Letters - Letter of the week

Keren Suchecki (Letters, 9 September) accuses Theodore Dalrymple ("The lynch mob at work", 2 September) of "bigotry" in his comments on the mob who howled at Maxine Carr. But Dalrymple is right.

Two weeks after James Bulger was tragically killed, I was in Liverpool on a family visit and went shopping in the Strand. Within half an hour I witnessed the following incidents. While in a clothes shop, a security guard came in holding a two-year-old boy in his arms, inquiring if anyone knew him. The child had been found wandering in the mall. Outside a record store, a little girl of about 18 months was wriggling and squealing in a pushchair parked by the window. Of all the preoccupied, giggling young girls browsing the shelves, who knows to whom the hapless toddler belonged? Sadly, acquisition of the latest pop single was more important than the notion that what had happened to James might happen to her daughter. In the centre concourse, several under-fives were climbing on, falling off and damaging ornamental flower beds in unsupervised abandon. Mums (and dads) were probably in the nearby cafe having a "jangle" (Scouse slang for gossip) and a fag! Again, these "responsible guardians" were oblivious to any sense of danger to their offspring, the disturbance of several elderly people resting on nearby seats or, most importantly, the need for these children to be taught how to behave in public.

You can rest assured it was parents of that calibre who climbed lamp-posts, hung nooses on the bars and screamed and jeered outside the court when the two neglected and socially brutalised children who perpetrated James's murder appeared there. What is more disturbing is that the news media ennobles these mobs by giving them the headlines.

Middle-class liberals need to understand the stark reality that not all the working class are "nice" people who, with better education, jobs and opportunity, would be leading NGOs and trade unions to help the underprivileged. Many, sadly, would become executives of Enron and Union Carbide.

Sheila Kinsella
Swindon, Wiltshire

This article first appeared in the 16 September 2002 issue of the New Statesman, Bush and Blair, on a wing and a prayer

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Is anyone prepared to solve the NHS funding crisis?

As long as the political taboo on raising taxes endures, the service will be in financial peril. 

It has long been clear that the NHS is in financial ill-health. But today's figures, conveniently delayed until after the Conservative conference, are still stunningly bad. The service ran a deficit of £930m between April and June (greater than the £820m recorded for the whole of the 2014/15 financial year) and is on course for a shortfall of at least £2bn this year - its worst position for a generation. 

Though often described as having been shielded from austerity, owing to its ring-fenced budget, the NHS is enduring the toughest spending settlement in its history. Since 1950, health spending has grown at an average annual rate of 4 per cent, but over the last parliament it rose by just 0.5 per cent. An ageing population, rising treatment costs and the social care crisis all mean that the NHS has to run merely to stand still. The Tories have pledged to provide £10bn more for the service but this still leaves £20bn of efficiency savings required. 

Speculation is now turning to whether George Osborne will provide an emergency injection of funds in the Autumn Statement on 25 November. But the long-term question is whether anyone is prepared to offer a sustainable solution to the crisis. Health experts argue that only a rise in general taxation (income tax, VAT, national insurance), patient charges or a hypothecated "health tax" will secure the future of a universal, high-quality service. But the political taboo against increasing taxes on all but the richest means no politician has ventured into this territory. Shadow health secretary Heidi Alexander has today called for the government to "find money urgently to get through the coming winter months". But the bigger question is whether, under Jeremy Corbyn, Labour is prepared to go beyond sticking-plaster solutions. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.