The Spectator

Letters | 16 November 2017

Also in Letters: don’t blame the SNP for the state of Scottish schools, living with disinhibited dementia and Macron’s mistake

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Chairman May

Sir: Theresa May is the only politician with a mandate to lead, yet doesn’t seem capable of leading (‘Stop the rot’, 11 November). More than at any time for decades, the country needs leadership. This seems like an intractable problem but the solution is simple. Theresa May should stop trying to be both chairman and CEO and relinquish the latter job to someone with the energy, ideas and conviction she lacks. There is an obvious candidate: Michael Gove, the only member of the government who seems to relish governing and one of the leading figures in the Leave campaign. He should be made Deputy Prime Minister and given full authority for policy in three key areas: preparing for Brexit, getting houses built and shoring up Universal Credit.

May can allow him to focus on these things by taking care of administrative matters — scandals, repelling Jeremy Corbyn, keeping the CFO in line, being the public face of the government, etc. A Conservative party which wants to save itself, and properly serve the country, ought to be able to manage this.

Daniel Hopkin

Sherfield-on-Loddon, Hampshire

Dignity in dementia

Sir: I completely agree with Mary Wakefield’s article regarding dementia and disinhibited behaviour (‘The #metoo movement has an icy heart’, 11 November). My husband has frontotemporal dementia, is disinhibited and has lost the ability to read the body language of others or to pick up social clues regarding his own behaviour.

The compassionate way to react is to speak quietly but firmly, reminding the individual that his or her behaviour is not appropriate in that particular setting. That may be all that is necessary.

Even though, as Mary points out, they cannot help it, we should neither condone nor collude with it. It is important to reinforce what is socially acceptable so that those with dementia can remain living in the community in safety and with their dignity intact for as long as possible.

Dr Christine Bennetts

Crediton, Devon

Powerful lessons

Sir: Rory Sutherland (‘The wisdom of the skies’, 4 November) is 100 per cent right to suggest that the Grenfell Tower inquiry may wish to look to the aviation industry for answers and future lessons. Might I suggest it also refers to the energy sector? In major disasters from Flixborough to Piper Alpha via Three-Mile Island and Chernobyl, changes in physical layout or mode of operation caused or contributed to later tragedies. Sometimes a change is major with ramifications that go unnoticed. More often, minor steps or progressive deterioration lead to disaster. The impact of change cannot be ruled out at Grenfell.

The Health & Safety Executive is now tackling the ‘creeping change’ menace. After a 2006 Nimrod disaster over Afghanistan caused by successive fuel leaks, it discovered that such leaks had been seen as ‘the norm’ for many years.

Sanjoy Sen


Discredit where it’s due

Sir: Mark Oliver (Letters, 11 November) is off the mark when he suggests that the Curriculum for Excellence in Scottish schools was the idea of the SNP government. It was, in fact, devised in 2002 by a Labour and Lib Dem coalition as a way of improving secondary education in Scotland and it had the support of all parties. No doubt it has many weaknesses, but it would be more productive to address these rather than turn it into an anti-SNP diatribe.

Ian McKee



Sir: Emmanuel Macron talks excitedly about political union in Europe, about the single market and the single currency, but is curiously coy about a single language (My plan for Europe, 11 October). How can he imagine reinvigorating ‘democratic debate’ between citizens who don’t understand a word that the other is saying?

A shared language is an essential precursor to political union. In its absence, only an arrogant elite assumes such a union can be imposed top-down.

Jon Wainwright

London SE5

Our site is sound

Sir: We are very pleased that Norman Lebrecht shares our view that London needs and deserves a world-class Centre for Music for the benefit of all (‘Rattle’s Hall’, 26 October). The three partners are working with a specialist team to produce a concept design. This is for the present Museum of London site: not to inhabit the current building but to create a visionary new space for music-making.

This site, at the heart of the City of London’s Culture Mile, is ideal. It opens a visible link from Tate Modern across the Millennium Bridge to St Paul’s and the Barbican and will be served by an unrivalled transport network when the new Crossrail stations open.

Brexit makes it all the more vital for London to develop its current place as a world-leading cultural city; we look forward to sharing the plans as they develop next year.

Nicholas Kenyon, Barbican Centre

Kathryn McDowell

London Symphony Orchestra

Lynne Williams

Guildhall School of Music and Drama

Just Kenneth

Sir: Peter Oborne (Notebook, 4 November) may be having fun with audio books but if he thinks Martin Jarvis’s readings of the ‘Just William’ stories are ‘incomparable’ then clearly he hasn’t heard the real thing — those by Kenneth Williams. His reading of ‘William Goes Shopping’ is

utter perfection.

Geoff Lambertsen

Prescot, Merseyside