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Spectator letters: America as a genetic experiment, and a gypsy reply to Rod Liddle

24 May 2014

9:00 AM

24 May 2014

9:00 AM

The American experiment

Sir: One can test Nicholas Wade’s hypothesis that social and political life is genetically determined (‘The genome of history’, 17 May) by constituting a nation along European lines, admitting immigrants from all over the world, and measuring the extent to which these immigrants assimilate to the dominant culture. That experiment is called the USA, and the evidence from that country suggests that within a generation or two these immigrants hold social opinions more like those of other Americans than natives of their ancestral countries. Cultural inheritance therefore outweighs genetic inheritance in the political sphere, and historians may rest easy.
Dr James McEvoy
Centre for Biomedical Sciences, Royal Holloway University of London

Mind your language

Sir: I arrived at the Spectator offices on Wednesday as part of the protest against Rod Liddle’s article of October 2013 (‘What do we call the people who abducted Maria?’). Your editor was kind enough to share some of his birthday cake with us — but that was, I’m afraid, no substitute for the apology we are still due. Rod Liddle proposed that in the absence of a better word to describe people like me, the terms ‘pikey’ and ‘gyppo’ should be used. These are terms of hate, pure and simple. They leap out at me and hurt me. Only last week your columnist Taki referred to ‘the n-word’. Why didn’t he spell it out? Out of a basic sense of decency, I imagine. A decency seldom afforded to communities like mine.

So what is the correct term? Those gathered outside your office last week were Romany Gypsies and Irish Travellers. I consider myself an English Gypsy. I am also a police officer, and the truth is, I’m sometimes confused by the issue myself. ‘Gypsy’ is a word used to describe people of many ethnicities: maybe finding the right word is something we have to work on. But every Spectator reader will recognise that ‘gyppo’ and ‘pikey’ are derogatory terms. I would have hoped that neither word had a place in a publication like yours.
Jim Davies
Gypsy Roma Traveller Police Association

Anonymity for the accused

Sir: I agree with Nigel Evans’s article (‘The accused’, 17 May) pleading for anonymity of rape suspects to equal the anonymity of their alleged victims. The justification for this imbalance was that it would encourage victims to come forward, and that has been successful, judging by the convictions of celebrities who were evidently thought to be immune to prosecution by their victims. However, the concept of suspects being named before conviction while complainants remain anonymous is not tenable in a society where innocence is presumed until guilt is proven. Having given medical evidence in rape cases for ages, I am very aware of the suffering of those wrongly accused. As Nigel Evans avers, it is a permanent unjust burden.
Dr Neville Davis
Hove, East Sussex

Rod’s next job

Sir: Although Rod Liddle makes a strong case for being appointed chairman of the BBC (17 May), he does not go nearly far enough. As well as reducing drastically the numerous tiers of management, he should also cut the total output, much of which is duplicated. It is not clear why it is necessary to provide 40 different local radio stations as well as ten national and five regional stations, each with its own hierarchy. It may be in the interest of managers to expand their own empires, but none of this adds to the quality of any of the programmes. Does the BBC need to offer Radio North Scunthorpe, Radio West Scunthorpe and others in competition to numerous commercial stations providing similar content? The adage ‘more is worse’ is proved every day throughout the land.

There is some excellent output on Radios 2, 3 and 4; once Rod has pruned the management he should direct his attention to maintaining and improving the best of the BBC: cut at least half of local stations, restore output of drama and science on Radio 4, and commission more quality radio programmes such as Americana.
Laurence Kelvin
London W9

Trust’s motive

Sir: Dame Helen Ghosh says that the National Trust is considering investing £35 million in renewable energy ‘to combat climate change’ (Letters, 17 May). What difference does she think that will make to the global temperature? Or is the Trust, a corporate landlord, just as keen as any rent-seeking private landlord to maximise income from the huge subsidies, ultimately paid by the consumer, for unreliable solar and wind-generated electricity?
Edward Spalton
Etwall, Derby

Molly and the wolf man

Sir: Alexander Chancellor may scoff at Veronica Maclean for believing that lion dung would keep the deer out of her garden when the local deer had never seen a lion (Long life, 10 May), but her thinking cannot be so easily dismissed. Our local Shropshire pub had an Irish wolfhound called Molly. It is hard to imagine a more gentle beast, so the locals were surprised by her reaction to a young man who came into the pub one day. Molly turned on the poor chap, pinning him to the wall. The reason? The visitor had come straight from work at the nearby Bishops Castle wolf sanctuary. Molly had never seen a wolf in her life.
David Stacey
Hope, Shropshire

Low life for A-levels

Sir: Has Jeremy Clarke ever written a better piece than his beautiful account of his Sardinian holiday with Sharon (Low life, 10 May)? His description of Italian women ‘chatting’ would be a far better study for A-level English students than the work of the ridiculous Russell Brand.
Martyn Thomas
West Norwood, London

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