MARK McGeoghegan's article on Sir Keir Starmer and Labour ("Starmer’s party has lost the courage of its convictions", The Herald, July 24) is measured and justifiably critical and for that reason, it is worth a similarly measured response. Above all, it needs to be appreciated how far the UK has deteriorated under the Tories.

First they took the calamitous choice of austerity and then they caved into the Ukip agenda which had previously been the preserve of the far right and the far left; having lost the EU referendum, the Tory governments that followed had no Plan B (such as EEA/Efta) which would have kept the UK in the single market. They compounded that dereliction of national duty by electing as their leader and as our PM first Boris Johnson and then Liz Truss, who crashed the economy with a programme of unfunded spending that belted home the final nails in the reputation of the UK as a competently-run country.

We are back to somewhere like the mid-1970s, when Helmut Schmidt was moved to remark that Tony Benn (then a leading Cabinet minister) was the Bertie Wooster of political economics. The implication was that the UK was a joke (even under Herr Schmidt's social democratic Labour colleagues) and that the international markets could not trust its government to run the country effectively, and least of all to do so on the basis of sound money.

As the only politician of our times who has actually had a responsible job of national importance in his career, Sir Keir Starmer appreciates the value of getting the basics right and of convincing the rest of the world that this has been achieved. This is double the task which faced the incoming Tony Blair government in 1997 – which inherited an economy that had largely recovered after the disaster of Black Wednesday and needed only prove its own competence. Sir Keir starts at a much lower point and needs to do more.

By the end of the next Labour government, I would expect the UK to be moving once more in the right direction towards a society that is both more prosperous and more equal. How far we get in that direction will depend on many factors, not least whether Sir Keir and Rachel Reeves can achieve their massively-ambitious goal of making UK growth the highest in the G7. But the sine qua non of doing so has to be restoring international confidence in the country, in its institutions and its ability to govern itself rationally and prudently.

So we will need a solid figure of a Prime Minister who is not hyperbolic in his claims and who does not over-promise and under-deliver; and who has a demonstrable moral compass and who will not commit money unless he is certain that it is there for the government to spend. Sounds like a job for Sir Keir to me.

Peter A Russell, Glasgow.

Read more: Labour under Starmer has lost the courage of its convictions

The real legacy of Tony Blair

BRIAN Wilson predictably eulogises the Labour government of which he was a part ("Let’s never forget: things really did get better under Labour", The Herald, July 25). If I have heard Sure Start mentioned as a great achievement once I have heard it a thousand times. It, like so much else, was simply a copy of Head Start, introduced by President Lyndon Johnson's administration as part of his Great Society programme in the 1960s; Johnson rarely gets credit for the civil rights legislation that he, with his vast legislative experience, cleverly ensured passed in a Congress still full of overt Southern racists.

Be that as it may, the "New" Labour government spent a huge amount of time on legislation to lower the age of consent and to ban fox hunting, both positions I happen to agree with but not necessarily top priorities for a country still damaged by lack of opportunity as well as investment.

No, the legacy of Tony Blair is that of the five wars he took us into and that of Gordon Brown is of PFI still costing NHS trusts and local authorities dearly as the private sector asset-strips them, not to mention globalisation and neoliberal economics which have left the bulk of people in the the US and Britain economically insecure and worse off than ever before as a result of outsourcing and zero hours contracts.

Thank God there are still a few union leaders left to stand up for them.

Marjorie Thompson, Edinburgh.

• PERHAPS old age has distorted both our viewpoints, but I cannot share Brian Wilson's opinion of the last Labour governments. Leaving aside Tony Blair's criminal behaviour over Iraq, which ended my support for Labour after some 40 years, my memories of Gordon Brown as both Chancellor and Prime Minister are not good ones. In addition to his childish conflict with Mr Blair, I still associate him with PFI and light-touch regulation of bankers and financiers.

There is also the way he inflated the salaries of council officials (not council workers). Council officials are a breed which still requires severe pruning as part of a general reappraisal of every aspect of local government. I doubt, however, if anything radical or imaginative will come out of a Starmer Government.

Jim Crawford, Wemyss Bay.

The naivety of Labour

NOT only has Labour to remind a new generation of what it did, but also what it didn't do.

Conservatives have been allowed regularly to perpetuate the falsehood that Labour caused the 2010 financial crisis. Last Friday on Radio 4's Any Questions that accusation was yet again made by the Conservative MP present. Did Margaret Hodge, the Labour MP, refute it by mentioning the US sub-prime mortgage market or the worldwide nature of the crisis? No, she did not. And never in the last 13 years have I heard a Labour MP do so in such a situation. So, many members of the public listening have no evidence to perhaps change their minds about Labour's economic competence. So its economic policies for the next General Election are less likely to be trusted.

I fear there is a considerable lack of strategic thinking in the Labour Party. The phrase "playing at politics" comes to mind.

Ewan Henderson, Haddington.

Read more: Never forget: Things really did get better under Labour

We should not pay for indy plans

RATHER than rage at the UK Government for demanding the Green/SNP administration keeps within its legal remit of devolution and not spend our taxes on matters that have nothing whatsoever to do with it ("More indy proposals as storm grows over cash”, The Herald, July 24, and Letters, July 25), we should be eternally grateful.

Using precious civil service time and personnel and huge amounts of cash – in the middle of a cost of living crisis – on jollies overseas and printing glossy pamphlets on some fantasy ideas about future passports is wonderful for extremists, but it is diametrically opposite for the majority of Scots. They watch their streets, their children’s education, their NHS, their industry, fall apart and get little or no attention. So, you can increase council tax by 25 per cent and ask the councils to cut back even further, but the only thing that concerns the SNP is empty the bank and spend as you like.

Of course the nationalists are entitled to wallow in their fantasies to their hearts’ desire. But the SNP and no-one else should pay. What is fundamentally wrong is that they send to the bill to the majority of Scots, most of whom do not share their extremist views.  
The SNP could perhaps start a ring-fenced fund for these things. Oh, wait a moment, perhaps not. 

Alexander McKay, Edinburgh.

Alex Salmond's double standards

I READ Mark Smith’s piece on the Wyndford flats ("‘He’d be birling in his grave’. Salmond on a hero betrayed", The Herald, July 24) with a wry smile. To quote Mr Smith: "Mr Salmond told the meeting on Saturday (tongue a bit in his cheek) that what was needed was 'independence for Maryhill', but what he meant was that communities should have the ability to determine their own future”. Is this the same Alex Salmond who, as First Minister, imposed a council tax freeze which was to last for 15 years, thus stifling locally-elected politicians from delivering for their communities?

It brings to mind his recent professed republican tendencies which are completely at odds with his position in 2014 where an independent Scotland would retain the monarchy and at odds with his continued membership of the Privy Council.

His behaviour exhibits all the traits exhibited by an ex-prime minster – "an opportunist in search of an opportunity”. Perhaps in this instance it would be more appropriate to borrow from a Scottish source, Francie and Josie, whom I am sure Mr Salmond will remember fondly: a chancer in search of an opporchancity.

Paul Teenan, Glasgow.