Sir: James Forsyth’s otherwise excellent piece on Brexit talks (‘Britain’s winning hand’, 26 November) suffers from the flaw of most British analyses of the EU: the presumption that the EU is a rational actor. If that were so, Greece would not be in the euro, Europe’s borders would not be guarded by Turkey, and David Cameron would have returned from his talks with a deal enabling the EU to keep one of the world’s most successful countries in the union. The recent EU history of perversity and intransigence suggests that whatever aces Theresa May holds, she should prepare to walk away from the table as empty-handed as her predecessor. Fortunately for Mrs May, a successful Brexit does not depend on the EU, which will only grow weaker with time, but on productive relations with the rest of the world.
Unlucky for some
Sir: While failing to get to sleep last night I worked out that Donald Trump will be the 13th president and Theresa May the 13th prime minister of the Queen’s reign (counting Wilson once). Triskaidekaphobics should be worried. Perhaps we all should?
Lock ’em up
Sir: Rod Liddle’s article on the ‘cushiness’ of prisons (‘Prisons should be nicer places? Nonsense’, 26 November) brings to mind one of those email jokes of a few years ago. In it, the author recommends that care-dependent pensioners be sent to prison, where they would receive the attention and care that befits their proper dignified status. This would provide 24-hour supervision, security, top diets, good facilities and, of course, the very best medical attention. (It also recommends that prisoners be transferred in turn to the ‘care’ of our official retirement retreats.) Is there a better win-win situation around?
Sir: Sitting in yet another recently devised traffic jam care of TfL, I looked at the empty bicycle lanes beside us and wished ‘No Khan do’ (26 November) could have been written before the mayoral election. Sadiq Khan may be today’s Blair, but knowing that he is ‘quietly cancelling a scheme to reallocate road space to cycling’, his majority would have been larger by two.
Sir: If Andrew Gilligan thinks cycle lanes reduce air pollution (‘No Khan do’, 26 November) he should get out more. Most often the cycle lanes are empty while alongside, in their reduced lanes, cars and vans spew out their fumes in the now stationary traffic.
BBC drama is going strong
Sir: Neil Armstrong’s article (‘Is it curtains for BBC drama?’, 26 November) does a disservice to all the talent working for BBC Drama. The BBC is home to an unrivalled range of world-class drama, and attracts the very best creative talent from across the globe. We trust talent and put creativity first. The licence fee gives us the creative freedom to support new and established talent to take risks, and there is no way great writers would work with us if we didn’t back authorship.
We are not ‘interfering’ or ‘safe’; writers know that we offer unflinching support and commission the broadest range of drama in the world. We also nurture new talent, support a thriving creative drama industry, and make 450 hours of drama each year — from The Night Manager to The Missing, Peaky Blinders and Sherlock.
Finally, I would like to set the record straight. We absolutely do retain ‘editorial clout’ on our co-productions. In fact, we are now partnering with more US producers than ever because we have focused on making ambitious shows with partners who share our editorial values. Creative talent continues to find with us a home for ideas they can’t find the freedom to develop elsewhere, and we make drama that might not otherwise get made.
Controller, BBC Drama Commissioning
Badge of pride
Sir: The foundation of Vermin Clubs became a very popular Tory pastime in 1949 (‘The Spectator’s Notes’, 19 November). Many constituencies had them. The badges — sold for party funds — adorned lapels at the party conference that year. (One of them, which ended up in Ulster, is in my collection of memorabilia.) Churchill, who hated Bevan, did not share the general enthusiasm; he pressed for action against his old adversary in the courts. But nothing could dampen the ardour of the party’s shock troops: the Young Conservatives. They shouted Attlee down with cries of ‘Vermin’ at a meeting in Leicester at the 1950 election.
House of Lords, London SW1
Sir: Oh dear! If Dear Mary’s potential Guards officer (26 November) still does not know that an ‘Old Guards’ tie should be a ‘Brigade tie’, his future — sadly — remains in doubt.
Sir: If Simon Cockshutt’s surname (Letters, 26 November) were to be pronounced as in Cockburn’s port, then it sounds quite grand and suitable for use in even the most polite society, at least until he is asked to spell it.
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