End of Entitlements
Sir: Having read David Flint’s article on parliamentary “entitlements” (Bronny bad, Adam goodes, Spectator Aust, 8 Aug.) as well as other similar pieces in recent days, I believe that a tribunal of some sort should be established to adjudicate on the validity of politician’s expenses, especially in regard to travel, which seems to bring out the worst in our elected (or party-appointed… Sen. B.Carr, I’m looking at you!) representatives.
The tribunal I propose, will be created and run at minimal expense, because it will be made up by minimally compensated private citizens, selected in the same way as jury duty, and performed likewise, as a civic duty. Ideally, this tribunal would be made up of as many small-business owners as possible, all of whom (if they are still in business) know a thing or two about controlling expenses.
The way my system would work, would be for politicians from the PM on down to the lowliest backbencher – beyond electoral office items like postage to initially pay for things like air fares and hotels, taxis, limos etc., out of their own pockets. They then submit their claims and invoices to the citizens tribunal, who will either grant full, partial or no reimbursement after discussion amongst the tribunal members, and based on some agreed upon, basic guidelines.
My guess is that the luxury trips for attendance at events of doubtful national importance, would come to a very swift end.
East Lindfield, NSW
Islington isn’t indifferent
Sir: I was shocked to read Mary Wakefield’s article accusing Islington’s middle classes of ‘extreme indifference’ to the death of our young people (1 August). As the local MP and a resident of N1, I can assure you that all these losses are deeply felt. It is provocative to suggest that there is a ‘strange apartheid’ in my constituency — and profoundly offensive to try to link this to the deaths of black and white youngsters.
I can assure you that both I and my constituents are deeply saddened by the deaths of any Islington lads, such as Alan Cartwright, Stefan Appleton, Joseph Burke-Monerville and Henry Hicks. We are particularly disgusted by a boy such as Henry being labelled a thug, on no evidence whatsoever. And I can assure you that Islington residents do support effective action to tackle knife and gun crime — whether the victim is black or white.
Emily Thornberry, MP
Islington South and Finsbury
Football’s ugly past
Sir: Mark Palmer (‘The ugly game’, 8 August) accurately diagnoses many of the ills in football, but his pessimism belies just how far we’ve come. The Chelsea racists in Paris were found and banned. A glance at Match of the Day reminds us how diverse (forgive the word) a typical Premiership crowd has become. Having confronted its demons, English football has thrived.
Across Europe, meanwhile, authorities struggle with crumbling infrastructure and hooliganism. Spain’s La Liga remains an interminable and over-politicised Real-Barca tussle. Germany’s Bundesliga has morphed into a Bayern Munich procession. Not without reason does the competitive Premiership attract a global audience.
And globally, while the award process was undoubtedly suspect, will there ever be anything more effective at shining a light into secretive and repressive societies as the arrival of the World Cup circus in Russia and Qatar?
Cheer up, Meirion
Sir: A friendly word of advice to Meirion Thomas (‘The GPs’ revenge’, 8 August): he should stop moaning, write to his ‘90 patients’, and enjoy his retirement. Like the rest of us approaching our three score years and ten and suddenly dependent on the NHS for the first time, he will have to accept that the ethos within that system has changed. Vocation, discipline and service are now as redundant as the ageing patients, and the modern GP is not the solution to a disjointed, often incompetent system which haemorrhages public funds. But he must not be too downhearted. It is also obvious that as the vast majority of the younger generation I meet seem to insist on private health care provision, the situation must improve when we have gone.
Foot and the Falklands
Sir: Rod Liddle is nowhere near worried enough about the danger of Jeremy Corbyn becoming Prime Minister (1 August). He is right to draw the parallel with Michael Foot in 1983. What he leaves out of the account is that it was the Falklands factor that stopped Foot winning that election. It was only that freak boost to the Conservative vote which temporarily cancelled a convincing Labour lead in the polls. Without it, the gibe about Foot’s manifesto being a suicide note would have looked very silly; he’d have become Prime Minister.
In praise of Zaha Hadid
Sir: Zaha Hadid’s inspiration as an architect stems from the sinuous meandering of the rivers of Iraq, her country of birth, as well as from the undulating, constantly changing sculptural forms of the sand dunes in the desert (The Heckler, 8 August). It was further nourished by the paintings of Arp and Malevich, and the architecture of Mies van der Rohe. She has evolved an architectural language and a style of her own that some find disconcerting, although few would deny her genius.
Just for the record, the majority of commentators would vote Zaha’s Aquatics Centre as the best building by far at the 2012 London Olympic Games.
Sir: Jeremy M.J. Harvey points out that Gordon Brown’s first degree was in history and not history and economics (Letters, 1 August), as stated in a previous issue of The Spectator. It was suggested that Mr Brown’s lack of any economic qualification or experience created the difficulties experienced by his government. I can’t be the only reader to have contacted you to point out that George Osborne’s degree was also in history.
Any serious defects in Gordon Brown’s economic management while Chancellor must surely be attributed in large part to his principal economic adviser from 1997 to 2004, the former MP for Morley and Outwood, Ed Balls.
All part of the service
Sir: The Spectator has been on form recently. Just when I thought it could not get any better, I read John Fisher’s letter (1 August) advocating that the RAF be scrapped. Marvellous.
Hugh Anderson (Commander RN (Rtd))
Sir: I laughed at Patrick Corden’s delightful letter (1 August) telling of his wife’s note to the Canadian milkman. It reminded me of a cartoon in a book of American and English phrases in which an Englishman, introducing his friend to an American, says: ‘He was my fag at Eton.’ The American replies: ‘My God you Brits are frank!’