Sir: I can sympathise with Melissa Kite’s concern over her friend’s apparently unconsidered marital conversion (‘Till faith do us part’, 13 October), but I wonder whether her panic at the idea of thousands of secular or nominal Christians converting for love is justified. Yes, it is easy to become a Muslim, while an adult wishing to convert to Christianity or Judaism must demonstrate knowledge and commitment before full acceptance into the new faith community. Sometimes those who convert too hastily or when under pressure come to regret it later. But Islam does not require Christian or Jewish women — as ‘People of the Book’ — to convert if they wish to marry a Muslim, and a good number of conversions to a partner’s faith occur after marriage, suggesting that it happens after examining the beliefs and trying out the way of life. Those of us who are in mixed marriages and who work among interfaith couples find that although some people are fairly secular before they meet a partner of another faith, the encounter stimulates and challenges their own beliefs and values in a way they would never have guessed it would. We grow in faith when our old certainties are stripped away.
Sir: It was odd, as you say in your leading article (13 October), that the mood at the Conservative party conference should have been upbeat, given the national gloom. Coalition seems to create an impression of steadiness — yet that very steadiness might result in a third party enjoying unauthorised power and opportunity for a decade. Indifference among the electorate will probably reduce the chance of clear election outcomes either way, and May 2010’s result will no longer be an aberration, but the status quo. A party with only 30 or 40 seats will fully control the balance of power, and government appointments, and with five years’ experience behind them, they will drive a much harder bargain next time to make sure that they get what they want from their towering partner.
Boris Johnson’s master performance in Birmingham shows that rank and file Conservatives may well have lost sight of this overhanging danger. ‘We have the right time zone, we have the right language, and we have the right government in Westminster,’ Boris boomed from the stage. And 3,000 Conservatives — not one of whom could possibly agree with the last tenet if they had thought twice about it — hurrahed.
Paul Newman, former Conservative party parliamentary candidate
Protect the children
Sir: Carol Sarler should be warmly applauded for her piece ‘Not in front of the children’ (13 October).
One of my abiding memories of the Falklands War is of a broadcast interview with a mother who had just lost a teenage son, who had been serving in the Royal Navy, in the early stages of the campaign. Asked if she wanted to cry, she said, ‘Yes, but I won’t, because I have to think of my other children’.
That is true motherhood.
Drugs, fear and ignorance
Sir: Ignorance breeds fear, and Peter Hitchens’s article (‘High society’, 13 October) is nothing if not ignorant. In saying that the government quietly allows the use of prohibited drugs, he ignores the fact that without drug offender-related convictions our prison population would be a fraction of what it is today. He refers to a ‘properly enforced law’ as being the best weapon against peer pressure on kids to take drugs, and ignores the fact that it is the prohibition of such drugs that puts the distribution and profits from drugs beyond regulation and creates a vast criminal and terrorist economy.
It is the fear created by such ignorance that is in a very real way responsible for every casualty of drugs under the present prohibition. The way forward is proper regulation of all substances, including legal ones. Control or live in fear, that is the choice.
Jonathan Wynne Evans
Loch Ness Clay Works, Drumnadrochit
Sir: The hand chosen by Janet de Botton for the Bridge column last week (13 October) is very interesting, and illustrates the importance of establishing distribution in No Trump contracts. While it is clear that the defence upon execution was poor, especially on account of the bad diamond split, I would be interested to see if Janet can possibly come up with similar hands where 3NT is made with a minimal 22-24 points; and, if there are any useful techniques that can be applied in making them, not least because Neil Rosen, cited in the article, once reprimanded me for having a system that gets me into precisely the same position.
Sir: My sister Susie, attending West Heath School with the (then) Lady Diana Spencer in 1977, loaned the future princess a shilling for the tuck shop. I imagine she has even less chance of getting her money back than Justin Webb (Diary, 13 October) has of receiving a cheque for $2.70 after paying for Mitt Romney’s sandwiches.
Hazyview, South Africa
Cameron for Archbishop
Sir: I hear what you say in your leading article of 6 October (‘The right Revd’), but do you see what I mean?
David Cameron would make an excellent Archbishop of Canterbury and Dr Sentamu a suitable Prime Minister.
Beverley J. Pyke