The Spectator

Letters | 24 September 2015

Plus: Spitting on babies; dismissing women composers; picking up litter

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Have faith, Nick

Sir: Rarely have I read an article as powerful as Nick Cohen’s (‘Why I left’,

19 September). As a lifelong Tory, all I feel qualified to say is that I think I understand. I am certain, however, that Messrs Corbyn, McDonnell et al will soon be consumed by the fire of their own hatred, and disappear in a puff of acrid smoke. Have faith in the British electorate, Nick.

Jem Raison

Shipston on Stour, Warwickshire

No mention of Paula

Sir: With regards to Simon Barnes’s article about drugs in sport (‘Our drugs cheat’, 19 September), I have not ‘outed’ Paula Radcliffe as anything, let alone as a drugs cheat. I put a question to the chairman of UK Anti-Doping in a three-hour hearing that referred to concerns expressed in the media about British athletes. I did not mention Ms Radcliffe, made no allegation, and categorically denied the suggestion on the Today programme the next day.

None of the other members of my committee believes that there was any reference to her. It was made quite clear that the hearing was a general one and not tied to individuals. David Bedford, who had been race director of the London Marathon at the time, sat through the entire UKAD testimony and introduced himself to me afterwards without the slightest suggestion of impropriety on my part.

For your article to use the language of ‘outing’ is highly unfortunate. As the dictionary definitions make clear, ‘outing’ generally refers to claims that are true.

Jesse Norman MP

Chairman, House of Commons Culture, Media and Sport Committee, London SW1

Sir Keith’s insult

Sir: As a reader of The Spectator I am pleased that Charles Moore was given the opportunity to defend Sir Keith Joseph and attack me (Notes, 12 September). However, since 1964, I have referred to my interview with Sir Keith numerous times, both before he died in 1994 and since. Charles Moore’s case against me is based on the notion that this happened at Nottingham University, which caused him to question whether the interviewer who made the comments to me in 1964 about growing bananas, despite having Sir Keith Joseph on his name plate, was in fact Sir Keith Joseph.

On the Radio 4 programme The Life Scientific, I said I had been interviewed by Sir Keith and others at Reading University, not Nottingham. Since Mr Moore based his article on an incorrect assumption, an explanation or an apology would be nice, but not necessary.

Professor Sir Geoff Palmer

Penicuik, Scotland

How to exclude women

Sir: Damian Thompson (‘There’s a reason there are no great women composers’, 16 September) may find it instructive to study Joanna Russ’s How to Suppress Women’s Writing (1983). In this classic analysis of literary criticism, she itemises nine different strategies by which the work of female artists has been systematically excluded from their respective canons.

Thompson’s article uses so many of them that it would make excellent teaching material for courses on aesthetics or the history of the arts. While it would no doubt discourage and dismay students to see the processes of canon-formation so clearly in action protecting established cultural privilege, I am sure they would enjoy the opportunities it presents for playing ‘bad faith bingo’.

Dr Liz Garnett


A preferable death

Sir: The debate about assisted dying (Letters, 19 September) has been rather too much concerned with the finer feelings of doctors. I have now watched both my parents gasp away the final days of their terminal illness on the edge of consciousness as increasing doses of morphine struggled to keep pace with

their pain.

By contrast, when my horse was kicked and it became clear that his leg was shattered beyond recovery, the vet was able to cut his suffering short instantaneously with a bullet between the eyes. When my time comes, I know which I would prefer.

Stephen Dudley

Malvern, Worcs

Spitting on babies

Sir: If Rod Liddle really feels tempted to spit on babies (19 September), he should move to Greece — here everybody does it. It is an age-old custom, in order to prevent the child being cursed by the Evil Eye. My Greek wife’s aunt caused wide-eyed panic on visiting our firstborn in hospital when she ‘pth-pitt’ed at each bundle of joy.

Frederick Andrews

Asvestohori, Greece

Last night of the Proms ever

Sir: Having also switched on to enjoy the Last Night of the Proms, I, unlike Rod Liddle, promptly switched off when I saw who was conducting. I am now satisfied that I did the right thing. Suffice to say, the BBC now no longer receives my £75 licence fee.

The Revd Anthony Pellegrini

Harrow, Middlesex

Foul offerings

Sir: Like Toby Young (Status Anxiety, 19 September), I pick up litter on my walks, but alas not on his ambitious scale, as I limit myself to food and liquid containers. I was interested in his comment on the problem of plastic doggie-turd bags. To scoop up dog turds and then to leave them dangling in a plastic bag in my view negates the business of keeping our streets tidy. Whenever I come across a canine offering on the ground I feel a twinge of nostalgia. Such matter is, after all, nature’s own and would be better returned to her.

Chris Arthur