Sir: James Forsyth looks for hope for moderates within the Labour party and finds none (‘The party’s over’, 24 September). That is because the most promising source of hope for them is not a change of position by Labour, but one by the Conservatives.
The history of British politics since 1990 has been a prolonged fight for the centre ground. This isn’t because that’s where either party naturally wants to be, but because that’s where the votes are.
With Corbyn’s renewed mandate, Labour have unilaterally ceded that ground. The Conservatives could, as Forsyth suggests, use the opportunity to dig themselves in there so firmly that Labour will never recover it. But are the Conservatives not as vulnerable to their activist membership dragging them to the right as Labour was vulnerable to the left? With the pressure to contest the centre ground removed, we are just as likely to see a Tory party ruled more by its right-wing members than by its centrist MPs.
Sir: Martin Vander Weyer is right: ‘the north’ would let out a cheer if HS3 were approved and quietly ignore the disappearance of HS2 (Any other business, 17 September). I spent many years in Japan’s second city, Osaka, where one of my activities was to support their mayor’s work to improve the international attractiveness of the city to foreign business. The problem was that every major Osaka-based company’s head-office functions had been drained away to Tokyo. The ‘bullet train’ linking the cities in about two-and-a-half hours encouraged this, because it made it convenient to keep in touch but leave the ‘old base’ behind. It had a snowballing effect as one major head office after another moved out. By about 2005 none was left.
In my view, the north should be north and the south should be south, and the twain should be happy to stay apart. If it is easier to reach, the south can outsell the north and supply services northwards. If they are more separated, the north can develop its own services and be more self-contained and confident. It is a pity that the Northern Powerhouse Partnership which George Osborne is leading does not see this uncomfortable fact. Ironically, the reason is that it is too London-centric.
When it comes to making the north a land fit again for future entrepreneurial titans, what’s needed is a better vicinity for clustering and collaboration. It will help make them more efficient and innovative and then, HS2 or none, both the south and the world will come and do business.
Deplored… or adored?
Sir: In his Spectator’s Notes (24 September) Charles Moore wonders if Trump supporters would take Hillary Clinton’s insult that they are a ‘basket of deplorables’ as a badge of pride. An American friend in New Mexico this week told me he is proud to be one of a growing number of ‘adorable deplorables’. He did not say whether they are (yet) planning to march on Washington.
The Tate we’re in
Sir: Sir Nicholas Serota is accused by Stephen Bayley of pursuing ever-higher attendances at the Tates above all else (The Heckler, 24 September). But this attitude pre-dates Serota. I remember the scorn with which Henry Moore treated the dismissal of the idea of a Turner Gallery separate from the Tate — then directed by Sir Norman Reid — on the grounds that it would attract few visitors. He pointed to the Casa Buonarroti in Florence as an example of a museum which was little visited but nevertheless culturally valuable. Some of Turner’s more lily-livered admirers, however, bought the Tate objection.
The problem for those who like art has not been Serota so much as the DCMS, which should drop ‘Culture’ from its title. Most of its time is taken up with the media as a political, rather than cultural, estate of the realm, and many of its secretaries of state have had no real interest in culture. Some have even regarded the role as being so insignificant as to be an insult.
Dr Selby Whittingham
The Independent Turner Society, London SW5
Missing the boat
Sir: Martin Vander Weyer is right to add his voice to calls for a new royal yacht (Any Other Business, 24 September). It would provide the UK with a mobile embassy and palace, all in one, with all that could do for our political and economic relations around the world. To have the right official status it would, of course, have to be manned by the Royal Navy, as was Britannia.
But there are two obstacles to his proposal for HMY Enterprise. Firstly, the Navy has such a manning crisis that it can’t man the relatively few ships it has, so the Navy itself isn’t keen. Secondly, it already has a ship called HMS Enterprise. HMY Commonwealth might find favour with HM The Queen.
Sir: An unusual way to advertise, but G.O. from Bath has my total respect for revealing (Dear Mary, 24 September) that he was able to get rid of unwanted guests by his wife running round naked in the garden. I have been searching for this kind of service for ages. Do you know if G.O.’s wife would travel to Horsham for a party we are having in November? If it is cold, I am sure a quick run round the house would be fine. Thank you for the introduction.
Horsham, West Sussex