Not an island
Sir: I and those with whom I live and work are all within coughing distance of Sam Leith’s ‘threshold of death’ and we need no reminders that your body is your own, because we wish to God it wasn’t (‘Last rights’, 20 April). But as it is, we owe it to that body to see the process through. My ‘going hence’ is not a private matter. I am not an island but a piece of the continent and that connection is the key to the human genius of social literacy.
We demented dodderers are an eighth age, a new demographic, practically a new species, and we bring with us new ethical dilemmas. Nevertheless, civilised society remains underpinned by the moral injunction presented by Douglas Murray to ‘choose life’, which euthanasiasts fail to appreciate. For them, society is simply a collection of autonomous individuals and death just another commodity, with we crumblies its loyal customers.
On Hugh Clough
Sir: In his defence of so-called ‘assisted dying’, Sam Leith calls in support the words of the 19th-century poet Hugh Clough: ‘Thou shalt not kill/ But needst not strive/ Officiously to keep alive’ (20 April). Your literary editor seems unaware that the poem from which they are taken — ‘The Latest Decalogue’ — was a bitterly satirical account of what Clough saw as a perversion of Christian morality. Thus, another line of it reads: ‘Bear not false witness/ Let the lie/ Have time on its own wings to fly.’ Poor Clough, to be himself so perversely misrepresented.
Dallington, East Sussex
The plan to unite Ireland
Sir: I agree with much of Liam Halligan’s analysis of the Irish government’s approach to Brexit (‘Good Friday disagreement’, 20 April). However, I think he omits an important point. Leo Varadkar is not merely attempting to derail Brexit; he is also hoping to achieve a united Ireland. For decades politicians, officials and journalists in the south have privately peddled the line to gullible counterparts in Britain that the Dublin establishment has been ambiguous about whether it really wanted the North with all of its myriad problems, but this is and always has been a lie. The Good Friday Agreement was clearly perceived behind closed doors in Dublin as a key transition stage to eventual reunification. The final step only required a favourable conjunction of circumstances, and for Varadkar and his team this is now on the horizon. Abetted by Brussels, by the imbecility of the DUP, by British Remainer MPs and officials, and while mendaciously mouthing public sympathy, Varadkar has rendered genuine Brexit nigh on impossible. What he now anticipates is that the crisis this is inducing in Britain will inevitably thrust Jeremy Corbyn into Downing Street and that a pro-united Ireland London government will then arrange a satisfactory outcome to a Northern Ireland border poll, even if that necessitates the dead rising from their graves to vote early and vote often.
Sir: Almost every correspondent in The Spectator (most recently James Tooley, ‘They tuck you up’, 20 April) is enamoured with the sanctity and binding nature of marriage. My truth as a single parent who also idealises a two-parent arrangement is that I see all around me bored middle-class couples stuck in dysfunctional, joyless marriages. Offspring are very observant and notice this. Indeed my son — now 19 and thriving — has articulated from an early age how dreadful it would have been if his dad (with whom he has a good relationship) had stayed, though he sees marriage generally as a positive thing.
I think the truth is that there is no ideal arrangement for parenting, as each situation is completely unique. When it comes to children, social class is a much greater predictor of outcome than married status.
When Virgin arrived
Sir: It is sad that Martin Vander Weyer will not mourn the passing of Virgin trains (Any other business, 20 April). Perhaps a Yorkshire view, but for those of us from Lancashire the transformation of the West Coast line in 2002 when Virgin introduced the Pendolino trains and knocked three-quarters of an hour off the time to London will not so easily be dismissed. If HS2 is struggling, perhaps it should be handed over to Sir Richard Branson. I’d hope for a personal target that it should reach Preston in my lifetime!
Mole Valley knowledge
Sir: Melissa Kite writes this week that she no longer feels at home in Mole Valley Conservatives (Real Life, 20 April). Should she ever find herself west of Bristol, she might visit a branch of Mole Valley Farmers, where she would find everything a horse owner could need or desire and a distinct paucity among staff and customers of anyone who voted Remain. I think she would feel entirely comfortable there.
Newton Abbot, Devon
Sir: Charles Moore is almost always right, but sadly he was mistaken last week (The Spectator’s Notes, 20 April). Kenneth Rose’s Journals for 1972 record Isaiah Berlin correcting him when he made the same error in arguing that Wolfson was the first Jew since St John to have a college named after him at both Oxford and Cambridge. He triumphantly pointed out: ‘The Oxford St John was the Baptist, the Cambridge St John the Evangelist.’ Wolfson was therefore the first since Jesus.