Equality of outcome
Sir: Rod Liddle exposes some deep flaws in the way children are prepared to play their part in adulthood (‘The kids aren’t all right’, 28 October). But one in particular merits further analysis. He is right to say that teachers’ imperative is to raise the D grade students at GCSE to a C, as a school is judged on the number of A-C grade passes it secures. So all the best teachers and all the extra resources are focused on the D grade children. An A grade student who could, with a bit of help, achieve an A* and thus begin their journey to Cambridge is ignored, and if he or she achieves only a B, that is a tick in the box; a success.
David Lammy accuses Oxbridge and other universities of failing to award places to students from disadvantaged backgrounds. Universities can only award places to students who are sufficiently gifted intellectually, and they can only do this by looking at the available evidence, principally in the form of exam results. It was Mr Lammy’s party in government which introduced the target system and promoted so rigorously the need for equality of outcome over equality of input. It is hard to see why this is in the nation’s best interests.
Sir: The Spectator was the first to ask quite how Generation Y is to believe in capitalism when they have no capital. Last week James Forsyth noted that Chancellor Hammond is not one to pull rabbits from hats, but is in need of something radical in his budget (‘Hammond can build his way out of trouble’, 28 October). An obvious answer would be to exempt gifts of shares from the current annual limits and requirement for the donor to survive seven years after making the gift. Received shares could be traded for others, but if the money is realised within, say, 12 months, then it should be taxed as income at higher rate.
Such a policy would have three rapid effects: inducing many to invest in the stock market for the personal purpose of handing wealth down; raising money, likely some from overseas, for British firms in the run-up to Brexit; and make Generation Y into shareholders, thereby also shooting Mr Corbyn’s fox. The details of such a policy should be kept very clear and simple, but for Mr Hammond it has the added benefits of being radical, strategically useful and likely to raise tax receipts as well. It is above all, Conservative.
Dr C.K. Robinson
Build on brownfield sites
Sir: In all the clamour about the need to build more homes (Politics, 28 October), is there any consideration of the effect it might have on our island’s most precious asset, its landscapes? With the population set to rise to 70 million by the middle of the next decade, it is one that has to be addressed. Meanwhile, any doubts raised about building on green spaces are all too readily dismissed as nimbyism. If build we must, it should be on brownfield sites only, while there is a stock of already existing urban buildings that should be restored for use.
The Middle East closet
Sir: I do not doubt the accounts of gay liaisons in the Middle East by John R. Bradley (‘Arabian nights’, 28 October). However, his article misses the point. In (most of) the West, gays can bring their boyfriend or girlfriend home to meet the parents. In Arabic society they cannot. While the raunchiness of illicit encounters may beguile, gay rights is about more than scoring a hook-up. We should applaud the guts of Hamed Sinno as one of the few campaigners in the region.
Lady Muck’s equal
Sir: I was very pleased to be reminded about Lady Muck by Julie Burchill (‘The return of Lady Muck’, 28 October). My grandmother, who was born in 1905 and brought up in east London, often used this memorable term of disapprobation. Spectator readers who might be anxious that it is sexist will be pleased to know there is a male version, also much used by my grandmother. He is Lord Dunabunk, a representative of flashy charlatan absconders.
Make work pay
Sir: In his article about universal credit (‘Destitute Britain’, 28 October), Frank Field calls for ‘rewinding policies that are destitution’s chief recruiter’. This is precisely what the new system sets out to do.
Birkenhead, his constituency, is one of the poorest parts of Britain. This is why Peter Davies, a local bookshop owner, expected staff would be grateful for extra work when he offered them more hours. But they turned him down, explaining that they would lose so many tax credits that they’d actually be worse off.
This, the unreformed welfare system, is destitution’s chief recruiter. It wastes money, it wastes lives, it ensnares millions — and universal credit is set up to lead people out of this trap. Yes, it has its teething problems. Any major reform would do. But so far, research shows that those on universal credit (as opposed to Jobseeker’s Allowance or tax credits) are more likely to be in work, and are likely to earn more in that work. When it comes to fighting poverty and destitution, welfare reform is the best weapon at our disposal.
Centre for Social Justice, London SW1
Who’s got more islands?
Sir: Hugh Thomson starts his fine review of Patrick Barkham’s book about the British islands (Books, 7 October) by stating that ‘Britain has 6,000 islands. Not as many as Sweden’s 30,000’. For an even more dramatic contrast he might have mentioned Norway, which has 239,057 islands.