The Spectator

Letters | 28 January 2016

Plus: what Brexit won’t look like; fixing Easter; where to bury Mugabe; more on Neave and Gow; the problem of big books

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Levelling the cricket pitch

Sir: As a cricket addict and believer in state education, it pains me to agree with Michael Henderson’s assertion that the future of England’s Test side rests in the hands of private schools (‘Elite sport’, 23 January). The high-performing, 1,700-strong school where I am the head teacher has a grass area for sport that is not large enough for a rugby pitch, let alone a cricket square. As far as the coaching, equipment and pitch maintenance required to play our summer game properly, money talks. While we receive £4,000 a year from the government for each sixth-former we educate, at a local independent school parents are charged over £5,600 per term even before ‘extras’ such as exam entry fees are added in. With more than four times the resources, such schools are able to provide a rich extracurricular diet for the elite few. While we are fond of asking for a level playing field in this country, the pupils at my school would simply like a playing field.

Stephen Crabtree

Farnham, Surrey

Everyone’s game

Sir: There is still hope for the widening of interest by the young in cricket. Chance to Shine is a charity which in recent years has introduced more than two million youngsters from state schools to the great game. It deserves all the support possible.

Lord Remnant


What Brexit won’t do

Sir: Daniel Hannan’s article on ‘What Brexit would look like for Britain’ (23 January) is disingenuous. He cites the ‘migration and euro crises’ as risks of staying in the EU, yet Britain would continue to be deeply affected by both crises after a Brexit. Our leaving the EU would not make the French more co-operative in stemming the flow of economic migrants, and financial instability among our neighbours would continue to affect us. Nor would a Brexit magically make us as wealthy as Norway or Switzerland. The EU administers multiple international agreements on behalf of its members and can use its size to get the best deals. Leaving the EU would increase Britain’s bureaucracy and reduce its influence. Britain has retained its sovereignty, as it showed when it ignored the advice of France and Germany not to help America to invade Iraq; it would not increase its power by losing its membership of the EU.

Martin Scalway

Leatherhead, Surrey

A moveable feast?

Sir: Justin Welby’s ‘solution’ to inter-Anglican wranglings over sexuality may be a fudge. But the archbishop does at least understand what A.N. Wilson seems not to (Diary, 23 January): that people generally have no interest in the relationship between Easter and Passover — though some might wonder how Christians came to hijack a Jewish festival in this way in the first place.

What irritates is the inconvenience to schools, and the fact that the spring holiday weekend (it’s no more than that for most of us) can occur anywhere between late March and late April. All power to Welby, Pope Francis and co. to sort this out; though I fear any plan to fix the date of Easter will be stymied by one or more of the Orthodox churches, as has happened before.

Tim Hudson

Chichester, West Sussex

Burying Mugabe

Sir: Matthew Parris’s idea (23 January) of burying Mugabe beside Rhodes is, while satisfying in principle, grotesque. For all his faults, Rhodes did not deliberately slaughter the indigenous people of Rhodesia for purely political ends. Mugabe did. Not just the Ndebele, but his own tribe as well. Starting in the Eastern Highlands and using the vicious 5th Brigade from North Korea, he slaughtered thousands of Mashona people. It was only after this that he really got going on his old enemies, the Ndebele in Matabeleland, where he slaughtered thousands more. In subsequent elections, more of his citizens were tortured and killed. By killing and forcing white farmers off their land, he turned the bread basket of Africa into a begging bowl. He trashed the currency. He is not a nice man. A more fitting burial place would be down a well, where many of his subjects are interred.

Geoff Neden

Craven Arms, Shropshire

More on Neave and Gow

Sir: Charles Moore draws attention to the bond between Airey Neave and Ian Gow (Notes, 23 January). If Neave had lived to become Northern Ireland Secretary, as Mrs Thatcher intended, Gow would have been his minister of state. ‘Ian will be with us,’ he told me more than once as we worked on his plans. The objective was to establish a new system of local government in the province and jettison devolution, to which we were all were totally opposed. If Stormont had become history, Mrs Thatcher would have been in a much stronger position to crush demands for devolution elsewhere. The Neave/Gow policy would have restored unionism to the central place that it once occupied in the Conservative party.

Alistair Lexden

Political Adviser to Airey Neave 1977–79

House of Lords, London SW1

Cutting up classics

Sir: Andrew Davies, speaking about wrestling with War and Peace over three years, confessed he ‘was brought up to be respectful to books. But felt a wicked thrill about cutting up … the greatest book of all times into pieces’ (Arts, 23 January). I felt no such thrill when cutting up my monster Penguin edition into four volumes, only anger at the publisher’s disrespect for Tolstoy, who wrote four volumes, to be published as such. When young, I read both War and Peace and Anna Karenina in bound volumes; and what bliss it was to handle one volume at the time. By organising his text into parts and chapters, Tolstoy invited you to pause and reflect. I am curious about publishers who murder classics in this way. What is their game?

Gunilla Mattsson Willis

Herne Hill, London