12 JANUARY 1991, Page 18

Sir: In your editorial you raise the question of 'ultimate

authority' in our political system, specifically in the area of Euro- pean integration.

You appear to think that 'ultimate au- thority' is a sine qua non of organised society. It is in fact a feudal institution which disappeared in England with the execution of Charles I in 1649. Since then we have been governed without the sanc- tion of absolute power. In an industrial society, especially, there is no 'ultimate' power: the Queen, for example, cannot close down The Spectator, nor can she as commander-in-chief order our troops back from the Gulf. In a modern democracy, power is fluid: the courts, ministers, Parlia-


ment and the people each have aspects of power, but none is absolute. In other industrial countries, too, it would be diffi- cult to pinpoint the ultimate authority: can Mr Bush dismiss state governors in the USA, can Mr Gorbachev control the feder- ated republics of the USSR?

European union is not something to be debated as if it may never happen. It is here with us already. We have signed the Rome treaty, the Nato treaty, the WEA treaty which all involve us acting with others politically or militarily. But there is no 'ultimate authority' in any of these: as a mature power of world stature we have chosen to consult and act with our closest allies for mutual benefit. No doubt the process will be fraught with tensions as we all adjust to the new fait accompli, but to think still in terms of ultimate prerogatives ignores the reality of the power structure in advanced societies.

Michael Coultas

90 York Street, Norwich, Norfolk