Blair is no Thatcherite
From Lord Tebbit
Sir: I am not sure whether in his review of the programme Tory! Tory! Tory! (Arts, 25 March) Simon Hoggart is expressing his own view or that of Edwina Currie, that ‘by 1990, Thatcher had become the greatest obstacle to Thatcherism, which had to be rescued … by Tony Blair’.
Whoever’s view it is, it is clearly a most outrageous, patently untrue statement. The obstacles to Thatcherism were Heseltine and Howe, not Thatcher. I know of no Blair achievement of any kind which could be described as ‘Thatcherite’. She did not throw money at public services without achieving a commensurate improvement in public services. She did not wander muddle-headed into a war with no idea of how our troops would be extricated from it, nor when. She did not assault the constitution. Her husband did not seek to outshine Prince Philip. She achieved a rebate on our EU contributions, and did not then give it away for nothing.
In short Mr Blair does not have a scrap of Thatcherism in him, nor, thank God, did she have a scrap of Blairism in her.
The bombers of Oz
From Peter Smalley
Sir: Matthew Norman is wrong to doubt that Australian magpies pursue human beings (‘Blair really thinks he is the Wizard of Oz’, 1 April). In Australia, magpies are robustly aggressive creatures, and many children have been dive-bombed by Gymnorhina tibicen during the nesting season. Many — including myself — have had their scalps torn open by these fiercely territorial birds. While most of us are probably right to doubt Tony Blair’s word almost all of the time, on this subject at least he is speaking the stark, bloody truth.
History is for blockheads
From Professor Robert H. Taylor
Sir: Byron Rogers’s review of Marion Elizabeth Rodgers’s biography of the American journalist H.L. Mencken (Books, 25 March) notes that her effort to capture the man and his times is marred, among other things, by the lack of quotations from its subject. Perhaps this quotation from Mencken’s own selection of his writings may explain Ms Rodgers’s reluctance to print her subject’s words:
‘It is the misfortune of humanity that its history is chiefly written by third-rate men. The first-rate man seldom has any impulse to record and philosophize; his impulse is to act; life, to him, is an adventure, not a syllogism or an autopsy. Thus the writing of history is left to professors, moralists, theorists, dunderheads. Few historians, great or small, have shown any capacity for the affairs they presume to describe and interpret.’
Robert H. Taylor
A cox’s job
From Judy Pearce
Sir: Frank Keating’s article (Sport, 1 April) is pure whimsy. As mother of last Sunday’s winning Oxford coxswain, I can vouch for this being the ultimate multi-tasking management job.
Not only does the cox have to steer his boat’s course up the Tideway with more care than a sailor navigating dangerous reefs, so important are the ebbs and flows of every stream and current; at the same time he has to motivate and inspire eight men almost twice his size to get that superhuman bit more from each of them so that the cumulative total makes the difference. This is what makes winners. Ambition, determination, and almost monastic dedication also play their part.
Is it surprising that leaders of industry and commerce now look at how sporting successes are won in order to try to transfer these skills to improving output and business success?
Upton Warren, Worcestershire
From Jonathan Hoyle
Sir: Charles Moore (The Spectator’s Notes, 25 March) takes comfort from the fact that despite ‘often’ making £10 million a year, hedge fund managers have in fact pretty boring jobs and work punishingly long hours. Like the delightful Tamzin Lightwater in the previous issue, Charles Moore clearly knows nothing about hedge funds.
To put the record straight, most hedge fund managers earn nothing near that amount, work considerably shorter hours than their investment banking colleagues in the City (7 a.m. to 5 p.m. is the norm) and do not ‘present what they do’ to anyone at all, least of all to journalists. Hedge fund managers are an obsessively secretive bunch, which is probably why you don’t see us at lunchtime.
From Joseph M.A. Ledlie
Sir: Paul Johnson’s near-perfect miniature of Grand Central Station (And another thing, 25 March) says the celestial ceiling of the station’s grand concourse depicts ‘a gold-leaf astrological mural’. The glittering etchings were meant to be the mythological constellations as they appeared in the New York sky in the gilded age when the station was built. Through error, however, they were spread upon the ceiling as if seen from above — rather appropriate for aspiring New York.
Joseph M.A. Ledlie
Ladronian war games
From Simon Longe
Sir: I enjoyed John Laughland’s enchanting vignette of Ladronia (Travel, 1 April). I must put him right on one point. My late father, who served with SOE, told me that Robin Banks in Spiv was a bit of a disappointment. It was considered that the two SOE-trained Ladronian agents who parachuted in with him, Draylin Trens and Killyn Hunz, were much more effective.