Letters: the Tories’ fatal flaw

Major error Sir: Even as a former Tory voter, I acknowledge that the predicted scale of the Conservative electoral defeat would be a national tragedy. Starmer’s government needs to be kept in check by a robust opposition. There are many explanations for the Tory decline, but George Osborne’s Diary (15 June) gives some clues: his celebration of a ‘Middle England’ country fête having a tombola for Gaza rather than a worthy local cause, for instance. More tellingly, Osborne also celebrates John Major’s advice that the Conservatives ‘will never win while we remain in thrall to the hard right of our party’. The practical interpretation of this involves moving the Tories to

The mad, bad and dangerous theories of Thomas Henry Huxley

Racism lies at the heart of the Victorian rewrite of the creation myth. What happened in prehistory, according to Thomas Henry Huxley, Darwin’s representative on Earth, was that while Homo sapiens emerged from its primitive state among the other apes and lemurs, some – Europeans – developed at a faster rate. Humankind had evolved from a ‘hairy, tailed quadruped’, which was itself ‘probably derived from an ancient marsupial animal’ (Darwin). But once the human species emerged, ‘men differ more widely from one another than they do from the apes’. This ineluctably leads to the conclusion that there is as much difference, perhaps more, between the higher type of human being

UCL’s bizarre eugenics apology

Covid aside, how should we sum up the last twelve months? The Year of the Abject Apology fits rather neatly. The past year has witnessed cringing confessions by all sorts of institutions to prior complicity in slavery, colonialism or exploitation in some form or another.  University College London is the latest institution to apologise, saying sorry because scientist and polymath Francis Galton, the ‘father of eugenics’, researched the subject while at UCL in the nineteenth century. Galton also left the university money in 1911, to found a professorship in eugenics. This whole episode in UCL’s history would normally have been decently buried. Teaching of eugenics has long ceased at UCL; Galton’s chair was sensibly transmuted into a chair of