The Spectator

Letters: no wonder Gen Z-ers don’t want to fight

The many not the few

Sir: Your leading article (‘The people problem’, 3 February) fails to get to the heart of this issue. Yes, more needs to be done to reform welfare to encourage people back to work. But nowhere do you mention the need for employers to be more open-minded in their recruitment. There is a large pool of ‘underemployed’ – particularly among the over-fifties – who find it very difficult to get any job at all, many of whom are perfectly familiar with the discipline of regular employment.

Polling suggests that more than 60 per cent of nearly all ages, social classes and regions think the country is already overcrowded. A greater percentage think the government should consider how to address the resulting challenges. To suggest blithely that we can absorb more than half a million people per annum is failing to face reality.

As is so often the case, you see the issue only in economic terms. Our settled population (18 per cent of whom are now ethnic minorities) have a more nuanced response. They are concerned about the impact of population growth on our ecology, our environment, the amount of open space that is being lost and concreted over, the threats to our food and water security, access to public services and challenges to social cohesion.

We need to provide a way to balance these issues in a manner that commands public confidence. That was the reason for proposing an Office for Demographic Change – constituted along the lines of the Office for Budget Responsibility – which was the subject of my private members’ bill introduced in the House of Lords.

Robin Hodgson

House of Lords, London SW1

Fight on

Sir: It is of little surprise that Gen Z does not want to fight (‘Fighting shy’, 3 February). Having alienated the traditional recruitment pool of the British military, the Establishment astonishingly thinks conscription may be the answer.

We have created a society where many young people think that words, or even silence, can be violent. Quite how those with this mindset could be expected to cope with the reality of modern industrialised warfare is unclear. There would no doubt be so many dissenters to the call-up in our heterogeneous society that it would be impossible to enforce conscription in any meaningful sense.

In the interests of equality and inclusion, it would be only proper that as many women as men should be sent to the front line; but combat on the eastern front would inevitably result in the deaths of thousands of soldiers. The prospect of many young female conscripts being killed or wounded would quickly undermine civilian resolve – assuming there was any resolve in the first place. The public could hardly stomach the few hundred professional soldiers killed in our recent expeditions.

John Stephens

Orpington, Kent

Sorry state

Sir: Many readers will undoubtedly agree with Douglas Murray’s expression of deep disappointment and frustration with the state of the nation’s psyche (‘We live in a different Britain now’, 10 February). Sadly, we are all, in our different ways, responsible for this state of affairs, which has been a very long time coming. More than 60 years ago, Noël Coward said: ‘I have a core of sadness about England; sadness mixed with an irritation that a country so rich in tradition and achievement should betray itself, submitting to foolish government, woolly thinking and, above all, the new religion of mediocrity.’ Only when there is a fundamental change to the prevailing zeitgeist will things improve.

Ben Hughes

Woodgate, Norfolk

Write of passage

Sir: Emily Rhodes’s chat with Alan Garner (‘Smoke signals’, 10 February) took me back to 1966, the year I first read The Weirdstone of Brisingamen. I was 12 and it was recommended to me by Iain Morrison, my English teacher at Salford Grammar School. I loved it and wrote to Mr Garner to tell him it made me want to be a writer. He wrote back with words of encouragement and when I proudly showed his letter to Mr Morrison, he was as delighted as I was.

Years later, Mr Morrison confided that he’d used the tale to inspire his pupils on many occasions. Over the years, I’ve read all Garner’s work, with The Stone Book Quartet beingmy favourite. As for my own writing ambitions, they worked out… sort of. I was a sports journalist on national newspapers for 40 years. At least I took a shot, even if it did hit the woodwork.

Peter Boyle

Flitwick, Bedfordshire

Ribbon development

Sir: Charles Moore tells us that he was met with blank looks when he asked for a blotter at one of the grandest stationery shops in London (Notes, 10 February). Thirty years ago my elderly father went into a well-known high-street stationer in Guildford where he asked the young assistant if he could supply a new ribbon, preferably a black and red one, for his typewriter. The young assistant looked a bit puzzled but disappeared and came back a minute later holding two large rolls of ribbon, one red and one black, each an inch wide. He then asked my father if he would like to have the typewriter gift-wrapped.

Charles Rentoul

London W6

Cause and effect

Sir: Apropos Dot Wordsworth’s thoughts about matters consequential (Mind your language, 10 February), she may be interested to know that my children, should they be naughty at school, no longer get a detention, but instead get a ‘20-minute consequence’. This was a new usage to me.

Mary Robertson

London SE5