Sir: I wonder if the authors of ‘Dr.James Barry’ got their inspiration from the 1999 publication by Isabel Allende, ‘Daughter of Fortune’. I have to say that they are one and the same ‘bloke’, ‘gal’. ( I very much enjoy your magazine.).
Sir: Peter Kurti (‘Checking out’, 20/8) falsely paints Andrew Denton’s opposition to the current dominance of religious views – largely responsible for blocking access to voluntary euthanasia – as though Denton denies their right to express these views – not so. Denton’s frustration is entirely focused on the blanket enforcement of these views upon the non-religious.
Mount Waverley, Vic
Sir: I don’t know much about cyber security or encryption, but I do know that the native North American languages used by the US military during WWll left the Axis code breakers totally baffled, so maybe our government departments should hire some American Indians to transmit/store any sensitive information. I’m also guessing that the ABC’s new website is not working terribly well at the moment thanks to Monday night’s Four Corners program and the questions they posed to the Chinese embassy vis-a-vis hacking. I’ve also stumbled across what appears to be a secret online right-wing extremist organization called ‘Flat White’, which I’ve reported to the authorities on the ‘be alarmed, not alert’ hotline.
On a seperate note; a possible solution to the same-sex marriage kerfuffle might be for the gov’t to scrap the 2004 man-marries-woman-amendment and hand the issue over to the states to deal with – as happens in the US – leaving Canberra to get on with more pressing issues.
Sir: In discussing my attitude to Boris (‘The Boris-bashers should be ashamed’, 27 August), Mary Wakefield is too kind — to Boris. She claims that I am agin him because he has no plan and no philosophy. Not so: my criticisms are nearer those of the Oxford contemporaries whom she cites and who described Boris as a ‘sociopath’. He is a charismatic narcissist in a long tradition stretching back to Alcibiades. Such characters have no moral, intellectual or political integrity, but have a sublime confidence in their ability to charm themselves out of every embarrassment.
Mary goes on to claim that David Cameron had no plan either, and surrounded himself with ‘yes men’. David was once asked about his overall objective. He replied: ‘To leave the country stronger and the people more prosperous.’ A sound goal, surely. David also promoted changes in welfare and education and in the size of the public sector.
As for yes men — bunkum and balderdash. I have been watching politics for 40 years, and Cameron’s was much the strongest Downing Street team I have seen. All of them were used to speaking their minds: all had minds to speak.
Mary also accuses David of snootiness towards the staff at Buckingham Palace and discourtesy towards drivers. As for the Palace, Mary’s sources are obviously better than mine, but I have talked to a couple of chaps who know a bit about the place, and were mystified by the allegation. I have frequently travelled in a car with David and his relations with the drivers were easy and relaxed. Under the Camerons, Chequers was a happy family house.
Over the past couple of centuries, we have had two great foreign secretaries, Castlereagh and Bevin. Both rose to the challenge of great events: in Bevin’s case, national survival was at stake. Today’s difficulties are not on that scale, but they are grave. We need a foreign secretary of the first rank. Could Boris meet that specification? In the national interest, we must hope so: hope that the Boris-sceptics are confounded. Again, we shall see.
Boris is the best
Sir: I should like to thank Mary Wakefield for her defence of Boris (27 August). When Boris left The Spectator, I wrote him a rather cross letter saying that the country didn’t need any more politicians, whereas we were short of decent journalists. I was wrong. He has since proved himself as an excellent Mayor of London, and a fine advocate for Brexit. I am not at all surprised that he is ‘unfailingly polite to everyone, irrespective of rank’. People forget that he is a scholarship boy who does not come from wealth. He seems to understand the mood of the country, and I for one would trust him.
If in the future he and Michael Gove could work together, I believe that Britain would be in good hands.
The pointlessness of HS2
Sir: Three cheers for Ysenda Maxtone Graham and her article attacking HS2 (‘The vanity line’, 27 August). I am pretty sure she is spot on when she says that almost no one thinks shaving 20 minutes off the London to Birmingham journey time is a worthwhile return on this humongously large investment.
But why take my, or her, word for it? Why does the Chancellor not ask the public: ‘I have £65 billion to spend — that’s £1,000 for every man, woman and child — what should I spend it on?’
My vote would be not HS2 but HSB: high-speed broadband for all. And nationwide 4G mobile phone coverage while we are about it. You could get both for £65 billion and a chunk of change to boot, and then those outside the metropolis wouldn’t need to rush to London at all.