Theresa May needs a Clement Attlee | Letters

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Clement Attlee as deputy prime minister on the campaign trail in Limehouse, 1945. Photograph: Popperfoto/Getty Images)

As well as shuffling people (Theresa May must now build the cabinet she really wants, 14 April) the prime minister should also consider whether the structure of her government is fit for a successful Brexit negotiation: our country’s biggest challenge since the second world war.

When Neville Chamberlain declared war in 1939 he saw its conduct as being fitted into the existing cabinet committee structure. When Winston Churchill took over, he made winning the war the supreme purpose of the government. He shaped cabinet government accordingly by having a war cabinet in constant session, and here surely is the model for May to follow.

Unless we are simply to crash out of the EU, the Brexit negotiations will be fiendishly complicated. A similar Brexit cabinet committee in constant session needs to be established to push the negotiations to a success, modelled on Churchill’s war cabinet. Merely having a Brexit cabinet committee is no substitute: hence the admission that no work has been undertaken on a “no deal” outcome.

Churchill’s model was a success because Clement Attlee, his deputy, was left in effect to chair the rest of the machinery of government, which led to the social revolution of 1945. Our attention ought therefore to be focused, if Martin Kettle is right in asserting May’s wish for her own programme of sweeping social reform, on who should be that deputy to lay the groundwork for a post-Brexit social revolution.
Frank Field MP
Labour, Birkenhead

• Martin Kettle’s advice to Theresa May regarding cabinet reshuffle opportunities doesn’t correlate with the prime minister’s ambition “to drive social reform” that he observes. The answer to many of our nation’s woes lay hidden in his piece: if May is right and “tax is the price we pay for civilised society”, it follows that our low taxation rates and clunky tax system make us relatively uncivilised. Instead of reshuffling the cabinet, perhaps May should be looking at a radical reshuffling of the tax system to fund our public services better and to enable the country to face the environmental and infrastructure challenges of the 21st century.
Adam Clarke
Assistant city mayor, Leicester

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