Magazine article The Spectator


Magazine article The Spectator


Article excerpt

Hague's flaw

From Mr Tom Benyon

Sir: The rumours that the Tories are dissatisfied with the performance of lain Duncan Smith (`It's crunch time for the Tories', 5 October) are inevitable, and could have been forecast the moment he was elected. Although Duncan Smith is a decent, hardworking and honourable man, anyone can tell at once that he has negative charisma.

That the Tories have the wrong man for the job is in a way the fault of William Hague. He allowed party members and not just MPs to choose the leader and thereby made it far more likely that the party will be consigned to history, for party members will always elect the people who reflect their parochial prejudices, whom they deem 'safe'. The Conservative party is unlikely ever again to be led by someone with the necessary genius to raise it from the dead, for these people are always dangerous and high-risk.

If party members had been allowed to vote in 1940, Halifax would have been war leader and not Churchill. In 1975, Heath would have been re-elected (or Edward du Cann), not Margaret Thatcher, and so it will go on. That is why Portillo and Clarke failed to be elected and would fail again if they stood again. Both were deemed unsafe, yet both would challenge Blair far more effectively than the present incumbent.

Tom Benyon

Adstock, Buckinghamshire

War costs

From Mr Alexander Sinclair

Sir: Mark Steyn (`Put up or shut up', 5 October) writes with characteristic wit and verve; but he glosses over certain fundamental points.

Mr Steyn states, `War for the United States now comes with no human cost'; but what he means, of course, is that `war now comes with no human cost for the United States'. There is no difference between these assertions if value is placed merely on the lives of citizens of the United States; but I doubt that the entirety of the `anti-war crowd' to whom he refers care to make that particular presumption.

Mr Steyn is unamused by certain comparisons between Mr George W. Bush, President of the United States, and the President of Iraq, Mr Saddam Hussein; but what is certain is that the people of Iraq lie under considerably more threat from their United States counterparts than vice versa.

Many 'Europeans' whom I know agree with Mr Steyn about the desirability of removing unpleasant foreign governments, or removing hostile foreign governments, or the accessibility of oil at certain prices; but they retain an interest in other matters: for instance, the political stability of the Middle East, or the intrinsic value of international law, or the lives of people who are not citizens of the United States.

Alexander Sinclair

Wake up, Emma

From Mr Herb Greer

Sir: Emma Williams (`Why Sharon wants war', 5 October) is solemn but blithe from Jerusalem. She is especially blithe about the Palestinians, who are to have a state, she says, `beginning with internal reform'.

Hello-o! I have been listening to that `internal reform' mantra for a few years now - while Yasser has become weaker, more corrupt, more ruthless and more violent (going in for lynching, torture, and other sweeteners to keep in line the few remaining Palestinians who look up to him). And will this `internal reform' include Islamic Jihad, Hamas, and the other fatbelt groups who have the support of most Palestinians - and are as determined as ever to destroy the Israeli state and, as they put it, finish the job that Hitler started?

Those anguished but 'reasonable' Israelis she quotes are not unlike the 1930s Jews who supposed that if they were wellbehaved, the Nazis would be 'reasonable' and co-exist with them. I mean, wake up and smell the blood, Emma.

Herb Greer

Salisbury, Wiltshire

From Mr David Stempel Ward

Sir: Could it possibly be that Emma Williams is the first journalist to take a politician's words at face value? Given the media's inability to take seriously anything uttered by our own government ministers, it seems bizarre indeed that she should read a few passages of text quoted by a foreign prime minister in a foreign newspaper and accept them as the truth. …

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