Donald Macintyre compares Nixon/ Watergate with Johnson/Partygate (“Nixon’s heir”, TNE #294). I always thought there was something Shakespearean about Nixon. He was a potentially great man brought down by a failure to control the drive and ambition that motivated him.
By contrast, I have never seen any evidence of potential greatness in Johnson.
Everything Richard Nixon accomplished is tainted by Watergate. Nevertheless, it should be noted that while Nixon recognised that China and climate change would be among the key issues facing America in the future, all Boris Johnson has done is take his country back to the past.
To paraphrase Lloyd Bentsen in that vice-presidential debate with Dan Quayle, Johnson is no John Kennedy – and he is not even Richard Nixon.
Tim Walker tells us that Boris Johnson is desperately searching for a safer seat (Mandrake, TNE #294) and that he has got his eye on Bournemouth West.
I know Johnson is not exactly well known for his analytical skills, but the ever-reliable website Electoral Calculus is currently predicting that Labour will narrowly take this constituency at the next election.
So yes, let us hope that Johnson does try his hand there. He might turn it into an ultra-safe Labour seat!
Alastair Campbell (Diary, TNE #294) suggests Johnson may be a “potential accidental fascist” and was not born and bred in this ideology. Let’s not forget Mr Johnson’s sister, Rachel, claimed that at the age of five he had expressed aspirations to become “World King”. Could this have been an early harbinger of the autocratic control he one day wished to wield?
War on woke
Thank heavens for James Ball’s response to Suella Braverman’s dog-whistle advice to schools that they don’t need to respect a child’s gender identity (“Pure cruelty”, TNE #294).
I am sure that the attorney general is right that such respect is not mandated by the 2010 Equality Act. Neither is it forbidden, and most schools will continue to grant it out of simple compassion, and concern not to make a difficult situation worse.
If the child formally changes their name, schools will have no choice but to use it, and most schools have unisex uniform codes already, not least so as not to discriminate on the grounds of gender, faith and disability. I would expect them to consider the safety of all children, including the trans child, when deciding on which toilets they should use and which sports they should play.
The actual impact of Braverman’s advice is thus likely to be limited. It would anyway be subject to legal challenge on other grounds if a school failed to take wider considerations into account.
The real point of this unnecessary intervention is simply to stoke the war on woke, in the vain hope of persuading red wall voters who lent Boris Johnson their vote in 2019 not to put in a recall notice. Those same voters now have more important things to concern them.
Surprisingly, your article on large-scale removal of carbon from the atmosphere (“Earth’s last rays of hope”, TNE #294) did not mention two of the seemingly most promising and least controversial proposals.
The oceans pull about 30bn tons of CO2 from the air each year, but this is expected to decrease as a result of global warming itself. Seeding barren parts of the ocean with nutrients produces plankton, which leads to enhanced fish stocks and boosts ocean carbon absorption.
Rock weathering is another huge natural carbon-extraction system. By grinding suitable rocks and spreading them on fields you would provide vast extra weathering extraction (and replace some of the nitrate fertiliser causing problems of its own).
Re: “Road to nowhere”, TNE #294. The UK car industry association has concluded that we will not reach the levels of production seen just before the Brexit referendum. In the run-up to us actually leaving the EU, investment fell by 60% and then fell again subsequently.
These are savage blows for an industry that had collapsed before the Japanese manufacturers arrived, specifically and only because they could sell into the EU without tariffs. But now that we are out we can have more powerful vacuum cleaners…
May I come to the defence of the sub-editor who upset Peter Trudgill by changing “There are some places in the world which English has spread to…” (“Making a subtle preposition”, TNE #294)? Rather than objecting to the stranded preposition, maybe they preferred their version, “…to which English has spread..,” on the simple grounds of euphony.
Perhaps if Mr Trudgill had used the correct relative pronoun (that/which) his original wording would not have sounded so awkward: “There are some places in the world that English has spread to…” Sounds better already.
Peter Trudgill replies: Euphony, I would suggest, is in the ear of the beholder, and so there can be no surprise that I do not find anything even slightly dysphonic or awkward about what I wrote: here, we can happily agree to differ. “Correct”, as of relative pronouns, is an entirely different matter, and I entirely disagree. The existence of a “rule” about when to employ that and/or which in English restrictive relative clauses is entirely mythical. It was one of the rules that/ which used to be taught in schools, which is a sure sign that there is no such rule. Native speakers know the grammatical rules of their own language without being taught them. How many of us were taught that, in English, adjectives are placed before nouns?
So sad to hear about the death of Dervla Murphy (“She got on her bike and looked for the world”, TNE #294). I loved reading about her intrepid travels when I was younger. Will have to go dig out her books!
I was struck by Bonnie Greer noting the deep fear of democracy manifested by the British in “The survivors”, TNE #294). Perhaps it explains the mooted return to imperial measurements, which has no logical justification (although it does rubber-stamp the country’s international irrelevance).
Metric measurements were the invention of the French Revolution and arguably the product of enlightened and reasoned thinking. Thus, they have to be anathema to Johnson and his mob of anti-intellectual hoons.
Upper Brailes, Banbury
I must strongly contest Bonnie Greer’s characterisation (“White Blight”, TNE #293) of John Ford’s magnificent western, The Searchers, as a homage to White Supremacy.
Anyone fairly considering the canon of films which Ford directed over his lifetime could never come to the conclusion that he was a racist.
The central character of the film, Ethan Edwards, played by John Wayne, clearly is racist, and his character is not presented as one to admire. Edwards is not your typical western hero – he is a character who shoots out the eyes of a dead Comanche warrior so his soul can never find peace; an uncle who would rather kill his niece than return her “despoiled” (as he would have it) to her own community.
On a more general level, the film portrays the genocidal aspects of the US Cavalry campaigns against the Native American peoples, through the attack on a peaceful native village and the massacre of women and children. This film was made in the mid-1950s. This was not how the “winning” of the West was normally portrayed!!
The film was released in 1956. I saw it when I was seven. I was one of those “little boys” referred to by Bonnie Greer who was given plastic revolvers and rifles for Christmas and birthdays. After seeing The Searchers I deployed these weapons in my games firmly on the side of the “injuns”. If the film was a “homage” to White Supremacy it very definitely had the opposite effect on me.
Philip Stewart (Letters, TNE #294) says of Bonnie Greer’s “White Blight”, “The slave states joined New England in the Declaration of Independence because, in 1772, an English judge had decreed that slavery was odious and the enslaved James Stewart should be set free.” Having looked at Lord Mansfield’s original judgment, I find that a bit of a stretch.
Lord Mansfield found simply that a) the state of slavery was so “odious” that it could not be permitted under common law, b) there was no statute law in England permitting it, and therefore c) James Stewart could not be a slave in England and must be set free.
The judgment claimed no extra-territorial effect, it being necessary only to consider English law.
I love Megan Nolan’s bold and authentic writing, but could she please watch a little less on Netflix and a little more on free-to-view TV and streaming, for those of us whose viewing is confined to that?
I would recommend Cry Wolf and When The Dust Settles from DR in Denmark (available on All4) if she hasn’t already seen these.
Craven Arms, Shropshire
You ask “Why aren’t more jails like Norway’s?” (TNE #293). I think the clue is in the words humane and rehabilitation. The UK, particularly under the current home secretary, is keener on punishment.
How do you educate a home secretary who doesn’t care a fig about what actually works and only about voter-friendly tabloid headlines? When the politicians make a virtue of ignorance, how can anything improve?
But who would we blame for stuff if prisoners were properly rehabilitated?
Mark Mardell’s piece about Kaliningrad (“Enclave on the edge”, TNE #293) was a timely reminder of more risks to Europe from Russia.
However, I think he may be mistaken in describing it as “Russia’s only port that remains ice-free all year round”. I believe that Murmansk, founded in 1915-16 to serve Russian imperial forces during the first world war, also remains ice-free all year round, in spite of being 2 degrees north of the Arctic Circle. Clearly, Murmansk is not in such an immediately threatening position to Europe as Kaliningrad is, but it’s a well-equipped, deep-water port that Russia has been trying to regenerate to stop a steady decline in population.
West of Murmansk there is the short border with Norway near the small town of Kirkenes, which 10 years ago was doing annual trade with Russians to the tune of €28m (£24m).
Kirkenes is at the heart of a number of concerns of crucial worldwide importance in 2022. Could Mark Mardell go there to report on it, please?