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Language skills can help win power and influence people


Language skills would also be useful for politicians. I contend that the reason why British governments of all colours make such a hash of negotiating with Europe, is that almost all ministers are monoglot, and are accordingly despised by their more multilingual European colleagues.

There was one exception: Ian Taylor, minister of technology under John Major. He is a fluent French and German speaker, and a passionate European. In the 1990s, he persuaded, almost single-handed, the member states, in their own languages, to follow the UK lead in privatising and liberalising their telecoms industries. This they all did by 2000.

This was possibly the only time that the European Union has ever danced to an Anglo-Saxon tune. If a junior minister in an otherwise Europhobic government, speaking three languages, could achieve this, what will a Deputy Prime Minister speaking five be able to do?

Richard Sarson, London SW20

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