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3 November 2021

Letter of the week: Funding the future

A selection of the best letters received from our readers this week. Email to have your thoughts voiced in the New Statesman magazine.

By New Statesman

Comprehensive as last week’s climate crisis issue was, the myriad solutions offered all failed to fully answer the defining question of the Cop26 summit: how exactly we pay for a just transition to net zero. Were the Prime Minister serious about making the Glasgow conference a success, he would atone for his Chancellor’s climate-denying Budget by making clear that, domestically, the money can be found by introducing green quantitative easing (QE). Through this, government-created money could be invested directly in public and private sector projects, while also using individuals’ savings and progressive taxation.

In terms of the global picture, he should turn to the OECD’s major central banks. Since 2008 they have pumped more than $25trn into the global economy to bail out bankers and shore up economies in the face of Covid. A comprehensive funding package – a “QE for the planet” – could galvanise the Cop26 meeting and significantly increase its chances of success.
Colin Hines, convenor UK Green New Deal Group, Twickenham, Greater London

How to go green

Adam Tooze is spot on about the energy transition that is essential to address climate change (“The wild ride to come”, 29 October). It may well lead to dearer energy costs, but a key issue is who pays for it. If the transition means existing suppliers maintain profits while people on low wages struggle to afford power to cook and heat their homes, the popular movement needed to drive serious action on climate change will not be built.
Keith Flett, London N17

Desperate times

The Leader (29 October) quoted John Maynard Keyes: “Anything we can actually do, we can afford.” Considering how desperate the climate situation actually is, can I suggest that anything we must actually do, we must afford.
Steve Turner, Hellifield, North Yorkshire

Adding life to years

With its distinct whiff of narcissism, the preoccupation with the quest to extend the human lifespan – and perhaps even cheat death itself – tarnishes the image of gerontology (“Immortality Inc”, 15 October). It also obscures the science’s more serious purpose, which is to extend the human “health-span”, enabling us to remain fit and independent deep into old age.

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In 2019 the average UK life expectancy for a man was around 80 years, and for a woman 83 years, but the last 17 years of a man’s life and 20 of a woman’s were likely to be marked by ill-health. The biggest single risk factor for most of the conditions they might experience – from cancer, heart failure, stroke, dementia and diabetes, to thinning bones and gradual loss of hearing and eyesight – is the ageing process itself. This irrefutable fact makes the quest to tease out the details of why and how our bodies degenerate, and what we can do to slow down or ameliorate the process, eminently worthwhile. And this – adding life to years rather than years to life – is the real and present promise of gerontology.
Sue Armstrong, author of “Borrowed Time: The Science of How and Why We Age”, Edinburgh

The cost of care

The Spotlight supplement (22 October) provided real insight into the ongoing challenges facing the NHS. My wife was a nurse for 20 years and our daughter is a clinical nurse specialist at a hospice. She chose to go into the profession 14 years ago when she saw the care that was provided to her boyfriend’s sister, who died of ovarian cancer.

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While it is true that throwing money at the NHS is not a solution, there are steps that can be taken to try to sort out the long-term staffing problem. The first step is paying nurses what they are worth. Political parties start from the assumption that the current pay scales should be taken as a baseline. This is plainly wrong.

I recently launched a petition to increase nurses’ salaries by 30 per cent. The increase could be funded by, for example: increasing corporation tax from its current level (19 per cent) to the rate at the start of 2013 (28 per cent); stopping HS2; increasing the income tax rate for those earning over £200,000 to 50 per cent; and higher council tax rates for second and high-value homes.

A 30 per cent increase won’t fully recognise the work that nurses do, but it will stop some leaving the profession and help to attract others. To quote my daughter: “Applause doesn’t pay the bills.”
Andy Leslie, Horsham, West Sussex

Superior service

I have every sympathy with Dr Phil Whitaker’s view that GPs find themselves with a problem that is not of their making (Health Matters, 29 October). At my excellent local surgery, where I recently booked a face-to-face appointment, nothing was available for three weeks, by which time I will either be dead or better. Meanwhile, I had to take my dog to the vet. By the end of the day I – or rather my dog – had seen the vet, received blood test results, had a diagnosis and been prescribed and supplied with a treatment.

All services require some sort of clearing mechanism so supply can be matched to demand. In the case of veterinary services this is done by price. But this option is not available for the NHS, so what is, in effect, the required rationing can only be achieved by queuing. That is not the fault of GPs; it is the consequence of a decision we made, rightly or wrongly, long ago.
Rupert Marlow, Turnastone, Herefordshire

Voting for change

Keith Morgan (Letter of the Week, 29 October) rightly links our “binary voting system” to our toxic political culture. But proportional representation is not the sole alternative. A “national list” would be worse: reducing local accountability, increasing party power and facilitating internet demagogues. The best approach – the single transferable vote – does the opposite. Support can be shown, or withheld, for individuals and parties in any combination. It ensures that every vote cast contributes to the election of a named individual who is the voter’s highest electable preference.

Constituencies returning five MPs allows citizens to seek help from all of them, at least one of whom they will have supported. Parties will field several candidates, but election depends on personal, as well as party, appeal – encouraging individual integrity. Election becomes a realistic prospect for local independent or “single-issue” candidates – as no vote is “wasted” – while filtering out the extreme fringe. Cross-party collaboration is encouraged at constituency level as well as in parliament. Gerrymandering constituency boundaries becomes more difficult and there is no need for tactical voting.

Because power would be transferred from political parties to the electorate, no government will introduce it willingly. Pressure for reform will have to come from a better informed public demanding a system that benefits us, rather than them.
Alan Parker, Shirley, Croydon

The loving father

I do not altogether recognise Rowan Williams’s depiction of God as the alpha male patriarch (The Critics, 15 October). This seems to be a one-sided depiction of the Judaeo-Christian understanding. Although the warrior God is there in the ancient texts of the Pentateuch, there is reference to God as a loving, long-suffering father, who is patient and forgiving – for instance, David’s experiences of Jehovah in the Psalms, 1,000 years before Christ. How did he know? When the disciples experienced Jesus, as the embodiment of the creator, their primary experience was of love. This was not in contradiction to the God of the past, but its fulfilment.
Trevor Hadfield, via email

Visionary cinema

I want to challenge Ryan Gilbey on his characterisation of Denis Villeneuve as “a journeyman with visual flair” (Film, 15 October). I found both of Villeneuve’s recent films, Arrival and Blade Runner 2049, remarkable for their romantic intensity – one that held the mark of an authentic cinematic visionary.
The Reverend Ben Brown, Lewes, East Sussex

We are not amused

I very much like Pippa Bailey. I agree with more or less everything she says and was very sorry to hear about her break-up.

So please imagine my disappointment to read in her column (Deleted Scenes, 29 October) the wording: “It’s a metaphor of particular interest to we nerdy former English students.” How could she imagine the subject pronoun “we” could be used after a preposition? It’s tantamount to saying “give it to we”, which I’m sure she would never do, especially as she’s your chief sub-editor and self-confessed nerd on matters of language.
Gillian Bargery, St Leonards, East Sussex

We reserve the right to edit letters

This article appears in the 03 Nov 2021 issue of the New Statesman, Britannia Chained