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

Comments2 Comments

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


May 29, 2014

29May2014 Settling

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 Prime ministerial broadcast Priceless

Mary’s home and ettling

Scrabbletoday, I win one game, and get over 400 perhaps Mary will win tomorrow


Maya Angelou – obituary

Maya Angelou was a black American author whose chronicle of her dirt-poor upbringing became a literary sensation

Maya Angelou speaking during a ceremony to honour Desmond Tutu in 2008

Maya Angelou speaking during a ceremony to honour Desmond Tutu in 2008 Photo: REUTERS

6:15PM BST 28 May 2014

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Maya Angelou, who has died aged 86, was a poet, playwright, film-maker, journalist, editor, lyricist, teacher, singer, dancer, black activist, professor and holder of some 50 honorary degrees; she was principally famous, however, for I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, a memoir of her dirt-poor upbringing in Arkansas.

When the book was published in 1969 it was a revelation. Narrated in the pulpit-influenced cadences of the black American South, it described a world completely alien to its mainly white, metropolitan readership.

It told how, after her parents divorced, Maya’s father sent her and her elder brother, Bailey, from their home in St Louis to live with their paternal grandmother in the small town of Stamps, Arkansas. Aged three and four, the two children arrived at the station wearing wrist tags reading: “To Whom It May Concern”.

Maya Angelou in 2002

During a brief return to St Louis to live with their mother, at the age of seven Maya was raped by her mother’s boyfriend. Soon after she had identified him as the rapist in court, he was murdered — kicked to death — by some of her uncles. For the next five years the young Maya became a voluntary mute, believing that her voice had killed him and that if she spoke again she might kill someone else.

Coaxed out of silence by a teacher who encouraged her love of reading with Dostoevsky, Shakespeare, Dickens, Poe and the Brontes, as well as black writers such as Paul Lawrence Dunbar and Langston Hughes, she eventually joined her mother in California, won a scholarship to study drama and dance, and at the age of 17 became an unmarried mother.

Freshly and vividly written, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings became the first non-fiction work by a black woman to make the US national bestseller lists. Other volumes of autobiography followed, charting Maya Angelou’s career as a waitress, brothel madam, prostitute, singer, bus conductress, actress and black activist; as a dancer in Paris; an editor in Egypt; and a journalist and university administrator in Ghana.

As a woman and as a black American who had surmounted oppression to live the American Dream, Maya Angelou became a symbol for the post-segregation era, and a celebrity on the lecture circuit who drew huge crowds wherever she went. Her name appeared on everything from bookends to pillows and mugs, and her rhymes on Hallmark greetings cards. In 1993 she was chosen by President Clinton to recite her poem On the Pulse of the Morning at his inauguration.

Maya Angelou reading a poem at Bill Clinton’s presidential inauguration

Yet nothing ever equalled her first book. As she became more and more famous, her memoirs became increasingly self-congratulatory in tone; and critics noted that she had adopted all the clichés of her friend Oprah Winfrey’s aspirational narrative of “healing” and “empowerment”. The “diva”, one reviewer observed, had “come to believe her own hype”.

She was born Marguerite Ann Johnson (Maya was her brother Bailey’s diminutive) in St Louis, Missouri, on April 4 1928. Her father was a doorman and US Navy dietitian, her mother a nurse and card dealer.

After living with their grandmother in Arkansas, Maya and her brother returned to live, in Oakland, California, with their mother, a tiny, forthright woman with a colourful turn of phrase (“I’d rather be bitten on the rear by a snaggle-toothed mule than take that shit” was one of her sayings). During the Second World War, Maya attended George Washington High School in Oakland and studied dance and drama at the California Labor School. Before leaving school, she worked as the first black female streetcar conductor in San Francisco.

Her son Guy, born in California when she was 17, was the result of her first sexual experiment, prompted by a desire to clarify her sexuality after she had convinced herself, from reading The Well of Loneliness, that she was becoming a lesbian. Her second book of memoirs, Gather Together in My Name (1974), described her life as an unemployed single mother in California, embarking on brief affairs and transient jobs, before she descended into poverty and the fringes of crime and prostitution.

In Singin’ and Swingin’ and Gettin’ Merry Like Christmas (1976) she described her brief marriage to “Tosh” (Enistasious Angelos), a jazz-loving white man of Greek descent. After the marriage ended in 1954 she continued to dance and sing calypso professionally, touring in Porgy and Bess and changing her stage name from Marguerite Johnson to Maya Angelou. In 1957 she recorded an album, Miss Calypso, and appeared in an off-Broadway revue that inspired the film Calypso Heat Wave (1957), in which she sang and performed her own compositions.

Maya Angelou in a 1957 portrait taken for the Caribbean Calypso Festival

In 1959 Maya Angelou met the novelist James Killens, who suggested she move to New York to concentrate on her writing career. In The Heart of a Woman (1981) she described her immersion in the Harlem world of black writers and artists, and her work with Martin Luther King (she and Killens organised the Cabaret for Freedom in aid of his Southern Christian Leadership Conference). She also described her relationship with the South African rights activist Vusumzi Make — a man, by her account, of unlimited sex appeal who tried, but failed, to possess her, body and soul, and with whom she moved to Cairo, where she became the associate editor of the English-language Arab Observer.

All God’s Children Need Traveling Shoes (1986) charted her three-year stay in Accra, Ghana, after the break-up of her relationship with Make. She was an administrator at the University of Ghana, and was active in the African-American expatriate community, becoming a features editor for The African Review and a freelance writer, broadcaster and actress.

In A Song Flung Up to Heaven (2002), the sixth episode of the Angelou saga, she recounted her return to America; her attempts to help Malcolm X build a new civil rights organisation, the Organisation of Afro-American Unity ; her devastation after his assassination; her return to life as a nightclub chanteuse in Hawaii; and her decision to write her first memoir.

Maya Angelou’s account of her time in Hawaii contains a passage which, to one reviewer, seemed to epitomise all that had gone wrong between the publication of her first and last books.

Worried about dwindling audiences at the nightclub, she decides, for her swansong performance, not to sing, but to dance: “I asked for the music, then invited it to enter my body and find the broken and sore places and restore them. That it would blow through my mind and dispel the fogs… I danced for the African I had loved and lost in Africa. I danced for bad judgments and good fortune. For moonlight lying like rich white silk on the sand before the great pyramids in Egypt and for the sound on ceremonial fontonfrom drums waking the morning air in Takoradi…. The dance was over, and the audience was standing and applauding.”

“With relief, perhaps?” suggested the reviewer.

But by this time Maya Angelou had become such an institution she could afford not to be bothered by jibes, often quoting a Ghanaian saying: “An elephant is rarely seriously bothered by a flea” .

She also wrote five books of essays and several collections of poetry, one of which — Just Give Me a Cool Drink of Water ’Fore I Diiie — was nominated for a Pulitzer. Like her prose, her poetry ranged from the vivid and original to a sort of black American version of Pam Ayres .

Maya Angelou’s 1972 screenplay, Georgia, Georgia, was the first original script by a black woman to be produced, and she also published two cookery books. In 1977 she appeared in a supporting role as Kunta Kinte’s grandmother in the television miniseries of Alex Haley’s Roots.

Maya Angelou embraced some unpredictable political standpoints over the years. There was surprise when, in 1995 she spoke at the “Million Man March”, supporting Louis Farrakhan, whom she had previously branded as “dangerous”. In 2008 she backed Hillary Clinton over Barack Obama — who in 2010 presented Maya Angelou with the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

From 1991 she taught at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, where she held the first lifetime Reynolds Professorship of American Studies. Until she was well into her eighties she made around 80 appearances a year on the lecture circuit. Mom & Me & Mom, an overview of her life, was published last year.

Maya Angelou never clarified the number of times she had been married, “for fear of sounding frivolous”, although it was at least twice. One of her essays told of the end of her marriage, in 1973, to Paul du Feu, “a builder from London, a graduate of the London School of Economics, the first near-nude centrefold for Cosmopolitan magazine, formerly husband of Germaine Greer”.

Maya Angelou is survived by her son.

Maya Angelou, born April 4 1928, died May 28 2014


As health professionals we are alarmed, dismayed and disappointed by the latest evidence, contained in a new report by Save the Children that 5 million children in the UK could be living in poverty by 2020 (Report, 28 May). The rising statistics and research bear out what we are seeing on a day to day basis: more children with symptoms which are clearly linked to lower standards of living, such as asthma, bronchitis and anxiety-related illnesses. Unfortunately, we are hearing from more parents describing their living conditions as damp and cold, which could be why we are seeing more children developing long-term respiratory problems. The research also shows more families forced to buy the cheapest food possible, regardless of its nutritional content, reinforcing the increased likelihood of diabetes and obesity in poorer children.

The impact of poverty on children’s health and wellbeing cannot be underestimated. Low income can lead to poor health, while coping with illness can result in a lower earning capacity – perpetuating a cycle of deprivation. And we know that many of the causes of child death – including perinatal deaths and suicides – disproportionally affect the most disadvantaged in society. We simply cannot ignore these warnings. We must act now and put children at the very heart of any strategy to tackle poverty and health inequalities.
Michael Marmot, Dr Hilary Cass President, Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, Dr Mark Porter Chair, British Medical Association

• In a breathless three-page article (Politics or technology, Review, 24 May) David Runciman asks rhetorically: When did a government last create anything as beneficial for the public welfare as Wikipedia? I would suggest 1948, and the NHS. Or, he wonders, when did a bureaucracy ever invent anything as life-enhancing as Google? How about a cradle-to-grave welfare state? Runciman’s frothiness regularly collapses under closer inspection. “We all would like laws made to suit us,” he says: no, some of us would like laws that deliver social justice. Perhaps the most ridiculous of all: “It is a sign of broad satisfaction with the political system that most people don’t want to have anything to do with politics”. And so Runciman perpetuates the delusional view of the existing elites. What a lot of pernicious tosh.
Professor Huw Davies
Newport on Tay, Fife

We are writing on behalf of parents, staff and the local community to protest against the proposed academisation of Cavell primary and nursery school in Norwich. The interim executive board which made the request for academy status has not properly consulted us and do not speak for us. Cavell is no longer in special measures and is already improving rapidly as a community school. The justification for academies and free schools has always been localism, freedom from political interference and parental choice. We choose to retain our school’s links with the local community and assert our democratic right to have a say in the way in which it is run. We therefore call on Michael Gove to withdraw the academy order for our school, remove the IEB, restore a proper governing body and allow the school leadership and staff to get on with teaching our children free from this unnecessary distraction.
Bishop Peter Fox Vicar, St John the Baptist, Old Lakenham
Mike Smith Norfolk NUT division secretary
Nick O’Brien Norfolk NUT, on behalf of members at Cavell
Chris Herries Labour and Co-operative city councillor for Lakenham
Clive Lewis Labour prospective parliamentary candidate
Lucy De Osma Parent of two children at Cavell
Tina Boulter Parent of two children at Cavell
David and Rachel Ward Parents of two children at Cavell
Nick Mellish
Angela Pearce


As a retired chief constable from the 1980s I can understand Martin Kettle’s comments about the Thatcher years (Theresa May has ripped up the Tory pact with the police, 22 May). This period should be judged, however, with an understanding of the criticism the police faced for failing to uphold the law at the Saltley Coke Works in Birmingham in the 70s. The then chief constable ordered the closure of the gates at Saltley in the face of concerted union action as he believed this was in the best interests of public order. He was roundly condemned for giving in to the miners and this left an indelible mark on police leadership at the time.

In common with other commentators Martin Kettle claims that successive home secretaries were in fear of the Police Federation, but the evidence for this is more apocryphal than real. The federation is fully entitled to protect the interests of its members and in my experience has usually done so responsibly. It has taken the initiative in dealing with current problems and should be given credit for this, not harangued and threatened.

The catalogue of failings referred to by the home secretary deserve much closer scrutiny. The final verdict on some has yet to be delivered, some are acts of misconduct that have been severely dealt with under the discipline procedures, and others are the result of individual errors of judgment. This is not to minimise the seriousness of the failures but to recognise that all individuals make mistakes, be they military personnel, doctors, lawyers, politicians or government ministers. This fact of human behaviour does not justify the condemnation of the whole organisation in the way the police service is currently being treated.

As with all enterprises reform is essential to progress, but a vengeful, vindictive lecture will be counterproductive and hinder reform. The sense of injustice only leads to the closing of ranks and this sadly is what will follow.
Bob Cozens
Hindhead, Surrey

• Can somebody please tell me what was so “brave” and “courageous” about Theresa May‘s speech at the Police Federation conference? What was the worst that could have happened to the “fearless” home secretary? Booing, heckling, slow handclapping – all of which should be meat and drink to any politician be they a local councillor, MP or cabinet minister. She was in no danger of being shot at, spat at, punched, kicked, stabbed, petrol bombed or of being terrified that the mob she was facing would literally kill her if they were given the chance, unlike those officers whom she took such a great delight in “handbagging”.

While criticism of the Police Federation may have been justified, she went on to humiliate the police service by listing every publicised transgression from Hillsborough to Plebgate, despite the fact that some are the subject of ongoing judicial proceedings or investigations. She omitted, however, the fact that out of 132,000 serving officers, and a similar number of those such as myself who have retired, the total number of errant officers may not even reach three figures.

How duplicitous is it of Theresa May when she refers in sections of her speech to the “fall in crime” to then, among the list of police transgressions, speak of “allegations of rigged crime statistics”. It is of course these “rigged” figures together with the hopelessly flawed England and Wales crime survey that provide her with those very same “improved” crime statistics of which she so frequently boasts.

Her criticism of the police deflects attention from other failings in the Home Office such as the chaos that still reigns at our borders. Her creation of the UK Border Force is a shambles, with class A drug seizures at airports down by a staggering 76%. Little wonder perhaps that UK drinking water is contaminated with traces of cocaine.

Border Force officials who are former customs officers are still complaining that the green and red channels are frequently deserted to cover passport controls, and even at these controls officers are being told to permit entry to passengers they are unhappy with due to the priority given by managers to avoiding queues.

Theresa May’s intimidatory warnings to the federation are clearly a concerted attempt to ensure that it will be compliant in future. This might be in response to a recent decision by the European committee of social rights. Its adjudication that the Irish equivalent of the federation has the right to strike is one that has been sought by the majority of UK police officers for many years but resisted by the Police Federation. Now, thanks to Theresa May, and confirmed by independent surveys, police morale is on the floor and the genie of police resentment might not remain in the bottle for long.
Chris Hobbs
(Retired ex-Met), London

Timothy Garton Ash is right to say (Comment, 27 May) these elections may well be dubbed “the wake-up call from which Europe failed to wake up”. The EU was founded to bind Europe together, to make future European wars unthinkable and to foster working together for our common benefit. Instead, the imposition of the euro has raised the threat of civil war both within and between states.

The first measure is to recognise that monetary union was a gross mistake. All states should be allowed to resurrect their national currencies, to allow them to float to a sustainable level. Secondly, we must recognise that the unregulated free-market economy is incompatible with democracy. The banks and international corporations have assumed the running of states worldwide, while demoting governments to the status of their well-rewarded lackeys. The full answer cannot lie within Europe alone, but with so many of the world’s leading thinkers, there is little hope for anyone, unless we set an example. Some leading economists are already advocating for these changes, for instance Larry Elliott (Report, 19 May), where he strongly supports abolishing austerity and the euro.
Dr John Mackrell

• Larry Elliott says politicians should devise measures which make capitalism meet the needs of the people rather than vice-versa. The coverage of collective bargaining and trade union numbers declined markedly in the two decades following the advent of Thatcher in 1979. Since then the extent of collective bargaining and union membership has stabilised but the UK Labour Force Survey shows that in 2012 only 29% of employees were covered by collective bargaining. This compares unfavourably with Germany, where figures from the government-backed research body IAB indicate that 59% of German workers are covered by trade union negotiations. UK research reveals those unionised enjoy better pay and conditions than the unorganised majority. A significant measure would be to effectively legislate to extend the reach of collective bargaining and encourage union membership.
Michael Somerton

• The usually percipient Martin Kettle (Britain joins anti-Europe tune played across the continent, 26 May) doesn’t seem to get it. This was not a battle about “more Europe” versus “reformed Europe”. Indeed, it wasn’t really about Europe as such at all. It was about an utter rejection of what Europe under the dead hand of Angela Merkel and her neoclassical economic model is now seen to stand for and be wholly identified with: unrelenting austerity. That explains why the same call is being made both from the radical left (Syriza in Greece) and the far right (FN in France) – both of which topped their country polls with 27% – that the deadweight of EU economic policy that has plunged large parts of Europe into near-destitution and spawned the eurozone crisis, which is far from over, must be abandoned.

It is staggering that the real cause of public frustration and anger received such little attention in these elections. The people who deserted to Ukip in their droves were older white working-class voters pig-sick of being told, by both main parties, that whoever wins the next election there will be another four to five years of austerity and continued cuts in their living standards. Growth and job creation are the manifestly obvious alternatives which cry out to be implemented, since four years of austerity have reduced the budget deficit by a miserly £10bn, still leaving a black hole in the national accounts of £108bn. Yet 2% growth would reduce it by £30bn in just one year. Of course, the Tories will talk up their own so-called “recovery”, but it has no legs when wages, productivity, business investment and net exports still remain dramatically negative – ie this current recovery is not sustainable.

David Cameron is likely to end up endorsing Jean-Claude Juncker (five more years of the same) to be the next EU commission president. Labour now has the perfect opportunity to break out of the austerity straitjacket and present a winning growth and jobs ticket for the general election.
Michael Meacher MP
Labour, Oldham West and Royton

• On Tuesday’s Today programme, Ken Clarke made a passing reference to continuing discussions in Brussels about the transatlantic trade and investment partnership (TTIP). Although this deal surfaces occasionally in the press, very little attention is paid to its restrictive, anti-democratic nature. Its underlying purpose appears to be the removal of as many restrictions as possible on global corporations by undermining the rights of national governments to manage their economic and social sectors as they think appropriate – control of banking, transport, health and other vital national interests will be dangerously undermined by this deal. Outcry is necessary.
Nigel Trow
Portskewett, Monmouthshire

SNCF regiolis regional express train

Left hand drive? The new Regiolis TER. Photograph: Francois Guillot/AFP/Getty Images

With apologists for Putin’s Russia keen to remind us of the Soviet sacrifice during the second world war (Letters, 27 May), it’s as well to remember that the Soviets made that war possible through their pact with Hitler, they too invaded Poland in 1939, they squandered soldiers by the thousand using tactics that would have horrified Haig, and they remained a murderous tyranny throughout. To seek to whitewash that record is “criminal idiocy” indeed.
John Pritchard

• I did try to share the enthusiasm for graphene (The black powder with a bright future, 26 May) but what is a “wonder material” now will be finished with one day. Is as much thought being put into what sort of waste it will make as what uses it can be put to? I seem to remember similar claims were made for asbestos back in the day.
Peter Clement
Ashby-de-la-Zouch, Leicestershire

• Graphene painted on to aircraft will not eliminate lighting strikes as you say. However, it may reduce the risk of damage to composite components by conducting the charge away as in all-metal aircraft.
Ron Davidson
Lutterworth, Leicestershire

• Surely, the main problem with David Gerrard’s idea for swapping with the too wide French trains (Letters, 24 May) is that they would all be left-hand drive, wouldn’t they?
Julian Boyce

• Assuming she hasn’t already done so, Marina O’Loughlin (Sweet dreams, G2, 26 May) should travel west from her Broadstairs home to that epitome of the English seaside town, Eastbourne. There she’ll find the ambiance she seeks in Fusciardis ice cream parlour (Marine Parade) or Favo’Loso (Carlisle Road).
Nigel Linford
Eastbourne, East Sussex

• Am I alone, when the first few pages of reports of prejudice, abuse and depression get too much, in turning to your Country diary for the consolations of nature’s changing unchangeability that Paul Evans, Tony Greenbank et al so poignantly evoke?
Steve Till
Alton, Hampshire

David Cameron receiving the King Abdullah decoration one from King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia in 2012. Photograph: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire

Princesses Sahar and Jawaher, daughters of King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, have been denied access to food for more than 60 days and have limited access to water. The two sisters have been held under house arrest in Jeddah for more than 10 years by their father, as they are out of favour. No one is allowed in or out of their compound. Their sisters Maha and Hala are also imprisoned in separate complexes nearby.

Sahar and Jawaher’s conditions have become increasingly desperate since they spoke out about their imprisonment in the international media. Their mother lives in London and is asking for our help.

I have raised the case with the foreign secretary, William Hague, as well as with David Cameron at prime minister’s questions and in correspondence. While the prime minister expressed his concern about the princesses’ case and said he would look into it further, both he and the Foreign Office have subsequently indicated that they are not prepared make representations to the Saudi authorities.

This lack of action contrasts very sharply with human rights cases I have raised in Iran and elsewhere, suggesting that the UK government has a double standard when it comes to Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia has an appalling record on human rights and a legal guardianship system which severely discriminates against women and girls. The government has a strong relationship with the Saudi royal family and it is possible that a positive intervention on their part could lead to an improvement in the princesses’ conditions.

This is no time for the government to drag its feet, Sahar and Jawaher cannot survive without food indefinitely.
Katy Clark MP
Labour, North Ayrshire and Arran


I object to the Government’s stealth approach in forcing all citizens to communicate online with government departments, such as those dealing with tax and pensions. This is a de facto disenfranchisement.

The claims of cost savings are spurious because a government employee has to deal with the matter however it is received, and the cost of doing so has been loaded on to the citizen, whereas previously it was met from general taxation. The Government is also complicit in allowing banks and utilities to force their customers to go online.

Your article (27 May), regarding a report from the Policy Exchange think-tank, is extremely worrying. They are trying to justify this policy with a smokescreen of saving the over-65s from loneliness by giving them access to social websites.

I am not a Luddite, having been enthusiastically involved with computers for 35 years and online for 30 years, before the internet was available. I am fully aware of the benefits it can offer, and also the risks and the expense. The web has been deeply infiltrated by the criminal fraternity out to scam the unwary, and exposing the older generation to this danger is reckless.

This whole issue needs to be brought to the attention of the public in general and MPs in particular, so that we can make informed decisions about the appropriate use of technology. In the meantime, the written letter must remain the default method of communication, without prejudice or penalty.

Gavin O’Brien, Harrow, Middlesex

I couldn’t agree more with Robert Fisk’s article “Our addiction to the internet is as harmful as any drug” (26 May). When I look at other newspapers online, I am disgusted by the poison in some of the readers’ comments that bear no relationship to the article or are just venom directed at the writer. I no longer bother to look at them.

Fisk quotes a student asking for “good websites on the Middle East”. I keep on mentioning to students here in Oxford, look at the book, the journal. Browsing through a journal, one often finds something more important than going to the article online.

I use computers, but give me a book any time, or a journal. At least one doesn’t come across the sick people who feel the need to denigrate anything they can.

Theo Dunnet, Oxford


Why London shunned Ukip

Local government and European elections are seen as frivolous. People don’t see much need to vote at all and none to vote “responsibly”.

In urban areas, where there are lots of immigrants who obviously can’t be blamed for the problems they share with their indigenous neighbours, this takes the form of anti-racist protest voting. Here in our Labour-dominated London Borough of Hackney the Greens polled second highest. In suburban and rural areas where immigrants don’t feature, except as fantasy bogeymen, it takes the form of voting Ukip.

It is frivolous to base on these results projections about parliamentary elections that people take rather more seriously.

Mary Pimm , Nik Wood, London E9

It is claimed that London voters showed relatively little support for Ukip because they are better educated than the voters in areas where Ukip did well. The real reason Ukip did poorly in London is that, based on ethnic background and culture, London is already a foreign country.

It is only to be expected that almost all of the immigrants and descendants of recent immigrants that make up the majority of the population of London would shun a party whose principal appeal to the natives is based on anti-immigrant rhetoric.

Roger Chapman, Keighley, West Yorkshire

When will Nigel Farage announce what must be a key element of Ukip’s immigration policy: British footballers for British teams? After all, immigrants must be the largest proportion of those employed in the Premiership and probably have more adverse impact on employment of British workers than in any other employment sector.

Of course, being anti-Europe as well as anti-immigration, Ukip will have to remove British teams from the Champions and Europa Leagues. Then we will be back in the 1950s, where Ukip and its supporters want us to be.

Michael Serginson, Milton Keynes

The books Gove doesn’t like

There is an important debate to be had about the literature chosen by exam boards for our young people to study for examinations (“Gove attacked over loss of American GCSE books”, 26 May). However I suggest there is another more important debate.

It is: should a politician have any say in the content of syllabuses in our schools? Michael Gove is an intelligent and passionate man but does he lack wisdom? He dislikes some literature and believes his choices to be those that young people should study. What would Mr Gove’s response be were the next secretary of state for education to suggest that all students should study literature of an entirely different kind?

For most of the lifetime of compulsory schooling in the UK, politicians deliberately kept the curriculum at arm’s length. This only began to change in the 1980s. We need to be concerned about political ideology creeping into our schooling system. How long before there is political control of the science and history curricula, as in some states of the US and in Japan?

Education and the school curriculum are far too important to be controlled by a powerful few.

Patrick Wood, Hong Kong

Having recently picked up this book and been transported by a tale which, despite taking place many decades ago, has captivated my inner bookworm, I feel somewhat angered by Michael Gove’s plans to get rid of To Kill a Mockingbird from the English GCSE syllabus.

If it wasn’t that To Kill a Mockingbird was written by an American – the critically acclaimed Alabamian Harper Lee – we wouldn’t be at risk of losing such a wonderful book which holds a deep meaning in my heart. Not only has the book opened our eyes to a time when racism was rife, but to read a tale from the eyes of a young child is endearing and is worthy of being taught at GCSE.

As said by one of the main characters in the book: “Shoot all the bluejays you want, if you can hit ’em, but it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.” I deeply hope that Mr Gove realises the severity of his plans, which should never have been proposed at all.

Chloe Brewster (aged 15), Caythorpe, Lincolnshire

If John Steinbeck’s most famous book is to be removed from the school syllabus, perhaps it could be replaced by the much lesser-known book describing the activities of pottery makers in the Dresden area, Of Meissen Men?

Nick Pritchard, Southampton

No wonder girls are put off sport

It comes as no surprise to learn that 36 per cent of girls believe exercise is socially unacceptable, when papers such as your own consistently fail to report women’s sport.

Just last week at school we analysed media coverage of sport in one broadsheet newspaper and found that of 228 articles over nine days only four covered women’s sport. The BBC sport webpage revealed a similar lack of role models – just 4 per cent of articles over the same period related to women’s sport.

Might I suggest that an antidote to girls’ lack of enthusiasm for exercise would be greater media coverage and a longer day in state schools so that there is more time available for a range of different sports.

Jane Gandee, Headmistress, St Swithun’s School, Winchester

Clegg has done a great job

Thank you for your editorial about Nick Clegg (28 May). In the face of adversity I am becoming more passionately Liberal Democrat.

When extremism raises its ugly head – right-wing at the moment but left-wing can be nearly as bad – the ability to co-operate and compromise in the search for a middle way becomes ever more precious. The Deputy Prime Minister has done a great job and shown that some politicians can act in a mature way.

Ruth Skrine, Bath

Nice country, shame about the regime

I am sure that Tam Dalyell (24 May) is right about the beauty of Iran and the friendliness of its people, but I am not tempted to book a holiday there just yet.

It now has the world’s highest rate of executions (113 hangings in the last month) and the “moderate” President has appointed as his minister for justice someone responsible for the deaths of over 30,000 political dissidents.

Carolyn Beckingham, Lewes, East Sussex


News Group Newspapers Ltd

Published at 12:01AM, May 29 2014

The main beneficiaries of immigration seem to be the immigrants themselves

Sir, The article by John Hutton and Alan Milburn (“Stop Kowtowing to Ukip — immigration works”, May 27) was striking for its exaggeration of the economic benefits of immigration.

In judging the pros and cons of immigration what matters is not as they argue GDP but GDP per head. Immigration may enlarge the economy by having more people but that does not benefit the existing population unless it increases living standards per head.

An inquiry held in 2008 by the House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee (of which I was a member) found no evidence for the contention that immigration generates significant economic benefit for the existing population. Studies in the US, Australia and the Netherlands have come to similar conclusions. In Britain the government’s Migration Advisory Committee has pointed out that most of any benefit goes to immigrants themselves.

As for the fiscal impact, the study Hutton and Milburn referred to actually found that all immigrants between 1995 and 2011 cost the Exchequer £95 billion.

Hutton and Milburn argue that migrants are a “bulwark against an ageing population”, but as our report pointed out immigrants also grow old and trying to deal with that phenomenon through yet further immigration would require ever escalating levels of immigration.

Of course some immigration brings benefits of skills, energy
and entrepreneurship but the dislocation to British workers caused by the arrival of very large numbers of migrant workers has been largely ignored.

Furthermore, the UK-born employment rate is lower than it was ten years ago while, over the same period, employment rates and levels for those born outside the UK have increased substantially.

What cannot be denied is the massive impact of immigration on the size of our population. If we allow it to continue at the average of the past ten years we will add ten million to the UK population in the next 20 years with at least 60 per cent of the increase due to immigration. Practically nobody wants to see this. Our economy may be larger because there is a larger population but how does the individual benefit from that?

I am entirely in favour of an open economy such as we have enjoyed for decades, but that does not require massive levels of immigration. Globalisation did not begin in 1998 but mass immigration did. Net migration shot up to five times its previous level. Vague generalities about the need for “managed” migration will hardly be convincing from those who stood by while net foreign migration reached nearly four million on their watch. “Managed migration” is, in any case, a meaningless term without any reference to scale.

To dismiss genuine and justified concerns as “myths and fears” is simply to play into the hands of extremists. It is not a more stringent immigration policy which would have “serious consequences for the wellbeing of our economy and society”, as they claim. On the contrary, it is failure to respond to the clear and consistent wishes of three quarters of our population that would indeed have such consequences.

Lord Lamont of Lerwick

House of Lords

The British have individual pension pots. The Dutch have collective pots – and much bigger pensions.

Sir, Other European countries encourage private pension systems which are far more efficient than those in the UK. If a typical Briton and a typical Dutch person save the same amount, have the same life expectancy and retire on the same day; the Dutch saver will get up to a 50 per cent higher pension than the Briton.

The coming Queen’s speech is an opportunity to change this by legislating for “target pensions” (also known as “collective pension”s) in the UK, pensions which for many, can offer better outcomes through their design and structure.

Markets don’t work if regulation stops them from doing so. So, although collective pensions are at the heart of the best pension systems in the world, it is illegal to set up a collective pension in the UK unless it is backed by an employer promise. Since employers are unwilling to give such a promise, we have regulated one of the best forms of pension out of existence. We now call on the government to change this, and to provide pension savers in the UK with a choice to have access to collective defined contributions, within a safe regulatory framework, such as that which exists in the Netherlands.

Such a policy would have the support of various employer and employee bodies in the UK and has wide political support. It is time to stop the British pension saver being the “poor man” of Europe.

David Pitt-Watson (Royal Society of Arts), Sir John Banham (ex-Confederation of Business and Industry), Nigel Stanley (TUC),

Barry Parr (Association of Member Nominated Trustees), Lindsay Thomas (ex- FSA), Kevin Wesbroom (Aon Hewitt); Con Keating (Brighton Rock Group), Henry Tapper (Pension PlayPen), Derek Benstead (actuary), Imogen Parker (Institute for Public Policy Research), Dr Hari Mann (CASS Business School)

A bit of bishbosh about who invented ice hockey looks like it will end in favour of Canada

Sir, The latest claim that the English “invented” yet another winter sport really takes the cake (doubtless another English invention). Ice hockey originated in Nova Scotia decades before Charles Darwin and his mates could be seen on some pond near present-day Heathrow leaning on their sticks to keep them from falling over. In fact, as early as 1800 near Halifax, Nova Scotia, the field game of hurley was played on ice and became known as ice hurley. Full credit to Darwin, however, for correctly identifying the evolutionary link.

Sandy Shandro

London SW19

Commercial imperatives collide with the awkward fact that more planes means more noise torment for more people

Sir, Richard Hoyle (letter, May 27) makes a valid point about aircraft noise pollution from regional airports. At least he knows that the jets above his house contain more than a handful of passengers.

In the sleepy conservation area of Crondall in Hampshire we are awaiting the verdict of the CAA on Farnborough airport’s grab for “class D airspace”, which will mean that 80 per cent of departing aircraft will pass directly over our village.

It would not be as bad if the council allowed us all to install double glazing but in many cases this is forbidden due to the conservation area and the age of the houses.

Matt Roberts

Crondall, Hants

Sir, Over the past nine months I have tried to get answers about the increasing aircraft noise generated by Leeds Bradford airport.

The airport management has no interest in environmental impact and relies on the planning restrictions set by Leeds council in 1994. Any communication is met by the standard response that they comply with the regulations — but there was a lot less air traffic in 1994 and so regulations that were appropriate then may not be now.

The airport consultative committee equally appears little interested in noise.

The problem for an individual is that parliament has consistently allowed aircraft noise to be exempt as a statutory nuisance. It is possible to complain about noisy neighbours, dogs, music etc. UK airport locations are a historic accident. Boris Johnson has the vision to see that airports need to be as far away from high-density urban areas as possible.

Leeds Bradford is a good example of being in the wrong place with poor transport links and surrounded by housing.

John Lomas

Bingley, W Yorks

Sir, It would be very interesting to know how the 6 per cent cited by the chief executive of Heathrow made their disapproval of the expansion plans known (letter, May 26). We received a form inviting us to give our views but the questions were not designed to make this possible. There was no option to make any negative comments. So we, probably along with a majority of local residents, did not complete the survey.

Susan Sharkey

Isleworth, Middx

Be cautious about malaria – the drugs must be up to date, and the disease can incubate for up to a year

Sir, Many years ago I contracted malaria while in Kenya, despite taking the two recommended prophylactics. However, the symptoms manifested themselves only nine months later, after I had returned to England. I was surprised at the lengthy incubation, but the Hospital for Tropical Diseases in London said incubation for malaria could last more than a year.

Dr Sir Christopher Lever

Winkfield, Berks


SIR – Your report describes the incidence of mental health problems affecting British service personnel who have served in Iraq or Afghanistan as a “bomb waiting to explode”.

Our team at King’s College London has spent the past 10 years following up a large random sample of service personnel both during and after their military service. We find that the rates of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) have been constant throughout this period – running at around 3 to 4 per cent in all military personnel, and around 6 to 7 per cent in reservists and those who have been in combat.

There is little doubt that there has been a recent increase in the numbers presenting to both the military mental health services and the service charities. The most likely explanation, backed up by evidence from the charity Combat Stress, is that personnel are now more willing to come forward, and are doing so far sooner than in the past.

If this is confirmed, it is a welcome development. It is not complacent to argue that the great majority of those who serve in the Armed Forces do well when they leave; rather it is right to challenge myths that presume the contrary, and to ensure that scarce resources are targeted at the minority of those who suffer ill health as a result of their service.

Professor Christopher Dandeker
Professor Neil Greenberg
Professor Sir Simon Wessely
King’s Centre for Military Health Research, King’s College London

Wine investment should be left to the super-rich

SIR – Your May 20 report will no doubt prompt more people to consider wine as an investment.

As a country wine merchant, I am frequently asked about wine investment. Almost invariably I advise against it. First, it’s not a level playing field. Very wealthy people have access to the finest “investment grade” wines in top vintages, and will pay less than you do. Secondly, the costs of storage, insurance and selling commission can be considerable. Thirdly, the fine wine market has witnessed an arguably one-off upsurge in prices since 2000, in part based on the entry of Chinese buying, but also on account of the search for alternative investments since the financial crisis of 2008. Fourthly, the Bordeaux chateaux upped their prices dramatically for the 2009 and 2010 vintages, thereby hugely raising the bar for entry.

Finally, far too much fine wine over the past decade has been bought for investment alone.

Simon Taylor Stone
Stockbridge, Hampshire

SIR – Today is Tax Freedom Day – the first day of the year when Britons stop paying for the state and start working for themselves. It fell on May 30 last year, so the Chancellor should be congratulated for liberating taxpayers two days earlier in 2014. However, there is more to be done.

Britain’s 17,000-page tax code is incomprehensible to virtually everyone. The Government must make the tax system transparent and understandable by radically simplifying the tax code. It must reduce the tax burden on workers by cutting unnecessary spending and using the savings to reduce the size of the state.

It is high time ordinary people saw the rewards of hard work going into their pockets, not the taxman’s.

Dr Eamonn Butler
Director, The Adam Smith Institute
Jonathan Isaby
Chief Executive, The Taxpayers’ Alliance
London SW1

Empty promise

SIR – When asking my mother what was for dinner (Letters, May 26), she would reply: “Air pie with the crust off”.

Shelagh Parry
Farnham, Surrey

SIR – Who said that pies had to use pastry? Everyone knows that mashed potato on top of mince is a cottage or shepherd’s pie.

Dave Alsop
Churchdown, Gloucestershire

GPs under pressure

SIR – My son is a GP in his mid-thirties. Normally he works non-stop from arriving at the surgery at 7.30am until he leaves, very tired, at about 7pm. His practice has increased its number of doctors, but demand from patients still exceeds the hours they can provide. He feels bad when patients complain that they have long waits to see him. He desperately wants a solution.

Cath Byrne
West Kirby, Cheshire

SIR – I must confess to being baffled by the tales of people having to wait for days or weeks to see their GP (Letters, May 24).

In recent weeks, I have twice had to arrange GP appointments for my mother, once with my surgery when she was visiting me, and once with her surgery. In both cases she was seen on the same day. Obviously there will be variations between practices, but which examples are typical?

David Muir
Stoke Gifford, Gloucestershire

Pride in peacocks

SIR – We also live in White Colne but have not been “plagued” by “rogue” peacocks (Letters, May 24). The three that visit our garden and roost close to our bedroom window are very friendly. Admittedly, they do tend to chat among themselves in the early hours, but it is a small price to pay for the company of such beautiful creatures.

R S Skinner
White Colne, Essex

Taking to the polls in the European election: a voting booth in Bucharest, Romania  Photo: EPA

7:00AM BST 28 May 2014

Comments309 Comments

SIR – Comment on and analysis of the election results has concentrated on immigration and Europe. These are not the only areas where the Conservative Party is failing to listen and act. Over-development and building on greenfield sites are also major issues.

My village, like many others, is under threat. The three Conservative councillors for my ward stood for re-election. An independent, with no political experience, stood at the last minute on the platform “Putting our villages first”. He topped the poll with 15 per cent more votes than the next candidate.

David Lawrence
Hook, Hampshire

SIR – Nick Clegg, the Deputy Prime Minister, frequently asserts that the requirements of Coalition have diminished support for the Lib Dems.

The results of the European election show that the effect is reciprocal. Mr Clegg’s unequivocal support for the EU has undermined voters’ expectations of David Cameron’s ability to achieve meaningful revisions of the EU, with consequent reduced support for Tory MEPs.

J R Ball
Hale, Cheshire

SIR – David Cameron wonders why the electorate doesn’t trust him when he promises an in/out referendum. Here is one reason: he promised to reduce net immigration to a few tens of thousands, knowing full well that he didn’t have the power to do this under EU rules. Theresa May, the Home Secretary, has now admitted as much.

We’ll trust him when he stops making promises he knows he can’t deliver.

Harry Fuchs
Flecknoe, Warwickshire

SIR – I have so far only seen Nigel Farage, the Ukip leader, with a great grin on his face and a pint of beer in hand (report, May 27). He has successfully picked the low-lying fruit – Europe and immigration – but there are many issues he has done nothing to address, such as Britain’s increasing debt, the ongoing reduction in our Armed Forces’ capability and the need to improve public sector education.

Does Mr Farage have any policies on these matters and, if so, what are they? And are all those in Ukip at one on these issues?

Martin Llowarch
Stamford, Lincolnshire

SIR – Iain Martin’s article on Ukip is not quite accurate. The Anti-Federalist League was not founded by any “group” in 1991, but by myself alone. I had, until then, been a leading member of the Bruges Group, which had been founded as non-party but has become identified with the Conservatives. I was then expelled from it for promising to run candidates against the Tories.

The main achievement of the AFL was Chris Patten’s defeat in Bath at the 1992 general election, when I forced him publicly to refuse to apologise for the poll tax. In 1993, I, along with leading members of the AFL, changed its name to Ukip. The new party’s membership form committed all party members to have no prejudices against foreigners or lawful minorities of any kind; and not to take up seats in the European Parliament. These commitments were dropped after I left.

The party only grew subsequently owing to two factors: in 1999, the EU changed the electoral system allowing parties with very small votes to enter the European Parliament. This enabled Ukip to board the gravy train, and get some political leverage. But until the Lib Dems entered coalition with the Conservatives, the party got nowhere in Britain after almost 20 years of de facto leadership under Mr Farage. I left in 1997, and it still has not won a by-election or a seat at a general election.

Ukip has no policies for Britain. Its last manifesto has been characterised as “drivel” by Mr Farage himself, although he wrote a foreword recommending it. It is now the protest party for all malcontents, and does contain racists and homophobes.

I still hope, however, that it will help bring us out of the EU by pressurising the Tories. But let’s not kid ourselves about how it is run, what it represents or the quality of its leadership.

Alan Sked
Professor of International History
London School of Economics

SIR – I run a successful small business that employs British citizens abroad in the EU.

Can someone from Ukip or the anti-EU wing of the Tory party explain why I will not go bankrupt, and my employees not be out of a job, if Britain leaves the EU?

Surely we cannot expect to be able to ban their workers, while they accept ours?

Paul Stebbings
Exeter, Devon

SIR – By stating that Nigel Farage is a “consummate politician” who is “supremely tactical”, is the Prime Minister confirming that he, and the other party leaders, have been outwitted?

Russ Hill
Radstock, Somerset

SIR – If Ukip continues with its electoral success, we shall be obliged to find another party for our protest votes.

Peter C Carey
London SW13

SIR – People complain that they do not know who their MEP is. But thanks to proportional representation, and the size of EU regions, we have several MEPs, none of whom we can actually vote for. We cast our votes for a party. No wonder the electorate cannot engage with a system that lands you with MEPs who can only debate and vote on motions put forward by unelected Commissioners.

Helen M Abbott
Billingshurst, West Sussex

SIR – When less than 50 per cent of the electorate vote, how can any election be a true reflection of public opinion? Is it not time compulsory voting was introduced?

Bob Millington
Market Harborough, Leicestershire

SIR – What is all this ballyhoo about the European elections? I thought the European Parliament was a rubber stamp organisation. The real power resides with the unelected Commission. Its members couldn’t care less what the people think.

Dr John Farren
Harwell, Oxfordshire

Irish Times:

Sir, – The resignation of Eamon Gilmore from the leadership of the Labour Party must inevitably prompt the question – what is it about that party that draws venom from both political opponents and the media when it is a partner in government? Higher ideals and loftier expectations are held out and when not fully fulfilled the party takes a disproportionate amount of the blame.

Basil Chubb, in The Government and Politics of  Ireland  (1970), commenting on the lack of support for Labour in large swathes of the country, stated: “The party did not from the beginning quite fit into the dominant pattern of Irish politics or appeal to a mass of Irish opinion”.

This explains, perhaps, why so often up and down the country, so many  young, public-spirited people work their hearts out for their communities, yet are rejected at the polls under the Labour banner. A little more republicanism and a little less socialism might help!  – Yours, etc,



Co Roscommon.

A chara, – So Matt Carthy has completed Sinn Féin’s remarkable quadruple – a seat in each of Ireland’s European constituencies. For the first time, every person in Ireland is represented by an elected member from the same party – every single one of us, from Antrim to Kerry, has a Sinn Féin MEP. I imagine this fact will cheer some more than others, but it should please the almost half a million voters who gave Sinn Féin their first preference – over 100,000 more than any other party. – Is mise,


Páirc na Cabraí,

Baile Phib,

Baile Átha Cliath 7.

Sir, – The people made the wrong decision. They should resign immediately! – Yours, etc,

Yours faithfully,




Co Clare.

Sir, – The fallout from the European Parliament elections across various EU member states (as felt also in domestic local elections here) requires a robust response from European governing institutions.

In the case of Ireland and other post-bailout member states, the particular ongoing budgetary constraints in operation need to be alleviated to a significant degree. Manoeuvering space should be afforded to allow such governments to reduce taxes and levies in typical household bills. As an example, the property tax rates applicable in Dublin should be considerably reduced to effectively offset the introduction of water rates.

Of course such manoeuvering space cannot be granted without a drastically alternative growth-based strategy. Primary importance is attached to rectifying the difficulties encountered by small and medium enterprises (SMEs) with respect to bank lending, which is a strong factor influencing employment rates. The ECB should avail of the leverage afforded by a low inflation rate to initiate quantitative easing in the form of asset purchasing of securitised SME loans across recovering economies such as Ireland’s. Such a move would be likely to significantly help with respect to the growth-based recovery agenda and go some way to stem the apparent democratic disenchantment with Europe observed last weekend. – Yours, etc,




Dublin 14.

Sir, – Europeans seems to have taken a right turn at the crossroads. We, on the other hand, have taken a left turn. Will Ming lead us down an old bog road? – Yours, etc,


Ballydubh Upper,

Co Waterford.

Sir, – The jockeying for leadership of the Labour Party has begun. The backbenchers who wanted change are getting change. The senior figures, whose arrogance is being questioned, are smarting. And the thing is, none of this makes any difference.

Changing the captain of the Labour ship will have no effect unless the policies of the Labour Party are changed. I say this as someone who was a member of the party until it veered (yet again) towards coalition with Fine Gael, sacrificing policies and principles for a few seats at the Cabinet table and ministerial pensions for the head honchos.

When I hear Labour politicians bemoaning the fact that Independents and the smaller left groups can never find unity, I smile. These are the same people who, in the past decade, not only betrayed the people who voted for them and the party’s roots but also did untold damage to the possibility of a left-wing government in this country. The captain may change, but the ship remains rudderless. – Yours, etc,


Royal Oak,

Co Carlow.

A chara, – Regarding the Labour leadership contest, is it a case of Snow White and the six dwarfs? – Is mise,


Ellensborough Drive,

Kiltipper Road, Dublin 24.

Sir, – I take no joy in the demise of the Labour Party nor do I feel pity, for it was complicit in singling out the most vulnerable in society, in particular children with special needs and children with disabilities.

Labour may consider its best option is a principled stand that would bring about an early election. If it decides to do so, it should recall what happened to the Greens. – Yours, etc,




Co Louth.

Sir, – Your coverage of the elections has been excellent. It is with sadness that I calculate a cumulative total of 69,356 spoiled votes (European election 45,424, local elections 22,045, and byelections 1,887).

While some may have spoiled their vote as a protest, it is more likely that many thousands of voters inadvertently erred and had their choices invalidated. Many candidates could have benefitted from even a few additional votes. – Yours, etc,


The Oaks,

Newbridge, Co Kildare.

A chara, – Fintan O’Toole’s commentary is often insightful and sometimes challenging, especially in dealing with issues of inequality and the negative social impact of conservatism.

However in his recent column (“Labour Party’s long road from tragedy to farce”, Opinion & Analysis, May 27th), Fintan displays a disturbing ambiguity when it comes to the scourge of sectarianism.

Describing as “irredentist” those who seek a peaceful, democratic, inclusive route to Irish unity, he fails to recognise that partition institutionalised sectarianism and sustained inequality for decades.

Sinn Féin makes no apologies for seeking to end partition, or for tackling sectarianism and inequality. For us, genuine national reconciliation is the cornerstone of building a new Republic that is pluralist, diverse and based on the equality of all citizens.

The Good Friday agreement provides a peaceful, democratic path to Irish unity through a referendum. Sinn Féin supports such a referendum and seeks an informed, inclusive and respectful debate on the merits of Irish unity as opposed to continued partition as part of such a process.

This is not about a sectarian headcount. It’s about building maximum consensus on the future options for this island and its people in all their diversity.

The future cannot be held hostage to threats of sectarian violence, which have no place in society and must be faced down by the primacy of politics and democracy. – Is mise,


Sinn Féin President,

Kildare Street,

Dublin 2.

Sir, – That was a good analysis by Fintan O’Toole on the mistakes made by the Labour Party in 2011 and 1918, even if it is difficult to see how the country could have had a stable government for the last three years without Labour going into a coalition.

After the disasters of the previous three years, Fianna Fáil was hardly going to find itself asked if it would like to participate, and the voters had spoken in the election.

In every election following a coalition, the smaller partners have suffered – and some have even vanished.

Labour was hardly unaware that this scenario was not going to change. Sailing off into the sunset on a ministerial pension may be attractive, but we should not disregard the notion that there was some sense of public duty involved in the decision to enter coalition three years ago, irrespective of the probable consequences.

1918 was a disaster for the left in Irish politics, and the decision to give Sinn Féin a free run then condemned Labour to the role of also-rans in a conservative State for decades.

Fintan could have gone back further, to 1916, when the decision of the left in the form of Connolly and the Citizen Army to take part in what was largely a nationalist rebellion meant that when the country was being fashioned with the politics of Griffith, Cosgrave and de Valera in years to come, the left was marginalised.

It is suggested that Connolly had told his small force of Citizen Army men, and women, to hold unto their weapons should the Rising be successful, as there could be need for further action either in defence or attack against the new leaders of Ireland. He had nothing in common with those prospective new leaders, except the desire to force Britain out of Ireland. Pearse may have yearned for a blood sacrifice. It didn’t do Connolly’s politics, or the Labour Party of which he was the founder, any good. – Yours, etc,


Clonard Drive,


Sir, – Wow.  Fintan O’Toole quoting Fintan O’Toole.  Does it get more ex cathedra? – Yours, etc,


Maretimo Gardens,


Co Dublin.

Sir, – Fintan O’Toole (as might be expected) sums up Labour’s current unenviable, if eminently predictable, situation: “Eamon Gilmore and his senior colleagues . . . knew very well that they were destroying the Labour Party and with it the honourable social democratic tradition it represented. They decided to do it anyway.” I respectfully submit that they be beaten over the head with this succinct observation at every available opportunity! – Yours, etc,


Stillorgan Road,


Co Dublin.

A chara, – People who wish to undertake certain work or activities relating to children are Garda-vetted for the protection of those children and vulnerable persons under the National Vetting Bureau (Children and Vulnerable Persons) Act 2012. The GAA has implemented Garda vetting in the association to promote best practice in the recruitment and selection of people to work with children in the GAA.   

Yet a man who was found guilty of an unprovoked assault in a pub causing his victim a fractured eye-socket was ordered by a District Court judge to attend an anger-management course and was further ordered to spend 80 hours teaching Gaelic football to children (“Judge orders GAA star to coach children”, Home News, May 8th).

Would the punishment have been different if the culprit was a teacher instead of a famous Dublin footballer? – Is mise,



Co Waterford.

Sir, – Working with children should never be a “sentence”. Does the GAA have any say in the matter? – Yours, etc,


Glendale Park,

Dublin 12.

Sir, – Have Aer Lingus and the trade unions forgotten the customers while they trundle on in dispute after dispute? For the past number of years an uncertainty hangs over anybody foolish enough to book a flight with Aer Lingus of never knowing whether they will leave the ground or not because of continuous industrial unrest. Worse still is guessing if they will be flown home.

And here we are again as yet another one-day strike looms from the unions and the cabin crews of Aer Lingus as the beleaguered customer is left stranded in desperation.

Even if this particular crisis is resolved, management and trade unions can take no credit for letting issue after issue rumble on. Are the parties involved aware that because of their action they may not have an airline to operate if they continue with this ongoing conflict?

Why is one of the main shareholders, the Government, standing idly by? Does it care a flying fig for our tourist industry?

So we are left in the lurch once more as the customer receives the “two fingers” from the disputing parties, who babble on incessantly while the good record for reliability of Aer Lingus is in tatters. Any sensible customer might take their business elsewhere, if they have not already done so.– Yours, etc,




Sir, – Congratulations to Brian Mooney (“Removing counselling was a dangerous education cut”, May 27th) on highlighting the damage done to adolescent support services by the removal of every cent (all €32 million) from the guidance and counselling service in schools. The Minister’s decision has brought us back to the 1960s in terms of the level of support for troubled young people in schools.

Having been a guidance counsellor for 35 years in a boys’ school, I know how difficult it can be for a young man in particular to approach the door of the guidance counsellor through the dark fog of near-despair. A responsive service meant that the knock on the door was always answered in all those years. I dread to think of what happens now that the room is empty. – Yours, etc,


St Mary’s Villas,

Drogheda, Co Louth.

Sir, – Government policy is skewed towards using the development sector to create more houses.

This is code for generating more revenue for the State from VAT, development levies and other property taxes, getting builders and first-time buyers to fund social housing and using rising property values to repair the banks.

The second-hand market can provide many times more houses than the new homes market. Policy should encourage downsizing.

A proper property tax system would do this, as it does in most other countries.

If the Government were interested in fixing the problem in the long term, this is where it would look.

Such a policy would also free up equity tied up in our national housing stock.

However, I believe the Government is more focused on an election in two years than on actually solving the problem.– Yours, etc,


Fitzwilliam Street Lower,

Dublin 2.

Sir, – Watching Ryan’s Daughter in Dingle where it was filmed 45 years ago, Frank McNally’s enjoyment is enhanced by knowing that the famous storm scene was real – no fakery or computer graphics then (“Look what the storm blew in”, An Irishman’s Diary, May 28th).

Next time he should watch it in South Africa, where David Lean had to take his crew, the Kerry weather having proved consistently awful, but unfilmable.

He will note a remarkable resemblance between Dingle Bay and Noordhoek Beach, Cape Town. – Yours, etc,


Cnoc an Stollaire,

Gaoth Dobhair,

Co Donegal.

A chara, – While I’m sure that Eileen Gamble is sincere in her views, her article (“A gay teacher on coming out in the staffroom”, Education, May 27th), coming as it does after many others in The Irish Times attacking our system of denominational education, must be viewed in that light.

It is interesting that alleging discrimination in one area should be used to justify discrimination in another in the attempt to deny the parents of Ireland their right to educate their children in a manner that accords with their religious beliefs. –Is mise,



Co Kilkenny.

Sir, – Various writers have suggested different reasons as to why the British royal family should be invited to commemorations of the 1916 Rising.

Surely a more appropriate occasion for inviting members of the British royal family and government would be the 100th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty on December 6th, 1921. – Yours, etc,


Royal Oak Road,

Bagenalstown, Co Carlow

Sir, – Brian Flynn’s letter and its accompanying headline (May 28th) refer to a “directly elected major” for Dublin. Is a major election lower than a general election? – Yours, etc,


Ballyraine Park,


Co Donegal.

Irish Independent:

EU institutions’ blatant disregard for democracy


German chancellor Angela Merkel

Letters to the Editor – Published 29 May 2014 02:30 AM

* The response of pro-EU officials to the massive rise of so-called Eurosceptic candidates across Europe is quite worrying. Angela Merkel reckons that the way for France to respond to its people voting for anti-EU representatives is to give them “jobs and growth”, while the head of the eurozone finance ministers group, Jereon Dijsselbloem, sees it as an “assignment” for the EU.

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The poorest continue to suffer in our uneven society

Labour needs a clean slate and a new strategy

Those sort of responses demonstrate perfectly the undemocratic nature of the EU and of those who fervently support it.

It seems that in their determination to centralise as much power and sovereignty as possible in EU institutions, pro-EU officials and politicians have completely dismissed the prospect that the people actually made a clear-headed and genuine decision to vote for the politicians that shared their view of an insidious and overbearing EU government.

Instead, the democratic vote of people all across Europe is something that the EU must “fight back against”.

Such an almost tyrannical mindset fits neatly the comment of Martin Schultz, the German MEP that is in line to become the next president of the EU Commission, that “we must not bow to populism” when referring to the Irish people’s rejection of the Lisbon Treaty.

Given such blatant disregard for the democratic voice of the people, is it any wonder that the citizens of many nations around Europe have chosen to elect people that are willing to question the legitimacy of the EU as a de facto European government, which it has surreptitiously become over the years.

It will certainly be interesting how the EU deals with this “democratic threat” to its omnipotence.

I suspect it won’t involve any form of referendum or consultation with with citizens, after all, we have demonstrated that we can’t be trusted to vote the way that EU headquarters wants us to vote.




* After Labour’s poor showing in the local and European elections at the weekend, and the subsequent resignation of Eamon Gilmore as party leader, it is folly to think a new leader can save their season as it were.

As soon as Eamon Gilmore strutted into Government with Fine Gael, they were never going to get to 2016 with the support they had in 2011.

Whoever is in line to be lumped with the poison chalice of Labour leader will not be in a strong enough position to lead the party into the next general election. Fine Gael will not bow to a fresh face with a bright new rose on their lapel.

The passage of this Government will continue with austerity, albeit on a lesser scale than recent budgets, but no matter what occurs in the meantime, Fine Gael and Labour will be remembered as an austerity Government.

The only thing that will change for Labour will be the ashen-faced leader walking out to the electorate in the next election as the face of the desecrated party that broke promises and played ‘excuse me’ politics for five years with their larger coalition partners.




* The news (Irish Independent, May 28) that former Taoiseach John Bruton is calling for a further 10-15 years of austerity in an effort to reduce our national debt is nauseating to say the least.

I find it objectionable that a man like Bruton, who was born into a wealthy family and who has led a privileged life, should pontificate to the hoi polloi on their need to endure more swingeing cuts.

Mr Bruton is so insulated from the hardship being endured by those around him that he feels no discomfiture while preaching from his ivory tower in the IFSC.




* When John Bruton was in power he came across as slightly shambolic and distracted by the burden on his shoulders. Famed for collapsing a government by proposing VAT on children’s shoes, Mr Bruton, no longer a public representative but obviously having the Government’s ear, asks us to face the austerity gale for another 10 years.



* Junior Minister Alex White should do the correct thing and resign having been junior minister through the scandal over medical card reviews.

Medical cards represent a story of a sick or vulnerable person and to subject people to stress at this time to save money by catching out those not “entitled” to them – and at the same time introduce a wave of concessions for those who can afford to have their child attend a doctor – is just beyond belief in the minds on many.

Resign please Mr White. The whole Government should resign but they shrug it off and play political games while the electorate watches in disbelief. Media focus is now on the new Labour leader, whoever that might be, but what about the people who suffered for months because their medical cards were being reviewed?

What about young people on €100 and no prospects? What about the elderly living in fear of the government cuts and taxes? What about people and families worried sick about becoming homeless? What about a Government determined to stay in long enough to celebrate 2016 when they have not got the courage in Labour or the disposition in FG to assert our right as a nation to house and feed our own people?




* There is no longer a single MEP within 75 miles of Kilkenny, before we hit Dublin. Rosslare, in terms of geographic location, could now be hypothetically better represented by Welshman Derek Vaughan than any of his Irish counterparts.

Still, though. At least Cork got three of them!




* Under a headline in the Irish Independent, ‘Vatican crisis conference to combat a surge in Satanism’, a Vatican spokesman stated: “Where religion is being thrown out, the window is being opened to superstition and irrationality”

Excuse me while I snigger.

I would have the thought that exactly the opposite is likely to be the case. The rise in secularism is linked to the development of rational thinking, and it is the Catholic Church that maintains its authority through superstition and irrationality.

It is African Pentecostal and charismatic pastors who are subjecting children to violent exorcisms. In Gambia in 2009, one thousand people accused of being witches were locked in detention centres. Children as young as two are being burned, poisoned and buried alive in Nigeria for being witches, where 15,000 children have been accused and end up abandoned on the streets. The Vatican’s latest contribution to this issue has been the six-day meeting in Rome to train about 200 Roman Catholic priests from more than 30 countries in how to cast evil out from people who believe themselves to be in thrall to the Devil. More people should read ‘The Crucible’.



Irish Independent


May 28, 2014

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Mary’s home

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Robyn Denny was an Expressionist painter whose cool geometric abstractions captured the mood of the early 1960s

Robyn Denny


5:56PM BST 27 May 2014

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Robyn Denny, who has died aged 83, was one of the first British artists of the post-war years to take his influence from American Abstract Expressionism.

Although he is now less well-known than more “accessible” contemporaries such as Howard Hodgkin, Bridget Riley, Peter Blake or David Hockney, Denny’s huge, hard-edged geometric abstractions, free of natural influences, captured the cool, modernising mood of the late 1950s and early 1960s.

He had his first solo exhibition in London in 1957, and in 1960 helped to organise and take part in the “Situation” exhibition at the RBA Galleries, which marked a significant move away from the more delicate abstract painting of the St Ives school. In the 1960s he had shows in Milan, Stuttgart, Cologne, New York and Zurich, while in London he showed at the Waddington, Tooth and Kasmin galleries. In 1966 he represented Britain at the Venice Biennale, and in 1973 became the youngest artist to be awarded a retrospective by the Tate.

Denny’s Into Light (1964-65) (BRIDGEMANART)

Denny’s early work typically consisted of large, symmetrical canvases on which horizontal and vertical bands in soft, muted colours, framed shapes like overlapping doorways. From the late 1960s he introduced freer, more vibrantly-coloured compositional motifs in which verticals were no longer so dominant. His paintings required a constant process of visual adjustment, with juxtaposed colours producing flicker effects which made the forms, spaces and scales appear unstable. Some critics felt that the subtleties of his colour palette owed more to French traditions, following in the wake of Redon, Seurat and Monet.

His work can be found in museum collections around the world, and he carried out numerous public commissions, including a series of vitreous enamel panels at Embankment underground station. In 1959 he was commissioned by the men’s clothier Austin Reed to design a mural for its Regent Street store which was to be “a trendy evocation of fashionable London” and a response to the growing threat of the youthful styles of nearby Carnaby Street to middle-market menswear.

The Beatles in front of Denny’s mural at Austin Reed, Regent Street, in 1963 (REDFERNS)

The result, Great, Big, Wide, Biggest, a huge typographical collage of advertising jargon in Union Flag red white and blue, helped to turn the colours of the British national symbol into a key part of the visual grammar of “Swinging London”. One of The Beatles’ first London photo shoots in 1963 was in front of the Austin Reed mural.

The world, however, moved on, and although Denny became a much respected elder statesman for abstraction, and his cool geometric lithographs of the 1970s became popular in corporate offices, the thoughtful abstractionism he represented was swamped by the advent of Pop and conceptual art. His name faded from view.

But he refused to change for fashion’s sake, and continued to pursue his own vision with an admirable and single-minded intensity. As his fellow Abstract Expressionist Richard Smith observed in an interview in The Guardian in 2000: “Robyn Denny keeps saying, ‘Our time will come, Dick. Our time will come.’ And he’s been saying this for years and years.”

The third of four brothers, Edward Maurice FitzGerald Denny, always called Robyn, was born at Abinger, Surrey, on October 3 1930, the son of the Rev Sir Henry Lyttelton Lyster Denny, 7th Bt, who was then the local rector and would serve as Chaplain of the Forces during the Second World War. His other brothers would achieve eminence in different fields: Anthony as an architect; Barry as a diplomat; and Richard as a business guru and writer.

The Dennys were descended from Sir Anthony Denny, a confidant of Henry VIII in the king’s later years, when he rejoiced in the title of First Chief Gentleman and Groom of the Stool. Sir Anthony did well out of the Dissolution of the Monasteries, taking over Waltham Abbey. The family continued to prosper under Queen Elizabeth I, who granted them lands in Ireland — where they lived until the early 20th century.

Robyn was educated at Clayesmore School, Dorset, then studied painting at the Académie de la Grande Chaumière in Paris and at St Martin’s School of Art. After two years’ National Service in the Royal Navy (much of which he spent in military prison after declaring himself a conscientious objector) he went on to study at the Royal College of Art.

Generations 1 by Robyn Denny (1978)

There he began to experiment with abstract collages and bold gestural paintings, influenced by American Abstract Expressionism, which were exhibited in London in 1956 and, in 1959, at the hugely influential “Place” exhibition at the ICA. This was an early example of what is now called site-specific installation, featuring large unframed canvases standing directly on the floor and arranged in two parallel zigzags to suggest a maze, which visitors would be obliged to negotiate – thereby becoming “participants” rather than passive spectators. Following his graduation in 1957, Denny won a scholarship to study in Italy.

While making his name as an artist Denny taught part-time at Hammersmith School of Art, at the Slade and at Bath Academy of Art, Corsham — the cutting-edge art school of its time. He also wrote reviews for magazines such as Das Kunstwerk and Art International. Greatly respected as a spokesman for his generation of abstractionists, in 1974 he was invited to give the first William Townsend memorial lecture at the Slade.

Denny’s Sweet Nature 26 (1975) (BRIDGEMANART)

In 1981 Denny moved to Los Angeles, where the urban environment and often smog-hazed natural light inspired him to develop a new aesthetic featuring large monochrome thick-layered acrylic surfaces on which concentrated clusters of coloured scratchings rest on thin horizontals. The art historian David Alan Mellor, who published a study of Denny’s work in 2002, has described these later works as having the ethereal quality of “abstract Turners”. While Denny, like other “Situation” artists of the early 1960s, had been seen as rejecting the St Ives tradition, these later works recaptured some of the lyrical, transparent delicacy of that school.

Denny returned to Britain in the early 1990s when some of his paintings featured in “The Sixties Art Scene in London”, an exhibition held at the Barbican in 1993. The exhibition helped to prompt a modest revival of interest in his work with several solo exhibitions, of which the most recent took place last year at the Laurent Delaye Gallery, Savile Row .

Robyn Denny married first, in 1953, the artist Anna Teasdale (dissolved 1975), with whom he had a son and daughter. He also had a son from a relationship with the art restoration expert Katharine Reid, daughter of the former Tate director Sir Norman Reid. He is survived by his second wife, Marjorie Abéla, whom he married in 1995, and by his children.

Robyn Denny, born October 3 1930, died May 20 2014


I was a member of the Winchester Liberal Democrat campaign team in the runup to the last general election. In spite of a massive marketing effort, the Tories triumphed, so I can imagine how desperate the local party is to succeed this time. Unfortunately strategy still seems to be dominated by marketing rather than political conviction. Changing the brand name, in this case Nick Clegg, doesn’t make the product any more saleable (Clegg taking Lib Dems to wipeout, 27 May). I resigned from the party in 2010 when they went into coalition and was amazed at the speed with which the dissenting activists bought the lie that the party had no choice. They may be on-message, but there is a significant percentage of the electorate who will never forgive them for selling out in exchange for so-called power. They are not convinced by being told ad nauseam that the Lib Dems have saved us from the worst excesses of Tory policy. This is like the plea of an arsonist who sets fire to a house and then expects a medal for rescuing the baby.
Karen Barratt

•  No one who heard Catherine Bearder at the EU hustings in Winchester earlier this month could doubt her intelligence, integrity and commitment to the European project. She is now the one remaining Lib Dem MEP. The fact that Jackie Porter and Martin Tod, some of the principal voices calling for Nick Clegg to stand down, are also Winchester-based may not be unconnected.

Dismay – disgust, even – over the politics of the coalition long pre-date these recent elections. Many longtime Lib Dem voters had to swallow very hard before voting this time, and probably did so only to keep the Tory vote down.

Porter and Tod are undoubtedly right, as is the suggestion that only Vince Cable could take charge without a damaging contest. He could be a care-taker leader until after the next general election, to avoid the blood-letting of a contest, but after that it is essential – as Miliband’s Labour has failed to do with New Labour – to ensure the Orange Book proponents, tainted by coalition, are put back in their box. To this end, the Guardian might finally give in to calls to silence Chris Huhne, who is as culpable as any with regard to the coalition, and thus to the current virtual wipeout.
Judith Martin

•  The Lib Dems stood for election on one overriding pledge, to vote against an increase in student fees. Any internet images search will show who is currently trading on that broken promise. Even the BNP is using it to further its vile causes. When Clegg and his party immediately abandoned that commitment in the moment of power I was disgusted not just because I work in a university and have children who will pay heavily for that bad faith, but also because I thought “why should anyone, ever again, believe in what a party tells one before one casts one’s vote?” Now we have the rise of Ukip, which threatens UK higher education almost as much as it does our immigrant populations, given the former’s dependence on EU funding and international students.

The pundits tell us that that vote’s a result of the electorate’s loss of faith in mainstream political parties. Go figure.
Professor Susan Bruce
Head of the school of humanities, Keele University

•  Lib Dems don’t need a change of leader. We need a change of policies and direction. This starts with a total repudiation of the backdoor Tory war on the poor, waged through austerity and so-called welfare “reform”.

We need to return to traditional policies and approach, pioneered by Lloyd George and Beveridge, Keynes and Jenkins, Gladstone and Grimond.

We don’t need a new manifesto. We have excellent programmes from 2005 and 2010; Nick Clegg advocated these with great skill and eloquence just four years ago. He must do so again as we return to our true principles and beliefs.
Jonathan Hunt
Convener, LibsLeft; chair, Camberwell & Peckham local party

• To understand the Liberal Democrats‘ predicament you need look no further than the opening words of their constitution: “The Liberal Democrats exist to build and safeguard a fair, free and open society, in which we seek to balance the fundamental values of liberty, equality and community, and in which no one shall be enslaved by poverty, ignorance or conformity”. In betraying those principles so comprehensively, the party of Keynes and Beveridge has dug its own grave.
Chris Donnison

• The European Union has a proven record of making people richer and stopping wars. The stark comparison between Poland and neighbouring Ukraine is an example. At the same time, through the coalition, Britain now has accountability within government which has curbed extreme policies and produced economic recovery without social instability. Yet the Liberal Democrats who have achieved this are being roundly trashed and British voters are turning their backs on an institution that has stopped Europeans slaughtering each other and brought wealth and security to hundreds of millions. Democracy is indeed a strange animal.
Humphrey Hawksley

• Lib Dem spokespeople are lining up to say they were proud to have fought the European elections on principle. This is both sanctimonious and misguided. Nick Clegg’s main claim in his first debate with Nigel Farage was that withdrawal from the EU would cost the UK 3 million jobs. This is economic claptrap. It could only be the case if we no longer traded with Europe – and why wouldn’t we? The electorate saw through him. They were reminded of the snake-oil salesman touting the abolition of tuition fees. If Lib Dem MPs want to keep their jobs, they should join the ABC wing of the party – that’s “Anyone But Clegg”!
Vaughan Evans
Liberal Democrat parliamentary candidate, 1992

•  Found your article and graphic showing “How change of leader could affect key seats” very interesting. Apparently if Clegg is leader the Lib Dems will lose Cambridge, Sheffield Hallam, Redcar and Wells. Whereas if Cable is leader the Lib Dems will lose Cambridge, Sheffield Hallam, Redcar and Wells. On the other hand, if Alexander is leader the Lib Dems will lose Cambridge, Sheffield Hallam, Redcar and Wells. Could there be a pattern here? ie the Lib Dems will definitely lose Cambridge, Sheffield Hallam, Redcar and Wells at the next general election.
John Denton

• If it is any consolation, the Lib Dems can now boast of having the highest proportion of female MEPs.
Geoff Wicks

Thank you, Kate Sayer (Letters, 27 May). Does the Guardian really have to print that inane smirking face of Nigel Farage? I am 83 and feel the world is going mad again, as in my childhood. I took quite a lot of pleasure in placing his visage on the floor and placing my not inconsiderate weight firmly on it. A temporary euphoria, but it helped.
Elizabeth Poland

• Those like me who voted for Ukip show deep concern about political issues and despair of the arrogant political class. I have just re-read copies of the Guardian over the last month. For once every national newspaper, including the Guardian, united in one cause – to smear Ukip, its supporters and aims. You were right to be so afraid the people would rise in numbers to reject the lazy stereotypes.
Graham Ball

• I am a gay man of working-class origin with a Nigerian partner and I voted Ukip. Thank you for putting me straight that I’m a swivel-eyed member of the far right (It wasn’t just the far-right’s night in Europe, G2, 27 May).
John Davison

• So you’ve had an election and a party you don’t like has “won”. It’s called democracy. Get over it.
Derek Parkes

• David Cameron has said many times he would like to see changes in the EU. It would be helpful if he would tell us what the changes are he wishes to see.
David Hurry
Hurstpierpoint, West Sussex

• If we have to have a referendum about leaving the EU, could we have a leaflet containing Simon Sweeney’s letter asking “What has the EU ever done for us?” (Letters, 11 January 2013) sent to all households to help them make their decision?
Cherry Weston

• Was the lovely picture of dawn overlooking Hope in the Peaks (In the pink, 27 May) a deliberate attempt to raise the mood? If so, it was appreciated.
Kevin Quinn
Walton on Thames, Surrey

I am writing because there is an outside chance of it being published and therefore read by somebody in the leadership of the Labour party (Split over how to win back alienated voters, 27 May). I am a member of the party but I hesitate to renew my membership. In its frequent email messages it is clear that there is only one thing required of the membership: donations. That and the footslogging at election time. I have become convinced that the party leadership has no interest whatsoever in the thoughts of its members, and I rather suspect that this might be the case with all the major parties.

There is something arrogant and patronising about the modern politician; professional politicians and their apparatchiks have little understanding of how ordinary people live and work but believe that they can still count on our votes. The recent European elections will, I hope, have brought home to bear the result of their arrogance. I believe they are incapable of changing; they possess neither the understanding, the imagination or the forthrightness to breach the gap. Leaders are advised by people who are as out of touch as those they are advising. No doubt they will apologise to the public and carry on regardless.

I have no intention of switching my vote to Ukip but may not wish to be a member of a party that does not wish to listen. A few years ago, the 2015 election was an election waiting to be won outright by the Labour party. That chance may have been squandered, and unless Mr Miliband can come up with some very clear policies on energy, transport and taxation, then I feel he will not win it.
Philip Robinson
Midhurst, West Sussex

• If I’ve understood the electoral rules correctly, a substantial part of the Liberal Democrat voter base has turned towards Labour since the coalition came to power – and this is without the Labour party saying much, if anything, to encourage this trend. This switch largely accounts for Labour’s steady if unspectacular showing in the polls over recent times and its potency in many marginals. Given the rise of Ukip and the now not too unbelievable threat of a Johnson-Farage government after May 2015, would it really kill the Labour party to be more vocal in their courting of Lib Dem voters? Concrete commitments to electoral and House of Lords reform plus progressive property and green taxes should do the trick. I cannot see how anyone serious on the centre-left could object to any of these ideas, and it could have the great bonus prize of consigning Clegg and his Orange-Bookers to their well-deserved fate as footnotes in UK political history.
Bill Kerry

• Larry Elliott is dead right: an economic system that fails to meet the needs of people is heading nowhere but to its own destruction (Voters who refuse to accept the blame, 26 May). The upward surge in wealth to create undreamed-of riches for the top 1% is unsustainable. Capitalism needs a circular flow of wealth and income back into the economy to work, not their salting away in tax havens. The signs of market failure are all around us, in employment, housing and energy most prominently.

Yet the main parties still seem more interested in trying to manage the status quo rather than change it. Ukip’s scapegoating of Eurocrats and immigrants is seductive but irrelevant. Miliband’s “responsible capitalism” gets closest but even here many in his own party appear fearful of too radical an approach to rectifying a failed system and to moving towards a more democratic, fairer and sustainable future.

Turbo-capitalism has had its day. Sustainable solutions need to move beyond the Greens, into the mainstream. Labour needs to grasp this nettle and generate a clear alternative narrative. It has the capacity but has it the will?
Roy Boffy

• After a diet of “this man isn’t fit to be prime minister because he eats a bacon sandwich in an odd fashion” being passed off as serious political commentary, it was a relief to read that Ed Miliband “is seen as a decent person with principles” (Keep calm but do better, 26 May). Just the kind of person I’d like to vote for.
Les Bright
Exeter, Devon

Natalie Bennett, leader of the Green party. Photograph: Sarah Lee

Like many, I’m left wondering how different the depressing outcome of recent elections might have been if Farage hadn’t replaced Katie Price as the most ubiquitous of all media stars. And while Ukip was given top billing right across the media, the Green party was barely mentioned in passing. Only Caroline Lucas made it on to Question Time, once. In our celebrity culture, profile and name recognition define success. If you’re not known, you’re nothing. The Greens must have seemed like losers to those who even registered their candidacy. Yet polls offering a choice of policies (unattributed to parties) show that Green policies are the most popular of all.

But the distortion is not over. Now, post-election, I find myself lumped together with Ukip supporters in a “protest vote” against the big three! Shameful journalistic laziness, or a fundamental ignorance of what Green means to those who ticked that box? Green is more than a conviction. When you believe, as I do, that – without abandoning greedy consumerism, fossil fuels and ecocide – we are heading for climate chaos and devastation, there’s simply no alternative. Not while Miliband and Cameron cling to Business as Usual as if they didn’t know any better, and the BBC keeps its vow of silence every time more Arctic ice crashes to the sea. Green is not a protest vote. It’s a way forward out of this mess we’re in. It’s hope, not hate.
Sue Hampton
Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire

• To win a majority in next year’s election, it is clear that Labour, and Ed Miliband in particular, needs to be bolder and more courageous in order to challenge the way Ukip has tapped into the disenchantment of many voters with the political establishment. To decide not to put up a Labour candidate in Brighton Pavilion against Caroline Lucas would be a huge statement – it would explicitly recognise that she is a superb MP who would be a huge loss to progressive and liberal politics if she was defeated and show that Labour is a party committed to environmental issues. I recognise that many Labour supporters in Brighton would understandably be upset by such a decision but the political advantages could be significant. Locally, if Labour do put up a candidate there is a risk that the Greens and Labour could split the progressive vote and let the Conservative candidate win, and, nationally, by recognising that Labour is a “green” party, potential Green party voters in marginal constituencies would be encouraged to vote Labour to keep the Conservatives out. Most important, it would show that Labour is prepared to think outside the box of conventional party politics which is clearly, rightly or wrongly, alienating many voters.
Paul Cooper

The Jarrow Crusade in 1936. The month-long walk saw hundreds march from north-east England to London to protest against unemployment. Photograph: Keystone/Getty Images

Nineteen million unemployed across Europe (Editorial, 27 May)? What a shocking waste of lives and manpower when so much needs to be done – housing, environment, education, health services, for a start. How can Europe’s governments justify such waste? The strongest criticism of capitalism and privatisation is that companies have no concern for citizens’ wellbeing. Their job is just to maximise profits for the benefit of a privileged few. It is time governments reasserted their authority – stopped countries being run by the unelected heads of unaccountable corporations for their individual profit, and began to organise the countries of Europe for the benefit of all its citizens. Or the 19 million might start voting neo-Nazi in bigger numbers. It has happened.
Tony Cheney
Ipswich, Suffolk

• The real lesson for our political leaders is that if you adopt 1930s policies, you get 1930s politics.
Peter Coss
Malvern, Worcestershire

Horse Logging On The Balmoral Estate

Horse logging on the Balmoral estate. Photograph: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty

George’s Monbiot’s article (I’d vote yes, to rid Scotland of these feudal landowners, 20 May) presents a tired picture of landowners being a problem for rural Scotland rather than one of the drivers in creating an even brighter future. Mr Monbiot mentions the Country Land and Business Association but fails to make clear that they do not represent Scottish landowners – Scottish Land & Estates does.

His lamentable lack of understanding of rural Scotland extends to his thoughts on wildlife and grouse moors. Land managers are increasingly answerable to legislation and codes of practice from Scottish government and Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH). Self-regulation has also been drawn together under Wildlife Estates Scotland (WES) accreditation.

WES was established in 2010 by Scottish Land & Estates and convened a steering group comprising land managers, Cairngorms National Park Authority, RSPB Scotland, SNH and the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust. The project is endorsed at EU level and supported by the minister for environment and the Scottish government.

Mr Monbiot doesn’t appear to be aware that landowners with different management perspectives – both east and west of the Cairngorms massif – are involved in this initiative. Indeed, one he singles out for criticism – Balmoral – has just been independently assessed and exceeded the accreditation standard.

While Mr Monbiot may wish to disregard the positive work of Scottish landowners for his own ideological purposes he should at least make attempts to research his subject properly.
Douglas McAdam
Chief executive, Scottish Land & Estates

• George Monbiot is right to point out the problems of land ownership in Scotland, but probably wrong in suggesting that independence is the way to address them. Significant progress was made in the early years of devolution under the Labour/Liberal Democrat coalition to tackle land ownership. However, since the Scottish National party took over, the momentum has been lost, with the SNP apparently too willing to pay obeisance at the courts of Donald Trump and Rupert Murdoch.

Independence is actually the cause of the problem. At the time of the wars of independence Edward I was already reducing the feudal privileges of the great landowners in England. When the Scottish lords cried “Freedom” it wasn’t freedom for the peasants that they had in mind, but the preservation of their privileges against the constraints that they might be put under. It took a further 690 years to abolish feudalism (at least in name) in Scotland. The devolved parliament already has the potential to improve matters, it is the will that is needed.
Bob Floyd

• It is difficult to understand why a piece on the crucial issue of unequal land-ownership in the Highlands had to be shoehorned into the all-consuming and polarising debate over Scottish independence, rather than being allowed to stand on its own.

There are a great many pressing political issues in Scotland which do not need to and should not be reduced to bit players in a simplistic yes versus no debate – not least because a devolved Scotland already has powers to act. Notably, George Monbiot’s piece singled out the Scottish government and Fergus Ewing – both SNP – for “kiss[ing] the baronial boot” – so it is hard to see how the prescription of independence would necessarily improve anything.

But he also rightly criticised the failings of the UK government when it came to lack of action over taxation and subsidy levels for major landowners. Tellingly, the prime minister’s willingness to bend over backwards for the grouse-shooting lobby was revealed recently by his decision that the police should have to subsidise the costs of shotgun licenses.

So why not just accept that there is action that both the UK and Scottish governments need to take?
Donald Campbell

• It is not necessary to break up Britain to deal with private land-ownership issues in the Highlands and the management of some estates. Power exists under devolution that would be enhanced following a no vote; the previous Labour/Liberal government having delivered the radical Land Reform Act that led to successful community buyouts by crofters in Assynt and islanders on Eigg, among others. I have campaigned since 1997 for a land-use management plan for the Highlands and the restoration of the Caledonian pine forest. There are many areas of the Highlands where forest regeneration has been taking place over the last 25 years. Royal Deeside contains some of the larger Scots Pine forests, saved from the axe by our royal family.

The SNP’s track record on the environment invites scrutiny. The Scots pine is rightly Scotland’s national tree but it did not prevent the SNP convener of my council’s planning committee in Big Tree Country using his casting vote recently, which resulted in the felling of one (a memorial site), probably around 250 years old, to make way for a plastic sports pitch when other solutions were possible. The UK has 15 national parks, of which only two are in Scotland (both created by the previous government). The SNP white paper doesn’t even mention the subject; despite the founding father of national parks being a Scot (John Muir) and a campaign presented to parliament for a National Parks Strategy for Scotland, the SNP have rejected calls to create new ones.

In conclusion, I do not recognise Monbiot’s description of the Highlands and he should check his facts before extolling the virtues of nationalism as a cure for their problems.
Cllr Mike Barnacle
Independent, Kinross-shire ward of Perth & Kinross council

• George Monbiot’s vision of rewilding the uplands of Scotland might also encompass the lowlands described in Damian Carrington’s piece about the Somerset levels (Taming the floods, Dutch-style, 19 May) in this case, by returning the landscape to meres (or possibly broads after the same extraction of peat which shaped the Norfolk landscape). Farmers might profit from the peat extraction and then boat-based tourism.

What might be done in the Fens (where the expensively drained alluvial soil has long since disappeared), by way of connecting the cathedral cities through a network of waterways in what has been called England’s Holy Land, fair makes the head spin.

However, Monbiot should not hope that Scottish land reformers such as Andy Wightman become independent when they are needed in our joint struggle against overvalued land all over Britain (which is worst with urban land).
DBC Reed

Teaching modern history in recent decades, I got used to our classroom assumption that, after its past disunity and conflict, Europe had finally achieved an ideal cooperative unity that was, for all its minor blemishes, a very stable part of the post-second world war status quo. So it is distressing in retirement to observe the current dysfunctional course of events in Europe described in Julian Coman’s excellent cover story (What can save the European Union? 16 May).

At worst, the risk from this European social dislocation is that the union won’t be able to peacefully hold itself together with its ideals intact and that, paradoxically, we will see once again a resort to physical coercion in an effort to maintain its structural integrity.

One of the big questions of our time is whether, in the event of continued neoliberal global pressure on Europe, its social institutions will be able to withstand the strain. Let’s hope the history students of the future won’t be contemplating a parallel between catastrophic economic decline and conflict early in the 21st century with the cataclysmic events of the 1930s and 40s.
Terry Hewton
Adelaide, South Australia

• Discussing the European parliament, Julian Coman asks “what is the point of it?”, since all major decisions are taken by national governments or the commission. The political parties don’t answer the question and apparently don’t care. As the television channels dutifully labelled their campaign messages “Party election broadcast for the European parliament”, the parties (with the sole exception of the Greens) offered no manifesto or policies that they will pursue in Strasbourg, further encouraging cynicism and apathy towards the election.

Ukip and the Lib Dems advocated only leaving or remaining in the EU – action that can be implemented only by the UK parliament, with or without the assistance of a referendum. Both Labour and the Conservatives used their air time and their election leaflets to campaign for Westminster. The SNP excelled in producing a campaign broadcast for the Scottish independence referendum without any mention of the EU, parliament or election.

Until the European parliament gains more authority and (at least in the UK) respect, most voters will continue to believe that the political complexion of their MEPs is irrelevant, and vote (or not) accordingly.
Daniel Bowles
Monamhor Glen, Isle of Arran, UK

The future of energy

Simon Jenkins’s piece on “the horrors of coal” (23 May) raises many contentious issues. His underlying thesis that our global dependency on coal is an economic, environmental, health and social evil is undeniable, especially here in Australia where politicians of all political persuasions – apart from the Greens – are in thrall to the mining magnates.

However, when he uses this argument as the foundation to advocate equally dubious sources of power, including coal-seam gas and nuclear energy, he is proposing that we leap, lemming-like, from the coal-fired frying pan into the carbon-fuelled global inferno. These, his preferred options to coal, are his real “intermittent renewables” not least because of their limited availability and true costs of exploitation.

We must plan to abandon coal and its derivatives at the earliest opportunity, if current global warming forecasts are credible. Yes, there are opportunities to greatly reduce our carbon footprint in terms of overall energy usage, one example being our current dependency on the inefficient, polluting and outdated internal combustion engine.

May I suggest that Jenkins refer to the exhaustive work of Professor Ian Lowe of Griffith University in Australia, whose doctoral research was under the auspices of the UK Atomic Energy Authority, on the topic of true energy sustainability. Lowe has demonstrated that we can, if we choose to make the effort to overcome the powerful vested interests, move to a totally clean renewable energy future within our lifetime.
Noel Bird
Boreen Point, Queensland, Australia

Economic snake oil

In pointing out that university economics departments are in denial, Aditya Chakrabortty (16 May) might also have pointed out that their graduates find their way into the treasury and economic arms of governments (inter alia, also groups that maintain recruitment of those who are willing to respect economic orthodoxy) across the world. Here their economic advice against environmental action – climate change in particular – makes for an intense irony: economics has a pretension toward a scientific basis, but it retains theoretical structures despite contrary evidence; it obstructs action on the findings of truly scientific endeavour, whose prime motivation is the willingness to seek evidence in the real world and to discard any construct for which there are contrary indications.

Doubt and consequent willingness to change are the hallmark of good science – not a reason to defer essential action.
David Blest
Dilston, Tasmania, Australia

• The trick when selling snake oil is not to let the punters check what’s in the bottles. The first law of tertiary religions is that you do not question the high priest. Whether you think of economics as purveying snake oil or as a third-rate religion, the important thing to remember is that any scientific enquiry relies on robust debate.

Anything less is just smoke and mirrors. Which is probably why we are all still suffering from the global financial crisis.
Keith Edwards
Auckland, New Zealand

Wrong kind of development

Your report concerning the former Commonwealth Development Corporation’s funding of development projects offers a rare insight into the reach of western ideology (9 May). The existence of the report presupposes that its contents are newsworthy if not shocking, while the fact that nothing untoward, let alone unconscionable, has been perpetrated is evidenced by the organisation’s transparent defence of its strategy.

The director of the World Development Movement, Nick Dearden, is spot on in criticising the UK government for exporting a “highly ideological form of ‘development’ which helps big business”. But this is not a party political point; the same practices would continue under a Labour government. Rather, it’s a manifestation of the prevailing paradigm in all western so-called democracies that are predicated on the absurd presumption that capitalist profiteering is the only means of furthering development.

Although Jonathan Glennie’s comment questions the current approach, he too begins by affirming the trope that “[t]here is nothing wrong with using public money to support private-sector development”. He concludes by suggesting a change of organisation to replace the CDC since it is losing credibility.

Since we can infer that Glennie and the Guardian correspondent are both as outraged as they presume the public will be upon learning about CDC’s practice, it’s a shame that neither is willing to grapple with the fundamental problem: it’s not the message or the organisation that needs changing, but the underlying ideological paradigm.
Andrew Hallifax
Örebro, Sweden

The high cost of rescue

It is obviously distressing for friends and relatives when disaster strikes, such as the disappearance of the Cheeki Rafiki in the Atlantic Ocean, and it is understandable when they implore the authorities to continue searching after they have made the judgment that there is nothing further to be gained (23 May). Search-and-rescue missions are never cheap, and especially when the search area is far from land, as in this case. Coast guards cannot be expected to continue searching for ever – they all have limited budgets and must balance cost with the likelihood of eventual success.

Perhaps the right thing to do is to put the decision as to how much searching to carry out in the hands of those who might need the service. Surely it is possible for maritime insurance companies to offer a search-and-rescue insurance that would allow coast guards to continue their efforts until the insurance cover runs out. It would then be up to those who engage in such hazardous pastimes to purchase the amount of cover they consider reasonable.
Alan Williams-Key
Madrid, Spain

Currency is based on trust

Besides convenience, at the crux of fiat currency since its advent have been control and taxation. But Dave Birch barely acknowledges those (Cashless society?, 16 May). “Economy based on trust” is more of a pipe dream now than ever before – see, for example, the abuses and manipulations that resulted in the recent financial crises that continue to afflict our societies. Neither the memories nor the reputations of the polity or of most of our financial and political leaders are anything one could bank on.
Jack Aslanian
Oakland, California, US


• Regarding your piece Who will win battle for free speech? (16 May), Timothy Garton Ash’s review of global censorship has not a word about the ownership of mainstream media in the US. This effectively censors “political” news, the slant ranging all the way from “patriot” centre-right to “true patriot” crazy-right. I’m sure that Garton Ash has been in US living rooms. How could he have missed that red, white and blue elephant marching across the news-hour TV screens?
Denis O’Connor
Toronto, Canada

• Your piece about convicts’ nicknames (16 May) omits one of the most notorious: Walter “Angel Face” Probyn, also known as the Hoxton Houdini and the Dimpled Diamond, who escaped from prison no fewer than 16 times during his “career”.
Paul Probyn
London, UK

• Meeri Kim gives us the glamorous life of a scientist – getting whipped by a shrimp! (16 May).
R M Fransson
Denver, Colorado, US


I have lost count of the number of times Nigel Farage and Ukip have been smeared as “racist” and “fascist”.

Such abuse goes some way towards explaining Ukip’s electoral successes, as leftists and liberals have so devalued these terms, through misuse and overuse, that they are now just boo words for them to hurl at anyone daring to challenge their beloved dogmas.

The truth is that many of us just don’t like being ruled over by EU bureaucrats, aren’t in favour of ever more “rights” for vicious criminals, and would quite like to see sensible immigration controls.

Keith Gilmour


Nigel Farage has announced that “the people have spoken”. Does he mean the less than 30 per cent of a turnout of about a third of the voters? This means almost exactly one in ten of the population has spoken. But aren’t they shrill?

As Ukip dreams of a Europe that might have existed some time ago, we might quote Margaret Thatcher and say: “You kip if you want to. The rest of us are awake to Europe’s possibilities.”

Len Hollingsworth

Bexley, Kent

In the tradition of the European Commission, is there any reason why fresh elections should not be called immediately? And again and again until the right results are obtained.

David Roberts

Great Gonerby, Lincolnshire

Voters stall the  EU superstate

The European election victories of Nigel Farage’s Ukip and Marine Le Pen’s Front National should be taken seriously by Angela Merkel, who should now rein in her utopian plans for an increasingly remote and undemocratic European superstate. The Euro-scepticism of millions of voters cannot be ignored if the EU is to retain credibility.

Stan Labovitch


Spring white-out  on the road verges

Michael McCarthy (20 May) attributes the abundance of cow parsley on roadside verges to factors such as agricultural fertilisers and car exhaust. It’s true that the cow parsley is in abundance this spring but then so is the may blossom.

I suggest that Michael McCarthy has a stroll along the Ridgeway National Trail near the Uffington White Horse, but he should take his snow goggles because the effect is of a white-out snow effect – hawthorn bushes so covered with blossom so as to seem laden with snow, and at their feet the cow parsley dazzles in unison.

There are no motor cars on the Ridgeway and no fertiliser, and the verges are not cut, and I did note some red campion, herb robert as well as lots of cleavers and buttercups.

For truly unspoilt lanes it is best to look in areas of our countryside with no arable fields, such as  Exmoor, where the lanes are indeed multi-floral.

Penny Reid

Wantage, Oxfordshire

Charles isn’t  always wrong

With the majority of the press out to get Prince Charles, we can do without The Independent joining in (Andreas Whittam Smith, 22 May).

What Prince Charles said about Putin was irrational, stupid and wrong. The Russians should be told that he occasionally talks without thinking and this view neither represents the UK government, nor the British people.

However, Charles often says sensible things that quietly bring government ministers to their senses. Whenever this happens he hardly gets a mention in the press, which uses the same technique to influence the UK electorate against the EU. Good news, ignore; bad news, big headline. I would not like to see Prince Charles silenced.

Malcolm Howard

Banstead, Surrey

England is short of kings with memorable sobriquets: Alfred the Great, Ethelred the Unready and, our most recent, William the Conquerer, who died in 1087. So let our next king be known, not as Charles III, but as Charles the Meddler.

David Ashton

Shipbourne, Kent

I rather think the comparison between Putin and Hitler has more to do with our limited educational system, with its consistent focus on the late German leader. Any close study of Russian history – and be sure that Mr Putin and his advisers have done this – will show greater parallels with the foreign policies of Catherine the Great.

She moved to the south, especially to the Crimea, on the grounds of persecution of Christian minorities by the Ottoman Empire.

When I mention Mr Putin’s advisers, I do so deliberately. Unlike the leaders he is most closely associated with by Western commentators, Mr Putin knows when to stop and he sees the value of listening to his advisers. This was something that Hitler would never do, that Kaiser Bill was unlikely to do, and that Stalin only did when he fully realised his own shortcomings in modern warfare.

Cole Davis

Elets, Russia

Gove’s exam vandalism

In all the discussions over the effects of Micheal Gove’s experiment with free schools it is easy to overlook another result of his ideological meddling with education.

I know several students now taking their science GCSEs who are being forced to take nine examinations right at the end of their course, when only two years ago those exams were spread out over the whole science course. If anyone asks me why this change, my only response could be because Micheal Gove said so, hardly an answer based on good educational evidence. These students are now being required to learn a vast amount of information so that it can be regurgitated in a very short time on a few days in one year.

Now the idea is to remove the practical course work component in the final grade assessment and base everything on even more knowledge that will be assessed in a final written examination. This only makes a bad assessment model even worse.

The previous assessment model enabled students to demonstrate improvement, and was in fact a similar model to that used in university courses.

This destruction of a sound method of assessing students is, in my mind as a former science teacher, one of the worst examples of educational vandalism by a Secretary of State with an agenda driven only by his own ideology and not by reason or evidence.

Brian Dalton


Gods of the modern world

Robert Fisk (21 May) suggests that Amnesty, the Geneva Conventions and the UN are among the greater gods of modern societies. But surely the greatest, the inescapable, the least tolerant, the most demanding of our obedience, is the Economy.

Susan Alexander

Frampton Cotterell, South Gloucestershire

World English dooms irregular verbs

As Jean Elliott pointed out in her letter (24 May), the language is losing irregular verbs such as “wove”. Regularisation is the inevitably consequence of English morphing in to Ancwe (Ancillary World English) as the global lingua-franca.

Robert Craig


Why rubbish recycling is in a mess

Of course Wales is ahead of the rest in recycling rates (“Totally rubbish”, 27 May) because, as I recall, they largely use the box system rather than wheeled  rubbish bins (I used to work for a glass recycling company).

In the box system you get a series of stackable boxes, one for “papers” (paper, cardboard) and one for “containers” (bottles cans, tins). The collection operative hooks the box on to the side of the collection vehicle and sorts the glass from the aluminium, from the plastics, from the steel, and puts any remainder back on the doorstep to educate the householder about what is not recyclable. The stuff on the truck is of high purity and commands the best prices.

There is only one good use for a 240-litre wheeled rubbish bin and that is for 240 litres of rubbish. The householder can hide any sort of stuff in there. If it’s  being used for recycling, it isn’t seen again till it reaches a sorting station.

Millions have been spent trying to sort out the various materials from this system, with steel being the only real success. The material produced is of very poor purity and low value and usually has to be sorted again before it can be used by the can or plastic user. Glass is so bad that it can only be used for road fill, instead of remaking into bottles, where it used to save large amounts of energy.

As we try to recycle more things – batteries, clothes, spectacles, plastic bags etc – simply add them to the box. The operative will sort them, right there, into the correct compartment on the truck. Do you think we will have extra wheeled bins for each of those?

Councils have been seduced by big waste companies into spending huge amounts of our money, on the basis that the more you spend the better it must be, when what we need is a local not-for-profit recycling group employing local people to do the job sensibly.

Brian Head

Faversham, Kent


Still from the 1992 film of John Steinbeck’s short novel Of Mice and Men (1937)

Last updated at 12:01AM, May 27 2014

It would be a grave mistake to exclude US literature from the English GCSE syllabus

Sir, Any proposal to drop US books from the English GCSE syllabus strikes me, a 14-year-old student in London, as contradicting what Britain is all about (May 26). We are a multicultural society, yet if the reports are not exaggerating, Michael Gove is excluding classics such as Of Mice and Men and To Kill a Mockingbird , because teenagers should “focus on works by British authors”. If US students dropped Shakespeare and Dickens, we would say they were being denied a rounded education.

Sarah Moorhouse

London N10

Sir, I studied To Kill a Mockingbird for English O level. Its characters and plot had a profound effect on us. It gave those who rarely read for pleasure the impetus to enjoy literary fiction, and most of all, as a class, we loved it.

Naomi Samuelson

Elstree, Herts

Sir, “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view. Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it,” wrote Harper Lee. As a teacher of English literature I find it strange that Mr Gove apparently assumes that comments like this are not worthy of study. Let us hope that he has been misreported.

Richard Coleman

Appleton, Cheshire

Sir, It is a brillliant idea for students to study only English writers. We could apply it to other subjects: we could discount Pythagoras, Euclid, the whole of calculus, Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Tchaikovsy, Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael, most of the Impressionists, Ibsen, Strindberg, Sartre, Maupassant, Proust, Goethe — oh, the list is endless. Aristotle said “Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all.” He wasn’t English either.

Hazel Leventhal

Borehamwood, Herts

Sir, Perhaps for those studying French GCSEs we should substitute English translations of texts by Racine, Molière, Zola and Hugo.

Nick Phillips


Sir, As a new teacher I struggled with a class of unruly 13-year-olds until starting to read Of Mice and Men . For the first time they were totally gripped; one pupil “stole” a copy to continue reading it at home.

Sheila Taylor Rathgar

Pevensey Bay, E Sussex

Sir, I found that US classics like To Kill a Mockingbird and Of Mice and Men raise far more relevant and important social problems than Jane Austen’s novels. Racism, sexism and disabilities are themes throughout Of Mice and Men while Austen presents women as objects to be passed from father to husband.

Oh, and good luck, Mr Gove, in getting teenagers to take a character called Fanny Price seriously.

Caroline Groves (aged 16)

Hornchurch, Essex

Sir, Harper Lee said: “Mockingbirds don’t do one thing except . . . sing their hearts out for us. That’s why it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.”

In this case the mockingbird represents international literature. I think it would be a sin to ban a book because it was not written by someone from England. In an increasingly global society we must be able to study and take pleasure in other countries’ masterpieces.

Georgia Perkins

Bournemouth, Dorset


SIR – As the Government prepares for the Queen’s Speech and its final legislative programme before the general election, it is time to fulfil a promise of legislation to establish a new public forest management organisation for England.

The Independent Panel on Forestry, established in 2011 after the public outcry that forced the Government to rethink its plans to sell off the public forest estate, made the recommendation for a new body to secure its future. The Government has already publicly made a commitment to this at the earliest opportunity. That time is now.

The Government must take this opportunity, before it is too late, to move beyond the controversies of the past and keep the promises it has made for our forests. A Bill, once passed, will enable the public forest estate to contribute fully to a bright new future for the environment, people and the economy.

Beccy Speight
Chief Executive, Woodland Trust

Stuart Goodall
Chief Executive, Confederation of Forest Industries

Jonathan Porritt
Co-founder, Our Forests

Benedict Southworth
Chief Executive, Ramblers

Hen Anderson
Co-founder, Save Our Woods

Stephanie Hilborne
Chief Executive, The Wildlife Trusts

Maddy Carroll
Campaigns Director, 38 Degrees

Medical notes disclosed

SIR – Insurance company demands for the whole of patients’ records have been going on for some time. Only occasionally is it appropriate to disclose all information held.

It is used for a variety of inquiries, relating to life insurance and more often private medical health claims. Most patients don’t realise just how much of their records is or could be disclosed.

GPs have been raising concerns about this to the General Medical Council and other relevant bodies since this dubious practice started a few years ago. Sadly they have been ignored.

It is an unacceptable intrusion into the privacy of us all and should be stopped.

Dr Paul Loxton
Virginia Water, Surrey

A crowded bathroom

SIR – We have recently had some tiles laid in our bathroom.

They have a swirly pattern in shades of brown.

While sitting in the bathroom, I have been able to study this pattern closely and have found that it is possible to recognise the following with no trouble at all: a dark man with a beard, the life-size heads of Marilyn Monroe and of my Aunt Lucette, a cocker spaniel, a lion’s face, a horse’s head, a Jack Russell puppy, a map of North America, a cherub sitting on a cloud and a Roman centurion.

I’m pretty sure that I will be able to make additions to this list after a few more sittings.

Trevor Allanson
Cheltenham, Gloucestershire

SIR – Most British businesses as well as the majority of British people want a change in our relationship with the European Union, as recent research shows. The European elections provide further proof of this desire for change.

Politicians will argue about the impact of the result, but one thing is clear: the majority of people who voted chose a party (the Conservatives, Green Party or Ukip) that offered a referendum. They voted for change and a chance to have their say.

Political leaders should recognise the power of that vote and set about explaining how they will deliver EU reform, a better deal for Britain and an in/out referendum.

A referendum is needed to address the gaping hole in the democratic legitimacy of our membership of the EU, but it is also vital in efforts to reform the EU and its sprawling institutions. Without a referendum, it is difficult to take seriously claims of a desire to reform the EU, or to trust the people.

As well as committing themselves to a referendum in their 2015 manifestos, all parties must spell out their vision for a reformed EU and what a sensible deal for the United Kingdom would look like. The Conservatives and the Green Party have begun to sketch their vision for the EU, but other parties have only paid lip-service to reform, without providing any detail. Vague promises will only increase voter apathy and the numbers of protest votes.

We have joined the Advisory Council of Business for Britain, in a personal capacity, because it represents the voice of the large, often silent, majority of Britain’s business community who want fundamental changes to the terms of EU membership, backed up with a referendum.

We urge political leaders in Westminster and Brussels to listen and respond to the message of change that the voters have made clear they want now, not later.

Edward Atkin
Founder, Avent & ARCC Innovations

Patrick Barbour
Former Chairman, Barbour Index & Microgen

Lord Bell
Chairman, BPP Communications

Gordon Black
Chairman, Black Family Investments

Roger Bootle
Founder and Managing Director, Capital Economics

Rosemary Brown
Founder and Chairman, Tomorrow’s Achievers

David Buik
Market Commentator, Panmure Gordon & Co

Lars Seier Christensen
Co-Founder & CEO, Saxo Bank

Damon de Laszlo
Chairman, Harwin Plc

Olivia Dickson
Non Exec Director, Investec

Ben Elliot
Founding Director, Quintessentially

Matthew Ferrey
CEO, Ranworth Capital

Lord Flight
Chairman, Flight & Partners Ltd

Mark Florman
Chairman, Time Partners Ltd

Amy Folkes
Director, Folkes Holdings Ltd

Sir Rocco Forte
Exec Chairman, The Rocco Forte Collection

Dr David Hammond
Chartered Accountant

Graham Hampson
Chairman, Silk Hampson Holdings

Oliver Hemsley
CEO, Numis Securities

Sir Michael Hintze
Chairman, CQS Management Ltd

Alexander Hoare
Board member, Hoare & Co

Tony Howard
Director of Logistics, HATS Group

Luke Johnson
Chairman, Patisserie Valerie

Lord Kalms
President, Dixons Retail Plc

John Kersey
Managing Director, Kersey Hairdressing

Paul Killik
Founder, Killik & Co LLP

Stuart Lamb
Chairman, William Lamb Footwear

Ruth Lea
Economic Adviser, Arbuthnot Banking Group

Michael Liebreich
Founder, Bloomberg New Energy Finance

Rupert Lowe
Former Chairman, Southampton Leisure Holdings

Alastair MacMillan
Founding Director, White House Products Ltd

Julie Meyer
Chairman & CEO, Ariadne Capital

Helena Morrissey
CEO, Newton Investment Management

Charlie Mullins
Founder and Managing Director, Pimlico Plumbers

John Nike
Founder, Nike Land Securities

Richard Patient
Managing Director, Indigo Public Affairs

Michael Petley
CIO, The ECU Group Plc

Simon Stilwell
CEO, Liberum Capital

Rhoddy Swire
Founder, Pantheon Ventures

Lord Vinson
Former Director, British Airport Authorities

David Wall
Director of Business Development, I M Group

Michael Webster
Co-Founder, Gorkana

Lord Wei

James Woolf
CEO, Flow East

Advisory Council, Business for Britain
London SW1

SIR – What next regarding EU regulations (Letters, May 26)? Here is one example of a wasteful requirement affecting small businesses.

The Driver Certificate of Professional Competence requires most commercial drivers to be periodically trained for a period of 35 hours. So an employee will not earn a penny for his employer for a week, and the course must be paid for too.

There is no exam, just “training”. The law is so confusing that nobody, including the Vehicle and Operator Services Agency, can give an answer as to whether or not it applies to certain specific cases.

Of course those in the training industry have an interest in telling us that it does apply. It comes into force in September.

When he became Prime Minister, we expected David Cameron to cut red tape. He has failed abysmally.

Mick Moor
Matlock, Derbyshire

SIR – Margaret Thatcher thought she could reform the EEC/EU. She failed. It has to be said that David Cameron is no Margaret Thatcher. He doesn’t stand an earthly.

Rev Philip Foster
Hemingford Abbots, Huntingdonshire

SIR – Mainstream parties echo Margaret Thatcher’s plaint: “We are not getting our message out.” They are fooling themselves. They are getting their message out, and we are hearing it, and we just don’t like it.

Francis Rutter

SIR – Mr Cameron should realise that we have already had a “virtual referendum” on the EU. The Ukip election results make the views of the people very clear.

Norman Vale

SIR – Whatever they say, I fear the main party leaders’ views are best summarised by Dick Tuck’s remark when he lost the California state senate election in 1966: “The people have spoken – the bastards.”

Max Sawyer
Stamford, Lincolnshire

SIR – When the main parties, shocked by the election results, say they now need to listen to the electorate, may I ask what they were doing previously?

Michael Smitten
Shifnal, Shropshire

SIR – The assertion by Philip Hammond, the Defence Secretary, that “voters who want to give us a kicking will return” is wishful thinking. When will the penny drop for Mr Cameron and his friends? Promises for the future will just not do. I insist on being governed by the British Parliament.

Stephen Carpenter
Wisbech, Cambridgeshire

SIR – As a Jew I was horrified by the rise of the far-Right in the European elections. It sends shivers down my spine.

And yet, I voted for Ukip.

Most of my friends tell me I was stupid and that a vote for Ukip is a vote for racists and those who would kick Jews, Muslims and others out of Britain. I do not accuse Nigel Farage of this, but in the long term they may be right.

I voted Ukip to tell the mainstream parties and technocrats in Europe that I am unhappy that my democratic rights have been removed. It seems to voters that unelected busybodies tell them what to do.

Gareth Kreike
Prestwich, Lancashire

SIR – I was disappointed that yesterday’s Obituary column failed to note the death of the Liberal Democrats.

David S Morehead
Salisbury, Wiltshire

SIR – For us keen supporters of the European project, the elections have been a great disappointment. A narrow nationalism has taken hold (even in my native Scotland).

No one denies the EU needs reform, or that there are problems over immigration. But, in an uncertain world, it surely makes sense to work where we can with other nations, especially those on our doorstep.

Andrew McLuskey
Stanwell, Middlesex

SIR – The EU was set up to prevent a repetition of Germany in the Thirties, but because of the way it has been operated by the elite, for the elite, it has driven voters to the extreme Left or Right.

D H Todd
Ripon, North Yorkshire

SIR – We should be grateful that there is a middle-of-the-road party like Ukip, or as in France, many in Britain might have voted for the extreme Right or the extreme Left.

Paul Brazier
Wotton under Edge, Gloucestershire

SIR – As a member of Ukip’s original national committee, I am one of those described as an “outlaw revolutionary” by Iain Martin.

There was probably a majority of erstwhile Conservatives, but the leader, Professor Alan Sked, had been a senior Liberal. I and others had once supported the Labour Party. We were united by a conviction that the European project spelt the end of our democracy and that Britain must leave. I never doubted the cause was right and that eventually our efforts would succeed. Today, this ambition looks ever more likely to be realised.

Colin Bullen
Tonbridge, Kent

SIR – I have noticed a sudden increase in purple ties worn by politicians other than Ukip’s. George Osborne, the Conservative Chancellor of the Exchequer, and Tim Farron, the president of the Liberal Democrats, are examples.

Does this indicate a natural desire to be seen in the winning colours?

Roger Knight
Burton Latimer, Northamptonshire

Irish Times:

Sir, – So, Democratic Left has finally done in the Labour Party. – Yours, etc,


Rosemount Road,


Dublin 7.

Sir, – For the majority of Irish people the unthinkable has happened, Sinn Féin and a diverse group of Independents controlling the agendas in many local authorities.

Perhaps the time has come for another unthinkable or indeed unmentionable development to take place, a coalition of Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael. – Yours, etc,


Blarney Street,


Sir, – I have read and heard thousands of words analysing the Labour Party’s slump, but not one correspondent has touched on my reason for not supporting it.

I find its consistent anti-Catholic bias to be objectionable, and the tomfoolery with the Holy See Embassy was a national and international embarrassment. I am privileged to know many non-religious people who are a credit to our society, but I find anti-religious bias too negative to support. – Yours, etc,


Melbourn Estate,



Sir, – If the elections results are an indication of the make-up of the next government and are anything to go by, then I look forward, on the basis of the election literature that came through my letter-box and the commitments contained therein, to paying no tax, local or national, and enjoying the best welfare, health, and education services in the history of this State! – Yours, etc,


Old Cratloe Road,


Sir, – I assume that your political journalists believe that democracy is a good form of government. I am therefore puzzled that, in describing some parties or policies, they use the words “populist” and “populism” with a morally negative connotation.

The dictionary meaning of the first word is “seeking to represent the interests of ordinary people”; of the second, “political action which seeks to represent the interests of ordinary people”.

Surely representing the interests of ordinary (as well as extraordinary citizens) is what democracy is about? – Yours, etc,


Sydney Parade Avenue,

Dublin 4.

Sir, – Regarding Pat Rabbitte’s recent remark that even John the Baptist couldn’t have saved the Labour Party, for whom has Eamon Gilmore been preparing the way? The party needs a messiah before the next general election or the word “shellacking” won’t be strong enough to describe the result. – Yours, etc,




Co Kildare.

Sir, – Following one of the most serious and prolonged financial crises and recessions faced by any advanced economy, and at the end of an extremely painful and unpopular austerity programme, the Irish electorate punished the Government, voting for left-wing parties and activists.

There were no anti-immigration parties and no anti-immigration vote block.

Well done Ireland. – Yours, etc,


Bellevue Road,


Co Dublin.

Sir, – I did not vote for Sinn Féin in either the local or European elections. However, I now welcome the fact that it has become more mainstream. I believe Sinn Féin’s economic policies will be put under the microscope and that it will be found out, hopefully in time for the electorate to see sense before the next general election, when votes truly do count. – Yours, etc,


Sion Road,


Co Dublin.

Sir, – The strange metamorphosis of Eamon Gilmore. From terrier to lapdog, from opposition roar to government whimper. – Yours, etc,



Moyne Road,


Dublin 6.

Sir, – I am disappointed that any party leader would find it appropriate to use their taxpayer-funded departmental building (Iveagh House) as a substitute for their party headquarters or a hotel conference room when conducting party business. – Yours, etc,


Oxford Road,


Dublin 6.

Sir, – It seems that former Labour voters have decided that – to borrow a phrase from Ruairí Quinn – “we’re not in that space any more”.

If I were asked for advice, I would suggest that certain senior Labour Ministers try from time to time to sound less lofty. I am still smarting from being described as a “caveman” (sic) by the Minister for Communications simply because I don’t have a television and don’t want one.

A small thing to be irritated by, I know. But why annoy voters when it’s not necessary?– Yours, etc,


Rathgar Avenue,

Dublin 6.

Sir, – Regarding Lynn Boylan, a smile is worth 100,000 votes, – Yours, etc,


Oliver Plunkett Hill,


Co Cork.

A chara, – Contrary to its election message, I don’t think Labour is working. – Is mise,


Carrickmines Green,


Dublin 18.

Sir, – The people have spoken. What have they said? “This is not a recession, it’s a robbery.” – Yours, etc,


Roscommon Road,


Co Roscommon.

Sir, – Eileen Gamble has written an excellent article on her experience of the discrimination that constitutes section 37(1) of the Employment Act 1998 (“A gay teacher on coming out in the staffroom”, Education, May 27th). What is most objectionable is that this ability to be fired at will is fully funded and underwritten by the State in its payment to staff in schools and hospitals.

The section particularly impacts on gay staff. It is, however, much more broadly drafted than that . The “religious ethos” ground could perfectly legally operate much like the old marriage ban in the Civil Service to exclude all married women, to exclude people who are cohabiting or “living in sin”, to single mothers, etc, if a particularly conservative religious interpretation were deployed by the institution in question. Society has moved on from the marriage ban days and it is time that all our citizens working for State-funded institutions enjoy the same employment protection as the rest of us. – Yours, etc,


Newtown House,

Henry Street, Limerick.

Sir, – I read with great pride the article by Eileen Gamble. As a primary school teacher who works in a Catholic school, but is openly atheist, I too have felt the pressures of not fitting in with the ethos of my school.

Ms Gamble rightly refers to the sense of community in a school. It is very difficult to be a member of the community when you simply do not belong to it. On the occasion of a prayer service, it can feel like you are under pressure to bless yourself to make yourself fit in. Of course there is no overt pressure; it is instead the implicit pressure of knowing that you are not included.

The law allows for religious discrimination to take place in our State-funded schools. My wages are paid by the taxpayer. This State-sponsored discrimination is reprehensible and it is beyond me how such an archaic system can still exist in today’s world.

I have been told by fellow teachers that I “should be careful” about admitting to being an atheist. To be told that by one of your peers is worrying when we are supposed to be teaching children about valuing each other and respecting everybody.

I look forward to the day when I no longer have to teach religion for half an hour a day, I look forward to being able to refer to “what Catholics believe” as opposed to “what we believe”, but most of all I look forward to the day when I feel valued for my teaching ability as opposed to my religious beliefs. – Yours, etc,


Glen Easton Drive,


Co Kildare.

Sir, – I am a consultant child and adolescent psychiatrist and have been working in Limerick for the past 15 years.

I am concerned about the denial of the existence of severe and enduring mental illness that is creeping into mental healthcare at all levels.

Denial operates to prevent us acknowledging and tackling mental illness in our communities and prevents decision-makers allocating sufficient resources to enable us all to do so.

Denial operates in many ways. Individual patients are sometimes unable to admit to themselves that they are ill. This causes lack of compliance and leads to the need for coercive treatment.

Denial operates in families, where the stigma of psychiatric illness results in families failing to seek help for their loved ones at an early stage in the course of their illness.

Denial operates in the HSE, where a manager has told me that my patients “need a good kick in the arse”.

Psychiatry is repeatedly under-resourced and yet budgets are under spent.

I continue to see young people daily whose lives are blighted not only by the illnesses they are unfortunate enough to suffer from, but also by the ignorance, stigma and denial they face in their journey to recovery.

Investment in child and adolescent mental health makes economic, social and human sense. Let’s do it.– Yours, etc,


O’Connell Street,


A chara, – I read with interest Dr Kieran Moore’s rather dismissive tone towards his colleagues who are “co-ordinators” or “managers”, questioning whether these staff members contribute to the assessment and treatment of patients, and if their roles are audited, defined and and evidence-based (May 26th).

First, it is rather disingenuous to suggest that a post within a hospital does not have a specific and clearly defined role, approved by human resources and available on the HSE website for inspection. Second, to suggest that an infection prevention and control co-ordinator, a cardiac rehabilitation coordinator, a transplant co-ordinator and falls management coordinator are not evidence-based and do not contribute to patient outcomes is also unfair. In fact, doctors are the largest culprits in poor hand hygiene. Third, adding another layer of bureaucracy with respect to a “Management Council” is just plain pandering to your readership. Yes, more clinical staff are needed in the healthcare system. However, a standardised approach to a particular condition, based on evidence and monitored regularly through audit or managed by experts in their field, is exactly what Irish patients should expect and deserve. – Is mise,


Priory Grove,

Stillorgan, Co Dublin.

Sir, – The announcement that the HSE is to eliminate the mandatory third-level requirement for top managerial posts (Home News, May 26th) is another appalling day for our patients and our health service. – Yours, etc,


Convent Lane,


Sir, – John Bellew ( May 26th) asks for a justification for Ireland remaining neutral during the second World War. Ireland’s justification was the same as that of the United States, Norway, Denmark, Yugoslavia, Greece, Belgium, Luxembourg, Holland, and the Soviet Union; that is, a mix of self-preservation and an ignorance of the true nature of the Nazi threat. The difference between those neutral countries and neutral Ireland is only that they were attacked by the Axis and we were not.

A second reason for neutrality is that Ireland could not defend itself, with a small Army and no air defence – a fact lethally illustrated when a single German aircraft killed 28 people with four bombs during the North Strand bombing on May 31st, 1941.

If Ireland had joined the Allies, the immediate consequence would have been a daylight raid by hundreds of German bombers over a completely defenceless Cork.

As the British were unable to defend their own airspace, how many fighters could they spare for Ireland?

At the very least, Ireland joining the Allies would have meant that Eamon de Valera would have had to give the British complete military control over Ireland for its own defence.

Ireland could have waited until 1944 by which time the German’s offensive capability had been sufficiently degraded, but joining the winning side when the result was decided would have been a craven act.

Finally, the Nazis did kill millions of people, but we cannot condemn Ireland for not declaring war on Germany in 1939 because of a slaughter that was only officially and secretly sanctioned by the Nazis in 1942 at the Wannsee conference, and whose full extent was only discovered in 1945. – Yours, etc,


Woodville Grange,


Co Westmeath.

Sir, – I noticed that the turnout for the European elections in the Dublin constituency was 43 per cent, comparing very poorly to a 55 per cent turnout for both the non-Dublin constituencies. If the electorate in Dublin cannot be bothered to vote, I don’t see why the rest of us should be bothered to endure the expense and white noise of a directly elected major for the city. – Yours, etc,




Co Cork.

Sir, – The website of the Office for the Promotion of Migrant Integration states that one of its functions is to promote the integration of legal immigrants into Irish society. This office forms part of the Department of Justice. At the moment most categories of foreign nationals who wish to become Irish citizens through naturalisation are required to pay an application fee of €175 and a further €950 when the certificate of naturalisation is issued.

It would be difficult to find a greater barrier to integration than that placed in front of intending citizens by these obscene and unjust fees. – Yours, etc,


Killarney Asylum

Seekers Initiative,

New Street,


Sir, – The assertion by Stephen Collins that those who object to a royal presence at our 1916 commemorations are somehow “stuck in the past” might be true for some, but perhaps not all (“Don’t let minority stuck in past take over 1916 events”, Opinion & Analysis, May 24th).

There is the view that, to put it crudely, we’ve already “kissed and made up”. And that any further displays of affection might cast us as a pair of love-struck teenagers, making up after a protracted and painful tiff. “I’m sorry.” “No, really, it was all my fault.” “I love you.” “No, I love you more. “You hang up.” “You hang up first.”

Queen Elizabeth’s visit to Ireland was a resounding success, as was the President’s return visit to Britain. The speeches have been made, the hands have been shaken. A royal presence at a uniquely Irish commemoration might prompt some to call on our respective governments to “get a room!” I’m just not sure how comfortable I am with that image. – Yours, etc,



Dublin 14.

Sir, – I strongly object to the current National Lottery advertising campaign. It is a cynical exercise in trying to normalise what is in fact gambling. What exactly constitutes “play” in the selection of numbers? This phrasing sends a message to young adults that this is a harmless activity and not a potentially addictive habit. – Yours, etc,


The Crescent,


Dublin 3.

Sir, – I am glad to be able to tell you that over the past weekend the pair of resident swans in St Stephen’s Green pulled a rabbit out of the hat, so to speak, and may now be seen carefully chaperoning seven lively little balls of fluff around the lake there.

Still no ducklings or moorhen chicks though. – Yours, etc,


Greenville Place,

Clanbrassil Street, Dublin 8.

Irish Independent:

Published 28 May 2014 02:30 AM

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.

Also in this section

The poorest continue to suffer in our uneven society

Labour needs a clean slate and a new strategy

Letters to the Editor: Sharing memories of Lourdes

His resignation makes possible the reconstruction and remodelling of the Labour Party.

What the Labour Parliamentary Party addresses now is an extraordinarily difficult and delicate process of management change, requiring a quantum leap in strategic thinking.

Labour’s prime objective is not to ‘save this Government’, not to ‘save the party’, not even to save its individual members’ ‘own’ seats – though, if they fail to save as many of those seats as possible – in the long term – the entire operation would be academic and irrelevant!

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. An Irish version of a remodelled Scandinavian future to be built by Irish political action.

Mention philosophy, ideology, even ‘vision’ – and the conventional, standard Irish ‘political animal’ becomes uneasy. Yet one of the lessons to be learnt from the elections is that it was not only ‘who will pay the mortgage, provide the basic sustenance, pick up the medical bills’. It was the not knowing ‘where we are’ and ‘where we might be going, if we only knew’, which caused the bitter angst and the visceral need to kick an out-of-date Government.

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 is changing at an unprecedented pace.

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 what drove our ancestors, a truly Irish Republic, which cherished all the children of the nation, it would be more than worth the wait.





I must agree with your correspondent (‘The right to not vote’, Letters, May 27) that “when there are no candidates worthy of a vote and when there are no candidates who can possibly influence the course of government policy, then voting becomes a bit of a joke”.

The suggestion that “the ballot paper should have a box saying “none of the above” would be more effective if voting were compulsory.

This might be vastly more effective if, should that pseudo-candidate get a larger share of the vote than any of the named ones, the latter would all forfeit their deposits and a new election should take place, which they would be barred from standing in.

Of course, postal voting would have to be available, especially for those who know they will be unable to attend the polling station on the day.

If this were implemented, the electorate’s displeasure would be even clearer than merely “a rule that if 75pc of the electorate do not vote, that no one is elected”.





Fianna Fail and Fine Gael have now become an historicised monolith in one sense. Their historical origins and character – based on the question of political self-determination – ignore the economic foundations of political health or ailment.

Yet, even within its political rationale, Fianna Fail has reneged on its republican credentials, its very originary principle. Whether the cause of a united Ireland is desirable is a matter of personal political conscience, yet in casting itself as desirous of such, FF has cancelled its historical justification for existence.

FG, in its assent or at least acquiescence in a divided island, maintains a certain political credibility. Yet this is even deceptive: it would further effect the evolutionary advent of a united Ireland through advocacy of greater European integration.




I wish to respond to the article ‘Hogan wants review of rural quangos as €11m in funding goes on pay’ (Irish Independent, May 13).

On a general note, it is most curious to hear of the minister’s intention to carry out a review of our rural companies in this manner.

We welcome any opportunity that will enable us to present the facts of the matter in terms of our value for money. We are confident that any independent assessment will verify that our companies do represent best value for the taxpayers’ money.

In fact, the Smith Everett Value for Money Report shows that for every €1 the State spends on a Local Development Company, that company then generates an additional contribution to the Exchequer of just over €2.70. This in effect means Local Development Companies cost the Exchequer nothing.

In relation to the administration and salary references in the article, a few salient points must be made. Firstly, a number of the salaries as laid out by the department’s table were overstated. Despite this, all salary scales and administration caps adhere to the caps that have been set out for these companies by their funder bodies, including the department themselves, as the minister is fully aware. These companies are also regularly audited at national and EU level.

Secondly, the administration costs sanctioned by the department enable these partnership companies to deliver a whole suite of programmes such as the Local and Community Development Programme (LCDP), LEADER, Tus, Rural Social Scheme (RSS), Jobs Clubs, Local Employment Service (LES), CE Schemes, Back to Work Enterprise Allowance (BTWEA) and many more enterprise, training, activation, educational and community supports.

Thirdly, the administration figure quoted has been quoted disingenuously and does not reflect the actuality of the situation as I am setting out, albeit briefly.

While it is important to correct the record, we must always keep our focus on delivering value for money and the range of supports to the communities that need them as we have done so for the past 25 years, and perhaps the minister might like to highlight some of this good work for a change.





The news that Labour leader Eamon Gilmore is to step down is to be greeted with puzzlement given that Fine Gael’s performance was nothing to boast about yet there are no moves plotted against Enda Kenny.

Mr Gilmore said that the Irish people had sent the Government a message via the ballot box and the Labour Party in particular.

The Labour Party needs to return to its roots. It needs to assert itself as a true partner in Government and needs to do so with immediate effect.

This should include wielding clout and providing leadership in areas that are not under their direct control or jurisdiction. For example, the strike by cabin crew in Aer Lingus is looming large this Friday and could result in a loss of €10m to Aer Lingus, not to mention the cost to the tourism sector. The Fine Gael Minister for Transport stands by on the sidelines.

The Labour Party needs to step in and insist on an intervention.



Irish Independent


May 27, 2014

27May2014 Tuesday!

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 present for the Queen Priceless

I go and visit Mary in hospital, home Tuesday

Scrabbletoday, I win one game, perhaps Mary will win tomorrow


Robert Laumans – obituary

Robert Laumans was a Belgian fighter pilot who became a leading lady in Stalag Luft III’s theatre

Robert Laumans

Robert Laumans

5:56PM BST 26 May 2014


Robert Laumans, who has died aged 93, was a Second World War Belgian fighter pilot; after being shot down he was imprisoned in Stalag Luft III, where he established a reputation as a “leading lady” in the camp’s theatre productions.

On June 1 1942 Laumans was flying in support of a bomber force when German fighters attacked his Spitfire formation. In the ensuing dogfight over Ostend his aircraft was badly damaged; he headed for the English Channel but was forced to bail out, spending the next three nights in his dinghy before being picked up by the German air-sea rescue service.

Within a few weeks, Laumans found himself in Stalag Luft III at Sagan, scene of the Great Escape. At the time of the lottery for a position on the escape, he drew a high number and the escape was discovered before his turn arrived.

To pass the time in captivity many activities blossomed in the camp, notably drama. A 350-seat theatre was constructed – used later to store excavated sand from the escape tunnels – and the company produced high quality, fortnightly performances. Laumans became a key member of the company, where his skills as an actor, set designer and artist were put to good use. He played many of the leading lady roles to a full house, which sometimes included members of the Luftwaffe camp staff. The cast often included renowned actors, among them Rupert Davies, Peter Butterworth and John Casson.

The flow of new prisoners meant that the latest West End productions could be staged. One prisoner even arrived in the camp with a London theatre ticket for Arsenic and Old Lace; heavy flak over Germany had obliged him to miss the performance and he saw it instead in Stalag Luft III.

After repatriation in mid-1945, the Theatre Society obtained permission from the RAF to put on a series of variety shows in aid of the Red Cross. They played to packed houses in the West End and on tour around the country. The shows proved very popular with press and public and when Laumans married Rosemary Titmus in August 1945, their wedding photograph was on the front page of the Daily Mail.

Newspaper clipping showing Robert Laumans with his new wife Rosemary in 1945

Robert Laumans, always known as Bobby, was born on December 4 1920 at Tervuren and was a pupil at the Air Force flying school at Wevelgem when war broke out.

As the Germans invaded Belgium the school was evacuated to Caen in France and later moved, via Marseille, to Oujda in Morocco. Laumans managed to escape and finally arrived in England in August 1940 to join the RAF. He was sent to the newly formed Franco-Belgian Flying School at Odiham in Hampshire. After completing his training he joined No 74 Squadron and in April 1942 transferred to the recently formed No 350 (Belgian) Squadron. He flew sweeps and escort sorties, probably shooting down a Focke Wulf 190, before he was himself shot down.

After the war he received a number of promising offers to take up an acting career but chose to join the Belgian national airline, Sabena. He rose to be a chief pilot and flew the Boeing 707 before retiring.

Laumans remembered his days with the RAF with great fondness and was committed to the RAF community around Brussels. A man of great charm, with a wicked sense of humour, he was a long-standing member of the Belgian branch of the RAF Association and remained active until shortly before his death. At his funeral, a serving air marshal represented the RAF.

For his wartime service he received the Belgian Croix de Guerre with Palm and the Croix des Evadés.

Robert Laumans’s wife predeceased him. He is survived by their three daughters.

Robert Laumans, born December 4 1920, died April 21 2014


I’m pleased that CND has got money from a corporation like Unilever (Diary, 23 May), following an outcry over the company’s commercial use of “its iconic logo”. However, despite the symbol’s common association with that organisation, it isn’t CND’s logo. It predates CND, and was created originally for the Direct Action Committee Against Nuclear War (DAC), which was closely connected with Peace News. The symbol was intended to relate to nuclear disarmament in general, not to any one organisation, and neither DAC nor anyone involved tried to restrict who in the disarmament movement could use it.
Albert Beale

•  Mick Jagger apparently said “Call me old-fashioned, but I don’t think your ex-bank manager should be discussing your financial dealings and personal information in public” (Rupert Loewenstein obituary, 23 May). Call me old-fashioned, but I don’t think Mick, Keith Richards and Charlie Watts should have paid only 1.6% tax on earnings of £81.3m in 2005. Which political leader will cast the first stone?
Mike Bieber

• Tom Clark (Comment, 26 May) is right to deplore the spread of manual car washes. What he ignores, however, is the essential inadequacy of mechanical car washes, unless used virtually daily, in comparison to the extreme efficiency and attention to detail of the best manual services. He should try the excellent one in Brentford.
Roderick White

• OK, shit happens. But I do wish you wouldn’t rub it in by putting a huge picture of Farage’s triumphant smirk on your front page (26 May). He is so overexposed that we all know only too well what he looks like, and I’m sure most of us would be happy never to see it again.
Kate Sayer
Leamington Spa

• I see Petro Poroshenko has won the Ukraine presidency (Report, 26 May). In my view he’ll He will be as much use as a chocolate tycoon.

Mick Gough

Stoke on Trent

• The ECB’s managing director, Paul Downton, couldn’t be more wrong to accuse Kevin Pietersen of being disinterested (Sport, 23 May). He’s never shown any sign of that. Uninterested, however: I can believe that.
Liz Fuller

I would like to correct some of the misunderstandings behind Sophie Heawood’s piece on child maintenance reform (A green light for coercion, Comment, 22 May). The new system is designed to address a situation in which, historically, more than 50% of children who are living in separated families have had no effective financial arrangement in place at all.

With a combination of new incentives, new enforcement powers, new mediation support for parents and radically improved administration linking up child maintenance and tax records, our reforms are set to overturn two decades of failure.

The starting point of the government’s reforms is that the best outcomes for children will come when we can help and support separated parents to work things out between themselves, wherever possible. Large numbers of families currently using the Child Support Agency have told us that with the right help and support they could probably sort things out for themselves, without needing a government agency to take money from one parent and give it to another. With these families no longer on the books, the state can then concentrate its energy on securing maintenance from the minority who refuse to accept financial responsibility for their children.

The old system too often inflamed conflict and hostility rather than diminishing it, and achieved inadequate outcomes for too many children and parents, all at considerable expense to the taxpayer.

We know that children do better when parents work together, even after separation, and the new child maintenance system will support this instead of undermining it.
Steve Webb MP
Minister of state, Department for Work and Pensions

John Harris (England’s identity crisis, G2, 25 May) is right that the real democratic deficit within the UK is now in England. That’s one of the reasons a group of MPs and peers have just set up an all-party parliamentary group on further devolution and decentralisation. Our first big event will be on 16 July, when Peter Hennessey will lead a discussion with speakers from around the country on where we are in each part of the UK. After what we hope will be defeat for the separatists in Scotland, we will look at the way forward in each of the parts of UK. We will look at an English parliament, regional government, city states and all other options for real decentralisation of power in England – and not the unworkable idea of two levels of MPs at Westminster. We will also consider federal, quasi-federal and other options for the whole UK. It’s time there was a holistic examination of our constitution. It could also help us find a way of replacing our current anachronistic second chamber with a body representative of all parts of the UK.
George Foulkes
Co-chairman, APPG on devolution

Madeleine Bunting makes some important points (Our children really are facing a mental health crisis, 21 May). One of the most important points is that children and young people are vulnerable. They are subject to many pressures and opportunities. However, it is also important not to jump to simple conclusions about causes of apparent distress. To do so risks premature and possibly inappropriate labels. One of the symptoms of this may be seen in the way that young people’s expression of their difficulties is sometimes medicalised. The practice of educational psychologists working within communities and schools aims to help colleagues disentangle anxieties and find solutions that do not further disadvantage children through separation, labelling or mistreatment. Bunting says we are “raising children who are ill”. By providing an inappropriate environment, anyone’s health may be jeopardised. We need to recognise the complex causes that may generate distress and treat these carefully. Cholera was eradicated that way.
Dr Simon Gibbs
Reader in educational psychology, University of Newcastle

• Thank you for coverage of the troubling rise in demand for children and young people’s mental health services. Madeleine Bunting says young people’s mental health should be the subject of crisis seminars at government level. But it isn’t. And that is because mental illness remains unpopular and many prefer to blame beleaguered staff for failing children than face reality. Referral rates are increasing at around 10% a year to the children and young people’s services my trust provides in Kent, Medway, East Sussex, Brighton and Hove, West Sussex and Hampshire. Similar increases are reported across the country. Demand is outstripping supply and the complexity of three sets of commissioners – local authorities, clinical commissioning groups and NHS England – doesn’t help. Many areas have seen cuts to support and specialist services. This is not work for the faint-hearted, but staff are deeply worried. Most adults with drug or alcohol problems, major mental illnesses and/or in prison have experience of trauma and mental distress in childhood. It doesn’t take a genius to work out that lack of investment in services for children and young people, and in research to help us understand why we are seeing this unprecedented rise in demand, is storing up problems we will live to regret. It isn’t difficult to provide great care. We have excellent models and methods, and because young people are so resilient, we get speedy, life-changing results. What could matter more?
Lisa Rodrigues
Chief executive, Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust

Prince Charles

Prince Charles on his trip to Canada, during which he compared Vladimir Putin to Adolf Hitler Photograph: Paul Chiasson/AP

It is, of course, absurd that in the second decade of the 21st century, the Prince of Wales should again be testing the boundaries of his personal freedom to make political interventions (Prince proves he is a chip off the old block, 22 May). More depressing, however, is the supine reaction of Britain’s party leaders. The roles of the monarch and heir to the throne are largely defined by precedent and constitutional conventions, so an action that is not challenged can ultimately form the basis of a putative right. By failing to express concern over Charles’s recklessly indiscreet comments about Vladimir Putin, in which he compared the Russian president to Adolf Hitler, the UK’s leading elected representatives have offered him implicit constitutional licence to make similar outbursts in the future. These can only serve to undermine the monarchy‘s value as an instrument of British diplomacy. Nick Clegg’s claim that Charles should be “free to express himself” was presumably a clever ruse to hasten the advent of a republic. Otherwise, it was just rather silly.
Professor Philip Murphy
Director, Institute of Commonwealth Studies

• Given events in Ukraine, it’s predictable that the Foreign Office would reject Russian complaints about the heir to the throne’s recent remarks in Canada (Report, 23 May). What is more remarkable is that officials are unable to comment “upon reports of private conversations”. Charles was on an official visit paid for from the public purse. His role was clearly ex officio, and as such open to both media scrutiny and a normative constitutional framework. Either he doesn’t understand his constitutional position (surprising given his advancing years) or he chooses to ignore it. One suspects it’s the latter; and, as always, he wants it both ways.
Gus Pennington
Stokesley, North Yorkshire

• Shortly before the second world war Adolf Hitler encouraged those in a region (Sudetenland) of a neighbouring country (Czechoslovakia) who spoke his language to demand union with his own country. We do not know how much Mr Putin has encouraged the recent events in Ukraine, but they appear to have something in common with the Sudetenland crisis, and we must wonder where those armaments came from.

So, Prince Charles‘s remarks seem to be, not casual insults, but informed historical observation. Is Charles the only commentator to be aware of the parallels, or are others keeping quiet out of politeness (like Mr Chamberlain’s) to Mr Putin?
Julian Nieman

•  I doubt if President Putin will lose any sleep over the remarks of the Prince of Wales. Russian history has its own examples of royals who hadn’t got a clue what was going on. The real insult is to the Russian people. In 1941, after western Europe had collapsed under Hitler’s onslaught, millions of Axis soldiers invaded the USSR. From that point on, two-thirds of Germany’s military resources were tied down on the eastern front, unavailable to attack Britain. Twenty-six million people from the Soviet Union would give their lives to defeat nazism. To compare the policies of the Russian Federation with those of Nazi Germany is criminal idiocy.
David Butler

• The Russian media has responded to Prince Charles’s comments with humour (Russian TV mocks royals over Hitler row, 24 May). Our royalty’s German links are well documented. Everyone knows Harry isn’t really a Nazi or a Nazi sympathiser. They know this in Russia too, but have found a playground-esque way of responding In their tabloid media, producing a piece which from a style point of view would be very at home in the Sun. What it shows us that there is still room for non-aggressive dialogue between us and them. As the tensions between Russia and the west rise, keeping this sense alive becomes ever more important.
Keith Wilson

• Your editorial (22 May) about Prince Charles’ recent “gaffe” takes a swipe at some of the perfectly legitimate things he has championed. He stands for quality neighbourhoods rather than ugly inhuman council towers and you say he “disregards affordable housing”. He stands against the devastation of a wildlife wasteland that is the British countryside and you say he “disregards cheap food”. He stands for an integrated healthcare system that includes aspects of humanity often overlooked by a one-sidedly materialistic approach to modern medicine and you say he “disregards cures that actually work”. Your vehemence and prejudice against Prince Charles has blinded you to the many good things he does. He is a great deal better as an advocate for the issues that matter than many a politician.
Alex Fornal
Lower Maescoed, Herefordshire

'To Kill A Mockingbird' Film - 1962

Gregory Peck in the 1962 film version of To Kill a Mockingbird. Photograph: c.Everett Collection/Rex

The news that the OCR exam board is to remove American books from its GCSE syllabus is a sign that narrow nationalism is spreading beyond Ukip (Report, 26 May). While the ministerial guidelines do not actually order US literature to be removed, OCR is quoted as blaming ministerial pressure. Paul Dodd of OCR said Mr Gove “had a particular dislike of Of Mice and Men” . When did ministerial prejudice dictate what our children study?

OCR needs to explain why the tastes of the current secretary of state for education are relevant, particularly as Gove is unlikely to remain minister when the new course starts. Does OCR believe it will then have to change its syllabus at the whim of the new politician in charge? Alternatively OCR could reverse its decision and state clearly that political interference in exams is unacceptable. As things stand, the only text that should be studied across all English syllabuses is that impeccably English, if dangerously modern, text from the 1940s – Orwell’s 1984.
Trevor Fisher

• Mr Gove’s plan makes me feel quite angry. I spent a chunk of my recently completed GCSE English literature course studying Of Mice and Men, and I read To Kill a Mockingbird in my own time last year. These novels teach the value of taking a stand against racial intolerance as they show how discrimination affected lives. Removing these books from the syllabus will widen the gap between young people and access to worldwide literature, and therefore open-mindedness and a recognition of injustice. Of Mice And Men is studied by 90% of students, a statistic Mr Gove deems “disappointing”. However, there is clearly a reason for it. Regardless of whether you like the book or not, Steinbeck uses literary devices (foreshadowing, symbolism) effectively. Students adapt devices they learn about in Of Mice and Men to the analysis of other texts, and potentially include them in their own writing. Mr Gove seems to believe British literature should be taught, but what I don’t understand is why it makes a difference. If the same novel was written by an English man, would it be allowed? The Secretary of Education should be focusing on areas of the education system that are genuinely flawed, rather than altering aspects that simply don’t need changing.
Leah Binns (aged 16)
Birkenhead, Merseyside

Michael Gove‘s insistence on teaching British literature over any American texts proves how narrow-minded he can be. Yet I was saddened by the claim that British children would find the likes of Dickens and Austen “tedious” and are simply not up to the challenge. Of Mice and Men and Arthur Miller‘s The Crucible, which I studied only three years ago, are perfectly decent pieces of work, but they are not the most challenging. The likes of Bleak House, Pride and Prejudice, Great Expectations or Persuasion would certainly be more of a challenge, and I don’t think children would find them tedious were teachers to succeed in actually getting students to read them. Most schools have opted to teach Of Mice and Men because it is short and very simple. Gove is right to point this out; it just isn’t good enough.
Sam Osborne

• I’ve taught Of Mice and Men to all abilities over several years. It demonstrates, accessibly, narrative styles, and encourages children to understand concepts such as showing versus telling (or mimesis versus diegesis, for those who will head for university later) and the difference between “covert” and “omniscient” narration. It has a plot which shows, and allows the teaching of, the inevitability of a well-crafted tragedy. Reading the last pages of the novel brings some male and female members of any class close to tears. It encourages, if not demands, that readers reflect on social and legal justice, prejudice (racial and sexual), and the treatment of the disadvantaged. So Gove intends to abandon this accessible source of literary and intellectual understanding, emotional response, social awareness and logical reflection, and instead insists on students reading the “whole text” of a 19th-century novel. And he doesn’t even pretend it’s for educational reasons.
Phil Hind
Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire


The success of Ukip in the European elections is a disaster for British politics. The history of Europe’s last century is littered with the damage caused by parties based on resentment, prejudice and ignorance.

Shallow populist nationalism has left behind a squalid legacy and it should have no place in British political culture in the 21st century. Are we incapable of learning anything from history?

Professor Richard Overy, London NW3

Through the letters page of your paper I would like to ask Mr Farage what colour of shirt I should wear when the call comes to smash Polish shop windows or Indian restaurant frontages. This is important, as I would not want to be mistaken for a real fascist – just a member of Ukip.

John Broughton, Broad Haven, Pembrokeshire

The coverage of the local elections has become ridiculous.

Newspapers claimed that the Labour Party had been “trounced” by Ukip. Labour gained overall control of six councils; the Tories lost 11 and the Lib Dems lost two. Ukip control no councils. In like manner, Labour gained 338 seats, the Tories were down 231, and the Lib Dems were down 307 seats. Yet the press concluded it was the Labour Party who were trounced by Ukip’s “surge”. David Cameron and Nick Clegg could stand to be so trounced!

Julie Partridge, London SE15

Two things filled me with pride in living in London on Friday. The first was the breathtaking view over Trafalgar Square to Whitehall and the Houses of Parliament beyond. The second was that most Londoners, including myself, had avoided falling for the “charms” of Ukip in Thursday’s elections. I hope that Ukip’s spokesperson can see the irony in me being too well educated, as well as living in this country thanks to uncontrolled immigration from Wales.

Richard Jones, Hampton, Middlesex

Criticism of Ukip for the marginally racist, and deeply unpleasant, antics of some of its candidates rather misses the point: the real problem with it is that it is a single-issue, wholly negative party.

Does anyone have a clue what it stands for on, say, the NHS, trade, housing, transport, defence or any other issue on which a normal political party would have clear views? No, the only thing that Ukip bangs on about is the European Union and nothing else.

“Brussels ate my hamster” does not make a platform for a credible party.

Dr Richard Carter, London SW15

May I congratulate those people who voted for Ukip for helping the country towards the “return of powers”.

The “red tape” and “human rights” that the voters will be able to douse with large buckets of cold water, should they succeed in leaving the EU, will include the following: 28 days’ minimum paid annual leave; rights for agency workers, temps, and those in part-time work; current rights to pregnancy and paternal leave; working time directives, including 48-hour weeks and minimum break times. Anti-discrimination law (sex, disability, age, and sexual orientation) may be under critical consideration by our new island government, as may be redundancy legislation.

Only one more election, and we may be able to make our own rules. Perhaps that is the cause of Nigel Farage’s inability to keep a straight face.

I G Christie, King’s Lynn, Norfolk

Call me old-fashioned, but I have always understood that at any election, be it for national politics or for the committee of a local society, the sensible voter chooses the candidate who they believe will do the best job. How bizarre then that we have Ukip gaining a large number of seats in the European Parliament, an organisation which they do not support at all.

Until such time as we may leave the EU, all voters should choose the candidate who they believe will do the best job for Britain, attending meetings, lobbying and arguing our case. We should not vote for a candidate who seeks only to do the best job for their party.

David Dorkings, St Albans, Hertfordshire

It is obvious that, as an urban lounge lizard, Nigel Farage has never seen the effects of a fox in a henhouse; otherwise he would not have used the analogy of a “Ukip fox in the Westminster henhouse”.

What you see is simple wanton destruction and carnage for the sheer blood-lust of killing. There is nothing smart or constructive about it. I do not know many people who would vote for it if they knew the real consequences.

Tom Simpson, Bristol

Given the increasing choice of candidates we are faced with, and some of the bizarre results that it produces (such as right-wingers who have hitherto voted Conservatives voting Ukip and letting in Labour) is it not time to replace the first-past-the-post system with a two-round system like (horrors!) some of our neighbours?

If only, say, the top two or three parties in a given voting area were on the second-round ballot paper, then, unlike an alternative vote system, this would give time for inter-party deals to be done locally and voters to take into account first-round voting patterns in deciding how to vote in the second round.

As (whispered!) the French say, in the first round you vote with your heart and the second with your head.

Venetia Caine, Glastonbury, Somerset

Educational value of a day at the zoo

As the hymn-writer didn’t say, children learn in mysterious ways their wonders to perform (“Writing about ‘My day at the zoo’ can help a child’s literacy, survey finds”, 22 May). A particularly powerful way  is  first-hand experience and then reflecting on it through talk, writing, art or other media.

But to have memorable experiences requires time away from the constraints of test preparation and second-hand learning; it also often, though not necessarily, involves a degree of  expense. Those  economically disadvantaged children who attend schools “requiring improvement” can be further educationally disadvantaged if not given first-hand experiences to reflect on in the headlong pursuit of better data to satisfy Ofsted.

Yet inspectors do not have to assess the quality of experience offered by the curriculum except in the most perfunctory way. Perhaps inspectors too need that visit to the zoo.

Professor Colin Richards, Spark Bridge, Cumbria

Overheard in an infants’ school as we boarded a coach bound for the zoo.

Child A: “Don’t you want to go?”

Child B: “No, you always have to write about it afterwards.”

Jean Gallafent, London NW1

UK complicity in torture

Your report that MI5 may have been complicit in the detention and torture of a former UK resident in Egypt is extremely disturbing (“MI5 stands accused of complicity in torture this year”, 20 May).

To date the Government has failed to mount the full inquiry into past allegations of UK complicity in torture promised by David Cameron soon after he came to office in 2010. It’s alarming to think that fresh cases may be piling up even as older ones go uninvestigated.

Are lessons going unlearnt? Is there an ongoing sense of intelligence officials being above the law, and a continuing culture of “untouchability” in the security services?

Our research into the prevalence of torture worldwide has found that abuse is disturbingly ubiquitous – we recorded it in a staggering 141 countries in the world in the last five years alone.

It’s shocking to think the UK may itself have played a part in perpetuating this global scourge.

Tom Davies , Stop Torture campaign manager , Amnesty International UK , London EC2

Female beauty, male blubber

I haven’t seen or heard the singer Tara Erraught perform, and I hope I would never be so ill-mannered as to comment on a woman’s weight in any case. But I think it’s a bit rich for Janet Street-Porter (“Shrill male critics are deaf to soprano’s real beauty”, 24 May) to chide the male music critics she names for doing so, and then, not a hundred words later, to refer to Peter Ustinov and Luciano Pavarotti as “mountains of blubber”.

She calls the critics’ comments “outrageous”, which they are. Aren’t hers? Or doesn’t it count when it’s a woman criticising a man for not conforming to her idea of handsome?

John Spencer-Davis, Harrow, Middlesex

The right to be assertive

Mary Dejevsky (23 May) writes of Theresa May: “Just because a woman stands up and makes her case assertively does not mean she has an ulterior motive.” Quite so. However, replace “woman” with “politician” and the picture changes completely.

William Roberts, Bristol


Ukip’s relative success may be enough to force the other parties to rethink their policies

Sir, It is easy to blame the lack of support for the Conservatives on Ukip. The reality is simpler: Conservative central office blatantly ignores the voices formerly expressed through local associations. I regularly meet such organisations, and all say they feel ignored by the politicians at Westminster, many of whom have no business or work experience. Few politicians realise how irritated people are by their whingeing about pay and expenses.

I certainly do not support Ukip but I realise that Nigel Farage communicates effectively with voters. If the main parties, and not just the Conservatives, do not make radical changes they will be overwhelmed by the knock-on effect of Ukip’s success.

Roger Thomas

Former chairman, E Sussex CC

Heathfield, E Sussex

Sir, I served as an RN officer for 28 years. My wife and children have Chinese, Indian and Malaysian roots; in addition my nephews are half Japanese and my nieces can add German and Polish blood to this cosmopolitan mix. We all live in England.

When I saw the results of the Euro elections (May 26) I had a frisson of fear that would be familiar to similarly cosmopolitan families who woke up on September 15, 1930 to find that the National Socialists had won 18.25 per cent of the vote in the German federal election. Please be careful what you wish for when you cast a protest vote.

John Lister

Sutton-on-the-Forest, N Yorks

Sir, The support for Ukip in the Euro elections reflects deep dissatisfaction with the European ideal even though the Ukip vote remains a minority overall. What should the UK’s relationship with Strasbourg and Brussels be? Few want a United States of Europe. We need less centralised government and less expenditure on the European budget. It cannot be right that seven per cent of the world’s population in the EU benefits from 50 per cent of the world’s social spending. But fragmentation is no answer. Where is the vision for the cultural and spiritual values, and the peace dividend, that the European ideal stands for in the world, way beyond economic considerations? Politicians of all parties are failing to express a values basis for the future of Europe that can inspire a sense of common purpose in the European ideal.

Michael Smith

London SW20

Sir, What a brilliant analysis by Melanie Phillips (May 26). UK public reaction, as expressed by the popularity of Ukip, is not directed against immigration per se, as our political leaders seem to think, but is a gut reaction against an apparent loss of sovereignty to a remote and bureaucratic European parliament. It renders our political leaders powerless so that when they play with policy detail they are out of touch with public feeling.

Arthur Dicken

Prestbury, Cheshire

Sir, People chose Ukip because of the terrifyingly powerful members of the European Commission. No EU “citizen” voted for them, no EU “citizen” can vote them out. Worse, two recent UK commissioners, Neil Kinnock and Chris Patten, had been rejected by the British electorate in general elections. This democratic deficit attracts voters to Ukip.

Charlie Flindt

Hinton Ampner, Hants

Sir, In spite of Labour’s relatively poor showing in the local and Euro elections, the Conservatives are very likely to fall short of a majority in the general election next year.

The reason for this failure is the weakness of David Cameron’s policies on immigration, and the EU, which are essentially a single issue. We will never have effective control of the numbers coming in from the EU while we are a member.

Sir, Ukip won just 4.3 per cent of the seats last Thursday, and analysis of the individual results (May 24) did not bear out your predictions that the old mill and pit towns of Yorkshire and Lancashire were seething with anger and would vote Ukip to demonstrate that anger. What happened? Barnsley, Burnley, Blackburn, Bolton, Bury, Kirklees, Calderdale, Preston, Rochdale, St Helens and Wigan returned not one single Ukip candidate between them. Oldham returned two and Bradford one. A very small earthquake, but it did not trouble Mr Richter.

David Turner

Ravenshead, Notts

Sir, Matthew Parris is wrong on two counts (May 24). First, the concern over immigration is that within the EU it is uncontrolled and uncontrollable. Our intake of immigrants from anywhere in the world must be according to the resources that we have and are willing to make available for them.

Second, voters are concerned about the loss of all that goes to make up our essential “Britishness” eg, history, culture, constitution, democracy, the rule of law and religion. The problem is not that our politicians don’t understand this, it is that they cannot do anything about it.

Roger Loosley

Guildford, Surrey

Sir, Ukip’s victory reflects a mounting middle and aspiring working-class disillusionment with the establishment and its apparent amoral pursuit of market and personal advantage, and that includes the banks, the CBI, the trade union movement and the media. Nigel Farage, like Lenin, knows full well that you cannot have a revolution, peaceful or otherwise, without an alienated middle section of society. The Establishment’s treatment of the police, teachers, doctors, the NHS and nurses and social workers etc are giving him that in spades.

Professor John Hilbourne


Sir, I doubt if there is a French word for “kippered”; but Ukip has a French precedent, the Poujadist movement in the mid-1950s, which was seen as an agent for the defence of the common man against the political elites.

It rose and fell in five years, but in the meantime launched the career of Jean Marie le Pen and the presidency of Charles de Gaulle. Even a short-lived protest movement can have a lasting legacy. The major parties should beware.

Christopher McCall

Moulsford on Thames, Oxon

Sir, Turnout for the Euro elections in the UK was 33.8 per cent, slightly down from last time. I can well understand this indifference because today’s politicians and commentators tell us only what they think we want, or ought, to hear. The truth would be refreshing.

Daniel Stansfield

Welbourn, Lincs

Sir, One in 11 of the electorate voted Ukip in the Euro elections — 27.5 per cent on a turnout of 34 per cent. An earthquake ? Barely a landslip.

Jim Cooper


Sir, Ukip’s success is significant, but the older parties need only to hold their nerve. Come the general election, Labour and Conservatives will be protected by our “first past the post” system, now increasingly not fit for purpose. Liberal Democrats, having lost popularity, have only one option; to address every question in a principled, non-partisan and grown up manner; not squabble over personalities; and to try to be right rather than popular. Which holds true for the Greens as well.

Meanwhile, we need to do something about our electoral system, which for many voters will be a nightmare in the next election. So that voters can vote for whom they really want, we have to introduce some element of proportionality, while retaining our constituency links with MPs and avoiding the undemocratic farce of party lists which we had to subscribe to in the European election.

Hugh Legge


Donating one’s corpse to medical science is not as easy as it sounds, and a funeral might have to be paid for after all

Sir, I sincerely hope that Ann Thorp’s optimism is not unfounded and that she gets her wish regarding her body donation (letter, May 22).

According to the University of Leicester Medical School, there are 14 reasons why a body may not be accepted. These include accident, inflictions, disease and deformity.

Should I die, body intact and free from all of the above, and a post mortem has been carried out, again, not eligible. Furthermore, if I die over the Christmas/New Year or Easter periods when the Medical School is not open, the alternative funeral arrangements that I need to have in place must occur.

Deirdre Rishworth

Harborough Magna, Warks

The UK’s maritime patrol capability was wrecked by Labour but the Tories still haven’t repaired it yet

Sir, The Defence Secretary says our lack of a maritime patrol capability is due to the mess left by the previous government (letter, May 26). He doesn’t tell us what his government has done to correct this situation.

Vice-Admiral Sir James Jungius

Sherborne, Dorset

There are effective cures for loneliness in old age, like voluntary work in the community

Sir, Joan Bakewell (May 26) says that the elderly were often left without a purpose in life. I disagree. I’ve not met any elderly who want to lead an army; the contented ones are working as hard as ever giving their services to the community — not mentioned in your quotations from the baroness’ speech, but a vital part of growing old gracefully. There is a vast need for voluntary work, from community and hospital visiting to serving as governors and guides. Loneliness in old age is an avoidable condition, best prevented by taking an interest in the welfare of society, not oneself.

Dr Alastair Lack

Coombe Bissett, Wilts

Aw shucks! The education secretary has spoken of banning US literature from the English GCSE syllabus

Sir, “Now what the hell ya s’pose is eating them two guys?” The colloquialism at the end of Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men encapsulates why Mr Gove “dislikes” this text enough to ban it from English literature GCSE (May 26). Just as some characters in the novella don’t understand the situation, Mr Gove fails to understand the significance of the shifts in language communication and, more importantly, the subtle messages and warnings from 1937 that are blaring alarms today. Steinbeck beautifully links immigration, discrimination, (dis)ability and aspirations to chance, Darwinism and survival. Does any other novelist do this?

Forcing students to concentrate on writers whose dense verbiage conveys an antiquated social order squanders the opportunity to link the language of English literature to universal social relevance.

William Smith

(English teacher)

London E1


Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s masterpiece: crews tackle the fire at the Glasgow School of Art on Friday  Photo: getty images

6:58AM BST 26 May 2014

Comments23 Comments

SIR – My son and his partner were fortunate enough to study at Glasgow School of Art, and we attended their graduation shows in 2011 in the wonderful building seriously damaged in Friday’s fire. I can understand why students wept as “Mackintosh’s treasure” went up in flames. The Hen Run and library, in particular, were exquisite.

The only other building I’ve visited that instilled such a sense of wonder is the Alhambra Palace in Granada.

Students will ensure that the school’s spirit survives to inspire many more (Turner-nominated) artists. This is truly a Scottish, British and internationally renowned building.

Garo Derounian
Cheltenham, Gloucestershire

SIR – I was sorry to hear of the fire at the Glasgow School of Art but surprised to read that Danny Alexander, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, had promised that the Government would contribute “in the millions, if necessary” to restore a “priceless gem”. I thought that was what insurance was for. If not, can I cancel my policy and ask the Government to pick up the bill if I have a problem?

Chris Hoyle
Stratton St Margaret, Wiltshire

SIR – No other building of such architectural renown and world significance – especially one with so much of its original internal fixtures and fittings made of wood – would allow the ragtag of today’s art students anywhere near the premises, especially when you consider what often passes for art in today’s Fine Art degree shows.

John Rattigan
Doveridge, Derbyshire

SIR – The expenses scandal brought the public’s trust in politicians to an all-time low. Anxious to address the problem, the mainstream parties all promised to back the introduction of a recall system to allow constituents to hold their MPs to account in between elections. It was a promise that resonated with the public.

We are pleased that the Government has indicated that it intends to bring forward a Recall Bill in the Queen’s Speech, but we strongly believe that the version of recall it currently proposes falls far short of public expectations. For instance, instead of handing recall powers to voters, it will hand that power to a committee of MPs.

In addition, the criteria would be so narrow as to exclude all but the most serious financial offences. Such a system would not only not empower voters, it would expand the gulf between them and their representatives.

If our political leaders are serious about improving the relationship between people and power, we need a genuine system of recall, where voters are able to remove under-performing MPs. There should be no middlemen, no requirement to secure the permission of parliamentary committees.

If enough voters sign a petition, they should earn the right to hold a referendum on whether or not to remove their MP.

If the threshold is set at the right level, decent MPs would have nothing to fear. A genuine recall system would boost accountability, empower voters and help settle the strained relationship between people and their politicians. It’s time for parties to honour their promise in full.

Steve Baker MP (Con)

Guto Bebb MP (Con)

Douglas Carswell MP (Con)

David Davis MP (Con)

Nick de Bois MP (Con)

Nadine Dorries MP (Con)

Jim Fitzpatrick MP (Lab)

Zac Goldsmith MP (Con)

Robert Halfon MP (Con)

Gordon Henderson MP (Con)

Kate Hoey MP (Lab)

Julian Huppert MP (Lib Dem)

Caroline Lucas MP (Green)

Dominic Raab MP (Con)

Mark Reckless MP (Con)

Rory Stewart MP (Con)

Nimrod failure

SIR – The Defence Secretary blames Britain’s lack of specialist maritime patrol aircraft on the undoubted incompetence of the last government (Letters, May 24). However, we voted for him and his colleagues to address the mess that follows any sustained period of Labour government.

The Cabinet has chosen to put more than £10 billion into a bloated overseas aid budget, a wasteful act of misplaced liberal vanity. At the same time, it is cutting our Armed Forces to a level that seriously undermines our international status.

To govern is to choose. Wrong choice, Mr Hammond.

Gregory Shenkman
London W8

SIR – When I need a new car, I do not spend millions of pounds on research and build one myself. Instead, I buy one ready-made. Perhaps the Defence Secretary could approach America and buy or lease maritime patrol aircraft on a better deal, I hope, than the last lease.

Terry White
Denham, Buckinghamshire


SIR – Be careful. Pies without sides and bottoms (Letters, May 24)could be cobblers.

Spencer Atwell
Felbridge, Surrey

GP waiting times

SIR – It is strange that people understand the rules of supply and demand in the world of hospitality but not where general practice is concerned. The reason why your correspondent (Letters, May 24) cannot book a (hopefully) non-urgent appointment for 20 days is that demand is outstripping supply, not that the GP is out on the golf course.

Annual GP consultations have risen from 240 million in 2004 to 340 million in 2013.

Many patients have increasing numbers of complex medical problems and need far longer than the standard 10-minute appointment, and considerable work and follow-up afterwards.

Funding to general practice is not increasing and neither are GP numbers. There are 40,000 GPs with an average list size of 1,700 patients. Eight per cent of the NHS budget goes to general practice and yet 90 per cent of all patient contacts are in general practice. GPs are running to keep up – many reporting days of 12 to 15 hours with an increasing risk of error due to fatigue.

Many GPs are contemplating or taking early retirement. Significant numbers of younger GPs are moving abroad or switching careers. Recruitment is in crisis with a large number of practices failing to recruit replacement doctors. Carry on knocking GPs by all means, but there will be fewer and fewer of them left to care.

Dr Lindsay Sword
Medstead, Hampshire

Plethora of peacocks

SIR – The village of White Colne should be pleased that it has only three peacocks to contend with. Our village has been plagued with feral peacocks for years now. I once counted 13 on my lawn.

The parish council receives complaints from residents about the nuisance that they cause, including noise, mess and damage to plants.

We have not yet been able to find a solution to this problem. Culling is one idea, but this would not be popular with all residents.

We considered trying to reduce the numbers by finding a bird reserve that would take them.

But this meant that they would have to be caught first, and then we would have to bear the cost of transport. In any event, the reserve closed.

We are still looking for a solution.

John Pickering
North Ferriby, East Yorkshire

SIR – Peacock is quite edible.

Chris Harding
Parkstone, Dorset

Bin best-before labels and trust people to judge

SIR – You report that the European Union is considering scrapping “best before” labels on some foods.

Back when we didn’t have fridges, if one end of your cheese was green, you cut that bit off and ate the rest; if the top of the jam was growing things, you spooned that bit out and ate the rest. Surely most of us have the wit to know when to bin something.

P B Johnson
Ruislip, Middlesex

SIR – Charles Dobson is unsurewhether to eat the out-of-date chocolates he won recently at a Women’s Institute raffle.

He obviously doesn’t know the rules of such raffles. Of course he doesn’t eat the chocolate – he simply donates it to the next raffle, as his predecessors have clearly been doing for the past three years.

Margaret Croft

SIR – Three cheers for Charles Moore who, once again, has hit the nail so elegantly on the head (“The capital fails to see the heartache and pain beyond”, Comment, May 24). May the collective “head” that forms the views of London take note.

J David Jackson
Normanby, North Yorkshire

SIR – The very worst part of the London elite’s activities is its unstoppable success in selling off the best parts of Britain’s manufacturing industry, often situated in the North, without regard for the tax-paying people working in it.

After all, HS2 has the sole purpose of taking more money to London.

Leonard Simonis
Bournemouth, Hampshire

SIR – In his perceptive article on how foreign London has become, Charles Moore mentions that many of the capital’s residents are “not British citizens and therefore cannot vote”.

In fact, all Commonwealth, EU and Irish citizens are permitted to vote in local and European Parliament elections. Commonwealth citizens can vote in British general elections as well, a hangover from the Empire. In London around two million of the 5.5 million electors (36 per cent) are foreigners, a situation without parallel in any other country in the world.

A first step to making London a bit less of a foreign city would be to remove the bias in favour of continued high levels of immigration by restricting voting entitlement to British citizens only, fully accepting that this will only be possible in respect of European Union nationals when Britain leaves that organisation.

Emeritus Professor S F Bush
University of Manchester
Thurston, Suffolk

SIR – The Coalition should take heart from last week’s low turnout. It suggests that the additional 25 per cent of the electorate which, on past form, will vote in the general election did not feel sufficiently alienated from the main parties to be seduced by Ukip.

Hugh Payne
Hitchin, Hertfordshire

SIR – I understand that David Cameron is determined to win back disaffected Tory voters. I presume he won’t be wanting to include those of us he classed as “fruitcakes, loonies and closet racists”.

Barry Peverett
Hythe, Kent

SIR – I know we are told that business relies on our remaining in the EU. Fine. What I am fed up with is the pathetic rulings to come out of Brussels. I, for one, don’t mind a bent cucumber or burying a poor dead bird in the garden.

Now those working on commission (report, May 23) must be paid while on holiday. What next?

Lynne Waldron
Woolavington, Somerset

Irish Times:

Sir, – Fair play to Eamon Gilmore for resigning with such dignity. Ironically, never have basic Labour policies like building social housing or establishing a needs-based national health service been more relevant. – Yours, etc,



Louisburgh, Co Mayo.

Sir, – As a former member of Labour, the reason I could not bring myself to vote for the party in any form in this election was not, as various spokespeople have claimed, because of what they had to do in government. Any party in government would have had to do the same.

The reason I couldn’t vote for it is because it went into government in the first place.

Instead of using the time in opposition to develop policies for a broad-left, post-bailout government, it took office to implement policies over which it had no control.

The great enemies of Sinn Féin – Gilmore and Rabbitte – have largely ceded the left to that party and, by making a Fianna Fáil-Sinn Féin coalition a real possibility after the next election, ensured the continuation of essentially conservative Irish politics. – Yours, etc,


Ceannt Fort,

Mount Brown,

Dublin 8.

Sir, – Paddy Power is offering odds of 5/6 of an FG/FF government after the next general election. The bland leading the bland? – Yours, etc,


Villiers Road,

Rathgar,Dublin 6.

Sir, – I am delighted with this weekend’s election results. I will now be able to do the household budget for next year, based on the election promises of Sinn Féin and the Independents. I will now not have to budget for the local property tax or water charges. Or are these just promises that cannot be kept but are merely said to get elected? – Yours, etc,


Glenvara Park,


Dublin 16.

Sir, – Ten years ago I read Lost for Words, by John Humprys, in which he advised the reader to insert the word “not” into politicians’ promises. I have applied this advice several times during the last few weeks. The following is an example: “We will not stop water charges.” – Yours, etc,




Co Wicklow.

Sir, – I thought it ironic that the painted marks placed on the footpath outside my house by Irish Water (presumably for installation of the water meter) were washed away by the rain on the day of the local elections. Is Mother Nature trying to tell us something? – Yours, etc,


Windsor Road,


Dublin 6.

Sir, – When asked on radio about Labour’s broken promises, Mr Rabbitte made an all-too-familiar excuse – sure the party can’t really be judged on its manifesto because that’s what Labour would do if it governed alone. So their former voters really thought Labour would sweep into office on its own?

Shortly after the exchange with Mr Rabbitte, Pearse Doherty frankly declared that Sinn Féin would be perfectly capable of coalition, and he cited the party’s role in the North.

Could I suggest that in future, in the public interest, smaller parties produce two manifestos before elections – one on what they would do if they get a majority, and the other the red-line list that they would stick to in any coalition. This is what voters really need to know if smaller parties who go into coalition are to be held to account. – Yours, etc,


Beechfield Road,


Dublin 12.

Sir, – While the continued rise of Sinn Féin has engendered a huge amount of post-election comment, less discussed has been the fact that the number of elected ex-Progressive Democrats has rocketed upwards yet again.

It is a clear sign of how toxic the party brand had become that so many of its members have found favour with the electorate when shorn of the party name.

It is certain from the stark contrast between the talent available to the party and its distinct lack of success that Breaking the Mould, and those histories of the party yet to be written, will be read for many years to come, not least to discover what not to do. – Yours, etc,


Kerrymount Rise,


Co Dublin.

Sir, – Labour’s message is often too technocratic. The party stresses how good it is in government rather than promoting values.

It points to its unique administrative capacity of taking governmental responsibility in good and bad times – to do what is necessary.

True as this may be, this does not set Labour apart from other parties in the minds of the electorate. Labour must become emboldened or become extinct.

To survive, Labour can carve out a modern, values-based identity for itself. The values of community, family, healthy living, work-life balance, tolerance, pluralistic democracy, human rights, decent workplaces and providing people with the freedom to reach their potential need to be central to the values of a Labour Party that can and must rebuild its support base for the good of the country. – Yours, etc,


Beech Hill Drive,


Co Dublin.

Sir, – If Luke Flanagan encourages a relative to stand in the pending byelection in Roscommon, will he be accused of attempting to found a “Ming Dynasty”? – Yours, etc,


Forest Avenue,

Kingswood Heights,

Dublin 24.

Sir, – Sinn Féin has now shown itself to be a force in Irish politics both north and south of the Border.

It has increased its vote by 8 per cent in the Republic’s local elections and, while still the second-biggest party in the north, has increased its vote there while the DUP has not. The trend is clear. Sinn Féin is the only true 32-county political party and, with the demographic trend in its favour in the north, it appears to be only a matter of time before Sinn Féin is the majority party both north and south of the Border.

If that happens will the country be finally reunited? Or will the forces of reaction hold out for a bit longer against the inevitable?

We really are living in interesting times. – Yours, etc,


Greencastle Avenue,


Dublin 17.

Sir, – Enda and Eamon can take comfort in their misery by remembering what the British did to Churchill after he won the war ! History always repeats itself. – Yours, etc,



Co Meath.

A chara, – Should May 23rd be known henceforth as Independents’ Day? – Is mise,


Beverton Wood,


Co Dublin.

Sir, – The recent elections have clearly shown the need for a new party in Irish politics. This new party should resonate with all the electorate, raise national morale and restore Ireland to its former glory. No, I am not referring to the Reform Alliance, nor to a Workers’ Utopian Party.

I am suggesting we badly need an Irish version of the Monster Raving Loony Party. The recent campaigns were almost devoid of humour. There were few light moments, no memorable jokes from candidates, not even a gentle chuckle. One could even be forgiven for thinking that politics had become more serious than football. At least, thank God for Miriam Lord! – Yours, etc,


Beaufort Place,


Co Meath.

Sir, – My glass is certainly half full. Seven weeks ago I made a decision to run in this year’s local elections in the Galway City West Ward. Within a week I had my posters and leaflets printed. I had assembled a team of canvassers that grew to over 30 people by the end of the campaign.

I ran a short six-week canvass, erecting 100 posters and canvassing 5,000 houses. I went from being a complete unknown in political terms to a situation where 270 people in this ward thought I was the best person to represent them on the city council.

By the time I was eliminated on the fifth count, I had increased this to 401 votes, which was approximately a third of a quota.

I may not have won a seat on Galway City Council but I have achieved so much 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 the city council will bring new ideas and a new energy. I wish them the very best of luck. – Yours, etc,


Lower Salthill,


Sir, – Your Weekend Review suggested 10 ideas for easing Ireland’s housing crisis (“No homes to go to”, May 24th).

My impression of recent housing trends is that investors are playing a significant part in causing the alarming house price rises in some areas, and at the expense of those simply seeking a roof over their own family’s heads. What appears to be needed is some incentive to make bricks and mortar less attractive for investors and, if at all possible, to direct that apparently burdensome cash to sectors of the economy where investment may provide more beneficial results for our society. To that end, we should increase capital gains tax on non-primary residences and set up forums to introduce potential investors to business innovators and start-ups. – Yours, etc,




Co Galway.

Sir, – Labour’s proposal to put the onus to provide new social housing on builders will serve to restrict supply to the open market. It will push up prices for first-time buyers and those who need to trade up – ie, the younger generation. It is not just the reviled developers who will pay.

The economics of this are obvious; yet once again, the fortunate older generation still sitting on massive unrealised gains from the property bubble can sell their houses without capital gains tax or remain in situ paying the same local property tax as those struggling with large mortgages. In many cases these houses are larger than the owners’ needs but there is little incentive to trade down.

If Labour is sincere, a building programme for new houses should be funded by those currently befitting from asset price inflation – current house-owners, not would-be buyers. – Yours, etc,


Long Meadows Apartments,

Conyngham Road,

Dublin 8.

Sir, – Is it now time for the Niall Mellon Trust to recognise our status where housing is concerned? They would save all those airfares to South Africa and we would get basic quality housing in record time. Worth considering? – Yours, etc,


Brewery Road,


Co Dublin.

Sir, – The recent news that the HSE is planning on recruiting doctors from eastern Europe to plug the gaps in the health service is a worrying development for many of us working in Irish hospitals (“HSE recruitment plans condemned”, Home News, May 19th).

I wonder will they be treated with the same level of disregard that our skilled colleagues from south Asia were treated when they were recruited in recent years? Perhaps we should consider why Irish-trained doctors are leaving our hospitals before we trawl more countries for their precious resources.

Last week, a colleague of mine was told to find her own replacement for a 24-hour shift by a major Dublin teaching hospital. She had broken her arm.

Doctors are a global commodity. Until the HSE accepts this and treats us appropriately, Ireland and its people will continue to lose out. – Yours, etc,


Albany Road,


Dublin 6.

Sir, – Stephen Collins characterises people who disagree with inviting a member of the British royal family to the centenary celebrations of the 1916 Rising as “peevish” and a “coalition of naysayers” (“Don’t let minority stuck in past take over 1916 events”, Opinion & Analysis, May 24th).

It is obvious that Mr Collins ignores the historical context of the Rising in order to advocate his own trendy and populist opinion. The 1916 Rising was a rebellion to rid Ireland of the monarchical ruling ascendancy and to declare an independent republic. By inviting a member of the British royal family to a celebration of this fact is insulting to the leaders of 1916 and a desecration of the Proclamation. I am proud to be “peevish and a “naysayer”. – Yours, etc,


Harcourt Terrace,

Dublin 2 .

Sir, – Charles McLaughlin (May 24th) asks whether Mr Shatter will forego a tax refund on his charitable donation. As far as I am aware this tax break was abolished in 2013.

Ciaran Downes (May 24th) appears to be confused regarding benefit-in-kind rules. Mr Shatter’s employers did not make a charitable donation on his behalf. Even if they had done so, no benefit-in-kind would arise, as he would be foregoing the money he was entitled to, and no benefit would accrue. Is it now your policy to print any letters that arrive to your inbox without checking for inaccuracies, in order to pander to the baying mob? – Yours, etc,


Goldenbridge Avenue,

Inchicore, Dublin 8.

Sir, – I find it extraordinary that Mr Shatter, having been instrumental in a Government decision to stop severance payments to Ministers, accepted his severance payment. The purpose of the Government decision was to save the State money in difficult financial times. The fact that it will be passed on to a deserving charity is irrelevant.

Equally extraordinary was Mr Shatter’s decision to announce his acceptance of the severance payment and its onward journey to the deserving charity in what can only be described as a fully-fledged press conference. He could easily have made his announcement in a low-key, one-line statement on Thursday morning or earlier. In reality, the whole thing was a publicity stunt and an insult to those who quietly donate their own (as compared to the State’s) hard-earned money. – Yours, etc,


Craddockstown Road,

Naas, Co Kildare.

Sir, – Eamonn McCann, whether ironically or not, has resurrected the Devil from the dying embers of Hell (“Why do we rarely give the Devil his due?”, Opinion & Analysis, May 22nd). In today’s society “systems failures” and other such abstractions are replacing the Devil as the cause of evil. It is time we grew up to accept and confront the reality that evil originates within the human person. It is time to stop blaming everything but ourselves for the mess we have made of our society and world. – Yours, etc,


The Moorings ,

Malahide, Co Dublin.

Sir, – In Percy French’s poem The Four Farrellys, the young Farrelly from the west who is about to emigrate asks French to draw him a picture “of the place where he was born” so that when he was away from home, he would “hang it up and look at it, and not feel so forlorn”. When the picture was finished the young man said to the artist, “Well, you’re the Divil, and I can’t say more than that”. The question is why is the Devil the ultimate compliment? – Yours, etc,


Sydenham Avenue,


Sir, Eamonn McCann’s hands were clearly idle when he wrote that column