Author Archive

Meg and Ben Again

October 8, 2013

8 October 2013 Meg and Ben again

I go all the way around the park round the park listening to the Navy Lark
Our heroes are in trouble they are back from leave and Pertwee is in the muck, but which of hids many crimes has been detected? Priceless.
I get Meg and Ben to put books on Amazon
We watch Glums
No Scrabble today too tired early to bed


Rabbi Ovadia Yosef
Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, who has died aged 93, was one of Israel’s most influential rabbis and the spiritual leader of the ultra-Orthodox religious party Shas, representing Sephardic Jews from Arab and Afro-Asian countries.

Rabbi Ovadia Yosef Photo: AFP/GETTY
5:29PM BST 07 Oct 2013
Rabbi Yosef won a reputation for his considered judgments and his stress on the practical applications of religious law. His writings in such areas as the status of women or egalitarianism in Judaism, as well as his rulings in the ritual areas of Sabbath and Kashrut (Jewish laws pertaining to food and its preparation), reflected rather than shaped the trends in the ultra-Orthodox community. However, in the area of public policy, Rabbi Yosef sometimes parted company with his colleagues and followers.
At a symposium in Jerusalem in 1989, Yosef proclaimed: “To hold or conquer territories in the Land of Israel by force is a sin.” The next year, wearing brocaded black robes with a purple turban-like ceremonial hat, he repeated this message on Israeli television, saying that if Israel could give back Arab-occupied land and thereby avoid war, “we are obliged to do so”.
This was anathema to many of his followers, most of whom were hawkish, anti-Arab, working-class Sephardic Jews from Morocco and other Arab countries. Defending his views, Yosef said that territorial compromise was permissible if it would prevent bloodshed on the (Talmudic) principle of pikuach nefesh (preservation of life).
At other times, however, Yosef felt able to compare Palestinians to snakes and to declare that gentiles had been put on Earth only to serve Jews — observations that caused some to condemn him as racist and describe him as “Israel’s Ayatollah”. In recent years he had firmly opposed unilateral action by Israel — including the proposals that Israelis should be resettled from the Gaza Strip and the West Bank — unless there was an undertaking by the Palestinians to abandon terrorism.
In a ruling in 1996, Yosef designated organ donation a Mitzvah (a religious duty, or good deed), thus permitting and even encouraging those who could afford to spare a kidney to donate one to people in need. This was a breakthrough in the effort to involve the traditional and religious population in the practice of organ donation.
Related Articles
500,000 attend funeral of Israel’s Rabbi Yosef
07 Oct 2013
In another ruling, Yosef banned nose-picking on the Jewish Sabbath. He delivered this ruling in a sermon beamed by satellite to his followers in Israel and abroad, and his reasoning was that Jewish law forbids shaving and hair cutting on the Sabbath . Yosef explained that when a Jew picks his nose he risks pulling out the tiny hairs inside the nostrils, which is equivalent to shaving and hair cutting.
Ovadia Yosef was born on September 24 1920 in Iraq, the son of Ya’acov Yosef, a renowned and popular Rabbi of the Jewish community in Baghdad . When Ovadia was four, the family emigrated to Eretz Yisrael (Palestine) and settled in Jerusalem, where he was educated at the Porat Yosef Sephardi Yeshiva, situated in the old town of Jerusalem and one of Israel’s most distinguished Jewish theological institutions. Ovadia was noted for his diligence, phenomenal memory and intelligence, and at the age of 20 he was ordained rabbi.
In 1945 Yosef was made a dayyan, a judge in a Jewish religious court of Sephardim in Jerusalem; in general he inclined to leniency in his rulings. Two years later he was elected head of bet din (a religious court) in Cairo and deputy Chief Rabbi of Egypt.
As in Palestine, a war was raging between Jews and Arabs; and there was — in Egypt — growing hostility towards the Jews. Occasionally, Egyptian police would come to search for weapons, and Yosef would point to the books on his shelves, saying: “This is the weapon I hold.”
Throughout his years in Egypt, he resisted the pressure put on him by the authorities to issue proclamations against the state of Israel, and he also insisted on his right to preach in Hebrew.
In 1950 he returned to Israel, where he was appointed a member of the rabbinical court of Petach Tikva. At the age of 45 he was made a member of the Supreme Rabbinical Court of Appeals in Jerusalem, Israel’s highest religious authority. In 1968 Yosef became Sephardi Chief Rabbi of Tel Aviv-Yaffo .
Yosef’s own life mirrored many of the frustrations and resentments of his Sephardic followers. Despite his reputation as a scholar, he was never accepted as a peer by the senior Ashkenazi rabbis (from Europe, Russia and America), ostensibly because he did not speak Yiddish.
Some of these rabbis derided him as primitive, and many of his religious rulings (such as that trained monkeys may turn off lights or perform other chores forbidden on the Sabbath) and his issuing of warnings against demons did little to convince them otherwise.
In 1972 Yosef was made Sephardi Chief Rabbi of Israel and President of the Supreme Rabbinical Court. He also headed the Torah ve-Hora Yeshiva, the Tel Aviv branch of the prestigious Porat Yosef Yeshiva (of Jerusalem). He set up and ran the institute for dayyanim (religious judges) in Tel Aviv.
In 1973 he ruled that the Ethiopian Falashas were authentic Jews, descendants of the lost tribe of Dan. This decision, which opened the gates for Ethiopian emigration to Israel, made him even less popular among the European-descended rabbis of Israel’s ultra-Orthodox community. A number of Ashkenazi rabbis and politicians passed legislation in 1983 that limited his term in office, thus stripping him of his cherished position as Chief Rabbi of Israel, which he had expected to be a lifetime appointment.
Yosef did not take this lying down, attacking the Ashkenazi establishment in simple and graphic terms. In tape recordings of his speeches to students, Yosef can be heard saying of Attorney General Yosef Harish, “May his home be destroyed”; of State Comptroller Miriam Ben Porat, “That woman who is the enemy of religion”; of Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir, “a rodent eater”; and of Shamir’s wife, “that wicked woman who would never go to a Jewish restaurant” (a reference to the Shamirs’ alleged fondness for nonkosher food).
In the same year Yosef resigned his position on the Supreme Rabbinical Court in order to campaign actively for the new religious political party Shas, the Hebrew acronym for the Sephardi Torah Guardians.
Shas’s political rallies were essentially revivalist sessions. Speakers would whip up crowds into a frenzy before Rabbi Yosef entered the auditorium. People would then rush to the stage, groping for Yosef’s touch and for a chance to kiss his hand. Some would thrust hastily scrawled pleas for blessings at his aides. Yosef’s actual addresses were usually soft-spoken and soothing, messages of hope and encouragement, a promise of happiness to come once Shas had taken its rightful place as a major force in Israeli political life.
Shas contested the 1984 Knesset elections and won four seats, a remarkable achievement. In the 1988 elections it won six, emerging as the third largest party in the Knesset and the largest of the religious parties. It went on to play a leading role in Israeli politics.
In March 1990 Rabbi Yosef allowed his protégé, the Minister of the Interior Arye Deri (who in 1999 would be sentenced to four years’ jail for corruption), to bring down the government in a vote of no confidence and establish a Labour-led coalition. While the government did fall, Yosef cracked under the pressure and was forced to back down, resulting in the establishment of a Right-wing Likud government.
In the June 1992 elections, Yosef gave his blessing to Shas to join Yitzhak Rabin’s Labour administration, and three years later he permitted Shas to join Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition. Even though most Shas supporters favoured Netanyahu’s hard-line policies, Yosef himself appeared at odds with the Prime Minister, supporting the previous government’s land-for-peace policies. At the height of its success, Shas (which is now in opposition) held 17 of the Knesset’s 120 seats, and Yosef had the role of political “kingmaker”.
Under Yosef’s leadership, an entirely new religious school system, called El Ha’maayan (“back to the source”), was established. A network of child care centres and after school clubs, it provided low-cost supervision, hot lunches, free transportation and religious instruction for children. Sephardic parents in poor neighbourhoods, many not particularly observant, signed up their children to the scheme.
Rabbi Yosef was an impressive figure with his thick eyebrows, silver beard and signature sunglasses, and took pride in wearing the traditional gold-braided purple robes and blue turban of the Sephardic rabbinate. A plain-spoken, charismatic leader, he had the ability to touch the emotions of the Sephardi in the street.
A prolific writer, he published his first work — Yabbi’a Omer, 10 volumes of Responsa dealing with religious problems in daily life — at the age of only 18.
Ovadia Yosef lived in a small, cramped apartment in which hundreds of books lined the walls and spilt across the tables and floors in precarious piles.
He and his wife, Margalit Petel, had five sons and six daughters.
Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, born September 24 1920, died October 7 2013


Your piece on Astley Castle winning the Stirling prize comments that “Eyebrows may be raised that the award has gone to a luxurious holiday home, which costs up to £2,500 a week for eight people … over the reinvention of an affordable housing type, or the renovation of a concrete council estate” (Report, 27 September).
This rather implies that Astley Castle is money-spinning venture by a commercial body. In fact, the project was the work of a building conservation charity, the Landmark Trust, and was funded entirely from charitable grants and donations (including from the Heritage Lottery Fund).
Astley Castle is accessible to absolutely everyone. The castle can be seen for free every day, thanks to the public trails we have created through the grounds. The island is accessible on Fridays, and the interior during our annual open days.
Any surplus we make from letting the castle will go directly towards saving, for everyone’s enjoyment, more of Britain’s abandoned and neglected buildings.
Dr Anna Keay
Director, The Landmark Trust

Like many teachers in state schools I wasn’t particularly enamoured or impressed with Tim Hands’s attack on the education policies of successive governments (Report, 1 October). This, perchance, might have been influenced by the nature of the school he leads, Magdalen College School in Oxford, with its rigorous academic selection and fees of £14,628 pounds per annum. It is ironic to be lectured by the public schools (many of them established as charities) because it was only competition from an improving state sector that forced them to abandon practices such as the disdain for maths and science, the games cult and anti-intellectualism.
But I have to acknowledge that Hands has indeed hit the nail on the head about the “flawed mechanics of the league tables” and the prescriptive curriculum. Sadly, I don’t foresee him influencing the coalition government. It will merely present another justification for wealthy parents to choose independent schools because they are free from government control.
Richard Knights
• After recent Ofsted experiences, both as a school governor and mother of a primary school teacher, I find myself in sympathy with Tim Hands. Where is the concern with the development of the whole child rather than obsessing over the child as a unit of progress?
It is time for an independent cost-benefit analysis of Ofsted. Can excoriating judgments that reduce conscientious, inspiring and consistently good teachers to shreds following a 25-minute lesson observation – and silence (volunteer) governors who feel their school serves their children well – possibly improve a school?
Of course, I am just a cynic. Cynical of the independence of a service that seems to have an increasingly political agenda, and the industry that Ofsted has spawned to help schools and children’s services “pass their Ofsted”. The Office of the Supreme Goviet is an apt epithet for an institution with such a reductivist notion of education.
Annie Clouston
• Tim Hands rightly says that “love” and “happiness” have disappeared from the classroom. I would like to point out, however, that beyond the world of state interference, in a small number of enlightened, alternative schools, exactly the opposite is happening. I used to teach in a Steiner school, upon which an Ofsted inspection team gave this verdict: “We are impressed with the inner dignity of your students.” Ofsted also recommended that aspects of Steiner education be incorporated into mainstream practice. I know some state teachers that have done this unofficially with wonderful results.
Alexander Gifford
Artistic director, The Gloucester Theatre Company
• The chief inspector of schools has probably annoyed the headteachers in the state, as well as private, sector (Ofsted chief accuses private schools over help for poor, 3 October). Independent schools owe their apparent success to the money they receive in fees and the inbuilt advantages their pupils have rather than to the quality of their leadership and teaching. It is ridiculous to suggest that independent schools have any part to play in righting the deleterious effects of the divisive education system in this country that they fundamentally cause.
John Gaskin

Having met earlier this year with the NHS pay review body to discuss external trends in pay progression and rewards, I find the Department of Health’s submission to the pay review body urging it to cancel the agreed 1% rise and remove pay increments remarkable from a number of perspectives (Hunt on collision course as he says no to NHS pay rises, 5 October).
First, it apparently ignores the amendments to the Agenda for Change pay agreement negotiated after lengthy discussions between NHS employers and the trade unions earlier this year, which already allows for greater flexibility in pay progression to reflect performance and contribution.
Second, it apparently reverses a century of motivation theory and practice, suggesting that staff are already motivated so they don’t need a pay award. In fact, Aon Hewitt’s extensive database of UK employee attitudes shows that with the general decline in real incomes, pay dissatisfaction has grown, as has the importance of pay in explaining staff engagement to perform.
Third, research clearly shows that safe staffing levels and the use of better-paid, higher-skilled staff are complementary – not conflicting – initiatives to raise the quality of patient care.
Prof Jill Rubery’s research demonstrates this relationship very clearly in social care, where better-trained, better-paid and motivated staff were found to deliver better care. This was what Robert Francis’s report into the Mid-Staffordshire hospital case recommended, along with improved leadership – not pay freezes and individual performance pay. The Department of Health’s submission only makes sense from the perspective of a government that has overwhelmingly prioritised cost control, and clings to a belief that individual performance pay is the route to high performance in all settings.  
Duncan Brown
Aon Hewitt
• As a GP, I strongly believe in primary care being the bedrock of the NHS. Everyone will have seen a GP at some stage in their lives. The same cannot be said of any other area of the NHS. The public has heard a lot recently about A&E overload, four-hour targets, access to primary care, 8am to 8pm opening times, walk-in clinics, out-of-hours services and 111. Public and professionals alike could be forgiven for getting confused about government policy – and where to turn to for help. Policy by dripfeed and soundbites is rather difficult to follow, and suggests to me any number of hidden agendas. I’m not interested in any of this – I’m interested in protecting the future of the jewel in the crown of the NHS, primary care.
The challenge for Jeremy Hunt is to cut the cloth without losing too much of the fabric. If we lose primary care as it is now, it will never come back and I believe history would not look kindly on him. He stated that he wants to be the most pro-GP secretary of state ever. Now is the time to prove that.
Dr Richard Cook
Hurstpierpoint, West Sussex
• Let us hope that the independent review bodies stand up for the rights of NHS staff. If savings need to be made, ask NHS workers to show managers how to cut out wasteful practices. All too often their views are ignored.
Wendy Savage
President, Keep Our NHS Public
• Earlier this year, despite opposition from my union, Unite, the system of incremental pay awards was superseded by performance-related pay. NHS staff now have to prove that they have earned increments. I’m surprised that Jeremy Hunt isn’t aware of this, and suspect he wouldn’t do too well if performance-related pay were applied to his job. In Manchester, the Tories claimed that they were for hard-working people – yet it seems that hard-working NHS workers are an exemption.
Liz McInnes
Rossendale, Lancashire
•  I can’t wait to be looked after by nurses or other medical staff who are seething about not only not receiving a promised 1% pay rise but being denied progression up the pay scale of their grade. But to look on the bright side, thanks to Jeremy Hunt they will now have more time to spend venting their resentment at me.
Valerie Crews

I am disappointed by your letter from the circuit leaders (MoJ’s misleading evidence on the cost of the legal system, 4 October). I have met with the circuit leaders on numerous occasions and continue to do so.
To respond to their concerns: we are not accusing lawyers of refusing to reduce costs. Whether costs have reduced over the past few years is, sadly, immaterial. The point is, in the current economic climate, our legal aid bill is unsustainable and we have to bring it down.
The figures we use are accurate. The total legal aid bill is around £2bn and criminal legal aid spend is just under £1bn. We have one of the most expensive legal aid systems in the world and have been careful to compare our spend to countries who have similar legal systems, eg we spend £39 per person on legal aid compared to £18 in New Zealand and £10 in Canada.
It is disingenuous to state most criminal barristers are low earners in the way the letter does. It implies this is their only income – when they can and do undertake prosecution or private work – and it’s not representative of what barristers at the top end (QCs) earn. We have tried to ensure our proposals have more impact on those who earn very high amounts than the more junior Bar.
While it is true the circuit leaders made some suggestions, sadly we cannot adopt them, which we have explained. I have been very clear I am open to considering all suggestions that are sensible and make the savings I need to make, and my door remains open.
Chris Grayling
Justice secretary

It is well-known that the UK is losing out culturally and economically because of inadequate foreign-language skills among English native speakers. This problem has been significantly exacerbated by the fact that pupils choosing modern languages have not been rewarded adequately for excellent performance.
Ofqual has acknowledged in its corporate plan 2013-16 that “relatively few A* grades are awarded in modern foreign languages when compared with other subjects with a high proportion of A grades”. This finding confirms evidence by schoolteacher associations that has repeatedly been presented to Ofqual and the exam boards since introduction of the A* grade at A-level in June 2010.
The disadvantaging of modern languages candidates in school examinations has been blighting the subject at all levels, and will continue to do so until the unfair grading is addressed effectively. Gifted linguists discouraged by poor results drop the subject after GCSE. Some of the brightest linguists are wary of choosing modern languages at A-level for fear of losing out on top grades and university places. Modern languages departments in schools are under pressure from management because the subject is unfairly perceived to be underperforming. University departments struggle to recruit students because A-level uptake is falling and candidates are missing their offers.
While welcoming Ofqual’s stated intention to investigate the matter, we, as university teachers of modern languages, ask Ofqual to take urgent action to put appropriate measures in place that will ensure fair outcomes for modern languages in the 2014 examinations, and restore confidence in the examinations in schools and universities.
Prof Katrin Kohl vice-chair, modern languages, University of Oxford; Prof James A Coleman chair, University Council of Modern Languages; Ivor Roberts, president, Trinity College, Oxford; Prof Ann Caesar pro-vice-chancellor, University of Warwick; Prof Charles Forsdick president, Society for French Studies; Prof Adrian Armstrong president, Association of University Professors and Heads of French; Prof Mike Kelly head of modern languages, University of Southampton; Dr Elizabeth A. Anderson head of modern languages, Newcastle University; Dr Birgit Smith head of European languages and cultures, Lancaster University; Jocelyn Wyburd director, Language Centre, University of Cambridge; Laurence Richard director, Centre for Language Study, University of Southampton; Prof David Midgley professor of German, University of Cambridge; Prof Edwin Williamson professor of Spanish, University of Oxford; Dr Laura Dominguez senior lecturer in linguistics, University of Southampton; Prof Seán Hand professor of French, University of Warwick; Prof Martin McLaughlin professor of Italian, University of Oxford; Prof David Wood professor of Latin American studies, University of Sheffield; Dr Helen Swift lecturer in French, University of Oxford; Prof Robert Gordon head of Italian, University of Cambridge; Dr Giuliana Pieri reader in Italian, Royal Holloway, University of London; Prof Catriona Kelly professor of Russian, University of Oxford; Prof Mary Orr professor of French, University of Southampton; Dr Jonathan Thacker lecturer in Spanish, University of Oxford; Nicoletta Di Ciolla head of Italian, Manchester Metropolitan University; Prof Allyson Fiddler professor of German, Lancaster University; Dr Helen Swift lecturer in French, University of Oxford; Dr Laura Rorato senior lecturer in Italian, Bangor University; Prof Stephen Milner professor of Italian, University of Manchester; Dr Caroline Warman lecturer in French, University of Oxford; Dr Stefano Jossa senior lecturer in Italian, Royal Holloway, University of London; Prof Federica G. Pedriali professor of modern Italian Studies, University of Edinburgh; Prof Philip Cooke professor of Italian, University of Strathclyde, Glasgow; Dr Marco Paoli lecturer in Italian Studies, University of Liverpool; Dr Rebecca Braun lecturer in German Studies, Lancaster University; Prof Henrike Lähnemann chair of German studies, Newcastle University; Dr William McKenzie career development fellow in French, University of Oxford; Dr Heidi Armbruster programme leader in German, University of Southampton; Andrea Klaus teaching fellow in German, University of Warwick; Dr Scott Soo lecturer in French studies, University of Southampton; Dr Nick Hodgin lecturer in German studies, Lancaster University; Adalgisa Serio associate lecturer in Italian, Manchester Metropolitan University; Dr Áine McMurtry lecturer in German, King’s College London; Dr Delphine Grass lecturer in French, Lancaster University; Prof Michael Perraudin Professor of German, University of Sheffield; Olga Gomez-Cash senior teaching fellow in Spanish, Lancaster UniversityDr Helmut Schmitz lecturer in German, University of Warwick; Dr Peter Skrandies German language co-ordinator, LSE; Prof Marion Demossier French and European studies, University of Southampton; Dr Seán Allan reader in German studies, University of Warwick; Dr Godela Weiss-Sussex fellow in German, King’s College, Cambridge; Prof Christina Howells professor of French, University of Oxford; Francis R Jones reader in translation studies, Newcastle University; Dr Stephen Goddard lecturer in French, St Catherine’s College, Oxford; Dr Joanne Leal senior lecturer in German, Birkbeck, University of London; Dr Christine Achinger associate professor of German, University of Warwick; Prof Annette Volfing professor of German, University of Oxford; Dr Silke Arnold-de Simine Birkbeck, University of London; Dr Georgina Paul lecturer in German, University of OxfordDr Julie Curtis lecturer in Russian, University of Oxford; Prof Ritchie Robertson professor of German, University of Oxford; Dr Sandra Salin teaching fellow in French, Newcastle University; Dr Richard Scholar lecturer in French, University of Oxford; Dr Sarah Leahy senior lecturer in French and Film, Newcastle University; Dr Alex Lloyd lecturer in German, Magdalen College and St Edmund Hall, Oxford; Prof Rosaleen Howard professor of Spanish, Newcastle University; Dr Ela Tandello lecturer in Italian, University of Oxford; Sophie Stewart project manager, Routes into Languages, Newcastle University; Dr Robert Gillett senior lecturer in German, Queen Mary, University of London; Dr Elinor Payne lecturer in phonetics and phonology, University of Oxford; Dr Aude Campmas lecturer in French studies, University of Southampton; Dr Neil Kenny senior research fellow, All Souls College, Oxford; Dr Carole Bourne-Taylor fellow in French, Brasenose College, Oxford; Prof Karen Leeder professor of German, University of Oxford; Dr John Walker senior lecturer in German, Birkbeck, University of London; Dr Tim Farrant reader in French, University of Oxford

When did the humble asterisk become an “asterix” (Review, 4 October)? Was it about the time we joined the common market or later, when we signed the Single European Act, enabling the creeping Gallic influence over our linguistic culture? Or maybe it was when people began to say “eksetera” instead of “et cetera”.
Paul F Faupel
Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire
• I have been a fan of Penelope Lively (So this is old age, Review, 5 October) since she won the Booker prize. Now, at 90 I find her wise words quite wonderful and she is only 80. As she implies, the road of old age is rocky but some of the rocks are nuggets. Let’s hope those on the journey reap the benefits of her wisdom.
Dr Mike Courtenay
Banbury, Oxfordshire
• Dickens could head a list of prominent people who hated Britain (Report, 7 October): all those inflammatory novels about social and legal injustice.
Lin Wilkinson
Newbury, Berkshire
•  If the energy companies (privately owned) consider that the £4.5bn loss of earnings from a 20-month price freeze will prevent them from investing (Report, 2 October), why don’t they follow the example of the NHS (publicly owned), where a £20bn efficiency programme is in progress to fund future developments?
Michael Sweet
• Only one pot for Yotam Ottolenghi’s recipe for chicken with potatoes, prunes and pomegranate molasses (Weekend, 5 October)? Cue collapse of dishwasher market. I hope this doesn’t forecast a longer-term recession in pan usage.
Ian Macilwain
• Shinty demands “stick skills that excel those of hurling” (Letters, 7 October)? Ireland has won seven of the 13 composite hurling-shinty games played against Scotland since 2003, with one game drawn.
Michael Carley
• Never mind a new-build Crystal Palace (Report, 4 October). Restoring Stonehenge to its peak would benefit the nation much better.
John Starbuck
Lepton, Huddersfield

Below is a letter in response to this article by The Independent’s Robert Fisk
I found myself obliged to write a response to Mr. Fisk’s article of 29 September 2013 titled “Khaled Mahjoub: The man with President Assad’s ear” due to the false accusation which put my family and me under direct threat from armed fanatic groups operating globally.
My response will be stated in facts and nothing but facts:
When you “look someone in the eyes” this is a signal of honesty and truth, and not interrogation skills as described by Mr. Fisk.
I met him with great pleasure and admiration, as one of the most objective and professional journalists in the region and I am still wondering why “me looking in his eyes” made him nervous.
The most dangerous part of his article was his false conclusion that I met the French-Algerian terrorist to find out about what he told him during their closed meeting. He made it worse by accusing that I am reporting this meeting to the President.
Needless to say, the President of Syria does not need a civil activist like me to assist him. Syria, despite continuous attempts for three years to become a failing state, it is still a country with operating institutions.
He framed me as a dangerous man and interrogator, whereas I am a civil society activist. Pointing at me in this negative way made me a potential target to the fundamental groups, like the one with whom the French-Algerian terrorist was associated.
Well, Mr Fisk, I met the French-Algerian person on December 7, 2012 – a few days after you met him – during an interview with the BBC, which you will find in the link below and not as an interrogator.
Please watch the proof:

Unfortunately, I find myself obliged to hold Mr Fisk personally, and The Independent, responsible for putting my family and me in danger of being targets for any fanatic group, in addition to all kind of damages and risks.
As a civil activist and socio-economic developer, I have been working in parallel on two objectives.
The first: Reconciliation:

The second: empowering the middle-class society with zero-carbon footprint development programs. So please watch my accomplishments and judge me from the outcome of my work and not from illusionary conclusions.
Please watch both links:
Conclusion: I work for the enlargement of the Syrian secular middle-class society by stopping the bloodshed with the power of reconciliation and low-carbon green socio-economical development. Leading to a better tomorrow for all Syrians.
It is also important note the following points:
Syrian Sufism:
The hard examples of the current living Syrian Soufizem – that Mr Fisk is denying – are the forgiveness of the Grand Mufti and the Minister of Reconciliation to the killers of their sons.
2000 years ago from Straight Street in Damascus, Saint Paul sent his first letter to spread the loving doctrine of Christianity.
Almost four trillion dollars plus hundreds of thousands of Americans, Iraqis, Afghans, British and others have been killed, injured mentally and physically, plus millions of refugees and still the conflict continues, with no one winning.
The reason of this continuous dilemma is the missing engine of (Syrian Soufizem ideology vs. the Salafi Wahabi Jihadi ideology).
Yes the Syrian Islamic Soufizem is the curing ideology engine, empowering it will save many citizens of the world from the fast growing self powered sleeping cells like the one of Boston.
Today’s terror attack will need no more than an ideology and kitchen tools, proof can be seen below:

Finally, let’s focus on what will make a safer today and a better tomorrow for all.
Reserving all my rights,


The campaign to keep GP surgeries open seven days a week will ultimately lead to privatisation of the NHS
Sir, Public opinion is in favour of general practices opening during the weekends. Government must be clear what type of service it proposes. Does the Secretary of State want the service at weekends from 8am-8pm from GPs to be a full routine general practice service or emergencies only? Where I work in the Cambridge area, GPs staff an excellent emergency out-of-hours service already. I can see little point in altering this arrangement if the Secretary of State proposes purely an “urgent service”.
If he proposes seven-day, 12-hour routine work this would mean opening each practice for around 40 extra hours a week with, inevitably, substantial extra costs. Recruiting extra GPs will be difficult because of low morale, increasing workload and decreasing reward.
Hospital and community services now available five days a week will be needed to support the GPs’ seven-day working. Primary care runs as an integral part of the whole service, not in isolation. Can the NHS afford this change?
The Secretary of State needs to be clear what he is proposing. Can the country really afford such a change in these straitened economic times?
Angus Stewart, GP
Little Abington, Cambs

Sir, Why does our Government insist on imposing unsustainable demands on the NHS for popular political gain? It is painfully obvious that our health service is under immense pressure from an ageing population with complex health needs. The campaign for GP surgeries to be open seven days a week is a short-sighted, ­­ill-considered farce. Any cost-effective service should provide routine appointments during basic hours (for example 8am until 7pm), with only urgent appointments provided outside these hours. How can it be cost effective to have surgeries up and down the country staffed at weekends with one or two doctors each, all requiring administration staff and on-site nursing or healthcare assistants?
Our health service has the capacity to provide high-quality, routine GP care free at the point of delivery, which the population accesses during working hours on weekdays. The campaign to keep GP surgeries open seven days a week will ultimately lead to privatisation of the NHS. The choice is stark.
Dr Katie Musgrave
Loddiswell, Devon

Sir, Dr Clare Gerada’s rant (report, Oct 4) about everyone trying to get at poor GPs was, happily, a valedictory speech. Let us hope a more reflective doctor follows her who is able to see that doctors have brought much of the disapprobation they receive on their own heads.
They complain about money in spite of being well paid. Hospital doctors are stunned by the earnings of GPs. The standard of practice is variable. About 30 per cent are dedicated, selfless souls. Half are merely adequate. Between ten and 20 per cent are poor at their job. These doctors should not be practising. Everyone knows who they are, but no one speaks up. All is not well in general practice and much of the problem lies within.
Marian Latchman
Braishfield, Hants

In the 21st century the UK’s products under threat from foreign competitors, and we should emulate our 19th-century forebears and seek drastic action
Sir, Sir Peter Marshall (letter, Oct 5) rightly points out that the Great Exhibition was a showcase of products. It was intended to demonstrate the pre-eminence of British products, but the organisers suffered an unpleasant surprise. At a banquet given by the Lord Mayor of York in October 1850, Prince Albert said that all the reports received from abroad “lead us to expect that the works which are to be sent will be numerous and of a superior character”. Indeed, foreign exhibits showed the accuracy of his forecast.
In the 21st century the UK’s products are again under threat from foreign competitors, and we should emulate our 19th-century forebears and seek drastic action: there is now a pressing need for concentration of quality resources on technologist and technician education at many levels.
Ken Dixon

While most people believe benefits are an important safety net, one in four hides the fact they are supported by benefits
Sir, Today we launch Who Benefits?, a campaign to give a voice to the millions of us who have been supported by benefits at some point in our lives — whether because of low pay, losing a job, ill health or caring responsibilities.
Our poll shows that while most people believe benefits are an important safety net, one in four hides the fact they are supported by benefits, and half of us who haven’t claimed would be embarrassed to do so. Politicians need to do more to understand the experiences of people supported by benefits who are too often ignored, misrepresented or even blamed for their situation.
We have come together with more than 70 charities and community groups to seek to change the nature of this debate and ensure these voices are heard.
We want people who are supported to be treated with more respect and politicians to make decisions based on those experiences.
Who benefits when support is there for those that need it? We all do.
Matthew Reed, The Children’s Society; Leslie Morphy, Crisis;
Fiona Weir, Gingerbread; Ciarán Devane, Macmillan Cancer Support
Paul Farmer, Mind

Nigel Farage’s strategy is self-defeating because he is wilfully seeking to deprive the Conservative Party of votes in marginal seats
Sir, You rightly say (leading article, Oct 5) that “Mr Farage wants UKIP to be taken seriously”. You also state that the only thing that a party such as his “can do is split the vote keeping the Conservatives out”.
This is only part of the story. The more important thing he is doing and on which I directly challenged him in the Bruges Group debate at the Conservative Party conference and then on ConservativeHome is that
he is undermining the Eurosceptic cause. His strategy is self-defeating because he is wilfully seeking to deprive the Conservative Party of enough votes to hold its marginal seats in a general election and
letting in the Euro-integrationist Labour/Lib-Dem parties and increasing the likelihood that there would be no referendum. Fatally, UKIP will probably fail to get even one seat in the House of Commons and has no possibility of having enough votes there to repeal even one EU law.
It is the Eurorealist core of more than 100 Conservative MPs who are increasingly and effectively achieving Eurorealist objectives, such as the current Referendum Bill, and not UKIP. This is why UKIP is dangerously heading for a Euro-pyrrhic victory and must not be taken seriously.
Bill Cash, MP

Perhaps Ralph Miliband’s confiding in his diary that the English were a nationalist bunch was no more than a response to his daily experience
Sir, I know no more about the Ralph Miliband affair than I have read in your newspaper. It appears that the Daily Mail’s case turns largely on a diary entry in 1940. We should remind ourselves what life must have been like in England in 1940 for a schoolboy born in Germany with the name Adolphe, and a Jew to boot.
I was merely a ten-year-old English-born Jew who “spelt his name funny” so got off relatively lightly. My best friend came from Germany on the Kindertransport. His life was made a nightmare. It took great courage every morning to go to school to face the taunts and insults.
In the circumstances I suspect Miliband’s confiding in his diary that the English were a nationalist bunch who perhaps did not deserve to win the war was no more than a response to his daily experience and a commendably mild one at that.
Professor Gerald Goodhardt
London NW8

Despite the antics of a few of our compatriots most of us expect to be treated as decent law-abiding citizens when we travel abroad
Sir, I visited Romania and worked with Romanians several times over a number of years and experienced only hospitality, generosity (sometimes from people who were themselves desperately poor) and kindness. I agree with the letter (Oct 5) describing most Romanians arriving in the UK as respectable, hardworking people who have taken advantage of their right to move within the EU to seek employment.
Despite the antics of a few of our compatriots most of us expect to be treated as decent law-abiding citizens when we travel abroad, so can we not extend the same courtesy to our Romanian guests?
Bill Simpson
Greatham, Hants


SIR – Living near to Crystal Palace Park and as an architect with three decades of experience, I was shocked by Stephen Bayley’s negative comments about a Chinese plan to rebuild Crystal Palace on the original Victorian era site (“A fake Crystal Palace will shame Britain”, Comment, October 4).
The visionary proposals by the Chinese property developer offers the best prospect for revival of this strategic area of south London for decades. The design concept is in the earliest stages, and with proper development by one of our brilliant home-grown architectural practices, it is hard to see how this will not become a worthy successor to the original Crystal Palace. I suspect that when the full benefits of the scheme are made clear, local people will want to support this magnificent contribution to our community by its Anglophile developer. I understand that the proposals include restoration of the Victorian terraces, and a major centre for cultural events, concerts and cinemas.
What is proposed is not a “fake”, but a landmark iconic building which will be a link with our past, present and future.
Chris Phillips
Beckenham, Kent
SIR – I sympathise with the public school prejudice that exists in certain aspects of society. I am concerned, however, as to the merits of attacking a good state school such as the London Oratory School as a means of defence of private schooling (report, October 1). The Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference (HMC) has not visited or consulted with the school to discover for itself the facts regarding the issues it has raised.
To suggest that the school’s population derives from neighbouring houses “reportedly on sale for millions of pounds” is misleading. The school is situated in Fulham, but its pan-London catchment means that only 7 per cent of local residents attend the school, with a number of those from neighbouring Peabody and Guinness estates, as well as other local residents. Similarly, while the school is comprehensive with regard to ability, it is not comprehensive with regard to Catholic practice, as priority is given to those families with established practice. In that respect the proportion of pupils eligible for free lunches is representative of the population it draws from and not from its local authority.
David McFadden
Headmaster, London Oratory School
London SW6
SIR – Edward Vale (Letters, October 4) suggests that private school parents are doing hoi polloi a favour by donating their children’s places in the state system to others, and that high earners contribute disproportionately to state education through taxes.
Related Articles
Chinese plans for Crystal Palace are visionary
07 Oct 2013
An alternative view would be that the state is contributing to independent school pupils’ fees by allowing the schools charitable status – which is of negligible benefit to wider society. The answer is to remove charitable status from private schools so that they are purely profit-making businesses.
John Roberts
SIR – As with many other independent schools, direct access to our school in the form of means-tested bursaries has long been a way of showing our benefit to the community before any Charity Commission ruling on the subject.
We do this because it is the embodiment of our school’s ethos. We offer bursaries to those girls who would most benefit from the kind of education we offer. Many of these pupils have gone on to great things, and, in return, are only too willing to support others as a result of the education they have been afforded.
Jo Heywood
Head, Heathfield School
Ascot, Berkshire
SIR – Sir Michael Wilshaw, the head of Ofsted, should ponder why private schools are having to lend their playing fields to state schools, despite it being only “crumbs off their tables” (report, October 3).
Peter Hamilton
London SE3
Preventing diabetes
SIR – Diabetes has been lurking in the public subconscious for long enough (report, October 2). We need to take note about the dangers of diabetes, highlighted recently by Diabetes UK. My mother died a lingering death thanks largely to complications connected with Type 2 diabetes. It is a horrible condition, but it is often preventable, in that it is strongly connected with diet and weight.
To raise a child into obesity is to let them down just as seriously as to hand out cigarettes. We need to see that the most loving answer to the child’s plea “I am hungry” is often not “have a biscuit”, but “so am I”, or “you’ll enjoy your tea, then.” We must not condemn a proportion of those youngsters to an early death.
Andrew Steane
Royal Navy recognition
SIR – Michael Field (Letters, September 27) says that we need an appropriate day to remember sacrifices made by the Royal Navy. I wonder if it should be May 31, 2016 when 100 years to that day 6,300 sailors lost their lives in the Battle of Jutland.
My grandfather was the commander on the battlecruiser HMS Queen Mary; he was among the 1,200 who lost their lives when it went down.
Robert Tomkinson
Towcester, Northamptonshire
SIR – We should also remember the losses of the Royal Naval Division. The Division, made up principally of Royal Marines, Fleet Reservists and the Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve, played a vital role on land at Antwerp, the Dardanelles, Salonika and on the Western Front, suffering huge numbers of casualties.
Christopher Dickson
Leatherhead, Surrey
Tips for fig tree owners
SIR – Congratulations to Anne Donaldson (Letters, October 3) on her crop of luscious figs. We also achieved the same success. The secret may lie in having grown our small tree up against the whitewashed south-facing wall of our house.
In order for a second crop to ripen before the growing season ends, the first crop would need to have ripened by the end of July. My advice to Mrs Donaldson is to gently break off any unripe figs larger than pea-sized before the onset of winter in order to promote a good crop next year.
Dr Richard Quinton
Working in Gambia
SIR – I was interested to read Con Coughlin’s article (“Gambia is left alone to face the whims of its deranged dictator”, Comment, October 4). On news of my father’s transfer to Cyprus, having been Governor of Gambia from 1947 to 1949, African members of the Executive and Legislative Councils petitioned King George VI for an extension of his term of office, offering to grant him an allowance to offset any financial loss involved.
As a tribute to his work, he was presented with an inscribed address signed by the representatives of the various communities, part of which read: “By your policy of Africanisation and meritorious awards to African Civil Servants, you have opened a prospect of advancement to the people of the Gambia.”
The native authorities of the 35 districts in the protectorate expressed: “their gratitude for his sympathy and help in all their undertakings.” It is doubtful that similar sentiments will be expressed by the Gambian people when President Yahya Jammeh finally leaves office.
Philip Wright
London SW11
Police sickness
SIR – Some years ago, when I took charge of a large police station, I found an inordinate level of sickness compared with my previous stations (“My officers phone in sick with hangovers, admits chief constable”, report, October 2). I let it be known that, as I was concerned about staff health and welfare, either myself or another senior officer would visit the homes of those reporting sick to see how they were. And we did.
Within a month “sickness” fell by 62 per cent, and within six months by another 17 per cent. Thereafter it remained below average, much to the relief of those who had to cover for their sick colleagues.
Joe Emery
Standlake, Oxfordshire
Utility bill conundrum
SIR – I received three letters last week, on consecutive days, from my electricity supplier. The first told me that I was required to read my own meter, and supply them with my meter readings within three weeks. The second was an estimated bill. The third was a bill based on my own readings from two days previously. This informed me that my monthly direct debit was going up because I should be supplying my own meter readings on a quarterly basis. What next?
Perhaps I should answer my own query by writing to myself or even phoning myself up, and adding any costs incurred onto my bill.
Jonathan Chasemore
Potter Heigham, Norfolk
Not just for sitting on
SIR – At my convent school, not only did we tuck our chairs in once we left our desks (Letters, October 5), we were also obliged to flip them up and place them seat side down on the desk ready for the cleaners.
Ginny Hudson
SIR – My wife and I have taken to tucking our chairs under the table after a meal, before negotiating our way out, as it gives us the opportunity to straighten our backs.
Charles McCartan
Loxwood, West Sussex
SIR – In our house, failure to tuck the chairs in results in our dachshund hopping from chair to table, and eating the butter.
John Manners-Bell
Brinkworth, Wiltshire
Unusual foreign encounters with parakeets
SIR – Pam Ledger (Letters, October 2) is concerned about vanishing parakeets. I can report that there are colonies of parakeets nesting in the trees near the seaward end of La Rambla in Barcelona.
Three weeks ago, while enjoying lunch at a restaurant, one of their more inquisitive and noisy number almost drowned in the ornamental pool next to our table. It was rescued by a Spanish couple, who wrapped it in a sweater and fed it. Lunchtime entertainment was seldom bettered.
John Garrett
SIR – In 1942, my father was stationed in New Delhi, and we had two other officers billeted with us at our house.
We had a prolific crop of maize in the kitchen garden which was regularly plundered by flocks of ring-necked parakeets, so my father and his friends organised parakeet shoots with great success. Even I, with my bow and arrow, managed to bag a few. We ate them regularly, roasted, and they were delicious. They tasted a bit like snipe.
Anne Naylor
Bentley Heath, Hertfordshire
SIR – Brian Fokes (Letters, October 4) suggests that some people may have used Mrs Beeton’s Australian recipe to make parakeet pie. Canada geese are far more deserving of being turned into pie. These birds are pernicious, stripping the banks of rivers down to bare earth, messing on footpaths and driving out native species.
Tony Lloyd
Coulsdon, Surrey

Irish Times:

Sir, – Seanad reform will now be a top priority for the No side – as it has been for the past 80 years. – Yours, etc,
Leopardstown Avenue,
Blackrock, Co Dublin.
A chara, – I call on all those senators who facilitated the passage of “The Abolition of the Seanad” Bill through the Oireachtas last May by voting for the abolition of their own jobs and the Seanad to resign immediately.
Following months of claiming that their political existence was a waste of taxpayers’ money and that they had never contributed positively to legislation in this country, their positions as Senators have been rendered untenable. Their resignations would also pave the way for the meaningful reform of the Seanad that is so urgently needed. – Is mise,
Larkhill Road, Sligo.
A chara, – Wouldn’t it only be right, proper and fair that the cost (€14 million) of the recent failed referendum be deducted from the wage packets of Government Ministers? – Is mise,
Montpelier Gardens,
Dublin 7.
Sir, – I wonder if there are any similarities between Enda Kenny’s decision to send Richard Bruton to debate the Senate referendum rather than go himself and Éamon de Valera’s decision to send Michael Collins to the Treaty negotiations? – Yours, etc,
Ard Na Mara,
Blackrock, Co Louth.
Sir, – Following the referendum result, is it time for Enda Kenny to face up to what we all know already. He should realise he is not up to the job and resign. Then someone more competent could take over. – Yours, etc,
Co Monaghan.
Sir, – Will Enda Kenny et al please take note and proceed accordingly: “The spirit of democracy is not a mechanical thing to be adjusted by abolition of forms. It requires change of heart.” – Gandhi. – Yours, etc,
Rathedmond, Sligo.
Sir, – Now the Taoiseach has gracefully taken his wallop on the chin, I do hope he will give serious consideration to any future such fundamental reform of the governance of Ireland with the help of the appropriate experts and citizens’ groups.
This last effort to abolish the Seanad smacked more of management consultants than of constitutional lawyers, political scientists and historians, not to mention the Constitutional Convention. – Yours, etc,
Nutley Park,
Donnybrook, Dublin 4.
Sir, – Anagrammatically “The Seanad” has been reformed from “Enda’s Hate” to “Hates Enda”. – Yours, etc,
Ballyraine Park,
Letterkenny, Co Donegal.
Sir, – Given that every constituency returned a 50-something/ 40-something vote in one direction or the other, isn’t talk of urban/rural or east/west divides a bit overblown? – Yours, etc,
Vernon Avenue,
Clontarf, Dublin 3.
Sir, – The decision by the Irish electorate to keep the Seanad is not an unconditional endorsement of it, merely a stay of execution. Members and supporters of Seanad Éireann do not have the luxury of being complacent nor should they imagine, if they shirk immediate and proper reform, that the electorate will indulge them again in the future. – Yours, etc,
Claremont Road,
Howth, Dublin 13.
Sir, – Next time the government holds a referendum to abolish the Seanad, might I suggest that the voting be carried out in accordance with the current voting procedures to elect members of the Seanad with one significant reversal. Allow only those who currently do not have a vote in the Seanad elections be allowed to vote in the referendum and let the rest be disenfranchised. Referendum passed! – Yours, etc,
Berrings, Co Cork.
Sir, – When the electorate is persuaded by government that it made the wrong decision in rejecting the constitutional amendment to abolish Seanad Éireann, as happened with both the Nice and Lisbon treaties, will we be required to re-ballot on both the Seanad abolition and court of appeal referendums, or just on what was voted down? – Yours, etc,
Delaford Lawn,
Dublin 16.
Sir, – What is the difference between the Government and An Post?  An Post delivers! – Yours, etc,
Mill Street,
Westport, Co Mayo.
Sir, – When my wife Liz was collecting two grandchildren from national school last Wednesday in Killiney, she remarked that they would be off school on Friday, because of polling. “Yes, Granny,” nine-year old Tom replied, “there’s going to be a resurrection”. As Psalm 8 metaphorically puts it, “out of the mouth of babes and sucklings hast thou ordained strength”. – Yours, etc,
Killiney, Co Dublin.
Sir, – Joe O’Connor, president of the Union of Students of Ireland (USI), has described the vote to retain Seanad Éireann as an extremely positive result for Irish democracy. There is a slight chance that this may yet prove to be true, but only if sufficient numbers of citizens mobilise to campaign for reform of our political system.
In a referendum in 1979, voting rights in Seanad university panel elections were extended to all Irish third-level graduates. Despite the expressed solemn will of the people and repeated requests from USI delegations, the required legislation for Seanad university panel reform has never been drafted by Dáil Éireann.
In this light, post-referendum promises by all political parties to truly reform the Seanad ring hollow. – Yours, etc,
(Disenfranchised graduate
of NCAD),
Conamara, Co Galway.
Sir, – Now that the people have spoken, can I make a special request for our local Senator, Terry Leyden’s stamp money to be refunded? – Yours, etc,
Co Roscommon.
Sir, – It’s said that a poll should be treated as a snapshot of opinion at a point in time. So, why the big surprise when the eventual outcome is a negative? – Yours, etc,
Mount Argus Court,
Harold’s Cross,
Dublin 6W.
Sir, – Brian Nolan (October 7th) highlights the question of the Government engaging in realistic Seanad reform by quoting Lewis Carroll on belief in impossible things. The following is equally apt given the current autocracy, “ ‘When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said, in a rather scornful tone, ‘it means what I choose it to mean, neither more nor less’.” (Through the Looking Glass). – Yours,etc,
Moyne Road,
Ranelagh, Dublin 6.
Sir, – How can we have confidence in a referendum process that produces an unintelligible ballot paper? Having had difficulty deciphering the papers issued last Friday, I asked two locals about their experience at the polling station. One had walked out mystified without voting, the other had voted in a manner opposite to their intention! – Yours. etc,
Co Tipperary.
Sir, – My commiserations to Taoiseach Enda Kenny on losing the Seanad referendum and the Senior All-Ireland football final. – Yours, etc,
Harcourt Terrace,
Dublin 2.

Sir, – Keith Harris’s pending homelessness (October 4th), due to a further reduction in the already inadequate rent supplement, is a situation facing many people in the private rented sector.
In my experience with homeless people in Dublin, it is now almost impossible for them, or others dependent on the rent supplement provided by the State, to access accommodation in the private rented sector. This highlights the absurdity of the Government’s homeless policy which is almost entirely dependent on the private rented sector to achieve its objective of eliminating homelessness by 2016. – Yours, etc,
Jesuit Centre for Faith and
Upper Sherrard Street,

Sir, – I was so relieved to read Anthea McTeirnan’s piece (“Women are not hurt by abortion. It is normal”, Opinion, October 4th). At last some honesty.
Having moved to Ireland from England some 20 years ago with my returning Irish husband and our two young children, I found myself pregnant at 44. Our children were then eight and six years of age. I had had two difficult births resulting in emergency Caesarean sections and by the time of this new pregnancy had become very overweight. I had no doubt that I could not proceed and within days had made preparations for the four of us to travel back to England to stay with my mother; to be with my family who understood my decision, sad as it was. I was also able to confide in my old friends back there.
I went to the clinic to be checked out, to find out exactly where I was along the line (eight weeks), to discuss the procedure and my decision with doctors.
This next description is what upsets me and angers me still, two decades on. The hypocrisy. I was in a small ward (with maybe 10 beds), filled with Irish women. Very young and not so young. A woman who already had six children and just could not cope with, or afford, any more. She had flown over on a “shopping expedition” to London and was returning home to Ireland that night, calm and determined.
I ended up with two very young girls lying on my bed with me, crying their eyes out. Scared. No, their families did not know. No, they had not been to their doctor in Ireland. Nobody knew their situation and they were flying home that night. No follow-up care. No counselling. Nobody to talk to. Nobody with whom they could share their feelings, their doubts or their fears. And, hopefully not, any repercussions from the surgery. After only a few hours in hospital in London, they flew back to Dublin and Limerick. Alone. Scared.
As advised, I stayed in for the night. Then my husband collected me and took me home – to my precious children, my mother and family to be cared for before returning to Ireland. Where I could not say a word to anyone for fear of shock and condemnation.
I don’t regret the decision. I regret the hypocrisy that allows thousands of women to travel secretly. Alone. To another country and without the support they need and deserve to go through what is undoubtedly a difficult and a sad situation following a decision which they have taken after careful consideration. – Yours, etc,
Somerby Road,
Greystones, Co Wicklow.
Sir, – Anthea McTeirnan (Opinion, October 4th), claims “women do not die of abortion”. McTeirnan seems to forget, or ignore, the multitude of unborn women who die due to abortion. – Yours, etc,
Upper Rathmines Road,
Dublin 6.
Sir, – Anthea McTeirnan’s piece, “Women are not hurt by abortion. It is normal” (Opinion, October 4th) is the first sensible article that I have ever read on the issue! (I am over 60). – Yours, etc,
Llewellyn Grove,
Dublin 16.
Sir, – The foetus is a different biological entity to a woman, not a part of her body like a tooth. Are you really a patriarch or a priest if you believe that a foetus has a greater claim to the right to life than a tooth? – Yours, etc,
Templeville Road,
Templeogue, Dublin 6W.

I’ve even thought of a spurious “Yes” argument for this, based on my own “back-of-an-envelope” financial calculations. If 60 per cent of an electorate of three million must pay a €50 fine for not voting, that makes €90 million in fines. Even allowing for those with a valid excuse, or who those simply won’t pay, many millions could be raised every year! Come to think of it, given that there were two referendums last Friday, wouldn’t that then make each non-voter liable for €100, as being guilty on two counts of failing to exercise their franchise? The same would apply next year, with local and European elections scheduled.
I jest, of course, but the fact that so many people do not vote is something that surely must be addressed. – Yours, etc,
Upper Faughar

Sir, – Dermot Curran in An Irishman’s Diary (September 30th) attributed the phrase “Peace in our time” to Neville Chamberlain.
Chamberlain never said this. The correct quote is, “Peace for our time”. This quote came from a speech Chamberlain delivered outside 10 Downing Street on September 30th, 1938: “My good friends, for the second time in our history, a British prime minister has returned from Germany bringing peace with honour. I believe it is peace for our time. We thank you from the bottom of our hearts. Go home and get a nice quiet sleep.”
The commonly misquoted “Peace in our time” most likely stems from the Book of Common Prayer (“Give peace in our time, O Lord”), the contents of which the Unitarian Mr Chamberlain would not have been overtly familiar with. – Yours, etc,
James Street,

Sir, – Do we now have to refer to the Four Courts as the Five Courts? – Yours, etc,
Bushy Park Road,
Rathgar, Dublin 6.

Sir, – John Collins’s article on his experience of the Mater Hospital accident and emergency department (while attending recently with his mother) dramatically brought home the appalling state of the public health services after a decade or more of mismanagement and neglect (Home News, September 30th).
The article was very moving on many levels. However, as a GP in the north inner city, I was struck in particular by the response of the Mater Hospital which accompanied the story and which, inter alia, made the claim that attendances (at emergency departments) are higher during the afternoon “when GP practices close”.
In fact the vast majority of GPs in the area offer morning, afternoon and evening surgeries and indeed there is also an excellent out-of-hours service for the area run by local GPs themselves.
Your correspondent painted a very revealing picture of the chaos at the heart of our public hospitals which is directly linked to the lack of adequate resources to cope with the increasing complexity of delivering first-class health services to our citizens.
The situation in general practice is no better. Following draconian cuts of almost €150 million to general practice, many GPs are struggling to maintain services and we appear to be moving further away from the Government’s stated aim of getting patients out of hospitals with more emphasis on primary care.
There is much talk of reform in the health services, but it should be reform for the better, not the current situation whereby patients are suffering needlessly and doctors are struggling to deliver care in an increasingly under-resourced health service. – Yours, etc,
Chair IMO GP Committee,
FitzSir, – Recycling companies are running an advertising campaign asking us to improve on our recycling. We are being asked to “wash and dry containers before recycling”.
I am quite happy to do this, but we are also being asked by another source to conserve energy, water, heating fuels and be as “green” as we possibly can. A lot of food containers need to be washed in hot soapy water. Which is the lesser of two evils: to recycle unwashed containers, or waste valuable water and fuel washing them? I am in a quandary. – Yours, etc,
Donnybrook Castle,
Donnybrook, Dublin.4.

william Place,

Sir,– If Gay Byrne introduced sex into Ireland, can there be any doubt that in contemplating the eye-catching, noble image of Clare’s Shane O’Donnell and his fan-club in your pages (Sport, October 5th) that 50 years on, in introducing sex into hurling, truly, the Gods have spoken. – Yours, etc,
Station Road,
Sutton, Dublin 13.

Irish Independent:

Sharland Liz and Anna

October 7, 2013

7 October 2013 Sharland Liz and Anna

I go all the way around the park round the park listening to the Navy Lark
Our heroes are in trouble they are back from leave and Pertwee is in early what can he have been up to?Priceless.
Sharland, Liz and Anna come to lunch
We watch Glums
Scrabble today Mary wins and get under 400. perhaps I might win tomorrow.


Professor Ralph Miliband
From our edition of June 7 1994

Professor Ralph Miliband with his son, Ed 
12:53PM BST 01 Oct 2013
Professor Ralph Miliband, who has died aged 70, was an inspiring teacher of politics and an internationally renowned figure of the British Left.
Though committed to socialism, he never hesitated to criticise its distortion by Stalin and other dictators. He also inveighed against the timidity and limited horizons of West European social democracy. The ideal he sought was a democratic and open Marxism.
Miliband’s scholarly writings, at once passionate and lucid, had great influence not only on students and dons but also beyond academic circles.
His Parliamentary Socialism (1961), in which he attacked the Labour Party for its lack of radicalism, became a classic text, as did The State in Capitalist Society, which analysed Western power structures.
Ralph Miliband was born in Belgium on Jan 7 1924, and fled to Britain in 1940 to escape the Nazis. He studied at the London School of Economics, where he was deeply influenced by Harold Laski, who became a friend and then a colleague.
Related Articles
Questions over BBC ‘Labour bias’
05 Oct 2013
Miliband’s studies were interrupted by three years in the Royal Navy. He returned to the LSE to finish his degree, worked on a PhD (under Laski’s supervision), and later, after a stint teaching at Roosevelt College in Chicago, became a lecturer in the LSE’s department of government.
In 1972 Miliband took up the Chair of Politics at Leeds University, where Lord Boyle of Handsworth, the former Conservative minister Sir Edward Boyle, was Vice-Chancellor. Despite their different political perspectives, Miliband and Boyle developed a considerable mutual respect.
In his inaugural lecture at Leeds Miliband warned against treating Left-wing orthodoxy as a substitute for hard critical thought. Five years later he accepted a Chair at Brandeis University in America, and he subsequently taught at York University, Toronto, and the City University of New York. London, though, always remained his base.
Miliband was never a cloistered academic. From 1964 he edited the annual Socialist Register. An entertaining and witty speaker, Miliband was able to stimulate debate as well as to clarify complex ideas. He was in demand throughout the world, especially in North America.
A man of great warmth and generosity, Miliband was endowed with an infectious sense of humour.
He married, in 1961, Marion Kozak; they had two sons.
Ralph Miliband, born January 7 1924, died May 21 1994


IndepeYou don’t need to cross the Irish Sea to find a fast, exciting sport played for love, not money (In praise of hurling…, 3 October). Shinty (camanachd) demands stick skills that excel those of hurley, and competition is intense in the Highlands. The players give up much time to their sport, but receive no financial reward. Some of their games are shown on BBC Scotland and BBC Alba.
Johanna Fraser
Kingussie, Inverness-shire
• As ever, Ian Aitken puts his finger on the core of the Daily Mail’s problem (The Miliband I knew was passionate but no traitor, 4 October) when he says its loyalty is not to contemporary Britain but to a legendary Britain of some distant golden (aka fictional) age. It’s the kind of false memory syndrome that Spike Milligan so wonderfully impaled with his repeated question: “Whatever happened to the crispy bacon we used to get before the war?”
Alasdair Buchan
• In this abundant year for English apples, it was great to see 10 best apple recipes (Bring out your bramleys and count up your coxes, Cook, 5 October). What a pity that most of them specified the use of braeburn and granny smith, neither of which are traditional English varieties.
Suvi McCreadie
Woodbridge, Suffolk
• Three-quarters of page 3 devoted to a feud between two obscure singers (Don’t compare me 2U, 5 October)! Are you trying to keep up with the red-tops?
Bashyr Aziz
3. Photograph: Munir Uz Zaman/AFP/Getty Images
Monday, 7 October, has been designated World Day for Decent Work by the International Trade Union Confederation. Unison, along with millions across the globe, will be calling for the creation of decent jobs for all.
Here in the UK, we believe that decent jobs for all are possible. We want to see good apprenticeships, support for a living wage, jobs that give security, and an end to zero-hours contracts and the vilification of people who have to exist on benefits because there are not enough suitable jobs around.
Mass suicides in electronic companies in China; deaths of young men building World Cup stadiums in Qatar; crushed bodies in a garment factory in Bangladesh; blacklisting for exposing dangers on UK building sites – these are some of the perils of working in the 21st century where rights and protections are either non-existent or steadily being eroded.
Providing decent work contributes to social cohesion. It ends discrimination against women, young people and migrant workers. Decent work with decent wages means people can live with dignity. But we are witnessing the destruction of decent work, and a rolling back of pay and conditions as governments and employers seek to create flexible workforces that can be hired and fired at will. Instead of protecting rights, governments such as ours are destroying them, labelling them as “red tape”.
Dave Prentis
General secretary, Unison
• Rhiannon Lucy Coslett (Why do the Tories hate us? 5 October) blames a previous generation for the ills suffered by under-25s. In fact, their maintenance grants and payment of tuition fees were funded by a fully employed, tax-paying workforce, with near zero price inflation. Strong trades unions protected wages, and zero-hours contracts were unheard of. The welfare state was the most cost-effective social organisation ever seen in the UK. To blame the generation who created and worked in and for it is a travesty of the political reality of the present.
Ron Houghton

‘The laws … do little to stop thousands of British state security employees discovering our bank account details, passwords and online activities.’ Photograph: Kieran Doherty/Reuters
I was alarmed by John Lanchester’s assessment (Inside the Snowden files, 4 October) of the extent of GCHQ’s surveillance operations and the lack of effective legal restrictions on its ambit. Even more worrying was his description of a GCHQ legal briefing on the scope of article 8 of the European convention on human rights. This apparently suggests “it is legal for the state to breach article 8 ‘In the interests of national security, public safety or the economic wellbeing of the country, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others’.”
Without any qualification, this advice is breathtakingly Orwellian. Hopefully, the briefing also contains what all human rights lawyers know is a crucial preceding phrase in article 8: “There shall be no interference by a public authority with the exercise of this right [to respect for private and family life] except such as is in accordance with the law and is necessary in a democratic society.”
The difference between Lanchester’s account of GCHQ’s legal briefing and article 8’s true wording might appear a cosmetic one. Any GCHQ operative would assuredly claim that his surveillance was necessary, despite infringing an individual’s article 8 rights.
But in the event of a legal challenge from someone using article 8 to complain about state surveillance, GCHQ would have to satisfy the court that the infringement of that individual’s rights was justified as legal and necessary in a democratic society. The judiciary is not a pushover – so this just might be difficult.
Jane Fortin
Emeritus professor of law, University of Sussex
• I hope the GCHQ briefing John Lanchester refers to does not use his terminology. The convention does not speak of a “breach” of article 8, it explains when an “interference” with the rights under article 8 is allowed (the French text is similar). The rights, as one would expect, are not absolute but qualified. This is a standard technique in the convention, and the starting point for the approach of the Strasbourg human rights court and British courts in determining whether article 8 has, in fact, been breached in the case before them.
David Bentley
•  Perhaps worries about surveillance are low in Britain because people don’t feel threatened by government activities here. The secret service has a record of targeting leftwingers, even MPs, but it has not obviously hurt them. So we feel that their knowledge of our present legitimate activities will not be dangerous.
However, as Ralph Miliband demonstrated so clearly in his writing, there is something we can characterise as a “ruling class”. If the rich and powerful were to feel really threatened (perhaps by an attempt to do something serious about the gross inequality in the UK), I have no doubt they would welcome ways of identifying leftwingers, perhaps by their reading material (even the Guardian!) and might be prepared to use illegal means to intern or even kill opponents, as happened in South America. Then we would really have cause to regret not stopping such activity now.
Martin Wright
Sale, Cheshire
• I suspect that most of us have that hopeless feeling that these “thought police” don’t even believe these flimsy arguments themselves and merely do what they do because they can. We don’t even know how these systems operate. Do they trawl for key words to do a rough sorting process? If so, I suppose it’s a really good job that every email sent by every person in the land doesn’t habitually contain a random string of key words – sort of the equivalent of the “mass trespass”.
Kevin Bell
• “The state” comprises both its laws and its employees. The laws, as John Lanchester shows, do little to stop thousands of British state security employees discovering our bank account details, passwords and online activities. Such access is also available to contractors with the British security services – similar to the 480,000 contractors in the US. On a modest estimate, 30,000 people can readily get at our personal details. Assuming at least 1% of people are crooks, then, by state fiat, at least 300 crooks can skim our bank accounts or blackmail us. How many such cases have happened? Why have we not heard about any of them?
Although “12 years of terrorism have killed as many people in the UK as eight days [of road accidents]“, one security failure could add many thousands to the terrorist toll. So Lanchester is right that spying by states is needed. But we need urgent public discussion of how to minimise abuse. Abuse includes not only the Big Brother state but the more immediate prospect of Crooked Cousin: mass, virtually undetectable cybercrime masquerading as state security.
Michael Lipton
• Many years ago I was working as a consultant on a housing project in the South Wales valleys; it was a publicly funded scheme and a part of the funding came from the Housing Development Directorate (HDD), part of the Department of the Environment. To research the effectiveness of increasing the insulation of houses under the better insulated housing programme some homes on this project were elected to be better insulated.
To monitor the way the houses were used, – by way of example, the effects of opening a window was opened in one house – small sensors were put on the walls in each room so differences in usage could be taken account of when energy comparisons were made. These sensors were small plastic devices that looked quite innocuous and yet were linked to the HDD in London.
On one occasion I heard that a child had hung a sock on a sensor and a letter was received from the HDD asking for whatever had been placed on the sensor to be removed as this was affecting its performance. And the year? 1984.
Malcolm Crocker
Porthmadog, Gwynedd


Katherine Butler is spot on to identify ageism as mirroring the sexism and racism of previous eras (3 October ). It is so pervasive that older people themselves have become negative about growing old.
Working in mental health services, one finds that older people referred for help often say things such as “Of course I’m depressed, I’m old”; “I’m too old to change”; “Someone younger deserves help more than I do”; or ”Getting older is a terrible thing”. It is leading to unnecessary ill health, poor wellbeing, compounding existing health problems, leading to hospital and care home admissions, poor quality of life and early death.
These beliefs are being developed due to a society that is inherently ageist, and social change would have a much bigger impact than individual therapeutic change. We do need to think about our language and how older people are represented, and emphasise the positives that are possible when growing older, rather than focusing always on the negatives.
We need to be proud to be grey and the opportunities it can bring rather than ashamed about what is an inevitable part of our life cycle.
Dr Chris Allen,Consultant Clinical Psychologist,  Maidenhead, Berkshire
One reason why the elderly are so hated by the youth of today is that the young are constantly told that the state pension is a benefit and not something that has been earned. State benefits are not taxed, but HMRC treats the pension as earned income. So who is correct – the Revenue who continue to tax it or the politicians being their usual duplicitous selves?
Time to take the old age pension out of the welfare budget? All it needs is a rebranding exercise. It won’t cost anything extra to call it what it really is.
Roger Chapman, Keighley, West Yorkshire
May blames judges for  doing their job
I was dismayed to read Nigel Morris’s article headed “May condemns judges over human rights law” (1 October). The Home Secretary is once again blaming the judges for doing their job, as she did at the time of the Abu Qatada saga. Has she never heard of the basic principle of the separation of powers as between the legislature, executive and judiciary?
May I quote for her information what in 1985 the United Nations Congress on the Prevention of Crime and the Treatment of Offenders adopted as Principle 1 of the Basic Principles on the Independence of the Judiciary (unanimously endorsed by the General Assembly): “The independence of the judiciary shall be guaranteed by the State and enshrined in the Constitution or the law of the country. It is the duty of all governmental and other institutions to respect and observe the independence of the judiciary.”
If Theresa May doesn’t like the law, she can change it. If she doesn’t like the Human Rights Act, abolish it. But don’t blame the judges, or put unlawful pressure on them to misinterpret the law as it is. She apparently told the Conservative conference that she was “sending a very clear message to those judges…”. If that isn’t usurping power, I don’t know what is. She adds: “Conservatives will put the law on the people’s side”. As a member of the legislature she can and should do that, but it sounds to me as if she wants to be the legislature, the executive and judiciary all at once.
Clearly, unless judges, prosecutors and lawyers are able to exercise their professional duties freely, independently and impartially, and unless the executive and the legislature are likewise always prepared to ensure this independence, the rule of law will slowly but steadily be eroded, and with it effective protection of the rights of the individual.
Robin Grey QC, London, EC4
Pointless risks run for charity
Fiona Sturges (Voices, 1 October) could have added a further category to her list of self-indulgent charity acts: the expedition.
These charity jaunts can take several forms. One involves doing something already done many times before, such as climbing a chronically congested mountain, or trekking through snow to an arbitrary point, and then trekking back again. Another is the entirely pointless activity, such as rowing single-handed across an ocean – sails and engines have been attached to boats out of the eminently sensible desire to avoid such dangerous and onerous work.
Expedition participants are vocal in informing us of the dangers and privations they “selflessly” submit themselves to in the name of raising money (or awareness); if it’s so dangerous or awful, how about simply not doing it? You don’t have to, after all.
However, the truth is that they are doing things that they want to do anyway. Charity is simply a cover for running unnecessary and pointless risks, which they would otherwise be castigated for. It also provides a source of funding to pay for the self-indulgence. Not to be forgotten as well is the ego-boost supplied by ostentatiously suffering for charity, thus broadcasting what a thoroughly good person you are.
Giving your time or money to charity is a noble act. If you feel so inclined, then just do it. Don’t use it as an excuse to pay for your adventures. And, most of all, don’t tell us about it.
Barry Richards, Cardiff
McCarthyism at the ‘Mail’
The Daily Mail article accusing Ralph Miliband of hating Britain has sparked a debate about patriotism.
I have friends who grew up in South Africa in the 1950s and 1960s. They hated the apartheid regime but loved their country. They had no wish to leave.
To be patriotic does not mean you have to support the prevailing consensus, if there is one, let alone subscribe to Daily Mail or Tory values. You do not have to support the institution of monarchy to love this country. You do not have to support more privatisation to love this country. This article smacked of McCarthyism which, thank goodness, we in Britain have never subscribed to.
John Boaler, Calne, Wiltshire
Many of those, such as on BBC Question Time, who excuse the late Ralph Miliband’s insulting comments, aged 17, about the English, because “we all say and do stupid things at 17”, also propose giving the vote to 16-year-olds. And of course, Michael Foot’s description of Norman Tebbit as a “semi house-trained polecat” is deemed acceptable!
John Birkett, St Andrews, Fife
Who pays for workfare?
The as yet sketchy plan to introduce a wider US-Style “workfare” programme, partially unveiled by David Cameron in his  Conservative conference keynote speech (“Earn or learn: Cameron gets tough  on the under-25s over welfare,” 3 October), could run into difficulties due to the way several political responsibilities are devolved to the Scottish Government, Welsh Assembly government and Northern Ireland Assembly administration.
If the Westminster-based Coalition Government wants to force young people off welfare benefits, a UK-wide responsibility of the Department for Work and Pensions in London, and into a training or further education, this will transfer financial responsibility to Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast to administer for the devolved nations of the UK.
But with such new responsibility, will the Treasury  provide the appropriate resources to support this? Have the devolved administrations been consulted over this initiative? And if so, what is their response?
Dr David Lowry, Stoneleigh, Surrey
NHS pay freeze the final straw
Can someone explain in this time of us “all having to share the pain” why pay freezes for public service workers are acceptable, but temporary profit freezes for multinational energy companies are a threat to life as we know it?
Tom Simpson, Bristol
The announcement by Jeremy Hunt that most NHS staff will not receive a pay rise next year is the final straw. NHS unions must respond with ballots for industrial action involving co-ordinated strikes.
Andrew Travers, Gillingham,  Kent
The Seventies,  age of equality
I was born in the 40s, and like Andy McSmith (Voices, 5 October) I remember the 1970s with more fondness than I do the 1980s. A statistic that he did not mention is the ratio of the relative incomes of the most and least well off. Back in the 70s it was about 50 to 1. Now it’s about 400 to 1.
In 1960 I was taught that the previous 100 years had been a period of gradual but constant narrowing of the gap between the rich and the poor. Thatcher certainly changed all that. Why do we put up with it?
Mike Coggles, Retford,  Nottinghamshire
Send MPs to  the front line
We will not solve the problem of irrational defence cuts (“How defence cuts helped Taliban devastate Camp Bastion”, 5 October) until every MP, as part of their contract, has to do an annual two-week attachment to any theatre of war, where they can ride in soft-skinned vehicles, equipped with a gun that jams and sharing the flak jacket.
David Newman, Harrogate,  North Yorkshire
True comedy
Those somewhat older than David Cameron would not have been able to listen to his trite reference at the Conservative conference to Magna Carta without thinking fondly of the great Tony Hancock and his Twelve Angry Men speech: “Does Magna Carta mean nothing to you? Did she die in vain?” It would be better to leave such speeches to those who actually intend to make us laugh.
Stan Hughes, East Hagbourne, Oxfordshire
Big lies
In order to help Mike Wright escape the horns of a dilemma (letter, 4 October), whether “All in it together”, or “Greenest government ever” is the biggest lie,  might I suggest “The NHS is safe…” or, cutting to the chase, “Compassionate Conservatism”?
Paul Abbott, Nottingham
Loose talk
I feel sorry for the man convicted for self-scanning all his shopping as loose onions. What happened to “The customer is always right?” What if he really didn’t know his onions?
Ian McKenzie, Lincoln


Insurer commissioners, like their NHS counterparts, should be supported in seeking to ensure safe and cost-effective treatment
Sir, Private medical insurers (“Private healthcare”, letter, Sept 30), like their NHS counterparts, Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs), are commissioners of treatment and have a similar responsibility to their members to try to commission safe, appropriate, cost-effective care with an outcome that benefits the patient. Consultants and other healthcare professionals have the same responsibility but generally to individual patients; although some might still argue about their responsibility to be cost-effective.
I understand the concerns of professional associations when they accuse private medical insurers of “interfering with clinical pathways” but, over 16 years as chief medical officer of the Bupa group, I can recall many discussions with representatives of those same organisations about the huge, well documented and frequently unwarranted variations in clinical treatments, often significantly outside the clinical pathways prepared by organisations such as National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (the pathways usually promoted by insurers such as Bupa) and carried out in the name of “professional independence”.
However, when asked if they were prepared to monitor adherence to evidence-based clinical pathways and to tackle those whose practice exhibited unwarranted variation, there was usually a distinct lack of enthusiasm.
Commissioners in the NHS, among many other things, have been charged with tackling unwarranted variation, surely insurer commissioners should also be supported in seeking to ensure consistent, safe, appropriate and cost-effective treatment for their members.
Andrew Vallance-Owen
Barnet, Herts

Sir, It is natural that private medical insurers (PMI) should wish to control their costs, but this cannot be achieved by unilaterally reducing reimbursement to doctors and surgeons while continuing to hide what they pay to hospitals behind the smokescreen of commercial confidentiality (“Health insurers ‘restricting patient choice’ on referrals”, Sept 30). There is enormous variation in the fees that PMI agree with hospital groups, both between providers and within each provider’s policies, most of which the patient is unaware of until the hospital invoice arrives.
Compare this with the majority of consultants who continue to charge procedural fees based on charges established around 1995 without any increase for medical or general inflation, while paradoxically both hospital charges and PMI subscriptions inexorably have increased every year. Many PMI, with the notable exception of the two dominant companies, remain happy to reimburse these historical charges, possibly recognising that improvements in techniques and efficiency offset the impact of inflation which thereby help to constrain overall costs for patients.
In the Alice in Wonderland world of PMI, for “Open” read “Restricted to the cheapest doctor”, and “Overcharging Consultant” actually means “Underpaying Insurer”. The best advice to most patients is to keep the money in the bank and self-pay for their elective surgery, which offers much better value for money as well as unlimited choice.
Dr Hamish M. A. towler
Consultant Ophthalmologist
Ilford, Essex

Articles by Western scholars on China’s history appear in Chinese historical journals and CUP has published a history of China written by Chinese scholars
Sir, Jung Chang’s fears that her latest book, on the Empress Dowager Cixi, will not be allowed to circulate in China calls for sympathy. However, her comment as reported (Oct 5) that “liberalisation of Chinese society had reversed in the past five years to its most oppressive form since the days of Mao” requires modification. In the past five years particularly, leading Chinese universities have been inviting scholars from Europe and the US to deliver lectures on subjects of China’s history, and these have been attended by large numbers of students; or they have acted as keynote speakers at conferences. Books and a pen are thrust into the hands of such lecturers, who thereby learn that their scholarly works have been translated into Chinese. Articles by Western scholars on China’s history appear by no means infrequently in Chinese historical journals. Here at home at least one publishing house (Cambridge University Press) has responded by publishing an English translation of a four-volume history of China, written mainly by the scholars of Beijing University (Beida). It is difficult to think that Mao would have countenanced such activities.
Michael Loewe
University Lecturer in Chinese Studies, Cambridge, 1963-90

In the experience of one reader, it seems that rural Britain’s communications have not progressed since the days of James Herriott
Sir, It is not only broadband which is lacking in Britain’s rural areas (letter, Oct 1). With the demise of the roadside telephone box and lack of any mobile phone signal, I was recently left to walk 12 miles to Hereford pushing a laden bicycle that had suffered a massive tyre blow-out.
Calling at a filling station that advertised phone facilities, I was told that these had been withdrawn more than two years ago. Wondering what the attendant would have done had I been an armed robber instead of a cyclist in distress, I followed his direction to “walk up and down the road until you get a signal”. I found one after 6 miles. My daughter, a vet on the Welsh borders, struggles to keep in touch with clients once she leaves her house. Rural Britain’s communications have not progressed since the days of James Herriott.
Mr A. D. French

As one reader observes, vitriolic comments directed at those of opposing political views are not solely the preserve of the right-wing press
Sir, The Daily Mail’s assertion that Ed Miliband’s father “hated Britain” sounds quite mild when compared with Nye Bevan’s “deep burning hatred for the Tory party” and their being “lower than vermin” in his famous speech in Manchester in 1948.
Derek Barnett
Uxbridge, Middx

The new circuit would save racing enthusiasts having to travel to continental events to receive value for money and an enjoyable experience
Sir, It is difficult to feel any sympathy for the anger expressed by the owners of Silverstone and other circuit operators in the UK towards the development of an international motor racing facility in Wales (Sport, Oct 3). After spending many years and considerable expense in attending racing fixtures in this country and after being thoroughly ripped off and embarrassed at the second-rate facilities and the attitude shown to paying spectators by UK racing circuits, I applaud any new initiative to improve standards. The new circuit would save me having to travel to continental events to receive value for money and an enjoyable experience — neither of which is currently available in the UK.
Martin Willis
Morpeth, Northumberland

Turning the clock back would undermine the UK’s world-class university system and would be an entirely retrograde step for the economy and for society more generally
Sir, Universities that were awarded university titles more than 20 years ago have been net contributors to economic growth and their graduates have been vital to many new and emerging markets, including in the creative industries where Britain is now a world leader (letters, Oct 3).
Whether in the automotive industry, improving quality in supply chains or ensuring that the NHS and other public services have access to the latest technologies, the translational research undertaken by these universities has been a game changer. It was a Conservative Government that realised the potential of these institutions and their students, allowing them to apply for university titles. These institutions have been transformative presences in their cities and regions and now trade successfully across the world.
Turning the clock back would undermine the UK’s world-class university system and would be an entirely retrograde step for the economy, HE exports and for society more generally.
Professor Michael Gunn
Vice-Chancellor and Chief Executive, Staffordshire University


SIR – Many people have a lot to thank the Sunday Telegraph for. Firstly, for publishing the letter headed “Radar operators” from Joan Frazier on September 15, and for two letters the next week headed “Putting Battle of Britain Heroes Back on the Radar”.
On that first Sunday, I was privileged to attend the Battle of Britain thanksgiving and rededication service at Westminster Abbey, where I met three other ex-radar operators.
Since then, the word has got around. I have had six phone calls from other ex-radar operators and we have had wonderful chats on the phone.
We all agreed that our role in the war had been overlooked. Plotters have been often been talked about but they got their information from us.
We ended up as corporals, but our families thought we should have been commissioned. We were sworn to secrecy for 30 years. No one was interested then, but they are now.
Related Articles
The choice between the Conservatives and Labour is now clear
06 Oct 2013
P A McNicol
Hindhead, Surrey
SIR – I was a WAAF radar operator stationed at Whitstable in Kent, which was one of a chain of stations on the east coast covering the German aircraft as they approached from the sea. We had to assess the number of aircraft from the size of the green “blip” on the screen and judge the distance by using a range finder. The information was then sent on to Fighter Command 24 hours a day.
There was no RAF station as such – I was billeted with the local policeman and his wife. You were either working or sleeping.
My son says I must be the oldest radar operator in England. I am 93 next February – is he right?
Judy Cresswell
Brighton, East Sussex

SIR – What we have witnessed over this party conference season hasn’t been seen since the election of Margaret Thatcher as Conservative Party leader in 1975. The Tories and Labour have realigned themselves in ideological opposition to one another once again.
The Prime Minister’s “land of opportunity” rhetoric puts economic freedom and enterprise at the top of the agenda and places the individual rightly before the state.
This is in stark contrast to Ed Miliband’s nostalgic renewal of the socialist post-war consensus and tripartite corporatism that crumbled underneath its own contradictions in the Seventies.
The choice is clear and for the first time in a long while, there is visible distance between Labour and the Conservatives.
James Adam Paton
Billericay, Essex
Related Articles
The radar operators who tracked each other down
06 Oct 2013
SIR – The stage-managed Conservative Party conference, attended by many lobbyists and pressure groups, but fewer and fewer of its MPs and grassroots members, reinforced the perception of the party as presenting rhetoric dressed as policies and obsessed with staying on the centre ground.
No wonder the current defeatist leadership is mulling over a second coalition that simply reacts to events instead of showing determination to set a new political agenda.
I hope to see a post-Cameron Tory Party that has ambitious, innovative policies for economic recovery, based on simpler and lower taxes, funded by lower public expenditure and led by those serious about our country’s prosperity and the wellbeing of all its citizens.
David Saunders
Sidmouth, Devon
SIR – It is unfortunate that David Cameron has waited until gay marriage has passed into law to express his regrets. Prime ministers are elected to foresee the great problems this sort of legislation engenders.
In my many years as a local councillor, this one act has engendered more anger within my local party than any other.
It will take many years to resolve.
Cllr Lewis Birt
Shefford, Bedfordshire
SIR – David Cameron pushed through gay marriage legislation despite widespread anger. His regret is insincere given that his proposed tax breaks for married couples include both traditional and gay marriage. He is only electioneering, in a futile attempt to rebuild relations with his grassroots.
There is not a lot of difference now between the parties. The Conservatives have betrayed their core values.
If a vote for Ukip is a vote for the Labour Party, then so be it.
Stephen Purser
Muir of Ord, Ross-shire
SIR – Regarding David Cameron’s “earn or learn” proposals: with unemployment among 16-24 year olds at over 900,000, what is someone under 25 without a job in an area of high unemployment, without a supportive family and denied Jobseeker’s Allowance or housing benefit, to do?
What if the only way to get a job is to move to another part of the country? How does it square with the bedroom tax?
Malcolm Williams
Southsea, Hampshire
SIR – Might not David Cameron, in tackling the “broken” property market and offering people immediate help to get on the housing ladder, acknowledge that ladders go down as well as up? This could result in the most fearful distress for some in years to come.
David Jones
Melrose, Roxburghshire
SIR – Tax breaks for less well-off married couples are to be welcomed, but if the Tories really wanted to help the lower paid, they would exempt people on the minimum wage from tax altogether. This, combined with more stringent benefits regulations, would help to give unemployed people a real incentive to find work. It would be largely self-financing, with lower overall welfare bills, lower immigration and more pay going back into the economy.
Ted Shorter
Hildenborough, Kent
HS2 is not the solution to rail overcrowding
SIR – In Matthew d’Ancona’s interview with David Cameron (News Review, September 29), the Prime Minister stated that there were 4,000 people standing on trains every morning into Euston and 5,000 into Birmingham.
He did not mention the number of passengers standing on trains into London Bridge (32,000), Waterloo (29,000), Liverpool Street (15,000), Victoria (12,000) and Fenchurch Street (6,000), which HS2 will do nothing to help. Trains into Euston have fewer standing passengers in the morning peak than almost any other London mainline station.
HS2 will be an intercity service. Virgin trains, which are intercity, do not having standing passengers in the morning peak. The standing passengers that the Prime Minister quoted for Euston and Birmingham come from London Midland, London Overground, Chiltern Railways, CrossCountry and Arriva Trains Wales. It is the commuter trains that need extra capacity now, not the intercity trains.
Andrew Bodman
Bugbrooke, Northamptonshire
SIR – Andrew Gilligan (Opinion, September 29) asserts that Leeds is the only place in West Yorkshire that remains solidly supportive of HS2. But there are many of us living here who do not support what amounts to an environmentally damaging vanity project with a particularly poor economic return.
While everyone is keen to promote the city of Leeds and the North, there are far better ways of spending £50 billion and rising.
Cllr Clive Fox
East Bramhope, West Yorkshire
SIR – When questioned about HS2 on the Andrew Marr Show last Sunday, David Cameron said: “We will definitely go ahead, as £50 billion has been set aside for this project.” He also said this was only a third of the £150 billion proposed to update other rail infrastructure.
If he has all this money, why isn’t some of it set aside to build some new roads to link our cities, towns and villages, so motorists no longer have to endure the antiquated, pot-holed roads that were designed for horse and cart as they try to get to work every weekday?
George Sullivan
Cubbington, Warwickshire
Boundary changes
SIR – In a democratic system such as ours there can be little dispute that representative politicians should be elected by a roughly similar number of voters. It is grossly unjust therefore that the Lib Dems have blocked the Boundary Commission’s attempt to even up constituency sizes.
Apparently this was in retaliation for the Tories’ vote against the Lib Dems’ proposed House of Lords reform, which was agreed by most observers to be flawed.
John Hannaford
New Milton, Hampshire
Nairobi hero
SIR – It would be scant compensation, but does not British subject Mitul Shah, who was killed in the Kenyan massacre, deserve a posthumous George Cross for his selfless act of incredible bravery in offering his own life in order to save the lives of children?
John Batchelor
Wimborne, Dorset
SIR – Jenny McCartney hit the nail on the head when she compared aspects of the Islamic terrorism we are witnessing to the Nazi regime (Opinion, September 29).
We are witnessing the same murderous violence, the same religious and racial hatred, the same cultural intolerance. And both ideologies have the same objective, namely to subjugate everyone to their will.
Mick Ferrie
Mawnan Smith, Cornwall
Eden in Jamaica
SIR – Tim Stanley states that “In 1956, prime minister Anthony Eden announced that he felt a bit under the weather, then took three months off to go and live in Jamaica” (Opinion, September 29.) This is not quite the case. Doctors had been advising him to take a break on health grounds for some time.
Eventually he accepted Ann Fleming’s offer of Goldeneye, a remote home in Jamaica, for a short convalescence. It was not as exotic as people imagined. “The plumbing is not good at the moment,” Ann Fleming told the press. “The Edens will have to rough it.” They also shared the house with an Alsatian guard dog called Max, named after Lord Beaverbrook.
D R Thorpe
Biographer of Sir Anthony Eden
Banbury, Oxfordshire
A dry read
SIR – Our new hairdryer was accompanied by a booklet carrying more than 2,000 words: nearly more words than the number of hairs on my head.
All I needed was simple guidance on how to switch it on and off, not all the hair-raising warnings of dangers to watch out for and unnecessary advice.
Ron Kirby
Dorchester, Dorset
Leaving the EU would solve the begging issue
SIR – There was an interesting juxtaposition on the front page last week. First you reported on the Romanian beggars who were given taxpayer-funded tickets to go home in the summer but who have already returned to Britain (report, September 29).
Then, you quoted David Cameron saying in your interview with him that the European Union deserves “one last chance” to change before voters are given a say over whether Britain should quit in a referendum by 2017 (report, September 29).
Neither the beggars nor the EU have any intention of changing, but our Government continues to give them the chance. Both problems could be rectified with our own Single European Act.
Stanley Eckersley
Pudsey, West Yorkshire
SIR – The problem of Roma beggars on the streets of London is a direct result of the EU’s freedom of movement of labour policy, but entirely against its spirit. If the Romanian government wishes to maintain any sort of responsible reputation within the EU it must work with our Government to prevent such an exodus and cooperate in the return and retention of offenders. A joint police task force is the first step.
Malcolm Allen
Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire
SIR – David Cameron said: “We need to get out of this idea that Britain is committed to ever-closer union” (News Review, September 29). This provision is in Title 1, Article A of the Maastricht Treaty, which Britain signed on February 7 1992.
A W Maude
Sutton-in-Craven, West Yorkshire
Blair Force
SIR – Your report on Tony Blair’s new jet (“Tony gets a £30m Blair Force One”, September 29) mentions that he is, inter alia, a “Middle East peace envoy”.
Further comment would seem superfluous.
Don Minterne
Bradford Peverell, Dorset
Beer theory
SIR – My wife, a native of Westmorland, is convinced that the unusually high degree of damage to the region’s holiday cottages is because the beer is better, which encourages people to drink more of it.
The West Country suffers from a similar damage problem, and I believe that the potent local cider is responsible there. Perhaps a university would like to fund further research into the subject. I am available to help with the fieldwork.
Kris Connelly
Maidstone, Kent

Irish Times:

Aftermath of the Seanad referendum
Mon, Oct 7, 2013, 01:10
First published: Mon, Oct 7, 2013, 01:10

Sir, – The Taoiseach may brace himself for wallop number two and three when the European and county council elections come around in 2014.
This will certainly come from the thousands of people who will have to retire in 2014 on reaching their 65th birthday.
These retired employees will have the humiliating experience of signing on for Job Seekers’ Allowance until the reach their 66th birthday, as this Government has decided to do away with the transition pension. – Yours, etc,
Knocklyon, Dublin 16.
Sir, – Judging by the East-West divide in the Senate referendum vote we can say that history really does repeat itself. The descendants of the victims of Cromwell have just failed in their attempt to curtail our delicate nascent democracy. In England it was roundheads versus cavaliers. What do we have? Graduates versus agrarians? – Yours, etc,
Monalea Park,
Firhouse, Dublin 24.
Sir, – The Grand Coalition of Fine Gael, Labour and Sinn Féin, with Dessie O’Malley as an outrider, has fallen at the first hurdle. Will we ever see the like again? – Yours, etc,
Raymond Street, Dublin 8.
A chara, – Yes 19 per cent; No 20 per cent; Don’t care 61 per cent. – Is mise,
Ellensborough Drive,
Kiltipper Road,
Dublin 24.
Sir, – Voting last Friday was like taking a Mensa test set by Éamon Ó Cuív. Did it have to be so hard? – Yours, etc.,
Whitehall Road, Dublin 14.
Sir, – Did you hear the one about the country that voted to keep a political institution even though 99 per cent of their electorate were not eligible to vote for that particular institution? – Yours, etc,
Rosslare Strand,
Co Wexford.
Sir, – Flushed with success, the Senators can get back to claiming milage from the far side of the moon. – Yours, etc,
Mount Tallant Avenue,
Dublin 6w
Sir, – The Seanad is to remain following the referendum. If it is correct that the No voters wanted reform and the Yes voters wanted abolition, do we now have a Seanad that no-one wants? – Yours, etc,
Ard na Dara,
Sir, – Our Senators may be breathing a sigh of relief as they go back to work today, however, the Irish people are sadly deluding themselves if they believe for one minute this Government will engage in realistic reform of the Senate, now that the voters have rejected the Government’s plan to abolish the second house. Lewis Carroll sums it up best. “ ‘There’s no use trying’, Alice said. ‘One can’t believe impossible things’. ‘I daresay you haven’t had much practice,’ said the Queen. ‘When I was your age, I always did it for half an hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast’. – Alice through the Looking Glass. – Yours, etc,

Sir, – It is good that the country has voted to keep the Seanad. Our Government should recognise that the people have spoken! Or will it be like the European vote: we keep on till we get right?
Is it not time to to reform Dáil Éireann? Is it not far too big and costly for our present needs? – Yours, etc,
Co Tipperary.
Sir, – Unlike some poor unfortunates, the well-heeled occupants of the Seanad got to keep their house. Let’s hope the reprieve will encourage that institution’s parliamentarians to finally get their opulent residence in proper working order.Otherwise,they could well face eviction some time in the near future. – Yours, etc,
Beacon Hill,
Co Dublin.
Sir, – As former British prime minister Harold Wilson, once said, “A week is a long time in politics”. – Yours, etc,
Sarsfields Court,
Sir, – The result of the Seanad referendum confirms one thing. The Irish electorate prefers the Seanad, with all its limitations, to diktat from the four-person Economic Management Council with its unelected advisers. There is still room to express a view in the Seanad, a facility which seems to be fast disappearing in the Dáil. – Yours, etc,
Lorcan Drive,
Dublin 9.
Sir, – The loss of the referendum to abolish the Seanad should not be a surprise to the Government. The manner in which some of the very important and far-reaching recent legislation has been pushed through has left a very uncomfortable feeling in the voting populace. The public however, unlike party members, does not have to obey a party whip, a factor which is doubly important in these financially beleaguered times. – Yours, etc,
Nutley Avenue,
Donnybrook, Dublin 4.
Sir, – A simple first reform: close nominations for the next Seanad election before polling day for the Dáil. – Yours, etc,
Elm Bank,
Douglas Road,
Sir, – 14,355 spoiled votes were cast in the Seanad referendum: 1.2 per cent of the total. How many of these resulted from Breda O’Brien’s misguided call to voters to write “Reform” on their ballot papers (Opinion, September 28th)? Ironically, given the narrow margin of victory for the No side, Ms O’Brien’s ill-informed and irresponsible advice came dangerously close to producing the opposite result from the one she advocated. – Yours, etc,
Brighton Road,
Dublin 6.
Sir, – The Irish people, in their ineffable wisdom, have voted.  As far as I can see they have voted to continue subsidising expensive, elitist, pointless windbaggery, but there you are.  Not so much turkeys voting for Christmas.  More puddings voting for hams? – Yours, etc,
Maretimo Gardens West,
Co Dublin.

Sir, – I take issue with the contention that wind energy will mean more expensive electricity for business and householders (Cantillon, October 3rd).
If the wind generators were not there the electricity would have to be manufactured by fossil fuels. What price will gas, coal and oil be for the period up to 2020? At least the cost of wind is known. Demand for fossil fuels is growing, as is its price. Recently we saw the Commission for Energy Regulation grant a price increase for gas. The cost of wind remains constant.
For much of my life the world reference for oil was circa $2 per barrel. From 1985 to 2003 the world price was a reasonably steady $12 to 18 per barrel. Now it is $110, and all the big commodity houses such as Barclays don’t have it going down. Whatever is paid by way of public service obligation will be looked on by our multinational manufacturers as a price risk reduction premium.
But Cantillon omits to mention the main point of wind energy. The marginal cost of wind-powered electricity is precisely zero. It causes the wholesale cost of electricity to fall. During 2012 the Public Service Obligation for wind was €50 million. The actual reduction in the wholesale price of electricity directly attributable to wind was €75 million.
Looking forward to 2020: the installed wind capacity will contribute (at a conservative 35 per cent capacity factor) some 12.264 terawatt hours to our electricity supply.
According to the US Environment Protection Agency, the CO2 released from this equivalent in fossil fuels would be 8.65 million tonnes. At €20 per tonne this would mean a bill of €173 million per year, at €40 per tonne the annual bill would €340 million.
Besides all this, the support scheme lasts for 15 years and thereafter the price can fall dramatically. – Yours, etc,
Chief Executive,
Mainstream Renewable
Power, Arena Road,

First published: Mon, Oct 7, 2013, 01:05

Sir, – Regarding the HSE/IMO engagements aimed at reducing non-consultant hospital doctor (NCHD) working hours, Dr Irwin Gill (October 4th ) states incorrectly that the HSE has “misrepresented” the position regarding sanctions. The sanctions that Dr Gill refers to relate to measures that can be taken against hospitals that fail to comply with agreed timelines for reducing maximum shifts for NCHDs.
Despite Dr Gill’s assertions, the IMO is seeking a type of sanction that would involve an additional payment to NCHDs in the event of non-compliance. Such a measure is prohibited under the terms of the Haddington Road Agreement and one HSE management has absolutely no discretion to negotiate. No matter how you dress this proposed sanction up it can only be called a cost-increasing pay claim.
Instead, the HSE is proposing an alternative form of sanction, whereby the management team of a hospital or hospital group will be held directly responsible for non-compliance. In the event of not achieving the agreed measures, this sanction can impact on individual senior managers and clinicians in hospitals personally and collectively, can impact on the hospital financially and may have an impact on the hospital’s position vis-a-vis future hospital trusts. In effect, this is a much more robust type of sanction on hospital management than what the IMO is seeking and is indicative of the Minister’s and the HSE’s intent on dealing with this long-standing issue. – Yours, etc,
National Director of

Sir, – Peter Molloy (October 2nd) expresses his belief that it is Labour’s opponents who “continue to peddle snakeoil remedies”; but he seems not to have noticed that the party has not only bought said ubiquitous toxic elixir wholesale, but picked up the retail franchise to distribute it to an electorate which refuses to swallow yet another teaspoonful, no matter what pink PR saccharine it sweetens it with.
Labour voters did not vote for Fine Gael/Fianna Fáil fat-cat conservatism. They voted for government of the market, not by the market, for the market. The latter is “mere anarchy . . . loosed upon the world”; and is tending again towards the cyclical consequences of such historical myopia. – Yours, etc,
Castleview Estate,
Headford, Co Galway.

Sir, – Further to your article, “Adoption patterns have changed a lot in recent decades, forum hears” (Home News, September 30th): the one pattern that hasn’t changed since the introduction of the Adoption Act 1952 is the right of the adopted person to know who their mother is.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if, for once in Ireland, the rights of the adopted person was precedent. The Adoption Authority of Ireland and the Department for Children  have never dealt with the rights of the individual once adopted.
Sixty-one years is a long time to wait for the law to change. We’ve been promised by successive governments that our voices would be heard and yet, here we are late into 2013 with nothing changed and no foreseeable changes in the near future.  We are the last minority group in Ireland to be discriminated against.
Let none of us forget that the majority of children adopted since 1952 were done so under forced adoption procedures and also illegal adoption procedures, neither of which the Adoption Authority or the Government  appear willing to investigate. – Yours, etc,

Sir, – The geographical spread for two of the European Parliament constituencies is bewildering (Home News, September 26th). Surely there’s a case here for 11 single seat constituencies across the country. Another referendum? – Yours, etc,
Elm Bank,
Douglas Road,
Sir, – I am glad to see from Seán Duffy (September 26th) that a major historical conference on the subject of the Battle of Clontarf will be held in Trinity College, Dublin, on April 11th to 12th next year. I trust it will be well attended and I expect the usual revisionist historians will be on hand to claim it never happened. – Yours, etc,
Essenwood Road,
Durban, South Africa.

Irish Independent:
Madam – Husband – Did you hear that backdating of the car is changing in September, love? We must get that car of yours signed off on up at the barracks.
Also in this section
Rule 42 still in GAA rules
Dear Leader is the invisible man
Big langer indeed
Wife – I will, I will! Will you stop fussing all the time? I went up to them yesterday and there wasn’t a sinner in the place.
Husband – Did you walk or drive?
Wife – I drove, sure it was lashing out of the heavens. Come on we’ve to go do the shopping. You’ve the keys there.
Husband – Right! Well don’t forget to go back up when they’re there, and will you not drive for God’s sake?
Wife – Why not?
Husband – Off the road, Mary, he won’t stamp anything for a car out in his front yard!
A couple of months later …
Wife – Is today that deadline for the tax, Tommy?
Husband – Be God, it is! I’ll head up to the tax office. I’ll walk.
Husband (On the phone) – Mary, can you hear me? I’ve been queuing here for two hours.
Interviewed on RTE News …
Husband – It’s a disgrace so it is. Wouldn’t you think they would have a better system rather than leaving us to stand out in the cold.
Interviewer – And has the car been off the road long?
Husband – Yeah, with this recession now and that shower above in Dublin, we’ve had it sitting on the drive for nearly a year.
Deadline passes …
Husband (On the phone) – Mary, come and collect me, will ya?
Wife – In your car or mine?
Justin Kelly,
Edenderry, Co Offaly
Sunday Independent
Madam – “Up the Dubs” in reply to a query from a citizen wishing to know about the Senate referendum, and “You look like a man in need of a day’s work” to a protester three years ago in Athlone. They are the only two quotes I have heard from the man charged with leading our nation during one of its most painful eras.
Also in this section
Big langer indeed
OECD data far too old for article
Driven round the bend
That Eircom and the GAA had removed not just the Taoiseach’s images, but also the images of the movers and shakers of this great little nation, shocked me. Having worked 30 years within the criminal justice system the only ones who covered their faces or had them blurred out, were the criminal fraternity or those allegedly so.
That RTE and certain media outlets allow themselves to be told what to and what not to record in reference to our Dear Leader is truly shocking. Enda Kenny’s handlers are paid handsomely from the public purse. Indeed had they and the other diners at the political trough been gotten rid of, we would save the €20m red herring over the Senate.
Democracy is precious. Once the media and its servants stop doing their job then we are doomed on the ground. It’s not enough to revel in the glory of the title ‘The Fourth Estate’ whilst the other three raid our nation, free from hindrance or tackling. Indeed since I chose a sporting metaphor let’s take it to its logical conclusion.
Any team representing me needs to be back-boned with men of steel. The tricky little corner forward with the pretty side step and the dressing room banter is useless to you as the clock runs down and he stands cowardly behind the full back line looking for the easy ball. Enda has been shielded by his handlers. That smacks to me of two things. One is they are in charge of his persona and he rubber-stamps their beckoning. Or two, they don’t but he is happy to lie behind them. Either scenario is an absolute disaster for the common man.
John Cuffe,
Dunboyne, Co Meath


October 6, 2013

6 October 2013 Garage

I go all the way around the park round the park listening to the Navy Lark
Our heroes are in trouble they are to take the Ambassador to Forbodia. Priceless.
I put books on Amazon and sorty out the garage
We watch The Glums
Scrabble today Mary wins and get under 400. perhaps I might win tomorrow.


Walter Greenwood
Walter Greenwood, who has died aged 87, was one of Britain’s foremost authorities on media law and co-edited McNae’s Essential Law for Journalists for nearly 30 years.

Walter Greenwood 
6:12PM BST 01 Oct 2013
His work on McNae’s, between 1979 and 2007, covered 13 editions of the book , which has become the standard set text for nearly every journalism training course in England as well as an indispensable reference book for newsdesks.
It was largely thanks to Greenwood that generations of journalists first grasped the intricacies of libel law and court reporting restrictions, having been introduced by McNae to such concepts as “malicious falsehood”, “the rule against prior restraint” and “right-thinking members of society”.
For more than 40 years Greenwood also guided editors and reporters, nationally and regionally, through the legal minefields which often threatened to scupper their stories.
His approach was to know as much law as the professional lawyers so that — as one put it — “if you published you might be damned but you would rarely be sued”. Greenwood always understood that what an editor wanted to know was not why a story should not be published but how it could be.
Until recently Greenwood also headed the law board of the National Council for the Training of Journalists (NCTJ), helping to set the standards of legal competence expected of trainee journalists. His work with the NCTJ spanned 35 years .
Greenwood impressed his enthusiasm for the trade on the young men and women he taught. “He understood that the law demanded responsibility from journalists, but also gave them power,” noted the NCTJ’s chairman Kim Fletcher. “Thanks to him, and armed with the principles of open government and justice, they had the confidence to challenge figures in authority who attempted to avoid public scrutiny.”
Walter Sharpe Greenwood was born on August 17 1926 at Dewsbury, West Yorkshire, and left the town’s Wheelwright Grammar School aged 16 to join the Dewsbury Reporter. At 18 he queued to join the wartime RAF, but, as the 10th in line, was chosen to work in the coal mines as a Bevin Boy, returning to his newspaper job after three years and later moving to the Middlesbrough Evening Gazette as deputy news editor.
In 1969 he joined Thomson Regional Newspapers as an assistant editor (training) and, with John Brownlee, launched the group’s influential training programme. As one of the founders of the Thomson training centres in Newcastle and Cardiff, he helped to train — among many others — James Naughtie, Andrew Marr, Lionel Barber, Sally Magnusson and the Education Secretary Michael Gove, who recalled that being taught journalism by Greenwood was like being taught football by Bill Shankly or playwriting by Alan Bennett: “He was a master.”
Greenwood joined the NCTJ’s north-east regional committee, and in the 1970s chaired its media law board. He was persuaded to return for a second term as law board chairman, from 2004 to 2006.
In 1979 Greenwood began co-editing McNae’s Essential Law for Journalists with Tom Welsh, founding editor of Media Lawyer magazine, and remained a consultant when it was bought by the Press Association. Later in his career he worked for Trinity Mirror, and as a law training consultant for Press Association Training.
Greenwood never retired, and his interest in his work never abated. Asked to recite a sentence of more than 30 words for a medical assessment, Greenwood offered — with characteristic modesty — “the briefest of introductions to the law of defamation”. He continued to contribute to the work of the Newcastle journalism training centre, now being run by Press Association Training. Only a month ago, although living in a care home , he was still checking media law exam papers for trainees at the centre.
He had been a fellow of the Society of Editors since 2006 .
Walter Greenwood married, in 1953, Doreen Troughton, who survives him. There were no children.
Walter Greenwood, born August 17 1926, died September 29 2013


Barbara Ellen is spot on – except for a minor technicality (“These benefit proposals are stupid and cruel”, Comment). Many of those condemned to the stocks in former barbaric times were unable to sit. They had to stand. Given lack of food, together with shit, rotting stuff and stones hurled at them and enforced lack of sleep, many would have succumbed to semi-conscious delirium. That in turn could lead to coronary attacks and/or broken necks (as body weight pulled against the restraining collar). At best, it was a form of communitarian shaming and at worst a very British kind of crucifixion. That is where the analogy with Duncan Smith’s work programme becomes so apt: redemption through suffering! And IDS leading us home to Glory Land!
Jon Nixon
I have been involved in voluntary social work for more than 50 years. Very few of those people I have (I hope) helped would not benefit from a push out of their living rooms into some level of activity in the community. Often isolated and held in contempt by people who do not know them, they are shy and without confidence. I think we and they would be surprised at what many of them are capable of contributing to the lives of others. They aren’t being punished. They are being asked to join in. We should welcome them.
For those of us who began by loving the welfare state, and have been slowly moved toward despair, let us not vilify IDS as he tries to improve the situation.
Marilyn Green
London W1
Cameron despises localism
Eric Pickles’s decision to give the go-ahead to the application to build on two fields in Hook Norton (“From mild to bitter: Cotswold village fights to stay small”, News) exemplifies the fault line between David Cameron’s much trumpeted policy of “localism” and the need for more houses.
In Hook Norton, Pickles has flown in the face of local opinion and ignored the views of elected representatives on the parish and district councils. Is it not time for Cameron to admit that “localism” means volunteers filling the chasms caused by his cuts in local services? It does not mean having a voice in important local decisions.
Graham Girvan
Tyne and Wear
Those Tory chaps are no snobs
It is regrettable that Andrew Rawnsley’s ministerial source is not better versed in recent Conservative history (“Can the Tories woo the have-nots and not just the have-yachts?”, Comment). In repining that the electorate perceives that the Conservatives only act in the interests of such a narrow section of the electorate as the toffs, Rawnsley’s interlocutor does his party an injustice. Since Mrs Thatcher’s time, Conservative largesse has been enjoyed by spivs, chancers and entrepreneurial bullies too.
Andrew Grant Robertson
East Lothian
Leveson will protect press
Nick Cohen (“Open government? Don’t make me laugh”, Comment) is mistaken about the likely impact of the recommendations of the Leveson report. Far from threatening investigative journalism, Leveson will protect it. And far from piling costs on newspapers, Leveson will enable them to defend their work more cheaply. 
At his inquiry, the judge listened sympathetically to editors’ complaints about the high cost of defending cases in the high court and to their accounts of oligarchs killing investigative stories by threatening court actions that papers could not afford to defend. In response, he recommended a system of cheap, quick arbitration in libel and privacy cases. And for any litigants who insist on pursuing court action even when they have been offered arbitration he had a simple answer: win or lose, they must pay both sides’ costs. It follows that under Leveson’s scheme the burden of legal costs on newspapers will be considerably reduced and investigative journalists will be freer from intimidation by oligarchs and big corporations.
Brian Cathcart
Director, Hacked Off
London SW1
HS2 and the cost of rail travel
Interesting as it was to read your coverage of the “must have” HS2 rail line (“Scrapping HS2 rail link would be a disaster warns transport secretary”, News), one vital piece of information is still missing: what will it cost to travel on a train for which the taxpayer will have paid £40bn and rising? Many who would like to use the present slow-speed options simply cannot afford the fare.
Alan Hallsworth
The greater joys of adoption
Our daughter and her partner are hoping to help the “small miracle” that you refer to in your editorial to happen (“4,000 children have found new homes – a good start to build on”). But it is not just the adopted child who benefits from finding a loving home; if all goes well, the whole family stands to benefit. My wife and I had almost given up on ever becoming grandparents, but now we suddenly have the hope of an involvement in the life of a member of the coming generation.
Dr John Good

Chief Constable Mike Barton is on thin ice when he calls for a change in our approach to drugs use (“‘It is time to end the war on drugs’, says top UK police chief”, News), but courage and leadership have taken him there. The ice is so thin because politicians who know he is right dare not speak out and thereby thicken it. We are in a perilous situation and every route out is fraught with real dangers, but a route must be found.
All across the country, groups of young, sometimes very young, people who would otherwise only be petty criminals have been enabled by our creation of a lucrative illegal substances trade to become powerful and resourceful criminal gangs. The most vicious and ruthless become the most successful. There is absolutely no prospect whatsoever of preventing illegal substance abuse by the criminalisation of users and the extent to which that even reduces it is highly contentious.
A policy of concentrating on catching the major importers and distributors is hugely resource-intensive and may well lead to survival of the cleverest, including those capable of achieving corruption up to the highest levels. Interruption of supplies is only ever temporary and leads to higher prices and profits for the best positioned.
The time is right for professionals in every field affected by the drugs business, in health, law enforcement, social services and education, to call for a rational and fearless debate.
Bob Denmark
Former detective superintendent
The policeman from Durham speaks much sense, yet there’s a side to this I may have missed. Criminals’ mindsets aren’t suddenly going to become altruistically benign just because we shaft their existing business model. I’m no criminologist, but surely if we cut their money supply they’ll simply look to something else to maintain their margins. The unintended consequences could be even more unpleasant. Controlled drugs today, what’s tomorrow?
The logic appears perverse since it seems to argue in favour of preserving the gangs’ income so as to stop them from doing anything worse. This is hardly an effective argument for maintaining the status quo (and the chief constable has a deal of evidence underlining the unacceptability of that) but even an old leftie like me has to draw the line somewhere. The fact that the current situation is difficult for the police is irrelevant. That’s what we pay them for.
Dr Christopher Haughton
Mike Barton confuses treatment and prevention, believing that provision of treatment for addicts will remove the need to impose legal restraints to prevent others from becoming addicted.
The chief constable claims that “we have not learned the lessons of history”, that US alcohol prohibition merely encouraged criminal activity and that we are repeating the folly in our “war on drugs”.
But by Barton’s own admission, easily available alcohol has created an epidemic against which drug addiction “pales in comparison”. That is not a glowing advertisement for ending prohibition.
Of course there must be a public health component in combating drug addiction. But addiction is not per se a criminal activity; dealing in and possession of drugs is.
Controlled provision of Class A drugs through the health service to those already addicted can deal with consequences, not causes. Decriminalising drugs and offering them untainted to addicts through the NHS will create a moral hazard encouraging more, not less, experimentation in dangerous substances.
We miss the point if we see drug policy as solely an issue of law enforcement versus public health. It will always be both.
The issue is not whether but how best we should use the law (and education and health) to contain this pernicious epidemic. That is where the debate on drugs should be focused.
Chris Forse

It’s Christmas, probably 1957. This photo was taken in the front room of my childhood home in Birmingham, and there’s a party going on. I know nothing about this. My sisters and have been tucked up in bed since long before the guests arrive. At the front are my parents – Don, in the armchair with his guitar, and Audrey, just behind him. The other guests are my beloved “aunties” and “uncles” – my parents’ friends. This includes the likes of Uncle Bunny, Auntie Jean, Uncle Reg, Auntie Margaret, Uncle Fred and Auntie Val, Uncle Stan – all names you don’t hear so much today.
Uncle John must have taken the picture as he’s not in it. He’s captured the mood perfectly; you could almost be there, laughing along with everyone. There’s no trace of 1950s greyness and austerity (except perhaps the twisted crepe-paper decorations in the alcove). My parents knew how to party and had a knack of making everyone around them happy. Auntie Val, who sent me this photograph recently, said: “We used to have such fun.” Quite possibly my mother has just told one of the very naughty jokes for which she was famous or maybe they had just finished singing a silly song, accompanied by my father on the guitar.
Twelve years earlier, everyone in the picture had been involved in some way in the second world war. My father, in RAF Bomber Command, spent most of it as a prisoner of war. And 12 years after this party, my parents were unfortunately on their way to a divorce.
In the intervening years they had moved to Yorkshire and then on to Africa, where they continued to party, have fun and entertain everyone they met.
They both reached their 90th birthdays and had parties to celebrate; my mother, still telling jokes, in Yorkshire, and my father a few thousand miles away in Mombasa; he played the guitar and everyone sang along. They both passed away shortly afterwards, but whenever I remember one of Mum’s jokes or hear a silly guitar tune from the past, I’m grateful that they still make me smile.
Janet Johnston (nee Reid)


I read with anger your report on the lack of fitness in schoolchildren (“Childhood obesity obsession masks fitness ‘time bomb'”, 29 September).
I have long regretted the declining importance given to PE in schools. I was taught at teacher training college that the acquisition of gross motor skills came before and aided the acquisition of fine motor skills – that is learning to how to skip, jump, run and climb would aid the ability to hold a pencil, use scissors and manipulate smaller items. Why then, has the Government pushed PE to the bottom of the curriculum pile? School playing fields have been sold to builders and the secondary school day is much shorter than it used to be. Team sports in junior schools are often extra-curricular activities which have to be paid for.
We are now reaping the benefit of children who are unfit, many of whom have not grown up with a love of exercise and sport.
Judith Johnson,
Eaton Socon, Cambridgeshire
We need a healthy lifestyle in which people can walk and talk in the street and children can play there as they did for countless generations. Giving residential roads the same status as pedestrian crossings would give back the streets to people who live in them. My research has shown that, given the freedom to play out in the street, children are active. It also means people are more neighbourly, that is “big society”, again for minimal cost.
Rob Wheway
Director, Children’s Play Advisory Service, Coventry
I don’t think I have read a more misleading or partial piece as “Once upon a time in the East” (New Review 29 September).
We rightly hear about 150,000 Jews “expelled from Spain in 1492″. But the article is silent on the 1.5 million Armenians destroyed by the Ottoman authorities around 1915. Ironically – given our righteous anger about slaughter in Syria during 2013 – many Armenians perished on forced route marches towards Deir ez-Zor in Syria.
The “model of peaceful co-existence was for many centuries the norm”, conveniently forgets massacres during the 1890s of some 300,000 Armenians. It is a dangerous falsehood to say that the “rise of fanaticism can be traced directly to the end of the caliphate in 1923″. It predates the 1920s by a long chalk.
The “real tragedy of the Ottoman Empire” and latter-day Turkey is the virtually unacknowledged stain of blood resulting from the Ottoman’s execution of the 20th century’s first holocaust.
James Derounian
Winchcombe, Gloucestershire
What a pity that D J Taylor wrote about Sherlock Holmes without some basic research: the deerstalker hat was not “brought to the party by the actor Basil Rathbone”, but was introduced by Sidney Paget in his illustrations for The Boscombe Valley Mystery in the Strand Magazine for October 1891.
John Dakin
Toddington, Bedfordshire
Tobacco is a pernicious drug that kills (“Smokers, what’s hard is seeing a loved one die”, 29 September). I smoked for 43 years and over time, tried all the methods to stop. To no avail as I had to have that hit of nicotine.
For anyone to stop for good there has to be a trigger. For me, it was my then six-year-old grandson. At a family gathering I had my “Stop smoking patch” on my arm, knowing in my mind that I would fail yet again.
My grandson asked me if I had given up smoking. I told him, “Yes”. He said, “That’s good Gramps, you won’t die now like Granddad did.” He had lost his other granddad that year to cancer. How could I let down a six-year-old? He is now 15 and I’m still his Gramps. I hope those of you that smoke and want to quit find your trigger.
Vince Bridle
West Sussex, via email
Janet Street-Porter’s cheap gibe about a stay at Astley Castle not being worth £1,430 is unworthy of her (“Don’t build in the country”, 29 September). That price is for July, low season prices are much lower. For the money you rent a beautifully restored and updated historic building with stunning views which sleeps eight. Three nights for four couples works out as less than £60 per person per night. What does she expect to pay for a large fully furnished castle?
Bob and Rose Sandham


Balancing growth and greenbelt development
THE letter from Sir Andrew Motion and others (“Fight to save England’s beauty”, last week) encapsulates the dilemma that Cambridge faces. The pressure for growth on the back of the success of its technology sector and university is irresistible. With 35,000 new homes proposed in and around the city, the place is bursting at the seams.
Cambridge’s forefathers — my own organisation included — established the green belt to protect the setting of the historic city from urban sprawl. The council says it aims to maintain Cambridge as a compact and dynamic city located within the high- quality landscape of the green belt, yet with the next breath it outlines plans for the release of yet more of the green belt for housing. Why bother with a green belt if every time the local plan is reviewed yet more land is taken to satisfy the pressure for development?
Cambridge is a powerhouse for economic growth but its success is based not just on the research hub generated by the university and the science parks but also on the quality of life it offers. We must not kill in a dash for growth the goose that lays the golden eggs.
Robin Pellew, Chairman, Cambridge Past, Present & Future
Poor attitude
You cite EM Forster in the article on the campaign to prevent the building of 650,000 new homes in the countryside (“Literati lament loss of landscape to housing”, News, last week). However, the line from his novel Howard’s End that “We are not concerned with the very poor” could serve as a motto for the movement.
We have a housing crisis and need new homes to meet current and rising demand. Only 6.8% of the UK is classed as developed. The poorest lose out when Nimby types stop new houses being built.
Ash Singleton, Housing Campaigner, London
Open house
After the war, houses to rent in Wareham in Dorset were built on farmland. Later in the same area more homes were built in order to to be sold. Local people accepted this. Yet over the past five years large, characterless properties have been constructed in back gardens — the locals are unable to afford them and they are bought by outsiders then left empty.
On the outskirts of Wareham there is a green field owned by the town council that has been used for generations by farmers. Now it has been decided that this is no longer greenbelt land and planning permission given for 154 houses. All over the town there are brownfield sites, and redundant buildings that could be converted or rebuilt. Our district council — Purbeck — seems powerless to stop this. We protest, to no avail.
Lyn Plumpton, Wareham, Dorset
Sorry site
I am concerned for my village, an area of natural beauty where a large development is proposed for a greenfield site. As well as requiring a new access road, it would be visible from the surrounding hills and be a blot on the landscape. Despite local opposition the matter never seems to die. Unless we fight these “plonk anywhere” developments the varied terrain of this most beautiful country will vanish.
Harriet Edkins, Church Stretton, Shropshire
Less the merrier
Politicians of all persuasions believe we need to build half a million houses. Where is the extra electricity and water to come from? How will people afford them when wages are so low and employment uncertain? Surely we should be curbing population growth, not encouraging it.
Frederick Oliver, Fairbourne, Gwynedd

Fundamental flaw in financing faith schools
In his haste to establish free schools Michael Gove, the education secretary, has failed to consider the implications of the nature of some of the institutions he has set up (“Ex-MI5 agents target school Islamists”, News, last week).
Yet the problem of extremism of any kind in state schools would cease to be an issue if the government did not fund them. If religious groups wish to set up sectarian schools, let them do so but they should be wholly independent establishments.
John Gaskin, York
College education
Tim Hands, the new chairman of the Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference, believes that state schools are hothouses (“Pass the smile test”, News Review, last week). The article mentions Hills Road Sixth Form College in Cambridge, but only by noting its remarkable success in helping its students to obtain Oxbridge places and glossing over its excellent track record of broadening its students’ lives through other activities.
David Bell, now the vice-chancellor of Reading University, commented in his former role as chief inspector for schools and colleges in England: “The consistent success of sixth-form colleges is one of the glories of the education system.” And our colleges are free.
Neil Hopkins, Executive Director, Maple Group of sixth-form colleges

Retired and ignored
I LISTENED wearily to party conference speeches and their plans for hard-working families and those who want to get on. I am left bobbing in the wake of such plans, as my wife and I are not included — we are retired and apparently irrelevant.
Yet we and others like us constitute about half the voting population and own half the property equity, even though our amassed savings repay us with a miserable return, owing to mismanagement by the government. We do get out to vote, however, and political parties ignore us at their peril.
Chris Greenwell, Darlington, Co Durham
Democratic tools
The conference season has reminded us of the lightweight nature of modern politicians and their readiness to bribe us with our own money. However, despite the combined membership of the three main political parties falling to less than 1% of the electorate, they continue to strut their stuff.
There is nothing democratic about the same three parties engaging in pork-barrel politics to con the electorate. Two simple measures would break their stranglehold and allow democracy to recover. Outlaw whipped votes in the chamber and introduce taxpayer-funded open primaries to select candidates.
Robert Durward, Biggar, Lanarkshire
Energy saving
Ed Miliband’s proposal to freeze gas and electricity prices deserved better than your barbed leader (“Tories must pass the Bridget Jones test”, Editorial, last week). Rocketing fuel costs are a major concern to everyone, yet the energy companies seem not to notice and the present administration just looks the other way. Miliband deserves credit for placing the issue at the top of the political agenda.
David Middlemiss, Beverley, East Yorkshire
Electrifying manifesto
I am not of the Tory or UKIP persuasion, nor am I yet inclined to vote for Miliband’s Labour. However, if Camilla Cavendish (“Don’t bully the energy giants — here’s how to help us little guys”, Comment, last week) formed the Common Sense party — her article would serve as a provisional manifesto — I would be a paying member.
Michael Hardman, Utrecht, Holland

Cattle prod
If Waitrose and Morrisons are satisfied with beef cattle being fattened intensively, their labels should state that these animals are industrially reared and fed on waste (“Grassless pens feed Britain’s taste for cheap beef”, News, last week).
Leslie Weeks, Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk
Well managed
What a pity some consultants chose to bash the managers (“It’s not consultants that are crippling the NHS”, Letters, September 22). Perhaps if they had tried to find out what managerial staff do — in what is one of the world’s cheapest healthcare systems — they might learn more about the service that employs them. Were it not for managers and clinicians working closely together over the past decade, many patients would still be languishing for more than two years on waiting lists.
Paul Carroll, Wigan, Greater Manchester
Clothes make the man
The men’s fashion special (Style, last week) had some great ideas. The quality of menswear has never been better, so if I can’t get around the shops in London, at least I can see some of it in your newspaper. As much as I love looking at fashion worn by beautiful women, it is nice to see that men are not forgotten.
Edward Williams, Poole, Dorset
Styler counsel
Richard Brooks could have referred to Trudie Styler as “the award-winning producer of Moon, A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints and Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels” rather than “Sting’s wife” (Biteback, Culture, last week).
Jon Gilbert, London W6
Tooth and law
Oral surgery specialist Steve Garner complains legal firms are forcing the unacceptable prescribing of drugs (“Lawyers keep the antibiotics pumping”, Letters, last week). This conclusion is flawed. Isn’t his complaint that his profession, and in particular the peer review that informs him of good practice, is not in line with recent research?
Jan Trainor, Wirral, Merseyside

Corrections and clarifications
In our article “Skipton bears the scars of unfair business rate rises” (Business, last week) we wrongly attributed to Christine Monksfield comments that had been made by her husband, Christopher. Furthermore, the comments were incorrectly reported. Neither Mr nor Mrs Monksfield said there were no independent butchers in Skipton. There are four. We apologise for the error.
Complaints about inaccuracies in all sections of The Sunday Times, including online, should be addressed to or The Editor, The Sunday Times, 3 Thomas More Square, London E98 1ST. In addition, the Press Complaints Commission ( or 020 7831 0022) examines formal complaints about the editorial content of UK newspapers and magazines (and their websites)

Gerry Adams, president of Sinn Fein, 65; Richie Benaud, cricketer, 83; Britt Ekland, actress, 71; Ioan Gruffudd, actor, 40; Ricky Hatton, boxer, 35; Morne Morkel, cricketer, 29; Mark Schwarzer, footballer, 41; Elisabeth Shue, actress, 50; Niall Quinn, footballer, 47

1927 premiere of the Jazz Singer, first feature-length talkie; 1973 Yom Kippur War begins; 1978 Hannah Dadds becomes first female Tube driver; 1981 President Anwar Sadat of Egypt is assassinated; 1985 PC Keith Blakelock is killed in the Broadwater Farm riot


SIR – I note with interest and some incredulity the unveiling of the new Stonehenge visitor centre. It is located one-and-a-half miles from Stonehenge itself, which will seem a distant matchstick model on the horizon.
I remember, as a small boy in the Fifties, being driven on holiday by my parents from London to Cornwall, leaving early in the morning and arriving at Stonehenge for breakfast. We ate our meal sitting on the stones themselves. It is a shame that in the intervening years, fears of vandalism and health and safety concerns have combined to remove the magic from this giant, mystifying edifice.
Robin Nonhebel
Swanage, Dorset

SIR – In response to the letter (October 3) from Liberal Democrat MEPs opposing medicines regulation for e-cigarettes, we agree that e-cigarettes have significant potential to help smokers who are not otherwise able to quit smoking, by providing them with safer alternatives to smoked tobacco. It is therefore important that regulation does not stifle the growth of this market.
Currently, e-cigarettes come under a range of consumer legislation. However, we believe that some additional safeguards are required to ensure that these products are effective, deliver nicotine safely and are manufactured to a consistent quality; and that the advertising and promotion of these products to non-smokers, including children, can be prevented.
The permissive medicines regulation proposed by the British regulator, the Medicine and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency, and supported by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, will achieve this and provides a good model for other EU member states.
This would ensure that e-cigarettes are treated in the same way as nicotine replacement therapies, such as gum and patches, and that they would be as widely available as tobacco.
We hope that UK MEPs will take our views into account at the vote in the European Parliament next week.
Related Articles
Removing the magic and wonder of Stonehenge
05 Oct 2013
Deborah Arnott
Chief Executive, Action on Smoking and Health (ASH)
Professor John Britton
Chairman, Tobacco Advisory Group of the Royal College of Physicians
Baroness Hollins
Chairman, BMA Board of Science
Professor Vivienne Nathanson
BMA, Director of Professional Activities
Professor John Ashton
President, Faculty of Public Health
Dr Janet Atherton
President, Association of Directors of Public Health
Leon Livermore
Chief Executive, Trading Standards Institute
Graham Jukes
Chief Executive, Chartered Institute of Environmental Health
Dr Harpal Kumar
Chief executive, Cancer Research UK
Dr Penny Woods
Chief Executive, British Lung Foundation

Francine Bates
Chief Executive, The Lullaby Trust
Professor Martin McKee
London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine
Dr Nicholas Hopkinson
Senior Lecturer and Consultant Chest Physician, National Heart and Lung Institute, Imperial College, London

Professor Robert West
Cancer Research UK Health Behaviour Research Centre, Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, University College London

Linda Bauld
Professor of Health Policy and Social Marketing, University of Stirling
Hugh Montgomery
Professor of Intensive Care Medicine, UCL
Professor Athol Wells
Royal Brompton Hospital
Dr Samuel Kemp
Consultant Respiratory Physician, Sherwood Forest Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

Dr Louise Fleming
Senior Lecturer and Consultant Respiratory Paediatrician, National Heart and Lung Institute, Imperial College, London

Dr Malcolm Brodlie
Consultant in Paediatric Respiratory Medicine, Newcastle
Dr Matthew Hind
Consultant Chest Physician, Royal Brompton Hospital

Dr Ian Smith
Director of Research and Development, Papworth Hospital

Andrew Bush
Professor of Paediatrics, Imperial College

Dr Graham Burns
Consultant Physician, Newcastle

Dr Sarah Brown
The Royal London Hospital, Barts Health NHS Trust

Anthony Frew
Professor of Allergy & Respiratory Medicine, Royal Sussex County Hospital

Dr Joanna L Brown
Consultant Respiratory Medicine, Imperial College, London

Dr Matt Wise
Consultant Adult Critical Care, University Hospital of Wales, Cardiff

Dr Chris Meadows
Consultant in Intensive Care, Anaesthesia & ECMO, London

Dr Sarah Denniston
Paediatric Consultant, Heart of England NHS Foundation Trust

Dr Mark Dayer
Consultant Cardiologist, Taunton and Somerset NHS Trust

Dr Rob Primhak
Consultant Respiratory Physician Sheffield Children’s Hospital

Dr Ann Ward
Consultant in Respiratory Medicine, Newcastle upon Tyne Hospital.
SIR – E-cigarettes do have the potential to help smokers quit or cut down, and could save lives, but how should they be regulated? Jeremy Hunt, the Health Secretary, says this is best achieved by regulating e-cigarettes under the medicines framework. The medicines label would not change their availability in Britain – they could continue to be sold everywhere they are now, and they could even become cheaper, due to lower tax rates for medicines.
Our position is in line with every major public health organisation, including ASH, Cancer Research and the British Heart Foundation. The Government has rightly already announced it intends to regulate
e-cigarettes as medicines.
Linda McAvan MEP (Lab)
Rapporteur on the Tobacco Products Directive
SIR – Our son recently converted to e-cigarettes and the effect on our lives has been incalculable. We no longer feel we are in danger from secondary inhalation. Our son also feels much better, he is no longer breathless and his cough has gone.
Babs Houghton
Wigan, Lancashire
Family doctoring
SIR – I could not agree more with Jeremy Hunt’s statement that GPs must rediscover family doctoring (report, September 28).
Unfortunately, it is becoming increasingly difficult to practise good, commonsense family medicine. The 10-minute consultation is a thing of the past – patients expect much longer, and the idea of consulting by email is reducing general practice (something I had always thought of as a vocational art) to an online service.
I am a part-time GP working five sessions (the equivalent of two-and-a-half days). I regularly put in 45 hours at the practice and still do not have the time to care for the elderly in the manner Mr Hunt aspires to.
My check-up visits to the older patients on our list often have to be deferred because of acute demands and an ever-increasing pile of bureaucratic nonsense.
Yes, let’s return to proper general practice, but we’ll need proper hospitals again, proper community care and the abolition of the ridiculous GP contract.
Dr Kate Mash
Salisbury, Wiltshire
SIR – As a busy GP who dedicates a large proportion of my time to the care of elderly and vulnerable patients, I find Mr Hunt’s comments infuriating. Every week we manage a whole variety of problems in our elderly population.
Many present multiple co-morbidities and require a multidisciplinary approach. In the majority of cases, this allows us to support the elderly at home; however, it is a sad reality that sometimes patients do end up in hospital.
This is not a reflection of poor care by GPs, but the consequence of trying to balance a complex equation with the elderly patient at its core.
Dr Tom Nicholson
Fareham, Hampshire
SIR – While it is laudable that the Government is aiming to ease pressure on emergency departments by extending GP opening hours, employers nationwide can help by allowing their employees time off to see their GP during office hours.
Dr Chris Chung
Carluke, Lanarkshire
SIR – What level of service should GPs be providing (Letters, October 2)? Being able to book an appointment to see my GP in under 11 days would be a good start.
Diana Crook
Seaford, East Sussex
Pardon my panini
SIR – It was heartening to read the comment on graffiti by Michael Bacon (Letters, October 2). The delivery that makes me squirm is to be offered paninis on a menu.
Doreen Southorn
Northallerton, North Yorkshire
Memorable prayers
SIR – Allan Massie (Comment, October 3) writes that the prayers learnt at childhood are a spiritual resource.
My school prayer was said daily at assembly: “We thank thee, Lord, for William Holland and others of our benefactors by whose bounty this school was endowed for the promotion of godliness and sound learning.”
Even now it brings back a sense of security and the smell of stale milk. I do not expect my local secondary school to use similar language now, but I would hope that there might be something similarly repetitive and serious which children can mock at the time, but treasure later in life.
Jim Ingram
Hastings, East Sussex
Miliband the Marxist
SIR – If Ralph Miliband (Letters, October 3) did love Britain he certainly tried to do his utmost to undermine the society that makes it such a loveable land.
I was almost the only non-Leftie in the social studies department in the University of Leeds in the mid-Sixties.
Harold Hobson once wrote that, if a revolution took place in Britain, while the thinking might come from the London School of Economics, the dynamism would certainly come from Leeds University.
The student societies for Communists, Marxists, Trotskyists etc entertained the Leeds Student Union with visiting speakers varying from the hilariously dotty to the intelligently unpleasant. Miliband struck me as one of the latter – a seemingly well-off, middle-class intellectual hell-bent on encouraging a mostly working-class audience to overthrow everything that had enabled them to get a university education.
He was a Marxist activist, not a historian. Perhaps he inspired Jack Straw, president of the student union at Leeds.
Charles Hobbs
Winchester, Hampshire
SIR – In 1974 as a Young Socialist, even selling Militant on the street, I applied to be an RAF pilot. I was 17. My schoolbooks were adorned with hammers and sickles, my diaries sprinkled with Marxist ideology.
I served my country for 21 years. If my offspring chose a career in politics, would the activities of my heady youth be used as ammunition against them?
Ray Bather
Allendale, Northumberland
SIR – Could those on the Left decrying the Daily Mail’s attack on David and Ed Miliband’s father be the same people on the Left who showed such commendable restraint and sympathy on the death of Carol and Mark Thatcher’s mother?
Sean Lang
Sawston, Cambridgeshire
Neither toff nor weasel
SIR – The woman who alleges that the Speaker of the House of Commons bumped her car (report, October 4) reckons he’s a “little weasel and an arrogant toff”. John Bercow is not and never will be a toff.
Alasdair Ogilvy
Stedham, West Sussex
SIR – It is wrong to liken the Speaker to a weasel. Weasels are beautiful, brave, noble creatures that play an important role in keeping rabbit numbers down.
Michael Berry
London SW3
The habit of tucking your chair under the table
SIR — Daphne Veale (Letters, October 3) asks what makes people tuck their chairs beneath a table after meals.
I was a boarder at a Dorset school where we were not only taught to do this, but were also encouraged never to scrape chairs when rising from the table, slam doors, leave windows unlatched, lights on in an unoccupied room, or water running.
Such “sins” resulted in the loss of an hour’s freedom on Saturday afternoons.
Richard Riding
Radlett, Hertfordshire
SIR – Not tucking in chairs points to a more widespread national decline in basic etiquette, which also includes the vulgarity of ear-splitting cackling from adjoining tables and the habit of standing like statues in the middle of public escalators.
Jeremy Henzell-Thomas
Malvern, Worcestershire
SIR – When a teacher, part of our fire drill was to leave chairs tidy in order to create passageways free of obstruction in case of an emergency. It soon became second nature and is something I still do.
I C Gault
Preston, Lancashire
SIR – Not only do I push my chair in, I also stand up when a lady does and keep my jacket on throughout the meal.
George Mascall
Erith, Kent
SIR – I was always told that to leave the chair where it is means that you have enjoyed the meal. Tucking it under the table informs the restaurant that you are unlikely to return.
Janet Maines
Farnham, Surrey
SIR – Perhaps the people who tuck their chairs under the dining table are those of us who nowadays find our domestic dining rooms so compact we would otherwise be unable to exit the room.
Patrick Tracey
Carlisle, Cumberland

Irish Times:

Irish Independent:

* By now you probably know the result of the referendums; by this day next week, their significance will have faded from memory.
Also in this section
Seanad can temper rise of ultra-radical parties
Seanad has done nothing for our democracy
Noonan doesn’t ‘get’ the pain of emigration
But a myriad of more pressing issues will be with us next week, for which there is no appetite in the corridors of power for change.
Why will the Taoiseach Enda Kenny not reform the Dail? The whip system makes backbenchers political eunuchs, all power is in the executive. TDs become the clerks of their parishes, their time is wholly invested in local and not national issues.
The odd time a spark gets caught in the political whirlwind and ignites a fiery political debate, but for the most part people ignore the larger issues which impact directly on their lives.
In terms of political priorities, it would have been be far more politically effective for Mr Kenny to seek a mandate from the people to demand an end to rigid austerity programmes across Europe.
Currently, Ireland is paying billions in interest on all our loans including the bank debts.
This is sucking all the essential economic oxygen, vital for recovery, out of the country.
Therefore, there is no growth and no prospect for growth.
Consequently, hundreds of thousands of our best and brightest are leaving our country.
This is a social and humanitarian catastrophe.
Instead of being outraged and active, we have become resigned and complacent.
We accept unemployment of 13pc despite five years of austerity, which has cost hard-pressed families €6,000 a year – yet all our political masters can conjure up is even more austerity.
The same failed formulas are being fruitlessly applied to our problems despite their uselessness.
By now everyone understands that there is no prospect of change unless Europe en bloc changes tack and embraces expansionary spending.
The troika is at our throats and all the rest is Frankfurt’s Way, as Eamon Gilmore now knows.
Of course Angela Merkel has no appetite for loosening purse strings.
But her newest best friend in austerity – Mr Kenny – must use his influence and advise her that putting the ordinary people of Europe on the rack so that the German economy can flourish, while the rest of the EU founders, is not the way to sow kinship or social harmony.
All the belt-tightening measures have produced is suffocation.
Be warned Mr Kenny, even the brightest stars can dazzle with empty promises but inevitably they collapse in on themselves; and end in black holes.
T G O’Brien
Donnybrook, Dublin
* If Enda Kenny was serious in his effort to reform the Irish political system and save money by doing so, he would have proposed halving the membership of the Dail and Seanad.
What argument could be made against such action, other than it keeps down the numbers on the Live Register?
On the other hand there is a clear argument for the retention of an independent body to scrutinise the actions of power-hungry politicians and irresponsible bankers and others.
If needs be, reform the Seanad; allow 40pc of members to be nominated by the Government, providing they are competent in the practices of the professional bodies they represent and allow the remainder to be elected through the ballot box.
Billions could be saved if this reformed body was given the responsibility to conduct all public inquiries.
Michael D Mulhern
Bundoran, Co Donegal
* Seamus Heaney was buried in Bellaghy, Co Derry, on September 2. His grave is beside a stone wall and sheltered by a sycamore and an ash tree.
He hasn’t been alone as visitors from around Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, Germany and the US have come to pay their respects and to sign what is now the third book of condolence at the back of the local Catholic church.
Some toast him at his grave, while one young girl left a message.
“I’m going to start learning your poetry, Seamus,” she wrote.
Poets and musicians have visited his grave and harpists played music late into a dark evening.
One of the first local groups to formally organise a tribute was a Baptist group.
Their pastor spoke of how Seamus appealed to the common man and his poetry was particularly popular with younger members of the congregation.
In a recent tribute, Seamus’s brother Hugh – who has lived in Bellaghy all his life – had these wise words to say: “He’s Heaney; it’s not fair to say he’s up with Yeats and Beckett; he’s an individual himself. Yeats and Beckett were great men, but they weren’t up with each other. They were brilliant creative writers and Seamus’s writing was brilliant…
“There is a great emptiness, but he left so much to think about and to make you happy.”
His many poems include those to friends and acquaintances who died or were killed during the 30-year conflict in Northern Ireland and to loved ones, fellow poets and others he knew, who passed away.
His older neighbour from childhood, Barney Devlin, who used to run a local forge, spoke of how Seamus’s poetry enabled him to be an unofficial tour guide and to meet people of all nationalities and he was grateful for that.
It keeps him so busy at times that he barely gets time to himself, but he didn’t mind at all and loved it.
Barney is 94 and had two poems written by his friend about his anvil skills.
Perhaps his passing will encourage others like the young girl to discover his poetry, myself included.
Mary Sullivan
* It is no surprise to hear that Peter Mathews has left Fine Gael – they always seemed like an odd fit.
Mr Mathews brought a fresh perspective to scores of issues, many of them in divergence with party policy.
His forthright views on the banking crisis were instructive, while his conscientious position on abortion legislation comes to mind.
At times, badgered by the career politicians in FG, he stood firmly by what he believed in – all the time remaining affable and calm in the political bear pit.
Whispering in the corridors will have already begun – who will be next to leave?
John Bellew
Dunleer, Co Louth
* Reading the report suggesting that DIY is the key to long life comes as a hammer blow to me, in that I cannot drive a nail.
Tom Gilsenan
* It seems that the GAA can reverse some decisions no bother but others remain cast in stone. The hurling league has been restructured to allow Cork and Limerick back into an eight-team division.
Would the same reinstatement have taken place had Clare been relegated instead of Cork? No wonder Jimmy Barry-Murphy wasn’t too worried at the time. By the same token, why can’t the seeded draw decision in the Munster football championship (which keeps Cork and Kerry on separate sides) be reversed, given that the other four Munster counties want an open draw? To paraphrase George Orwell, ‘six teams good, eight teams better’ – especially when one of those teams is Cork.
Martin Carey
Athlone, Co Westmeath
Irish Independent

Meg and Ben Friday

October 5, 2013

5 October 2013 Meg and Ben

I go all the way around the park round the park listening to the Navy Lark
Our heroes are in trouble Pertwee has arranged to sell electricity from Troutbridge’s generators to a local fun fair, then they are ordered to put to sea Priceless.
I get Meg and Ben to put books on Amazon
We watch Happiest Days of Your Life v good.
No Scrabble today I fall asleep


Norman John Gillies
Norman John Gillies, who has died aged 88, was one of only two remaining survivors of the 36 islanders evacuated from St Kilda in 1930, when the privations of life far out in the North Atlantic finally became too much for them.

Image 1 of 5
Norman Gillies and wife Ivy  Photo: SAT FEATURES
7:26PM BST 02 Oct 2013
Between 1976 and 2005 he returned four times to the home he had left when he was five years old, becoming something of a media personality thanks to his outgoing nature, his facility with words and his rich recollections of life in Scotland’s most remote and inhospitable outpost.
Norman John (Tormod Ian in Gaelic) Gillies was born on May 22 1925 in House No 15 in the village on St Kilda’s only inhabited island of Hirta. The son of John Gillies, a fowler and crofter, and the former Mary MacQueen, he was named after two uncles lost when their boat foundered in a storm. He appeared stillborn, and even his grandmother was giving up when the midwife smacked him on the back and he drew his first breath.
Life on St Kilda was extremely harsh. The weather was ferocious; little would grow apart from hay and corn; there was no proper harbour; and the islanders subsisted mainly on a diet of fulmars, gannets and puffins rather than the fish in which the seas were rich — having concluded from the numerous wrecks of fishing boats that the Almighty disapproved. The birds were killed by the men of the island, who gained access to their nesting sites by using ropes to scale the cliffs of St Kilda that rise up to 1,300ft above the sea. Sheep provided the wool for clothing and for weaving into tweed, which was bartered to pay rent to the laird and to buy supplies from the mainland.
The population had halved in a generation, partly through emigration and the loss of men in the Great War but also because, up to the late 19th century, the island’s unwitting midwife had coated each new baby’s umbilical cord with a poisonous paste based on seabird droppings.
Norman John was only four when, in February 1930, his mother developed suspected appendicitis during pregnancy and — a month after a passing fishing boat had been asked to have help sent from the Hebridean mainland — was taken to a hospital in Glasgow. He remembered waving from the jetty as she was rowed out to the boat in Village Bay; his father accompanied her. A baby girl was delivered by caesarean section in May, but within a fortnight both mother and daughter were dead. Norman John was not told that he had had a sister until 1991.
On August 29 1930, three months after his mother’s death, Norman John and the other 35 remaining islanders boarded the steamer Harebell when the government evacuated St Kilda; most would never see their birthplace again as, for the next three quarters of a century, its only occupants were conservationists and small detachments of the military.
Most of the islanders were settled on the Morvern peninsula of Argyll. Norman John (who on the way there saw his first tree), his father and grandfather moved into a remote cottage at Ardness, but it flooded repeatedly and they relocated to Larachbeg, a mile from his school, where he responded in Gaelic to questions in English. Leaving at the age of 14, he worked in a sawmill, in a sand pit, and with the Forestry Commission until being conscripted into the Royal Navy in 1943, one of three St Kildans to serve in the Second World War.
Trained at Skegness and at Ayr, he was assigned to a motor torpedo boat patrolling the Channel from Felixstowe. Stationed briefly at Ostend, he was back at Felixstowe for V-E Day, when the MTBs took the surrender of two E-boats and escorted them into port. After signals training at HMS Ganges, when he met his future wife, he served on signal stations at Alexandria and Port Said. After serving briefly in a minesweeper based at Trieste, he was demobilised in September 1945 and settled at Chelmondiston, Suffolk, where he became manager of a builders’ merchant, retiring in 1993.
St Kilda was never out of Gillies’s thoughts. He first returned in 1976 (with a National Trust for Scotland working party) by boat from Oban, an 18-hour crossing during which most of the passengers were seasick. He went back in 1980 with his wife and six other St Kildans for the 50th anniversary of the evacuation, making the voyage from Benbecula in eight hours.
He went twice more in 2005, first with the presenter Ben Fogle to make a Countryfile programme for the BBC, and to contribute his recollections to a moving documentary on Radio Four; this journey was in Orca, a high-speed boat which now offers something like a regular summer service from Harris. The second trip was by helicopter from Benbecula to mark the 75th anniversary of the evacuation, and took just 23 minutes. The same weekend, Scotland’s Tourism Minister Patricia Ferguson unveiled a plaque on St Kilda commemorating the evacuation and St Kilda’s nomination as a World Heritage Site.
His first cousin, Rachel Johnson, who is 91, is now the last survivor of the evacuees from St Kilda.
Norman John Gillies married, in 1948, Ivy Knights, who survives him with their two daughters and one son.
Norman John Gillies, born May 22 1925, died September 29 2013

“Safe in their hands.” Oh, yes. And the front-runners for the leadership of NHS England are Simon Stevens, “an enthusiast for expanding the role of private providers’ (Who will get the top job at the NHS?, Society, 2 October) and Mark Britnell! Britnell, the man who told private-sector executives that “the NHS will be shown no mercy”. You couldn’t make it up.
John Airs
• In East Anglia we have fields full of immigrants working the crops. I’ve no way of knowing whether they are controlled by “shady gangmasters” (Jonathan Freedland, 28 September). It does seem, however, that they are welcomed for their labour – at the “where the buck should surely stop” end of the chain – by farmers and landowners. I wonder whether these are the same farmers and landowners who display gigantic Ukip and Tory party banners at election time.And I wonder what happens then; are they required to lie in a ditch and hide until the results come out?
Julia Wildin
Wells next the Sea, Norfolk
• I very much agree with Michael Berkeley’s ideas on appointments to the House of Lords (Comment, 1 October). I wonder if it might restrict the number of political patronage candidates if those selected no longer had the term “lord” attached to their names and were simply dubbed second house representatives or something similarly mundane.
Wally Smith
Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire
• While agreeing with Tristan White’s argument about dumbing down of grammar (Letters, 4 October), I am not sure whether he illustrates his case or undermines it by referring to the subjunctive mood as a tense, and by its inappropriate use in expressing an opinion rather than a proposed course of action (“May I propose that the Guardian … be not the most authoritative…”).
Tim Lidbetter
Kingston upon Thames
• Cameron admits he doesn’t know the price of a loaf of bread and has a machine to make it for him it (Report, 2 October). Does this mean he’s never kneaded dough?
Sally Warren
Yapton, West Sussex
• Boris calls plans to rebuild Crystal Palace “a brilliant, simple and original (sic) vision” (Report, 4 October). What – to build a copy of a building first put up in 1851?
Ken Thomson

In Berlin on 7 October we are holding a concert, To Russia With Love, in support of the innocent victims of violence and human rights violations in Russia, and to show solidarity with all those who hold dear Russia’s future. On 7 October 2006, the renowned journalist and human rights activist, Anna Politkovskaya, was murdered in Moscow. Over the past decade the death toll and list of dubiously convicted people in Russia have grown exponentially. They include not only journalists and human rights activists, but business people, lawyers and musicians. The names of Mikhail Khodorkovsky and Platon Lebedev, Sergei Magnitsky (the lawyer who died in prison), Pussy Riot members Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alekhina are known worldwide. These names have become symbols of resistance to arbitrary power and unjust jurisprudence.
The trials are underway of the so-called Bolotnaya prisoners – the young people who dared take to the streets to demand their constitutional rights. An unprecedented harsh sentence has recently been imposed on the rural schoolteacher, Ilya Farber, who fell victim to corrupt officials. And there’s the latest arrest of 30 Greenpeace activists accused of piracy for their attempt to attract world attention to ecological distractions caused by Gazprom in the Arctic.
We are musicians. We are a peaceful people. It is naive to believe that our joint action can dramatically change something and justice will prevail. Dostoevsky’s famous words that “beauty will save the world” evidently also sound naive. But we do choose idealism and do believe in miracles. Our goal is not only to create wonderful sounds, but also to bring effective help to all those who are in real need. We are asking musicians and artists to send words of encouragement or messages of support which will be published in the programme notes of the concert. Contact us at
Gidon Kremer

It would be hard to have found a more inappropriate moment to churn out that old stalwart about the demise of soap (Has the soap bubble burst?, G2, 2 October). For a while now, my morning coffee has been sweetened by the arrival of the ratings showing as they do that for the whole year to date Coronation Street is up 7% and Emmerdale up 3% on last year. Up until now (and, boy, is there more to come this autumn) Coronation Street has grown its audience by 330,000 to an average of 9.4 million committed viewers.
What is far more important than facts and figures is that many of your readership will also be viewers of our shows and will be just as passionate about the health of our soaps as they are about the health of the Guardian. And anyone who actually watches our soaps will tell you that they are in particularly rude health right now and that the reason for their growth is stories that are modern, relevant and, above all, dramatically compelling.
In fact, if I have a worry as I sip that morning coffee, it is that the pin sharp writing and nuanced acting that goes into our shows can make the stories almost too compelling. Seeing long-loved characters such as Hayley Cropper face up to illness with humour and unfussy nobility can be painful. But it is true to the character and true to life, which is why it resonates so deeply with our growing audience. So far from being on their last legs, as your article suggests, our soaps are currently teeming with life and teeming with viewers.
John Whiston
Creative director, ITV Soaps
• It could be worse. With my cold-addled brain I was convinced, on first seeing the headline on the BBC website, that Danny Dyer was taking over the Old Vic. Stone the bleedin’ crows, my liege.
Antony Brewerton

Talha Ahsan is a British poet and translator. Born in London, he attended Dulwich College and graduated with first-class honours from the School of Oriental and African Studies. Until last October, he’d never set foot in America.But, one year ago today, that’s exactly where he was flown. And that’s where he’s remained in solitary confinement, at a so-called “supermax” prison, ever since – waiting for trial. Another life torn apart. Another family missing a member.
The scandalous Extradition Act 2003 has made this possible. No prima facie evidence was required when Talha was first detained. He’s never been questioned by British police. No British judge has ever examined the allegations against him. Yet the activity for which he is allegedly suspected is supposed to have taken place in the UK. There’s been much promise of extradition reform from politicians of all stripes, but little change. As Talha’s ordeal shows, removal can still be ordered without a basic case being made in a UK court – even where the alleged activity took place here. Worse still, the government now seeks to dilute existing protections; slipping a clause into the antisocial behaviour, crime and policing bill which would scrap the automatic right of appeal altogether. We urge MPs to drop this proposal for good when they debate the bill this autumn.
Talha, who has Asperger’s syndrome, has already been sent halfway across the world, separated from his loved ones, imprisoned pre-trial and forced to navigate a completely alien legal landscape. This is punishment in itself, irrespective of the end result. Serious overhaul of our rotten extradition system is surely the very least he now deserves.
Hamja Ahsan Talha’s brother
Shami Chakrabarti Director of Liberty

Ed Miliband spoke wonderfully at the memorial meeting – not service – to celebrate the life and the contribution to medicine and to the NHS made by my brother, Harry Keen, who died on 5 April (Report, 4 October). Harry, who married Ralph Miliband’s sister, was known internationally both for his contribution to the understanding and treatment of diabetes and for his unflagging battle for the NHS. Born in London in 1925, he was a life-long socialist and internationalist. It has been distressing to me and to other family members that the occasion of Ed’s movingly tribute to his uncle, also on his brother David’s behalf, was marred by the vile behaviour of the Rothermere press.
Mary Blumenau
• In a story, in print and online, the Guardian yesterday appeared to suggest that Paul Dacre had prevented Geordie Greig from apologising promptly to Ed Miliband for a Mail on Sunday reporter intruding on his uncle’s memorial service. This is entirely untrue. In fact the first Mr Dacre knew of the incident was when Ed Miliband released his letter to Lord Rothermere the following morning. He immediately advised Mr Greig to issue a full apology and helped him write it.
Peter Wright
Editor emeritus, Associated Newspapers
• The bullying rightwing press forget they’re a rump in their death throes. Every Pixar film and children’s programme preaches co-operation and caring for others, with bullies as scaredy losers, and nasty selfishness losing out to Shrek, superheroes etc. The young I meet are tough-minded and pragmatic, can be misinformed, but are good-natured and kind. The dim, half-aware terror the Tories and their press have that history is against them make them more rabid, but won’t change their fate. This week is a turning point – with widespread repulsion at the Daily Mail’s intrusion on Ed’s family in private grief.
I don’t share Polly Toynbee’s worry about online media (Comment, 4 October). Besides the huge presence of Guardian online, the Huff Post and Daily Mash are hugely popular, and most of the pop and film stars kids tweet and blog about preach progressive messages; there aren’t crowds of kids reading the Mail with their smoothies and cappuccinos. Now is Ed’s time. People’s visceral dislike of unfairness and cruelty is such that Ed’s stance against powerful vested interests is the one thing the people admire and will listen to.
I very much doubt words like Stalinist, red or even the 70s are the dog whistle words Mail still absurdly hopes they are.
Olivia Byard
Witney, Oxfordshire
• As a German I am impressed by the quality of the debate about the accusations of the Daily Mail against Ralph Miliband. The unambiguous statements in his defence above party lines show there is still a deep-rooted commitment to decency and personal respect in prominent political actors of British society. I cannot imagine a German politician of some prominence coming forward in an explicit defence of a member of the opposing political camp. Lords Moore and Heseltine and Boris Johnson set an example for democratic culture. When Ralph Miliband risked his life to save Britain from Nazi occupation he also contributed to free Germany from this monstrous regime. I am thankful for that.
Willi Brand
Bremen, Germany
• Although Labour did overcome a formidable press red scare in 1945, it was not the last occasion it did so, as Polly Toynbee suggests. In the 1966 election Labour proposed among other things, a land-value tax, price controls, fair rents, half a million new houses, nationalisation of the steel and aviation industries, strengthening the welfare state and the NHS, integrating the public schools into the state system, creating the Open University and expanding arts provision. Harold Wilson and the Labour party faced a vicious and bitter onslaught from the Mail and the rest of the rightwing press. Result: a Labour majority of 97.
Tony Judge
Twickenham, Middlesex

If nothing else the Daily Mail’s criticism of David Miliband’s father has reminded us, if we needed reminding, that the class war is alive and kicking in Britain.
At the Conservative Party conference the 50,000 people demonstrating outside against the Tory political agenda were summarily dismissed as “the enemy”. Margaret Thatcher described the miners as “the enemy within”. So much for our much-vaunted “democracy”. 
In France, in the Seventies, when De Gaulle and Sartre were at loggerheads and held diametrically opposing views, at least De Gaulle could say: “Sartre, c’est aussi la France.” Compare this with the mean-spirited, hate-ridden stance of our government and its supporters.
John Tilbury, Deal, Kent
In protest at the Daily Mail’s “all time low” in accusing a dead man of hating Britain, Malcolm Howard (letter, 3 October) urges a boycott of Waitrose while they continue giving it away free through their “My Waitrose” card.
Surely it is wrong for supermarkets to give away any newspaper titles whatsoever on a selective basis. This draws them into the political arena and interferes with the fair marketing of news and views. Waitrose also holds two Royal Warrants which I am sure it would not wish to lose by inadvertently associating the Royal Family with political controversies launched in the newspapers it promotes.
Carolyn Lincoln, Edinburgh
I can’t help feeling that there is a whiff of xenophobia coming from the Mail.
A former Lord Rothermere, owner of the paper, thought that Moseley’s crew were a jolly good thing. Perhaps today’s Daily Mail is affected by the views of its spiritual ancestor (the Mail seems to think that this is how it works) and Ed Miliband, as the son of an immigrant, is therefore persona non grata – ostensibly for not agreeing with the upright and laudable standards of such a revered and respectable publication as the Daily Mail. Who do they think they are kidding?
Angela Peyton, Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk
It is thanks to the Daily Mail that I can now truly appreciate the personality and achievements of Ralph Miliband, and the moral and intellectual force that he represented for friends, students and family; an unintended, but not unusual consequence of any Mail attack on a public (or private) individual about whom I may have previously felt some ignorance or ambivalence.
Christopher Dawes, London W11Young want work not dole
David Cameron’s idea of a new “earning or learning” policy would deny young people under 25 the right to claim benefits. His depiction of unemployed youth as people who opt for a life on benefits is an outrageous offence to many who – not only in the UK but all over Europe – are suffering from the impact of the economic crisis, struggling to find a job, and not “opting” for their situation at all.OECD statistics show that, since 2007, the youth unemployment rate in the UK has risen from 14.3 per cent to 21.3 per cent in the second quarter of 2013. Do we have to assume that, since then, young people have become significantly lazier? If so, why wasn’t that the case in Austria, Norway, Switzerland or Germany, where youth unemployed rates remained mainly unchanged or even went down?
Youth unemployment rates have risen because the British government has failed to implement measures to tackle the effects of the economic crisis, not because young people have simply decided to live an easy life on benefits – which, in fact, does not exist. If David Cameron had to live on benefits for a few months he would realise that this is something hardly anyone would ever choose.
Fiona Costello, Federation Of Young European Greens, Brussels
The Prime Minister’s instinct that young people should be earning or learning is the right one, and the majority of young people want this too, but this as yet unclear proposal cannot come at the expense of taking the roof from over a young person’s head.
The thousands of vulnerable young people and families which our organisations support are often in a position where benefits, at first, are the only way they can survive, and offer a safety net at a critical time. They often do not have families they can move back in with, and more than half of housing benefit claimants under 25 have families of their own. Withdrawing benefits because they currently can’t engage in training or can’t find a job would leave many homeless again and even further from the labour market.
In addition, around 66,000 young people under 25 who claim housing benefit are working, but on low wages, and without housing benefit could well be forced to leave their job and home.
Yes, we need to get the benefits bill under control. And yes, we need to get young people into work. But penalising young people for the failures of the economy is no way to go about it.
Seyi Obakin
Chief Executive, Centrepoint
Jeremy Todd
Chief Executive, Family Lives
Rick Henderson
Chief Executive, Homeless Link
Jean Templeton
Chief Executive, St Basil’s
London E1
Don’t blame social workers, back them
The recent cases involving the death of vulnerable children highlighted the catalogue of errors and failure, by different agencies, to communicate with each other. However, over the past 20 years various inquiries have pointed to other reasons for systemic failure, including: the massive caseloads that social workers have to manage; high turnover of staff; the use of short-term agency staff; lack of experienced staff; low morale and a high proportion of newly qualified social workers who are not given guidance about how to prioritise cases.
There are also wider questions about the rates of pay for frontline staff and high levels of stress that have led to a nationwide shortage of social workers. Sensational press reporting has led to a “damned if they do, damned if they don’t” culture. Social workers are inhibited from challenging decisions, even if they fervently believe it is in the child’s best interests.
Against all the odds, social workers safeguard the vast majority of vulnerable children. They have to make difficult decisions in complex cases where parents may be manipulative, obstructive or aggressive. Let’s all give them a round of applause? Without giving them adequate resources and lower caseloads, particularly in child protection, this is just patronising nonsense.
Richard Knights, Liverpool
If you’ve never heard of Hoagy . . .
In a story about James Bond being played by Daniel Day-Lewis (26 September) you report: “Ian Fleming … describes his character in three novels as looking like Hoagy Carmichael, a singer-songwriter who was famous at the time of the Second World War.”
This is a bit like saying Robert Burns was a ploughman-poet famous at the time of the Jacobite uprising.
Hoagy Carmichael was indeed famous at the time of the Second World War. But he was also famous 10 years before it began, when Louis Armstrong recorded his “Rockin’ Chair”, the same year Carmichael wrote “Georgia on My Mind”. And he was still famous 200 songs later, when in 1971 he was inducted into the Songwriters’ Hall of Fame in New York at the same time as Duke Ellington. He was still famous in 1979 when the jazz elite of the day packed Carnegie Hall in New York for a concert to honour his 80th birthday and Mayor Ed Koch proclaimed 27 June Hoagy Carmichael Day. The previous year Willie Nelson’s new recordings of “Star Dust” and “Georgia on My Mind” were in the American charts.
Indeed, Carmichael was still famous when he was buried in January 1982 and President Reagan was among those who sent flowers; and in 2002 when his biography, Stardust Melody, was published.
And he’s still famous in 2013 because the world still sings and plays his songs as they have done since the 1920s (see Nora Jones’s new album, The Nearness of You)…
Jim Crumley, Stirling
Schools: look at what works
I do agree largely with your leading article of 4 October, but doesn’t the success of the assisted places scheme for motivated working class pupils just serve to raise the grammar school option again? And what are free schools and academies but poor substitutes for the tripartite educational system? You are right, it’s well past time to forget the self-defeating ideology and look at what works.
Anyone who has taught in a comp will know just how impossible it is to go against the dominating ethos that often exists there among pupils. Forget about all the “excellence for all” nonsense: motivated kids know when they are beaten.
Are we happy to allow political squeamishness over the 11-plus exam to paralyse our educational thinking forever? 
Martin Murray, London SW2
War on drugs has been lost
The argument for the decriminalisation of currently illegal drugs and the control of their distribution (letter, 1 October) is to remove the drug dealers from the equation and so protect the next generation from being drawn in to addiction.
To dismiss the argument for decriminalisation as wishy-washy liberalism flies in the face of the hard economic facts that the “war on drugs” has been lost and it costs less to provide drugs in a controlled outlet than to deal with the devastation caused by pushers and dealers.
Patrick Cleary, Honiton,  Devon
Climate challenge
So climate change is happening, and it is, at least in part, humankind’s doing.
All we need to do is reduce the human population and accept the unpalatable fact that environment-damaging economic growth cannot continue indefinitely.
No problem then.
Susan Alexander, Frampton Cotterell, South Gloucestershire
Just tedious
Has anyone noticed the similarity between tweeting and The Diary of a Nobody by George and Weedon Grossmith? Both describe the tedium of everyday life, but at least the latter is amusing rather than tedious.
Raj Kothari, Bridport,  Dorset

‘Such ham-fisted branding of Mr Miliband senior as “Mr Nasty” may appeal to Mail readers but that is preaching to the converted’
Sir, Being a Marxist is not anti-British any more than being a Hayekian is. Marxism aims to reveal and to celebrate the role played by workers in the economy and to thwart attempts to exploit them. So far, this is not so removed from Ed Miliband’s own progressive policies. Indeed, progressives have in the past learnt much from Marxism: it was clear to the American New Deal progressives that allowing the market to do what the market does results in the proliferation of new financial property forms which undermine the real economy. The progressive solution was not to abolish capitalism but to contain its anti-social tendencies with clear legislative reform. Progressives then were able to learn from Marxism, without being Marxists. Rather than lambasting the Daily Mail for its personal and childish attack on his father, Ed Miliband should take the opportunity to examine the intellectual approach to the economy offered by Marxism.
Dr Lorraine Talbot
Associate Professor in company law and corporate governance, University of Warwick

Sir, As we approach the centenary of the First World War, it strikes me that the Daily Mail could run up quite a distinguished list of men who hated Britain and who also fought for their country. Wilfred Owen was far from alone in risking everything for his country by fighting in the trenches, while expressing ambiguous feelings about the kind of Britain he was fighting for. It was a common feeling among soldiers on the Western Front that they loved their country, while criticising it bitterly for the state it was in. I mention Owen, who won the Military Cross for outstanding bravery and leadership on the battlefield, because the “England” he hated was precisely the one defined by the Mail itself. In his poem Smile, Smile, Smile written just a few weeks before he died in action in 1918, Owen satirises the hypocrisy of that newspaper’s reporting of the war, while lamenting that the best of England was now lost, buried in a foreign field.
Professor Paul O’Prey
London SW15

Sir, In a prophetic letter to The Times 30 years ago (August 18, 1983), Ralph Miliband bemoaned the media coverage of left-wing activism, particularly the “red-baiting” language that suggested a new type of “treason” which could be almost impossible to disprove.
Dr John Doherty
Stratford-upon-Avon, Warks

Sir, If one assumes that the aim of the Daily Mail’s criticism of Ed Miliband’s father was to persuade voters to vote Conservative, this could be counterproductive. Such ham-fisted branding of Mr Miliband senior as “Mr Nasty” may appeal to Mail readers but that is preaching to the converted. The wider voting public will perceive such a campaign as unfair and instead will lend sympathy for Mr Miliband junior. We are all shaped to some extent by the opinions of our parents but to imply that an Oxford graduate doesn’t have a mind of his own is ludicrous.
Gareth Tarr
Chertsey, Surrey

Michael Gove is right to reduce the frequency of exams so that today’s pupils have a chance of being taken on a journey of discovery by inspirational teachers
Sir, The influence of one’s own great teachers is rightly cited by David Brancher (letter, Oct 1) as an important factor in teacher education.
In my schooling, an A-level physics teacher stood out. His approach was to walk into the classroom, say “Now where were we up to?”, check on the notes of a pupil in the front row, and then deliver comprehensive theory, explanations and examples without reference to any notes. He may secretly have been a thoroughly prepared teacher, but the impression given — of a man so in command of his subject that he did not need even a vague lesson plan — had a lasting impact on me.
In the age of modular exams, such a teacher is likely to meet resistance from pupils who are insecure unless they can see the script the teacher is working from, and where the lesson fits in the syllabus even before it has been taught. Michael Gove is surely right to reduce the frequency of exams so that today’s pupils may have a greater chance of being taken on that journey of discovery by inspirational teachers who can give broad insight into their subjects without being a slave to the syllabus.
Graham Cramp
Malvern, Worcs

Sir, Ignorance of English grammar (“Teachers ‘don’t know enough grammar to teach curriculum’ ”. Oct 4) was brought home to me in my first few months as an Oxford bursar when an undergraduate studying English said to me, “You are the only person I dare ask what an adverb is.”
Geoffrey Bourne-Taylor
(Bursar, St Edmund Hall, 1988-2007)
Norburton, Dorset

In 2011 a high-level report calling for the repeal of laws criminalising homosexuality was accepted by Commonwealth heads of government
Sir, Matthew Parris, perturbed to discover that “more than three quarters” of the Commonwealth criminalise homosexuals (My Week, Oct 2), may be heartened to know that a cross-party group in the Lords, of which I am a member, is pressing for action to secure full respect for the human rights of all gay people throughout the 54 countries of the Commonwealth.
It is intolerable that in Sierra Leone, for example, gay people can be sentenced to life imprisonment, or in Malaysia to 20 years’ imprisonment with flogging. In 2011 a high-level report calling for the repeal of laws criminalising homosexuality was accepted by Commonwealth heads of government. The Commonwealth’s collective strategy for the future, however, includes no commitment to work for the elimination of criminalisation. The forthcoming heads of government meeting in Colombo must put that right.
Lord Lexden
House of Lords

Come the next general election, this reader would like to vote for another combination to get the best of both worlds
Sir, As Mr Miliband is offering to freeze our energy bills, and Mr Cameron our train, utilities and bank charges (News, Oct 2 and Sept 25), the ideal solution would be a Con-Lab coalition.
How do we vote for this?
Peter Davies
Caldy, Wirral

The majority of Romanians arriving in the UK are respectable, hardworking people, who have taken advantage of their right to move within the EU
Sir, As a minor member of the Romanian Royal Family through marriage, I find the headline “Romanians use cheap flights for crime spree” (Oct 2) unfair. It contributes to an increasing stereotype of Romanians. Organised crime, as you say in the article, is endemic in the former communist states of Eastern Europe, which are now members of the EU. The majority of Romanians arriving in the UK are respectable, hardworking people, who have taken advantage of their right to move within the EU to seek employment. It is most unfortunate that organised crime rings have that same mobility, and I respectfully ask that you use headlines that do not use generalisations about one particular nation.
Alexander Nixon
Haswell, Co Durham

SIR – Anyone who is labouring under the delusion that parakeets have disappeared from the Home Counties need only visit Richmond Park on any day of the week (Letters, October 3). There they will find noisy and destructive parakeets in abundance. They have become almost as great a nuisance in the capital, and its environs, as feral pigeons.
The park authorities organise an annual deer cull, so why not include the parakeets? If they are short of shotgun-licensed personnel, I am sure they would find an adequate number of volunteers from among the local residents.
Duncan Cavenagh
Kingston upon Thames, Surrey
SIR – Pam Ledger wonders where the parakeets have gone (Letters, October 2).
Related Articles
A country practice shows how GP reforms must meet local people’s needs
04 Oct 2013
On looking through my grandmother’s cookbook by Mrs Beeton, there is a recipe for parakeet pie. It suggests six parakeets, or in their absence, a medium-sized parrot. The recipe is included in the Australian section.
Could it be that others have come across this magnificent cookery book?
Brian R Fokes
Rottingdean, East Sussex
SIR – The parakeets that have disappeared from Coulsdon (Letters, October 2) appear to have all gone to the Addington Golf Club.
I have never seen so many in this country together at one time.
Michael Lyons
Tenterden, Kent
SIR – The Paseo del Prado in Madrid is thick with them.
Leonora Sánchez Palmero
San Lorenzo de El Escorial, Madrid

SIR – I hope Jeremy Hunt, the Health Secretary, will avoid the mistake of insisting that all GP surgeries conform to an urban, high-density model. Here in rural Westmorland, where our small practice is under threat of closure from the withdrawal of funding, it is not practical for our two doctors to provide 24/7 cover, or to employ enough staff to do so.
The nature of the geography and the scarcity of rural public transport make it difficult for our ageing population to travel to urban centres. What we need is support for our excellent doctors to enable them to improve their facilities and offer more services. Were our surgery to close, many people who are currently cared for in their own homes would have to go into hospitals or care homes.
May I suggest that Mr Hunt listens to the views of local people, before he sweeps away our excellent surgery in his desire to introduce a “one size fits all” regime.
Rachael Milling
Ambleside, Westmorland
Related Articles
When pretty parakeets become perfect pests
04 Oct 2013
SIR – Malcolm Allsop (Letters, October 2) is naive in his analysis of surgery opening hours. The veterinary practice is open late because it is paid for by the people who walk through the door. GP funding has been reduced, while targets to achieve enhanced payments under the Quality Outcomes Framework (QOF) have been raised. The burden of administering QOF has also greatly increased.
As the husband of a GP, I know that when the surgery door is closed, the doctors will remain working long into the evening.
John Carr
Cheltenham, Gloucestershire
SIR – Malcolm Allsop concludes that vets love their customers more than doctors because they are still open at 8pm. He presumably takes comfort in the knowledge that his local 24-hour Tesco must love him very much.
Ernie Waddell
Edlesborough, Buckinghamshire
SIR – John Ashworth (Letters, October 2) highlights the real problem facing the NHS: the public’s expectations of the institution and how they use it.
The fact that Mr Ashworth’s family and friends consult their GP with colds, bruises and other minor ailments beggars belief. Is it any wonder the NHS is in the state it’s in when its resources are misused in this way?
Robin Peters
Bath, Somerset
SIR – Emailing a GP does not save the doctor’s time (Letters, October 2). The time spent on a brief email exchange is the same as a normal GP consultation: the patient’s medical records will have to be consulted and an entry made in the file.
If the doctor enters into such correspondence as well as seeing patients face-to-face, then he has increased further his workload.
Dr Michael Barrie
Kingston upon Thames, Surrey
Private schools
SIR – Sir Michael Wilshaw demands that private schools should do more by way of teaching or providing facilities for government-funded schools (report, October 2). This seems to me no more than another variation on the taxation debate.
The top 1 per cent of taxpayers already pay about 27 per cent of all income tax in Britain, while the lowest 50 per cent pay just 11 per cent. Private school parents are already donating their own children’s places in the state system to others, while also paying a significant share of the country’s education costs.
Sir Michael also draws attention to the unsatisfactory government control of most universities, which facilitates the annual threats to, and bullying of, the private sector.
Would that more of them, too, were privately funded, so that the Department of Education could be ignored.
Edward Vale
London SW19
SIR – Sir Michael Wilshaw’s comments smack of inverted snobbery and of our country’s unpleasant tendency to criticise, rather than celebrate or take pride in, institutions and individuals that do well.
Attention should focus instead on improving state schools so that they all have adequate facilities and sufficiently high standards.
Private schools should not be held responsible for these failings.
Hilary Weale
London SE11
Poetry in uniform
SIR – Harry Mount writes that the poet-artist Isaac Rosenberg is a little-known exception to the rule that First World War poets of significance tended to be of the officer class (Comment, October 2).
Rosenberg is not the only such poet: the name of Private David Jones, a printer’s son from south-east London, also appears on the War Poets’ memorial in Westminster Abbey. Jones’s great poem, In Parenthesis, is grounded in his wartime experience as a private soldier in the Royal Welch Fusiliers; and his art is held by the Tate and other significant public and private collections.
Ian Williams
Faversham, Kent
Not so strong suit
SIR – Your photo of George Osborne walking in Manchester with his wife (report, October 1) reveals an unfortunate trend in natty gents’ suiting whereby an indiscrete, untidy glimpse of shirt and tie appears at waistband level rather than being concealed by the jacket.
This is not, surely, by design?
Peter Harvey
Jolimont, Perth, Western Australia
SIR – Am I alone in speculating that the Chancellor of the Exchequer has mislaid his belt while expecting us to tighten ours?
One has only to compare the squeezed cut of his jacket, which appears to show his trousers falling down, with the proportionate elegance displayed by the Duke of Edinburgh in the same issue.
Patrick Williams
Canterbury, Kent
Breast-cancer gaps
SIR – Following your report that 180,000 women are at risk unless breast-cancer gaps are tackled (October 1), it is important to acknowledge other life-saving factors that are being ignored when discussing breast awareness. The lack of focus on these factors could have devastating effects.
I have been working as an academic adviser to Avon UK on its “Avon’s Breast Promise: The Second Generation” campaign. Our research shows that breast- cancer awareness must begin at home and the earlier the better.
There needs to be a focus on building women’s knowledge and confidence and encouraging them to form earlier breast-checking habits. If we build this knowledge at an earlier stage, women, particularly those with daughters, can pass this information on, which will ultimately lead to earlier detection and higher survival rates.
Women can do much to help themselves through awareness and self-monitoring in addition to what the medical community can offer. Early detection and an increase in knowledge is imperative.
Professor Janet Reibstein
Exeter University
US shutdown
SIR – The American political system will routinely break down in decision-making vital to America and the world when the House of Representatives is dominated by party affiliation not shared by the President (“Services blackout as US fails to agree deal”, report October 2).
This fragile situation could easily be corrected by adopting a system similar to our own, in which governments are formed from parties or coalitions that elect their own leader, in this case the President.
It would also avoid the costly, over-personalised and never-ending round of preliminaries, primaries and election for the presidency that so amazed Charles Dickens on his visit to Washington in 1842.
Barry Bond
Leigh-on-Sea, Essex
The sound of lip-synch
SIR – Last weekend, I watched a television programme about ghost singers in major films and discovered that Christopher Plummer did not, in fact, woo Julie Andrews with his rendition of Edelweiss in The Sound of Music.
I am devastated.
Lynne M Collins
Hadleigh, Essex
Will higher alcohol prices curb student excess?
SIR – I find the views put forward by the Wine & Spirit Trade Association difficult to swallow (Letters, October 2).
My niece has just started university and there are numerous bars on the campus where a double gin and tonic costs £1.50. Supermarkets are selling a litre of gin for £10 and cider is cheaper than fizzy water.
I’d rather pay more for alcohol if it relieved pressure on the emergency services and kept our streets vomit-free.
Kate Graeme-Cook
Tarrant Launceston, Dorset
SIR – Of course the Government wishes to specify a minimum price for alcohol, since this will bring in increased tax revenues. But it knows that it will have no real impact on consumption.
To reduce consumption, alcohol must be made less easily available by restricting the number of places where it is sold (for example, supermarkets) and hours in which it can be sold (no more all-night drinking establishments).
David Broughton
Woodborough, Wiltshire

Irish Times:

Sir, – I am appalled to learn that my son, who has been living and working abroad for the past three years, will now be treated as an international student if he wishes to return to Ireland to study.
He, like many of his contemporaries, emigrated to find employment when none was on offer in his own country. He was not a burden on the State and never claimed social welfare. Instead he went to China where he has been teaching English. Next year he had hoped to come home, go to college and improve his job prospects. But the fees for international students are beyond his means. Engineering fees in the Dublin Institute of Technology, for instance, are a whopping €12,250.
There must be thousands of young people in a similar position who were scattered around the world in the past few years. I think the State owes its young citizens a better deal than this. – Yours, etc,
Blackrock, Co Dublin.

Sir, – Thank goodness it’s over at last. To paraphrase Winston Churchill: “Never in the history of Letters to the Editor has so much hot ink been expended by so many on so little”.
Can we have our paper back now and once more enjoy the myriad opinions of its diverse readership on a variety of topics? – Yours,etc,
Albert College Lawn,
Glasnevin, Dublin 9.
Sir, – I have just returned from the very satisfying experience of voting to abolish the Seanad.
Shortly, Naas Town Council, the local authority covering the area where I live in, will also be abolished.
It seems the only further actions necessary to facilitate the emergence of democratic representation of the people and effective government institutions is the abolition of Kildare County Council and Dáil Eireann. – Yours, etc,
Caragh Green,
Co Kildare.

Sir, – RCSI regrets the non-consultant hospital doctors (NCHDs) felt compelled to take industrial action, but we understand their concerns and the urgent need to have the issue of long working hours addressed, in the interest of patient safety and the health and well-being of NCHDs. RCSI supports the view that there should be a limitation of hospital-based working hours to 24.
The introduction of the European Working Time Directive (EWTD) is very challenging in disciplines such as surgery. The EWTD rightly seeks to ensure a safe and healthy work-life balance for all people at work. In our view, the parties should work together towards agreeing a more creative application of the EWTD which would balance the need for continuity of patient care and the training requirements of junior doctors.
Feedback from our trainees indicates the overall length of the training programme, the uncertainty around employment prospects and the quality of the training experience in some training posts is making a career in surgery less attractive.
To address these concerns we are launching a new training programme which shortens the period of training required and enhances the training experience.
Because the EWTD will reduce the amount of on-site work by NCHDs, innovative approaches are required to achieve a high quality consultant delivered service. This will involve some routine work being reassigned to other grades to allow training time within hospitals to be used for the most important tasks.
The RCSI has undertaken to maximise the level of surgical skills training and didactic teaching which takes place outside of the hospital setting so as to minimise the training impact of any EWTD restrictions.
For the past four years the college has worked with the HSE through the National Surgery Programme to address the needs of elective and emergency surgical patients. We have also worked to improve the safety and efficiency of the operating theatre environment.
It is vital healthcare frontline staff, hospital groups, HSE, the Department of Health and RCSI – continue to work together to implement these plans. – Yours, etc,
Royal College of Surgeons in
St Stephen’s Green,
A chara, – I am amazed Anthea McTeirnan (Opinion, October 4th) seems not to have heard the news that women now have the vote in this country. She must not have; why else would she think the only reason that abortion isn’t as normal as a tooth extraction here is the dastardly oppression of history’s “great men”?
I imagine it may also come as a shock to her to learn that modern women actually think for themselves and refuse to be bullied by either the great men of the past or the radical ideologues of the present. The reason we don’t have her dental clinic termination model in place is the simple fact that killing one’s child in the womb is not normal. Most people, men and women, know that. But clearly that notion will also be news to her. – Is mise,
Castlecomer, Co Kilkenny.
Sir, – Anthea McTeirnan claims that abortion is “normal’ and that it is a “procedure that many women can and do access easily and in a perfunctory way”. It is very unlikely most reasonable people believe ending a child’s life is either normal or an action to be taken in a perfunctory way.
A recent poorly-attended March for Choice shows very little public support for such a callous attitude. The arguments as to the harm caused by abortion to women and babies will be familiar to readers of The Irish Times. Perhaps there is one other to consider: that in a modern, progressive society we can do better for women than the medieval solution of abortion. The online version of this article provided a link to a campaigning video by international abortion providers. – Yours, etc,
Youth Defence,
Capel Street, Dublin 1.
Sir, – Bravo Anthea McTeirnan for a clear and sensible view on abortion. It always amazes me that men feel they have the right to dictate what a woman does or does not do with her body. Accidental pregnancy happens, mistakes are made, we are only human after all. In my view it is a very responsible decision not to bring an unwanted child into the world. I am not ashamed to admit I travelled to England to have an abortion when I was 19. My feeling was one of huge relief after the procedure, and I have never regretted that decision. – Yours, etc,
Greystones, Co Wicklow.
Sir, – It is difficult to imagine words more bitterly expressed than those of Anthea McTeirnan (Opinion, October 4th). To equate abortion as being as “normal” as pregnancy itself is a travesty of everything that is honest and decent. Her regular use of the words “great men” reek of bitterness. Although she denies it,  McTeirnan equates having an abortion with a tooth extraction in an attempt to somehow find a connection. Her exaggerations in this Godless diatribe are insulting to everyone, regardless of gender and are designed not to contribute, but to provoke. – Yours, etc,
Loreto Grange,
Bray, Co Wicklow.

Sir, – Society, for good or ill, has decided that young people lack the maturity required to vote, marry, drive, sign legal contracts, have sex and join the army. There are age restrictions on all of these, and probably many other activities. Why then does nobody question the possession and use of smartphones? We are giving young people unfettered access to the internet and to all it contains. Is this wise? – Yours, etc,
Enniskeane, Co Cork.
Sat, Oct 5, 2013, 01:10
First published: Sat, Oct 5, 2013, 01:10

Sir, – The situation in the US is beginning to resemble a classic manoeuvre to seize power. First, you destabilise the government. Next, you allege a plot or organise a few assassinations. Then you get the military to take over in order to “restore government”. The military promise to restore democracy within a year. They make an alliance with Big Business and fundamentalist Christians to run the country their way and settle into power for the long term.
It may sound fanciful, but it is a formula used successfully by the Americans themselves in foreign countries. – Yours, etc,

Sir, – Lynn Cronin (September 27th) highlights an important issue. Our Lady’s Hospice & Care Services relies on supporters, such as her, to organise coffee mornings in their home, school or workplace as part of the Ireland’s Biggest Coffee Morning campaign. For 26 years now this method has worked well and this year over 800 coffee mornings were held in support of Our Lady’s Hospice & Care Services, with thousands more taking place nationally for other hospice organisations.
However, if banks are going to make it difficult for people to conveniently lodge event proceeds, there will be serious implications for its future success and indeed for any charity community-based campaign such as this that relies on cash and coin donations. Banks need to work with the charity sector to come up with viable solutions to resolve this issue. – Yours, etc,
Head of Fundraising &

Sir, – Having served on select vestries for two decades, I am well aware of how the Church of Ireland works. Therefore it was no surprise that it took 25 years, after the enabling legislation was passed, for the church to appoint its first woman bishop, and the world didn’t end (Home News, September 20th). Well done to the house of bishops. Let’s hope we don’t have to wait 50 years for the next development, a gay bishop. – Yours, etc,

Sir, – As someone who, as a child, met Hurd Hatfield on several occasions, the article on Ballinterry House brought back many fond memories (Property, October 3rd).
I do recall on one occasion when Mr Hatfield came to dinner at our house and asked my father if my mother was his “second wife”, adding she looked far too young to the be the mother of six children. Of course my mother was delighted with his comment and so the evening commenced with greater frivolity than originally planned. Dorian Gray would surely approve. – Yours, etc,
Boleybeg, Galway.

Sir, – I agree with TD Maureen O’Sullivan’s remarks concerning the memorial for survivors of institutional abuse (Home News, September 26th), particularly when she states it is demeaning to survivors to have a memorial setting alongside a memorial erected to the men of 1916. Both should be completely separate: I have reiterated this on a number of occasions.
Sadly, to the best of my knowledge no survivors except those on the committee were made aware of the decision until the launch in May 2012. For those of us who have fought so hard on behalf of fellow survivors for decades, it is sad that our proposal to have a memorial adjacent to the GPO was undermined and, even worse, ignored. – Yours, etc,
The Aislinn Education and

Sir, – It is unusual to see Louis Spohr mentioned in the columns of The Irish Times. But as the author of the 28-page Conspectus of the Recordings of Spohr’s Symphonies, published by the Spohr Society in 2009, I must take issue with Martin Adams’s view (Classic Music, Arts & Ideas, October 2nd) that “J W Davidson was proved wrong” in his declaration that Spohr’s music “will survive until art is on its deathbed.”
Perhaps we are mistaken to concentrate so much on outward “reputation” (Adams’s word) rather than inner integrity and meaning beyond the fickleness of public perception.
How many of those who casually now dismiss Spohr have actually studied his music for themselves in detail? If only they would do so, they would find themselves set before a feast beyond reckoning.
I suggest for a start Symphony No 9, the Mass for soloists, two five-part choirs and orchestras, and the Nonet, which are masterpieces of genius in their respective genres. And perhaps too, before judgment is so dismissively cast, Clive Brown’s 1984 book Louis Spohr: A Critical Biography should be read and taken to heart. – Yours, etc,

Sir, – I am perturbed that a Minister of the Labour Party, a party with its roots in the trade union movement, threatens ASTI members with redundancy for rejection of the Haddington Road proposals. Last time I checked I thought that in this democratic country one could not be dismissed for being a member of a trade union; and pay and conditions and refusal to recognise a trade union constituted grounds for a legitimate trade dispute. Parallels could be drawn with the Orwell novel Animal Farm. – Yours, etc,
Enniskerry Road,
A chara, – “State is failing the needy” states your headline over Barry Roche’s report of Brendan Dempsey’s comments concerning the St Vincent de Paul struggle to help those who have fallen on hard times (Home News, October 3rd).
I would prefer “State is flailing the needy”. Many of these people are victims of State irresponsibility during the Celtic Tiger years. And the flailing continues. People in nursing homes under the Fair Deal scheme have now to pay for dressings and dressing equipment. What happens when their meagre savings are exhausted? Of course, I forgot. They may not live that long! – Is mise,
Leinster Park,

Sir, – A recent suggestion in these pages (Isolda O’Connor, September 27th) for a “Mrs Doyle Day” could have wider cultural implications. Just think, Mrs Doyle meets Beckett: “I can’t go on”. “Ah, go on!” – Yours, etc,
St Agnes Park,

Irish Independent:
* As an Irish citizen who has lived abroad for a number of years, I was dismayed to hear that a poll suggested the campaign to abolish the Seanad is likely to be successful.
Also in this section
Seanad has done nothing for our democracy
Noonan doesn’t ‘get’ the pain of emigration
We need a TV debate on Seanad referendum
While the electorate’s reasons for disbanding the Upper House are clearly justifiable based on short-term logic, this move would pose a long-term risk that we as a democracy cannot take.
I feel that the enthusiasm shared by the main parties for a successful vote has not been counter-balanced by some thought on what this Constitutional move would ultimately entail. While punishing an electoral class for their role in allowing the economy to collapse would seem perfectly fair, this move will of course only lead to further power and authority being given to the Dail.
While Ireland has always been run by centre-right parties, we cannot be certain that this trend will continue. The future does not necessarily need to be rational and mainstream. Who’s to say that there will not be a rise on the ultra-right or indeed ultra-left in 20 to 30 years’ time, as recent continental European history has shown on numerous occasions?
Without an Upper House to provide a safety net against ultra-radical laws and reforms being passed, we leave ourselves open to extremists, who could implement a whole host of dangerous repressions of our liberties.
A referendum on reforming the Seanad would be perfectly justified. However, disbanding this institution merely because of electoral revenge and the notion of saving €20m is shortsighted. In a country that was running up debts of €65m a day at one stage, this saving is a mere drop in the ocean.
After all, is it really worth risking our children’s and grandchildren’s freedom and liberties for €20m?
Robin Wyers
Arnhem, The Netherlands
* There is a tree in our community centre. It was looking rather unhealthy. One day the community got together and pruned all of the dead wood. Today the tree looks much healthier indeed! October 4 is a great opportunity to do some “pruning”.
Tom Quinn
Castlebar, Co Mayo
* I am surprised at the number of naive commentators who believe that the Seanad is a necessary democratic safeguard. Something like a smoke alarm which is there just in case. In reality, the Seanad is more like a locked and barred fire door.
Equally surprising is the number of naive commentators who believe that voting No will lead to Seanad reform. In 1979, the Irish people voted to expand the university franchise, but the political class never implemented it. That is what happens when you innocently believe in the promises of reform – nothing happens. We have been peddled so many lies and false promises over the last few decades, it is appalling that there are still people who fall for a pig in the poke.
The Seanad is an elitist and undemocratic anachronism from the 19th Century when an upper house of intellectuals and nobles was required to keep the peasant commoners in the lower house in line. It was not required when we became independent, and is even less so now.
The 99pc of commoners who finally get a Seanad vote should vote Yes to the only reform that matters; its abolition.
Jason Fitzharris
Swords, Co Dublin
* The Netherlands has a population of 16.8 million. Its lower house has 150 seats, while its upper house has 75 seats. Here in the Republic of Ireland, our population is approximately 4.6 million with 166 TDs in the Dail and 60 members in the Senate. Given the four-fold difference in population demographics between Holland and Ireland and the referendum bluster of saving money and getting rid of politicians, we should therefore have approximately 42 TDs. Now wouldn’t that be real reform… or simply a case of quadruple dutch?
Mark Lawler
Kilmainham, Dublin 8
* During the week, Philip O’Neill wrote to your letters page expounding the notion that we as a society are, if I may put it in Biblical terms, concentrating on the worship of the Golden Calf in the hope that we will all be able to eat if the calf gets fatter.
A society is not bound by wealth. Wealth generation, its worship, its lavish displays, its lure, its conferring of self-imagined status etc are actually what deconstructs a society. The excellent and oft-quoted line that “I live in a society not an economy” is an expression of our humanity, of what we are; a social animal.
When one considers that money is a functional item, a tool for trade and for measuring time, then as rational people we must ask ourselves what is this fascination with money?
Time is money! Fair enough, so let’s accept and expand this notion.
The most accurate clocks in our known universe are pulsars. These rotating stars emit radio signals from deep space with stunning rhythmic accuracy. Regardless of where one is on or floating above planet Earth, these signals will count time at the same rate for every living human born on the planet, regardless of the financial disposition of the individual.
This suggests that time is a universal and free gift which we call life. It is, if one thinks about it, a gift that no one, be they rich or poor, can remember asking for. You are born; get on with it!
Before the collapse, we were fed wonderfully politically popular notions of “jobs” and a “soft landing”.
So how could we have lost €64bn of time into a black hole that was meant to be a forever blazing sun called “Celtic Tiger”? Strange stuff money; a very poor Golden Calf!
Dermot Ryan
Attymon, Athenry, Co Galway
* The economic commentators are at it again – “at times like this, the black market gets going again”.
What planet are these guys living on? Friends of mine tell me that over the past 50 years, they have never been offered a receipt by a window-cleaner, a TV or washing machine repairman, a house-painter or indeed any other tradesmen.
My friends have lived through busts and booms but the cash-in-hand system never seems to change because that’s just the way it is and, the funny thing about it is the cash-in-hand merchants are no cheaper than the legit operators.
So things must be getting very bad when the economists start blaming the black marketeers, because these guys are on the go all the time.
RJ Hanly
Screen, Wexford
* Norman Walsh (October 2) is worried about what would happen if another Charles Haughey made it to the Taoiseach’s office with no Seanad. One way or the other a Seanad won’t make a jot of difference, just like it never did when Haughey was in power.
But if another person like Haughey were to make it to the Taoiseach’s office again, they’ll have got there because of the stupidity of the Irish people who voted for them and who will deserve everything they get because of it.
When will the penny drop for Irish people that the reason the calibre of people in politics, both at elected and decision-maker level, is so low is because voters keep returning the same low-calibre people time and again and never more strongly when the voter knows for a fact that the person is unfit for office.
Haughey didn’t take office through a coup, the Irish people chose to put him into office not once, but three times and I’m sure there are plenty who’d vote for him again if they could. Just like there are plenty of people who prefer to wallow in denial about their role in returning all the other cronies in all parts of the country again and again.
Fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me.
Desmond FitzGerald
Canary Wharf, London
Irish Independent

Meg and ben again

October 4, 2013

3 October 2013 Meg and Ben

I go all the way around the park round the park listening to the Navy Lark
Our heroes are in trouble they are back from leave and Lt Murray is promoted and given command of Troutbridge. Priceless.
I get Meg and Ben to put more books on Amazon
We watch Dads army v good.
No Scrabble today I fall asleep

Anthony Hinds
Anthony Hinds, who has died aged 91, was the producer and screenwriter chiefly responsible for the Hammer company’s indelible association with horror films.

Image 1 of 2
The film poster for ‘Dracula’ (1958) 
6:48PM BST 03 Oct 2013
While he may not have been as prominent as the early personalities on commercial television, or the stars of rock and roll, the brand he invented — Hammer horror — had a similarly revitalising effect on 1950s popular culture.
Anthony Frank Hinds was born at Ruislip on September 19 1922, and educated at St Paul’s. His father, William Hinds, a music hall comedian who worked under the stage name Will Hammer, co-founded the original incarnation of the production company Hammer in 1934. After the war, he and his collaborator, the Spanish-born entrepreneur Enrique Carreras, handed control to their sons: James Carreras became the managing director and Anthony Hinds its creative head.
Hinds’s first credit as producer was Who Killed Van Loon?, a forgotten thriller released in 1948. More important was his adoption of the idea that the company could save money by shooting its films in large private houses rather than in tailor-made studios. This was an approach that led to Hammer settling in Down Place, a Thameside mansion they renamed Bray Studios in 1952.
By 1954 Hinds was aware that Hammer could not compete with expensive American techniques such as CinemaScope and 3D, so he gambled the company’s future on another gimmick.
It was Hinds’s idea to make a film version of the BBC television serial The Quatermass Experiment (1953). When it was complete, he submitted the picture to the British Board of Film Censors and requested an X certificate — the “adults only” classification that barred under-16s.
He may have been the first British producer to have deliberately excluded such a large element of his potential audience in this way, but in doing so he created a lucrative new constituency for Hammer’s films. The Quatermass Xperiment, as Hammer exploitatively renamed the story, was released in 1955 and became the company’s most successful release to date.
The following year Hinds oversaw production of Hammer’s first colour X certificate film. Under his guidance, The Curse of Frankenstein reclaimed a quintessential English sensibility from the monochrome horrors produced by Universal in the 1930s and 1940s. Hinds hand-picked a team that would create what is now widely regarded as a golden age of horror filmmaking. The Curse of Frankenstein brought together Hinds’s protégé, the screenwriter Jimmy Sangster, with director Terence Fisher, cinematographer Jack Asher, production designer Bernard Robinson and composer James Bernard.
Hinds was already operating an informal repertory company of actors at Bray, and from then on they would be led by the men he would make international stars: Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee.
Hinds reunited Cushing, Lee and the rest of the Curse of Frankenstein team for Dracula (1958), the film in which he perfected the basic formula of Hammer horror — colour, sex and death. By the end of the decade Hinds’s variations on these themes made Hammer the most successful independent production company in Britain, if not the world.
When Sangster tired of writing Gothic horrors, Hinds picked up the reins. The Curse of the Werewolf (1961) was the first of 14 scripts that he wrote for Hammer under the pseudonym John Elder, although his influence extended to many more.
Hinds maintained that he adopted the pseudonym to avoid the wrath of Bray’s unions — as the producer of many of these films, he did not want to be seen as commissioning himself to write their screenplays. Anonymity, however, was clearly important to him in other ways; by 1963 he had produced 50 films, yet was reportedly still telling his next-door neighbour that he was a hairdresser.
As a screenwriter, Hinds had a firm grasp of how to establish and punctuate the shocks that audiences expected from a Hammer horror. He also displayed an astute awareness of the recent cultural shifts in society. Two of his finest screenplays, Frankenstein Created Woman (1967) and Taste the Blood of Dracula (1970), transformed Peter Cushing’s surgeon and Christopher Lee’s vampire into partly sympathetic characters who even help the film’s young, cool heroes take revenge on an older generation.
By the late 1960s Hinds was taking more pleasure from writing than from the daily grind of mid-budget filmmaking. He resented having to deputise for the American producer Joan Harrington on Hammer’s 1968 television series Journey to the Unknown. The strain of this, combined with an unfounded accusation of plagiarism over his script for Taste the Blood of Dracula, prompted him to resign from Hammer’s board in 1970.
Hinds was dismayed by some of the explicit films that followed in his wake. “Jim Carreras thought this was great,” he said. “He told me: ‘God, you can do anything now.’ I thought: ‘Well, I’m not sure that doing everything is what it’s all about.’”
Hinds had earned enough money to semi-retire at the age of 47, but he continued to pursue a freelance writing career as John Elder, bringing Hammer’s classic Gothic horror cycle to an end in 1972 with his script for Frankenstein and the Monster From Hell. His final commission from his old employer was for an episode of the television anthology Hammer House of Horror (1980).
In his final decades Hinds seemed to dissociate himself from his illustrious career. He cut up his old scripts to use as memo pads, drove a minibus for the local “old folk”, and joined an amateur dramatic society. In 1998 he attended a Hammer convention at Bray Studios, but privately dismissed the attendees as “barking mad” and left as quietly as he arrived.
The onset of Parkinson’s Disease made him an increasingly remote figure, though he resurfaced for a final time in the BBC’s 2010 documentary series A History of Horror. Frail and visibly diminished by ill health, he nevertheless clearly recalled the transgressive ambition that revolutionised British cinema: “There’s a great danger with horror films that people will start laughing,” he said. “We thought we’d put a stop to that.”
Anthony Hinds married Jean Knowles in 1956. She and their two daughters survive him.
Anthony Hinds, born September 19 1922, died September 30 2013


Alan Sharples wrote an excellent letter about the chancellor “preaching Victorian tough love to the long-term unemployed”, but spoiled it for me by his gratuitous reference to “Rotary Club prejudices” as a partial source for George Osborne’s thinking (Letters, 2 October). The philosophy of Rotary International is embodied in the phrase “service above self” and every club seeks to be true to this, and nowhere more than in service to their local community. This means that Rotary Clubs in the UK are currently focused heavily on helping people and community organisations overcome all the consequences of the damage caused by the cuts to local services and the high level of unemployment, particularly among young people leaving school with poor qualifications.
My club is working in partnership with the charitable arm of Brighton & Hove Albion Football Club, Albion in the Community (AITC), in its Want to Work programme. Using the new Amex Stadium premises, AITC is able to attract youngsters who leave school (sometimes having been excluded), with little hope of finding work, on to this training programme, where they acquire new skills, meet potential employers and have job experience. A high proportion of them move into a job at the end of the training. Earlier in the year, our club sponsored two trainees, by paying the full cost of their training. They gained good jobs at the end of it. So our club, so typical of all Rotary Clubs, has made a meaningful contribution in the area of need about which Alan Sharples is rightly concerned. Our “prejudices” are all in the opposite direction to those attributed to us by him.
Bob Hinton
Community service chair of the Rotary Club of Hove

Tania Branigan (Report, 28 September) doesn’t do China’s former foreign minister Chen Yi justice in her account of the (possibly apocryphal) story which circulated widely during the Cultural Revolution. First, Mao is supposed to have called Chen Yi a “good comrade” rather than a “good cadre” – a small point, but in dealing with scripture, accuracy becomes vital.
Secondly, Chen Yi was sending the Red Guards up when, in response to their screamed demands he should recite a quotation from Chairman Mao, he waved the Little Red Book and said, “turn to page 271, Chairman Mao says Chen Yi is a good comrade”. Despite their supposed familiarity with the sacred text, thousands started leafing through it only to find that the Little Red Book did not contain that many pages.
In the end, Premier Zhou Enlai confirmed that Mao had indeed called Chen Yi a good comrade, leaving the young revolutionaries somewhat deflated. Many suspect that Chen Yi in fact invented this quotation but, strangely, Mao gave it retrospective authenticity. At the disgraced foreign minister’s funeral in 1972 (which Mao attended in pyjamas with a greatcoat thrown over them having risen unexpectedly from his sickbed), he told the grieving widow that her husband had been a good and loyal comrade.
Delia Davin
Emeritus professor, University of Leeds

I am appalled that your Guardian style guide author David Marsh advocates dispensing with elements of grammar that have been sacrosanct among the educated classes for centuries. His disregard for rules on split infinitives, the subjunctive tense or the ending a sentence with a preposition made my blood boil. Is the grammar of today’s schoolchildren, already so influenced by the need to keep their missives down to a paltry 140 characters, not bad enough, that Mr Marsh should wish to encourage such sloppiness by recommending a general dumbing-down of our beautiful language? Whatever next? Would he be so bold as to suggest we no longer use words such as referenda or formulae? Why not go the whole hog and say that there is no difference between less and fewer?
May I propose that the Guardian, which has an unfortunate history of committing a number of famous typos and clangers over the years, to the extent that it has often been lampooned by the likes of Private Eye among others, be not the most authoritative organ to bid that we rewrite our grammar books? Please stick to things at which you excel, such as current affairs and great news articles, rather than dabble in things about which you have shown yourselves to be defective.
Tristán White
External examiner, University of London
• I must defend the imperfect subjunctive where meaning is at stake. I have regularly been alarmed by such statements as “England may have lost the match without Rooney” when what was meant was “England might have lost the match without Rooney”. I’m sure Wayne would agree.
Janet Sturgis
Tunbridge Wells, Kent
• Tony Haynes’s letter (3 October) about “First (never firstly), secondly, thirdly…” reminds me of the cartoon of two elderly dons walking across the quad, one of them saying “and, ninthly…”.
Michael Bulley
Chalon-sur-Saône, France

I’m the managing director of a number of companies on Teesside and come from a humble working-class background, qualifying as a chartered engineer by means of part-time and sandwich courses over a 10-year period. I have been critical of people sponging from the state, but I also have sympathy for the young people who find themselves caught between a drastically reduced labour market and a government that is encouraging older people to work later in life.
The pronouncement to stop housing benefit for under-25s unless they “earn or learn” (Report, 3 October) appears to be aimed at some parallel universe where educational establishments have unlimited places for students who can afford them without living in penury for the rest of their lives or drawing down on the precious funds put away for retirement by parents and grandparents, followed by guaranteed jobs waiting for them on graduation. Or the other inhabitants of this parallel universe, who decide to earn rather than learn and can pick and choose their jobs without submitting thousands of applications all to be rejected without even a reply. It is also a parallel universe where when a young woman faced with the loss of housing benefit and loss of shelter doesn’t make a decision to get pregnant and thereby keep her housing benefit.
The policies being espoused by the government are badly thought out and unworkable. Our own universe has a finite number of jobs, a finite number of educational places and a requirement by the inhabitants to have shelter and food. The parallel universe where these are not needed only seems to exist in the minds of government planners and ministers.
Frank Cooke
• David Cameron’s announcement detailing Tory plans to remove housing benefit and jobseeker’s allowance from young people is a chilling reminder of his party’s cruelty. Despite the rhetoric about “a land of opportunity”, punitive and callous policies like these will not alter the fact that more than five jobseekers are chasing every vacancy. Threatening us with homelessness and destitution will not create the 2m jobs needed to deal with mass unemployment.
The Youth Fight for Jobs campaign was set up in 2009 to take up the issue of mass youth unemployment – to help organise the “lost generation”. Since then, our unemployment figures have continued to rise. We’ve had crackpot workfare scheme after workfare scheme, but no progress has been made as a result. Our challenge to politicians is for them to stop blaming those who fall victim to an economic system in crisis and brutal austerity, and instead pledge to carry out a mass, publicly funded programme of job creation. If they fail, it’s safe to say the mass protests that have swept the world will surely come to Britain too.
Claire Laker-Mansfield
Spokesperson, Youth Fight for Jobs
• Democracy is about everybody mattering equally, including in the way we manage our wealth and welfare. That means the people between 18 and 25, the age range least likely to vote, should have an equal say. These are the people who are now hearing that benefit entitlements are likely to be taken away from them. Democracy is for the frail elderly who have played their part in building the country, the managerial workers who are earning buckets, the unskilled on a minimum wage, and the yet-to-make-a-bean youngsters who need to believe it’s on their side if they are to contribute to it.
The 18-25s need help to believe it’s worth joining in a fair democratic country where their vote will make a difference to their life choices and life chances. We’ve now created a society so in thrall to material success that it feels fair to many that if you’ve made it you deserve more power, more say. That is not democracy. In a democracy, citizens are gifted their equality by virtue of birth, not by merit of success.
We are running out of ways to convince the under-25s that there’s a shred of truth in this. No wonder the ruling party can take the risk of putting their nose out of joint. They are becoming the unseen, disposable minority.
Andy Thornton
Chief executive, Citizenship Foundation
• With David Cameron’s conference pledge to threaten the under-25s and Nick Clegg’s betrayal on university fees, it might be an idea for the coalition to announce raising the voting age to 26.
Simon G Gosden
Rayleigh, Essex
• So, no welfare safety net for anyone under the age of 25? I can only assume that the Tories are so caught up in the paranoid myth of young people in semi-feral criminal gangs living on the margins of society, that they’ve decided to come up with a policy to make it actually happen.
Nigel Hamilton

Well done Michele Hanson for taking up the cello in her 60s (A certain age, 30 September). She expressed her joy at discovering that recent research said it was good for her brain, enlarging the frontal cortex. People of all ages – including some in their 70s – have been joining the East London Late Starters Orchestra for the last 30 years to learn a string instrument. They will be delighted to hear Michele’s news. For many, the experience has changed their lives dramatically, opening up new social networks, giving men and women confidence in themselves and bringing passion and laughter to the painful process of growing old!
Jenny Thornley
• It would indeed “be a scandal” if Peter Higgs were not awarded a Nobel prize (Profile, 3 October), but he will at least have the satisfaction of receiving the honorary freedom of Newcastle, his home town.
Jeremy Beecham
Labour, House of Lords
• Today I started my own action against the Daily Mail (Letters, 3 October). I went into two shops, stood quietly at the paper rack and then swiftly took a large pile of Daily Mails and carefully placed them underneath a pile of Guardians. Those Mail readers will never find them there!
Maggie Ryan
Solihull, West Midlands
• Yes, I too can remember sitting among the stones at Stonehenge (Letters, 3 October). Unfortunately it was the people who kept carving their initials on them that brought that pleasure to an end.
Alan Linfield
Tring, Hertfordshire
• Many of us have long been aware that hurling and Gaelic football are the most exciting and sporting field games (Editorial, 3 October). To see a game played with passion by young people, and commitment to the game rather than the bank balance, is refreshing and novel compared with the corruption of British football. Perhaps you could please some of us aficionados by regularly reporting GAA sports in your newspaper.
Michael McNaboe
• How wonderful to see Manchester City fans applauding the Bayern Munich players after being given a masterclass in attacking football (Sport, 3 October). The beautiful game is self-evidently alive and well.
Stan Labovitch
Windsor, Berkshire
The government is deliberately misleading the public, quoting inaccurate figures to force through its proposed changes to legal aid (Report, 2 October). A Ministry of Justice spokesperson has said: “At around £2bn a year, we have one of the most expensive legal aid systems in the world. At a time when everyone has to tighten their belts, we can no longer close our eyes to the fact legal aid is taxpayers’ money and it is costing too much.”
This statement is deliberately planted to suggest that the legal profession has ignored pleas by governments to reduce costs, costs it has previously suggested to the public are “spiralling”. The MoJ’s own statistics bulletin from 25 June 2013 shows that not only is this statement inaccurate, it is damagingly misleading. The figures show that spending on the British criminal justice system is falling and has been for a number of years. In 2007-08, the total criminal legal aid spend was £1.12bn, which fell by £146m (13%) to £975m in 2012-13. Similarly, the figure for very high cost cases, the most complex criminal trials involving terrorism and serious crime, has almost halved over the same period, falling from £124m in 2007-08 to £67m in 2012-13.
The government’s claim that we have one of the most expensive legal systems in the world is also wholly inaccurate. We have a different criminal justice system to other countries, based on an adversarial process, as the MoJ well knows. It means our legal aid budget includes figures that in other countries are simply transferred to other budgets. Figures from the 2012 European commission report on the efficiency of justice shows that of 14 European legal systems, England and Wales actually sits 10th, based on legal spend per inhabitant. At €80.8, the legal spend for England and Wales is smaller than that of Spain, Norway, Austria and Belgium and is dwarfed by the likes of Switzerland (€167.1) and Luxembourg (€137.7).
Finally the spokesperson says: “Our proposals would have more of an impact on those earning the most from legal aid – under our proposals a criminal barrister earning £530,000 would still receive around £430,000.” These figures are wholly unrepresentative of the average earnings of the criminal bar and their selection is a deliberate attempt to mislead the public. The MoJ’s own figures reveal that a barrister in this country is likely to earn less than £30,000 a year from the criminal legal aid fund and the suggestion that the proposed further cuts will affect only top earners is wrong. They are across the board. As a profession we have made many suggestions to the justice secretary as to how he can make significant savings. These have been rejected in favour of his desire to slash fees to barristers that have already been cut by 35% over the last six years.
We prosecute and defend the most serious criminal cases in the country. Surely we should be entitled to expect integrity from our MoJ as opposed to cynical attempts to mislead the public for short-term political expediency?
Alistair MacDonald QC Leader, North Eastern circuit, Gregory Bull QC Leader, Wales and Chester circuit, Mark Wall QC Leader, Midlands circuit, Andrew Langdon QC Leader, Western circuit, Rick Pratt QC Leader, Northern circuit, Sarah Forshaw QC Leader, South Eastern circuit
• Lady Hale maintains that the judiciary should be more reflective of society as a whole regarding gender and ethnic minorities (Report, 3 October). Presumably this is because different experiences, backgrounds and characters may help in producing wise judgments. If so, wouldn’t it be valuable if some judges were very poor, some lived on dangerous inner-city estates and even if some had a life of crime? This should remind us of the element of chance in court outcomes: pity those poor defendants who encounter severe judges, living in another world, lacking in appreciation of the defendants’ plight.
Peter Cave


The Coalition policy of removing benefits from under-25s if they are not earning or learning is seriously flawed. The experience of similar TOPS and YOPS schemes in the Thatcher years showed that it was impossible to stop employers replacing existing employees with subsidised labour from the ranks of the unemployed.
It did nothing to reduce long-term unemployment then and will not do so now. The balance of power in the workplace will swing toward the employer, allowing them to reduce wages and change the working conditions of existing employees with little chance of opposition while a ready pool of cheap replacements is available.
The only people who will benefit from this scheme are those who wish to maximise profits at the expense of their workers. This government is appealing to the basest of instincts without thought for the consequences.
Pete Rowberry, Saxmundham, Suffolk
The Conservative Party conference has highlighted the disconnect between these politicians and the public.
The Conservatives are privatising our NHS. They are getting rid of public services, and think people should not care for others worse off than themselves. We should only care for ourselves and immediate family. If you’re poor, old, or disabled, and have no savings or family to help you, then tough! That’s the neo-liberal way, and the Conservative way.
No matter how slick their speeches are, or how passionate they appear to be, Cameron, Osborne and May belong to a government who are tearing this country apart. They’re gutting our welfare system, turning our NHS into a despicable American-style health system, and are helping to redistribute the wealth of this nation into the hands of the few.
Mr Cameron wants another term to finish the job. I say, leave now while you still have a choice!
Colin Crilly, London SW17
Democracy is for the frail elderly who have played their part in building the country, the managerial workers who are earning buckets, the unskilled on a minimum wage, and the yet-to-make-a-bean youngsters who need to believe it’s on their side if they are to contribute to it.
The 18-25s need help to believe it’s worth joining in a fair democratic country where their vote will make a difference to their life chances. We’ve now created a society so in thrall to material success that it feels fair to many that if you’ve made it you deserve more power, more say. That is not democracy. In a democracy, citizens are gifted their equality by virtue of birth, not by merit of success. We are running out of ways to convince the under 25s that there’s a shred of truth in this.
No wonder the ruling party can take the risk of putting their nose out of joint by taking benefit entitlements away from them. They are becoming the unseen, disposable minority.
Andy Thornton, Chief Executive,  Citizenship Foundation,  London EC1
Miliband hit  by US-style smear politics
Once again the worst from America has come to Britain. The Daily Mail attack on Ed Miliband’s father is nothing more than a homegrown version of the Republican Party’s lunatic fringe and their visceral hatred of Barack Obama, with birthism and questioning his allegiance to America. One can only wonder what will next cross the Atlantic.
Sam Semoff, Liverpool
Regarding the recent exchanges between the Daily Mail and the leader of the Labour Party I note that Ed Miliband has been invited to repudiate the writings of his father. I wonder if Viscount Rothemere would care to similarly repudiate the activities of his great-grandfather, in his promulgation of Nazi ideology and the funding of the Nazi agent Stephanie von Hohenlohe.
Ralph Miliband served his country in the Second World War, as did my uncle, buried in Bayeux after losing his life during the Normandy landings. On behalf of the dead and wounded of the Second World War I would appreciate an apology for the first Viscount Rothermere’s “evil legacy”.
Richard Beckett, Birmingham
Will the Daily Mail now do a hatchet job on the sons of the Fascist blackshirts whom it tacitly supported in the 1930s?
Ed Miliband’s father was not in government, and had the right to hold whatever views he wished, as have we all.
Collin Rossini, Dovercourt, Essex
The Daily Mail condemns plurality of political expression at the same time as opposing any regulation of the press on the grounds of its being an attack on the freedom of speech.
Michael Rosenthal, Banbury, Oxfordshire
At last, some clear polarisation back in British politics! The Tories clearly wrong, Labour clearly right!
John Healey, Coventry
Wind of change from Denmark
I work for a Birmingham charity addressing fuel poverty, providing advice to tenants, and although recent proposals to make switching energy companies easier are welcomed, there is a much deeper problem with our energy system.
With production and supply so tightly monopolised by a few large companies, there is little competition to reduce prices.
Through tax incentives, communities in Denmark own around 20 per cent of the country’s energy-generation assets. This has produced a world-leading wind industry which supports tens of thousands of jobs. It has also helped to stabilise energy prices, as there is less reliance on international commodity markets.
Crucially, it raises awareness about energy issues, as individuals take an interest in the system. This approach could easily be applied in the UK, with the right support.
Stuart Bowles, Birmingham
Trains pay the taxpayer
David Lindsay (letter, 2 October) is wrong to say that franchised train companies “cost the taxpayer colossal sums in subsidies and have abysmal levels of passenger satisfaction”.
Figures published by the Office of Rail Regulation on 22 August show that net payments by train companies to Government were £256m in 2012-13.
According to a survey of almost 30,000 journeys by the independent watchdog, Passenger Focus, satisfaction with rail travel is at  82 per cent, a near record high. Combined with passenger  growth, there are now  500 million extra journeys a year rated “good” or “satisfactory” compared to in 1999.
Competition between train companies in bidding to run services incentivises them to expand rail usage and contain costs. This encourages a focus on providing passengers with a better service, helping passenger growth in this country to outstrip that of major state-owned European railways.
Rail franchising is producing a financial dividend which benefits passengers and taxpayers by helping to maintain investment in the network while Government support declines.
Michael Roberts, Chief Executive, Association of Train Operating Companies,  London EC1
Outrage in the hospital car park
Among the many reprehensible ways of exploiting the vulnerable which are increasingly a feature of our society, I have recently encountered one of the more despicable.
We now accept that it will cost to park at a hospital but I am sure that not everyone realises the draconian charges (£100!) for an excess charge for a minor overstay (less than an hour!).
I did have cause to wonder what goes through the mind of an attendant trained to follow company policies as they issue one of these tickets. Do they consider the possibility that the driver could be a patient whose treatment has overrun or been delayed or a parent accompanying a child undergoing a stressful procedure or an individual trying to come to terms with distressing news? No! Far better to assume that it is an irresponsible individual wantonly enjoying spending more time than necessary in the hospital.
John Dillon, Birmingham
Railway to  the Vatican
Andy McSmith (3 October) might be right about David Jones but he is wrong on railways. The Vatican has a railway. It is not electrified, so a recent pilgrimage train required a diesel engine to haul it across the border from Italy.
On 4 October 1962 Pope John XXIII used Vatican City station for his trip to Assisi. Sadly, Pope Francis is travelling there on the very anniversary by helicopter.
Leigh Hatts, London SE1
Sub-prime thinking
Most people who don’t swallow the Tory line that it was all Gordon Brown’s fault believe that a major trigger for financial meltdown was that too many people were given mortgages they couldn’t afford to repay.
The Tories’ big idea to improve our situation is to guarantee mortgages for those who can’t normally afford them.
Huw Jones, London N3
Marriage tax
In these days of state handout carrots for just about anything, I see that Mr Cameron is proposing a married tax break to encourage couples to tie the knot. This will no doubt be paid for by doing away with bus passes and winter fuel payments for those of us who have been married for 45 years. Another well thought-out gimmick.
Ray Willey, Birmingham
Big lies
Now that we have an Environment Secretary who refuses to take the threat of climate change seriously, as well as a Chancellor whose motto seems to be “Rob from the poor, give to the rich”, I’m finding it difficult to decide which is the bigger lie: “All in this together” or “Greenest government ever”. Tough call.
Mike Wright, Nuneaton, Warwickshire
All-day GPs
Mr Cameron suggests that GPs should extend their surgery consultation hours to benefit those in full-time employment or with family commitments. Is it not logical that dentists, opticians, pharmacies, hospital out-patient departments and even barbers and hairdressers also extend their hours?
Sydney Aynsworth, retired general practitioner, Gosport,  Hampshire


The potential of selective schools to strengthen the chances of bright children in and with partner schools is huge and should be exploited further
Sir, Strip out the language of threat and compulsion and Sir Michael Wilshaw’s call to arms (“Ofsted chief attacks private schools for failing to help poor”, Oct 2) was inspiring stuff: which school leader, state or private, does not want to make a better society? My school takes this obligation seriously: we want to act as an exemplar to our pupils, aware of the advantaged education they have received, to lead transformative lives in society, and what better way to inspire them than through the example of their own school working to improve the life chances of less fortunate children or the personal experience of making a difference themselves.
My rather public reaction at being included in Sir Michael’s list of schools doing worthy things which fall short of his expectations (sponsoring academies) was fury, fury at his advisers’ mistake — Highgate co-sponsors a Free Primary School and a Sixth Form Academy (the London Academy of Excellence) and is an educational partner with two academies in Brent — and fury at the enduring reluctance really to understand other patterns of partnership.
Highgate isn’t alone in seconding teachers to state schools but we have the full-time equivalent of four teachers committed to maths, physics and chemistry partnership teaching, including direct teaching, curriculum support, teacher training and enrichment classes. While it hasn’t been without its challenges (raising the money, for example), it has been unbureaucratic and its impact direct and manifest in an area of telling need.
I believe passionately in the potential of selective schools, with our concentrated capital of academically minded teachers, to strengthen the chances of bright children in and with our partner schools. I believe too that this opportunity to make the world better is a genuinely inspiring one to which more and more independent schools will rally. But, surely, the call does not need to be tinged with guilt or shame.
Adam Pettitt
Head Master, Highgate School

Sir, Sir Michael Wilshaw has probably annoyed the head teachers of state schools as well as their private school counterparts. Independent schools owe their apparent success to the money they receive in fees and to the in-built advantages their pupils have rather than to the quality of their leadership and teaching. It is offensive and ridiculous to suggest that independent schools have any part to play in righting the deleterious effects of the divisive education system in this country that they cause.
John Gaskin

Sir, Your leading article (Oct 3) is right to argue that many parents make deep sacrifices to acquire a better education for their children. Independent schools are not exclusive to the rich and powerful or “islands of privilege”, as Sir Michael Wilshaw argues. Many parents scrimp and save to ensure high-quality learning for their offspring. Further, academic scholarships and bursaries are available; there may be a need to make more available, but this is another argument.
The solution to the divide between the quality of private and state education is not to hector independent schools but to elevate the standards of state education.
Terence Crolley
Maghull, Merseyside

Heroin-related deaths have actually been falling in this country in recent years, while those related to methadone have shown a marked increase
Sir, David Aaronovitch (Opinion, Oct 3) makes a superficially attractive case for the legalisation of recreational drugs, including heroin and morphine. Unfortunately, he has misread the data. Heroin-related deaths have actually been falling in this country in recent years, while those related to methadone and legally available prescription opiates have shown a marked increase. In fact, most high-profile deaths from overdose in recent years, from Michael Jackson to Heath Ledger, have involved legally available prescription drugs.
Furthermore, the regulatory system for recreational drugs which Mr Aaronovitch advocates already exists. Viagra was initially available only as a prescription-only medicine. After a number of years, when its safety had been properly assessed, it was made available from behind the pharmacy counter. For other recreational drugs such as cocaine, heroin and amphetamine-type stimulants, the opposite situation applies; doctors have been using them for many years in carefully controlled circumstances but we know they are not safe enough to be made generally available.
Dr Nigel Keegan
Newark, Notts

The credit for the reduction in grade inflation at GSCE and A level may have been attributed to the wrong department
Sir, Your leading article “Carry On Learning” (Oct 1) credited the Secretary of State for Education with taking action to end grade inflation in GCSEs and A levels. In fact, though, this is the result of the steady and determined work of the regulator, Ofqual, since it was founded in 2009.
Amanda Spielman
Chair, Ofqual

‘“Marxist defends Marxist” is hardly an endorsement of free speech — especially when you recall how self-proclaimed Trotskyites persecuted conservative academics in the 1980s’
Sir, Your claim (Oct 3) that Ralph Miliband was not opposed to freedom of speech because he once wrote to The Times defending Robin Blackburn has little credibility. Mr Blackburn was then a prominent member of the Trotskyist International Marxist Group (IMG) and was on the editorial board of its revolutionary publication Red Mole.
“Marxist defends Marxist” is hardly an endorsement of free speech — especially when you recall how self-proclaimed Trotskyites persecuted conservative academics in the 1980s, driving them from university campuses for daring to question prevailing right-on orthodoxies.
Garry Bushell
Sidcup, Kent

Exercise can reduce cholesterol concentrations, but the reduction achieved by the use of statins is far in excess of that achieved by the use of exercise
Sir, Researchers at LSE claim that exercise is just as good as the prescription of statin drugs for the prevention of heart disease (report, Oct 2). We dispute this superficial view. Exercise can reduce cholesterol concentrations, but the reduction achieved by the use of statins is far in excess of that achieved by the use of exercise programmes. Furthermore, maximum reductions in cholesterol, achieved with high-dose statins, are associated with the largest reduction in risk, especially in patients at risk of recurrent heart disease.
We do not dispute that exercise is beneficial and improves the survival of patients with heart disease, but this must be seen in the context of the proper prescription of a healthy lifestyle in conjunction with drugs that have an evidence base in prevention.
Dr Robert Cramb
Chairman, HEART UK


SIR – Was it a good summer? The answer must be yes, as we have been picking ripe figs from the small tree that is growing in our back garden.
Monty Don, the gardener and broadcaster, has said that figs carry two, sometimes three crops of fruit at once, with two harvests in warm conditions, although in Britain only one will ripen a year as they need plenty of sunshine.
Perhaps this year, after our sunny summer, we will get another crop.
Anne Donaldson
Spilsby, Lincolnshire

SIR – At the time of the 1945 general election, the Conservative slogan was “Help him finish the job”, but the electorate rejected Winston Churchill. A similar appeal is now being employed by David Cameron. Let us hope that he will be allowed to do so.
On the basis of his speech in Manchester, setting out what has been achieved and what is in the pipeline, he certainly deserves to be given the chance.
Alec Ellis
SIR – While I support the Help to Buy scheme, can I implore the various participants in dealing with the scheme not to slip back into the situation where properties were sometimes “overvalued” for mortgage purposes, and where staff were set targets for mortgage lending. Most importantly, banks and building societies need to ensure that those people applying for mortgages have a reasonable prospect of meeting the future costs.
Unless discipline is applied to the management of the scheme, we shall find ourselves in the same position we were in only a few years ago.
Related Articles
A healthy crop of figs after such a sunny summer
03 Oct 2013
Cyril Mann
Rodmell, East Sussex
SIR – Roger Gentry (Letters, October 2) demonstrates a lack of appreciation of the importance of the supply of houses. If stamp duty is abolished and the supply of houses stays the same, the price of houses simply rises to soak up the extra money available.
Michael Keene
Winchester, Hampshire
SIR – It would be more beneficial to the nation if, instead of the annual charades known as Party conferences, politicians simply went back to work and impressed the public with what they actually do, rather than with what they say they will do.
Peter Thompson
Sutton, Surrey
SIR – Clouding the debate on fuel bills is the fact that we don’t know how much we’re paying for energy, and how much for “green” taxes and subsidies. A half-way house would be to show decarbonisation costs separately on all fuel bills. Even better would be to have them charged to government, and paid for out of taxes. We could then have transparency on the true cost of decarbonisation, and an honest debate as to its value.
Neil Bailey
SIR – As a veteran home bread-baker, I take issue with David Cameron’s claim that loading his bread-maker “takes (only) 30 seconds” (report, October 1) – a process where precision with the weight of the ingredients is key to a well-risen loaf. I hope that he, and the Chancellor, are more accurate regarding their predictions about the promised economic recovery.
Geraint Jeremiah
Swansea, Glamorgan
Marxist Milibands
SIR – Ed Miliband, the Labour leader, is quite correct in defending his father – any son would do the same (“Daily Mail has smeared my father with lies, says Miliband”, report, October 2).
However, it is also quite legitimate to draw attention to his father’s socialism when Mr Miliband tells us he draws inspiration from it – particularly given that Ralph Miliband stayed true to communism despite the overwhelming evidence of its brutality, totalitarian governance and efforts for world domination.
Michael Edwards
Haslemere, Surrey
Private education
SIR – I entirely agree with Tim Hands, chairman of the Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference (report, October 1), that parents are being “made to feel like social lepers” for wanting to educate their children privately.
We decided to have our three sons privately educated when each reached the age of 10. We could hardly be regarded as affluent and it was far from easy, but with the help of part-scholarships and my wife working full-time, we managed to see them through to the end of A-levels.
We went without expensive holidays, new cars, costly meals out, moving to a better house and boozy nights at the pub. But we still received snide comments about the children’s “posh” school (in fact it was rather like the grammar school that I attended) – usually from people who spent at least as much as we were paying for fees, on things that we had given up. We chose to spend money on our children’s education, and have never regretted it.
Peter Higgins
West Wickham, Kent
SIR – While working with some of Britain’s leading independent schools in establishing their international operations, I have seen them demonstrate that not only is British education a world-beater, but that there is a significant demand for it, particularly in Asia and the Middle East.
Notably, those who aspire to send their children to such schools are not “made to feel like social lepers”.
Stephen L Sidkin
Chair International Schools Group
London EC2
Care for the elderly
SIR – I agree with Jeremy Hunt, the Health Secretary, that the elderly are not getting good enough care from the NHS (report, September 28).
However, cajoling already overstretched GPs to work even harder is unlikely to be effective. In order to improve the care of the elderly, as distinct from producing soundbites for the party conference season, two things need to happen. We need a dedicated health visiting service, concentrating on detecting and supporting vulnerable elderly individuals, and an increase in the number of district nurses, so that better care can be given to them in their own homes rather than in hospital.
Dr Tim Cantor
Tonbridge, Kent
Plague of parakeets
SIR – The parakeets in Coulsdon may have gone because they have eaten whatever it was that attracted them there (Letters, October 2). Here in East Kent, each September a flock of around 25 arrive in my neighbour’s garden to eat the seeds off two or three large beech trees. This seems to last for a noisy week or two, and when austerity sets in they move elsewhere.
Bob Heddle
Ickham, Kent
E-cigarette regulation
SIR – Next week, the European Parliament is due to vote on new rules for tobacco products. One part of the proposal, which has strong support from Labour MEPs, is to regulate electronic cigarettes as medicinal products, a move which could significantly restrict their availability.
We, along with many public health experts, believe that this would be a grave mistake. E-cigarettes are used by an estimated 1.3 million people in Britain and are widely recognised as being infinitely less harmful than tobacco. They have the potential to reduce the negative health impact of smoking massively for individuals and their families.
That is why we are pushing for electronic cigarettes to be as widely available for adults as tobacco is, and are calling on our MEP colleagues and constituents for their support so that this part of the tobacco products proposal can be overturned.
E-cigarettes should of course be regulated so that they comply with relevant safety and quality requirements, but making them more difficult to obtain than conventional cigarettes would be a huge step in the wrong direction.
Chris Davies MEP (Lib Dem)
Rebecca Taylor MEP (Lib Dem)
Phil Bennion MEP (Lib Dem)
Sarah Ludford MEP (Lib Dem)
Edward McMillan-Scott MEP (Lib Dem)
Bill Newton Dunn MEP (Lib Dem)
Sir Graham Watson MEP (Lib Dem)
Sneaky scheduling
SIR – My early-morning commuter train has been rescheduled four minutes earlier, to give it a chance of arriving on time during “leaf fall”. But it still arrives in London four minutes late as usual, so taking eight minutes longer than the originally timetabled 38 minutes.
Is this just a way for Southeastern to increase my journey time by 20 per cent without penalty?
Ian Rennardson
Hildenborough, Kent
Chair etiquette
SIR – While dining in a busy hotel restaurant, my husband observed that about 80 per cent of the diners left their chairs where they were when they got up to leave. The rest took the trouble to tuck them back under the table.
Are these people naturally more polite or have they been taught to do this?
Daphne Veale
Clevedon, Somerset
Spain has been antagonistic towards Gibraltar
SIR – Clive Tyrell (Letters, October 1) supports the way that Spain has behaved towards Gibraltar. I would like to continue with his analogy.
Imagine you live on an island miles from a dispute between two neighbours, and have never experienced the dispute at first hand. Imagine that you believe everything said by the noisier of the two neighbours, a neighbour who has a long history of bullying the small chap next door. Imagine that you do not check whether the chap next door pays his council tax, you believe everything the bully says.
If one side is said to have dumped boxes, has the noisy neighbour also dumped exactly the same boxes all around his own garden? He even claims to own the garden of the house next door – indeed, he is keen to move into the next door house as well.
It is a defining characteristic of the British that we tend to support the underdog against the bully. Perhaps Mr Tyrell’s British characteristics have changed since he moved to Spain?
Annie Green
SIR – Gibraltar, over the years, has given work to tens of thousands of Spaniards, supported thousands of families and pays pensions to retired workers. Spain cannot support these families as it has such a huge number of unemployed.
When the frontier was closed in 1968 many of the Spanish breadwinners, who worked in Gibraltar, had to leave their families and go to France or Germany to find work. Spanish governments do not worry about what happens to their people.
It is Spain that has always caused problems with the frontier, by causing long delaying tactics or even closure. Gibraltar, on the other hand, has always gone out of its way to welcome people. Remember that the people of Gibraltar are British.
Stuart Brown
Goring-on-Thames, Oxfordshire
SIR – In his analogy, Clive Tyrell overlooks the fact that he has been sneaking into his neighbour’s garden and stealing from his vegetable patch for many years.
Andy Jennings
St Neots, Cambridgeshire

Irish Times:
Sir, – Arthur Beesley writes that 1,000 respondents were asked in an Irish Times/Ipsos MRBI survey what were the top three spending areas that they would cut if they were in government and were preparing Budget 2014 (Front page, October 2nd).
Apparently, 18 per cent of those surveyed said that they would cut university staff pay; 17 per cent would cut public sector pensions and 9 per cent medical payments to GPs and pharmacists.
Would it not be more clear-cut and meaningful to say that 82, 83 and 91 per cent of those surveyed were not in favour of cutting any of those spending areas? – Yours, etc,
Tinahely, Co Wicklow.
Sir, – With polls clearly indicating that the majority of the population wants a smaller budget adjustment, should the Dáil banish the Fine Gael austerity junkies to the opposition benches?
There is still time to put a new taoiseach, government and budget in place before year-end. – Yours, etc,
Hillcourt Road,
Co Dublin.
Sir, – I was surprised and shocked to read Minister for Finance Michael Noonan was contemplating the return of the 13.5 per cent VAT rate for the hospitality and restaurant trade (Home News, September 27th). This would be sheer madness in the current economic climate. For the first time in five years the industry was showing signs of growth, following years of massive decline (24 per cent in visitor numbers, 30 per cent in tourism revenue since 2008). Tourism has the capacity to play an important role in the regeneration of the domestic economy. Since the reduction of the VAT in 2011 it has created over 15,000 jobs in accommodation and food services. There is no quicker way to increase employment than through the hospitality sector, thanks to its labour intensive nature and regional economic impact. Little or no capital investment is required as the product already exists.
Like most other businesses, firms in the tourism sector have aggressively tacked their cost bases in order to remain viable. Hotels and restaurants have achieved significant reductions and passed these on to customers, but some problem areas remain. Many State-controlled or -influenced costs in particular have not come down; local authority rates and energy costs (up 50 per cent since 2005) remain a substantial burden, food costs have also increased substantially over the past year, up 6 per cent in 2013 alone. An increase in VAT will have a dramatic effect on our competitiveness with most of our major European competitors having lower VAT rates than Ireland.
My fear is that any further increase in costs or VAT will drive the hospitality industry towards a low-cost model. The only element of cost that we seem to be able to control is labour, you can see more and more establishments purchasing ready-made foods to reduce this labour cost. Currently at Kelly’s Resort Hotel we employ 197. Since there is no appetite in the market to increase room rates our only option will be to reduce our labour force by 12 to 14 persons if the VAT rate is to increase to 13.5 per cent. This is shameful in a country screaming 14 per cent unemployment.

The retention of the 9 per cent VAT rate is essential to attract foreign tourists but also to restore domestic demand. Total tourism and travel expenditure by Irish residents overseas was €4.4 billion in 2012, which is nearly €1 billion more than tourism and travel earnings from overseas travellers to Ireland. A strong domestic tourism market is a vital element in the recovery of the industry; we have to remain competitive in the domestic market to stop this outflow of Irish money to our competitors. – Yours, etc,
Managing Director,
Kelly’s Resort Hotel & Spa,
Co Wexford.
Sir, – With the exception of the construction industry, few sectors of Irish industry have been as negatively affected by the domestic and international downturn as the hospitality sector. In this week’s newspapers a further eight hotels appeared for sale in receivership.
Within 20 miles of Ballynahinch Castle, four long-established hotels have permanently closed. This results in the loss of much-needed jobs, reduced offers for our visitors and neglected buildings. These hotels closed before any measure was taken to support the industry. The VAT rate reduction on accommodation and food to 9 per cent has given many hoteliers a real chance of survival.
While many have struggled to meet their financial commitments, the reduction in VAT rates has given them the chance to breathe and consider ways to strengthen their businesses. The industry has not awarded itself pay increases and bonuses, it has instead sought to expand its offer and has created more jobs.
One swallow does not a summer make and as Minister for Finance Michael Noonan was at pains to stress, despite the recent positive reports of exiting recession, the economy is by no means robust. Similarly the modest recovery in the tourism sector is fragile and many businesses are still in a precarious position. In order to allow the positive effects of the 9 per cent VAT rate to take proper hold and bear lasting results, it should for the foreseeable future remain unchanged. Having implemented a strategy with proven results, it would be foolish of the Minister to now abandon it. – Yours, etc,
General Manager,
Ballynahinch Castle Hotel &
Connemara, Co Galway.

A chara, – I was dumbfounded when I read Kate Holmquist’s striking assertion that “Friendship – female friendship in particular – has many benefits” (Life, October 1st).
As a man with many strong and close friendships with other men, I didn’t realise that my friendships were subordinate to friendships between women – what have I been missing?
More than 395 men died by suicide in 2010. This comment by Kate Holmquist, in a national newspaper, does not help these men to seek help and speak out. Friendship prevents loneliness, offers companionship, boosts happiness, improves self-worth and helps one cope with traumas. Surely, these benefits are achievable for both sexes? – Is mise,
Priory Grove,

Sir, – Non-consultant hospital doctors will next week engage in industrial action due to the continued failure of the HSE to resolve the issue of excessive working hours which endanger the health of both patients and doctors in this country. A maximum shift length of 24 hours for NCHDs is the goal; the fact this is a compromise, and indeed a far longer maximum shift than that mandated by European law, should serve as an illustration of our current dire conditions.
In the decade since shorter shifts were demanded by law, doctors in this country have heard repeated assurances from the powers-that-be that every effort was being made to reduce our hours and make hospitals safer. Nothing has changed, except that many of our colleagues and classmates have emigrated in search of a working environment that allows them to provide the kind of care they envisage for their patients. There has never been any accountability or sanction for any hospital director or HSE administrator who allowed these illegal hours to happen on their watch. With great power comes absolutely no responsibility.
Barry O’Brien (director of human resources for the HSE), speaking on national radio, misrepresented the current position regarding the need for sanctions against hospitals who fail to comply with maximum shift lengths. He stated that NCHDs are seeking triple-time payments for hours in excess of 24 hours. This is not true. It is possible that this is the first industrial action in history seeking to reduce pay; through working fewer hours we will all take a pay cut and gladly so. If the HSE can implement what it promises it can, as it has promised before, then there will be no sanctions. In the meantime, it should refrain from misleading the public any further as to the nature of this dispute, as it is the public which ultimately loses from being cared for by doctors whose skills are hindered by exhaustion. – Yours, etc,
Yours, etc.,

Sir, – Joan Burton, Minister for “Social Protection” (welcome to the Orwellian reality of Ireland), is on a basic salary of over €3,260 a week, taken from the public purse. This does not include the perks, expenses and other public money that finds its way into her pocket.
This same woman has slashed the qualifying monthly rental limits for social welfare rent allowance to €375 for Limerick city – where average monthly rents in the private sector are well over €400 and the average private rent is €450. She has likewise slashed rent allowance limits across the country by differing amounts.
I am 63 years old and used to work as a senior journalist, but now I have a serious vision impairment due to the loss of the use of my one good eye as a result of an assault . Sight in my remaining “good” eye is poor as a result of an injury experienced when I was seven. I live alone in a small privately rented town house in Limerick city centre. I have lived in the property for two years and have made it my home. It is well suited to me given my present disability.
Despite the fact I am still attending regular post-operative hospital care due to having had major surgery to my damaged eye, I am told that as my rent is above the limits by €20 a month my rent allowance is to be discontinued after another month, regardless of whether I have found any alternative accommodation or not by that time.
My landlord had already reduced the rent to comply with the earlier rental allowance limits of €395 a month and cannot reduce it further as he would incur financial loss as a result.
This, then, is Ireland’s Department of “Social Protection” at work. – Yours, etc,
Catherine Street, Limerick.
Sir, – I wish I could say Lynn Cronin’s experience in trying to lodge the money collected at her coffee morning in aid of Our Lady’s Hospice and care services was a once-off (September 27th).
Unfortunately, operational changes by many banks to streamline their services mean many people have difficulty lodging their donations to charities. We hear about this daily and are very concerned at how these changes will seriously impact on charities raising vital funds.
For Irish charities, and the people reliant on their work, this move by banks away from accepting coins and cheques signals a very worrying development.
Fundraising Ireland research carried out over the Christmas appeal period 2012 shows nearly 60 per cent of Irish people still donate, mostly cash, on the street or through face-to-face fundraising. Campaigns such as Trócaire’s Lenten Campaign and the Irish Cancer Society’s Daffodil Day raise millions of euro in cash every year. Do we do away with these vital sources of income?
While we appreciate banks have to rationalise their services, we ask them to consider the enormous impact these changes have on charities, community and voluntary organisations.
Charities rely heavily on the goodwill of donors and supporters. If barriers are put in their way when they want to lodge the money they have spent time and effort collecting, they could eventually give up collecting. During these challenging times when the demand for social and charitable services are at their peak, this is a scenario that Ireland can’t afford. – Yours, etc,
CEO, Fundraising Ireland,

Sir, – I have great respect for Dean Robert MacCarthy and for his opinions (September 23rd), but I feel the issue of Protestant fee-paying schools is more complex than it may appear at first sight.
Given that much of the Irish educational establishment is denominationally controlled, I am sure a spot check of the theological bent of the pupils in any one of such institutions, irrespective of denomination, would find divil a few practising Christians of any persuasion, especially in the cities.
There will, of course, be a percentage of the progeny of those who are assiduous in the various practices of their respective faiths. Nonetheless, such schools have an overarching philosophy based on a value system that can (mostly) be a positive force in creating a society in which fairness and justice are valued and promoted.
In a day and age where darkening the door of church, chapel or meeting-house is becoming rarer and rarer, such schools remain something to be cherished. – Yours, etc,

Sir, – It is no surprise to hear that Peter Mathews has left Fine Gael (Breaking News, October 3rd). They always seemed like an odd fit.
Mr Mathews brought a fresh perspective to scores of issues, many of them in divergence with party policy.
His forthright views on the banking crisis were instructive, while his conscientious position on abortion legislation comes to mind.
At times, badgered by the career politicians in Fine Gael, he stood firmly by what he believed in, all the time remaining affable and calm in the political bear pit.
Whispering in the corridors will have already begun – who will be next to leave? – Yours, etc,

Sir, – I was saddened to hear that the church bells of St Bartholomew’s church on Clyde Road are to be silenced due to a noise complaint (Front page, September 21st). I can understand Dublin City Council is compelled to act on such complaints, but this is not music from an acid house rave or drunken party; and a sense of civic mindedness is required.
Would the city authorities silence Big Ben or the peal of Notre Dame following a noise complaint? These bells have rung out for 130 years – since long before the complainant heard them or perhaps moved in next to them. These pleasant noises are what makes up the fabric of a city; and part of our soul will be lost if they are silenced. What next, a time switch on birds to quell the dawn chorus? – Yours, etc,
The Paddocks,
Sir, The recent Comptroller and Auditor General report raises concerns that gardaí were unable to take appropriate action against the drivers of company cars because penalty points cannot be attached to companies (Breaking News, September 30th). What a cop-out.
It is my understanding that penalty points are put on a driver’s licence. Am I missing something?
If drivers break speed limits they should suffer the consequences.
Loopholes, if they exist, should be closed. – Yours, etc,
Richmond Heights,

Sir, – I was somewhat annoyed by your continuing indulgence of Denis O’Brien (Letters, September 27th) in his feud (regarding a perceived slight – otherwise known as the truth to simple country folk like myself) with a certain notable journalist.
Mr O’Brien has his own newspaper; it seems that in your attempt to be impartial the opposite has occurred, to the detriment of your readers’ enjoyment. After all, it is The Irish Times I purchase out of choice, not the journal in which Mr O’Brien has invested so much. – Yours, etc,

Sir, – I think Patricia R Moynihan’s idea (September 28th) is inspired. Any chance that drinks companies might fund separate emergency departments for drunks as they look for fresh sponsorship ideas? – Yours, etc,
Woodley Park,
Dublin 14.

Irish Independent:

* There has been a lot of discussion as to the value of the Seanad, but very little about its own symbolic status. The origins of an institution often have a lot to say about the status and role of the institution.
Also in this section
Noonan doesn’t ‘get’ the pain of emigration
We need a TV debate on Seanad referendum
Charges of a not so light brigade
The formation of the Seanad can be seen as the first stage of a lack of self-confidence in the Irish public sphere as, given that Ireland is a very small country, there would not seem to be a need for a bicameral political structure.
In fact, it was another example of a slavish mimicry of the departed colonial power. Britain had a House of Commons and a House of Lords, so Ireland deemed it necessary to have a Dail and Seanad.
Britain’s upper chamber was the prerogative of an inherited aristocracy, so Ireland created a chamber for its own political and academic aristocracy. The Seanad, very much a poor man’s House of Lords, stands as an indictment to the lack of vision of the founders of the State.
Little enough changed after the War of Independence. To cite Brendan Behan, “the Free State didn’t change anything more than the badges on the warders’ caps” in Mountjoy.
I would suggest that the oft-quoted point that the plan to dissolve the Seanad is a “power-grab” by Enda Kenny is specious. The two cataclysmic events in recent Irish history were the bank bailout and the wind-down of Anglo Irish Bank.
One of these was carried out by the Fianna Fail/Green government and the other by the current Government. Both actions affected the Irish people in horrific ways, bringing about austerity, misery and the completely unjust socialising of private debt.
On both occasions, the Seanad, that so-called democratic brake on power, was eloquently silent. There were no checks and balances, no debates, no critiques.
There was not even an attempt to delay any of this legislation in order to have a full debate on these actions.
The Taoiseach has no need to conduct a “power-grab” as the Seanad has little power and has staunchly refused to exercise the little power which it has.
Dr Eugene O’Brien
University of Limerick, Limerick
* It is incredible that billions of euro in unsecured bank debt can be tied to the Irish taxpayer in one late night sitting of the Dail, while it takes a referendum and lengthy campaign to ‘save’ €20m. Something is rotten.
Tadhg Casey
Patrick’s Place, Cork
* Exactly how honest and trustworthy has the Yes campaign been? During the term of this Government, the Seanad has brought forward 529 amendments to Bills which came to it from the Dail. This was because they were incomplete, erroneous or otherwise defective. In some cases this was because 63pc of the Bills processed by the Dail were guillotined, i.e. discussion of them by the Dail had been closed down arbitrarily by the Government before it was complete.
Not once during the campaign did the Yes side, led by the Government and Richard Bruton, ever address this issue – let alone attempt to deny or demolish it. Instead, they focused on the fact that only once, in 1964 (and that more or less accidentally), did the Seanad actually delay a Bill. That event is, in practical terms, irrelevant but it provided a convenient slagging point.
The single most important fact about the Seanad is that, even in its current unreformed state, it has been there, not just during this Government’s term but during the previous government’s term, to clean up or tidy legislation.
This entirely blows out of the water the argument that the Seanad is “useless”, “toothless” and provides no useful even essential function. Yet the Government has refused to answer this fact.
Maurice O’Connell
Tralee, Co Kerry
* Over the past number of weeks, Gaelic games, across the genders, has shown the world that it is the quintessential embodiment of sport. The hurling, camogie and football played on the hallowed turf of Croke Park was, at times, breathtaking.
The behaviour, fitness and skills of the players, all amateurs, were astonishing, astounding, awesome, amazing etc. Take your pick.
The fans showed their rivalry only by brandishing the colours of their respective teams. No barbed wire necessary here, maybe a barbed remark now and again, but nothing more.
Yeah, bar one fly in the ointment, the GAA has again shown that its games have simply no parallel.
The insect in the application that I speak of is the pre-match preliminaries at major matches. Prior to these occasions, we are reminded about the importance of “the panel”. Of how all 30 players have trained since last November and how the “fringe players” have made training sessions meaningful and their very presence kept the more prominent players on their toes.
One to 15 was a phrase bandied around in bookies shops, when referring to an impossibly backed horse. Twenty-six is as important as six. Beautiful sentiments indeed. What a pity they are not matched by actions.
Okay, each player gets to take to the field on match day. Good God, they even get to kick the ball to each other for a bit. But when the President arrives, all changes and only the privileged few, i.e. the first 15, get to meet our First Citizen. And, if that doesn’t stick in the rest of the panel’s craw, I’d bet being excluded from marching after The Artane Band really gives them that “surplus to requirement feeling”.
So come on GAA, you have almost the perfect package so a few tweaks wouldn’t cost much, save for an extra bob or two for a few yards of red carpet, but they would enhance the experience for those unlucky enough not to make the first 15.
Paddy Holdcroft
Tenure, Co Louth
* Please allow me to take issue with the Gerard O’Regan column.
I am 21. I am a languages and business/economics graduate working full-time and studying part-time on a post-grad programme. There are times of the year when I work seven days a week for very little money.
I have never complained about any of this but I and immediate relatives and co-workers of mine – who pay more than our fair share of tax – damn well know how to live frugally.
No institution will lend me anything for my post-grad fees either, so I reject being told I have a moral responsibility to be a good little boy and say nothing while reading how the people that destroyed this country make off with more than a few schillings for their loyalty to the European and Irish banking and technocrat elites.
I grew up in frugal circumstances and I live now in a town where the local population has been living frugally for decades. Most people when I was growing up bought a house and a car and maybe went on a foreign holiday. I don’t understand how that makes these people responsible for the illegal debts of Irish and European shysters and only pretentious elitist writers could blame the whole of our population for this.
Angela Merkel leads an economy whose products are undervalued and which has no minimum wage. The rest of Europe is being preyed on by this insidious ideology of hers that is really imperialist in its outlook.
There can be no recovery for us unless we leave the euro as it gives the German economy an unfair advantage over the whole of Europe.
A Purfield
Shop Street, Drogheda
Irish Independent

Meg and Ben

October 3, 2013

3 October 2013 Meg and Ben

I go all the way around the park round the park listening to the Navy Lark
Our heroes are in trouble they are back from leave and Pertwee is in early what can he have been up to?Priceless.
I get Meg and Ben to put books on Amazon
We watch Dads army v good.
Scrabble today Mary wins and get under 400. perhaps I might win tomorrow.


Kevin Sharpe obituary
Historian best known for his work on the reign of Charles I
Andrew Hadfield
The Guardian,

Kevine Sharpe loved all things American.
The historian Kevin Sharpe, who has died of cancer aged 62, transformed our understanding of the 17th century, in particular the character and culture of the reign of Charles I, and the relationship between the politics of his court and the onset of the civil war. In his most substantial work, The Personal Rule of Charles I (1992), he argued that, far from having been the naive monarch whose arrogance caused the civil war, Charles was a principled and often astute man who was dogged by hostile forces and appalling luck. While politicians argued that expediency was the way to offset crises, Charles believed that absolute principles had to be maintained whatever the cost, including his own life.
The Personal Rule of Charles I was Kevin Sharpe’s most substantial work
The book was widely read and reviewed and generated a great deal of debate. Kevin’s writing was characterised by his lucid, reader-friendly prose; he always believed that proper scholarship need not be obscure and that historians should always make their arguments accessible without compromising their standards.
Kevin was born in Rochester, Kent, where he attended Sir Joseph Williamson’s mathematical school. He had planned to read law at university but was persuaded to change to history by an inspiring teacher, Keith Baker.
Kevin studied as an undergraduate and postgraduate at St Catherine’s College, Oxford, where he was supervised by Hugh Trevor-Roper. His thesis became his first book, Sir Robert Cotton, 1586-1631: History and Politics in Early Modern England (1979), a timely re-evaluation of the life, work and political significance of the antiquary, which established one of the many strands of Kevin’s wide-ranging research interests.
Kevin was a junior research fellow at Oriel College (1974-78) and a lecturer at the University of Southampton. He was awarded a personal chair in 1994 and moved on to appointments at Warwick (2001) and Queen Mary (2005). At the time of his death he was about to return to Southampton, where he had been especially happy and where he had always kept a house.
His second book, Criticism and Compliment: The Politics of Literature in the England of Charles I (1987), was awarded the Royal Historical Society’s Whitfield prize. A rare study of literature by a historian, it addressed the need to establish the wider reputation of the monarch through an analysis of how he was represented beyond official state papers and political correspondence. In studying the poetry of Sir William Davenant, Thomas Carew and Aurelian Townshend, as well as the variety of court masques, Kevin showed how authors simultaneously supported the king through lavish public praise, while also suggesting that he might want to try other courses of action. This has been a staple of literary criticism ever since but was by no means accepted wisdom in the late 1980s. It is not surprising that Kevin’s chairs were held in English as well as history departments.
Criticism and Compliment began Kevin’s lifelong fascination with the power of images, the subject of the trilogy that dominated the last phase of his career. Selling the Tudor Monarchy: Authority and Image in 16th-Century England was published in 2009 and Image Wars: Promoting Kings and Commonwealths in England, 1603-1660, came out the following year. The last volume, covering the 18th-century, will be published posthumously.
Kevin probably held more internationally prestigious fellowships than anyone else working in the humanities. He spent significant periods at Princeton, Yale, Stanford, the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington DC and the Huntington Library in California, and was awarded major grants by the Leverhulme Trust and the Alexander Von Humboldt Foundation. Kevin was especially fond of America, its culture, food and popular music, in particular blues and soul (he argued vociferously that 1968 had marked the end rather than the beginning of an era), and he often wondered out loud how he could fashion a life which brought all his friends together in a pub, a library or on a beach.
He was an instinctively maverick conservative, with little time for what he saw as the tiresome pieties of the left. He was also as naturally egalitarian and would seek out those who he thought valued good conversation and witty banter, many quite different to him in character and belief. He was a resolutely cheerful, generous-spirited man, who, when he did boast, expressed immense pleasure that he had been able to help others obtain their dues.
Kevin is survived by his sister, Carol, and his nieces, Sara and Karen.


In the 1980s, I took some of my students to a history workshop conference in Oxford. We heard lectures from Ralph Miliband, among others (Ralph Miliband didn’t hate Britain, says his biographer – his enemy was injustice, 2 October). He analysed and rejoiced in the great British radical tradition, from the Lollards and Levellers, Thomas Paine, Wilberforce and the anti-slavery movement, Shaftesbury and, yes, the trades unions. He talked also of the remarkable British tolerance and readiness to receive immigrants and refugees, like himself. Of course, he was an immigrant, a socialist and a gifted intellectual – all the things despised by the Daily Mail.
I loathe the Mail and its politics because it expresses everything that is foul about the rightwing in this country. That does not mean I am the less patriotic. Quite the reverse. It is because I love my country that I find the Mail unpatriotic, nasty, intolerant and everything that demeans Britain.
Colin Pickthall
Ulverston, Cumbria
• It must have been tempting for Ed Miliband to have ignored the Mail article, assuming it was so ridiculous it would soon be forgotten. However, this is the mistake John Kerry made in 2004 when the swift boat veterans made fictitious claims about his Vietnam war record. The people who benefited were Dick Cheney and George Bush, who both would probably have chosen to keep their own history of that era secret. Incidently, the Mail’s history of not letting the facts get in the way of a good story goes back many years. During the Boxer rebellion on 16 July 1900, their Shanghai correspondent reported “the death of all foreigners in Peking”. They had been “put to death in the most atrocious manner” except in cases where men had been able to shoot their own wives and children before the Chinese burst in. For two weeks the story was believed and a mass service of mourning was organised for St Paul’s Cathedral. This had to be cancelled when it was found not to have happened (Source: Dreadnought, by Robert K Massie, 1992).
Colin Macarthur
Ramsbottom, Lancashire
• The Mail now obviously draws its editorial line straight from Ukip. In the Ukip cultural policy statement in 2010, “Restoring Britishness”, we were told: “As this first generational wave of Marxist-sympathisers age, a new generation is taking their place. Two senior New Labour ministers, David and Ed Miliband, are the sons of Trotskyite Ralph Miliband, who is buried in the same cemetery as Karl Marx… They represent the next generation of highly placed leftist social engineers, who will carry on the dangerous work the so called ‘generation of 68′ started unless stopped politically.” This was republished on the Ukip website in April 2013. The right judges us by our burial places as well as our written and genetic legacies.
Rev Andrew Davey
• The Mail hates Ralph Miliband because he wanted to create a better world; a more equal and just one, not dominated by the pursuit of profit and the dominance of a small, powerful, rich elite. He was a socialist and proud to be, who drew his inspiration from the struggles of the oppressed and developed a critique of capitalism which was based on a Marxist analysis. His last book, Socialism for a Sceptical Age, published in 1994 (and, by the way, well worth a read), foresaw how private enterprise would come to dominate all sectors of economic life. His answer was the construction of a different society, which would create genuine citizenship and community: yes a socialist society. If that’s evil, then I’m a cabbage.
Jol Miskin
Workers’ Educational Association, Sheffield
• Of all the countries in Europe, it’s only England where being a Marxist could be construed as proof positive that one is an enemy of the nation, as opposed to merely espousing a mainstream political and philosophic position that some support and some oppose. Is it no wonder that, firstly, the Daily Mail’s mental map sees the English Channel as the same width as the Atlantic Ocean and, secondly, that the rest of Europe see this country as politically, intellectually and emotionally isolationist?
Simon Sedgwick-Jell
• The Daily Mail had form long before its appalling support of the fascists during the 1930s (Letters, 2 October). In 1924, it played the red smear card when it published the so-called Zinoviev letter. This purported to be from the Communist International to the Communist Party of Great Britain, calling on British communists to mobilise “sympathetic forces” in the Labour party to support an Anglo-Soviet treaty. The Daily Mail published this just before the 1924 general election, lost by the first Labour government, under the headline Civil War Plot by Socialists’ Masters.
The letter, probably a forgery concocted by dissident White Russians, and leaked to the Conservative party by MI6, had the desired result. Plus ca change indeed.
John Kew
Sawbridgeworth, Hertfordshire
• As someone who was taught by Ralph Miliband and who (like his sons) admired the man while rejecting much of his politics, I thought your reference to Orwell was spot on (Editorial, 2 October). Orwell’s brand of radical patriotism, captured in his description of the country as “a family with the wrong members in control”, would also qualify him in Mail-speak to be someone who “hated Britain”. The real hatred comes from those who peddle this kind of pathetic nonsense.
Professor Tony Wright
• Ed Miliband might wreak vengeance on his Fleet Street tormentors in a manner that would benefit the rest of us by closing the tax loopholes that allow the likes of Viscount Rothermere, owner of the Daily Mail, to live in Wiltshire but pay tax as though he lives in France.
W Stephen Gilbert
Corsham, Wiltshire

The Conservatives’ latest proposals for a marriage tax allowance is even more retrograde than Tanya Gold’s damning critique suggests (A marriage of convenience, Comment, 1 October). It is Mr not Mrs Collins who will benefit. This is because the part-time workers and stay-at-home mothers to whom she refers will transfer part of their unused tax allowance to their partners. There is no guarantee they will see that money themselves. And there are fears that the policy will reduce paid work incentives for a second earner, thereby potentially increasing women’s economic dependence.
Moreover, even Mr Collins’s gains would be reduced should he be claiming universal credit – which will be calculated on net income – and the higher the tax threshold is raised, so the number of workers who earn too little to gain anything at all will increase. Raising child benefit would be a much fairer way of helping low-income families.
Ruth Lister
Labour, House of Lords

Your Lib Dem correspondents are right to draw attention to the false reassurances provided on the competition regulations of the Health and Social Care Act 2012 (Letters, 1 October), which facilitate the transfer of billions of pounds of NHS services to the private sector. However, their remedy, to seek an explanation from the prime minister, is both grossly inadequate and misses the point that these reassurances were also given by the deputy prime minister. It was only with his collusion that not only section 75, but the whole destructive act, became law. It’s time for Lib Dems who cherish our comprehensive NHS to drop the illusion that the coalition can be any part of the solution and start working with other parties and groupings to plan to restore the founding principles of the NHS before we pass the point of no return.
Dr Anthony Isaacs and Dr Edie Friedman
• Lib Dem support for the health bill, led by Shirley Williams, may have been given in good faith, but it was a tragic error, as her party colleagues now see. In contrast, the former health minister David Owen saw through it. He clinically dissected its many errors and dishonesties in a pamphlet entitled Fatally Flawed, which concluded “perhaps the government are deliberately hiding the ends because they know if they did not do so it would make its health policy even more unpopular and incoherent”.
Dr Sebastian Kraemer
Whittington hospital, London
• At the meeting of the board of the Wyre Forest clinical commissioning group on 1 October, in the absence of GP members with a conflict of interest and to the great satisfaction of members of the public present, board members agreed, following a well-structured governance process, to commission without competitive tendering most of the local enhanced services from local GPs, the current providers. If other CCGs were to take the same approach, the coalition government’s potential privatisation of the NHS, made almost inevitable by the current Health and Social Care Act, could be seriously impeded.
Richard Taylor
Co-leader, National Health Action Party

The Tory party stopped being conservative in the 1980s, abandoning its commitment to the three Ps – patriotism, pragmatism and paternalism – which had kept it in power for most of the century before, and became a party of neoliberal free-market radicals, setting the tone for the last 30 years and leading to the inequality and poverty we see today (Seumas Milne, 2 October). At last, the Labour party seems to be waking up to the realisation that we can’t just go back to where we were pre-crash. We need a return to decent values, not the selfish materialism of the market. We need to stop demonising the victims and start systemic reform. Perhaps this is why the Tories are so worried about Miliband – he is more in tune with the emerging times.
Roy Boffy
• Is it not time to recognise that the infliction of pain is the principal motivation of the right in politics (Osborne’s spending plan: seven more years of pain, 1 October)? This government, with its blame culture, seeks any excuse to hurt people. The main one is “these people are bad, and we must punish them” (Note the word “must”: it converts pleasure to duty: this hurts me more than it hurts you, cruel only to be kind etc). Almost everything this coalition has done has been to this end: ever more impositions on the unemployed, no visitors for elderly ladies whose young relatives now cannot stay for the night in the spare room etc.
Tim Gossling
• If you follow the Tories’ logic, then during the good times when unemployment levels are very low, the “scroungers” for some peculiar reason decide to give up the good life on the dole and find a job. But during an economic downturn they en masse decide it’s time to start scrounging again. Even more peculiarly, scroungers prefer to live in the poorest parts of the UK instead of the more prosperous south-east. The reasoning would be hilarious if it wasn’t so hateful.
Paul Morrison
• If the prime minister wants all under-25s to be “learning or earning”, the simplest solution would be to reinstate the Future Jobs Programme. This was probably the most effective youth employment programme I have seen in my 30 years’ experience, as it created real jobs and improved young people’s prospects. However, the government will almost certainly produce another half-baked scheme like the Work Programme, which creams off those who would succeed anyway and neglects the rest.
Don Macdonald
• The left is not against profits that benefit society accruing from the production and distribution of goods that serve the needs of the people. It is against profits made from exploiting workers and using basic human needs to make private profit designed to accumulate wealth for a few selfish individuals – who then use tax loopholes to avoid sharing that wealth. When Cameron asserts the Tories are championing responsible businesses, he seems to be moving towards a long-held socialist ideal. Let us hope his policies will reflect this conversion.
Fred Lowe

I was disappointed to see a letter (2 October) referring to the Tory party’s “normal Rotary Club prejudice”. This is lazy stereotyping and years out of date. Rotary is an international outward-looking global organisation engaged in projects such as the polio eradication and the purchase and supply of prosthetics to war victims and those in the developing world. I’d suggest Guardian readers visit his or her local Rotary Club and prepare themselves for a very pleasant surprise.
Steve Pound MP
(Lab, Ealing) Rotary Club of Greenford
• I fear Michael Berkeley’s proposal for the House of Lords appointments’ commission to select all new peers (Comment, 1 October) will fall at the first hurdle. Within its terms of reference, the commission currently blithely approves the party leaders’ nominations whose sole attribute is the donation of substantial sums of money to the party of the leader nominating them. Until payment for peerages is specifically outlawed, other reforms will be seen as much less significant.
Michael Meadowcroft
• Your roundtable says the value of apprenticeships is being undersold (2 October). They have missed the point. The problem is not one of demand but supply: well-constructed apprenticeship programmes attract 10 times as many applicants as places. Continual hortatory promotional campaigns and labelling any training scheme that moves an apprenticeship will not solve this problem.
Professor Martyn Sloman
Kingston Business School
• Remember when you could walk up to Stonehenge and sit quietly among the stones contemplating the past (Report, 1 October)? No tourist centre, cafe or recreated past to provide the “experience”, just the pure joy of feeling part of our history.
Mabel Taylor
Knutsford, Cheshire
• My favourite pedantic fetish (How to stop worrying and write proper, G2, 1 October), because it is elegantly eccentric and apparently inconsistent, is “first (never firstly), secondly, thirdly … last (or finally)”. According to my headmaster decades ago, the enumerators need to be adverbs, not adjectives – but then he was a classicist…
Tony Haynes


What planet does our environment minister live on?  This week the United Nations published the most comprehensive and conclusive report yet on global warming. It’s happening and we are causing it. 
But our environment minister is not worried. Warm is better than cold, he argues; agriculture will thrive and fewer people will freeze.
Well, at least in this country. Forget about the consequences of rising sea levels, greater unpredictability in weather patterns, and more widespread flooding. Forget about the scientific evidence that wildlife in the UK will not be able to adapt quickly enough to survive. Forget, for that matter, about the rest of the world. 
When Owen Paterson seeks to reassure us by saying “We are very good as a race at adapting” just who or what is the “race” he has in mind?  Did he perhaps mean “species”? Perhaps it is time for someone who can speak the language of science to take over government responsibility for helping to address the biggest problem we as a race, species or life form have ever faced.
René Olivieri, Chair, The Wildlife Trusts, Newark, Nottinghamshire
You report on Environment Secretary Owen Paterson’s dismissive views on the science of climate change, and then you report in his CV that Paterson studied history at university. This is yet another example of an arts graduate meddling in things that he does not understand.
Paterson is no more qualified to comment on science than I am on history, and he should keep his half-baked ideas to himself. It is horrifying to think that this clueless amateur is in charge of a major and critically important area of British science. We should have many more experienced professionals such as scientists, technologists and engineers in government, and it is high time that the cult of the amateur was kept out of public affairs.
Sam Boote, Nottingham
I read your brief profile of Owen Paterson (1 October) and thought: what kind of fool would hire this man as Environment Secretary?
David Ridge, London  N19
We need to move beyond stale debates about climate change. What is irrefutable is that we need to reduce our impact on the planet. The Inter- governmental Panel on Climate Change report outlines a clear roadmap on the key steps we need to take.
Whilst businesses have signed up in increasing numbers to tackle climate change, there is a clear lack of commitment from the UK Government, as illustrated by the Environment Secretary, Owen Paterson.
Green businesses not only work more efficiently and increase productivity but also improve their bottom line. The Government needs to recommit itself to the climate change agenda, sending a clear signal that there is an opportunity for growth and new jobs if we can create a genuine green economy. 
Trewin Restorick, CEO Global Action Plan, London WC2
So sceptic Professor Judith Curry reckons the IPCC “is toast” (“Financial markets ‘our only hope’ to tackle climate change”, 28 September). Isn’t that all the proof needed for global warming?
Bruce Ross-Smith, Oxford
Keep those  profits clean,  Mr Cameron
The Prime Minister says “profit” is not a dirty word. Surely the point about profit is how it is made, and what is done with it thereafter.
Is the profit made honestly and fairly, or is it derived from paying poverty-level wages to employees (who then have to claim top-up welfare benefits to survive) and charging rip-off prices to customers?
Is the profit then shared among the workforce which actually created the wealth through their labour, or does it merely line the already bulging pockets of the bosses and CEOs?
And is the correct amount of corporation tax paid, or are the profits siphoned off into bogus offshore accounts and tax havens?
These are what determine whether or not profits are “dirty”, Mr Cameron.
Professor Pete Dorey, Bath
It’s no surprise Mr Cameron believes “profit” isn’t a dirty word. What does he feel about these words: “immigrant”, “asylum seeker”, “refugee”, “unemployed”, “disabled”, “poor”, “benefit claimant”, “single parent”, “public service”, “NHS” “library”, “public ownership” and “society”?  
Sasha Simic, London N16
The politics  of tobacco
It will come as no surprise to the public health world to find that tobacco companies exhibit at the Labour Party conference (“How Labour’s coffers are primed to go up in smoke”, 23 September). After all, tobacco firms have a legal obligation to their shareholders, and lobbying political parties of all persuasions is one way of fulfilling that obligation.
However, it is disappointing that the Labour Party should be benefiting from tobacco. Unlike other threats to our health, such as alcohol or saturated fat, tobacco is the only product that we can buy legally that, when it is used as intended, can kill half of its customers.
We know that most smokers start when they are children, which is why the Faculty of Public Health wants to see the introduction of standardised packs. When it comes to health policy, the public need to have faith in the independence of politicians who may be making life-or-death decisions on our behalf. That’s why we believe no political party should be benefiting from the profits of tobacco companies.
Professor John Ashton, President, Faculty of Public Health, London NW1
The man who ‘hated Britain’
The Daily Mail has hit an all-time low in accusing a dead man, Ed Miliband’s father, of hating Britain, when all he did was advocate (correctly in my view) that we should not support the USA in bombing Vietnam.
I have written to the chairman of the John Lewis Partnership that I will no longer shop in Waitrose for as long as they promote this awful newspaper through their “my Waitrose” promotion. I hope others of like mind will boycott Waitrose until they get the message.
Malcolm Howard, Banstead, Surrey
Obviously Paul Dacre and Jon Steafel, the editor and deputy editor of the Mail, love the Queen and the Church, as they are so offended by Ralph Miliband’s hatred of those institutions. Yet Miliband served in the Royal Navy to defend them. In what branch of the armed services did those two chancers risk their lives for Queen and country?
Fabian Acker, London SE22
The post-war generation of Marxists worked for a revolution in Great Britain; they did so knowing that other revolutions elsewhere in Europe that they supported did involve the liquidation of “class enemies”, often in large numbers.
They did not necessarily “hate Britain” but some of them certainly hated many of their fellow-countrymen, and there is no reason to doubt their willingness to deal with them in a very brutal way had they succeeded in their political endeavours. The fact that they lost is no good reason not to question the morality underpinning their plans.
R S Foster, Sheffield
Funny how commentators, both young and old, love to mock the “Old Labour” Seventies, which were pretty much like the Sixties. I grew up then and enjoyed free education; there were plentiful job opportunities and housing, and I paid £15 a week for a rent-controlled three-bed flat in Notting Hill with secure tenancy. Utilities took up a small part of my income and train travel was cheap, with uncrowded trains that ran on time.
In its most basic elements, life was good. And many people are starting to remember this. Hence, if it were not for the influence of right-wing media many more people would back renationalisation, which many already favour for the railways. They are starting to realise just how much has been lost since Thatcher and privatisation.
M McIntyre, Hove
Rise up and save Chartist mural
I have been writing about the Chartists for thirty years and, unsurprisingly, deplore the plan to destroy the mural telling the story of the  Newport Rising of 1839 (“Insurrection brewing in Wales over Chartist mural’s destruction”, 2 October). Leaving aside the contribution this mural makes to Newport’s own identity, it has a national significance. 
There are precious few physical reminders of Chartism, a movement which, in the second quarter of the 19th century, conscripted the support of millions of working people. If the Newport mural is destroyed, there will be left only the National Trust’s Chartist cottage in Worcestershire as a physical commemoration of the struggle of ordinary people to have a say in law-making. The Newport mural must be saved.
Stephen Roberts, Visiting Research Fellow, Newman University, Birmingham
Let’s all pay a  living wage
It is disgraceful that the minimum wage, which has just been increased to £6.31, is miles below the recommended minimum living wage of £7.45, which some responsible employers have recognised.
I would be happy to support companies and businesses that are paying the living wage and would have no problems with a small surcharge on the services provided, in the sure knowledge that the employees are being paid a fair rate for the job.
Dennis Grattan, Aberdeen
Keynes is back
It has been clear for at least the past year that George Osborne has been running a Keynesian budget deficit, whilst claiming exactly the opposite. Now, in his speech to the Conservative Party conference, he has indicated that in future he will run a budget surplus in the good times to pay for a deficit in the bad times. Is that Keynesian or is that Keynesian?
David Pollard, Salen,  Isle of Mull
George Osborne must be increasingly envious of events in Washington. For over three years he has tried to shut down the British state and failed. Yet in America they have managed to do it overnight.
Keith Flett, London N17


The attraction of university “status” for technical colleges has led to a dissipation of resources into non-technological subjects
Sir, Clive Bone (letter, Oct 1) may well be correct when he wonders whether we have the wrong sort of university. Despite the acknowledged technological superiority of the German war machine in the Second World War, the issue of appropriate models of higher technological education has bedevilled postwar governments in the UK.
Following the publication of the Percy Report in 1945, colleges of advanced technology were eventually established, only to be elevated to university status, with wider curricula provision, after the Robbins Report of 1963. Their place at the pinnacle of regional provision of technological education was taken by the polytechnics, which were praised for their ability to provide a wide variety of levels of technological education. The attraction of university “status” proved too powerful for their ambitious staffs, however, and they too were elevated.
This development has continued in more recent years in the establishment of the newest universities, with a consequent dissipation of resources into non-technological subjects.
With the replacement of the traditional pyramid model of human labour by a diamond shape, there is a pressing need for institutions of technological education to concentrate their provision in a range of technologist and technician specialities to fill the apparent current lack of skilled personnel.
Ken Dixon
Sir, The answer to Mr Bone’s question is that we have too many “universities” covering the wrong sort of subjects, and not enough technical colleges teaching the sort of skills the country actually needs.
Paul Milner
Sheringham, Norfolk
Sir, Do we have too many of the wrong sort of universities in the UK? The answer is probably yes, although it is a moot point as to what type of establishment should carry the title of “university”. Those UK universities that rank highly in the world according to the assessment criteria used (Good University Guide, Sept 28) are undoubtedly of great value to all aspects of our society and bring tremendous prestige.
However, we do need other establishments, whether university by name or not, that educate at different levels and in different ways to meet the many divergent strands on which our society is based and to give the UK a competitive edge in the world. Such establishments — which now are nearly all designated as “universities” — are of no less importance than those which we regard as elite. In this context it appears that although the original birth of the polytechnics was intended to meet this challenge, on the whole it has not succeeded.
Both before and since the metamorphosis into universities,
we have taken our eye off the ball. The success story in Germany may well be the reverse of this sequence of events.
Dr Tony Lawrence
Little Neston, Wirral

The only time that a catamaran will, inevitably, rest equally on both hulls is when it is becalmed
Sir, The minister who compared the party’s campaign to an America’s Cup catamaran (Rachel Sylvester, Opinion, Oct 1) should take more care with his metaphors (“This is an election in which the Conservatives need two hulls ….. you have to put equal weight on both. If we were to become becalmed on the tougher end that would be a problem”). The only time that a catamaran will, inevitably, rest equally on both hulls is when it is becalmed — except, possibly, when the wind is from dead astern. Cue further metaphors . . .
Grahame Solway
Gosport, Hants

If a theatre production has been broadcast on the BBC within the past 60 years can it really be classed as “long lost”?
Sir, The stage adaptation by John Gielgud and Terence Rattigan of A Tale of Two Cities (review, Oct 1) is certainly of interest to lovers of theatre. It is hardly “long-lost”, however. In 1953 (nearly 20 years after its stage production was shelved), it was broadcast by the BBC with Eric Portman as Sydney Carton. The cast also included Deryck Guyler as Defarge, and David Kossoff.
Roger Sansom
Hainault, Essex

The Prime Minister would do well to remember that capitalism can also benefit businesses that serve nefarious purposes, as well as the public
Sir, David Cameron is correct when he says “Profit is not a dirty word” (report, Oct 2). Capitalism correctly defined and understood is the voluntary exchange of value for value for mutual profit. However, there is a fundamental moral and economic difference between a business that earns its place in a genuine free market by way of democratic customer choice and a business that exists on the basis of lobbying, pull, subsidies, force or government favours. Mr Cameron would do well to remember the difference.
D.S.A Murray
Dorking, Surrey

Sir, As heartwarming as it is to read that profit is not a dirty word, it would be just as encouraging to hear the Prime Minister say that public service is equally honourable.
Lionel Bailey
Shanklin, Isle of Wight

The problem of having no proper access to broadband is not confined to isolated and rural areas – parts of our cities are in the same boat
S ir, It is not only “rural and isolated” areas that have no broadband (letter, Oct 1). There are many parts of central London that also suffer the burden — and uncompetitiveness — of poor speeds. Before we bankrupt the country with a new railway to connect Willesden with Tipton, can we have a competitive broadband service in Greek Street, Soho?
Julian Calderara
London W1

SIR – It seems to me that a redefinition of what services we expect from GPs is overdue (report, October 1). Based on my own experience and that of friends and family, we are expected to consult our doctor with colds, bruises and other minor ailments which we are confident that a good practice nurse would be capable of dealing with. If the nurse’s initial examination suggested that a more senior opinion is required, she could refer us to the GP. The conclusion, therefore, is that it is practice nurses, and not doctors, that we are short of.
John Ashworth
Helensburgh, Dunbartonshire
SIR – The local GP’s practice in a nearby village is next door to a veterinary practice. If you drive past the two buildings at 8pm you will invariably see the vets still working hard while the GP’s surgery has long since been locked up for the night.
Vets choose their calling because of their love for their patients – the animals. I wish the same could be said for those who treat humans.
Related Articles
The Government’s Help to Buy scheme could put long-term burdens on buyers and taxpayers alike
02 Oct 2013
Malcolm Allsop
Cringleford, Norfolk
SIR – If you have an appointment with the doctor at 8pm, and you are told you need a particular medication immediately, where will you find a pharmacy open locally?
Moreover, staff on reception will have to be found and paid.
Miriam Webber
Cheltenham, Gloucestershire
SIR – It seems crazy that I have a young, modern GP in a modern practice and yet I cannot email him.
On certain occasions it would save time and money for both of us.
John Alborough
Eye, Suffolk
High alcohol prices will not deter binge drinkers
SIR – Minimum unit pricing (MUP) is not the solution to tackling alcohol abuse in Britain (Letters, September 30). Pushing up the price of alcohol would unfairly penalise the responsible majority of drinkers and hit the poorest hardest, while doing nothing to tackle the root causes of alcohol misuse.
There is no evidence to support the case for MUP – the oft-cited model that has been used in Canada came out of prohibition and is more akin to a system of state-run off-licences. Meanwhile, the July 2013 revised version of The Sheffield Report predicted that the policy would lead to just a 1.6 per cent drop in consumption over a year – a modest figure considering that alcohol consumption fell by 3.3 per cent in 2012 without the policy.
No one denies that alcohol misuse is a problem, but it is locally targeted interventions such as the successful Community Alcohol Partnerships that have been proven to tackle alcohol-related harm in communities throughout Britain. The industry also remains committed to further voluntary action as part of the Responsibility Deal, which will see 80 per cent of labels containing information on unit content, NHS guidelines and a pregnancy warning, and the removal of one billion units of alcohol from the UK market.
It is this partnership working, not MUP, that is the key to tackling the minority that consume alcohol irresponsibly.
Miles Beale
Chief executive, Wine & Spirit Trade Association
London SE1
Barristers’ fees
SIR – Chris Grayling, the Justice Secretary, has pushed through cuts to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), the courts and the criminal legal aid budgets. The CPS is now near breaking point, and centralisation means that the link between the lawyer and the victim is lost.
Staff cuts have led to evidence being lost in the system. Cuts to advocacy fees mean that the best barristers are increasingly unwilling to conduct the most challenging prosecutions. Loyal, dedicated and honest court staff face redundancy, and decent high-street solicitors have been threatened with the decimation of their businesses.
Given this background, perhaps little sympathy is due to criminal barristers facing further cuts of up to 30 per cent to their fees. If, however, the brightest and best leave the criminal bar, who will be left to stand up for a decent criminal justice system? Victims of crime and victims of miscarriages of justice deserve better.
British criminal barristers have a reputation as among the best in the world. What exactly does Mr Grayling want to replace us with?
Owen Edwards
Wales and Chester Representative, Criminal Bar Association
Vanishing parakeets
SIR – My husband and I have become accustomed to seeing three or four parakeets in or over our garden. About three weeks ago, we were treated to the sight of a flock of about 50 flying around our house; we were amused by their antics as they tried to settle on the telegraph wires. This happened on two successive mornings at around 9am.
Since then we have not seen a single parakeet. Where have they all gone?
Pam Ledger
Coulsdon, Surrey
Parable from Gibraltar
SIR – The Spanish government has carried out an irrational campaign against Gibraltar (Letters, October 1). The Spaniards have, in all but name, declared war on The Rock, hurling every type of calumny against our jurisdiction and way of life.
From Gibraltar’s perspective, while we give employment to Spaniards, we have to live in close proximity to a refining operation run by a Spanish multinational oil and gas company which affects us daily.
The analogy we would use is different to Clive Tyrell’s: imagine a Rolls-Royce passing by, and a Gibraltarian saying: “I’ll work hard to get one of those,” whereas his neighbour, a Spaniard, says: “You shouldn’t be allowed to have one”.
Joseph F Garcia
Sleeping pilots
SIR – It used to be common practice, on long-haul passenger flights, for the captain and co-pilot to take alternate rest breaks in a seat at the front of the passenger cabin (“Pilots dozed off together in cockpit”, report, October 1). An individual left at the controls is likely to be more aware of his responsibility, as he knows no one else can take command if he nods off. I assume this was abandoned on security grounds, but I see no reason why it should have been.
Major David Carter
Kingston upon Thames, Surrey
Erudite plurals
SIR – Many years ago: “Graffiti is vandalism!” appeared in spray-paint on the wall of a Cambridge college (Letters, October 1). Underneath, a more learned soul had scribed: “And are plural.”
Michael Bacon
Farnham, Surrey
Sleeping pilots
SIR – It used to be common practice, on long-haul passenger flights, for the captain and co-pilot to take alternate rest breaks in a seat at the front of the passenger cabin (“Pilots dozed off together in cockpit”, report, October 1). An individual left at the controls is likely to be more aware of his responsibility, as he knows no one else can take command if he nods off. I assume this was abandoned on security grounds, but I see no reason why it should have been.
Major David Carter
Kingston upon Thames, Surrey
Erudite plurals
SIR – Many years ago: “Graffiti is vandalism!” appeared in spray-paint on the wall of a Cambridge college (Letters, October 1). Underneath, a more learned soul had scribed: “And are plural.”
Michael Bacon
Farnham, Surrey

SIR – I wonder whether the Government has properly assessed the long-term risks associated with its so-called Help to Buy scheme. History shows that artificial boosting of the housing market, while popular in the short term, can cause long-term difficulties once the scheme is discontinued. The abolition of joint mortgage interest relief at source in 1988 (a scheme designed to make home ownership more affordable in a high-interest-rate environment) led to a spike in house prices as buyers scrambled to pool their allowances before the perk was taken away. The post-abolition slump left many of those buyers in long-term negative equity.
A sustainable recovery in the housing market should be achievable in a low-interest-rate environment without short-termist (and dare one say “populist”) schemes which encourage the assumption of high levels of personal debt and the underwriting of that personal debt by the already overburdened taxpayer.
Iain Thomas
Tunbridge Wells, Kent
SIR – David Cameron rightly laughed at the idea that there is a house-price bubble outside London and the South East.
Related Articles
What level of service should GPs be providing?
02 Oct 2013
So why does he not restrict the Help to Buy scheme to postcodes outside the South East? Given the growing gap in prices between that region and the rest of the country, any rise in interest rates set by the Bank of England can only distort the economy further.
Rodney Atkinson
Stocksfield, Northumberland
SIR – The Government should explain more clearly to prospective purchasers how Help to Buy will work. Taxpayers’ money is not being made available to purchase a property – it will be paid to the lender to make up a shortfall on payment of the original deposit should the borrower default.
Therefore, borrowers will be on the hook for the loan as normal. They could lose their property if they default, and any temptation to stretch themselves because of the existence of this scheme should be resisted, because interest rates will rise.
Richard Larner
Bournemouth, Dorset
SIR – Help to Buy should be limited to first-time buyers and should certainly be disallowed for any person aiming to buy to let, or already owning a property. It should also be limited to Britons, although this is likely to cause a furore from the human rights brigade. The money would be better spent on much-needed social housing.
Freddie Pilditch
Wraysbury, Buckinghamshire
SIR – The best way of helping people to buy is to scrap stamp duty and put more money in people’s pockets for a deposit.
Roger Gentry
Sutton at Hone, Kent
SIR – Was there ever any question that both Lloyds and RBS would “enthusiastically support” the Help to Buy scheme, with the Government sitting respectively on 35 and 80 per cent of their shares? Who knows what schemes they may have to support under future, less business-friendly governments? The corrupt hand-shaking of state-influenced regional banks and local politicians played a major role in Spain’s economic tragedy.
Ian McVeigh
London N1
SIR – The recent back-of-an-envelope proposal from David Cameron regarding Marriage Tax Allowance supports neither marriage nor the family. Couples with one higher-rate taxpayer —who are not necessarily “filthy rich”, as Rachel Reeves, the shadow chief secretary to the Treasury, points out — will not be eligible, while couples who have no intention of child-rearing within a married environment will be rewarded. Who is this intended to benefit? Perhaps angry Tory backbenchers and swivel-eyed loons?
Alexander Mortimer
Darlington, Co Durham
SIR – My wife and I have a dilemma, given that the Conservative Party conference motto is: “Hardworking People”. We both balance demanding, full-time jobs with family life, but find that we have carelessly, it seems, worked rather too hard to continue to receive child benefit, or indeed the proposed married couple’s tax break. Clearly, we need to learn to slow down, or indeed chillax, a little.
Simon Millar
Poole, Dorset
SIR – At what point do hard-working people become non-hard-working people, and lose Mr Cameron’s support?
George Noon
Preston, Lancashire

Irish Times:

Sir, – The liberty of the people to have access to the Supreme Court is of monumental importance. I was preparing to vote Yes in regard to the court of appeal referendum; as the thought that the judicial appeals process might be speeded-up is attractive. However, the more I have learnt regarding the small print – forensically explored by Prof Diarmuid Rossa Phelan SC (Opinion, September 30th) – attached to this Court of Appeal proposal, the more I am left with no choice but to vote No.
Taking power away from the ordinary person to automatically access the Supreme Court (from the High Court or court of appeal), for the purposes of challenging the constitutionality of a law for example, and putting that power into the hands of Supreme Court judges who may decide to hear appeals if they are satisfied that it is “in the interests of justice” or “of general public importance” (which would be a subjective call on the part of the individual judges) that such appeals are even heard by the court, would radically change the relationship between the citizen and his Constitution.
The second part of this referendum proposal, which would allow minority judgments of the Supreme Court to be published, is also questionable in its wisdom; as the divisive nature of such a practice, while promising transparency on the surface, could turn Supreme Court judges into overtly political figures (as happens in the United States), rather than strict interpreters of the Constitution. This, in addition to the first part of the proposal, may have the effect of giving disproportionate power and untouchability to the Supreme Court in Ireland. – Yours, etc,
Knapton Road,
Monkstown, Co Dublin.
Sir, –   I accept there has been a significant increase in complex cases coming before the courts, as put forward by the Minister for Justice, Alan Shatter (September 23rd). But there has also been a correspondingly even greater increase in the number of straightforward cases that are made complex. 
For example, should an action concerning the application of the provisions of the Local Government (Planning and Development) Act 1963 to an advertising hoarding on a gable end of a building take two days in the High Court?  And should a libel case take five days before a High Court judge and jury? And is a Circuit Court judge not competent enough to hear such cases, with unlimited jurisdiction and without a jury? 
Broader reforms in the way we do business in the courts, including letting the Circuit Court have unlimited jurisdiction in certain areas of litigation, with an appeal to the High Court, and consideration of a per-case instead of a per-day payment basis for legal fees, would considerably reduce not only the cost of doing business, but also the time taken up in court during the hearing. 
Cheaper alternatives to the proposed court of appeal should have been at least considered and debated before burdening the taxpayer with further public expenditure. – Yours, etc,
Croaghpatrick Road,
Cabra,  Dublin 7.
Sir, – It was with incredulity that I read the final sentences in Fintan O’Toole’s article (“Say No to Coalition’s reform charade”, Opinion, October 1st). He states he will be “putting an X beside the No box and writing the single word ‘Reform’ neatly on the bottom of the paper”. Any returning officer properly carrying out the instructions on spoiled votes will, of course, deem this to be a spoiled vote (and will not be influenced by whether the additional writing is written neatly or otherwise!).
It is irresponsible to suggest such self-indulgent nonsense should be engaged in by referendum voters. The only proper way to vote in a referendum is to make the, sometimes difficult, choice and place a single X on the ballot paper. – Yours, etc,
Laurel Lodge, Dublin 15.
Sir, – I am appalled at the suggestion by Breda O’Brien (Opinion, September 28th) and Fintan O’Toole (Opinion, October 1st) that we should spoil our votes in the referendum to abolish the Seanad by writing ‘Reform’ on the ballot paper. There is no mechanism for recording such votes other than ‘Spoiled’.
I believe the margin in this referendum is likely to be slim. I also believe that the silent core of Fine Gael and Labour supporters have a strong attachment to and belief in strong democratic checks and balances and will not wish to see them diluted in any way.
Although the Seanad may have performed below its potential, to abandon it now, when the country is effectively dictated to by a gang of four and dissent is whipped into obsequious obedience or expulsion, would be to remove one of the few remaining levels of challenge to centralised authority. The No vote of every supporter of democracy will be needed to retain the Seanad. Spoiling any vote will lessen the chance of success.
As for Fine Gael’s vapid argument that the many reports calling for reform of the Seanad have not been implemented, a paraphrase of GK Chesterson is apposite – reform of the Seanad has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and not tried. – Yours, etc,
Acorn Road, Dublin 16.
Sir, – I read with some alarm and dismay the reports of the threat to the operation of a democratically elected government by members of the Seanad if the people of Ireland decide, as is their right, to vote to abolish the Seanad.
Are these Senators acting in accordance with democratic principles? Are they warning us, the electorate, that if we vote against their wishes we will suffer the consequences of a government so disrupted in its work that there will be an election before it is due?
Whatever doubts I might have had about the wisdom of abolishing the Seanad have now vanished as the true temper of these democrats in the Seanad has revealed itself. – Yours, etc,
Fethard, Co Tipperary.
Sir, – Surely the people will not vote to abolish a house which has been home to both the ineffable Donie Cassidy and the effable Ivor Callely. – Yours, etc,
Crosstown, Wexford.
Sir, – On re-reading old newspaper articles covering Seanad Éireann’s debates, it obliged me to question the wisdom of the current drive to abolish Ireland’s senate.
To cut it down in size and consider sensible re-modelling amendments to its functioning could be a wise decision to improve the quality of Irish political experience; to excise it as a single gesture to such improvement could well be a cause for regret, as afterwards it might be too late to make redress.
Few Irish citizens would regret Senate membership being reduced, yet those who are thoughtful about the Senate’s potential should demand it be more wisely processed. Its structure and purpose must be re-determined so it may enhance the overall political experience.
“Democracy” was described by Herodotus as “Taking the people into partnership”. It is therefore essential that a revamped Senate should have opportunity to select a cadre of persons known for their wisdom, knowledge, working and relevant living experience who would be responsible as “experts” drawn from significant fields of endeavour. Such experts would be selected by a joint group of Senators (equal representatives from each political party). These experts would then form a team of participating non-voting senators to give the debates extra relevant perspectives and information on the topics under open discussion and debate. The remainder of the House would have, as elected senators, voting rights as at present.
Finally, may I thank those citizens who have highlighted the role of the Senate in welcoming Northern contributions to the Senate debates in recent years. – Yours, etc,
Hopefield Avenue,
Portrush, Co Antrim.
A chara, – The “retentionists” for Seanad Éireann are being somewhat disingenuous. The vocational panels of the Seanad are a cod, as at the time of election, they are elected along party affiliations, without any consideration of expertise – this is a direct result of the electorate being councillors and Oireachtas members.

University senators are also being economical with the truth, as graduates of NUI do not have an automatic vote, they have to apply to NUI to be included on the register. As many are abroad, or not aware of the structure, it reduces the active voting constituency. This is in the interest of sitting university senators.
The incentive for retaining a second chamber, notwithstanding any future reform, will also operate as a very useful platform from which individuals and others may build/rebuild their brands.
The role of journalists to interrogate existing Senators – apart from the Quinns, Crowns, Zappones – as to their daily work, their key achievements and contributions, is awaited. – Is mise,
Thomas Davis Street,
Dublin 8.
Sir, – Encouraged to vote No by people such as Fintan O’Toole, Patricia McKenna, Shane Ross, John Waters and Richard Boyd Barrett leaves one with an inevitable and overwhelming responsibility.
I’m voting Yes. – Yours, etc,
Loreto Grange, Bray,
Co Wicklow.
Sir, – Just one good decision a year pays for the retention of a reformed Senate many times over. Make your own list of all the short-sighted expedients that haunt us still: Closure of the railways; fishing concessions, property tax instead of land value taxation, etc. – Yours, etc,
Balkill Park,
Howth, Dublin 13.
Sir, – The Dáil estimates that for 2013, an expenditure of €109 million has been made to fund the Oireachtas, of which, the Government asserts €20 million is allocated to the cost of the Seanad. Thus, a simple analysis of the costs reveals that each of our 60 Senators cost the State €333,333 per annum while each of our 166 TDs costs €536,145 per annum.
Yet how the Government arrived at this €20 million estimate is unclear. For instance, Kieran Coughlan, Clerk of the Dáil gave evidence stating the cost of the Seanad is €9 million, which calls into question the €20 million figure that is bandied about by those in power.
If we analyse the costs using this lower estimate, it reveals that each Senator costs the State €150,000 per annum whereas each TD costs us €602,409. Given that TDs quite obviously cost the State a great deal more, surely the thriftier option would be to retain the Seanad and reduce the number of TDs by 60? Depending on whether the Seanad costs €20 million or €9 million, a reduction in the number of TDs by 60 would save the State either €32.168 million or €36.145 million and we would still achieve the objective of fewer politicians. – Yours, etc,
Greystones, Co Wicklow &
Linden Court Grove Avenue,
Blackrock, Co Dublin.
Sir, – Democratically, government ought to be government with the consent of the governed, not government by a passing popular majority. There will always, in every society, be those among “the governed” whose voice is not loud enough to be head in the universal clamour; and it behoves every modern civilised society to provide a forum for these minorities.
Historically, in presenting a draft Treaty for consideration by the Irish delegation, a letter from David Lloyd George to Arthur Griffith, dated December 1st, 1921, states:
“As we understand that you have agreed with representatives of the Southern Unionists to provide safeguards for the representation of minorities, especially in the Second chamber, not less effective than those afforded by the Government of Ireland Act, 1920 . . . these matters have not been dealt with in the draft.”
The Government of Ireland Act, 1920, was given effect by the establishment of the Stormont parliament; the “understanding” as to what might happen in the South was given effect by the creation of Seanad Éireann and the provision that three of its members should be elected by the University of Dublin (Trinity College). History can judge which of these arrangements proved to be the “less effective”.
Constitutionally, aside from the university panels, Article 18.7 of the Constitution provides that members of Seanad Éireann should be elected from “persons having knowledge and practical experience” of, among other things, national language and culture, literature, art, education, agriculture, fisheries, labour, industry and commerce including banking, finance, accountancy, engineering and architecture, public administration and social services including voluntary social activities.
The idea of a parliamentary chamber representing this broad range of human and social activity was in 1937 – and sadly still is – visionary, if not revolutionary.
Politically, the fact that the vocational panels were never opened up to the universal vote of farmers, trade unionists, entrepreneurs, charities, etc, is not a reflection on that visionary ideal, but rather a reflection on the narrow self-interest of members of Dáil Éireann.
The robust debate generated by this referendum campaign has provided an opportunity to correct this democratic deficit in legislation, rather than to copperfasten it in ignorance. – Yours, etc,
Fianna Fáil Ard Comhairle,
Dublin Bay South,
Newgrove Avenue,
Dublin 4.
Sir, – An interesting letter (October 1st), informed us that a group of people agree that the Seanad must not be abolished.
This group is made up of individuals who agree on very few other things (as they tell us) but on this one thing they are in unison. Who are they? Senators and TDs, of course. They say a No vote goes beyond politics. It does; it stretches as far as more money in their pockets at the expense of the “guy in the street”. Hopefully the rest of us will vote Yes. – Yours, etc,
Cootehill, Co Cavan.
Sir, – The Government is using an axe rather than a scalpel in dealing with the changes to the Constitution that would be necessary if the Seanad referendum were passed.
I refer in particular to the killing-off of Article 27. Currently this article provides that a majority of members of the Seanad and not less than one-third of the members of the Dáil may by a petition addressed to the president request him to decline to sign a Bill on the grounds that the Bill is of such national importance that the will of the people thereon ought to be ascertained. The president may agree to or refuse the request. If he agrees, the issue is then put to the people either by way of a referendum or by a resolution of Dáil Éireann passed after the dissolution and reassembly of the Dáil.
The Government’s approach to these provisions is to bin the lot of them. If the Seanad goes, so too do the views of a one-third dissenting Dáil minority. Then there is the loss of potential power on the part of the president. Finally and most importantly, there is the loss of the possibility of dealing with issues of great national importance via a referendum or via an election following the dissolution of the Dáil.
As the preceding paragraphs indicate, Article 27 involves a complex set of procedures and is likely to be used only in the case of major issues facing Irish society. This is all the more reason that they should be not disposed of in such a peremptory fashion. Voters should read Article 27 before they vote. – Yours, etc,
Emeritus Professor,
School of Politics,
UCD, Dublin 4.
Sir, – An alarming threat to the very notion of democracy in Ireland is contained in the news that a majority may vote for the abolition of the Seanad. The keystone of a democracy rests on the basis of checks and balances on the exercise of political power. But it seems our people have a very short memory. Recently, under the guise of “Protection of Life” during pregnancy, our Taoiseach engineered the legitimisation of the deliberate destruction of the life of the unborn in specific circumstances with no time limit whatever. This, despite the absence of medical or psychological evidence in favour of the killing. And so Ireland is unique among developed nations in having no time limit to the procedure.
The destruction of any human life is a serious moral issue, but for Enda Kenny et al, party loyalty trumps individual conscience. And so Lucinda Creighton and her companions were expelled from the party while other members with a conscience chose to keep their heads below the parapet, ignore their conscience or suffer the same fate. What does the forgoing say about democracy, freedom, and the will of the people?
Conclusion: we desperately need a reformed, representative second body. Otherwise, if the Seanad is abolished, the march toward dictatorship and totalitarianism will be accelerated by another piece of Trojan horse legislation suitably entitled “Protection of Freedom, Democracy and the Will of the People”. – Yours, etc,
Ballinasloe, Co Galway.
Sir, – The Seanad suffers criticism on the grounds it represents “elitism”. Could it be we may suffer in this country from a lack of this supposedly sinister quality? The Fianna Fáil-led government of the middle of the last decade was so free from its malign embrace there was not even one member of the cabinet who could have been considered economically literate. The results were altogether not encouraging.
Perhaps it might be better to keep the Seanad, reform it and give elitism its due. – Yours, etc,
Homefarm Park, Dublin 9.
Sir, – If we keep our dear Seanad, can I propose a simple and just reform? Considering the Seanad has been elected by a “top” 1 per cent elite of the population for 93 years since its inception, could the next 93 years be elected by the “bottom” 1 per cent of non-elite. Representatives from areas of deprivation, homeless people, Travellers, migrant groups, etc, could be a new electorate.
As well as being even-handed and fair, it would serve to enable those most disenfranchised and disempowered by our political system to have a real say in the country of which they are citizens. – Yours, etc,
Mountjoy Street, Dublin 7.

Irish Independent:

* I had to smile, albeit a bit wryly, at Finance Minister Michael Noonan’s ‘lifestyle choice’ description of emigration. Many of my generation can remember the awful pain of involuntary economic eviction from their beloved families, friends, homes and country. It was a lifestyle choice then as well but the choice was usually somewhat more limited, as in “shift that shovel, Paddy, or go home and starve”.
Also in this section
We need a TV debate on Seanad referendum
Charges of a not so light brigade
Parasite devours host
The cramped, overcrowded mail boats also used to carry groups of young girls. Though some seemed quite happy, others seemed merely resigned to their lot.
Amongst the latter, I have no doubt, were those destined for the badly paid drudgery of domestic service.
But even now, I can still remember one particularly miserable trip in the early 1950s, when there was even more seasickness than usual.
However, one girl suddenly started to sing. Her voice was strong and quite soon she had the undivided attention of almost everyone.
Years later, I tried to recapture some of the mixed emotions her song aroused in us all.
I hope this little poem will show that though most of us did not have third-level qualifications, we were still capable of feeling deeply the economically enforced pain and loss of our beloved families and friends.
Fast forward to Mr Noonan and the same levels of misery may be somewhat mollified by academic excellence, but the pain of enforced separation from home and loved ones is just as keen as ever.
‘The Cattle Boat To Britain’
A beautiful orchid, an emigrant pearl
Sang her plaintive song today
That ancient, lonely, Irish lament
For her home, now far away
And every crystal, shimmering note
Pulsing from her angel throat
Had hard-bitten McAlpine fusiliers
Struggling to stifle ‘unmanly’ tears
And when Holyhead finally hove in sight
On that wet and miserable winter’s night
There was hardly a soul on board that boat
Without aching heart and lump in throat.
George MacDonald
Gorey. Co Wexford
* As did everybody in this country, I found Peggy Mangan’s death very sad and tragic. Despite the magnificent care given to her by her family, it highlights an ever-growing problem in our country – Alzheimer’s.
As a GP, I can tell you that there is no magic tablet or cure at present out there for this awful disease and all we can do is to stall it somewhat.
Twenty-four-hour care is all but impossible to provide and a nursing home is usually the last port of call. I must congratulate the HSE staff who deal with these fragile elderly people, including our district nurses, social workers and, above all, our home helps. This dedicated band of people provides a superb seven-day service on a very meagre budget, giving patients the independence and dignity to remain at home as long as possible, which is so much more important than any treatment that we doctors can provide.
Aidan Hampson GP
Artane, Dublin 5
* The conclusion that Leo Varadkar comes up with regarding ‘brain-drain’ emigrants leaving our shores is laughable – he suggests they are paying too much tax.
Of course, it wouldn’t be that they have lost all faith in the political system here that sees former presidents, taoisigh, ministers and TDs creaming their taxes in enormous pensions.
No, I believe these are certainly the brainier of the Irish people, who have decided enough is enough. At least by leaving the country, they will no longer be contributing to the immoral subsidising of pensions that sometimes represent a wage that most people dream about.
These emigrants can also see that the current government is just a continuation of what is rotten in our system.
As citizens in some of their newfound countries, they might find a better sense of fair play. At least they may feel that they are not contributing to a pensions bonanza for future politicians.
Frank Cummins,
Clondalkin, Dublin 22
* One of the images in our new passport is that of the Aviva Stadium.
While it is a magnificent venue of which, as an Irishman, I feel proud, I cannot believe that a corporate name has been enshrined in our sovereign identification. This is wrong.
Tadhg Casey
Patrick’s Place, Cork
* We are being asked to vote to abolish the Seanad. Abolition would save €20m per year, we are told.
We are also being asked to vote for the introduction of a Court of Appeal.
I don’t believe we know how much it will cost to add another layer of judiciary, but I don’t think it will come cheap.
Did our Government think to cut judges’ salaries?
Perhaps that might give some real savings.
This country cannot afford any more legal costs and something tells me the taxpayer will pick up the tab.
Theresa O’Farrell
Santry, Dublin 9
* I suspect that had Charles Haughey tried to have a constitutional amendment to abolish the Seanad passed, it would have been rejected out of hand by the electorate.
Many people are prepared to give Enda Kenny the benefit of the doubt that the current proposal is not a power grab.
They may be right, which I doubt, but Enda Kenny will not be in power forever.
What will happen if, at some future time, another Charles Haughey makes it to the Taoiseach’s office and all of the constitutional checks on a single party, whip-driven government have been removed?
My appeal to the Irish electorate is: “Wake up and vote No!”
Norman Walsh
Malahide, Co Dublin
* The abolition of the Seanad might be a good idea after all. If the US followed our lead in doing away with its upper house, they wouldn’t have all this trouble now about shutting down.
The dark suspicion, however, is that the objection to ‘Obamacare’ is really about objection to the taking of unborn human life, ie abortion. Only for the upper house then, it would be all plain sailing.
As regards the proposal here on the Appeal Court, justice may be blind, but the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Mrs Susan Denham, isn’t. According to her recent interview on RTE, she is firmly on the Government’s side.
Donal O’Driscoll
Blackrock, Co Dublin
* The referendum guide is striking in that the four gentlemen who appear on its front page are dressed casually – suits and ties, are clearly out of fashion. This must be very encouraging to those TDs who continue to show total disrespect for the Dail dress code.
Tony Moriarty
Harold’s Cross, Dublin 6w
* I was very sad to read the very last installment of ‘Diary of a Demented Mum’ in your ‘Health & Living’ section today.
This hilarious column has kept me sane over the last few years – you see, I too have a “wolverine”.
The portrayal of life with a teenage girl was so close to home that I really thought the writer had been spying on us.
I wish the ‘Demented Mum’ the best in this new phase of her life and thank her for keeping me sane!
C Skerritt
Co Dublin
Irish Independent


October 2, 2013

2 October 2013 Meg

I go all the way around the park round the park listening to the Navy Lark
Our heroes are in trouble they are to launch a rocket with one of them in it into outer space from Troutbridge. Leslie ends launched into orbit Priceless.
I get Meg to put books on Amazon
We watch Dads army v good.
Scrabble today Mary wins and get under 400. perhaps I might win tomorrow.

Marcel Reich-Ranicki
Marcel Reich-Ranicki, who has died aged 93, survived the Warsaw Ghetto to become, in the words of one colleague, “Germany’s most read, most feared, most observed, and therefore most hated literary critic”.

Marcel Reich-Ranicki Photo: EPA
6:20PM BST 01 Oct 2013
In a country uneasy in its own identity, Reich-Ranicki’s folksy, bluntly-expressed opinions, grounded in an encyclopedic grasp of European literature, were capable of making or breaking the reputations of struggling first-time novelists and Nobel Prize winners. With his heavily-accented German and lacerating wit, Reich-Ranicki became a cult figure, notably through regular appearances on a popular television books programme, Das Literarische Quartett, but also through acerbic articles in Die Zeit and in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, whose literary editor he was for 15 years.
No one, from Heinrich Böll to Günter Grass, completely escaped his wrath; indeed Grass became something of a favourite target. In 1995, four years before Grass won the Nobel Prize (and many years before it was revealed that he had served in the SS), a cover of Der Spiegel featured a photograph of Reich-Ranicki ripping apart the celebrated author’s latest novel, Too Far Afield.
Yet for much of Reich-Ranicki’s career as “the Pope of German letters”, two central facts of his own identity – his Jewishness and his experiences in wartime Warsaw – were scarcely mentioned. Indeed he recalled that the first German to ask him about his past had been a young journalist he had met in 1964 and rather liked – Ulrike Meinhof.
However, when in 1999 Reich-Ranicki published his autobiography, My Life, the book remained at No 1 in the German bestseller lists for more than a year, and there is little doubt that his status as one of just a handful of Jewish public figures to resettle in Germany after the war formed a cornerstone of his influence. For not only did he represent continuity with the great German humanistic traditions that were destroyed by Nazism, but in a nation still nursing its damaged conscience, his Jewishness meant that he could get away with a level of rudeness and absolutism in opinion that might have been judged unacceptable were he a German.
He was born Marceli Reich in Wloclawek, Poland, on June 2 1920. His father ran a construction company, but when Marcel was nine the company went bankrupt and Marcel was sent to live with relatives in Berlin.
There he attended a Prussian Gymnasium. By his teens he had become an avid theatregoer and bibliophile, working through Heinrich Heine, Schiller, Goethe, Thomas Mann and Georg Buchner, as well as Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, Shakespeare and Dickens, Balzac, Stendhal and Flaubert.
Marcel gained his high school diploma but was denied entry into a German university because he was Jewish, and in October 1938 he was sent back to Poland. When Germany invaded the following year, he was herded into the Warsaw Ghetto with his parents and his brother.
It was his knowledge of German that saved his life. Though he could only stand by helplessly as his parents and brother were loaded into the cattle trucks to Treblinka, he managed to avoid the same fate by working as a translator and clerk in the Judenrat, the council that administered the Ghetto until it was liquidated in 1943.
Among other things he recalled typing out the infamous order of July 22 1942 announcing the deportation of the entire Ghetto for “resettlement” (ie to the death camps) while, outside the window, SS troops lounged in the sunshine playing Strauss waltzes on a portable gramophone. Hearing that translators, and their wives, were exempt for the time being, Marcel married his sweetheart, Teofila Langnas, the same day.
The following year, shortly before the final phase of the Ghetto uprising, the pair managed to escape from a column being taken for “resettlement”, fleeing through an abandoned building. They found refuge with a Polish typesetter and his wife on the outskirts of Warsaw, where Marcel “paid” for their accommodation by telling the couple stories from all the books and plays he had read, remembering that “the better they liked a story, the better we were rewarded – with a slice of bread, with a few carrots”.
Emerging from hiding after the Red Army occupied Poland in 1944, Marcel enrolled in the Polish Communist Party. After the war he was recruited as an intelligence officer and posted as the Polish consul to London, where he organised spying on émigré groups, a mission for which he adopted the Polish pseudonym Ranicki – later incorporating it into his surname. But as anti-Semitic purges swept across Eastern Europe, Reich-Ranicki found himself out of favour. He was thrown out of the party and, following his return to Poland, briefly imprisoned.
On his release he began working as a translator and critic, but found himself frustrated by the censors and by further bouts of anti-Semitism. In 1958 he and his family managed to travel abroad and fled to Frankfurt in West Germany.
There, first with Die Zeit and then as head of literature for the FAZ, Reich-Ranicki soon established himself as one of the country’s most prominent voices. In his early years he championed the Group of 47, a loose affiliation of young writers that would produce two Nobel Prize winners: Heinrich Böll and Günter Grass. From 1988 he hosted Das Literarische Quartett, where his outspoken and often inflammatory criticisms won him a large popular following.
The taboo against discussion of his Jewish background began to break down after the fall of the Iron Curtain brought an influx of younger Eastern European Jews to Germany . But the new openness also emboldened some of Reich-Ranicki’s enemies to take potshots at the eminence grise of German literary criticism. In 2002 his cultural roots formed the focus of Death of a Critic, a novel by Martin Walser about a Jewish critic who is murdered by an angry author. In the ensuing outcry Reich-Ranicki found himself becoming an unwilling lightning rod for disputes about the meaning of the past and the return of the far Right.
Marcel Reich-Ranicki’s wife died in 2011. Their son survives him.
Marcel Reich-Ranicki, born June 2 1920, died September 18 2013


The support of the Daily Mail and its owner Lord Rothermere for Nazi Germany and the Blackshirts here in Britain in the 1930s, when Nazi thugs were escalating their violent attacks on Jews and socialists, is well known. For the same paper to pursue this same agenda 80 years later with the nonsense it is printing about Ralph Miliband is remarkable in its stupidity (Report, 1 October). However, as the Spectator put it in January 1934, “the Blackshirts, like the Daily Mail, appeal to people unaccustomed to thinking. The average Daily Mail reader is a potential Blackshirt ready made.” Plus ça change.
Martin Quinn
Tavistock, Devon
• In 1977 I travelled to Saudi Arabia from London by VW van with my boss (Driving harms ovaries, Saudi cleric claims, 30 September). One day the police stopped us and told me I was to be arrested for driving. I clearly was not doing so, but they’d not seen a right-hand-drive vehicle before. So they decided I should be locked up for driving without a steering wheel. I started to smile; my boss swiftly told me to grovel or it could be 20 years. I said I was very sorry for driving without a steering wheel and wouldn’t do so again.
Charlotte Breese
Devizes, Wiltshire
• Ben Ainslie was already in Team USA’s squad so, rather than being akin to signing Lionel Messi at half time (Letters, 27 September), his appearance on Team USA was more like keeping Messi on the bench going 8-1 down and then thinking it might be a good idea to bring him on.
Peter Mourant
Picture editor, Jersey Evening Post
•  From 1998 to 2000 I worked for the European commission in Belarus. Every so often we received a letter stamped by the Belarussian postal services with apologies because it had been “found open” in the post and resealed by them (Letters, 26 September). Perhaps the rest were just better resealed after scrutiny.
Bob George
Tiverton, Devon
• Get your girls into politics, Melissa Benn urges (G2, 30 September). What an excellent idea; when they become home secretary the Guardian can then publish a picture of their shoes at the top of the front page (1 October). Get a grip.
Ken Coker
Edale, Derbyshire

In March Liberal Democrats among others expressed concerns that regulations introduced under schedule 75 of the Health and Social Care Act 2012 would force the NHS to put all contracts out to tender. The concerns were not just that this would favour private providers of healthcare. There are major concerns over the increased costs and complexity of putting detailed contracts out to tender, evaluating bids and defending contested decisions. The regulations were announced with the minimum possible time for consultation, but the public outcry was nevertheless considerable.
They seemed to breach assurances given by Lord Howe during the passage of the bill in 2012: “Clinicians will be free to commission services in the way they consider best. We intend to make it clear that commissioners will have a full range of options and that they will be under no legal obligation to create new markets, particularly where competition would not be effective in driving high standards and value for patients.”
When it was pointed out firmly to the government that the section 75 regulations did in fact compel commissioners to introduce competition, the regulations were modified, and health ministers in both houses repeated the reassurances. Similar assurances were given by the prime minister and deputy prime minister. Close observers of Lansley’s health reforms will be more saddened than surprised to read this week not only that most new contracts in the NHS have been put out to tender, but that clinical commissioning groups believe the regulations make this compulsory. Lawyers may argue the finer points of competition law, but in the face of the legislation that has been foisted on the NHS, few CCGs will dare to take on the powerful legal forces mustered by healthcare corporations. We believe the prime minister has questions to answer.
John Ball Suffolk Coastal Lib Dems
David Beckett Newcastle under Lyme
Eleanor Bell Winchester
Gareth Epps Reading
Spencer Hagard Cambridge
Fiona Hornby Devizes, Wiltshire
Neil Hughes
Linda Jack
Nigel Jones
Nick Perry Parliamentary spokesman, Hastings and Rye
Paul Pettinger Westminster borough
Nigel Quinton
George Roussopoulos Hindhead
Naomi Smith Westminster borough
Charles West Shrewsbury and Atcham

Your letters (30 September) show a completely one-sided view of Israel’s response to Rouhani and his attempt to thaw relations with the west. As usual Israel is painted as the bad guy and Iran the innocent bystander which has a legitimate right to nuclear weapons. Iran has long been a sponsor of international terrorism, primarily directed at Israeli and US targets. It funds and supports Hezbollah and together they are both supporting Assad in Syria’s civil war. All three have the blood of innocent Syrian’s caught up in the conflict on their hands.
To allow a state like Iran that has repeatedly suggested that “Israel should be wiped off the face of the Earth” (no matter what translation you use), to acquire or develop nuclear weapons would be dangerous in the extreme. Any attempt to equate Israel’s (unconfirmed) nuclear arsenal with that desired by Iran is foolish. Iran, given its previous record of international terrorism, would either use them at first opportunity or pass them to one of its proxy terror groups. And then deny any responsibility. Israel has repeatedly said that any use of its nuclear arsenal would only occur if the survival of the state was threatened.
Many suggest that Israel should give up this arsenal or join the NPT. It is the threat that the unconfirmed arsenal presents that has kept its hostile neighbours from trying a repeat of the many wars that have been raged with the sole intent on destroying it. Rouhani is described as a moderate compared to Ahmadinejad. This would be similar to describing Herman Goering as a moderate compared to Adolf Hitler.
Marc Levine
• The reason that you receive letters exclusively from people (including Jews) who are hostile to Israel is that no one who supports Israel bothers to read the Guardian any more. That is why your circulation is dwindling to zero, by the way.  The support of your correspondents for Iran – a theocracy ruled by tyrants – is pathetic. Israel is quite right to be very wary of Iran, since what its leaders say and what they do are at odds, especially their support of Hezbollah terrorists in Lebanon and Gaza. The letter-writers are the same people whose heroes were Hafez al-Assad, after his accession to the Syrian dictatorship, and Muammar Gaddafi, before his downfall. Incidentally, the whole of the Sunni Arab world is fearful of Shia Iran. What do the Birnbergs and Kaufmans say to that?
Josephine Bacon
• Israel professes to want peace, yet whenever there is a danger of this happening, it protests loudly that the adversary is not to be trusted. In the case of the Palestinians, it sabotages peace efforts with assassinations and intensification of its illegal occupation. Without mythical enemies, Israel cannot justify its huge expenditure on security and defence, which contributes so much to the prosperity of the country. Israel’s hypocrisy is most blatant in its possession of nuclear weapons, which it condemns in the hands of anyone else in the area. Without the artificial threats, money would not pour into the country from the US government and from Jews who have no desire to live in Israel, but contribute out of feelings of guilt. One day, Israel is going to have to realise that its only hope of peace and security is a fair and just sharing of the land with the people who used to form 90% of the population, the Palestinian Arabs. It was the theft of that land that led to the continuing hostility of Arab and Muslim countries, a hostility that will only go away when the Palestinians receive justice.
Karl Sabbagh
Author, Palestine: A Personal History
As a 57-year old jobseeker’s allowance recipient of a couple of years’ standing, I stand aghast that in the 21st century we have a Conservative chancellor preaching Victorian “tough love” to the long-term unemployed (Osborne in crackdown on jobless costs, 30 September). It takes an expensive education not to be able to see what should be obvious – that the unemployed are there because they are superfluous to the requirements of the nation’s employers. If there were five million vacancies and nobody was filling them because of their quotidian attachment to the Jeremy Kyle show, a six-pack of Stella Artois and an afternoon siesta, the Tories’ campaign would make sense.
The idea that people will have to sign on every day is just petty harassment. Why not hand out whips and demand a daily 10 minutes of self-flagellation? Why not put people in stocks so they can be pelted with rotten vegetables by a public riled by the latest scrounger revelations in the Daily Express or the Mail? Most unemployed people I know are volunteering already, primarily to retain their sanity but also to accumulate experience and work contacts. A bit of non-exploitative, paid, state-mandated community work would be welcomed by many.
The problem in the Tory party is that their normal Rotary Club prejudices have fused with the US Republican party tactics of attacking “welfare queenism” to produce this particularly toxic brand of populist political attack. People of my age have 35 years of tax and national insurance under their belt; so have the parents of many of the young unemployed. The conflation of a drunken lumpenproletariat (which certainly exists) with the bulk of claimants is an absolute outrage.
Alan Sharples
•  How much more quickly can claimants lose their benefits? Quicker than immediately they miss an appointment because their mother has died that morning? Quicker than being sanctioned immediately for being at the hospital with a partner giving birth? Quicker than being sanctioned after finding a job, so that the back-to-work package does not have to be paid? We now live in a world where jobcentre employees have targets and are in fear of losing their own jobs if they do not keep to them. Perhaps you could try living in the real world, Mr Osborne!
Jennie Collins
Food4U, Stanley, Co Durham
•  I eagerly await a Polly Toynbee article following each horrific addition to the Tory agenda of kicking the poor, as her perceptive critiques always raise my spirits. However, her latest (Who will vote for Osborne’s even nastier medicine now?, 1 October) does reveal a weakness: a tendency to believe that as soon as the electorate wake up to reality they will follow her advice and vote Labour with conviction. “It will soon dawn on voters…” she writes, but far too often, Polly, it doesn’t – and one of the major reasons for this in the recent past has been that a step in the right direction by Ed Miliband is frequently followed by months of silence, an inexplicable inability of shadow ministers reluctant to pursue publicly Ed’s train of thought, and a consequent loss of momentum. It is vital now that the initiative gained on power prices is not frittered away; otherwise voters will have no moment of revelation as Polly hopes.
Ted Woodgate
Billericay, Essex
•  Polly Toynbee is correct in criticising the fundamental flaws of a conscripted workfare force. However, she misses out a very important point about Osborne forcing the long term unemployed to “clean graffiti and cook for the elderly”, and that is: what have the elderly done to deserve unwilling and possibly unemployable workers forced upon them? I was part of a compulsory “work boost” in 2010, and like so many people I was forced to work in a residential care home for four weeks. It was obvious by the end of the second day that the staff had taken me on sufferance. I bit the bullet and completed my work boost. But the idea of grabbing hundreds of thousands of long-term unemployed who may not have basic social skills or may even have an embittered misanthropic world view and forcing them to work in a residential home will lead to abuse of the residents and possibly murderous violence.
Theo Robertson
Edinburgh, Scotland
•  We are a group of benefit claimants who have come together to make a film about the reality of welfare reform, and the government’s attempts to “help” people back to work. We were motivated to do this by the government’s labelling and stereotyping of benefit claimants as “scroungers” who do not want to work. George Osborne’s latest announcement on workfare yet again shows that he does not have a clue. Many of us already volunteer. The Work Programme is not working, and tougher sanctions aren’t what’s needed, nor making us sign on every day. We want to work, where that’s a realistic prospect. We need real help and real support, and for jobs to actually be there. Workfare is simply a threat – and one which isn’t needed. Until Osborne and his gang recognise this, their welfare reforms will inevitably fail.
Adrian, Chloe, Isobella, James, Cath, Sam & Susan
•  So the government, having turned the unemployed into social outcasts, now proposes to treat them as criminals. Reporting to the jobcentre every day is harsher than bail conditions.
Gren Jones
Bewdley, Worcestershire
•  How will unemployed people in rural areas will report to jobcentres every day? The government can’t have thought about it at all. There are few buses and those that do run are very expensive when related to benefit income. This is statist madness.
Richard Davey
South Petherton, Somerset
•  Where are they going to put them (Some benefit claimants face 35 hours a week in jobcentre, 1 October)? There are millions of them. And they’ll all want to go to the toilet if they are there all day.
Bob Ross

Cafod, the catholic aid agency, should resist the growing clamour for action against Damian McBride (Diary, 26 September). I got to know Damian a little after he lost his job in politics and started work at my son’s school, where he became immensely popular, loved and admired by teachers and pupils alike. He then got my old job as head of media at Cafod, and more recently I was invited to sit on his interview panel for promotion to director of communications. He was an exceptional candidate, the warmth and admiration for him from his senior colleagues was striking and my overwhelming impression was that an overseas aid agency that often struggles to grab the media’s attention was lucky to have found this talent. Cafod trustees may justifiably be cross with Damian for publishing his book and and he will have to work hard to regain lost trust. But an agency associated with compassion, charity and forgiveness should act on those values, not react to outsiders desperate to see this man get an even bigger kicking.
Fiona Fox
Former head of media at Cafod

My alarm bells rang in deafening tones after reading four features in the 20 September issue (Twitter eyes stock market; California is the face of the new economy; How not to do it; and Geoengineering “last resort” to stop global warming). Interface all four and a recipe for disaster emerges.
The disconnect of almost all world political leaders from science and technology is well documented. Peter Wilby’s critique of The Blunders of our Governments makes an equally compelling case for what we have all long suspected: the total lack of awareness on the part of our ruling regimes regarding the needs, desires and day-to-day existential demands of most of their electorate – or should that read “subjects?”
Will Hutton’s conclusion that the current Californian “Silicon Valley” example is one we should emulate is surely based on an idealistic view of world society: one where venture capitalism collaborates with information technology/social media and wise, benevolent government, in order to bring about a new version of the industrial revolution, but this time with fewer or no casualties.
I’m sorry, Will. The momentum of short-term exploitation of people and resources, which exemplifies the present model of capitalism in vogue world-wide, will not easily be stopped, or even slowed down, simply by asking Apple to slap on a few more human-friendly apps or seeding clouds with seawater. It will require a much more radical reappraisal of our core values and methods of choosing our leaders to achieve the necessary turnaround. We can only hope we’re not already too late to make the change.
Noel Bird
Boreen Point, Queensland, Australia
• In Alok Jha’s article about geoengineering (20 September), the astronomer royal Lord Rees appropriately describes such action as “an utter political nightmare”. Two of the strategies under consideration are cloud seeding and the injection of sulphate particles into the upper atmosphere, in both cases with the intention of reducing the solar radiation reaching the earth. However, such an approach would mean that both thermal and photovoltaic solar panels would work less efficiently, thereby increasing the demand on carbon-based energy sources. Thus these approaches might prove to be self-defeating.
As Lord Rees says, the time to start decarbonising the world’s power generation is now.
Roger Browne
Alexandra, New Zealand
Keep Kenya’s aquifers safe
The discovery of vast aquifers in the arid areas of north-west Kenya (20 September) is good news indeed as it has the potential to transform the livelihoods of the people in the area. I worry, though, about our exploitation of this valuable resource and suspect that it will end up being plundered rather than used carefully and sustainably.
The first steps to take would be a) accurately determining the recharge source(s); b) finding out the rate of recharge; and c) aggressively protecting the recharge watershed. Collectively, our history of resource exploitation suggests that this will not happen and opportunists will already be plotting how vast sums of money can be made from the discovery.
Stuart Williams
Kampala, Uganda
Migration policy myopia
Re: Migration debate “needs to change focus” (20 September), there’s a blind spot in the global debate over migration and that’s exactly the way the new Australian government likes it. By only communicating select information about the arrival of asylum seekers in its waters, they use this blind spot to their advantage. The blind can only lead the blind.
Never mind the International Organisation for Migration report mentioned in the article, which states that migrants between poor countries fare poorly and are unlikely to feel optimistic about their lives. Never mind that the burden of refugee crises across the globe already fall on disadvantaged nations. Never mind that Australia is the envy not only of poor nations, but rich ones as well.
Ignore these realities and the border between the rich and poor – the sovereign border – will be secured.
Eddie Tikoft
Perth, Western Australia
Keep Greens off the fringe
At last a mention of the UK’s Green party in the Guardian Weekly (UK News in brief, 20 September). And a clue as to the inclusion of the tiny article? The Green party leader is a former Guardian Weekly editor.
Why the almost total lack of coverage of any other than the major parties? Even the current percentage of the vote smaller parties receive in UK elections is a mystery to me.
Here in Australia the Greens are a much stronger political force and its players and policies command a high profile in the media, albeit often a negative one in the Murdoch-dominated press. However, if coverage of Green party policies in the broader British press is as poor as that in the GW, then surely the UK Green party is doomed to remain on the fringe.
Gabby Whitworth
Tasmania, Australia
IOC must confront Russia
Owen Gibson’s critique of the new IOC president, Thomas Bach (September 20), was a welcome change from the usual worshipful treatment of all things and all men Olympic.
However, Gibson omitted one significant act reported in other media.
After Bach had received the congratulatory phone call from President Putin, he “joked” to reporters that they had not discussed Russia’s anti-gay law. To trivialise this issue, one of the biggest challenges facing the Olympic industry since the bribery scandals, is more than just a bad beginning to Bach’s presidency. It’s one more indication of the IOC’s moral bankruptcy.
Helen Jefferson Lenskyj
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Much ado about doing
I found your banner headline Merkel’s mantra: “Do as we do” (13 September) very interesting. Far from only being the mantra of Germany’s Angela Merkel, it is probably one of the world’s most used and the cause of the vast majority of wars. If only we could all adopt a philosophy based on the Indian expression “paach angulia bara bara nahin”, meaning that on one hand the fingers are all different but they work very well together.
David Murray
Montbrun-Bocage, France
• An old saying, but still a valid one: He who pays the piper calls the tune.
Bronwyn Sherman
Tutukaka, New Zealand
Leave family out of women’s careers
In reference to Rowan Moore’s article: Zaha Hadid: queen of the curve (20 September), we are not aware of any proven relevance of a partner or children to an architect’s creativity or career. Indeed in Moore’s piece on Richard Rogers in July this seems of no real significance. When will the unnecessary noting of a successful women’s family life, appearance or fashion be recognised as simply another form of misogyny? Were you just throwing us a curve ball or have you already forgotten your rightful indignation at the similar treatment of Julia Gillard?
Melissa Hamilton
Mugnanese, Loc Gioiella, Italy
• Re: Henry Porter, Britons and privacy (13 September). It may be that Britons who do understand privacy to be important have also, rightly, always presumed that it has never existed on the internet. But the government that tells us that if we have done nothing wrong we have nothing to fear from exposure also fears its own activities being exposed.
Our real fears are that the agencies will then misinterpret the information they procure. They did on intercepting Iraqi communications actually referring to the long ago destruction of the country’s weapons of mass destruction, and judging by the amount of car parking around NSA and GCHQ offices in Cheltenham, they cannot work out bus timetables. And of course it is those being spied upon who are paying for the spying.
Adrian Betham
London, UK
• I am an 85-year old male born in England and can honestly say Nancy Blackett, intrepid captain of the sailing dingy “Amazon”, was the fictional hero who shaped my life. Somehow Kate Mosse (Where have all the brave girls gone? (20 September) must have missed out on the Manchester Guardian’s wonderful Arthur Ransome who wrote about the Swallows and Amazons in 12 books, detailing these amazing children from the Lake District. Recently I received pictures of an Arthur Ransome festival held near Henley-on-Thames. My granddaughter and all the girls there wanted to play the part of Nancy Blackett.
Tony Taylor
Victoria, British Columbia, Canada
• I liked David Shariatmadari’s piece on the threat of plastic bank notes (20 September). He can rest assured that if he ventures outside the eurozone and Anglo-Saxonia, he’ll still find some fabulous paper notes.
Steve Morris
Tonbridge, Kent, UK


Has the Environment Secretary, Owen Paterson, read a different report to the rest of us? (“Climate change? People get very emotional about the subject. It’s not all bad”, 1 October). The latest report by IPCC scientists proves beyond doubt that climate change is a huge threat to the world and that urgent action is needed to slash global emissions.
Oxfam knows from its work with poor farmers around the world that climate change is hitting people’s lives right now. The IPCC makes it crystal clear that it will become even harder in the future for millions of families to earn a living and feed themselves unless global emissions are urgently cut to keep the planet on a path of 2 degrees warming or less, to limit the damage.  
Worryingly, Mr Paterson – who is in charge of ensuring Britain is able to adapt to the impacts of climate change – does not seem to have read the verdict of his own department. Defra’s own Climate Change Risk Assessment from 2012 warns of the risks of flooding, water stress and biodiversity loss at home and also repercussions from climate change abroad. In the light of this and the latest evidence provided by the IPCC, Mr Paterson needs to take seriously his responsibility to protect Britain’s future generations from the worst impacts of climate change.
Hannah Stoddart
Head of Economic Justice Policy, Oxfam, Oxford
It is very worrying that Owen Paterson, the Environment Secretary, is so complacent about the risks created by rising greenhouse gas levels.
Climate change is already affecting the UK. The average annual temperature has increased by about 1C since 1970, and the seven warmest years on record have all occurred since 2000.
There is strong evidence that the UK is experiencing mounting risks of coastal and inland flooding due to climate change. Global sea level has already risen by 39 centimetres since 1901 and is now increasing at a rate of more than 3 centimetres every decade. The Met Office has pointed out that annual rainfall is increasing, that heavy downpours are becoming more frequent, and that four of the five wettest years on record have all occurred since 2000.
Last year, the second wettest on record, the insurance industry paid out more than £1bn in claims for flood damage. Our flood insurance system is at breaking point because of the rising number of homes and businesses that are at significant risk. But Mr Paterson’s department has now proposed a new insurance scheme based on faulty analysis that ignores the findings of the UK Climate Change Risk Assessment, which was published last year, and assumes that climate change will not increase the risk from flooding.
Mr Paterson needs to understand that his views on climate change are not only eccentric and unscientific, but they are also potentially dangerous because they could expose millions of lives and livelihoods across the UK to serious risks.
Bob Ward
Policy and Communications Director,
Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment, London School of Economics and Political Science
Thank you for printing such a splendid endorsement of Owen Paterson , the Environment Secretary.
It is rare for a left-leaning newspaper to sum up so concisely the finer points of this man of the people. Printing in comparison the incoherent ravings of the climate change fanatics, who fly off the handle every time anyone dares to oppose the views that keep them in their various well-paid public offices, was inspired.
Congratulations, and keep up the good work.
Cllr Chris Middleton
P S: I don’t suppose you’ll publish this, but thank you for giving me such pleasure this morning, reading your excellent, if eccentric, newspaper.
Unemployed are not being immoral
“Ought” implies “can”: that’s a principle of moral philosophy. You ought to save the children from drowning, only if you can. If you cannot swim, you do not merit blame for not saving them.
Transpose the principle to the arena of the unemployed. Only if the unemployed can find jobs do they merit blame for not doing so. With at least 2.5 million unemployed and half a million vacancies, manifestly there are not the jobs for at least 2 million – so obviously they cannot find them.
Hence, contrary to the Government’s current stance, the vast majority of the unemployed deserve neither blame nor penalties – and being compelled to sit every day in a Jobcentre is hardly likely to create the required jobs.
Peter Cave
London W1
What I have always found strange about those on the right is their view that the state of the economy is determined by the attitude of the unemployed.
Since the unemployed are unemployed by choice, booms and busts are caused by their behaviour. Recessions result from laziness, as more people choose to be unemployed; recovery starts when people go out and look for work. All so simple. Throw away the macroeconomics textbook.
Nigel Wilkins
London SW7
Why the military prescribes Lariam
In reference to your article entitled ‘The Lariam scandal’ (27 September) I want to emphasise that mefloquine is a drug that is licensed in the UK by the Medicines and Health Products Regulatory Agency.
This is based on the expert guidance of the advisory committee for malaria prevention of Public Health England, which advises on malaria prevention for all travellers from the UK, and mefloquine remains one of the drugs that they advise may be used. Mefloquine is used across the UK, not just by the military, and is only ever prescribed after an individual risk assessment. It is also used by other countries around the world including the wider EU.
The life-threatening risks of malaria are extremely serious, and mefloquine is one of a number of effective antimalarials that we use. We need to be able to use the most appropriate drug for the areas to where our people deploy, to help ensure their resistance to this disease.
The MOD will continue to follow the best advice as provided by Public Health England.
Air Marshal Paul Evans
Surgeon General, Ministry of Defence, London SW1
Take back mail and railways
To put it politely, the Labour Party does not have much of a history of unanimity. Yet its Party Conference voted unanimously to renationalise the Royal Mail, and again unanimously to renationalise the railways. Polls consistently show those to be the views of 70 per cent of the electorate, the same percentage that supported Ed Miliband’s successful prevention of a military intervention in Syria.
If Mr Miliband were to announce that he intended to renationalise the Royal Mail, then he could stop its privatisation, since no potential buyer would take the risk. As for the railways, whereas the private franchise-holders cost the taxpayer colossal sums in subsidies and have abysmal levels of passenger satisfaction, the publicly owned East Coast Main Line is very highly rated by its passengers, and it is heavily in profit. Yet this insane Government wishes to return it to the private sector from which it has already needed to be rescued not once, but twice.
Miliband should promise to take back each of the franchises into public ownership as they came up for renewal in the course of the next parliament. Renationalisation could then be achieved at no cost whatever. On the contrary, the precedent suggests that it would transform appalling drains on the public purse into a tidy contributor to it, the East Coast Main Line writ large, British Rail. Most people already recognise that. Let them be given the option of voting for it.
David Lindsay
Lanchester, Co Durham
Why they call  us nimbys
It is hardly a surprise that the Labour Party is going to promise to increase the number of new houses to be built, primarily around London. It is also unsurprising that local opinion is going to be ignored, as in a recent survey of my area: 94 per cent of respondents were against a massive increase in housing.
The reasons for the chronic shortage of affordable houses in the London area are threefold: an increase in life expectancy; family breakups which involve two houses instead of one; and immigration. One of these is a direct result of central government policy.
Thus people like me, who moved out from London to give our families a better quality of life, are called nimbys and are given their comeuppance by London moving to us.
Lyn Brooks
Ongar, Essex
The end of a tolerant era
Reading Robert Fisk’s heartbreaking narrative of what has befallen the 2,000-year-old town of Maaloula (26 September) it occurs to me that Syria is finally broken. It cannot be put back together. The dystopian ideology of Wahhabism/Salafism nurtured in the sands of Arabia is succeeding in putting an end to the culture of pluralism and tolerance in Eastern Mediterranean for all time. That it is being done with active support of our political elite for the perpetrators who raided Maaloula in the name of Islam is a matter of  conscience for each of us.
M A Qavi
London SE3
Protest ignored
On Sunday I, along with at least 50,000 other people, marched through the centre of Manchester to protest at the Government’s cuts – especially what they are doing to the NHS. Given that the police said that it was one of the largest demonstrations they have policed, I thought that you would have some mention of it in Monday’s paper. You, like the BBC, appear to have ignored it. If there had been trouble I have no doubt that it would have got major headlines in all the media.
Rachel Gallagher
Gravesend, Kent
Peril at sea
At least it was a stolen kayak in which burglar Paul Redford tried to escape across the Channel, not a Thames amphibious tour craft.
Ian McKenzie


Getting rid of formal structures abandons the majority — who generally need structures — and consigns the less able to the junk-heap
Sir, The debate between Mr Gove’s department and its critics (report & letter, Oct 1) is as much about professional autonomy as about the deleterious or otherwise effects of testing on children. My mark books of 40 years ago tell me that I constantly assessed and regularly tested the progress of pupils. However the tests were tailored to my teaching and the outcomes were for private diagnosis, not public branding.
If teachers were then left too much to their own devices, the reverse is now true; the message that they are incompetent, untrustworthy and about to be exposed is not calculated to bring out the best in them. The description of the Secretary of State’s critics as “The Blob” by a “source close to Mr Gove” is strange — anyone familiar with the 1958 movie of that name will surely equate the slimy space invaders with the National Curriculum and Ofsted.
Andy Connell
Appleby in Westmorland, Cumbria

Sir, The approach to education advocated in the letter from academics and writers is that we should get rid of formal structures, and replace them by giving an “abundance of new experience” to “natural learners”. This approach does benefit the self-motivated and intelligent. It also abandons the majority — who generally need structures — and consigns the less able or less self-motivated to the junk-heap. This is exactly the opposite of what we want our State education system to achieve, and the signatories should be ashamed of themselves for advocating it.
Simon Gleeson
Rendham, Suffolk
Sir, I am a retired teacher from a family of teachers with children who teach, and Mr Gove does not rate highly on my popularity list, but the 200 writers and academics must get their facts correct when attacking him. If anything, by stopping or limiting coursework and stopping endless repeats of modular exams, Mr Gove has reduced the endless testing, not increased it.
When I was a secondary school teacher of maths every pupil had an end-of-year exam and ones through the year to monitor progress, as did virtually all schools in nearly every subject and that went back to my school days in the 1960s. My wife, as a primary teacher, set “tests” for her class to measure progress. Focusing only on tests results is wrong — writers and academics should do their research properly before pontificating.
K..S. Paterson
Fakenham, Norfolk
Sir, Patrick Derham, the Head Master of Rugby School, (letter, Sept 28) writes eloquently of the visionary approach taken by Victorian educators in encouraging their students to adopt a visionary and reflective stance towards important issues, an approach which, as he rightly points out, hardly obtains in the present climate. However, he must be aware that this privilege was available only to a tiny minority.
Thomas Hardy had siblings in education, and his second wife had also previously been a teacher. One needs only to read the Hardy biographies by Gittings and Manton to appreciate the lowly status of ordinary teachers at that time and the grudging attitude with which even basic training was doled out to the less advantaged by “the powers that be”.
Richard Merwood

‘Any form of decriminalisation will still require a basic distinction between what will be allowed and what will not’
Sir, Mike Barton rekindles the debate (report, Sept 28) concerning the decriminalisation (or is it legalisation) of the possession of drugs but does not deal with what should happen in relation to those drugs that — even in the liberated times he espouses — no state would dare sanction or tax.
Any form of decriminalisation will still require a basic distinction between what will be allowed and what will not. It would be a surprise if any government were to sanction the sale of crack, crystal meth or skunk because of the terrible damage they do to health.
However, because many users actually prefer these drugs to their less exotic variants, there will still be a ready market for them.
Dealers will demand a premium price to compensate for the increased risks that they take. Even though users may face no criminal penalty for possessing them they will still have to pay severely over the odds to buy them. This will lead to the same consequences that they face today — namely stealing and prostituting themselves to fund their unlicensed addiction.
Very few people go to prison for simple possession of drugs; they go there because of the crimes they commit to fund their habit. Mike Barton’s proposals will make little difference to those who would prefer to use what the State will not allow others to sell and that is a lot of drugs.
Chris Miller
Assistant Chief Constable, Hertfordshire Constabulary,

‘Judicial supervision reduces the risk or perception of collusion and it also limits the room for accusations of political interference’
Sir, Dame Stella Rimington is right that the covert, intrusive powers of the UK intelligence agencies and law enforcement agencies require greater oversight (report, Oct 1).
However, the problem also lies in the executive’s responsibility for approving those agencies’ eavesdropping, electronic surveillance and informant operations. As long as ministers control these operations, the public will believe that there is an unhealthy, seamless relationship between those ministers and the agencies they supervise.
The executive must leave the authorisation of these highly intrusive methods to the judiciary. That means that application must be made direct to the judiciary for authority to eavesdrop, intercept telephone and electronic communications, mine the communications data sought by the Communications Data Bill, and employ informants.
Judicial supervision reduces the risk or perception of collusion and it also limits the room for accusations of political interference. This concept of judicial authority for intrusive covert surveillance is not new. Many jurisdictions adhere to it and appoint judges for the task.
I have worked under this system, and I was relieved not only to have those balances ascertained judicially , but also at trial. It is a system I would wish to see in all the UK agencies’ covert, targeted operations.
David Bickford
Former Legal Director, Intelligence

The treatment of actors by British politicians is appalling, particularly in the land of Shakespeare and the home of the best drama since Athens
Sir, As one who has worked in the performing arts for most of my life, I’m alarmed to think that many of the highly talented young people striving to get a foothold in these professions will be forced to take jobs that are irrelevant to their talents (report, Oct 1).
In the past such people would have been willing to struggle on dole money until they got their breaks. European cultural attachés have told me how appalled they are by British politicians’ treatment of actors in, of all places, the land of Shakespeare and the home of the best drama since Athens. The dole is a way to survive for the fine actors of tomorrow, as well as for the painters, musicians and (dare I say it?) the poets.
Yet Shakespeare, Austen, Turner, Shelley, Garrick and Dench will, happily, count for much more in the future than those who strive to make their followers pick up rubbish in the streets.
Ian Flintoff
(former Royal Shakespeare Company and National Theatre actor)

It is bewildering that the Government is now proposing to offer mortgages of up to 95 per cent – is this not a huge risk to the taxpayer?
Sir, I am bewildered by the Government’s proposal to offer up to 95 per cent mortgages (report, Sept 30). Following the condemnation of what was deemed to be reckless lending by the banks, contributing to the economic downturn in 2008. Does this seem like a good idea now that the risk will be effectively underwritten by the taxpayer?
Marisa Cardoni
London W5


SIR – It is of huge concern that the financial value of fashionable breeds has soared, resulting in so many being stolen (“Kate’s fashionable dog leads to thefts”, Mandrake, September 26).
From huskies to chihuahuas, the attitude that dogs are fashion accessories to be bought and sold as the latest must-have status symbol has led to ever-increasing numbers being abandoned at rehoming centres, such as those run by the animal charity Blue Cross. Dogs are dogs, not trophy items.
Kim Hamilton
Chief Executive, Blue Cross
Burford, Oxfordshire

SIR – Making claimants work for their benefit money is surely a good idea (report, September 30). A work ethic has to be learnt and that is the way to start.
Mick Ferrie
Mawnan Smith, Cornwall
SIR – Mr Osborne’s policy of eliminating the “something for nothing” culture is to be applauded. We have yet to hear when he will apply it to those who buy and sell property at a profit they haven’t earned, and on which they pay no tax. Or will it be one rule for those on welfare, another for Middle England?
Revd Richard Haggis
Barton, Oxfordshire
SIR – It seems that the failure to impose fines on people and businesses for littering has created an opportunity for me, a long-term unemployed person, to “contribute” to society.
Related Articles
Dogs are pets to be cared for, not trophy items
01 Oct 2013
I would sooner be empowered to apprehend litter louts and ensure that they are financially penalised as a result of their anti-social activity. I do much unpaid charity work, as do many others in my circumstances. Will we be taken off those voluntary tasks to pick up litter?
David Watts
Rochester, Kent
SIR – George Osborne’s announcement on tough dole conditions is welcome. But why not start those conditions on day one of signing on?
Provision of compulsory training and working to keep streets clean are positive state interventions to the benefit of both claimant and wider society. The more people in employment and paying taxes, the more productive the economy, while cleaner streets and surroundings make for a more attractive Britain.
John Barstow
Pulborough, West Sussex
SIR – Welfare claimants required to participate in any Community Work Placement scheme should receive the national minimum wage of £6.31 per hour, (£189.30 per week less benefits). For example, if a welfare claimant receives £71.70 Jobseeker’s Allowance per week, he should be paid an additional £117.60 per week for being on a work placement.
Any Community Work Placement should be commensurate with a welfare claimant’s skills and abilities. There should be no “punishment without law” and no work without pay. The proposed scheme is punitive. A benefit is not a benefit if it has to be earned.
Nick Fenney
Tetbury, Gloucestershire
SIR – During three months of unemployment in 1962 I was required to sign in, every weekday, once in the morning and once in the afternoon, at pre-determined times. There were penalties for being late.
Alan Anning
Crowthorne, Berkshire
Overstretched GPs
SIR – Jeremy Hunt, the Health Secretary, is correct that the 2004 GPs’ contract is a bureaucratic monster (report, September 28), but the Government’s meddling over the past three years has made things much worse. Its soundbites have led to the erosion of effective family medicine, instilling instead the expectation of a service that cannot be delivered with current resources.
As a GP, it is not a case of wanting to earn more, but that there are no more hours in my day. The necessity of ticking boxes to maintain income via the Quality and Outcomes framework has eaten into the time available for the empathic patient-centred family medicine of years gone by.
Email consultations, with the expectation of rapid response, would increase this workload. Perhaps I will find myself answering emails instead of heading home at 8pm, as at present. If Mr Hunt wants an improved service, then there will have to be an increase in the GP workforce.
Dr Peter Grimwade
Bampton, Oxfordshire
SIR – Complex interaction in a consultation cannot be reduced to email. I would love to “keep tabs on the elderly” more frequently, but I cannot do this and be accessible instantly for every runny nose and sore throat.
Mr Hunt may not understand that the elderly are more likely to be ill and therefore require acute admission, investigation and treatment.
Dr J O J Powell
Swansea, Glamorgan
Condemning violence
SIR – Allison Pearson assumes that the entire Islamic community supported the recent violence against Christians by so-called “Muslims” in Nairobi (Comment, September 26). This is not only provocative, but it is also wrong.
The Somali community is singled out because al-Shabaab are Somali-led and based in Somalia. But the Somali people, both in the West and within Somalia, hate al-Shabaab. They have killed more innocent Somalis than any other group before them. Act4Somalia condemned them on the first day of the attacks, and we continue to denounce them for their savagery and barbarism.
The Somali people are a victim of this murderous group. We need globally co-ordinated action and support for the new Somali government to root them out and destroy their violent philosophy.
Liban Obsiye
Communications Director, Act4Somalia
TV detector vans
SIR – Having worked in TV detector vans for 20 years, going all over the British Isles, I can assure you that they were working vans (Letters, September 30). They could tell us what programme was being watched and the distance of the television from the van. My van was Van 13 – lucky for some, but mostly unlucky if we picked up an unlicensed television set signal.
Stan Heath
Ashford, Middlesex
Incorrigibly plural
SIR – When I gave a talk on mausolea, which had been announced to be about mausoleums (Letters, September 30), I recalled the story of students at the Royal Military College of Science telling their tutor: “Yes, we have finished the experiment with pendula, have done the sa and are sitting on our ba sucking winega.”
James Wraight
Chatham, Kent
Neighbouring Gibraltar
SIR – As a Brit living in Spain for 10 years, I think the best way to explain the situation in Gibraltar is through an analogy.
Imagine you have a neighbour who lives in rather a modest house. Over the years, you haven’t had a very good relationship with him for a number of reasons. First, he often boasts he doesn’t pay any council tax due to some strange exemption. Secondly, vans pull up and dump boxes in his garden at night, and people pick him up in flashy sports cars. You’re sure it can’t be legal stuff that they are transporting.
Moreover, there are always car engines, oil and petrol cans scattered around his garden. You’re worried that there might be an explosion that could affect your house. Then there’s the neighbour himself, a rather obnoxious person who has the habit of popping his head over the fence when you’re relaxing to insinuate that you must be on some kind of illegal scam to lead such a comfortable life.
So when the neighbour starts building a structure from “cement blocks” in the middle of his garden, spoiling your view of the surrounding hills, you finally decide to talk to the local council. Being a good neighbour is one of the defining characteristics of the British, and I cannot understand why Gibraltar cannot make more of an effort to be one.
Clive Tyrell
La Laguna, Tenerife, Spain
Domestic jurisdiction
SIR – What business does the UN have to “stand by its bedroom tax critic” (report, September 27)? Article 2.7 of the UN Charter says: “Nothing contained in the present Charter shall authorise the United Nations to intervene in matters which are essentially within the domestic jurisdiction of any state…”
I understand heated debates about whether or not intervening in a country’s civil war might contravene Article 2.7, but not housing benefit payments.
Anne Jappie
Cheltenham, Gloucestershire
Useful utilities
SIR – I have just moved house and
utilities companies are hugely enthusiastic about helping. I thought it might be of interest to share how I scored their performance out of 10 – Royal Mail: 10. Lloyds Bank: 6. Royal Bank of Scotland: 0. British Telecom: 0. Scottish Water: 8. Scottish Power: 7.
Hywel Davies
Nevern, Pembrokeshire
Growing economies cannot rely on wind energy
SIR – The debate about global warming continues (“Global warming ‘unequivocal’, say scientists” report, September 28), but it isn’t realistic for major industrialised countries to make drastic reductions to their carbon dioxide emissions.
Will America, Europe, China and India rely on wind turbines and solar panels to power their huge and growing economies? Will the oil- and gas-producing countries agree to leave their huge reserves of crude oil and gas in the ground? Will shale gas and shale oil be abandoned, too? And what about the ships and aeroplanes that cannot operate without oil products?
Carbon dioxide emissions can be reduced by building nuclear power stations, improving energy efficiency and by replacing a lot of coal by shale gas. But covering the world with wind turbines and solar panels is a pipe dream, because huge numbers of back-up fossil-fuel-fired power stations would have to be built to compensate for the unreliable electricity supplies generated by these sources.
James Allan
Hartlepool, Co Durham
SIR – I was a meteorologist during the Seventies when glaciers in Europe and other continents had been growing for the previous 10 years, and pack ice had been increasing during winters to cover almost all of the Denmark Strait between Iceland and Greenland. Scientists were then warning that the Earth could be entering another ice age.
The current deliberations of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) have conveniently overlooked this. Before insisting that humans have been the main cause of global warming an explanation of this apparent anomaly should be promulgated.
Captain Derek Blacker RN (retd)
Director of Naval Oceanography and Meteorology, 1982-84
Newton Abbot, Devon
SIR – So the IPCC is 95 per cent certain that mankind has been the main cause of climate change. Do they simply mean that 19 out of every 20 of their scientists agree?
Harvey T Dearden
Llandudno, Caernarfonshire

Irish Times:

Sir, – Governments tend to tell us what we like to hear. In these times of economic hardship, the alleged cost-savings associated with dissolution of the Seanad seem impressive. Yet, €14 million is being happily spent on a referendum while the homeless are told they must wait until 2016.
So, what is the emergency for Seanad dissolution? Are the vocal, non-party, competent, conscientious Senators too influential in enlightening the masses?
Currently, a four-person cabinet runs Dáil Éireann – surely this is undemocratic? If there is a Yes vote, might this number be reduced to two, or, perhaps, to one – Emperor Enda? A few lashes from his “whipster” would then keep the toddlers in toe in this, the authentic nursery. The thought is nauseous. I shall vote No to Seanad dissolution. – Yours, etc,
Beatty Park,
Celbridge, Co Kildare.
Sir, – The cynical logic of the Fine Gael poster which states that saving € 20 million (highly debatable, anyway) and having fewer politicians are reasons for abolishing the Senate, infers, in the same cynical mode, that we can save much more than € 20 million and have an even greater reduction in the number of politicians by abolishing the Dáil. It’s confusing, and also insulting to the electorate. “Demand real reform” sounds much more honourable, and is so – especially if it is meant. – Yours, etc,
Woodland, Letterkenny ,
Co Donegal.
Sir, – A question was posed to the Taoiseach on RTÉ radio recently as to whether the Fine Gael party would survive the current difficulties in Government. His response was that the Fine Gael brand was strong and would survive into the future. This begs the question whether Fine Gael sees itself as a “brand” rather than as a political party with an ideology.
A Senate made up of at least 50 per cent of wise people, without political affiliation, would be a welcome and important counterpoint to a single house legislating within the confines of the party whips. – Yours, etc,
Crosthwaite Park East,
Dún Laoghaire,
Co Dublin.
Sir, – The Referendum Commission’s Guide to the Seanad and Court of Appeal Referendums poses, in the English language version, two questions for answering in the referendums: “One asks do you agree to the abolition of Seanad Éireann” and “The other asks do you agree to the establishment of a court of appeal and other changes to the courts system.”
Whereas, in contrast to the one-sided description of the questions to be answered in the English language version, the Irish language version more properly describes the two issues to be decided “i gcóir nó nár chóir” – for or not for – the proposed change in each question. The one-sided description in the English version is unacceptable coming from a professional body charged with being scrupulously fair.
If one reads further into the commission’s explanatory booklet it becomes clear that not only are we being asked to abolish or not Seanad Éireann, but also to implement consequential changes to the Constitution and, additionally, to abolish the right of the President to refer a Bill to the people for decision in certain circumstances. The latter is not a consequence which would follow if the Seanad were to go; it is a separate matter, but it has been hidden away in that it has received no mention in the introduction. Many recipients of the guide may read no more that the chairperson’s introduction to the referendums. – Yours etc
Dublin Road,
Co Kildare.
Sir, – It is somewhat bemusing that the Democracy Matters campaign is emphasising that abolition of the Seanad would constitute a “power grab”. The Taoiseach’s ability to appoint 11 senators following a general election all but ensures the majority of senators are supportive of the government of the day. This argument made with respect to the current Taoiseach is all the more remarkable given that most of his chosen 11 nominees were Independents.
Effectively, on that basis, there is practically no ultimate transferral of additional powers to the executive in the advent of abolition. Special distinguishing powers as stipulated for the upper house in the Constitution are so rarely invoked that they are irrelevant in a modern sense. For example, the argument that the Seanad has “90-day brakes” on legislation has been made during this campaign. The last time such a power was invoked was in 1964, in relation to pawnbroking. The “power grab” assertion is therefore a disingenuous one, and represents one of the weakest possible arguments for retention.
The Seanad’s main role in a realistic sense is to contribute to legislative advisory review oversight. The Government is maintaining that the parliamentary committees (which already sit for more hours per annum than the Seanad) can be correspondingly adjusted to assume further capacities, with a stated determination to consult more civic voices in the preparation of legislation. The Taoiseach has even stated in the Dáil that letter writers (such as those to your newspaper) could be asked to contribute at parliamentary committee stage. Such an ambition would be equivalent in a de facto sense to the objectives of possible Seanad reform in terms of reaching out more to society in a vocational sense with respect to legislative analyses. – Yours, etc,
Dublin 14
Sir, – We are appealing for a No vote. We believe the abolition of the Seanad will make the adoption of EU decisions and legislation easier for a government that is determined to do so, even if those decisions are inconsistent with the stated views of the Irish people. Abolishing the Seanad will eliminate the chance of ever establishing a reformed institution that could scrutinise future EU military issues and will make it less problematic for Enda Kenny and his successors to pass controversial legislation.
With the EU pushing for more militarisation there is a need to increase scrutiny and accountability, not support a decision that will allow for the easier passage of such decisions. Compared to Scandinavian countries, Germany and many of the new member states, Ireland’s has one of the least effective scrutiny systems of EU legislation. A reformed Seanad could potentially correct this weakness in Ireland’s oversight of EU policy-making, particularly on military issues.
The recent European Parliament session, which approved a report on EU’s military structures: state of play and future prospects, demonstrates that the further erosion of Irish neutrality and the continued militarisation of the EU are on the EU and Government agenda and this will be made easier by removing the threat of a reformed Seanad.
This report, aimed at boosting efforts to further militarise the EU, calls for the creation of a fully-fledged EU military headquarters, for the strengthening of EU battle groups, for more money to be spent on arms production and research, and for a closer relationship with Nato.
While the report is non-binding, it sets the agenda for the EU Council meeting in December where further EU militarisation and increased support for arms production and research will be discussed. It is most disturbing to note that all Fine Gael MEPs – the party that wants the Seanad abolished instead of reformed – supported this report and only one Irish MEP, Paul Murphy, Socialist Party voted against it.
Just because the Seanad has failed to promote peace and neutrality issues in the past is not a justifiable reason to support its permanent abolition. The failures of the Seanad are the direct result of the failure and refusal of the political parties to reform it.
It seems the Government’s strategy is to “to get rid of the Seanad quickly” before there is a chance to reform it in a way that would make any future government’s task of passing controversial legislation more difficult.
While we all agree with the criticism of the current Seanad and the undemocratic procedure for allocating seats. If abolished, it can never be reinstated without a referendum, and the only body that can propose this is the government itself. Thus it’s unlikely that the institution that wants the Seanad abolished will ever propose its reinstatement. – Yours, etc,
Retd Army Commandant &
UN Military peacekeeper;
Shannonwatch coordinator;
Galway City Councillor;
Shannonwatch activist:
Former Green Party MEP
and peace & neutrality
activist; Prof JOHN
MAGUIRE, Prof of
Sociology, UCC,
C/o Iona Road,
Glasnevin, Dublin 9.
Sir, – The Senate has proved one thing very clearly – how quickly politicians change colour when it suits the agenda. It does nothing to assure me of anything political. – Yours, etc,
Fortmary Park,
Sir, – We generally get the opportunity to elect individual politicians every four years or so. This time we have the opportunity to eliminate 60 of them in one fell swoop. It looks like a case of the chickens coming home to roost! – Yours, etc,
Bullock Park,
Sir, – To those who wish  to reform the Seanad, here are some reform measures.  
First, I would propose  two senators representing each of the 26 counties, making a total of 52, and elected by the people of their respective county just  like senators  in  US, representing their state.  The  position should be an  honorary one, with no salary save for travelling expenses to and from Dublin, including accommodation. 
Senators should  be a voice for the social and economic problems of their respective county  and “play” with vigour and enthusiasm of Gaelic footballers or hurlers.  Yes, the Seanad should give balance to democracy, but above all the position of Senator should be an honorary one, where people act out of love and passion for their county. Am I going to see this? No.
That’s why I am voting with Molly Bloom’s words. Yes, yes and yes again. – Yours, etc,
Beggars Bush Court,
Dublin 4.
Sir, – How ironic that your long-overdue discussion on voting rights for emigrants (Ciara Kenny, “The votes at home: Is the diaspora disenfranchised?”, September 28th) was printed adjacent to a full-page spread on the referendum to eliminate from our electoral system the last vestige of franchise for the diaspora!
For the past 40 years, the postal ballot for the NUI Seanad seats was my only connection with the Irish political system. Over the years, I have had the satisfaction of helping to vote in such diverse personalities as Gemma Hussey, Gus Martin, Brendan Ryan (of the Simon Community) and Michael D Higgins. Together with the TCD senators (especially Mary Robinson), they have disproportionately enriched Irish political culture. Admittedly, we were a privileged sub-set of all emigrants. But what a shame that the standard response to the charge of elitism is to level down rather than level up!
Ireland needs to harness more of its elites, not less. A broadening of the representation of significant sections of Irish society both at home and abroad would take no more than a full utilisation of the flexibility inherent in Articles 18 and 19 of our Constitution. – Yours, etc,
The Parade,
Co Cork.
Sir, – As an ordinary non-academic citizen of Ireland who believes in a democratic electoral system, I will this Friday for the first time have a right to vote in relation to the Seanad. I will be voting Yes. That’s real democracy. – Yours, etc,
A chara, – We are told a new court of appeal needs to be established because of an “unacceptable” backlog of cases on appeal. This new court will involve, of course, the appointment of new judges, and more money trickling down the line for the legal profession.
Meanwhile, our health (and education) services are crippled by a recruitment embargo, which prevents the appointment of new medical personnel, teachers, etc, despite “unacceptable” backlogs and lengthening waiting lists in all hospital departments.
Existing health (and education) staff are expected to work harder and longer. Why can’t the judges do the same? Shorten their holidays, lengthen their working day, and let the legal backlog be dealt with the same way as hospital backlogs.
If we don’t have money for our hospitals, why should lawyers jump the queue? When we stop paying money to the banks, and have put the crisis behind us, then perhaps we might look at the idea of a new court, more judges and more money for the privileged. Let’s get our priorities right. – Is mise,
Riversdale Avenue,
Dublin 22.
Sir, – So the Master of the High Court, Edmund Honohan, feels the proposed court of appeal is a “crude device” that will lead to a rise in appeals. (Front page, September 30th). The fact is that the referendum on Friday has been called to deal with the issue precisely because there is evidence that the backlog on appeals is so considerable that it goes far beyond mere administration and case management as suggested by Mr Honohan. It is a truism to say that justice delayed is justice denied. I assume that Mr Honohan will accept that, under the Constitution, our citizens are mature enough to make up their own minds on whether the proposed court of appeal is necessary or not. It is part of the democratic process for voters to decide on such matters. – Yours, etc,
Rochestown Avenue,
Dún Laoghaire,
Co Dublin.

A chara, – We have become used to disastrous opinion poll figures for the Labour Party, but Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin’s response (Irish Times/Ipsos MRBI opinion poll, Front page and Breaking News, October 1st) is so blinkered as to be delusional. He argues Labour’s figures won’t improve until voters get money in their pockets, oblivious to the sense of betrayal that working class voters feel towards Labour and to the fact that indeed they have been betrayed.
Everyone knows that the bank crisis and subsequent economic collapse impose severe restraints on our society. But it isn’t a question that the bills left by the collapse must be paid, but who will pay them. And Labour has pushed the Fine Gael/Fianna Fáil policy of toeing the EU line and making the poorer sections of society pay, so that the bankers – at home and abroad – can maintain or regain their wealthy status.
It will take working people generations to undo the damage being inflicted on them at the moment, but people’s anger is there because they know it is unnecessary: that it is the rich and the people who made the big profits out of the boom who can and should pay.
No amount of recovery is going to assuage that anger.
I have always thought the Labour Party was an essential component of any united Left alternative to the Fine Gael-Fianna Fáil alliance, but unless honest voices who have learned the real lessons of the betrayal come to the fore in Labour, it is becoming increasingly hard to see any role in the future for a party that has proved such a woeful disappointment to those who voted for it. – Is mise,
Ascaill Ghleanntán
na hAbhann
Cluain Dolcáin
Baile Átha Cliath 22.
Sir, – Your Front page report (October 1st) shows Labour support at just 6 per cent in your latest opinion poll. Meanwhile, the Letters page features an appeal for a No vote in the Seanad referendum, signed by 29 politicians of various hues. The signatories include two Labour TDs, despite Seanad abolition being the agreed policy of the coalition Government of which their party is a member.
The lack of cohesion and coherence in Labour’s ranks is a godsend to the party’s opponents, who continue to peddle snakeoil remedies that purport to provide an alternative and pain-free escape route from the crisis in our national finances.
Labour TDs, MEPs and councillors need to hold their nerve and hang together. Otherwise, they will surely hang separately! – Yours, etc,
Haddington Park,
Co Dublin.

Sir, – We are a diverse group of politicians, and we will all vote No in the Seanad abolition referendum.
We come from different political parties; some have never been members of any political party. We come from across every social, religious, and educational background.
We agree on very few things, but we agree to vote No. The interests of Ireland are best served if the Irish people vote No. The Seanad has an important role to play in our democracy.
There are many reasons to vote No, each of us has their own reasons why we will vote No. But this is not a sign of discord, it is a sign that a No vote goes beyond politics. – Yours, etc,
C/o Leinster House,
Kildare Street, Dublin 2.
Sir, – Surely Breda O’Brien (Opinion, September 28th) is misguided if she thinks a ballot paper with anything other than the vote on it, will “probably” be counted. A spoiled vote is just that, as any self-respecting scrutineer would tell her. – Yours, etc,
Dale Road,
Co Dublin.
Sir, – What’s the problem with Taoiseach Enda Kenny refusing to debate on Prime Time at Micheál Martin’s invitation? Were I at war with an enemy I would not go to battle on his chosen ground. To do so would prove my real weakness to lead. – Yours, etc,
Co Sligo.
Sir, – I feel Enda Kenny’s refusal to debate with Micheál Martin on RTÉ (Breaking News, September 28th) not only goes against the origins of democracy, but also gives us a flavour of life in Ireland without the Seanad. Surely debate in Ireland is at our core? Is it not the Irish voice that has held our place in the world much more so than our economic relevance? Of course we have to reduce costs, but not at the cost of who we are. – Yours, etc,
Seafield Court,
Co Dublin.
Sir, – Enda Kenny will not debate the referendum on the abolition of the Seanad because he has realised his mistake and he cannot justify the unjustifiable.
It is a power grab of phenomenal proportions. If this referendum is passed the Taoiseach can then remove Supreme Court judges, the ombudsman and the comptroller and auditor general if he has a sufficiently large majority to which the whip can be applied. Garret FitzGerald would never have proposed such a constitutional amendment. – Yours, etc,
Ardnacrusha, Co Clare.
Sir, – A letter from some of our university colleagues (September 27th) raises some valid points about accountability in Irish governance.
However, we argue that the wider campaign against Seanad abolition has overstated the potential of upper houses generally to effectively perform a check upon government.
It has been widely claimed that Seanad abolition would remove an important check on executive power, amounting to nothing less than a “power-grab”. But the purpose of upper chambers, where they do exist, is usually to assist in the legislative process, not to sanction government. In practice, oversight is better exercised by the lower chamber to which government is directly responsible.
Indeed the referendum will effectively make it much more difficult for the Government to secure the removal of a judge or a president because a greater level of cross-party Dáil support will be needed. If this is a “power-grab”, it is not a very well designed one.

We are also puzzled by our colleagues’ support for the Quinn/Zappone plan, as this retains the vocational and graduate-specific structure of the current Senate. The “panel” seats have never been meaningfully vocational, and there is no good reason to believe this could now be achieved simply by expanding the franchise. It is much more likely to yield a miniature and pointless replica of the Dáil, risking parliamentary gridlock.
Finally, we urge caution against our colleagues’ suggestion that the national parliament should give direct representation to “expertise”, whether through vocational panels or otherwise. There are many good ways of incorporating expert knowledge in the legislative process without giving experts parliamentary seats.
We believe a Yes vote is a reasonable step towards a reformed political system. – Yours, etc,
EOIN O’MALLEY, School of Law and Government, DCU; BEN TONRA, School of Politics and International Relations, UCD; EOIN DALY, Sutherland School of Law, UCD; KEVIN RAFTER, School of Communications, DCU; JOHN O’DOWD, Sutherland School of Law, UCD; MÁIRÉAD ENRIGHT, Kent Law School, University of Kent; ALAN DUKES, former TD and Minister; RICHARD HUMPHREYS, Law Library, Dublin 7; LIAM THORNTON, Sutherland School of Law, UCD; JIM POWER, Economist & SEAN DONLAN, School of Law, UL,
C/o Sutherland School of
Law, UCD, Dublin 4.
Sir, – With the exception of the six university seats, Seanad Éireann’s members are elected democratically, but by indirect franchise.
Forty-three of the Seanad’s 60 members are chosen by the members of the incoming Dáil, the outgoing Seanad and the country’s major municipal authorities, all of whom, with the exception of the outgoing Senators, have already been elected by direct universal franchise. Accordingly, the TDs, Senators and county and city councillors effectively constitute an electoral college for the election of a new Seanad. This system is not unlike that for choosing the president of the United States, with each state of the US electing a certain number of delegates to an electoral college, which in turn elects the president.
The Taoiseach’s 11 nominees also get their seats by indirect franchise. The Taoiseach is elected by the members of Dáil Éireann who are in turn directly elected by universal franchise.
While it can be argued that the university senators are chosen by a privileged minority, these panels could be extended, not only to include graduates of all third-level institutions, but also to give representation to members of trade unions affiliated to the Irish Congress of Trade Unions and to registered members of employers’ and business groups such as the Irish Business and Employers Confederation and the Irish Small and Medium Enterprises Association. This would reflect a much wider range of interests and provide a valuable input into the scrutiny of proposed legislation.
The Seanad may need a makeover but it should be retained and reformed. – Yours, etc,
Ardbrugh Close,
Dalkey, Co Dublin.
Sir, – The Labour Party’s Seanad referendum poster proclaiming One Parliament Yes! is intriguing. Is it possible the Labour Party thinks the Seanad is a national parliament? If it were, Ireland would be unique in the whole world. – Yours, etc,
Castle Avenue,
Clontarf, Dublin 3.
Sir, – Breda O’Brien calls on those seeking reform of the Seanad to “choose No to abolition, and then write ‘Reform’ on the ballot” as the ballot will then “be set aside for later examination and, as any fair-minded scrutineer could only find there was a clear intention to vote No, it will in all probability be counted in that way” (Opinion, September 28th).
While this is technically correct, having observed many election counts I would advise her that the inclusion of political slogans or statements of any kind on the ballot is a very hazardous enterprise.

Under the Referendum Act 1994, the returning officer has the power to exclude a ballot “on which anything is written or marked which, in the opinion of the local returning officer, is calculated to identify the elector”. While this seems to restrict the power to exclude a vote to a very limited instance, in practice it gives the returning officer quite a degree of latitude to exclude ballots which have anything written on them. Personally, I wouldn’t be willing to take a gamble that my vote would not be counted!
There are only two options in this referendum. Anyone wishing to abolish the Seanad should vote Yes. Anyone who wants to retain it, or believes that it should be reformed, no matter how slim the chance of that might be, should vote No. With all due respect to Ms O’Brien, the detail of one’s views on a referendum ought to be conveyed directly to one’s political representatives, rather than to the returning officer on the face of a ballot paper. – Yours, etc,
Clontarf, Dublin 3.

Irish Independent:

The interesting thing about the forthcoming referendum is the level of interest it has generated in an institution that not too many people have taken much notice of in recent years.
Also in this section
Charges of a not so light brigade
Flippant words
Recognise teenage angst for what it is
It’s like having a clear-out and deciding on what items you really want to keep. Sometimes you come across a discarded item and find a new use for it. Could this be the case with Seanad Eireann?
Well, first of all, the public needs to be informed of its uses and limitations. I read through the booklet that came through my letterbox and really felt no wiser afterwards.
I notice that there are two proposals: the Seanad abolition and the provision of a Court of Appeals.
The latter appears straightforward as there are long delays and it will accelerate the judicial process.
However, as regards the campaign on Seanad abolition, the only signs I have noticed are very negative, eg, save €20m a year by abolishing the Seanad and we will have 60 fewer politicians.
Can we choose the 60 to go? Perhaps, like the ‘X Factor’, we could swap some of the 166 TDs in Dail Eireann and keep Feargal Quinn or John Crown.
There have been many arguments on both sides of the debate but despite the importance of such a decision, the Taoiseach refuses to debate the abolition of Seanad Eireann on TV.
Is it not important enough, and if so why have a referendum on whether to abolish the institution without a wider discussion?
Mike Geraghty
Newcastle, Galway
The rich get richer
Ireland is a country of two cultures, the culture of the rich and that of the poor. It is a division that is locked in place by the persistent inequitable distribution of the country’s wealth.
There is a glaring contradiction between the Christianity or Humanism we profess and our tolerance of shameful levels of basic need experienced by so many.
A recent report by Social Justice Ireland suggests that 700,000 of our citizens live in poverty. The proportion of people who do not have access to healthy, nutritious food is particularly alarming. We are landed with a failing welfare system that is clearly not fit for purpose.
The Government has institutionalised insensitivity to the glaring injustices that define our way of life by building a brazen shield against the recurring outrage generated by the official appropriation of Ireland’s finances through self-administered excessive salaries, expenses and pensions.
Additionally, we are trapped in an insidious class system that is based on the vulgar display of possessions as we steadily lose our sense of enough and our awareness of the needy.
We seem to give raw approval to any indication of improvement in the country’s wealth without giving serious consideration to identifying its potential beneficiaries.
The uneven struggle between politics and principle has led us to lose sight of the significant moral issues about equality and respect for human lives that arise in relation to the distribution of wealth.
Philip O’Neill
Debt mountain
 Every cloud has a silver lining. I found mine in the realisation that the global debt mountain is now so high, our children can take refuge on it after the high tides we bequeathed them from global warming sweep the rest of us away.
T O’Brien
Sandycove, Co Dublin
Reform or abolition
 Like many people who long to see rigorous Seanad reform, I have reluctantly opted to vote ‘Yes’ in the referendum. I do so because I suspect that the Government will not enact the necessary reforms, any more than any previous government has honoured pledges to democratise this toothless and increasingly irrelevant institution.
A factor that might have dissuaded me from voting for abolition is the handful of outstanding senators we’ve had, among them Mary Robinson and Noel Browne. But the vast majority of those who entered Seanad Eireann have, sadly, been party hacks, line-towing career politicians, and cute-hoor types who used it either as a launching pad for the next Dail election or a halfway-house or retirement home following the loss of a Dail seat.
I have taken the trouble to review a list of senators from 1937 to the present day and I honestly feel that the number of truly noteworthy ones does not justify the Seanad’s retention.
The senators have had ample opportunity over the decades to press for meaningful reform and allow all people of voting age have a say in who did or didn’t get to sit in the chamber.
But instead they were content to enjoy the perks and privileges of the Upper House, huffing and puffing and having no demonstrable effect on anything.
John Fitzgerald
Callan, Kilkenny
Demolishing the house
There’s this property in which I, among others, have a small but symbolic stake as landlord. It comprises an interconnected set of venerable old houses, constructed in the 1920s, which are well-located in the heart of the capital and enjoy ample car-parking.
It is seen as a much-prized des res to the extent that we have never been short of candidates when renewal of places occurs at the end of every five-year lease.
For all this grandeur, having never been properly modernised, the internal structures of the complex are not entirely fit for purpose. Its timbers creak – possibly due to the strain of too many tenants (although it is said that they are only ever there for a limited number of days); it is prone to leaks; and a great deal of the hot air generated within seems to be released without having any real beneficial effect.
Nonetheless, its residents have always seemed extremely happy with their conditions. Once they have moved in – some having been there for decades – precious few among them have shown any serious interest in the prospect of the disruption that would arise if meaningful renovations were to be carried out.
Almost as an afterthought to the imposing main house, a much smaller but equally well-appointed building of the same vintage is annexed to it.
This is practically out of sight. Looking at the dusty old deeds, it seems that among the original intentions for this opulent outhouse was to house the night watchmen to ensure that those in the big house would not lose the run of themselves.
It has instead been variously pressed into action as a temporary halfway house for those who have fallen on hard times and been evicted from the main house, as a granny-flat for retirees and even a creche of sorts.
Overall, its tenants have tended to keep to themselves. To be honest, even as their landlord, I don’t know what most of the current batch do.
Recently I’ve received notice from the head of the residents’ committee that a majority of the tenants of the main building wish to carry out some significant building works. At first I imagined that they were looking to fix the entire roof or insulate the external walls. Instead, it turns out that they plan to focus attention on the second house in isolation.
Rather than renovating, they want to demolish it entirely, taking some of the fixtures and fittings into their own building, and leaving a vacant space where it stood.
This is a much more far-reaching proposal than tenants asking permission to put up some shelving so it merits very careful consideration on the part of us owners.
The question is, will this course of action improve how the property, as a whole, functions, given that the structural problems are by no means confined to the smaller of the buildings? What effect will knocking down significant support pillars have on the overall architecture? Indeed, could the whole edifice be weakened and come crashing down?
Ronan Gingles
Brussels, Belgium
Irish Independent


October 1, 2013

1 October 2013 More Books books books

I go all the way around the park round the park listening to the Navy Lark
Our heroes are in trouble they are to launch a rocket with one of them in it into outer space from Troutbridge. Priceless.
We good to hospital Mary a bit better. I put even more books on Amazon
We watch Dads army v good.
Scrabble today Mary wins and get under 400. perhaps I might win tomorrow.


Professor Alan Carrington
Professor Alan Carrington, the chemist who has died aged 79, specialised in investigating the structure of molecules.

6:55PM BST 30 Sep 2013
Working at the level of subatomic particles, Carrington was aided by rapid developments in the abstruse and emerging world of quantum theory, which examines the apparently bizarre behaviour of the smallest units of matter. Yet his research had crucial practical applications, furthering our understanding of the ways atoms bond together.
Alan Carrington was born on January 6 1934, the son of Albert and Constance Carrington (née Nelson). He was educated at Colfe’s Grammar School and the University of Southampton where, as well as his aptitude for maths and sciences, it became clear that he was also blessed with great musical talent.
After completing his PhD he became a Fellow of Downing College, Cambridge, in 1959. It was there that Carrington worked alongside Christopher Longuet-Higgins, professor of theoretical chemistry and widely considered one of the pioneers of quantum theory as applied to molecular systems (later he would develop a profound interest in artificial intelligence).
On returning to Southampton in 1967, Carrington developed a reputation as an eminent chemist, wholly dedicated to his science. This was not always easy, particularly at a time when academics were beginning to come under significant pressure to do work of immediate commercial interest. Carrington instead pursued fundamental molecular science. This involved “interrogating” molecules through various spectroscopic methods.
In particular Carrington worked on electron spin resonance. A spinning electron creates its own magnetic field. Any molecule with an unpaired electron (which is known as a “free radical”) can thus – in the presence of an external magnetic field – exist in two states. In the first, stable, state, the field due to the electron spin opposes the external magnetic field – in an analogy with two bar magnets, the North pole of one is adjacent to the South pole of the other. The second, unstable, and higher energy state, occurs where the “North pole” of one is adjacent to the “North pole” of the other.
By driving electron pairs from stable to unstable states, Carrington was able to make breakthroughs in the field of electron distribution, so becoming a leading international figure in determining the structure of molecules. Later he also used vibrational spectroscopy and microwaves – the former method identifying the strength of bonds between atoms; the latter allowing the examination of the molecule in rotation, further revealing its structure.
Doing so successfully proved extremely challenging. Accurate use of spectroscopy required an understanding of the energy levels of a molecule. Yet according to quantum theory it is impossible to observe both the position and the energy of a subatomic particle, because the act of observation will change the particle’s energy. However Carrington understood that it is possible to observe the transition between two states, for example the energy at which electrons jump between orbitals around an atom’s nucleus.
He remained at Southampton until 1999, barring a three-year break between 1984-1987 at the University of Oxford, where he was professor of chemistry.
Never one to work on (comparatively) large molecules, in recent times he worked on the H3+ ion, one of the simplest triatomic bodies in existence. He resisted the urge to examine molecules in solution, preferring to study them in isolation. This required an extremely sophisticated set-up at his laboratory.
Outside that laboratory, Carrington was a sociable man and a keen sportsman. He enjoyed wicketkeeping for his local cricket team, and was a dedicated sailor, keeping a 505 dinghy on the Hamble, and later a larger boat at Lymington. Above all, however, he was a superb pianist. One of his proudest moments came alongside the 1971 Nobel laureate for Chemistry, Gerhard Herzberg. Just as Carrington had considered a career as a concert pianist, so Herzberg had mulled a career as an opera singer. Though they had preferred sciences, the two men put on a concert together which was very well received.
Alan Carrington was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1971. He received the Faraday Lectureship Prize in 1986 and the Davy Medal in 1992. He was appointed CBE in 1999.
He is survived by his wife and their three children. Their daughter, Rebecca Carrington, is a professional viola player; their son, Simon Carrington, is principal timpanist at the London Philharmonic Orchestra and senior timpani professor at the Royal Academy of Music.
Alan Carrington, born January 6 1934, died August 31 2013

I was disappointed by the lack of understanding of the dynamic position in the UK higher education sector expressed in your article (Party less, pay more: deal that delivers degrees a lot sooner, 28 September).
First, there are now four private, non-state-funded institutions in the UK to have been granted university title, not one. The University of Buckingham and Regent’s University London are not-for-profit charities that offer a broad portfolio of programmes, have strong international linkages and maintain a research profile. The University of Law and BPP University of Professional Studies have fewer degree students but offer first-rate professional training with real value for money. They are predominantly UK-focused but will undoubtedly increase their degree programmes and international reach.
Second, a university experience is not simply about gaining knowledge for a profession but about developing broader awareness, skills, perspectives and an understanding of the globalising environment. At Regent’s our students, from more than 140 countries, work face to face with tutors and each other for a minimum of 20 hours a week to gain an understanding of subjects and approaches other than their own, and enjoy their university years socialising – if you must, “partying” – to develop contacts that they will maintain throughout their lives.
This cannot be done in two years. Our programmes take three to four years. Without this breadth of experience we would not see many of the global leaders that play such a vital role in every area of our lives.
It may cost more upfront but the investment is justified by the return.
Prof Aldwyn Cooper
Vice-chancellor and CEO, Regent’s University London

What is remarkable about the Ministry of Defence document (How to sell wars to public – MoD study, 27 September) is that it wrongly argues that there was “robust” support for military operations in Northern Ireland between 1969 and 2007.
The first opinion poll indicating that a majority of the British public supported withdrawal was published in September 1971. From the mid-70s until the peace process there were consistent majorities in favour of withdrawal. The Conservative government and the military referred to the Northern Ireland experience as a reason not to become more aggressively involved in Yugoslavia in 1991.
Polls suggested majority public opposition to the war in Afghanistan a few months after the escalation of Britain’s involvement in 2006. This preceded the Wootton Bassett phenomenon and General Sir Richard Dannatt’s statement in 2010 that the commemoration could fuel support for British withdrawal.
Paul Dixon
Editor, The British Approach to Counterinsurgency (Macmillan, 2010)
•  Your story demonstrates the impact that more than a decade of anti-war campaigning has had on public opinion. The MoD is clearly worried that such opinion makes it harder to wage future wars.
However we are concerned about the military response to this: more use of private security firms, drones and other remote weapons, and cyber operations. These are seen as less likely to be unpopular, because they do not involve high levels of British forces casualties. Surely a better course would be to recognise that these wars were wrong in the first place, and to look for solutions that bring peace.
Jeremy Corbyn MP Chair, Lindsey German Convenor, Stop the War Coalition
•  If the MoD wants to deaden our senses to Nineteen-Eighty-Four-style endless distant conflicts resulting in an ongoing stream of pointless deaths rather than protect and defend its citizens and territory at home, it’s time it came clean and renamed itself the Ministry for War.
Mark Lewinski
Swaffham Prior, Cambridgeshire

The nauseating effrontery of Michael Herzog’s jeremiad at what he terms “the smile offensive” of Iran’s president, Hassan Rouhani, is breathtaking (Israel can’t trust Iran, 28 September). While he talks of “Iran’s history of deceit” over its “continual pursuit of nuclear weapons”, not a word is uttered about Israel’s arsenal of nuclear weapons, which it still officially denies and which for years it concealed from the world until Mordechai Vanunu exposed them, for which “crime” he was abducted and imprisoned for 18 years and has been denied permission to leave Israel ever since. And complete silence on Israel’s refusal to sign the non-proliferation treaty. Nor has he anything to say on the manner in which, applying the apt words of Milton’s Lycidas to the settlers’ colonisation of Palestinian lands under successive Israeli administrations, “the grim wolf, with privy paw, daily devours apace, and nothing said”.
All this from a man who, for the past 20 years or more, has played a key role in Israel both in the so-called “peace process” and as a senior aide acting as liaison between the Israel defence ministry, the IDF, the intelligence community and Israel’s powerful defence establishment, and who concludes his article with an ominous statement that Israel “will be left alone with a terrible decision between ‘the bomb’ and ‘the bombing'”.
It really is time for Jews worldwide to stand up and be counted: dissociate us from the suicidal impulses that are ever present in Israel.
Benedict Birnberg
•  Michael Herzog might well be asked: why can’t Iran and most of Israel’s neighbours trust the Tel Aviv regime? Doubtless, were the UN to impose on Israel the kind of sanctions levied on Iran, forcing the regime to comply with international law, we would see a speedy, just resolution to the 65 years of oppression suffered by the Palestinian people.
Ian Lowery
Kensworth, Bedfordshire
•  With Iran, it’s not really about nuclear weapons at all. It’s about the hawks in Israel and the US needing a suitable enemy to justify their belligerence. Rouhani doesn’t fit the bill – they’d rather have Ahmadinejad.
Peter Adams
Stroud, Gloucestershire
• Simon Jenkins (If we fear an Iranian bomb, we should back Rouhani, 27 September) rightly questions the effectiveness of sanctions, but he misses the irony of what has happened with Iran.
“Targeted sanctions” were devised in the late 1990s as a response to the manifest failures of traditional, broad-based economic sanctions. In 2006 this new approach was adopted to put pressure on Iran over its nuclear programme. The original aim was to focus economic pressure on key individuals and entities, but avoid causing extensive collateral damage to the general population. However, having failed to achieve anything, the sanctions regime has been successively “toughened” (ie expanded). The result is the sort of broad-based economic blockade that everyone agreed long ago to be a bad idea. It would seem that as far as sanctions are concerned what goes around comes around.
David Smart
Associate fellow, Royal United Services Institute for Defence and Security Studies
•  It is difficult to disagree with the logic of Simon Jenkins, but he has overlooked a political dynamic. He says “Israel’s boycott of Iran’s hand of friendship is madness”. Not so. The “existential threat” reinforces US support for Israel and its hostility towards Iran. This leverage is too important to give away. And Israel has probably calculated that a rapprochement led by Obama can be defeated in Congress, especially with its help. To break this dynamic, Britain and Europe need to show willingness to pursue rapprochement without, if need be, the US.
David Angluin
• Is the Netanyahu who has “vowed to ‘tell the truth’ about Iran’s nuclear programme” (Report, 30 September) the same Netanyahu who refuses to tell the truth about Israel’s huge stockpile of nuclear warheads and the missiles with which to fire them, and who refuses to sign the nuclear non-proliferation treaty?
Gerald Kaufman MP
Labour, Manchester Gorton

Saturday’s magazine leaves me fashionably confused for the week ahead. On the one hand I’m shown how to pair a kilt with a white silk blouse that has a gold designer zip at the front (How to dress, Weekend, 28 September). And then on the same page you tell me that superfluous zips are “going down” (The measure). To quote: “a zip in the centre of a blouse doesn’t cut it”. Which is right, please?
Amy Kennedy
Ashford, Kent
• Not only were the “I’m Backing Britain” T-shirts made in Portugal (Report, 30 September), the union flag was printed upside down as well (the distress signal). Source: Blue Peter, 1968.
Jeremy Hayes
Snodland, Kent
• I very much enjoyed the photographs and paintings illustrating Simon Jenkins’ selection of views (50 best views in England, 28 September) and have already decided to visit the few that I have not already seen. I have only one quibble. I have lived in or near Liverpool for more than 50 years and have never heard anybody referring to the buildings at the Pierhead as “The Three Graces”.
Jim Grindle
Formby, Merseyside
• So Malcolm Gladwell thinks that Canada has no luxury brands (Interview, G2, 30 September). Has he never stayed at a Four Seasons hotel?
Richard Saxon
• Regarding unmanned airliners (‘This is your pilot sleeping…’, G2, 30 September), several years ago I was told by an aircraft designer that plans were afoot to have a plane manned only by a dog and one pilot. The dog was there to attack the pilot if he touched any of the controls, and the pilot was there to feed the dog.
Allan McRobert
•  I’ve heard so much about the economic crisis, the effects of the cuts, the unfairness of who pays how much tax, and more. There’s one thing I haven’t heard: I’d pay an extra penny per pound in income tax to protect the most vulnerable from the cuts. Wouldn’t you?
Kate Green


There are remarkably few Jobcentres in villages and small towns. Equally, in many rural areas, there is little or no public transport. How much will the Chancellor grant in extra benefits to the long-term unemployed to allow them to afford either the petrol or taxi fares to attend a Jobcentre that is, possibly, 25 or more miles away? Would he prefer tented encampments outside Jobcentres in larger towns so that people can be sure of being there daily?
Or perhaps he envisages small re-enactments of the Jarrow march as streams of people walk for hours to the Jobcentre and then back again? It is doubtful whether they would also find time to pick up litter or volunteer for charity.
As for those currently employed in clearing litter or cooking for elderly people, presumably they would be sacked so that the unemployed can do their jobs. Then, of course, they could find themselves doing their old jobs, but unpaid.
It would be reassuring to voters and taxpayers if the Chancellor would put such silly ideas to some sort of Common Sense Committee before he spouts them off to rest of the UK.
Pamela Guyatt, Lamerton, Devon
The Government decides to reduce the welfare bill by encouraging people to downsize (bedroom tax). It seems a good idea except that there are  thousands more possible applicants for smaller homes than properties available.
They then decide to help people to buy their own homes by backing a 95 per cent mortgage. The demand will rise along with house prices because there are not enough affordable homes being built.
So then good old George decides to reduce the unemployed figure by forcing the long-term unemployed into work. How? There are not sufficient jobs available for school leavers and employable people. Who will employ those who prefer to live on benefits?
I despair of this government ever thinking a plan through. Any manager worth his salt would consider the whole programme, not just the party conference sound bite.
W Sandys, Chinnor, Oxfordshire
Pilots awake but still a danger  to passengers
There is a danger arising from aircrew fatigue (report, 27 September) more insidious than falling asleep at the controls, and that is impairment of mental faculties, which may lead to poor judgement when decisions must be taken in critical situations. A fatigued pilot may be “awake” but not at his or her best at assimilating and responding to inputs to the brain from eyes, ears, and tactile senses.
Although alarming, both pilots falling asleep in an airliner flying straight and level on autopilot might not be as hazardous for passengers as an “awake” but fatigued crew flying a manual approach and landing at an airport poorly equipped with navigational aids in marginal weather conditions. Fatigued pilots might not even be aware that their judgement has become impaired.
Julien Evans, Retired Boeing 757 captain, Chesham, Buckinghamshire
Drug laws  weakened
You ask (leading article, 30 September) how “die-hard supporters of the status quo” will react to the latest call for weaker drug laws, from the Chief Constable of Durham. The question itself and the absurd claim that drug liberalisers are “silenced” by derision show a curious lack of knowledge or observation.
Liberalisers are in fact guaranteed a prominent and uncritical hearing in most of the British media. Politicians, it is true, noisily proclaim their supposed toughness on the subject to gullible media. But the status quo – as any police officer should know – is that informal decriminalisation of drugs has been under way in this country for more than 40 years, and many of the ills that we now see are the results of that.
Those caught in possession of illegal drugs, including those in Class ‘A’, rarely face any serious punishment. Abusers of heroin are expensively provided with substitutes (mostly methadone) by the taxpayer.
As for the connection between drugs and crime, there is no reason to believe that legalisation would end it. Much crime in this country is based on the smuggling of cigarettes, and on the manufacture of alcohol. Both of these are, for better or worse, entirely legal.  
Women who choose niqab
Patricia Baxter (Letters, 26 September) puts wearing the niqab in the same category as genital mutilation and honour killings. This will not do – the latter are monstrous things done to people; yet it is clear from your interview with Shalina Litt on 18 September that some women are choosing to wear the niqab.
A Radio 4 interview with a lady called Anisha Patel told how she and her teenage daughter were approached by two men who tore off her daughter’s face veil and then walked away laughing. The report said that the Cross-government Working Group on Anti-Muslim Hatred put some blame on the media for prejudice against Muslims, and said that stories about the veil had not helped.
Your columnists have contributed to this. Such intolerance, expressed in liberal papers like the Independent, and the failure even to try to understand niqab-wearers’ point of view, are truly shocking.
John Dakin, Dunstable, Bedfordshire
The ostensible purpose of the niqab is to be modest. To most English people it is something strange and exotic, so it looks like attention-seeking. 
I suspect that many of the new teenage adopters will eventually find that life is more fulfilling without it. Too much heavy-handed criticism will only polarise opinions.
David Ridge, London N19
Alleged bias in GP exam pass rates
I was dismayed by your report (“Ethnic minority doctors far less likely to get senior NHS jobs”, 27 September) about an article on, which considered unproven allegations of discrimination against black and minority ethnic (BME) medical graduates taking our MRCGP examination – which is a gateway for entrance into general practice.
Your article said the report on had stated that “racial discrimination in the marking of the [exam]” could not be “excluded” as a reason for the fact that BME candidates – many of whom are international students – fail our exam at a greater rate than their white counterparts. However, on the very same day as the publication of the article, a six-month independent investigation by the General Medical Council (GMC) found that “the method of assessment is not a reason for the differential outcomes [observed]”.
The authors of the GMC report said: “Our observations suggest that international medical graduates are treated exactly the same as British graduates.” They went on to say that “lack of preparedness” of international medical graduates “may be an explanation for the differences”.
The RCGP takes equality issues extremely seriously, and the official GMC report notes that we ensure all our examiners have “mandatory training” in equality and diversity issues.
Dr Clare Gerada, Chair, Royal College of General Practitioners, London NW1
Counter-factual coalitions
Ian Dickins (letters, 24 September) displays supernatural certainty about what would have happened if the Lib Dems had not coalesced with the Conservatives. True, a minority Conservative government might have swiftly fallen and been replaced by a majority Conservative government. Even so, that would have been a different government, in which moderate Conservatives might have been stronger, less needful of support from the right.
But other possibilities are also conceivable. The Lib Dems might have continued to rise in popularity, and been even stronger in a second election. Labour might have got over their downfall and become more ready for a centre-left coalition. Alternative history-writing offers many possibilities for the imagination: the “no alternative” defence for the Coalition does not stand scrutiny.
Professor John Coleman, Oxford
Rail lines ripped up in the 1960s
Malcolm Everett’ claim (letters, 27 September) that our Victorian forbears “omitted to provide sufficient north-south rail capacity” is misleading.
The lack of capacity now – which Mr Everett quotes in arguing for HS2 – is as much about what was foolishly ripped up or down-graded in the mid-20th century as it is about what was built in the first place. 
The Great Central main line from London to Nottingham, Sheffield and Manchester was built right at the end of the Victorian era as a high-speed main line, and it was built to more generous dimensions than earlier railways so it could take the larger continental European trains. It would be a valuable asset now had it not been thrown away by closure in the 1960s.
John Harrison, Wokingham
My journey home from central Manchester on Sunday was considerably disrupted by row upon row of coaches which had brought protesters from south of Watford to the TUC march. What a pity we don’t already have HS2 so they could all have come to Manchester by train.
Graham Curtis, Manchester
Food aid will kill future children
Thoughtlessly providing food aid for children today will not merely mean that they might die tomorrow, as Ray Chandler implies (Letters, 24 September): it also means that an exponentially increasing number of children will inevitably die tomorrow. So will the environment which has hitherto supported their forebears.
I know that the cold-blooded expression of such facts opposes all sentiments of kindness and dignity, but the laws of mathematics apply to biological systems, which include ourselves, as much as they do to the performance of weaponry.
The unconditional provision of food alone or, probably worse, of food and an alien culture, may well increase the eventual total suffering.
Sidney Alford, Corsham, Wiltshire
Dangerous men
Was that a “Spot the Psychopath” photo-competition that accompanied the story “Netanyahu moves to block Iran’s return to diplomacy” (30 September)?
Eddie Dougall, Walsham le Willows, Suffolk


‘Competition between children through incessant testing and labelling results in a public sense of failure for the vast majority’
Sir, We, the undersigned academics and children’s authors, are gravely concerned at the impact that current developments in state education in England are likely to have on our children and their futures.
The new national policies around curriculum, assessment and accountability are taking enormous risks with the quality of children’s lives and learning. Competition between children through incessant testing and labelling results in a public sense of failure for the vast majority. The drive towards ever-higher attainment in national tests leads inevitably to teaching to the test, which narrows the range of learning experiences. Harmful stress is put on young people, their parents and their teachers.
These damaging developments must stop. If they go ahead there will be devastating consequences for children’s mental health, for future opportunities and, most importantly, for the quality of childhood itself. Children are natural learners who deserve an abundance of new experience, but the proposed straitjacket of government demands on their teachers will destroy the educational richness that should be children’s birthright. Childhood is too important to be squandered or exploited. It needs wide horizons, high hopes, confident expectation and absorption in the joys and challenges of meaningful learning.
We urge the Government to suspend its proposed changes in education and to establish a major Commission that examines the potential consequences of these proposals and, if necessary, offers alternatives. It is time to seek a consensus of parents, teachers, academics, children’s authors, business leaders, politicians of all parties and other public figures to decide on what we want for our children and how best to achieve it. Arrest change and seek consensus on the future of education.
Prof Michael Bassey, Nottingham Trent University; Susan Cox, University of East Anglia; Prof Colin Richards, Cumbria University; Malorie Blackman, Children’s Laureate; Carol Ann Duffy, Poet Laureate; Rachel Kelly, Chief Executive, Reading Matters; Alan Gibbons, author; Prof Patrick Ainley, Greenwich University; Sylvie Allendyke, Manchester Metropolitan University; Ashley Barnes, Sheffield Hallam University; Jonathan Barnes, Canterbury Christ Church University; Prof Bernard Barker, Leicester University; Prof Lori Beckett, Leeds Metropoitan University; Jon Berry, Hertfordshire University; Prof Ron Best, Roehampton University; Tamara Bibby, Institute of Education, London; Prof William Boyle, Manchester University; Prof Patricia Broadfoot, Bristol University; Prof Margaret Brown, King’s College London; Prof Tony Brown, Manchester Metropolitan University; Patricia Carroll, University of Cumbria; Prof Joyce Canaan, Birmingham City University; Prof Guy Claxton, Winchester University; Prof Clyde Chitty, Goldsmiths College, London; John Coe, Oxford Brookes University; Prof Frank Coffield, Institute of Education, London; Prof Helen Colley, Huddersfield University; Lucy Cooker, Nottingham University; David Cudworth, De Montford University; Gerry Czerniawski, University of East London, Helen Davenport, Manchester Metropolitan University; Kelly Davey Nicklin, Birmingham City University; Helen Demetriou, Cambridge University; Prof Justin Dillon, King’s College London; Sean Doyle, Institute of Education, London; Tony Eaude, Oxford University; Gail Edwards, Newcastle University; Anne Emerson, Nottingham University; Prof Keri Facer, Bristol University; Prof Martin Fautley, Birmingham City University; Prof Michael Fielding, Institute of Education, London; Tony Fisher, Nottingham Univerity; Judith Flynn, Manchester Metropolitan University; Colin Foster, Nottingham University; Prof Harvey Goldstein, Bristol University; Peter Gates, Nottingham University; Amy Godoy-Pressland, University of East Anglia; Tracey Goodyere, Birmingham City University; Prof Lucy Green, Institute of Education, London; Austin Griffiths, De Montford University; Prof Vivienne Griffiths, Canterbury Christ Church University; Stephen Griffin Newman, University College; Marilyn Grossman, Institute of Education, London; Prof Helen Gunter, Manchester University; Linda Hammersley-Fletcher, Manchester Metropolitan University; Jon Hanneke Jones, Newcastle University; Prof Richard Hatcher, Birmingham City University; Joanna Haynes, Plymouth University; Pete Hick, Manchester Metropolitan University; Christine Hickman, Liverpool John Moore University; Philip Hood, Nottingham University; Gillian Johnson, Nottingham University; Louise Khalid, Birmingham City University; Debra Kidd, Manchester Metropolitan University; Rene Koglbauer, Newcastle University; Prof Marilyn Leask, Bedford University; Prof David Leat, Newcastle University; Chris Loynes, Cumbria University; Gee Macrory, Manchester Metropolitan University; Prof Meg Maguire, King’s College London; Ralph Manning, University of East Anglia; Alpesh Masuria, Anglia Ruskin University; Gillian Marie McGillivray, Newman University; Jane Murray, Northampton University; Prof Roger Murphy, Nottingham University; Jane O’Connor, Birmingham University; Andrew Pearce, Leeds Trinity University; Rajesh Patel, De Montford University; Prof Heather Piper, Manchester Metropolitan University; Prof Richard Pring, Oxford University; Ariza Pura, Manchester Metropolitan University; Prof Alex Rendall, Birmingham City University; Gill Roberts, Birmingham City University; Prof Anna Robinson-Pant, University of East Anglia; Lesley Saunders, Institute of Education, London; John Schostak, Manchester Metropolitan University; Stephen Scoffham, Canterbury Christ Church University; Mark Simmons, Nottingham University; Peter Sorensen, Nottingham University; Prof Howard Stevenson, University of Nottingham; Alison Taysum, Leicester University; Spyros Themelis, Middlesex University; Prof Norman Thomas, Hertfordshire University; Prof Pat Thomson, Nottingham University; Prof Paul Thomson, Nottingham University; Dave Trotman, Newman University; Prof Stan Tucker, Newman University College; Mary Tyler, De Montford University; John Wadsworth, Goldsmiths College, London; David Westgate, Newcastle University; Prof Julian Williams, Manchester University; Peter Wright, Institute of Education, London; Prof Terry Wrigley, Leeds Metropolitan University; Sarah Youngie, De Montford University; Janine Amos; Bernard Ashley; Ros Asquith; Steve Barlow; Martyn Bedford; Susan Bentley; Jon Berry; Mary Bird; Helen Bonney; Steve Bowkett; Lynn Breeze; Marilyn Brocklehurst; Melvin Burgess; Anne Cassidy; Cathy Cassidy; Alison Clarke; Lucy Coates; Isabella Coles; Rebecca Colby; Jo Cotterill; Dave Cousins; Kevin Crossley-Holland; Michael Dance; Berlie Doherty; Thomas Donaldson; Tommy Donbavand; Kay Dunbar; Trevor East; John Foster; Janet Foxley; Prof Maureen Freely; Mark Gallagher; Owen Gallagher; Carolyn Garcia; Marie Gray; Julie Green; R. S. Gregory; Joanna De Guia; Daniel Hahn; David Hamer; Sue Hampton; Sue Hardy-Dawson; Vanessa Harbour; Mary Heycock; Mary Hoffman; Michael Holroyd; Lynn Huggins-Cooper; Bernadette Hyland; Matt Imrie; Marie-Louise Jensen; Curtis Jobling; Kelly Jones; Terry Jones; Naomi Kingston; Aliss Langridge; Tanya Landman; Alison Macdonald; Bethan Marshall; Sharon Markless; Jane McLoughlin; Katherine Morgan; Moira Munro; Joanna Nadin; Beverley Naidoo; Carol Naylor; Donald Nelson; Angela Noble; Michael O’Connor; Korky Paul; Duncan Pile; Bali Rai; Danuta Reah; Anne Rooney; Michael Rose; Michael Rosen; Anita Rowe; Kate Scott; Louise Searl; Andy Seed; Izabella Shaw; Lesley Sharpling; Colette Shine; Nicky Singer; Alison Smith; Jane Spence; Susan Stegell; Jeremy Strong; Alan Summers; Sara Tomlinson; Jacob Turner; Sarah Vanden-Abeele; Meena Vyas; Kay Waddilove; Steve Weatherill

Sir, The Head Master of Rugby School (letter, Sept 28) is surely right in underlining the importance of encouraging students to embrace uncertainty, tolerate ambiguity and cultivate constructive reflection. The problem is that these qualities are largely independent of content, subject and the formal curriculum. They are not susceptible to education management but depend on the calibre, personality and skills of the teacher.
All the teacher training in the world is as nothing compared to one’s own memories of one’s own great teachers. Where such role models are sparse the solution lies not in further layers of educational theory but in the mentoring of new teachers by those with the required element of pedagogic charisma. Reinstating such excellence is not a quick process.
Dr David Brancher
Abergavenny, Monmouthshire

Sir, Your Good University Guide (Sept 28) shows that Europe’s most successful economy, Germany, has no universities in the top 35 of the world ranking whereas we have four of the top ten. Does this suggest that we have the wrong sort of university?
Clive Bone
Buckland Brewer, Devon

Private investors need to be persuaded to spend billions of pounds to create a cleaner and more efficient power sector for the UK
Sir, It is disappointing that the Chancellor has chosen to create more confusion about the direction of government policy on energy and climate change (“Osborne threatens to put brake on green taxes”, Sept 28).
His comments are likely to further undermine the confidence of private investors who need to be persuaded to spend billions of pounds to create a cleaner and more efficient power sector for the UK. Such investment would create jobs and growth while the economy is still sluggish, unemployment is high, interest rates are low, and many potential investors are in a strongly liquid position.
The Chancellor’s argument that the UK should slow down the rate of its reductions in greenhouse gases because he does not want us to be “the only people out there in front of the rest of the world” is based on flawed analysis. Many other countries are taking strong action, including China, which is moving towards a low-carbon future through its 12th five-year plan and intentions for the 13th plan.
Mr Osborne should remember that the main driver of the increase in energy bills over the past few years has been the UK’s increasing dependence on expensive imports of oil and gas. The Government should show it is serious about low-carbon energy because vacillation deters investment, increases the likelihood that the lights go out, and makes the UK a much less attractive place to do business.
Bob Ward
Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment

The fund could be best used if every cancer patient had their genome and that of their tumour sequenced before treatment
Sir, The extra £400 million that is being put into the Cancer Drugs Fund (“Cancer fund extended”, report, Sept 28) is to be welcomed. The fund provides access for patients to drugs that have not yet been approved by NICE. I suggest that the fund could be best used if every cancer patient had their genome and that of their tumour sequenced before treatment. Such sequencing is already carried out in several centres. Most of the new cancer drugs are specifically targeted, and comparing the sequence of the tumour DNA to the patient’s normal DNA can show whether any particular drug could be effective.
Taking this approach would maximise the effectiveness of treatment and, by not treating patients with drugs that would not work on their tumour, would save money and avoid those patients being needlessly exposed to any adverse side affects of the drug.
The cost of whole genome sequencing is falling, and will fall further as more sequences are done; it is already less than the cost of a course of treatment with any of the new cancer drugs. So adopting this approach would be a win-win both for patients and the NHS.
Moreover, if the sequences are contributed to the public database then this will add to the sum of knowledge about genetic changes in tumours, improving future treatment regimes and helping the development of new drugs.
Dr A. R. Williamson
Beaconsfield, Bucks

‘When Keynes put forward his economic theories he was responding to the problems of his times within the conditions of those times’
Sir, The name of John Maynard Keynes seems to have become ever more prominent recently (letter, Sept 27). The difficulty is that our economic problems are the problems of our times. When Keynes put forward his economic theories he was responding to the problems of his times within the conditions of those times. For example, in the 1930s the British Empire was still in existence: it had massive and underutilised economic resources that could be used to bolster the British economy. Nobody can be sure what he would have proposed as the way out of today’s problems. It is likely he would have made radical proposals not considered either by those invoking his name or by those opposing him. The shame is that he is not here to put forward some innovative cure.
Arthur Bell
Goldsborough, N Yorks

‘The evidence from the rest of the Western world is that a more balanced provision between ownership and secure rental is preferred’
Sir, Tim Montgomerie (Sept 30) is correct in identifying access to decent and affordable housing as a cornerstone of family stability, but he is wrong in focusing on home ownership as the only route. The evidence from the rest of the Western world is that a more balanced provision between ownership and secure rental is preferred. Mrs Thatcher’s policies on council housing lie behind today’s problems, not because of the sales aspects but for the forced removal of local authorities from the affordable housing market. For all their faults it should be remembered that, by and large, local authority-directed housing programmes had all but resolved the housing crisis created by the Second World War by the time Mrs Thatcher came to power.
We need more homes; politicians need to be less blinkered as to how they are provided.
Paul Heasman
London SW1

SIR – On the matter of the origins of stage names (Letters, September 26), I believe Vesta Tilley, the male impersonator, born Matilda Powles, got the name Vesta after her manager heard someone say, “Pass the Vestas, Tilley.”
David Thurlow
Tunbridge Wells, Kent
SIR – Hutton Conyers and Bretton Woods, the music-hall artists, stayed at a pub run by my parents in the Fifties, when they appeared at the Chatham Empire. Their stage names came from a village in Yorkshire and a resort in New Hampshire.
Peter Comben
Tonbridge, Kent
SIR – David Cameron, the leader of the Conservatives, trumpeted a £200 tax break for married couples on the very day when thousands of us were dropping off our children at university, to face an £18,000 fees hike over a three-year course.
If he doesn’t expect us to feel as if we are being treated as fools, what does he expect?
John Tipping
Chalfont St Peter, Buckinghamshire
SIR – I wish politicians would stop courting votes with ill-thought-out carrots. The electorate yearns for less government, less tax and the freedom to dispose of its income as it chooses.
Related Articles
A music-hall artiste by any other name…
30 Sep 2013
Alex Turner
Basingstoke, Hampshire
SIR – The party conference season has brought a pre-election bribe-athon, with free school meals, frozen energy bills and married-couple allowances.
But, given the uproar created by the introduction of the Same Sex Marriage Bill – which did not feature in any party’s manifesto – perhaps the electorate should be more concerned with things the parties intend to introduce but won’t have the courtesy to mention before the election.
Jonathan Lister
Cleckheaton, West Yorkshire
SIR – The Prime Minister says that marriage should be encouraged, and I agree. Yet by using the tax system, he will give those who become widows or widowers a £200 tax increase. Can it be right that the mourning wife of a soldier killed in action gets a higher tax bill?
Andrew Taylor
Hove, East Sussex
SIR – Mr Cameron’s preoccupation with securing a second coalition with the Liberal Democrats (report, September 28) doesn’t inspire confidence. I don’t know whether it is due to arrogance or stupidity that he is not entering into discussions with Ukip, whose membership is largely made up of Right-of-centre Labour supporters and disaffected Tories.
Lance Warrington
Northleach, Gloucestershire
SIR – It will not surprise Conservatives that Mr Cameron has held talks about a second coalition. It seems that he has finally recognised that his brand of politics without principle is so repulsive to former and potential Conservative voters that he has no other chance of clinging to power.
Dr Max Gammon
London SE16
SIR – You report that Mr Cameron is seeking a further coalition with the Liberal Democrats to foil those people who vote against him.
I suggest he also seeks a coalition with Labour, and we can stop wasting money on elections.
Brian Gilbert
Hampton, Middlesex
The cost of drink
SIR – Britain has a drinking problem. Every year, alcohol-related harm is estimated to cost society £21 billion and the NHS in England £3.5 billion, yet we continue to drink to massive excess.
The Government’s 2012 Alcohol Strategy rightly committed it to a minimum unit price for alcohol and better access to treatment. But 18 months later, pricing proposals have now been dropped and treatment rates remain shamefully low.
The simplest way to reduce alcohol-related harm is to ban irresponsibly cheap drinks. This has been demonstrated in countries such as Canada, where minimum unit pricing has led to a 32 per cent reduction in wholly alcohol-related deaths.
Despite the enormous economic impact, and the burden on individuals and families, only about 6 per cent of people in England who are dependent on alcohol receive treatment. Yet evidence shows that for every £1 invested in specialist alcohol treatment, £5 is saved on health, welfare and crime costs.
The NHS acknowledges the impact of alcohol-related liver disease. A reduction in alcohol consumption would help to alleviate this and other such diseases.
As the Conservative Party meets in Manchester, we urge David Cameron to reinstate his commitment to minimum unit pricing and increased access to treatment.
Alastair Campbell
Ambassador, Time to Change
Eric Appleby
Chief Executive, Alcohol Concern
Katherine Brown
Institute of Alcohol Studies
Professor Oscar D’Agnone
Medical Director, Crime Reduction Initiatives
Shirley Cramer
Chief Executive, Royal Society for Public Health
Dr Nigel Carter
British Dental Health Foundation
Joss Gaynor
Director of Policy, Adfam
Dr Carsten Grimm
Clinical Lead, Alcohol Misuse Services
Locala Community Interest Company, Kirklees
Natika Halil
Director of Health, Family Planning Association
Dr Linda Harris
Chief Executive, Spectrum Community Health
Jules Hillier
Deputy CEO, Brook
Dr Francis Keaney
Vice-Chairman, Addiction Faculty, Royal College of Psychiatrists
Dr Kieran Moriarty
British Society of Gastroenterology
Dr Tony Rao
Chairman, Royal College of Psychiatrists Older People’s Substance Misuse Working Group
Paul Richardson
Royal Liverpool University
Jonathan Shepherd
Cardiff University
Dr Jenny Lisle
Dr Louise Sell
Dr Fiona Wisniacki
Believers’ rights
SIR – We agree that the West must help persecuted Christians, whose plight has long been ignored in the media (Cristina Odone, Comment, September 26).
However, rarely in these situations is one minority suffering alone. For instance, although Christians in Pakistan are being murdered with impunity, so too are Hindus, Ahmadiyya and Shia Muslims.
It is time to talk of these situations in terms of human rights. It is time to talk in the same breath of the Christians in Syria; the Shia Muslims in Quetta, Pakistan; the Rohingya Muslims in Burma; the humanists in Indonesia; and the Baha’is in Iran.
The Foreign Office has made freedom of religion or belief a priority. Human rights abuses for many faiths and for humanists are on the increase. Supporters of our all-party group disagree theologically but agree on the right to freedom of religion or belief of those they profoundly disagree with.
The Archbishop of Canterbury has commented on BBC Radio 4: “We would stand up for any minority that is being targeted because of its faith. It is not acceptable to attack people because of their faith.”
It is 65 years since freedom of religion or belief was enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in the wake of the Holocaust.
We shall be asking the Government to commemorate this anniversary with the appointment of an Ambassador on Freedom of Religion or Belief.
Baroness Berridge (Con), Chairman
Lord Alton (Crossbench)
Jim Dobbin MP (Lab)
Angie Bray MP (Con)
Baroness Cox (Crossbench)
All Party Group on International Freedom of Religion or Belief
London SW1
Too many handles
SIR – Clive Davidson (Letters, September 28) is quite right about public-sector titles getting too complex.
At a recent meeting at Wythenshawe Hospital (now the University Hospital South Manchester NHS Foundation Trust), I had the pleasure of meeting the Directorate Manager, Respiratory Medicine Directorate; the Directorate Manager, Cardiothoracic Directorate; someone from the Patient Experience Team and the Chief Nurse.
I can’t be certain, but I think they were all nurses.
Edwina Currie Jones
High Peak, Derbyshire
Cut-off patients
SIR – Jeremy Hunt, the Health Secretary (Interview, September 28), insists that “GPs must treat elderly better”. He also says: “Doctors will be encouraged to consult their patients via email to save time and money.” Should he be reminded that, according to statistics, less than one in four elderly persons have access to the internet?
Ian Minchin
Farnham Common, Buckinghamshire
SIR – Vicki Woods (Comment, September 28) wonders why her dictionary prefers crematoria but referendums.
In Latin the ending -orium has the plural -oria. There are two endings -ndum: the future passive participle (sometimes confusingly called the gerundive) as in memorandum, which forms its plural in the same way as -orium, and the gerund, which, in Latin, has no plural at all.
If referendum meant “a matter which should be referred to the people”, the plural would end in -a. But it does not: it means the act of reference. Referenda is therefore a malapropism.
Philip Roe
St Albans, Hertfordshire
Stamp of Britishness
SIR – As the instigator of the oldest postal service, Britain is not required to show the name of the country, just the monarch’s head. It is one of the many things that defines the nation. Selling off the Royal Mail would be inappropriate if the Queen’s head cannot be guaranteed to appear on our stamps.
Dr A P J Lake
St Asaph, Denbighshire
The myth of television detector vans
SIR – From 1960 to 1963, I served as a uniformed Customs officer at Newry on the border of Northern Ireland with the Republic of Ireland. Our patrol cars were serviced at the local post office garage where the TV detector vans (report, September 28) were also serviced.
We were often there with the drivers of the vans and engaged them in conversation. The vans were open and there was never anything in them. However, it was probably a very effective deterrent.
Bill Streeter
Marlow Bottom, Buckinghamshire
SIR – As a television engineer at the time, I remember the old TV detector vans. The working principle was said to be based on picking up the high-frequency output from the third anode – that’s the whistling bit that connects 20,000 volts or so to the chunky body of old television tubes.
It may be that they don’t work today (no third anode), but they once did, I believe.
Joseph G Dawson
Chorley, Lancashire
SIR – Television detector vans appeared all too regularly on the east London estate where I grew up in the Sixties. The alert would sound through the back gardens: “Switch off, switch off!”
One or two got caught, simply because their televisions were on too loud.
Lesley Thompson
Lavenham, Suffolk
SIR – I’m surprised that the spokesman from TV Licensing was not forthcoming as to why the vans’ detection evidence did not feature in the leaked BBC document.
In answer to a Freedom of Information request from late December 2010, the Corporation – after some prodding – explained: “TVL uses detection evidence when applying for search warrants. If, following service of the warrant, an individual is found to be evading payment of the TV licence, then the evidence obtained via the search warrant is used in court, not the detection evidence.”
Dr Geoff Goolnik
Stonehaven, Aberdeenshire

Irish Times:

Sir, – We are a diverse group of politicians, and we will all vote No in the Seanad abolition referendum.
We come from different political parties; some have never been members of any political party. We come from across every social, religious, and educational background.
We agree on very few things, but we agree to vote No. The interests of Ireland are best served if the Irish people vote No. The Seanad has an important role to play in our democracy.
There are many reasons to vote No, each of us has their own reasons why we will vote No. But this is not a sign of discord, it is a sign that a No vote goes beyond politics. – Yours, etc,
C/o Leinster House,
Kildare Street, Dublin 2.
Sir, – Surely Breda O’Brien (Opinion, September 28th) is misguided if she thinks a ballot paper with anything other than the vote on it, will “probably” be counted. A spoiled vote is just that, as any self-respecting scrutineer would tell her. – Yours, etc,
Dale Road,
Co Dublin.
Sir, – What’s the problem with Taoiseach Enda Kenny refusing to debate on Prime Time at Micheál Martin’s invitation? Were I at war with an enemy I would not go to battle on his chosen ground. To do so would prove my real weakness to lead. – Yours, etc,
Co Sligo.
Sir, – I feel Enda Kenny’s refusal to debate with Micheál Martin on RTÉ (Breaking News, September 28th) not only goes against the origins of democracy, but also gives us a flavour of life in Ireland without the Seanad. Surely debate in Ireland is at our core? Is it not the Irish voice that has held our place in the world much more so than our economic relevance? Of course we have to reduce costs, but not at the cost of who we are. – Yours, etc,
Seafield Court,
Co Dublin.
Sir, – Enda Kenny will not debate the referendum on the abolition of the Seanad because he has realised his mistake and he cannot justify the unjustifiable.
It is a power grab of phenomenal proportions. If this referendum is passed the Taoiseach can then remove Supreme Court judges, the ombudsman and the comptroller and auditor general if he has a sufficiently large majority to which the whip can be applied. Garret FitzGerald would never have proposed such a constitutional amendment. – Yours, etc,
Ardnacrusha, Co Clare.
Sir, – A letter from some of our university colleagues (September 27th) raises some valid points about accountability in Irish governance.
However, we argue that the wider campaign against Seanad abolition has overstated the potential of upper houses generally to effectively perform a check upon government.
It has been widely claimed that Seanad abolition would remove an important check on executive power, amounting to nothing less than a “power-grab”. But the purpose of upper chambers, where they do exist, is usually to assist in the legislative process, not to sanction government. In practice, oversight is better exercised by the lower chamber to which government is directly responsible.
Indeed the referendum will effectively make it much more difficult for the Government to secure the removal of a judge or a president because a greater level of cross-party Dáil support will be needed. If this is a “power-grab”, it is not a very well designed one.
We are also puzzled by our colleagues’ support for the Quinn/Zappone plan, as this retains the vocational and graduate-specific structure of the current Senate. The “panel” seats have never been meaningfully vocational, and there is no good reason to believe this could now be achieved simply by expanding the franchise. It is much more likely to yield a miniature and pointless replica of the Dáil, risking parliamentary gridlock.
Finally, we urge caution against our colleagues’ suggestion that the national parliament should give direct representation to “expertise”, whether through vocational panels or otherwise. There are many good ways of incorporating expert knowledge in the legislative process without giving experts parliamentary seats.
We believe a Yes vote is a reasonable step towards a reformed political system. – Yours, etc,
EOIN O’MALLEY, School of Law and Government, DCU; BEN TONRA, School of Politics and International Relations, UCD; EOIN DALY, Sutherland School of Law, UCD; KEVIN RAFTER, School of Communications, DCU; JOHN O’DOWD, Sutherland School of Law, UCD; MÁIRÉAD ENRIGHT, Kent Law School, University of Kent; ALAN DUKES, former TD and Minister; RICHARD HUMPHREYS, Law Library, Dublin 7; LIAM THORNTON, Sutherland School of Law, UCD; JIM POWER, Economist & SEAN DONLAN, School of Law, UL,
C/o Sutherland School of
Law, UCD, Dublin 4.
Sir, – With the exception of the six university seats, Seanad Éireann’s members are elected democratically, but by indirect franchise.
Forty-three of the Seanad’s 60 members are chosen by the members of the incoming Dáil, the outgoing Seanad and the country’s major municipal authorities, all of whom, with the exception of the outgoing Senators, have already been elected by direct universal franchise. Accordingly, the TDs, Senators and county and city councillors effectively constitute an electoral college for the election of a new Seanad. This system is not unlike that for choosing the president of the United States, with each state of the US electing a certain number of delegates to an electoral college, which in turn elects the president.
The Taoiseach’s 11 nominees also get their seats by indirect franchise. The Taoiseach is elected by the members of Dáil Éireann who are in turn directly elected by universal franchise.
While it can be argued that the university senators are chosen by a privileged minority, these panels could be extended, not only to include graduates of all third-level institutions, but also to give representation to members of trade unions affiliated to the Irish Congress of Trade Unions and to registered members of employers’ and business groups such as the Irish Business and Employers Confederation and the Irish Small and Medium Enterprises Association. This would reflect a much wider range of interests and provide a valuable input into the scrutiny of proposed legislation.
The Seanad may need a makeover but it should be retained and reformed. – Yours, etc,
Ardbrugh Close,
Dalkey, Co Dublin.
Sir, – The Labour Party’s Seanad referendum poster proclaiming One Parliament Yes! is intriguing. Is it possible the Labour Party thinks the Seanad is a national parliament? If it were, Ireland would be unique in the whole world. – Yours, etc,
Castle Avenue,
Clontarf, Dublin 3.
Sir, – Breda O’Brien calls on those seeking reform of the Seanad to “choose No to abolition, and then write ‘Reform’ on the ballot” as the ballot will then “be set aside for later examination and, as any fair-minded scrutineer could only find there was a clear intention to vote No, it will in all probability be counted in that way” (Opinion, September 28th).
While this is technically correct, having observed many election counts I would advise her that the inclusion of political slogans or statements of any kind on the ballot is a very hazardous enterprise.
Under the Referendum Act 1994, the returning officer has the power to exclude a ballot “on which anything is written or marked which, in the opinion of the local returning officer, is calculated to identify the elector”. While this seems to restrict the power to exclude a vote to a very limited instance, in practice it gives the returning officer quite a degree of latitude to exclude ballots which have anything written on them. Personally, I wouldn’t be willing to take a gamble that my vote would not be counted!
There are only two options in this referendum. Anyone wishing to abolish the Seanad should vote Yes. Anyone who wants to retain it, or believes that it should be reformed, no matter how slim the chance of that might be, should vote No. With all due respect to Ms O’Brien, the detail of one’s views on a referendum ought to be conveyed directly to one’s political representatives, rather than to the returning officer on the face of a ballot paper. – Yours, etc,
Clontarf, Dublin 3.
A chara, – I was not aware until now that if the referendum is carried, Article 27 of the Constitution and a right of the people will be removed.
As it stands, a portion of the Dáil and Seanad may petition the President for a referendum on a new Bill before it is made law. In the event of a government being at odds with the people, this is a significant power.
The present referendum proposal, if passed, will ensure that power is taken away from the people. The referendum on the Seanad has been poorly discussed and the people badly informed. The Irish people should not be tricked into reducing what little political power they have. Voting No postpones change to our Constitution until the electorate is fully informed. – Is mise,
Baile Gaelach,
Béal Easa, Co Mhaigh Eo.
A chara, – It is distressing to note so few compatriots resident in the 26 counties have argued for the retention of the Seanad in order to extend the franchise to Irish citizens in the North and abroad. The Quinn/Zappone Seanad reform Bill would do just that.
As I have long argued, since the Seanad cannot overrule the Dáil, it is the appropriate place for such representation. Non-resident citizens would have a voice in the Oireachtas while citizens living in the State would retain their final and absolute say on legislation. Such a reformed Seanad would correct Ireland’s biggest democratic deficit. – Is mise,
Charles Street East,
Toronto, Canada.
Sir, – In an elegantly written piece on “constitutional immobilism” (Opinion, September 27th), Frank Callanan, SC cautions against rejection of the Seanad abolition proposal as if all meaningful political reform depended on its acceptance. This is fallacious and profoundly unconvincing. It is simply wrong to suggest that what has not been reformed cannot be reformed. In the way in which the same argument is made by some in Fine Gael – particularly the debate-resistant Taoiseach – it is little more than a form of moral blackmail: if you vote No we will maintain the status quo. In the way in which it is made by Sinn Féin, it is shamefully defeatist: if you vote No we won’t be in a position to change the status quo.
I will be voting No because I believe reform of the Seanad is possible and desirable. – Yours, etc,
School of Law, NUI Galway.
Sir, – Politicians, wind farm developers and planners are quick to issue public statements about the importance of involving communities to ensure support and co-operation for wind farm developments. However, it would appear these utterances are sound bites with no substance. The IWEA (Irish Wind Energy Association) holds its annual conference this Thursday entitled Building a Sustainable Energy Future sponsored by Coillte. The following Friday, the Irish Planning Institute holds its autumn conference, Planning to Harness Ireland’s Energy Future.
Not a single representative from any of the 30 recently formed Midlands community groups concerned about the impact of wind developments has been invited to be present. It is not surprising that these proposals for large industrial wind-farms create division and polarisation when community groups are excluded from powerful stakeholder meetings; especially those supported and sponsored by State companies and addressed by Ministers Pat Rabbitte and Jan O’Sullivan.
Do the Government, planners and industry really want community engagement or is it just a box that must be ticked as part of the planning process? Our experience has been that wind developers and the Government have consistently refused to allow communities participate in any meaningful way. The absence of community representation at these two influential gatherings further confirms that belief. – Yours, etc,
Portlaoise, Co Laois.

Sir, – In recent weeks there has been an intensification of the long-running climate contrarian campaign of myth and misinformation. One of the most common claims is that espoused by Patrick Cooke (September 27th) that “There has been a reduction in the warming trend from 1998 to 2012”.
In fact, when all data – including ocean heating, air, land, and melting of ice – are taken into account, it is clear there has been a significant increase in global warming over the past 15 years. While it’s true the surface warming trend from 1997 to 2012 is lower than the average projection, this is easily accounted for by the cooling effect of ocean cycles on surface temperature during this period. Heating effects of such cycles also caused warming to exceed projections in the previous 15 years. Over time, these effects tend to average out, though temperatures are increasing slightly faster overall than had been anticipated.
There is no scientific controversy as to whether anthropological global warming is real and potentially catastrophic. Self-styled “sceptics” are nothing of the sort: to reject all evidence and arguments that contradict your world view, while failing to apply critical thinking to any claims that seem to support it, does not constitute scepticism in any useful sense of the world.
The unanimous agreement achieved by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) from so many scientists on a subject of such complexity and importance is unprecedented (Front page, September 28th); its latest report has been subject to one of the most rigorous peer review processes in the history of science and is quite possibly the most exhaustively researched scientific document ever published.
Despite its conservative nature, the report warns with greater confidence than ever before of the devastating and possibly irreversible effects if carbon emissions are not reduced. We ignore these findings at our peril. – Yours, etc,
Lower Rathmines Road,

Sir, – Someone should telephone Croke Park to let them know we are in the middle of a serious recession with record levels of emigration, unemployment, debt, and depression, while the GAA behaves like boom-time brats serving up enjoyment and happiness as if they never end; blasting the pundits of doom with levels of entertainment of the highest order at absolutely minimum cost.
Poor soccer has to pay Gareth Bale €100 million to score a goal a week while our heroes from Clare, Cork, Dublin and Mayo provide superior displays of skills and scores for practically nothing. Did you ever see the likes of Anthony Nash’s free? Lift, hop, swing, and whack! You’d feel like singing, “Messi, I hardly knew you”.
It’s just not fair, amateurs beating professionals at their own game while providing the populace with happy, healthy, wholesome entertainment for practically nothing.
The GAA should be reported to the European regulator for “unprofessional practices” and for defying all market principles. No! No! On second thoughts, better say nothing. I know it’s wrong to be smiling, laughing, backslapping, and (God forgive) smirking in this era of austerity, but we can’t help it.
Let’s discreetly congratulate the management and players of the Gaelic Games for the superb contests of skill, passion, endurance and commitment they served up this summer, and snuff the troika! – Yours, etc,
Synge Street, Dublin 8.

Sir, – Since Donald Clarke’s article about the changing meanings of words (Opinion, August 31st), I have received correspondence from two different hospital out-patient departments, informing me that, following receipt of referral letters, the patient in question had been “appointed”. (The position was unspecified). If this new found enthusiasm for “appointing” people could only be applied to the hiring of badly-needed staff, perhaps the patients would not have to remain at their appointed station on the waiting list for quite so long. – Yours, etc,
Woodford Grove,
Clondalkin, Dublin 22.

Irish Independent:
* It’s not just about “RTE’s licence to print money” (Letters, September 27); I would also take issue with the charge system itself.
Also in this section
Parasite devours host
Banks making all the rules
Inference is a bridge too far
On top of property, household, water and waste charges comes a household broadcasting charge.
While you are at it, Mr Rabbitte, why not introduce toothbrush, slipper, carpet, lightbulb and teapot charge systems as well? After all, most “non-cavemen” households have those too.
Just one more roundabout way to raise money without calling it tax, and as it is levied on property occupiers rather than owners, controls are scheduled to continue, costing the State €12m yearly in supervision added to internal accounting expenses – which could have saved some health service in the West of Ireland instead.
Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Spain, Portugal, Netherlands, Belgium, etc, have large public broadcasting stations with funding over the national budget. Outside Europe, specific citizen charges are the exception.
Do Canadian CBC or Australian ABC “lack” in government critical reporting? Hardly, also when compared to RTE. Government funding control is not the same as government editorial control avoided via separate boards making directorial appointments; funding can be set five-yearly by each incoming Government, and licence/broadcast charges can be altered by Government anyway, for what, after all, supposedly is a “public service”.
Also, with licence/broadcast charges going to sound and vision subsidies for all broadcasters, the RTE “connection to viewers” is not there either: an odd connection at the best of times, since not paying the licence puts people behind bars. Real RTE connection to viewers and listeners would mean internet forum with producers, ‘RTE Guide’ letters page, mailbag programmes or other critical review broadcasting with citizen feedback, none of which RTE has.
Similarly, Mr Rabbitte, is this public consultation not just another government ploy to appear democratic, and then you do what you were going to do all along?
Peter Douglas
Pearse Street, Dublin 2
* Someone should telephone Croke Park to let them know we are in the middle of a serious recession with record levels of emigration, unemployment, debt and depression while the GAA behaves like boom-time brats serving up enjoyment and happiness as if they never end – blasting the pundits of doom with levels of entertainment of the highest order at absolutely minimum cost.
Poor soccer has to pay Gareth Bale €100m to score a goal a week while our heroes from Clare, Cork, Dublin and Mayo provide superior displays of skills and scores for practically nothing.
Did you ever see the likes of Anthony Nash’s free? Lift, hop, swing and whack! You’d feel like singing, “Messi, I hardly knew you.”
It’s just not fair: amateurs beating professionals at their own game while providing the populace with happy, healthy, wholesome entertainment for practically nothing.
The GAA should be reported to the European Regulator for ‘unprofessional practices’ and for defying all market principles.
No! No! On second thoughts, better say nothing. I know it’s wrong to be smiling, laughing, backslapping and (God forgive) smirking in this era of austerity but we can’t help it.
Let’s discreetly congratulate the management and players of the Gaelic games for the superb contests of skill, passion, endurance and commitment they served up this summer, and stuff the troika!
Bernard Hayes
Synge Street, Dublin 8
* I do not wish to express a personal opinion on the upcoming referendum. I would instead like to refer to some words written in 1795, by Thomas Payne.
“It is the nature and intention of a constitution to prevent governing by party, by establishing a common principle that shall limit and control the power and impulse of party, and that says to all parties, thus far shalt thou go and no further.
“But in the absence of a constitution, men look entirely to party; and instead of principle governing party, party governs principle.” ‘First Principles of Government’ (1795).
These words from over 200 years ago show how little politics has changed, or perhaps ever will.
Let the people decide.
Kevin Bailey
Dundalk, Co Louth
* Thank goodness we have scientists in Ireland (Prof John Sweeney) who are not burying their heads in the sand. Ireland has led the way in law and literature and has educated some of the world’s best scientific minds.
However, I wonder if we can do anything about climate change when Australia dismisses a group of climate scientists in order to produce more coal. If we must mine coal, then at least put in place a means to collect the resulting carbon dioxide.
The ‘blip’ in the rise in global temperatures filled me with more worry than if the temperatures had continued to rise steadily. The graph of global temperature rise looked exactly like the one I drew at school when melting ice with a short levelling-out of temperature rise due to latent heat.
If ice is absorbing energy at the cost of temperature rise, we could be in more trouble soon. No scientist will be willing to cause panic by raising such fears until we have scientific reason for it but will it be too late then? Is it too late already?
It will be if some use the ‘blip’ as an excuse for continuing to produce greenhouse gases.
Ruth Moram
Killarney, Co Kerry
* Once again, we have a major report on climate change and yet once again nobody will mention the elephant in the room. We are still breeding like rabbits and there will be just too many of us on planet Earth.
Population control should be the number one priority on the UN’s climate-control agenda.
K Nolan
Carrick-on-Shannon, Co Leitrim
* I was reading about Mr Noonan and the complete mystery it is to him why young people are still emigrating while having jobs. I would like to clear this one up for him. Young people, middle-aged people and people coming close to retirement age are all sick to death of the cuts and the lies that are constantly being spun by this Government.
We want a quality of life, the ability to grow and prosper and to live without the feeling that I am only one pay cheque away from being made redundant.
For the last two years, I have been working in a company hit by recession. I have suffered two pay cuts and tax increases, not to mention the property tax, increase in commuting costs, increase in food, education, medication, the list goes on.
I’ve looked for work in many places elsewhere and, despite my qualifications, I haven’t been able to secure an interview. With a 13pc unemployment rate, the competition is too high.
Will we do what Irish people are expected to do by the Government and take it and “ride out the storm” that has been raging for five years, or do we pack up like millions of Irish have done before us and find a better way of life?
It’s not too much to ask to want security in your life. Come the new year, I know what I’m doing.
Name and address
with editor
Irish Independent

More book books books

September 30, 2013

29 September 2013 More Books books books

I go all the way around the park round the park listening to the Navy Lark
Our heroes are in trouble they are to provide transport for the Admirals barge naturally Leslie forgets it then sinks it Priceless.
I put even more books on Amazon
We watch Dads army v good.
Scrabble today Mary wins and get under 400. perhaps I might win tomorrow.


Stephen Malawista
Stephen Malawista, who has died aged 79, led the team of scientists which in 1976 identified the tick-borne infection Lyme disease, a crippling ailment affecting an estimated two to three thousand people a year in Britain and 300,000 or so a year in the United States.

Stephen Malawista 
5:45PM BST 29 Sep 2013
Lyme disease is a serious multi-stage infection which comes from the bite of a tick infected by the bacterium Lyme borreliosis. Left untreated it can attack the central nervous system in unpredictable ways, spreading to muscles, joints, the heart and even the brain. Neurological problems following tick bites had been recognised from the 1920s but because the symptoms of Lyme disease were often mistaken for those of other ailments, before the 1970s outbreaks tended to go undetected.
In 1975 two mothers living in Old Lyme, on the east side of the Connecticut River, whose children had fallen ill with fever, aches and swollen joints, independently refused to accept a vague diagnosis of juvenile rheumatoid arthritis from the doctors and began contacting other mothers in the area. In one street one mother found four children with similar symptoms. Convinced that the disease must be caused by an infective agent, they contacted health officials and asked them to investigate.
The matter was referred to a team under Malawista, head of rheumatology at the Yale School of Medicine, and Allen Steere, who began painstakingly reviewing cases of the then unnamed disease. Comparing the incidence of the illness on the east and west sides of the Connecticut River, they found that cases were 30 times more frequent on the east side, where there was also a greater population of deer and deer ticks. In the adjacent towns of Lyme, Old Lyme and East Haddam, they counted 51 cases, a rate about 100 times the normal incidence of juvenile rheumatoid arthritis.
Moreover they noticed that most victims of the disease lived in wooded areas and that the cases had occurred, almost exclusively, in the summer months — an indication that it could be an insect-borne disease. (Later, some would speculate that the infection-bearing ticks had arrived centuries before on the livestock imported by Dorset-born immigrants, some from what is today Lyme Regis).
In January 1977 the scientific team reported on a disease they named Lyme arthritis (later renamed Lyme disease) in an article in the journal Arthritis and Rheumatism; six months later they published another article suggesting that antibiotics could help in some cases. At the time, however, they thought the disease was caused by a virus (it was later shown to be a bacterium with a distant kinship to syphilis).
The identification of Lyme disease led to Yale Medical School becoming a centre of research into the disease, and in the 1980s Malawista helped to demonstrate the effectiveness of antibiotics in treating the disease in its early stages. However efforts to develop an effective and reliable vaccine have not yet borne fruit, while the protocols for treating the disease with antibiotics remain hotly debated.
Meanwhile recent years have witnessed a dramatic rise in the number of infections — in the United States Lyme disease is one of the fastest-growing infectious diseases — due to a combination of factors including more people taking up outdoor pursuits, a growth in the population of deer — the ticks’ most common animal host — and climate change.
Stephen Evan Malawista was born on April 4 1934 in Manhattan and studied experimental psychology under BF Skinner at Harvard University, after which he took a degree in Medicine at the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons. After two years at the National Institute of Arthritis and Metabolic Diseases, he joined the Yale School of medicine in 1966, becoming head of its rheumatology department.
As well as leading the team that identified Lyme disease, he was a leading authority on the role of white blood cells in inflammation.
Stephen Malawista is survived by his wife, Tobé.
Stephen Malawista, born April 4 1934, died September 18 2013


Your editorial (Unthinkable? Teaching CPR in schools, 27 September) raised a very important issue of public health. Schools in Bolton have already taken Fabrice Muamba’s near-death experience as an impetus to extend the PE curriculum to include the British Heart Foundation’s Heartstart programme. For example, Rivington and Blackrod high school, near Bolton Wanderers’ stadium, begins at the start of year 7 by teaching basic life-saving skills, and these are updated and extended annually through to year 11. This programme, now in its second year, fits well within the healthy living module and is embraced by staff and pupils.
It is a shame, however, that efforts by Bolton West MP Julie Hilling to persuade the government to include this in the national curriculum have fallen on deaf ears, despite a 100,000-signature petition. She has now teamed up with the local paper, the Bolton News, to ensure that all children within Bolton receive life-saving training before they leave school. This goes hand in hand with a goal of providing defibrillators in schools and public places.
We hope schools in other areas, who have not considered teaching their young people invaluable life-saving skills, will now follow Bolton’s innovative example.
Megan Scott and Judith Marsden
• Earlier this year, I helped launch a free app and website, Lifesaver, to teach practical CPR using interactive films based on real-world scenarios. In the absence of a co-ordinated approach to teaching CPR in schools, the app makes a vital contribution to raising skills and awareness.
Jenny Lam

I understand that the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have a new heraldic device (Report, 28 September). Might I suggest, as an alternative: helicopter volant (or) hovering over party bag rampant (azure) quartered with an impaled stag and a couple of disembowelled foxes (gules) supported by a taxpayer couchant (vert). Tasteful enough?
Cathy Wood
Chiselborough, Somerset
• King’s Cross Square might be a pleasure (In praise of…, 27 September), but the new underground system has become a Kafkaesque maze of endless tunnels, with signs maliciously pointing travellers away from the shortest routes, many of which have been cut off. Was that really necessary? Just think of disabled people! The designer should be made to walk the tunnels for a whole day. At least!
Jurgen Diethe
Fortrose, Highland
•  As the ending of the spare room subsidy has become known as the bedroom tax, perhaps not benefiting from a tax allowance only available to married couples (Report, 28 September) should be known as the sin tax.
Rebecca Linton and Brian Corrie
•  Since the average cost of a wedding is now around £20,000, it would take around 100 years of tax breaks to make it financially worthwhile.
Jennifer Evans
Aldershot, Hampshire
• In response to your special supplement (50 best views in England, 28 September), surely the best views are standing on Offa’s Dyke looking west.
Martyn Bracewell
Bangor, Gwynedd

In regard to the uncomfortably large uncertainties with respect to global warming predictions, your editorial (27 September) states that “uncertainty is political anathema”. I submit that politicians are deluding themselves if they think they cannot deal with uncertainty, because they do it all the time, except that the uncertainties are either not given or are sometimes contrived.
What was the uncertainty for weapons of mass destruction before George Bush and Tony Blair went into Iraq? Where were the uncertainties in economic models when the world economy came perilously close to freefall in 2008? Does anyone really believe the costs and benefits of HS2 estimates? Did Nasa really know there was a one in a hundred chance for a crash before the first space shuttle disaster? The list goes on and on.
The public should be thanking climate scientists for an open and honest assessment of uncertainties, which – although they have been reduced somewhat over 20 years – are still troublesome. What the public really needs to do is hold politicians to the same level of uncertainty scrutiny as they do the climate scientists. And politicians in turn have to ask much harder questions about their own proposed course of actions rather than just doing what “feels right”, and then hanging on to their decisions for ego reasons.
Thomas Crowley
Former professor of geosciences at the University of Edinburgh
• George Monbiot misunderstands the process of scientific peer review (Climate change? Try catastrophic climate breakdown, 28 September). He describes how the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s new report has been produced through a process of negotiation between scientists which is then endorsed by politicians, claiming that this constitutes “perhaps the biggest and most rigorous process of peer review conducted in any scientific field in human history”. The point of peer review is to ensure objectivity, to the extent that it is ever achievable. In order to do so, scientific peer review is conducted “blind” by experts in the field in question, and it is their expertise that qualifies them as peers. Scientists producing the IPCC report were in effect openly negotiating around a table, not blind-reviewing each other’s work. Further, while politicians have a role to play in considering the implications of climate change for the people they represent, they are, by definition, not impartial scientific peers. Monbiot should therefore not find it surprising that many reasonable people suspect elements of the report may be partial.
Dr Eamonn Molloy
Pembroke College, Oxford
•  The reasons why climate-change deniers control the political agenda are many and pernicious, but one of them should not be articles by George Monbiot. George knows that it was not during times of “benign climate in which humans evolved and have prospered”: our species evolved in Africa during (and probably thanks to) the last ice age, spread to the rest of the world in its rapidly changing climatic aftermath, and has prospered as the world has gone from glacial to interglacial via bouts of sea-level rise, warming and cooling. Using a scientifically incorrect, easily deniable statement to characterise what the IPCC “report describes” (I’m sure it doesn’t say any such thing) just plays into the hands of the deniers.
John Martin
•  In view of the frightening prediction set out in the report by the IPCC, humanity is left with few, if any, possible solutions if it is to survive for much longer on our planet. A central campaign must be the introduction of energy rationing, as unpalatable as that will be for many. Like the ban on smoking – seen as a utopian demand only a few years back, but then accepted as normal and necessary – we would very quickly adapt to, and accept, individual energy rationing. This has to be made a central, urgent demand and our MPs asked to commit to it – we owe it to our children and future generations who will otherwise perish in a devastated and desolate world collapsing in a final violent and existential struggle for water and land.
John Green
• Why all the fuss about whether human activity is responsible for climate change? Surely the only questions that matter are: is it happening? If so, is it bad? If so, can human activity slow or reverse it? Those answers are much more certainly “yes”. So let’s forget who is to blame and just get on with it.
Phil Wells
Hadleigh, Suffolk
• The IPCC’s latest assessment was released the same week that Ed Miliband pledged to introduce an energy price freeze and to build an extra 200,000 new homes per year. Given the hardening certainty on human-made climate change, will Miliband commit to the following: a programme of new investment in renewable energy in order to lessen the country’s dependence on fossil fuels; and a low-carbon building programme for all new-build housing?
Same question for the leaders of the other political parties.
David Humphreys
Open University
• Ed Miliband’s pledge to freeze fuel bills has certainly grabbed the headlines (Report, 25 September). But the Labour leader’s promise to decarbonise the UK power sector by 2030 is equally significant, because this would end the nation’s addiction to fossil fuels – which have rocketed in price in recent years and are the main reason for soaring fuel bills.
If we want to fix our broken energy system we must embark on a major energy-efficiency programme to really stamp out waste. For too long our homes and offices have been heating the atmosphere – while the people inside frequently shiver in the cold. The UK is also blessed with huge renewable energy resources, with the potential to create thousands of new jobs. Unfortunately, the coalition has completely undermined confidence in clean power and driven investors away.
Craig Bennett
Policy and campaigns director, Friends of the Earth

Generations of journalists were inspired and encouraged by Geoffrey Goodman (obituary, 7 September). He was generous with his time and tireless in his support. No strange handshake or secret codeword was required to become one of Geoffrey’s unofficial apprentices. You just had to ask.
Quite often he would listen more than he spoke. But when he did speak he summed up your situation with clarity and wisdom, making him a kind of secular rabbi to half of Fleet Street.
At the party to mark Sir Brendan Barber’s retirement from the TUC last year, trade union leaders from this and other eras came over to pay homage to Geoffrey. Their respect for him was enormous and endless.
Geoffrey showed that, in a naughty world, it is possible to be successful without doing others down, to gain respect and admiration on all sides while keeping your integrity intact.


Your leading article’s statement “ultimately, the solution [to climate change] lies with the market” (28 September) is astonishing since climate change is caused by none other than the market itself. 
A cursory look at the major stratigraphically significant trends over the past 15,000 years shows a sharp rise subsequent to the industrial revolution and the onset of the market economy. This is why when analysing environmental indices (CO2 emission, global temperature, sea levels, biotic and sedimentation changes, etc), they are compared with pre-industrial levels. 
While the actions of mankind over the past few thousand years have had a detrimental effect on the environment, it wasn’t until the industrial revolution and the onset of capitalism that such effect became geologically significant – so much so that two eminent scientists, Paul Crutzen and Eugene Stoermer, proposed in 2000 that this age be called the “Anthropocene”, “the recent age of man”. 
Capitalism – a system that is incessantly expansive and inherently wasteful – is the precise opposite of what is required to combat climate change. You are right that “the cost of mitigating climate change is certainly high”; the cost is the market economy itself and that’s the reason for the US, UK and other governments’ reluctance to take up any serious measures to counter global warming. 
It is a stark choice that confronts us: save the planet and ditch capitalism, or save capitalism and ditch the planet.
Fawzi Ibrahim, London NW2
Two facts: earth’s climate is changing; there are things we can do to reduce the damage. Why are we standing around arguing about the causes? 
If I see a heavy truck rushing towards me I take evasive action – the sooner the better. I don’t stop to argue about whether the driver is mad, the brakes have failed, or it is an uncontrollable skid. I get out of the way, as quick as I can.
Let flat earthers believe what they like. Let climate-change deniers pretend they are shivering. If they obstruct, they will have to be pushed aside.  But for heaven’s sake, stop wasting time arguing with them. Get moving! Go on! Move!
Kenneth J Moss, Norwich
Mark Avery (25 September) is right to highlight the lack of concern by the main British political parties about the state of our environment. Our future well-being is dependent on a healthy environment and the only way to achieve this is policies which put the environment first. This means long-term thinking. There is a gaping hole in our politics here. At the moment, none of the mainstream parties are anywhere close.
Mark Holling. North Berwick, East Lothian
Land seizures, from Henry VIII to Ed Miliband
The rule of law, cited by James Paton (Letters, 27 September), exists to uphold the interests  of the community at large,  not just segments of it, such  as property developers.
Indeed, Ed Miliband’s “use it or lose it” plan for developers’ land banks is not without precedent in England. In the 1540s, when most people rented their homes, difficulties were being caused by owners who had let their properties fall into decay or ruin. The outcome was a series of urban regeneration acts. One such, passed in 1540 under Henry VIII, was an “Act for re-edifying of decayed Houses in sundry Towns, and Places of the Realm”. The measures it laid out were radical. Head-lessees, and then owners, were required to repair or rebuild the properties concerned. If neither did, then after five years they would forfeit their leasehold or freehold interests to the local authority concerned.
The measures worked – not surprisingly, in view of their stringency. To them we probably owe some of the fine 16th-century houses which are now so much admired.
Arthur Percival, Faversham, Kent
The compulsory purchase of land banks proposed by Ed Miliband puts Labour’s housing policy in line with the supporters of land value tax (LVT). We believe that the present taxation system is flawed and unfair. When the value of UK land increases due to increased demand, the owners, including UK and international speculators, have done nothing to increase their personal wealth.
Renters gain nothing while their rents increase. The issue is how to make some of the increase in land value available to all. LVT taxes some of that increase in land value.
It should result in the abolition of the regressive council tax and business rates. It should cover all land, used and unused, so bringing land banks and empty homes into use, making investors look for income from renting, building and creating jobs to cover the tax. HMRC would spend less chasing tax-free money parked in overseas accounts; banks have yet to find a way of moving land into their vaults.
John Lipetz Coalition for Economic Justice Richard Murphy Tax Research UK Dr Stephen Battersby Pro-Housing Alliance Rev Paul Nicolson Taxpayers Against Poverty, London N17
The niqab affects all our freedoms
May I add something to Yasmin Alibhai-Brown’s article on the niqab (23 September)? When she writes that “some good friends I deeply respect defend the choice [of the niqab] as a fundamental liberty” we need to make a total denial of that fallacy.
There is really only one fundamental liberty; the liberty not to be incarcerated without due cause and process. All other liberties are conditional on not affecting those of others. Whether it is the supposed liberty to take other people’s property, to drive uninsured, to wear Nazi regalia at a Jewish funeral, or use foul language in a public place, the rights of others may be legally enforced to limit it.
Those who have been most vociferous in the cause of liberty to wear the niqab – if it is in fact a liberty – are from cultures which are most punitive in respect of female dress and female activities. The niqab is offensive to a majority of British people including many Muslims; it has led to breaches of the peace in France; it is discriminatory, being discarded in all-female gatherings; it damages free intercourse between people; it poses dangers through restriction on peripheral vision, denial of recognition and the possibility of substitution of one person for another. These matters must not be swamped by irrational opposition.
Tony Pointon, Portsmouth
Bad experience  of Lariam
Eight years ago my daughter went to Ghana during her gap year, to work in an orphanage. She was prescribed Lariam as her anti-malarial drug before leaving. (“The Lariam scandal”, 27 September.)
She experienced unusual feelings of depression and detachment despite liking her new environment, and it took her a couple of months to work out that these were chemically driven and not a reaction to being far away from home etc. She went to a hospital and her anti-malarial medication was changed. The symptoms abated, never to return.
At around the same time, I emailed her because I had been sitting at dinner next to a medical consultant who told me “I wouldn’t give Lariam to my dog”.
B Davey, London N6
How to limit the cost of libel suits
I don’t entirely agree with your leading article “Fettering of the press” (17 September): the Ministry of Justice’s one-way cost proposals would not entirely remove the restraint on opportunistic claims for libel, defamation, or invasion of privacy, since claimants would still, after all, be liable for their own costs.
But a better idea might be  that the losing side, be they claimant or defendant, should  only be liable for their own  costs plus a maximum of the  same again from the other side. This provides a greater disincentive to vexatious claims, while  still discouraging the other side from throwing money at teams of expensive lawyers. Because it would apply either way, it also gives some relief to newspapers  or journalists threatened by rich claimants.
Overall, costs should come down, since both sides are aware of the hazard of out-spending the opposition. The result would be more even-handed justice and fewer protracted cases.
David Watson, Reading


The modern game exemplifies technical expertise and stamina but the behaviour of the players on the pitch would make Ebenezer Morley turn in his grave
Sir, Ben Macintyre (“Sporting hero who thought outside the box”, Sept 27) rightly pays tribute to the foresight and achievement of E. C. Morley in the establishment of the Football Association on October 26, 1863 and the later promulgation, under its auspices, of the first set of laws for Association Football on December 8 of the same year.
Less well known is the fact that the earliest surviving written laws of soccer were drawn up in Cambridge and signed on December 9, 1856 by university undergraduates including two representatives each from the main protagonist footballing schools of the day, Eton, Rugby, Harrow and Shrewsbury.
This followed earlier attempts to unify the laws made by Cambridge undergraduates a decade earlier (of which unfortunately no record survives) notably H. de Winton and J. C. Thring (1846) and H. C. Malden (1848).
Their contribution was recognised by your late Football correspondent Geoffrey Green, in his book The History of the Football Association (1953).
Keith Michel
Trustee, Cambridge University AFC
East Horsley, Surrey

Sir, In celebrating English football at 150 and those who made the beautiful game what it is today, let us not forget the Royal Engineers. Under Major Francis Marindin, the Royal Engineers (The Sappers) were one of the founding members of the Football Association, playing in the first-ever FA Cup Final in 1872 and winning the Cup in 1875.
The Sappers invented the “passing game” in which the team plays in combination rather than individually, and consequently they were the first team ever to be described as playing “beautifully”. This approach now forms the core of all modern tactics. They also invented the goal net.
However, their greatest contribution was to take Association Football to all corners of the British Empire and beyond, hence sowing the seeds of what has become a truly global phenomenon.
Tom Foulkes
President, The Royal Engineers Association Football Club, 1992-2002
Fleet, Hants

Sir, I fully endorse Ben Macintyre’s nomination of Ebenezer Morley, the founding father of English football, for the fourth plinth in Trafalgar Square but cannot agree when he states that the game has hardly changed during the last century. The rules of the game remain largely unchanged, but football is now a billion-pound global enterprise. During the transfer season players are bought and sold for millions like commodities in an auction mart. Our Premier League teams are largely owned by oil sheikhs and businessmen from abroad who have hardly any cultural link with football. The game thrives on television franchises and advertisements. By virtue of free market, our Premier League teams are dominated by players from South America, continental Europe and Africa. As a result, the English national team lacks home-grown talent.
The game exemplifies technical expertise and stamina but the behaviour of the players on the pitch such as “diving” histrionics, gambolling after scoring a goal, surreptitious elbowing and disabling tackles, biting an opponent and spitting would make Ebenezer Morley turn in his grave.
Sam Banik
London N10

Healthcare is not a simple market: the primary relationship is intangible but always lies between the doctor and the patient
Sir, We support the interim report of the Competition Commission’s investigation into private healthcare, and its call for transparency of information in both the NHS and independent sector. However, the Commission has not focused on those Private Medical Insurers (PMIs) which are increasingly imposing clinical restrictions, causing detriment for subscribers when they are sick and reliant on their policies.
Healthcare is not a simple market; the primary relationship is intangible but always lies between the doctor and the patient. The PMIs do not have any data about the quality of medical care or about specialists’ competencies, a fact noted by the OFT and which all PMIs, apart from Bupa, have acknowledged. It is unacceptable that a commercial financial services company should interfere with clinical pathways or propose medical treatments. Nor should it propose clinical guidelines which are the responsibility of NICE, medical royal colleges and specialist associations.
Some PMIs are now using an “open referral” method (actually a “closed” method) which prevents GPs from advising patients about the most appropriate consultant. Patients lose choice and continuity of care may be broken. Reductions in subscriber benefits by some PMIs may also impose an unavoidable shortfall.
We ask the Competition Commission to recognise the need for portability of private medical insurance allowances which would permit all insured patients to use their agreed benefits however they wish when they are sick. Only then can patients exercise true choice about how and where they wish to be treated and by their consultant of choice.
William Harrop-Griffiths, President, Association of Anaesthetists of Great Britain & Ireland
John Primrose, President, Association of Surgeons of Great Britain and Ireland
Tim Briggs, President Elect, British Orthopaedic Association
Valerie Lund, President, ENT-UK
John Schofield, President, Hospital Consultants & Specialist Association
Adrian Casey, President, British Association of Spinal Surgery
Simon Donell, President, British Association for Surgery of the Knee
Rajiv Grover, President, British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons
Graeme Perks, President, British Association of Plastic, Reconstructive and Aesthetic Surgeons
Mark Speakman, British, Association of Urological Surgeons
Rohit Kulkarni, President, British Elbow and Shoulder Society
John Timperley, President, British Hip Society
Simon Henderson, President, British Orthopaedic Foot and Ankle Society
David O’Brart, President, United Kingdom Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgeons
Duncan Dymond, President, London Consultants’ Association
Ian Mackay, President, Independent Doctors’ Federation

The Police Act makes it unlawful for officers to undertake any form of industrial action – unlike members of the fire service
Sir, Ian Graham makes a good point in respect of industrial action within the emergency services (letter, Sept 28). He can, however, rest assured that the police will remain on duty whatever grievance they may have. The Police Act makes it unlawful for them to undertake any form of industrial action or for any other person to encourage them to do so.
Dave Cousins

It is not the place of government to dictate whether parents vaccinate their children – we run the risk of paying vaccine damage compensation, as in the US
Sir, Many of us are aghast at Labour’s proposal to cut child benefit for parents who don’t vaccinate their children (report, Sept 23). This is not consistent with the British ethos of freedom of choice. It is not the place of government to dictate whether parents vaccinate their children.
The big pharmaceutical companies have consistently put pressure on the government and the medical establishment so that they in turn bully parents into vaccinating their children, in the absence of balanced and objective information on the downside of vaccines. America has already paid out $2 billion in vaccine damage compensation. If one day Ed Balls’ retraction is overturned, there could be a similar flood of damage compensation claims in the UK.
Gabriel Millar
Stroud, Glos

Our long-standing legal framework has fostered a strong safety culture that ensures the UK has one of the best aviation safety records in the world
Sir, Ian King (Sept 27) criticises the Civil Aviation Authority for not naming specific airlines involved in safety incidents. Legislation prevents us from disclosing details of individuals or organisations who report such incidents. This guarantee of anonymity is balanced by a legal obligation on all UK airlines and pilots to report all safety-related occurrences. The legislation does not preclude us taking action against individuals and organisations in cases of gross negligence. This long-standing legal framework has fostered a strong safety culture that has been copied by many other countries — and industries — and ensures the UK has one of the best aviation safety records in the world.
Stephen Rooney
Civil Aviation Authority

Sir, The assertion that native English speaking pilots are not required to demonstrate their competence in actually speaking English is not correct (report, Sept 27). All pilots, regardless of nationality or background, are required to demonstrate to a Civil Aviation Authority examiner their competence in this regard, and only upon award of a “level 6” pass are they exempt from further periodic testing.
Certain elements of the pilot fraternity, however, have expressed reservations about level 6 passes awarded to Scots, Geordies, and estuary-English speakers.
Mike Goodman
Harrogate, N Yorks


SIR – I very much hope that Godfrey Smith, the first responder who was sacked for doing 33mph in a 20mph zone and driving the wrong way around a bollard, is re-instated and his steadfast contribution to lifesaving recognised.
He will have developed skills that anyone at risk would have been praying for: the ability to assess a life-threatening situation rapidly and then take immediate and effective action.
I would like to see the Government considering a legal change to highway standards for first responders rather than letting someone die while the first responder trundles along at 19mph in a 20mph zone.
Sally Wainman
Ipswich, Suffolk
Related Articles
Labour’s energy price proposals are a step back to the Seventies
29 Sep 2013
SIR – I am not aware of any Standing Orders that Godfrey Smith’s Authority may have in place, but he should have been protected by the Emergency Vehicle Road Traffic Legislation under Sec 87, RTR Act 1982.
He can also claim an exemption to drive on the wrong side of a “keep left” bollard if safe to do so when responding to an emergency. At all times it is the driver’s responsibility to ensure the safety of road users.
Peter Brookes-Tee
Retired senior ambulance service driving instructor
Wigton, Cumberland

SIR – Once again the Labour Party demonstrates why it should not be allowed to govern.
First we had Gordon Brown’s raid on pension funds, leading to lower private pensions; light-touch regulation contributing to a greater impact from the global financial crisis; and gross mismanagement of the public purse, causing a prolonged period of painful austerity.
The latest proposal from Ed Miliband on energy prices belongs in the same bucket.
It fails to take into account the reduction of tax revenues to the Treasury and the impact on small shareholders or their pension funds who own part of these companies. It may not even be legal under EU law.
It is clear that Labour is intent on dragging us back to the Seventies.
Related Articles
Let common sense prevail for this community hero
29 Sep 2013
David Shearer
SIR – There is a simple method of reducing the nation’s energy bills that seems to elude most politicians. Abolishing the wind farm subsidy will remove the need for one of the many stealth taxes imposed by Gordon Brown which the current Chancellor now thinks it prudent to retain.
Not only would prices come down, but many millions would be lifted out of fuel poverty.
John McLachlan
Falmouth, Cornwall
SIR – I despair at the immaturity of Ed Miliband’s latest policy announcement; not only is a 20-month freeze a short-term measure, but it will have the unintended consequences of: increased prices in the run-up to the next election; reduced or delayed investments until after Labour fails to return to Government; and massive increases after the 20-month freeze. The way to fix the market is with proper regulation. The public will have confidence when retail charges fall in line with any downward movement in the wholesale price.
There should also be a robust challenge to Green energy subsidies.
Declan Salter
Chalfont St Giles, Buckinghamshire
SIR – Ed Miliband’s price-freeze promise is obviously going to be popular with many voters, but he seems to be missing the point.
The difficulty is not simply the cost of gas and electricity, it is also the sustainability of supply, and the two are linked. As there is an ever-increasing demand for power, the cost of supplying it must rise. We have to find new sources of fossil fuels, build more nuclear power stations and invest in sustainable energy.
Giving everyone a fixed price is a senseless way of tackling the problem; it can only lead to our continuing to use energy at the present level – or even increasing our usage if we are not concerned about the cost.
Peter Walton
SIR – Ed Miliband’s pledge to give the vote to 16-year olds ignores scientific research about the formation of the human brain. Several independent studies have revealed that the young adult brain is not fully developed before the late teens and early twenties. Perhaps the Labour Party hopes that these immature young people will be persuaded by its over-simplistic arguments.
John Hannaford
New Milton, Hampshire
SIR – The development of new and renewable energy production is mostly funded by foreign companies who are allowed to sell energy back to us at extortionate rates.
I’m naive, I know, but I would like to see our utilities as British-owned and British-controlled monopolies, giving us national resource security, where the pricing structure is simple and poor families can be helped directly through the tax system.
Douglas Maughan
Winchester, Hampshire
SIR – Twenty-five hours per week of free child care? Does Ed Miliband not understand that there is no “free” – and that someone, some time, has to pay?
Oh well, stick it on the national credit card with all the other debt. After all, what really matters is that Ed gets the keys to number 10.
Michael Gray
Kendal, Cumberland
Price guarantee for British dairy farmers
SIR – Ben Fogle is right to shine a light on the difficulties faced by our dairy industry (Country Travels, September 22). But not all supermarkets are the same. Sainsbury’s has worked hard for years to create a sustainable model that guarantees a fair price for our British milk producers.
Many dairy farmers have long been faced with volatile costs, but for our farmers at least there is no “supermarket effect” that abandons them to making a loss. From October 1 our farmers will in fact see a price increase to 34.15p per litre.
The pricing model we use was adopted following a vote among our farmers last year and includes a bonus that rewards them for high standards of animal health and welfare and reducing their impact on the environment.
Sue Lockhart
Head of Agriculture at Sainsbury’s
London EC1
Pollution priorities
SIR – The global warming “scientists” should concentrate on reducing the immense amount of pollution pouring out of the emerging economies of India, China, Brazil, etc., beside which Britain’s pollution is quite insignificant (Opinion, September 22).
We should instead be focused on the inevitable national power cuts to which Green policies are condemning us.
Arthur Quarmby
Holme, West Yorkshire
SIR – I suspect and fear that the climate change scaremongers have too much at stake to admit that they were wrong.
Keith Ferris
Coxheath, Kent
Assisted dying Bill
SIR – With Lord Falconer’s Bill on assisted dying scheduled to receive its Second Reading in the spring of next year, the BBC is to be commended rather than criticised for instigating debate on the subject. (“BBC ‘shows bias for euthanasia’”, report, September 22).
The Bill has a narrow focus which is confined to giving mentally competent, terminally ill adults the option of a physician-assisted death. This would be achieved by providing patients with a prescription that may be used at a time and circumstance of their choice should their suffering become unendurable.
Opponents such as Dr Peter Saunders know this very well. Yet they continue to obfuscate debate by referring to euthanasia, which is when the doctor administers a lethal injection; or by using emotive language such as “killing the disabled”, when they know that neither euthanasia nor the disabled are included in the Bill.
Both the public and the medical profession need to be well informed about what Parliament will be asked to decide. This is not helped by inaccurate and scaremongering tactics from opponents of the Bill.
Sir Terence English
Married tax breaks
SIR – Will married tax breaks (Letters, September 22) also be for homosexual married couples? If so, taken in context with the end of child benefit, this government policy redistributes wealth from parents and children to couples who cannot reproduce. It also penalises children born out of wedlock, through no fault of their own.
While I do not wish to judge homosexual married couples, I feel that they should not receive automatic tax-payer subsidy and the same applies to childless heterosexual married couples. There is no benefit to society.
However, if we bring back child tax credits, any gay couple with adopted children would benefit from such a policy, as would married or unmarried couples deciding to raise children.
Philip Ridley
Markyate, Hertfordshire
Cross-border ties
SIR – As a staunch unionist, the growing anti-English sentiment in the debate over Scottish independence (News Review, September 22) is both disturbing and unwelcome. My maternal grandparents migrated from Fife to Liverpool in the early Twenties, but neither they nor their relatives who settled in Birmingham forgot their Scottish roots. Cross-border ties were cultivated and continue to this day, making the independence campaign seem quite anachronistic in the modern era.
Peter Myers
Oldmeldrum, Aberdeenshire
Violent video games
SIR – The perpetrator of the latest mass shooting in America was addicted to violent computer games. This has been a common denominator in many of America’s recent gun massacres.
We should heed the warning, especially since the release of one of the most violent computer games yet – Grand Theft Auto V. Such games should come with a mental health warning
Robert Readman
Bournemouth, Dorset
Pension age
SIR – Why is there a set pension age for everyone?
There are greater physical demands on builders and nurses than on office workers.
Kay Ennals
Dorchester, Dorset
Over-feeding pets is killing with kindness
SIR – We read your report “Got a fat pet? It may be comfort eating” (September 22) with real concern. It’s already hard enough for vets to broach the sensitive subject of pet obesity with clients who think they are doing the right thing. Suggesting that reducing food intake increases anxiety will reinforce the mistaken view that giving extra food to your pets is a way of showing that you love them.
Too many pet owners are killing their pets with “kindness” by over-feeding and giving too many treats and inappropriate foods, such as leftovers from their own plates. If coupled with little or no exercise, their life spans will often be cut short by preventable obesity-related conditions such as arthritis, diabetes and heart disease.
Providing a healthy diet for pets involves restraint on the owners’ part. It can be hard to resist that hungry look from your dog and too easy to substitute real attention and interaction for treats, but it’s in the pet’s best interests to get it right.
Significant changes to a pet’s diet should always be discussed with a vet first to make sure it is done carefully and gradually.
Robin Hargreaves
President Elect
British Veterinary Association
London W1
Dark side of shunga
SIR – Lesley Downer (Opinion, September 22) hails the attitudes to sex revealed in the Japanese shunga prints, but barely touches on the human cost of the sexually liberated culture they portray.
The great courtesans may have started out as slaves and reached the top of their profession, but what of those women who didn’t reach the top and remained slaves throughout? Nor are we told about the fate of the children born as the result of this “life-affirming attitude,” who were subjected to mabiki, or “the thinning out of rice shoots,” with the lucky being selected for nurture and the rest killed by smothering. Sex may have been free, but life was cheap.
David J Critchley
Winslow, Buckinghamshire
Battering the butcher
SIR – “Mumford & run: brother battles thug” (Mandrake, September 22) reminded me of an incident I witnessed nearly 60 years ago in Wellington, Shropshire.
A man and his wife were having a fight in the street when a butcher came rushing out of his shop to try to separate them, whereupon they both started to batter him instead.
William Lonsdale
Nelson, Lancashire

Irish Times:

Sir, – In his argument for abolition of the Seanad, Des O’Malley (Opinion, September 24th) pronounces that “Powerful second chambers merely slow down policy change”. Mr O’Malley presumably thinks this is a bad thing.
On the contrary, it is surely best practice to take some time to properly debate the principles and tease out the practicalities of a proposed change in national policy. The difficulty with the argument that as “a small open country Ireland has to be faster to adapt”, is that our chosen “adaptations” tend to be short-termist, with a plethora of unintended consequences.
If the boom times taught us anything, it is surely that rushed adaptation to temporary market demands is a recipe for long-term pain. If a reformed Seanad can serve to provide measured counsel of caution, then I am all in favour of its retention. – Yours, etc,
Carrigaline, Co Cork.
Sir, – I would like to compliment Des O’Malley on his persuasive argument, for voting Yes in the referendum (Opinion, September 25th). I have been in two minds on this issue. It is hard to argue in favour of retaining the Seanad, especially in its current format. However, voting No would not mean the Seanad would be reformed and would instead probably be allowed to drift along as it has done for many years. Against that, it is tempting to vote Yes as a response to the cack-handed way that Fine Gael have driven this issue: Enda Kenny’s mysterious conversion to abolition, the €20 million seemingly plucked from the air, their criticism of the Seanad for not reforming itself, etc.
Mr O’Malley has brought a dose of realism to the whole debate. Yours, etc,
Brian Avenue,
Marino, Dublin 3.
Sir, – Des O’Malley opines (Opinion, September 25th) that Seanad Éireann is not the problem (with Irish politics), nor is it the solution. His conclusion is correct but his analysis in support of a Yes vote in the Abolition Referendum is flawed. Most accept the need for root and branch reform of our political system. They care more about what Mr O’Malley was not doing about it during his 34 years in Dáil Éireann and less about whether he was ignoring debates on the role of the Seanad. Voters care more about what he would do now about political reform and less about the consistency of his view on the Seanad over time. The difficulty with the referendum proposal is that it puts the cart before the horse.
Let us see the necessary political reforms implemented before we remove a fundamental plank of our existing constitutional democracy. – Yours, etc,
Brittas Grange,

Sir, – The dictum employed by Minister for Justice Alan Shatter (September 23rd) in relation to delayed justice over-states the case.
Justice delayed is, in most cases, merely justice temporarily denied. Expense, rather than delay, is the greatest impediment to justice for most potential litigants. Unaffordable justice is a much more complete denial of justice than delayed justice.
The proposed court of appeal will provide an extra layer of potential expense, as its rulings may still be appealed to the Supreme Court by a respondent with a large purse, such as the State. This will significantly add to the potential costs of litigation and significantly increase the financial deterrent to citizens from seeking remedy against the State in the courts.
Unless it is balanced by some mechanism of financial protection for citizens wishing to litigate against the State, the provision of an extra layer in the judicial system will result in a de facto reduction in citizens’ rights and a significant alteration in the balance of power between citizens and the State. This will be to the further detriment of citizens in an area in which they are already at a major disadvantage. – Yours, etc,

A chara, – As a newly-qualified (two years) secondary school teacher, I do not know what it was like to teach pre-austerity. I know only of daily life in a busy secondary school in Cork. I know of big classes, big work-loads and people doing their best. I have a Masters (in my subject) that is not acknowledged by the department. I am not in receipt of the teaching through Irish allowance.
Newly-qualified teachers’ pay is down 15 per cent since 2011. I’m appalled at the increase in the size of classes, at the cutbacks in special education needs resources and the constant air of gloom that pervades. What happened to valuing the individual and of nurturing their potential? I consider it an achievement just to have spoken to every student by the end of certain classes, never mind meeting their specific educational needs.
I invite Minister for Education Ruairí Quinn to spend a day shadowing me through the minefield that is secondary education. Although I might not have time to speak to him. – Is mise,
Leacan Fionn,

Sir, – John McManus is to be congratulated for his revealing article (Business Opinion, Business + Innovation, September 23rd) on “O’Flynn and Nama triumph”. He exposes the true purport of Nama which was always to benefit the banks and developers. The Government’s reluctance to bail out taxpayers in mortgage arrears is explicable by its desire (and even more so in the case of its Fianna Fáil predecessor) to look after “the Big Guy” at the expense of “the Little People”. – Yours, etc,

Sir, – As a Dubliner I’d like to congratulate all the volunteers who gave their time during the National Ploughing Championships. Along with the GAA and other institutions that depend on volunteerism, they demonstrate the best of us as a people. – Yours, etc,
The Mill,
First published: Mon, Sep 30, 2013, 01:08

Sir, – I am pleased to see that An Taoiseach (Opinion, September 20th) is advising prudence following the announcement by the CSO that the recession was over. His rhetorical question: “Does Ireland need a second house?” resonates. Isn’t that what got us into the economic mess in the first place – second homes! – Yours, etc,
Main Street,

Sir, – Robert McCarthy (September 23rd) states that 50 per cent of children in a Dublin Protestant fee-paying school are Catholic.
In the same way that there are a number of Protestant children in Catholic schools, of course Protestant schools are open to those of any religious background. Parents’ choice may be because the ethos of the school appeals to them or that it is the nearest school. It is not always viewed as elitist education. My child attends a Protestant school not because it is elitist, but because it is a school catering for our ethos, and most parents at the school I believe feel the same way.
In my area, there is a choice of five schools – all of which are of a Catholic ethos. In order for my child to attend a school of our religious ethos, we have to pay for him to attend, whereas children of a Catholic background have a choice of free local schools and fee-paying schools. The nearest schools of our ethos are at least an hour’s car journey away, which means my son has to board.
There are a lot of assumptions made about fee-paying schools and I would suggest before anyone makes judgment, that they talk to the struggling parents trying to get an education of their ethos for their child in the same way every parent does. – Yours, etc,

Sir, – Although there is a grain of truth in Desmond FitzGerald’s intemperate attack on Michael D Higgins (September 25th), his main argument – that only those who have divested themselves of all possessions can urge justice for the poor – is as hackneyed and as illogical as it ever was. Even Jesus liked his wine, we know that from the Gospels.
He is, however, right that €250,000 is not justified as a President’s salary. Neo-liberalism has been so unopposed for so long in this country that it clouds the thinking even of those who oppose it like Mr Higgins and the Labour Party. One of its tenets is the belief that money is the only motivator, and consequently if you pay peanuts, you get monkeys. This pseudo-scientific doctrine has justified the opening of a huge gap between average wages and those of the elite.
Mr Higgins commendably took a voluntary pay cut when he became President, but if you want to oppose neo-liberalism, you must support a return to the differentials that existed before neo-liberalism became the country’s religion, under Haughey and MacSharry. Does anyone seriously believe the quality of our politicians has risen in parallel with the rise in politicians’ salaries in the past 30 years? I suggest the evidence of the crash points to a contrary conclusion.
Mr Higgins’s pay cut is not nearly enough to restore the relation that existed between politicians’ wages and the average industrial wage in 1987 and that is what what he and the Labour Party should be aiming for in the both the public and private sectors. Instead, both the President and Tánaiste have employed advisers whose pay has breached the Government’s own salary cap.
How can an adviser prepare speeches against neo-liberalism when their own pay contract implicitly condones the “L’Oréal – because we’re worth it” elitist fantasy that is at the heart of neo-liberal “philosophy”.
I’d still vote for him. Nobody’s perfect. – Yours, etc,

Sir, – In the course of his well- reasoned case for the retention of the 9 per cent VAT rate for Ireland’s hospitality sector, Conor Brady (Opinion, September 26th) concluded, “The hospitality sector is in steady recovery. It is offering talented young people an alternative to emigration”. The facts are certainly there to demonstrate a recovery in the hotel and restaurant sectors, but what is happening with the resultant employment boost?
Over the past couple of months, I spent a series of short-term holiday breaks in well-known hotels near Athlone, in Westport, and in counties Donegal, Kerry and Waterford. There is little doubt all of these offer an excellent working environment. Yet a remarkable feature was the predominance of non-Irish staff in these hotels. Let me hasten to add, I have nothing against non-Irish nationals.
What puzzles me, however, is that we have hundreds of thousands of Irish people claiming unemployment benefits, and the prevailing media narrative across the airwaves and in print is that there are no jobs out there. So why aren’t more Irish people competing for, and securing, these additional hospitality jobs? – Yours, etc,
Morehampton Road,
First published: Mon, Sep 30, 2013, 01:02

Sir, – If we are to have three constituencies for the European Parliament elections (Home news, September 26th) could we simply call them North, South and Dublin? – Yours, etc,
Sir, – I’m absolutely flabbergasted by your report by Gordon Deegan (Home News, September 25th) detailing the obscene amount of money paid to a few farmers to conserve a few birds. €11 million to 377 farmers for 144 birds means €29,177 per farmer, and wait for it, €76,388 per bird!
This at a time when medical cards are being withdrawn from sick children and cancer patients, along with all the other cutbacks in health, education, etc. What have we come to and who decides our priorities? – Yours, etc,
Greeen Road,

Irish Independent:

Madam – I must take issue with some of the language used by Maeve Sheehan in her article, “Elaine and the fatal attraction of sexual fetish” (Sunday Independent, September 22, 2013). The analysis piece about the discovery of Elaine O’Hara’s remains in the Dublin Mountains was disturbing to me as an average reader.
Also in this section
Recognise teenage angst for what it is
Parasite devours host
Banks making all the rules
The opening paragraphs were especially distasteful in their tone: “A fibia here, a tibia there”, the opening lines read. In my view, this language is flippant, and did not reflect the tone one would use when discussing the remains of a woman who met such a tragic end. I appreciate that there is little a writer can do when describing a scene – but this type of writing is grossly inappropriate, and simply unnecessary in an ‘analysis’ article.
Not only was this description of Ms O’Hara’s remains undignified, but the writer then explained how “a body had been shoved into the undergrowth and left there to rot, gnawed on by wild animals and the bones dragged hither and thither”. What need is there to describe the “gnawing” of Elaine O’Hara’s body? Is this analysis?
The writer then had the presence of mind to add this at the bottom of her article: “The O’Hara family has pleaded for privacy to cope with their loss, understandably distraught at the developments of the past week.”
As much as Maeve Sheehan is correct in asserting the family’s obvious distress, wouldn’t her language as laid out above add further upset to a family member unfortunate enough to read her article?
Justin Kelly,
Edenderry, Co Offaly
Sunday Independent

Madam – Recently I read an article on the stresses of being a teenage girl and coping with distress in mental health.
Also in this section
Flippant words
Parasite devours host
Banks making all the rules
Are we making too big a deal of ‘depression’ among teens? Many people with depression suffer due to financial problems, family issues etc – but what about teenage girls? Teenage girls stress about exams, self-confidence and schoolyard drama. Is this a form of mental illness or just a rite of passage during teen years?
Without a doubt there are many cases of teenage depression, but are we right in branding one in three teenagers as mentally ill?
Caring about appearance, stressing about exams, and having little to no self-confidence is all part of the teen years, and it is important to nourish and encourage girls to accept themselves and enjoy these years. Telling girls they are depressed because they worry about looks and weight isn’t good for their mental state nor will it benefit them in later years. How are girls supposed to differentiate between being upset and being mentally ill?
There are too many influences in the world telling girls to look a specific way, and obviously this will have a negative impact on many.
But learning to accept who you are is more important than being diagnosed with depression. Eating disorders are common among teens, and should be treated as soon as possible. Again, should we brand this as being linked to depression? Severe, yes. Depression? I don’t think so.
Emily O’Grady (16),
Fedamore, Co Limerick
Madam – The letters by Mark Harten and Patrick Fleming on the violence and non-mandated aspects of 1916 raise interesting issues (Sunday Independent, Sept 22, 2013).
Mark Harten questions the effectiveness of those who used ‘innocence and shrewdness’ in dealing with the British.
Patrick Fleming, on the other hand, supports the view that ‘constitutional methods would have been better’ than the ‘unelected and unmandated’ rebellion of 1916.
We do, however, have to accept what Patrick Fleming calls ‘the facts of history’.
It could be argued that John Redmond used ‘innocence and shrewdness’ quite well to do what Parnell failed to do, i.e., get Home Rule. But the effectiveness and credibility of constitutional Irish nationalism, under Redmond, was destroyed by the imperial parliament in London.
The threat of civil war against Home Rule by the Ulster Covenanters, expressly backed by Bonar Law, the leader of the Conservative opposition, intimidated the most powerful parliament in the world from implementing its own Act.
The failure of that parliament, at the head of a worldwide empire, to implement an Act, passed and signed into law by the monarch, made the ‘unelected and unmandated’ rising of 1916 inevitable.
A Leavy,
Sutton, Dublin 13
Madam – Mark Harten (Sunday Independent, Sept 22, 2013), does not seem to be in tune with modern historical thinking in relation to Michael Collins when he criticises me for leaving the former Irish leader out of my short list of effective politicians in the last 200 years.
He suggests that: “Collins made a great deal of progress for this country and was, indeed, one of the lead negotiators of the Anglo-Irish Treaty that founded this State.
“Collins, of course, does not accord with Mr O’Connell’s conclusions: he was shrewd, but he was certainly no dove, and yet he proved himself quite capable of dealing successfully with the British.”
I understand that the reason Michael Collins was sent to negotiate with the British was because he was not sufficiently competent to realise that he was not going to achieve what he had fought for and that he would have to sell a deal Eamon De Valera would not agree to, even though he sent Collins to do the negotiating.
I feel that Ireland was pushing at an open door at that time in relation to the 26 counties and that much of what happened need not have happened, particularly the civil war. And we’re still up here inside the UK, so it wasn’t good for us.
John O’Connell,
Madam – I am suffering from a new syndrome which I call ‘Seanad fatigue’. The Government first announced its proposals on the abolition of the Seanad in June. Since then the print media has bombarded us with superfluous column inches dedicated, for the most part regurgitating the same old arguments for and against. I suspect that anyone who is going to vote will have made up their mind long ago and will not be swayed by any more enlightened views.
John Bellew,
Dunleer, Co Louth
Madam – In Barry Egan’s column (Sunday Independent, Sept 22, 2013), he states that a celebrity left her partner at home “babysitting” their son while she attended a birthday party. In the ‘Dear Mary’ column, a man is advised as follows: “On a separate night, your wife should go out with her girlfriends while you babysit.”
According to the dictionary, the meaning of ‘babysit’ is to “look after a child or children while the parents are out”. When a man is socialising, nobody says his wife is babysitting. The fact that this word is used when the man is at home implies that the child is not really his responsibility, that he is doing his wife or partner a favour.
So, if a woman is out and somebody enquires “Is your husband babysitting?”, they should be told “No, he is looking after his own children!”
Bernadette Carroll,
Navan, Co Meath
Madam – At last your newspaper, in The Despair Of Debt (Sunday Independent, Sept 22, 2013), has acknowledged the large number of citizens in their 30s, 40s, 50s and 60s that are struggling and just cannot cope with super-sized mortgages.
While economists write reams on the background, knocking ridiculous mileage from the causes of grossly overvalued debt products, they have proved ineffective in the ‘Solutions’, ‘Corrective Actions’ and ‘Continuous Improvement’ departments.
The top priority for people in despair is ‘Solutions’. Industry best practice restructures for grossly overvalued debt is not exactly rocket science. The Central Bank targets for leaving 80 per cent of these mortgage holders dangle in anxiety is just not good enough.
The Central Bank of Ireland plus the Irish banks need to work a 39-hour week and just get on with it.
Mike Flannelly,
Co Galway
Madam – Michaella McCollum Connolly and Melissa Reid have learnt a very expensive education about drug trafficking. When you are caught hook, line and sinker it doesn’t matter which way you plead, you are guilty by association.
For the two young women the consequences have been severe and brutally exposed to them by the authorities in Peru.
Anyone who might be gullible enough to consider undertaking the same venture will have a very good appreciation of what they are letting themselves in for when McCollum Connolly and Reid are sentenced next month.
However, the general rule of thumb is very straightforward when considering smuggling illegal substances in any jurisdiction; leave well alone.
Unless you can cope with losing years of your liberty incarcerated in virtual hellholes. The forfeiting of dignity and basic human rights in most circumstances. Plus the added dubious bonus of daily violence among your new-found chums
Some lessons are best never to be tutored in?
Vincent O’Connell,
New Ross, Co Wexford
Sunday Independent

Books books books

September 29, 2013

29 September 2013 Books books books

I go all the way around the park round the park listening to the Navy Lark
Our heroes are in trouble they are to provide transport for the Todd-Hunters Browns but can Leslie sail up the Thames without hitting anything? Priceless.
I put my books on Amazon
We watch Dads army v good.
Scrabble today I win and get under 400. perhaps Mary might win tomorrow.


David Hubel
David Hubel, who has died aged 87, shared the 1981 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, with his colleague Torsten Wiesel and with Roger Sperry, for insights into how visual systems process information, solving a puzzle that had baffled scientists for centuries.

David Hubel Photo: CORBIS
6:08PM BST 25 Sep 2013
When Hubel and Wiesel began experiments on vision and the brain in the late 1950s, neuroscientists thought that images from the retina were transmitted to visual centres in the brain, and projected onto the cerebral cortex in the same way as a photograph on to film. But the two scientists discovered that the messages reaching the brain from the eyes are not simply transmitted, but transformed and analysed by a complex system of nerve cells known as neurons.
For more than two decades, first at Johns Hopkins University and later at Harvard Medical School, the pair probed electrodes into the primary visual cortex’s of anaesthetised cats and monkeys. By flashing lines on a screen in front of the animals’ eyes and recording signals from individual nerve cells, they mapped exactly which neurons are involved in processing an image.
They demonstrated that the visual cortex contains columns of cells, each able to recognise specific details — for example stationary horizontal lines, or corners, or colours or vertical lines moving in a specific direction. The columns build up a complete image, which is then sent to higher brain centres, where the visual impression is formed and the memory of the image is stored.
More importantly, Hubel and Wiesel showed the importance of the brain receiving visual stimuli early in life. When a newborn kitten had one eye sewn up for a few weeks, they found that when unstitched, though the eye itself was normal, the kitten was rendered blind in that eye for life because the vital connections in the visual cortex had not been made during the crucial early developmental period.
This insight led to pioneering treatments for conditions in newborn babies — such as cataracts and strabismus (squint) — that otherwise could lead to blindness or impaired vision. Before their discovery physicians often used to wait until a child was three to five years old before treating such conditions, by which time their vision was usually permanently impaired.
David Hunter Hubel was born on February 27 1926 in Windsor, Ontario, to American parents, and took a degree in Mathematics and Physics at McGill University, Montreal. Though he was accepted to do graduate work in Physics he decided on a whim to apply to the university’s medical school. “To my horror I was accepted there, too,” he recalled.
After graduation and a period of military service in the US Army, Hubel took up a research post at Johns Hopkins, where he began his partnership with Wiesel, a young scientist from Sweden. In 1959 the pair moved to Harvard Medical School where, over the next few decades, they played a central role in developing its new neurobiology department.
In their jointly-written memoir Brain and Visual Perception: The Story of a 25-Year Collaboration (2004) the pair recalled that their early experiments measuring visual cortex activity in cats had been so frustrating that they had sometimes taken to dancing wildly in front the animals — even showing them alluring images of beautiful women — to try and elicit a response. It was only when one of the pair happened to move across the screen on to which they were projecting visual stimuli, casting a shadow, that electrodes in the animals’ brains registered a response.
A man of wide-ranging interests, Hubel became a leading advocate of the need for scientists to make scientific concepts accessible to the general public, arguing that the best training for a would-be scientific genius is to “learn to write English really well”. Not surprisingly he was a leading voice in putting the case for animal research.
In 1953 David Hubel married Ruth Izzard, who died in February. Their three sons survive him.
David Hubel, born February 27 1926, died September 22 2013


In the face of 95% of scientific evidence informing us that “human activities are driving climate change”, a recent survey shows that the number of people who do not believe this has now risen from 5% in 2005 to 19% to date (“Scientists give their starkest warning yet on climate change”, News).
Unfortunately, what these climate change sceptics, deniers and liars are expecting is that someone will soon come up with “the technological fix” that will solve what is a multifaceted problem. What is not being realised or accepted is that the technology already exists – in the form of renewable energies – and that what is missing is the global social and political will and framework to employ them. So, in truth, what is really being hoped for is divine intervention, but we should remember that “God helps those who help themselves”.
Ashley Gunstock
London E11
There is one curious aspect of the debate on climate change that commentators never remark on (“To fight climate change, we must trust scientific truth and collective action”, Will Hutton, Comment). Those who deny that climate change is happening are generally on the right, while those who argue that climate change is a reality are generally on the left. However, when it comes to putting these beliefs to the test, leftwing people are just as likely to use temperature-raising air travel as rightwing people.
Ivor Morgan
What concerns me most about climate change sceptics is that many measures essential to address climate change, if mainstream scientific views are correct, would make sense anyway.
Improved food security, habitat conservation, less pollution, alternatives to fossil fuels and reduced waste would all still be sensible if climate change were totally natural, a damp squib or even took an unexpected turn. A major volcanic eruption (eg Tambora in 1815) could cause temporary global cooling and hence major disruption of food supplies.
Sadly, the predictable attempts to prove a position will distract from measures that could yield massive benefits regardless. I occasionally despair of the seemingly unavoidable human urge to prove oneself right instead of doing something useful and effective.
Iain Climie
The authors of all the articles on climate change in last week’s Observer conflate global warming with its cause. That the world has got warmer is a fact; that man’s production of greenhouse gases is the cause is an untestable hypothesis. Support for the hypothesis comes only from models. If we are to accept model projections, at least the estimates of past global mean annual temperature should be close to estimates from observations, but whether they are I cannot tell. The latter are available on the web, but the former are not. I have made repeated requests for the “hindcasts” of the latest Hadley Centre model finally invoking the Freedom of Information Act, but so far without success.
Philip Symmons
Will Hutton is right about fighting the deniers of manmade global warming. The battle is both difficult and urgent. But does he realise how much ammunition is provided by examples of extreme weather this year?
Like 63,000 people missing after unprecedented floods hit northern India (19 June), a curtain-raiser to reports of “worst ever” flooding from Alberta (22 June), Puerto Rico (2 Aug), Manila (21 Aug) and Colorado (13 Sept).
We also had the Danube at an all-time high (June 6); Canada’s worst wildfire in Quebec province (July 15); Mexico’s “worst weather crisis since 1958″ stranding 40,000 tourists (18 Sept); and hospitals struggling in Namibia to cope with children malnourished from the “worst drought in 30 years” (21 Sept).
Eric Alexander
High Wycombe

As someone who began teaching in 1948, I have long believed that making children aware of their place in the order of performance is not the best way to ensure progress for all. As was found by Murphy and Weinhardt in their study, parental influence, confidence, perseverance and resilience have large effects on achievement (“Confidence ‘is key to doing well at school'”, News). There is, however, another issue that is at least as important as these. Children need to be interested in what they are learning to do and to be able to apply that learning both in school and in their wider lives. It is not enough to expect them to learn simply because the teacher – or even the education secretary – decides they should. More and more, we need a national curriculum that recognises the vital importance of motivation within the children. They need to find learning useful and not simply to answer questions in tests.
Professor Norman Thomas
St Albans, Herts
Council cramping cafe society
Long-term residents of Notting Hill will recognise Ed Vulliamy’s description of its loss of character and community spirit since the arrival of the super-rich (“Development hell: how the upmarket vandals ruined my childhood streets”, In Focus). Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea council also seems determined to stamp out whatever lively atmosphere is created by our independent coffee bars and restaurants with the heavy-handed approach of licensing officers towards businesses that try to accommodate locals and the thousands of visitors who pour down Portobello Road, especially at weekends.
This summer, the Portobello Cafe Campaign staged protests outside the coffee bar Kitchen & Pantry following the council’s decision to remove half its tables and chairs, depriving patrons of outside seating all summer and seriously affecting the income of the cafe. More than a thousand signatures and many letters to the council had no effect: it is not interested in local views.
Sylvia Parnell
Claire Simmons
Portobello Cafe Campaign
London W11
No cover-up at Yarl’s Wood
In your articles of 15 and 22 September, you refer to allegations of inappropriate behaviour by staff at the Yarl’s Wood immigration detention centre in the six years that it has been run by Serco.
Sexual contact between residents and staff is always completely unacceptable. As Serco’s director for Yarl’s Wood, I wish to make clear that this behaviour is not widespread or endemic. Most importantly, it is not in any way tolerated. Serco views this type of behaviour extremely seriously and wherever there is evidence of misbehaviour, we take prompt disciplinary action and report it to the police as appropriate. This has resulted in dismissals on the few occasions on which it has been uncovered in the past six years. I have reviewed complaints in the past year and the deeply regrettable incident you reported is the only complaint of this nature to have been made in that time.
The articles allude to a “cover-up” by Serco, which is absolutely not the case. Complaints at Yarl’s Wood are made securely by posting them into a locked post box. Only the Home Office or the Independent Monitoring Board can access these post boxes and the complaints; Serco has no access to them.
Complaints are processed by the Home Office or IMB and passed to Serco’s senior management when appropriate. Serco and Yarl’s Wood staff would not be able to cover up complaints, nor would we want to.
John Tolland
Director, Yarl’s Wood IRC, Beds
Scotland’s thrilling prospects
Catherine Bennett’s sympathy for Scotland’s right to rule herself would be better informed by a visit to Scotland
(“Yes to Scottish independence. No to nationalism”, Comment. At the independence rally last weekend, thousands of people proclaimed their hopes for a fairer, more prosperous and independent Scotland.
In every speech, our egalitarian cause shone through, particularly in two internationalist anthems, Hamish Henderson’s Freedom Come-All-Ye and Robert Burns’s A Man’s a Man For A’ That sung by the TradYES group. There was not a shred of chauvinism and every sense of the thrilling prospect of making our own way in the world in the sisterhood and brotherhood of nations.
Rob Gibson MSP
Wick, Caithness
Smoking and violence in jail
Barbara Ellen wrote last week that it would be sadistic to ban smoking in prisons and that if it is to be banned indoors, there should be smoking areas in the grounds. However, this would be the cruellest solution of all. Smokers suffer whenever they have to spend more than an hour or two awake without a smoke, and the nature of prison life is such that this would be happening every day. This repeated deprivation will potentially lead to aggression and violence.
Richard Mountford
Tonbridge, Kent
Bach best? Think again
Bach “is arguably the greatest of all composers” (“Revealed: the beer-soaked, brutal world of young JS Bach”, News). Really? As the conductor Karl Böhm once remarked, in answer to this implied question: “You mean, apart from Mozart?”
Raymond Calcraft
In the summer of 2002, my husband and I toured the Outer Hebrides in a camper van with our children, Rosie, then seven, and William, four. We had a magical two weeks on the islands after catching the ferry to Barra, then driving up to Stornoway. Evenings were spent parked by deserted beaches, enjoying the fabulous scenery and this photograph is still on our kitchen wall as a reminder. The gaps in Rosie’s teeth depict a specific time in her childhood and William’s expression sums up the novelty for him of having a one pound note for his Scottish holiday pocket money.
However, not everything went according to plan. We had hired the van in March and were assured that the ancient model on show was purely to give us an indication of size – a more up-to-date version would be available later on in the year. This was not the case and as the van stood outside our house on the evening before our departure, many neighbours expressed grave doubts that we would make it to the border, let alone get further north.
On the first night, once the children had been lifted up into their sleeping platform, we prepared our own bed and my husband discovered he was unable to stretch out fully. One morning, he said that he must be getting used to lying curled up as he’d enjoyed a great night’s sleep – then we noticed the door had slid open during the night and his feet were poking outside. Another morning we awoke to something bashing the side of the van, which was a little disconcerting – it was a ram making it very clear that we were on his territory!
Karen Gammack


I believe the reason we, as a nation, are being so polite regarding the niqab, in answer to Joan Smith (22 September), is obvious. The British are famously polite. Is not polite debate preferable to absolute chaos?
I must say to call something “ridiculous”, though Joan’s perfect right, is rather harsh, and not at all in the tradition of politeness! I agree that the niqab should not be banned, except in specific situations that would incur difficulties for practical reasons.
However, I would like to point out that the “modesty” argument does not have to wash with Joan, or anyone else for that matter; it is meant, as I understand it, purely for God, and I cannot see how it is up to any of us to dispute somebody else’s personal relationship with their God. If they believe it creates a closer relationship with more piety, and thus modesty, then it is subjectively so.
Whether it is, in reality, more modest or not is irrelevant to a dispute that should surely be centred on more practical reasonings? We cannot alter belief or opinion just proffer our own. It certainly wouldn’t be very polite to try in any case.
Helen Brown
Sheffield, South Yorkshire
Joan Smith says it is OK for a woman to wear the niqab on the 94 bus. Does that bus have CCTV? Allowing people to hide their face makes it ineffective. The only equitable answer is a ban on all headcovering in public which is designed to hide the appearance and which would also include young men wearing hoodies.
Rob Edwards
Harrogate, North Yorkshire
I wonder if the Which? survey into food prices took account of how much food is discarded, partly because of strict adherence to “best before” and “use by” dates, and also because of a reluctance to use left-overs (“One in three struggling to feed themselves”, 22 September).
You have reported in the past that as much as one third of food is jettisoned in some households, and it’s not rocket science to think that the two may be related. Janet Street-Porter in the same edition espouses cookery lessons in school, which would make the young more aware of what can be achieved by judicious use of “raw materials”. Providing free school meals will not help with this, though there are more practical reasons for supporting such a proposal.
Dave & Carol Fossard
via email
Those of us who are opponents of independent education should nevertheless welcome as a temporary ally the new chair of the Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference (“School boss tells Michael Gove: The system isn’t broken”, 22 September). As Tim Hands implies, state schools under Michael Gove have no incentive to innovate, only a perverse incentive to conform to an increasingly dirigiste, test/examination-dominated regime. I would urge all state primary and secondary schools to follow Tim’s example and devote at least an eighth of their curriculum to non-examination learning – “Independent Studies” .
Professor Colin Richards
Spark Bridge, Cumbria
I disagree with the Department for Work and Pensions spokesman that “sanctions are only used as a last resort” (“Homeless jobseekers hit hard by benefit cuts”, 22 September). I know of someone who lost money simply by being late for an interview, while others have been penalised for not applying for enough vacancies.
In a place like Grimsby there isn’t much work and the unemployed are forced to go for jobs they know they won’t get simply to meet job-centre targets.
Tim Mickleburgh
Grimsby, Lincolnshire
I read the article “Move over organic – the new big business in food is halal” with dismay (22 September). This is a cruel method of killing animals. This country brought in laws to stun animals before slaughtering and then allows certain groups to ignore them.
Another worry is that we could be buying and eating halal meat which is not labelled as such. We have the backing of scientists that animals should be stunned before slaughter.
Jenny Bushell

Fight to save England’s beauty
IN THE two months since the launch of the Campaign to Protect Rural England’s (CPRE’s) charter to save our countryside, we have seen new research showing that more than half a million houses are planned for open countryside, with a further 150,000 in the green belt.
The scale of this projected development is unprecedented. This needless sacrifice of our green spaces should not be tolerated when England currently has suitable brownfield land for 1.5m new homes that could help regenerate our towns and cities.
As artists and writers who have been inspired by the matchless beauty of England, we urge the government to support the three basic principles set out in the CPRE’s charter to save our countryside.
First, build on suitable brownfield land first, rather than unnecessarily sacrificing the countryside. Second, real localism: give people a proper say in shaping the places they love. Finally, we must build more houses — not executive houses on green fields, as is too often the case now, but well-designed, affordable homes in the right places.
We urge your readers to support the CPRE’s charter at
Sir Andrew Motion (President, Campaign to Protect Rural England), Simon Armitage, Julian Barnes Sir Quentin Blake, Lord Bragg, Bill Bryson, Jane Gardam Maggi Hambling, Alan Hollinghurst Ken Howard, John le Carré Marina Lewycka, Dame Penelope Lively David Lodge, Robert Macfarlane Alice Oswald, Cornelia Parker Philip Pullman, Rose Tremain Jeanette Winterson, Benjamin Zephaniah

Niqab fear exposes our thinly veiled prejudices
I AM one of the “let anyone wear what they like except for reasons of security and job effectiveness” brigade (“The other side of the veil”, News Review, last week). What I am absolutely certain about is that our interpretation of the niqab is no basis for a ban in Britain. Some of the opposition is based on prejudice and Islamophobia.
Jaime Green, London E14
Discomfort zone
Rosie Kinchen got a hostile reception with her niqab but imagine someone (be it a man or a woman) on the Tube, or in any public place, wearing a balaclava — I think all of us would feel uncomfortable and threatened. It has nothing to do with religion or tolerance.
Irith B Sassoon, By email
Foreign powers
The wearing of niqabs is promoted by Saudi Arabia, which pours money into the creation of ultra-conservative mosques here. Muslim friends from other parts of the world tell me that they feel bullied and intimidated by Wahhabi Muslims. Surely politicians must be aware of the power of Saudi influence.
Josephine Smith, London
Taking offence
What an excellent article by Maajid Nawaz (“Behind that veil, Britain is losing its spine”, Comment, September 15). The veil is an insult to decent men who do not see women as sex objects, not to mention the fact that wearing it is also an unhealthy practice.
Dr Salim Ghori, Preston, Lancashire

Ex-military personnel are assets to society
MYTHOLOGY surrounds not just post-traumatic stress disorder but also other indicators of a poor transition to civilian life after military service, such as homelessness, imprisonment and general mental wellbeing (“Shooting down myths of post-traumatic stress”, Letters, September 15).
In each category the incidence is no greater — and is often less — than that of the equivalent general population. Which isn’t to say that each case is any less tragic — or any less deserving of the nation’s support — but it can lead to a dangerous misperception that all those who leave the service bring with them such baggage. They don’t. Most make the transition extremely successfully, and go on to become significant contributors to society.
Of course, we in the third sector must assist those who struggle in every way we can but we should also recognise the evidence — such as that in our recently published reports on transition and mental health — that the quality of the ex-servicemen and women remains extraordinarily high, and that employers should be fighting to sign them up.
Air Vice-Marshal Ray Lock (retired), Chief Executive, Forces in Mind Trust

Lawyers keep the antibiotics pumping
I BELONG to a profession that is the worst perpetrator in over-prescribing antibiotics (“The drugs don’t work”, News Review, September 15). I recently saw a patient whose dentist prescribed them for a loose screw in an implant-supported crown. I routinely carry out minor oral surgery for which I am informed by peer review that I must prescribe both pre- and post-operative antibiotics, which I strenuously avoid.
Research now suggests the preventive prescription of antibiotics has no place in a clean operating environment. I am aware I invite litigation in the event of implant failure, in which case the first question I would be asked by my indemnity provider — quickly followed by the lawyers — is: “Why didn’t you prescribe antibiotics in order to stay in line with current adopted practice?”
As a way to approach this massive public health challenge, I feel we first need to tackle an increasingly aggressive culture of litigation.
Steve Garner, Specialist in Oral Surgery
Dangerous drugs
Warnings about inappropriate consumption of antimicrobial drugs are invariably based on the idea that if we take these powerful substances for trivial infections, and/or fail to complete a course, we are likely to increase the pool of resistant bacteria circulating in the population.
But the same thing can happen in an individual patient. There is a small but significant risk that resistance heightened by the indiscriminate use of such drugs today will trigger the emergence of an antibiotic- insensitive bacterium that can cause a serious, possibly life-threatening, infection in that same person at a later date. It would be prudent for health education messages to highlight this danger, rather than simply appeal to people’s altruistic instincts at a community level.
Dr Bernard Dixon, Ruislip, London
Course work
Standard advice includes completing the course of antibiotics and not wasting them on viral infections. Would it were that simple. How in general practice is it known that there is not an accompanying bacterial infection?
More important, resistant strains are favoured by exposure to antibiotics, whether used wisely or not, so there is an urgent need for research to determine the shortest effective course of treatment. Finally, considering the ever-widening range of adult body weights, is it not time that dose was adjusted accordingly — as is normal practice for animals — to avoid under-dosage or wastage at the extremes?
Professor A R Michell, Chipping Norton, Oxfordshire
Costly school uniforms don’t add up
IT IS not David Laws, the schools minister, but the headmistress Jo Heywood who totally misses the point on uniforms (“The ties that bind”, News Review, last week). Her school obviously has parents who are able and prepared to pay the often inflated prices demanded by monopoly suppliers; the vast majority of schools do not. If uniforms are important — and I believe they are — they should be made available from different sources. Heywood suggests the quality of supermarket merchandise is suspect; has she tried and tested them all? I suspect not. Furthermore, spending an inordinate amount on uniforms sends a mixed message to children when their parents may have been forced to buy at charity shops to finance their education.
Judy Reid, Rotherham, South Yorkshire
Dressing room
As a libertarian Conservative I could no more support school uniforms than I could the closed shop, censorship or identity cards. It’s a simple question of freedom of choice. At the very least there should be no rules about the length of skirts, or with regard to shirts, trousers and hairstyles — they can hardly be worn differently outside school.
Mark Taha, London SE26

Pay dispute
I was intrigued by the BBC’s defence that its executive salaries are discounted by an average 73% against the commercial sector (“More £200,000 chiefs enter BBC revolving door”, News, last week). On that basis there appears to be a finance director earning about £1.4m, a director of news on £1.25m, a director of strategy being paid £1.1m and a general counsel making almost £800,000 — all in companies with 22,000 employees or fewer. I wonder who they are and where they work?
David Elstein, London SW15
Viewing figures
Eamon O’Sullivan (“Corporation tax”, Letters, last week) suggests that the BBC could have commercials between shows. It already does. Unfortunately, they don’t bring in money but cost the corporation in fees to advertising agencies and leave viewers fed up with the never-ending self-promotion.
Patrick Cunningham, Winsford, Cheshire
Unsporting conduct
I recently went to a talk given by the chaplain to London Wasps rugby club in which he said there were two dangers affecting young professional sportsmen: porn and gambling (“Porn is making addicts of our sons”, News Review, and “Brain scans find porn addiction”, News, last week). Since the arrival of laptops for professional players to analyse DVDs of their performances, there has been a rush to view porn and gambling sites. These pros have ample time to indulge themselves, and many become addicted.
Paul Churchouse, Flackwell Heath, Buckinghamshire
Political struggle
Former Tony Blair adviser Patrick Diamond (“Labour’s idle talk on raising living standards”, Comment, last week) suggests that Ed Miliband and Ed Balls “should exploit voters’ instinct that the Tory leadership doesn’t understand what life is like
for millions of families struggling to make ends meet”. A private education for Balls, a comprehensive in Hampstead for Miliband, and then Oxford and a parachute into the junior ranks of the Labour hierarchy for both hardly qualifies them to understand the struggle “to make ends meet”.
Greg Sheen, Dewsbury, West Yorkshire
No time to lose
Anyone considering alternative therapies should bear in mind the timescale for their particular form of cancer (“My choice”, Style, last week). While patients are trawling the internet or seeking out “wizard” healers who experiment with cannabinoid tinctures blessed in the light of the full moon, they could pass the point when conventional treatment has any chance of being effective. Chemotherapy saves many lives. It did mine.
Jennifer Rees, Cardiff
Beyond the law
The dentist Omar Sheikh Mohamed Addow (“Dentist struck off for offering female mutilation”, News, September 8) is now back in Somalia when he should at the very least have faced trial in Britain. In May 2012 I was with French anti-female genital mutilation (FGM) campaigners just after news of your paper’s “sting” broke. My hosts refused to believe me when I said Addow would escape prosecution. France has an interest in the UK’s failure so far to prosecute: it is believed we have become a magnet for FGM tourism.
Vera Lustig, Walton-on-Thames, Surrey
The wages of spin
Damian McBride has regrets about his actions as a Labour spin doctor (“Forgive me my spins”, Focus, last week). After one nasty episode, he is said to have thought of himself as a “cruel, vindictive, thoughtless bastard”, apparently asking himself what kind of person he had become. The timing of the publication of his book in the week of the Labour conference must add to his guilt; will he refuse to benefit from the profits of his “spins” and donate the income to charity?
Michael Saffell, Bath, Avon
Mousse hunt
Gizzi Erskine’s recipe for chocolate mousse (Magazine, last week) says it serves six but ends with “Fill 4 glasses with the mousse”. Is it that the four glasses should be shared between six in these straitened times, or an acceptance that most cooks are chocoholics?
Maureen Symons, Cambridge

Corrections and clarifications
Last week’s Sunday Times Good University Guide wrongly reported a degree dropout rate of 81.9% for Birmingham City University. The correct dropout rate was 14.3%. The completion rate was 81.9%. We apologise for the error.

Silvio Berlusconi, former Italian prime minister, 77; Chris Broad, cricketer, 56; Lord Coe, athlete, 57; Mackenzie Crook, actor, 42; Colin Dexter, crime writer, 83; Anita Ekberg, actress, 82; Patricia Hodge, actress, 67; Jerry Lee Lewis, singer, 78; Ian McShane, actor, 71; Mike Post, composer, 69; Lech Walesa, co-founder of Poland’s Solidarity movement, 70; Amy Williams, Olympic skeleton champion, 31

1571 birth of Caravaggio, painter; 1758 Horatio Nelson is born; 1810 birth of Elizabeth Gaskell, author; 1829 Metropolitan police carry out first patrols; 1938 Germany, Britain, France and Italy forge Munich Agreement, allowing Germany to annex Sudetenland region of Czechoslovakia; 1979 John Paul II becomes first pope to visit Ireland, and calls for an end to violence between Protestants and Catholics


SIR – Matt Wrack, the Fire Brigade Union’s general secretary, has said that “It is ludicrous to expect firefighters to fight fires and rescue families in their late-50s; the lives of the general public and firefighters themselves will be endangered” (report, September 23).
Half the fire brigade appear to be engaged in knocking on doors and offering to check your smoke alarms and exit routes, as I have experienced recently. If the bright-eyed young officers who called on me were to change places with their more elderly colleagues, there would be no need for them to be attempting to “rescue families in their late-50s”. It is better for them to be advising us while their younger colleagues do the fire-fighting.
John Palmer
Wellington, Herefordshire

SIR – Fraser Nelson’s analysis of Ed Miliband’s ambition (Comment, September 27) is both true and scary.
There is no doubt that Mr Miliband has struck a chord with the public about the ever-increasing cost of energy. His promise to freeze prices will be very popular.
Unfortunately, the quick response of the energy companies has only added weight to his argument. The chairman of Centrica, for instance, has stated that if wholesale gas prices rise there is no alternative to increasing domestic prices, if bankruptcy or under-investment are to be avoided. This is known as a cost-plus solution, which in theory any business could apply – if your costs increase, you pass them on to your customers.
The solution to rising energy prices is increased efficiency and competition. The energy regulator could and should enforce this, and David Cameron should champion such an approach.
Barry Hawkes
Bourne End, Buckinghamshire
Related Articles
Let young firemen fight fires, not knock on doors
28 Sep 2013
SIR – Has no one pointed out to Mr Miliband that it is already possible to freeze one’s energy prices for up to four years in return for a small price increase covering the whole period?
I would prefer him to have promised to remove the “green” taxes added to our bills that provide profits to the operators of the useless windmills covering some of the most attractive parts of rural Britain.
David Miller
Maidenhead, Berkshire
SIR – With the likelihood of real energy-price reductions following the development of fracking, how can it make sense for the Labour Party to discourage investment in energy industries for the next seven years?
Andrew Glossop
Chalfont St Giles, Buckinghamshire
SIR – The cart has been put before the horse. Hard-pressed, low-paid people and British industry need cheaper energy. The solution is more supply.
This means a massive expansion of energy infrastructure, based upon nuclear and coal. And this is where the Government has a strategic role to play in underwriting investment with a crown guarantee and forcing through the planning process.
That’s how you get long-term, cheaper and more reliable energy.
John Barstow
Pulborough, West Sussex
SIR – To return to the socialism of the Sixties and Seventies is a horrific thought for those who remember In Place of Strife, strikes, inflation, power-cuts, the three-day week and months of uncollected rubbish.
If in a year’s time there seems any chance of Ed Miliband becoming the next prime minister, we can only pray that the Scots save us by voting for independence, so minimising Labour’s chance of ever forming a Westminster government again.
Peter Sander
Hythe, Kent
Unreliable evidence
SIR – In view of recent criminal cases, it is regrettable that the old form of committal proceedings has been abolished. Formerly, the prosecution case could be tested before the magistrates’ court (professional or lay) to assess its strength. Often the case would be dismissed at that stage and not be sent to the Crown Court if the evidence was not there or was not satisfactory against the defendant. It was a procedure that could save much Crown Court time and expense.
The case of Michael Le Vell is an example where there appeared to be no proper evidence to convict. He could have been spared years of anguish and expense by the possible disposal of the case in the lower court. Similarly, all the recent cases where allegations are made years after the events could be tested in the lower court.
Roger Davies
Former District Judge
London SW1
Digital dread
SIR – I am sure that my household is not alone in wishing FM radio to continue (report, September 26).
I can understand digital radio manufacturers lobbying the Government for FM to be switched off to boost their sales, but with digital reception in most areas being no better than FM, why should listeners be forced to spend hundreds of pounds on replacing existing sets, many of which include additional features?
Derek Grimston
Andover, Hampshire
Original prankster
SIR – Julian Barrow’s prank of openly carrying through Trafalgar Square a copy of Goya’s Duke of Wellington, which had been stolen from the National Gallery (Obituaries, September 18), was not the only time that the painting inspired humour.
Sean Connery as James Bond spotted the stolen picture on an easel in Dr No’s headquarters in the 1962 film. With Wildean symmetry, the original was found in the lost luggage office of New Street Station, Birmingham, in 1965.
Hugo Vickers
London W8
International Ainslie
SIR – How wonderful it was to see Britain’s finest, Sir Ben Ainslie, assisting Team USA in winning the America’s Cup.
Perhaps Roy Hodgson should ask Lionel Messi if he might be willing to help out in our attempt to qualify for and win next year’s World Cup?
Bruce Chalmers
Goring-by-Sea, West Sussex
Bullying Champion
Sir – Is it just me or are job descriptions in public offices getting too complex?
What does a Pastoral Director Year 8 Achievement Co-ordinator and Teacher of Science (innovation zone) do, precisely? He has four Assistant Pastoral Directors, including one who doubles up as a Bullying Champion.
Our City Treasurer’s Office has changed into a Corporate Services Directorate – Finance Division. The Town Clerk has morphed into Corporate Services Directorate – Law and Administration.
I have also received a letter about council tax from the Customer Services department of my local authority. I was under the impression that a “customer” was a person who chooses to make a purchase – council tax is not an option.
Clive Davidson
British students abroad
SIR – The idea that British students are applying to US universities in droves is not supported by the data (report, September 26). Figures out this week from Ucas, the admissions service, show an increase in acceptances by UK universities compared with last year, climbing back towards their levels before fee rises.
The number of British undergraduates at American universities has remained constant at about 4,300; a tiny percentage (0.3 per cent) of the 1.7 million British undergraduates enrolling at UK universities every year.
Official data show a record 16,335 Americans pursuing full degrees at British universities in 2011-12; five per cent more than the previous year. Ucas figures for courses starting in 2013-14 reveal a 10 per cent increase in applicants from America.
Very high student satisfaction levels make the United Kingdom so attractive to home and international students. The proportion of British students who study abroad is much lower than in countries of similar size, such as France and Germany.
Nicola Dandridge
Chief Executive, Universities UK
London WC1
Christians in Pakistan
SIR – Peter Stanford (Features, September 27) correctly identifies the extent of the persecution of Christians worldwide.
He underestimates, however, the number of Christians in Pakistan. As their tormentors well know, one way to make a community insignificant is officially to depress its numbers. This is widespread in the Middle East and beyond.
Some claim that Christians in Pakistan number around 6 per cent of the population. My experience suggests that the BBC World Service estimate of 4 per cent is nearer the mark. There may be many who are simply invisible and have not been counted.
Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali
London W1
A tomb with a view
SIR – The problem with burying Richard III in Westminster Abbey (Letters, September 25) is space. Pitt’s monument was put over the west door, and the monument to Spencer Perceval, another prime minister, had to be put on a window ledge. Whether the choice is Leicester or York, at least put the king somewhere where the tomb can be seen.
Donald Rumbelow
London SE6
HS2 will free up lines for local commuters
SIR – There is more to the capacity of a railway route than just how far apart successive trains can run (Letters, September 27).
The theoretical capacity of the current network is destroyed by mixing fast and slow trains on the same lines. For instance, on the “fast” lines out of Euston, stopping a through-train at a station, or running even the fastest suburban train, wipes out the next through-path, if not the next two.
Hence, after recent upgrades for through-trains, stops at Watford have all but disappeared. The European Rail Traffic Management System will not change that.
As a new route for through-trains only, however, HS2 can work to its full theoretical capacity while leaving the current route free to deliver a better local and commuter service. That is in addition to cutting journey times by 35 minutes to Birmingham and an hour to Manchester.
William Barter
Towcester, Northamptonshire
SIR – Sir David Higgins was reported as saying that he only took the role of chairman of HS2 because the Government assured him it was committed to seeing the project through. It would have been sensible for him also to seek an assurance that the business case remained valid in the face of factors that may have been wrongly weighted, changed, or not yet taken into account (Letters, September 27).
Malcolm Watson
Welford, Berkshire
SIR – I regularly travel on the Virgin Pendolino service from Stockport to Euston (Letters, September 23) and can say that the trains are extremely comfortable for the sub two-hour journey, with plenty of windows to see the countryside. The trains do not slow down to 19th-century speeds. My 1960 timetable shows average journey time then was in excess of three hours.
Gerald Huxley
Stockport, Cheshire

Irish Times:

Sir, – As a former member of the staff of the City of Dublin Skin & Cancer Hospital on Hume Street, Dublin, and as the author of the history of the hospital, A Century of Serviceit saddens me to see the destruction of the six formerly well-maintained Georgian houses that comprised the hospital.
Until recently the property was the responsibility of Nama, which neglected to maintain the buildings.
How is it that Dublin City Council can enter into protracted legal proceedings to prevent the installation of a dumb-waiter in a listed building on Merrion Square yet apparently turn a blind eye to the wholesale destruction of a block of listed buildings on Hume Street? – Yours, etc,
Clifton Terrace,
Monkstown, Co Dublin.

Sir, – I wish to take issue with the academics who wrote a letter in relation to the Seanad referendum (September 27th).
In very eloquent language they argue for “tackling major issues affecting our society” by “more executive accountability”, strengthening “the level of vocational expertise”, intensifying “political participation by citizens in deliberative democratic processes”, etc.
All of these grandiose objectives are to be achieved by “giving all citizens the right to elect our senators”.
Far from “bringing new expertise into the parliamentary system” as argued by these learned academics, all that is doing is electing another Dáil.
That would do one of two things. It would reinforce the present power structure, making for less executive accountability. Or it would set up another power structure with the capacity to gridlock decision-making and cause even further frustration to citizens already annoyed with the inability of the democratic processes to deal with everyday problems.
I, therefore, do not think that the proposals by the learned academics will do anything to tackle the major issues affecting our society in a bankrupt country. – Yours, etc,
Shielmartin Drive,

Sir, – I agree with your Editorial “A church more open to all” (September 21st) where you highlight his attitude to church governance: “I do not want token consultations, but real consultations.” So when his “outsider” advisory group meets next month Pope Francis should consider expanding this group of eight cardinals to 16 by adding eight women.
Or are women to continue to be excluded from all church governance until a “theology of women” has been developed? I can think of numerous well qualified women who would be a breath of fresh air in the Vatican! – Yours, etc,
Avoca Avenue,
Sir, – As a member of the ASTI, I am proud of the stand taken by the members of our union. We have given more than our share in the current crisis, while large corporations pay derisory amounts of tax. Enough is enough. The cutbacks have had profound effects on schools.
In my own school we have 1,200 students. Having lost many of our posts of responsibility, we operate a large science department with no subject co-ordinator. We share out the work between the teachers. I would like to thank the Minister for Education for encouraging subject departments to be run as socialist collectives. – Yours, etc,
Croydon Park Avenue,
Marino, Dublin 3.

Irish Independent:
* I believe that every secondary school student should have tablets or ebooks. I am aware that since schools came back after the summer there has been a lot of debate in the media on this issue and I feel very strongly that schools need to embrace this change.
Also in this section
Short-changed by RTE’s licence to print money
This is Ireland, so nothing is anybody’s fault
Let’s stick to the €3.1bn budget adjustment
Every day, I have to walk home with a heavy schoolbag on my back. It doesn’t help that our school is at the top of a steep hill and students are wrecked and in pain by the time they reach the school doors.
It is time for schools to face up to the fact that technology is the future. Look around you. Everyone is using a smartphone, an iPad, all of those gadgets.
The internet is a huge part of our lives. Everyone relies on it, whether for work or for leisure. Some people might argue that having internet access on an iPad used in a school will lead to students surfing the web, rather than concentrating in class. Maybe an ebook would do and there is no need for the iPad. The school could block internet access except in a computer lab.
Think of all the trees that are used to make textbooks. If we buy tablets we help the environment.
As I said I feel very strongly about this issue. I enjoyed debating the issue with my classmates, some of who opposed my views.
I remain convinced, however, that tablets are the way forward for Irish students.
Eoghan Maher-McGrath
Ballinagh, Co Cavan
* The need for an inquiry into the banking crisis, as supported by your editorial of September 25, is anything but as clear as the Irish Independent seems to think. It can be argued that we do not need an inquiry into how this country was bankrupted, since we know the answer already.
National bankruptcy was the result of decisions by a small number of our most powerful citizens at the head of government and financial institutions during the Celtic Tiger period.
The motivating force behind these grandees was arrogance. Recent tapes only confirm this. They used the media to reflect their own self-importance and the rightness of what they were doing.
Blaming foreigners for what happened in relation to the bank guarantee, as your editorial does, is hypocritical. As the harm was already done, all of us were going to suffer, whatever was decided at that time.
Setting up a proverbial show trial now is a distraction from the job of getting this country back on its feet.
A Leavy
Sutton, Dublin 13
* There is something timid, some might say cute, at the permanent caught-in-the-headlights face of Professor Honohan, our beloved head of the Central Bank.
But when push comes to shove, he has no problem when bankers say they are picking his (our) cash out their arses, so he obviously is on the side of the likely lads who mocked him and us and who are continuing to live the lives they feel entitled to.
There is nothing illegal in helping to destroy the country, apparently.
Isn’t it lovely for them, all the same? Could we have been wrong about them all along, now that their naughtiness has again been endorsed by the lamb-like Patrick Honohan?
Perhaps it is indeed the case that the phrase “we’re all in this together” only applies when those in the banking sector are looking out for each other.
The rest of us know the true meaning of that phrase when we try to pay our way with aspirations, rather than real money. Nothing is going to change in this rotten State.
Do something, Prof Honohan. Show us that you have our best interests at heart for a change.
Robert Sullivan
Bantry, Co Cork
* If Professor Honohan, as governor of the Central Bank, can act so indifferently to the ‘Punch and Judy’ Anglo Tapes and on how the banks conduct their business, is it any wonder that ordinary people under stress are angry and perplexed in dealing with them?
The various banks promised to put forward their plans to solve mortgage debt over the past three years, then came up with useless plastic-surgery ideas that did little other than prolong the agony of the 100,000 Irish families in mortgage arrears. Each bank, apparently, had different approaches, none of them simple.
As head of the Central Bank, it should be Prof Honohan’s job to guide, devise and put in place a common workable plan that would deliver a sustainable solution to those unfortunate mortgage debtors and to ensure that all lenders act on his advice immediately. Eviction should be a last resort.
James Gleeson
Thurles, Co Tipperary
* It is interesting that the Mater Hospital in its statement confirming that it would abide by the law of the Protection of Life during Pregnancy Act does not use the word ‘abortion’.
Pregnancy is a state that has a termination; it does not go on forever. Sometimes in late pregnancy, complications may occur which, in a Catholic hospital are dealt with by terminating the pregnancy but not by intentionally destroying the life of the unborn child.
Abortion (the direct and intentional destruction of a human life) usually occurs in circumstances where no one suggests that continuation of the pregnancy represents any particular threat to the woman. Rather, it is the survival of the child that must be prevented.
Catholic Ireland’s dead and gone, it’s with the 17 Irish martyrs (beatified in September 1992) in their graves.
Gerry Glennon
Dun Laoghaire, Co Dublin
* I fully support the appeal being heard by An Bord Pleanala against what I believe to be a flawed decision by Dublin City Council to grant permission to build a memorial to victims of institutional abuse in the Garden of Remembrance.
No one doubts the necessity for this memorial. Many of the victims of institutional abuse are either elderly or have passed away.
There are two reasons I support the appeal. Firstly, the Garden of Remembrance was purposely built to remember those who gave their lives in the cause of Irish freedom. Secondly, these victims deserve a standalone memorial in a conspicuous location in the city – lest we forget these victims.
John Bellew
Dunleer, Co Louth
* In common with Irish agencies Ruhama and the Immigrant Council of Ireland, the GRETA report (‘Ireland Criticised For Failing To Prosecute Pimps’) liberally uses the emotive term ‘trafficked’ to back its agenda.
Given that this term is now conflated so casually with the despicable practice of sexual exploitation, it’s important to remember that both groups categorise all foreign nationals merely advertising as escorts as a priori having been trafficked. This absurd misuse of language is a disservice to public debate, distorts the true picture and is an affront to those who have truly been exploited.
Trevor O’Neill
North Circular Road, Dublin 1
* I am currently compiling a list of the Irish fatalities and those taken prisoner during the Korean war. Some of your readers might be able to help with this worthy project. Please send details, photographs and documents to the address below. All material will be treated with the utmost care and returned.
James Durney
Naas, Co Kildare
* I don’t see what all the fuss is about the large amount of money found at Tom McFeely’s house. I am sure there is a very reasonable explanation, such as that he won it on a horse!
Seamus McLoughlin
Keshcarrigan, Co Leitrim
Irish Independent


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 29 other followers