Andrew Marr (Cover Story, 14 July) tells us: “In the case of [George] Osborne, and many retired politicians, there is a sense that there exists a financially swaddled uber-class.” Really? It’s not a sense: it’s a fact. The category includes many active politicians and quite a few journalists and commentators, whether government supporters or not.
But whatever the changes in the cultural weather, I doubt whether jealousy towards this class has very much to do with present discontent, or that a preoccupation with the “political-journalistic elite” is very widespread, at least if my experience canvassing for Labour in Uxbridge over the last week or so is anything to go by. Everyday issues count for more right now. Elsewhere in the issue, Imogen Sinclair (Another Voice, 14 July) is much nearer the mark with her analysis that there are signs of a move away by the youngest cohort of voters from the highly liberal attitudes of their parents, and it’s possible this move won’t be confined to Generation Z, or to diehard Conservative supporters.
Conor Magill, London E1
[See also: Letter of the week: Speaking clearly]
To limit distrust of the BBC, judges, civil servants and experts, and all the damaging conspiracy theories that come with this distrust (Leader, 14 July), we should demand much tighter regulation of social media. We should also properly regulate the entirety of the media. Why is Ofcom, for instance, so tolerant of politicians hosting “news” programmes? Why are papers fined so little and so rarely? The purveyors of misinformation must be halted. The tabloids and others may wish us to focus our anger on the establishment, so that we scream “They’re all the same!”, but this tactic only serves to divide – and to distract from the issues that matter, chief among them the climate emergency.
Sebastian Monblat, Surbiton, Greater London
Back to basics
David Edgerton’s view (Encounter, 14 July) that Britain needs to do basic things better is the right place to begin, not the Sunak/Starmer demand for growth. We need to put some money into the economy via taxes. Relative to Europe, the UK is still a low-tax economy at around 37 per cent of GDP. Many other countries are around 40 per cent and are doing better than us.
It starts with better education. We spend around 4 per cent of GDP on education. This should be closer to 6 per cent, in line with our peers, with taxes increased on unearned income like capital gains. Elsewhere, the social care crisis could be addressed by asking pensioners to pay a form of National Care Service Insurance.
Rosanne Bostock, Oxford
The missing mission
Ashley Frawley is right (Lines of Dissent, 14 July), political economy is the mammoth gap in Labour’s aspirational missions. Rather than dealing with tough issues using specific initiatives, such as a realistic transition plan for green energy, scaling up subsidies for industry (as the US and EU are doing on a huge scale), cleaning up the dirty streets and graffiti, getting the education basics that employers want in place, taxing online retailers, waging a war on government/institutional corruption, and much more, Labour simply bleats about the need for people to be more creative and resilient. They may win the next election by default, but if the Tories were even marginally better, Labour would lose by a landslide.
David Sheal, Scotland
Ashley Frawley brilliantly skewers the modern fix-the-individual pieties that surround us like the air we breathe. More of her, please.
Ruth Davis, Basingstoke, Hampshire
If I was lucky enough to be the Subscriber of the Week, I would answer “What pages do you flick to first?” with “Michael Prodger – always!” But I disagree with his uncritical assessment of Norman Foster (Architecture, 14 July). When I joined the profession in 1982, it was to work in the greatest architectural practice that this country has ever seen – the Greater London Council, responsible for some of the finest housing and public buildings that we still have. In those days, Foster was still making his mark, but in the influential “Foster, Rogers and Stirling” exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts in 1986, it was the sheer stylistic inventiveness of James Stirling and the outrageous machine-fascination of Richard Rogers that stood out for me. Foster was merely slick.
Dr Thom Gorst, Bath
Hannah Rose Woods (Present Tense, 14 July) may have her own reasons for disliking Morris dancers. It is, however, a pity that we all tend to dismiss and laugh at Morris dancing, which can be traced back at least 600 years and is one of the oldest living traditions in England. Englishness tends to be defined by not being something else. In Provence, Catalonia, Bavaria etc such a tradition would be respected and cherished; here we laugh at it and devalue a true English folk culture.
Adam Moliver, Cheltenham, Gloucestershire
The right certainly have no monopoly on Morris dancing. In the farther-flung reaches of the country, many Border teams lean to the left and brandish long sticks rather than hankies. Brigantii Border Morris were formed in 2018, primarily to perform at activist, environmental and political events. At the 2019 Conservative Party conference they sported “Morris against Boris” shirts, all in the best tradition of jiggery-wokery.
Austen Lynch, Garstang, Lancashire
I was surprised to find Sasha Swire on my lawn (Diary, 7 July) but shocked to read that she slept in our bed! The week before she stayed at the 16th-century Peake’s House, we had spent a very enjoyable weekend there and found all the people of Colchester we met most engaging.
Visitors are encouraged to leave tips in the logbook: I suggested the Purple Dog for good company, and a pint or two brewed by the Mighty Oak Brewery at nearby Maldon. I wonder if Ms Swire took my advice? Her choice of a margarita at a hotel bar would suggest not – read the logbook next time!
Dr Trevor Turpin, Wiltshire
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[See also: Letter of the week: I am Waterstones Dad]
This article appears in the 19 Jul 2023 issue of the New Statesman, How Saudi Arabia is buying the world