Magazine article The Spectator


Magazine article The Spectator


Article excerpt

Laura and the BBC

From Baroness James of Holland Park

Sir: I would be grateful if I might correct an inaccuracy in Mr Boris Johnson's interview with me (`The problem of pain', 19 August), which may have arisen through an indistinct tape or through a moment's aberration on my part.

It is not true that I don't watch Newsnight; I do, in fact, watch it almost every night, although I could wish that it went out earlier. This authoritative and indepth discussion of the news is exactly what the BBC should be doing and my hope is that the programme will continue to be adequately funded and not moved to a later hour.

There was an example last week of the bias to which I object when the A-level results were reported on BBC News. Miss Laura Spence's success was announced and there was a short statement from her headmaster. The impression, clearly given, was that Mr Gordon Brown had been entirely justified in describing Miss Spence's rejection by Magdalen College as a scandal. Either the news editor was ignorant of the truth of this case (which would be surprising since the facts have been publicly aired often enough) or he couldn't resist the temptation of firing a salvo in the class war, indulging a prejudice against Oxbridge or making a political point. Whatever the reason, this is not the standard of news reporting which we have a right to expect from the BBC.

P.D. James London W11

Safety under the jacarandas

From Mr Andrew McGregor Sir: I live in a Johannesburg suburb called Saxonwold which borders Houghton, the suburb referred to by Simon Freeman in his article (`Guns, dogs, Aids - and house bargains', 19 August). Since purchasing my half-acre property just before the 1994 elections, the value of it has more than doubled, according to more than one persistent local estate agent who, admittedly, is short of stock.

After work I run with my five-year-old son Matthew (on his bicycle) through the quiet, jacaranda-lined streets of Saxonwold and the neighbouring suburb of Parkwood. At the weekend I walk with Matthew and his two-and-a-half-year-old sister, Sabine, to the nearby Johannesburg zoo or the zoo's lake park, which is populated by picnicking families usually engaged in enthusiastic games of football or cricket. Alternatively, I indulge in long walks with my mother along the Houghton and Westcliffe Ridges with their majestic views of northern Johannesburg, which are particularly spectacular in spring when the jacarandas are in bloom.

My place of work is a fully let building next to the Johannesburg Stock Exchange, where the biggest point of contention is the exorbitant price of parking bays.

After relocating from Cape Town to Johannesburg 14 years ago, I do not own a gun, a dog or an electric fence.

Andrew McGregor Saxonwold, Gauteng, South Africa

Union blues

From Mr Andrew Neil

Sir: I was sorry to read that Andrew Marr (Letters, 19 August) felt it necessary to descend to unnecessary personal abuse rather than sticking to the issues. It is unbecoming of the political editor of the BBC, and it is foolhardy for someone who looks like him. But I shall resist the temptation to retaliate in kind.

I note his support for the continued unity of the United Kingdom - though, having read both his books predicting (even relishing) its break-up, I fear that with friends like him the Union may well be in greater danger than I thought. But I still believe he will be proved as wrong about that as he is about my telephone screening system.

Andrew Neil Grasse, France

From Mr David A. Dickson

Sir: In his diary (12 August) Andrew Neil claims that the rise in circulation of the Scotsman is due to it no longer being `the mouthpiece of the Scottish blethering classes'. No doubt he is correct and has chosen not to mention the price-cut to 20p because of its irrelevance.

David A. Dickson

So hard on our heroes

From Mr Andrew Telford

Sir: Poor George Mallory! …

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