Sir: I couldn’t agree more with Rod Liddle’s exposé of western politico-militaristic hypocrisy (‘Stop the sabre-rattling’, 22 October). We’ve already poked the Russian bear way too hard — unnecessarily so. What Rod could have also highlighted was that Nato has spread so far eastwards that it’s a blessed surprise the next world war hasn’t already started.
It almost did in 1962 when Khrushchev tried to move nuclear missiles into Cuba. The same principle applies to what ‘we’ are doing now — frontline, aggressive technologies, nuclear-implied, established in the old Soviet states of Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania and even Poland. In Moscow, the memory of 20 million dead Russians and their cities razed to the ground by the Nazi war machine is still fresh. How can anybody be surprised that Putin has drawn a line in the sand with regard to Kiev and Sebastopol becoming American fortresses? In his mind he is ultimately defending his country — no different from John F. Kennedy. Moreover, the Chinese are in full accord with him. If I could wave a wand to bring back Nixon to calm it all down, I would. As Mr Liddle illustrates, it is a real worry that we have nobody capable of proper realpolitik at the moment.
On the bright side
Sir: Matt Ridley’s article ‘Climate of ignorance’ (22 October) brought back memories of the climate-change debate 15 years ago. As someone professionally engaged in translating climate-change science to a corporate audience in the early 2000s, I was able to record some of the results of the Third Assessment Report of the International Panel on Climate Change; to wit, that increased atmospheric CO2 levels were expected to significantly increase agricultural productivity. Strangely, these positive impacts of greenhouse gas emissions were, to my knowledge, ignored by the media and other commentators at the time.
The price of fame
Sir: I was delighted to learn from Charles Moore in his column that he received a fee of £225 for appearing on Any Questions? (22 October). In August I, too, appeared on this most excellent of programmes. Since reading Charles’s column I have been mulling over the reason why I only received a fee of £222, and I find it most worrying. Is a radio presenter really worth three pounds less than a Spectator columnist?
LBC Radio, London WC2
Sir: Mary Wakefield’s article on the intelligence of the Tower ravens (‘How clever are ravens? I asked at the Tower’, 22 October) was most interesting. The people of the first nations on the northwest coast of Canada (think British Columbia) — particularly the Haida and Squamish — have known this for many centuries. Indeed, they believe that it is only because of the raven that we have sunlight at all.
Sir: Michael Heseltine is to be congratulated on setting out the grey squirrel problem (Diary, 22 October). Everything he says is correct, but he does not go far enough. Grey squirrels wreck and destroy young trees, especially those we most value, such as beech and oak. The eventual result will be a much less diverse population of trees, particularly of deciduous varieties, which will be largely limited to those that squirrels do not attack, such as ash and lime. In turn, this will have huge and unimaginable consequences for Britain’s wildlife as a whole. The red squirrel argument, led by Prince Charles, is a sideshow, but the wider impact of grey squirrels upon the environment will be enormous and needs to be properly acknowledged.
Sir: A great shame that Lord Heseltine is not more careful in his use of language (Diary, 22 October). His accusation that Brexiteers ‘trashed’ the currency (based on a three-month assessment of currency movements) is both disingenuous and a misunderstanding of the meaning of ‘trash’. I think he’ll find that ‘trash’ means ‘wilfully to damage or destroy’.
I haven’t yet met a Brexiteer who thought that there would be no short-term consequences of Brexit. Neither have I met one who didn’t think that in the medium term the whole economy — including the currency — would flourish once out of our current restrictive cartel.
Sir: In a letter to The Spectator two weeks ago (Letters, 8 October), I made a serious error. The figures I cited on grammar school pupils in Northern Ireland, apparently showing that children from poor homes in the province did significantly better at university entrance than their mainland equivalents, were based on my misunderstanding of the statistical tables. The difference is far smaller than I stated. While I do not in any way retreat from my view that academic selection helps the poor, I think it is my duty to set the record straight.
Sir: I fully agree with Dr Ian McKee’s advice that ‘every young woman should have [a condom] in her handbag’ (Letters, 15 October). I would add that, above all, every young man should keep a condom in a readily accessible jacket pocket as well!