The Spectator

Feedback | 16 October 2004

Readers respond to articles recently published in <i>The Spectator</i>

Text settings

Ukip voices people’s anger

Oh dear! Ukip has really disturbed Matthew Parris’s normal affability and also, it would seem, his judgment (Another voice, 9 October). I usually enjoy his witty and intelligent comments, but in describing Ukip as ‘mad, bad and nasty’ he is so far from the truth as to be risible. He really ought to get out of the metropolis more, perhaps take a vacation in Middle England.

The Ukip members I know are predominantly middle class and also middle-aged, although we do have members in their twenties. What they all have in common is a concern for what is happening to their country as the EU juggernaut grinds on. Unfortunately for Parris, Ukip crystallises the views of an increasing number of the electorate as the Hartlepool by-election result shows only too clearly.

In the run-up to the European elections, I helped to man a party stand in the main shopping precinct of Bath. Among other things we were seeking signatures demanding that a date should be announced for a referendum on the EU constitution. What was increasingly noticeable was how very angry many of the general public have become. Their anger was directed at politicians of all parties who they believe ignore their concerns and wishes completely. Yes, certainly, immigration came up time after time, as did the state of local hospitals, schools, transport and lack of affordable housing. In the middle of these complaints we detected wholesale suspicion of the EU voiced very strongly by farmers and growers from the surrounding rural areas.

Ukip is doing nothing more than articulating the views of a very disaffected section of the electorate. A pre-election rally in north Wiltshire attracted an audience of some 300, most of whom were again, I suspect, middle-class voters who are determined to make their voices heard one way or another.

John Hargreaves
Bath, Somerset

I’m backing Blair

Peter Oborne (‘A question of trust’, 9 October) asked us to make a choice.

I find the choice easy. I will stick to the team of Blair and Brown (preceded by Major and Clarke), which has brought us consistently good growth, high employment, prosperity, low inflation, low interest rates, better state pensions and better performance from the National Health Service (based on own and family experience).

If we return to right-wing policies from Mr Howard’s past associations, we will be back to what these policies brought us last time: high unemployment, high interest rates, high inflation, recession, unsatisfactory growth, negative equity on property, and public services beggared by low investment. All this ‘achieved’ despite our once-in-a-lifetime bonus of North Sea oil.

George Booth
Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire

Plurality of belief

William Oddie (‘Whose rite is it anyway?’, 9 October) complains that ‘Credo’ has been mistranslated as ‘We believe’, and quotes the relief of a liberal cleric who felt he could supplement his own faith deficiencies from the faith of his congregation.

However, the Nicene Creed was originally written in Greek, not Latin, and began ‘We believe’. It only became ‘I believe’ as the Mass ceased to be the offering of the whole people of God and became something the priest said. In the West, at any rate, the Apostles’ Creed, which always began ‘I believe’, was a statement of individual faith — hence its use at baptism — and the Nicene Creed was the faith of the Church. The modern translation thus accurately reflects the original.

John Fellows
Guildford, Surrey

No poodle

If John Laughland (‘Putin the poodle’, 9 October) is to claim ‘relentless US expansionism’ and ‘the West’s appetite for [Russian] servility’, he needs to demonstrate rather more convincing evidence than the conspiracy theories we are offered.

To deal with just a few of his strategic misjudgments: US withdrawal from the Anti-Ballistic Missile treaty does not ‘render the Russian nuclear deterrent useless’. No American defence system will be capable of countering the hundreds of nuclear missiles remaining in Russia’s inventory. It is not true that the accession of the Baltic states to Nato ‘puts the West’s military arsenal within 40 miles — and a few seconds — of St Petersburg’. Just which Nato weapons capable of covering that distance in that time does Mr Laughland believe are positioned in Estonia? (Real answer: none.) To cap it all, to suggest that a (not unrealistic) CIA intelligence assessment predicting a possible break-up of Russia could itself encourage such an event is absurd. That type of influence lies well beyond the wildest fantasy of any spook, in Washington or elsewhere.

Does the British Helsinki Human Rights Group (of which Mr Laughland is a trustee) have nothing better to say about either Russia or the (apparently monolithic) ‘West’?

Jeremy Stocker
Centre for Defence and International Security Studies,
Henley-on-Thames, Oxfordshire

Gun control works

I cannot let Mark Steyn’s remark concerning the Australian government’s gun control laws (‘Private enterprise’, 2 October) go unquestioned. What is wrong with having ‘gun control laws’? As I sit here looking through the window, I can see no predators or dangers that would require me to go armed in the street. I’m 59 years of age; I’ve never had to put an animal down. I’m the son of a Queensland policeman, and in all the years I was around when my father was working, I never knew him to go armed. Concealable weapons have always required licensing in this country, thank God.

If one wants to ‘go shooting’, what’s wrong with belonging to a club or society that promotes that sort of thing? Club membership is now a requisite for gun ownership in this country. Farmers and others who do need a weapon of some sort can be and are licensed for gun ownership. Thanks to our predecessors, gun ownership, along with driving licences and suchlike, is now a privilege, not a right — and we are largely free from the menace that comes with unrestricted gun ownership as appears to be the case from my viewing of American television news.

Bruce Nichol
Albury, New South Wales, Australia

No such Association

The Spectator specialises in and delights us with the cast of freewheeling characters who contribute weekly to its columns, and none more than Rod Liddle. But while you must properly be protective of his right to express his views, however eccentric, you cannot allow him the right to invent ‘facts’. In his latest article (‘Has Auntie no shame?’, 9 October), Mr Liddle claims a reference by me in a letter to the ‘Jewish Papal Knights’ Association’. There is no such Association, and I have never spoken or written of such an Association.

Sigmund Sternberg
The Three Faiths Forum, London NW5

Pamphleteer’s protest

I was surprised to read Ruth Lea’s new explanation (Letters, 9 October) of the Centre for Policy Studies’ decision not to publish the pamphlet on defence policy which it asked me to write, particularly since the only explanation she has deigned to give me is that ‘it has nothing to do with the quality of the research’. Ms Lea now claims that the contents of my pamphlet did not conform to the agreed outline and this was the reason why the CPS would not publish it. I would be happy to send anybody copies of both outline and pamphlet, and challenge them to find any differences. In any case, Tim Knox of the CPS informed me of the decision not to publish before I had even sent in a draft. At the time it made this decision, the CPS was not, therefore, in a position to determine wheth er the contents conformed to the outline, because nobody there had yet read a single word of it. Furthermore, Mr Knox specifically told me that the reason for the decision was that a member of the management board had vetoed the work on the basis of the outline alone. I stand by my version of events.

Paul Robinson
University of Hull, Humberside

Prizes prompt poetry

Tiffany Jenkins (Arts, 2 October) is so right about the absurdity of all these meretricious cultural prizes. And yet there is little new under the sun: in June 1823 Macaulay lambasted the Royal Society of Literature for trying to encourage merit by distributing prizes. His essay is still a treat to read. Perhaps he was right too: in calling for poems on ‘Dartmoor’ the society was trying to ‘force into cultivation the waste lands of intellect’. Under our present culture-free government, what else can one expect?

Anthony Bainbridge
Plymouth, Devon

Give them a break

I can’t help but feel that Charles Moore (The Spectator’s Notes, 2 October) may have missed the point slightly on the subject of Christian Aid’s advertisements. It might be true that they’ve resorted to stereotypes to get their point across, and people are free to comment on that as they wish, but to end with asking readers to not donate to Christian Aid is hardly generous. To refrain from donating to an organisation that does a lot of good, just because you don’t like their advertisements, is not going to do much for people dying of starvation. Does it really matter in the great scheme of things how Christian Aid convinces people to donate? I should think the people they help couldn’t care less.

Gina Tredwell
Windsor, Berkshire

What Julie misses

Julie Burchill’s review of Hell Hath No Fury (Books, 2 October) reveals that she has always confused love with lust. She has never felt the pain, akin to the pain of bereavement, which accompanies the betrayal and/or abandonment of a lover. It is not exclusive to women; men feel it too, even if they are less likely to write letters to the betrayer.

As she has neither experience nor imagination, much of Western literature must be quite incomprehensible to her. How sad. Asking her to review this book is like asking a deaf journalist to comment on a concert, or a colour-blind critic to analyse an exhibition of Impressionists.

Marianne Pitts
Leamington Spa, Warwickshire

Boring wins the race

I have just heard that John Howard has won an impressive fourth term in Australia. According to a recent poll, he is the most boring politician in the world. So much for charisma. It’s the policies that count.

Judith Hereford