The Spectator

Letters | 6 December 2012

The North in need

Sir: Neil O’Brien’s article on the North-South divide is welcome (‘The great divide’, 1 December). As a Geordie who spent much of his working life in the West Midlands before being immersed in the Westminster bubble for the last decade, London increasingly feels like a separate country. The wealth, the economic activity and the jobs are something that many communities only an hour and a half away on the train can only dream about.

Many of the heavily industrialised towns and cities never recovered from the recession of the early 1980s. We have generational unemployment and significant pockets lacking any aspiration. There is a lack of successful role models for the young, and of private sector activity.

Improvements to education are key, but not enough. There must be a complete reinvention of economies. This means in large swaths of the urban North policies are needed that are not timid in approach, but where new businesses have long-term holidays from tax, national insurance and employment legislation. Essentially, we have to tear up the rules holding back the start-up and growth of business.

The approach then becomes not only tightening up on a benefits culture, but providing the jobs and opportunities that are desperately needed.
David Frost CBE

Sutton Coldfield

Greek fire

Sir: Congratulations to Thomas Hodgkinson (‘Going overboard’, 24 November) for his entertaining story of the Scientologists’ unsuccessful invasion of Corfu in 1968. The only proper reaction to cults is ridicule. However, as he hinted, their eviction from the island was a rare victory. Semi-criminal organisations posing as religions have continued to recruit growing numbers of vulnerable people by deception, and proceeded to ruin their and their families’ lives.

It is shaming that while our own political masters, misled by lazy Home Office civil servants, have consistently refused to do anything about this, the ‘Greek Colonels’ showed themselves to be considerably more enlightened.

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