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10 May 2023

Letter of the week: A problem of scale

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By New Statesman

Andrew Marr (Politics, 5 May) explains the challenges posed by rising net migration but does not offer a way forward. The public debate has become lopsided, with the two most dominant views both in favour: the “moral case”, which says we should be open to those less fortunate than ourselves, and the “economic case”, which says we need people to fill job vacancies.

What is lacking is any counter-view, expressed on behalf of the UK public – including the 18 per cent from minority ethnic groups. Their concerns include economic worries and “quality of life” factors, such as pressure on education, health and social services. Polling reveals that, across all demographics, 51 per cent of people support a cap on net migration, and over 60 per cent are concerned by the government’s failure to plan for population growth. Yet these views never seem to be represented coherently in the national debate.

No one should deny the cultural and economic vigour brought about by a level of immigration; it is about scale. All political parties should have the courage to face this challenge. If they fail to do so, wilder and unattractive spirits may emerge.
Robin Hodgson, the House of LordsLondon SW1

[See also: Letter of the week: The levelling-up lie]

The state we’re in

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Andrew Marr’s essay (“The state of the nation”, 5 May) paints UK society as “weak, passive and prone” – a society underpinned by the two-party system. Marr suggests recuperation may be better under a Labour government “but which perhaps reaches across to opposition parties”. Does he mean a coalition? Proportional representation for Westminster would allow parliament to better represent its communities. Let’s leave first-past-the-post to football leagues.
Louise Mauborgne, Glasshouses, North Yorks

I was very happy to read that, despite British society being “thoroughly marketised”, Andrew Marr believes that “public-spiritedness [is] still alive”. I am therefore baffled that he also believes “millions would immediately reject” the changes needed to move away from economic growth and towards a better quality of life.
Jeanette Longfield, west London

Sovereign rebel

Will Lloyd’s piece on Charles (Cover Story, 5 May) is an eye-opener – both the Transylvanian follies and the influence of the neo-Romantic writer Kathleen Raine, which explains much about the regressive otherworldliness of Charles’s better notions. Is our King’s hedge clipping at Highgrove much of an advance on Marie Antoinette playing the shepherdess at Trianon?
Richard Warren, Aldridge, West Midlands

While Charles the environmentalist may lack moral consistency – shooting at deer in his parklands, for example – he is clearly opposed to the destruction of the natural world on which we all depend. Church and state now officially expects Charles to represent the values of a capitalist state. Consumption leading, as it does, to climate change, means that Charles’s own beliefs are diametrically opposed to those represented by the crown he now wears.
David Clarke, Witney, Oxfordshire

Why we need antidepressants

Joanna Moncrieff (Encounter, 5 May) says “… there needs to be a political move to demedicalise the whole mental health arena”. Lots more access to talking therapies then? mental health, the poor relation in healthcare, has a long way to go before it has enough resources to “find more non-medical ways of supporting people through crises”. I know well from family close to me that establishing talking therapies through the NHS is extremely difficult. Those I know have also seemingly benefited from medication.
Julia Edwards, Winchester, Hampshire

Homes under the hammer

Of course the UK needs many more homes (Leader, 5 May), but rapidly increased supply would devalue the existing stock, potentially plunging recent buyers into negative equity (and losing votes for whichever party is held responsible). A solution might be for the increased supply to coincide with a period of high inflation. This could allow properties to maintain their cash value while the real value of both property and mortgage fell… another opportunity missed then.
Kevin Griffin, Sheffield

What’s in a name?

One curious aspect of Rishi Sunak’s history as an investment banker (Commons Confidential, 5 May) is the name of his hedge fund, Theleme Partners. In Rabelais’s novel Gargantua and Pantagruel, the Abbey of Thélème is an institution whose basic rule is “Do whatever thou wilt”. The black magician Aleister Crowley established his Abbey of Thelema in Sicily in 1920, which promoted an extreme libertarianism and contempt for democracy. It would be interesting to know why Theleme chose the name.
Philip Conford, Collingham, Nottinghamshire

After liberalism

The discussion on the crumbling of the liberal order (Cover Story, 28 April) made many powerful points, but I did feel there was an underlying pessimism. Speaking from the Christian tradition, maturity is understood as realising we are vulnerable, finite creatures, dependent on nature and the gratuitous love of God. The death of illusions about liberal hegemony could be a chance to pursue a politics based on limit, humility and loving interdependence.
The Reverend Ben Brown, Lewes, East Sussex

Your cover story of 28 April is important, but I was perplexed by the argument that technology cannot create energy, thereby limiting our ability to use growth to avert global conflict. It is scientifically correct to say energy can neither be created nor destroyed, only converted. But for hundreds of years humans have been finding new ways of converting energy, and of using that energy to greater effect. This progress may be eventually limited, and too slow to avert war, but such Malthusian predictions have often been wrong.
Mark Thorp, Manchester

The needle and the damage done

Having just returned from a blood test, I wonder whether the proprietors of Little Pricks Acupuncture (This england, 5 May) might rename their business Sharp Scratch.
Peter Phillips, Swansea

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[See also: Letter of the week: Conservatism’s DNA]

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This article appears in the 10 May 2023 issue of the New Statesman, What could go wrong?