Labour’s problem with the voting public stems from its lack of a clear set of policies that demonstrably separates it from the Tories (“By failing to stand with working people, Labour is taking an electorally risky stance”, Simon Fletcher, Comment). Keir Starmer has spent his time as leader “not being Boris” and if that now morphs into “not being Liz/Rishi”, then he is missing a huge opportunity. People want to know what would actually change for them under a Labour government.
My advice to Starmer is to pick four or five key themes that get to the heart of working people’s lives – cost of living, NHS/social care, housing, education, jobs – and say unequivocally what Labour would do differently. What will those areas be like after four years of Starmer as PM? Make commitments to improve specific things. Don’t promise the earth or veer off into the fringes of special interest group fantasy. People know governments can’t make everything better in one go and reject politicians who pretend they can.
Real change takes time. So set out clear priorities and the timetable in which they will be achieved. When that is done, ram the message home in every interview, article and social media post. Make sure everyone in the street knows what Labour stands for. If people know what your policies are, they might give you their vote.
How we women beat the odds
As a member of the England squad for the first official women’s football international against Scotland in 1972, I welcome Emma John’s article about football’s long tradition of discriminating against women and the need to celebrate the history of those players and officials who dedicated themselves to the sport against the odds (“Now women have roared back into elite football, let’s make sure we’re here to stay”, Comment).
As a football-mad girl growing up in the 1960s, I experienced this discrimination first hand. I was banned from playing with the boys and when I eventually found a girls’ team we were banned from FA pitches. Thanks to the work of some dedicated pioneers such as Arthur Hobbs and Patricia Gregory, the Women’s Football Association was formed in 1969, the near 50-year ban was finally lifted and 15 young women were able to realise their dream of representing their country. In November, it will be the 50th anniversary of that first official international match and the FA is set to honour those of us who played and award us our official caps. Our contribution to the history of the game will be recognised at last.
We can defeat the bullies
I, like too many women, have direct experience of the bullying that Sonia Sodha mentions (“Don’t buy the Stonewall line on gender identity? Fine. You can’t be sacked for that now”, Comment). I attended a peaceful, lawful Woman’s Place UK meeting in Manchester last March, to support women in women’s sports, all-women therapy settings and the need for single-sex prisons. The meeting was besieged by a hostile crowd of “trans rights demonstrators”, who mounted a deafening barrage outside our building. Many women ran the gauntlet of this spitting, swearing crowd, who yelled the vilest of insults at us and called for our deaths over megaphones. We continued our meeting, as police prevented the mob from entering our building, while our speakers raised their voices over the chants of “Nazi”, “Scum” and “Fascist” from the street outside. I have never seen such venom and hate in a public or political activity.
This is not just condoned by far too many liberals and leftists: the local newspaper reported favourably on the protest and a Manchester councillor and TUC president declared that our meeting should never have happened. As Sodha says, one day we will look back in wonder.
When small is not beautiful
Will Hutton is right to argue for an agile state instead of the Tory dogma of the small state (“Lost in space and a broken energy market: blame it on the obsession with a small state”, Comment). As Mariana Mazzucato shows in her book The Entrepreneurial State, many things considered to be results of private sector investment and initiative are in fact the outcome of massive public investments in long-term research.
Investing in a more agile public sector can have benefits in several areas, such as housing and levelling up. Strengthening the urban planning capacity of local governments would enable them to negotiate far greater public benefits from private investment than is currently possible. It would also create a more socially and economically sustainable relationship between public and private sectors, thereby enabling us to rephrase the old left-right debate.
An inconvenient truth
I read Robin McKie’s article on climate change with much interest (Saving the planet: are we too late?, Focus). I have one issue though. There is no guarantee that we can adapt because what everyone forgets is that it is not just we who have to adapt. Every living thing evolved over the past 800,000 years in an atmosphere where CO2 was fewer than 300 parts per million. We are currently at 416ppm and we are inflicting chaos on our ecosystem.
I live in Scotland, where 16m trees were destroyed in three storms in one winter. What are the chances that their replacements can survive to maturity when faced with an increasing frequency of wildfires, violent winds, landslips, floods and droughts? There is only one strategy that has any chance of success and that is to stop burning fossil fuels as soon as possible. When in a hole, stop digging.
I wipe the floor with Zumba
It’s curious that, in all the discussion about women’s supposed lack of regular exercise, no one mentions housework – specifically, cleaning – as a source of vigorous exercise (“So women aren’t doing enough ‘vigorous’ exercise?”, Focus). As I cleaned my house this morning, in the heat of a Spanish summer, I worked up quite a sweat – quite as much as I have sweated in a Zumba class or cutting the hedge. Sweeping, vacuuming, scrubbing and polishing provide quite a decent workout, and I reckon work all the major muscle groups. But cleaning isn’t cool (you don’t need special clothes to do it) and men tend not to do it as often, so maybe that’s why it doesn’t figure on the drop-down list of “activity types” on the app on my phone.
I wonder whether anyone from Nuffield Health asked about daily/weekly cleaning routines when asking women whether they get enough exercise?