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12 July 2023

Letter of the week: Speaking clearly

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Much as I appreciated Andrew Marr’s column on Labour’s education plan (Politics, 7 July), I have two quibbles. First, Andrew’s definition of oracy includes “grammatical correctness in spoken speech”, rather than the English-Speaking Union’s wider view of oracy as “nothing more than being able to express yourself well”. Second, he writes that under Labour “all children will be expected to study music, drama or art before leaving school”. Perhaps he doesn’t realise we expect that already of music and art as they’ve been part of the national curriculum since its inception, though as second-class foundation subjects given too little time and resources. Hopefully that will change radically as part of Labour’s proposed curriculum and assessment review.
Professor Colin Richards, former HM inspector of schools, Spark Bridge, Cumbria

[See also: Letter of the week: I am Waterstones Dad]

Connection issues

Andrew Marr describes “tearing up the planning system to increase the connectivity of the National Grid” as one of Labour’s best ideas (Politics, 7 July). It will end in tears, as attempts to tear up planning always do.

The planning system was introduced by the postwar Labour government to mediate between different interests – local and national; long term and short term; social, economic and environmental – in the public interest. We need rapid growth in renewable energy to combat climate change, but must also tackle the nature crisis, gain public consent and protect beautiful landscapes as far as possible. Achieving these multiple ends will require more planning, not less.
Shaun Spiers, executive director, Green Alliance

Bursting the bubble

In both your editorial and in Ed Conway’s piece (Cover Story, 7 July), you attribute much of the blame for the UK’s high rate of inflation to the current regime at the Bank of England. The problem goes back further. Quantitative easing (QE) worked well in dealing with the global financial crisis of 2008, and was a reasonable tactic in the context of the pandemic. However, QE must be reversed with quantitative tightening (QT), otherwise the money creation will ultimately emerge as inflation. It is still not too late for some QT, rather than just relying on raising interest rates.
Rupert Marlow, Turnastone, Herefordshire

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Your Leader (7 July) is correct that the latest interest rate rises may be misguided. This strategy is too blunt and regressive, falling largely on a narrow group of debt-laden, hard-working people. A far more focused solution would be taxation of those with high levels of disposable income to reduce inflation in a more targeted manner, provide extra income for public expenditure, and reduce the costs of servicing government debt.
Mark Thorp, Manchester

Going native

Sasha Swire’s witty description of Essex (The Diary, 7July) was delightful and derogatory in equal measure. Residents will recognise the tribal, rebellious nature she describes, yet I take issue with the idea that Essex is a “Conservative county”. Its history says otherwise, with a strong communist bloc to be found from Harwich to Benfleet and the swing seat of Basildon being both blue and red in the past 30 years. A fading emblem of Thatcherism is probably a more accurate description, which is not necessarily Conservative in its truest sense.
James Martin, Southend-on-Sea, Essex

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Sasha Swire is self-aware enough to know that her description of the people who live in Colchester is pretty toe-curling, so justifies her remarks by finding positive aspects of these people who are helping Essex to return to “its natural uncultivated state”. Though I do understand you want to reach as many people as possible, there are funny left-wing writers around that you could use. Perhaps you should send someone like Nicholas Lezard to one of the social events of the summer so he can report from the front line. 
Veronica Porter, London SW8

I read to the end of Sasha Swire’s Diary hoping for Swiftian nuance, as in “A Modest Proposal”. Of course, there was none. If this is what Tories think of their “own people”, those people deserve so much more.
Mike Gibbons, Cartmel, Cumbria

Writing about her visit to Colchester, Sasha Swire asks: “Do I sound condescending?” The answer is: “Yes.”
Thomas Stevenson, Colchester, Essex

Brief encounter

Emmanuel Macron once described a train station as “a place where one encounters people who are succeeding and people who are nothing”. Maybe this is an appropriate time for him to come up with a definition of the banlieues (Letter from France, 7 July) – perhaps “places where one encounters failed political leaders with shallow notions of ‘success’ whose hubris is in tatters”.
Ivor Morgan, Lincoln

Not dead yet

I’m sorry Will Lloyd thinks Question Time is dead (Broadcast Notes, 30 June). Numbers did dip during the pandemic – hardly surprising for an audience show forced to use Zoom. Question Time’s share of all broadcast viewing in its timeslot is now back to where it was in 2019, while growing numbers are watching live on iPlayer every Thursday. Our Brexit broadcast from “melancholic” Clacton in June had the biggest viewer numbers of the whole series.
Gerry Gay, editor, “Question Time”

If Question Time has lost a bit of its old vitality, it’s because the BBC has irritatingly rescheduled it to a slot after bedtime. I made an exception for the Exeter episode. Far from moribund, the programme was full of life. Besides, it is fundamentally democratic: the only place on TV where Joe and Jo Public can amply express their views.
Ann Lawson Lucas, Beverley, East Yorkshire

Healthy incentives

I was fascinated by your interview with Wes Streeting and Phil Whitaker (Face to Face, 30 June), especially the difficulties around GP retention. Perhaps the situation could be improved by something more targeted than a simple financial reward. GPs could be offered a percentage reduction on their student loan repayments that increases incrementally with the number of years they remain a GP.
Hannah Redman, North Yorkshire

Astley: I won’t say no, how could I?

I can’t believe Ellen Peirson-Hagger (Music, 30 June) failed to mention the highlight of Glastonbury: Rick Astley and the Blossoms’ set of Smiths songs.
Allan Gibson, Glasgow

Bass notes

As a fellow bass player, I know how rarely we appear in the limelight, so well done Mat Osman for making it to the New Statesman Q&A (7 July). He’s a great author, too – some may say a better writer than his brother, Richard.
Dave Clarkson, Cumbria

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[See also: Letter of the week: Our carbon dependency]

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This article appears in the 12 Jul 2023 issue of the New Statesman, Tabloid Nation