The Spectator

Letters: Jesus was a wine connoisseur 

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Benefits of abstinence

Sir: In last week’s Spectator, I turned to the cover piece ‘Dry Britain’ first because I stopped drinking alcohol last January. However, contrary to the demographic expectations of your article, I am a not-young 58-year-old. My abstinence is not based on a moral position, nor fear of an appearance on TikTok, but on the fact that three people I knew of my age and younger sadly passed away in the past year. One was directly due to the effects of alcohol, and in the other two cases alcohol was a likely factor. A year ago I was relatively fit, healthy and slim in comparison to the majority of my peers but still, as I peered at the horizon, I could make out a grim-looking gent with a scythe. Although I have also changed my eating and exercise habits, I can still identify the significant benefits, both physical and mental, that not drinking has delivered. Winston Churchill said: ‘I have taken more out of alcohol than it has taken out of me.’ For once, I have to disagree with him: alcohol will definitely take more out of you than you will take from it.

James Gardiner


Greater solace

Sir: Again Bruce Anderson bemoans his inability to believe in God, and turns to the solace of good wine (Drink, 20 January). But, despite his gloomy suggestion, Christian faith does not depend on anything so abstract as ‘a meaning to life and a fear of death’. It depends on Jesus. Jesus seems to have approved of excellent wine, as in the second chapter of John’s gospel. What’s to stop Bruce from starting there and searching for the still greater solace which the rest of that book might offer?

The Rt Revd Prof N.T. Wright
(former bishop of Durham)

Wycliffe Hall, Oxford

Plucky forbears

Sir: Professor Abulafia’s article (‘Sea worthy’, 20 January) is most welcome to every historian, especially those whose interest is in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Modern campaigners rail against those plucky forbears who underwent untold hardships and extraordinary challenges to discover more about the world we live in.

The vast majority of naval officers recognised that their own success depended on their sailors. I recall on joining the Royal Navy some 60 years ago being given a copy of The Naval Officer’s Handbook; on the title page was an outline of a uniformed sailor with the caption: ‘The single most important part of the navy.’ This was the philosophy handed down from Nelson’s day and earlier. Modern-day leaders would do well to recognise the same principle.

Tom Fremantle

East Markham, Newark

Corruption in Mongolia

Sir: I read Aidan Hartley’s article on Mongolia with great interest (‘Out of steppe’, 20 January). I would like to draw attention to efforts by the current government to combat deeply entrenched corruption. Aidan’s piece rightly highlights the recent public outcry over the coal scandal. Beyond that, corruption has hit state funds, as is shown by the misappropriation of the $100 million state education fund. The ongoing investigation reveals a convoluted network involving past and current politicians, their families, and other influential figures. The much larger involvement of a major conglomerate exploiting state resources – amounting to several hundred million dollars – to privatise a prized state mining asset suggests a Ponzi-like scheme. This shows the systemic nature of corruption in Mongolia, and potentially implicates high-ranking officials including a former Mongolian head of government.

Corruption is now a major concern for Mongolia’s 3.5 million citizens, who are fed up of the inequality. The efforts being made to put this right are a testament to Mongolia’s evolving democracy.

Batnairamdal Otgonshar

International Secretary, Mongolian People’s party (former vice minister of mining and heavy industry of Mongolia)

Strength of the force

Sir: Professor Bond is of course quite right in his elaboration (Letters, 20 January) of my remark that the army’s failure in 1940 was due in large part (but not exclusively) to ‘political purblindness and stinginess’, the generally accepted view of ‘the low, dishonest decade’ which the authors of Victory to Defeat (Books, 13 January) cover in detail. What makes the book of especial significance, however, is its examination of the army’s own failures to learn the real lessons of the first world war, and to keep up with developments in military technology; in short, to have an overarching concept of modern warfighting. His point about excessive belief in the power of the Maginot Line and the French army to ward off defeat long enough for Britain to build a continental army is well made. Belgium was always the open flank. And as in 1914, so in 1940: ‘Fall Gelb’ (the Manstein Plan) was Schlieffen for slow learners. Thank heavens for the Royal Navy and Fighter Command; and the English Channel.

Professor Bond rightly says that the army remained ‘the Cinderella Service’ in the 1930s. It has become so again. If our defence and security policy is really to be built on ‘leveraging strategic advantage’, we must make sure that all three services are strong enough to lever, for decisive action is ultimately only achieved by land forces.

Allan Mallinson

Salisbury Plain, Wiltshire

Ferreting out facts

Sir: Peter Krijgsman mistakenly refers to ferrets as ‘rodents’ (Notes on ferret racing, 13 January). I’m sure I will not be the only reader to point out that ferrets belong to the mustelid family, which also includes stoats, polecats, otters and even badgers. I don’t think Mr Krijgsman would see much result from sending a rodent down a rabbit hole.

Simon Sinclair

Llanddulas, Clwyd

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