The Spectator

Letters: why not let readers buy The Spectator?

Power to the readers

Sir: I would suggest that even if the government of the UAE gives a ‘cast-iron’ guarantee not to interfere with The Spectator’s editorial line, this should be taken with a very large pinch of salt (‘The real deal’, 2 December). Why don’t you ask your subscribers to buy the magazine? With nearly 140,000 of them, and 300,000 subscribing to your TV channel, surely we could raise £70 million, enough to satisfy Lloyds Bank? (It’s called ‘crowdfunding’, I believe.)

Jo Aldenham

London SW10

To the barricades

Sir: In its leading article of 2 December, this magazine quotes John Howard’s comments recently about what makes up a functioning democracy, namely the law, parliament and a free press.

Since this article was published, the possibility that the world’s oldest weekly, The Spectator, might be sold to an American fund financed by the UAE government has, temporarily at least, been halted by the intervention of the Culture Secretary, who will investigate the sale.

In many respects, it’s that free press which is the most important aspect of a democratic state. That’s why it’s vital to prevent a vigorous and independent journal from falling into the hands of financiers dictating policy of the kind we’ve already seen in the UAE. It’s hardly a place where robust and independent thought, freely expressed, is the norm.

Everything that can be done by the Culture Secretary to stop the sale to RedBird IMI must be done, and quickly. In these populist days, and in these circumstances, even I am minded to say: ‘Aux armes, citoyens.’

Alastair Conan


Horror of the Holodomor

Sir: It was good to read Charles Moore’s piece about the Westminster Abbey service to commemorate the millions who died in the Holodomor (Notes, 2 December). So little is it talked about that almost nobody knows what it is. I am not sure I have ever spoken to anyone who is not Ukrainian who has even heard of it.

Over the years the odd film, most notably Agnieszka Holland’s Mr Jones, has reminded us of it, and of course Anne Applebaum’s book Red Famine, which Charles Moore alerts us to. In an earlier age, the works of Robert Conquest, notably The Harvest of Sorrow, were also important in documenting this Soviet brutality.

Until we remember the Holodomor as we remember the Holocaust, we will never really understand the pivotal role Stalin’s alliance with Hitler played in the first two years of the war, along with the background to the current Russian invasion of Ukraine.

David Ford

Saltaire, West Yorkshire

Memories of C.S. Lewis

Sir: Forgivably missing from A.N. Wilson’s heartfelt tribute to C.S. Lewis (‘Out of the Shadowlands’, 25 November) was reference to his wartime radio broadcasts. I remember at Cambridge borrowing a gown in order to smuggle a friend of my mother’s into one of his lectures so she might hear again and actually see the man who had strengthened her so much 20 years previously.

His appointment infuriated F.R. Leavis, who could be very rude about him (‘I don’t know what Professor Lewis thinks about this – I don’t know if Professor Lewis thinks’), but not the rest of us. Lewis told us he would begin his 12 noon lectures at ten past and end them at 12.50 because ‘40 minutes is quite long enough to sit on the Mill Lane benches’. Knowing now how ill he was, I think the time was long enough for him. The lectures were splendid.

Tony Porter

Fleckney, Leics

In praise of the NT

Sir: Lloyd Evans shared proposals for a new business model to transform the National Theatre (Arts, 25 November). Despite agreeing with some of his more specific suggestions (I too am sick of David Hare), I must oppose what appears to be his general philosophy: that to succeed the NT needs to refuse state subsidy, stop offering ‘cheap’ seats and behave more like a commercial theatre. On the contrary, when commercial venues in London aren’t charging £180 per ticket for the same contrived musical in its 27th year, they are often accommodating shows that originated at the, er, National Theatre. Why did the NT receive £17.8 million in donations last year? I suspect it may be because some people rather like seeing ‘cheap’ seats for sale.

Henry Francis

East Grinstead, West Sussex

Puerile pursuits

Sir: I was amused to read Nicholas Lezard’s recollection of the classic high-school joke of typing ‘5318008’ into a calculator, then turning it upside down (Books, 25 November). I wonder if he is aware of the much greater opportunities provided by the more sophisticated mathematical features in modern ‘scientific’ calculators. The algebraic function allows students to type ‘(.)(.)’ to depict a female chest, for example. I recall one of my contemporaries cobbling together a set of equations that, when entered in sequence on the ‘graph function’, drew a gloriously furnished penis. He works at BlackRock now.

William Hirst


More disharmony

Sir: I would like to add another to Mark Mason’s delicious list of the most famous music feuds of all time’ (Notes On…, 2 December). When electronics pioneer Brian Eno exited Roxy Music, Brian Ferry allegedly remarked in harsh but also self-deprecating terms that ‘there is only room for one non-musician in a band’.

Struan Macdonald

Hayes, Kent

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