Still better than Cameron
Sir: I disagree with your editorial (‘Agony prolonged’, 23 March) that Theresa May is the worst prime minister in our history. Unlike her predecessor, Mrs May — for all the flaws that have been ruthlessly exposed by the Brexit process — did not fail to learn the readily accessible lessons from the 1975 referendum. Harold Wilson played something of a blinder, and even a brief reading of this history would have guided a premier willing to learn. David Cameron clearly failed to do this and must assume the mantle of the worst. History will surely judge the PM who caused our current malaise more harshly than its unfortunate inheritor.
North: not so grim
Sir: Lord North deserves to be released by Mrs May from the ignominy of being ‘the worst prime minister in our history’. This hugely popular man dominated the Commons for 12 years, speaking regularly for two hours without notes. One discerning contemporary noted that: ‘He attracted almost all the attention, being powerful, able and fluent in debate. It was impossible to experience dullness in his company’. Like all the best Tories, he cut taxes and increased prosperity. The great paradox of the American War of Independence is that North did not want to fight it. He stayed in the premiership out of loyalty to his monarch, who knew the value of this remarkable and loveable man. One day an opponent complained, in the middle of a violent attack, that ‘the noble Lord is asleep’ — whereupon North, his eyes still shut, said: ‘I wish to God I were.’ He possessed all the qualities a prime minister needs, except luck and selfishness.
House of Lords, London SW1
Doctors and nurses
Sir: J. Meirion Thomas (‘Wanted: UK doctors’, 23 March) is right about the current recruitment and training of doctors. However, I believe he is somewhat out of touch when it comes to the selection criteria. Any potential medical student reading his article and seeing that the requirement is for four A*s may well think again. Our daughter applied this year to four medical schools, was interviewed at all and received offers from three. Cardiff and Bristol have asked for three As, with Birmingham requiring one A* and two As. Our daughter found the UK Clinical Assessment Test (UKCAT) and the BioMedical Admission Test (BMAT) most enlightening, educational and well worth the hours spent studying.
As for nurses — only the foolhardy or those with private funds would train as one these days. The requirement for them to pay tuition fees has dramatically reduced UK-trained nurses and we are now almost totally reliant on foreign staffs. The government should force a cull of pointless degrees and ensure that funds are relocated, so that we can train doctors and nurses to work in the UK without substantial debt hanging over them for years.
Nigel D. Moore
Sir: Isabel Hardman quoted me in her piece about people sceptical of vaccines (‘A dose of understanding’, 16 March), sadly with no mention of the lack of solid scientific evidence for vaccination. Growing numbers of people worldwide are concerned that ever-increasing vaccines are responsible for the increase in health problems — both mental and physical — which we are now witnessing, particularly in the young. Theories behind vaccination are far from facts and vast amounts of evidence indicate vaccines are ineffective and potentially injurious, even fatal, and not responsible for the huge decline in disease over the past two centuries. Vaccine questioners want proper independent scientific investigation and discussion. Instead we are met with name-calling and the shouting-down of our concerns. Bully tactics, censorship and mandatory laws will lead to a medical dictatorship — not to good health.
Worthing, West Sussex
Kill them all
Sir: Justin Marozzi is correct in his assessment of The Archers (‘Horror show’, 23 March). There is not one acceptable character on the programme. Tony Hancock got it right in his skit The Bowmans, when as a Walter Gabriel-type character he contrived to have the entire population of the village fall down a disused mineshaft.
Don’t leave it to beavers
Sir: There are two sides to the story of the return of beavers to Britain (Notes On…, 23 March). Beavers were secretly introduced to a private estate near Alyth, Perthshire, some years ago. Predictably, they escaped and have multiplied into a population of several hundred roaming the watercourses of the Vale of Strathmore, and as far west as Perth. The mess they make was blamed for contributing to a devastating flash flood in Alyth in 2016. They have damaged mature trees and caused a large tree to fall on to the A94 at Coupar Angus. I have yet to meet a farmer who favours them.
The Scottish government have recently given beavers protected status. But really they belong to a wild, untamed landscape far from human habitation and commercial farming. What next — wolves?
Coupar Angus, Perthshire
Change the record
Sir: I enjoyed Mary Wakefield’s piece (‘We’re living amid a rising tide of background noise’, 23 March). I was once operated on by a surgeon who played background music as he worked. It helped him concentrate, he told me. As the anaesthetic took hold and I drifted off, he was playing the Blue yster’s Cult’s ‘Don’t Fear the Reaper’.