Sir: Congratulations on the best arguments, articles and editorial I have personally witnessed so far in the history of The Spectator Australia. Best issue yet. Neil Brown for example deserves unqualified praise.
Echo Point, Australia
Giles Auty wrote 500 articles for The Spectator UK 1984-95
Betrayal of Trust
Sir: Rod Liddle has traduced the Quaker values of the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust that include non-violence, equality and truth in his piece, ‘Jihadi John, Cage and the fools who give it money’, 7 March.
Mr Liddle identified three recipients of JRCT grants: Jawaab UK, Cage, and Teach na Fáilte. Jawaab UK was not set up by an extremist Islamic maniac. On the contrary, it works to help young Muslims play their part in a democratic society. Cage, which JRCT ceased funding in January 2014, has in the past played an important role in defending the right to fair trial and due legal process. Finally, JRCT has not given money to the Irish National Liberation Army. Rather, having worked to build trust with all sides in Northern Ireland for more than 40 years, it has approved a ring-fenced grant to Teach na Fáilte, a support group for current and ex-prisoners, to build pathways to peace.
In the past ten years, JRCT has made 1,075 grants totalling £57 million. Our funding in South Africa and Northern Ireland demonstrates that building peace with justice requires patient, long-term work. Of necessity this will sometimes involve working with people whose views might appear difficult to reconcile, and who may have undesirable pasts. JRCT abhors violence, does not fund terrorism, and its goal is a peaceful and just society.
Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust, York
Lessons of Winterbourne
Sir: In your leader (7 March) you suggest that NHS hospitals such as Furness General Hospital would benefit from being forced to close in the same way that Winterbourne View was. The parent company of Winterbourne View is now under new ownership: same 20 homes, same 850 staff. The only people who have been taught a lesson are the company’s creditors.
Police officers needed?
Sir: Exposure to the police too often confirms Neil Darbyshire’s depressing analysis of the degradation of our police service (‘PCs gone bad’, 7 March). However, Mr Darbyshire fails to propose a solution. Like Lenin’s fish, the Met has rotted from the head down. The practice, since the 1950s, of appointing leadership from within the Met has proved a serious error. Outsiders would have brought none of the internal baggage that automatically came with the internal appointments of the past 60 years.
The Met Commissioner should be the solution and not part of the problem. Commissioners do not solve crimes or catch criminals, but select and manage those who handle the sharp end. They do not need past experience of policing. The Commissioner therefore should be an outsider assisted by deputies who are professional policemen. The Met should also upgrade recruitment and target, for example, those with officer-level experience in the armed forces. Ethical failures and corruption in the police service are evidence of the absence within it of the essential moral ethos that comes with a trained officer class.
Get tough with the Tate
Sir: Jack Wakefield’s analysis of Tate Britain’s woes (The Heckler, 7 March) is spot on. Ill-conceived, poorly presented exhibitions, dumbed-down catalogues and faddish installations are wholly unsuited to the Millbank gallery. In contrast to Tate Britain, the Royal Academy successfully combines blockbusters with critically acclaimed smaller exhibitions — recently exemplified by the superbly curated selection of Moroni portraits.
The Department for Culture, Media and Sport must take a much tougher line with the trustees. Any future funding settlements from the taxpayer should be conditional upon a far higher proportion of Tate Britain’s unseen treasures being made available to the viewing public; preferably in the major provincial galleries.
Professor David Thomas
No serious evidence
Sir: In his sobering article on Russia and Nato (‘The empire builders’, 7 March), Peter Hitchens makes the point that there is no serious evidence for the belief that Russia wants to re-conquer its lost empire. It is worth reflecting that this month marks the 50th anniversary of the first arrival of US combat units in Vietnam, prompted by a belief for which there was, similarly, no serious evidence: the domino theory.
Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
Who visits our galleries?
Sir: Alexander Chancellor is of course correct in suggesting that you really can’t make people go to art galleries or the opera if they don’t want to (Long life, 28 February); but they just might want to if our education system did more to spark their interest. Governments should not be penalising the galleries and theatres for their own education policy failures.
But I remain intrigued about the basis for all these statements about low-income families and the rest. A recent report suggested that while there had been an increase in foreign visitors to our galleries, visits by UK nationals were down. How do they know? I have never been asked where I come from on my many visits to the National Gallery and the rest; and the galleries would be hard-pressed to assess my income or socio-economic class, let alone my nationality, based on my general appearance. How reliable is this data?
Last year, Harriet Harman wrote that on a visit to the Royal Opera House she had not seen any of her constituents (I presume she intended an observation regarding social class etc). She was rebutted online by a number of people who said they had been present and did indeed come from her part of south-east London. I do hope that funding will never be based — even in part — on such careless assumptions.
Sir: I dare say I am not the only Spectator reader whose heart sank at the revelation (Letters, 7 March) that two ‘Turner Prize-winning artists’ have been commissioned to install new artworks at the Tottenham Court Road station.
Rizwan Hussain: an apology
In his 7 March article (‘Jihadi John, the crazies at Cage and the fools who fund them’), Rod Liddle wrongly identified the founder of the organisation Jawaab, Rizwan Hussain, as being the former head of the Global Aid Trust, which had been exposed by a TV programme as ‘a nest of extremist Islamists’ including a preacher who had made anti-Semitic comments. Rod was, alas, referring to a different Rizwan Hussain. We accept that Mr Hussain, a director of Jawaab, has had nothing to do with the Global Aid Trust, and there was therefore no basis for linking him to the views of those who participate in that organisation. Further, we accept that Jawaab does not have and has never had any links to extremist murderers and any suggestion to this effect was unfounded and erroneous. We have invited Mr Hussain to explain Jawaab’s work in Jawaab explained. We apologise unreservedly to him and to Jawaab for our error.