SIR – For many years, a Conservative majority has not resulted in Conservative governments.
Successive Conservative and Labour prime ministers, from John Major to the present incumbent, could have sat happily in each other’s Cabinets. With a couple of exceptions, no one in Boris Johnson’s Cabinet would have earned a place in Margaret Thatcher’s.
Consensus policies of state intervention, high taxation and wasteful public spending have characterised the last 30 years. Conservative values – a small state, low taxes, individual freedom and enterprise – have been honoured in the breach rather than the observance.
Now that Brexit has happened, we need a centre-Right government that will seize the opportunities to trade freely, and encourage private enterprise to stimulate the economic growth required to repair the social, economic and mental damage inflicted by repeated lockdowns. MPs have been sidelined as ministers govern by decree. Voters backed Tory candidates not just because of Brexit, but also in the belief that they represented a love of freedom, and limited state control. Their good faith must be repaid.
SIR – As the archetypal small businessman and entrepreneur – home owner, self-employed and with a single additional property to rent – I ought to be the very definition of a Conservative voter.
However, in the past 11 years of Tory rule, I cannot think of a single policy implemented by any Chancellor that has been of encouragement to me, never mind benefit.
Darley Abbey, Derbyshire
SIR – If you assume that about 30 million people work in the UK, then the number now paying the 40 per cent tax rate is staggering – from one in 15 (two million) in the early Nineties to one in six (five million) in the next couple of years. It’s actually worse than that because the population was smaller then.
These are not the really wealthy – just those aspiring to a better life in good, middle-of-the road jobs. With another 5 per cent rise in council tax, once again Middle England is being punished for years of government overspending.
SIR – Claims that businesses will leave the UK because of future increases in the rate of corporation tax are wide of the mark. Likewise, corporate tax incentives, such as super-deductions for investments in plant and machinery, will have little impact.
Thirty-five years of working in the tax world convinced me that few business leaders have much understanding of tax. They prefer to be measured on pre-tax profits. Business decisions are made for many reasons, but corporate tax is rarely one of them.
SIR – Simon Bathurst Brown writes in support of HS2 (Letters, February 14 and 28). As justification for the continued damage to the countryside and the exchequer of high-speed rail, he cites the damage caused by historic transport infrastructure.
The expansion of canal and rail systems in earlier centuries was overseen by engineering giants such as George Stephenson and Isambard Kingdom Brunel, who worked with the environment rather than against it. High-speed rail is of little benefit in our small country, with its closely spaced population centres, but it is what makes the planned route inflexible and thus so damaging.
Now is the time to freeze this vanity project for overall review – before the tunnel boring machines can begin to destroy the geology of the Chilterns.
East Grinstead, West Sussex
SIR – Does anyone know why, according to the Transport Secretary Grant Shapps, reinstating motorway hard shoulders will require buying an area of land equivalent to 700 Wembleys (report, February 28)?
This implies creating additional lanes to serve as hard shoulders on smart motorways, rather than converting “live lanes” back to hard shoulders.
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Alan D Barnes
Spreading the sound
SIR – The importance of attracting younger generations to classical music (Letters, February 28) cannot be overstated. Offering tuition in schools is vital, as is the availability of live performances, not only in major cities but also in smaller theatres and halls.
In London during the Fifties and Sixties, the Royal Festival Hall was filled for classical music concerts almost every evening. Tickets to see major British and overseas orchestras and soloists cost just a few shillings. As a teenager, I often went there three times a week. The Royal Albert Hall, meanwhile, was packed on Sunday nights for Tchaikovsky extravaganzas.
SIR – Linda Hughes and Evelyn Gottlieb are absolutely right about the results of Radio 3’s search for younger listeners.
In a typical half-hour on the Saturday-morning breakfast programme, one is now lucky to hear 15 minutes of true classical music, and the conversation seldom reaches even sixth-form level. In one such slot recently, we were treated to Charles Aznavour, a discussion on the merits of the croissant, and assorted extracts of birdsong from the BBC sound archives.
“The home of classical music”? For me, alas, no more. I am increasingly grateful for online alternatives where one can listen to classical music uninterrupted by either advertising or the inanities which pass for presenter comment at the BBC these days. My own favourite is Radio Swiss Classic.
SIR – With the exceptions of David Mellor and Alexander Armstrong, Classic FM has become the place for pensioned-off BBC announcers with little or no attachment to classical music. The BBC has also downgraded its classical offering.
There is an opening for musicians – preferably young, skilled purveyors of their art – to bring back serious classical broadcasting, free from commercials and irrelevant chit-chat. Millions of us would happily offer financial support for such a venture.
Facebook ad rules
SIR – Daniel Hannan claims that Facebook “banned” an article of his for the John Locke Institute, and that it was impossible to know why this had happened. The article itself was never banned: it is still very much available on Facebook. It was only advertisements promoting Lord Hannan’s piece which we rejected.
This is because, in 2018, we introduced transparency rules around certain ads. Anybody who wants to run ads about social issues, elections or politics must go through a verification process to prove who they are and that they live in the UK. Every political ad also has to be labelled so people can see who has paid for it. These rules cover all ads promoted by or featuring people who hold a political office, including members of the House of Lords such as Lord Hannan.
The John Locke Institute will have been informed of this when the ad was turned down. If it completes the authorisation process, it will of course be able to run this advertisement.
Head of UK Public Policy, Facebook
Bypassing the GP
SIR – People with cancer symptoms should indeed be allowed to bypass their GPs.
Early last year I asked for a PSA blood test to check for prostate cancer. My surgery then cancelled the test.
When my blood was tested for something else in July, I insisted my PSA was checked as well. The surgery said all readings were “fine”. I asked why the single-page I’d been given didn’t mention PSA, and found that I should have been shown four more, including an alarming PSA count. After a second test, the doctor said he’d refer me to Bedford Hospital urgently.
Hearing nothing, I phoned the surgery, and my GP phoned back to confess that he had forgotten to make the referral, which he then did. Luckily the hospital has since been exemplary.
Search for meaning
SIR – Professor Nigel Biggar, writing about Scottish nationalism, refers to the “quasi-religious need to infuse quotidian lives with transcendent meaning.” I would politely suggest that he takes advice from the Plain English Society.
David S Ainsworth
The long campaign for Churchill’s papers
SIR – Although I agree with everything that Sir Nicholas Soames says about Cambridge University’s recent “trashing” of his grandfather’s reputation (report, February 28), I would urge him to recall how the material held by Churchill College (the Churchill Archive Centre) came into its possession.
While Churchill’s post-1945 papers had been donated by his wife, his heirs appeared keen to maximise the value of the great man’s assets for the prior period (including an enormous number of public documents derived from his long career in Parliament), which were ultimately sold, rather than bequeathed, to the nation.
At one point there were even fears that this treasure could be sold abroad. Eventually, however, in 1995, public money from the National Heritage Memorial Fund was found, and the collection was sold for £12.5 million.
Perhaps some of that money could be used to counter the current, “idiotically sloppy” attitudes of which Sir Nicholas rightly complains.
Dr Michael A Fopp
Old coins that will never lose their value
SIR – Old coins do indeed have meaning many years later (Letters, February 28).
I still treasure a bracelet of silver threepenny bits that was given to me when I was five years old by an American serviceman, who visited my grandparents’ pub in Kenninghall, Norfolk, during the war. As it’s been soldered I realise it has no monetary value, but to me it is priceless.
SIR – On my birthday in 1944, my godfather, a bank manager, gave me a half-farthing dated 1844. I still have it. With 1,920 of them to £1, I wonder what it would have bought in 1844.
Steyning, West Sussex
SIR – So far, nobody has mentioned the groat – which was worth four old pence.
SIR – During the Seventies, I worked with a gentleman called Mr Shilling.
I do not remember what his given name was but it was certainly not Bob, as he was called by all his colleagues.
SIR – How lovely it would be if Royal Mint could give suitable names to our current coinage, like the old shilling and half-crown.
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