The Spectator

Letters | 14 June 2018

Text settings

Exacerbating incivility

Sir: I agree wholeheartedly with David Goodhart that if our politics is to ever recover from its current vicious state then all of us need to do our bit to ‘stand up for civility’ (‘The age of incivility’, 9 June). Goodhart explains well that what has ‘gone wrong’ with our politics is exacerbated by, but not entirely due to, social media. If the mainstream media were also to stop and ask whether it has contributed to the problem, that could be a positive step.

The Spectator, for example, has at least two regular columnists in Rod Liddle and James Delingpole who seem to find it difficult to express a political opinion without putting their hatred for people they disagree with on display. In any political debate, if there are valid, serious points to be made, surely they can be made without malice? In their mission to uphold free speech, media can make a choice to uphold free speech underpinned by intellectual or moral integrity — or not. If the commercial realities of the digital era have made it harder for long-standing, quality publications to do their bit to stand up for civility, then perhaps it is time to acknowledge that.

Helen Jackson

Saffron Walden, Essex

The point of kindness

Sir: Cosmo Landesman (‘Too kind’, 9 June) writes powerfully about kindness having recently been (mis)appropriated by self-help gurus. But it is certainly not new. Two thousand years ago there was a carpenter’s son who developed quite a following in these parts. In fact, his suggestions were so radical in undermining both Jewish and Roman status quo, that they conspired to put him to death. The nub of his teaching? ‘To love your neighbour as yourself.’ The thing is, it only heals the world if your acts of kindness are actually intended to benefit others, and not yourself.

Stephen Dudley

Great Malvern, Worcestershire

What Trump should do

Sir: Daniel McCarthy makes a good attempt at the difficult job of defending Trump’s tariffs (‘Are Trump’s tariffs a good idea?’, 9 June). He focuses on the way Japan and Germany in particular, and Europe in general, benefit from letting the USA hegemon shoulder the burden of defence ‘while working assiduously to tear apart the hegemon’s industry’.

However he ignores the much more obvious conclusion that America should start withdrawing its military support for Europe and Asia. That would do less damage to the citizens of the world (including Americans), and would be the wake-up call that Europe badly needs.

Johnny Cameron

Pewsey, Wiltshire

It’s still about the writing

Sir: In response to Lionel Shriver’s article ‘When diversity means uniformity’ (9 June), I would like to challenge the assertion that diversity means either a dilution of quality or a uniformity of output. We at Penguin Random House firmly believe that giving a platform to more diverse voices will instead lead to a greater richness of creativity and writing. Our goal for our new employees and authors to reflect UK society by 2025 is an ambition, not a quota. We publish — and will continue to — on talent first and foremost.

However, some authors face more barriers than others in getting published. Through our efforts to make our books more representative, we are casting the net wider to catch the voices which may have been missed. This isn’t just about doing the right thing. After all, we are a commercial business, not a charity. For us, publishing more diversely is not just a moral imperative but a commercial opportunity, enabling us to reach new and different readers. Our founder Allen Lane launched the paperback in the 1930s in order to make great writing accessible to everyone and, in doing so, democratised literature and revolutionised publishing forever. We remain true to that vision today.

Books are a portal to enter new worlds; to open your eyes to new perspectives. In a world becoming more and more polarised and where we increasingly exist in echo chambers, it has never been more important to hear — and publish — different voices.

Tom Weldon

CEO, Penguin Random House UK

London SW1

Hurrah for fairs

Sir: Bruce Anderson asks if there are any travelling fairs left (Drink, 9 June). I grew up among the leafy lanes of Pinner and am now vicar of the church on Blackheath Common and I can assure him that fairs visit both. At Pinner, the fair came only for a day, by charter of King John for Whit Wednesday, which always offered us children a reason to be excited about the Whit Monday bank holiday. It was kept running through the second world war. My father, in a reserved occupation, was among those who found things to sell and make to keep the inalienable right to an annual fair on that day.

Nicholas Cranfield

London SE3

Cricket and politics

Sir: Tim Wigmore’s thought-provoking article (‘The people’s cricket’, 2 June) made me wonder whether T20 cricket will be beneficial to Test cricket in the long run — i.e. whether it will improve the traditional form of the game. Wigmore argues that the IPL (Indian Premier League) is ‘a democracy in which everyone is welcome. T20 has created a global free market for talent’. This, alas, is no longer true. Pakistanis have now been excluded from the tournament purely on political grounds. In the IPL, politics is very much a part of the sport.

Mueen Afzal