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Letter: Friends, brothers, colleagues

Tony Blair's Cabinet is not the first to adopt informal modes of address ("Say hi to the new formality", 15 June). When Arthur Balfour formed his government in 1902 the result was a tangled skein of friends and relations, including his brother, a cousin, a cousin's husband, sons of former colleagues, various in-laws and his fagmaster and fag from Eton.

Balfour's biographer records an exasperated minister complaining of "cliquey conversations between 'Arthur' and 'Bob' and 'George' - sometimes almost unintelligible in their intimate allusions to the outer circle of the Cabinet.

How fortunate, not least for the minutes secretary, that the Prime Minister and his father-in-law are not both members of the present Cabinet.

Norman Cryer

Knaresborough, N Yorkshire

Your article misses the point. Informality, whether in the way you address people, the way you dress or how you live reflects a weakening of authority in society, and a strengthening of the power of ordinary people compared to those who used to command and demand respect.

Keith Flett

London N17