Ask the English
Sir: Toby Young rightly criticises the juvenile posturing of the devolved governments of the Union over Covid-19 (No sacred cows, 24 October). Each of these governments has implemented extreme lockdown measures without consideration of their cost to the taxpayer. As 90 per cent of British taxpayers are English, this represents an egregious example of ‘taxation without representation’.
In contrast, I watched the Commons announcement of a Tier 3 lockdown in the north of England, which was followed by an opposition reply, and then a reply from the SNP. Surely I wasn’t the only Englishman to ask: ‘What’s it got to do with them?’ Toby Young is right to call for a new referendum to bring this nonsense to a halt. However, he also needs to advocate for a referendum to be held in England. It would be highly unfair for the English electorate to be left out of a decision to dissolve the Union. English contempt for the antics of Nicola Sturgeon and Mark Drakeford may well lead to a close-run contest.
Hayling Island, Hampshire
How Sturgeon does it
Sir: I feel the need to reply to your nationalist correspondent on the state of the Union (Letters, 24 October). He feels that Scotland has handled the pandemic better than England; this may be true, if only on population density grounds. However, the facts say otherwise: as measured by excess deaths, Scotland has the third worst result in Europe. Test and Trace in Scotland is no better than elsewhere. Scotland has the same care-home scandal as in the rest of the UK. Scotland is ‘perceived’ as doing better because the First Minister is a far better communicator than Boris.
Bo’ness, West Lothian
The Swedish experiment
Sir: Matthew Parris and Matt Ridley (17 October) are consistently keen supporters of the Swedish approach to Covid-19. However, they avoid mentioning comparisons with Sweden’s three neighbours. In deaths per million inhabitants, the Swedish experiment has resulted in more than nine times as many deaths as Finland, more than five times as many as Denmark, and more than ten times as many as Norway.
Not for everyone
Sir: Mr Orna-Ornstein’s letter last week (24 October) ends with the exhortation that ‘the National Trust is for everyone’. But it isn’t, and its director of culture and engagement has no reason to make it so. The National Trust has an obligation to be accessible to those who wish to enjoy its properties and facilities, that is all. Premier League football or golf or the Royal Opera House are not ‘for everyone’, and we would be surprised if their managers felt it their duty to make them so. By all means encourage new visitors — but it has to be by offering what has made the Trust so popular to date. If he looks after the culture properly, the engagement will naturally follow.
Sir: London is not the only city to be suffering a closure of highways (‘Fuming’, 24 October). In my neighbourhood in Edinburgh, an alternative route parallel to the main highway has been closed. ‘Covid-19 safety measures’ the bright yellow sign tells us. The main highway has been narrowed, first by temporary bollards, now by more permanent structures. The result has been congestion, traffic jams, scarcity of parking and a reduction in footfall for the local shops. All this has been done under the feel-good slogan of ‘Spaces for People’ and the convenient excuse of Covid.
Grains of truth
Sir: With my interest piqued by Anne Sebba’s review (24 October), I fully intend to read Our Daily Bread, which sounds like a profound little volume. However, I must point out that Pharaoh had no famous dream, interpreted by Joseph, ‘that he had three baskets of white bread on his head’. Pharaoh’s dreams (Genesis 41) were of fat and thin cows and ears of corn. It was Pharaoh’s imprisoned baker (Genesis 40 — ably portrayed by Christopher Biggins in the film adaptation of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat) who dreamt of the three baskets. Oddly, the usual Hebrew word for bread (lechem) isn’t used there, but a unique word, ‘chori’, which may better be translated as cake.
Sir: I was pleased by Graham Dimmock’s endorsement of the Severn Barrage project (Letters, 24 October) but disappointed that he couched it in such measured tones. This is a national disgrace. The government, and several before it, have crassly ignored the overwhelming advantages of greenness, propinquity to the shore and absolute certainty of continuous availability that is on offer, so superior to the vulnerable, adventitious alternative of nuclear power or flimsy wind farms at the outer reaches of our waters. Public outcry must surmount these difficult times and force HMG to change what passes for its mind.
Wishing Jeremy well
Sir: Jeremy Clarke writes without any trace of self-pity about his latest heath issues (Low Life, 24 October), but I have no doubt every Speccie reader will have felt a twinge of sadness upon reading that his cancer has returned. I imagine that we will all raise a quiet glass and wish him the very best for his treatment in France.
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