Spectator letters: What might have been for young Boris and Dave

Plus Farage's achievement, the reality of John Bell, and a teenager on dating

5 March 2016

9:00 AM

5 March 2016

9:00 AM

What might have been

Sir: Harry Mount points out that Boris Johnson is two years older than David Cameron (Diary, 27 February). Both, however, began their careers in the same year. On 15 June 1988 I interviewed David Cameron for a post in the Conservative Research Department; on 26 July it was Boris’s turn (‘Johnston’ in my diary). The former was signed up to cover trade and industry issues (memorably forgetting the trade figures when Mrs Thatcher asked him for them). Boris was invited to follow in the footsteps of father Stanley, who had been the department’s first environment expert in the Heath era. But journalism lured him away. Would they have forged a lifetime’s close and harmonious friendship if Boris had reached a different decision?
Alistair Lexden
Deputy Director, Conservative Research Department 1985-97
House of Lords, London SW1

Farage’s achievement

Sir: It is understandable why James Forsyth is comforted by the recent shift in the ‘out’ campaign’s ascendancy, from Nigel Farage to the political mainstream (‘The Tory dogfight’, 27 February). But I think he ought to express a little bit more gratitude for Nigel Farage’s contribution to the campaign so far. After all, it was Nigel and his ‘useful Tory idiots’ who singlehandedly forced Cameron into calling this referendum in the first place.
Benjamin Isaacson
London NW11

A better class of passport

Sir: Toby Young (Status anxiety, 27 February) wants his children to feel they have won the lottery of life by having a British passport. But isn’t the prize even better if they have a British passport that also gives them the unrestricted right to live, work, and study anywhere in the EU? If his children are anything like mine, they’d see that as an enormous bonus. But it’s one they might lose on Brexit.
George Peretz QC
Gray’s Inn, London

Decided by a knockout

Sir: Unlike Toby Young (Status anxiety, 27 February), I’m finding it very difficult to decide which side to support in the EU referendum debate. Both camps present equally convincing arguments, and I get the distinct impression that it’s six of one and half a dozen of the other. But I don’t want to simply toss a coin; that would be irrational. Instead, since the referendum takes place during the Euro 2016 soccer tournament, I’ve decided to base my decision on England’s performance. If they get through the group stages, I’ll vote to stay in; if they get knocked out, I’ll vote to leave.
Stan Labovitch
Windsor, Surrey

Pity the bed-blockers

Sir: James Delingpole (27 February) is right that in NHS hospitals, bed after bed is occupied by people with dementia who ‘simply don’t belong in wards designed to treat acute, short-term conditions’. Yet his disparaging remarks about people with dementia left a sour taste.

Just as James Delingpole didn’t conduct his journalistic research by choice — a pulmonary embolism is something one doesn’t plan — people with dementia do not choose to be stuck in hospital. They, too, would like to return to the comfort of their home. Yet with adult social care funding in crisis, good quality care and support in the community is in short supply. Mr Delingpole saw first-hand how dementia complicates care — people can be doubly incontinent, can become malnourished because they can’t feed themselves, and can find it impossible to communicate if they are in pain. Perhaps, since he has the good fortune to be able to elaborate on his experience in these pages, he could consider those who are unable to do so and don’t have anyone to speak up on their behalf.
George McNamara
Head of Policy and Public Affairs at Alzheimer’s Society, London E1

Only too real

Sir: It is with regret that I write to inform Charles Moore (Notes, 27 February) that John Bell is in fact a ‘real’ person and not the invention of a cunning satirist. He is indeed, as he claims to be, one of the ‘Iona Community’.

It is perhaps less well-known to Spectator readers that he is also the editor of the new Church of Scotland hymn book (CH4), which is notable for its reduction of age-old hymns to gender-neutral versions.
Neil Benzie

Offline dating

Sir: I am a 14-year-old girl living in London and I am worried that Mary Wakefield’s column (27 February) gives the false impression that teenagers are idiots, and that it may panic people who do not have a full understanding of the situation.

She describes modern-day teenage dating as taking place on social media. But of the few of my friends who have gone out with someone, not one has met their boyfriend or girlfriend through the internet. In every case they have met first in person, through friends or at a party, and their relationship takes place offline.

A lot of people think of my generation as antisocial, computer-addicted zombies, but the truth is very different. All the teenagers I know would rather spend time with friends. When we are together we put our phones away, unlike my parents’ generation, who find it hard to leave their phones untouched during a meal.

I have never seen inappropriate pictures on anyone’s social media, but teachers have been drilling us on internet safety since we were about ten. As for ‘likes’, in the general scheme of things we are aware that obsessing about them is slightly ridiculous.
Poppy Critchlow
London N19

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Show comments
  • davidshort10

    It’s only in theory that a British passport gives you the right to work anywhere in Europe. Try applying for a job in Italy…..

  • Grant Melville

    “It is perhaps less well-known to Spectator readers that he [John Bell] is also the editor of the new Church of Scotland hymn book (CH4), which is notable for its reduction of age-old hymns to gender-neutral versions.”

    The more I learn about Mr Bell and the ‘Iona Community’, the more I wish they were a satirical invention, rather than a grim reality.