The Spectator

Feedback | 9 August 2003

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Comment on Pre-emptive force (02/08/2003)

Perhaps it is the accent and perfect diction, but the British often appear to Americans to be of superior intelligence. That is, until we learn of some curious incident which quells such thought instantly. Take the Tony Martin case, for example. We always thought the phrase "a man's home is his castle" came over from Britain. And, as an American trained lawyer, I always thought the so-called "castle doctrine" of self-defence law was part of the great English common law that we inherited. It appears that while the castle doctrine is still a well-established part of the law in most American jurisdictions, it has been abolished in its birthplace. The castle doctrine simply says that if an intruder enters your home with criminal intent, you owe him no duty of due care and you have no duty to retreat before using deadly force to defend yourself or your family. You can't use deadly force solely to defend property, but anyone who breaks and enters an occupied home, especially at night, is clearly a threat to the continued good health and cheer of the occupants. Is it time for the colonists to send back some of the great and wonderful English common law that we brought over with us?

Kenneth Willis
Denver, Colorado

Why are home invaders called "burglars" in Great Britain? A burglar breaks into vacant dwellings to steal valuables while the resident is away. A home invader breaks into occupied homes in order to force a confrontation with those inside. A burglar is motivated by greed, the home invader by a desire to terrorize and harm others. Home invasion is a far more serious crime, and anyone suddenly facing an intruder in their home has a right to use whatever force is necessary to protect themselves and their families. Most of the homeowners I know are armed, which helps to explain why burglaries are common around here, but home invasions are rare.

George L.
Worcester, Mass.

Oh, no. You could not have got this matter by a wronger end. The law permits reasonable force: which is to say, first, that the limit in any given circumstance takes into account every factor you mention in favour of shooting burglars (what Mr Martin did was reasonable, to anyone who agrees with your points); and, second, that whether a householder did exceed that limit is up to the jury.

His jury thought, after exposure to much more of the story than we know, that what he did was unreasonable – not that it was unnecessary, an entirely different standard. The jurors did not think the factors you mention applied to his case the way you think they did.

So what do you propose? Overruling the jury, eliminating the flexible common-law approach that allows for exactly the sorts of changing circumstances you highlight, and a new legislated – imposed and fixed – standard.

That is not so obviously a sensible proposal – indeed (in the obligatory chiding) it is precisely the anti-conservative one.

Ian Fraser

Comment on Some truths about immigration by Anthony Browne (02/08/2003)

Anthony Browne's article on immigration was an exercise in sophistry. As an Asian, I would remind Browne that his predecessors did all too well the job of extolling Britain as the land of the supreme conquerors and bliss on Earth. Naturally, the oppressed peasants and untermenschen of the former Raj wish to see how the money expropriated from their ancestors has been spent.

Is this not the supreme expression of a stakeholder society? Goodness gracious me, as Peter Sellers would say.

Vive la difference, ensemble!

Dr. Atique Malik

Like a breath of fresh air this well written article brightened up an otherwise dismal outlook. How marvellous that, at last, someone has the nerve to articulate in public what most of us are thinking but have been cowered into not saying. The progress of events in Britain should be serving to warn us in Australia of what lies in store for us; but, alas, even our "conservative" government is in denial and currently imports 2,000 third world immigrants a week. Erudite contributions such as that offered by Anthony Browne will help collapse the whole rotten structure of multi-culturalism.

Derek Cartwright

Comment on Plain Hinglish by David Gardner (02/08/2003)

English is so flexible that trying to lay down the law on usage can occasionally prove embarrassing.

I spent several years feeling pleasantly superior to people who used the word "pre-pone" in conversation, just as David Gardner evidently does.

Imagine my shock then to find it last month in no less an authority than the new edition of the Shorter Oxford. Logical the word may be but a neologism it is not. Nor does that work provide any so-called "Hindu" derivation. The first use of the word "Hindu" in your article is almost certainly an error, since I think your contributor used it to mean Indians, and not all of us are Hindu. Tavernier used it in that sense, too, but things have moved on a bit since.

Clarence Fernandez

I read with delight David Gardner's article on what he calls ''Hinglish'. I fondly remember my first days in England over a decade ago when I spoke in the 'stately' fashion much to the annoyance of taxi drivers and ticket collectors. Soon I was able to conform to the street English by adding 'in it' at the end of every sentence.

For years I continued to think the 'pre-pone' is an actual word till the day when an Australian colleague refused to take my word for it. The only reference of 'pre-pone' I could find was in the Times of India and a few thousands references in the proceedings of the Indian Parliament. Professor Ian Humphrey Smith was kind enough to accept the Indian Parliament as a body 'capable of representing one of the largest pool of English speakers globally' and the matter was settled in a manner that would reflect well on two self respecting Commonwealth citizens.

Despite the fond memories this article evoked I was a bit upset by the David Gardner's reference to the Hindu origin of what he calls 'Hinglish' Notably he does not back this assertion. I have never come across the religious provenance of this quaint flavour of English and if my experience as a former exponent of this art is anything to go by my Muslim and Indian Christian friends are equally good at the so called 'hinglish'. Come to think of it the only thing we all had in common were our Christian missionary teachers. I fear that the subtitle of the article may allow readers to infer that 'top Indians' are all Hindus which is not true, all you have to look at the current President and two former Presidents and the riches man in the country. The list goes on.

I would like to this letter to be published as condemnation of any attempt to paint such delightful cultural phenomena in religious colour. I would also like to propose that what is called 'Hinglish' by David Gardner be referred by a more secular name 'Inglish'.

Dr. Vishal Gulati

Re English in India: Much the same goes for Pakistan, where one can hear decayed Victorian elegance in the language, and see it in the colonial architecture and statuary. Short of cash, I once offered to put a few rupees towards the purchase of a swim suit, and had the sentence played back as "You are wanting to make a subvention on the bathing costume, isn't it?"

Michael Mates

Comment on The white man's burden by Mark Steyn (02/08/2003)

Not long ago, a number of commentators on the African scene suggested that a period of up to twenty years of "benign neglect" by the Western powers might be just the solution for Africa's woes. That is, let the various revolutions take their tolls in human lives, and eventually one side will overwhelmingly win and the sort of tribal massacres we see repeated time after time a d nauseam, will no longer occur because the other tribes will have been exterminated by the victor. Or another example, the next time famine raises it's ugly head in some impoverished and diseased African nation, let the famine take it's toll and wipe out most of the sick, the weak, the women, and the children. When the famine is finally over, those few who manage to remain alive will have at the very least the slightest chance of reforming their agricultural methods, and perhaps producing adequate crops for themselves the following season. One thing is for sure, these constant interventions by the West, whether in terms of military or food aid, has done nothing but perpetuate the problems these interventions were meant to solve, and in some cases even exacerbating them.

Ken Besig

Comment on Those who like to laugh abandoned Hope long ago by Frank Johnson (02/08/2003)

Frank Johnson says he once told Ronald Reagan he'd just seen one of his films, "Bringing Up Baby ". If so, it illustrates the former President's customary tact in not correcting Frank Johnson. Lacking such delicacy myself, I point out that this was not one of Ronald Reagan's films. "Bringing up Baby" starred Cary Grant and Katharine Hepburn and famously featured a leopard and was rather good. Whereas "Bedtime for Bonzo" starred Ronald Reagan and famously featured a chimpanzee and wasn't. Confusion may have been compounded because there was a film called "Monkey Business" (not to be confused with a Marx Brothers film of the same name) which, uniquely, both starred Cary Grant and featured a chimpanzee, if not several.

James Holleyhead

Comment on Diary by Boris Johnson (02/08/2003)

"The Party of Taxpayer Value" is exactly right. In exchange for gobbling up vast swathes of your income, the government should be required to send to each taxpayer a detailed annual accounting of exactly HOW their money was spent. This after all is a courtesy extended to shareholders who part with a considerably smaller percentage of their income and in general do so voluntarily.

The beauty of the idea is that it would allow candidates for government to then make clear to the taxpayer exactly how they proposed to increase or decrease their charges. It's far easier politically to say "Mr Johnson, in exchange for your vote we will cut the amount of your money that is spent on other people's Health and Safety" than "we're in favour of accidents".

So, forward, Boris, and let your slogan henceforth be "No taxation without hypothecation!"

Max Henderson-Begg

Well done Boris for dumping Simon Sebag Montefiore and Stalin, or should I say: Boris:Diary:Train:Read:Laugh - can't wait to see Room 101 and see what LLP does by way of revenge in the Daily Mail!

Naomi Patrick

Comment on Just when you thought it was safe... by Ross Clark (02/08/2003)

The tone of your article is pejorative. Trade unions at BA / Railways and ALL other organisations are human beings, just like MP's / fat cat executives / Enron et al. Some 30 years ago, at a major management / trade union conference I asked the then full time secretary of a major union (Bill Jordon - AUEW) 'What are unions for?' His answer then applies today 'We are 'for' the same as shareholders / management / civil servants / MP's etc. and that is a four letter word.... MORE'.

Now... if BA has the evidence that certain employees are 'stealing time' they should put up the evidence and charge those employees with theft from the company. But they won't do that because they do not have the guts to face a 100% shutdown for 1/3/6 months whatever it takes. And why not? Because they will lose job security and, in the end, they do not trust the judiciary.

I am an Organisational Psychologist [MBA etc. etc.] with over 40 years experience of organisational behaviour, now retired and financially secure, so I can say it as it is. Forget all the bullshit about Mission Statements, Investor In People, stakeholders et al and here is my definition of 'Organisation'. A collection of people each pursuing their individual self interest and based on the mix of power, influence and control. Power and the ability to exercise that power is the reality which over-rides rhetoric. Margaret Thatcher said 'You can't buck the market'. So BA... compete in the market and succeed or go under... let the market decide. And the same applies to railways but that is enough for some other time.

On a wider but related issue, interesting to note that 1 in 5 of all in employment are on the public pay roll. Just let it roll to 1 in 4, in 3, in 2 and then see what happens.

Peter Hesketh
MA [Org.Psych]

Comment on Bring back Beeching by Simon Nixon (02/08/2003)

This article is nonsense. There are fewer accidents on railways than on roads, fewer trains and more cars will mean more deaths.

Privatisation has done a lot to increase the cost of travel by train. Trains are good for the environment as well.

David Smith

Regarding Mr. Nixon's suggestion to de-emphasize public transport in favour of roads, I have only two words for him: "Los Angeles."

Joanne Gerber

Comment on Ancient and Modern by Peter Jones (02/08/2003)

Mr. Jones would have us believe that Dr. Kelly was "an honourable Socratic expert" crushed by a cynically manipulative Thrasymachean government.

The adjective scarcely seems to fit a man who has been described by friends as being rigid, scrupulous in small details but comfortable only with the most black and white of conclusions. One doubts he could muster either the sinuousness of mind or the comfort with self-knowledge that marked the sage of Athens.

Only Dr. Kelly knows for sure why he ended his life. But his testimony gives unambiguous pointers: he appears to have inadvertently given enough threads of information to allow an unscrupulous member of the media to spin a thick rope. That rope may have been meant for the hanging of the Blair administration, but Dr. Kelly, appalled by his complicity in its creation, chose to end his own life in it as well.

It is a sad tale, but one in which your profession comes off far worse, in my opinion, than the government. This article included.

Robin Burk