The Spectator

Letters | 16 August 2018

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Boris mishandled

Sir: Your editorial ‘Bravo Boris’ (11 August) suggests that the treatment meted out to Boris Johnson by the Prime Minister and the party chairman makes a leadership challenge more likely. That is correct. This duo have demonstrated a breathtaking lack of political sophistication. Not only have they promoted Boris Johnson’s chances of the leadership, but they have also diverted the media spotlight from the Labour party’s very real anti-Semitism to a fictitious Tory party Islamophobia.

Mr Johnson plainly argues a position that is more liberal than those of many European governments, including those of Denmark, France, Belgium and Germany. Despite this, the Prime Minister and the party chairman have allowed the left-wing press and the Labour party the opportunity to conflate Boris’s — perhaps rude, but certainly not hateful — remark about burkas with the most ugly prejudice to be aired by a group of British politicians since Oswald Mosley and his British Union of Fascists marched through London.

David Soskin (Former advisor to John Major, No. 10 Policy Unit)

Petworth, West Sussex

The role of men

Sir: I think Lara Prendergast’s observations on male vanity (‘The new narcissism’, 11 August) need a broader historical perspective. Like most civilisations of the past, ours has reached the peaceable mature stage in which men are no longer needed as protectors from the violent social environments of earlier centuries. Women can safely claim equality, and are able to do many things such as business, sport and so on, which used to be the exclusive source of men’s self-esteem.

While equality is undoubtedly a good thing, one consequence of this blurring of gender roles is that too many men feel devalued, surplus to requirements and self-obsessed. Their manly virtues will only become useful again when decadence provides opportunities for violent disruption and the social fabric is eroded. And there are too many signs that we are headed in that direction.

Peter Bartram

Tadworth, Surrey

Expelled from Labour

Sir: Far be it from me to defend Momentum’s founder Jon Lansman, but it is most unfair for Nick Cohen to suggest that Lansman lacked the ‘political courage’ to expel me from Momentum (‘How to be a Corbyn Jew’, 4 August). Indeed I had to institute proceedings at the High Court in order to prevent him expelling me without a hearing, but I was nonetheless expelled.

I was not expelled from the Labour party for ‘foul conduct’ but because I am a prominent Jewish anti-Zionist. I was suspended on 18 March 2016 for comments I was alleged to have made. I only learnt what those comments were when they were leaked to the Times and Telegraph two weeks later. Quite amazingly, Labour’s barrister admitted that none of the reasons for my expulsion pre-dated my suspension: in other words I was suspended first and then they looked for evidence.

My use of the term ‘zio’ is nothing more than a shortened form of ‘Zionist’. This can only be anti-Semitic if it is accepted that Zionist and Jew are interchangeable. That is anti-Semitic, since many Jews are not Zionists and many Zionists are not Jewish. My use of the term ‘Janus-faced whore’ in respect of Owen Jones was a quote from someone else, who also suggested that he bears the impression of the last person who sat on him. A fair comment.

Tony Greenstein


The best pink

Sir: I couldn’t agree more with Rupert Wright about pink wines (‘Beyond the pale’, 11 August), except that he omitted to mention Tavel, a whole village devoted to producing the greatest of all pinks. Rich deep pink, very strong in alcohol. We used to drink a bottle of it from the (still excellent) Domaine de la Mordorée and snooze the afternoon away. Even their best is nothing like as expensive as those dreadful copper-coloured things so pervasive now, and the one at four euros is very acceptable.

Donald R. Clarke

Tunbridge Wells

Bold as brassica

Sir: Regarding Dot Wordsworth’s article about words ending in ‘-age’ (Mind your language, 28 July), I have found out that the use of this suffix spans a wider range. I happen to possess a copy of Thomas Hinde’s A Field Guide to The English Country Parson. Under the description of William Kingsley (1815-1916), vicar of South Silvington in Yorkshire, Hinde mentions:

‘For fifty years Kingsley was an examiner in medical drawing for the Army. As such he was entitled to expenses and on one occasion he submitted: “Porter 6d.” The authorities rejected this, saying that he was not entitled to claim for alcoholic drinks. When Kingsley explained that his claim was for a porter’s tip, they replied that this should be described as “Portage”. The next time he needed to claim for the hire of a cab he submitted: “Cabbage 3s 6d.”’

William Sitwell

Kew, Surrey

Melt ministry

Sir: The leading article in your 28 July issue mentioned the Minister for Drought (and later Floods) Dennis Howell. It is often forgotten that his powers over the weather extended to snow. He was made Minister for Snow in early 1979 during the winter of discontent. He managed to make the snow disappear and presumably became Minister for Thaw. Perhaps one of the few successes the Callaghan government achieved.

Craig Sergeant

Nashville, Tennessee, US