The Spectator

Letters: the real reason for Britain’s shoplifting epidemic


No improvement

Sir: Your leading article (‘All the poorer’, 9 March) asks: ‘What do voters have to thank the government for?’ The short answer from this once loyal supporter is sadly ‘nothing’. It is hard to think of one single aspect of British life, apart from state education, that has improved in the 14 years since they came to power. They have failed to secure Britain’s defences, to control legal and illegal immigration, to bring government expenditure under control, to restore the doctor/patient relationship, to control our streets, to resolve the Post Office scandal, to manage HS2, to end the mania in institutions over sexual identity, diversity, equity and inclusion. They have not stood up for traditional common sense, nor have they defended our country’s history from the minority seeking to traduce it. They have made no attempt to reduce the size of our ever-growing civil service. They have not sought to reduce bureaucracy, or restore the standards of community policing to those of even a decade ago.

In short, this has been the worst government of modern times, with the people becoming increasingly concerned about the future of their country, more fearful for their personal safety, more anxious about their children’s future, more doubtful of their country’s ability to stand up to an aggressor, more polarised in their opinions and more worried about the future stability of their society.

Richard Longfield

Weston Patrick


Sir: Should the Emirati government succeed in its attempts to buy The Spectator (‘Parliament and the press’, 9 March), all will be lost. Whatever undertakings they might give, there is frankly no prospect the new owners would allow writers such as Rod Liddle and Douglas Murray to be published as they are now. If the deal passes then I will not be the only reader cancelling their subscription.

David Birrell


Red bishops

Sir: The Archbishop of Canterbury was incorrect when he told Isabel Hardman (‘Meddlesome priest’, 9 March) that the Anglican bishops in the House of Lords ‘were as objectionable to Labour last time they were in office as we have been to the Tories this time’. In 2008/9 they voted in 60.0 per cent of divisions against the Labour government, and in 2009/10 in 65.4 per cent. By total contrast, in 2021/22 they voted against the Conservative government in 95.8 per cent of all divisions, and in 2022/23 a staggering 98.2 per cent. The voting record of the Anglican bench of bishops is statistically even more reliably anti-Tory than that of some Labour peers.

Lord Roberts of Belgravia

Via email

Paying the price

Sir: Harriet Sergeant is spot on when she outlines the evolution of shoplifting in recent years from petty theft to organised criminality (‘Ganging up’, 9 March). What she does not do is give the reasons. Two factors came together. First, there was the gradual loss of police officers during austerity. Nationally, numbers fell by more than 20,000. Locally we lost 500. This enabled drug gangs to take root and expand their markets from urban centres to rural areas. More recently, the cost of living crisis has made it almost as profitable for drug gangs to diversify into thieving from convenience stores. In South Yorkshire, high-value, easily transported items are not luxury goods but packs of meat and jars of coffee. The stolen goods are immediately sold on in pubs and market places at knock-down prices. The lessons are clear. If we run down the resources that maintain internal security (the police) and those that maintain external security (the armed forces) we eventually pay the price.

Dr Alan Billings, Police and Crime Commissioner for South Yorkshire


Future industry

Sir: Lewis Feilder (Letters, 2 March) says that the 765,000 people working in the decarbonisation industry ‘are not only taking skilled labour away from sectors that are actually economically productive, but they are on a hiding to virtue-signalling nothing’. This assumes that there could be no technological breakthroughs made by companies in Britain that might come to be adopted more widely. That seems defeatist. By no means should this industry be promoted at the expense of more productive sectors, but neither should it be ignored. In some shape or form it is probably the future.

Katharine Tyler

London E1

Shrews, shrows, shoes

Sir: Emily Symmonds wonders about the pronunciation of Shrewsbury (Letters, 9 March). On a visit to the town some years ago I read that its medieval name was Scrobbesbrigge, which seems to argue for Shrowsbury. But I heard elsewhere that the local inhabitants pronounced it Shoesbury, like the footwear. Perhaps Dot Wordsworth might return to the subject?

Prudence Jones


Heard but not seen

Sir: Richard Mays (Letters, 9 March) writes that it is years since he saw a wren but attributes this to predation by foxes or badgers rather than failing eyesight. I cannot imagine they are rare in West Sussex, from where he writes, since they abound in north London. I know they are there from their distinctive liquid song – and have confirmed it using Merlin, a brilliant app developed by the Cornell Lab which tells you which bird is making what sound. Of course, wrens are also tiny, brown and low-flying, and therefore hard to spot even for the sharpest of eyes.

Liz Street

London N1

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