Letters: in the UK, the far right works from within – The Guardian

That “Sweden shows that nowhere in Europe is immune to the rise of the far right” is probably true (Editorial). It is also true, as you say, that far-right parties have not gained the significance in the UK that they have elsewhere. The first-past-the-post voting system effectively excludes the representation of small, far-right parties in parliament. More effective, in the UK, is entryism into an existing party.
In recent years, the Conservative party has become the vehicle for far-right policies and politicians who promote those policies, not least: cultural intolerance; leaving the EU; the linking of racist anti-immigration politics and Europhobia; promoting a “hostile environment” for asylum seekers and attempting to deport legal asylum seekers to Rwanda; the marginalising of experts (elites); promoting nationalism with those union flags that now drape every minister’s office; attacking democracy by illegally proroguing parliament and denigrating human rights lawyers as “lefties” and “do-gooders” and restricting freedoms to protest. The new secretary of state for health and social care has been less than supportive of abortion rights. Today’s Conservative party has adopted policies and taken positions not that dissimilar to those in Sweden, Orbán’s Hungary, Duda’s Poland and Erdoğan’s Turkey.
Dr Robin Richmond
Bromyard, Herefordshire

Thank you for Drude Dahlerup’s article on Sweden (“Sweden’s mainstream parties cravenly opened the door to anti-immigrant populists”, Comment). The previous Social Democrat-Green party-Left party coalition government, which in one form or another has governed for much of the last 60 years, lost the recent election as over the past decade its policies have been disastrous in regard to education, immigration, finance, healthcare, defence and the environment. One example is that Sweden’s death rate from Covid was double that of other Scandinavian nations. Another is that Sweden let its top-class nuclear power capabilities wither without any viable, nationally controlled alternative(s) in place. The election gave Swedes the choice between “bad” and “maybe not as bad”. I predict there will be a new election before the end of 2023.
James Van Alstine

Like Catherine Bennett, I had already enjoyed Boris Johnson’s absence last week and his probable frustration at being absent from this historic time (“Tiring of all the pomp? Cheer up – at least Boris Johnson is not there to upstage the royals”, Comment). I found particular pleasure in imagining that the late Queen may have decided to wait for the end of the interminable Conservative leadership election and for Johnson’s formal resignation. I like to think of this as a final dutiful gift to the people of Britain.
Thank you, Ma’am.
Kate Blok

Jon Ungoed-Thomas summarises well the government’s “consultation” on weights and measures: a deeply flawed questionnaire over an unnecessary, wasteful and potentially damaging proposal (“Want to axe the metric system? Say yes here”, News).
Currently, customers have a legal right to be informed of the quantity and price of any product on supermarket shelves in metric units, allowing comparisons to be made. The effect of the proposal is to take away this right. Not more choice, less. Metric units have been the primary units taught in British schools since 1974; pounds/ounces are alien to most young people.
You are right: the history of metrication in the UK dates from Victorian times. A firm decision to metricate was made in 1965, long before EEC/EU entry.
Pretending that metric units were imposed by the EU is wrong. It is equally wrong to believe that something is desirable merely because Brexit makes it possible. Metric units are used in science, medicine, building, engineering and sport. British imperial units are in common use nowhere else in the world, not even the USA or the Commonwealth. They are complex and poorly understood. Dual units cause confusion and sometimes danger.
The consultation outcome may be greeted by the government as giving it the answer it wanted. It is not, however, valid and it deserves to be thrown forcefully in the bin.
Dr Peter Burke, chair, UK Metric Association, London N11

Andrew Rawnsley reminds us that “the author of the notorious ‘black spider’ memos to ministers has sought to pre-empt anxieties about how he will conduct himself” (“Liz Truss can’t speak for the national mood because she really doesn’t understand it”, Comment). But we have also heard about his exasperation at a leaking fountain pen (“I can’t bear this bloody thing. Every stinking time…”). There are lots of opportunities now, as Charles moves from prince to king, for tiny black spidery missives to become overwhelming tarantula tirades. I don’t see him being restrained by leaky pens.
Julia Edwards

Thank you to Sian Harding for raising awareness of sex inequality in cardiac health outcomes (“Heart disease: why gender is a matter of life or death”, the New Review). However, I was concerned by the implication that this inequality is the responsibility of the patients rather than the medical personnel. In future, perhaps, her phrasing could be adjusted from “What is it about female patients that makes the male doctors treat them differently?” to “What is it about male doctors that makes them treat female patients differently?”.
Also worth noting is that our behaviour does not affect how “male” or “female” we appear, but how “masculine” or “feminine”. The distinction is clear and vital: male and female refer to biological sex; masculine and feminine to the socially constructed expectations associated with our sex, referred to as gender. Women experience different typical heart attack symptoms than men due to their sex, as described in Dr Alyson McGregor’s book Sex Matters. That they are stereotyped as hysterical when they seek help is due to gender.
Amy Holland
London, SE11

Like the visitor photographed in Kenan Malik’s article on Guernica, (“The web has expanded the reach of art but nothing beats standing in front of a Picasso”, Comment), I too stood in front of Picasso’s masterpiece in the Reina Sofia Museum in Madrid a few days ago. And, like Malik more than 30 years ago, “I was overcome by a sense of dislocation and horror”. A feeling that was magnified and contemporised when the middle-aged American woman standing next to me turned and said: “Putin should see this.”
Mick Beeby
Westbury on Trym, Bristol

The first letter on this page was amended on 25 September 2022. An earlier version had transposed the presidents of two countries in referring to “Duda’s Hungary” and “Orbán’s Poland”.


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