Letters: Tribune was well to the left of those trying to revive it today

Role of the trade unions was key to its support of democratic socialism

I guess Tribune was before Toby Helm’s time (“Labour MPs revive Tribune”, News). I was on the staff from 1975 to 1980. I remember Jim Callaghan throwing a bash for us at Downing Street on our 40th birthday. The editor, Dick Clements, had to cut the birthday cake with Callaghan. Michael Foot shouted: “Don’t turn your back on him, Dick” as Callaghan picked up the knife.

Tribune was well to the left of these moderates “reviving” the paper. Our heroes included Nye Bevan, Michael Foot and Jack Jones, Spanish civil war veteran and general secretary of the TGWU, now Unite. Even George Orwell, who wrote his “As I Please” column in the 1940s, would spin in his grave at this piece of political opportunism on the 80th anniversary of the founding of Tribune.

Tribune’s stance was based on opposition to Stalinism and pushed the case for democratic socialism and what was seen then as the key role of the trade unions. We all had our differences on Tribune, but we all shared a desire to change more in society than our underwear. The old Tribune today would have had nothing to do with the class of 1997 carpetbaggers.
Trevor Jones
London N16

Stop mollycoddling students

To any student of John Stuart Mill, the most scary nine words in your newspaper last week occurred in “Sexual paranoia on campus – and the professor at the eye of the storm’’ (The New Review) – about students objecting to an essay written by US academic Laura Kipnis. The nine chilling words appeared in an email from academics lamenting the fact that so-called controversial speakers forced students to “invest time and energy in rebutting the speakers’ arguments’’. Banning speakers from university campuses doesn’t just infringe on the free-speech rights of a few, but robs the rest of the freedom to listen and judge for themselves.
Doug Clark
Currie, Midlothian

Talking can save the suicidal

On 1 December 2015, my daughter Alice took her own life. She was aged 32. At the end of October 2015, Alice visited her GP to ask for a sick note. She had spent three days at work in tears, feeling suicidal. No one in her open-plan office had stopped to ask if she was OK. Four days and three assessments later, including a full assessment under the Mental Health Act, Alice was classed as medium to low risk and was discharged.

Towards the end of November, Alice returned to her GP, as she was still feeling suicidal. The GP re-referred her to the crisis team. A mental health worker called her that evening, judged her not to be at immediate risk and promised that another worker would phone her again the next day. That phone call never came. Less than a week later, Alice was found dead in the flat where she lived alone, having separated from her boyfriend nearly a year before. She had not told her friends or family how she was feeling.

In my opinion, Alice’s inability to talk about her feelings was a symptom of how depressed and withdrawn she had become. She was very good at disguising her feelings and not good at asking for help. I cannot believe that any of the professionals who saw and assessed her managed to get a true picture of how bad things were for her. I agree with Ruth Kelly (“Talking about mental illness helps – but we need money more than words”, Comment): how can we expect to defeat the stigma of mental illness when doctors and nurses lack the competence to conduct an accurate risk-assessment?

Compared to many physical illnesses, treatment for depression is not particularly expensive. Why is it still OK to let people die?
Name and address supplied

Lib Dems are our best hope

Your otherwise excellent editorial last week on how Brexiteers are casting opponents of hard Brexit as “the enemy within” contained a crucial omission. The Daily Mail editorial quoted was a specific attack on the Liberal Democrats. The Mail, for all its vitriol, correctly recognised that only the Liberal Democrats have opposed attempts by the Conservative government to take us out of the world’s largest market and to deny the people a say on the final deal. The Observer needs to be clear. There is no “progressive alliance” against Brexit. To Labour’s lasting shame, Jeremy Corbyn ordered his MPs to troop through the lobbies in support of the Conservative Brexit government. The Liberal Democrats are the only party speaking for all those Observer readers who want Britain to remain open, tolerant and united.

Tom Brake MP
Liberal Democrat foreign affairs
London SW1

Bristol’s extended atonement

The story of Bristol’s involvement in the slave trade is scarcely news. I think what I dislike most about this protest (In Focus) is its self-righteous, sanctimonious tone. Yes, certainly the Wills family profited from slavery, but by the same token so did anyone who smoked their cigarettes. And what about cotton?. Anyone wearing a cotton dress or shirt was profiting from the same exploitation. At least we can say that Wills ploughed all his money into founding a university – no bad thing. And Colston founded a girls’ school and old people’s home. It’s history. We should study it, learn from it and move on.
Laurence Carter

The GuardianTramp

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