SIR – You report (November 26) that President Emmanuel Macron urged our Prime Minister "to refrain from exploiting a tragic situation for political ends". I believe the term used for this in psychology is projection .
SIR – If Boris Johnson sells out our fishermen in exchange for new border arrangements in France, with a view to stopping the illegal immigrants, then I believe he – along with the Conservatives – will be finished.
SIR – It is unfathomable that the British and French security services do not know exactly who the smugglers are. How have they failed to shut down the trade in conspicuous equipment such as 40-seater inflatables?
Both governments seem complicit in the smuggling trade. Twenty seven people are dead. The whole situation is grotesque.
SIR – Will the Prime Minister now cease calling the French "our friends". They are clearly not.
SIR – Presumably the French would not tolerate their own type of behaviour if a neighbouring country, such as Italy, acted in the way they (the French) do towards Britain.
SIR – If inflatables were not sold in France, there would be very few illegal crossings.
SIR – Since the Schengen agreement allows the free movement of migrants between the countries of the EU, surely it should have some pan-EU migrant board to deal with them.
Allowing migrants to get to the Channel unhindered simply dumps the problem on to the French, who, in turn, seek to pass it on to Britain. It seems that the countries of the EU are not actually so close in ideals as they would have us believe.
New Covid variants
SIR – Surprise, surprise – in the run-up to Christmas a new variant of coronavirus has appeared, just like last year. It may obviously be way more dangerous than previous variants and the current vaccines may not work against it.
So, with a heavy heart, the Prime Minister will implement Plan B, with a full Christmas lockdown to protect us all until a new vaccine can be created. And so it goes on… ad infinitum.
SIR – It may be that the world is a little tired of trying to help Africa. The continent is roughly 2 per cent vaccinated, though here in Botswana we are doing somewhat better. However, a global effort to help vaccinate less fortunate nations is an absolute necessity to cope with Covid.
Whether this new variant evades current vaccines is not yet determined but if the microbe is left to its own devices to spread and evolve at leisure in Africa then we cannot ignore the possibility that it may well mutate into an even more terrible threat to the whole world.
SIR – Just as we had appeared to be breaking the back of Covid a new, potentially more deadly, variant has been identified in Africa. It may be too late and this variant may be on the march.
This incident once again highlights the urgent requirement for national and global pathogen early-warning systems.
An early warning system for Britain would pick up this variant entering the country and allow isolation, to prevent spread. A global system might have identified some weeks ago the so-called African variant and isolated it in its country, while Britain and other countries put up the shutters to prevent ingress.
The technology to make this system work is being developed in Britain and the Prime Minister should not wait until the middle of next year to work out how to prevent pandemics dominating the globe for the foreseeable future.
To use a bomb disposal expression, we need to get to the left of the bang.
Hamish de Bretton-Gordon
SIR – At the risk of sounding as though I am betraying my sisters, why on Earth would anyone want to take a small baby into the House of Commons chamber ( report, November 24 )?
We all know how endearing babies can be (especially our own, on a good day) but they also snuffle, gurgle, cry and far worse.
Why would you want to inflict this on other Members of Parliament, who currently have quite enough distractions of their own?
Why M & S should preserve its Art Deco flagship
SIR – I was surprised to read that Marks & Spencer has permission from Westminster City Council to demolish its fine Art Deco Marble Arch store ( report, November 26 ).
Why are we allowing our cities to become so ugly? Soon they will all look the same.
Any long shot of London now fills one with dismay. Images of our long-loved and admired buildings are now dominated by hideous monstrosities.
Have our architects simply lost or abandoned their sensibilities? They design nothing of value, nothing of beauty and nothing that will last. Is there a global conspiracy to make us all feel depressed? If so, it's working.
SIR – On the many television antique shows Art Deco objects are greeted with reverence and appreciated for their part in artistic dialogue, yet a building like this can be flattened.
The store was built in an era when big changes were sweeping through our social culture and, as such, it should be left in Oxford Street as part of our retail heritage.
SIR – May I offer some context to the controversy over The Falklands Play by Ian Curteis ( Obituaries, November 26 ).
I was the controller of BBC One at the time and read the script in early draft. I judged it nowhere near good enough yet to justify investing a lot of licence-payers' money. I had no problem with Curteis's pro-Thatcher point of view at all, but it needed a lot of rewriting, not least the dialogue.
For example, I recall General Galtieri being required to gaze out of the Casa Rosada window exclaiming that Margaret Thatcher "embodied the spirit of Elizabeth the First and Winston Churchill". Another example had Willie Whitelaw saying: "Argentina, isn't that where the nuts come from?" Really?
In the somewhat highly charged political atmosphere of the time, Ian mistook every script suggestion as an attempt to get him to change his point of view. I asked him to clarify his view of the sinking of the Belgrano, as this wasn't clear in his script. He publicly described my call as an attempt to get him to condemn the sinking.
There was an important play in there somewhere, which the normal process of script editing and development could have delivered. Tumbledown, the film by Charles Wood (starring a very young Colin Firth), to which I gave the green light at the same time, was about how disgracefully Commander John Lawrence, who had the top of his head blown off in the conflict, was treated by the Army establishment on his return. It was not anti-Falklands, anti-Thatcher or political in any narrow sense.
Ian Curteis was an iconic television dramatist to whom we owe the "historical docu-drama" genre. I greatly regret his politicisation of the normal editorial process that made it impossible to develop his script into a work to match his previous ground-breaking efforts.
Lord Grade of Yarmouth
GPs out of reach
SIR – After a bout of viral pneumonia, I had what I thought could be a fungal infection. I bought a cream, but my symptoms were atypical so I followed the advice to seek medical attention.
An attempt to get a GP appointment resulted in a most embarrassing discussion with a receptionist ( Letters, November 25 ), followed by a text. This did not contain the expected appointment details, but informed me that a prescription had been sent to a pharmacist – for the product I had bought in the first place.
I wasn't aware that the introduction of remote consultations removed the requirement for a clinician, at the very least, to speak to a patient. I'm surprised that I can get a prescription after a chat with a receptionist.
SIR – You report (November 26 ) that face-to-face GP appointments are increasing. My wife was given one at Guy's hospital for last Thursday. The letter said: "Face-to-face appointment: do not come to the hospital, you will be phoned by our consultant."
I wonder how many of these are counted in the statistics.
Art of television
SIR – Mark Bell, the BBC's arts commissioning editor, says that the BBC must make "TV that people want to watch" rather than "esoteric arts chat" ( report, November 26 ).
Am I alone in wishing to watch arts programmes?
SIR – Christmas is indeed a time for cheer, but cards are not the answer ( Letters, November 25 ).
I find that a telephone call is a far more personal way to keep in touch.
It also means saving money on stamps and cards, benefiting the environment and, yes, feeling good for quietly sending a donation to charity.
SIR – Two years ago I wrote these verses in reply to the first message of the year from someone saying that they would not be sending Christmas cards but instead donating to charity:
We're sending Christmas cards this
The reasons I'll make clear.
For as I choose and write each card
Come thoughts of those so dear.
The friends we've made throughout
In places far and near,
They'll know we haven't popped our
We've made another year.
SIR – Pamela Wheeler ( Letters,November 24 ) reports a Christmas pudding still edible after three years.
In 1976, while working on the geological mapping of South Georgia, my assistant and I stayed in the old whaling station at Leith harbour.
The station had been abandoned in 1965, but the tinned food store still resisted the elements. We found some tins of Christmas pudding – each two and a half pounds – plus a great stack of sweetened condensed milk, all at least 12 years old.
This was too much temptation for two men who had lived on porridge and dried mince for the past two months. Supper that night was a tinned pudding each, with an endless supply of condensed milk.
We are both still alive.
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