Magazine article The Spectator

Letters

Magazine article The Spectator

Letters

Article excerpt

Trimming the ermine

Sir: I am a new boy in the House of Lords compared with Viscount Astor -- though I did hear Manny Shinwell speak -- but he is right that it is bursting at the seams, and something needs to be done about it ('Peer review', 22 August). I detect signs of a consensus that the right number of peers is about 450. It is 782 at the moment.

In the 16 divisions since the election,

the largest number of peers voting was 459. The Lords values its crossbenchers and if their number were set at one fifth of the total, that would yield 90 on this figuring. The remaining 360 could then be proportioned out according to strength in the Commons, with each political grouping being given the freedom to decide how it got from here to there.

If the government took the lead, it could, after proper consultations, have a White Paper next year with legislation towards the end of the parliament, to be enacted immediately after the next general election, when the Commons is scheduled to come down to 600. Simple? No. But worth thinking about.

John Horam

House of Lords, London SW1

Commons people

Sir: Roger Scruton's views and the duty of MPs to resist online pressure ('Flashmob rule', 15 August) were interesting -- but might I suggest their validity is quite firmly based on the concept of broad-minded, well-grounded MPs with plenty of life experience? In the increasingly obvious absence of these qualities in each succeeding intake, how are we to trust the MPs' judgment?

Tim Duckworth

Kendal, Cumbria

Starkey contrast

Sir: Tony Sewell is absolutely right that black Caribbean boys are being held back in school by a fear of betraying their background ('Don't act white, act immigrant', 22 August). This is exactly what David Starkey -- widely condemned at the time as a racist -- was trying to say after the 2011 London riots, when he cited the use of 'Jamaican patois' rather than standard English as a contributory factor in alienating black youth from mainstream society. He contrasted this with success achieved by the 'white-sounding' Tottenham MP and London mayoral contender, David Lammy. Perhaps now that a respected black academic like Dr Sewell has brought this problem to our attention, people will start to take his comments more seriously.

Stan Labovitch

Windsor

A double-edged valediction

Sir: Tom Fletcher's valedictory blog as ambassador to Lebanon (Matthew Parris, 22 August) is actually a distinctly double-edged compliment to the Lebanese. Being more honest than respectful, it tells them they are marginal to British diplomacy, so the risk of offending them can be safely run. Try to imagine our man in Riyadh saying something similar about the Saudis, or any other country that is really important to us, to see that this kind of public diplomacy has rather limited application. …

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