SIR – As a direct consequence of decisions taken by out-of-touch executives to remove much-loved radio presenters (without consulting those who pay for the service), BBC Radio 2 has lost 1.3 million listeners, it was reported in October.
Only an organisation as breathtakingly arrogant as the BBC could now expect hard-pressed taxpayers to pay even more for a greatly diminished offering (report, December 4). Thank goodness for commercial radio stations led by executives who take the time and trouble to understand their audiences.
SIR – The Prime Minister suggests that a 9 per cent increase in the licence fee would be too much for people to pay. Is this the same PM who has imposed the heaviest tax burden since the Second World War, frozen allowances, pushed up energy costs through net zero policies and raised the minimum wage by 10 per cent to heap more expense on businesses and consumers?
SIR – In January 2022, Nadine Dorries, then the culture secretary, told Parliament that the BBC licence fee was to be frozen for two years from April 2022, but would then rise in line with inflation for the following four years, starting in April 2024.
The BBC has kept its side of the bargain, making significant reductions – while incurring significant extra costs through coverage of major conflicts in Ukraine and the Middle East, neither of which would have been in any business plan.
Every day, British audiences face a barrage of algorithm-driven, mis- and disinformation from tech platforms owned by foreign billionaires. The BBC, notwithstanding its occasional faults, is more important than ever for its ability to distribute impartial news and support social cohesion. Now is not the time for the Government to behave disreputably and break the promise it made. It must honour its commitment to increase the licence fee by the rate of inflation from 2024. Failure to do so will further undermine the ability of the BBC to fulfil its purpose and weaken its independence.
This will be the first major test for the new BBC chairman, whose appointment is imminent.
Chair, British Broadcasting Challenge
SIR – I hope the Government is successful in blocking the proposed increase in the licence fee. I am in my 80s and no longer watch BBC News and most other BBC programmes. When I reluctantly paid the fee this year, I wished there was an option to prevent any of it going to the overpaid Gary Lineker.
Starmer stands alone
SIR – Sir Keir Starmer’s praise of Thatcherite ideals (report, December 4) is a last-ditch attempt to make it look like the Labour Party has moved on to the unoccupied political middle ground.
The big difference between Sir Keir and Tony Blair is that the latter took the party with him on this journey. Sir Keir stands alone on this ground. The most obvious signal of this is that Angela Rayner, his powerful Corbynista deputy, not only has a huge behind-the-scenes influence on policy but is also extremely popular within the party, particularly with Labour’s union paymasters. Mr Blair’s deputy, John Prescott, did not have the same appeal or influence.
“Vote Starmer get Rayner” is the unspoken slogan of the next general election, and one that should strike fear into undecided Conservative voters. New Labour this is not.
Houghton on the Hill, Leicestershire
Surge of anti-Semitism
SIR – In central London on Sunday, I bought a lovely box of chocolates for my daughter-in-law. The sales assistant asked me if it was for a special occasion.
Prior to the Hamas attack on October 7, I would have said, “Yes, it’s for Hanukkah”. On Sunday there was a pause before I replied: “It’s a pre-Christmas present”.
SIR – Sadly, anti-Semitism will never go away (Letters, December 4). It is always lurking in the undergrowth and the slightest perceived error of a Jew or the Israeli nation will reignite it.
Why did my father feel the need to change his name to something very smart and English – Kaplan to Clayton – in order to find work in the 1930s? My great-uncles changed from Bernstein to Bannister long before that, probably in order to feel assimilated and accepted in a hostile environment.
My family has no intention of living in fear or feeling the need to change our name at this sad moment in Britain’s history.
Chagos Islands’ return
SIR – You report (December 2) claims the UK will drop plans to return the Chagos Islands to Mauritius. In 2019 the International Court of Justice ruled their detachment from the colony of Mauritius in 1965 illegal. When the UK excised these islands, it was on condition they would be returned when no longer needed for defence. The 55 Outer Islands, 150 miles from the American military base, have never been required.
The current negotiations between the UK and Mauritius address the exercise of sovereignty, including the long-term future of the base on Diego Garcia. This can only be secured by negotiation. Mauritius strongly supports its continuation and, unlike the UK, resettlement of Chagossians.
A member of the Commonwealth, its closest ties are with India, not China, and it maintains excellent relations with the UK, America and France. It is inconceivable that Mauritius would prioritise its relations with China. The Government’s answer to a recent parliamentary question noted that America fully supports these bilateral negotiations. For the UK, an architect of international law, the ICJ decision and the UN resolution endorsing it make a negotiated settlement to this dispute inescapable. Otherwise, we can be accused of double standards over Ukraine and elsewhere.
British high commissioner to Mauritius, 2000-04
Deputy commissioner of the British Indian Ocean Territory, 1995-97
High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire
Trees need champions at all government levels
SIR – On the same morning (November 29) that the Telegraph published a commentary by Rishi Sunak in which he celebrated trees and the natural world, I attended a planning meeting of my local authority, Conservative-controlled North East Lincolnshire Council.
Following one debate, its members rubber-stamped the destruction of an eight-acre, songbird-rich native woodland to make way for a 44-lodge holiday park.
Following another, they approved the construction of an indoor salmon-rearing farm on a designated local wildlife site – one important for its array of wildflowers and butterfly species.
National and local governments often bang the drum for nature – until it gets in the way. Thereupon, it is summarily removed.
SIR – The planting of more trees is the simplest and most pleasant counter-carbon policy, and an infinitely wiser alternative to foisting electric cars on us or closing down strategic industries.
The fact is that oil and coking coal are needed to manufacture and maintain much green technology, such as railways and renewables. Surely it is sensible that Britain’s coal mines in Cumbria and South Wales, and its oil in the North Sea, are used for this purpose, rather than importing them from abroad.
Greta Thunberg and the Just Stop Oil protesters would be on much smarter ground were they to invest their energies in planting more trees, including in urban environments. I, and many others, would willingly join them in such a venture.
Pulborough, West Sussex
SIR – I had no idea that Augustus Welby Pugin was only 5ft 2in (report, December 4).
We live in the most complete Pugin-designed house in the country, and every detail – from door knob to architrave, window latch to fire surround – gives us untold pleasure every day. Thankfully, his diminutive stature didn’t influence the size of the building, as I am 6ft 2in.
SIR – Most skinheads (Features, December 2) were working-class kids who had not the slightest idea what it meant to be “far-Right”.
The likes of the National Front hijacked the look. The original skinheads loved reggae and were about having a good time.
Holland on Sea, Essex
A flying visit
SIR – Our father was RAF ground crew during the war and was servicing an Anson when the pilot asked if a flight over Dad’s home might be a good idea (Letters, December 4).
They set off from Kenley for Gravesend, with the pilot asking if there were any landmarks that he should head for. Dad told him that the chimneys of Shaws Laundries were opposite the house, so the plane was flown as low and as tightly as possible around the chimneys several times.
My grandmother, however, had not been impressed, as the downdraught had blown the washing off all the lines in the gardens of the local houses, and it had taken days to sort it all out to get items back to the correct owners.
Dad never did confess that he had been in the plane and it was his fault.
SIR – It was the occasion of my son’s wedding and we were all in my garden, when suddenly a Lancaster bomber appeared and circled the air above us. My son put his arms around me and said: “I think Dad is with us”. My husband, who had died many years before, had flown in Lancasters during the Second World War.
The Lancaster came round and circled above once more then flew off into the distance. A precious memory.
It’s curtains for a Christmas shopping spree
SIR – A few years ago some friends decided to buy net curtains as a Christmas present for their house (Letters, December 4).
They returned from the shops without curtains but with a delivery date for a piano.
SIR – On our first Christmas as a married couple in 1969, my husband presented me with a gift about
three foot square and six inches deep.
In excitement I opened it, only to find a Scalextric racing car circuit.
My disappointment was tempered by my husband’s excitement and his shouting, “I’ve always wanted one of these.”
We are still together 54 years later. Why?
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