August 4, 2014

4 August 2014 Tomatoes

I jog around the park I still have arthritis in my left knee, but I manage to get round the park. A warmish day

Scrabble Mary wins, but gets under 400. perhaps I will win tomorrow.


Norman Cornish – obituary

Norman Cornish was a coal miner and artist whose paintings celebrated the industrial past with humanity and warmth

One of Norman Cornish's scenes of the industrial north-east

One of Norman Cornish’s scenes of the industrial north-east

5:48PM BST 03 Aug 2014


Norman Cornish, who has died aged 94, spent more than three decades working as a coal miner before making a successful career as an artist; he was the last painter from the so-called “Pitman’s Academy”, a pioneering arts community established in north-east England in the 1930s.

Cornish recorded the now largely forgotten environment of the north-east’s mining communities, portraying its knife-grinders and fish-and-chip vans; its vendors with their horse-drawn carts; men relaxing in the pub after work; and children skipping in the street. Motor cars do not feature.

Norman Cornish’s ‘Two Mean at Bar with Dog’

Unlike the work of LS Lowry (whom Cornish knew), his pictures carry no sense of alienation; rather, they radiate a mellowness and warmth (his pub interiors are usually bathed in an amber glow) and a nostalgia for an era in which, despite its terrible deprivations, there was a rich feeling of community. They are not only works of art, but also socio-historical documents.

Cornish once observed: “If you see a street and it’s not terribly interesting, you don’t draw it. But then something happens. Some interesting people come in or a couple of dogs start fighting or some kids start playing with skipping ropes, and suddenly it enlivens the place and I want to draw it.”

One of Norman Cornish’s street scenes

Norman Cornish was born on November 18 1919 at Spennymoor, in the Wear Valley, Co Durham, and he and his three younger brothers grew up in a terraced house next to the old ironworks, with no bathroom or lavatory. He would later retain vivid memories of the deprivation caused by the General Strike of 1926, and at the age of seven he contracted diphtheria.

Spennymoor had been a coal mining town since the 19th century (the first pit was dug in 1839), but by the time Norman was growing up most of the men were employed at nearby collieries such as Ferryhill, three miles distant. When Norman was 14 his father lost his job, and his eldest son — already passionate about painting and drawing — had to abandon his dreams of further education and start work.

Inevitably he went down the mine, and on Boxing Day 1933 he had his first shift at Ferryhill’s Dean and Chapter colliery (notorious for accidents, and known locally as “The Butcher’s Shop”). Cornish later wrote of his mining experience: “The dangers of gas, stone falls, the darkness and the restricted space, were all to shape these men into industrial gladiators.”

Norman Cornish: a self-portrait

Not long after starting work Norman Cornish learned that there was a sketching club at Spennymoor, run under the aegis of the Spennymoor Settlement, which had been established in 1930 to give working-class families and the unemployed access to the arts; it also offered classes in practical skills such as joinery and shoe repair.

Cornish became an enthusiastic participant, showing some of his work in the Settlement’s annual art exhibition, and became a close friend of another member, Sid Chaplin, later well-known for his novels, short stories and television screenplays.

Gradually Cornish began to exhibit, but he was unable to acquire a set of oil paints until a well-off local woman (who lived in “a big hall”) admired one of his watercolours and asked why it was not painted in oils. When he said he could not afford to buy any, she wrote out a cheque.

Norman Cornish’s ‘Miner on Pit Road at Night’

A number of gifted artists worked at the Settlement — among them the slightly younger Tom McGuinness (1926-2006), who would make a name as a painter of striking scenes of mining life — and collectively they became known as The Pitman’s Academy. In time they began to exhibit further afield, including at the Laing Art Gallery in Newcastle upon Tyne, sometimes described as the “Royal Academy of the North”.

Cornish continued to work in the mines during the Second World War, and also served as a fire-watcher. In his spare time, though, he painted; and when the war came to an end he put on his first one-man show, at the People’s Theatre in Newcastle . In 1947 five of his paintings were purchased by Reg Revans, Director of Education for the newly-formed National Coal Board, for display at the Coal Board’s London office. On the back of this, Cornish was invited to help organise an exhibition in London entitled Art by the Miner .

In 1950 he graduated to more exalted company, showing alongside Henry Moore and others at a West End gallery in an exhibition called The Coal Miners. Throughout the Fifties he continued to show his work regularly in the north-east, forming an enduring relationship with the Stone Gallery in Newcastle, which also showed LS Lowry and the Cumbrian artist Sheila Fell. The Conservative Prime Minister Edward Heath bought two of Cornish’s works — a source of wry amusement to the artist with his staunch socialist background.

Detail from Norman Cornish’s ‘Convivial Company’

In 1962 Cornish was commissioned by County Hall in Durham to produce a 30ft mural depicting local life. The project brought his work to wider attention, and the following year he was featured in a programme in the BBC television arts series Monitor, introduced by Sir Hew Wheldon and entitled Two Border Artists (the other subject was Sheila Fell).

Throughout this period Cornish had remained working in the pits, but in 1966 — increasingly suffering from back problems — he left his job. Although he was allowed to remain in his National Coal Board house, he clearly had to continue to support his family (his wife, Sarah, and their son and daughter), and he was not confident that he could do so from painting.

But with his wife’s encouragement, he gave it a try, and he succeeded in making a living selling his paintings, while supplementing his income with a visiting lectureship at Sunderland College of Art.

In 1974 he was awarded an honorary MA by Newcastle University.

Cornish published, in 1989, an autobiography, A Slice of Life, with an introduction by Melvyn Bragg. In the same year he had a major retrospective at the University of Northumbria Gallery, and in 1992 a one-man exhibition at the same venue. In 1997 he presented a substantial number of his pictures to the University for its permanent collection.

He continued to paint into his nineties, and in 2009 he was the subject of a book, The Quintessential Cornish, by Robert McManners and Gillian Wales.

The story of north-east England’s miner/artists was turned into a play, The Pitmen Painters, by Lee Hall, author of the screenplay of the film Billy Elliot. It opened in Newcastle in 2007, and has since enjoyed successful runs at the National Theatre in London and on Broadway.

An exhibition of Norman Cornish’s work opened in March at the Kings Place Gallery, north London, and is scheduled to run until August 22.

Three years ago, in an interview with the BBC, Cornish recalled a conversation he had had with Lowry: “I remember we talked about what happened to an artist when he died. His work — was it forgotten or was it going to be cherished?”

Norman Cornish, born November 18 1919, died August 1 2014


Flanders Fields 100 Years Since The Great War

Congratulations to the Guardian for publishing a front-page article commemorating the work of peacemakers in the first world war (In memoriam: A century on, time to hail the peacemakers, 28 July). On Monday 4 July, Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) will stage events throughout the UK to commemorate the start of the war. In London, the event will recall the suffragists, meeting at Kingsway Hall, who delivered a plea to Downing Street, beseeching British political leaders to use their political skills to avoid the war. Sadly the plea was ignored.

The WILPF centenary congress at The Hague in April 2015 will bring together women of 43 countries to commemorate the work of women who met at The Hague in 1915. Then, 1,200 women from 12 countries met and passed 20 resolutions on war and its causes. Five elected delegates visited 21 heads of state in war-stricken Europe and America to inform statesmen of the resolutions and to urge them to implement continuous mediation.

In 2015, WILPF women at The Hague will acknowledge the efforts of all women who have continuously worked toward peace for 100 years and will formulate strategies that might inspire world leaders to resolve international disputes by peaceful methods.
Helen Kay

• The bloodfest reported from conflict zones around the world no longer makes me weep. That alone is telling and sad. I do despair at times – but despair is manageable; the death of a child, lover, father – under a crumbled building, shot, blown up – how is that managed day in, day out? Thank you, Adam Hochschild and the Guardian. Front page news remembering and commemorating the peacemakers past and present. Peacemaking is a heroic activity – let us have a “Provide for Peace” to run alongside Help for Heroes.

Thousands said no to the call-up and killing of the first and second world wars – many were tortured and some died as a result of their stand. Bravery is not limited to aggression in the face of opposition, it is often about refusing to be aggressive. It is when you and I agree to fight that war ensues. You and I need to learn the far harder and braver skill of agreeing to make peace. We allow war to happen; when will we determine to make peace the norm?

Quakers do not have all the answers but they do know some pathways to a solution: courses, literature, peacemaking experience, exhibitions, activists available for anyone interested.
Anne McGurk
Bromley, Kent

• Adam Hochschild bemoans the lack of peace museums in Britain. On Monday, the market town of Thirsk is opening a week-long exhibition called “Choices 1914”. We have tried to preserve a balance between the pity of war and the objections to it. Over 80% of Thirsk’s young men joined up. As visitors enter, they will see the names of the 137 local men who gave their lives, with where and when they died. But the majority of the other exhibits will be by or about women and children. One room will be about the advocation and experience of war: the other about its objectors. We will even be displaying the original letter setting out the aims of the Union of Democratic Control, signed by the future Labour prime minister Ramsay MacDonald and Charles Trevelyan, one of the three Liberal ministers who resigned over the use of the royal prerogative to send Britain into war.
Jeremy Shaw
Thirsk, North Yorkshire

• Your article on the Manchester Guardian’s opposition to the 1914-18 war (‘If we rush into war it will be both a crime and an act of supreme folly’, 2 August) reminds me that HG Wells, in a number of articles from 1914 onwards, had optimistically predicted that it would be “the war to end war”, a phrase that was to be widely adopted throughout the conflict. Wells had hoped that the war would usher in the potential to realise his utopian ideas for social and political reform. The second world war and the current horrific events in Gaza and elsewhere prove how misguided Wells had been. As his 1932 novel The Bulpington of Blup testifies, Wells was to become extremely embittered when it became clear that the war had changed nothing. However, he went on to have a significant influence on the 1948 universal declaration of human rights. Wells was a remarkable man in remarkable times.
Professor Linda Dryden
Edinburgh Napier University

• Your piece about Jill Gibbon (The woman turning arms fairs into art, 28 July) inexplicably fails to mention that her drawings appear regularly in Peace News. I write a regular column for PN and I’m proud to be a contributor alongside her and its other excellent writers, cartoonists and photographers. In all your coverage of the first world war, I can’t remember any reference to Peace News, which was founded in 1936 as a reaction against the nationalism and patriotism of 1914-18. It remains a politically unaligned pacifist paper and the only such voice in the UK.
Jeff Cloves
Stroud, Gloucestershire

• Your leading writers (The front lines, 26 July) missed the diary entry by Violet Bonham-Carter who recorded Winston Churchill as saying in 1915: “I love this war. I know it’s smashing and shattering the lives of thousands every moment, and yet – I can’t help it – I enjoy every second of it.” Oh, what a lovely war, indeed!
Jamie Dockery
Clydebank, Scotland 

• One of the untold stories is the Scottish women’s hospital on the western front. The hospital was unique because all the personnel, surgeons, doctors, nurses, orderlies, stretcher bearers and ambulance drivers were women. It was situated in the abbey at Royaumont, 30 miles north of Paris, and came under the auspices of the French government and French Red Cross. When the British government had been offered the hospital in 1914, they turned it down because it was to be run by women! The French were very glad to have it and the hospital soon gained a good medical reputation under the leadership of Frances Ivens. My mother was a doctor there during the last year of the war.
Ann Fox
Port Sunlight, Wirral

• Ironically, one of the best ways of getting accurate information about events on the western front was to be an imprisoned conscientious objector (How state and press kept truth off the front page, 28 July). According to Fenner Brockway, it was the Walton Leader, a tiny underground prison journal produced by conscientious objectors in Walton prison, which published an exclusive account of the slaughter at Passchendaele, brought into prison by an objector who had shared a guard room with a survivor of that particular bloodbath.
Ann Kramer
Hastings, East Sussex

• Thank you foryour comprehensive article on the Manchester Guardian’s “vehement campaign against Britain’s involvement in the first world war”. While there have been programmes on TV on some of what is reported by you on the disagreements among cabinet members of the government at the time, I do not remember it being said that we had no legal responsibility any more to defend the neutrality of Belgium.

I deduce from the article that an important reason we went to war was the fear that if we did not the current government would be swept from power; and that the decision to go to war was not fully debated by MPs. I think the article should be included in the curriculum for all pupils in secondary schools, and be discussed along with the implications for the organisation of society today and the nature of decision-making.
John Haworth
Visiting research fellow, Manchester Metropolitan University

• The dust has almost settled on the 100th anniversaries, with the case for British war entry, depressingly, having dominated. But there is one more to go. This is the 6 August war credit debate in the House of Commons, when the prime minister, Herbert Asquith, in asking for the first of a succession of loans to fight the war, at last made the government’s case to parliament for its declaration of war on Germany. This was two days into the war – which says it all about that war and democracy.

This debate, like the adjournment debate which Liberal backbenchers forced on the evening of 3 August, after foreign secretary Sir Edward Grey’s afternoon speech, which sent the Conservatives and Irish Nationalists into raptures but stunned his own party, of course has not featured in the sanitised patriotic histories. When I researched the Hansards of this time, I found them crackling with the anger of government backbenchers about the revelations of the pre-existing military commitment to France. They are well-thumbed pages – they have evidently been carefully read down the years. In the 6 August debate, one contribution stands out. It was made by Liberal Sir Wilfrid Lawson: “We have heard in the last few days a great deal about honour; we have heard something about morality and something about self-interest. As to honour, I see nothing honourable whatever in our present proceedings; surely the most supreme of British interests lies in peace, and not in war. As far as the morality is concerned, when we are engaged, as we are now, in organised murder, I think the less said about morality the better. I was sent to support – as I understood – a policy of peace, retrenchment and reform. Where are they all now? All swallowed up in the bloody abyss of war!”

The horrors of the consequences of the first world war with Britain in it, which have included the Nazis and much more, continue to evolve, with the Iraq/Syria and Israel/Gaza turmoil as today’s post-first world war hotspots (deriving from the Sykes-Picot agreement, 1916, and the Balfour declaration, 1917, respectively). What a pity the Guardian was not listened to.
Duncan Marlor
Matlock, Derbyshire

• Your correspondent Adam Hochschild rightly mentions several persons who stood against the collective group-think that propelled the nations of Europe into the maelstrom of the summer of 1914 I believe that there is one other figure that Mr Hochschild could have mentioned, namely that of Germany’s ambassador to Britain, Prince Lichnowsky. It was he who, in those days of late July 1914, made repeated pleas to his government in Berlin to get behind Sir Edward Grey’s plan to hold a roundtable conference of all the powers involved, which would have averted disaster. I have read that Lichnowsky was so well-respected that he was given a guard of honour when he departed Britain after war had been declared. He sat out the war years in Germany in disgrace for his alleged sympathetic attitude to Britain, until his death in 1928.

At least dying when he did he didn’t bear witness to the ultimate degradation, when his country fell into the hands of criminals five years later.
Nigel Baldwin

• Alan Travis’s report repeats the old canard that people in Britain in 1914 believed that the war would be over Christmas. In fact this is a fabrication of post-war myth, and estimates in the early months of the war differed enormously. “From three weeks to three years have been suggested as the probable duration, with every variety of intermediate estimate,” one military correspondent reported that August.
Mark Bostridge

• Reading Hans-Ulrich Wehler’s obituary (2 August) days before the anniversary reinforced the view that the Great War was the fault of a few aristocratic, monarchist, nationalist, very rightwing, anti-democratic old men, especially in Germany and Austria-Hungary. Millions sacrificed their young lives fighting for these incompetent people. The war was not the responsibility of the citizens of the various powers – and certainly not the women.

How typical that rightwing nationalist and anti-democratic men are behind the conflicts of 2014. How unsurprising that in August 2014 so few British people can identify names such as Berchtold, Conrad, Bethmann-Hollweg, Moltke, Jagow, Sukhomlinov and even Sir Edward Grey. It is no consolation to discover on recent visits to Vienna and Munich that some locals were similarly ignorant, blaming every nation other than their own for the 1914-18 war.

As a result, I dread the nonsense that will be written and spoken about the period after the end of the war.
Jeff Dunn
Crosby, Merseyside

It was with great pleasure and pride that we read your article on Pumeza Matshikiza and her opening performance at the Commonwealth Games (Puccini and Swahili, G2, 28 July). As you point out, Pumeza is a graduate of our Opera School at the University of Cape Town. She – along with many others such as Pretty Yende and Musa Ngqungwana – is literally changing the face of opera. Not only here in South Africa, but globally, they are giving a new relevance and meaning to opera against the outdated perception of it as a Eurocentric elitist artform. Opera taps into a rich tradition of choral music in our country which not only has huge transformative potential, but which is providing unparalleled opportunities for many talented young people from our townships to reshape their lives. The impact of this on their families and communities is profound.

But our Opera School is vulnerable. For the past decade, it has received generous funding from an international donor, making it possible for us to unearth such exceptional talent. However, as of the end of 2014, we will no longer be receiving this international funding. We are in the midst of a fundraising drive to secure the immediate sustainability of the school and its long-term future. We have a commitment from an international funder of a challenge grant of $500,000, contingent on us raising the matching amount. We want to put all these funds into an endowment and use the return on this to fund bursaries and scholarships for talented, historically disadvantaged opera students like Pumeza. May I urge your readers to support our campaign? Further information about it and about our school is readily available from UCT’s alumni department, from the UCT Trust in the UK, or on the Opera School’s Facebook page.
Dr Russell Ally
Executive director, development and alumni department, University of Cape Town

In order for the Commons to more accurately reflect the social/cultural diversity of the UK, alongside ethnic and gender considerations (Parliament failing to represent UK’s ethnic diversity, 1 August), surely each party must also restrict the number of its MPs who were privately educated to 7% of its overall total.
Pete Lavender

• Mike Selvey describing Chris Jordan’s approach to the wicket (Sport, 2 August): “he grips the ball as if he were a life model for the claw feet of a Regency commode”. With weekly gems like this, have we found John Arlott’s natural successor?
Mike Fox
Richmond, Surrey

• I wonder if the 10 pea recipes and “Back to basics” feature in your Cook section (2 August) will tempt former prime minister John Major to subscribe to the Guardian.
Tim Barnsley

• Instead of disparagingly referring to Aldi and Lidl as discounters (Report, 30 July), shouldn’t we call the big supermarkets extortionists or incompetent?
Naseem Khawaja
Yateley, Hampshire

• Surely you have heard of “Up north, down south” (Letters, 2 August)? “Up south, down north” doesn’t ring right.
Kay Smith
Burnley, Lancashire

• To coin a phrase, I agree with Nick (Israel has to talk to Hamas, 2 August).
Caroline Cawston

You ask: “Is vaping a smoking cure or a new hazard?” (News). The answer is clear. It is a new hazard and a great business opportunity for those who wish to profit from addiction. When I was a community pharmacist in the 1990s, we supplied nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) to those trying to quit. Those using forms of NRT that gave a “hit” similar to a cigarette remained users of this for years. Skin patches, on the other hand, deliver a small constant dose, which reduces the craving. Between a third and a half of those using patches managed to quit, unlike their fellows on chewing gum, inhalators and so on. Why we should even consider allowing the unregulated sale of highly addictive products is completely beyond me.

Brian Curwain

Christchurch, Dorset

Unborn children need help too

As a paediatrician, it has long felt strange to me that we strive to identify child abuse in its many guises, yet antenatally that same rigour often seems lacking (“Alcohol abuse in pregnancy could be a crime”, News). No one would question that inflicting a daily tipple on an infant is abusive and that appropriate action should be taken. It raises the question as to why the same should not apply to a foetus. Criminalisation may not always be appropriate but greater attention must be applied to foetal protection.

John Trounce (Dr)

Hove, East Sussex

Fat cat pay is not inflationary?

Your Business Analysis reports that the Bank of England’s rate setters are anxiously watching wage rises, because “inflation-busting pay is… a trigger for higher rates”. Why are the very much higher salary increases (and bonuses) regularly awarded to senior bankers and company bosses never considered inflationary?

Pete Dorey


We undervalue parental role

In your editorial (“It’s time to think more creatively about time”, Comment), you argue that we may yet be “forced to reshape work”. Indeed so, but to suggest that “doing nothing bar domestic duties [and] entertaining children…” is liberating underscores the dominant societal view that caring for children – and indeed domestic duties – is not work and, worse, is unskilled. If children are to be valued, society must reflect the work and skill involved in bringing them up and the huge contribution made to future generations by parents and carers who stay at home.

Richard Bridge York

Time for a new social contract

Spreading the work available and shortening the working week make eminent sense in today’s over-populated and underemployed world (Commen.) It would require, however, a radical overhaul in which governments, international institutions, corporations, employers, workers and consumers play their part: corporations to pay adequate rewards, even for shorter hours, governments to enforce and consumers to vilify those who don’t. What we need is an updated social contract for our postmodern world.

John Browne


US holds answer to Gaza peace

Israel gets away with bombing schools, hospitals and water and electricity supplies because of the unconditional support of America. The US could stop this conflict by immediately ceasing to fund Israel, but Obama lacks the political courage. Israel will not accept a two-state solution to solve the Israeli-Palestinian problem and thinks it can bomb its way to victory while all it does is breed more hatred. If the influence of Isis, a terrorist organisation so extreme it has been expelled from al-Qaida, is not to spread, America has to act now to ensure Israel accepts the two-state solution as the only way to achieve lasting peace.

Valerie Crews

Beckenham, Kent

The military reality of Ukraine

Nick Cohen is, in the economic terms in which he sets his case, right that “Britain can afford to defy Tsar Vladimir” (Comment). No doubt deliberately, this rather ignores the military reality, which is relegated to the aside that “Russia is Nigeria with nuclear weapons”. The Russian conventional forces alone are probably sufficient to negate any forceful response by the EU states. Add nuclear and Putin holds the winning hand. Just ask Ukraine.

David Jones


Envy that drives our attitudes

The current tendency towards treating sexting as a crime (“Is it right to criminalise sexting?”, New Review) matches many others over the past 25 years that have sought to criminalise youthful actions and youths themselves. Society, politicians of almost all persuasions and the police are active and outspoken in their pursuit of charging or cautioning. This “criminalising” preference in the adult world is more bankrupt than most of the targeted activities. For many adults in the UK, taking their lead from the US, there is a deep envy of and hatred towards adolescents that drive these attacks.

Richard Rollinson

Witney, Oxon


The stated targets for Israeli artillery and missile attacks in the Gaza Strip are Hamas combatants and their tunnels and rocket sites.

The figures for assessing the accuracy of their efforts are 1,500 civilians killed, 8,000 civilians injured, 400,000 civilians displaced from their homes. and swathes of suburban Gaza laid waste and reduced to rubble.

Israel has not disclosed how many Hamas fighters have been killed nor how many tunnels have been destroyed. It also appears likely that one Israeli soldier was killed by Israeli shelling during efforts to respond to his alleged capture.

These figures speak for themselves when trying to calculate the accuracy of the ordnance being used and to evaluate the assertion by Israel that “civilians are not being targeted”.  Two UN-run installations have been hit by Israel in its attempt to kill Hamas fighters nearby, resulting in many civilian deaths. Israel has defended its actions by saying civilian casualties are inevitable in this sort of operation. Which prompts the question: “What sort of operation is this?”

This is no surgical strike with pinpoint accuracy on individually identified targets. Bunker-busting bombs are not being used to destroy underground facilities. The best efforts of the Israeli bombardment have not stopped Hamas firing rockets or using tunnels to ambush Israeli soldiers inside Gaza. So what is the point of all this slaughter and destruction?

Before ground troops were sent into Iraq, the US bombed the country “back to the stone age”, so this “shock and awe” tactic is not new. We will have to wait and see if the outcome of this latest application of overwhelming military superiority is any more constructive than it was before. I doubt it.

Peter DeVillez, Cheltenham

Perhaps I can suggest at least a partial solution to Brian Eno’s puzzle about the US’s “blind support” of Israel (“How can you justify images such as this?” 2 August 2014).

As Brian hinted in the article, most Americans are blissfully unaware of what goes on outside their borders and care even less. My wife and I have been to the States a few times and think that it is a beautiful country full of friendly people – but whose knowledge of the world stops at Mexico and Canada. And who has the most to gain from the US supporting Israel in a military conflict? The US armaments industry – which will keep donating gratefully to representatives, senators and presidents.

Barry Lees, Greenock, Scotland


There have been three wars between Gaza and Israel in the past six years. If nothing is done to stop Hamas, the only certain future for the area is that there will be another war in the not too distant future.

While many world leaders recognise the necessity of eliminating Hamas – both for the benefit of Israel and for the Palestinian civilians who suffer negatively from the decisions made by Hamas – few have the foresight or vision as to how to accomplish this.

The Palestinian Authority does not have the will or capability to eradicate Hamas. Israel has the capability to get rid of Hamas, but the world accuses Israel of being too brutal in doing it. The Western countries that could do it know that if they did, they would behave as “brutally” as they accuse Israel of being.

Michelle Moshelian, Givatayim, Israel


After weeks of bombing, devastation and slaughter of children in Gaza, I am ashamed to call myself British. And I am ashamed at our Prime Minister’s eerie silence. My children ask me repeatedly why the world is allowing this to happen? I have no answer.

The mantra of Israel’s right to defend itself continues. Don’t the Palestinians have a right to defend themselves? Since the world has refused to take measures against the illegal land grab and building of settlements, since it has allowed Gaza to suffocate and die a slow death, what are they expected to do? Wait another 30 years while the world turns the other way?

If the international community took Israel to task for broken UN resolutions, the Palestinian people would not have to resort to firing rockets. As the world does nothing, it is the Palestinians who have the right to defend themselves

Mostahfiz Gani, Kingston upon Thames

A play about more than a plane crash

David Lister (“How the news turned a comedy into plane-crash theatre”, 2 August) asserts that we should have censored our production of Tom Basden’s play Holes by pulling it in response to the shooting down of MH17. I would like to object to the suggestion that we have been “downright disrespectful”.

Holes is not about plane crashes, in the same way that One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest is not about asylums. It is merely the setting, a jumping-off point for an exploration of how we are living now. It is not about a plane crash, any more than The Tempest is about a boat crash. And we began work on Holes in 2010. MH17 happened the day after the first preview.

I’m willing to wager that between here and the crash site of MH17 more children have been killed by their mothers in the past two weeks than died in that plane crash. Is David Lister suggesting the National Theatre closes Medea?

Holes is a poetic and absurd response to these dark times. How are we supposed to act in the shadow of such a welter of information about so many enormous acts of violence. What are we actually supposed to do? It seems to me we don’t know how to make the world better.

So much great comedy is at root a cry of despair. Like Chaplin responding to the Great Depression, Beckett to the A-bomb, and the absurdists to communism. Absurdity juxtaposed against unimaginable horror seems to me a deeply appropriate response to the zeitgeist.

Just because the play makes people laugh, it doesn’t mean that it is not saying something profound.

The one thing we do agree on is that some lines take on a certain electricity in light of recent events. “Planes just don’t go missing” is one.

David Lister’s view that the play is uncomfortable is shared by many critics. But his view that the play be closed is not.

Phillip Breen, Director of ‘Holes’. Luddington, Warwickshire

Driverless cars  are on their way

Driverless cars have huge potential to transform the UK’s transport network. They could improve safety, reduce congestion and lower emissions, particularly CO2.

There is already a level of automation in our cars, with cruise control, and many people will be unaware that automation is already widespread on planes and on underground trains.

Driverless cars could be particularly beneficial in helping to keep older people or those with disabilities mobile.

From 2015, we will see trials in some of our cities that will address some of the issues around public acceptance, liability and safety of driverless cars. In the longer term, driverless vehicles are set  to be a common sight on our roads.

Paula-Marie Brown, Head of Transport, Institution of Engineering and Technology, London WC2

If two driverless cars meet on a single-track country road, which one reverses back to the passing place?

And if two of these cars collide (which at some time they will), how will it be possible to say which one was at fault for the insurance claim?

H Kilborn, London SE12

Let’s have a legacy from these games

The Glasgow Commonwealth Games have been a great success, but if there is to be any lasting legacy in sporting terms, this should be stimulated and encouraged by scrapping all entry charges to sporting centres and swimming pools, as they are currently far to expensive for the pockets of poorer people.

The London Olympic Games were also very successful, but recent assessments have shown there has been no meaningful increase in sporting activity to be claimed as a legacy.

We have very serious health problems in Scotland, and with life expectancy down to 64 in some parts, it is time to get the nation motivated in sport of any kind, and scrapping all entrance fees could be the first step.

Dennis Grattan, Bucksburn, Aberdeen


Unlike D Sawtell (letter, 1 August) I cannot comment on the suitability or otherwise of “Jerusalem” as the Team England anthem, but as a Scot living in Wales I am pleased that Team England have chosen not to use “God Save The Queen”, which applies to all the home nations, as well as to members of the Commonwealth, and is not the English national anthem. I look forward to a time when other English sporting teams follow this example – the year of the Scottish independence referendum is as good a time as any.

Gordon Middleton, Creigiau, Cardiff

Will the anachronistic and backward-looking Commonwealth Games be followed by the Nato Games?

David Freeley, Clonard, Wexford, Ireland


Rex Features

Last updated at 12:01AM, August 2 2014

Some feel we should use the past tense when talking about the past, and some disagree

Sir, I am reading Melvyn Bragg’s piece (July 30) on the use of the historic present tense and am surprised to note that he does not give any examples. Perhaps he should in future.

Ian Cherry

Sir, The historic present is confusing and awkward. Melvyn Bragg, in his confession, proved his point that it is here to stay, within one paragraph: ‘Chaucer employs it at will’.

Douglas McQuaid
Oxhey, Herts

Sir, The usefulness of the historic present is that it gently emphasises that the protagonists were not aware of what happened next. It suggests a step into the then unknown; the past tense records a step towards a known outcome.

Will Wyatt
Middle Barton, Oxon

Sir, Melvyn Bragg hosts a radio show called In Our Time that has discussed such contemporary topics as Abelard and Heloise, the battles of Bannockburn and Bosworth Field, and the Abbasid Caliphs. Is it any wonder that he favours the historic present? As a historian I’m happy with it in small doses. I think of it as a kind of submerged direct speech.

The Rt Rev Professor NT Wright
St Andrews

Sir, I disagree with Melvyn Bragg about the use of the historic present. I find a book using this tense highly annoying (including Wolf Hall). If I persevere I am jarred by occasional lapses. Leave the past where it belongs — in the past tense.

Sheila Taylor
Pevensey Bay, E Sussex

Sir, As TS Eliot says in Burnt Norton: “Time present and time past / Are both perhaps present in time future / And time future contained in time past.” On that basis, could we persuade John Humphrys, Melvyn Bragg and Matthew Parris to shake hands and defuse the tense argument about the historic present?

Yanka Gavin
London SW11

Sir, You would think that Melvyn Bragg and John Humphrys have read no fiction. Hilary Mantel, who won the Man Booker prize two years in a row, uses the historic present (as I do now) almost continuously, and to the ultimate point of the Immediate Present: here, now, he stands before you.

David Tipping
Sherborne, Dorset

Sir, The present historic is used by people who need to make an uninteresting subject more exciting. They often fail, but by so doing make themselves sound pretentious, thus further devaluing their subject. In the real world — anywhere not in academia, the media or literature — the present historic is used rarely.

Charles Vaughton
Retford, Notts

Sir, Lord Bragg rightly refuses to de-demonise “wicked”, but the real threat to our language and culture comes from the interrogatory uplift. There are few more troubling experiences of linguistic vandalism than hearing academics resort to the cadences of Antipodean populist soaps. Since we live in an age when parliament is happy to legislate against thought crime can we expect a law to prohibit giving the impression a question is being asked when no actual question is intended?

Canon Dr Gavin Ashenden
Villedieu-les-Poêles, Normandy

The first casualty of this year’s festival seems to have been an Israeli theatre group

Sir, Whatever the rights and wrongs of the conflict between Israel and Palestine, it is wrong that an Edinburgh Fringe entertainment by Incubator Theatre of Jerusalem has had to be cancelled because of a Scottish Palestine Solidarity demonstration (report, July 31).

The Fringe embraces many points of view, and there is no reason why any aspect of that healthy democratic complex should be swept aside. It is a dangerous threat to artistic innovation and essential testimony.

David Day

Ackworth, W Yorks

Sir, It was disturbing that the police allowed the protesters to dominate the two access points to the venue, obliging ticket-holders to file past protesters . When one stuck his camera in front of my face and I pushed it away a policeman rose from his torpor and blocked my entrance. He said I was liable to be arrested for assault and so I would not be allowed in. His stance did not alter when a water bottle thrown from the crowd hit me in the chest.

I am a member of the Foreign Office’s advisory group on freedom of religion or belief. Currently, there is a debate about how far religion motivates protesters who are usually

remarkably composed about violence in Iraq, Syria and Nigeria, much worse in kind than that occurring in Gaza. Perhaps the Scottish government might match the Foreign Office with an initiative to protect artistic expression in Scotland and the rights of audience members to have some minimal protection from the police to attend a cultural event. A shadow hangs over the Edinburgh Festival as long as the police wink at mob rule .

Tom Gallagher

Emeritus Professor of Politics

University of Bradford

Sir, I am ashamed of my city. A group of young performers in the Festival Fringe has been forced to close — because they are Israeli.

The venue, Underbelly, Bristo Square, has given in to intimidation by a currently popular pressure group. Since when do demonstrators who seek to go beyond their lawful right of demonstrating receive the support of the law rather than their targets? How pathetic that “the logistics of policing and stewarding the protest” meant that the theatre group had to cancel — rather than the protestors being limited to protesting peacefully.

This is a slippery slope — from bullying protesters closing down any show they don’t like (“Second Fringe show is in danger from anti-Israeli protest”, Aug 1) — to a potential growth of antisemitism.

The situation in Gaza is emotive but complicated, and thanks here go to Catherine Philp for her excellent and balanced overview (“No water, no electricity . . .” July 30) and to Deborah Ross (“We Jews are always bracing ourselves for more antisemitism”, July 31). Views on this or indeed any other issue should not affect the shows produced at the Edinburgh Fringe, and it is up to Festival organisers to ensure this — something at present they seem to be manifestly failing to do.

Everyone in this country has the right to free speech. I therefore look forward to hearing about the new venue for The Incubator Theatre and its show The City and I hope it receives massive support for its courage in the face of adversity if the show can indeed go on.

Sylvia Gray


How much did he contribute to the beginning of the hostilities in 1914?

Sir, Professor Röhl (letter, Aug 1) hopes we will ignore revisionist works suggesting the Kaiser was not solely responsible for the Great War, but who to blame for our own entry is far from clear.

The British cabinet remained calm in the aftermath of continental mobilisation with most opposed to involvement in the Balkans or the provision of aid to France and Russia.

The great exception was the First Lord of the Admiralty, Winston Churchill, who off his own bat mobilised the British Navy and placed the First Fleet on war alert in the North Sea.

If mobilisation is what really tipped a nation into the conflict, Churchill’s pre-emptive actions are more blameworthy than Foreign Secretary Edward Grey’s specious diplomacy.

To the dismay of Prime Minister Asquith, Churchill was outrageously bellicose in cabinet and Lloyd George noted that he dashed around with the “radiance of really happy man”.

Of course, when it was over and 16 million were dead, Churchill contacted Beaverbrook as he wrote Politicians and the War, hoping he would not be portrayed as a “warmonger”.

Dr John Cameron

St Andrews

Elderberries are lusciously ripe early this year but they are toxic to humans

Sir, At the risk of causing another corncockle panic, may I remind readers of Derwent May’s Nature Notes (July 30) that elderberries, eaten raw, are poisonous to human beings. One or two will do no harm, but members of a family in Sweden who each consumed a bowlful died. We must respect our elders.

Dave French


Fracking in the Weald ‘cannot’ threaten chalk aquifers, says drill company boss

Sir, You report (“Park fears fracking will pollute water”, July 29) that more than a million people in the South Downs and surrounding cities such as Chichester and Brighton rely on the chalk aquifer for drinking water. This chalk is not present under the centre of the Weald area, where Celtique is seeking permission for exploratory drilling, so our operations could not contaminate the chalk aquifer.

The absence of this chalk has been confirmed by independent geological and hydrological studies, as well as in a report from the British Geological Survey and Environment Agency published in July. We hope that this latest study gives the Mineral Planning Authority and people in the area greater confidence that onshore exploration can be undertaken safely in the South Downs National Park.

Geoff Davies

Celtique Energie

A bit of so-called humour in a German newspaper prompted a range of responses but not much laughter

Sir Your headline “German tabloid opens fire on ‘drunk, stupid Brits’” (July 31) was misleading. The word used by Bild is englisch.

Eva Tyson

Dalgety Bay, Fife

Sir, Whatever happened to the Scottish “Anyone But England” brigade? One heart-warming aspect of the Glasgow games was the way the home audience enthusiastically cheered not only their own competitors and those of Wales and Northern Ireland but also the English. I wonder what Alex Salmond made of that.

Barry Norman

Datchworth, Herts


Saint-Symphorien cemetery near Mons in Belgium Photo: © Arterra Picture Library / Alamy

6:57AM BST 03 Aug 2014


SIR – Tomorrow, on the centenary of Britain’s entry into the First World War, the eyes of the world will be on the St Symphorien cemetery, near Mons in Belgium, a few miles from where we work at the Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (Shape).

From there, Nato’s military operations are planned and run. St Symphorien is remarkable because, unusually, buried there are the fallen from both sides in the battles that raged in and around Mons, first in 1914 and then 1918. It also contains the graves of the first and last British soldiers to die in the War.

Although defence against the threat of the Soviet Union was the catalyst for Nato, earlier conflicts still cast a long shadow. At Shape one can see the lessons of St Symphorien put into practice in an alliance of 28 nations, including almost every combatant in the First World War. The enemies of Mons are now the closest of colleagues.

Nations have often switched between being friends and foes, but there has never been anything like Shape, with its decades of integration of core defence staffs. The nationality of staff here goes virtually unnoticed. This is symbolised by us as Shape’s three senior commanders, one American, one British and one German. We remain proud of our nations, but in Shape we are one team.

So tomorrow, those of us standing at St Symphorien and contemplating the events of a century ago will be determined to continue applying the lessons our nations have so painfully learned. To our brothers in arms we want to say “Rest in Peace”. They fought for what they believed in and were united in death. We, those that followed them, are united in life to defend our shared values and united nations.

General Philip Breedlove
(United States)
Supreme Allied Commander
General Sir Adrian Bradshaw
(United Kingdom)
Deputy Supreme Allied Commander
General Werner Freers
Chief of Staff, Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe

A barmaid’s revenge

SIR – When I worked in bars in my youth, there was nothing more annoying for us bar staff than being unable to see over or round the half-dozen backs leaning against the bar.

The solution was to pour a jug of water onto the counter, which seeped slowly through the layers of clothing of the offenders, by which time one was at the other end of the bar, deep in conversation.

Jane Cullinan
Padstow, Cornwall

Blame planning laws for poor architecture

SIR – As a long-retired town planner who spent 25 years in development control in my local planning authority I was infuriated by Dame Jenny Abramsky and her views on planning.

Planners are not the problem. Politicians meddle with the system in the mistaken belief that planning causes economic stagnation and that relaxing controls on development will miraculously create more development and thereby cure the country’s economic woes. This hasn’t worked under previous governments, and it won’t under the current one.

Secondly, it is not the case that planners cause degradation of the built environment. This is the result of weak planning legislation. The provisions of the Town & Country Planning (General Permitted Development) Order, which planners are required to enforce, have changed in recent years and now give licence to mediocre architects often driven by ego and the blinkered desires of their clients.

Frank D J Smith
Wolverhampton, Staffordshire

SIR – Dame Jenny Abramsky says that communities should stand up for themselves on planning issues. But if one does so, one is accused of Nimbyism.

If the developers, who are there only for their own profit and not for the benefit of the community, are turned down at local level they can appeal to the Planning Inspector, whose decision cannot be challenged further by the community. If their appeal is turned down, developers have the right to take it to a higher authority. The decision by then is irrevocable.

Stand up and be discounted?

Alyson Persson
Henfield, West Sussex

Ken the Europhile

SIR – I am unable to share your sunny view of Kenneth Clarke’s nature.

He has spent decades arguing for the absorption of this country into a European superstate. If it had been up to him, Britain would have joined the euro, experienced all the economic problems associated with it, and perhaps ended up electing parties that make Ukip seem like the Liberal Democrats.

Peter Davey
Bournemouth, Dorset

SIR – One hopes that the end of Kenneth Clarke’s career as a Cabinet minister will also see the end of his airtime on the BBC’s Today programme. This wouldn’t have been so bad if the people there to question his views had done so as rigorously as they do those of eurosceptics.

Carole Taylor
New Milton, Hampshire

Too-liberal Tories

SIR – Iain Martin, in his analysis of the next Tory leadership battle says “Members of the Conservative Party…could be forgiven for asking whether or not they get a say”.

He is absolutely right. The elite at the top of our party need to be reminded that it is not theirs to do with as they wish.

I will be extremely dissatisfied if, when David Cameron steps down, the only choices are George Osborne, Boris Johnson and Theresa May, all of whom have espoused the same “Liberal Conservative” policies that Mr Cameron has forced on us.

John Waine
Nuneaton, Warwickshire

Children of the Blitz

SIR – Sheila Williams is to be congratulated on surviving the war years and growing up to be “normal” .

But in her day, attitudes to mental illness were far less enlightened than they are today, with unfortunate sufferers often facing the stark choice of “getting on with it” or risking incarceration in mental health institutions largely unchanged since the Victorian era.

Eve Corbett
Blaenau Ffestiniog, Merioneth

SIR – Perhaps Sheila Williams is made of sterner stuff than I, but my recollections of the Blitz and its aftermath are somewhat different from hers.

I was bombed out in 1940 after a prolonged period of day and night raiding, and it was more than two years into evacuation in Devon before I stopped shaking.

Returning to London after the war, I was aware of classmates who had not escaped the trauma of the Blitz. Some could not speak without stuttering continually. A bit of professional counselling might have been very useful.

Peter Holloway
Brighton, East Sussex

SIR – I am of the same generation as Sheila Williams. All we needed for stress was a stiff upper lip, but nowadays if one child is subjected to some form of stress, the whole school needs counselling.

Are we breeding a nation of wimps?

Norman Baker
Tonbridge, Kent

The shale revolution

SIR – If the myriad of “green” pressure groups had existed centuries ago, we would have had no coal or iron ore mines, no hydroelectric power, and no Industrial Revolution.

The Government is right to ignore the doomsayers and grant licences for fracking. The benefits far outweigh the risks.

Frank Tomlin
Billericay, Essex

El error

SIR – Some years ago, on holiday in Menorca, our walks took us past a church where I spied the word “iglesia” and assured my wife that this meant “English”.

She duly attended the church that Sunday and waited, ever more impatiently, for the English section to begin. On her return I discovered from the phrase book that the word I wanted was ingles (English) and not iglesia (church). I didn’t bother looking up the Spanish for “doghouse”.

Desmond Eccles
Sheffield, South Yorkshire

Island hopping

SIR – Andrew Marr is not the only one who takes a strange route to work.

Jim Bergerac always seemed to drive past Gorey Castle (on the east end of Jersey) on his way from St Helier (centre of the island) to Jersey Airport (the west of the island). I put this down to a lack of satnav; but Mr Marr surely has one of those.

John Newbury
Warminster, Wiltshire

SIR – I read with interest the article about jazz by Lord Coe. Perhaps if, as he tells us, he is such a great supporter of jazz he could have had some of it played at the Olympic opening ceremony as well as the mind-numbing pop music.

And if he likes quality music, why did he allow Rowan Atkinson to take the mickey out of the London Symphony Orchestra with his one-finger piano playing and unfunny facial expressions?

Charles Sherwood
Tatsfield, Kent

SIR – Janet Daley reflects on Europe’s ignominious failure to rise to the most serious threat to world stability in a generation – namely, Russia’s actions against Ukraine.

The situation bears an uncanny resemblance to the attempts by the League of Nations to impose sanctions on Italy for its invasion of Abyssinia (now Ethiopia) in 1935.

Then as now, Britain was the only major power to impose sanctions which actually cost its economy anything. Then as now, the other major powers continued to trade with Italy – America shipping oil, France refusing outright to impose sanctions and Germany, as now, continuing to sell its machinery and cars.

Like Putin today, Mussolini took no notice of the sanctions. After nine months, Britain recommended to the League of Nations that they should be lifted. Italy now saw Britain as its main opponent in the world at a time when the Mediterranean was a key British interest.

With two key British interests – BP and City finance – under threat from the Russian response to sanctions, is history about to repeat itself?

Professor Stephen Bush
University of Manchester

SIR – Ukraine is a classic example of a young state that doesn’t naturally command the allegiance of all its peoples.

Other examples abound. The Slavs of Transdniestria, which abuts Ukraine, don’t feel any affinity with the Romanian-speaking Moldovan authorities and fear that Romania will eventually absorb Moldova. Nor do the Armenians of the Nagorno-Karabakh enclave wish a return to rule by Azerbaijan. Then there are the Abkhazians and South Ossetians of Georgia who distrust Tbilisi rule.

To treat these cases solely as instances of Russian imperial rule is unhelpful. The EU needs to tread carefully. Don’t make a bad situation worse.

Yugo Kovach
Winterborne Houghton, Dorset

SIR – The Russians have denied involvement in the downing of MH17. They have published their radar findings, claiming that Ukrainian warplanes had been in the vicinity. They have been asking Washington and Kiev to publish their data, and still no conclusive evidence has been supplied by either government.

Families of the victims deserve a full explanation as to why Western governments have failed to demand this vital information from America and Ukraine.

It is possible that American intelligence cannot come up with any evidence that pro-Russian separatists were responsible. Other explanations for the crash may involve a bomb inside the aircraft or Ukrainian warplanes. Either way, we need evidence in order to establish that the main players are not concealing the truth by blaming one another.

Christopher Booker’s article is very well balanced. We need to be more cautious, avoid Cold War tactics, and wait until data from the black boxes reveals new information. In the meantime we ought to show respect for the families involved.

Constantine Louis
London WC1

SIR – I usually agree with Christopher Booker but I do not understand why he is pointing the finger at President Obama.

The finger should be pointed at the imbecile who pulled the trigger, the person who gave the order to fire and the person who supplied the missile launcher. It is evident the people responsible did not check to confirm the target before deciding to shoot it down.

With a simple PC, they could have identified the aircraft and realised how many lives they were about to destroy. Virtually every civil aircraft in the world is tracked in real time and there is a website putting information out to the public: departure airfield, destination, airline, height and speed of the aircraft and its type and call sign.

If the murderers were incapable of operating a PC they should have telephoned me; but they did not care to find out what the target was.

I D Batten
Bridgend, Glamorgan

Irish Times:

Sir, – Since the second World War, the West, led by America, has devised an updated legal code of human rights and international behaviour in peace and war. It insists on the world observing this code by – among other things – making accountable and punishing those who breach it. It has established international institutions charged with policing the code.

It has, however, persistently prevented it being enforced in the case of Israel, which in the same period has repeatedly, in peace and war, offended against it. In recent weeks it has been doing so again in Gaza and the West Bank. This persisting impunity of Israel has made of the code in question a capricious and cynical charade. It deprives the nations of the world of a common code of behaviour deserving respect and makes any prosecution or punishment based on it a rank injustice. – Yours, etc,


Sydney Parade Avenue,

Dublin 4

Sir, – On July 24th, it was reported that 15 children had been killed by a missile landing in the UN school in which they were billeted. The Israeli reaction was to claim that it was a Hamas missile that had fallen short of its target. Israeli spokespeople maintained that line, even as they said the killings were being investigated. That remained their position.

So, since then, does anyone have a clear idea what happened? Or, as was predictable, have the Israelis buried the story in the rubble and the hundred times that number of dead since? I presume each of those children had a name, parents, siblings, that made them the individuals they were; easily forgotten though, it would appear. – Yours, etc,


Ceannt Fort,

Mount Brown,

Dublin 8

Sir, –Recent comments by the Israeli ambassador in Ireland denying attacks on medical facilities and staff in Gaza are repugnant. To date over 25 medical facilities have been targeted, including the Gaza European hospital and Al-Aqsa hospital, where one patient was killed and 20 medical personnel were injured. Numerous ambulances evacuating patients have been sniped at or shelled, killing doctors, nurses and patients alike. Rehabilitation hospitals, paediatric hospitals and primary care clinics have been bombed, killing patients and staff. Even Red Crescent and UN staff are being killed by Israel aggression.

Medical neutrality ensures the protection of medical personnel, patients, facilities, and transport from attack or interference and unhindered access to medical care and treatment and the humane treatment of all civilians and nondiscriminatory treatment of the injured and sick. These principles are enshrined in international human rights law, humanitarian law and medical ethics. To target medics and hospitals is to purposely dismantle the health care infrastructure with the effect that the wounded also die. In Gaza the wounded are predominantly innocent civilians who have no escape from the conflict zone. – Yours, etc,



Eccles St,

Dublin 7

Sir, – Whatever one’s views on the war in Gaza there is no doubt that that territory is governed and presided over by one of the most ruthless terrorist groups in the Middle East. Israel is blamed for overkill in its response to unprovoked attacks from Hamas. Meanwhile, Sharia fundamentalists see the war in Gaza through the soft focus of a Western media much of which appears to have sided with Hamas.

A constant stream of one-sided comment on how Israel deals with rocket attacks on its citizens would suggest that Hamas is, at least, winning the media battle. The only truly democratic State in the Middle East is now seen in many quarters as the Great Satan. Europe’s first line of defence in the fight to contain the onward march of Islamic fundamentalism has been seriously compromised.

There is no doubt that Israel is currently well able to contain attacks from Hamas and its backers from throughout the Middle East. But it is a small country and is surrounded by many sworn enemies – and many of those are growing stronger and bolder and will undoubtedly gain access to more sophisticated weaponry. The bottom line is stark. If Israel falters under pressure from united fundamentalists, the West won’t be too far behind. European Christianity is already on life support. – Yours, etc,



Dublin 5

Sir, – I trusted that Friday’s front-page picture of the President speaking at Glasnevin on July 31st would lead to a full report within the paper of an event which was of monumental significance in every way within these islands. However, instead of showing any image of the Cross of Sacrifice, on your Home News page we saw the backsides of a tiny crew of protesters whose limited verbal taunts were reproduced faithfully in Peter Murtagh’s report. No mention was made of Dr Edward Madigan’s historical reflection, or of any words HRH the Duke of Kent spoke.

The excitement in your report comes from the noise and objections of as few as two protesters, rather than from the feeling of friendship and emotion from the hundreds, which, as someone down from the Wee North, I can personally report was history being made in the truest sense. The protesters have scored a victory in the way The Irish Times has given prominence to their objections. The plus is that in a liberal democracy the head of state and distinguished guests can be verbally abused by protesters when at an official function, broadcast live on national television. The minus is that in aiming to achieve balanced coverage of the event, your paper and its story headline favoured those outside the railings as much as those within. – Yours, etc,



Co Down

Sir, – It seems that every day when I open my Irish Times I have to relive the first World War, from the murders in Sarajevo to the first volleys being fired. My wife says not to worry, it will be all over by Christmas. Yours, etc,



Co Westmeath

Sir, – Conor Gearty is missing a number of points in his article (“Human rights best hope for mankind”, August 1st) on human rights and equality. First, democracy did not start with “the labour and suffragette movements” or with political independence. It goes back to ancient Greece. Second, all members of the churches may not, as he says, always practise the love of neighbour ethic which they preach. The fact that they do not always live up to the ideal, however, does not render the ideal “irrelevant”. Third, his statement that “the conditions that drove democracy in the past no longer pertain” is just not true. We still need the ideal of the equality of citizens to be enshrined in our political and legal institutions.

The fact that some citizens do not exercise their rights and that other citizens use their wealth and/or privilege to undermine that equality makes it all the more necessary for democracy to be defended. The fact that women, who are a majority in the electorate, are so badly represented in the Dáil is a challenge to democracy. The fact that those in control of mass media can determine public opinion is a challenge to democracy.

Despite all that, however, Conor Gearty is right when he says that “the drive for equality must inevitably return” and that “the democratic advocacy of human rights” is our best hope for the future. – Yours, etc,


Shielmartin Drive,

Dublin 13

A chara, – As a (now semi-retired) Irish-language journalist could I assure PD Goggin that I am one of those who regularly uses the Irish-language versions of official documents and laws.

I worked for nearly 20 years reporting on the Dáil for Raidió na Gaeltachta, and needed official versions of public documents as a necessary part of my work. Necessary because I was reporting for the Irish-language community, which may be small but which does exist, contrary to Mr Goggin’s prejudices.

I want no more than my English-language counterparts get – a version of official documents in my own language, which incidentally is recognised in the Constitution as the first official language of the State.

But perhaps Mr Goggin is a subversive who doesn’t recognise our Constitution and who wants to bully us through compulsion into accepting his monolingual English-speaking version of Ireland. Who indeed is the bully? And who indeed uses compulsion? – Is mise le meas,


Ascaill Ghleanntáin

na hAbhann,

Cluain Dolcáin,

Baile Átha Cliath 22

Sir, – Geoff Scargill’s response (July 30th) to Maeve Halpin’s letter stretches credulity. Ms Halpin cited “on the record” evidence of a severe failure to prosecute so-called white collar crime in this country. Factor in the reality that the individuals in question have not, in the main, endured drug- and violence-ridden childhoods and we are looking at a virtual apartheid in the dispensation of justice in this country. That is not “emotion” but evidenced-based reality, as indeed was Ms Halpin’s excellent commentary on Conor Gearty’s article. – Yours, etc,


North Circular Road,

Dublin 7

Sir, – John Bowman, in his article “Time for us to remember first World War fallen” (August 2nd), claims that more Irish died as a result of that war than any other in Irish history. This is far from the truth. While the first World War was indeed a tragedy, far more Irish people died during the Confederate War in Ireland, which resulted in over 600,000 deaths.

This is not to include the 200,000 to 300,000 men, women and children sold as slaves to English plantation-owners abroad. The Confederate War saw Ireland’s population half: no comparison whatsoever to the first World War. – Yours, etc,




Sir, – The word “mansplaining” is used to describe a man talking down in a patronising, condescending way to a woman. My four-year-old granddaughter tells me in a patronising, condescending manner “Grandad, you know you might die soon ’cos you’re old?” or “Grandad, you know all your hair is falling out ’cos you’re old?” Is this “girlsplaining”? Yours, etc,


Hawthorn Park,


Co Dublin

Irish Independent:

Jill and Sandy

August 3, 2014

3 August 2014 Jill and Sandy

I jog around the park I still have arthritis in my left knee, but I manage to get round the park. A damp and cloudy day

Scrabble Mary wins, but gets under 400. perhaps I will win tomorrow.


Jean Panhard – obituary

Jean Panhard was a car maker who maintained his family firm’s reputation for engineering excellence into the post-war period

Jean Panhard and his 1913 Panhard-Levassor

Jean Panhard and his 1913 Panhard-Levassor Photo: GAMMA-RAPHO/GETTY

5:18PM BST 01 Aug 2014


Jean Panhard, who has died aged 101, played a vital role in ensuring the survival of his family firm which, as Panhard et Levassor, had marketed the first production cars to the public in 1891.

The French company, founded by Jean’s great-uncle Réné Panhard and Emile Levassor in 1887, had rewritten the automobile design rule-book, putting the engine at the front, and, for the first time, transmitting power through a system of gears.

In 1894 Evelyn Ellis, driving a Panhard et Levassor vehicle, became the first man to drive a car on British soil, making the journey from Micheldever station in Hampshire to his home at Datchet, Berkshire, thus helping to persuade the government of the day to scrap the requirement for a man with a red flag to walk in front of any self-propelled vehicle (up to now usually farm vehicles powered by steam traction engines) on a public road.

In 1900 Panhard et Levassor was still the most important car manufacturer and exporter in the world, and the firm maintained its reputation for engineering excellence into the 20th century. A Panhard roadster set a world speed record of 133mph in 1934. Panhard cars excelled on the racetrack too, winning a famous victory in the 1893 Paris-Nice-Paris race and going on to win a further 1,500 races, including the Index of Performance Award in the Le Mans 24 Hour race on no fewer than 10 occasions.

The Panhard et Levassor Dynamic (ALAMY)

But the Great Depression took its toll; and when Jean joined as technical director in 1937, the firm, then under the leadership of his father Paul, was in poor health. Its showcase Dynamic, launched at the Paris Motor Show the previous year, was a stunningly beautiful, streamlined Art Deco extravaganza, but its high price, old-fashioned sleeve-valve engine and central steering wheel alienated potential buyers.

Meanwhile, a strike by the workforce in November 1936 brought the firm close to financial ruin. The company was making too many different products, in too small numbers, on tooling that was old and inefficient.

Jean, who had been born on June 12 1913 and educated at the Ecole Polytechnique, brought much-needed technical and business nous to the operation. An order from the French military for mounts for anti-aircraft guns allowed him to buy up-to-date machine tools from America, and he began exploring the manufacture of a more commercial Panhard car, possibly using a bought-in bodyshell.

With France’s defeat in 1940, however, plans had to be put on hold, and for the next four years the firm had to cope with the demands of the German occupation.

Though required to contribute to the war effort by manufacturing 1,000 half-track military vehicles, Panhard et Levassor somehow contrived to duck the obligation. “We emerged from this period with our honour totally intact,” Jean Panhard recalled. “By the end of 1944 we’d built a single prototype and that was all. We just got by on the advances.”

In early 1944, however, Panhard had agreed to make an all-aluminium small car that was being hawked around the French motor industry by Jean-Albert Grégoire, one of the pioneers of the front-wheel-drive. But following the Liberation, the new French government established a national plan whereby the motor industry would be streamlined to a small number of manufacturers, each of which would make a single type of car. Panhard (by this time the firm had dropped the “Levassor”), was to be excluded from the plan altogether, and restricted to the manufacture of lorries.

The Panhard Dyna Z

Refusing to give in to this piece of bureaucratic central planning, Jean Panhard used the high aluminium content of the Grégoire prototype as a negotiating tool to persuade the government to change its mind — aluminium being a locally available raw material whose use the government wanted to encourage. At the same time, however, he had the car redesigned to eliminate the Grégoire’s costly cast-aluminium construction, which he knew would never have been technically or financially viable.

The result was the Dyna X, a charming small saloon which relaunched Panhard, and formed the basis of a range of small road-going sports cars. Foremost amongst these was the DB, a collaboration with Automobiles Deutsch & Bonnet, which was very active in competition, notably at Le Mans.

After becoming deputy managing director in 1949, Jean Panhard oversaw the development of the Dyna Z, a more commercial automobile which repackaged the running gear of the Dyna X in an aerodynamic body made of sheet aluminium to keep down weight, so that the pint-size engine could cope with a full six-seater car — an extraordinary technical achievement for its time. Unfortunately, however, the company had made a fundamental accounting error in calculating how much it would be paid for the scrap aluminium left over from the production process, which wrecked the car’s profitability; it had to be re-engineered with a steel body.

Jean Panhard and the 1967 Panhard 24 BT (GAMMA-RAPHO/GETTY)

In 1955, with finances in a critical state, Panhard had to look around for help, and Citroën took a 25 per cent share in the company, eventually taking over completely in 1965, the year Jean Panhard succeeded his father as chairman and managing director.

It was not a happy alliance, Jean Panhard comparing the relationship between Citroën and its new subsidiary to that between master and serf. Citroën did give the go-ahead to the 24 CT of 1963 on the basis that Panhard’s striking little coupé would be a niche product that would not threaten the parent firm; but their agreement was reluctant and, not surprisingly, the car sold only in small numbers. It was discontinued in 1967, bringing an end to Panhard car production.

The company’s military vehicle operation continued to be successful, and was hived off into a separate division within Citroën (now part of the Renault Trucks arm of the Volvo group), which Jean Panhard ran until his retirement in 1981.

For 21 years, until 1988, Panhard was chairman of the organising committee for the Paris Motor Show, and he also founded and chaired the car accessory show Equip’Auto.

He served as vice-president of the Paris Chamber of Commerce and Industry (1974-77), and was twice president of the Automobile Club de France. He was a Commander of the Légion d’honneur and a member of the Ordre national du Mérite.

Jean Panhard married, in 1940, Jeanne Codron de Courcel, who survives him with four of their six children.

Jean Panhard, born June 12 1913, died July 15 2014


You ask: “Is vaping a smoking cure or a new hazard?” (News). The answer is clear. It is a new hazard and a great business opportunity for those who wish to profit from addiction. When I was a community pharmacist in the 1990s, we supplied nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) to those trying to quit. Those using forms of NRT that gave a “hit” similar to a cigarette remained users of this for years. Skin patches, on the other hand, deliver a small constant dose, which reduces the craving. Between a third and a half of those using patches managed to quit, unlike their fellows on chewing gum, inhalators and so on. Why we should even consider allowing the unregulated sale of highly addictive products is completely beyond me.

Brian Curwain

Christchurch, Dorset

Unborn children need help too

As a paediatrician, it has long felt strange to me that we strive to identify child abuse in its many guises, yet antenatally that same rigour often seems lacking (“Alcohol abuse in pregnancy could be a crime”, News). No one would question that inflicting a daily tipple on an infant is abusive and that appropriate action should be taken. It raises the question as to why the same should not apply to a foetus. Criminalisation may not always be appropriate but greater attention must be applied to foetal protection.

John Trounce (Dr)

Hove, East Sussex

Fat cat pay is not inflationary?

Your Business Analysis reports that the Bank of England’s rate setters are anxiously watching wage rises, because “inflation-busting pay is… a trigger for higher rates”. Why are the very much higher salary increases (and bonuses) regularly awarded to senior bankers and company bosses never considered inflationary?

Pete Dorey


We undervalue parental role

In your editorial (“It’s time to think more creatively about time”, Comment), you argue that we may yet be “forced to reshape work”. Indeed so, but to suggest that “doing nothing bar domestic duties [and] entertaining children…” is liberating underscores the dominant societal view that caring for children – and indeed domestic duties – is not work and, worse, is unskilled. If children are to be valued, society must reflect the work and skill involved in bringing them up and the huge contribution made to future generations by parents and carers who stay at home.

Richard Bridge York

Time for a new social contract

Spreading the work available and shortening the working week make eminent sense in today’s over-populated and underemployed world (Commen.) It would require, however, a radical overhaul in which governments, international institutions, corporations, employers, workers and consumers play their part: corporations to pay adequate rewards, even for shorter hours, governments to enforce and consumers to vilify those who don’t. What we need is an updated social contract for our postmodern world.

John Browne


US holds answer to Gaza peace

Israel gets away with bombing schools, hospitals and water and electricity supplies because of the unconditional support of America. The US could stop this conflict by immediately ceasing to fund Israel, but Obama lacks the political courage. Israel will not accept a two-state solution to solve the Israeli-Palestinian problem and thinks it can bomb its way to victory while all it does is breed more hatred. If the influence of Isis, a terrorist organisation so extreme it has been expelled from al-Qaida, is not to spread, America has to act now to ensure Israel accepts the two-state solution as the only way to achieve lasting peace.

Valerie Crews

Beckenham, Kent

The military reality of Ukraine

Nick Cohen is, in the economic terms in which he sets his case, right that “Britain can afford to defy Tsar Vladimir” (Comment). No doubt deliberately, this rather ignores the military reality, which is relegated to the aside that “Russia is Nigeria with nuclear weapons”. The Russian conventional forces alone are probably sufficient to negate any forceful response by the EU states. Add nuclear and Putin holds the winning hand. Just ask Ukraine.

David Jones


Envy that drives our attitudes

The current tendency towards treating sexting as a crime (“Is it right to criminalise sexting?”, New Review) matches many others over the past 25 years that have sought to criminalise youthful actions and youths themselves. Society, politicians of almost all persuasions and the police are active and outspoken in their pursuit of charging or cautioning. This “criminalising” preference in the adult world is more bankrupt than most of the targeted activities. For many adults in the UK, taking their lead from the US, there is a deep envy of and hatred towards adolescents that drive these attacks.

Richard Rollinson

Witney, Oxon

If Andrew Rawnsley is willing to acknowledge that Ed Miliband “may well be right” when he said that “ideas are the most underrated commodity in politics” and that “decency and empathy the most underrated virtues”, why does he continue to write on a regular basis about the Labour leader’s “flaws” (“Ed Miliband’s lack of popularity is nothing to do with his photo-ops“, Comment)? Wouldn’t it be more sensible for him to concentrate on the important issues facing the electorate next May? It’s all very well to mention the “conspiracy” to focus on bacon-butty eating and such like, “between the Tories and their mates in the right-wing media”, but to write so frequently about “the Ed Miliband problem” gives it an unmerited gravitas.

“Decency and empathy” in politics certainly are worthy of discussion before the election, especially as both have been so notable by their absence during this government’s tenure. Would it not be worthwhile to remind readers of broken Tory promises such as “no front-line cuts”, “no top-down NHS reorganisation”, “no VAT rise” and, just for a change, compare them with Miliband’s stance against Murdochism and the energy companies?

Then there’s the duplicity of both ruling parties, with Liberal principles sacrificed at the power altars, and “caring Conservatism” seen for clearly what it was, merely an election gimmick. Is it such a good idea to take state intervention back to 1948 levels, which is a Tory ambition? More discussion is needed on the pitfalls of privatisation, the need for progressive taxation and a debunking of the Laffer curve, along Piketty lines. In fact, having an election based on principles and policies might be the very thing to get all of the electorate interested, and voting.

A hundred years after the gutter press prepared the British people for an unnecessary war, it’s now telling them that Miliband is unelectable; we do not expect similar messages from the Sunday newspaper of our choice.

Bernie Evans


So Andrew Rawnsley believes that the electorate thinks Miliband can’t take tough decisions. This is the man who took on Murdoch and his disreputable media enterprises over phone hacking; the man who challenged the big six energy suppliers and has promised to freeze prices, the man who has taken on the banks and the trade unions and who had the guts to oppose the gung-ho David Cameron, resulting in a vote in the Commons to oppose military intervention in Syria and thus persuading Obama to follow suit with a similar resulting vote in Congress. I believe it is a trivial matter of image and presentation in a population that is obsessed with photo-shoots, celebs and glib politicians who can spin a smooth line in a very much Tory-backed press. Maybe, just maybe, the British public will begin to recognise Ed Miliband for who he really is, a man of honesty and integrity who has got the courage to take on the big vested interests in this country.

Geoff Clegg



Andrew Rawnsley concludes that “Labour’s fundamental vulnerability … [is] not its leader’s resemblance to Wallace or his struggles with bacon butties”, yet in the same piece he writes of “Labour’s failed past: Michael Foot being ridiculed for the coat he wore to the Cenotaph on Remembrance Sunday, Neil Kinnock never being allowed to forget that he once fell over on Brighton beach”. And who ridiculed Foot? Who never allowed Kinnock to forget? Why, the media, that’s who: lazy clip-compilers in television, columnists who trot out these exhausted anecdotes as if they amount to political analysis. If these are the true measure of “Labour’s failed past”, then clearly Ed Miliband is indeed politically dead, finished off by being the first politician ever to be the subject of an unflattering photograph.

W Stephen Gilbert




Snapshot: Fancy dress and fraternal rivalry

This photograph was taken for a local newspaper, probably in the late 1940s. I think the village was having a show and some of the children went in fancy dress in the hope of winning a competition. My father, Noel, the newspaper seller wearing a flat cap and tank top, stands next to his brother, Henry, who is dressed as a cowboy. Tom, another brother, can be seen in the middle, at the back, wearing a white vest – a sportsman, I presume.

The three brothers were the youngest of a family of six children who were brought up single-handed by their widowed mother. My father, the youngest of them all, lost his father three months before being born. While walking home from work during a freak thunderstorm, my grandfather, in his hobnailed boots, took shelter under a tree but was fatally struck by lightning.

The start of the second world war was not an easy time for the family he left behind. My father often recalled having to stand at the dinner table to eat as there were not enough chairs for the whole family. His mother could not afford shoes for him so he used to wear wellies to school; his excuse to the teachers and classmates was that it was always raining when he set off from home.

It is rare to see a photograph of these three brothers together. At my parents’ wedding years later, photographs show Henry next to my father as his best man, but Tom refused to attend because of some sibling rivalry, as I understand it. In time, my parents emigrated, as did Tom, and the brothers were never photographed together again.

Sue Bailey

Playlist: A tongue twister for all of us

We Didn’t Start the Fire by Billy Joel

“We didn’t start the fire / It was always burning / Since the world’s been turning”

I think most parents have music they do their boring household chores to. My mum always used to set up her ironing board in the lounge and blast out a CD from my dad’s beloved speakers.

In the 80s, CDs were a seriously considered purchase. Once the family bought an album it was played constantly, so most of my childhood is soundtracked by Billy Joel, Fairground Attraction and Michael Jackson. Whenever Jackson released an album there was a huge rush to get it, as my mum knew it would be something we would all like.

Mum’s taste in music was always that little bit more accessible to me when I was growing up. Dad liked what we still jokingly call the “cat walking across a piano” music played on BBC Radio 3. He loved Captain Beefheart, who baffles me to this day, so as children we refused to let him play his music.

The one song I really badgered my mum to play over and over again was We Didn’t Start the Fire by Billy Joel. I think what appealed to my seven-year-old-self was that it is a massive tongue twister, and it became a game to sing along.

Looking back now, I’m pretty sure I didn’t get all the words right or even understand what Joel was saying, but this song reminds me of a time when music was more communal. Now people rarely buy or listen to whole albums, and we all have iPods on which we can pick and mix our favourite tunes. These days I have no idea what Mum is listening to through her earphones when she is doing the household chores. She could be playing Robson and Jerome on repeat and I wouldn’t know.

Gemma Longmire


The article by Avi Shlaim (“What’s the use of ‘balance’ in such an asymmetric war?”, 27 July) underlined the failure of Western diplomacy, not only in Gaza but also more widely throughout the Middle East.

From the Israeli assault on Lebanon in 2006, through to Libya, Syria, and now Gaza again, we have witnessed what amounts to a failure of imagination and thought on the final outcomes of each conflict by the foreign ministries of the EU and the USA, along with their allies in the region.

The first rule of diplomacy is that you talk to your adversaries, not isolate them so that you leave no room for manoeuvre, as happened in Libya and Syria, and now with Hamas. Which brave EU government will do the unthinkable and now talk openly to Hamas?

Dr Derek Pickard

Sawston, Cambridge

Avi Shlaim writes that “Israel is infinitely stronger than Hamas not only in military terms but also in its capacity to wage the propaganda war”. It is precisely because of its military superiority over Hamas, and its capacity to inflict damage to the infrastructure of civilian life in Gaza, that Israel has begun to lose the propaganda war.

Ivor Morgan


Paul Vallely is right to wonder why we so readily protest against the Israeli bombardment of Gaza, but remain silent about the pogroms being committed against Middle East Christians (“The world’s most persecuted people”, 27 July). One might also ask why so few of the demonstrators, who obviously care about human suffering, protest against the much greater butchery in Syria, or the atrocities being committed by Isis in the name of Islam?

Stan Labovitch

Windsor, Berkshire

How interesting that nearly 40 MPs are demanding, not action on aircraft noise now, but the publication of a timetable showing how and when an independent Ombudsman might be set up (“Aircraft noise ombudsman vital”, 27 July).

Maybe they should come to any south-west London suburb and try to get the children asleep before 11.30pm, or enjoy a quiet afternoon with friends in the garden without conversation being drowned out every four minutes by the deafening roar of a 747 overhead.

In other cities – Paris, Rome, Stockholm, Oslo, Berlin, and so on – they seem to have agreed that it is not a good idea to situate their main international airport where flights, in and out, will have to fly low, and with very stressful noise levels, over millions of local residents. But of course, they are Europeans.

David Halley

Hampton Hill, Middlesex

Hamish McRae notes that one reason people are not feeling better off is that “GDP per head is still something like 4 per cent below its peak” (“We have recovered, so why does it still hurt?” 27 July). But it should be also pointed out that earnings are still only growing at less than half the inflation rate. So whoever is now benefitting from the economic recovery, it certainly isn’t those hard working Brits we keep reading about.

Tim Mickleburgh

Grimsby, Lincolnshire

So Sara Pascoe doesn’t like it when people don’t get out of her way when she is swimming. (Credo, The New Review, 27 July). I suggest she moves through the water with a large bell round her neck, shouting: “I’m a very busy woman”. One way or another, that should solve the problem.

Linda Erskine


One reason for the decline of blockbusting films (“Box-office zeros”, 27 July) might be the cost of going to the cinema. For the cost of a night at the cinema I could buy three films off the net and enjoy them in the comfort of my own home complete with surround sound, and not have the joy of someone more than 6ft tall sitting in front of me.

Jim Lewis

Sompting West Sussex


THE vast majority of those who attend peaceful pro-Gaza protests have nothing but disgust for the actions of a small but vocal minority and you are right that this should be challenged (“Grim echoes of Europe’s anti-semitic past”, Editorial, “Anti-semitic attacks scar British cities”, News, and “Anti-semitism rears its ugly head”, Focus, last week).

Indeed it was Europe’s failure properly to address its long and shameful history of anti-semitism after the Second World War that fomented the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, with Europe sending Jewish people to Palestine rather than confronting the real issue.

I am equally sure that the vast majority of those who support Israel in its actions also reject the racist language some of their fellow protesters use. Such acts include describing prominent figures such as the US TV satirist Jon Stewart, the Labour MP Gerald Kaufman and the former Israeli commando and activist Miko Peled as “self-hating Jews” and chanting “death to Arabs”.

The culture of European anti-semitism and Islamophobia need to be tackled with urgency, so the legitimate concerns of both sides can be addressed.
Michael Maiden
Silverdale, Lancashire

Media Allies

The Palestinians have much of the western press helping them to wage their war. Hamas is responsible for putting Gazans in the line of fire, yet the media print heartbreaking pictures and Hamas has achieved its goal. The Holocaust could not have happened without the complicity of the majority of people in Europe.
SM Simmons
Weymouth, Dorset

Death toll

Perhaps we should remind anti-semitic Muslims that more Muslims are killed by Muslims than Israel has ever killed.
Liz Davies
Papworth Everard, Cambridgeshire

Balanced Argument

Stephen Pollard asks in the Focus article why we protest against Israel killing Arabs, but not about Arab deaths in Syria, Turkey and elsewhere. He is quite wrong to say there have been no protests, as any internet search will show. Pollard also makes no mention of the many ways that Israel, which holds almost all the advantages, strives to make a Palestinian state unviable. This is what gives Hamas its popular appeal.

Yes, we must condemn the attacks on Jews, just as we must the assaults on Muslims (which are also increasing in Europe). Muslim leaders should speak out — and many do — against extremist violence. I don’t hear calls from the synagogues for Israeli restraint. Most Israeli deaths took place during fighting in Gaza, not from Hamas rockets.
John Wu
London SW8

Tragic Irony

My own family were lucky to flee from Austria in 1938. Of my 14 relatives who didn’t, 13 were killed in concentration camps; the 14th had earlier been beaten to death in the street. Nowadays when I voice my dismay at what Israel is doing I get called anti-semitic.
George Solt
Olney, Buckinghamshire

Critical Mass

Online comments concerning the Gaza crisis on some newspaper websites reveal the ease with which reasoned critique of Israel can morph into ill-disguised anti-semitism.
Alasdair Frew-Bell

Ceasing Hostilities

The child of the Gazan writer Atef Abu Saif asks, “When is it going to end, Dad?” (“We wait each night for death to knock at the door”, News Review, last week). The response is when Hamas stops raining rockets on civilian areas of Israel and when the tunnel network it has constructed with the objective of kidnapping and murdering Israelis is dismantled. Only by addressing these two issues can there be a basis for the peace that both the Israelis and the Palestinians desire and need.
Barry Borman
Edgware, London

Peace Entreaty

One side needs to step back and create the opportunity for talks. The British government did that to get peace in Northern Ireland. Israel being the stronger should consider doing the same. No doubt they will say they will not talk to terrorists. Yet the Haganah and Irgun paramilitary groups were considered precisely that. The terrorists of today are the politicians of tomorrow. Northern Ireland is a witness to that fact.
Ralph Marshall
Bournemouth, Dorset

Rein in proposals on Revenue & Customs’ powers

WE SUPPORT the government’s drive to clamp down on those who can pay their taxes but do not. However, we are deeply concerned about plans by HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) to take tax debts directly from people’s accounts without the judicial oversight that is a crucial safeguard at present.

These plans risk causing damage not to the people being targeted but to the innocent and the vulnerable. Too often HMRC makes mistakes in its dealings with taxpayers. Its plans to contact potential debtors as proposed may not be enough to reach vulnerable people with certain health conditions, such as mental incapacity.

The inclusion of tax credit overpayments, which are difficult to assess and prone to official and claimant error, will affect families on low incomes. Where innocent small businesses are incorrectly targeted, their cash flow would be reduced, putting their operations at risk.

If the new powers are implemented as planned there will be no judicial oversight before HMRC partially freezes accounts and seizes funds. Allowing people to appeal after the event is far too late in the day and could mean they are no longer able to afford the necessary legal assistance.

We ask the chancellor to abandon his current proposals and consider a better way to achieve his aims while ensuring the proper protections for citizens are firmly in place. These planned measures are a power too far for an error-prone HMRC and will damage public trust in the tax system.
Robin Fieth, Building Societies Association, Mike Cherry, Federation of Small Businesses, Shami Chakrabarti, Liberty, Gary Richards, The Law Society, Frank Haskew, Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales, Chas Roy-Chowdhury, Association of Chartered and Certified Accountants, Anthony Browne, British Bankers’ Association, Joanna Elson, Money Advice Trust, Anthony Thomas, the Low Incomes Tax Reform Group

Black-and-white- case against badgers

Your correspondent Michael Donkin can rest assured that here in Powys, badgers are not in short supply (“Badgering farmers”, Letters, last week). Unfortunately, hedgehogs are — as practically every one of them has disappeared into the badgers’ stomachs. He suggests that it is the farmers who are responsible for the drastic reductions in the numbers of hedgehogs, bumblebees and ground-nesting birds. As this steep decline has coincided with the rapid increase in badger numbers, most of us know where the blame lies. Charles Clover’s article (“All eyes on Iron Lady 2.0, caught between Brock and a hard place”, Comment, July 20) was spot-on.
Caroline Slowik, Montgomery, Powys

Clegg fluffs penalty in Russia World Cup

IS Nick Clegg’s answer to Russia’s military activity in Ukraine and the shooting down of a civilian aircraft that we do not play football with them in 2018 (“Strip Russia of the World Cup — Clegg”, News, last week)? I suppose not playing football in North Korea, Israel and Gaza, or Iraq and Afghanistan should bring all the wrongdoers to their knees.
Mark Goddard, Birchington, Kent

Media must win over Putin’s people

Vladimir Putin, a KGB-trained leader, wants to return to Soviet borders of the 1950s. This is bad enough, but what is worse is the media control. The Russian people think the West is against them. Economic sanctions that affect crooks will work, but how does the world inform ordinary Russians that the West has a quarrel only with those at the top?
Jo Huddleston, Farnham, Surrey

An open verdict on pre-poll sabre-rattling for Scotland

THERE is a considerable amount of sabre-rattling going on, as it defies belief that 697,000 Scots are planning on leaving after a Yes vote (“Scots threaten exodus after Yes”, News, last week).

Where precisely are they planning to go? Why would anyone leave such a beautiful, resourceful country? Not only will they need to find jobs and homes, but also money for tuition fees, prescriptions and personal care. It seems fairly unlikely that anyone would give all that up.

Anyone with doubts about Scotland’s ability to run its own affairs just needs to look at the fabulous Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games.
June Martin, Linlithgow, West Lothian

Pensions fear
If Alex Salmond and company would only come clean about important issues such as pensions we would be more able to make an educated decision next month. He has chosen to keep us in the dark.

I do not know if my army and state pensions would be safe in an independent Scotland and so in the event of a Yes vote my German wife and I will join our daughter in Hanover.
Erland Douglas (retired Lieutenant-Colonel), Blairgowrie, Perth and Kinross

Open to debate
I’m a Scotsman with an Irish surname living in England. However, I do know that the golf tournament won by Rory McIlroy recently was the Open Championship — no British in the title (“Lost ball, Letters, July 20).

The birthplace of the Open was Prestwick Golf Club in Ayrshire. If the Scots vote Yes in their referendum, perhaps the golf clubs in the rest of Britain will lose the privilege of hosting the tournament.
Alex Duffy, Hinckley, Leicestershire


The spy who fooled me

I note that the prime minister will be reading the excellent book A Spy Among Friends by Ben Macintyre (“Lies, betrayal, war: just the way they like it”, News, last week). As Macintyre knows from our recent conversation, I was a member of Her Majesty’s Diplomatic Service, and the double agent Kim Philby invited me to dinner in Bahrain not long before he fled to Moscow. We discussed Middle Eastern history, on which he was a great expert. He was intelligent, courteous and utterly deceptive. He totally fooled me. When I later learnt of the terrible damage he did to our country, I was deeply shocked.
Councillor David Skinner

Population surge

So we need more power to “cope with the incredible growth in population that is forecast” (“Boris puts PM on griddle with electricity shortage warning”, News, last week). There are innumerable calls for more housing, for the same reason. Let’s get real: this is a small, very densely populated country with a £1.3-trillion debt, a £100bn-plus annual budget deficit, a balance of trade deficit and a worrying reliance on other countries — some very unstable — for food and energy at a time when global competition for such critical resources is increasing. It’s time to think longer term. Controlling immigration would help.
Richard Casselle
Hoddesdon, Hertfordshire

Lip service

It was interesting to read AA Gill’s opinion of the period television drama The Mill (“Where was the sting in the tale?”, Culture, last week) but I must educate him on one point. He surmised that the “tight-lipped Lancashire accent” was caused by weavers keeping their mouths closed to avoid the fluff from the raw cotton getting into their mouths. The operatives had, on the contrary, to use an exaggerated form of lip- reading so as to communicate with each other over the enormous noise made by the machinery. It was still in use when I, on vacation from university, did a time-and-motion study in a weaving shed to help my mill manager father. Some older women who used to work in the mills still could be distinguished by the way they continued to speak with exaggerated movements of their mouths long after they had left the mills.
Marie Lewis
Accrington, Lancashire

Going nowhere

I think there is a considerable amount of sabre-rattling going on here, as it defies belief that 697,000 Scots are planning on leaving after a “yes” vote. (“Scots threaten exodus after ‘yes’”, News, last week). Where precisely are they planning to go? Why would anyone leave such a beautiful, resourceful country? Not only will they need to find jobs and homes, but money for tuition fees, prescriptions and personal care. It seems fairly unlikely that anyone would give all that up. Anyone with doubts about Scotland’s ability to run its own affairs just needs to look at the fabulous Glasgow Commonwealth Games.
June Martin
Linlithgow, West Lothian

Pensions fear

If Alex Salmond and company would only come clean about important issues such as pensions, we would be more able to make an educated decision next month. He has chosen to keep us in the dark. I do not know if my army and state pensions would be safe in an independent Scotland and so in the event of a “yes” vote my German wife and I will join our daughter in Hanover.
Erland Douglas
(retired Lieutenant-Colonel)
Blairgowrie, Perth and Kinross

Open to debate

I’m a Scotsman with an Irish surname living in England. However, I do know that the golf tournament won by Rory McIlroy recently was the Open Championship — no British in the title (“Lost ball, Letters, July 20). The birthplace of the Open was Prestwick Golf Club in Ayrshire. If the Scots vote “yes” in their referendum, perhaps the golf clubs in the rest of Britain will lose the privilege of hosting the tournament.
Alex Duffy
Hinckley, Leicestershire

Neither rhyme nor reason

Paul Allison (“Regional differences”, Letters, July 13) asks whether an article about London would have Cockney rhyming slang in the headline. Are there any Cockneys left in London? I rarely hear the accent when I visit the capital. All reports suggest that the city has a large multicultural population.
Julie Jones
Solihull, West Midlands

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)


Tony Bennett, singer, 88; Steven Berkoff, actor and director, 77; James Hetfield, Metallica frontman, 51; Baroness James, author, 94; John Landis, director, 64; Evangeline Lilly, actress, 35; Martin Sheen, actor, 74; Martha Stewart, businesswoman, 73; Jack Straw, former foreign secretary, 68; Terry Wogan, broadcaster, 76


1492 Christopher Columbus sets sail from Spain on his first voyage, reaching the Bahamas in two months and nine days; 1914 Germany declares war on France; 1936 Jesse Owens wins the 100m race at the Berlin Olympics; 1955 English-language premiere of Beckett’s Waiting for Godot at the Arts Theatre, London

Letters should arrive by midday on Thursday and include the full address and a daytime and an evening telephone number. Please quote date, section and page number. We may edit letters, which must be exclusive to The Sunday Times.


The Government’s pledge for greater transparency within public bodies seems hollow

New FOI curbs could make Government more secret

The Coalition Agreement states that “we need to throw open the doors of public bodies, to enable the public to hold politicians to account” Photo: ALAMY

6:57AM BST 02 Aug 2014


SIR – Sue Cameron writes that the Cabinet Office is refusing to comment on its multi-million-pound settlement with Fujitsu.

In May 2012 a colleague and I were responsible for getting the Cabinet Office Major Projects Authority to review the forthcoming shambles of smart metering. In November I asked for a copy of its report under the Freedom of Information Act. After a 60-day wait, the Department of Energy and Climate Change handed me a copy of the 16-page report, 15 and a half pages of which were redacted.

I appealed to the Information Commissioner, who on March 31 this year ruled in my favour. DECC has now appealed to the First Tier Tribunal and a hearing is set for November.

The Coalition Agreement states that “we need to throw open the doors of public bodies, to enable the public to hold politicians to account”. Is this mere politicians’ prattle?

Alex Henney
London N6

Stopping pier fires

SIR – We must be grateful that there were no human casualties in the fire that ravaged Eastbourne’s pier; but surely the catastrophic damage to its buildings could have been averted by the use of water sprinklers.

Their installation on all piers, with self-contained pumps in the sea itself, should be a national priority to prevent further piers being reduced to burnt shells.

Peter Saunders
Salisbury, Wiltshire


SIR – You report that a man who unlawfully set a trap that killed a protected tawny owl has been fined £650 plus a £50 victim surcharge.

Is this to be given to the owl’s family?

John Mash
Cobham, Surrey

Unripe and unready

SIR – Is there a foolproof method of discovering which melons or peaches are ripe and ready to eat at the point of sale?

My experience in supermarkets is that hope almost always triumphs over common sense and the outcome is unripe disappointment.

David Benwell
Selsey, West Sussex

Stamp duty reform

SIR – There may be some justification in reducing the burden of stamp duty on first-time house buyers, but I am less convinced by any proposal to reduce current rates for second or subsequent house purchases.

It is likely that the majority of properties attracting stamp duty above 1 per cent fall into the latter categories. Purchasers moving up the property ladder are likely to have seen significant gains, which are currently tax-free. Stamp duty collects a proportion of these gains – to a greater extent in areas that have seen the greatest price increases.

Landlords undertake a business, and business must expect to pay tax on profits. Therefore it is not unreasonable to tax these transactions, which have been partly responsible for the rising cost of residential property.

I would fully support an attempt to simplify the tax system, reduce the burden on genuine first-time buyers and remove the “cliff edge” effect in the stamp duty structure. However, any overall reduction would have to be made good from other taxes. I cannot see what overall benefit this would bring to the majority of people in this country.

Ian Mackenzie
Broughton, Lancashire

SIR – It would be better to base stamp duty on the area of the house or apartment, with perhaps an element for the plot size.

An apartment of 700 sq ft might pay £10 per square foot, resulting in a bill of £7,000; a house of 2,000 sq ft £20,000. The rate would be linear and apply to the whole country, not just London and the South East. It would also give the authorities an incentive to build more houses.

John Lane
Coulsdon, Surrey

A place to call home

SIR – Your comment that lodgers are here to stay was very welcome. Young people finding it hard to rent in London should explore this avenue.

Having been a lodger ever since I moved to London from university, I find it both beneficial to my bank account and personally rewarding.

I live in north Kensington for a very reasonable rent and provide company for an elderly widower and war veteran. I find the security and generosity of my landlord immensely valuable. We have cultivated a kind of friendship which is impossible in the commercially rented sector.

There still seems to be an attitude that regards living with older people as creepy or “un-cool”, while in fact it’s quite the opposite.

Abhed Ravi Kandamath
London W10

Driverless parking

SIR – Driverless cars are all very well, but how do they choose which parking space to enter at the supermarket?

Canon Christopher Scott
Bude, Cornwall

SIR – Instead of paying to park, I will send mine on a circular journey instructing it to return in 30 minutes, when I will load it with my purchases and return home.

Of course, if my idea catches on, the surrounding streets may become a little congested.

John Curran

SIR – I await with interest the first report of road rage between two driverless cars.

Kevin Leece
Gravesend, Kent

Gulls nesting in towns behave like sky-rats

SIR – Jeremy Holt’s suggestion that the seagull infestation of coastal towns could be mitigated by removing those nests not in natural habitats is timely.

There would be no threat to gull species if licences to destroy their nests and provide for humane despatch in defined urban areas were permitted; then the birds would return to their natural habitats. Towns are not the gulls’ natural habitat.

One of these “sky rats” has, as I write, just stolen a sandwich from a table on the terrace of the Royal Dart Yacht Club.

Dr Richard Rawlins
Kingswear, Devon

SIR – Having been woken by screaming gulls every morning at four o’clock for nearly two weeks in Cornwall, I’d like to start a fund for spikes and netting on gull nesting-sites in towns. In summer, it’s too hot to sleep with the double glazing closed, and that is precisely the season they get up at daybreak to shout loudly at one another.

Ann Heaps
Dorking, Surrey

SIR – Two gulls, a male and female, have visited our hilltop home in Brighton daily for nearly 20 years. Their appearance, gliding towards us and landing on our balcony railings, is a thing of beauty.

If we ignore them, the male will knock on the balcony door with his beak and wait for a hand-out. He once stepped inside, unnoticed, and waddled into the kitchen, unflappable but with no hint of aggression. We ushered him out of the back door and he flew away at peace with the world.

Allan Johns
Brighton, East Sussex

The harvest is sticking to an age-old timetable

The farming calendar remains unchanged since Anglo-Saxon times

Harvest Moon by Palmer, Samuel (1805-81)

Kent’s best: villagers work by the night’s light in Samuel Palmer’s ‘Harvest Moon’, 1833  Photo:

6:59AM BST 02 Aug 2014


SIR – Yesterday, August 1, was Lammas Day, traditionally the beginning of harvest time, as here in Hertfordshire.

Almost on cue, just a day early, hay-making began to the north of me and the wheat crop is being reaped to the west.

Today climate change and global warming are debated widely in forums undreamed of a thousand years ago, but the farming calendar has not changed since Anglo-Saxon times.

Long may this continue.

Kenneth Morton
Hatfield, Hertfordshire

The Tomb of the Unknown Warrior in Westminster Abbey Photo: Getty

7:00AM BST 02 Aug 2014


SIR – Over the past couple of months I have seen references to the idea of turning off the lights between 10pm and 11pm on Monday to commemorate the start of the First World War.

I think that this is a wonderful idea and will be only too pleased to turn out my lights and burn a single candle. There needs to be more publicity in order for the whole country to participate in this event.

Ann Barnes
Beckenham, Kent

SIR – My grandfather, Sir Robert Garran, claimed in his memoirs, Prosper the Commonwealth, that, as solicitor general of Australia, he sanctioned the first shot “on either side” in the First World War.

News of the declaration of war reached Australia on August 5 1914. A German steamer, the Pfalz, was escaping down the Yarra river from Melbourne. My grandfather’s advice to the Army was to fire a shot across its bows. It was certainly the first shot fired by the British Commonwealth. The Pfalz returned to Port Phillip after the pilot wrested the wheel from the captain.

Robin Garran
Alvediston, Wiltshire

SIR – Ben Farmer’s report on remote war graves mentions that of Rupert Brooke on the Greek island of Skyros. In July 1948 a group from the destroyer Chevron, in which I was serving, was sent during a visit to Skyros to see that the grave had not suffered in the recent war. We eventually found it undamaged in a small “foreign field” among a dozen olive trees. We cleaned the marble and repainted the green railings. I hope it is now visited and cared for more regularly.

Alan Tyler
Surbiton, Surrey

SIR – I am glad that the Commonwealth War Graves Commission is publicising the many soldiers commemorated in countries other than those on the Western Front. My great uncle was killed at Gallipoli alongside troops from Australia, New Zealand, India and France. At the Redoubt Cemetery at Helles, Turkey, 2,027 servicemen are buried and his name is inscribed with 348 others on the memorial.

In media coverage of the First World War, I have found little mention to date of that eight-month campaign to open a supply route to Russia through the Dardanelles.

Eileen Savage

SIR – Browsing through our old parish magazines here I came across comments from September 1914 by the rector, Hugh Holbech: “At first it was most difficult to grasp the magnitude and the awfulness of this great effort to which we are now pledged… Of course we hoped for a speedy settlement, but we now see that we must be prepared for a protracted resistance, and a long strain in almost countless ways.”

Definitely not “All over by Christmas”.

Noel Slaney
Bredon, Gloucestershire

Irish Times:

Irish Independent:

Madam –Two Cork men singing the praises of Dublin’s Poolbeg chimneys? Why does that make me suspicious?

Brendan O’Connor writes: “What may once have been seen to be ugly has acquired a grace and a warmth and a personality simply by virtue of hanging in there.” Brendan says he loves walking the South Wall, but methinks he’s more at home with the bull.

Brendan, ugly is ugly.

Eoghan Harris says the chimneys are “a constant visual reminder of the working Dublin that Joyce loved and lauded in his A Portrait of The Artist as a Young Man.”

Eoghan, the bloody things only went up in 1971. They weren’t there to mar the skyline of Joyce’s Dublin.

Listen lads, if you like the defunct monstrosities so much, ye can have them.

I’m guessing that the cost of carefully dismantling the chimneys brick by brick and shipping them down to Cork would be considerably less than the cost of maintaining them for the next century. Or was it two centuries you had in mind?

They could be re-erected at the mouth of the Lee to stand forever as a gigantic double digit gesture of Dub generosity.

For goodness sake, they’re already painted in the Cork colours !

Brian Brennan,

Portmarnock, Co Dublin

Bureaucrats were not ones to blame

Madam – Your editorial (Sunday Independent, July 27) quotes the moral philosopher Jeremy Bentham‘s belief that the central objective of all public policy should be to achieve the greatest happiness for the greatest number of a state’s citizens.

The editorial also raises a very important question as to why ‘the powers that be’ did not have ‘the chutzpah’ to ‘sort out the mess’ that saw the cancellation of the Garth Brooks concerts.

That mess, your editorial proclaims, affected ‘mostly rural and working class citizens’ and was caused by ‘the tepid domination of unaccountable bureaucrats’.

The question as to why ‘the powers that be’ did not ‘sort out the mess’ could, with even more relevance, be applied to what John Paul McCarthy, writing on the opposite page to your editorial, called the ‘economic implosion’.

That economic implosion affected many more, if not all, of the state’s citizens and necessitated a bail out of this country by the international community.

That economic implosion was not, however, caused by the tepid domination of unaccountable bureaucrats. It was caused by the decisions of a small number of very powerful people who were in charge of our most powerful institutions during the boom.

They certainly did not lack chutzpah and were the real powers that be that caused the mess.

Contrary to your editorial opinion, therefore, Irish governance did make it possible for such powerful people to survive during the boom.

It was they and not the tepid bureaucrats that failed Jeremy Bentham’s famous objective of public policy achieving the greatest happiness for the greatest number.

A Leavy,


Dublin 13

ACP is not for all of the clergy

Madam – In her article in the Sunday Independent (20 July 2014) Joanna Kiernan begins by saying: “The organisation representing Catholic priests in Ireland… the Association of Catholic Priests”.

Can I point out that I am a Catholic priest in Ireland and would like to make you aware that this organisation does not represent me in any way.

I would be grateful if you could ensure this is made clear in any future articles by your journalists.

Rev Fr Michael Toomey,

Holy Cross Church,


Co Waterford

Brendan has the knack for laughter

Madam – I laughed and laughed at Brendan O’ Connor’s article “Oh how we love to be overheated” (Sunday Independent, July 27). It was so funny and true to life. I know he was writing about what we all talk about endlessly – the weather – but it was funny and intelligently written.

Brendan has a great knack and sense of humour and his writings are the main reason why I buy the Sunday Indo. He would never let you down.

There are so many misery- guts of journalists with their dire writings and news that’s its simply a pleasure to read and get a few laughs out of Brendan’s writings.

I’m not surprised that Brendan is on the front page because that’s where he should be.

Terry Healy,


Co Kildare

Knock down one, keep the other

Madam – As in all intractable disputes like the status of the two Poolbeg chimneys, compromise is the only answer: knock down one and maintain the other as a permanent finger/phallic sign to the rest of us from the bankers, developers, political class and the insiders who destroyed the Irish economy and society.

John Leahy,


We should all now follow Shane Ross

Madam – Shane Ross is doing a great, worthwhile, and vital job exposing incompetence, greed, corruption, brazen arrogance, cronyism and general ‘brassneckary’.

Somehow we must penetrate that complacency which seems to be embedded in the Irish psyche so that all of the people of Ireland, when they realize how we are being manipulated and ripped off, will ‘get off the fence’ and do their bit.

Joe Brennan,


Co Cork

We get to make the choice of President

Madam – I write in relation to the comments by Frank Flannery, the former Fine Gael Election strategist, on their poor presidential election results after the party polled seven per cent of the national vote some months after getting 36 per cent of the vote in a general election.

Might I point out that presidential candidates are viewed by the Irish people as just that – people who desire to be given the position of President of this country, and are not chosen by virtue of their party political backers.

I am more than surprised that Mr Flannery does not give us, the people, the credit for knowing who we think can and will represent us as Head of State.

Adrian Bourke,

Dublin 16

Democracy is not for everbody

Madam – One of the unfortunate (but entirely necessary) side effects of free speech is that people can use your pages to spout diatribe, such as Vincent Lavery did in your always excellent Letters page recently (Sunday Independent, July 20).

His fatuity peaks towards the end of his missive when he laments the fact that “we are being led, for the most part, by duly elected officials, and a silent majority.”

Democracy isn’t for everybody it seems.

Simon O’Connor,


Dublin 12

Let’s have more balanced reporting

Madam – Why is it that whenever the Irish media report on the court appearances of Ivor Callelly, he is almost always referred to as a former Fianna Fail junior minister?

I wonder, beacuse whenever we read about a court application at Clonmel Circuit court to have the trial involving Michael Lowry, who is accused of filing incorrect tax returns, moved to Dublin, there is no reference to the fact that Michael Lowry is a former Fine Gael Minister.

Whatever happened to the idea of balanced reporting?

JJ Coughlan,


Co Cork

Praise for Liam’s Letter of the Week

Madam – May I congratulate Liam Cooke on his excellent letter (Sunday Independent, July 27) headed: ‘Leave it out, Angela’.

It certainly deserved to be Letter of the Week.

I am an 80-year old volunteer with a charity – and there are many more like me around the country. But Liam put into words what we are all thinking.

Maith an fear.

Maire Bean Ui Corcorain


Co Cork

Beware the thieves, but praise the folk

Madam – Recently on a trip to Dublin, while waiting for the return bus to Limerick, I left down my handbag for two minutes. In the twinkle of an eye it was stolen, and my cards tried at an ATM within 15 minutes.

I would like to thank publicly a couple, Mr and Mrs Tynan, who gave me their phone to use in the immediate aftermath. 
 There was also a nice blonde girl travelling to Portlaoise on the bus and she allowed me to stay in touch with home by lending me her phone too. 
 I also want to thank Eddie who gave me a lift home once I had reached Birdhill.

In spite of my personal loss, I still think Ireland is a great place to live – judging by all of those good people who helped me after I had been robbed.

I also want to thank the gardai who were very nice to me once I had reported the crime.

But a word to the wise: beware of those who steal. They are really good at what they do.

Betty Duggan,

Birdhill, Co Tipperary

Let’s be clear on all type of terror

Madam – “Hamas is to terrorism what Basil Fawlty is to hospitality.”  Thus wrote Gene Kerrigan in a bid to convince us that Hamas is like a slightly bonkers neighbour setting off harmless if noisy fireworks in his own back garden.

In the last four weeks Hamas have launched over 2,000 of these rockets plus mortars into Israel (a country fighting for its very existence) and only the Israeli defence systems have prevented catastrophic casualties which Kerrigan and others, seem to think is somewhat unfair.

Hamas have also constructed dozens of underground tunnels into Israel in further bids to commit mass murder on Israeli farms and villages bordering Gaza. Basil Fawlty indeed.

Inside Gaza, as Carol Hunt in her brilliant article pointed out, Hamas have introduced Sharia Law which, for the wretched women of Gaza, means a hell on earth existence from the cradle to the grave.

Why no articles by Kerrigan condemning other Islamists groupings from Nigeria to northern Iraq who are happily slaughtering innocent men, women and children because they are either not Muslims or belong to the wrong shade of Islam.

For the last three years Russia has been arming the Assad regime in Syria which to date has directly and indirectly killed thousands of children including Palestinian youngsters with conventional and chemical weapons.

Let’s be clear: the images coming out of Gaza are atrocious and obscene – but no more obscene than what’s been coming out of Syria and other Islamist horror sites for the last couple of years without comment from Kerrigan.

Eddie Naughton,

The Coombe,

Dublin 8

Politicans must act on Middle East

Madam – I must commend Carol Hunt’s balanced piece “Killing children is always wrong, so why do we blame Israel more? (Sunday Independent, July 27).

Like many who have visited Israel and the Holy Land, I think it is both a beautiful place, and historically inspirational. But what could be a tourist economic gold mine for all is, a number of bankrupt fortified enclaves, dependent on overseas aid with a stubborn refusal of political leaders to engage meaningfully in finding a solution to the conflict through peace negotiations.

Frank Browne,


Dublin 16

Carol’s article was ‘refreshing’

Madam – It was refreshing to read Carol Hunt’s unbiased article on the Hamas/Israeli conflict after the endless anti-Israeli crap from the politically correct crowd in RTE.

WA Murray,


Leave crime fight to the gardai

Madam – John Fitzgerald (Sunday Independent, 20 July 2014) seems very gung-ho about the public’s patriotic duty against the criminals while overlooking the risk that comes with acting in such a manner.

He tells us to “forget the informer stigma. Snitching on a drug dealer is a life enhancing patriotic act and the duty of every honest citizen.”

Hmm. Some words of caution: once it becomes known on the street someone has been “snitching” on a dealer, the informer becomes a target of the dealer who will do whatever it takes to eliminate the threat to their livelihood.

And even if somebody does exactly what John is suggesting, they face the prospect of having to leave the life, family and circle of friends they know and build a new one from scratch.

The breaking up of the Dundon criminal gang in Limerick by the Garda has shown the kind of progress law enforcement can make if they are given the resources it needs to embark on a long haul against a criminal gang – but the State and the Government needs to reassess its own role in the so-called war on drugs and this should be followed by a debate on whether to legalise the narcotics criminals sell illegally.

Robert Byrne,

Malahide, Dublin 13

Let’s learn from the kids

Madam – Having spent yet another sleepless night tossing and turning as a result of worrying about secondary school placements for two of my sons, my faith was somewhat restored in the few teachers who show extraordinary commitment to children with different needs.

Mary Mitchell-O’Connor’s article (Sunday Independent, 27 July 2014) was refreshingly honest, when, as a former school principal, she recollected her encounter with one particular pupil and her mum.

As a parent of a number of children with an impairment that means they have different abilities to their peers, I have been the “problem parent” the “troublemaker” to various school principals and teachers alike.

I had the audacity to advocate for my children and push for inclusive education in their own community. We have met proactive and enlightened educators, the gems of the system – but sadly we have also met others who find endless reasons why my sons should look elsewhere.

My two sons require an augmented curriculum and teachers with FETAC qualification to get their qualifications. To get that they will have to travel up to 20km away from home.

The alternative is to have them baby sat in a special class for the next five years.

One of my sons has been educated in a mainstream environment all through primary school, simply because management and some staff at the school differentiated his academics but involved him fully in all practical, community, and project work as well as class team projects, sports, class shows, and class tours (with very minimal SNA input). The 28 children that have been with him during his primary education never defined him by his impairment.

In my view they are a most welcoming group of compassionate young individuals that the community should be proud of. These children are our future and this ability to embrace diverse needs will stand to them in the future. These children have an innate understanding of inclusion But my son cannot now join them.

Let us take our lesson from those 28 schoolmates and take ownership in our own attitudes towards disability.

Name and address with Editor

Sunday Independent

More Rain

August 2, 2014

2 August 2014 More Rain

I jog around the park I still have arthritis in my left knee, but I manage to get round the park. A damp and cloudy day

Scrabble I win, by six points but gets under 400. perhaps Mary will win tomorrow.


Juno Alexander – obituary

Juno Alexander was the actress wife of Terence Alexander and former Free French officer known for her joie de vivre

Juno Alexander

Juno Alexander

5:18PM BST 01 Aug 2014


Juno Alexander, who has died aged 88, was the older sister of the Conservative politician Lord St John of Fawsley (Norman St John Stevas) and the first wife of the actor Terence Alexander; she made a name in her own right as an actress, broadcaster and local politician — and as a woman of idiosyncrasy and verve.

She appeared in television series such as Harpers West One (1961) and Love Story (1963), and as a panellist on radio shows such as Just A Minute and Going for a Song. During the war she joined the Free French and worked with the Resistance; later she served as a Conservative councillor on Richmond council, south-west London.

But rather like her brother Norman, whose personality was a little too rococo for some, and whose gossipy indiscretions were not always appreciated by his political colleagues, Juno Alexander’s joie de vivre sometimes got her into scrapes. In 1970 she was reported to have resigned her council seat after performing high kicks in the council chamber wearing black stockings and false eyelashes and calling the mayor “Darling”.

The story, she claimed, was only partly true: she had not performed high kicks, but she had certainly called the mayor “Darling” because that was what she called everybody.

Juno Alexander in the early 1970s

Juno Stevas was born in Paddington on July 2 1925. Her Greek-born father, Spyro Stevas, and her Irish mother, Kitty St John O’Connor, would go on to own and run a series of small hotels in then unfashionable parts of west London, though they later divorced.

Juno was educated at Our Lady of Sion Convent in Kensington, where the nuns sought to channel her rebellious spirit to useful ends by appointing her head girl. The treatment worked, and the nuns and the Church would remain an important influence throughout her life.

As a teenager, Juno became a competitive skater and show jumper, and after leaving school she studied ballet and drama at the Italia Conti school. She made an early appearance as a dancer at a Royal Variety Performance partnering Clive Dunn, whose shoulders, she recalled, sloped so steeply that it was impossible to remain aloft when she was hoisted on top of them. As the young Princesses, Elizabeth and Margaret, came backstage to meet the performers after the show, she overheard Margaret asking her sister in a stage whisper: “Is that the little girl who fell off?”

Juno Stevas in Pantomime as Prince Charming

In the early stages of the Second World War, Juno was inspired by General Charles de Gaulle’s stand against Germany and, despite having no French ancestry, she volunteered to work with the Free French, initially as a secretary at the organisation’s headquarters in Duke Street. Later, however, she was promoted to the rank of lieutenant in the Free French Army and crossed over to France to work with the Resistance.

She claimed that once, while conveying a radio transmitter to a Resistance agent in Paris, she had been challenged by a German soldier who asked her what she had in her bag. Having been brought up not to tell lies, she told the truth — and was amazed when the soldier laughed, either because he genuinely thought she was joking or because he did not want to make a discovery that would inevitably mean the torture and death of a pretty young woman.

Following the liberation of Paris she was surprised to find, among files kept at the Gestapo headquarters, a photograph of herself meeting an agent under the clock outside Fortnum and Mason in Piccadilly.

Juno Stevas in her Free French uniform

After the war Juno Stevas trained at the Webber Douglas Drama School, graduating in 1947 as the school’s “Most Promising Actress”. She immediately joined Hayes Rep as leading lady and went on to Worthing Rep the following season. There she met the newly- demobbed Terence Alexander, the actor who would become best-known for his role as Charlie Hungerford in the BBC Television detective series Bergerac. They married in 1949.

Juno Stevas on her wedding day with her brother Norman

From the late 1940s to the 1960s, Juno Alexander made frequent appearances on television, in programmes such as The Alfred Marks Show, The Max Miller Show and The Eamonn Andrews Show. After the births of her children, she did less work, but still had small parts in films and in television series, among them Compact and Garry Halliday (a precursor to Dr Who in which she appeared with her husband as his air stewardess girlfriend), and appeared on television and radio panel shows including Petticoat Line, with Anona Wynn .

Juno and Terence Alexander in Garry Halliday

In the 1960s Juno Alexander became involved with charitable and political work, serving as public relations officer for the homelessness charity Shelter, and in 1969 organising a successful ecumenical festival for human rights at Strawberry Hill.

A highly effective campaign to prevent parking meters being installed in the streets around her home in East Twickenham led to all three major parties asking her if she would be prepared to stand under their colours for Parliament. However, she felt that the House of Commons was her brother Norman’s territory, so instead she opted for local government.

She threw herself into local issues with typical enthusiasm and energy, though some situations defeated even her resourcefulness. On one occasion, while out canvassing, she knocked at a door and was greeted by a middle-aged lady with the words: “Ah, I am sure you have come to see Mother. Please follow me.” Juno Alexander was ushered into a room containing an open coffin. Startled, but still in command of the situation, she said a few prayers and made respectful noises before emerging to be offered a cup of tea. When questioned about her relationship with the deceased, she had to admit the real purpose of her visit, at which point her hostess grabbed back the teacup and said: “I am appalled by this behaviour! What IS the party coming to?”

Sadly, however, Juno’s political activities contributed to the break-up of her marriage with Terence Alexander.

After resigning from the council, Juno Alexander served as a JP and became a popular after-dinner speaker. On one occasion, before addressing an audience in Yorkshire, she went for a walk along a cliff and was amazed to see a kangaroo bounding about on the cliff top. Fearing that she must be going mad, she went straight to the nearest hostelry for a stiff whisky and was relieved when the landlord explained that there was a wallaby farm on the hill.

Juno Alexander was the mother of two sons, one of whom recalled being driven by his mother to a “green-themed” party thrown by the son of the Rolling Stones’ financial adviser Prince Rupert zu Loewenstein. As they queued among the Bentleys, Maseratis and Rolls-Royces, all waiting to clear security, Juno Alexander saw the guard looking down his nose dubiously at her tiny turquoise Fiat. Winding down the window, she shouted: “I’m so sorry, Darling; it’s the only green car I’ve got.”

Her sons survive her.

Juno Alexander, born July 2 1925, died June 29 2014


Children are always the innocent victims of war. In the case of the assault on Gaza (Editorial, 1 August) they have not just been the victims, but the targets. Seven out of 10 deaths have been civilians and two out of 10 have been children. And they have died horribly, in their schools, in hospital beds and while sleeping. The Israelis tell us that these deaths are accidents. Just one example of too many that gives the lie to that. At the Abu Hussein school in Jabaliya refugee camp, survivors said the school was hit by a barrage of eight shells in 15 minutes. Children tried to escape by running from room to room only to be killed or injured by the next shell. Besieged and locked in for years and with half of Gaza’s 1.8 million inhabitants under 18, we must make reality of those two words, “never again”.
David Wilson
Co-founder, War Child

• Well over 10% of the rockets fired by Hamas at Israel in the last three weeks have exploded inside Gaza. As your newspaper accept without inquiry the Palestinian fatality statistics given by the Palestinian ministry of health in Gaza, ie Hamas, it behoves you to demand clarification of how many fatalities were caused directly or indirectly by such misfirings, particularly of civilians, including children. By indirect I mean explosions of arms stocks in Gazan schools etc.
Peter Simpson
Pinner, Middlesex

• Gaza became independent a long time ago. Wouldn’t it have benefited the population more if the huge funds that were given by the EU and other countries had been used constructively, to build up the economy, create research centres and laboratories, provide tech training, open libraries and cultural centres, instead of merely focusing on destruction? There could have been a flourishing and prosperous community and probably already a Palestinian state a long time ago. Economic exchange with Israel could have replaced the exchange of hostilities and hatred. Construction, manufacture and production of a peaceful economy is the only way forward to improve the lives of the Palestinian population. To use an old biblical phrase, swords should be turned into ploughshares.
Professor Catherine Hezser
Professor of Jewish Studies, School of Oriental and African Studies

• Muslims in Britain and France must marvel at the seeming lack of care or sympathy offered by their respective governments. Here, where journalists and pundits with opposing views endlessly debate their rhetorical positions, no journal, august or otherwise, has yet expressed its outrage by openly demanding from the leader of the opposition that he makes the position of his party unambiguously clear regarding this horror.

In these countries, there may be among their Muslim citizens increasingly disenfranchised, radicalised youths who may soon conclude that nothing they can say or do will have any effect on the viewpoint taken either by the EU or the US. In 2013, an Afghan war veteran was murdered on the streets of Britain by two men who claimed that their actions were an act of war. Whether the effects of distant wars creep ever closer or not, the governments of Europe may be ignoring this conflict at their peril.
Al-Sharif Abdullah bin Al-Hussein

• Andrew McCulloch (Letters, 30 July) could not be more misguided in his analogy between Israel and Nazi Germany. Is he not aware that Hamas is a branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, whose founding ideology, as enshrined in its charter, is pure genocidal antisemitism, directly inspired by Nazism. German money funded the MB, which organised incitement and violence against the Copts and Jews of Egypt throughout the 30s. That Egypt is today virtually “Judenrein” would gladden the heart of any Hamas supporter. Hamas remains totalitarian, anti-gay, anti-women, anti-non-Muslim, reactionary. Aren’t these values antithetical to everything the Guardian stands for?
Lyn Julius

• Didn’t the Jews under siege in the Warsaw ghetto dig a network of tunnels? Wasn’t their attempts at resistance and survival a source of pride to Jewish people everywhere? Aren’t there books such as Mila 18 hailing their ingenuity and bravery in building the tunnels and defying the Gestapo attempts to control them? How can Israel now justify all the destruction and deaths because the Palestinians have also dug tunnels after being under siege for seven years? When will the world take on Israel’s hypocrisy and double standards and stop this slaughter?
Judi Oshowole

• It must be time to say the unsayable and talk to Hamas. The lessons from Northern Ireland are clear – we need to negotiate with all the parties involved in the war, even with those some call terrorists. Surely the EU can take the lead?
Helen Lewis
Epsom, Surrey

Put Gaza’s children before politics, says Vanessa Redgrave

Reading Julian Borger’s article (Poor training of gunners blamed for high civilian death toll in Gaza, 1 August), I recall a tense meeting with the Israelis to “exchange evidence” seven weeks after an Israeli sniper shot my son in Rafah, Gaza, in 2003, while he wore the internationally recognised high-vis orange jacket of the unarmed, non-combatant civilian. Ever since, we, a British family, have had cause to demand answers from the IDF and the Israeli government for the shooting of our child. The relatives of over 1,400 Palestinian civilians slaughtered in just four weeks have cause to do the same. As do the Israeli families of over 50 young soldiers killed trying to serve their country.

In 2003, it became obvious the Israeli government and IDF were unused to being asked to account for their rules of engagement. Our own investigation into Tom’s shooting did not remotely tally with the IDF’s cobbled together “field inquiry”. This was a document far removed from the truth, desperate to create an alternate reality to that which had actually taken place. Both we and staff at the British embassy immediately recognised it for a crude cover-up with many fabrications and mistakes – most deliberate, some possibly careless. We received no apology for Tom’s shooting, or when we ourselves were fired upon by an Israeli sniper at the Abu Houli checkpoint during one of our visits to the area.

Was it poor communication between command centres back then? Were IDF soldiers insufficiently trained? Or were they simply allowed to do what they liked, without fear of consequences? Or all three? Too many questions. Too few answers. Plus ca change… All agencies must work to stop this disgracefully wanton, careless violence. And Israel must – for once – be called to account for the way it behaves. It isn’t just the only hope for the people of Gaza. It might also be the only hope for Israel, the country with the self-titled “most moral army in the world”.
Jocelyn Hurndall

At midnight on Thursday, the University of London Union ceased to exist. It was the largest students’ union in Europe, representing 120,000 students from across London, and was a major centre of student life in the capital – playing a pivotal role in campaigns and activism, and publishing probably the world’s biggest student newspaper, London Student. Its abolition – undertaken by the University of London with no mandate from the student body – will, in spite of the management-speak in which it is dressed up, go down as an act of vandalism. But this development is neither accidental nor senseless: it is the result of a marketising higher education system which is run by cliques of senior managers and former academics who have, increasingly, no basic loyalty to their institutions, their students or to any meaningful conception of education as a public good. We are proud to have fought back this year, and many have been persecuted for their part in doing so, but if ULU’s fate is not to be repeated across the country, we will need to build a national movement capable of turning the tide.
Michael Chessum
ULU president 2012-14

Reading Geoff Scargill’s damning indictment of the Premier League (Letters, 24 July), I began to worry I’d been suffering a year-long hallucination and that games such as Crystal Palace 3-3 Liverpool, Manchester City 6-3 Arsenal and Cardiff 3-2 Manchester City hadn’t actually taken place. Each of those contests, and many others, easily matched the excitement of the World Cup group stages (and far surpassed most of the knock-out games). Then I wondered whether I’d imagined Vincent Kompany, Daniel Sturridge, Mesut Özil and the host of other “top European players” that ply their trade every week. Thankfully, I soon came to my senses, and can now resume looking forward to the new season. The Premier League is deeply flawed, but it is certainly not boring or lacking in quality.
Alex Larkinson

• Geoff Scargill would find old-style enjoyment at old-style prices in the lower leagues. Last Saturday the Hatters of Luton Town entertained Royal Antwerp and a crowd of over 3,000 to an enjoyable game in gorgeous sunshine, helped by 802 Antwerp fans. They danced, cheered and sang throughout, even though they lost 4-0.

When Luton’s third goal went in, the Belgians rejoiced so loudly that the Luton fans turned from applauding it to applauding the visitors. Football the old-fashioned way.
Mike Broadbent

• Sunday league football, despite its uneven and often waterlogged pitches, could produce a more skilful and genuinely talented kind of player, given the right financial backing. Both genders would benefit from playing purely for the love of the game. And it would bring the soul back to a sport that has been found wanting for many years. Let’s have less of this oversubscribed hype and let the once beautiful game breathe, find new roots and flower into a sport that can be played, watched and discussed for all the reasons that we as supporters can be proud of.
Robert Holmes

• Your report seems to express disapproval that the average age of Premier League supporters is now 41 (Sport, 29 July). With men and women living to an average of somewhere in the low 80s isn’t this about right?
Jan Wiczkowski

• Awesome football letters, but the editor’s come in and closed down the cliche letters; and rightly so.
John Bailey
St Albans, Hertfordshire

The Hanoverian kings are a hard sell, as your article and leader (1 August) comment, in spite of their glorious legacy. In the Georgian market town of Beverley, we are celebrating this legacy with a nine-day festival next month (13-21 September), 300 years after George I arrived in England – and we are astonished that no other UK town is marking this anniversary. The festival is about all things Georgian: art and architecture; music; chocolate; costume; and literature, including Mary Wollstonecraft, educated in a Georgian house in this town.
Barbara English
Beverley, East Yorkshire

• A brief addition to the Open door piece on the history of crosswords (28 July). When I was doing some studying in Manchester Central Library’s newspaper microfiches in the 1970s (ie lazing around, reading old 1930s newspapers), I remember noticing that the daily crossword was not only in English, but also in Latin, Greek, Hebrew and Sanskrit, on a rotating basis. I thought this was in the Manchester Guardian, but I can’t find any reference to this on the internet. Any ideas?
Chris Collins

• Great to see the Dead’s Phil Lesh get the neo-spiritual In praise of… slot (31 July), but it’s not quite true to say that most of his peers have given up the ghost. Bob Weir, Mickey Hart and Bill Kreutzmann are still hard at it, though the band did have a habit of hiring keyboards players who exploded.
Max Bell
Thame, Oxfordshire

• Will the advent of “driverless cars” (Comment, 1 August) mean I can go to the pub on a Saturday night, drink a skinful, and not be done for driving home under the influence?
Simon G Gosden
Rayleigh, Essex

• Sad to see the historical illiteracy of the voters of the Top 20 most influential books by a woman (Report, 30 July). Surely Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe, said to be responsible for starting the American Civil War, should top any list?
Colin Braithwaite
Newcastle upon Tyne

• Here in Yorkshire we go down to London (Letters, 1 August). It is a question of status.
John Tollick
Pontefract, West Yorkshire

Israeli shelling of Rafah

On 29 July, I watched on TV the IDF destruction of the central electricity station in Gaza. The human consequences of this operation, added to the bombing of entire areas, hospitals, clinics and schools, are awful.

Yuli Novak, a former IDF airforce member, has written a deeply thought and felt article about her times in war (A tonne of shame, 29 July), and the change in Israel between 2002, through Operation Cast Lead (27 December 2008-19 January 2009) and today, when she states the IDF airforce “boasts of having released over 100 one-tonne bombs on Gaza”.

This wanton destruction of life and the means of living; the seven-year Israeli blockade of Gaza; the slaughter inflicted by one of the most powerful militaries in the world against a population who have nowhere to go and no place for a safe evacuation; all this and more, far exceeds the horror of the five-year siege of Sarajevo.

In the early summer of 1993 I met the chief rabbi of Sarajevo, who was giving relief and obtaining exit permits and transport out of the besieged city for Jewish and non-Jewish Bosnians.

In Kosovo in 1998 and then in Macedonia in 1999, I saw the young Israeli Relief Agency volunteers helping the Albanian children who had been driven at gunpoint with their families in their thousands out of Kosovo.

When the IDF demands that Palestinians evacuate hospitals and their homes; when the coordinates given by UNRWA to save the children in their schools are followed by the bombing of those schools, the sick and the wounded, the girls, boys and their mothers and the elderly become homeless refugees between the 25 by seven miles of the Gaza Strip. Chris Gunness of UNRWA has stated there are and will be well over 200,000 homeless Palestinians in Gaza.

On 26 July, when 6-7,000 Israeli citizens rallied for peace in Tel Aviv, Uri Avnery, founder with his wife Rachel of Gush Shalom, wrote an article entitled Once and For All.

Uri emphasised the need to stop the blockade of Gaza, to release the Shalit/ Palestinian prisoners who have all been re-arrested, and for the Israeli government to start talks with the Palestinian Unity government on the basis of the Arab peace initiative of some years ago. The Palestinian unity government includes the PLO and Hamas.

Daniel Barenboim, with two official passports, Israel and Palestine, is an example of what can and could be done. Edward Said, the truly heroic Palestinian professor and musician with American citizenship, spent his life for this purpose. Yehudi Menuhin, the superb Israeli violinist, also explained the human point of view through music and eloquent passion to end the cruel conflicts, intolerable suffering and injustice.

Years ago I made a pledge. To put children before politics. Children have mothers and grandmothers. The human or humanitarian view is the most difficult to achieve or maintain I believe.

In the midst of terrible violence and enduring oppression, all peoples are damaged. I once was told by a Croatian journalist during the war, in 1993, “Fuck the children!”. But I have met exhausted children, mothers, teachers and paediatricians in Croatia, Serbia, Bosnia, in Tel Aviv and in occupied Palestine, in the UNRWA schools.

I believe in political solutions not in military solutions, like Uri Avnery in Tel Aviv. I fear for the lives of the Israelis who are rallying for peace every Saturday in Tel Aviv. Who go, like Uri Avnery, to the Palestinian villages to stop shootings and demolitions of homes.

Humanitarian agencies have to talk to governments that other governments categorise as “the bad guys”. Until governments agree to talk to the “bad guys” we can never have justice nor peace nor a future for our children anywhere.
Vanessa Redgrave


I am Jewish. My refugee parents arrived in Britain in 1939. All my grandparents died in the gas chambers.

I fully understand why Israel is determined that Jews should never again be victims. But I believe that over the past 50 years Israel has taken a wrong path. I am dismayed that a people to which I belong, which has suffered so much at the hands of the Nazi regime and others, should have become an aggressor.

Israel’s behaviour creates new generations who hate Israel and grow up determined to take revenge and gain justice. And so the cycle continues, taking Israel ever further from the security it craves. Moreover, Israel’s actions are undermining core Jewish values such as kindness and compassion.

Israel needs to find a radically new path, both for the sake of peace and for the sake of the soul – the spiritual well-being – of the Jewish people. Perhaps it’s only Jews who can tell Israel this without being dismissed as anti-Semitic. And most of those of us living outside Israel have been far too silent.

We need, with love and understanding, to encourage Israel to embrace a bold new approach that will in time allow Palestinians and Jews to live at ease with one another.

Peter Stevenson


Your edition of 1 August contained an excellent round up of recent anti-Semitism by crime reporter Cahal Milmo. It was, however, severely undermined by accusations (on the previous page) from foreign comment writer Robert Fisk, who claimed that any “honest critic of Israel” using the word “disproportionate” would be called a Nazi by “Israel’s would-be supporters”.

This is exactly the kind of vague catch-all language that causes British Jews to suffer the antisemitism detailed by Cahal Milmo, because by implication it risks catching the majority of British Jews in its net.

Mark Gardner
Community Security Trust


It may seem pedantic while Gaza burns to refer to international law, but it is fundamental to any solution. While Martin Stern (letter, 31 July) is right that the 1949 Armistice Line is not an internationally recognised border, he is wrong to suggest that Israel may therefore lawfully occupy Palestinian land beyond it.

International law says that this is a violation of the UN Charter, as expressed in UN Security Council resolution 242, which Israel accepts, which states categorically “the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war”. There is no getting around this.

Furthermore, the whole international community, except Israel, considers all lands captured in 1967 as “occupied”, and therefore the Fourth Geneva Convention is also applicable. Article 47 forbids any body from ceding any part of occupied territory to the occupier, something the Quartet in its so-called Road Map seems to have overlooked. It is there for a vital reason: to protect an occupied people from unbearable political or military pressure. No Convention signatory could accept the ceding of any occupied territory, even in the event of the occupied people’s representative agreeing to it. There is no getting around that either.

If Israel withdrew completely, it would indeed be able to make a territorial claim, through the law not war. But it is a dangerous course for Israel to adopt. In the words of a British diplomat acting on legal advice in August 1967, “If the [1949] armistice agreements are to be regarded as annulled ab initio, it destroys Israel’s claim to one third of the territories she has occupied since 1948, including Eilat, since it seems to take us back to the 1947 [UN Partition] resolutions.” I doubt if Israel or its supporters have much appetite for that.

David McDowall
Richmond, Surrey


Ukraine deal: some good news at last

I am not sure whether it was wise of you to publish the details of the German peace plan for Ukraine at this stage, but if it is true, it is one of the best things I have heard for a long time, in contrast to the usual depressing news from elsewhere (“Land for gas: secret German deal could end Ukraine crisis”, 31 July).

I think it is quite disgraceful that the only comment from a spokesman of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office was that he thought it highly unlikely that the US or UK would agree to recognising Russian control over Crimea. Are the governments of the USA and UK crazy? Crimea has always been part of Russia and most of the population are Russian.

Also, I should have thought it was obvious to everybody (apart, apparently, from Anglo-Saxon politicians) that Angela Merkel has a better understanding of the Russians than Barack Obama, John Kerry, David Cameron and Philip Hammond put together, along with their myriad experts and advisers. If she and Vladimir Putin can come to an agreement, it would be as well for these masters of the universe to accept it.

Peter Giles
Whitchurch, Shropshire

It is obviously too early to be 100 per cent certain of the causes of the Eastbourne pier fire, but there is undoubtedly compelling evidence somewhere on social media that traces culpability, either directly or indirectly, to President Putin.

Failure to act swiftly and firmly, leaving such actions to go unpunished, would surely be the height of irresponsibility.

Geoff Woolf
Shenfield, Essex


City stronger without the bank cheats

Reacting to the Bank of England’s decision on bank bonuses, some have warned that it will undermine London’s ability to attract banking talent from around the world, as if impropriety were an essential qualification for the job.

The fact is that for years, some bankers inflated dividends and gave themselves huge salaries and bonuses not by their talent for initiative and efficiency, but by devising ways of cheating the public and ruining the economy. And not just in this country, as the great financial crash demonstrated.

Clearing the sector of such practices will not hurt London; it will attract honest, constructive expertise and increase its competitiveness. If anything, this is a measure to be copied by other financial centres.

Hamid Elyassi
London E14

Back in the days when schools and hospitals worked tolerably well, teachers, nurses and junior doctors were very poorly paid. I don’t suggest that their low pay was the cause of their institutions’ success; but it clearly wasn’t an impediment to their doing a good job. They did their best because theirs was a job worth doing. They were people for whom money was not the prime motivator.

But we are told that, to attract the best bankers, only huge salaries will do. Surely the best person to do a job is one who thinks it worthwhile, not the one who does it just for the money. As long as we continue to allow the payment of disgracefully huge salaries we shall go on employing grubby little people, and we shouldn’t be surprised if some of them rob us.

Susan Alexander
Frampton Cotterell, South Gloucestershire

Too poor to pay council tax

We share the concerns highlighted in your report on cuts to council tax benefit (“Council tax rises hit Britain’s poor hardest”, 25 July).

In our report on the impact in London, A New Poll Tax?, families previously deemed too poor to pay council tax but now no longer protected tell us that it is simply not possible for them to make these payments from household budgets already stretched to breaking point.

Four in 10 affected Londoners have been sent a court summons for non-payment, many face a double punishment when court costs are added. In London alone, councils have charged over £10m in court costs for council-tax support claimants who have fallen behind on payments.

All parties should commit to returning to a fully funded council tax benefit system. Local authorities and central government should not be taxing families too poor to pay.

Alison Garnham
Chief Executive, CPAG
London N1

Joanna Kennedy
Chief Executive, Z2K
London N1


Driverless courtesy cars?

Reading about self-driving cars again, I am now less concerned than I was about the safety of the autopilots and the chance to get insurance for them, but I do wonder: will these cars have some kind of a “courtesy programme” added to their computer brains?

Will they give way on a single track, offer a slip into the queue from the side road, signal a pedestrian to use a crossing or allow backing out of a parking space?

Sonja Karl
Bangor, Gwynedd

If a driverless car (insured or not) is involved in an accident on the open road, will the car be represented in court?

Eddie Peart
Rotherham, South Yorkshire


Rex Features

Published at 12:01AM, August 2 2014

Some feel we should use the past tense when talking about the past, and some disagree

Sir, I am reading Melvyn Bragg’s piece (July 30) on the use of the historic present tense and am surprised to note that he does not give any examples. Perhaps he should in future.

Ian Cherry


Sir, The historic present is confusing and awkward. Melvyn Bragg, in his confession, proved his point that it is here to stay, within one paragraph: ‘Chaucer employs it at will’.

Douglas McQuaid

Oxhey, Herts

Sir, The usefulness of the historic present is that it gently emphasises that the protagonists were not aware of what happened next. It suggests a step into the then unknown; the past tense records a step towards a known outcome.

Will Wyatt

Middle Barton, Oxon

Sir, Melvyn Bragg hosts a radio show called In Our Time that has discussed such contemporary topics as Abelard and Heloise, the battles of Bannockburn and Bosworth Field, and the Abbasid Caliphs. Is it any wonder that he favours the historic present? As a historian I’m happy with it in small doses. I think of it as a kind of submerged direct speech.

The Rt Rev Professor NT Wright

St Andrews

Sir, I disagree with Melvyn Bragg about the use of the historic present. I find a book using this tense highly annoying (including Wolf Hall). If I persevere I am jarred by occasional lapses. Leave the past where it belongs — in the past tense.

Sheila Taylor

Pevensey Bay, E Sussex

Sir, As TS Eliot says in Burnt Norton: “Time present and time past / Are both perhaps present in time future / And time future contained in time past.” On that basis, could we persuade John Humphrys, Melvyn Bragg and Matthew Parris to shake hands and defuse the tense argument about the historic present?

Yanka Gavin

London SW11

Sir, You would think that Melvyn Bragg and John Humphrys have read no fiction. Hilary Mantel, who won the Man Booker prize two years in a row, uses the historic present (as I do now) almost continuously, and to the ultimate point of the Immediate Present: here, now, he stands before you.

David Tipping

Sir, The present historic is used by people who need to make an uninteresting subject more exciting. They often fail, but by so doing make themselves sound pretentious, thus further devaluing their subject. In the real world — anywhere not in academia, the media or literature — the present historic is used rarely.

Charles Vaughton

Retford, Notts

Sir, Lord Bragg rightly refuses to
de-demonise “wicked”, but the real threat to our language and culture comes from the interrogatory uplift. There are few more troubling experiences of linguistic vandalism than hearing academics resort to the cadences of Antipodean populist soaps. Since we live in an age when parliament is happy to legislate against thought crime can we expect a law to prohibit giving the impression a question is being asked when no actual question is intended?

Canon Dr Gavin Ashenden

Villedieu-les-Poêles, Normandy

Kaiser Wilhelm II was determined to have a war with Britain as far back as 1890, a historian says

Sir, In his recent biography of Kaiser Wilhelm II, Professor John Roehl adduces very convincing evidence that the Kaiser was determined on war with Great Britain as far back as 1890. He was waiting only until his programme of building warships was complete and was perhaps held back until after the death of his grandmother Queen Victoria, for whom he appears to have had affection and respect. It appears clear that his desire to create an empire in competition with that of Great Britain was an obsession, perhaps amounting to psychosis, and his less than successful dealings in China and the Middle East exacerbated this obsession. Amnesia on the part of Germany today seems very surprising in view of the lapse of time and very reasonable doubts about the state of the Kaiser’s mind.

WAC Halliwell


One way to bring bankers into line with modern ethics would be to levy fines on their bonus pool …

Sir, The Financial Conduct Authority has fined Lloyds Bank £105 million for its complicity in rate rigging (July 29). What is the point of fining a publicly quoted organisation, when the loss will fall on the taxpayer and pension funds, and hence pensioners? It would make far more sense to penalise the bank’s officers and employees who were responsible for the misconduct.

Robert Rhodes, QC

London WC2

Sir, Punishing bankers for behaving badly is fine but surely it would be better to incentivise them to behave well. They know all about incentives. I suggest that all fines levied on a bank for transgressions should be paid out of the bonus pool. If the pool is insufficient, previous years’ could be clawed back and/or future years’ pools pre-empted. The result would be a level of collegiate self-policing far more speedy, effective and proactive than anything achievable by any external regulator. (Would you let a colleague’s dodgy dealings threaten your standard of living? I think not.)

This would be an improvement on the current situation, in which fines are just another business expense to be absorbed. Best of all, it would do away with the need for the Byzantine levels of bureaucracy identified (July 31) by Patrick Hosking.

Christopher Greening

Barkway, Herts

There are persuasive precedents for resisting the urge to paint over a self-portrait of Rolf Harris

Sir, The proposed destruction of a Rolf Harris self-portrait in Plymouth (report, July 31) recalls a similar proposal in 1914 to paint over a mural of local literary figures in Chelsea Old Town Hall because it included the disgraced Oscar Wilde.

After heated debate in the council, after which the mayor used his casting vote to break the deadlock, the mural, which also featured George Eliot and Thomas Carlyle, survived and can still be seen today.

Philip Dewhurst


Matters arising from the players’ demeanour and refreshment in the modern game of cricket

Sir, Evidently the England cricket captain had time for a shave on Thursday morning. Was this the key to England’s Test match win? Perhaps “Cooky” should experiment with getting up earlier on match days.

Sue West

Wimborne, Dorset

Sir, I made one of my infrequent visits to a Test match on Thursday and was concerned because they no longer have a drinks break. They did, however, have a “hydration interlude”, so I suppose I should be thankful for small mercies.

CR Showell



SIR – Why do so many weather forecasters insist on telling us that a particular type of weather will be “on offer” – as if we could refuse?

Andrew Blake
Shalbourne, Wiltshire

SIR – I am worried about prospects for the remainder of the summer. Our local hardware shop has sledges prominently displayed in the window.

Kenneth Taylor
Crewe, Cheshire

Pensioners lving in Spain do not get the same treatment as those living in Australia or Canada Photo: Getty Images

6:59AM BST 01 Aug 2014


SIR – The Queen opened the Commonwealth Games by talking about “shared ideals”. We believe that justice and freedom from discrimination are some of these ideals.

Yet some 500,000 British pensioners living abroad in Commonwealth countries continue to be discriminated against. The British Government sees fit to freeze the pensions of those resident in Australia, Canada, New Zealand and South Africa, but not of those living in the United States, Turkey and the Philippines.

These British pensioners, having paid mandatory National Insurance payments while in Britain to secure their old age, still receive the same amount of pension as when they first retired and left to live in a Commonwealth country, with some people receiving less than a quarter of the pension they would receive if they lived in many other countries.

How fitting it would be if, in this year of Commonwealth collaboration and closeness, the Government were to demonstrate its commitment to these “shared ideals” by righting this historic wrong and treating Commonwealth-based and other British pensioners with the dignity and equality they deserve.

Sheila Telford
Chairman, the International Consortium of British Pensioners
Calgary, Alberta, Canada

SIR – I witnessed the start of the Tour de France and the opening ceremony of the Commonwealth Games, and enjoyed both very much indeed. However, in the surrounding areas, the contrast was very noticeable. Yorkshire was vibrant with bunting and there was a buzz in the air.

But the Glasgow area was devoid of reference to the Games. We went to Glasgow Green before the opening and there was nothing to be seen except a closed-off space for an evening concert.

Bob Gardiner
Kirkbymoorside, North Yorkshire

SIR – The sport has been first class but is anyone else getting sick of the bagpipes?

Jeff Pack
London W5

Flammable piers

SIR – It should be no surprise that once again a holiday resort has lost a pier to fire. I recently walked the full length of the piers at Brighton and Southport, both of which are constructed with wooden decking and allow smokers to use these facilities: a recipe for disaster.

Lionel F Goulder

Tea with a view

SIR – I am surprised to see that there have been complaints about the installation of underwater CCTV at a swimming pool in East Grinstead.

Over 60 years ago, the pool at Butlins in Ayrshire had a large underwater window set into the side of a café. Everyone enjoyed watching the swimmers’ antics, and no one thought it odd in the least.

Geraldine Blake
Worthing, West Sussex

A walk with the car

SIR – Driverless cars (Letters, July 31) could greatly extend our repertoire of walks, especially in (say) the Lake District.

We could park at the start, walk to the end and find the car waiting for us without the walk being circular. However, I’m not convinced that the vehicle could tackle the Hard Knott Pass on a foggy day.

Robert Fletcher
Broadstone, Dorset

The science of farming

SIR – Arable crops have been grown on chalk downland in England for thousands of years (“How biofuel crops are threatening diversity”, Letters, July 15).

Oilseed rape has been grown in this country since the time of the Romans, providing fuel, animal feed, crop diversity and biodiversity. Forty per cent of each crop’s seeds harvested this summer will be used to make high-quality vegetable oil for food and renewable energy. The remainder will become a high-protein animal feed.

Technology remains vital to production. Farmers use rotation and crop protection systems, including pesticides, to reduce pre-harvest losses and use fertiliser to increase yields. Farming is all about ensuring that crops achieve their economic potential while minimising the impact on the environment.

Europe has a 30 million ton vegetable protein deficit. Oilseed and cereal crops help reduce our reliance on importing grains from other regions of the world.

Guy Gagen
Chief Arable Adviser, National Farmers’ Union
Stoneleigh Park, Warwickshire

Tax and Labour

SIR – “Harriet Harman recently suggested that taxes on the middle classes would have to rise” (leading article, July 31).

She didn’t. She said in the middle of a phone-in answer about how to fund public services that there was a case for those on middle to higher incomes paying more in tax. It was a point about progressive taxation, which used to enjoy cross-party support but which today’s Tories regrettably seem less keen on.

Lord Wood of Anfield
Shadow Minister Without Portfolio and Adviser to Ed Miliband
London SW1

Poo-pooing the pootle

SIR – Meg Hillier, the Labour MP for Hackney, has called for an overhaul of roads to allow women cyclists to “pootle” at their own speed.

My daughter, who cycles to her office daily, is one of the “Lycra-clad hordes”. She certainly cycles more than 80 miles a year; she often covers 80 miles in one race!

She carries a pack on her back when cycling to work, and her tent and clothes on her touring bike when she holidays.

Of course there are women who “pootle along”. But don’t assume all of them do.

Carol A Parkin
Canford Cliffs, Dorset

Cricketing reminder of First World War valour

SIR – There were 628 VCs awarded in the Great War (to 627 recipients, because Noel Chavasse of the RAMC was awarded the decoration twice, in 1916 and 1917).

The number 628 is famous in the statistical history of cricket as the highest total scored by an individual batsman at any standard of cricket. The batsman was A E J Collins, who performed the feat in a match at Clifton College, just a few years before the start of the First World War.

Collins enlisted in the Army and reached the rank of Captain in the Royal Engineers. In the First Battle of Ypres, he was killed near the Menin Road in November 1914.

Though originally buried, his body was eventually “lost”, and his name is now on the Menin Gate, along with 54,000 others missing in the Ypres Salient.

Colin Johnston

SIR – In his article “Lest we forget the worldwide war” , Professor Sir Hew Strachan suggests that the First World War commemoration is becoming “resolutely local”, with the misleading effect of “reducing a world war to a series of local occurrences”.

He refers to the BBC’s World War One at Home project – for which I am a consultant, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC). This project has sought to emphasise the relationship between home front and empire. All the AHRC consultants are making a conscious decision to ensure that the imperial dimension is central.

Sir Hew also suggests AHRC funding would be better used on “new research”. This is already happening. My own collaborative research project is analysing a large body of cartoons reproduced in the Armed Forces’ trench newspapers. It has led already to exhibitions next year in Canada and Australia.

The point of the centenary “engagement centres” funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund and the AHRC is to encourage collaboration between local historians, academics, community groups and the third, or voluntary, sector. We are beginning to embark on collaborative research on the war that will make historical discovery more inclusive and creative.

Professor Jane Chapman
University of Lincoln and Wolfson College, Cambridge

Privatisation would make health care more efficient. Photo: PA

7:00AM BST 01 Aug 2014


SIR – Many years ago, most of the councils in Britain privatised their refuse collection services. The services were carried out more efficiently by specialist contractors who made profits, saving those councils’ ratepayers money. The emptying of dustbins remained free at the point of use.

Andy Burnham, the shadow health secretary, accuses the Coalition of putting the NHS “up for sale”.

What exactly is his point?

Jeremy M J Havard
London SW3

SIR – I work in the NHS as a ward manager. I recently put adverts out for a housekeeper and for qualified nurses.

For the housekeeper role, I shortlisted 15 applicants, but only eight turned up on the day for the maths and English tests, which are essential when we are trying to improve standards within the organisation. Not one person passed both, even though the maths test is aimed at 11-year-olds, so nobody was interviewed.

Of the nursing candidates, only eight out of 20 passed the English and maths tests.

I now have to start the process all over again, which has massive cost implications for the NHS. How can people be leaving school without being able to pass what is a basic arithmetic test?

Mary Moore
London E2

SIR – Doctors are part of an increasingly global healthcare workforce, with many practising in a number of countries during their careers in medicine (Thousands of doctors planning to leave NHS to work abroad”, July 28). Britain has benefited significantly from this, with around a third of doctors on our register having trained overseas.

Our records show the number of doctors registered to practise medicine in Britain has increased steadily in recent years, and now totals more than 260,000. Last year, 4,741 doctors – fewer than 2 per cent of doctors on the register – asked us to issue a Certificate of Good Standing, which they need to practise abroad. This percentage has remained consistent since 2008.

What is more, these figures do not provide a reliable indicator of the number of doctors leaving Britain, as many of those who request a certificate do not in fact leave or, if they do, they subsequently return.

Niall Dickson
Chief Executive, General Medical Council
London NW1

SIR – I have just checked over my private healthcare insurance renewal to find that I’m covered for a childbirth cash benefit, parent accommodation, for kids under 14 in hospital and pregnancy complications.

I will be soon be 70, so I gave them a ring to ask if they could remove this unwanted cover and reduce my premium. I was told that it’s a standard cover for everyone, including men.

Liz Derbyshire
Wroughton, Wiltshire

Irish Times:

Sir, – Hamas, a terrorist organisation, for all its futile rockets, has had very little effect on Israel other than to perhaps temporarily damage its tourist industry and psych up its enemies.

However, given its avowed charter aim to destroy Israel, Israel must respond, as a successful missile strike could be devastating. Its response, however, should be proportionate, but instead it has killed over 1,000 people in Gaza, mostly innocent civilians and hundreds of children.

Although Hamas is proscribed/banned in the USA, the EU, in Canada and beyond, Israel must be held accountable to the high standards appropriate to a sovereign state and to international norms. That does not excuse Hamas its war crimes, but the proportions of harm, death, destruction, and disregard for civilised norms are very different so far.

Israel is yet again, devastating Gaza, destroying entire cities and towns, as it has done many times to Lebanon. Hamas is thankfully incapable of devastating more than a house or two, and rarely enough does it succeed in doing that. When the illegal IRA blew up a car, a house, or more in the past, the British army never invaded the Irish republic, devastating Dublin and massacring thousands of people. But that is how Israel behaves.

It has massively and collectively punished those not responsible for Israeli grievances against Hamas, and that is a violation of the Geneva Conventions, and ostensibly a war crime. Israel is now seizing 44 per cent of Gazan territory in its newest “buffer zone”.

Has Israel not abused UN resolutions, human rights, and international humanitarian law long enough? Regardless ot its legitimate grievances, these are massively outweighed by its excessive behaviour, outright disregard for innocent life and continuous creeping theft of Palestinian and Arab lands (in 1947/1948, West Bank and Golan in 1967, Gaza then and now again). Its West Bank “wall” is another obscenity. Its behaviour now in Gaza is also hardly different, indeed arguably worse, than that of Russian insurgents in eastern Ukraine.

If selectively targeted sanctions are being imposed on Russia, should they not also be on Israel? Should the EU, the US and others not blacklist and ban Israel’s top officials and companies responsible for war crimes and violations of global norms? Perhaps then Israel will begin to stop acting with outright impunity and rejoin the community of civilised nations able to make peace with their neighbours.

Having said that, Hamas’s indiscriminate, reactive, and futile rocketing of Israel is criminal and should also be repudiated. But it is long overdue time for Israel to stop thinking that the life of an innocent Palestinian child is not worth as much as the life of an armed and aggressive Israeli soldier.

As for Hamas, not only is it banned abroad as a terrorist organisation, but the Palestinian Authority should be obliged to repudiate any alliance with an organisation that abhors Israel and seeks its destruction. Lastly, Gaza should be placed under direct UN administrative mandate, as East Timor was, with Hamas removed from power and security assured by neutral UN forces, obviating any further Israeli intervention.

The UN should nurture a pacified Gaza towards effective self-government abiding by international norms, if necessary continuing under UN occupation just as the Allies administered Germany and Austria after the second World War. This would be the only realistic chance of a durable peace that could entice Israel to accept a final settlement with the Palestinians. – Yours, etc,






Sir, – It is hard to know which world your correspondent David D Kirkpatrick (World News, August 1st) lives in. He states that countries like Saudi Arabia are allying themselves with Israel in opposition to political Islam.

Saudi Arabia is one of the main backers of political Islam of the al-Qaeda or Isis variety. The Wahhabi sect that runs the country has long exported its philosophy. The real truth is that all of the Arab countries have consistently turned their backs on the Palestinians, going back to the foundation of the Israeli state. Jordan massacred them during Black September period in 1970/71, they all stood by and watched the siege of Beirut, and Egypt has always blocked the border with Gaza.

There is not one siege of Gaza; there are two, the Egyptian one and the Israeli one. A simple question is worth asking: where does Israel gets its oil from? Through which airspace do commercial planes flying from the east travel? All the Arab dictators have in practice always supported Israel, without exceptions. Yours, etc,




Sir, – During a recent statement on Gaza in which he criticised the Israeli Defence Forces, White House press secretary Josh Earnest used the phrase “our allies in Israel need to do more”. The fallacy that Israel is an ally of the US is at the heart of the decades of misery inflicted on the Palestinian people and the principal reason Israel has been allowed its unfettered dispossession of land and water from the unfortunate Palestinians. Israel’s actions (aided by a spineless US leadership and media) have done untold damage to US interests in the region and beyond. Why the EU should follow more or less the same line is not only mysterious, it’s shameful. Yours, etc,


The Mill,


Co Wicklow

Sir, – The Israeli assertion that they do not target civilians in Gaza rings false in the tragic aftermath of the indiscriminate destruction of schools, hospitals and places of refuge, resulting in the deaths of more than a thousand women, children and innocent civilians, while the EU and the “civilised” world blandly comment that such carnage is “unacceptable”. How much more bloodshed will sate the Israeli lust for victory? This is not warfare. It is massacre. Yours, etc,


Cartronkeel House,

Newtown Moate,

Co Westmeath

Sir, – Peter Geoghegan (Opinion & Analysis, August 1st) makes a good job of evoking some aspects of the campaign for the Scottish referendum on September 18th.  What stands out from his piece is how good it is for voters to think hard about a question instead of indulging in knee-jerk reaction.  It can produce some surprising results in some unlikely people. And on the big day Scots voters will have had the better part of two years to ponder, as a practical proposition rather than a romantic aspiration, whether their country should be independent again.

This long campaign might have become wearisome but in fact it is exhilarating.  Public meetings all over the country are packed, and it is rare to get through a day without, on a chance encounter, a debate with somebody or other on the choice that faces us.  I don’t think we have seen anything like this since the days of Gladstone and Disraeli or, on your side of the water, Parnell and O’Connell.  After decades of tabloid idiocy and sinister spin-doctoring as the main drivers in politics, it almost makes you believe democracy can be reborn.  Like Peter Geoghegan, I am sure the consequences will in any event be felt far beyond voting day. Yours, etc,


Rothesay Place,


Sir, – I was fascinated to read in Frank McNally’s article on Joe Mitchell that the latter had suffered from a writer’s block which lasted 32 years. However, the man was only trotting along behind Henry Roth, whose masterpiece Call it Sleep appeared in 1934, to be followed by A Star Shines over Mt Morris Park in 1994. He did, however, weaken somewhat in 1987, when a small collection of essays was allowed into print. Yours, etc,


Barnhill Avenue,


Co Dublin

Sir, – There has been a steady trickle of letter-writers venting their rather fastidious spleens on users of the perfectly legal and legitimate space your newspaper affords for online comment.

Can I remind them, and other readers, that there is nothing to stop them posting almost any comment they wish under their own real names, which is what I (and many others) do. Yours, etc,


Upper Rathmines Road,

Dublin 6

Sir, I refer to the article “Department must be brave enough to reform” (July 30th), written by Conor Lally. The article refers to developments in the Irish Prison Service in recent years. It is both incorrect and unfair to Brian Purcell to suggest that the many positive changes that have occurred in the service in recent years have commenced since my appointment as director general in December 2011.

As the article suggests, the Irish Prison Service has experienced considerable change in recent years. This reform and change agenda has been required in order to meet our commitments as set out in the two public service agreements, starting with Croke Park in 2010 and its successor, Haddington Road. This reform agenda has also been possible due to the end of the trend of increasing committals, meaning a reduction in the number in custody.

The significant developments which have occurred are not a result of the actions of one person but have been driven by all levels of management within the service and with the support and hard work of all our dedicated staff. It is a fact that many of the reforms mentioned in the article, such as community return, the refurbishment of Mountjoy and the incentivised regimes programme, had been initiated in some form prior to December 2011. While the advancement of these initiatives was part of our three-year strategy, published in 2012, all had commenced, to some extent, during Brian Purcell’s tenure as director general.

I believe that the work of a director general of the prison service is a continuum of the work completed by his or her predecessor.

The work completed since 2011 is built on the platform established by Brian Purcell during his tenure as director general, as was the work that Brian completed built on the platform created by Sean Aylward when he succeeded to the post. Yours, etc,


Director General,

Irish Prison Service,

Ballinalee Road,


Sir, – The Association of Higher Civil and Public Servants, on behalf of its members in the Department of Justice and Equality, wishes to respond to certain comments in your editorial “Overhauling Justice” (July 30th) concerning the recent external review of the Department.

Your assertion that “management at all levels failed to respond to modern requirements” is not borne out by the report of the review group. The report identifies significant high-level issues relating to the strategic management of the Department and its relationship with particular agencies and the media. It also identifies certain cultural issues.

However, in no sense does the report refer to or imply a failure across all levels of management. In fact, the calibre of its staff generally is identified as one of the Department’s key strengths. In this regard the report specifically notes, among other qualities: the willingness, flexibility and can-do attitude of staff; their experience and depth of knowledge across a complex range of business agendas; the accuracy and precision they apply to their duties; their strong work ethic and public service ethos and their professionalism, competence and resilience. The report further acknowledges that staff have striven to deal effectively with an ever increasing workload in the face of staff reductions.

Despite unprecedented cuts in pay and staffing over the past half-decade, AHCPS members in the Department of Justice and Equality remain committed to the highest standards of public service, to working constructively with senior management and other stakeholders in the implementation of necessary changes and to fully restoring the Department’s reputation. – Yours, etc,


Deputy General Secretary,

Association of Higher Civil

and Public Servants,

Fleming’s Place,

Dublin 4

Irish Independent:

I REFER to an article by Mr Brendan Keenan in the Irish Independent, July 31, 2014; “the machines will take our jobs if we don’t get smart”.

The machines are taking our jobs because we are smart; amazingly smart. Smart to genius levels of innovation and invention in automation that can do practically everything better, faster, more efficiently and in greater quantity than human labour ever could.

What is not so smart is pretending such technological development has no economic impact whatsoever and idiotic persistence with economic ideology and policy outdated and irrelevant in unprecedented conditions of abundance and leisure.

Those who consider it at all delude themselves that automation eliminates only manual work; in reality every profession or task from scientist to scavenger is in the mix.

Complacency and optimism that we are “recovering” is extraordinarily misleading and dangerous. We don’t need “recovery”; we need to adapt to the best economic conditions that ever existed. In such abundant economic conditions we no longer need to, or can, sustain “growth”.

Economic growth was possible and very necessary as long as we could never produce enough. While there was shortfall between what we could produce and what we could consume there was opportunity and need for growth. Now that we can grossly overproduce practically everything, growth is a no no; unnecessary and unsustainable.

A recent report from the EU itself of more than 50pc elimination of jobs is being ignored by idiotic self deception.

For the first time in history we can produce everything in abundance without having to work very hard. We either recognise, embrace, adapt and enjoy our amazing good fortune or we ignore, deny and pretend it never happened and precipitate absolute employment collapse. We appear hell bent on the latter.

Generating jobs is the greatest and most urgent challenge humanity faces. Secure employment with pension entitlements is what keeps society from disintegration.

We can achieve it only by spreading work as widely as possible, shorter hours, longer holidays and earlier retirement.

Luckily we have the means to finance it; the machines create the wealth, we need employment to share it out.

Education into the future will be more for life and society rather than a job. We will always have the 20pc/30pc workforce inventing.

Innovating and providing crucial services probably working every hour available.

The remaining 70pc/80pc employment will be very different indeed; an exercise of dignified inclusion in society rather than performing vital hard work tasks.

Padraic Neary, Sligo

Wait to rejoin Commonwealth

In response to Lord Kilclooney’s letter on Thursday 31 about his despair of our absence from the Commonwealth Games, I suggest we wait until the 1916 commemorations before we rejoin.

President Higgins could even sign the agreement on the steps of the GPO while the Proclamation is being read out.

Keelan O’Neill, Tullow, Co Carlow

Hamas must be disarmed

In response to Zoe Lawlor and Mags O’ Brien’s letter, I must object to the one-sidedness and imbalance. Israel is defending its citizens against the continuous bombardment by Hamas. They claim that Palestinians citizens are being held captive, and they are correct in that, but they are being held captive by their own leaders. Israel is not an occupying power, they withdrew fully from Gaza in 2005.

It was repaid with rockets, rockets launched indiscriminately at civilian targets.

Israel enforced a blockade and built a wall to stop suicide bombers from murdering its civilians and to stop Hamas from launching even more attacks. Hamas is using building equipment and cement to build terror tunnels, it is not using them to enhance the lives of its citizens. Hamas is not building schools or hospitals, instead it is launching rockets from them. It has also been found to be using UN schools to store weapons and rocket ordnance. While Israel develops the Iron Dome to protect its citizens and builds shelters, Hamas build tunnels.

There cannot be peace in the region until Hamas relinquishes power and withdraws its charter – the charter that states that only the complete annihilation of Israel and its citizens (Jew, Arab or Christian) is achieved. Jordan, Qatar, Israel and a reformed Hamas must solve this issue together. Hamas started this. Israel must endeavour to end it as soon as possible to ensure that there are no more civilian deaths, on either side, but Hamas must be demilitarised.

Jason Davis, Enniscorthy, Co Wexford

Israel betraying its past

I am ashamed to belong to this ‘Godless’ body the EU, including Ireland, which does not have the moral strength to vote against the slaughter of the innocents.

Israel is betraying the memory of its own past suffering; the trapped of the infamous Warsaw Ghetto has parallels with those now caged in the Gaza strip with no escape from the missiles. Israeli aggression created Hamas and its killing machine will create even more extreme terrorists or is that ‘Freedom Fighters’?

John-Patrick Bell, Manorhamilton, Co Leitrim

Hatred behind criticism

It needs to be asked why people never get emotional and righteousness about other conflicts in the world, only whenever a conflict involves Israel. Over the past three years hundreds of thousands of Muslims Arabs have been killed by other Muslim Arabs and the ancient Christian communities in the Arab world have been systematically destroyed. Yet the letters pages of Irish newspapers have been empty about all that.

Also, thousands of Palestinians have been killed in Syria in recent years, yet nothing has been said about that either. One can only conclude that such people have only one motive: sheer hatred of Israel.

Dr Derek O’Flynn, Embassy of Israel

Will we all get Ebola?

The Irish Independent is to be commended on two very informative articles recently.

On Friday, you informed us of yet more obfuscation by the present Government regarding the hugely unpopular projected water tax.

On Thursday, you made us aware of the dangers of a hitherto virtually unknown disease, the Ebola virus.

Could the two ever be connected?

Could Ireland become the first first-world country to suffer an outbreak of Ebola, simply because the people cannot afford to wash properly, or even to flush the toilet?

D K Henderson, Clontarf, Dublin 3

Cost of filling the kettle

With the proposed 0.5c per litre charge for domestic water, it will soon be considerably more expensive to fill a kettle than to boil one. This is a startling fact that should help us reflect on both the cost and value of both water and electricity.

James McCarthy, Cork

Holy seating hopes

Do the people who stole the pew from a Kerry church want to be seated at the right hand of the Father?

John Williams, Co Tipperary

Irish Independent


August 1, 2014

1 August 2014 Rain

I jog around the park I still have arthritis in my left knee, but I manage to get round the park. A damp amd cloudy day

Scrabble Mary wins, but gets under 400. perhaps I will win tomorrow.


Roland Hill – obituary

Roland Hill was a journalist who arrived in Britain as a refugee and wrote an acclaimed biography of Lord Acton

Roland Hill as president of the Foreign Press Association, hosting a lunch for the Princess Royal

Roland Hill as president of the Foreign Press Association, hosting a lunch for the Princess Royal

5:33PM BST 31 Jul 2014


Roland Hill, who has died aged 93, was born to Jewish parents in Germany, brought up as an evangelical Lutheran, converted to Roman Catholicism as a boy and then, after escaping the Nazis, made a new life in Britain, arriving in 1939 as a teenager, alone and with nothing but a £5 note.

He went on to become a journalist, reporting on British political and cultural affairs for German and Austrian newspapers. Later in life he wrote an acclaimed biography of Lord Acton, whose commitment to liberal Catholicism, love of high European culture and concern for human freedom he shared.

Lord Acton (1834-1902) was one of the most esteemed Victorian historical thinkers, yet, like Hill, an outsider both in religious and political outlook. Hill had first been introduced to Acton’s writings in the 1950s and, following his retirement, he embarked on his masterly biography of the great man, becoming the first researcher to make full use of a vast collection of books, documents, and private papers in the Acton archives which had been released by his family.

Meticulously and comprehensively researched, Hill’s study, published in 2011, fleshed out little-known details of Acton’s personal life and relationships, setting his story within a lively account of the European politics and religion of his time.

Roland Hess as a boy in Hamburg

An only child, Roland Hill was born Roland Johannes Hess in Hamburg on December 2 1920 to parents of Jewish descent who had converted to Lutheran Christianity and who would follow their son into the Catholic Church. His Viennese-born mother was an opera singer; his father was a sugar merchant.

His father’s name was actually Rudolf Hess, a coincidence which brought about a comic incident when a German town band turned out to meet his train one day under the misapprehension that they had Hitler’s Nazi deputy paying them a visit. On the contrary, not only was Roland’s father Jewish, he was also strongly anti-Nazi.

Roland as a boy with his father, Rudolf Hess

Young Roland’s religious identity was a matter of some confusion, for while he attended church regularly and sang Bach’s St Matthew Passion in the school choir, his mother had not summoned the courage to tell her Orthodox Jewish parents about the family’s new religious affiliation, and it fell to Roland, as the youngest member of the family, to say the Schma Israel prayer on visits to his grandparents’ home in Vienna.

In 1934, after Hitler came to power, the Hesses left Hamburg for Prague, where Rudolf’s father hoped to start his business afresh. But as no one in the city wanted any dealings with someone bearing the name of Hitler’s deputy, his hopes were disappointed. After little more than a year the family moved to Vienna, where, as a teenager, Roland contributed to the family’s straitened finances by writing articles for Viennese newspapers, scribbling away in his school lunch hour on a bench marked “Forbidden for Jews”.

Roland Hess with his mother, two aunts and Viennese grandparents

He also became a keen Boy Scout, and in 1937, influenced by the idealism of a Boy Scout leader, he was received into the Roman Catholic Church. Though deeply committed to his faith, he was shocked after the Anschluss when, out of curiosity, he joined the crowd outside the hotel where Hitler was staying, to see the Austrian primate, Cardinal Innitzer, among the VIPs queuing to make their obeisance to the new head of state.

After the Nazi takeover, Roland got a job on the editorial staff of the Amtliche Wiener Zeitung, filling the shoes of a man who had been sent to Dachau. But as the authorities stepped up their campaign against Jews, he and his parents fled to Milan (his father subsequently moved to Switzerland). Other members of his family would die in Auschwitz and Theresienstadt.

In Milan, he entered the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart, but in the summer of 1939, on receiving a summons to present himself for military service at the German consulate, he applied for and obtained a British student visa. By July 1 1939 he was on a ferry to Dover.

Britain’s declaration of war with Germany that September brought him a summons to appear before a Home Office tribunal which designated him a “friendly alien”. For the next eight months — the so-called “phoney war” — he worked as an assistant to the London correspondent of the Swiss Neue Zurcher Zeitung, helped to edit Free Austria, a magazine established to support the British in the war and work for a democratic post-war Austria, and also wrote for the Catholic journal The Tablet.

This happy existence came to an end on May 12 1940, when Germany attacked the Low Countries and France. Roland Hess was staying with an Austrian friend in Cambridge at the time and, amid swirling rumours of fifth columnists, both he and the friend were interned as “enemy aliens”. Taken to a church hall at Bury St Edmunds, Hess spent the night in the bed next to Prince Friedrich von Preussen, heir to the Hohenzollern throne and then an undergraduate at Cambridge.

The next day they, along with hundreds of other internees — mainly German Jews, Catholic priests and members of other religious denominations who had found refuge in Britain — were taken by train to Liverpool, where they were met by people lining the streets, shouting abuse. “Why are they shouting?” Roland recalled asking. “’Because we’re bloody Germans’ answered the Kaiser’s grandson grimly.”

Interned on the Isle of Man, later that summer the two young men were transferred with other young internees to Canada. In the liner on the way over, he and the scion of the Hohenzollerns were put in charge of cleaning the latrines. In Canada they were once again interned.

As official paranoia abated somewhat, Roland Hess jumped at the chance to volunteer for service in the British Armed Forces. After returning to Britain, and a short time in the non-combatant Pioneer Corps, he joined the Highland Light Infantry in early 1940, changing his name to the more English-sounding Roland Hill (because of his affection, as a one-time stamp collector, for Rowland Hill, the inventor of the penny postage).

After crossing over to Normandy on June 18 1944, 12 days after D-Day, he took part in the campaigns in Belgium, Holland and Germany, where he subsequently became a member of the press section of the British army of occupation. After demob Hill enrolled for a History degree at King’s College, London, then resumed his career in journalism, writing for The Tablet and as a London correspondent for the Frankfurter Allegemeine Zeitung and the Austrian Die Presse, reporting on British political and cultural affairs and serving as president of the Foreign Press Association. In 1988 he wrote the first German biography of Margaret Thatcher, winning favourable reviews in the British press and earning a letter of thanks from the lady herself.

But as Hill confessed in his autobiography, A Time out of Joint (2007), he held a dim view of the country Britain had become in the post-war period, observing that the British had allowed themselves to be led away from “a society of freer opportunities in trade and enterprise, where excellence mattered more than mediocrity in schools and higher education” and had discarded “what was good in their Westminster tradition to replace it with their own kind of elected prime ministerial dictatorship”.

“For me who owed my survival to this country,” he wrote, Britain’s decline was a “painful spectacle to witness”.

In 1972 Hill married Amelia Nathan, who died in 2001. There were no children of the marriage, but he is survived by a daughter from a previous relationship ..

Roland Hill, born December 2 1920, died June 21 2014


Hands dropping coins

George Monbiot is correct (The rich want us to believe their wealth is good for us all, 30 July) in his praise of Thomas Piketty’s proposal for a wealth tax to counteract the insane levels of inequality now generated in our world, and in pointing out that only the Green party is prepared to back this obvious idea. However, we should be careful not to let Piketty’s helpful intervention in the debate blind us to the severe limits of his own stance in political economy. I refer principally to Piketty’s utter failure to take seriously the ecological limits to growth.

A central component of Piketty’s answer to the crisis is: more of the same. More growth, the proceeds of which can then allegedly be “redistributed”. The truth however is that growth is an alternative to egalitarian redistribution, an alternative to any serious effort to create a more equal society. The promise of growth is a replacement for the need to share. It is a promise of which we should be ever more suspicious, in a world whose biological limits are being ruptured, and in a country where we are now seeing growth, none of the benefits of which are trickling down to the 99% (GDP in the UK is now above the 2007 level, but most people in the country are worse off than they were in 2007).

Piketty’s claim that a stalling of growth is bad for the majority is wrong: a stalling of growth, and a willingness to see that we can’t keep growing the pie now that the ingredients are running out, will finally be what forces the majority to take back some of the wealth being hoarded by the rich.

A wealth tax is a key component in a greener, fairer, more equal society. Its introduction will not occur until we give up our desperate attachment to the oxymorons of “green growth” and “egalitarian growth” and face up to the need to share the wealth far more equally, in a world which finally understands that perpetual growth is the ideology of the cancer cell.
Dr Rupert Read
University of East Anglia, Norwich

• One of the most shocking ways the rich are going to “get away with it” is because there is almost no mainstream exposure of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership and the final-farewell-to-democracy investor-to-state dispute settlement, negotiations over which were suspended in January this year for three months to undertake a “consultation” with the European public. Really? Given the number of people, including those of the political norm, who look blank when you mention TTIP, never mind ISDS, the consultation must have stopped short at the Channel. Where is the campaign to expose this political nightmare and stop them getting away with it?
John Airs

• Aditya Chakrabortty’s diagnosis of Labour’s economic policy myopia also underpins its inability to win over voters (It’s supine Labour that lets the Tories daub lipstick on a pig, 29 July). There is an inability to break with the slavish, neoliberal worship of that abstract totem, the national economy. Ed Balls et al still fixate on business elites’ and establishment economists’ dogma that the right tinkering can get the wealth machine delivering productive and well-paid jobs – ignoring the historical fact that capitalist market economies have always entailed a mass of insecure, low-paid jobs combined with semi-permanent underemployment/unemployment. Only when national economies’ links with international markets have been controlled, and state intervention properly managed, has there been anything that “benefits all working people”.

As Aditya Chakrabortty says, Labour only differs by proposing to pull a few different levers to what Balls calls “old Tory economics”. Yet inegalitarian shibboleths such as balanced budgets and corporate tax relief will be retained. Labour should, instead, propose a re-shaping of economic institutions and market-state relationships to create a fairer balance of economic power and reverse the marketisation of society. It should remember that potential supporters won’t vote for promises to create a neoliberal, smooth-running economic nirvana. The popularity of (re)nationalisation options shows that policies that put tangible mass interests ahead of those dogmas have more appeal.

The approach needs to be not what we must do for the economy but what the economy can do for us.
Bryn Jones

• George Monbiot’s admirable article misses one key argument – about the economic effect of rampant inequality. If the benefit of any growth flows to the rich they will spend it on financial assets or positional goods (expensive flats, works of art) here or abroad, with no boost to consumer demand. The rest can only add to demand if they increase their borrowing, and the poorest lose benefits to “austerity”. The effort to sustain growth by ultra-low interest rates and quantitative easing only adds to the financial overhang. Unless the rich are forced to recycle their gains by taxation, productive investment will lag, any growth will be unsustainable, debts will go on growing and the next financial crisis will be even worse than the last.
Alan Bailey

• I’m really enjoying the Guardian this week: on Tuesday Aditya Chakrabortty demolishes the idea that dysfunctional markets can cure themselves just by the introduction of more competition; then George Monbiot does likewise to the other arguments underlying neoliberalism (or explains how Piketty does).

Having read these articles (and Piketty) can I propose a new nosepeg strategy for the next election? The most vital issue is the need to destroy neoliberalism before it destroys our civilisation. Accordingly, we should all join whatever party is most likely to keep the Tories out, in whatever constituency we live and vote in, and work hard for that party in the remaining time leading up to the election. The Tories are of course the party most likely to continue the present disastrous course in the short term.

Thereafter we should all join the Green party and work for them, since they are the only party with a sufficiently radical positive strategy in the long term.
Jeremy Cushing

• Brilliant article by George Monbiot. As always, shines a light on the poisonous neoliberal world in which we live. And how deliciously ironic of the Guardian to run a three-page advertisement of one of the richest men in England [David Beckham] promoting his expensive “grooming aid”.

Thanks, George, I signed up for the Green party today.
David Halley
Hampton Hill, Middlesex

Save Lewisham Hospital Campaign demo

The Save Lewisham Hospital Campaign supports Andy Burnham’s call for a moratorium on tendering of NHS services.

At last there is a public acknowledgement of the extent to which the NHS is being privatised. All over the country, clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) are subjecting NHS services to competitive tendering because they are afraid to do otherwise. Of the contracts let since 2010, approximately 70% have gone to the private sector. This is not surprising, since the private sector is expert at bidding for contracts while this procedure is relatively new to the public sector.

Andy Burnham is right when he says the public did not vote for the privatisation of the NHS and if the takeover by the private sector continues at the current rate it will be impossible to reverse, even if the next government is committed to a more balanced service delivery model. We at the SLHC have been raising public awareness on this issue and last month presented Monitor, the organisation that regulates NHS contracts, with over 2,000 letters from Lewisham residents asking that the NHS treatment they receive be delivered by the public sector. Since then a further 1,000 letters have been signed.

At a follow-up meeting with Monitor officials, campaign representatives were told that the policy to subject NHS services to competitive tendering was not evidence-based. In addition, CCGs have found the Monitor guidance on the requirement to use competitive tendering inadequate and have been unable to adopt other procurement options because of lack of information. Despite the concentration on competition there seems to be very little emphasis on monitoring the quality of services delivered through these contracts. There is no doubt that the government is pursuing a policy of privatisation for privatisation sake – the improvement of NHS services is not the objective.
Dr Louise Irvine
Chair, Save Lewisham Hospital Campaign

• Your editorial (30 July) says that Labour has not addressed the real challenge about the NHS but Andy Burnham’s proposals for integrating the NHS and social care and using a capitation fee rather than a tariff for episodes of care does just that. The waste of money through the market bureaucracy and tendering, and the profits made by private companies, make privatisation a real issue. Guardian reporters have done a good job in documenting what is happening to the NHS and I hope your leader writers have kept abreast of these, as we do not need this paper to follow the neoliberal agenda pursued by Reform. The NHS needs more money, especially in general practice, to bring our spending up to the level of comparable EU countries and we can afford this.
Wendy Savage

• Francis Maude says he is interested in “mutualisation” of public services, including health (Report, 29 July). Given that David Cameron’s favourite business model is John Lewis, a hugely successful mutual company, why don’t we just hand over the NHS to John Lewis and be done with it? Would this not also address Unison’s qualms about privatisation?
Michael Nelson

Anti-fracking protest

Fred Pearce (So a fracking battle begins, but is it clear who is right?, 30 July) states that: “Given the choice between a wind turbine on the hill or a fracking well in a nearby field, many would choose the latter, whatever the climate equation.” This is simply not supported by the evidence. The latest public survey by the Department of Energy and Climate Change found that 70% of the public support onshore wind, compared to 29% supporting fracking. In addition, a recent ComRes poll, commissioned by RenewableUK, found only 13% surveyed supported fracking to deliver the UK’s energy security, compared to 48% for renewable energy. Many polls have asked people what type of generation they would prefer locally, and renewable energy options, including onshore wind, come out ahead of other options such as fracking.

Across the UK people understand that we need onshore wind to help keep the lights on, reduce energy imports and get to grips with climate change. This is why support for onshore wind is on the increase.
Maf Smith
Deputy chief executive, RenewableUK

• The gallant Fred Pearce, who has worked so hard over the years to warn his readers of the dangers of climate change, should surely have referred to his excellent The Last Generation (2006), before committing himself to near-advocacy of fracking as a decent halfway house to climate change mitigation in the UK. To quote Mr Pearce, in his appendix to this book: “… if we are also concerned about having a quick hit on global warming to stave off more immediate disaster, then there is a strong case for acting hard on methane now – on leaks from landfills, gas pipe lines, coal mines, the guts of ruminants and much else.”

As Mr Pearce knows, the main constituent of fracked gas is this same methane, which is now known to leak seriously from virtually all fracking installations. Nimbyism notwithstanding, there is still a strong case to be made for UK wind power, onshore and offshore, and for hydrogen, its electrolytically derived daughter energy store, which would fulfil the same fuel functions as natural gas.
Mike Koefman
Planet Hydrogen

Kenneth Branagh as Henry V

John Bolland (Letters, 31 July) quotes the Prologue to Henry V as an example of the historic present. It’s not. Shakespeare is correctly using the present tense to make a point about theatre: asking the audience to suspend disbelief, using imagination to transform the “imperfect” actions and words they see and hear on the stage (“this wooden O”) into a world of kings, battles, armies, horses, fields, seas, famine, sword and fire, and to accept that a story covering many past years can be told now, “in an hour-glass”.

If anything, the Prologue would be an apology for the use of the historic present throughout the rest of the play but that could be said of most drama, which necessarily portrays past events as if they are happening here and now.
Paul Gelling
Chepstow, Monmouthshire

• Sorry to spoil the joke, but surely a “gift-wrapped fossil” would be a prehistoric present, rather than a historic one.
Tony Fisher

The seven letters on 31 July concerning the Gaza crisis were admirable. They were moderate, well-informed and went to the historical heart of the matter. They should be required reading for Netanyahu and all Israelis still baying for blood; for Obama and Kerry and all Americans who still support Israel unconditionally; for Hamas too.It amazes me that the carnage continues. Can’t the whole world see the injustice of it all?
Philip Pendered
Tonbridge, Kent

• What a ghastly legacy we are leaving the children of Palestine, Syria and Iraq. The west sheds crocodile tears while hosting arms fairs, with a few nubile beauties to tart things up a bit and sell more obscene weapons (The woman turning arms fairs into art, G2, 28 July). My father was gassed during the first world war and died after many years of suffering. Is this the civilisation that he and others died for?
Vera Koenig
Headcorn, Kent

• Charlie Brooker (How can a party hope to sell a policy when it can’t even sell a decent keyring, 29 July) suggests that Labour should sell champagne from a co-op. The good news is that most champagnes are produced through French co-operatives already. Champagne socialists can go further too – most olive oil from Spain and most parmesan from Italy is co-operative. Some dreams don’t have to wait.
Ed Mayo
Secretary general, Co-operatives UK

• With the rebuilding of Eastbourne pier surely on the agenda (Report, 31 July), what better time to erect a statue to one of the resort’s most unlikely fans at its entrance. Friedrich Engels spent much time at a residence close to the pier, 4 Cavendish Place, in the 1880s and was there during his final illness in 1895.
Keith Flett

• When travelling to the capital of a country, one always goes “up” (Letters, 31 July). It is a question of status, not of direction.
Michael Haggie
Haydon Bridge, Northumberland

• Like June Hardie (Letters, 31 July) I have come to expect the misuse of the word anticipate. Misuse of endemic is systemic and it’s impossible to overestimate the misuse of underestimate.
David Reade


While any sign of a deal to resolve the conflict in Ukraine is welcome, it will be more complicated than your headline “Land for gas” (31 July) suggests. Four points must be addressed if progress is to be made.

First, the association agreement between Ukraine and the EU should be tweaked to remove any provisions that harm the legitimate economic interests of the member states of the Eurasian Union (Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan).

Second, the Ukrainian constitution must recognise in practice the cultural rights of Russian, Hungarian and Tartar minorities. Here, the Belgian model of linguistic communities having devolved powers over culture and education offers an excellent example to follow, and avoids the problems of federalisation.

Third, plebiscites under OSCE supervision should be held in Crimea and the Donbas to ascertain whether the people in these regions wish to remain in a united Ukraine. Should there be a majority for separation – despite the constitutional changes made to safeguard cultural rights – then, fourthly, Russia should compensate Ukraine for the state property it will gain, and enter into a production sharing arrangement to share the proceeds from extracting coal, gas and oil from the seceding territories and any associated offshore reserves.

Greg Kaser

Your front page of 31 July again demonstrates how lucky we are to be part of Europe and to benefit from the world-class leadership and negotiating skills of Angela Merkel. By comparison our Prime Minister looks like a bad-tempered, over-promoted double-glazing salesman.

Peter Argent
Romsey, Hampshire


Strategy for a greater Israel

John Dowling asks what Israel wants (letter, 31 July)? Having visited the West Bank and Israel recently, having passed through checkpoints on foot rather than in an air-conditioned tourist coach, and witnessed the humiliation to which ordinary Palestinians are subjected, I have concluded that Israel’s approach is two-pronged, as follows.

The first prong is the Waiting for Godot strategy. Israel will never accept a single-state solution. In a single state the Jewish Israelis might find themselves outnumbered and outvoted, especially if any “right to return” were to be granted to Palestinian refugees.

So it pretends to support a two-state solution at some vague time in the future, whilst all the time building on more and more Palestinian land. Eventually the audience, in this case the rest of the world, will wake up to the realisation that Godot will never arrive, at which point Netanyahu or his successor will insist that the world recognise “the reality on the ground”.

But the presence of millions of Muslim and Christian Arabs will prevent colonisation of the whole territory, which is where the second prong comes in. Subjected to decades of humiliation and degradation, barred from the main roads across their own land, disallowed airports or entry points of their own, and dominated by military installations complete with watch-towers, the Palestinians will eventually rebel.

I remember pleading with Palestinians not to retaliate, as that is just what the Israelis want. A third intifada will give Israel the excuse to employ the arsenal supplied to it by the Great Peacemaker from across the Atlantic to pulverise the Palestinians, for many of whom this will be the last straw; they will flee to Jordan, Lebanon or Syria.

Three or four cycles of this strategy should get rid of most of them.

Robert Curtis


I read that the United States has agreed to replenish Israel’s stock of ammunition to enable it to maintain its offensive in Gaza. On 18 July the US Senate voted unanimously, 97-0, in favour of Israel’s actions.

Could someone please explain to me what the wrong is that the Palestinian people have visited upon the people and administration of the United States of America that warrants them to be on the receiving end of such treatment?

Terry Mahoney
Sidlesham, West Sussex


Ghastly anthem for TEAM England

I have watched the Commonwealth Games with great pleasure and have supported Team England. However, my joy when we win gold is somewhat diminished when I have to listen to “Jerusalem”.

Jerusalem is the core of the dispute between Judaism and Islam, it is also at the centre of the conflict between Israel and Palestine. The ghastly story of the Middle East is totally entwined with Jerusalem. I can think of no place worse than Jerusalem to build in England’s green and pleasant land.

Please can those who make the choices try again? There are so many brilliant composers, so many beautiful pieces of music to choose from, and if it must be nationalistic, Elgar is as English as the river Thames.

D Sawtell
Tydd St Giles, Cambridgeshire

Bank Holidays with no religion

Like Grace Dent (29 July) I think that the UK would benefit from a new Bank Holiday or two. We have fewer public holidays than most members of the EU. However, holidays linked to religious festivals such as Eid or Diwali would not be appropriate.

Muslims and Hindus are only 7 per cent of the UK population. The date of Eid varies from year to year. Diwali is close enough to Christmas to make extra bank holidays a problem for business. If we give these two religions their own Bank Holidays where would it finish? Would we get the solstices off for the pagans, and Yom Kippur and Chanukah for the Jews?

No. I suggest that it would be far more useful to have two new Bank Holidays on the days after the clocks go forward and backward in the autumn and spring. This would give workers time to get their body clocks sorted, and would occur at times of the year when there are at present no Bank Holidays.

Liz White
Sowerby Bridge, West Yorkshire


Picking the new head of the BBC Trust

Your article “MPs attack ‘biased’ shortlist for BBC Trust head” (30 July) was incorrect in stating that Sir Jeremy Heywood, the Cabinet Secretary, would be leading the panel to appoint the new Chair of the BBC Trust.

As is the case for the appointments of the chairs of all public bodies that I regulate, the selection panel is being chaired by an independent public appointments assessor. The assessor is appointed by me and his role is to ensure that the selection of appointable candidates (including the drawing up of a shortlist of candidates) is made on merit, on the basis of fair and open competition, as set out in my published code of practice.

The list of appointable candidates, which is signed off only once those requirements have been met, is then submitted to the minister, who makes the final choice.

Sir David Normington
Commissioner for Public Appointments
London SW1


Sign of the times in a tin of soup

It is said that the existence of food banks is a sign of difficult times. If that is so, what does the increasing presence of those who rummage through other people’s rubbish and recycling bags mean? I used to think that only happened in Third World countries, but it appears I was wrong.

I realised one morning that the night before I had accidentally knocked an unopened tin of soup into a black plastic bag containing rubbish to be put out for collection. I am an early riser so when I get up I often check to see whether the bags have been collected. I found that the bag had been broken open and the tin of soup had gone.

Somehow, I do not think I can blame a seagull this time.

Barbara MacArthur


What is the point of business studies?

I enjoyed Emma Wilson’s letter about business studies (31 July). A holder of degrees in natural sciences and then an MBA, I have never rated business studies highly as an academic discipline.

What is the use of hypotheses that can’t be tested or models that can’t predict anything? The only value of MBAs is to help those who have them – and the universities that offer them – to earn more money.

The Rev Dr Andrew Craig


Marxist ideologue by the seaside

With the unfortunate fire at Eastbourne pier, rebuilding is surely on the agenda. What better time to finally erect a statue to one of the seaside resort’s most unlikely fans, Friedrich Engels.

Particularly after his early retirement from the family firm, Engels spent much time at a residence close to the pier, 4 Cavendish Place, in the 1880s and was there during his final illness in 1895.

Keith Flett
London N17


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Published at 12:01AM, August 1 2014

Debate over the impartiality of news coverage and the need for a trusted mediator

Sir, Lord Hylton questions the balance of BBC reporting (letter, July 31). For weeks I have been watching in vain on British media to see pictures of Gazan military men let alone rockets being launched or even guns. All we see are civilians, medics and international supporters. Journalists’ live reports and interviews (including the words allegedly spoken to the translators) are uncannily similar on all media.

We now read in Italian sources that Hamas has been preventing journalists from properly reporting by physical threats. The BBC and others should tell us whether their journalists in Gaza can fairly report (within the proper confines of military censorship). If not, all reports from Gaza should carry a warning explaining the situation.

David Rose
Herzliya, Israel

Sir, Lord Hylton considers it appropriate to form an opinion of the BBC’s coverage of the last three weeks of Israel’s defence against Hamas based on two hours’ television viewing on one evening. His expressed “regret” is mistaken. The BBC has done an excellent job showing the Gazan side of this crisis.

David Lederman
London NW11

Sir, Lord Hylton is dismayed at the BBC’s editorial coverage on Palestine and Israel. I beg to differ. We do not need to hear the perspective of Hamas. The BBC is to be commended for airing the horrendous scenes from Gaza, the utter destruction of lives and livelihoods, the demolition of homes, mosques, schools, UN installations, markets and apartment blocks and the gruesome murder of innocent children. Israel has even destroyed the only power plant in Gaza, threatening not only the human health and the environment but collectively punishing an entire people, depriving them of the basic ingredients of life. Does anyone still need a verifiable proof of Israel’s crimes against humanity and its dismal record on human rights?

Dr Munjed Farid Al Qutob
London NW2

Sir, Lord Hylton has successfully found one of the very few reports which does not, overtly, severely criticise the Israeli response to Hamas rockets.

Dr R Million

Sir, Professor Baron-Cohen’s appeal (letter, July 29) to leaders in Israel and Gaza to start a new politics based on respect, dignity and empathy is a compelling reminder of what was needed to advance the peace process within Northern Ireland. As a Northern Irish mother of two boys who are now growing up with a respect for all Irish people regardless of their religious or political preferences and street address, I believe peace can be achieved only through a third-party intermediation that is perceived to be non-partisan by both sides. It was two Americans, George Mitchell, followed by Richard Haass, who were seen as neutral brokers by all sides in Northern Ireland. This led to the diplomacy where both sides were trying to accommodate each other’s needs despite inevitable underlying tensions.

Surely this is what is now needed in the Middle East. Maybe when the fathers on both sides can imagine how it is for the other side’s mothers to see their children die, they will find the courage to let go of their national pride and come together to find a diplomatic resolution. We can all live in hope.

Claire Uwins
Bushmills, Co Antrim

Sir, We applaud Professor Baron-Cohen, Ahmad Abu-Akel and Haifa Staiti (letter, July 29) for appealing for dialogue but we fear they address the wrong people, for the Israeli and the Hamas leaderships are hostage to a much wider dynamic.

The conflict will continue without an international forum that addresses the interests of the antagonists’ patrons (the US, Iran, Europe), the onlookers (a media that satisfies its audiences’ blood lust), and the antagonists (apocalyptic fundamentalists who allow no divergence from their world views).

It is the patrons, bystanders and the antagonists who need to talk so that they can be made aware of how their own wider systemic and unconscious dynamics influence the inter-locking systems of conflict and behaviour that eventually end up fuelling the fires raging in Gaza.

A plea for peace will not succeed without a deep understanding of the driving forces of hatred that exist in all the parties.

Dr Mannie Sher
Dr Leslie Brissett
Tavistock Institute of Human Relations, London, EC2

Yes, the Germans did start the First World Wars, says one distinguished historian

Sir, Fritz Fischer aligned West German views on the origins of the First World War with those of the Allies at the Paris peace conferences on the basis of incontestable new archival evidence which proved the verdict of Versailles to have been fundamentally just (“Did we cause the Great War, ask Germans”, July 29).

Reich Chancellor von Bethmann Hollweg’s notorious programme of 9 September 1914 envisaging a Europe dominated by Germany — Fischer’s most significant discovery, published in 1961 in his study of Germany’s war aims — was no more the fruit of British propaganda than was Helmuth von Moltke’s insistence at the so-called “war council” on 8 December 1912 on “war the sooner the better”. This was the cornerstone of Fischer’s second book chronicling Germany’s moving to a decision for war in 1911-14. Indeed Moltke himself complained after his dismissal as chief of the Great General Staff: “It is dreadful to be condemned to inactivity in this war which I prepared and initiated.”

The bitter Fischer controversy of the 1960s played a crucial part in the democratisation of West German civil society after the Second World War, helping to lay the foundations for the trust the Federal Republic now enjoys, and without which neither the reunification of the country nor the leadership role that has fallen to it in a European Union of 28 nations seems thinkable.

It is to be hoped that the enthusiasm generated by recent works proclaiming the “innocence” of the Kaiser and his advisers for the catastrophe of July 1914 subsides again before any damage is done to the Federal Republic’s admirable reputation for dealing frankly with a difficult history.

Professor Emeritus
John CG Röhl

Kingston, Sussex

The strong-man leader of Russia does not admit it but there are signs that he may be a closet Christian

Sir, Apropos your convincing portrait of Vladimir Putin (T2, July 30), it would have been interesting to know more about his meteoric accession to the top job. There must have been much wheeling and dealing, but none of this has become public knowledge.

Second, you say “his life is not that of a Christian”. This may seem to be self-evident, but he is said to have a regular confessor. Putin’s Christian “image” is important to him. Was his dash to meet Patriarch Kirill after the destruction of the Malaysian airliner in his schedule, or was it a horrified reaction to seek counsel? It was surely more than a photo opportunity.

Canon Dr Michael Bourdeaux


Glamorous actress who brought gaiety to the nation was not above planting racy stories about herself in the media

Sir, In your obituary of Sally Farmiloe (July 31) you say that she was “caught in a cupboard clinch with Malcolm Jamieson”.

If I had been caught in flagrante with the lovely Sally Farmiloe I think I would remember it but I have no such recollection at all. Perhaps it’s a pity to spoil an amusing tale but one should bear in mind that Sally was rather adept at planting racy stories about herself in the papers to raise her profile. I only wish life at the boring BBC had been half as exciting as it sounds. Nevertheless, Sally’s adventures, imaginary or otherwise, brought gaiety to the nation, and I was very sad to hear of her premature passing.

Malcolm Jamieson

London W10

Richard Dawkins has drawn attention to himself by apparently underplaying the trauma of rape

Sir, Richard Dawkins’s comments on rape are neither ignorant nor extremely offensive (“Dawkins incites fury with his theory of ‘mild rape’”, July 30). For the End Violence Against Women Coalition and Shami Chakrabarti of Liberty to imply that all rape is the same is disingenuous. If I, a sexually experienced adult woman, was raped, it would be a terrible crime. If a virgin of 15 was raped, the crime would be far worse. If a knife were held to our throats for the crime to be committed it would be worse again.

I fail to see how any logical person doesn’t see this. Women do themselves a disservice in insisting that there are no degrees of rape or sexual violence.

For the avoidance of doubt, I am a feminist and a lesbian.

Jayne Lindley


Sir, While I would question the motivation behind Richard Dawkins’s use of rape as a method of explaining syllogistic logic (traditionally it was black crows), the reaction of feminist groups is illogical and demeaning.

Presumably the law courts have to distinguish between levels of offence every time they impose varying levels of sentence — or would the feminist groups just stone all offenders indiscriminately?

Sarah Watkins

Ingworth, N Norfolk


The sun sets over Worthy Farm in Pilton during the 2014 Glastonbury festival Photo: Matt Cardy/Getty Images

6:57AM BST 31 Jul 2014


SIR – John Wilkins contends that the first verse of “Jerusalem” consists of four questions, the answer to all of which is “No”.

There is a belief in the West Country and Cornwall that Joseph of Arimathea came to Pilton near Glastonbury during one of his voyages to buy lead, which was mined in the Mendips. He is also said to have brought Jesus with him. If this is true, then the answer to the first three questions is “Yes”. The fourth is more hypothetical and defies a yes or no answer.

Joan Hill
Wells, Somerset

SIR – Surely the problem of the English national anthem was solved many years ago by Flanders and Swann, with their “Song of Patriotic Prejudice”.

After denigrating every other British nation in turn, the chorus runs: “The English, the English, the English are best / I wouldn’t give tuppence for all of the rest.”

Gavin Barr
Ashford, Kent

A leap of faith

SIR – Your obituary of Lettice Curtis reminded me of another member of the Air Transport Auxillary who was also a member of the “First Woman To…” club.

Second Officer Vera Turl joined the ATA at the outbreak of war and was responsible for the parachute section. She had become the first woman to hold an Air Ministry parachute licence when she was parachuting at Brooklands in 1934. She would recall that, given the difficulty of steering parachutes in those early days, “If you hadn’t landed in the sewage works, you hadn’t jumped at Brooklands”. If she came down on the racing track, the drivers would screech to a halt and pick her up.

How do I know all this? She was my mother.

Anthony Turl
London SW1

Hidden costs

SIR – Your article about supermarket trends informs us that Aldi’s boys’ school trousers sell for £1.50.

Perhaps the eager “middle-class customers” referred to in the article might take a moment to reflect on the likely conditions in which these trousers have been produced and on the share of this price that is likely to have been paid to the workers making the goods.

Dr John Fleming
Chertsey, Surrey

The long and the short

SIR – Nothing looks worse than long shorts on short legs.

This photo of fellow gunners “Skinny and Bill”, taken in 1948 during our National Service on Malta GC, demonstrates the fact admirably.

Bernard Parkin
Woodmancote, Gloucestershire

A weighty dilemma

SIR – Over the years I have given up smoking many times, and every time I have put on more than a stone in weight. I have therefore had to choose between being obese or a social outcast.

I chose the latter. Women prefer it.

Jack Richard
Hitchin, Hertfordshire

Sanctions on Russia

SIR – Despite David Cameron’s protestations that the economic burden of EU sanctions against Russia should be spread across the bigger countries, it looks as if Britain is going to suffer a disproportionate hit to our financial services industry.

I’m reminded of the excellent Seventies comedy The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin, wherein Reggie’s boss would call to make an appointment. Reggie would reply that any time would be convenient, except two o’clock. Inevitably, Reggie always ended up agreeing to a two o’clock appointment.

Does this now typify our relationship with the EU?

Tom Jefferson
Howden, East Yorkshire

Domestic abuse laws

SIR – The Prime Minister is right to recognise the need for reform of how the justice system tackles domestic abuse. One of the challenges is encouraging people to come forward to get help. A study by Citizens Advice found that, when asked, 27 per cent of people seeking help from our bureau reported some sort of domestic abuse, but less than 1 per cent reported abuse unprompted.

As politicians look at how the justice system can work better for victims, they should also remember that abuse can take many forms. People need support to take the brave step of reporting perpetrators, confident that their case will be handled sympathetically and that they will get the justice they deserve.

Gillian Guy
Chief Executive, Citizens Advice
London EC1

Hands off the wheel

SIR – You report that driverless cars are to be legalised on “quiet British streets” next year.

It would be better to start by allowing them on restricted roadways. Amusement parks could use them to take customers around the attractions, and in airports they could transfer people between terminals.

They do not have to be perfect. They just need to be proved safer than human drivers, after which their introduction to Britain’s main roads could begin.

Brian Gilbert
Hampton, Middlesex

SIR – I hope someone has programmed the driverless cars to avoid potholes.

Tony Cross
Sevenoaks, Kent

The true story of the Yangtze Incident

SIR – As one of the few still alive from the ship’s company of HMS Concord, I would stress just how upsetting longstanding misinformation about the Yangtze Incident has been.

Admiral Sir Patrick Brind, who was Commander-in-Chief Far East at the time, detached Concord to the Yangtze river on July 27 1949. Concord entered the estuary on July 28 to sweep for reported mines by means of its sonar and to prepare for a possible gun battle. Towing gear was prepared in readiness to tow HMS Amethyst should she break down during her escape. The Chinese nationalists “buzzed” Concord by sea and air to demonstrate their annoyance at her entry to this part of the river under their control.

During the evening of July 31, Lt Cdr John Kerans, the Amethyst’s captain, signalled the Admiral that he intended to break out at 22:00 and to inform Concord accordingly. The two ships met off Woosung at 05:30, as Kerans had requested, Concord placing herself between Amethyst and the gun battery so as to protect her. The two ships remained at action stations for a further hour and a half until reaching the open sea at 07:15.

The British ambassador sent a telegram on August 1 to all concerned which read “Amethyst. No, repeat no publicity should be given to the fact that H.M. Ship Concord entered Chinese territorial waters.”

The Admiralty press release on August 2 stated: “HMS Concord was waiting at the mouth of the Yangtze ready to proceed up river should HMS Amethyst be attacked.” Since that time all reports of the incident have stated these very words.

It was as recently as July 12 2013 that Mark Francois, the Armed Forces minister, finally confirmed that Concord had sailed 57 nautical miles up the river.

Derek Hodgson
Lee-on-the-Solent, Hampshire

SIR – Both Lawrence Earl’s account of Amethyst’s trials, published in 1950, and Jack Broome’s “Make Another Signal” (1973), refer to the fact that Amethyst and Concord met off Woosung. This meeting prompted the famous exchange of signals: Concord to Amethyst – “Fancy meeting you again”, and Amethyst to Concord – “Never, never has a ship been more welcome”.

David Muir
Stoke Gifford, Gloucestershire

The sweet treat that keeps for thousands of years

The label on a box of honeycomb recounts the treat’s long history

Hieroglyph of a bee from an inscription

A hieroglyph in Karnak, Egypt, where, in ancient myth, bees were the tears of the sun-god Ra

6:59AM BST 31 Jul 2014


SIR – While enjoying my honeycomb I read on the box that “honey is one of the oldest and purest foods known to man. It has been found in beeswax-sealed pots in the tombs of the pharaohs well over 2,000 years old and still perfectly edible.”

Imagine my disappointment when the “Best Before End” date was 2017, not 4017. Perhaps it had just been on the shelf for a very long time.

Michael McKeag

New legislation will mean that those arriving in Britain cannot claim benefits for at least three months Photo: REX

7:00AM BST 31 Jul 2014


SIR – The Prime Minister is taking steps to limit the benefits that can be claimed by EU migrants, but this does not address the fundamental issue that we have lost control of our borders. The British Government – not the European Union – should decide who is allowed into our country.

We also need to reclaim the right to deport anyone we wish, after due process via our legal system.

Andy Bebbington
Stone, Staffordshire

SIR – Yet again David Cameron is missing the point (perhaps deliberately) on Europe, and getting sidetracked. Immigration and universal benefits are not the main concern. Sovereignty is the overwhelming issue. Regain our sovereignty, and we can deal with all other challenges easily, and by ourselves.

Of course, Mr Cameron can easily achieve a return of self-governance by holding an in/out referendum before the next election, with the consequence of removing the Ukip threat to his continued tenancy of No 10.

John Newman
Pattishall, Northamptonshire

SIR – Are taxpayers’ objections to funding benefits to immigrants who have not paid into the British tax system alleviated by Mr Cameron cutting the period of “entitlement” from six months to three? The objection is a matter of principle.

John Allison
Maidenhead, Berkshire

SIR – A recent migrant to Britain will have had the costs of his upbringing – health care, education, etc – borne by his home country. In contrast, a local school-leaver or university graduate has been supported by the British taxpayer up to the date he becomes a taxpayer himself.

Arguably, we benefit from having other countries educate our workforce. In that context, are migrants really such a drain? Shouldn’t we be embracing more of them?

Dr Neil Lowrie
Sheffield, South Yorkshire

SIR – David Cameron is selective when he claims to be supporting British families, since he discriminates against those whose sons or daughters have spouses from outside the EU and who currently live abroad.

Our British son and his South African wife, married for 10 years, want to return to Britain to live and work. The visa requirements for our daughter-in-law are draconian and discriminatory and the £900 application fee is non-refundable, should her application be rejected for whatever reason. Many British families are in this untenable position. Does any other government discriminate against its own citizens in favour of those from the EU, who face no such restrictions on where their spouses or their families are born?

Susan Gorton
Abingdon-on-Thames, Oxfordshire

Irish Times:

Sir, – On BBC’s Newsnight (July 30th) a spokesman for the Israeli prime minister, Binjamin Netanyahu, said: “We don’t want to hurt innocent Gazan civilians, that’s not our desire. We have a policy. We don’t target civilians.”

Incredibly, this comment was not just left to rest unchallenged but was, in fact, repeated a number of times. The evidence that Israel is, in fact, completely unconcerned about the human toll in Gaza is overwhelming. It is indisputable. Courtesy of the skill and bravery of cameramen and reporters in the field no unbiased eye could but be appalled by the complete abandonment of the principles of international law of a nation that presents itself as a modern, mature, democratic state.

Over and over again targets that are primarily places of refuge for a frightened people have been bombed to oblivion, even in cases where the United Nations had, well in advance, advised the Israeli Defence Forces of the exact co-ordinates of the schools, hospitals and playgrounds where civilians were sheltering.

We are told that Israel has one of the world’s most powerful and sophisticated armed forces, with what some experts describe as unparalleled military technology. How then, in addressing the threat posed by Hamas, can such systems be failing so abysmally to effect the stated purpose for which they are being deployed? Furthermore, if the sole objective is to “root out Hamas” and weeks after the bombardment commenced little or no progress has been made in that respect, how can spokesmen for Israel be allowed by western media to feign concern for the lives of the people of Gaza.

The lack of a meaningful response by western governments is not good enough even if, in part, it is on account of sensitivities relating to the unspeakable horrors visited upon the Jewish people during the second World War. This is about the actions of a sovereign state that purports to be among the world’s sophisticated nations. The failure of the EU and its member states, including Ireland, to support the recent Human Rights Council’s resolution to establish a commission of inquiry into Israel’s actions was the ultimate proof of a complete lack of moral leadership.

In the 1940s there was, to put it at its kindest, an institutional paralysis in Europe around the growing threat to the Jewish people. Today, when we are witness to state-sponsored killing on a grand scale – which is exactly what Israel is responsible for in Gaza – then in the absence of leadership from those who govern, citizens have a responsibility to express their alarm. Protests need to grow in number, scale and in voice. The boycotts need to be across every product imported here from Israel (from oranges to cosmetics) and should cover events where Israel is represented.

All the actions taken should be lawful, with the express purpose of displaying to the state of Israel that we are horrified by its engagement in war crimes and its complete abandonment of the most basic principles of democracy and human rights. Yours, etc,


Kilmore Avenue,


Co Dublin

Sir, – In responding to my previous letter, Simon Fuller (July 31st) says that Hamas chooses to smuggle rockets and weaponry into Gaza rather than food or medical supplies because “rockets are small, but the trucks of food and medical supplies … are very big.” Perhaps Mr Fuller should acquaint himself with the exact scale of the Hamas rocket arsenal.

The Hamas weapon of choice is known as the Qassam rocket, which weighs 50 kilos and is 250 centimetres long, over half the length of an average saloon car. In the month of July alone 2,500 such rockets have been fired by Hamas, which amounts to over 130 tonnes of hardware. It would take six articulated trucks to transport this much material, and that’s before you consider the stockpiles of rockets and weapons which have yet to be used.

To put this in perspective, an average person eats about five pounds of food per day, so 130 tonnes of food could have fed around 2,000 people for the entire month that this conflict has raged.

And yet Mr Fuller seems to think that it is acceptable for Hamas to use their smuggling routes for importing rockets rather than for items which would keep their people alive. How dare he accuse me, or anyone else, of “moral apathy” while displaying such a disgusting attitude. – Yours, etc,


Mount Tallant Avenue,

Dublin 6W

Sir, – Lest anyone think otherwise I am no cheerleader for the IDF. Their actions in the current conflict seem in many instances reprehensible. Nonetheless, I can’t help thinking that were Hamas to expend even half the amount of energy they use on their rockets on bringing food and medicines to their people, the situation in Gaza would be far less unbearable.

Of course I fully appreciate that my analysis might be simplistic. This most recent outbreak of violence has made one thing clear: Ireland has an inordinate number of Israeli/Palestinian “experts”. Yours, etc,


Meadow Copse,


Dublin 15

Sir, – Israel justifies its continuous assault on Gaza by arguing that a state has the right to defend itself. For 30 years Britain was subject to continuous attack from the Provisional IRA. During the course of that campaign the Provos attempted to wipe out the British cabinet in Brighton, killed a close relative of the queen and members of parliament, while car bombs brought death and destruction to British cities for many years.

Certainly questions can be asked about the origins of the Dublin and Monaghan bombings but there is little evidence of the indiscriminate targeting of civilians, as is happening in Gaza.

British patience and restraint paid off in the end and the “Irish question” was resolved to the satisfaction of both sides. Perhaps Israel could learn from the British experience. Yours, etc,




Co Galway

A chara, – I wish Heather Humphreys well with her invitation to Kevin Myers, late of your parish, to join in the all-inclusive 1916 celebrations. I would also like to assure Derek Henry Carr (Letters, July 29th) that he is not alone in his distaste for the manner in which many in this country are succumbing to 1914 revisionism and toadyism.

What is particularly galling is that any effort to mount a tribute to the needlessly dead men and women is hijacked by the very establishment that sent them to their deaths in the first place.

In a similar vein I was informed last year that it was proposed that a memorial be built in this country to commemorate the Irish men who were killed in the American forces in Vietnam.  I objected to this at the time it was proposed.

I lost a cousin in this venture and can see no reason to allow the American forces to revel in this and exclude a memorial to the Vietnamese who lost their lives.

To add insult to injury the defence forces of this country, in which my father served for many years, are now turned against citizens who choose to remonstrate against the American forces at Shannon airport. Can no one protect us from sleeveenism? Yours, etc,


Brú na Fána,

Coill na bhFearraibh

Baile an Chabháin

Sir, — Patrick Cooney (Letters, July 30th) claims that the Easter Rising “belongs” to those who are republicans. The republican ideal is an all-inclusive one, in which people of differing beliefs and opinions are accommodated. Sadly, not only in an Irish context, but also in the USA, it has come to mean the polar opposite. That Mr Cooney should claim that 1916 should “belong” to republicans to the exclusion of others is richly ironic. – Yours, etc,


Clarinda Park East,

Dún Laoghaire

Sir, – Well, well, the apologists for 100 years of division, strife and terror have finally let a chink of light shine from their lair. I for one do not want to own a part of the actions of a few unelected and self-appointed so-called revolutionaries. So Patrick Cooney can rest assured he can have his commemorations to himself. – Yours, etc,



Co Westmeath

Sir, – You rightly require all those writing to your Letters page to provide a full name and address, plus a contact phone number for verification purposes. It is nice to know that those expressing views therein are prepared publicly to stand over their opinions.

On the other hand, you permit anonymity to those who wish to comment online on the writings of your columnists. I have heard it argued that this is a good thing, allowing readers a private voice where they might be otherwise reluctant to speak out for fear of adverse reaction, that their forthright views might lead to repercussions, perhaps in the workplace.

Alas, a perusal of your commentariat’s contributions will reveal a startling lack of revolutionary writing or radical thinking. None of your online correspondents has ever submitted anything that should cause them to fear the banging on their door at 4am of the Thought Police. On the contrary, anonymity seems to foster banality. It encourages those among us who confuse cynicism with sophistication, who shout from the darkened back of the hall in a feigned accent.

Michael Harding, for instance, has attracted the attentions of a couple of nasty ankle-biters who, from the long grasses of anonymity, sneer asides that are irrelevant to the subject before scurrying off to self-satisfied smugtown.

Apart from the fact that such sniping must dishearten your columnists (though I hope they have the good sense not to read these faceless interjections) it is typical of everything that is wrong in this country: griping and groaning on the bus and in the pub, nodding with a smile when the server asks “was everything OK with your meal?” You should scrap this shoddy forum for cowards. Yours, etc,




Sir, – The exchanges between members of the Irish Times online commentariat are not always unbecoming. In the comments under Vincent Twomey’s opinion piece (“What’s wrong with the proposed mother and babies home commission”, July 29th), a Margo_Sweetbread addressed a fellow debater as “sir”, while disagreeing vehemently with his views. – Yours, etc,


Mount Argus Court,

Dublin 6W

Sir, – Thankfully another marching season in Northern Ireland has come to an end without too much trouble. However, as usual, huge resources in time and money have been used to keep the peace and avoid injury and loss of life.

Environmental damage has undoubtedly been done with the lighting of massive bonfires, often consisting of enormous numbers of tyres. No other area in first world Europe would tolerate this massive pollution. Why should Northern Ireland?

Llike all other reasonable ethnic groups or nationalities they should be content to celebrate their heritage on one day, and in the process not encumber or disrupt others.Let them have private celebrations on private lands when they wish but public thoroughfares should not be used in this manner.

Year after year thousands of residents from the North literally escape the marching season – “marching season refugees” if you will. I welcome their presence here but wish they were not coerced into leaving their homes. – Yours, etc,


Jamestown Business Park,

Dublin 8

Sir, – I couldn’t agree more with the sentiments expressed by Máire Úna Ní­ Bheaglaoich (July 31st), “an actual busker”, regarding the deafening cacophony of noise that amplified My Way clones inflict on pedestrians on Dublin’s Grafton Street. Something should be done about these musically challenged individuals. They must, as Ms Ni Bheaglaoich writes, be deterred from “hogging prime slots all day and sidelining young traditional players”. – Yours, etc,


Beacon Hill,


Co Dublin

Sir , – Máire Úna Ní Bheaglaoich does her case as an “actual busker” much harm by denigrating others present in Grafton Street, especially “greedy beggars”. I suspect that most beggars are there out of need rather than greed unlike so many buskers, who are there presumably for the “craic”. – Yours, etc, – Brendan Butler

The Moorings,


Co Dublin.

Sir, – Chris Johns (July 29th) presents a profound misreading of Thomas Piketty’s analysis in Capital in the 21st Century.

The core argument of the book is that wealth has become more and more concentrated in fewer hands due to the effect of high returns to capital income and low economic growth. The ESRI report on income distribution actually confirms a core finding of Piketty’s analysis, namely that the middle class carries the heaviest burden in funding the social state.

The increasing concentration of wealth suggests that inheritance and rent rather than hard work or merit will determine the politics of distribution in the 21st century. The core policy recommendation is to tax global financial capital to ensure the stability of the democratic state. In Ireland, corporate tax rates have remained unchanged while public services have been decimated. Yet the Government opposes a financial transaction tax and actively promotes tax competition in Europe. – Yours, etc,


University College,

Dublin 4

Sir, – Thank you to Lara Marlowe for curating, so brilliantly, Countdown to war (July 31st) – a reprint from L’Humanité newspaper’s front page of August 1st, 1914. Jean Jaurès (the founder of the French socialist party and director of L’Humanité) had been assassinated the day before, in front of his colleagues, at a restaurant called Le Croissant. The front page article, recounting the horrific event the journalists had witnessed, includes the ellipsis a number of times ( … ) as if they had literally run out of words such was their shock and sadness. A reading of this piece brings me back 100 years, and I find myself swapping past tense verbs for the present tense, as if I am there, now, feeling their grief at the loss of a good man. “Jaurès spoke in his beautiful, deep voice […] Jaurès’s instructions! One had to have heard them to know in what a gentle voice he gave his instructions.” It reminds me that deep in every journalist there lies a beating heart. Yours, etc,


Crosthwaite Park East,

Dún Laoghaire

Sir, – Niall Ó Cléirigh (July 31st), declares that he does not understand why Irish consultants are going to get a pay increase despite the OECD reporting that they are the best paid in the world. The 2013 OECD figures refer to average pay per specialist. Of the more than 2,500 consultants in this group, only a handful are new consultants, with the most recent terms and conditions. Their numbers are so low due to the unattractiveness of their contract and their pay levels have negligible effect on the overall average. It is these new doctors who will benefit from a staged, partial reversal of the recent pay reductions. I hope that this is clear. – Yours, etc,


General Practitioner,

Cromwellsfort Road,

Dublin 12

Sir, – John Delaney thinks it fair that he receives a salary of €360,000 a year for the next five years on the basis that “it is a 24/7 job – weekends as well” (report, July 26th). Migrant workers building the new stadiums in Quatar (report, July 30th) share Mr Delaney’s long hours: they work on average 30 days per month – and earn €6.20 a day – less than €2,200 per annum. That’s if they live to the end of the year. Fair play Fifa style? Yours, etc,


Rockfield Avenue,


Dublin 12

A chara, – Well done to Don Hoban for his 30 seconds of investigative skill. Unfortunately he chooses to ignore the central point. Who made the decision to drop the anthem that represents Ireland on the international stage in favour of a ditty not sanctioned as an anthem by anybody on the island of any particular persuasion? Presumably had Paddy McGinty’s Goat been chosen by whoever was entrusted with the decision that would just as easily have been acceptable for himself and our hockey ambassadors. – Is mise,


Mc Dowell Avenue,

Ceannt Fort,

Dublin 8

Irish Independent:

* Desmond FitzGerald (Letters, July 30) is correct in labelling Hamas as extremist, but he is very wrong in implying that it represents the majority view among Palestinians, only a portion of whom reside in the enclave that is Gaza. Hamas won a majority among people of voting age there who cast their votes. This does not signify a pan-Palestinian movement.

What a one-sided proposition Mr FitzGerald then makes. If Ariel Sharon were alive today he would hug him in delight for reiterating his own Great Zionist Dream, ie Palestinians do not exist. They are simply Jordanians, Lebanese, Egyptians, etc who have not yet been granted citizenship in those countries. This “solution” denigrates the Palestinian people and denies to them the right to their own identity and self-determination.

By suggesting that Palestinian refugees live in ghettos that are self-created, Mr FitzGerald conveniently ignores the history of Palestine since 1947-48 when mass expulsions of Palestinians by the then Israeli army took place. Many others not expelled fled in terror as refugees from the fighting. The refugee camps dismissed as “self-created ghettos” arose through those events. Against international law, these refugees were denied the right to return to their homes by Israel when the conflict ended.

The elephant in the room hasn’t gone away. The underlying grievance of the illegal Israeli occupation of the West Bank, Golan Heights and East Jerusalem since 1967, if addressed, would go a long way towards finding a peaceful solution to the whole Israeli-Palestinian problem.



Expel the Israeli ambassador

* In a world which is more accessible by social media, it is distressing to have a front seat and witness the genocide of innocent men, women and children in Gaza. This year marks 100 years since the start of World War I, a war so devastating to the lives of countless men, women and children, that it was vowed no such war should ever take place again.

Yet, the world continues in an endless cycle of death and destruction to the lives of ordinary individuals. Meanwhile, we all watch behind the screen of our phones and laptops, engaged but unable to truly influence and halting this sad state of affairs. Or are we? Is this distance merely an excuse to turn our backs on humanity at this time?

Our Constitution is premised on the right to life and the protection of that life. Yet, we stand by in the wings waiting to be prompted by the EU before taking any stand to protect the lives of human beings who are outside of our borders.

Don’t they too deserve our emphatic and passionate defence of life?

There has never been a better time to finally expel the Israeli ambassador to Ireland.

This is a real and tangible display of our outrage at the genocide in Gaza. It is a step towards re-establishing our sovereignty in the eyes of Europe. It is a mark of our self-determination that as a nation we live by our principles and our humanity that were generously gifted to us by our forefathers.

Expelling the Israeli ambassador is the first step in a meaningful Irish re-engagement with the fundamental principles upon which the State was founded. Standing with the people of Gaza is honourable way to remember the sacrifices made for our own independence.

I urge the Government to undertake this measure and I urge all citizens to contact their local representatives and support the people of Gaza by taking this stand.




* I read with interest that a secular country like France has offered asylum to the thousands of Christians driven from their homes by the Islamist terror group currently rampaging through much of Iraq.

These Islamist terror groups are doing the same in Africa, Asia and the Middle East. There is very little concern expressed in this country even though the problem has been highlighted for a long time.

Our Government would not consider it PC to offer asylum to these Christians.

Well done France. Every day the national news is about Gaza. Apparently in the eyes of the media the war in Gaza will only be just if the same number of casualties can be achieved on both sides. I notice the cameras seem to highlight only the grief of Palestinians.

Surely Hamas is responsible for their pain and therefore must resolve this by discussion.

I find it extraordinary how people in Ireland are so concerned about the war in Gaza and yet when the 30-year war was happening in the North of Ireland – which had plenty of brutality – these same people would avoid travelling there at all costs.




* The recent filming of a ‘Star Wars’ film on Skellig Michael should be viewed by the citizens of Ireland as a disturbing new episode of wrong-doing by those tasked with governing our country.

Unesco, which awarded the location world heritage status in 1996, is raising the issue as are numerous other domestic organisations.

We should not forget that this is an ancient historic site belonging to the Irish people, and not a modern film set which can be sold for a few euro to a movie company.

The one facet of the whole sorry episode that disturbed me most was the images of an Irish naval patrol vessel being used to enforce an exclusion zone around the island in order that a commercial company could make a movie.




* Wow! The silence is deafening! How many teachers, gardai, nurses went to the ‘hole-in-the-wall’ only to find nothing came out!

Yes, the empty ‘hole-in-the-wall’ has happened but it has been downplayed to the point that it gets a mere mention at the end of RTE news bulletins. I have the following questions which, I presume, none of us except the Government and banks have the answers to:

l Will this happen with greater frequency to public servants in the future?

* This occurrence calls into question the whole Paypath system. Who does Paypath really convenience? The professional who wants quick access to his/her salary or the bank? Psychologically, a worker needs/deserves first-hand access to the fruits of his/her labours. In terms of self-esteem, motivation, satisfaction and engagement in one’s work, the professional must be assured that he/she can enjoy the fruits of his/her hard earned salary and retain command over what he/she does with that money. Not so, under the Paypath system.

* The public, we are told, owns over 90pc of AIB which has reported profits for the first time since 2008. How will these profits manifest for the ordinary citizen who has bailed out the banks?

* So, final question, who is fooling who? Is the country in recovery mode? Who actually runs the country? After this morning’s ‘glitch’, do public servants actually realise how volatile they are? When are we supposed ‘intelligent’ Irish going to wake up to reality?




Irish Independent


July 31, 2014

30 July 2014 Birthday

I jog around the park I still have arthritis in my left knee, but I manage to get round the park. A dry but cloudy day

Scrabble Mary wins, but gets over 400. perhaps I will win tomorrow.


Sir Richard MacCormac – obituary

Sir Richard MacCormac was an architect who brought his dramatic vision to the London Underground but fell foul of the BBC

The architect Sir Richard MacCormac at his home in Spitalfields

The architect Sir Richard MacCormac at his home in Spitalfields Photo: GETTY/HULTON ARCHIVE

6:56PM BST 30 Jul 2014


Sir Richard MacCormac, who has died aged 75, was one of Britain’s foremost modernist architects, the striking extension to Broadcasting House, the BBC’s famous art-deco headquarters in central London, being ranked among the best known of his many prominent public buildings.

Known as the “thinking man’s architect”, MacCormac was awarded the contract for the £1 billion project in 2000 — only to be sacked by the BBC five years later on completion of the first phase amid talk of “creative differences”.

BBC bosses expressed reservations about the architecturally ambitious newsroom, which was to have been the new building’s centrepiece, and which MacCormac had predicted would be “one of the most wonderful and celebrated spaces in the world”. He had proposed a vast, cathedral-like open space supported by four huge columns to form a spectacular setting for television newsreaders.

The new development at Broadcasting House (SIMON KENNEDY)

When the cost-conscious BBC nervously trimmed MacCormac’s original design — hailed by the architectural critic Jonathan Glancey as “sensational” with “the look of the command centre of an intergalactic spaceship” — MacCormac refused to accept a “dumbing down”, claiming that his creative integrity was being undermined; he disowned a compromise plan which, he said, tore the heart out of the project and “eliminated what had already become, for architectural critics and those informed about the project, its great icon”.

Complaining of “insufferable contempt” from the BBC high command, MacCormac said he and his designers had become “little more than draughtsmen for the project managers”. But his design for a curved glass “cyclorama” on the outside of the building, bathed at night in coloured light, enclosing a U-shaped public piazza and linking the original liner-like Broadcasting House with John Nash’s Grade 1 listed All Souls Church, did survive the rift.

Another firm of architects was drafted in half way through the construction work and eventually finished the job. When the building was completed in 2012, four years late and £55 million over budget, many reckoned that what should have been MacCormac’s triumphant swansong represented an undignified end to a distinguished career.

A former president of the Royal Institute of British Architects, MacCormac made his name in the socialist modernist field of design, his work being influenced by, among others, the Arts and Crafts movement and the American architect Frank Lloyd Wright. He worked on social housing schemes in south-west London before starting his own practice, MacCormac Jamieson Prichard (now known as MJP) with Peter Jamieson and David Prichard, in 1972.

He earned widespread recognition for his work on the Wellcome wing of the London Science Museum; the almond-shaped Ruskin Library at the University of Lancaster; and one of London’s most distinctive Underground stations, at Southwark, part of the Jubilee Line extension which opened in 1999.

Sir Richard MacCormac’s Southwark tube station (PETER DURANT/ARCBLUE)

MacCormac based his station design on one by the 19th-century Prussian architect Karl Friedrich Schinkel for the set of Mozart’s opera The Magic Flute. Passengers travelling up the escalators from the station platforms enter an intermediate concourse where daylight streams in through a huge crescent-shaped skylight. One critic acclaimed MacCormac’s 52ft-high curved wall, stretching from floor to skylight and made up of hundreds of triangular pieces of deep blue glass, as “as dramatic and unexpected as any sight on the London Underground”.

The Southwark project earned MacCormac the Millennium Building of the Year Award in 2000.

MacCormac’s other award-winning buildings include the Garden Quadrangle at St John’s College, Oxford, designed to “sustain a sense of the secret and unexpected”; and the Burrell’s Fields at Trinity College, Cambridge. He also oversaw a £50 million redesign of the centre of Coventry.

Sir Richard MacCormac’s Ruskin Library at Lancaster University (PETER DURANT/ARCBLUE)

MacCormac was always interested in the relationship between architecture and art, and became a prolific writer on architectural philosophy and ideas. But perhaps his most striking attribute was his architectural intuition. “Discerning the essence of a building’s design,” noted his colleague Jeremy Estop, “he could quickly assimilate a set of constraints and opportunities, snatch a piece of paper, and straightaway synthesise them in a deft freehand sketch.”

Richard Cornelius MacCormac was born on September 3 1938 in Marylebone, central London, into a medical family of Northern Irish descent. A forebear was Sir William MacCormac, a surgeon to Edward VII. After Westminster School, he did National Service in the Royal Navy before reading Architecture at Trinity College, Cambridge. Graduating in 1962, he began his career with the modernist pioneers Powell and Moya before joining Lyons Israel and Ellis in 1965, having been awarded an MA from the Bartlett School of Architecture at University College London.

After several years designing social housing for Merton Council, and then establishing his own practice, he continued to work mainly on public buildings rather than in the more lucrative corporate sector. He remained a partner until 2011.

As well as designing major architectural projects, MacCormac was an industrious academic, having taught in the Department of Architecture at Cambridge in the 1970s and having held the post of visiting professor at Edinburgh University in the 1980s.

His other appointments included membership of the Royal Fine Art Commission (1983-93) and the Architecture Committee of the Royal Academy (1998–2008). He was an adviser to the British Council (from 1993) and the Urban Task Force (from 1998), and a trustee of the Sir John Soane Museum from 1998. A Royal Academician, he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts in 1982, appointed CBE in 1994 and knighted in 2001.

He served as president of the Royal Institute of British Architects between 1991 and 1993.

MacCormac married, in 1964, Susan Landen, with whom he had two sons. Having separated from his wife in 1983, he lived for 30 years with the author and interior designer Jocasta Innes, his neighbour in Spitalfields, east London, in two beautiful houses linked by a secret passage. The couple became active in promoting the renewal of Spitalfields, and earlier this year MacCormac published a book, Two Houses In Spitalfields, documenting their life there together. Jocasta Innes died last year.

He is survived by one son from his first marriage, the other having predeceased him.

Sir Richard MacCormac, born September 3 1938, died July 26 2014


Israel - Gaza conflict, Gaza, Palestinian Territories - 30 Jul 2014

Harriet Sherwood (Report, 30 July) highlights Israel’s destruction of Gaza’s power plant and Amnesty International says this represents “collective punishment of Palestinians”. Additional evidence of bombing UN centres confirms Israel’s disregard for the lives of children and other noncombatants in its continued (illegal) domination of the occupied Palestinian territories. The EU and US had developed a doctrine of Responsibility to Protect intended to prevent any repetition of Balkan, Rwandan or Sudan genocide ensuring intervention to keep warring parties apart. Yet R2P seems only to be applied in African scenarios – more convenient to deal with less sensitive states than Israel. Time perhaps for academics and policy-makers to ask for how long they will treat Israel as a special case when they are the illegitimate occupier of Palestinian territory and resistance to occupation remains lawful and just.
Ray Bush
Professor of African studies and development politics, University of Leeds

• I count myself as a supporter of the state of Israel, of its resettlement in its historic setting. But I have been distressed not only at the news of what is happening in Gaza, but also at the unwillingness of reporters and commentators to bring into the discussion the history of Israel’s re-establishment. I never thought that even the relative precariousness of Israel’s position in the Middle East justified the degree to which the Israeli state has been manifestly unfaithful to what I regard as its own Torah teaching on righteousness and justice, as reinforced by the prophets.

The fact that so few voices of eminent Israelites and Jews have been willing to admit the illegality and injustice of Israel’s West Bank settlement policy, pursued so relentlessly since 1967, I have found deeply disturbing. I acknowledge the legitimacy of Israel’s concerns in building the security barrier, but am distressed that no Elijah-like protest is to be heard or given publicity against the land-grab of the positioning of the barrier or at the abuse of traditional rights of Arab landowners and olive groves.

Nor can I defend the Hamas policy of firing rockets into Israel, but neither can I defend Israel’s policy of treating Gaza as little more than an extended prison camp. We must surely set the current catastrophe within its historical context. Since Israel owes the legitimacy of its status in the Middle East to a UN resolution, would it not be an obvious step forward for a properly representative UN panel to review the rights and wrongs of Israel’s expansion since 1948 and 1967, including the impact on the previous inhabitants of the region, and to recommend how Israel and Palestine might co-exist both peacefully and to the mutual benefit of each other in the future.
Professor James DG Dunn
Chichester, West Sussex

• Once again you carry an article pointing out the US secretary of state, John Kerry’s, failure to persuade Israel to agree a lasting ceasefire in Gaza (Report, 29 July). He has a perfectly simple means of ensuring that Israel ends its military dominance and its ability to launch lethal attacks on the Palestinians with impunity. All he has to do is to get President Obama to stop signing cheques for US military aid to Israel. This is estimated at $3bn in each of the last three years. Israel is using aircraft, tanks and shells paid for by the US.
Michael Meadowcroft

• Writing about the latest slaughter of civilians in Gaza, Yuli Novak, a former officer in the Israeli air force, is right to say that “these killings cannot be accepted without question” (A tonne of shame, 29 July). She goes on to say that “public silence in the face of such actions – inside and outside Israel – is consent by default”. I agree. This is why thousands of people in cities throughout the UK have been out on the streets in recent weeks, demonstrating against the Israeli bombing of civilian areas. In London, around 100,000 protesters, including Jewish groups, have marched between the Israeli embassy and parliament on successive Saturdays calling for an end not just to the bombings but also to the blockade which imprisons the civilian population in Gaza and cuts off essential supplies. I find it very disturbing that the BBC and much of the press do not report such protests. Those of us who are speaking out do not wish to be associated with our government’s continuing support of the rogue state that Israel has become. Yuli Novak can be reassured that the public outside Israel is not remaining silent, even if our dissent is largely going unreported.
Karen Barratt
Winchester, Hampshire

• Yuli Novak writes that there is little public outcry in Israel about the bombing of Gaza. The irony is unbearable. Many German Jews must have wondered in the 1940s why almost no one protested or came to their aid when they were transported to their deaths. Their descendants surely do not wonder so now.
Andrew McCulloch
Collingham, Nottinghamshire

• Your correspondent (Letters, 28 July) stated that one of the first things Hamas did after the Israeli military occupation was to demolish the previous settlers’ houses, in spite of a housing crisis in Gaza. This would seem to be incorrect. According to reports in the British media at the time, all the settlers’ homes were demolished by the Israeli army before leaving Gaza. I remember watching film of the specially built Israeli house-demolishing bulldozers in action in Gaza at the time.
Lynn White
Blaenau Ffestiniog, Gwynedd

• Anyone who has visited Yad Vashem, the Holocaust memorial museum in Jerusalem, needs no explanation as to why the Israeli government is so determined to defend its people against attack – “never again” might be its motto. But this understanding should not justify further inhumanity and certainly shouldn’t justify the diplomatic malaise that grips Israel’s allies. A message can be sent to both sides that would be firm and directly interventionist, which is to say the Israeli blockade of Gaza should be broken by the dispatch of humanitarian supplies protected by western forces, coordinated under Nato’s auspices.

The cargoes could be independently inspected and verified to everyone’s satisfaction. I very much doubt under such circumstances that such a convoy with its military escort would be attacked. In recent years, diplomacy in this conflict has been just so much hand-wringing and I doubt that either side believes a word western politicians say, since they take so little action.
Colin Challen
Scarborough, North Yorkshire

Mini plastic men and a woman standing on piles of money

Disraeli, appalled by the inequalities pervading Victorian Britain, adopted “one nationism” for his Conservative party to narrow the gap between the haves and the have-nots. The consequent laws passed even included extending the rights of trade unions and allowing peaceful picketing. Ed Miliband, in an acknowledgment that the country has reverted to Dickensian times, has chosen “one nation Labour” as his election slogan, and nothing could justify his choice more than the existence of “poor doors” and the “segregation of inner-city flat dwellers”, only fit for “vile coloured plastic panels on the outside” of their homes (Poor doors: the segregation of inner-city flat dwellers, 26 July). The transfer of the adjective from the property to the people signals the arrival, in London at least, of a form of economic apartheid; “affordable tenants” being treated with contempt because they cannot afford £500,000 for a studio flat are being kept apart from high-income neighbours. This is clearly the sort of divisive behaviour that the previous mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, tried to eradicate with his “pepperpot” policy of social housing mixed in with other accommodation.

The fact that developers and “buying agents” are calling the tune is yet another reason for Miliband to pledge more regulation, and to propose legislation that bans all such “segregation”; such promises would not be unpopular. After all, what is the point of having a government that insists that civilised values are taught in our schools, when it allows, perhaps encourages, such intolerance, snobbery and bigotry in its housing policies?
Bernie Evans

• Hilary Osborne’s report is shocking – but only because the separation of people in the same building is, so to speak, in your face. The normal segregation of rich and poor is so much nicer. It provokes only mild, impotent grumbles. It is time to start to think seriously about the rich-poor spectrum, for inequality is rising. Hardly anyone now even bothers to speak of trickle-down. Money is flowing from poor to rich. It is trickle-up, and near the top the flow concentrates into a torrent. A key unaddressed social problem is that there is no limit to accumulation – to a person’s assets and income. There should be such limits, low enough to address our present problems of gross injustice and planetary overload. A key feature is that this proposal is not a tax, for it is quite logical to resent heavy taxation of income that has (in some cases!) been gained legally. The point is to render excessive accumulation unacceptable, in custom and in law. The first step is to start to think and talk about it.
Alan Cottey

• Bearing in mind all the terrible and newsworthy happenings in the world this week, I find it incredible that the leading headline relates to the “segregation” of London flat-dwellers. This is not even news.

Developers are forced to provide “affordable” units in their housing schemes, and housing completion rates are at historically low levels. If the social housing providers had to pay market-level management and concierge fees, even fewer affordable houses would be provided.

House-building companies are businesses. Politicians should get on with providing houses, for those who cannot afford London prices, by other means.
Sue Hesketh
Over Alderley, Cheshire

• You report that the fine on Lloyds bank for “repo” misdeeds “is likely to go to armed forces charities” (Carney slates ‘unlawful’ Lloyds, 29 July). Given the numbers of mortgages “repo”ssessed by the Lloyds group after the financial crash, perhaps the money would be rather better directed to homelessness charities.
Steven Thomson

Your article (Mental health patients face postcode lottery, claims Labour, 25 July) highlights shortfalls and inequities in spending on mental health across the age range. While children and young people make up 20% of the population, on average only about 6% of NHS money is spent on mental health provision for this age group. It is probable that in some areas less than 0.5% of NHS spending goes on children’s mental health. The lack of parity between physical and mental health, a promise made but unfulfilled, is undoubtedly overlaid by a lack of parity between children’s and adults’ mental health support.

Cuts to local government funding have resulted in the decimation of children’s services in many areas. This has served to exacerbate the problem, because local government funds vital services that aim to protect vulnerable children, and promote wellbeing and prevent mental-health problems in children and young people. There are known effective, evidence-based early interventions, and mental-health treatments for children and young people. These, if made available at scale, would save their costs nine times over. Of course, intervening early would lead to happier and healthier children and young people, doing better at school and better able to meet their potential. So why, at a time when there is an escalation of child and adolescent mental-health difficulties, are we allowing upstream, early intervention, community-based mental health interventions to be reduced?

One of the root causes of the problem – 10 years on from a National Service Framework for Children, which aimed to establish comprehensive mental health services for children and young people – appears to be that government has ceased to be meaningfully accountable for these services, and there is no effective accountability lower down the chain either. Responsibility for the inspection of mental health services is fragmented and the new commissioning architecture does not appear to be effectively joining up budgets and outcomes. While we all appreciate that the public purse is considerably emptier than in years gone by, it is foolish and ultimately costly if short-term savings are prioritised over our children’s and young people’s mental health and wellbeing.
Sue Bailey Chair, Mick Atkinson Vice-chair, Children and Young People’s Mental Health Coalition

Alan Travis’s article (Decline in heroin and crack use ‘behind fall in crime’, 23 July) announced the Home Office’s view that the main factor in falling crime rates over the last 10 years has been the reduction in the number of heroin addicts in the country. This crime reduction success has been the result of the brave policy of successive governments to invest heavily in treatment programmes for drug-addicted offenders over the last 15 years. The numbers of people treated went up fourfold around the turn of the century, and communities are now reaping the benefit from this policy. A wide range of treatment programmes have contributed to this trend – our own peer-reviewed research shows that the Rehabilitation for Addicted Prisoners Trust (RAPt) prison treatment programme achieved a 20% reduction in post-release reoffending among a cohort of 352 male addicted prisoners who were prolific offenders before their imprisonment. Funding for many treatment programmes is now under threat – if they are allowed to close, the long-term costs to the taxpayer, and to communities, will be much higher than the short-term savings.
Mike Trace
Chief executive, RAPt

Demolition of Didcot power station

Viv Groskop (The fringe’s spirit lives on, 30 July) will, I’m sure, be warmly welcomed as one of the “thousands head(ing) up to Edinburgh in the next few days”. Let’s hope those of us heading for Edinburgh either by travelling across or down are equally welcomed. For the moment at least, we Guardian readers happily resident in Scotland are allowed into Edinburgh for August along with the thousands travelling from London.
Alistair Richardson

• And there are still some people who question the need for strict press regulation (Sun criticised over ‘devil’ boy front page, 30 July)?
Pete Lavender


• It is possible to be a grandmother and a great-grandmother simultaneously (Letters, 29 July). My late and much loved Grandma Florrie combined both roles very successfully during her own visits to Liverpool, even when she had baggy slippers and a walking stick.
Vincent Paver

• Blowdown (Didcot power station demolition draws hundreds despite warnings to stay away, 28 July) seems like an obscure sexual practice – suggestions welcome. What’s the matter with the word “explosion”?
John Richards

• What would Radio 4’s culture tsar (Report, 28 July) have made of this use of the historic present: “Suppose within the girdle of these walls, Are now confined two mighty monarchies, Whose high upreared and abutting fronts, The perilous narrow ocean parts asunder.” (Henry V Prologue)?
John Bolland

• Using the present rather than the past is a quite minor error when compared to the enormity of the misuse of the word anticipate. Even people who should know better are guilty.
June Hardie
Sevenoaks, Kent

• A man walks into a bar with a gift-wrapped fossil. The barman says: “Why the historic present?”
Alasdair McKee


The events unfolding on the Gaza Strip have filled the world with horror. One might have thought that, by now, we would have become accustomed to the cycle of violence in that part of the world, but each new round seems to only ratchet up the revulsion. 

Through it all however, there is one question that remains unanswered: what is it that Israel wants from the Palestinian people?

It cannot be a viable two-state solution. Events on the West Bank, where each new settlement nibbles away at any potential Palestinian state, demonstrate that. So what will make Israel happy and persuade it to sign a lasting peace treaty?

For over three decades now, I have tried to peer through the fog of rhetoric and the obfuscation of propaganda, and I still don’t know. Can anyone supply the answer?

John Dowling
Newcastle upon Tyne

Peter DeVillez (letter, 29 July) refers to “the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land outside their internationally recognised borders” as the underlying reason for the conflict.

He is obviously unaware that such borders simply do not exist. The armistice agreements after the 1948 war specified explicitly, in accord with Arab demands, that the armistice lines should not be considered as international borders.

Israel is the sole existing successor state to the Palestine Mandate – the UN-proposed Arab state never having been set up – and so has as good a claim as any to occupy the totality of the land within it.

Martin D Stern
Salford, Greater Manchester


Philip Hammond the Foreign Secretary, illustrates what grotesque double standards this country operates. Sanctions are apparently perfectly justified against Russia for its action in Ukraine. A different set of standards, though, apply to Israel.

Hammond can argue about the use of the words “proportionate” or “disproportionate” in relation to the killing of men, women and children in Gaza. While the BBC and others hype up Hamas rockets and tunnels to make this appear in some way a fair fight, the casualty figures tell an altogether different story. Some 55 Israelis (overwhelmingly soldiers) killed compared to more than 1,200 men, women and children killed by the Israeli attacks.

This is slaughter on a mass scale, and it is a sign of just how inane the West has become that it can sit by and watch it happen – or in some cases even seek to justify it.

Paul Donovan
London E11

Dominic Kirkham (letter, 28 July) is quite right to say Zionism has traduced Judaism – and it is even worse than he thinks. He calls the concept of justice encapsulated in the phrase “an eye for an eye” savagery; but what that phrase really means is that the punishment should never exceed the offence, the idea being to curtail savagery, limit vengeance.

This is a basic concept of allowable retaliation in Jewish law. But not even this is being observed by Israel – its punishment of Gaza far exceeds, by several orders of magnitude, the impotent attacks of Hamas.

Sarah Fermi


The Israelis claim that they are issuing warnings before their attacks. But the IRA used to issue warnings before attacking targets in the UK mainland, and that was still seen as unjustifiable terrorist action – as was the infamous attack by the Irgun group on the King David Hotel in 1946. That, too, was preceded by a warning, which Menachem Begin later claimed was ignored by the British to enable them to vilify Jewish groups.

To its credit, the British Government did not decide that the best response to IRA terrorism was to send tanks into the Bogside and order airstrikes to kill large numbers of civilians, however “unintentionally”. Maybe the Israelis should take note that in the case of such long-standing grievances, a solution is only ever found by including your enemies in meaningful dialogue in the spirit of compromise, rather than trying to exterminate them by force.

Simon Prentis

Robert Fisk (29 July) writes that the authorities should be as concerned about British subjects returning from serving in the Israeli military as Jihadists returning from Syria.

But while Jihadists have blown up Tube trains, murdered Lee Rigby and had many other deadly plots foiled, there is not one instance of any criminal activity in this country by anyone serving in the IDF.

The fact that British Jews make up less then 0.1 per cent of the prison population shows that his fears are totally misplaced.

Simon Lyons
Enfield, Middlesex


Suppose Iran had the Bomb.

Robert Davies
London SE3


Voodoo morality at Lloyds bank

I read on your front page (29 July) that “traders” at Lloyds Bank have been caught fiddling interest rates so that they could nick money from the Bank of England – that is, so they could nick our money. They did this by using money that we gave them – £20.5bn – after they’d lost all our other money. Now the Government is fining the bank – but not the traders – a measly £217m.

And how will the bank pay that fine? Um – by using the money that we already gave them.

Do they think we’re stupid? They’re right.

I work at a university where business studies is seen as a decent subject and has money and text books and facilities thrown at it. (Unlike archaeology, for instance, which was recently deemed too unimportant a subject to continue to exist as a school of its own: heaven forfend that we might learn something from the lessons of the past.)

Business studies seems to me to be a subject that does not seem to be proven to work in any way. It is like funding a course in voodoo. They take money. They throw it away. They get rich. We pay them more money. They throw it away. They get rich. The country disappears down the drain. They throw it away. They get rich. Why is this seen as a good system or as a subject worthy of study? If it’s working so well, how come everyone on the planet – apart from the very, very few – is so poor?

Emma Wilson


These will not be designer babies

I want to respond to concerns regarding government proposals to legalise mitochondrial donation in the UK (“Government accused of dishonesty over GM babies”, 28 July).

Let us be clear, we are not opening the doors to so-called “designer babies”. Mitochondrial donation does not involve manipulating the nuclear DNA which determines personal characteristics and human traits. This is and will remain illegal.

It is true that in the absence of a universally agreed definition of genetic modification, we have agreed a working definition with expert scientists. However, we have been entirely open and transparent by sharing this with Parliament in March, just as we have been transparent about the process in the last five years.

Changes to fertility techniques understandably cause concern, and it is right that people debate the issue. IVF is a perfect example. In 1978, when Lesley Brown gave birth to the first IVF baby, the technique was highly controversial and divisive. Now it is widely accepted as a way to give families the children they might otherwise not have had.

We must now have the courage to push forward and give future mothers the chance to have children born free from devastating mitochondrial diseases.

Professor Dame Sally C Davies
Chief Medical Officer for England
Department of Health
London SW1


Family living together shock

Again in the news people are berating record numbers of adult children living at home: the “clipped wing generation” (“A quarter of young working adults still live with parents”, 29 July).

As a 41-year-old man living with my father and my brother, I resent the implication that I am somehow abnormal. I have lived in many different countries (I spent six years working in Australia), but I now choose to live at home because it gives me the financial freedom to pursue my dream of self-employment, and because my father likes having my brother and me around.

In many cultures it is perfectly normal for families to live together under one roof. Britain needs to temper the ethnocentric assumption that children must leave home in order to be truly adult and truly successful.

Daniel Emlyn-Jones


Britain, the Clarkson version

You report that foreigners see the British as ignorant of other cultures, intolerant, rude, unfriendly and pessimistic.

This was followed by a report on Jeremy Clarkson’s racist behaviour on Top Gear, a programme beamed around the world.

Is there any link, do you think?

Jane Pickard


In a bicameral democracy at least one member of the Lords should have a seat in Cabinet

Sir, Quite rightly, the House of Lords supported Baroness Boothroyd by a large majority (“Boothroyd hits out at Lords demotion”, July 28). As we were reminded in the debate, the summary removal of the lord chancellor under the last government cost the Lords one of its traditional cabinet seats. That underlines the importance of the remaining historic seat.

Throughout the 19th century the leader of the Lords was either the prime minister or one of his closest colleagues. The Duke of Wellington, who held the position under Sir Robert Peel from 1841 to 1846, defined its principal function as “the avoidance of dispute and division with the lower house”. A bicameral parliament is unlikely to serve the interests of the nation effectively in all circumstances if one of its two houses is unrepresented in the full cabinet to which disputes will always be brought.

This grave constitutional issue must now be permanently resolved. A new report by the Lords all-party select committee on the constitution, of which I am a member, has suggested three remedies, all of which would require a short, simple amendment to the Ministerial and other Salaries Act 1975. The limit on the total number of cabinet posts for which salaries can be paid could be raised from 21 to 22 — or, perhaps more attractively, one of the existing 21 could be explicitly reserved either for a member of the House or for its leader. For those with a sense of history the last will seem the best.

Lord Lexden

House of Lords

A reader defends his grandfather’s unwillingness at the BBC to toe the government’s line

Sir, Sir Paul Fox (letter, 29 July) talks of Sir Ian Jacob (my grandfather) agreeing to the destruction of a recording of Prince Charles. I hope he is not implying that Sir Ian was prone to acquiescing to the establishment. As director-general at the BBC he drew establishment condemnation for airing an interview with Archbishop Makarios. The Eden government was so enraged by his unwillingness to toe the line on Suez that it cut the BBC’s grant by £1 million. There are other examples of his refusal to allow debate to be stifled.

Patrick Jacob

Woodbridge, Suffolk

The BBC is criticised for lack of balance in its coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflicts

Sir, Many have recently pointed to editorial imbalance in the BBC’s reporting on Israel and Palestine. On July 29 I watched its 8pm and 10pm TV news programmes.

On the first, the chief spokesman of the Israeli army was given ample time to denounce Hamas as terrorists and aggressors. On the second, the Israeli chief of military security was shown, along with pictures of Israeli armoured vehicles. There was no reply by a responsible Palestinian, let alone anyone from the Hamas government in Gaza. A small snippet was allowed from someone connected with a half-destroyed mosque.

I deeply regret that our national public service broadcaster cannot do better than that.

Lord Hylton

House of Lords

Now diesel, once the green alternative to horrid petrol, is suddenly the demon fuel

Sir, When my children were babies, I laid them to sleep on their tummies as it was supposed to reduce the risk of their choking. Now, that is seen as dangerous practice and so babies lie on their backs.

Four decades later I bought a diesel car, thinking that it was more economical and better for the environment than petrol. Now (“Diesel drivers face new charges to cut pollution”, July 29), it seems that yet again, I got it all wrong. Is the road to hell really paved with good intentions?

Ann Cross

Gosforth, Newcastle upon Tyne

Sir, Ross Clark should have included red wine in his list (Thunderer, July 29) of things initially promoted then demonised. I am now totally confused as to whether I should drink the stuff or not.

Martin Locke

Astley, Shropshire


Fracking machinery at Balcombe in West Sussex Photo: GETTY

6:57AM BST 30 Jul 2014


SIR – It is right to be concerned about the impact of fracking. However, if regulated carefully, water contamination and environmental damage are unlikely.

Many of the reported problems in America can be linked to leakages from inadequate well construction. British contractors will begin by working under much tighter controls from the start. There are known methods to avoid water contamination and the Health and Safety Executive already has construction standards for gas wells.

European regulations require the disclosure of the chemicals being used, and while the fracking processes can indeed mobilise naturally occurring substances, including methane, metals and radioactive materials, the risk of this occurring in Britain is assessed as part of the statutory permitting process.

Robert Jeffries
Principal, Environ UK
London SW1

Mush ado

SIR – Having also suffered from mushy potatoes, I have found it best to bring them to a gentle boil, then to turn off the heat immediately and leave them in the hot water. They will continue cooking but their skins should stay intact.

Maggie Spittles
Chinnor, Oxfordshire

SIR – My home-grown Charlottes mushed themselves when I boiled the first lot in their skins. However, once the thin baby skin is scraped off, they cook to perfection.

Belinda Brocklehurst
Groombridge, Kent

SIR – The Irish have always preferred varieties of potato with high dry matter, which have a tendency to mush. To prevent this they steam their potatoes rather than boil them, which also enhances the flavour.

Peter Cooper
Manningtree, Essex

Malice in Wonderland

SIR – Roger Gentry says that croquet would be a friendly addition to future Commonwealth Games.

Having played in Guernsey, I can vouch that there is nothing friendly about croquet. It is a nasty and malicious game with all parties trying their best to put the others in dire circumstances.

Alan Latchford
Bromley Cross, Lancashire

Skewed constituencies

SIR – There is a distinct possibility that it will not be Ukip that deprives the Conservatives of victory at the polls next May, but the wildly skewed constituency sizes, which favour Labour by six to seven percentage points.

This is not the fault of Nigel Farage, but of Nick Clegg, the Deputy Prime Minister, who vetoed the boundary review.

Surely fair constituencies should be the right of the whole electorate?

Frederick Forsyth
Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire

‘Three-parent’ children

SIR – In calling for a change in the rhetoric on “three-parent” children, Max Pemberton makes much of the fact that 99.8 per cent of the child’s DNA will come from the first two parents. The remaining mitochondrial DNA is “just the battery for the cell”.

Yet for genealogists, who routinely use mitochondrial DNA to reconstruct a person’s maternal ancestry, the “mitochondrial donor” is the true mother.

David Critchley
Winslow, Buckinghamshire

SIR – Max Pemberton accepts without question the Department of Health’s contentious assertion that mitochondrial transfer is more akin to organ donation than genetic modification.

Perhaps he should have consulted the fertility treatment pioneer Lord Winston: “Of course mitochondrial transfer is genetic modification and this modification is handed down the generations. It is totally wrong to compare it with a blood transfusion or a transplant and an honest statement might be more sensible and encourage public trust.”

Jim Dobbin MP (Lab)
Co-Chairman, All-Party Parliamentary Pro-Life Group
London SE1

Heroes of the Amethyst

SIR – Able Seaman Simon was among the injured crew of HMS Amethyst 65 years ago.

Twenty-five members were killed and many wounded. Simon, the ship’s cat, was hit in the leg by shrapnel and his whiskers and fur burnt off. The crew found him a place in the sick bay, where he took to visiting the injured sailors, comforting them by kneading their chests and purring.

The Amethyst’s captain, John Kerans, nominated him for the PDSA Dickin Medal for bravery. It had regularly been awarded to dogs and pigeons, but never a cat.

Val Lewis
London EC2

Wrist action

SIR – The England and Wales Cricket Board has defended Moeen Ali’s right to wear wristbands reading “Save Gaza” and “Free Palestine”.

Would an English player be allowed to wear a wristband saying “Free UK from the EU” or, more to the point, “Save Israel”?

John Frankel
Newbury, Berkshire

All at sea

SIR – Am I correct in thinking that George Harrison believes a warship should be named after one whose fitness for service in a time of need was a cause for anxiety; whose running costs are astronomical; and who is likely to be decommissioned before too long?

Or have I got the wrong Rooney?

Sheelagh James
Lichfield, Staffordshire

Dressed to kill: Lord Mungo Murray, painted 1683, wearing a traditional belted plaid
(Scottish National Portrait Gallery)

SIR – Charles Moore should have ignored Hugh Trevor-Roper’s out-of-date essay “The Coming of the Kilt”.

The English Quaker industrialist Thomas Rawlinson, whom he credits with inventing the kilt, had not yet been born when John Michael Wright painted this magnificent portrait of Lord Mungo Murray, fifth son of the 1st Marquess of Atholl. It is on display in the Scottish National Portrait Gallery in Edinburgh.

Duncan McAra

SIR – Howard Rees says that the hem of a man’s shorts should just brush the surface on which he is kneeling. The same applies to wearing kilts.

Sandy Pratt
Dormansland, Surrey

SIR – Ed Miliband’s suggestion that voters should take part in a public form of Prime Minister’s Questions subverts our democratic system. Voters elect representatives to Parliament and may channel their concerns through them to the relevant minister. Should voters have the right to question the Prime Minister themselves in Parliament, there would be no need for elected representatives.

The suggested policy has not been thought through. Who would choose which voters pose their questions? Would there be a regional quota? Would there be recompense for travel expenses incurred by questioners and time lost at work?

Prime Minister’s Questions may be rowdy, but I have American friends who watch it each week, mesmerised, because they wish their president could be held to account in the same way. Our tried and tested system creaks and groans, but it works.

Dr Daphne Pearson
Redbrook, Gloucestershire

SIR – The public dissatisfaction with Prime Minister’s Questions is not because it’s rowdy, but because it is ineffective.

Prime Minister’s Questions is supposed to be a way of holding the Prime Minister to account for his stewardship of the country. However, David Cameron has continued the sad tradition of sidestepping difficult issues by: not answering the question posed, but the one he would have liked; attacking the Opposition; and by getting his own supporters to ask too many questions of the “Does the Prime Minister agree with me that his Government is doing a fantastic job?” variety.

David Gadbury
East Grinstead, West Sussex

SIR – The blame for the noise and uproar at Prime Minister’s Questions rests full square upon the shoulders of the Speaker. He has the power to squash such misbehaviour but does not use it.

The sight of the Sergeant-at-Arms frog-marching a miscreant out of the chamber for a five-day suspension would turn down the volume of the House very quickly.

Ian McCutcheon
Burton in Kendal, Westmorland

SIR – You suggest that the Speaker should work with MPs “towards a more civilised debate”. Much of the public dismay with politicians stems from observing the bedlam at this weekly pantomime, which has more to do with scoring political points than holding the Government to account.

The current Speaker is far too weak in his attempts to control more than 600 large egos. One solution would be to cancel the event for six months, use the select committee framework to question the Prime Minister weekly in a more civilised way, and after this interval, reconsider whether PMQs in their present form are an adequate and effective way of exercising the democratic process.

David Sherratt
Marlborough, Wiltshire

Irish Times:

Sir, – It is with absolute disbelief that I read the article “Gaza ceasefire in sight as 100 more die”, currently the most prominent on your front page. On a day in which the Israeli military bombed a UN school, killing 19 civilians, you felt that the most pertinent information for your readers was the brief and localised ceasefire that followed. Not until the fourth paragraph was any mention made of the school bombing or of the 19 civilian casualties – information that any objective observer would deem critical and which any objective observer would agree far outweighs news of the fleeting ceasefire.

The article runs roughly as follows: headline: Israel declares brief ceasefire; paragraph 1: Israel declares brief ceasefire; paragraph 2: Some details of the fleeting ceasefire; paragraph 3: Hamas had no reaction to the news of the ceasefire; paragraph 4: Israel bombed a UN school killing 19 civilians.

It is absolutely appalling that your reporting is so clearly biased in this case. Currently both the British Times and Guardian newspapers, as well as countless others, are leading with the more appropriate story: that of the condemnable attack on the sleeping civilians in that school. I am extremely disappointed with this, which is only a small part of a pattern I have been observing in all your coverage of this conflict. I will certainly never think of The Irish Times as a credible news source again. – Yours, etc,


Herberton Park,

Dublin 8

Sir, – The Israeli government has released photographs of Hamas tunnels in Gaza. It is highly probable that Hamas fighters and political leaders are living underground. It is difficult not to conclude therefore that the continual bombardment of civilian residential buildings, mosques, power stations, and other infrastructure by Israeli forces from land, sea and air, is militarily ineffective and thus principally a collective punishment on the Palestinian people.

Israeli spokesmen repeatedly claim that they wish to avoid civilian causalities while they accuse Hamas of deliberately targeting Israeli civilians. Whatever the intention, it is the outcome that counts. At least 75 per cent of the 1,200 killed by the Israel Defence Forces are innocent Palestinian civilians, very many of them children. Of the 56 killed by Hamas, 5 per cent have been civilian and 95 per cent Israeli soldiers.

War crimes have undoubtedly been committed. Those responsible must be held to account for their actions. Yours, etc,


Wheatfield Avenue,


Co Derry

Sir, Israel’s actions and the dreadful civilian death toll in Gaza must be assessed with some balance. There is considerable evidence that Hamas is deliberately putting civilians at risk as a central part of its strategy. The UN alone has reported finding weapons in its Gaza schools for the third time in two weeks.

Were Hamas to adopt the more political approach of the Palestinan Authority in the West Bank we would not see the dreadful images currently on our TV screens.

The Egyptian government is also dealing with the threat from Hamas and closing its tunnels. This week a number of militants were killed by Egyptian troops on its border with Gaza. Hamas supports the Islamic State forces, responsible for the beheading of prisoners, attacks on Kurds and the ethnic cleansing of Christians from Mosul. The London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says at least 700 people were killed in a recent 48-hour period in “the bloodiest fighting since the civil war began in 2011”.

This is the environment in which Israel has to exist and respond to threats. The Palestinian people deserve better than to have their lives and future threatened by groups promoting extremism and intolerance. Ireland should condemn and demand the removal of Hamas rockets as a necessary first step to ending the Egyptian and Israeli blockades of Gaza and achieving peace and a political solution in the Palestinian territories. Yours, etc,


Villarea Park,


Co Dublin

Sir, – I find that The Irish Times frequently offers a good and impartial view of world events, even those in which the truths are easily obscured. As an American, one who finds himself disagreeing with his government on a number of occasions, I am glad to learn things from your newspaper. In particular, because I am of Jewish heritage, I am indebted to your fair and insightful coverage of the Israel-Gaza issue. It is heartbreaking and so filled with grief for both sides that it is difficult for me to hold steady while I read the news. It is my hope that as all of you, in your difficulties not so long ago, were able to overcome the “troubles” which afflicted so many, all of us, who pray for a good outcome for Gazans and Israelis, will be able to come out of a most terrible dilemma.

Bloodshed and violence were not and can never be the intention of that vast Power from which we derive our lives and hopes. May you lead the way for your readers to deepen their understanding and to increase the sense of compassion which this world needs so dearly. Yours, etc,


Forest Glen Road,


New York

Sir — Thomas Ryan (July 29th) asks whether Palestinian sympathisers can explain why Hamas is smuggling missiles and rockets into Gaza rather than humanitarian supplies. The answer: the rockets are small, but the trucks of food and medical supplies, for nearly 2,000,000 people, are very big.

Good grief, when you find you need to resort to publishing letters like that in order to present a balance of views, it is clearly time to accept that the fault in this matter lies so overwhelmingly with Israel that any attempt to keep to a middle ground is disingenuous.

Such disinterest is really just a kind of moral apathy. Yours, etc,


Aughrim Street,


Dublin 7

Sir, – Richard Pine (Opinion & Analysis, July 30th) writes of his extreme disillusionment with the European Union and, in particular, at what he sees as the remorseless homogenising logic of the austerity policies championed by the European Council.

He is, of course, entirely right to highlight the immense social trauma occasioned by the welter of fiscal measures introduced to deal with the protracted euro zone crisis. The suffering of the Greek people has been well documented, not least by Mr Pine himself in his insightful contributions to The Irish Times.

It is perhaps understandable that as a resident of the member state to be hardest hit by the crisis he has come to entirely re-evaluate his sense of the meaning and worth of the European integration process.

But his analysis is seriously flawed. In the first place the crisis has been experienced very differently across the member states and regions of the EU. Extrapolating from the worst-hit economy to make an argument applicable to all 28 member states is just not good science. He is also entirely wrong to suggest that the panoply of economic policies implemented to deal with the crisis has led to a culturally homogeneous EU. The European integration process has always been culturally neutral, and no amount of shadow fiscal engineering in Brussels is going to turn Bulgarians into Bavarians, or indeed Flemish into Walloons.

Mr Pine’s argument is one that often accompanies specious interpretation of economic globalisation, the idea that transnational economic forces are moving the world in a singular direction, that as individuals and societies we are all turning into clones of each other at an alleged “End of History”. Just as Francis Fukuyama was wrong about economic globalisation 20 years ago Mr Pine is wrong about the European Union of today.

More worryingly, he exhibits an attachment to existential cultural nationalism in his comments on Albania (and Turkey), making clear his dislike for “their cultures” without making any attempt to define those cultures or how the cultural and historical experiences of Albania and Turkey might differ from those of existing member states.

Is his argument that because those countries consist predominantly of citizens who profess Islam that they should be excluded from the European Union?

This is a hackneyed viewpoint, evolved entirely from prejudicial cultural bits and bobs and one which has no relevance to the EU accession process, the criteria for which are well-established and revolve around the capacity of acceding member states to implement the acquis communautaire.

The irony of Mr Pine’s contribution is that he uses culture as an instrument to deny Albania and Turkey the opportunity to accede to the European Union, a development which, in itself (by his own criteria) would make the EU more diverse. At the same time he rails against the alleged cultural homogenisation wrought by “unity in diversity”.

A retreat to the familiar and welcoming folds of “the national” is understandable at times of economic turbulence. But it is also entirely misleading to claim that the opposite of that nationalism is a European Union of Angela Merkel’s dwarfish clones. Yours, etc,


Department of Sociology,

NUI Maynooth,

Co Kildare

Sir, – Richard Pine, in his Greece Letter of July 29th, highlighted the similarities between the bankrupting of this country and what happened in Greece. He described a situation in Greece which applied in both countries: one political grouping had been in power for too long. During that period they condoned “deliberate obfuscation and mis-statements on the country’s economic situation”.

In his article on the following day, however, he seemed to contradict himself. Instead of deploring “a common enemy” of all democracies, which is to say lying about the true state of affairs he labelled “the fiscal rectitude and social compliance” which is basic to living with our fellow citizens as laid down by our democratic institutions and laws, as “vulgar and meaningless”.

Recognising a “plurality of cultures” and a “room for difference” within the EU should not be confused with seeming to approve an irresponsibility and a recklessness which ends in bankruptcy. – Yours, etc,


Shielmartin Drive,


Dublin 13

Sir, – Some of your readers who have visited Macchu Picchu will remember the lady who guards the sacred stone atop the ancient citadel of the Incas. It is called Intihuatana or “hitching post to the sun” in the local language.

To the Peruvians it is the equivalent of Newgrange, the Ceide Fields and Tara all in one. Up until recently it was possible to rub the stone to gain some of its magical powers. Imagine the outrage of the Peruvian people when during the filming of a beer commercial by an Australian advertising agency a large chip was knocked out of the stone.The guard now patrols the stone like a tigress and dare anybody put even a little finger near it. But, of course, too late.

I cannot believe that when the film crew depart Skeilig Michael there will not have been some damage done to this ancient site that we treasure so much. Yours, etc,


Park Street,



Sir, – A compromise must be found. Garth Brooks plays on Skellig Michael and a Martian team play in the All-Ireland final at Croke Park. – Yours, etc,


Monalea Park,

Dublin 24

A chara, – I note with interest some recent comments in your columns on the noise levels on Grafton Street. I am an actual busker, as opposed to the amplified “My Way” clones. Words cannot describe the hell that traditional players have been enduring on Dublin’s streets over the past three years at the hands of the said clones. Non-stop karaoke-style playing of CDs on i-Pods, the same seven melodies, with loud amplifier accompanied by trumpet, saxophone, accordion, violin or pan pipes, hogging prime spots all day and sidelining young traditional players.

Perhaps it is time for the newly elected city councillors to walk around, take a look and bring in sensible bye-laws for the safety and enjoyment of everyone. Add in the greedy beggars and the aggressive cyclists and the toxic brew would surpass the excesses of Juvenal’s ancient Rome. In a different context, Terry Moylan said: “Those who hold and play the music continue to be slighted.” – Yours, etc,



Baile na nGall,


Co Chiarraí

Sir, – Hugh Linehan’s reference (Opinion & Analysis, July 29th) to “Tuam and other crimes” sits just inches away from Vincent Twomey’s “Perhaps Tuam nuns have already been found guilty” . As per Euclid’s theorems, QED ! – Yours, etc,




Co Galway

A chara,– Declan Kelly (July 28th) seems to think the discussion that began in these pages under the heading of “Programming of young minds” and which now continues under that of “Catholic apologetics” is all about proving that everything Breda O’Brien writes should be viewed as covert propaganda for her religious beliefs).

I think it is more about the nature of debate and whether when someone puts forward an argument we deal what they actually say or instead label the person raising the issue and then discuss what we think anyone carrying such a label believes.

The first procedure involves having a serious and respectful conversation with another human being; the second is merely talking to oneself through the puppet of an imaginary opponent. I know which of the two I find more fruitful and interesting. – Is mise,



Co Kilkenny

Sir, – I agree with Patrick Davey (Letters, July 26th) that we shouldn’t automatically treat everything Breda O’Brien writes as being apologetics for the Catholic Church. And yet, one must ask, would Breda have taken the time to bemoan Tumblr in her column if the site’s most shared posts were pro-life and anti-marriage equality? Yours, etc,


Upper Leeson Street,

Dublin 4

A chara, – The Irish Times has recently brought us the news that the Government plans to reverse the cuts to medical consultants’ pay in an attempt to reduce the number of doctors leaving our health system. On foot of the initial cut in pay it seems there are consultant posts that have been left unfilled.

A short number of weeks ago we were informed that Irish doctors were the best paid in the world following the release of an OECD report on health spending. I for one await some informed commentary to explain this contradiction – the best paid doctors in the world cannot wait to go abroad to work for less money. – Yours, etc,


Plás Grosvenor,

Rath Maonais,

Átha Cliath 6

Sir, – Pádraig McCarthy writes (July 30th) that where a state introduces abortion this is a derogation from the right to life, which is protected in many international instruments which he cites.

However, in this complex and often emotive debate there is polarisation. Some people believe abortion is wrong in any circumstances while others believe it should be allowed where the mother’s health is in danger. Others still want abortion on demand.

I see it from the perspective of the mother’s life. She has lived in this world longer than her unborn child and accordingly has certain rights.

Fundamental is her right to life itself, which must have priority over the unborn when her life is in danger. We all remember well what happened to Savita Halapannavar and it must never happen again. Yours, etc,


Beggars Bush Court,


Sir, – It is clear from recent correspondence that there are many who wish to see greater use of the Irish language. There is a fairly simple solution. An on-the-spot fine of €60 and three penalty points for anyone caught speaking Irish, I feel, is sure to work. It has been a resounding success in getting people to talk on their telephones when driving. – Yours, etc,


The Lawns,


Co Kildare

Irish Independent:

President Vladimir Putin can be described as a power-seeking missile because he was once a member of the KGB, a tool of the Communist Party which repressed personal freedom and now he has become an ultra Russian nationalist.

Putin’s denial of having any involvement in the crimes currently being committed in the Ukraine is not deceiving the international community and he knows it.

Therefore he shows not only a lack of respect to the Western democracies, but also, by definition, his self-respect as well.

Russia is rich in energy resources such as oil and gas, and has been described as Saudi Arabia with trees.

However, if Putin believes he can use those Russian resources as a weapon to rebuild its empire, he must be faced down now by Western democracies even if it comes at an economic cost as history teaches us appeasement never works.



It’s balmy. It is 1am in the morning during July 2014, midweek. I live in an unfinished housing estate and I have to get up for work at 6.30am. I need to close the bedroom windows as the neighbours across the road are partying into the night. None of them have to go to work in the morning as the social are looking after their every need.

They are on their second, maybe third relationship and St Vincent de Paul is calling regularly, no bother. Each one of them has two cars in the driveway much better than my own.

The ice cream van is jingling into the estate daily and their many children are waddling up to the van bloated and obese. The property developer has gone into receivership and has spent the last month on his holidays in the Costa del Sol.

I arrive home at lunchtime and the neighbours are sitting around in their pyjamas, smoking fags and on their mobiles. The estate is choking with weeds along the kerbs and the grass area needs to be cut. One of the neighbours is walking his dog and it’s doing its doings on the footpath. Ah what the hell about it! Sure someone else will pick it up or let it lie there.

Last Saturday I was trying to clean up around the estate entrance, when one of the unmarried mothers, who resides in one of the four bedroomed houses, drives up and gives me that “keep out of my way you fool” look.

I pick up the Irish Independent for a browse and see our politicians climbing a fence for their own political gain. As the fella says we are mighty wee country altogether that can keep it all going!



Recently the matter of salaries paid to presenters on RTE TV and radio was raised. The question asked whether we, the public, are entitled to know what each presenter is or was paid. As the wage bill is furnished by Joe Public, it would seem only fair that we are told.

When we tune in to radio and television and listen to the various programmes dealing with the woes of people, the injured party is then finally warned, “take care of yourself and I’m sure this matter will be raised again” followed by a long list of adverts.

Aren’t we – the people who pay the wages of the presenters – entitled to know how much we are paying for such brilliant advice?



The Commonwealth Games are under way in Glasgow. As well as many republics around the world, Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland have their own individual teams.

What a pity that the one absentee is the Republic of Ireland. Its participation would enhance competition amongst local nations; stimulate greater interest in sport; and facilitate even better co-operation and understanding between Dublin and Belfast.



As Israel continues to wage horror and unimaginable devastation on the besieged, captive population of Gaza, we ask how much longer will that state be allowed to act with impunity in its breaches of international law against the Palestinian people?

As an occupying power, Israel has a legal, and moral, obligation to protect the people of Gaza. Instead, it has wreaked massive destruction on the territory, killed over 1,200 people, maimed and injured over 5,000 and made hundreds of thousands homeless.

The entire infrastructure of Gaza is being pounded into dust. To call any of these acts self-defence is utter fallacy, Israel’s actions over the last 24 days are an affront to humanity.

Gaza Action Ireland, a civil society initiative coming from the Irish Ship to Gaza, fully supports the Palestinian call for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS). It backs calls for sanctions on Israel, the immediate expulsion of the Israeli ambassador and for the Irish Government to take meaningful action for the people of Palestine, living through their 66th year of occupation.

As the thousands of people marching all over the country in solidarity with the Palestinians in the last few weeks attests, the Government has not been acting in our name in this regard, and we say no more to Israel’s attacks on Gaza.



Billy Fitzpatrick (Irish Independent, July 29) is wide of the mark in seeking to “indict” John Redmond for calling on young nationalist Irishmen to fight on the British side in the Great War. He claims that this was done “it would seem, on foot of a vague promise of home rule”. The reality was much less vague.

The Home Rule Bill, introduced in 1912, had passed all parliamentary stages by May 25, 1914. Although, on the outbreak of the war, Redmond voiced nationalist support for the Allied war effort, he waited seven weeks, until King George had signed the Home Rule Act onto the statute book, before making his recruiting call at Woodenbridge on September 20.

Hailing the successful culmination of the 40-year campaign for Irish self-government, he explicitly framed his call as, in part, the repayment of a ‘debt of honour’ to Britain for having kept its word.

Mr Fitzpatrick’s attempt to drive a wedge between Parnell and Redmond will not work. Both men could insert occasional separatist-sounding phrases into their rhetoric, but both were equally committed to the peaceful attainment of a devolved Irish parliament with power to manage all domestic Irish affairs under the supremacy of the Imperial parliament.

The fact that Home Rule was never implemented, it is true, makes Redmond’s recruiting call seem in retrospect a misjudgment. But that failure was due, not to any flaw in the concept itself, but to the lack of an agreed solution to the problem of a million Ulster people who were determined not to be part of it.

That problem was rendered even more intractable by the unmandated conspirators of Easter 1916 and by Mr Fitzpatrick’s vaunted War of Independence, which arguably undid whatever goodwill Redmond’s previous efforts at conciliation had achieved.


Irish Independent


July 30, 2014

30 July 2014 Feet

I jog around the park I still have arthritis in my left knee, but I manage to get round the park. A very very dry day

Scrabble Mary wins, but gets under 400. perhaps I will win tomorrow.


Sally Farmiloe – obituary

Sally Farmiloe was an actress whose soap opera career in Howards’ Way was eclipsed by her affair with Jeffrey Archer

Sally Farmiloe, actress and sometime mistress of Lord (Jeffrey) Archer

Sally Farmiloe, actress and sometime mistress of Lord (Jeffrey) Archer Photo: REX

6:58PM BST 29 Jul 2014


Sally Farmiloe, who has died of cancer aged 60, was a former actress who appeared in Howards’ Way, a Sunday night soap of yachting folk and adultery, but became better known in the 1990s for having a torrid affair with Jeffrey Archer, the author and one-time Tory Party favourite-turned jailbird.

The pair, who met through fundraising work for the Tory Party, began seeing each other in 1996 , but in 1999 a tabloid newspaper exposed them, bringing the affair to an end. Sally Farmiloe later claimed that Archer then reneged on a promise to pay for her legal bills when she sued the paper for libel in 2000. The following year he was jailed for four years for perjury after lying to a court about his dealings with the prostitute Monica Coghlan.

The same year Sally Farmiloe gave a “Kiss and Tell” interview to the News of the World in which she described how the pair had once slipped away from a Tory fundraising ball at the Dorchester Hotel to an underground NCP car park in Audley Square. “We began kissing passionately and at first we tried to make love in the front seat of [his] Mini,” she recalled, “but it was very cramped and awkward so we got out.

Sally Farmiloe with Lord (Jeffrey) Archer (LANDMARK MEDIA)

“I was wearing this fantastic white silk gown, one of my favourites, and he looked very dashing in his dinner suit. I’m ashamed to say we made love on the floor of this dratted car park. My skirt was hitched up around my waist. Little did I know it, but I got engine oil all over the bum and back of it.

“Afterwards I went straight back into the Dorchester looking immaculate apart from the streaks of engine oil down my back which I knew nothing about. There I was parading around and nobody said a word to my face. It was only when I got home that I realised the dress was ruined. Jeffrey was kind enough to replace it with a stunning gown that cost almost £1,000.”

It was not, perhaps, the kind of behaviour befitting a former debutante. But then Sally, by her own admission, was a “wild child” .

Sally Farmiloe was born on July 14 1954 in South Africa, though her official website claims that she was a real “English Rose” hailing from a “frightfully posh aristocratic background”. Her father was variously reported to be a landowner, National Hunt jockey and yacht broker. Some accounts suggested that Sally was born in Reading.

Her progress began in her late teenage years when she had her breasts enlarged to please a boyfriend who wanted her to look like Raquel Welch. The operation was not a success: “My breasts hadn’t stopped growing and after the implants they became huge,” she recalled. The implants were removed in 1982 .


Her long list of former boyfriends included the Marquess of Reading; the Woolworth heir Anthony Hubbard; Sir Clive Sinclair; and the comedian Cardew Robinson. In the 1970s she was a frequent guest at Stocks, the Hertfordshire mansion owned by the Playboy tycoon Victor Lownes. After she landed the part of the tarty barmaid Dawn Williams in Howards’ Way (BBC One, 1985-90), her then boyfriend banned her from socialising with other cast members after she was caught in a broom cupboard with her co-star Malcolm Jamieson.

In the early 1990s, with acting parts growing ever fewer, Sally Farmiloe set up in business as a social event organiser.

She met Lord Archer in 1996 while helping to organise a fundraising ball for the Conservatives at the Savoy Hotel, though it seems that the Tory peer’s chat-up technique lacked something in finesse: “He came up behind me, threw his arms around me and grabbed hold of my boobs,” she recalled. “Then he asked me, ‘Where’s your husband, then?’ I replied, ‘I haven’t got a husband’. He grinned like a Cheshire cat and said, ‘That makes things easy’.” She agreed to meet him for dinner the following night at his penthouse flat overlooking the Houses of Parliament .

Having her name linked to Archer’s as accusations of his perjury began to emerge did not help her acting career — though she reportedly considered an offer to go into the Australian jungle for I’m A Celebrity. Luckily an old boyfriend, Jeremy Neville, a chartered surveyor, stepped back into her life to offer support and they subsequently married.

Last October, however, four months after Sally Farmiloe had been treated for breast cancer, it was discovered that a secondary cancer had spread to her bones and liver. During a period in which the cancer appeared to be in remission, she discovered, sifting through her medical notes, a report which noted that in view of her advanced disease it would not be appropriate to resuscitate her in the event of a cardiac arrest. She was so shocked that she announced that she would be adding her voice to the campaign for more stringent rules governing do-not-resuscitate orders.

Not long before her death Sally Farmiloe met Lord Archer again at a book launch. She had intended to confront him, she told The Daily Telegraph’s interviewer Elizabeth Grice, but explained that her anger had melted away when they met. “I realised it didn’t matter. He was very sweet and charming and chivalrous. ”

Sally Farmiloe is survived by her husband, by their daughter and adopted daughter and by a stepson.

Sally Farmiloe, born July 14 1954, died July 28 2014


I agree with Simon Jenkins (Comment, 25 July), but I disagree that, “He (Putin) may be a nasty piece of work”. Given the vastness and complexity of governing the largest country in the world, and relative to the many psychopathic lunatics who have ruled in Europe, President Putin usually shows restraint, balance and thoughtfulness. Is Cameron, the daily-U-turn champion, doing a Napoleon or merely trying to drive up sales for the arms industry?
Noel Hodson

• Polly Toynbee’s failure to clarify that there are huge differences between those exploiting the tax relief system and those staying within the spirit of the Enterprise Investment Scheme (Comment, 29 July), makes it harder for UK producers to raise money. A recent report by Oxford Economics estimated that film production in the UK would be 71% smaller without film tax relief – currently the industry generates close to £5bn towards UK GDP. The EIS is meant to stimulate investment in SMEs (classically high risk startups) by giving tax relief to higher-rate taxpayers. It is not a tax avoidance scheme so long as the investor can still lose more money than if they hadn’t invested. The problem within the film industry is those companies that guarantee returns, don’t generate content, and use creative accountancy to inflate budgets.
Suzie Halewood, producer

• The 101 Ranch Real Wild West Show from Oklahoma (Letters, 26 July), was a feature of the Anglo-American Exposition at White City, London, in 1914. War was declared as the expo was winding down. Horses and vehicles from the ranch were requisitioned for the war effort. Buck Jones from the original War Horse film started his show career at the ranch and Wild West Show. A famous member of the show was the black cowboy Bill Pickett, who made two movies. He was definitely here in London in 1914. There is a lot more background to the War Horse legend.
Alex Bowling

• Christina Patterson (Comment, 26 July) might also compare Karl Ove Knausgård’s My Struggle with Maxim Gorky’s autobiographical My Childhood (1913), in which he recalls his bitter struggle in a quarrelsome family, being beaten at home and abandoned by his mother, and “sent out into the world” at the age of eleven. Yet, with his insight and characterisation, as his translator Ronald Wilks observes, Gorky “comes to terms with a squalid, cruel and depraved world”.
Dr Mark Stroud
Llantrisant, Glamorgan

• Why is the Isle of Man no longer featured in your Commonwealth Games medal table? We Manx should be told.
Doug Sandle

Your article on deferring the state pension (Money, 26 July) says that “in purely financial terms, deferring currently represents a very good deal”. True that a person who today defers for one year is rewarded with a pension 10.4% higher. But they lose one year’s pension for ever – which means that they must live nearly 11 more years before recovering the money lost, much less gaining. For example, if the pension is £100 a year, a person who doesn’t defer will receive £1,100 over the next 11 years (11 x 100). A person who defers for one year will receive £1,104 (10 x 110.4). Is a gain of £4 after 11 years “a very good deal”?

In your example, a weekly pension of £150 a week, a pensioner who doesn’t defer will receive £78,000 over 10 years (150 x 52 x 10). If they defer for five years, they will receive a pension 52% higher (£228 a week), but they will receive it for only five years. So they receive £59,280 (228 x 52 x 5). So they actually lose £18,720 by deferring. Only after 15 years do they show a small gain of £1,560. This means a man retiring now must live to 80 and a woman to 77 to gain a penny from deferring their pension for five years. At the lower rate of reward for deferral recently announced, they must live to 88 and 85 respectively before they break even. Even at today’s low interest rates, it is far better to take your pension and save it than to forgo it. This is a serious matter. I know people who deferred on the basis of newspaper advice and realised their huge mistake only when it was too late.
Geoffrey Renshaw
Department of Economics, University of Warwick

• There cannot possibly be enough people with the skills in the Pensions Advisory Service and Citizens Advice Bureau to give useful, impartial guidance to all on how to manage their personal pension pots, which begs the questions, how and at what cost can this be achieved. The only way to deliver this advice efficiently and cost effectively is online, but there is no detail as to how this might work and how advice can be tailored to individuals’ requirements through such a generic portal. In short, this is a great idea but if it is not executed well, that is all it will remain. Next April is just around the corner and failure to finalise details quickly is a big gamble for the government – which risks not only people’s pension money, but a potential public policy train crash just before the general election.
Michael Whitfield
CEO, Thomsons Online Benefits

Your editorial (29 July) says “there are serious reasons why fracking is likely to be part of Britain’s future” but misses many reasons why it shouldn’t be. Fracking in the UK will just add to a stock of fossil fuels we cannot afford to burn if we want to avoid the worst impacts of climate change. Shale gas won’t magically replace coal: the government’s chief scientist has said that without a global climate deal, new fossil fuel exploitation is likely to increase the risk of climate change.

The government’s headlong rush to frack is predicated on the process being safe. But many of the UK’s regulations are inadequate. Fracking is banned in France and a more precautionary approach is being taken in Germany on environmental grounds.

Fracking is not the answer to the energy problems of cost and security. The first focus of UK energy policy needs to be an aggressive push on energy efficiency. Then decarbonising electricity, through a rapid expansion of renewable power. Gas is a transition fuel through the 2020s, but shale gas is not needed for this purpose.
Tony Bosworth
Energy campaigner, Friends of the Earth

So Eric Pickles will have the last say in deciding whether to drill in protected areas (New strings attached to fracking push, 28 July). Luckily, the Unite trade union, organising over 1.3m workers, voted overwhelmingly this year to protest against fracking. It will support local protests against fracking and campaign for sustainable green jobs, not the slash-and-burn, short-term profit, long-term devastation of increased carbon emissions.
Tony Staunton
Unite Plymouth local government branch

Power companies will only invest where the prospects of profit are excellent, so why not nationalise this new power source from the very beginning? We have surrendered our coal, water, gas and electricity industries to foreign companies and the process is, apparently, irreversible. Why doesn’t Ed Milliband say that all shale exploration will be done at the taxpayers’ expense – with the taxpayer becoming the beneficiary?

Barry Langley

In your article (New strings attached to fracking push, 28 July) there was no mention of the huge amounts of water needed in the process for fracking shale gas and oil. This has produced well publicised disputes in the US, where underground supplies have been severely depleted by fracking companies, causing problems for farmers and other users.
Chris Roome
Staplehurst, Kent

• So, drilling rigs are acceptable, but wind turbines, which produce benign energy, are not. The community-owned, renewable sector is the way forward – benign energy production with no legacy problems, community involvement and ownership, great returns on investment, and a percentage of profits going to the local area. We have been part owners of Baywind Energy Cooperative for many years, with average returns of 6.37% – the return in 2012 was 10.4%. Go to to see the portfolio of community-owned schemes across the UK.

Lorrie Marchington

High Peak, Derbyshire

Methane gas from fracking is not one of the “cleaner hydrocarbons” as your leader claims. Its global warming potential is 70 times that of carbon dioxide. Evidence from the US shows shale gas electricity has a higher carbon footprint than coal burning, even when methane leakage is low.

Electricity from waste is often cheaper than that from natural gas and avoids the release of methane were the waste left to rot. Instead of paying farmers to accept fracking, they should be well rewarded for sending animal and crop waste for anaerobic digestion.

And fracking companies could follow Greenfield Energy, now drilling below the carparks of a leading supermarket chain for geothermal heat. Most scientists agree we cannot burn more than one-third of the world’s proven fossil fuel reserves if we are to slow global warming. Why exploit new, unproven gas resources of uncertain yield? At far shallower depths there is sufficient geothermal energy to heat and cool buildings.
Keith Barnham

We need to reduce the amount of fossil fuel we burn. The promise of cheap energy for the next 40 years, realistic or not, will lull the public into ignoring the uncomfortable but imperative need to reduce emissions. It will also blind most people to the impact of any environmental damage resulting from fracking.
Lynda Newbery

I have chosen the place in countryside specially dear to me where I shall set up my anti-fracking camp. I am prepared to sleep in a tent. What holds me back is the thought that to be completely honest about what I’m doing I must give up using a private car for the rest of my life.
Richard Wilson

Ed Miliband: If you want a Photo Prime Minister, don't vote for me

I am amazed that Ed Miliband has failed to notice that prime minister’s questions are a futile exercise (Report, 28 July) that seriously diminish the dignity and purpose of parliament in the public mind. He now suggests that this ludicrous opportunity for MPs to ask glib questions and get glib answers should be offered to the public. The public may be too intelligent to grasp his proposed opportunity.

It is already possible for the public to question the prime minister. If you have an intelligent question, you can write it and send it to your MP, who is duty-bound to get a response for you. This approach allows his office to research and present an intelligent answer. They may not always do that – so you challenge them again. And you will have a record of your debate. You are more likely to get your issue explored via your MP than if you turn up at Westminster, as Ed Miliband suggests, and take pot luck on getting your question put to the prime minister and satisfactorily answered, off the cuff, within a minute. So, not a very bright idea, Mr Miliband. It did grab a headline, though, didn’t it? Maybe that’s all he’s about.
Simon Molloy

• There is nothing to stop Ed Miliband from putting the public’s questions to the prime minister during PMQs, perhaps selecting a question at random from a supporter of each of the main parties. This would encourage greater public engagement with politics in general and Ed Miliband and the Labour party in particular; it might also have the effect of improving the behaviour of MPs – and make it more difficult for the prime minister to ignore the question and answer another.
Jonathan Schaaf

• Ed Miliband’s suggestion that the public be invited to put questions to the prime minister could make the disillusionment with parliament deeper. Typically, the leader of the opposition asks a question inviting a factual response. The prime minister responds either with a jibe at the opposition or a recitation of government policy, which everyone in the chamber already knows. The speaker allows such evasions to pass unchallenged. Government backbenchers think their man has “won”. It won’t make us respect parliament to see ordinary people have their questions ignored in this way.
David Butler

•  By his own admission he may not be a square-jawed superhero, and in allowing himself to be filmed alongside Wallace and Gromit-style caricatures Ed Miliband demonstrates a self-deprecating sense of humour that is rare among the political class – and very welcome. However, looking back at Westminster and Whitehall, calling for more public engagement, is for another time – ideally when parliament is sitting. He should stay focused on talking about what matters: education, the economy, employment, environment, energy, health and housing for starters, with plenty of other topics awaiting attention – defence, foreign affairs, transport, the list goes on.
Les Bright

• So, Ed Miliband goes confessional, with self-deprecating humour (Report, 25 July). At a time when the economy was reported on the up, bombs were dropping on Gaza and planes were being shot out of the sky, what was this supposed to achieve? If it was about looking prime ministerial, it amounted to a spectacularly timed own goal. What he needs are decent media advisers, the present ones are going to lose the election for Labour before we get near the ballot box.
Paul Donovan

• It is good to see Ed Miliband rejecting the image-obsessed political style of New Labour (Miliband confronts image problem, 25 July). If he can just bring himself also to reject its Tory-lite policies and tell Tony and his cronies to get lost we might be getting somewhere.
Kate Francis

•  A message to Ed Miliband’s handlers, advisers, and PR “experts”: leave the man alone. He’s decent, warm, witty and just a tad self-deprecating. He is neither pompous nor self-important and I think the electorate will warm to that when set against the bullying, jeering, Tory spin machine. People don’t respond well to artifice: remember that awful grimace inflicted on the serious, if grumpy, Gordon Brown and be warned.
Roy Boffy

Pioneering aviator Lettice Curtis.

Pioneering aviator Lettice Curtis. Photograph: Associated Newspapers /Rex Features

In 1987 I interviewed the doughty pioneer pilot Lettice Curtis for my oral history book Don’t You Know There’s a War On? She spoke vividly about the hazards of flying planes from factories to airfields all over the UK: “All the big towns had barrage balloons. You had to find out where they were, but you were not allowed to mark them on your map, so you had to memorise them. There was no radio, of course, so it was all old-fashioned navigation. You just had to keep below cloud, and jolly well know where you were.” She mentioned one incident: “I was coming in to Langley when the engine stopped. I came down at a hundred miles an hour and the tail broke off. I was lucky, I was just knocked about a bit on my face and leg.”

While most of the facts in your article (Missed targets: when companies fail to keep their key sustainability promises, 21 July) were accurate, we were disappointed with the broad brush with which Rainforest Action Network’s (Ran) work with the Disney Corporation was painted. Has Disney fallen behind on its initial paper sourcing targets? Yes. Will Ran be closely monitoring the situation and working with Disney to ensure implementation of its new policy? Yes.

But the fact is that Disney’s policy regarding how the massive corporation purchases its paper is one of the strongest and most comprehensive policies that Ran has ever seen. It is a policy that addresses issues of climate change, human rights and rainforest destruction across all of Disney’s global operations, including all of Disney’s licensees and subsidiaries. This is a complex and challenging policy to implement in full – it will affect more than 10,000 factories in China alone – and Ran believes that Disney is currently working in good faith toward putting this policy into effect.

In addition, this policy has already had a very real impact, creating a ripple effect in Indonesia – the current epicentre of global deforestation. Disney has already excluded some of the most egregious rainforest destroyers on the planet from its supply chain and the company’s actions helped lead to a groundbreaking new forest policy from that corporation – a policy that Ran will also be closely monitoring for years to come to ensure full and meaningful implementation.

Ran greatly appreciates the incredibly complex and comprehensive nature of this shift in corporate practices. And Disney has been consistently proactive in informing the sustainability community about its progress and challenges on this front.

Ran is in this fight for the long haul, and we will be monitoring these policies closely. But so far we have every reason to believe that Disney is moving in the right direction and can serve as a critical lever for industry-wide change that will benefit the planet and the people who live on it.
Lindsey Allen
Executive director, Rainforest Action Network

The government’s work capability assessment (WCA) presumes that there are too many people on disability benefits because disabled people are too lazy or too comfortable living on benefits to work. It is founded in the idea that disabled people need to be harassed and hounded out of a comfortable life into finding work under the threat of loss of benefits.

No one is comfortable living on benefits. Disabled people are no more lazy that the rest of the population. The real reason that there are so many people on benefits is that society does not include disabled people. We do not have the same access to education, transport, housing and jobs. Social attitudes ensure that disabled people in the workplace are seen as a problem. And there are large numbers of disabled people who simply cannot work. Why should they be harassed? Why should they be hounded? Why should they have to live in fear? We know, and this report confirms, that many people have wrongly been found “fit for work” when they can’t work.

The courts have confirmed that the WCA discriminates against claimants with mental health impairments. The Commons work and pensions committee report recommends “improvements” to make the system more workable and less harmful. This is pointless, because it would not make the WCA any less wrong or any more useful. We call once again on Labour to commit to scrapping the WCA and to address the real problems that disabled people on benefits face in society. We call once again on the British Medical Association to send guidance on Department of Work and Pensions rules “29 and 35”, which allow doctors to prevent foreseeable harm being done to at-risk patients.

They didn’t improve slavery, they abolished it, because it was wrong. They didn’t amend apartheid , they ended it because it was wrong. The WCA is wrong, and it needs to be abolished.
Andy Greene Disabled People Against Cuts, Annie Howard Disabled People Against Cuts, Bob Ellard Disabled People Against Cuts, Debbie Jolly Disabled People Against Cuts, Denise McKenna Mental Health Resistance Network, Jane Bence #NewApproach, Eleanor Firman Disabled People Against Cuts, Ellen Clifford Disabled People Against Cuts, Gail Ward Disabled People Against Cuts, John James McArdle Black Triangle Campaign, Katy Marchant Disabled People Against Cuts, Linda Burnip Disabled People Against Cuts, Nick Dilworth #NewApproach, Paula Peters Disabled People Against Cuts, Rick Burgess #NewApproach, Roger Lewis Disabled People Against Cuts, Roy Bard Disabled People Against Cuts, Wayne Blackburn #NewApproach

Martin Dent taught at Keele University while I was a student there from 1967 until 1972. One or two of his eccentricities, still vivid in my mind, ought not be lost with his passing. When his phone rang, he would proclaim, “Dent here!” and then pick up the phone. Because he didn’t know about alarm clocks with repeaters, he had three alarm clocks side-by-side next to his bed, set a few minutes apart.

On one occasion, I was driving on campus behind a slightly battered Rover. The car was elderly, and when it met the speed bump up ahead, both of its rear passenger doors flew open, and a lamb emerged from each side of the car. Soon afterwards, a human emerged from the front. It was Dent, the Old Etonian who read Greek and Latin for relaxation, and told war stories about his time in Nigeria for fun. And now he had lambs on his hands.

Dent left his car, engine running, doors wide open, astride the speed bump. His lambs had gambolled away, in different directions. Being a coward, I drove away while Martin stood calling to his charges, telling them to “come back here!” as though they were dogs. Later, I learned that he had become a gentleman farmer, breeding sheep.

I am a bit puzzled by Paul Mason’s comments on the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) predictions for the world economy (18 July). According to him, the message is that the best of capitalism is over. It seems Mason and I have read different reports.

The report entitled Looking to 2060: long-term global growth prospects and released in November 2012 is, like all long-term forecasts, inherently speculative. One of its major conclusions was that growth will decline to 3% in the world and 2% in the OECD countries compared to, respectively, 3.5% and 2.2% during the last 15 years. This is low but not near stagnation. Many people in most rich countries will accept it because they consider leisure and the environment more important than growth.

The report assumes that immigration trends will remain at the present rate, which represents a large and at first scary number of immigrants. However, most informed people will understand that, with the local birthrate declining, more workers will be needed to pay for their pensions.

The report does not directly comment about a rise in inequality. However, it suggests that structural reforms, often code for anti-labour policies, will be needed in most countries to maintain some growth. In this case the need is mostly for an extension of the working life. The report also notes that while inequalities between countries will still remain, they will have declined considerably.

It seems that Mason’s article reflects his own views rather than the OECD report.
Francois P Jeanjean
Ottawa, Canada

Tensions in the far east

Talks are now under way between Japan and North Korea in an attempt yet again to resolve various outstanding issues, including the abduction of a large number of Japanese some years ago by the North Koreans (11 July). The North Koreans are promising to try to establish the fate of the many missing Japanese citizens. The results, of course, remain to be seen.

However, it has been reported that the Japanese government is considering lifting the sanctions that were imposed several years ago. The more cynical among us will be wondering whether any aid the North Koreans receive from Japan will actually make its way to the people who need it, or whether it will more likely go towards the purchase of even more luxuries for government leaders and top bureaucrats.

Meanwhile, the People’s Republic continues to spend vast sums of money on its military machine, while also testing missiles by lobbing them into the Japan Sea, while totally ignoring all protests from Japan and other countries. Here in Japan itself, the hawkish prime minister, Shinzo Abe, is pushing legislation through the Japanese parliament to revise the so-called peace constitution and give the so-called self-defence forces more teeth. Demonstrations by peace-loving citizens are ignored, as are protestations of opposition parties. Considering all the tensions in this part of the world, perhaps it is only a matter of time before we see Japan going to war again.
John Ryder
Kyoto, Japan

Scotland’s big choice

Scotland is making the same mistake as Quebec regarding its forthcoming vote on independence by failing to take into account the difference between reversible decisions and irreversible ones (18 July). Decisions at just over 50% or a plurality are reversible at election time; treaties require just over 50% but have withdrawal clauses, and thus are reversible.

However, the dissolution of a company requires a two-thirds vote of shareholders; it is permanent. In Quebec, the appointment of the speaker of the assembly, the director general of elections, the auditor general, and such, requires a two-thirds vote of the deputies; these people cannot be removed during their fixed-term of office, save for egregious behaviour. Surely an irreversible decision on independence should call for a muscular majority. In the US, some congressional decisions require enhanced majorities.

Legislators over time have ruled against razor-thin victories in matters of great importance in order to secure indisputable results. If it is possible to emotionalise a narrow victory, it is somewhat harder to do so under the two-thirds rule.
Jean-Claude Lefebvre
Sutton, Quebec, Canada

• Madeleine Bunting’s advocacy (25 July) that the Scots remain in the UK so she can feel better is like suggesting that the Greeks should have remained in the Ottoman empire to maintain some sort of Hellenic flavour and smooth the rough edges off the sultan.
Richard Blackburn
Coogee, NSW, Australia

• Nobody really knows what will happen if Scotland leaves the UK, for none can foretell the result of future seismic events geological, military or financial – whatever current or past experts predict.
Edward Black
Sydney, Australia

A fundamental difference

Karl Popper demonstrated many years ago that we cannot expect science to produce certain knowledge, so Michael Brooks was telling us nothing new in his reference to unshakeable ‘truths’ (18 July). But we should not substitute one dogma for another. Human linguistic abilities may be a quirk of evolution – after all, quirks are what evolution produces – but they do constitute a difference between us and other animals.

A slightly different anatomical arrangement permits me to type this letter, so it may not be a marker of fundamental difference. But my ability to pose, by whatever means, the question of whether a fundamental difference exists is, it seems to me, a fundamental difference between me and an orang-utan. Whether or not that makes me something special is a value judgment, not a scientific one. Either way the difference still exists and is, I suggest, significant.
Leslie Buck
Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

Gluten-free controversy

Your lightweight article on the gluten-free backlash (18 July) would have been more useful if it distinguished between coeliac disease, diagnosable by a simple blood test, and gluten intolerance, scientifically diagnosable by an elimination diet and challenge. The latter is best done with an experienced dietitian since there are pitfalls, the most common of which is to fail to eliminate the bread preservative (calcium propionate, E282) and synthetic antioxidants (eg Butylated hydroxyanisole, E320) from the challenges, since these can also affect people and are ubiquitous in UK and US breads. They are uncommon in, for instance, Italy, France and Spain.

We have many experiences in our 10,000-member Food Intolerance Network ( of people who avoided wheat and gluten for years before realising it was, for instance, the bread preservative to which they were reacting. My personal view, from 15 years in wheat research, is that it may have been the introduction of the semi-dwarfing varieties of wheat by Norman Borlaug of the 1950s green revolution that has contributed to the undoubted increase in gluten intolerance, but of course millions did not die of starvation because of this conventional plant-breeding cross.
Howard Dengate
Safety Beach, NSW, Australia

The presence of ghosts

“What exactly is a ghost, anyway?” asks Joanna Briscoe’s article (18 July). She raises a pertinent question, since both scientific rationalism and Protestant/Catholic theology have no place for ghostly phenomena. Despite this, Roman Catholicism exorcises demons as active agents of evil.

A late 19th/early 20th-century phenomenon was the interest of several prominent Protestant theologians in ghosts. EW Benson, bishop of Truro and later archbishop of Canterbury, founded a Ghost Club at Cambridge, which evolved into the Society for Psychical Research in 1882. AN Wilson tells us that Henry James’s rather nasty little story The Turn of the Screw was based on one of Benson’s Ghost Club stories.

The Cambridge tradition of clerical interest was carried on in the 1950s by the Cambridge professor of divinity, HH Farmer. But officially the churches are still sitting on the fence on this issue.
Alaisdair Raynham
Truro, UK

Fox in the chicken coop

So Jean-Claude Juncker plans to tackle Google’s power (and maybe also that of Apple, Amazon and Facebook) with this prospect being one reason why Angela Merkel decided to back his nomination (11 July). Here, one proposal of Juncker’s to combat the power of the US giants is to harmonise telecom laws across the EU.

This is all very interesting because one source of the power of these giants is the fact that they hide their earnings in tax havens, with Amazon choosing to do so in Luxembourg. As it turns out, “Lone Ranger Juncker” was finance minister and then prime minister of Luxembourg for over 20 years (up to December 2013), during which time he didn’t seem to see much need to fight the “good fight” that he is preaching now.

And while he is “harmonising telecom laws” maybe Juncker should also harmonise some banking laws so that Luxembourg and the other tax havens are no longer able to provide cosy hidey-holes for corporate cash. If ever there were a case of a fox being put in charge of the chicken coop, this is certainly it.
Alan Mitcham
Cologne, Germany


• Since the bygone day I first subscribed to Guardian Weekly (the early 70s), I have admired the free-flowing translations of Le Monde articles, myself understanding the trials of translating, considered an easy task for those in command of just one language. I imagined a committee of analysers and correctors poring over the text. No, I check my back page and see the name of Harry Forster. My hat off to you Harry, or “Chapeau!” as they say here.
E Slack
L’Isle Jourdain, France

Please send letters to


Your report (29 July) that the think-tank ResPublica is proposing that bankers swear a Hippocratic-style oath of good service made me wince.

As a retired financial services compliance officer, I can confirm that the traders responsible for rate rigging and interest rate swap mis-sales, and their senior management, responsible for the oversight of the traders’ actions via the operations of effective risk management systems and controls, would have been individually registered in that capacity with the Financial Conduct Authority and its predecessors. Moreover, each firm (bank) and each candidate, as part of that process, would both have been required to make fitness and propriety declarations, with follow-up checks then performed by the regulators.

The woeful paucity of prosecutions thus far, whether civil or criminal, against those guilty parties, with all of that machinery in place, just makes ResPublica’s suggestion seem all the more risible.

That said, I am sure that those tens of thousands of entirely blameless back-office financial services employees on below-average wages (yes, they’re “bankers” too), who looked on powerless, and in horror, as their life savings and/or livelihoods were destroyed by the so-called “Masters of the Universe”, would have no qualms whatsoever about signing up.

Jeremy Redman
London SE6


Hit Putin where it really hurts

Your editorial “Own goal” (28 July) is precisely right. The remote prospect of Fifa dumping Russia as host of the 2018 World Cup plays straight to the hands of their keep-fit expansionist President. Sanctions must be targeted where they really hurt. This requires the resolve of the EU as a whole.

Undermining Putin’s power at home requires a body-blow to the Russian economy, with the inevitable knock-on effect on his core support. The logic of arming Russian separatists would almost certainly be lost on middle-class investors watching their portfolios haemorrhage, or captains of industry seeing their businesses collapse due to supply problems.

In the hand-rubbing occupation of redrawing borders, Putin will not listen to Europe, not even to Angela Merkel. If he is to be reined in, then his own people must do it.

Mike Galvin
Tewkesbury, Gloucestershire

Nick Clegg wants the World Cup taken away from Russia in 2018. Four years is a long way off. The downing of the Malaysian plane may not be as significant then and may be overtaken by bigger events, even major wars, who knows? Will Nick Clegg be around to explain to the footballing world why the World Cup was taken away from Russia?

S Matthias
London SE1

So first we had Mr Putin, then President Putin, then “Putin”, and now you give us “dictator” Putin (“The dictator in his labyrinth”, 26 July). That only leaves “brutal dictator” Putin and we can go after him. I must go and buy shares in arms manufacturers and fracking companies. Oh, and renewing Trident is a shoo-in. Well done, one and all.

Colin Burke

Hamas wages a propaganda war

The world, and your publication in particular, seems to have forgotten that Israel is a tiny country surrounded by 300 million Arabs, the majority of whom are pledged to bring about her destruction. Israel is forced to build strong defences and yet, when these work, she is castigated for their success, as if it is unacceptable that Hamas has failed to murder more Israeli civilians.

Hamas know that they cannot win militarily. Their objective is to win the propaganda war, thereby convincing the international community to force Israel to accept their outrageous demands. To win this war they need as high a death count as possible, preferably with hundreds of women and children. That is why they site their missiles in schools, hospitals and heavily populated areas.

Tina Son
Edgware, Middlesex

The images of Gaza published during the recent lull in Israeli bombardment reminded me of similar photographs you published of Homs after the Syrian bombardment there, also directed at “terrorists”.

The invention and perpetuation of an international “war on terror” has allowed any militaristic regime to justify the most heinous war crimes by simply classifying their intended targets as terrorists, and all innocent victims as regrettable collateral damage.

The Israeli assault on the residents of Gaza was the latest but not the last domino to fall in a long chain of events starting with the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land outside their internationally recognised borders. Until this original offence is corrected there will surely be no end to the succession of action and reaction from both sides in the conflict.

Peter DeVillez


Scottish vote is about democracy

Mary Dejevsky’s piece on 25 July demonstrates yet again that The Independent, fine newspaper that it is, and its columnists, not to mention the English media as a whole, do not seem to understand Scottish politics.

She states that Alex Salmond is the “chief cause of the current tensions” when in fact it is the collapse of Labour in Scotland, a party that has been seen to be taking its orders from Westminster, that has created this situation, or should I say opportunity?

However this is not an election, it is actually a referendum. This is not an approval poll for Alex Salmond or the SNP, it is a referendum on Scottish independence.

Nor is it about romanticism, as cynical English commentators tell us; it’s about democracy and people living in Scotland having the opportunity to elect governments that will actually represent their interests rather than having governments that they did not vote for imposed on them. This is not a fight for the sake of a fight, it’s a struggle for democracy.

I would ask Mary if she could tell us when David Cameron is going to get off the starting blocks in his defence of the Union. The silence is deafening.

Gareth Harper
Largs, Ayrshire

As part of the UK, Scotland enjoys full diplomatic representation in 267 embassies and 169 trade offices around the world. In contrast, Alex Salmond’s vision is for an independent Scotland to finance around 70 to 90 embassies and 27 trade offices.

As part of the UK, Scots have a respected voice in the UN Security Council, the G7, G8 and G20. We are seen as one of the big players in the EU, not least because the UK is the second biggest contributor to the EU budget. An independent Scotland would never enjoy the same international clout.

Talk of a fairer Scotland, social inclusion, stopping London Tories from pulling Scotland’s strings, cannot hide the divisive political experiment that the SNP has embarked upon.

Scotland, as we have all come to celebrate in the past few days, is a great country. We have achieved greatness as part of the United Kingdom. We have forged our destiny together with our English, Welsh and Northern Irish neighbours, none of whom want us  to go.

Struan Stevenson

The other day I was asked if the comparison between the Greek economy and the Scottish weather would produce a new currency for Scotland called the Dreichma. My response was to say unlikely, for with two fish at the helm, a Salmon(d) and a Sturgeon, it would more likely be chips.

Peter Minshall
Tarbert, Argyll


Bring the people to Westminster

Your editorial (28 July) argues that Ed Miliband’s proposal for a public PMQs is “the wrong answer to the right question” of bridging the gap between the public and the political elite, and that it would be difficult to ensure that the selection of “average” citizens for these sessions was truly representative.

I support Ed Miliband’s proposal, but would go further by bringing “the people” into Parliament directly, by introducing Citizen Senators into a reformed and renamed House of Lords, selected by lot as per jury selection.

They would serve one-year terms and be given training. They would compose 50 per cent of the chamber, with the remainder made up of “Expert Senators” selected by an independent appointments system, and “Political Senators” appointed by the party leaders. The bloc of Citizen Senators would be sworn to consider legislation purely on its merit, eschewing political or other bias, much as jurors are sworn to serve justice alone.

This system would have numerous benefits, including maintaining the admirable expertise of the present House of Lords, providing an antidote to the increasing professionalisation of politics and being truly representative.

John Slinger
Chair, Pragmatic Radicalism, Rugby


Sir, Matt Ridley says that a recent Department of Energy and Climate Change report vindicated his claims about the use of sustainable biomass (“Another renewable myth goes up in smoke”, July 28). The report concluded that there is a right way and a wrong way to source biomass — this is why Drax has argued for tough sustainability standards.

The report was clear that sustainably sourced biomass delivers significant carbon savings relative to coal and gas. Better still, there is no shortage of such sustainable biomass. Drax ensures that the biomass it uses is sustainable and delivers real carbon savings. Even after processing and transporting the biomass, we deliver carbon savings of over 80 per cent compared to coal.

What it comes down to is the need for a diverse, affordable energy mix, including gas as Matt Ridley suggests, but also biomass and other renewables, nuclear and clean coal.

Dorothy Thompson
Drax Group

Sir, Matt Ridley’s critique of options for future energy supply should have shown why reducing energy demand should be the national priority. The lights then wouldn’t go out, as he warns, because they would be low-energy bulbs made in the UK, lighting highly insulated buildings that had been upgraded by skilled workers, all building resilience into the heart of the UK’s economy.

Alistair Kirkbride
Staveley, Cumbria

Sir, Matt Ridley is right about biomass, it is not a genuine renewable. The case for biomass assumes that its growth absorbs the same amount of CO2 produced as when it is burnt. The fact that these two actions occur a decade apart, on different continents and has to be subsidised does not seem to worry the DECC.

Sadly, the downsides as mentioned by Ridley will inevitably come home to roost with the cost of power rising to levels that homes and industry will be unable to afford.

John Spiller

Sir, Matt Ridley overlooks the Cinderella of the energy industry, our gas grid. A typical home uses five times as much gas as electrical energy, and in winter the ratio is even higher. The biggest sources of clean gas are waste and biomass. The electricity produced from these is only 15-30 per cent of their fuel energy whereas they could deliver 70-90 per cent of that as “clean gas”.

Agriculture, as a supplier of biomass, could become a major energy source without jeopardising food production. Instead of being a major source of emissions it could become carbon negative. This could be done much more quickly than the four or more decades Ridley suggests it would take to grow trees.

Bill Powell
Stapleford, Cambs

Sir, DECC’s report actually supports the low-carbon case for biomass. The value of this new biomass calculator is that it helps to draw the boundaries between good and bad practice in terms of carbon savings. World-leading regulations, basic forestry economics and generations of improving forestry best practice all drive a highly sustainable approach to the biomass supply chain. The calculator does not account for these real world factors, and yet still finds that biomass can deliver major carbon savings.

Dr Nina Skorupska
Renewable Energy Association

The war on illegal drugs has been an expensive failure – it is time to treat it as a public health matter

Sir, Ross Clark’s column (“Falling crime shows we are winning the war on drugs”, July 24) uses good data but draws the wrong conclusions.

The so-called war on drugs has been a failure at every level. After more than 40 years and an estimated $1 trillion spent, it has done nothing to reduce drug supply or demand around the world, not to mention crime. At the same time, as the WHO, UNAids and the Global Commission on Drug Policy have repeatedly shown, the ongoing criminalisation of drug users contributes significantly to the spread of HIV/Aids, hepatitis and other diseases.

No one denies the correlation between illicit drug use and crime, particularly in the case of heroin or crack. However, not even the Home Office study Mr Clark cites links the decline in UK crime rates since 1995 to the ongoing criminalisation of drug use or tougher sentences.

The idea that anyone is advocating a full-scale legalisation of heroin or crack cocaine is a typical straw-man argument. Mr Clark may know that heroin is already available on prescription in the UK. Access needs to be expanded to more users whose health and recovery could benefit from it, but no one is calling for heroin to be legally sold in shops.

Perhaps most importantly, we know from prescription initiatives around the world, including in the UK, that those with access to them commit far fewer crimes. The obvious reason: they don’t have to fundraise to pay the inflated cost of street heroin any more. No one is breaking into homes or robbing people to buy alcohol.

It’s time to get our priorities right. The best way of reducing drug-related crime is to treat drug use as a public health issue. Decriminalisation of drug use, as well as access to treatment, clean needles and harm reduction services are our best options to ensure that acquisitive crime is reduced and people struggling with drug addiction can get back on their feet.

Sir Richard Branson

Commissioner, Global Commission on Drug Policy

We the people elected our MPs to ask questions of the prime minister, so why have another question session?

Sir, Ed Miliband’s suggestion to create a public Prime Minister’s Questions is misguided (“Miliband and his image problem meet head-on”, July 27). We already have a political system in which MPs are elected to represent our views and concerns.

The representativeness of British politics will not be enhanced by weekly questions posed by people selected by an all-new superstructure of statistically representative selection. Indeed, that is not democracy. Rather, time and effort would be better spent supporting our current system, ensuring that MPs are empowered to represent their constituents, and their constituents are empowered to hold them to account for doing so.

That a potential leader of our country suggested this futile exercise suggests that he misunderstands the foundations of our political system.

Andrew Bailey

London, W9

Power cuts are tiresome but it would help if the electricity companies thought about their customers

Sir, The day after the monsoon weather here in the southeast we suffered a power cut. As this rendered PC, wi-fi and landline unusable I had recourse to a smartphone and entering “electrical outage” I found myself looking at a very helpful website with a comprehensive list of power cuts.

Unfortunately I don’t live in Canada, but congratulations to Hydro Quebec for such an informative site; if only the statutory bodies here in the UK could be as transparent.

Patrick Hogan

Beaconsfield, Bucks

Can we compare the V1 and V2 rocket attacks in the war with Hamas’s bombardments of Israel?

Sir, Colonel Richard Kemp (Opinion, July 25) might have looked more closely at the rocket attacks on Britain between June 1944 and March 1945. The V2 rocket took just five minutes from launch to impact. It flew too high and too fast to be tracked and there was no time for any warning. So we had no time “to race terrified to the shelters”. People went to work and children went to school as normal. We did, however, have posters that urged us to “Keep Calm and Carry On”.

Peter Barrett

Tunbridge Wells, Kent


Fighting the airborne threat in seaside towns

The growing problem of opportunist seagulls

One fell swoop: a seagull steals an egg from a clifftop nest on Inner Farne, Northumberland  Photo: GETTY IMAGES

6:58AM BST 29 Jul 2014


SIR – It is time for local authorities in our coastal towns to take emergency measures to control seagull infestation. The problem in east Devon has become serious, and in some Cornish towns it is at crisis level.

People eating food outdoors are the target of regular attacks if birds are nesting on nearby buildings. Sooner or later someone will sustain a serious eye injury or facial damage when these pests swoop in. Children eating ice creams are an easy target and are at high risk of injury.

The destruction of all nests, unless in natural habitats, should be considered as a way of encouraging seagulls back to their natural feeding grounds.

Jeremy R Holt
Honiton, Devon

Swim when you’re winning: Francesca Halsall (centre) proudly shows off her gold medal at the 2014 Commonwealth Games Photo: GETY IMAGES

6:59AM BST 29 Jul 2014


SIR – I cheered on all the English swimmers at the Commonwealth Games and was delighted to see Francesca Halsall and Siobhan-Marie O’Connor win gold.

I stood proudly for the English national anthem at the medal ceremony for the latter, expecting to hear “God Save the Queen”. I was astounded and horrified to hear “Jerusalem” being played and called the English national anthem. Why?

Clive R Garston
London SW8

SIR – The first verse of “Jerusalem” consists of four questions. The answer to each of them is “No”. How then can this be a suitable anthem for anything?

John Wilkins
Ware, Hertfordshire

SIR – “God Save the Queen” will always be the national anthem in England, regardless of what the Scots decide in September.

It’s a bit of a West Lothian suggestion for a Scot (Letters, July 28) to suggest that Jerusalem should be our anthem.

Major William Mills (retd)
Coolham, West Sussex

SIR – At the Commonwealth Games in Manchester in 2002, not “Jerusalem” but “Land of Hope and Glory” was played when English athletes won gold medals.

Christine Roberts
Wilmslow, Cheshire

SIR – In the photograph of Laura Trott, the England cycling gold medallist (report, July 28), her cycle helmet bore a Union Jack and not a St George’s Cross.

Moira Brodie
Swindon, Wiltshire

SIR – Graham Bond (Letters, July 26) asks whether croquet should be included in the Commonwealth Games. Men and women regardless of age compete in croquet and it would fit the Friendly Games’ ethos well.

Roger Gentry
Sutton-at-Hone, Kent

SIR – While watching the rhythmic gymnastics, I heard the commentator remark: “That was a dangerous routine.” This led me to wonder just how much danger you can have with a hoop.

Dr Michael Sparrow
Lifton, Devon

Fracking and wildlife

SIR – Will the new measures to protect national parks and beautiful views apply to wind turbines as well as fracking?

The overstated risks attached to fracking compare favourably with the actual adverse effects on vistas and wildlife from subsidised wind turbines. Wind turbines are responsible for widespread slaughter of birds and bats.

David Julier
Cheltenham, Gloucestershire

SIR – What would be the “exceptional circumstances” allowing fracking in a national park?

Steve Cattell
Grantham, Lincolnshire

Mushed potatoes

SIR – This year I have grown a wonderful crop of Charlotte potatoes – plentiful, well-matched in size, clean and healthy.

However, cooking them is a major problem. Before they are half cooked they split open and by the time they are fully cooked they present only as a sad mush.

While strictly speaking edible, they are scarcely presentable in polite society.

Why does this occur and is there any way round this problem?

Peter Morrison
Bath, Somerset

Libyan evacuation

SIR – Is David Cameron still congratulating himself on encouraging freedom in Libya, where all British nationals are now being told to leave as it is not safe any more?

Where is the next target?

Keith Moore
Yoxford, Suffolk

Russia’s World Cup

SIR – Although it is rarely hard to disagree with Nick Clegg, his plea for Russia to lose the right to host the 2018 World Cup may not be without merit.

Had we known the future, would Germany have hosted the 1936 Olympics?

Robert Stephenson
Henley-on-Thames, Oxfordshire

Day’s loss, night’s gain

SIR – I, along with many others, regret that Evan Davis is leaving the “Today” programme. He is audible, informed, articulate, and, unlike others, does not gabble or lose the thread of an argument.

I am sure he will do well as the presenter of “Newsnight”, but I shall miss him.

Suzanne Shillingford
Cowden, Kent

Anti-ant tactics

SIR – Regarding “super ants”, we had many years’ experience of the little devils when we lived in Greece.

These fire ants got everywhere, and particularly into electrical appliances and sockets. Many an evening was spent with no lights due to their chewing through power cables in the walls.

The only sure-fire way of defeating them was Blu-Tac; a thin layer spread around the edges of a socket or switch seemed to keep them at bay. I found it difficult to keep them out of some appliances though, such as the sewing machine or computer.

Alan Jones
Boston, Lincolnshire

Fleet of foot

SIR – In this modern, egalitarian age, why do new warships continue to be named after royalty? Times have changed.

Why not name them after well-known public figures? HMS Rooney would ring many bells with a large section of the populace.

George Harrison
Tunbridge Wells, Kent

The shortest way to set the length of shorts

SIR – Shorts (Letters, July 28) should be worn the width of a Woodbine packet above the centre of the knee cap.

Pat Hargrave
West Dean, Wiltshire

SIR – When I was a member of an East Midlands golf club, knee-length shorts were allowed in the summer.

The length was regulated so that, when kneeling, the bottom of the shorts should touch an upright matchbox.

Gerald Codd
Manorbier, Pembrokeshire

SIR – I am enjoying wearing the shorts I first wore as a midshipman during the Korean War. I would suggest the Royal Navy had it right: one inch above the knee.

Bill Woodhouse
Mappowder, Dorset

SIR – The correct length of a pair of men’s shorts, above or below the knee, depends on the length of the legs from the knee down. Nothing looks worse than long shorts on short legs. The type of footwear also matters, as do the dreadful socks that most men seem loath to leave off.

Carolyn Martin
Winchester, Hampshire

SIR – I have every sympathy with Patrick Wroe (Letters, July 28) regarding the slippage of his mini socks. The only elegant way to deal with this problem is not to wear any socks at all. Lightly cream your feet the first few times before you bravely thrust them bare into your sandals, trainers or leisure shoes. You will look and feel good and save on laundry costs.

Barry Hawkes
Bourne End, Buckinghamshire

SIR – Shorts of any length, outside a sporting context, are an abomination.

Christopher Barlow

SIR – Does a gentleman wear shorts?

Gerry Gomez
Walsall, Staffordshire

SIR – I agree with the proposition that voting for Ukip increases the chances of Ed Miliband gaining access to Downing Street almost by default (report, July 28). This is caused by the idiosyncrasies of our first-past-the-post voting system and the bias of the constituency system in favour of the Labour Party.

Surely, however, a Labour majority built on perhaps less than 35 per cent of the popular vote would not carry any meaningful legitimacy – certainly not for any kind of radical programme.

Yet a vote for the Conservatives is a vote for the tired and worn-out status quo. I don’t find either prospect appealing.

Howard Tolman
Epping, Essex

SIR – It seems odd to me that Labour is making it known that if Ukip gains enough seats, Labour will win the next general election. Must it rely on a third party to remove seats from their main opponent?

Considering the damage that Ukip has done to the Conservatives’ EU plans without a single seat in Parliament, does Labour really want to enter a new Parliament with Ukip holding multiple seats and Nigel Farage grinning like a fox from the back benches?

Adrian Kirkup
Salisbury, Wiltshire

SIR – The main policy of Ukip is for Britain to leave the EU. This can only be achieved through a referendum.

A referendum requires appropriate legislation. That requires a vote in the House of Commons. The only party which will deliver it is the Conservative Party. Hence all Ukip supporters must vote Conservative for the Ukip policy to prevail. Simple logic, really.

Dr Peter L Kolker
Goostrey, Cheshire

SIR – In a true democracy, the essential feature of elections should be that people vote for those who represent the principles and policies in which they believe, not that they should vote in a negative or so-called tactical manner.

If one wishes Britain to be an independent sovereign state, then vote Ukip. If not, then there are three other parties to choose from, all of which are willing to see the country become a province of a single European state run from Brussels.

Do not vote for a party merely to keep another out, but because you wish it to win.

Colin Bullen
Tonbridge, Kent

SIR – The most depressing thing about yesterday’s headline, “Ukip may hand keys of No 10 to Miliband” is that such scare stories risk saddling us with the current Labour-Tory duopoly for ever more because folk will be afraid to vote for anything else.

What a dreadful thought!

Terry Lloyd
Darley Abbey, Derbyshire

Irish Times:

A chara, – I am baffled by your editorial (July 29th). It appears to be an ongoing phenomenon with the media and the Government here that nobody can actually be critical of Israel alone. What is the difficulty? The roughly 1,100 dead in Gaza, the vast majority of them innocent men, women and children, are constantly equated with the 51 Israeli soldiers killed in combat. The ongoing demolition of houses, hospitals and schools is constantly equated with warning sirens going off in some cities in Israel. Why?

Many of us expect our nodding, forelock-tugging Government to react as instructed by the US and the EU – the recent UN vote being a clear indication of that.

Why can our media not show us photographs of those sunbathing on Israeli beaches side by side with the photographs of the bombed beaches in Gaza where children have been massacred? Why not show us the photographs of Israelis cheering the bombing of Gaza from hilltops side by side with the photographs of the Gazans screaming with sorrow and pain after their families are wiped out?

When will our media cannot speak out? Why do The Irish Times and other newspapers, as well as telvision networks, tread an imaginary line of equality through this massacre? There is no doubt that there should be fairness in the media coverage of Gaza but that fairness of coverage is being constantly translated as equality of coverage. There is nothing equal about what is happening in Gaza and Israel. It is time for the media to stand up and call it as it is. – Is mise,


Whitehall Road,

Dublin 14

Sir, – Eugene Tannam berates the long list of eminent signatories who criticised Israel (July 28th) with the sentence “It’s called balance.” Did he miss the irony that the lack of balance in the response of Israel to Hamas is the biggest point being made? Balance cannot be achieved where one side is so much more powerful. The UN should be handed control of Gaza before any more children die. – Yours, etc,


Birchfield Park,


Dublin 14

Sir, – The images published by the Israeli embassy using the statue of Molly Malone would seem to be at odds with Irish values and perhaps the Prohibition of Incitement to Hatred Act, 1989 if the intention was to incite anti-Muslim sentiment here.

Foreign diplomats may enjoy diplomatic immunity but are they welcome to spread division and prejudice in Ireland? And how do these images represent those Israelis who do not see Muslims as the enemy, not to mention the 20 per cent or so of Israel’s population that is Arab and Muslim itself? – Yours, etc,


Cap Estate,

St Lucia

Sir, – The Minister for Foreign Affairs believes Israel has been “demonised” by an Irish media, “enslaved” to the Palestinian cause. Perhaps he should also consider the international media and, in particular, the journalists of Palestine.

The International Federation of Journalists (which also represents some of the media of “demonised” Israel) records that four journalists have been killed in suspicious circumstances by the Israeli Defence Forces.

In addition, the offices of the National Media agency and those of Wattan radio station have been destroyed while bullets were fired at the offices of Aljazeera TV and staff were forced to evacuate.

On the night of July 28/29th an Israeli air strike destroyed the Hamas-run Al-Aqsa television and radio building in central Gaza City. Israel already has full access to the airwaves of this tiny enclave. Why does it need to silence other voices?

The dead journalists mentioned by the IFJ include Hamid Shehab, who worked for 24 Media (an independent Palestinian news agency) and was killed in his car by a rocket in the Gaza Strip area on the night of July 9th. The car was parked outside Shehab’s house and it was clearly marked as a press vehicle. Also killed were Mohammed Smirir of the Gaza Now website, Khaled Hamed of the Ray News Agency and Abdurrahman Abu Hina of Alkitab TV.

The Minister is a humane man and I suspect he wants to atone for Irish anti-Semitism. But you don’t do that by papering over possible Israeli criminality. All you do is create more anguish and more death.

The Minister is on record as saying “the truth must be told”. Who is going to tell the Gazan part of that truth without people like Hamid Shehab? Yours, etc,


Geraldine Street,

Dublin 7

Sir, – I believe that as long as the USA continues to give unqualified political and financial support to Israel there can never be a permanent solution to the Palestinian problem, of which the present pernicious eruption is merely a sympton.

Time for Barack Obama to earn his undeserved Nobel Peace prize. Yours, etc,


Crosthwaite Park


Dún Laoghaire,

Co Dublin

Sir, – The efforts of UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon to broker a ceasefire in Gaza have been thwarted by what he describes as “a lack of political will”.

How much carnage must the civilian population of Gaza endure before world political leaders muster the courage to cry halt to this senseless slaughter, and insist that Israel honours its obligations under international law?

This is not a time for political niceties.The people of Gaza, already traumatised, are now trapped in appalling living conditions with no immediate prospect of escape from blockade or bombardment. Where is our compassion as a global community for their plight? Could it be that in the eyes of many, the people of Gaza simply fall into the category of, “those human beings who do not count”? Yours, etc,




Co Kilkenny

A chara, – I am amazed by newly appointed Minister Heather Humphreys’s widely reported comments that the upcoming 1916 commemorations belong to everyone. They do not!

The Easter Rising “belongs” to those people who subscribe to the principles of the proclamation, who are republicans, and who agree with the decision to stage an armed revolution to achieve those principles. If you do not – and many people choose not to subscribe to the foregoing – then it’s patently obvious that the commemoration of the Easter Rising does not belong to you.

Ms Humpreys is, like a growing number of public figures, engaged in manipulating our history in order to dilute its message and meaning, which still prove uncomfortable and challenging.

We would do well to monitor carefully the proposed commemorations for 1916 as it is obvious that in the hands of this shameful Government, with its imperial allegiances, the commemorations will be downgraded and abused. Is mise le meas,


Shantalla Drive,

Dublin 9

Sir, – The new 68c stamp commemorating the first World War features a recruitment poster picturing John Redmond with the message: “Your first duty is to take your part in ending the war – John Redmond, Waterford 23/08/1915”. Surely the views on the war of another Irish leader of the period also deserve such recognition. The relevant quotation is a bit long but perhaps it could be accommodated to postage stamp size: “Heroism has come back to earth. The old heart of the earth needed to be warmed with the red wine of the battlefields. Such august homage was never before offered to God as this, the homage of millions of lives gladly given for love of country. – Padraig Pearse, Dublin 04/12/1915.” – Yours, etc,


Upper Fitzwilliam Street,

Dublin 2

Sir, – It is now more than 10 years since Martin Cullen TD abolished Dúchas, the Heritage Service. Our national and built monuments are not adequately protected. When I questioned the OPW decision to allow filming on Skellig Michael, a general response was “it’s about jobs”. In the deep recession of the ’80s the OPW partnered with private agencies and owners to train young people in heritage protection and craft skills (stonework, wood-carving and preservation). These were jobs and skills geared toward protecting and conserving our heritage.

In the 10 years since the abolition of Dúchas, 39 sites in Tara were demolished to facilitate the M3 toll road. There are robberies of stunning stonework and the job of Dúchas has been divided between the Department of the Environment and the OPW.

Heritage is not adequately protected. We are not training the young in conservation techniques and we have no statutory agency for protecting our natural and built heritage. There are jobs in protecting our fragile heritage infrastructure in the long term: people require skills training.

The Hollywood machine is a temporary thing. Where is the long view on jobs, on awareness and on stewardship in Ireland?

It is the job of the Minister to propose a far-sighted agenda for the work of the divided heritage agency, and yet I have seen no comment or response to the OPW decision on Skeilig from her office. We are used to disgraceful decisions affecting our environment in Ireland. Why should we be surprised now? – Yours, etc,


Kenilworth Square,

Dublin 6

Sir, – Well done to Chris Johns for his excellent article (July 29th) highlighting the ESRI report that confirms that income inequality in Ireland is less than in many other EU countries. This is a welcome retort to the hysteria from left-wingers who speak of the need to tackle income inequality as if Ireland was run like a 19th century laissez faire economy.

It is seldom argued in Ireland that income inequality is in itself not necessarily a bad thing. Equality of opportunity rather than equality of outcome is rarely the refrain of public debate. Those on the left, and some who claim to be on the right, who wish to take even more from hardworking people’s wages will never understand that income tax is not their money.

The need to balance social welfare and tax policy remains a challenge. Why is someone who is laid off after working for 20 years receiving, in relative terms, similar welfare benefits to someone who has rarely if ever worked? What Ireland urgently needs is an individual benefits voucher system that rewards hard working people and encourages others off long-term welfare. Yours, etc,



Monkstown Valley

Co Dublin

Sir, – Talk of reducing the burden on low and middle income taxpayers through reducing the top rate of tax seems dreadfully short-sighted. Last year we had a deficit of €11 billion, so talk of tax cuts seems premature. A fairer way to help those on middle and low incomes would be to increase both tax credits for those paying the lower rate of tax and to raise the threshold at which the higher rate is applied. Finally, there may be scope to increase social security contributions from employers and employees. In 2012 social security contributions made up 14 per cent of GDP in the EU and 5.8 per cent in Ireland. Yours, etc,


Vale View Grove,

Dublin 18

Sir, – Maeve Halpin’s bemoaning of the capacity of the judiciary to curb abuses of power (Letters, July 29th) is like the driver of a Rolls Royce complaining about the air conditioning.

There are countless examples of where the good and the great have in recent years been dealt with appropriately by the law. It may not always have been in the vengeful way that is desired by the general populace but rather in the way allowed for by law and overseen by a truly independent and balanced judiciary.

Examples can always be quoted where the results did not sate the howling masses, but the law is about justice, not emotion. Our judicial system is among the finest in the world but like a lot of great things in this country, we still like to moan about it. Yours, etc,


Loreto Grange,


Co Wicklow

Sir, – As I approached a lengthy queue at passport control in Dublin airport last evening I asked about using the advertised self-service passport control facility. I was told that “self-service closes at five”. Does DAA /Department of Justice employ a different definition of self-service from the rest of us? – Yours, etc,




Co Dublin

Sir, – It has been a while since I read a piece of writing that made me feel proud to be Irish. What a warm and generous tribute Dr Eckhard Lübkemeier (Opinion & Analysis, July 28th), departing German ambassador to Ireland, paid to the country he called home for the past three years. I would like to give him my very best wishes for his future, wherever it may take him. Auf Wiedersehen. – Yours, etc,


Whitebeam Road,

Dublin 14

Irish Independent:

* C Bowman (July 29) is right about the one-state solution, although probably not in the way he intended.

He asks that if Palestinians and Israelis claim they can live in peace in two states, then why can’t they live in peace in one. But he should know that they can’t because Hamas‘s explicit goal is still to get rid of Israel and kill all its citizens, not just the Jewish ones but the Muslim and Christian ‘collaborator’ ones, too. Hamas do not want to live in peace with any non-Muslim people anywhere and want to create a medieval Sharia Islamic state. How can you ever have a rational debate with people who have that aim as their starting point? Israel is the perfect deflection for when the Palestinian leadership want to divert attention from their own corruption and failings, despite the hundreds of millions provided to them, to provide even the most basic social services.

Even the IRA at the height of its terrorist campaign wasn’t going to murder all Protestants if it gained control of Northern Ireland. Even if Israel agreed to the 1967 borders it had before it was again invaded by Arab armies, Gaza and The West Bank will never make an economically viable state. The real tragedy for the Palestinians is that by the world continuing to pander to such a myth, they keep them living in their self-created ghettos across the Arab world even longer, while it is Arab states who refuse to grant Palestinians, even those born in those countries, citizenship.

The one-state solution is easy but it takes guts to point it out. That one state should be Israel.

There is no difference between a Palestinian and a Jordanian, so the West Bank should become part of Jordan and Gaza should become part of Egypt, with all the Palestinians being given a choice as to which state they want to live in and granted full citizenship in those states within a federal structure. The West and oil-rich Arab states can stump up the cost of paying for repatriation and setting up new communities with sustainable employment, that is if most of it isn’t siphoned off through corruption. Jordan and Egypt can sign a peace treaty with Israel, fixing the 1967 borders and ratified by the UN.

Radical yes, but more realistic and credible than any current efforts to force a Palestinian state that will never last, due to corruption, economic viability and inter-Muslim violence, into being.




* Now is the time to let Israel know that a complete boycott of Israel might not stop until the siege of Gaza is lifted – all goods, and contact of all description should stop. Now.




* The efforts of UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon to broker a ceasefire in Gaza have been thwarted by what he describes as “a lack of political will”. How much carnage must the civilian population of Gaza endure before world political leaders muster the courage to cry halt to this senseless slaughter, and insist that Israel desists from its practice of collective punishment of the civilian population, and honours its obligations under international law? The people of Gaza are now trapped in appalling living conditions. Where is our compassion as a global community for their plight? Could it be that in the eyes of many world leaders the people of Gaza simply fall into the category of ‘those human beings who do not count’?




* I was dismayed to read your article by Deirdre Conroy (25/7/14) deploring the lack of abortion services in Ireland. She stated that we believe it is wrong to impose inhumane and degrading treatment on any human being.

While I could not agree more with this statement, I am finding it a little difficult to see how the unborn child fails to meet with the above criteria.

Perhaps Ms Conroy would like to explain?




* The bringing of arms by the Asgard and the 1916 uprising should be appraised from different viewpoints. When this is done, violence will be seen as a zero sum game. We are all interdependent and there cannot be a mutual gain from violence. John Donne said “Never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee”. Those who glamorise violence are telling a lie and that lie can only be maintained by more violence or the threat of violence. The legacy of 1916 is poverty and emigration and the shameful neutrality in WW2 when the West was fighting for human rights against the greatest evil that ever existed in the world.




* Geraldine Lynagh’s “Top tips to achieve a longer life” (Independent, July 28) reminded me of the story of the man who visited his doctor for advice about living to the ripe old age of 100 years.

“Well,” replied the doctor, “go to bed every night at 8pm, give up the drink and the cigarettes, eat only food that is good for you rather than food you enjoy, avoid any activity that might excite you and resist the temptations of the flesh.”

“If I follow your advice and do everything you recommend,” inquired the patient, “will I live for 100yrs?”

“I can’t guarantee that,” replied the doctor, “but it will certainly feel like you have!”

It’s far more important to live life to the full and make the most of every day as we act out Shakespeare’s seven stages of life. Then we’ll have no regrets when it’s time to get off the stage. Carpe Diem!




* As Taoiseach, Enda Kenny I appeal to you, make contact with President Obama and other world leaders with regard to this madness (killing of children in Gaza conflict). Remember “the only way for evil to continue is for good men to do nothing”.




* We read in your newspaper (July 28) that the NCT organisation is to be more amenable towards motorists booking their cars in for a test. Isn’t it just a pity that they would not address the practice of backdating the test to the anniversary of first registration? This practice is there for the sole purpose of maximising the revenue from every car over four years old. No allowance is made for cars that may be genuinely off the road for long periods. In the UK the MOT cert is given for a full 12 months from the date tested, not backdated.

Brussels only dictated that cars be tested every two years or one year depending on age and did not stipulate back-to-back dating of tests. I know this as I complained to the Commissioner for Transport last year. He determined that the Irish Government was not doing anything illegal.

Illegal, maybe not, but morally dishonest, yes.



Irish Independent


July 29, 2014

29 July 2014 Bank

I jog around the park I still have arthritis in my left knee, but I manage to get round the park. A very very dry day

Scrabble I win, but gets under 400. perhaps Mary will win tomorrow.


Captain Brian Thomas – obituary

Captain Brian Thomas was a Royal Engineer who dodged mines to land ‘Popski’s Private Army’ in Venice

Brian Thomas

5:20PM BST 28 Jul 2014


Captain Brian Thomas, who has died aged 90, brought the commander of “Popski’s Private Army” and six heavily-armed Jeeps across the Venetian lagoon and landed them in St Mark’s Square in April 1945 just before the German surrender.

The month before, Thomas was ordered to take five ramped cargo lighters (RCLs), loaded with Jeeps, from Ravenna to the Po delta, behind the German lines. He was then to place them under the command of No 1 Demolition Squadron, better known as Popski’s Private Army (PPA), led by Major (later Lieutenant-Colonel) Vladimir Peniakoff.

As dawn was breaking they caught sight of a large magnetic mine in their path, but altered course just in time and avoided it. A few miles up a tributary of the river Po they encountered detonators attached to heavy cables spanning the river.

The Jeeps were offloaded and the craft with their shallow draughts managed to pass over the obstacles without mishap. When German soldiers were found to be guarding some of the lock gates, Thomas called up one of the Jeeps and they opened up with a Bren and forced them to surrender.

On April 29, at the port of Chióggia, they rendezvoused with “Popski”, who had just returned from England. He had lost a hand in action and was brandishing a large, shiny, chromium-plated hook and shouting: “Nobody is going to stop us now, boys!”

Canadian troops were going into Venice from the north. Popski, who had long nourished an ambition to bring his squadron into the city, said to Thomas: “We will go in from the south — by water!”

Thomas observed afterwards: “The thrill of that moment can never be told properly. There were a few snipers to sort out and then we were going to experience something that no man had ever done. We were going to drive a vehicle around St Mark’s Square. The whole of the population of Venice seemed to be in the square cheering us as we went round. This was a marvellous moment – perhaps the most marvellous one experienced by any of our Allies in the war.”

Thomas (smoking pipe) and companions in Venice

Brian Ewart Thomas was born at Woodford, Essex, on June 17 1923 and educated at Hillcrest High School, Frinton-on- Sea. In 1940 he was commissioned into the Corps of Royal Engineers and posted to 945 Inland Waterway Transport Company.

He took part in Operation Husky, the invasion of Sicily, in July 1943 and landed on the mainland of Italy in September just before the surrender of the Italian Navy. His first task was to commandeer all the serviceable boats in the port of Brindisi for the Army’s use.

Early in 1945 he was sent to Pesaro in command of a group of men for training with RCLs. The usual role of these was lighterage transport after assault landings, but senior officers were excited by the prospect of concealing heavily armed Jeeps in the boats and bringing them up the Adriatic coast to land them behind the German lines.

On one occasion Thomas helped to deploy 20 full-sized dummy tanks. They were made of rubber and were used to deceive enemy reconnaissance aircraft taking photographs at high altitude. They were very realistic, and much amusement was derived from confronting a newly-joined sapper with one of them and ordering him to pick it up and take it away.

After the German surrender Thomas moved his unit to the island of St Giórgio, where they were responsible for all shipping movements within the Venetian lagoon. He was mentioned in despatches.

Thomas was demobilised after the war. He worked for an agricultural company and for Unilever as well as managing pubs in Cornwall, Hampshire and Sussex before retiring to a village in Surrey in 1990. He enjoyed horse racing, golf and bird watching.

Brian Thomas married, in 1951, Shirley Mitchell. She predeceased him, and he is survived by their two sons and a daughter.

Captain Brian Thomas, born June 17 1923, died June 3 2014


Coalition government ministers purr with satisfaction if not excitement over the economy reaching 0.8% growth in the second quarter of 2014 to regain 2008 levels (Report, 26 July). Is nobody going to make a comparison with 2010?

Office for National Statistics figures show that for the third quarter of 2010 (the last over which Labour can claim any significant influence) growth had reached around 1%. Within three years of the start of the financial crisis Labour had restored growth.

The coalition’s excessive austerity plunged the country back into recession followed by several years of flat-lining. Growth has returned in spite of, not because of, the government. Such “plans” as the government had were abandoned as £375bn of quantitative easing (which no one condemned as the equivalent of printing money) was pumped into the economy.

Other direct interference in the beloved free markets could also have been put to better use than stoking the London and south-east property boom.
Nigel de Gruchy
Orpington, Kent

• Despite their commitment not to use any of the income generated by the £375bn of quantitative easing, the latest figures are astonishing: £11.3bn of QE income by 31 March 2013 and a further £31.1bn of QE income during 2013-14. Despite this additional £42.4bn – which in itself reduces additional borrowing and compounded interest – the government is far off its commitments to cut government debt. Its policies are abject failures. Meanwhile, the Ministry of Defence accounts have been delayed – not for the first time. The resources and equipment that we rely on to protect us cannot be assured.
Mark Bill

Paul Mason argues cogently for state involvement in technical innovation (G2, 28 July) – but backs his case with an extremely poor example, Concorde. What benefits did that absurdly expensive (and subsequently junked) white elephant bring? Very little, as a study by the department of economics at San Jose State University showed, suggesting that “special interests manipulated the levers of government to create a product whose costs far exceed its benefits” – and what benefits there were accrued to better-off travellers at the expense of the general population of taxpayers. The study concluded that the development of Concorde was a prime example of the failure of government to function as it should. Pretty damning – and the exact opposite of what Mason argues.
Dr Richard Carter

• It’s very kind of the Mexican billionaire, Carlos Slim, to come up with a scheme for making ordinary people work into their 70s (Report, 21 July). It goes to show we’ve come a long way from the 1980s, when we were told that the problem of the 21st century would be what to do with our vastly increased leisure time because of the miraculous advances of technology.

Instead we have longer working hours, low wages and rapidly diminishing job security. The technology has indeed improved productivity but instead of this improving the lives of working people it has been hoovered up by the mega-rich, leaving the gap between them and the rest of us wider than ever.
Pete Cresswell

• Carlos Slim’s suggestion that we should all work a three-day week is not in our opinion the answer to “what is the future of work” but it does raise some important issues.

Workload pressures and culture already drive long hours in many workplaces and is an increasing challenge in an ever-demanding world. Working families need time to be together to function well, so asking parents and carers to work longer hours even across fewer days simply adds to their stress and impacts on their performance at work.

When every workplace recognises and culturally embraces employee wellbeing and work-life balance and when parents are able to readily access flexible and affordable childcare, equality for fathers at home and for mothers at work will become a reality.

If caring and work were shared more equally between men and women, we could achieve a more balanced way of working without mandating a three-day week.
Sarah Jackson
Chief executive, Working Families

• As I am not an economist, can we have a wall-chart explaining why the global financial collapse was all the fault of the previous Labour government while the global economic recovery is wholly the result of the policies of the Conservative-led coalition?
Professor Mike Elliott
Leven, East Yorkshire

Your correspondent’s argument that “landbanking” by house-builders is somehow the cause of the housing crisis (Letters, 23 July) is fundamentally misguided. The majority of land in a supposed landbank is actually land stuck in the planning system with an outline permission, waiting for an implementable permission so work can actually start, or sites already under construction. We estimate around 150,000 plots are currently in the system awaiting final approval. A recent Home Builders Federation survey of 23 large house-builders showed that just 4% of homes on sites with an implementable permission hadn’t been started. If we are to sustain increases in house-building, speeding up planning and getting agreed sites through so work can start is paramount.

Strategic land promotion involves the long-term identification of land suitable for development by house-builders and others. There is no guarantee that such land will ever be granted planning permission and it could take years and millions of pounds of investment to do so. Companies are judged by investors on their return on capital employed. Once they have paid for a site and have achieved implementable consent, getting a return by building and selling homes is the only sensible option. Sitting on land costs money and makes no sense for a home builder.

The organisations sitting on land are rarely house-building companies. People should stop peddling myths and focus on practical ways to provide land needed to meet housing requirements. Attacking house-builders for hoarding land allows anti-development lobbyists to ignore the responsibilities we have to ensure that the next generation have a good quality, affordable home in which to live. House-builders are part of the solution, not the problem.
 Stewart Baseley, Steve Turner
Home Builders Federation

The new secretary of state for education, Nicky Morgan, makes various pledges following the “Trojan horse” reports on Birmingham schools. Several of her pledges are valuable. The basis for them, however, is unsound. Peter Clarke’s report is not “forensic”, as Nicky Morgan claims (Report, 22 July), but a biased mix of uncorroborated smear, anecdote, hoax and chatroom gossip.

It reflects neoconservative assumptions about the nature of extremism; ignores significant testimony and viewpoints; implies the essential problem in Birmingham is simply the influence of certain individuals; discusses governance but not curriculum; ignores the concerns and perceptions of parents and young people; and is unlikely to bear judicial scrutiny. The Trojan horse affair has done much damage in Birmingham, both to individuals and to community cohesion.

Political leaders have key roles in the urgent process of restoration and support for curriculum renewal. Alas, they will not be much helped by the official reports of Clarke, Ian Kershaw and Ofsted.

They will, though, be helped by the unique strength and goodwill of people in Birmingham itself.
Tim Brighouse, Gus John, Arun Kundnani, Sameena Choudry, Akram Khan-Cheema, Arzu Merali, Robin Richardson, Maurice Irfan Coles, Gill Cressey, Steph Green, Ashfaque Chowdhury, Ibrahim Hewitt, Baljeet Singh Gill, Arshad Ali, S Sayyid, Massoud Shadjareh, Abdool Karim Vakil and Tom Wylie

• The assertion by Patrick Wintour (Schools face new curbs on extremism after Birmingham Trojan horse affair, 22 July) that the National Union of Teachers was “widely believed” to be one of the professional bodies mentioned in Peter Clarke’s inquiry that put to one side “systematic problems” affecting members in Birmingham schools is totally wrong.

First, the NUT has brought concerns to the attention of the local authority on a number of occasions and over a number of years – more so in fact than any other union. Second, it was the NUT that brought the Trojan horse letter to the attention of the local authority and insisted that the matter was discussed and investigated. We have not sought a single compromise agreement in schools supposedly affected by the affair. We always try to deal with matters by collective means or by addressing the issue with management of a school or its governing body in the first instance. Clarke did not ask us to help with the inquiry, although we would have been happy to do so. However, the outcome of the inquiry should enable things to move forward and the appointment of Bob Kerslake by the education secretary to oversee the local authority is a necessary and reasonable move.

Racism, bullying, misogyny, religious sectarianism and homophobia have no place in our schools. Where they occur they need to be dealt with effectively and quickly. Pupils, parents, schools and the local community have been under fire for months and have faced accusations, largely unsubstantiated, as to the ethos and practice of their schools. It is time for Birmingham council and local communities to develop a clear vision for education in Birmingham.
Roger King
National executive member, National Union of Teachers, Birmingham

EU foreign policy needs a strong leader

Jean-Claude Juncker with David Cameron: now Juncker needs to get a serious replacement for Cathy Ash

The world will be watching when the EU selects a candidate to lead its foreign and security policy on 30 August. With planes being shot down over Ukraine, the Middle East descending into sectarianism and tensions mounting in Asia, this is not a time for novices. Europe’s citizens expect to see the appointment of what Jean-Claude Juncker described as a “strong and experienced player” to coordinate EU policy and review its global strategy. European leaders must encourage the commission president to back this candidate with new specialist posts for the southern Mediterranean and the eastern neighbourhood, and the authority to coordinate the work of other commissioners whose portfolios touch upon foreign and security policy, such as trade, development and humanitarian aid. The council of ministers must put aside narrow interests about geographical balances, quotas, and personalities to select the strongest candidate. Europe’s standing in the world is in their hands.
Esther Alcocer Koplowitz, Franziska Brantner Member of the Bundestag, Erhard Busek, Daniel Daianu, Jose M de Areilza Caravajal, Pavol Demes Former Slovak minister, Andrew Duff Former UK MEP, Hans Eichel Former German finance minister, Lykke Friis Former Danish minister, Heather Grabbe, Charles Grant, Ulrike Guerot, Diego Hidalgo, Wolfgang Ischinger Former German diplomat, Gerald Knaus, David Koranyi, Meglena Kuneva Former EU commissioner, Sonja Licht, Irene Lozano Member of the Spanish parliament, Nickolay Mladenov Former Bulgarian foreign minister, Alina Mungiu-Pippidi, Dietmar Nietan Member of the Bundestag, Christine Ockrent, Andrzej Olechowski Former Polish foreign minister, Mabel van Oranje, Andres Ortega, Ana Palacio Former Spanish foreign minister, Simon Panek, Laurence Parisot, Ruprecht Polenz Former member of the Bundestag, Charles Powell, Andrew Puddephatt, Robert Reibestein, Karel Schwarzenberg Former Czech foreign minister, Aleksander Smolar, George Soros, Volker Stanzel Former German diplomat, Pawel Swieboda, Vaira Vike Frebeirga Former president of Latvia, Karla Wursterova, Stelios Zavvos

Ian Birrell, former speech writer to David Cameron, is right to liken political funding to a political sore (No tennis, no backhanders, 26 July). However, he is wrong to equate the unions providing funds to Labour with rich individuals making donations to the Conservatives. Union leaders are elected by members; unions have to secure members’ permission to maintain a political fund by secret ballot at least once every 10 years; and union members have the legal right to opt out of paying the political levy. Contrast this with the unaccountability of oligarchs, hedge fund chiefs and private equity firms buying influence with the Tories. In calling for a cap of £10,000 on individual donations and the end of any other funding, Birrell appears to be trying to tilt the balance of funding further towards the Tories. While £10k would be small change to a merchant banker, it represents 50% of the median UK annual wage after tax. By all means look at alternative ways of funding political parties but let’s consider ways that make the funding more equitable and transparent.
Fred Pickering
Chapel-en-le-Frith, Derbyshire

Royal De Luxe Giants Take To The Streets of Liverpool

In recalling the role played by the splendidly named Miss England in persuading the Imperial Society of Teachers of Dancing to give official recognition to the Lambeth Walk in 1938 (From the archive, 26 July), should we perhaps also credit her with helping in the fight against fascism?  In the 1940s several film studios distributed versions of a Ministry of Information camp re-mix of footage of Hitler and Nazi soldiers from Leni Riefenstahl’s Triumph of the Will set to the Lambeth Walk, annoying the Fascist leadership.
Tim Barnsley

• Does Santanu Das’s plea to remember the African and Asian soldiers who fought in European wars (The first world war and the colour of memory, 23 July) include the Indian soldiers ofGermany’s Free India Legion who fought in the Waffen SS?
Dave Young

•  I note that in 1927, the Retford, Gainsborough and Worksop Times described a 20-minute silent film thus: “Silver Buck, the cowboy’s only friend, is requisitioned by an army officer and transported to France for war purposes. Such is the cowboy’s love for his horse that he enlists and is drafted to France, where he finds Silver Buck the mount of an artillery officer.” The name of this 1927 film? War Horse (Morpugo tells of War Horse inspiration, 26 July).
Harry Foxley
Retford, Nottinghamshire

•  When will puppeteers, photographers and cartoonists forget about the Red Riding Hood granny image and realise that the average age of becoming a grandparent in the UK is now 47( Childcare: the grandparents’ army, 17 November 2012). The brilliant giant puppet in Liverpool (Pulling power: puppet in war tribute, 28 July) – wearing baggy slippers and walking with a stick – is much more likely to be a great-grandmother.
Judith Abbs

• John Humphrys doesn’t like Melvin Bragg using the present tense in speaking about the past (Report, 28 July). But he is quoted as saying: “With a bit of luck Melvyn will be on holidays because it’s August.” I know we’re a bit behind the times in Jersey but here it’s still July.
Kay Ara
Trinity, Jersey


I think many of us involved in the charity sector have been sceptical of Cameron’s Big Society initiative almost from the very beginning.

I am the secretary of a small Birmingham-based grant-giving trust: we give around £55,000 a year to small organisations in Birmingham and the West Midlands. Since the Coalition came to power the number of applications has risen so dramatically that we have had to tighten our guidelines to cope.

The nature of applications for help has changed. Four years ago we didn’t see applications from organisations concerned with the relief of poverty and hunger: we do now. Judith Flack’s description of what is happening in Derby (letter, 28 July) applies equally to Birmingham, and I am sure to many other towns and cities in the UK.

Has the Big Society initiative helped? Of course it hasn’t. It was just a political catchphrase. If the money that has been squandered had been given to my trust and those like it, we could have used it sensibly to provide help to the many small organisations that are doing so much good in our towns and cities (and were doing so long before the Big Society was invented).

The conclusion I draw from this fiasco is that you can’t direct people to do good in the way Cameron envisaged. People do it because they care and passionately want to help. They are the people the Government should be encouraging and helping financially. Instead, as you report (28 July), the voluntary sector has been damaged by the ill-advised Big Society push.

Bob King
Rushton, Northamptonshire


Whilst I applaud Judith Flack’s public spiritedness (letter, 28 July), it leaves me with a dilemma.

When David Cameron announced his Big Society initiative, I promised not to volunteer to do jobs which would normally be undertaken by paid workers, or which would undermine the values of public service. However, if I continue to take this stance, those most in need of help will suffer.

The rewards for cutting public expenditure have been disproportionately passed on to the most wealthy, in the form of tax cuts for the largest companies and richest individuals. In spite of this the least well-off are still giving a higher proportion of their time and disposable income to charities and not-for-profit organisations. I think it is time for a change.

Pete Rowberry
Saxmundham, Suffolk


Israel is the wrong target

Perhaps those who have attended anti-Israel rallies during the Gaza conflict might ask themselves the following questions.

Why did they not take to the streets during the past nine years since Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza to protest at Hamas building stockpiles of offensive weaponry? Why have they not publicly questioned why the billions of dollars of foreign aid delivered to Gaza has not resulted in a new, modern civilian infrastructure? Why did they not publicly protest about provocative rocket fire from Gaza into Israel before Israel responded? Indeed, why have they not protested about the thousands of people killed in Syria and elsewhere?

People have confused the cause of the problem with the symptoms. Israel’s actions today are symptomatic of the situation caused by others.

The real cause of the conflict in Gaza is the unforgivable lack of action by the Palestinian leadership to build a better life for the people they govern. Those who take part in these anti-Israel rallies, and the media who jump on that bandwagon, make themselves pawns in this game, and thus become part of the root cause.

Michael Lewis
Edgware, Middlesex

Would Henry Tobias (letter, 24 July) specify which of Hamas’s demands are akin to Israel committing suicide?

Amid the current catastrophe, Hamas put forth 10 conditions for 10 years’ ceasefire. All the demands centred on lifting Israel’s illegal blockade on Gaza and allowing Palestinians their sovereign rights, including access to the Rafah crossing under international supervision.

Why does the Knesset find it hard to agree on terms that would allow Gaza to survive and exist? It is sadly ironic that Israel’s discourse constantly raises the fear of its own destruction by Hamas, yet Israel commences its own destruction of Palestinian territories through unjust blockades, indiscriminate bombardments, and settlement expansions.

Rahman N Chowdhury
London E1

Israel bizarrely claims that the objective of its bombing of civilian homes in Gaza is to restore “peace and quiet”. This must mean peacefully building more settlements on illegally occupied land while quietly strangling Gaza through the eight-year siege.

Felix Cornish
London SW17


Hamas lobs rockets into Israel, untargeted, and, though disturbing, doing minimal damage. The Israelis respond with disproportionate force, killing hundreds of civilians, and the West condemns them.

Then after an interval, Hamas resumes its provocation, the Israelis respond disproportionately again, and the West condemns them again.

Someone should tell the parties that to repeat the same action time after time and expect a different result is one definition of madness. Isis must be licking its lips at the thought of how many disaffected young men there are in Gaza just ripe for indoctrination.

Stuart Russell
Cirencester, Gloucestershire

‘Racism’ works both ways

Yasmin Alibhai-Brown once again feels the need to write about her belief that she lives in a racist country where black and Asian people are held back by whites who employ them (28 July). She should view BBC London television news; she would witness that the majority of presenters are black and Asian.

Employers may tend to employ people they can relate to. This doesn’t just apply to white British employing their own kind, but to Asian employers who rarely employ whites, and more recently Polish builders who will only employ Poles.

We, including Ms Alibhai-Brown, should accept this for what it is, rather than stir up inter-race relations. If it is “racist”, it works both ways.

Jeremy Bacon
Woodford Green, Essex

I was highly amused by Yasmin Alibhai-Brown’s claim that white, male Booker Prize juries exclude racial minorities from its longlist (28 July). Makes you wonder how such former winners of the prize as V S Naipaul, Salman Rushdie and Ben Okri ever got anywhere at all.

D J Taylor


Crazy way to combat domestic violence

Community resolution is not the right way to tackle domestic violence (“Violent partners being let off with ‘slap on the wrist’ orders”, 28 July). Victims have often suffered horrific emotional and physical abuse and are left in an extremely vulnerable position. To expect them to face the perpetrators and settle an abuse case out of court is nonsensical. This approach will further inhibit women coming forward and reduce confidence in the police.

Rather than focusing so heavily on perpetrators, police need to put victims first and let them know that their situations will be taken seriously. One woman a fortnight is killed by her partner in London.

However, there are pockets of good practice where police are doing pioneering work in collaboration with Housing for Women to tackle domestic violence. For example, in Greenwich, we provide a support worker in the police station to offer advice to both officers and victims in a dedicated domestic violence suite. These services can often mean the difference between life and death, but they are not available nationally.

Collaborative services between police and agencies need to be rolled out across the UK, to provide the support needed by victims of domestic violence, and to make sure that lives are saved.

Jakki Moxham
Chief Executive
Housing for Women
London SW9


Fabled land of prosperity

Ben Chu is absolutely right to be sceptical (“The economy’s back where it started. Had you noticed?” 26 July). Most people will have noticed nothing because these “economic facts” happen not in the real Britain at all but in its political clone, the fabled land of Statistica. The trouble is, only rich people are allowed to go there.

Steve Edwards
Wivelsfield Green, East Sussex


Judgement of the stars

The Tory MP David Tredinnick has suggested that astrology should be offered to NHS patients. Perhaps he should ponder on what the late Patrick Moore had to say: “Astrology proves one scientific fact, and one only: there’s one born every minute.”

Michael Yates


Gurgaon, India: students emerging from an English language examination Getty Images

Last updated at 12:01AM, July 29 2014

English is now out of the control of its British and American originators

Sir, You are right that the dominance of the English language may not work to the advantage of its native speakers, but not only for the reason that you give (leader July 26).

As a trade diplomat in the 1980s I came across a Korean company in Venezuela, and a Spanish company in China, both in competition with native English speakers and winning business because the purchasers were more comfortable speaking English with other foreigners on equal terms. They complained that the British spoke too fast and indistinctly, and used idioms they didn’t understand.

Sir Alistair Hunter

Broadstairs, Kent

Sir, I was surprised by your pessimism about English. You overlook the inherent qualities of the language. One only needs a vocabulary of only about 200 words to communicate effectively but, at the same time, English has one of the largest of all vocabularies, allowing a speaker to convey the most subtle of meanings. The issue of American spellings is of little consequence.

We have this wonderful opportunity to use our language to exploit our “soft power” in the world. Now that our government has resolved the problem of bogus colleges, we ought to expand our tertiary level education system and welcome genuine students who wish to study in this country. By encouraging young people from around the world to complete their education here, we build up goodwill for decades to come.

HJ Wyatt

Harrow, Middx

Sir, You imply that international use of a language depends little on the character of the language, and much on its value for commerce, learning and politics, and that there is nothing we can do about it.

I suggest that there is a little bit we can do to maintain the dominance of English, and that is to tweak it in good ways. Consider Noah Webster’s spelling: surely this is used internationally not just because it is used in the US, but, to a small extent, because it is more phonetic.

In past decades French speakers (particularly in Quebec) have introduced technical words that are better than ours: informatique where we say ICT, courriel (or mél) for email, domotique for “the science of small electronic devices used in household appliances”.

In English, it is no longer permitted to use “he” to include “she” so we write “she/he” and we could certainly do with a better word for that than “they”. A good new word, used by The Times, could go viral. At the same time we need to keep the core vocabulary needed to read Shakespeare.

Jonathan A Coles

Great Clifton, Cumbria

Sir, As a translator I have dealt with many scientific papers from the 19th and 20th centuries. Nowadays there is less call for translation because so many scientists publish in English.

English does have many advantages in that it is so flexible and willing to adopt words from elsewhere, but the inhabitants of these islands should not feel too smug about this — as you say, we have no control over which version of English predominates. And the speakers of other, displaced, versions, as well as the speakers of other languages displaced by English, had better get used to it.

David Wilson

Bridell, Pembrokeshire

Inviting the leaders of Israel and Hamas to start a new politics based on respect

Sir, May we use your columns to address the leaders of Israel and of Hamas. We have watched a painful 66-year cycle of violence since the state of Israel was created. Even when there is peace, it is characterised by attacks, kidnapping, injury and killing — and punctuated by violent wars. By our count, the conflict today is the 12th war.

(1.War of Independence/An-Nakba (Catastrophe) (1947-1949).

2.Suez Crisis/Sinai Campaign Tripartite War of Aggression (1956)

3.Six Day War/An-Naksa (Setback) (1967)

4.War of Attrition/War of Attrition (1967–1970)

5.Yom Kippur War/October War (1973)

6.Lebanon War/Lebanese Civil War (1980-82)

7.First Intifada (1987–1993)

8.Second Intifada (2000–2005)

9.War on Hezbollah/Israeli Invasion of Lebanon (2006)

10.Operation Cast Lead/Invasion of Gaza (2008-2009)

11.Operation Pillar of Defense/Operation Blue Sky (2012)

12.The current war (2014)

[The Israeli/Arab names are given (and translation of Arab name))

We urge you not just to focus on getting humanitarian aid, food, and water into Gaza, which of course is vital, but to think about alternatives to military solutions, since each attack merely leads to a counter-attack. If you continue using military solutions, we will still be witnessing deaths on both sides in another 66 years.

You are both intelligent enough to appreciate that military solutions, at best, lead to short-term advantage to one side or another, but will not lead to a permanent and true peace.

Your choice is to continue with your mutual myopia and one-sided perspectives, with mutual blame and mutual anger, causing horrendous loss of life, with all the ensuing grief, pain, and suffering, on both sides. Or to listen to impartial outside observers who are able to see two valid perspectives.

We, with the benefit of this “helicopter view”, and the rest of the world, clearly see that neither military nor past diplomatic efforts are working. These have led to zero trust, zero respect and zero empathy felt by each side for the other.

It is time for a different approach, which is to focus efforts on building mutual trust, mutual respect, and mutual empathy for those on the other side of the conflict.

Each community has the same human desire for respect, safety and freedom to raise their children in a trauma-free environment. Each person in both communities experiences the identical pain when they lose a brother, sister, cousin, son, or daughter.

So, we say to the leaders of Israel and Hamas, please sit down, talk without table thumping, to listen to each other and start a new politics based on the principles of respect, dignity, and empathy.

Professor Simon Baron-Cohen


Ahmad Abu-Akel


Looking carefully at differences between Inner Mongolia and independent Mongolia

Sir, The caption to your picture “Mongolians go to the fair” (July 26) offers a confusing lesson in history and geography. If the boys were attending a Naadam “fair” in Chifeng, as stated, they were not in independent Mongolia but close to the southern boundary of Inner Mongolia, a supposedly autonomous region of the PRC, in the area of an essentially Chinese city northeast of Beijing. A red scarf round the forehead is not Mongol dress.

The rest of the caption is not about Mongol customs but about the practices of Inner Mongolia under Chinese rule.

In independent Mongolia the Naadam festival (celebrated this
year in Ulan Bator on July 11-15) has for many years featured women archers and riders. Independent Mongolia is the better custodian of Mongol traditions, protected by Unesco.

Alan Sanders

Caversham, Reading

The demolition of the old White City stadium should not be forgotten

Sir, You say that the BBC Media Village is built on “the staging ground for the 1908 Olympics” (“BBC appoints agents for potential White City site”, July 25). What you are talking about is the famous White City stadium, Britain’s first sizeable reinforced concrete structure, shamefully knocked down overnight in the mid-1980s to prevent it being listed as a historic building.

I remember coming into the BBC TV Newsroom and being shocked to see the destruction. The BBC put up a Lego building that was immediately dubbed the White Lubyanka.

Memories are short but to forget such an illustrious stadium so soon is alarming. Much more than greyhound racing took place there.

Michael Cole

Laxfield, Suffolk

Crustaceans should be humanely killed before they are cooked

Sir, Although I love the taste of crabs and lobsters, I have for many years refused to eat anything that has been boiled alive. Now that the Crustastun machine offers a humane alternative (“Crustacean liberation: chefs blanch at boiling crabs and lobsters alive”, July 26), their wellbeing should be included in the Animal Welfare Act.

Defra should be ashamed of its pathetic response that “The latest scientific research does not provide robust evidence that crustaceans feel pain”.

Science is always being shown to have underestimated the cognitive abilities of different species, so why not stop the risk of cruelty now, without waiting for the already demonstrable evidence to become “robust”, whatever that would entail — maybe requiring the head of Defra to throw a crustacean into boiling water and watch what happens.

Sierra Hutton-Wilson

Evercreech, Somerset


SIR – Unlike Judith Woods (“Give your dog a break this summer”), we are lucky to have two dogs that are happy to travel. Since the pet passport scheme was simplified, they have joined us on all our regular trips to France.

We use Eurotunnel, which takes just 35 minutes, causing no stress to the dogs.

What does cause stress is the amount that Eurotunnel charges for the privilege of having your pets in the car with you. The cost for car and human passengers on our last trip was £156 return, and that amount would have covered up to nine people. However, we had to pay an additional £64 for the return journey for our two dogs.

At Folkestone, Eurotunnel displays a huge poster stating that over 1 million pets have travelled with them to date. Quite a moneyspinner at £16 per pet, per crossing.

Linda Trotman
Tanworth-in-Arden, Warwickshire

The Yangtze Incident

SIR – This week marks the 65th anniversary of the Yangtze Incident, when HMS Amethyst was held for 10 weeks by Chinese forces on the Yangtze river after sustaining a deadly attack.

On the evening of July 30 1949, HMS Amethyst secretly prepared to dash to freedom. What was not disclosed at the time, for fear of provoking a serious diplomatic incident, was that HMS Concord proceeded 57 miles into the Yangtze river to aid Amethyst’s escape.

Concord’s crew members were sworn to secrecy at the time, and it is only in the past few years, after being presented with indisputable facts, that the Government has acknowledged Concord’s role.

The present Government should honour the remaining sailors who for so many years have had their service denied.

Alan Ausden
Hythe, Hampshire

Power gardening

SIR – Petrol-powered “gardening” is a plague. It has gone beyond maintaining visibility on narrow roads and keeping road signs clear.

Outside fields or private gardens, not a blade of green growth is permitted to exceed the regulation six inches in height before it is smashed by someone wearing ear defenders and a face shield. From dawn to dusk, whining strimmers decapitate, flails smash hedgerows into right angles, and ride-on mowers reduce grass and daisies into dead wind-blown mulch. People no longer rake, they use petrol-driven blowers which cover everything in a thick layer of dust.

What is so offensive about cow parsley, herb Robert and buttercups? Can nothing be allowed to grow, flower and seed? No wonder insects and birds are declining.

Jim Doar
Winterborne Houghton, Dorset

Secret letters

SIR – My mother took her letter-writing seriously: every Sunday afternoon, for two hours, she commandeered the sitting room, writing feverishly to the repeated strains of Peter Starstedt’s Where Do You Go To (My Lovely)? and Jacqueline du Pré’s Elgar Cello Concerto, both played at full volume.

I believe these missives were destined for her scattered circle of friends, rather than newspapers. In any case, despite her elegant script, one could never read a single word of them.

Yvonne Hill
Llanrhaeadr-ym-Mochnant, Denbighshire

SIR – John Holmes asks how long a gentleman’s shorts should be. In Kenya 50 years ago, they used to say that one could tell where a person came from by looking at the length of his shorts. Knee-length meant he had just come from Britain; four inches higher, and he was from East Africa; mid-thigh, and he was from Rhodesia; higher than that, and he was from South Africa. Longer than knee length? He must be American.

John Noble
Aberystwyth, Cardiganshire

SIR – If legs are knobbly, bandy, hairy or bowed, shorts should be ankle length.

Frances Pearson
Formby, Lancashire

SIR – Shorts should be long enough to cover the serpent tattoo creeping up so many exposed legs. Same rule for ladies.

Linda Bos
Midhurst, West Sussex

SIR – When kneeling, the hem of a gentleman’s shorts should just brush the surface on which he is kneeling.

Howard Rees

SIR – The military point of view on the length of shorts was once very clear. In Palestine, in 1947, after a series of unauthorised alterations to items of uniform, the following order was posted:

Shorts (short) will not be cut shorter any longer.

Gordon Le Pard
Charlton Down, Dorset

SIR – After much mocking from my daughters, I stopped wearing long socks with my above-the-knee-length shorts, and now wear those useless white mini-socks. These ride down under one’s heel and become uncomfortable.

Patrick Wroe
Felixstowe, Suffolk

A fair benefits system

SIR – Esther McVey, the employment minister, is a welcome addition to the Conservative Party senior ranks, and makes a good point when she indicates that anyone could fall on hard times and find themselves in need of state support (Interview, July 26). Indeed, the prime aim of the welfare system is to provide a safety net.

However, it should not be manipulated in order to provide people with an alternative to working for a living. Too many people, who have worked hard all their lives and paid their dues, suddenly find themselves in dire need through ill health or unlucky circumstances, yet they are denied payments equal to those made to people who have contributed nothing.

Mick Richards
Llanfair Waterdine, Shropshire

SIR – The employment minister says it is “inevitable” that Britain will have to import some foreign workers to do skilled jobs.

What is wrong with training more British people in the skills of which we are short?

Stanley Eckersley
Pudsey, West Yorkshire

Singing for England

SIR – I am delighted to see Jerusalem being used as the national anthem for English gold-winning athletes at the Commonwealth Games. Sir Hubert Parry’s anthem is not only marvellous, but is more appropriate than using the British national anthem, which is so commonly used by England in other sporting arenas.

In future football and rugby matches, I look forward to hearing Jerusalem ringing out at Wembley and Twickenham rather than God Save the Queen.

Alex Orr

SIR – When England play in the Six Nations rugby tournament, we rightly play God Save the Queen, so why Jerusalem in the Commonwealth Games?

Malcolm Allen
Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire

Fox, glove

SIR – Foxes lived under our garden shed in west London for 30 years. We neither encouraged nor discouraged them, but when our next-door neighbours had a baby, they were concerned for its safety, especially as it was on the roof of their garden studio that the whole fox family could often be found warming themselves in the sun.

The only time we witnessed a death among the foxes was when we found a dead cub with no visible injury in the garden. But there was a rubber glove nearby.

A visit to the local vet produced no answers, except that a post-mortem examination would cost at least £25, so we buried the body among the flowers. Alas, there were no foxgloves.

Eric Hayman
Bournemouth, Dorset

Display of power

SIR – While visiting Clouds Hill, the former home of Lawrence of Arabia, on the occasion of our wedding anniversary, my wife and I saw a tank. Even though Clouds Hill is near Bovington Camp, we were still somewhat surprised, especially as another tank trundled by later on. Bearing in mind all the recent military cuts, this was somewhat reassuring.

Your readers should know that we definitely have at least two tanks – unless it was the same one going round again.

Roger Simmens
Lyndhurst, Hampshire

SIR – Brandon Lewis, the planning minister, claims that local communities now have a bigger say about where new housing goes.

Not in our village. Some of us wanted to prevent the last blade of grass within the village from being built upon, and so suggested that the previous village boundary, outside which no development had hitherto been permitted, become a cordon within which no future development would be sanctioned, while allowing a limited amout outside it. We were told the law did not permit this. So much for localism. I suspect the decrease in the number of people opposed to new homes reflects a realisation that the cards are stacked against those wishing to preserve their villages in the face of unwanted and unsympathetic housing estates.

Richard Hawker
Hockering, Norfolk

SIR – I cannot help wondering where the planning minister lives. Is it in an already built-up area, or is it in the countryside, with beautiful views?

This Coalition seems bent on marring our beautiful land with buildings, and our coastal views with wind farms.

Marion Tremlett
Tadworth, Surrey

SIR – Why have more house-building in the already overcrowded South East?

We are planning to build enhanced rail links to “open up” other parts of the country. Surely, we should stop building in the South East and concentrate on encouraging growth in the rest of the country. This would encourage population movement. Houses are be cheaper in those areas, more people will choose to live there and businesses will move to those areas or start up there, in order to take advantage of the labour pool.

Terry Hodges
Holyhead, Anglesey

SIR – Having spent much of my career dealing with residential planning applications, I have seen a lot of Nimbyism.

Planning applications should be determined solely with regard to town planning policy and regulations. If the application meets the requirements, it should be granted; if it fails to comply, it should be refused.

What the neighbours think is irrelevant. Their views are invariably uninformed and always biased, often to the point of hysteria.

Councillors ought to learn their planning policy and not try to curry favour with their constituents by supporting the unsupportable.

John Cuthbert
Sevenoaks, Kent

SIR – Stop picking on Nimbys. Worse by far is the Wigwam – “where it goes won’t affect me” – who will support any ghastly scheme as long as it’s somewhere else.

Mike Pearce
Dargate, Kent

Irish Times:

Tue, Jul 29, 2014, 02:00

First published: Tue, Jul 29, 2014, 02:00

Sir, – There has been much made of the fact that Hamas refused to accept an earlier truce in Gaza proposed by Egypt. Yet it is strange that western politicians and the western media (except Michael Jansen, July 25th) have been so silent about the 10-point Hamas proposals, endorsed by Fatah, that were released last week. They are perfectly reasonable and would lead to an immediate permanent ceasefire and negotiations on a solution that would make life better and safer for both the people of Gaza and of Israel.

None of these demands are new and the UN and NGOs have continually called for some of them, including the lifting of the crippling siege.

UNWRA spokesmen, the head of the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights and even many media reporters in Gaza have all noted last week that the situation in Gaza cannot go back to the status quo. Life was intolerable before this recent Israeli onslaught; now it is a living hell.

The Irish Government should support a ceasefire and negotiations on the basis of these 10 points instead of staying silent, as it disgracefully did at the UN vote on an inquiry last week. How many more Palestinian women and children need to be killed, horribly injured or traumatised before Israel and western governments come to their senses and stop this slaughter and destruction? Israel’s reluctance to engage meaningfully with these reasonable proposals demonstrates yet again that its current military onslaught has little to do with rocket fire from Gaza but is instead an attempt to scupper the Hamas/Fatah unity agreement, as the the last thing Israel wants is a unified Palestinian polity and the threat of the outbreak of a lasting peace. Yours, etc,


PRO Irish Anti-War


PO Box 9260,

Dublin 1

Sir, – That the crisis in Gaza is causing immeasurable suffering is beyond dispute. The photographic and video footage circulating on social media is too graphic for your paper or mainstream television to use.

Even for a generation which has become increasingly immune to human suffering, the images of dead child after dead child we have seen cannot fail to churn even the hardest of stomachs or the coldest of hearts.

Ireland and our nearest neighbour Britain have known more than our fair share of terrorism. However, neither side ever resorted to the indiscriminate use of force currently being wielded by Israel, apparently a democratic state.

I am no apologist for terrorism. Israel and the Jewish people have suffered more than many over the years but their current behaviour demands a response. Ireland and the global community have been sadly lacking to date. By doing nothing we are all complicit. – Yours, etc,




Co Wicklow

Sir, – Pro-Palestinian groups in Ireland have repeatedly called for the land and sea blockade which is being imposed on the Gaza Strip to be lifted in order for food and medical supplies to be brought into the enclave. Perhaps then they can explain how the area comes to be so well-stocked and regularly replenished with rockets and missiles?

Clearly Hamas has supply routes into Gaza, but is choosing to use it to import weapons rather than supplies for its own people. Can its sympathisers in Ireland please explain why this might be? – Yours, etc,


Mount Tallant Avenue,

Dublin 6W

Sir, – The long list of eminent signatories to the letter regarding the conflict in Gaza (July 28th) state that “We are witnessing the third major Israeli military offensive in Gaza in six years”. They forget to add “all three offensives initiated by rocket fire on civilian targets in Israel by Hamas, the elected government of Gaza, which refuses to recognise Israel and seeks the destruction of all Jews.” It’s called balance. Incidentally, when did trade union leaders assume the role of judgement on world affairs on behalf of their members? Yours, etc,


Monalea Park,

Dublin 24

Sir, – Paul Williams (July 26th) excuses Israeli conduct on the ground that they have given the Palestinians plenty of warning by dropping leaflets, sending  texts and trying to avoid civilian deaths.  Why then have so many Palestinians been killed – the vast majority of them civilians? One might also ask where they can escape to.  They are blockaded on all sides by  Israelis, so where are the escape routes available? Yours, etc,


The Quay,


A chara – Ronan O’Brien’s article (July 21st ) on John Redmond is timely. Redmond’s most important contribution was to political practice and culture: how we should, in dialogic and pluralistic fashion, negotiate our differences.

Redmond was “disappeared” from Irish history, not because he was a failure (for Irish history is full of celebrated failures), but because remembering him would raise uncomfortable questions about the Easter 1916 rising. Patrick Pearse’s 1915 essay “Ghosts” identifies Redmond as a traitor. As Sinn Féin’s political target in Northern Ireland was the SDLP, so the 1916 insurgents’ target was Redmond and his party.

If I were an Irish voter in spring 1916, what would each have said to me?

Redmond would ask for my vote. Pearse would tell me that he and his associates were now the new government of a new state, neither of which needed votes. He might commandeer my property, and his men would shoot me if I obstructed them (as happened during the rising).

Redmond might tell me about his difficulties with unionists, and sound me out on how far he could go in accommodating Carson. Refusing even to mention unionists, Pearse would present the non-negotiable demands of Cuchulainn’s and Tone’s ghosts.

Redmond would point to the land legislation, local government reform and the beginning of work to tackle the Dublin slum as positive achievements. Pearse would say (as he said to Denis Gwynn in 1913) that it were better that Dublin burn than that the Irish people should, as a result of such reforms, be content within the British empire.

Redmond would lament the horrors of the first World War and regret its necessity. Pearse said that it was the most glorious and sublime chapter in Europe’s history. Redmond would be all for non-violent nationalism and conciliating the British and the unionists. Pearse would assert that an Irish blood sacrifice was not just necessary but utterly desirable and spiritually elevating.

Redmond would be pleased that the Scots will soon vote on independence. Pearse (and Collins, as reflected in his letter in The Irish Times of October 26th, 1917) would hold that the Scots have no right to decide against independence, and that a majority not wanting full independence could be forced by an armed revolt into accepting it.

Given what he says in “Ghosts”, Pearse would regard the 1998 Good Friday agreement as national treason, whereas Redmond would think it a programme for peace and reconciliation between unionists and nationalists. With big majorities North and South endorsing that agreement, it seems that most of us are, after a fashion, Redmondites. – Is mise,


Ignatius House,

N Kenmore Avenue,


A chara, – Robert Leonard (July 25th) is quite right to highlight the often farcical and unbecoming exchanges seen among the readers’ comments in your online version. While the discontinuation of this facility might do the latter no harm, if it must be kept standards would surely be raised by the removal of the anonymity option for commentators. It is reasonable to assume that keyboard cowboys would be less trigger-happy if their contributions could be identified by neighbours, employers, and so on. — Is mise,





Sir, – Robert Leonard’s point (Letters, July 25th) on the “commentariat” and its contribution of “drivel” to the online version of The Irish Times is well made. One presumes that material published on the site comes under the umbrella of the Irish Times Trust and its governing princples. Is the trust satisfied that all this material meets the standard it itself has set,that “comment and opinion shall be informed and responsible”?

Personal rants under fanciful pen-names surely are neither. Yours, etc,



Belfast BT7

Sir, – Patrick Davey (July 26th) says “Surely this situation is worth discussing in its own right ( ie the effects of social media and the internet on young minds) rather than treating anything that Breda O’Brien writes as apologetics for the Catholic church and attacking her accordingly without actually engaging with what she is saying”.

But of course Mr Davey is right. But instead of going over old ground let us look at what Breda O’Brien wrote last Saturday (July 26th) and see if we can clear it of a Catholic “apologetics” dimension.

In this article Breda strongly attacks the content of Tony Blair’s Philip Gould lecture that week. Tony Blair had said: “No political philosophy today will achieve support unless it focuses on individual empowerment, not collective control. The role of society or the state becomes about helping the individual to help themselves, and to gain control over their own lives and choices.”

Breda replies with: “Notice what is missing – communities, co-operatives, families.” But the only family Breda O’Brien acknowledges is the family where the two people marrying are of the opposite sex. Not surprisingly this happens to be the Catholic model also.

Tony Blair, a Catholic himself, but not of the Iona Institute brand, has long been a supporter of marriage equality and vehemently challenged Pope Benedict XVl on this subject a few years ago. Breda would have been aware of this challenge.

It is precisely to give minority “communities” (like the gay community) a voice, and minority “families” (like same-sex couple families) a right to exist, that Tony Blair resists “collective control” in favour of “individual empowerment”.

Breda O’Brien, like the Catholic church she strongly supports, will brook no such “individual empowerment”.

For centuries the Catholic church has maintained strict collective control over the institution of marriage, health and education, on this island. Now the Irish people are beginning to free themselves of such collective control and the individual is finally being empowered. This is thanks to people like Tony Blair, Barack Obama and our own Eamon Gilmore.

Can we clear Breda O’Brien’s latest column of Catholic “apologetics”? I will let Patrick Davey decide for himself. Yours, etc,


Whitechurch Road,


Dublin 14

Sir – There may be countries where Conor Gearty’s optimism (Opinion & Analysis, July 25th) about the capacity of the judiciary to curb abuses of power is justified, but Ireland is not one of them.

From the illegal tapping of journalists’ phones (1983), to widespread fraud in the beef industry (1991), poisoning people with contaminated blood (1994), abuse of planning laws (1997), evading tax through illegal offshore accounts (2002), misappropriating Fás funds (2008) and bankrupting the entire country to the tune of billions (2008), the rich and powerful here have demonstrated an uncanny immunity from prosecution. Meanwhile, about 250 people a year are imprisoned for non-payment of TV licences. Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose. Yours, etc,



Dublin 6

Tue, Jul 29, 2014, 01:35

First published: Tue, Jul 29, 2014, 01:35

Sir, – Your correspondent Éilís ní Anluain-Quill, (July 19th) shares with us the view of the late lamented Diarmaid Ó Muirithe regarding the “dodgy Gaelicisation of ‘crack’ … as ‘craic’”. There is another possible derivation. Catherine Marie O’Sullivan, in her excellent treatise Hospitality in Medieval Ireland, reminds us of the custom of cattle raiding, the proceeds of which were known as “creach”, pronounced of course “craic” with the final “c” aspirated. After a successful raid, the “creach” was distributed at a banquet, “lavish in sharing creach” . Sounds like a good party, and closer to current practice than “a good old English/Scottish word”! Apparently penalties were imposed at such “creach” for vomiting at table. Temple Bar please note. Yours, etc,


Cúil Ghlas,


Co Meath

Sir, – Whether or not physical examination is a “relationship-building tool, helping to reconnect patients and doctors”, as Muiris Houston believes, I learned in Dublin in the 1960s that it should always be carried out because a) it gives you time to think and b) you discover what you missed the last time. – Yours, etc,


Gaoth Dobhair,

Co Donegal

A chara, – Is there anything to be said for the rampant buddleia to be seen in recent weeks, sprouting from windowsills, carparks, scrubland and even chimney stacks? The species becomes more brazen by the year. And yet, no steps are taken to rein it in. It is on a par with the seagulls. Is mise,


McKee Park,

Dublin 7

Sir, – For the benefit of Rory O’Callaghan (Letters, July 28th), who sought an explanation for the playing of Ireland’s Call at a recent hockey match: from the Irish Hockey Association website: “The Irish Hockey Association is the national governing body for the sport of field hockey in Ireland. Governing the 32 counties of Ireland.”

Knowing nothing about hockey, I took the 30 seconds to investigate, rather than be outraged. The merit of the selection is obvious, the merit of the tune, less so. Yours, etc,



Dublin 24

Sir, – A tenet of decent journalism should be that a headline must not deliberately mislead. The headline “Consultants to be offered 24% pay rise” sadly falls well short of that ideal.

Sensationalist headlines with total disregard for the truth were once the preserve of the tabloid red tops. Now, in an attempt to sell copy, this paper has resorted to a tactic which is grossly unfair to the new Minister and hospital consultants. The editor is aware that the pay rise mentioned in the article refers to the reversal of a pay cut imposed on newly appointed consultants made in an effort to halt the fall in applications for new posts. The editor is also well aware that existing consultants have undergone a pay reduction of over 30 per cent since 2008.

Bashing hospital consultants has for some time now represented the low-lying fruit of lazy journalism, but this headline marks a new low in broadsheet headline-grabbing. Your, etc,


North Circular Road,


Sir, – You report (July 26th) that Prince Edward, duke of Kent, is to accompany President Michael D Higgins in unveiling a war memorial in Glasnevin Cemetery to commemorate the Irish who died fighting in the first World War. Am I the only person who is sick of this continuous sycophantic kowtowing to British royalty in relation to a dynastic war between inbred aristocratic cousins? The Great War, ironically misnamed, is best summed up by the following words of the poet Ezra Pound: “There died a myriad,/ And of the best, among them/ For an old bitch gone in the teeth / For a botched civilization.” – Yours, etc,


Harcourt Terrace,

Dublin 2

Sir, – I must protest at the publication in your newspaper of a photograph of a young rabbit trying to defend itself against a herring gull on Skellig Michael, (July 26th). The poor rabbit is clearly terrified. We all know that this is the way nature works and we accept it. But to print this picture in a daily newspaper is totally unacceptable as it breaks the hearts of little Irish children the length and breadth of the island. – Yours, etc,



Co Monaghan

Irish Independent:

I visited the West Bank in 1961. It was part of Jordan and the Palestinians were devastated at having been driven off their land. They believed that situation temporary. Between 1961 and 2014 the situation has gotten worse.

Today Israel is the super-power of the Middle East, and while enjoying the unqualified support of the US with the sympathy and commitment of the EU, it lives in fear. The whole area is very tightly controlled so the Palestinians are living in an open-air prison while the Israelis are ruling by terror.

It would take great trust and co-operation for the “Two State Solution” to work. The irony is that if the Palestinians and Israelis could achieve that, the 1948 partition of Palestine is unnecessary.

That brings us to a “One State Solution” with Jews and Arabs of the three areas living together like any normal multicultural country. Why not hope?



* No need for us to go to the cinema these days in order to see war films. Before our own eyes we are seeing the mass slaughter of innocent people, especially children, who must be asking the question: what did we do wrong to deserve this?

So far in Gaza over 1,000 people have been killed in an illegitimate war by Israeli forces. They say the essence of this conflict stems from the kidnap and murder of three Israeli boys. While I completely sympathise with their loss, is it just to kill in response?

It is not so long ago since world leaders buried their heads in the sand when they knew what was going on in concentration camps around the world. Now we have a concentration camp named Gaza that is under siege and all the world’s politicians do is give the usual lip service and rhetoric.

There can be no justification on either side for war in this conflict and the only way forward is respect and dignity for your fellow human beings.

There is a disproportionate level of violence coming from Israeli forces – and Ireland knows what it was like to live under the tyranny of an oppressor.

It is therefore incumbent on every decent human being to voice their revulsion at the violence that is being inflicted on the helpless people of Gaza. We have seen this injustice happen in South Africa and to the credit of Irish people we boycotted their produce. At least that gesture showed our compassion for the suffering of the oppressed. Let’s do the same against Israel.



* I refer to the interpretation of data by Professor John FitzGerald of the ESRI, who claims that wealth inequa-lity has narrowed during the recess-ion because the Government “protec- ted” welfare (Irish Independent, July 28). It is obvious that he didn’t ask anyone stuck with no work or those surviving on the state pension.

Recent studies demonstrate that the rich have gotten richer, and while it is obvious that the number of high earners has dropped during the recession, it is incorrect to conclude from that that we have become more equal.

On the contrary, the recently published “Rich List” showed that the fortunes of Ireland’s 250 wealthiest people rose 12pc to €57bn over the past year. Their combined wealth is now equivalent to 35pc of the country’s gross domestic product.

Anyone suggesting that the gap between the rich and the poor here has narrowed is deluding himself.



* If there was such a thing in history as a charge of “criminal misjudgment” then surely John Redmond would be a prime suspect.

Redmond stands indicted for the central role he played in sending tens of thousands of innocent young Irishmen into a useless and violent imperial war. This was done, it would seem, on foot of a vague promise of home rule – what Roger Casement reputedly called “a promissory note payable only after death”.

By contrast, Redmond’s great predecessor, Charles Stewart Parnell, had years before shown that he recognised and, more importantly, was prepared to yield to and support the growing separatist and anti-imperial movement if such were the will of the Irish people.

The real “war to end all wars” was about to unfold in Redmond’s own land: the 1916-21 Irish War of Independence. For most of the island, the outcome of this infinitely less violent event ended the British Empire’s practice of recruiting young, mainly impoverished, Irishmen as fodder for its endless colonial wars. (Recent research by eminent historian Orlando Figes, reveals that in my native parish of Aghada, in Co Cork, as many as one in every three men lost their lives in the all-but-forgotten Crimean War. In fact, post-Famine Irish recruits made up a full one-third of the entire British army engaged in that particular disaster). By contrast, and since independence, Irish soldiers have carved out an enviable reputation as a universally respected UN peacekeeping force.

Whatever the intention behind the newly-issued ‘WW1 Commemoration’ postage stamps, I think most will agree that the choice of images and text merely serves to underline the manipulative nature and bad judgment of Redmond’s pro-war lobby.

In contrast to Redmond and others, the Irish Labour and Trade Union Congress published the following address to the women of Ireland on the eve of the war: “A war for the aggrandisement of the capitalist class has been declared . . . it is you who will suffer most by this foreign war. It is the sons you reared that will be sent to be mangled by shot and torn by shell, it is your fathers, husbands and brothers, whose corpses will pave the way to glory for an Empire, which despises you.”



* Congratulations to Mary Kenny for her sensible article on Ireland’s absence from the Commonwealth Games (July 28). She somewhat underestimates the number of republics in today’s Commonwealth, however, stating “the Commonwealth contains several republics”. In fact, it contains 32 republics!

It might also be worth mentioning that Irish people willingly played a major role in building many Commonwealth countries where 17 million people of Irish descent currently live.

Today’s Commonwealth extends a hand of friendship to Ireland and some of its members give jobs and new opportunities to our youth.



* The journalist, editor and politician CP Scott once said that: “Comment is free, but facts are sacred.” While commentary is an integral and important part of any newspaper, that commentary should always be based on fact.

Unfortunately, Liam Fay’s ‘Shadow of a Conman’ commentary was not based on fact. To put the facts straight, Leinster House administrators have not employed private debt collectors to chase down outstanding money. The simple fact is that the Houses of the Oireachtas is assigning somebody to manage customer accounts in light of the fact that the person who is currently carrying out this duty is retiring.

We are taking this opportunity to review the roles and responsibilities of staff working on administration in the restaurant in light of the retirement and it is hoped that this task can be carried out by staff from within our own resources.


Irish Independent

Inspector Banks

July 28, 2014

27 July 2014 Banks

I jog around the park I still have arthritis in my left knee, but I manage to get round the park. A very very dry day

Scrabble I wins, by three pointd but gets under 400. perhaps Mary will win tomorrow.


Peter Whelan – obituary

Peter Whelan was a dramatist who examined the melancholy life of Shakespeare’s daughter in his hit play ‘The Herbal Bed’

Peter Whelan in 1997

Peter Whelan in 1997 Photo: JONATHAN EELES

6:01PM BST 27 Jul 2014


Peter Whelan, who has died aged 82, was a dramatist who always ploughed his own furrow; indifferent to fashion, he wrote solidly-crafted, thoughtful plays, usually set in the past, of the sort that stimulate reflection and live in the memory.

His best known work, The Herbal Bed (1996), was a beautiful, moving play about the unhappy marriage of Shakespeare’s daughter Susanna. The idea came to Whelan when, while working at Stratford, he wandered into Hall’s Croft, the home of John Hall, her Puritan doctor husband. Susanna was publicly accused by a neighbour of adultery with a local haberdasher and having “the runynge of the reynes” (gonorrhoea); and she brought a charge of defamation against her slanderer in the diocesan court at Worcester.

Peter Whelan in 1997 (JONATHAN EELES)

From these spare facts Whelan created a marvellously rich play that was part study of a marital crisis, part courtroom drama and part fascinating evocation of Shakespeare himself.

At a time when public attention in the run-up to the 1997 general election was focusing on the sexual peccadilloes of Tory politicians, the play’s focus on the conflict between public and private morality had contemporary resonance. Yet Whelan, a “dyed in the wool socialist” and republican, never put his own beliefs before his characters. He himself described the play as a work which came close to “what being human is about — the survival of our relationships and the lies that honest people tell”.

Starring Joseph Fiennes, Teresa Banham and David Tennant, The Herbal Bed played to sell-out audiences at The Other Place, Stratford, before transferring to the Barbican Pit. It won Whelan the Lloyds Bank Playwright of the Year award and transferred on again to the Duchess Theatre, where it enjoyed a six-month run, helping to nail the myth that only big names can succeed in the West End.

Yet, apart from a thriller which he co-authored in the 1970s, it was the only one of Whelan’s plays to make the transition. While he continued to be revered by the theatre-going cognoscenti, notching up a total of seven plays for the RSC, for most of his career as a writer he was forced, out of financial necessity, to hold down a job in advertising.

With typically wry humour, Whelan described himself as “the Jeffrey Archer of the subsidised theatre”.

The son of a lithographic artist, Peter Whelan was born at Newcastle-under-Lyme, Staffordshire, on October 3 1931 and brought up at Bucknall, Stoke-on-Trent.

After education at Hanley High School, National Service in the Army in post-war Berlin and Keele University, where he read English and Philosophy, he took a series of short-lived jobs before beginning a career as an advertising copywriter.

Whelan had wanted to write plays since the age of 15, and was always conscious that advertising was not what he wanted to be doing (though he was pleased with his campaign for a Northern beer: “Wherever you may wander, there’s no taste like Stones”). He had to continue with his job to support his wife and family, finally retiring only in his 60s.

Whelan started writing plays seriously in his forties with his friend and advertising colleague Leslie Darbon. Their Double Edge, a political thriller, played at the Vaudeville Theatre in 1978 with Margaret Lockwood in the lead.

However, Whelan found his own voice only when his first solo historical play, Captain Swing, was produced at The Other Place by the RSC in 1978. Starring Zoe Wanamaker and Alan Rickman, and set during the agrarian unrest of the early 19th century, the play took its name from the pseudonymous author of poison pen letters sent to the gentry as farm labourers rioted against the introduction of new threshing machines. It was a huge critical success, transferring to the RSC’s then London base, the Warehouse in Covent Garden.

Whelan followed up with another hit, The Accrington Pals (RSC, 1981), a searingly moving exploration of the human relationships surrounding a battalion of volunteers from the Lancashire town, most of whom were killed in a single day during the Battle of the Somme.

Whelan’s retirement from advertising in the 1990s freed him to become a full-time writer. The Bright and Bold Design (RSC, 1991), loosely inspired by the life of the ceramic artist Clarice Cliff, drew on his roots in the Staffordshire Potteries. The School of Night (RSC, 1992) was an intellectual thriller focusing on the murder of Christopher Marlowe, whose atheism and alleged homosexuality draws the attention of the Elizabethan secret police.

Peter Whelan being awarded Playwright of the Year in 1997 with Sir Richard Attenborough (RICHARD YOUNG/REX)

Divine Right (Birmingham Rep, 1996) was an ambitious piece of futuristic drama which imagined the arrival of republicanism in Britain, following the Prince of Wales’s renunciation of the throne in favour of his eldest son. Though the play was predictably denounced by a couple of Tory MPs, it revealed Whelan’s gift for tenderness towards his characters. His portrayal of a troubled young Prince, like Henry V disguising himself and setting off on a tour of England, was done with human sympathy, and Whelan was subsequently surprised to be invited to spend a weekend at Sandringham, hosted by Prince Charles.

Sadly, Whelan’s final production, The Earthly Paradise (Almeida Theatre, 2004) which explored the triangular relationship between Dante Gabriel Rossetti, William Morris, and Morris’s wife, Jane Burden, was something of a disappointment to his admirers, The Daily Telegraph’s critic Charles Spencer describing it as little more than a “dutiful biographical trudge”.

Whelan also did occasional work for television, writing the script for The Trial of Lord Lucan, a documentary drama about the fugitive peer, shown on ITV in 1994.

In 1958 Peter Whelan married Frangcon Price, who survives him with their daughter and two sons.

Peter Whelan, born October 3 1931, died July 3 2014


You rightly point out that it has taken a new generation to advance the campaign against female genital mutilation (Report, 26 July). In the vanguard of the pioneers of that movement is Louise Panton, who was a young producer during my editorship of Forty Minutes (1981-85). Her 1983 film, based in Khartoum, Sudan, was called Female Circumcision and was transmitted on BBC 2 on 3 March 1983. Up to that point the subject had been buried in embarrassed silence. Not least in the BBC, which came near to dropping it on the day of transmission on grounds of delicacy. We were told that portrayal of female genitalia on BBC TV was banned. Louise objected strongly and the film was only saved at the eleventh hour by a piece of case-law plucked from the sky by head of programmes Brian Wenham. Realising female genitalia had to be shown because that was what the programme was about, he devised a compromise. The portrayal of female genitalia could be shown, but only if it was in “an educational context”. On the day of transmission the film was returned to the film editor. As FGM was about to be shown, the film froze to a still- frame and a hastily drawn diagram of the mutilated area was inserted. This was as close to the reality of FGM as was then permitted. The moving film picture later resumed.

However, the film ended with moving pictures of two small girls who were to undergo FGM. Their agonised screams, recorded as the procedure was carried out were overlaid as the film came to a close, and the end credits rolled. This disturbing sequence horrifies and haunts those who saw and heard it to this day. An early day motion was passed in parliament the day after transmission. A direct result was the Prohibition of Female Circumcision Act, which came into effect in July 1985, and was later revised in 2003 as the Female Genital Mutilation Act. This programme has never been repeated. In 1991 Louise Panton made another film for Forty Minutes about young teenagers in Britain speaking out to try and prevent their younger sisters being cut. The teenagers had to speak out anonymously; today they can openly campaign. Progress has been slow but palpable, at least.
Roger Mills

Ed Milliband, as Polly Toynbee says (25 July), is making it clear he’s about principle and not posturing and this is what we desperately need. He does not have a soundbite for every occasion, but his speeches are well researched and he communicates them well. Reading Polly’s list of his policies is encouraging, but it does not include returning the NHS to true public ownership which I think would come top of the  list for most citizens in the UK and would be a real vote winner.
Rachel Rogers
Garstang, Lancashire

• Ed Miliband has a face which would fit comfortably in any Jewish home in the UK. Could all the fuss be a question of institutional anti-semitism?
Harry Landis

• Another hot day and yet another picture of people punting in Cambridge (25 July). My wife and I are keeping a tally. We love Cambridge (we met there), but this is getting silly. There are other places where your photographers might get good pictures of people enjoying themselves in the sun even, perish the thought, somewhere up north. How about trying City Park, Bradford, Millennium Square, Leeds, or the Stray in Harrogate next time you’re illustrating a “phew, what a scorcher“ story?
Colin Philpott
Knaresborough, North Yorkshire

• So the Guardian is advertising (24 July) five conversations with eminent writers, and being a champion of a wider Britain, they are being held in London, London, London, London and London. How about something for your readers in Perth and Derry, Aberystwyth, Preston and even Worcester?
Robert Carr
Droitwich Spa, Worcestershire

As members of the National Council of Imams and Rabbis we are extremely concerned at the escalation and continuation of hostilities between Israel and Gaza. We are deeply saddened by the violence, hatred, suffering and loss of life. We acknowledge the grief and pain they cause. We call on wise leadership to strive for a ceasefire and a return to the negotiating table to work towards a sustained peace and two-state solution.

With regard to our shared responsibilities here in Britain, it is particularly important that we do not allow what happens elsewhere in the world to affect the cooperation and understanding we have built up between the Muslim and Jewish communities in this country. We seek to replace fear and prejudice with knowledge and understanding and in this way work together for a more peaceful world. May it be God’s will that peace prevail.
Qari Muhammad Asim imam, Makkah mosque, Leeds, Dayan Ivan Binstock rabbi, St John’s Wood United synagogue, London, Sheikh Muhammad Ismail imam, Birmingham Central mosque, Jonathan Wittenberg rabbi, New North London Masorti synagogue, Colin Eimer rabbi, Sha’arei Tsedek North London Reform synagogue, Imam Asim Hafiz Islamic adviser to the chief of the defence staff, Abdullah Hasan imam, Masjid Khadijah and Islamic Centre, Peterborough, Dr Margaret Jacobi rabbi, Birmingham Progressive synagogue, Sheikh Ezzat Khalifa imam, London Central mosque, Jason Kleiman rabbi, Bet Hamidrash Hagadol synagogue, Leeds, David Lister rabbi, Edgware United synagogue, London, Ian Morris rabbi, Sinai synagogue, Leeds, Mokhtar Osman imam, York Way mosque, London, Shahid Raza imam, Central mosque, Leicester, Danny Rich chief executive of Liberal Judaism UK, Mohammad Shafiq imam, Darul Ummah Jamme mosque, London, Reuven Silverman rabbi, Manchester Reform synagogue, Daniel Smith rabbi, Edgware Reform synagogue, London, Alexandra Wright rabbi, Liberal Jewish Synagogue, London, Mufti AK Barkatullah Islamic Sharia Council, Leyton

• I am not sure if outrage outweighs grief at witnessing the escalating human destruction in Gaza (Israeli strike kills 15 at UN school used as refuge, 25 July). When did slaughtering civilians you illegally occupy and daily humiliate become the new “self defence”? Would a British government be so crazed as to illegally occupy its next-door neighbour for 50 years, deny its history, steal its resources, move settlers into choice locations while caging the ousted “natives” within remaining sealed remnants, then bomb them for firing (relative to Israel’s awesome arsenal) garden-shed rockets?

Violence by either party cannot be condoned. There are no “sides”: we mourn each victim. But every law of human decency, war and international law is being broken in the killing of civilians in Gaza. A Palestinian boy wrote on Facebook, “We have nothing left to lose. Now I would rather die with my family under the rubble of our house than have a humiliating truce. No justice, no peace.” Those who maintain a strangling siege reap reprisal. Those who turned Gaza into an overcrowded, impoverished internment camp should not be surprised that they tunnel underneath the earth, just as imprisoned Jewish people and British soldiers did during the war. What right have those who have, for 47 years, indiscriminately crossed the green line, expropriating land and constantly harming civilians in raids, shootings and settlements, to raise their hands and speak of Palestinian terrorism? The occupation has turned Israel into a colonial power and colonialism brutalises not only the occupied but the occupier as well. What is happening is a tragedy for Israelis and Palestinians alike.

London and Washington give almost iron-clad support for Israel and US vetoes at the UN shield Israel from prosecution for war crimes and the occupation. Public anger is steadily growing at the impotence of political and judicial systems, locally and globally, to enforce justice, equality and human rights. Unless Israel is called to account, we fail the helpless civilians of Gaza and encourage all those with a militaristic mindset that they can perpetuate a violent modus operandi.
Catherine Thick
Equity & Peace

• In your editorial (26 July) you state that “unless the deeper causes of the problem which is Gaza are addressed by Israel, the US and the international community, a ceasefire will mean very little”. You obviously absolve Hamas from any need to address this problem. But the Hamas charter shows that much of this dire situation flows from its ideology. It states that peace initiatives are all contrary to its beliefs. Israel may well need to rethink its policies but there can be no peace without a drastic change in Hamas’s objectives.
Paul Miller

• “Before the current round of violence, the West Bank had been relatively quiet for years,” writes Jonathan Freedland (Israel’s fears are real, but this war is utterly self-defeating, 26 July). According to B’Tselem, the Israeli human rights centre, 90 West Bank Palestinians were killed, 16 of them children, by the IDF or by settlers between January 2009 and May 2014. According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, there have been 2,100 settler attacks since 2006, involving beatings, shootings, vandalising schools, homes, mosques, churches and destroying olive groves. According to Amnesty International, between January 2011 and December 2013, Israeli violence resulted in injuries to 1,500 Palestinian children. “Relatively quiet” for whom?.
Leon Rosselson
Wembley, Middlesex

• Jonathan Freedland expresses the emotional impasse. The “but” lies in the argument, used last week by David Cameron: “What would we in Britain do if we were subject to rocket fire from across our border?” It looks convincing as grounds for Israel’s actions. But what would we in Britain do if a large chunk of our land – proportionate to the West Bank – had been taken by a foreign power, built upon and our people repressed? The question answers itself and provides the way forward.

As the US seems to be the only actor with clout, an Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank under American and UN supervision and with US guarantees to Israel to defend her borders should be security enough. Only the US could do it. Without this radical solution it’s hard to see how Israelis will ever sleep peacefully in their beds or Palestinians begin to recover from the deep hatred they must feel for Israel’s land-snatch. I cannot know the answer in Gaza, but settling the West Bank problem must be the start.
Richard Payne

• Your editorial seeking to identify the roots of violence in Gaza claimed that the “chain of causation” leads to Ariel Sharon. It comes as no surprise that your interpretation of history has a wicked, devious Israeli deceive a nation of simple honest Palestinians, who wanted nothing better than to live in peace with their neighbours.

You say that “Israel left Gaza institutionalised”. But the first acts of the leaders of that “institutionalised state” were to destroy the houses of the settlers at a time of desperate housing shortage and tear down the market garden economy left by the settlers. They preferred to have their people living on aid, rather than be economically independent. The roots of violence in Gaza are to be found in the fantasy that Israel must be and will be destroyed. The chain of causation leads directly to Riyadh, Tehran, Doha and the other Islamic states that feed this fantasy and thereby mislead the Palestinians.
Gunter Lawson

• Thank you for your highly informative editorial on Gaza. However, you conclude that Gaza is an intractable problem. If western governments put as much pressure on Israel to come to a just settlement with the Palestinians as they are putting on Vladimir Putin on Ukraine, it may not be intractable.
John Haworth
Blackburn, Lancashire

• Jonathan Freedland’s perceptive article suggests that the current war between Israel and Gaza is self-defeating. He observes that “it was the discovery of the tunnels that prompted the ground offensive”. On the same day your correspondents note that the Hamas leader “has insisted on an end to the siege of Gaza… The gap between the two sides is wide.” One way to bridge this gap would be to station UN observers on the border inside Gaza with the equipment to monitor underground tunnels and rockets, and at the border crossings to ensure the siege is ended.

The UN could then organise fresh elections in Gaza and the West Bank to mandate representatives for peace talks to ensure that the cycle of violence does not resume. Renewable energy technologies offer a new dynamic for the negotiations. Fundamentally the conflict is about who owns the land. The UN could own solar panels and wind turbines that would harness the wind, sunlight and atmospheric water above the disputed areas and in Gaza. They could ensure the electricity and water would be for the economic benefit of both Israel and Palestine.
Emeritus Professor Keith Barnham


As a respected commentator, Mary Dejevsky is always welcome at the Institute for Government, not as she describes us (18 July) the “Institution of Government”. The distinction is important, since we are an independent organisation trying to improve how the country is governed.

We know that the Civil Service can be very inward-looking. That is partly why the Institute exists – to bring fresh thinking into Whitehall. It would be wrong to draw the conclusion that our events don’t help build bridges between those on the outside of government and those on the inside. We hosted Iain Rennie, the State Service Commissioner of New Zealand, precisely because he can provide some of that fresh thinking. We have a broad range of event series that bring outsiders in to challenge how government works, such as our women leaders and big thinkers series.

We are very concerned with the impact of public services on the people who use them. Our new report on policy implementation showed why politicians and civil servants need to focus on how policies are to be delivered. We will continue to challenge leaders in politics and the Civil Service to look outwards to improve their internal processes.

Peter Riddell, Director, Institute for Government, London SW1

Great hotel in the great war

I was delighted to read the article about the newly refurbished Majestic Hotel in Paris (26 July), since I have recently been looking into the history of this building myself.

My husband is the keeper of First World War medals awarded to his great uncle, Thomas Ashby. While trying to find out more about the history of this gentleman, I discovered a document signed by the mayor of the 16th arrondissement. The mayor records the death of Thomas Ashby of the King’s Royal Rifles on 25 September 1914, giving the place of his death as 19 Avenue Kléber.

Your article mentions the use of the hotel at 19 Avenue Kléber by the British delegation who negotiated the Versailles Treaty in 1919, but I wonder if there is any record of this building being used by the British Army for casualties during the first few weeks of the war? If this was the case this hotel may be of interest to others in this year of the 100th anniversary of the war.

Gail Chandler, Kirklevington, North Yorkshire

Gaza atrocities traduce Judaism

Well said Mira Bar-Hillel for having the courage to challenge Jewish leadership and communities for their shameful silence on the Gaza atrocities (26 July). One of the most disturbing aspects of the current offensive is the way that belligerent Zionism has traduced Judaism in the eyes of the world.

The essence of this great prophetic religion, with its belief in a benign ethical monotheism and demand for universal justice, was summed up by the greatest of the teachers of Israel, Rabbi Hillel, in the words “Do to others as you would have them do to you” – a far cry from the earlier savagery of “an eye for an eye; a tooth for a tooth”.

Even the founding fathers of Israel, such as Martin Buber, envisaged a different sort of state, characterised by peace and co-operation. How this ideal has been betrayed by the new fundamentalist zealots! After the Six Day War Rabbi Blue rather sadly opined to me: “The Jews always wanted  to be a nation like other nations; now they have shown they are!”

As we now watch artillery being fired into civilian areas, we see a nation acting worse than other nations.

Dominic Kirkham, Manchester

Mira Bar-Hillel  informs us that she will “not go Israel again while this regime is in place”. The word regime being defined as “method of government” and Israel being a democracy, one hopes that she may be imposing a lifetime ban. Perhaps she prefers the regimes like those in Iraq, Iran or even Syria (200,000  mostly civilian, deaths there in the last two years). But perhaps, on reflection, they too must face up to life without a visit from her.

David Isenberg, London N12

Christopher Sterling highlights the Gaza “kill ratio” as “hundreds to one” and therefore not finely balanced (letter, 26 July).

Of course Israel could have altered this ratio by simply opting not to shoot down some of the thousands of rockets being fired into Israeli communities. Alternatively, Hamas could have altered the ratio by building bomb shelters for Palestinians, by not firing missiles from civilian areas, or by not attacking Israeli towns in the first place.

To end the blockade put in place to prevent – or at least limit – all this would be to invite yet more of the same from Hamas. This is a terrorist organisation committed to the abolition of the Middle East’s only Jewish state – an ambition they share with many of the undemocratic nations that routinely vote against Israel at the UN.

Keith Gilmour, Glasgow

Does anyone with a modicum of knowledge on Palestine believe Hamas can destroy mighty Israel? Hamas’s rockets largely fall on waste ground or are destroyed mid-air. Yet Israel does not waste a moment to remind the world that Hamas are hell-bent on Israel’s destruction.

Mustafa Haqqani, Lymm, Cheshire

On the day before Professor John Newsinger’s letter (26 July) was published, deploring Ed Miliband’s failure to speak out on the crisis in Gaza, Mr Miliband made a speech which opened with a very clear statement of his views.

This part of his speech has not been widely reported, because the media concentrated on his remarks about not being from central casting, but the text can be read on Labour’s website. Professor Newsinger could not have known that the Labour leader was going to make this speech, but I wanted him to know that he can now congratulate him.

David Bell, Standon, Hertfordshire

Whitehall goes political

You report (25 July) that a Department of Communities and Local Government spokeswoman said: “Spending on council tax benefit doubled under Labour. Welfare reform is vital to tackle Labour’s budget deficit.” Has the Civil Service now given up entirely the principle of being non-political?

Gyles Cooper, London N10

Saltires in the sky

During this current spell of hot weather, I would be interested to know how much Alex Salmond is paying the airlines to use their vapour trails to portray the image of the Saltire in the skies over Great Britain. Surely this is giving the “Yes” campaign an unfair advantage?

Grant Serpell, Maidenhead, Berkshire

No thanks to Cameron and his Big Society

“If it wasn’t for the churches in this city, homeless people would be dead on the streets from cold and hunger.” I quote 53-year-old Albert, a chronic alcoholic and street drinker.

I have clocked up 28 hours’ voluntary work this week. I’m 65 and should be sitting knitting, but I can’t because of David Cameron. I came home this morning after two hours of hot, exhausting work on our allotments, where my group grows food to cook one night a week to feed up to 100 people.

We work in partnership with other churches in our city to try to provide a free meal somewhere each day, and last winter we managed to raise enough funds to keep a night shelter open from March to September, providing a bed, warmth, a meal and breakfast.

We advocate for our guests, we work with them to gain the help they need to get out of their pits of despair. Not a penny comes from Cameron’s Big Society, and no, we didn’t do it in response to Mr Cameron’s “brilliant” idea. We’ve always done this, in some cases for decades. Don’t let Mr Cameron dare to take the credit!

Our guests are alcoholics, addicts of gambling and drugs, the mentally ill, street girls who can’t break from their pimps because of their addictions, sufferers of prolonged abuse, people evicted because of the bedroom tax. When you are gripped by these problems there is no longer anywhere to go, because Mr Cameron’s spending cuts have taken the help away, and this is so in every town across the country. This isn’t down to poor financial decision-making by councils, it’s down to David Cameron.

He and his colleagues from the Big Society should feel ashamed and disgusted  with themselves at the way public money has been squandered and not gone where it should have gone: to hard-working Brits doing what they should be funding (“Cameron’s Big Society in tatters”, 26 July). The next time those responsible meet to go through their valueless agenda, while sipping expensive mineral waters, someone should remind them that the value of the chair each is sitting on would probably fund my group for a week.

Judith Flack, Derby


Sir, Good to have a clear, incisive military mind brought to bear on the Middle-East question, as typified by Colonel Kemp (“Hamas human shields are to blame, not Israel,” July 25). Unfortunately, he is wrong.

The analogy with the V1 and Peenemünde completely neglects a vital difference. Britain had absolutely no defence against the rocket which had killed over 1,000 London citizens before its production was interdicted — yes, at the cost of civilian lives. Israel has a total defence capability against the rockets fired at them from Gaza, and plenty of time and capacity to plan for more sophisticated ones should they be supplied. Mercifully, very, very few Israeli citizens have so far been killed by these missiles.

As for the analogy with Northern Ireland, it’s a fair one but begs two simple but vital questions. Why did Israel pull out of Gaza in the first place? What it is doing is equivalent to Britain fully withdrawing from Northern Ireland in the 1970s, then every so often bombing Belfast and killing numerous civilians whenever the IRA raised its game.

And, secondly, why don’t the Israelis reoccupy the territory and fight the same sort of war we had to against the IRA?

Both Colonel Kemp and I will agree that such a course of action will save lives and reputations, and might lead to a successful peace negotiation.

Drew Clode
London N8

Sir, Colonel Kemp displays a degree of naivety when he compares the Gaza crisis with a Second World War situation. He says that Gaza is a separate state but forgets that in the war Britain and Germany both had massive armies, navies and air forces. Gaza has none. The Israelis have the missile shield, the Palestinians have none.

The restrictions on Gazans are so severe that they have nowhere to go. To claim that the 700 or so Palestinians who have been killed have all been part of a human shield is shameful. Finally, he believes that the killing of innocent civilians can be justified as in the 732 who died in the raid on Peenemünde.

Dr Fareed Ahmad
London SW18

Sir, Tens of thousands of innocent civilian women and children died in the two Gulf wars. We called it “collateral damage”. One stray bomb hit a Baghdad shelter, killing hundreds of civilians. Our soldiers who were killed or wounded were called, rightly, “heroes”.

Fast forward to the Gaza conflict: the Israeli defence force sends warnings by phone and fires dummy warning missiles — this was not done by the Allies in the Gulf wars. Israel is accused of “war crimes” for the hundreds of civilians tragically killed. Its soldiers are demonised.

Isn’t the tragic reality that civilians die in wars? So why is Israel, which at least has a tangible threat to repel, unlike the spurious threats that prompted the second Gulf War, being judged more harshly?

Lawrence Lever
London NW3

Sir, Your cartoon (Peter Brookes, July 25) supports Israel’s claims that the only reason that it has killed so many women and children in Gaza is that they are being used as human shields. Even children playing on a beach. Now a Red Crescent hospital is bombed and the Israelis claim Hamas did it. I despair . . . .

Susan Cahill
Bracknell, Berks

Sir, I disagree with Philip Collins about purpose and importance of the Commonwealth (Opinion, July 25).

Of course it is right to encourage countries to improve their human rights records (and in extreme cases to remove their membership), but the point of the Commonwealth is that it is a body of nations which share a common language and historical link rather than being an organisation with a political programme.

Nor is sport, however enjoyable, the end of the story. Collins concedes that it is much easier and cheaper to do business in the Commonwealth, but that is only one of the many useful links between Commonwealth countries.

Other areas include educational and technical development and parliamentary liaison (something I have been involved in in Africa and elsewhere) in which the more developed countries like Canada and India, as well as Britain, play a significant role. In the present climate of international turmoil we need all the useful networks that exist. The Commonwealth remains an important forum of that type.

Sir Malcolm Jack
London N19

Sir, Philip Collins is right to say that the Commonwealth is at a turning point but wrong to suggest that this unique association of 53 nations is only about governments.

What matters more than anything else is the contact between people, professional bodies and the private sector which has emerged in this post-imperial age based on a common history and language.

In the modern digital age the prospect of a kaleidoscope of links can develop dramatically through businesses, schools, universities, medical groups, environmentalists, sports, arts and so on.

The members represent over a quarter of the globe with a cross-section of big and small countries, rich and poor, consisting of all faiths and ethnic groups across the world.

The Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, with the accompanying arts and music events, is about contact and better understanding between all the different countries and peoples of the Commonwealth.

In a world full of conflict and bloodshed, surely it is better to try to bridge differences in understanding through talking rather than fighting? As Churchill said, “Jaw jaw is better than war war.”

Britain can only benefit if, as an equal partner in the Commonwealth, governments and people find ways to resolve our differences through contact and dialogue.

Lord Luce
House of Lords

Sir, The Department of Energy & Climate Change’s report Life cycle impacts of biomass electricity in 2020 provoked some wry smiles (Biomass power plants ‘less green’, July 25). Its findings were neatly summarised on the Today programme: “Taxpayers may have been subsidising power stations to burn wood in a way that creates more carbon emissions than burning coal.”

In 2010 the Wood Panel Industries Federation submitted a report to DECC which, in essence, made this same point. We have long argued that support for the expansion of the wood basket and promotion of wood products which extend the life of carbon already sequestered by the growing tree would give a substantially better carbon return than sending harvested wood that is suitable for product manufacture, directly to the incinerator.

Only at the end of its useful economic and biological life should wood be burned for power generation. We hope that the new energy minister will take heed as he gets to know his brief.

Alastair Kerr
Wood Panel Industries Federation
Grantham, Lincs


SIR – As the world recoils from the horrific murder of everyone on board Flight MH17, the majority of people would like to see the most extreme sanctions possible imposed on Russia.

Perhaps there should be restrictions on the movement of Russians within the EU. Could they also be prevented from buying property?

I know this would penalise innocent people as well as the guilty; but 298 have already paid the ultimate price.

Norah Brown
Cloughjordan, Co Tipperary, Ireland

SIR – Some people in Ukraine have not been getting the press they deserve. I refer to those searching for, gathering and bagging the human remains of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 from the wreckage area.

Of course the crash site has been contaminated. This is a country being torn apart by civil war. Even in a sophisticated country in peacetime, an air disaster on this scale would pose a huge logistical problem.

It being the height of summer, the remains needed to be found, sorted and bagged quickly. I cannot think of a more daunting, repugnant but necessary job. Some Ukrainians did help and I think that these good folk should be acknowledged.

Richard Seyd
Farnborough, Hampshire

Cabinet reshuffle

SIR – The sacking of Owen Paterson demonstrates a huge error of judgment by Downing Street.

Mr Paterson’s grasp of the situation when the Somerset Levels flooded last winter was firm and effective. His insistence on a 20-year plan for the area ensured that all the parties involved achieved a consensus of opinion on what should be done.

Part of this plan was to set up a Somerset Rivers Board. This board is to consist of farmers, conservationists, county and district councils. The aim is to build a barrage at the mouth of the river Parrett within 10 years.

Our new Secretary of State Elizabeth Truss should be given an opportunity to steer this important government department. In the meantime, the farmers, home and business owners on the Levels are counting down to next winter. Each day of inactivity brings us one step closer to disaster. Mr Paterson’s knack of keeping his own finger on the pulse of the relevant issues will be missed across the whole country.

Edwin White
Chairman, Somerset Levels Relief Fund
Easton Wells, Somerset

SIR – The deficiencies of the Cabinet reshuffle and the decline in the Conservatives’ opinion poll ratings mirror the misfortunes of England’s cricket team.

In both cases any change in leadership is met with “Who would take his place?” and “There isn’t anyone else out there”. But how do they know? You cannot tell what someone will bring to the leadership role until you give him/her the chance. And you should never keep a leader who is failing to deliver, simply because you are uncertain about the prospects of a successor.

David Saunders
Sidmouth, Devon

Wartime spirit

SIR – I’m sure many of my generation feel as I do when mental health schemes feature in the papers.

As a child growing up during the Second World War, anxiety was wondering where the next bomb would fall. Depression was the hole it made; tension was something to do with my mother’s knitting; and stress was to do with the strength of the washing line. The only “counsellors” I had heard of were local councillors.

Isn’t it amazing that we grew up to be normal?

Sheila Williams
Sunningdale, Berkshire

Tweet of the day

SIR – One evening last week my smoke alarm started tweeting.

At half-past four the next morning I teetered on a chair at the top of the stairs, opened the casing of the alarm and attempted to dig the battery out of its niche. I should have had three hands: two to deal with the battery and one to cling to the top of the chair. If this contraption must be at the top of the stairs, why must it be attached to the ceiling and not the wall of the landing?

Come dawn the thing was still tweeting. I was not happy.

Elizabeth Prince
Littlehampton, West Sussex

Last orders please

SIR – Clive Pilley thinks that bar staff need better training.

On the contrary, the greatest obstacle to better service has always been the swarm of barflies who will not move away from the counter after being served, so that others have to push their way through.

Norman Baker
Tonbridge, Kent

Round the houses

SIR – Can anyone explain the route that Andrew Marr takes to get to the television centre on a Sunday morning?

One shot shows him driving south over Westminster Bridge, but shortly after he is apparently going round Piccadilly Circus.

Diana Goetz
Salisbury, Wiltshire

Christianity under Mosul’s Islamic State

SIR – You reported that the new Islamic State in Mosul is demanding payment of a special tax (jizya) by Christians.

Harsh penalties on Christians for avoidance of this tax were traditional in Sunni Islam. In 1576, in Ottoman Turkey, tax strikes broke out in Albania and west Macedonia, so the Sultan issued a firman that disobedient Christians should have their wealth seized, their houses burned down and their wives and children taken into slavery.

The Sultan was being merciful on that occasion, for in 1583, another such order stated that “according to Sharia the disobedient are to be killed.”

Dr M R Palairet

SIR – I conducted a service at Murmansk in northern Russia recently, for surviving Royal and Merchant Navy seamen who took part in the Arctic convoys during the Second World War.

Among the memorial stones in the British Military Cemetery at Murmansk I found a poignant trio of graves: a Jew, a Christian and a Muslim lay buried side by side. Three men of different religions and nations, united in a common cause to bring relief from suffering.

Religion ought to enable us to discover who we are, where we come from and what our end will be, directing our lives to serve all who share our precious gift of life, our common humanity.

Canon Alan Hughes
Wark, Northumberland

Blair’s legacy

SIR – Tony Blair’s former political secretary John McTernan generously praised his old employer’s achievements but made little mention of the disastrous legacy he left the country.

This includes escalating crime rates, plummeting education standards, the state of the NHS and increasing national debt. Then there was the financial meltdown – apparently not foreseen by anyone in government.

Mr McTernan also credits Mr Blair with democracy in Iraq, yet five pages on in the Sunday Telegraph a report says that the central government “has lost control of vast areas of territory”.

Bill Parish
Bromley, Kent

A tight squeeze

SIR – I would be fascinated to know how John Wilson’s idea of mooring HMS Queen Elizabeth at Greenwich would be achieved.

Measuring 128ft at waterline and 230ft at its widest point, the beam is too large for the Panama Canal, so it would not fit through the Thames Barrier.

John Brandon
Tonbridge, Kent

SIR – Michael Simkins’ 1963 Italian phrase book was almost certainly more handy in its time than some of the genre.

On holiday in Greece several years ago, my mother set out with a team of friends to explore the surrounding mountain area.

Under the increasingly hot sun, one of their party began to complain of feeling unwell, and by the time they had crossed the midway point on their trek, he was virtually unconscious. While the others stayed behind to nurse him, my mother struck out in search of aid.

The rescue attempt ran into difficulty when, rummaging through her phrase book for something applicable to the present emergency, she could only find the Greek for “Please help me: I’ve gone blind”.

Fortunately the stricken party member recovered soon afterwards of his own accord.

Mary Morgan
London SW1

SIR – My father was issued with a French booklet when he served in the cavalry in the First World War. Maybe he found a use for my favourite entry: “Show us the road to X. Direct us correctly or you will be shot.”

Helen Tucker
Heslington, East Yorkshire

SIR – George Osborne, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, has announced that all prospective pensioners will be entitled tofree, impartial, face-to-face adviceon the choices available. Subsequent details as to who will deliver this proposal do not address the real crux of the issue, which is how it is to be delivered.

There cannot possibly be enough people with the relevant skills in the Pensions Advisory Service and Citizens Advice Bureau to give free, impartial guidance to all. The only way to deliver this advice efficiently and cost effectively is online, and not face-to-face as promised; but there is no real detail as to how this might work, or how advice can be tailored to individuals’ requirements through such a generic portal.

This is a great idea but if it is not executed well, that is all it will remain. Any failure to finalise the details quickly is a big gamble for the Government, just before the general election.

Michael Whitfield
CEO, Thomsons Online Benefits
London SW1

SIR – News of the reformed pensions scheme leaves me with a profound sense of foreboding.

Can a clause be inserted into the legislation that will prevent Ed Miliband and Ed Balls, should they get into power, doing to the scheme what Tony Blair and Gordon Brown did in the late Nineties? At the time of the latter pair’s arrival on the scene Britain’s was the best pension scheme in the world.

Andrew Martin
Rowton, Chesire

SIR – The argument of Ros Altmann, the pension expert and “business champion for older workers”, for delaying retirement seemed to be predicated on financial need rather than the Government’s belief that working until the age of 75 is a worthwhile aspiration.

Retirement is about choice based on vocational satisfaction and affordability. The former is outside the control of Government, but the latter is not. Were saving both a more attractive proposition and self-provision more strongly required, then the choice could be based on better criteria and the burden on the state reduced.

Retirement is a negative word, implying a relinquishment of an active and rewarding lifestyle. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Policies that encourage financial preparation throughout one’s working life would be far more beneficial than constantly raising the age at which a person is entitled to a state pension.

A parallel initiative requiring the Government to create a financial policy that accumulates ring-fenced pension funds rather than meeting requirement annually from revenue would also do much to reduce the burden on the state.

Charles Holden
Lymington, Hampshire

SIR – It is curious how government policy regarding the pension age is so regressive. We are told that our children will have to work until the age of 70 before being eligible for the state pension. This is the same age as when it was introduced by Lloyd George more than 100 years ago.

When I began teaching in 1973 we were told that if teachers worked until 65 their life expectancy was another 18 months, but that if they retired at 60 they could expect 12 more years to enjoy their pension.

By requiring teachers to go on until their late 60s, presumably we can look forward to exhausted staff receiving the blame for a decline in the quality of education. Then, when they do eventually get to retire, they will very likely do the decent thing and die within a short space of time. At least the Exchequer will be happy.

John de Waal
Eastbourne, East Sussex

SIR – The Treasury has described a pension pot worth £310,000 as “very large”. At the age many in the public sector retire, the annuity rate available would not put a pensioner into higher rate tax even including earnings-related top-ups such as Serps and its successor S2P.

Andrew Smith
Epping Essex

Irish Times:

Sir, – It is not enough to express horror at so many innocent lives having been lost during the latest round of violence in Gaza and Israel. We must instead ask how we can break the cycle that leads to this slaughter.

The people of Gaza live in what is often referred to as “the world’s largest open air prison”. Almost two million people live in an area 40km long and 10km wide, 80 per cent of whom are classified by the United Nations as refugees. Eight out of every 10 residents of Gaza are reliant on the international community for support.

In the West Bank, the Israeli military is in control of 60 per cent of the land. There are now more than 500,000 Israeli settlers living in over 200 settlements. In order to facilitate these settlements, land is confiscated from Palestinians. According to the UN, in 2013 alone, 1,513 Palestinians, including 731 children, in the West Bank and East Jerusalem were affected by the demolition of homes and other structures.

The occupation of the West Bank has created a discriminatory regime with two populations living separately in the same territory under two different systems of law. While settlers enjoy all the rights of Israeli citizens, Palestinians are subject to military law.

Despite these flagrant breaches of international human rights and humanitarian law, the Israeli government refuses to comprehend Palestinian grievances. Prime minister Netanyahu speaks of “quiet for quiet”. We support his desire for peace and security for Israeli citizens, but we also recognise that it is neither realistic nor acceptable to plan a future based on peace for Israelis and the daily reality of blockades, military law and occupation for Palestinians.

We are witnessing the third major Israeli military offensive in Gaza in six years. The current unjust status quo has sadly led to rocket attacks into Israel and cyclical military action on Gaza. Both sides claim to be responding to the other’s aggression. Without a structural change to the relationship between Israel and the Palestinians, it is inevitable that this cycle will continue.

The Irish Government, along with its European partners, must play an active role in breaking this cycle. Until we are prepared to do more than issue empty words of condemnation, the cycle of violence will continue.

We call on the Government to affirm its commitment to a long-term political solution based on a full adherence to international human rights and humanitarian law by both Palestinians and Israelis.

In recently issued advice to Irish citizens and businesses, the Government noted: “Israeli settlements are illegal under international law, constitute an obstacle to peace and threaten to make a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict impossible.”

Recognising this, we call on the Government to ban all trade with illegal Israeli settlements, thus reducing the economic incentive for Israel to continue to confiscate land from Palestinians in the West Bank.

Working towards a long-term political solution based on peace and justice is the only way to ensure the security of Palestinians and Israelis.

It is a fallacy to think that cyclical military invasions of Gaza will bring security to Israel. This policy will only lead to more violence and death on both sides. Yours, etc,


executive director, Trócaire,


chief executive officer,

Christian Aid Ireland,



Social Justice Ireland,


general secretary,

Irish Council of

Trade Unions,


general president, SIPTU,


School of English,

University College Cork,


School of Social Justice,

University College Dublin,


Department of English,

NUI Maynooth,


School of Applied Language

and Intercultural Studies,

Dublin City University,


School of



School of English,

Drama & Film,

University College Dublin,


International Peace Studies,

Trinity College Dublin,


International Peace

Studies Programme,

Trinity College Dublin,


Department of Sociology,

Trinity College Dublin,


deputy principal.

Ballyfermot College

of Further Education,


Department of History,

St Mary’s University College,



Department of Sociology,

University of Limerick,


School of Communications,

Dublin City University,


Faculty of Humanities

and Social Sciences,

Dublin City University


chairperson, Sadaka –

The Ireland Palestine


Sir, – If truth is the first casualty of war, the second is surely realism. B Devlin (Letters, July 26th) calls for the deployment of a UN force in Gaza charged with the elimination of rocket fire and other forms of aggression that originate there.

Leaving aside the implied apportioning of blame, a number of questions should be answered before the idea of a UN force is abandoned.

For example, would both sides accept such a force? Could the UN Security Council agree to create it? Would the entire Gaza Strip have to be occupied to enforce the mandate? How many troops would be needed? Who would pay for them? Which UN members have the military capability to provided suitably trained and equipped personnel? Which of these countries would be acceptable to the belligerents? How long would the force have to remain in place?

If this renders the idea of a UN force doubtful, we can at least be sure of two things. First, the UN is not fit for its primary purpose of maintaining world peace. And second, no Irish troops would be part of any Gaza peace-keeping force – it is much easier to volunteer other nations’ soldiers for dangerous missions. Yours, etc,


Philipsburgh Avenue,

Dublin 3

Sir, – References in your Letters pages in recent days have compared body counts in Israel and in Gaza, as if there were some league table of death that would justify certain actions. This is an odious and morally bankrupt position. The deliberate taking of human life is, and always will be, an affront to humanity. It is incumbent on all parties to make peace, not war. Partisan screaming from the secure bunker of our own country is of no help in this regard. – Yours, etc,


Lough Atalia Grove,


Sir, – Might I suggest a possible solution to the crisis in Gaza? Israel should declare that it will withdraw to its pre-1967 borders over a 15- to 20-year period in stages every two to three years, a process that will be stalled, or reversed, if any missiles or other terrorist actions are directed at it.

All concerned nations should guarantee the security of the original Israeli state. Hamas and the Palestinians, and other regional powers, should declare their acceptance of Israel as a free, independent state and commit to full support of the peace plan. The United Nations should then oversee and police the agreement until its final conclusion. – Yours, etc,


Las Dunas Park,



Sir, – If there was such a thing in history as a charge of “criminal misjudgement”, then surely John Redmond must be a prime suspect. Redmond stands indicted for the central role he played in sending tens of thousands of innocent young Irishmen into yet another useless and grotesquely violent imperial war. This was done, it would seem, on foot of a vague promise of home rule – what Roger Casement reputedly called “a promissory note payable only after death”. By contrast, Redmond’s great predecessor, Parnell, had years before shown that he recognised and, more importantly, was prepared to yield to and support the growing separatist and anti-imperial movement, the “march of a nation”, if such were the will of the Irish people.

The real “war to end all wars” was about to unfold in John Redmond’s own land: the 1916-21 Irish War of Independence. For most of the island, the outcome of this infinitely less violent event ended the empire’s practice of recruiting young, mainly impoverished, Irishmen as fodder for its endless colonial wars. (Recent research by eminent historian Orlando Figes reveals that in my native parish of Aghada in Co Cork, as many as one in every three men lost their lives in the all but forgotten Crimean War. In fact, post-Famine Irish recruits made up a full one-third of the entire British army engaged in that particular disaster.) By contrast, since independence, Irish soldiers have carved out an enviable reputation for themselves as a universally respected peacekeeping force within the UN.

Whatever the intention behind the newly-issued first World War postage stamps, I think most will agree that the choice of images and text merely serves to underline the manipulative nature and the very bad judgment of that particular pro-war lobby.

In contrast to Redmond and others, and with commendable good judgement, the Irish Labour and Trade Union Congress published the following address to the women of Ireland, on the eve of the war:“ … a war for the aggrandisement of the capitalist class has been declared … it is you who will suffer most by this foreign war. It is the sons you reared at your bosom that will be sent to be mangled by shot and torn by shell, it is your fathers, husbands and brothers, whose corpses will pave the way to glory for an Empire, which despises you.” – Yours, etc,


Ashfield Park,

Dublin 6W

A chara, – I cannot but be astounded by the anti-Irish language letter-writers featured over the last week. It seems there is a huge focus on the cost of Irish culture and very little on the value. “Billions of educational hours wasted” on Irish language education, said John O Loughlin (July 24th).

If you think education is a waste you should try ignorance: ignorance of the 200 per cent increase in gaelscoileanna in the last 20 years; ignorance of the huge demand for total immersion as gaeilge; ignorance of the fact that an Ghaeilge inherently carries with it the richness of the social and cultural heritage of our past. The detractors seem to wish to destroy this living link to the past, who we are and where we come from and break the chain the our historical lineage. Should the Book of Kells be binned? Should Newgrange be knocked?. These “curiosities”, like an Ghaeilge, produce no immediate fiscal reward and could be seen as merely a drain on the public purse; ignorance of the the fact that citizens of other nations can easily speak their own native language as well as perfect English. In Ireland monoglots abound. However in Holland, Denmark and Sweden residents have the capacity to speak their own native language. Why can’t we? Maybe those Irish who feel a deep-rooted inferiority might learn a lesson from these proud, uncolonised, unconquered nations. Is féidir linn! – Mise le meas


Garrán Stigh Lorcáin,

Contae BAC

Sir, – Having read Alex Brummer’s book Bad Banks, concerning the UK bank scandal, it occurred to me that it may be too late for the Dáil inquiry into our banking collapse.

Brummer argues that a repetition of the property price crash in Britain and elsewhere is inevitable, basically because governments have proven that they simply cannot cope with banks and because most of those who oversaw reckless lending in the past are still in place.

He goes on to say that there has been no revolution in banking practice. All of which raises the question as to whether the Dáil banking enquiry should be focused on the future. The dogs in the street know what happened in the past. Besides, a witch-hunt now would be just that, with no one likely to go to jail. At the heart of good banks, Brummer concludes, must be good people.

A revolution in selection and training of personnel, therefore, would appear to be what is now required. – Yours, etc,


Walnut Rise,

Dublin 9

Sir, – The assertion by Paddy McEvoy (Letters, July 25th) that the Irish Republic could soon be a member of the Commonwealth should prompt some thought. In the London Times of the same day Philip Collins wrote that it was time to abolish the organisation and he questioned the wisdom of having the queen, who does a very good job, chair it.

It is incontrovertible that many Commonwealth countries are strangers to its original philosophy, which was to bind nations together freely co-operating in the pursuit of peace, justice and liberty.

The human rights record of many members involves the subjugation of women, the criminalisation of homosexuality and the brutalisation of political opponents. To paraphrase Groucho Marx, do you really want to be in an organisation that would have such characters as members? Yours, etc,




Sir, – I have always felt sure that no matter how dominant women become there will still be a role for men because women and girls are afraid of spiders.

Yesterday my four-year-old granddaughter summoned me to the garden because there was a “baby spider” on her dress. I donned my cape and rushed to her rescue, thinking that she would remember my heroism as I sink into doddering incoherence, only to be ordered in her best princess voice “Don’t touch it, it’s cute.”

Finally, at 63, I am beginning to feel a niggle of the role confusion so dear to a certain element of the chattering classes. – Yours, etc,


Hawthorn Park,


Co Dublin

A chara, – I refer to your report (“Hold the back page”, Sports Weekend, July 26th) which stated that “last week at an international hockey match in Belfield the crowd was asked to stand for the Irish national anthem. People obediently stood up and Phil Coulters Ireland’s Call was played to some amusement.”

How jolly indeed. Assuming that our hockey ambassadors rely on public funding in order to pursue their hockey careers and support funding for the Belfield campus is made available out of the public purse perhaps we are owed an explanation as to the basis for the dropping of our national anthem at this event.

Who or what body made this decision and what authority do they have for this disgraceful and shameful misrepresentation on an international stage? Some people may have been amused – others, however, are not so, and at the very least, would like an explanation. – Is mise,


McDowell Avenue,

Ceannt Fort,

Sir, – JD Mangan has a problem with the Germans (Letters, July 26th). He finds fault with the fact that in contrast to Ireland they kept their economy competitive and did not bankrupt their country. In addition, they were able to be in a position to lend what he calls “surplus monies from German banks” to our banks. A problem arose for us, however, when our banks did not use it wisely. Mr Mangan forgets, however, to mention that in addition to keeping their economy competitive German taxpayers were able to contribute “surplus monies” to building Ireland’s roads etc. In an EU of nearly 30 countries with a home market of 500 million people the Germans must be doing something right. – Yours, etc,


Shielmartin Drive,

Dublin 13

Sir, – Two extraordinary contrasts in The Irish Times (July 26th). Breda O’ Brien brilliantly captured the sad reality of contemporary politics while on the previous page Stephen Collins remained caught in the politics of yesteryear. Who would have thought it? I admit, not I. – Yours, etc,


Beech Hill Drive,

Dublin 4

Irish Independent:

After the weekend that wasn’t I just felt that I had to write on what has happened in this country with Garth Brooks.

A country on its knees crying out for work, our young people leaving by the day, an opportunity for over €50m, not to mention the extra work for workers who cannot find full-time employment, I just cannot understand how we can shut down the city for days on end and restrict and disrupt people going to work at a massive expense, for a visit from Queen Elizabeth and also for US President Barack Obama.

This costs money we can not afford, and they could bring in emergency legislation to bail out the bondholders and could not do this to save something that was going to be good for our economy.

I am not a Garth Brooks fan, but could see in the city on the days of the One Direction concerts the shops were packed.

It was like Christmas Eve – how could they let an opportunity like this go?

Legislation could have been changed afterwards to ensure that it could not happen again for the residents.




Language by its very nature is for communicating, speaking and hearing. Academic study of the rules of language is a totally different matter.

Down the years, the Irish education system has killed our language by putting the cart before the horse. I got a degree in Irish but could not speak it until I went abroad. I was shamed into it; I wanted the Filipinos and the Chinese and the Spaniards to know that I was not English. You can learn to speak any language in a matter of weeks, if you have to, or starve.

The plain fact is that Irish does not belong in school at all, certainly not in an Irish school. For example, children should be hearing people talking Irish in the playground from the first day. Connacht Irish is the easiest to pick up and the most natural. But what is the use talking to people who think they know better?

Will it ever change? You must be joking. And it doesn’t matter now anyway because these geniuses buried it long ago. Ta an teanga marbh le fada an la.




A deep pain and fear is embedded in the mental and physical make-up of many Israelis.

The terrible scars of the past may never be healed. The atrocities witnessed have broken the spirits of the strongest, leading people to repeat dreadful crimes. The death of so many innocent women and children in Gaza. The innocent, as always, offered up as a sacrifice to those who pretend to have their best interests at heart.

There are two deeply rooted arguments in this horrendous conflict of which neither side comes out smelling of roses. But it is ironic that a race of people who were systematically tortured and killed in the biggest ethnic cleansing horror of our history have not learnt the lessons of the past. A similar torture is being inflicted on the Palestinians. People who have a right to live life with some kind of dignity.

Weak, poor, living in awful conditions in such a small compressed area. Does this ring a bell? Reminiscent of the Jewish ghettos in World War II. Inflicting through the blockade an impossible situation for the Palestinians to live in.

Now the killing ratio is overwhelming in its systematic forcefulness.




The debate on the Israeli/ Palestinian conflict is totally lacking in historical perspective. The reason Israel exists at all is that Europeans set up a frighteningly efficient set of factories in order to exterminate a whole race of people – the Jews. It is even more frightening that they nearly succeeded.

When the present-day politicians talk about their ‘outrage’ at what is happening near the shores of the eastern Mediterranean, they are ignoring the fact that both the Israelis and the Palestinians are fighting for survival. They are in that position because they are the victims of the extreme abuse of power by Europeans.

Both are condemned to fight it out on the ground for control of a small area of the Middle East because European powers in two world wars ordained it so. Europeans, should, therefore, display bit more introspection in this debate.




Recently, there have been newspaper headlines to the effect that the UN has criticised the state of human rights in Ireland, especially in relation to issues such as abortion. Of course, those like the women who suffered symphysiotomy, or those who suffered under state care should be given the care, respect and compensation that they deserve.

However, is it really the place of the UN to advise Ireland to legalise abortion, even though the pro-life provision in our Constitution was enshrined in a binding referendum?

As far as I know, Malta, a fellow EU member, hasn’t being dragged over the coals over its abortion regime, even though abortion in Malta is banned under all circumstances – unlike in Ireland, where abortion, (the Halappanavar case notwithstanding) is clearly legal in the case where it’s required to save the life of the mother.

Also, is Ireland really unique when it came to its record on women’s rights? Illegitimacy was considered taboo in most countries until the late 20th Century, not just Ireland. The UK also kept unmarried mothers in institutions like the Magdalene laundries until the 1960s, and Sweden not only serialised single mothers, but also performed forced abortions, sometimes up to the 1970s.

And that is only in Europe – need I mention China‘s one-child policy and all that comes with it, or India‘s particularly dreadful record on women’s rights? Unless abortion is the only indication of progress on human rights, it’s hard to argue that Ireland’s record on Human Rights, let alone on women’s rights, merited the dressing-down we got from the UN rights committee.




For some reason, doctors have become the baddies in the healthcare debate – we are greedy and lazy and we will do anything if you pay us enough. It saddens me.

I don’t know any doctors who went into medicine purely for the money. I know many who are working long hours, trying to provide the best care possible for their patients, which is becoming increasingly difficult when you can’t get tests or appointments for them outside the private sector.

There are doctors on the media highlighting the issues their patients are facing. Some politicians are listening, others aren’t. Loading extra work and even more bureaucracy on to an already struggling system is not the answer, however politically popular it may be. We need proper debate that crosses party politics and properly planned, resourced change.




I have always felt sure that no matter how dominant women become, there will be a role for men because women and girls are afraid of spiders. Yesterday my four-year-old granddaughter summoned me to the garden because there was a “baby spider” on her dress.

I donned my cape and rushed to her rescue, thinking that she would remember my heroism as I sink into doddering incoherence, only to be ordered in her best princess voice: “Don’t touch it, it’s cute.”

Finally, at 63, I am beginning to feel a niggle of the role confusion so dear to a certain element of the chattering classes.


Irish Independent


July 27, 2014

27 July 2014 Books

I jog around the park I still have arthritis in my left knee, but I manage to get round the park. A very very dry day

Scrabble I wins, but gets over 400. perhaps Mary will win tomorrow.


JT Edson was a writer whose fight-packed, politically incorrect Westerns crafted in Melton Mowbray sold 27 million copies

JT Edson

JT Edson

6:30PM BST 25 Jul 2014


JT Edson, who has died aged 86, was a former British Army dog-handler who wrote more than 130 Western novels, accounting for some 27 million sales in paperback.

Edson’s deft, if hardly elegant, works – produced on a word processor in an Edwardian semi at Melton Mowbray — contain clear, crisp action in the traditions of B-movies and Western television series. What they lack in psychological depth is made up for by at least 12 good fights per volume . Each portrays a vivid, idealised “West That Never Was”, fuelled by corny jokes at a pace that rarely slackens.

His authentic descriptions of 19th-century weapons, his interest in what causes a gun to jam and in the mechanics of cheating at cards enjoyed a strong following, especially among serving British soldiers .

But his accounts of catfights involving women punching, scratching and biting as they tear the clothes off each other in the mud, did not appeal to the new breed of feminist publishing executives. Others pointed out that a young man sent to Broadmoor for killing a Sunday School teacher claimed to have modelled himself on Edson’s hero, the half-Comanche, half-Irish Ysabel Kid. There was also the novel The Hooded Riders (1968), which portrayed an organisation resembling the Ku Klux Klan as a heroic resistance group.

In 1984 the Labour Party protested about the characters in JT’s Ladies: they included a gunslinger called Roy Hattersley (then the party’s deputy leader) and his sidekick Len Murray and three desperadoes named Alex Kitson, Alan Fisher and David Basnett — all of them well-known trade union leaders.

At the same time, Edison delighted in pricking southern, middle-class, pretensions. The dedication to JT’s Ladies declared: “For all the idiots of the press who have written articles entitled things like ‘The Fastest Pen in Melton Mowbray’ and have been filled with the most stupid, snob-oriented pseud-jargon never to appear on the pages of mine or any other author’s books. May the bluebird of happiness fly over them when it has dysentery, because that is catching.’’

John Thomas Edson was born at Worksop, Nottinghamshire, on February 17 1928, the son of a miner who was killed in an accident when John was nine. He left Shirebrook Selective Central School at 14 to work in a stone quarry and joined the Army four years later.

As a sergeant in the Royal Army Veterinary Corps, Edson served in Kenya during the Emergency, on one occasion killing five Mau Mau on patrol. He started writing in Hong Kong, and when he won a large cash prize in a tombola he invested in a typewriter.

On coming out of the Army after 12 years with a wife and children to support, Edson learned his craft while running a fish-and-chip shop and working on the production line at a local pet food factory. His efforts paid off when Trail Boss (1961) won second prize in a competition – a promise of publication and an outright payment of £50.

The publishers offered £25 more for each subsequent book, and — with the addition of earnings from serial-writing for the comic Victor — Edson was able to settle down to professional authorship. When the comic’s owners decided that nobody read cowboy stories any more, he was forced to get a job as a postman (the job had the by-product of enabling him to lose six stone in weight from his original 18).

Edson’s prospects improved when Corgi Books took over his publisher, encouraged him to produce seven books a year and promised him royalties for the first time. In 1974 he made his first visit to the United States, to which he was to return regularly in search of reference books. He declared that he had no desire to live in the Wild West, adding: “I’ve never even been on a horse. I’ve seen those things, and they look highly dangerous at both ends and bloody uncomfortable in the middle. My only contact was to shoot them for dog meat.”

Edson’s bachelor-tidy study, with a wall covered in replica firearms, was the setting for a daily routine broken by a lunchtime stroll to the local pub. A secretary in the room next door handled his fan mail, income tax demands and the sales in Danish, German and Serbo-Croat. Occasionally he would ask her to help him act out some particularly complicated Main Street gunplay and to help produce a JT Appreciation Society newsletter .

His heroes were often based on his favourite film stars, so that Dusty Fog resembled Audie Murphy, and the Ysabel Kid was an amalgam of Elvis Presley in Flaming Star and Jack Buetel in The Outlaw.

Before becoming a recluse in his last years, JT’s favourite boast was that Melton Mowbray was famous for three things: “The pie, Stilton cheese and myself – but not necessarily in that order’’.

Edson and his wife Dorothy were divorced. They had two sons and a daughter, and he also adopted her three sons by a previous marriage.

JT Edson, born February 17 1928, died July 17 2014


Aseem Malhotra (“Over-treatment is the great threat to western health“, Comment) bemoans the poor quality of hospital food that contributed to the decline in his mother’s condition. He is right to identify this as a major problem, particularly for elderly patients, and many hospital patients will not be lucky enough to have a family to bring them good food.

In a major breakthrough, NHS England has now recognised this as a clinical issue and an increasing number of hospitals are looking to qualify for a new clinical excellence award for their food provision by adopting the Soil Association’s Food for Life catering mark to ensure they are serving freshly cooked, seasonal, locally sourced, higher animal welfare and healthier meals that are independently verified. GP commissioning groups can now make hospital food one of the areas where a hospital’s budget is made dependent on raising standards. Patients should be calling on their local commissioning group to take action to improve their hospital food now.

Peter Melchett

Policy Director, Soil Association,


Gaza’s tragic ocean of hate

In a week of heartbreaking news, the most moving for me was the article by Sayed Kashua (“For 25 years I tried to tell Israelis the Palestinian story. Now it’s time to leave“, New Review). I ache for him and the Palestinian and Israeli people. As a British Jewess, I support the Arab/Israeli Oasis of Peace village Neve Shalom and the Israeli Palestine Bereaved Families for Peace. I feel helpless and these are drops in an ocean of hate. Like Sayed Kashua, I am a lover of books and now I have heard of him I’ll buy his book Exodus, but I fear this will be of little comfort to him.

Sybil Gottlieb

London NW3

Demonising Putin

It was with great dismay that I read the emotional and one-sided rhetoric of your leader railing against Vladimir Putin in the manner of a cold war warrior who can only see one side of a complex situation (“It’s time brutish Putin was held to account“, Comment). It was based on speculation and caricature and ignored the fact that the west’s leaders can be equally, or even more, hard-hearted, irresponsible and thuggish – if that is what Putin has been – in their support for separatists and terrorists in conflicts much further from home than that supported by Russia in eastern Ukraine. Demonising Putin in isolation and depicting him as the only bad boy on the block in this manner denies the fact that western intervention directly and indirectly in Iraq, Libya, Syria and (since supporting the Maidan coup) in Ukraine has led to disintegration, civil war, instability and thousands of deaths.

Professor Richard Woolley

Pickering, North Yorks

Betraying the young

Your leader correctly identifies the worsening position of Britain’s young people on a range of issues – poverty, disease, mental well-being (“Britain’s young deserve better from this government“, Comment). The coalition has diminished the lives of young people by shredding the services designed to encourage and support their development, despite David Cameron’s fine words in 2008. A year ago, it transferred responsibility for youth policy and services to the Cabinet Office. Ed Miliband has pledged to strengthen youth services, if elected. The Liberal Democrats made a similar commitment in 2010, but there will be no glad, confident morning until those who work with the young see detailed proposals to turn words into action.

Tom Wylie

Former CEO, The National Youth Agency


Singling out mothers

I take issue with the term “single” mother or “single” parent. (“Single mothers ‘do just as good a job as couples‘” (News) There is no such thing as a child born of or to a “single” parent. It takes two to make a child, even via artificial insemination. There are children being raised by one parent, most often the mothers, and most often due to separation, divorce or fathers not taking responsibility. The term “single parent” lets these fathers off the hook, as if they had no part in creating the child/ren. As long as “single parent” is used so thoughtlessly and until journalists and policymakers do not think to ask: “Where is the other parent?”, fathers will continue to be let off the hook.

Lorraine Schaffer

London SW16

Celebrate our engineers

I remember little of my engineering graduate and post-graduate degree courses 40 years ago, but still try to employ the logical thinking and professional approach to problem solving that an engineering career trained me in (“Forget damsels in distress: we need more female engineers“, Businessk). Yes there are “too few engineers”, both male and female, and particularly in management, where those logical and professional skills are in short supply. It is good, in a world where bankers, footballers, “celebrities” and pop stars can receive astronomic amounts, that engineers are beginning to be better paid. But don’t look down on the skills of “…. the engineer who came to fix the photocopier”.

David Murray

Wallington, Surrey

Kenneth Clarke

Goodbye to all this: Kenneth Clarke arrives at 10 Downing Street to learn he has lost his cabinet post in David Cameron’s reshuffle. 1 Photograph: Will Oliver/EPA

Perhaps avuncular Ken Clarke’s political longevity is due to not being an Etonian millionaire, out of touch with public experience, but he has contradictions (“UK economic recovery ‘not firmly rooted’, warns Clarke”, News,). While claiming to be “on side” with government economic policy, he does concede the folly of depending on a house boom without the productive base to compete long term in global markets, thus repeating the process that got us where we are.

He claims we don’t want to be a low-skills, long-hours economy, but is mystified why productivity is not rising when the whole system is skewed in favour of the rich who constantly plead that top people need top money as incentive – but the rest don’t.

Comparable executive pay in Germany is half that of the UK and they make things with no balance of payments deficit. They also build enough houses without creating a bubble on unsustainable domestic debt. To his credit, Mr Clarke ferociously fought Margaret Thatcher over Americanising the NHS, but still created the disastrous “internal market”.

Bill Newham


Andrew Rawnsley’s article on Mr Clarke mentions the three times when the Tory party rejected him as leader, without emphasising enough the folly of these rejections. If he had succeeded in any of those times, Britain would be a richer and a fairer country. Those of us working abroad in business for 30 years saw him as an ally, who understood that Britain is a trading nation, living by selling “widgets” abroad to provide work for the 25 million people of working age, rather than for the 10% of that number in services. When the recent austerity measures had to be introduced, they would have been more palatable from a government headed by a man from Nottingham high school, not from an Etonian. The original “One Nation Tory”, Benjamin Disraeli, must be turning in his grave.

William Robert Haines


After your (happily) lively postmortem on Ken Clarke, it may seem churlish to flag up one of his less creditable ministerial actions, particularly for a distinguished lawyer. This was his refusal as home secretary in 1992, although a professed opponent of the death penalty, to grant Iris Bentley the pardon she sought for her brother, Derek, on the legalistic grounds that established practice required “moral as well as technical innocence”, a decision the high court overruled, resulting in a pardon in 1995, followed in 1998 by the quashing by the court of appeal of Derek’s conviction. A happy sequel for a man declared to be technically innocent, despite Ken Clarke.

Benedict Birnberg

London SE3

Nicky Morgan may well have promised to listen to teachers (“Morgan hints at a more teacher-friendly attitude”, News) but we should be wary of celebrating the demise of Michael Gove. Every recent education secretary has felt obliged to revolutionise the profession, so there is no reason to assume the new one will be any different. As long as education is a political football there will be no peace for the teachers and children they teach.

Stan Labovitch


As someone concerned to promote a broad, balanced and largely data-free primary education, my advice to Nicky Morgan is to pause, listen and consult, and to begin by consulting her own parents and parents-in-law to see what they would want for their own grandchild’s well-being and education.

Professor Colin Richards

Spark Bridge, Cumbria

Cameron’s reshuffle may slightly change the gender numbers but does nothing to alter the social balance; the cabinet is still devoid of those with experience of life at the hard end. Not that Labour can complain as it has rapidly decreased its number of MPs from working-class backgrounds.

Bob Holman



True, the pay gap could be closed significantly if more women took up apprenticeships in traditionally male sectors (“Do I look like I work on Type 45 destroyers?”, 20 July), but why do we accept that jobs in female sectors should pay less?

Demos are right to say that we need to challenge outdated perceptions of work roles, but that includes challenging the notion that women performing vitally important tasks such as nursing the sick, caring for the elderly and looking after the very young should be penalised rather than recognised for doing so.

Closing the pay gap isn’t just about encouraging more women to do “men’s jobs” but about creating equality – of opportunity and reward – across all sectors. This in turn would unlock other equalities, for example by making it economically viable for more men to share childcare responsibilities.

Dr Carole Easton

Chief executive

Young Women’s Trust, London N1

Hurrah for Amol Rajan (“Which of these editors would rather wear the trousers?”, 20 July), who, to paraphrase John Knox, has given “the second blast of the trumpet against the monstrous regimentation of male attire”! This matter is particularly relevant at formal events where the unimaginative uniformity of black tie or morning dress holds sway, whereas with women “anything goes”. David Beckham, alas, failed to set a trend when he wore a sarong which is appropriate in tropical climes – and yet with climate change why not think the supposed unthinkable?

After 150 years mourning the Prince Consort, when the establishment effectively enforced a black dress code, isn’t it time to break free from such constraint?

Women “liberated” themselves following the First World War – why are men so conservative, or are we waiting for practical, as opposed to wacky, expensive and unrealistic, men’s clothes designers?

Russell Webb

Ringwood, Hampshire

Intelligent readers will applaud the courage of Archie Bland’s searching piece on paedophilia (20 July).

Blanket condemnation does nothing to protect children. Asking about the complicated motivations behind a sexual interest in children is the path to helping abusers manage their impulses. Yet even with therapists it’s difficult to raise such questions without being accused of sympathy with the abuser, as I found in publishing my own work on incest.

Mary Hamer

London SE1

To rush to judgement over the causes of an air crash is the road to potentially very serious errors resulting in placing blame in the wrong place. How does your correspondent Andrew Buncombe know if a missile even brought down flight MH17 let alone what kind of missile it was (20 July)? He doesn’t, and is presenting untested allegations as facts. The only sensible course is for a full independent international investigation to report back.

Bill Haymes


Katy Guest (July 20) says that “to kill an author’s mystery is a terrible thing”. But it all depends who the author is. I mean at first J K Rowling seemed annoyed that she had been outed as Robert Galbraith, a supposedly new writer of detective mysteries. Now, however she publicly admits that she’s well into writing the third book in a series which could run longer than Harry Potter!

Tim Mickleburgh

Grimsby, Lincolnshire

You are spot on in publicising Glenn Mulcaire’s story. We only get so much from court cases, and this tells the story straight from the source. It shows how the News of the World gave up its worthy fight for justice in the hunt for celebrity. That is a question for our society. Well done.

Michael Harley


Personally, I’ll be voting for Ed Miliband’s brain and philosophy, rather than his looks.

H James

Chester-le-Street, Durham


FLIGHT MH17 may have been shot down unintentionally but it was no accident (“This is an outrage made in Moscow”, News, and “Make Putin the pariah pay”, Editorial, last week). Civilian airliners “squawk”, transmitting an identification code that would have clearly distinguished this plane as commercial air traffic. It could not possibly have been mistaken for a Ukrainian military transporter.

The fact is that a highly sophisticated surface-to-air missile system was made available to irregular forces who did not have the discipline or training to assess the situation. The pro-Russian separatists, the Buk anti-aircraft system operators — if they are different — and the supplier of the weaponry, namely Russia, are equally culpable. It was no accident, or terrorism, but a war crime.
William Wilson, London SW11

History repeating itself

Your editorial on the tragedy of Malaysia Airlines MH17 recalls the downing of Iran Air flight 655 by the USS Vincennes in 1988. The American warship was in Iranian territorial waters when it launched its surface-to-air missiles. All 290 civilians on board the aircraft died.

The captain of the Vincennes, William C Rogers III, was subsequently awarded the Legion of Merit by former president George HW Bush. A further irony is that the Vincennes was in the Gulf as part of a western effort to ensure that Saddam Hussein’s ill-fated invasion of Iran would not result in his outright defeat.
Yugo Kovach, Winterborne Houghton, Dorset

Block and tackle

Monetary sanctions are sadly the only option for law-abiding countries. A block on Russian transactions in London would be met with an immediate response to apprehend the perpetrators and bring them to justice. Strong action also needs to be taken now for the future safety of commercial aviation with handheld rocket launchers in the wrong hands.
Richard Andrews, Witney, Oxfordshire

Supply chain

The Malaysia Airlines tragedy shows what terrible things can happen when powerful destructive weapons are used irresponsibly, having been supplied by a supporting world power. A similar situation exists in Gaza (“Israel sends troops into Gaza tunnels”, World News, last week) where an even higher number of innocent civilians is being killed with equally destructive weapons supplied by a world power.
Bruce Payne, Sheffield

Imbalance of power

In Gaza, one’s sympathy is with the underdog — the side that has hundreds dead and many more injured. On one side there are all the weapons of war, while on the other there are rockets against which Israel’s Iron Dome anti-missile system protects its civilians.

I do agree with Ari Shavit’s thesis of the missed opportunity for getting even a temporary truce, but the blame cannot legitimately be put on the US diplomatic effort (“War clouds over my sons’ future”, Focus, July 13). It is only the parties to the conflict that can make peace. There is one very serious problem, though. Israel has a huge preponderance of power; the Palestinians have nothing with which to bargain. The rockets from Gaza are a pathetic attempt to get a place at the negotiating table.

Shavit’s article did, of course, contain the answer. There was no immediate threat from the refugees on their tiny strip of desert, so why bother?
FL Gardener, Bristol

Duties of States

If the Afghan people were to democratically elect the Taliban, the western world would abandon them to the sorry fate they chose for themselves and certainly not give them money nor any moral support.

So why is it different for the Palestinians? Hamas, which has shown in recent days its sheer disregard for the lives of the people it is responsible for, did not come to power in a vacuum.

This organisation, whose raison d’être is anti-peace, anti-Jewish and a dedication to the destruction of Israel, was democratically elected by the Palestinian people. It is time for the international community to recognise this fact, and to make the message clear to the Palestinian people that while it supports a Palestinian state, statehood comes with responsibilities. The last thing the world needs is another terrorist regime.
Michelle Moshelian, Givatayim, Israel

Life bans for drivers caught on phone

YOUR heartbreaking article “Killed for the sake of a text” (Focus, last week) reinforces the urgency with which the government must confront this issue. A driving licence is a privilege, not a right, and anyone caught on a mobile phone while at the wheel must be handed a substantial punishment. Repeat offenders and those who cause a fatal accident should be banned from driving for life.

Mike Dunstan, Reading, Berkshire

In plain sight

The law against the use of mobile phones while driving is one of the most openly ignored. It is treated with disdain by many motorists, and it is increasingly hard to spot drivers not breaking this rule.

Rowell Wilkinson, Leyton, London

Wrong message

While I applaud your campaign, I doubt anything will change. A young woman driving behind me spent the whole time looking at her phone. When she stopped at red lights, a police patrol car with two officers inside halted in a queue of traffic opposite. I attempted to alert them but they took no notice and she blatantly continued her texting.

Cynthia Farrell, Warwick

Global threat of antibiotics

THE Conservative MP David Davis highlights antibiotic resistance as one of the greatest threats to our ability to fight disease (“Reckless use of antibiotics will kill more than any war”, Comment, July 13) and it has the potential to become a global catastrophe.

Davis correctly points to the fact that the lack of oversight and regulation of antibiotic use outside Europe is a serious cause for concern. But he is mistaken in his assertion that: “The scientific consensus is that most antibiotic resistance in human infections is of farm-animal origin.”

In reality the opposite is true, as was recognised by the government’s UK five-year antimicrobial resistance strategy, published last year. It states: “Increasing scientific evidence suggests that the clinical issues with antimicrobial resistance that we face in human medicine are primarily the result of antibiotic use in people, rather than the use of antibiotics in animals.”

Of course that does not mean that those of us working in the animal health sector are complacent. The British Veterinary Association has been leading the call for the responsible use of antibiotics both in the UK and across the globe.

Robin Hargreaves, President, British Veterinary Association, London W1

Call NHS managers to account for targeting whistleblowers

YOUR report “Surgeon wins fight after NHS cover-up” (News, July 13) was not the first time we read about the unfair and arrogant behaviour of NHS managers, resulting in the sacking of whistleblowers and disruption to their lives.

When will we learn that unless managers are held to be accountable and given exemplary punishment for their actions against whistleblowers, the whistleblowers will continue to suffer? Perhaps it is time to start a serious campaign.

Arun Baksi, Physician, Rajeev Joshi, Haematologist (retired), Rajiv Ghurye, Rebecca Ashton, Peter Coleman, Martin Davies, General Practitioners, David McNeal, Gynaecologist (retired), John Smith, Chemical Pathologist (retired), Bettina Harms, Paediatrician, Bhupen Shah, Surgeon, Isle of Wight; June Cooper, Anaesthetist (retired), Anglesey, Derek Machin, Surgeon, and Beverley Moore, Gynaecologist (retired), Merseyside, Krishna Korlipara, General Practitioner, Bolton, Lancashire, Ronald Hill, Physician (retired), Wendy Gatling, Physician, Poole, Dorset


Off plan

Everyone in my village is aware that even the present planning laws were not enough to stop a developer building 10 large houses on an orchard in the green belt (“To build better towns we must first demolish the planners’ brick wall”, News Review, last week). The article’s author, Karl Sharro, fails to understand that developers build what they want and wherever they can in order to make a profit. The orchard in question was not what he describes as “derelict agricultural land”; it was part of what makes the area attractive. I agree that too much emphasis is placed upon scrutinising homeowners wishing to extend their properties, but removing planning controls will result in massive urban sprawl.

Nick Craddock, Pewsey, Wiltshire

Gone bust

Audacity has two meanings, one positive, the other not so. The first is bold or daring, the second is impudent or presumptuous (“Audacious as ever: The revamped Chichester Festival Theatre has lost none of its edge”, Culture, last week). Certainly the money has been well spent on the refurbishment and improvement of the theatre, and indeed “they have decluttered the old building, made more space and daylight in the foyer”. But where is the splendid bronze relief by the acclaimed sculptor Lawrence Holofcener? It presents, in the form of a series of busts, Laurence Olivier in 28 of his most famous theatre and film roles. Making inquiries, I was told it obstructed the clean, smooth lines of the architect’s vision. However, it was the vision of Olivier (who became the theatre’s first artistic director at the invitation of local councillor Leslie Evershed Martin) that was behind this regional venue’s lasting success. He put Chichester on the theatrical map, where it has stayed ever since. Almost 30 years ago it was considered absolutely fitting for this to be commemorated by a sculpture, which was unveiled by the humbled and honoured actor himself. It is unforgivable to fail to reinstall that tribute now. Put it back at once. Do others agree?

Mark Walker, Southampton

Badgering farmers

Charles Clover worries that the new environment secretary, Elizabeth Truss, may reduce the number of badger culls taking place (“All eyes on Iron Lady 2.0, caught between Brock and a hard place”, Comment, last week). Clover and the farming community seem hellbent on killing anything that moves in the countryside, unless there is direct financial gain to be had. Far more effective than culling badgers would be to stop compensating farmers for TB in cattle. Then we would very quickly see the introduction of badger-proof fencing around those cattle. Clover claimed that badgers are responsible for the decline of hedgehogs, bumblebees and ground-nesting birds. Farmers and their “modern” practices are clearly much more culpable than the few badgers we have left.

Michael Donkin, Chorley, Lancashire

Jury disservice

Your correspondent Vic Brown gives a very misleading impression of court proceedings (“Guilty as charged”, Letters, July 6). Jurors are supplied with writing pads and pens and encouraged to take notes. Judges almost always provide the jury with written directions on the law and definitely do so in lengthy and complicated cases. Finally, all jurors are advised that should they have any queries during their deliberations, the question should be written down and it will be answered in open court.

Heather Kennedy, Ormskirk, Lancashire

Smoke and mirrors

Amanda Foreman is right to call Colorado’s cannabis legalisation a great social experiment (“Let them eat cannabis cake: a great social experiment has begun”, Comment, July 13). Sadly, though, the canaries in the cage are its own citizens. She wonders “whether people can be trusted to behave like grown-ups; and so far the answer is yes”.Trusting a person to behave like an adult when a chemical is in control of their brain is asking a bit much. A 2013 study by the Maryland Psychiatric Research Centre shows it can take up to eight years for psychosis to manifest itself in cannabis users. Making positive statements about its legalisation six months into the experiment is at best premature.

Nigel Price, Cardiff

Clarifcations on Coll

As the former owner mentioned in your articles about Alexander McCall Smith and the Cairns of Coll (” McCall Smith to give Cairns of Coll to nation”, News and “The No 1 writer’s retreat”, Home, last week), viz “someone who lived on Barra and in whose family they had been for three (sic) generations”, I would like to clarify that my home is in Coll and I work as a Gaidhlig medium teacher in Barra. The Cairns have never been under threat from development, the people of Coll have always had access to them and the wildlife has been free to come and go. This would be the case irrespective of who owns them, due to legislation and regulation over the last 30 years. The money I got from the sale – £140,000 and not “just under £300,000″ stated in your paper – is being used to build my house on Coll, an expensive undertaking in a part of the country where costs are crippling.

These include the need to import sand and gravel to an island rich in beaches, thanks to a general commercial prohibition imposed unilaterally by Scottish Natural Heritage backed by the RSPB in recent years. I am glad that Mr McCall Smith mentions our pre-purchase discussions. I was determined that the islands should not end up in the hands of any conservation body because I did not want to see them, the people of Coll who use them nor the wildlife there subjected to the unnatural controls and destructive management plans which are the hallmark of conservation ownership. To that end, the selling agent was instructed by me to ask Mr McCall Smith at the point of sale whether he was going to gift the Cairns of Coll to any environmental group. Had he stated that this was his intention, I would not have sold him the islands. I am happy now to publicly confirm that he gave the required assurance that he would not do this. That, in my view, is the way to look after the islands.

Miss Kirsty MacFarlane, Isle Of Coll, Argyll and Bute

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)


Allan Border, cricketer, 59; Nikolaj Coster Waldau, actor, 44; Christopher Dean, figure skater, 56; Jo Durie, tennis player, 54; Bobbie Gentry, country singer, 70; Jack Higgins, novelist, 85; Timo Maas, DJ, 45; Julian McMahon, actor, 46; Jonathan Rhys Meyers, actor, 37; Baroness Williams, politician, 84


1694 foundation of the Bank of England; 1890 Vincent van Gogh shoots himself and dies two days later; 1940 debut of Bugs Bunny, in the short film A Wild Hare; 1974 House judiciary committee votes to impeach President Richard Nixon; 1996 pipe bomb at Olympic Games in Atlanta kills one and wounds 110

Letters should arrive by midday on Thursday and include the full address and a daytime and an evening telephone number. Please quote date, section and page number. We may edit letters, which must be exclusive to The Sunday Times


SIR – I am unashamedly proud to be a female contributor to the Letters page (“Don’t women have opinions? Comment, July 25). Each of my few published missives is framed for inspection in the downstairs loo.

Frances Williams
Swindon, Wiltshire

SIR – Just too busy multi-tasking to marshal thoughts – not necessary on “Mumsnet”.

Fiona Wild
Cheltenham, Gloucestershire

SIR – I have written to the Telegraph on various topics over the years. To date, I have had one letter published and one included in the book Am I Alone in Thinking…?.

Pam Chadwick
Lechlade, Gloucestershire

SIR – I’m not sure what all the fuss is about. I write occasionally and I have been printed three times. All this from a girlie – and in the North East, to boot.

Rosie Harden-Vane
Holywell, Northumberland

SIR – Regular letter-writers Felicity Foulis Brown, Cynthia Harrod-Eagles and Ann Farmer don’t look at all as I imagined – but a pleasant surprise in all three cases.

Anne Bloor
Burton Overy, Leicestershire

SIR – If fewer women are represented on the Letters page, it would also appear that fewer of them have birthdays, going by “Today’s Birthdays”.

Jon Campanini
Twickenham, Middlesex

Healthier pinch of salt

SIR – Your trainee surgeon correspondents speak somewhat disingenuously of a reduction in their working hours as “forced on doctors by the European Working Time Directive”.

One of the strongest lobbies to Brussels for a reduction in junior doctors’ hours came from our own British Medical Association, which still prefers to focus on doctors’ alleged tiredness than to recognise the damage done to training.

For years I’ve enjoyed dialogue with fellow senior surgeons from Ireland and Continental Europe. None bleat about the EU directive, which for some masochistic reason we adhere to so slavishly in Britain. They just get on with educating trainees, and take the directive with a pinch of salt.

Why can’t we be a little street-wise here?

Peter Mahaffey FRCS
Cardington, Bedford

Dry fly

SIR – My mother-in-law’s wig flies off if she uses a hot-air hand dryer .

Sarah Gall
Rochdale, Lancashire

SIR – Your readers seem to have used machines which, if noisy, were at least benign. There used to be one in Great Yarmouth that bore a frightening message: “Dryer will stop after removing hands.”

Andrew Lindqvist
Halesworth, Suffolk

Show a leg

SIR – In the hot weather, would somebody please advise me on the correct length of my shorts. Should this be above or below the knee, and if so by how much?

John Holmes
Crookham Village, Hampshire

Sanctions and Russia

SIR – Dubai, Singapore, Hong Kong and Shanghai are among those centres that will be cheering at the prospect of sanctions against Russian oligarchs. Apart from the dubious legality of seizing, or freezing, the assets of the citizens of a country with which we are not at war, there is a noteworthy precedent for the threat.

During the Cold War, there were fears that America would block the accounts of Soviet institutions in New York. The Paris-based subsidiary of the Soviet Foreign Trade Bank, whose telex answer back was “Eurobank”, began placing its dollar deposits in London. So was born the Eurodollar market, and the development of the City of London as the world’s premier financial centre. It is still that, but it is not the only international financial centre.

Stanislas Yassukovich
Oppède, Vaucluse, France

SIR – Congratulations to the Dutch on their superb organisation of a simple and very moving but dignified ceremony to receive the victims of the MH17 plane disaster.

John Buggins
Sutton Coldfield, Warwickshire

Noisy adults

SIR – I am 13. On Sunday afternoon, while my younger brother and I were quietly relaxing in the sun, our elderly neighbour began to use a loud hedge trimmer. The noise drove us inside. He used the same trimmer at 7.30am on Tuesday, waking us.

A noisy trimmer is no better than a yelping child. Adults must decide: do they want us to get rickets by keeping indoors and quiet for the sake of their gardens?

Molly Wilson
Hook, Hampshire

SIR – Well done to Bill Hollowell on his method of ensuring that children are discouraged from playing in the garden when, of course, they should be hunched over their iPads, televisions and computer consoles.

Incidentally, how does he deflate tennis balls and destroy model planes?

Patrick White
London SW19

Park and bark

SIR – Regarding complaints over the lack of shade in car parks, a solution would be to leave the dog at home or take the elderly relative into the supermarket. It is, after all, a car park.

Andrew Glendinning
South Rauceby, Lincolnshire

Not so easy to get to see the Games in Scotland

SIR – My husband and I had a great day at the Olympics so thought we’d go to the Commonwealth Games and make a week of it. We applied for athletics (four events), netball and hockey. But we were only allocated tickets for hockey. As accommodation was four times the normal rate, and considering the cost of petrol, we cut our losses and stayed at home to watch on television.

Jonathan Liew writes of “pockets of empty seats at hockey and bowls”. Did others make the same choice?

Lucilla Lang
Knowle, Warwickshire

SIR – Should croquet be included in the Commonwealth and Olympic Games? It was good enough for Alice in Wonderland, and in what other game can you peg out and still live to play again?

Graham Bond
Matching Green, Essex

SIR – I thought that this picture, taken inshore from Chesil Bank, in Dorset, might be a good emblem for the Commonwealth Games.

Nigel Peacock
Llanbedr-y-Cennin, Caernarfonshire

Claude Monet and his wife, Alice, enjoy the pigeons of St Mark’s Square, Venice, in 1908  Photo:

6:59AM BST 26 Jul 2014


SIR – Michael Caine is right to express horror at the cruise ship invasion of Venice. The views of the Salute and the Dogana from St Mark’s and the Riva Schiavoni are permanently scarred, overshadowed by gigantic floating hotels that disgorge tourists who increase the population by up to 15 per cent, destroying any semblance of tranquillity.

The essence of Venice has always been its intimate scale and its infinite, colourful variety of form, structure and light. This is now only a two-dimensional memory to be viewed in the wonderful paintings by Monet.

Venice has always been a fragile place at the mercy of the sea, whence now comes the most menacing threat to date.

Paul Strong
Claxby, Lincolnshire

Persuade Palestinians to abandon extremism with carrot not just stick

Muslim Palestinians need to trust that partnership with Israel can offer them greater security than siding with Hamas

 A Palestinian peers from a window in the Gaza Strip following an overnight Israeli air strike

A Palestinian man peers from a window in the Gaza Strip following an overnight Israeli air strike Photo: REX

7:00AM BST 26 Jul 2014


SIR – The difficulty – not recognised by those who call on it to negotiate – is that whatever concessions Israel makes, hardcore elements in Hamas will not be satisfied until Israel is destroyed. The negotiation of interim concessions is just another weapon in the armoury.

That said, the popular support that Hamas enjoys and which gives it a “democratic” mandate is something that Israel could do more to erode by increasing the amount of carrot offered alongside the stick.

The vast majority of people in the world, Muslim Palestinians included, want simply to get on with their lives and see their children flourish. If they saw that partnership with Israel would deliver this, while the self-interested bile of Hamas would not, they would slowly turn their backs on the extremists.

The alternative for both sides is more hatred and death.

Victor Launert
Matlock Bath, Derbyshire

SIR – The West must be more balanced. The war crime here, if there is one, is Hamas indiscriminately firing rockets into civilian areas and using its civilian population as a human shield against the certain reprisals from the Israeli army.

In Gaza, arsenals have been sited among civilians and under schools, hospitals and mosques for no reason other than to wrench the heart strings of the gullible Western media by portraying Palestinian suffering on our screens. Sacrificing your own children to achieve sympathetic headlines takes terrorism to a new low.

The BBC, particularly, must be careful that by instilling anti-Israel sentiment, it does not fan the flames of anti-Semitism.

Brian Clarke
London W6

SIR – Martin Mears writes of Gaza that the “random firing of rockets will never win a conflict”. However, had one of those hundreds of random rockets that landed close to Ben Gurion airport hit a fully loaded international plane, then there would have been another MH17 situation.

Would the blame even then have been put on the Palestinians, and also on Iran as being the suppliers of those rockets? Knowing the world today, I fancy not.

John Tilsiter
Radlett, Hertfordshire

SIR – Benjamin Netanyahu says his forces tell Palestinians to leave before they shell their homes, but where are they meant to go?

Matt Minshall
King’s Lynn, Norfolk

SIR – Alexander Hopkinson-Woolley points out that the people of Gaza live in terrible conditions. He should ask where the huge amount of aid (including from the British taxpayer) going into the area for years to help the people of Gaza has been spent, while tunnels have been built and rockets fired into Israel.

Linda Morris

Irish Times:

Irish Independent:

Madam – The news that Angela Kerins is taking a High Court action against the Dail Public Accounts Committee (PAC) for all sorts of suffering and stress shows the high opinion that some people have of themselves and the sense of entitlement that those same people think they have.

Angela Kerins was being paid €240,000 per annum for being CEO of Rehab when she resigned after a question and answer session with the PAC. Rehab was being heavily subsidised by the state. While sections of Rehab were losing money or making very little, Angela and Co. were coining it. A large number of Rehab executives were on €100,000 per annum but Angela and Frank Flannery were doing very well, thank you, on very large salaries indeed. Months of public pressure had to be applied to force Rehab to disclose the relevant salaries to the public who were paying a big proportion of these salaries.

It was apparent to all with any sense of proportion that Angela and Co. were too much over the top of the charity pay scales. Even the other charities were critical of Rehab. But were Angela and Frank abashed? Were they ashamed of themselves for receiving large sums of money that would have been better spent on helping the crippled and the lame, the people that Rehab was supposed to be helping? Not a bit of it. Instead they are claiming hurt, stress and all the usual legal words.

Ms Kerins obviously thinks attack is the best part of defence and Mr Flannery seems to be heading along the same road. Isn’t is about time that Ireland grew up and adapted it’s laws so that people like Ms. Kerins and Mr. Flannery could only slink away to deserved oblivion and not cause the unnecessary trouble they threaten at present?

Liam Cooke


Dublin 17

Madam – I am beginning to see a lot of parallels between President Putin of Russia and some of the dictators throughout history

His record on human rights is abysmal. His pronouncements on gay people and their treatment under his presidency is archaic and so out of touch with reality.

If this latest disaster in Ukraine is proven to be a Russian supported mass murder, then I believe he should be charged with a war crime and made appear before the relevant court.

Adolf Hitler‘s activities were tolerated for far too long before he was challenged by the Allies and eventually defeated.

This massacre should be seen as a line in the sand.

Pat Burke Walsh,


Co Wexford

Breaking the laws threatens the peace

Madam – a protestor recently tore down the Israeli flag as seven under-16 Israeli children participated in the European Optimist sailing championship in Dun Laoghaire. Why has there not been an arrest?

To quote Steve Collins, an outstanding, brave Irish citizen whose son was murdered: “If somebody doesn’t take a stand, where will it all end?” No society can exist in relative peace and harmony if laws are broken at a whim without consequence.

The attitude of some seems to be: if you do not like laws governing turf cutting, break the law! if you do not like property taxes, break the law! if you do not like water metering, break the law! if you do not like refuse trucks driven by non-union truck drivers, break the law! if you do not like property auctions in Dublin hotels, break the law!

When will this madness (and that is what it is) end?

When are the citizens of this nation and those in positions of power and influence going to speak up?

As a nation we are slowly heading towards anarchy and we are being led, for the most part, by duly elected officials, and a silent majority.

Vincent J. Lavery,

Irish Free Speech Movement, Dalkey, Co Dublin

Letter writers do have influence

Madam – Once again, I read with interest, another letter by Vincent J Lavery (Sunday Independent, 20 July 2014) on the subject of “Letters to the Editor”. He seems to be very negative on the subject. He describes these letters as “a feel good moment without any result”. Is not the feel good factor a good result in itself?

Editors have a job to do, and may not allow on-going discussions with those in positions of power, but I have no doubt, many letters have their influence, and do not go unnoticed. This page is a big asset to any newspaper, and for many readers, it’s the first page they turn too. A very enjoyable facility in which to air their views. Long may it continue.

Brian McDevitt,



Human life sacred on all sides in war

Madam- Referring to the Israeli/Hamas conflict I believe Eoghan Harris (Sunday Independent, July 20) misjudges the mind-set of many of those who oppose Israel’s incursion into Gaza when he writes: “But I doubt people would switch sympathies if Hamas rockets kill a larger number of Israeli children.”

There is something inherent in our human psyche that repulses us when we see the spilling of innocent blood, particularly when it is the blood of children. This revulsion does not discriminate between the killings of Palestinian or Israeli children. All human life is sacred.

In the midst of all this senseless killing I am reminded of the words of Vasily Grossman the Jewish writer and war-correspondent from the last century “When you think about new-born babies being killed in our own lifetime, all the efforts of culture seem worthless. What have people learned from all our Goethes and Bachs? To kill babies?”

John Bellew,

Dunleer, Co Louth

Sunday Independent


July 26, 2014

26 July 2014 Astrid

I jog around the park I still have arthritis in my left knee, but I manage to get round the park. A very very dry day

Scrabble Mary wins, but gets under 400. perhaps I will win tomorrow.


Lettice Curtis – obituary

Lettice Curtis was a pilot who ferried Spitfires to frontline squadrons and gained her helicopter licence at the age of 77

Lettice Curtis

Lettice Curtis

6:33PM BST 25 Jul 2014


Lettice Curtis, who has died aged 99, was arguably the most remarkable woman pilot of the Second World War, flying a wide range of military combat aircraft with the Air Transport Auxiliary (ATA) and being the first woman to qualify to fly a four-engine bomber.

She had qualified as a commercial pilot in April 1938, and was working for the Ordnance Survey when, in June 1940, she was approached by the ATA. There was an urgent need for more pilots to ferry aircraft and, with most men joining the RAF, it was decided to form a Women’s Pool to bolster the number of pilots. Lettice Curtis was among the first to join .

With a small group of other young women, she began by flying light training and communications aircraft at Hatfield. She soon graduated to more advanced trainers and also the twin-engined Oxford. ATA pilots often flew alone and with no navigation aids — they had to rely almost entirely on map reading as they ferried aircraft from factories and airfields to RAF units around the United Kingdom. Weather conditions were often difficult.

Until the spring of 1941 there was a government ruling that women could not fly operational aircraft, but everything changed that summer. Without any extra tuition, and just a printed preflight checklist, Lettice Curtis ferried a Hurricane to Prestwick. Soon she was flying the fighter regularly, and it was not long before she was also delivering Spitfires to frontline squadrons.

In September 1941 the role of women pilots was extended further, and Lettice Curtis quickly graduated to the more advanced aircraft, ferrying light bombers such as the Blenheim and the Hampden. She then converted to the even more demanding Wellington, later observing: “Before flying [the Wellington] it was simply a question of reading Pilot’s Notes.”

At the end of September 1942, Lettice Curtis was sent to an RAF bomber airfield where she was trained to fly the Halifax. On October 27, Mrs Eleanor Roosevelt, accompanied by Mrs Clementine Churchill, visited the ATA to meet the women pilots. Lettice Curtis stood under the wing of a Halifax in the pouring rain and was introduced to the American President’s wife as the first woman to fly a four-engine bomber. The encounter prompted a field day in the national press, one headline reading: “Mrs Roosevelt meets Halifax girl pilot”.

In 1943 Lettice Curtis was authorised to ferry more types of heavy bombers, including the US B-17 Flying Fortress. The following year she was the first woman pilot to deliver a Lancaster. By the end of the war, when the ATA closed down, Lettice Curtis was probably the most experienced of all the female pilots, having flown more than 400 heavy bombers, 150 Mosquitos and hundreds of Hurricanes and Spitfires.

Lettice Curtis climbing into a Spitfire

Eleanor Lettice Curtis was born at Denbury, Devon, on February 1 1915 and educated at Benenden School in Kent and St Hilda’s College, Oxford, where she read Mathematics and captained the women’s lawn tennis and fencing teams; she also represented the university at lacrosse, and was a county tennis and squash player.

She learned to fly at Yapton Flying Club near Chichester in the summer of 1937. After her initial training, she flew a further 100 hours solo in order to gain her commercial B licence. She did not expect to get a flying job, but in the event was taken on by CL Aerial Surveys, which she joined in May 1938.

Flying a Puss Moth fitted with a survey camera, she photographed areas of England for the Ordnance Survey. On the outbreak of war she transferred to the Ordnance Survey’s research department and nine months later she joined the ATA.

Post-war Lettice Curtis worked as a technician and flight test observer at the Aeroplane and Armament Experimental Establishment before becoming the senior flight development engineer with Fairey Aviation in 1953. She also flew as a test observer in the Royal Navy’s Gannet anti-submarine aircraft and regularly flew Fairey’s communication aircraft.

Her love of flying never diminished, and she regularly took part in the National Air Races organised by the Royal Aero Club, piloting a variety of competitive aircraft, among them a Spitfire belonging to the American civil air attaché in London. In this Spitfire she raced against the country’s top test pilots, and achieved a number of high placings. She later bought her own aircraft (a Wicko), in which she competed in a number of Daily Express Air Races.

In the early 1960s, Lettice Curtis left Fairey for the Ministry of Aviation, working for a number of years on the initial planning of the joint Military and Civil Air Traffic Control Centre at West Drayton. After a spell with the Flight Operations Inspectorate of the Civil Aviation Authority, in 1976 she took a job as an engineer with Sperry Aviation.

A strong supporter of Concorde (her Concorde Club number was 151), she made two flights in the famous airliner. In 1992 she gained her helicopter licence, but three years later decided that, at the age of 80, her flying days were over.

A strong-willed, determined individual, Lettice Curtis always felt that the ATA did not receive the recognition it deserved, and in 1971 she published The Forgotten Pilots . Her autobiography, Lettice Curtis, came out in 2004.

Lettice Curtis, who was unmarried, was in great demand on the lecture circuit and as a guest on RAF stations. She was one of the first patrons and supporters of the Yorkshire Air Museum.

Lettice Curtis, born February 1 1915, died July 21 2014


While Polly Toynbee may well be right to say “the solidity of the policies taking shape is giving Labour a new spring in its step”, she omits the fact that it is the moderation of the policies which has lost Labour so many voters, especially to Ukip, predicted in the latest Ashcroft poll to win two of Labour’s target seats (Labour’s got its spring back but what about the swing? 22 July). Goodwin and Ford’s research suggests the defectors to Ukip were not so worried by doubts about Labour’s “fiscal rectitude” as about policies resembling those of the Tories too much, and some members of the front bench being too close to the City (Revolt of the dispossessed, 10 March).

This apparent Catch-22 situation is not insoluble, as there is, in Toynbee’s words, “room for manoeuvre”; policies can be radicalised in some areas without additional cost, as in retaining RBS as a people’s bank, and a declaration of war on tax avoidance. In the struggle to win the swing voter’s trust, Ed Miliband could insist all Labour MPs and candidates make public their tax details prior to the election, so the electorate can be clear there is at least one party willing to be transparent on this important and ethical issue. Cameron failed to carry out his promise back in 2012 that the tax details of the leading lights of the cabinet would go public and completely avoided answering a question about it in last week’s PMQs. Could this be the silver bullet Labour seeks?
Bernie Evans

• Rafael Behr suggests Ed Miliband may end up as the leader with the largest share of the vote by accident (Ed Miliband’s leadership style could put him in No 10, 23 July). But the article gives us evidence that Miliband may yet end up as much more than that. Behr describes Miliband as a consummate team-player and the opposition as a well-organised team. What we do need to see now is more of Miliband and his front-bench team explaining their policies (on the economy, the NHS and education, the three things people most want to hear about) in terms we can understand and, perhaps more importantly, clearly showing us that they are a government team-in-waiting, something no other party will find it easy to do. We don’t want another coalition.
Peter Henderson
Sherborne, Dorset 

• Polly Toynbee’s attempt to create a viable Labour programme encapsulates the party’s dilemma. If it presents a winning manifesto, its government will be at best a slightly less objectionable version of the coalition; if it offers a set of measures that stands a chance of addressing the complex crisis that the country faces, it won’t win. The reason is our electoral system, which is simply dysfunctional. Unless the first past the post system is overhauled, the future is bleak.
Norman Housley

• The proposals emerging from the Labour national policy forum endorsed by Polly are fine as far as they go. But by themselves they’ll not win Labour the election. What we need is the big picture beneath which Labour will campaign. This might consist of: Labour wholly rejecting the Tory and Lib Dem smear it is responsible for the deficit – the public finances went awry when billions of pounds of pubic money went to bailing out the banks; in future the broadest shoulders will bear the brunt of whatever economies are needed; the poor will be treated with sympathy and respect; the Tory/Lib Dem privatisation of the NHS will be halted and reversed; there’ll be a searching review of Britain’s role in the world, in light of the continuing need for economies, to ascertain whether a role similar to Sweden’s and the Netherlands’ would be more appropriate for our country.

Come on, Ed, stop pussyfooting around with Cameron and Clegg and start to think big. There’s not much time left.
Robin Wendt

• The lacklustre cheerleading in Polly’s piece is a key factor in explaining Labour’s drift and irrelevance. She ticks boxes with gusto and visits Trident, austerity, the living wage, rail nationalisation, economic credibility and house-building. That’s fine, but where’s the ignition ? I invite Polly to write an article about Mr Miliband? If she acknowledged his fatally anodyne and timid approach to Britain’s many dilemmas, and urged him to throw off his safety belt, I’d listen to her with respect; and he might listen too.

I’ve been a member of the Green party since 2003 , after leaving Labour when the Blair government attacked Iraq without legal or moral justification. Pardon me if I’m rather partisan but we have all the progressive values, vigour and leadership which Labour lacks.
Maurice George
Ormskirk, Lancashire

I listened with interest to reports on BBC Radio’s Today of concern over the small number of women who appear in letters pages (Letters, 12 July). Given my frequent appearances in print, it is a cause of wry amusement; readers have even been known to complain about my prolific output. The arguments about gender imbalance, and the fact that women just don’t have the time to write, is plainly codswallop. I spend a lot of time in the car, and rather than listen to music, I prefer to hear what’s going on in the world, hence my passion for BBC Radio 4. On reaching my destination, I have had the opportunity to shout out my opinion of whatever the hot topic of the day happens to be in the privacy of my car. By then I have also already formed the letter I want to write in my mind. Writing it down and sending it out into the wider world is the most blessed relief; the perfect way to relieve pent-up frustration at the injustices of this world. If, and when, my penmanship is published, there is also the satisfaction of knowing that I may influence others, even if it is only to respond in disagreement; rather that than apathy. It saves bashing my head against the wall, or beating up the cat. By the way, this took me less than 10 minutes to write.There are those who may say, ‘I can see that it did by the lack of quality.’ Who cares? Not me that’s for sure.
Linda Piggott-Vijeh
Combe St Nicholas, Somerset

• The heavy male bias on your letters page obviously minimises women’s presence and influence, but also excludes feminist voices, which could help reframe the political agenda and the policies and practices of our political parties. My unpublished letters to the Guardian between 2010 and 2014, for example (available on, bear this out. Unless I manage to be short and “funny” about gender issues, letters don’t get past your gatekeepers. And while I routinely treasure the Guardian letters pages, as a long-term, critical, but devoted, Guardian reader and subscriber, who tries to contribute to a productive dialogue about equality, neoliberalism, environmental values and left politics, for example, I also recognise this hostile reflex to attempts to tackle the complexity of these issues. I have to bear it. But I can’t grin.
Val Walsh

• I get annoyed by the number of letters you publish that just churn out a vested interest. I look at who has signed the letter before deciding if I want to waste my time reading what is obviously a campaign for something or other. On 16 July, I passed over six of these, the classic being from the campaigns officer for the National Federation of Parks and Green Spaces using an article on public service cuts to shove his oar in. Equally, I nearly missed a short, beautifully crafted dig at the change of policy by the CoE on women – from an atheist. But the writer was a professor of computer vision etc whose job had absolutely nothing to do with the subject. Do you print such job titles to show your letters page is intellectually superior to others?
Roy Moore
Badsey, Worcestershire

A piece of the wreckage of the

Roger Tooth (Warning: upsetting images, G2, 24 July) criticises Magnum for offering Jerome Sessini’s coverage of the MH17 site. We at Magnum have a 67-year history in photojournalism that stands for integrity, speed and clarity of responding to major events. There are countless examples of our photojournalists getting pictures that have informed the world and they also can shock. This has been the case since even before the start of Magnum, when its co-founder George Rodger was at Bergen-Belsen concentration camp and his pictures informed and shocked the world.

Jerome Sessini’s work in getting to the crash site and getting those pictures out was entirely in the best Magnum tradition as an agency. Our job is not to censor the harsh truths but to deliver them to picture editors such as Roger Tooth, who can then decide whether the Guardian’s readership can see them. We do not take that decision; he does. He was shocked that published them. That is his right but surely as an agency our job is to deliver what we have taken. To quote Roger in his own words, “their place (photographers) is to record; ours is to edit”. We completely agree. That is exactly what we did in this case and will in the future.
Stuart Franklin
Vice-president, Magnum

• In response to Stan Labovitch (The politics of war photography, 25 July), the pictures are not the problem. The killing and maiming of children is the problem and without the pictures the world would not be aware of the full horror of this result of Israel’s actions. We need more exposure of these barbaric actions, not less. It is actions that create jihadists but pictures expose the hypocrisy of those who defend the actions that create the jihadists. I hope The Guardian will continue to bring into the light things that oppressors worldwide and not just in Gaza would rather keep hidden.
Jim Morrison

It is a pity that Simon Jenkins’ excellent article on the folly of western sanctions against Russia (Comment, 25 July) is marred by his comment that the west “sells Russia guns, ships, Knightsbridge flats and places at Eton”. There are two misconceptions here: firstly the sensationalist innuendo that places at Eton can be “bought” and secondly that all Russians with sons at Eton (and there are very few indeed, well below the average to be found in the independent sector) are wealthy. Russian families are to be found among the 21% of our boys whose families receive financial aid in order to enable them to send their sons here. Like any other boy applying for entry to Eton, Russian boys are academically assessed and interviewed in year six. It is as impossible to buy a place here as it is to circumvent the rigorous entry standards.
Charles Milne
Tutor for Admissions, Eton College

Your article (Barack Obama and Xi Jinping to attend major Ban Ki-moon climate summit, 24 July) illustrates the welcome re-emergence of climate change at the top of the global agenda. In the UK, the Climate Coalition, a network of over 100 organisations representing over 11 million people, has come together because of our shared interest in protecting the things many of us love and hold dear. Without action to tackle climate change, the food we produce and import, the wildlife in our gardens and the land we depend on may be changed or lost forever. We therefore look forward to confirmation that the PM’s name is also on the list of attendees, and to the UK playing a leading role at this important summit.
Laura Taylor Head of advocacy, Christian Aid, Neil Thorns Director of advocacy, Cafod, Ruth Davis Political director, Greenpeace UK

• It was good of Stephen Bates (Diary, 24 July) to draw attention to the honour bestowed on Viscount Ridley and his belief that “free enterprise … makes people wealthier, healthier and wiser”. It certainly worked for his family who got more per ton of coal extracted from under their land in Northumberland than the men in my family got for actually digging it out. Tended to kill my family a lot younger too. We are wise to them, however.
Peter Hutchinson
Chalfont St Giles, Buckinghamshire

• “Pyramids do actually release more taste” (Report, 24 July). Who cares? Loose tea is the only way to make tea properly. Have you noticed that as we make ever more fuss about how our coffee is made, it is now next to impossible to buy a cup of tea made in the proper way? Teabags of any shape are an irritating and unnecessary invention.
Graham Mytton
Dorking, Surrey

• Yet another reason for the preponderance of foreign players in the Premier League (Letters, 24 July) is the lax tax regime for high-earners that operates in England.
David Grundy

• If your crossword setters’ interest in sex, drugs and rock’n’roll (Letters, 25 July) helps generate wonders like Qaos’s secret agents and Puck’s armadillos (23 and 24 July), then long may it continue.
Jill Cramphorn

Gerard Benson, poet

‘Nothing could match the immediacy of Gerard Benson and the Barrow Poets performing in a basement bar’

I first encountered the fabulous Gerard Benson in the very early 1970s when the Barrow Poets played in a scrubby basement in the Sir Christopher Wren pub in the old Paternoster Square, by St Paul’s Cathedral in London, when I was barely old enough to buy a (legal) drink. While other young things were into Genesis or King Crimson, I was gripped by their spectrum of poetry and music, from their own compositions to Purcell, Byrd, Blake, Keats, Stevie Smith and lots of Anon.

With the endlessly energetic Gerard, small and roundish, reciting, singing and playing kazoo and saw, the visually contrasting William Bealby-Wright, tall and thin and slightly lugubrious, on the homemade cacofiddle – once described in the Guardian as “a kind of DIY, cymbal-augmented double bass, seemingly built by the Clangers” – and the other wonderful musicians and poets, they were electrifying. Later they played in grand venues such as the Royal Festival Hall, but nothing could match the immediacy of the basement bar.

A couple of decades later I made contact with Gerard in person, for a children’s poetry festival. He and Cathy came down to Hampshire from Yorkshire, where they were living, having recently finished a residency at Wordsworth’s Dove Cottage at Grasmere, in Cumbria. He charmed the audience, and was as delightful in person as I could have hoped. Cathy was equally delightful and later sent my daughter a drawing and a poem. It was obvious they were a contented couple, but these calmer waters hadn’t dimmed his performing spark.

A few years later I embarked in a foolhardy manner on an arts festival under canvas, in a field in Dorset, aimed at families and children. It was essential that Gerard should be there. (Ideally all the Barrow Poets would have been there, but that wasn’t possible.) Again he and Cathy travelled south, and again delighted an audience of all ages. If anything stuck in the children’s heads, it was probably Edwin Morgan’s Loch Ness Monster’s Song. Possibly only Gerard would have been rash enough to attempt it aloud.

Our children grew up on the Barrow Poets’ LPs, not all entirely suitable for small children but which should be piped into every school until every child is entranced. The books are wonderful but the aural experience is unbeatable.



Arguments for and against taking children out of school for term-time holidays

Sir, Jenni Russell (“A few days off won’t ruin an education”, July 24) argues sensibly for a more humane approach to holidays in term time, even though the examples she cites are extreme. However, bad cases don’t make good laws — and citing such cases makes it appear that heads are exploiting blunt legal instruments. The reality is that these misfortunes are an inevitable by-product of well-intentioned procedures which are generally fair and predominantly beneficial.

However, as one who taught for 34 years and who as a head of year was responsible for promoting good attendance, I have to agree that holidays were rarely damaging and often beneficial to the student.

It is also true that most are more than capable of catching up, though that is not the case at the beginning of a school year. Those early weeks are crucial for teachers and learning groups in many ways, and no individual should be allowed to disrupt that period by choice. I would also have strong reservations about leave of absence in the months leading up to GCSE exams.

Gerald Cook

Wollaton, Notts

Sir, Jenni Russell does not allow for the possibilty that there may be children who do not wish to miss any schooltime. I was an anxious and conscientious pupil, and it would have pained and grieved me to miss any lessons, despite the lure of a family holiday.

Penelope Elliott

Potterne, Wilts

Sir, Jenni Russell is quite wrong. As a cathedral boy chorister I received and retain an exemplary musical education. However, morning choir practices meant that I consistently missed every theory section of my first year of school chemistry and physics, to the detriment of my undergraduate geology studies.

I began to understand parts of these subjects only after retiring, and having the chance to watch television documentaries on them.

Bob Ferguson

Solihull, West Midlands.

Sir, The most important issue is that very few children holidaying in term time actually do all the set work properly, so falling behind, and damage the education of their classmates since lesson time has to be spent helping them to catch up, to the detriment of the children who were in school. While parents may only consider the advantages of term-time holidays for themselves and their children, schools and teachers must consider the prospects and education of all their pupils.

Jenni Russell suggests that a few days off school won’t ruin an education and that may or may not be true for the children concerned. It will, however, damage the education of the many disadvantaged by the prospect of a couple of weeks in the sun for a few.

Dr Nick Winstone-Cooper

Bridgend, south Wales

Sir, Absence from school is not always harmful. Osbert Sitwell claimed that his education took place during holidays from Eton.

George Garner

Bradninch, Devon

Changing electricity supplier is to venture into a labyrinth of exploitation and subterfuge

Sir, I have just changed my electricity supplier from npower to Extra Energy. In the process I viewed several comparison websites and the Ofgem website.

There is an important fundamental about household electricity suppliers. They are all selling exactly the same product at exactly the same frequency and voltage. To then shroud this single basic product in hundreds of differing tariffs is nothing short of obfuscation. My view is ably supported by Ofgem’s thoroughly unhelpful website: “Allowing consumers to choose their (electricity) supplier helps to keep pressure on prices and drives better customer service. It also promotes innovation in products and services.”

Who is Ofgem trying to fool? There is only one product and the service is to provide it without interruption. There are unknowns in predicting the cost of electricity for the next 12-24 months. Therefore the fixed tariffs that suppliers quote can only be experienced guesses. For Ofgem to continue to endorse the electricity suppliers’ subterfuge and cynical exploitation of unwary, innumerate customers by permitting such a wide range of mainly uncompetitive tariffs is a scandal. In my case the difference in annual cost between npower’s standard variable tariff, that my account would be “automatically” moved to, and Extra Energy was over £1,000. The nation deserves better.

John Redman

Waldron, E Sussex

Instead of taking over green fields why not put solar panels on the roofs of all new buildings?

Sir, Neath Port Talbot council has just given permission for a euphemistically styled solar “park”. This 81-acre (45 football pitches apparently) installation will no doubt make a fortune for its owners, while further draining the government’s coffers. Meanwhile, houses, factories, offices, supermarkets and shopping malls spring up all over the UK with not a single panel fitted. Instead of using up thousands of acres of rural green space, why does the government not simply require all suitable new-build homes and commercial premises to be fitted with solar panels?

The average domestic array costs as little as £5,000, so the outlay for builders buying and fitting thousands at a time would be tiny and for consumers a small rise in mortgage payments would be more than offset by a substantial reduction in fuel bills.

Kate Saunders

Ipswich, Suffolk

Even the Archbishop of Canterbury liked to eat such simple dishes as sausages and mashed potato

Sir, Nelson Mandela’s serving of sausage and mash to a guest (Report, July 23) was in contrast to the experience of Michael Ramsey, later Archbishop of Canterbury. When as bishop of Durham he took up residence in 1952 at Auckland Castle, he inherited as butler the quaintly majestic Ernest Alexander. Alexander rated it infra dign itatem for sausage and mash to be served in an episcopal palace, despite the Ramseys’ liking for the dish. So at mealtimes in the butler’s presence the Ramseys found themselves staging a conversation on these lines. Mrs Ramsey: “What was it again you had for luncheon at the House of Lords yesterday?” Ramsey: “Oh, sausage and mash; yes, yes, sausage and mash, delicious sausage and mash, very nice, very nice.” After a few weeks Alexander caved in.

Eugene Suggett

Dorking, Surrey

The fans of unpasteurised milk dismiss health worries while others call for it to be banned

Sir, We buy raw unpasteurised milk while on holiday in the south of France. (“Selling raw milk will raise risk of TB”, July 23). It has certainly never affected us, and I am not aware of TB being a problem in the locality.

It costs €1.30 a litre (62p a pint), a far cry from the £1.50 you quote, and the milk we buy in the Saturday market is undrinkable by Tuesday.

David Shamash

South Fawley, Oxon

Sir, My five sons, now aged from 25 to 42, were brought up on raw milk, and none has ever been ill, apart from chicken pox. Also, it keeps better than the pasteurised variety.

Amanda Griffiths

Hendre, Flintshire

Sir, The raw milk ban in Scotland came too late for me. Despite working in a bacteriology department dealing with brucella I failed to recognise the danger on my uncle’s farm in the 1970s. When I told him I had caught abortus fever he said, “We farmers never drink raw milk.”

Thomas Law

Sandbank, Argyll and Bute


The letters pages of newspapers have an unwitting male bias. Is there is a feminine reluctance to put pen to paper, or fingers to the keyboard

While female letter writers may be relatively rare, they are vocal on many online message forums, not least parenting websites such as Mumsnet.

While female letter writers may be relatively rare, they are vocal on many online message forums, not least parenting websites such as Mumsnet.  Photo: ALAMY

Harry Wallop

By Harry Wallop

6:20AM BST 25 Jul 2014


In the week that the Booker Prize judges announced a 13-strong longlist that included just three female authors, another equality crisis has hit the world of letters.

An academic has written to the Financial Times to complain that of the 115 letters published by the pink ’un over the past three weeks, just three were written by women – and two of those were co‑authors of jointly signed letters.

Perhaps it is not surprising that a paper dedicated to the world of commodities, markets and companies should have so few female readers who want to join the debate. After all, just four of the companies listed in the FTSE 100 have female chief executives.

But it is certainly true that – along with pottering in a garden shed and smoking a pipe – the urge to dash off a missive to a newspaper is a predominantly male activity.

The Daily Telegraph is not immune to this phenomenon. Even on a quiet day there are at least 500 letters submitted for publication, and during the MPs’ expenses scandal this climbed to 1,800. But though our letter writers come from all walks of life and have a catholic and sometimes eccentric view of the world, there are definitely more men than women putting pen to paper.

Christopher Howse, the page’s editor, insists “we are sex-blind on Letters”, pointing out that most people write by email. This means that, as they scroll down, a decision has been made to consider the letter for publication before he, or his assistant editor Sally Peck, has seen the signature. None the less, he estimates that about three-quarters of the virtual post bag comes from men.

A quick audit of 374 letters published this month shows that two thirds were from men, a quarter from women and the rest from people who signed with just their initials. “I am afraid it is a meritocracy. We choose the best letters,” Howse says. “Our first duty is to the readers and to produce a page that is, yes, about important things, but also which will not make them turn over to the obituaries, which is the next most interesting page in the paper.”

There are, of course, far fewer female MPs, bishops and retired generals, a group with a greater propensity to express their views than the general public. But The Daily Telegraph letters page also specialises in whimsy and wry observations about daily life. Howse correctly observes that some of the wittiest and most observant writers are women, who were sending letters long before the advent of email.

A quick glance at the letters pages of the early 1990s shows subjects as varied as kissing, gentlemen’s clubs, pantomimes, Toryism, Beatrix Potter, and the state of Diana and Charles’s marriage exercising women letter writers. Dame Barbara Cartland fulminated at the prospect of an agnostic Neil Kinnock being elected. “Are the Archbishop of Canterbury and all the bishops going to stay silent while the people vote for a man who is against God?” she railed in 1992.

Cynthia Harrod-Eagles: ‘More people know me for writing letters to the paper than for writing books.’

Just a few months later, Cynthia Harrod-Eagles, of Northwood, Middx, wrote: “Using the male career yardstick to measure female achievement is as pointless and misguided as complaining that a Ming vase makes an unsatisfactory petrol can.”

The novelist is still a regular writer to the paper. Miss Harrod-Eagles, 65, says she usually composes an email with breakfast marmalade still sticky on her fingers. She is unsure why she is in a minority in her willingness to do so. “Women have the opinions. They just don’t dash off letters to the newspaper about them. Is it about modesty? Men seem to have more of a public persona.

“Maybe it is just in women’s DNA. But I am a writer, I have always dealt in words, and I’ve always read newspapers and it is just natural for me to express what I think.”

What is curious is that while female letter writers may be relatively rare, they are vocal on many online message forums, not least parenting websites such as Mumsnet.

This site has 5.6 million monthly users, the vast majority of whom are women. Justine Roberts, the co-founder, says: “Our busiest forum is ‘Am I being unreasonable?’ – a lot of that is people complaining or people wondering if they should be complaining. It is about seeking validation. It’s not that women don’t get riled or don’t get worked up about stuff, it’s that they prefer to do it anonymously and outside the glare of full public scrutiny.”

Message boards and online chat rooms appeal to women, says Ms Roberts, possibly because “women would rather have a collective voice than stick their heads above the parapet”.

Felicity Foulis Brown: one of The Telegraph’s most reliably sharp correspondents

This is something that chimes with one of the Telegraph’s most reliably sharp correspondents, Felicity Foulis Brown (“people think it rhymes with raspberry coulis, but it rhymes with fowl. And my maiden name was Parrot”).

She is a school receptionist at the independent Reading Blue Coat School and has mastered the art of the short, snappy letter. One example: “SIR – There is no need for the Bank of England to be alarmed about the number of fake pound coins in circulation (report, April 9) – just view it as another branch of quantitative easing.”

Mrs Foulis Brown says: “I do think women are diffident about expressing their views. But I never have been diffident. I always think: this is my opinion, you are welcome to it.

“My daughter is a teacher in the state system and I think she feels that some of my opinions are not politically correct. Her generation – and she is 31 – is far, far, far more worried about political correctness. I think women are more worried now about what other people think.”

When it comes to The Daily Telegraph letters page, women do not just specialise in aphoristic gems in the Foulis Brown mould.

Ann Farmer, a strident pro-life campaigner, writes regularly and eloquently on a variety of weighty issues

A regular correspondent is Ann Farmer, a strident pro-life campaigner, who writes regularly and eloquently on a variety of weighty issues. One from just last month read: “As a disabled person I feel safer under a law that protects my right to life than a law with safeguards that depend on the mood of the moment – which could be discarded once we got used to killing the vulnerable.”

She says she has full sympathy with women who fear that they are somehow holding themselves up to ridicule if they write a letter.

“I remember the first letter I wrote and it was to my local paper; it was about unemployment, I think. It was back in the 1980s. I remember, after posting it, just wishing I could stick my hand into the postbox and get it back. I felt just awful,” she says. “And when I saw that they had published it, I thought ‘you have gone and exposed yourself’.”

She says she still has a morning-after feeling of “Oh, God, did I dance on the table last night?” after sending a letter, but it is worth it in order to fight for her causes.

Sally Wainman, 65, a grandmother of five, who still works part-time as a nurse, is another who writes in the hope of making a difference. A fervent campaigner for sports facilities, especially swimming pools, she has stood as an independent parliamentary candidate in Ipswich to keep open Broomhill Pool. “You can’t know in advance what is going to make a difference,” she says. “I’ve read letters which have made a big impact for a long time. If you feel you want to say something, you should say it.”

And all those who write to The Daily Telegraph say they get a frisson of delight in seeing their letter having made it through as one of the just four per cent (at most) that get published. Miss Harrod-Eagles says: “More people know me for writing letters to the paper than for writing books. People say to me, ‘Are you the Cynthia Harrod-Eagles’, and I say ‘Oh, have you read my books?’, and they say, ‘No, I always see your letters in the Telegraph’.”

Long may her marmalade-sticky fingers continue to reach for the keyboard.

SIR – It is already an offence for ex-lovers to place revenge pornography online; see section 127 of the Communications Act 2003. Any internet service providers, search engines or websites publishing revenge pornography could be party to an offence.

The charging criteria are, first, whether any prosecutions “for revenge pornography” are in the public interest, and, secondly, whether there exists a strong likelihood of conviction.

The challenge for the prosecution authorities is to seek to obtain convictions against any party involved.

Tim Lawson-Cruttenden
London WC1

Shady car parks

SIR – Last year in Puglia, southern Italy, I came across a small municipal car park where the shade provided for cars also acted as a support for solar panels.

Think of the acres of green fields that could be saved if car parks at supermarkets, stations and sports stadiums were also acting as mini solar farms.

Planning should be straightforward, and your correspondent’s request for sheltered parking to protect people and animals waiting in cars would be met.

Lesley Watson
Little Horkesley, Essex

Holding water

SIR – Like a good commuter, I always take heed of the rail company’s order to carry a bottle of water at all times.

However, last Friday my nerve broke and I opened the bottle and drank the water. I spent a further 45 minutes on a train with no buffet. What should I have done?

Steven Broomfield
Fair Oak, Hampshire

NHS pain relief

SIR – Our son was dying of cancer and needed a syringe-driver for morphine. When a second one was needed, the district nurses had great difficulty obtaining one because of shortages.

When he died we decided to devote any donations at the funeral to buying syringe-drivers. Our other son went on the internet and found the exact model used by the NHS at a cost of £90. The NHS would not accept them, as they had to be obtained from their own suppliers. Just one of those cost £1,000.

We were furious. The money we provided would have given another 10 people relief from pain and suffering.

Adrian Robertshaw
Elland, West Yorkshire

Russia sanctions

SIR – Was our Prime Minister being entirely ironic when he suggested that it helps to be a member of the EU in order to “punch above our weight in the world”?

Clearly he could not have been referring to the EU’s response to the murder of 298 innocent people on Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 – a series of flaccid, unseemly and humiliating compromises cobbled together to minimise the cost to the other national component parts of the EU.

Paul Harrison
Terling, Essex

SIR – There has been comment on sporting links with Russia in the wake of the MH17 airplane crash, but little mention of Manchester United’s official airline partner, Aeroflot, the Russian national airline.

It would be appropriate for the club to sever its link with Aeroflot and find another airline partner.

D A Pain
Cheriton, Hampshire

Spooner myths

SIR – Christopher Howse writes that Dr Spooner said to a man: “Was it you or your brother who was killed in the War?”

William Hayter, in his biography of Spooner, writes that this story, “though it bears the mark of a typical Spoonerian confusion, is probably apocryphal since it is inconsistent with his habitual sensitive courtesy towards the young”.

There are many anecdotes about absent-minded professors, though people who tell them cannot usually remember whom they are about. One hears a story about Einstein which one has already heard about Dirac, or about Bowra which one has heard about Jowett.

Philip Roe
St Albans, Hertfordshire

Dead noisy

SIR – We moved a decade ago to a house looking over an extensive cemetery toward the Purbeck hills, with no more noisy neighbours. But a new contractor has now been employed by the cemetery who manicures the grass, often using three ride-on mowers and a team of six strimmers from 8am till 5pm.

Sitting on our balcony with the Telegraph or a good book is no longer the joyful prospect it once was, even if we overlook a very well-kept spot.

Alan Saunders
Wareham, Dorset

Merit alone

SIR – Would you print this letter, just because I am a woman? I would hope not!

Trees Fewster
Gomersal, West Yorkshire

Airing grievances on noisy hot-air hand dryers

SIR – The noise from hot-air hand dryers would be more tolerable if they worked effectively.

I saw one with a series of instructions on the front: “Press button to start. Place hands under outlet. Rub hands together.”

Someone had helpfully added a final line: “Wipe hands on trousers.”

Chris Kent
Earley, Berkshire

SIR – Fast and efficient hand dryers may be, but they terrify infants.

Jill Massey
Newton Mearns, Renfrewshire

SIR – With regard to the new breed of high-speed dryers, which you use with your hands vertically above the dryer rather than below, I was very pleasantly surprised the first time I used one at how rapidly and efficiently they disposed of the water, until I realised that it had simply been blown up my sleeve.

Colin McGreevy
Maghull, Lancashire

SIR – I can’t say why hot-air hand dryers are so loud.

However, as the owner of an establishment that has one, I can say that I stopped providing hand towels because I was sick of clearing up the mess left by people who clearly either didn’t know what a bin was for, or were lucky enough to have someone to pick up after them at home.

Kim Halliday
Newport, Essex

SIR – Martin Billingham (Letters, July 21) should move from London SE6 to our village. We have all of the characters that he describes, plus a few more.

There are the ardent cyclists who are incredibly proud of how far they have travelled and how fit they are; the grumpy farmers who relish telling those of us who are not “boys of the soil” how tough things are, and then climb into their Mercs and Range Rovers, which are usually driven home by their wives or partners; and then we have the dog owners whose wives discover that, when walking past the pub at lunchtime (when it is closed), their pet sits resolutely outside the door, refusing to move.

We have our disagreements, but eggs, books, parcels and conversation all pass across and around the bar. Without our differences and our village pub, the world would be a sorrier place.

Don Moorman
Bluntisham, Huntingdonshire

SIR – John Ashworth writes of spotting majors in pubs. It used to be said that there were more admirals per head in Petersfield than any other town in the country.

So I put it to the test, standing outside the busy little town centre supermarket one Saturday morning. To my loud greeting, “Good morning, Admiral”, two gentlemen responded with courteous acknowledgement.

Ian Gregory
Cattistock, Dorset

SIR – I used to go into a pub in Marton, North Yorkshire, where the barman, Jack, kept behind the bar a myna bird that he taught to speak. Every time a customer ordered a drink, the bird said: “And one for Jack.”

Needless to say, Jack never bought a drink.

Peter Gilbert
Thames Ditton, Surrey

SIR – On Wednesday night I watched two processions on television. I saw the joyful exuberance of the athletes in Glasgow, raucously celebrating their youth and energy and excitement at the prospect of competition: the very best of life’s promise and ambition.

And then, on the news, there were images of the stark dignity with which Holland received and honoured the victims of MH17, the tragedy made bleaker by its contrast with what had gone before.

I had just come in from watching a performance of Romeo and Juliet. Must we all forever be divided into Montagues and Capulets, Ukrainians and Russians, Jews and Palestinians?

Tony Fry
Ruthin, Denbighshire

SIR – After the Red Arrows were cheered as they trailed red, white and blue across the city of Glasgow, a stadium full of (mainly) Scots heartily sang the national anthem.

Can we please have this referendum, so that we can all move on?

Gilbert Dunlop
Hitchin, Hertfordshire

SIR – How many of the athletes representing Scotland in the Commonwealth Games will also be eligible to vote in the September referendum?

Mark Whitley
Fovant, Wiltshire

SIR – Should the Scots vote Yes in the referendum, would they automatically become members of the Commonwealth, or would they, as a “new country”, have to apply to become members?

Keith Attwood

Chudleigh, Devon

SIR – Seventy-one nations are attending the Commonwealth Games. Seventy-one nations with links to the United Kingdom and the Queen. Seventy-one nations that could and should have been our main trading partners. Why did we need to join the European Community?

Mike Nicholls
Freshwater, Isle of Wight

SIR – Within 20 minutes, commentators at the opening ceremony of the Commonwealth Games had, between them, managed to find 20 “incredible” aspects of this event. My credulity has been stretched to breaking point.

Michael Amies
Pershore, Worcestershire

SIR – Inspired and inspiring are the most over-used words at the games.

John Dainton
Molesey, Surrey

SIR – Since sporting events are intended to showcase fitness, it was disappointing to see how many people in the opening ceremony were clearly obese.

Catherine Castree
Fetcham, Surrey

Irish Times:

A Chara, – I come from a Gaeltacht background. When I went to school there was nobody at home who would give the time of day to the language I was being force-fed.

English to them was of no “worldwide interest”. Neither were they in any sense deluded about Irish becoming “a vehicle of communication in this country”.

The reason for their lack of interest: when they were in school their language wasn’t even allowed on the curriculum. However, unlike Mr Kavanagh (Letters. July 24th), my grasp of the language I was force-fed is maximal. – Le meas,


An Cimín Mór

Bóthar na Ceapaí,


Co na Gaillimhe

Sir, – Enda Kenny and Joan Burton are to be complimented for their very progressive ministerial reshuffle. We are now served by a Cabinet that includes four first-term TDs (together with the government of an chéad Dáil, the highest number in any Irish government). Seven junior Ministers are first-term TDs (the highest number ever). One Minister is in his 20s and four are in their 30s.

Alan Hansen, upon retiring as a football pundit after the recent World Cup, said his only career regret was saying of Manchester United in August 1995, “you can’t win anything with kids”.

Fergie’s Fledglings (the two Nevilles, Beckham, Scholes, Butt, Giggs) went on to win consecutive Premier League/FA Cup doubles. – Yours, etc,




Co Roscommon

Sir, – In the good old days your friendly building society levied a hefty early redemption charge in the event that inconveniently (for the institution) one sought to repay one’s loan early.

Notwithstanding that the redeemed capital was lent on as a matter of course, self-servingly, the lending institution deemed itself entitled to a chunk of the future profit it had bargained on had the original deal gone the distance.

In a word, usury – an abuse of power in one of its many guises. Today we read that the Government may encounter resistance on the part of the IMF and/or of individual EU member states, in the event that it should seek early redemption of its bailout loans as an exercise in reducing interest charges currently clocking in at more than twice market rates.

Preposterous. Perhaps a strategic revisiting of the default option would bring common sense to bear? On the other hand, if only one knew a little more about economics! – Yours, etc,


Station Road,


Sir, – I refer to your editorial entitled “Protecting data” in The Irish Times of July 23rd.

You state: “For more than a year, offered online access to the personal details of every citizen born, or who married, in the State.” This statement is factually incorrect. The Indexes to Civil Records held by the General Register Office were launched on the website portal just three weeks ago – on July 3rd, 2014 – by the Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection and the then Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht. The portal was set up to assist those, whether at home or abroad, who wish to trace their roots and establish their family history.

The provision of access to the Indexes to Civil Records was a joint project between the Department of Social Protection, the General Register Office and this Department. The records were supplied to this Department by the General Register Office in accordance with the terms of a Memorandum of Understanding agreed between both parties. The addition of the Indexes was seen as a major contribution to the website and was warmly welcomed by genealogy researchers, including your own contributor Mr John Grehan in his Irish Roots column (July 7th, 2014), who described the development as “good news” and “simply astonishing”.

Your editorial also states: “How surprising then that a genealogy database, under the control of a Government Department – the Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht – was operated in breach of data protection laws.” This statement is misleading as the Department has not, in fact, been found to be in breach of any data protection legislation.

The position is that on July 18th last, this Department was contacted by the Office of the Data Protection Commissioner, expressing concerns about the availability of personal data in relation to living persons on the website. We responded promptly by disabling access to this data on a “without prejudice” basis so that the nature of the concerns expressed by the Office of the Data Protection Commissioner could be examined further.

This Department will continue to engage proactively and responsibly with the Office of the Data Protection Commissioner, the Department of Social Protection and the General Register Office with a view to ensuring that any issues of concern are fully addressed as soon as possible. – Yours, etc,


Press Office,

Department of Arts,

Heritage and the Gaeltacht,

Dublin 2

Sir, – Joachim Pfeiffer, economic policy spokesman for Angela Merkel’s CDU party, was in town on Thursday to give Ireland its latest lecture on its economic “progress” and to assure the dewy-eyed Irish Government that, no, there was “no chance” of any legacy bank debt deal (Business This Week, July 25th). Mr Pfeiffer claims that the banking and property bubbles were all “home-made”, neglecting to mention that surplus monies from German banks fuelled them – so not actually “home-made”, Mr Pfeiffer.

However, we should derive some measure of pride and succour from Mr Pfeiffer’s hearty reassurance that Ireland – as opposed to irresponsible France and Italy – is “now firmly on the right track” and was “an example to other countries in how it accepted the burdens of its financial past, increased competitiveness through lower labour costs and reformed its tax code”.

Roughly translated, this means that Ireland was nicely compliant in inflicting an austerity regime on its citizens and is now following the same track as Germany, that is reduced wages for lower and middle earners, new and increased taxes, an absence of wage rises nationally and schemes such as our Job Bridge for the unemployed, a scheme akin to Germany’s decade-old “Agenda 2010”, wherein participants work for a little over €1 per hour as a route back into the regular workforce – and a dream for exploitative employers.

So, “firmly on the right track”. But for whose benefit? Yours, etc,


Stillorgan Road,

Co Dublin

Sir – Critics of the location of the National Children’s Hospital at St James’s have thrown up numerous objections to this siting – the most recent, reiterated in The Irish Times on June 8th, refers to the site as having “poor traffic links”.

Any reasonable assessment of the traffic links to James’s Hospital does not substantiate this. For example:

The N7, serving the south and Midlands of the country terminates at Inchicore, five minutes from James’s.

The N4, serving the Midlands and the west of the country, terminates at Kilmainham, again five minutes from James’s.

Mainline rail services serving Waterford, Cork, Galway and points in between terminate at Heuston Station, also five minutes from James’s.

A myriad of bus services pass along the front gate of James’s; the Luas light rail actually goes through the James’s campus.

Travel links such as these will ensure that the National Children’s Hospital will be accessible to all children, families and other visitors regardless of where they live. – Yours, etc,



Leinster House,

Dublin 2

Sir, – Breda O’Brien’s article discussed pressures on children which should be of concern to all parents. In the past parents could engage with these influences since they were generally understood by them, being verbal or written.

Many parents are not up to speed with social media and the internet and consequently are unaware of the reality of what their children are exposed to and unable to do anything about it – should they wish to do so.

Surely this situation is worth discussing in its own right rather than treating anything that Ms O’Brien writes as apologetics for the Catholic Church and attacking her accordingly without actually engaging with what she is saying. – Yours, etc,


Dublin Road,


Dublin 18

Irish Independent:

THE latest onslaught by the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) on Gaza, a stretch of land the size of Co Dublin with a population of 1.7 million, is the third time since 2009 that the IDF has invaded Gaza.

Israel‘s latest assault on Gaza has so far led to over 700 civilians being killed, including over 200 children, while less than 40 Israelis have been killed, the vast majority of whom were members of the IDF. This is akin to a person ‘defending’ their home against stones being thrown at it by burning down their neighbour’s house and killing everyone in it. Also the IDF has attacked UN buildings, including schools, which have been used to house almost 150,000 Gazan refugees and have even killed UN employees.

Israel has continually ignored numerous UN resolutions condemning its treatment of the Palestinian people, especially Resolution 242, passed by the UN General Assembly, which calls upon Israel to withdraw its forces to its original 1967 borders, which would also bring to an end its illegal occupation of the West Bank.

Israel’s latest actions have led to the UN investigating the state for war crimes against the Gazan civilian population.

Israel’s blockade of Gaza has led to the slow strangulation of a people.

According to Amnesty International, Israel’s actions have resulted in “mass unemployment, extreme poverty, food insecurity and food price rises caused by shortages leaving four out of five Gazans dependent on humanitarian aid”, and it has criticised Israel’s blockade as “a form of collective punishment, a flagrant violation of international law”. Israel is a racist state punishing the Palestinian people for having voted Hamas into power and is supported by the US to the tune of $3bn (€2.27bn) a year.

Various groups, including the Irish Anti-war Movement, have long been calling on Ireland to boycott Israeli goods and for the removal of Israel’s position as a favoured trading partner with the EU.

Cultural links with Israel should also be cut, along with the expulsion of the Israeli ambassador. These are the kind of actions that helped to bring about the end of the apartheid regime in South Africa.

Peace will only ultimately come to this part of the world by the establishment of a joint Israeli/Palestinian secular state where the democratic rights and the equality of all citizens are respected.




* Is the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC), whose mandate is supposedly to promote and protect human rights around the world, anything other than a toothless and useless talking shop?

This body, since it came into being in 2006, has passed more than 50 resolutions condemning Israel. The cumulative number of condemnatory resolutions directed at Israel is greater than the number of resolutions condemning all the other nations of the world combined – but not one of them has proven to be a catalyst for progress in the region.

Ireland and eight other member states of the European Union are current members of its governing council, but the voice of these EU member states was ominously silent in Geneva on July 23 when they abstained from the vote taken on a resolution that was passed by a majority and is intended to reinforce respect for international law, in response to the latest lethal, bloody and savage conflict between Israel and Hamas. These EU member states were following the direction of the European Union, which is not a member of the UNHRC in its own right. The UNHRC received $122m (€90.7m) in voluntary contributions last year, including over $50m (€37.21m), or 42pc of the total received, from individual member states of the European Union and that included a contribution of $2,618,581 (€2m) from Ireland.

The EU and the US each contributed $13m (€9.6m), or 11pc of the total voluntary contributions. The contribution from Israel was $25,000 (€18,600) and from Egypt, for whom Irish diplomacy expressed a particularly high regard as a regional peace-broker, was a mere $5,000 (€3,700).

Why should Irish taxpayers contribute to the UNHRC when the sentiment of Irish people is suffocated by faceless bureaucrats in the EU on matters of particular concern to them and Irish diplomacy has apparently no direct influence?

Secondly, what weight, if any, does the UNHRC carry in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, apart from publishing soothing statements that protagonists routinely oppose or blatantly disregard? The current Egyptian regime has not demonstrated much regard for Hamas and has made this known through its media; nor has it committed much financial resources to the UNHRC.




* The Government’s decision not to support an international inquiry into Israel’s actions in Gaza is of serious concern.

The appalling situation in Gaza has led to an unacceptable loss of life. The conflict has killed over 700 of which approximately 170 are children. This is utterly shameful and should be fully investigated.

As the death toll continues to rise, I believe that questions now arise from Ireland’s decision to abstain in a UN Human Rights Council vote on whether to investigate Israel’s offensive in Gaza.

I have written to Ireland’s permanent representative to the United Nations in Geneva, ambassador Patricia O’Brien, seeking an explanation for this decision and requested information as to what diplomatic efforts we as a nation are deploying to contribute to a resolution to the ongoing atrocities in Gaza. I have also written to the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Charlie Flanagan, seeking clarity on the matter and what consultations took place ahead of this decision.

The assault on Gaza has had a devastating effect on the civilian population and majority of victims have been women and children. We have a moral duty to protect the most vulnerable and to ensure that human rights abuses are not ignored.




* When the current flare-up of the Hamas/Israeli conflict ends, the only thing achieved will have been a great loss of life. Sadly, many of those killed would have been oblivious as to whether they were Palestinian or Israeli simply because they would have been too young to know. Only the body count distinguishes between the indiscriminate targeting of civilians by Hamas and Israel’s ineffectual ‘pinpointing’ of targets in Gaza where the death tally is 80pc civilian. But we will continue on with our lives as usual while this chaos carries on not far from the border of a EU country.




* Enda Kenny and Joan Burton are to be complimented for their very progressive ministerial reshuffle.

We are now served by a Cabinet that includes four first-term TDs. Seven junior ministers are first-term TDs. One minister is in his 20s and four are in their 30s.

Alan Hansen, in his last column as a football analyst (When I work with Rio Ferdinand and see Twitter I knew it was time to retire, Irish Independent, July 15) said his only career regret is saying of Manchester United in August ’95: “You can’t win anything with kids.” Fergie’s Fledglings went on to win consecutive league/FA Cup doubles.



Irish Independent


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