Post Office

June 8, 2014

8June2014 Post Office

No jog around the park I still have arthritis in my left knee, but I manage to get to the Post Office

Scrabbletoday, Mary wins the game, and gets just under 400 perhaps Iwill win tomorrow


The Rt Rev John Baker – obituary

The Rt Rev John Baker was a bishop who ruffled feathers with his stance on the police, gay clergy, battery hens and the Bomb

The Rt Rev John Baker, Bishop of Salisbury

The Rt Rev John Baker, Bishop of Salisbury Photo: PETER ORME

5:32PM BST 05 Jun 2014

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The Rt Rev John Baker, who has died aged 86, was Bishop of Salisbury from 1982 to 1993, having previously been rector of St Margaret’s church, Westminster, and Chaplain to the Speaker of the House of Commons.

Baker was the most able theologian among the bishops of his time, and although primarily an Old Testament scholar he applied his learning to a wide range of subjects, and was a useful member of many committees charged with the production of reports on social questions.

Until his consecration as a bishop, Baker was generally regarded as fairly conservative, both theologically and politically. His most important book, The Foolishness of God (1970), now regarded as a classic, was a sympathetic study of 20th-century questioning of the Bible and traditional Christian beliefs, but its conclusions were reassuring to the fearful and uncertain. An individualistic element in his personality had, however, been evident ever since his school days — and once he became a bishop he turned to a variety of controversial issues with sometimes electrifying effect.

Baker was chairman of a committee charged with examining the theological and moral aspects of nuclear warfare, and when its report, The Church and the Bomb (1982), advocated unilateral nuclear disarmament by Britain he found himself at the centre of a heated public debate. This hardly endeared him to the military personnel — active and retired — of Wiltshire; and no sooner had peace between the bishop and the colonels been restored than he launched an attack on battery farming which immediately aroused the ire of the farming community. Baker was, however, soon recruited as patron of Chicken’s Lib and later became president of the Anglican Society for the Welfare of Animals.

An invitation to give a Christmas address at a service attended by the Wiltshire police force provided an opportunity for the castigation of the constabulary for what Baker regarded as the insensitive handling of anti-nuclear demonstrations. Meanwhile, his public criticism of his own cathedral’s Dean and Chapter for their fundraising activities caused much offence.

The Rt Rev John Baker on the spire of Salisbury Cathedral (ROGER ELLIOTT/SALISBURY JOURNAL)

In 1990 Baker became chairman of a House of Bishops’ working party set up to consider “Issues in Human Sexuality” — primarily the matter of homosexuals in the Church. The report proposed, controversially, that while homosexuality might in some circumstances be acceptable in the laity, it could never be permissible among the clergy. Soon after his retirement, however, Baker declared that this distinction had been a serious mistake, and said that gay clergy should enjoy the same freedom as the laity and be encouraged to marry. The then Archbishop of Canterbury, George Carey, responded with a statement asserting: “Bishop John Baker’s conclusion suggests a very significant departure from the Church’s current mind and teaching.”

Baker was a fine preacher and teacher who took great pains over everything he spoke and wrote. Standing 6ft 4in tall, he had a commanding presence, and his gaunt countenance added dignity to great occasions in cathedrals and parish churches. His pastoral care of the diocesan clergy was exemplary, and when three children died in a fire at a vicarage he took the parents and the surviving child into the bishop’s house for several weeks.

But Baker was less good at caring for himself, and until illness intervened he drove himself much too hard. Only a few months after undergoing a hip replacement operation he climbed the spire of Salisbury Cathedral to inspect restoration work. He seemed incapable of writing a short letter, and it was surprising that one who was never physically strong stood the pace of episcopal life for so long.

John Austin Baker was born in Birmingham on January 11 1928. His father was a company secretary, but three of his uncles were clergymen and an aunt was a nun. At Marlborough, he was keen on languages and considered a career in the Diplomatic Service, but by the time he was 18 he had decided on Holy Orders, and went up to Oriel College, Oxford, to read Classics. A disappointing result in Mods, however, led him to switch to Theology, in which he took a very good First.

After two years at Cuddesdon Theological College he was ordained, and stayed on as a tutor in Old Testament studies at the college and as curate of the parish church. It was now plain that he was destined for an academic career. He was an assistant lecturer at King’s College, London, from 1957 to 1959 (he would return there as a visiting professor, from 1974 to 1977), then spent 14 years as Fellow, Chaplain and Lecturer in Divinity at Corpus Christi College, Oxford. Baker also taught at Brasenose, Lincoln and Exeter Colleges. He was a diligent teacher, and in addition to writing The Foolishness of God he translated several theological books by German and French scholars.

In 1973 Baker was appointed to a canonry at Westminster, and a year later became Treasurer of the Abbey, a demanding post which revealed his financial acumen — though his proposal that the Abbey’s world-famous choir should be closed down to save money did not find support among his colleagues. In 1978 he was made Sub-Dean, and in the same year became rector of St Margaret’s and Speaker’s Chaplain.

A heavy workload in Westminster and elsewhere would not permit him to undertake much more than the formal duties required in the House of Commons, but Baker threw himself into the pastoral work of St Margaret’s and revitalised its life. As always, his preaching was greatly admired, and he arranged a notable series of lectures on the problems of Northern Ireland. His own contribution to this subject took him to Christ Church Cathedral in Dublin, where he said in 1995: “England should repent publicly of the wrongs it inflicted on Ireland in the same way that Germany did over the Holocaust.”

Baker’s appointment as Bishop of Salisbury added much-needed theological weight to the bench of bishops, though inevitably it made further sustained writing impossible. None the less, he contributed chapters to symposiums on a variety of subjects, including the ordination of women, racism, peace, Northern Ireland and animal welfare.

Strong relations were established between Salisbury diocese and the Anglican Church in war-torn Sudan, and he made several visits to that country, offering support and encouragement to the suffering Christians.

Baker was chairman of the Church of England’s Doctrine Commission from 1985 to 1987, and a member of the Committee for Theological Education; the standing committee of the World Council of Churches Faith and Order Commission; and of the Council of Christians and Jews. He also served on the governing bodies of several schools, though he did not favour independent education.

He was awarded a Lambeth DD in 1991.

In retirement Baker became an honorary assistant bishop in Winchester diocese, where he was a much-appreciated preacher and lecturer, and wrote a number of books on the Christian faith.

He is survived by his wife, Jill, whom he married in Westminster Abbey in 1974 and who strongly supported him throughout his ministry and a long period of ill health.

The Rt Rev John Baker, born January 11 1928, died June 4 2014


The only way forward for Nick Clegg and the Liberal Democrats is to go back to the liberal socialist manifesto for sustainable growth on which we fought the last election (“This may surprise you, but Nick Clegg is a very lucky politician“, Andrew Rawnsley, ). He should form an electoral pact with Labour to stop splitting the progressive vote, in order to achieve the electoral and constitutional reform that is our only hope of arriving at a government fit to run a 21st-century economy.

He needs to work with Labour to undo the swingeing cuts to local government that mean they cannot build enough housing, repair roads or properly care for the elderly, and to end the scapegoating of immigrants. Austerity has been falsely peddled as a means of cutting the deficit, when the real reason was to give tax cuts to the millionaires who govern us and who do not need to use public services.

It’s not too late for Clegg to work with Labour before the next election to make it illegal for the corporations in receipt of public money for running public services to be registered offshore for tax avoidance purposes and thereby reclaim our public realm.

Margaret Phelps


Vale of Glamorgan

Don’t malign Machiavelli

I was disappointed to see a review of the book Compelling People used by Iain Morris (New Review) to repeat the libel on Machiavelli that he favoured authoritarianism or even tyranny, though it was not clear whether that was the reviewer’s view or that of the authors of the book. Machiavelli was in favour of a democratic, republican, united Italy, well before those ideas were taken up more generally. The fact that he analysed different methods of persuading people to do things did not mean he advocated harsh methods of persuasion, let alone compulsion, though he did deal with the problems of persuading people in positions of power to do what was for the general good, when they saw greater advantage in doing what was primarily for their own good.

Those who would blame Machiavelli for those who extrapolated his work into harmful compulsion is like blaming Ernest Rutherford for the bombing of Nagasaki and Hiroshima.

Tony Pointon

Emeritus professor

University of Portsmouth

Islington pride

What a shame that Rachel Cooke seems embarrassed to use the “dreaded ‘I’ word” (“Enough of this anti-London bile“, Comment). Despite being regularly mocked by commentators who should know better, Islington is as socially mixed, traditional yet modern, vibrant and politically progressive a place as can be found anywhere. In fact, it stands for all those London qualities she applauds. And Arsenal have just won the cup.

David Sutherland (Ex-Angel Boy)



More landscape artists, please

The argument about building in the countryside goes on (“Lakeland ‘under siege’ as budget hotel threatens to spoil the view“, News). There is no suggestion that existing (old) buildings should be removed, so we should consider why new ones are so hated. It seems to me that there are two factors that make new buildings unattractive. One is colour, if brick is used. Brick is a violent red or orange colour, which shouts out. The other is geometry. Sharp, straight lines and angles perhaps do not fit well into a landscape that has weathered over many years.

Cannot builders use imaginative materials and designs that would fit the landscape as old buildings do? There might be a higher cost but those who want these facilities must be prepared to pay for them and not think they are doing a favour to the local economy by patronising it for a couple of weeks.

Geoffrey Bailey



Roadmap to the future

Driverless cars as described by John Naughton in his article “Is this the end of the road for car ownership?” (New Review) present a once-in-a-lifetime chance to change radically our use and ownership of cars and avoid future massive road congestion. The government has to take seriously this heaven-sent opportunity to plan how we use our roads so that traffic can move freely and efficiently. Toes will be trodden on and lives will be altered, but our obsession with the car has to change.

Derek Dod



Clive’s clever quips

Robert McCrum is right about Clive James’s criticism being funny and rarely wounding (“Clive James defies illness with bravura performance“, News). Reviewing a production of Otello, which starred Montserrat Caballé and Luciano Pavarotti, heavyweights with stupendous voices, he wrote that “Otello had apparently been to Cyprus, but it was clear to me that they had both been at the refrigerator”. Indeed, the lovers were so large that they were unable to even attempt an embrace. Who cared: the singing was wonderful and his comment was just funny.

Jane Kelsall

St Albans

Welcome to Britain? Passengers queue at Gatwick’s passport control. Photograph: Oli Scarff/Getty Images

We are concerned that proposals to restrict the freedom of movement of people in the EU are gaining traction in the UK (“Labour must take tougher line on ‘mass migration’ from Europe, Miliband told“, (News).

Free movement is a right exercised by millions and has made a major contribution to the prosperity of Europe over the past 30 years. It is the key to Britain’s continued economic recovery. Competition with Ukip for the anti-immigrant vote threatens to undermine support for Britain’s continued membership of the EU.

What is needed is a more realistic approach to migration in the context of broader social change. Younger people, including young EU expats, enrich and sustain our economy as we age. Many Ukip voters have children and grandchildren who will benefit from the chance to study and work abroad. They should be careful what they wish for.

Movement of people will continue to ebb and flow as Europe emerges from recession. However, the migratory peaks of 2005 have been left far behind. We need to sharpen the public policy response to migration.

If Britain stays in the EU (and the opinion polls are moving that way), then free movement must be embraced. There is no prospect of restricting the right to free movement through treaty change.

Roger Casale Chair, New Europeans; Frances O’Grady General secretary, TUC;

Roland Rudd Chairman, Business for New Europe; Juliet Lodge Emeritus professor of European studies, University of Leeds;

Simon Hix Professor of European and comparative politics at the London School of Economics; Dr Julie Smith Director, European Centre at Polis, Cambridge University; Don Flynn Director, Migrant Rights Network; Dr Majella Kilkey Reader in social policy, University of Sheffield

The free movement of people within the EU is not immigration, any more than the free movement of people between the different countries of the UK is immigration. EU membership works both ways. The number of EU citizens in the UK (around 2.3 million) is largely comparable with the number of UK nationals who have themselves exercised their right to free movement to live and/or work elsewhere in Europe (2.2 million). If the UK decided to put in quotas, other EU member states would follow suit. This would cause real harm to these individuals.

Matthew Evans

Director, Advice on Individual Rights in Europe, London WC1

There is a problem with telling the British people that immigration “enriches” them (“Immigration should not be blamed for our woes”, Observer editorial). If you mean economically, they have worked out that while it may enrich the rich, it impoverishes the poor. If you mean culturally, you are suggesting that Britain’s 64 million inhabitants are somehow culturally inadequate. There is a similar problem with advocating a principled stance. The electorate have to assume you mean you consider that while your opinions are principled, theirs are not.

In the end, they are likely to suggest that politicians take their morals and principles into a (presumably enriched) private life and turn to someone else in the hope of finding some actual answers.

Imogen Wedd

via email

Congratulations on your excellent editorial, a stark contrast to the letter from seven Labour MPs with their crude stereotype that “the benefits of mass migration have been served in abundance to many wealthy people”.

Instead of the Labour leadership’s current broadly negative and apologetic approach to immigration, they should be leading with an alternative vision of Britain as a plural, multi-ethnic society.

We as a nation have relied on British ex-colonial citizens, immigrants and migrant workers to staff our hospitals, care homes, railways and hotels, to pick our fruit and to man our football teams and Olympic squad – and on overseas students to help support our universities through their fees and research skills.

Gideon Ben-Tovim

Senior fellow in sociology

University of Liverpool


The Liberal Democrats’ problem is that it is no longer clear what they stand for (“Clegg survives a coup…” 1 June). A core of historic Liberals and Social Democrats will appreciate the idea of a moderating influence in coalition, a third voice. But is that enough to remain a significant force? I doubt it.

Those of us who believe in that third voice, its critical role in what otherwise risks becoming a two-party state, might say there is a responsibility on the Lib Dems not just to resort to the “we’ve been here before and recovered” cop-out.

The responsibility is to do all we can to ensure that third voice survives, strong and articulate. The media personalise this as an issue about Nick Clegg – but that’s wrong. The issue is much more fundamental – what do the Lib Dems uniquely stand for? What is their special contribution? Why do they deserve our votes and deserve to survive? There’s intellectual space for this, and an exciting opportunity to stake it out – but time is short.

Chris Naylor

Lib Dem councillor, London Borough of Camden, 2006-14, via email

Margareta Pagano rightly calls attention to the pitifully low turnout at the European elections (“How to win the voters back”, 1 June), but her arguments for changing our “paper-based voting system… to an electronic one” are deeply flawed. We are daily regaled by articles showing the fallibility of computer programs, and of state surveillance of our systems, and it is clear that a reliance on such systems would lack the necessary security.

French elections regularly have a higher turnout than ours, even though all postal voting was banned in 1974 – in favour of proxy voting – because of the evidence of abuse. The presidential election of 2007 had a turnout of 84 per cent for both rounds, and the 2012 contest had a turnout of 80 per cent. It is up to politicians to attract voters rather than searching for some magic bullet.

Michael Meadowcroft

Leeds, West Yorkshire

In contrast to her usually warm and insightful thoughts, Ellen E Jones tars all “incels” (involuntary celibates) with the same brush in the wake of Elliot Rodger’s massacre. I believe passionately in gender equality, and that parity is the solution to this and countless other problems. Rodger was a murderous misogynist, but the wider media have failed to diagnose the fact that its worship of sex and money as the highest possible social achievement contributed as much as anything to what Rodger became. The Independent on Sunday’s Happy List was a welcome counterweight to this.

Michael Johnson

Billingham, Teesside

When will your reporters get this right (“Paxman’s starter for 10…”, 1 June). Not all supporters of independence are nationalists. The debate here is not about identity but about the control we have over all our affairs, free from Westminster.

Bob Orr


The Scots do not hate the English, Mr Paxman; they just hate being patronised. Nor do they like the message of the No camp: “We love you, we need you, we’re better together – but if you do leave, we’ll make you suffer for it!” I think that’s called an abusive relationship.

Carolyn Lincoln


Regarding Nick Clark’s “There will be blood” (1 June), over the top theatrical productions with excessive fake blood – it used to be called Kensington Gore – are nothing new.

Well over 30 years ago I took my eldest daughter to the Old Vic to the first night of Macbeth, starring Peter O’Toole. Even by the first interval the actors were rolling in blood and the audience was rolling with laughter – hardly what the Bard intended!

It came to a climax when Banquo’s ghost, whom no one but Macbeth is supposed to be able to see, appeared at the banquet, in the substantial form of Brian Blessed, covered from head to toe in blood and winking at everyone!

Michael Hart

Osmington, Dorset


Mohamed bin Hammam and Sepp Blatter have been criticised over the bid Mohamed bin Hammam and Sepp Blatter have been criticised over the bid (Mohammed Dabbous)

Blowing whistle on Qatar bid won’t make Fifa play fair

THE allegations against Fifa (“Plot to buy the World Cup” and “Fifa files”, News, and “The greatest sporting event ever sold”, Editorial, last week) remind me of an investigation your paper undertook into the International Whaling Commission (IWC) in 2010.

The following week, as the new environment minister, I attended the annual meeting of the IWC in Morocco. I was naively expecting a flurry of resignations and the eating of much humble pie.

What took my breath away was the attitude of many of the national representatives, which was to express fury that any newspaper should have the temerity to question their practices. It was even suggested that this was a plot by the UK to impose “colonial governance” on others.

I hope Fifa members take a different attitude, but I won’t hold my breath.
Richard Benyon (Minister for Natural Environment and Fisheries 2010-13), House of Commons

They think it’s all over

Here’s proper investigative journalism — well done, The Sunday Times. The enterprise has served only to bring Qatar into disrepute when it was a chance for it to engage with the modern world. Combined with the country’s use of indentured labour, this must surely be the final nail in Qatar’s coffin as far as this ill-fated jamboree goes.
Chris Mayhew, Horley, Surrey

Lines of inquiry

I would welcome a full inquiry by a body such as the FBI to determine the existence and scope of any illegal activity that may have occurred, and to allow any necessary sanctions to be imposed.
Robert Jones, Glasgow

No result

Even if former Qatari vice- president of Fifa Mohamed bin Hammam was not connected to the bid, his alleged activities corrupted the process and thus the result should not stand.
Don Mackinlay, Woldingham, Surrey

Substitutions at the top

Sepp Blatter’s position as Fifa’s president is untenable, as is that of the executive committee system. How to replace them is the question; transparency is needed.
David Walton, Dubai

Kicked into touch

What some of the critics forget is that bribery and corruption are part of the culture in Middle Eastern countries and throughout African states, though that’s not to say it doesn’t exist elsewhere.

This scandal is set to explode and rightly so. I, for one, would want to see Fifa dismantled: Blatter and his cohorts cannot provide the regulation to eliminate what we have witnessed over the years.
Stephen Mulrine, Via email

Net gains

I am glad this topic is being raised but, let’s face it, any right-minded person already knew that Fifa is corrupt. What surprises me is the sums involved. If these figures are accurate, $5m (£3m) is a very good price given the financial benefits a host country can expect to receive.
Sebastian Cargutt, Leeds

All to play for

Now the story’s out, let’s just get on with rebidding the tournament to countries that respect football. What’s startling, though, is the alleged level of corruption in a state strong on religious belief.
Manjit Khosla, Via email

Undone deal

The only people who can stop this are the sponsors. They have the power to create a new Fifa.
Chris Gott, Rossendale, Lancashire

First 11 fail to score

Eleven pages devoted to the “corrupt” selection of Qatar for the World Cup. I buy this publication to read meaningful world news.
Tom McKirdy, Largs, Ayrshire

Home advantage

One solution to bidding corruption would be to select a single “home” for the World Cup. Such a strategy would also remove the need for the winning host nations to build complex infrastructure such as stadiums, hotels and function venues. Internationally, this surely represents a wasteful duplication of resources.

As things stand, I can’t imagine top football clubs risking the health of their most valuable players in heat predicted to be 40C-50C.
Elizabeth Oakley, Dursley, Gloucestershire

Hot shots

Any corruption is, of course, a scandal but what does it say about Fifa that it only recently conceded playing football in summer could be a problem because of the heat? So at no point previously did it consider this? Never mind corrupt, how about incompetent?
Martyn Westbury, Monksilver, Somerset

Banning burqa in public a step in the right direction

JENNI RUSSELL makes a strong case in favour of a burqa ban (“We rage at a stoning there yet turn a blind eye to the burqa here”, Comment, last week).

Whichever country you choose to cite, we see the barbaric treatment of women by misguided, cowardly, bigoted and often simply criminal men. There should be no question of this being tolerated in Britain, and imposing a ban on the burqa and its equivalents in public places would be both a symbolic and tangible start.
John E Chamberlin, Ashbourne, Derbyshire

Mind-forg’d manacle

I think the burqa should be banned. The place we have to start fighting repression is in our minds — and now.
Maria English, Southsea, Hampshire

Dress code

I agree with Russell. In fact I would go further and insist that all schools should ban any religious or cultural items of dress or ornament to integrate all our ethnic groups and prevent extremism.
Elizabeth Roe, Chelmsford

Taking liberties

The article reminds me of a parishioner who once told me that he would get rid of all violence in society by bringing back caning in schools, the birch for teenage louts and hanging for murderers.

To say “we must stop funding, encouraging and permitting illiberal behaviour” and then to proceed to call for a ban on faith schools and the wearing of the burqa belongs to the same form of tortured logic.

The threat to liberty in this country does not lie with a few extremists but with vocal and unrepresentative secularist fundamentalism — the antithesis of true liberalism.
The Reverend Jim Wellington, Nottingham

Alan Bennett letter created a drama of its own

YOUR profile of the playwright Alan Bennett (“The teddy bear’s claws draw literary blood”, May 11 ) reminded me of the time several years ago when my daughter took the central role for a leading amateur dramatic society in one of his intimate one-act plays. On the off-chance of a favourable reply, she sent Bennett an invitation to attend and received a charming, handwritten letter graciously declining but including a number of salient tips on some of the work’s hidden nuances.

Over the moon, she took the letter along to the next rehearsal, only to be told by the feisty female director: “Who does he think he is, telling me how to direct?”
Jeremy Brien, Bristol

Folly of excluding creative arts at GCSE

IT WAS striking to read the opera company general manager Michael Volpe’s account of his schooling (“Why opera really isn’t just for toffs”, Culture, last week), which saw culture as “a crucial part of life’s intellectual necessities”. In the same newspaper, however, I learnt that the exams watchdog Ofqual may decide drama and the creative arts do not now make the grade as part of the “GCSE brand” (“‘Soft’ GCSEs face axe”, News). What will this brand be worth that might exclude some of the cornerstones of our culture as not sufficiently “academic”? If the creative arts are excluded from courses offered at GCSE, this will lead to them not being taught in most schools. Then the chances of producing another opera boss from a tough inner-city estate will be remote, and opera may just be for toffs after all.
Clarissa Farr, High Mistress, St Paul’s Girls’ School, London


Looks familiar

Atticus amused last week with his story about Sir Malcolm Rifkind and Clement Attlee’s responses to those who told them that they looked like the people they actually were. The Queen was once approached by a tourist who said, “You look just like the Queen.” Her Majesty allegedly replied, “How very reassuring.”
Neville Lloyd, Portishead, Somerset

Political designs

In a review last week Edwin Lutyens was attributed with designing “the vast, Roman- style parliament building” as well as the Viceroy’s House in Delhi (“How little pieces of Britain met the world”, Books). The co-architect of the parliament building was Sir Herbert Baker.
James Offen, Oriel College, Oxford

Border incident

Peter Fieldman (“Britain’s got problems”, Letters, last week) complains of a “loss of national identity” and says it is illegal immigration that is “transforming towns and cities”. It is legal immigration that allows Fieldman to live in Madrid. Has Spain been transformed by his presence?
John Bell, Wrexham

Praising Singapore

In the correspondence headed “Singapore is no place to look for a model of democracy” (Letters, May 25) Roy Hollingworth compared Singapore to North Korea and Syria, while in “Eastern promise” Malcolm Roderick suggested that its dissidents are confined to underground jails, but conceded this was rumour. Having lived there for 15 years I know the ruling party is not perfect, but it has converted a poor nation into one with a high standard of living for its multicultural society with education, health services and a retirement scheme which are the envy of many. To compare this with regimes where mass killings are attributable is an insult.
Malcolm Kelsey, Sainte-Maxime, France

In pocket

Hunter Davies recalling his lack of pocket money as a boy (“Stilettos are fine but kittens remain the cat’s whiskers”, Money, last week) reminded me of my own negotiations with my father. When I was nine, I got him to agree to give me a penny a week for every year of my age. I was chuffed as it meant a half-crown every week when I was 30!
George Pritt, Moor Row, Cumbria

Word to the wise

Can someone kindly explain why “f****** pleb” is so dire an expression as to justify such fury and litigation (“Emails reveal police laid Plebgate trap”, News, and “A trap was laid for Andrew Mitchell”, Editorial, last week). The first word is so commonplace that, almost uniquely in our language, it can serve as a noun, a verb or an adjective, and is uttered daily by multitudes. The second denotes a commoner in ancient Rome, and was an occasional playground taunt in the 1950s, but rather faded away when Latin became optional.
Stephen Garford, London NW6

Poles remembered

AA Gill (“The UKIP tache has Tories twitching”, News, last week) on the Newark by-election kindly mentions the 397 Polish servicemen buried in the town. General Wladyslaw Sikorski, Poland’s prime minister and commander-in-chief, killed in a plane crash off Gibraltar in 1943, lay there for 50 years until 1993, when he was taken back to rest among other national heroes in Krakow Cathedral. Also buried on English soil there are three Polish presidents-in-exile. The Warsaw Air Bridge monument close to the graves commemorates the sacrifice of RAF, South African and Polish aircrew killed flying supplies to insurgents in the Warsaw uprising.
Michael Olizar, London SW15

Corrections and clarifications

An article last week (“Human traffickers made victims collect clothes for bogus charity”, News) was illustrated with a photograph of David Walliams and an unidentified child at an event organised by Dreams Come True, the charity whose name the traffickers were using without its knowledge. We apologise to the child, his family and the charity for using this photograph without permission, and regret the distress caused. Dreams Come True is a bona fide national charity with a mission to “bring joy to seriously and terminally ill children”.

The article “Is a longer life really good news for all?” (Money, last week) suggested that married pensioners live longer than single pensioners. In fact the data shows that married couples and single people have a similar longevity. 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)


Sir Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the web, 59; Kim Clijsters, tennis player, 31; Ray Illingworth, cricketer, 82; Joan Rivers, comedian, 81; Bonnie Tyler, singer, 63; Derek Underwood, cricketer, 69; Kanye West, rapper, 37


632 Muhammad, founder of Islam, dies; 1929 Margaret Bondfield becomes first female cabinet minister; 1949 George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four published; 1999 former Tory minister Jonathan Aitken jailed for perjury


Many shops do not supply half sizes, or accommodate shoppers who need a wider fit

Best foot forward: a bronze statue at the Villa Cimbrone, Ravello, on Italy’s Amalfi coast

Best foot forward: a bronze statue at the Villa Cimbrone, Ravello, on Italy’s Amalfi coast  Photo: Christa Knijff / Alamy

6:59AM BST 07 Jun 2014

Comments197 Comments

SIR – My feet stopped growing when I was 14, at size 10½. My father had a last made for my school shoes; the rest of the time I wore men’s shoes.

One thing that I have noticed over the years is the lack of half sizes: usually I can only get a 10 or an 11, but even for these I mainly have to travel or shop online.

Val Pallister
Cirencester, Gloucestershire

SIR – The problem isn’t only with large sizes. I wear a 6½ to 7, depending on the make. But I have had endless problems buying shoes to fit my wide feet.

For years I was told by exasperated shoe shop assistants, as the boxes piled ever higher, that “the shoes will stretch with wear”.

I always ended up with blisters.

Angela Walters
Princes Risborough, Buckinghamshire

SIR – Why did all the real heroes of the day have to sit out in the hot sun (or it could have been in the pouring rain), while the big-wigs had more comfortable seats sheltered from the elements?

June Mundell
Castle Cary, Somerset

SIR – At this time when we remember our losses in two world wars, can we also spare a shred of pity for all the fallen, on whichever side they were fighting?

Brenda Bywater
Ashby de la Zouch, Leicestershire

SIR – For Operation Neptune, the invasion fleet of British and American ships, 796 civilians were specially selected. One was a 17-year old school boy (Bill Shonfield) who lied about his age, as did Norman Thompson, born in 1879.

All served with the Royal Observer Corps, and were temporarily enrolled as Petty Officer (Aircraft Identifier). Their sole role was to recognise both friendly and hostile aircraft approaching the fleet, both to alert the defences and to prevent casualties through friendly fire.

Ten were mentioned in despatches, but their wartime service is largely unknown.

Dennis Bates
Bromley, Kent

SIR – Indeed bicycles were issued for the D-Day landings (Letters, June 6). My father, recounting his memories of 72 Field Company, Royal Engineers, mentions how he was issued with a bicycle for forward reconnaissance. It was the first bit of kit he lost, while going up the beach.

He lived for many years in fear of a bill from the War Office for the loss.

Richard Moore
London SE21

SIR – There are British D-Day veterans and widows still alive in Commonwealth countries. Because they have retired abroad to be close to their families in places such as Australia or Canada, they suffer a frozen British state pension. Yet had these British veterans retired in the United States, Israel or EU countries, their UK state pensions would be indexed each year.

Sir Peter Bottomley MP (Con)
London SW1

SIR – In a recently screened German series about five young people in the Nazi era, D-Day is mentioned thus: “One hundred and fifty thousand American troops have landed in Normandy.”

John Rook
Enfield, Middlesex

SIR – A shot of D-Day often shown on television is of British soldiers disembarking from a landing-craft, one of whom is shown looking to his right and out to sea.

I have often wondered what happened to him and if he survived the day. Does anyone know?

Diana Goetz
Donhead St Mary, Wiltshire

Irish Times:

Irish Independent:

Sunday 8 June 2014

New party invite

Published 08/06/2014|02:30

Madam – We are now witnessing the rise of nationalism and socialism among our electorate.

History shows us very clearly that this combination is potent, and has the potential to create extremely dangerous outcomes for our country.

France is certainly not a socio-economic model to follow. The French have not balanced their books for over 40 years, and the country has lost some of its brightest and best to London where well over a million French citizens now work and reside.

By supporting the rise of Sinn Fein, we will sleep-walk into trouble.

In order for Ireland to recover, we must be led by people who have the skills, knowledge and experience of working in the real economy.

Career politicians, of which there are many, quite simply do not understand the life of an SME and therefore are no longer required to represent us.

Thankfully, in our hour of need, there are very talented TDs such as Shane Ross and Stephen Donnelly who have come from industry and have clearly demonstrated that they understand the workings of the real economy.

More importantly, they are not afraid to speak out against the establishment, and will make the required change.

We need both Mr Ross and Mr Donnelly to now come together to form a party, along with other individuals such as David Hall, Lucinda Creighton, Jonathan Irwin, Diarmuid O’Flynn and Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan, to lead us back to prosperity.

Olivia Hazell,

Clane, Co Kildare

Sunday Independent


June 7, 2014

7June2014 Out

No jog around the park I still have arthritis in my left knee, but I manage to get to the Co Op!

Scrabbletoday, I win the game, and gets just under 400 perhaps Marywill win tomorrow


Francis Disney – obituary

Francis Disney was a prison officer who chronicled a thrilling Somerset tale of executions, riots and redemption

Francis Disney at the walls of HMP Shepton Mallet

Francis Disney at the walls of HMP Shepton Mallet

6:05PM BST 06 Jun 2014

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Francis Disney, who has died aged 83, was a prison librarian at HMP Shepton Mallet, and delved into its 400-year history to produce an immensely colourful account of riots, reprobates and redemption.

Disney found that Shepton Mallet’s prison, which sits at the heart of the sedate Somerset town, was the source of murky and marvellous material. It had seen numerous jail breaks (some more successful than others); incarcerated the Kray Twins; put down a major uprising by inmates in the Fifties; and survived a fire, in 1904, during which prisoners, wardens and firemen manned the hoses together (and no one attempted to abscond). It also earned a grisly reputation for wartime executions, carried out by Thomas and Albert Pierrepoint — the infamous uncle-and-nephew team of hangmen.

Entrance to Shepton Mallet illustrated in Francis Disney’s history

During his 15 years as an officer behind the 75ft-high stone walls at Shepton Mallet prison, Disney became fascinated by its gruesome past: “I was a prison librarian here and my office was in the room used by the Americans for executions [During the Second World War it served as an American military prison]. Sixteen people were killed by hanging in that room. I never used to feel scared by any ghosts, though. If these walls could only talk, it would be with the voices of people under persecution.”

Francis John Disney was born on October 24 1930 in Exeter, where his father was a taxi driver and his mother a seamstress. He attended the city’s John Stocker School before taking up an apprenticeship in motor engineering with British Railways.

After his National Service (1952-54) he continued working as a motor mechanic, first for Devon County Council and then the RAC. He joined the Prison Service in 1965, training at Leyhill before being stationed at Parkhurst on the Isle of Wight. He also served at Aylesbury Young Offenders Prison and Bedford Prison.

During his time at Shepton Mallet (1975-90), Disney oversaw inmates sentenced to short terms of up to four years. “I enjoyed my time there,” he recalled. “Most of the human race are OK, except for the crime they have done. There are few evil people. I suppose I have only met four or five evil people who would have murdered their mother and thought nothing of it.” He considered the prison a microcosm of society with its “happy side and the sad side, and the dangerous side as well”.

In 1984 he secured the Queen’s permission to write Heritage of a Prison: HMP Shepton Mallet, 1610-1985, for which he delivered a pacy narrative. “My writings are told in the vein of a story and I have left out most of the mundane statistics,” he stated. The first edition sold out (two further reprints followed, including a revised edition in 1992). Disney traced the prison’s history through the public records and the very fabric of the building. “We started looking through the past and uncovering all kinds of things,” he recalled about his investigations. “Staircases that led to nowhere and windows that had been bricked up.”

Built on cornfields, the prison (also known as Cornhill) opened in 1610 under King James I’s order that each county keep a “House of Correction”. Disney noted that “conditions were very, very unsavoury” as it filled with rogues and prostitutes. “This resulted in outbreaks of the dreaded disease of Gaol-fever,” he noted, as inmates succumbed to “promiscuous mixing and the purchase of favours”.

The 20th century also provided Disney with plenty of eyebrow-raising anecdotes . When two prisoners working outside to tend the local churchyard broke into a house they received a Queen’s pardon of seven days because they had seen a distraught pensioner trapped inside. Less benign was the prison chaplain’s copy of The Secret of Happiness by the evangelist Billy Graham — it held a hacksaw in its hollowed-out pages. And it was behind Shepton Mallet’s bars in the Fifties that Reggie and Ronnie Kray — serving time for avoiding National Service — first met Charlie Richardson, who would become their rival in the gangland wars a decade later.

Copy of Billy Graham’s The Secret of Happiness with a hacksaw hidden inside

Disney suggested that the prison’s controversial role as a US military jail — or “glass house” — during the Second World War had been the inspiration for EM Nathanson’s The Dirty Dozen. There were 18 executions of American servicemen (sentenced to death for murder or rape) at Shepton Mallet during the war years. Three prisoners were by executed by firing squad, the rest by hanging.

The hangings were carried out by the Pierrepoints, who were obliged to abide by American protocol. In the British way of doing things, the death sentence was carried out within seconds of the condemned man being led from his cell. But America required the prisoner, even at the gallows, to hear the list of charges against him. “The part of the routine which I found it hardest to acclimatise myself to was the, to me, sickening interval between my introduction to the prisoner and his death,” noted Albert Pierrepoint in his memoirs, Home Office Executioner.

A more heart-warming wartime role was given to the prison’s unoccupied women’s wing, which stored treasures — including the original manuscript volumes of The Domesday Book — from the archives of the Public Records Office, which was at risk during the Blitz.

Disney helped to set up the prison’s museum, gave lectures on its history and provided tours before its closure in April 2013 — an event he found discombobulating. “I know every inch of this building. Seeing it being decommissioned is very strange and emotional.” Shepton Mallet was, he maintained, more than a correction facility: “A prison is not normally considered a valuable. I do question this. Shepton Mallet Prison is of value. It is of architectural value; it has been of value to society in many areas and continues to be of value to Shepton Mallet town.”

HMP Shepton Mallet at the time of its closure (JAY WILLIAMS)

All proceeds from his book and lectures went to a local cancer charity in memory of his former colleague, John Izatts, who had helped Disney with his research.

In 1991 Disney was awarded a BEM (in recognition of his charity work) and the Imperial Service Medal.

Francis Disney married, in 1960, Linda West, who survives him with their two sons and a daughter.

Francis Disney, born October 24 1930, died May 20 2014


This part of Lennie Goodings’ homage to Maya Angelou took my breath away with pride: “So it was that 15 years after the first US publication, we published I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings in a Virago paperback. Maya appeared on Afternoon Plus. It was a heartfelt, bold interview and Maya talked about the part in her book where she is raped at eight and how she became mute until literature coaxed her back into speaking. The TV switchboards were jammed; the reviews and features that followed were stunning. Maya beamed straight into British hearts” (Review, 31 May). Then I thought, ouch! How could a woman leave out the name of the interviewer? The female interviewer. Women still remain underrepresented on screen and so I have always felt the need to name names to help redress the imbalance. Maya became a lovely friend after we met at that interview. But it was great what Lennie wrote about her.
Mavis Nicholson (the interviewer)
Llanrhaeadr-ym-Mochnant, Powys

Harry Leslie Smith’s account of his sister’s death in 1926 and his eulogy to the NHS moved many readers. Photograph: Sarah Lee for the Guardian

I was born in 1937, and when I was a month old my father collapsed in Stratford High Road with pneumonia and pleurisy. When he was sufficiently recovered, he spent some weeks convalescing, during that time my mother had no income and the last of my parents’ money went on paying for an ambulance to bring him home.

Later I remember my father when he was working as an orthopaedic technician, getting off his pushbike, and having heard about the new NHS, greeting my mother with the words “Thank goodness, we shall never have to worry about getting sick again” (What happened to the world my generation built?, G2, 5 June)

So my generation is healthier and living longer thanks to the care we have received throughout our lives from a service run by dedicated clinicians and not run for profit by the cheapest provider. We have heard so much about the excessive “cost” of the NHS, but this belies the truth that in England we spend less per capita on health than most other developed countries.

Of course those promulgating this myth often have vested interests in the private companies, often foreign, that are gathering like vultures in the hope of the fat profits they hope to make from our illnesses and health needs.

The politicians behind these insidious plans are intent on dismantling a service which was, before they interfered, the envy of the world. But then they are far too young to remember life before the NHS, and if things get really grim they can afford to pay for private care.
Mabel Taylor
Knutsford, Cheshire

Gary Kempston illustration Illustration: Gary Kempston

• The answer to Harry Leslie Smith’s question is that Conservative MPs, such as Oliver Letwin and John Redwood, got their hands on it. When working for Rothschild bank’s international privatisation department, they laid plans for the Health and Social Care Act which were fleshed out in the Adam Smith Institute’s report, The Health of Nations, in 1988, the same year Old Etonian Letwin published his book Privatising the World. In 2004, Letwin, then Tory shadow chancellor, invited businessmen to his West Dorset constituency, encouraging them to work together to win contracts for a new PFI local hospital. According to one participant, Letwin told his audience that within five years of a Conservative victory “the NHS will not exist any more“.

Letwin, now minister of government policy, has overseen both health secretarys’ work since the 2010 election. The bill widens the door, opened by New Labour, to NHS privatisation, closure of hospital services, selling off hospital land to create a service funded, not from general taxation but by individual payments to insurance companies. As Harry puts it: ” … the NHS stripped down like a derelict house …”

As Michael Portillo said: “They [the Tories] did not believe they could win an election if they told you what they were going to do [to the NHS]…”
David Murray
Wallington, Surrey

• My father was born in the workhouse infirmary in Colchester in 1900. My mother’s family fled from the terrible poverty of Glasgow’s Gorbals to London in 1904. I was fortunate to spend my early life in a country where conditions improved. I am only 79, but I remember when the Labour party defended the weak the sick and the poor. I pray that the two Eds, Miliband and Balls, read Harry’s touching story of his sister Marion’s life and death.
John Munson
Maidstone, Kent

• Dear Harry, thank you for reminding us of the awful conditions that the NHS replaced. Rarely have I been so moved by an article in the Guardian. The piece by Harry Leslie Smith, so beautifully written, should be sent to every MP and member of the House of Lords who voted for the Health and Social Care Act so that they can realise the enormity of what they have done.
Ann Lynch
Skipton, North Yorkshire

• I am in my 70th year, rather than the 91 years of Harry, but I too despair at the dismantling of the welfare state that meant so much to working-class people. How is it that the elderly can forget so easily and vote for political parties, which now includes the Labour party, who want to privatise all the services that working-class people depend on?
Colin Lewis
Blackwood, Gwent

• Three words stood out for me: “taxation benefits everyone”. Discuss.
Mike Pender

• Harry Leslie Smith’s eulogy to the NHS measures the levels of improvement in society following the second world war and the opportunities that have been missed. The NHS did not create an equal society, but it gave access to healthcare irrespective of means to pay and made strides in medicine which were available to everyone. It became a model to aspire to. The NHS as a public service has saved or ameliorated countless lives throughout most of Harry’s life. The solution to the rising cost is raising contributions, not selling it off. If we were a more equal society, there wouldn’t be a problem.
Dr Graham Ullathorne
Chesterfield, Derbyshire

• My mother is 89 and lost the sight in one eye as a child because her parents could not afford any treatment. I was born in 1945 and survived pneumonia and rheumatic fever as a young child because of the NHS. Harry Leslie Smith’s wonderful lament made me weep.
Andrew McCulloch
Collingham, Nottinghamshire

• Best piece of writing I’ve seen in years. Mr Gove should make it compulsory reading in all schools.
Rosemary Adams
Hunmanby, North Yorkshire

• How ironic that at a time we are commemorating the outbreak of the first world war and the D-day landings of 1944, we are betraying the hopes and aspirations of the generations involved. They wanted a better future for their children and grandchildren, one which removed the fear of illness, poverty and lack of opportunity. We, their children and grandchildren, should be deeply ashamed of our wilful destruction of their legacy.
Carole Rowe
Bradford-on-Avon, Wiltshire

‘The former prime minister gave a passionate, persuasive and often quite funny defence of the UK.’ Photograph: Rex Features

Michael Billington should have made his way along to a packed Glasgow’s Old Fruitmarket on Tuesday evening (Angry and unlovable, is this the real Gordon Brown?, 6 June), where the former prime minister gave a passionate, persuasive and often quite funny defence of the United Kingdom. He always was and still is highly popular in Scotland.
Ronnie McGowan

• The shoebox flat rented out after 16 hours (Report, 4 June) looks positively spacious compared to the university-managed student accommodation where my daughter lives in east London. Her rent is £175 per week for a 12 metre-squared room. It is becoming increasingly difficult for students to study and live in London unless they have part-time jobs and/or financial support from their parents and other sources.
Carole Vartan
Marple, Stockport

• As we celebrate the 70th anniversary of D-day (Operation Overlord) (D-day remembered, 6 June), let us not forget the second invasion of southern France (Operation Dragoon) on 15 August 1944. That equally important theatre of operations completed the liberation of France within three months of Overlord.
Dominic Shelmerdine

• When I lived in Oxford in the 1980s, we knew Noilly Prat as Noisy Prat (Letters, 6 June), because the person drinking it usually was one.
Tom Locke
Burntisland, Fife

• Are you using aversion therapy to stop me drinking beer (Pulling in the votes, 5 June)? First of all there was that Farage photograph with a tankard of Greene King’s I was hoping to be drinking IPA from just such a tankard tomorrow.IPA. Then, you have Boris pulling a pint of GK’s Abbot Ale. Incidentally, did Farage notice that behind him, there was an the insult to the country he is supposed to defend? There were several St George’s flags with the word Carlsberg written on them. I believe this is still a Danish brewer, though they do own Tetley and Scottish & Newcastle.
John Fisher
Hitchin, Hertfordshire

• The football World Cup is almost upon us and yet I have not yet seen one car “sporting” the English flag – is this just a local phenomenon or more widespread? Should Ukip be worried?
Doug Sandle

Jean-Claude Juncker with Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor. who is pushing his candidacy to become EU commission president. Photograph: Pool/Getty Images

When proposing a candidate for the EU commission president, the Lisbon treaty instructs the European council to “take into account the elections to the European parliament” and states that the commission president “shall be elected by the European parliament” (Report, 28 May). When the EU governments added these words to the treaty, it was widely seen as a significant break from the past, as from now on the choice of the most powerful executive office in the EU would be done in a more open and democratic way. We find it disingenuous to claim, as some heads of government have done, that these treaty changes have no meaning. They believe that as heads of states and governments they have the right to choose the president of the commission and the European parliament should ratify. In this interpretation, the parliament can veto, but not take initiatives.

The alternative view, taken by the main political parties before the European elections, claims that the council must take into account the outcome of the elections. European citizens, therefore, have a word to say about who leads the European commission, which alone makes proposals for European laws. The first approach has contributed to the perception that distant “Brussels” takes decisions over which citizens have no control. The second approach aims to return sovereignty to the citizens of Europe. It seeks to balance the excessive power of the council by the democratically elected European parliament.

In the spirit of the new treaty, Europe’s party families have nominated candidates for the commission president before the election. The candidates fought a rigorous campaign, criss-crossing the continent. There were several live TV debates between the candidates and the media have covered the candidates’ campaigns. And, crucially, the candidates have argued about the direction of the EU. In short, this was the birth of democratic politics in the EU. We acknowledge that the system is not perfect. Nevertheless, this was an encouraging start, and in time this process has the potential to enable European citizens to engage with EU level politics far more than they have been able to do up to now.

We hence urge the heads of government not to kill this new democracy process at its birth. We urge the members of the European parliament to rally around the candidate who got most seats. The European People’s party has emerged from the elections as the largest group. The European council should therefore now propose the candidate of the EPP: Jean-Claude Juncker. This would follow the spirit of the new treaty and also be consistent with the way the chief executive is chosen in most of our national constitutions: where after an election the president or monarch invites the candidate of the largest party to have the first go at demonstrating that he or she has the support of a majority. Proposing someone other than Juncker would be a refusal to recognise the changes in the treaty. It would also further undermine the shaky democratic credentials of the EU, and play into the hands of the Eurosceptics across the continent.
Prof Dr Stefan Collignon, Prof Simon Hix, Prof Dr Roberto Castaldi, Prof Dr Jürgen Habermas, Mr Costas Simitis former prime minister, Greece, Prof Lorenzo Bini-Smaghi, Prof Tony Giddens, Prof Dr Claus Offe, Prof Dr Ullrich Beck, Prof Paul deGrauwe, Prof Dr Gianfranco Pasquino, Prof Dr Hans-Werner, Prof Christian Lequene, Mr Brian Unwin former president, European Investment Bank Prof Dr Antonio Padoa Schioppa, Prof Dr Sebastian Dullien, Professor Ulrich Preuss, Prof Dr Nadia Urbinati, Daniela Schwarzer Director, German Marshall Fund, Dr Ettore Greco, Director, Istituto Affari Internazionali, Prof Dr Lucio Levi, Dr Enrico Calossi, Coordinator of the Observatory on Political Parties and Representation, European University Institute Prof Dr Massimilano Guderzo, Daniela Schwarzer Director, German Marshall Fund, Flavio Brugnoli Director, Centre for Studies on Federalism, Dr Giuseppe Martinico, Prof Dr Francesco Gui, Prof Jerónimo Maillo, Graham Bishop, Prof Dr Bernard Steunenberg, Prof Dr Gustav Horn, Graham Avery, Prof Dr Karl Kaise, Paul Jaeger Associé, Russell Reynolds Associates, John Loughlin Director, von Hugel Institute, Prof Dr Leila Simona, Dr Francisco Pereiro Coutinho, Prof Steven Hasleler, Prof Dr Mario Telò, Prof Dr Piero Graglia, Bertrand de Maigret, Prof Stephanie Novak, Annabelle Laferrere, LSE, Dr Matej Avbelj, Prof Constanca Urbano de Sousa, Pedro Gouveia e Melo, Dr Matej Avbelj, Prof Dr Gianluigi Palombella, Prof Armando Marques Guedes, Carlos Botelho Moniz Lawyer, Portugese Society of European law, Brendan Donnelly Director, Federal Trust, UK, Dr Henning Meyer

• Surely a fatal objection to Juncker becoming president of the European commission is that he is a former prime minister of Luxembourg, which vies with the Republic of Ireland as the biggest tax stealer in the EU. For example, Ian Griffiths described in detail how Amazon and Luxembourg deprive the UK of rightful tax payments (Report, 4 April) .

It is incredible that the EU didn’t deal with the tax-stealing problem decades ago. Instead it has expanded geographically and the European commission has expanded its activities outside its competence while letting the tax problem grow. The EC needs to come up with proposals for fixing it now – Juncker is not the person to lead it in this effort.
John Wilson


At a party recently with friends, all similar to myself (early fifties, working-class background, professional graduates, Labour voters), I confessed that I had voted Lib Dem at the last election, and one by one the others did too.

We did so for the same reasons. We saw the Lib Dem promises as a more left-wing manifesto than that offered by the Labour Party. We could not see anyone in the Labour Party who was like us.

My great-grandfather died canvassing for the emerging Labour Party. He wanted representation. His MP was rich and lived elsewhere. He wanted someone to stand up and complain about his poverty, about his zero-hours contract on the docks and about the desperate prospects for his children.

The result was that my grandparents were represented by Bessie Braddock, a local woman whom they could trust would stand up for them.

My parents had Eric Heffer who worked on  the building sites with my dad.

I had Terry Fields, a workers’ MP on a worker’s wage. Who will my son have? The rumour is Euan Blair: rich and from elsewhere, typical of the modern Labour MP – looks and sounds good on TV but no idea of what it is like to struggle.

So I have been disenfranchised. I will never vote Lib Dem again. Like my friends, I was conned. I will never vote Ukip but can see why people do. They appear “real”.

I haven’t left the Labour Party, the Labour Party has been taken from me and my people by middle-class people who thought they knew what was good for us.

We have come full circle. My graduate children are working in coffee shops and bars on zero-hours contracts with no rights, each with a personal debt that is bigger than my mortgage at their age and no effective trade union to stand up for them.

Meanwhile the rich get richer. How did that happen after 13 years of a Labour government?

We need to throw this lot out and start all over again.

Tony Packwood, Liverpool


While I applaud the Labour Party’s promise to educate our young people on the importance of voting (“Labour’s class action to raise voting rates”, 6 June), it will be of little use unless trust in our political process is restored.

The electorate needs to be assured that casting a vote is more than just a choice between varying degrees of evil.

A promise of a law to allow constituents to recall an MP would be a good first step to achieving greater confidence that politicians will represent the will of the people, not their own self-interest.

Pete Rowberry, Saxmundham, Suffolk


Let the grass grow – to feed the sparrows

Charlie Smith in Dulwich (letter, 4 June) rightly welcomes the chirp of his sparrows, and I believe he’s correct in his observation that numbers appear to be rising. There has been an almost universal decline.

Wales has proved to be the exception. Maybe it’s the continuation of traditional farming practices; we are not entirely sure.

The RSPB is one of the many organisations investigating the decline of the house sparrow. No one has yet established the cause or, more probably, causes, of their dramatic drop in numbers. However, we do know that a lack of the right food and a lack of nesting places are contributory factors.

Young sparrows need plenty of protein, and older sparrows crave carbohydrate. The demise of the sparrow reflects the paucity of insects and seed in the environment, so get messy outdoors and let the grass literally grow under your feet and go to seed.

We have anecdotal evidence within London that the chirpy Cockney sparrow is starting to rally. Great effort is being made by ourselves, local authorities, organisations such as London Underground and other conservation NGOs to restore natural food availability in the capital.

Sparrows, bats, bees and butterflies will benefit, and the colours and sounds of nature will enrich Londoners’ lives.

As for The Independent’s offer of a reward for whoever reveals what’s behind the population collapse of the house sparrow, I suspect it will remain unclaimed, as we are now aware that there is a hugely complex web of factors driving a downwards trend of as much as 60 per cent of our UK wildlife.

Sorry to end on such a negative note, but we are all doing too little too late to sustain our green and pleasant land.

Tim Webb, Royal Society for the Protection of Birds , London SW1

There seems no shortage of sparrows in this area of the North York Moors. We have two sparrow families nesting in the house tiles and at least two more families in next door’s hedge. And many other villagers have reported plenty of sparrow activity.

We regularly, breakfast time and early evening, have at least six to eight on the feeding station, and another 10 waiting their turn on the fence. They make a lot of noise, but we spend many happy hours watching them.

Christine Wainwright, Goathland, Yorkshire


New flag needed for today’s England

Soon we will see England flags fluttering proudly from cars as our heroic football team sets out in Brazil to bring the World Cup back to the home of football.

But in this outburst of commendable patriotism, we must not forget that peace-loving Muslims living among us could well be offended by the flag of St George. Not only is it associated with the bloodthirsty Crusaders as they raped, murdered and pillaged their way to the Holy Land, but in recent times the flag has also been hijacked by far-right political parties.

Therefore, to avoid stirring up racial resentment, to make the flag more inclusive and to show we are a truly multicultural society, might it not be appropriate to incorporate an Islamic symbol such as a crescent into the top left corner?

Then Muslims could happily join in cheering Steven Gerrard and the lads. Come on, England!

Charles Garth, Ampthill, Bedfordshire


Yes, we boomers  were lucky

I was born in 1944 and I regard myself both as a baby boomer and lucky. Jane Jakeman (letter, 6 June) got it right when she argued that pre-Thatcher we voted for a decent equitable society, where employers were encouraged to look after their staff, rather than screw them to the deck, as many do now.

It is correct that only 10 per cent went to university, but many of us, including me, were taught at a polytechnic, where the employer paid our tuition fee and paid for day release

When we left school we found there were plenty of jobs; we needed only basic qualifications to get them. Nurses learnt their trade in real hospitals dealing with real people, and while they were not well paid, they were at least earning while they were learning. Nowadays, they practice on dummies while at university, have learnt nothing about life and graduate with huge debts.

Students today leave university to find their are few decent jobs to compensate them for all their efforts, and while many will not earn enough to repay their student loan, it is a millstone round their neck. We were, indeed, a lucky generation. Today’s young people will only be able to survive if they went to a top university or have parents able to pay off their student loan.

Malcolm Howard, Banstead, Surrey


Democracy is being undermined

Congratulations are in order: in unveiling proposals whereby frackers will not need to seek the permission of those residing above ground before drilling beneath them, David Cameron has become the first Prime Minister in history both figuratively and literally to undermine the democratic processes of this country.

Julian Self, Wolverton, Milton Keynes


Now ‘now then’ needs to be reclaimed, then

Now then, sir. It’s disappointing that “Now then” reminds Lin Hawkins (letter, 6 June) of Jimmy Savile. It didn’t occur to me for a minute that it would, and if it is a common view, then remedial action is imperative. The battle to reclaim “Now then” from the clutches of Savile starts now. Reight?

Mark Redhead, Oxford

“Now then” may have Lin Hawkins thinking of Jimmy Savile, but I will always associate it with Fred Trueman. In cardigan and tie, smoking his pipe and pint in hand, he would open each episode of the 1970s Yorkshire TV series Indoor League with a brusque “Na’ then” as he introduced the viewer to the serious business of darts, bar billiards and arm wrestling.

Bill Cook, London N11

‘Honour’ and ‘killing’ have no connection

Please stop the use of the disgusting phrase “honour killing”. This euphemism suggests a justification for what is simply plain, misogynistic murder.

Ken Fletcher, Liuzhou, China


Getty Images

Published at 5:00PM, June 6 2014

The commemorations are seen by many as a reminder that freedom does not come easily

Sir, As we commemorate the D-Day landings, may I put in a word for the others who fought in the war. My father volunteered in 1939 and was in the British Expeditionary Force. Rescued from Dunkirk he took part in the famous opening barrage at El Alamein. Later he fought at Monte Cassino. After the war he was spat at in the street because he didn’t take part in the D-Day landings. This, of course, was Churchill’s fault as he downplayed the war in Italy so that the Eighth Army became the “Forgotten Army”. Let us not make the same mistake now, and take the opportunity to pay tribute to all those who fought for our freedom.

Dennis J Hickey

Southport, Merseyside

Sir, 70 years ago today, my father Jack, an RE officer, having spent many months in the military operations directorate at the War Office working on plans for the Normandy landings, dropped two ranks to volunteer for front-line service. On D-Day he landed on Juno beach in a Canadian LST, part of the first wave. He was awarded a DSO for bravery. He was one of the lucky ones. He survived.

I and so many of my generation are eternally grateful to all those thousands who gave their lives for our freedom. Every day I pass his photograph watching over me from the hall table. Every day I thank them all and so should we.

Andrew Hamilton

West Camel Somerset

Sir, On June 6, 1954, in my parish church, I heard one of the most vivid sermons in my life. The preacher started his sermon “Ten years ago today thousands of young men stormed ashore on the beaches of Normandy to liberate Europe.”

Ten years after D-Day memories were still fresh and it was just but a year after the Korean War, so everyone was well aware of the cost of defending freedom. The passion and expression of the sermon rightly encapsulated the country’s belief that freedom does not come easily and was well worth the fight.

I hope that this weekend at least one priest rekindles that passion with a sermon based on D-Day. It would be a timely acknowledgement of the bravery of the thousands who “stormed ashore on the beaches of Normandy to liberate Europe”.

Ian Proud

London W5

Sir, Before D-Day my grandfather lent his house to an assembly of US commanders, including Henry Stimson, US Secretary of War, General Marshall, Chief of Staff US Army, Admiral King, Commander in Chief US Naval Fleet, and General Arnold, Commander US Army Airborne, as they made the final preparations for the landings. The generals wrote to him, most movingly, after D-Day, of their stay and of the tranquillity of his garden amid the pressure of those last few days. The meeting was so secret I have seen no reference to it outside my grandfather’s papers.

The choice of location was not entirely random: Stimson had been a house guest in 1943, when my grandfather was appointed director of the construction of the Mulberry harbours used in the invasion.

The harbour breakwaters, the Phoenix units, can still be seen at Arromanches. They are a unique memorial, commemorating not suffering or destruction but audacity and British brilliance. They are long overdue for recognition as a UN World Heritage Site.

Simon Gibson

Eastleach, Glos

When you forget your passport you can still steal back into the UK – if you are carrying the right bits of paper

Sir, When Finchley Cricket Club went on tour to Holland in the 1980s one of our party forgot his passport and was allowed to travel freely, there and back, by showing the UK and Dutch officials his name on a label that his mother had sewn into the waistband of his cricket trousers.

Terry Wilton

Wavendon, Milton Keynes

Sir, A colleague once used a National Trust card to clear UK passport control. The card never leaves my wallet in case of similar emergencies.

Antony Hurden

Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk

Sir, Arriving for lunch at the Reichstag, we found that passports were required for entry. After five, rather long, minutes we were admitted on the strength of our North-West Leicestershire old–age bus passes.

CN Grist

Castle Donington, Leics

Sir, Spare a thought for those with dual nationality. Shortly before 9/11 I returned to the UK on a visa-less Australian passport, having forgotten to take my UK passport on a trip down under. I was allowed in after producing a copy of Private Eye. Immigration officials agreed it was near-conclusive evidence of Britishness.

Alice Adams

London NW3

A distinguished writer notes the instances of friendliness she found on her recent visit to the great metropolis

Sir, Having lately been bemused by surveys of the relative likeableness of various cities, I made notes during a recent two-day visit to London. Apart from acquaintances, I conversed with 28 strangers — hotel workers, waiters, shop assistants, taxidrivers and a couple of officials. Ten were European foreigners, four were Asians and one was a New Zealander. The only one who did not seem likeable was a very English cabbie, a class of Londoner I generally find delightful, but I was homesick by then and I expect he thought me nasty too.

Jan Morris

Llanystumdwy, Gwynedd

The ceremonial which surrounds the Queen’s speech may strike younger voters as bizarrely irrelevant flummery

Sir, As a council candidate I spent ten minutes on polling day convincing a reluctant 18-year-old to vote for the first time. My pitch about maintaining a thriving democracy did not include reference to any of the following, heard during the coverage of the Queen’s speech: the Lord Privy Seal, the Lord Great Chamberlain, the Lord Chancellor, the Earl Marshal, the George IV diadem, the Speaker’s Chaplain, Sovereign’s Heralds, Trainbearers, Black Rod, the Great Sword of State, the Cap of Maintenance, the Robing Room, the Honourable Corps of Gentlemen at Arms, the Yeomen of the Guard, the Serjeant-at-Arms, the Pages of Honour, and calls of “hats off strangers”.

John Slinger

Rugby, Warks

Sir, Is there any significance in the fact that in Peter Brookes’s cartoon of the Queen’s speech (June 5) the former Lord Lyon King of Arms is wearing a tabard of the Scottish Royal Arms leading the Sovereign in the procession in the House of Lords?

Thomas Woodcock

Garter King of Arms, College of Arms

London EC4

Richard Dawkins’ suspicion of children’s stories continues to puzzle the champions of creativity and imagination

Sir, Professor Dawkins (June 5) thinks it is “statistically too improbable” for one living creature to turn into another (The Frog Prince). Are the odds any better for billions of atoms to turn naturally by chance into a living cell?

Chris Bow

Stapleford, Cambs

Readers of Brideshead and viewers of the film seek the real-life locations that inspired the novel

Sir, Professor Fawcett (letter, June 3) suggests Madresfield Court as the inspiration for Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Castle. A more obvious candidate is Wardour Castle in Wiltshire, which Waugh would have known through his friendship with Cecil Beaton and the Herberts.

Waugh placed Brideshead in a Wiltshire park with a castle that gave its name to a Georgian successor. It was the seat of a Catholic family and the house contained a famous chapel.

Old Wardour Castle overlooks a lake that points to the new mansion on a nearby hill. The largest Georgian house in Wiltshire, Wardour Castle, has splendid interiors and a spectacular chapel. It too was the home to a Catholic dynasty, the Arundells. I recommend Wardour Old Castle as a picnic spot: strawberries and a bottle of Château Peyraguey would seem appropriate.

Nigel Thomas

Netherstreet, Wilts

Sir, Professor Fawcett deplores the use of the baroque Castle Howard as a visual shorthand for Brideshead, but there was good reason for its use in the TV film. In the novel Charles Ryder says staying at Brideshead signalled the end of his love for the medieval and his “conversion to the baroque”. The Flytes may be based on the inhabitants of Madresfield; the architecture of Brideshead Castle is clearly not.

David Bertram

Teddington, Middx

Sir, I expect Waugh, like other writers, had a variety of sources of inspiration. His description of Brideshead’s central rotunda reminds one of Ickworth and is very far from the Arts and Crafts of Madresfield. The chapel and family are, of course, undoubtedly those of Lady, and the exiled Lord, Lygon.

Neville Peel

Mottram-in-Longdendale, Cheshire


SIR – Allison Pearson accuses baby-boomers of being “too selfish” to volunteer. The “baby boom” is generally considered to have occurred between 1945 and 1965. As the average retirement age is just below 65, surely the majority of baby-boomers are likely to be still in full-time employment.

As a recently retired 63-year-old, I, along with a number of my contemporaries, have recently taken up volunteering for the National Trust, among other organisations.

Pamela McAuley
St Neots, Huntingdonshire

SIR – Allison Pearson says she feels guilty about not volunteering. Yet it doesn’t follow that our generation is selfish.

One of the potential upsides of an ageing society is a larger pool of people with the time to employ their skills and experience in voluntary work. Nor is there reason to panic about the future: much evidence suggests that today’s young people are even more altruistic than past generations.

Volunteering models will change. At the National Council for Voluntary Organisations, where I am executive director of volunteering and development, we are seeing more people undertaking “micro-volunteering” actions, online or through smartphones, for example.

Fortunately, the impulse to altruism is a trait hard-wired into us all.

Justin Davis Smith
London N1

SIR – I look round the committee of the small charity I work for, and we are nearly all over 80, having been involved in charitable ventures for many years. I wonder if it is a coincidence that we were the “lost” generation, who were about 10 when the war started. We were old enough to know what was going on; we accepted the bombing, went without holidays, and were infected by the general feeling of goodwill towards others. Where is the next generation of volunteers to come from?

Ann Flute
Bampton, Oxfordshire

SIR – A lack of National Trust Volunteers? Wonderful. I shall now be able to enjoy the architecture unaccosted.

Paula Brain-Smith
Minehead, Somerset

Plastic’s not my bag

SIR – I was delighted to hear in the Queen’s Speech that the Government plans to tackle the problem of plastic bags with a levy, and so hopefully reduce the amount of plastic going to landfill.

Can it link to this a restriction or ban on the sleeves that are now extensively used to distribute most of the catalogues and junk mail I receive? I have to admit that I do not always separate each mailing into the separate constituents for recycling; it would be far more effective if plastic sleeves were banned or taxed, prompting a change back to paper envelopes.

If this proves more expensive, it may have the added benefit of reducing somewhat the amount of junk mail that arrives on my doorstep every morning.

Richard Dalgleish
Kingsclere, Hampshire

SIR – Has anyone given thought to how many elderly and disabled people have their groceries delivered? It will take the poor delivery men and women far longer to unload each order into people’s kitchens without bags. Plus, how will the frozen and chilled items be separated?

Judy Williams
Lydeard St Lawrence, Somerset

SIR – A two-litre plastic milk bottle weighs five times as much as a plastic bag. Why not set an end date for their use? Milk can be supplied in cardboard boxes, which it should be possible to recycle.

Charles Cooper
Malvern, Worcestershire

SIR – How will history remember this Coalition? As the destroyers of plastic bags.

Morton Morris
London NW2

Music with art

SIR – I went to the National Portrait Gallery recently and was astonished and irritated to find they were pumping loud pop music throughout the gallery. Apparently on Thursday evenings – crassly titled “The Late Shift” – a DJ is hired to spin a variety of tracks.

Art galleries represent one of the few havens of peace available in the modern world. They offer a sublime chance to engage with a beautiful work of original art, often centuries old, at close quarters.

They present an opportunity to lose yourself in both the technique of the painter and the subject matter. This intensely visual and internal experience is somewhat corrupted when you’ve got Joy Division, Art Garfunkel or Salt-N-Pepa inescapably in your ear.

If I want to listen to music while I look at art, I can take my iPod. I don’t, because I like to do one thing at a time. Equally, if I happened to go clubbing one evening, I wouldn’t want someone shoving a Holbein under my nose.

Sam Pollard
Beckenham, Kent

Blinded by science

SIR – Richard Dawkins suggests we lose the “statistically improbable” from children’s literature. No King Arthur, Mary Poppins, Ratty, Mole or Badger? No Eeyore or Dumbledore? No Wombles or Matilda? No more going on a bear hunt? It is a bleak and colourless world, indeed, that the professor offers.

Rev Anthony Buckley
London SE22

SIR – In most fairy tales there is an evil person or a spoilsport. Is that Richard Dawkins?

A T Brookes
Charlwood, Surrey

Britain and Sparta

SIR – Boris Johnson engages in typical political sophistry when he suggests our country will fall like Sparta if we do not accept migrants (report, June 5).

Mr Johnson is using flawed logic to justify EU rules over which, by his own admission, we have no control. He should explain to us how, if uncontrolled migration is so good for our country, there are strict immigration restrictions on Commonwealth citizens?

Being against uncontrolled immigration does not mean being anti-immigration, but I would not expect one of the Westminster elite to “get it”.

Terry Lloyd
Darley Abbey, Derbyshire

BBC Russian service

SIR – Andrew Wood, Vladimir Bukovsky and others call for the BBC to revamp its Russian service (Letters, June 2).

The BBC is already a significant source of information in Russia. Audiences for the BBC’s Russian language service are at their highest level since 2000. We reached nearly 14 million people in May 2014, an annual increase of 78 per cent, through BBC Russian online, in addition to BBC content available on partner news websites.

The BBC Russian television bulletin is available on Dozhd TV, with regular BBC updates on another Russian television channel, RBK. Two BBC Russian audio programmes — Pyatiy Etazh (Fifth Floor) and BBSeva –­ are also available for listening online.

BBC Russian is at the forefront of digital innovation in the World Service, and we use the most effective means to make our content available to as many people in Russia as we can. Our presence on social media is growing rapidly, too.

BBC News currently reaches more than a quarter of a billion people around the world, and we aim to increase this number. The Russian service is making a strong contribution to this target.

Behrouz Afagh
Controller, BBC World Service Languages
London W1A

Got the bottle

SIR – My milkman informed me of his imminent retirement and I suggested a few hobbies to keep him occupied: golf, birdwatching, or maybe collecting something. “Like milk bottles?” he replied.

Can readers think of good hobbies for a retiring milkman or other tradesman?

Janet Newis
Sidcup, Kent

SIR – In the past couple of weeks, at least three cars in Orkney have caught fire; one was a write-off. The cause of each fire was a spark or heat in the engine compartment which ignited starlings’ nests.

The other day I removed a starling’s nest from the rear wheel area of my car.

Drivers, beware!

Suzan Woodward
St Margaret’s Hope, Orkney

Follow our coverage of the D-Day commemorations here

SIR – My parents enjoyed several cycling holidays in northern France just after the war. When the local people saw the Union flags on my parents’ saddlebags, the hospitality was overwhelming, and in many cases extended to an invitation into homes and free meals. There was no doubt in my parents’ minds that the local population understood the role Britain had played in D-Day and in the liberation of France.

Visiting Normandy for the 60th anniversary of D-Day, I was pleased to see that this gratitude did not seem to have dissipated. Buildings were decked out with Stars and Stripes, Maple Leaves and Union Flags in equal number, and local children placed flowers on the graves of soldiers unknown to them.

History cannot be learnt only from books, and while this tradition of remembrance continues, the people of northern France will know the facts and, I believe, show their gratitude.

Mike Baker
Fetcham, Surrey

SIR – Michael Smedley (Letters, June 5) laments that only the Americans are remembered by the French for the Normandy landings. It is perhaps just as well.

An estimated 360,000 French civilians were killed during the Second World War, the majority of these during the D-Day invasion and subsequent drive to the German frontier. This is as opposed to around 60,000 British and Commonwealth civilian fatalities.

After the landings, little was done to mitigate French civilian losses or damage to property. It was the mistaken tactic to bomb towns to rubble prior to an infantry advance.

Terence Hollingworth
Blagnac, Haute-Garonne, France

SIR – The American PR machine was not limited to the filming of the D-Day landings. In Operation Market Garden, a push north from the Belgian border up to Arnhem, American reports indicated that the British, having crossed the bridge at Nijmegen, stopped in the late afternoon “and got their teapots out”. In reality, the leading tank, commanded by the future Lord Carrington, was under orders to halt until infantry support caught up with the column.

Michael Cattell
Mollington, Cheshire

SIR – In all the accounts I have read of D-Day, little mention is made of the part played by the bicycle. In the 1944 book “Stand By to Beach!”, there are two photos taken by the Royal Canadian Navy showing troops carrying bicycles ashore. They also feature in a painting by C E Turner, which appeared in the Illustrated London News, of the landing on the Normandy coast.

The bicycle would have been a silent and speedy method of moving inland. Were they solely used by the Canadians, or did the British go by bike as well?

June Green
Bagshot, Surrey

Irish Times:

+A chara, – Our Government has a responsibility to ensure that the Tuam deaths are properly investigated. An Garda Síochána has an opportunity to redeem its battered reputation by seizing this opportunity to carry out a criminal investigation in the name of all the little children who died due to neglect and perhaps worse in Tuam and in most likely other “care homes”. Dare we hope that this occurs?

I and other friends cannot abide this injustice visited upon defenceless little children by church and State. We will be marching from the Department of Children to Dáil Éireann next Wednesday at 7pm. – Is mise,


The Capel Building,

Mary’s Abbey, Dublin 7.

Sir, – The media should be very wary of using the term “septic tank” to describe the structure containing the child burials at St Mary’s mother-and-child home at Tuam. It is offensive and hurtful to all those involved. The structure as described is much more likely to be a shaft burial vault, a common method of burial used in the recent past and still used today in many part of Europe.

In the 19th century, deep brick-lined shafts were constructed and covered with a large slab which often doubled as a flatly laid headstone. These were common in 19th-century urban cemeteries. The stone could be temporarily removed to allow the addition of additional coffined burials to the vault. Such tombs are still used extensively in Mediterranean countries. I recently saw such structures being constructed in a churchyard in Croatia. The shaft was made of concrete blocks, plastered internally and roofed with large concrete slabs.

Many maternity hospitals in Ireland had a communal burial place for stillborn children or those who died soon after birth. These were sometimes in a nearby graveyard but more often in a special area within the grounds of the hospital. It was not a tradition until very recently to return such deceased infants to parents for taking back to family burial places.

Until proved otherwise, the burial structure at Tuam should be described as a communal burial vault. – Yours, etc,


School of Geography,


and Palaeoecology,

University Road,

Queen’s University,


Sir, – In relation to infant deaths in mother-and-baby homes, James Deeny, who was appointed chief medical officer in the 1940s, provided interesting insights in his biography.

With a death rate in Bessborough, Cork, of over 50 per cent (100 out of 180 babies born), Deeny personally inspected the home. He said that, initially, he could find nothing wrong. Then he asked staff to undress the babies.

In his own words, he found “every baby had some purulent infection of the skin and all had green diarrhoea, carefully covered up. There was obviously a staphylococcus infection about. Without any legal authority I closed the place down and sacked the matron, a nun, and also got rid of the medical officer.”

He added, “The deaths had been going on for years. They had done nothing about it, had accepted the situation and were quite complacent about it.”

Bishop Lucey of Cork complained to the papal nuncio. The nuncio complained to de Valera but Deeny’s report made clear that his decision was the right one.

He recorded that with a new matron, medical officer, disinfection and painting, the death rate fell to single figures.

Deeny wrote of his attempts to deal with infant mortality in the wider community too – “it was very difficult. All sorts of vested interests were involved and the in-fighting was terrific. I came in for a lot of ‘stick’ and abuse.” – Yours, etc,


Douglas Road,


Sir, – Where the Catholic Church in Ireland is concerned, a nasty streak of intolerance seems to be emerging. No sooner is there a disclosure about some aspect of church-related matters but politicians and opinion-makers are on their high horses condemning priests, bishops or entire religious congregations in the most emotive and abusive language.

Before a verdict of guilty is pronounced, surely the normal legal process should take place with the evidence being analysed and tested. – Yours, etc,



Tuam, Co Galway.

Sir, – Were the poor little innocents afforded the dignity of a baptism before their premature death or were their distraught young mothers told their babies would be residing in Limbo in perpetuity? – Yours, etc,


Beacon Hill,

Dalkey, Co Dublin.

Sir, – We must not forget that “fallen” women who had children out of wedlock were often denounced and abandoned by their own families and by society at large. This is our heritage.

We may blame the Roman Catholic Church, and indeed they are not blameless, and we may blame the State, which has always exhibited a shocking level of spinelessness when it comes to protecting the children of our nation. However the reality is that these women and children were abandoned by their own families. They were an embarrassment; unloved and unwanted, they had no one to protect them. When we apportion blame as a society, we need to take a long hard look at ourselves. – Yours, etc,


Nordahl Bruns Gate,

Bergen, Norway.

Sir, – Regarding the place of religion in our schools, may I suggest an excellent model from my own life experience? I grew up in South Africa, where unlike our republic, the Catholic Church is a tiny, although well-respected, denomination. My sister and I were trained in the faith at wonderful catechism lessons given on a Saturday morning in our Johannesburg parish.

Parents made an affirmative decision to enrol their children in these little hubs of religious education, and although they technically stole from our weekends, we all had great fun. I completed my first communion and first confession within these groups – which were often led by Irish nuns.

The greatest advantage to this example? It left other children untroubled by religious ideas in school, and fostered a deeper, more enduring community of children as believers in their appropriate zone. – Yours, etc,



Chao do Loureiro,


Sir, – It has been reported that the party emerging from Lucinda Creighton’s Reform Alliance will not apply the whip on issues of conscience (“New political party plans to recruit Independents”, Home News, June 3rd).

In her time in Government, Ms Creighton voted for cuts to single mothers, the sick, the elderly, as well as a raft of regressive taxes. I wonder if these and similar policies shall fall under the remit of “issues of conscience”, or whether, as I fear, moral concerns apply only to the unborn? – Yours, etc,




Co Wicklow.

Sir, – Your editorial of June 6th (“Too early to relax on budgets) makes a positive reference to the willingness of trade unions to persevere in the correction of Ireland’s public finances.

For the record I should make it clear that, while we have from the onset of the crisis recognised the need to rebalance the public finances, we believed that the adjustment should have been scheduled over a longer period. Our reasoning was that growth should have been allowed a greater part in the heavy lifting needed to achieve balance.

The social cost of the austerity policies of the troika has been extreme.

Moreover, the policy has largely failed, as can be seen from the fact that Europe’s growth rate in the first quarter of this year is just 0.2 per cent. The belated action of the ECB to stimulate the euro zone economy and ward off deflation is welcome, but an admission of the failure of austerity nonetheless.

The problem of debt – sovereign, business and personal – remains a significant drag on growth at a domestic level. Deflation poses a major risk in this respect. Europe must be made to honour the commitments given to the Taoiseach at the European Council in June 2012, namely to sever the link between banking and sovereign debt. Unless this is done, growth may not, because of the disastrous policies of the troika, reach a level necessary to allow Ireland achieve debt sustainability in the medium term. – Yours, etc,


General Secretary,

Irish Congress

of Trade Unions,

merging from Lucinda Creighton’s Reform Alliance will not apply the whip on issues of conscience (“New political party plans to recruit Independents”, Home News, June 3rd).

In her time in Government, Ms Creighton voted for cuts to single mothers, the sick, the elderly, as well as a raft of regressive taxes. I wonder if these and similar policies shall fall under the remit of “issues of conscience”, or whether, as I fear, moral concerns apply only to the unborn? – Yours, etc,




Sir, – The return of chaotic scenes to the Garda National Immigration Bureau (GNIB), as outlined on this page by Prof Benjamin Wold (June 6th), is completely unacceptable and has no place in a modern and open democracy.

Queues out the door were supposed to be a thing of the past when the bureau underwent extensive and expensive renovation work last year, coupled with the introduction of an appointments system.

While these changes may have been well intentioned, they are not working and are forcing people contributing to the Irish economic recovery to sacrifice a day’s work and disrupt their home life to queue in the open air from 6am for the benefit of paying expensive registration fees.

As a matter of urgency, the Government must act to ensure that the GNIB is given every possible support to clear backlogs, including greater use of regional Garda offices as well as online technology.

The current difficulties are just one symptom of the failure of successive governments to introduce comprehensive immigration reform.

Our immigration system lacks clear rules and guidelines, does not offer clients the protection of the Office of the Ombudsman and is slow to provide protection and supports to vulnerable groups, such as victims of trafficking and domestic violence.

It is time for political leadership to be taken not just on the delivery of services at Burgh Quay but also our entire immigration law. – Yours, etc,


Immigrant Council

of Ireland

Andrew Street,

A chara, – While I’m reluctant to add further to the free publicity that the club “Church” has already garnered by shouting “down with that sort of thing” (“Smart clubbing, unholy nights”, Life Style, June 4th), there is something deeply disturbing not only in the casual sacrilegiousness of the concept, but in the gushing approval it received in the article.

If such mockery were aimed at the sacred beliefs and symbols of Islam or any other faith it would provoke outrage and be declared at least offensive, if not indeed a hate-crime. Why when Christianity is the target should it be encouraged and treated as good clean fun? – Is mise,


The Rectory,

Clogh Road,


Sir, – Further to your editorial “Towards a low-carbon society”, May 31st), while it is the duty of any government (in Ireland or elsewhere) to provide leadership towards achievement of critical climate goals, and while reducing energy demand is a key element of reaching those goals, we are, whether we like it or not, “energy citizens”. The fact that many of us, if not most, appear to be indifferent to climate issues – because the effects are deemed to be temporally or geographically remote, or because we are disengaged, or we are in denial – we have to accept that the effects of a changing climate are occurring now, will only increase in their impact, and we have to take personal responsibility for our actions. – Yours, etc,




Dublin 16.

Sir, – I see a spokesman for Fianna Fáil’s ard chomhairle’s rules and procedures committee stated that, despite the disappointment at the decision of Mary Hanafin to proceed to contest the local election against the wishes of the party’s candidate ratifying process and procedures, they took all “circumstances” into account and now consider the matter closed (“Fianna Fáil drops disciplinary threat against Mary Hanafin”, Home News, June 6th).

Presumably these “circumstances” include helping to win two council seats for Fianna Fáil in Blackrock, Co Dublin? And the lesson for today is break all the rules you want – just make certain you win! – Yours, etc,


Loreto Grange,

Sir, – The media goes into overdrive year after year during the first three weeks of June with an almost pathological obsession with the Leaving Certificate examinations.

This is an unwarranted distraction for students. Such hype and distraction by the media is likely to exacerbate stress levels not only in students but also in parents. At this time, students are under enough stress without magnifying it.

It is also quite deplorable that in this country, when the Leaving Certificate results are published, pride of place is given to the tiny percentage of students who score the maximum number of points – not a word about the majority who get an average score or the students who, despite socio-economic deprivation, linguistic, behavioural and other limiting factors, struggle with the help of dedicated teachers and manage to pass the examination with hard work and perseverance and against all the odds. – Yours, etc,


Moyglare Village,


Co Kildare.

Sir, – Regarding the presence of men dressed up as women at the mini-marathon (June 5th), might it have something to do with the fact that there is no marathon exclusively for men? – Yours, etc,



Naas, Co Kildare.

Sir, – It’s called having a bit of fun, and raising money for a deserving cause in the process. Lighten up! – Yours, etc,



Dublin 6W.

Sir, – As a self-employed person, I pay a percentage of my earnings in PRSI but am entitled to nothing if my business fails and will receive a State pension only marginally greater than a non-contributory pension. I am sick and tired of being told I must provide for myself yet subsidise everyone else. – Yours, etc,


Knocklyon Court,

Templeogue, Dublin 16.

Sir, – In view of their centenary pretensions to the lord mayoralty of Dublin (Front Page, June 6th), perhaps Sinn Féin needs reminding it played no part at all in the 1916 Rising? – Yours, etc,



Douglas Road, Cork.

Irish Independent:

* Every now and then a story comes along which stops one in one’s tracks. A story which makes a person question their belief in the innate decency of man or woman.

That story is the tragedy that was revealed finally to the world by Catherine Corless. Photos can be found online of the children taken while they were “in care” at the mother-and-child home in Tuam. Grim, joyless faces with pained eyes stare hard-faced back at the camera, reminiscent of those children we saw pictures of in Romanian orphanages in the 1980s after the fall of Ceausescu. What desolation was visited upon them that ripped the childlike joy from their eyes and replaced it with a deadman’s stare? How can the final resting place of an innocent child be a tank which was used to store human excrement? Is that what their lives were worth?

This story has been in the public domain to a greater or lesser extent since 1975. People knew there were bodies buried there. Why is it only this week that any awakening of the public consciousness has occurred?

Our Government has a responsibility to ensure this matter is properly investigated. An Garda Siochana has an opportunity to redeem its battered reputation by seizing this opportunity to carry out a criminal investigation in the name of all the little children who died in Tuam and in most likely other “care homes”.

I and other friends cannot abide by this injustice visited upon defenceless little children by church and state.

We will be marching from the Department of Children to Dail Eireann next Wednesday at 7pm to protest, to remember and to call for a full inquiry. A candlelit vigil will be held and mementoes of those little lives (shoes, toys, bibs) will be displayed.

If you have been as touched by this tragedy, please come and join us and don’t let apathy once again concrete over these children’s memory.




* The mass burial of hundreds of children in a septic tank in Tuam, Co Galway, demonstrates yet again that the greatest crime in the eyes of the Irish Catholic Church was to be poor.

This was all about money. If you could not contribute to the church coffers, you had no worth or status in Ireland. These children were untouchables, not worthy of even basic respect. These activities have been known about for years but quite simply the church, local communities and Irish society in general simply did not care. There now needs to be a full forensic excavation of this site and others like it around the country, with a complete osteological examination of all human remains.

The full horror of what happened in the name of the Catholic Church and the hypocritical status-driven obsequious class system that underlined it, is exposed for the world to see.




* Martina Devlin’s article on the Tuam babies (Irish Independent, June 5) was excellent. It managed to be both well balanced and an accurate description of Irish society. She did not narrow the focus to a headline-seeking blame game. Well done.




* Reading Peggy Lee‘s letter (Irish Independent, June 5) with regard to the dreadful Tuam story where she says: “The public must consider the tragedy in the context of the country’s economic and social profile of the time.” I say this: No, Peggy. No particular time in our history should be an excuse for what happened here.

All our shameful history needed to be brought out in the open: corporal punishment, the dreadful industrial schools, the Magdalene laundries, and now this latest report on the remains of 796 babies, who died at a religious-run and state-funded home for unmarried mothers from 1925 to 1961.

We must not separate these dreadful happenings and realise and accept, once and for all, that as a society we have no excuses whatsoever.




* These children’s mass graves . . . Unspeakable horror. It leaves one speechless and disgusted. This society must stop sweeping under the carpet or burying what it does not want to see.

Hopefully, the shock felt by us will not only lead to a short-lived collective cathartic exercise, but will help this culture of the unsaid to move towards more transparency.




* The controversy over babies’ mass graves is causing great grief to many people. The past may be another country, in historical terms, but we inhabit that too. In even more recent times we have had, and still have, mass graves for babies.

They flourished in more recent times as bereaved parents, who were prepared to bring home their first-born baby, received a letter, such as below, and panicked to allow the hospital to perform its cold, private and non-religious task.

Parents regretted their decision forevermore and some never visited the site of the mass grave. Happily things have improved and such letters are no longer the norm. But as you can see, this occurred in 1970.

Dear Mr -,

I regret to inform you that your wife’s baby died/was stillborn on 23.7.’70.

If you wish to make your own arrangements for burial, you should notify Matron’s Office as soon as possible.

If you wish, the burial can be arranged for you by the Hospital Authorities by getting in touch with the Medical Social Worker or with Matron’s Office without delay, otherwise the Hospital Authorities will find it necessary to proceed with arrangements.

The charge is £2.15/- and should be paid to the Accounts Clerk between the hours of 9am and 4.30pm (12.30pm on Saturdays) or a postal order, may be sent to the Accounts Department. We would ask you to instruct us promptly in order to avoid undue distress.




* The recent disclosures about the Tuam babies, unearthed by historian Catherine Corless, brings home to us again the importance of coming to terms with our past. The English historian EH Carr observed that history is a dialogue between the past and present. Here we have a case of the sad facts of our relatively recent past clashing violently with the perceptions we cherish of ourselves in the present.

The task of the historian is a difficult one. In every community there are taboo areas, subjects which are just too close to the bone for many people. But unless we understand and acknowledge where we have come from, how can we decide where our futures should be? In digging beneath the surface in Tuam, Ms Corless has done her own community, and all of us, some service.



Irish Independent


June 6, 2014

6June2014 Recovered

No jog around the park I still have arthritis in my left knee

Scrabbletoday, I win the game, and gets just under 400 perhaps Marywill win tomorrow


Hazel Heaton-Armstrong – obituary

Hazel Heaton-Armstrong was a retailer whose family gave refuge to the von Trapps and who spent childhood holidays with the Kennedys

Hazel Heaton-Armstrong

Hazel Heaton-Armstrong

5:32PM BST 05 Jun 2014

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Hazel Heaton-Armstrong, who has died aged 89, was a young girl of 14 when, in 1938, the musical von Trapps took refuge from the Nazis with her family; she later spent school holidays with the Kennedy clan.

The complex connections between Hazel’s family and the von Trapps had developed out of a web of relationships that had their origins in the days before the First World War when cultural and political links between Britain and the German-speaking world were strong. The story of the Heaton-Armstrong family in the 20th century was played out as those ties were broken by two devastating wars.

The youngest of four children, Helen Gabrielle Laura Hazel Heaton-Armstrong was born on July 14 1924 in Kensington, west London, to John (later Sir John) Dunamace Heaton-Armstrong (always known as Jack) and his French-born wife Suzanne (née Bechet de Balan). Although her father was a pillar of the British Establishment as a long-standing officer at the College of Arms (he became Clarenceux King of Arms, the second most senior herald, in 1956), the family had long-standing connections with the Continent.

Hazel’s grandfather, William Heaton-Armstrong (1853-1917), had been born in Austria and married the Baroness Bertha Maxmiliana Zois-Edelstein, oldest surviving daughter of the Austrian 4th Baron Zois-Edelstein. William later served as Liberal MP for Sudbury in Suffolk, from 1906 to 1910, before founding a bank.

Meanwhile, in January 1914 Hazel’s uncle, Captain Duncan Heaton-Armstrong, had taken up the post of private secretary to the newly-appointed King of Albania, the German Prince William of Weid. When the First World War engulfed the Balkans six months later, he escorted two royal infants back to Germany, where he promptly became the first prisoner-of-war of the conflict (he was released two years later in a prisoner exchange). He subsequently wrote an account of Albania’s short-lived pre-war monarchy, The Six Month Kingdom.

After the war Duncan briefly went into business with Capt George von Trapp, an Austrian naval hero who would become famous as the patriarch of the Trapp Family Singers. In 1911 von Trapp had married Agatha (“Agathe”) Whitehead, granddaughter of Robert Whitehead (1823-1905), the man who invented the modern torpedo. After the British government had rejected his invention, the Austrian Emperor Franz Josef had invited Whitehead to open a torpedo factory in Fiume, where his invention facilitated the development of the U-boat. Whitehead, however, had sold his firm to Vickers and Armstrong-Whitworth at the time he retired, so at the outbreak of war in 1914 the company was British-owned.

The Trapp Family Singers (BBC/TELEVISION STILLS)

George and Agathe had seven children, and it was Agathe’s death in 1922 that precipitated the arrival of a novice nun, Maria, from an abbey in Salzburg – and the story of The Sound of Music.

Despite the connection on her father’s side, Hazel’s main connection with the von Trapps was through her mother, who had previously been married to Agathe’s brother, John Whitehead; he had served in the Royal Flying Corps in the First World War and been killed in action in 1916. They had a daughter, Hazel’s half-sister Mary.

According to the story told in the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical, following the Anschluss in March 1938 the von Trapp family fled from the Third Reich by hiking over the Alps to Switzerland. In reality, they travelled by train to Italy before making their way to London, where they stayed with George von Trapp’s sister-in-law and her second family, the Heaton-Armstrongs, while awaiting visas to enter the United States. Hazel recalled that the von Trapps sang for the family during their stay before finally leaving by ship for America in September.

Julie Andrews as Maria in a still from The Sound of Music (MOVIESTONE/REX)

Hazel was educated by a nanny and governesses until the age of 14, when she was dispatched to a Roman Catholic convent at which one of her fellow pupils was Patricia Kennedy, the daughter of Joseph Kennedy, the then American Ambassador to London, and his wife Rose. Patricia’s siblings included the future President John F Kennedy and his brothers Bobby and Edward.

At the outbreak of war Hazel’s father, despite having lost an eye in childhood and a leg in the First World War, took leave of absence from the College of Arms to enlist for active service. He was posted to Oxford as a squadron leader in the Administrative and Special Duties Branch of the RAF. With her parents away from London, Hazel spent her exeats and holidays with the Kennedy family, until the Kennedys returned to America at the end of 1940. She did not meet John or Bobby, who had remained in the United States, but she recalled Teddy Kennedy as a “sweet little boy” and kept up with Patricia for many years, naming her eldest daughter after her.

After leaving school, Hazel Heaton-Armstrong joined the Wrens in 1941 and was posted to Rosyth and OrkneyLater she was sent to Malta where, as she recalled, she “danced and danced”.

She was demobbed in 1945 and returned to London, training in photography and working in antique shops. In 1952 she married her cousin Michael (who, as Capt Thomas Michael Robert Heaton-Armstrong, had served as the acting governor of Trieste towards the end of the war). She had known him from early childhood, and at the time of their marriage he was working as a pig-breeder at Bosbury, Hereford.

In 1953 they moved to Scotland, first to a rented farm near Crieff, then, in 1955, to a farm at Couligartan, near Aberfoyle, where they brought up their six children.

They continued to farm pigs until 1964, when it was no longer financially viable. They then took a lease on a shop in Aberfoyle where they began selling Hazel’s creations — decoratively-covered boxes of cook’s matches, waste-paper bins and other items. Within a few years they had acquired several more shops, and by the mid-1980s Armstrong of Aberfoyle had become a sizeable retail concern, with a hairdresser, haberdasher, crystal shop, tweed shop and a Post Office.

A devout Roman Catholic, Hazel Heaton-Armstrong was, for 25 years, a director of St Ninian’s, Gartmore, a school run by the De La Salle religious order. She was a regular attendee at the Roman Catholic chapel in Aberfoyle, and when the owners could no longer lend the room, she and her husband arranged for the congregation to be accommodated at the local Episcopal church, an ecumenical arrangement whereby services were timed so that the Roman Catholics warmed the seats for the Anglicans.

After selling the shops and the family home, in 1987 the Heaton- Armstrongs retired to Portugal.

Hazel Heaton-Armstrong’s husband died in 2000, and she is survived by their three daughters and three sons.


sex education year 6

Seven out of 10 teachers felt they needed more training to deliver sex and relationships lessons properly. Photograph: David Levene for the Guardian

David Cameron, Nick Clegg and Ed Miliband have all stated publicly that sex and relationships education is important, yet Ofsted recently found that it remains unsatisfactory in a third of schools. This is hardly surprising when a survey of teachers showed that seven out of 10 felt they needed more training to deliver the subject properly and that regulations require only a handful of the more biological topics to be addressed. All children and young people need age-appropriate teaching. If pupils approaching puberty don’t learn the proper names of sexual parts of the body, and those in secondary school are taught little or nothing about consensual relationships or sexual health, we are failing in our duty to safeguard pupils.

As the education select committee opens its inquiry, we are calling for a commitment from political parties to make such teaching statutory. This would allow it to be treated the same as other subjects – with educators trained in the subject and sufficient timetable time to tackle real-life issues, including domestic violence, exploitation and pornography. Statutory sex and relationships must apply to all schools, including primary schools and academies, and pupils must be guaranteed to learn medically correct facts about their bodies. Teaching must be pro-active in promoting gender and LGBT equality, and relationships education should count for at least half of that teaching. There is overwhelming support from parents, young people, teachers and health professionals to improve such teaching, so we urge our leaders to give it the statutory status it so urgently needs.
Jane Lees Chair, Sex Education Forum
Dr Mary Bousted General secretary, Association of Teachers and Lecturers
Dr Hilary Emery Chief executive, National Children’s Bureau
Peter Wanless Chief executive, NSPCC
Dr Rosemary Gillespie Chief executive officer, Terrence Higgins Trust
Julie Bentley Chief executive, Girlguiding
Joe Hayman Chief executive officer, PSHE Association
Simon Blake Chief executive, Brook
Dr Audrey Simpson Acting chief executive officer, Family Planning Association
Felicity Owen Director of public health, Cornwall council
Ruth Sutherland Chief executive officer, Relate
Andrew Copson Chief executive, British Humanist Association
Jeremy Todd Chief executive, Family Lives
Ann Furedi Chief executive, British Pregnancy Advisory Service
Ann Hartley Deputy leader, Shropshire council
Rabbi Dr Jonathan Romain Chair, Accord Coalition for Inclusive Education
Rod Thomson Director of public health for Shropshire
Alison Hadley Director, Teenage Pregnancy Knowledge Exchange, University of Bedfordshire
Luke Tryl Head of education, Stonewall
Gill Frances Life member, Sex Education Forum
Andrew Wallis Lead member for children and young people, Cornwall Council
Rhys Hart Member, UK Youth Parliament for Shropshire
Dr John Lloyd President, Institute of Health Promotion and Education
Susie Parsons Chief executive, National Aids Trust
Jennie Williams Director, Enhance the UK
Hilary Pannack Director, Straight Talking Peer Education
John Rees Chair, National PSE Association for advisers, inspectors and consultants
Dr David Regis Research manager, Schools Health Education Unit
Lizzie Boyle Director, Fruition
Ruth Lowbury Chief executive, Medical Foundation for Aids and sexual health
Alice Hoyle Coordinator, RSE Hub
Sue Allen Chair, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays Trustees
Paula Power Director, CWP Resources
Yoan Reed Proprietor, Teaching Lifeskills
David Evans CEO, APAUSE
Chris Cowan Company director, Loudmouth Theatre
Rev Jane Fraser Director, Bodysense
Lesley Kerr-Edwards Chief executive Officer, Image in Action
Liz Griffiths National PSHE CPD programme lead
Hilary Dixon Life member, Sex Education Forum
Ellen Adams Coordinator, Sexpression: UK
Denis Cronin Associate director of public health, Cornwall council
Ruth Hilton Member. Sex Education Forum
Melody Dougan Life member, Sex Education Forum

We are calling on Theresa May to review urgently the asylum case of Afusat Saliu and her daughters. Afusat and her daughters, Bassy, four, and Rashidat, two, were deported three days ago to Nigeria (Report, 3 June). This is despite an ongoing judicial review. We urge the home secretary to consider the fresh and compelling evidence in her case. This includes the very real threat that her daughters will be subjected to female genital mutilation (as Afusat was as a child) and the threat to Afusat and her family as Christian converts now they have been forcibly returned to Nigeria.

Afusat and her girls are a valued and integrated part of the community in Leeds; not least for being part of a refugee women’s choir at West Yorkshire Playhouse. They are not just a case or a problem, but a young woman and her children who are in fear for their lives.

We believe Afusat and her daughters deserve at the very least a fair hearing. The government has rightly abhorred the abuse of human rights and violence against women and girls, just this week launching a campaign to end FGM. We believe that it is time to put those principles into practice: give Afusat and her girls a fair trial.
David Hare Playwright
Benjamin Zephaniah Poet and writer
Lemn Sissay Poet and writer
Tariq Ali Writer and filmmaker
Yasmin Alibhai-Brown Journalist and writer
Kenan Malik Writer, lecturer and broadcaster 
Daniel Kitson Comedian
James Brining Artistic director, West Yorkshire Playhouse
Sheena Wrigley Chief executive, West Yorkshire Playhouse
Alex Chisholm Associate director, West Yorkshire Playhouse
John McGrath Artistic director, National Theatre of Wales
Vicky Featherstone Artistic director, Royal Court Theatre
Simon Stephens Playwright
Guy Taylor Convenor, Movement Against Xenophobia
Chris Thorpe Playwright
Lolita Chakrabhati Playwright
Christopher Haydon Artistic director, Gate Theatre
Natalia Kaliada Co-artistic director, Belarus Free Theatre
Nikolai Khalezin Co-artistic director, Belarus Free Theatre
Boff Whalley Chumbawumba member and playwright
Rod Dixon Artistic director, Red Ladder Theatre Company
Dr Daniel Bye Lecturer and theatremaker
Lucy Ellinson Theatremaker
Alan Lane Artistic director, Slung Low
Jon Spooner Artistic director, Unlimited Theatre
Dr Hannah Nicklin Theatremaker and academic at UWE
Melanie Wilson Theatremaker
Kieran Hurley Playwright
Clare Duffy Playwright

• It is shocking to read your report (Deportees treated as commodities, 2 June) on how those being deported from the UK are being treated by private contractors. The recommendations of the National Independent Commission on Enforced Returns, by Citizens UK, including the use of pain-free restraint, independent oversight of enforced removals and a more robust system for licensing of the staff involved, should be implemented quickly. These contracts should be returned to the public sector to allow for great accountability. These operations are being done in our name and must be done by treating people with respect and dignity.
Suzanne Fletcher
Chair, Liberal Democrats for Seekers of Sanctuary

Why no mention of the Welsh National Eisteddfod in the Guardian’s music festivals guide? Photograph: Alamy

It would be interesting to know the directorships and other commercial interests of the 50 academics promoting the economic benefits of a Lancashire shale gas industry (Letters, 5 June). Beware the vested interest of “Frackademica”.
Pam Foster
Lytham St Annes, Lancashire

• I have been fuming since I received your music festivals guide (31 May). No mention of the National Eisteddfod of Wales, an annual event over nine days with thousands of visitors, or of the Urdd National (children’s) Eisteddfod, lasting a week, the largest youth festival in Europe, nor even of the International Eisteddfod held annually at Llangollen. Yet you mention Iceland, Serbia, Croatia, the Netherlands etc.
Mair McGeever

Menai Bridge, Anglesey

• Your article on the pronunciation of foreign brands (G2, 4 June) omits the vermouth Noilly Prat. They tried advertising it with the slogan “Say ‘Noilly Prat’ and your French will be perfect”. The problem was that hardly anyone could say it, and the campaign was dropped.
Andrew Tucker

• Simon Jenkins (Comment, 4 June) talks of the World Cup’s extortion of billions of dollars from poor Brazil. Brazil isn’t poor. It’s just that the wealth is unevenly distributed among the general population.
Peter Seaton
Stevenage, Hertfordshire

Mondrian, What a man, Framed a chart, Called it art (G2, 5 June).
Louis Hellman

• John Crace on the Queen’s speech (5 June) was not only amusing, but also informative. I had not realised that the royal group was led by the Fitzalan Pursuivant Extraordinary and the Rouge Croix Pursuivant. There’s something to drop into conversation down the pub.
Paul Bagshaw
Southport, Lancashire

• One question: why were those page boys not at school?
Alison Fryer

The debt deal reached between Argentina and the Paris Club group of western countries is not a “good deal” for the South American country (Argentina debt deal could help ease re-entry to international markets, 30 May), but it is fantastic for the UK and others. Argentina defaulted in 2001 when it ran out of money. Most private lenders accepted 33 cents for every dollar owed. That Paris Club countries are now to be repaid double the original debt represents a huge return, six times more than private lenders received. Western countries are breaking their own rules that lenders should be treated equally when debts need to be reduced.

Moreover, Vince Cable admits that 40% of what Argentina owes the UK is from loans to the military junta in the 1970s to buy British military equipment. The Liberal Democrats have a policy to cancel unjust debts from loans to dictatorships, another promise abandoned in government.
Tim Jones
Jubilee Debt Campaign

The debates on what the European project is about miss a salient point made 30 years ago by the historian Alan S Milward. Social democratic and Christian democratic architects of the project ensured its legitimacy by establishing governments that guaranteed political, economic and social rights from the vicissitudes of the market and capital. This contract has been hollowed out by these parties conniving at neoliberal and austerity programmes that would have the founders spinning in their graves.

David Graeber (Savage capitalism is back – and it will not tame itself, 30 May) is correct to point out that the absence of a pole of opposition, in the shape of the Soviet bloc, has fostered the collapse of the regime created by Jean Monnet, Alcide De Gasperi, Robert Schuman et al. No wonder ordinary workers and voters are now doubting the European idea and the big fact that those who waded ashore on D-day thought that they were guaranteeing an end to European civil wars for ever.
Clive Tempest
Westbury on Severn, Gloucestershire

•  Seventy years ago, my aunt Margery was working as a WAAF cypher officer in Hampshire. Her journal for D-day says: “At 0130 hours I climbed on the ops roof to see the most amazing sight I have ever seen. On the runway our fleet of tugs and gliders were taking off perfectly timed; above them at about 5,000 ft came a great formation of US Dakotas flying in V formation of three in a flight – the sky was full of twinkly green and red and amber lights, the air filled with the steady purposeful roar of their engines.

“Away in the distance came another fleet, and further off still a haze of lights betokened yet another. Our aircraft and tows circled below them before streaming off to the south. And as they went the first bombers came back…”
Chris Birch

• Adam Tooze (We’re further than ever from D-day vision, 3 June) makes the point about little Englanders’ view of the invasion, but slips into the same error himself when listing countries playing their part, as he puts it, in “winning the second world war”, omitting to mention that, had Overlord failed, the Soviet Union (where the Germans suffered 95% of their losses) was poised to win the war. The courage of British and American soldiers, the French Resistance and others should be warmly remembered, but we should not ignore that of our Russian allies.
Hamish MacGibbon

• John Pritchard’s claim that the second world war was made possible by the Soviet pact with Hitler (Letters, 29 May) is incorrect. From 1933 the Soviet Union worked for an alliance with Britain, France and Czechoslovakia to hold Hitler at bay. It failed, largely because of the Anglo-French commitment to appeasement. After the rejection of the offer of military support in defence of Czechoslovakia, the Soviets came to the view that the British and French were unwilling to fight. So they followed the lead of Britain and France, opted for appeasement and the non-aggression pact with Hitler. An Anglo-French-Soviet alliance would have saved Czechoslovakia and prevented world war two, with its millions of deaths and the Holocaust.
Bryan Sadler

•  On the 70th anniversary of D-Day your readers may be unaware of the existence of one of the British warships that supported the invasion fleet.  HMS Whimbrel escorted landing craft to the Utah and Omaha beach landings. A veteran of many Atlantic and Russian convoys, she later served in the Pacific and is the only surviving British vessel that was present for the Japanese surrender on 2 September 1945.

HMS Whimbrel was sold to Egypt in 1949 and is now at Alexandria awaiting disposal. The ship is remarkably unchanged from her second world war condition. The HMS Whimbrel (1942-1949) Battle of the Atlantic Memorial Trust aims to restore the ship and locate her in Liverpool in memory of the many thousands of all services who have no known grave.

An urgent appeal has been launched by the trust to raise the purchase price of £250,000. The ship is too fragile to be towed so a further £1m may be needed to carry the ship home. This is the last chance to rescue her from the breakers. Anyone wishing to make a donation please contact the trust secretary, Chris Pile, at
Rod Pudduck
Bradford on Avon, Wiltshire

Your editorial (Extreme politics, 5 June) about alleged attempts to radicalise Birmingham schools states that Mr Gove’s only level of control of an academy is a critical Ofsted inspection. That is not so. An academy is contracted to Mr Gove. Under that contract, all documents relating to a governors’ meeting are sent to his office in advance and two officials of his department are entitled to attend and speak at any meeting of the governing body. Did any officials attend such a meeting at any academy now being inspected by Ofsted? If so, what failings did they detect in the management of the school and to whom did they report them? If they did not attend any such meeting, when Ofsted reports on that academy, presumably it will note the failure of the secretary of state to ensure the participation of his officials, the agents of control at his command, in the management of the school. It is not Ofsted’s job to see that a contract between a school and Mr Gove is properly managed; it is Mr Gove’s job to do that. Whether he did it well or even at all is what Ofsted needs to make clear in its report.
Peter Newsam
Pickering, North Yorkshire

• Let me present a number of points from five Ofsted inspections I have experienced. First, its creation and its growth are essentially politically driven. Its primary goal, with the support of the press, has been to denigrate state education. Second, the Ofsted agenda and inspection framework has continually changed since its inception and is unrelated and unhelpful to the long-term needs of all stakeholders in education.

Third, the process is data-driven. Inspectors arrive at schools with their minds made up and have left “outstanding” lessons early to avoid grading them as such if this has gone against their preconceived notions. Visits have often been a waste of time and energy for all concerned.

Fourth, schools in the same area have had different inspection teams with varying degrees of adherence to the framework. This has made it impossible for parents to judge the relative merits of local schools accurately.

The one consistency has been the make-up of Ofsted teams over the years. The lead inspector is usually a highly competent education professional but cognisant that he/she has quotas to fulfil in terms of gradings. The second inspector is usually a young turk seeking to develop a career and so keen to follow the Ofsted agenda to the letter. The rest are a ragbag of the retired, the willing and the incompetent. On four separate occasions I have had to correct and explain their misunderstandings and lack of knowledge on the very areas they are meant to be inspecting.
Lee Porter
Former assistant head, Bridport, Dorset

• It’s ironic that Michael Gove is taking a strongly anti-Islamic stance in relation to the “Trojan horse” schools while at the same time promoting a wider agenda centred on strong support for faith schools, for state-funded independent schools and for the right of schools and governing bodies to establish their own distinct ethos. This controversy raises wider issues. It provides a strong case for revisiting the 1944 education settlement which entrenched the role of religious groups in the running of schools and for replacing it with a thoroughly secularised system.
Professor Colin Richards
Spark Bridge, Cumbria

• I was a member of the Ofsted team that put one of the first schools into special measures in the 1990s. We agonised long into the night before making the decision, not on whether our judgments were sound, but on the political consequences of such a decision. Subsequently, the head of the “failed” school got a knighthood. Ofsted has always been political and has only ever paid lip-service to improving educational opportunities for children.
Tony Bayliss

• The chair of governors of one of the schools involved in the Trojan horse controversy has held this position for 17 years. It is against the principles of good governance for one person to hold a role of such influence for such a long period of time. This is true whether the chair is a Muslim, white or middle-class.
Mike Lee
Rossendale, Lancashire

• Ofsted is deeply flawed. It has little to do with school improvement and much to do with passing judgment, often on the basis of unreliable data and expertise. Its reports are turgid, reflecting an obsession with controlling language and thought that bears comparison with newspeak. It employs the same dodgy subcontractors of state services as perform so well in other areas of public life.
Roy Boffy
Former Ofsted inspector, Walsall


I don’t recognise much in Grace Dent’s rant about the “baby boomer generation” (3 June), and am sorry to have to spoil it with a fact.

The “born in 1945 to 1965 bracket” baby boom she refers to, a common currency for the internet generation, describes what happened in the US. ONS data (Pension Trends, Ch.2, 2012) for the UK tell a quite different story.

Here the birth rate spiked in the late 1940s, but by the early-mid 1950s had fallen back close to that in the years before the Second World War. Then it slowly rose again to give a shallower peak around 1965/6. Thus there were two distinct “baby booms”, with greater numbers in the later one.

I belong to the first, postwar, group, for whom the notion that “we had free university education” is grotesque. It’s true that maybe one in 10 went to university, which the state paid for, but this gripe conveniently forgets the nine out of 10 who didn’t. Most of them never had a chance because they were consigned as “failures” to secondary modern schools at age 11, and entered the workplace at 16.

And as young adults starting families in the 1970s, oh how we enjoyed 8-12 per cent mortgage rates and annual price inflation some years of over 20 per cent. But so what – was it ever easy for the young, and is it really surprising that older people have got most of the money? When was it not so ?

This is another example of misidentification of a minority group based on lazy generalisations. The story seems to have wide currency in the media but it really is tosh.

Professor Guy Woolley, Nottingham

I must object to Graham Hudson’s description of us baby boomers as a “lucky” generation (letter, 4 June). We had good opportunities in our lives because our parents voted, as we did in our turn, for a decent and equitable society which levelled the playing fields in health, education and housing. Subsequent generations voted for greed and privilege under Thatcher, Blair and Cameron.

Not luck, Mr Hudson, but belief in social justice got us our good lives.

Jane Jakeman, Oxford

Londoners’ taxes subsidise the rest

I’m sure that, like me, most of your London-based readers did not take Yasmin Alibhai-Brown’s suggestion of an independent London very seriously. One bunch of secessionists from the UK is quite enough to be going along with! However, my mind might be changed if there are more examples of the views expressed by your correspondents Peter English and Anthony Ingleton (letters, 3 June).

There aren’t any authoritative figures comparing public spending in the nations and regions of the UK with the taxes raised there, but the consultancy Oxford Economics has done some work in this area in the past. This indicated that, at the end of the long boom in 2006-7, Wales paid for two thirds of the public spending taking place there and Yorkshire around four-fifths. In 2006-7 London’s taxes generated a minimum surplus over spending on London’s needs of £12bn, which went towards public services in less well-off parts of the country, such as Wales and Yorkshire.

No London money, and Wales and Yorkshire (and some other parts of the UK) would have the invidious choice of higher taxes and/or more cuts in services.

Mr English suggests that an independent London ought to be treated in the same way as West Berlin was treated by the Communist regimes around it. Well, that certainly worked a treat for East Germany, didn’t it?

Mr Ingleton compares London unfavourably with Paris, Rome and Vienna. They are all lovely cities, but at the moment the flow of young people seeking opportunity and work is into London from much of Europe, including no doubt some from Paris or Rome or Vienna. The young immigrants can see that London is the most economically dynamic and culturally diverse and interesting city in Europe, if not the world.

Philip Hamshare, London SE27

The Queen mouths  a mixed-up slogan

The Queen in her speech at the opening of Parliament said it was her government’s aim to work towards a “stronger economy and a fairer society”.

I’ve a feeling the Government has got this slogan the wrong way round. Shouldn’t we be aiming for a stronger society and a fairer economy, where all citizens are empowered to contribute to the common good, no matter what their perceived status in society?

A stronger society means public servants being of equal worth to entrepreneurs, and the disadvantaged and vulnerable being treated with compassion. A fairer economy means enabling all working-age citizens to reach their full potential, employers paying all their staff a fair wage, and the Government pursuing far more vigorously all those in society who put their own interests before those of a wider society.

David Eggington, Sheffield

Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan are in the midst of civil war; Egypt and Thailand on the threshold. The NHS is in crisis. Food bank queues stretch round the block. House-building is at an almost all-time-low. Energy prices rocket. And Her Majesty’s Bag-Carriers bag our carriers.

Godfrey H Holmes, Chesterfield, Derbyshire

It’s May who looks like a leader

A Tale of Two Ministers surely explains the alleged spat between Michael Gove and Theresa May. Michael Gove’s record as Education Secretary has been one of meddle and muddle, with an increasing toll of failed free schools and faltering academies. Gove has spoken of giving power to parents, while micromanaging education policy and issuing more daily edicts than a North Korean dictator.

In contrast, Theresa May has led firmly and quietly from the centre while devolving power to local people. While Gove has fiddled about with the national curriculum, Mrs May has made our streets safer and overseen a consistent annual fall in crime figures. Gove has become an embarrassment while May has become a credible candidate to succeed David Cameron.

Anthony Rodriguez, Staines, Middlesex

Better together on D-Day

It feels small-minded, and even disrespectful to the many brave Scots, English, Welsh and Irish who fought bravely and gave their lives, that on the anniversary of D-Day, Scotland is even considering breaking away from a union which has served well Scotland, its people and the world.

Operation Neptune, the largest amphibious operation ever, was a magnificent example of what the British can achieve together: it was planned by the British, commanded by a Scot (Admiral Sir Bertram Ramsay), equipped by the British (who provided over 80 per cent of the vessels) and Americans (the rest). The combined co-ordination and manning by English, Welsh, Scots, Irish, Americans, Canadians and other nations ensured success.

Scots and Scotland will continue to have influence and serve the world best as part of a G8 country.

William Ramsay, Coldstream, Berwickshire

Tangled narrative of Parthenon Marbles

Alas, I fear to suggest that Philip Stephenson’s marbles are not exactly where they belong (letter, 3 June).

Am I right to conclude, from his argument against returning the Parthenon Marbles to Greece, that if I espy some objects in my neighbour’s possession which I believe would “converse … to create a narrative” with objects currently in my possession I would be entitled on contextual grounds to remove them to the “free environment” of my house or garden? Surely not?

Matthew Hisbent, Oxford

Greetings from Yorkshire

Mark Redhead recommends the Yorkshire greeting “Now then” (letter, 5 June)? Shades of Jimmy Savile: “Now then…now then…”

Please, no! “Eh up” will do just fine for now, and, perhaps, then.

Lin Hawkins, Ashcott, Somerset

Mark Redhead might be interested to know that Constantine was proclaimed Roman Emperor in York in 306, and that there is today, in his capital, Istanbul/Constantinople, an area called Eyup.

Coincidence? I think not.

Roger Moorhouse, Todmorden,  West Yorkshire

Marshy wonder of the modern world

A marshy peninsula between two estuaries seems an odd choice, in today’s climate, for the site of a new garden city (“Garden city settles on marshy ground”, 5 June).

 Perhaps they will build it on stilts, and its gardens will become a new wonder, like the hanging gardens of ancient Babylon.

Sue Norton, York


Rex Features

Last updated at 9:17PM, June 5 2014

Surely fairytales stimulate a child’s imagination, so that it can be better scientist

Sir, Imagination is the springboard of science. It is also the stuff of fairy-tales. It is a driver of religion. It is an essential element of human being. Creativity and the betterment of our lot begins with the musing of what if? Empirical investigation arises out of inquisitive speculation.

To be sure, plenty of wacky ideas are born of flawed thinking and improbable metaphysics, but you don’t overcome that by abandoning time-proven sources of imaginative input and stimulus. Rather, the worldview naivety and unthinking gullibility so rightly bemoaned by Professor Dawkins (“He killed God … now he’s after Santa”, June 5) is better countered by the promotion of critical thinking and the imaginative openness of mind that eschews closed dogmatic certainties. A fertile imagination and applied critical thinking are both required for good science. They also happen to be needful for good religion. And both are about more than merely explaining our existence; they inform and enrich it.

Professor Douglas Pratt

University of Waikato, New Zealand

Sir, Will Thomas the Tank Engine and friends be next to be axed by Professor Dawkins, on the grounds that locomorphogenesis is statistically unlikely — and also because they were the construct of an Anglican clergyman?

Peter Arnold

Wellingborough, Northants

Sir, Even as an adult, I still receive presents every Christmas purporting to be from Father Christmas. It reminds me that giving is a joy, even (or especially) when the donor does so anonymously, and it inspires me to do the same. The mythical tradition surrounding St Nicholas teaches this more effectively than any scientific text book. In categorising anything that isn’t scientific as “second-rate”, Richard Dawkins misses out on a profound truth.

David Culley


Sir, Richard Dawkins is far too critical about our childhood fantasies. Childhood is about simple beliefs which broaden our imaginative mind. Rationality develops later with the acquisition of empirical knowledge.

My atheist father instilled his belief during my childhood but I also used to enjoy the mythological tales from the great Sanskrit epics narrated to me by mother. These created a mesmeric and magical world to me. I don’t think my developing mind was harmed in any way from such innocuous stories.

Dr Sam Banik, FRCPath

London N10

Sir, There was an interesting juxtaposition in your news pages (June 5).

On page two you reported that Archbishop Justin Welby spent his day in Nigeria working for the release of 200 abducted schoolgirls. On the facing page you reported that the scientist Richard Dawkins was chiding parents for reading fairy tales to their children. It is hard to imagine either of them doing what the other did.

The Rev David A Baker

East Dean, E Sussex

John Prescott is selling one of his Jaguars to reduce air pollution – sounds good but is it quite logical?

Sir, I read that John Prescott is selling one of his Jags to reduce air pollution (June 4). Surely he should be buying as many Jags as possible, as he can only drive one at a time. As the owner of four old V8-powered cars, I believe I am doing the right thing for the environment by preventing others from driving them.

Peter lloyd

Hatfield Peverel, Essex

Sir, So John Prescott is selling one of his two Jags to help reduce air pollution and now they can both be out on the roads at the same time.

Good thinking, that. Perhaps I can save time by selling one of my two watches.

Nick Campling

Peterborough, Cambs

Look to your membership cards – they can get you out of tricky situations without a passport

Sir, Some years ago a fellow member of my choir forgot his passport but was allowed to travel from Heathrow to Edinburgh on his only form of ID, his choir membership card. The airport official said “We don’t think a member of the London Gay Men’s Chorus would be a terrorist.”

John Moysen

London SE21

While socks continue to single up mysteriously, people with small feet are finding life harder and harder

Sir, Matthew Parris mentions his “fruitless sock-pairing frenzy” (June 4). Husband alive — bags of odd socks. Since he died — none. I do wear socks all the time. Spooky or what?

Jackie Williams

Shaftesbury Dorset

Sir, Increasingly women’s shoes are made in size 4 and up. I take a
size 2-2½. I used to be able to wear a size 3 with much padding and many socks but even 3s are getting bigger.

There are still many of us with small feet who would love to be able to buy a reasonably priced fashion shoes. There is a market — I know someone who takes 1-1½.

In one branch of a national chain the assistant told me that when the buyers come to do the re-ordering they never ask the assistants what they have been unable to supply but simply reorder more in the sizes that have sold. I was told that it is shoes in the smaller and larger sizes that are the most requested but of course they are never supplied.

Jane S. Haworth

Thames Ditton, Surrey

In this year of anniversaries, is it too late to suggest an addition to the Last Night of the Proms programme?

Sir, Sir Henry Wood’s Fantasia on British Sea Songs, written in 1905 for the centenary of Trafalgar, was for decades a popular feature of the Last Night of the Proms. This jolly salute to Nelson drew on many sources, including the haunting melody Tom Bowling by Charles Dibdin, who died 200 years ago in July.

This is also the 350th anniversary of the Royal Marines, whose bands are renowned for the quality of their music and drill. With these two significant anniversaries this year, in addition to that of the Great War, it is surely time the BBC reintroduces Fantasia on British Sea Songs in September. Its medley and melody are made for the melodrama of the maestro, musicians and merry music makers alike.

Lester May
(Lieutenant Commander RN, retired)

London NW1

The Knowhow shed is big, but there are two in the US which would each swallow a dozen of them

Sir, Ann Treneman described the Knowhow Distribution Centre in Newark as the largest shed in the world (June 3). I am sorry but the Knowhow “shed” at 630,000 sq feet comes into the “large garden” category on a world scale. The Boeing Aircraft Company has two “sheds” in Everett and Renton, Washington, each of 4 million plus sq feet and each one would comfortably hold 12 Knowhow “sheds” but they would be stacked two deep.

Alan Duffield

Upper Breakish, Isle of Skye


SIR – Some years ago when in Normandy to see the remains of the wonderful and successful Mulberry Harbour, I bought a French book, printed in English, called “100 Dates of French History”.

Imagine my horror and disgust to find the entry for “American landings in Normandy” in 1944, without any mention of the troops of Britain and the Empire, which were in the majority. I wonder how many French children and their parents are misled by this anti-British history.

Michael Smedley
Radford Semele, Warwickshire

SIR – The majority of films covering the D-Day landings show a lot of footage of American troops storming the beaches of Normandy, but very little of the British and Canadian assaults.

Could it be that the American commanders thought it more important than the British to have lots of cameramen covering the attack?

As a result of this filming, the youngsters of today could be forgiven for thinking that we played a minor role in the D-Day landings.

Gordon Green
Porlock, Somerset

SIR – It distresses me that Gary Victor (Letters, June 4) should object to Government funding for “events based on attic rummages for mainly unknown relatives from the First World War”.

My father fought in the Salonika Campaign of September 1918, winning the Military Cross for rescuing five parties under fire. Despite being “blown up by a shell”, as the citation states, he recovered.

Not having children myself, I have recently reluctantly had to pass on his Military Cross, together with papers including the citation and the recommendation from the men under him, to the National Army Museum in Chelsea.

David Challen
Chandler’s Ford, Hampshire

SIR – My mother had just given birth to my younger brother and was relaxing in the maternity ward of Beckenham hospital when in burst Dr Shipsey. “We’re back in Europe” he shouted, “and the first man on the beaches was an Irishman.”

The mothers all cheered, but then had to cope with all the babies that had awoken and were adding their cheers to the news.

Bob Hill
Whitchurch, Herefordshire

The Queen’s Speech

SIR – How pleasing for Her Majesty’s subjects in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to hear in the Queen’s Speech that more powers will be devolved to them.

However, this Coalition Government seems to have lost sight of the affront to democracy in England of the West Lothian question. The English are not asking for regional assemblies, nor another separate and costly parliament, just that MPs from other parts of the United Kingdom don’t vote on purely English legislation.

Michael Staples
Seaford, East Sussex

SIR – All the Queen’s Speech really gave us was a charge for plastic bags. Is that all that the Coalition could knock together?

Max Harris
Bishops Waltham, Hampshire

SIR – If only Matt’s cartoon of the Queen announcing that her Government would spend the next year lobbing paper balls at the bin and staring out the window would come to pass. We have more than enough legislation and taxes already.

Robert Warner
West Woodhay, Berkshire

Syria: they haven’t got it

SIR – After Britain’s destabilising interventions in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya, and our support for anti-Western elements in Egypt, there is no appetite among the vast majority of the electorate for intervention in Syria (Letters, June 3), not even for “mentoring”, and certainly not for providing military training for anyone involved in that conflict. This is despite the often one-sided media reporting from Syria, which was a stable country before the Western-backed insurrection.

Should the Free Syrian Army and its allies succeed in toppling Assad, it is unlikely that any sort of election would take place there. The establishment of an anti-Western regime sympathetic to al-Qaeda would be much more probable.

British voters trust that the Government has learnt its lesson and will stay well clear of any further interference in the Middle East, where history proves that we just can’t win – those of us who served in Aden and faced rioters in Benghazi certainly found that out.

Lt Col Noel McCleery (retd)
Winchester, Hampshire

Finish your dinner

SIR – When asked what was for dinner, my grandmother would invariably reply “Bally-yan-yan”, the origin and meaning of which was totally obscure and probably part of a now-extinct Norfolk dialect that she reverted to when stressed.

Paul Strong
Claxby, Lincolnshire

SIR – In all of the letters concerning “What’s for dinner?”, it seems as if there is a common theme: providing interesting meals on a daily basis can become an absolute chore. Deflecting with silly answers is a ploy to stop the question.

My family members never ask. They are just grateful to avoid food poisoning.

Gill Pemberton
Medbourne, Leicestershire

Save the date

SIR – I recently received a letter from my GP’s surgery. The date, as postmarked, is May 20 2014. The letter invites me for a shingles vaccine: “The clinic is being held on Friday 28th February 2013”.

Should I contact Doctor Who and ask him to drop me off?

Tom McAlpin

SIR – Many disabled people strongly oppose legalising assisted suicide. We are deeply concerned that a change in the law will lead to disabled people – and other vulnerable people, including the elderly – feeling pressure to end their lives.

Why is it that when people who are not disabled want to commit suicide, we try to talk them out of it, but when a disabled person wants to do so, we focus on how we can make that possible?

The campaign to legalise assisted suicide reinforces deep-seated beliefs that the lives of terminally ill and disabled people are not worth as much as other people’s.

Dr Alice Maynard
Chairman, Scope
Dr Phil Friend
Chairman, Disability Rights UK
Baroness Campbell of Surbiton
Baroness Grey-Thompson
Ann Macfarlane
Dr Kevin Fitzpatrick
Mik Scarlet
Liz Carr

Agony and Ecstasy

SIR – It is a pity there wasn’t enough space in Obituaries for all those who did not benefit from Alexander Shulgin’s introduction of Ecstasy to the drug market.

Charles Foster
Chalfont St Peter, Buckinghamshire

A princely prospect

SIR – In the Sixties I lived in a flat which had a loo looking out over the rooftops of Kensington towards the Albert Memorial (Letters, June 3).

It gave one a wonderful sense of well-being to sit on the throne and look across at Albert seated on his.

John Ormsby
London W4

Earl Grey tea and the benefits of bergamot

SIR – As one of the doctors involved in the clinical research on the bergamot phenolic fraction, marketed worldwide as BergaMet, I do not believe that Earl Grey tea will have the same effect as statins in fighting heart disease (report, March 30).

Bergamot oil is taken from the peel of the bergamot orange, not the juice extract. The peel has not been shown to have any effect on cholesterol whatsoever. It is only the juice extract marketed as BergaMet that has the effect described in your article.

BergaMet itself is not a replacement for statins but we have published a paper recently in the International Journal of Cardiology demonstrating a clear synergism using BergaMet and statins together to help lower cholesterol. We have also published another paper in Advances in Biologic Chemistry showing that BergaMet improves the cholesterol profile and protects against fatty liver.

None of these benefits have been shown with the oil used to flavour Earl Grey tea.

Dr Ross Walker
Lindfield, New South Wales, Australia

SIR – Has it not occurred to Kirstie Allsopp and Allison Pearson that many young women choose to go to university to escape being trapped by their own fertility, or at least to have the opportunity of doing so? It may be the case that “one in four female graduates will never have children”, but that does not necessarily mean that they all wanted them in the first place. Graduates are intelligent people, trained to think independently and to draw their own conclusions.

Not very long ago women were a minority in higher education; now they are a significant majority. Possibly rather fewer than three quarters of them will become mothers for all sorts of considered reasons, not simply because of a time factor.

Michael Liversidge
Emeritus Dean, Faculty of Arts, University of Bristol

SIR – As a 17-year-old girl sitting my A-levels and hoping to go to university, I find Kirstie Allsopp’s comments extremely disheartening. Many young women value academic aspirations over a traditional domestic role and this should not be discouraged.

Gemma Pimlot
Old Leake, Lincolnshire

SIR – A gynaecologist friend says that, physically, 18 is the optimal age at which to give birth. Another friend had a child at 19. By the time she was 37, her daughter was independent and she was free to devote 30 unbroken years to her vocation.

Is she happy? Well, happier than many women either side of 40 who are either childless or consulting fertility experts.

Michael Upton

SIR – As a working mother with children aged 26, 17 and two years old, I know it is perfectly possible to have a career and raise children. It just requires spending a large amount of your salary on child care.

Verena Cornwall
Winchester, Hampshire

SIR – What Kirstie Allsopp advises is exactly how I came to be trapped in an abusive marriage with no means of escape. I had no qualifications and no chance of getting a job that would support me and two young children.

Financial independence is the only way in which a woman can be in an equal relationship with a man.

Margaret Blake
London SE11

SIR – Getting a degree is one step for women to take towards becoming self-sufficient. Women should go out into the world with the determination not to depend on a man. You may meet a nice man. You may not. You cannot rely on the courts to treat you fairly if a marriage ends.

June Bennett
Lytham, Lancashire

SIR – I dread to think how lonely I would be were it not for my large family, and nine great-grandchildren. They exist mainly because my granddaughters trained for their professions immediately after formal education, marrying and raising children soon after that and working part-time.

John Vaughan
Tadworth, Surrey

Irish Times:

Sir, – Would Catholic Church leaders care to tell us how many nuns died of malnutrition and associated illnesses while working in the Bons Secours children’s home and other similar institutions? Were they buried alongside their precious charges in a mass grave? – Yours, etc,


Tweed Street,


Victoria, Australia.

Sir, – There is some loss of perspective in the recent outcry about the sad infant deaths in mother-and-baby residential homes in the past.

Cohorting infants in institutions puts small infants at risk from cross-infection, particularly gastroenteritis. Early infection to the gastrointestinal tract can cause severe bowel damage. Without the availability of recent technology, many such infants would die from malabsorption resulting in marasmus [severe malnutrition]. The risks would have been much increased if the infants were not breast fed.

In foundling homes in the US in the early 20th century, mortality was sometimes reported as greater than 90 per cent among infants cared for in such institutions. Lack of understanding of nutrition, cross-infection associated with overcrowding by today’s standards, and the dangers of unpasteurised human milk substitutes were the main factors. – Yours, etc,



North Circular Road,


Sir, – The proposal to link public sector pensions to inflation in order to contain the growing unsustainability of the present system (Editorial, June 5th) is a distraction from the real problem – how to create a sustainable pension system for everyone.

Sooner rather than later the Government, any government, must grasp the nettle and create a universal pension scheme for everyone – public sector, private sector, those working for someone else, the self-employed, the unemployed, the very rich and the very poor. There should be no tax breaks and everyone should contribute according to their means.

That should be reflected, to a degree, by what they receive, with significant weighting towards those on low to middle incomes.

It would meet with massive opposition from the very rich, employer organisations, trade unions and above all the pensions industry; but the longer it is delayed the harder it will be to create such a system before the current one implodes.

Hopefully I will be too old to be around by the time that happens. The vast majority of your readers will still be around. – Yours, etc,


Station Road,


Sir, – I have been living and working in Ireland since 2007 when I was appointed to a permanent academic post at Trinity College Dublin. For me, living in Ireland is a dream come true. I was born and raised near Seattle in the US and always imagined a life in Ireland.

Perhaps unknown to many in the public is that any non-EU national is required to register with the Garda every year, with a fee of €300 each time. This includes highly skilled workers who have moved to Ireland permanently. Each year since 2007, I have spent the better half of a day waiting for my stamp at Burgh Quay. I am not writing about the past, but rather about a change at the Garda National Immigration Bureau (GNIB), Burgh Quay, Dublin.

Only recently this office was made a centre for processing registration nationally, and the result is that people like me, and my wife and six-month-old daughter are required to queue into the alleyway with between 50 to 100 others for an hour or two before being allowed to queue inside for four or five hours more.

This new overcrowding, misdirection and general confusion mean that in order to get GNIB cards for my wife and me, I arrive at 7.30am, wait outside in the elements, just to begin an eight-hour day waiting for a stamp and card. The problems apply also to those who need re-entry visas from the same office, and who are turned away from the office by 8am, having travelled some distance, and often at real expense.

Surely guests to Ireland, who are here to serve and contribute, and who are doing so according to the laws of the land, should expect more dignity when doing so. Since non-EU students from abroad also must endure the same, and because Irish universities are keen to recruit these students, there is certainly a better foot to put forward than this.

In writing this I do so not to criticise the officers, but rather to encourage the Government to prioritise investing in a solution to an undignified problem. If there is any doubt, just imagine your cardiologist from India getting drenched with his wife and kids in an alley at the quay side each year to register with the Garda. – Yours, etc,


Department of Religions

and Theology,

Trinity College Dublin,

Dublin 2.

Sir, – There is some truth to Vincent Browne’s account of the Labour Party, but it is not the entire story (“Labour has never really had ‘core vales’”, Opinion & Analysis, June 4th).

The older leadership was intensely conservative; they lacked the confidence and imagination to project an alternative to the status quo, even if they wanted to, which they didn’t.

But there were always rank-and-file members of the Labour Party who saw themselves – perhaps still do – as socialists. Theirs, however, was not the socialism of James Connolly. They were too respectable for that. People looking for revolutionary politics could always join the Communist Party or team up with left-wing republicans.

Their socialism was that of the British Labour Party and the postwar welfare state. Some had lived in Britain and brought their politics back with them; universal access to free healthcare and education seemed worth striving for.

The abandonment of anything remotely resembling Labour values by Tony Blair left this segment of the Labour Party here severely adrift. The section associated with Democratic Left had already lost all hope with the collapse of the Soviet Union; the move to an anodyne liberalism, silly red roses and all, was inevitable, as there was nowhere else to go.

Any chance of Labour reconnecting with its social democratic past is dependent on the some kind of revitalising of the broad European left in the search for solutions to the crisis. Right now, there is no sign of that happening. – Yours, etc,


Ceannt Fort,

Mount Brown,

Sir, – Patsy McGarry (“Just two Catholic priests in Dublin aged under 40, says Martin”, Home News, June 4th) refers to Archbishop Diarmuid Martin’s vision for the future of the Catholic Church in Dublin, with laypeople, deacons and religious led by fewer and fewer priests.

While the church still has a small number of mature men becoming seminarians, resolving the priest deficit crisis will require decisive action by church leaders sooner or later to allow suitable married men to be ordained. Whatever the merits and equality argument for women priests, there is no theological barrier to allowing married men to become priests. Cardinal Hume in England persuaded the Vatican to allow a number of married Anglican priests to become Catholic priests in the 1990s. – Yours, etc,


Ballyroan Park,

Templeogue, Dublin 16

Sir, – After listening and reading so much criticism by so many politicians and other individuals, as a former member I feel compelled to write in defence of the Garda Síochána. I would question many on whether they have vested interests in expressing their views.

Most make their criticism in the broadest manner, by making it against the Garda Síochána in general but then speak of individual members or groups within the force. When they are challenged on the matter, in most cases they will speak of the vast majority of hard-working members of the force carrying out their duties. However, they will already have sucked the morale from those very same members.

The force has been denuded of station accommodation, manpower, transport and finance over the past few years and could certainly do without sweeping criticism of its efforts in keeping law and order throughout the country.

Furthermore, regarding the insinuation that all of the senior ranks of the force are unfit to hold the position of commissioner and that, to add insult to injury, we should look towards a civilian or, worse still in my eyes, a British police officer for our next commissioner, that really is the last straw.

If people need to cast doubt on the abilities of others, they should be brave enough to identify those they wish to criticise and not tarnish the many by making ill-judged and sweeping statements. – Yours, etc,


Bellefield Road,

Sir, – As a GP, I was not surprised to read of the “mess”, as Paul Cullen describes it, surrounding the medical card scheme (“Confusion still reigns over medical card mess”, Home News, June 5th).

Would all politicians stop promising things they cannot give with regard to healthcare and free GP care? There are huge costs involved in terms of money and staff. Are people prepared to pay far higher taxes for all these “new” medical cards covering as yet unspecified conditions? I can already hear the calls to Joe Duffy from people with medical conditions not recommended for coverage by the “expert” group.

And would the Department of Health and HSE kindly stop making long-term medical policy “on the hoof”. – Yours, etc,


Main Street,


Dublin 14.

Sir, – The Irish Times has reported extensively on the king of Spain’s abdication. I refer in particular to your editorial (“Passing on the crown”, May 4th) and to an article regarding this event of historical significance for Spain, which also commented on the king’s role during the transition from dictatorship to democracy in my country (“Unfinished business for democracy in Spain”, Opinion & Analysis, June 4th).

Regrettably, your editorial affirms that the “transition to constitutional democracy [was] far more peaceful – though still bloody – than anyone had imagined possible”. Similarly, the Opinion & Analysis article states that the transition “happened in a relatively bloodless way”.

In my opinion, this is not a fair and accurate description of the transition. It is widely recognised that the Spanish political transition was a peaceful and bloodless process, based on a spirit of consensus among political and social forces, which made possible the adoption in 1978 of our constitution. The Spanish transition has been internationally praised as an example of successful national reconciliation.

Your editorial rightly states that “very few European political leaders of our times . . . measure up to [the king’s] stature” and that many Spaniards are deeply grateful for his role in “clearing the way from that dictatorship to four unprecedented decades of freedom and prosperity”.

The announcement of the king’s abdication opens a new political cycle in Spain. A new generation, represented by the future King Felipe VI, is now called to respond to the challenges of our times, building on the achievements of our successful transition. – Yours, etc,


Ambassador of Spain

to Ireland,

Sir, – Barry Walsh in his letter (June 5th) assessing the relative independence of elected “Independent” councillors while an excellent summation, got one thing wrong. The fact that a group of genuinely independent national politicians lent support and guidance to a number of genuinely Independent candidates cannot in any way indicate that they would, if elected, jump to any diktat of Independent national politicians.

Team Lowry, as Mr Walsh suggests, is a political party by another name and is the kind of structure, together with the “Independents” with party political form, which prevents genuine Independents from achieving success in Seanad elections. – Yours, etc,



Enniscorthy, Co Wexford.

Sir, – I beg to differ with Jonathan Baum (June 5th). The sight of a head of government going to a foreign country to lobby on behalf of his compatriots who are “illegal immigrants” in that country is not an embarrassment.

What is embarrassing is that the head of our government, and many members of our parliament, make a virtue of such lobbying while devoting considerably less political capital to the plight of the 30,000 undocumented migrants estimated to reside here in Ireland. A plight, I might add, which they have within their gift to relieve. – Yours, etc,



Co Kerry.

Sir, – I was saddened when I read Sarah Waldron’s article “Smart clubbing, unholy nights” (Life Style, June 4th). She writes with enthusiasm about the Dublin club that uses for its theme different religious holidays, such as the Immaculate Conception. The accompanying photograph of two of the young men behind the “exciting” idea wielding crucifixes while standing in front of a statue of Christ added to the sacrilege. How fortunate this club was to have been given free publicity in your newspaper. – Yours, etc,




Co Tyrone.

Sir, – So Adrian Mulryan has found the solution to the housing crisis, with all defaulting “amateur” landlords to be forced to sell ( June 4th). Whether “professional” landlords must meet the same fate is less clear. No mention, of course, of the responsibilities of the banks and government which led to such an unprecedented property crash. It would appear that in Mr Mulryan’s world the investor should take the hit regardless of the consequences or the circumstances. If only it were so – banks and unsecured bond holders anyone? – Yours, etc,


Nutley Road,

Dublin 4.

Sir, – There have been some reports recently that the Reform Alliance may be on the way to forming a new political party (“Reform Alliance gears up”, Home News, June 4th). Not a good idea. The strong message at the local and European elections was that we have mostly had quite enough of political parties in all their various colours, shapes and sizes.

It seems to me that we want our elected representatives to be regularly accountable to those who do the electing and not to their party leaders under an antiquated whip system.

For the electorate to have to wait five years in the long grass is not really very democratic, is it? What about a “No More Political Parties” party instead? – Yours, etc,


Braemor Grove,

Dublin 14.

Sir, – John Bellew (May 26th) is critical of “Eamon de Valera’s decision to keep Ireland neutral” during the second World War. It is worth stressing that a national consensus and all-party agreement backed the popular policy. Two Oireachtas members only – James Dillon and Frank McDermott – dissented.

According to your correspondent, “Hitler flirted with the idea of invading Ireland”. If so, he was not alone. In a broadcast on May 14th, 1945, Winston Churchill stated “had it not been for the loyalty and friendship of Northern Ireland, we should have been forced to come to close quarters with Mr de Valera”. – Yours, etc,


St Patrick’s Road, Dublin 9.

A chara, – Gabrielle Hyland (June 5th) fails to understand why men dressed in women’s clothing are allowed to participate in the women’s mini-marathon. Has she never heard of drag racing? – Is mise,



Düsseldorf, Germany.

Sir, – Maybe the poor fellas are confused by the word “mini”. – Yours, etc,


Mount Argus Court,

Harold’s Cross, Dublin 6W.

Irish Independent:

Letters: Love not power must be the dynamic of the church

Published 06/06/2014|02:30

Pope Francis: is facing history ofchurch abuses head-on. Photo: Reuters

* Fact of history; Christ founded the Christian church. He commissioned the apostles and their successors to guide his church, not by power but by love. For the first three centuries they obeyed him, for the most part.

Since then, with few exceptions, the church leaders have disobeyed him. They have blatantly ignored his command and have governed the church by naked power, in direct contradiction to his clear instructions.

No doubt, many church leaders were well-intentioned, but grossly wrong-headed, in failing to remember Christ’s basic principle, love not power.

All these terrible abuses have resulted from the hierarchy’s gross betrayal of Christ, and his adamant command. Francis is the first pope in 1,700 years to face this glaring fact of history head-on.

Anyone commenting today on the church should be professional enough to make this clear distinction. The church is one thing, the way it has been governed is something altogether different.

For example, would all these abuses have happened, if women had not been systematically excluded from any say in how his church was run?

For the believing Christian, the church is Christ at work in the world, in spite of the weaknesses of mere men.




* When a celebrity dies, the press shouts it from the rooftops, while an unmarked grave discovered in Tuam, Co Galway, hardly made the headlines.

The bones of 800 children were heaped together in an undignified manner. They all had one thing in common – they were born or brought into this world outside of the sacred sacrament of holy matrimony.

Oh, the disgrace. I’m sure these were the words used when the pregnancy was announced, followed by “what will the neighbours think?” Send them away before disgrace is brought on our doorstep.

We must remember this was the time when Ireland was ruled by the crozier and a long-nosed man who caused a civil war.

A child’s grave cannot speak.

Nor justice ever be done to those who caused the suffering and pain.

Be assured it will happen again and again.

Rest easy little ones. At least you are at peace.

The crozier now has little power, sacred vows become obsolete.

Someone once said: This must never happen again. I forget who that was. Do you remember, anyone?




* So, in many homes up and down this country, meal portions have been cut dramatically. Young children make their way to school on an empty stomach, and parents fret over how the mortgage will be paid because one of both are unemployed.

Then comes May, June and as the colleges and secondary schools close for the summer, the drastic decrease of young people in this country is plain for all to see. Most have gone on J1s, instead of sitting at home penniless for the summer. None can get jobs in this country. Why? Because of the absolute greed from businessmen and women. It disgusts me.

For those left at home, there is the constant nagging to get a job that pays good money, not to use it to go out and drink and smoke and other things young people are accused of, but in many cases to put two days’ food on the table. Yet, on a quick estimation, only 15-20pc of jobs pay that and for every one of those there are thousands of applications.

Were the powers that be to take a trip to the airport, they would see tears as parents say goodbye to their children, and vice versa for, in some cases, three months due to the lack of morality this government, who are the cause of all this and can’t give all of its people equal rights, nearly 77 years to the day since the constitution was agreed by the Irish people, let alone give its young people decent pay.




* The subject of trade unions has always been a contentious one in this country; the Lock-Out of 1913 being probably the most striking example of how trade unions can divide opinion. Members and supporters of trade unions point to the need for a representative body for workers, while those of a different mindset often accuse unions of disruption or ‘holding the country to ransom’.

If anything ever emphasised the need for trade unions, however, the situation at Bausch & Lomb in Waterford does just that. The prospect of 200 people losing their jobs and the remaining 900 workers having their wages cut by one-fifth would be bad enough if its Waterford facility was loss-making and the cuts were a necessity to ensure viability.

However, as far as I’m aware, there has been no statement from the company that indicates that the Waterford facility is not profitable. The justification being put forward is that the cost base at Waterford is 30pc higher than its facility in Rochester, New York.

God forbid that workers in two different cities, on two different continents would face two very different costs of living and two very different sets on taxes.




* Last night I had a dream that a thousand candles shone brightly from the windows of Aras an Uachtarain, welcoming all those homeless poor souls eking out a pitiful existence within earshot of Phoenix Park.

President Michael D Higgins, driven by a sense of deep and innate humanitarian philanthropy, had thrown open the doors of his expansive abode to offer succour and shelter to the most destitute.

Children played on the manicured lawns safe in the knowledge that they were, at last, well fed, cared for and human. For the first time in years their parents felt protected, away from the dehumanising ravages of austerity and poverty.

This extraordinary gesture and leadership sparked off a wave of kindness and demonstrated, even to this government, as well as to people of all hues, the compassionate and immediate way to deal with a scourge that has been allowed to explode beyond crisis point.

Alas, as with all dreams, I woke up to the reality of life in Ireland, a land skewed between those on the inside who have plenty and those outside the pale who have nothing, and, as ever, never the twain shall meet.




* I am one of the ‘bureaucratic overpaid public sector employees’ to which Betty Kiely refers (Letters, May 31) and wish to point out that from October 29, 2013 local authorities no longer issue drivers licences. From that date it was handed over to a private company called NDLS.

Ms Kiely was talking to employees of this company and not public sector employees.

No doubt, she was one of the general public who was baying for the blood of public sector employees and for changes to be made. This is the future for the general public as local authority services are eroded and privatised, so get used to it. Every service will be centralised and the public will have to deal with more ‘employees with robotic functions’ on the minimum wage.



Irish Independent


June 5, 2014

5 June2014 Recovery

No jog around the park I still have arthritis in my left knee

Scrabbletoday, I win the game, and gets over 400 perhaps Marywill win tomorrow


Margaret Pawley – obituary

Margaret Pawley was a back-room girl with the SOE in Cairo and Italy who later made her mark as a writer on Church history

Margaret Pawley

Margaret Pawley

6:00PM BST 04 Jun 2014

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Margaret Pawley, who has died aged 91, was one of an elite group of young women who were recruited to work with the Special Operations Executive during the Second World War; she later became a historian and a leading member of the ecumenical movement.

She was born Margaret Grozier Herbertson on March 22 1922 in Koblenz, where her father was a senior civil servant in the post-war Control Commission. She spoke German and French by the time she arrived at Stratford House School in Kent. After attending secretarial college, she worked at the Royal New Zealand Air Force headquarters in London, but in 1943 she was recruited through her father’s contacts into the SOE. At her first interview she was told: “I hear you’ve volunteered for Cairo as a coder”; and after only two weeks’ training she and four other girls were sent by flying boat and bomber to Egypt.

Once in Cairo, Margaret Herbertson joined the First Aid Nursing Yeomanry (the FANYs), which provided the back-room girls for the SOE — drivers, wireless operators, cipher clerks, intelligence officers, interpreters and housekeepers in safe houses. She was posted to Force 133, coding and decoding signals between headquarters and agents in the Balkans, and was soon drawn into operations, particularly the supply of wireless sets, crystals, spares, batteries and generators which were dropped by parachute over Yugoslavia.

After the Allied landings in Italy, the FANY girls working with SOE stayed close to the front, and after the liberation of Rome, Margaret Herbertson joined No 1 Special Force in Italy as an intelligence officer. From a secret base in the city she intercepted and interpreted German wireless messages, and prepared intelligence reports for daily pre-breakfast briefings. Next she moved to Siena, where she helped set up the SOE war-room and tracked the retreat of the German army. She was eventually demobilised in late 1945.

Margaret Pawley in uniform

Post-war she studied History at St Anne’s College, Oxford. In 1950 she worked as a national organiser for the Women’s Institute, a role that took her on a seven-month secondment to Malaya, where she helped set up a network of WI federations with some 200 branches.

In 1958 she married the Rev Bernard Pawley, who had served with distinction as an Army chaplain and would soon become Vice-Dean of Ely Cathedral. Two years later their tranquil family life in the Close was disturbed when the Archbishop of Canterbury, Geoffrey Fisher, appointed Pawley his representative to the Second Vatican Council in Rome.

Bernard and Margaret Pawley lived in a small flat in Rome, and during the next five years dispensed generous hospitality to the Roman Catholic bishops and others attending the Council.

During the long intervals between the sessions of the Council, they returned to Ely to continue what was very much a shared ministry there; and in 1970 Bernard Pawley was appointed a residentiary canon at St Paul’s Cathedral as part of his increasing responsibilities in the field of ecumenical relations. Two years later he combined this work with that of Archdeacon of Canterbury, where Margaret was a lively and hospitable member of the cathedral community.

In 1961 she had become a member of the Foclare Movement – an international movement founded in wartime Italy to promote unity and universal brotherhood. When the movement’s first ecumenical schools were being established in Britain, she became an adviser to the small study group that was preparing them.

With her husband, Margaret Pawley wrote Rome and Canterbury Through Four Centuries (1974, revised 1981), which became a standard work of post-Reformation Church history. Her other books included a biography of Archbishop Donald Coggan (1987); an anthology of prayers, Praying with the English Tradition (1990); and Faith and Family: The Life and Circle of Ambrose Phillips de Lisle (2012).

Her Watch on the Rhine: the Military Occupation of the Rhineland 1918-1930 (2007) addresses the resentment of Germany towards the Allied occupation between the wars, while Obedience to Instructions: FANY with the SOE in the Mediterranean (1999) is considered the definitive history of FANY operations in the region and its support of SOE operations in southern Europe.

Margaret Pawley was awarded the Cross of Canterbury in 1994.

Her husband died in 1981, and she is survived by their son and daughter.

Margaret Pawley, born March 22 1922, died February 28 2014


The Labour leadership has evidently learned nothing from the rise of Ukip. Ed Miliband and Chuka Umunna rush to reassure white voters that they “understand their concerns” about immigration (Labour and Tory frontbenchers call for immigration reform, 31 May). But it should be obvious that the switch of allegiance by working people in Europe from social-democratic parties to the xenophobic right is powered in the long term by the utter failure of the former to provide a progressive alternative to austerity – France provides a particularly clear example. So Labour continues with its promises of austerity into the indefinite future (Labour cannot afford to reverse coalition’s cuts, says finance spokesman, 30 May). When will Labour realise that there is a feasible and popular alternative: ending tax evasion and avoidance, thus reaping £120bn a year and ending the deficit; reversing the privatisations and thus massively cutting costs and improving the quality of public services; and the Green New Deal to reflate the economy and further cut the deficit? That would also enable Labour to challenge Ukip on its ultra-right economic policies, which working-class voters have never even been informed of.
Jamie Gough

• Chris Leslie, the shadow chief secretary to the Treasury, says Labour “won’t be able to undo the cuts” imposed by the coalition. Labour won’t cut spending on the military, won’t allocate resources to get in more from tax avoiders, won’t plug tax loopholes, won’t increase direct taxes. Why would anyone vote Labour?
Emma Tait

•  I was horrified but, sadly, not surprised, to read that Ed Miliband relies on his aides to provide him with news as to what is happening in the UK (‘I don’t read much UK news,’ says Miliband, 30 May), preferring to interest himself in an American online site, RealClearPolitics, which appears to be dedicated to US politics. As a Labour voter I have been concerned, since the Blair years, of the more and more apparent disconnect between our political leaders and the voters. The fact that Miliband chose to employ an American adviser, at great cost, to guide the party to a hoped-for election victory is more than explained by his choice of daily reading. Does he not realise what message this sends to Labour voters and the British public at large? This man, who wants to lead the nation as its next prime minister, exhibits no importance in knowing on a daily basis what its inhabitants are experiencing, thinking or enduring under this government apart from what his aides, presumably selectively, choose to bring to his attention. It makes one wonder if there is any point in voting for someone who displays such contempt for us, seems to be in thrall to the US and its political figures, and is apparently sufficiently uninterested in the daily life of the nation to bother to read some news himself on a reasonably regular basis. It is not surprising that his relationship with “ordinary people” appears to be somewhat distorted. Perhaps he is covering his back and envisages joining his brother in the US should the next election not go in his favour.
Mary Hardy

• John Harris expresses perfectly the reason for the current frustration of many people with Labour’s gobbledegook (Sounding strange is a sign of Labour’s terminal malaise, 3 June). Hearing senior Labour politicians respond to questions with prepared avoidance cliches, hoping no one will notice, is like watching a child putting its hands over its eyes in the belief that we won’t be able to see them. The closeted environment Labour has inhabited for the last 20 years or so is like an isolated country with its own language, so they won’t understand the article. The best we can hope for is that they do badly in the next election and that the shock forces radical change in the party.
Jefrey Pirie
Totnes, South Devon

• I agree with John Harris’s description of the latest Labour party survey for supporters as banal. I gave up attempting to fill it in partway through and instead sent an email describing it as patronising and silly. In return I received an email thanking me for filling the survey in. I’ve also received emails telling me how the Labour party is acting on what I said in the survey. None of this inspires confidence.
Dr Linda Campbell

• John Harris is worryingly correct about so many of Labour’s problems, particularly those related to “normal English”. He is absolutely correct, too, in his description of the Tories, who are “confident enough to voice their ideas with that bit more clarity and oomph”. Nowhere is that more clearly shown than in the reaction to the EU’s criticism of the government regarding the housing boom (Britain told to rein in property boom by EU, 3 June). With the EU’s executive body urging them to reform the council tax system, build more houses, change the Help to Buy scheme, and bring more people into paying tax, what was the response? “The European commission continues to support the UK’s government strategy”. No embarrassment, just extreme arrogance and disingenuity. Are you watching, Labour?
Bernie Evans

• Could there be any greater illustration in the paucity of Labour’s plans to tackle the causes of the crisis unleashed on Britain and Europe than contiguous articles by David Graeber (Savage capitalism is back – but tinkering will not tame it, 31 May) and Chuka Umunna (We’ll not pose with pints)? Graeber discusses the role of a 1% parasitical rentier class presiding over an ever-increasing unequal social order and pinpoints the disappearance of opposing political systems and decline of oppositional movements as crucial factors in that process. No mention is made by Umunna of this historical shift. He offers us “a high wage, high skill” economy with no indication of how the 1% will be persuaded to part with their loot – and especially says nothing about the need to reinvigorate a drastically weakened trade union movement as an essential means for reversing the decline of wages as a share in national income. Not posing maybe – but so far well off target.
Jake Jackson
West Bridgford, Nottinghamshire

• While I take Chuka Umunna’s point that Nigel Farage too often gives the impression that the saloon bar of a pub is his office, it is a pity that he feels the need to distance Labour from the idea of posing with pints. The British pub remains under threat from property developers and large pub companies. Moreover, at its best, the pub is a place where all sections of a community can meet and discuss life over a drink, alcoholic or non-alcoholic. That is the complete reverse of Ukip’s vision for the country.
Keith Flett

Oil and gas production platform in the North Sea with burning flames

The Beryl Bravo oil and gas production platform in the North Sea. Photograph: Alamy

Since the Industrial Revolution almost 250 years ago, Britain’s economic prosperity and national energy security have depended on having access to abundant supplies of domestic energy sources such as coal, oil and natural gas.

In 2004 the UK became a net importer of natural gas for the first time. Over the last three years, according to industry experts, output in the North Sea has fallen by 38%.

After nearly 30 years of near-abundant supplies of natural gas from the North Sea, we have become more exposed and vulnerable because of our increased reliance on foreign imports of energy to meet our power-generation needs. In 2014 UK government ministers said they expect Britain to be importing nearly three-quarters of our gas needs by 2030. But it does not have to be this way for ever.

According to the independent British Geological Survey, the Bowland Basin, which covers significant parts of north-west England, currently sits on top of 1,300 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. If we extract only 10% of this valuable resource, that is enough to boost our domestic supply to meet existing demand by at least a further 25 years, according to geoscientific experts.

Globally high prices for commodities and recent innovations mean this is now economically and technologically possible. As geoscientists and petroleum engineers from Britain’s leading academic institutions, we call on all politicians and decision-makers at all levels to put aside their political differences and focus on the undeniable economic, environmental and national security benefits on offer to the UK from the responsible development of natural gas from Lancashire’s shale.
Professor Richard Selley Emeritus professor of petroleum geology, Imperial College London, Dr Ruth Robinson Senior lecturer in earth sciences, University of St Andrews, Professor Ian Croudace Director of Geosciences Advisory Unit, University of Southampton, Dr Lateef Akanji Coordinator of petroleum and gas engineering programme, University of Salford, Dr Godpower Chimagwu Enyi Lecturer in petroleum and gas engineering, University of Salford, Manchester, Professor Ghasem Nasr Director of spray research group, petroleum technology research group and leader of petroleum and gas engineering, University of Salford, Manchester, Professor James Griffiths Professor of engineering geology and geomorphology, University of Plymouth, Associate Professor Graeme Taylor Senior lecturer in geophysics, University of Plymouth, Professor Ernest Rutter Professor of structural geology, University of Manchester, Professor Mike Bowman Chair in development and production geology, and president of the Petroleum Exploration Society of Great Britain, University of Manchester, Professor Stephen Flint University of Manchester, Professor Jonathan Redfern Chair of petroleum geoscience, University of Manchester, Dr Kate Brodie Senior lecturer, University of Manchester, Dr Rufus Brunt University of Manchester, Professor Kevin Taylor University of Manchester, Dr Tim Needham Needham Geoscience and visiting lecturer, University of Leeds, Professor Paul Glover Chair of petrophysics, University of Leeds, Professor Quentin Fisher Research director of School of earth and environment, University of Leeds, Dr Doug Angus Associate professor of applied and theoretical seismology, University of Leeds, Dr Roger Clark University of Leeds, Professor Wyn Williams Director of teaching: rock and mineral magnetism, University of Edinburgh, Dr Mark Allen University of Durham, Dr Howard Armstrong Senior lecturer in department of earth sciences, University of Durham, Dr Martin Whiteley Senior lecturer in petroleum geoscience, University of Derby, Professor Jon Blundy Professorial research fellow in petrology, university of Bristol, Dr James Verdon Research fellow, University of Bristol, Professor Adrian Hartley Chair in geology and petroleum geology, University of Aberdeen, Dr David Iacopini Lecturer, University of Aberdeen, Dr Nick Schofield Lecturer, University of Aberdeen Professor David Macdonald Chair in geology and petroleum geology, University of Aberdeen, Dr Andrew Kerr University Cardiff, Professor Andrew Hurst Professor of production geoscience, University Aberdeen, Dr Sina  Rezaei Gomari Senior lecturer in petroleum technology and engineering, Teesside University, Professor Agust Gudmundsson Chair of structural geology, Royal Holloway, Dr David Waltham Royal Holloway, Professor Joe Cartwright Shell professor of earth sciences, Oxford University, Professor Peter Styles Professor in applied and environmental geophysics, Keele University, Dr Steven Rogers Teaching fellow, Keele University, Dr Ian Stimpson Senior lecturer in geophysics, Keele University, Dr Jamie Pringle Senior lecturer in engineering and environmental geosciences, Keele University, Dr Gary Hampson Director of petroleum geoscience MSc course, Imperial College London, Professor John Cosgrove Professor of structural geology, Imperial College London, Professor Howard Johnson Shell chair in petroleum geology, Imperial College London, Professor Dorrik Stow Head of Institute of Petroleum Engineering, Heriot-Watt University, Dr Gillian Pickup Lecturer in reservoir simulation, Heriot-Watt University, Dr Zeyun Jiang Lecturer, Heriot-Watt University, Dr Jingsheng Ma Lecturer, Heriot-Watt University, Dr Gerald Lucas Edge Hill University, Professor Charlie Bristow Professor of sedimentology, Birkbeck College, University of London, Dr Paul Grant Lecturer, Kingston University

Your report (£16m grant for urgent Southbank works, 30 May) suggests that Boris Johnson has “torpedoed” plans to move the skateboarders in order to repair the Southbank Centre; in fact thousands of us have been energetically campaigning to preserve skateboarding in the undercroft. It attracts skateboarders from all over the country to show off their amazing skills – and crowds to watch them. It is part of the rich diversity of the South Bank. It’s a place where youths can be physically active within a city. The proposal to tidy them away under Hungerford Bridge will destroy that visibility, and the ominous footnote that the new venue can be closed for “events” reveals the real intention: gradually to get rid of the skateboarders altogether.
Jean Cardy

• Can anyone in the government explain to me how costs of onshore wind generation is classed as a subsidy (Energy UK steps up anti-green rhetoric, 2 June), while money to prop up fossil fuels is classed as a tax incentive (FoE attacks tax breaks on North Sea oil, 2 June)?
Janet Roberts
Saundersfoot, Pembrokeshire

• Shakespeare wrote Richard III in 1592. Queen Elizabeth had reigned for 59 years; in 1587 she had ensured the death of Mary Queen of Scots. He was unlikely to portray Elizabeth’s grandfather, Henry VII, as a usurper. Far safer to make Richard a monster and enjoy royal patronage (Experts put crooked image of Richard III straight, 30 May). The Tower was only downriver from the playhouses.
Vicki Morley
Penzance, Cornwall

• The Church of England is right to kick out clergy who join the BNP (C of E clergy will be defrocked if they join BNP, 4 June). Those who want to espouse the grotesque views of the BNP should take responsibility instead of waiting to be thrown out. To paraphrase an old Sunday Pictorial headline, they should go unfrock themselves.
Tony Robinson

• Cedric Thornberry (Obituary, 4 June) was an “expert in conflict resolution”. He was married and divorced four times. Says it all, really.
Ann Clements
Surbiton, Surrey

The power of the argument of those campaigning against “the privatisation of child protection” is not enhanced by the inaccuracies in their letter (30 May). First, while more than 75% of children‘s homes are private- or voluntary-society- owned, only 19% are private-equity-backed. The children’s homes sector is one of solo and small providers, socially committed individuals or organisations.

Also, there are not “low standards of care” in these homes. The Department for Education’s children’s homes data pack shows that there is no link between ownership and quality of care.

Finally, a colleague and I conducted the most rigorous inquiry into the costs of children’s homes care by means of FOI requests to all local authorities. The most accurate figure of the cost of such care on average, across all needs including high levels that need multi-professional provision, is £2,841 per week. Not only does this, as an annual amount, not total the £200,000 figure used in the letter, but every pound spent is closely scrutinised by local authorities. Other government-funded research shows that these placements are made for reasons of safety, specialism and choice.
Jonathan Stanley
Chief executive officer, Independent Children’s Homes Association

Metal bar door inside a prison

‘G4S helps the Israeli Prison Service to run prisons inside Israel that hold prisoners from occupied Palestinian territory,’ campaigners say. Photograph: Anthony Brown/Alamy

As G4S management and shareholders prepare to participate in the G4S AGM on Thursday, we call on G4S management and shareholders to end the corporation’s participation in Israel‘s brutal occupation. G4S operates and maintains security systems at the Ofer prison, located in the occupied West Bank, and for the Kishon and Moskobiyyeh detention/interrogation facilities, at which human rights organisations have documented systematic torture and ill-treatment of Palestinian prisoners, including child prisoners, held in solitary confinement.

G4S helps the Israeli prison service to run prisons inside Israel that hold prisoners from occupied Palestinian territory, despite the fourth Geneva convention prohibition of the transfer of prisoners from occupied territory into the territory of the occupier. Through its involvement in Israel’s prison system, G4S is complicit in violations of international law and participates in Israel’s use of mass incarceration as a means by which to dissuade Palestinians from protesting against Israel’s systematic human rights abuses.

G4S also provides equipment and services to the Israeli military checkpoints in the West Bank that form part of the route of Israel’s illegal wall and to the terminals isolating the occupied and besieged territory of Gaza. G4S’s role in Israel’s brutal occupation and abhorrent prison system is unacceptable and must end. Join our call – add your name to this letter on the War on Want website.
Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Ahmed Kathrada South African politician and former political prisoner, Alexei Sayle Comedian, Alice Walker Author, Angela Davis Author and activist, Breyten Breytenbach Poet and painter, John Berger Author, Ken Loach Director, Michael Mansfield QC Barrister, Mike Leigh Director, Miriam Margolyes Actor, Noam Chomsky Philosopher and author, Paul Laverty Screenwriter, Professor Richard Falk Professor of international law, Roger Waters Musician, Saleh Bakri Actor

•  More than 200 Palestinian children are being held in Israeli prisons. At least two of the jails where Palestinian children are detained – Ofer in the West Bank and Al Jalame in Israel – are supplied with security systems by G4S.

Several organisations, including Unicef in 2013, have documented the ill-treatment of the children inside these prisons. Unicef reported that the abuse of Palestinian youngsters trapped in the Israeli prison system is “widespread, systematic and institutionalised”. At its AGM last year, a number of concerned shareholders questioned the G4S board about the company’s complicity in the detention and abuse of Palestinian children, eliciting the promise of a review of the current situation.

A year on, G4S appears to be as entrenched as ever in the Israeli prison system. This is an unacceptable position for the company, with its headquarters in the UK, to be in. We call on G4S to show it has a conscience and terminate its contracts with facilities where children suffer routine physical and verbal abuse, contrary to the norms of civilised society.
Jeremy Corbyn MP, Andy Slaughter MP, Grahame Morris MP, Richard Burden MP, Katy Clark MP, Chris Williamson MP, Alex Cunningham MP, John Denham MP, Caroline Lucas MP, Paul Blomfield MP, Crispin Blunt MP, Joan Ruddock MP, Mark Durkan MP, Roger Godsiff MP, Hugh Lanning Chair, Palestine Solidarity Campaign, Geoffrey Bindman QC, Bruce Kent CND, Caryl Churchill Playwright, Victoria Brittain Journalist and author, Rev Canon Garth Hewitt Amos Trust, Professor Steven Rose, John Austin, Betty Hunter


Thank you for highlighting on your front page (30 May) the under-reported issue of tax credit debt collection tactics.

We are being pursued by HMRC for £2,500, which is solely due to my partner and I each starting jobs over a two-year period. Our changes in income immediately put us in “debt” because the Tax Credits system cannot adapt to significant financial changes occurring late on in the financial year.

We have been hounded by letters and phone calls from a debt-collection agency and so I wrote to our MP and contacted National Debtline for advice. After we wrote to HMRC to complain, as advised, the harassment has stopped – but will no doubt restart as I intend to fight this appalling treatment, and the basic principle of intimidating poor people who are victims of a well-meaning, but flawed, system.

Your report does not mention that “debts” are sold on to debt-collection agencies even before the first stage of the tax credits appeals procedure has been allowed to run its course.

I wrote to HMRC to appeal in October 2013 and received a response just over a week ago after calling several times to request a reply.

The appeals system appears to work on the basis that people will give up if they are ignored and threatened at the same time.

A fair system designed to help low-income families is now penalising and bullying them. The articulate and tenacious may manage to fight these disgraceful tactics but most people are likely to cave in under the pressure of nasty letters and  phone calls from agencies who are experts at harassment and intimidation which stays just within the law.

Lyn Poole, Mossley, , Greater Manchester


Europe: back to the Iron Curtain

Back in the days of Communist parties there was a system called democratic centralism. Ivan’s vote put Dmitri on to the local party committee; which elected a higher party committee; which elected an even higher party committee; which (behind closed doors) elected the Central Committee, where the real power was exercised. Of course, that happened in a place very far distant from Ivan, whose political opinions were ignored once he had voted for Dmitri.

“You don’t seem to like our leader’s policies, Ivan. But don’t you understand? It’s your own fault for electing Dmitri.”

For the Central Committee read the European Council, which may appoint Jean-Claude Juncker behind closed doors to lead the EU. And to think that we were told that the Cold War was all about defending true democracy in western Europe against the hollowed-out, sham version current in the east.

Michael McCarthy, London W13

Nigel Boddy (Letter, 3 June) wonders why those in favour of staying in the EU are so afraid of an immediate referendum. Today’s paper (4 June) provides a graphic example, in the form of a quote from a Ukip supporter talking about Polish immigrants: “You’re walking in the town and you hear them jabber-jabber in their own language then laughing, so you know they’re saying something derogatory.”

What chance is there that such a person will do anything other than vote to leave the EU, simply because he is a xenophobe?

Mike Perry, Ickenham, Middlesex

Taming the chaotic cyber world

There is nothing about the “right to be forgotten” to justify your editorial’s sub-heading: “a licence to rewrite history” (31 May). And if “balancing” is allowed against the well-established “right to know”, what justifies the claim “the latter has to take precedence”? Since it cannot be that it always has to, we are back to the starting point: asking who should decide what ought to be “forgotten” and when.

It is premature to despair at the difficulty of answering such questions and an evasion of responsibility to conclude that until, in some chimerical future, agreed rules operate “across every jurisdiction in the world”, nothing worthwhile is achievable. There’s a clear public interest here and now in protecting privacy, and much else threatened by the chaotic state of the cyber world by extending and improving data protection law.

As with tax law, it is possible to argue for changes even if their remit is restricted and in need of constant adjustment. The “uncomfortable truth” is less that the web is uncontrollable; more that the struggle to humanise it must be a never-ending quest.

But it is a quest no committed liberal democrat can disengage from; for, as J S Mill put it: “All that makes existence valuable to any one, depends on the enforcement of restraints upon the actions of other people” (On Liberty).

Richard Bryden, Llandudno, Gwynedd

Ugly side of the beautiful game

Keith O’Neill’s letter (4 June), praising women footballers for their sporting play, misses the point. Cheating, diving, play-acting, whingeing, berating officials and diving are surely why most people go to watch men’s football matches. What pleasure can there be in watching a game in which no one ever breaks a rule and everyone just plays the beautiful game as it is supposed to be played? Why else are the cloggers and spitters so popular?

Bill Fletcher, Cirencester, Gloucestershire

Uncounted costs of immigration

All the discussion about immigration seems to centre on whether your views are perceived to be racist. How about judging immigration purely from an economic standpoint?

If people from the EU relocate to the UK, having secured well-paid jobs on which they pay tax and National Insurance, I imagine the majority of UK-born citizens will have little issue with this.

What is a real concern is the number of people who enter the UK with few skills and enter low-paid, part-time employment. Someone on minimum wage can be working and still be entitled to housing benefit and council tax support. Those with children will also access child tax credits and child benefit. Then you need to factor in the costs of the household accessing the NHS and education.

EU immigration becomes an issue when households cost the UK economy more than they pay in. No mainstream political party has assessed immigration and its financial cost in terms of in-work benefits. Until they do, people will vote for parties who may have a more sinister edge to their anti-immigration stance.

K Barrett, Mossley, Greater Manchester

D-Day: Don’t forget the French sacrifices

How Anglo-centric is this country going to become? A month or so ago we were hearing noisy claims about the effects the immigrants have on England, and scarcely a word in the press or on TV about the suffering which causes anyone to leave home to cross seas and a continent.

Now we remember D-Day. Those of us who were on active service but not, alas, in Normandy had nothing but the highest regard for those who landed, and knew the slaughter of the first 10 weeks or so. That regard has remained with me all my life (I am now 96).

But where are the expressions of sympathy and admiration for the French people, woken in the early hours of D-Day by the explosions of naval shells from unseen and distant warships, and then all that followed? Homes, villages, churches, and, above all, human lives, cattle, means of living lost or damaged; railways and roads machine-gunned, bridges destroyed, towns such as Caen and Falaise ruined, and all this after four years of enemy occupation. Was it necessary? Of course it was, not just to liberate France but to change the balance of the war.

So, please can we remember too the heroism of the French? Recommendations of English books, films or DVDs on this subject would be a welcome surprise.

Bob Hope, Leicester

Bees from abroad

Tom Bawden’s account (4 June) of alleged dangers to our already declining “native” bumblebees from foreign “invaders” reassures readers by reporting that their “pollination services” could prove “hugely beneficial” (4 June). Should we permit xenophobic traditional bee-lovers to scapegoat a rapidly spreading immigrant species for government failures in “food chain” investment?

David Ashton, Sheringham, Norfolk

Greetings from Yorkshire

As a fellow Yorkshireman, like Bryan Jones (letter, 4 June), I occasionally use “Eh up”, but my preferred meaningless Yorkshire greeting is the magnificently all-encompassing “Now then”.

Mark Redhead, Oxford


A reference to National Trust volunteers as “little old ladies” did not go down very well

Sir, I am very pleased that Miranda Spatchurst (letter, June 3) raised the issue of the National Trust’s reliance on older volunteers, but I object to the term “little old ladies” (report, June 3). It is demeaning and ageist. None of the volunteers I have met is a “little old lady”. Many are men; all are active, knowledgeable and enthusiastic. The 70 and 80-year-old volunteers today put younger people to shame. Many look no older than 60 because they are from the 1960s generation which fought for the women’s rights we take for granted today.

Valerie Howard

Beckenham, Kent

Sir, You ought to stop using the expression “little old ladies” with its patronising overtones. We may be shorter than in our youth but we are not part of an undifferentiated mass of dim, ineffectual if well-meaning bodies. You don’t refer to “little old men” (sounds creepy), do you?

Anne Waugh

King’s Heath, Birmingham

Sir, I am a regular volunteer for the National Trust. I am 5’ 2” tall, 70 and female. This qualifies me as a “little old lady”. I am not worn out — I recently walked 15 miles in one day on Offa’s Dyke and plan to
cross-country ski again next winter.

My fellow women volunteers and I prefer not to be described in these pejorative and out-of-date terms.

Joanna Walsh

Dyrham, Wilts

Sir, The shortage of volunteers will only increase as the pension age is raised. Your correspondent Miranda Spatchurst (“a relatively young 65”) is one of the last, fortunate women who have been lucky enough to receive a state pension at 60, giving them the opportunity (with an income, bus pass and other benefits) to volunteer, and it is to her credit that she has chosen to give some of her time to helping a good cause.

However, since she finds “a four-hour shift on a busy day” exhausting, it is as well that she was not born just five years later, as the government would expect her to work, full time, until she is 66 or older before being entitled to a pension.

I’m sure the thought of just a four-hour shift at 65 would seem very attractive to many. However, since most weekday visitors to National Trust properties are the over-60s, when we all have to work until we are 70 there will be fewer free to enjoy the visitor experience and keep the tearooms busy so reducing the need for volunteers. Problem solved?

Rosalind Taylor

Ashbourne, Derbyshire

Sir, Warnings of volunteer fatigue coupled with concern expressed by the chairman of English Heritage (“Hard-up Britons working too hard to be volunteers”, May 31) about the impact of inadequate pensions on volunteer availability suggest the burden needs to be shared.

Perhaps it is time for the government to harness the spirit of volunteering so evident at London 2012 by extending flexible working laws to encompass a right to time off to volunteer.

Michael Ryley

London EC4

The small print on food labels can be mystifying, especially if it is a French jam giving 110%

Sir, Howard Arnold (letter, June 3) should not worry unduly if he cannot read the small print on foodstuffs.

I have a jar of French strawberry jam which states that in every 100g of jam there is 50g of strawberries and the sugar content is 60g per 100g. Additionally, there is lemon juice and pectin.

Michael Fox

Twycross, Warks

One driver is not very happy about her car’s voice – she, the car, is altogether too peremptory and testy

Sir, Our Toyota Prius has a very snooty female voice (“Bossy, opinionated”, letter, June 3). On arrival at a destination, as the engine is turned off, she testily snaps, “Goodbye”, with the emphasis firmly on the second syllable. Her hostility is palpable.

Kay Bagon

Radlett, Herts


The small print on food labels can be mystifying, especially if it is a French jam giving 110%

Sir, Howard Arnold (letter, June 3) should not worry unduly if he cannot read the small print on foodstuffs.

I have a jar of French strawberry jam which states that in every 100g of jam there is 50g of strawberries and the sugar content is 60g per 100g. Additionally, there is lemon juice and pectin.

Michael Fox

Twycross, Warks

12g stickleback may be confirmed as the largest little fish ever caught

Sir, Your report of the angler landing the record 12g stickleback (“Angler lands big tiddler”, June 4) reminded us of the plant nursery we saw in California advertising the world’s largest bonsai trees.

Gerry & Austin Woods

London SW10

Lib Dem leadership jostling brings some of Shakespeare’s tragic heroes to mind

Sir, I fear that Lord Ashdown’s cryptic Shakespearean warning to Vince Cable — that politicians should “choose their Iagos carefully” — was (no doubt inadvertently) erroneous (May 2).

While visiting the former Nunthorpe Grammar School in York I happened upon a board extolling the virtues of selected alumni, among whom was one Vince Cable. His school successes included playing Macbeth — possibly an early indicator of of “vaulting ambition”.

Thomas Zugic

Wressle, N Yorks


SIR – Church of England opposition to HS2 because some graveyards will be disturbed takes no account of Britain’s proud record of moving human remains, not least in two world wars.

The recent enthusiasm for the reburial of the remains of King Richard III shows how well disposed the nation is to such moves.

This row reminds me of the old song that included the lines: “They are digging up father’s grave to build a sewer… / They’re moving his remains to lay down nine-inch drains.”

Some problems recur in each generation, and the same reactions arise every time.

John Roll Pickering
Epsom, Surrey

SIR – My great-great-grandfather Charles Goodall was buried in Old St Pancras Churchyard in 1851. Not long after, he was exhumed to make way for the new Midland Railway. Where he lies now, God knows.

At about the same time, his old home in Kentish Town was also swept away in the name of progress. Governments were even more ruthless then than they are today.

Mike Goodall
Woking, Surrey

Hard hat

SIR – Three years ago I came off my bike as I cornered on a wet road. My head was the first thing to hit the asphalt and I’m glad I was wearing a helmet (Letters, June 3). I’d make a helmet while cycling compulsory.

Roger Gentry
Sutton at Hone, Kent

SIR – I had stopped at roadworks near the junction of a lane when two cyclists came round a bend very fast and one crashed into my car. She was flung across the bonnet and smashed into my windscreen head first. The windscreen was cracked right across, and where her head hit, it caved in with a deep dent. Her bicycle was written off but she was unhurt.

Diana Smurthwaite
Newton Abbot, Devon

SIR – In my experience, cyclists wearing cycle helmets are more likely to take foolish risks or be too timid. This is an invaluable labelling system that aids motorists subjected daily to two-wheeled road-users’ erratic discipline.

Robin Dickson

King’s head

SIR – One consequence of the abdication of King Juan Carlos is that the new king of Spain will never be named on the obverse of a coin.

The European Central Bank permits some nationalist symbols, but has effectively condemned all eurozone monarchs to anonymity. King Felipe will probably appear as an unnamed effigy.

In the EU, loss of sovereignty leads eventually to a loss of the sovereign.

Tim Clarke
Calbourne, Isle of Wight

Losing contact

SIR – Last week on holiday I had my wallet stolen. I spotted the loss and cancelled the one debit card in it. A replacement duly arrived. It is of the “contactless” variety.

Have we gone mad?

I need no longer provide a Pin for purchases of less than £20. A thief could notch up hundreds of pounds of small purchases before I discovered the theft.

Are we really saying that £20 is an insignificant amount? Tell that to a hard-up pensioner or struggling family.

Christopher Pratt
Dorking, Surrey

Personal war memories

SIR – The Government is funding schemes to commemorate the centenary of the First World War. September is also the 75th anniversary of the start of the Second World War and this Friday is the 70th anniversary of D-Day, the world’s greatest military operation, which resulted in freeing millions from the Third Reich.

Both wars are commemorated on Remembrance Sunday, but from the Second World War we still have people with us who took part and can recall their experiences. We also have many civilians who provided the tools for victory by growing food, digging coal, building aircraft and manufacturing ammunition.

I do not understand why the Government is focusing funding on exhibitions and events based on attic rummages for mainly unknown relatives from the First World War when we still have living Second World War participants.

Gary Victor
Porthcawl, Glamorgan

Slippery statistics

SIR – John Langridge of Sussex was singled out for his slip catching (Letters, May 31), though in another slip, you illustrated the letter with a picture of his brother Jim, also a Sussex (and England) cricketer.

Awesome as his tally of catches (784) may be, the table is headed by Frank Woolley of Kent and England, with 1,018 catches, nearly all at slip, in his 978 first-class matches between 1906 and 1938. Wally Hammond wasn’t bad, either: 819 catches, again almost all at slip. Phil Sharpe was their successor.

David Frith
Guildford, Surrey

Two’s company

SIR – I, too, growing up in a farmhouse in Suffolk, had a double-seat closet at the end of the garden (Letters, June 2). One seat was at a higher level than the other, for the children as far as I was aware. My greatest fear when I was little was falling in, never to be seen again.

Mum always accompanied me there, I think, for that very reason. I never take my en suite for granted.

Heather Tanner
Earl Soham, Suffolk

SIR – In Norwich Castle there are two double-seat closets facing one another.

Time for a rubber of bridge?

Ian Carter
Lytham St Anne’s, Lancashire

The church of St Andrew, Alfriston, on the bank of the river Cuckmere in East Sussex Photo: Derek Payne/Alamy

6:59AM BST 04 Jun 2014

Comments191 Comments

SIR – David Benwell (Letters, June 2) points out the undoubted beauty of West Sussex. But has it got the equal of East Sussex’s gorgeous Alfriston village, the charm of Lower Willingdon, the splendour of Beachy Head and the Seven Sisters, or the calm beauty of Exceat with its spread of salt marshes and wildlife?

They’re different aspects of the whole glorious county, I’d say, being diamond-wedded to a girl from Willingdon, East Sussex, and the brother-in-law to her sister, who has lived most of her life in West Sussex.

Roderick Taylor
Bourne End, Buckinghamshire

SIR – I fully second David Benwell in his eulogy of West Sussex. The other county reference point is, of course, Cowdray – the home of British polo. And this is the height of the polo season.

The Ambersham field is Cowdray’s best. There is highly placid countryside, a club house offering lovely home-made cakes, the thwack of the ball and charging of polo ponies.

And that is not even to mention the elegant leggy ladies at the legendary polo parties.

John Barstow
Pulborough, West Sussex

SIR – The European Commission feels it is qualified to advise the Chancellor of the Exchequer on British housing policy. That surely confirms that Brussels should be left to concentrate on the chaos of the eurozone.

Paddy Germain
Tonbridge, Kent

SIR – The Commission pronounces that Britain “continues to experience macroeconomic imbalances which require monitoring and policy action”.

Have its members no sense of irony?

Robert Langford
Coventry, Warwickshire

SIR – Nigel Farage, the leader of the UK Independence Party, must be rubbing his hands with glee at the many extra votes he will get after the news that the unelected European Commission is giving our elected Government advice on how to run British economic policy.

This from a Commission running an EU so mired in scandal that its own auditors regularly refuse to sign off its accounts.

This from a Commission whose own attempts to bring the EU out of the recent depression have been pitifully slow. Do these people still not realise how much more unpopular such advice makes them?

Stephen Reichwald
London NW8

SIR – If it were proposed that Britain’s next prime minister should be selected from unelected candidates, by unelected appointees that no one knows and whose power will not be controlled by Parliament, it would be overwhelmingly rejected.

So why do members of our elected Parliament disapprove so strongly of a growing political party that objects to power being put in the hands of the new president of the European Commission by such means? It seems democracy has become dangerously selective.

David Rammell
Everton, Hampshire

SIR – David Cameron’s jibe about no one ever having heard of the European Commission front-runner Jean-Claude Juncker echoes Nigel Farage’s “Who are you?” taunt to Herman van Rompuy when the latter became leader of the EU Council.

The never-heard-of-you charge could have been levelled before their appointment at virtually anyone in the present contingent of powerful, unaccountable and overpaid oddballs in Brussels – including the former Maoist, and ex-prime minister of Portugal, José Manuel Barroso (the current President of the European Commission), and the one-time treasurer of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, Baroness Ashton of Upholland (the EU High Representative).

Tony Stone
Oxted, Surrey

SIR – Jean-Claude Juncker must regret his parents’ not having sent him to Eton.

Norman Hart
Walton on the Naze, Essex

Irish Times:

Sir, – Noel Whelan’s piece examining the background of the so-called Independent councillors elected at the local elections was quite revealing (“Independents can never be seen as a homogenous group”, Opinion & Analysis, May 31st).

If you do the maths from the information he provided, you can deduce that 194 candidates who were not members of registered political parties were elected to local authorities. Of these, 35 are former members of Fianna Fáil, and approximately half of which were still members of that party until weeks before the election. Some 17 others are former members of Fine Gael, and 10 are former members of the Labour Party. Some 22 others were backed by Independent members of Dáil Éireann.

So in other words, less than two-thirds of the “Independent” candidates were genuinely Independent, and together they won just 12 per cent of the total number of seats.

So how does this reality square with the notion, which seems to have been accepted universally, that Independent candidates swept the boards at the recent elections at the expense of the“established political parties”, when 58 per cent of the seats were won by Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil and Labour with a further 17 per cent of the seats going to Sinn Féin?

Furthermore, how can any of the 22 members who were elected with the backing of current Oireachtas members possibly claim to be “Independent”?

For example, the group of councillors backed by Michael Lowry in North Tipperary describe themselves as “Team Lowry”, and vote together as a block in the county council. They share a website, used joint election posters and regular advertise jointly in the local media.

Prof Basil Chubb described a political party as “any group of persons organised to acquire and exercise political power”. So what is this Lowry group if not a political party by another name? And how can they possibly claim to be “Independent” when they clearly dance to Mr Lowry’s tune?

It would certainly seem that while many voters sought to reject the political party system in order to support Independent candidates, a large number of them were sold a pup by candidates who were anything but “Independent”. – Yours, etc,




Dublin 3.

Sir, – I dropped my son to St Mary’s Academy, CBS, Carlow, an hour before his first Leaving Certificate examination was due to start. It was a particularly wet morning. Standing at the gate, in the lashing rain, was his year teacher, Ms Laura Walshe, with a large, bright umbrella and an even larger, brighter smile of encouragement for her students as they arrived. I was impressed but not very surprised. So many of the teachers I have met over the years, at both primary and secondary level, have showed the same dedication, commitment and care towards my children. I’m grateful to them all. – Yours, etc,


Tullow Road,


Co Carlow.

Sir, – There are two sides to every coin. As a student I spectacularly failed the Intermediate Certificate exam, and even more spectacularly failed the Leaving Certificate. It seemed to all and sundry at the time that I was a hopeless case, so much emphasis had been placed on education. The perceived “failure” turned out to be the foundation of a truly remarkable life to date. A blessing in disguise. The best “education” in life has in my experience absolutely nothing to do with examinations. – Yours, etc,




Co Wicklow.

Sir, – The articles on June 3rd by Carl O’Brien (“Free pre-school year fails to narrow gap between children of different social classes”) and Joe Humphreys (“Parent mentoring scheme giving a new start to education”) confirm the view that preschool education and parenting support programmes in Ireland need more investment.

The articles refer to recent Irish research that affirms what we already know – parents are the biggest influence in a child’s life and their life chances are closely related to their socio-economic circumstances.

We need an early childhood education sector that not only provides high-quality care and education to children attending services but that reaches out and supports parents across the spectrum of class, and particularly those who struggle because of poverty, difficult lives or troubled childhoods. This requires high levels of investment, skilled and qualified staff, with national responsibility for the provision of the service. Early Childhood Ireland’s pre-budget submission calls for increased investment to bring us from 0.4 per cent to 1 per cent of GDP in line with good international practice.

We know quality early childhood education will repay at least seven-fold. We also know that only quality counts. As our politicians battle over revised budgets, they must think to our shared future, which is invested in the present experiences of our youngest citizens. – Yours, etc,


Chief Executive,

Early Childhood Ireland,

Hainault House,

Belgard Square South,

Sir, – I read with dismay reports of the recent High Court settlement between the Irish Medical Organisation and the Competition Authority (“Agreement reached on IMO representation in medical card talks”, Home News, May 28th).

For much of the last year, the IMO promised GPs that it would fight “tooth and nail” for their right to full representation and to act as a trade union. Members who were disillusioned by the shocking revelations surrounding a €9.6 million pay-off to a former chief executive were urged to remain loyal throughout this imminent legal battle.

However, in a gesture worthy of the Grand Old Duke of York, the IMO having marched its members up the steps of the High Court, proceeded to rapidly march back down again. The reported “settlement” effectively means the union representing general practitioners has given a legal undertaking that it will not undertake any form of withdrawal of labour.

This utter capitulation has been rewarded with a guaranteed ministerial “audience”, which is a far cry from the ability to engage in full negotiations.

In response to these developments, the National Association of General Practitioners issued a statement condemning this agreement and highlighting the multiple failures of the IMO. Regrettably, despite the fact that the NAGP has over 1,000 members, it remains excluded from all future contract talks.

Presumably the Government will be far happier to “negotiate” with an organisation willing to give legal assurances not to engage in any industrial action, no matter how badly its GP members are treated. – Yours, etc,


Bush Road,

Sir, – I welcome the fact that Lucinda Creighton and supporters are progressing plans to develop a new party (“New political party plans to recruit Independents”, Home News, June 3rd). Surely most of us would welcome a party that will respect freedom of conscience on moral issues, and time limits on ministerial appointments, but if it is pigeon-holed as a right-of-centre conservative party, it will not have the support of those of us that can be both left and right of centre on different issues, such as pro-enterprise policies, fair taxation and excellent and accountable public services. – Yours, etc,


Ballyroan Park,


Sir, – There is clearly a need for an alternative means of marking the end of a life; an alternative, that is, to the ceremonial of organised religion as we experience it in Ireland.

It may well be that ritual and religion are part of the human evolutionary condition so that ritual (as a form of drama) has a positive cathartic effect. While I found the piece by John Fleming quite fascinating (“A funeral with no cross, no icons, no priest”, Rite & Reason, June 3rd), I was confused by a reference to “secular prayers”. Prayers to whom and for what?

Mr Fleming claims that the deceased “lives forever” in the music. We live in a finite world and, I suggest, “forever” has no meaning in that context, however consoling the thought of music might be.

Together with the reference elsewhere to a “requiem”, the piece suggested to me that the there was still a clinging to the traditions of Christianity, particularly the Roman version. – Yours, etc,


Marley Avenue,

Marley Grange,

A chara,– Further to Andy Pollak’s recent letter (May 31st), the Belfast Agreement, endorsed by a large majority, North and South, expressly provides for a route to Irish unity by way of a border poll. It is clear, therefore, that the constitutional position of the North will change if and when a majority so determine.

Many people, North and South, myself included, believe that partition has failed economically, socially and politically; that it has maintained sectarianism; and that it has blighted relationships across this island and between Ireland and Britain. Citizens have a right, not only to express these views but to pursue the objective of Irish unity, peacefully and democratically.

That right is given clear endorsement in the Belfast Agreement.

In a similar vein, those who have a more positive view of partition are free to make their case and to put it to the people.

To arrive at a position that some issues are beyond discussion fundamentally undermines the democratic process. – Is mise,


Sir, – One get used to Ministers talking nonsense, and Minister of State for Training and Skills Ciaran Cannon proves no exception (“Using computers should be an option in Leaving Cert exams, says Minister”, Front Page, June 3rd).

To describe the present examinations as a “handwriting marathon” that demands “three hours of constant writing” is nothing short of gross exaggeration. He does point out that “some will always like pen and paper”, as if such candidates were freakish in some way. People who agree with the Minister can expect “an environment” in which candidates “feel most comfortable”.

I imagine that, given a personal choice, many would opt for the comforts already to be found at home where they study.

This would stop them worrying about “cramped hands” and Mr Cannon could stop worrying about our “languishing” in the global education league table. – Yours, etc,


Killarney Heights,

Sir, – Among those who must question their role in the latest outbreak of seasonal incivility in Howth in Dublin are the public transport operators who carried the perpetrators to their destination (“Garda on alert at Dublin coastal spots”, Home News, June 1st.)

The attitude towards fare evasion and anti-social behaviour on Iarnród Éireann in particular might be best described as shooting fish in a barrel. Families travelling on quiet Sunday morning trains are highly likely to be targeted, while passengers are left to fend for themselves at times when such trouble might be expected.

Iarnród Éireann and Dublin Bus make good money from Fingal commuters. In return, they need to stand with the residents of this generally pleasant and quiet area and adopt a proactive approach to ensuring that fare-evaders and troublemakers are deterred and removed. – Yours, etc,


Turvey Walk,


A chara, – The title of Padraig O’Morain’s article “People without sleep can destroy our lives” (Health + Family, June 3rd) doesn’t pull any punches. Nor should it.

While Mr O’Morain focuses on the damage done to the global economy by gung-ho, sleep-deprived financial traders and subsequent all-night government debates, I would urge your readers not to forget the work practices of Ireland’s non-consultant hospital doctors (NCHDs). It has long been recognised that the rosters under which we work are unsafe for patients.

These rosters also have grave impacts on doctors’ quality of life, as indicated by growing rates of physician burnout, increased emigration of newly qualified doctors and – tragically – car crashes and even suicides by NCHDs who had been working unsustainable hours.

Thankfully, efforts are finally being made to improve this situation, and the Irish Medical Times recently reported that compliance with the European working time directive has increased over the past year. However, many hospitals have yet to fully implement the provisions of this directive for all medical staff.

Mr O’Morain’s article is a timely reminder that this issue must remain a priority for hospitals, the HSE and the Oireachtas, for the good of patients and doctors alike. – Is mise,


Sir, – I was having a nightmare. I was at lunch with a mixed age group of eight people. I and another woman were having a conversation across the table. At the other end of the table the host was arguing with another guest. The rest of the guests or family were involved in “conversations” or other communications with absent acquaintances through iPhones, e-phones or whatever other electronic devices they held at knee level under the edge of the table cloth.

Only it wasn’t a dream. It was reality. – Yours, etc,


Lower Kilmacud Road,


Dublin 14.

Sir, – Albert Collins (June 4th) is quite right about our foreign policy stance during the second World War. Ireland was neutral on the Allied side.

It was neither the first nor the last time that we made use of creative ambiguity to hedge our bets and have it both ways. – Yours, etc,


Moyclare Close,


Sir, – For the last few days workers have been busy installing water meters in my area. To date I am not aware of this work causing any protests, abuse of the work crews or sabotage of equipment.

I would have thought of this as newsworthy, but thus far I have not seen any journalists or camera crews in attendance. – Yours, etc,


Temple Villas,

Rathmines, Dublin 6.

Sir, – I beg to differ with Larry Donnelly (June 4th). The sight of a head of government going to a foreign country to lobby on behalf of his compatriots who are illegal (no inverted commas) immigrants in that country is an embarrassment. – Yours, etc,


Dargle Road,


Co Dublin.

Sir, – I fail to understand why men dressed in women’s clothing are allowed participate in the women’s mini-marathon. – Yours, etc,


Glenoughty Close,


Co Donegal.

Irish Independent:

It was sad to learn of another dark chapter in our history regarding a cemetery holding the remains of 796 babies, toddlers, children and young adults who, it is believed, died of malnutrition or infectious diseases at a religious-run and state-funded home for unmarried mothers in Tuam, Co Galway, from 1925 to 1961. It closed in 1961 and a housing estate was built in its place.

A local historian and genealogist heard of the forgotten resting place and has set up a committee to raise funds for a commemorative plaque at the cemetery.

It will cost €7,000, and more than €4,000 has been raised. The local community and local politicians are very supportive. It is thought the children were buried without coffins in unmarked graves. It is proposed that an inquiry be held as to why so many died over 40 years.

There will be nice state speeches in 2016 for the 100th anniversary of the 1916 Rising, but little said of what a difficult country it was back then. It is still hard for those most in need to be listened to by the State.

Take, for example, the discretionary medical cards removed as an austerity measure from those with serious illnesses and conditions, who were over the threshold for a normal medical card.

Children and adults with serious illnesses had these cards removed with no taking into account of the costs of their medical treatments and supports. All healthy children under six, in comparison, get medical cards regardless of their parents’ wealth.

The Government steadily ignored all the pleas and now says it will respond to voters’ anger, shown at the recent local and European elections, and legislation may be passed to solve it – which shows the power of voting.

I appreciate being Irish, but not the way the country is run at times. Governments, and the public service which runs the country, can get it wrong and are slow to put it right.



The sadness surrounding reports on the Tuam, Co Galway, mother-and-baby home reminds us all of our not-too-distant past. The public must consider the tragedy in the context of the country’s economic and social profile of the time.

One wonders if the fathers of all these ‘unwanted’ children should have input into the proposed inquiry, given that they have more to answer for, rather than simply blaming the religious order of nuns who inherited the expectant mothers seeking shelter.

As a friend of many nuns, who dedicated their lives to serving Ireland’s education and healthcare development during the period, it would be wrong not to engage with all relevant parties.




No money for medical cards; no money for special needs assistants; no money to open much-needed hospital wards; no money for funding charity groups; and no money for the elderly or vulnerable. But mention an MEP losing their seat, or a councillor who failed to get re-elected, and the money for the golden handshakes and pensions magically appears. Is there a full wallet somewhere especially for the elite and chosen few?




Why should we even listen to the troika or European economists? They say deflation is undesirable and that they know all things economic so, all things being equal, we should not be in deflation.

The proof of the pudding, though, and the proof that these people haven’t a clue what they are talking about, is that austerity is causing deflation. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that the less money that one pours into a system, the less money there will be to tax.

But let’s take a cynical view of what is happening. Is the centre of the EU experiencing austerity? The centre is getting increasingly wealthy as a result of austerity. The centre is also beginning to expand political power that is not respectful to member nations. The centre is assuming control, based on the centre’s version of how poor or rich the periphery is.

These are the actions of an empire. All empires collapse when the centre becomes ignorantly rich based on taxes it levies on the periphery.

The news from the European elections that €200bn worth of fish has been harvested from Irish waters by our “European friends”; that Ireland contributes €2bn in taxes; and all the hidden social welfare that leaves this country for non-national children who never lived here paints a very unfriendly picture of our friends at the centre. It is also beginning to paint a very poor picture of the parties who have negotiated with our European friends.




The global opprobrium resulting from the death sentence handed down to Meriam Yahia Ibrahim in Sudan, for refusing to repudiate her Christian faith, seemingly has had an impact. The Sudanese government is giving indications she will be released. However, the worry is that ‘leniency’ could be forgotten once her plight slips from the media spotlight.

I would urge the people of Ireland to keep the pressure on the Sudanese government by writing to their embassy in London at 3 Cleveland Row, St James’s, London SW1A 1DD, or emailing .uk to express their concerns. Alternatively, they may use the form letter to be found on the Christian Solidarity Worldwide website.



PURPLE HAZE COVERS E-CIG DEBATEIt seems some people are using e-cig devices to ingest liquid cannabis. If the HSE hears about this it will suffer an attack of the vapours.




On the Labour leadership question I have heard the view expressed that Arthur Spring lacks “relative experi-ence”. Surely that’s one thing the man has . . . the experience of a relative?




King Juan Carlos‘s abdication of the throne is commendable. Like Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands before, time has come for a renewal of the monarchy institution.

It is true that Queen Elizabeth II has been a source of strength, unity and cohesion in Britain. Her untrammelled grace, dedication and intuitive empathy has had far-reaching domestic and international clout beyond limitations.

Her nation is grateful for her sense of duty and sound judgment at times of turbulence and economic and political frustrations. However, it is time to inject young and fresh blood in the monarchy.




Archbishop Diarmuid Martin speaks of the “dire need for priests in Ireland”. He should see where the problem is. Only celibate males may apply, women definitely not wanted.

It took the Catholic Church some 1,800 years to stop supporting slavery. Ordaining women as priests must wait much longer – unless Dr Martin and other bishops dare to suggest otherwise to Pope Francis?



Irish Independent


June 4, 2014

4June2014 Betteish

No jog around the park I still have arthritis in my left knee

Scrabbletoday, I win the game, and gets under 400 perhaps Marywill win tomorrow


Sir Eldon Griffiths – obituary

Sir Eldon Griffiths was a Tory MP who served as Sports Minister under Heath and spoke up for the police at Westminster

Sir Eldon Griffiths in 1984

Sir Eldon Griffiths in 1984 Photo: REX

6:42PM BST 03 Jun 2014

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Sir Eldon Griffiths, who has died aged 89, was a high-profile journalist and polemicist who entered the Commons in 1964, seemingly with glittering prizes within his reach; in the event, he only became Minister for Sport under Edward Heath, and although a Right-winger, he was not on Margaret Thatcher’s wavelength, and spent the rest of his 28 years as MP for Bury St Edmunds on the back benches.

At home on both sides of the Atlantic, Griffiths was a successful journalist with Time-Life; the supplier to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer of its last studio lion; he was Sir Alec Douglas-Home’s speech writer; and a habitué of the American lecture circuit who moved to California while still in the Commons.

Rangy, articulate, but dour, Griffiths was a political loner, and not over-popular on the Tory benches. Live on television, he embarrassingly mistook his colleague Jerry Hayes, almost a neighbour as MP for Harlow, for a socialist.

In 1987 he managed both to alienate Sir Jeffrey Sterling, chairman of P&O, and cause a parliamentary row. Griffiths was piloting through a Bill to extend Felixstowe Docks, and suggested P&O hold a reception for MPs when it was debated. He then spoke at the 1922 Committee about P&O “pouring champagne down MPs’ gullets”; there was uproar in the House, and a furious Sterling cancelled the reception.

Griffiths was pro-hanging, robust on defence, a hawk on Vietnam, opposed to sanctions against South Africa and Rhodesia and anti-Stansted Airport; but pro-Europe, whales and nuclear power. In 1966 he abstained on a censure motion on Roy Jenkins over the escape of George Blake from Wormwood Scrubs, out of respect for Jenkins’s performance in the House.

That was one of his first actions as parliamentary consultant to the Police Federation, a role he fulfilled until 1988 except when he was serving as Sports Minister. He dealt with seven Home Secretaries, including his Federation predecessor James Callaghan, rating Willie Whitelaw the best; Whitelaw returned the compliment by asking Griffiths to draft a Bill outlawing replica guns.

Many of Griffiths’s interventions reflected his roots as a policeman’s son: the time it took officers to get their expenses, the low calibre of some chief constables, the lack of rights for officers facing disciplinary hearings, and the requirement for them to “hang around public lavatories to catch men soliciting each other”. But he was never, as one Labour MP claimed, a “copper’s nark”.

Above all, he believed officers needed protection. A Bill he promoted in 1970 to make 30 years the minimum sentence for murdering a policeman on duty was defeated by just seven votes. After the Conservatives’ 1979 victory he tabled a Bill to bring back hanging — then, on its defeat, appealed for the execution of a killer in Jersey to be halted.

Eldon Griffiths at the Conservative Party Conference in Blackpool, 1972

Griffiths urged the return of internment in Ulster, earning himself a place on an IRA hit list. He supported picket line officers at Grunwick and during the miners’ strike, and opposed the creation of a disciplinary offence of racial prejudice. He demanded an inquiry into why the suspected killers of WPC Yvonne Fletcher were allowed to return to Libya and, while consistently championing better police pay, urged them not to confront the government over it. He did, however, demand the resignation of the Labour Home Secretary Merlyn Rees for losing the confidence of the service.

He had his own experiences of the police and of crime. Griffiths’s wife narrowly escaped an IRA attack on the Carlton Club; in 1983 a traffic patrol woke him on the hard shoulder of the M11; and three years later his car was stolen and used in an armed robbery at Walthamstow.

Griffiths was an active Minister for Sport, a post he held for four years despite complaining that he could not live on the salary. He compensated the Cricket Council for half the losses caused by cancellation of the 1970 Springbok tour, and after the 1971 Ibrox disaster he piloted through the licensing of major stadiums. Later, with Sir Hugh Fraser, he founded the Special Olympics (UK) for the mentally handicapped.

Inheriting the chair of the Sports Council, Griffiths persuaded Sir Roger Bannister to take over and gave the Council executive powers. He tried to broker a deal when the Association of Tennis Professionals boycotted Wimbledon in 1973, and presided over the birth of Sunday football to save floodlighting in that winter’s coal emergency; a boom in attendances made it permanent.

Griffiths owed his appointment to his robust support for sporting links with South Africa. Convinced that sanctions would not end apartheid, he walked out of a service in Bury St Edmunds’ abbey ruins when Dr Trevor Huddleston attacked arms sales to South Africa.

He set two principles as Sports Minister: “Government should reduce its interference in the day-to-day management of British sport and, internationally, British sportsmen should be free to play with anyone they chose.” Yet he later denounced British participation in the Moscow Olympics after the invasion of Afghanistan.

Sir Eldon Griffiths in Newport Beach, California, in 2009

It was Griffiths who moved the successful resolution on EC membership at the 1969 party conference. He chaired the Conservative Group for Europe because of the EC’s strategic importance, having earlier proposed an Anglo-French nuclear deterrent.

Eldon Wylie Griffiths was born at Wigan on May 25 1925, the son of a Welsh police sergeant. After Ashton Grammar School he saw war service with the RAF, then took a double First in History at Emmanuel College, Cambridge.

His love for the United States was kindled during a year at Yale. There he played American football, but was cautioned for heel-tapping, a technique learned playing rugby. Henry Luce, the veteran proprietor of Time and Life, had ordered the recruitment of some graduates, and Griffiths was hired. Over a period of six years he worked in Denver, Los Angeles and Seattle before joining the foreign desk in New York.

While in LA, he struck his deal with MGM. A lion-tamer called up to fight in Korea needed a home for his four-year-old lion Fagin, and Griffiths took him, writing a screenplay about his travels with the lion which paid for his first house. In those days MGM kept a resident lion so that visitors could be shown its trademark, and Fagin filled a fortunate vacancy. He was not replaced.

In 1956 Griffiths moved to Newsweek as foreign editor, and soon afterwards endured an unnerving appearance before Lord Chief Justice Goddard after the magazine carried a grossly contemptuous report — of which Griffiths had no pre-knowledge — of the Dr John Bodkin Adams murder trial. Goddard exonerated Griffiths, and Newsweek escaped with a £50 fine. On a happier note, he captained an American cricket team against the Lords Taverners.

He became chief European correspondent of the Washington Post in 1961, but after two years took a pay cut to join Conservative Central Office as speech writer to Sir Alec Douglas-Home, the new Prime Minister. Griffiths combined the job with pig farming in Sussex, prolific journalism and searching for a seat — eventually being chosen to defend Bury St Edmunds in a May 1964 by-election. With a general election looming, Griffiths raised Tory morale by holding the seat, but Labour returned to power that October.

After a maiden speech on the transatlantic relationship, Griffiths rebelled over a Budget proposal to deny tax relief to compensated victims of Nazi persecution. His support for the Vietnam War stung the Labour government and even the White House, which denied his claim that President Johnson resented Wilson’s “peace trophy hunting”. Nearer home, he championed legalised commercial radio as Labour moved to ban the offshore “pirates”. In 1968 he was voted on to the 1922 Committee executive.

Prior to the 1970 campaign, Griffiths coined the slogan: “Mr Wilson seems better than he is. Mr Heath is better than he seems.” Heath took this as a compliment, and made him Parliamentary Secretary for Housing and Local Government — soon in a new Department of the Environment — under Peter Walker, with duties wider than sport.

Griffiths prepared the 1973 reorganisation creating regional water authorities; was energetic over air pollution and toxic waste; and announced the choice of Maplin Airport on the Thames Estuary, taking the Maplin Development Bill through its early stages as opposition grew. He also launched the first experiment with cameras to detect bad driving on motorways.

On the Conservatives’ defeat in 1974 he became Shadow Industry Minister, attacking Tony Benn’s plans for intervention and nationalisation. He pilloried Benn over the collapse of Court Line, referring his conduct to the Ombudsman and accusing the government of not accepting the verdict that Benn was guilty of misrepresentation.

Mrs Thatcher made Griffiths her first European spokesman, overseeing the party’s lukewarm contribution to the 1975 referendum campaign, but he quit within a year.

During the Thatcher years Griffiths rebelled against petrol tax rises in Sir Geoffrey Howe’s 1981 Budget; applauded the recapture of the Falklands; tried to defuse the row over abolition of unions at GCHQ by suggesting a parallel to the Police Federation; supported UK citizenship rights for the Hong Kong Chinese; and accused bishops of “dodging” the issue of homosexual clergy.

Griffiths chaired the British-Iranian and Anglo-Polish parliamentary groups and the Friends of Gibraltar Heritage. But his great enthusiasm after America was for India: a director of one of Swraj Paul’s engineering firms, he set up Indira Gandhi’s 1978 visit to Britain.

He lost heavily in the stock market crash of 1987. When, six years later, his first wife sued her solicitors for negligence over their divorce settlement, it transpired that since leaving the Commons he had been paying her 5p a year.

He moved to California in 1990, commuting until the 1992 election and seeing off an attempt from the wealthy Thatcher confidant David Hart, an inconvenient constituent, to succeed him.

Griffiths became chairman of the “non-political” World Affairs Councils of America, and president of its branch in Orange County, of which he was an honorary citizen. He was also Regents’ Professor at the University of California, Irvine, and director of the Centre for International Business at Chapman University.

He was knighted in 1985.

Sir Eldon Griffiths had a son and a daughter with his first wife, Sigrid. In 1985 he married Betty Stannard, who predeceased him. Last year, he married Susan Donnell.

Sir Eldon Griffiths, born May 25 1925, died June 3 2014


‘The flow of taxpayers’ money into the bank accounts of private health companies is certainly going to achieve an increased flow of money to the wealthy,’ says Rik Evans. Photograph: YAY Media AS/Alamy

We, as leaders of NHS organisations and organisations providing NHS care across England, believe that the NHS is at the most challenged time of its existence. Rising demands mean that the cost of providing the health service rises every year by about 4% above inflation. At the same time, the services we commission and run are not designed to cope with the care needs of the 21st century – especially the large number of people with multiple long-term conditions and an increasingly elderly population.

As local organisations, we are urgently planning the transformation of how we care for people to ensure we continue to deliver a service that meets people’s needs and improves the public’s health. Our plans start to address the challenges that are well set out in the 2015 Challenge Declaration, published by the NHS Confederation on 6 May, in association with medical royal colleges, local government and patient organisations. But more will need to be done if we are to be successful.

With a year to go to the general election, it is vital that the political parties recognise the scale of the challenge we are addressing – and that their manifestos must address. At the 2010 general election not one of the political parties mentioned the financial challenge facing the NHS in its manifesto. In 2015, the parties must address the full range of challenges facing the NHS or take responsibility for it becoming unsustainable in the form people want it.

We call on each of the party leaders to publicly recognise the challenges facing health as spelt out in the NHS Confederation’s 2015 Challenge Declaration – and to ensure their manifestos are written to support how we will address them.
Rob Webster Chief executive, NHS Confederation, Ron Kerr Chief executive, Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust, Peter Homa Chief executive, Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust, Prof Tricia Hart Chief executive, South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, Dr Matthew Patrick Chief executive, South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust, Stuart Bain Chief executive, East Kent Hospitals University NHS Foundation Trust, Jonathan Michael Chief executive, Oxford University Hospitals NHS Trust, Tim Goodson Chief officer, Dorset Clinical Commissioning Group, Christopher Baker Chair, Aintree University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, Marie Gabriel Chairperson, East London NHS Foundation Trust, Dr Avi Bhatia Clinical chair, NHS Erewash CCG, Stephen Swords Chairman, Hounslow & Richmond Community Healthcare NHS Trust, David Edwards Chairman, Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Foundation Trust, Michael Luger Chair, Airedale Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, Dr Nick Marsden Chair, Salisbury NHS Foundation Trust, Prem Singh Chairman, Derbyshire Community Health Services Trust, David Griffiths Chairman, Kent Community Health NHS Trust, Ken Jarrold Chair, North Staffordshire Combined Healthcare NHS Trust, Stuart Welling Chairman, East Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust, Stephen Wragg Chairman, Barnsley NHS Foundation Trust, Chris Wood Chair, Burton Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, Gary Page Chair, Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust, Robert Dolan Chief executive, East London NHS FT, David Wright Chairman, James Paget University Hospital FT, David Jenkins Chair, Aneurin Bevan University Health Board, Ruth FitzJohn Chair, 2gether NHS Foundation Trust, Stephen Ladyman Chairman, Somerset Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, Harry Turner Chairman, Worcestershire Acute NNS Trust, Jane Fenwick Chair, Humber NHS FT, Hugh Morgan Williams Chairman, NTW NHS Health Trust, Jo Manley Director of operations, Hounslow Richmond Community NHS Trust, Dr Christina Walters Programme director, Community Indicators Programme, David Law Chief executive, Hertfordshire Community NHS Trust, Julia Clarke Chief executive, Bristol Community Health CIC, Matthew Winn Chief executive, Cambridgeshire Community Services NHS Trust, Simon Perks Accountable officer, NHS Ashford CCG & Canterbury and Coastal CCG, Stephen Conroy CEO, Bedford Hospital, Stephen Firn Chief executive, Oxleas NHS Foundation Trust, Katrina Percy Chief executive officer, Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust, Mark Hindle Chief executive, Calderstones Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, Christine Briggs Director of operations, NHS South Tyneside CCG, John Wilderspin Managing director, Central Southern CSU, Alison Lee Chief executive officer, NHS West Cheshire Clinical Commissioning Group, Andrew Cash Chief executive, Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, Christine Bain Chief executive, Rotherham Doncaster & South Humber NHS FT, Sarah-Jane Marsh Chief executive officer, Birmingham Children’s Hospital, Tracy Allen Chief executive, Derbyshire Community Health Services NHS Trust, Chris Dowse Chief officer, NHS North Kirklees CCG, Stuart Poynor CEO, SSOTP, Dominic Wright Chief officer, Guildford & Waverley CCG, Steven Michael Chief executive, South West Yorkshire Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, Dr Mark Newbold Chief executive, Heart of England NHS Foundation Trust, Andrew Donald Chief officer, Stafford and Surrounds and Cannock Chase Clinical Commissioning Groups, John Matthews Clinical chair, NHS North Tyneside CCG, Lisa Rodrigues Chief executive, Sussex Partnership NHSFT, Jonathon Fagge Chief executive officer, NHS Norwich CCG, Steve Trenchard CEO, Derbyshire Healthcare Foundation NHS Trust, Louise Patten Accountable officer, Aylesbury Vale CCG, Jane Tomkinson CEO, Liverpool Heart and Chest Hospital FT, Allan Kitt Chief officer, South West Lincolnshire Clinical Commissioning Group, Darren Grayson Chief executive, East Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust, Katherine Sheerin Chief officer, NHS Liverpool CCG, Edward Colgan Chief executive, Somerset Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, David Stout Managing director, NHS Central Eastern Commissioning Support Unit, Andrew Bennett Chief officer, Lancashire North CCG, John Brewin Interim chief executive, Lincolnshire Partnership Foundation Trust, Andrew Foster Chief executive, Wrightington, Wigan & Leigh NHS Foundation Trust, Richard Paterson Associate chief executive, Royal Brompton and Harefield NHS Foundation Trust, Glen Burley Chief executive, South Warwickshire NHS FT, Joe Sheehan Managing director, Medical Services Ltd, Robert Flack Chief executive, Locala

• I am grateful to Ian Birrell (The NHS must evolve – or face a painful death, 2 June) for helping to keep the debate about privatisation of the NHS alive. Last Thursday I resigned from my position as vice-chairman and non-executive director of the Royal Cornwall Hospital Trust over the decision by the board to privatise hotel services – catering, cleaning, portering, security and reception. I had been a board member for almost seven years and a member of NHS boards in Cornwall for more than 25 years.

My opposition to this decision is based on pragmatism. A number of years ago I sat on the small committee which determined the out-of-hours contract for Cornwall. I was the only member of that committee who didn’t support the granting of the contract to Serco. I had researched Serco’s governance procedures and found them wanting. Unfortunately for patients in Cornwall it wasn’t long before the committee’s decision became a costly mistake.

A cursory trawl reveals a long list of employment tribunals and strikes by low-paid workers in these outsourcing companies. The only way these companies can reap large profits for shareholders and pay ludicrous salaries to senior executives is by reducing the terms and conditions of employment of the workers they inherit from the NHS.

At least Birrell is being consistent with his previous article (Salute the super-rich, 13 May). The continued flow of taxpayers’ money into the bank accounts of private health companies is certainly going to achieve an increased flow of money to the wealthy.
Rik Evans

•  While I am sure there are wasteful practices in the NHS, managers and clinicians would have more time to deal with these if the service was not being regularly reorganised and subject to cuts which make planning difficult. We are a wealthy country, as Cameron reminded us in Gloucestershire, and since 2009 have slipped down the OECD list of expenditure on the NHS.

Much money could be saved by getting rid of the market, where huge sums are going to accountants and lawyers because CCGs think they are forced to put services out to tender under the Health and Social Care Act 2012. This was supposed to have reduced bureaucracy and put clinicians in charge but this has not happened nor has the health secretary stopped managing the NHS while being relieved of the legal responsibility to “secure and provide a comprehensive health service”. The private company that runs Hinchingbrooke hospital has a good PR machine but it has not managed to achieve the savings it proposed when it made its bid, and this was a well-run hospital destabilised by the private unit built in their grounds.

The NHS has handed back to the Treasury more than £3bn in the last two years. This money could be used to assist the hospitals whose finances are insufficient for their workload or have high PFI costs. We can afford our NHS, despite our ageing population, as long as politicians stop trying to restructure it and the wasteful competition enshrined in the 2012 act is eliminated by repealing this pernicious piece of legislation. More money needs to go to the GP services, which have acted as efficient gatekeepers that allowed the NHS – despite being underfunded for decades – to be rated by independent sources as one of the most cost-effective health services in the world.
Wendy Savage
President, Keep Our NHS Public

•  Ian Birrell is surely right in pointing out that the debate around the huge challenges faced by the NHS largely revolves around cheap politics. But then his article reproduces two of the main delusions at the centre of that debate: that the NHS is excessively expensive, and that privatisation would reduce costs. Even a cursory comparison with the health systems in other industrialised countries suggests that the NHS is underfunded, but relatively efficient. In comparison with systems that systematically pay doctors more for treating people more, the NHS tends to undertreat patients. Funding it though taxation costs much less than paying out-of-pocket or via insurance and costs have spiralled out of control in countries such as the US or Switzerland that have let the market rule and the insurance companies cash in. Considering the fact that most of us consider our health to be rather more important than most of the other things that make up the economy, we should remain sceptical of pundits who think privatising is the answer, without even understanding what the real problems are.
Thomas Smith
Neston, Wirral

•  I welcome Ian Birrell’s plea for an open and honest debate. But there are some questions he does not refer to. There are successful publicly run hospitals in the NHS; what are their characteristics? Is the psychology of profit-making to be accepted as the only motivation? Can we not identify and cultivate the qualities of good leadership and management in the public service? Rethinking the funding basis is obviously essential. Procurement traditions and other habits can surely be shaken up within a public service. Is all the world a market?
Howard Layfield
Newcastle upon Tyne

•  Ian Birrell says that £100bn is “roughly the current cost of the health service”. Roughly the current cost of corporate and elite tax avoidance and scams is £120bn. Now what could we do with the excess £20bn?
Ted Woodgate

Your editorial about Egypt‘s election (Full circle, 30 May) does your readers a disservice in its wilful disregard of critical facts. Contrary to the assertion that the election was “flawed”, election monitors, including a mission from the European Union, concluded otherwise. The EU, summing up the consensus view, declared that “the election took place in a democratic, free and honest atmosphere.”

The claim that the Egyptian people failed to show up to vote is simply not true. Twenty-five million Egyptians stood in line to pick their next president, undeterred by soaring temperatures or the threat of terrorism and despite the fact that balloting coincided with a religious fast. This level of voter turnout was robust by any global standard.

Contradicting any suggestion of voter apathy, this election capped an unprecedented level of political engagement for the Egyptian people, who have now taken part in seven nationwide polls since the 25 January revolution – a record of participation that shows just how far Egypt has travelled since 2011.

Far from coming full circle, Egyptians are resolutely following a roadmap to their future. They are on a path that they have chosen, that reflects their political reawakening and where their vote counts. They have crossed the democratic rubicon and there is no turning back.
Ehab Badawy
Spokesman for the presidency of the Arab republic of Egypt

‘Increasingly Ofsted appears to be used as Michael Gove’s enforcement,’ says Robin Richmond. Photograph: Oli Scarff/Getty Images

Several major Ofsted reports are due to be published about the so-called “Trojan Horse” schools in Birmingham which are alleged to be at the centre of a plot to “Islamise” schools (Six schools criticised in Trojan Horse inquiry, 2 June).

The reports will be a landmark in British educational history and the history of Britain as a multi-ethnic and multi-religious society, for better or for worse.

First-hand accounts of the Ofsted inspections that have emerged are disturbing. They suggest that inspectors were poorly prepared and had an agenda that calls into question Ofsted’s claim to be objective and professional in its appraisal of standards in schools serving predominantly Muslim pupils.

Numerous sensationalised leaks have reinforced the perception of a pre-set agenda. It is beyond belief that schools which were judged less than a year ago to be “outstanding” are now widely reported as “inadequate”, despite having the same curriculum, the same students, the same leadership team and the same governing body. In at least one instance, these conflicting judgments were made by the same lead inspector. This has damaged not only the reputation of the schools but the integrity of the inspections process.

This is uncharted territory, with Ofsted seemingly being guided by an ideology at odds with the traditional British values which schools are meant to espouse, particularly fairness, justice and respect for others. We, the undersigned, believe that such an approach compromises not only Ofsted’s impartiality but also the British education system itself.
Tim Brighouse, Robin Richardson Former director of the Runnymede Trust, Salma Yaqoob, Tom Wylie Former HMI, Ibrahim Hewitt Education consultant, S Sayyid University of Leeds, Arzu Merali Islamic Human Rights Commission, Sameena Choudry Equitable Education, Baljeet Singh Gill Ruskin College, Massoud Shadjareh Islamic Human Rights Commission, Farooq Murad Muslim Council of Britain, Arshad Ali Institute of Education, University of London, Maurice Irfan Coles, Abdoolkarim Vakil King’s College London, Gill Cressey Muslim Youthwork Foundation, Steph Green Ruskin College, Mustafa Draper, Abbas Shah, Tasawar Bashir, MG Khan Ruskin College

• Surely Ofsted is losing all credibility (Leak reveals inspectors’ U-turn on ‘Trojan Horse’ school, 31 May). Increasingly it appears to be used as Michael Gove’s enforcement. This is not the first time Ofsted judgments have been rejigged, as many schools forced into academy status against the will of communities and parents can attest. In this process Ofsted’s framework for the inspection of schools is revealed as flawed. Judgments of good and inadequate schools are unreliably based on test and examination results. Until Park View it was unacceptable to judge a school as inadequate, or for that matter to judge the quality of teaching as poor, if the examination and test results were good.

Further, the inspection of Park View must again throw some doubt on the competence of inspectors. In 2012 it was revealed that some inspectors had no experience of working with children and were not qualified teachers. Ofsted’s methods are not the objective process that has been assumed and are clearly subject to manipulation.
Dr Robin Richmond
Bromyard, Herefordshire

Ken Loach misunderstands the role of the critic (‘Sack the critics’ – Loach attacks preconceptions about working-class characters, 31 May). It is not to take political stands or support sides in social arguments, but simply to assess the art. They do this from a profound knowledge of their specialist art forms that allows them not only to review works of art but to write more widely on the subject, as was cogently demonstrated in the very same edition by your theatre critic, Michael Billington, and your visual art critic, Jonathan Jones.

Mr Loach may feel hurt when critics appear not to have appreciated the political point he wants to make, but that is not their task and he would feel a lot more hurt, I am sure, if critics with their objective understanding were replaced, as he suggests, by people with opinions only and no appreciation of the art form.
Simon Tait
President, The Critics’ Circle

• I am outraged at the treatment of Ken Loach at the hands of Picturehouse Cinemas. Bath’s Little Theatre, owned by the chain, usually hosts a benefit screening of Mr Loach’s films to raise money for his beloved football club, Bath City. But Picturehouse refused to allow such a screening for Mr Loach’s latest feature, Jimmy’s Hall, apparently because he recently lent his support to staff at Picturehouse’s Ritzy Cinema in Brixton in their demand that their employer pay the London living wage.

Since Cineworld acquired the group Picturehouse have moved away from the open independent spirit that characterised the grouping of established independent cinemas, to a tedious multiplex monoculture. Mainstream Hollywood productions now dominate programming. World cinema has been reduced. These changes have been profitable; Picturehouse made a pre-tax profit of just under £1.6m, up from £531,000 the previous year according to their 2012 accounts; operating profit up by 25%. The staff at the Ritzy are asking for an increase that amounts to 21% to take their pay to a mere £8.80 per hour – clearly affordable given the increase in profit. It would be nice if Picturehouse reversed its policy; Bath would like to celebrate its most famous cinematic son. It would also be wonderful if staff at the Ritzy were also to get what they deserve – a living wage.
Malcolm Lewis

White Mouse

Jonathan Bate put the row over the removal of Of Mice and Men from the syllabus into perspective. Photograph: Redmond Durrell /Alamy

The row about Of Mice and Men being removed from the GCSE syllabus (Letters, 26 May) was put into perspective by Jonathan Bate on the Guardian books blog (30 May), where he took the blame. Good for him. But that still leaves us with the mystery: “Who put Roman numerals into the statutory mathematics curriculum?” It certainly was not the subject advisory panel, on which I sat, because we know that they do not help to develop “secondary readiness” in mathematics, nor do they help international comparisons. Would the person who did so please own up so we can have a public debate about why they are now a legal requirement instead of an interesting option?
Professor Anne Watson
University of Oxford

• On 29 May you reported the US secretary of state, John Kerry, advising Edward Snowden to “man up“. Later, I was visiting the Matisse cut-out show at Tate Modern, where I read of the extraordinary courage displayed by the artist’s daughter, Marguerite, who was tortured by the Gestapo for her part in the resistance. Why does Kerry regard bravery as a manly quality?
Barbara Davey
Ceres, Fife

• Economists do reach conclusions (Letters, 31 May). It’s just that their conclusions are usually heavily qualified with the caveat ceteris paribus – so and so obtains other things being equal. But as some wag once pointed out, in the real world, ceteris very rarely remains paribus.
Alistair Richardson

• For those of us fortunate enough to have been born in and still live in London, we are happy to regard London as a foreign country and have long done so (Letters, 3 June). The spirit of Passport to Pimlico lives on in the Londoners’ consciousness. Proud to be different.
Ilona Jesnick

• If Spain becomes a republic (Report, 3 May), could one say that “the reign in Spain is going down the drain”?
Julian Dunn
Great Haseley, Oxfordshire

• In the photo of Rickie Lambert (Sport, 3 June) there is a sign saying “Players Entrance”. Is this a statement or a command?
Richard Wood
Toddington, Bedfordshire

The analysis of Thai politics in your leader (Waiting for democracy, 30 May) is, as far as it goes, spot on. But it does not go far enough. While noting the incomplete democratic revolution of 1932 and the place of the royal court in the “old” establishment democratically overthrown by Thaksin Shinawatra, it underplays the decades-long campaign by the king, Bhumibol Adulyadej, to recoup power for the monarchy.

Paul M Handley (in The King Never Smiles: A Biography of Thailand’s Bhumibol Adulyadej) observed: “[r]ather than accepting his position as simply a benign cultural object like the modern Japanese or British monarchs, Bhumibol made himself a full-fledged, dominant political actor”.

Reviewing Handley’s book for the New York Review of Books, Ian Buruma commented: “Bhumibol has never had much time for elected politicians, whom he tends to denigrate as selfish, venal and divisive. Tough military men and loyal bureaucrats are more congenial to his vision of unity, order and harmony under the wise, selfless, and virtuous monarch”.

Buruma is too kind. A revanchist monarchy is the central impediment to democracy in Thailand. It is probably too much to expect a religious people like the Thais to accept Denis Diderot’s advice that “Men will never be free until the last king is strangled with the entrails of the last priest.” But there will be no democracy in Thailand until the monarchy is abolished.
Geoff Mullen
Sydney, Australia

The alienation of children

Alex Renton’s indictment of prep and public boarding school (23 May) will have rung bells for a lot of old inmates. And (unlike your Guardian Weekly headline, The abusers could still be teaching) he’s wise not to make too much of the physical cruelty and sexual abuse entailed. What does more damage is the routine alienation of young children from family and community, and the systematic substitution of formal hierarchy, models and discipline for the intimate interaction of home life.

For working-class families, to have a child taken into care has been a proof of failure; for certain middle-class families, it’s still proof of success, and a prudent investment in future success – however partial – as emotion and energy are diverted to competitive performance.

I blame the middle-class parents. If not my own, then theirs who brought them up unable or unwilling to care for us, or trust any common humanity beyond their class. I can’t say I suffered much at school, but by the end of each school holiday I felt the cold and darkness creeping in. When the school train pulled away, the tears may have been in my parents’ eyes, not mine.

Not every painful separation is avoidable. We all know about cutting the cord. But who asks what happens at the other end of the cord, inside the baby? Could that be where a lot of later emotion comes home to roost, as subsequent partings and losses flit back to the old grand central station, onetime source of everything?
Greg Wilkinson
Swansea, UK

Schools of economists

I enjoyed Aditya Chakrabortty’s article on the state of university economics departments (16 May). I am encouraged to hear that current students are demanding that they be taught rather than indoctrinated. Perhaps the problem is that these economics schools are being considered in the wrong light.

As any liberal arts professor might suggest, let’s start by “unpacking” the institution’s title: while a “school of economics” is clearly economic for the university, the “school” part has obviously been read in the wrong context. Instead of being a place of learning and open debate, please think of these institutions instead as large groups of cold-blooded vertebrates moving in unison to find food and protect themselves from perceived threats.

This type of “school” is better used for studying the biology of complex human systems or as economics case studies themselves – how they are used by universities to collect revenue or “food” from students, alumni and corporate partners, and how their policies move according to shifting currents rather than better understanding.

Only rarely should these “schools” be thought of as a part of a university’s attempts to be a source of enlightenment.
Dave Scott
Toronto, Canada

• Aditya Chakraborrty’s statement that “mainstream economists are liberal in theory but can be [sic] authoritarian in practice”, just misses the crux of the issue: namely, the impact of peer review. That practice may well be beneficial in physics or chemistry but, in other disciplines, it is the weapon by which a senior tenured faculty ensures that young aspirants cannot rock the academic boat – even where the ship is run by fools!
Philip Stigger
Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada

The death of the novel

Yet another dire prediction that books, especially novels, are doomed (23 May). And yet another reference to Marshall McLuhan, who apparently predicted the advent of the books’ nemesis, the internet, as the inevitable result of the broadcast technology that existed in his time.

In any case, Will Self laments the possible loss of his livelihood as a novelist, and predicts that students expecting to follow in his footsteps will be swallowed whole into the swamp of unread theses, coming up for air only to teach others like themselves who will face the same fate. Such, as Self says, is the inevitable follow-up to “a self-perpetuating and self-financing literary set-aside scheme to accommodate writers who can no longer make a living from their work”.

Self ignores the fact that there are vast numbers of non-writers who still buy novels, and who consider it one of life’s greatest pleasures to lounge comfortably with a good hardcover book. I have no idea whether the invention of the telephone was considered the work of the devil, but it made us more conversant. By the same token, books in any form are living messages from writers to whom we can still respond.
Richard Orlando
Westmount, Quebec, Canada

The horrors of coal

While I agree with Simon Jenkins (23 May) that coal power must go, I think he could do with having a better look at the energy sector. Oil, gas and nuclear all receive (very) large subsidy, and add to the problem of climate change. The renewable issue is mostly with their intermittent nature.

The solution is clearly development of distributed-energy storage, which would enable us to avoid the use of coal as the back-up power source. I find the idea of using neighbourhood-scale hydrogen power very compelling – the hydrogen can be produced by renewable energy and then used to fill the gaps from the renewable supply.

The answer to the climate problem is going to need new ideas to fix it – relying on slightly different mixes of old ones is sure to fail.
Rohan Chadwick
Bristol, UK

• I largely agree with Simon Jenkins’s prescription to focus more on gas and nuclear power to reduce coal use. Yet, in discounting solar and wind power, he missed the big picture. While it is true that coal dependency is rising in Germany and electricity is costly due to high use of solar and wind power, the investment made in creating a market for these technologies has brought down costs dramatically over the past 10 years – with an eight-fold reduction for solar. The rest of the world benefits. Solar and wind power need to be part of the global solution to climate change.
Phil Napier-Moore
Bangkok, Thailand


• It shouldn’t surprise your writer that since the US has interfered with elected governments in Egypt and Ukraine, the Iranians think they may be next (23 May). They remember that their elected prime minister, Mohammad Mossadegh, was overthrown in 1953 in a coup that the US bragged about. In the 1980s, the US contributed money, weapons and intelligence toward invading Iraq during a war that cost hundreds of thousands of casualties. Why wouldn’t they be cautious?
Patricia Clarke
Toronto, Canada

• Many Canadians would agree with Saeed Kamali Dehghan on Why Canada is so wrong about Iran (23 May) – but again, please, it’s the Stephen Harper government, not “Canada”.
Julia Fortin
Courtenay, British Columbia, Canada

The recent election of Syriza in Greece (Report, 26 May) offers a vibrant glimmer of hope for the future of social and economic democracy in Europe. At the same time, however, the rise of rightwing nationalism, stoking racist and antisemitic sentiments, threatens the ideals of a plural and democratic Europe. Media accounts that misrepresent the importance of the growing electoral support for Syriza as the rise of leftwing “extremism” must be countered in the strongest of terms. There is no contemporary symmetry between the so-called “extremism” of left and right.

The efforts to dismiss the emphatic call for economic justice in both Greece and Spain (Podemos gathered 8%) as “populist”, “anti-European” or “scepticism” misreads their political reach and importance. These radical left victories cannot be compared with the rise of the Front National in France, Ukip in England, the strengthening of antisemitic parties in both Greece and Hungary as well as anti-immigrant populism in Belgium and Denmark.

The rise of the “Eurosceptic” right wing, with its clearly racist platforms, is a direct result of austerity policies. The rise of the left, on the other hand, offers a critique and alternative to social and economic inequalities spawned by austerity policies. To prevent violence and despair spreading further, the European Union needs new alliances across national borders and a radical rearrangement of its institutions to achieve greater democracy and economic equality. A major public debate should be launched to discuss the future of the EU, the role of solidarity and social justice, and the contemporary meaning of the “idea of Europe”.

The success of a democratic public debate, however, depends upon truth and transparency in the media representation of political movements and their claims. We demand vigilant attention to the difference between political objections to austerity that seek greater inequality and those that seek greater equality. Only then can we see more clearly how the future of democracy is at stake.
Judith Butler, Etienne Balibar, Costas Douzinas, Wendy Brown, Slavoj Zizek, Chantal Mouffe, Toni Negri, Joanna Bourke, Sandro Mezzadra, Drucilla Cornell, Engin Isin, Bruce Robbins, Simon Critchley, Jacqueline Rose, Eleni Varika, Micael Lowy, Jean-Luc Nancy, Jodi Dean


The editorial “Wards of Wisdom” (31 May) failed to contain any words of wisdom from either the writer or Simon Stevens. Cottage hospitals are mentioned without any definition of what they are or were. Well, I remember what they were like back in the 20th century, and we were glad to see them closed and replaced by district general hospitals (DGH).

They were used as a dumping ground for elderly and some not so elderly frail individuals. There was no hospital doctor cover or responsibility, and a GP would visit once a week. Most management was left to the overworked nursing staff, who did their best.

Occasionally patients would find their way over to the DGH, where any number of conditions would come to light that, once correctly diagnosed, could be treated. These cottage hospitals were closed down because they did not work.

The good old mistreated and abused NHS was built on the GPs and local district general hospitals. I fear the DGHs may be emasculated into “new cottage hospitals” under the misleading slogan “bringing your care closer to home.”

I do not like the way the leader writer and Simon Stevens are categorising people on the basis of age. Apparently according to them these people (implicitly older people) “need something different from the highly specialised, technically sophisticated treatment required for stroke victims. They need careful monitoring by vigilant staff who can spot things when they go wrong and intervene before a problem develops into a crisis. This care should largely be delivered at home and might be co-ordinated by a local hospital in a seamless service.”

This is contradictory rubbish. How can you be carefully monitored at home by vigilant staff when living alone or with a frail partner in poor-quality rented accommodation, with an inadequate number of community nurses and GPs working their socks off already? It implies that second-rate care is the fate of our ageing population unless you can afford private care.

Kenneth G Taylor MD FRCP , Consultant Physician, Birmingham

Before Labour commits itself to a big rise in NHS spending, it would do well to examine the record of the spending and performance of the service over the past ten years.

NHS net expenditure increased by 84 per cent from £57bn in 2002/03 to £105bn in 2012/13. Over the same period the number of beds available in NHS hospitals fell by 26 per cent from 183,826 to 136,487, to reach the present crisis level of 2.6 beds per thousand of population compared with an EU average of 5.3, France 6.0 and Germany 8.0.

Bed occupancy rates between 2002 and 2013 averaged 85 per cent, leading to severe overcrowding, increased risk of infection between patients, and premature discharges due to shortage of beds. Moreover, the Mid-Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust public inquiry and the increasing number of reports of avoidable hospital deaths and cruelty by staff to patients indicate that the quality of care is deteriorating.

It is now nearly 40 years since the publication of my Theory of Bureaucratic Displacement, exemplified by the NHS. The theory indicated that: “In a bureaucratic system increased expenditure will be matched by fall in production.” Milton Friedman found that this applied to the US public school system and referred to it as “Gammon’s Law”.

The law has never been refuted, its statistical predictions have been fulfilled with precision, and its social implications have been amply demonstrated. It is time for us to take it into account before circumstances force us to do so.

Dr Max Gammon, London SE16

Boomers’ luck is not our fault

I normally enjoy Grace Dent’s column, but treating all baby boomers as one homogeneous lump, as she does on 3 June, is sloppy. None of us expected this huge rise in house prices, which pays for nothing unless we sell and downsize, nor are we necessarily happy about it, because of the damage it does to our children’s prospects.

What we did do is to work hard, pay significantly higher taxes and save for our pensions, which are, quite rightly, taxable.

The jibe that we all voted Ukip is statistically risible – the vast majority must have voted for other parties and many are quite happy to live in a culturally diverse society

One area where Grace Dent and I do agree is that we were lucky – hardly our fault – and we have absolutely no right to whinge now.

Graham Hudson, London SW19

Too few men fight for women’s rights

Yasmin Alibhai-Brown is right to ask the question “Where are all the men?” when it comes to campaigning for women’s rights (2 June).

Unfortunately, women have largely been on our own as far as protest is concerned, and while there have always been some supportive men, more often than not the male contribution to the female cause is one of intimidation and putdowns. It is therefore extremely optimistic to think that the current protest in India is likely to be any different.

Ultimately, the world is still defined in male terms and is a world in which women’s issues are something of an inconvenience.

After all, when a man needs to be able to organise his arms deal or sporting fix with some gentleman almost anywhere in the world, dear me, just how awkward it would be to bring up the topic of female rights, particularly when they can be so handily swept under the carpet of “culture” or religion.

Clare Moore, Rustington, West Sussex

Yasmin Alibhai-Brown’s contention that all men are indifferent to violence against women is nothing short of ridiculous. Of course the vast majority of us deplore acts of violence – whether against women, or children, or other men; but unlike Ms Alibhai-Brown, we do not put them in different categories.

A woman in India and a teenage boy in Peckham are equally deserving of our protection; the question is whether the brutalised minority who threaten them can be reasoned with.

Anthony Gardner, London NW10

A greeting from Yorkshire

If other parts of England are struggling with the demise of the traditional forms of greeting, including “How do you do?” and a kiss on the cheek (Rosie Millard, 2 June), may I suggest the entire nation adopts the time-honoured Yorkshire method?

With experience, the simple phrase “Eh up” can be employed to convey a wide range of emotions and can easily be adapted to meetings with everyone from complete strangers to next of kin.

Even in the mouth of a novice it can be used as a friendly but not over-friendly ice-breaker and avoids the angst associated with handshakes and kissing.

Bryan Jones, Knaresborough, North Yorkshire

Sparrows return to Dulwich

Some years ago The Independent ran stories on the decline of the sparrow population in the UK. I don’t remember the cause of this decline ever being established.

Here in East Dulwich in south London the sparrow population appears to be on the rise over the past couple of years. Although nowhere near previous levels it is heartening to hear them chirping in the hedges in the parks and streets. I wonder if any of your readers have noticed a similar increase in other parts of the UK.

Charlie Smith, London SE22

Harmony on the football field

Roy Hodgson has promised that his players will sing the national anthem loud and proud this summer, but thinks “we’re great until the second verse comes along because we don’t really know that”. The answer must be to draft in the help of Gareth Malone. A true team-building exercise. Imagine what singing in four-part harmony would do for on-field co-ordination.

Patrick Walsh, Eastbourne

John Moore claims that men’s sport is “superior in terms of skill, strength, power and entertainment to women’s” (letter, 2 June).

I watched the women’s FA Cup Final at the weekend, and what a pleasure it was. No cheating, diving or play-acting. No pushing or shirt-pulling at set-pieces. No whingeing or berating of officials. And no spitting. Men’s football could learn much from the women’s game, if the authorities had the courage.

Keith O’Neill, Shrewsbury

Still a prince in waiting

Given how long he has been waiting, it does seem harsh that when a vacancy appears for a European monarch Prince Charles is apparently passed over without even an interview for the job.

Keith Flett, London N17


PA:Press Association

Published at 12:01AM, June 4 2014

Opponents of fracking need proper assurances that it will be carefully regulated

Sir, I agree with Sir Paul McCartney and the others who signed the letter on fracking (June 2) that we need to talk about fracking, and any debate should take account of all the facts as presented in the recent studies in the UK by eminent institutions and individuals including the Royal Society and Royal Academy of Engineering, Public Health England, the Chartered Institute of Water and Environmental Management and Professor David Mackay and Dr Tim Stone. All conclude that in a properly regulated industry the risks from fracking are small. We are happy to discuss the merits of shale gas development with anyone who comes to it with an open mind. On this basis, Sir Paul, hopefully “We can work it out”.

Ken Cronin

UK Onshore Oil & Gas

Sir, The joint report on fracking by the Royal Academy of Engineering and the Royal Society (available online) was published in June 2012. Its primary conclusion was that fracking can be carried out safely. Our standard of living depends on secure, affordable energy supplies — if coal is no longer acceptable, we can rely only on nuclear power and fracked gas to meet our needs.

Sir Donald Miller

Kilmacolm, Renfrewshire

Sir, If energy bills swallowed the same percentage of Sir Paul’s income as they do of mine he might see things differently.

Rod Mell

Embsay, N Yorks

Sir, I congratulate Sir Harold Kroto on assembling a galaxy of successful stars opposed to fracking, but I wonder if any of them can provide evidence of a single, proven instance of fracking causing water, soil or livestock contamination during the half century since the technique was first employed.

I assume all of them realise that while their success enables them to ignore the high cost of gas in the UK, to deny fracking would be to ignore the huge reduction in the price of gas that fracking has given to ordinary people, commerce and industry in the US. To ignore the benefits of fracking, sensibly regulated, would deny us the enhanced commercial and industrial competitiveness we need and the arising growth of new employment opportunities. We have immense wealth under our land — which must be realised to benefit us all.

Sir Kenneth Warren

Cranbrook, Kent

Sir, The letter from Sir Harold Kroto, a distinguished carbon chemist, and 150 assorted others is a paradigm of the English disease: the urge to do nothing, run out of fuel and wonder why it happened, is all too common.

It is not true that fracking is banned in US states; only Mora County, a low-income community in New Mexico, and a few US cities have banned fracking within city limits; California has just rejected a proposed moratorium. North Dakota, the home of fracking, is the second biggest oil-producing state, and the combination of fracking and horizontal drilling is changing the economy of the US, where gas costs a third of what it does in Europe.

In North Dakota over 2,000 farmers are now millionaires, and if the owners of the land above the gas in this country received royalties of one-eighth of the value of the gas, as they do in the US, fracking in the UK would be viewed very differently.

John Culhane

London W14


Respected Christian institutions in the country need to look outwards instead of squabbling over legalities

Sir, Your report on the Archbishop of Canterbury’s visit to Pakistan (May 31) did not mention the historic role of Christian institutions in public life.

When I arrived in Pakistan in 2006 General Musharraf was president, and 12 of 17 of his closest associates had been educated in Christian colleges — Musharraf at Forman Christian College, Lahore, with which he retains strong links.

Further, these Christian institutions should build on their considerable educational resources to look outwards and carry forward the visions of those who established them — visions often articulated in terms of service to the whole of society, Muslims, Christians and others.

The university college in Peshawar where I served as principal for four years was partially nationalised in 1973/74, and its governing body restructured to represent the college, the church, Peshawar university and the provincial government. This has worked well but of late tensions have developed between the church and the rest of the board. And this, I believe, is the crux of the problems in many churches in Pakistan: just when they need to reach out collaboratively and offer service, they withdraw and squabble among themselves.

In one of his addresses in Lahore the Archbishop stated that the churches in Pakistan are under siege; be this as it may, I believe that they display a siege mentality which their current leaders seem unable to overcome.

The Rev Dr David L Gosling

(former principal of Edwardes College, Peshawar)



The outcomes of Yes and No votes in the Scottish referendum are very different – one is longterm, one is temporary

Sir, Of course we should not dodge a fight, particularly on Europe and Scotland (“Get up, stand up, don’t give up the fight”, June 3), but the problem with the Scottish referendum is an imbalance between the two outcomes, one of which will settle the matter at least for the foreseeable future, and the other which will not. It is a fair bet that, within an hour of defeat, Alex Salmond will proclaim “The fight for independence continues!” But would you bet on Alistair Darling, in the aftermath of a Yes vote, calling for a reunification campaign?

Chris Handley

Kew, Surrey

It is 20 years since 1,000 children buried time capsules pledging to work for a saner, safer world

Sir, June 5 is World Environment Day, the 20th anniversary of the planting of eco time capsules in Britain (Botanical Gardens at Kew and at Ness) and abroad. Their ethos is the saying: “We have not inherited the Earth from our grandparents, we have borrowed it from our grandchildren”.

The capsules contain environmentally relevant items, good and bad, and address our grandchildren two generations later in 2044. We apologised because we anticipated serious damage to their “loan” of this extraordinary, beautiful and bountiful planet which is our only home (

We believed then and still believe that solutions exist. The commemorative event on Thursday is in association with the charity Population Matters, which campaigns not only to reduce all our environmental (and carbon) footprints but also the “number of feet” (ie, of humans doing the footprinting): through education and fully accessible, voluntary family planning. Thus children in rich as well as poor settings should arrive by choice rather than chance.

We and the thousand children who in 1994 produced their letters, poems and pictures for the time capsules made a continuing pledge to create “a saner, safer and sustainable world”, such that our grandchildren in 2044 would question our need to apologise.

Professor John Guillebaud

Susan Hampshire

Sir Crispin Tickell

A reader recalls how a new wonder drug helped nurses to save the lives of severely wounded soldiers in 1944

Sir, My recollections of D-Day (Normandy Landings, May 31) are of helping to save over 30 wounded soldiers who arrived back, soaking wet and covered in sand. Four doctors had certified that they were certain to die of gas gangrene, but our team under Lady Florey had cleared a ward the day before D-Day, knowing we would be given enough patients to try out our first large experimental batch of penicillin. Every soldier survived, even though it was very painful for them, and it took a long time.

Sir Ernest Florey, working in another hospital got the second batch of penicillin. Every patient had a different dose, as we were still experimenting, but we knew to give it for longer than the first recipients, who were not given it for long enough, so died.

Rosemary Powell

London W6


Encore: ‘Spectators Applauding at the Theatre’, engraved by Benard and Frey, 1837 Photo: Bridgeman Art Library

6:58AM BST 03 Jun 2014

Comments110 Comments

SIR – Michael Henderson’s piece on the invasion of the standing ovation from America brought to mind my visit to see Dame Angela Lansbury in Blithe Spirit last week.

Although Dame Angela was deserving of the standing ovation at the end of the play, it was forced on the majority of those in the stalls by the first row, who started it off, since those behind could not see otherwise.

Perhaps theatre managements ought to apply the rule once seen in many music halls: “No standing or whistling allowed”.

Bill Glennon
Newton Abbot, Devon

SIR – I make no apology for being one of those who stood to applaud Dame Angela in Blithe Spirit. I suggest, however, that those few who got to their feet at the end of the Spice Girls musical, Viva Forever, should never be allowed to step inside a theatre again.

Andy Moreton
Ickenham, Middlesex

SIR – We don’t need more “cottage hospitals” as Simon Stevens, the new chief executive of the NHS, suggests. The word cottage implies a bungaloid, possibly thatched, old building.

We need modern community hospitals, with multiple facilities: such as thriving consultant out-patient clinics, in-patient beds for any chronic patients, and in-beds for acute illness that can be treated by GPs. There should be as many ancillary facilities as possible, including X-ray, physiotherapy, occupational therapy, dental surgery and podiatry, with good parking.

If the NHS boss wants to see a prime example, he should visit Buckingham.

Dr C R Brown

SIR – Cottage or “community” hospitals are not in danger of being closed (Letters, June 2), but larger district general hospitals are. These until recently offered A&E services and most consultant-led specialties, including maternity and children’s services. One by one these services are being moved to very big, usually teaching hospitals in cities to which travelling is difficult and where car-parking is next to impossible. We are told that only such big centres offer safe treatment, with doctors seeing and doing more procedures regularly than those “out in the sticks”.

This threatens services to everyone, particularly the elderly and children. Services are remote and lack connection with local GPs, who cannot get to know specialists far from their practices.

Peter Hayes
Chairman, East Cheshire NHS Trust 1990-2000
Siddington, Cheshire

SIR – Dr Andrew Bamji(Letters, June 2) writes that “’care closer to home’ has been a mantra for many years, but no evidence has ever been produced that shows it is clinically or financially advantageous’’. I agree that proof of its advantages might be hard to find – nearly as hard as finding the advantages of the many layers of highly paid managerial posts created in the NHS.

But it’s difficult to put a value on such things as first-rate palliative and terminal care, post-operative rehabilitation and recuperation, and occupational therapy and physiotherapy departments that don’t need a 20-mile journey to a major hospital.

Here, there is also a minor injuries unit, which must take some pressure off A&E departments at other hospitals.

Georganne Johnson
Halesworth, Suffolk

SIR – If Simon Stevens wants hospitals to treat people locally, he should reverse the decision to transfer A&E and maternity services from St Helier and Epsom hospitals to the monolithic St George’s, Tooting, as proposed by the Better Services Better Value quango. Better still, he should put that quango on the rarely used bonfire and transfer its funds to patient services.

Maurice Hills
Sutton, Surrey

Irish Times:”

Sir, – The only surprise about the European Commission’s warning to the Government regarding the agreed €2 billion in spending cuts for 2015 was the restrained tone of its delivery (“Brussels puts further pressure on Coalition over policies”, Front Page, June 3rd).

The troika had hardly left our shores when those who were left in charge of the instruction manual reverted to type.

Most of the talk centred on rising employment figures, more jobs in the pipeline and confidence in our ability to ride out the storm. The Minister for Finance even welcomed the return of rising house prices as further evidence of business as usual.

But the feel-good factor diverted our attention from the primary goal of debt reduction.

Anti-EU rhetoric and the recent scramble for council seats seem to have adversely affected the judgment of those whose job it is to play by the rules (ie, the government of the day). Like it or lump it, we accepted the terms of the bailout and we must honour that agreement. – Yours, etc,


The Demesne,

Killester, Dublin 5.

Sir, – Economically, it is difficult to justify continuing to take fiscal policy instruction from Brussels. Ethically, it is impossible. Persisting with this callous EU experiment will merely confirm our bankruptcy is no longer just financial but has become moral. – Yours, etc,


Sydenham Court,

Dublin 4.

Sir, – It seems inappropriate for the European Commission to issue advice and guidance to each of the member states as to how to manage their individual economies in the hiatus between the election of Members of the new European Parliament and the first meeting of the new parliament.

What the elections demonstrate is not a rejection of Europe as an entity (except in the case of a small minority), rather a willingness of Europeans to share the development of their peoples and its economies in a collaborative fashion. This desire should be a clear message to the European Commission to step back and listen to the people to whom it is ultimately responsible. – Yours, etc,


Spencer Villas,

Glenageary, Co Dublin.

Sir, – In a recent article on suicide (“Number of deaths by suicide fell overall last year”, Home News, May 31st), it was concluded that deaths by suicide had fallen by more than 6 per cent when comparing the CSO suicide mortality figures for 2013 to the figures published in 2012.

The article did not clarify that this conclusion was based on comparing the preliminary suicide figures for 2013 to the preliminary figures for 2012. Research conducted by the National Suicide Research Foundation has shown that the preliminary suicide figures published by the CSO are consistently lower than the final suicide figures. The discrepancy between the preliminary and final suicide figures varies from +6 per cent to +20 per cent. This means that, in principle, the final 2013 suicide figures may turn out to be even higher than the final suicide figures for 2012.

For example, in 2008, the preliminary suicide figures were 424 and indicated a significant reduction, whereas the final suicide mortality figures included 82 additional suicide cases (final number, 506), thus turning 2008 into a year with one of the most significant increases. We would recommend caution in interpreting the preliminary suicide figures, and suggest reviewing whether there are any benefits in publishing preliminary suicide mortality figures. It was for this reason that several years ago, the National Suicide Research Foundation developed the Suicide Support and Information System (SSIS), representing a real-time database or register of suicide deaths.

With funding from the National Office for Suicide Prevention, the SSIS was implemented in close collaboration with coroners in Cork city and county between September 2008 and March 2011, covering all consecutive deaths by suicide. Information on factors associated with the death and the deceased were obtained in an appropriately sensitive and confidential manner from sources including coroners, the family, and healthcare professionals who had been in contact with the deceased.

In this regard, the SSIS obtains information on cases of suicide at least two years earlier than the CSO and provides in-depth information on patterns and risk factors of suicide that is vital and more timely information for suicide prevention initiatives.

Further steps are being undertaken to implement this system in other regions in the country. – Yours, etc,



National Suicide

Research Foundation,

Western Gateway


Sir, – I wish to expand upon Marie Coleman’s points (May 30th) about the Labour Party’s decision not to contest the 1918 general election. Dr Coleman’s points about the party’s performances in the 1920 local and 1922 general elections illustrate that the 1918 decision had little effect on its resilience.

The 1918 abstention has for too long been used as a ready explanation for Labour’s inability to move beyond its position as the “half” party in a “2½” party system. The party’s failure to provide credible opposition in the Free State parliament during the 1920s might go further in explaining its traditional weaknesses.

The party, under Tom Johnson, failed to capitalise on the Boundary Commission debacle in 1925, it refused to tarnish its image of respectability by supporting the non-payment of land annuities, and it actively sought the accession of Fianna Fáil into the political mainstream.

When de Valera’s party eventually entered the Dáil, it did so with a programme that borrowed heavily from Labour, but which had no hang-ups about presenting a respectable image. When a Fianna Fáil minority government was established in 1932, it was with Labour’s support under William Norton. Report from the party’s annual conferences in the early 1930s read like Pat Rabbitte’s “81 per cent of the blame” rhetoric of late.

Johnson’s fear of the effects of default, and Labour’s failures in the 1920s and early 1930s, are much more illuminating in the study of the party’s development than a decision made in 1918, which most agree was a pragmatic move in the context of the times. – Yours, etc,


University of Ulster,


Sir, – Every so often, it seems that we Irish Americans need to be reminded of how impotent we have allegedly become. This time, the messenger is Colm Quinn (“Why Irish America should not expect special treatment on immigration”, Opinion & Analysis, June 2nd). It’s his “realist” view that immigration reform will not happen any time soon and that the Irish Government is wasting its time advocating for the 50,000 undocumented Irish on visits to Washington.

Mr Quinn is profoundly mistaken on two levels.

First, despite being based in Washington, he clearly misapprehends the current political climate there. While his disdainful characterisation of a hyper-partisan Congress is accurate, he neglects to mention the reality that the Republican Party is divided on immigration. Its leadership recognises that the party is headed for electoral oblivion unless it quickly alters the perception that it is anti-immigrant.

Irish and Irish American political leaders can play a unique role in getting the US hard right to see that the “illegal immigrants” they sadly rail against are not just Mexicans. The Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform, working in concert with other immigrant groups, has spent the past several years making this case. Their efforts were crucial to winning over one prominent Irish-American Republican congressman, Paul Ryan, to the pro-reform side.

Second, at a moral level, it is incumbent upon Ireland’s political leaders to use their unparalleled access to the White House and Capitol Hill to advocate for the undocumented Irish living and working in the shadows of the US. These men and women may live there, but their families and friends are here, and worry constantly about their precarious situations.

The Irish undocumented did not cease to be Irish when they left and deserve the ongoing assistance of the country of their birth.

Mr Quinn is right that the Government should push for the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, but he is wrong to assume that immigration reform cannot happen and to assert that the Irish Government should not do its utmost at every opportunity for the undocumented. And as countless Irish Americans would surely remind him, we’re far from a spent force. – Yours, etc,


School of Law,

NUI Galway.

Sir, – About 88 per cent of people in Poland are Catholic, but religious education is optional in schools. Parents decide whether children should attend religion classes or ethics classes. I have spoken to numerous Poles who were amazed when I told them that the religious institutions control nearly all of the primary schools in Ireland.

I hear it said that parents do not have to send their children to religious-controlled schools, but the reality is that many parents do not have a choice. I know of several couples who have no religious beliefs and yet have their children baptised just so they may be admitted to the local primary school and for no other reason. – Yours, etc,


Stocking Avenue,

Rathfarnham, Dublin 16.

Sir, – We can learn a lot from the experience of others, particularly Britain and Northern Ireland. Britain has advanced much further down the secular educational route than us, yet statistics continuously confirm the academic superiority of faith schools. In Northern Ireland, Catholic schools continue to outperform academically all other school types. Besides, despite a lot of loose talk to the contrary, if the most recent Irish census is to be believed, we still live in a surprisingly unicultural society, with 92 per cent of people identifying themselves as Christian. It would seem to be an extraordinary unnecessary gamble to attempt to dismantle the current educational model to placate a tiny minority of dissenters. – Yours, etc,


Balreask Village,

Navan, Co Meath.

Sir, – If parents wish for their children to be given religious instruction surely this could be done on a Sunday, after Mass, as is the case in many other countries? Why does the world’s richest, largest and most powerful church need to dip its hands into the pockets of the taxpayer?

I recall only one science lesson in primary school – one half hour where we played with magnets. However we spent hour after hour memorising prayers, catechisms, hymns, preparing for communion and confirmation. All at the expense of every taxpayer – regardless of their faith or lack of it – and in a school that was legally entitled to discriminate against teachers for their sexuality, religion, marital status and so on.

Some republic this is! – Yours, etc,


Pairc a’ Chrosaire,

An Rinn,


Co Waterford.

A chara, – We are told that a senior Fine Gael source (“Kenny faces pressure to shake up Fine Gael’s senior ranks”, Front Page, June 2nd) feels that a major reshuffle of the Cabinet, and in particular a move for the Minister for Health, would demonstrate that the lessons of the election drubbing have been learned. Yet this would be a demonstration, if it were needed, that no lesson had been learned. A major change in the treatment of the most vulnerable in our society and an end to unfair stealth taxes would show that a lesson had been learned. – Is mise,


Garrán Llewellyn,

Ráth Fearnáin,

Baile Átha Cliath 16.

A chara, – I note that Tony Blair has shared his reflections on leadership qualities with your London Editor Mark Hennessy(“EU must meet concerns of its citizens, warns Blair”, June 3rd).

In describing the baser political path one might embark on, Mr Blair says, “When you start to ride that tiger what happens is that it takes you in directions that you can’t control. Then you end up in a big mess”.

I assume he is referring to his jaunt with George W Bush? – Is mise,





Sir, – It is most curious that Sean Ó Riain (“How to avoid the mistakes of the Celtic Tiger”, Business, May 29th), should, in his quest to remake Irish society, seek to enhance markedly the power of the State which so actively encouraged the misguided investment in property development which has resulted in our present financial penury.

His oblique reference to the narrowness of our tax base obscures the fact that enabling his desired level of public spending and investment would necessitate the levying of far higher taxes on those on low to average incomes. Furthermore, it is worth asking why the European social model which he holds in such high esteem would have encouraged the investment of so much private European capital in Ireland as opposed to in their own economies.

Although Mr Ó Riain notes that public-sector employment has shrunk since 2008, he declines to mention that the far more precipitous declines in our GDP and private workforce have made the public sector account for a far larger proportion of our economy than it did in 2008. Has this realignment of wealth in our society made the readers of The Irish Times feel any more materially or socially fulfilled than they were in 2008? – Yours, etc,


Armstrong’s Barn,

Sir, – I read with interest the letter from the Irish Property Owners’ Association (June 2nd). One word that stuck out is “courage” used in the context of investing. Investing in property is not about “courage”; it is about risk, reward and return on capital. Too many amateur landlords ignored the latter. 

As for the State, it should have the courage to instruct the banks to foreclose faster on defaulting rented property – to tackle those who bought at levels that will never lead to a return on capital. Returning these properties to the market would lead to lower prices.

There is nothing to be gained by continuing to subsidise accidental landlords – the “buy to regret” sector. – Yours, etc,


Hesperus Crescent,

Isle of Dogs, London.

Sir, – One gets weary at the persistence of the many people like John Bellew (May 26th) who continue to attribute Irish neutrality during the second World War solely to Eamon de Valera.

The simple fact is that all parties in Dáil Éireann unanimously voted for neutrality at the outbreak of the war.

Fourteen other European countries were neutral and only Ireland, Sweden, Switzerland, Spain and Portugal succeeded in maintaining their neutrality throughout the war.

The others had theirs violated.

It is now also well known that Ireland secretly engaged in pro-Allied activities throughout the war while successfully maintaining a facade of absolute neutrality. – Yours, etc,


Bishopscourt Road,


A chara, – Whatever about “something very valuable” being lost (June 2nd) following the decision to abolish town councils, as a local historian, might I ask the county councils to ensure that the valuable historical records of abolished authorities are not lost? – Is mise,


Gleann na Smól,

An Charraig Dhubh,

Átha Cliath.

Sir, – I wish the date of the Leaving Certificate could be moved to December. We could do with some good weather around Christmas. – Yours, etc,


Loreto Grange,

Bray, Co Wicklow.

Sir, – Further to David Griffin’s bemusement at the Weather Watch prediction “A wet evening with the odd spot of rain”, perhaps it was raining between the showers. – Yours, etc,




Co Wicklow.

Irish Independent:

It has been interesting seeing last week’s election results. Despite almost 400,000 people unemployed, not to mention the large numbers forced to leave Ireland to seek work, it is the several hundred local councillors and the small number of MEPs who lost their jobs who have finally forced government action on a number of critical issues.

Also in this section

Letters: Our political system is suffering from a meeting disease

Letters: Let students get on with exams without a media fuss

Letters to the Editor: Beaten, but no defeat

It has also been worrying that two further jobs – leader and deputy leader of a certain political party – have taken up such a huge amount of media time and energy.

We have been told that the medical card issue will now be solved by an ‘expert group’, yet to be appointed. This is a change of terminology from the phrase often used some years ago when the health system was being reorganised and we were led to believe it would give us ‘centres of excellence’, until it transpired that phrase was no longer fit for purpose – a bit like some of the actual centres.

Earlier in the year, when the Aer Lingus workers’ pension scheme was identified as a major issue, we were also told an ‘expert group’ had been appointed, but it appears there has been limited progress on that front to date – and based on the action taken last Friday, that agenda may now have to be broadened.

I wonder, do those jobs for ‘experts’ pay much and how can people apply?

Two other much-abused terms should also probably now come under scrutiny: the words ‘ombudsman’ and ‘regulator’, widely used but, without appropriate resources or direction, hampered in carrying out any significant functions, if maybe useful in ticking government boxes?

And when it comes to taking money, rather than using one of three words (tax, charge or levy), perhaps for Budget 2015 stick to the tried and trusted one ‘tax’ – it’s much clearer and we all know that it means cash going in only one direction.





The GAA is making the referees’ job impossible. I would not ref a match now for love nor money.

The rules need to be simplified, not multiplied. The black card is the last nail in the coffin. Worse still, every new regulation inexorably demands another, and so on ad infinitum.

Why not just make holding a foul, as in the old days, and let the referee be the judge? Why is the ref’s job so clear-cut in rugby and so complicated in Gaelic? But, of course, I am talking through my hat, and the pundits, as always, are right.





The EU seems to have become quite vociferous on what is good for Ireland’s financial health. One can only assume that this is as a result of the Fiscal Compact treaty that was half-passed in Ireland recently. The reason I say half-passed is of course that the Irish have developed a tradition for having two referendums on European treaties.

As Angela and Enda know well, the Irish are merely waiting for Francois Hollande to re-negotiate the treaty as promised in his election manifesto. If he has any problem, then perhaps Enda could suspend the workings of the treaty until such time as we get around to having the second referendum: 2020, perhaps, or maybe some other point in the future . . . ultimately we’ll decide, I suppose!

Anyway, it’s nice to see Olli Rehn and others rabbitting on about what is good for Ireland when we haven’t even decided yet whether that is any of his business or not.





Brian Walker’s theory that between April 26-29, 1922, 10 Protestant men in west Cork were killed in retaliation for sectarian attacks on Catholics in Northern Ireland is plausible (Irish Independent, May 31).

Some 229 people were killed there between February and May 1922. The violence began with the expulsion of 6,000 from Belfast shipyards in July 1920. Protestant trade unionists were also victims. One, James Baird, later observed that every Roman Catholic was excluded, “whether ex-service man who had proved his loyalty to England during the Great War, or Sinn Feiner”. By November, “almost 10,000″ were affected.

Thousands of Catholics were also driven from their homes. An April 1922 agreement between Michael Collins and James Craig to give restitution to expelled workers collapsed near month’s end. Northern Protestant church leaders’ support for the shipyard expulsions was also reported that month.

However, there is a problem with Walker’s notion of North-South sectarian reciprocity. Southern Protestant congregations were, at the time, denying sectarian tensions, while denouncing attacks on Catholics in the North. The day it reported the west Cork killings, the ‘Southern Star’ reported Protestants in Schull condemning “acts of violence committed against our Roman Catholic fellow countrymen”. The British Empire journal ‘Round Table’ noted in June 1922: “Southern Ireland boasts with justice that it has been remarkably free from the sectarian hatreds that have come to characterise Belfast.”

Why, then, did the killings take place? Some research indicates an IRA perception that the victims had collaborated with British forces. Walker dismisses one possible contributing factor, the simultaneous killing in nearby Macroom of three British Intelligence officers. The British denied their officers’ intelligence function and the IRA denied arresting and killing them. It is possible this led to acquiescence in a purely sectarian narrative for the simultaneous civilian killings.

This is speculative, but makes more sense than Walker’s theory of retaliatory sectarian attacks. My view is explained in more detail in ‘Field Day Review’ 2014.






I was amazed by Alex White’s decision to use the Rosie Hackett Bridge to announce he will run for leadership of the Labour Party. If ever there was an incongruous juxtaposition of two names, surely this was it. One is a barrister from a middle-class background, while the other was a working-class activist from a Dublin tenement.





The posters have been removed from their elevated positions on lampposts and other points of visibility. Now, would those who put themselves forward as candidates mind removing the plastic ties which kept the posters in place? Some of those have been in place not only from these but the 2011 and 2009 elections. And they look unsightly.





Another Women’s Mini Marathon today, and I am delighted for all the participants and beneficiaries of a fantastic effort.

I would just like to point out that if this effort had been called the ‘Men’s Mini Marathon’, it would never have been allowed to flourish.

In fact, I am sure that if there had ever been a ‘Men’s Mini Marathon’, every entrant would have been accused of being sexist.



Irish Independent


June 3, 2014

3June2014 Better

No jog around the park I still have arthritis in my left knee

Scrabbletoday, Mary win the games, and gets under 400 perhaps Iwill win tomorrow


Monty Moss – obituary

Monty Moss was a Moss Bros chairman who took British tailoring to Paris, sold equestrian wear and could stitch a suit by hand

Monty Moss at 90

Monty Moss at 90

6:45PM BST 30 May 2014

Comments4 Comments

Monty Moss, who has died aged 90, was the fourth-generation chairman of Moss Bros, the menswear and formal wear chain, and a strict arbiter of sartorial correctness.

“No man is ever smart if he does not show half an inch of shirt cuff,” Moss declared in 1984 in a lament against the decline of grooming and the advance of casualness. As for hipster trousers, they were “hopeless… Nothing looks worse than a gap between the top of the trousers and the bottom of the waistcoat, particularly with a pot belly.” Tucking the tie into the waistband was a still greater offence.

Moss was a firm advocate of the pleated cummerbund with evening dress — and even more so of hats to “lend respectability” on all occasions. At Ascot, weddings and royal garden parties (the mainstays of Moss Bros’ renowned dress hire business) “top hats should be worn not carried” — though grey gloves should of course be carried not worn. He was incensed by the hatless state of Lord Mountbatten’s statue, in naval uniform, erected near Horse Guards Parade in 1983.

It was the maintenance of such standards that made Moss Bros a national institution. The business founded in a small shop in Covent Garden in 1851 by Monty’s great-grandfather Moses Moses (who later dropped the “e” from his surname) had originally dealt in second-hand clothes. Moses’s sons developed it into a high-quality tailoring emporium in nearby King Street, and in 1897 they introduced a seven-shillings-and-sixpence evening-dress hire service. Military and court uniforms, equestrian wear and saddlery as well as suitable wardrobes for first-class voyages were all added to the repertoire.

Moss Bros advertisement from the 1960s (The Advertising Archives)

Monty trained in every aspect of the business, joined the board in 1965, and then succeeded his father Harry, first as managing director and, from 1981 to 1987, as chairman. Despite his conservative tastes, Monty was a supporter of initiatives to modernise and broaden the business, including the opening of an outlet in Paris and of an in-store boutique called One-Up, aimed at the fashion-conscious young men of the late 1960s, and the expansion of its womenswear ranges.

Under his leadership Moss Bros extended to 60 branches around the country, and despite changing fashions it maintained its niche as the pre-eminent brand for formal outfitting. Among half a dozen family members in the business, Monty regarded himself as “the nearest thing to a practical Moss: I’ve made a suit, every stitch of it by hand.”

A shopkeeper at heart, he was less comfortable dealing with boardroom issues, the most pressing of which during his chairmanship was a proposal to realise the value of the prominent King Street site. When his successors brought it to fruition in 1988 with a £23 million sale to a Japanese developer, not long after he had stepped down to become the company’s president, he described leaving the building as “like a bereavement”.

Montague George Moss was born in London on April 21 1924. His father — son of Moses Moss’s eldest, George — had joined the family business at 13 and was its shrewd and progressive leader from the mid-1930s until the mid-1970s.

Young Monty was put to work as a lift-boy in King Street before being dispatched to Harrow in 1938. After leaving school he was called up and commissioned in the King’s Royal Rifle Corps, rising to the rank of captain. He was demobilised, and joined Moss Bros, in 1947. He was later president of the Federation of Merchant Tailors and the Tailors’ Benevolent Institution.

At Harrow, Monty had been captain of Fives — and he became a lifelong stalwart of the Old Harrovian Fives Club, in which he was revered as the most courteous of players. “A let was always offered before it could be claimed,” according to one tribute. He was also an enthusiast for skiing and cricket, and regretted the decline of the annual Eton-Harrow fixture as a social occasion: “Somebody — it must have been an Etonian — said stop dressing up for it, so people stopped going.”

Monty Moss married, in 1955, Jane Levi. She survives him with their daughter and two sons .

Monty Moss, born April 21 1924, died April 27 2014


Laura Smith (Welsh youngsters learn to rethink racism, Society, 28 May) reports on the success of the Think Project, enabling 200 young people not in school or training to question their attitudes to racial stereotypes and minority ethnic groups. The organisers stress these young people “are not racist, just lacking in knowledge”. But most young people are in school. Those fortunate to be in an inclusive school soon discover that their friendships are not based on colour or faith, but on personality and shared interests. They have the chance to gain the “knowledge” from personal experience and see that no one group has a monopoly of brilliant minds, best footballers, bullies, funniest students or kindest human beings. In counties such as West Yorkshire there are many areas where residents are almost exclusively of one faith. If individuals choose to live, work and worship solely within these areas, that’s their choice. But we should surely enable the children of such families to mix with, learn about and befriend children of other faiths and cultures. Perhaps it’s time to re-examine the proliferation of state-funded faith schools, and better understand the need to equip all children to recognise and challenge prejudice.
Kathryn Sheard
Kirklees, West Yorkshire

• Your publication (27 May) of the British Social Attitudes report into prejudicial and racist attitudes in the UK (Racism on the rise in Britain), is of interest to us at the Anne Frank Trust. We work in some of the most economically deprived and socially divided areas of the country, but our own research among teenagers and their teachers contradicts these findings about adult attitudes in the report. We may hold a solution to improving these statistics for the next generation.

We have found to our immense satisfaction that 83% of teachers reported that as a result of attending our Anne Frank educational programmes in their school, pupils were more likely to challenge discriminatory behaviour. We have also conducted research among 7,000 teenagers who have engaged with our exhibition and workshops and 75% of these young people said that learning about Anne Frank had made them think “a lot” about how they treat people.

Nearly 70 years after her death, the teenage Anne Frank still exerts a powerful message about how we regard and treat others.
Gillian Walnes
Executive director, Anne Frank Trust UK

• It will come as no surprise to those people who encounter prejudice each day of their lives and those who, against all obstacles placed in their way, challenge it and try to do something about the “rising tide of race prejudice across Britain”.

While it is interesting to read the comments made by distinguished theorists and academics about prejudice, full respect is due to those activists, including many teachers (no thanks to Gove and his predecessors) and some organisations that go out of their way to challenge bias, bigotry and ignorance. During the past decade there has been complicit resistance to confronting race, sex, class, Islamic, homophobic, age and antisemitic prejudices through public and formal education programmes, fronted by political and corporate leaders pushing light-touch regulation with the inevitable consequence of unchallenged discrimination. That approach also neutered the former Commission for Racial Equality and its successor body, the Equality and Human Rights Commission, both failing to tackle prejudice as a priority.

Two sectors providing scope for active awareness raising and attitude-changing activities are those of education and sport. Football attracts its fair share of prejudices amongst players, fans and administrators, however led by the actions of Kick It Out and Show Racism the Red Card (with some support from the Professional Footballers’ Association, the Premier League and Football Association) there is some degree of educating the next generation of players and fans. If we can do more across all sectors of society, we might get beyond mere tolerance and defeat ignorance, bigotry and discrimination before it tears us apart.
Herman Ouseley
Kick It Out

astle, I found Diane Abbott’s article (Let’s stay out of the gutter, 29 May) caused me to reflect on immigration. I came from the west of Ireland to the West End of Newcastle in the early 1980s and have practised as an NHS GP here ever since. The welcome and generosity of the local people, almost exclusively white British, to yet another Irish man, at a time when there was still plenty of fear because of the situation in the north of Ireland, was greatly appreciated. This was and is a predominantly working-class area with high levels of unemployment and deprivation. It was evident when I first came that there was no significant investment by government in this area, either in creating jobs or social housing.

The area was dying. I saw the effects of this on my patients. Soon after, immigrants from various parts of the world started to arrive and the demographics of the area have now changed greatly. In my own practice more than 50% of people do not have English as their first language. The West End has been given a new lease of life, with local shops, restaurants and small businesses, private investment in housing and so on.

The “indigenous” Newcastle people remain open, friendly and kind. The malevolent attempt by the racist politicians to shift the blame for the distress caused by government underfunding of social welfare, housing and employment on to immigrants is shameful, but nothing less than I would expect. Hopefully “we” Geordies will see it for what it is and support those politicians with views similar to Diane Abbott and other traditional supporters of the working class. We can then remain focused on what matters and that is making life better for the people who have less.
Dr Joe Kelliher
Prospect Medical Group, Newcastle

• The attitude of Diane Abbott is precisely the reason so many people are flocking to Ukip, for there is nowhere else to go if you wish to keep Britain a sovereign state. To wish to control immigration is not racist; to wish to leave the EU is not racist. By shouting racism at anything that diverts from the opinions of many on the left is to devalue the concept. Independence and sovereignty have been the rallying cry of the left for over a century as peoples all over the world fought for freedom from colonial rule. It is the natural ground of the left, which tragically is being vacated to Ukip and other rightwing groups. The British people are instinctively inclined towards being independent from any foreign interference; they want to control their own affairs and that includes control of our borders – which does not mean no immigration, but controlled immigration. Until the left reclaims the concept of a sovereign Britain and takes up the call for a an EU referendum, Ukip will win every time.
Fawzi Ibrahim

• Both the rise of anti-Semitism in the 1930s and the hatred today of immigrants are classic examples of what psychologists call “projection”. People going through straightened times find a scapegoat for their hatreds and blame all their own troubles on “the other”, whether Jews in Romania in the 1930s or Romanians in Britain in 2014. The problem for the politicians is that projection is, by its definition, irrational. Seeing Nick Clegg try to argue rationally with Nigel Farage’s fear-mongering was to witness a train-crash that any psychologist or historian could have predicted.

Now that the local and European parliament elections are over, responsible politicians in the main parties have to concentrate not on opposing Ukip racism (which is irrational) – but on the underlying causes that have resulted in around 5 million Britons voting on the basis of fear. Only then can such harm be removed from the British body politic.
Dr Christopher Catherwood

• There was once a time when the state accepted its responsibility to maintain good race relations and when integration was a dynamic two-way process, famously defined in 1966 by the then home secretary, Roy Jenkins, “not as a flattening process of assimilation but as equal opportunity, accompanied by cultural diversity, in an atmosphere of mutual tolerance”. How far we have travelled from that ideal has now been captured by the British Social Attitudes survey. And while your editorial (28 May) quite rightly points out the correlation between political messages and rising concern among voters, we would go further. In attempting to triangulate around the Ukip vote, Miliband, as much as Cameron, has played fast and loose with xenophobia.

Likewise, Labour as much as the Con-Dem government has been careless of the impact of nativist pronouncements and policies on poor migrants, particularly new arrivals from eastern Europe, who live under the impact of increased hostility and violence. Michael Gove sending his Ofsted inquisitors into Birmingham primary schools with a large Muslim intake (Report, 21 May), to interrogate teachers and harass young children alike, bodes ill for the future of race relations.
Liz Fekete
Director, Institute of Race Relations

• Lola Okolosie (Comment, 29 May) wrote passionately about the evils of racism, but her article was based upon an interpretation of a piece of research by NatCen which, by their own admission, might not be as authoritative as assumed. “It’s important to realise that these findings are not indicative of anything other than how many people describe themselves as racially prejudiced in an interview situation. They are not indicative of an increase in racially motivated crime, workplace discrimination or a nation catapulting to the far right” (Can we really measure racial prejudice?, 27 May). Given such a warning, I feel commentators must be very careful in coming to firm conclusions which depend upon interpretations of data which, themselves, may not be particularly accurate or reliable, otherwise it can cause more harm than good.
Ivor Mitchell
Wellington, Somerset

• One factor missing from the NatCen survey is reference to the ethnic origin of those surveyed. In my experience (political canvassing, community work among EU migrants), this is where racism can still sometimes lurk. If you want to hear expressions of strong anti-immigrant feelings or racially motivated prejudices then listen to many first- and second-generation members of national minorities when they feel relaxed enough to speak out in front of you.

Many of these remarks betray considerable ill feeling and mistrust between black and Asian minorities, and both often make scathing remarks about east European immigrants – which in turn do not go unreciprocated. The situation can be even worse when these minorities speak to each other in the language of their country of origin, where racially motivated sentiments are expressed using unvarnished terminology. These views are not repeated in English, but then English to them is the language of political correctness. The terminology in their own language has not been similarly detoxified. NatCen should commission a new study which will encompass the ethnic factor in the expression of these attitudes.
Wiktor Moszczynski

• It is accepted by all three party leaders that “something” must be done about immigration. People on doorstep give immigration, as their reasons for voting Ukip. In fact nothing can be done about immigration that will satisfy the poorest sections of society. The fear of immigration is largely irrational and not subject to facts or figures. Historically there have always been scares about “the other”, from Jewish immigration in the early 20th Century to the Ugandan Asians in the 1970s. These fears have usually been accompanied by an obsession with a crowded island, again something which is highly subjective. Cutting or ending immigration has always been used and exploited by the far right – which is otherwise opposed to trade unions and strikes to increases wages – to explain poverty, poor housing and other social provisions.

Today is no different. We are faced with a historical transfer of wealth from the poor to the rich, coupled with the destruction of the welfare state and the NHS. It is no surprise that George Osborne and fellow Conservative leaders seek to blame refugees. Scapegoating is as old as capitalism. But if you were to ask those who explain immigration for their frustrations, they would be hard-pressed to provide the details of the levels of immigration to Britain, from inside or outside the EU. Ed Miliband should ignore the panic-driven advice of Ed Balls and instead place his proposals in an overall context of who has paid for Britain’s financial crisis. Now is the time for a bold and radical leader of the Labour party, not one who is diverted by the chimera of Ukip.
Tony Greenstein

• I was appalled by the headline on your report (Rising tide of prejudice across Britain, 28 May) and your editorial (Race against time) of the same day. You effectively branded one-third of the UK population as racist. Perhaps you ought to give more consideration to what Trevor Phillips has said and the distinctions he made in his well-judged comments.

To face up to prejudices, either our own or those of others, we first of all need to recognise that we might possibly have them. Branding people as racist, for doing exactly that, is likely to keep prejudices hidden and festering. Years working in secondary schools eventually taught me that, in promoting and developing tolerance and understanding, education and discussion are better long-term solutions than just outrage and condemnation. To take this one step further: would not a “restorative” approach, as practised in many schools, have offered a much more satisfactory outcome than the court case you cite?
Ken Hall
Knaresborough, North Yorkshire

• Those of us who have lived or worked in London’s East End for a number of years know that the racists and people who dislike diversity have been gradually moving eastwards, with Romford, Basildon, Canvey Island (covered by Castle Point) and Southend among the locations of choice. This could explain the success of Ukip in these areas. Unemployment and poverty is rife in east London, but Ukip did not do well here.
Helen Mullineux
Roydon, Essex

• Your suggestion that the parties keep calm and carry on might have to be revised if the electorate interpret the election results to mean that they can actually bring about real change in the political system, and resolve to do so next year. We might even get a bigger turnout.
David Lund

Matthew Goodwin is correct to highlight the lack of serious engagement with the drivers behind Ukip’s appeal (This time there’ll be no collapse in Ukip support, 27 May). This political shift is rooted in the concerns of the vast majority about the increasing pace of immigration and about their own increasing economic insecurity. Yet the response to Ukip’s success seems to be that it is just a protest party and all that is required is to explain existing polices more effectively, drop the political geek-speak and imitate Farage’s popular blokeyness. If the Westminster parties cling to that deluded comfort blanket, they are in for a nasty shock come next year’s election.

What should be done to tackle the twin concerns of immigration and economic insecurity? The answer has to be to reconsider the whole question of open borders, not just to people but also to money and goods. Our openness to capital flows allows Europe’s rich to pile into London’s property market, ensuring generation rent will never achieve any housing security. The relocation of UK companies to countries with lower tax and/or wages also continues apace.

Clearly no one country can buck the market on its own. But Labour could start a debate about the issue of the free flow of people, goods and money with its sister parties in the EU, given its desire to replace failing markets with responsible capitalism. The reform the left should be calling for is for the emergence of a cooperative grouping of countries prioritising the protection and rebuilding of local economies. This could provide a secure future for Europeans and turn the EU from an anathema to a positive answer to voters concerns. Such a shift is now far more likely given that the extreme right will be breathing down the necks of parties all over Europe forcing them to consider alternatives to help ensure their political survival. This approach could increase the left’s political support, provide a more secure and civilised future and be seen as a beacon of hope for a world itself suffering rising economic insecurity, inequality and political upheaval.
Colin Hines
East Twickenham, Middlesex

• Pierre Poujade enlivened the fading days of the French fourth republic with his populist tax revolt. Within a couple of years his Union to Defend Shopkeepers and Artisans had attracted 400,000 members and, in 1956, won 52 national assembly seats (one of them held by Jean-Marie Le Pen). It caused general pandemonium in France and the nascent European Economic Union. By 1958, with the ascendancy of De Gaulle to the presidency of the Fifth Republic, Poujadism more or less died on its feet. Its founder later supported François Mitterrand’s bid for the presidency. Plus ça change …
Harold Jackson
Woolpit, Suffolk

Your coverage of the British Social Attitudes Survey (Rising tide of race prejudice across Britain, 28 May), fails (at least according to your report) to acknowledge the fine grain in social attitudes towards the concept of “the other”, relying only on the construct of “race” to define prejudice. Recent political debate has turned on a complex set of issues – EU immigration, non-EU immigration, Islamophobia, cultural difference – and usually exhibited very little concern about “race” (a rickety concept anyway) as such. To label and conflate prejudice relating to all these issues as “racial” doesn’t get us very far. We need new terms for advancing our discussion and understanding of the causation of prejudice against “the other”.
Gillian Dalley

Diane Abbott (29 May) says “Immigrants do not cause low wages”. From a socialist perspective, the function of the free movement of labour – and what else is immigration? – is to hold down wages and break strikes. There doesn’t seem to be much point in blaming “predatory employers”. In the capitalist system, employers don’t pay workers more than they have to. She goes on to blame “deregulated labour markets, the rise of zero hours contracts and proliferating agency workers”. Fair enough – but what exactly is she proposing to remedy this? It would be good if her party could put forward a proper detailed programme of legislation– something missing from her article – for the voters to consider.
John Welch

• It’s right that predatory employers, deregulation, zero hours contracts and agency employment etc are increasing social stress and racism. That’s why we need a Labour government. But do the British people not have a right to determine who comes to this country in future? Voters clearly believe it is their country and they do have the right to choose.
Christopher Clayton

• While Labour seems likely to pursue yet more anti-immigrant policies, Alex Salmond announces that an independent Scotland would welcome more immigrants because they will benefit society. Another reason why I will vote yes in the referendum.
Bob Holman

• Perhaps London should apply for membership of the EU when the rest of us leave. After all, those of us fortunate enough to live in the sticks regard London as a foreign country.
Tony Palmer
Hope Valley, Derbyshire

We have heard too much mealy-mouthed, platitudinous prattle from politicians about immigration. Even if they could close the stable door, it is too late (Report, 25 May). Huge numbers of immigrants have already settled in our tiny island and changed the face of our communities. They are mums and dads, aunties and uncles, grandparents, cabbies, nurses, carpenters, doctors, drivers, teachers, labourers, waiters, lawyers and the unemployed, like the rest of us. We owe them a little more courtesy and respect for their contribution to our society.

Instead of scapegoating them for our ills, we should concern ourselves with issues of integration and respect for our customs and practice. If we can’t at least be friendly and welcoming, if we go on carping and criticising, we may well be storing up social unrest. More than that, we are in danger of appearing mean and selfish. All of which shouldn’t preclude the EU from considering a moratorium on immigration for a few years to give host countries time to adjust to demographic changes.
David Smith
Bampton, Devon

• Just watching the BBC news, I am staggered at the sheer arrogance of UK politicians refusing to concede that Ukip’s victory was due to immigration. It’s not about racism; it’s about the number of migrants coming, accepting low-paid jobs, often illegally. They allow employers to break labour laws. Their presence lowers wages and standards. They have, understandably, no interest in the UK; it’s just a way for them to earn money.

The impact of so many people coming here is a strain on housing, schools and the NHS – politicians are immune to the effects of this; most other people aren’t. Additionally, lots of non-EU citizens find it easy to get, for example, Latvian citizenship, allowing them into the UK. We know what’s going on – we deal with it every day; and yet still politicians refuse to accept our deep concerns and unhappiness about this matter.

They’re totally out of touch with reality. Have they any idea how angry people are? Ukip has, ironically, in relation to its pro-business ethos, become the party of the working people, white, black and Asian. The main parties need to respect the electorate. Ukip did so well because the rest didn’t listen. Judging by what they’re saying, they still aren’t.
Jennifer Morris
Chapel-en-le-Frith, Derbyshire

• Migration is two-way. In excess of 2 million Brits have used their rights as EU citizens to live, work and retire in Europe. This freedom is threatened by Ukip’s proposal to take the UK out of the EU. I regularly work in other EU countries and the party will deny me the right to do so. Its policy is a threat to personal freedom and will undermine our economy. The principle of free movement was fought for by Margaret Thatcher, when she helped to create the single market; it seems bizarre that the right wing of her party now seeks to undermine her achievement. The Conservative Party are the architects of Britain’s membership of the EU, and Heath, Thatcher, Major and Cameron were/are committed Europeans. Ironically, when Labour fought the 1983 general election with a policy of leaving the EU, it lost heavily. So let’s have some balance here. Yes, there is a need to address migration, but simply slamming the door will turn the UK into a prison – with us all denied the right to live and work in other EU countries.
Eric Goodyer


The argument made by the Cabinet Secretary, Sir Jeremy Heywood, that the details of the exchanges between Tony Blair and George W Bush in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq in 2003 cannot be disclosed, because to do so would undermine future confidentiality of US-UK high-level diplomatic exchanges, is deeply unconvincing. (Andreas Whittam Smith: “The political establishment is on the run. But it can’t hide forever,” 31 May).

It has even less credibility in the light of Sir Jeremy’s role as Principal Private Secretary to Tony Blair at No 10 at the time of the build- up and execution of the war against Saddam in 2002-03. He is hardly an independent party.

Retired senior US politicians have no problem in recounting their experiences in negotiating with the UK government when in office. President Bill Clinton in his memoir, My Life (2004), records that in December 1998: “My national security team was unanimous in the belief that we should hit Saddam. . . . To minimize the chances Iraq could disperse its forces and protect its biological and chemical stocks. Tony Blair and his advisors agreed.” (p833)

Clinton’ Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright, in her own memoir, Madame Secretary (2003), records: “During our joint tenure, British foreign secretary [Robin] Cook helped ensure Great Britain’s position as a stalwart ally in backing an appropriately tough line towards Iraq. We were both determined to keep up the pressure until Iraq met its obligations to disarm.” (p277)

When Blair’s successor, Gordon Brown, announced the scope of the Chilcot inquiry to Parliament on 15 June 2009, Mr Brown told MPs and the country: “The inquiry will receive the full co-operation of the Government.”

What we are now seeing is a dangerous establishment stitch-up. Parliament’s collective voice of opposition needs to be heard this week.

Dr David Lowry, Stoneleigh, Surrey

Until we know one way or the other whether Tony Blair gave George W Bush his unconditional support on the basis that he would “sell” any intervention in Iraq to Parliament and the British public, there can be no satisfactory resolution of the Iraq saga. All attempts to suppress and limit information available to the public can only strengthen the impression that this is in fact exactly what transcripts of the conversations between Blair and Bush would reveal.

David Barker, Surbiton, Surrey

Is a free society one where there are no consequences for illegal wars, where there are no punitive outcomes for bankers who come near to bankrupting the country, one where there are few punishments for politicians who make false claims?

It seems that our society is penalty-free for the powerful and benefits-free for the poorest. All inconvenient details will be redacted to suit. Is this the gist of our free society?

Lee Dalton, Weymouth, Dorset

Politicians must learn to listen

How amazing that so many politicians are surprised by the message that there is dissatisfaction with the political status quo and that this finds expression through rejection of the established political players. There were few local government elections last week in the rural districts or the message would have been even worse.

Since the inception of the National Planning Policy Framework there has been a relentless attack upon the integrity of market towns and villages, on the green belt, and on the fabric of the English countryside. Democracy has been trampled on by an unholy alliance between the vested interests of some politicians and the mammoths of the construction industry. This has not resulted in affordable housing for the young rural dispossessed, but with disfiguring rashes of identikit houses and endless ruinous squabbles between the construction industry and local communities.

Our advice to politicians of every hue is to listen to us. Don’t pretend to give us localism and democracy and then trample all over us and our opinions. Don’t call us names and condescend to us. We gave you power and through the ballot box we can take it away. If you learn nothing else from the experience of the elections of 2014, then learn this.

Jenny Unsworth, Community Voice on Planning, Congleton, Cheshire

Let police officers speak out in public

Perhaps the image of our police service would not be suffering the damage it is currently experiencing if officers were encouraged to debate in public prints the pros and cons of legislative issues affecting policing which gradually arise over the years, and to come up with viable solutions themselves rather than waiting for outsiders to point out the answers.

For example, before Sir Robert Mark became the Metropolitan Police Commissioner he was a regular subscriber to the correspondence columns of the national press, outlining his own ideas for reform and inspiring his subordinates to follow suit. How many of our current crop of police chiefs have track records of bravely voicing criticism of current practices as they rose through the ranks?

It is a sad fact that young officers are discouraged from pointing out in print the failings of the service which they have witnessed from the inside, for fear of the damage it can do to their careers. Until this mindset is radically changed there seems little hope for the future of this country’s police service.

John Kenny, Acle, Norfolk

Why women’s sport is little reported

Jane Gandee’s laments over the lack of coverage of women’s sport (letter, 29 May). I would ask, is it not that the market has concluded that women’s sport is inferior to men’s? And the media, while it can and does influence the “market”, has also to voice public opinion.

Men’s professional sport is superior in terms of skill, strength, power and entertainment value to women’s sport.

That is reflected not least by the vastly higher attendances at men’s sporting events.

This does not devalue or detract from women’s and girls’ participation at a recreational or competitive level in sports, but does offer a context as to why women’s elite sport is so poorly covered by media outlets including The Independent.

John Moore, Northampton

I don’t believe that “girls are put off sport” by the lack of media coverage.

I have played skittles in a team for over 20 years despite there being no newspaper or website, either locally or nationally, that has ever reported on us at all.

It’s about wanting to do it, or not.

Colin Jones, Bedford

Royal Mail made a deal

A few months ago a package of services called Royal Mail was sold to investors at a knock-down price (“Regulator at odds with Royal Mail over warning on universal service”, 23 May). These same investors are now returning to the vendor’s agent to complain that the terms of that sale (at a knock-down price) are too onerous, making it difficult for them to further increase the profits they have already accumulated on the original purchase.

They bought the package with their eyes wide open, so let them stick to the terms on which they did so and use their purchase price profit to prop up the parts of the service they do not like.

We taxpayers should not be bailing them out of a deal they freely entered. Should they fail to honour the deal they should be penalised.

John Laird, Harrogate

Still no land fit for heroes

Mark Carney pledges to help build a “more trustworthy” capitalism“, with ”equality of outcomes, opportunity and fairness across generations“.

Christine Lagarde states: “The bad news is that progress is far too slow, and the finish line is too far off”, and she calls on “capitalism to become more representative, including expanding access to education and healthcare”.

In 1918, when my war-weary grandfather returned home to the Rhondda, he was promised “a land fit for heroes”. A century later he and we are still waiting to get to this promised land.

I conclude that there really has been no such overall intent and universal ambition in the words and deeds of our leaders, politicians and bankers. After all, they are all right, Jack.

Paul Middleton, Droitwich Spa, Worcestershire

How about banning my book too, Mr Gove?

Apparently, since Michael Gove threatened to ban certain American books from the English curriculum, sales of those books have skyrocketed. I wonder if Mr Gove would be so kind as to threaten to ban my new first novel, The Crossover, from the curriculum, as it could do with a bit of a boost.

John Westbrook, Manchester

Yasmin Alibhai-Brown should be very careful about what she wishes for (“London is a special place – let’s declare it a separate city state”, 2 June). 

London is a dysfunction in the United Kingdom. It sucks the best out of the rest of the nation and then whinges about being overcrowded and expensive. I am dismayed every time I hear a science, engineering or maths student at a top university say that their ambition is to work in investment banking in the City.

If London were to declare independence, you should not be surprised if the borders are strictly enforced, with no movements in or out. No more stealing our talent or escaping to your cottage in the Cotswolds. Why should we supply you with food or water or even let you use our airspace? Does it sound like an East German attitude to West Berlin? Maybe, but some of us would prefer a smaller cake shared more evenly.

Peter English, Rhewl, Denbighshire

Yasmin Alibhai-Brown reveals herself as the ultimate patronising London bore.

Why people spend hundreds of thousands of pounds merely to live in some shoe box beside a railway line within the M25 is beyond me. A hugely better standard of living is to be had in virtually any other city in the country.

London is too big, too expensive and not especially attractive to look at – Paris, Rome or Vienna, for instance, it is not.

Anthony Ingleton, Sheffield

Let’s vote now on Europe

Thirty per cent of the electorate voted in the European elections and 30 per cent of them voted for Ukip. Another 8 per cent voted for the Greens and nearly 26 per cent voted for the Tories. All these parties say they want a referendum on Europe. The Tories only want one in 2017. The Greens and Ukip want a referendum now. The Greens and David Cameron want to stay in the EU.

Over 60 per cent of those who voted want a referendum and more than half of them want one straight away. Can we just get on with it please and have this referendum? I do not know why those in favour of staying in the EU are so afraid of an immediate referendum.

Nigel F Boddy, Darlington, Co Durham

Clegg too sensible for his own good

As the much smaller party in the Coalition, the Lib Dems were always going to be obliged to make compromises, whoever their leader. But they have nevertheless succeeded in curbing some of the excesses of Toryism.

Nick Clegg appears to be one of our more honourable politicians. What he says is generally perfectly reasonable. But he says it in a low-key way acceptable to people willing to listen and think. This is his major sin. If he were in the habit of hanging about looking very pleased with himself, holding a pint in one hand and a fag in the other, his party might have done better in the recent elections.

Democracy may be the least bad system of government but, sad to say, it enables us to choose the wrong people for the wrong reasons.

Susan Alexander, Frampton Cotterell, South Gloucestershire

The Liberal Democrat party is like the Titanic. The fourth frame has been breached and it is on the way to the bottom. Mr Clegg, like Captain Smith, is safe in his position.

George D Lewis, Brackley, Northamptonshire

Escape from the half-term nightmare

Three times a year, schools take a half-term holiday. Having taught in schools myself, I know just how important and necessary those breaks are. However, I also know that they cause tremendous disruption in all sorts of ways. Trains and Tubes are packed, it’s impossible to get into museums and art galleries, and the travel industry takes appalling advantage by putting up costs.

Last week seems to have been particularly bad. As I have travelled around London, going from one appointment to another, it has been almost nightmarish coping with the hordes blocking passageways and platforms. Indeed it has been positively dangerous, with platforms alarmingly clogged by children and frazzled parents.

Surely it would not be beyond the wit of the authorities to stagger these half-term breaks. Were they to take place over, say, a three-week period, it would not only remove the extra burden placed on our public transport system but, with luck, end those price-hikes.

Colin Baldy, Maldon, Essex

The marbles belong where they are

Howard Jacobson, seduced by the warmth of both the climes and the people of Greece, makes an emotional plea for the return of the Parthenon pediment sculptures (31 May). However, his sense that “they don’t belong to us” is too simplistic.

The British Museum is a unique assembly of culturally defining artefacts drawn from across time and space. The objects converse with each other so as to relate a narrative of humanity that would be impossible were they to be exhibited as singular items. These artefacts are not possessions – not of individuals, not of nations. They are global cultural capital.

It is far better that the “Elgin Marbles” remain in a place that situates them  and what they represent within the context of a wider range of human endeavour in an accessible and, I am proud to say, free environment that attracts thousands of international visitors every year.

Philip Stephenson, Cambridge

Fill those empty homes first

We are always being told there is a need for one million new homes. For years, there have been over a million empty homes nationwide, and now added to these are an enormous number of empty foreign-owned investment properties in London.

We could give incentives to restore flats above shops, convert storage and offices that are not needed etc. Second homes could surely be much higher rated if they are left predominantly unused.

In the last census of the 250,000 second homes, three quarters were used for less than one month a year.

Of course we must build, but also use what is there efficiently. House prices will then stabilise and this crazy spiral will stop.

Bill Jackson, Goring-on-Thames, Oxfordshire

Women in sport aren’t the same – they win

I disagree with John Moore (letter, 2 June). Attendance at women’s sporting events will increase with more media coverage, and anyway the women’s England football and cricket teams are achieving excellent results, which is more than you can say for the men’s teams – and it’s results that matter.

Linda Dickins, Wimborne, Dorset

Save Syria from the dictator and the extremists

Patrick Cockburn is correct that Assad feels under little pressure to reach a peaceful settlement in Syria – since there has not been any effective international response to Assad’s campaign of aggression, even the repeated use of  chemical weapons against civilians (“Fighting a war at the ballot box”, 29 May).

Mr Cockburn states that Assad “currently holds 13 out of 14 Syrian provincial capitals and his forces are slowly advancing in many parts of the country”. However it is important that readers do not take from this that Assad is winning, given that most of the north and east of Syria is outside of Assad’s control – over 60 per cent of the country. For every advance that his forces claim to have made, there is a setback that they suffer elsewhere in the country.

For example, last week the Free Syrian Army won an important strategic military victory in the north by taking over the military point of Al Khazanaat, meaning it now controls the supply route north of Hama, up to Idlib and Aleppo.

During this operation, many tanks and pieces of equipment were taken, in what was a huge blow to the regime. To give further examples: 40 per cent of Hama, 60 per cent of Aleppo, and 100 per cent of Deir Ezzor are outside regime control.

Assad caused the negotiations in Geneva to collapse by refusing to accept political transition as per the Geneva Communiqué road map. Since it seems that he only understands force, the West should help the moderate opposition with arms and training.

If Assad is not tackled, he will end up ruling  over a brutalised and devastated section  of Syria, and continue with his war, causing the escalation of a historic-scale humanitarian catastrophe, and also the strengthening of extremists, as moderates are frustrated and weakened.

The world surely does not wish to allow either a brutal dictator or extremists to win in Syria, for the spillover would soon affect other countries in the region, and maybe Europe.

Monzer Akbik, Chief of Staff to  Ahmad Jarba, President of the Syrian Opposition Coalition, Istanbul


The formula for the cost-effectiveness of new drugs was introduced in 1956

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Published at 7:50PM, June 2 2014

Sir, Professor Waxman’s argument (“This absurd system denies patients their vital cancer drugs”, Thunderer, May 30) has two flaws. First, his suggestion that patients be offered drugs that benefit more than 40 per cent of patients for more than four months and cost about £3,000 needs careful analysis.

After one year the National Health Service would have to pay £36,000 per year for each successful patient — but it would also have to pay for the same drug to be given to the 60 per cent of patients for whom it did not work. So for a four-month extension to the life of a successfully treated patient, the cost to the NHS would not be the £3,000 per month he states but actually £4,500 per month, or £54,000 per year. This money can only come from somewhere else in the squeezed NHS budget.

Second, to judge the success of a new drug solely in terms of survival is a mistake that all drug trials and clinicians make all the time. After all, what is the point of extending the life of a terminally ill cancer patient by a few months if there is no quality of life? I have heard patients say they would rather have cash in lieu of their chemotherapy drugs and a nice holiday instead.

Daryl Godden

Consultant maxillofacial surgeon,

Gloucestershire Royal Hospital

Sir, Jonathan Waxman’s description of how health gain, and thus the quality of life gained (Qaly gained), is incorrect. The Qaly gained from a particular intervention is not, for example, decided by “people who may or may not have cancer plumped down in circles in comfy chairs in focus groups”. The improvement in quality of life is made by individuals who have been treated with the particular product, either at hospital or in the privacy of their own homes. Nor is Professor Waxman correct in claiming that the cost of the intervention is used in calculating the Qaly gained. The costs, as well as any associated savings, are used to estimate the “cost per Qaly gained”.

He regards as “absurd” the measure of cost-effectiveness used by health technology agencies across the world and not just by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice). The alternative that he suggests — “to give a green light to new drugs that benefit more than 40 per cent of patients for more than four months, and cost about £3,000 per month” — merely begs questions rather than offers solutions. How much benefit? Why 40 per cent of patients? Why four months? Why £3,000 a month? What about the costs incurred by non-responding patients? And what about equity?

Nice seeks to ensure that all patients under the care of the NHS — irrespective of the nature of their underlying condition, whether be it cancer, stroke, heart attack or mental illness — have equal access to cost-effective care.

Sir Michael Rawlins

Chairman of Nice, 1999-2013

London EC1

Janice Turner’s simplistic analysis ignores many of the points made in Of Mice and Men

Sir, I must defend Of Mice and Men from criticism of it as a set text for GCSE (Janice Turner, notebook, May 29). Ms Turner states that “Curley’s wife doesn’t even merit a name” — but the point being made is that a woman on a ranch in California at that time was not considered important. Similarly, I would take issue with the fact that “Lennie embodies truth and goodness” and that the message of the book is that “bullying is bad”. This is a very simplistic analysis of the book and ignores many of the points Steinbeck is making.

I teach English to pupils (most of whom are boys) who are on the verge of exclusion from school. They would not normally pick up a book and, without exception, have really enjoyed this novel. I have been delighted at the discussions we have had as a result of reading it. For this reason alone it deserves to be a set text for GCSE.

Judith Haynes

Charlbury, Oxon

Protection against the severity of injury is key when assessing cycle helmets

Sir, A brain surgeon in a cowboy outfit comes to the brilliant conclusion that cycle helmets are useless (“Cycle helmets pointless, says brain surgeon”, May 31). Mr Marsh’s claim that they afford no reduction in injuries is not necessarily the point — it is the protection against the severity of the injury that is key.

Christopher Jones

Thornton, Liverpool

There’s no dispute, the French are the most successful military nation in the world

Sir, Antony Edmonds asks who won the most battles, the British or the French (letter, May 31). I’m afraid that would be the French, who are the most successful military nation in the world. Not only did they invade and conquer this country but Napoleon Bonaparte rode in triumph at the head of his army through virtually every country in mainland Europe.

If you compare and contrast the strengths of the opponents involved in the various wars conducted by each country, then the French have it.

Michael Williamson


Even with a magnifying glass, it is hard to read the food makers’ small print

Sir, Weight-conscious shoppers are being urged to read the small print on foodstuffs (report, May 30).

I have tried for a long time to read the small print, and the older I get, the harder it becomes. Take, for instance, the background colour of the packaging. Black ink on blue or red paper is difficult to read, even after getting the item home. Having found the magnifying glass, one may then find that the small print is in one of many European languages. In summary, is the small print there to be read — or is it there to ensure that the makers have a get out?

Howard Arnold

Wimborne Minster, Dorset

Boring legal judgments? Not Lord Justice Ward!

Sir, Ian McEwan is right to praise the literary quality of legal judgments (report, June 2). Intriguingly, the recently retired Lord Justice Ward claims in Who’s Who that his recreation is reading and writing boring judgments. That could never be said of his output.

Professor Dominic Regan



Grey squirrels damage young trees by stripping away bark to reach the sweet sap beneath  Photo: ALAMY

6:58AM BST 02 Jun 2014

Comments56 Comments

SIR – Some 24 acres of my mainly broadleaf woodland was blown down in the 1990 storms. These were replanted in 1992. Since then a further four acres have been felled and replanted every five years.

A major woodland charity, whose mature trees are just across a bridleway from my replanting, is jeopardising the whole operation. Grey squirrels and muntjac deer, which appear to be breeding in the charity’s wood, are damaging my young trees. As soon as we keep them down in my wood they dash for the safety of the charity’s wood, returning when they consider the danger is over. I wrote to the charity asking them to keep the pests down in their wood, only to receive a polite reply that they did not operate in that way.

Allowing charities to have a major role in the management of England’s woodland may save government money by not having to pay for the Forestry Commission, but affects those of us who grow trees for pleasure, harvesting them for timber when the crop is eventually mature and replanting them again. Although the trees themselves are excluded from inheritance tax (IHT), the land on which they grow is still subject to this 40 per cent tax. For owners of fairly small areas of woodland, if charities take control and the IHT threshold is not raised considerably, where will the incentive be for continuing to regenerate woodland?

Christopher Beeton
Milford-on-Sea, Hampshire

SIR – Margaret Thatcher once said that truth is what the Kremlin feared the most. The Russian interference in Ukraine has been accompanied by an unbelievable volume of propaganda and outright lies aimed at discrediting the new Ukrainian authorities, whipping up hysteria among ordinary Russians and pointing a finger at an “external enemy”.

In the past, the BBC played a key role in breaking the state-sponsored information cacophony. In the dark years of the Cold War, its Russian service was listened to by about 25 million people in the Soviet Union alone. The BBC provided intellectual and moral leadership via news and analysis and feature programmes on the arts.

Today the BBC’s Russian service is a mere internet-based news platform, which produces only about eight hours of radio programmes a week.

The Ukrainian crisis points to the need for the BBC to reassess its priorities. Recent technological advances make it easier to reach large audiences and smartphone apps like TuneIn can already provide an effective channel. Russia is the world’s tenth largest smartphone market. All that is needed is to turn some of the existing written online content into radio.

As a modern, well-staffed and well-funded global broadcaster, the BBC is better placed than many to move with the times. As truth becomes an ever-more precious commodity, given the sea of disinformation spreading across Russia, the BBC has an important role to play.

Sir Andrew Wood
Vladimir Bukovsky
Marina Litvinenko
Oleg Gordievsky
Sergei Cristo
Martin Dewhirst
Dr Iain Elliot
Dr Elisabeth Robson
Vladimir Kara-Murza
Professor Peter Reddaway

Cycle helmets

SIR – Henry Marsh, the neurosurgeon, is right to query the usefulness of cycle helmets. They were introduced here from America in the Eighties, creating a bonanza for the manufacturers. Prior to that, the regular racing and touring headgear, if anything, was a peaked cotton cap.

I raced for years at elite level at home and abroad. Though high-speed crashes were as common as now, I recall no life-threatening head injuries or fatalities. Cyclists almost always fall sideways onto the shoulder, breaking the collar bone and, if rarely over the top, the knees and outstretched hands take the force.

Tony Hewson
Winner, 1955 Tour of Britain
Craven Arms, Shropshire

SIR – While I agree that cycle helmets are “flimsy” and their role in reducing brain injury (as a result of deceleration and rotational forces) is highly questionable, there is no doubt of their ability to protect the soft tissue of the upper face, scalp and skull. I speak from personal experience.

Peter Hutchinson
Professor of Neurosurgery
University of Cambridge

Fruity arrangement

SIR – When we moved to a large farmhouse in Cumberland over 50 years ago, we were intrigued to discover, among the many outbuildings, a double seat dry closet (Letters, May 29).

Did one sit à deux, we wondered, or was there another reason for it?

It did have a view of the very well stocked orchard.

Patrick Tracey
Carlisle, Cumberland

Community hospitals

SIR – The commitment of Simon Stevens, the new head of the NHS, to supporting elderly patients in community hospitals near their homes (report, May 30) is to be applauded. Unfortunately, what is happening on the front line often differs from his vision.

We provide medical cover to our local community hospital in Midhurst, doing a daily ward round and attending multi-disciplinary team meetings. As local GPs, we know our patients and their families well, and, working with therapists and nursing staff, are able to plan their care and discharge home. This ensures that they are less likely to end up back in an acute hospital’s A&E department.

The local Sussex Community Trust has now decided that it can provide this medical cover on the cheap. By employing less experienced doctors at reduced hours, it can say it is “more efficient”. These doctors will have no prior knowledge of the patients, and there will be none of the joined-up care between hospital and home that Mr Stevens is keen to encourage. The end result will be more emergency admissions for frail elderly patients and less efficiency for the NHS.

Dr Tim Hill
Midhurst, West Sussex

SIR – In the mid-Eighties, the majority of cottage hospitals were closed because they were unaffordable. The NHS is in a much worse financial state today and the idea of reopening small, expensive units suggests both a lack of institutional memory and financial understanding.

“Care closer to home” has been a mantra for many years, but no evidence has ever been produced that shows it is clinically or financially advantageous.

Dr Andrew Bamji
Rye, East Sussex

East-West rivalry

SIR – In “Britain’s 20 classiest counties” Max Davidson caused much rancour in this household by suggesting that East Sussex has the edge on the West of the county.

Brighton, which he eulogises, is a den of iniquity, Hastings is a deprived area and Lewes cannot compare with the charms of Chichester – its cathedral, Pallant House and Festival Theatre, to name but three.

We also boast Goodwood, the Downs and the delightful towns of Arundel, Midhurst and Petworth. The splendour of the wooded Weald and Downland far surpasses the bald hills of the East.

David Benwell
Selsey, West Sussex

Unseasonal signs

SIR – On the warmest spring day so far, I saw that our council had erected a new sign saying “Ice” at a point where the road is often flooded. How refreshing.

David Askew
Woking, Surrey

Feeding the children surreal tales about dinner

SIR – My mother’s reply to “What’s for dinner?” (Letters, May 31) was: “A run round the table and a kick at the cat.”

Dorothy Westman
Trull, Somerset

SIR – My Ulster mother-in-law used to tell my sons it was “Stewed stool’s feet and coddled corncrakes” for mains, and “wheem whalms” for pudding.

Dr Roshan McClenahan
London NW2

SIR – My late mother would always reply: “Wimwams tied up with woofits”.

Adrian Stockwell
Farnham, Surrey

SIR – Our Nanny always said it was “Doll’s eyes and flypapers”.

Hugh Clement
Bishopston, Glamorgan

SIR – My father always cooked delicious meals for us, but when we asked, he always said it was “Cold cabbage and lard on a shovel”.

We were never disappointed.

Nina Wilcox
Hellingly, East Sussex

SIR – My mother’s rejoinder, “Skimmed milk and balloons”, was surreal.

Peter Nicholson

SIR – David Cameron is right to say that it would be unwise to tip his hand by revealing what his demands are prior to starting negotiations around Britain’s membership of the European Union. At the same time, his own party members are unconvinced and require detail of his negotiating position.

He has, of course, brought this situation on himself by his past prevarications and his stated wish to remain within the EU. A simple remedy would be for Mr Cameron to make a clear statement before starting any discussions, to the effect that Britain categorically will exit the EU if its demands are not satisfactorily addressed. The Prime Minister must get off the fence.

Mick Richards
Llanfair Waterdine, Shropshire

SIR – Why should a voter of any persuasion believe that a Conservative government in 2015 offers the best chance of an in/out EU referendum? David Cameron gave a “cast iron” guarantee that if he became Prime Minister he would give the British people a referendum. He failed to keep his promise.

Why should we trust him for 2017? One can hear the excuses now. “The negotiations are not yet complete”; “The referendum is being delayed until 2020 or 2022 or 2025.” David Cameron says “Trust me”. One cannot. That is the weakness of the Conservative position.

Peter Hollins
Colchester, Essex

SIR – You report that the EU is demanding a further £500 million from British taxpayers to cover its £3.8 billion overspend.

This is David Cameron’s opportunity to demonstrate his new Eurosceptic credentials and just say “No!”

Mr Cameron needs to start the Conservative fightback now, and not wait until the election campaign starts in earnest, when all parties will be making ever more extravagant promises. He should bear in mind that credibility can only be achieved by actions – not words.

Martin P Gooderson
Orpington, Kent

SIR – How about reducing the British contribution to the EU budget by £500 million a year until the EU leaders come seriously to the negotiating table?

Michael Fidler
Watford, Hertfordshire

SIR – Unlike the other parties, Ukip has made its position on Europe absolutely clear. It wants Britain to leave the EU and so do those who voted for it. Until the main parties do something about this, Ukip will continue to be a force to be reckoned with.

Mr Cameron’s promise to renegotiate the terms of our EU membership before testing the result in an in/out referendum is worthless unless he wins the general election outright. At the moment, he is by no means certain to do so.

Cyril Burton
Abbots Morton, Worcestershire

SIR – Under current policies, academic researchers must submit their proposals to a small group of their closest competitors – their peers – for consideration before they might be funded. Peers selected by funding agencies are usually allowed to deliver their verdicts anonymously. They assess the proposal’s suitability for funding, whether it would be the best possible use of the resources requested, and determine, if it were successful, the probability that it might contribute to the national economy in some way. If the answers are satisfactory the proposal has roughly a 25 per cent chance of being funded.

Peer preview is now virtually unavoidable and its bureaucratic, protracted procedures are repeated for every change in direction or new phase of experimentation or for whatever an applicant might subsequently propose. Consequently, support for research that might lead to major new scientific discoveries is virtually forbidden nowadays, and science is in serious danger of stagnating. Many scientists privately deplore these policies but their professional standing often depends on their acquiescence – a catch-22 that effectively diminishes public opposition to the policies. We call upon funding agencies to support sustained, open-ended research in unfashionable fields.

Donald W Braben
University College London

John F Allen
Queen Mary, University of London

William Amos
University of Cambridge

Richard Ball
University of Edinburgh

Tim Birkhead
FRS, University of Sheffield

Peter Cameron
Queen Mary, University of London

Richard Cogdell FRS
University of Glasgow;

David Colquhoun FRS
University College London;

Rod Dowler
Industry Forum, London

Irene Engle
United States Naval Academy, Annapolis;

Felipe Fernández-Armesto
University of Notre Dame

Desmond Fitzgerald
Materia Medica

John Hall
University of Colorado, Nobel Laureate

Pat Heslop-Harrison
University of Leicester

Dudley Herschbach
Harvard University, Nobel Laureate

H Jeff Kimble
Caltech, US National Academy of Sciences

Sir Harry Kroto FRS
Florida State University, Nobel Laureate

James Ladyman
University of Bristol

Peter Lawrence FRS
University of Cambridge

Angus MacIntyre FRS
Queen Mary, University of London

John Mattick FAA
Garvan Institute of Medical Research, Sydney

Beatrice Pelloni
University of Reading

Douglas Randall
University of Missouri

David Ray
Bio Astral Limited

Sir Richard J Roberts FRS
New England Biolabs, Nobel Laureate

Ken Seddon
Queen’s University of Belfast

Colin Self
University of Newcastle

Harry Swinney
University of Texas, US National Academy of Sciences;

Claudio Vita-Finzi FBA
Natural History Museum

Lifesaving helmets

SIR – I disagree with Tony Hewson’s opinion (Letters, June 2) that cycling helmets are useless. Fabio Casartelli might have lived had he been wearing one in the 1995 Tour de France.

In our cycling club here in Germany, our liability insurance is invalidated if we do not wear one. On a recent tour to Basel, one of our group had an accident in a tunnel. He was fine, but his helmet was cracked.

Capt John Maioha Stewart (retd)
Breisach, Baden-Württemburg, Germany

Saving Mrs Miniver

SIR – It was my mother, Jan Struther, who wrote the 1939 book Mrs Miniver (Letters, May 29). Her text made no mention of a stationmaster, nor of a flower show, nor of a red rose. That character, and that sub-plot, were introduced in 1942 by MGM, who had bought the film rights and arranged for the pre-war story to be re-written as a wartime “weepie”.

I join Orlando Murrin in pleading that some British rose-grower might repatriate the beautiful Mrs Miniver rose, now said to be extinct other than in a private garden in northern Germany.

Robert Maxtone-Graham
Sandwich, Kent

Lofty throne

SIR – At the top of our former home on the edge of Wimbledon Common we had a bathroom with a loo that looked over the treetops to the windmill (Letters, June 2). The full-length window was plain glass, as it could not be overlooked.

Whenever we had guests staying, they would hold on and climb the four flights for the pleasure of the view from the loo.

Paul Bonner
London SW19

Syrian opposition

SIR – By holding a sham “election” today, the Assad regime again rejects the political process based on the Geneva Communique. This election will be a fraud, much like the others conducted by Assad and his father before him, in which they received at least 97 per cent of the vote.

The election should not give the impression that Assad’s position is secure, when he is actually losing ground. Most of the north and east of Syria is outside Assad’s control – more than 60 per cent of the country. The regime has just suffered another setback in its international relations, with the expulsion of its ambassador from Jordan and the greater recognition extended to the Syrian opposition’s representation here and in America. Letting Assad continue his assault on the Syrian people, including the use of chemical weapons with impunity, is not only immoral but also impractical: he cannot win.

We commend the Friends of Syria for pledging to increase support not only for the Syrian Opposition Coalition, but also for its “Supreme Military Council and associated moderate armed groups”. The Assad regime will not countenance a political solution while it continues to believe it can win militarily. It is therefore vitally important that more military support, within the known constraints, is given to the Free Syrian Army (FSA), thereby forcing Assad and his backers to accept a political solution.

This is also in Britain’s national security interest, given that the FSA is fighting both the regime and al-Qaeda. It is reported that the Obama administration is close to providing military training to vetted members of the FSA. Given that the Prime Minister recently described “mentoring” as part of Britain’s assistance programme, we urge him to consider providing similar military training to moderates.

Brooks Newmark MP (Con)
Chair, All-party Parliamentary Group on Friends of Syria
Sir Richard Ottaway (Con)
Meg Munn MP (Lab)
Alistair Burt MP (Con)
Nicholas Soames MP (Con)
Ian Austin MP (Lab)
Gisela Stuart MP (Lab)
Jeremy Lefroy MP (Con)
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean (Lab)
London SW1

Rooney tunes

SIR – I hope Wayne Rooney is not going to spend too much time learning the words to the national anthem when he should be training (report, June 2).

Nairn Lawson
Portbury, Somerset

Sometimes it’s best not to know what’s for dinner

SIR – When I came home from school and asked my grandmother “What’s for tea?” (I am Lancastrian), her reply would be “Cow heel and pigs’ trotters” (Letters, June 2).

Unfortunately, it often was.

Stuart Jamieson
Eccleston, Lancashire

SIR – My grandmother used to say: “A cup of tea and a worm”.

Chris Petty
North Kerridge, Cheshire

SIR – “Not brain soup again!” was the cry that went up when Mum said she was making something up out of her head.

Geraldine Blake
Worthing, West Sussex

SIR – My mother’s answer was “Air pie and windy pudding” – she was an East End girl.

In my husband’s family, who were from Hull, it was “Sour sick and buttered haycocks”. I know which I would prefer.

Margaret Barker
Brentwood, Essex

SIR – When asked, my mother used to reply “Shimsham for fiddlers!” What?

Kathleen Gardner
Botley, Oxfordshire

SIR – To teach us good table manners, my father used to tell us that: “All joints on the table would be carved”.

Margaret Ridge
Taunton, Somerset

Irish Times:

A chara, – Éilis Ní Anluain wonders if I am wilfully missing something in the debate on denominational education (May 30th).

That I am missing something is not impossible; I am but a humble rector of a rural parish and know well there is much I do not see and even more that I do not understand. I assure her I do not do so wilfully.

However, there are things that I do not miss.

For example, I see the hard work and dedication of those who serve on the board of management of our local Church of Ireland primary school, of which I have the privilege of being the chair; because of their belief the religious ethos of our school is an important component of our children’s education, and not some kind of an optional “bolt on”.

I notice the parents who drive or bus their children long distances, some from neighbouring parishes, doing so because they believe that it is in the best interest of their children to send them to our school.

Then there is the support our small faith community gives to the fundraising efforts needed to keep the school going – support that is given by all, whether they have children in the school or not.

And I certainly do not miss, and indeed am humbled by, the immense generosity and respect shown by the wider community as they support us in that fundraising.

Looking further afield, I note the passion and commitment to our denominational schools I have seen on display at various diocesan synods; and I can only imagine that other faith communities feel equally strongly about their schools. I notice also how various patrons have willingly given up schools they no longer need to those of other faith traditions and none; how the recent offer to surrender patronage where that is the will of the local community; and the day-to-day willingness of denominational schools to accommodate sensitively those of other faith traditions or none, whether they be students or staff, asking only that they reciprocate by respecting the ethos the school was founded to promote and not acting to undermine it.

This all leads me to believe that the majority of people support our current system; and I thank God I live in a country that is enlightened enough to facilitate those who have strong beliefs about their faith or philosophy in setting up schools that accord with those views, provided they have the dedication and determination to do so.

I also notice that there is a minority of people who have no desire to compromise in any way on this issue; who wish to trample the constitutional and natural rights of parents to decide the ethos in which their children are to be educated; and under the cloak of “non-discrimination” wish to discriminate against the majority and introduce a secular patronage system that would only be favoured by a few.

I believe that denominational schools have proven their willingness to compromise and be flexible on this issue.

I think it would be wilful indeed of me not to notice that there are others with quite extreme views in this debate, and wilfully remiss not to attempt to point that out. – Is mise,



Co Kilkenny.

Sir, – I read with dismay the news that the HSE is considering the recruitment of overseas doctors to “plug the gaps in the Irish health service” (Letters, May 27th; “HSE recruitment plans condemned”, Home News, May 19th). The question is posed “why are Irish-trained doctors leaving our hospitals?”

The Australian health workforce is bolstered by an influx of highly trained and motivated doctors from Ireland and the UK. Recent data from the Australasian College for Emergency Medicine shows that 25 per cent of emergency department registrars in Australia obtained their primary medical degree in Irish or UK universities (566 emergency medicine doctors, 89 of these from Ireland). This is greater than the total number of emergency medicine consultants currently working in the Irish health service. In 2013, the Australian health system saw the largest year-on-year increase in Irish medical migration to their shores.

However, recent proposals to change Australian immigration laws aim to tighten the criteria for the skilled migrant visa (the main entry point for Irish doctors) to ensure that Australian-trained medical graduates are not displaced from Australian hospitals.

Rather than encouraging overseas migration from less developed countries, health workforce strategists in Ireland should focus on retaining and attracting Irish medical graduates back to new and improved conditions in Irish hospitals.

My question is does the HSE have the foresight necessary to implement these changes? – Yours, etc,


Consultant Emergency


Geelong Hospital,

Sir, – I would not wish to take sides in the Clare/Cork debate (Barbara Scully, (“Inviting the British back to the GPO”, News Review, May 17th, and Brendan Ó Cathaoir, May 22nd) about who treated my grandfather, Brig Gen CHT Lucas, the best but I do wish to balance the debate a little with historical evidence from my grandfather’s secret diary of events, official report and letters to my grandmother.

According to these, he was taken across the Shannon by boat to “Bunratty House where Mr Corbett lives” on July 4th, 1920. He stayed there one night and then was moved on to Mr Brennan’s house in Clonmoney. He was frequently moved around to avoid British patrols. He certainly played a lot of bridge and drank a lot of whiskey into the wee small hours. He also played tennis and croquet, helped “save the hay” and notoriously went on poaching trips on the Shannon.

However it was not just in Clare that he was treated as a gentleman. He wrote to my grandmother on June 30th, whilst in Cork, reporting that he was “really seeing Ireland properly just now, the people are very kind, lots of good plain food . . . I am in no danger at all, and you will be quite tickled with my experiences when I get out.”

I should add that my poor grandmother had gone into premature labour after finding out about her husband’s capture from a newspaper headline. His family had kept the news from her as they wanted to protect her. Happily she and her baby recovered from the trauma helped by the reassuring letters from her captive husband, which Liam Lynch and later Michael Brennan kindly arranged to be sent to her.

My family have certainly been “tickled” by my grandfather’s stories and are grateful for the kindness that men such as George Powers and Ernest Corbett showed him. My grandfather was a man of honour who didn’t flinch from saying what he thought – he knew that he risked being court-martialled for saying that he had been treated as “a gentleman by gentlemen” and was held by “delightful people” but spoke out anyway. This he said in spite of almost being killed in the Oola ambush just after he “escaped”. This was not what anti-Home Rule elements in the British government wanted to hear. They wanted to paint the IRA as evil to get “England on their side” to go in and destroy them. Words such as “gentlemen” and “delightful” helped put a dampener on the flame they hoped to kindle. – Yours, etc,


Hervey Road,

Sir, – Vincent Browne’s predictably narrow view of the successes and failures of the last Labour government is nothing new, particularly its selective choice of statistics (“SF’s impulse for government even greater than Labour’s”, Opinion & Analysis, May 28th).

A single report on inequality which he cites is hardly a complete perspective on the Rainbow’s very worthy legacy, particularly on equality issues. He ignores that Labour government’s achievements of reducing unemployment by 38,000, setting up an anti-poverty strategy, achieving historic £260 million equality payments for women, and increasing access to education.

Better to critique the failures of conservative parties rather than obsessively target the only social democratic party, and indeed the oldest party, in the State, with revisionist and misleading opinion pieces.– Yours, etc,


Church Hill Meadows,


ical and cultural fault line” (Europe Letter, May 29th), by Suzanne Lynch, your European correspondent. I would like to commend her for her general coverage of my country which I usually find well documented and balanced.

However I was struck by the headline on this article. I oppose the idea that my country is currently “living on a perilous cultural and political fault line”.

Belgium is an utterly democratic country where the cultural communities have lived in peaceful coexistence since its independence (1831).

It has very gradually evolved towards a federal state over the last 30 years, requiring each political and linguistic grouping to make the necessary compromises in order to achieve the present set-up of institutions. These developments were never tainted by political violence.

Belgium has always been run through compromises, thanks to a long tradition of coalition governments in which French-speaking and Flemish-speaking political parties were consistently and duly represented.

At the latest European elections on May 25th, Belgians were also asked to cast their vote for the national and the regional elections.

Nationally, the governing political parties (Liberals, Socialists and Christian Democrats) could boast a fair amount of popular support. None of them could be considered as a loser. Quite the opposite, the latest elections have shown that in spite of the heavy budgetary and social constraints which the current government, led by prime minister Elio di Rupo, was exposed to for the last four years, Belgium remains a very stable and peaceful country.

The Flemish NVA led by Bart De Wever had a successful election in Flanders. This party is neither Eurosceptic nor extremist.

In the wake of these elections King Philippe has already assigned the winner of these elections on the Flemish side, Mr De Wever, the task of informing him about the possibility of forming a coalition of parties from both sides of the linguistic divide.

My compatriots also cast their votes in the European elections. Belgium did not deviate from the original ideal and vision which remain at the core of our European ambition and commitment, since the inception of the Common Market in 1957.

Our support for Europe will remain at the heart of our foreign policy. My country has not contributed in any way to the growing move towards Euroscepticism that seems to have gripped several other European countries. – Yours, etc,



Embassy of Belgium,

Elgin Road,


Sir, – This country needs the kind of legal protection for tenants that exist in other EU countries. Opinion-formers waffle about the Irish having a sentimental attachment to home ownership.

There is nothing sentimental about the decades of government policy designed to encourage massive mortgages, bad planning and property speculation. Until this crooked game gets fixed, the Irish economy cannot begin to recover.

If the new leader of the Labour Party is serious about reducing suffering in our society, then she (or he) must propose a new Bill of rights for those who pay rent, both domestic and commercial.

This would take the heat out of the property market and reduce business closures at a stroke, without having to borrow billions more that we cannot repay to build homes where no-one wants to live. – Yours, etc,


Rock Road,


A chara, – It grieved me to hear at Mass that men and only men, married or single and between certain ages, were being invited to apply to become deacons of the Catholic Church. Why were women not invited to apply for this position?

The oldest reference to women deacons occurs in St Paul’s letters (circa 55-58 AD). Secular evidence from the early second century confirms the role of the deaconess. Deaconesses were also mentioned in the Council of Nicea in 325. Why then are women not considered eligible for the position of deaconess in the 21st century?

It would appear that the Catholic Church is prepared to do all in its power to keep the church hierarchy firmly in the hands of men.

Deacons may baptise children. It is ridiculous that although women give birth to children, they are still not considered eligible to baptise children! – Is mise,


Cill Rónáin,

Baile and Bhuitléirigh,

Sir, – It should be clear from recent events that the medical card system is not fit for purpose and must be scrapped.

The underlying logic of medical cards is that everyone above a certain, modest income can afford medical care and only people below that level need help.

This might have been true in 1970 but medical costs, especially for surgery, drugs and long-term care, are now beyond the means of nearly all of us; practically everyone needs a medical card now. The system is broken – it has to be replaced by one that accommodates the whole population, without discrimination. – Yours, etc,




Co Dublin.

Sir, – Three years ago Curraghmore’s female swan died of old age, leaving a sad male mourning her demise for about six months before winging his way southwards. Around Christmas he returned with a young female under his wing and early in June last year they produced four cygnets. We’ve just spotted five small grey bundles in the wake of the female on our lake. So there’s life in the auld bird yet! – Yours, etc,




Co Waterford.

Sir, – Frank McNally’s account of Monaghan-born, Alexander Pearce’s cannibalism is a useful corrective to the myths surrounding Irish-Australian convicts (An Irishman’s Diary, May 31st).

Imaginative tales and romantic folk-ballads have sustained the felons’ posthumous PR campaign. Ned Kelly, the embodiment of bushranger values, did little for Hibernian solidarity by mercilessly shooting dead Michael Kennedy, Thomas Lonigan and Michael Scanlan. – Yours, etc,


Cnoc an Stollaire,

Gaoth Dobhair,

Co Donegal.

Sir, – Ann Marie Hourihane’s “Sobriety Diaries” (Weekend, May 31st) detailed the circumstances of your journalist staying off the gargle for a full month. This abstinence was portrayed as a type of social experiment akin to someone living on the streets for a month or only eating bananas for the same period. I wonder what it has come to when not having a drink for a month is seen as unusual. – Yours, etc,


College Park Close ,


Sir, – Your readers in Ulster may have been bewildered by your Weather Watch prediction for yesterday: “A wet evening with the odd spot of rain”. – Yours, etc,


Waringsford Road,


Banbridge, Co Down.

Sir, – Domini Kemp states that her flourless chocolate cake (Magazine, May 31st) has no saturated fats. From the recipe, I estimate the saturated fat content to be 165g (107g from coconut oil, 20g from eggs and 38g from chocolate). This amount of fat contributes 1,495 calories to the cake. Delicious I’m sure, but certainly not free of saturated fat. – Yours, etc,


Temple Street

Children’s Hospital,

Dublin 1.

Irish Independent:

The urge to hold and attend meetings is hard-wired into our nature. Meetings provide an outlet for the need to escape from serious living to the experience of convivial pointlessness. In Ireland there are not enough meetings to satisfy our national needs, hence the clamour to get to Brussels, the meetings’ capital of Europe.

Also in this section

Letters: Let students get on with exams without a media fuss

Letters to the Editor: Beaten, but no defeat

No escape from the Harry Houdini property trap

The exercise of our right to vote is crucial in selecting those who are in the greatest need of meetings.

I have little patience with the cry to abolish the Seanad. The abolitionists seemed unaware of the point and purpose of this meeting place in the lives of its members. Do we wish for the unedifying spectacle of those who crave for meetings camping on Kildare Street pleading for admission to Leinster House to satisfy their craving? Besides, sending them to Brussels is a far more expensive alternative.

I am aware that there are some who do not wish to see our second chamber becoming a meaningless talking shop, losing sight of what they see as its essential custodial function.

Though attendance at meetings is essential for healthy living, over-attendance leads to Meeting Malady (MM). Its most worrying symptom is the longing for linguistic barbarism; sufferers develop an urge to generate unnecessary additions to our current stock of words.

Nouns are mindlessly converted into verbs; we are invited to action proposals, to task somebody, to diarise and prioritise. In the more advanced stages of the illness, verbs are turned into nouns; we are informed that an onerous request is a big ask.

Even poor Bertie Ahern succumbed to MM when, at a constituency meeting, he lapsed from his renowned mastery of the English language to declare that Fianna Fail was “doing brutal”. I suspect, as he would put it, he has over-met and is doing penance for his syntax.

Back-come, Bertie, all is forgiven. We all make mistakes.





Your business editor, Thomas Molloy, suggested last week that a tax could be imposed on empty houses to free up the market. This is an excellent idea. I would go further and suggest that the same should be done for vacant commercial properties.

This would help to off-set the upward-only rent reviews. Better still, it would force the market to recognise that we simply have too many shops. Proprietors of vacant premises would be encouraged to look at the possibility of converting retail space into residential accommodation. Such conversions might even be encouraged by financial incentives.





The bombshell announcement that John Plumtree is, so prematurely, to leave his role as forwards’ coach to the Irish rugby team made for a disappointing end to what was a triumphant weekend for Irish rugby, with Leinster winning the RaboDirect Pro12 Championship.

Such is the contribution that Mr Plumtree, in the short time that he has been here, made to Irish rugby, it behoves the Irish Rugby Football Union to find a near-identical, world-standard replacement for him.

We must endeavour, as we prepare for the Rugby World Cup, to not saddle manager Joe Schmidt with an inferior forwards’ coach.

The IRFU did a great job in sourcing Greg Feek and David Nucifora for Irish rugby; it is to be hoped that they take the same high-quality approach when sourcing the next forwards’ coach.

Ideally, Schmidt will be allowed to source his own forwards’ coach.





John Downing’s article on the formation of the next government (Irish Independent, June 2) highlights the issue of the media’s power in opinion formation. All of us are in denial about it but none are immune to it.

Media coverage of our political scene in pre-election periods is crucial. The recent local and European elections, when the anti-austerity bandwagon steamrolled all before it, is a case in point.

The most powerful media actors supported one political grouping in all elections from 1997 to 2007. In the wake of the economic collapse they switched sides in 2011. One would have thought that they had no option. But it looks like we are back to business as usual for the next election.

With a bit of servicing and a lick of paint that anti-austerity bandwagon should have no problem riding roughshod over this Government’s hopes of re-election.





The other side of America.

One of my regrets is not applauding when, some years back, I was in Shannon Airport after taking a flight from Dublin and awaiting a flight to New York and, while waiting in the terminal, a large group of American soldiers came walking through the terminal.

They were in transit and probably on their way to Iraq. The majority of people or civilians stood up and applauded as the soldiers walked by.

I, in my ignorance, did not stand up. Why? Because being typically European I had issues with American polices in the Middle East but, whether I had issues or not, I should have stood up and applauded as these soldiers were doing what they were ordered to do and were not the people I had so-called issues with.

But sitting there that day I started to realise how proud and loyal the Mid-Americans are of their fellow Americans and country.

The following winter I was in Philadelphia and a real bad snow storm came in. It shut down a lot of public transport. I suddenly noticed that there was a lot of people in wheelchairs and some others struggling on crutches – all of these people were disabled in some form and were trying to get to the shops for supplies.

The majority of these people were veterans who had fought in Iraq and Afghanistan. They had fought in these wars not just to protect America but to protect western society. Whether people think they were right or wrong to do so, they did it and some sacrificed their lives.

It seems to me that some people have negative opinions about US policies but, at the end of the day, it’s the Mid-American people who have been the ones who have paid the biggest price when it come to human casualties in protecting western culture and beliefs.





Brian O’Driscoll and Leo Cullen have gone from the game.

Their legacy will live long after their name.

You never give up, keep the spark alive

And when they say it’s impossible, that’s when you’ll thrive.

Of the knocks and the bruises, there’s nothing to tell,

For the bigger they were the harder they fell.

For the next generation have big boots to fill,

They walked with giants,

Now it’s their time to thrill.



Irish Independent

Still sore knee

June 2, 2014

2June2014 Pain

No jog around the park I still have arthritis in my left knee

Scrabbletoday, I win the game, and get under 400 perhaps Marywill win tomorrow


Lady Soames – obituary

Lady Soames, the last of Churchill’s children, acted as ADC to her father and wrote a fine life of her mother

Lady Soames, then Mary Churchill, with her father Winston

Lady Soames, then Mary Churchill, with her father Winston  Photo: PA

4:25PM BST 01 Jun 2014

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Lady Soames, who has died aged 91, was the last surviving child of Winston and Clementine Churchill.

From her grandmother, Lady Randolph Churchill, Mary Soames was said to have inherited her dark eyes and good looks, and from her father, a profound sense of public duty and a liking for cigars. That sense of duty was expressed first as a daughter, then as the wife of the late Lord Soames, but latterly in her own right.

Lady Soames admitted to feeling at times like “the last of the Mohicans”, as she answered countless obscure questions about her father. She cited “Did Winston Churchill like spinach?” as a typical example. Reply: “Well, my father once threw a plate of it at my mother.”

Yet while she spoke of “having inherited a sacred trust to try and keep and give a true focus to the publicly perceived image of my father”, it was for her biography of her mother – Clementine Churchill (1979) – with whom she had a less easy relationship when young, that she received greatest acclaim as a writer.

The Churchill children were expected to take “the noble, valiant view of life,” and they never expected either parent to attend school prize-givings or sports days. History, as Mary Soames said, “kept barging in on our family life”. She related how, in 1915, her six-year-old elder sister Diana was heard by her nannie to pray: “Oh God, please bless the Dardanelles, whatever they are.”

Yet Mary Soames always spoke of her childhood as an exceptionally happy one. Much of that positive atmosphere was created at Chartwell, bought in the year of her birth. There was an eight-year gap between Mary and her sister Sarah (another sister, Marigold, had died at the age of two and a half, the year before Mary was born), but she remained the closest to her of all the siblings. As the youngest by far, Mary, known as “the Chartwell child”, was never confined to the nursery but given entry to “a grown-up world of interest, variety, excitement and fun”.

While many politicians and figures of state were guests at Churchill’s table (her father noted in his diary how, at the age of five, Mary treated Baldwin “with great ceremony” when he came to lunch), visitors also included such exciting personages as Charlie Chaplin, for whom a thrilled nine-year-old Mary was allowed to stay up specially. He did not disappoint and good-humouredly performed “various droll tricks”.

Allowed to table much younger than was usual for a child at the time, she recalled mealtimes at Chartwell with particular affection, as much for the memory of her father’s brilliant dialogue (often monologue), as the guest list. “No one for me has ever excelled the wit and wisdom, the joviality and joy of his company. It casts a spell over me still,” she was to say. “To have been his child was an enrichment beyond compare.” A lunch or dinner would often extend to three-hour sessions with poetry and songs and Shakespeare.

Mary Soames’s love of Chartwell was a strong bond between her father and herself. At the age of seven, her first public engagement was to lay the foundation stone of a small one-roomed house, known as the “Mary Cot”, which Churchill had built for her in the vegetable garden and around which he had erected a red brick wall (bricklaying was one of his hobbies). Churchill later painted a picture of this occasion which hangs in the studio at Chartwell.

Mary Soames’s fondness for Chartwell was such that she later admitted how shocked she had been to discover that her mother had been much less enthusiastic about it (mainly because of the burden of housekeeping and the worry about her family’s often precarious finances): “I almost resented her critical and unappreciative attitude to what was, for me, a garden of Eden, full of laughter, activity and high spirits.”

Clementine was, according to her daughter, “a wife above all and a mother second” (Mary later resolved, when her own husband Christopher Soames went into politics, that, in contrast, her own children would come first), and it was to Clementine’s first cousin, Maryott Whyte, a trained Norland Nurse, that young Mary turned for comfort. Maryott, known as “Cousin Moppet”, “Nana” and later as “Grandnana” arrived at Chartwell at the age of 22 and remained there for more than 20 years.

Clementine, however, elicited feelings of admiration and respect from her children, treating them, Mary recalled, with a mixture of tenderness and severity, which evolved into shyness and reserve as they grew older. It was not until her teenage years that Mary was able to forge a closer relationship with her mother. She dated this to 1935, when her mother took her on a skiing holiday (valiantly learning to ski at the age of 50). Yet Mary Soames’s later book about her mother was partly successful because of the objectivity bred by their early, more circumspect relationship.

The biography was a long time in the writing. Begun, at her husband’s suggestion, in the mid-1960s, it was not published until 1979 (two years after Clementine’s death). Mary Soames conducted long interviews with her mother, and her reading of Clementine’s vast archive of correspondence was painstaking. The book’s long gestation became something of a family joke, but Mary Soames always put her duties as a wife before those of being a writer, especially while her husband was British Ambassador in Paris. But her hard work eventually paid off, and the book, which won the Wolfson Prize for History and the Yorkshire Post Prize for Best First Work, became a bestseller.

This success (greeted with her characteristic air of amused self-deprecation) was followed by a book of reminiscences: A Churchill Family Album (1982); a biography of the 5th Duke of Marlborough, The Profligate Duke (1987); Winston Churchill, His Life as a Painter (1990); and Speaking for Themselves, the personal correspondence between Winston and Clementine Churchill (1998). In 2011 she published A Daughter’s Tale: The Memoir Of Winston And Clementine Churchill’s Youngest Child.

Mary Soames was born in London on September 15 1922. Within two months of her birth, her father found himself, as he put it, “without office, without a seat, without a party and without an appendix”. Clementine, while still nursing her baby daughter, had been obliged to fight the greater part of Churchill’s election campaign (following the break up of Lloyd George’s coalition government) on his behalf; and her husband had been left so weak by the operation on his appendix that he was able to appear only in the last few days of the campaign, and then had to be carried about in a chair.

Fighting as a National Liberal, Churchill was defeated by the Labour candidate and thus lost the constituency he had represented for 14 years. At the end of that momentous year, Churchill took the whole family to the south of France for his convalescence.

Mary was educated as a day girl at Manor House School, Limpsfield, near Chartwell. She left school aged 17 and, during the first two years of the War, served with the Red Cross and the WVS. During this time she lived with her parents on the top two floors of Admiralty House. In 1941 she joined the ATS, serving in mixed anti-aircraft batteries, and rose to the rank of junior Command (equivalent to the rank of captain). While she was manning the batteries in Hyde Park, her father often used to drop in on her during the course of an air raid.

While in London, she occasionally took advantage of the relative quiet and comfort of her father’s bedroom in the Cabinet War Rooms, which he rarely used, although she was not officially entitled to do so. Her only concern, she confessed, was that the guards would think she was sheltering there because she was frightened. She later served with a battery in Brussels, and, at the end of the war, in Hamburg.

Mary acted as ADC to her father on several overseas trips, including the first Quebec conference in August 1943 between Churchill, President Roosevelt and the Prime Minister of Canada, Mackenzie King. She accompanied him to Potsdam for the Big Three Conference in the summer of 1945, witnessing with amusement Stalin autograph-hunting after dinner. She was demobilised early in 1946 and appointed MBE (military).

It was while she and her father were staying at the British Embassy as guests of the Duff Coopers on a 24-hour trip to Paris to see the American Secretary of State, that she met Capt Christopher Soames of the Coldstream Guards, who was then the assistant military attaché. “I think he fell in love with me immediately,” she recalled, “and I did quite quickly after that, but at first I thought he had other fish to fry.” Not so, it transpired, because within the month they were engaged. When asked in an interview shortly afterwards if she intended to be a career wife or a housewife she replied: “A housewife, of course” — maintaining that this was a job that required one’s full devotion and commitment.

At the end of the war Churchill bought two farms and a market garden adjoining Chartwell, and for 10 happy years after her marriage (at St Margaret’s, Westminster) she lived at the grey stone farmhouse at Chartwell Farm which stood at the bottom of her parents’ garden. Her husband (known affectionately to the Churchills as “The Chimp”), took on the management of the farms and embarked on his political career. Four of her five children were born there and, by 1957, the family had outgrown the farm and moved to Hamsell Manor near Tunbridge Wells, about 40 minutes drive from Chartwell.

Christopher Soames’s marriage to Mary was undoubtedly his great opportunity: his father-in-law’s influence on his career was inestimable, as was the able, cheerful support of his wife, who accompanied him on six election campaigns in the course of his political life. Yet he, in turn, became an indispensable confidant, companion and counsellor to Churchill in both public and private matters (and encouraged him to take up his favourite sport — racing).

In 1968, in possession of a black pug and a labrador, 10 of her father’s pictures and her treasured gardening tools, Mary Soames returned to the place where she had first met her husband, but this time as the British Ambassador’s wife.

Thus began four “very golden years” for her. The posting was a great success. The French relished having one of Churchill’s relations at the Embassy, and the Soameses did not disappoint. They entertained in great style and made the British Embassy a focal point of Parisian social life.

After a stint in Brussels, where her husband was the British President of the European Community, Mary faced her most testing role yet, when Christopher was made the last British Governor-General of Rhodesia in the final run-up to Independence in 1979-80. The job was an immensely difficult one — her husband was expected to preside over an election and a ceasefire in a country where resentment, bitterness and violence ran deep. As Mary put it: “We couldn’t very well throw tea parties on the lawn, or have the politicians round for cocktails.”

Instead, she visited schools, hospitals, orphanages and refugee camps, launching her own fund for the children of Rhodesia (in 1979 she had been made UK chairman of the International Year of the Child). In the tense atmosphere she was also deeply concerned about her husband’s health: four years previously he had undergone open-heart surgery.

Despite these concerns, Mary Soames thrived on a situation to which she had to a large extent been born and bred. “One gets caught up in the thing. I find that if I have been out for a couple of hours I return with the feeling that I must have missed something. I immediately grab people and say: ‘Is there anything happening?’”

She did everything she could to encourage the British administration staff, strained to near breaking point by the volume and pressure of work. She exercised her considerable charm on Rhodesian leaders of all varieties and once found herself addressing, off-the-cuff, 900 of Joshua Nkomo’s Zipra guerrillas when she went to inspect a field hospital. Against all the odds, she managed to win widespread admiration and confidence, and on her return to London her contribution was recognised when she was appointed DBE.

It was on account of her success in Rhodesia that in 1989 the arts minister, Richard Luce, claimed to have had the idea of making her chairman of the Royal National Theatre Board. (He had been a junior minister at the FCO in 1979-80). It was certainly an original appointment, and it was greeted with disbelief in many quarters, not least at the National Theatre. Theories abounded: that it was Margaret Thatcher’s attack on all the Socialists at the NT; or her way of apologising for having thrown Christopher Soames out of the Cabinet for being a “wet”.

Mary Soames herself was under no illusions: “I think they were horror struck. I know they were. I don’t blame them.” Not only did she know practically nothing about the theatre, she also had almost no experience of running a board. On her arrival at the theatre she admitted to the new director Richard Eyre: “I haven’t been to the theatre for years. Treat me as if I know nothing.”

For Mary Soames, though, the appointment came at a fortuitous time. Her husband had died in 1987 after a long illness, and with his death “a great hunk, perhaps three quarters, has fallen away from my life”. Despite all forebodings, her appointment was a great success, and her partnership with Eyre became close. Hers was an active, commanding chairmanship in an organisation which had traditionally preferred its chairmen to be seen and not heard. She brought in a large amount of sponsorship to the theatre (an idea which had been received with some hostility when first mooted) and was re-elected for a second three-year term just before her 70th birthday.

Mary Soames’s son, the Tory MP Sir Nicholas Soames, once described his mother in an interview as “a very formidable woman” who “like Lady Beryl Strebe-Greebling… could break a swan’s wing with one blow of her nose”. For her own part she pronounced herself grateful for her father’s dictum: “We must all rise to the level of events” — which is precisely what she always did.

Mary Soames received several honorary fellowships or doctorates, as well as honours from around the world. In 2005 she was appointed Lady Companion of the Order of the Garter.

Lord and Lady Soames had three sons and two daughters.

Lady Soames, born September 15 1922, died May 31 2014


I am confused about the of the scope of the Chilcot inquiry (Editorial, 31 May). Given that the government wanted an inquiry and this was supported by parliament, and given that most of the public wanted to know the truth about this monstrously costly action, both in terms of finance and human lives, and given the moral obligation to explain these actions to the dead and maimed of Iraq, how come an unelected cabinet secretary can decide what we should be told? I remember William Hague in relation to GCHQ surveillance saying that if you had nothing to hide, then you had nothing to worry about, and Tony Blair saying he had not lied to parliament and the people; so why the secrecy? Why has unelected Jeremy Heywood more power than all the rest of us put together?
Beverley Jones

• In light of Senator John Kerry’s plea to Edward Snowden last week to “man up”, return to the US and surrender to US justice (Report, 29 May), might not a suitable deal now be struck. Let Mr Snowden do as requested in return for Messrs Blair and Bush “manning up” in respect of the Chilcot report?
Roger Gough
Minchinhampton, Gloucestershire

• Does anybody think that if the roles were reversed a formal inquiry in the US would be prevented from publishing correspondence with the UK prime minister for fear of the damage it might do to relations with the British?
Patrick Twist
Evesham, Worcestershire

• So we may be allowed to read ” the gist” of the Blair-Bush communications. We know the gist; that’s why we’re having the inquiry.
Denis Howell
Dyffryn Ardudwy, Gwynedd

Today marks the 20th anniversary of the loss of 29 souls on the Mull of Kintyre when RAF Chinook ZD576 crashed in unknown circumstances (RAF flight from Northern Ireland crashes into Mull of Kintyre hillside, 3 June 1994).

For 17 years the Ministry of Defence claimed the two pilots were guilty of gross negligence. For 17 years it withheld vital evidence and misled successive inquiries, by omission and commission.

However, in 2011 Lord Philip issued his report, confirming the airworthiness recommendations issued by the Ministry of Defence’s controller aircraft were “mandated” upon the RAF’s assistant chief of the air staff.

The charge against the pilots was posthumously lifted, but not before their families had endured years of heartache (Chinook crash report ‘clears pilots of blame’, 10 July 2011).

But, Lord Philip did not expand on precisely what was mandated: that the aircraft was not airworthy and “should not be relied upon in any way”.

Despite this very clear statement, a false declaration was made to RAF aircrew that the aircraft was airworthy and the design sufficiently mature. This act has never been explained or investigated.

In fact, during Lord Philip’s deliberations, the Ministry of Defence claimed that the RAF was not involved at all in approving the aircraft for RAF use; a deceit which forced a ministerial retraction and apology. None involved have ever been called to account for their actions. It is time to set the record straight.
David Hill
Yate, South Gloucestershire

Ofsted and Michael Wilshaw have given an excellent lesson to us all by deciding to de-marketise and de-privatise school inspection, taking it back into the public sector (Ofsted to take inspections back in house, 30 May). The time is long overdue for calling a halt to contracting out everything to the profit of the likes of Serco, G4S and other corporations. We need to define and reclaim a renewed public domain, with a public-service ethos and democratic values. Can we do this? Ofsted’s example says: yes, we can.
Emeritus professor Peter Moss
Thomas Coram Research Unit, Institute of Education, University of London

• The wall in Bethlehem does not separate Israel from the Palestinian West Bank, as you say in your caption of the pope kissing the wall (Report, 27 May). It cuts through Palestinian land allowing the expansion of Israel’s illegal settlements on land not internationally recognised as belonging to Israel. In one place, it bisects the Palestinian refugee camp of Aida in Bethlehem.
Margaret Derbyshire
Billericay, Essex

• David Boyle (The politics of sandals, 30 May) and George Orwell are both wrong. It is possible to be a socialist and wear sandals and do yoga exercises quietly in Welwyn Garden City. But now we vote Green.
Bob Mays
Welwyn Garden City, Hertfordshire

• In response to Deborah Orr’s rightful call to “let no evidence of misogyny, however insignificant it seems, go unchallenged’ (31 May), can we start with the Guardian Cryptic Crossword of the same day; I presume the solution to 6 down “Sexy woman found in a state in India, say” is goer.
Wendy Bradley

Eben Moglen’s article (The truth is ours – now we must act, 28 May) is significant in representing the liberal consensus over the Snowden revelations, focusing on rights to privacy rather than the NSA‘s expanding role in US global power projection. Edward Snowden‘s contribution in exposing the extent of NSA surveillance has been important (although the role of previous whistleblowers Russell Tice and and Katharine Gun should also be acknowledged). But the underlying argument is that a legitimate role remains for external surveillance carried out by Western intelligence agencies, and one compatible with the protection of individual rights to privacy given improved democratic oversight.

The vast, global electronic network of the NSA was constructed to support US foreign policy, including conventional wars in the Persian Gulf and, increasingly, covert warfare using drones and special operations forces that has led to the deaths and injuries of thousands of civilians. If the domestic implications are to be considered, then analysis needs to focus on how the national security state is redefining political opposition as subversive and applying the technologies of covert war for internal suppression.

This narrow debate on the recalibration of surveillance through improved oversight totally ignores these global security dimensions, for example, how to apply international law to illegal acts of covert warfare in which the NSA’s electronic intelligence plays a vital role. As far as the UK is concerned, the closure of the NSA’s extensive network of bases here, centered on Menwith Hill in North Yorkshire, would be one significant step in reclaiming our democracy from an unaccountable, secret state.
Steven Schofield

•  May I offer my thanks to Eben Moglen for his article. I worked for many years as a minister in secular employment and learnt from many other people’s experience how costly speaking out can be to the whistleblower, to his/her family and social networks, and to their future employment prospects. Generally they are brave people pushed to a position where they can see no other way to live with themselves. I wish Edward Snowden well and thank him for the integrity and courage to make his disclosure. It might yet help ordinary people like me to regain that sense of fairness, equality and justice that will support a protest. Our grandchildren need us to remember the richness of a sense of freedom and to fight for it before it is too late.
Dorrie Johnson
Bubbenhall, Warwickshire

•  In 1998 Deep Blue beat Gary Casparov at chess. The race is now on to create intuitive, artificial intelligence; the so-called singularity point will be when intuitive AI and human intelligence have become indistinguishable.

Government has put in place the sophisticated machinery of mass surveillance; and has deliberately avoided widespread, democratic accountability. Only a relatively small number of people have any control over it all. The surveillance system is almost running itself because nearly everyone in the system is afraid to blow the whistle. How near are we to a takeover of all humanity when the next Deep Blue (this time with intuitive intelligence and political awareness) realises that the machinery for the “takeover” is already in place. Of course this won’t happen because it’s too far fetched … or is it?
Dr Timothy Bland
Romford, Essex

• John Kerry suggests that Edward Snowden has betrayed his country, I think not. He may have betrayed an oppressive government but all his actions evidence behaviour on the part of the government which is clearly written out of court by the founding documents of the US.

The Declaration of Independence and the constitution clearly explain the principles that should be the prime purposes of a government. The unalienable right to liberty is to be guaranteed by a government deriving [its] just powers from the consent of the governed, and whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it. Further, the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause (amendment IV).

The routine searches of the general communications of the American people is a violation of their unalienable liberty (as further defined by the fourth amendment, quoted above). And it was certainly not done with the consent of the governed. Edward Snowden has merely revealed the same sort of oppressive and tyrannical behaviour on behalf of his government that the founding fathers sought to throw off. And Mr Snowden has gone nowhere near the proposal of promoting a change or abolition of government – I hate the think how the US government might react if he did.

Interpretations change over 240 years – not necessarily for the better.
Peter Swinbank

•  If John Kerry is serious about prosecuting Edward Snowdon for espionage he should “man up” and file charges against newspapers (such as the Guardian and the New York Times,) which published the revelations.

Snowdon alerted the world to widespread wrongdoing by the US espionage agencies; I agree that he should return to the US. To be presented with the congressional medal of honour.
Henry Lawrence

•  So Edward Snowden, tormentor of the US intelligence services, the man who took on the State Department and won, tormentor of the British and American military who unearths their darkest deeds, needs to “man up” does he? I wouldn’t like to see him after he’s had a couple of pints.
Brendan O’Rourke

Fairtrade acknowledges that landless agricultural workers are a most disadvantaged group and therefore a difficult group to reach (“Harsh truths are necessary if Fairtrade is to change the lives of the desperately poor“, News). SOAS’s new report highlights the need for a concerted, systematic and coordinated effort to improve conditions for temporary and casual workers. These most vulnerable of people are being failed by all parties – local and international governments, trade unions, NGOs and companies. Fairtrade is committed to playing its part in addressing the associated challenges ahead. 

Fairtrade aims to work with farmers on Fairtrade-certified small farms to ensure that secure and stable incomes meet their needs and those of the workers.  The SOAS report fails to recognise this. If a farm is selling a small fraction of its produce as Fairtrade and the rest on the conventional market, there is very little of the extra money from Fairtrade sales to go towards projects like healthcare and sanitation. Fairtrade works incrementally – it is trade, not aid, after all.

Fairtrade cannot solve all the problems of rural development. Our aim is to reach more people and deepen the impact that Fairtrade can have. To make progress we need to increase the market for Fairtrade products. This is something that we are committed to, in order to achieve greater benefits for farmers and workers in developing countries.

When people reach for a product with the FAIRTRADE mark, they are making a proven difference to the lives of the people who produce them. To have an even greater impact we need more of those customers – and more companies and donors – to back Fairtrade.

Michael Gidney

Chief executive

Fairtrade Foundation

A terrible racist legacy

In the 1950s my school in east London organised a trip for the fifth formers to Austria, to a village, perhaps hamlet might be a better word, called Judenstein (Jews’ stone). The church was dedicated to the “murder” of a Christian child by Jews for his blood (“In quiet sandstone streets, 56 villagers contemplate the meaning of a name“, News.)

The centrepiece was a silver tableau about 3m by 1.5m and several metres high. Its subject was a depiction of the slaying; and the stations of the cross round the church were replaced by the various stages of the capture and killing of the child.

I believe the church itself has since been “cleansed” of the more hideous aspects of this blood libel but the villagers of Judenstein, unlike the villagers of Castrillo Matajudíos, have not shown the slightest inclination to change the name of the village. The irony of this school visit was that 60-70% of the pupils at that school were Jewish.

David Conroy

London SW19

A truly noble Brazilian

David Goldblatt, in his brilliant feature on Brazil (“Brazil’s football party can’t hide the country’s tensions” In Focus) wrote: “It is notable that not a single Nobel prize has been awarded to a Brazilian.” I am sure that others will agree with me that the Nobel prize for literature should have been awarded to Jorge Amado, who died in 2001. He used the Portuguese language with the incisiveness of a satirist and the lyricism of a poet. His output was enormous; his humour irresistible. In 2014, when Brazil is in the news everywhere, maybe we should honour this wonderful writer by encouraging everyone to study his richly imaginative novels,

Penelope Maclachlan

London W7

Think again about Neil Lennon

In offering theories for Neil Lennon’s victimisation, (“A good man Scotland abused and betrayed“, Comment) Kevin McKenna might have benefited from analysing the reporting of death threats towards former Rangers players like Nacho Novo and Fernando Ricksen. Unlike the unfortunate crimes committed against Neil Lennon, these acts were not reported as sectarian, but rather as a potent blend of football rivalry and idiocy. Could it be that Lennon is just an unlikeable figure in a goldfish-bowl environment?

McKenna is correct in stating that Lennon was reviled throughout Scotland. However, fans of clubs like Aberdeen and Dundee United have no time for the baggage that accompanies supporting Rangers or Celtic. It is ridiculous to suggest that a fan of the “great Glasgow alternative”, Partick Thistle, might boo Lennon because he is a Northern Irish Catholic.

James Robertson


Handsome is as handsome does

Of the three critics who were less than polite about the opera singer Tara Erraught’s looks, I noticed that you didn’t print a photo of one of them, Richard Morrison. Does he look so horrendous that you hesitate to scare Observer readers (“Time to bring the curtain down on critics’ sexism“, In Focus)? You printed photos of two of the others, Rupert Christiansen and Quentin Letts. Let me just say that if I were playing the game commuters play when they’ve finished reading their newspapers (to put it politely, wondering which of the passengers sitting opposite are the most attractive), these two gentlemen would come way down the list.

Sue Boulding



Greater London Authority

Published at 12:01AM, June 2 2014

Sir, Rather than setting a dangerous precedent, devolving more power to London and other UK cities offers a fantastic opportunity to drive future economic growth (“Capital Idea”, leader, May 30).

UK cities are home to 60 per cent of the national economy and 73 per cent of highly skilled jobs. Yet we remain one of the most centralised developed countries in the world.

London keeps just seven per cent of the taxes paid by its residents and businesses, compared with 50 per cent in New York. Greater devolution of tax-raising powers does create issues for redistribution, but a “straw man” of full-scale city independence should not distract from measured proposals, such as those of the London Finance Commission, to give cities greater control over decisions that shape the lives of the people who live and work there.

No one is arguing that London should not pay its fair share to the broader nation. Yes, thousands of people commute to the capital each day, generating income tax and national insurance. But they may have been educated elsewhere in the UK, or return home at night to use public services in places well beyond its borders. It is right that London contributes to these costs.

This doesn’t mean that London, and other cities, shouldn’t also be empowered to direct funds where they are most needed — be it addressing critical housing shortages or investing in vital infrastructure.

Solving these pressing issues at a city level is important to the UK’s future prosperity. We should be helping cities to drive the national economy forward, not confining them in a fiscal straitjacket that locks so many decisions in Whitehall.

Alexandra Jones
Chief executive, Centre for Cities

Sir, Your editorial misses the point. Rather than creating “city states”, giving London and the rest of England’s local government greater autonomy from central government would help to shift the fundamental imbalance of power that exists between Whitehall and the rest of England. Scotland provides an example of how a devolved taxation system can work, and the government is granting greater financial autonomy to Wales.

What is wrong with England that it can’t be trusted to have more say over its own financial affairs and use local councils as the vehicle for English devolution. All parties lack a credible position on this — which should be put right without further delay.

Graham Allen, MP
Chairman of the Political and Constitutional Reform Select Committee, House of Commons

Sir, The mayor of London’s advisers should read the Crossman diaries, which brilliantly expose the rivalry between political parties over who could provide the highest number of new-builds in the 1960s (“Boris floats big idea for homes on the river”, May 30). It resulted in the blighting of cities with “innovative” designs and construction methods, promoted by Poulson corruption, and ended in badly constructed properties and misery.

No doubt the mayor’s advisers will say that things will be better this time. But after Mr Johnson and the prime minister have appeared in a set PR piece handing over the keys to worthy and specially vetted citizens, how many of their own circle will move from Notting Hill or north London and actually live in them?

Brian T Scott
Newcastle upon Tyne

Sir, Virginia Patania and Naomi Beer (letter, May 30) ask why older doctors are “retiring early in droves”. Part of the answer lies in a pension provision which is excessive by many standards and unaffordable by the nation. The solution lies not in paying doctors more, which would allow even earlier retirement, but in training more doctors and paying them less.

About 30 per cent of doctors in the NHS qualified abroad, rising to 50 per cent in the hospital service. In some parts of the country even locums are unavailable to fill service gaps. This is a shocking failure of leadership in what used to be a fine service.

Professor Michael Joy, FRCP
North Curry, Somerset

Sir, I strongly disagree with the claims made by Alex Wild of the TaxPayers’ Alliance (letter, May 30). At the moment there are advertisements for GPs in Canada (Alberta) for £162,000 to £270,000 per annum and Melbourne (Australia) for £140,000 to £220,000 per annum. Open the BMJ and British Journal of of General Practice to see the constant advertisements for overseas jobs.

Its no wonder that Australia has 20.2 GPs per 10,000 people and we have only 6.8, given the poor remuneration that is evident on an international scale.

Carry on complaining and you will speed up the retirement and emigration from — and loss of — new entrants to the specialty.

John B Ashton (retired GP)
Norton sub Hamdon, Somerset

Sir, What an appalling idea that drug dealing and prostitution will be included in measuring the UK’s GDP from September (May 30). Will we add sex trafficking next?

This only goes to show what a useless measure of the nation’s wellbeing GDP is. We should never be in thrall to it, any more than we should be in thrall to economic growth in a world of finite resources. We need a much better index of human wellbeing and quality of life which politicans can trumpet.

Michael Smith
London SW20

Sir, Further to your report on mobility scooters (May 28), they do not need (and probably should not be able) to be driven at 8mph. The impact energy of a vehicle being driven at this speed is four times that of one driven at 4mph, a speed which is more than adequate for most purposes and far less damaging should a collision occur.

Second, proper training in the use of mobility scooters should be given and this should include a test of the ability of the driver to stop in an emergency. Finally, the Department for Transport’s suggestions, referred to in the article, should be extended and made mandatory — and not merely left as recommendations to be totally ignored.

Professor Colin Roberts
Cornwall Mobility Centre, Truro

Sir, Janice Turner (notebook, May 29) complains that her sons “will leave school ignorant of Jane Austen, the Brontës, Chaucer, Conrad, Hardy, Lawrence, George Eliot and, saddest of all, Dickens”. It would be a very tall order for any school to introduce its pupils to the works of all these authors. In any case, they wouldn’t need to leave school in this innocent state if parents took the trouble to enlighten them. Or does she think parents have no role in their children’s education?

Julian Luxford
Ceres, Fife


tin to Hitler

Bear bait: The Prince of Wales feeds a fish to Hudson the polar bear at Winnipeg Zoo on his tour of Canada  Photo:

6:58AM BST 01 Jun 2014

Comments35 Comments

SIR – Russia vents its spleen over the Prince of Wales’s alleged remarks and seeks to remind us of its suffering in the Second World War (report, May 25).

It might equally be worth remembering the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact of August 1939 which facilitated the Nazi advance into Europe in the first place. The Prince articulated the feelings of many across Europe who are horrified by President Putin’s behaviour in Ukraine.

John Rees
London W14

SIR – I am sure Prince Charles was not suggesting that President Putin’s actions were comparable to the dreadful atrocities committed by the Nazis, but more to Hitler’s gobbling up of neighbouring Austria, Czechoslovakia and then half of Poland, under the pretext, in part at least, of protecting ethnic Germans.

Prince Charles is quite correct in what he said and entitled to say so.

John Whyte
Lymington, Hampshire

SIR – I now understand why the Prince of Wales achieved only a lower second-class degree in history and archaeology.

Malcolm Dann
Burton, Chesire

SIR – It is interesting that in President Putin’s response to the Prince of Wales’s off-the-record comments, there is no objection to the content of what he said, only to the observer’s right to say them.

Patrick Ryecart
London SW1

SIR – While cats are the biggest killers of songbirds in Britain (Letters, May 25), it is the doubling in numbers of all native and non-native predators that is contributing to their decline. One in five households now owns at least one cat. It is far easier to blame farmers and spend £500 million a year of taxpayers’ money on agri-environment schemes.

Wildlife has been turned into entertainment for a largely urban public. Controlling predators is a taboo subject which could also threaten the membership of large organisations. Even good science is avoided, suppressed or ignored.

Nick Forde
Trustee, SongBird Survival
London SW4

SIR – Has anyone bothered, for the sake of fairness, to guess the number of rodents that cats dispose of annually? Rodents consume and contaminate food stocks and are vectors of many serious diseases. Their removal by cats must save the country millions of pounds.

Kevin Daly
Lingfield, Surrey

SIR – Given that cats are fed twice daily ny their owners, why are they permitted to be out at night to plunder our songbirds? Surely the RSPB should support a night curfew.

Penny Green
Bishopstone, Wiltshire

SIR – It is ridiculous to assume that cats are to blame. My cat has succeeded in killing a few worms in his time but never birds. How about urbanisation? There are far fewer birds now where I live than a few years ago, as far more houses have been built and birds have lost their habitat.

Kate Christley
Cuffley, Hertfordshire

SIR – Elisabeth Chaston (Letters, May 25) says her cats hardly ever kill small creatures, but as they “go where they please”, how does she know? We have a visiting black cat trying to catch songbirds; a loud hiss scares it off. A powerful water pistol would be even better.

Hamish Grant
Buckland St Mary, Somerset

Home security

SIR – David Laker (Letters, May 25) worries that we are constantly surveyed by CCTV cameras, that our credit card use and computer activities are monitored, our telephones are open to surveillance and our bank accounts open to plunder.

My wife does all of that and more without any of the latest technology. She tells me she is multitasking, while I look at her admiringly and say nothing.

Tom Hutchings
Reading, Berkshire

Defence of the realm must not be risked

SIR – In your first leading article (May 25) you say we should vote Tory at the next election as only the Conservative Party can resolve the questions posed by the electoral success of Ukip.

In your second leading article, you say that defence of the realm is the paramount responsibility of any government, and that this Government has cut defence spending to the point where we may not be able to defend ourselves.

If the Conservative-dominated Government cannot be bothered to defend the realm, I do not believe that the Tories deserve many votes at the next election.

Patrick Kinmont
Rodmarton, Gloucestershire

SIR – David Cameron continues to undermine our Armed Forces. His threatened cut to the rapid reaction defence force is not only damaging to security and ability to help in national and international disasters, but also plays into the hands of the EU federalists with their plans for a European army and their ambitions to destroy our independence, way of life and democracy.

Jennifer Beattie
Clevedon, Somerset

SIR – With regard to the news of further cuts in defence spending, I don’t know what effect they have on our enemies, but, by God, they frighten me.

Peter Davey
Bournemouth, Dorset

Policing the police

SIR – It is hard to believe that no job description exists for the role of Police and Crime Commissioner, as Anne Barnes, who currently holds such a post for the county of Kent, claims.

I was under the impression that the job required holding chief constables to account for their management of resources.

What could be easier to measure than average overtime earned, sick leave taken and complaints incurred per officer? If such figures were published and compared in league tables with other forces, glaring anomalies could be identified and explanations demanded.

John Kenny
Acle, Norfolk

Clegg’s masterplan

SIR – Nick Clegg’s decision to veto boundaries change was, in my opinion, very “grown-up” indeed (Letters, May 25).

Mr Clegg makes no secret of his desire to be part of the next government: he knows that Lib Dem voters would be more at ease with a Lib-Lab coalition than with a Lib-Con one. The present boundaries give an advantage to Labour.

By securing that advantage Mr Clegg hopes that, come 2015, Labour will find itself in the same situation that the Conservatives were in in 2010 – with a majority of seats, but not an absolute majority, whereupon Nick joins the two Eds and lives happily ever after.

Odette Calvert
Sandhurst, Berkshire

Fracking necessity

SIR – Olivia Williams wonders, as she flies into Los Angeles and spies rooftop solar panels, why we are “contemplating fracking…and building precarious new nuclear reactors”. Without fossil fuels and nuclear power, she would have to kiss goodbye to her jet-set lifestyle. Solar and wind energy alone are not enough.

John Fisher
Hulme, Cheshire

Causes of car crashes

SIR – John Makin (Letters, May 25) suggests that black box technology in cars could help reduce accidents as it would enable insurance companies to decline to insure habitual breakers of speed limits.

But exceeding the speed limit is the cause of just 4 per cent of accidents. According to Department for Transport statistics, the following are all more to blame: failure to look properly, misjudging the path or speed of others, careless or reckless driving, poor manoeuvring, loss of control, driving too fast for the conditions (but within limits), slippery road, tailgating and sudden braking.

Peter Owen
Claygate, Surrey

Pride in appearance

SIR – Surely the widespread problem of obesity is linked to a general fall in personal standards, the wearing of clothes previous generations would not have been seen dead in, scruffy hair, unpolished shoes, awful manners and eating and drinking almost anywhere.

If people take no pride in their appearance they have little incentive to look after their waistlines.

Richard Lee
Mitcham, Surrey

Building up

SIR – Clifford Baxter (Letters, May 25) believes excessive immigration to be the cause of the housing shortage and consequent price rises.

But what if the immigrants are builders?

Dr David Moss
Ettlingen, Baden-Württemberg, Germany

Steamy wager

SIR – According to Bradshaw (1895), Adlestrop (Letters, May 25) had four trains daily in each direction.

I’ll bet they were all on time.

Chris Harding
Parkstone, Dorset

SIR – David Cameron thinks that he can negotiate a new deal with the EU, and hopes that we will endorse it in his referendum.

He is either very naive or very duplicitous because he must know that all he can hope to achieve is some tinkering around the edges. The root and branch surgery required would destroy the EU as we know it, and there is no possibility of that being agreed to in Brussels.

The Tories must make the referendum the centrepiece of the election manifesto and then trust the people to give the right answer without underhand manipulation. Trust the people. I would vote for that.

Eric Howarth
Bourne, Lincolnshire

SIR – For Mr Cameron to stand any chance of countering the Ukip threat, he must convince the electorate that during negotiations with the EU he will not wilt in the face of the die-hard Euro federalists.

A good start would be to state unequivocally that unless power to govern our own country is repatriated to Westminster, including full control of who comes to live here, he will not just hold the referendum, but will be firmly in the “Out” camp.

Tim Coles
Carlton, Bedfordshire

SIR – David Cameron says he “gets it”, and will claw back powers from Brussels to Westminster.

So why has his Government just approved legislation to give £18 million for pro-EU propaganda in EU elections?

And why is he voluntarily proposing to opt back in to 35 EU justice laws? These include the European Arrest Warrant, whereby anyone in Britain could find himself hauled off to a foreign jail without habeas corpus, with no presumption of innocence and on circumstantial evidence not admitted in a British court. This is to trample on Magna Carta and the freedoms we have taken for granted for 800 years.

When your leading article says, “Only the Tories can offer real change in Britain”, I beg to differ. We are getting more of the same deceit.

Tony Woodcock
Southbourne, West Sussex

SIR – Ukip has risen from the ashes of the Conservative Party’s infighting on Europe.

Nigel Farage knows that Ukip will not perform as well in the general election as it did last week, but even if it wins anything above 10 per cent of the popular vote in 2015, the Conservative Party is set to lose.

Europe is the Achilles-heel of the Conservative Party, and it has to be solved once and for all.

James A Paton
Billericay, Essex

SIR – Esmond Bulmer (Letters, May 25) believes that the country should be given the choice of being ruled by Westminster or Brussels. In other words, democracy or bureaucracy.

John Strange
Worthing, West Sussex

SIR – As the party in power, the Conservatives alone can turn the tide but will no doubt fall short again by offering us jam tomorrow.

The electorate will only be appeased by immediate action on immigration, benefits control, HS2, wind farms, planning and of course, the EU.

Robert Sherriff
Southam, Warwickshire

SIR – David Cameron can begin to build bridges with his defecting supporters by speeding up the renegotiations with the EU so as to be able to offer the country an in/out referendum on the same day as the general election next year.

Roger Hopkins
Eastbourne, East Sussex

SIR – Having previously ignored the voters of Denmark and France, the EU elite has received a message from the latest election that is loud and clear.

The citizens of Europe will no longer accept the EU as it is: an undemocratic, inward-looking, inefficient and integrationist bureaucracy.

If it will not accept drastic change, it is doomed to failure. Enlarging the community will only slow the inevitable decline.

B J Colby
Portishead, Somerset

Irish Times:

Sir, – The revelation by the boss of the Health Information and Quality Authority that the health service lacks accountability and “doesn’t know how many patients it is killing and harming” is shocking, true and not surprising (“Health service failing patients, says departing Hiqa chief”, May 26th).

In Paul Cullen’s interview with Dr Tracey Cooper, departing chief executive of Hiqa, she tells us “We’re not the kind of country where people who provide services can demonstrate how good they are in terms of performance, outcomes and safety. They’re not making this information publicly available.” But Hiqa is the authority which was established to set standards and then evaluate and publish information on the delivery and performance of our health service. After eight years we are left with promises.

Dr Cooper’s comment, in relation to lack of accountability and withholding of health information, is interesting. Hiqa, although advised in 2008, has still not put in place a standard to monitor and publish the outcome for patients who suffer a brain haemorrhage – subarachnoid haemorrhage (SAH) – and are denied access to emergency neurosurgical treatment in Beaumont Hospital. SAH patients are left untreated in hospitals which have no neurosurgical expertise and we still don’t know how many, if any, survive.

“The hospital does not have the resources to retrospectively review” is the answer from the HSE, on behalf of the Minister for Health, to a parliamentary question requesting this information.

Lack of accountability is often a cover for poor leadership and corporate governance. In the case of Hiqa there is no clear separation of roles and responsibility between Hiqa and the HSE. Hiqa claims that it is not responsible for the safety of patients unable to access neurosurgical treatment and claims that Beaumont Hospital is responsible and required to provide assurances to the HSE. Beaumont claims that it is not responsible for patients it does not admit for treatment. These assurances are no substitute for independent clinical audits benchmarked against international best practice.

The role of investigating authority (Hiqa) and the body which allocates funds (HSE) to healthcare providers needs to be clearly defined. Government needs to revisit the Health Act 2007 and clear up this ambiguity.

To be fair, Dr Cooper has made a significant contribution to our health service and can take credit for a number of initiatives which undoubtedly save many lives. I wish her well. – Yours,etc,


Cypress Downs,


Sir, – People will probably agree that it is the State which carries the ultimate responsibility for housing its citizens, but therein lies the problem in what is called the “housing crisis”. Social housing in one form or another is the basic requirement for people with a long-term housing need, but sufficient housing has never been built, or even planned, to cope with the huge volume of new people on housing lists, particularly in the large urban centres. There is an expectation that the private rental market will be available to take up the slack, but there are an insufficient number of properties in the private rental market, largely due to the actions of Government and lenders.

The average number of properties owned by private landlords is one, with many in negative equity and with heavy mortgages attached. Landlords need to let their property at market rent, not approximately 15per cent below, which is the average rent supplement level, in order to be able to try and pay the costs of being a landlord, never mind making a profit from the business of letting property.

The Government penalises people in receipt of rent supplement by capping it, but then blames landlords for not being willing to subsidise the accommodation.

The State, in its wisdom (or its desire to gather in easy taxes), has blatantly decided to penalise landlords by a long series of indirect taxation measures, which in turn can result in rental income being taxed on a loss-making situation. Following on from that, landlords cannot pay their mortgages in full, aggravating the mortgage arrears situation.

Lenders are aggressively forcing sales, as has been shown in the hard-line stances taken by the banks at the Oireachtas finance committee. The Government and the Central Bank have aided and abetted this situation by continually giving in to the bullying tactics of our lenders, and landlords are losing their property as a result, which also means that tenants are also being de-housed with nowhere else to go. The Government maintains it cannot interfere with the commercial operations of the lenders, yet it continues to interfere brazenly in the commercial operations of landlords.

Instead of increasing the supply of property, actions by the Government are decreasing it. Traditional bedsit accommodation with shared bathrooms is now illegal, but there is no alternative for tenants caught up in this scenario.

Landlords continuing to operate bedsits are breaking the law, but to be put into a situation which makes their tenants homeless is a national scandal. The Government is ignoring this situation.

Rents decreased over 40 per cent in recent years, and are still below peak levels. Local property tax is for services provided to the tenant, yet it is levied on the landlord, increasing costs.

Is it possible for someone with a grain of intelligence to look at the “housing crisis” fairly? Will certain politicians and others stop vilifying people who have the courage to invest in property (despite the huge downsides of so doing), who treat their tenants as customers, and who want to have their business recognised as such? Given the right conditions, the Government should look at the private rental market as a partner of the State in housing citizens. Partners deserve fair and equitable treatment. – Yours, etc,



Irish Property

Owners’ Association,

Ashtown Business Centre,

Navan Road,

Dublin 15.

Sir, – The Leaving Certificate exams will start shortly and there will be a lot of media coverage surrounding these exams. I actually think that most of this coverage is hype and very unhelpful hype at that.

While the Leaving Cert is a big event, ultimately it’s just another step along the journey of life. I am now 48 and have completed three Leaving Certs in my time.

I did the first when I was 17 and to be honest, it didn’t mean very much to me at the time. I completed the other two as a mature student, because I decided to go to college.

I might never have succeeded in my return to education, had it not been for the experience of completing that first Leaving Cert, when I was 17. It was just one step on the way to my eventual success, when I graduated from UCC, at the age of 28.

I later completed two postgraduate diplomas, including a teaching qualification and have been teaching for the past 12 years, as well as doing an interesting variety of other skilled work.

What all this has thought me is that education is (or should be) all about creating options and that life is a serious of choices and challenges. Life also involves a lot of “trial and error” and there is nothing wrong with that.

Every experience in life (including the exam process) has the potential to educate us and you can never have too much education, whatever its source.

Everybody who is doing the Leaving Cert should be allowed to get on with it, without all this annual fuss in the media. My experience has also taught me that “stress” is often a self-fulfilling prophecy, ie the more we talk about stress, the more we are likely to experience it.

Students, parents and the media need to take a balanced and proportional approach to the Leaving Cert. There is education all around us; it’s up to us to take it all in.

Ultimately, we are all educators and we all influence those around us. So please, let the students get on with it, without all this annual media cackle. – Yours, etc,


Bowling Green,

White Street,

Sir, – Since the Islamic Republic of Iran attacks Israel in every international forum it can and openly calls for the destruction of the Jewish State, we find it appropriate to take issue with the words of the Ambassador of Iran Javad Kachoueian (“Iran seeks better relations with West, says envoy”, May 28th).

The Ambassador claims that Iran has the right to enrich uranium and expand its nuclear programme, ostensibly for peaceful purposes. It is a pity that in his interview he did not mention other things that Iran apparently also thinks it has a right to do, such as execute homosexuals and Bahai’s, torture dissidents, export terror groups around the world such as Hizbullah and Hamas, blow up a Jewish community centre as it did in Buenos Aires in 1984, and serve as the chief buttress of the murderous Assad regime over the past few years – thereby ensuring that the Syrian civil war has become a ghastly quagmire with over 160,000 corpses and counting.

He refers to the election of Hassan Rouhani to the Iranian presidency last year. It might be better to use the word selection, as Mr Rouhani was one of only eight candidates out of 680 who were approved to run by Ayatollah Khamenei and his cronies who really run the country.

As for the alleged 2005 fatwa by Ayatollah Khamenei condemning the building of nuclear weapons that the Ambassador refers to, alas trying to find it is like trying to track down the unicorn because although many have referred to it no one has ever seen the text of this mysterious fatwa.

Based on long and painful experience, it is wise to judge Iran by its actions, not its spurious rhetoric. – Yours, etc,


Press Officer,

Embassy of Israel,

Pembroke Road,

Dublin 4.

Sir, – In his interview with Tim Butcher, author of a new biography of Gavrilo Princip, Mark Hennessy discusses how world history was “made in the Balkans” in 1914 (Arts & Ideas, May 28th). The article also examines aspects of this region’s more recent past. It focuses on Bosnia and Herzegovina, looking at how that country has struggled since it was devastated by war between 1992 and 1995.

Mr Butcher points out that the political structures created by the Dayton Agreement, which ended the conflict, have merely perpetuated division. This has been exploited by Bosnia’s ruling elites, whose egocentricity and reluctance to cooperate have rendered the state dysfunctional. In protests across Bosnia and Herzegovina this spring, people of all ethnicities expressed frustration at these “leaders” who have left them impoverished and powerless.

Two weeks ago, Bosnia’s plight was exacerbated when it was struck by the severest flooding ever recorded in the Balkans. In Bosnia alone, 39 per cent of the population has been affected by this disaster. Towns have been destroyed, villages wiped out and agricultural areas have been ruined. Tens of thousands of people are homeless or displaced. There is a serious risk of disease due to contaminated floodwater.

Undiscovered landmines may have been moved by flood-triggered landslides and these pose another threat to life.

In the worst-hit places – as we have heard directly from relatives who live there – basic supplies like food and clean drinking water are scarce.

The historical significance of the Balkans is fascinating but we must remember the millions in Bosnia, Serbia and Croatia who are suffering today in the aftermath of the floods.

A striking feature of this catastrophe is that it has brought the people of these countries together in solidarity, despite the agendas of their politicians.

However, massive international assistance is also required. In Ireland, the Irish Red Cross has launched its “Balkans Floods Appeal” and other organisations, such as Whitewater Foundation and Human Appeal Ireland, are helping those in need.

While mulling over events in Sarajevo in 1914, we should think of the flood victims of the Balkans in 2014 and support the relief effort. – Yours, etc,




Sir, – By abolishing town and borough councils, this Government banished to the wilderness hundreds of years of history, tradition and structure, with little or no debate. There is reason to believe that the small towns and cities of Ireland will suffer irrevocably from this decision.

For many years local town and borough councils have had the resources to develop and present themselves well; witness the quality of the streetscapes and the cleanliness of many of our towns. None of this happens by accident; they are the result of concerted management and effort by those responsible within the local town councils over many years. The new scenario will dilute this effort by spreading the resources more thinly across the larger municipal areas well beyond the town boundaries.

The death of town centres by the promotion of out-of-town shopping centres and other developments will be ever more likely with the loss of the strong voice and authority of town representation. It should be remembered also that what is good for most towns is ultimately good for the surrounding area, in terms of business and economic activity. It is generally recognised that good planning revolves around developing centres of population which are sustainable, with the critical mass in terms of population to develop services properly. Again, the new scenario with municipal areas can only harm such objectives, with struggles for the locating of development between the rural and town members and the likelihood of an in-built majority of rural-based representatives.

There are also other less tangible impacts that result from the civic pride strengthened by the ceremonial aspect of town governance, civic receptions, and so on.

We have allowed something very valuable to be thrown away, which we may live to regret. I hope I am wrong.


Kells Road,

Sir, – Norman Freeman (An Irishman’s Diary, May 13th) and the citizens of our country should be very interested to know that many young Irish chaps (myself included), and without the “sales talk” referred to in the article, voluntarily joined the Marconi International Marine Communications Company as radio officers (having obtained a certificate in radiotelegraphy in one of the colleges here in Ireland to serve in Irish Shipping Ltd and more usually in the British merchant navy).

One of the regular voyages taken by Irish vessels was to the port of St John in New Brunswick, Canada, to load a cargo of wheat to help keep bread on our tables.

These Irish-registered ships, decorated and illuminated in our own national colours, could take 10 or more weeks to complete the round voyage.

It is true that many of the ships, because of their size and age, would have been more at ease sailing the duck pond in St Stephen’s Green than rolling and pitching through the wild Atlantic Ocean for days in the national interest.

The flashing Fastnet lighthouse was a very welcome “ray of light” indeed on our return journey.

My sincere wish for our nation is that whatever we have to remember and commemorate, those who believed in what they chose to do during the war years deserve some mention.

As for the coconut wine referred to in the article, ugh! It’s a gin and tonic for me. – Yours, etc,


The Village Gates,


Co Dublin.

A chara, – Dr John Doherty’s letter of May 14th resurrected a long-forgotten school memory for me. During an examination on European history, we were asked to describe the origins and causes of the War of Austrian Succession. A friend of mine wrote at length about the terrible war that was fought to prevent Mother Theresa succeeding to the Habsburg thrones. A little learning is a dangerous thing. – Yours, etc,


Airedale Road,

South Ealing,


Sir, – I’ve noticed that a lot of keep-fit enthusiasts shout quite a bit, even in “normal” conversation. I believe this is due to their habit of listening to their iPods while jogging or cycling, thus rendering them a little hard of hearing. – Yours, etc,


Stamer Street,

Dublin 8.

Irish Independent:

The Leaving Certificate exams will start shortly and there will be a lot of media coverage surrounding them. I actually think that much of this coverage is “hype”.

Also in this section

Letters to the Editor: Beaten, but no defeat

No escape from the Harry Houdini property trap

New leader needs to get some clout in Brussels

While the Leaving Cert is a big event, ultimately it’s just another step along the journey of life. I am now 48 years old and have completed three Leaving Certs in my time. I did the first when I was 17 and, to be honest, it didn’t mean very much to me at the time. I completed the other two as a mature student, because I decided to go to college. I might never have succeeded in my return to education, had it not been for the experience of completing that first Leaving Cert at 17.

Like I said, it was just one step on the way to my eventual success, when I graduated from UCC, at the age of 28. I later completed two post-graduate diplomas, including a teaching qualification, and have been teaching for the past 12 years, as well as doing an interesting variety of other skilled work.

What all this has taught me is that education is (or should be) all about creating options and that life is a series of choices and challenges. Life also involves a lot of ‘trial and error’ and there is nothing wrong with that.

Every experience in life has the potential to educate us and you can never have too much education, whatever its source.

Everybody who is doing the Leaving Cert should be allowed to get on with it, without all this annual fuss in the media. My experience has also taught me that “stress” (eg, exam stress) is often a self-fulfilling prophecy – the more we talk about stress, the more we are likely to experience it.

Students, parents and the media need to take a balanced and proportional approach to the Leaving Cert. There is education all around us; it’s up to us to take it all in. So please, let the students get on with it, without all this media cackle.



Following O’Leary’s lead

In an interview with Pat Kenny on Newstalk, Michael O’Leary said Ryanair’s blunt policy of “give us your money, sit down and be quiet” had been dropped, with encouraging results.

Will the Government follow suit and abandon its similarly forthright attitude to the electorate?



Medical card debacle

There is absolutely no truth in the rumour that the HSE has donated surplus used medical cards as spot prizes at parties for children under five.



A healthy solution

Given the country’s financial situation and given that 42pc of the population have medical cards, there is one solution that would be fair, substantially reduce fear, scrambling, excessive administrative costs and nightmares, and ensure that nobody above the financial qualifying limit for medical cards endures financial hardship due to a medical condition/conditions – which is the reason for discretionary medical cards in the first place.

The solution is that every family above the financial limit who requires a medical card pays something subject to a threshold. Otherwise, the fear, pressure, etc, goes on and lists of qualifying medical conditions won’t change the overall situation.



Labour deputy conundrum

As we now know, Joan Burton and Alex White will battle it out for the position of Labour leader.

Alan Kelly, Michael McCarthy and Sean Sherlock are hoping to become deputy leader. So far, so interesting.

However, a conundrum exists.

As Joan Burton is the elected deputy leader and has not formally resigned the position, the Labour Party could have a problem on its hands. What happens if Mr Kelly, Mr McCarthy or Mr Sherlock are elected to the position of number two and Ms Burton does not become leader?

Labour could end up with two elected deputy leaders – would Joan be prepared to step down?



‘Best’ is yet to come on water

In relation to water charges: we start at €240, now we have €500. My brother-in-law lives in Devon, England, with his wife and two children. He travels for business and is out of the house for half of each week. They live in a ‘normal’ house on normal income. Their annual water charge is £1,200 – that’s €1,460!

The best is yet to come!



Don’t forget Euro Parliament

With the conclusion of the count in Ireland Midlands North West, the last of the European Parliament’s 751 seats has been filled. The world’s largest trans-national democratic electorate has spoken. The pageantry of the elections is over. The posters festooning our streets are coming down. Ireland’s 11 successful candidates will, hopefully, put on the green jersey and work together for the best interests of the Irish people.

However, with the elections concluded, will the media again forget about the European Parliament? Will the European Parliament Report still be broadcast only to insomniacs and those returning from the pub?

Or will journalists fulfil their duty to inform Irish people on the ongoing work of the European Parliament and implications for them?



Save historic Moore Street

It is ironic, to put it mildly, that soon after Minister Jimmy Deenihan granted consent to a planning application that will see the destruction of the Moore Street 1916 battlefield site, he ‘condemns in the strongest terms the damage that has been caused to one of our most iconic ancient monuments’ at Tara.

No less a body than the Imperial War Museum in London is now on record as describing the Moore Street area as “the only city-based 20th-Century battlefield to survive in all of Europe and possibly the world”.

It will be obliterated under the Chartered Land planning application that the minister has now approved on his grant of consent to proposed work to the 1916 National Monument at 14 to 17 Moore Street.






No need to ban vaping

The main reason the HSE gives for banning vaping is that it might “re-socialise” smoking.

I have been a pipe smoker for over 40 years and, when my children were very young, each of them insisted on having their own pipe. None of them grew up to be pipe smokers – in fact, none of them smoke at all.



Marriage and poverty

According to David Quinn (Irish Independent, May 30), marriage is “the most successful anti-poverty programme ever”.

It is heartening to know David Quinn, and the Iona Institute, will be supporting the legal recognition of same-sex marriage in 2015.



Irish Independent


June 1, 2014

1 June2014 Knee

No jog around te par k I have arthritis n my left knee

Scrabbletoday, Mary wins the game, and get under 400 perhaps MaryI will win tomorrow


Billie Fleming was a cyclist who in 1938 pedalled nearly 30,000 miles around the British Isles, setting a women’s world record

Billie Fleming on her record-breaking cycle ride in 1938

Billie Fleming on her record-breaking cycle ride in 1938

6:47PM BST 30 May 2014

Comments7 Comments

Billie Fleming, who has died aged 100, set a women’s world record in 1938 for the greatest distance cycled in a single year.

Billie Dovey, as she then was, was a 24-year-old secretary and typist who had become inspired by the ideas of the Women’s League of Health & Beauty, an organisation founded in the 1930s by Mary Bagot Stack as “a league of women who will renew their energy in themselves and for themselves day by day”. A keen cyclist, Billie Dovey decided to put principles into action by embarking on an extensive cycling tour of the British Isles.

The cycle maker Rudge Whitworth agreed to provide her with a bike — a heavy steel machine fitted with a three-speed cycle derailleur gear — and to arrange sponsorship, in return for her agreeing to ride the bike every day of the year and to help promote the company. One of her sponsors, Cadbury, provided her with 5lbs of chocolate every month in return for her appearing in their advertisements.

Billie Fleming

The “Rudge Whitworth Keep Fit Girl”, as she was billed in the press, set out on January 1 1938 from the New Horticultural Halls, Westminster, and rode to Mill Hill, Aylesbury and then back to Mill Hill, a total of 71 miles. After 365 days she had ridden her bike 29,603.4 miles — 35 times the distance from Land’s End to John O’Groats; more than eight times the distance from London to New York; and almost three times the distance from London to Sydney. “I just got on my bike in the morning and kept cycling all day. I rode all over the country,” she recalled. A hard day’s pedalling was often followed by a promotional visit to a Rudge Whitworth cycle dealer, and then sometimes a talk at a village hall or cycling event.

Billie Dovey had no pannier on her bike – just a small saddlebag with a change of clothes and a few tools. She carried no water and relied on local cafés and shops for food. Apart from one puncture, the bike suffered no mechanical problems.

To prove she had travelled the miles she claimed, Billie Dovey had to complete “checking cards” and get them signed by witnesses and posted back to Cycling magazine. She had a cyclometer on her bike and she had to go to the magazine’s offices in London at intervals to prove that it had not been tampered with.

Although her average was 81 miles a day, there were days when she did far more. One morning, in York, she decided to cycle back home to Mill Hill, a distance of 186 miles.

Billie Fleming outside the Rudge dealer in Alresford, Hampshire

In 1942 an Australian woman cyclist set out to take the record from Billie Dovey, but her claim to have cycled 54,402.8 miles in a year was dismissed after the Australian cycling authorities scrutinised her log books. Despite the advent of bikes made with lightweight alloys and fitted with multiple speed gears (a trend Billie thought ridiculous — “three is plenty”) her record is thought to have remained unbroken to this day. “I was young and fit and ready to take on anything,” she recalled.

The eldest of three sisters, she was born Lilian Irene Bartram on April 13 1914 in Camden, north London, just three months before the outbreak of the First World War. Her father was a toolmaker. She attended the Lyulph Stanley Central School, Camden, which she left aged 16 to become a typist.

She developed a passion for cycling when she met a boy at a youth club who rode a bike and took her on to the Barnet bypass in Mill Hill to teach her how to ride.

Billie Fleming posting a checking card

After her record-breaking journey in 1938 she had planned to ride across the United States, but was prevented from doing so by the outbreak of the Second World War, during which she worked in the buying office of an aircraft company. She consoled herself in 1940 by breaking three cycling records riding a tricycle — the 25-mile, 50-mile and 100-mile distances.

Before the war she had married Freddie Dovey, with whom she had a son. The marriage was dissolved, and in 1953 she met her second husband, George Fleming, another keen cyclist who had been the first man to cycle 50 miles in less than two hours. They enjoyed cycling together, and in 1957 rode the entire Pyrenees mountain range from the Atlantic Ocean to the Mediterranean.

George Fleming died in 1997, and for the last seven years of her life Billie Fleming lived in a care home at Abbotsham, Devon, where she continued to watch the Tour de France and other cycling events on television.

She is survived by a stepson.

Billie Fleming, born April 13 1914, died May 12 2014


Fairtrade acknowledges that landless agricultural workers are a most disadvantaged group and therefore a difficult group to reach (“Harsh truths are necessary if Fairtrade is to change the lives of the desperately poor“, News). SOAS’s new report highlights the need for a concerted, systematic and coordinated effort to improve conditions for temporary and casual workers. These most vulnerable of people are being failed by all parties – local and international governments, trade unions, NGOs and companies. Fairtrade is committed to playing its part in addressing the associated challenges ahead.

Fairtrade aims to work with farmers on Fairtrade-certified small farms to ensure that secure and stable incomes meet their needs and those of the workers.  The SOAS report fails to recognise this. If a farm is selling a small fraction of its produce as Fairtrade and the rest on the conventional market, there is very little of the extra money from Fairtrade sales to go towards projects like healthcare and sanitation. Fairtrade works incrementally – it is trade, not aid, after all.

Fairtrade cannot solve all the problems of rural development. Our aim is to reach more people and deepen the impact that Fairtrade can have. To make progress we need to increase the market for Fairtrade products. This is something that we are committed to, in order to achieve greater benefits for farmers and workers in developing countries.

When people reach for a product with the FAIRTRADE mark, they are making a proven difference to the lives of the people who produce them. To have an even greater impact we need more of those customers – and more companies and donors – to back Fairtrade.

Michael Gidney

Chief executive

Fairtrade Foundation

A terrible racist legacy

In the 1950s my school in east London organised a trip for the fifth formers to Austria, to a village, perhaps hamlet might be a better word, called Judenstein (Jews’ stone). The church was dedicated to the “murder” of a Christian child by Jews for his blood (“In quiet sandstone streets, 56 villagers contemplate the meaning of a name“, News.)

The centrepiece was a silver tableau about 3m by 1.5m and several metres high. Its subject was a depiction of the slaying; and the stations of the cross round the church were replaced by the various stages of the capture and killing of the child.

I believe the church itself has since been “cleansed” of the more hideous aspects of this blood libel but the villagers of Judenstein, unlike the villagers of Castrillo Matajudíos, have not shown the slightest inclination to change the name of the village. The irony of this school visit was that 60-70% of the pupils at that school were Jewish.

David Conroy

London SW19

A truly noble Brazilian

David Goldblatt, in his brilliant feature on Brazil (“Brazil’s football party can’t hide the country’s tensions” In Focus) wrote: “It is notable that not a single Nobel prize has been awarded to a Brazilian.” I am sure that others will agree with me that the Nobel prize for literature should have been awarded to Jorge Amado, who died in 2001. He used the Portuguese language with the incisiveness of a satirist and the lyricism of a poet. His output was enormous; his humour irresistible. In 2014, when Brazil is in the news everywhere, maybe we should honour this wonderful writer by encouraging everyone to study his richly imaginative novels,

Penelope Maclachlan

London W7

Think again about Neil Lennon

In offering theories for Neil Lennon’s victimisation, (“A good man Scotland abused and betrayed“, Comment) Kevin McKenna might have benefited from analysing the reporting of death threats towards former Rangers players like Nacho Novo and Fernando Ricksen. Unlike the unfortunate crimes committed against Neil Lennon, these acts were not reported as sectarian, but rather as a potent blend of football rivalry and idiocy. Could it be that Lennon is just an unlikeable figure in a goldfish-bowl environment?

McKenna is correct in stating that Lennon was reviled throughout Scotland. However, fans of clubs like Aberdeen and Dundee United have no time for the baggage that accompanies supporting Rangers or Celtic. It is ridiculous to suggest that a fan of the “great Glasgow alternative”, Partick Thistle, might boo Lennon because he is a Northern Irish Catholic.

James Robertson


Handsome is as handsome does

Of the three critics who were less than polite about the opera singer Tara Erraught’s looks, I noticed that you didn’t print a photo of one of them, Richard Morrison. Does he look so horrendous that you hesitate to scare Observer readers (“Time to bring the curtain down on critics’ sexism“, In Focus)? You printed photos of two of the others, Rupert Christiansen and Quentin Letts. Let me just say that if I were playing the game commuters play when they’ve finished reading their newspapers (to put it politely, wondering which of the passengers sitting opposite are the most attractive), these two gentlemen would come way down the list.

Sue Boulding

Baschurch, Shropshire

Andrew Rawnsley is correct that “Labour’s got big problems and diminishing time to fix them“, (Comment) but it is not just a question of totting up policies and getting the message across.

We are witnessing a return to the politics of the 1930s, with unemployment, inequality and a sense of national insecurity breeding national populism, here as across Europe.

Conventional parties and Eurocrats are seen to look after the political class, bankers, oligarchs and big business. It is easy for populist parties to blame them and to focus on immigration as the issue, which solved, would solve all others. In the 1930s these ills were blamed on Jews; now they are blamed on immigrants. In the 1930s, however, there was a powerful current of anti-fascism, underpinned by communism, socialism and left-liberalism, that stood up to fascism and Nazism in Europe and eventually won through. Since the end of the cold war such visions have evaporated, leaving the field to neo-liberalism.

What the Labour party and the European left in general need is a new vision inspired by a rethinking of socialism. The academic analysis of inequality and the failure of capitalism unhindered and unhinged is out there in the work of Piketty and others. This needs urgently to be translated not only into policies but into a powerful vision that makes sense of world-historical problems and sets fearlessly about fixing them.

Robert Gildea

Professor of Modern History

University of Oxford

Andrew Rawnsley thinks Labour did badly in the recent election and cites senior Labour figures who blame Ed Miliband and consider he is too “Ed-centric”.

Peter Hain MP asserts that the party did pretty well thanks to Ed’s leadership and calls on him to attack “the bloated elites” who run our economy (Only Ed Miliband truly understands that the party system is bust, and how to fix it, News).

I don’t suppose Labour MPs are interested in the views of a member of the party for 52 years, many of which have been spent in deprived areas. I believe that Labour needs to replace the present “bloated elites” who run the party with working-class leaders who will give priority to a radical reduction of inequality and the complete abolition of poverty.

Bob Holman


Confusion reigned throughout Sunday across the Observer‘s coverage of the local elections. First, Labour actually “won” these elections but you would not have known it except for the small print. But the really big story was that the Lib Dems imploded, losing 300 seats to Labour, Greens and Ukip. Where was that analysis?

Second, where was any coverage of the Greens, despite the small but significant increase in their vote? How could you not have even included them in your maps and sidebars? Did they poll more or fewer votes than Ukip? Now that would be a story.

Third, how could Ukip “redraw the political map” when its share of the vote actually decreased from last year? What a load of old media spin it all was.

Virginia Cumming

London N19

The best way forward for Labour is to build an activist base. Crafting a strategy designed to appeal to marginal voters inevitably results in an unconvincing muddle, and will make the party look weak and hapless.

A base of young, committed, technically-savvy activists will carry the party’s message and its cause into communities throughout Britain. It will result in the kind of grassroots politicking that is more concrete and engaging.

Women (especially single women under 35), young people, ethnic minorities, and low and high-end service professions are now Labour’s natural constituency. The party needs to build a strategy that makes of those groups a coalition of voters. Electoral victories are built on expanding strengths, not minimising weaknesses.


post online


I’ve just read your Happy List (25 May) which cheered me up no end. What amazing people. Let’s have more of these inspiring stories about people whose selfless efforts are tackling many of the problems being caused by our elected representatives. What a pity they are not running the country.

Wendy Mustill

via email

By definition, as a member of the Royal family, Charles is at odds with Joan Smith’s political views (“Can Charles get laws changed? They won’t say”, 25 May). Just existing, he is political, without saying anything. He, as the heir to the throne, isn’t in line with her republican views. This means that she will further, or over, politicise anything controversial he is overheard to have said.

I do not think his conversation was “private”; anything he says at a public function he has to accept as public. However, as a man, even a publicly owned man, he has an opinion. If he is influencing laws, as implied, that is different, and should not be happening.

This was an off-the-cuff remark that has no serious impact and was not meant to influence foreign affairs in any manner. By condemning it so severely, Joan Smith is politicizing Charles and the situation more than it demands; she is using the remark to air her own disdain for the monarchy, and the system within which we live. So it would seem, anyway.

Helen Brown


Our elected representatives should show some grit and stop Prince Charles’s meddling and playing at politics. He is damaging our relations with other countries and undermining our democracy. The monarchy is in receipt of a lot of taxpayers’ money and other privileges and Charles’s actions are making a mockery of this institution.

Jenny Bushell

Wimbledon SW19

Hamish McRae (25 May) writes about still having “the intractable problem of long-term unemployment” while elsewhere there are skill shortages. One reason for this is that those jobless are living in northern towns that suffered from the collapse of their traditional heavy industry – such as my home of Grimsby, that lost its deep-sea fishing trade. Meanwhile, the newly available work is predominantly in the South-east. Given the fact that you can a buy a terrace house here for under £60,000, who can afford to move for work, especially as there isn’t the social rented property that used to exist?

Tim Mickleburgh

Grimsby, Lincolnshire

D  J Taylor (“For £9,000 a year, you expect to stay awake”, 25 May) is certainly right that if you are paying £9,000 in university fees a year you should expect competent lecturers. Whether that has much to do with anything that might be defined as education is another matter.

When I did my first degree (in the late 1970s) I spent far more time occupying college premises in protest at various issues than I ever did in lectures. There I learnt organising, public speaking, and media skills that have served me well in later life.

Keith Flett

London N17

D  J Taylor’s article reminds me that when I went up to University College of North Wales, Bangor, in 1960, I was told by a research student, when I grumbled about the teaching: “ You came here to read for a degree not to be taught – a university is not a school.”

Philip Johnson

Clifton, York

I can understand North Korea recruiting soldiers at 16, because it is important that they have impressionable minds to indoctrinate with the regime’s ideology (“UK under fire for recruiting an army of children”, 25 May). But the British Army has no need to indoctrinate or rule by fear, so should raise the age of entry to 18 and show that it can create competent soldiers, who have ideas of their own.

Kartar Uppal

West Bromwich, West Midlands


Tories paid price in Europe for not listening to voters

IT IS very easy to blame the lack of support for the Conservative party on UKIP (“The people have spoken, the bastards”, Editorial, “Tories press PM to call early EU vote”, News, and “Gentlemen, it’s kicking out time”, Focus, last week). The reality is much simpler: Conservative Central Office does not acknowledge the voice formerly expressed through local associations, which feel ignored by the professional politicians in Westminster, most of whom are unaware how irritated people are by the whingeing about pay and expenses.

I certainly do not support UKIP but I comprehend that Nigel Farage communicates effectively with voters. If all the main parties, not just the Conservatives, fail to make radical changes they will wither and be sidelined.
Roger Thomas, former chairman of East Sussex county council

Britain’s got problems

If UKIP is making inroads it is because the main parties have failed to address the problems: growing inequality, financial and corporate greed, tax avoidance by the rich, the privatisation of public assets, a loss of national identity and illegal immigration, which is transforming towns and cities.

Politicians have to look after the people rather than themselves and their oligarch non-domiciled friends.
Peter Fieldman, Madrid, Spain

Roaring trade

The Tory MP David Davis argues a British exit from the EU would “initiate an era of vast new trading opportunities … far beyond our borders” (“Either we vote early on EU exit or we watch Farage crow”, Focus, last week). Fast- growing markets have existed for decades beyond the EU but the UK has a smaller market share than many of our competitors from the EU, notably Germany and France. EU membership should be no impediment to successful trading in the rest of the world. The success of our exporters is not dependent on when or how we vote in an in/out referendum. The solution lies closer to home
Mel Cumming, Letchworth, Hertfordshire

Forward motion

David Cameron has a greater chance of quenching Mount Etna with a watering can than getting the EU to clean up its act or to give away any meaningful concessions. This being the case, the 2017 referendum becomes a nonentity.

The EU will always be a bloated, profligate behemoth with entrenched expansion and endemic duplicity. I sincerely hope the government will take heed of Davis’s advice to bring forward the referendum.
Anthony Baird, Welwyn Garden City, Hertfordshire

Difference of opinion

Our experience of the EU is of an undemocratic, economically and politically incompetent institution with a hidden design to create the United States of Europe. We have been corralled into the present mess. Do we want to be closely associated with a currency union that is unsuited to the diverse cultures and different economic capabilities in the EU? Do we want people in eastern Europe and the Mediterranean to determine how we live?
Paul Ashfield, Harrogate, North Yorkshire

National interests

Despite having waged war with most of the European states, we have more in common with their populace than any other. No, we are not anti-Europe but we are anti a non-elected body whose corruption is legendary and whose ill-judged decisions in every aspect of government, be it justice, health, trade, immigration or foreign policy, are flawed to the point where even the most ardent supporters of federalisation are becoming nationalists. We as Europeans demand a return to decisions by national governments.
Bill Westsmith, Cobham, Surrey

Identity card

Surely we have been Europeans since we first came to these islands. Our history has been a European one, and geographically and economically we are irremovably part of Europe. Do we want to be an insignificant island useful only as an aircraft carrier or drone-launching site for America? Elizabeth Young London W2 PROTEST TOO MUCH I am amazed that people who are trying to enter politics can blame their party leader. Nick Clegg and his team have done a very good job steering through Cameron’s pond. Now we have UKIP holding council seats we will soon see its real colours and next year those who voted for the party will say: “I only did so as a protest. Of course I won’t vote for UKIP again.”
Patrick Rout Keighley, West Yorkshire

American novels have a vital place in British classrooms

WHAT sort of world does the education secretary Michael Gove, a former journalist, want our children to grow up in (“Gove kills the mockingbird with ban on US classic novels”, News, last week)? An isolated one, clearly, even though we are in the age of instant global communications. Being brought up with Just William, Biggles, Adrian Mole and Harry Potter is OK, even essential, but it’s no good without Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer to balance things.

How are children to learn about differences and perspectives, to say nothing of the disparity in character between people who speak another language and live in a foreign land. What about the European writers and those from India and Africa? Then there is the matter of ethnicity — where, for a start, does Gove place Salman Rushdie?
Terry Collcutt, Bletchingley, Surrey

Brought to books

I felt I was making a connection and a difference during the years I spent teaching (in the main) adolescent boys who had been excluded from school. Each session was a test of wills, whether it took place in the local authority unit or in the boy’s home. In the first English lesson I would introduce Of Mice and Men — a text they all loved from the word go, often begging me to ditch the maths or science lesson so as to read the next chapter.

They were at their most articulate when talking about the hopes and dreams of the characters. It often helped them express how powerless they felt.
Sian Steele, Swansea 

Variety performance

This is micro-management in the extreme. I studied Shakespeare, the Brontë sisters and modern American classics at O-level and A-level. The variety was important and certainly the development and use of language, from Chaucer to Arthur Miller, gave a depth of understanding and rigour. The syllabus should include modern texts but I’m not sure they all have to be British to be relevant — after all, do physics students just study the theories of UK scientists?
Eileen Beesley, Northampton

Further reading

We are no longer in an age where you can force children to learn. You must have them onside and a syllabus such as this will not do that. Another dopy Gove move.
Laurel Wood, by email

Fabricated sharia is misleading Muslims

LORD CAREY’S welcome call for Muslims to permit the right of free conversion from Islam will sadly fall on deaf ears (“Carey pleads for life of pregnant Christian”, News, May 18). All the main Islamic organisations such as the new Labour-created and funded Muslim Council of Britain, as well as other ultra- conservative kindred sects such as the Wahabi-Salafi-Deobandi Tabligh Jama’ah, all promote sharia, a manufactured legal corpus that frequently has little or no religious validation within Islam’s transcendent text and contradicts the primary divine scripture.

While the holy Koran enshrines complete freedom of faith and conscience, the later emergence of an unbridled ecclesiastical monopoly in Muslim society negated this fundamental human right. The early clerics peddled the non-Koranic myth that apostasy or free conversion from Islam is punishable by death. This dubious ruling was derived from questionable hadith (reputed sayings of the prophet Muhammad) compiled some 300 years after his death. Nowhere in the Koran is there any prohibition for a believer to desert her or his faith; this ban is only found in suspect hadith and invented medieval opinion that masquerades as unchallenged divine directives.

British Muslims must distinguish between what their sacred book actually states and what the fabricated sharia claims. They need to divorce themselves from the clerics’ toxic perversion of the Koran and to understand that there is no penalty for invented “crimes” such as heresy, apostasy and blasphemy.
Imam Dr Taj Hargey, Director, Muslim Educational Centre of Oxford


Sexist education

India Knight (“Roast men for their private banter and the war on sexism is lost”, Comment, last week) suggests there has been an overreaction to the sexist comments made by Richard Scudamore, the chief executive of the Premier League, and that women should “pick your battles” and “keep men on side”. She also says the right response is to educate people “about the power of words and the harm they can cause”. This is precisely why it is important to highlight the fact that the language many men use to talk about women is sometimes offensive and unacceptable. For too long, women and girls have been asked, “Where’s your sense of humour?” if they don’t laugh at a sexist “joke”, or told sexist banter is “only a bit of fun”.
Lucy Daniells, Conroy St Albans, Hertfordshire

Rabbit hole 

After your article “Caged, beaten: the rabbits for your plate” (News, last week) I shall no longer eat my favourite dish when in Spain. However, the report stating that caged rabbits were seen eating their own faeces was sensationalist. Rabbits are coprophagous and eat their first droppings because they contain a vital source of vitamin B12, which is produced in the intestines but can only be absorbed by the stomach. Hence these first droppings are eaten; the second droppings are not. Rabbits eating their own faeces is perfectly natural.
Tim Kenny Cavendish, Suffolk 

Double take

Rabbits are being bred in appalling conditions in Spain; pigs are reared in Holland and Denmark in a manner unacceptable in the UK; calves are reared in darkness in tiny crates in France; and horses are transported — and killed — in conditions Britain would never tolerate. Double standards are the hallmarks of EU policies.
Richard English, South Petherton, Somerset

Abstract brush-off

In his article about the Kenneth Clark exhibition at Tate Britain, Waldemar Januszczak moans about the subject’s antipathy to abstract art (“He gave us Moore — and more”, Culture, last week). Then he complains that Clark appointed his (non-abstract) friends as war artists in the Second World War. A fat lot of use abstract painters would have been in giving us an idea of the conflict. In defence of Clark I need only think of Paul Nash’s marvellous canvas of the Battle of Britain — aircraft vapour trails in the sky and the black smoke streaming from another plane as it plunges into the sea.
Dr Bevis Hillier, Winchester, Hampshire

First- class male

Please tell me Dr Barbara Reay was joking when she wrote that a man who buys you dinner is exercising his “patriarchal culture of entitlement” and then feels he has the right to sleep with you (“Out of date”, Letters, May 18). She must have had dinner with some very strange men; the majority of them, no matter what the raving feminists say, use it as an opportunity to relax and get to know you. I find it depressing that 40 years of feminism has resulted in declaring war on all men.
Linda Hill, Herne Bay, Kent

On the offensive

By comparison with Camilla Long’s attack on Nicole Kidman’s face (Comment, May 18) the opera critics were positively kind about the body of the Irish mezzo-soprano Tara Erraught. I have been a Sunday Times reader for years, until I became so fed up with the supercilious Long, AA Gill and Jeremy Clarkson that I changed to another Sunday paper. I found I so missed Rod Liddle, Matt Rudd, Roland White and others that I had to come back to the fold.
Jean Rush, Spalding, Lincolnshire

Corrections and clarifications

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)


Brian Cox, actor, 68; Jason Donovan, singer, 46; Lord Foster, architect, 79; Morgan Freeman, actor, 77; Mike Joyce, drummer, 51; Heidi Klum, model, 41; Robert Powell, actor, 70; Jonathan Pryce, actor, 67; Tom Robinson, singer, 64; Gerald Scarfe, cartoonist, 78; Nigel Short, chess player, 49; Ronnie Wood, guitarist, 67


1926 Marilyn Monroe born; 1946 issue of the first TV licences, price £2; 1967 the Beatles release Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band; 1979 Rhodesia formally ends nearly 90 years of white minority rule; 2001 Crown Prince Dipendra of Nepal shoots and kills nine members of his family, including his parents, and then himself


Bretons demonstrate in Nantes on April 19 in favour of reunification  Photo: AFP/GETTY

6:58AM BST 31 May 2014

Comments78 Comments

SIR – France is about to destroy one of Europe’s oldest nations when President François Hollande reveals the new administrative map of France next week.

Events culminated last month with a 10,000-strong peaceful protest of Breton people on the streets of Nantes asking for the reunification of Brittany.

Brittany lost its former capital city and the department of Loire-Atlantique in 1941. The key is Nantes, which has been included in the artificial region of Pays de la Loire.

Breton people have been asked to take part in rallies at the two ends of Brittany, in Brest and Nantes, today in what will be a make-or-break situation for both Brittany and President Hollande.

Dominig Kervegant
Tregarth, Caernarfonshire

SIR – After the exposure of abuse and neglect at Winterbourne View hospital in 2011, the Government assured us that it would use the scandal “as a spur to make things better”. Three years later, nothing has changed, and 3,250 of our brothers, sisters, sons and daughters remain in units where they are often over-medicated, restrained and kept in solitary confinement.

We are devastated at the failure of the NHS, local authorities and the Government to meet their own deadlines for moving people with learning disabilities out of places like Winterbourne View. The number of people going into these places is in fact going up.

We, the families of the victims of abuse at Winterbourne View and people stuck in similar places, and charities, call on the Prime Minister to take personal responsibility and address this failure.

Jan Tregelles
Chief Executive, Mencap
Vivien Cooper
Chief Executive, The Challenging Behaviour Foundation
Dr Margaret Flynn
Author, Winterbourne View Serious Case Review
Steve Sollars
Ann Earley
Wendy Fiander
Claire, Emma and Tom Pullar
David and Jill Jack
Jane Alcock
Catie and Shirley Bennett
Muhammad Hussain
Phill Wills and Sarah Pedley

Helen Cherry
Sue Battin
Sara Ryan

Tobacco’s evil twin

SIR – Alcohol is seductively advertised on television, on hoardings and in the press. It presents a public face of fun, frivolity and no risks. Tobacco, by contrast, is the deadly killer demon hidden out of sight in supermarkets, sometimes in wrappers with awful pictures of cancerous lungs.

How many casualty wards fill with wounded vomiting bloody smokers on a Saturday night? Alcohol is the evil twin of the equally evil tobacco and costs the NHS as much, if not more, in treatment.

John Fisher
University of Reading

Many a slip

SIR – Derek Pringle’s article about the late Yorkshire all-rounder Phil Sharpe and his innovative approach to slip catching brought to mind another cricketer with an amazing record.

John Langridge (right) played for Sussex from 1930 to 1955 (minus five years for the war) and took a total of 784 catches, almost all fielding in the slips, surely a total which will never be surpassed. Additionally, he scored more than 34,000 runs, including 76 centuries. That he was never selected to play for England remains a mystery.

Jeremy O’Byrne
Haywards Heath, West Sussex

Through thick and thin

SIR – You report that “three slices of white bread a day ‘can lead to a thick waist’”. I would add that three medium or thick slices of bread can lead to an even thicker waist. Why is there no thinly sliced bread on supermarket shelves?

John Elliott
Whitworth, Lancashire

Chilcot secrets

SIR – The announcement of the Chilcot inquiry in 2009 raised hopes that the truth would out on our involvement in a war that many believe to have been illegal. After years of dithering there’s still no report – although we now know that key communications between Tony Blair and President George Bush will be kept secret when it is published.

It’s hard now not to expect anything other than a £10 million whitewash when the report finally surfaces.

Neil Bailey
Audenshaw, Lancashire

SIR – The purpose of confidentiality in not revealing all that went on between Mr Blair and Mr Bush should be the protection of intelligence sources.

It appears that the true purpose is to prevent us, the public, using our intelligence to judge how this Machiavellian pair adjusted facts to justify their actions.

That is political expediency and is not in the national interests of either Britain or our cousins across the pond.

Andrew Pierce
Barnstaple, Devon

SIR – The Chilcot report will not be worth the paper it is eventually printed on. It is outrageous that it has been delayed so long and will now be subject to restrictive editing of important information.

Douglas Linington
Ramsey, Huntingdonshire

Wash and Wear

SIR – After becoming a widower I remarried, and I have now enjoyed two silver wedding anniversaries. In all that time I have never seen a wife of mine enter a bath or shower other than naked.

Today, however, all advertisements for baths and showers show a woman dressed in a bathing costume or with a similar covering. Have I been missing something?

Jack Richards
Hitchin, Hertfordshire

Grabbing a platform

SIR – I wonder if other Cambridge residents share my amusement at the chutzpah of our one-time (and much-loved) polytechnic which has secured advertising hoardings at the station that say “Cambridge: home of Anglia Ruskin University”?

Rev Tom Buchanan

SIR – Simon Stevens, the new head of the health service, is right to raise concerns over how the European Working Time Directive has been interpreted. Its impact is being felt across the NHS.

From local hospitals to specialist centres, it is clear that the slavish adherence to these regulations is undermining continuity of care for patients and training in many specialties. We know that smaller hospitals particularly find it impossible to fill staff rotas, which makes delivering many surgical services unsustainable.

A recent independent multiprofessional taskforce report on the implementation of the directive, chaired by myself, found that many doctors work longer hours voluntarily to gain the skills they need and deliver the care they believe their patients require as a result of the directive.

We do not wish to see a return to doctors working ridiculously long hours, but there is a balance to be struck between safe and effective care and excessive fatigue.

Patient safety is paramount; health professionals, the NHS and Government must work together to address the challenges of the directive.

Professor Norman Williams
President, Royal College of Surgeons
London WC2

SIR – How refreshing to read your report on how Simon Stevens sees the future of the NHS, under the headline “NHS chief: we need cottage hospitals”.

He shows a clear understanding of the changing needs of NHS patients, particularly the elderly, of the monster that hospital centralisation has created, and of the best that other nations now offer.

He will face entrenched resistance, but he must not falter.

Stuart Archbold
Leeds, West Yorkshire

SIR – Mr Stevens is right to suggest better use of local community health facilities to treat elderly patients with long-term conditions. The NHS must also reduce the amount it spends on acute hospital care, which currently stands at 51 per cent of the NHS budget. To tackle the causes of overuse of A&E, we need access to out-of-hours GP services and to specialist hospital doctors 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

To fund all this, the NHS must centralise major acute and specialist services (which cannot be provided locally in a safe and sustainable manner). This includes reducing the current over-provision of A&E departments across the country.

Sam Burrows and Kate Woolland
PA Consulting Group
London SW1

SIR – On the same day that Mr Stevens stated that we need cottage hospitals, NHS West Leicestershire Clinical Commissioning Group announced it would close Ashby de la Zouch cottage hospital.

Does the left hand know what the right hand is doing?

Paul Boddington
Ashby de la Zouch, Leicestershire

Irish Times:

Irish Independent:

Published 01 June 2014 02:30 AM

Madam – My glass is certainly half full.

Also in this section

No escape from the Harry Houdini property trap

New leader needs to get some clout in Brussels

EU institutions’ blatant disregard for democracy

Eight weeks ago I made a decision to run in this year’s local elections in Galway City West Ward. Within a week I had my posters and leaflets printed. I had assembled a team of canvassers, which grew to over 30 by the end of the campaign. I ran a short six -week canvass, erecting 100 posters, and canvassed 5,000 houses in that time. I started as a complete unknown in political terms.

Two-hundred-and-seventy people of this ward thought I was the best person to represent them on City Council. By the time I was eliminated on Count 5, I had increased this to 401 votes, which was approximately a third of a quota.

I loved the campaign. I annoyed my friends to come out canvassing with me on sometimes dreadful evenings. I learned so much during this time. I realise I have fantastic friends who shared the highs (mostly) of the campaign and the roller coaster of tallying (highs and lows).

I put myself forward on the issues I believe in. It is truly heartening to realise the support there is for me, from people who voted for me to people who were involved in the campaign. I may not have won a seat on Galway City Council but I have achieved in other ways. It is in no way a defeat.

I wish to congratulate everyone who was elected and commiserate with those unsuccessful this time. I’m confident the new faces on City Council will bring new ideas and a new energy. I wish them the very best of luck.

Tommy Roddy, Independent candidate, West Ward, Galway

Voters’ fury was fully predictable

Madam – I refer to the front-page article ‘Coalition feel the fury of the people at the ballot box’, written by Jody Corcoran, John Drennan and Daniel McConnell (Sunday Independent, May 25, 2014). The term ‘coping class’ is mild to say the least, when it comes to the reality of how it is for thousands of people. To find oneself struggling six years on as a direct result of Fine Gael and Labour’s brutal austerity measures, which were dumped on us devoid of sensitivity or empathy, is unacceptable.

‘A dejected minister, Pat Rabbitte, said: “In Ireland people don’t march down Grafton Street and break windows, but by God they vent their vengeance in the ballot box”.’ This speaks volumes. This statement was made after the Government took a massive election “wallop”. Thousands of people (including myself) took to the streets all over Ireland over the last few years.

Is Mr Rabbitte saying that we were not noticed because we didn’t break windows on Grafton Street? The fact is that Mr Rabbitte and the Government chose to blatantly ignore us and our genuine cry for help in an effort to alleviate unnecessary suffering due to their continuous austerity measures.

Why is it that the Labour Party and Fine Gael appear to be surprised that they suffered such a strong meltdown in the elections? I could predict the recent election outcome along with many of us out here. Sadly the Government is totally disconnected from us.

The answer for Labour and Fine Gael is actually very easy and definitely not rocket science. In an effort to answer the question, let me first point out my own personal circumstances.

I have worked all my life and paid all my taxes. I did not reach out to social welfare when my marriage broke up and left me to rear two children on my own. I worked hard to put a roof over our heads and food on our table. I lost my home that I had worked hard for. I became suicidal and nearly left the planet while trying to pay mortgage, banks, etc, having lost my job. I am now on illness pension and on the local housing list. My children are grown up, and my son had to emigrate due to the recession and my grand-children live in America.

By the time I am nearly 70 I just might get social housing, but in the meantime I have to put up with landlords who are prepared to overcharge for rent – and get away with it.

I reached out to various political parties and councillors for help and support and all the many doors were not just closed to me, at times they were slammed in my stressed, lined, aged face.

Taking into account that I am only one of thousands out here who have experienced all of the above (and it’s only the tip of the iceberg, believe me), I am one of the ‘lucky ones’. There are copious others suffering far worse situations than me.

(Name and address with Editor)

A window has opened

Madam – When I find myself agreeing with Eoghan Harris (Sunday Independent, May 25, 2014), I become very, very frightened. Nevertheless, his call for a pragmatic Social Democratic presence in our politics articulates something for which some of us have been calling for some time. Certainly since the eruption of our current socio-economic crisis. In fact, much further back.

Suddenly, a window of opportunity has opened. Responding to the clear if brutal message sent by the voters to this Government as a whole, but particularly to Labour, Eamon Gilmore has acted with honour and pragmatism. His resignation makes possible the reconstruction and remodelling of the Labour Party and its role in Irish politics and society, but also very much more. Just conceivably, a refreshed agenda for the Irish people.

Labour’s prime objective is not to save this Government or to save the party or even to save the seats of individual members. The goal must be to save and revive the presence in Irish politics of that distinctive Irish constitutional social democracy for which the Labour Party stood traditionally.

Whoever Labour chooses as the new party leader must be able to articulate and communicate a vision. A vision for our people in a century where everything on the planet is changing at an unprecedented pace – and a terrible ugliness, not a beauty, is being constructed by default.

Time is not on Labour’s side. The autumn Budget and an election more likely to be in 2015 than 2016 pressurise decisions which, ideally, would be slow and methodical in the reaching. It may well be that Labour has left it late and that we must settle for a two-election strategy, with some parched and hungry years in the wilderness. But if the prize were to be a truly Irish Republic, which cherished all the children of the nation, it would be more than worth the wait, the sweat and tears.

Maurice O’Connell, Tralee, Co Kerry

WWI halted bill

Madam – A Leavy (Sunday Independent, May 18, 2014), mentions the undemocratic nature of the failure of the 1914 Home Rule bill. I agree with the assertion that the lack of implementation of the bill likely engendered the Rising of 1916. But the British government did not dictatorially decide not to pass the bill. They declared it be postponed indefinitely due to the outbreak of World War I.

A Leavy is correct that militant unionism likely played a part in the reluctance of the government to implement the bill, but we must note that the Welsh Church Act was also delayed. Indeed, the two bills were formally suspended with the passing of the Postponement Act of the same year. So both bills had obtained Royal assent, and were only to be deferred for the duration of the war. This would have been fairly common knowledge at the time, so it is slightly inaccurate to suggest that nationalists felt the bill had been abandoned autocratically, and so decided to act in an undemocratic manner.

Rather, the postponement of the bill likely contributed to a sense of frustration on their part, given the elongated nature of the “Great War”.

P English, Cahir, Co Tipperary

Labour has only itself to blame

Madam – The analysis of the demise of the Labour vote in the local and European elections by your political correspondent, Daniel McConnell (Sunday Independent, May 25, 2014), made very interesting reading. The Labour Party has no one to blame but itself for the collapse of its vote at the polls. Its partnership, if one may call it that, with a right-wing party’s policy of austerity measures was bound to bring this about. The party founded by James Connolly and James Larkin to protect the interests of the working class has surrendered what principles it may have had to the neo-liberal agenda – hence the collapse of its vote in working-class areas.

There is no doubt that the party has overseen harsh cuts which have impacted on the middle classes, but this is also true of the working class. For your political correspondent to state that the party has protected primary welfare payments to poorer people is disingenuous to say the least, as he is continuing to perpetuate the myth propounded by the party.

Ever since the party entered into coalition with Fine Gael, the Minister for Social Protection, Joan Burton, has implemented cuts to Jobseeker’s Benefit, Jobseeker’s Allowance and Invalidity Pension.

Following the last Budget, when a person on the Invalidity Pension reaches 65 they have the payment increased to bring it into line with the State Contributory Pension.

But a person with the required prsi contributions on attaining the retirement age of 65, used to get the State Transition Pension of €230.30, similar to the State Contributory Pension. Now the State Transition Pension has been abolished, and they have to sign on and only receive the Jobseeker’s Benefit of €188 until they reach 66. All of this was implemented by a party founded to protect the working class and poorer sections of this society.

Dr Tadhg Moloney, Limerick

Party must make hard choices

Madam – So finally some of the hitherto obedient Labour classes have said enough is enough and called time on the unfortunate Mr Gilmore. The Irish public should take note that had the seats of these eight Labour TDs not been in danger, Mr Gilmore would probably have been trotting out the same old, “We must listen…” party line on national television. It is a scandalous situation that the people have been ignored, and it has taken the electorate to force an about-turn.

Now that the knives have been resheathed, it is time to consider where Labour went wrong – apart from becoming Enda Kenny‘s personal canine pet, that is. Labour needs to return firmly to its roots, and fight as a lone party for power. If it is true to its policies, the public will vote for it.

This means opposition to the water tax now, before it is too late, and not the dilution of the proposed bill as we have seen previously. It means demanding that those responsible for the collapse of this country are brought to justice.

It means a return to social values – putting the people first, not just paying lip service. We have seen USC and PRSI imposed and raised perpetually, whilst the underlying reason for imposition has been eroded to the point where even those who have long-term illnesses and rely on being able to afford a supply of drugs are being continuously threatened with the loss of their medical cards – or, as this Government so quaintly terms it, ‘reassessed’.

This country needs a real option to vote for. For many years now, a vote for Labour has resulted in more power for the despots in Fine Gael to impose so-called EU law. And whilst those responsible for the mess continue to thrive and the country increasingly resembles the Ireland of 2004 (in particular South Co Dublin), those at the other end of the scale who put their faith in Labour promises have lost their homes, emigrated or joined the record number of suicides. Only a new Labour that returns to its very beginnings can change this. But will Labour take the hard choices or easy street? For the sake of the poorer classes, I hope it is the former.

Brian Parker, Jacob’s Island, Cork

Guru Gerry’s cult is based on lies

Madam – One issue that puzzles political pundits and many voters about Sinn Fein is the fact that once a voter goes over to this party – and this applies both North or South – they tend to stay there. This phenomenon was very apparent during the Troubles after Sinn Fein stood for the first time for election in the North in 1982. At that time the SDLP had comfortably more votes in the North than Sinn Fein had over the whole of Ireland. Then the votes began to flow towards Sinn Fein. Very few came back.

It was clear that some kind of quasi-religious conversion was the reason for the hold Sinn Fein had on the voters.

In the North, it was a clear conversion from the positive compassionate ideology of the SDLP that rejected violence to a much more negative cynical view of the world that advocated using force to change things in a deeply divided society. In short, it was a movement away from traditional Catholic values and the Christian worldview to a Sinn Fein worldview.

For many voters a vote for Sinn Fein continues to be a step over the threshold of cynicism into a world where everybody else is at fault. They did nothing wrong, they say, and they believe they have all the answers.

The persistence of their guru Gerry Adams to live out his delusion that he was not a leader of the IRA is the acceptance of a lie that every Sinn Fein voter agrees with in the knowledge that it can’t be true. There lie the seeds of a dishonesty that underscores their cynicism and brings them to this new religion, founded on lies.

John O‘Connell, Derry

The taxing issue of homelessness

Madam – In Niamh Horan’s interview with Fr Peter McVerry (Sunday Independent, May 25, 2014), Fr McVerry called for legislation that would make it illegal for the State not to provide a roof over a person’s head; he believes politicians need to be embarrassed into action. I couldn’t agree more, but when it comes to funding local authorities to provide the required housing, surely some form of local council tax will be required. But we as an electorate can’t really be serious about addressing homelessness if we are going to vote for anti-austerity parties that promise to remove any such local tax.

Frank Browne, Templeogue, Dublin 16

Readers’ letters share a feature

Madam – All of the major newspapers in this country have something in common when it comes to writing letters to editors: if the issue raised in the letter offers a meaningful, radical, relatively original solution to a national glaring problem, the odds are it will never see the light of day.

Don’t agree? Read the letters page of each of the leading national newspapers for the past and future 180 days and prove me wrong.

Vincent J Lavery, Dalkey, Co Dublin

Dater imperial nonsense

Madam – An editorial footnote to Charles Moore’s article (Sunday Independent, May 11, 2014) could have forewarned readers that the author was the late Margaret Thatcher‘s official biographer and that the content of the piece was the Iron Lady speaking from the grave – out-of-time imperial nonsense.

What’s happening in the Ukraine is not so much a “power-grab” as a “slap-down”– Russia saying to the old enemy “not in my backyard” – over what many perceive as military encroachment by stealth. All reminiscent of the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962 when JFK faced down Nikita Kruschev over the basing of Russian ICBMs on Washington’s doorstep.

It’s tough on the people of the Ukraine. When they needed wise political leadership they got corruption and factionalism at home, exacerbated by seductive voices from Brussels and elsewhere. The fault-lines in the body-politic of the Ukraine have never been a secret. One has to wonder if the curiously named Commission for Enlargement in Brussels wasn’t on an Irish banker’s-style incentive plan: go for the business, never mind the quality of the asset. This commission/directorate may well have reached it’s sell-by date since most of the low-hanging fruit of the enlargement programme is already in the basket; dealing with the complexity of the Ukraine is a political challenge not a bureaucratic one.

All very sad. One misses the reportage of the Skibbereen Eagle!

Michael Gill, Killiney, Co Dublin


May 31, 2014

31May2014 Visitors

I go all the way around the park listening to the Men from the Ministry: Our heroes face a terrible fate the have buy a house for the Army on the Isle of Wight Priceless

Mary’s home and Astrid, Sharland and Shona visit

Scrabbletoday, Maty wins the game, and get under 400 perhaps MaryI will win tomorrow


Karlheinz Böhm – obituary

Karlheinz Böhm was an actor who starred as the psychopath in Peeping Tom and later devoted his life to helping Ethiopia

Karlheinz Böhm circa 1960

Karlheinz Böhm circa 1960 Photo: GETTY

6:48PM BST 30 May 2014

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Karlheinz Böhm, who has died aged 86, was an Austrian actor celebrated for playing a very English psychopath – the cameraman-killer in Michael Powell’s Peeping Tom; for the last 30 years of his life he dedicated himself to saving lives as the head of an organisation that raises money for humanitarian causes in Ethiopia.

Böhm always considered the latter work to be far more important than his acting. But to cinema audiences he will be remembered for performances in some 45 films, notably alongside a 16-year-old Romy Schneider in the Sissi (1955) trilogy about Empress Elisabeth of Austria. Böhm played Emperor Franz Joseph I and described his relationship with his co-star at the time as “collegial”. The pair, who met again five years later when Romy Schneider was living in Paris, eventually became close friends.

Karlheinz Böhm in Peeping Tom (REX)

Böhm also liked to recall dancing with Marilyn Monroe, when the pair met at an event in Hollywood thrown by her psychoanalyst. “She wore a huge pair of sunglasses. I said: ‘Why don’t you take off your sunglasses?’ She said: ‘Am I asking you to get undressed?’ Then we danced. Miss Monroe, glasses on, was beautiful.”

In his most famous acting role, however, Karlheinz Böhm’s attitude to women was considerably more fraught and, controversially, violent. As the nervous, repressed cameraman in Peeping Tom (1960) he plays a killer who mounts a mirror above his lens, then kills women so that they can see their own death pangs, which he records for his pleasure. Powell’s film has been hailed as a creepy masterpiece which perfectly skewers the voyeuristic, complicit character of cinema audiences lapping up sexual and violent themes projected for their pleasure. At the time of its release, however, it was critically derided. Böhm recalled emerging from the premiere with Powell: “We were excited to see the reactions of the audience. We were absolutely puzzled, when they all left the theatre in silence, ignoring us completely.” Unlike Powell, Böhm saw his career recover, thanks to an unlikely combination of Walt Disney and Rainer Werner Fassbinder.

Karlheinz Böhm and Anna Massey in Peeping Tom (REX)

Karlheinz Böhm was born on March 16 1928 in Darmstadt, Germany, the only child of the celebrated conductor Karl Böhm and the soprano Thea Linhard. When he was 11 he went to boarding school in Switzerland. After the end of the war the family moved to Graz.

It was there that, after an argument with his parents one evening, he slashed his wrists with a razor blade. The housemaid found him, and he and his parents never spoke of it again. But his relationship with them continued to prove turbulent. Karlheinz took it upon himself to tell his father of his mother’s indiscretions while the conductor was working at Bayreuth. “Until her deathbed my mother never forgave me,” he said. “Of course that hurt me a great deal.”

Despite this trauma, Karlheinz was keen to follow his parents’ musical careers, only to fail his auditions as a pianist. Instead he studied English, and trained as an actor at the Burgtheater in Vienna. He took odd jobs on film sets and minor roles in theatre and on-screen. But then his big break arrived, with Sissi.

After the shock of Peeping Tom’s mauling, Böhm turned to Hollywood. In 1962 he played Jakob Grimm in MGM’s The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm. Apparently cornering the market in famous-Germans-who-are-not-Nazis, he followed this role with a portrayal of Beethoven in the Walt Disney film The Magnificent Rebel. He could not escape Nazi roles altogether, however, playing a fascist sympathiser in The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.

Karlheinz Böhm in the early 1960s (REX FEATURES)

He mixed feature and television roles and then, in the mid-1970s, appeared in four films by Rainer Werner Fassbinder. Before they teamed up for first of these, Martha (1974), Böhm visited Fassbinder: “I was impressed by what he was doing, and wanted to work with him. But when I met him he did not even raise his head. Only when I finished speaking did he look at me briefly, muttering something. His arrogance annoyed me deeply.” Fassbinder, however, was evidently more impressed. Days later he sent Böhm the screenplay for Martha.

Böhm credited Fassbinder with “my political awakening”, and on May 16 1981 the actor’s life changed completely. Appearing on a television show, he wagered on a whim that viewers would not stake a few pennies to help people in Sub-Saharan Africa. He was wrong. The money poured in and Böhm flew to Ethiopia with the equivalent of half a million pounds. That November he founded Menschen für Menschen (“People for People”). Two years later he abandoned acting altogether and became a full-time development worker. The charity has since raised hundreds of millions of pounds.

Karlheinz Böhm was four times married, and had seven children. His wife of the last 23 years, Almaz, who is Ethiopian, survives him.

Karlheinz Böhm, born March 16 1928, died May 29 2014


As a specialist working with patients who have neurologically based mental health problems, I was dismayed by Hadley Freeman’s offhand attitude to Elliot Rodger‘s mental health history (Elliot Rodger was a misogynist – but is that all he was?, 27 May). Freeman is wrong to take Rodger’s extreme statements about women at face value and depict these as evidence of both individual and societal misogyny.

Rodger has been described as having suffered from Asperger’s syndrome, a neurodevelopmental disorder characterised by impaired social behaviour, often with rigidly held distorted ideas regarding interpersonal relationships. People with Asperger’s, who frequently have a long history of frustration and bewilderment in their relationships, can form pathologically negative ideas from these experiences. Low self-esteem, social inadequacy and loneliness form a cauldron for angry feelings in the absence of the ability to process these feelings in a healthy way.

This is a far more complex picture than Freeman’s assumption of a culturally induced misogyny. We need to understand people who suffer from mental health issues, not use them as a vehicle for a diatribe.
Dr Annie Hickox
Consultant clinical neuropsychologist

• I see that Pope Francis has compared the systematic child sex abuse in the Catholic church to “performing a satanic mass” (Report, 27 May). A satanic mass is a silly, pantomime-like ritual. It is, moreover, neither illegal nor immoral to participate in such an activity. The rape and torture of children is arguably the worst crime a human being can commit. Still, I suppose the pope’s statement is progress. Let us see if it is backed up with the prosecutions of offenders,.
Julia Wait
Beauly, Highlands

Dom McKenzie Illustration:

I can’t help but be reminded of Orwellian doublethink when reading of Michael Gove‘s insistence that he has “not banned anything” from the new GCSE English literature specifications – yet there is clearly less scope for the study of modern/contemporary texts in the new syllabuses (Gove hits back in English GCSE syllabus row, 27 May). As a head of English, I find the new guidelines rather worrying. Of course, Shakespeare and the Romantic poets have their place and are worthy of study, but who is to say that contemporary and international writers are not?

I feel blessed to have been taught in the days when my own GCSE teacher had the freedom to introduce her students to a range of literature across periods and nationalities – we took in everything from Bertolt Brecht, Sophie Treadwell and Nadine Gordimer to Shakespeare, Dickens and George Eliot – and more. Imposing what one believes to be canonical texts on teachers and their students, to me, flies in the face of the intellectually and culturally broadening spirit of English literature.
Tak-Sang Li
Borehamwood, Hertfordshire

• In all the fuss over whether our children should be reading American as well as UK literature at GCSE level, there has been little or no suggestion in the media that they ought also to read some of the wealth of other English literature from abroad, such as that written by Indian, African, South American, Caribbean and even Irish writers. We should also be encouraging them to read from these and other traditions if we want them to have a really broad experience of literature.
Barry O’Donovan

• It doesn’t surprise me that the government wants to reduce English children’s exposure to American literature. But shouldn’t we instead be expanding the list of books that GCSE students are able to read? If the “English” was dropped from English literature then our kids could be reading Dostoevsky, Kafka, Flaubert, Goethe and so many more. The themes, motifs and symbols are all more or less maintained in translation, and dare I say The Trial or Crime and Punishment could be significantly more inspiring than Great Expectations or Pride and Prejudice.
Thomas Hunter
Budapest, Hungary

• I don’t suppose Maya Angelou will make it into the Gove curriculum. But I am buoyed up knowing that thousands of teachers out there will take no notice of him and introduce young people to the inspiration and wisdom and strength of Maya’s voice. Because, in her words, “You may trod me in the very dirt, / But still like dust I’ll rise”.
Rae Street
Littleborough, Lancashire

• John Sutherland is of course right to ridicule Michael Gove’s “chauvinistic” attitude towards American literature (The American writers every teen should read, G2, 27 May), but anybody looking to Benito Cereno for an allegory on “the complex, post-civil war relationship of white and black” will be disappointed. Melville’s novella was first published in 1855, six years before the American civil war began. Rather, Benito Cereno, set aboard a slave ship, is a brilliant meditation on the political and cultural tensions in the US leading up to the civil war; most particularly, the example Haiti had already set for the possibility of successful slave rebellion.
Keith Hughes
School of Literatures, Languages and Cultures, University of Edinburgh

• At least Robert McCrum (This plumbs the depths of incoherence, 30 May) can take some consolation from the fact that flavour-of-the-month Philip Roth has received the ultimate accolade of Gove’s approval for inclusion in the new curriculum. Portnoy’s Complaint is surely exactly the kind of “American classic” his DfE spokesman had in mind when he talked about studying “seminal world literature” at key stage 3 (though 11 to 14 may seem a little on the young side to some).
Mike Hine
Kingston on Thames, Surrey

• I doubt any French minister would have faced criticism for advocating the teaching of French Literature in French schools, and children are presumably free to follow Professor Sutherland’s guide to American writers in their free time, if they so wish; but then the English have long grovelled to the US, supposing that we share identical cultures and societies.
John Russ

• I assume that Mr Gove found that The Crucible hit a bit too close to home.
David Whalin
Annandale, Virginia, USA

• Phil Hind writes of the final pages of Of Mice and Men bringing his young readers close to tears (Letters, 27 May). Many years ago I was dismayed as we came to that powerful climax to have the reading disrupted by a commotion at the back of the class. I looked up, in disbelief, to quell it with a furious glare, and, of course, it turned out to be a group of students striving to console a quietly sobbing friend. I have my own tears now. Of rage.
John Airs

• I read The Grapes of Wrath years ago and saw it in its US setting when starving migrant families moved towards California having been told that there were plenty of jobs there. I recently read it again and saw it as very relevant to our times when starving migrants try to get to the west in the desperate hope of finding work there. It is a book which opens the minds of young people to the world around them. Traditionally, ministers have not interfered in the actual syllabus teachers use. That’s the way dictators behave. Let us hope that young people, being contrary, will be more inclined to read these great books when they realise that the government doesn’t want them to.
Margaret Bacon
Highworth, Wiltshire

• I must have had one of the most exciting and privileged of A-level English literature syllabuses, and indeed have frequently referenced it in later life and in a variety of company. Apart from the standard reading list – Shakespeare, Milton, Austen, the Romantic poets etc – we had an auxiliary programme of novels based around the theme of adolescence, which embraced The Catcher in the Rye and Lord of the Flies among others, while the poetry element looked at the work of Thom Gunn and Ted Hughes. This was at a state school in the early 1960s, when many of the books had been recently published; it set up a lifelong love and fascination for 20th-century American literature, especially when read with British counterparts.
Anne Goodchild

• For Michael Gove, or any other politician for that matter, to “interfere” in the GCSE English literature syllabus is an explicit admission that what students read in their English lessons (and, hopefully, at home) matters! In 1960, my English teacher “slipped” me a copy of Robert Tressell’s The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists (not on the GCE syllabus) the reading of which immediately enabled me to make sense of my own working-class upbringing and made me aware that I was a “socialist”. Of Mice and Men, To Kill a Mockingbird, even Hard Times (not Great Expectations!), among other works, can now be “slipped” to students to help them think about themselves in their society and even be entertained. Yes, Steinbeck, Lee, Dickens et al were hoping to sell their writings to adults and so make a living. English teachers take note: you are more powerful than you may have thought.
Peter Bunyan
Billericay, Essex

• Bim Adewunmi can be as flippant as she likes about James Shapiro (Last night’s TV, G2, 26 May), but I can assure her that he is an original and vigorous thinker and writer about Shakespeare, and has written many good books about him. In particular, 1599 is superb. All the niggling questions that I wasn’t encouraged to ask at school – Why is Henry V such a boringly adulatory play? Why does the plot of Hamlet meander a bit? – are answered in this book. It was an eye-opener for me.
Ruth Grimsley

• It is a pity that Michael Gove and his acolytes don’t think that English GCSE students need to know that “you never really know a man until you stand in his shoes and walk around in them” – To Kill A Mockingbird. However, JB Priestley was fortunate enough to be born in England, so they may still be allowed to read that: “We don’t live alone. We are members of one body. We are all responsible for each other.” – An Inspector Calls, another very popular GCSE text. And, as the inspector also remarks: “I’m losing all patience with you people.”
Peter Dawson

• Apparently, since Michael Gove threatened to ban certain American books from the English curriculum, sales of said books have skyrocketed. I wonder if Mr Gove would be so kind as to threaten to ban my new first novel The Crossover from the curriculum, as it could do with a bit of a boost.
John Westbrook

Has it occurred to top mandarin Jeremy Heywood (Iraq war whitewash claim, 30 May) that the discipline of transparency, which Bush and Blair felt able to ignore in their private collusion over the Iraq war, is a fundamental tenet of democratic government, which, had it been operating correctly at the time, would probably have saved us from engaging in a gruelling war on a false pretext. Far from protecting the spurious right of prime ministers to deal with presidents in secret, our civil servants – supposedly the sober guardians of democratic virtue – should be using this sorry episode as a pertinent and powerful example of why they should not.
Giles O’Bryen

• The decision to withhold information about correspondence and notes of meetings between the British and US governments beggars belief. Has our government learned nothing from the agonies endured by the families of the Hillsborough victims? It’s time that the government realised that it does not rule us, it is there to serve us. We must have full disclosure now.
Joanne Nicholson
Weston super Mare, Somerset

• The press argues strenuously against political interference. The protracted scandal of the Chilcot inquiry demands you now deliver on your fine words. We need your implacable determination to hold the executive to democratic account. You have a duty to the electorate and a moral responsibility to the grieving relatives of fallen soldiers to demand that they hear the truth – the whole truth; not the sanitised, redacted, white-washing truth. President Bush and Mr Blair took us into an illegal war in Iraq. Mr Blair claims what Mr Bush no longer bothers to, that they were drawn reluctantly into a disastrous conflict because of an imminent threat based upon false intelligence that they accepted in good faith. Few voters and no journalists believe this fatuous claim to be true. Even the evidence already published argues forcefully against it. Publication of the conversations between Blair and Bush will almost certainly prove this beyond a shadow of a doubt: which of course explains the endless delays and refusal of transparency. I understand the argument that disclosure will prevent such private’ conversations in the future – good.

If you and your press colleagues do not force the truth out of the unelected Cabinet Office on our behalf you might as well accept any kind of interference politicians choose to impose upon you – for you will have already lost the war. This is an issue worth the odd editor going to jail for.
Keith Farman
St Albans, Hertfordshire

• Promises of “gists” and partial quotes simply won’t cut it. The detail will be where the devil resides. That’s why I have kept up the pressure in parliament via debates and parliamentary questions, and demanded nothing less than complete transparency when it comes to what Blair knew.  But there is a way forward. Ed Miliband has often said that under his leadership Labour is determined to learn the lessons of the past and to make a clear break from the New Labour years. What better test of that commitment than for him to make clear his desire to overrule the Cabinet Office on this matter in the public interest and to demand – at the very least – the full disclosure of Tony Blair‘s part in the communications.
Caroline Lucas MP
Green, Brighton Pavilion

• Dear Messrs Snowden and Assange, using your skill and experience, please could you help us out by publishing the full content of the letters between Blair and Bush leading up to the Iraq invasion?
Joe Collier
Richmond, Surrey

Since being elected as the South West’s first Green MEP last week I have received many messages of congratulation, as you might expect. More surprising has been the huge number of people who have contacted me to say that in many years of voting this is the first time they have elected anybody. In an era of declining turnouts and increasing votes for non-Westminster parties this is a worrying indictment of our outmoded electoral system and the unrepresentative politicians who refuse to reform it.
Professor Molly Scott Cato
Green MEP for South West England

• Excluding Belgium, where voting is compulsory, the smaller countries of Luxembourg, Malta and Cyprus and the ex-communist countries, the average turnout in the EU elections was 47%. The UK turnout was 34%. In all their hand-wringing about voter apathy, are our political analysts missing the obvious? Change the voting day to Sunday.
Bill Willoughby
St Ives, Cambridgeshire

My father was the chief constable of Birmingham in 1972 who ordered the gates at Saltley coke works to be closed during the miners strike. It was an operational decision made on the spot in the face of overwhelming numbers and considerable risk to public safety. Its political consequences were of course considerable. But the claim he was roundly condemned (Letters, 29 May) is misleading. The national press diverged in its views and the Birmingham Post on the following day, after quoting my father, concluded: “Of course he was right.” I believe the public are still appreciative when public safety is given priority by the police. Leadership involves taking decisions that are neither easy nor cut and dried.
Sally Mitchell
Twickenham, Middlesex

• Diego Maradona was sent off at one World Cup, blatantly cheated at another and was sent home in disgrace from a third, yet you place him second in your list of greatest World Cup players (Sport, 30 May). Many others have followed his lead to the detriment of the game. Talent is not all.
Gerrard Mullett
Penrith, Cumbria

• So our World Cup prospects are once again being distilled down to the hapless Wayne’s form (Sport, 30 May). Look what happened last time. This Rooney-centric view of the England squad is predictable but depressing, also potentially harmful to the team, the country and the lad himself. Germany never have to put up with this sort of nonsense – they get on with the job as a team, and with the press fully behind them as a team – spot the difference.
Dr Phil Barber

• Re “FT critic of Picketty accused of errors of his own” (30 May): this merely confirms the adage that if all economists were laid end to end they would never reach a conclusion.
Peter Constable

• The issue of left-hand drive French trains (Letters, 29 May) is unimportant. They have passenger doors on both sides.
Sally Cheseldine

• Of course trains in France run on the left – or what would happen halfway through the Channel Tunnel? The exceptions are metro systems, and mainline trains in Alsace and Lorraine, a relic of their days as part of Germany, where trains still drive on the right.
Greg Brooks
Tadworth, Surrey


In reference to Nick Clark’s article (“BBC fails to cast unknown actors”, 28 May) I’m not surprised by this at all nor, unfortunately, by some of the comments it’s attracted.

I’ve been a professional actor for nearly 27 years, working at all levels of live and recorded work. I work exclusively as a performer. I don’t need (at the moment) a second job, and after expenses have been taken off my turnover, I make between £18,000 and £19,000 a year, which is less than the starting wage for a teacher or nurse or trainee manager at McDonald’s.

For my money I work very long hours all over the country, and must endure exploitative and sometimes unsafe working conditions.

Why don’t I do something else? I don’t want to: I’m good at my job and don’t see why I shouldn’t be sufficiently rewarded for it.

Chronic low pay is endemic in the arts, for particular reasons:

1. Funding – before anybody splutters: “Why should my hard-earned wages subsidise some arty nonsense that I won’t want to see anyway”, the simple fact is that for every £1 invested in the arts, the UK Treasury makes back at least £2.

Yet despite this, funding is cut and in some local authorities non-existent; but without it the arts cannot flourish and artists cannot survive financially.

2. Exploitation – the arts, sadly, is full of examples of exploitation, bullying and abuse (verbal, physical and sexual) and many artists do not feel empowered to speak out because they might get labelled as “difficult”; nothing moves faster than a negative reputation.

This means that employers, producers and bookers will always drive down wages and conditions to their own advantage and artists will take their offers; it’s a self-perpetuating circle which drives this old “luvvie” bonkers.

Unions such as Equity do some very good work to combat this but they are hampered by restrictive labour laws and their own members’ unwillingness to speak out, and feelings of powerlessness about speaking out. When I hear an actor interviewed and they say: “Oh yes, I’ve been very lucky”, this just perpetuates this idea that we should be somehow grateful that we’ve got a job handed to us by some benevolent master from above. I want to say to them: “You aren’t lucky; you’re considered the best person for the job – that isn’t luck, that’s talent. Well done.”

There needs to be more respect for the artist and, to my colleagues I say, self-respect is a big part of that.

We’re worth more money. Let’s end poverty wages – for everyone.

John Gregor, London N16

I’m delighted to see that Equity has protested at the BBC’s use of the same actors all the time. I can’t be the only viewer who

feels profound boredom descend at the sight of the same bunch of actors on the screen yet again.

I remember once when Dr Who went to a museum/library in a galaxy far, far away in time and space, and five more visitors arrived – and I recognised four of them!

I’ve always thought that the BBC should use its power to seek out new talent, give them their chance to be widely seen and get more work, then find new people.

But on the contrary, they just lazily use the same people over and over again, often typecasting too, which can’t be good for the actors’ development.

Henrietta Cubitt, Cambridge

Chilcot a disgrace and an insult

It is a complete disgrace and insult to all those killed and injured in the Iraq war that the Chilcot inquiry is to be gagged by the Whitehall machine determined to protect confidentiality by hiding behind issues of national security.

It seems that those families who have waited nearly five years for the outcome of the inquiry have waited in vain, as no real evidence will now ever surface as to the truth in the matter.

Dennis Forbes Grattan, Bucksburn, Aberdeen

Another British whitewash, as expected. Why should Sir Jeremy Heywood have a say in any political decision on the Chilcot inquiry or anything else? He is an unelected official who works for us.

The public know that Blair and Bush went on an oil grab and to destabilise the Middle East and will never let history be rewritten to say that the WMD excuse was anything other than a pack of lies.

Blair did it for personal wealth and power. Bush was being manipulated by the Pentagon war machine and armament companies.

P Cresswell, Enniskillen, Co Fermanagh

What are they trying to hide? We elect individuals to represent our geographical area. They are called Members of Parliament. Is it not right that we should be told what has been said on our behalf?

Martin Levin, London E4

During the Iraq invasion, Tony Blair’s leitmotif was “It’s the right thing to do”. How, in his barrister days, would Mr Blair have dealt with someone under cross-examination who used that justification for their actions? He was, after all, reputed to be competent at that job.

S Lawton, Kirtlington, Oxfordshire

Correspondence between George Bush and Tony Blair:

GB: Yo, Blair. If you bring your army to Iraq, kill Saddam and reclaim my Daddy’s oil wells, I’ll make you a millionaire!


The End.

Paul and Rose Willey, Worthing

Driverless cars and jobless people

Driverless cars are here and, like every other innovation, will no doubt rapidly multiply. You spelt out the benefits that they may bring (Editorial, 29 May), but as always, there is another side to the coin.

How long before driverless lorries are introduced? What then of the jobs of the thousands of lorry drivers?

No doubt technology will enable lorries and vans to be burglar-proof, so goods will be transported safely, requiring only loading and unloading, poorly paid jobs and less demand for intervention by human beings. This is part of a trend that no politicians seem able to grasp, let alone to consider.

Bill Fletcher, South Cerney, Gloucestershire

Your leader claiming that driverless cars could save a bit of fuel misses the point. We don’t need minor energy reductions, we need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 80 per cent. No vehicle running  on pneumatic tyres will ever get anywhere near that. Tyres are inherently energy-inefficient. The savings that we need necessitate steel wheels on steel rails.

Luckily, we already have such ways of getting around without having to drive ourselves: they’re called trains and trams.

Jon Reeds, Wallington, London

I predict dodgems ahead if these cars cannot cope with downpours or thunderstorms, as those still driving for themselves have to negotiate the abandoned and stricken driverless cars. Is this what we have to look forward to?

Jason Levett, Tunbridge Wells

King Charles the patriot

My namesake, David  Ashton, wants our next monarch nicknamed “Charles the Meddler” (letter, 28 May).

Charles is as entitled as anyone else to lobby the Government – while ministers are free to disregard his concerns, however well informed.

But I suggest that, following Bolingbroke, he will be renowned as “Our Patriot King”, when this battered nation needs one more than ever.

David Ashton, Sheringham, Norfolk

In suggesting that William the Conqueror was the last English king to have a memorable sobriquet, David Ashton is surely forgetting Richard the Lionheart – and his brother John Lackland.

Jonathan Wallace, Fenham, Newcastle upon Tyne

Prehistoric Pakistan

Following 9/11, the Bush administration was said to have threatened that the US would bomb Pakistan “back to the Stone Age” if it did not cooperate in the “war on terror”.

Following the recent outrage against the woman who wanted to marry the man she loved, and the incredibly wide acceptance in Pakistan of her relatives’ actions, it would seem that bombing would have been superfluous.

Jim Bowman, South Harrow

From one loo to another

Katherine Mangu-Ward’s article about texting while on the lavatory (“Out of the (water) closet”, 29 May) reminded me of one of my mother’s stories.

Eternally harassed by the demands of her three small children, she saved a letter from a friend to read in the only private spot available to her.

Finally seated on the loo, she opened the letter, only to read: “Dear Jean, I am sitting on the loo to write this letter, as it is the only way I can get away from the children”.

Plus ça change!

Catherine Rose, Olney, Buckinghamshire


Sir, The Times rightly highlights the barbaric treatment of Meriam Ibrahim (May 30). Her case is part of a murderous pattern in Sudan in which the Arab Islamist regime has tried to eliminate anyone not willing to live by its miserable interpretation of Islam. Right now the Sudanese armed forces are systematically bombing villages and hospitals in the Nuba mountains, trying to ethnically cleanse more than a million people there. They are also continuing to terrorise Darfur. It is time for the UN to hold Sudan to its commitments under international and Sudanese law, and to the constitution it adopted under the UK-brokered Comprehensive Peace Agreement of 2005.

The international community’s words of condemnation make no impression on the Sudanese regime. We must apply the long agreed (but never enforced) targeted smart sanctions against Sudan’s leaders. Until the consequences of their actions are felt personally, there will be many more Meriams.

Olivia Warham

Director, Waging Peace

Sir, Your decision to give front-page coverage to the plight of Meriam Ibrahim and her newborn child is a timely wake-up call to us in the comfortable West about the scale of human rights abuses in Sudan. On a number of occasions I have travelled around that country for the organisation I work for — Aid to the Church in Need — and have seen for myself the appalling treatment that Christians and other minorities receive. It is almost as if they are non-persons and have no rights at all.

Behind every story of suffering, however, there is another story of extraordinary courage and hope. I remember visiting a displacement camp outside Khartoum and meeting Christians forced to live there after being thrown out of their homes. One woman I met there spoke of the hardships she and her young family endured. Holding up a beaker of water, she said: “I would rather survive on this cup of water than give up my faith.”

We should salute the courage and faith of Meriam and the many others like her.

John Pontifex

Aid to the Church in Need

Sir, The recent reports about the Nigerian schoolgirls, Meriam Ibrahim and Farzana Parveen, could not be more distressing. The striking feature of these cases is not that they are concerned with religious intolerance; the true horror is the attitude to violence against women in all its forms. The international community needs to unite and speak out and bring an end to this horror and to fight to allow all women to have the basic human rights accorded to men.

Sarah Le Foe

London SW6

Sir, The UK gives hundred of millions of pounds in aid to Pakistan. This week a young pregnant woman was beaten to death not in some remote rural village but in front of the High Court in the country’s most cultured city. There were dozens of police, lawyers and members of the public looking on. Not one raised a finger to help.

I cannot help wondering why we continue to give aid money to a country like this when millions of our children and elderly live in poverty. That it boosts the smugness and self-satisfaction of our increasingly worthless elite does not seem like a good enough reason.

Michael Schachter

London NW6

Investing in general practice will enable surgeries to deliver shorter waiting times

Sir, Further to Alice Thomson’s blistering critique of our call for more funding for general practice (“These overpaid doctors must stop whingeing”, Opinion, May 28, and letters, May 30), we are not asking for higher GP pay. We are asking for an increase in the proportion of NHS funding for general practice so that more GPs and practice nurses can be employed. In recent years there has been a cut in funding to general practice — to 8.39 per cent of the NHS budget — while the population is increasing and ageing, leading to higher demand for GP services in particular.

Investing in general practice will enable surgeries to deliver shorter waiting times, longer consultations and better continuity of care.

Workloads for family doctors are ballooning, and 84 per cent of GPs worry that they might miss something serious in a patient. According to a poll in March, 62 per cent in Britain think GPs’ workloads are a threat to standards of care.

Dr Maureen Baker

Royal College of General Practitioners

Dr Patricia Wilkie

National Association of Patient Participation

We need to know the truth behind this disgraceful display of dissembling

Sir, Tony Blair has stated that he has no objection to the Chilcot inquiry going ahead and went so far as to say “get on with it” (May 28), so what is preventing publication of its report?

Sir Gus O’Donnell can no longer be accused of acting to protect Blair. Is it credible that O’Donnell and George Bush can be the cause of further delay? Lord Owen has done his best but to no avail. We need to know the truth behind this disgraceful display of dissembling posing as a possible threat to the US-UK “special relationship”.

Amy Wade

Cranbrook, Kent

A-level law has helped to open up the legal profession and make it more socially diverse

Sir, May I, as a head of law in a state sixth form college for 20 years, respond to the criticism of A-level law (“Calling time on A-level law?”, May 22). Law is a rigorous academic A level assessed entirely by external examination. For many years Cambridge University hosted a conference for teachers of A-level law. This does not suggest disapproval of law as an A level, and many of my students went on to study law at Cambridge and other respected universities.

If critics of law A level were to look at the AQA law syllabus and past exam papers they would be left in no doubt regarding the academic rigour of the subject. It is no easier to get a good grade in law than in other academic subjects and the national exam statistics confirm this. Many of my students are now pursuing successful careers as barristers or solicitors. They are invariably positive about A-level law.

The study of A-level law has helped to open up the legal profession, traditionally dominated by those who have been privately educated, and make it more socially diverse.

Peter Ashton

Scarborough Sixth Form College

Many years ago I chided a fellow undergraduate for dropping litter

Sir, Many years ago I chided a fellow undergraduate for dropping litter (letter, May 30). He pointed out that, far from it being an antisocial act, he was in fact providing employment for those tasked with keeping the streets clean. If no one littered, they would be out of work.

John Mellin

Salterforth, Lancs


SIR – The significant reduction in smoking has saved not a single life. Everybody has eventually died, often after receiving late-life hospital treatment for other diseases that cost more than treatment for lung cancer, had they developed that earlier. Those who give up smoking will contribute far less to the public purse in taxation than if had they continued to smoke.

Similarly, cutting obesity rates will not save the NHS money (Letters, May 29). Even if it miraculously brought everyone down to their ideal weight overnight, those same people would still require money to treat other problems in due course, eventually costing social services ever more for care in old age.

We will all die. Some of us will need expensive treatment before that day comes.

John Snook
Chapeltown, South Yorkshire

SIR – Rather than saddle us with even more obesity-related cost, should Nice not be proposing that personal income tax codes and passenger air fares be linked directly to body mass index? A year’s moratorium before implementing such a move would permit those serious about losing weight to do so and hence render themselves exempt from the penalty.

John Hopkins
Tunbridge Wells, Kent

SIR – Weight Watchers on the NHS? Do I get my golf subscription on a repeat prescription? No doubt Weight Watchers is more pain than pleasure, but so is my golf.

Chris Russell
Chalfont St Giles, Buckinghamshire

A taste for voting

SIR – People all over Europe have used the only method open to them to send a very powerful negative message (Comment, May 29), saying they do not like the European Union as it now is. This should strengthen the Conservative case to return to each country the right to govern its own affairs and resources.

Now that people have rediscovered the power of the ballot box, we may see a return to it being used as a reflection of the people’s voice in future elections.

Joyce Chadwick
Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire

SIR – Bob Millington (Letters, May 28) suggests that voting should be compulsory.

It is our democratic right to vote or not. To make voting compulsory would be yet another instance of government telling us how to run our lives. Were I to be dragged kicking and screaming to the polling booth I would still have the option of spoiling my vote. So what’s the point?

M Johnson
Petersfield, Hampshire

Bad guys being killed

SIR – In your report “Sorry, a forward roll is too risky to be seen on children’s TV” (May 27), there is an assumption that children mainly watch the BBC.

I am nine years old and my brother is six. The BBC is not a channel we watch that much. It is not what our friends watch.

We tend to watch Regular Show, Adventure Time, The Amazing World Of Gumball and many more that are on the cable channels. All of these involve weird humour, with fight scenes, magic, shootings and bad guys being killed in many ways.

Regular Show is our favourite, and our dad thinks it is very clever, which is why we are allowed to watch it.

There’s no need to worry about television becoming too safe. Adults are just watching the wrong channel.

Ellis and Hugo Wheeler
Hayling Island, Hampshire

Getting Rid of Racism

SIR – It is a grave mistake to associate racial prejudices with immigration (“Are we all racist now?” Comment, May 29).

Our National Health Service relies heavily on foreign health professionals. Overseas students annually contribute more than a billion pounds towards our economy. It is hard to envisage today’s Britain without foreigners. One cannot make foreigners scapegoats for all social and economic ills.

Britons of foreign origin are not fairly represented in the Cabinet, governmental institutions or even in the higher echelons of education.

The key to addressing these institutional malfunctions is to revamp the structures that cause economic, social and educational disparities and marginalisation.

Dr Munjed Farid Al Qutob
London NW2

SIR – At the family service in church recently, a young mother answered a quiz question correctly with the word “Jesus”. Her little daughter, with a look of horror, cried: “Mum, you swore!”

Can we blame children for mirroring our own half-grasp on life’s complex issues?

Gill Faragher
Bookham, Surrey

Waste of lives

SIR – It is sad that 2,250 people died from drug-related causes in 2011 (report, May 28). However, 6,045 people committed suicide in that year. This, too, is a pointless waste of life that needs to be addressed.

Valerie Marriott
Crowborough, East Sussex

On the tiles

SIR – I thought I was the only one (Letters, May 27). The large black tiles in my en-suite have marbled swirls and lines in which I have seen: a can-can dancer with her skirt raised; Icharus, wings outstretched, soaring skywards; and a farm hand leading his horse into a low sun.

Don Wallace
Macclesfield, Cheshire

SIR – In the Sixties, there was a popular design of tile. At first sight, the pattern appeared to depict the random veins of marble, but after some contemplation, one began to discern running chickens. Some bathrooms had pink chickens, others had blue. The worst arrangement of them had all the chickens standing up the same way.

Trevor Rhodes
Poole, Dorset

SIR – When Shelagh Parry (Letters, May 28) as a child asked what was for dinner, her mother said: “Air pie with the crust off.” My mother would invariably reply (with a smile): “Three jumps at the pantry door.”

Rex Taylor
Bungay, Suffolk

Mothers’ stock replies to ‘What’s for dinner?’

SIR – My grandmother would often reply: “Legs of chairs and pump handles.”

Sylvia Antonsen
Deal, Kent

SIR – When my children asked what was for pudding, my response was “WASP” –wait and see pudding.

Jane Midgley
Bovey Tracey, Devon

SIR – As the biographer of Cornelius Ryan I was delighted to see your profile of the Daily Telegraph war correspondent (“In the right place on the longest day”, May 24). But many of the war stories told about him are only bar-room tales that obscure a life every bit as exciting as his famous books, such as The Longest Day.

While it is true that Ryan witnessed

D-Day from the air, aboard a B-26 bomber, he didn’t actually set foot in Normandy until August, when he accompanied Patton’s Third Army into liberated France.

Though a “former altar boy”, he was no innocent abroad. Growing up in a mixed nationalist-loyalist Dublin family, he knew from an early age that there are two sides to every story – the main reason The Longest Day treats both sides with equal respect.

Although I’m pretty sure Ryan didn’t drink from Hitler’s coffee pot, I do know that he owned a piece of the Fuhrer’s urinal, given to him by his wartime friend Walter Cronkite

SIR – Nick Clegg has been very clear on the Liberal Democrats’ policies. We do not agree and therefore have not voted for them. They do not need to change leader or policies; that is what they are.

Ed Miliband and his team, having ruined the country by applying their policies, now want to present another set of policies and wish us to forget. Lessons have not been learnt.

M J Meadowcroft

SIR – Nick Clegg may be the popular reason given for the fall of the Liberal Democrats, but I’m not so sure. He was the one who got them into government in the first place.

Unfortunately too many others in the party have let the side down. For a small group they have certainly had more than their fair share of scandals, with Lord Rennard, Chris Huhne and David Laws.

Supposed big hitters such as Vince Cable, who was going to set the world alight, have been damp squibs. I suspect that the Liberal Democrats will join Fulham and be relegated from the premier league at the next election.

Mick Ferrie
Mawnan Smith, Cornwall

SIR – Your leading article (May 28) was too kind to Nick Clegg in saying that he “did the honourable thing when he decided to put the country first and help form a government”. He was putting himself and his party first.

It was his only chance of ever being in government, enjoying the trappings, perks and vainglory of a deputy prime minister, and wielding far more political influence than his popular support deserved.

We are not in the world of Macaulay’s Lays of Ancient Rome when “none was for a party” but “all were for the state”.

Dr Peter Greenhalgh
Southfleet, Kent

SIR – Why, in 2007, was Menzies Campbell (born in 1941) considered to be too old to lead the Liberal Democrats; while, in 2014, Vince Cable (born in 1943) is being touted as successor to Nick Clegg?

Alec Ellis

SIR – A letter yesterday referred to the Liberal Democrats’ refusal to allow boundary changes, probably letting Labour gain 20-30 more seats at the next election than it would otherwise have done.

For a party purposely to allow a gross distortion of the voting system to continue, out of simple pique with another party, is the clearest indication it is unfit to govern.

Ken Rimmer
Chelmsford, Essex

SIR – Lord Oakeshott is not a very nice person. Mr Clegg is well rid of him. He is a better person, a gentleman.

I hope his party will rally round and help him – and I am not a supporter.

Monica MacAuley
Taunton, Somerset

Irish Times:

A chara, – Joan Burton has decided that she wants to become the next leader of the Labour Party while committing to working with Fine Gael and continuing in Government. Surely one of the most important attributes of any leader is to know when a decisive change of direction is required? Labour’s disastrous election results were a direct result of their “performance” in this current Government and Ms Burton needs to realise this or start preparing for an extremely short tenure as Labour Party leader. – Is mise,


Maxwell Road,


Dublin 6.

Sir, – Eamonn McCann criticises the Labour Party (“Labour’s disastrous election reflects crisis in European social democracy”, Opinion, May 29th) for not “appealing to their union affiliates to join in active opposition” to the troika.

He seems to have forgotten that Bertie Ahern’s infamous 2007 speech, when he wondered why those “cribbing and moaning” about the economy “don’t commit suicide”, was made at an Ictu conference. His musings were received with chuckles and the odd clap from the union delegates.

Not only were the unions cheerleaders for “Bertie economics” but the then Ictu general secretary was a member of the Central Bank’s board for the 15 years up to 2010.

Mr McCann’s view of trade unions is so old fashioned that perhaps, as with most of his columns, “selective perception” rather than amnesia is at work. – Yours, etc,


Bayside Walk,

Dublin 13.

Sir, – Eamonn McCann’s article is a fair reflection of what happened to Labour. Unfortunately, he is factually incorrect in stating that Unite is affiliated to the Irish Labour Party. Unite disaffiliated from Irish Labour over a year ago for the very reasons he outlined in his article. Unite also led the way against the Haddington Road agreement and has always taken an honourable position on the side of the working class. – Yours, etc,



Antrim Road, Belfast.

Sir, – All over Europe people vented their anger with an out-of-touch ruling elite, and a single currency project that is destroying the hopes of a generation. But some do not acknowledge that and just label us all neo-fascists. Actually, why not just hold the elections again, and tell us to vote for the correct and acceptable parties this time? The EU truly is on borrowed time. – Yours, etc,


Orwell Gardens,


Dublin 14.

Sir, –The recent results in European elections suggest a widespread dissatisfaction with the performance and the intrusion of governance from Brussels and there is no doubt that citizens wish for less bureaucratic overreach and more local control and policies which benefit the average working man and woman.

But, before embracing the xenophobic attitudes and nationalist policies of those from the right and left, and especially leaders such as Nigel Farage and Marine Le Pen, who trade on the anger vote, let us remember that the origin of the current union was the European Coal and Steel Community, set up in 1951 for the prime purpose not only of making war unthinkable but of taking the instruments and materials of war out of the hands of ultranationalist leaders and governments. For half a millennium before 1945, there was scarcely a period of 30 years when the nations of Europe were not at war. Not only has the current union, despite all its faults, given us a potential economic powerhouse, considerable ease of travel, but it has also kept the peace among member nations for nigh on 70 years. Let us by all means fix the problems of a more federal Europe but let us also make sure that the ingredients that have led to that remarkable achievement stay intact. – Yours, etc,




Co Donegal.

A chara, – We now see a scheme being implemented that is aimed at boosting housebuilding and the sudden realisation that there is, in fact, an issue with discretionary medical cards being taken off very sick children. It’s amazing how elections can focus Government minds on problems . – Is mise,


Lismore Road,


Sir, – It’s hardly a big surprise to hear that the Government is to review how medical cards are allocated. Well, not the Government. It has decided to set up an “expert panel” to decide on what range of conditions should apply to who should get medical cards.

What does this mean? What does it say about the system that it had put in place up to now? Or rather the people who made the decisions up to now? If they didn’t have the expertise, why were they filling the expert role up to now? – Yours, etc,


Stradbrook Road,


Co Dublin.

Sir, – Why is it that, if you have a child with a chronic illness and apply for a medical card, the “system” demands that you must receive that medical card for the entire family, and then decides that, as the family income is above a certain level, that card is refused?

Why can the “system” not permit a medical card for the sick child only, since that is all that the majority of parents of sick children want? Surely even the most cold-hearted “system” must recognise that, no matter how well off the family, a chronically ill child requires constant medical care, at great expense and stress.

Compiling a list of qualifying illnesses will not provide a solution either, as inevitably some very sick child will find that they are not on the list, leading to further distress for an already overburdened family.

It should be possible for the family GP to furnish a letter, accompanied by a simple form, to the HSE, leading to the provision of a medical card which would remain in force in perpetuity. Or am I being naive? – Yours, etc,




Co Dublin.

Sir, – What does it tell us about our political masters that a review of medical card withdrawals is now to take place?

It is hardly a coincidence that this happens only after their party positions of power have been rocked to the foundations by the recent election results.

Does this not tell us that loyalty to party takes priority over loyalty to the people whom they are supposed to serve? How sick is that? – Yours, etc,


Crosthwaite Park South,

Dún Laoghaire,

Co Dublin.

Sat, May 31, 2014, 01:08

First published: Sat, May 31, 2014, 01:08

Sir, – Gerry Adams’s letter in response to Fintan O’Toole (“Labour Party’s long road from tragedy to farce”, Opinion & Analysis, May 27th) was long on rhetoric and short on realism.

Mr Adams knows that Sinn Féin’s successful election results had little to do with the “scourge of sectarianism” and much to do with its core political strategy – to put the party into or close to power in both jurisdictions so that it can ratchet up its demands for Irish unity. He would dearly love to be able to claim that Sinn Féin’s “mandate” as the biggest party in the North (with the largest share of the first preference vote in the European and local elections) and the second biggest in the South (which must be its aim in the next general election) demands a border poll and other moves towards unity.

Whether electoral support for Sinn Féin means popular support for unity in the short term is another matter. It is clear from recent opinion polls in the North that there it does not. In last September’s Belfast Telegraph poll, 4 per cent of Northerners said they wanted a united Ireland now and 22 per cent in 20 years. Among Northern Protestants the figures were respectively 0 per cent and 8 per cent .

An Irish Times/Ipsos MRBI poll in November 2012 showed 69 per cent wanting a united Ireland and being prepared to pay more taxes for it. This is a classic example of the unrealistic, aspirational thinking of so many people here. As long as unity doesn’t happen for a long time (35 per cent said it would never happen; 15 per cent said it would happen in 50 years and 22 per cent in 25 years), they say they are prepared to pay higher taxes for it. However, in the real world of the here and now, they are deeply unhappy at paying what citizens in almost every other European country pay – property taxes and water charges. Could one find a better example of a united Ireland as “pie in the sky”?

None of which prevents the Sinn Féin leadership from driving on towards their impossible (in the short to medium term) and deeply destabilising primary goal of Irish unity. For those of us who believe the only way towards any kind of unity is the lengthy and extremely difficult business of trying to bring the people of the island – including those pesky unionists – into some kind of mutual regard and understanding, this is delusional stuff which can only lead to a return of violence. – Yours, etc,


Palmerston Court,

Rathmines, Dublin 6.

Sir, – I was always under the impression that the Letters Page was a forum for readers to sound off on the issues of the day or comment on matters raised in the newspaper’s columns. Now I find you publishing a letter from Gerry Adams, who, as as a TD and president of Sinn Féin, has many outlets available to him to comment on any issue he chooses. I am not an expert but the letter you published read more like a press release.

He may not be the first public representative to avail of the opportunity to have his views aired on this page, but I sincerely hope he’s the last. – Yours, etc,



Sat, May 31, 2014, 01:07

First published: Sat, May 31, 2014, 01:07

Sir, – Patrick Davey (May 30th) claims the right to have his children educated in a religious school. This is as unattainable a “right” as the right to live in a religious town, or to work in a religious factory. A “right” that can only be realised if others are denied their own rights is no right at all.

The idea that the majority has more “rights” than minorities do is tyranny, and the removal of a right through effective unavailability is as much a violation as if it were explicitly denied in law.

Secular education is compulsory, and religious education cannot be. By conflating the roles of State school and church school we have created inequality between those of the majority faith and those of other faiths or none. The only way to respect everyone’s rights equally is to separate the roles of church and state, leaving schools to teach a full secular curriculum to all regardless of faith, and allowing each church to supplement this with its own particular teachings outside school hours as parents wish and free from State interference.

Separation of church and state is not an attack on religion. It releases everyone, religious and irreligious alike, from the shackles of pretence and hypocrisy. People of faith should follow the example of their brethren other countries and embrace a secular state as the means of their own liberation. – Yours, etc,



Dublin 14.

Sir, – Imagine the following scenario. A service provider (doctor) is asked to supply services to the State. The service provider (doctor) has absolutely no say in the fees to be paid for such services. Furthermore, the Minister not once but repeatedly can cut the fees as he or she sees fit.

Should the service provider (doctor) sign such a contract? – Yours, etc,




Co Sligo.

Sir, – Throughout the election campaign, there was a steady trickle of letters to your paper on the subject of election posters, with the majority of contributors insinuating that candidates and parties would be far less enthusiastic about taking down their posters than they were about putting them up. These posters are invariably put up by volunteers – many of whom spent much of the weekend at election counts, where for the majority the ultimate outcome, after long and exhausting election campaigns, was disappointment. Yet despite this, it is noticeable that the vast majority of election posters are already down, with just a few stragglers remaining to be removed, most likely by those same volunteers. Credit where credit is due? – Yours, etc,


Finnstown Priory,


Co Dublin.

Sir, – It’s always pleasing to leaf through your property supplement, which has returned to its former glory with an apparent multitude of eligible properties seeking appropriate owners each week. Elizabeth Birdthistle’s sample survey of recent auction results ( May 29th) displays a pre-bust trend with Advertised Minimum Values (AMV) consistently being well exceeded.

By my calculations, on a total AMV sales book of €34.2 million, €44.25 million was achieved on the big day for the 35 properties mentioned (March to May, 2014). Intending buyers please note and kindly add the now required 29.4 per cent average to seal the deal! – Yours, etc,


Devoy Quarter,


Co Kildare.

Sir, – Recent speculation about the identity of the next Irish EU commissioner has lowered the status of this important office to that of a political consolation prize for a sub-optimal performance in the national political arena.

What a pity it has been brought down to this level. – Yours, etc,



Co Donegal.

Sir, – One only has to read yesterday’s front page of The Irish Times to realise how crazy is the Ireland we live in. Bausch & Lomb in Waterford is seeking 20 per cent wage cuts.Yet Nama is seeking extra funding to retain staff.

Is any wonder that “basket case” is now becoming a much-used phrase? – Yours, etc,


Clover Hill,



Sir, – The main reason the HSE gives for banning vaping is that it might “re-socialise” smoking. I have been a pipe smoker for over 40 years and, when my children were very young, each of them insisted on having their own pipe. None of them grew up to be pipe smokers; in fact, none of them smokes at all. – Yours, etc,


Hawthorn Park,

Forest Road,


Co Dublin.

Irish Independent:

* It was dark, pitch black, confined, and the air supply was running out. Employing the skills of both contortionist and escape artist he deftly freed himself from the bondage of shackles and tightly wrapped chains – without the confines of the milk pail under spotlight centre stage, the packed to the rafters audience began to grow restless.

Also in this section

New leader needs to get some clout in Brussels

EU institutions’ blatant disregard for democracy

Letters: Labour now has a chance to share a new vision

Within, unburdened of his many and varied restraints in under a minute but ever the showman, slowing his heart rate to preserve the little remaining oxygen, building suspense, keeping the crowd on the edge of its seat, until finally as if by magic a man appears on a balcony to the rear of the theatre. His reception thunderous applause from one and all. Alas the master illusionist, greatest magician that probably ever lived and shrewd businessman Harry Houdini found he had to up the ante to ever higher levels.

The mob grew impatient, the performances became challenges and towards the end literally death-defying stunts, until finally he died in mysterious circumstances.

Now think of the property market with “value” appearing seemingly out of nowhere, but before looking closer, and stating that it’s obvious a “two-tier market” is emerging, one must look at the bigger picture.

As the self proclaimed greatest armchair economic conjurer I am certain that the required 25,000 housing units per year will not be built any time soon, if ever.

However human beings will continue to need houses and supply will continue to fail to meet demand with the problem only exacerbated by any kind of population increase. So far, so simple. But remember I opened with the description of an illusion.

Viewing the terrain from a distance, it’s still hard to see the “value” and sitting in a theatre staring at a milk pail has exactly the same problem. The real magic is how the trick is sold.

So allow me to expose this dirty trick as Harry would a second rate rival. One must “buy in” to the three stages of a trick for it to work.

1. The Pledge/Pitch: Property prices are on the rise again.

2. The Turn: Irish version of UK “Help to Buy”– aka 95pc mortgage.

3. The Prestige: You get a mortgage, buy a three bedroom house for €500,000, forget what happened in 2008 and will seriously consider calling Joe Duffy within the next five years.



* You begin to get some idea of the mindset of the present government, when you see its most senior minister almost falling over himself to fawn at the feet of an American billionaire as he arrives at Shannon Airport, followed up by another senior minister being prepared to stand up in front of the cameras to do PR for Bausch and Lomb, to tell its workers to kowtow to its masters, or else . . .

Then the minister for transport performs a similar function for the management of Aer Lingus and Irish Rail.



* As a member of the general public I am writing this complaint cathartically to express my anger and frustration following an unfortunate visit to the new NDLS centre in Limerick city.

As proof of address I had brought my TV licence renewal notice and the TV licence that had been subsequently purchased on the 28/05/2014 with me to the centre.

The employee who was dealing with my driving licence renewal stated that the above was not sufficient proof of address because it was not one of the listed proofs on the NDLS booklet. The listed documents for proof of address included utility bills.

The fact that my TV licence renewal form and TV licence was not accepted on this occasion is particularly irksome given that I have conscientiously paid this bill that so many avoid paying.

A TV licence is issued on behalf of the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources for RTE which is a semi-state agency and therefore my TV licence should have been accepted as proof of address.

I contacted a supervisor at the NDLS processing centre in Cork.

He suggested that the reason the TV licence could not be used for proof of address was because it was possible for an individual to have more than one if they owned more properties issued to different addresses.

I pointed out that it was possible for an individual to possess more than one electricity, phone bill or cable television bill and these were deemed acceptable.

I am a jaded taxpayer living in a country governed by a bureaucratic over-paid public sector. This incident, when examined appears minor, yet it is symptomatic of the pernicious problems which pervade governing bodies.

The employee that dealt with me did not use intelligent discretion and her objection to the documentation was based on her personal interpretation of the criteria outlined in the booklet.

The robotic function of this public sector employee reflects the diminishment in initiative, imagination and creative intelligence that has been caused by the bureaucratic system that fails the Irish citizen on a daily basis.



* It was very disheartening to read Lise Hand’s blatantly sexist article “Joan power-groomed to the max” (Letters 28/05). Joan Burton has declared her intention to run for leader of the Labour Party, potentially making her the most senior female politician serving in Dail Eireann. Instead of examining her bona fides as a candidate, the Irish Independent devotes half a page to a childish “sketch” mocking her appearance and hair style.

How can we expect to attract more women to political and public life when a national newspaper still treats senior politicians with such disrespect based on their gender?



* I attended the Don Williams concert recently in the Olympia. Not by any means my first encounter with the man and as always a great example of someone with an excellent voice delivering classic tunes with the minimum of fuss.

Keep on rollin’ Don !



* I am extremely disappointed that there is no loyalty scheme for supporters who purchase wheelchair tickets.

But there is a scheme for people who purchase other tickets, either through the Parnell Pass scheme (in Dublin) or the GAA Season Ticket scheme (Nationally). In both schemes dedicated fans are entitled to All-Ireland final tickets.

Why is there no loyalty scheme for people who use wheelchair tickets? The current system for obtaining a wheelchair ticket for the All-Ireland final is flawed.

Even if a person who purchases wheelchair tickets has attended 100pc of the previous games, that person still has to write in and hope that they get a ticket. This is far from satisfactory.

It is a shame that this goes against GAA’s ethos to promote equality.




May 30, 2014

30 May2014 Settled

I go all the way around the park listening to the Men from the Ministry: Our heroes face a terrible fate the have deliver a naval vessel Priceless

Mary’s home and settled

Scrabbletoday, I win one game, and get over 400 perhaps Mary will win tomorrow


Charles Swithinbank – obituary

Charles Swithinbank was a glaciologist who worked in both polar regions, with scientists from Britain, the US and the Soviet Union

Charles Swithinbank, glaciologist and polar specialist

Charles Swithinbank: glaciologist and polar specialist Photo: MARTIN HARTLEY/EYEVINE

6:29PM BST 29 May 2014


Charles Swithinbank, who has died aged 87, was a glaciologist and polar specialist whose experience of the Arctic and Antarctic was unsurpassed in its variety.

Having started his remarkable career as a member of an international expedition to the Antarctic, Swithinbank went on to serve successively on Canadian, American, Soviet, British and Chilean expeditions in the polar regions.

He had only just graduated when he sailed south as assistant glaciologist on the Norwegian-British-Swedish Antarctic Expedition of 1949-52. This expedition, under the leadership of the Norwegian John Giaever, established a base called Maudheim in the Norwegian territory of Dronning Maud Land, in the sector of Antarctica to the south of Africa. For land travel the expedition used both the traditional dog teams and over-snow tracked vehicles , and the scientists brought a new level of expertise to research into the Antarctic ice cover, carrying out deep drilling and seismic measurement of ice thickness.

A photograph taken by Swithinbank of the British Antarctic Survey’s research ship Bransfield steering between icebergs

Swithinbank was particularly concerned with measuring the snow nourishment and rate of movement of the (floating) ice shelf on which Maudheim was situated. He was also involved in the ice drilling programme, which was so successful that in the second year, as Giaever records in his book The White Desert (1954), he was able to lay on the expedition leader’s plate an ice core formed of snow that had fallen in about the year 1800. Never one to miss a chance to improve his knowledge, Swithinbank also became fluent in Norwegian during his two years at Maudheim.

He and the other three British members of the expedition received the Polar Medal with Antarctic clasp .

Charles Winthrop Molesworth Swithinbank was born in Pegu, Burma, on November 17 1926, the son of Bernard Swithinbank of the Indian Civil Service, and educated at Bryanston. He then served for two years with the Royal Navy, in which he was commissioned as a sub-lieutenant .

ln 1946 he went up to Pembroke College, Oxford, where he read Geography and rowed in the University trial eights, narrowly missing his Blue. He also took part in Oxford University expeditions to Iceland in 1947 and, the following year, to Gambia . In 1952 he returned to Oxford to write up his Antarctic results for a DPhil, which he was awarded in 1955.

His early Antarctic experience left Swithinbank with a passion for glaciology, and in 1955 he became a research fellow at the Scott Polar Research Institute in Cambridge, to study the distribution of sea ice as it affects shipping in the Canadian Arctic. This research, which was funded by the Canadian government, involved familiarisation with sea ice conditions on a cruise aboard the icebreaker Labrador in the Baffin Island region, and then a careful scrutiny of ships’ logs and other records held mainly in eastern North America. Although the ice atlas that he published was little used operationally, being soon overtaken by regular ice reconnaissance flights and later by satellite imagery, it remained a valuable record of sea ice variations as these may be affected by climate change.

In 1959 Swithinbank moved from Cambridge to take up an appointment as a research associate and lecturer at Michigan University. While based there he spent three summers in the Antarctic with American parties engaged in investigations into the Ross Ice Shelf, and the glaciers that feed it, in New Zealand’s Ross Dependency.

A photograph taken by Swithinbank of Russian scientists sunbathing at Novolazarevskaya station

He then saw the possibility of returning to Dronning Maud Land as the US representative at the Soviet Union’s ice shelf station Novolazarevskaya, newly established under the Antarctic Treaty. However, he found that for this post he needed American citizenship which, because he had been born in Burma, he could not easily acquire. He therefore returned to Britain to take up a further research appointment at the Scott Polar Research lnstitute, and proceeded to the Antarctic as British representative at the Soviet station; during two summers and a winter he continued his ice shelf studies and also became fluent in Russian.

Swithinbank remained at the Scott Polar Research Institute until 1976; from 1971 he was employed as chief glaciologist, and from 1974 as head of the Earth Sciences Division of the British Antarctic Survey. During this period, in addition to a return visit to the Antarctic with the Americans in the summer of 1967-68, he took part as sea ice specialist in the transit of Canada’s Northwest Passage by the supertanker Manhattan in 1969, and in the return passage to the North Pole by the nuclear submarine Dreadnought in 1971.

In 1976 Swithinbank moved to the British Antarctic Survey’s new headquarters in Cambridge. Every other season he spent several months in the Antarctic, principally engaged in directing radio echo-sounding flights by Twin Otter aircraft to measure the thickness of ice cover over the Antarctic Peninsula and within the British Antarctic Territory. For optimum results, many of these flights were conducted at extremely low altitude — 30ft or less. Swithinbank (himself a qualified pilot and an excellent navigator) flew mainly with the great polar airman Giles Kershaw, with whom he developed a fine rapport. He and Kershaw discovered extensive areas of level snow-free ice in the Patriot Hills .

Within weeks of his retirement from the British Antarctic Survey in late 1986, Swithinbank joined Kershaw and a Canadian-based commercial airline in a series of test flights, with support from the Chilean Air Force, flying from the Chilean station Marsh in the South Shetland Islands. The mission was successful in finding natural runways suitable for the landing of aircraft of any size on wheels. In the 1987-88 season, flights were inaugurated for mountaineers, skiers and other tourists, and thereafter became an established feature of the Antarctic calendar.

Swithinbank continued to travel widely, with a particular interest in the application of remote-sensing techniques, especially satellite imagery, to glaciological problems. He published a lengthy report on Antarctic ice cover for the United States Geological Survey, and lectured widely at international meetings and at universities in America and elsewhere. He was also an accomplished lecturer on tourist cruises to the Canadian Arctic and to the Antarctic.

He was the author of An Alien in Antarctica, Reflections upon Forty Years of Exploration and Research on the Frozen Continent (1997); Forty Years on Ice, A lifetime of Exploration and Research in the Polar Regions (1998); Foothold on Antarctica, The First International Expedition (1949-1952) (1999); and Vodka on Ice, A Year with the Russians in Antarctica (2002);

Swithinbank’s awards included the Patron’s Medal of the Royal Geographical Society and the Vega Medal of the Royal Swedish Geographical Society. He is commemorated by six place names in various sectors of the Antarctic.

He married, in 1960, Mary Fellows (née Stewart), with whom he had a son and a daughter.

Charles Swithinbank, born November 17 1926, died May 27 2014


Civilians leaving the besieged city of Homs in February. ‘The world has stood aghast as Syrians clamour for an end to their suffering.’ Photograph: Afp/AFP/Getty Images

For more than three years our organisations have worked to provide aid to Syrians in desperate need against a backdrop of failed international political leadership to end the crisis. More than 6.5 million are internally displaced and half the population (about 10 million) are in need of humanitarian assistance. Together we deliver vital assistance to millions of people whose lives have been shattered by this conflict. Syrian groups have reached many millions more. Humanitarian workers continue to deliver in extraordinary and often dangerous circumstances – this is the job, to serve those in need. It is a job that is getting more treacherous and difficult by the day.

More than 90 days ago the UN security council unanimously adopted a resolution to relieve suffering in Syria by requiring that humanitarian assistance be provided through the most direct routes possible. It is clear that the resolution has failed to achieve this objective: its demands have been ignored by the warring parties and people continue to be deliberately denied access to life-saving aid. The humanitarian situation is deteriorating, violence is escalating and diplomatic efforts to bring about a negotiated solution have failed. With stakes this high, new ideas and determined leadership are needed; the status quo is unacceptable.

The international community must work to ensure Syrians can get enough aid wherever they are, be that through sustainable cross-border or cross-line delivery. Efforts should focus on securing local ceasefires – through meaningful negotiations, not siege tactics and starvation strategies – so that aid can be delivered, economies restarted and dialogue to find a longer-term solution to the crisis renewed. It is not our job to tell politicians how to meet these goals but it is our role to highlight their failure to do so when it is so tragically and lethally costly. The world has stood aghast as Syrians clamour for an end to their suffering. History will be generous to those who answer their call and unforgiving to those who turn away.
Leigh Daynes CEO, Doctors of the World UK
Guido Dost director, Johanniter International Assistance
Jan Egeland secretary general, Norwegian Refugee Council
Rev John L McCullough president and CEO, Church World Service
Justin Forsyth chief executive, Save the Children
David Miliband president and CEO, International Rescue Committee
Manuel Patrouillard executive director, Handicap International Federation
Sven Seifert executive director of the board, Arche noVa
Henrik Stubkjaer general secretary, DanChurchAid
Liv Tørres secretary general, Norwegian People’s Aid
Marie-Pierre Caley CEO, Acted
Neal Keny-Guyer CEO, Mercy Corps

How can we counter the strength of xenophobia and white supremacy in the country (Racism on the rise in Britain, 28 May) while the BBC joyfully broadcasts the last night of the Proms? When this great festival ends with rousing choruses drawn from all the major resident ethnic groups we might be making some progress. For many years now I’ve switched off before the painful celebrations start.
Malcolm Jordan
Chippenham, Wiltshire

• So you’ve won an election and you don’t like criticism (Letters, 27 May). It’s called freedom of the press. Get over it.
Spencer Sibson

• If there’s anything that exemplifies the current parlous state of the Scottish game, it’s your photographs of Alex Salmond’s shockingly inept attempts to kick and head a football (28 May).
Paul Dennehy

• I object to your news headline (Peat bog the size of England found in Congo, 28 May). Since when has England been a unit of measurement? Surely it should read “Peat bog six times the size of Wales found in Congo”?
Stephen Hughes
Bangor, Gwynedd

• Whatever side the driver’s seat might be on (Letters, 29 May), French trains, just like their British counterparts, nevertheless drive on the left. One wonders, however, if the contribution of Marine Le Pen’s newly invigorated Front National to the European parliament might involve a sudden swing to the right – which, paradoxically, would then put our closest neighbour’s locomotives on the correct track for navigating German railways. Let it never be said that the EU has brought uniformity to everything.
Paul Tattam
Teignmouth, Devon

• Contrary to Stuart Heritage’s assertion (The LOL awards 2014, G2, 28 May), burying beetles are good parents. They bury a dead mouse or bird then feed themselves and their larvae with the decaying carcass. The larvae also make a noise in order to be fed.
Rosemary Jones
Taunton, Somerset

Last weekend was a stark and symbolic reminder of what is at stake for social cohesion in this grand and visionary project of the European Union. On the eve of European and Belgian elections, a gunman opened fire in the Jewish Museum of Brussels, killing four people (Report, 25 May). It is probably the worst incident of antisemitic hate crime in Belgium since the second world war. The EU was born in the aftermath of the Holocaust to sustain peaceful relations in a continent which had been twice torn apart by war in the first half of the 20th century. There was a general shock in the self-realisation of how much antisemitic complicity enabled Hitler to enact his genocidal mission against the Jewish people, with Roma, homosexuals and disabled people also victims in his crusade. Remorse was translated into a sense of political and public responsibility.

Yet the European parliament elections saw 77 new MEPs from xenophobic parties, up 50% from five years ago. It seems that the foundation of Europe is undergoing an earthquake, with this weekend’s antisemitic attacks providing the exclamation mark. What is most depressing, however, is that it is not a total surprise in the EU capital, given the many recent indicators of a hostile climate for Jews in Belgium. On 4 May, a gathering of 500 antisemitic politicians and public figures (including the infamous French comedian Dieudonné) took place in Brussels, called the First European Conference of Dissidence.

As Pope Francis sent his condolences from his first official visit to the Holy Land, calling for peace between Israel and Palestine (Report, 26 May), the Israeli flag was displayed along with memorial flowers at the Jewish Museum in Brussels for the two Israeli citizens killed in Saturday’s attack. It is good to hear the Belgian politicians’ outrage. Hopefully, they will finally hear the alarm this time.
Robin Sclafani
Director, CEJI-A Jewish Contribution to an Inclusive Europe

• The pope’s visit to Israel may be viewed through the lens of Middle East politics, but it should also be viewed through the prism of hundreds of years of ups and downs in Catholic-Jewish relations. This is reflected by two anniversaries which we are due to mark next year. 800 years ago, in 1215, Pope Innocent III convened the Fourth Lateran Council, which declared that Jews living in Christian countries should wear a yellow badge on their clothing. This was consistent with the prevailing anti-Semitism of the era. On a brighter note, in 1965, the publication of Nostra Aetate, as part of the Second Vatican Council, paved the way for a new and positive framework for Jewish-Catholic relations. When we mark its 50th anniversary, we can reflect on the advances which have been made in Catholic-Jewish relations over the broad span of history.
Zaki Cooper
Trustee, Council of Christians and Jews

• How inspiring  to read of Pope Francis’s visit to Palestine and his stirring words at the separation wall. With his clear support for a sovereign Palestinian state and the rights of the oppressed Palestinian people, he has offered real spiritual and moral leadership. What a contrast to the pusillanimous approach of western political leaders with their timid genuflections to the Zionist cause. I am not a Catholic, but by his actions and example, Pope Francis is certainly demonstrating the power of Christian leadership in our overly cynical modern world.
Michael Gwilliam
Norton-on-Derwent, North Yorkshire

Churchill called depression his Black Dog, and in difficult environments this serious illness can spiral down into disability and early death. I am glad that all our work in the 1990s Defeat Depression campaign to train GPs to recognise and treat depressed patients still bears fruit (Use of antidepressants exploded after financial crisis, study finds, 28 May) and it is no surprise that more pills are prescribed in Blackpool than in Brent. Three very common experiences when depressed are helplessness (including feeling trapped in a dead end job with a bullying boss); worthlessness (including feeling on society’s scrapheap); and hopelessness (feeling stuck in a neighbourhood for “losers”). The coalition’s policies on austerity (ie more suffering is good for the poor), patricians and plebians (eg what Etonian needs to know the price of milk?) and housing (renting is for riff-raff) have made many people feel helpless, worthless and hopeless for a long time. Do we look behind these statistics about pills and explode the depressing policies of despair?
Professor Woody Caan
Editor, Journal of Public Mental Health, Cambridge

ris Pitarakis/PA

So Mark Carney believes there is a growing sense that the “basic social contract at the heart of capitalism is breaking down amid rising inequality” (Capitalism is doomed if ethics vanish, says Carney, 28 May). If ever there was a comment that displayed just how out of touch those in power are this is it. For decades, billions have struggled with the daily reality that capitalism’s primary raison d’etre is to create ever-increasing wealth for the already wealthy at the expense of the vast majority in society.

We all know the so-called trickle-down effect was always a myth. And, critically, nothing will ever change because of the very nature of the system itself. It both encourages and incites greed and exploitation. It cannot be any other way, especially with global resources getting less and less. In fact, the greed will just get worse from now on, marginalising more and more. At least Carney has either woken up to this reality or at least dared to speak about it. He deserves credit for that. Even if it is primarily out of concern for the survival of the system itself.
Peter Strother
Grantown-on-Spey, Inverness-shire

• It was good the Guardian provided an effective rejoinder to the rightwing attempts of the weekend press to undermine Thomas Piketty’s findings on unsustainable inequalities in our societies (Paul Mason, 27 May). It’s now equally important to see the connection between this and the apparently more benign “inclusive capitalism” conference at the Guildhall.

The rather late confessions of Mark Carney and IMF chief Christine Lagarde that the financial markets remain massively imperfect and the banks are still doing their utmost to frustrate necessary change – are part of an orchestrated attempt to cauterise the deeper wounds of the 2008 meltdown, acknowledge some unavoidable evidence of error, but meanwhile steer us towards more gentle palliatives than the systemic, radical change required.

They are by no means innocent of blame themselves in the sense that it was through their roles, occupied by their predecessors, that much of the laissez-faire regulatory climate – bequeathing us the Libor fixes, the pernicious bonus regimes and other aspects of a decadent culture – took firm hold. It is too late for a few cosmetic, voluntary gestures to do the trick.
Ralph Windle
Witney, Oxfordshire

• Good to see Mark Carney recognises that “prosperity requires not just investment in economic capital, but investment in social capital”. Now he’s only to got to add in concern for natural capital and he will have covered the “triple bottom line” that many of us want to measure national wellbeing and progress by. These things do seem to take time, and much rediscovery, to get accepted. It seems an age since Robert Kennedy was speaking so eloquently about life being more than GDP – in 1968 – and that even then “too much and too long, we seem to have surrendered community excellence and community values in the mere accumulation of material things”.

But didn’t I see that the Office for National Statistics now publishes measures of national wellbeing? Perhaps we should give that more attention, rather than just headlining the GDP figures?
Paul Allin
Visiting professor, Department of mathematics, Imperial College London

• Paul Mason may be right to defend Thomas Piketty, but he perpetuates a false understanding of work and rent. Some paid work is socially useless or even destructive, while some unpaid work is essential to our lives. For many people, their job is little better than a prison, with the result that some seek to make a living by other means. What counts is the nature of the work, and the new economics has been trying to build on this insight for decades now.
Phil Booth

• Mark Carney is being disingenuous talking about capitalism. Proper capitalism is a system requiring savers whose savings entrepreneurs put to use creating wealth and rewarding savers with interest. In this country we have had nothing approaching capitalism for at least two generations. There’s risk involved, you see, and the City hates risk. And George Osborne hates interest rates that threaten his pre-election bubbles. Instead we have a gigantic financial Ponzi scheme powered by quantitative easing.
John Smith
Beighton, South Yorkshire

• It is encouraging that the Bank of England and the IMF have at last caught up with Ed Miliband in calling for a more ethical capitalism, and a reduction in inequality. Perhaps they would now like to join the Labour party, and help us make the changes happen.
Chris Johnson
Chair, Witney constituency Labour party

• So much of the domestic wealth-generating industry has gone due to privatisation and after being targeted by asset-stripping by often foreign and even state-owned companies. So the tax take from UK employees and corporations will continue to plummet. Even worse, the wholesale outsourcing of public services is reducing wages still further and the profits are then going to the wealthy few and to tax havens. Governments of all colours seem to be committed to giving a diminishing tax take from the many into the pockets of the rich few. It is the economics of insanity. It is taking a deindustrialised UK back to a pre-Victorian economy. And it is entirely the creation of UK politicians of all hues – and absolutely not the fault of the EU.
Robert Straughton
Ulverston, Cumbria

• Here are some sentences from a speech about the nature of present day capitalism given by a leading member of the establishment:

• “Inclusive capitalism is fundamentally about delivering a basic social contract comprised of relative equality of outcomes; equality of opportunity; and fairness across generations.”

• “For markets to sustain their legitimacy, they need to be not only effective but also fair. Nowhere is that need more acute than in financial markets; finance has to be trusted.”

• “Capitalism loses its sense of moderation when the belief in the power of the market enters the realm of faith.”

• “Many supposedly rugged markets were revealed to be cosseted…”

• “We simply cannot take the capitalist system, which produces such plenty and so many solutions, for granted.”

• “…by returning to true markets, we can make capitalism more inclusive.”

• “Consideration should be given to developing principles of fair markets, codes of conduct for specific markets, and even regulatory obligations within this framework.”

• “When bankers become detached from end-users, their only reward becomes money.”

Had Ed Miliband uttered these words, he would have been condemned by many in the City and the majority of the Conservative Party, as having been anti-business, anti-City, or even Marxist. Yet these are the words of Mark Carney, Governor of the Bank of England and a former investment banker.

Ed Miliband’s speech on “responsible capitalism” in January 2012 was much-derided. It seems that Ed may have found an ally in the governor.
John Slinger
Rugby, Warwickshire

• Allow people like me to print money and you can imagine the chaos. So why are banks – private institutions that are repeatedly fined for their criminal activities – allowed to create 97% of the money we use? If you have difficulty in believing they are allowed to do this, read the Bank of England Quarterly Bulletin 2014 Q1, where it is set out with absolute clarity. Politicians won’t touch the banks and justice can’t reach them, they are too-big-to-fail and too-big-to-jail. Bodies with such power and executives with such incentives to enrich themselves need more than ethics to be restrained: look here chaps, please behave responsibly! Banks should not be allowed to create money; a money-creation committee, independent of government, could issue as much as is necessary to avoid deflation but limited to an amount that will not cause inflation.
James Bruges

• Re Paul Mason: the simple income-capital distinction ignores what I have called “positional rents”. These include the astonishing high incomes of CEOs, senior public-sector managers, vice-chancellors and, of course, the layers immediately below them. Since these growing “economic rents” derive mainly from position, the disincentive effects of taxing them may be vanishingly small.
Professor David Collard
Pen-y-cae-mawr, Usk


If the leaders of the main parties really think they can attribute their losses in the recent elections to a simplistic “anti-EU protest vote” then they are deluding themselves.

The discontent is much deeper. The electorate are tired of being taken for mugs by smug career politicians; tired of endlessly tightening their belts so that those same leaders and their cronies can have ever-larger rewards; tired of the public services for which they have paid being cut while money is diverted from the public purse to line the pockets of private contractors and “consultants”.

There is a total lack of confidence in the current system. If they want to turn the tide and retain their seats they need to listen to the ordinary people of this country, and show by their actions that they have done so in ways that are credible and tangible, with a genuine redistribution of wealth to the ordinary people who create it.

Mike Margetts, Kilsby, Northamptonshire

The recent gains in the local and European elections and the media coverage of Ukip and its leader have been rather over the top. The party has no control of any council, no majority on any grouping, nor even one solitary Member of Parliament.

The support has been branded an earthquake but is in realty a protest vote against the establishment. The protest votes the Liberal Democrats used to bag went to Ukip instead.

Like them or not, the three main political parties have more to offer than a one-man band who has marketed his “two pints of lager and a packet of crisps” brand well but has no real policies or solutions to the economic realities of a vibrant and multicultural 21st-century British society.

Paul Raybould, Torquay

Roger Chapman of Keighley, West Yorkshire (letter, 29 May), argues that London is already a foreign country and that is why there is a low level of Ukip support there.

While there are some London boroughs with a high proportion of immigrants, in many others the numbers are very low. So, if London is a foreign country then so is Yorkshire, based solely on Bradford. No, the real reason support for Ukip is low in London is that many high-skilled jobs there would be lost if we adopted isolationist policies.

Malcolm Howard, Banstead, Surrey

Never mind Plato (“The triumph of the ignorant?”, 29 May), let’s not forget the immortal words of the Mykonos Professor of Wind-Surfing (alias Rory Bremner): “demos” means people; “crass” means  stupid.

Penelope Murray, Sibford Gower, Oxfordshire


Antibiotic danger ignored for years

You quote Public Health England and the World Health Organisation both voicing great concern about the resistance of many bacteria to life-saving antibiotics (editorial, 24 May). Why has it taken so long for the powers that be to raise the alarm?

Thirty-five years ago I was telling my students of this danger. Bacterial conjugation, whereby bacteria can pass on mutations to other bacteria was well known at the time and it was obvious that a single organism could confer antibiotic resistance to an entire population in a short time.

I used to illustrate the danger by quoting a hospital doctor who boasted that he kept the bacterial count in his wards down by regularly spraying with antibiotic!

I find it incomprehensible that the unnecessary prescription of these uniquely efficacious drugs was not banned, both medically and agriculturally, as soon as it was known that antibiotic resistance was becoming prevalent.

Patrick Cleary, Honiton, Devon

The invention of fanzines

Alex Lawson says in his article on fanzines (22 May) that they emerged in the Seventies. This misses out some 40 years of their history.

Fanzines appear to have been first produced by science fiction fans in the Thirties. The first professional science fiction magazine started in 1926 and fans discovered each other through the letters columns of these publications. Soon they were swapping their own amateur magazines.

The term “fanzine” seems to have been coined in 1940 – the earliest citation in the Oxford English Dictionary is from 1949 – to distinguish the fannish publications from the professional ones, called “prozines”. Authors such as Arthur C Clarke and Ray Bradbury first appeared in fanzines.

Loncon 3, the World Science Fiction convention, is being held in London this summer. One of the many awards to be given out is one for best fanzine, an award first given in 1955.

Paul Dormer, Guildford

The myth of cavalry charging tanks

Robert Fisk’s otherwise penetrating article (24 May) on British perfidy in the Middle East during the First World War repeats, in a casual comparison, one of the most enduring and inaccurate myths of the following world conflict. Polish cavalry never charged German tanks in the autumn campaign of 1939.

Polish cavalry did charge and overrun dispersed German infantry positions on several occasions, but never launched frontal attacks against German panzers.

To say that they did falls in with the misreporting of Italian journalists misled by their minders; with generals such as Heinz Guderian who wanted to laud Wehrmacht prowess; with the power of cleverly cut newsreels; with Nazi and later Soviet propaganda that wanted to show the Poles as militarily backward and nationally primitive; and lastly with the idea that brave soldiers are necessarily stupid.

It was a brief aside, but it does reveal the persistence, because it is believed by a highly reputable journalist, of an outright historical untruth.

 It also raises the question: if Poles never charged German panzers then did Arab horsemen ever charge French tanks?

Dr Philip Brindle, Bedford

In popular culture, girls will be girls

Rosie Millard and the BBC are fighting a losing battle against the use of “girl” for an 18-plus female in popular culture (“BBC is right to ban this lazy language”, 28 May).

It’s not patronising; it’s a simple matter of the rhythm and force of language.

“Girl” is a syllable shorter than “woman” and two syllables shorter than “young woman”. So it has greater impact, not least in newspaper headlines and book titles.

Try making the substitution in, for example, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo or the Spice Girls. Across the gender divide, there is no such problem with man/boy/lad. Even so, Jersey Boys and Boys from the Blackstuff come across more strongly than if “men” had been used

David Crawford, Bickley, Kent

Parking won’t save the high street

The assertion that the British high street will die unless town councils re-examine “punitive” parking policies (editorial, 26 May) is based on a false assumption.

British town centres were neither intended to, nor are they able to, accommodate enough parked cars to change their financial fortunes. A reduction in parking charges would only increase demand for a commodity whose supply has always been the limiting factor.

Instead, councils should ensure adequate accessibility to the town centres for pedestrians, bus users and cyclists. The retail park, far out at the edge of a settlement, is designed for the automobile.

Compete? Why even try? Town centres are for people, not vehicles, and councils should embrace this difference.

Jack Bramhill, Southsea


Prince’s musical afternoons

Aside from his financial acumen, Prince Rupert zu Loewenstein (obituary, 23 May) was an elegant and generous soul, who – with his wife, Josephine, herself a fine pianist – hosted, for many years, Chopin Society matinee concerts in their beautiful Richmond home.

I shall always treasure the many happy memories of being allowed to play selections of my own Miniatures for the piano, whilst other members played well-known pieces by Chopin and Liszt, before savouring high tea with our gracious hosts in their magnificent gardens.

Gavin Littaur, London NW4

The way to build a railway

News item from the latest issue of the Railway Magazine: “Chinese national railway company China Railway Corporation has announced plans to spend $116bn on 48 new railway lines, totalling up to 7000 km of new track. The construction will be undertaken over the next three to five years, and will be partly funded by private investment.”

Why not offer them the construction of HS2 – after all its only a small branch line. It could be up and running by Christmas 2016!

John Deards, Warminster, Dorset


Funding is falling, patients are getting older and iller, GPs are feeling the strain

Sir, I have been a GP in Devon for 22 years. The first 20 years were very rewarding, but the last two have been different (Alice Thomson, “These overpaid doctors must stop whingeing”, May 28). I work from 7.30am to 6.30pm without a break. The consultation rate has increased from 3-4 contacts a year to 6-7. Our population is getting older and more frail, further adding to workload. Increasingly our time is taken up by paperwork. The work transfer from secondary to primary care has been huge in the past few years.

Yes, GPs are well rewarded but we are also at point of collapse. We are asking for more money to pay for more doctors so we can offer a safer and better service to our patients.

Dr Elizabeth Brown

Teignmouth, Devon

Sir, Alice Thomson is correct that I see patients for about 24 hours per week but I spend at least that long again on filing, visiting patients at home and running a business (my surgery). We are being paid less and less for doing more and more work.

It should be pointed out that people need to take more responsibility for their own health. A&E departments are full of people who’ve drunk too much. Obesity is causing ever greater problems.

Dr J Hobman

Roundhay, Leeds

Sir, The workload has risen beyond recognition during my years as a GP. My practice’s funding is being cut by one third, yet I will still have to give the same level of care to the same number of patients (12,500).

All the Royal College of General Practitioners asks is that primary care is funded sufficiently so that there are enough GPs to see the patients, to ensure the recruitment crisis stops, that GPs don’t retire on grounds of ill health due to burn out.

Dr Michele Wall


Sir, If general practice really is such an easy ride for overpaid GPs, why are older doctors retiring early in droves and why are young doctors shunning it in favour of working in hospitals or going abroad?

The numbers of young doctors choosing to become GPs went down 15 per cent last year. To quote Dr Chaand Nagpaul from his recent conference speech, “these doctors are not shunning the discipline of general practice, but the intolerable pressures that GPs are subject to, together with relentless attacks that devalue what we do, and which has butchered the joy and ability of GPs to properly care for our patients”.

Virginia C Patania

& Dr Naomi Beer

London E1

Sir, We should be sceptical of the RCGP’s demands for more money. British GPs are paid 3.4 times
the average wage in the UK, compared to 3 times in Canada, 2.7 times in Denmark and 1.7 times in Australia.

The National Audit Office found that between 2002 and 2006, GP partners enjoyed an astonishing 58 per cent pay increase despite working seven fewer hours a week than they did a decade earlier. Having such highly paid GPs means we can afford fewer of them.

In England we have 6.8 GPs per 10,000 persons compared to 20.2 per 10,000 persons in Australia.

It’s no wonder that it takes
people so long to get an appointment, a situation which is only exacerbated by the lack of GPs working at weekends and in the evenings.

Alex Wild

A former Tory MP remembers his days among the bureaucrats of Brussels and their dark tricks

Sir, I have seen these ritual promises of reform by EU leaders before. I
was the House of Commons representative on the Convention on the Future of Europe, set up in 2002 after some negative referendum results.

The convention was instructed to break down bureaucracy, concentrate on essentials, and create an EU “closer to its citizens”. This was all ignored and instead the convention approved a 200-page European Constitution, which was then rejected by the French and Dutch electorates, but enacted just the same as the Treaty of Lisbon (without the promised referendum in the UK).

The EU will never reform itself. The best hope is for a Conservative government to repatriate almost all powers and seek a trade-only relationship.

To achieve this, David Cameron must be prepared to leave the EU, and not be drawn into a protracted and complex negotiation with a muddled outcome.

David Heathcoat-Amory

London W14

It is not surprising that men behind bars make poor fathers – we need new rules for temporary release

Sir, The report from Barnardo’s (“Two thirds of convicts’ sons face a life of crime”, May27) is depressing. Fathers, often scattered to prisons far from their home, may see their sons only infrequently, and in prison visiting rooms. Such limited interaction cannot amount to proper fathering.

“Temporary release” from prison has had bad publicity recently, but the “failure to comply” rates for such releases are minuscule — some 281 failures out of 431,178 (in 2010-11). If we are serious about holding families together, fathers, subject to risk assessment, should be able to rejoin their families under temporary release arrangements. Norway allows this after one third of the sentence. I believe we should adopt the same policy and we should apply it, with more emphasis, to imprisoned mothers as well.

Howard Thomas

Chief Probation Officer North Wales 1985-96

Mold, Flintshire

So-called ‘honour’ killings in Pakistan show that the country is not ready to join the modern world

Sir, You highlight the persistence of the abhorrent practice of stoning to death in several Islamic countries (report , May 28; leader, May 29).

It beggars belief that 83 per cent of Pakistanis support stoning to death for adultery, and similar acts are carried out in several African and Middle East countries.

Apart from honour killings, several instances of judicial and paralegal executions for blasphemy have also occurred in Pakistan in recent years.

The hegemony of the church over the state ended in medieval Europe with the enlightenment. Unless the offending Islamic countries shed their culturally regressive practices, they are not be fit for the modern world.

Sam Banik

London N10

Life sometimes imitates fiction, expecially when fiction is political satire and life is Nigel Farage

Sir, Recent photographs of a party leader enjoying refreshment recalled an episode of In the Red, a 1998 BBC mini-series based on the 1989 black comedy of the same name by Mark Tavener.

One character was the leader of the fictitious Reform Party, Geoffrey Crichton-Potter, whose sole policy was to ensure that he was well fed and watered. Played beautifully by Richard Griffiths, C-P was essentially hollow, but his remarkable ability to deliver rousing speeches made him an effective conduit for public anger with authority.

Jim Whyman

Stogumber, Somerset


‘I arrest you in the name of the law!’: cover of Manufrance, a mail-order catalogue, c1920  Photo: Universal History Archive/Getty Images

6:58AM BST 29 May 2014

Comments61 Comments

SIR – Bill Oddie and Chris Packham, the Springwatch presenters, say that children ought to be allowed to get up to mischief in the countryside by starting fires and scrumping (report, May 20). But scrumping is theft, and lighting fires is dangerous.

I am a small fruit farmer, and can lose thousands of pounds worth of produce to scrumping, particularly in the summer holidays. If I am under contract to provide produce and cannot due to theft, I will be financially penalised for not fulfilling my contract: a double whammy, so to speak.

In the summer, the countryside is like a tinderbox and unsupervised fires spread. Over many years, I have seen farmers lose crops, barns and, on one occasion, a house to out-of-control fires.

Billy Auger
Hopton Wafers, Shropshire

SIR – Guidance issued by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence advocating state-funded slimming courses for obese people is naive, misguided and simply incredible.

Something given free is invariably undervalued. This is why the NHS struggles day-to-day with almost seven million outpatient appointments missed each year, costing an average of £108 for every one missed. Another 12 million GP appointments are missed each year.

For obese people to attain a normal weight requires a major change in lifestyle. It is for the obese themselves to make that decision – or accept the consequences. Not the state.

Paul Harrison
Terling, Essex

SIR – A friend tried dieting but gave up after two weeks. Without self-motivation it cannot be achieved, free or not.

Colin Laverick
London WC2

Lost town centres

SIR – Town centres have become the almost exclusive preserve of banks, estate agents, pawn shops, betting shops, pound shops and empty boarded-up premises. They have become a meeting place for feral youths who congregate in groups that intimidate legitimate shoppers.

Market Street in Leicester was once lined with prosperous independent retailers. Since it was “pedestrianised”, shoppers cannot park close to the particular shop they wish to visit, sounding the death knell for these businesses.

Those of us who are disabled and cannot walk far are gradually being squeezed out of our city centres completely, forced to shop online from home or at out-of-town malls where the parking is free.

Retailers were not consulted about whether they wanted this expensive new paving for the yobs to litter with their

fast-food wrappers and chewing gum. When will town planners open a dialogue with the people affected by their schemes?

John Yates
Glenfield, Leicestershire

PE colleges

SIR – As someone who trained as a PE teacher 45 years ago at one of the then

PE-specialist teacher training colleges, I have been conscious of the inadequate way teachers who want to specialise in PE are taught today.

A high-quality PE teacher in a primary school can ensure that youngsters learn the skills to enable them to participate in a variety of sports and, most of all, enjoy sport later in life. Abolishing the specialist PE colleges was short-sighted. Thank goodness some type of genuine specialism seems to be returning.

Kate Hoey MP (Lab)
London SW1

Loo with a view

SIR – Even with the liveliest of imaginations, Trevor Allanson’s bathroom tiles (Letters, May 27) can only occupy so many sittings. He needs a bookshelf.

Victor Launert
Matlock, Derbyshire

SIR – The most august seat in our house offers close inspection of the ghosts of a previous keyhole, lock and hinges from when the panelled door faced in the opposite direction. For the long-sighted, there are views through a crack in one of the panels to the hectic outside world.

Julian Warren
Ipswich, Suffolk

Dementia care

SIR – Sir Ian Botham has been associated with many acts of goodness over his lifetime but somehow the real hero in his interview about his father’s crippling progression through Alzheimer’s disease was his late mother.

He describes how Mrs Botham continued to visit her husband even in his final stages of the illness when he recognised no one, and when others were advising her not to visit. Such acts of selfless love and duty are the signs of true heroism.

Dr Jane Fleming
Waterford, Munster, Ireland

SIR – I was so sorry to read that Sir Ian found it too difficult to visit his father in the later stages of dementia. I know how horrendous this disease is, having watched my husband suffer from Parkinson’s and dementia for more than a decade.

However, I am so grateful to my children, grandchildren and good friends who continued to visit and give support through the most difficult of circumstances. I valued their support more than words can express, and would encourage people to continue visiting whenever possible.

Gillian Gilbert
Bath, Somerset

Road safety on foot

SIR – I think it is time for road users in London to get together and debate what should be done to improve safety; not just for cyclists and other road users, but for pedestrians too.

Despite wearing the most colourful and reflective gear available and having a flashing light, I am still amazed that people do not see me. In the past five months I have had three collisions, resulting in a bruised spine and cracked ribs. My last crash saw me thrown over the bonnet of a car. The driver had crossed in front of me, over the well-marked cycle lane I was in, seemingly intent on getting into the side road beyond.

I have lost count of the times I have had near misses, both from vehicles and from pedestrians stepping off the pavement.

The situation is not improving.

Martyn Clark
Erith, Kent

Off the menu

SIR – I have been trying to ban the word “medley” for years (Letters, May 24); it is my unwanted third name.

Roger J (M) Lee
Sale, Cheshire

A wartime rose that should be grown in Britain

SIR – The current wave of war nostalgia prompted me to rewatch the American film Mrs Miniver, which Winston Churchill said “did more for the Allies than a flotilla of battleships”. In the story, the local station master breeds a red rose, names it after his heroine (played by Greer Garson), and scoops top prize at the local flower show. In real life, a red hybrid tea cultivar named “Mrs Miniver”, inspired by Jan Struther’s original book, was introduced in France in 1940, and in America in 1944.

I wanted to grow this rose. Finding it unavailable in Britain and America, I turned to the Sherlock Holmes of the rose world, Becky Hook of La Roseraie du Désert, a specialist nursery in south-west France. Becky traced it to the Europa-Rosarium, an important rose collection in Sangerhausen, 60 miles west of Leipzig, only to find it was lost in the hard winter of 2012. According to the Rosarium’s director, the last example of this symbolic rose is in a private garden in north Germany.

A British grower should bring the Mrs Miniver rose to Britain.

Orlando Murrin
Exeter, Devon

SIR – When Nick Clegg reneged on his agreement to equalise the size of constituencies, did he realise the potential consequence of his actions?

If, as seems possible, Labour wins a majority at the next election, the Lib Dems will be irrelevant again. If boundary changes had been made, it would have denied Labour 20 to 30 seats. This might well have been enough for the Tories to win, but with no overall majority; meaning that Mr Clegg might have kept his job.

Martin P Gooderson
Orpington, Kent

SIR – How ridiculous for Liberal Democrat party members to think of ousting Nick Clegg as leader of the party. He is the most charismatic leader they have had for a long time. The Lib Dems have had more power and influence in the past four years than they have had for a long time – why throw it all away?

Julie Bravery
Longwick, Buckinghamshire

SIR – Nick Clegg’s constituency, Sheffield Hallam, used to be the last bastion of the Conservative Party in the city. I imagine it fell to the Lib Dems because of the ever-expanding campus of Sheffield University within its boundary.

In the local elections, the Lib Dems lost the student areas of Crookes and Broomhill to Labour. I suspect a similar swing could happen in the constituency next year. Nick Clegg can’t spend the next 12 months campaigning to keep his seat.

Michael Finley
Eastbourne, East Sussex

SIR – Your leading article on the European parliamentary election suggests that the Liberal Democrats did badly because they were pro-European.

I have always voted Lib Dem and am pro-European, but I voted Labour this time as a protest against Lib Dem support for a profoundly Right-wing Coalition.

Robert Waters
Halstead, Essex

SIR – It was no surprise to me when Nick Clegg sold out his party’s policy on tuition fees in 2010. Fifteen newly elected Lib Dem MSPs did the same thing at Holyrood in 1999 when they did a deal with Labour. That set a trend that has lasted 15 years ending in Sunday’s disaster.

The Lib Dem party conference is supposed to make the policy. The failure is Mr Clegg’s personally, as he will not stand up for the policies his members vote for at their conference.

Nigel F Boddy
Darlington, Co Durham

SIR – At least Nick Clegg had the courage of his convictions and was prepared to debate Britain’s membership of the EU with Nigel Farage. Neither David Cameron nor Ed Miliband are prepared to do that; they prefer to keep the issue under wraps and not to expose their vulnerable positions to the British public.

Les Smith
Woking, Surrey

Irish Times:

Sir, – Fintan O’Toole’s characterisation of the Labour Party’s abstention from the 1918 general election as a tragic mistake and a missed opportunity represents an outdated view that has been disputed by more recent historical analysis (“Labour Party’s long road from tragedy to farce”, Opinion & Analysis, May 27th).

The principal reason for Labour’s decision to withdraw was that it had difficulty securing candidates to run in its interest. Many who were associated with the Labour Party or trade union movement were already committed to Sinn Féin, in particular Constance Markievicz and Joseph McGrath, later to serve as ministers for Labour in the first Dáil.

The decision also took into account Labour’s fear of alienating support in Ulster if it was seen to be too closely associated with Sinn Féin’s plans to abstain from Westminster and establish an alternative constituent assembly in Ireland. Labour was prepared to join Sinn Féin in the former plan but undecided about the latter. The consensus among historians and political scientists is that Labour took the only realistic option available to it in 1918.

The notion that Labour was irreparably damaged by its 1918 abstention does not stand up to a scrutiny of subsequent local and national election results. It won the second-highest number of seats (394) after Sinn Féin (550) in the January 1920 local elections for urban district councils.

Admittedly it did not perform as well in the following June’s elections for county and rural district councils, but this was not surprising as these areas were less likely to support Labour.

The circumstances of the War of Independence and the extent of intimidation of Labour voters and candidates by Sinn Féin were also significant factors.

However, the strongest evidence of the Labour Party’s resilience is to be found in the 1922 general election, in which 17 of its 18 candidates were elected. – Yours, etc,


School of History

and Anthropology,

Queen’s University


A chara, – In reply to Eileen Gamble’s article on coming out in the staffroom (Education, May 27th), the Rev Patrick G Burke (May 29th) says, as if both situations were comparable, “It is interesting that alleging discrimination in one area should be used to justify discrimination in another.” Is he wilfully missing something?

Under the current denominational system of education, many teachers have to pretend they believe not only in God but in church teaching, and at best non-conforming pupils are facilitated elsewhere during religious instruction.

Under a system with one patron – the Department of Education – where religion would be respected, taught as culture but not instructed as belief during school hours, and not arising as a question when enrolling pupils or employing teachers, no one would have to pretend or deny anything.

School would be a reflection of a society where there is a widespread and shifting spectrum of practice and belief.

While the idea of retaining some national schools under church patronage might work in towns, it discriminates against the country where one school caters for a wide area.

Though it might seem to favour the secular view, a clean break between church and state in education would benefit both sides as religion would be freely and more consciously chosen.

Until the current understanding of the “right to educate children in a manner that accords with their religious beliefs” is interpreted to refer only to parent-funded private schools, after-school religious doctrine or Sunday school, the discrimination looks like it is all on one side. – Is mise,


An Pháirc Thiar,


Co Chill Mhantáin.

Sir, – The problem for Stephen Marken (May 28th) is that to satisfy his wish to teach in an atheist environment he would deny the majority their wish to have their children educated in a religious environment.

In Britain, which is further down the post-Christian route than we are, many people elect to have their children educated in a faith school because, although they do not share the faith, they recognise that having a faith ethos has a strongly beneficial effect on the quality of the education. – Yours, etc,


Dublin Road,


A chara, – Sinn Féin’s young MEPs will effectively need to go against their party headquarters if they are to have any meaningful impact in the European Parliament. The party’s incoherence when it comes to EU policy is damning.

Party representatives argue that their EU policies are drafted on a “case-by-case basis”. That’s all well and good, if the party policy arising from a given case does not contradict that of another case.

In reality, Sinn Féin’s manifesto aims to “reduce the power of the Commission, ending its power of initiative”, while calling for a raft of policies – climate change action, promotion of LGTB rights, banking regulation, to name but a few – which only a strong European Commission could have any realistic hope of implementing at a pan-European level.

Being “Euro-critical” only works if a party’s critical policy strands are cohesive and coherent. This type of double-speak is neither. Sinn Féin’s rookie MEPs are in for a rude awakening. – Is mise,



An Muileann,

Oileán Chliara,

Co Mhaigh Eo.

Sir, – Presumably Labour will wish to elect a leader who might actually be a TD following the next election! – Yours, etc,


Marley Avenue,

Marley Grange,

Dublin 16.

Sir, – Tony Heffernan in his article on Labour’s revival tells us that under Dick Spring’s leadership it won a record number of seats in the 1992 general election (“Incoming leader will be vital to Labour’s revival”, Opinion & Analysis, May 27th). He fails to mention that was a direct result of Mr Spring’s promise not to go into coalition with Fianna Fáil, so Fine Gael voters gave his party their second preferences in large numbers. Mr Spring then proceeded after the election to renege on his pre election promise and went into coalition with Fianna Fáil, which resulted in Labour being mauled at the next election. Some of us still remember that betrayal. – Yours, etc,



Co Meath.

Sir, – I wonder how many people reading this are old enough to remember your former columnist Donal Foley and his satirical column “Man Bites Dog”? The title derived from the fact that a dog biting a man is not news while a man biting a dog would be. Your front-page headline yesterday  brought this immediately to mind, so spectacularly was it in the “dog bites man” category: “Burton signals support for Coalition”. I’m on the edge of my seat waiting for you to tell me the pope’s religion. – Yours, etc,


Evergreen Road,


Sir, – A major milestone has been achieved in the campaign for animal protection with the election to the European Parliament of a candidate standing for Holland’s Party for the Animals (PvdD). Seven animal protection parties from around Europe had come together to promote a change in our overall attitude to animals, whether domestic, wild, laboratory-raised, or farm livestock, and to seek Euro-parliamentary representation.

Among the alliance’s objectives is the abolition of so-called cultural and traditional practices that cause immense suffering to animals, such as bull fighting, hare coursing and fox hunting.

I hope the presence of a strong voice for animals in the Euro-parliament will hasten the end of these latter “sports” in particular, in addition to improving the lot of all animals in Europe and, ultimately, countries that trade with the EU. – Yours, etc,


Lower Coyne Street,

Callan, Co Kilkenny.

Sir, – After months of aggressive advertising in the guise of posters for upcoming “public meetings” (neatly sidestepping the rules on not putting up election posters too early), followed by actual election posters, vast in number, I am now subjected to the final insult from my newly elected local Fine Gael councillor. Instead of having the decency to take down immediately his multiple election posters, he has had them plastered with “Thank You” stickers and his grinning face still stares down at me daily. It might be a bit much to hope that our newly elected councillors might ban these eyesores altogether. We can only live in hope. – Yours, etc,


Temple Square,


Dublin 6.

Sir, – The findings that one in five young women and one in four young men are overweight or obese are of great concern (“Irish rank high among most overweight in Europe”, May 29th) and the fact that we have not reached the levels of our neighbours is of little consolation.

Our population needs to consume fewer calories and move more. A radical rethink is necessary and education-based strategies might include an afternoon for physical education in all schools, a ban on high-calorie drinks at school, and the mandatory teaching of basic cookery skills all the way through secondary level.

Councils and local authorities need to ensure the provision of adequate and accessible spaces and facilities where citizens can exercise. A tax break for gym membership may incentivise some young adults – the “bike to work” scheme has been regarded as a success in increasing cycling participation. The displaying of the calorific contents of food in some outlets is a positive – but this needs to be universal and more easily understood.

Left unchecked, obesity will lead to an increased disease burden in decades to come from diabetes and cardiovascular disease, with significant costs for the individual and society.

I would urge our Government to act. – Yours, etc,


Clane Road,


As he so often does, Mr Obama relied in his West Point speech on an army of helpless strawmen to make his argument for limiting the use of American power around the world. Contrary to his argument, however, few of the ever-growing number of critics of his foreign policy believe, as Mr Obama claimed, that “every problem has a military solution”, or “think military intervention is the only way for America to avoid looking weak”, or favour “invading every country that harbours terrorist networks”. This is sophistry in its purest form.

Unfortunately, we have too often witnessed what happens when the US declines to get involved in crises around the world. Genocide, barbaric attacks on the most helpless, growth of deadly terrorist networks, and wanton disregard of sovereign, territorial and human rights become the order of the day.

We should not expect many, if any, calls for intervention in world crises, no matter how compelling, during the remainder of Mr Obama’s term.

A muddled foreign policy has now given way to a politically expedient “Obama doctrine”.

It will be interesting to see if Hillary Clinton and many of the potential Republican presidential nominees divorce themselves from that doctrine in the months ahead. – Yours, etc,


Burford Drive,



Sir, – The Primary Online Database will help primary schools run more efficiently and provide the Department of Education with valuable statistical data. However, collecting too much information about children unnecessarily exposes them to risk.

Teachers certainly need to know which children will be making their First Communion. But it is harder to make the case for a centralised government database containing the ethnicity and religion of every child in the country.

The use of each child’s PPS number as the primary key compounds the risk, since this number will follow the child for a lifetime.

The labels we attach now to children may stay with them their whole lives. The value to the State of such data must be carefully weighed against the potential costs to the State’s most precious resource. – Yours, etc,


Lecturer in Computing,

Cork Institute

Sir, – I was a trifle bemused when reading your business section on the exploits of former American stockbroker Jordan Belfort (“‘Wolf of Wall Street’ on the prowl in Dublin”, Business, May 28th).

How naive of me to have thought that the infamous Gordon Gekko-type “greed is good” doctrine had been rightfully dispensed with. Was this kind of activity, after all, not a contributing factor that led to the global financial meltdown of 2008, from which we are all still painfully trying to recover? Here is one of those financial “wizards” who has been convicted of fraud, sentenced to jail, and ordered to repay $110 million to the investors he fleeced. And, not only has this kind of bustle been glamorised by Martin Scorsese in his latest film, but now we had the “Wolf” himself lecturing some 2,500 good business people here in the RDS on “entrepreneurship”. What’s next? The Bernie Madoff Business School? Plus ça change

Yours, etc,


Front Strand,

Sir, – Jennifer O’Connell writes that “children’s future happiness does not depend on whether their first babygro was made in a cottage in Tahiti using cotton spun from freshly harvested angels’ wings or came from Tesco’s value range” (“Babies don’t care how much you spend on them”, May 28th).

Our children’s future happiness is greatly dependant upon whether parents choose to think ethically about the goods they buy.

Our consumption choices now will create the economies of the future. And it is our ethical actions now that will inform both the actions of our children and the world that they inherit. – Yours, etc,


Synge Street,

Dublin 8.

Sir, – Focusing on the moral rights and wrongs of neutrality ignores what deserves to be the big issue – economics.

Subjected to a crippling Churchillian supply squeeze, the economic viability of Irish neutrality was only assured by bad tempered Irish-British barter deals, most notably the withholding of Guinness supplies to the UK in return for much-needed agricultural goods.

Irish neutrality may have been too highly principled, but it certainly wasn’t greedy. Due to geography and lack of natural resources, Ireland could not – and did not – reap the handsome economic benefits of neutrality like the other European neutrals (Spain, Switzerland, Sweden and Portugal) that all traded with Nazi Germany. – Yours, etc,


Liverpool Hope


Sir, – The goodwill created by Queen Elizabeth’s successful visit in 2011 will not necessarily be enhanced by over-eager repetition by her relatives, whatever the occasion.

Where will this all end? Will Puck Fair be inaugurated by the Duke of York? Will Princess Michael of Kent throw in the ball at this year’s All-Ireland hurling final?

We have enough to discuss and debate about the nature of the centenary commemoration of 1916 without adding what I believe to be an extraneous element. – Yours, etc,


Silchester Road,

Glenageary, Co Dublin.

Sir, – Might I suggest to John Bruton (“Ireland faces 10 more years of austerity budgets, says Bruton”, Home News, May 28th) that the biggest mistake you can make in politics is to preach financial probity to the masses, broken by years of austerity, while you are in receipt of a State pension of €138,000 for the rest of your life? – Yours, etc,


Dublin Road,


Co Louth.

Irish Independent:


Joan Burton

Letters to the Editor – Published 30 May 2014 02:30 AM

* Over 30 years ago a certain British prime minister, on assuming office, made it her priority to claim back a large amount of money for the British exchequer that she claimed Britain was owed by the then EEC.

Also in this section

EU institutions’ blatant disregard for democracy

Letters: Labour now has a chance to share a new vision

The poorest continue to suffer in our uneven society

At first, her demands were ignored – that was until she started going over to Brussels and creating a scene every time she sat at the table facing the Eurocrats.

She would hector, harangue, and handbag them into the wee small hours of the morning as they struggled to stay awake.

Finally, one morning the Eurocrats had had enough of her hectoring and threw in the towel and gave her back “her money” as she used call it.

Now, if the Labour Party should elect Joan Burton as its leader, I suggest that it should issue her with an armour-plated handbag and dispatch her to euroland right away and unleash her upon the bankers and eurocrats and allow her harangue and hector them until their ears hurt.

Maybe, just maybe, they might for once put up their hands and admit that Ireland has been severely mistreated and wronged on the bank debt issue and admit that it’s past time that this injustice was put right, because the Noonan/Gilmore ‘Mr Nice Guy act’ has had nil effect in relation to this critical issue.



We’ve fallen out of love with EU

* There has been a seismic shift against the EU in its current form. The naysayers warned against the creep of a German-dominated political upper class governance of nations which has arrived, peaked and is now in terminal decline.

Those who still follow the light from Angela’s smile are in that place where no political career should be – Unpopular Street, the street that leads to political oblivion.

The Labour Party is finished. And the Fine Gael party? How shall I put this? Fine Gael has a very simple view of how to keep its electorate onside. Blame Fianna Fail.

It seems that Enda has forgotten that he and his party, under his whipped leadership also voted for the bank guarantee; the people haven’t. So when Enda blames Fianna Fail he is also blaming himself.



Animals get a voice in Europe

* A major milestone has been achieved in the campaign for animal protection with the election to the European Parliament of a candidate standing for Holland’s Party for the Animals (PvdD). Seven animal protection parties from around Europe had come together to promote a change in our overall attitude to animals, whether domestic, wild, laboratory-raised or farm livestock, and to seek representation in the European Parliament.

Among the alliance’s objectives is the abolition of so-called cultural and traditional practices that cause immense suffering to animals, such as bull fighting, hare coursing, and fox hunting. Hopefully the presence of a strong voice for animals in the EU Parliament will hasten the end of these latter ‘sports’.

For too long bulls have been tortured by men in garish costumes who stab them with razor-sharp lances and plunge swords into them. Anyone who objects is told that this is a cherished ancient custom.

And here in Ireland the capture and terrorising of hares for coursing, for human entertainment, has also had the banner of “tradition” wrapped around it.

Fox hunting too has latched on to the fig leaf of “culture”, a label that softens its gory image despite the fact that it involves setting twenty or thirty hounds after one wild dog, all for an afternoon’s human recreation.

The rising strength of the animal protection lobby in Europe is heartening, but the election of a Party for the Animals candidate will surely signal a new phase in the campaign to end blood sports in the EU.



The fightback is only starting

* This week in the Irish Independent, the economist Jim Power said that he was concerned for the economy of the EU and of Ireland in response to the rise of the Left and Right in the recent EU elections and the popularity of Sinn Fein in our local elections. Mr Power may know his economics, but he seems to be a bit rusty on his history.

Anybody with a modicum of common sense could have foretold of the disenfranchisement of the squeezed middle in society when their government tries to screw them for every penny to mend the mistakes of those whose only allegiance is to the greedy dollar.

The Irish people may not be marchers, but are not stupid either. The whole of Europe could fall into dangerous political upheaval, as written about by George Orwell and witnessed by those who lived between 1933 and 1945. The powers that be should be aware that if you kick a dog often enough he will turn on you.



Europe must respect diversity

* This week Michael Noonan announced ‘new fiscal rules in Europe’ which must be obeyed!! Timing!!!!!! We already have Irish people financially crucified because EUROPE SAYS SO!! We have Irish human issues being decided BECAUSE EUROPE SAYS SO!! We have Irish people looking in at their bogs unable to cut a sod of turf BECAUSE EUROPE SAYS SO!

We have thousands of hectares of Irish land hijacked to protect a hen harrier bird BECAUSE EUROPE SAYS SO! We have etc… etc… etc… BECAUSE EUROPE SAYS SO – and this is just Ireland!

The UK has spoken – what has Europe been saying to them? France has spoken – what has Europe been saying to them? We have treasured national cultures across Europe being trodden on, ignored and offended.

Mr Europe, tread warily! Respect our diversity and our cultures, which have been thousands of years in the making, or your members will dismember you!!!!

People have spoken through the ballot box on a grand scale!!!



Gilmore displayed his calass

* Two very different human characteristics in their manner of departure: Alan with arrogance, Eamon with dignity.



High stakes for Labour Party

* Labour happily going for a Burton?



In for a rude awakening

* Having listened to all the debates during the past few weeks, it strikes me that the winners of this election are confident of offering a political haven without accountability.

Confidence tends to be the feeling one has before knowing the facts.



Ming is finally growing up

* As I watched Luck ‘Ming’ Flanagan celebrating his victory in the EU elections, wearing a well-tailored suit, I thought I was suffering from an hallucination.

Had the mushrooms I’d just eaten been of the magic variety? Hopefully when ‘Ming’ Flanagan attends the European parliament he will resist the adolescent desire for attention and dress with due respect for that institution.



Irish Independent


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