Spectator letters: Remembering Clarissa Tan; and Hugo Rifkind replies to Matt Ridley

12 April 2014

9:00 AM

12 April 2014

9:00 AM

In loving memory

Sir: When Clarissa Tan covered last year’s Good Funeral Awards, it quickly became apparent that she was a woman facing her greatest fears with a gentle and courageous spirit. She left an enduring impression on all who met her. In her subsequent article for this magazine (‘The ideal death show’, 14 September 2013) she wrote of the hope she derived from her belief in God: ‘It is the hope not that I will live. It is the hope that I am loved.’
You were, Clarissa, and you are.
Charles Cowling
Director of the Good Funeral Guide
Redditch, Worcestershire

Mitigating circumstances

Sir: My colleague Matt Ridley is correct to note that in the press release which accompanied the IPCC’s most recent publication ‘the word “adaptation” occurred ten times, the word “mitigation” not at all’. Possibly, this has something to with the fact that this was part two of a four-part report, and called ‘Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability’. If Matt remains keen to learn what the IPCC feels about mitigation, he might be better off waiting for the press release on part three. Perhaps this won’t mention it either, but I’d be surprised. It is to be called ‘Mitigation’.
Hugo Rifkind London N8

Base treachery

Sir: Hugo Rifkind is correct to classify tuition fees as a tax (5 April). They kick in at a specified threshold, they are levied as a percentage of income, and they are not written off during bankruptcy. Moreover, as a tax, they are targeted at the Conservative party’s core supporters — middle-class families and their aspiring children. They could scarcely have been more focused if the legislation simply read: ‘A 9 per cent supertax for anyone unfortunate enough to fit the demographic of our base.’ History will judge how the base responds.
Laurence Smith
Brimpton Common, Berkshire

Women and boys

Sir: ‘Shakespeare’s women lack the richness and variety of his male characters,’ writes Lloyd Evans (Arts, 29 March). In fact, he created female characters so rich and varied that one would have thought them well beyond the range of his boy actors. But they weren’t ‘gangly pipsqueaks’. A company of boys was so popular that it came near to driving adults off the stage — as Hamlet had reason to complain.  Children can act, and Shakespeare knew it.

Take a few examples. Shakespeare’s women outwit his men with consummate ease. Cleopatra bewitches Antony and changes the course of history. Lady Macbeth destroys her husband — and herself. Portia masters the whole legal system to free Antonio. When it comes to wit, Beatrice effortlessly defeats Benedick, as the French girls do to the men of Navarre in Love’s Labour’s Lost. Rosalind dominates the stage and resolves everyone’s problems in As You Like It. Viola’s sparring with Olivia is the central interest in Twelfth Night. And a whole series of women of outstanding inner beauty, loyalty and purity (are these Mr Evans’s ‘simpering martyrs’?) include Marina, Imogen, Isabella, Miranda, Perdita… one could easily go on.
Nicholas Debenham

A master of loopholes

Sir: Peter Jones (Ancient and modern, 5 April) is right to pick up on Cameron’s careful use of language. However, this is not the first example. When he offered the referendum on the Lisbon Treaty, he was careful to preface his commitment with the words ‘provided it has not been ratified’. It was ratified by Brown sneaking off by himself one evening to sign it. Cameron has been given a lot of criticism for backtracking on a ‘cast iron’ commitment, but technically he was correct in not holding a referendum. It is interesting to see that he has lost none of his slipperiness.
John McErlean
Elstow, Bedfordshire

Am I left behind?

Sir: There must be quite a few of us ill-educated thickos who found Vernon Bogdanor’s review of Revolt on the Right (Books, 5 April), profoundly patronising, with its inference that any traditionalist who just happens to love this country must be pitiable. He begins by telling us the Lib Dems are ‘pro-European’. No, they are pro-EU. A professor of government ought to know the difference between a continent/landmass and a political project. Then, it appears, we are alienated from ‘a meritocratic political establishment’. Unfortunately, many of us perceive very little merit in our present establishments. And we are all ‘left behind’. Years ago there was a man called Winston Churchill. He passed no exams, went to no university. In the 1930s he opposed the appeasement-obsessed establishment. By 1940 he had not, thank God, been quite left behind.

People who object to an unelected politburo that overturns national referendums, and who wish to live in the parliamentary democracy they were born into, are not quite as dim as the professor might like to pretend.
Frederick Forsyth

Spell check

Sir: Miriam Gross’s warning about reading through emails (Diary, 29 March) is timely. One of my correspondents is a Miss Havercroft, who easily becomes Miss Hovercraft, while my vicar, the Revd Mr Reindorp, becomes the Revd Mr Raindrop. Most embarrassing if I don’t spot it is Mr Tarsh morphing into Mr Trash.
Rodney Bennett


An article on 26 October said that the Roma couple accused of abducting the child known as Maria claimed they paid £850 for her. This claim was in fact made by a neighbour rather than the couple.

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