The last straw
Sir: In his vindication of Sir Roger Scruton, Douglas Murray quite rightly refers to the affair as ‘a biopsy of a society’ (‘The Scruton tapes’, 27 April). It was also a biopsy of the Conservative party in particular, and a dispiriting one at that. It is notable that while a good slice of the conservative commentariat came to Scruton’s defence, Conservative MPs were conspicuously silent, except for those who rushed to excoriate Scruton. This response was indicative of the gap between the party in the country and the Parliamentary Conservative Party, which has seen an attenuation of the conservative instinct and — as has been argued in these pages — seems bereft of ideas or vision.
It was also the last straw for me personally. I have cut up my party membership card and cancelled my direct debit. It was particularly galling to see the likes of Johnny Mercer and Tom Tugendhat join in with the mob: hitherto I had high hopes of the new generation of military MPs. I understand that moral courage is much emphasised at Sandhurst, but evidently Mercer and Tugendhat were not very attentive students. If moral cowardice is to be as much a hallmark of the next generation of Conservative ministers as it is of the current cohort, there is no point in voting Conservative again.
Reinstate Sir Roger
Sir: This morning I heard Roger Scruton being interviewed on Radio 4. Justin Webb adopted the familiar tactic of selective quoting in order to traduce Sir Roger, but the great man was able to bring context to the quote and dismiss it. The Conservative party can’t agree on much at the moment, but we should agree to reinstate him immediately. He deserves no less, and the Building Better, Building Beautiful commission still needs him.
Eddie Hughes MP
Get on board
Sir: I found Mark Mason’s comments about committees and the people who serve on them unwarranted (‘Off the agenda’, 27 April). I have sat on a variety of committees, each of which, with various degrees of efficiency, has achieved a great deal, whether in support of our local museum, raising funds for rough sleepers or protecting historic buildings. I have not encountered the sort of vain, confrontational hi-viz-jacket-wearing stereotype that he lambasts. Perhaps I could arrange for him to join one so he can find out for himself?
Sir: Bruce Anderson is wrong on one point and misleading on another (Drink, 27 April). ‘The Royal Navy — when there was one…’, he writes. Well, there still is. Operating HMS Queen Elizabeth, a huge new carrier, and maintaining the nation’s deterrent in nuclear-powered submarines for a start. He also writes that the Navy ‘used grog … to maintain morale’. Grog was conceived by Admiral Vernon in 1740 (he was known as Old Grogram, after his grosgrain cloak). It was a formulation of one part rum to two parts water, provided to junior ratings. The mix meant it could not be illegally stored without going off, but it was not greeted with enthusiasm, and did little to maintain morale. Senior ratings (petty officers and above) still got (and get) their 1/8th of a pint of rum a day neat. On high days and holidays, at the commanding officer’s discretion, grog could and can be replaced by ‘one and one’, greatly preferred by the sailors.
Taking a pew
Sir: Julie Burchill is not alone in going to church as a ‘gesture of solidarity and defiance’ (‘Keeping the faith’, 27 April). At Easter, in a small Dartmoor community, the vicar reminded us we were gathered in a building that had held these annual celebrations for over a thousand years. I for one will not be the link in the chain to fail. As for the next generation, I pass on what a wise prebendary once told me: ‘Come to church, there’s bound to be one other person there that believes the same as you. But not more.’ Solidarity, on the other hand, runs throughout our congregation.
Notre Dame’s restoration
Sir: Jonathan Meades (‘What next for Notre Dame?’, 27 April) proposes as a model for the cathedral’s reconstruction the Virlogeux/Foster Millau Viaduct, a bleak piece of engineering swank. Has he forgotten that, like some of the Victorian ‘architects of genius’ he admires, Viollet-le-Duc, who restored Notre Dame in the 1840s, had an understanding of the team mentality which had prevailed among his medieval forbears, and employed figurative artists in sculpture and stained glass to create a rich allusive texture? Viollet counted on the sculptor Geoffroy-Dechaume and the carvers of the famous monsters, just as William Burges counted on Fucigna and Nicoll for his detail. I was relieved to see film of some of Geoffroy-Dechaume’s figures being lifted off before the fire, because restorers will be hard put to find sculptors with the necessary skills now.
I knew that!
Sir: Dominic Lawson (Letters, 27 April) wonders whether The Spectator’s literary editor was unaware that a line he quoted from Arthur Hugh Clough’s ‘The Latest Decalogue’ was satirical. As that literary editor, I’m keen to protest: I am aware. I quoted it not because I thought it supplied a knockdown argument in favour of euthanasia, but because I thought it was funny and might annoy high-minded people such as Mr Lawson.