, the democratic left rediscovers its soul”, Comment). The Business leader (“America used to fear federal spending, but Biden knows the mood has changed”) writes of Biden “grabbing his moment” and of the US “for the first time in many years… shining a light for the world”. If Biden succeeds, the curse of the Reagan/Thatcher toxic experiment may at long last be over.
I value my right to protest
I was horrified to read reports of unacceptable police behaviour in connection with the “kill the bill” protests in Bristol (“Women’s anger at ‘abuse of power’ in Bristol police raids”, News). They apparently used tactics which make no distinction between violent terrorists and peaceful protesters, and their use of handcuffs on one (innocent) young woman and their threat to use a Taser against another is extremely disturbing. It seems that elements of the force revel in disproportionate violence.
The police, crime, sentencing and courts bill is partly designed to give clarity to the police in dealing with various kinds of disorder, including protests, under cover of breaches of Covid regulations, but the section which aims to make all forms of protest illegal will turn this country (though not Scotland – yet) into a police state. I am 75 and a supporter of Extinction Rebellion, which in no way condones violence. All my adult life I have protested peacefully against war, apartheid, environmental desecration and injustices various, and I don’t relish becoming criminalised just because I cherish the democratic right to disagree with unempathetic and rigid Home Office edicts.
If we emerge from this Covid nightmare, it would be good to have a few civil rights to return to!
Red hot chilli peppers
Robert Carrier was ahead of his time and it is wonderful that Jay Rayner has promoted his talents, and love of butter (“Cook dinner with Robert Carrier and you’ll need butter, cream, wine and quite a lot of cognac”, Magazine). Yes, Floyd was fab and Rick is a trusted go-to but Carrier was the first person to really show us how to eat. His use of ingredients and spices were new to most of us. He showed us that good food was fun and accessible and his work has not dated.
Alas, he was not always perfect. Delia Smith tells a story that when working as a private cook she followed his recipe in Great Dishes of the World for chilli con carne which had a large amount of chilli powder; so much, that the family she cooked for couldn’t eat it. It was years later that she found out it was a typing error.