The Spectator

Spectator letters: Slavery continues to this day; and why Russia’s re-emergence as a world power is down to Obama’s apathy

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Slavery isn’t over

Sir: I was alarmed to read Taki’s piece in this week’s High Life (8 March) which claimed that ‘slavery… has been over since 1865, except in Africa’. The Centre for Social Justice, whose board I chair, last year published its groundbreaking report It Happens Here, exposing the desperate plight of those in modern slavery in the UK. The CSJ’s work revealed exploitation taking place across the country, from young British men enslaved on traveller sites and forced into manual labour, to vulnerable children forced to live as slaves behind closed doors in one of Britain’s thousands of cannabis farms, to young British girls being trafficked into sexual exploitation across the country, by gangs who pose as their friends or boyfriends.

The UK’s Human Trafficking Centre encountered over 2000 of these victims in 2013. The latest Global Slavery Index puts the number at twice that amount. In fact, this index ranks 162 countries, all of which are host to different forms of slavery today.

The CSJ’s report inspired the Home Secretary to draft a new Modern Slavery Bill, which will be put before Parliament later this year. This legislation will bring harsher punishment to the perpetrators who seek to exploit the most vulnerable and voiceless, and create an anti-slavery commissioner to make sure the UK’s response is strategic and intelligent. It will help Britain to take the lead in fighting this global crime. For too long this problem has gone unnoticed. For too long criminals have been able to enslave vulnerable people in this country, safe in the knowledge that it is a low-risk, high-profit crime. This Bill will do much to fight back. Slavery did not end in 1865. And it does not only happen in Africa. It happens here.

Mark Florman

Chairman, The Centre for Social Justice

London SW1

Leaving room for Putin

Sir: Russia’s re-emergence as a world power (‘Russia’s revenge’, 8 March) is not a coincidence; rather it is the obvious consequence of America’s abdication from foreign affairs. The matter is actually more starkly illustrated as Putin v. Obama. For instance: Obama draws ever-fading red lines; Putin mobilises troops. Obama then takes to the podium for five minutes to say ‘There will be costs’, and he mentioned that he had spoken to Putin a ‘few’ days ago; translation, Putin has stopped taking his calls. One American columnist commenting on the Obama foreign policy compared it to a scene in the Woody Allen movie Manhattan, where an actor says the Nazis are invading New Jersey, let’s go get some baseball bats and teach them a lesson; another actor replies ‘and the New York Times will write a strong editorial’.

Leonard Toboroff

New York

What made them Great?

Sir: In ‘Alfred’s greatest moment’ (1 March) Tom Holland muses briefly on the ascription of ‘the Great’ to King Alfred. The question of why such a title is bestowed on historical figures is interesting. Why is it applied to some (e.g. Pompey, Charlemagne — ‘Carolus Magnus’) and not to others of great or even greater capacity (Julius Caesar, Napoleon)? John Buchan argued that ‘the Great’ has always been given to those seen by their contemporaries as not just heroic but (usually) men of humanity, with great hearts. If this is so, however, it is puzzling that Peter and Catherine of Russia, both murderously inclined, should be ‘Great’, or Frederick of Prussia, yelling at his soldiers in battle, ‘Dogs, would you live for ever?’

This letter is being written in a Somerset pub, where the locals have the very English demeanour about them of seldom being prepared to extend adulation in any direction. Alfred was an exception: he must have been exceptional.

Chris Harries

Stoke Bishop, Bristol

Long walk to freedom

Sir: Reading Rod Liddle’s article (‘If Ukraine’s protests were a revolution, why wasn’t the Stop the War march?’, 1 March) on protests and revolution makes me wonder if the West is right to press democracy on to newly emergent countries. What the people want is freedom, and we believe that democracy is the best way to obtain it. But in fact, unless individual freedom is already there, democracy seldom lasts very long.

I guess most British men (perhaps fewer women) in Victorian times would have regarded themselves as free, but the House of Lords had equal power as the House of Commons, while members of the Commons were not paid. So with a few exceptions, only the rich could sit. Democracy came little by little. Perhaps other countries that have overthrown tyrants should start with a Bill of Rights, an independent judiciary and equality before the law. With those in place, democracy would have a chance to establish itself gradually. It took us more than 200 years.

Andrew Shelley

Rudgwick, West Sussex

Everly thrills

Sir: Writing on the harmonies of the Everly Brothers, Sir Tim Rice (Diary, 8 March) mentions ‘Bye Bye Love’. I’ll have him know that for me, even after more than 60 years of playing, the harmonics, the beat and crashing guitar riffs of ‘Wake Up Little Susie’ still thrill beyond measure.

Robert Vincent


French trench

Sir: Charles Moore wants startling facts about the first world war (Notes, 8 March). Long ago in Ireland my mother told me that the French charged the British for the use of the trenches along the Somme. True or false?

Mary Knowles