The Spectator

Letters | 23 May 2013

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Stay Conservative

Sir: Dr John Hyder-Wilson wrote (Letters, 11 May) of my calls to ‘shift Tory party policy rightward’ to meet a threat from Ukip, which he felt was inconsistent as he could not remember me advocating a leftward shift in response to a threat from the SDP/Alliance in the early 1980s.

Of course he could not. I am afraid that he is in a muddle. I responded then to the SDP/Alliance, and would do so now to Ukip in exactly the same way, by advocating Conservative policies for the Conservative party.

As Dr Hyder-Wilson may remember, Margaret Thatcher won her third election victory on Conservative policies after eight years in office governing on those policies. In that victory she secured more votes than at her first victory.

That option is open to Mr Cameron should he wish to win in 2015.

Lord Tebbit

House of Lords, London SW1

Proving the pox

Sir: Matthew Parris’s piece about online comments (18 May) reminded me of my own experience on the matter.

When I worked at the Edinburgh Evening News website, comments amounted to the following: 80 per cent abuse, 10 per cent providing hard evidence of how and why the story was inaccurate, 5 per cent empathy with the issue at hand, and 5 per cent commenting on unrelated crime stories elsewhere on the website — comments upon which would have been disabled for legal reasons.

I once penned a front-page story, based on official Scottish government statistics, which showed not a single child in Edinburgh had caught chickenpox for the past three months. It was uploaded on the website and the opening comments were as follows. The first was from a women whose friend’s toddler had been diagnosed with the illness only a fortnight ago. The second, a parent whose son came down with it the week before that.

Comment three was from a mother of twins, both of whom were off school with chickenpox. And comment four was from an Edinburgh teacher who was also off school — because her whole class currently had chickenpox.

My other favourite incident was when two former colleagues, both now Holyrood hacks, were alleged to be homosexual lovers because they happened to have a joint byline on one article.

Adam Morris


Help for Londoners

Sir: Ross Clark is quite right (Notes on…, 11 May); rich foreigners are distorting the London property market and, hence, the UK average house price index. This is because it is a low-risk, low-tax, safe investment with good returns. With over 50 per cent of all residential sales in central London now to non-residents, who don’t pay income tax, Londoners have moved to the inner suburbs. This has driven up prices there, so even a 60 square metre flat in Putney is £400k; well out of reach of most Londoners, who nevertheless are, as income tax payers, subsidising rich non-residents’ local services.

The fair solution is to introduce a 50 per cent capital gains tax on all non-resident properties, plus council tax at 200 per cent, to cover the cost of local services.

So, Mr Osborne, a triple whammy — more tax, more votes and prices restrained. This also addresses Mr Clegg’s banging on about fairness, although as a Putney resident he may have second thoughts on that.

Rodney G. James

Brasschaat, Belgium

Empty works

Sir: How interesting to read Kate Chisholm’s review of Damien Hirst’s appearance on Desert Island Discs. I had thought it was just me. Two years ago he had an exhibition at the Wallace Collection. I looked and looked, but eventually felt bound to conclude that the man had nothing to say. I could not see any substance — none of the work induced any thought or emotion in me. It was all just ‘stuff’.

I wondered if he realised that himself. Reading Kate’s review, I think perhaps he does.

Dr N.P. Hudd

Tenterden, Kent

Let her join Ukip

Sir: So Nadine Dorries wants to run on a joint Tory/Ukip ticket (Interview, 18 May). Let her join Ukip. She should remember she was parachuted into one of the safest Conservative seats in the land and can therefore talk the talk, knowing she won’t have to walk the walk. She is only part of a governing party because the Tories are in coalition.

The more she and the Eurosceptics go on, the less likely it is that they will be able to form a government next time round. Meanwhile this flagrant self-publicist can continue on her merry way.

John van der Gucht


Speaking to the vision

Sir: It is not only in Tube stations that Transport for London puts in a bid for a Bad Grammar Award (Status Anxiety, 11 May). On the side of every bus driver’s cab is a notice which reads: ‘Please do not speak to or obstruct the driver’s vision when the bus is in motion’.

David Kenrick

London SW10

More bad grammar

Sir: Fairly recently there were signs outside many schools in and around Lewisham stating ‘Driving Slow Saves Lives’. If I had known about the Bad Grammar Awards (Status Anxiety, 11 May), I would have sent a photograph.

Pam Maybury