The Spectator

Letters | 10 September 2015

Plus: in defence green ink; the blight of Africa’s leaders; palliative care; and redheads

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Biblical suggestions

Sir: I wish to offer a couple of comments on Matthew Parris’s observation that although his ‘Christian atheism’ provides him with a moral framework, he feels the urge to help people in need, yet feels let down because Jesus offers no guidance about who to help and to what degree (‘Christianity is silent on my great moral dilemma’, 5 September). Jesus wants us to use our minds and our experiences, rather than simply applying set rules, and here is an example of how this works. Take the golden rule of ‘Do unto others’, add to it the Good Samaritan, and stir in the parable of the sheep and the goats, and there’s a fighting chance that the Syrian refugees will not be left to drown.

The Revd Robert Jackson

Bicester, Oxon

Pandering to the noisy

Sir: Rod Liddle (5 September) laments the fact that the ‘green-ink brigade’, a body that — among other things — mounts online petitions and which, he estimates, represents only 0.5 per cent of the population, is having a disproportionate influence on policy-making. Although he is sadly right, the phenomenon is not new. In the latter part of the 18th century, Edmund Burke wrote:

Because half-a-dozen grasshoppers under a fern make the field ring with their importunate chink, while thousands of great cattle, reposed beneath the shadow of the British oak, chew the cud and are silent, pray do not imagine that those who make the noise are the only inhabitants of the field.

If the green-ink brigade is winning, it is because our politicians, who by now should know better, still fail to see that pandering to those who make the most noise will not always get them home.

Ian Parkin


Sir: I am worried about Rod Liddle’s demonising of the green ink brigade. My father was chief of the general staff in the late 1960s, and was one of very few in the MOD to be allowed to top and tail his letters in green ink. I have taken to signing most copies in this manner, in homage to him. What should I do now?

Rupert Baker

Grateley, Hampshire

A blight on Africa

Sir: I was living in Zimbabwe when Mugabe came to power. For his first few years, he was Mr Nice Guy — treating both the whites and the Ndbele with equanimity. But after a few years his true colours came out, with the massacres carried out in the Eastern Highlands and later in Matabeleland. About this time I asked an elderly Shona man if he thought that Mugabe should go. After some consideration he replied no. Mugabe had by then plundered the country, he reasoned. If a new president were elected, he and his cohorts would start their plunder from scratch. In his opinion, it was better for the country to stay with the devil they knew.

I was reminded of this while reading Rian Malan’s criticism of the new book by R.W. Johnson (Books, 29 August). In 1994, I was living in South Africa and the euphoria that followed the election of Mandela was something to behold. But all subsequent presidents have been ‘small’ men concerned only with feathering their nests.

The sad thing is that whoever replaces Zuma will be worse, and as the Shona man pointed out, he will be starting from scratch to plunder a now nearly impoverished country. Africa is a wonderful continent, cursed by its leaders.

G.C. Neden

Craven Arms, Shropshire

Why we fear crime

Sir: Alexander Chancellor is right to think that Americans are a brave lot (Long life, 5 September) but I have a better explanation for why they fear crime less than we do in the UK: there is less crime there. Shootings make the headlines and the American homicide rate is four times ours, but murder is extremely rare in both countries. According to the most recent UN figures, people in England and Wales are more than twice as likely to be assaulted as they are in the US. Burglary and theft are more common than assault, and more so here than in the US. We are more afraid because we fear rare crimes more than common ones.

James McEvoy

Chertsey, Surrey

Against assisted dying

Sir: I agree with every word written by Douglas Murray on the subject of assisted dying — or granny-snuffing, as I call it (‘Death watch’, 29 August). However, one point he raises, that there is far better palliative care in the British system than in the Dutch, had not occurred to me.

My husband was given superb palliative care in his final days last winter, thanks to GPs, district nurses and the Paul Sartori Foundation, an excellent hospice-at-home charity in Pembrokeshire. All stops were pulled out to make his passing as free of distress and pain as possible once the time came. My only grouse is with the Welsh Assembly government, which unlike the rest of the UK does not have a cancer drugs fund, and thus denied him the drug which could have cured him.

I hope and pray that assisted dying never comes to this country.

Sally A. Williams

Dinas Cross, Pembrokeshire

Romantic redheads

Sir: I was enchanted to learn that the review of my book led Marigold Johnson into verse (Letters, 5 September). I offer this in reply.

Dear loving wife of fiery hue,

I am the redhead writer who

Wrote the book that inspired you

To pen your cheeky billet-doux.

Those who love redheads must be bold.

Our otherness is aeons old.

Your Paul will not need to be told

That he did truly marry gold.

I write this from Breda, where with 8,000 other redheads I am celebrating Redhead Day 2015. We were delighted by Marigold’s quatrain.

Jacky Colliss Harvey

Breda, The Netherlands