For the many not the few
Sir: As is clear from the last paragraph of your leading article (7 April), the ability of Tony Blair to rewrite history (or persuade others to do so) obviously remains undiminished, although it is surprising to find that your own publication succumbs so easily to his ‘charms’. How many more times does the canard that he and the Labour party pioneered the use of the phrase ‘for the many not the few’ have to be refuted? In fact, it was one of your own former editors, the late and very sadly lamented Iain Macleod, who first used that phrase (and, of course, in a different context) at the Tory party conference on 9 October 1969. I have just listened to my recording of that speech again; I was moved and delighted when I first heard it, and it thrills me still. Imitation, of course, is the sincerest form of flattery, and it is understandable that Mr Corbyn and the socialists should seek to expropriate what they cannot ever hope to equal or achieve.
David J. Cox
May and the Met
Sir: You are right to mention the possible role of Theresa May in the latest rise in crime (‘Criminal policies’, 7 April). However, you could have gone further. I recall that during the riots of 2011 she refused to let Boris Johnson, the then mayor, use the water cannon he had purchased from Germany, even though water cannon has been used in Belfast
(a UK city) in the past.
To add insult to injury she later mocked him about these in a speech. She also stopped him from appointing as Met Commissioner Bill Bratton, who had a very successful record as head of policing in New York — instead favouring Cressida Dick. I recall that Cressida Dick mentioned that ‘diversity’ was to be one of her priorities in her new role. Most of the public would prefer to see burglary, shoplifting and antisocial behaviour being given a much higher priority.
John R. McErlean
Sir: Mary Wakefield’s column on the deranged world of Virgin trains rang so many bells with me (7 April). I recently wrestled with a Virgin ticket machine that either could not or would not offer my destination (one single stop: Coventry to Leamington Spa — is that rocket science?). It feels like the world is run by people who want to make it as difficult as possible for the customer to make a simple transaction, while employing an army of marketing types who insist that every aspect of mundane life has to be ‘passionate’.
Want to send or receive a parcel? Try using someone like DPD, who are so ‘passionate’ about ‘customer care’ and ‘excellence’ that people are left hanging around all day waiting for a nonexistent delivery. My personal bugbear, being unemployed and eagerly, nay passionately, looking for work, is to find that every job is ‘an exciting opportunity’. For crying out loud, it’s an accounts assistant position; I’m not trying to find a job with MI6!
Sir: Reading Mary Wakefield’s experiences on Virgin trains enforces my opinion that the whole rationale of the Branson business empire is based on a concept of commercial puerility. I first experienced this first-hand when sprayed with champagne by the man himself some 35 years ago at a wine bar opening, and then much later on a trans-Atlantic flight to a conference in the USA. Out of a clear blue sky the plane did a sudden dip before righting itself, and the pilot then announced that the stewardess (who earlier had been modelling a swimsuit) had sat on his lap. After that I never flew Virgin again.
Sir: Toby Young anticipates in his article this week (7 April) that the presence of a vicar or priest might have resulted in proceedings being suspended upon the death of a mourner at a funeral. My parents have oft-repeated a story which suggests the contrary. At a funeral some years ago in their village church in rural Yorkshire, one elderly mourner failed to arise from the kneeling position following the Lord’s Prayer. It quickly became clear that this wasn’t out of a greater religious conviction than his peers, but rather the result of a more permanent opportunity to engage with God. Following a brief discussion with the vicar, a couple of other mourners discreetly carried the deceased into the vestry and the service proceeded to its conclusion. The key beneficiary of the saga was the local undertaker, who was able to secure a ‘return fare’ for his hearse.
Sir: Andrew Gilligan is spot on when he decries Sadiq Khan as a lousy Mayor of London (‘City slacker’, 7 April). But to answer the ‘why has no one noticed?’ point, Speccie readers will remember that the original Blairite waffler Mr Blair himself was oddly popular for many years. Then, post-2005, his name became a by-word for all that is wrong with public life. Khan has been mayor for only 23 months, but already there is a £1 billion black hole in the transport budget, a failure to build homes, and a murder rate higher than New York’s. Londoners are starting to notice.
London Assembly Member, City Hall, London SE1
Sir: I yield to no man in my enthusiasm for Rod Liddle’s contributions and I cannot remember the last time I disagreed with him. However, in his judgment of the 1970s rockers Budgie (‘shit’) I feel he has missed the mark (Arts, 31 March). He should reacquaint himself with their oeuvre and particularly the song ‘Breadfan’, which starts out raucously and then is leavened with an enchanting lyrical quiet passage in the middle highlighting Burke Shelley’s unusual vocals. It’s marvellous.
Not on Skye
Sir: Lest any tourists to Scotland be disappointed, may I point out that Eilean Donan Castle is not on Skye (Books, 7 April)? It stands beside the road to Skye but is not on the island itself.