As a Unite and Labour party member I read the interview with Len McCluskey with dismay and despair (“McCluskey: ‘Labour should not be taking Unite’s money for granted’”, News). Labour has suffered its worst election defeat in modern political history and Mr McCluskey is suggesting we fight the 2024 election on the same programme as the 2019 one. Millions of working people will have to endure another five years of a Conservative government, partly because the political class and its backers of the Labour party refused to listen to its voters, instead preferring to wallow in the certainty of their own convictions.
This is vanity politics. As a local councillor, I represent an area of high deprivation whose causes lie at the door of successive Conservative governments. Labour will have an uphill battle in 2024 but whoever else it upsets it must not betray the economically vulnerable and those marginalised by free market policies.
Guthrie Mckie, Labour councillor for Harrow Road ward,
Does Mr McCluskey really not understand that Labour’s decision to settle the libel action against it by the egregiously defamed whistleblowers actually saved his members money? Fighting a libel action that the party was certain to lose would have resulted in vastly increased costs and damages, and would have shed unwelcome light on Labour’s dirty linen in public.
Jeremy Corbyn has claimed that legal advice provided to the party assured them they had a good case. As a lawyer, I find that hard to believe, but as a Labour party member, and as such, helped pay for it, I think the advice should be published so we can judge it for ourselves. As for Messrs Corbyn and McCluskey, who appear to have learned nothing from history and appear to take no responsibility for the catastrophic defeats Labour has suffered under their influence, a period of quiet from them would be very welcome.
So much for ‘levelling up’
Kenan Malik rightly recounts how blame for our ills is remorselessly attached to the underprivileged and vulnerable (“Illness, obesity, racism; who gets blamed for our crises? The poor of course”, Comment). At the heart of the blame game lies the cynical slogan, “levelling up”. Having left care home staff and occupants in the line of fire with inadequate protection, the prime minister tries to blame them for the ensuing disaster. Then government gives a pay rise to NHS staff, leaving care workers to the mercies of the market and the minimum wage. We should keep this fatuous mantra firmly in our sights as it is repeatedly trotted out to us as part of the blame game.
West Coker, Yeovil, Somerset
What food strategy?
Jay Rayner’s article on food strategy invites further development (“This isn’t a tough new food policy for post-Brexit UK. It’s thin gruel and easy to set to one side”, Comment). Apart from the “worrying proposals” in Henry Dimbleby’s national food strategy and “muddled thinking” behind it, two new government plans raise further problems.
One proposal is to reduce the numbers of the overweight and obese by encouraging healthier eating, though it’s not clear how the government will actually do this. The other is to help restaurants, pubs and takeaways by giving £10 credit to customers, regardless of what they choose to eat. A recent TV news item showed a plate of greasy chips being handed over as an illustration of this deal. These two plans can easily become contradictory.
Meanwhile, the 2.7 million children noted by Rayner who really need school or holiday dinners are not likely to be helped out of poverty while government policies have so greatly increased the gap between the very rich and the very poor.
Witton Gilbert, County Durham
Britain, beware Bannon
It is deeply disturbing that Steve Bannon, the dangerous figurehead of the modern far right, has spoken so favourably of our very own Dominic Cummings, labelling him “brilliant” no less (“Bannon hails ‘brilliant’ Cummings and predicts lurch to right for No 10”, News). This endorsement speaks volumes about the ruthlessness by which Cummings rules, and the sinister motives behind his grip on British power. Cummings’ unsubtle attacks on the civil service; his determination to win his precious hard Brexit; his fusion of the roles behind No 10 and No 11; and his sheer contempt for the media and, in fact, any opposition, any checks and balances, any scrutiny is indeed worrying and unsettling.
The British people should be under no illusion: in large part owing to Cummings, our government’s intentions are rarely good. On the contrary, they are often shrouded in cheap populist lies aimed at rallying the troops. Longer term, they aim to change Britain for the worse with their divisive, often conspiratorial, rhetoric. Not wholly dissimilar from the actions of the presidency that Steve Bannon helped create, then.
End this Uighur injustice
As religious leaders and leaders of belief-based communities, we come together to affirm human dignity for all by highlighting one of the most egregious human tragedies since the Holocaust: the potential genocide of the Uighurs and other Muslims in China. We have seen many persecutions and mass atrocities. These need our attention. But there is one that, if allowed to continue with impunity, calls into question most seriously the willingness of the international community to defend universal human rights for everyone – the plight of the Uyghurs.
At least one million Uighur and other Muslims in China are incarcerated in prison camps facing starvation, torture, murder, sexual violence, slave labour and forced organ extraction. Outside the camps, basic religious freedom is denied. Mosques are destroyed, children are separated from their families, and acts as simple as owning a Holy Qur’an, praying or fasting can result in arrest. The world’s most intrusive surveillance state invades every aspect of life in Xinjiang. Recent research reveals a campaign of forced sterilisation and birth prevention targeting at least 80% of Uighur women of childbearing age in the four Uighur-populated prefectures – an action that, according to the 1948 Genocide Convention, could elevate this to the level of genocide.
The clear aim of the Chinese authorities is to eradicate the Uighur identity. China’s state media has stated that the goal is to “break their lineage, break their roots… and break their origins”. As the Washington Post put it, “It’s hard to read that as anything other than a declaration of genocidal intent.” High-level Chinese government documents speak of “absolutely no mercy”. Parliamentarians, governments and jurists have a responsibility to investigate.
As faith leaders, we are neither activists nor policymakers. But we have a duty to call our communities to their responsibilities to look after their fellow human beings and act when they are in danger.
In the Holocaust some Christians rescued Jews. Some spoke out. To quote Dietrich Bonhoeffer: “Silence in the face of evil is itself evil… Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.” After the Holocaust, the world said “Never Again.”
Today, we repeat those words “Never Again”. We stand with the Uighurs. We also stand with Tibetan Buddhists, Falun Gong practitioners and Christians throughout China who face the worst crackdown on freedom of religion or belief since the Cultural Revolution. We urge people of faith and conscience everywhere to join us: in prayer, solidarity and action to end these mass atrocities. We make a simple call for justice, to investigate these crimes, hold those responsible to account and establish a path towards the restoration of human dignity.
The Rt Hon and Rt Rev Lord Williams of Oystermouth, former archbishop of Canterbury; Imam Nabel Rafi, director of the International Centre for Tolerance UK; Rabbi Baroness (Julia) Neuberger; the Rt Rev Philip Mounstephen, bishop of Truro, chair of UK FoRB Forum and former chair of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office independent review for the foreign secretary of FCO support for persecuted Christians; Christopher Cocksworth, bishop of Coventry; the Rt Rev Alan Smith, bishop of St Alban’s; the Rt Rev Christopher Chessun, bishop of Southwark; the Rt Rev John Perry, former Anglican Bishop of Chelmsford; the Rt Rev Michael Nazir-ali, former Anglican bishop of Rochester; the Rev Jonathan Aitken; the Rev Dr Joel Edwards; Canon Dr Giles Fraser, rector of St Mary Newington; the rev Cindy Kent; Canon Dr Andrew White, ambassador of Jerusalem MERIT; Cardinal Charles Bo, archbishop of Yangon and president of the Federation of Asian Bishops Conferences; Cardinal Ignatius Suharyo, archbishop of Jakarta; Declan Lang, bishop of Clifton; Fr Timothy Radcliffe, former master of the Dominican Order; Fr Dominic Robinson, parish priest, Farm Street Church of the Immaculate Conception, and chair, Justice and Peace Commission, diocese of Westminster; Fr Nicholas King, assistant Catholic chaplain, University of Oxford; Fr Uche Njoku, parish priest, St Joseph’s Church, New Malden; the Rev Dr Russell Moore, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty commission of the Southern Baptist Convention in the USA; Al-Haj U Aye Lwin, chief convenor, Islamic Centre of Myanmar; Dr Sheikh Ramzy, founder, Oxford Islamic Information Centre; Imam Dr Mamadou Bocoum, Muslim chaplain and lecturer in Islamic Studies; Imam Daayiee Abdoul, executive director for Mecca institute, Washington DC; Imam Dr Usama Hasan; Desmond Biddulph, president of the Buddhist Society; Sonam T Frasi, representative of His Holiness the Dalai Lama for Northern Europe, Poland and the Baltic States; Rabbi Charley Baginsky, interim director of Liberal Judaism; Rabbi Dr Harvey Belovski, senior rabbi, Golders Green synagogue; Rabbi Miriam Berger, Finchley Reform synagogue; Rabbi Dr Moshe Freedman, senior rabbi, New West End synagogue; Rabbi Paul Freedman, senior rabbi, Radlett Reform synagogue; Rabbi Aaron Goldstein, chair of Conference of Liberal Rabbis and Cantors; Rabbi Herschel Gluck; Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner, senior rabbi to Reform Judaism; Rabbi Josh Levy, principal rabbi, Alyth North Western Reform synagogue; Rabbi David Mason, Muswell Hill United synagogue and executive member of the Rabbinical Council of the United Synagogue; Rabbi Lea Mühlstein, Northwood and Pinner Liberal synagogue; Rabbi Jonathan Wittenberg, senior rabbi for Masorti Judaism; Andrew Copson, chief executive of Humanists UK
Defending the indefensible
Anyone defending eugenics (“UCL and the long shadow of eugenics”, the New Review) should answer one question: what is scientific or sane about treating people as bad, inferior or expendable due to their choice of parents?