What sells wins
From Peggy Hatfield
Sir: How exciting and unusual to see people in the media advising sexual restraint (‘Anyone for chastity?’, 4 March)! As Piers Paul Read reminds us, our culture is up to its eyeballs in sex — in films and also on the high street. But though I’m quite sure that most normal British people could secretly do without a bonking scene in every film, or vibrators in front of children’s noses in Boots, they daren’t say so, even to their friends, for fear of appearing ‘repressed’.
How have we got ourselves into this unsettling state of affairs? Read suggests that feminism and the decline of religion are to blame, but I have a slightly different answer. The ‘market’, it seems to me, has taken the place of religion. Where once we subscribed to values that regulated the market, now, increasingly, what’s good and right is just defined by what sells. Sex certainly sells and so, though our better natures tell us otherwise, we feel almost obliged to keep our distaste under wraps and let it slowly saturate our society.
Great Somerford, Wiltshire
Falling birth rates good
From Nick Reeves
Sir: It’s high time that governments weaned themselves off the myth, put about by certain economists, that a large population is good and that a declining population is bad (‘Where have all the babies gone?’, 4 March). People are not just economic units contributing to GDP. They all take their toll on the environment.
With water scarcity, an energy crisis and human-induced climate change, we are already in ecological overdraft. If this were a bank loan, the debt would have been called in years ago. A recent WWF report suggested that the optimum population for the UK is 30 million souls, so we Brits are already in serious trouble. If governments around the world are really committed to sustainability it is time to consider the fact that a smaller population may be, not an economic disaster, but the answer to our ecological crisis.
Chartered Institution of Water and
Environmental Management, London WC1
Ghastly British men
From David Whitby
Sir: Rod Liddle (‘Why foreigners love us’, 4 March) must realise that the accommodating nature of British girls, from the visitors’ point of view, is in response to the woeful standard of British men. Given what’s on offer here, who can blame them for welcoming foreigners with open, um, arms?
Catch the voters young
From Ferdinand Mount
Sir: I am not in the least surprised that apprehensive commentators like Charles Moore should recoil from the Power Commission’s proposal to lower the voting age to 16 (The Spectator’s Notes, 4 March). They were almost guaranteed to grab the wrong end of the stick with both hands. The assumption behind our proposal is not, as they imagine, that we think 16-year-olds are all bursting with indecent enthusiasm to vote. Precisely the contrary. Young people are the category least likely to vote, along with the poor and some but not all ethnic minorities, and this trend has worsened sharply in recent elections. Worse still, young people who don’t contract the habit of voting no longer seem to pick it up as they grow older. Which is why we suggest a kind of political confirmation service, in which all school-leavers would receive a brisk course in the history and workings of the British political system and then be automatically and individually entered on the voters’ register on their 16th birthday. This is the last chance to reach everyone before they drift away. If the school-leaving age were 18, there would be no need to change the voting age to achieve this. Catch them young or you won’t catch them at all, to paraphrase the old Jesuit adage.
Jordanians love their king
From Sir Kenneth Warren
Having just returned from Jordan, I am bewildered by Douglas Davis’s article on that country’s future (‘Will Jordan be the new Palestine?’, 4 March). He is hot on political theory, but ignores completely the strength of support of the Jordanian people for King Abdullah. This, as for all the king’s predecessors, has been the core continuance enabling the kingdom to survive amid its turbulent neighbours. Visitors are told repeatedly by Jordanians at all levels of society of their admiration for their king. As one said to me, ‘He is one of us, there is no divide.’
Indeed, my experience causes me to wonder if there is something in Mr Davis’s personal political agenda that he should have revealed in his article as he asserted, twice, that King Abdullah had a ‘deeply corrupt relationship with Saddam’s family’, but failed to give his evidence. To sustain his claims and to support the credibility of ‘The Middle East Writers’ Group’ to which he belongs, surely he is duty bound to go to Jordan and state his evidence there, in public.
Who owned our churches?
From Susan Wood
Sir: Matthew Parris’s modest proposal (Another Voice, 25 February) is based on a false premise. Rome never had ‘ownership and control of the Church’s fixed assets’, nor was the Church as a whole or in England ever a property-holding entity. It was particular churches that owned property, while for much of the Middle Ages each was itself in various ways and in different degrees the property of a landlord lay or clerical.
Rome’s authority had given it a (much contested) claim to fill some church livings and to tax the clergy, not to ‘own’ church property in general.