Too busy for terrorism
Sir: The Islamisation of countries surrounding Israel may not necessarily constitute an increased threat to the Jewish state (‘Israel under siege’, 24 November). The reluctance of Hezbollah to open a second front in Israel’s north in the past weeks may be due to the recent economic recovery of south Lebanon following massive infrastructure destruction extending up to south Beirut in the 2006 war with Israel, largely funded by Iran. Similar economic growth and prosperity in the West Bank may well be responsible for the virtual absence of any recent anti-Israel violence. (A recent television report on West Bank high schools showed many kids wearing orthodontic braces — a sure contra-indication to becoming a suicide bomber.)
Hopefully once the citizens of Gaza have recovered from this onslaught and have rebuilt their city, they will appreciate the benefits of free enterprise and economic prosperity without further bloodshed.
Perhaps the greatest long-term threat to Israel’s identity may be a peaceful economic and political subsumption into a greater Israel-Palestinian conurbation.
West Perth, Western Australia
Sir: Hugo Rifkind is commendably bold to forecast (24 November) that in ten years’ time we will all be buying cannabis from the off-licence. About the cannabis he is almost certainly right. But what makes him think there will still be any off-licences?
Stiff upper lip, Toby
Sir: Toby Young (24 November) should continue in his efforts to grow an iconic moustache. My grandmother, born in 1897, told me on my 21st birthday in 1968 that ‘kissing a man without a moustache is like having strawberries without cream’.
I have had my well-groomed moustache since then and know that her advice was sound.
Sir: I was surprised by Blair Worden’s view of my biography of Henry Jermyn, The King’s Henchman (Books, 17 November), as largely ‘fictional embroidery’. He calls ‘implausible’, for example, my statement that Jermyn was ‘effectively in charge’ in 1641.
I can but cite the evidence to Professor Worden. Sir John Temple, writing to the Earl of Leicester, says Jermyn ‘is now so great with the King as he and the Queen are locked up alone with him many howers together’. He further writes that all appointments were made not by the King, but by the Queen who was ‘guided by Jermyn and a strange interest hath he gotten with the King’. These are merely two of a succession of such statements.
I sought out every possible mention of Jermyn in original sources and identify them in over 7,000 words of endnotes. To call these ‘scarce’ is, well, ‘cavalier’.
Sir: In response to Charles Moore (Notes, 17 November), I wanted to clarify the way TV Licensing communicates with households that don’t require a licence.
When we are informed a property doesn’t need a TV licence, we update our records to reflect this. Letters to the address are stopped for around two years. A visit may also take place to verify the situation. We will then get in touch again to check circumstances haven’t changed, for example that the occupants haven’t moved house. We ask that if a householder’s circumstances have not changed, they contact us to let us know that they still do not need a licence. We do our best not to trouble genuine non-viewers, and people can notify us via a simple declaration form on our website or by phone. If we don’t hear from the householder then we won’t be aware that a licence isn’t required and the tone of the letters will become stronger, as we need to inform people of the risks of prosecution if they require a licence and don’t have one.
Sir: I am writing to say that contrary to Steerpike’s article (24 November), Lord McAlpine sold his wine collection in 1990 and he does not drink wine because he is diabetic. He has also not been a sitting member of the House of Lords for the last three years.
Chief executive, Pelham Bell Pottinger
Chancellor and the church
Sir: Alexander Chancellor is the best columnist of his generation, I think, and I’m very pleased he is now a weekly contributor to your pages. His column on the Church of England (17 November) was typically astute. Yet when he says that his visits to church end ‘more often than not’ in ‘great disappointment’, I can’t help wondering if he has missed the point about religious belief. Disappointment is what it’s all about – in this life, at least.
Sir: Concerning Alexander Chancellor’s plea for the incoming Archbishop of Canterbury not to forget ‘those of us who have the religious temperament but not the faith’, I recently overheard the following at dinner: ‘Religious? God, no, not me — I’m C of E.’