Britain’s great universities must resist chilling attacks on free speech

Looking down from the tower of the University Church of St Mary the Virgin on to All Saints College, Oxford - Ashley Cooper

Looking down from the tower of the University Church of St Mary the Virgin on to All Saints College, Oxford – Ashley Cooper

A failed Brexit

SIR – Parliament, having been handed back sovereign control by the people in the Brexit vote, has turned out to be incapable of exercising it (Leading Article, May 18).

Our MPs seem unable to wean themselves off diktats from Brussels, and when they have introduced new laws or regulations – such as on immigration – our situation has only become worse. We should acknowledge that Brexit has failed because of incompetent politicians and the resistance of the Blob. We have lost the ability to govern, and proved ourselves unworthy of sovereign control over our laws.

Michael Coombs
Beckenham, Kent

Obesity time bomb

SIR – Professor Peter Kopelman, my late cousin, and his colleagues warned of the dangers of obesity to the nation’s health (report, May 18) over many years. Indeed, Peter was interviewed on the subject for the Telegraph by one Boris Johnson (“Diet Doctor says bad eating habits pose serious risk to nation’s health”, report, June 2 1997).

Mr Johnson nearly died during the Covid pandemic and admitted that his weight was a contributory factor to his near-demise. Why have successive British governments largely failed to act on the advice of health professionals?

Stephen Jones
London SE1

Today’s listener losses

SIR – It is no surprise that the Today programme is losing listeners (report, May 18), as its treatment of government politicians is formulaic and unenlightening.

First a presenter will hector a minister, often about something not within his or her remit. The minister will respond by parroting that day’s Downing Street briefing, preceded by: “I think what the public want to know…” And so the “discussion” continues, until they run out of time.

Just once I would like to hear a minister say, “I don’t know – that’s not in my departmental responsibility”, but the presenter would inevitably retort: “You must have been in the Cabinet meeting…”

Better, more thoughtful presenters might just elicit information of public interest, but they would then have to forego a “gotcha” moment.

Robert Britnell
Canterbury, Kent

SIR – Good diction is all that is needed to correct Today. Unfortunately, with a few exceptions, we no longer hear it.

Sue Mason
Long Sutton, Lincolnshire

Champion spenders

SIR – Manchester City’s joy is sporting integrity’s misery (“Guardiola tells players they should dare to dream”, Sport, May 18).

If you are not depressed at the prospect of this team acquiring the European Champions League trophy after 15 seasons of simply attempting to buy it, you don’t really love sport, never mind football.

Mark Boyle
Johnstone, Renfrewshire

Forever Middlesex

SIR – I, and all my ancestors, were born in Middlesex (report, May 17). When giving my address I always write my postcode for Harrow, followed by Middlesex. We will not disappear as Wessex has.

Veronica Leon
Harrow, Middlesex

Learning by phonics

SIR – After reading the heading above Nick Gibb’s article (Comment, May 17), I had to look up the meaning of “phonics”. Then I realised it was how I was taught to read many years ago.

There is no more logical way start reading than to learn the sound of each letter of the alphabet. I cannot understand how any teacher could believe differently. The same applies to maths: you cannot start teaching arithmetic until the pupil knows what the numbers nought to nine are.

Teaching any fundamental subject must begin with the basics. To start in the middle of the course is both silly and detrimental to the pupil.

Peter Mountain
Chesham, Buckinghamshire

Prostate cancer tests

SIR – I was alarmed by your report (May 18), “Prostate tests ‘should just be for men with symptoms’”.

When I was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2015, I was asymptomatic. The consultant told me that if I had not had regular PSA tests and waited until I had symptoms, I would have died. I know from two prostate cancer support groups that many other asymptomatic men have been told the same thing.

Bob Ferris
Banstead, Surrey

Garden bandits

SIR – The problem in my garden is not foxes (Letters, May 17) but badgers. In recent years I have waged a losing battle to stop them eating my corn on the cob. What is particularly irritating is that they wait until it is perfectly ripe before tucking in. I will strengthen my barricade, but with little hope.

The situation has grown more serious because this year the badgers have also decided to dig up some of my newly planted potatoes.

Andrew Don
Bradley, Hampshire

SIR – The tales of collecting lion dung to repel garden pests (Letters, May 18) brought back memories of my childhood in Margate, and the time I was sent on my go-kart to Tivoli Park while the circus was in town.

The journey home – towing the go-kart piled high with 10-pin bowling ball-sized elephant droppings – was slower, and fraught with spillages and reloads. But my Grandad’s vegetable harvest was apparently the best ever the following season.

Kevin Henley
Cheshunt, Hertfordshire

The kindness of strangers on Canadian roads

A moose and calf cross Spray Lakes Road in the Rocky Mountains, Alberta, Canada - alamy

A moose and calf cross Spray Lakes Road in the Rocky Mountains, Alberta, Canada – alamy

SIR – When driving across the Rockies (Letters, May 17), we stopped at a road junction to consult the map.

One by one, cars drew up behind us and waited. No one hooted or flashed their lights. All we could do when we moved on was lower our windows and give them a huge wave.

Richard Fagan
Gerrards Cross, Buckinghamshire

SIR – We have always been impressed by the friendliness of Canadians. When I asked someone about this he said their tiny population occupies an area larger than the United States: “We’re spread so thin that if you bump into another human you just want to talk to them.”

Julian Tope
Portishead, Somerset

SIR – Queuing for a meal at a restaurant in Florida with my son who has Down’s syndrome, people in the queue started to become interested in him.

By the time we had reached the top of the line we had been furnished with so many vouchers for food that we paid only for our soft drinks.

Furthermore, the young waiter tied balloons to my son’s seat, and gave him special place mats and napkins and lollipops.

He informed me he had a brother “like your son”, and wanted to make the visit special for him. The kindness of American strangers made this an evening we will always remember.

Gaile Morton

Defence considerations in British energy policy

SIR – To Ambrose Evans-Pritchard’s excellent survey of future energy sources (Business, May 17), I would add one vital consideration: the vulnerability of offshore installations.

It is virtually impossible to guarantee their endurance in war. This must be taken into account when developing Britain’s energy strategy. The survival potential of dispersed, self-contained, small nuclear reactors should not be overlooked, especially if they are hardened against attack.

Air Commodore Michael Allisstone
Chichester, West Sussex

SIR – Like Philip Wilson-Sharp (Letters, May 12), I struggled to find someone to repair my solar thermal water-heating system. One supplier, after two attempts, abruptly refused to return.

Another company failed to fix it, and it still lies idle. This cost has been considerable and I am now resigned to using the immersion heater until I can summon the inclination and the funds to have another go at finding help.

Tim Tayler

SIR – My latest bill came with the closing sentiment: “Love and power, The Octopus Energy team”. What next – hugs and kisses from HMRC?

Patrick Tracey
Carlisle, Cumbria

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