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7 September 2022

Letter of the week: The Proms deserve better

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Like Michael Henderson (The Critics, 2 September), I am disappointed with the BBC’s approach to classical music. While it seemed essential to disrupt the weekend schedules to ensure that virtually every moment of the Glastonbury Festival was televised, we have to be satisfied with a meagre selection of the Proms concerts. The fact that many of these are televised on BBC Four, which is to be discontinued as a broadcast channel, bodes ill for future years.

In the past, every Friday evening BBC Four broadcast a classical music-based programme, such as Simon Russell Beale’s excellent history of sacred music. The channel’s normal Friday-evening fare now features pop or folk groups and old editions of Top of the Pops. On the news, the recent death of the country’s leading classical composer, Harrison Birtwistle, was hardly mentioned.

The BBC’s orchestras contribute much to the cultural life of the country, as do the Proms. It is a pity that the corporation seems so reluctant to share much of this with its viewers.
David Kirk, Dunblane, Stirling

Truss the pragmatist?

As your leader states (“A state of emergency”, 2 September), the prospects for this next government are bleak if Liz Truss does believe that erroneous thinking on “turbo-charging” the economy is the way to proceed. Perhaps once she is in office, this politician who has turned and turned again will turn back into a prime minister who knows she must govern for all, and consign her economic and social mantras to the back of her office drawer, where they belong.
Judith A Daniels, Cobholm, Norfolk

Your leader says the current “circumstances could not be more propitious for a revival of the centre left”, but there is plenty of evidence to suggest that Labour’s standing would be stronger if it adopted a more radical programme. A recent Survation poll, for example, revealed that around two-thirds of Tory voters support state ownership of energy, railways and water.
Bernie Evans, Liverpool

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The mess we’re in

Andrew Marr’s “The return of the radical right” (2 September) is a forensic analysis of the current political and economic mess and should be required reading for politicians. And while it is “ridiculous to imagine that a right-wing Conservative government would take advice from the New Statesman”, why not invite a rebuttal of Marr from a member of the Truss tribe? Brent Charlesworth, Lincoln

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Back to school

Philip Collins’s article (Politics, 26 August) on the need to replace the GCSE echoes my own experience having just quit after 33 years as an English teacher, largely because of the unfitness of the GCSE to educate our teenagers.

While the GCSE before the 2015 Gove reforms was just about passable as an educational tool, the last seven years have seen an exam that is based on a narrow Gradgrindian concept of learning, which reduces knowledge to a tick-box exercise, and trains students in valueless skills.
Tom Barnes, London N19

Rab Butler was a decent man but the 1944 education act he is credited with was mainly the work of James Chuter Ede, later Clement Attlee’s home secretary. The act aimed to set up a comprehensive schooling system with three streams – academic, technical and general – with provision for transfer if justified. Of course, with our irredeemable snobbery, in most parts of the UK it became a hierarchy in which academic education was top, technical education was left to wither away and everything else had to be content with the title of “modern”.
Anthony Murray, Kingston upon Thames, Greater London

Corrective bargaining

I was surprised to read Christopher Bowser’s assertion (Correspondence, 26 August) that the RMT cannot represent the working class because some of its striking members “are among the top third of earners before tax”. Being working class doesn’t always equate to being poor. If some RMT members earn above average wages, it is because the union has been doing its job.
Jane Middleton, Bath

Kind of blue

I read Rowan Williams’s review of Maurice Glasman’s book Blue Labour (The Critics, 2 September) having looked again at William Morris’s lecture “How Shall We Live Then?” (1889), and there are remarkable parallels between Glasman’s and Morris’s visions. Morris believed that a “prodigious and overwhelming change in society” was required via the abolition of individual ownership or the monopoly of the means of production, and greater equality for all. He believed that social relations would not be happy unless we all enjoyed the “ordinary functions of life”, and took part in the full gamut of arts. His “free community” would require decentralisation, and Morris also saw the need to give up material progress.
Roy Darke, Oxford

As a by-product of his excellent review of Maurice Glasman’s Blue Labour, Rowan Williams provides a brilliant analogy for the cycles of political debate: a “great marine creature stranded on a beach trying to get itself back into the water; heave, flop, lie there for a bit, another heave, another flop”.
David Murray, Wallington, Surrey

Gemma Hope, director of policy at the health and welfare charity Leonard Cheshire
Great article in @NewStatesman  highlighting how the energy crisis is affecting disabled people.
“How the cost-of-living crisis is pushing disabled people into poverty”, Sarah Dawood, 25 August

Revd Dr Miranda Threlfall-Holmes
Good article in @NewStatesman… interviewing our curate Louis Johnson about @StBridesLpool and the work of @MicahLiverpool etc here in @LivDiocese.
“The cost-of-living crisis is tearing community safety nets to shreds”, Fergus Butler-Gallie, 29 August

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[See also: Letter of the week: Making the grade]

This article appears in the 07 Sep 2022 issue of the New Statesman, Liz Truss Unchained