Beyond the law
Sir: In your leading article of 28 June you make the point that the hacking trial demonstrates why political oversight of press regulation, not press regulation by politicians, would be an unnecessary ‘draconian step’ because ‘hacking is already against the law’. Later you compare the illegal but honourable behaviour of Andy Coulson with that of Damian McBride, who ‘broke no law but behaved criminally’. In doing so you weaken the earlier argument.
Regulation of the press should not solely be focused on illegal activity; rather it is to ensure that the press does not behave in a way analogous to that you criticise McBride for. In the case of the Chris Jeffries, for example, aside from the contempt of court fines imposed on the Daily Mirror and the Sun and the libel damages paid by eight newspapers, there were many aspects of his treatment where the press broke no law but behaved in a way that many viewed as criminal. That is why an independent press regulator overseen by a democratically elected parliament is required.
Sell it yourself
Sir: Harry Mount is correct to say the internet will herald the end of the estate agent (‘The end of estate agents’, 28 June). Across a whole swath of industries, the web is rapidly bringing an end to the monopolies that offer poor value to the consumer. The real estate industry will not be immune from this. Buyers and sellers are looking to reduce their costs, and the 2 per cent which agents typically charge does not stand up to scrutiny. With relatively little effort sellers can list their properties online and cut out the agents, saving themselves thousands. It will not be long before the estate agency model in Britain is shattered by home owners questioning what their fees go on and doing it themselves. And not before time.
Unfair on Bulgaria
Sir: In his review of Caroline Moorehead’s book Village of Secrets (Books, 28 June), Alan Judd accuses Bulgaria of whole-hearted collusion with the Nazis. This is unjust. Bulgaria shares with Denmark the distinction of having saved the great majority of its Jewish population, despite a pro-German administration and occupation by German troops. There was little local tradition of anti-Semitism. The Orthodox Church, led by Metropolitan Stefan, strongly opposed the deportation of the Jews, and King Boris III refused to authorise anti-Jewish measures after March 1943. The Israeli historian Michael Bar-Zohar praises Bulgaria’s record in his book Beyond Hitler’s Grasp. Around 90 per cent of Bulgaria’s pre-war Jewish population survived.
The worth of useless skills
Sir: Toby Young moans about ‘group work and independent study’ at school (Status anxiety, 28 June), but these are invaluable skills for any workforce to possess. My whole working life has been ‘group work and independent study’: for the individual to identify and master a skill, and use it within a group to forward the objectives of the project.
However, I do agree with his view on teaching Latin in schools. Latin and Classics are subjects that are perfectly useless in the real world. The possessor of these skills then has no choice but to delegate and learn to do it effectively, so quickly making him management material. Media studies, although equally useless, does not confer the gravitas required to be taken seriously enough to get away with getting others to do your work for you.
Scotch on the rocks
Sir: While it was enlightening to read Bruce Anderson’s musings about the nectar that Glenmorangie undoubtedly is, I was disappointed by his somewhat myopic attitude to the marketing of said single malt (Drink, 21 June). I dislike seeing a metallic pink Bentley with a tasteless chromed spinner on each wheel tooling around Chicago, but I accept that many excellent British products succeed in overseas markets because of their inherent qualities, even though they are often treated in a manner which can upset traditionalists. For Mr Anderson to bemoan advertising of Glenmorangie showing the product in a glass containing ice cubes is naive. The Scotch whisky industry has a tremendously successful track record in exporting, so while traditional purists have every right to frown upon a great single malt being touted as a dram which can — and decidedly does — handle the assault of ice very well, it is unfair to criticise the distiller for being alive to international tastes when promoting its product. The divine Glenmorangie 1963 should in my view never be poured over ice, as it would immediately suffer greatly from the sudden drop in temperature. However the wonderful ten-year-old Original is a superb dram when quaffed straight, with water, and indeed with ice. Recognition of this reality has much to do with the brand’s success in the US market.
Anthony J. Burnet
East Saltoun, East Lothian
Over the border
Sir: Dan Snow (Diary, 21 June) is absolutely right when he says, ‘Borders are scars of past violence. We need less of them, not more.’ It is for precisely this reason that many of us support Scottish independence. We are tired of being part of an increasingly isolationist United Kingdom with its quasi-police-style UK border force. Instead we would prefer to be part of Europe with free-flowing movement of people and goods without the need to produce passports. Any border post between Scotland and England would be erected by the English, not the Scots.