Sir: Isabel Hardman (Politics, 1 October) states that no reputable research backs up the belief that grammar schools promote social justice. I am not sure she is correct. For instance, Lord Franks’s 1966 report on Oxford University recorded an accelerating rise in the share of places taken by state school pupils at that university in the 1939–1966 period. This increased from 19 per cent to 34 per cent, excluding the semi-private direct grant schools. Include the direct grants and the figure rises from 32 per cent in 1939 to 51 per cent in 1965. This change, reversed in the comprehensive years after 1965, coincided with the introduction of a national system of academic selection throughout the United Kingdom. More recently, the Higher Education Statistics Agency recorded that children from poor homes in selective Northern Ireland had significantly greater chances of reaching university than their equivalents in largely comprehensive England. The difference was even more marked by comparison with wholly comprehensive Scotland. Critics of grammar schools make much of the outcomes in the few remaining besieged grammar schools, perhaps forgetting that these results are distorted because they are so heavily oversubscribed.
A cheer for Patrick Minford
Sir: For those of us who are perennially suspicious of economists in general, there are a few whose opinions are worth considering. For me, Patrick Minford was one of those who back in the 1980s seemed to talk sense, following in the footsteps of the controversial monetarist Milton Friedman (‘Brexit’s philosopher king’, 1 October). My Keynesian economics professor at Harvard Business School in 1973 told us sceptically: ‘If you believe Milton Friedman, the US will be in recession this time next year.’ It was.
It was Roger Bootle’s column in the Daily Telegraph which drew my attention to the remarkable research paper by Michael Burrage for Civitas, and it was he and Liam Halligan who in the run up to the referendum seemed to make most sense. They completely contradicted the Treasury’s and other economic forecasts — all of which, unlike the Burrage research, were based on fantasy.
It is comforting to read Mr Halligan’s piece about Patrick Minford’s successful efforts to get sense into the otherwise disappointing Brexit debate and to think that, so far at least, his campaign group have been vindicated.
Donald R. Clarke
Sir: I very much enjoyed the pieces on the subject of rewilding, first by Melissa Kite (24 September) and then last week by Rod Liddle. First, I found Ms Kite’s arguments convincing and I concluded the practice was foolish. However, Mr Liddle’s response challenged my original position, and now I am thoroughly torn on the issue. Might I suggest a head-to-head debate between your columnists to settle the matter as your next Spectator event?
Keep out pine martens
Sir: Rod Liddle says he looks forward to pine martens in England (‘Let’s bring the wolves back into Britain’, 1 October). A family of them moved into the roof of my house in France this year. Both the noise and the smell were awful, and we ended up calling out the local pest-control man (sorry Rod). The remedy? Playing loud French pop music in the attic for five days and nights. They did leave, and their entrance holes were blocked, only for them to appear again through another route.
Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk
Sir: Charles Moore in his Notes (1 October) acknowledges the minimal disorder at the Munich Oktoberfest. But he also records that eight million litres of beer were drunk, by six million guests. That’s barely two pints each! No wonder there’s so little disturbance (and, terrifyingly, what has happened to the Bavarians?).
Sir: Pericles (or Thucydides) could turn a pretty phrase, but his boasts about Athenian generosity and liberality (Ancient and modern, 24 September) would have rung hollow in Naxos and Thasos. When they tried leaving the Delian League they were reminded they had sworn to remain ‘until iron floats’ — no Article 50 for them! — and Athens quickly brought them to heel, imposing fines and ‘contributions’: confiscating ships, razing city walls and taking over gold mines. But they got off lightly compared to the people of Melos. Athens made them an offer they could not refuse — join the League! — but refuse they did, preferring to stay neutral in the war with Sparta. They paid the price: their city was taken, their men were slaughtered and their women and children were sold into slavery. They were even blamed for their own destruction because they had failed to accommodate Athenian might — the logic of the rapist. Compared with the reality of Athenian ‘live and let live’, Juncker’s ‘petulant schoolgirl’ act seems almost charming.
Queen Camel, Somerset
Sir: I can’t compose a smart reply to Rod Liddle’s article on dyslexia (17 September). But I have a dyslexic son who got a 2:1 in politics at Leicester University. His graduation was one of the proudest moments of my life and his. Rod Liddle’s casual dismissal of dyslexia made me cry.
Tadcaster, North Yorks