Magazine article The Spectator


Magazine article The Spectator


Article excerpt

Selective quoting

Sir: In her diary (5 December) Melanie Phillips accused me of bigotry, quoting from a newspaper article about the Iraq inquiry in which I had pointed out that two of the five members of the panel, Sir Martin Gilbert and Sir Lawrence Freedman, are Jewish and that Gilbert at least has a record of active support for Zionism.

She did not mention that I went on to comment that these two men had outstanding reputations and records, but it was a pity that, if and when the inquiry was accused of a whitewash (and indeed it already has been) such handy ammunition would be available.

Membership, I wrote, should not only be balanced; it should be seen to be balanced.

Ms Phillips accuses me of the Prejudice That Can No Longer Be Named, but in a blog posted last week she named it as antiJewish racial prejudice, adding that 'it is a baleful comment on the state of the British public discourse that this man felt able to say this so openly'. I believe on the contrary that it is important to speak the truth, and not to be deterred by taboos and the prospect of abuse. Knowing that my comments would be criticised, I chose my words carefully. It is sad that some of those who disagree with me should so readily proclaim that I am motivated by anti-Semitism. I am not.

Oliver Miles (Former British ambassador to Libya) Oxford

Warming to his theme

Sir: Three cheers for The Spectator and its common sense regarding man-made global warming (5 December). In addition to the excellent points made in your supplement there were two others which I wish had been present:

1) If man-made-warming hysteria is based on figures taken largely from computer modelling, isn't it important to establish whether computer modelling is a dependable and accurate method for predicting future events? Everything I have learned about the subject suggests otherwise and that the use of computers in trying to estimate future climate change (which has been going on since time immemorial) is just as seriously affected by the GIGO rule - Garbage In, Garbage Out - as any other area of activity.

2) If we are to pay attention to those urging us to pay trillions of dollars and pounds 'just to be on the safe side', they must stop feeding misleadingly selective figures to the public. One example: we have been told repeatedly that global warming will result in thousands more deaths each summer - 'Just look at the figures in France a couple of years ago.' What the man-made-warming fundamentalists never add is that, even if such global warming did occur, the reduction in winter-time deaths thanks to the rise in temperatures would greatly outweigh any summer-time increase.

More power to your elbow.

Christopher Dunkley Middlesex

Sir: I was so glad to read Hugo Rifkind's article on climate change deniers (Shared opinion, 28 November), though I would advise him not to adopt any particular belief himself. For too long have I sat in pubs, restaurants and parties listening to arguments in which people throw facts and statistics at each other that they neither understand nor know the full details of. Jeremy Clarkson is just as guilty.

I doubt many people who read these pages have done full scientific research into the matter. I refuse to take a stance on the climate change argument as I am not a scientist.

Joshua Turnbull Loughborough University

The bridal bed

Sir: Among the errors perpetrated by Mrs Ahmed, the headmistress who is the subject of Andrew Gilligan's article on the dangers inherent in Muslim fundamentalist education ('Minister for Hizb ut Tahrir', 5 December), is the claim that Romeo and Juliet 'advocates premarital intercourse'. This common but ignorant error, which Mr Gilligan fails specifically to denounce, needs its hash settled. Romeo and Juliet advocates no such thing: before they have sex, the lovers have taken pains to meet Friar Lawrence at his cell, and have been properly and legally married. …

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