Genghis was a leftie
From Daniel Hannan, MEP
Sir: Paul Johnson demolishes the ludicrous expression ‘to the right of Genghis Khan’ and wonders what the Mongol leader’s true politics might have been (And another thing, 25 February). I’d have thought Genghis was a clear-cut leftie. His tactic, on conquering a tribe, was to liquidate the aristocracy and elevate the lower orders. He was a proto-Europhile, mingling his subject clans so as to prevent the development of a sense of national identity. Where modern socialists want to use the education system to cut high achievers down to size, the Khan was more literal, forcing his vassals to walk under a yoke and decapitating those who were too tall. He was even an early metricator, organising his soldiers according to a decimal system. Genghis can be considered right-wing only in the BBC sense, as a synonym for ‘baddie’.
Make ‘localism’ a reality
From Henry Smith
Sir: Alasdair Palmer’s piece (‘Local villains’, 25 February) regarding the unresponsiveness and intransigence of local authorities is, I am sure, wearily familiar to just about any reader. Like many others, his frustration and irritation is accurate and justified, but I believe his criticism of the idea of ‘new localism’ is not.
As a council leader my reflex reaction should possibly be to defend the status quo, but in all honesty I cannot. As a local representative I share the annoyance often experienced by the local citizen. Rather than accepting this situation as inevitable, though, I think it needs to be challenged.
True localism is about direct democracy, whereby the link between taxation and representation is restored and those elected by local communities are empowered to get on with delivering what residents tell them is a priority for their area across all local services.
Leader of West Sussex County Council,
Chichester, West Sussex
Trial by tabloid
From Prudence Bell
Sir: Ross Clark’s article about Sion Jenkins (‘Trial by tabloid’, 18 February) was a victory for common sense and reasoned journalism. The lack of reporting of the defence case and the heavy reporting of the prosecution case at every appeal and trial made life very difficult. How many people know that the defending barrister, in his summing up, listed at least 17 reasons why Sion Jenkins could not have murdered Billie-Jo? The journalists who claimed to be judge and jury afterwards were not even in court that day. The tragedy is that this will happen again and again so long as editors are more concerned with hype than with truth or justice.
From Beverly Ellis
Sir: I cannot help but think that Boris Johnson is being disingenuous when he asks why selection is ‘banned’ in the state-maintained sector (Diary, 11 February). However, just in case his question is sincere, I will explain. The state education service is obliged to provide an education for all children, not just talented youngsters or the offspring of affluent parents. If the able pupils are ‘creamed off’ into state-run selective schools, as used to be the case, the majority who fail the entrance tests have to be educated together somewhere. These schools used to be called ‘secondary modern’ schools, where the higher concentration of behavioural and learning difficulties could reach critical mass, often causing the most able teachers to vote with their feet. The proposal that late developers who failed the selection at 11 would be able to move from the ‘secondary modern’ to the state ‘grammar’ very rarely happened in practice.
If state schools were to select only the most academically able pupils, as private schools are free to do, this would be akin to NHS hospitals admitting only patients with minor ailments and a good prognosis.
Trendy Ulster folk
From Neil Wilson
Sir: Jane Kelly’s fascinating article (‘Out of tune’, 25 February) highlighted the cultural alienation of immigrant communities. So she might be interested to know that many people in Ulster learn the songs of their cultural heritage through family and friends. I’ve never encountered anyone who finds, for example, ‘The Sash’ passé, boring or irrelevant. The youth of Northern Ireland are also keen on playing instruments, the flute and side drum in particular. Ulster folk have high regard for the cultural history of our people because we regard the past as relevant to the present. It is also seen as quite trendy to be up-to-date on history and current affairs. Therein lies the challenge for the English.
From P.G. Urben
Sir: Jane Kelly writes of seven traditional tunes in the Radio 4 medley and subsequently names six (one as the Trumpet Voluntary, which is scarcely folk). My 60-year-old and unmusical ears find nine tunes in the medley, of which she has omitted ‘Early One Morning’, ‘Scotland the Brave’ and ‘Annie Laurie’.
From Derek Bingham
Sir: I couldn’t agree more with the lady who says that the Telegraph is the perfect size to pluck pheasants on (Any other business, 18 February). It’s ideal for trout, too, while the weekend sections accommodate the occasional salmon that comes my way.