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13 July 2022

Letter of the week: The bloated Lords

Write to letters@newstatesman.co.uk to have your thoughts voiced in the New Statesman magazine.

By New Statesman

Although Boris Johnson is supposedly now a caretaker prime minister (Cover Story, 8 July), rumours abound at Westminster that as soon as the recess starts on 22 July he will bring forward a further tranche of peers. He has already shown complete contempt for efforts to limit the size of the House of Lords. This is further evidence of his refusal to seriously engage with those of us in the Lords that want to tackle the problems caused by its size, which is exacerbated by peers who hold the title but rarely attend, such as Lord Lebedev. The Conservatives do not want to rock the boat on new creations and Labour is hoping for one or two new members to swell its depleted ranks. Hence no opposition.

Surely, the Cabinet Secretary should intervene to stop this apparent abuse of power. The new prime minister takes office on 6 September and could look over the list before submitting it to the Palace. The outgoing PM will have a resignation list to reward his friends. He should not have two bites at the cherry!
Richard Balfe, House of Lords, London SW1

A time for change

It would be a travesty if the next leader of the Conservative Party (Cover Story, 8 July) became prime minister without immediately calling a general election. Boris Johnson has gone (almost), but to a greater or lesser degree all the candidates to succeed him are tainted by his incompetence and dishonesty. Moreover, she or he will owe their election to Tory party members, who are small in number and unrepresentative in character of the whole UK.

The apparent precedent in the changeover from David Cameron to Theresa May, and then from May to Johnson, without a general election does not stand because in both cases there was a settled policy at stake – Brexit. Even the Blair/Brown change was signalled in the 2005 election. Johnson has had to go because he and the government he led are discredited. The democratic case for a general election is strong.
Robert McFarland, London W14

The Tories will try to exonerate themselves by declaring they chose Boris Johnson because he was good at campaigning, and then got rid of him because he was not so good at governing. In other words, it’s not OK that he lied to them, but fine that he lied to the electorate.
Jasper Elgood, Abergeirw, Gwynedd

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All three of the people who did the most to persuade the electorate to vote for Brexit have now lost any credibility or influence. Boris Johnson will soon be a backbencher, Dominic Cummings has been reduced to a bitter Johnson critic (a role that will soon be largely redundant) and Nigel Farage… Well, who’s interested in what he says now?

So long guys… And thanks for nothing!
Mark Thorp, Chorlton, Manchester

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Environmental damage

Andrew Marr (Cover Story, 8 July) lists the “sea of troubles” facing Britain, including the longer-term ones of energy security and low productivity and growth. But where is the mention of climate change? I hope he has since turned the page to read Philippa Nuttall (“A drying world”, 8 July) in the same edition.
Mike Brown, New Galloway, Dumfries and Galloway

If we are to combat the climate crisis effectively it is incumbent on economists and politicians to move away from a model based on GDP and incessant growth. There are other models available (such as the doughnut economics proposed by Kate Raworth) – and they must factor in methods to mitigate the environmental damage of commercial activity.
Jo Alberti and Terry Sloan, Keswick, Cumbria

Teaching in crisis

We read William Yates’s article (“Why no one wants to be a teacher any more”, NS Online, 4 July) with weary familiarity. Policymakers are beginning to acknowledge the pressures teachers face, but we don’t need palliative or incentive-based policies: we need structural change. Such measures, though expensive, include increasing planning time, reducing the administrative burden, reducing class sizes and moving away from rigid accountability cultures.

Teacher recruitment and retention has been in crisis for many years. Significant change is necessary to ensure a supply of teachers, and to create a working environment that doesn’t harm the well-being of dedicated professionals.
Richard Brock, Alex Manning and Emma Towers, School of Education, Communication and Society, King’s College London

Don’t blame the young

Tomiwa Owolade (Out of the Ordinary, 8 July) paints a thought-provoking picture of the economic reality young people face – soaring house prices compared to wages and a quarter of young people living with their parents – but the question of falling birth rates is written off as “ultimately a question of shifting culture and values”, seemingly overlooking economic insecurity as a reason for their decline.

Society needs to stop victim-blaming and viewing falling birth rates and living standards as “young-people problems”: they are national ones.
Max Skoczylas, London W2

Degrees of privilege

I read Nicholas Lezard’s column (Down and Out, 8 July) bemoaning Gradgrindian education with interest. However, not everyone enjoys the same privileges when they are young. For many, going to university has to be seen through the lens of social mobility, with a focus on eventual employment. This is not necessarily a bad thing.
Duncan Harvey, Nuneaton, Warwickshire

Radical Preston

It is heartening to see Freddie Flintoff’s success in “smashing cricket’s class ceiling” (The Critics, 8 July) but his hometown of Preston does have form. In 1899 the Preston feminist Edith Rigby started the Brook Street Club, running evening classes for mill-girls from the local area. On summer evenings they could be heard clattering in their clogs to Moor Park to play cricket. Rigby herself went on to find fame (and several spells in prison) as a Suffragette, exploding a bomb in the Liverpool Cotton Exchange and firebombing Lord Leverhulme’s house at Rivington.
Austen Lynch, Garstang, Lancashire

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[ See also: Letter of the week: Land of theocracy ]

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This article appears in the 13 Jul 2022 issue of the New Statesman, The Selfish Giant