Sir: Please help me out here: just what, exactly, did the Russians do, and/or try to do to hurt/impede Hillary Clinton’s chances, and aid/enhance Donald Trump’s in the last American Federal Election? Did the Russians (or any other foreign power) block votes for Hillary? Did the Russians use fake passports and don disguises to take over millions of Americans’ identities; and have them vote for Trump? Were electoral staff bribed or threatened, kidnapped, etc. to somehow alter the result? Was machinery and/or computer technology utilised by millions of Americans casting their votes somehow sabotaged?
Were pro-Hillary voting cards/political handouts falsified/altered (or stolen)?
Were huge air balloons the shape of Donald Trump’s smiling face (accompanied by a choir of angels) floated over every major American city on Election Day?
Please, somebody tell me precisely, just what was actually, done to harm Hillary, and to help The Donald?
Chirnside Pk, Vic
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
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?