The Spectator

Feedback | 3 April 2004

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The lone defender

From Stuart Millson

I was disappointed to read that the government’s programme of creeping republicanism — the removal of the Crown from Treasury notepaper, the police force dropping its oath of allegiance to the Queen etc. — is just going through Parliament on the nod (‘The Queen fights back’, 27 March). Apart from Mr Johnson going to see Chris Moncrieff in the press lobby, in a lone effort to denounce it all, we can only wonder what the rest of HM Opposition is doing all day. When did we last hear Mr Howard, Mr Letwin, Dr Fox or Mr Bercow stick up for the ‘old Britain’ so robustly defended by the MP for Henley-on-Thames? Even with the prospect of Giscard d’Estaing’s European constitution swallowing us all up, and opponents of the EU being detained under the new European arrest warrant into the bargain, Michael Howard pledges nothing stronger than a desire to ‘unpick’ this measure. Surely the Opposition can muster a bit more sound and fury than that? It seems to me that the Conservative party has all but given up, and that the country must suffer in silence as Blair’s commissariat runs amok through what remains of Great Britain.

Stuart Millson

West Malling, Kent

From P.G. Urben

Loyalty to the UK is logically indivisible from sporting loyalty, suggests Boris Johnson. Not at all — whatever the flannelling fools at Westminster may claim. During my later years in academe, it was the habit of the patriotic college chaplain to offer up private prayers for the speediest possible defeat of UK teams in all international sporting contests whatsoever. He did not consider the muddied oaf and his (often racist) creed any part of the eternal values of Britain — a view which had considerable support in the senior common room.

Many patriotic Spectator readers will sympathise. Supporting (but not playing) sports, soccer in particular, is the first resort of the scoundrel — vide Robert Maxwell passim. Football fanaticism is very much part of New (and Old) Labour.

P.G. Urben

Pittenweem, Fife

A political animal

From Chris Patten

Frank Johnson (Shared opinion, 20 March) comments on my principal reason for not wishing to be considered as a candidate for the chairmanship of the BBC — namely, a reluctance to take a vow of ‘omertà’ on leaving Brussels — focus on what he regards as a career of trouble avoidance. So be it, though I am not sure that Sir Percy Cradock and various former editors of The Spectator have seen it that way.

But Mr Johnson is surely wrong in claiming that Lord Jenkins of Hillhead had spent years avoiding trouble. For example, he came back to Britain from being President of the European Commission and in his sixties founded a new political party, fought by-elections and forced change on the Labour party. The urbane are not always herbivores.

I have no intention of following Lord Jenkins’s example in every particular when I leave Brussels in October this year, but I do wish to exercise my human right to engage in the occasional political brawl.

Chris Patten


A place in the sun

From Toby Young

I feel some sympathy for Sheridan Morley (Letters, 27 March). Like him, I’ve been sacked from numerous journalistic posts and I’ve always had a very low opinion of my successors. Not only has he had to suffer the indignity of being replaced by me on The Spectator, then by Michael Portillo on the New Statesman; I gather he is shortly to be succeeded by Mariella Frostrup as the presenter of The Arts Programme on Radio Two.

Can I make a suggestion? I recently returned from a trip to Jamaica where I visited Firefly, No