Margaret Beckett and her party’s most working-class leader ever

<span>Margaret Beckett in her parliamentary office. </span><span>Photograph: Antonio Olmos/The Guardian</span>
Margaret Beckett in her parliamentary office. Photograph: Antonio Olmos/The Guardian

I wish Margaret Beckett a happy and healthy retirement, but would ask her to spend some of it checking her history books about her description of the current Labour leader as perhaps “the most working-class leader we’ve ever had” (Goodbye to all that, 10 June). Sir Keir Starmer, the son of a self-employed toolmaker, lived in his famous “pebbledash semi”, attended grammar school and was an Oxford postgraduate. He might be more accurately described as lower middle class. She should compare him to the former Labour prime minister Ramsay MacDonald, who was born into poverty and agricultural labour, and left school aged 15.

The crucial point is surely whether a politician’s personal history is still reflected in their politics, rather than in a cosy backstory that turns social class into an identity category. The comparison with MacDonald shows that even a genuine working-class Labour leader should be judged not by their origins, but by their politics. MacDonald joined the benefit-cutting Tories in a national government in 1931 and was expelled from Labour for his betrayal.
Robert Lizar

• The “most working-class leader”? What about Keir Hardie, Ramsay MacDonald and James Callaghan?
Alasdair Macdonald

• Margaret Beckett has been a remarkable servant to the city of Derby and the country. I hope she does get a place in the Lords, as she still has so much to give to both the Labour party and the country. Even when a minister, she tried to ensure commitment to Derby was first and foremost. It’s a disgrace that the Tory, Lib Dem and Reform councillors ganged up to block her getting freedom of the city of Derby.
Kevin Hepworth

• I had the pleasure of canvassing alongside Margaret and Leo Beckett in the Chesterfield byelection won by Tony Benn in 1984. I recall how devoted she and Leo were to each other, and how encouraging of young people she was, and this interview captures her genuine, practical socialism perfectly.
William Bradshaw

• Margaret Beckett “can’t think of a decision she would now undo”. Really? Didn’t she describe herself as a “moron” for nominating Jeremy Corbyn in the Labour leadership contest in July 2015?
Roger Humphries
Staindrop, County Durham

• Have an opinion on anything you’ve read in the Guardian today? Please email us your letter and it will be considered for publication in our letters section.