Sir, Gideon Rachman’s column “The crisis in Anglo-American democracy” (August 23) recalls political theorist Gramsci’s observation that at times of political transition “a variety of morbid symptoms appear”. For that is what Donald Trump and Jeremy Corbyn are: morbid symptoms of the much deeper malaise that has hit western democracy.

The real problem is that the established elite, in its Westminster, Brussels and Washington playpens, has lost touch with the mass electorate. As the elite’s own living standards have risen it has neglected the fact that for most electors that is not so. It has decried nationalism when (as the Olympics have attested) nationalism still runs deep in most people’s veins. It has demanded more globalisation, which most voters (correctly) see as a threat to their jobs. And it has denigrated as racist those who demand attention to the most sensitive political issue of our day: immigration. Small wonder that voters in droves are looking for politicians who more accurately catch their concerns — be it Mr Corbyn, Mr Trump, Alternative for Germany or Marine Le Pen.

The policy outlook, at least from the elite’s point of view, is not pretty. Even if, as expected, Mr Corbyn etc do not gain power, they are shifting the political terms of trade in the direction of more protectionism, less migration and more national self-assertion (on which, as Mr Rachman notes, even Vladimir Putin’s performance has garnered respect in some quarters). Brexit and the death of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership may be no more than early examples of what is coming. Arch-globalisers are going to have to learn to discriminate much more carefully between those projects (the EU?) that are really worth hanging on to, and those (Schengen?) that are going to have to be let go.

Sir Tony Brenton

Cambridge, UK

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