A debate that won’t happen
Sir: ‘Westminster is overdue an abortion debate’ (Leading article, June 2). Yes, but there is little point in a debate without the possibility of changing the law. Governments will not take up this issue, regarding it as a matter of individual conscience. In 1967 the Abortion Act was the result of David Steel’s private member’s bill. But, crucially, the Labour administration gave that bill government time in Parliament.
Since then, every attempt to change the law in the light of medical advances concerning the viability of the foetus — even when a majority in the Commons seemed to favour change — has been easily ‘talked out’ by the pro-abortionists. Unless and until a government can find the courage to give such an attempt at reform parliamentary time, this absurd and unhappy situation will continue.
Badgers and the public
Sir: The latest of Rod Liddle’s diatribes (‘The madness of murdering badgers’, 2 June) will come as no surprise to anyone who recalls how he was sacked as editor of the Today programme after a gloriously chippy rant about our supporters in his Guardian column. But the distortion of opinion research needs to be exposed.
Firstly he claims that ‘badgers are rarely cleanly shot’, which is untrue. But if he believes it, how does he justify his support for the hunting ban? The case for the ban was made (without any evidence whatsoever) that shooting foxes was preferable in terms of welfare than hunting them. If he is now persuaded that shooting medium-sized mammals is inherently cruel, will he join us in campaigning for the end of the ban on the humane use of hounds for fox management?
Secondly his claims about hunting, badger culling and the general election are supported only by those who think Twitter provides an accurate cross-section of public attitudes. Ipsos MORI has been running tracker polling on the issues which affect people’s votes for decades, and has never recorded more than 1 per cent of people saying their vote would be affected by ‘animal welfare’ issues.
When we asked people to compare the impact of hunting on their vote with other issues, hunting had less impact than wind farms, green-belt development, mobile phone connectivity, animal welfare and HS2. There was one issue which mattered marginally less to voters: badger culling. The claim that fox hunting ranked alongside immigration and economic competence in deciding people’s votes is not just evidentially wrong, it is embarrassing.
Chief executive, Countryside Alliance
The wonder of Waitrose
Sir: Rachel Johnson (‘All over the shop’, 2 June) asks where the nearest Waitrose to her second home on Exmoor might be. The answer, easy to find, is Wellington, Somerset. Slightly further afield is Waitrose in Exeter, where I have shopped almost daily since it opened five years ago. It is nothing short of a food revolution, open seven days, excellent parking, free coffee, central location.
When I was growing up we took our sheep to the local butcher and it came back as a carcass. The tinned stuff (baked beans, fruit segments and so on) came to the farm once a week in a Morris van, and I would spend whole mornings with my father going from one small food shop to another. Do I miss that? Not a bit. With all the time I have saved, I have learned how to cook. Rachel Johnson may care to do the same.
Rory Knight Bruce
Sir: Among her observations about collegiate and cathedral choirs, Ysenda Maxtone Graham suggests that to dilute an all-male choir by establishing a girls or women’s choir is usually ‘to demoralise one faction and to damage the whole’, (‘The lost boys’, 2 June). I am very proud to be part of a foundation where that is not the case.
The introduction of girls to the choir of Exeter Cathedral 24 years ago means that today we have 36 choristers at Exeter Cathedral School. That is more than at any time in the cathedral’s 968 years. Interest in the choir is very strong, and this year we had 27 applications for eight choristerships.
Parents describe our pattern of alternating girls’ and boys’ voices each weekend and during the week as a key attraction. The boys and girls rehearse daily, and in a variety of combinations: sometimes according to gender, but also by ages.
So there is not the demoralisation Ysenda Maxtone Graham presumes we must be experiencing. To suggest that two top lines have ‘half as rich an experience’ ignores the possibilities that open up when you have twice as many choristers.
The Revd Canon James Mustard
Canon Precentor, Exeter Cathedral
Free in Marseille
Sir: I was sitting in a bar at La Pointe Rouge in my wife’s home town of Marseille when I read Laura Freeman’s categorisation of the two souths of France: the tacky and the civilisé (‘Notes on… the South of France’, 2 June). I was struck that Marseille represents a hinterland of the south that is barely recognised back home, and that its particular feel of social independence could never fit into such a neat categorisation. Nowhere in France can you feel quite as free from social judgment as when in Marseille. Whether an Englishman chooses to sit at Pointe Rouge in full summer linen or in tight swim shorts, no one lifts an eyebrow. The focus is on the excellent pizza at La Tropicana, decrying Paris and, above all, the progress of Olympique Marseille.