Has political consensus become a pipe dream?

·3-min read
<span>Photograph: Jessica Taylor/UK Parliament/AFP/Getty Images</span>
Photograph: Jessica Taylor/UK Parliament/AFP/Getty Images

Perhaps the liberal democratic managed capitalism desired by Martin Kettle did exist in the 1950s, including the new welfare state in the UK (The toxic polarisation of our politics can be reversed, but it will take humility, 26 November). It didn’t prove robust – the Conservatives moved to the right and embraced free-market capitalism; regulation exists but is weak and largely captured by “experts” from the relevant market sectors.

It is difficult to see how the idealised consensus can be created today, especially within one state. Multinational companies moving activities to poorly regulated locations and tax havens means that regulation must be multinational. The EU is attempting to regulate and tax tech and online firms, cooperation with which the UK has abandoned. The replacement of Donald Trump by Joe Biden doesn’t mean that economic nationalism will go out of fashion.

Kettle is right that respect for the truth is indispensable. The problem is that honest conservatism has gone and, internationally, the right has adopted untruth as a weapon. This approach will continue as it has proved successful. Trump has lost the election, but the size of his vote and support for his untruths demonstrate just how successful.

Talking – and listening – to each other in a truthful and respectful way is a good thing, but it needs that approach from all parts of the political spectrum. Kettle implies that such consensus-seeking would inhibit the left from offering radical solutions to our problems, because that may destroy any consensus. Is that how democracy works?
Doug Simpson
Todmorden, West Yorkshire

• Martin Kettle rightly highlights polarisation and the growth of the “I” society since the 1960s. Surely it is no coincidence that this coincided with a digital revolution that changed all our lives? Last year, I revisited California 50 years after doing an MBA at Stanford University. The wealthiest state in the world has failed to solve homelessness in the streets or congestion on the roads. Black people have been displaced by escalating house prices.

All the talking and listening in the world will be of little value unless governments get control of the land and finance needed to build a fairer society. We should be using technology to map inequalities and invest in bridging the gaps rather than consoling ourselves with webinars and games.
Dr Nicholas Falk
Executive director, The Urbed Trust

• It is possible to share Martin Kettle’s hope for a less divided America without romanticising the 1950s. One need only recall those who left for Europe when “cooperation” was not shown to their differing political beliefs. The 50s also saw the enlargement of the attorney general’s list of subversive organisations. A loyalty oath was required by anyone wishing to enter a graduate programme or benefit from a scholarship, and the House Committee on Un-American Activities destroyed careers. Dwight Eisenhower was no Donald Trump, but neither was he a hero to those not in the political mainstream.
Susan Zagor

• On reading how Labour’s general secretary has banned local parties from discussing the loss of the whip from Jeremy Corbyn (Report, 27 November), I was reminded of how Joseph Stalin tried to make Leon Trotsky a non-person in Russia. It is marvellous where the party leadership takes its inspiration from.
Terry Ward
Wickford, Essex