This red herring may contain nuts

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The Independent Online

I have recently received a shoal of interesting letters about Michael Howard's prospects of becoming the next Prime Minister, and I would like to publish the best of them here today.

From Mr Tom Paxtree

Sir, Am I the only one who thinks there is something basically fallacious about democratic elections? To win an election, each party likes to put forward a good candidate. That means, someone who looks likely to win. What we have left after the election is someone who was good at winning elections. How do we know he will also run the country well?

At the last election, Mr Blair was definitely the most attractive candidate, but do we think he has blossomed into an attractive leader? The whole process seems decidedly fishy to me.

yours etc

From Sir Colin Fintoul

Sir, May I a make a forceful protest at the conclusion of the preceding letter? Mr Paxtree may or may not be right about democracy, but we at the White Fish Authority have become outraged at the loose use of the word "fishy" to describe anything suspect. It is simply a monstrous slur on fish.

Of course a fish smells a bit dodgy if left around for a few days. (How do you think dead humans smell after three days in the sea?) But freshly caught, natural fish is the glory of the food world. To use the word "fishy" as an insult is an insult to the whole of the British fishing industry.

Having got that off my chest, may I say that I agree with Mr Paxtree about our politicians? Mr Blair was once sincere and convincing. Now he seems merely cheesy.

yours etc

From Mrs Anne Merridew

Sir, It ill behoves a man who has just condemned the use of the word "fishy" to use the word "cheesy" pejoratively. We at the British Cheese Federation have enough trouble with EU rules and government bureaucracy without having to face insult by association. And it isn't just the word "cheesy". It's people being "cheesed off". It's people being "the big cheese". It's people saying "cheese!" in a silly way when smiling for a photograph!

Having got that off my chest, may I say that I disagree profoundly with Mr Paxtree about elections producing only good candidates, not good leaders. His logic can only be called ropy.

yours etc

From Mr Victor Claesen

Sir, Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear! Here we go again! We at the British Rope, Yarn and Twine Institute simply cannot understand why "ropy" has come to mean "deficient" or "suspect". There is nothing "ropy" about a good length of rope, as many a mountaineer will thankfully testify, and as many a hanged man in the old days found out to his regret.

I have only been in my post as public relations officer for the Rope, Yarn and Twine Institute for a year, but you would be surprised how often, because of thoughtless remarks like that, life does get quite hairy.

yours etc

From Mrs Yvonne Soulier

Sir, And what is wrong with hair? Why do you British think hair is so threatening? I am no representative of head office. I am nothing nationally. I am merely a French hair salonnier - I run a local hair salon in Sussex - but I am reminded day in, day out, by the way the English talk, just how the English language is loaded against hair. "A hairy situation" ... "keep your hair on!" ... "It's so old it's got whiskers on it" ... "shaggy dog story" ...

It drives me nuts!

yours etc

From Senhor Luis Blanco Sir, We at the International Nut Secretariat...

Miles Kington writes: I am afraid that's all we have space for today. But do keep writing in to me!