Sir: I don’t think it is true that I would be unhappy in any party, as Ross Clark suggests (‘The end of the party’ 14 September). I was very happy in the old Liberal party, which I joined as a 14-year-old and did not leave for almost 20 years. I then became a Eurorealist so could not join any major party. Having taken a leading role in the Bruges Group I then set up the Anti-Federalist League, which subsequently became Ukip. Between 1988 and 1997 I spent a huge amount of time writing pamphlets, fighting by-elections, fighting general and European elections, leading parties and campaigns — while all the time teaching and researching at LSE, my only salaried post. So again, I remained consistently in one camp. I don’t think the idea that I flit around constantly from one cause to the next bears the slightest resemblance to the truth. I have always supported the one cause for years if not decades, and I have changed only when the party I supported changed — when Liberals became Lib Dems, and Ukip became dominated by right-wing extremists.
Founding New Deal means my old pattern of hard work and commitment to principle remains. I now see social inequality and the EU as the two great challenges facing Britain. Your own recent article on the decline of the middle classes (24 August) proves my point. This new party is worth joining for anyone who wishes to protect our democracy. They need not fear being abused for lack of consistency — their conscience will be their defence.
Professor of International History, LSE
Sir: If we do kill off political parties, single-issue pressure groups will dominate the political landscape even more. These invariably demand more regulation and more public spending in relation to their pet projects. They don’t have to think about the fact that spending more on something means higher taxes or less money elsewhere. Parties, at least in government, do have to consider this, and they offer voters a structured choice. If parties disappeared, we would only end up having to re-invent them. The postwar surge in Conservative party membership was to do with people rebuilding their disrupted social lives after the war.
Food for thought
Sir: Jane Kelly’s article (‘Hard to swallow’, 7 September) reminded me of a visit to a hospital recently where I asked a patient what the food was like. Looking me in the eye, he lifted his miserable Yorkshire pudding and dropped it, with a clang, onto his plate. The meal was still frozen. Catering staff had left the ward, and nurses explained that they were not allowed to use the microwave.
Staff at the hospital concerned rate the food for patients there as ‘excellent’. They discourage visitors during meal times. In my experience, this level of care and concern (and honest self-evaluation) extended throughout the service provided. My late mother compared it to a Japanese prisoner of war camp.
Fat cats and bird-brains
Sir: How I agree with James Delingpole on the RSPB (14 September). Over the past seven years, it has absorbed £768 million in grants, donations and subscriptions with next to nothing to show for it as far as the birds of Britain are concerned. It has, however, built up a pension pot for senior executives of £152 million, which has a deficit of £47 million. For the sake of the birds, clip the wings of the RSPB and give the spare money to a better cause than the RSPB fat cat pension fund.
Sutton Bridge, Lincolnshire
The pony in front
Sir: Melissa Kite’s hilarious account of her local horse show (Real life, 14 September) struck a number of chords. Last weekend my granddaughter competed in a similar horse show, and entered the ‘Best Presented Pony’ event. The night before, my daughter plaited Saki’s mane using the same 750 rubber bands as Melissa, and did her best over several hours. In the ring the lady judge looked at Saki’s mane, smirked, and put her in last position.
Afterwards my daughter found herself next to the ‘primped, buffed and gleaming’ pony with the blue ribbon around its perfectly plaited neck.
‘How on earth did you manage that wonderful plaiting?’ asked my daughter.
‘Well, there’s only one way to go — I paid a professional to do it, didn’t take her long at all.’
Melissa, take note. I know my daughter silently thqueamed and thqueamed.
Cobbitty, New South Wales, Australia
No shortage of Nigels
Sir: Nigel Farndale asks us to imagine a dog called Nigel (‘Name of shame,’ 14 September). No need — a few minutes watching Gardeners’ World will introduce you to Monty Don’s golden retriever, Nigel. Two years ago he was an extra, next year he will probably be co-presenting.
Sir: Nigel Farndale may be cheered to know that Robert the Bruce’s younger brother was called Nigel. Had it been Nigel the Bruce that defeated King Edward II at Bannockburn, who knows what connotations the name would have now.
Sir: ‘The Celestial Commuter’, by Ritchie Calder, seems to be the tale that Professor Stephenson is trying to track down (Letters, 14 September). It appears in The Saturday Book 5, published 1945 by Hutchinson. The main character is run over by a No 13 bus.
Peter and Margaret Lord
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