Letters - God and the left

Francis Beckett's report (Observations, 8 November) that 17 per cent of children at Catholic primary schools qualify for free meals, compared with 20 per cent at non-denominational schools, is hardly clear evidence of Catholic "middle-class enclaves in working-class areas". It is more likely that Catholic schools have a wider geographical catchment, and hence wider social inclusion, than secular neighbourhood schools. Their apparent success probably derives from sharing values - the key to most successful organisations - to a greater degree than is often possible in secular schools.

Jerry Park
Nantwich, Cheshire

Why does Francis Beckett see creationism as "right wing"? Darwinism provided backing for racism and capitalism, by portraying inequality and competition as key to the natural order. In contrast, the Genesis story inspired the first left-wing movement in English history: "When Adam delved and Eve span/Who was then the gentleman?" asked the peasants in 1381.

Philip Jones
Morden, Surrey

Francis Beckett perpetuates the myth that the world was created by God in seven days. Genesis 2, v 2 states clearly ". . . on the seventh day he rested from all his work". This leaves six days to create the world, not seven.

Alfred L C van Amelsvoort
London N21

This article first appeared in the 15 November 2004 issue of the New Statesman, Culture wars

Getty Images.
Show Hide image

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.