Literature: the magnificent Thérèse Johaug deserved her chance | Winter Olympics Beijing 2022

The two-page coverage of events on the first full day of the Winter Olympics was marred by an inexplicable pillorying of Norwegian winner of the women’s 7.5km + 7.5km skiathlon, Therese Johaug (“ A marred start as the first gold medal of the Games is won by dope banned Johaug”, Sport). Rightfully suspended for 18 months for a positive doping test and absent from the 2018 Olympics, this incredible athlete served her time and won the event in magnificent style.

How did his victory taint the start of the Games? Is there a presupposition of recidivism vis-à-vis an athlete who has broken the rules or are we, as an enlightened society, making a clean sweep after a fresh start? His prowess was certainly acknowledged in the report, but I never fully understood the meaning of “damn with slight praise.” Now yes.
David Parton
Seaford, East Sussex

Disenfranchised by Dorries

Have mercy on me, a poor disenfranchised voter living in Nadine Dorries’ riding (“And in the Prime Minister’s Corner… Dorries, Dorries and More Dorries,” News). We have a member who defends the indefensible; excuse the inexcusable; thickening the sickening smear on Keir Starmer; behaving like a Trump soundbite. She took no polls of voters. I heard nothing in my conversations with friends and neighbors other than complete revulsion at Boris Johnson’s behaviour. Yet Dorries is the standard-bearer for this dreadful man. His interview with Charlie Stayt was horrifying.

The deputies of this parliament only seem interested in their skin and their future. Dorries is a perfect example. My vote counted for nothing last time because our riding suffers from serf syndrome, the disease that has plagued ordinary people for centuries. Lucky Conservative voters who have an MP who has the courage to recognize the social damage this man has caused and will continue to cause unless he is replaced.
Michael Newman
Shefford, Bedfordshire

Give prisoners the right to vote

Gordon Cropper rightly says that “the prison service is an unpopular post for civil servants” and “low in the esteem of politicians” (“Punishment Without Care”, Letters). This could be solved by giving prisoners the right to vote, as most of the rest of Western Europe does.
David Murray
Wallington, Surrey

I’ll tell you who they were…

I read with interest both the article on the film by Kenneth Branagh Belfast and following letter (“There are no ‘they’ in Northern Ireland”). I don’t entirely agree with the letter writer’s comments on the “they” issue. For me, as an 11-year-old living on a “mixed” estate in a small town in Northern Ireland, there were three elements to “they”:

The “Tartan gang,” thugs who ran our way shouting obscenities at Catholic families, smashing our windows and threatening to burn us;

Our Protestant neighbours, once dear friends who retreated inland and, upon meeting us several months later, snubbed us. The most hurtful part was when my best friend that I had known since I was little left me behind when I tried to talk to her a few months later. Catholic families were torn apart in so many ways;

State, army and police agents who stood at the bottom of our road, motionless, passive as we were terrified, even though our mother assured us that we would be safe because “the RUC and the army would protect us”. They did no such thing and we had to empty our houses and flee, allowing the marauding gangs to “choose a Fenian house” for their friends and families. No advice for us.

Additionally, the author of the letter uses the innocuous term “evicted” in reference to people who are intimidated and forced to flee their homes. “Bringing someone out” today is inconvenient but, believe me, for my family and our Catholic neighbors, it was much more than that; it was ethnic cleansing for religious reasons.

Superb, I’m sure, but for my part, I will not watch Mr Branagh’s film, because there will be too many bad memories for me.
Name and address provided

And the tenants?

Zoe Wood’s article sums up exactly the government’s obsession with property (“Thousands of tenants in England could miss council tax cut”, News). At the heart of its housing policy is the dogma of ownership: an “affordable” house is one that can be bought, albeit with the help of the taxpayer; the idea that we need affordable housing for renters is foreign to central dogma. It is entirely consistent with this idea that many of the refunds will go to landlords rather than tenants.

That the underlying policy results in a catastrophic increase in the cost of buying a home and an even more catastrophic shortage of rental property seems irrelevant. Owner, lessor, whatever, is of utmost importance and to hell with the rest.
Roger Iredale
West Coker, Somerset

So much for office romance

Stephanie Merritt draws on her own experience to demonstrate her reasons for being “on the side of workplace romances” (“Sure, we’re wary of abuse of power, but do we really want to ban office romances? “, Remark). As a Gen Xer who “owes her existence” to a work romance, she writes in sympathy for those who lament the days before #MeToo, when “office flirtations” were less strictly regulated.

Merritt’s article centers on Jeff Zucker, who resigned as president of CNN after his sexual relationship with a co-worker came to light. Merritt says the relationship was consensual, so there should be no issues. As he was president of a multinational news channel, reducing this to an “office romance” between “consenting adults” overlooks the gendered power relations that this “scandal” reveals. Every outpouring of grief and support for Zucker is evidence of a sycophantic hero-worship that serves to keep everyone under the spell of a white male leader. The drama surrounding Zucker’s resignation from CNN is not a ‘romance’. It is a perverse symptom of free market capitalism, celebrity culture and addiction to power that has exploded.
Lorna Donoghue
London, SW2

Charming Jubbly, Your Maj

Somewhere in the corner of heaven reserved for sitcom writers, John Sullivan reads about the ‘Platinum Jubbly’ commemorative china and wishes he had lived just long enough to write a Platinum Jubilee special from Only fools and horses (“I can’t wait to celebrate the Queen’s beautiful Jubbly”, Commentary). You can just see Del and Rodders in Peckham Market whipping up ‘limited edition’ and ‘unique’ tableware in time for the celebrations. Perhaps Sir David Jason, in his Del Trotter persona, will visit Buckingham Palace in June and present Her Majesty with a selection of items. It would surely make her and the nation laugh.
Paul F. Faupel
Somersham, Cambridgeshire

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