Ukraine needs tanks, and the west should supply them. They could finish off Putin and Russia | Frank Ledwidge

In 1941, Churchill said to the US: ‘give us the tools and we will finish the job’. Zelenskiy is saying the same to us – and we should listen

In a 1941 speech on a Royal Navy ship, Winston Churchill directed his final comments to the US: “Give us the tools, and we will finish the job. ” After a significant victory in Kherson, and standing at the gates of Crimea facing a Russian army desperately trying to shore up its ramshackle defences, Ukraine has the troops and morale to defend what it has. However, despite some western assistance, the Ukrainians lack the tools – tanks, missiles and aircraft – to retake their land and impose strategic defeat on the Russians. If the west, and especially the US, is serious about helping to protect Ukraine, decisions on stepping up military assistance need to be made now. If Ukraine is to be able to secure its future after victory – assuming that is what the west truly wants – its forces need to begin to transition to Nato-standard equipment.

The US has not yet declared a political or military objective . However, in April the US secretary of defence, Lloyd Austin, said he wanted “to see Russia weakened to the point where it can’t do things like invade Ukraine”. Is it the intention of the United States genuinely to support military efforts to return Ukraine’s internationally recognised borders? Or does it instead suit US and western decision-makers to support a long war with Ukrainian forces used as proxies to bleed out Russia’s armed forces? Obviously, these are not at all the same thing. Decisions need to be made very soon about increasing military support, and those decisions will tell us which objective is being pursued.

Frank Ledwidge is a barrister and former military officer who has served in the Balkans, Iraq and Afghanistan

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Only planning reform can fix Britain’s housing crisis | Letters

Readers on how years of poor Tory leadership mean there is no end in sight to the chronic shortage of homes

John Harris dissects key aspects of the housing “crisis” in a typically thoughtful and powerful way (The Tories are tearing themselves apart over housing – but this is another crisis of their own making, 27 November ). But on the way he displays a crucial misunderstanding. There is no presumption in favour of development in the planning system; it’s a presumption in favour of sustainable development – something with which surely no one could disagree? This is an egregious example of the Tory use of sophistry that has made a massive contribution to the issue that Harris so ably describes. Far from being an objective, science-based definition, it is in reality a circular argument that the government inserted in the national planning guidance.

In effect, “sustainable” is what the government, Humpty Dumpty-like, says it is. The assessment of major housing proposals, which so often go to appeal, is comically perfunctory, the overriding criterion being the supply of new housing, however and wherever built. Many people participate in this charade. We have been building in unsustainability – carbon emissions, destruction of habitat, poor health and unaffordability – throughout the last 12 years. The cost of retrofitting will be astronomical. We need the houses we need. Campaigners cannot morally deny that, but development must be based on sound sustainability principles and by applying rigorous tests that are available but are never used effectively.

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Keep a careful eye on Harry Maguire’s head | Brief letters

Header dangers | Advice from Rishi Sunak | Old calculators | Monkeypox’s new name | Nescafé and chicory concoctions

Jonathan Liew writes sympathetically about Harry Maguire and the value of his forehead to England (Familiar faces and vibes: tournament life is a better fit for Harry Maguire, 29 November ), but I hope Harry is following the evidence of the dangers of heading as he bravely uses that forehead in attack and defence (Scottish footballers to be banned from heading ball before and after matches, 28 November ).
John Bailey
St Albans, Hertfordshire

• Rishi Sunak, in his foreign policy speech, called for the Chinese president to listen to his people (Report, 28 November ). Perhaps Sunak should take his own advice and listen to the nurses, the teachers, the railway workers, the barristers…
Rae Street
Littleborough, Greater Manchester

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At last, a Kardashian has spoken: those Balenciaga bears should never have worn bondage gear | Marina Hyde

After its festive ad campaign tried to spread some holiday cheer, the fashion house Balenciaga has been judged the sinner

Very early days of course, but at this stage you’d probably judge that John Lewis’s Christmas ad campaign was going better than Balenciaga’s . This is a fast-developing festive cancellation shitstorm, so forgive me if I have missed any major staging posts across the past few days. But as of this morning, the luxury fashion house has: issued a mushrooming series of apologies for an ad series featuring children holding handbags crafted from teddy bears dressed in bondage outfits; deleted its entire Instagram history; had a confected industry award withheld from its resident creative genius ; been exposed for an earlier ad campaign that featured casually placed … hang on, let me get my hazmat gloves … US supreme court documents relating to a child pornography case ; served a blame-shifting $25m lawsuit against the producer of that ad; held crisis talks with Kim Kardashian who has herself issued some archbishop of Canterbury-style statement about her shock and disgust about the BDSM cuddly toy ads; and become the lightning rod for a raging attack on liberal values, from anyone unfashionably accessorised with common sense to standard alt-right suspects, to the full QAnon wingnuts.

Honestly, you try to spread a little holiday cheer by getting some sad-looking children to hold up your bondage teddy bear handbags, and this is the thanks you get. Short of shooting the ad campaign in the basement of the pizzeria in which Hillary Clinton was conspiracy-theorised as masterminding a paedophile ring, it’s hard to see where Balenciaga could have been more extra, creatively speaking. I bet they wish they’d just done a big picture of Santa, sticking some of their gopping sock trainers under the tree of a bolshie Surrey injectables trainee, but the insistence that the market is something more edgily high-art than the reality is the fashion industry’s central creed.

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At 35, I found out I had gout. Imagine having to give up everything you like to eat and drink | Daniel Lavelle

Overnight, a golf ball-sized lump appeared on my toe – and all sorts of delicious things had to disappear from my diet

I wake to searing pain in my right foot, the worst pain I’ve ever felt. Worse than the time I broke my back after plummeting 16ft from a cricket practice net, worse than when a rusty nail, jutting out from a rickety armchair, bored into my soft infant arm and worse than any grief from my teeth over the years. I switch on the light, gently remove the covers and discover an angry red lump, the size and shape of a golf ball, pulsing on the big toe of my right foot. I have no idea how this happened. It’s like I’ve been sucked into a cartoon overnight, and Daffy Duck has whacked me with an Acme hammer.

In my non-expert opinion, the toe looks broken. I think I should go to a hospital, but I reason that the NHS is too busy and what can they do about a broken toe except say “you have a broken toe” and send me on my way with crutches and painkillers. Also, I’m too lazy. In fact, that’s the real reason I don’t go; the NHS bit was to make me look good in your eyes. Soz.

Daniel Lavelle writes on mental health, homelessness and social care

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If Labour’s leadership is hobbling internal candidates, is it fit to run a democracy? | Owen Jones

Mounting evidence of dirty tricks against prospective MPs can’t be dismissed as leftwing sour grapes. We were promised a ‘broad church’

Britain will almost certainly have a Labour government in two years’ time: you have the Tories’ unprecedented self-immolation to thank for that. Debating, then, how Rishi Sunak’s successors will govern is a democratic imperative. To some of Keir Starmer’s more zealous supporters, scrutinising the opposition is an act of treachery that simply makes a Tory government more likely. Welcome to “Schrödinger’s left”: where the left of the party is simultaneously so irrelevant and toxic that it must be marginalised, but so powerful it can help determine the result of general elections.

In his pitch for the Labour leadership, Starmer promised that under his watch the party would be a “broad church ”, and that he would restore trust in Labour through “unity ”. To underline that this wasn’t just empty rhetoric, he said that the selection of Labour candidates “needs to be more democratic and we should end NEC impositions of candidates. Local party members should select their candidates for every election.” To paraphrase Karl Marx, all that is a Starmer promise melts into air: but this particular issue has political consequences that go far beyond internal Labour politics.

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