Magazine article The Spectator


Magazine article The Spectator


Article excerpt

Arab 'failure'

From John Hatt

Sir: In his otherwise excellent article about Israel, Max Hastings makes a surprising comment, claiming that the entire Arab world must be classed as a 'failed society' ('There is still hope in the Holy Land', 26 June). Perhaps, like so many commentators, he considers democracy to be the ultimate test of a successful society. But although democracy is surely the 'least bad' method of government, it should not be the only test of civilisation. Nor should the mere accumulation of wealth.

Of course Arab society has its flaws, including a lack of democratic institutions. But there are several aspects of our society which are more flawed than theirs. Let Max Hastings visit three medium-rise housing estates in our largest cities; and after he has experienced their urine-soaked lifts, vandalism, alcoholism, fatherless children, crack dens and muggings, then let him visit three equivalent estates in, say, Syria. I can safely predict which he would think is the society that has failed more.

John Hatt

Sedbergh, Lancashire

Europe über alles

From Andrew Mitchell

Sir: Daniel Hannan, writing about the European Constitution ('The way ahead for Europe', 26 June), states that he cannot remember anyone saying that EC law would have primacy when the UK gained EC membership in 1973 and that this primacy has never been contained in a treaty. He is wrong on both counts. The loss of sovereignty was a significant issue at the time indeed, it prompted a high-profile legal case brought by the constitutional campaigner, Raymond Blackburn, against the Attorney-General - and statements as to the primacy of EC law were included in section two of the European Communities Act 1972 and the then Article 5 (now 10) of the EC Treaty. Since then the House of Lords has explicitly recognised the impact of EC law on UK sovereignty by accepting, for example, that EC law prevailed over the Merchant Shipping Act during the Factortame litigation of the early Nineties.

Therefore whatever the Court of Appeal might subsequently have said in the case of Steve Thoburn, the 'Metric Martyr', is of little consequence in terms of precedent. In this aspect of legal primacy, then, it is fair to say that the European constitution is a 'tidying-up exercise'.

Andrew Mitchell

London NW9

From The Lord Deramore

Sir: Ever since 1972 there have been a large number of Conservatives opposed to Britain's memberships of the EEC/EC/EU. Thirty-two years' experience of loss of sovereignty and EU intrusion into every aspect of our lives has increased that number greatly. When Michael Howard expressed his determination to stay in the heart of Europe and threatened to deselect any Tory MEP candidate who did not join the integrationist EEP/ED group in the European parliament, thousands of loyal Conservatives decided to vote for country and not party.

Of course it was a protest vote and they never intended to vote for Ukip at a general election. But Michael Howard would be naive to think that the million former Conservative voters who 'defected' to the Referendum and Ukip in 1997 will be attracted back into the fold. They will not contribute to a Conservative victory in the general election.


Pickering, North Yorkshire

Animal rights ignored

From Edward Collier

Sir: Peter Oborne (Politics, 26 June) reckons that 'the Bill [banning hunting] raises massive human rights issues concerning compensation'. As my son might say, with rising inflection, 'Hello?' What infringement of human rights requiring compensation can possibly arise from banning hunting? The loss of jobs? Tell that to the mineworkers under Thatcher, and the small shopkeepers going to the wall right now as a direct result of government legislation. The right to dress up and ride to hounds in pursuit of quarry? Hardly-just substitute it with drag hunting.

Edward Collier

Cheltenham, Gloucestershire

From Jessica Pownall

Sir: Peter Oborne's article is a good example of the pro-hunting minority deflecting attention from the central issue by exaggerating peripheral matters. …

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