Sir: A small contribution to the psychological war: when the next atrocity happens, could the BBC and other reputable news media please say that the Isis thugs have ‘admitted their guilt’ in respect of the murders rather than ‘claimed responsibility’ for them? The latter makes it sound like they might be expected to win a prize. Words matter.
Sir: With regard to Chris Mullin’s article (‘Corbyn for PM?’, 3 June), I disagree that Jeremy Corbyn has led a life consistent with his principles. As an avowed Marxist he clearly saw no future in the Communist party, so nailed his colours to Labour’s mast. Thence to the House of Commons. Here he has consistently voted against leader after leader, following his own agenda. ‘What a man of principle’ some say. I rather observe that he has enjoyed over 30 years of a handsome parliamentary salary — now at the opposition leader’s higher rate — with an index-linked, final-salary pension to follow in due course. Wouldn’t have got this lot flogging Socialist Worker on street corners.
Wait a moment
Sir: Before Rod Liddle attempts to blame the parents (‘Should those poor kids have been there?’, 3 June) perhaps he should read Professor Jay’s inquiry into the Rotherham scandal. Her report noted that ‘In two of the cases, fathers tracked down their daughters and tried to remove them from houses where they were being abused, only to be arrested themselves when police were called to the scene.’
East Preston, West Sussex
Museum of apologism
Sir: I was cheered to read Andrew Roberts on the National Army Museum relaunch (The Heckler, 3 June), since I went there recently with my seven-year-old grandson and we were both baffled by the new exhibition.
Like Andrew Roberts, I remember fondly how the museum used to be, despite the ‘hideous 1971 building’, which replaced the handsome 1830 Victoria Hospital for Children. Indeed, seeing it shrouded in scaffolding recently, I had entertained the hope that it might be razed to the ground. Our grandson was not interested in the ‘Themes’ exhibition but wanted to sit in the tank, which was roped off due to damage. I will take him back when he is a bit older, and try to correct in his mind the skewed history the exhibition purveys. In the meantime, £24 million seems an awful lot to spend on preserving a hideous exterior in a lovely street, and putting in a few glass lifts, while shuffling the collection around and distorting its meaning.
Thankfully the Royal Hospital, designed by Wren, is next door, with its fine stables by Soane. One can work off any irritation by rushing around in its Ranelagh Garden, relishing the beauty of its Great Hall and Chapel, and seeing the veterans in their charming quarters. If asked, these old soldiers are happy to set anyone straight on the role of the British Army.
Homes for newts
Sir: I share Simon Barnes’s enthusiasm for great crested newts — they are wonderfully enigmatic and intriguing animals. His article (‘Chez newts’, 3 June) suggests that our licensing reforms could lead to other protected species becoming more vulnerable. To clarify, we have no intention of undermining the long-term survival of any species, including bats, newts and dormice. We firmly believe our work to improve the licensing system will provide lasting, tangible benefits for great crested newts. At the same time, it will make it much simpler for developers to abide by the laws protecting newts.
The present system seeks to protect the species one newt at a time, on a site-by-site basis, but does nothing to improve its conservation status at a population level. Providing high-quality habitat is the most important thing we can do for the future of this species. Under the new system, we are working with local authorities to identify and survey strongholds for great crested newts. An extensive programme of habitat creation and restoration then takes place, focusing on the areas where it will have greatest benefit.
I hope Simon can agree that ‘looking after nature’ really is our aim here. We’d be delighted to meet up with him to show him our work on the ground.
Dr Tim Hill
Chief scientist, Natural England
Memories of Noakes
Sir: Charles Moore’s recollections of reacting adversely to the arrival of the late John Noakes on Blue Peter — ‘insufficiently grave’ — are revealing, but I’m not quite sure what they reveal (The Spectator’s Notes, 3 June). Is it that Mr Noakes was, as Mr Moore suggests, the first example of the BBC dumbing down? Or is it that Mr Moore was born in his mid-fifties?
Grammars in the 1960s
Sir: Helen Moorhouse (Letters, 3 June) is right. We don’t need an 11-plus on its own. In the north-east in the 1960s you could enter grammar school at 11, 13 and 16. Only five GCEs were needed at 16. I doubt that much academic talent was excluded.
Dr C.R. Pickering
The problematic care policy
Sir: As an avid reader of our Rod’s column, and a fellow Millwall fan, I never thought I would find myself offended by anything he wrote. But he seems not to understand the current long-term care policy (‘This is the worst Tory campaign ever’, 27 May). Having power of attorney for our mother, who had severe Alzheimer’s, we had to sell her home to pay for her residential home care. At the moment, people with dementia have to use their homes to fund their care until their assets reach a level of £23,250. In fact, if the Tory manifesto policy had already been in place our mother would have been left with at least £100,000, and perhaps would have had to pay very little for her care with the now unspecified cap on costs. I don’t bear grudges, however, and look forward to saying hello to Rod at the New Den next season.
Victoria’s good dinner
Sir: Queen Victoria had earned her good meal at Grantown-on-Spey in 1860 (Letters, 3 June). She and Albert had that day ridden their ponies more than 20 miles across the Cairngorms from Balmoral to Glen Feshie. The next year she was less fortunate: they went by the same route and spent a night at Dalwhinnie hotel. Here she recorded: ‘Unfortunately there was hardly anything to eat, and there was only tea and two miserable starved Highland chickens, without any potatoes! No pudding, and no fun — it was not a nice supper; and the evening was wet.’
Kincraig by Kingussie, Inverness-shire
Pick your own
Sir: As a country boy and a Yorkshireman I was nonplussed by learning from your Barometer column (27 May) that people actually buy daffodils rather than simply harvesting those at the side of the road. There’s nowt so queer as folk.
Goole, North Yorkshire
Sir: George Eliot’s essay ‘The Modern Hep! Hep! Hep!’ has nothing to do with commendations of cool (Letters, 3 June). The Hep-Hep riots were anti-Semitic occurrences in Frankfurt in 1819, named after the rioters’ rallying cry. It was thought at the time to be an acronym for Hierusalem Est Perdita.
All Blacks’ bad behaviour
Sir: I get a bit bored by the hero worship of the All Blacks, as sustained by Mark Palmer last week (‘Notes on… a rugby legend’, 3 June). The All Blacks are a product of rugby’s religious status among New Zealanders in a land ‘with fewer distractions’, in McCaw’s words. In England, relatively few boys play rugby; in NZ, almost all boys aspire to being an All Black. Rugby protects its own more than most sports do, and there is never any mention of the All Blacks’ despicable ‘splitting’ of the Wallabies’ Catchpole for being too clever by half, Fitzpatrick’s cowardly stomping of England’s de Glanville’s face (28 stitches) or McCaw’s cynical knee to the French play-maker’s head when France looked like taking the World Cup. The All Blacks also benefit by having an indigenous people whose genetics, physicality and hostility make them ideal rugby players. Admire the rugby, but please temper the adoration.
Sir: Matthew Parris (27 May) suggests that if the cost of an elderly person’s dementia care fell more heavily upon their family, then ‘those who hope to inherit’ would have an ‘overwhelming interest’ in the ‘timely passing’ of their relative. It follows, of course, that they would have an even greater financial interest in the relative’s untimely passing. The prohibition on homicide provides much-needed legal protection precisely when we are most vulnerable to such financial pressures.
Dr David Jones
Dogs of war
Sir: Charles Moore mentioned in his Notes (3 June) the unfulfilled desire of Florence Nightingale for one of her Verney great-great-nieces to be named Balaclava. My father, who was of a mildly eccentric disposition, named the litters of his Labradors after great British battles in an alphabetical sequence, the first litter consisting of the As: Alamein, Alma, Agincourt and so on. I had a puppy from the second litter, an excellent gun dog, but rather thick. She was called Balaclava although, of course, she was not related to the Verney family. Among her siblings were Blenheim, Breda, Bannockburn and Badajoz.
Still writing letters
Sir: David Butterfield’s piece last week rightly praises the handwritten letter (‘Writing wrongs’, 3 June). When did you last have the pleasure? Not very frequently, I am sure. Though I have attempted to embrace modern technology to a degree, with texts, emails and so on, I remain a prodigious writer of letters (with a fountain pen), and I am informed they are well received. But I am 80 years old, born in London in 1937, when our world was a more civilised place.
A woeful contest
Sir: No winners in this general election, says James Forsyth (‘Weak and wobbly’, 3 June). He is right. The election has exposed the depressing fact that we have the lowest-calibre party leaders in my long political memory. The irony is that this is the election which our plainly inadequate Prime Minister intended to be a presidential contest.