Letter: Losses and gains on Britain's historical journey

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The Independent Online
Sir: Paul Johnson's canny insertion of a partisan political dig near the end of his punchy essay on the theme of decline ('The British have always been addicted to doom-mongering', 8 March) cannot be allowed to pass without correction. 'We British' do not 'feel, deep in our hearts, that Parliament will fail us . . . because its powers are slipping away to Brussels.'

We British feel that Parliament is failing us because it is no longer part of a self-evidently democratic system of government, because it is risibly archaic as a symbol of our national identity and because it is lamentably inefficient as an instrument for legislating on the matters that matter most to us - not least, those related to the contentious question of moral decline.

'Maastricht' in this grim context is no more than the latest of a long series of sensible recognitions of the inadequacy of insular isolation - more likely to be seedy in our case than splendid - which would provide material much more relevant to serious- minded inquiry into the state of our island now than the historical bits and pieces of Mr Johnson's costume drama.

Yours sincerely,

GEOFFREY BEST

St Antony's College

Oxford

9 March

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