Corbyn’s socialism continues Attlee’s legacy, not Blair’s | The big issue

Violet and Clement Attlee on election day, 5 July 1945. Photograph: Planet News Archive/SSPL via Getty Images

As if they were somehow similar and, of course, dissimilar to Jeremy Corbyn, your editorial (“May must focus on deep-seated structural ills, not just Brexit”, last week) mentions Clement Attlee and Tony Blair in the same breath: leading, progressive, reforming governments with zeal, “albeit in very different ways”. Not half.

Before his government, though bankrupt, founded the National Health Service and built more than a million homes, Attlee, who was voted the greatest prime minister of the 20th century, became and called himself a socialist. Thus, Attlee is not an easy figure for New Labour or an Observer editorial to appropriate.

On the other hand, Blair’s toxic legacy was to prolong Thatcherism, which included continuing and expanding both PFI and privatisation of the NHS, which, with subsequent Tory help, has all but destroyed it.

The implied comparison between Jeremy Corbyn, Blair and Attlee is invalid, though, because Blair was not trying to return a belief system to its roots, which Corbyn is, those roots being closer to the socialism of Attlee than the New Labour of Blair.

David Murray
Wallington
Surrey

Saying that “unless she changes course, Mrs May’s legacy will be to have moved Britain backwards” is true, but misses the point. This is not some unintended consequence, but the mens rea of the Tories’ approach.

For them, Britain has abandoned its true path as a buccaneering, free-market economy. Margaret Thatcher may have “stopped the rot” but she couldn’t entirely turn the clock back.

The European Union, by extra-territorialising anything from environmental protection to human rights, effectively prevented them from achieving their aim and so had to go.

Meanwhile, austerity as a political project continues apace; cutting back the hated state while at the same time blaming it for all our woes, thus handily diverting attention from the inequities, cupidity and sheer incompetence of 21st-century capitalism.

Where will it end? The short answer is where ever they can be stopped. There isn’t a blueprint or a plan to be interrupted, but instead the Tories will catch whatever wave of disillusionment or event they can to achieve their aim; it’s an intent and a goal, not a timetable. But be clear, this Tory “back to the future” is no accident – it’s a design.
Simon Diggins
Rickmansworth

While your editorial correctly highlights longstanding structural problems in our public policy, it doesn’t mention the fact that, because this country is obsessed with measuring everything, we have lost sight of things you can’t measure.

For example, schools train students to pass exams, but do not educate. The health system treats, but does not seem to care. Employment offers dead-end jobs, but not careers. Is it time for Theresa May to push for a paradigm shift?
Kartar Uppal
Sutton Coldfield

The major way to reduce the gap between rich and poor is a fair, progressive system of direct taxation. For example, a 75% tax rate on incomes above £1m.

The present government is in hock to an influential group of free-marketeer Tory MPs, who are fanatically committed to a low-tax and small-state agenda, so expect inequality – the gap between rich and poor – to get even wider, with dwindling public services and even greater adverse consequences for British society.
Dr Robin C Richmond
Bromyard
Herefordshire


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