Lurid about Leavers
Sir: Matthew Parris has spent much of the past few months denigrating those of us who want to leave the EU, but his latest article (‘For the first time, I feel ashamed to be British’, 9 July) really does go too far.
It is simply untrue to claim that the leaders of the Leave campaign relied on hatred of immigration, and that this won it for Leave. As Brendan O’Neill pointed out (‘Not thick or racist: just poor’, 2 July), a majority of Leave voters (including me, for what it is worth) rejected the EU primarily for sovereignty reasons. But whatever Mr Parris may feel, there is nothing immoral about wanting to control (not stop) the number of immigrants who enter one’s country. Very many other sovereign states do just that, without incurring his wrath. As for Daniel Hannan losing his temper with Christiane Amanpour, he was no doubt angry because, like so many of us, he is sick and tired of accusations that wanting to control immigration is racist and disgraceful. I have for many years read and enjoyed Mr Parris’s columns, and am disappointed that he has chosen to portray Leavers in such lurid terms.
East Lavant, West Sussex
A sense of loss
Sir: Ralph Prothero (Letters, 9 July) writes that ‘we have referendums and elections for a reason, which is that they are a peaceful means of resolving our differences’. Elections, yes. But referendums? Of the three UK-wide ones we have had, two were to dampen down raging rows within the ruling party, while the third (the AV referendum) was a stitch-up between the two parties of a coalition.
In the same issue Hugo de Groot writes ‘I did it [vote Leave] for them [his children], to hand them back their country’. Along with many of my family and friends who voted Remain, I feel I have just lost my country. No amount of sloganising about ‘Brussels bureaucrats’ can change that deep-rooted feeling.
Sir: As a Conservative party member who was intending to vote for Theresa May in the leadership election, I have to wonder, with all of Corbyn’s shouts about his mandate from the Labour membership, how May can comfortably lead the party without approval of the Tory membership. While I think May will make a fantastic PM, I worry this could diminish faith in her premiership before it has even started.
Thinking in miles
Sir: Ysenda Maxtone Graham, in her piece on imperial measurements (‘Imperial ambitions’, 9 July) didn’t mention the quiet withdrawal of the attempt to change our road signs. For a few years it looked as if we would have to think only in kilometres. Thank goodness sense prevailed.
Sir: I disagree with Toby Young’s claim (Status Anxiety, 2 July) that the decision to leave the EU reflects ‘a decline in the authority of Parliament’. On the contrary, it shows a desire to see the authority of Parliament restored. There is now so much legislation imposed on us by the EU over which our representatives have no control and, worse still, regulations which are not even voted on by the EU parliament. It will be a relief for our MPs to know that their work is restored to its proper place.
A recipe for marmot
Sir: Philip Hensher’s tour d’horizon of the gloomier aspects of Swiss cuisine is too kind to the poor long-suffering marmot (Books, 9 July). I believe they were eaten for a good while, particularly in the Valais, for many centuries an impoverished backwater where locals consumed anything that could be consumed. Travelling in the Valais in 1771, the Reverend Norton Nicholls of Lound and Bradwell in Suffolk was presented with a joint of marmot, stuffed with garlic, ‘that the host had kept for three weeks; the salad was dressed with rancid linseed oil’. He deemed it inedible. The wine was scarcely more inspiring, with the Reverend’s travelling companion writing: ‘Do not worry where Hannibal got his vinegar; he could have wine from Obergesteln fit to split any rocks.’
This particular marmot adventure is related in Gavin de Beer’s outstanding Escape to Switzerland (1945).
Sir: Henry Jeffreys should not be ashamed of taking home usable items from rubbish bins (‘Downwardly mobile’, 9 July). At the gates to our colourful alleyway in an ‘up-and-coming’ area of south Manchester we have found a large saucepan, two leather dining chairs, a microwave oven and, the pièce de résistance, a 50-inch plasma television.
You’ll catch more ants…
Sir: As a professional entomologist I feel compelled to correct Elizabeth Hurley’s observation, with regard to the Brexit referendum, on what attracts flies: ‘Note: you attract flies with honey, not vinegar; small wonder the majority of the country flew in the opposite direction’ (Diary, 9 July). On the contrary, many flies (order Diptera) are attracted specifically to vinegar (hence the common name ‘vinegar fly’), including the famous laboratory species Drosophila melanogaster, the fruit fly. Honey tends to attract not flies, but wasps and ants (Hymenoptera), the more socially advanced of our six-legged friends.
Natural History Museum, London SW7