SIR – I’ve been disappointed in Labour throughout the pandemic. It has supported the coronavirus regulations at every turn without parliamentary scrutiny, instead choosing to wait for things to go badly so that the result can then be blamed on Boris Johnson.
The opposition to government rule by decree (as exemplified by Sir Graham Brady’s amendment) is now coming from within the Conservative Party rather than from Labour.
I urge Labour to stop focusing on winning the next general election and instead do its duty to the country.
SIR – MPs must not have further powers to attempt to micromanage coronavirus regulations. No country can be administered by its legislature any more than by its judiciary (who should also keep out of it).
Some MPs and an ex-Speaker, who should hide his head in shame in perpetuity, are indulging themselves in an orgy of what our American friends call “grandstanding”. They should stop behaving like spoilt children.
SIR – Just when MPs are seeking to “bring back liberty” by parliamentary scrutiny of government Covid-19 restrictions, 63 per cent of the public indicate that they think the current restrictions do not go far enough.
Is this a rare case (another being capital punishment) of the people needing protecting from themselves?
Dr David Slawson
SIR – The public is growing sceptical and restless about the lack of clarity in the tackling of Covid-19 after 198 changes in government rules this year.
We are now well aware that science will continue to change in response to the swerves in the disease and experiences on mainland European.
However it is imperative that the Government uses its common sense to plot its path, not just moveable science, and explains its reasoning to voters.
Sadly, if Boris Johnson is not energetic and well enough to do this, he should appoint Michael Gove to do so in his place until he fully recovers his vitality and vigour.
New Alresford, Hampshire
SIR – Under coronavirus restrictions, attendance in Parliament resembles a parish council meeting on a wet Wednesday night. The powers that be should relocate temporarily to one of the many conference centres in the country not currently being used.
Pickering, North Yorkshire
SIR – There has been much discussion of the new intake of students being “imprisoned” in their halls of residence over Christmas.
As a parent, I would not countenance abandoning my children to the care of inept university authorities at a critical time for their mental welfare. Unless the Government displays proportionality with its use of the law, then public defiance will render respect for our lawmakers largely obsolete.
SIR – I too contacted my MP during lockdown (Letters, September 27), questioning some of the absurdities of regulation, such as being able to buy paint brushes but not paint. The response simply supported the Government’s actions, without explaining their logic.
MPs are elected to be our representatives in Parliament, but rarely represent our problems if they conflict with party policy. They only appear accountable in the run-up to an election.
SIR – I think I’d like to go and live in Sweden.
Danger of book fraud
SIR – Nicholas Best (Letters, September 24) says Amazon should allow authors to delete a small percentage of reviews online, which often have nothing to do with the quality of the book.
Many of us in publishing have also been pressing Amazon to be more transparent with regard to its Kindle Direct Publishing and, like many publishers, allow authors to see their sales figures in real time through author portals, rather than being told by their publishers.
At the moment Amazon allows private individuals to open accounts on behalf of limited companies with a single-person login, depriving other directors of information on sales. The sales information is also provided in a form that allows figures to be changed. Both practices make fraud very easy.
Andrew Lownie Literary Agency
Down with Downing
SIR – The idea of renaming Downing Street (Leading Article, September 24) will find support among members of the John Hampden Society.
No 10 stands on the site of the Hampdens’ London home, where John Hampden the patriot (an ancestor of both Sir Winston Churchill and the Duke of Cambridge) stayed when he was an active MP in the 1640s, and where his mother, Elizabeth, lived until her death in 1665.
In 2000, our society launched a campaign to have Downing Street renamed Hampden Street, on the grounds that the official residence of Britain’s head of government should not bear the name of a despicable turncoat. However, this proposal was turned down at the time by both the Department for Culture, Media and Sport and Westminster City Council.
Chairman, The John Hampden Society
Great Shefford, Berkshire
SIR – Anthony Whitehead (Letters, September 26) wonders how 40 limes, which retail at 40p each, can end up in a £1 shampoo.
The lime itself comes free. The 40p represents the cost of packaging, storing, transporting, distributing and selling the thing, and the profit accrued at each stage of the process.
Squeezing all of them at source for insertion into a shampoo bottle costs next to nothing.
University of life
SIR – You report that students are seeking assurances that they will not be subject to draconian measures when they arrive on campus.
In 1939, my late father was a 20-year-old fresher at Cambridge and in 1940 he volunteered for training with the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve. By 1941, he was a pilot with Bomber Command flying ops over Germany, but in August he crashed in Holland. He and his crew survived, were captured and became prisoners of war, living on subsistence-level rations, supplemented by Red Cross parcels .
In February 1945, he was part of the enforced “Long March” during one of the coldest winters on record. Many of his colleagues succumbed, but he was lucky and, after being liberated by the Russians, returned safely to his family.
He then resumed and completed his studies. He hardly ever spoke of his experiences, but he, and many like him, put in perspective the whingeing of the “snowflake” generation.
Long Sutton, Somerset
SIR – It is clear that the reopening of universities is creating hundreds of situations similar to that on the Diamond Princess cruise ship.
Locking down such ships created a scenario in which people could be trapped in successive rounds of quarantine. The cycle had to be broken by removing infected passengers and returning the rest to their homes after quarantine and tests.
The ill-judged decision to reopen universities requires a rescue plan.
Dr Bill Cochrane
Newcastle upon Tyne
No more Mr Rice Guy
SIR – I’ve used Uncle Ben’s excellent rice (Letters, September 25) for years.
The other day I had to restock – but, due to the pathetic, virtue-signalling attitude of Mars Foods (the distributors of Uncle Ben’s), I bought Tilda rice instead. Cancelling works both ways.
Over and out
SIR – What has happened to the art of conversation? Instead of picking up the telephone and having a chat, most people now send even personal messages by email or use social media platforms such as Twitter.
We are at risk of losing our ability to speak if this habit is not reversed.
Dying art of smoking seriously on screen
SIR – Before the health police took over, those of us who enjoyed smoking would relish taking a deep breath and dragging the smoke deep into our tar-encrusted lungs.
When screen actors have to light up for their role, could they please be coached to look as if they are actually addicts – not 16-year-olds behind the bike sheds?
National Trust wokery
SIR – One must protest when organisations that exist to protect our heritage begin to tear it down.
Britain’s history does not belong to the National Trust (Letters, September 26): it is a custodian, entrusted with preserving the past, and has no right to rewrite or destroy it.
I call upon it to stop this pathetic virtue signalling – and instead to set an example, for all to follow, that through the knowledge of history we can learn how to live better in the future.
SIR – In its “curatorial narrative”, the National Trust has failed to strike a balance. It has overlooked properties connected to the fight to abolish slavery, while making tendentious connections to colonialism at others.
Godolphin House, for example, was built on the proceeds of Godolphin Hill, the richest tin mine in Cornwall. It is ridiculous to imply that the house benefited from colonial wealth acquired by a brother of the Godolphin who actually owned it.
At St Michael’s Mount, on the other hand, the portraits of two MPs, by Reynolds and Gainsborough, smile at each other across the Blue Drawing Room. They were both “Saints” – MPs who worked alongside Wilberforce and voted to end the slave trade.
There must be others in the National Trust pantheon who played a far more significant role in abolishing slavery – brave naval officers, enlightened clergy and powerful judges. Their stories are also relevant.
Nick St Aubyn
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