3 July 2013 Tuesday Hospital
Off around the park listening to the Navy Lark, Back from leave and Captain Povey is attempting to divide the crew of Troutbridge he puts Murray against Pertwee and Leslie. But the Afdmiral is Murray’s godfather. Priceless.
Off out to have my feet done by Caroline, such a shame mary can’t be there to have her hair done.
Mary still in hospital for a tests I hope all will be well.
I watch The Invasion its not bad
No Scrabble no Mary
Professor Kenneth Minogue
Professor Kenneth Minogue, who has died aged 82, was a leading figure in Britain’s conservative intellectual life.
Professor Kenneth Minogue Photo: MICHAEL WEBB
6:36PM BST 02 Jul 2013
He was Professor of Political Science at the London School of Economics from 1984 to 1995, and became widely known there as a central figure in a group of prominent conservative political philosophers and commentators that included Maurice Cranston, Elie Kedourie and Bill Letwin. He sat on the board of the Centre for Policy Studies (1983-2009), and from 1991 to 1993 was chairman of the Euro-sceptic Bruges Group.
In his final book, The Servile Mind: How Democracy Erodes the Moral Life (2010), Minogue addressed “the remarkable fact that, while democracy means a government accountable to the electorate, our rulers now make us accountable to them. Most Western governments hate me smoking, or eating the wrong kind of food, or hunting foxes, or drinking too much, and these are merely the surface disapprovals, the ones that provoke legislation or public campaigns. We also borrow too much money for our personal pleasures, and many of us are very bad parents.”
He complained that governments — far from being content simply to represent their electorates — were increasingly in the business of “turning us into the instruments of the projects they keep dreaming up”. “The business of governments,” he went on, “is to supply the framework of law within which we may pursue happiness on our own account. Instead, we are constantly being summoned to reform ourselves… Life is a better teacher of virtue than politicians, and most sensible governments in the past left moral faults to the churches… our rulers have no business telling us how to live… Nor should we be in any doubt that nationalising the moral life is the first step towards totalitarianism.”
Kenneth Robert Minogue was born in New Zealand on September 11 1930 and educated in Australia — at Sydney Boys’ High School and Sydney University — before coming to Britain to study at the LSE, under Michael Oakeshott. After a brief spell as a schoolmaster in London, he spent a year as an assistant lecturer at Exeter University, then, in 1956, returned to teach at the LSE, where he was appointed a senior lecturer in 1964 and Reader in 1971.
Unwaveringly sceptical of ideologies, he set out his stall in his first book, The Liberal Mind, published in 1961, a critical account of what he described as “a sentimental kind of egalitarianism”. The story of liberalism, Minogue argued, is like the legend of St George and the dragon. Having successfully disposed of despotic kingship and religious intolerance, the liberal engaged with issues such as slavery and the plight of the poor: “But, unlike St George, he did not know when to retire. The more he succeeded, the more he became bewitched with the thought of a world free of dragons, and the less capable he became of ever returning to private life. He needed his dragons. He could only live by fighting for causes — the people, the poor, the exploited, the colonially oppressed, the underprivileged and the underdeveloped.”
Minogue came to take a jaundiced and uncompromising view of contemporary British universities, in 2006 describing most of them as decadent institutions “full of unsophisticated people with opinions about how society and its members ought to conduct themselves”.
An implacable critic of the European Union, he believed that successive British governments had surrendered the nation’s political, legal and economic rights to unaccountable international bureaucrats; and he lamented “the curious form of idealism that disdains pride in Britain and British culture”.
Minogue was a prolific contributor to newspapers and periodicals . Among his other books were Nationalism (1967); The Concept of a University (1974); Alien Powers: the pure theory of ideology (1985); Politics: a very short introduction (1995); and The Silencing of Society (1997) .
In 2003 he was awarded Australia’s Centenary Medal for services to political science.
Sharp-witted and socially gregarious, Minogue was also noted for his old-fashioned courtesy and his gift for friendship. He had a light touch and strong sense of irony as a writer, lecturer and as a conversationalist. Outside his work, he was a keen tennis player.
Ken Minogue died suddenly on board an aircraft while returning from a conference on the Galapagos Islands of the Mont Pelerin Society, of which he was the retiring president.
He married, in 1954, Valerie Pearson Hallett, with whom he had a son and a daughter. The marriage was dissolved in 2001. His second wife, Beverly Cohen, predeceased him.
Professor Kenneth Minogue, born September 11 1930, died June 28 2013
I continue to be astonished at the hypocrisy of both David Cameron and Tony Blair in their dealings with the Kazakh regime of Nusultan Nazarbayev. You correctly highlight the lack of human and democratic rights that exist there (Report, 2 July). I visited Kazakhstan last November as part of a trade union delegation to investigate the killing of oil workers at Zhenaozhen. The official number of workers shot in the back by the police and killed is 12, as you report. However, after speaking to eyewitnesses and survivors, I am convinced that the actual number of those killed is nearer to 70. This figure does not include those who, a year after the attack, are still too injured to work.
Neither does it include those who were rounded up and imprisoned for the “criminal” offence of publicly opposing the regime by being on the square at Zhanaozhen. Many of these, including the lawyers who tried to defend them, like Vadim Kuramshin, are still held in Kazakh jails. The Kazakhstan state officially sanctions the repression of any opposition elements. This ranges from threats and intimidation, right up to murder. The activists that I spoke to claim that the situation is getting worse.
Blair and Cameron are experienced politicians who are acting as apologists for one of the most repressive and corrupt regimes in the world. Cameron shows that he is more interested in getting deals for the 1% than securing human rights for the 99% – in Kazakhstan as in the UK. Trade unionists in the UK and across Europe will continue to campaign for human and democratic rights in Kazakhstan, many of us organised under the banner of Campaign Kazakhstan.
Secretary, Campaign Kazakhstan
Your correspondent David England does a disservice to the anti-fracking cause (Shale gas promises could be hot air, 2 July). He says that methane is 200% worse than carbon dioxide as a global warming gas – the correct figure is 2,000%. This means that a small leak from fracking wells will more than cancel out the so-called gain by using gas rather than coal.
Each molecule of methane is approximately 60 times more effective as a greenhouse gas than a molecule of carbon dioxide. But, over time, methane is very slowly converted to carbon dioxide through oxidation processes in the atmosphere. Averaged over 100 years, this makes methane about 20 times more potent as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide, that is, about 2,000% worse than carbon dioxide.
A research group at Cornell University has shown that it requires only 4-5% leakage from fracking wells to cancel out the gain from using gas rather than coal.
Dr David Hookes
William Hague’s assertions that our security services at all times act within the law (Report, 22 June) are not credible. In 2004, my client, Sami al-Saadi, an exiled opponent of Libya’s President Gaddafi, was handed to Libyan agents, with his family, by the Hong Kong authorities, at the request of MI6. The family arrived back in Libya on 28 March 2004, three days after Tony Blair arrived in Tripoli for his famous “rapprochement” meeting with Gaddafi.
Once in Libyan custody, Mr Saadi was imprisoned in appalling conditions for six years and repeatedly subjected to severe torture. He was given a show trial in 2009, condemned to death and finally released in 2010. Over the same time period that he was being tortured in Tripoli, he was visited and questioned by British intelligence personnel. Subjecting people to torture in Britain or overseas is illegal under British law. The British Government has paid the Saadi family £2.2m in settlement of a claim. This size of settlement could not have been authorised unless MI6′s conduct in relation to the Saadis was illegal. It is too much of a coincidence that Saadi’s forced return coincided with Tony Blair’s visit to Tripoli. I call on Tony Blair to disclose all he knows about MI6 and British government action in relation to Sami al-Saadi.
Founding chairman, Bar human rights committee
Founding chairman, Hong Kong Human Rights Monitor
• The annual independence from America demonstration at the gates of NSA Menwith Hill tomorrow could not have been better timed, as more and more documents released by the courageous Edward Snowden are revealed. Many of us have known for a long time that NSA Menwith Hill gathers intelligence and monitors individuals, groups, states and businesses. We have also known that the intelligence and security committee, which sounds reassuring, is not a credible watchdog (Editorial, 2 July). NSA Menwith Hill, although only given a cursory mention in the press, is run by the NSA. There is a contingent of GCHQ present and is the hub of the Echelon system. Christopher Gilmore the US Commander is in firm control and there is only one RAF liaison officer (a reservist), although the base is referred to as an RAF base. The base is a deceit and what goes on there is deceitful. We demand independence from America.
Co-ordinator, Campaign for the Accountability of American Bases
I am amazed and angered to find that Nottingham University is charging parents £20 per ticket to attend degree ceremonies this summer (Report, 1 July). Most other universities – Leeds and Birmingham, to name but two – give two tickets to families at no charge. I hope this will not become a model to be copied by others.
• Not only is Novak Djokovic (Tennis, 2 July) playing the best tennis at Wimbledon, he is the best mannered. He seems to be the only player to make eye contact with the ball boys and girls rather than simply chucking the towel back over his shoulder, as most do.
• David Cameron claims he was hijacked at the EU summit over Britain’s rebate (Report, 29 June). Where the hell were GCHQ when you need them?
• Marie Paterson bemoans the coverage of classical as apposed to pop music (Letters, 1 July) but at least “pop” music is performed by the composers, whereas classical music, with some exceptions, is usually performed by a tribute band, often known as an orchestra.
• Bob Elmes (Letters, 2 July) asks what expenses married couples face that unmarrieds do not. The first is the absurd cost of a modern wedding and the second, perhaps as a result, is divorce proceedings.
Saffron Walden, Essex
• Every stage of the Tour de France is gruelling (Letters, 29 June).
• When did annual roll over and become year on year?
• When are professionals consummate? Isn’t it to do with sexual intercourse? If so, how do I achieve that status?
I was about to create an e-petition about MPs’ pay on the government website but see that someone has beaten me to it. It has more than 50,000 signatures already – and now mine, too. At a time when most employees can’t get any pay rise at all, or at best something around the consumer price index (2.7%), it’s unthinkable that MPs might be awarded huge rises over the next two years (Report, 1 July). I was also incensed to see Keith Vaz on breakfast news yesterday not willing to condemn the proposals. It’s not good enough for a Labour MP to use the excuse that an independent body is now in charge of parliamentary salaries so MPs shouldn’t comment on their judgment.
Thornton Dale, North Yorkshire
• The Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority is expected to recommend a pay rise of up to £10,000 for MPs. The authority has clearly failed in its objective of de-politicising MPs’ remuneration. The obvious way out is to set MPs’ pay in law as a fixed multiple of the statutory minimum wage. That way, MPs can raise their own salary at the same time and by the same percentage as the income of the lowest-paid workers in the country.
• Once again we are demanding we get our MPs on the cheap: £65,000 a year to spend – in most cases – two-thirds of your working life hundreds of miles away from home; weekends spent listening to constituents who have problems they expect you to solve; your “long” holidays – recesses to you and I – juggling your time between 75,000 electors, various local interests in your constituency, and last but by no means least, your family? Pilloried if you claim expenses to which you are entitled, to make your work bearable. You’ve got to be joking.
Liversedge, West Yorkshire
• If people are deterred from becoming an MP because the salary of £66K plus expenses is seen to be insufficient, then good: we don’t want them anyway.
• I would not object to an increase in MPs’ salaries provided that the job was their only employment. Many MPs have other part-time work: continued practice within their previous professions, directorships, consultancies, etc.
If their salaries were treated like, say, unemployment benefit (as jobseeker’s allowance used to be known), where payment for part-time work is deducted from the benefit, then we would have a more equitable situation. They would still have their expenses to fall back on.
I would like to think that MPs worked primarily for their constituents and not for any job opportunities that may arise as a result of their election.
Martin de Klerk
• It is good that an independent pay review body has thoroughly researched their needs and recommended a significant pay rise for one group of public sector workers. Now can we please have one for the rest, whose case is far stronger on all grounds than that of MPs?
Newcastle upon Tyne
• There is a laughably sanctimonious air to the way in which members of the government frontbench are falling over themselves in their haste to tell us they will turn down any pay increases for MPs (Clegg pledges to say no if MPs get pay rise, 2 July).
For the multimillionaires who make up a good proportion of the coalition frontbench, their salaries as MPs are a very small part of their income.
Additionally, they had already voted themselves a huge windfall with the tax cut for the rich, which, for most of them, amounted to far more than any salary increase will provide. Still, I am quite sure Clegg and the rest will take every opportunity to remind the country that their new found enthusiasm for frugality in their own lives is yet another example of the fact that we are all in this together and thus those whose benefits are cut should take a similar altruistic attitude.
Dr Chris Morris
Emboldened by fiery army statements and helicopters displaying Egyptian flags flying overhead, jubilant crowds on Tahrir Square can’t be blamed for feeling that the balance of power has tipped in their favour (Report, 2 July). While President Morsi has unquestionably squandered the fragile support he enjoyed after a contested and divisive election a year ago, the dividends of ousting the first democratically elected leader through undemocratic means might prove to be a bitter disappointment for the Egyptian people.
Opposition leaders, many directly responsible for Morsi’s ascent – because their individual presidential ambitions precluded the formation of a broad secular-liberal alliance able to challenge the well-organised bloc of the Muslim Brotherhood – have not demonstrated the fortitude or the vision necessary to move Egypt away from the brink. A new round of military rule is in no one’s interest. To avoid this, opposition leaders must shelve their political ambitions and agree on the formation of a technocratic government mandated to fix the economy and place the country back on a transitional path towards genuine democracy. Protesters must express future discontent through democratic channels and realise that further “Tahririsation” of Egyptian politics is unsustainable.
Sander van Niekerk
The Hague, Netherlands
• What Ahdaf Soueif calls the “Egyptian revolution” (In Egypt, we thought democracy was enough. It was not, 2 July) was in fact a counter-revolution against authoritarian capitalism. In 2009, Egypt grew by 5% and its projected growth for 2011 was 6%. Its GDP per head, at purchasing power parity, was almost double that of India and 50% higher than Indonesia’s. Despite the current euphoria over freedom and democracy, Egypt is unlikely to grow faster under liberal democratic capitalism. Authoritarian capitalism works because inefficiencies and favouritism in this system is often offset by higher levels of social discipline. Its political dynamics may not please the west’s armchair democrats and human rights activists, but it does provide a faster and an alternative route to economic development.
Randhir Singh Bains
Gants Hill, Essex
• In many countries, both majority vote referendums and single-preference electoral systems are little more than sectarian headcounts. The latest victim is Egypt (Egypt’s fate is in the hands of soldiers, 2 July). The majority vote, however Orwellian in its simplicity – this good, that bad – is the most inaccurate measure of collective opinion ever invented. Elections based on first past the post (as in Kenya), the two-round system (Egypt), or simple PR list systems (as now used in the Balkans) are also often inappropriate.
Majority rule is fine, in so far as it goes. But majority rule by majority vote – majoritarianism – is inadequate. Accordingly, in today’s high-tech world, majority opinions should be identified on the basis of the voters’ (and/or their elected representatives’) preferences. Nations need not divide into two. Where such a danger exists, power should be shared; so presidencies should be plural, ministerial posts should be all-party, and any new constitution should be based on a preferential choice of about four or five options.
Director, De Borda Institute, Belfast
In his article Britain had better get used to it (21 June), Martin Kettle fails to mention that, while politics have changed, our political institutions have not. Society has achieved levels of education and communication unimagined at the time our political institutions were created.
Kettle is mistaken in his advice that we cannot or should not compete with other nations in the way we do politics. Every society needs to take a critical look at its political institutions and assess their compatibility with the principles of democracy. Does a democracy – government by the people – need a strong leader? Is there no other way?
Is the division of a parliament into government and opposition benches consistent with democracy’s principles? Do we really believe that only one party at a time can have all the answers to all the problems? How can we expect such an arrangement to respond fairly and adequately to the wide range of legitimate interests and needs of a highly educated, mobile, and interconnected society?
Too many of the world’s democracies are moving toward greater concentration of political power in a handful of executives, following the lead of and in partnership with global corporations. I don’t care for Kettle’s advice that we “better get used to it.” My advice is that we better do something about it.
Terrace, British Columbia, Canada
Turkey’s coup risk
Timothy Garton Ash’s article regarding the current state of unrest in Turkey (21 June) fails to mention the possibility of a military coup. Military coups are not new to Turkey. If the military feels that the government of the day, democratically elected or not, is straying from the Kemalist tradition of secularism, then it may act. Previous coups have occurred in 1960, 1971 and 1980.
In the 1960 coup the prime minister, Adnan Menderes, was executed. I’m sure prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is aware of recent history even if Garton Ash is not.
Mareeba, Queensland, Australia
Iraq’s unconventional pain
John Pilger’s article, West has moved on but Iraqis cannot (31 May), needs to be repeated and augmented in every news medium and gathering of political and peace-campaigning activists. These should include CND, for whose persistent campaigns governments (and oppositions) have habitually reserved labels of unrealistic idealism; because Pilger’s shocking report shows the grey definition between “conventional” battlefield weapons and weapons of mass destruction.
The use of depleted uranium carries, along with mass destruction, such capacity for long-term genetic harm that its apparent deployment by British and US forces in Iraq puts the clock back half a century and puts our leaders – past and present – to withering shame.
Pilger’s article merely hints at the cost being borne by Iraq, by its medical institutions and hard-pressed doctors and cancer specialists. It is a cost that must be shared by the perpetrators of the 2003 invasion and should, with the necessary inclusion of depleted uranium in the detail of the Chilcot Inquiry (or its possible successor), be levied at Tony Blair and his government, which prescribed the use of such catastrophic and non-strategic weapons in the first place.
Locking out pensioners
It should be heartwarming to read of the firm commitment of both UK government and opposition to the principle of the pension “triple lock”. (Balls: I’ll be tough on benefits, 14 June). However, neither Ed Balls nor George Osborne remembers to add: “excepting of course those pensioners who elected to retire to Canada, Australia, South Africa …”
Around a quarter of a million of us have never received a single pension increase, despite having fully paid our way in the UK, for no other reason than that we chose to live in a Commonwealth (!) country, often to be with emigrated children. Had we the foresight to retire to Japan, or Croatia, or the US, or almost anywhere else, our pensions would have been automatically indexed by the triple lock. Quite apart from the blatant unfairness of this illegitimate policy based on place of residence, the falling purchasing power of our fixed pensions, coupled with the decline in the value of sterling, has created real hardship for many UK pensioners abroad.
A further irony (News in Brief, same issue) was to read that Jeremy Hunt’s review of A&E care will focus on “vulnerable older people, who (are) the heaviest users of the NHS”. Not us, Jeremy: we don’t cost the NHS a penny.
North Saanich, British Columbia, Canada
The drive to collaborate
Re: Ally Fogg’s assertion that there is nothing more antisocial than driving (14 June). Witness the flow of traffic at roundabouts, the merging of traffic on motorways where individual solids merge into a fluid flow of traffic. Multiply this event by a million, no, hundreds of millions, zillions of such maneuvers, day and night, rain or shine, light or dark throughout the world.
Why can’t this amazing level of human cooperation and acceptance of basic rules be translated into other areas of human endeavor; managing disagreements in Syria, influencing dysfunctional governments, sorting out differences with neighbours for example. Can we learn something from this amazing example of collaboration?
Driving must be the finest example of human cooperation, it can hardly be considered antisocial.
Darwin, Northern Territory, Australia
Oliver Burkeman (This column will change your life, 21 June) suggests that the medical profession seriously considers referencing The Emotionary, a website that was apparently designed to spur the invention of clever polysyllabic words to describe feelings and emotions, like the admittedly tongue-in-cheek “incredulation”, which is synonymous to those old standbys, surprise and elation.
I suggest that instead of inventing new words for diagnosing patients, “baffled psychologists” couldn’t do better than to consult hard-copy dictionaries (by subject) of metaphors, quotations, lines of poetry, especially Shakespeare, and synonyms of words and phrases. Browse, and feel good again.
Montreal, Quebec, Canada
• Interesting as it is, Oliver Burkeman’s item does not make it clear whether he is referring to feeling or emotion. He uses both words as if they were synonymous, sometimes even in the same sentence. But Arthur Janov, in The Primal Scream, says that they are not the same.
In critical situations, such as in a court of law, we tend to judge defendants by whether or not they display an emotional reaction to a guilty or innocent verdict. Or when someone receives a gift or an act of kindness, we often expect an effusive emotional response, and judge them as cold and unfeeling without such a response.
But it is unhelpful to judge the depth of a person’s feeling by their ability to put on a display of emotion. True feeling, according to Janov, requires little emotion.
Morpeth, Northumberland, UK
• The article by Oliver Burkeman on the new Emotionary website reminded me of an incident at my very traditional, boys-only grammar school in the 1950s. When we came across the word “emotions” in an English lesson, one boy asked what it meant. The master thought for a moment and then said that “emotions are things that women have”. We consequently added them to bras and periods as distinguishing features of the other gender but were none the wiser!
Nantwich, Cheshire, UK
• Re: Edward Snowden and the NSA, if America can’t keep tabs on one of its own, within the US or outside, why should we try to justify its view of itself as the world’s policeman by all means: military, assassination, espionage?
Church Point, NSW, Australia
• Ai Weiwei writes of the abuse of power by the state (21 June). The media has more power to abuse. It is our source of news of the world. It is the final filter. In the hands of an independent media, government cannot abuse in secret. With the co-operation of the media, government and/or industry can do anything.
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
• I’m shocked that Araucaria, who was educated at the same school as I was in Oxford, should perpetrate the commonly held misconception (7 June) that the koala (4 down) is a bear (7 down). Even so, I still reckon his crosswords to be the best, the most fun, and the most satisfying to “break”.
HS2 is not needed just for faster journeys between London and Birmingham — it will have a greater impact on destinations farther north
Sir, Much of what Tim Montgomerie forecasts (“By the time HS2 arrives, we’ll no longer need it”, July 1) may come about, but no form of transport has ever taken over completely from previous modes.
It is all very well, in his attack on HS2, to quote French and Spanish examples — but at least they’ve got high-speed networks to criticise.
HS2 is not needed simply to speed up journeys between London and Birmingham. It will have a greater impact upon London to Manchester and Leeds timings and, hopefully, in due course an even greater impact upon timings to Scotland (and the North East), South Wales and the South West.
There is no reason to believe more people will not want to travel more in the future. We need additional rail capacity in the UK and there is no point building new rail lines that will not allow high-speed operation.
Deputy Leader, Sunderland Conservative Council Group
Sir, Tim Montgomerie suggests several ways in which the huge cost of the project could be better spent. However, he seems to consider only the needs of businessmen (and women) and fails to suggest that at least a fair proportion of the saved costs should be spent on the existing rail network. There is a great increase in the number of people travelling by train, and here in the South West all trains are crowded. People use them to get to school and to work, to go shopping and for days out. Money spent on more carriages, removing bottlenecks and on modernisation including electrification would benefit many people here and all over the country. As the article says, HS2 will do little to benefit Wales, East Anglia or the West Country, but money spent on our present railway would.
Sir, Tim Montgomerie challenges the need for a new, fast, reliable and capacious rail service between our big cities because he thinks digital technology will reduce the need to travel. Doubtless when the telephone was invented there were also voices suggesting society would become less mobile as a result. The evidence simply doesn’t back up this case.
Recent decades have brought us email, the web, smartphones, Skype, video-conferencing and broadband. The result? Rail travel in Britain has doubled, roads have got more congested and air travel has soared.
Good communications and greater prosperity lead people to travel more, not less. The question is how we best provide capacity. Roads are part of the answer. But we need fast new rail, too. Today you can travel by high-speed train from London to Lille but not Leeds, and to Brussels but not Birmingham. That needs to change. We want growth and good jobs to come to all parts of the country — and not just the South East.
Patrick McLoughlin, MP
Secretary of State for Transport
Sir, Journeys to the West Country from Waterloo use the railway equivalent of a single track road with passing places. If one train is slightly delayed, the oncoming train has to wait in one of the few passing places: this could then ripple through the day because that delayed train might delay another one. When heavy rain caused landslips this winter an entire segment of the country was cut off for days. Can we have 1 per cent of the £40 billion please?
Sir, Tim Montgomerie says the French are turning away from constructing high-speed lines. Could this be because over the past 40 years they have already built their network with still more under construction while we in the UK have a single line from London to Folkestone?
David Cameron is right: “the North” deserves a bigger share of the infrastructure cake and one hopes he also has plans for HS3, HS4 and HS5.
The relatively short time that participants spend overseas means that meaningful projects are less likely to come to fruition
Sir, While I congratulate Kathryn Nave upon her success at the The London Library/The Times Student Essay Competition, I disagree with the points raised by her “Gap year kids are not the new face of the Imperial Raj” (June 29).
A Demos poll (2011) found that the majority of gap-year participants are young, white, female and of the higher socio-economic groups. While I accept that there are schemes such as the International Citizen Service which claim to enable young people to take part in community service overseas, who would not otherwise be able to afford to participate, the fact remains that most “gappers” are privately educated and of the affluent classes. This cannot offer a healthy societal balance either to the participants or to the host countries.
The relatively short time which participants spend overseas means that meaningful, established projects are less likely to come to fruition.
When drawing comparisons between Gulf monarchs and pontiffs, we should have avoided making certain assumptions about the latter
Sir, You claim that “Gulf monarchs are like popes. They either die or are overthrown or assassinated. They do not abdicate” (“Like mother, like son: how the Sheikha changed Qatar”, times2, July 1). This packs a remarkable number of errors into three short sentences.
The last pope to be overthrown was the anti-pope Felix V in 1449; the last faintly plausible case of an alleged papal assassination dates from the early 14th century — the conspiracy theories about the deaths of Pius XI and John Paul I can be ignored — and there has been no clear case of a pope being murdered since the 10th century. And popes do abidicate: you will recall that Benedict XVI did just that in February.
C. D. C. Armstrong
The West should remember the Arab Spring when pressing for more democracy in Russia and China, where things could easily get worse
Sir, “The Spring unleashed disorder, not democracy” (Roger Boyes, Opinion, July 2). Up to a point, yes, but surely “anarchy” would be a more appropriate word; and anarchy — as countless examples in history tell us — is incomparably worse than tyranny. For tyranny endangers only a minority, while anarchy endangers everyone. The West should remember this when pressing for more democracy in Russia and China. They, too, could so easily go from bad to worse.
Sir Peregrine Worsthorne
All MPs should be encouraged to tweet pictures of their lunch so that we can assess the influence of diet on their ability to function
Sir, All members of the Government should surely be encouraged to follow the example of the Chancellor and Eric Pickles in tweeting their contrasting lunch diets — burger and fries versus salad. If The Times were to expand this new tweeting information into a series it would be of great value in improving our democracy by enabling voters to assess the influence of diet on MPs’ capacity to think outside their party political playpens. One might consider applying a simple scale of 0 to 10 to assess the effect of food on brain development, and diet tweeting could even become a valuable tool in the electorate’s judgment of the suitability of parliamentary candidates in elections.
Sir Harold Atcherley
SIR – Some years ago, I saw a small advert in The Daily Telegraph announcing a rally in Trafalgar Square to commemorate the Battle of Agincourt (Letters, July 1). When my wife and I got there, we saw a platform with several people in medieval dress on it; but there did not seem to be much activity. When we spoke to them, it appeared that we were the only people to attend.
The staff at the excellent Agincourt centre in France were very amused when I told them this story some years later. We shall attend a 600th anniversary; hopefully there will be more support for it this time.
SIR – Perhaps the French commemorate and celebrate the Battle of Agincourt in the same way that the British celebrate Dunkirk. In both cases, a humbling defeat in battle marked the low point in the progress of a longer war that from then on saw military fortunes reverse, culminating in ultimate victory.
SIR – Nicholas Wightwick (Letters, July 1) says he cannot think of any battle that we lost being commemorated in such a way as the French do Agincourt. He should visit Isandlwana in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. As the late David Rattray, the historian, said: “It was the greatest defeat that the British ever suffered in their colonial history”.
The site is kept beautifully.
SIR – You report (July 1) that the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (Ipsa) has found that a majority of MPs believed they “deserved a 32 per cent pay rise to around £86,000, with some arguing for more than £100,000”.
If Ipsa is basing its recommendations partly on figures suggested by MPs, I fail to see how it can be called independent.Certainly, if any employer asked his workforce what they believed they should be paid, I am sure he would receive some very optimistic answers.
It may be argued that, compared with doctors’ salaries, £100,000 is not unreasonable; on the other hand, politicians, unlike doctors, do not have to undergo a formal training.
Battle of Agincourt deserves greater recognition
02 Jul 2013
SIR – It is deeply depressing that the route to becoming an MP is now a career path that does not involve having a proper job first. This is the result of the argument that goes: “Only by paying an attractive salary will you recruit the best people as MPs.”
All MPs say they want to make a difference, but what we want are people of experience and conviction who are not in it for the money, as used to be the case a generation ago. MPs are paid enough to live on; paying them more will just serve to exacerbate the problem.
Thames Ditton, Surrey
SIR – Ipsa ought to stick to policing expenses, and MPs’ pay ought to be index-linked to a standard measure of inflation.
Their current pay is completely adequate – if it were not, why would there be such a constant queue of applicants for the job?
Why should it ever increase by any more than the rise in living costs?
SIR – With any MPs’ pay increase should come the requirement that being a Member of Parliament will be a full-time job: no more directorships, consultancies, solicitors, barristers, doctors and dentists who think that being an MP is something they can fit in around their real job.
Those who argue that such positions help members to understand the real world should remember that we do not pay MPs to learn on the job; we expect them to come already equipped with experience working in the “real” world.
Abinger Hammer, Surrey
SIR – You suggest (leading article, July 1) that as the MPs’ pay review, Ipsa, is an outside body, we should accept its conclusion about MPs’ pay.
As the Armed Forces Pay Review is also an independent body, may we have its recommendations agreed and back-dated over the recent years in which its recommendations have been overruled?
South Queensferry, West Lothian
School places shortage
SIR – As chairman of the Independent Association of Preparatory Schools and the headmaster of a London prep school, I note that the Commons public accounts committee is exercised by a shortfall of 250,000 primary school places for September 2013. This unacceptable reality must be met with rapid solutions if the best interests of many children are to be served.
One solution could be provided easily. If central government clears away the red tape, places for some of the quarter-of-a-million displaced primary pupils could be found at private preparatory schools, which might be pleased to squeeze in a few more pupils. Prep schools would be paid the real cost to the state – including hidden costs for capital expenditure as well as tuition – of educating a pupil in a primary school. Schools might augment any shortfall through awarding bursaries.
Private schools are always being urged to work more closely with the state sector and to show public benefit if they enjoy the fiscal advantages which come from charitable status. State and private systems would gain from this, and their cooperation would provide a golden opportunity for the pupils placed in prep schools.
Nicholas M Allen
EU referendum scam
SIR – The Prime Minister’s pledge of an EU referendum was always an unconvincing political sleight of hand. Now that we learn it won’t be legally binding, it’s exposed as being completely worthless (report, July 1).
The reluctance of all three major parties to allow a vote on EU membership is scandalous; if David Cameron wants to prove his democratic credentials he should propose a referendum in this Parliament.
SIR – I am surprised it has taken this long for parliamentary analysts to realise that a law on an EU referendum passed by this government is not binding on the next. It is no secret that a fundamental basis of our constitution is that no administration can be bound by the actions of a previous one.
This exposes the Cameron sham that a law passed now will be binding on the next government. It matches the sham that EU actions taken by Gordon Brown towards the end of the last government could not be questioned.
Boats might fly
SIR – Bickering over the site of a new London airport makes me wonder if there’s any merit in reviving the Empire flying boat that was popular between the wars.
Boris Island in the Thames Estuary cannot succeed because of the danger of bird strike and the risk posed by the sunken ship SS Richard Montgomery. Nor can the Norman Foster plan for Hoo Peninsula, which would destroy houses and habitats. However, flying boats only need a river or estuary for take-off, and could be served by infrastructure on land.
As a schoolboy, I was privileged to watch the successful launch of Short Brothers’ Maia Mercury plane over the River Medway. Its purpose – fast mail to America – was soon obsolete, but surely this form of transport could be redeveloped?
E S Rayner
SIR – Where have all the wasps gone? I don’t miss them.
SIR – What is developing in the Middle East is terrifying. For the global and regional superpowers to be pouring fuel on the fire in Syria is madness. If this continues, there will be no way to contain the conflict. Already the humanitarian crisis is out of control.
The key is the relationships among the permanent members of the UN Security Council. They have a responsibility to the whole world to rise above their individual interests and take steps to mediate in conflicts, not exacerbate them. The victims of those broken relationships are and will be the ordinary people. When relationships in the highest council in the world are blocked, some nation or individual must play the role of mediator.
Could Britain play that role? We would need to rise above our own frustrations, and be willing to risk our relationship with our closest partner, America. But who else is in a position to do it?
Convenor, Agenda for Reconciliation
Initiatives of Change
SIR – English bees have adopted a new lifestyle. Instead of remaining in their wooden hive over winter, they are now establishing a different hive for hibernating in, for example in a disused chimney or in the eaves of a roof, where the heat of the human dwelling will keep them warm.
Until recently I thought the hive in my back garden had been abandoned, even though there were at least three full supers of honey inside it. Then I heard a tremendous buzzing as the bees swarmed and returned to the hive. I would estimate that the swarm was at least 10,000 strong.
My guess is that previous reports of empty hives were from beekeepers who took too much honey from their hives last year, and the bees decided not to return from their winter quarters.
SIR – After my letter in the Telegraph about the scarcity of bilberry jam (February 13 2010), I received a very nice letter from a gentleman in the Isle of Man telling me there are bushes covered in this delicious fruit growing in abundance on the moors there. All Mr Bishop (Letters, June 27) has to do is to go there and pick them.
A whistling bobby on the beat in Bechuanaland
SIR – Viv Payne (Letters, July 1) worries about his decreasing whistling abilities as he approaches his 80th birthday.
I too am not far from that landmark, but my whistling is as strong as ever. In the Fifties, I was seconded as a patrol inspector to the Bechuanaland Mounted Police – now the Botswana Police Service. My African nickname was ra malodi – “the man who makes a noise”.
SIR – I am an octogenarian, and I still whistle; but when I travelled to the Arctic in a small Russian ship some years ago, I was told to stop as it brought bad luck.
J M E Took
SIR – My sister still has a hearty whistle – this is useful when we’re trying to find each other in bigger department stores.
SIR – I am 83 and can still whistle; but I can no longer sing.
Scarborough, North Yorkshire
Sir, – Lucinda Creighton has invoked the situation in China and India in the Dáil, in her speech in opposition the legislation on abortion (Home News, July 2nd). I suggest that if she were a member of the Chinese government rather than the Irish one, she would be in favour of the one child policy. China has suffered a human population explosion and it must take strenuous measures to prevent a bad situation from getting an awful lot worse.
In China, the alternative to the population control policies now in force are famine and widespread and deadly social unrest. That is why the Catholic Church and its offshoots are repressed by the Chinese authorities. Its attitude to all matters reproductive would result in disaster.
It may happen anyway if Chinese economic growth, which is fuelled by cheap production costs and currency manipulation, all under centralised control, none of which meets with the full approval of other global powers, cannot be sustained.
Ms Creighton should refrain from commenting on what is a very serious issue for another country, albeit one that is very far away. Simplistic is the best thing you can say about her contribution. Hopefully her constituents are able to see it for what it is. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – Patsy McGarry states, “The Catholic Church’s current position on abortion appears to owe more to theology than to science.” This is quite an extraordinary statement for a religious affairs correspondent to make. Theology is not only one of the sciences, but has long been regarded as “the queen of the sciences”.
For example, the scientific revolution of the 16th century was the culmination of many centuries of systematic progress by medieval scholastic theologians. The Catholic Church has always thought that there cannot be a breach between faith and reason. Pope John Paul II wrote an encyclical on same “Fides et Ratio”; and Pope Benedict XVI delivered a profound discourse on same in the course of his famous Regensburg University lecture.
As for Mr McGarry’s attempt to allocate a particular date to the church’s teaching on abortion, the fact is that the church frequently formally codifies its teaching on these matters, and arrives at a settled position. With regard to abortion, in accordance with the science, the church accepts that at conception a unique being is created with a unique set of DNA, which is retained unto death. In logic therefore, it cannot countenance the deliberate destruction of this being. – Yours, etc,
Navan, Co Meath.
Sir, – Patsy McGarry’s review of the Catholic Church’s changing position on the beginning of human life does not exhaust the possibilities (Rite & Reason, July 2nd).
Plato, and some of his early Christian admirers thought that the individual human person existed as a soul before the conception of the body they would eventually inhabit.
Sir, – Having read an article on some citizens lodging a complaint against various Anglo Irish Bank members (“Complaint filed with gardaí over Anglo executives”, Breaking News, June 28th), I presented myself at my local Garda station to do likewise.
I was perturbed to be asked if I was acting on behalf of any grouping. I acted in my capacity as a citizen who retains a sense of fair play and acted on behalf of those now in penury due to certain people’s alleged actions. I duly lodged my complaint and now await the outcome.
The time has passed to expect any action by politicians who were members of the legislature during the so-called boom years and indeed our current Taoiseach who called for a complete scrapping of the stamp duty on house sales in the budget debate of 2006.
We are now facing a crisis of such importance that I would advocate asking that either our former colonial masters in London or the European Union now step in and take over the day-to-day running of the country.
We have proven ourselves incapable of governing ourselves and to prevent our children suffering a similar fate, this action is required. You would not see a state like ours outside of Robert Mugabe’s Zimbabwe. The main political parties have proven themselves true descendants of the gombeen man so beloved of Punch magazine in the 19th century. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – I am living in Haiti for the past two years now. As you can imagine, rugby is not on the agenda here, so I rely on The Irish Times for coverage of matches. We are lucky over the past couple of Saturdays that we can watch the Lions Test every Saturday morning live, a real treat, albeit not the results we would have liked.
I would like to congratulate Gerry Thornley on consistently delivering excellence in reporting, not only for the Lions Test but all the other matches we missed, Six Nations, Heineken Cup, etc. When EdmundVan Esbeck retired, I wondered if we would see a journalist of his calibre write for The Irish Times again and even though the styles are somewhat different there is no doubting the calibre or the expert knowledge of the game. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – “Europe demands answers on claims of US spying”, (World News, July 7th). If the demand is not merely for cosmetic public consumption surely the first thing for Brussels to do is offer Edward Snowden political sanctuary for doing the state some service? It might also be doing democracy some belated service. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – Martyn Turner’s Obama cartoon today (July 2nd), was verbally obscene, politically irreverent, and played most unkindly on facial characteristics. I loved it! – Yours, etc,
Sir, – I almost stopped cheering for the London football team in the Connacht semi-final match when I heard their accents. I was pleased to hear that some of the best players had the mellifluous voices of Barnet and Balham, but less happy about those with accents ranging from Kerry to Derry. A few of them attempted a “cor blimey gov’ner” and a “knowwatImean” but they couldn’t hide their Irish brogue.
Never mind about us second generation Irish being called plastic Paddies, I want to have a heated debate about plastic Londoners! They come over here and get picked to play for the 33rd county for no other reasons but superior skill, fitness and knowledge of the game. I bet they don’t know even the words to our songs, “The Banks of My Own Lovely Thames” or even “Low Lie the Fields of Peckham Rye”.
Who are the FBI (foreign-born Irish) expected to play for if these newcomers are unreasonably and wantonly improving the standard of the team? But then my mum told me to whisht with all the talk of accents and plastics. The sound from our voice isn’t always the sound of our heart and sure aren’t we are all Irish anyhow? We are welcome over there and they are welcome here.
“There you go,” she said passing me Conor Counihan’s phone number. “you may not be good enough for the London team any more but you just might get into the Cork one”! – Yours, etc,
* The fact that the economy is now officially back in recession vindicates those of us once referred to as economic illiterates.
Also in this section
Sneering at Germans has been deeply hurtful
Fishermen first to know
An anti-women article
We were labelled as ignorant of the genuine seriousness of the crisis in this country, or simply as some kind of hipster contrarians who were highlighting the demerits of austerity to get noticed or to just be difficult for political or ideological gain.
Trust me, there are no winners in the economic philosophy pursued by this and the previous government. I, for one, take no happiness in being vindicated for letters I had written and arguments I had engaged in.
You can imagine my shock at, three days after this economic failure hit the news, hearing Michael Noonan promising another “tough” austerity Budget.
British journalists often talk about the ‘Westminster Bubble’, but can our leaders be so wrapped up in their own world in Leinster House that they cannot hear the same chant from the protesters outside their gates, from the airwaves, from the International Monetary Fund, from the US Treasury Secretary? The truth that they all have come to realise universally: austerity is not working.
There is a lot to be admired in the stubbornness of our Taoiseach. It is a breath of fresh air compared with the hopeless passivity of Brian Cowen and the sycophantic diplomatic pandering of Bertie Ahern.
But this trait could prove his undoing as much as it has served him well.
Facing down and wearing down the opposition leaders is one thing. With enough determination, the Iron Frau can be for turning. However, Enda Kenny cannot defeat economic reality with his stubbornness. He can only own up to it.
To commit to and preside over austerity was foolish. But to continue with it, regardless of what it has clearly done to growth and recovery, would be truly stupid.
Blame falling exports all you like. A less-deluded Taoiseach would own up to and remedy smothering domestic demand in the crib.
Alan J McKenna
FIANNA FAIL’S RISE
* I am of the firm belief that if I happened to be strolling around any reasonably sized town in Nigeria, Poland or the Punjab and lifted a newspaper, there’d be a Fianna Fail press release in it about potholes, footpaths or a denial about knowing one iota about the Anglo goings-on leading up to the bailout.
Ever since polls have shown an increase in support, they’re so bolstered up that the Fianna Fail logo has increased from embryo size to adult size on posters and merchandising literature.
The soldiers of fortune are learning to march again.
The understanding I have about this rising (no, not 1916) is that the electorate are so mired in the troubles of the present that they are willing to forgive and forget those who brought the world down around them.
Gort an Choirce, Dun na nGall
THE ‘BUTT’ OF JOKES
* All of us have been shocked by the appalling attitude and despicable accounting procedures of the Anglo bankers. Is it any wonder Anglo is the “butt” of financial jokes, if this was where they picked their figures from?
There is a clamour for an inquiry. However, I am convinced they should all be given a medical check to see if there is another €7bn up there!
Tramore, Co Waterford
RED ARMY’S WAR ROLE
* I refer to the ongoing debate in your newspaper regarding the contribution of the Red Army to the Allies’ victory in World War II.
While the impact of a conflict cannot be measured solely by comparing human losses, such statistics do merit consideration.
While there is no universally agreed total figure for war-related deaths for World War II, a minimum of 60-70 million is generally accepted.
In ‘All Hell Let Loose: The World at War 1939-1945′, the historian Max Hastings postulates that it was the Western Allies’ extreme good fortune that the Russians paid almost the entire “butcher’s bill” for the war, accepting 95pc of the military casualties of the three major powers of the Grand Alliance and 65pc of all Allied military deaths.
Rather depressingly, Mr Hastings declares that “there is a powerful argument that only a warlord as bereft of scruple or compassion as Stalin, presiding over a society in which ruthlessness was even more institutionalised than in Germany, could have destroyed Nazism”.
It is an uncomfortable thought that the Wehrmacht might not have been defeated if Stalin’s Russia were a western-style democracy, but this cannot take away from the dominant contribution made by the Red Army.
Rathfarnham, Dublin 16
HELP FOR HOMELESS
* There were many concerns expressed in the Irish Independent last week about the impact of the new Central Bank Code of Conduct on Mortgage Arrears. Focus Ireland fears this new code could lead to a deepening homeless crisis if owner-occupiers are evicted from repossessed family homes.
Focus Ireland has warned that if more families become homeless due to increased repossessions on the back of this new code, homeless services in Dublin will not cope.
We are calling for a meeting with the Finance Minister to express these concerns and to call for key prevention measures and supports to prevent families from becoming homeless due to this code.
Focus Ireland can help to prevent households from becoming homeless if we have the opportunity to work with these families before their homes are repossessed. However, the crucial thing is to restrict repossessions in the first place.
Details for Focus Ireland’s advice and information services can be found at http://www.focusireland.ie.
Focus Ireland, 9-12 High St, Dublin
* Last weekend boasted a bumper fixture list of both provincial and qualifier contests, but what unfolded was the death of good, competitive sport within the GAA.
On Saturday, I had to suffer as my own county welcomed Tyrone to Tullamore, and they tore us to shreds by 22 points. Sunday seemed to offer a better spectacle with Dublin facing Kildare. It was another mauling. We need not mention what happened between Armagh and Wicklow.
The whole Champions League-style championship has more appeal with every non-competitive year, and with a non-seeded draw creating groups of four or five, weaker counties like my own may advance to a serious stage of the Championship.
How is Offaly football meant to improve when we are thrown to the wolves in a Leinster quarter-final, and then whipped out, only to be thrown to the lions in the qualifiers a few weeks later?
Edenderry, Co Offaly
RACE TO THE BOTTOM
* I recently came across this quote from the late American philosopher Henry Louis Mencken.
“Under democracy, one party always devotes its chief energies to trying to prove that the other party is unfit to rule. Both parties normally succeed.”
Pretty well sums up the situation here, I think. Time to vote a lot more Independents in.
Tinahely, Co Wicklow