Letters: James Whitaker’s widow answers Toby Young

17 August 2013

9:00 AM

17 August 2013

9:00 AM

Absent friends

Sir: Alec Marsh (‘Welcome to Big Venice’, 10 August) accurately observes that Londoners are priced out of central London by largely foreign buyers of second homes. Wealthy foreigners not only buy, they also rent, often living in London for a few years, during which they frequently return to their first home for weeks or months at a time. In Marylebone, where I have lived for 43 years, an average earner can neither buy nor rent. Moreover, rentals are only short hold. This contributes to the death of communities: it is not their foreignness which makes the new residents bad neighbours, nor their love of the convenient transport and vastly expensive shops and restaurants, but their transience and consequent lack of interest in local people, history and customs. You cannot entrust your keys, nor call for help in emergency, nor appeal for support to save a beautiful endangered building, to people who are semi-absent. We should require city planners and owners of large swaths of property to act for the benefit of this great city, by allowing average earners to become residents.
Penrose Halson
Marylebone, London

May’s OK

Sir: I was a little surprised by James Forsyth’s assertion in his article ‘Boris vs Theresa’ (3 August) that more than a few of Theresa May’s ‘juniors, past and present, complain that she micromanages… and that she is quicker to take credit than blame. This was certainly not my experience as one of her junior ministers at the Home Office. I always found her supportive and ready to give me the initiative to make decisions within my own brief. The Home Office team was run on collegiate lines and I am sure other colleagues would agree with me.
Lord Henley
Carlisle, Cumberland

An Allied effort

Sir: I take great exception with Andro Linklater’s review of my new book, Saving Italy (20 July). Almost a third of Mr Linklater’s review concerns his father’s distinguished service during the war, which I spent five pages describing, including quotes from Major Linklater’s 1947 book, and an article written by his son Magnus in 2006, both cited. His statement that I have characterised ‘Americans as the real saviours of Italy’s cultural heritage’ is simply wrong. Clearly he ignored whole chapters in my book in which I recount in detail the heroic deeds of Italians, who laboured endlessly to protect their country’s rich patrimony. But what would their efforts have produced without the presence of the Allied armies and the Monuments Men, who risked their lives in and near combat to protect cultural treasures located on what initially was enemy soil?

American and British citizens have much to be proud of about their nations’ joint roles in establishing the standard from the protection of western civilisation’s cultural treasures during the greatest conflict in history. No such effort has attended any world conflict since, much to the detriment of mankind.
Robert M. Edsel
Dallas, Texas

In defence of James

Sir: Toby Young is a coward (Status Anxiety, 27 July). My late husband, James Whitaker, died 18 months ago and cannot rebut his allegations. As all James’s fellow journalists know, he was an honourable man, who wouldn’t dream of making up a story. During one royal skiing trip to Klosters, James was even suspended by the Daily Mirror for refusing to follow up a Press Association report which he knew to be untrue. A day or two later, as others were retracting their stories, James was reinstated with a warm handshake from his editor.

Twenty years ago, Mr Young came to our home while writing a profile of James for a Sunday paper. His subsequent article referred to some of James’s more notable scoops. If those had lacked substance, Mr Young would hardly have found himself trailing James around TV studios for his story. However, Mr Young’s piece included numerous errors and James pointed them out to him. Two decades on, that obviously still rankles and now, after James’s death, he has decided to attack him.

Mr Young says his latest article was prompted by the birth of Prince George, which ‘reminded’ him about James. How convenient for him that a similar thought did not occur during the royal wedding. But then, of course, James would have been able to respond to such an attack.
Iwona Whitaker
London W4

Debts repaid

Sir: As a student more than 50 years ago, I too, like Patricia Oliver (Letters, 10 August), had my ‘tuition fees, plus pleasant accommodation and three good meals a day’, was ‘well looked after and there was nothing to pay’. Then, for the whole of my working life, I was taxed to provide the same benefits for succeeding generations of students. I did not of course resent that in the slightest, but I do feel that I have paid my debt. In the days before the Winter Fuel Allowance, fuel was not taxed; bus passes are given partly because pensioners are assumed to be poorer but partly, too, because they are assumed to be less able to walk far or to carry heavy shopping. And old people do not ‘give nothing’ unless they are so poor that they pay no tax — just like young people on the same income.
John Hart
Chelmsford, Essex

On the menus

Sir: Continuing the ‘Lost in Translation’ examples (Alexander Chancellor, 3 August; Letters, 10 August), may I quote two dishes from a menu in the centre of Medina Sidonia: ‘Roast Alf Partridge’ and ‘The Chef’s Dick’.
Elena Gee
Sir: My favourite bad translation was found on a menu in Madrid: ‘Lawyer Foam’ — which turned out to be avocado mousse.
Huw James

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