Letters: Lucky baby boomers? Just a lazy label

 

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I don’t recognise much in Grace Dent’s rant about the “baby boomer generation” (3 June), and am sorry to have to spoil it with a fact.

The “born in 1945 to 1965 bracket” baby boom she refers to, a common currency for the internet generation, describes what happened in the US. ONS data (Pension Trends, Ch.2, 2012) for the UK tell a quite different story.

Here the birth rate spiked in the late 1940s, but by the early-mid 1950s had fallen back close to that in the years before the Second World War. Then it slowly rose again to give a shallower peak around 1965/6. Thus there were two distinct “baby booms”, with greater numbers in the later one.

I belong to the first, postwar, group, for whom the notion that “we had free university education” is grotesque. It’s true that maybe one in 10 went to university, which the state paid for, but this gripe conveniently forgets the nine out of 10 who didn’t. Most of them never had a chance because they were consigned as “failures” to secondary modern schools at age 11, and entered the workplace at 16.

And as young adults starting families in the 1970s, oh how we enjoyed 8-12 per cent mortgage rates and annual price inflation some years of over 20 per cent. But so what – was it ever easy for the young, and is it really surprising that older people have got most of the money? When was it not so ?

This is another example of misidentification of a minority group based on lazy generalisations. The story seems to have wide currency in the media but it really is tosh.

Professor Guy Woolley, Nottingham

I must object to Graham Hudson’s description of us baby boomers as a “lucky” generation (letter, 4 June). We had good opportunities in our lives because our parents voted, as we did in our turn, for a decent and equitable society which levelled the playing fields in health, education and housing. Subsequent generations voted for greed and privilege under Thatcher, Blair and Cameron.

Not luck, Mr Hudson, but belief in social justice got us our good lives.

Jane Jakeman, Oxford

Londoners’ taxes subsidise the rest

I’m sure that, like me, most of your London-based readers did not take Yasmin Alibhai-Brown’s suggestion of an independent London very seriously. One bunch of secessionists from the UK is quite enough to be going along with! However, my mind might be changed if there are more examples of the views expressed by your correspondents Peter English and Anthony Ingleton (letters, 3 June).

There aren’t any authoritative figures comparing public spending in the nations and regions of the UK with the taxes raised there, but the consultancy Oxford Economics has done some work in this area in the past. This indicated that, at the end of the long boom in 2006-7, Wales paid for two thirds of the public spending taking place there and Yorkshire around four-fifths. In 2006-7 London’s taxes generated a minimum surplus over spending on London’s needs of £12bn, which went towards public services in less well-off parts of the country, such as Wales and Yorkshire.

No London money, and Wales and Yorkshire (and some other parts of the UK) would have the invidious choice of higher taxes and/or more cuts in services.

Mr English suggests that an independent London ought to be treated in the same way as West Berlin was treated by the Communist regimes around it. Well, that certainly worked a treat for East Germany, didn’t it?

Mr Ingleton compares London unfavourably with Paris, Rome and Vienna. They are all lovely cities, but at the moment the flow of young people seeking opportunity and work is into London from much of Europe, including no doubt some from Paris or Rome or Vienna. The young immigrants can see that London is the most economically dynamic and culturally diverse and interesting city in Europe, if not the world. 

Philip Hamshare, London SE27

The Queen mouths  a mixed-up slogan

The Queen in her speech at the opening of Parliament said it was her government’s aim to work towards a “stronger economy and a fairer society”.

I’ve a feeling the Government has got this slogan the wrong way round. Shouldn’t we be aiming for a stronger society and a fairer economy, where all citizens are empowered to contribute to the common good, no matter what their perceived status in society?

A stronger society means public servants being of equal worth to entrepreneurs, and the disadvantaged and vulnerable being treated with compassion. A fairer economy means enabling all working-age citizens to reach their full potential, employers paying all their staff a fair wage, and the Government pursuing far more vigorously all those in society who put their own interests before those of a wider society.

David Eggington, Sheffield

 

Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan are in the midst of civil war; Egypt and Thailand on the threshold. The NHS is in crisis. Food bank queues stretch round the block. House-building is at an almost all-time-low. Energy prices rocket. And Her Majesty’s Bag-Carriers bag our carriers.

Godfrey H Holmes, Chesterfield, Derbyshire

It’s May who looks like a leader

A Tale of Two Ministers surely explains the alleged spat between Michael Gove and Theresa May. Michael Gove’s record as Education Secretary has been one of meddle and muddle, with an increasing toll of failed free schools and faltering academies. Gove has spoken of giving power to parents, while micromanaging education policy and issuing more daily edicts than a North Korean dictator.

In contrast, Theresa May has led firmly and quietly from the centre while devolving power to local people. While Gove has fiddled about with the national curriculum, Mrs May has made our streets safer and overseen a consistent annual fall in crime figures. Gove has become an embarrassment while May has become a credible candidate to succeed David Cameron.

Anthony Rodriguez, Staines, Middlesex

Better together on D-Day

It feels small-minded, and even disrespectful to the many brave Scots, English, Welsh and Irish who fought bravely and gave their lives, that on the anniversary of D-Day, Scotland is even considering breaking away from a union which has served well Scotland, its people and the world.

Operation Neptune, the largest amphibious operation ever, was a magnificent example of what the British can achieve together: it was planned by the British, commanded by a Scot (Admiral Sir Bertram Ramsay), equipped by the British (who provided over 80 per cent of the vessels) and Americans (the rest). The combined co-ordination and manning by English, Welsh, Scots, Irish, Americans, Canadians and other nations ensured success.

Scots and Scotland will continue to have influence and serve the world best as part of a G8 country.

William Ramsay, Coldstream, Berwickshire

Tangled narrative of Parthenon Marbles

Alas, I fear to suggest that Philip Stephenson’s marbles are not exactly where they belong (letter, 3 June).

Am I right to conclude, from his argument against returning the Parthenon Marbles to Greece, that if I espy some objects in my neighbour’s possession which I believe would “converse ... to create a narrative” with objects currently in my possession I would be entitled on contextual grounds to remove them to the “free environment” of my house or garden? Surely not?

Matthew Hisbent, Oxford

Greetings from Yorkshire

Mark Redhead recommends the Yorkshire greeting “Now then” (letter, 5 June)? Shades of Jimmy Savile: “Now then...now then...”

Please, no! “Eh up” will do just fine for now, and, perhaps, then.

Lin Hawkins, Ashcott, Somerset

Mark Redhead might be interested to know that Constantine was proclaimed Roman Emperor in York in 306, and that there is today, in his capital, Istanbul/Constantinople, an area called Eyup.

Coincidence? I think not.

Roger Moorhouse, Todmorden,  West Yorkshire

Marshy wonder of the modern world

A marshy peninsula between two estuaries seems an odd choice, in today’s climate, for the site of a new garden city (“Garden city settles on marshy ground”, 5 June).

 Perhaps they will build it on stilts, and its gardens will become a new wonder, like the hanging gardens of ancient Babylon.

Sue Norton, York

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