Sir: John Slater “I don’t Give a Gonski” reflects, unlike what the intellectual left preach, what most mature, thinking Australians believe. There is one additional point he overlooked which is contributing to our sliding educational outcomes and that is the many good teachers out there at the coalface are being swamped by bureaucracy. Talk to them and they all tell the same storey – their preparation, teaching, counselling and marking time is being swallowed up by bureaucratic demands. More funding will only lead to more bureaucrats demanding more reports and form filling. Gonski might be a good bloke but I for one believe he got it completely wrong and should stay back a year.
Hyde Park, SA
What Swedes don’t say
Sir: Tove Lifvendahl is, unfortunately, exactly right in her analysis of Swedish immigration and asylum policy (‘Sweden’s refugee crisis’, 3 September). Those in Sweden who support free movement and free trade feel it has long been obvious that the consensus in the riksdag would lead to disaster.
Last autumn saw a celebrity-studded ‘Sweden Together’ celebration of the open-border immigration policy. Then, just six weeks later, we experienced the closure of borders and passport controls enforced on the Öresund bridge connecting Sweden to Denmark. The flow of immigrants is now at 95 per cent of its peak, but the Öresund region, or the Greater Copenhagen area — a trade integration project painstakingly developed over a period of more than 30 years — was put into liquidation overnight. Danes have been selling their Swedish homes to move back to Denmark. Swedes have quit their Copenhagen-based jobs.
It could all have been avoided had a mature and measured policy discussion taken place in Stockholm. If there is one thing the Swedes ought to learn from the Brits, it would be how to maintain a broad and dynamic public debate — warts and all. Every so often we hear British tabloids accused of lowering the tone of debate. Sweden stands as an example of what happens if frank discussion does not take place.
Sir: As a native of Sussex whose mother hailed from Tyneside and who has spent most of his adult life in the north-east, I share Kate Chisholm’s irritation at Melvyn Bragg’s arrogant proclamation of northern superiority in his recent Radio 4 series (Arts, 3 September). He has squandered the legacy of respect built up over many years of In Our Time, and thrown away the opportunity to present a balanced treatment of an important subject, giving us instead a mixture of self-indulgence and prejudice. He also reinforces (as, sadly, does Ms Chisholm) the erroneous idea that ‘the north’ ends at Hadrian’s Wall — there are 60 miles of Northumberland beyond!
In point of fact, the programmes demonstrate that Bragg’s definition of the north is inherently flawed — Newcastle and Middlesbrough have no more in common with Manchester or Liverpool than they do with London, which is just as easy to get to.
On Cameron’s advisers
Sir: Apart from his character assassination of Boris Johnson, Bruce Anderson’s letter claimed that David Cameron’s team of advisors was the best he had seen (Letters, 3 September). Can he therefore explain their failure to advise against having a referendum, and secondly, to warn the then Prime Minister that apart from London, every single large region of England was in favour of leaving the EU? They sound like yes-men to me. Mr Farage, who did not receive an honour, described them as being rewarded for failure. He was right.
Great foreign secretaries
Sir: Bruce Anderson (Letters, 3 September) says in the past couple of centuries there have been two great foreign secretaries — Castlereagh and Bevin. Agreed, but I would add Eden. A failed prime minister maybe, but a courageous foreign secretary. Let’s hope Boris will follow in their footsteps.
Buckland Newton, Dorset
A tale of two referendums
Sir: Interesting, isn’t it, that the Scottish independence referendum, in which 45 per cent voted against the outcome, has according to The Spectator ‘not closed the question, but left it wide open’ (Leader, 27 August), whereas another referendum, in which 48 per cent voted against the outcome, is so decisive that, ‘Politicians and businesses should snap out of their sulk, and see Brexit for what it is: the greatest opportunity ever handed to a government by an electorate’ (Leader, 30 July).
From HS2 to NHS
Sir: Further to Ysenda Maxtone Graham’s piece on HS2 (‘The vanity line’, 27 August), I agree that both high-speed broadband and 4G would be of benefit to more people than HS2, which will undoubtedly cost well in excess of the quoted eye-watering £65 billion, as well as destroying swaths of beautiful countryside. But how about setting up HSNHS — Help Save the NHS — with the money, since a functioning health service would benefit us all? Given the suffering endured by so many on a daily basis due to lack of funding, the NHS would seem a more deserving recipient of any available resources.