Sir: Unfortunately, Charlotte Eagar misses the point (‘The alpha migrants’, 31 July). The Channel migrants may be ‘bright and brave’, and may repay what they gain from the benefit system. But they are here illegally, thus riding roughshod over the immigration system and those who are still waiting to have their asylum applications processed lawfully. This farce must not be allowed to continue as a taxpayer-funded taxi service for people-trafficking gangs.
Sir: Michael Cullup (Letters, 31 July) bemoans that ‘The Spectator these days seems obsessed with the idea of freedom’ and that his youth of boarding school, blackouts, rationing and the Royal Navy means that most of his generation aren’t bothered by restrictions on liberty.
Firstly, The Spectator has always been one of Britain’s premier voices for liberty. David Butterfield’s recent history of the magazine, 10,000 Not Out, details how this has been so since 1828.
With regards to his second argument, the answer is yes, life in Britain has normally been different to his formative years. Unfortunately for Mr Cullup and his peers, they grew up during perhaps the most perilous war our country has ever fought, so extreme measures upon normal life were deemed necessary for national survival. As for National Service, that was an aberration in Britain. It has only existed for 11 years in our entire peacetime history: 1949-1960.
Sir: Douglas Murray contends that we are entering a ‘Boring Twenties’ of endless pings and vaccines and that this is not going to be a party decade (‘Get ready for the Boring Twenties’, 24 July). Whatever the travails this decade has in store for us, I should like to temper his pessimism by assuring him that those of us in the younger generation with a taste for such things have been attending parties with great panache and style. Can I also point out to him that the quiet emergence of illegal ‘speakeasy’ events during the European lockdowns echoes prohibition-era America? And that many young men in the towns have been central-parting, cropping and coiffing their hairstyles? And that, though the 1920s will never be repeated, we are once again living with rapidly changing technologies and economic realities? Uncertainty lies ahead. Meanwhile, Mr Murray is most welcome to join the party, for as long as it lasts.
What South Africa needs
Sir: Having just returned from six months in South Africa, I think Andrew Kenny’s analysis is spot on (‘Letter from South Africa’, 31 July). The country needs a bold new vision for education and opportunity. The basis for the former exists and the latter should be fostered by massive public works, new cities, houses for all and no more shacks, rebuilding the railways, embracing solar power. This, along with a trenchant eradication of corruption, would start a journey towards becoming the first-world country South Africa deserves to be.
Sir: Surely the National Trust could have made a bomb by promoting Orford Ness as England’s Area 51 (Arts, 31 July)? I’m sure that conspiracy theorists, sci-fi nerds and schoolboys of all ages would have flocked to the place if a little thought had been given to advertising its secret history. Instead there is a ‘wellness walk’, art installations and poetry pumped into your ears when you visit the place. The National Trust, I’m sorry to say, is no longer fit for purpose.
Dumfries, Dumfries and Galloway
The Olympics’ origins
Sir: In his ‘Ancient and modern’ column Peter Jones refers to Baron de Coubertin having ‘admired the spirit of games on the playing fields of Eton’ (24 July). He may well have done so, but his real inspiration in dreaming up the modern Olympics came from his visits to Rugby, where de Coubertin expressed huge admiration for the school’s former head, Dr Arnold. In 2012, at the time of the London Olympics, Lord Coe (Chair of the IOC) unveiled a plaque at Rugby School signifying its role as the birthplace of the modern Olympics.
De Coubertin may have been a little misguided in his admiration for Arnold, who was not a lover of sport, seeing it as a diversion from poaching and fighting. More likely De Coubertin’s ideas were influenced by his reading of Tom Brown’s Schooldays, which portrays a more sporting Arnold. Either way, the modern Olympics have their origins on the playing fields of Rugby, not Eton.
Sir: The Spectator has been a lifeline to me during the pandemic. I read everything, often back to front. Dot Wordsworth’s pieces are little gems. But please point out that Winifred Holtby was Shirley Willams’s adoptive aunt, not her mother (Mind your language, 31 July). Baroness Williams’s mother was Vera Brittain, revered author of Testament of Youth.
Sir: Having read Charles Moore’s ‘Notes’ about his classmate without ‘special peculiarities’ (31 July) I was reminded of one of my schoolfriends, whose father, confronted by the question about peculiarities on his son’s passport application, had entered (somewhat harshly) ‘none visible’.
Sir Michael Ferguson Davie