Jackboots of New Labour
From Philip Freeman
Sir: I expected a more robust defence of our liberty from the Spectator (Leading article, 18 February). Just because a majority of the snivelling puritans who populate Parliament today voted for the smoking ban does not mean we should shrug our shoulders and accept it meekly. Individual freedom and liberty are more important than democracry, which is more like mob rule in this country.
I am a committed non-smoker, but I have a quaint belief in ‘live-and-let-live’. What’s it got to do with me if somebody smokes in a pub? I’ll go elsewhere if necessary. Are we really going to tell a war veteran that he may no longer smoke in his British Legion club?
I seem to be part of a dwindling band who still believe in the right of individuals to make their own choices without wholesale interference from the state. This Act is just the latest in a long line of demoralising, authoritarian measures by this government. But most depressing to me is the servile acceptance — even welcome — given to all of this by the British population. We now seem to be a people divided into those completely institutionalised under the jackboot of New Labour and those who positively enjoy destroying the pleasures of others.
From Michael Grenfell
Sir: In your Leading article you write, ‘Our instincts may be libertarian, but they are also democratic, and if we are forced to choose between the two, we are obliged to concede that the anti-smoking majority must have its way.’ Replace the word ‘smoking’ in that sentence with ‘Jewish’ and the logic of your position comes close to a justification for the (democratically elected) Nazi regime in Germany, your ‘libertarian’ instincts notwithstanding.
The health of a free society depends on our deciding, when forced to choose between the tyranny of the majority and the liberty of the individual, in favour of the latter every time.
Dave’s doing fine
From Roger Harris
Sir: I do hope that Fraser Nelson’s article (Politics, 18 February) is not the start of a Spectator campaign against our hero, David Cameron. Mr Nelson’s assertions are consistently misleading. The polls, he claimed, are not rising; yet almost all show that pre-Dave Conservatives were stuck in a 30-33 per cent mire, but Dave’s Conservatives are enjoying the heady heights of 36-39 per cent support. That looks like a rise to me.
Mr Nelson also reported that ‘ominously’ a poll gave Gordon Brown a 6-point lead over Dave. He failed to inform readers that those polled were given no Liberal Democrat option. The poll, therefore, does no more than establish that more people are left-leaning than right-leaning. As almost every election since the second world war has seen 60 per cent of the country vote against the party of the Right, this is hardly startling, still less ominous news.
Dave has done more in six months to restore the fortunes of the Conservative party than any of his critics has achieved in the 14 years since the Conservatives last won a general election. A smidgen of praise would not be out of place.
From Sir Simon Day
Sir: In 1966 I was the Conservative candidate in the Carmarthen by-election, which took place six months after the general election when the Labour government, led by Harold Wilson, had a majority of over 100. The Labour candidate lost that by-election with a big swing against him, and the first Welsh nationalist Member of Parliament, Gwynfor Evans, was voted in as the candidate who was most likely to capture the seat from Labour — just as the Liberal Democrats did in Dunfermline. The Conservatives went on to win the general election four years later.
No surprise, therefore, that the Lib Dems are still languishing at 15 per cent in the latest opinion polls, some 8 per cent below their tally at the time of the general election.
Commandments à la Clough
From Terry Saunders
Sir: Paul Johnson (And another thing, 18 February) asserts that Arthur Hugh Clough is only remembered for one poem, ‘Say not the struggle naught availeth’. I think he does him a disservice. A couplet from his acerbic commentary on the Ten Commandments — ‘The Latest Decalogue’ — has been much quoted during the recent debate on euthanasia: ‘Thou shalt not kill; but need’st not strive/ Officiously to keep alive.’
From Steven Poole
Sir: In his review of my book, Unspeak (Books, 18 February) Graham Stewart asks rhetorically, ‘Can it be — as the casual reader might assume — that human rights activists, NGOs and liberal interest groups do not also deploy words in a manner that advertises their virtues but not their vices?’ This is tellingly disingenuous language. Presumably, as your reviewer Stewart has read the book more than ‘casually’, he knows full well that it discusses many uses of Unspeak by such groups. Why, then, does he feel the need to pretend that it does not? Is he perhaps auditioning for a role in the ‘right-wing conspiracy script’ he accuses me of following?
From Sir John Weston
Sir: Your reviewer of Steven Poole’s Unspeak claims to alert the dictionary to the coining of a new word by this book title. In fact, the word ‘unspeak’ first occurs in Macbeth (Act IV scene iii), in the sense of ‘to retract, renounce, take back’; and is already listed, with the reference, in Chambers Dictionary. Poole has merely assigned this old word a noun value and a second meaning.
Flooded by facts
From Peter Hall
Sir: Paul Johnson writes that if all the water in the ice caps and the glaciers melted ‘the sea level would not rise much’ (And another thing, 11 February). I’m not so sure.
Using Mr Johnson’s figures, I estimate that there are 28 million cubic kilometres of water contained in the ice caps, etc. Dividing that number by the world’s surface area of 510 million square kilometres gives about 5.5 per cent of a cubic kilometre of ice-cap meltwater per square kilometre of surface or about 55 metres.
Given that some parts of the world would not be covered by water it is possible that the sea level could rise by (say) 70 metres or about 200 feet. Abstruse hydrological factors involving temperature, pressure and water volume might increase this even further.
That seems quite a lot and certainly enough to cover most of Mr Johnson’s (and my) favourite places.