Not up to snuff
Sir: The country is indeed crying out for expertise, as James Ball and Andrew Greenway wrote last week (‘The rise of the bluffocracy’, 18 August). But the
main problem is with the civil service, not politicians.
The civil service has traditionally wanted experts to be ‘on tap, not on top’. This attitude has done immense damage to Britain. Since 1970 the scientific civil service has been abolished in a series of reductions and privatisations. The result in 2001 was that there was nobody in government who had any clue about the epidemic of foot and mouth disease.
In the education department there seems to be nobody who understands what a standard deviation is; nobody who appreciates the bottom one-sixth of the ‘Bell Curve’. The result is a vast waste of money within the education budget.
Perhaps The Spectator could set an example by instituting a science column that combines scientific excellence with the magazine’s high standard of writing.
Call their bluff
Sir: James Ball and Andrew Greenway suggest our public institutions need to let the experts in. Unfortunately, the bluffers in charge of those institutions have been deluding themselves for years that they have been employing experts. These ‘experts’ are the über-bluffers of the world, more commonly known as management consultants. They hold many meetings and then produce a report setting out the blindingly obvious, supported by meaningless statistics and pretty graphs, and crammed with buzzwords.
So Messrs Ball and Greenway are correct that what we need are real experts. But those in the top echelons of these institutions also need to be able to admit that they are not always right and to listen to the ideas put forward by their more junior colleagues. Otherwise, nothing will change.
A woman’s place
Sir: I was amused by Cosmo Landesman’s article (‘Desperate housewives’, 11 August) claiming that women want only one thing from a man: a nice house. As a female owner of a big beautiful house in London, I have experienced a similar reaction from men when they have seen my home. It soon becomes apparent that they are more interested in my floor plan than in me; they seem surprised that I should own such a home and over time it seems to rankle. I would like to think, too, that I am above average in looks and an intelligent Spectator reader. So I certainly will not be looking for a male with a ‘beautiful big house’ as Mr Landesman suggests. I am quite happy in my own.
Ms Dawn Harverson
Sir: I have every sympathy with Peter Hitchens’s apparent unfair treatment from Wikipedia (‘War of words’, 18 August). My own experience was somewhat different — perhaps because I sought to rectify matters differently.
Last January, my daughter and I attended a lecture at the British Library by the cultural historian Christopher Frayling. I was so impressed that, on the train home, I updated Mr Frayling’s Wikipedia profile with a reference to his talk. On arriving home, I told my wife about my contribution — but it had disappeared. When I investigated, it seemed that an editor had thought my entry was false. I therefore restored what I had previously entered with a footnote referencing the British Library website, which proved that Mr Frayling had indeed given one of the Hogwarts Curriculum Lectures on the subject of Defence against the Dark Arts.
My Wikipedia entry is still there. And I am now confident that I can tackle any vampire who might choose to harm me or anyone I know.
Sir: I read Jennifer Williams’s article (‘A grave omission’, 18 August) on rough sleepers with interest — in particular her point about the recording of rough sleeper deaths. The death of any vulnerable person on our streets is a complete tragedy. Where abuse or neglect is suspected, it is absolutely right that there should be a serious case review. The government’s rough sleeping strategy commits us to do just this.
More fundamentally, our strategy provides a foundation towards our goal of ending rough sleeping by 2027. This includes additional NHS money for targeted health support, funding to help rough sleepers into somewhere safe to stay and a review of legislation. We will publish annual updates to track progress and implement effective new measures to prevent people from sleeping rough in the first place, to help people off the streets and to sustain their recovery. Rough sleeping should be a thing of the past and the strategy will help drive change for some of the most vulnerable in our community.
James Brokenshire MP
(Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government)
Some warning signs
Sir: Matthew Parris is spot-on in identifying those who fixate on politics when they would do better sorting out their own problems (‘Obsessed with politics? Your life’s gone wrong’, 18 August). Could I warn your readers of an early symptom of this unfortunate condition — namely a compulsion to fire off a letter to The Spectator.