The Spectator

Letters | 14 September 2017

Also: wind power is overblown, England’s football players, tapestries and phones in schools

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Fat responsibility

Sir: Prue Leith is right to note that the state picks up the bill for our national obesity problem (‘Our big fat problem’, 9 September). But the kind of large and expensive scheme she proposes only deepens the mindset that the government is responsible for our choices. Manufacturers should be forced to display hard-hitting facts about obesity on the labels of the unhealthiest food, in the vein of cigarette packets. This would leave people in no doubt about the consequences to their health, while avoiding extra cost to the state or punitive taxes which also hit those who exercise moderation.

Theo White

Chelmsford, Essex

Bring back smoking

Sir: Surely the way to counteract ballooning obesity would be to reverse the smoking ban, as obesity’s rise correlates directly with the imposition of the ban. If one looks at news films from the 1950s until that legislation, one sees that young people had perfect figures, clear skins and glossy hair. It seems that if people can’t smoke, they binge on junk food.

Nicky Haslam

London SW5

Overblown wind

Sir: James Murray’s claim that most countries are embracing decarbonisation is ill-informed (Letters, 9 September). For example, his claim that China is the world’s largest ‘cleantech’ investor may be true, but it overlooks the vast size of China’s economy: in 2015, it was responsible for 24 per cent of the world’s total electricity generation, yet only a tiny proportion of that was generated by wind and solar power. And current plans indicate that despite substantial investment, wind will by 2020 still be responsible for only about 6 per cent of electricity generation. As wind power in the UK is already responsible for more than 11 per cent of electric power, that’s hardly impressive. The reality is that China is continuing to invest massively in fossil fuel-based power plants that will dominate its energy mix for the foreseeable future.

Moreover, China is also investing vast sums in new coal-fired power generation and mining plant overseas, in particular in Africa, southeast Asia and the Middle East. And contrary to James Murray’s claim about the plans of ‘virtually every government on the planet’, developing countries throughout the world are adopting a similar strategy. Although already responsible for more than 65 per cent of global CO2 emissions, it seems they don’t believe decarbonisation is the most attractive development path.

Robin Guenier

St Albans, Hertfordshire

Teams, not players

Sir: Rod Liddle has missed a key point about England’s footballing malaise (‘Why English footballers are so useless’, 9 September).

Leaving aside that Malta and Slovakia have produced creditable results against much higher-ranked teams than England and that population has never been a reliable guide to quality, it is his summation of English players as ‘crap’ that rankles. The comment reveals a basic problem — why English ‘players’, why not the England team? We constantly focus on the individuals, expecting them to produce the magic they occasionally conjure up at their clubs every time they pull on an England shirt. Disappointment is inevitable.

We should, rather, focus on the team. That’s what the Spanish and Germans do. How many members of the 2010 or 2014 World Cup winning teams can you actually name? I managed four from each. I can easily recall their collective efficiency and cohesion, though. What we ought to do is take pressure off the individuals by concentrating solely on how the team performed as a unit. Giving an overall score out of ten would be a small step in the right direction.

Philip Patrick

Tokyo, Japan

Life’s rich tapestries

Sir: The V&A does indeed have a fantastic collection of tapestries, as there are woven rarities to be seen in so many of England’s great houses (Notes on tapestries, 9 September). Fellow tapestry enthusiasts might enjoy a visit to the Holburne museum in Bath. ‘Tapestry: Here and Now’ is a wonderful exhibition of modern work from many countries. It finishes on 1 October, so readers haven’t got long.

Anthony Weale

Frome, Somerset

Ban phones in school

Sir: In answer to the question posed by Rhiannon Williams in this autumn’s Spectator Schools, ‘Should schools ban mobile phones?’, I answer a resounding ‘Yes’. I firmly believe that electronic devices of any type have no place in childhood, and they are banned at the school where I am headmaster. Phones are not allowed on school premises at any time — for day children or boarders.

The parents are overwhelmingly supportive of our position. I don’t doubt that it makes the inevitable arguments over screen time easier at home, and more importantly, they experience the positive effect it has on their children. Our children are full of life and creativity, they revel in playing traditional games, and they talk happily and eloquently with each other and with adults.

ICT is a timetabled subject within our curriculum, and we also teach e-safety and awareness, but the critical difference is that the children’s lives are not dominated by a fixation on smartphones. Surely this is a better grounding from which to give children the personal maturity they need as they travel towards adulthood?

Peter Phillips

Headmaster, S. Anselm’s Preparatory School & College, Bakewell