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Letter of the week: paying for power

A selection of the best letters received from our readers this week. Email letters@newstatesman.co.uk to have your thoughts voiced in the New Statesman magazine.

By New Statesman

Having read Adam Tooze’s interesting and well-presented article (“The new age of American power”, 10 September) from beginning to end I failed to find a single mention of how such a grand ambition will be funded – presumably because it is all based on some kind of pyramid scheme where the US government continues to print dollar bills and relies on the rest of the world to buy its debt. This is a house built on shifting sands. All the guns and missiles and ships in the world are not going to add up to anything if de-dollarisation takes hold, and I think you would have to be incredibly short-sighted to believe that China is going to continue to allow a dependence on the US dollar.

It is hard to forecast when this shift will come, but come it will – and if the US is ever deprived of the ability to rack up an ever increasing debt, you will see an implosion that would make the subprime crisis look like kindergarten.
Bob Rogers, Sai Kung, Hong Kong

A new New Statesman

Congratulations to the team on the new design of the New Statesman magazine. The layout is fresh and bright and retains the insightful analysis I enjoy. But I must confess to being disappointed by the new portraits of the contributors: the old drawings were so good I felt I would recognise them if they passed me in the street, but the new ones are more reminiscent of my childhood Beano comics…
Terry Fairhall, Chessington, Surrey

The new visual identity for the NS is highly successful except in one respect: the portraits of contributors. The full-colour portraits were well-executed, highly expressive and, one assumes, good likenesses. The replacements are, I’m afraid, none of these things.
Hywel James, Town Yetholm, Scottish Borders

Congratulations on your new, very American-looking, international-facing magazine design. I am sure we Brits will get used to it in time. Can I please implore you to retain the letter “u” in words such as labour, colour and humour, and the letter “s” in words such as recognise, organise and apologise. We shall be watching!
Paul Kelly, Poole, Dorset

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I read in the Editor’s Note (10 September) that “the New Statesman is introducing a new visual identity for our website and magazine”. I turned to page 71 only to find a very dapper-looking Nicholas Lezard. I was taken aback as I expected a more dishevelled image. He looks as smart as the editor. I think a more “Down and Out” look would be in keeping.
Paul Martin, Leicester

It’s good to see the return of the definite article, and the new typeface is easy to read. However, I hope you did not pay Mark Porter very much (Editor’s Note) to come up with nonsense about a wider range of colours expressing the plurality and diversity of the magazine.
Ian Wilson, Thames Ditton, Surrey

I love the new look, the font, the layout. But can I, ever so gently, protest at the use of the word “foreground” as a verb in Jason Cowley’s Editor’s Note? I know pedantry is irritating, but I’m beyond help.
Chris Mason, presenter, BBC Radio 4’s “Any Questions?”, London SE7

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Out of batteries

Jeremy Cliffe gives an excellent account of the worryingly dominant position of China in the supply of lithium (World View, 10 September). What can be done about it?

Lithium batteries are very expensive and likely to become more so. We should aim to dispense with them and, in the meantime, use as few as possible. There are concerns that there are insufficient materials to make the batteries that would be necessary for all car-owners to drive electric cars. But there are alternatives. We should expand the biomethane industry. Such methane is carbon-neutral and is extremely mobile, being lighter than petrol or diesel. If we were to allow plug-in hybrid electric vehicles to continue to be sold with biomethane as their back-up fuel, we would still be using lithium, but for much smaller batteries.

Powering more cars safely with hydrogen is tantalisingly close and does not require lithium at all. Using biomethane as a stop-gap would accelerate the move away from fossil fuels and be a more effective use of lithium than all-electric vehicles. In this way, we can avoid the worst of the impacts of a Chinese-dominated lithium market.
Keith Newby, Witton le Wear, Durham

The crisis of care

Philip Collins needed to spend more time reading about social care (Politics, 10 September). Six months after being elected in 1997 Tony Blair established a royal commission on the funding of long-term care for the elderly. The commission’s report, published in March 1999, provided a clear analysis of the problems and a comprehensive set of solutions. All of them were ignored in England, although some were picked up and implemented in Scotland.

Far from ignoring Andrew Dilnot’s 2011 report on the funding of care, David Cameron’s coalition passed the 2014 Care Act, which set out to address the balance of public and private contributions to the cost of care. But after the 2015 general election, Cameron had no need of his erstwhile coalition partners and, under pressure from his austerity-driven chancellor, froze the implementation of the provisions of the act.

More alarming than these deficiencies is Collins’s failure to address the issue of the market in care, introduced by the Thatcher government in 1989. It was intended that there should be a mixed economy of care with public, private and voluntary sectors contributing to a more comprehensive offer to consumers. It succeeded in eliminating much public-sector provision because government funding was skewed towards encouraging private-sector entrants. There will be no answer to the care crisis until a bolder government faces up to this failure, addressing the gap between a free health service and social care based on individual means testing.
Les Bright, Exeter

The government has been forced to grasp the nettle of social care costs for older people, but for the wrong reasons, and has come up with an inadequate solution.

First, the wrong reason. Margaret Thatcher’s Right to Buy was a popular policy, leading to many new property owners becoming Tory voters. However, these people are now having to sell their homes to pay for social care and the promised legacy is lost. They are not happy to have been misled for years.
Second, the wrong solution. Boris Johnson has not addressed the question of how social care and health should be integrated and funded. He has introduced an arbitrary cap on social care costs that excludes the day-to-day living costs of residential care. The Chancellor told BBC News: “We will make sure that everyone is able to access what is called the deferred-payment agreement… which means no one will have to sell their house in their lifetime.” But the cost of the deferred payment will be recovered from the sale price of property and no legacy will remain. Older people have contributed through taxation and National Insurance for their entire adult lives. They deserve better.
Ruth Potter, York

Ubiquitous US

It might be in a new format, but the New Statesman continues to provide a most thorough medium for exploring the hegemony of the US. In addition to the cover article “The new age of American power” (10 September), the most recent issue presents ten pages of discussion on the country’s affairs. This fact alone provides a convincing demonstration of just how cultural hegemony works.
Dr Thom Gorst, Bath

Stonehouse’s legacy

The review by Andrew Marr of John Stonehouse, My Father by his daughter Julia Stonehouse (Critics, 25 August) has led to further criticisms of his sad life.

I would like to risk a word in his favour by mentioning that it was John Stonehouse as postmaster general in Harold Wilson’s government who influenced the development of BBC local radio. In the late 1960s the BBC launched an experiment in local broadcasting with a network of eight radio stations, including BBC Radio Leeds.

Edward Lyons, the Labour MP for Bradford East at the time, was impressed by local radio and used the opportunity of a House of Commons adjournment debate to call for permanent BBC local radio. When the debate took place late at night only Stonehouse and Lyons were present, but in the gallery were listeners of Radio Leeds who had hired a coach to travel from Leeds to London for the debate. Stonehouse later said that it was their efforts that convinced him of the value of local radio.
Michael McGowan, former education producer, BBC Radio Leeds

The Brighton bracket

In “Down and Out” (10 September) I was intrigued to read that Nicholas Lezard thinks that Brighton “is perhaps a little bit too white”. If you replaced the word “white” with any other relating to race or religion you’d be accused of bigotry. Why does it not count as such in this instance?
David Cain, Tonbridge, Kent

We reserve the right to edit letters

This article appears in the 15 Sep 2021 issue of the New Statesman, The Fateful Chancellor