Magazine article The Spectator

Letters

Magazine article The Spectator

Letters

Article excerpt

Making enemies with Major

From Mr Stewart Steven

Sir: Mr Stephen Glover has used his column on several occasions to lament, with what he regards as nicely edged satirical intent, John Major's failure to reward me with a knighthood on my retirement from the editorship of the Evening Standard. I had actually expected an earldom and so you can imagine my disappointment.

The reason why Mr Major and I fell out is there for those who wish to find it in his admirable memoirs and I'm surprised that Mr Glover missed it (Media studies, 20 November).

'Our intention,' writes Mr Major on page 393, 'was better health-service provision overall, but the effect this had on institutions with famous names - and none more so than St Bartholomew's (Barts) Hospital in the City, which was threatened with closure - made an argument which in public-relations terms we could not win. We persevered but so did our opponents, and the issue was, I think, to be a factor in our dismal 1997 general election showing in London.'

It is fanciful in the extreme to imagine that a knighthood was ever on offer, but during the Evening Standard's highly successful 'Save Barts' campaign I was told twice, in fairly rough language by gobetweens, that if I did not desist the Prime Minister would not easily forgive me. I replied with equal vehemence and was transformed overnight from being the 'old friend' of Mr Glover's thesis to one of Mr Major's 'opponents'.

But Mr Glover should not weep for me and the lost bauble of his imagination. I was made an Honorary Perpetual Student of the Medical College of St Bartholomew's, which in these egalitarian days surely has rather more street cred.

Stewart Steven 29 Priory Avenue, London W4

Hard man Hendrik

From Sir Alberf Robinson

Sir: Andrew Kenny's article on apartheid ('How apartheid saved Africa', 27 November) verges on an act of revisionism that cannot remain unchallenged if it is intended to persuade your readers that apartheid had 'saved South Africa'. Unlike Kenny I knew Verwoerd as a lecturer at Stellenbosch University in 1933, as editor of the extreme nationalist newspaper Die Transvaler during the war (where he did his best to undermine South Africa's participation on the side of the Allies), as a nominated senator, as a minister and finally as prime minister. I was an active opponent both in and out of the South African parliament.

The National party led by Dr D.F. Malan had not decided on a programme to implement 'apartheid' after its victory in the 1948 election. A year or two afterwards Hendrik Verwoerd started the process of social engineering which ultimately led to his becoming prime minister. Kenny records that this process involved using brute force to drive millions of black people out of their homes into designated homelands, and using the police and security forces to suppress opposition. In addition, it successfully made English-speaking South Africans politically irrelevant by making the state apparatus including the public service, the armed forces, the judiciary and the National parliamentary party - the strict preserve of the nationalist Afrikaners.

As a result the English-speakers were driven into the arena of business. It was they who successfully managed an economy that had to contend with the government's strict exchange-control regulations and international sanctions; it was they who encouraged disadvantaged Afrikaners to enter business; and it was they who did a great deal to improve the wages and conditions of employment of blacks, insofar as the law permitted. It must be emphasised that it was the English-speaking South Africans, supported by a minority of Afrikaners, that protected the economy and kept the flames of liberty and freedom alive.

No apology is due to the Nationalists, only praise for those like Helen Suzman who steadfastly opposed the evil regime that governed South Africa for 40 years and for those English-speakers who were mainly responsible for creating the financial stability that the ANC inherited with the advent of majority rule. …

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