No jog around the park I still have arthritis in my left knee
Scrabbletoday, Mary win the games, and gets under 400 perhaps Iwill win tomorrow
Monty Moss – obituary
Monty Moss was a Moss Bros chairman who took British tailoring to Paris, sold equestrian wear and could stitch a suit by hand
Monty Moss at 90
6:45PM BST 30 May 2014
Monty Moss, who has died aged 90, was the fourth-generation chairman of Moss Bros, the menswear and formal wear chain, and a strict arbiter of sartorial correctness.
“No man is ever smart if he does not show half an inch of shirt cuff,” Moss declared in 1984 in a lament against the decline of grooming and the advance of casualness. As for hipster trousers, they were “hopeless… Nothing looks worse than a gap between the top of the trousers and the bottom of the waistcoat, particularly with a pot belly.” Tucking the tie into the waistband was a still greater offence.
Moss was a firm advocate of the pleated cummerbund with evening dress — and even more so of hats to “lend respectability” on all occasions. At Ascot, weddings and royal garden parties (the mainstays of Moss Bros’ renowned dress hire business) “top hats should be worn not carried” — though grey gloves should of course be carried not worn. He was incensed by the hatless state of Lord Mountbatten’s statue, in naval uniform, erected near Horse Guards Parade in 1983.
It was the maintenance of such standards that made Moss Bros a national institution. The business founded in a small shop in Covent Garden in 1851 by Monty’s great-grandfather Moses Moses (who later dropped the “e” from his surname) had originally dealt in second-hand clothes. Moses’s sons developed it into a high-quality tailoring emporium in nearby King Street, and in 1897 they introduced a seven-shillings-and-sixpence evening-dress hire service. Military and court uniforms, equestrian wear and saddlery as well as suitable wardrobes for first-class voyages were all added to the repertoire.
Moss Bros advertisement from the 1960s (The Advertising Archives)
Monty trained in every aspect of the business, joined the board in 1965, and then succeeded his father Harry, first as managing director and, from 1981 to 1987, as chairman. Despite his conservative tastes, Monty was a supporter of initiatives to modernise and broaden the business, including the opening of an outlet in Paris and of an in-store boutique called One-Up, aimed at the fashion-conscious young men of the late 1960s, and the expansion of its womenswear ranges.
Under his leadership Moss Bros extended to 60 branches around the country, and despite changing fashions it maintained its niche as the pre-eminent brand for formal outfitting. Among half a dozen family members in the business, Monty regarded himself as “the nearest thing to a practical Moss: I’ve made a suit, every stitch of it by hand.”
A shopkeeper at heart, he was less comfortable dealing with boardroom issues, the most pressing of which during his chairmanship was a proposal to realise the value of the prominent King Street site. When his successors brought it to fruition in 1988 with a £23 million sale to a Japanese developer, not long after he had stepped down to become the company’s president, he described leaving the building as “like a bereavement”.
Montague George Moss was born in London on April 21 1924. His father — son of Moses Moss’s eldest, George — had joined the family business at 13 and was its shrewd and progressive leader from the mid-1930s until the mid-1970s.
Young Monty was put to work as a lift-boy in King Street before being dispatched to Harrow in 1938. After leaving school he was called up and commissioned in the King’s Royal Rifle Corps, rising to the rank of captain. He was demobilised, and joined Moss Bros, in 1947. He was later president of the Federation of Merchant Tailors and the Tailors’ Benevolent Institution.
At Harrow, Monty had been captain of Fives — and he became a lifelong stalwart of the Old Harrovian Fives Club, in which he was revered as the most courteous of players. “A let was always offered before it could be claimed,” according to one tribute. He was also an enthusiast for skiing and cricket, and regretted the decline of the annual Eton-Harrow fixture as a social occasion: “Somebody — it must have been an Etonian — said stop dressing up for it, so people stopped going.”
Monty Moss married, in 1955, Jane Levi. She survives him with their daughter and two sons .
Monty Moss, born April 21 1924, died April 27 2014
Laura Smith (Welsh youngsters learn to rethink racism, Society, 28 May) reports on the success of the Think Project, enabling 200 young people not in school or training to question their attitudes to racial stereotypes and minority ethnic groups. The organisers stress these young people “are not racist, just lacking in knowledge”. But most young people are in school. Those fortunate to be in an inclusive school soon discover that their friendships are not based on colour or faith, but on personality and shared interests. They have the chance to gain the “knowledge” from personal experience and see that no one group has a monopoly of brilliant minds, best footballers, bullies, funniest students or kindest human beings. In counties such as West Yorkshire there are many areas where residents are almost exclusively of one faith. If individuals choose to live, work and worship solely within these areas, that’s their choice. But we should surely enable the children of such families to mix with, learn about and befriend children of other faiths and cultures. Perhaps it’s time to re-examine the proliferation of state-funded faith schools, and better understand the need to equip all children to recognise and challenge prejudice.
Kirklees, West Yorkshire
• Your publication (27 May) of the British Social Attitudes report into prejudicial and racist attitudes in the UK (Racism on the rise in Britain), is of interest to us at the Anne Frank Trust. We work in some of the most economically deprived and socially divided areas of the country, but our own research among teenagers and their teachers contradicts these findings about adult attitudes in the report. We may hold a solution to improving these statistics for the next generation.
We have found to our immense satisfaction that 83% of teachers reported that as a result of attending our Anne Frank educational programmes in their school, pupils were more likely to challenge discriminatory behaviour. We have also conducted research among 7,000 teenagers who have engaged with our exhibition and workshops and 75% of these young people said that learning about Anne Frank had made them think “a lot” about how they treat people.
Nearly 70 years after her death, the teenage Anne Frank still exerts a powerful message about how we regard and treat others.
Executive director, Anne Frank Trust UK
• It will come as no surprise to those people who encounter prejudice each day of their lives and those who, against all obstacles placed in their way, challenge it and try to do something about the “rising tide of race prejudice across Britain”.
While it is interesting to read the comments made by distinguished theorists and academics about prejudice, full respect is due to those activists, including many teachers (no thanks to Gove and his predecessors) and some organisations that go out of their way to challenge bias, bigotry and ignorance. During the past decade there has been complicit resistance to confronting race, sex, class, Islamic, homophobic, age and antisemitic prejudices through public and formal education programmes, fronted by political and corporate leaders pushing light-touch regulation with the inevitable consequence of unchallenged discrimination. That approach also neutered the former Commission for Racial Equality and its successor body, the Equality and Human Rights Commission, both failing to tackle prejudice as a priority.
Two sectors providing scope for active awareness raising and attitude-changing activities are those of education and sport. Football attracts its fair share of prejudices amongst players, fans and administrators, however led by the actions of Kick It Out and Show Racism the Red Card (with some support from the Professional Footballers’ Association, the Premier League and Football Association) there is some degree of educating the next generation of players and fans. If we can do more across all sectors of society, we might get beyond mere tolerance and defeat ignorance, bigotry and discrimination before it tears us apart.
Kick It Out
astle, I found Diane Abbott’s article (Let’s stay out of the gutter, 29 May) caused me to reflect on immigration. I came from the west of Ireland to the West End of Newcastle in the early 1980s and have practised as an NHS GP here ever since. The welcome and generosity of the local people, almost exclusively white British, to yet another Irish man, at a time when there was still plenty of fear because of the situation in the north of Ireland, was greatly appreciated. This was and is a predominantly working-class area with high levels of unemployment and deprivation. It was evident when I first came that there was no significant investment by government in this area, either in creating jobs or social housing.
The area was dying. I saw the effects of this on my patients. Soon after, immigrants from various parts of the world started to arrive and the demographics of the area have now changed greatly. In my own practice more than 50% of people do not have English as their first language. The West End has been given a new lease of life, with local shops, restaurants and small businesses, private investment in housing and so on.
The “indigenous” Newcastle people remain open, friendly and kind. The malevolent attempt by the racist politicians to shift the blame for the distress caused by government underfunding of social welfare, housing and employment on to immigrants is shameful, but nothing less than I would expect. Hopefully “we” Geordies will see it for what it is and support those politicians with views similar to Diane Abbott and other traditional supporters of the working class. We can then remain focused on what matters and that is making life better for the people who have less.
Dr Joe Kelliher
Prospect Medical Group, Newcastle
• The attitude of Diane Abbott is precisely the reason so many people are flocking to Ukip, for there is nowhere else to go if you wish to keep Britain a sovereign state. To wish to control immigration is not racist; to wish to leave the EU is not racist. By shouting racism at anything that diverts from the opinions of many on the left is to devalue the concept. Independence and sovereignty have been the rallying cry of the left for over a century as peoples all over the world fought for freedom from colonial rule. It is the natural ground of the left, which tragically is being vacated to Ukip and other rightwing groups. The British people are instinctively inclined towards being independent from any foreign interference; they want to control their own affairs and that includes control of our borders – which does not mean no immigration, but controlled immigration. Until the left reclaims the concept of a sovereign Britain and takes up the call for a an EU referendum, Ukip will win every time.
• Both the rise of anti-Semitism in the 1930s and the hatred today of immigrants are classic examples of what psychologists call “projection”. People going through straightened times find a scapegoat for their hatreds and blame all their own troubles on “the other”, whether Jews in Romania in the 1930s or Romanians in Britain in 2014. The problem for the politicians is that projection is, by its definition, irrational. Seeing Nick Clegg try to argue rationally with Nigel Farage’s fear-mongering was to witness a train-crash that any psychologist or historian could have predicted.
Now that the local and European parliament elections are over, responsible politicians in the main parties have to concentrate not on opposing Ukip racism (which is irrational) – but on the underlying causes that have resulted in around 5 million Britons voting on the basis of fear. Only then can such harm be removed from the British body politic.
Dr Christopher Catherwood
• There was once a time when the state accepted its responsibility to maintain good race relations and when integration was a dynamic two-way process, famously defined in 1966 by the then home secretary, Roy Jenkins, “not as a flattening process of assimilation but as equal opportunity, accompanied by cultural diversity, in an atmosphere of mutual tolerance”. How far we have travelled from that ideal has now been captured by the British Social Attitudes survey. And while your editorial (28 May) quite rightly points out the correlation between political messages and rising concern among voters, we would go further. In attempting to triangulate around the Ukip vote, Miliband, as much as Cameron, has played fast and loose with xenophobia.
Likewise, Labour as much as the Con-Dem government has been careless of the impact of nativist pronouncements and policies on poor migrants, particularly new arrivals from eastern Europe, who live under the impact of increased hostility and violence. Michael Gove sending his Ofsted inquisitors into Birmingham primary schools with a large Muslim intake (Report, 21 May), to interrogate teachers and harass young children alike, bodes ill for the future of race relations.
Director, Institute of Race Relations
• Lola Okolosie (Comment, 29 May) wrote passionately about the evils of racism, but her article was based upon an interpretation of a piece of research by NatCen which, by their own admission, might not be as authoritative as assumed. “It’s important to realise that these findings are not indicative of anything other than how many people describe themselves as racially prejudiced in an interview situation. They are not indicative of an increase in racially motivated crime, workplace discrimination or a nation catapulting to the far right” (Can we really measure racial prejudice?, 27 May). Given such a warning, I feel commentators must be very careful in coming to firm conclusions which depend upon interpretations of data which, themselves, may not be particularly accurate or reliable, otherwise it can cause more harm than good.
• One factor missing from the NatCen survey is reference to the ethnic origin of those surveyed. In my experience (political canvassing, community work among EU migrants), this is where racism can still sometimes lurk. If you want to hear expressions of strong anti-immigrant feelings or racially motivated prejudices then listen to many first- and second-generation members of national minorities when they feel relaxed enough to speak out in front of you.
Many of these remarks betray considerable ill feeling and mistrust between black and Asian minorities, and both often make scathing remarks about east European immigrants – which in turn do not go unreciprocated. The situation can be even worse when these minorities speak to each other in the language of their country of origin, where racially motivated sentiments are expressed using unvarnished terminology. These views are not repeated in English, but then English to them is the language of political correctness. The terminology in their own language has not been similarly detoxified. NatCen should commission a new study which will encompass the ethnic factor in the expression of these attitudes.
• It is accepted by all three party leaders that “something” must be done about immigration. People on doorstep give immigration, as their reasons for voting Ukip. In fact nothing can be done about immigration that will satisfy the poorest sections of society. The fear of immigration is largely irrational and not subject to facts or figures. Historically there have always been scares about “the other”, from Jewish immigration in the early 20th Century to the Ugandan Asians in the 1970s. These fears have usually been accompanied by an obsession with a crowded island, again something which is highly subjective. Cutting or ending immigration has always been used and exploited by the far right – which is otherwise opposed to trade unions and strikes to increases wages – to explain poverty, poor housing and other social provisions.
Today is no different. We are faced with a historical transfer of wealth from the poor to the rich, coupled with the destruction of the welfare state and the NHS. It is no surprise that George Osborne and fellow Conservative leaders seek to blame refugees. Scapegoating is as old as capitalism. But if you were to ask those who explain immigration for their frustrations, they would be hard-pressed to provide the details of the levels of immigration to Britain, from inside or outside the EU. Ed Miliband should ignore the panic-driven advice of Ed Balls and instead place his proposals in an overall context of who has paid for Britain’s financial crisis. Now is the time for a bold and radical leader of the Labour party, not one who is diverted by the chimera of Ukip.
• I was appalled by the headline on your report (Rising tide of prejudice across Britain, 28 May) and your editorial (Race against time) of the same day. You effectively branded one-third of the UK population as racist. Perhaps you ought to give more consideration to what Trevor Phillips has said and the distinctions he made in his well-judged comments.
To face up to prejudices, either our own or those of others, we first of all need to recognise that we might possibly have them. Branding people as racist, for doing exactly that, is likely to keep prejudices hidden and festering. Years working in secondary schools eventually taught me that, in promoting and developing tolerance and understanding, education and discussion are better long-term solutions than just outrage and condemnation. To take this one step further: would not a “restorative” approach, as practised in many schools, have offered a much more satisfactory outcome than the court case you cite?
Knaresborough, North Yorkshire
• Those of us who have lived or worked in London’s East End for a number of years know that the racists and people who dislike diversity have been gradually moving eastwards, with Romford, Basildon, Canvey Island (covered by Castle Point) and Southend among the locations of choice. This could explain the success of Ukip in these areas. Unemployment and poverty is rife in east London, but Ukip did not do well here.
• Your suggestion that the parties keep calm and carry on might have to be revised if the electorate interpret the election results to mean that they can actually bring about real change in the political system, and resolve to do so next year. We might even get a bigger turnout.
Matthew Goodwin is correct to highlight the lack of serious engagement with the drivers behind Ukip’s appeal (This time there’ll be no collapse in Ukip support, 27 May). This political shift is rooted in the concerns of the vast majority about the increasing pace of immigration and about their own increasing economic insecurity. Yet the response to Ukip’s success seems to be that it is just a protest party and all that is required is to explain existing polices more effectively, drop the political geek-speak and imitate Farage’s popular blokeyness. If the Westminster parties cling to that deluded comfort blanket, they are in for a nasty shock come next year’s election.
What should be done to tackle the twin concerns of immigration and economic insecurity? The answer has to be to reconsider the whole question of open borders, not just to people but also to money and goods. Our openness to capital flows allows Europe’s rich to pile into London’s property market, ensuring generation rent will never achieve any housing security. The relocation of UK companies to countries with lower tax and/or wages also continues apace.
Clearly no one country can buck the market on its own. But Labour could start a debate about the issue of the free flow of people, goods and money with its sister parties in the EU, given its desire to replace failing markets with responsible capitalism. The reform the left should be calling for is for the emergence of a cooperative grouping of countries prioritising the protection and rebuilding of local economies. This could provide a secure future for Europeans and turn the EU from an anathema to a positive answer to voters concerns. Such a shift is now far more likely given that the extreme right will be breathing down the necks of parties all over Europe forcing them to consider alternatives to help ensure their political survival. This approach could increase the left’s political support, provide a more secure and civilised future and be seen as a beacon of hope for a world itself suffering rising economic insecurity, inequality and political upheaval.
East Twickenham, Middlesex
• Pierre Poujade enlivened the fading days of the French fourth republic with his populist tax revolt. Within a couple of years his Union to Defend Shopkeepers and Artisans had attracted 400,000 members and, in 1956, won 52 national assembly seats (one of them held by Jean-Marie Le Pen). It caused general pandemonium in France and the nascent European Economic Union. By 1958, with the ascendancy of De Gaulle to the presidency of the Fifth Republic, Poujadism more or less died on its feet. Its founder later supported François Mitterrand’s bid for the presidency. Plus ça change …
Your coverage of the British Social Attitudes Survey (Rising tide of race prejudice across Britain, 28 May), fails (at least according to your report) to acknowledge the fine grain in social attitudes towards the concept of “the other”, relying only on the construct of “race” to define prejudice. Recent political debate has turned on a complex set of issues – EU immigration, non-EU immigration, Islamophobia, cultural difference – and usually exhibited very little concern about “race” (a rickety concept anyway) as such. To label and conflate prejudice relating to all these issues as “racial” doesn’t get us very far. We need new terms for advancing our discussion and understanding of the causation of prejudice against “the other”.
• Diane Abbott (29 May) says “Immigrants do not cause low wages”. From a socialist perspective, the function of the free movement of labour – and what else is immigration? – is to hold down wages and break strikes. There doesn’t seem to be much point in blaming “predatory employers”. In the capitalist system, employers don’t pay workers more than they have to. She goes on to blame “deregulated labour markets, the rise of zero hours contracts and proliferating agency workers”. Fair enough – but what exactly is she proposing to remedy this? It would be good if her party could put forward a proper detailed programme of legislation– something missing from her article – for the voters to consider.
• It’s right that predatory employers, deregulation, zero hours contracts and agency employment etc are increasing social stress and racism. That’s why we need a Labour government. But do the British people not have a right to determine who comes to this country in future? Voters clearly believe it is their country and they do have the right to choose.
• While Labour seems likely to pursue yet more anti-immigrant policies, Alex Salmond announces that an independent Scotland would welcome more immigrants because they will benefit society. Another reason why I will vote yes in the referendum.
• Perhaps London should apply for membership of the EU when the rest of us leave. After all, those of us fortunate enough to live in the sticks regard London as a foreign country.
Hope Valley, Derbyshire
We have heard too much mealy-mouthed, platitudinous prattle from politicians about immigration. Even if they could close the stable door, it is too late (Report, 25 May). Huge numbers of immigrants have already settled in our tiny island and changed the face of our communities. They are mums and dads, aunties and uncles, grandparents, cabbies, nurses, carpenters, doctors, drivers, teachers, labourers, waiters, lawyers and the unemployed, like the rest of us. We owe them a little more courtesy and respect for their contribution to our society.
Instead of scapegoating them for our ills, we should concern ourselves with issues of integration and respect for our customs and practice. If we can’t at least be friendly and welcoming, if we go on carping and criticising, we may well be storing up social unrest. More than that, we are in danger of appearing mean and selfish. All of which shouldn’t preclude the EU from considering a moratorium on immigration for a few years to give host countries time to adjust to demographic changes.
• Just watching the BBC news, I am staggered at the sheer arrogance of UK politicians refusing to concede that Ukip’s victory was due to immigration. It’s not about racism; it’s about the number of migrants coming, accepting low-paid jobs, often illegally. They allow employers to break labour laws. Their presence lowers wages and standards. They have, understandably, no interest in the UK; it’s just a way for them to earn money.
The impact of so many people coming here is a strain on housing, schools and the NHS – politicians are immune to the effects of this; most other people aren’t. Additionally, lots of non-EU citizens find it easy to get, for example, Latvian citizenship, allowing them into the UK. We know what’s going on – we deal with it every day; and yet still politicians refuse to accept our deep concerns and unhappiness about this matter.
They’re totally out of touch with reality. Have they any idea how angry people are? Ukip has, ironically, in relation to its pro-business ethos, become the party of the working people, white, black and Asian. The main parties need to respect the electorate. Ukip did so well because the rest didn’t listen. Judging by what they’re saying, they still aren’t.
• Migration is two-way. In excess of 2 million Brits have used their rights as EU citizens to live, work and retire in Europe. This freedom is threatened by Ukip’s proposal to take the UK out of the EU. I regularly work in other EU countries and the party will deny me the right to do so. Its policy is a threat to personal freedom and will undermine our economy. The principle of free movement was fought for by Margaret Thatcher, when she helped to create the single market; it seems bizarre that the right wing of her party now seeks to undermine her achievement. The Conservative Party are the architects of Britain’s membership of the EU, and Heath, Thatcher, Major and Cameron were/are committed Europeans. Ironically, when Labour fought the 1983 general election with a policy of leaving the EU, it lost heavily. So let’s have some balance here. Yes, there is a need to address migration, but simply slamming the door will turn the UK into a prison – with us all denied the right to live and work in other EU countries.
The argument made by the Cabinet Secretary, Sir Jeremy Heywood, that the details of the exchanges between Tony Blair and George W Bush in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq in 2003 cannot be disclosed, because to do so would undermine future confidentiality of US-UK high-level diplomatic exchanges, is deeply unconvincing. (Andreas Whittam Smith: “The political establishment is on the run. But it can’t hide forever,” 31 May).
It has even less credibility in the light of Sir Jeremy’s role as Principal Private Secretary to Tony Blair at No 10 at the time of the build- up and execution of the war against Saddam in 2002-03. He is hardly an independent party.
Retired senior US politicians have no problem in recounting their experiences in negotiating with the UK government when in office. President Bill Clinton in his memoir, My Life (2004), records that in December 1998: “My national security team was unanimous in the belief that we should hit Saddam. . . . To minimize the chances Iraq could disperse its forces and protect its biological and chemical stocks. Tony Blair and his advisors agreed.” (p833)
Clinton’ Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright, in her own memoir, Madame Secretary (2003), records: “During our joint tenure, British foreign secretary [Robin] Cook helped ensure Great Britain’s position as a stalwart ally in backing an appropriately tough line towards Iraq. We were both determined to keep up the pressure until Iraq met its obligations to disarm.” (p277)
When Blair’s successor, Gordon Brown, announced the scope of the Chilcot inquiry to Parliament on 15 June 2009, Mr Brown told MPs and the country: “The inquiry will receive the full co-operation of the Government.”
What we are now seeing is a dangerous establishment stitch-up. Parliament’s collective voice of opposition needs to be heard this week.
Dr David Lowry, Stoneleigh, Surrey
Until we know one way or the other whether Tony Blair gave George W Bush his unconditional support on the basis that he would “sell” any intervention in Iraq to Parliament and the British public, there can be no satisfactory resolution of the Iraq saga. All attempts to suppress and limit information available to the public can only strengthen the impression that this is in fact exactly what transcripts of the conversations between Blair and Bush would reveal.
David Barker, Surbiton, Surrey
Is a free society one where there are no consequences for illegal wars, where there are no punitive outcomes for bankers who come near to bankrupting the country, one where there are few punishments for politicians who make false claims?
It seems that our society is penalty-free for the powerful and benefits-free for the poorest. All inconvenient details will be redacted to suit. Is this the gist of our free society?
Lee Dalton, Weymouth, Dorset
Politicians must learn to listen
How amazing that so many politicians are surprised by the message that there is dissatisfaction with the political status quo and that this finds expression through rejection of the established political players. There were few local government elections last week in the rural districts or the message would have been even worse.
Since the inception of the National Planning Policy Framework there has been a relentless attack upon the integrity of market towns and villages, on the green belt, and on the fabric of the English countryside. Democracy has been trampled on by an unholy alliance between the vested interests of some politicians and the mammoths of the construction industry. This has not resulted in affordable housing for the young rural dispossessed, but with disfiguring rashes of identikit houses and endless ruinous squabbles between the construction industry and local communities.
Our advice to politicians of every hue is to listen to us. Don’t pretend to give us localism and democracy and then trample all over us and our opinions. Don’t call us names and condescend to us. We gave you power and through the ballot box we can take it away. If you learn nothing else from the experience of the elections of 2014, then learn this.
Jenny Unsworth, Community Voice on Planning, Congleton, Cheshire
Let police officers speak out in public
Perhaps the image of our police service would not be suffering the damage it is currently experiencing if officers were encouraged to debate in public prints the pros and cons of legislative issues affecting policing which gradually arise over the years, and to come up with viable solutions themselves rather than waiting for outsiders to point out the answers.
For example, before Sir Robert Mark became the Metropolitan Police Commissioner he was a regular subscriber to the correspondence columns of the national press, outlining his own ideas for reform and inspiring his subordinates to follow suit. How many of our current crop of police chiefs have track records of bravely voicing criticism of current practices as they rose through the ranks?
It is a sad fact that young officers are discouraged from pointing out in print the failings of the service which they have witnessed from the inside, for fear of the damage it can do to their careers. Until this mindset is radically changed there seems little hope for the future of this country’s police service.
John Kenny, Acle, Norfolk
Why women’s sport is little reported
Jane Gandee’s laments over the lack of coverage of women’s sport (letter, 29 May). I would ask, is it not that the market has concluded that women’s sport is inferior to men’s? And the media, while it can and does influence the “market”, has also to voice public opinion.
Men’s professional sport is superior in terms of skill, strength, power and entertainment value to women’s sport.
That is reflected not least by the vastly higher attendances at men’s sporting events.
This does not devalue or detract from women’s and girls’ participation at a recreational or competitive level in sports, but does offer a context as to why women’s elite sport is so poorly covered by media outlets including The Independent.
John Moore, Northampton
I don’t believe that “girls are put off sport” by the lack of media coverage.
I have played skittles in a team for over 20 years despite there being no newspaper or website, either locally or nationally, that has ever reported on us at all.
It’s about wanting to do it, or not.
Colin Jones, Bedford
Royal Mail made a deal
A few months ago a package of services called Royal Mail was sold to investors at a knock-down price (“Regulator at odds with Royal Mail over warning on universal service”, 23 May). These same investors are now returning to the vendor’s agent to complain that the terms of that sale (at a knock-down price) are too onerous, making it difficult for them to further increase the profits they have already accumulated on the original purchase.
They bought the package with their eyes wide open, so let them stick to the terms on which they did so and use their purchase price profit to prop up the parts of the service they do not like.
We taxpayers should not be bailing them out of a deal they freely entered. Should they fail to honour the deal they should be penalised.
John Laird, Harrogate
Still no land fit for heroes
Mark Carney pledges to help build a “more trustworthy” capitalism“, with ”equality of outcomes, opportunity and fairness across generations“.
Christine Lagarde states: “The bad news is that progress is far too slow, and the finish line is too far off”, and she calls on “capitalism to become more representative, including expanding access to education and healthcare”.
In 1918, when my war-weary grandfather returned home to the Rhondda, he was promised “a land fit for heroes”. A century later he and we are still waiting to get to this promised land.
I conclude that there really has been no such overall intent and universal ambition in the words and deeds of our leaders, politicians and bankers. After all, they are all right, Jack.
Paul Middleton, Droitwich Spa, Worcestershire
How about banning my book too, Mr Gove?
Apparently, since Michael Gove threatened to ban certain American books from the English curriculum, sales of those books have skyrocketed. I wonder if Mr Gove would be so kind as to threaten to ban my new first novel, The Crossover, from the curriculum, as it could do with a bit of a boost.
John Westbrook, Manchester
Yasmin Alibhai-Brown should be very careful about what she wishes for (“London is a special place – let’s declare it a separate city state”, 2 June).
London is a dysfunction in the United Kingdom. It sucks the best out of the rest of the nation and then whinges about being overcrowded and expensive. I am dismayed every time I hear a science, engineering or maths student at a top university say that their ambition is to work in investment banking in the City.
If London were to declare independence, you should not be surprised if the borders are strictly enforced, with no movements in or out. No more stealing our talent or escaping to your cottage in the Cotswolds. Why should we supply you with food or water or even let you use our airspace? Does it sound like an East German attitude to West Berlin? Maybe, but some of us would prefer a smaller cake shared more evenly.
Peter English, Rhewl, Denbighshire
Yasmin Alibhai-Brown reveals herself as the ultimate patronising London bore.
Why people spend hundreds of thousands of pounds merely to live in some shoe box beside a railway line within the M25 is beyond me. A hugely better standard of living is to be had in virtually any other city in the country.
London is too big, too expensive and not especially attractive to look at – Paris, Rome or Vienna, for instance, it is not.
Anthony Ingleton, Sheffield
Let’s vote now on Europe
Thirty per cent of the electorate voted in the European elections and 30 per cent of them voted for Ukip. Another 8 per cent voted for the Greens and nearly 26 per cent voted for the Tories. All these parties say they want a referendum on Europe. The Tories only want one in 2017. The Greens and Ukip want a referendum now. The Greens and David Cameron want to stay in the EU.
Over 60 per cent of those who voted want a referendum and more than half of them want one straight away. Can we just get on with it please and have this referendum? I do not know why those in favour of staying in the EU are so afraid of an immediate referendum.
Nigel F Boddy, Darlington, Co Durham
Clegg too sensible for his own good
As the much smaller party in the Coalition, the Lib Dems were always going to be obliged to make compromises, whoever their leader. But they have nevertheless succeeded in curbing some of the excesses of Toryism.
Nick Clegg appears to be one of our more honourable politicians. What he says is generally perfectly reasonable. But he says it in a low-key way acceptable to people willing to listen and think. This is his major sin. If he were in the habit of hanging about looking very pleased with himself, holding a pint in one hand and a fag in the other, his party might have done better in the recent elections.
Democracy may be the least bad system of government but, sad to say, it enables us to choose the wrong people for the wrong reasons.
Susan Alexander, Frampton Cotterell, South Gloucestershire
The Liberal Democrat party is like the Titanic. The fourth frame has been breached and it is on the way to the bottom. Mr Clegg, like Captain Smith, is safe in his position.
George D Lewis, Brackley, Northamptonshire
Escape from the half-term nightmare
Three times a year, schools take a half-term holiday. Having taught in schools myself, I know just how important and necessary those breaks are. However, I also know that they cause tremendous disruption in all sorts of ways. Trains and Tubes are packed, it’s impossible to get into museums and art galleries, and the travel industry takes appalling advantage by putting up costs.
Last week seems to have been particularly bad. As I have travelled around London, going from one appointment to another, it has been almost nightmarish coping with the hordes blocking passageways and platforms. Indeed it has been positively dangerous, with platforms alarmingly clogged by children and frazzled parents.
Surely it would not be beyond the wit of the authorities to stagger these half-term breaks. Were they to take place over, say, a three-week period, it would not only remove the extra burden placed on our public transport system but, with luck, end those price-hikes.
Colin Baldy, Maldon, Essex
The marbles belong where they are
Howard Jacobson, seduced by the warmth of both the climes and the people of Greece, makes an emotional plea for the return of the Parthenon pediment sculptures (31 May). However, his sense that “they don’t belong to us” is too simplistic.
The British Museum is a unique assembly of culturally defining artefacts drawn from across time and space. The objects converse with each other so as to relate a narrative of humanity that would be impossible were they to be exhibited as singular items. These artefacts are not possessions – not of individuals, not of nations. They are global cultural capital.
It is far better that the “Elgin Marbles” remain in a place that situates them and what they represent within the context of a wider range of human endeavour in an accessible and, I am proud to say, free environment that attracts thousands of international visitors every year.
Philip Stephenson, Cambridge
Fill those empty homes first
We are always being told there is a need for one million new homes. For years, there have been over a million empty homes nationwide, and now added to these are an enormous number of empty foreign-owned investment properties in London.
We could give incentives to restore flats above shops, convert storage and offices that are not needed etc. Second homes could surely be much higher rated if they are left predominantly unused.
In the last census of the 250,000 second homes, three quarters were used for less than one month a year.
Of course we must build, but also use what is there efficiently. House prices will then stabilise and this crazy spiral will stop.
Bill Jackson, Goring-on-Thames, Oxfordshire
Women in sport aren’t the same – they win
I disagree with John Moore (letter, 2 June). Attendance at women’s sporting events will increase with more media coverage, and anyway the women’s England football and cricket teams are achieving excellent results, which is more than you can say for the men’s teams – and it’s results that matter.
Linda Dickins, Wimborne, Dorset
Save Syria from the dictator and the extremists
Patrick Cockburn is correct that Assad feels under little pressure to reach a peaceful settlement in Syria – since there has not been any effective international response to Assad’s campaign of aggression, even the repeated use of chemical weapons against civilians (“Fighting a war at the ballot box”, 29 May).
Mr Cockburn states that Assad “currently holds 13 out of 14 Syrian provincial capitals and his forces are slowly advancing in many parts of the country”. However it is important that readers do not take from this that Assad is winning, given that most of the north and east of Syria is outside of Assad’s control – over 60 per cent of the country. For every advance that his forces claim to have made, there is a setback that they suffer elsewhere in the country.
For example, last week the Free Syrian Army won an important strategic military victory in the north by taking over the military point of Al Khazanaat, meaning it now controls the supply route north of Hama, up to Idlib and Aleppo.
During this operation, many tanks and pieces of equipment were taken, in what was a huge blow to the regime. To give further examples: 40 per cent of Hama, 60 per cent of Aleppo, and 100 per cent of Deir Ezzor are outside regime control.
Assad caused the negotiations in Geneva to collapse by refusing to accept political transition as per the Geneva Communiqué road map. Since it seems that he only understands force, the West should help the moderate opposition with arms and training.
If Assad is not tackled, he will end up ruling over a brutalised and devastated section of Syria, and continue with his war, causing the escalation of a historic-scale humanitarian catastrophe, and also the strengthening of extremists, as moderates are frustrated and weakened.
The world surely does not wish to allow either a brutal dictator or extremists to win in Syria, for the spillover would soon affect other countries in the region, and maybe Europe.
Monzer Akbik, Chief of Staff to Ahmad Jarba, President of the Syrian Opposition Coalition, Istanbul
The formula for the cost-effectiveness of new drugs was introduced in 1956
Published at 7:50PM, June 2 2014
Sir, Professor Waxman’s argument (“This absurd system denies patients their vital cancer drugs”, Thunderer, May 30) has two flaws. First, his suggestion that patients be offered drugs that benefit more than 40 per cent of patients for more than four months and cost about £3,000 needs careful analysis.
After one year the National Health Service would have to pay £36,000 per year for each successful patient — but it would also have to pay for the same drug to be given to the 60 per cent of patients for whom it did not work. So for a four-month extension to the life of a successfully treated patient, the cost to the NHS would not be the £3,000 per month he states but actually £4,500 per month, or £54,000 per year. This money can only come from somewhere else in the squeezed NHS budget.
Second, to judge the success of a new drug solely in terms of survival is a mistake that all drug trials and clinicians make all the time. After all, what is the point of extending the life of a terminally ill cancer patient by a few months if there is no quality of life? I have heard patients say they would rather have cash in lieu of their chemotherapy drugs and a nice holiday instead.
Consultant maxillofacial surgeon,
Gloucestershire Royal Hospital
Sir, Jonathan Waxman’s description of how health gain, and thus the quality of life gained (Qaly gained), is incorrect. The Qaly gained from a particular intervention is not, for example, decided by “people who may or may not have cancer plumped down in circles in comfy chairs in focus groups”. The improvement in quality of life is made by individuals who have been treated with the particular product, either at hospital or in the privacy of their own homes. Nor is Professor Waxman correct in claiming that the cost of the intervention is used in calculating the Qaly gained. The costs, as well as any associated savings, are used to estimate the “cost per Qaly gained”.
He regards as “absurd” the measure of cost-effectiveness used by health technology agencies across the world and not just by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice). The alternative that he suggests — “to give a green light to new drugs that benefit more than 40 per cent of patients for more than four months, and cost about £3,000 per month” — merely begs questions rather than offers solutions. How much benefit? Why 40 per cent of patients? Why four months? Why £3,000 a month? What about the costs incurred by non-responding patients? And what about equity?
Nice seeks to ensure that all patients under the care of the NHS — irrespective of the nature of their underlying condition, whether be it cancer, stroke, heart attack or mental illness — have equal access to cost-effective care.
Sir Michael Rawlins
Chairman of Nice, 1999-2013
Janice Turner’s simplistic analysis ignores many of the points made in Of Mice and Men
Sir, I must defend Of Mice and Men from criticism of it as a set text for GCSE (Janice Turner, notebook, May 29). Ms Turner states that “Curley’s wife doesn’t even merit a name” — but the point being made is that a woman on a ranch in California at that time was not considered important. Similarly, I would take issue with the fact that “Lennie embodies truth and goodness” and that the message of the book is that “bullying is bad”. This is a very simplistic analysis of the book and ignores many of the points Steinbeck is making.
I teach English to pupils (most of whom are boys) who are on the verge of exclusion from school. They would not normally pick up a book and, without exception, have really enjoyed this novel. I have been delighted at the discussions we have had as a result of reading it. For this reason alone it deserves to be a set text for GCSE.
Protection against the severity of injury is key when assessing cycle helmets
Sir, A brain surgeon in a cowboy outfit comes to the brilliant conclusion that cycle helmets are useless (“Cycle helmets pointless, says brain surgeon”, May 31). Mr Marsh’s claim that they afford no reduction in injuries is not necessarily the point — it is the protection against the severity of the injury that is key.
There’s no dispute, the French are the most successful military nation in the world
Sir, Antony Edmonds asks who won the most battles, the British or the French (letter, May 31). I’m afraid that would be the French, who are the most successful military nation in the world. Not only did they invade and conquer this country but Napoleon Bonaparte rode in triumph at the head of his army through virtually every country in mainland Europe.
If you compare and contrast the strengths of the opponents involved in the various wars conducted by each country, then the French have it.
Even with a magnifying glass, it is hard to read the food makers’ small print
Sir, Weight-conscious shoppers are being urged to read the small print on foodstuffs (report, May 30).
I have tried for a long time to read the small print, and the older I get, the harder it becomes. Take, for instance, the background colour of the packaging. Black ink on blue or red paper is difficult to read, even after getting the item home. Having found the magnifying glass, one may then find that the small print is in one of many European languages. In summary, is the small print there to be read — or is it there to ensure that the makers have a get out?
Wimborne Minster, Dorset
Boring legal judgments? Not Lord Justice Ward!
Sir, Ian McEwan is right to praise the literary quality of legal judgments (report, June 2). Intriguingly, the recently retired Lord Justice Ward claims in Who’s Who that his recreation is reading and writing boring judgments. That could never be said of his output.
Professor Dominic Regan
Grey squirrels damage young trees by stripping away bark to reach the sweet sap beneath Photo: ALAMY
6:58AM BST 02 Jun 2014
SIR – Some 24 acres of my mainly broadleaf woodland was blown down in the 1990 storms. These were replanted in 1992. Since then a further four acres have been felled and replanted every five years.
A major woodland charity, whose mature trees are just across a bridleway from my replanting, is jeopardising the whole operation. Grey squirrels and muntjac deer, which appear to be breeding in the charity’s wood, are damaging my young trees. As soon as we keep them down in my wood they dash for the safety of the charity’s wood, returning when they consider the danger is over. I wrote to the charity asking them to keep the pests down in their wood, only to receive a polite reply that they did not operate in that way.
Allowing charities to have a major role in the management of England’s woodland may save government money by not having to pay for the Forestry Commission, but affects those of us who grow trees for pleasure, harvesting them for timber when the crop is eventually mature and replanting them again. Although the trees themselves are excluded from inheritance tax (IHT), the land on which they grow is still subject to this 40 per cent tax. For owners of fairly small areas of woodland, if charities take control and the IHT threshold is not raised considerably, where will the incentive be for continuing to regenerate woodland?
SIR – Margaret Thatcher once said that truth is what the Kremlin feared the most. The Russian interference in Ukraine has been accompanied by an unbelievable volume of propaganda and outright lies aimed at discrediting the new Ukrainian authorities, whipping up hysteria among ordinary Russians and pointing a finger at an “external enemy”.
In the past, the BBC played a key role in breaking the state-sponsored information cacophony. In the dark years of the Cold War, its Russian service was listened to by about 25 million people in the Soviet Union alone. The BBC provided intellectual and moral leadership via news and analysis and feature programmes on the arts.
Today the BBC’s Russian service is a mere internet-based news platform, which produces only about eight hours of radio programmes a week.
The Ukrainian crisis points to the need for the BBC to reassess its priorities. Recent technological advances make it easier to reach large audiences and smartphone apps like TuneIn can already provide an effective channel. Russia is the world’s tenth largest smartphone market. All that is needed is to turn some of the existing written online content into radio.
As a modern, well-staffed and well-funded global broadcaster, the BBC is better placed than many to move with the times. As truth becomes an ever-more precious commodity, given the sea of disinformation spreading across Russia, the BBC has an important role to play.
Sir Andrew Wood
Dr Iain Elliot
Dr Elisabeth Robson
Professor Peter Reddaway
SIR – Henry Marsh, the neurosurgeon, is right to query the usefulness of cycle helmets. They were introduced here from America in the Eighties, creating a bonanza for the manufacturers. Prior to that, the regular racing and touring headgear, if anything, was a peaked cotton cap.
I raced for years at elite level at home and abroad. Though high-speed crashes were as common as now, I recall no life-threatening head injuries or fatalities. Cyclists almost always fall sideways onto the shoulder, breaking the collar bone and, if rarely over the top, the knees and outstretched hands take the force.
Winner, 1955 Tour of Britain
Craven Arms, Shropshire
SIR – While I agree that cycle helmets are “flimsy” and their role in reducing brain injury (as a result of deceleration and rotational forces) is highly questionable, there is no doubt of their ability to protect the soft tissue of the upper face, scalp and skull. I speak from personal experience.
Professor of Neurosurgery
University of Cambridge
SIR – When we moved to a large farmhouse in Cumberland over 50 years ago, we were intrigued to discover, among the many outbuildings, a double seat dry closet (Letters, May 29).
Did one sit à deux, we wondered, or was there another reason for it?
It did have a view of the very well stocked orchard.
SIR – The commitment of Simon Stevens, the new head of the NHS, to supporting elderly patients in community hospitals near their homes (report, May 30) is to be applauded. Unfortunately, what is happening on the front line often differs from his vision.
We provide medical cover to our local community hospital in Midhurst, doing a daily ward round and attending multi-disciplinary team meetings. As local GPs, we know our patients and their families well, and, working with therapists and nursing staff, are able to plan their care and discharge home. This ensures that they are less likely to end up back in an acute hospital’s A&E department.
The local Sussex Community Trust has now decided that it can provide this medical cover on the cheap. By employing less experienced doctors at reduced hours, it can say it is “more efficient”. These doctors will have no prior knowledge of the patients, and there will be none of the joined-up care between hospital and home that Mr Stevens is keen to encourage. The end result will be more emergency admissions for frail elderly patients and less efficiency for the NHS.
Dr Tim Hill
Midhurst, West Sussex
SIR – In the mid-Eighties, the majority of cottage hospitals were closed because they were unaffordable. The NHS is in a much worse financial state today and the idea of reopening small, expensive units suggests both a lack of institutional memory and financial understanding.
“Care closer to home” has been a mantra for many years, but no evidence has ever been produced that shows it is clinically or financially advantageous.
Dr Andrew Bamji
Rye, East Sussex
SIR – In “Britain’s 20 classiest counties” Max Davidson caused much rancour in this household by suggesting that East Sussex has the edge on the West of the county.
Brighton, which he eulogises, is a den of iniquity, Hastings is a deprived area and Lewes cannot compare with the charms of Chichester – its cathedral, Pallant House and Festival Theatre, to name but three.
We also boast Goodwood, the Downs and the delightful towns of Arundel, Midhurst and Petworth. The splendour of the wooded Weald and Downland far surpasses the bald hills of the East.
Selsey, West Sussex
SIR – On the warmest spring day so far, I saw that our council had erected a new sign saying “Ice” at a point where the road is often flooded. How refreshing.
Feeding the children surreal tales about dinner
SIR – My mother’s reply to “What’s for dinner?” (Letters, May 31) was: “A run round the table and a kick at the cat.”
SIR – My Ulster mother-in-law used to tell my sons it was “Stewed stool’s feet and coddled corncrakes” for mains, and “wheem whalms” for pudding.
Dr Roshan McClenahan
SIR – My late mother would always reply: “Wimwams tied up with woofits”.
SIR – Our Nanny always said it was “Doll’s eyes and flypapers”.
SIR – My father always cooked delicious meals for us, but when we asked, he always said it was “Cold cabbage and lard on a shovel”.
We were never disappointed.
Hellingly, East Sussex
SIR – My mother’s rejoinder, “Skimmed milk and balloons”, was surreal.
SIR – David Cameron is right to say that it would be unwise to tip his hand by revealing what his demands are prior to starting negotiations around Britain’s membership of the European Union. At the same time, his own party members are unconvinced and require detail of his negotiating position.
He has, of course, brought this situation on himself by his past prevarications and his stated wish to remain within the EU. A simple remedy would be for Mr Cameron to make a clear statement before starting any discussions, to the effect that Britain categorically will exit the EU if its demands are not satisfactorily addressed. The Prime Minister must get off the fence.
Llanfair Waterdine, Shropshire
SIR – Why should a voter of any persuasion believe that a Conservative government in 2015 offers the best chance of an in/out EU referendum? David Cameron gave a “cast iron” guarantee that if he became Prime Minister he would give the British people a referendum. He failed to keep his promise.
Why should we trust him for 2017? One can hear the excuses now. “The negotiations are not yet complete”; “The referendum is being delayed until 2020 or 2022 or 2025.” David Cameron says “Trust me”. One cannot. That is the weakness of the Conservative position.
SIR – You report that the EU is demanding a further £500 million from British taxpayers to cover its £3.8 billion overspend.
This is David Cameron’s opportunity to demonstrate his new Eurosceptic credentials and just say “No!”
Mr Cameron needs to start the Conservative fightback now, and not wait until the election campaign starts in earnest, when all parties will be making ever more extravagant promises. He should bear in mind that credibility can only be achieved by actions – not words.
Martin P Gooderson
SIR – How about reducing the British contribution to the EU budget by £500 million a year until the EU leaders come seriously to the negotiating table?
SIR – Unlike the other parties, Ukip has made its position on Europe absolutely clear. It wants Britain to leave the EU and so do those who voted for it. Until the main parties do something about this, Ukip will continue to be a force to be reckoned with.
Mr Cameron’s promise to renegotiate the terms of our EU membership before testing the result in an in/out referendum is worthless unless he wins the general election outright. At the moment, he is by no means certain to do so.
Abbots Morton, Worcestershire
SIR – Under current policies, academic researchers must submit their proposals to a small group of their closest competitors – their peers – for consideration before they might be funded. Peers selected by funding agencies are usually allowed to deliver their verdicts anonymously. They assess the proposal’s suitability for funding, whether it would be the best possible use of the resources requested, and determine, if it were successful, the probability that it might contribute to the national economy in some way. If the answers are satisfactory the proposal has roughly a 25 per cent chance of being funded.
Peer preview is now virtually unavoidable and its bureaucratic, protracted procedures are repeated for every change in direction or new phase of experimentation or for whatever an applicant might subsequently propose. Consequently, support for research that might lead to major new scientific discoveries is virtually forbidden nowadays, and science is in serious danger of stagnating. Many scientists privately deplore these policies but their professional standing often depends on their acquiescence – a catch-22 that effectively diminishes public opposition to the policies. We call upon funding agencies to support sustained, open-ended research in unfashionable fields.
Donald W Braben
University College London
John F Allen
Queen Mary, University of London
University of Cambridge
University of Edinburgh
FRS, University of Sheffield
Queen Mary, University of London
Richard Cogdell FRS
University of Glasgow;
David Colquhoun FRS
University College London;
Industry Forum, London
United States Naval Academy, Annapolis;
University of Notre Dame
University of Colorado, Nobel Laureate
University of Leicester
Harvard University, Nobel Laureate
H Jeff Kimble
Caltech, US National Academy of Sciences
Sir Harry Kroto FRS
Florida State University, Nobel Laureate
University of Bristol
Peter Lawrence FRS
University of Cambridge
Angus MacIntyre FRS
Queen Mary, University of London
John Mattick FAA
Garvan Institute of Medical Research, Sydney
University of Reading
University of Missouri
Bio Astral Limited
Sir Richard J Roberts FRS
New England Biolabs, Nobel Laureate
Queen’s University of Belfast
University of Newcastle
University of Texas, US National Academy of Sciences;
Claudio Vita-Finzi FBA
Natural History Museum
SIR – I disagree with Tony Hewson’s opinion (Letters, June 2) that cycling helmets are useless. Fabio Casartelli might have lived had he been wearing one in the 1995 Tour de France.
In our cycling club here in Germany, our liability insurance is invalidated if we do not wear one. On a recent tour to Basel, one of our group had an accident in a tunnel. He was fine, but his helmet was cracked.
Capt John Maioha Stewart (retd)
Breisach, Baden-Württemburg, Germany
Saving Mrs Miniver
SIR – It was my mother, Jan Struther, who wrote the 1939 book Mrs Miniver (Letters, May 29). Her text made no mention of a stationmaster, nor of a flower show, nor of a red rose. That character, and that sub-plot, were introduced in 1942 by MGM, who had bought the film rights and arranged for the pre-war story to be re-written as a wartime “weepie”.
I join Orlando Murrin in pleading that some British rose-grower might repatriate the beautiful Mrs Miniver rose, now said to be extinct other than in a private garden in northern Germany.
SIR – At the top of our former home on the edge of Wimbledon Common we had a bathroom with a loo that looked over the treetops to the windmill (Letters, June 2). The full-length window was plain glass, as it could not be overlooked.
Whenever we had guests staying, they would hold on and climb the four flights for the pleasure of the view from the loo.
SIR – By holding a sham “election” today, the Assad regime again rejects the political process based on the Geneva Communique. This election will be a fraud, much like the others conducted by Assad and his father before him, in which they received at least 97 per cent of the vote.
The election should not give the impression that Assad’s position is secure, when he is actually losing ground. Most of the north and east of Syria is outside Assad’s control – more than 60 per cent of the country. The regime has just suffered another setback in its international relations, with the expulsion of its ambassador from Jordan and the greater recognition extended to the Syrian opposition’s representation here and in America. Letting Assad continue his assault on the Syrian people, including the use of chemical weapons with impunity, is not only immoral but also impractical: he cannot win.
We commend the Friends of Syria for pledging to increase support not only for the Syrian Opposition Coalition, but also for its “Supreme Military Council and associated moderate armed groups”. The Assad regime will not countenance a political solution while it continues to believe it can win militarily. It is therefore vitally important that more military support, within the known constraints, is given to the Free Syrian Army (FSA), thereby forcing Assad and his backers to accept a political solution.
This is also in Britain’s national security interest, given that the FSA is fighting both the regime and al-Qaeda. It is reported that the Obama administration is close to providing military training to vetted members of the FSA. Given that the Prime Minister recently described “mentoring” as part of Britain’s assistance programme, we urge him to consider providing similar military training to moderates.
Brooks Newmark MP (Con)
Chair, All-party Parliamentary Group on Friends of Syria
Sir Richard Ottaway (Con)
Meg Munn MP (Lab)
Alistair Burt MP (Con)
Nicholas Soames MP (Con)
Ian Austin MP (Lab)
Gisela Stuart MP (Lab)
Jeremy Lefroy MP (Con)
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean (Lab)
SIR – I hope Wayne Rooney is not going to spend too much time learning the words to the national anthem when he should be training (report, June 2).
Sometimes it’s best not to know what’s for dinner
SIR – When I came home from school and asked my grandmother “What’s for tea?” (I am Lancastrian), her reply would be “Cow heel and pigs’ trotters” (Letters, June 2).
Unfortunately, it often was.
SIR – My grandmother used to say: “A cup of tea and a worm”.
North Kerridge, Cheshire
SIR – “Not brain soup again!” was the cry that went up when Mum said she was making something up out of her head.
Worthing, West Sussex
SIR – My mother’s answer was “Air pie and windy pudding” – she was an East End girl.
In my husband’s family, who were from Hull, it was “Sour sick and buttered haycocks”. I know which I would prefer.
SIR – When asked, my mother used to reply “Shimsham for fiddlers!” What?
SIR – To teach us good table manners, my father used to tell us that: “All joints on the table would be carved”.
A chara, – Éilis Ní Anluain wonders if I am wilfully missing something in the debate on denominational education (May 30th).
That I am missing something is not impossible; I am but a humble rector of a rural parish and know well there is much I do not see and even more that I do not understand. I assure her I do not do so wilfully.
However, there are things that I do not miss.
For example, I see the hard work and dedication of those who serve on the board of management of our local Church of Ireland primary school, of which I have the privilege of being the chair; because of their belief the religious ethos of our school is an important component of our children’s education, and not some kind of an optional “bolt on”.
I notice the parents who drive or bus their children long distances, some from neighbouring parishes, doing so because they believe that it is in the best interest of their children to send them to our school.
Then there is the support our small faith community gives to the fundraising efforts needed to keep the school going – support that is given by all, whether they have children in the school or not.
And I certainly do not miss, and indeed am humbled by, the immense generosity and respect shown by the wider community as they support us in that fundraising.
Looking further afield, I note the passion and commitment to our denominational schools I have seen on display at various diocesan synods; and I can only imagine that other faith communities feel equally strongly about their schools. I notice also how various patrons have willingly given up schools they no longer need to those of other faith traditions and none; how the recent offer to surrender patronage where that is the will of the local community; and the day-to-day willingness of denominational schools to accommodate sensitively those of other faith traditions or none, whether they be students or staff, asking only that they reciprocate by respecting the ethos the school was founded to promote and not acting to undermine it.
This all leads me to believe that the majority of people support our current system; and I thank God I live in a country that is enlightened enough to facilitate those who have strong beliefs about their faith or philosophy in setting up schools that accord with those views, provided they have the dedication and determination to do so.
I also notice that there is a minority of people who have no desire to compromise in any way on this issue; who wish to trample the constitutional and natural rights of parents to decide the ethos in which their children are to be educated; and under the cloak of “non-discrimination” wish to discriminate against the majority and introduce a secular patronage system that would only be favoured by a few.
I believe that denominational schools have proven their willingness to compromise and be flexible on this issue.
I think it would be wilful indeed of me not to notice that there are others with quite extreme views in this debate, and wilfully remiss not to attempt to point that out. – Is mise,
Rev PATRICK G BURKE,
Sir, – I read with dismay the news that the HSE is considering the recruitment of overseas doctors to “plug the gaps in the Irish health service” (Letters, May 27th; “HSE recruitment plans condemned”, Home News, May 19th). The question is posed “why are Irish-trained doctors leaving our hospitals?”
The Australian health workforce is bolstered by an influx of highly trained and motivated doctors from Ireland and the UK. Recent data from the Australasian College for Emergency Medicine shows that 25 per cent of emergency department registrars in Australia obtained their primary medical degree in Irish or UK universities (566 emergency medicine doctors, 89 of these from Ireland). This is greater than the total number of emergency medicine consultants currently working in the Irish health service. In 2013, the Australian health system saw the largest year-on-year increase in Irish medical migration to their shores.
However, recent proposals to change Australian immigration laws aim to tighten the criteria for the skilled migrant visa (the main entry point for Irish doctors) to ensure that Australian-trained medical graduates are not displaced from Australian hospitals.
Rather than encouraging overseas migration from less developed countries, health workforce strategists in Ireland should focus on retaining and attracting Irish medical graduates back to new and improved conditions in Irish hospitals.
My question is does the HSE have the foresight necessary to implement these changes? – Yours, etc,
Dr CIAN McDERMOTT
Sir, – I would not wish to take sides in the Clare/Cork debate (Barbara Scully, (“Inviting the British back to the GPO”, News Review, May 17th, and Brendan Ó Cathaoir, May 22nd) about who treated my grandfather, Brig Gen CHT Lucas, the best but I do wish to balance the debate a little with historical evidence from my grandfather’s secret diary of events, official report and letters to my grandmother.
According to these, he was taken across the Shannon by boat to “Bunratty House where Mr Corbett lives” on July 4th, 1920. He stayed there one night and then was moved on to Mr Brennan’s house in Clonmoney. He was frequently moved around to avoid British patrols. He certainly played a lot of bridge and drank a lot of whiskey into the wee small hours. He also played tennis and croquet, helped “save the hay” and notoriously went on poaching trips on the Shannon.
However it was not just in Clare that he was treated as a gentleman. He wrote to my grandmother on June 30th, whilst in Cork, reporting that he was “really seeing Ireland properly just now, the people are very kind, lots of good plain food . . . I am in no danger at all, and you will be quite tickled with my experiences when I get out.”
I should add that my poor grandmother had gone into premature labour after finding out about her husband’s capture from a newspaper headline. His family had kept the news from her as they wanted to protect her. Happily she and her baby recovered from the trauma helped by the reassuring letters from her captive husband, which Liam Lynch and later Michael Brennan kindly arranged to be sent to her.
My family have certainly been “tickled” by my grandfather’s stories and are grateful for the kindness that men such as George Powers and Ernest Corbett showed him. My grandfather was a man of honour who didn’t flinch from saying what he thought – he knew that he risked being court-martialled for saying that he had been treated as “a gentleman by gentlemen” and was held by “delightful people” but spoke out anyway. This he said in spite of almost being killed in the Oola ambush just after he “escaped”. This was not what anti-Home Rule elements in the British government wanted to hear. They wanted to paint the IRA as evil to get “England on their side” to go in and destroy them. Words such as “gentlemen” and “delightful” helped put a dampener on the flame they hoped to kindle. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – Vincent Browne’s predictably narrow view of the successes and failures of the last Labour government is nothing new, particularly its selective choice of statistics (“SF’s impulse for government even greater than Labour’s”, Opinion & Analysis, May 28th).
A single report on inequality which he cites is hardly a complete perspective on the Rainbow’s very worthy legacy, particularly on equality issues. He ignores that Labour government’s achievements of reducing unemployment by 38,000, setting up an anti-poverty strategy, achieving historic £260 million equality payments for women, and increasing access to education.
Better to critique the failures of conservative parties rather than obsessively target the only social democratic party, and indeed the oldest party, in the State, with revisionist and misleading opinion pieces.– Yours, etc,
Church Hill Meadows,
ical and cultural fault line” (Europe Letter, May 29th), by Suzanne Lynch, your European correspondent. I would like to commend her for her general coverage of my country which I usually find well documented and balanced.
However I was struck by the headline on this article. I oppose the idea that my country is currently “living on a perilous cultural and political fault line”.
Belgium is an utterly democratic country where the cultural communities have lived in peaceful coexistence since its independence (1831).
It has very gradually evolved towards a federal state over the last 30 years, requiring each political and linguistic grouping to make the necessary compromises in order to achieve the present set-up of institutions. These developments were never tainted by political violence.
Belgium has always been run through compromises, thanks to a long tradition of coalition governments in which French-speaking and Flemish-speaking political parties were consistently and duly represented.
At the latest European elections on May 25th, Belgians were also asked to cast their vote for the national and the regional elections.
Nationally, the governing political parties (Liberals, Socialists and Christian Democrats) could boast a fair amount of popular support. None of them could be considered as a loser. Quite the opposite, the latest elections have shown that in spite of the heavy budgetary and social constraints which the current government, led by prime minister Elio di Rupo, was exposed to for the last four years, Belgium remains a very stable and peaceful country.
The Flemish NVA led by Bart De Wever had a successful election in Flanders. This party is neither Eurosceptic nor extremist.
In the wake of these elections King Philippe has already assigned the winner of these elections on the Flemish side, Mr De Wever, the task of informing him about the possibility of forming a coalition of parties from both sides of the linguistic divide.
My compatriots also cast their votes in the European elections. Belgium did not deviate from the original ideal and vision which remain at the core of our European ambition and commitment, since the inception of the Common Market in 1957.
Our support for Europe will remain at the heart of our foreign policy. My country has not contributed in any way to the growing move towards Euroscepticism that seems to have gripped several other European countries. – Yours, etc,
Embassy of Belgium,
Sir, – This country needs the kind of legal protection for tenants that exist in other EU countries. Opinion-formers waffle about the Irish having a sentimental attachment to home ownership.
There is nothing sentimental about the decades of government policy designed to encourage massive mortgages, bad planning and property speculation. Until this crooked game gets fixed, the Irish economy cannot begin to recover.
If the new leader of the Labour Party is serious about reducing suffering in our society, then she (or he) must propose a new Bill of rights for those who pay rent, both domestic and commercial.
This would take the heat out of the property market and reduce business closures at a stroke, without having to borrow billions more that we cannot repay to build homes where no-one wants to live. – Yours, etc,
A chara, – It grieved me to hear at Mass that men and only men, married or single and between certain ages, were being invited to apply to become deacons of the Catholic Church. Why were women not invited to apply for this position?
The oldest reference to women deacons occurs in St Paul’s letters (circa 55-58 AD). Secular evidence from the early second century confirms the role of the deaconess. Deaconesses were also mentioned in the Council of Nicea in 325. Why then are women not considered eligible for the position of deaconess in the 21st century?
It would appear that the Catholic Church is prepared to do all in its power to keep the church hierarchy firmly in the hands of men.
Deacons may baptise children. It is ridiculous that although women give birth to children, they are still not considered eligible to baptise children! – Is mise,
EMMA M VERLING,
Baile and Bhuitléirigh,
Sir, – It should be clear from recent events that the medical card system is not fit for purpose and must be scrapped.
The underlying logic of medical cards is that everyone above a certain, modest income can afford medical care and only people below that level need help.
This might have been true in 1970 but medical costs, especially for surgery, drugs and long-term care, are now beyond the means of nearly all of us; practically everyone needs a medical card now. The system is broken – it has to be replaced by one that accommodates the whole population, without discrimination. – Yours, etc,
Dr NORMAN STEWART,
Sir, – Three years ago Curraghmore’s female swan died of old age, leaving a sad male mourning her demise for about six months before winging his way southwards. Around Christmas he returned with a young female under his wing and early in June last year they produced four cygnets. We’ve just spotted five small grey bundles in the wake of the female on our lake. So there’s life in the auld bird yet! – Yours, etc,
Sir, – Frank McNally’s account of Monaghan-born, Alexander Pearce’s cannibalism is a useful corrective to the myths surrounding Irish-Australian convicts (An Irishman’s Diary, May 31st).
Imaginative tales and romantic folk-ballads have sustained the felons’ posthumous PR campaign. Ned Kelly, the embodiment of bushranger values, did little for Hibernian solidarity by mercilessly shooting dead Michael Kennedy, Thomas Lonigan and Michael Scanlan. – Yours, etc,
Dr JOHN DOHERTY,
Cnoc an Stollaire,
Sir, – Ann Marie Hourihane’s “Sobriety Diaries” (Weekend, May 31st) detailed the circumstances of your journalist staying off the gargle for a full month. This abstinence was portrayed as a type of social experiment akin to someone living on the streets for a month or only eating bananas for the same period. I wonder what it has come to when not having a drink for a month is seen as unusual. – Yours, etc,
College Park Close ,
Sir, – Your readers in Ulster may have been bewildered by your Weather Watch prediction for yesterday: “A wet evening with the odd spot of rain”. – Yours, etc,
Banbridge, Co Down.
Sir, – Domini Kemp states that her flourless chocolate cake (Magazine, May 31st) has no saturated fats. From the recipe, I estimate the saturated fat content to be 165g (107g from coconut oil, 20g from eggs and 38g from chocolate). This amount of fat contributes 1,495 calories to the cake. Delicious I’m sure, but certainly not free of saturated fat. – Yours, etc,
Dr ELLEN CRUSHELL,
The urge to hold and attend meetings is hard-wired into our nature. Meetings provide an outlet for the need to escape from serious living to the experience of convivial pointlessness. In Ireland there are not enough meetings to satisfy our national needs, hence the clamour to get to Brussels, the meetings’ capital of Europe.
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The exercise of our right to vote is crucial in selecting those who are in the greatest need of meetings.
I have little patience with the cry to abolish the Seanad. The abolitionists seemed unaware of the point and purpose of this meeting place in the lives of its members. Do we wish for the unedifying spectacle of those who crave for meetings camping on Kildare Street pleading for admission to Leinster House to satisfy their craving? Besides, sending them to Brussels is a far more expensive alternative.
I am aware that there are some who do not wish to see our second chamber becoming a meaningless talking shop, losing sight of what they see as its essential custodial function.
Though attendance at meetings is essential for healthy living, over-attendance leads to Meeting Malady (MM). Its most worrying symptom is the longing for linguistic barbarism; sufferers develop an urge to generate unnecessary additions to our current stock of words.
Nouns are mindlessly converted into verbs; we are invited to action proposals, to task somebody, to diarise and prioritise. In the more advanced stages of the illness, verbs are turned into nouns; we are informed that an onerous request is a big ask.
Even poor Bertie Ahern succumbed to MM when, at a constituency meeting, he lapsed from his renowned mastery of the English language to declare that Fianna Fail was “doing brutal”. I suspect, as he would put it, he has over-met and is doing penance for his syntax.
Back-come, Bertie, all is forgiven. We all make mistakes.
33 EDITH ROAD, OXFORD OX1 4QB
BUSINESS OF CREATING HOUSING
Your business editor, Thomas Molloy, suggested last week that a tax could be imposed on empty houses to free up the market. This is an excellent idea. I would go further and suggest that the same should be done for vacant commercial properties.
This would help to off-set the upward-only rent reviews. Better still, it would force the market to recognise that we simply have too many shops. Proprietors of vacant premises would be encouraged to look at the possibility of converting retail space into residential accommodation. Such conversions might even be encouraged by financial incentives.
JOHN F JORDAN
FLOWER GROVE, KILLINEY, CO DUBLIN
LET SCHMIDT PUSH US FORWARD
The bombshell announcement that John Plumtree is, so prematurely, to leave his role as forwards’ coach to the Irish rugby team made for a disappointing end to what was a triumphant weekend for Irish rugby, with Leinster winning the RaboDirect Pro12 Championship.
Such is the contribution that Mr Plumtree, in the short time that he has been here, made to Irish rugby, it behoves the Irish Rugby Football Union to find a near-identical, world-standard replacement for him.
We must endeavour, as we prepare for the Rugby World Cup, to not saddle manager Joe Schmidt with an inferior forwards’ coach.
The IRFU did a great job in sourcing Greg Feek and David Nucifora for Irish rugby; it is to be hoped that they take the same high-quality approach when sourcing the next forwards’ coach.
Ideally, Schmidt will be allowed to source his own forwards’ coach.
JOHN B REID
MONKSTOWN, CO DUBLIN
MEDIA HAS POWER OF CHANGE
John Downing’s article on the formation of the next government (Irish Independent, June 2) highlights the issue of the media’s power in opinion formation. All of us are in denial about it but none are immune to it.
Media coverage of our political scene in pre-election periods is crucial. The recent local and European elections, when the anti-austerity bandwagon steamrolled all before it, is a case in point.
The most powerful media actors supported one political grouping in all elections from 1997 to 2007. In the wake of the economic collapse they switched sides in 2011. One would have thought that they had no option. But it looks like we are back to business as usual for the next election.
With a bit of servicing and a lick of paint that anti-austerity bandwagon should have no problem riding roughshod over this Government’s hopes of re-election.
SHIELMARTIN DRIVE, SUTTON, CO DUBLIN
US KEEPS SOLDIERING ON – FOR US
The other side of America.
One of my regrets is not applauding when, some years back, I was in Shannon Airport after taking a flight from Dublin and awaiting a flight to New York and, while waiting in the terminal, a large group of American soldiers came walking through the terminal.
They were in transit and probably on their way to Iraq. The majority of people or civilians stood up and applauded as the soldiers walked by.
I, in my ignorance, did not stand up. Why? Because being typically European I had issues with American polices in the Middle East but, whether I had issues or not, I should have stood up and applauded as these soldiers were doing what they were ordered to do and were not the people I had so-called issues with.
But sitting there that day I started to realise how proud and loyal the Mid-Americans are of their fellow Americans and country.
The following winter I was in Philadelphia and a real bad snow storm came in. It shut down a lot of public transport. I suddenly noticed that there was a lot of people in wheelchairs and some others struggling on crutches – all of these people were disabled in some form and were trying to get to the shops for supplies.
The majority of these people were veterans who had fought in Iraq and Afghanistan. They had fought in these wars not just to protect America but to protect western society. Whether people think they were right or wrong to do so, they did it and some sacrificed their lives.
It seems to me that some people have negative opinions about US policies but, at the end of the day, it’s the Mid-American people who have been the ones who have paid the biggest price when it come to human casualties in protecting western culture and beliefs.
RATHNEW, CO WICKLOW
AN ODE TO O’DRISCOLL AND CULLEN
Brian O’Driscoll and Leo Cullen have gone from the game.
Their legacy will live long after their name.
You never give up, keep the spark alive
And when they say it’s impossible, that’s when you’ll thrive.
Of the knocks and the bruises, there’s nothing to tell,
For the bigger they were the harder they fell.
For the next generation have big boots to fill,
They walked with giants,
Now it’s their time to thrill.