Letters: Memories of lockdown sacrifices make Boris Johnson’s testimony difficult to stomach

·9 min read
Government coronavirus messaging in Belfast in April 2020 - Stephen Davison/PSNI
Government coronavirus messaging in Belfast in April 2020 - Stephen Davison/PSNI

SIR – One thought was permanently in my mind while I watched Boris Johnson being cross-examined by the privileges committee (report, March 23): had anyone been caught by the police having the kind of gatherings shown in the photographs, they would have been slapped with a £10,000 fine – as many were.

Surely it would have been wise to have cancelled gatherings at No 10 for the duration if it was so “cramped”, as Mr Johnson put it. And if it was so essential to thank a leaving employee, a one-to-one meeting between them and the prime minister would have been, in the circumstances, quite good enough. Social sacrifices were being made by everyone.

Carole Taylor
Milford, Hampshire

SIR – During the endless coverage of partygate no one, as far as I have seen, has mentioned that Boris Johnson had a sick mother whom he was unable to visit during lockdown and whose death in 2021 was very probably hastened by loneliness.

Mr Johnson himself would never resort to bringing his own family into the argument.

Miriam Gross
London W2

SIR – When I listened to Mr Johnson giving his evidence, I was reminded of an observation by his late first mother-in-law, Gaia Servadio, which was quoted in her Telegraph obituary. She said: “For him the truth does not exist”.

Blanaid Walker
Witney, Oxfordshire

SIR – The biggest takeaway from the partygate fiasco is that all those involved in breaking the rules knew perfectly well that they were unnecessary and that no one attending the gatherings was in any great danger.

It would have been much better for all of us if common sense had been applied and the lockdown, mask-wearing and social-distancing rules scrapped long before Boris Johnson and his associates could break them.

Charlie Leech
Twickenham, Middlesex

Migrants’ motivation

SIR – Ian Jefferson (Letters, March 19) asks why migrants risk their lives to get to Britain instead of staying in other European countries.

There are – and have long been – three answers. First, most migrants speak at least some English. Secondly, depending on their needs, they can enjoy housing, health and education benefits, and later apply to bring their families to join them. Thirdly, if they prefer, they can disappear into the black economy – either willingly or as victims – because the British Government neither tracks their movements nor maintains adequate records.

Alun Harvey
Groningen, Netherlands

A gift from Canada

SIR – Rosemary Carter (Letters, March 19) from British Columbia rightly challenges your report (March 12) that pineapples from Canada could have been served at the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association luncheon for Empire leaders on May 27 1953.

The pineapples were from Ceylon (Sri Lanka). They were sweetened with Canadian maple syrup. It was a good example of Commonwealth co-operation.

Ged Martin
Emeritus Professor of Canadian Studies
University of Edinburgh

Electricity demand

SIR – I have worked in the electrical energy sector for 60 years, and remain convinced that there is no possibility that wind and solar sources could ever provide more than 50 per cent of our energy needs or more than 30 per cent of the power demand (Letters, March 19).

We have a massive problem in producing sufficient power generation but we also have a major task to rebuild our infrastructure, particularly the cables in the street and distribution substations. The power supply to most houses is designed on the basis that the main energy source is gas, and on average the electrical demand of each will be about one kilowatt. So, 500 houses will demand 500 kilowatts.

If you are charging a car, running a heat pump and cooking, this will increase to 10 kilowatts or so. The scale of this problem is clear.

For net zero our target has to be not burning anything to generate energy. To achieve this we urgently need new nuclear generation – preferably the Rolls-Royce small modular proposal. A full-scale rapid deployment would enable us to close down ageing nuclear and gas-fired plants in time for the 2035 increase in demand. Beyond that we need to complete two gigawatts of new generating capacity each year for the foreseeable future, extending eventually to replacing retiring plants.

The Budget announcement of funding for carbon capture (report, March 16) is a diversion. The trials conducted by other countries have failed to prove the benefits. We would still be burning carbon fuels, and the risks of long-term carbon-dioxide storage have not been addressed. We would be much better off investing this £1 billon in the Rolls-Royce SMR prototype.

David Sidebotham
Hayling Island, Hampshire

Not all cats are prolific bird and rodent hunters

Study of a Cat (1918) by Suzanne Valadon, the first woman in France’s fine arts society - bridgeman images
Study of a Cat (1918) by Suzanne Valadon, the first woman in France’s fine arts society - bridgeman images

SIR – The Mammal Society regularly publishes surveys showing that cats decimate the bird and rodent population (“Look what the cat brought in – but it’s not a gift for you”, report, March 19).

However, these surveys are usually based on cats that are prolific hunters and do not make sufficient allowance for cats who, for a variety of reasons, kill rarely or not at all. So the final result is likely to be an overstatement. In nearly 70 years of keeping cats I have only known two who were prolific hunters, and that was only for a couple of years (out of 17) before they lost interest.

Furthermore, it is unlikely that cats catch healthy birds. Even the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds acknowledges that the birds caught by cats are most likely to be ones that nature intends to be taken by predators.

Andrew Bebbington
Cheadle, Cheshire

Government sirens

SIR – Project Fear is alive and well.

Not content with terrifying the population about the Covid pandemic, the Government now wants to frighten the life out of mobile phone users with a “loud siren-like sound” to warn of impending floods, fires and terrorist attacks (report, March 19)

Elderly and nervy citizens may find these sudden noises extremely frightening and distressing, and it’s not impossible to imagine they could cause car accidents if activated while driving.

I predict many will opt out of receiving these unwarranted, unnecessary intrusions into our lives.

Marilyn Parrott
Altrincham, Cheshire

SIR – I read about the Government’s new alert system with interest and trepidation.

I hope a simulation has been done predicting what might happen if an alert has to be picked up on a smart motorway, where nobody can stop in a safe place to read the message.

Wendy Strathdee
Burnham, Buckinghamshire

Table courtesy

SIR – As someone who customarily holds his knife “like a pencil” and sometimes tucks his napkin into his collar, I find recent fulminations on table manners (Letters, March 19) rather strange.

I hold a knife in a logical and comfortable way that does no one any harm, only resorting to the (apparently) approved manner should a host be ill-mannered enough to serve meat so tough that it requires industrial cutting technique.

I tuck my napkin so as to protect the tie I wear out of courtesy to those with whom I dine, and to avoid their having to spend the evening looking at congealed food on my clothing should an accident occur, as it can to anyone.

To bracket prejudice towards these simple acts with actual table manners, such as serving oneself before guests or talking with a full mouth, is to misunderstand the nature of genuine etiquette.

As for the spoon, I fear that, if I were to describe my use of it, some of your readers might choke on their breakfast.

John Sheridan Smith

Bootleg Blyton

SIR – Librarians are keeping original editions of Enid Blyton novels out of sight because of “outdated” language (“Infamous Five: Blyton’s ‘offensive’ classics under wraps at libraries”, March 19).

Yes, language changes. There are many words and phrases we use differently now, and others we don’t tend to say at all any more. But think how much terminology will have changed a century from now. Future readers may look at current issues of The Sunday Telegraph and be shocked.

The Famous Five books were published from 1942 to 1963. How many other stories were published during this time? The 1950s gave us some of the most famous books ever written: The Lord of The Rings, Casino Royale, Psycho, The Catcher in the Rye, and Lord of the Flies – to name but a few. What classics are next to be edited or censored? Perhaps Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949) or Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 (1953)?

If only those authors were alive today.

Emilie McRae
Trowbridge, Wiltshire

SIR – You report that the original, uncensored editions of Enid Blyton’s books are being treated like “contraband” in public libraries.

When I was five in 1953, I reached the minimum age to enrol at Hendon Public Library. The children’s librarian was Eileen Colwell, a pioneer in children’s librarianship. The only Enid Blyton books she would allow in the library were those in the adventure series, which I subsequently found very repetitive. Consequently as a child I never read any other Enid Blyton books, as my reading matter all came from the public library.

Coincidentally, when I went to library school in 1968 we had lectures about Enid Blyton and the quality of her work.

As it happens, I still correspond (now by email) with a pen pal in America, obtained after Miss Colwell visited the country in 1957.

Lynda Mason
London NW7

Hillside filling

SIR – At the age of 12, living in the remote Taita Hills on the slopes of Mount Kilimanjaro in Kenya, I developed a bad toothache and had to visit a nearby hospital, which in those days had no electricity.

After a good prod around, the dentist (Letters, March 19) decided I needed a filling and so called in the help of a medical orderly who proceeded to sit on a bicycle-like contraption that he peddled vigorously to turn the drilling mechanism. It must have taken an hour.

It happened in 1950 and to this day is still clear in my mind.

Peter C D Goodwin
Persquen, Morbihan, France

Letters to the Editor

We accept letters by post, fax and email only. Please include name, address, work and home telephone numbers.  
ADDRESS: 111 Buckingham Palace Road, London, SW1W 0DT   
FAX: 020 7931 2878   
EMAIL: dtletters@telegraph.co.uk   
FOLLOW: Telegraph Letters on Twitter @LettersDesk