Why we joined
Sir: I was astonished by the assertion made by Wyn Grant (Letters, 21 September) that ‘the postwar surge in Conservative party membership was due to people rebuilding their social lives after the war’. Where did that idea come from?
I grew up in south London before and during the war. I recall that social contact increased during the war and friendships made then endured when the war was over. Of course the nature of social activities gradually changed after the war, but the suggestion that most people joined the Conservative party purely for social reasons is wrong. It should be remembered that the Labour party’s clause 4 was central to their policy commitments and Clement Attlee’s government embarked on a major programme of nationalisation. Many people like me joined the party largely because we did not want to live in a progressively socialist state.
The basis for our discussions was often provided by the book of political essays entitled One Nation, two of the main contributors to which were Edward Heath and Enoch Powell, who belonged to a group of Conservative MPs who had adopted that name.
John S Burton
Shut your Facebook
Sir: In her article ‘Old friends’ (21 September) Carola Binney raises a good point about how Facebook makes it very difficult to escape the embarrassments of your past. She mentions days spent deleting old comments and photos, though I’m intrigued to hear why she doesn’t just delete her account altogether.
I have recently deleted mine and it feels a lot better than one might expect, not least because when conversing with someone about some recent news or gossip, it really is actual news or gossip, rather than the clumsy reignition of some memory already garnered from a screen somewhere at some time in the past. There’s no substitute for face-to-face interaction.
The right prescription
Sir: Rod Liddle writes a lot of sense about the BMA and e-cigarettes (21 September). The evidence of the benefit and efficacy of e-cigarettes is growing to the point where registered medical practitioners who advise against them are in breach of their duty to protect and promote public health. I should think the General Medical Council, if it were acting dispassionately, might take a disciplinary interest in these doctors.
Sir: The excellent Michael Tanner does us no favours with his recent ‘review’ of the Royal Opera’s Turandot (Arts, 21 September). I’m sure the majority of his readers already know whether they like an opera or not, and we look to Michael to give us his expert opinion of the latest production and the capability of the singers and the orchestra. For him to tell us that an opera beloved by so many of us is an irredeemable and disgusting work is surely beyond his remit!
We are scientists
Sir: Your editorial (‘A climate glasnost’, 21 September) makes it clear that you do not regard a railway engineer as a type of scientist. Having practised variously as a physicist, in the offshore industry, and as a railway engineer, I can point you towards the Institute of Physics’ affiliation to the UK Engineering Council as evidence in rebuttal.
An engineer must first of all be a technologist. Technology is the science of artefacts. However, an engineer must be more than that and command a knowledge of economics, law, accounting and finance. I hold no brief for Professor Pachauri or the IPCC, but as Walter Shewhart, another physicist and engineer, pointed out, ‘Applied science, particularly in the mass production of interchangeable parts, is even more exacting than pure science in certain matters of accuracy and precision.’
A place in the chamber
Sir: I was amused to read in Max Hastings’s diary last week (21 September) the list of Tom Bower’s biographies. Hastings described Bower as a ‘tour guide’ to the Chamber of Horrors. There appeared to be an omission. Did he not write a book on Conrad Black called Dancing on the Edge in 2006?
The name game
Sir: The curious thing about being named Nigel (‘Name of shame’, 14 September) is that celebrities with that name are often referred to solely by their first name — a sort of Madonna effect — which prompts friends to cut out silly headlines and send them in the post. When Nigel Mansell, the racing driver, was at the top of his game, I was the recipient of countless clippings along the lines of ‘Nigel is the best’, which I kept, and ‘Nigel is a loser’, which I did not. Additionally, Nigel Farndale asks, ‘Can you imagine a dog called Nigel?’ John Lennon’s dog Nigel was immortalised in the 1964 poem ‘Good dog Nigel’. It ends:
Clever Nigel, jump for joy
Because we’re putting you to sleep at three of the clock, Nigel.
Dozens of friends sent me clippings of the last line.