How can the Observer lecture Europe on migration without acknowledging the role that the UK has played in creating this hostile environment (“Europe must find a united voice on migration”, leader)? The UK must discharge its own moral and legal duties to desperate people and engage constructively with the 27 nations of the EU. The Channel does not mean that migration policy can be left to others. Both morally and practically, the UK must be part of the migration solution.
To solve the migration crisis that is tearing European and now US politics apart will require a three-pronged approach (“How we all colluded in fortress Europe”, Sunday Essay). This must consider the pros and cons of immigration from the perspective of the countries the migrants have left; of the migrants themselves; and the views of the majority in the country the migrants have entered or are attempting to enter.
The rapid rate of population growth in Africa, the Middle East, Latin America and the Caribbean will see this issue increasingly dominate politics. If it is not dealt with in a way that considers the interest of these three sectors, immigration will continue to poison politics everywhere.
The Home Office has finally seen sense and shown compassion in allowing Billy Caldwell to be treated with medicinal cannabis (“Family wins right to treat son’s severe epilepsy with cannabis oil”, News). However, in treating the decision as “exceptional”, the home secretary, Sajid Javid, highlights the government’s double standards when it comes to medicinal cannabis. According to the UN’s international narcotics control board, the UK accounted for 44.9% of the world’s production and 70% of exports in 2016. It is hypocritical for the country to reap the commercial but not the medicinal rewards of medical cannabis.
You can’t measure the mind
How can “intelligent” people believe in the validity of IQ tests (“If we were really smart, we’d get over our fixation on the IQ test”, Comment)? Presumably because they have, or believe they have, high scores themselves, as “measured” by such tests.
But how can something as complex and multifaceted as intelligent thought and action be captured in a single “measure”? It can’t. Intelligent thought and action can only be judged, albeit imperfectly – they cannot be subject to a metric.
Spark Bridge, Cumbria
Favouring the few
I was interested to read Charlie Cooper’s letter suggesting that Grenfell reflected the divisions in society between the “deserving” and “undeserving” poor (“Putting Grenfell in context”, letters). I believe that the issue is wider than that and reflects more the long-term issue of deregulation to favour a few at the expense not only of the poor but the vast majority of the population.
Deregulation may have been a key feature of Thatcher’s government but it was carried on, to their shame, by Blair and Brown. It takes many forms, from the removal or watering down of legislation and standards, the withdrawal of funding from regulators, pressure on regulators not to enforce and a move away from expert to less qualified regulators. If all that fails, organisations are given the chance to employ their own regulators/auditors, who have a clear conflict of interest. The effects of such policies may not be noticed for some time but eventually lead to a catastrophe, be it the banking crisis or the various contributory failings at Grenfell.
There is also a link to Brexit. One might wonder why so much money was put into the Leave campaign. It was not because employers were worried about immigration or wanted the public to be able to buy straight bananas or curved cucumbers – it was in an attempt to remove legislation that prevents their short-term gain at the expense of employees, suppliers, consumers and the public.
Diversity debate deepens
Kenan Malik makes some excellent and long overdue comments about the diversity versus equality debate stimulated by Lionel Shriver’s recent criticism of Penguin Random House’s pledge to make its company more reflective of society (“We’re now confusing diversity and equality. Which is our priority?” Comment).
I agree that diversity does not necessarily ensure equality and that the most marginalised have often been forgotten, the best example of this being the virtual abandonment of the white working class. Instead of seeking the unattainable goal of absolute equality or diversity, we should be striving for equality of opportunity. A black, working-class teenager should have an equal chance of getting into Oxbridge as a white, middle-class applicant; a white, middle-class applicant should have the same chance of getting into a football academy as a black, working-class kid. The best way to ensure this is through a rigorous education system.
Of birds and bees
It is shocking to see how the insect life in our garden has disappeared (“Where have all our insects gone?”, Special report). Normally, the lawn is covered with bees enjoying the clover flowers, but this year there are hardly any or on the apple trees. There are no butterflies on the nectar plants either. Our garden was a haven for wildlife as we don’t use chemical sprays. However, I notice when the 40-acre field next to us is sprayed the bees in our garden seem to disappear.
City dwellers will probably never notice the lack of insects in the concrete canyons, but it will affect us all when we suddenly wake up and discover that we have no insects or birds any more.
It is fitting that a non-commercial launderette opening in a poor area of Liverpool should be named after Kitty Wilkinson, who opened the country’s first public washhouse during a cholera epidemic in the 1830s (“Soap suds and films honour the legacy of the Saint of the Slums”, Notebook). Contrast this with what was happening at the same time in Torquay, then the wealthiest town outside London, when William Kitson, the “Maker of Torquay”, continuously refused to have a public washhouse built on the grounds of unnecessary expense. It was perhaps not a coincidence that cholera struck the town in 1832, while another outbreak in 1849 claimed 66 lives in six weeks, most victims coming from the slums rather from the grand villas, crescents and terraces so beloved of Mr Kitson.
Noli me tangere
“Undisturbed forest is incredibly rare,” said Dr Simon Willcock (“The secret rainforest hidden at the heart of an African volcano”, Focus). And now it has just got a bit rarer. Will we never learn not to tamper in places so special? Look out Mars, here we come.
Dr Peter B Baker