Shambles at sea
Sir: On 19 July Iranian Republican Guard forces captured the UK flagged tanker Stena Impero, as described by former defence secretary Penny Mordaunt in her Spectator Diary (3 August). It was a national humiliation and it needn’t have happened. As was made clear at the House of Commons Defence Committee hearing on 9 September, warnings were being given about possible Iranian actions as early as mid-June. The UK naval presence in the area comprised only one frigate, HMS Montrose, and more ships were needed to protect UK shipping. The HCDC was surprised to discover from Mordaunt that she had been trying to stimulate a response, but had her requests for a Cobra meeting refused on at least five occasions.
On 4 July, the UK impounded the tanker Grace 1 full of Iranian crude oil headed for Syria in Gibraltarian waters. After this, the Iranians stated quite clearly they would act against a UK ship. Still the government delayed sending extra forces. Finally, on 12 July, HMS Duncan was told to head for the Gulf. Too late.
Lessons must be learnt from this shambolic response. We ignored a real threat to UK ships and crews. The desperate shortage of frigates in the Navy is part of the problem. For a great maritime nation such as ours to have only 13 frigates is a national disgrace.
Admiral Lord West of Spithead
House of Lords, SW1
Ipso must think again
Sir: The article on the leaked Ipso guidelines on the reporting of Muslim issues (‘In the balance’, 7 September) raises important concerns for supporters of press freedom.
I speak as a long-time opponent of anti-Muslim prejudice, as a fierce critic of Ipso’s repeated failures to ensure a fair and balanced press and as a defender of the right of the public to protest against what they perceive to be media bias.
The press has a duty to avoid generalising about the Muslim community and to report the positives as well as the negatives. These guidelines could, however, too easily be interpreted to encourage press self-censorship or lead to punitive action by Ipso in response to factual reports about Islamist extremism.
It cannot be right to suppress truthful, objective reporting about matters that may be embarrassing and cause offence to some sections of the Muslim community — or any other community. Ipso should think again. It must take a stand against bigotry but not advocate a policy that could lead to restrictions on the reporting of facts.
Director, Peter Tatchell Foundation
Cause of fence…
Sir: How we laughed at Louise Perry’s article ‘Village fate’ (7 September). There are almost as many inaccuracies in it as in her retrospective planning application for a fence that was erected contrary to highways and conservation rules and without consultation — and seemingly the reason for such a vitriolic article.
The description of the hedgerow is simply a lie. It was thriving and full of wildlife, and simply needed a trim, not removal to ‘reduce maintenance’, as the occupant stated in the retrospective planning application that was refused.
Had the author lived in the village for longer than three months, she would have realised this is a community that embraces and adapts to change, has a significant percentage of younger working people and families, and rallies round to support new neighbours. How strange to move to a rural village, assume yourself above the law and alienate yourself by installing a two-metre barricade. Joining a community is a two-way thing and involves some effort from all. The author has not invested money into the village, and instead she intends to line her pockets via holiday lettings. We have no problem with this. But be honest about it. Don’t pretend a village community became upset because a fence was erected.
Sadly the conclusion that ‘young urban people’ are delighted to stay in a ‘chocolate box’ cottage is also nonsense. It is not rented out at all and remains a building site. Our community is not dysfunctional, but thriving and diverse. We don’t need saving by Louise Perry and Farrow & Ball, because there really is more to village life than shutters, benches and paint.
... or home truths?
Sir: I want to thank Louise Perry for her article describing how odious people in the country can be (‘Village fate’, 7 September). We moved into our property four years ago and the council immediately withdrew established residential planning permission and any permitted development rights. We put a deer fence up to protect our newly planted orchard and a neighbour promptly put an enforcement notice on it.
Those who have lived here the longest are allowed to do what they want, including stealing, lying, trespassing and gossiping. No one in four years has introduced themselves to us or even tried to pass the time of day.
Unlike Louise Perry we are not going to move. We intend to stick it out and have become Millwall (‘No one likes us and we don’t care’) supporters to bolster ourselves from the wall of unkindness, lack of neighbourliness and — this is perhaps the main problem — ignorance.
A bite of the cherry
Sir: Rory Stewart (Diary, 7 September), tired of ‘pushing for Brexit’, says failure with his cherry trees ‘is not an option’. I had also tried everything. The only surefire remedy is chlorothalonil. It doesn’t promulgate fungicide resistance development, and deer don’t nibble either. The only problem is the EU are banning it.
Tunbridge Wells, Kent