The Spectator

Feedback | 17 April 2004

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Criterion of culture

David Lovibond (‘The real racists’, 10 April) is quite right in his assertion that culture rather than race and ethnicity is what determines whether an immigrant will integrate well in the host society. To me it matters little if the person next to me is from India or the West Indies, is African or Chinese, if they broadly share my cultural priorities and values, and are willing to promote the good of our common society. What does concern me is when I read of second- or third-generation immigrants who not only show no interest in doing this but who also actively attack those values and condemn the society in which they live. I am, of course, referring here to those British Muslim youths who recently set fire to the Union flag.

What is required at this juncture is an open debate on Islamic values and practice. Where these are incompatible with British norms, they should be ruthlessly challenged and not politely ignored on the grounds of political correctness or misplaced tolerance. This is not Islamophobia, but honest confrontation with Muslim realities. It is time for those in power to acknowledge openly that not all religions are the same or equally beneficial, and that much of what we consider worthwhile in the West can be traced directly back to our Christian past. That too needs to be re-evaluated and recognised for the good that it has done us — and continues to do — and to be seen again as the measure of much of what we hold dear.

Colin Sowden

Abergavenny, Newport

David Lovibond says that we should welcome migrants prepared to share an anglocentric world view. I’m sure that, like you, he thinks Eastern Europeans are an essential part of our economy, as they are willing to do jobs that we are too lazy to do.

But there is nothing intrinsic in Eastern Europeans that makes them work harder than Western Europeans — it is simply that they come from a more deprived part of the world. If these immigrants work in Britain, they will become naturalised. They, or at the very least their children, will then be assimilated into British culture and thus become just as lazy as us. Put simply, if British people are lazy, then anglicised Eastern Europeans will become just as lazy too.

Surely, then, anglicising immigrants is a very temporary solution. Should we not be addressing the problem of why British people will not do these jobs?

Nolan D. Walker

Prague

Having read David Lovibond’s excellent article, may I stand up and be counted? It is time that we who are proud to call ourselves English and/or British made our views known. By the same token, my congratulations to you for having the guts to publish it.

Ernest Gardner

Ilkley, West Yorkshire

Predictive piffle

It is a shame that your magazine did not make a link between Rod Liddle’s excellent article on central government’s ‘predict and provide’ house-building policy in the south-east of England (‘More destructive than the Luftwaffe’, 3 April) and Ross Clark’s article on the threat to rural Essex from the government’s expansionist airports policy (‘Listed runways’, 3 April).

This latter policy is also driven by the outdated model of predict and provide — simply expanding our airport capacity to meet the near open-ended demands of the air-travel business. This is being done irrespective of the damage it will do the UK’s ambitions to reduce CO2 emissions.

Imagine if we were simply to build roads to meet the projected rise in car use; the UK would have to build an extra 36,505 miles of new road over the next ten years.

The role of government must be to balance the pressures of development with the requirements for the preservation, and indeed enhancement, of the quality of life in the United Kingdom.

Hanningfield

Leader, Essex County Council,

Chelmsford

Sad, sad, sad

Mark Steyn (‘Murderous rhetoric’, 10 April) is right on the money about the anti-Bush hatred which infects the Democratic party like a sort of metastasising melanoma. Those with an interest in such things might cast an eye towards this side of the Atlantic, where something similar can be found among presenters and reporters for BBC television and Channel 4 news. These people are effectively functioning as a British branch of the Democratic party’s anti-Bush campaign, while taking every opportunity to hype the ridiculously multimouthed Kerry.

Over Iraq none of them has quite descended to the dismissal of the butchered bodies at Fallujah with ‘Screw ’em’, but they come close with an ill-concealed schadenfreude that drips out of their reporting of American military casualties in Iraq — and (in the case of the BBC in particular) constant and lip-licking exaggeration of those casualties. Jon Snow and other presenters join the game with smirking (and mendacious) comparisons to Vietnam, while giving pride of place to the fatuous waffle of the mentally obese Chappaquidick kid, Edward Kennedy. All very amusing, if you fancy a diet of emetics. But if you have hopes for serious journalism from the British media, it is sad, sad, sad.

Herb Greer

Salisbury

Out of touch

At least, unlike Richard Perle, William Kristol and the other neocons who persuaded Bush to invade Iraq, Mark Steyn has the same commitment to the cause and continues to try to persuade the rest of us. Unfortunately, as every day passes, his article on how much things have improved in Iraq (27 March) seems increasingly out of touch. Perhaps it is time he visited Iraq again?

Michael Hirst

Porticcio, Corsica

Blair’s bungling toadies

Peter Oborne’s account of Tony Blair’s ever increasing list of personal failures makes sickening reading (Politics, 10 April). He also touches on Jack Straw’s history of ‘carrying out sordid little favours for Labour prime ministers’ in the past. But the bungling extends far beyond this unattractive pair.

Some weeks ago you published a letter from Lord Tebbit, in which he described the wholesale passage of power from the comparatively benign ‘Establishment’ to the new, totally self-serving ‘political class’: quangoists, MEPs, poly lecturers, lawyers, etc. Lord Tebbit did not explain how this change had occurred — an issue which has long intrigued me. Surely, as Comrade Straw greased his way up the pole, somebody in authority should have recognised the devious toady’s true spots, and consigned him to well-deserved obscurity?

The same is true for most of Blair’s motley band. I suspect that the answer lies somewhere in the Sixties and Seventies, when large sections of the ‘Establishment’ lost their nerve and, seeking to be ‘modern’, failed to halt the advance to power of today’s treacherous bunglers.

R.E. Bland

London SW6

We must have ID cards

Peter Hitchens’s implication (‘Contempt for liberty’, 10 April) that terrorists will be able to fake any form of ID is wrong and therefore an unconvincing argument for not introducing ID cards.

The new ID cards, if introduced, will contain primary and secondary biometric data. Primary biometric data is obtained by measuring the distance between points on each person’s face. As these measurements don’t change throughout a person’s life, they are a much more reliable means of identification than a passport photo. Secondary biometric data uses two characteristics that are even more difficult — or, as the Home Office would have it, ‘near impossible’ — to fake. It uses both retina and fingerprint scans, characteristics unique to each individual.

Ultimately, we must remember that the Home Office operates in our interests, to ensure our security and not to undermine ou r freedom. In times like these, when we are under threat from extremist terrorists who have little care for life or liberty, we must do all we can to hinder their activities.

Jack Colson

London N1

The fruits of torture

‘None of us,’ writes Brendan O’Neill (‘Some luvvies will believe anything’, 3 April), ‘knows for certain what goes on inside ...Guantanamo Bay.’

Brendan O’Neill quotes prisoners, but the Washington Post, in an article published on Boxing Day 2002 by Bob Woodward and others, quoted guards. The details of the allegations were disgusting, from prisoners blindfolded and thrown into walls, bound in painful positions, subjected to loud noises and deprived of sleep, to handing prisoners without legal process to foreign security services known for using brutal means. ‘We don’t kick the [expletive] out of them. We send them to other countries so they can kick the [expletive] out of them,’ said a guard. According to a ‘former CIA inspector general’, the presumably eponymous Fred Hitz, ‘we don’t do torture, and we can’t countenance torture in terms of we can’t know of it [sic]’. But if a country offers information gleaned from interrogations, ‘we can use the fruits of it’.

The whole was well summed up to the Post by one US official: ‘If you don’t violate someone’s human rights some of the time, you probably aren’t doing your job.’

Oliver Miles

Oxford

Trapping Napoleon

It is not true, as Christopher Woodward writes in his review of Adam Zamoyski’s book 1812 (Books, 10 April), that the Russian plan to draw Napoleon into the depths of Russia is a state-sponsored myth. According to Michal Oginski, the plan was agreed at a meeting six months earlier. Oginski at the time was Alexander’s adviser on matters relating to Poland and Lithuania, and learnt of the plan immediately after the meeting from General Armfeld (Mémoires sur la Pologne et les Polonais, Book 10, chapter 1).

Andre Zaluski

Billingham, Teesside

Different class of cabby

Petronella Wyatt has a sophisticated grasp of Central European mores and American quirkiness. Alas, nearer home she is something of a London provincial (Singular life, 3 April).

When I booked my black cab last night to take us to the airport in Edinburgh this morning, I was asked if I would prefer the driver to ring the doorbell or to phone me as he got into our street. The cab arrived three minutes early. The driver leapt out to assist my wife with her small case. He closed the door behind me. He was courtesy and charm throughout the journey. I was delighted to tip him for what is normal service in this capital.

Oh, and could Miss Wyatt tell her mother that taxis in Edinburgh wait till the fare has got into the house?

James Mellon

Edinburgh