The Spectator

Letters | 29 June 2017

Also in Letters: Potterverse perversion; Uncle James’s unreasonable fear; children of the parsonage; London is no Qatar

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The Tory quagmire

Sir: While the media has been preoccupied in divining what went wrong with the Conservatives’ appalling election result, Fraser Nelson (‘What are the Tories for?’, 24 June) neatly perceives some of the more obvious causes.

Quite what possessed seemingly intelligent people to come up with so many half-baked ideas that found their way into a poorly thought-through manifesto is beyond comprehension. To witness the volte-faces was truly nauseating and not worthy of a party with such a long and distinguished record in government. The quagmire Mrs May finds herself in bodes poorly for both Brexit and a host of pressing domestic issues.

The Tory party have an enviable economic story to tell — one that should be trumpeted from the rooftops. At the same time, there should be a concerted effort to shine a searchlight on the absolute financial lunacy of Corbyn’s promises.

Hosing down the electorate with meaningless slogans has proven to be a woefully inadequate and inept strategy to win an election. Facts and costed policies are what the electorate want.

Alexander McKibbin

Ringwood, Hants

Potterverse perversion

Sir: Lara Prendergast exposes the peculiar political convolutions of the millennial Potterverse and its creator (‘Harry Potter and the millennial mind’, 24 June). The virtue-signalling virus has infected their brains and ‘confunded’ them. Gellert Grindelwald or Voldemort would have seen a wizarding version of the EU as an ideal vehicle to covertly take over, and the Ministry of Magic would eagerly sign the UK up. It is true Dumbledore is no Farage. He is perhaps more a Tony Benn — he would instinctively understand the antidemocratic nature of the beast.

Back in the muggle world, as a Surrey resident and Leave campaigner, I know that most of Privet Drive voted Remain, and Uncle Vernon is much too thick to see through Project Fear. Theresa May as Umbridge? Possibly. May has none of Umbridge’s sadism but Dolores Umbridge would definitely be an arch Remainer.

Helena Windsor

Bletchingley, Surrey

A world of light and dark

Sir: The idea that the Harry Potter books, as Lara Prendergast puts it, ‘divide people into goodies and baddies’ is ridiculous. Where on this black and white spectrum, for example, would she fit characters like Snape, Malfoy and Dumbledore? Are these characters not specifically designed to tell children that there is no simplistic binary into which you can fit people? Indeed Sirius Black, Harry’s godfather, even spells it out for readers, saying ‘the world isn’t split into good people and Death Eaters [evil wizards]. We’ve all got both light and dark inside us.’

Dicky Sheraton

London SW1

Thoughts on Grenfell

Sir: In the aftermath of the terrible tragedy at Grenfell Tower, many of the residents acted with great dignity, and many ordinary neighbours acted with great generosity and kindness. But the main focus of attention soon became finding someone to blame. The councillors and officials in Kensington, in particular, have been treated to torrents of abuse for bad decision-making and deliberate neglect of residents, and they have even been labelled murderers by some people. We now discover that in practically every one of our major cities, similar blocks of flats have been built which are in just as unsafe condition as Grenfell Tower. Yet not a word has been heard for the equally poor decision-making by the officials and councillors in those places. Would that have anything to do with the fact that they are mainly in areas that have been controlled by councils run by the Labour party in recent times?

James Pullen

St Ives, Cambridgeshire

Uncle James exaggerates

Sir: As a young Labour voter, I found James Bartholomew’s piece utterly unconvincing (‘To a young Corbynista’, 24 June). Bartholomew makes the wrong comparisons by focusing on Communist states: Labour put forward a social democratic programme that would have been viewed as moderate in the Britain of 1945-79. And he does not name any of the party’s policies that would justify a comparison to a state like Mao’s over a state like Macmillan’s. This is telling, and leaves his argument threadbare.

I have to say, people of my generation are tired of hearing that we cannot have the same benefits that Boomers such as Bartholomew enjoyed. To name a few: an economy generating meaningful and secure work, the ability to purchase a house, the guarantee of a state pension, free university tuition, and so on. That’s the crux of why we voted for Corbyn: we want what you had.

Alex Scholes


It is right to fear Corbyn

Sir: James Bartholomew’s excellent letter (‘To a young Corbynista’, 24 June) should be read by every voter whatever their age. I would, however, add one more country — oil-rich Venezuela — to his list of failed Marxist/Leninist states. A fortnight ago the BBC World Service produced a report on the dreadful deprivation of the poor citizens of that country, who scrape the bottoms of rubbish bins to find food scraps for their families. This situation is a direct consequence of the policies pursued by Presidents Hugo Chavez and his successor Nicolas Madura. Both men and their policies are much admired by the current leadership of the Labour party. There is nothing cuddly about any of these people.

Jonathan Taylor

Kingham, Oxfordshire

Child of the parsonage

Sir: Charles Moore says that the psychology of the parsonage child would make a most interesting study (The Spectator’s Notes, 17 June). The times someone has asked me, on learning that my father is a priest, whether I believe in God, or asked me to explain any other number of knotty doctrinal or metaphysical conundrums, are innumerable. Why do people think the children of the clergy will walk in the paths of righteousness all the days of their lives? To be constantly subjected to these pressures is bound to have odd psychological effects.

I feel Mrs May’s difficulties are rooted in being treated in this way. She is desperately trying to be the worthy daughter of the Reverend Hubert Brasier. At the same time she is paralysed by the fear of being asked what she actually thinks. When she described her faith as something private, which she had never questioned, I detected the well-honed formulaic patter of the uncertain schoolgirl endlessly asked to offer a defence of every proposition in the Nicene creed. It wouldn’t surprise me if she doesn’t have the slightest idea what she thinks about anything, except what she thinks she should think, given who her father was. Gordon Brown always gave much the same impression. Growing up in a vicarage is no tea party.

Benedict King


Ditch HS2 now

Sir: James Forsyth’s article ‘This uneasy dawn’ (17 June) hits the nail on the head when he states, ‘It is imperative that the Tories get a large number of new houses built — and fast…’

That will take money, skilled labour and land. Unfortunately, those scarce resources are being hogged by the grandiose and pointless HS2 project. It is a question of priorities and a time to choose.

Tim Stockton

London NW5

London is no slave state

Sir: Contrary to what Rod Liddle says, not all foreign workers who come to London believe they are living in a ‘slave state’ (‘If you’re not tired of London, you’re tired of life’, 24 June). Without wishing to sound like Lady Muck, I have employed two cleaners in the past ten years — one from Brazil, the other from Bulgaria. Both arrived from poor homes, unable to speak the language and without any qualifications. By dint of sheer hard work, they are now making a success of their lives. Rita from Brasilia has become a chartered accountant and is building her parents a house back home. Irena, from a suburb of Sofia, is in the second year of a part-time psychology degree as she continues to help to support her mother and sister. They are both grateful to London for the opportunities it has given them and to the people they have met who, unlike the Emiratis and the Qataris, did not treat them with ‘utter disdain’, but helped them on their way.

Jenny Nisbet

London EC2

A message to No. 10

Sir: In his review of Churchill (Cinema, 17 June), A.N. Wilson queries how, in the absence of mobile telephones, a midshipman could have sent a message from the Normandy beaches to his secretary girlfriend at Downing Street. It is called wireless telegraphy, and the Royal Navy had been using it since the Somaliland Campaign of 1903. Doubtless this would have been an unauthorised use of the medium, but resourceful middies were good at finding their way round tiresome rules and regulations.

Patrick Hickman-Robertson

Eastbury, West Berkshire

The the

Sir: In her discussion of use and misuse of definite article (Dot Wordsworth, 17 June), I am reminded of frequent reference to the thoroughfare in London named Strand as ‘The Strand’, and Aldwych is all too often called ‘The Aldwych’. Conversely, The Bishops Avenue, a highway in north London, regularly has the definite article dropped, even by residents, who presumably should know the correct name of their own street.

Laurence Kelvin

London W9

Left to die

Sir: Julie Burchill asks (‘Alt-hate’, 17 June) ‘who knew... that there was so much hate within the left?’ Lenin proclaimed that ‘the basis of communism is hatred’. You cannot live like that: you can only die like it. The communist left of the Labour party condemns itself to learn precisely that lesson, if it can perceive it.

Chris Harries


Heated debate

Sir: The debate on climate change which continues to rage through your pages, including the most recent exchange between Matt Ridley and Philip Williamson, should be acknowledged for the good thing it is. Despite believing that climate change is both real and a threat, I do find it disappointing that the rest of the media is so firmly one-sided on the matter. For one thing, continued debate prevents any intellectual complacency, and my inner sceptic celebrates any debate held on any opinion which is now thought to be ‘irrefutable fact’.

Evan Byrne

London SW9

A dip in the ponds

Sir: Deborah Ross complains that bathers in the Heath Ponds emerge covered in mud, sludge and duck poo. An Evening Standard investigation in 2005 into the water quality of the designated bathing ponds established that it was far better than that of a typical London swimming pool — hardly surprising since the ponds are continuously fed by springs on the Heath that are the source of the River Fleet. She should stop trying to bathe in those ponds set aside by the City for waterfowl breeding, angling and model boating.

Marc Hutchinson

Hampstead Heath Winter Swimming Club