Martin Kettle is absolutely right in his comparison between Germany’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic and that of the UK (On different planets: how Germany tackled the pandemic, and Britain flailed, 24 June). But one big factor is the fact that Germany is not, as he writes, just “a bit more prosperous” than Britain. Its standard of living is much higher than ours and there is certainly less of a divide between the rich and poor than there is here. The much higher standards of hygiene in Germany and of health care have also been an important contributing factor to the country’s much lower Covid-19 infection and death rates.

Our government of Little Englanders and fanatical privateers will never admit that we could learn something from another nation, let alone from Germany. Angela Merkel has pursued a politics of consensus and moderation, whereas our Conservatives have consistently followed the discredited neoliberalism of the US and the chaotic response to this pandemic is a direct result.
John Green

• Martin Kettle’s excellent analysis of why the UK’s handling of the Covid-19 outbreak is so much worse than Germany’s segues into a critique of the general condition of delusional arrogance that infects this country’s ruling class. It calls to mind Tolstoy’s comparison in War and Peace of the reasons why each of the major European nations is self-assured.

The English come off best: “An Englishman is self-assured, as being a citizen of the best organised state in the world, and therefore always knows what he should do and knows that all he does as an Englishman is undoubtedly correct.” We are now the sick man of Europe because the first part of this statement has long since ceased to be true, while the second, alas, hasn’t.
Emeritus Professor Glyn Turton
Baildon, West Yorkshire

• Twenty years ago, the British Academy set up a working party to inquire into the quality of the teaching of modern languages in Britain, compared with other European countries. The main finding was (to borrow Martin Kettle’s phrase) that British quality was trailing not world-beating. Our working party looked at technology teaching in British schools and compared it with the state of technical high schools in Germany. Trailing, or being beaten? Plus ça change?
Jinty Nelson

The Guardian

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