Self-pity lies at the heart of abuse | Letters

Sonia Sodha’s excellent article identifies the bedevilment of justice when a perpetrator casts himself as the victim, with no remorse, no honesty, no empathy – just overwhelming self-pity (“Reeva Steenkamp was murdered. Shame on the BBC for forgetting”, Comment). This stance is the hallmark of brutalising behaviour that erodes and dehumanises the real victim. For their own safety, women need to identify this personality defect within men when negotiating new relationships. The answers are often found within the family.
Katherine Teakle
Cleethorpes, Lincolnshire

The case for political reform

Other Observer readers must have been struck by the parallels between the US ills identified by John Mulholland – school segregation, income inequality, an obsolescent constitution – and those facing Britain (“A win for Biden would just scratch the surface of America’s afflictions”, Comment).

We might also recognise the drivers – globalisation, technological change and financialisation – and the ways in which they have been reinforced by neoliberal policies of privatisation, deregulation, de-unionisation and austerity under governments of all parties in both countries since 1980.

But Mulholland is surely right to focus on the political system. This is why any attempt to remedy matters has to start with political reforms: ensuring that everyone entitled to vote can do so; having some form of proportional representation (so that minorities can be better represented); introducing state funding of political parties, to reduce the money power; and controlling the claims made in political communications. Without reforms on these lines, we shall never be able to overcome the afflictions of our two countries.
Roger Brown

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In defence of French freedom

Instead of defending the French approach to safeguarding the freedoms of liberal democracy, Simon Tisdall implies that President Emmanuel Macron’s words justify Muslim rage (“Muslims’ anger at Macron threatens to escalate tensions across Europe”, Foreign Affairs Commentary). Tisdall omits that certain Muslim leaders showed no rage against the murders in Nice or the beheading of Samuel Paty or against China’s persecution of the Uighurs.

What proof does he have that mainstream Muslims are outraged? My French Muslim friends are not. They are pleased that they have a president who stands up for essential freedoms against extremists who would overturn our democracies in favour of their version of extremist sharia law. To remain silent in the face of such political ideologies harms the overwhelming majority of Muslims who just wish to practise their faith in peace and to live according to the laws of the land they live in.
Carole Tongue, former MEP
London SE1

Overhaul bus services

I thank Tim Lewis for his article on car-free neighbourhoods (“Never mind the bollards”, Observer Magazine). However, he fails to mention buses. Until we have good, cheap bus services, many of us remain dependent on our cars. It is not feasible to expect those who are old, sick, bringing along one or two small children, a week’s food shopping, to get on our bikes. The same omission happens in council consultations. Please overhaul the bus services and many of us will happily leave our cars at home.
Annie Spencer

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Let’s hear all Jewish views

Ruth Smeeth is right that Jewish people in the Labour party and more broadly on the left wing have been let down (“Jewish members have been vindicated. Now we need to be heard and must see change”, News Commentary). Taking action to sort out antisemitism will also help Jews like me, who are active in supporting Palestinian human rights and peace in the Middle East. Zero tolerance for antisemitism needs to be effective across institutions and public space, left and right, with room for plural Jewish views, not just the ones that are expedient for non-Jewish people.
Dr Vivienne Jackson
London E17

More preacher than politician

Despite his evident failings, Jeremy Corbyn did achieve something (“This is just the start of Labour’s overdue reckoning with itself”, Editorial, and “Mr Corbyn’s shameless self-pity betrays the victims of the antisemitism scandal”, Andrew Rawnsley, Comment). He attracted into the Labour party very many people previously not much interested in politics. That is because he is not much of a politician, more of a preacher.

His idealised socialism was inspiring, but to bring that from Glastonbury into the day-to-day world of modern Britain requires intelligent leadership that he did not possess. Though some are disappointed, not all of his converts will disappear from the bigger debate on social and climate justice. Politics is hollow without passion.
Dr Sebastian Kraemer
London SW2

Kings of the road?

Martin Love is wrong to demonise SUVs (“Who needs SUVs?”, Viewpoint). Most sports utility vehicles are no longer, wider or more polluting than many family-size saloons and estate cars. The elevated driving position and better view of the road in SUVs, particularly at junctions, are positive safety advantages. The idea that they are just status symbols is nonsense.

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We should of course be encouraging walking and cycling and the use of public transport. We should also welcome the development of electric SUVs.
Jack Gordon
London SE20

Even a well Johnson is unfit

Catherine Bennett implies that, but for coronavirus, Boris Johnson might be an acceptable prime minister (“For the nation’s health, shouldn’t Johnson’s medical fitness for office be scrutinised?”, Comment). Far from it. This serial liar and bungling incompetent has built his career on boundless ambition, rabble-rousing faux patriotism and the skills of a snakeoil salesman. These are not leadership attributes that any civilised democracy should be saddled with.
Dr Simon Sweeney
University of York

Honour among leaves

A small portrait discovered among the stone foliage on the cathedral in Santiago de Compostela may not be a selfie (“A selfie set in stone: hidden portrait by mischievous mason found 900 years on”, News).

My father, Donovan Purcell, was surveyor to the fabric of Ely Cathedral 1960-1973 and during the renovation of the Lady Chapel roof a mischievous young stonemason carved my father’s likeness as a gargoyle head. We have a photo of it. So, not necessarily a selfie but possibly in somebody’s honour.
Dr Brigid Purcell


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