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17 April 2024

Letter of the week: Maternal responsibility

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I read Hannah Barnes’s “The trauma ward” (Cover Story, 12 April) open-mouthed. My overriding thought was, “Thank God I’m not a woman.” It is beyond belief that birth trauma is so prevalent in 21st-century Britain. Yes, the NHS needs to be properly funded and deserves our support, but unacceptable performance by healthcare professionals – GPs, midwives, consultant obstetricians and gynaecologists – needs to be called out and sanctioned. Investment needs to be directed towards appropriate training, targeting the deficiencies in maternity care highlighted by Barnes.

I hope Wes Streeting is listening. He needs to be all over this issue.
Mike Blake, London SE1

Effluent and affluence

Two points to add to your trenchant Leader (“Sold down the river”, 12 April) on privatised water services:

1) Privatisation long ago ceased to involve clear ownership by publicly listed companies accountable to their shareholders. It is dominated today by leveraging, mostly by global asset managers, in what might be termed the “parasitic” stage of advanced capitalism. Thames Water, for example, was bought (with other people’s money of course) by one of the largest, Macquarie, which sleekly exited Thames Water a few years ago with its ill-gotten gains.

2) These are often the very same “asset managers” courted by Labour’s shadow Treasury team. My fear is that history will repeat itself, with Labour as naive and ignorant as New Labour as to what “private finance” too often entails in this most dangerous stage of monopoly capital.
John Crawley, Beverley, East Yorkshire

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Last week’s Leader obliterates the failed privatisation of UK water and makes a compelling case for public ownership. It then ends by discussing Labour’s plans for fixing the problem without mentioning that renationalising water is one of the pledges Labour has quietly walked away from. How can such a relevant point be left out of an article on exactly this issue?
Councillor Dave McElroy, Reading

Here in Goveland (Surrey Heath), last summer was stricken by an all-pervading stink from our nearby Thames Water sewerage works. Even Michael Gove was drawn into efforts to persuade Thames Water to do something about the smell. It turned out that Thames, unable to manage the sewerage treatment in the surrounding area, was transporting it to open beds here in Camberley. About this the company felt it unnecessary to consult until the stink became inescapable.

As Thames Water is effectively bankrupt, all the efforts of the local council and councillors to achieve compensation for the smell – a children’s play area was one suggestion – appear to have been wasted. Perhaps we can line up cap in hand when the company is nationalised to finally win compensation for our residents’ nauseating summer of pong.
Councillor Murray Rowlands, Surrey Heath

Clear the fog of war

Winston Churchill is recorded as saying, quite rightly that, “Meeting jaw to jaw is better than war.” Given the ongoing tragedy in Gaza (Comment, 12 April), and the recent attack on Israel, it is clear that we now need a peace conference to address the issues at stake. However , the “jawing” will need to be based on a clear understanding of the hopes of those involved. It would be good, therefore, if the governments of Israel and Iran – along with the Palestinian Authority – could each state their aims on one side of A4. We could then see if there is any chance of agreement.
Andrew McLuskey, Ashford, Surrey

Grammar school primer

Far from connecting all elements of British society (Correspondence, 12 April), the grammar school that I attended only reinforced its disfiguring elitism. By allowing a few bright working-class children a privileged education, the system pretended that opportunity was open to all.

The amalgamation of grammars and secondary moderns forced a re-evaluation and reshaping of teaching styles and methods which, after much heartache and considerable effort, has enabled today’s comprehensives, at their best, to provide an education fit for all the nation’s children.
David Howard, retired headteacher, Church Stretton, Shropshire

I was living with two sisters in a slum in the north-east of England when I was lucky enough to gain entrance to the local grammar school. I then went on to university, obtaining a first-class honours degree and PhD, and then a successful career as a research scientist in the NHS.

What of my sisters? Despite being smarter than me, they both failed the eleven-plus exam. One worked as a secretary, the other delivered mail. Imagine what they and others like them might have achieved if they had been given the same education as Sir Andrew Cook and his friend. That is why the selective grammar school system was abolished.
Peter Foster, Edinburgh

Tick-boxing clever

Will Lloyd (Decline and Fall, 12 April) mentions the criticism of the National Trust AGM “single tick” voting system. I remember in the 1980s, a US exchange student in Dundee showed me her postal-vote forms for a US election of some kind. lt had the option of “one tick” to vote for the entire Republican or Democrat slate. Those who wanted could pick and choose individuals from top politicians down to the town dog-catcher.

Clearly some around today think that the US system is not democratic enough.
Neil Fodor, Newcastle upon Tyne

It’s austerity, stupid

It’s surprising that Ed Conway, author of interesting books and blogs on energy and the economy (The Critics, 12 April), asks, “How does the American economy manage to outperform Europe year after year?”, as it has only done so since about 2010.

The Tories’ two big economic ideas since coming to power explain why. First, in the guise of reducing the deficit, they adopted austerity after the financial crisis, which continued through the pandemic recession. Countries that chose austerity all did badly compared to the US, whose recovery, like China’s, was stimulus-led.

The Conservatives’ second big idea was Brexit. Say no more.
David Murray, Wallington, Surrey

Arthur’s seats

Kevin Maguire’s (Commons Confidential, 5 April) item about MPs who have won multiple seats, misses out one notable exponent of this art – Arthur Henderson (1863-1935). He was three times the leader of the Labour Party and won elections or by-elections in five different seats: Barnard Castle in 1903; Widnes in 1919, Newcastle upon Tyne East in 1923; Burnley in 1924 and Clay Cross in 1933.

This celebrated early father of the Labour movement was the first Labour cabinet minister (in 1915 in Asquith’s wartime coalition government) and winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1934 for his efforts to promote world disarmament.

A far cry from the current “flightiest” MP, George Galloway.
Christine Hartas, Mickleton, County Durham

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This article appears in the 17 Apr 2024 issue of the New Statesman, Israel vs Iran