Letters: The great Therese Johaug deserves her chance | Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics


The two pages devoted to reporting the events of the first full day of the Winter Olympics were spoiled by an inexplicable pillory by Norway’s women’s 7.5km+7.5km skiathlon winner, Therese Johaug (” Spoiled start as the first gold of the games is won banned doper Johaug”, Sport). This amazing athlete, who was rightfully banned for 18 months for a positive drug test and missed the 2018 Olympics, did her time and won the event in great style.

How did their victory spoil the start of the games? Is there a presumption of recidivism in an athlete who breaks the rules, or do we, as an enlightened society, wipe the slate clean after a fresh start? Her skill was certainly recognized in the report, but I never quite understood the meaning of “damn with faint praise.” Now I do.
David Parton
Seaford, East Sussex

Disenfranchised by Dorries

Pity me, a poor, disenfranchised voter living in Nadine Dorries’ constituency (“And in the Prime Minister’s Corner… Dorries, Dorries and More Dorries,” News). We have an MP who defends the untenable; to excuse the inexcusable; thicken the disgusting smear on Keir Starmer; acting like a Trump soundbite. She didn’t do any voter soundings. I have heard nothing but utter disgust at Boris Johnson’s behavior in my conversations with friends and neighbors. But Dorries is the flag-waver for this terrible man. Your interview with Charlie Stayt was chilling.

Members of this Parliament seem only interested in their own skin and future. Dorries is a prime example. My vote didn’t count last time because our constituency suffers from serfdom syndrome, a condition that has plagued ordinary people for centuries. Happy Tory voters who have an MP with the courage to acknowledge the social damage this man has caused and will continue to cause if he is not replaced.
Michael Neuman
Shefford, Bedfordshire

Vote for prisoners

Gordon Cropper rightly says that “the penitentiary system is an unpopular job for civil servants” and “politicians hold little in esteem” (“Punishment without care,” Letters). This could be countered by giving prisoners the right to vote, as is the case in much of the rest of Western Europe.
David Murray
Wallington, Surrey

I’ll tell you who they were…

I read with interest both the article about the film by Kenneth Branagh Belfast and subsequent letter (“There is no ‘they’ in Northern Ireland”). I don’t entirely agree with the letter writer’s comments on the subject of ‘they’. For me as an 11-year-old child living in a ‘mixed’ estate in a small town in Northern Ireland, ‘she’ consisted of three components:

The “tartan gang,” thugs who ran up our street shouting obscenities at Catholic families, smashed our windows and threatened to burn us out;

Our Protestant neighbors, once dear friends who retired indoors and snubbed us many months later when they met us. The most painful part was when my very best friend, who I had known since we were little, blanked me out a few months later when I was trying to talk to her. Catholic families were twisted in many ways;

State, Army and Police agents standing at the end of our street, motionless, passive while we were afraid, although our mother assured us that we were safe as “the RUC and the Army would protect us”. They didn’t do any such thing and we had to evacuate our homes and flee so the marauding gangs could seek out “a Fenian’s house” for their friends and families. No advice for us.

The writer of the letter also uses the harmless-sounding expression “out out” in relation to people who are being intimidated and forced to flee. “Throwing someone out” now means bothering them, but believe me, for my family and our Catholic neighbors it was much more than that; it was ethnic cleansing for religious reasons.

Excellent I’m sure but I will not be watching Mr Branagh’s film as there will be far too many bad memories for me.
name and address given

What about the tenants?

Zoe Wood’s article neatly sums up the government’s obsession with property ownership (“Thousands of tenants in England could miss out on council tax cut,” News). Central to their housing policies is the dogma of ownership: an “affordable” home is one we can buy, albeit with help from the taxpayer; The idea that we need affordable housing for tenants is alien to the central dogma. The fact that many of the discounts do not go to the tenants but to the owners is entirely in line with this idea.

That the underlying policy is leading to a catastrophic increase in the cost of buying a home and an even more catastrophic shortage of rentable property seems irrelevant. The owner, landlord, whatever, is the most important thing and damn the rest.
Roger Iredale
Westcoker, Somerset

So much for office romance

Stephanie Merritt draws on her own experience to demonstrate her reasons for “siding with romance in the workplace” (“Sure, let’s be wary of abuse of power, but do we really want to ban office romance?”, Comment). As a Gen Xer who “owes her existence” to a workplace romance, she writes in sympathy for those who bemoan the pre-#MeToo era when “office flirting” was less strictly regulated.

Merritt’s article revolves around Jeff Zucker, who resigned from his job as president of CNN after his sexual relationship with a colleague was exposed. Merritt says the relationship was amicable, so there shouldn’t be an issue. Since he was president of a multinational news network, the reduction to an “office romance” between “consenting adults” overlooks the gendered power relations that this “scandal” reveals. Every outburst of grief and support for Zucker is evidence of a sycophantic hero worship designed to keep everyone under the spell of a white male leader. The drama surrounding Zucker’s retirement from CNN isn’t about “romance.” It’s a perverse symptom of free market capitalism, celebrity culture, and the lust for power that has gotten out of hand.
Lorna Donoghue
London, SW2

Beautiful Jubbly, Your Maj

Somewhere in that corner of heaven reserved for sitcom screenwriters, John Sullivan reads over the Platinum Jubbly commemorative china and wishes he’d lived just long enough to write a Platinum Jubilee special off it Only fools and horses (“Can’t wait to celebrate the Queen’s beautiful Jubbly,” comment). You can just watch as Del and Rodders whip out the ‘limited edition’ and ‘one of a kind’ tableware at Peckham Market just in time for the celebrations. Perhaps Sir David Jason, in his role as Del Trotter, will visit Buckingham Palace in June and present Her Majesty with a selection of the items. That would surely make her and the nation laugh.
Paul F Faupel
Somersham, Cambridgeshire


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