Democracy or bureaucracy
Sir: Professor Garton Ash makes a scholarly appeal for us all to be content with government from Brussels for the foreseeable future (‘A conservative case for staying in’, 5 March). The alternative would involve possible risk. Very true. But the professor skates animbly round two words: governmental system. After numerous combats and enormous suffering, the British live within and are ruled by an elective democracy. In a reference to his Churchillian quote, it may be an imperfect system but it is better than all the others. Read the works of Jean Monnet and one will understand why the governmental system of the EU was never designed to be a democracy, is not a democracy and never will be. It is a non-elective bureaucracy.
One can choose to be governed by one system or the other but not both, or part of both. One has to dominate the other and we know which has the primacy. You cannot have both because they are mutually incompatible.
The best superpower
Sir: Freddy Gray’s article (‘America turns nasty’, 5 March) provided us with a very stimulating view on Donald Trump’s America and where it is heading. However, I would dispute one of his statements. He described America as the most benevolent superpower in history. I understand why he believes that and there is no doubt that the United States has been generous with its assistance to the wider world.
Despite that generosity of spirit on the part of America, I believe Britain, albeit in the past, to have been the most benevolent superpower. It is Britain that spread the values we all hold dear around the globe, and when she did have supreme power she exercised it, on the whole, in a responsible way, before sacrificing it all in two world wars fought to save the world from darker forces. The Spanish philosopher Santayana said of Britain and her empire: ‘Never since the days of heroic Greece has the world had such a sweet, just, boyish master.’ He went on say that it would be a black day for the human race when that time had passed. I think the history of the 20th century proves how right he was.
Sir: In his Notes on 5 March, Charles Moore tells the story of a visit by Sir Winston Churchill to the Icelandic Parliament, Althingi. Mr Moore says:
Churchill famously irritated its members by the first half of his sentence and gratified them with the second half: ‘I come from the mother of parliaments [pause] to the grandmother of parliaments.’
A good line, but one that was delivered not by Churchill but by Lord Newton, who was sent to help the Althingi celebrate its 1,000-year anniversary in 1930.
Incidentally, our first laws were spoken rather than written, so the presiding officer had to recite them when parliament met. This is the origin of the phrase ‘Mr Speaker’.
Death to Rob Titchener!
Sir: Iris Murdoch and John Bayley made it respectable to listen to The Archers. Every evening, just after 7 p.m., John and Iris sat down in their kitchen to listen to the everyday story of country folk which, as Kate Chisholm says, is often very well written (‘Save our Helen!’, 27 February). But it is better without violence. Nigel should never have fallen to his death from his stately roof, not because he was the only toff in the village, but because he was the only fun person. Nevertheless a violent death for Rob Titchener, Helen’s sinister, controlling husband, would not come amiss. As he has got away with horse-whipping a hunt saboteur, perhaps a hunting accident would be in order.
Good and bad radiation
Sir: William Cook’s review of Strange Glow by Timothy J. Jorgensen (Books, 5 March) does not make it clear — or maybe Jorgensen does not properly explain — that ‘radiation’ is a generic term in physics.
There are two distinct groups and within each group many different kinds. Radio, TV, Wi-Fi, microwaves, infra-red and visible light are non-ionising radiations. Alpha, beta, and gamma rays/particles — first identified by the great physicist Ernest Rutherford more than a century ago — are ionising radiations. So are X-rays and the ultraviolet in sunlight. Quite different — which is why ‘radiation can be good and bad for you’.
Famous wet raincoat
Sir: Shortly after reading Ysenda Maxtone Graham’s piece about the plague of first-person advertising (‘Why my?’, 5 March), I came across an advert for a new fragrance, ‘My Burberry’. Featuring Cara Delevingne and Kate Moss, it states that the perfume is ‘inspired by the iconic trench coat’. Quite why either of these models, or indeed any woman, would want to smell like a wet raincoat is beyond me.
Sir: James Bartholomew is very accurate in his description of the pleasureless left (‘Left without pleasures’, 20 February). I used to work alongside a socialist chap who amazed us all by returning from holiday and telling us he’d taken his wife to Venice. Best campsite he’d stayed in for quite a while, apparently.