What we’re building
Sir: I was surprised and frustrated to read Ross Clark’s piece on housing associations in last week’s edition of your magazine (‘Stop moaning, start building’, 25 July). Surprised because it seemed to misrepresent the facts concerning housing associations, and frustrated because the analysis offered by Mr Clark ignores the key role that housing associations play in ending the housing crisis. Housing associations — which vary hugely in geography, size and function — have consistently supplied tens of thousands of new homes year after year. For example, last year they built 40,000 homes — a third of all new homes — and they matched every £1 of public investment with £6 of their own money. Indeed, when private development dropped 37 per cent in the crash between 2007 and 2009, housing associations continued to build and even upped their output by 22 per cent to make up the shortfall.
Housing associations are not, as per Mr Clark’s suggestion, the ‘true villains’ of the property crisis. Instead they are strong, open, positive, constructive and expert potential partners for government, willing to work together to end the housing crisis and provide the homes our country needs.
National Housing Federation, London WC1
Blame the brainwashers
Sir: Jane Kelly (‘Teenage terrors’, 25 July), citing memories of the Baader-Meinhof gang, eloquently illustrates how easily young people are drawn to extremism. Those of us who have tried over the years to support families who have lost children to cults would go further. After dealing with hundreds of tragic cases, we have concluded that anyone, approached in the right way at the right moment, can be recruited and brainwashed into turning against family and friends, espousing grotesque beliefs and putting themselves at the disposal of destructive individuals or organisations. We have always predicted that similar techniques could be used to turn people into violent criminals, and Isis has amply demonstrated this to be true.
Convincing officialdom has been an uphill struggle: it is 30 years since our Home Office found it convenient to decide that cults are ‘new religious movements’ and that brainwashing does not exist. This has handicapped government policy ever since. Now that we have a national emergency on our hands, we need to finally take action. This must include following the example of France and Belgium, and legislating to enable the identification and prosecution of the real criminals, those who ruthlessly exploit young minds for evil ends.
A towering Low Life
Sir: Jeremy Clarke recently permitted some of us the delusion that we too could be Low Life correspondents. He even praised our efforts with a generous self-deprecation. Then, in his latest column (25 July), he reasserts his authority with a tale of extreme violence. The old lion stretched, yawned and dismissed us with a mere flick of his paw. How impressive. How cruel!
Sir: In his excellent article ‘Degrees in disaster’ (25 July) James Bartholomew is mistaken in implying that Gordon Brown read economics with history at Edinburgh. He only read history. Brown’s absence of any knowledge of economics was obvious to those working in the City long before he became chancellor. I am convinced that it was his knowledge of history that persuaded him to remove important powers from the governor of the Bank of England, for that great office had acted as a brake on a succession of profligate Labour chancellors. In the light of this, the consequences of his 13 years in office were entirely predictable: an economic disaster.
Jeremy M.J. Havard
Not forgetting Mbeki
Sir: James Bartholomew left out a very significant contributor to human misery in Africa: Thabo Mbeki, the former South African president, who was educated at Sussex University. His roaming of the internet persuaded him that HIV was not the cause of Aids, so his government denied antiretroviral drugs to pregnant women with Aids. The result is that South Africa is one of the few countries in Africa (if not the only one) in which the population is falling.
King’s Lynn, Norfolk
Sir: As a former serving officer with the Royal Air Force, I have a simple solution to solve the budget crisis in the military: scrap the RAF. All the current work can be done by the other two services. Helicopters are used mainly to support the army, and army pilots have shown that you do not need to be a commissioned officer to pilot a helicopter. The Navy has a good record of flying fast jets, and our requirement for drones can be open to tender between the Army and Navy. The RAF’s day was in the second world war, where they did valiant service. We must move on and pay for the best. RAF personnel should not be excluded from applying to the Navy and Army for the jobs that arise from the demise of their service.
Sir: Elisa Segrave’s letter (25 July) and article reminds me of my wife’s faux-pas on arrival at our new home in Canada in 1963. In those days even Canada delivered milk to our doors. My wife left a note in an empty bottle: ‘Please knock me up for the bill.’ Our friendly milkman let everybody in the apartment block see this note. My wife’s innocent colloquial English led to her rapid popularity with our neighbours.