War and Brexit
Sir: Over the past few weeks every underemployed academic, hack or backbencher has come forward offering opinions on the Brexit dispute. The result has been one pool of confusing sludge. I wonder if, as a nonagenarian, I could contribute a view before the deadly vote comes along?
After four years’ service in the wartime army I was appointed to Germany as Daily Telegraph correspondent. Though it was several years after the war, what I saw appalled me. I don’t think I realised quite what a job the RAF had done; or imagined the appalling suffering of the enemy civilians. What would another European war do? We were fearful, and grasped at straws. It was at exactly that time that the scheme for pooling Franco-German coal and steel production, which at a stroke would render any future French/German conflict impossible, was first thought up. It was a visionary precursor to the EU. Europe is more fragile than one imagines; the slaughter in Bosnia occurring so recently should at least give us pause for concern.
As far as British interests go, I can hardly think of a more deadly combination than an exit from Europe and accession to power by a triumphant Boris Johnson. What motivates Boris is quite clearly self-interest; his timing suggests so. When he became editor of The Spectator, in 1999, I took him to lunch and asked him how he saw Europe. He said: ‘I spent five years working in Brussels with the bloody Belgians and I concluded that Europe was a sink!’ With such strong views, the mystery is why he waited nearly 20 years before becoming the standard-bearer for Brexit.
It would be hard to imagine a worse fate for Britain than to find ourselves out of Europe with few friends in the United States and an entertaining jokester as Prime Minister — which would be the progression if Brexit were to win.
Sir Alistair Horne
Sir: I wholeheartedly agree with Fraser Nelson’s argument against positive discrimination in the workplace (‘Purge of the posh’, 4 June). The irony is that the people imposing this approach would not be there if they were subject to the same treatment. If this government believes in aspiration, it will support the advancement of all citizens. Reform in education, welfare and justice, as Nelson concludes, will ensure our society’s health and prosperity. In the meantime, maybe Mr Cameron and his Eton-bred chums would do well to remember where they came from.
Where the cuckoos went
Sir: Charles Moore can take heart (Notes, 4 June). The cuckoos he has been unable to hear in East Sussex must have migrated to our part of Suffolk. My wife and I have heard more around us this spring than for many years, and I’m as deaf as a post.
Snowflakes in Afghanistan
Sir: I am not sure Claire Fox is painting the full picture in describing the younger generation as thin-skinned and belligerently entitled (‘The snowflake factory’, 4 June). Thousands of that same apparently fragile generation have volunteered to join the army, knowing full well that they would serve in Afghanistan. Operating in extreme conditions and facing loss of life and limb, those young men and women have been quite remarkably resilient and robust. It makes me think the problem described lies with the postwar generation, not with those who know that the next few decades won’t be quite as comfortable as those enjoyed by their rather more delicate parents.
The incomparable Don
Sir: Barometer (4 June) compares Alastair Cook’s feat in becoming, at 31, the youngest batsman ever to reach 10,000 Test match runs, having played in 127 tests, with the incomparable record of the great Don Bradman, who played in only 52 Tests. What might be added is that, although Bradman scored 6,996 runs in only 80 Test innings, he did so at an all-time record average of 99.94; whereas Cook’s average in 229 innings was only 41.49. It therefore adds perspective to reflect on how much more Bradman might have scored if his career had not been interrupted by the second world war. Assuming he might have played in at least six more Test series, we can guess that he might easily have reached 10,000 runs by the end of 1945. And if in prewar days there had been as many Test matches as there are now, Bradman (born in 1908) would almost certainly have scored his 10,000th run long before the age at which Cook reached the same milestone.
Health and the EU
Sir: The method by which Michael Barratt (Letters, 4 June) obtained his free healthcare in France will have been the European Health Insurance Card. He will be pleased to know that, despite carrying the EU logo, it is available to citizens of non-EU countries such as Switzerland, Norway and Iceland. It is quite safe for him to vote Leave.
Not exactly news
Sir: What a joy it was to see Radio 4’s most awful programmes expertly identified and targeted by James Delingpole’s broadside (Arts, 4 June). In the excitement, however, one inaccuracy slipped through: the five o’clock ‘news’ programme, which he called PM, in fact changed its name some years ago to ‘The Eddie Mair Comedy Hour’. Or at least it did in our house.
Heathfield, East Sussex