Letters: Boris Johnson still lives in a world where rules are for other people
SIR – At Wednesday’s privileges committee hearing (report, March 23), Boris Johnson was asked about the concerns raised by his former director of communications over the infamous Downing Street garden party.
He admitted it might be thought that “we were doing something other people weren’t allowed to do… I can see why people might have felt that way.” It is hard to imagine why anyone wouldn’t – though it appears our former prime minister managed it.
SIR – Everyone seems to have missed the most interesting thing that emerged from the privileges committee hearing, and it came right at the beginning.
In a comment about lockdowns, Mr Johnson stated that “whatever people may say about them now [they] were essential for public health”.
This was the policy that arguably caused more damage to public health – not to mention our economy – than any other in history. Yet despite all the evidence, Mr Johnson arrogantly maintains that lockdowns were necessary. That, more than anything, makes him unfit for any future office.
SIR – The “trial” of Boris Johnson is absurd and should be terminated.
No 10 had to work through a crisis and we should be grateful that it did so. It was inevitable that there would be achievements to recognise, as well as retirements and other circumstances that would warrant gatherings.
By working together at that time, these people were taking risks and they deserve credit. A far greater offense, in my view, was committed by the civil servants who disappeared when the chance arose and are yet to return to their desks.
Mawnan Smith, Cornwall
SIR – Alcohol should not to be consumed in the workplace. End of story. It beggars belief that anyone in Downing Street thought this to be appropriate. Indeed, in most workplaces it results in disciplinary action or even instant dismissal.
SIR – The rapid decline of Mr Johnson’s political career is unprecedented.
The tragedy is that he generated so much support among the electorate, then squandered it very quickly.
It is now obvious that the big problems were handled badly. Brexit continues to cause divisions, and Covid policy was shambolic. Future politicians will find it difficult to regain public confidence.
Beverley, East Yorkshire
SIR – I noted that Boris Johnson had had a haircut before facing the privileges committee.
So appearance matters now?
Dr Jeff Slater
SIR – It is staggering that Richard Meddings, chairman of NHS England, thinks that one of the reasons we don’t have enough doctors is that they are overskilled, and we can afford to cut back their training and use more “assistants” (report, March 22).
Some years ago I examined a young child with a mild respiratory infection. I was able to pick up an interesting heart murmur. The child had a previously undiagnosed congenital heart defect and needed surgery. I don’t believe anyone except a properly trained and fairly experienced doctor would have made that discovery.
I would like to ask Mr Meddings whether, if this child had been his, he would have preferred they were seen by an “overskilled” doctor or someone barely trained to know what it was all about.
Where is the great overseas model that shows that this dumbing down works? Surely, when we go to the doctor, we want the best possible advice. The fact is that, certainly in general practice, the profession has allowed itself to be badly damaged, but that is no reason to adopt a second-class system with second- class practitioners.
SIR – From the age of 13 until I retired, sane and in one piece, at 30, rugby was my life. I would go anywhere at any time for a game: Saturday for my club, which still plays in the Premiership; Sunday for the Commercial Casuals, a pub team in Brixton. Tuesdays and Thursdays were for club training, and on Wednesdays I’d turn out for either the Public School Wanderers or the Firkins. There were Easter and summer tours. There was also rugby netball on Clapham Common.
None of my playing friends from that time suffered head injuries (Letters, March 22). This is a scourge of modern rugby, and was unknown until the professional game began.
Players are now too big and fast. What did centres like Jeremy Guscott weigh? Between 12 and 14 stone. Today centres weigh 17 or 18 stone. The whole team’s weight has gone up by four to five stone per man.
I can’t watch modern rugby. To me, it's not rugby – it’s a mixture of sumo wrestling, the storming of the Bastille, and kick tennis. Only the women’s teams play real rugby.
Unless the powers-that-be address this issue, rugby will fade away
Peacehaven, East Sussex
Brexit and sovereignty
SIR – Wednesday’s vote in Parliament on the Windsor Framework was not about rebellion or the European Research Group, but the principles of sovereignty and democracy (“Big beasts do not strike fear into the back benches as they once did”, Analysis, March 23).
Disraeli wrote in his novel Coningsby: “There was indeed a considerable shouting about what they called Conservative principles; but the awkward question naturally arose, what will you conserve?”
Brexit answered this question, and the answer was endorsed by the massive Conservative majority in the 2019 general election. The Northern Ireland question remains unfinished business, and the Protocol Bill, passed unamended by 74 votes in the Commons, solved the problems, within the guaranteed sovereignty of Section 38 of the European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Act 2020.
Northern Ireland remains subjugated to the EU. Since Brexit, more than 650 EU laws have been passed for Northern Ireland by the European Council of Ministers behind closed doors by majority vote without even a transcript.
This deal does not reflect a real Union. There is no such thing as Northern Ireland sovereignty, only constitutional Westminster sovereignty – so why should two million Northern Ireland citizens be treated differently from the rest of the United Kingdom?
The abstentions demonstrate a wider concern in the Conservative parliamentary party, which goes to the heart of our sovereignty and democracy.
Sir Bill Cash MP (Con)
SIR – Philip Pilkington (“Threadneedle Street’s mad gamble on taming inflation has not paid off”, Comment, March 23) omits a critical component in the Bank of England’s failure.
Pension funds were allowed to use their gilt holdings as collateral for leveraged strategies aimed at creating some kind of return that was unavailable on the gilts themselves. Many built up their gearing to between three and eight times net asset value – insanely high levels. And yet their regulators at the Prudential Regulation Authority and the Bank not only failed to detect this risk, but – at least in the case of the Bank’s own pension fund – actually joined the party.
Add to the mix that sterling and gilts were already sagging at Governor Andrew Bailey’s announcement in July 2022 that the Bank would be selling £80 billion of gilts over a year, and what would normally have been a weakening in government bond prices at Kwasi Kwarteng’s mini-Budget turned into a rout and the near collapse of the UK financial system. Other central bankers have learnt the lesson and, unlike Andrew Bailey, are not leaping recklessly over the quantitative-tightening cliff.
The risk in pension funds not having been identified, Liz Truss could not be warned about it. The rest is history – and doubtless a large slice of our future.
SIR – I would much rather have products that tell me they were made with “excitement” or “love” (Letters, March 23) than those with anthropomorphic messages saying “Keep me in the fridge”, “Careful, I’m hot!” or “Don’t turn me upside down”.
Gardens should grow in harmony with nature
SIR – Like Mandy Gaved (Letters, March 23), I was disappointed by Bunny Guinness’s article on “garden pests” (Weekend, March 18).
Why do we feel entitled to kill anything that is slightly annoying, such as the grey squirrel, which we introduced to this country in the first place?
As for putting bait down, where do the mice and rats go after eating poison? Often somewhere another creature – such as a cat, fox or owl – can find and consume them, causing more suffering. No wonder we have lost so much of our natural world.
SIR – When squashing a garden pest under foot, a dear late friend and animal lover would utter the words: “They are all God’s creatures, but some are nicer than others.”
SIR – Louise Meadows (Letters, March 21) says we ought to be sanguine and accept that some of our favourite plants will be eaten by pests. But how would she react if they were all regularly eaten (as in our case) by local free-roaming deer? Would she simply give up?
Is there anyone in charge at the probate office?
SIR – Nearly 14 months after the death of my disabled adult son in January 2022, and following the diligent efforts of the solicitors appointed to deal with his uncomplicated estate (including issuing a formal complaint regarding the interminable delays at the probate registry), probate was finally granted on February 3 this year.
However, a spelling mistake by the registry meant that the documents have had to be sent back for amendment. Unsurprisingly, these papers have still not been returned, but our solicitors have been told that they are not allowed to call the registry anymore, since the system has been centralised.
To whom, exactly, is this labyrinthine, closed, secretive, opaque and unhelpful registry answerable?
Stonegate, East Sussex
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