God's Wonderful Railway

Swindon's current leaders may be as little bothered as I that the town lacks a cathedral, preferring to know that a large number of near-saintly souls have given much of their lives to building the town that Judy Jones finds so disappointing (Profile: Swindon, 14 August). But as someone fortunate enough to have been a Labour councillor there in the 1970s, can I say that the current lack of a university is not due to the borough's want of trying, efforts repeatedly frustrated by central government?

A more balanced judgement would recognise the postwar achievement of a community that regenerated itself largely by its own efforts. David Murray John, a great town clerk, worked with a group of dedicated officials and a political core of Labour Party railway workers under their visionary leader, Alf Bown, for three decades to save the town from industrial extinction. Both men will be untroubled in death by the failure of their successors to build a cathedral in the home of God's Wonderful Railway.

John Booth
London N19

This article first appeared in the 21 August 2000 issue of the New Statesman, The New Statesman Essay - What are we doing to our children?