The leader we need?
Sir: Matthew Parris excoriates Boris Johnson for administrative incompetence, mendacity, personal immorality and utter lack of political vision (‘I told you so’, 11 June). Mr Johnson may have multiple personal failings, but surely it is obvious that we live in times which call not for a leader with lofty political vision, but for one who can react instinctively and reasonably competently to exogenous events.
Johnson’s refusal to be battered down by successive crises, his cocksure ebullience, and his ability to turn patent negatives into positives clearly irritate his former journalistic colleagues – and infuriate his political opponents. But is it possible that these features of the Prime Minister’s character may be just what is needed to give the country a fighting chance of dodging the many bullets coming its way?
Sir: I was impressed by Lionel Shriver’s article ‘Does advertising matter?’ (11 June). My only quibble is that it is not really the advertisers who are to blame. At senior level, most businesses have no sense of the feelings of consumers. For that they rely on their advisers, notably their advertising agents. As I think Rory Sutherland will confirm, the most influential figures in advertising agencies are the ‘creatives’. These are mostly in their twenties and consistently on the leading edge of ‘woke-ism’. Their mission (with some honourable exceptions) is not to ‘peddle the product’. It is to win the approval of their peers, for that way lies industry awards and professional advancement. The result can be seen in any commercial break. Unfortunately advertising does matter.
Vice chairman, Ogilvy UK, 1980-1992
Obstacles to travel
Sir: I wholeheartedly agreed that the airline industry got it very wrong in their cost-saving strategy during the pandemic and that the onus should be on the private sector to rebuild – as I’m sure it will (‘Air pirates’, 11 June). However, let us not lose sight of the fact that it was indeed the government who put the industry in such peril as they ‘followed the science’. A government that introduced such off-putting red tape and bureaucracy, making travel so much more difficult and costly. Traffic-light systems, quarantine hotels, passenger locator forms, testing when returning into the country. Many who wanted to travel were either put off or priced out and we have inevitably ended up in this situation.
In praise of baths
Sir. Charles Moore may be interested to know that St Thomas Aquinas included the warm bath as one of the Five Remedies for Sorrow (Notes, 4 June). Some years ago, I went to the Abbey of Fossanova, where he died in a cold March 1274, and can testify to its bitter springtime chill. Other remedies for gloom, cited by him, were wine and a good dinner. By comparison, the shower, which was patented in England in 1767 by William Feetham, a stove-maker of Ludgate Hill, is surely a dispiriting invention.
Sir: Those thinking of taking up Martin Vander Weyer’s suggestion of acquiring a bar-resto in France (Any other business, 21 May) might be interested to know that it may be even easier and cheaper to make your dream come true. The French government sponsors a scheme called ‘Operation 1,000 cafés’ that provides grants and other support to help people open and run a hostelry in rural France. The village in Lot where my wife and I are fortunate enough to own a modest home has benefited hugely from such a scheme. A couple were not only given help to acquire a site but also benefit from a generous stipend to help them until the business is established. It has brought a very sleepy hamlet back to life.
Christ Church, Barbados
Sir: I read Lionel Shriver’s article on her problems at Cape Town airport (25 May) and was appalled but not surprised. Sadly South Africans are all too used to the antics of the ANC-controlled not-so-civil service with their incompetence, insolence and – all too often – corruption. However, there are people who will act on these matters. I contacted Manny De Freitas, MP for the opposition Democratic Alliance, and his colleagues Angel Khanyile MP and Adriaan Roos MP. The director-general of the Home Affairs department has in turn been contacted. Hopefully the errant officials will have to answer for their appalling behaviour, and others will take note.
I think it is important to say that there are people here who take strong exception to this kind of behaviour and are acting to maintain the highest democratic standards.
Dr Robert N. Norton
Cape Town, South Africa
On the face of it
Sir: Jeremy Clarke’s observation (Low life, 11 June) that he ‘appears unravaged from the neck up’ reminds me of my late Auntie Rachel’s riposte to her GP’s opening gambit of ‘You’re looking very well.’
‘I didn’t come about my face.’
Sir: Dot Wordsworth may want to know that ‘nice’ in my days long ago in mechanical engineering was taken to mean a close or fine tolerance (Mind your language, 4 June). Hence, we’d talk of ‘a nice fit’.
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