The Spectator

Letters: the real problem with a Labour super-majority

Good trade-off

Sir: I applaud your excellent editorial (‘Trading in Falsehoods’, 6 April) – a succinct and insightful essay on the role of Great Britain in the abolition of slavery and the slave trade. All are agreed that slavery in any form was and is reprehensible. As a white and proud Barbadian, initially educated there, I contend that some of my ancestors, who were probably slave owners, did not believe that they were involved in anything immoral or sinful, but were serving the economic interests of the Empire as they saw it at the time. You rightly point out that the huge cost in treasure and lives incurred by Britain and the Royal Navy in ending the slave trade is largely ignored.

The current clamour for reparations -– particularly from the Prime Minister of Barbados – is ironic, considering that the island is one of the most highly developed and successful economies in the western world with a very high GDP per capita, one of the best literacy and education systems, a stable democracy, respected judiciary, free press and a Christian ethos. This did not happen by accident and I would suggest that any ‘debt’ to Barbados has long been repaid, with interest.

Roger Laing

Iver, Bucks

Majority rule

Sir: Your analysis of Keir Starmer’s potentially bloated majority (‘The Starmer supremacy’, 6 April) omits one simple factor. There would be too many Labour MPs to be bribed and sedated by the prospect of office or other favours. Those elected for unexpected constituencies will soon discover that they have little power to make life better for them. They will then have a strong motive to rebel on any issue which is important to them. This could gain them a reputation as an independent local champion and thereby provide a better chance of retaining their seats at the following election than loyally parroting the propaganda of the Starmer government.

You might also have analysed the potential impact on all Labour MPs of any attempt by the new government to placate a re-elected Donald Trump.

A colossal majority is not certain. If current poll results continue, voters will have no fear of returning the Conservatives. Against that background, many may vote for an opposition candidate they like better than Starmer’s – or not vote at all.

Richard Heller (former chief of staff to Denis Healey and Gerald Kaufman)

London SE1

Hot stuff

Sir: As a loyal Danish subscriber I am puzzled by the heat pump discussion in Britain. In Denmark they are a great success. People swear by them. And why do they, according to Barometer (23 March), cost about £10,000 in the UK when in my extremely overtaxed country they are about £7,500 for a unit that heats a four-bedroom house? The Danish government subsidises this so the total cost is about £5,500.

Soren Dan Nielsen

Copenhagen, Denmark

Food, glorious food

Sir: I was intrigued by Hannah Moore’s article about picky eaters (‘Happy meals’, 6 April). As a child, I would have only ‘plain bread sandwiches’ in my school lunchbox: just two slices of bread and nothing else.

My father tricked me out of my fussiness by taking me to a restaurant and ordering what he told me were onion rings. They were actually calamari, but I munched my way happily through them. Afterwards he smirked and said: ‘Now, you wouldn’t have eaten those if I’d told you it was octopus, would you?’ I stared in horror at the empty plate, but my father’s strategy worked. It was as if a switch had flipped in my childish brain and I was happy to try anything.

Robert Frazer

Salford, Lancs

I told you so

Sir: In your editorial (‘The politics of panic’, 30 March) you say: ‘We didn’t know then… what damage lockdown would do to our children’s education, to the economy and to our entire culture.’ Actually, many of us knew very well, and some of us strove to draw attention to these dangers. It was annoying to be ignored (and in some cases, derided and even slandered) for doing this at the time. I made my first substantial protest in the Mail on Sunday of 15 March 2020 and continued thereafter. It is, oddly, nearly as annoying to be forgotten now, long after we were shown to be right.

Peter Hitchens

London W8

True authorship

Sir: Stephen Bayley, in his review of Alexander Larman’s Power and Glory (Books, 30 March), refers to Sir Alan (Tommy) Lascelles as the man ‘who actually wrote… Elizabeth’s 1947 speech’. (‘I declare before you all that my whole life, whether it be long or short…’) This is incorrect. Our grandfather, the Times journalist Dermot Morrah, wrote it. We still have the letter from Tommy Lascelles, dated 10 March 1947, thanking him for it: ‘I have been reading drafts for many years now, but I cannot recall one that has so completely satisfied me and left me feeling that no single word should be altered.’

Our grandfather kept his authorship a closely guarded secret all his life, outside his immediate family. But we feel sure that, as a historian, he would want the record to be put straight.

Virginia and Catherine Utley

London SW11

Power tools

Sir, I was pleased to see David Edwards’s letter (6 April), taking issue with Sophie Winkleman’s tirade against smartphones and screens in schools. It coincided nicely with Mary Wakefield’s interview with Rob Henderson about the ‘luxury beliefs’ of those who rail against so-called evils without considering the many benefits they provide. My husband and I got smartphones for our two sons, aged 13 and 11, last year. They cycle several miles to school and we wanted them to be able to contact us. We used readily available software to block inappropriate websites. So far, no appalling deterioration in their behaviour has occurred. They call to say they are going to the park with friends. They WhatsApp with classmates to share silly memes or remind each other of homework. They do not spend hours mindlessly scrolling.

Smartphones are powerful tools but they can enhance life as easily as damage it – just like nearly every other tool we use.

Chloe Ryan

Woodbridge, Suffolk

Au contraire

Sir: Anyone who chooses to drink coffee in a Starbucks when visiting France has no right to criticise the French for anything (‘White and wrong’, 30 March).

Anne-Marie Jordan

Underriver, Kent

French lesson

Sir: Many years ago when fresh milk was more or less unobtainable in France, I despairingly asked a local farmer what he put in his coffee in the morning. He looked at me in some surprise and replied: ‘Armagnac. What do you put in yours?’

Jenny Fitz Gerald


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