Rhapsody in Politics

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COLLECTED LETTERS - The miscellaneous musings of a newspaper correspondent  An entertaining compilation of serious, amusing, thought-provoking, controversial and informative observations over 20 years

Sandy Pratt
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20200 9 27


- The miscellaneous musings of a newspaper correspondent.- An entertaining compilation of serious, amusing, thought-provoking, controversial and informative observations over 20 years.

Relations are not good in the Pratt household. On Friday, Sandy Pratt, an insolvency partner at Solicitors Norton Rose, was appointed to advise accountant Price Waterhouse over the carnage of Maxwell Communication Corporation. The weekend found him in the office until he received an urgent call from his wife on Sunday telling him to come home immediately. He did so, to discover she had organised a surprise 40th birthday party for him. Unfortunately, he spent most of the party on the phone to the office. ‘My wife wasn’t very pleased; she had spent weeks organising it’, he said.

Daily Telegraph, 24th December 1991.

I was appalled to read some of your readers suggesting ways to swat flies. They should be given counselling to teach them not to come into homes uninvited.

Daily Telegraph, 24th April 1998.

From Giordano foods: ‘Chunks of minced pork, flavoured prized truffles and manured briefly to preserve tenderness.’

Daily Telegraph, 3rd November 1998.

Rockall, 300 miles off the west coast of Scotland was claimed as a British territory in 1955. In 1997, Greenpeace invaded and occupied the island, claiming it to be the new global state of Waveland.

Daily Telegraph, 10th September 2003.

The issue is not about whether Mrs. IDS has done sufficient work to merit her salary, but whether IDS has done enough to merit his.

Daily Telegraph, 15th October, 2003.

There was little chance that Derren Brown would have blown his brains out playing Russian roulette. In a well-oiled pistol, the weight of the bullet goes to the bottom chamber, so there is virtually no chance of the bullet being in the ‘live’ one. If he had shot himself, it would have been because he had not cleaned his gun properly.

Daily Telegraph, 7th October, 2003.

Four years ago, I was a passenger on a flight from Gatwick to Nairobi when a deranged passenger broke into the cockpit and attacked the pilot. In the ensuing struggle, the autopilot was knocked off and the plane climbed steeply before stalling and falling two miles out of the sky towards the Sudanese desert. Only the supreme skill of the pilot saved the aircraft and all the lives on board. I hate to think what might have happened if an air Marshall had taken a pot shot into the cockpit and hit the wrong man.

Daily Mail, 19th January, 2004.

You report that scientists have discovered that sexually arousing pictures triggered a particularly excited reaction in two regions of men’s brain (report, March 8). So women are correct when they tell us whence a man’s brain is directly linked.

The Times, 10th March, 2004.

The culling of seal pups may be necessary, but surely clubbing them to death must be the most inhumane way of killing them. If you can get close enough to club them then you are close enough to dispatch them quickly with a single bullet.

Daily Mail, 9th April, 2004.

The Spanish people have voted in a Government which has condemned the war against Iraq and pledged to withdraw Spanish soldiers, but the terrorists continue to bomb Spanish people and property (report, April 5). Is any clearer evidence needed that negotiations with such people (letters, March 17, 22, 23) is not an option?

The Times, 8th April, 2004.

I bet Gwyneth Paltrow’s baby, Apple, will be nick-named ‘Pip’.

Daily Mail, 24th May, 2004.

You report (30 June) that the British Lions are still awaiting congratulations from the Prime Minister’s office for winning the rugby test series in South Africa. Unsurprising: Tony Blair’s sporting achievement at Fettes College was, from my recollection (as Head of School in the year above him), limited to one basketball match, and the Minister of Sport Tony Banks seems at present more than a little preoccupied with women tennis players’ knickers.

Daily Mail. 2004.

In 1974, the Labour Government had no hesitation in ordering Cambridge University not to allow its rugby XV ( of which I was a member) to tour Rhodesia because Ian Smith had made the Unilateral Declaration of Independence and his regime was considered by the British Government to be illegal.

The Cambridge team searched its collective conscience. Does playing sport in a particular country imply support for its political regime? Is it the right of Government to tell sportsmen and women where we can and where we can’t play? We thought not, and the entire team elected to continue with the tour (as a group of individuals) under the banner of the Light Blue Travellers, having been barred from using the Cambridge University name.

This time the Government decided, quite rightly in my opinion, that it had no power to ban the England cricket tour. It was for the individuals in the team to search their conscience, supported by their employers and Professional bodies.

If sportsmen and women do not want to be treated like political footballs, they should stay clear of the political pitch.

The Times, 2nd December, 2004.

Mr. Hall’s comment about pollock (letter, March 7) reminds me of a recipe for this fish. Place a freshly caught pollock between two half-inch pine boards. Wrap the whole in silver foil and cook in camp fire embers for 15 minutes. Remove foil, throw away the fish and eat the boards.

Daily Telegraph, 9th March, 2005.

The proposed ban on in-car speed camera detectors to deter boy racers and habitual speeders is disingenuous (Mail). At 50 plus, I’m hardly a boy racer and using a speed camera detector helps me to stop inadvertently straying over the speed limit and being fined a large sum for a trivial offence.

Daily Mail, 11th March, 2005.

Will the sun ever set over the Scottish Raj (15 March)? The answer is ‘no’, but I am disappointed not to have been appointed (yet) to some high Office by Mr. Blair. Sandy Pratt, former Head of School, Fettes College.

London Evening Standard, 16th March, 2005.

My stamps of Charles and Camilla (letters, March 21) will be stuck on horizontally, as this is the position with which they seem most familiar. Daily Telegraph, 22nd March, 2005.

Since the honorary knighthood conferred on Robert Mugabe in 1994 does not appear to have affected his present attitude, it is unlikely that an honorary degree (letter, April 7) would have done.

The Times, 11th April, 2005.

I am becoming increasingly irritated by the number of letters you publish where the writer signs off with name and address supplied. What are they worried about? You should adopt the policy of the national press whereby, unless you are prepared to have your name and address put to your letter, it will not be published. Name and Address supplied !

Bromley News Shopper, 18th May, 2005.

Reader John Franklin, who says he ‘gleefully ignores’ requests in restaurants to vacate his table for the next sitting, wonders what maître d’s can do about it (letter, May 24). Apart from asking him to help with the washing up, a surcharge on the bill for every minute he outstays his welcome should concentrate the mind.

London Evening Standard, 2nd June, 2005.

Is it not time that the honorary knighthood conferred on Robert Mugabe in 1994 was cancelled?

Daily Telegraph, 14th June, 2005.

The British Government’s non-intervention in Zimbabwe is politically understandable, albeit unpalatable.

Given the absence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, Tony Blair nevertheless justified the war on the grounds that it removed a tyrannical Dictator. The similarities between Saddam Hussein’s erstwhile regime and that of Robert Mugabe are clear for all to see, so one might justifiably ask why Mr. Blair is not implementing his policy consistently and intervening in Zimbabwe.

The essential difference is this: Iraq under Saddam was an isolated country with few friends. It was clear that neighbouring countries would, at best, be neutral if he was removed and that gave America and Britain a clear run to intervene.

The position in Zimbabwe is wholly different and potentially more worrying. Far from condemning the atrocities perpetrated by Mugabe, there is either silence from neighbouring countries or implicit support. In particular, Thabo Mbeki of South Africa has failed in every way to criticise Mugabe’s policies, claiming that they are an internal matter for Zimbabwe. Accordingly, any direct intervention by America or Britain in Zimbabwe is likely to meet with great hostility from many African countries, possibly leading to widespread cross-border conflict and the inevitable dire consequences for the civilian population.

Daily Telegraph, 27th June, 2005.

France has been fined some £13.75 million for 20 years of flouting EU fishing rules (report, July 13). This is a derisory sum for the damage which has been caused over that period.

When I visit the Carrefour supermarket at Calais, I am appalled to see Dover sole openly on sale at the fish counter, none of them being over 3 inches in length. I fully expect to see the same undersized fish on sale there when I next visit. If it has taken this long to bring France to book, what incentive is there for a change of attitude?

The Times, 15th July, 2005.

The ‘small fee’ charged by loose-change machines in supermarkets is typically in the region of 7.5 per cent. I’m sure that any number of charities would be pleased to accept donations of bags of coins.

The Times, 27th August, 2005.

I’m delighted to appear in not one but two of those rude place names (Mail), Sandy Balls and Pratt’s Bottom. The name Pratt can mean not only a meadow but a joker or prankster.

Daily Mail, 26th August, 2005.

What’s the first sign of bird flu in humans? You feel peckish.

Daily Mail, 27th October, 2005.

Tony Blair supported the 90 day proposal because that was the clear advice from the police. So why does he choose to ignore the clear advice when it comes to 24 hour drinking?

The Times, 11th November, 2005

You print the faces of four dictators who have faced justice (report, October 20). It is a travesty that Robert Mugabe is not one of them.

Daily Telegraph, 21st October, 2005

Section 5 of the Public Order Act 1986 makes it an offence to use ‘threatening, abusive or insulting words within the hearing’ of a person likely to be caused harassment, alarm or distresses as a result. Sir Iqbal Sacranie has been investigated under the Act.

Leaving aside the outrageous use of this piece of legislation to curb freedom of speech, it seems that if Sir Iqbal had made his observations in print, rather than on the radio, he would have escaped investigation, as his remarks would not have been ‘within the hearing’ of someone who might be insulted.

It is a crass piece of legislation.

Daily Telegraph, 13th January, 2006.

Tom Kelly sings the praises of a Scottish New Year staple - the steak pie (Letter, January 14/15). Unfortunately, this ubiquitous pie has made the greatest of all Scottish pies almost extinct, namely, the traditional mutton pie, which is now almost impossible to find. Bring it back!

Financial Times, January 14/15, 2006.

The problem with completing 76 million tickets to cover all possible combinations to win the Euromillions jackpot of £125 million this Friday (letter, January 31) is that at, say, five seconds to write one ticket, it would take an individual some 12 years to do them all.

The Times, 2nd January, 2006.

Under the sorry leadership of Sir Ian Blair, our police force has become an extension of the social services. Softly, softly policing has a name — copping out.

Daily Mail, 8th February, 2006.

For denying the Holocaust, the historian David Irving should be treated as a buffoon, not a criminal.

Daily Mail, 24th February, 2006.

You report that private clubs are likely to escape the smoking ban in next week’s free vote (February 8).My local pub is planning to ‘convert’ into a private club by charging customers 50p at the door to join, that 50p coming off the price of the first drink ordered. If this new law is implemented, it will be as much of a botch as the hunting ban.

London Evening Standard, 10th February, 2006.

Lord Wright of Richmond seeks an alternative to sorry (letter, March 21). A lawyer would say ‘Without prejudice, the accident was entirely my fault’, so that such admission could not later be used in legal proceedings.

The Times, 23rd March 2006

You report that the price of a first class stamp will rise to 32p next month and may reach 37p to cover the Royal Mail’s pension deficit (March 15). While people of my generation may enjoy crafting letters with pen and ink, I doubt whether my son or daughter have written a letter in the past five years. Modern communication takes place by mobile phone, email and video. Parcels are increasingly dealt with by private agencies.

The next generation will wonder what the Royal Mail is for: it has become an anachronism.

The Times, 17th March, 2006.

As I understand it, once a line out has formed, a player may not leave and then rejoin it — penalties are awarded for this offence. So what happens at the moment before the ball is thrown in? Players sprint backwards and forwards to confuse the opposition as to where the ball is going to be thrown. Surely they must be leaving and rejoining the line out and should be penalised. This amply demonstrates what a shambles the line out has become.

The Sunday Times, 26th March, 2006.

Ken Livingstone shouldn’t be taken seriously. He’s become an incurable buffoon, like the discredited historian David Irving.

Daily Mail, 13th April, 2006.

Margaret Becket as Foreign Secretary? Has Mr. Blair lost his mind?

Daily Telegraph, 6th May, 2006.

Gordon Brown has been Prime Minister in waiting for too long. He should stand down and give someone else a turn.

Daily Mail, 17th May 2006.

The south-east is having its wettest drought in years.

Daily Mail, 24th May, 2006.

The moment Pakistan refused to return to the field, the umpires’ authority was undermined and they had no alternative but to award the Test to England.

Daily Telegraph, 23rd August, 2006.

Speaking about the loss of his baby daughter, Gordon Brown says. It’s very tough for any parent faced with a loss that you never expect.’ I hope he will acknowledge that parents of soldiers killed in Iraq, a war they were sent to fight on dodgy intelligence, may feel the same. As a Cabinet minister, Brown shares collective responsibility for these needless deaths.

London Evening Standard, 15th September, 2006.

The EU directive limiting overtime reminds me of the union leader who started off stories to his young child: ‘Once upon a time and a half…’

Daily Mail, 18th September, 2006

Although it is frequently thought that the word ‘Pom’ derives from ‘Prisoner of his Majesty’ (letter, September 28), this is probably fanciful invention. It is more likely that ‘Pommy’ was based on the ‘pomegranate’, because the redness of the fruit matched the typical florid British complexion.

Daily Telegraph, 29th September, 2006.

In explaining why a Muslim policeman was excused armed guard duty at the Israeli Embassy, a Met spokeswoman said that decisions of that nature were taken into the best interests of the officer and the Metropolitan Police (report, October 5). What about the best interests of the public — or is that no longer a consideration of the police ?

The Times, 6th October 2006.

Orchids are edible (letter, November 19). In Singapore, there are cooking classes using orchids — delicacies include stir-fried orchids and orchid sauces. Sugar coated orchids have been made in Hawaii for many years. Not only are orchids edible, they are a source of vitamin C and fibre.

The Times, 11th November, 2006.

As has recently been shown by the termination of police inquiries into the BAe - Saudi Arabia military aircraft scandal, UK exports of armaments are far too valuable to the economy to be clouded by law or sentiment (letter, December, 22). The prevailing political attitude is that, if Britain ceases to export arms, there are many other countries which will step into the breach.

According to the Stockholm International Peace Institute, after Russia, the US, France and Germany, the UK is the fifth largest exporter of arms in the world with an annual value of $4.5 billion.

The Times, 23rd December, 2006.

If number 10 persuaded Lord Goldsmith to arrange for inquiries into the BAe - Saudi Arabia scandal to cease, surely that is grounds for further probes.

Daily Telegraph, 3rd February, 2007.

I always send my wife two anonymous Valentine cards.

The Times, 14th February, 2007.

As the world watches Zimbabwe disintegrate into civil war, it is alarming that no African leaders have spoken out, let alone taken any action against the brutal regime of Mugabe. In particular, the deeply unimpressive Thabo Mbeki of South Africa has made little secret of his admiration for Mugabe’s land grab policies, which have led to financial ruin and famine.

Daily Telegraph, 14th March, 2007.

On behalf of the UK, I’d like to apologise for all our wrongdoings in the past, all our present wrongdoings and all wrongdoings we will undoubtedly commit in the future. There, everyone happy now?

Daily Mail, 29th March, 2007.

The award of an honorary knighthood to Bono for services to humanity reminds me of an incident when his band U2 were giving a concert in Glasgow. He asked the audience for complete silence and started clapping his hands every few seconds before saying ‘Every time I clap my hands, a child in Africa dies’ to which a Scots’ voice boomed out ‘Well, stop ****ing doing it then.’

The Sunday Times, 8th April, 2007.

The captain of HMS Cornwall and the radar operator on watch when our sailors were captured should be court martialed

Daily Mail, 10April, 2007.

Perhaps the Home Office should retaliate by parading an Iranian woman in a mini-skirt and red lipstick.

Daily Mail, 30th March, 2007.

As North Sea oil and gas run out, the UK is becoming reliant increasingly upon importing foreign power supplies, particularly from Eastern Europe and Russia. Russia has made it abundantly clear that it will use the supply of power as a political tool; it will ‘turn off the tap’ unless consumer countries bend to its political will.

The UK must endeavour to become self-sufficient in its power supplies, whether this be windfarms, tidal energy generators, hydroelectric power or nuclear power (‘How to stop the lights going out in a dangerous world’, May 23). Undoubtedly, nuclear power is the most efficient, notwithstanding concerns about safety issues.

The Times, 25th May, 2007.

Binge drinking teenagers are likely to be too innumerate, drunk or rebellious to bother counting units of alcohol on bottle labels.

Daily Mail, 4th June, 2007.

Will the missile sites to intercept and destroy missiles from Iran and North Korea be for the benefit of Europe or the US? The debris from such destruction would undoubtedly fall over Europe. Missile sites on the East and West coast of the US could easily intercept missiles hostile to the US and the debris would fall into either the Atlantic or Pacific oceans

It is unsurprising that President Putin is suspicious of US motives. The proposed US missile sites would be right on Russia’s doorstep. It is akin to Russia deploying missile sites in Cuba, and we all know the crisis caused when that happened.

The Times, 6th June, 2007.

The woman who appeared before magistrates covered by a hijab should have been jailed for contempt of court.

Daily Mail, 4th July, 2007.

No doubt someone from the Crown Prosecution Service is now looking forward to a peerage.

Daily Mail, 24th July, 2007.

In Ireland recently, my golfing companions and I were initially puzzled to hear another golfer (with a strong Irish accent) shout ‘fork’ after he mishit a shot (letters, July 24,25). In similar circumstances, it is now common for us to shout ‘knife’.

The Times, 26th July, 2007.

Am I the only one who wasn’t sexually abused as a child?

Daily Mail, 8th October, 2007.

Why is a whale’s life more important than, say, a cod’s?

Daily Mail, 2nd January 2008.

It would be in the public interest if all MPs were bugged.

Daily Telegraph, 5th February, 2008.

It’s unfair to ban drug-taking athletes for life - they should be banned for only 50 years.

Daily Mail, 15th February, 2008.

Is the weather forecaster who came up with ‘spits and spots of rain’ (letter, March 28) also responsible for ‘cloud bubbling up’?

The Times, 29th March, 2008.

You report that Gordon Brown has disclosed that ‘he had turned to his predecessor, Tony Blair, for advice on how to turn around his premiership.’ That can only mean we are now in far worse shape than any of us thought.

Daily Telegraph, 18th April 2008.

Upon receiving an unsolicited novel, Benjamin Franklin replied: ’Many thanks for your book, I shall waste no time in reading it (letter, May 21).

The Times, 22nd May, 2008.

Editorial now on page 2, revamped Letters to the Editor page. Why? Stop mucking about with the fine traditions of the Thunderer or I will never write to you again.

The Times, 3rd June, 2008.

Experts have spent years developing weapons that destroy people’s lives, but leave buildings intact. They’re called mortgages.

Daily Mail, 6th June, 2008.

Professor Ian Blackshaw, unsurprisingly, takes an academic viewpoint when he says that the lifetime ban on Dwight Chambers is a travesty of justice (letter, July 22). He fails to understand that rehabilitation of a drugs cheat is different from rehabilitation of, say, a convicted thief. The convicted thief may be taught never to steal again as the drugs cheat may be taught never to take drugs again, but there is empirical evidence that the drugs cheat continues to benefit from his previous drug taking long after he has stopped and so he continues to ‘cheat’ in every race he runs.

The Times, 23rd July 2008.

As someone often asked to deliver the Address to a Haggis on Burns’ Night suppers (and a delight it is too), I find it unnecessary to be word-perfect as few present understand what is being said (Mail).

Introducing a few words of Swahili into Burns’ verse appears to go unnoticed.

Daily Mail, 22nd August, 2008.

In response to French claims that the English should be treated as war criminals over Agincourt, might I suggest the traditional English bowmens’ salute: two fingers.

Daily Mail, 29th October, 2008.

The Government announcement that displaying tobacco products in shops is to be banned does not go far enough. Displaying sweets should be banned too; everyone knows they rot your teeth. The same goes for meat in butchers with a thick layer of fat: it encourages obesity. How large an army of snoopers, though, will be needed to police this nonsense?

Daily Telegraph, 10th December, 2008.

The bestowal of knighthoods is devalued by scattering them around as if they were school merit badges.

The Times, 2nd January, 2009.

Is a knighthood really the appropriate honour to bestow on Chris Hoy at this stage in his career? The 1966 World Cup football team were not so honoured until year’s later (Sir Bobby Charlton was knighted in 1994 and Sir Geoff Hurst in 1998) and those honours reflected a lifetime of achievement.

The Times, 2nd January, 2009.

What do you expect when barrow boys are elevated to the peerage?Daily Mail, 29th January, 2009.

Sir Fred Goodwin appears to be interpreting ‘the buck stops here’ too literally.

Daily Telegraph, 28th February, 2009


Sir Fred Goodwin shouldn’t be too concerned about being refused membership of the Royal and Ancient Golf Club. With his money, he could buy any of the 18 clubs currently in administration, although he will have more trouble getting anyone to play with him.

Daily Mail, 1st April, 2009.

One of the problems about not admitting mistakes is that one doesn’t learn from them. When Gordon Brown sold a large proportion of Britain’s gold reserves at near a rock-bottom price, it was not so much the sale itself which attracted criticism, but the fact that it was announced in advance to the market, which promptly slashed the price of gold.

Last week, Mr. Brown publicly urged the IMF to bring forward the sale of a large chunk of its gold reserves. What happened? The price of gold plummeted (report, April 3). Will the man never learn?

Daily Telegraph, 7th April, 2009.

Your correspondent suggests Chelsea barracks to accommodate MPs (Mail). I suggest Pentonville prison for a lot of them.

Daily Mail, 21st April, 2009.

Examiners once used to ask candidates in biology the digestion of a ham sandwich (letter, August 19). Now that the ham sandwich is under threat on health grounds, they will have no difficulty finding an alternative. A beef burger from any of the well-known chains contains the same ingredients of protein, carbohydrate and fat — although perhaps in different proportions.

Daily Telegraph, 22nd August, 2009.

As a long-time sporter of a moustache, I am amused by the anti-moustache brigade (letter, September 30); they are normally jealous men unable to grow more than a wisp.

The Times, 1st October, 2009.

Sir Thomas Legg has ruled that it is unacceptable for any MP to claim more than £2,000 a year for cleaning. He is wrong. It is unacceptable that any claims be made for cleaning.

I pay for my cleaner out of hard-earned taxed income. MPs should not be any different.

Daily Telegraph, 14th October, 2009.

We must have hit rock bottom: Gordon Brown has decided it’s a good time to sell off more of the nation’s assets.

Daily Mail, 19th October, 2009.

There is no need to get all hot and bothered with the Lisbon Treaty. We should simply copy the French: ignore the rules we do not like.

Daily Telegraph, 6th November, 2009.

Leaf blowers are excellent for fanning the flames of reluctant autumn bonfires (letter, November 9).

Daily Telegraph, 10th November, 2009.

Miangul Aurangzeb, the last Wali (or ruler) of the ancestral kingdom of Swat, was forced into exile when in 1969 Swat lost its autonomy and was brought under Pakistani rule. It is now a battleground between the Taliban and the Pakistani army and much of the population has fled.

Daily Telegraph, 14th December, 2009.

If the police are not prepared to investigate the scandal of MPs expenses, surely local constituency parties should take immediate action against their delinquent MP by deselecting such a person.

The Times, 11th May, 2009.

When there are spits and spots of rain, you wear spats.

Daily Telegraph, 16th January, 2010


The exposed wobbling midriff (letters, January 14, 19) is the ‘North-South divide’.

The Times, 19th January, 2020.

Why are there so few women in politics? Is it because it’s too much trouble to put make-up on two faces?

Daily Mail, 27th January, 2010.

I suspect women spend more money on beer than men spend on handbags (letter, March 2)

Daily Telegraph, 3rd March, 2010

When Michael Foot and Tony Benn were active in politics, it was widely thought their policies were completely bonkers. At what point did they metamorphose into great men of vision and wisdom?

The Times, 9th March, 2010.

I recently bought a self-help DVD called ‘How to deal with Disappointment’. When I opened the box, it was empty.

Daily Mail, 22nd March, 2010.

Why do we need a new Trident missile when we haven’t used the old one?

Daily Mail, 28th September, 2010.

When Harriet Wilson threatened to publish the Duke of Wellington’s letters, he didn’t get a super injunction. He said: ‘Publish and be damned.’

Daily Mail, 4th October, 2010.

If Ed Miliband should have left the stage to the accompaniment of ‘The kids don’t stand a chance’ (letter, September 30), perhaps his brother David should have left to the accompaniment of Queen’s ‘Another one Bites the Dust.’

The Times, 1st. October, 2010.

In England, evicting squatters is a lengthy, expensive, civil process. In Scotland, squatting is a crime and the police are called. I know which jurisdiction has got it right.

Daily Mail, 13th October. 2010.

Cadbury, which was recently taken over by Kraft, is moving its HQ from Britain to Switzerland to save some £60 million in tax annually. Instead of whinging about how ‘unpatriotic’ this is, would it not be more constructive for our politicians to understand why Britain’s tax regime is driving major corporations abroad — and do something about it?

Daily Telegraph, 7th December, 2010.

Once they were highly regarded and treated with respect. Now we are surrounded by dodgy MPs, dodgy bankers, dodgy police and now, it seems, dodgy priests.

Who is there left to respect?

The Times, 2010.

As an occasional shot on game days, I am well aware of shooting safely, not poaching neighbour’s birds, and letting low birds fly by. In other words, to use my best endeavours to observe proper shooting etiquette. After the penultimate drive, where I fired two shots for two pheasant, the shoot captain approached and asked, somewhat sternly: ‘Were you on peg 5?’

Oh my goodness, I thought. What had been my transgression ?

Somewhat sheepishly, I admitted I had been on peg 5. ‘Your first pheasant was one of the best shots I’ve seen this season.’ It doesn’t get any better than that.

The Field, December, 2010.

Pick imaginary pieces of nail from the floor and deposit them on his lap, preferably wearing gloves.

Daily Telegraph, 4th November, 2010

As we are all in this together, to show solidarity, I’ve reduced the flotilla of boats in my bath by 20 per cent and the aircraft carrier has been mothballed to the airing cupboard.

Daily Mail, 25th October, 2010.

I suspect that people are not eating less marmalade (report, January 12). It is more than likely that the public is tired of the sugar-laden slop which masquerades as marmalade in the supermarkets and, instead, people are making their own.

Daily Telegraph, 13th January, 2011.

The police could ‘take to the streets’ over spending cuts (Mail). Isn’t that what the public has been demanding for years?

Daily Mail, 15th January, 2011.

Let us hope that this has several other MPs quaking in their boots and heading the same way. The court has sent out a strong message to MPs: as elected representatives, MPs hold an important and powerful place in society, and their behaviour should be beyond reproach.

Daily Telegraph, 10th January, 2011.

Darts (Mail) is no more a sport than bar billiards. With due respect to Phil Taylor, to see it being represented at the BBC’s Sports Personality of the Year was a joke.

Daily Mail, 7th January, 2011.

If you ever doubt that a dog is a man’s best friend, try locking your dog and your wife in the boot of a car. Open the lid after an hour and see who is more pleased to see you.

Daily Mail, 25th February, 2011.

This shop name (letter, April 5) makes me smile: a cement supplier near Battle, site of the Battle of Hastings, calls himself William the Concreter.

Daily Telegraph, 6th April, 2011.

Following the RAF cutbacks, I’m looking forward to the Biggin Hill Air Show and the display by the Red Arrow.

Daily Mail, 22nd February, 2011.

No need to worry: I have every confidence Wikileaks will soon publish the incriminating papers Tony Blair is so keen to keep secret and which will undoubtedly show he misled Parliament about going to war against Iraq.

Daily Mail, 21st January, 2011.

Prison or community service is not the answer. I suggest Army boot camp to teach them about responsibility and respect.

Daily Mail, 12th. August, 2011.

The Big Sick Society ?

Daily Telegraph, 12th August, 2011.

Are Sally Bercow and Heather Mills related?

Daily Mail, 30th August, 2011.

Must I abandon my faithful old duffel coat for fear of being branded a hoodie?

Daily Mail, 18th August, 2011.

I’m a bit disappointed. It appears I’m the only person whose phone hasn’t been hacked.

Daily Mail, 3rd August, 2011.

Isn’t it heartening to see, as our politicians keep telling us, that fighting all these wars abroad is keeping our streets safer.

Daily Mail, 10th August, 2011


The former presidents of France and Egypt are being prosecuted and Iceland’s former Prime Minister is in the dock. Isn’t it time Blair and Brown were added to the list.

Daily Mail, 13th September, 2011.

It will not be the Liberal Democrats who bring the coalition to an end. Self-interest will ensure it’s continuance because they know they will be annihilated at the next general election. So they will continue to huff and puff and strut, but it means nothing.

Daily Telegraph, 13th December, 2011.

Surely the Speaker’s coat of arms incorporating a ladder to mark his rise to the top from humble beginnings (Mail) should also include a snake.

Daily Mail, 2nd December, 2011.

Do French politicians really believe they can ban the oldest profession (Mail)? They have more chance of saving the Euro.

Daily Mail, 12th December, 2011.

Your article (Don’t shoot the white one, October issue) reminded me of a shoot last year. It was one of those days when I couldn’t hit a barn door. But, on the last drive, a fine, high pheasant sailed above me. In the light, all I saw was the silhouette but its shape and flight confirmed it was a pheasant.

Without much confidence, I took it with the first barrel and it landed 20 yards behind me stone dead. At last, I thought, not a wasted day after all, and went to pick the bird. But to my horror, it was white; in silhouette, the colour was black, but that is no excuse. Unloading my second barrel, I sat against a tree and lit a cigar; truly, a Hamlet moment.

My companions were kind; not too much ribbing. My £50 was duly paid into the beaters’ Christmas lunch fund. Excellent.

The Field, December, 2011.

Your excellent disclosure of the memos between Gordon Brown and Ed Balls amply demonstrates what a nasty couple they are, quite unfit to serve the country. Fortunately, we are more or less rid of Mr. Brown (who will be remembered as the worst prime minister in living memory). As for the unspeakable Mr. Balls, it is high time we were rid of him too.

Daily Telegraph, 11th June, 2011.

Is it true a new film is being made called Saving Ryan’s Privates?

Daily Mail, 31st. May, 2011.

Why is road traffic congestion caused by ‘sheer’ weight of traffic?

Daily Telegraph, 15th September, 2011

The England rugby team can now get back to the pursuits they are best at: bungee jumping, dwarf throwing, boozing and clubbing.

Daily Mail, 12th October, 2011.

There is a very simple and effective way to stop inappropriate building work taking place in the countryside: simply hire a colony of bats or newts and install them at the proposed site.

Daily Telegraph. 13th October, 2011.

I wonder how many Brits living permanently on the Costa del Sol have bothered to learn Spanish.

Daily Telegraph, 29th June, 2011.

It’s a great pity Osama Bin Laden wasn’t taken alive. He could have been sentenced to go through airport security for the rest of his life.

Daily Mail, 9th May, 2011.

How did a Roman helmet end up at the burial site of a British tribal leader (report, January 11) ? The head of research at the British Museum says that the simple answer is that it was worn on the head of a Briton and, therefore, is proof that some Britons fought in the Roman ranks.

With respect, it proves no such thing. It is equally credible that the British tribal leader vanquished a high-ranking Roman cavalry officer in battle and took his helmet as a trophy, and that it was later buried with him when he died.

Daily Telegraph, 12th January, 2012.

Any Brits who still have money in Greek, Spanish or Portuguese banks must be bonkers.

Daily Mail, 27th January

According to the Urban Dictionary, ‘mojo’ originally meant a charm or a spell, but the modern meaning is sex appeal. It remains unclear which Tessa Jowell had in mind when she said Ed Miliband is ‘discovering his mojo.’

Daily Telegraph, 20th May, 2011.

Britain is ready to send more ships to defend the Straits of Hormuz (Mail). Given recent cutbacks to the Royal Navy, are we about to rob the Serpentine of its rowing boats?

Daily Mail, 31st January, 2012.

The Commons bar should stock Old Speckled Hen beer in honour of Kate Green MP, who objected to Top Totty beer.

Daily Mail, 10th February, 2012.

The smallest church in Britain (letter, March 20) is Bremilham Church at Foxley-cum-Bremilham in Wiltshire. It measures just 11 feet by 10 feet.

Daily Telegraph, 22nd March, 2012.

Since 9/11, the US seems to have reserved itself the right to do as it likes, irrespective of whether or not its actions breach international law. President Obama has admitted that unmanned drones regularly strike ‘suspected’ militants in Pakistan’s tribal areas. This is tantamount to murder.

The US has no qualms about holding alleged terrorists at Guantanamo Bay without charge or trial, waterboarding (torturing) suspects and being involved in the illegal rendition of prisoners.

Perhaps the US ambassador in London would care to comment on the legality of such actions.

Daily Mail, 1st February, 2012.

Stripping Fred Goodwin, the former chief executive of the Royal Bank of Scotland, of his knighthood is a nasty and vindictive political gesture (report, February 1). He has committed no crime. He has not even been individually censured by the Financial Services Authority. He made bad business decisions which lost RBS billions of pounds and, because it was a major British bank, it needed to be rescued using taxpayers’ money. In any other case, the company would have been allowed to go to the wall.

On the other hand, still sitting comfortably in the House of Lords are Peers who have committed criminal offences and served prison sentences. Perjury, in the case of Lord Archer; fraud, in the case of Lord Taylor. I hear no cries for them to be stripped of their peerages.

The whiff of hypocrisy hangs heavy, and it is clear that Fred Goodwin is being made the scapegoat for the failings of many.

Daily Telegraph, 2nd February, 2012.

The decision to allow Dwain Chambers to be eligible for selection for the London Olympics is wrong. A strand of opinion suggests that he still has the muscles that he illegally gained through taking banned anabolic steroids. If so, he therefore continues to cheat in every race he runs.

The Times, 1st May, 2012.

On Friday 13, 1976, Apple co-founder Ronald Wayne sold his 10 per cent interest in Apple for $800. It’s now worth $58,065,210,000.

Daily Mail, 20th April, 2012.

The landlord of my pub, a noted wit, has a sign outside stating: ’Owing to water shortages, beer will now be served only at full strength.”

Daily Mail, 6th March, 2012.

Responsible citizens spend their lives conscientiously saving for their old age, only for some transient Chancellor to give them a financial mugging in their retirement.

The Times, 23rd March, 2012.

Perhaps Ugly might be twinned with Idle near Bradford.

Daily Telegraph, 9th June, 2012.

I liked his music, but I don’t need Paul McCartney to tell me what my diet should be.

Daily Mail, 20th June, 2012.

When I receive cold calls, I always say: ‘Can you hold for a moment’. Then I leave the phone off the hook and go and make myself a cup of tea.

Daily Telegraph, 7th July 2012.

Is it true there are plans to merge the Duke of Wellington’s regiment with the Green Howard’s to form the Green Wellingtons?

Daily Mail, 13th July, 2012.

I have an old French recipe for badger stew, the most colourful part of which reads: ‘Eviscerate and skin your badger, and soak it in a fast-flowing river for at least 48 hours. This will help you de-grease it more easily before cooking.’

The Times, 29th September, 2012.

European Commission President Jose Barroso says that the Nobel Prize absurdly awarded to the EU is for all 500 million European citizens. I wish to place on record that I am turning down my 0.00000002 per cent share.

Daily Mail, 24th October, 2012.

David Cameron quickly signed up to a referendum on Scottish independence, but not one on Britain leaving the EU. Could it be because he knows the former will be lost and the latter won?

Daily Mail, 2nd November, 2012.

Debrett’s has issued some guidelines on poppies, one of which is that it is customary to wear a poppy on the left lapel, or on the left side of your body, so the poppy is pinned closest to your heart.

Daily Telegraph, 6th November, 2012.

The Leveson Report should comprise just nine words: ‘Statutory regulation of the Press is unnecessary and undesirable.’

Daily Mail, 28th November, 2012.

I don’t care whether Lawrence of Arabia is historically accurate or not (letter, December 10). It is a darn good film. If I wanted to find out the definitive version of events, there are innumerable worthy sources to turn to.

Daily Telegraph, 12th December, 2012.

Following the massacre in New England come renewed calls for gun controls in the US. This makes eminent sense to anyone with a modicum of intelligence, but implementing effective controls will be difficult, if not impossible.

The second amendment to the US constitution, which gives its citizens the right to bear arms, means an untold number of people in America possess an unknown number of weapons, and there is little that can be done to improve the position. Nor would gun controls prevent this sort of massacre. We have stringent gun controls, but they didn’t prevent the killings at Hungerford and Dunblane.

Daily Mail, 19th December, 2012.

You report that drinkers are to escape a new minimum price for alcohol after David Cameron was forced into a U-turn in the face of a revolt by most of the Cabinet. Shouldn’t policies be agreed by the Cabinet before announcing them, so as to avoid this kind of public humiliation?

Daily Telegraph, 14th March, 2013.

Alfred the Great is our only King with the accolade ‘the Great’. Would it not be appropriate, in her Jubilee year, to mark her unstinting service to the nation by naming our sovereign ‘Elizabeth the Great.’

Daily Mail, 2nd April, 2013.

Let’s be absolutely clear: it’s constitutionally impossible for this Government to pass a law binding the next Government to hold a referendum on the EU. Publishing draft legislation to do so is just hot air and posturing.

Daily Mail, 17th March, 2013.

The grotesque sums paid to BBC executives is easily dealt with: abolish the TV licence fee and let the BBC compete for revenue in the open market, in other words, the real world.

Daily Telegraph, 10th August, 2013.

King Solomon would order that the remains of Richard III be cremated, and half of his ashes be buried in Leicester and the other half in Yorkshire.

Daily Telegraph, 23rd September, 2013.

Upon divorce (with no children involved) what is the correct way of dealing with the wedding album? Should it be kept, in the hope of a reconciliation? Should it be kept, to be sighed over, following a later (unsuccessful) marriage? Should it be sent for recycling, or should there be a ritual burning of it?

Daily Telegraph, 21st December, 2014.

Why doesn’t William Hague go the whole hog and give Putin an ASBO.

Daily Mail, 21st March, 2014.

I am always amused when top civil servants are referred to as ‘mandarins’. I find ‘lemons’ more appropriate.

Daily Mail, 15th July, 2014.

I’m sure all the starving people in Africa will be delighted that millions of pounds have been spent landing a fridge on a speck of ice and dust in space.

Daily Mail, 2014.

I always thought that the road sign depicting an elderly couple (Mail) was a warning to beware of pickpockets.

Daily Mail, 20th November, 2014.

David Cameron is determined. Determined to win back the Strood constituency; determined to claw back sovereign powers from Brussels; determined to deal with immigrants.

It’s a pity that he cannot convert that determination into concrete results.

Daily Telegraph, 25th November, 2014.

It is outrageous that Jonny Wilkinson did not receive a knighthood in the New Year’s Honours List. As usual, it’s the time serving, pen pushing, civil servants who are handed the gongs.

Daily Telegraph, 1st January, 2015.

The notable feature of the Lycra wearing cyclists in Britain (letter, February 28) is that none appear to be enjoying themselves.

Daily Telegraph, 3rd March, 2015.

I have a confession to make. Following the relaxation of the pension rules, I have recklessly blown my fund on a Lamborghini. It was supplied by a distributor called Dinky and cost £5.

The Sunday Telegraph, 12th April, 2015.

As Head of School at Fettes College when Tony Blair was there, I think the tie he is seen wearing during his EU speech (letter, April 13) is the Fettes minor sports tie, awarded to those not good enough to play the mainstream sports of rugby, cricket, hockey and athletics.

Mr. Blair’s sport was basketball, I believe.

Daily Telegraph, 14th April, 2015.

Whenever my letters are published, my local publican pins them above the bar (letters, 14,15,16,17). In the past, he presented me with a glass of wine on the house. This kindness ceased some time ago, not least because the number of my Times letters above the bar exceeds 30.

The Times, 18th April, 2015.

Potato farmers in Jersey once used seaweed known locally as Vraic as a natural fertiliser. Contrary to popular belief, the EU has not banned its use. Vraic is no longer used because it has become too expensive.

This, and the practice of growing Jersey Royals under plastic, account for their lack of flavour.

Daily Telegraph, 26th May, 2015

You report (July 3) that a man has been fined £220 for swallowing a live goldfish which he had won at an amusement stall, and has been banned from having a pet for three years.

Will I suffer the same fate the next time I eat an oyster?

Daily Telegraph, 4th July, 2015

Where does the recent attack on sugar leave us jam makers (NHS chief tells food industry to cut sugar or face regulation, July 18) ? A typical jam recipe involves a kilo of fruit to a kilo of granulated sugar. The sugar has preservative qualities which means the jam will last for months.

There are alternative sweeteners, such as stevia (made from the leaves of the stevia plant) - but such jam turns out more like a compote and should be consumed within two weeks.

The Times, 21st. July, 2015.

The white egg measuring 3.3 inches x 2.4 inches that Peter Morrison found in a hole in a field in North Somerset (letter, May 4) is quite likely to be the egg of a mute swan, which normally builds a nest on top of a mound. What the egg was doing in a hole is a bit of a mystery, unless it fell through the bottom of the nest.

Daily Telegraph, 5th May, 2015.

The Met Office predicted a summer of ‘below average rainfall’. In fact, some areas have experienced the wettest August since records began (report, September 1). No wonder the Met Office lost the BBC weather forecasting contract.

Daily Telegraph, 2nd September, 2015.

I was put on a train at King’s Cross station at the age of seven to go to a boarding school in Aberdeenshire for five years. After initial homesickness, I came to thoroughly enjoy my time there. The same applies to the public school in Edinburgh.

Although I was given no choice, when it came to my son’s education, I asked whether he wanted to go to a day or boarding school. He chose to board.

The Times, 12th September, 2015

The problem with retirement is that you never get a day off.

Daily Mail, 11th November, 2015

The Department for Transport estimates that the cost of building HS2 will be £43 billion. The Institute of Economic Affairs suggests a total cost of £80 billion. In all likelihood, the final cost will be more than £100 billion.

All this to save 20 minutes on a journey from London to Birmingham

Daily Telegraph, 17th November, 2015.

I am a Freeman of the City of London. I believe this entitles me to drive a flock of sheep over London Bridge. Two questions: what constitutes a flock, and may I exercise this right at any time without notice, so delaying and annoying commuters?

Daily Telegraph, 1st January, 2016.

I agree with Don Graham that a pipe with a metal stem is beyond the pale (April 17) but take issue with his suggestion that a briar pipe is the only admissible accessory for a gentleman. Surely that accolade should go to the meerschaum pipe, although a true pipe-smoking aficionado would select a briar pipe with a meerschaum bowl.

The Times, 28th April, 2016.

Restaurant bills often come with a service charge included (letter, May 4). I ask for this to be removed and then leave a cash tip of a size that I consider appropriate for the service received.

On occasion, this has been zero - but only when I never intend to return to that restaurant.

Daily Telegraph, 5th May, 2016.

Harry Robert’s letter (Service with a snarl, June 7) is a good reminder of how difficult it is to attract the attention of waiters in French restaurants. The epitaph on a well-known maitre d’s gravestone is said to read: ‘God finally caught his eye,’

The Times, 8th June, 2016

Using a spurtle to stir porridge (letter, July 17) is a relatively new phenomenon. This device was originally a flat, wooden, spatula-like utensil designed for flipping oatcakes on a hot griddle.

Daily Telegraph, 24th July, 2016.

You report (November 7) that the shortest International flight is to begin between St.Gallen-Altenrhein in Switzerland, over Lake Constance to Friedrichshafen in Germany. Flying time will be 8 minutes.

The world’s shortest commercial flight takes place between two Orkney Islands in Scotland, Westray and Papa Westray, which are separated by Just 1.7 miles of land and sea. Flights on this route are scheduled for two minutes: the record for the fastest flight is 53 seconds.

The Times, 7th November, 2016.

The Brexit formula is simple: stop paying and stop obeying.

Daily Telegraph, 18th November, 2016.

A few months ago, standing beside David Cameron at a press conference in support of the Remain campaign, Barack Obama, the US President, said that if Britain voted to leave the EU we would go to ‘the back of the queue’ for a trade deal. This was because the US preferred to have trade arrangements with blocs of countries rather than individual ones.

It is therefore ironic that, after three years of negotiations, the Transatlantic and Investment Partnership between the US and the EU has collapsed because of disagreement between EU member countries.

Perhaps President Obama would like to reconsider Britain’s position in the queue.

The Times, 2016.

Those of us who voted to leave the EU nearly seven months ago are at a loss to understand why nothing seems to be happening. I fear that statements about not disclosing our negotiating hand are disguising the fact that our leaders are dragging their feet.

Where are the bold statements of intent? Where are the strong rebuttals of EU threats against us?

Daily Telegraph, 2017.

When I went to University in the seventies, I attended lectures (sometimes) and tutorials (sometimes). I wrote essays for my director of studies, which he marked. At the end of the year, I was faced with a number of questions which I was required to answer. My degree result was determined by my efforts in that exam.

We now appear to have a regime of continuous assessment, where essays written before the exam are counted towards the end degree. Little wonder that students are tempted to buy essays online (report, February, 21).

Universities should revert to the status quo ante: study the subject, do the work and then go into the exam hall and be judged solely on the exam result.

Daily Telegraph, February, 2017.

Mark Lloyd, chief executive of the Angling Trust, is right to identify three issues threatening the survival of wild salmon - commercial netting, agricultural pollution and predation by cormorants and goosanders (letter, June 1). However there is a fourth threat, and that is seals. Seals have no natural predators in British waters and the population has exploded in recent years.

Culling is the answer, but the public outcry would make the badger cull look like a walk in the park.

Daily Telegraph, June 2017.

Tom Whipple is quite right to highlight the tortuous comparisons to describe wines (‘Why that toasted oak Pinot tastes better, even if it’s plonk’, June 7). Years ago, while trying to educate myself about wines from a second-hand wine book bought in a charity shop, I was amused to read: ’This Mersault has a lazy oiliness about it which suggests the Cassius rather than the Brutus.

The Times, June, 2017.

It might be assumed that Jacob Rees-Mogg named his child ‘Sixtus’ because it was his sixth (Diary, July 5). In fact, sixtus in Latin means ‘polished.’ The Latin word for six is sextus.

The Times, 14th July, 2017.

With beer, wine and spirits made more expensive north of the border (letter, November 16), may we expect a roaring trade in smuggling booze? Nicola Sturgeon, the Scottish First Minister, is to be congratulated on increasing English exports.

Daily Telegraph, 17th November, 2017.

The late Max Clifford was famous for making up tall tales for the tabloids. Famously, he confected a story about David Mellor wearing a blue Chelsea shirt for his trysts with his mistress just to add colour to the scandal. Sandy Pratt, a reader, says that the lie would have been much better if Clifford had dressed Mellor in yellow, since that is what Chelsea wore when they played away from home.

From the Times Diary, 13th December, 2017,

With acknowledgement to its Editor, Patrick Kidd.

For our series on broadcasting malapropism, Sandy Pratt nominated the tongue-tied announcer on the BBC’s French Service who, in an item on people living around Cape Town, had meant to say ‘la population immense du Cap’ but instead said ‘la copulation immense du Pape.’

From The Times Diary, 23rd November, 2017,

With acknowledgement to its Editor, Patrick Kidd.

As usual, New Year’s honours have been given to time-serving, well-paid politicians whom no one has heard of before, while those who provide true public service are ignored. The whole system is deeply flawed and should be abolished (but after my knighthood, please).

Daily Telegraph, 1st January, 2018.

The new Question Time presenter should be the charming, articulate Fiona Bruce.

Daily Mail, 26th June, 2018.

While I applaud the Chancellor’s £10 million of funding for the air ambulance service, why is there no such funding for the lifeboat service?

Daily Telegraph, 30th October, 2018.

Continuing our series of dietary advice, Sandy Pratt says his local pub has a sign encouraging people to embrace ‘dry January’. Beneath is added: ’we offer dry martinis, dry white wine and dry cider.

The Times, 6th November, 2018.

I take it that President Donald Trump will be suing President Emmanuel Macron for placing a hand on his knee at the Elysee palace in what looked like a MeToo moment.

Daily Telegraph, 12th November, 2018.

The acceptance of the Withdrawal Agreement without demur by the 27 countries of the EU clearly shows who has won and who has lost.

The good news is that when she fails to get it through Parliament, she will have no alternative but to resign. The sooner the better: she has betrayed those who voted to leave the EU.

Daily Telegraph, 26th November, 2018.

What a disaster. This week 200 cowardly Conservative MPs voted in favour of Theresa May, probably the worst Conservative leader in living memory, and indeed beyond. Incompetent and deceitful, she has allowed Britain to be humiliated in her ‘negotiations’ with the EU.

I have cut my Conservative membership card in two and posted it to Number 10 (without a stamp).

Daily Telegraph, 16th December, 2018.

I was appalled to read that the BBC is to raise the licence fee and is to consider ending free licences for those over 75 (report, February 2).

The licence fee should be scrapped. Programmes the BBC makes or buys are no better than those of commercial broadcasters that have to live and compete in the real world. The licence fee helps to pay the inflated salaries of BBC executives.

Daily Telegraph, 4th February, 2019.

Critics of Boris Johnson claim he is not a ‘details’ person. He does not need to be. A Prime Minister’s focus should be on the bigger picture, leaving details to trusted, competent advisers and civil servants. That is why Theresa May was such a failure: she insisted on micro-managing everything.

Daily Telegraph, 12th June, 2019.

The US left the British Empire with no deal and its done rather well since.

Daily Mail, 10th July, 2019.

Boris Johnson has made a monumental mistake in approving HS2. Any businessman knows that when a project turns out to be misconceived, you do not pour good money after bad. Unfortunately, Mr. Johnson is a politician, not a businessman. His agenda is driven by vanity and in the sure knowledge that when HS2 is completed, at whatever extraordinary cost, if it is proved a success, he will be remembered as a man of vision. If it is proved a failure, which is more likely, he will have long left the political stage and can claim the mismanagement of the project did not happen on his watch.

After wrongly allowing Huawei to participate in 5G, the HS2 decision further erodes his political capital.

Daily Mail, 13th January, 2020.

The rugby international between Ireland and Italy, scheduled for March 7, has been postponed and the match between Italy and England on March 14 is in doubt on account of the coronavirus. In the meantime, there are several flights from Italy to Dublin each day, not to mention flights from China. Am I missing something?

Daily Telegraph, 28th February, 2020.

Yes, Singapore imports 90 per cent of its food, but its government has set a target to produce 30 per cent of its food by 2030.

Daily Mail, 2020.

Sign seen outside a butcher’s shop: ‘Panic buyers welcome here.’

Daily Mail, 13th March, 2020.

The new drink is a Quarantini: it’s a normal martini, but you drink it alone in your house.

Daily Mail, 19th March, 2020.

Criticism of the Government for failing to have enough PPE available when Covid-19 suddenly descended upon us is absurd. It’s akin to investing millions of pounds in snow-clearing equipment that is left idle until the once in twenty years road-blocking blizzard arrives.

Daily Mail, 16th April, 2020.

MPs voting remotely during the lockdown is eminently sensibly (letter, April 24). However, when Parliament resumes in the House of Commons and Lords, would it not be even more sensible to abandon MPs having physically to file through the aye and no lobbies to register a vote, an anachronism long overdue for abolishing. Instead, MPs could vote simply by pressing a button.

The Times, 27th April, 2020.

It has been suggested that the public wants an extension to the Brexit transition period beyond December 31. Does anyone believe common ground can be found on abiding by EU rules and regulations, the role of the European Court of Justice or access to fishing waters? The answer is an emphatic ‘No’.

Brexit EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier’s remit gives him no room to manoeuvre as is evidenced by his mantra of ‘level playing fields’ and maintaining the status quo on fishing rights, which we oppose.

These entrenched views will not be altered by an extension. I suspect those calling for one are those who did not wish to leave the EU at all.

Daily Mail, 1st April, 2020.

Juries could be reduced from 12 to 7 on account of the coronavirus (Mail). Just as MPs physically going through the ‘aye’ and ‘no’ lobbies to register a vote is an anachronism that should be reformed, the same applies to trials.

It’s time juries were abolished in favour of judges deciding matters. The man on the Clapham omnibus is not equipped to decide on complex matters such as financial fraud.

Daily Mail, 5th May, 2020.

Although it may be sensible to leave one’s home only once a day to exercise, there is no legal restriction on how many times one can go out each day to exercise.

Daily Telegraph, 9th May, 2020.

To get around lockdown rules, put your house on the market and get your Mum to book a viewing.

Daily Mail, 18th May, 2020.

Sing no, sweet chariot.

Daily Mail, 23rd June, 2020.

A law that is unenforceable is pointless, and the proposed 14 day quarantine period for those coming to the UK from next week falls squarely into this category. Leaving aside the lack of manpower to police this absurd policy, you could simply assert you had to make an urgent visit to the pharmacy or supermarket when the spot check occurred to avoid the £1,000 fine.

Another instance of making policy on the hoof without thought for the ramifications not least to the economy.

Daily Mail, 3rd June, 2020.

Why the hysterics over chlorinated chicken and beef treated with antibiotics? If it is permitted to be sold here, it will not be compulsory to buy it. The consumer will decide.

Daily Mail, 11th June, 2020.

Rather than imposing the whole £157.50 television licence fee on over-75s, it would be fairer to allow a discounted rate of £50 per annum. No one would complain about that.

Daily Mail, 15th July, 2020.

It is high time we made cuts to the personnel in our Armed Forces and military equipment. We are no longer a superpower and have no role as the policeman of the world. Large-scale spending on the Armed Forces is a vanity project. We are not likely to be invaded physically, so do not need large numbers to defend our shores.

Any invasion is likely to be cyber ones, so resources should be directed at protecting our national computer systems from being hacked and hijacked. What is going to be achieved by sending an aircraft carrier to the South China Sea? Absolutely nothing, other than to perpetuate the myth that we are still a powerful naval nation.

Daily Mail, 20th July, 2020.

Is Lord Botham of Beefy qualified to review Government legislation

Daily Mail, 5th August, 2020.

Paying the French to stop migrants crossing the Channel is a complete waste of money (report, August 9). They clearly have no interest in preventing the boats from leaving their shores for Britain.

Daily Telegraph, 18th August, 2020.

Xylella fastidiosa (report, July 20) is a plant disease that has wreaked havoc in Continental Europe, wiping out olive groves in southern Italy. It could have a devastating impact on more than 500 species of British plants. Accordingly, the Government announced a ban on the import of plants that carry the disease, but the European Union has ordered Britain to repeal the new controls, ostensibly because the ‘science’ does not support them. In reality, it is because of complaints by European suppliers.

The Government is helpless and is obliged to comply with the ruling. If it had any backbone, it would refuse to do so and await January 1, 2021, when absurd EU rulings such as this can be safely ignored.

Daily Telegraph, 25th July, 2020.

Copyright c 2020 Sandy Pratt

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