Sir: Piers Ackerman is either indulging in a piece of tabloid provocation or he is on the rocky road to irrationality when he suggests that the gay community should apologise and ‘pay’ for the historical actions of paedophiles guilty of abuse of young males. You cannot pick and choose your offenders in a matter as serious as this while indulging in some subtle gay bashing on the side. The gender of the victims is in fact immaterial; the unavoidable fact is that abuse of children of both sexes, within and outside institutions, is overwhelmingly carried out by male paedophiles. So, according to Mr Ackerman’s logic perhaps we should ask the nation’s 12 million-odd men to apologise.
Abuse of power
Sir: I wish to express my disappointment that you have published an article (Love is love, boys – The Spectator 17 March 2018) that perpetuates the mythical link between homosexuality and paedophilia. Child abuse has nothing to do with the sexuality of the perpetrator. Child abusers can be heterosexual, bisexual, asexual or even homosexual. Paedophilia is a mental disorder to do with prepubescent children. It has nothing to do with natural loving relationships between two adults. The majority of paedophiles are heterosexual. If the majority of abusers identified by the Royal Commission were homosexual it would have formed the basis of the reporting. Child abuse is not specifically about acts of sex or sexual attraction.
Sexual assault is about abuse of power. If Piers Akerman believes that a community is responsible for the acts of its members I look forward to his apologies for the murders of Luke Batty and Jill Meagher, the vilification of Yassmin Abdel-Magied and the assaults by National Rugby League players.
Reform National Insurance
Sir: One objection to an increase in National Insurance contributions to rescue the NHS is that it would once again exempt from contributing those who most heavily use the NHS — the retired — and heap yet more of the burden on the working young who least use it and can least afford it (‘The Tory tax bombshell’, 17 March).
As you acknowledge, National Insurance contributions long ago ceased to be purely contributions into a pension and sickness benefit scheme, and became part of general taxation. This means that entirely exempting retirees from contributing when many of them are on incomes larger than the working young is quite impossible to justify.
If the Tories are to increase National Insurance contributions again, it is essential that it be combined with a phased reform of its structure, so that the element in it which funds anything other than the state pension is levied on all people of all ages based purely on income.
The only possible objection to this is that retirees are predominantly Tory voters. But this is a double-edged sword: a Labour attack on that front will arguably do far more damage to the Tory vote among the working population than it will among the retired.
A rounded education
Sir: In her piece in Spectator Schools, Eleanor Doughty overlooks a key benefit of private schools which, alas, can no longer be found in many parts of the state sector: the opportunity to gain many skills which cannot be obtained from the ‘academic’ part of the curriculum (‘Why pay for the privilege?’, 17 March).
It is true that many state schools are equal to, and in some cases outperform, their private counterparts by measure of academic results. Yet to judge education purely on this basis is to ignore a core part of schooling which is of paramount importance — the ‘other half’ of the curriculum. Public schools provide a plethora of clubs, societies and teams which state schools simply cannot compete with. Pursuing other interests in a competitive environment is a key facet of forming one’s character, inculcating pupils with skills such as resilience, leadership and adaptability which are seldom fostered in the classroom.
If parents are solely concerned with securing the best results for their children, then I am sure they will be able to find a comprehensive school which satisfies their requirements. However, if they’d prefer a truly rounded education, then (regrettably, I might add) a public school is the only option.
Sir: Leslie Buchanan (Letters, 17 March) compares the 1:25 ratio of bureaucrats to populace in Sunderland unfavourably with the 1:20,000 ratio of the EU. However, since the EU has 28 governments also employing bureaucrats to provide the services which Sunderland provides for its inhabitants, this is as misleading a comparison as I have ever seen. As to whether the inhabitants of Sunderland were well-informed when they voted, perhaps they were aware that 2016 was the first year since 1995 when the Court of Auditors did not feel obliged to state that the EU accounts were not free of significant errors — and before 1995 the Court was not required to check this possibility, so 2016 may have been the first year ever.
Must try harder
Sir: Steve Bannon is ‘a practising Catholic’ who has ‘been married and divorced three times’ (‘Populism, fascism — who cares?’, 17 March). At 64, Mr Bannon needs to start practising a lot harder.