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29 March 2023

Letter of the week: Parental contribution

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By New Statesman

One of the barriers to a fair and kind childcare system is not just that our society “undervalues care”, as Sophie McBain writes (“The parent trap”, 24 March), but that our prevailing mode of economic analysis tends to equate an individual’s contribution to society with the money they generate in revenue or taxes.

Under that metric, parents raising their children at home for no pay are “unproductive”. But parents who are (willingly) based partly or fully at home are contributing, not just to their own children’s and family’s welfare, but to their local society, economy and environment. It is often those parents – like other “underemployed” groups such as flexible freelancers or early retirees – who contribute most to running voluntary organisations, checking on vulnerable neighbours, campaigning on community issues, etc. Perhaps if the government had a way to compute the value of these activities it wouldn’t be producing childcare plans that essentially treat stay-at-home parents as impediments to growth and prosperity.
Hanna Weibye, Cambridge

[See also: Letter of the week: In defence of higher education]

Northern latitude

Sophie McBain (“The parent trap”, 24 March) writes: “But, unlike… more egalitarian Nordic countries, his parental leave came at the expense of mine: I had to transfer my maternity entitlements to him.”  Nordic countries are more generous, but there tends to be a “mother” number of weeks, a number of weeks for the other partner, and some that can be used by either. Parental leave lasts for 320 working days. With two parents, both are entitled to 160 working days’ leave. The parent may give up to 63 days to the child’s other carer.
Mike Walsh, Espoo, Finland

Sophie McBain is so right that “without affordable childcare… the entire economy, suffers”. And, of course, people – mainly women – suffer. Both my son and partner work full time in Norway, where a full-time nursery place costs about £300 a month. Will Labour rise to the challenge?
Jol Miskin, Sheffield

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[See also: Can a booming start-up scene help Norway turn its back on oil’s “poisoned pill”?]

Limiting the Met

When I was shortlisted to be the Labour candidate in the 2016 London mayoral election, I proposed removing responsibility for terrorism, diplomacy and parliament from the Metropolitan Police (Leader, 24 March) because they distracted from its core purpose of looking after the capital. With a quarter of Britain’s police, the Met is too big and unmanageable. It is notable that Baroness Casey’s report finds it was precisely in those areas where spending was out of control that rogue officers such as Wayne Couzens were able to flourish.

My ideas were not new but were strongly resisted by successive commissioners anxious to retain all their powers. This time the Met’s protests should be ignored.
Christian Wolmar, London N7

In your otherwise excellent Leader, I wonder about the reference to “murder of an innocent young woman”. What does a woman need to be “guilty” of to be legitimately murdered? This perpetuates the idea of victim blaming, all too prevalent in cases of violence against women.
Moira Sykes, Manchester

Review the revenue

Andrew Marr is right that Keir Starmer must “rapidly accelerate Labour’s policy development”, and show how the country can achieve growth at a time of “taxation constraints” (Politics, 24 March). The tax system has to be reformed, with the equalisation of capital gains and income tax a priority. Windfall taxes should not be aimed only at energy companies when our banks and supermarkets are announcing obscene profits.
Bernie Evans, Liverpool

[See also: Andrew Marr: Keir Starmer must not panic]

Post haste

Further to Veronica Hardstaff’s letter (Correspondence, 24 March), we also live in Sheffield and today (24 March) received two copies of the NS and a Mother’s Day card posted first class on 8 March from London. We have complained without success. Our post-person is delivering intermittently, and with loads so heavy they can only do one side of a road. Maybe the NS should consider carrier pigeons instead.
Sian Lewis, Sheffield

One thing I have grown to rely upon is the NS arriving on a Thursday four times out of five. My other periodicals arrive Friday. Any that miss Friday don’t appear for a few days.
Keith Appleyard, West Wickham, London

Broad strokes

Andrew Marr, (Culture Notes, 24 March) is being a little provocative in his piece on Picasso. Cultural figures are of their time. Picasso was born in 19th-century Spain, a world we find difficult to imagine. His genius was in how he perceived the world, in his “seeing eye” – and how he translated this into art that was thoroughly new. As an individual he probably was a “monster” in 21st-century eyes. Should we then select “gentle monsters”, as Marr suggests? Not a serious argument, I think, as we are drawn to art often regardless of who made it.
Richard Hemmings, Waveney Valley, Suffolk

[See also: Why Labour thinks it has solved the Brexit conundrum]

Recalling Fallujah

Peter Ricketts (Iraq War Special, 17 March), chair of the Joint Intelligence Committee under Tony Blair, claims that in contrast to Russian forces in Ukraine, US-UK forces in Iraq “did not reduce towns and villages to rubble”. Following the US-led assault on Fallujah in November 2004, Dr Saleh Hussein Iswawi, director of the city’s general hospital, told the BBC: “About 60 per cent to 70 per cent of the homes and buildings are completely crushed and damaged, and not ready to inhabit at the moment. Of the 30 per cent still left standing, I don’t think there is a single one that has not been exposed to some damage.”
Ian Sinclair, London E15

No laughing matter

Rachel Wearmouth (Encounter, 17 March) begins her interview with the MPs Rachel and Ellie Reeves by remarking that the sisters “were enjoying a conspiratorial giggle over a pot of tea”. Is it conceivable that any journalist would write the same about Boris and Jo Johnson? No, because “giggle” is a word reserved for women.
Ann Lawson Lucas, Beverley, East Yorkshire

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[See also: Letter of the week: A true public servant]

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This article appears in the 29 Mar 2023 issue of the New Statesman, Easter Special