Sir: I was struck by James Forsyth’s observation that in 10 Downing Street, ‘hard truths and hard choices are too often ignored… because the Prime Minister’s top team fear he will find them uncomfortable’ (‘The battle to save Boris’, 22 January).
During a working life spent in business, I came to realise that one of the most valuable skills you could master was how to tell someone things they would rather not hear while maintaining good relations with them. If the PM is intent on firing many of his staff, it would be prudent for whoever appoints their replacements to ensure that as many of them as possible possess that ability.
Shiskine, Isle of Arran
Our rival’s rival
Sir: George Osborne says he is less worried about a grand China/Russia axis because of their mutual suspicion (Diary, 29 January). Sadly for us, when our rival’s rival is also our rival, they need only some common ground against us to pose us serious economic and security headaches.
Change of pronoun
Sir: I am delighted to reassure Anthony Whitehead that the change of personal pronoun within my classified listing did not reflect an existential crisis (‘Classified information’, 29 January). Quite the opposite. The ad actually helped ‘Great Speech Writing’ grow fast enough for me to employ others to help write speeches and answer the phone alongside me.
The shift to the first-person plural did, however, cause concern in the shires. One kind gentleman called within minutes of receiving his copy of The Spectator and explained that he had no need for support with a speech, but wanted to know precisely why I had edited the listing.
(aka ‘Relax, I’ll write it for you’)
Long Crendon, Buckinghamshire
On yer bike
Sir: As an older disabled man on a train, I was distressed to be accosted on a recent journey to London by a young eco-Lycra lout ramming his muddy bike into me, while I was occupying a seat specifically reserved for passengers with disabilities. (‘Get out of my way’, 29 January). Despite my protestations, he insisted in a most entitled manner that he and his racing bike had priority over my cleanliness, safety and comfort.
I exited the train at Charing Cross to meet an author at the Farmers Club, musing that at least the mud on my best suit made me look an authentic man of the soil.
Dr Alan Bullion
Push for cash
Sir: In her piece ‘Old money’ (22 January) Laurie Graham laments the declining acceptability of hard cash by retailers. With her mention of cash for church collections, I hope I can fairly make the assumption that she is a Christian. It seems to me that the Church of England should speak in support of cash and encourage all Christians to use notes and coins where possible. The poorest in our society depend most on cash for budgeting; the most vulnerable have the least access to electronic banking systems. Standing up for cash would be a noble cause in the strongest Christian tradition.
Above the Lords
Sir: Shortly after expressing wistful envy about the manner of George VI’s death on 6 February 1952 (Notes, 29 January), Churchill received a sharp intimation of his own mortality. On 21 February he lost the power of coherent speech for a few minutes. Friends and colleagues thought he should be persuaded to see out his premiership in the Lords, where he could make the occasional great speech (‘In 1952 no one but Winston could be prime minister in the Lords,’ they said). Churchill scoffed: ‘I should have to be the Duke of Chartwell and Randolph would be the Marquis of Toodledo.’ Lord Salisbury, who had come up with the idea, backtracked: ‘I am afraid he regards us in the Lords as a rather disreputable collection of old gentlemen.’
House of Lords, London SW1
Sir: In his colourful tale of the BBC’s engagement with politics and the government (‘Corporation facts’, 22 January), Paul Wood says ‘but annoying the government of the day is what the BBC is supposed to do’. Who supposes that? The BBC? It’s not in the Royal Charter.
Little Goodstone, Bickington
What to do about cricket
Sir: I agree with J. Cherry’s verdict (Letters, 29 January) about the limited potential for the BBC to positively impact English cricket. Indeed, suggestions across the media amount to tinkering at the edges. We need radical action. I propose a complete separation of four-day from one-day cricket, with players contracted to their counties to play one form or the other. The short form would financially support the longer, including players’ contracts, so their decision on which they prefer to play is not solely based on financial benefit.
Four-day cricket should be played between June and early September, with two of the days at the weekend to boost attendance. The schedule would enable players to spend winters in the southern hemisphere, getting exposure to different conditions. It would also ensure they had the best preparation for overseas Test series, with the calendar allowing for tours of three to four months as used to be the case. We could also look at coaching methods and the pathway from youth to county cricket. Not much to do.
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