Gary Lineker shone a light on cruelty
Gary Lineker’s impartiality is irrelevant in comparison with what he was pointing at: the cruelty, the inhumanity and the shame inherent in the government’s immigration policies (“It’s taken a brave football star to inject morality into our shaming debate on migrants”, Comment, last week).
The Calais crossings are the tip of an iceberg, they are just the beginning; the pressures of climate change, proxy wars, and capitalisation of the world will increasingly force peoples into mass migration. The declining quality and effectiveness of our national government, especially post-Brexit, reflects the increasing irrelevance and worse, the egotism, of isolationism.
Lineker’s risky reference to 1930s Germany is a classic example of the problem. We cannot easily see over the conceptual mountain range of the Holocaust to what lies behind it; the incremental steps the German Reich took, from 1933 onwards, to get to the totalitarian, racist, militaristic horror they resulted in. Lineker is not saying this is as bad as the Holocaust, but he is saying, look at what we are doing in that context: blaming others, dehumanising those in extremis, preying on domestic insecurities. The oldest tricks in the book.
Lineker had the courage to speak truth to power and truth is, by definition, impartial.
Lineker was responding to the language used by Suella Braverman in justifying her horrendous and inhumane bill (“Our response to a global crisis is pitifully selfish”, Editorial). She exaggerated the scale of the problem, describing it as an “invasion” and using erroneous or inflated statistics (“billions more eager to come here”) as justification.
The person who should choose her words carefully is Braverman, not Lineker, who has spoken out on behalf of the decent people in this country who are watching a discredited, incompetent and dishonest government trying to “buy” votes from racists with cruel and callous (not to mention unworkable, impractical and expensive) policies over refugees.
Stanley Johnson’s dishonour
I work in an NHS safeguarding team where our work is characterised by the “think family” approach: we recognise that abuse is contextual and that a single perpetrator can create many victims.
The proposal to honour with a knighthood Stanley Johnson, a perpetrator of domestic abuse, is characteristic of the Johnson government and its legacy (“The wife of ‘Sir Stanley’ couldn’t tolerate his abuse and nor should the rest of us”, Comment).
Despite the terrible ongoing abuse and deaths of victims of domestic abuse, progress has been made. Conviction rates remain low but we see people less afraid to call domestic abuse what it is. Men and women previously protected by the armour of rank, class or fame – men like Stanley Johnson – can no longer shield themselves from their victims. The motto of safeguarding practitioners everywhere is “safeguarding is everyone’s business”. The spirit of this expression is barely exemplified by allowing a known domestic abuser to receive his knighthood before the nation.
Will Dunhill, social worker
Maiden Newton, Dorchester
Diabetics and the ‘skinny jab’
The controversy over semaglutide has ignored one major issue: diabetes (“Revealed: massive PR drive to sell ‘skinny jab’ ”, News). I take semaglutide for my diabetes but it’s not pleasant. It stops the almost constant food craving, but it also makes me nauseous almost all the time. Still, my HbA1c (blood sugar level) has gone from over 70 (seriously bad) to 51 (close to the lowest boundary for being diabetic).
This drug could save my life but I’ve spent the last four months struggling on a half dose because supply of the normal dose had apparently been diverted to the weight-loss market. I’ve lost weight but not losing my eyesight or even limbs because of my diabetes is far more important.
Save the Singers
The funding cuts imposed on the BBC, the Arts Council and musical and arts education in state schools reflects a mindset in which culture has no intrinsic value and can be sacrificed to balance the books, to repair a failing economy (“Silencing the BBC Singers will save little and threatens our classical tradition”, Editorial).
It is often said that certain things are not appreciated until they are lost and so it will be if the BBC Singers are disbanded. Their years of evolving musicianship cannot be replaced and will be lost for good. The BBC has a duty to promote the arts, as has the government. Both are failing in that vital task.
Illness revealed by art
While Emma Capron’s fresh interpretation of Quinten Massys’ painting, An Old Woman, is an interesting and plausible one (“Ugly truth revealed – the ‘Duchess’ was probably a 16th-century man”, News), she shouldn’t dismiss the idea of “doctors going around galleries and giving diagnoses”.
Sometimes, paintings are usefully revealing of physical health conditions. A famous example is Hogarth’s mural in St Bartholomew’s hospital showing The Pool of Bethesda in which victims of various diseases are portrayed with such realism that they are used to educate medics to this day.
Eels are not for eating
I grew up in a Gloucestershire village among the flood meadows of the Severn. Each spring the elverman arrived on his bike and mum took a jug to buy some elvers for tea. Once, I spotted a live one and kept it in a tin bath in the garden. It grew into a small eel, then escaped over the side of the bath into the streams, where it would have lived until it began its journey to its birthplace in the Sargasso sea to breed then die.
Years later, as a printmaker, I made a book about this story and was shocked to discover that 95% of the eel population had already gone.
Drawing attention to the plight of the eel is vital if they are to survive (“ ‘We’re not eating the last pandas. So why are eels still on the menu?’ ”, News).