The Spectator

Spectator letters: Scottish Tories, ambulances and Florence Nightingale

Text settings

The other Tory split

Sir: With regard to the article by James Forsyth (‘The great Tory split’, 6 September), there is another dimension to the future of the Conservative party of which the Scottish independence vote is symbolic. The Conservative and Unionist party looks as though it lacks the leadership and the political skills to keep the Union together, certainly to make a convincing job of it. Whichever way the vote goes, it will not reflect well on the Conservative leadership. They are seen as part of an ‘out of touch’ Westminster elite which has neglected not just Scotland but much of England, becoming a party of the south-east rather than a genuinely national/UK wide party; what is more they do not seem even to mind that this is the case.

William Burke

Castor, Peterborough

They started it!

Sir: Pavel Stroilov’s commentary on Russia and Nato (‘Russia’s Nato myth’, 6 September) falls at the first hurdle. Any analysis of what is happening in Ukraine which fails to acknowledge that the confrontation started with the insurrection on the Maidan, leading to the overthrow of the democratically elected, if unlovely, government, at the very least encouraged by the West, is disingenuous. And goodness me, there is a lot of disingenuousness about on this point. Mr Stroilov’s failure to mention this and his insistence that Russia has invaded Ukraine devalue whatever credibility one would be inclined to give to his interpretation of the Kremlin documents he took. He may be the Russians’ Edward Snowden, but he may not be. I hope we resist any calls to send him back from Mr Putin in any event.

Jonathan Wynne Evans


Dawkins’s sinister idea

Sir: Thank goodness for Simon Barnes (‘A life worth living’, 6 September). As the father of an autistic boy myself, his compassion and good sense struck a real chord. Of course these conditions bring difficulty and struggle, but they also generate great joy, fulfilment and laughter, both for the individual and those around him. Hardship and suffering may or may not be noble — Dawkins might care to opine on that too, although Aristotle beat him to it — but there is no doubt that they are what real life is about.

To suggest attempting to eradicate all life’s imperfections in search of a ‘smoother’ existence is not only sinister, but also morally lazy.

John Smith


Doing our best

Sir: We were concerned to read Mary Wakefield’s representation of London Ambulance Service (‘999 emergency’, 30 August) which didn’t tell the true story.

We are indebted to our professional and hard-working staff for their commitment and dedication. We handled over 1.7 million calls last year and this is increasing every year. Listening to our staff is essential — and we are doing exactly that.

Action to make things better includes recruiting 500 frontline staff, doubling the number of paramedics providing telephone advice so as to avoid sending ambulances to less serious calls, creating better career opportunities, spending £1.2 million on further education and changing shift patterns to reduce the pressure on staff working at our busiest times.

We’re disappointed that Mary didn’t take up our invitation to meet us before writing her cover story, as this may have helped prevent a number of inaccuracies. For example, 111 operators can’t dispatch ambulances; we were not at surge purple for a week; there is no unofficial ‘at risk’ list for paramedics; no disciplinary action is taken for minor paperwork errors; and we do not have the power to strike paramedics from the register. We are committed to providing outstanding patient care and creating better working lives for all our staff, who are professional and compassionate and doing their very best in difficult circumstances.

Ann Radmore, Chief Executive, London Ambulance Service, London SE1

Young fans of old comedy

Sir: I can allay Mark Mason’s fears (‘Off the telly’, 30 August) about the cultural ignorance of the young. I don’t believe the twentysomethings to whom he has spoken are typical of their generation. My four children are in their early twenties, and they and their friends have long been familiar with the work of Vic and Bob, to say nothing of Monty Python, Dad’s Army, Fawlty Towers and Beyond The Fringe. The Young Ones, Spitting Image and Brass Eye have acquired cult status, and they quote Alan Partridge endlessly.

Far from splintering generations, new technology provides instant access to any number of decades-old programmes that might otherwise be forgotten. Why would my 20-year-old wait for Tony Hancock and Peter Sellers to roll around on television when he can find them with a couple of clicks on Youtube? Keep up, Mark!

Caro Fraser

London SE12

Nightingale’s paper trail

Sir: I hate to contradict so fine a historian as Jane Ridley (Books, 6 September), but among Victorian women, Florence Nightingale’s paper trail far exceeds Queen Victoria’s, and Nightingale undoubtedly did ‘a hell of a lot more work’ than the Queen.

Mark Bostridge

London NW3

Contintental drift

Sir: Like many writers and broadcasters covering the Rotherham sex abuse scandal, Colin Brewer refers to the alleged offenders as ‘Asian’ (‘Does social work work?’, 30 August). If I was a member of South Yorkshire’s Chinese or Indian community I would find this offensive.

Simon Collins

Chevy Chase