Sir: David Flint complains about the way the media treats right-wing leaders (‘Worth losing the base?’, 20 May) but uses exactly the same tactics himself – ridicule and truth-bending – in his articles on republicanism, in which he dishes out cheap-shots such as “republican caliphate”, “cold war communist front”, “racists” etc while trotting out the furphy about the governor-general being our head of state – presumably expecting us to conclude that either the Queen of Australia is not our head of state or that we’ve got two of them – a “fake news” double whammy.
Sir: David Leyonhjelm’s talk of “lone rangers” (May 19) prompts some thought as to what exactly a non-executive political party may be. What does it do? Is it not just a party of “criticism”? And is not institutionally engaged criticism within the political process (as distinct from the mere “freezing out” proposed at one stage by James Allan) a good thing? At any rate, it is perfectly possible for “lone rangers” to vote for and support a party like the Liberal Democratic one without joining it, whether or not we think that childless marriages and a gun in every back pocket are pointless causes.
David Leyonhjelm, it seems to me, is an honest man. He drank the left-libertarian kool-aid in the 1970s and never abandoned the only decent aspect of leftism that has emerged in our time, a nonpartisan commitment to freedom of speech (a social necessity, not a “rights” commodity). I’m glad he’s in the Senate, and I wish the place was more cluttered with people of his type. A lone ranger political party with some decent political commitments is just what Australia needs right now, even if it seems slightly intemperate towards its non-financial supporters.
Macquarie Fields, NSW
NHS in a mess
Sir: Max Pemberton is quite right to say that the NHS is close to collapse, but I’m not sure a Royal Commission is the answer (‘This is an emergency’, 20 May). The problems facing the NHS have been obvious for years, and need, as Max points out, a strong politician to take unpopular decisions, not an expensive Royal Commission to decide what the issues are. The other problem with a Royal Commission is that it would draw its membership from senior doctors, retired politicians, and other members of the establishment, some of whom are responsible for the mess in the first place.
Dr Chris Nancollas
How to free up beds
Sir: How gratifying to read Max Pemberton’s well-constructed debate on NHS funding. One thing Mr Pemberton did not mention is reversing Gordon Brown’s abolition of tax relief on private medical insurance for the elderly, which was a spiteful act driven by political ideology. This seems particularly relevant because, as Max Pemberton says, two thirds of hospital beds are taken up by over-65s. If restoring tax relief took a significant proportion of these patients out of the NHS then that would free up not only a significant proportion of beds but also of NHS resources.
Boris is wrong on Libya
Sir: It is true that this is a moment of hope for Libya that must not be missed, but Boris Johnson’s analysis will not lead to peace or stability (‘A moment of hope for Libya,’ 13 May). His failure to understand what is really happening threatens to betray the 2011 revolution. Libya needs Britain’s help. Rewarding General Haftar’s brutality by welcoming him into government, as the Foreign Secretary suggests, is not the answer. Haftar’s war on terror is nothing more than a sham giving him licence to obliterate the opposition with impunity. The people he is targeting are fighting for the right to elect a civilian government and to stop Gaddafi’s supporters from returning to power. This fight is not about combatting Isis. We need western governments to support the UN-backed government in Tripoli, to enforce a no-fly zone so that the bombing of civilians stops, and to keep the arms embargo in place.
Sir: Charles Moore (Notes, 20 May) writes of the naming of children after battles. The fashion, especially among working-class parents, of naming children after Boer war battles was guyed by Messrs Murphy and Hall in the popular music-hall song ‘The Baby’s Name’ which, performed by Charles Bignell, was a smash in 1901. In a fit of patriotic fervour, a Mrs Bloggs commemorates not only the battles but the military leaders who fought them: ‘The baby’s name is Kitchener Carington Methuen Kekewich White Cronje Plumer Powell Majuba Gatacre Warren Colenso Kruger Capetown Mafeking French Kimberley Ladysmith Bobs Union Jack Fighting Mack Lyddite Pretoria Bloggs.’
Eton College, Windsor
A better use for Battersea
Sir: It pains me that Antonia Fraser can’t see the Tate’s 13 works by David Jones because they’re kept in the cellar (Letters, 20 May), but more than half of British galleries’ collections are stored away from view. If only George Osborne had not been so hooked on angling for foreign cash, the London art establishment so up itself and successive culture secretaries so dim, then the long-abandoned Battersea Power Station could have been had for a knockdown price, and could have hosted exhibitions of works for which London and provincial galleries had no wall space. It would have livened up a drab part of the south bank. But no: it was handed over to foreign money to turn into a warren of unoccupied flats for overseas investors.