The changing EU
Sir: If, as Frederik Erixon writes, ‘there is a strange pre-revolutionary atmosphere in Brussels’ and ‘power will be handed back from Brussels to the nation states’ (‘The Last Heave’, 5 January), isn’t this what we have wanted and shouldn’t we delay our Brexit negotiations in order to see what happens?
The Brexiteers have always said that the EU, its immigration policies and the euro are not sustainable. After the elections across Europe in 2019 the forces for change will be greater than David Cameron found. Surely we need to combine with other like-minded nations, as we have done in the past, to strengthen the forces demanding change rather than walking away, leaving us unable to influence what happens in Europe?
Any subsequent UK referendum would relate to a different EU to the one we voted against in 2016.
Populists are not extremists
Sir: I’m slightly sick of the word ‘populist’ being used to suggest some sort of extremist (‘The Last Heave’, 5 January). The political establishment has proven itself broken not only in this country (see the failure to agree on a viable Brexit policy, let alone run a train service), but also widely across the EU, where the establishment has turned its back on listening to the people. Reform needs to come, and soon. One result of social media and regular polling is that people are used to expressing an opinion, and expect to be heard. The idea that you elect someone for five years, during which time they can decide what is best for you, is out of date. We need a system where MPs are compelled to listen to their voters.
Ashton Keynes, Wiltshire
Alcohol and idiosyncrasy
Sir: In his eloquent paean to Alexander Chancellor, Geoffrey Wheatcroft is less than fair to his predecessors (‘The way we were’, 5 January). In the period 1967-75, for part of which I worked at The Spectator, there were two distinguished editors in Nigel Lawson and George Gale. At that time all political weeklies were struggling to survive, but The Spectator frequently set the news agenda with well-informed accounts from inside the Heath government by ‘A Senior Conservative’, and Patrick Cosgrave was regularly sought out by radio and television because of his insightful political commentary. Before that, The Spectator had championed the thousands of East African Asians with UK passports who were being shamefully turned away by the Wilson government, and spoke up for the secessionists in Nigeria’s civil war — thanks to the political correspondent, Auberon Waugh, who even named one of his children Biafra after the breakaway state.
In the early 1970s, Bron aimed his merciless wit at the week’s new novels, and it was after only a brief caesura that he was re-hired by Chancellor. Many readers may have found Gale’s relentless anti-EEC diatribes tiresome, though coruscatingly written, but other pages were graced by the likes of Sir Denis Brogan, Tibor Szamuely, Tony Palmer, Simon Raven, Germaine Greer, Benny Green, Pamela Vandyke Price and Clement Crisp, as well as the priceless letters of Mercurius Oxoniensis, alias Hugh Trevor-Roper. Low in tone? Alcohol and idiosyncrasy may have been hallmarks of The Spectator’s revival under Alexander Chancellor, but both were far from absent in the years before.
Why voters are furious
Sir: Rory Sutherland (The Wiki Man, 5 January) considers reasons for the rise of Donald Trump, the Five Star Movement, the Brexit result and so on. He wonders if the ‘unusual patterns of voting’ are connected with key issues of wholescale immigration, the troubled euro and the dissolution of the nation state, all imposed too quickly on the world by ‘ideologically motivated elites’.
He might add the aftermath of 2008/09, when the financial markets were nearly destroyed by the chronic greed of bankers. Governments arranged the bailout so that those responsible were not imprisoned, but instead remained Midas rich, the vast bills to be paid by taxpayers.
The result has been ten years of austerity and no wage increases. Then asset inflation caused by QE to disguise the mess has resulted in house prices soaring beyond the reach of the young.
So fury has been generated towards the architects of this misery by voters. Who can blame them for voting for radical change?
The best strips
Sir: I thoroughly enjoyed Bryan Appleyard’s review of the Peanuts exhibition (‘Comic genius’, 5 January), not least his rejection of the comparison between Charlie Brown and Jean-Paul Sartre, a man who used his undoubted brilliance to live a life of monumental duplicity and self-congratulation. If Appleyard is willing to accept it, I would suggest that Peanuts is one of the two greatest comic strips, the other, with its humanity, criticism, breadth, courage and sheer fun, being Walt Kelly’s Pogo Possum,
Courtauld Institute, London WC2
Sir: Mark Mason’s excellent article on ‘women’ and ‘girls’ (5 January) reminded me of advice given by my housemaster at Oundle more than 60 years ago. When someone had referred to a group of women as ladies, he remarked that one should not refer to a woman as a lady unless you intended to imply that she was not one.