ONLY in the topsy-turvy world of Boris Johnson could success be a reason for sacking a minister. Julian Smith, in the short period of his tenure in the post of Northern Ireland Secretary, managed to do what the holders of that post over the past three years completely failed to do, namely resuscitate the moribund Assembly and at the same time win the trust of politicians of all parties.

He has rare gifts in an English politician: the wish and the ability to understand Ireland. As always happens, just when some progress has been made, a Tory politician puts his foot well and truly into it, stops all progress and stores up trouble for the future. As there is no logical reason for his dismissal, we must conclude that it was done as Mr Johnson wishes to have a “hard man” in the job. He does not seem to realise that, over the past 140 years – going back to Randolph Churchill via Winston Churchill, Lord Salisbury, Sir John French and many others – that the “hard men” have only ever made matters worse.

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Another aspect of his current policies, and looming trouble emanating from these, is the matter of demanding that the EU migrants who came to the UK as of right, and who believed themselves to be at home here, have now to enter the bureaucratic nightmare of applying for “settled status”. We have already had the example of the Windrush question and the deportation flights to Jamaica; now have to work out the implications of this.

In many respects this policy resembles that of the deportation of Polish Jews from Germany in October 1938, with the difference that they had no chance of remaining in Germany. These were people who had, in some cases, been in Germany for four generations, who had felt at home there and had worked hard and even fought for the country in the war. All that meant nothing to the National Socialists. They did not have the right papers and so it was “Raus”. What will happen to those EU nationals who, in July 2021, do not have the right papers? Will they be deported en masse? Will we do as Hitler did?

At least one ray of sunshine in the general gloom was that The National thought to publish the article on Dresden on February 13, the 75th anniversary of the Anglo-American bombing of the city. The excuse that the bombs were aimed at military targets does not wash. The bombs fell and the fire started in the heart of the old city, while the industrial suburbs were largely untouched.

Did the bombers really imagine that the Frauenkirche and the Johanneum harboured munitions factories? With an estimated 25,000-plus casualties, that was a horror on a par with the initial casualty list after the atomic bombing of Nagasaki some months later. And as far as I know there still stands in London the statue of Sir Arthur Harris, the man who invented “the firestorm” and first perfected it on the pretty mediaeval city of Lubeck.

We do well to remember.

Brian Patton
Foulden, Berwickshire

IT is well known that Johnson has a penchant for bridges, but why would he be so interested in one between Scotland and Northern Ireland?

Johnson’s latest wheeze, the Celtic Bridge, has had mixed reviews over the last week or so. Reviews ranging from “fanciful” to the enthusiastic support of Alan Dunlop. But with general reporting suggesting that the Tories have little interest in NI, knowing how Johnson feels about Scotland, why would Johnson choose this time to promote this northern link?

I for one fear that the project might be a way to tie Scotland to a cripplingly expensive infrastructure project it would find difficult to support as a newly restored independent nation, thus obliquely delaying our quest for independence as the practicalities of servicing the debt played out. However, in the end I have come to the conclusion that the bridge is indeed fanciful and that is what Johnson always intended it to be.

It was pre-emptive cover for the massive spend he was about to announce on HS2, the benefits of which even the most staunch Unionist would struggle to sell to Scotland. It is yet another mega project for the south of England, a big brother of Crossrail – another wildly over budget, taxpayer-funded undertaking in south-east England.

What better way to keep the “Jocks” happy than to announce a mega infrastructure project for them too (and NI). No need to build the damned thing, just seed the idea and feign interest and commitment.

Given the projected timescale for the completion of HS2 stage one, and the estimated expenditure of stages one and two, I believe that it is not a stretch to see the Celtic highway disappearing into the mist of time, into mythical folklore and where, I suspect, Johnson always intended it should be.

I Easton

ARE the Cabinet amongst the economically inactive the Home Secretary is talking about?

David Ritchie
North Ayrshire