Australian letters

3 February 2018

9:00 AM

3 February 2018

9:00 AM

Onward Christian soldiers?

Sir: Hal Colebatch contemplates the revival of the religious military orders to protect Christianity from the attacks of militant Islam. I suggest that our lack of faith in the risen Christ is a far more dangerous threat to Christianity.

G.K. Chesterton told us “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult and left untried.”
Mark Porter
New Lambton, NSW

Creeping repression

Sir: John O’Sullivan is correct to argue that Europe’s centrist establishment often ‘does not really accept the right of its challengers to come to power. And when they do, it casts them as being illegitimate as extremists’ (‘A new Europe’, 27 January). We fear, however, that like a number of our fellow conservatives, Mr O’Sullivan’s enthusiasm to see elites get their come-uppance creates blind spots for creeping authoritarianism.

At the end of a second term by its Fidesz government, Hungary performs worse on all of the World Bank’s Worldwide Governance Indicators than it did a decade ago. In its Index of Economic Freedom, the Heritage Foundation finds a sharp decline in government integrity in Hungary and Poland over the past year and classes Hungary as ‘repressed’. From 2010 to 2015, Hungary also took a sharp plunge on Cato Institute’s Human Freedom Index, from 28th to 44th place worldwide. Fidesz promised to ‘sweep out’ the civil society organisations funded by George Soros. It followed up with legislation echoing the 2012 Russian law labelling foreign-funded NGOs as ‘foreign agents’ and a bill that leaves the Central European University — arguably the region’s most prestigious academic institution – in a legal limbo.

In Poland, judicial reforms go far beyond the stand-off over the Constitutional Tribunal, which Mr O’Sullivan describes as a ‘response to court-packing by the previous government’. The changes give the justice minister full discretion to appoint, dismiss and ‘discipline’ presidents of ordinary courts, and bring the National Council of the Judiciary (a self-governing body which makes judicial appointments) under full control of parliament.

The average age of judges in Poland is around 40, so bringing the judiciary under political control is no longer about taking levers of power out of ‘post-communist hands’. And neither is there anything remotely conservative or patriotic about it.
Jeffrey Gedmin and Dalibor Rohac
Washington DC

EU autocrats

Sir: Alex Massie claims: ‘We’re getting more than Brexit: we’re leaving the single market’ (‘Ukip’s victory’, 27 January). Yes, perhaps we are. But only because Brexiteers understand the caveats attached if we don’t, such as freedom of movement and the supremacy of the ECJ, which are incompatible with leaving the EU. This is where some EU flexibility is required but, so far, any attempt at a British handshake has been met with an EU clenched fist. Can I therefore suggest that Mr Massie direct some of his ire at the EU itself? As he states, it didn’t have to be like this. The referendum was never inevitable but a by-product of the EU’s autocratic nature (its quest for power trumps everything, including sensible economics).

The pre-Brexit renegotiation was an open invitation for the EU to reform but, with myopic arrogance, its leaders misguidedly offered us nothing, assuming Brexit would never happen. This attitude is matched by their belligerence since the referendum, where their side of the talks appears driven by their pique at our having the temerity to leave.

Mr Massie says the government should give attention and reassurance to the 48 per cent, and perhaps it should. But so should the EU. Remainers are its chief cheerleaders, but the EU has abandoned them. If we are headed for a no-deal Brexit — and maybe some Brexiteers do secretly want this — the EU has proved a willing and compliant partner in its creation.
Tom Wilson

Charity checks

Sir: Charles Moore accuses the Fundraising Regulator of high-handed tactics in its pursuit of charities and their sometimes questionable fundraising tactics (The Spectator’s Notes, 20 January). There are far too many registered charities in the UK: 168,000-odd as of last December. Although many no doubt do good work and have pure motives, others such as the Legatum Institute, have more political fish to fry. So more power to the elbow of the Fundraising Regulator, which provides one of the few checks on this tax-avoiding behemoth.
Leslie Buchanan
Barcelona, Spain

Better health

Sir: I feel very sorry for Elizabeth Roberts and her truly dreadful experience in an NHS hospital (‘Admission of failure’, 27 January). But I resent the implication that the use of a Zimmer frame places you among the raggle-taggle of the bewildered. We call the frames ‘walkers’ and I have four of them. Two for inside (one upstairs, one down), a three-wheeler for local visits, and a four-wheeler for longer walks.

I am 87 and was married for 50 years until my wife, Susan, died ten years ago. I am a member of a close-knit family, but rather than live with my children and restrict them, I live alone, and they visit me regularly. A housekeeper comes in daily. My mental faculties are reasonable — I read The Spectator weekly from cover to cover. I get out and about using local transport as I no longer drive (or play golf).

I have been in NHS hospitals several times for operations and other treatments, and on every occasion have received excellent care and attention. I wonder whose experience is the more typical?
Barry Hawkes,
Bourne End, Bucks

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