Magazine article The Spectator

Letters

Magazine article The Spectator

Letters

Article excerpt

Torture is wrong

From Guy Herbert

Sir: Alan Dershowitz's own views (Letters, 1 May) are scarier than those attributed to him by Paul Robinson. Professor Dershowitz appears to be saying that torture is wrong, but that the state should adopt, approve and regulate it in our name because it will happen anyway.

This is perilously close to a Nietzschean view that morality is only for slaves, and that godlike judges (and law professors?) may dispose of it as they see fit. Perhaps other abuses of state power by its servants could be brought under the same system, and judges could issue individual suspensions of civil rights, unfair trial certificates, gerry-mandering orders and bribe requisitions as the authorities deem necessary.

Guy Herbert

London NW1

The case for war

From Nigel Famdale

Sir: Frank Johnson, in his otherwise astute article on Iraq, argues that only the Left believes in going to war against horrible regimes that do not threaten British national interest (Shared opinion, 1 May). I would have thought that the instinct to overthrow brutal tyrants was a moral one which transcended party politics. Nevertheless, he also argues that the Right should only go to war 'when a horrible regime threatens Britain, as Saddam's, with his lack of weapons of mass destruction, did not'. Surely the point is that we did not know that it did not, though the intelligence suggested that it did, and after 9/11 the risk of waiting to find out if it did or did not suddenly seemed too great.

Nigel Famdale

London SW4

Prescott's elastic belt

From John Hayes MP

Sir: John Prescott, in his prickly response to Rod Liddle (Letters, 10 April), repeats the government's standard defence of its unpleasant neglect of England's landscape - we have protected Valuable green space. In fact we've added 25,000 hectares to the green belt,' he says.

Mr Prescott's belt appears to be elastic, however. According to the House of Commons library, the government is 'imprecise' and 'evasive' about how much inner green belt has been developed since 1997.

The green belt was always intended to be a tight belt of land to prevent urban sprawl. Yet analysis reveals that Mr Prescott's much vaunted additions are in a few limited areas - all in the north of England. In fact almost all the increases (22,630 hectares) can be attributed to Blyth Valley, Tynedale, Bolsover and Blackburn - areas that fairly describe themselves as remote and scenic, rather than suffering the threat of encroaching concrete.

The government will not say why the additions to the green belt are so far from the places where there is most pressure for development. Far from containing urban expansion, the green belt is being used by Labour in a futile attempt to stifle proper criticism of their failure to stop urban sprawl.

So perhaps it's time for John Prescott, not Rod Liddle, to belt up.

John Hayes MP

Shadow Minister for Housing, London SW1

My lambasted Latin

From Peter Knight

Sir: I was sorry to read of your contributor Harry Mount's apprehension that he might not remember sufficient Latin to satisfy the Oxford examiners (Letters, 24 April). This must surely reflect badly on his early tutors. In 1946, at the age of 11, I was beaten by my prep-school headmaster for failing to use the subjunctive after ut. I can say quite honestly that in the intervening years I have never made the same mistake, and that in 40 years as an insurance broker my diligent adherence to the subjunctive after ut has been the source of widespread admiration. In case any of your younger readers might consider my early chastisement an unduly severe sanction, I must confirm that my headmaster was the most civilised man, for whom everyone had the highest regard. He had a profound love of Ovid's elegiacs, many of which are still imprinted on my memory and not, I hasten to add, on my backside.

Peter Knight

Ansty Coombe, Wiltshire

From Professor Dennis Wood

Sir: I agree entirely with Harry Mount indeed, in my experience, one is far more likely to find good Latin being written on the Net than in most British Classics departments. …

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