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Sleeping rough was a rare sight in the 1970s


I welcomed Polly Toynbee’s article giving us a positive picture of the 1970s (Are the 2020s really like living back in the 1970s? I wish …, 20 November). However, she omitted what is to me one of the most important and visible differences from now. I was a teenager in the 1970s and was shocked, when going to Italy for the first time, to see people begging on the street. Until the advent of Thatcher it was very rare to see anyone sleeping rough, except on the Embankment in London. It was only with Thatcher’s policies that this became commonplace.

As somebody who remembers a world with high income tax and low poverty and homelessness, I consider it a duty to remind those who don’t that such a society is possible and existed not long ago.
Rabbi Margaret Jacobi
Birmingham

Oh, Polly Toynbee, take off those rose-tinted specs. Yes, university was free for our generation, but the majority finished school at 15 or 16. Jobs with pensions? Not for me, as a secretary, until a public sector job in 1989. Cheap houses? Maybe, but mortgage lenders only took a proportion of the wife’s income into account, assuming correctly that it would disappear once she started a family. Hindsight is not necessarily 20/20 vision.
Rita Gallard
Norwich

Polly Toynbee is correct when she writes “the 70s were a good time to be alive”, but she makes a very unfair reference to the Austin Allegro. I had one to succeed a much-liked Ford Escort. The Allegro was not only faster and more economical, it had better handing and was the best car in the snow I’ve driven in 45 years or so of motoring. If you need a car to be the epitome of things being bad, the Ford Pinto would be a good start.
John Parkin
Nuneaton, Warwickshire

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