Sir: What a great pleasure it was for me as a hybrid New Zealand / Australian to read Mr Tom Frewen’s piece: Kiwi Notes: Rugby, Aliens, Strippers and Dummies. He has a wonderful light touch when dealing with the continuing vicissitudes of rugby players who, in this country, are held up as role models for young people.
More please Mr Frewen.
Wellington, New Zealand
Sir: While I agree with your editorial on energy (Spectator 16 September), one more point is worth making. Electricity prices in eastern Australia are set by the National Energy Market (NEM), which offers rising prices until the market clears at the highest accepted bid. Such bids normally cover the marginal costs for most of the time, which is not enough to service capital. Generators therefore rely on infrequent periods of tight supply and high prices to recover their cost of capital and other fixed costs – by definition a risky approach.
In this highly volatile market prices have ranged from $14,000/MWh to negative $A15/MWh. Also there is no entity of substance responsible for “keeping the lights on”: it is left to the market. The nature of the NEM, combined with government subsidies to providers of renewable energy, has driven an investment boom in intermittent renewable technologies with no commensurate deployment of technologies to offset their impact on system reliability.
The result is that traditional, reliable coal and gas power stations are being closed. Unless this situation is reversed – or there is a great breakthrough in battery technology – increased reliance on unreliable renewables means that some time in future eastern Australia will face a power catastrophe.
Double Bay, NSW
Fight and fight again
Sir: In her Florence speech, Theresa May yet again declared that: ‘No deal is better than a bad deal.’ Yet in his piece ‘Brexit Wars’ (23 September), James Forsyth claims that minimal planning is being made for a ‘no deal’ under WTO rules. If true, this is insulting to the electorate as it means that the Prime Minister is being neither serious nor truthful. It is inexcusable for our civil service not to prepare for an event that is a clear possibility when it would be catastrophic if we had no plan. Couldn’t the 80 MPs in the Tory Research Group start preparing for a WTO deal? They could liaise with Eurosceptic groups plus friendly economists and other experts, to produce a viable exit plan. I am sure Leavers would donate money to employ the necessary specialists to produce reports.
Now that May has delayed Brexit in all but name, I see the EU making ever more outrageous demands as the Remain camp gleefully applaud. The Leave campaign must be reinstated to fight again.
Sir: Toby Young’s article (‘The mystery of socialism’s enduring appeal’, 23 September) raises some interesting explanations for the phenomenon of socialism’s enduring appeal. But strangely, he has missed one of the most glaring: that the underlying reason lies within our education system.
From the mid-1960s onwards, the majority of our children have been educated by an increasingly left-wing cohort of teachers who are more interested in the espousal of ‘equality’ than delivering well-rounded individuals into the world.
Toby is right to suggest that the left are better educated than the right, but educated in what? The young are easy targets for educational propaganda, which has made an immense contribution to the malaise we are suffering. And the more or ‘better’ you have been educated, the more you will have felt the influence of this heavily left-wing education bias.
Unless this problem is confronted and some balance re-introduced, the future of the capitalist state looks bleak.
Sir: Toby Young’s article gives rise to reflection. I am no apologist for Jeremy Corbyn — at best, I can accept that his intentions are good. But my socialist friends indeed do see capitalism as a way of ‘stealing’ from the poor and have difficulty in accepting the wealth creation aspect of it.
They have a point. The so-called financial industry creates no primary wealth and often seeks to cream off as much as possible for a greedy minority. Thatcher’s rush to privatise the nationalised industries did not create anything better than, for example, the Central Electricity Generating Board. Today we must go cap in hand to the French or Chinese to get a decent nuclear power station — at an astronomical cost.
I did an engineering apprenticeship with AEI, later taken over by GEC, run by Arnold Weinstock. He was a modest man and ran his company as a model of capitalism: solid management, good labour relations and true wealth creation. We cannot bring Weinstock back but, if we want capitalism to succeed, I wish we could.
Schoonhoven, The Netherlands
Sir: The age of King Cnut was certainly a high-water mark for Norse influence in these islands (‘Demonised by history’, 23 September), but Thomas W. Hodgkinson is quite wrong to call Cnut a ruler of Britain. His realm on this side of the North Sea comprised England alone.
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