Magazine article The Spectator

Letters

Magazine article The Spectator

Letters

Article excerpt

Entrapped by Europe

From Christopher Booker

Sir: Niall Ferguson ('Britain first', 25 September) stands history on its head in claiming that 'it was precisely the unreliability of the United States' as both an ally and an export market which 'convinced Britain's political elite' that they must 'abandon the Churchillian dream of a bilateral Atlantic partnership' by joining the EEC. On the contrary (as Richard North and I show in our book The Great Deception), Harold Macmillan's greatest concern in 1961 was that if Britain threw in her lot with 'Europe', this might imperil the 'special relationship' with America. What finally convinced Macmillan was Kennedy's assurance in April 1961 that British EEC membership could only strengthen the Anglo-US relationship.

There is no evidence whatever in the documents of the time that fear of US 'unreliability' was a factor in the decision. Ironically, Britain's largest export market at the time was not the US but the Commonwealth (43 per cent), much of which she would lose in consequence of joining the EEC. As for our unique defence and intelligence alliance with the US, this is only now, 40 years later, being seriously threatened by our growing absorption into the EU's common defence policy. The real reason why 'Britain's political elite' chose 'Europe' in the 1960s was their belief, when the UK economy was faltering, that they were joining the world's most dynamic economic bloc. The irony of that is now self-evident.

Christopher Booker

Litton, Somerset

What 'power struggle'?

From Professor Paul Huxley, RA

Sir: At the end of his article on the Royal Academy (Arts, 25 September), William Packer attempts to add validity to his views by counting me and the president, Phillip King, among his friends and claiming an affection for the institution. This seems hardly credible after reading an article which is so riddled with misinformation and false accusation that the effect is both personally insulting to me and others and severely damaging to the Royal Academy.

Mr Packer claims that the unauthorised bank account, which was the cause of the keeper's resignation, was not a secret but openly set up and used. This is not true; it was secretly set up and, several years ago, discovered. The keeper was immediately told to close it. He chose to ignore this instruction and continued to operate it in secret. It does not feature in our annual accounts. What Mr Packer is saying by extension is that the president, the secretary, the director of finance and I, as treasurer, must all have been signing off audited accounts that we knew to be incorrect. Why on earth would he imagine we would do this? Such a suggestion is totally ungrounded and an outrageous slur.

The main thrust of the article, however, is about a 'power struggle'. Our secretary, Lawton Fitt, and the chairman of the trustees of the RA Trust, Simon Robertson, are accused of wishing to wrest power from the Academicians. Here lies Mr Packer's most erroneous and destructive falsehood. Through the necessities of my position I have had to work closely with these individuals and have come to know them well. They have brought nothing but the most valuable contribution to the Academy. Of course they each have views as to how we should improve our constitution and I am pleased to say that the president is placing those under consideration, but they certainly have no aspirations to take control away from the Academicians. Ms Fitt and Mr Robertson have suffered untold abuse from a few rogue individuals within the Academy, aided and abetted by the common press, which Mr Packer has now extended.

It is sad that a specialist art critic and a previous supporter should be so lazy in his research and so misguided in his conclusions.

Paul Huxley

Treasurer, Royal Academy of Arts, London SW1

Pugwash hogwash

From Rian Malan

Sir: Last Christmas you were kind enough to carry an article in which I opined that reports of a massive Aids pandemic in Africa appeared to be exaggerated. …

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