The Spectator

Letters | 7 September 2017

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The future of Lord’s

Sir: Roger Alton (Sport, 2 September) has hit the spot and no doubt touched a nerve or two at the MCC. The club thinks it has been fair to all members in giving them a say in the future development of Lord’s, but it has sent out in an email to members a video which presents only the case for the committee’s preferred masterplan. Every respected speaker on that video, including my former captains Mike Brearley and Mike Gatting, are ‘pro’ the masterplan. Although some objections to it are raised, not one speaker is featured to endorse the aesthetic and financial benefits of the alternative Rifkind-Morley plan — which would have a completely different effect on the Nursery End of the ground.

The MCC urges its members to vote as a matter of supreme importance, but they have shown those members a very one-sided view. I for one will not be voting in favour of their masterplan, but I suspect it will make little difference, since the membership normally prefers to follow the committee’s chosen path.

David Gower

Romsey, Hampshire

Sea walls won’t save us

Sir: Fraser Nelson and Rupert Darwall are right to argue that the tragic fallout from Hurricane Harvey highlights the importance of resilience (‘Lessons from Houston’, 2 September). But to suggest that we can always adapt to climate change and should prioritise resilience over emission reductions is a leap that could spell disaster.

The ‘let’s just adapt to climate change’ hypothesis is based on an outdated understanding of clean technologies and climate policies. To suggest adaptation is cheaper than mitigation ignores the fact that clean energy is already the most cost-effective energy source in many countries. No country is being ‘forced… to adopt expensive energy policies’. They are embracing decarbonisation because it offers the most attractive development path. That is why China is the world’s largest cleantech investor.

The IPCC says that over 4˚C of warming this century is possible. To argue that economic growth will automatically protect us is to put all our eggs in one very rickety basket. That is why virtually every government on the planet (with the notable exception of Trump’s) has concluded that it is better to hedge bets and invest in climate resilience and mitigation. Sea walls alone are unlikely to be enough.

James Murray

London SW1

Missing the point

Sir: Judging le Carré novels by their politics as Toby Young does (Status Anxiety, 2 September) is missing the point. In Absolute Friends, it is an ‘unsavoury…agent provocateur’ (not a ‘sympathetic’ character) who reels off the list of right-on thinkers while the ideologically confused hero can only reflect: ‘I love them all, but I can’t remember a word any of them said.’

Le Carré does indeed write a great ‘airport thriller’, drawing you into exciting, unfamiliar worlds and keeping the pages turning, but his appeal lies as much in the elegance and wit of his language, his ear for dialogue and his meditations on loyalty. Condemning an author because his ‘novels gave succour to the enemy’ is the kind of literary criticism one would expect from the Soviet Writers’ Guild.

Patrick Pender-Cudlip

Queen Camel, Somerset

Tripoli childhood

Sir: It was a pleasure to read that James Landale appreciated my old home in Tripoli, even in its burnt-out state (Diary, 2 September). My father, Donald Murray, was British ambassador to Libya from 1974-78, and it was then one of the finest private houses in Tripoli. It had been built for the Italian admiral of the Mediterranean fleet stationed there, and the British ‘liberated’ it after the desert campaign.

My father used to hold confidential briefings in the pool on the basis that the Libyans (who certainly bugged the house) couldn’t bug the water. My younger brother and I liked the flat roof, from which we used to survey Tripoli through binoculars. The house faced what we called ‘the Russian quay’, and we were always looking to see what the Russian freighters were unloading. One day it was tanks. We mentioned this to Pa and it was if he had been jabbed with a pin. ‘Tanks? What sort of tanks?’ ‘Er, big ones.’ ‘Did they have round turrets or square turrets?’ ‘Round.’ ‘Hm. T62s.’ He lapsed into the kind of reverie that meant he was mentally composing an urgent despatch to the Americans, who would wonder how the British got the information before they did.

Neil Murray

Sutton, Surrey

Breach of Trust

Sir: John Peel spent his winters progressing through the Lake District to farms and villages where he would stop for a week, hunting by day, and singing songs in the evenings (‘Hunters hounded’, 2 September). His legendary status derived from the skill with which he caught wily foxes on foot. Interviewed in 1902 in the Lancashire Daily Post, a Westmorland yeoman who hunted with Peel as a boy explained it thus: ‘His hunting was over hill and dale and shap and fell and scaur, over a stiffer a country than ever a man rode. Foxhunting up Westmorland way isn’t the foxhunting of the Shires.’ In seeking to ban trail hunting from land owned by the National Trust in the Lake District, the Trust have not only dishonoured Peel but also the ‘footies’ who follow hounds today.

Rory Knight Bruce

Crediton, Devon

Problematic solution

Sir: Dear Mary (26 August) suggests keeping a knife in the glove compartment for chopping apples. But this may constitute the offence of having a bladed article in a public place (s139 of the Criminal Justice Act 1988). Having it for cutting apples might be a defence, but it would depend on the police, the CPS and ultimately the court whether it was accepted as a good reason.

Rupert Holderness

London SW4