Sir: James Forsyth writes that Mrs May and Mr Corbyn are ‘not, in fact, that far apart’ (‘May’s compromising position’, 11 May). To many, the Labour left is simply playing its very old game of sitting on the fence over the EU. The electorate have spotted it, and Labour paid for it in the local elections.
Some of us are old enough to remember Harold Macmillan’s withering mockery of the Labour attitude to the then Common Market in the early 1960s. It recalls the words of the old song: ‘She didn’t say yes and she didn’t say no; she didn’t say stay and she didn’t say go!’
The reason for Labour’s contorted behaviour was the same then as now. The European Movement is basically Christian Democratic, and Labour’s left wing, particularly now under Corbyn, cannot in the end be doing with any of that. Unfortunately, large parts of his party do not agree. Hence his equivocation, of which the talks with the Tories are probably, for him, just a part. Little, at the moment, is likely to come of them.
Stoke Bishop, Bristol
We deserve Corbyn
Sir: I’m sick and tired of Conservatives using the threat of Corbyn as the principle motivation to endorse this useless administration.
The backstop is a constitutional outrage and it is a matter of national disgrace that any major party, let alone the Tory party, should be proposing we sign up to such a controversial treaty. May’s deal leaves us legally able to conduct independent trade deals, but without the ability to flex our rules on imported goods, thus rendering future free trade agreements simply a theoretical possibility. Meanwhile the EU will be able to offer highly prized access to the British consumer to other countries.
I am a Conservative party member who has campaigned on doorsteps in the last three general elections. But on this occasion, and for the foreseeable future, I will vote for the Brexit party. If as a result Corbyn gets in, that will serve as an expensive but ultimately worthwhile lesson to the Conservatives.
Given what the Tories have attempted to inflict on this country, frankly we deserve Corbyn and all of the foul and destructive retribution that will come with him. Corbyn won’t be my fault if he makes it to No. 10. The blame will lie squarely at the doors of Theresa May and the parliamentary party who have lost the ruthlessness and ambition that has, until recently, been such a potent recipe for good and regular government. The Tories should stop blaming other people and get their house in order.
Who will lead us out?
Sir: It has long been obvious to many of us outside Parliament that the government should never have attempted to negotiate our way out of the EU. We voted simply to leave and, after MPs voted to honour the result, it should have been left to the civil service to make the necessary preparations.
Let us hope that the party in parliament will finally come to its senses and realise that no deal is the most desirable option — and in fact the only option consistent with its creed. They must find a new prime minister who believes that this is the best way and will abandon the so-called withdrawal agreement, restate those basic Conservative principles, appoint a government dedicated to honouring them and then lead us out on 31 October.
Donald R. Clarke
An honest Brexit
Sir: There is a flaw in James Forsyth’s Brexit logic (‘Nigel’s revenge’, 4 May) that shows he is on the wrong side of the chasm between SW1 and the rest of the country.
The issue is not, and has never been, about whether the government can get a Brexit deal ‘over the line’, but whether they deliver an honest Brexit that removes the European Union from its dominance over this country. The Prime Minister’s agreement would remove us from one treaty only, and bind us irreversibly into another. By achieving the precise opposite of what she promised, Mrs May shows the dismissive contempt in which she and many Conservative MPs hold the electorate.
The whole country can see the truth all too clearly. It is not the delayed Brexit that has unleashed the unstoppable torrent of public disgust towards our politicians. It is the flagrant, utterly transparent attempt to rob people of their country by the very party that vowed to protect it.
Founder of The Bruges Group (1989)
Sir: It is usual to take each individual on their merits and assume that people can rise above demographic or sartorial caricature, as not to do this would be in a sense the definition of prejudice. Reading Matthew Parris’s article ‘Are you a Tweedy or a Trainer?’ (11 May), I struggled to decide which category I fell into. I, and many of my Leaver friends, seem to fit neither.
I was also confused by an avowed ‘conservative’ making the imperatives of being a ‘socially liberal, progressive-minded, forward-thinking, outward-looking nation’ superior to anything else, as I thought that was almost the opposite of what conservatism is.
To add to this, I was dismayed to see Matthew Parris attach the implications of sinister ‘baggage’ to the clothing that people wear. Isn’t this just a reiteration of the wearying trope of the Leaver being an ignorant, authoritarian racist?
A rare habitat
Sir: Ben Macdonald may not be a fan of grouse shooting (‘The scourge of the grouse moor’, 11 May) but he should have mentioned that it is the only land use that explicitly maintains and enhances one of the rarest habitats on the planet; heather-dominated moorland, a point ratified in the 1992 Rio Convention on Biodiversity. These moors support 13 biological communities in the EU Habitats Directive and 18 bird species of European or international importance. He also forgot to explain that our moorlands were created thousands of years ago by settlers, who are known to have used fire and grazing to clear woodland. These ancient skills have been adopted by gamekeepers and conservationists alike, because they maintain the beautiful heather-clad hills enjoyed by millions of visitors every year.
Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust
Sir: I bought a very small piece of hill nearly 20 years ago in Inverness-shire. It was indeed a desert: most of the heather had not been touched since 1939, was long, rank and useless for almost anything except ticks. We have instituted a programme of controlled burning, and as well as creating grazing for the deer and sheep we now have some 15 lekking blackcock. This year we had roughly 20 pairs of red grouse, as well as curlew, oyster catchers, hares, many predators and small birds such as pipits, wheatears and stonechats.
Sir: Joanna Rossiter is right that, as children spend more time in non-parental care, concerns have risen over the quality of out-of-home care (‘Home truths’, 11 May). But research on the higher cortisol levels of children cared for at nursery may be causing parents to worry needlessly: studies also suggest that in some settings, experiencing moderate stress can be adaptive and enhance resilience. Other studies have shown that children who go to preschool will stay at school longer, get better jobs, commit less crime and require less welfare.
Rather than question the very existence of nurseries — which, as the author accepts, are a necessity for those who cannot afford nannies or don’t have grandparents nearby — we should ask why costs are so high, and standards often sub-par. Or why the government has introduced policies that restrict supply through regulation and requirements, and then subsidised demand. Intervention, albeit with good intentions, has driven up costs for parents, yet nursery closures are increasing year on year and staff retention is poor. It’s time we fixed our broken childcare sector — not by turning our attentions to unaffordable alternatives, not with increased state control, but through wholesale reform.
Sir: One may easily overlook the provocation that lies at the heart of James Robins’s article ‘A nation born in blood’, (Books, 4 May). Yet its level of absurd historical distortion represents a unique brand of Turkophobia on which I can hardly stay silent. Instead of detailing the apparent inaccuracies of a book review that contains little that bears any relation to fact, I must challenge James Robins’s conclusion, which reflects a ludicrous reading of history.
He is not alone in attempting to frame allegations of the so-called Armenian ‘genocide’ as a Muslim-Christian struggle. There is no doubt that during the Ottoman collapse, many Christian subjects of the Empire died or suffered. However, they were not the only victims. If you recall the wars that massacred and drove most Muslims out of the Balkans starting in the early 19th century, allow yourself to wonder what sort of a conclusion Robins’s logic would draw if it were applied to nation-building in that context.
Turkish ambassador to London
Sir: My former BBC colleague Rod Liddle is right to report that some BBC journalists have owned-up to leftish/Remainer tendencies on leaving the BBC, but wrong to imply that every BBC journalist is therefore ineradicably left/Remainish (‘Are the village idiots right?’, 11 May). Theresa May’s current director of communication is a former BBC journalist, as was David Cameron’s. Guto Harri, a former BBC journalist, spun for Boris Johnson as Mayor of London.
Clarence Mitchell, a former BBC journalist, is the prospective Tory MP for Brighton. Michael Gove, a former BBC journalist, is something or other in the government, as is Chris Grayling. I could go on. For a supposedly left-wing monolith, BBC News turns out an awful lot of right-wing voices.
Sir: Although I enjoyed your leading article (‘Monarchy matters’, 11 May), in the interest of accuracy I have to point out that Prince Harry is not part Greek. Nor is his ancestry particularly varied.
Harry’s grandfather Prince Philip was known as Prince Philip of Greece, but he has no Greek blood. The Greek royal family were of Danish origin: Philip’s grandfather King George I of Greece was originally Prince William of Denmark, brother of our own Queen Alexandra, wife of Edward VII. He was elected King of Greece at the age of 17 in 1863, after Queen Victoria refused to allow her son Alfred to take the throne in place of the former King Otto, who had been overthrown.
George I married Olga Constantinovna of Russia (whose mother was German). Philip’s father, Prince Andrew of Greece, was George and Olga’s fourth son, and Philip’s mother was Princess Victoria Alice of Battenberg. She was a granddaughter of Queen Victoria, making the Queen and Prince Philip second cousins once removed.