SIR – As the country struggles with multiple serious problems, the Government is in a state of torpor.
The Conservative leadership contest seems to me to be a self-indulgent nonsense. It should either be suspended, or the vote urgently brought forward.
It is outrageous that Britain should be rudderless while awaiting the decision of a tiny proportion of the population.
Leslie W King
SIR – Wherever I look in the Government these days, I see a shambles.
The only long-term decision it appears to have made in the last 10 years was to build HS2 – and that money could have been spent on something more useful.
Now two members of this Government want me to vote for one of them. I think not. I’ll leave it to MPs to sort out the mess they have made.
SIR – Lord Frost, as always, hits the nail on the head.
When Margaret Thatcher became prime minister in 1979, we were reeling from 26 per cent inflation, government bonds yielding 16 per cent and a marginal tax rate of 83 per cent.
When she immediately cut that rate to 60 per cent a great cheer went up, and we began the restoration of personal and business confidence, which revitalised the economy.
The entrepreneurial spirit unleashed by the policies of small government, individual freedom and low tax rates is still there. We need exactly what Lord Frost suggests: Liz Truss making the case “that countries are stronger where people keep their own money and decide things for themselves” – and then doing something about it.
Donald R Clarke
Tunbridge Wells, Kent
SIR – I agree with Jonathan Wainwright (Letters, August 11).
Seeing Rishi Sunak in Hampshire, and hearing him deal effectively with Andrew Neil and Nick Robinson in interviews, I feel he has the energy and grasp of detail to get to grips with this country’s many problems. He will have my vote.
Dr Peter Evans
Attack on free speech
SIR – Everyone who believes in the fundamental importance of free speech should be appalled and enraged by the despicable attack on Sir Salman Rushdie.
Opposing opinions through debate is a part of free speech. Responding to them with violence is not.
SIR – I have just ordered a hardback copy of The Satanic Verses.
SIR – We have been hectored about climate change for over 20 years; our population has increased by millions in the last 10 years; we have decommissioned reservoirs and built none recently; and now we are surprised that, during a hot summer (which had been predicted), we are short of water in the south of England.
What have the Environment Agency, Ofwat and the water companies been doing all this time? Do they undertake strategic planning? And if so, what on Earth does it involve?
Hayling Island, Hampshire
SIR – It is quite extraordinary that it has taken so long for hosepipe bans to be enforced.
The Government should have the power to put such a ban in place very quickly, after consulting with the water authorities. In Gloucestershire, for instance, there has been much dilly-dallying. Action should be immediate.
Most of the public will be able manage perfectly well for a couple of weeks with a watering can, and the practice of watering lawns is ludicrous anyway, and should stop – drought or no drought. Grass recovers, and turning brown is its own way of surviving a week or two of dry weather.
SIR – For many of us in our seventies and eighties, our gardens are our refuge from loneliness and a means of retaining our mobility.
We plant out our pots and borders, and take such pleasure from the cheerful displays.
We are cost-conscious and most of us have water meters. We don’t want to waste water but we can’t bear to stand by and watch everything die.
Carrying heavy watering cans is beyond our capabilities: our backs ache and our balance is compromised.
Please can we use a hose to water our flowers?
St Mary Bourne, Hampshire
In praise of the poly
SIR – David Ainsworth (Letters, August 7) bemoans the lack of higher education institutions delivering technical curricula, fully integrated with engineering practice, leading to honours degrees.
They were called polytechnics, and their ethos was lost during the disastrous restructuring and futile expansion of university participation from the early 1990s.
Dr Tony Parker
Former Chair, Committee for Engineering in Polytechnics
Ringmer, East Sussex
Real NHS reform
SIR – Britain failed to follow the example of other European countries that adopted a co-insurance model to finance their health services (Letters, August 7) decades ago, with individuals making direct contributions to the cost of care.
All have entirely satisfactory safety nets for people who are either unable or no longer required to make contributions. The services they receive are of the same quality as those provided to individuals still making contributions. Britain, by comparison, is the sick man of Europe.
Why? Because of the inability of politicians to grasp the (not-too-toxic) nettle, explain why the current model is broken and explain how co-insurance would cost less while providing more efficient and effective service to the population, irrespective of ability to pay.
The establishment of the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence is a positive model for how change can be made. I was a member of the industry consultation group as it was being mooted, and well remember the political shenanigans over supposed “rationing”.
However, Nice is still with us, the sky hasn’t fallen in and cost-effective, innovative drugs are being made available.
I hope (possibly in vain) that someone soon will be prepared to take the five-year pain of reform on the chin, for all our sakes.
When a cat condescends to join the family
SIR – Your report (August 7) on how cats “are more likely to be attracted to people who are less interested in them” reminded me of Jess, the cat we took in years ago when my nine-year-old daughter brought home a kitten she had been given by a friend.
Recalling Rudyard Kipling’s story The Cat that Walked by Himself, I fitted the back door and another door from the kitchen to the conservatory with cat-flaps, so she could come and go as she pleased.
She condescended to live her whole nine-year life with us, doing her own thing – which included crossing the table when, first up in the morning, I turned away from my breakfast to rub noses with her.
I was concerned, however, when I left the house for my 10-minute walk to the station in the morning and she began to accompany me for the first 10 yards. It was not easy to persuade her to turn back.
SIR – Regarding the availability of subtitles (Letters, August 7), at the ticket office in a cinema in Miami I mentioned that I was deaf, and was offered headphones.
Accepting them, I asked if there were subtitles and was immediately offered a pair of “spectacles” instead. This magical pair somehow showed subtitles on the screen that were otherwise invisible. Brilliant.
Sadly, they seem to be unavailable here, even in the large, refurbished Odeon Luxe in London. Why?
SIR – I spent some 30 years in the sound department of Thames TV, where I was engaged in the dubbing of many dramas.
At the dubbing session, directors quite often wanted to add music when they considered that the action had slowed down, in order to compensate for the loss of drama.
I frequently argued against this, as it usually led to the dialogue being drowned out.
We were able to monitor the sound on very expensive, high-quality loudspeakers costing many thousands of pounds – unlike the viewing public, who listened on much inferior sound systems.
We got a simulated television sound system built in, which I used to illustrate how the directors’ “enhanced sound” would be experienced by viewers.
I am glad to say we were able to convince most directors to give priority to the dialogue. The results can be heard in such productions as Rumpole of the Bailey, Van der Valk and Minder.
Naval Club betrayal
SIR – I read with absolute disgust your report about the sale of the Naval Club in Mayfair, and how the rules have been changed so that the members share the remaining £21 million after £6.5 million has been distributed to naval charities.
My uncle, Donald Alexander Fyson, was a lieutenant serving on HMS Syrtis (an S-class submarine) when it was reported missing in 1944.
He was 23 years old. He had volunteered to join the Royal Naval Air Service in 1939, later transferring to the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve. Don was mentioned in despatches in 1940. He is one of the heroes commemorated by the Naval Club.
This house was given as a war memorial. The obvious intention was to support naval veterans, not to increase the wealth of 860 members. The original Memorandum of Association covered the possibility of liquidation, and said any surplus proceeds should be given to like-minded organisations or maritime charities. It is outrageous that this provision has been altered.
Surely, now that this matter has been made public, the Charity Commissioners will act.
Gerrards Cross, Buckinghamshire
SIR – Further to your recent correspondence (August 7) extolling Radio Swiss Classic as an alternative to BBC Radio 3, I also recommend Ireland’s RTE Lyric FM, which plays popular classics but also folk, baroque, musicals and a whole host of eclectic matter. In this capacity it is superior to our Classic FM, which can be repetitive.
The first blackberry
SIR – Sophia Money-Coutts wonders if the blackberries she picked last weekend were the earliest ever. Sidney, my Border terrier, picked his first of the season on July 22, here on Romney Marsh.