The Spectator

Letters: Rishi’s ‘road tour’ is not a good idea

Credit: Stuart Graham

Navy to the fore

Sir: In Eliot Wilson’s stimulating article highlighting the lack of capability within our armed forces (‘Losing battle’, 17 February), he comments on the reduced size of the army and the fact that it would be pressed to contribute a brigade to any conflict in the near future. This reminded me of the strategic debate before the first world war and Professor Julian Corbett’s well-argued view that, as an island nation dependent ultimately on the sea lanes, the British role in a European conflict should be to keep maritime supply lines open for the Allies.

British resources should therefore focus on the navy. The land battle should be left to the armies of our more numerous continental allies. In the modern context this surely makes even more sense with the role of the army to be concentrated on an ability to operate flexibly on the fringes of any conflict. Now, as well as sea lanes, we must prioritise defence of the vital undersea communication and pipeline network which will be vital for survival – regardless of what is achieved by tanks, artillery and infantry in trenches.

Tom Fremantle

East Markham, Newark

Putin’s plan

Sir: It is not only the British Army that is unfit for serious combat (17 February): neither are the RAF and the Royal Navy; nor are the Germans and French in any state to engage in real war. However, Vladimir Putin is not going to attack the Baltic states and risk a catastrophic war with Finland and Poland – who would fight – even if Donald Trump were in the White House. What he is more likely to do is win in Ukraine and then go after Moldova and Georgia. I would be fascinated to know whether the western powers have an agreed plan in the event of that scenario.

Terry Smith

London NW11

Rishing around

Sir: James Heale (Politics, 17 February) tells us that the Prime Minister plans to spend the next several months on the road three days a week, campaigning. He’s not a natural campaigner like Tony Blair or Boris Johnson, so it’s not exactly playing to his strengths. Nor can he reach more than a tiny fraction of the UK electorate, and continual ‘meeting the public’ photo shoots have limited traction. More importantly, the reason the Conservative party’s electoral prospects are so dismal is that their record in governing the country is so mediocre. It’s hard to see how touring the country in a Range Rover will improve that. It looks like displacement activity, because they really have run out of ideas of how to govern and how to win. If the government did what it’s supposed to do – which is govern effectively – the rest would fall into place. It’s not as though they’re facing a Labour party obviously positioned to do any better.

Jeremy Stocker

Willoughby, Warwickshire

Perfect partners

Sir: Charles Moore’s Notes (17 February) mentions that the Wembley Empire Exhibition of 1924 has much to teach us about diversity. Veeraswamy’s was set up by the retired Indian Army officer Edward Palmer, who ran a successful Mughal Pavilion at the exhibition, after which he brought in staff from India to establish the restaurant. Palmer’s great-grandfather had been a general in the East India Company and was married to a Mughal princess, Begum Fyze Baksh. The restaurant opened in 1926, and soon became fashionable. One visitor was George V’s cousin Prince Axel of Denmark, who, in gratitude for a fine dinner, presented the establishment with a case of Carlsberg Pilsner – and so reputedly originated the British taste for drinking beer with Anglo-Indian cuisine.

Mark Studer

London SE21

Thanks a bunch

Sir: With regard to Henry Jeffreys’s article ‘Blooming obvious’ (10 February), I would argue that the small handheld bunch of single specimen flowers is charming but a huge florist’s bouquet is the worst of all gifts, giving rise to the need to find and fill a heavy vase and later empty the putrid water and pick up random dead leaves. As a gift to a dinner hostess, flowers are an uncalled-for distraction. Chocolates, wine, a book or a scarf – anything but flowers!

Anne Carey

London W8

Lure of evangelism

Sir: Theo Hobson’s chat with the Bishop of Oxford, Steven Croft, on the subject of same-sex marriage in the Church of England (17 February) highlighted the severe theological divergence of view between the ‘erudite’ liberals and the ‘bullish’ conservative evangelicals.

The bishop is of the view that reform is supported by the majority of bishops, the clergy and the parishioners, and it is only the pesky evangelicals who are blocking progress by their insistence on sticking to the traditional biblical view of marriage. However the article fails to mention the elephant in the room, which is that when it comes to bums on seats, the evangelicals win hands down. Meanwhile the congregations in theologically liberal parishes are declining as elderly parishioners die off and few are replaced. This is evidenced by the large number of churches being decommissioned every year, especially in rural parishes. 

The bishops seem to have forgotten that the first duty of the church is not to hold services, but to preach the Gospel of Christ. I suggest that this will be far more effective than holding a ‘rave in the nave’.

Dr Tom Goodfellow


The name of the cheese

Sir: Charles Moore might like to add Twanger to his Tickler and Crackler cheeses (Notes, 17 February). Not only does it live up to its evocative name, it’s made within 16 miles of Cheddar itself.

Angela Laing

Wells, Somerset