What the NHS needs
Sir: James Forsyth and Fraser Nelson are right (‘The great Tory health splurge,’ 26 May): an extra 3 per cent will not solve the Tories’ political problem. Labour will still trumpet NHS deficiencies, waste will continue and the NHS will demand ever more resources.
Only structural change will solve the problems inherent in our state healthcare monopoly. First, we need to set sustainable limits on what the NHS should provide, learning from other countries how to restrain demand responsibly. Second, we need to look beyond how adult social care is funded, to how it should fit with the NHS. Third, we must slash the top-heavy bureaucracy and split NHS England into manageable units (the size of NHS Scotland, say). Without such radical action, another £350 million will only buy Theresa May more heartache.
Senior Fellow, Adam Smith Institute
The price of justice
Sir: As a criminal barrister, I was interested to read that ‘The Brexit bus pledge has turned the Conservatives into big spenders’ (26 May). As a result of many years of under-investment and cuts, the right to a fair trial has been undermined, in that the current regime of disclosure in criminal trials is no longer fit for purpose. The levels of remuneration at the Criminal Bar are derisory and discriminatory. Over the past 20 years we have seen the fees that we receive cut by at least a third. Many desperate people in need of representation no longer qualify for legal aid. The law is fast becoming a profession for the rich to be used by the rich. Both the courts and the Crown Prosecution Service are woefully understaffed, and cases are being listed many months and in some cases years after charge. There is an urgent need for more judges to be appointed and courts to be built. Instead, courts are being closed and many of those that remain open are in an appalling state of disrepair.
The United Kingdom used to be the gold standard for justice in the whole world. Not any more. No purpose is achieved in having laws that uphold equality, justice and order when the system in place to deliver them encourages inequality, injustice and chaos. A relatively small amount of money would help ameliorate the situation and help secure a legacy of continued excellence in advocacy for generations to come.
Elizabeth I and the Turks
Sir: Ed Husain is wrong to suggest that Queen Elizabeth I favoured Islam (‘The real special relationship’, 26 May). When the warships and corsairs of the Muslim Ottomans were besieging Malta, and Sultan Suleiman, anticipating victory, had spoken of invading western Europe through Italy, she wrote: ‘If the Turks should prevail against the Isle of Malta, it is uncertain what further peril might follow to the rest of Christendom.’ Luckily, a string of Ottoman victories and further expansion ended with a famous Muslim defeat. Voltaire said: ‘Nothing is better known than the Great Siege of Malta.’
A Brexit myth
Sir: A neat but delusional mythology appears to be gaining currency (see, for example, Lloyd Evans’s interview with Bernard-Henri Lévy, 26 May) that the Brexit referendum can be understood as a conflict between metropolitan elitists voting Remain and the frustrated masses beyond the M25 longing to Leave. This analysis may chime satisfyingly with recent trends in some other democracies, but it distorts what happened in this one. In the two UK countries furthest from London, the votes went against Brexiting by bigger margins than the UK-wide Leave majority: 56-44 in Northern Ireland, and 62-38 in Scotland. London vs The Rest only works if The Rest ends at Carlisle. Incidentally, both these margins were clearer than the supposedly definitive outcome of Scotland’s 2014 independence referendum.
On the wrong track
Sir: I happened to read Guy Scoular’s letter about the proposed new railway (‘Chugging back in time’, 26 May), in which he says that he looks forward to travelling on the reinstated line, only minutes before I received a long and impassioned email from one of the local families who will be most affected by the works on the Kent and East Sussex Railway. They have given me full permission to quote from their letter.
‘Following the track removal [in the 1960s]… the land has either been ploughed-in and returned to productive arable land or has reverted to fully mature woodland alongside the ancient water meadows and pasture. Many of you will know that our farm is unique in its biodiversity due to the flood plain, upland ancient orchards and the complete lack of modern farming that has now generated some superb meadow and woodland habitats which support some very rare species. Ecologists that have visited recently identify the farm as “a jewel in the Weald”. It seems clear to us that [the Directors of the Rother Valley Railway] want to see their trains running all over the country… We have no issue with the existing Kent and East Sussex Railway and are not anti-steam, but to threaten a whole village with flooding, congestion and pollution and to forcibly “land grab” farmers’ homes for the sake of a vanity project is simply unacceptable.’
I know these farmers very well, and they are decent and hard-working people. It would seem that their objections carry almost no weight. Perhaps The Spectator may serve to offer a point of view different from that of Mr Scoular.
Sutton Mandeville, Salisbury