The Spectator

Letters | 14 July 2012

Text settings

What went wrong

Sir: I hope our Prime Minister read your editorial (7 July) on why as a country we have been engulfed in such a profound financial upheaval. Many months into this crisis, we’ve still heard no coherent account from our political leaders as to what went wrong, just a bit of populist banker-bashing and some strange metaphors about the need for big bazookas. No leader refers to those countries, Australia and Canada to the fore, who got their response to the crisis right.

Jonathan Campbell-James


Legal fiction

Sir: Rod Liddle (‘The rule of lawyers’, 30 June) is entirely right in his view that judges are no better suited to adjudicate on contentious political controversies than the rest of us. If law were truly a matter of cold remorseless logic, one would see far more cases resolved quickly, in the way that mathematicians review each others’ workings and agree an answer without multiple dissenting opinions.

As the great US trial lawyer Gerry Spence pointed out, the Supreme Court, at the pinnacle of the legal pyramid, is routinely divided over even the driest points of technical tax law, something that could not happen if the driving force were objective analysis. Spence, who hardly ever lost a case, was smart enough to know that at the heart of every legal judgement was a prejudice or an emotion. 

Spence speaks from within the tradition of the American realist school of jurisprudence, which holds that if you want to know the law, don’t study the statutes, study the judges. I wouldn’t trust the buggers if I were you.

Martin Sewell (Solicitor)


Talking ballsy

Sir: Dot Wordsworth admonishes me (Mind your language, 7 July) for using the word ‘ballsy’ to describe a female character in Prisoners’ Wives, in a review of the programme for the Telegraph. She suggests ‘feisty’ as a preferable alternative. 

As the title suggests, the character’s husband was in jail. She had been forced to assume his role, running his business and dealing with his mostly male associates. She did so with bravery and a certain swagger. In the circumstances, ‘ballsy’ felt appropriate. ‘Feisty’ is too weak, and lacks the same sense of courage. It also has, to my ear, a sexual undertone which I wanted to avoid. ‘Ballsy’, for all the inelegance of its anatomical association, does not.

Ed Cumming

London NW3

DG tips

Sir: John Simpson’s recommendations to the new BBC director general (‘Dear DG’, 7 July) had the virtue of being sufficiently vague that George Entwistle — expert in the dark arts of BBC executive sophistry as he must be — will be able to claim to have listened, irrespective of what he does. My advice is simpler and more practical — axe the execrable ‘yoof’ channel BBC3, return the World Service to its glory days as a cultural beacon rather than the generic 24-hour news service into which it has degenerated, and start judging the success of programmes by the appreciation of audience rather than their size.

Adrian Fry


Kindling enthusiasm

Sir: I gave my son a Kindle for his birthday. It has been liberated by my six-year-old grandson, who is currently immersed in The Famous Five. Perhaps Anthony Horowitz (‘Kindles for kids’, 30 June) has a point. Children can do anything if they want to. The trick is to make them want to.

Andrew Shelley

West Sussex

Buy paperbacks

Sir: Much as I admire Anthony Horowitz, I was not convinced by his suggestion that — in a time of thrift — the government ought to give every child a Kindle. Does he not know how technology works? Let’s say the government splashed out millions on the new generation ‘Kindle touch’. In a matter of weeks, Amazon would have brought out a newer machine, and Britain’s tech-smart children would not be content with anything but the latest, fastest e-reader. Instead of struggling to keep pace with the gadgets, why doesn’t the government invest more in English teaching, and buy up plenty of good unwanted paperbacks? 

Alan Bartlett


In their shoes

Sir: While I was intrigued by Celia Haddon’s account (Letters, 7 May), of her experiences at Queen Anne’s School in the 1950s (particularly as they reminded me of my own school days), I feel both she and I can count ourselves fortunate. We may have been forced to eat disgusting food, but at least life wasn’t a continuous fashion test. My granddaughter Jessica says girls are constantly ridiculed for wearing the wrong brands or the wrong shoes. This is something that never even crossed my mind when I was at school. 

Angela McKinley

London SW18

Hurricane Joe

Sir: Re. Douglas Murray’s visit to the Stalin Museum at Gori (‘At home with the Stalins’, 30 June), I was given a similar but after-hours tour by a local teacher in her thirties. I couldn’t help asking her at the end of it what she personally, as a teacher who had grown up in a post-Soviet world, felt about the Great Man. Her reply was revealing: ‘He was a phenomenon. Like the weather. You cannot judge a hurricane.’

Michael Delahaye

Adelaide, Australia

Write to us

The Spectator, 22 Old Queen Street, 
London SW1H 9HP