Crisis in Hong Kong
Sir: It was inspiring to see Hong Kong protesters raising the British flag as a symbol of freedom and liberation — a vivid image of the fondness in which it is held, even more than two decades after our surrender of the territory (‘A question of liberty’, 6 July). However, raising the colonial flag in the legislative chamber was no mere nostalgia but also a challenge to our government. Are we going to stand by today and betray that trust?
The British government might be wary of criticising Beijing’s overreach in Hong Kong in case China tightens the screws further against ‘foreign interference in internal affairs’. But that horse has long since bolted. China has been making a total mockery of the freedoms guaranteed in the Sino-British Joint Declaration for years. The ‘Special Administrative Region’ was established by international agreement and China’s behaviour is an international problem.
The crisis in Hong Kong is a litmus test for our post-Brexit government. We were promised that ‘Global Britain’ would be enhanced by looking beyond the European backyard. If Britain stands aside yet again and continues its shameful abandonment of former British citizens in the servile hope that Xi Jinping might allow our traders a few scraps from his table, we will truly have sold ourselves into insignificance. Regardless of who the next prime minister is, they must not let us down.
Salford, Greater Manchester
Can Boris count?
Sir: You report Boris Johnson as saying: ‘We have to do three things: deliver Brexit, unite the party, unite the country and defeat Corbyn’ (‘A whole new Boris’, 6 July). I assume he can count to four. So which of these doesn’t he think he has to do?
Explain this ‘betrayal’
Sir: I have always been an admirer of Rod Liddle’s perceptive and intelligent reporting, so I look forward to reading his new book in which he tries to explain how the referendum result is being ‘betrayed’ (‘Save us from the civil service and the BBC’, 6 July). In the interests of balance, I am hoping the book also explains why so many of our democratically elected representatives continue to support a version of Brexit far beyond the version the electorate were promised (a managed transition, control of borders, overall economic benefits supported by trade deals, and so forth). It is a mystery to me why those MPs, despite knowing that Brexit is against the country’s interests and against advice received from the civil service and from others who have a strong understanding of the subject, continue to pay any attention to a flawed vote rather than doing their duty to represent the best interests of their constituents.
An animal or a god?
Sir: The Judeo-Christian tradition places man as steward in his relation to nature or creation, and it does so for a reason. In his recent article Matthew Parris seems confused about all of this (‘Re-wilders forget that humans are “nature” too’, 6 July). At one point he tells us that ‘We are just another animal, an incredibly successful species like rats, or locusts. We cannot, by definition act against nature’ because ‘we are part of nature’. A few lines later, though, he tells us ‘Man as an animal has acquired the greatest mastery of Earth’s environment that our planet has known. We cannot abdicate responsibility for outcome. This planet is our garden’. Suddenly he has us as gardener and steward.
To clear this up he needs to explain that although we are definitely an animal, we are not just another animal, and what it is that differentiates us from other animals — our self-awareness. This is why we are so successful and why we alone can understand concepts like responsibility. Try explaining it to a badger.
Sir: Joan Collins says that some drunken twerp chucked booze at her recently — though not deliberately (Diary, 6 July). It wasn’t Leonard Rossiter, by any chance?
An unsupervised industry
Sir: Walter Merrick’s letter (6 July) on the failure to learn from past regulatory mistakes provided me with the excuse to spend an enjoyable couple of hours re-reading the various speeches I made to industry and regulatory audiences (including Walter Merrick himself) in the 2000s. The problem was not that there weren’t people like me warning of the mistakes of the past and the need to heed them; it was that no one wanted to know. The civil servants and regulators involved had their own agendas (mainly reflective of the political climate of the time) and did not welcome contrary opinions. They preferred detailed rule books rather than day-to-day supervision.
The legacy in the case of mortgages was an industry which was able, under those rules, to lend interest only, self-certified and 115 per cent loans (among other horrors) and which went belly up five years later.
Executive chairman, Moneyfacts Group
Cheers for that
Sir: Of all Martin Vander Weyer’s investment advice over the years, I have found none more useful than his tip about Lidl’s champagne.
Fittleworth, West Sussex