Sir: I would like to take issue with Damian Thompson (‘Crisis of faith’, 13 June) and his assertions that England’s churches are in deep trouble. Last Saturday 250 Christians ranging in age from zero to 80, from two independent and orthodox local churches in Lancaster and Morecambe, met in a school to sing, pray, and hear preaching about Jesus Christ — this as well as our normal Sunday services. We believe we are doing what the Bible tells us to: preaching the good news of Christ from the pages of the Bible — and our churches are growing. Indeed, we can testify to growth in many local churches in the UK (whether independent or within a denomination).
Pastor, Church by the Bay, Morecambe
Sir: The decline of Christianity in a freethinking country like Britain is the inevitable result of God giving man the free will to discover that he doesn’t exist. In an age when science offers natural explanations for the origin of the universe and the evolution of life, it is perhaps a sign of intellectual maturity that fewer people have the need to believe in the supernatural. The problem is what takes its place: new-age religion, atheism or Islam?
Hugo, do you read me?
Sir: Hugo Rifkind rightly attacks David Cameron’s intervention in Libya (13 June). Then he repeatedly asserts that ‘nobody’ ridicules the Prime Minister’s arrogance or seems to care about it, and asks if Gaddafi could have been dealt with another way.
Nobody? Well, I agree I only did so in what is now Britain’s biggest-selling Sunday newspaper, but on 20 March 2011 I wrote that we had no business in Libya and no idea what we hoped to achieve, and knew nothing about the Libyan rebels. I said our national interests would be better served by staying out. On 24 April I complained about the absence of high-level criticism of Mr Cameron’s Libya policy. On 31 July I mocked William Hague, then Foreign Secretary, for recognising a rabble government. On 11 September I disclosed that members of Mr Cameron’s government had been on gushing ‘Brother Leader’ terms with Gaddafi as late as November 2010. In June 2012 I pointed out that Libya was a failed state with gangster militias and secret prisons. In September 2013, I complained that ‘hardly anyone’ (not ‘nobody’) was paying attention to the unfolding disaster.
These are just some of many references I made. Nor was I alone. Several other British writers have drawn attention to this catastrophe. The problem has been in the small and rather narrow circle of fashionable metropolitan journalism, which has indeed failed to examine this and other failings of a government which deserves far more criticism, at home and abroad, than it actually gets.
In the beginning…
Sir: David Cameron and Edward Llewellyn did not begin their happy days together in the Conservative Research Department ‘more than 30 years ago’, as James Forsyth asserts (Politics, 13 June). It was in 1985 that Llewellyn, then an Oxford undergraduate, decided that he wanted to join the department, having helped me edit a collection of Mrs Thatcher’s speeches (the unfortunate volume contained an error and she disowned it). Nevertheless, when he was appointed in early 1988 he soon made his mark with Mrs T in the most testing of briefing assignments, Europe. Cameron, who arrived a few months later, made no impression on her, looking completely blank when she asked him for the jobless figures (he was the department’s employment desk officer at the time). Llewellyn seemed the more ambitious of the two. No one could then have predicted their future partnership, or the shape of it.
House of Lords, London SW1
Sir: I am sorry to dispute Taki’s claims of Greek greatness (13 June) but — assuming that a small western European nation is measured in population — his assertion that ‘only Greece has two Nobel laureates in literature’ doesn’t stand up to scrutiny.
My research gave me Swedes in 1909, 1916, 1931, 1951, 1966 (a Swede who was born in Germany), 1974 (two joint Swedish winners) and 2011. Switzerland also has two, although, like one of the Swedes, one of the Swiss was born in Germany.
Who takes the VC
Sir: While I agree with Allan Mallinson in his review of Gary Mead’s Victoria’s Cross (Books, 6 June) that a better way of identifying those worthy of the award of a VC is needed, asking regiments to nominate does not always work. Lieutenant Colonel Deacon, who commanded the 61st (South Gloucestershire) Regiment during the Siege of Delhi, would not recommend any man for the VC. He said ‘every man did his duty and if a man received the VC his comrades would be jealous’. There is a tradition that when all regiments were asked to nominate two members for the VC, the soldiers of the 61st, agreeing with their colonel, nominated their brave native water-carriers instead. Nothing more was heard.
Soldiers of Gloucestershire Museum, Gloucester
Dear Mary’s buttons
Sir: Robert Vincent asks why the top worn by ‘Dear Mary’ is buttoned the wrong way (Letters, 13 June). May I suggest an explanation? The function of Mary — whomever she may be behind the signifier — is to hold up a mirror to the everyday human experience. Perhaps this accounts for the inverse perception of her blouse?