The Spectator

Letters | 18 August 2012

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State of the Union

Sir: One did not expect Iain Martin (‘Unionist Gold’, 11 August), a former editor of the Scotsman, to turn up in the Spectator, still arguing against Scottish nationalism and promoting the union. So that is what the Olympics are about — waving the Union flag. Not for itself. We do not rejoice in other countries’ golds, only in those of Team GB. Ah well, I said farewell to the Scotsman and will do the same to the Spectator if we cannot have a slightly higher standard of debate. How about: why is it beneficial for all countries except Scotland, one of the oldest nations, to be nation states?

Helen C. Bovey

Sir: I suppose it was inevitable that the success of Team GB at the Olympics would precipitate a desperate plea by a Scottish unionist that his compatriots should take note of the benefits of the Union. Am I the only Englishman sick to the back teeth with the representation of the unionist debate as if it were a choice solely for the Scots? Why does no English politician stand up for what is possibly the majority view (or if not, the view of a substantial minority) among the English and invite the Scots to ‘piss off’? Good luck to Mr Salmond, I say — I’m with him all the way.

Paul Goodson

Feeding fashions

Sir: My eldest child is now 39 and when I had her (in Greenwich Hospital) I had to battle to breastfeed her against the wishes of the NHS and society and with the disapproval of a close relative. Almost the opposite of the experience of Misti Traya (‘Breast beating’, 11 August), I was the only one on the ward breastfeeding and at feed-time the nurses insisted on bringing a bottle for my baby in case I did not have enough milk; in those days one was in hospital for ten days. It was impossible, without breaking social conventions, to breastfeed in public and even when visiting certain relatives one felt a bit like a social pariah for breastfeeding.

Barbara Ray

Riot brigade

Sir: Twenty-three summers ago the brave protests of Catholics, Lutherans and others in Poland, East Germany and elsewhere played a crucial role in bringing down the Berlin wall and the ideology that had created it. Orthodox Christian Russians had had their own martyrdoms during the long night of communism. Hence surely the horror and disgust now being felt by many, in Russia as well as in the West, at the slavish endorsement by the Orthodox hierarchy there of the new authoritarianism of Putin (‘Pussy Riot were wrong’, 11 August).

If Churches engage in politics (as so often they have done) they must expect political protests; and judging by the massive coverage it’s received, Pussy Riot’s protest has been a highly effective one. What the Theotokos might think about it is a mystery perhaps best left to theologians.

Tim Hudson

A new sport

Sir: In response to Ross Clark’s article on the meteoric success of Chinese swimmer Ye Shiwen (‘Our china Syndrome’, 11 August), might I point out that all of the nationalistic hysteria died down when it was pointed out that a significant part of her training regime was conducted by an Australian coach here in Brisbane. In light of Australia’s very modest efforts in actually winning medals, the Australian press then proceeded to inform us that Australian coaches were responsible for coaching 14 athletes in various disciplines from countries other than Australia to win medals. Any chance that ‘clutching at straws’ might be introduced as a sport in time for the Rio Olympics?

Ian Friend
Woolloongabba, Queensland, Australia

Fats and figures

Sir: Those 400 million pounds of excess fat assessed by Rod Williams (‘Fat society’, 11 August) to be burdening the British populace are equivalent only to the energy employed in cycling some 60 billion miles, a distance ridden by our much smaller — in both senses — population during four years around the time of the last London Olympic games. Could, then, a resurgence of cycling, inspired by recent athletic achievements, bring about transformations to waistlines and balance sheets, which the article suggests are linked? Alas, probably not: the reduction in motoring accompanying any such six-fold increase in cycling would be economically ruinous.

Michael Woodman

Sir: Rod Williams notes the twin rise of obesity and debt in developed nations. But his suggestion that part of the explanation may lie in moral psychology is unconvincing. Obesity is concentrated in the poorest populations of developed nations but debt is not; as such, the moral psychology idea cannot explain their twin rise. Further, if moral psychology were a major cause of obesity we should expect to see it spread evenly throughout the populace. As it is not, the moral psychology explanation needs to posit an as yet unidentified intemperance gene or meme in the obese western poor. This is implausible; more probable is that the cause of this obesity lies with (relative) poverty itself rather than with the moral psychology of the poor.

Peter Allmark

Cut and run

Sir: Matthew Parris’s excellent appraisal of the withdrawal from Afghanistan

(11 August) misses out the main driving force behind the urgency of the situation. Cameron must get the troops out quickly so that his accountant, Philip Hammond, can disband units and sack soldiers with total disregard for national security.
Lieutenant Colonel Roger Jones OBE