Magazine article The Spectator


Magazine article The Spectator


Article excerpt

Trial by prejudice

From Mr Charles R. Anderson

Sir: Your magazine and Roger Rosewell must be congratulated for the in-depth expose `The real Shirley Porter scandal' (15 May). Indeed, the Dame Shirley Porter/Westminster Council scandal was not created by Lady Porter, but by her accusers and the district auditor himself.

As one who knows Lady Porter (though I doubt whether she'll remember me), I have always believed in her eventual vindication. She is someone who would never take serious action without first receiving reliable advice, as your article illustrates.

If anything, Roger Rosewell probably overstates the prejudice Lady Porter encountered in Westminster City Hall. While she was clearly hated by her Labour opponents, something we are paying for now, she was generally liked and deservedly respected by the vast majority of her colleagues and staff.

I shall never forget the revulsion I felt in January 1994 when Magill, the district auditor, publicly announced the `provisional findings' of his kangaroo court. My comments at the time were similar to those of Roger Rosewell. It was as if a high court judge had suspended proceedings in midstream to declare the accused guilty - akin to what we call in the Scottish Borders 'Jethart justice', which dates back to the dark days of the reivers when they hanged men and tried them afterwards.

It is more than a pity that the high cost of this squalid witch-hunt must be borne by the taxpayer, not by its instigators. How much has it cost, apart from a good young doctor's life, for which there can be no restitution? Contributions from the Labour party and the district auditor wouldn't go amiss either.

Messrs Blair, Dobson and Straw, and Sir Edward Heath for that matter, should be heartily ashamed of the attitudes they struck on hearing Magill's half-cocked verdict. Indeed, is shame an emotion any one of them is capable of?

The greatest pity of all in this sad affair is the fact that the district auditor, despite everything, retains his job.

Charles R. Anderson Locharmoss, Bankend, Dumfries

Munich mythology From Mr Richard Lamb

Sir: As I began the correspondence about the merits and demerits of Munich in October, please allow me to reply to the wild assertions of Michael McAllen (Letters, 15 May). He is far astray in claiming that if the Battle of France had been delayed until 1941 we would have had air superiority, and the disaster might have been avoided. From 1941 the German army and air force were being strengthened faster than the British or French. Indeed, not until Hitler attacked Russia in 1941 did British arms production accelerate. The evidence produced by Winston Churchill in his memoirs (amplified in my book The Drift to War) shows that Germany, by acquiring the Czech Skoda arms factory and having their economy on a war footing, progressively outstripped the Allies in weapons production.

McAllen thinks Chamberlain was right to `play for time'. On 25 January 1939 Chamberlain told the Cabinet: `It is undesirable we should enter into a precise and definite obligation to intervene if Holland were attacked by Germany', and on that day the Cabinet agreed there was `little scope for acceleration of the Defence programme'. On 14 March 1939, the day before Hitler seized the rump of Czechoslovakia, Samuel Hoare, a Cabinet minister, glorified Munich as a prelude to a golden age of peace and prosperity. This was the typical Munich attitude. They were not `playing for time'; it was an unrealistic, cowardly denial of the obvious truth that war was inevitable unless we continually capitulated to Hitler.

Again Hitler, regardless of what he may have said in 1945, can never genuinely have believed he missed a `superb chance' at Munich; he knew too well that the Russians would have fought against him in 1938; his generals were lukewarm about war, and, while his divisions were engaged in the East General Gamelin could have advanced through the largely unbuilt Siegfried Line and threatened the Ruhr. …

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