Sir: Like most cyclists, who also own a car and pay road tax, I enjoy a pedal along the lanes where I act with consideration for other road users, and the vast majority of them treat me likewise. Cycling in traffic is quite scary but now I know that Rod Liddle could be behind the wheel of an approaching car it becomes positively terrifying (‘Off your bike!’, 9 November). Anyone who can express such road rage on a keyboard is hardly fit to drive. How fortunate that he is part of a minority. Oh, and I wear Lycra for comfort, a helmet for safety and am 71 years old.
Sir: I am indebted to Rod Liddle for his entertainingly intemperate piece on the scourge of the roads. In Surrey our roads are awash with self-righteous cyclists, particularly at the weekend when they flaunt their vulnerability by sometimes riding three or four abreast on the wider roads, secure in the knowledge that in the case of an accident the motorist will be blamed. The situation is not helped by small cars apparently driven by headrests, so small are the drivers, who are quite incapable of overtaking a cyclist even when preceded by a 40-ton articulated lorry.
Until some way is found to make cyclists identifiable, I see no chance of them improving their attitudes and road behaviour.
Life in the ring
Sir: I enjoyed Hugo Rifkind’s disarmingly candid ‘Why I’d never be a Tory princeling’ (9 November) enormously. Whereas he could not ‘be arsed’, I could. He invited a lecture from someone who had tried to be different and crashed back to earth. Here it is.
When you are an MP with a solid majority, people tend to assume you spent ten to 20 years crawling over broken glass to get there. I did not. I was an engineer who decided to seek election rather than emigrate or ‘bitch about’ those who bother. My maiden speech in the Commons was the first time I spoke in debate anywhere. When I stumbled in the delivery of my first PMQ — the political equivalent of that nightmare where you find yourself at work without any trousers — I crashed back to earth.
Politics is bloody difficult. I admire my colleagues who have laboured for a decade or more in bitterly contested seats only to find themselves fighting to hold a marginal. Life on a slim majority is evidently extremely difficult and stressful. Come to that, so is life on a majority of 9,560.
I’m glad journalists like Hugo Rifkind are awakening to the fact that politics is tough, that they can’t be bothered to step up and that ‘the person who chooses not to vote... disqualifies himself from passing any comment at all.’ It is progress.
I have made an attempt to do things differently. I blog and speak honestly. When I speak about the injustice manufactured on a mass scale by the financial system, I am often described as ‘sounding left-wing’, despite also being introduced in one conference preamble as being ‘to the free-market right of John Redwood’.
It is, however, worth it. I know that by my votes I have played some small part in securing democratic self-determination for my country and ‘avoiding a pointless intervention in the morass of Syria’.
Hooray for Hugo Rifkind who has had the courage to admit that he does not have what it takes to get in the ring, where events are brutal and generally unrewarding.
Steve Baker MP
Kept out of the Kalahari
Sir: I have visited the Botswana Kalahari twice, once walking for days with a bushman companion, once visiting the Central Kalahari Game Reserve settlements by jeep (‘Botswana’s disgrace’, 26 October). One cannot but be struck by the bushmen’s knowledge and respect for wildlife. It is pure propaganda put out by a UK PR company employed by the Botswana government that the CKGR bushmen hunt with firearms. I never saw any with a gun and they should not be made the scapegoats for illegal poaching by outsiders.
A 2006 landmark ruling in Botswana’s High Court recognised their right to live and hunt in the reserve. This dispute originates with the Botswana government, which refuses to uphold the court’s ruling to allow the bushmen to go home. As a result they are not free to leave the miserable camps they call ‘places of death’. Life in the reserve was far healthier and happier before they were driven out.
Some bushmen do keep a few goats and donkeys — encouraged by the government in the 1980s — but no evidence was produced that these have had any impact on wildlife numbers.
The bushmen were driven off their land first by a diamond mine, and now by a president using hardline conservationism as an excuse, in what one of Botswana’s leading independent newspapers has called ‘a scorched earth policy’. Thankfully, Ian Khama has not been knighted as Simon Gillett states (Letters, 2 November).
President, Survival International
Too late to ask
Sir: How, exactly, does Philip Graham, vice-chair of Dignity in Dying, propose to compile evidence from those who have been coerced into taking their own lives (Letters, 9 November)?
Our article ‘The monster at the bar’ (25 May) described Warwick ‘Willem’ Spinks as a ‘violent paedophile’ who had been ‘sentenced to seven years in jail for charges including sexual assault at knifepoint, taking indecent images of children and drugging a 14-year-old homeless boy and selling him into sexual slavery in the Netherlands’. Mr Spinks has asked us to point out that, while he was convicted for having sex with a 15-year-old rent boy, he was cleared of using a knife and has not been convicted for any violent offence.