The Spectator

Letters | 17 April 2019

Letters | 17 April 2019
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Moaning minnie MPs

Sir: I was recently quoted in the Sun newspaper in a story about how MPs were reacting to the Brexit drama in the House of Commons. I said: ‘It feels like the Commons is having a collective breakdown — a cross between Lord of the Flies and One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. People are behaving in ways that were unimaginable even just a year ago, whether they be Remainers, Leavers or in-betweens. The Brexit madness has affected us all.’

Following Melissa Kite’s article in last week’s Spectator berating MPs for being such wastrels and using my quote as an example of ‘wimpishness’ personified, I learn we are all moaning minnies and should just get on with the job of delivering Brexit (‘Uncool Britannnia’, 13 April).

I feel suitably admonished, and realise that in some ways Ms Kite has a strong point. Rather than quoting Lord of the Flies or One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, when asked in future by journalists about the political temperature in Parliament, I shall only say ‘I am Spartacus’.

Robert Halfon MP

House of Commons, London SW1

Far from the buffers

Sir: Liz Truss is right to evaluate major investment projects as the government conducts its spending review later this year (‘The bodycon Tory’, 13 April).

However, concerns she may have about HS2 can be allayed. Spend on the project will be about £10 billion over the three-year period, out of some £2,500 billion of public spending projected in that time. Its economic benefits will far outweigh the cost, with more than £90 billion in GDP growth generated across the country. It also significantly increases capacity on the ‘classic’ rail network, particularly the West Coast and East Coast Main Line routes.

Cancelling the project would mean sacrificing the clear economic and regeneration benefits HS2 will provide to the whole country. The great cities of the Midlands and the north have made it clear they are united in their support for the project as the catalyst for their renaissance.

While Ms Truss should be supported in ensuring the railway industry delivers value for money for the taxpayer, we would ask her to engage with the industry to gain an understanding of how HS2 can help deliver a radically better future rail network, which provides a significant boost to both the country’s economy and its connectivity.

Darren Caplan

Chief Executive, Railway Industry Association, London SW1

No regrets indeed

Sir: Your correspondent Leslie Buchanan’s suggestion that ‘with a mixture of hubris, stupidity, and narrow political opportunism, Cameron’s decision to call the referendum has driven us into this political quagmire’ is detached from reality (Letters, 13 April). Cameron did not ‘decide’ to call the referendum: the Conservatives were elected to office in 2015 on the basis of a manifesto commitment to hold a referendum, which he rightly regarded as binding. It may be difficult to recall, but there was a time when politicians, having been elected to office on the back of manifesto promises, felt bound to honour them. The current ‘political quagmire’ is the result of abandoning this principle. So pace Leslie Buchanan, there is nothing ‘extraordinary’ about Cameron saying that he has no regrets over calling the referendum. Moreover, Mr Buchanan’s assertion that ‘most people in the UK would beg to differ’ seems somewhat speculative, especially coming from a man who gives his address as Barcelona.

Alexander Pelling

Ampthill, Bedfordshire

Saved by the Spitfire

Sir: In his review of Tim Bouverie’s book on appeasement (Books, 13 April) Nigel Jones states that prime minister Stanley Baldwin (1935-37) ‘refused to spend money on defence’. And yet on 3 June 1936 the Air Ministry placed an order for 310 Spitfires. This was at a time when it was taken as axiomatic that ‘the bomber would always get through’. Chamberlain may have brought the nation a year’s breathing space with Munich, but it was that 1936 order that saved the nation in 1940.

Antony Bird

Petworth, West Sussex

The upper hand

Sir: Rachel Johnson is right in wishing to return to handshaking, but is mistaken in believing that this will prevent contagions. Hands are very rich in pathogens and are repositories for the very flu and cold viruses that she fears. Like Ms Johnson, I regret the invasion of other forms of greeting, but for me the hug is especially deplorable. An American import, it now usually consists of an embrace ear-to-ear often accompanied by a rather contrived back-patting by both sides. In this manoeuvre there is no eye contact. By contrast, the deeply human attribute of handshaking forces face-to-face eye contact at the same time as hand-to-hand grasping. So much more information is conveyed to both parties during this simple exchange, and there is no room for misinterpretation of motives.

Simon Kay, Professor of Hand Surgery

University of Leeds

Keeping it kosher

Sir: I hate to disappoint Paul Levy but, as one of ‘the few observant Jews remaining on this planet’, I find little, if any, problems in eating an everyday kosher diet from far further afield than America or Britain, accompanied by some very fine kosher wine (Books, 13 April). Jewish meals, on any festival, taste even better when the Jewish maxim is remembered: they tried to kill us, they failed, let’s eat.

Martin Kaye

London N2

False parsimony

Sir: Rhubarb curry (Letters, 13 April) sounds highly palatable compared with my parsimonious mother’s post-Christmas brainwave: stilton rind fondue. We tasted a tiny bit… once, and retched.

Michael Thompson

Kota Kinabalu, Borneo