Helping the homeless
Sir: The number of rough sleepers in one of the richest countries on the planet is surely a finger of accusation pointed at our generation (‘Wake-up call’, 31 August). Adam Holloway is correct when he says that giving cash directly to those living on the streets often compounds rather than alleviates the problem.
Smarter ways should be found to direct compassion effectively, and a new charity, Nextmeal, is attempting to do just this. It uses GPS mapping technology to locate the nearest centre helping the homeless. The database currently details almost 400 such centres across the country, most of which are charities that can dovetail with state services. Thousands of cards have been printed with a link to the website, www.nextmeal.co.uk. Giving the card rather than cash directs people, via the website, to the closest place of safety offering food, support and help. Cards are being distributed through businesses, faith groups, transport hubs and hospitals. We should all carry a few on our person.
There are no simple answers, but there are ways in which smart technology such as this might enable our generally caring population to help. My Labour colleague Catherine West and I will be hosting a meeting at the House of Commons on 17 October to introduce Nextmeal to decision-makers and supporters across parliament. We hope to attract significant support for this valuable initiative.
MP for Royal Sutton Coldfield
Sir: I was amused to see Rodric Braithwaite echo the ‘percentage claim’ that forms a major plank of Remainer narrative (‘Failure of the grand design’, 31 August) when he contrasts the ‘two thirds’ of the electorate who in 1975 supported EEC membership against the ‘small margin’ by which people voted to leave the EU in 2016.
The pro-EU vote in 1975 was indeed 67.23 per cent compared with the anti-EU vote share in 2016 of 51.89 per cent. But the number of votes cast tells a different story. The 17,378,581 pro-EU votes in 1975 do not constitute such an overwhelming argument when compared with the astonishingly similar 17,410,742 anti-EU votes in 2016; a negligible swing against the EU of 32,161 votes. If 17 million votes were enough to secure membership 44 years ago, then surely the same amount must qualify for now tearing up the membership card?
Chipping Sodbury, South Gloucestershire
Sir: The answer to the current breakdown of law and order would be far better solved by the establishment of a part-time paid police reserve, along the lines of the highly successful retained firefighters service, rather than recruiting 20,000 graduates as regular police officers (‘Black and blue’, 24 August).
The advantages of a paid police reserve are many. For a start, they would be mostly available at weekends, when so much crime is committed and when police forces are already fully stretched. They would also enable rural areas to once again enjoy a police presence. Police stations in market towns would be able to stay open at weekends and could be re-established in towns where they have been closed. But perhaps most importantly they would reconnect the police with the community they are meant to be policing.
Finally a paid police reserve would be enormously cheaper than expanding the regular police, and would enable regular policemen to see more of their families.
Sir: Bruce Anderson refers to Neville Chamberlain’s taste for Chateau Margaux (Drink, 31 August). But Chamberlain came nowhere near Mr Anderson’s remarkable consumption. Natural abstemiousness and recurrent gout confined him to an occasional glass, often to accompany his voracious reading of Shakespeare, Conrad, George Eliot and a host of other authors. He was also a fine writer, but his death two months after resigning as Churchill’s right-hand man in September 1940 deprived the world of his account of his quest for peace.
Instead Churchill’s post-war memoirs became the authorised version, and Tim Bouverie, to whom Anderson refers, has reprised the familiar themes. The story will eventually be told in a responsible historical manner that does Chamberlain justice, and pays proper regard to his huge spending on defence. As Professor David Dilks, the leading authority on Chamberlain has shown, rearmament consumed some 50 per cent of GNP in his premiership. Eighty years ago this week Chamberlain took a united, re-armed nation to war in alliance with the self-governing Dominions, ensuring that during the years ahead Britain never stood alone, as it would have done if no agreement had been reached at Munich.
Alistair Lexden (Author of Neville Chamberlain: Redressing the Balance, 2018)
House of Lords, London SW1
Sir: Prince Harry lecturing others about climate responsibility while ignoring his own advice invites disdain (Letters, 31 August). It has damaged the goodwill he enjoyed as Diana’s son and as a remarkable young man in his own right. By all means let him rejoin the army if he wishes. Unfortunately he is now mainly regarded as a celebrity, which would make things more difficult for him.
Sir: I am very glad that the admirable Martin Vander Weyer has been eating so well in France, but I wonder if it betrays an essential confusion about Europe that in the Dordogne he has been enjoying (Spanish) gazpacho and (Italian) risotto (Any other business, 31 August). Whatever happened to terroir?