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Letter of the week: Our carbon dependency

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

By New Statesman

In an otherwise excellent article Andrew Marr’s energy statistics (Politics, 30 June) are unfortunately incorrect. The wind energy contribution that he describes as 27 per cent of the UK’s energy is in fact the wind percentage only of the UK’s present electricity sector – which, as the Office for National Statistics will confirm, last year amounted to no more than 19 per cent of the UK’s total energy usage.

It is the decarbonising of the other four fifths or more of our total national energy usage that is the problem, where the really big costs are coming and will have to be paid for by someone, somehow.

All low-carbon renewables together (wind, solar, hydro and nuclear as well) already accounted for about half our electricity supply last year, which is good, except that this added up to only about 8.9 per cent of UK total energy consumption. So this is only a start. Misreading these figures hides the true size of the task ahead if we are to get anywhere near a net-zero, fossil-free energy future.
David Howell, House of Lords

Project management

Andrew Marr’s piece (Politics, 30 June) on Labour promising a green revolution reminds me of Tony Blair saying that as prime minister he was surrounded by very bright people who could devise new policies instantly (the Miliband brothers come to mind), but very few who had overseen a project from start to finish.

Is Keir Starmer in the same position on the green revolution?
Derek Morris, Harpenden, Hertfordshire

Select and enter your email address Your weekly guide to the best writing on ideas, politics, books and culture every Saturday. The best way to sign up for The Saturday Read is via saturdayread.substack.com The New Statesman's quick and essential guide to the news and politics of the day. The best way to sign up for Morning Call is via morningcall.substack.com Our Thursday ideas newsletter, delving into philosophy, criticism, and intellectual history. The best way to sign up for The Salvo is via thesalvo.substack.com Stay up to date with NS events, subscription offers & updates. Weekly analysis of the shift to a new economy from the New Statesman's Spotlight on Policy team. The best way to sign up for The Green Transition is via spotlightonpolicy.substack.com
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The forgotten health crisis

Phil Whitaker’s insightful canter through 75 years of the NHS (“A history of political interference”, 30 June) only mentions the crisis in public health in passing, noting the government’s neglect. It has come at a huge cost in terms of stalled life expectancy and widening inequalities. Giving priority to public health after 14 years of austerity must be an urgent priority for a new government.

As Patricia Hewitt, a former New Labour health secretary, states in her recent review commissioned by the government: “We should never mistake NHS policy for health policy.” There is never a perfect time to focus on prevention and population health, but unless urgent action is taken the pressure on the NHS will become even more unsustainable.
David J Hunter, emeritus professor of health policy and management, Newcastle University

I wish Wes Streeting had costed a solution for junior doctors’ pay in his discussion with Phil Whitaker (“What seems to be the problem?”, 30 June). Without a steer from Labour, the strikes may rumble on in the hope of something closer to restoration after January 2025, which would be a pity if Labour can’t meet the demands either.
Dr Jimmy Banks, London SW17

Stand aside and deliver

Kevin Maguire (Commons Confidential, 30 June) says the Brexit Party received “nothing in return” for standing aside in hundreds of Tory seats in 2019. Not quite so. It got what it most desired: a hard Brexit from Boris Johnson. It will be interesting to see if Richard Tice sticks to his guns on not standing down candidates when the Tories come begging for a deal.
Josiah Mortimer, London SW9

Green grievances II

Ruth Potter (Correspondence, 30 June) is wrong that “York saw no Green influence” in the Lib Dem/Green administration. York now has, among other things, a housing programme that includes 600 homes built to the highest energy efficiency standard and a Climate Change Strategy that has won recognition on the global A-list of 122 leading cities worldwide.

Disabled people have never been “excluded” from the city centre. A limited number of streets had exemptions for some drivers, blue badge holders included. All these exemptions have been ended. Mistakes were certainly made, but there have been positive Green achievements.
Martina Weitsch, vice-chair, York Green Party

It’s not only in York that the Greens were wiped out. After leading a minority administration in Brighton & Hove under which the city plummeted to the bottom of the nation’s recycling league, the Greens lost two thirds of their councillors to the Labour Party. They leave behind weed-infested pavements, a failing refuse collection service and a city that feels generally dingy and uncared for.
Tim Rose, Hove

[See also: NHS at 75: MPs share their experiences of the health service]

Challenging the AI orthodoxy

While Harry Lambert’s article (Cover Story, 23 June) was informative, all I ever read regarding the future of AI is interviews with “great old men” or the (white, male) CEOs of AI companies. Yes, they have spent their lives thinking about these topics, but we cannot base our understanding solely on the views of technocrats – some of whom have financial stakes in this game.

Where are the findings and opinions of women such as Kate Crawford or Emily Bender on AI? Where are the views of experts from the humanities – philosophers, linguists, sociologists? Perhaps if we included a wider range of views the future of AI would look more like something we can all shape, and less like a game unleashed on us by the powerful few.
Anja Rekeszus, London SE15

Wardrobe malfunction

Tell you what Dylan Jones could do with his “more than a hundred suits” that he never wears (The Diary, 16 June): sell them and give the profits to the high number of people who can’t afford basic food, rent or energy in the UK. If they’re all designer, he’d raise a pound or two.
Roselle Angwin, Finistère, France

The Southgate saga

One thing missing from Jason Cowley’s excellent review of James Graham’s Dear England (Theatre Notes, 30 June) was a reference to the letter (from me) published by the New Statesman two years ago in which I drew attention to the dramatic potential of Gareth Southgate’s story. It ended: “I only hope James Graham, the most accomplished playwright of modern times, has been taking notes.”
Mike Smith, Settle, North Yorkshire

We reserve the right to edit letters

[See also: Wes Streeting and Dr Phil Whitaker in conversation]

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This article appears in the 05 Jul 2023 issue of the New Statesman, Broke Britannia

Select and enter your email address Your weekly guide to the best writing on ideas, politics, books and culture every Saturday. The best way to sign up for The Saturday Read is via saturdayread.substack.com The New Statesman's quick and essential guide to the news and politics of the day. The best way to sign up for Morning Call is via morningcall.substack.com Our Thursday ideas newsletter, delving into philosophy, criticism, and intellectual history. The best way to sign up for The Salvo is via thesalvo.substack.com Stay up to date with NS events, subscription offers & updates. Weekly analysis of the shift to a new economy from the New Statesman's Spotlight on Policy team. The best way to sign up for The Green Transition is via spotlightonpolicy.substack.com
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