Magazine article The Spectator

Letters

Magazine article The Spectator

Letters

Article excerpt

Seats, not votes Sir: Bruce Anderson is right (`The one thing wrong with Essex Man', 29 March): Margaret Thatcher's popularity is a remarkable myth, a triumph of illusion over reality: from 1979 onwards the Tories' share of votes cast consistently dropped, first in 1983 and again in 1987.

But it seems extraordinary for Mr Anderson to have written an analysis of the Thatcher years without once mentioning the SDP. Margaret Thatcher was kept in power not so much because the opposition was unelectable, as Mr Anderson claims, but because it was split, and because defecting Tories, who disliked both her and her policies, moved optimistically to the SDP when it seemed to have a chance of breaking the infamous mould.

This is the record of opposition to her, adding together the Labour, SDP/Liberal and Alliance votes: in 1979, 15,824,000; in 1983, 16,237,000; in 1987, 17,371,000.

The Tory vote in 1987 was 13,736,000. But because the 17,371,000 opposing votes were split up, the Tories won 375 parliamentary seats against the Labour/Liberal/SDP total of 251. And it was on the basis of seats rather than votes that the Thatcher myth was promulgated, and has been sustained.

You don't need to be a zealot for electoral reform to spot that claims for the overwhelming popularity of Thatcherite policies are more than a mite wonky. Winston Fletcher Chapman's Farm, Dunden Green, Oxfordshire Film noir Sir: I write to congratulate Frederick Forsyth on his brilliant article, `Impatient with The English Patient' (29 March). I agree with every word. Persuaded by all the hype that this was one film which we simply must see, my wife and I duly went along. After only 20 minutes I wanted to leave but my wife persuaded me to stay on. It was a mistake. The rest of the film was even worse than the first 20 minutes.

The plot was almost unintelligible and so ridiculous that it was completely unbelievable. Moreover at times the photography was so dark that it was almost impossible to see what was happening. In my lifetime I have of course seen hundreds and hundreds of films. I can honestly say that I have never seen a worse one.

Hilary Eccles-Williams 36 St Bernard's Road, Solihull

Sir: While less knowledgeable than Frederick Forsyth about the authenticity of its military procedures and hardware, I too found the Oscar-laden film The English Patient absurdly overpraised. The best thing about it is the gorgeous photography. But the story is a diffuse collection of anecdotes linked by tricksy and confusing flashbacks, and easily an hour too long. None of the cast performs more than competently. The would-be passionate affair remains distinctly bland and tepid until near the end, when one of the lovers has died of starvation. Aside from a vaguely Hemingwayesque love-and-war-and-the-whole-damn-thing thrust, the point of it all is unclear.

It is not a bad film. It has dignity and a dreamlike air, and somewhere within it can be sensed a meaning lost under artiness and gloss. It probably swept the board because the British film industry didn't produce anything better. MG. Sherlock 47 Probyn House, Page Street, London Sw Not newsworthY? Sir: If Stephen Glover really thinks that the Guardian's coverage of evidence given to Sir Gordon Downey `contained little that was new' (Media studies, 29 March) he really ought to ask himself whether he is cut out for the job of media commentator.

The 'hysterical' coverage (actually rather dense transcripts of a series of questions and answers) revealed for the first time a number of Conservative MPs confessing in private to a wide range of dishonesties. What had previously been allegations were now admissions. That, by anyone's standards except Mr Glover's, was news. Certainly, the former editor of The Spectator Dominic Lawson, thought such material important enough to devote more than a page of the Sunday Telegraph to this week.

Mr Glover gives two examples of unremarkable new material. …

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