Remainers are to blame
Sir: I was intrigued by the parallel drawn by an ally of Michael Gove’s in James Forsyth’s piece on Brexit (‘Brexit in a spin’, 14 July), comparing Mr Gove to the Irish Independence leader Michael Collins. I think this misses the fundamental point that Collins and the Sinn Fein ultras led by De Valera were agreed on the destination: independence from Britain. It was just the timing and context on which they differed.
There was no organised political body within the Irish Free State seeking to remain in the UK. In contrast, to ‘leave’ the EU under Mrs May’s plan, Mr Gove is supporting a platform on which the Remainers will seek to ensure that any difficulty, any problem, becomes a rationale to rejoin the EU. They will constantly use it as an argument that if we are accepting rules, then we should be involved in making those rules within the EU.
If we are paying money for market access, then why not pay money for the full access provided by membership? No one can doubt the vigour, energy, ruthlessness and determination that the Remain elements of the media, big business, politics and civil service have employed to undermine the referendum result. They will continue to do so post-March 2019. Against them, Mr Gove and his hedgers look positively naive.
Harrow on the Hill, Middlesex
Sir: I disagree with Robert Tombs (‘Happy England’, 14 July) that Brexit has played a greater role in determining English identity and a sense of national self-confidence than sport. The diverse makeup of the English team and its feisty performance in Russia has united people of every political persuasion — at least temporarily — under the same flag. Brexit, for all its claims of gaining back control, has torn this country apart, dividing family and friends in a never-ending and deeply unsavoury ideological civil war which shows no sign of ever being resolved.
The case for penalties
Sir: Simon Barnes (‘The agony of penalties’, 14 July) is right that TV loves the drama of a penalty shoot-out, but quite wrong in saying that is the reason it was introduced. Until 1958, there was provision at World Cups for replays after drawn matches. As fixture lists became more crowded, this was no longer the case at the 1962 and 1966 tournaments, at which a drawn game (after extra time), had one occurred, would have been settled by drawing lots, including the final. It is ironic that the penalty shoot-out is still often described as a lottery, when that
is precisely the possibility that it eliminates.
Sir: Christian Wolmar aims to provoke, but his recent screed against autonomous vehicles (‘False start’, 7 July) is just silly. He says that autonomous vehicles have not made much impact so far, not many have been sold, and — according to a few people he spoke to at a trade show — they will not be on our roads before 2028. Therefore, any assessment of their revolutionary potential must be wrong, indeed fatuous.
This is a hopeless argument, for three reasons. First, no sensible person thinks a switch to autonomous vehicles will happen overnight. After all, mobile telephony was invented in 1973, but it took 34 years for the iPhone to be launched. Secondly, everyone agrees that any serious move to autonomous vehicles will require major changes to roads, cities and telecoms infrastructure; to law and regulation; and to public attitudes; changes which will and should take time. But thirdly, the potential savings in cost and long-term improvements in road safety from autonomous vehicles are so vast as to make their adoption highly likely over time.
The truth is that we are already in the early stages of a revolution in mobility; a revolution for which our extensive work in government on these issues is preparing us.
Jesse Norman MP
Department for Transport, London SW1
Why dogs bite
Sir: At the RSPCA we believe that the outdated Dangerous Dogs Act not only discriminates against dogs for looking a certain way, but has also failed to protect public safety — one of its original aims (‘Dogs of war’, 14 July). We have long been campaigning for an end to the breed specific legislation (BSL) section of the Act.
Scientific evidence shows that breed is not a reliable predictor of risk. It doesn’t come down to a simple choice of deciding whether you believe in nature or nurture. It comes down to a scientific understanding of dog behaviour, and ensuring legislation is evidence-based. The RSPCA and others have analysed 48 dog-related fatalities between 1989 and 2017. Of the 62 dogs reportedly involved, only nine were dogs prohibited by law. The suggestion that only four types of dogs are ‘dangerous’ distracts the public from the truth: any dog can be dangerous. There is no such thing as a safe or a dangerous breed of dog.
Yes, there need to be laws which protect people from dogs that pose a threat to the public. But BSL is not the right way. What we need to do is replace it with evidence-based framework which allows a proactive approach to dog-related issues regardless of breed; improves education; and builds a better understanding of why dogs bite, so steps can be taken to reduce the risks.
Dr Samantha Gaines
Lead author of the RSPCA’s ‘Breed Specific Legislation: A Dog’s Dinner’ report, Horsham, West Sussex
Sir: I am surprised that The Spectator, which prides itself on printing the most thought-provoking articles on the big issues of our time, still wraps the magazines it posts to readers in plastic. Is this a political position, or moral complacency?