Correspondence

Taxing times
Your Leader (12 March) proclaims: "Now would be the wrong time to remove the top rate." I wonder if, in the New Statesman's opinion, there has ever been a right time to remove the top rate of income tax? Were you in favour of reducing the 83 per cent top rate in 1979? Or the 60 per cent top rate in 1988? My impression is that the NS is always in favour of increasing the top rate.
D R Myddelton
London W9

Policymakers of both left and right seem unable to distinguish between a house as somewhere to live (in which case its value is irrelevant, as you will have to find somewhere else if you sell it) and a house as a capital asset with a value that has inflated since you bought it. Surely the tax should be on the beneficiaries of the latter. There would be a much better case for charging capital gains tax on all property sold for above the average house price. Not only would this raise more revenue, but it would have the effect of damping down prices. Only the estate agents would object.
David Burton
Telford, Shropshire

War on errors
It is probably pointless to reply to spiteful reviews, but Richard J Evans's account of my short book on Hitler is misleading (The Critics, 12 March). He writes that he does not have the space to list all my mistakes and then cites statements that are not, strictly speaking, errors. He implies that I do not know German, which is untrue. He picks me up for stating that Friedrich Reck-Malleczewen was an aristocrat. Perhaps Hochgeboren would have been a more accurate description of this writer, descended from a landed family in East Prussia. His father was a politician. Evans says Reck was the "son of an innkeeper".

Heinrich Brüning was the parliamentary floor leader of the Catholic Centre Party. It was perhaps careless of me to describe him simply as the leader but hardly a "mistake". The statistic about the number of Jews in pre-war Germany was, as he states, quoted from Robert Gellately (a more generous expert on the Nazi era than Evans), who read my book for errors and is quoted on the US edition as saying: "In a book written with verve, insight and imagination, [Wilson] gives us a fresh look at Hitler."
A N Wilson
London NW1

Letter of the week: "Till death do us part"

There was an unwelcome sneering tone to your Leader (12 March) on wealth tax. "The elderly . . . occupy valuable houses" - really! My wife and I don't occupy a mansion by any definition but we do have a plot of land in the countryside. Our only assured income is from state and occupational pensions. Council tax takes 12 per cent of the income left after income tax.

Establish the principle of an additional national property tax and thresholds will tumble, if only because HM Revenue and Customs will be no better at collecting this at the top end than it is at collecting income tax and the big players will duck and dive as before. In the NS Profile of Tim Montgomerie (12 March), you write that the NS supports "shifting the burden of taxation away from earned income and towards unearned wealth". Our wealth, modest as it is, is not unearned. We've worked for it, for the most part in the public sector, and been taxed on it. My solution? There was nothing wrong with death duties. You can have what you like when I'm gone. I shall not be needing it.
John Filby
Ashover, Derbyshire

Written on the body
Julie Bindel is dangerously wrong to say that you can choose "to send your daughter to have her clitoris removed and vaginal opening stitched up in preparation for marriage" ("The meaning of the F-word", 12 March). This is a criminal offence under UK law and to give the impression that it is not serves to comfort those who advocate this disgusting practice.
Carol Marsh
Rochester, Kent

Ken's consistent
It is disappointing to see Mehdi Hasan's tabloid reaction to Ken Livingstone's "company" status (Lines of Dissent, 12 March). Why is it deemed so hypocritical for ordinary citizens to arrange their affairs within the law in such a way that they pay no more tax than is demanded? This is not inconsistent with believing that tax loopholes should be closed and paying up willingly when they are. It is perhaps more pertinent to ask what is done with any consequential windfall. On balance, I prefer to see Bill and Melinda Gates spending their wealth promoting health and education around the world than voluntarily handing it back to the US government.
Alan Parker
Croydon, Surrey

Baron's court
Alexander F Thomson sees no harm in the Scottish First Minister "courting press barons like every other UK party leader before him" (Correspondence, 12 March). Yet he fails to note the significance of the timing of Alex Salmond's contacts with Rupert Murdoch. However reprehensible the past actions of other politicians may have been, they have distanced themselves from the Australian-American millionaire since the exposure of News International's hacking activities. Not so the "pesky" man, who has taken to entertaining the mogul at his official residence.
Bill Wilde
Eaglesham, East Renfrewshire

Blunkett coverage
In all the rumpus over the Tories' connections with the Murdoch empire and the A4e company, no reference has been made by your columnists to their links with David Blunkett MP. Blunkett, who held three cabinet posts with Labour governments and resigned from two, received £50,000 a year writing for the Sun and £30,000 a year from A4e.
Peter Hargreaves
Winchester

Provincial life
Thomas Calvocoressi describes the 1899 Boundary Estate in Shoreditch as "the world's first-ever council housing" (Observations, 12 March). But it was pre-dated by nearly two decades by the 160 houses erected at Turnbridge in 1880-82 by Huddersfield Corporation. Progressive municipal politics was alive and well in the "provinces" before the London County Council was conceived.
David Griffiths
Huddersfield

Double helpings
Alan Bullion's letter about ringing a front-desk bell at a bed and breakfast (Correspondence, 12 March) reminded me of an occasion when I was one of a team inspecting a school in Salisbury. When we came back to our hotel one evening, we found that the beds had not been made up. We complained. The following night, we found on each pillow a note that read: "We apologise for not making up the beds yesterday but we have made them up twice today to compensate."
Iain Peterson
Axminster, Devon

Be nice to mice
Nicholas Lezard, please do not use a glue trap for mice (Down and Out in London, 12 March) - it is inhumane. Rather, get a box trap, as used by naturalists, and ensure that lids are tight-fitting.
E Beckett
London E7

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This article first appeared in the 19 March 2012 issue of the New Statesman, The end of socialism