Given up on Chesterfield?
Sir: Matthew Parris makes some interesting and accurate points about growing Tory support in the north and Midlands (‘The Tory push north will end in failure’, 7 December). He did not mention Chesterfield in his article, but it is a good example of what he talks about.
It seems to me that the Conservatives have decided Chesterfield is a lost cause, even though it would on the face of it seem promising territory for them. With an average age higher than the national average and no university, it is one of those ‘left behind’ areas with a lot of traditional working-class voters who dislike Corbyn. A good local candidate and some active canvassing could at least have made a dent in Labour support.
So what did the Tories do? They did not, as other parties have done, choose a local candidate. Instead they airlifted in someone from Melton Mowbray, whom none of us had heard of before. Naturally the Labour election flyer made much of this, and we local Conservatives suspect we are being used to give this person a bit of experience, rather than being offered a serious contender. There has been little canvassing by the Conservatives, only one flyer (which seemed to be a national one, rather than aimed locally), and I have seen no Vote Conservative signs.
The 25-day rule
Sir: Charles Moore (The Spectator’s Notes, 7 December) blames the wrong culprit for the six-week election campaign. The unloved Fixed Term Parliaments Act provided that 17 working days must elapse between the dissolution of parliament and polling day. The Electoral Registration and Administration Act 2013 extended the period to 25 working days.
I am a member of a Lords committee which is reviewing the 2013 Act. Any proposal to shorten the time is unlikely to succeed. Electoral registration officers have told the committee that even under the existing arrangements many overseas voters, first enfranchised in 1985, find it impossible to get their postal votes back by polling day. Unless online voting is introduced, a return to the shorter campaigns of the past would require the abolition of overseas voting rights. That, however, is incompatible with the Tory election manifesto, which promises to make more British citizens abroad eligible to vote.
The theme of Tallis
Sir: Martin Gayford, in his review ‘Food Glorious Food’ (30 November) refers to Archbishop Matthew Parker, the first Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury. Parker translated all 150 psalms into English metre and Thomas Tallis supplied eight ‘tunes’ to match the nature of the words. The third of these was chosen by Vaughan Williams as the subject for his famous Fantasia. What is not commonly appreciated, not even by VW it seems, is that Parker suggested that the third tune ‘doth rage: and roughly brayeth’.
Nether Stowey, Somerset
Sir: Our education system is not working, despite Toby Young’s claim (‘No sacred cows’, 7 December). The comprehensive system means the best schools (located in wealthy areas) are accessible only to the rich, and mediocrity is rewarded as excellence, such that students in A-level maths can answer half the questions in an exam incorrectly and still be rewarded a supposedly coveted A grade. The damaging ethos described by Melanie Phillips is still rife — ‘all must have prizes’. There are no genuine plans to change this.
Little silver man
Sir: Charles Moore’s sales assistant may not have known what a blotter was (The Spectator’s Notes, 26 October), but I wonder how he would have reacted to the question the young girl asked me when I went into a jewellers’ in the shadow of Salisbury Cathedral to buy a silver cross for my goddaughter’s First Communion. ‘Do you want the plain one,’ she asked me brightly, ‘or the one with a little man on it?’
Who dares ban Uber?
Sir: Martin Vander Weyer is quite wrong when he says that if TfL’s ruling hastens Uber’s retreat it is nothing to regret (Any other business, 30 November). We have to take our daughter to the hospital sometimes four times a week for scans, blood tests, consultant appointments etc. Now that RMT members have decided to make Christmas miserable for thousands of their South Western Railway customers (how long before the Tube drivers come out again?) and someone has stolen the catalytic converter from my car, I have been making use of the Uber app. The drivers are understanding and courteous. The service is efficient and, above all, affordable. I hope the rage at TfL for banning Uber (the people’s taxi) will be reflected in the next election for London mayor. ‘Who can provide London with dependable and affordable transport? Sadiq Khan’t.’
Sir: Elisa Segrave’s account of her visit to Sir Peregrine Worsthorne rang true (‘Listen to the very old’, 30 November). My mother is helpless and verbally challenged after a stroke, but similarly retains both her charm and her long-term memory. When prompted with ‘I wandered lonely as a cloud’, her voice is fluent and her recall word-perfect as she recites to the fourth verse, ‘And then my heart with pleasure fills…’. Indeed.