From beneath sweat-soaked eyebrows on Britain’s hottest day, Andrew Marr (Politics, 22 July) wrote, “We need a beady focus on the hard science of climate change… In specific terms, we may now need a department for national resilience, looking at everything from transport networks to flood plains.”
It’s a good idea. Until now, the focus of climate politics has been on reaching net zero, but many climate shocks are already locked in. By 2050 there could be 59 per cent more winter rainfall, some rivers could have 80 per cent less water during the summer, and summer temperatures could be up to 7.4°C hotter. I hope the government will consider asking the Treasury to commission a review of the economics of resilience. This would consider the costs and benefits of resilience measures and the balance between public and private investment. Its conclusions would help establish a national ambition for climate resilience, embed it in all government departments and enable us to reach net zero.
After all, if construction does not properly consider rising floods and extreme heat, low-carbon infrastructure could become prematurely obsolete.
Emma Howard Boyd CBE, chair of the Environment Agency, London SW1
Dousing the fire
Your Leader (“A planet on fire”, 22 July) concludes, “The world is already burning. It is not too late to change.” Yet it also refers to Andrew Marr’s less optimistic assessment (Politics, 22 July): “The [Tory leadership] candidates… don’t want to talk about climate change.” In any case, mankind is not united behind the principle of immediate de-growth – the only change that would put out the fire. A global green party could act decisively and quickly enough to save the planet, but support for green policies is minimal. The world is consumer led. Growth is the sine qua non of capitalism, and mankind is headed towards bourgeoise capitalism everywhere.
David Clarke, Witney, Oxfordshire
While I commend Andrew Marr’s discussion (Politics, 22 July) of the greater impact that climate change will have on poorer households, he writes that Extinction Rebellion’s problem “is that by blocking roads and railway lines they simply make other people angrier”. All successful social movements (eg the suffragettes, civil rights) are disruptive in order to get the topic on the agenda. While people value their contributions now, they were hugely unpopular at the time.
Lawrence Howarth, Bristol
It was a tribute to his character that David Gauke wrote of the challenges facing the next Tory leader without any sign of rancour (Inside Westminster, 22 July). A Tory party that has no place for Gauke and former government colleagues such as Dominic Grieve and Justine Greening, while promoting loyalists unlikely to have progressed to junior management anywhere else, highlights his restraint. It’s some years since David Cameron described Ukip as being made up of “fruitcakes, loonies and closet racists mostly”, but many of those people have found a home in the Johnsonian Conservative Party.
Les Bright, Exeter, Devon
Many fear that Boris Johnson’s use of American idioms – “deep state”, “Hasta la vista, baby” – in his valedictory speech suggest he is tempted to “do a Trump” and launch a popular comeback. But there is another reading of his new-found enthusiasm for contemporary Americana over classical Latin. He was born in New York. That makes him eligible for US citizenship – and the presidency. What better way to prepare the ground for a new role as Trump’s natural successor?
Robin Johnson, Falmouth, Cornwall
A place of greater safety
Ken Worpole’s observation that a library is “a godsend to refugees and asylum seekers” (The Critics, 22 July) is borne out by a recent Refugee Council report. At the start of the pandemic the government began housing asylum seekers in hotels and, despite promises to move people out, in 2021 the number almost tripled, including over 2,500 children. Hemingway’s “clean, well-lighted place” that, in Worpole’s words, “offers sanctuary in the lonely city” might help provide a very welcome change.
David Murray, Wallington, Surrey
Ode to Shelley
I found Frances Wilson’s article (The Critics, 8 July) on Percy Bysshe Shelley reductive. Shelley’s contrarian beliefs and behaviour were the true expression of his being, not publicity-seeking. I inherited a love of the lyric poems from my mother, and nurtured it at school. All who care about nature – the burning issue of our times – should also care about “Mutability”, “The Woodman and the Nightingale”, as well as “Ode to the West Wind” and “To a Skylark”.
Ann Lawson Lucas, Beverley, East Yorkshire
Pippa Bailey (Deleted Scenes, 15 July) writes that “my current rent – although already 60 per cent of my monthly income – is below market rate”. I recently bought the social history book The Compositor in London, which details a weekly budget for a family living in London in 1810. On wages of about £2 a week, rent of six shillings was 15 per cent, leaving 85 per cent for food, lighting, heating, household goods etc. Little wonder there is a cost-of-living crisis.
Terry Pitt, Freshford, Somerset
Phil Harding, journalist and broadcaster
Some of the most perceptive writing about the current state of the Conservative Party is coming from @DavidGauke. Well worth reading his article in the current @NewStatesman.
“How the Tories lost their way”, David Gauke, 20 July
Catherine Mayer, author and president of the Women’s Equality Party
It’s taken a German journalist @annettedittert to write the most clear-eyed assessment yet of the UK’s political and economic catastrophe. People will try to dismiss her words or ignore them. Don’t make that mistake.
“The post-Johnson era is already a nightmare”, Annette Dittert, 19 July
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[See also: Letter of the week: Jonson and Johnson]
This article appears in the 27 Jul 2022 issue of the New Statesman, Summer Special