What immigration debate?
Sir: Henrik Jonsson says (Letters, 10 September) that Swedes ought to learn from the Brits how to maintain a broad and dynamic public debate. I can’t say I witnessed anything approximating public debate on the topic of immigration during the referendum, when the debate was carried out through the ballot box, not in reasonable parliamentary discussion. What we need is for more senior politicians to be willing to engage in public discourse and take a non-careerist approach. Too many leaders have thought it best to avoid this toxic issue rather than risk their positions. As Enoch Powell once described the typical politicians’ view on immigration, ‘It’s better for us to do nothing now and let it happen perhaps after our time.’
Sir: I thoroughly enjoyed Toby Young’s astute analysis of how the Labour MP Keith Vaz and the US politician Anthony Weiner appear to possess a ‘talent for psychopathy’ because they seem to lack a sense of shame or guilt (Status anxiety, 10 September).
It reminds me of when I worked for a newspaper whose weekly film columnist suddenly and without warning went AWOL on the day of publication, leaving me and other executives frantic and at the mercy of a furious editor. When his whereabouts — an upmarket Caribbean hotel — were finally discovered, it was too late and alternative material had to be quickly rustled up. His excuse was that he quite fancied a few days away in the sun and ‘forgot’ to mention it.
I rather fear Toby’s recollection of the incident will be a little hazier than my own. As he points out, the guilty are ‘unusually good at repressing unpleasant feelings’.
Sir: Jeremy Norman asks: ‘Does the EU know and approve of the price that Mt Athos is paying in return for Russian money?’ (‘Mystery on Mount Athos’, 10 September). The fact of the matter is that there is little, if anything, that the EU can do. Article 105 of the Constitution of the Hellenic Republic defines in perpetuity the special legal status of Mt Athos and the 20 monasteries located there for over a millennium. Greece’s treaty of accession to the EU reaffirmed the special status of Mt Athos, as has the Greek minister of culture recently in response to a European Parliament resolution. Mt Athos is self-governing and has been for centuries. It will be there long after the EU is gone.
Edgar Ter Danielyan
Sir: Both Bruce Anderson and John Bunkell (Letters, 10 September) have surely forgotten our greatest foreign secretary. I refer, of course, to Lord Palmerston.
Bragg’s unhappy ending
Sir: Kate Chisholm may have quite rightly criticised Melvyn Bragg’s Radio 4 series on the north of England in her article of 3 September, but to have the most effective ammunition she should have waited until the end of the series. The concluding programme was a rant from a guilt-ridden Islington socialist who had no contact with reality. As someone born and brought up in the north-east, I was angry to see the home of my fathers (and mothers) traduced in a piece of propaganda that had no place in a public broadcasting network and would have been better suited to a Corbyn rally.
Sir: What a splendid letter from Ian Gates (10 September) on the self-indulgence of the radio series by the otherwise admirable Melvyn Bragg, laboriously extolling the glories of the north of England. Although I owe my existence to my grandfather looking up at the girl who was to be my grandmother from the bottom of a trench when he was excavating that ancient frontier, I had no idea that Hadrian’s Wall is not the northernmost point of England.
As for Mr Gates’s point that Liverpool and Manchester have little in common with Newcastle and Middlesbrough: as a resident of Somerset, in what outsiders call the ‘West Country’, I am well aware that we have nothing whatever in common with folk in Cornwall, who might as well live in a wholly different country — as indeed many of them like to believe they do.
Quid pro quo
Sir: Your recent leader ‘Migrant benefits’ (10 September) suggested that the government should provide ‘immediate assurances’ to EU nationals living in Britain. Surely this would be premature if we are not guaranteed similar assurances for expat citizens living throughout the EU? After all, one would hope that the government would defend the interests of British citizens regardless of where they live in the world.
Don’t rubbish verbing!
Sir: Further confirmation of the antique nature of ‘verbing’ (Letters, 10 September) can be had from Fowler’s English Usage. Ernest Gowers, the editor of the 2nd edition, 1965, penned (oops) the following; ‘It is an ancient and valuable right of the English people to turn their nouns into verbs when they are so minded.’