The North in need
Sir: Neil O’Brien’s article on the North-South divide is welcome (‘The great divide’, 1 December). As a Geordie who spent much of his working life in the West Midlands before being immersed in the Westminster bubble for the last decade, London increasingly feels like a separate country. The wealth, the economic activity and the jobs are something that many communities only an hour and a half away on the train can only dream about.
Many of the heavily industrialised towns and cities never recovered from the recession of the early 1980s. We have generational unemployment and significant pockets lacking any aspiration. There is a lack of successful role models for the young, and of private sector activity.
Improvements to education are key, but not enough. There must be a complete reinvention of economies. This means in large swaths of the urban North policies are needed that are not timid in approach, but where new businesses have long-term holidays from tax, national insurance and employment legislation. Essentially, we have to tear up the rules holding back the start-up and growth of business.
The approach then becomes not only tightening up on a benefits culture, but providing the jobs and opportunities that are desperately needed.
David Frost CBE
Sir: Congratulations to Thomas Hodgkinson (‘Going overboard’, 24 November) for his entertaining story of the Scientologists’ unsuccessful invasion of Corfu in 1968. The only proper reaction to cults is ridicule. However, as he hinted, their eviction from the island was a rare victory. Semi-criminal organisations posing as religions have continued to recruit growing numbers of vulnerable people by deception, and proceeded to ruin their and their families’ lives.
It is shaming that while our own political masters, misled by lazy Home Office civil servants, have consistently refused to do anything about this, the ‘Greek Colonels’ showed themselves to be considerably more enlightened.
The Family Survival Trust, London WC1
Sir: Sebastian Payne’s article (‘The great British wind scam’, 24 November) highlighted the idiocy of the Feed-In Tariff for owners of wind turbines, whereby the annual return doubles from 7 to 10 per cent to an astonishing 17 to 20 per cent if a giant turbine is downgraded to become a less efficient gatherer of wind energy. Surely the government department would refute the accusation?
The letters page of your last issue carried no such rebuttal. I suppose we shouldn’t be surprised that the Energy Secretary, Ed Davey, doesn’t read The Spectator, but one would have thought that with over 1,300 civil servants working in his department, someone might have brought it to his attention, because a cynical scam such as that, paid for by British taxpayers, couldn’t be true. Or could it, Mr Davey?
Sir: The response to Charles Moore from TV Licensing (Letters, 1 December) rings a bell: it is more or less a facsimile of that organisation’s stock reply to any complaint about its relentless persecution of people who choose not to watch television — ‘occupiers of unlicensed premises’, in the jargon. Five million such premises are targeted each year with over 25 million letters of escalating offensiveness, followed by visits to four million by so-called officers. At least 80 per cent of this effort is inevitably fruitless. Such diligence and persistence would be accounted admirable in the proper place and it occurs to me that here is a pavement-ready task force which, if seconded to the UK Border Agency, could make significant inroads upon a spiralling backlog of missing migrants.
Sir: Nadine Dorries (Diary, 1 December)seems to have her beers in a muddle. It was, of course, Heineken (not Carling) that refreshed parts other beers could not reach. Never mind — a quick glass of ’Strine Fosters (the ‘Amber Nectar’) should revive her spirits for the fightback.
Sir: Forget for a moment press freedom and legislation. Everyone concerned has a point, and everyone is showing character. But what is truly character-revealing, in the worst way, is the Prime Minister’s instruction to two of his ministers, revealed in the Telegraph on 3 December, not to see the Dalai Lama privately. This exceeds even Mr Cameron and Mr Clegg sneaking in to see the Dalai Lama in St Paul’s the last time he was here, hoping no one would know. Can Beijing really have reduced our two leaders to such craven behaviour?
On the edge
Sir: Christopher Andrew’s article ‘The edge of destruction’ (1 December) last week reminded me of my non-contribution at that time. Aged 24, I had just completed a military posting in Central Africa and had arranged a trip though South Africa to Cape Town, before rejoining my regiment. On hearing of the crisis I cancelled the trip and with an overenthusiastic sense of duty flew back to London, expecting to go to war. I went straight to Knightsbridge Barracks to report my return and met an NCO whom I knew well. I asked him what preparations they had been making for the crisis. ‘Well, sir,’ he replied, ‘We’ve been feeding and exercising the horses as usual!’
Melbury Osmond, Dorset
This article first appeared in the print edition of The Spectator magazine, dated 8 December 2012