Sir: As an avowed atheist Matthew Parris asks an eloquent and critical question in regard to the achievement of David Coltart: “what else can sustain hope in the face of insufficient reason for hope, save a stubborn faith in something beyond reason?”
Raimon Panikkar has explained why we need the Divine as a power that gives us a point of reference both transcendent and imminent. “Without a direct link with that transcendent point we are just one member of a species, replaceable by any other individual of the same species; we lose our uniqueness and with that our dignity.” On the other hand this point of reference has to be imminent so that we can reach it and appeal to it to safeguard our dignity. Despite its antiquity I do not have a great deal of confidence in the law to always be there in support of my dignity.
New Lambton, NSW
Book ’em Dano
Sir: Taking David Flint’s point in his Aux Bien Pensants about nuclear submarines (SA 17 September) one realises that for Australia the provision of submarines has seemingly developed into a political football match rather than the provision of the best possible weapon for the defence of our country. Why not purchase or even lease a couple of nuclear powered boats from the Americans, base them in Hawaii, and rotate crews by Qantas? This would obviate Australia’s political disdain for nuclear options, besides giving our submarine fleet meaningful teeth. After all our army and Air Force frontline are already equipped with America’s best. Rotating submarine crews could also be construed as an exchange for the rotation of the US Marine battalion already operating from Darwin. Additionally the Hawaiian state flag , like our own, includes the Union Jack which could cement further our alliance with the United States.
Sir: Rachel Wolf argues that in education policy ‘the trend, from Kenneth Baker onwards, has been towards giving schools autonomy and promoting a system where parents choose schools’ (‘Bad grammar’, 17 September). Unfortunately, freedom from local authority control has been replaced with unprecedented central interference and control. For teachers, the burdens created by Ofsted inspections far outweigh those imposed by councils. In real terms, education spending has doubled since the introduction of the national curriculum in 1988, yet academic standards have at best stayed still.
Wolf cites the success of a few academy chains, ignoring the indifferent performance of most. Her hero Michael Wilshaw has admitted that academies are no better at rescuing failing schools than those under local authority control. The grammar-school issue is almost beside the point: politicians have been shuffling the deckchairs for long enough. Several primary school heads I’ve talked say they don’t have time to even read all the guidance they receive — let alone act on it.
I shall leave the final word to Nick Davies, writing in the Observer 16 years ago: ‘The great irony is that David Blunkett sits in his office, lost in admiration for the success of the private sector, entirely failing to understand that the secret to that success is his own absence from their schools.’
Prof Tom Burkard
Sir: Can those who claim grammar schools lead to greater social division explain why their abolition many decades ago made not the slightest difference to social division? Could it be that the two are unrelated?
It takes a village
Sir: I wish Geoffrey Wheatcroft every success with his village campaign to save his local pub (‘Local heroes’, 10 September). It can be done, and in this village we have done it. Three years ago the Fox and Hounds, which like Wheatcroft’s Packhorse had been a pub for at least a couple of hundred years, was put up for sale with a view to developing it for housing.
The village didn’t want this to happen, and a band of dedicated supporters got together, had it registered as a community asset, formed a village co-operative and raised £250,000 to buy the freehold. This from just 185 inhabitants, who then put in hours of work to help refurbish.
We have found an excellent couple to run the pub and it is now a flourishing enterprise. It serves magnificent food, not only to locals but to a clientele from miles around, and the bar is once again buzzing. So take heart all you threatened villages. If a community our size can do it, so can you.
Sir: One of the strangest major alterations to history, of which James Delingpole complains in his review of Victoria (Arts, 17 September), makes the Queen’s coronation exactly contemporary with the death of Lady Flora Hastings. The Queen had acceded to the throne in 1837 and the Hastings scandal came in 1839. Lady Flora died on 5 July of that year.
Rock on, Heri
Sir: Heavy metal singer Heri Joensen makes a powerful case for whale hunting, but is wrong to assume that his music would not appeal to Spectator readers (‘Save the whale-hunt!’, 3 September). I enjoy heavy metal and particularly liked ‘Rainbow Warrior’, Mr Joensen’s musical denunciation of environmental eco-fascists.
David T.C. Davies MP