Don’t blame Davis
My old friend Bruce Anderson doubtless wishes to do his friends in the Notting Hill set some good by blaming the continued poor Conservative showing upon David Davis (Politics, 8 January). But he is unjust. Mr Davis has claimed two ministerial scalps, and not just through good luck but rather through hard work and good judgment. Since he took over his brief, the Conservative party has achieved a substantial lead on both crime and immigration.
If Bruce wishes to point the finger of blame, it should surely be at the absence of an attractive and persuasive Tory economic policy. But it must also be at those closest to Michael Howard. Having been lectured at length by Mr Howard about ‘accountability’ at the party conference, I imagine that party members will hold accountable those most directly responsible for any election strategy which fails. And that, of course, is why those around Mr Howard are seeking to parachute in one of their own without reference to the wider party. Fortunately, I suspect that not even Bruce Anderson’s eloquence will make that putsch acceptable.
It is a pity that Bruce Anderson’s final flourish did not embody accurately the chilling image of ‘the feathers of death’. An anonymous seaman writing to tell Queen Elizabeth I of his eagerness to lay down his life for her cause produced the splendid words: ‘The wings of man’s life are plumed with the feathers of death.’ Political death rarely warrants such dramatic language, but it might need to be borne in mind not in relation to the Tory leadership, which has enthusiasm for life, but to the extraordinary struggle between Gordon Brown and Tony Blair.
Towards a new Europe
I read with interest Peter Jones’s argument that as ‘tribalism finished Rome it will finish Brussels too’ (Ancient & modern, 1 January). As an admirer of Mr Jones, and as someone who regrets the passage of Latin and ancient history from the Atlantic’s education norms, I found his point odd. Is he really arguing that the dark ages of tribalism that followed Roman classicism are inevitable for our time? This pessimistic determinism may be fashionable in anti-European salons, but I prefer, and believe it is worth arguing for, a Europe of nation states agreeing common rules to advance mutual interests. A tribalist alternative is the old Europe which our ancestors fought and died in. And given that Britain is now seen as a leading European player — vide the Paris criticisms of the new constitution anglo-saxonne — perhaps a little more self-confidence in our abilities is needed. Europa delenda est is not a worthy policy for a country like Britain.
Minister for Europe, London SW1
Stephen Glover’s glib dismissal of the three-minute silence for victims of the Asian tsunami was a study in Eurosceptic inaccuracy (Media studies, 8 January). For the record, the silence was proposed jointly by the governments of two member states, Luxembourg and the Netherlands, the incoming and outgoing holders of the presidency of the European Union at the time the tragedy began. Whether the UK participated in the silence was entirely up to its government. Thus the only ‘fatuity’ is the reference to ‘dreamed up by our political masters in Brussels’ — wrong on both politics and geography.
European Commission Representation in the United Kingdom, London SW1
Made in China
By chance I read Martin Vander Weyer’s article on the impotence of China as a putative superpower (‘China won’t be a superpower’, 8 January) on the same day that I had visited my local House of Fraser. Browsing in its glass and china department, I was astonished to pick up piece after piece of Royal Worcester and Royal Doulton to be assured by the stick-on label that they were all made not of but in China. I came to the very opposite conclusion to that of your writer.
Blunkett’s parenting advice
Victor Black’s letter (1 January) referring to David Blunkett’s disgraceful manipulation of his so-called parental rights over William reminded me of an article published in the travel section of the Daily Telegraph shortly before Christmas. Asked in an interview with Kenric Hickson what his best bit of holiday advice would be, Blunkett replied, ‘Travelling with small children can lead to tremendous tension, so try to get someone else to look after them.’ So much for wanting to care for this ‘little lad’.
Bringing Lindsay to book
Paul Sutton, editor of Lindsay Anderson’s Diaries, replied to my review by suggesting I had invented a letter from Lindsay to him (Letters, 18/25 December). He well knows it was included in an early typescript (which I saw) but cut by Methuen before publication.
Getting a selection of Lindsay’s diary entries and letters into print was not such a great ‘coup’. It was foolhardy to strike a deal with Methuen behind the backs of the Lindsay Anderson Memorial Foundation, the organisation which introduced Sutton to the Anderson archive at Stirling University. That meant, quite apart from the issue of trust, that Lindsay’s friends in the Foundation were not eager to help make up for Mr Sutton’s lack of appropriate knowledge.