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Labour has lost its heart and nerve in pandering to the right

·3-min read
<span>Photograph: Rex/Shutterstock</span>
Photograph: Rex/Shutterstock

The claim by Andy Beckett that Labour’s centre-left have run out of ideas is certainly true but doesn’t get to the heart of the problem(The problem is bigger than Keir Starmer – Labour’s centrists have run out of ideas, 24 September). The truth is that the centre-left of the Labour party has lost its nerve. This loss of nerve can be dated to 9 October 2007, when the then Labour chancellor, Alistair Darling, caved into the shadow chancellor, George Osborne, over inheritance tax.

Since then, Labour’s centrists have put their energies into placating critics on the right, specifically Tory voters and the rightwing press, and have largely ignored the needs of their natural supporters on the left. This obsession with “electability” has knocked the heart out of Labour because it has allowed the right to define its electability. Labour’s centre-left agrees with its rightwing critics that it can only be deemed electable when it is not a threat to the Conservative party and its interest groups.

I am sure that there are many centre-left politicians who know exactly what the country needs, but they do not have the nerve to propose it, explain it to the British people and defend it from criticism from the right. As a centre-left Labour voter, I do not expect the party to change much before the next election under the current leadership. I need to decide what to do with my vote. I do not intend to squander it.
Michael Kenny
Glasgow

• Andy Beckett writes that the centre-left has failed to come up with new and compelling ideas to address big contemporary issues. Maybe. But surely Brexit and the pandemic have taught us that what the country requires is better governance and fewer headline-grabbing panaceas. Germany provides an excellent model of stability through coalition at national and regional level, but in our first-past-the-post system, adult decision-making will remain a pipe dream until like-minded parties decide to work together to develop achievable ends.
Paul Tattam
Chinley, Derbyshire

• In writing that Labour must show “we are breaking decisively from the rejected programmes and hard-left culture of the past decade”, Peter Mandelson conveniently sidesteps the defeat of 2010 (Starmer can’t pin his hopes for success on Johnson’s incompetence, 23 September). The Blair/Brown governments had presided over a deregulated City, taken the country into a disastrous war and relied on using in-work benefits to subsidise low wages while housing benefit concealed a growing housing crisis. Not a “hard-left” programme, then. In fact, Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell initially slowed the decline in Labour’s vote, a decline begun when Mandelson was part of the team.
Dave Verguson
Lindley, Huddersfield

• Peter Mandelson has got it wrong. Labour does not need “a new agenda of modernisation”. The Labour party has always been an alliance of community interests with a leftish belief that labour should never be taxed more highly than capital and an egalitarian heart that seeks to lift up the weak. To reinvigorate the party, Labour needs to stop centralising “power and direction” and return to respect for its grassroots within the community and their needs.
Ben Tyler
London

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