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27 August 2014

Letter of the Week: Bring back the four-day week


By New Statesman

In Bryan Appleyard’s essay “The new Luddites” (22 August) one sentence stood out: “ ‘Given the incredible power of these new technologies,’ [Bill] Joy wrote, ‘shouldn’t we be asking how we can best coexist with them?’

My mind was taken back forty years to the “three-day week”, when productivity was reduced by only 6 per cent, while working people had a weekend of four days. Since those times, I have seen many people working longer hours, with poorer productivity and poorer health as a consequence.

For a start, we should accept the Working Time Directive, moving towards a four-day and ultimately a three-day working week, allowing part-time work for a larger proportion of the population. More time and quality of life for a little less money should be the maxim.

People’s living standards will change and become part of a new economic equilibrium. Employers will say, “But we can’t afford it!” That’s just what they said when we banned child labour. It is time for bold thinking.

Peter Warwick
Carshalton, Surrey

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Isn’t it Byronic?

Lord Byron did more than write a seditious song about Luddite frame-breakers (NS Essay, 22 August). He made an impassioned plea for understanding of their actions the centrepiece of his maiden speech to the House of Lords (one of only three he ever made). Arguing that lopping off a few heads of the many-headed beast that was the Luddite mob would solve nothing, he went on to point out to the landed gentry that lined the red benches: “Are we aware of our obligations to a mob? It is the mob that labour in the fields and serve in your houses – that man your navy and recruit your army – that have enabled you to defy all the world, and can also defy you when neglect and calamity have driven them to despair.”

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These are obligations that Silicon Valley’s technological utopianists would perhaps do well to reflect on.

Paul Anderson
Beeston, Nottinghamshire

Party games

In her otherwise thoughtful Politics Column (22 August), Helen Lewis makes a fundamental mistake in her analysis of the National Health Action Party’s popularity. The NHA won 23,253 votes in the London Euro elections. It was a remarkable achievement for a party with virtually no public awareness, no media coverage and no money, resources or local infrastructure. This is a party putting forward a proposition that hasn’t yet affected the average citizen; that we are heading towards a credit-card-accessed National Health Service.

Rik Evans
Truro, Cornwall

Helen Lewis asks: “What on earth would a left-wing Nigel Farage look like?” Answer: Boris Johnson.

Clive Litchfield

Beatle juice

Before and during Beatlemania (there was no after) I was working in Australia. The first time I bought a Beatles LP (“What’s an LP, Dad?”), I had to spell their name to the shop assistant. A year or so later, they had 18 records in the local Top 20. I’m now well beyond their “When I’m 64” milestone, and still have their music playing. As for Paul Johnson’s diatribe (From the Archive, 22 August), it is no less futile than his fulminations against Fleming and Bond.

Barry Baldwin
Calgary, Canada

The NS (“Battle of the Beatles”, 22 August) misses the point in pitching John, Paul, George and Ringo against each other. The Beatles’ particular “fabness” was achieved only as a result of collective endeavour, as are so many other great achievements in history and art. A socialist-leaning organ such as the Staggers should remember this.

Otherwise, a good read.

Sean Cordell

Plural point

Nicholas Lezard writes: “Toby brings with him . . . a plastic bag full of the past dozen or so New Scientists [his italics]” (Down and Out, 15 August). Can one of the many NS grammarian readers explain why the S making New Scientist plural needs to be italicised? I come up against this writing Sherlock Holmes novels and I need to be told.

Tim Symonds
Burwash, East Sussex

Grim up north

As someone who grew up in King’s Cross: two rejoinders to Ed Smith (Left Field, 15 August). First, the sex workers who contributed to his feeling of being “enveloped by grime” still exist. They have simply been hassled into taking their trade north, up the Caledonian Road, by police and planners keen to ensure that they do not ruin other people’s commuting experience. Second, the “ten new public squares” are a myth: these are at best quasi-public, owned by private companies. The one in the case of Granary Square invites the public to “enjoy this private estate considerately”.

George Bodie
Via email

Cross words

Parasang, exsect, eddaic, coho, otaku, ca’canny, nap hand, alaap . . . What does Atlas think he/she is playing at (Crossword, 22 August)? Clever clues are fair but this vocabulary isn’t.

Joanna Bazley
London SW19

Knights bite back

As a now middle-aged man, brought up by a woman, married to a woman, and now bringing up a daughter, I would like to think I have suitably evolved views when it comes to gender relationships.

And yet, according to Laurie Penny (often an insightful writer), I now find I need to “shut up”, “listen” and “learn” (In the Red, 15 August). I find that as matronising as Penny finds other voices patronising.

Simon Morrison
Stockport, Greater Manchester

Being a white knight, I was pleased that we got a mention in Ms Penny’s column. A lot of the criticism by the feminist movement seems to suggest it is pitting men against women. This is ludicrous. Surely we all want the same thing: a truly equal society where women do not have to fear abuse and ill-treatment from men purely because of their sexuality.

Michael Cooper
Via email