The point of Article 50
Sir: I read Paul Collier’s article in your 23 February issue, which has just reached me in la France profonde, with interest. The principal author of Article 50 was John Kerr, aka Lord Kerr of Kinlochard. I have known John for quite a long time, and enjoyed his company: when I became chancellor in 1983 he was my principal private secretary. He explained to me some time ago, before the referendum, that the purpose of Article 50 was to make it as difficult as possible for a country to leave the European Union. A clever man, he did a good job.
House of Lords, London SW1
Support local TV stations
Sir: That much local journalism is impoverished to the detriment of democratic accountability is regrettable and true (‘Read all about it’, 2 March). However it is not only local radio stations and publications that are suffering.
KMTV, the local television service for Kent and Medway, is working to uphold localism. Every day, our team of journalists — supported by student interns from the University of Kent — produce twice as much news reporting for Kent as BBC South East and ITV Meridian combined. They do so on a budget that is a fraction of the one available to their BBC regional rivals. Our reporters are familiar figures at Kent County Council and Medway Council and at the courts in Canterbury, Maidstone and Medway. They have reported live from College Green and Downing Street, bringing the views of Kent MPs straight to their constituents.
When Jeremy Hunt told the Oxford Media Convention in 2011 that local television stations could offer ‘a new voice for local communities, with local perspectives that are directly relevant to them’, we took him seriously. But as your leading article notes, meagre advertising revenue is not enough to sustain us. If the government truly values local democracy, it must take practical steps to support the local TV stations it wished into existence.
Denise Everitt and Tim Luckhurst
KMTV, Chatham Maritime, Kent
Videogames are art
Sir: With the general madness of life in 2019, it was a breath of fresh air to read Sam Leith’s sterling defence of playing videogames (‘Why I game’, 2 March). Despite such games being almost half a century old, I’m amazed how much this industry has been dismissed. The recent masterpiece Red Dead Redemption 2 combines a story that could rival any Oscar nominated film with a terrific music score. Videogames are an art form on the ascent.
A great mathematician
Sir: The description of Hypatia as ‘the first great female mathematician’ (Books, 23 February) is surely an understatement. Reference to britannica.com reveals accurately that: ‘She was, in her time, the world’s leading mathematician and astronomer, the only woman for whom such claim can be made.’ Hypatia was one of the titans of the history of science. Her femaleness is irrelevant.
Dr Nick Hudd
Sir: Chris Duffey and Aimé’s article (‘More than human’, 23 February), on the subject of Artificial Intelligence was most informative. In my own daily life, one type of AI has become indispensable: Google Translate. A lot of my work involves translation, and as a competent but non-native speaker of Russian constantly interacting in a Russian- (and often Kazakh-) speaking environment, I rely on this program to help me in any number of situations and its ability to render accurate translations is astonishing. In the four years since I started working in Kazakhstan, it has improved to the point where, on the whole, English renderings of even complex Russian texts require only relatively minor changes to make perfectly acceptable prose. It is a miracle.
Shakhmardan Yessenov Science and Education Foundation
Trouble at sea
Sir: Taki’s comments about elephant poaching and the Chinese use of ivory are apt (High life, 2 March). Conservation is not a concept that seems to be understood by many in the Far East. At this moment there are around 400 fishing vessels, mostly Chinese, hoovering up squid in the international waters between the Falkland Islands and South America. This is unregulated fishing on a massive scale. The overfishing of this species, which is at the lower end of the food chain, will have serious long-term impact on fish stocks overall. Meanwhile, China is catching krill in the Antarctic to fuel power stations. Krill are key to the abundance of marine life in the southern oceans, yet the international community does nothing about this. Conserving our marine resources should be as much of a concern as climate change.
Christopher D. Forrest
Men in frocks
Sir: Damian Thompson, in his review of In the Closet of the Vatican Power, Homosexuality, Hypocrisy by Fédéric Martel (23 February), reports that Martel, in support of his thesis that many Roman Catholic clergy are homosexual, ‘won’t let go of the idea that traditionalist clergy dress like women. He even consults a drag queen, who diagnoses a “fluid and queer” identity’.
I was appointed a circuit judge in March 1992, following which my courtly garb consisted of a robe that reached to mid-calf. When, in 2005, I informed my wife that I had been accepted for training for the Anglican priesthood, she said: ‘You know, I’m worried about you. Every job you want to do, you need to wear a frock to do it.’
Nassington, East Northamptonshire