The Spectator

Feedback | 11 June 2005

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Good value

Ross Clark says that NHS Trusts are ‘stuffed with local worthies drawing generous salaries and pensions’. I object. Like all other non-executive directors of NHS Trusts, I received last year just over £6,500, and no pension whatever, for my part-time work (‘The worst of both worlds’, 4 June). As a daily rate this works out as a fraction of what I could be earning in my (non-medical) profession. Chairmen, who are non-executive, receive, I think, around £20,000 for what is nigh-on a full-time job. I don’t think the most aggressive critic of the present system could describe this as generous.

I certainly feel, anyway, that I offer better value for money to the NHS than the smoke and mirrors of PFI which he correctly exposes.

David Conway

London N21

Welcome to America

Come on, you guys (‘Now for the British revolution’, 4 June). Tell the EU to take a hike. You know you really want to. Face it, your relationship with the EU isn’t going to get any better with the passage of time. Do you really want a bunch of ignorant Brussels bureaucrats dictating your domestic and social policy from the Continent? The solution is simple. Petition to join the other more perfect union across the pond. Just think. England, Scotland and Wales could all enter in as separate states. (Wipe your hands of Ulster and let Dublin deal with it.) Not only would you get two senators apiece, but your combined congressional delegations would dominate the lower house. Within a generation, no doubt, a Brit would occupy the White House. So what do you say? Get wise and get with it. Dump the loser and hook up with the winner. Something to think about while you watch the EU implode.

Nick C. Flynn

Thousand Oaks, California

Insult to injury

Tim Congdon has now matched his ill-informed review of my book with an even more preposterous and rude letter (21 May). Congdon persists in claiming that malaria was ‘coming under control’ in British-ruled Africa so as to argue that Africa’s high malaria burden is not related to Africa’s distinctive ecology. He utterly confuses a temporary dip in malaria death rates in Africa with ‘coming under control’. Africa’s malaria morbidity and mortality rates remained massively high throughout the 20th century, in absolute terms and in comparison with all other parts of the world. A body of research cited in my book explains the underlying ecological factors at play. Mr Congdon continues, wilfully it seems, to confuse a river being navigable in its interior and navigable to the sea. It is the latter that is crucial for international trade, as I now have to explain for a third time to Mr Congdon. He persists in claiming that I wrongly date the start of British rule in India. Once again, he lifts a sentence utterly out of context. The sentence is correct and the book is correct: there was a gradual expansion of the East India Company rule in India from the early 17th century until the transfer of control over India from the East India Company to the British government in 1858.

Jeffrey D. Sachs

New York

A settled debt

I should like to pay tribute to the far-reaching influence of the letters page in The Spectator. In the edition of 29 January this year I drew attention to an outstanding debt of £3 incurred against me by Robert Jackson MP in his earlier incarnation as president of the Oxford Union in 1967. Soon after publication of this letter, I received a personal invitation from Mr Jackson to tea in the House of Commons. Not only did he set aside a full hour of his time to give me an account of his political odyssey — he recently crossed the floor of the House to become the Labour member for Wantage — but he scrupulously repaid the debt and gave me a fascinating insight into current political debate.

Robert Triggs


Hoover’s blond wig

Gwynplaine MacIntyre writes (Letters, 21 May) that my biography of J. Edgar Hoover, Official and Confidential, contained the ‘outright lie’ that the FBI director was a transvestite. He refers — as if it stood alone — to the assertion by Susan Rosenstiel, former wife of millionaire whisky distiller Lewis Rosenstiel, whom I quoted as saying she witnessed a sex episode in which Hoover dressed up as a woman. I did report this allegation, but probably would not have done so had it stood alone.

The passage in my book that immediately follows the Rosenstiel claim is an account by two other interviewees, who said they learnt of Hoover’s penchant for women’s clothes at a different time and place from those described by Mrs Rosenstiel. They said they were shown photographs of Hoover wearing a blond wig and an evening gown. The famous face, they claimed, was entirely recognisable, and they did not think the pictures were faked. These two interviewees had never heard of Mrs Rosenstiel, and their story was unknown to her.

Anthony Summers

Co. Waterford, Ireland

Toilet trouble

With regard to ‘toilets’ (The Spectator’s Notes, 4 June), it depends entirely on whom one is talking to. To Charles Moore, for instance, I would employ the diminutive ‘loo’ and hope he would reciprocate. But in motorway service stations, for instance, ‘loo’ will lead to bafflement while ‘toilet’ is likely to reap speedy dividends.

Ludovic Kennedy