The Spectator

Feedback | 10 May 2003

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Comment on with friends like these . . . by Simon Heffer


Could you please inform Simon Heffer, the next time you speak to him, that the French banned British beef as a result of the British Christmas time ban of French turkey a few years previously.

If he cares to research the matter more thoroughly, he may find more reasons for France's actions towards its neighbour, rather than a presupposed Inferiority complex that is surely an alien concept to anyone but Mr Heffer.

Simon Woodhouse.

'Dieu et mon droit', and 'Honi soit qui mal y pense' are two of the sacred mottoes of the British state, but wait, they're French! So is the emblem of three lions on the England cricket team's cap or the British Lions jersey, these are lions of the Dukes of Anjou! Outside the Mother of Parliaments stands an equestrian statue of Richard 1, an English hero and yes, a Frenchman! Was Edward VII on to something? Of course he was, and Significantly his own mother was the last English Queen to be crowned Queen of France. After the Napoleonic wars and in the absence of a French monarchyit became rather futile to claim a non-existent throne through one's inheritance as Duke of Normandy.

For centuries the histories of England/Britain and France have been intertwined at a fundamental level and to deny this is pointless. As close neighbours Britain and France have no alternative but to get on and viewed from a distance, are remarkably similar. More so than say, Germany and Britain.

You criticise France in the 1930's, but remember from 1935 onwards 'Appeasement' was widely accepted as an honourable policy by the entire Conservative party save one. The Germans were seen as oppressed by the Treaty of Versailles, the young Hitler was seen as vigorous and effective and Foreign Secretary Lord Halifax was quoted as wishing to ride through London in a carriage with the King and the Fuhrer. No wonder David, Prince of Wales felt able to visit Hitler on such a familiar basis. This influence continued after the Abdication, although it is sacrilege to say so. Halifax had the key to Buckingham Palace garden. Make of that what you will. If the fall of France was a disaster for Britain remember that it happened after the British Army scarpered back to Blighty from the beaches of Dunkirk. At that point Mussolini threatened to join the war and the possibility of an invasion of southern France became sufficient real to influence French thinking. Churchill, who had a real sense of history, stepped in and offered to re-unite Britain and France but the French felt they could not accept from a position of weakness and were overtaken by events.

I make these points because it seems against the long-term interest of Britain and France to be at odds in a world were the US is ripping up the work of generations. I detect a cold fury in Old Europe which may see Britain ostracised and reduced to being the 52nd state of the USA.

Rupert Steel

How perfectly British. I am indeed glad I no longer have to endure this tripe as I live in a country where even their politicians are more open than their journalists.

If people swallow this, they probably believe the Queen has divine rights. Who did vote her in anyway. As for Chirac, it was only a dismal 80% of the Population

Alfred Bold

I only just read that article and I must say, as I am French, with my heart missing a beat.

I can see Simon Heffers point and his disappointment with France as I share the same disappointment and lack of hope with our politicians and elite.But I find quite incredible that the anglo-american observers always point out France's low morale. Like the USA and Britain always played fair in international matters and never have hidden agendas???? How hypocritical can one be ???

On the other hand, One thing is sure for me, France always chooses the wrong horses.

They should tighten their relationship with Britain and the US and start being humble.

As a conservative point of view, they should also learn something of their British counterparts and enforce the proper measures France needs. To finish with, I went beyond with my English hatred (apart on rugby matters), when I started to know and appreciate them as colleague and friends.

I would hope our two countries get to know each other better and prove Simon Heffer wrong.

Pierre Polese

Comment on Mind Your Language by Dot Wordsworth


I would like Dot Wordsworth to favour me with an elucidation on these two words: sceptic and skeptic. I am a regular online reader in Kampala, Uganda.

Frank Mubiru

Comment on Feedback (03/05/2003)

It is true that to liberate Iraq was a worthwhile cause regardless of whether Iraq had weapons of mass destruction or not. However, this does mean it should have been done. It also does not justify having published misleading information in order to try to gain the support of world opinion before doing it.

The world is full of problems that it would be worthwhile to solve - starvation and disease abroad, inadequate public services and excessive government debt at home to name a few. The interesting thing is why Bush and Blair chose the invasion of Iraq as the best way to spend somebody else's money. This reader happens to believe that oil played a smaller part in this decision than a desire to distract voters' attention from a failure to solve domestic problems and the need of politicians to be seen to be doing something to improve the well-being of their citizens, even if the 'improvement' is the removal of an invented threat.

The hyping of an issue by a politician and then the subsequent solving of that issue followed by a stated or implied claim that the nation has been saved is not unknown in world affairs. The voters have themselves to blame if they do not see through this. The opposition parties - not to mention voters - would do well to consider what else could have been done with the money spent on invading Iraq.

Peter Thompson

As a non-smoker (I quit when I was sixteen), I have little sympathy for Russ Thayer, John Moore, and the other anti-smoking fascists who whine about having their rights taken away -- but are happy to take away the rights of other people. Nobody forces these twits to sit near smokers or patronise establishments that permit smoking. They are at liberty to shove off. Being a prospective or actual customer does not confer ownership or the right to rule others. If you don't like it, Holy Willies, move away. Go somewhere else. Escape. find a venue that bans smoking. And take your snotty, sanctimonious, self-righteous, interfering, grabby fascist control of other people with you.

Herb Greer


Comment on The day Lord Rees-Mogg made me want to cry out in pain by Stephen Glover (03/05/2003)

Stephen Glover should relax. As an amateur futurist I predict that this trend has some way to run. By the year 2025 "Kicker" will be King of England and "Posh" a brand far more powerful than Nike. The reign of The House of Spice will usher in many changes and will be franchised around the world. As for The Times, it will be a tabloid, compete head on with The Sun and both will concentrate on 3D holographic illustrations without too many words to clutter things up.

The Spectator, I hope, will remain very much the same.


Comment on Book Review of The Right Man: The Surprise Presidency of George W. Bush by George Osborne (03/05/2003)

This review contains a reference to "the President of Sweden". I did not know that the Kingdom of Sweden had become a republic.

Stephen J Holt

Comment on An epidemic of fear (03/05/2003)

Your leader on politically inspired paranoia resonates powerfully in the aftermath of the Iraq war, but you have overstepped the mark by including the Dutch response to asbestos.

Holland was perfectly correct in taking immediate steps to close the Rijksmuseum when asbestos was found, while at the same time saying the risk to previous visitors was negligible.

That is because asbestos poses little threat if it is sitting undisturbed and sealed within wall or roof cavities. It is only when the material is exposed and broken up that it becomes highly dangerous.

As we have learned to our cost in this country, sometimes it takes only a few inhaled microscopic asbestos fibres to induce mesothelioma - and a particularly debilitating and nasty death.

John Hampshire



Comment on Abandon your plans if you want to get a life by Matthew Parris (03/05/2003)

Matthew Paris is onto a good point, as usual -- but he misses a better one.

Maybe our ancestors were selected, in part, for the sort of mule-headedness that resists a perfectly good bumping arrangement by an airline. But they were certainly selected for a keen appreciation of their own interests and privileges, in relation to those of other people in the same group.

I suspect the irrational vehemence among the travellers -- if not the reluctance to backtrack on a wrong turn while driving, or planning a marriage, to which loss of face is surely more apposite -- is provoked by the sense that one is being treated unfairly. That is, not like other people similarly-placed, specifically the ticket-holders for whom one has been bumped. It's a strong instinct in 4-year-olds, that one, and just as strong in old age, and however one learns to express it the instinct itself is adaptive in any social context.

Ian Fraser>br>University of the South Pacific,


Comment on It's still the nasty party‘ by Michael Gove


Michael Gove's article rather contradicts itself when he argues that most voters do not want to be hearing about tax cuts, but acknowledges that the only time the Conservatives have been ahead of Labour in the opinion polls was during Labour's rip-off petrol tax hike.

Therefore I would draw a different conclusion to Mr Gove. I would say, in agreement with the 98 per cent of those polled on Teletext this week (2,700), who were against the poll tax, that it was the disastrous introduction of that tax, first in Scotland, and then the rest of United Kingdom, that laid to rest the whole history of the Conservative Party as being the low-tax party. No matter how profligate Labour councils are now, or how Labour redistributes the tax, the fact of the matter is that it was a Conservative government, which brought in that iniquitous poll tax.

Some of those who could have opposed its introduction are still sitting on the Conservative benches to remind the voters. Some of them even want to be leaders. How dare they!

Raymond de Havilland