Nick Cohen’s excoriation of Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour (“What would it take for Labour’s members to revolt?”, Comment, last week) begins with a kind of political algebra – that if we attack Donald Trump for apparently endorsing extreme rightwing groups, and communism has killed more people than fascism, then it follows that it must be worse to endorse extreme leftwing positions.
This misunderstands the nature of opposition to Trump’s pandering to the alt-right and apparent endorsement of Britain First, which should be opposed not because those groups have fascist connotations, but because they promote segregation and hatred based on skin colour in our world today. There is no comparable impact in Corbyn’s sympathy for Cuba.
Corbyn’s Labour attracts support, not because of his views on other governments, past or present, but because people believe he will tackle problems in Britain today, whether underfunding of the NHS, welfare and transport systems, the creeping privatisation of the state, the ongoing failures of austerity or foreign wars of aggression.
If Labour’s moderates want to regain control of their party, they would do better to concentrate on presenting a credible vision that engages with these issues than to attempt to smear the current leadership by association with their supposed ideological bedfellows.
Psychiatry still too custodial
Barbara Ellen reminds us that anorexia is a mental illness and we should treat it properly (Comment, last week), while you report well-justified “alarm at use of force in mental health units” (News, last week).
It is greatly to the credit of NHS Digital that figures about restraint are published and it is encouraging that use of face-down restraint has fallen. Overall, though, use of restraint is rising and psychiatry remains too custodial. The rate of involuntary admission in England is more than double that in Ireland.
Mental illnesses are real and should be treated properly. With high-quality timely services the proportion of people with mental illness who require involuntary admission and restraint should be tiny.
Professor of psychiatry
Trinity College Dublin
A gift from the Greeks
In the Lord’s Prayer, the word “temptation” is a straightforward translation of peirasmos, the Greek word used by Matthew and Luke. (“Sorry Francis, but you haven’t got a prayer”, Barbara Ellen, last week).
In the Septuagint – the ancient Greek translation of Jewish scripture used by the authors of the New Testament – the same word is used to translate Hebrew that appears to mean “testing” rather than “temptation” (Exodus 17.7). What the pope is questioning therefore is not those who have translated the Lord’s Prayer, but the ancient scholars who translated the Old Testament into Greek – and the gospel writers themselves.
Jerusalem’s role is vital
In making his case against the American decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, Raja Shehadeh (Comment, last week) lists a set of grievances.
It is worth highlighting two crucial facts that he omits: 1. Since Jerusalem was reunited in 1967, religious freedom has been rigorously maintained, with all the sacred sites staunchly protected. These protections are enshrined in law and ensured in practice, with each faith administering their respective holy places: Muslim sites are overseen by the Islamic Waqf, Christian sites by their respective churches, and the Jewish sites by the Rabbinate.
2. When asked their opinion, Jerusalem’s Arab population – who make up approximately one third of the city – have consistently expressed a preference for Israeli citizenship over that of a future Palestinian state. Freedom of worship and the protection of holy sites is undoubtedly one reason among many behind this.
Shehadeh would do well to remember that in a volatile and violent Middle East, where religious minorities have been forced to flee and holy sites have been desecrated – including in the Palestinian Territories – Israel’s capital stands out as a shining example of diversity and pluralism.
Israeli ambassador to the UK
No rowing back now
Congratulations, Bradley Wiggins. There is nothing quite like a celebrity to take indoor rowing from comparative obscurity to national prominence.
To me, he was just another performer with the expectations and anxieties of being in his first indoor rowing race… and the inevitable disappointments that result. (I suspect, like me at the end of my first race, he left immediately afterwards because he was personally embarrassed with his performance.)
The delight shown in his comparative failure is typical of the British. We just love the people we set up as heroes to subsequently fall from grace, providing us with a satisfying opportunity to make snide remarks about them.
Keep on racing, Bradley.
V Gilbert (80-84 heavyweight)