Sir: Politics can grow stale and reviews be a matter of taste, but Spectator cartoons are a continual delight. My favourite so far? The lyrebird on page 45, March 12th, so poignantly longing as he struggles with the rejection of modern technology; a symbol, if ever there was one, of ‘hope deferred’….
I live on the outskirts of Brisbane; there is a strip of bush behind the house where, in summer, one can hear the sound of male whip-birds: first the sound of the lash, then the mournfully hopeful call. Many other birds also sing there, but the whips are the most evocative and haunting.
I shall remember the Spectator image when next summer comes!
Sir: The unlawful killing verdict following the recent Hillsborough inquest may provide some consolation to the families of the bereaved but it begs to ask what constitutes lawful killing?
This adversarial theatre, which cost UK taxpayers in excess of £70m, is merely a patina of respectability underpinned by the benefit of hindsight to fulfil our innate and primitive desire for retribution. History may not repeat itself but it sure does rhyme. The same happened following the Aberfan disaster in October 1966. The subsequent tribunal in 1967 held the National Coal Board responsible yet no criminal prosecutions ensued.
Meanwhile, Lord Justinian Forthemoney et al will be chomping at the bit!
Spring Hill, Qld
Green reasons to stay in
Sir: As Conservatives we are clear that the European Union has been central to improving the quality of the UK’s environment. European policy is not always perfect, but on environmental issues it has allowed us to move forward in leaps and bounds.
The wealth of the environment on which our economy depends is not confined to national boundaries, which is why the EU has become such a vital forum for negotiating Britain’s interest in maintaining healthy seas, clean air, climate security and species protection.
It is largely thanks to European agreements that we now have sewage-free beaches in Britain. Because of tough European vehicle standards, British car drivers spend less on fuel. And it is because of European legislation that some of the UK’s rarest birds have started to recover after decades of decline.
There will be many arguments in the coming weeks on the merits for and against staying in the EU but, for environmental sustainability, we believe that Brexit is likely to damage our interests.
We would lose influence over the environmental impact of neighbouring countries, whose behaviour affects the migration of our wildlife, the pollution of our air and the health of our seas. It could also weaken our efforts to tackle climate change and undercut existing UK environmental protections, since there is no guarantee that the high standards we have negotiated within Europe will remain in place in Britain.
We are clear that the way to create a better environment for UK citizens is to strengthen environmental action through European cooperation, not by leaving the EU.
John Gummer, Michael Heseltine, Chris Patten and Caroline Spelman, former environment secretaries; Greg Barker, former climate change minister; Richard Benyon and Tim Yeo, former environment ministers; Charles Hendry, former energy minister; Laura Sandys, former member of the Energy and Climate Change Committee; Stanley Johnson, former Conservative MEP
Sir: Roll on 24 June. Your well-argued call for a more reasoned debate on EU membership (Leading article, 23 April) will not, I fear, be heeded. As a voter, I have resigned myself to being treated as a child. What is more depressing is the infantile behaviour of campaigners on both sides. The trading of ill-founded or often patently false assertions is reminiscent of the playground. This is unlikely to change in the final month of the ‘debate’.
‘Rely on your instincts’ might be better advice for voters.
Not just newsprint
Sir: The assessment in your leading article of the influence of the UK’s newspapers (16 April) made me wonder if the digital revolution had slipped the author’s mind. Now that people read across a variety of platforms, the global influence of newspaper brands has reached unprecedented levels.
In Britain, five of the top six news websites are owned and run by newspaper publishers, which means that national newspapers’ digital readership is more than 34 million a month. Print readership augments this figure, with seven million national newspapers bought each day. That’s one of the reasons the papers continue to set the agenda on television, radio and now social media.
The truth is that there is a bigger appetite for news and opinion than ever, but just as The Spectator’s online readership outstrips its print sales, so it is with our newspapers.
Chief executive, Newsworks