The Spectator

Letters | 28 July 2016

Also: bringing back the 11-plus, Sir Edward Heath’s musicianship, the depression of the young; gospel music

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Better Europeans

Sir: There are many reasons why a majority of people in the UK voted to leave the European Union. Among them was certainly not a wish to be inhospitable and uncooperative with our fellow Europeans (Leading article, 23 July). Now it is even more important that EU nationals in Britain should have their status respected and not be used as a bargaining point in future relations with Brussels. Nor should we forget the considerable contribution that so many of them make to our national wellbeing. Furthermore, what about the two million or so UK nationals living and settled in many parts of Europe? Are they to be ignored and their security put at risk for no valid purpose? Paradoxically, Brexit should encourage us to be better Europeans and foster mutual generosity and understanding in every way possible.

Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor

London SW1

An act of self-harm

Sir: I am still angry at the exaggerations made by the Leave campaign, but even they did not stoop so low as to question whether EU migrants already in Britain should be somehow deported. It would be an unthinkable act of self-harm not to let EU nationals stay and continue to contribute to our economy — and, just as importantly, contribute to the wonderful cultural richness we value. My own businesses would suffer terribly without the hard work of many EU nationals. I cannot understand why the hideous idea of kicking them out is even being considered. One in five tech businesses in the UK is started by an immigrant. These businesses are the future and we must support them.

Martha Lane-Fox

London W1

New Scots are welcome

Sir: There may be confusion about the role of EU immigrants in Westminster, but there’s none in Scotland. Our message is clear: this is your home, you are welcome here, your contribution is valued. Scotland needs immigration, and we’ve been delighted to welcome EU citizens here over the last few years and decades. They are the new Scots. They are our nurses, teachers, small-business owners and are an important and cherished part of our society. It’s quite understandable that people are aghast at Theresa May using EU immigrants as bargaining chips. But it is a chilling reminder of just how ‘nasty’ the Tory party still is. As Nicola Sturgeon was able to say to all EU nationals after the referendum: you’re welcome, and if you choose to make Scotland your home then we’ll welcome you, and thank you for strengthening our country. This wasn’t a radical statement: it was a statement of basic humanity and decency. It’s shocking that there has been no echo of this in the UK government.

Angus Robertson

SNP Leader in Westminster, London SW1

Turning away talent

Sir: After the Brexit vote, we at Index Ventures had been operating under the assumption that the new government would be sensible and not seek to dismantle one of the best things to have happened to London over the last 20 years — namely its transformation into a premier base for entrepreneurs starting and building innovative, technology-driven businesses. So it’s deeply troubling that the status of EU nationals already living here has been put into question.

The advocates of Brexit said this was not about Britain turning in on itself; that this was about global ambition. Today, however, the world is not quite sure — every one of these small signs matters. For Britain to refuse to guarantee the status of EU residents who came here legally risks sending a message: that Britain’s new government might not welcome global talent.

Stemming the flow of talented engineers, marketers, designers and other key employees from Europe — let alone kicking out the ones who are already here — would devastate the most vibrant part of the British economy and set London back by decades. It’s not even a question of whether there is enough British talent to take their place. I suspect that young people who make up the majority of the workforce in these companies would rather join startups in Berlin, Amsterdam or Dublin than stay in a country that is turning back the clock.

Right now, every day, the most talented EU citizens are considering where to base, where to launch and where to grow their businesses. The new uncertainty over their place in Britain puts the country at a distinct disadvantage.

Neil Rimer

Index Ventures, London W1

Citizen Helga

Sir: Your leader dealt with the post-Brexit uncertainty of Helga Hunter’s position as a ‘German national’ who has lived in Scotland since 1968. It failed to explain why the obvious route of resolving this uncertainty had been unexplored in the intervening 45 years. One imagines citizenship would be easily granted. Is fealty too much for Britain to expect in return for residency nowadays?

Ross Parker

Bishop Sutton, Somerset

Passport to panic

Sir: I am deeply grateful to Frances Robinson for reminding me of a breed of human I thought had passed from our national history (‘Never gonna give EU up’, 23 July). I recall as a boy my father describing such people to me. In 1940 there were quite a few of them in our native Ashford, Kent, just after Dunkirk, telling anyone who would listen that by midsummer the Wehrmacht would be marching up the High Street.

Back then there was genuine peril and menace. Today no one has threatened tiddlysquat against our passport-holders resident on the continent, nor those living here who wish to travel there. But the breed is still with us.

So let us tonight raise our glasses in toast: ‘Wimps of the land unite. You have nothing to lose but your sphincters’.

Frederick Forsyth,

Beaconsfield, Bucks

Out of the loop

Sir: I’m very glad that Mary Wakefield wrote her article about young people today and their use of antidepressants (‘What’s to blame for a generation’s depression?’, 16 July). When I was that age, I also got terrified about certain things.

I’m a Samaritan. I listen to (or more often email) a lot of the young people you write about. Manic texting and social media compound the problem: they are constantly looking in, in a closed loop, rather than looking out. Of the people I have spoken to, the ones that begin to pull through have not done so thanks to SSRIs or therapy, but because someone has succeeded in launching them back into real life.

William Sibree

Chart Sutton, Kent

Whose disadvantage?

Sir: Toby Young says the argument that state grammars provide opportunities for bright working-class children is undermined by the fact that ‘few of the pupils at England’s remaining grammars are from low-income families’ (Status Anxiety, 23 July).

The reason for this is simple: as state grammar school coverage is now restricted to a few leafier pockets of the country — Kent and Buckinghamshire, for example — grammar places are mainly available to children from those areas, or those whose parents have the means to move into their catchments.

If the 11+ selective system was restored nationwide, the country’s overall grammar school intake would subsequently be far more diverse. A nationwide roll-out of the grammar school system would seem to me a great deal fairer than Young’s ‘positive discrimination’ idea in which ‘super-grammars’ would discriminate against anybody not from a ‘disadvantaged background’. Exactly how, for example, would a schoolchild’s background be measured as disadvantaged enough for them to qualify for entry?

Robert Selby

Sevenoaks, Kent

Heath’s hinterland

Sir: It is easy to sneer at Edward Heath, as Richard Ingrams does in his review of Michael McManus’s book (23 July). But we look in vain at today’s one-dimensional politicians for anyone with a ‘hinterland’ to compare with the former prime minister’s accomplishments as a musician, art collector and international yachtsman as well as a statesman.

The late music critic Edward Greenfield was, perhaps, a more discerning judge of musicianship than Ingrams. He wrote two years ago that Heath’s ‘red-blooded’ performance of Elgar’s Cockaigne overture with the London Symphony Orchestra in 1971 ‘still holds its own against any rival version in the catalogue’. And his performance of Beethoven’s Triple Concerto with Trio Zingara and the English Chamber Orchestra was recommended in record guides as one of the best.

David Woodhead

Leatherhead, Surrey

Reasons to believe

Sir: It is a pity that Damian Thompson has chosen to review our festival ‘Belief and Beyond Belief’ in such a definitive way before we have finished devising it (‘Losing their religion’, 23 July). Indeed we’re at an early enough stage of planning that there is time for Mr Thompson to contribute his ideas, and his input would be welcome. ‘Belief and Beyond Belief’ is not claiming to cover the entire history of religion, nor to be a comprehensive survey of all the ways religion has influenced art and society. However, to reassure Mr Thompson, the festival will explore the influence that religious faith has had on a selected range of composers, artists and writers.

At a time of increasing polarisation between extremism and secularism, the festival also aims to provide a space for tolerant and inquisitive discussion for people of all faiths and backgrounds. We are consulting with a variety of institutions, and encourage contributions from across the spectrum of secular and religious thought.

Mr Thompson does not have the full context of LPO’s programme which was (counter to his suggestion) specifically designed to explore the themes of the festival. We wish he’d got in touch before writing an article that makes assumptions that he really can’t substantiate.

Jude Kelly CBE

Artistic Director, Southbank Centre

Timothy Walker

Chief Executive and Artistic Director, London Philharmonic Orchestra

Undignified exit

Sir: Whatever his allies may feel, George Osborne lost the right to leave the office of Chancellor of the Exchequer with dignity (Politics, 23 July) after his claim that each household would be £4,300 worse off in 2030 and his warning of an emergency budget if the country voted to leave the EU. Both of these scare tactics were unworthy of a holder of high office.

Malcolm Watson

Welford, Berkshire

Gospel truth

Sir: Your reviewer Kate Chisholm states, of gospel music: ‘They sing it in Islamabad, Oslo, Jakarta, Ghana and Johannesburg. It has a universal message of hope. And it was born in the slave plantations of North America’ (‘Dramatic effect’, 23 July). I thought it had been established that gospel singing in North America originated from the unaccompanied singing of settlers belonging to extreme Protestant sects of the Scottish Western Isles?

Elizabeth Roberts

Moffat, Dumfries and Galloway