Hospital again

May 4, 2014

4 May2014Hospital again

I go all the way around the park listening to the Men from the Ministry: Our heroes face a terrible fate updating the telephone exchange Priceless

Mary both of us very Mary illo so off to hospital kept her in fr a day

No Scrabbletoday, forgot to take the ipad


Deborah Rogers – obituary

Deborah Rogers was a literary agent for Ian McEwan and Kazuo Ishiguro who helped to shape a halcyon era for British fiction

Deborah Rogers

Deborah Rogers

5:54PM BST 02 May 2014


Deborah Rogers, who has died aged 76, was a leading literary agent and played a pivotal role in shaping Britain’s reading habits over the past half-century.

In guiding the careers of, among many others, Kazuo Ishiguro, Ian McEwan, Angela Carter, AS Byatt, Bruce Chatwin and William Boyd, she provided a launch pad for authors whose work is today world-renowned. However, her flair for acquiring writers and doing the deal was matched by a warm-hearted character that defied the sometimes brutal cut-and-thrust of literary London. Anthony Burgess, another client of hers, said simply that she could do no wrong.

Deborah Rogers set up her own agency in the late Sixties and — along with Pat Kavanagh, the wife of Julian Barnes, and the American super-agent Andrew “The Jackal” Wylie — by the Eighties had become one of the most significant players in author representation.

She was a mischievous boss (eating desiccated coconut, she announced, was a sackable offence) and a benevolent presence on the publishing scene. “Deborah hardly fits the archetype of the hard-edged, calculating agent,” noted McEwan. She once spotted a young man begging on the street as she made her way to the opera — the following day she gave him a job in the post room at her agency, Rogers Coleridge White (RCW).

Her skills in brokering deals with publishers while nurturing and supporting writers’ talents arrived at a halcyon time for British fiction. Throughout the Seventies and early Eighties, a wave of British authors — including her clients McEwan and Ishiguro, along with Martin Amis and Salman Rushdie (who was also once on her books) — were redefining form. “For a long time I think that many English writers were intimidated by language, by tradition, by a sense of being English,” she stated in 1983, “and it took a whole generation to make the language its own.”

Rogers was at the forefront of that zeitgeist — sitting at an agency desk strewn with teetering columns of slush piles, manuscripts, proofs and first editions. For all her achievements in publishing, however, she was self-effacing in accepting praise, deflecting any glory on to her authors. “Those who have entrusted their work to us over the years,” she said earlier this year, “will never know the intense pride that they have brought, and the anticipation and excitement that greets each new manuscript never palls.”

Deborah Rogers with Kazuo Ishiguro at the London Book Fair in April 2014

Deborah Jane Coltman-Rogers was born on April 6 1938. Her mother, Stella, was an actress; her father, David, worked in the City. Deborah attended Hatherop Castle School in Gloucestershire but did not go to university, a deficiency about which she often joked.

Instead, her literary life began in the early Sixties working for the agent Peter Janson-Smith. She set up Deborah Rogers Ltd in 1967 and was soon joined by Pat White. Two decades later they formed RCW with Gill Coleridge.

In the early Eighties her idiosyncratic approach caught the attention of the then unknown William Boyd. “I went to her initially on a complete whim, as a result of reading a little pen-portrait of her in a book by Anthony Blond called The Publishing Game,” recalled Boyd. “From what he wrote she seemed an interesting and untypical literary agent. So I wrote her a letter out of the blue, we met and she took me on for my first novel A Good Man in Africa. Maybe that was typical of her procedure as an agent.”

Indeed, spotting untapped talent was her forte. She oversaw McEwan’s step-up from short stories by placing his first novel, The Cement Garden (1978), with Jonathan Cape — a success that allowed McEwan to buy his first house. And in the fluid business of publishing — Wylie poached Salman Rushdie, Bruce Chatwin and Ben Okri away from her — she remained pragmatic. “I partly should be flattered because my list offered the plums that they wanted,” she stated.

One of her authors was John Pearson, who in the early 1970s wrote a non-fiction work about the Kray twins. Both his house and Deborah Rogers’s office were mysteriously ransacked before the book was published.

Deborah Rogers was resolutely anti-establishment. In 2003 she gave the staff of RCW the afternoon off to march against President Bush’s state visit.

Last month Ishiguro, author of The Remains of the Day (1989), presented Deborah Rogers with the Lifetime Achievement Award in International Publishing at the London Book Fair. He joked that there was “an eccentric dimension” to his agent. “The apparent chaos that engulfs her desk is quite legendary,” Ishiguro said.

In accepting the award she was typically modest. “Having always believed that one of the greatest gifts life can offer is to be blessed with work that brings daily excitement, delight and satisfaction, and to have basked in that myself,” she said, “it hardly seems fair to be given an award for what has been a lifetime of such pleasure.”

Deborah Rogers married, in 1979, the composer Michael Berkeley, who survives her with their daughter Jessica.

Deborah Rogers, born April 6 1938, died April 30 2014


The green belt needs to be preserved. Photograph: Richard Saker for the Observer

Paul Cheshire criticises green-belt policy but fails to mention the huge benefits that it has given this country (“Why Surrey has more land for golf courses than for homes“, News). The article focuses on Surrey, which is actually a prime example of the positive effects of green belts. Surrey has large areas of common land, nature reserves and natural beauty that green-belt policy has helped safeguard.

Without it, the low-density sprawl you find in London boroughs such as Croydon, which were once part of Surrey, would have marched across much of the rest of the county.

In fact, rather than weakening green belts, the Campaign to Protect Rural England believes that they need to be given proper protection. CPRE Surrey is currently opposing two developments for golf courses and evidence gathered by CPRE nationally shows that green-belt land has been allocated for 190,000 new homes, despite government promises to protect it.

This alarming figure has come about because of the intense pressure put on local authorities by the government to meet inflated housing targets.

The government needs to take steps to reduce the pressure for development in the green belt, including by actively encouraging the reuse of brownfield land and existing buildings. Some small-scale, exceptional revisions to green belts may be required to accommodate necessary development in the long run, where this is justified locally, but any wholesale weakening of the policy would have a catastrophic effect on the countryside and the nation as whole.

John Rowley

Campaign to Protect Rural England

London SE1

This is the situation in my small town in Cheshire East of just over 5,000 homes: as a result of the government’s national planning policy framework and the presumption in favour of development, we are highly likely to get a housing increase of 60%, mostly on greenfield and farmland.

This despite the fact that the town is currently unsustainable, with one health centre at capacity, no employment, B-roads that are routinely gridlocked, overstretched waste disposal, schools full – to name a few of the issues. The only thing that will save our community will be commercial considerations.

We have three brownfield sites that we would like to see developed but so far the only ones being built on are greenfields.

We, as residents, are powerless despite having a very active residents’ group able to put sound arguments and provide evidence. The inspectorate can hardly be said to be independent given some of its recent decisions. Our small town has been surrendered to the developers.

Dr M Wakelin



Emma Duncan, welcoming the decline of the high street and of “offline shopping” in general, strangely fails to address an underpinning economic reality (“The high street is dying. Hurrah…“, Comment).

I live in a small town, very distant from London. Although the commercial hub is sadly diminished, it still fulfils some important functions; for those who might for various reasons feel isolated, it’s a place where they can find human contact. But also, the butcher, baker and candlestick-maker still thrive, buoyed by the fact that, across the generations and classes, many are still reassured that they can buy locally sourced meat and vegetables whose quality they can trust.

If any Westminster government is serious about addressing the decline of facilities and retail business in smaller towns and trying to nurture social cohesion, they should adequately fund local authorities so that they don’t need to raise money by squeezing communities – entrepreneurs who want to trade, shoppers coming in from adjoining villages who need to park.

In rural areas, the high street is essential and bad governance, not internet shopping, is the main problem.

Marc Hadley



As someone who knows little about association football I was fascinated to read your two-page spread by Tim Lewis about the revival of Liverpool and Everton football clubs, the decline of Manchester United and the effects of their changing fortunes on the wider economies of their cities (“As Manchester mourns, just 30 miles away Liverpool gets set to rock again“, News). However, it would seem that in having two clubs, the city of Liverpool has an unfair advantage over Manchester. Wouldn’t it be a good idea if the Premier league allowed another club to be set up in Manchester, say in the depressed eastern part of the city, where it could pour millions of pounds into the local economy and make a point of employing local people and companies? And perhaps this team could play in sky blue in order to distinguish it from the famous “Red Devils” on the other side of town? Would it be possible for Mr Lewis to raise this idea with the relevant authorities on your behalf?

SH Rigby


Neoliberalism’s day is done

John Naughton is, to my mind, right in his opinion that neoliberal capitalism is likely to exacerbate the impact on unemployment of the new machine age (“It’s no joke – the robots really will take over this time“, Discover, New Review). When it was first propounded in the 1950s and 60s, neoliberalism arguably served as a useful counterfoil against communism. However useful it was in the mid 20th century, neoliberalism is helpless, even counterproductive, to meet the challenges of the 21st century. Global issues, such as climate change, inequality, poverty and increasing unemployment and underemployment, arise from market failure and therefore cannot be addressed by a political system that relies on efficient markets, as neoliberalism does. It is time to move the policy debate on from outdated political/economic prescriptions.

Kevin Albertson

Manchester Metropolitan University

The solution to rail misery

Rail fares in Britain are contributing to the cost-of-living crisis, with season tickets now the largest monthly expense for many people, costing even more than the mortgage or rent (“Cautious or bold: which path will Miliband take to election?“, News).

Just as Labour has pledged to freeze energy bills and reset the market to secure a better deal for customers, so it will be necessary to reform the rail industry to secure a better deal for passengers.

Train companies walk away with hundreds of millions of pounds every year, despite running monopoly services and benefiting from £4bn of public investment in the rail network every year. These profits are even helping keep down rail fares on the continent as many of Britain’s rail services are run by subsidiaries of the state railways of France, Germany and the Netherlands.

Yet the not-for-private-profit model that works so well on the East Coast line has shown how there is a better way to run Britain’s rail services. As well as making over £1bn of franchise payments to government, East Coast reinvests all of its further profit to benefit passengers.

A commitment to extend this successful model to the rest of the rail network, as existing contracts come to an end, would mean that hundreds of millions currently lost in private profit would be available to fully fund a bold offer on rail fares.

Labour parliamentary candidates Nancy Platts, Brighton Kemptown and Peacehaven; Andrew Pakes, Milton Keynes South; Wes Streeting, Ilford North; Clive Lewis, Norwich South; Polly Billington,Thurrrock

Rowenna Davis, Southampton Itchen;

Tristan Osbourne, Chatham & Aylesford;

Uma Kamaran, Harrow East;

Lisa Forbes, Peterborough;

Veronica King, Elmet & Rothwell;

Jamie Hanley, Pudsey;

Richard Burgon, East Leeds;

Clair Hawkins , Dover & Deal;

Will Martindale, Battersea;

Adrain Heald, Crewe & Nantwich;

Neil Coyle, Bermondsey & Old Southwark;

Jessica Asato, Norwich North;

Thangham Debbonaire, Bristol West;

Lara Norris , Great Yarmouth;

Cheryl Pidgeon, South Derbyshire;

Joe Richies, York Outer;

Josh Fenton-Glynn, Calder Valley;

Alex Sobel, Leeds North West;

Stephanie Peacock, Halesowen & Rowley Regis;

Cat Smith, Lancaster & Fleetwood;

Todd Foreman, North East Somerset;

Rupa Huq, Ealing Central & Acton;

Ruth Smeeth, Stoke North;

Mike Le Surf, South Basildon & East Thurrock;

Deborah Sacks, South Norfolk;

Peter Smith , South West Norfolk

Don’t roast Elizabeth David

I was mystified by Fergus Henderson’s attack on Elizabeth David (In Focus, last week), suggesting that she was somehow responsible for promoting a fashion for non-local, out-of-season ingredients. Here’s what she actually wrote in the preface of French Provincial Cookery: “A flourishing tradition of local cookery implies genuine local products; the cooks and housewives must be backed up by the dairy farmers, the pig breeders, the pork butchers, the market gardeners and the fruit growers, otherwise regional cookery… retreats into the realms of folklore.”

Those words were written in 1960. Ms David subsequently published two enduring classics about English food, Spices, Salts and Aromatics in the English Kitchen and English Bread and Yeast Cookery, many years before the current fashion for “English” and “local” began. And, incidentally, French Provincial Cookery includes recipes for pigs’ trotters, black pudding, knuckle of pork, shin of beef, oxtail, lambs’ brains, pigs’ kidney, calves’ liver, calves’ kidney, calves’ sweetbread, calves’ head, and goose giblet stew.

Graham Finnie

Sidcup, Kent

Do get real, Playmobil

My five-year-old daughter and I were pleased to see your article on Playmobil (“Always the little people“, Magazine). However, it doesn’t mention the lack of positive Playmobil models for girls. The majority of “girl” figures are pet owners, mothers and wives. Boy figures get to ride horses and have adventures. Girls can save the world from baddies, too, y’know.

Teresa Heapy



Rather than wasting money on vanity projects such as HS2 and new roads, there should be investment in an integrated public transport system that would effectively support local businesses, commuters, families and visitors to the regions (“High speed ahead”, 27 April).

This is best achieved by public ownership of the railways, and investment in the regional lines. This includes more electrification and a reopening of disused lines, and creating a system more resilient to flooding so that, for example, a washout at Dawlish does not cut off Cornwall. It’s also time for more investment in bus lanes, community car clubs and safer cycle routes. Local bus services should be re-regulated and local councils should be able to save subsidised bus services on the basis of social need.

The massive House of Commons vote in favour of HS2 shows how detached Parliament has become from the views of the public.

Rupert Read

Green Party transport spokesperson


In his discussion of the decision to award Cornwall national minority status, DJ Taylor cites a 2011 survey which showed that 41 per cent of pupils in Cornwall regarded themselves first and foremost as Cornish (“There is a bit of the Cornish separatist in all of us”, 27 April). This is not necessarily to be applauded. When I worked in Plymouth not many years ago, I had many dealings with Cornish schools. My enduring memory of their pupils was meeting teenagers in their GCSE year who had never left Cornwall. What these children badly needed was the opportunity to broaden their horizons, not least their British ones, and thereby to enhance their options as adults. The last thing Cornwall’s pupils need is the award of a status that will foster feelings of separateness and parochialism.

David Head

Navenby, Lincolnshire

A school in Birmingham, allegedly influenced by extreme Salafist or Wahabi theology, is under investigation – reported to have taught that men are superior to women, that wives have a duty to “obey” husbands and may not refuse sex. The teacher concerned is still teaching.

At the same time, the Government calls on women living in households influenced by this sort of ideology to speak out if their men are thinking of travelling to fight. It must realise they have little power to do so.

The best way to counter such extremism is to empower and educate women and girls, advising them of their rights, providing the tools they need to control their own lives, and refuge and protection if they or their children need it. A national helpline able to offer practical advice to women and children would be a good place to start.

Jean Calder


Replying to your front page “Will nothing sink Farage?” (27 April), am I right in thinking that a lot of those who intend to vote for Ukip in May don’t really know what they are voting for, and want to give the Government a political kicking regardless of the consequences?

Martin Webb

Swindon, Wiltshire

If Scotland does become a petty little foreign country on 19 September, I, as a British subject living in Scotland, will have been forced into exile. It seems that David Cameron was misguided and may regret ever agreeing to a Scottish referendum.

James ryden

Scone, Perth

It is hardly fair to single out Tony Blair for failing to make any criticisms of Saudi Arabia (“Demented Blair recites the Saudis’ creed”, 27 April). When was the last time that any leading politician in the West did so? Saudi Arabia has long been a lucrative source of profits in the oil and arms industries.

Ivor Morgan


Why do newspapers have a blind spot regarding the geography of Gibraltar? It is not an island, but a peninsula.

Chris Elliott


Neil and Christine Hamilton and their UKIP colleagues are likely to do well in the European elections this month (Matt Cardy)

Swing to UKIP should be wake-up call for parties

THE growing support for UKIP has little to do with the party leader, Nigel Farage, and his motley crew (“UKIP’s surge into lead rocks Tories”, News, and “Knock ’em down but UKIP keep coming”, Editorial, last week). It’s all to do with the electorate seeing an opportunity to register a protest vote that demonstrates their frustration with the EU in general and their concerns over immigration in particular.

In the past there has been no practical way of doing this other than to abstain, which is then interpreted by all the parties as being indicative of a lack of interest in politics. The European parliamentary elections provide an opportunity to stick two fingers up to the mainstream parties and their policies on Europe in a way that they will, I hope, find difficult to ignore.

UKIP will get my vote, whoever the candidate is.
Christopher James, Smitheman, Exeter

Mission impossible

The demand by the businessman Paul Sykes, a UKIP donor, that a referendum on EU membership be held in this parliament demonstrates a level of ignorance shared by many of UKIP’s cheerleaders.

Precisely how in a coalition government can David Cameron pass the act of parliament necessary to hold a referendum? His coalition partner would not back it, and the opposition would see it as an opportunity to defeat the Conservatives.

An EU referendum simply isn’t going to happen without a Tory majority government — something Sykes and others of his ilk seem determined to prevent.
John Moss, Conservative councillor, Waltham Forest, London E4

Voted out

I suspect these elections are of real interest to only politicians and journalists. What influence do these Euro MPs wield for the man on the street? It will probably be a very low turnout, which will in turn skew the results.

Come the general election — a ballot that actually has some sway on our lives — I can’t see British voters putting their faith in Farage and his party.
Mike Somers, Congleton, Cheshire

Mood altering

Nick Clegg, Ed Miliband and Cameron believe the EU is the future for Britain. I am a lifelong Conservative but in the European elections I will vote UKIP because it’s important that the prime minister, who has difficulty understanding the public mood — as he demonstrated over the former culture secretary Maria Miller’s expenses affair — comprehends the feelings around the country about the EU.
Andrew Wyrobek, Derby

Dissatisfied customer

My reason for voting UKIP is not that I want more power repatriated from Brussels. The principal reason is that I, like many others, am dissatisfied with and disillusioned by the current political elite (of all parties).
Mike Sleight, Castle Donington, Leicestershire

One-horse race

It is no surprise to me that UKIP is doing so well. I live in rural Devon, and the only election leaflet I — or anyone else that I know — have received in my post is from UKIP. The lanes are festooned with the party’s banners — there was even one lying on the counter at my hairdresser’s the other day. I have neither heard nor read anything about other candidates and had to go onto the internet to find out if there were any.
Mike Bridger, Shaugh Prior, Devon

Fit for purpose

There is something bizarre about the British electorate, most of whom couldn’t name five MPs other than party leaders. Yet they favour a barroom braggart with fantastic pretensions over a government that has successfully worked in the first peacetime coalition for more than 60 years, made huge strides in repairing a wrecked economy, reduced unemployment, given stable growth with low inflation, worked tirelessly to improve education and health, made progress to control immigration, reformed welfare and negotiated successfully with Europe on rebates and budgets. Come on — cut the prime minister some slack.
John Azzopardi, Sorède, France

Parental right to have babies tested for fatal diseases

YOUR article “Parents want end to ban on testing of newborns for fatal diseases” (News, last week) states that this ban was imposed because the results could prevent parents from bonding with their babies. Where is the evidence for such an assumption? It is arrogant, even criminal in some cases, that parents should not have access to such information.

If my grandson had been screened at birth for adrenoleukodystrophy, a progressive endocrine disorder, his life could have been saved. As it was, by the time a diagnosis based on his symptoms was made, it was already too late to intervene.

He was thus condemned to an extended and very painful death over a 12-month period, aged 10 years. Normally only the younger brothers of those already affected are screened, and then if they show no, or few, symptoms, they can be treated successfully.
Anne Downer, Shrewsbury

Early signs

It is incredible that Britain tests for just five genetic defects in newborn babies. My son was born with the liver disease biliary atresia and underwent a liver transplant the day before his first birthday. This disease could have been diagnosed by a blood test at two weeks old.

However, he was not referred for a test until nine weeks old; his jaundice was dismissed as being a result of breast milk. Had the disease been picked up on earlier, he might not have needed a transplant until adulthood, or possibly at all.
Clare Maceachen, Shrewsbury

Parish councils’ hands tied

THERE were two big problems I experienced as a parish councillor (“Love your parish council. That’s where real power is wielded”, Comment, last week). District council planning committees can rarely go against the recommendations of their officers, as the risk of being successfully sued by an unsuccessful applicant is too great. Another factor is that neighbourhood plans are expensive to create in both cash and human effort and are in no way binding, so they can be ignored at will. After two years as a councillor, having achieved precisely nothing, I resigned.
Chris Starr, Norwich

Assisted dying compromises doctors

I FEEL sure your readers will have sympathy with Sir Chris Woodhead’s predicament (“Britain lacks courage to help me die”, News, last week), but it should be made clear that dying is a passive state; assisted dying is active on the part of the doctor asked to prescribe a lethal dose of a drug to be taken by the patient, as well as the pharmacist preparing the drug.

Both professionals would be considered accessories to murder, irrespective of politicians’ fiddling with the law. Consider the position of the doctor — the ethical position is to preserve life, to cure where possible and to care when that becomes impossible. These duties are incompatible with Lord Falconer’s Assisted Dying Bill.

It may be all too easy for politicians at a distance from the patient to seek an easy way of relieving the problem. The supporters of assisted dying suggest that the situation is intolerable, but pain can almost always be controlled by suitable drugs administered appropriately, and expert carers such as the Marie Curie nurses relieve the intolerability. The proponents of the bill suggest having documentation signed by two doctors as a safeguard. If the Abortion Act is anything to go by, there is very likely to be the same considerable pressure upon practitioners to agree to a request to sign.

Before any hospices were built in Cornwall, I had considerable experience in managing my own patients dying with terminal gynaecological malignancies. My brother died of motor neurone disease with a PEG, a voice synthesiser and a wheelchair — but he was still working on his PhD until the end.
Constance E Fozzard, by email


Pyramid scheme 

I was puzzled by Rod Liddle’s reference to the huge triangular structures at Luxor, as it didn’t ring any bells (Comment, last week). On consulting my schoolboy atlas, I note, however, that there are large triangular structures at a place called Cairo, more than 400 miles north of Luxor. Or have the structures been moved to Luxor for safekeeping because of the unrest in the capital?
Robert Mervyn Taylor, Lisburn, Co Down

Heavy lifting

I was surprised to see that most of the time Prince George was carried down the steps by his mother when the royal couple disembarked from the aeroplane (“Pile ’em high — 2,000 gifts for George”, News, and “My hols with Kate, Wills and George”, Travel, last week). As the Duchess of Cambridge wears extremely elegant high-heeled shoes and as George appears to be a solid little fellow, wouldn’t it have been more appropriate for him to have been carried by his father?
Joy Parker, Bedford

Hit Malta in pocket

The news of wild bird slaughter in Malta reminded me of sitting in a square in Mdina some 35 years ago having coffee with my late wife and our new daughter (“UK garden birds hit in Maltese massacre”, News , April 13). We were surrounded by hunters with bunches of tiny dead birds tied to poles and their belts. The cafe had a dozen or so tiny cages with a songbird in each, singing to the few free birds in the tree. My wife wept. As we walked out I flicked open all the cages — a small, futile act, of course. We never returned to the island. Perhaps the way forward is to hurt Maltese pockets by not visiting.
Alf Menzies, Southport, Merseyside

Candid cameras

How ridiculous that teachers feel they “should [not] be subjected to the stress and pressure of being watched constantly” (“Classroom CCTV treats teachers ‘worse than rats’”, News, April 20). Most licensed venues use CCTV, as it provides evidence of wrongdoing if needed at a later date. I am no advocate of a Big Brother society, but the presence of cameras in schools will do no harm and may prevent not just further incidents but also accusations of inappropriate behaviour.
Simon Knevett, Cardiff

Aesthetic balance

Your article “South snaffles arts lotto money” (News, last week) illustrates one of the challenges the Arts Council faces. A historic legacy of national institutions based in London means there was an imbalance towards the capital, but now 70% of our investment is made outside London. Comparing investment region by region doesn’t factor in the impact organisations have beyond their front yard and the benefit of developing urban clusters of excellence.
Alan Davey, Chief Executive, Arts Council England

Simple truth

Ian Cowie ended his excellent weekly column (“Consumer protection: the will to live wanes”, Money, last week) with: “Regulators, remember the KISS principle: keep it short, stupid”. Even better might be: “Keep it short and simple.” One can but hope.
Roger Manning, Weybridge, Surrey

Body language

Your article “The look of love” (Style, last week) focused on the anxieties a woman feels about her body but made no mention of how the man viewed his body, or indeed how it was seen by his partner. I teach relationship education and self-esteem lessons to teenagers and  have to combat negative, stereotypical views of body image on a regular basis.
Gemma Hay, Edinburgh

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)


Julian Barratt, comedian, 46; Michael Barrymore, TV presenter, 62; Ravi Bopara, cricketer, 29; Dick Dale, surf guitarist, 77; Tony McCoy, jockey, 40; Rory McIlroy, golfer, 25; Hosni Mubarak, former president of Egypt, 86; Amos Oz, author, 75; Graham Swift, author, 65


1970 Ohio National Guard opens fire at Kent State University, killing four students protesting against the invasion of Cambodia; 1979 Margaret Thatcher becomes prime minister; 1982 20 sailors die when HMS Sheffield is hit by a missile during the Falklands War; 2000 Ken Livingstone becomes the first mayor of London


Colourful confetti: wild flowers – or glorious weeds – carpet a roadside in Birmingham  Photo: ALAMY

6:58AM BST 03 May 2014

Comments28 Comments

SIR – Germaine Greer makes valuable points about the perception of some wild flowers as unwelcome weeds despite their benefits for wildlife. She also expresses concerns about the distribution of wild flower seed by Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew’s Grow Wild project.

All seeds distributed by Grow Wild are of UK native origin. The UK Native Seed Hub did not provide the seed, but did work with suppliers to source native origin material and conduct viability tests to ensure high seed quality.

The packets contain a mix of annuals and perennials. The mix is not intended to represent any particular habitat type, but was selected to provide colour from the first year onwards and succeed under a range of growing conditions.

Grow Wild is not trying to replace or restore existing wild flower habitats, and the seed packets and website carry a warning that they should not be used in this way. The project aims to find new ways of reaching out to those who know or care little about wild flowers.

David Tibbatts
Programme Manager, Grow Wild
Richmond, Surrey

SIR – Criticism was predictable from supporters of the Syrian regime of my project with The Telegraph to find and analyse samples from recent chlorine attacks in Syria, which have left at least two children dead in the last few weeks.

However, I am disappointed by other comments from some purporting to support innocent civilians in Syria. These call my “unorthodox and unconventional” approach in bringing evidence of these atrocities to the notice of the international community “unhelpful”.

As orthodox and conventional solutions have had little success in alleviating the misery of millions of civilians in Syria, I suggest a different path. As a minimum, Syrian civilians should be shown how to survive such toxic attacks and given basic protective, decontamination and monitoring equipment. This I am happy to do myself. I have run a number of Skype seminars for Syria. I gave my own basic equipment to the brave doctor who collected the samples for us.

Improvised chemical weapons such as chlorine and ammonia are survivable with basic knowledge, being visible and avoidable.

Can I recommend to those “armchair-bound good men” Seven Pillars of Wisdom by T E Lawrence, who knew about the complexities of the Middle East. He was one of the few who created some sort of order and stability there, through unorthodox and unconventional methods.

Lawrence served in the Royal Tank Regiment (as I was to do). From it came the Chemical Biological Radiological & Nuclear Regiment. Unconventional, unorthodox and unexpected? I think Lawrence might have approved.

Hamish de Bretton-Gordon
Tisbury, Wiltshire

Shakespeare savagery

SIR – The Globe audience was not the first to be shocked by Titus Andronicus. A letter by Gilbert Burns, younger brother of Robert, tells of a visit by their schoolmaster in 1768 and of nine-year-old Robert’s reaction to the play.

“Murdoch… brought us a present and memorial of him, a small compendium of English grammar, and the tragedy of Titus Andronicus, and by the way of passing the evening, he began to read the play aloud.

“We were all attention for some time, till presently the whole party was dissolved in tears. A female in the play (I have but a confused recollection of it) had her hands chopt off, her tongue cut out, and then was insultingly desired to call for water to wash her hands.

“At this, in an agony of distress, we with one voice desired he would read no more. My father observed that if we would not hear it out it would be needless to leave the play with us. Robert replied that if it was left he would burn it.”

George Wilkie
Hemingford Grey, Huntingdonshire

SIR – Seen outside Holy Trinity church in Stratford-upon-Avon. Not sure this is the way to celebrate the 450th anniversary of Shakespeare’s birth.

David J Lee
Westchester, New York, USA

Cleaning instructions

SIR – My wife recently bought a vacuum cleaner. An instruction (Letters, May 1) on it advises: “Do not put in dishwasher.”

Michael Porter
Devizes, Wiltshire

Disabled living together

SIR – There are in Scope homes many profoundly disabled people who, like my daughter, are wheelchair users, have no speech and no controlled movement, and are happy living in a community situation where there are stimulating activities, onsite facilities, and minibuses for the occasional trip out.

My daughter and many others do not wish to be torn away from their long-term friends, carers and surroundings. Evicting them would be destructive.

To be housed in four-person homes where loneliness and isolation are normal would be little more than life in a prison.

Closing existing homes simply because they are out of fashion takes away my daughter’s choice. Scope is turning its back on the most profoundly disabled, the very people it was set up to help.

Frank Lindsell
Ely, Cambridgeshire

Labour’s rent cap

SIR – The Labour Party wants landlords to offer three-year contracts at fixed prices. This will require a tenant to sign a three-year agreement, with a penalty should the contract be broken. This is absurd. Young professionals require flexibility thanks to the nature of their jobs, their position in the housing market and, occasionally, their wish to escape a dire landlord.

Kenneth Jones
Groby, Leicestershire

SIR – The Housing Act 1988 protects most residential tenants already, often to the detriment of landlords. The expiry of any “notice seeking possession” after two months requires a landlord to apply for a Possession Order (at a cost of £275). Even after this has been granted, there is a further cost to expedite the warrant, so the whole process takes between three and six months after the tenant was asked to leave. This gives tenants ample time to find alternative accommodation.

Paul Farndon
New Milton, Hampshire

Watching the box

SIR – My daughter gave me a nesting box with a camera for my last birthday. We have watched a blue tit take six weeks to ferry all the materials and build a nest. She laid nine eggs and started sitting on April 18, and the very ugly chicks were hatched, all within three hours of each other, on Thursday morning. What a present.

Nairn Lawson
Portbury, Somerset

Cohabitants unqualified for benefits of marriage

SIR – Sir James Munby undermines marriage by suggesting that cohabiting individuals should enjoy the same rights as married couples.

Marriage is a legal arrangement which exists, among other reasons, to formalise clearly the relationship between two people. Cohabitants do not have the confidence or commitment to one another to embark upon a formal relationship. Having rejected marriage, such people should not be given the advantages of that great institution.

Nigel Thorne
Letchworth Garden City, Hertfordshire

SIR – Sir James Munby is right: it is high time that the needs of unmarried couples be recognised in law.

My experience over four decades as a divorce lawyer confirms the difficulties in obtaining suitable “financial relief” for “uncoupling couples” – particularly women, many of whom mistakenly had assumed their entitlement.

On separation, a reasonable financial outcome is achieved often only with the co-operation of their ex-partner. Beware the myth that “common law wives” have the same rights as married women.

Michael Holland
Gravesend Kent

SIR – We already have protection in place for men, women and families in marriage.

Rather than have complicated legislation for cohabiting couples, we should encourage couples to marry.

Elaine Mann
Wakefield, West Yorkshire

SIR – It is not the Queen who has installed Archimedean screws in the Thames near Windsor. They were installed by South East Power Engineering Limited (Sepel). The Royal Household has a contract with a third-party supplier, Romney Hydropower, associated with Sepel, from which it buys some of its electricity. The Royal Household buys electricity at a commercial rate. Romney Hydropower receives inflated feed-in tariff payments for each unit of electricity it sells to the Royal Household.

Archimedean screws do not generate all the time, as they rely on a drop in water level. During the high levels in the Thames last winter, the Romney weir turbines produced no electricity for weeks, merely obstructing flood flows. During low flow they must be shut to maintain river levels.

Mike Post
Marlow, Buckinghamshire

SIR – Michael Fallon’s paean to fracking requires a reality check.The shale gas revolution in America, which Mr Fallon wants to emulate here, has peaked, and costs are rising rapidly to extract remaining reserves.

In February it was reported that shale gas producers “will spend $1.50 drilling this year for every dollar they get back.” Shale output drops faster than production by conventional methods. It will take 2,500 new wells a year just to sustain output of a million barrels a day in North Dakota’s Bakken shale, according to the Paris-based International Energy Agency.

In March, at its annual investors meeting in New York, Exxon Mobil said it expects capital expenditure to be 6.4 per cent lower than last year’s spending of $42.5 billion. The company indicated it would reduce upstream spending and remain selective in terms of investments in downstream operations, as it loses faith in shale.

Exxon announced in June 2012 it was stopping shale gas drilling in Poland, one of the EU’s great hopes for shale reserves. Talisman Energy of Canada has scaled back its Polish shale investments after disappointing early attempts at extraction.

The fracking frenzy seems to be coming to an early end both sides of the Atlantic.

Dr David Lowry
Stoneleigh, Surrey

SIR – Only a political mind could dream up the insanity currently encompassing Drax power station, North Yorkshire. Who thought it would be environmentally worthwhile and economically viable to convert the largest coal-fired power station in Europe to one that burns wood pellets imported from the forests of North Carolina over 3,000 miles away?

Drax’s head of environment concedes that the wood-fuelled furnaces actually produce 3 per cent more carbon dioxide than coal. Not only that, but in the longer term you and I will be paying £105 per MWh for Drax’s biomass electricity, more than twice the current market price.

Dave Haskell
Penparc, Cardiganshire

Irish Times:

Irish Independent:

Letters to the Editor – Published 04 May 2014 02:30 AM

Madam – In Colum Kenny’s article (Sunday Independent, April 27, 2014) it was stated: “The teaching of religion is just one area where teachers fear that problems are simply being dumped on them.”

Also in this section

We must face the music

Time to muzzle the dogs of war

On a power trip

As an evangelical Christian, I fully agree that secular teachers should not have the onerous task of having to teach Christianity exclusively.

Why should teachers, (who most likely don’t believe?) have to teach Christian religion exclusively? Will their possible reluctance to do so seep through the curriculum?

Where should faith be then taught to children? The answer could well come from the Protestant and evangelical churches: Sunday schools.

Sunday schools (and creches) are run in spare rooms by volunteer parents, and are parallel to the main church service times. Why can’t the Catholic Church follow this Sunday school-type of model? In the Church of Ireland it has been established since 1809.

As for Holy Communion classes, why are these taught in school at all? In the Church of Ireland, Confirmation classes are run by youth workers and clergy on Sunday evenings, on church property, not during academic hours, on school property.

Finally, whatever became of the Catholic bishops’ policy document, Religious Education of Catholic Children Not Attending Catholic Schools?

This document could be also extended, to work towards establishing a Sunday school-type of model, surely?

Louis Hemmings,



Madam – In response to Johnny Duhan’s article (Sunday Independent, April 13, 2014) on DJs not playing Irish music, his comments are more of a sad reflection on past and present government legislators who have never given any consideration to percentage airplay for Irish music. It also goes to show how disjointed the entire Irish music industry is, with very little cohesion.

There is no legislation in place for the percentage airplay of Irish music (English language) similar to the 40 per cent France was awarded in 1996.

Ireland has two official languages, Irish and English, with the Irish language rightly having a national radio and TV station to broadcast music and culture, whilst the English language music and culture continues to struggle.

A very simple example of the disastrous consequences are the royalties being collected from broadcasters nationwide by the Irish Music Rights Organisation, which amounts to millions of euro annually, but with a retention of much less than 10 per cent of royalties for Irish songwriters, composers, singers and musicians showing the real extent of the problem.

This continues to have a detrimental effect on Irish folk culture in the English language, and on the entire Irish music industry – mainly because of the musical influences from English-speaking countries like Britain, the USA, Canada and Australia continually being introduced by very large multinational music companies.

The present Irish Minister for Communications and his predecessors have continually stated that due to a complaint made to the EU, 30 per cent airplay could not be granted to Irish music on the basis that it would discriminate against European musicians. According to the EU, no such decision has been adopted; that would have to be assessed in the light of EU internal market rules.

And according to the European Court of Justice, a measure to promote original works in an official language of a member state which may restrict several fundamental freedoms may be justified as long as it pursues a general objective interest, is appropriate to reach such an objective and does not go beyond what is necessary to achieve it.

A national quota system such as the French one, based on a linguistic/cultural criterion, should be admissible, with the proviso that such a system would be adequate and proportionate to achieve the general interest objective pursued and would not lead to unnecessary restrictions.

A European Court of Justice examination would now seem to be the inevitable route.

Danny McCarthy

Maynooth, Co Kildare


Madam – Waiting for Sinn Fein/IRA to apologise unilaterally for resorting to political violence could be a long wait (‘Apology Long Overdue’, Letters, Sunday Independent, April 13, 2014). No, what is urgently needed is for that majority of Irish opinion which was never at ease aboard the violence train to wake up and assert itself. The true split in Irish affairs, going back well before 1916, was that between those who were prepared to work along constitutional lines and those who weren’t. And that remains the unacknowledged fault-line still.

In these times of ferment, leadership is needed which will finally put the cat amongst the ‘ambivalence-to-violence’ pigeons. A new, social-democratic, libertarian, political party which is totally dedicated to, not only an avowed adherence to constitutionalism, but is not afraid to distance itself from the violence of the past, is what Ireland needs. Sinn Fein has the other three parties over a barrel on the question of violence, as 2016 nears, all the others also having blood on their hands in one way or another. It is time to reconnect with that stream of Irish opinion which was forced underground a century ago, and has had to pay lip-service to gunmen, their excesses and their apologists ever since.

Such an initiative would push the dormant rump of armed strugglers – whether Fianna Fail, Fine Gael, Labour, or Sinn Fein – into the same camp, and leave the constitutional ground free for occupation by those who eschew violence and aren’t tarred by the ‘bloody legacy’. The armed doggie-in-the-manger has held sway for far too long. The creation of a non-violence party would force all parties to either reject violence or at least to clarify their positions. There is nothing un-Irish about believing in peaceful politics. Until it is free from violence, Ireland shall never be at peace.

Paddy McEvoy,

Holywood, Co Down


Madam – It was with horror I read Emer O’Kelly’s vitriolic attack on the teaching profession (Sunday Independent, April 27, 2014). She must have had a dreadful school experience to vilify the entire profession with such a poisoned pen. I am dismayed that the Sunday Independent allowed such blatant discrimination and generalisation to take up space on what I always thought was a reasoned editorial policy. She was disgusting in her comments and inaccurate in her statements.

Yes, I am a teacher. One who entered the profession from another career choice. Much and all as she might scoff, I didn’t enter teaching for the money or the holidays. I genuinely felt I had something to contribute. My daughter is a young teacher who also entered the profession as a response to an inspirational teacher she encountered. She chose her course despite having more than 100 points above what was necessary because she wanted to pass on a love of her subject, like the teacher who taught her. She will be waiting a long time to scale the dizzy heights of €60k, as I will myself.

The value of the new Junior Cert has been identified as being educationally unsound by many independent sources. Ms O’Kelly said that the JC exam is just mindless regurgitation. The current JC English exam asks that students provide or regurgitate information on just 17 per cent of the paper. That is 60 out of 360 marks. The rest is obtained by applying their skills and knowledge of different writing genre. An unforeseen aspect of the scrapping of the independent aspect of the JC exam is the elimination of a European accreditation to the exam. In addition, any student who has in the past applied to the UK UCAS system to pursue their third-level education will no longer be able to provide results equivalent to the GCSE to enhance the evidence based aspect of their application.

Please remember the many inspirational teachers who have crossed all our paths. Please stop the constant disrespect and undermining of the profession that you put in charge of your children’s education and welfare for much of their lives. If you disrespect us your children will and this leads to poor learning outcomes and violence. Stop buying into the inaccuracies perpetuated by those only interested in the destruction of the profession.

Dympna Cremin,



Madam – Well done to Emer O’Kelly and the Sunday Independent for once again writing hateful bile about teachers. (Sunday Independent, April 27, 2014).

Teachers most certainly do not earn €60k on average per year. The ministers she praises earn multiples of a teacher’s salary and get tax-free expenses and perks. Why not attack them? Teachers pay into their pensions every week for 40 years. Teachers do not have jobs for life. Teachers can be, and are, dismissed. Thousands of teachers have no jobs at all.

The minister is destroying our education system. Teachers try to point this out when they can. Teachers have a duty to point this out. Journalists have this duty too. Minister Quinn is about as far away from being a socialist or a trade unionist as Emer O’Kelly is. He attended private schools. He sent his children to private schools.

He most certainly is not the best Minister for Education, since anybody! He has actually done nothing during his tenure except cut, cut, cut, speak to the media, cut, cut, cut, spin, spin, spin. He is arguably the worst Minister for Education I have ever encountered. He has failed utterly in his oft-stated intention to wrest the control of education away from religious denominations. It is disconcerting that Ms O’Kelly views this complete failure of his as a success.

This minister has not only failed the education system, he has failed Ireland’s children. Of course teachers must call him on that, especially if journalists like Emer O’Kelly fail to do so.

I stopped buying the Sindo years ago due to the astounding amount of teacher-bashing in it.

Dr Mairead De Burca,

Baile Mhuirne, Co Chorcai


Madam – I consider myself to have a sense of humour and find some of the items on the ‘Shutterbug’ pages of Life magazine amusing. However, I was horrified by the caption in connection with the photograph of President Higgins and his wife on their visit to England.

It was in extremely poor taste and not in any way funny.

I wonder how the columnist would feel if a member of his or her own family was written about in this way. That should be the acid test to be used when considering if something is suitable for publication.

I think an apology is warranted.

Bernadette Carroll,

Navan, Co Meath


Madam – Eilis O’Hanlon says (Sunday Independent, April 20, 2014), that when it comes to asserting the protection of a child, no sentence should have a “but” in it. She is right and she is also right about the point she made about the legal relevance or non-relevance of Catholic confession. However, she left out one important point and that is that paedophilia is no ordinary sin. It is a personality disorder and an addiction. Even if the paedophile confesses his sin in confession and then thinks he is cleansed of it and that he is all over and done with it, this might not be the case. He could still be a risk to children and may start going back to doing his crimes again and all the pain that they can cause.

Even if Catholic clergy didn’t know about the seriousness and addictive nature of paedophilia in the past, they should certainly know it now and have no excuses. There should be no exceptions when it comes to keeping children safe.

Sean O’Brien,

Dublin 3


Madam – I was particularly pleased and pleasantly surprised that the Sunday Independent broke ranks with other arms of the media to give a voice to the silent majority of the citizens of this country where only minorities seem to have freedom of speech. We are living in fear of expressing our views, lest we be branded racist, sectarian, homophobic when we are none of these. Well done to John Joe Culloty in Kerry for having the guts to challenge the nonsense that is slowly taking over in a country which purports to be a democracy. You also gave John Waters a chance to express his views. Did the people who sacrificed their lives for our freedom [including freedom of speech] ever think that a citizen and journalist would be demonised in such a manner? Keep up the good work.

Noreen Dunne,

Mornington, Co Meath


Madam – Daniel O‘Connell’s philosophy and career inspired such great leaders of non-violence as Mahatma Gandhi and Dr Martin Luther King. It is time our nation declare a national holiday starting on the May 15, 2016, 169 years after his death. It is long past time that we truly recognise one of the world’s greatest advocates for non-violence and civil rights for all, during the upcoming 1916 commemoration events. “The altar of liberty totters when it is cemented only with blood.” – O’Connell Journal, December 1796.

Vincent J Lavery,

Dalkey, Co Dublin


Madam – Typical of Sinn Fein to put the blame on a political motive for the arrest of Gerry Adams. The reason for Mr Adams being brought in for questioning is because questions have to be answered. Listening to Alex Maskey is the same old spiel. Also Mary Lou McDonald in saying the arrest of Mr Adams is wrong, how insensitive of her? A mother of 10 was taken away tortured and murdered. As a mother herself she should have empathy with the McConville family.

Una Heaton,

North Circular, Limerick


Madam –Nick Webb tells us that wind farm owners were paid €10m not to produce power last year (Sunday Independent, April 27, 2014). To the layman the windies cannot lose. Too windy? Shut down but pass on costs to customers. Not windy enough? Don’t worry, tot up the loss and pass it on to customers. It’s an ill wind that doesn’t benefit somebody.

Whilst studying economics the power of the invisible hand of the “market” was drilled into me. It would intervene as needed, checks and balances, weeding out the weak, setting bearable costs and prices and incentivising the innovative.

The opposite was the Soviet communist system of state intervention and distortion of free market forces.

Along comes the collapse of the banks and builders in 2008. Did the “market” and its invisible hand intervene?

Hell no, instead we got a Soviet-style bailout of the powerful and wealthy with their debts transferred to the serfs. Market forces and capitalism my arse. The high and mighty were saved and the rest of us were left to sink or swim.

Do those who set up energy projects actually think of the consumer or is everything geared to profit: heads they win, tails they win? Or do some teams play with the wind to their backs in both halves?

John Cuffe,

Dunboyne, Co Meath


Madam – I’ve just read that interview with Imelda May by Barry Egan (Life, Sunday Independent, April 27, 2014). I think it’s the most amazing and funny interview I have ever read. It was brilliant.

David Dwyer,



Madam – Hallelujah. An article on fashion in Life magazine for older women! More of Mary Kennedy and her ilk, please.

Noreen Heverin,


Memory test

May 3, 2014

3 May2014Memory test

I go all the way around the park listening to the Men from the Ministry: Our heroes face a terrible fate an new plumber Priceless

Mary both of us very tired off to Mary’s memory test. Bank

Scrabbletoday, Mary getsnearly350Perhaps Iwill win tomorrow.


Bernat Klein – obituary

Bernat Klein was a Serbian-born textile designer whose exotic mohairs and tweeds put Scottish fashion on the map

Bernat Klein


5:58PM BST 02 May 2014

Comments1 Comment

Bernat Klein, who has died aged 91, was a Serbian-born textile designer who made his home in Scotland and was taken up by some of Europe’s leading fashion houses.

After an itinerant childhood, Klein settled in the Borders shortly after the war, though not without misgivings. “I dreaded it,” he admitted years later. “I thought Scotland would be so very, very cold – and it was.”

Klein had studied textile technology at Leeds University, graduating in 1948, then designed woven fabrics for ties and handkerchiefs in Bolton before moving to Edinburgh to work for Munrospun, creating fabrics for ladies’ coats and skirts. In 1950 the company relocated to Galashiels, and the Borders remained Klein’s much-loved home for the rest of his life.

The clothes he had seen in Scotland in the aftermath of war seemed to be mainly a dingy brown or green: “And that was just the women,” Klein recalled. “At least the men had their kilts, tartan ties and trews.” Determined to make his adopted country a brighter place, he set up his own business, drawing on his flair for colour to create the exotic tweed and mohair fabrics that would become his signature.

He once told an interviewer: “I think that colours are as important in our lives as words are… All my inspiration has always been derived from nature, what I see when I look out of my windows or walk down to the woods, where there is so much colour, even in winter. ”

A model in an outfit made from Bernat Klein’s textiles, 1978 (DENVER POST)

His big break came in January 1962 when he was sitting in his office in Galashiels leafing through the latest edition of Elle magazine. He was astonished to see a substantial article featuring one of his tweeds — which had been taken to Paris by an agent a few months earlier — made into a suit by Chanel.

“I was too excited to speak or to realise the far-reaching implications,” Klein told The Scotsman in 2011. Up to this point, Klein had been selling lambswool scarves to chain stories such as Woolworths, Littlewoods and Marks & Spencer. Now, however, he found himself in demand from some of the biggest names in fashion: not just Chanel, but also Balenciaga, Pierre Cardin and Yves Saint Laurent.

Vogue praised him for having “revolutionised traditional English fabrics to win them new recognition abroad”. His creations were worn by Jean Shrimpton (arguably the world’s first supermodel) and by Princess Margaret — while the Princess’s husband, the Earl of Snowdon, wore his tweeds. Soon Klein’s company was turning over nearly £1 million a year, and he played an important part in the post-war revival of the Borders’ weaving and cloth making industries.

A 1968 advertisement in ‘Nova’ magazine featuring a Klein fabric (ALAMY)

Bernat Klein was born in the former Yugoslavia on November 6 1922 into a Serbian Jewish family. Both his parents worked in the textile wholesale business . He was educated at a seminary in Czechoslovakia, but aged 16 — in anticipation of war — he was sent by his parents to Jerusalem, where he attended the Bezalel School of Arts and Crafts. There he was recruited by the British to monitor and translate signals.

“My job, in Cairo, was to monitor broadcasts from Europe and to report anything suspicious,” he told The Scotsman. “I really wasn’t very good at it, because no one explained the purpose of my work. They said, ‘Get on with it. Listen to the broadcasts and translate. Decide what is important and what isn’t’… If there was some secret code, I never cracked it.” After the war he emigrated to Britain, enrolling at Leeds University.

Having moved to the Borders, he established a weaving mill in Galashiels which at one stage employed some 600 people. In 1966 he set up a hand-knitting business, with more than 200 workers, near Selkirk. He also designed textiles for furniture and interiors.

Klein was appointed CBE in 1973. He was a member of the Scottish committee of the Council of Industrial Design (1965–71) and of the Royal Fine Art Commission for Scotland (1980–87). He retired in 1992.

The author of two books — Eye for Colour (1965) and Design Matters (1976) — Klein was also an artist, continuing to paint in oils until the end of his life, and staging a number of exhibitions.

His archive — consisting of more than 1,800 items ranging from sketches for his designs to finished garments, photographs, catalogues, paintings and tapestries — was recently acquired by National Museums Scotland .

Bernat Klein married, in 1951, Margaret Soper, who also designed knitwear for their business. She died in 2008, and he is survived by their son and two daughters.

Bernat Klein, born November 6 1922, died April 17 2014


I believe your correspondents (Letters, 30 April) did not quite realise the meaning of the Holy Week edition of Rev. I do not normally watch the series, but I happened to pick up the conclusion of that week where Rev carries the cross to the top of the hill and is greeted by a bloke with a wonderful masculine smile, who says “We all have our crosses to bear don’t we?” and then vanishes. The look on the vicar’s face as he realised who he had been talking to was a wonder to behold. Christian history and literature is quite used to this story. Martin – a Roman officer – meets a beggar and in reply to his entreaty pulls off his cloak, hacks it in half with his sword and gives half to the beggar – as he looks back he finds there is nobody there. St Francis was convinced that when he kissed the diseased skin of the leper, he kissed Christ and then there is nobody there.

There are various folk stories in which the risen Christ appears in disguise and then vanishes. Tolstoy wrote his short story Where Love Is, God Is to make his contribution to the folk memory of the Christ who comes in disguise to bless someone who richly deserves it.

Someone in the script-writing team knew what they were writing about – the episode was beautifully captured on screen. I was quite pleasantly surprised that the BBC felt able to allow such a profound Christian statement in its drama.
Canon Owen Vigeon

• We have had Jamaica Inn with its mumblings in the dark. Now BBC4 has excelled itself with Hinterland (Watch this, 28 April). Not only are there scenes of near total blackness and barely discernible mumblings, there is the added hurdle of translations of the Welsh dialogue in minuscule text.
Gren Dix
Holmes Chapel, Cheshire

A strangely lost and not yet found film (Reel finds, G2, 2 May) is Fritz Wendhausen‘s Little Man – What Now (1933), with Hertha Thiele and art direction by Caspar Neher. This film – co-scripted by the author of the novel, Hans Fallada – was originally to be directed by Berthold Viertel, with music by Kurt Weill, prominent Jews who had to leave Germany. The novel was an international bestseller and was filmed in Hollywood by Frank Borzage a year later, in a sentimentalised version rejected by Fallada. A poster exists for the 1933 version, but the film itself seems to have been wiped off the face off the earth. Fallada was dubbed “undesirable”, by the Nazis. Was the film perhaps too intolerable for them? It it followed the book, it does contain a comically stupid Nazi oaf. There will be a prize for anyone who can track down a copy of this film.
Nicholas Jacobs

No, it’s not the purists who’ll turn pale or the musicians who will roll their eyes at discovering that this “widely despised” instrument has introduced many people to the pleasures of making music (In praise of… the recorder, 29 April), it’s those who have never heard recorders played well. Unfortunately, it is a very easy instrument to play badly. However, if it’s taught well it can sound beautiful even at a very elementary stage.

The very best way to introduce children to the pleasures of making music is through pre-instrumental classes, developing their sense of rhythm and pitch, listening skills, co-ordination and imagination through movement to music, singing, using simple percussion instruments and listening to live as well as recorded music. These sort of classes can also introduce the basic elements of reading music, before a child has to cope with the discipline of daily practice. With this background, and with the sort of daily practice and parental support required for a child to learn any instrument properly, a well-taught beginner recorder player can make rapid progress and sound good from the very early stages.

The standard of recorder teaching in Britain is improving all the time, and there are now many excellent recorder ensembles a young player can aspire to, culminating with the National Youth Recorder Orchestras. Children in our pre-instrumental classes have a chance to hear a wide variety of different instruments before they choose which they would like to learn. Each year many of our children choose to learn the recorder, because they have heard older children play it well and would like to emulate them.

So come on Guardian, stop replaying the old argument, and start encouraging your readers to listen to some high-quality recorder playing. There’s plenty of it out there.
Jean Murray
Director, Edinburgh Young Musicians

• May I put in a word for the brass band movement and its role in promoting music for young people (Thank you for the music, and goodbye, 29 April)? Originating as village and church bands, they developed, as a result of the industrial revolution, to represent, and take the name of, local communities and works. Contests raised standards of musicianship and composition to a level second to none. Today the repertoires range from traditional marches and hymns and popular music to adaptations of classical pieces and original compositions, requiring the highest level of playing. Competition is fierce where contests are concerned, but there is a camaraderie, friendship and mutual support between bands.

A thriving youth brass band movement throughout the country is encouraging children from four years upwards to have a go. There are many amazingly talented young people making music in bands, learning discipline, commitment how to be a team player and having fun! Few will make the dizzying heights of champion section soloist, but they will all have had the wonderful experience of making music together.
Mavis Armitage
Sowerby Bridge, West Yorkshire

Are not those readers (Letters, 29 April) who complain about the Proms programmes missing the point? The Albert Hall’s size and acoustics are not appropriate for orchestral music of the pre-Mahler era. There are plenty of concert halls in London and elsewhere where Beethoven, Schubert, Mozart and Haydn works are performed by ensembles of no more than 30 or so players with exhilarating freshness and stylistic integrity.
Ian Lawrence

• What a delight to hear that the ENO is providing alternative light opera rather than replicating the work of the Royal Opera House (Report, 29 April). Now all we need is for someone to come up with a system for providing satellite centres outside London so we, the rest of Britain, can also see some of the great productions provided for the capital. I understand the cost has made it difficult in the past, but with all the technology we are now awash with…
Paul Brazier
Wotton-under-Edge, Gloucestershire

• When I remarked on the letters about Wagner and bagpipes to my wife (30 April), she asked: “Separate letters?”. I’m now trying to get the dreadful idea of the two combined out of my head.
Henry Malt
Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire

• My son had to study Cormac McCarthy’s The Road for GCSE English and it actually made him ill (Letters, 30 April). It didn’t help that the book ends with a child losing his father, which my son has experienced. When I asked him how reading this bleak and unremitting novel differed from the post-apocalyptic computer games he enjoys, he said that with a game, you are always in control, whereas with a book you are at the mercy of the story.
Maddy Paxman

• With reference to your article about me (Report, 1 May), I would advise you that I have severed all links with Ukip, commencing immediately.
DP Marchessini

• All that travelling (Letters, 1 May)! Weeke (Hampshire) has it all.
Jonathan Clayden

• I was always told that a gentleman was someone who got out of the bath to pee in the basin (Letters, 2 May).
Bridget John

I can understand Adrian Searle’s irritation with Alain de Botton‘s curation of the Rijksmuseum to reflect his “art as therapy” theory (Report, 26 April); he is a professional critic and he doesn’t want to be told how to interpret things. But personally I find de Botton’s work helpful, inspiring and exciting. I’ve often been in a gallery or museum and wished for plain English insights into the work. Many of us appreciate such information being made available to us. It can add depth and meaning to something that can otherwise feel obtuse and unrelatable. I very much want to embrace art but am sometimes left mystified and disconnected because it’s presented in a void.

The analysis of art doesn’t come easily to everyone. Don’t want to be guided in what to look for? Don’t read the descriptions then. De Botton – in this exhibition, his books and the fantastic workshops and courses offered at the School of Life – aims to translate things into user-friendly language, to broaden the audience and bring pleasure and solace to people who may otherwise be excluded. That’s a noble effort that I welcome. I think he’s articulate and brilliant, and I’m grateful for his efforts.
Emma Clayton

• Adrian Searle has missed the underlying point De Botton is trying to make: that art has the potential to help us to reflect on issues intimately related to our private (and public) lives. This is not a new idea. Only we have forgotten this through decades of scepticism and a “material turn”, in which stuff for its own sake is seen as valuable.

So we hoard and measure and evaluate material culture based on surface data that looks good and knowledgeable, but ultimately has limited sticking value when it comes to thinking about how we live our lives. De Botton is right: we do need to learn to see art again in more immanent ways. But we do not need facile stickers to do this for us; rather, we need schools and universities that no longer abdicate their responsibility to help us engage with art in intimate, assimilative ways that become part of our daily “working equipment”.
Richard Whitney
Pewsey, Wiltshire

• You report the artist Simon Starling as criticising Henry Moore for accepting a commission for a sculpture celebrating the splitting of the atom (Report, 30 April). Has he actually seen Nuclear Energy in its position on the site of the first atomic pile in the University of Chicago? There is no way that this brilliant and horrible piece is a celebration of atomic physics. When I visited the Enrico Fermi Institute I was amazed that the physicists there could bear to see it outside their windows.
Tony Sudbery
Professor emeritus, University of York

• The chairman of Arts Council England, Peter Bazalgette (Just as big as a Boeing 747, 24 April), says Richard Wilson’s new sculpture for Heathrow Terminal 2 “lifts your spirits”. When I read those words my heart sank as my blood boiled.

At 78 metres long and consisting of 77 tonnes of aluminium, Wilson’s creation is just the latest example of a trend towards gigantism in modern public art. Antony Gormley can probably be blamed for starting it with his Angel of the North. Other sculptors who subscribe to the bigger-is-better outlook include Anish Kapoor (his ArcelorMittal Orbit made for the 2012 Olympics is Britain’s largest piece of public art, at 114.5m tall) and Damien Hirst, whose Verity, an allegory of truth and justice, is a 20m high stainless steel and bronze affair; and if you visit St Pancras station you’ll be cowed by Paul Day’s The Meeting Place, a gigantic 9m tall pair of lovers in bronze towering over you, locked in an embrace.

“I wanted that wow factor,” says Wilson of his Terminal 2 sculpture. So wowing the public would seem to explain why these artists are in thrall to bigness. This is why size really matters for them. In my opinion, however, what they actually achieve is to prove that more is less – more size, less depth.

What can’t be denied is the impact these mega-objects have on our cultural environment. Nor should their impact on our natural environment be overlooked. The smelting and working of all that bronze and steel must have required vast amounts of energy, sending a large quantity of CO2 into the atmosphere. Wilson’s as-big-as-a-Boeing aluminium structure might add prestige to the expanding aviation industry but its creation will degrade the natural environment. Can creating a piece of mega-art for its mega-wow effect justify all that pollution?
John Lloyd

There are two omissions in Seumas Milne’s analysis of Ukraine‘s crisis (It’s not Russia that’s pushed Ukraine to the brink of war, 30 April). The first is that however legitimate the Yanukovych government was – and it was internationally recognised – it lost that legitimacy with its rampant kleptocracy. If the estimates of Yanukovych’s $12bn wealth are accurate, he alone accounts for 7% of Ukraine’s GDP, which suggests looting on a vast scale. That alone could justifiably spark the demonstrations that brought him down. The second is that Ukraine, as a sovereign country, has every right to freely apply to join whatever international associations it wishes. But it never joined Nato, and the EU association agreement would have put in on about the same level as Turkey, regardless of Milne’s insinuations. If it was starting to move into the west’s orbit, it was not doing so down the barrel of a gun. It is indicative of Russia‘s weakness that it could only bring Ukraine back into its sphere by force.
Dr Tony King
Barnt Green, Worcestershire

• A fundamental principle in personal and inter-state relations is that no means no. Failure to recognise this often leads to serious consequences. Three times in the past 100 years mainland, European expansionism has met with a response of no. In 1914 and 1939 it came from Britain and France. In 2014 it is coming from Vladimir Putin’s Russia. For the sake of every man, woman and child on the European continent, our western leaders should understand this no from Russia and accept it upon the basis of dire, historical precedent, not once but twice. Incidentally, Nigel Farage understands this. It isn’t about Ukraine; it’s about European expansionism, of which I, as a UK citizen, do not wish to be a part.
Dr Timothy Bland
Romford, Essex


Corporations that bestride the globe

Andreas Whittam Smith (Voices, 1 May) considers the proposal by Thomas Piketty to reduce global inequality through a global wealth tax extremely unlikely to happen. However, his own proposal to improve education and training is also unlikely to make significant inroads.

For such a vast and complex issue, there can be no one simple fix, and a combination of measures is clearly needed. Strengthening international agencies, such as the Human Rights Council, the UN, the World Bank and, yes, even the IMF, can also help. Progress could also be made by clamping down on tax havens and by governments standing up to multinational corporations with smarter regulation in the public interest.

Geoffrey Payne, London W5

Hamish McRae’s analysis of the potential Pfizer takeover of AstraZeneca (30 April) is illuminating and thought-provoking. As he says, “global business is global”. That is, to my mind, beyond the reach of any government attempting  to safeguard the interests of its citizens.

He points out that “countries are now competing more aggressively … to get companies to build plants and preserve jobs”. Is this a fool’s game?

Rather than spending billions propping up global banks, waiving the tax liabilities of international organisations and creating tax loopholes for the world’s richest corporations to slip through, would it not be better to focus energy and resources supporting small and medium enterprises, which have been the engines of recovery in employment and honest contributors to the exchequer?

Gordon Watt, Reading

Clarkson’s  fatal mumble

Does Jeremy Clarkson’s apology – “It did appear that I’d actually used the word . . . I didn’t use the N-word here but. . . it sounds like I did. . . I did everything in my power to not use that word” – suggest he needs diversity training or speech therapy?

Dr John Doherty, Stratford-upon-Avon

Jeremy Clarkson has voluntarily set himself up as a sort of national fool, and to be offended by Mr Clarkson is akin to being offended by the baa-ing of sheep or the barking of dogs. The only puzzle is why he continues to be paid as though he were worth listening to.

Vaughan Thomas, Usk, Gwent

A note of thanks  is gift enough

Please don’t spend anything on gifts for your child’s teachers (Rosie Millard, 29 April). Instead, please encourage your son or daughter to take the time to write a “thank you” note for all the care “above and beyond the call of duty” that they received, for the patience or the tough love they were shown, for the inspiration or encouragement they were given.

These notes are treasured for ever and fortify us against indifference, exhaustion and the utterances of Messrs Gove and Wilshaw.

Fran Tattersall, Manchester

As a teacher for 40 years, now retired, I completely agree that ridiculously expensive gifts are not only unnecessary but tantamount to bribery. However, I was always touched and delighted when students or their parents sent me a card at the end of the year thanking me for doing what Rosie Millard clearly thinks is “just a job”.

I find it sad that apparently Rosie has never been thanked for her work. She should have been. It’s something that employers should do regularly, because it’s important to feel valued and appreciated.

But it’s also important that the thanks are sincerely meant. I once received a card from a headteacher  who thanked me for doing a brilliant job, on a particular day-long special activity, because he “had heard how well it had gone”, but he hadn’t bothered to find out for himself by coming along to see. That was not appreciated.

Paula Saunders, St Albans

Nicotine bad, alcohol all right

I wonder why Janet Street-Porter (26 April) adopts such a cavalier attitude towards the ingestion of mind-altering substances compared to her deep antipathy to smoking substance-free tobacco.

Tobacco advertising has been banned for decades, and yet alcohol is still advertised widely, with the latest TV adverts for cherry cider and lemon vodka surely aimed at the juvenile tippler.

According to JSP it’s fine for the nanny state to intervene where tobacco is concerned but not in the case of powdered alcohol, which “could be a chance to decriminalise some drugs such as cannabis”.

Anna Farlow, London NW2

An ‘atheist  wolf’ writes

Yasmin Alibhai-Brown (28 April) writes a very fine feature and she has set out a list of dreadful things done by mankind in the name of religion. But then she says: “I have faith and pray and avoid the company of noisy, atheist wolves.”

Well I am a dear old lady of 87 and a very convinced and committed atheist, and I live a decent life, doing kindness to other people, and am not a noisy wolf. They are mainly the religious, I find.

Joan Pennycook, Truro,  Cornwall

Vote for the revolution

If, as some people think, this country needs a revolution in government, and crowds turned out on the streets in protest, the police would be employed, and people would be told that the ballot box is their proper means of protest. What other option is there than voting Ukip?

Judith Woodford, Bozeat, Northamptonshire

How to get rid of bad care workers

Following this week’s Panorama on the BBC, we are again presented with evidence of appalling treatment of vulnerable individuals in our care homes. Although 15 workers have been suspended and eight sacked as a result, the fact is that care workers are not regulated.

Although most care workers are dedicated individuals working in challenging circumstances, there are no enforceable standards and no mechanism to prevent that small minority of unsuitable and unscrupulous workers moving from one employer to another.

The Government has plans to strengthen training, inspection and certification. Whilst these are a step in the right direction, these measures are not on their own enough. There must be a system of personal accountability in place to address poor care and misconduct. As an independent regulator of 320,000 health, psychological and social work professionals, we have already recommended to government a “negative registration scheme” for adult social care workers.

The proposed scheme includes a statutory code of conduct based on core principles such as respect, honesty, integrity and confidentiality. It would also provide a mechanism for considering serious complaints where any individual found to have breached the code would face sanctions. This would include having his or her name placed on a “negative register” of those considered unfit for employment in the social care workforce, making it a criminal offence to work in the sector.

Our proposal for such a system of personal accountability has been incorporated into the Law Commission’s draft bill currently being considered by the Government. We believe the time to act decisively is now.

Anna van der Gaag, Chair

Marc Seale, Chief Executive

Health and Care Professions Council, London SE11

It is disgusting that the elderly in care homes are, in some cases, treated so badly. Care home workers are paid the minimum wage and because the homes are always short of staff they will employ virtually anyone to keep to the required staff/resident ratio. When will it be realised that if you pay peanuts you get what you deserve?

Margaret Threlfall, Langho, Lancashire

The recent Panorama programme was quite right to highlight the appalling treatment suffered by the vulnerable residents at some care homes. Hopefully it will be the impetus for rapid improvement. However, I should like to point out that there is another side to the coin.

My partner recently passed away after a two-year stay in a local care home. I have nothing but praise for the professional care he received there. Being completely bed-ridden and, latterly, suffering dementia, he was by no means an easy person to look after in many ways.

Although his condition was deteriorating, his death was unexpected and the reaction of many of the carers showed that they had become fond of him and certainly did not consider him as just a room number. They have my respect and grateful thanks for all they did for both my partner and myself.

Louise Thomas, Abingdon, Oxfordshire


Sir, You report that British cancer sufferers are diagnosed later than patients in other European countries (“Cancer treatment is ‘national shame’”, May 2). In my GP’s waiting room on Monday evening I heard the receptionist tell callers there were no bookable appointments for two weeks and that the caller could ring back in the morning to be added to the GP’s triage list.

Are patients with chronic symptoms deterred by the lack of non-urgent appointments? Expensive TV advertising campaigns will do little if the real issue is a shortage of GPs.

Monica Elsey


Sir, “I can book a rental car,” says Matthew Parris. “Why not to see my GP?” (Apr 30). A Ford Focus for a day will cost Mr Parris some £40 with insurance. His GP will be paid about £70 to provide Mr Parris with unlimited general medical services for the whole year. As he has in the past made clear that he considers GPs to be useless, Mr Parris may consider the cheapness of their services appropriate. However, for around 20 pence per day, his GP will be under a strict professional duty to consider any and every problem Mr Parris might present. Even at 200 times that expense Mr Parris would not be able to bring all his hurts to Hertz.

Dr Michael Apple

Watford, Herts

Sir, After reading Matthew Parris’s frustration with his GP’s appointment system, I think there may be a case for returning to the olden days when most practices did not operate an appointment system. As I live in a city I have more choice than he does, but after similar experiences I found a surgery with complete open access on weekdays.

Appointments for a particular reason such as a health check can be booked but otherwise you just turn up. The wait may be as long as two hours, but armed with my Kindle, it is not too much of a strain and at least you know you can go when you want and will be seen.

Kathryn Dobson


Sir, I’m so sorry Mr Parris’s doctor’s surgery does not offer a book ahead online service. Our surgery does, and it’s brilliant. Recently, while on holiday, I was able to book an appointment for when I got home.

Pauline jordan

Southwell, Notts

Sir, Matthew Parris’s article on booking to see a GP raises a few interesting points. He would like to book a GP appointment as far ahead as necessary and not be restricted by “surgeries’ rules”. These so-called rules are attempts by GPs to respond to changes imposed by successive governments for GP access since the 2004 contract.

I am a GP in a practice with 8,000 patients. Last Friday 14 patients were DNAs (did not attend) at the practice — almost a whole morning’s list. The further ahead patients book the more DNAs occur.

This is a huge issue in the NHS, and I have yet to hear any politician or journalist pay more than lip-service to tackling this problem. Educating patients obviously doesn’t win votes.

By the way, the last time I booked a rental car in advance I had to wait in a long, long, long queue, and then they didn’t have the correct size car available — maybe not so different to the NHS.

Lois Gravell

Llangennech, Carmarthenshire

What qualities should the BBC seek when choosing as the presenter of its remake of Civilisation?

Sir, It ought not to matter one iota whether the next presenter of the new Civilisation series is a woman or a man (letter, Apr 30). The presenter will be simply a person, a qualified, suitable person.

Madeline Macdonald

Knebworth, Herts

Sir, It would be a sign of the progress of civilisation if we did not have to see a presenter at all. The previous series of Civilisation became the Kenneth Clark show, with his face in every frame obscuring the background. How refreshing it would be to have a clear view of the objects and landscapes with merely a voiceover, and a mute button to hand.

Daphne Heaton

Briston, Norfolk

Sir, I have no concern whether the BBC engages a male or female presenter for its remake of Civilisation. However, I do hope that the person selected will be allowed to speak calmly and directly to camera (as opposed to excitedly over the right shoulder while retreating), without the usual superfluous hand gestures, which I am sure I am not alone in finding intensely irritating.

Richard Cox

Osbaston, Leics

Sir, I have no views about the gender of the presenter, but I do hope the programme is not infested with the unnecessary background music that makes so much television unwatchable. Also I hope we are spared academics talking in the pretentious historical present — “so Caesar comes down here” etc. I suspect that I shall be disappointed on both counts.

Peter Hull


Sir, I strongly agree that a female historian should be invited to present a new series of Civilisation. However, I do question the balance of the advocacy; no man appears to have been asked to join the appeal.

On the other hand, we can hope for a more interesting series than last time, when the staggering tedium of Kenneth Clark’s presenting was the best cure for insomnia since the invention of the sledge-hammer.

Martin Marix-Evans

Blakesley, Northants

Sir, We firmly believe that the best person should be chosen for the job — regardless of gender.

Miriam Gross

London W2

Gina Thomas

It is not enough for schools to buy the machines — staff and students should also learn how to use them

Sir, We welcome the new policy of encouraging schools to buy defibrillators, but we are disappointed that the government did not go further and insist on first aid education for all pupils and staff. We are missing an opportunity to engage young people in an effective, life-saving education programme that can be provided easily and quickly.

Evidence from other countries shows that where staff and students are taught emergency life support and have access to a defibrillator, the outcome from many sudden cardiac arrests is excellent. However, buying a defibrillator is only one part of the solution. If no one knows how to use it and how to respond immediately when a person loses consciousness and stops breathing, the investment is likely to have only limited benefit.

We urge the government to ensure that pupils and staff across the UK know how to use the equipment and have the simple additional skills that will save many lives.

Joe Mulligan (British Red Cross), Sue Killen (St John Ambulance), Simon Gillespie (British Heart Foundation), David Pitcher (Resuscitation Council UK),
Anne Jolly (SADS UK)

Sir, On Friday’s TV London news, in an item about heart attacks, there appeared the subtitle: “The only way to bring someone back to life is to use a decent beer later”.

J Anthony C Martin

London SW18

Weight for weight a cheap cut like lamb shank costs the same as fillet steak – someone is making a tidy profit

Sir, Celia Kunert (letter, May 1) touches on an important point. The popularisation of cheaper cuts of meat by celebrity chefs has presented supermarkets with an opportunity for cynical opportunism. A few years ago lamb shanks and pork belly were at the cheap end of the meat scale and hardly appeared in supermarkets.

Now, there they are, at four times the price one would have paid four years ago. If you calculate the meat value minus the bone on a lamb shank today you realise you are paying fillet steak prices for what were once considered off-cuts.

And who has profited from this move? Not the farmers, to be sure. It is not a matter of supply and demand or inflation; it is profiteering by the big supermarkets, pure and simple.

Keith Sutton

London W2

After many years of school rugby one reader thinks it might now be time to watch the game in decorous silence

Sir, I have for many years watched the erosion of parental standards at schoolboy rugby. Fathers shouting at the referee is now normal (May 1). More alarming, perhaps, is the increase of overexuberant mothers hollering from the touchline. This season I heard “For God’s sake pass it” — difficult because the boy was about to take a conversion. Perhaps schoolboy rugby, like a good haircut, should be conducted in silence.

austen righton

Ickford, Bucks


Welsh feelings blossom for the Six Nations match against England at Twickenham in March  Photo: BEN STANSALL/AFP/Getty Images

6:58AM BST 02 May 2014

Comments43 Comments

SIR – Have the rugby authorities taken leave of their senses? The proposal to segregate fans at next year’s Rugby World Cup should be resisted at all costs.

Has there ever been a Wales v England game that lacked atmosphere because of integration of the supporters of the opposing nations?

Bob Ballingall
Farnsfield, Nottinghamshire

SIR – I come from Northern Ireland, and have supported the Ireland rugby team all my life. Having never seen them win at Twickenham, my partner Jill and I were lucky enough to witness the Irish victory there in March 2004 from seats in the West Stand.

As the English line-out imploded I got more vocal and when the final whistle blew on a then rare Irish victory, a very well-dressed, well-spoken English lady in her fifties turned to me from the row in front and said with a smile on her face: “Congratulations young man… my grandmother was from Connemara.”

We all cheered.

Jeremy Charles
Teddington, Middlesex

SIR – John Ewington askswhy The Archers scriptwriters cannot provide the listeners with a few happy events. Well, they do: Jill moves back home and Jolene gets a nice Easter egg. Scintillating stuff!

Compare that with the drama we have had over the last week. It is tragedy of the sort tried and tested over the past 2,500 years. Sophocles would have loved it.

The Archer family is not far removed from Oedipus’s. All the tragic elements are there. Divine powers foretell doom through portentous avian activity, in the case of Ambridge, Kirsty’s encounter with the moribund pheasant.

There is a legacy of earlier deaths that plagues the family. Tony alienates his living son (Tom) through his obsession with the dead one (John).

Peggy’s words to Tom are worthy of the oh-so-wise chorus: “It didn’t just happen – you made it happen.” She asserts that Tom’s big mistake was to have jilted Kirsty at the church, making public an act that should have occurred behind closed doors.

And there are several candidates for the role of Tiresias.

Much of the pleasure for us classicists is in conjecture about what might follow in the tragic world that is Ambridge. Will Tom, driven by his father to emulate his dead brother, meet his end under a vintage tractor?

Might Tony succumb to a second heart attack and die alone with only his (ailing) cattle for comfort? Will Kirsty, Medea-like, direct her vengeance where it hurts most and dispatch Tom’s pigs before their allotted time? Might Henry, the infant generation, be hurled like Astyanax from the roof of Willow Farm?

Carry on scriptwriters. Some of us haven’t enjoyed The Archers so much for years.

Sally Knights
Classics Department
Redland High School for Girls

SIR – The BBC has managed to score a spectacular own goal. The latest twist with the non-wedding of Kirsty and Tom leads me to believe that so many ideas have already been utilised that they must now resort to mimicking the plot from the film Four Weddings and a Funeral.

Sean O’Connor, the editor of The Archers since last year, has shown his preference for the way he worked on EastEnders. The Archers has become silly and very disappointing.

Judy Proger
Moreton in Marsh, Gloucestershire

Ballet graduates

SIR – All of us in the Royal Ballet are very saddened at the news of the death of the director of the Royal Ballet School, Gailene Stock.

It was disappointing to read that “only a handful” of Royal Ballet School graduates were offered contracts by the Royal Ballet and the Birmingham Royal Ballet during her time as director. Since 2009, 79 per cent of the dancers to have joined the Royal Ballet have been graduates of the Royal Ballet School. This is a fitting validation of her inspired leadership during her tenure as director.

Kevin O’Hare
Director, The Royal Ballet
Jeanetta Laurence
Associate Director, The Royal Ballet
London WC2

Second fiddle

SIR – No wonder Harry and Cressida broke up. What girl would play second fiddle for the rest of her life to you know who?

David Silber
Upton upon Severn, Worcestershire

Newark’s Tory lesson

SIR – In their enthusiasm to mount personal attacks on the leader of Ukip, the Tories might be forgetting that the only reason there is to be a by-election in Newark is because of the dishonesty of yet another of their own MPs.

Ronald Stevenson
Richmond, North Yorkshire

SIR – When Nigel Farage decided not to contest the Newark by-election, the pundits all accused him of “bottling it”. If he had decided to go for it, then those pundits would all have accused him of “jumping on the bandwagon”.

Like many, I will be interested in the comments of the three party leaders when the Euro election results are published.

Roy Deal
Locks Heath, Hampshire

Breaking abortion laws

SIR – Dr Max Pemberton says that we cannot be sure if doctors who pre-signed abortion certificates had broken the law .

“Pre-signing” is the practice of signing blank referral forms before anything is known about the pregnant woman. It should not be conflated with the discussion over whether or not doctors need to examine the patients they refer, which is a separate – though very important – issue.

The Abortion Act requires that two doctors form an opinion that the request for an abortion meets the criteria of the Act. It is not possible to form an opinion without knowing anything about a patient. Therefore, pre-signed referral certificates do not satisfy the requirements of the law.

Earl Howe, the health minister, accepted as much in a recent debate, conceding that pre-signing was a “clear breach of the law and where it is found to be occurring a prosecution ought to be brought”.

Luke de Pulford
The Pro-Life Research Unit
London SW1

French dressing

SIR – Henry Samuel tells usthat “France has come a long way since Michèle Alliot-Marie, then a young political assistant, was refused entry to parliament for wearing trousers in 1972″.

A pity, then, that we have not had the same degree of progress in the House of Commons where, as in 1972, my elected MP can still be refused entry for not wearing a tie.

Dr Steven Field
Wokingham, Berkshire

The threatening tunnel vision of Stonehenge

SIR – I drive past Stonehenge twice a week. Why is it not possible simply to build a new dual carriagewayhalf a mile to the south?

There must be a way of picking a route which avoids the barrows. The archaeological treasures to be excavated from removing the old road would help make up for the disturbance by the new route. Or are we being dictated to by World Heritage committees?

Charles Pugh
London SW10

SIR – I have lived within walking distance of the Stones for more than 90 years, and it would be utter heresy to build a road tunnel that excludes the public from the sight of this, one of Britain’s most famous monuments. The view from the hill to the west of Amesbury is without parallel.

We owe a great debt to Sir Cecil Chubb who bought it and gave it to the nation, for which he was suitably bestowed a baronetcy. The charge made for entry to the Stones now is beyond the pockets of most people.

Diana Gifford Mead
Berwick St James, Wiltshire

SIR – If money is to be spent on putting anything in a tunnel, it should be Park Lane in London. Think how lovely it would be to walk out from the old streets of Mayfair straight into the grassy park and trees. As it is, Park Lane is an uncrossable Chinese Wall of fast, roaring traffic that ruins the second best street on the Monopoly board.

Frances Kemp
London EC4

SIR – The images presented in Panorama of negligence and abuse in a care home will have upset many.

Modern training does not prepare student nurses for management in the way it once did. Selection criteria have changed, and they no longer ensure that people with the right attitudes and values are offered places on courses.

Regulatory bodies such as the Care Quality Commission have failed the profession with poor standards of audit.

One thing needs saying, even if it seems politically incorrect to some. Staff need to be able to speak English properly, and often cannot. How can you care for people whose first language is English, as is mainly the case, if you can’t speak English well? I visited a home in the South where the manager said that none of the support workers spoke English well, and that this might be a problem for supervision. It’s not racist to state this, it’s common sense.

Terry Maunder

SIR – The shameful treatment at the Old Deanery care home shows that the CQC is unable to audit facilities on a sufficiently regular basis to identify shortcomings and protect residents from abuse.

On top of this, under the new Care Bill currently proceeding through Parliament, self-funding residents will be excluded from the provisions of the Human Rights Act.

Philip Johnson
Pantymwyn, Flintshire

SIR – We represent organisations and individuals involved in the provision of residential care for old people. We were horrified at the revelations in the BBC Panorama programme of the abusive behaviour by staff at the Old Deanery.

There is never any excuse for abuse or poor practice, and it is a wake-up call for all those involved in delivering care.

However, this should not be used as a reason to condemn the whole of the care sector. The vast majority of providers offer good, if not excellent care. This is borne out by sector reports, including those of the Alzheimer’s Society, as well as by the findings of the Care Quality Commission.

Professor Martin Green
Chief Executive, Care England
Des Kelly
Executive Director, National Care Forum
Sheila Scott
Chief Executive, National Care Association
Debbie Sorkin
Chief Executive, National Skills Academy for Social Care

SIR – I will never, ever go into care. If assisted suicide is not legalised, I will drink a bottle of whisky with sleeping pills.

I looked after my mother, who had Alzheimer’s disease, for two years after my father died. I will not do this to my daughters and I will not be at the mercy of the care system in this country, where you pay your life savings to be abused.

Denise Dear
Yateley, Hampshire

I have to correct your obituary for Gailene Stock in yesterday’s Telegraph. The Obituary is misleading when it says ‘only a handful of graduates were accepted by the Royal Ballet and Birmingham Royal Ballet’, implying that standards during her tenure weren’t good enough. There are, in any one year, only a ‘handful’ of jobs available in the ranks of the two Royal Ballet Companies and the fact that other students were not discarded but were found employment with many other top companies in the world was, I believe, a laudable policy. In fact Birmingham Royal Ballet now comprises 63% Royal Ballet School Graduates rising to 72% at Principal level.

The article goes on ‘The supply of British-born stars dried up, with only Darcey Bussell becoming a household name.’ As though the Royal Ballet School was a conveyor belt for Darcey Bussells. How I wish it were so easy to manufacture stars of that magnitude! And how many other British dancers have become ‘household names’? Margot Fonteyn and……?

It continues…..’an implicit criticism of the Stock approach,…… was Birmingham Royal Ballet’s endorsement of Elmhurst School, Birmingham, as its own feeder institution.’ Untrue. The majority of students employed by Birmingham Royal Ballet are, and have been ever since Elmhurst School for Dance re-located to Birmingham, graduates of The Royal Ballet School. Despite Birmingham Royal Ballet’s close association with Elmhurst, that relocation being a very necessary step in the availability of quality ballet instruction outside of London, and despite a number of our dancers having graduated from there and other ballet schools in England such as English National Ballet School, Central School and Arts Educational School, The Royal Ballet School under Gailene Stock was still the major supplier of our graduate students and Birmingham Royal Ballet, incidentally, was their biggest customer!

The ‘English Style’, a euphemism really for Sir Frederick Ashton’s ballets, and something the article accuses Gailene Stock of considering outdated and irrelevant is, to much of the Dance world, outdated and irrelevant. To us, brought up in that tradition, it is of course of inestimable value and beauty, and it falls to the two Royal Ballet Companies to preserve to the greatest of it’s ability that work and style, but to continue to teach generations of students, not even born when Sir Fred was long gone, a technique that only enabled them to perform his work, ignoring the great changes in what is expected of a young dancer these days, would have been a great error on Gailene’s part. In fact the syllabus and style taught at the Royal Ballet School was arrived at with the full agreement of both myself and my various counterparts at The Royal Ballet and blessed by that most English of dancers and former Director of The Royal Ballet, Sir Anthony Dowell.

That elements of Gailene Stock’s Directorship were ‘controversial’ was an inevitability, but not for the reasons your writer suggests. She took over the school not only at a low point in its history but also at a crossroads, and set it on the international scene in a way that it had never been visible before. Standards rose, employment reached an all time high and Royal Ballet School graduates were to be found leading major Companies around the world, as well as continuing to provide the core and stars of the Royal Ballet and Birmingham Royal Ballet. This is not a tarnished legacy. It’s a hard act to follow!

As a footnote I would like to add that many of our company dancers, former graduates of the school, wore their old Royal Ballet School kit in class today in honour of Gailene’s memory and as a clear mark of the esteem they held her in.

Yours faithfully

David Bintley CBE, Director, Birmingham Royal Ballet.

Irish Times:

Sat, May 3, 2014, 02:00

First published: Sat, May 3, 2014, 02:00

Sir. – Strikingly, three newspapers have in recent days carried opinion pieces attacking both the fact and the modus operandi of Aosdána. The implicit elitism, hubris, procedural opacity, communicational inadequacy and remoteness of the body have been noted, and evidence for these charges adduced. It has been castigated for what it is (eg, a clearly incomplete cohort of worthy Irish artists), and for what it is not (eg the Académie Française). The underlying anger in these pieces is part of a wider public anger at unaccountable publicly supported bodies. But the unanimity of the critiques, with their calls for abolition or radical reform, are a bit too striking not to invite a response.

To have Aosdána act and comment as a unified body on matters social and political would require a cat herder. There is no good reason why artists of diverse kinds and ages should be any different than other citizens in the variety of their views. In that they are no different from bodies of engineers or lawyers or academics. To require every artist to finance their lives on income from sale of goods is to impose a frankly cruel Procrustean requirement on work that can be initially of minority interest. It may be hard to imagine but I remember attending a reading by Seamus Heaney nearly 40 years ago in the company of fewer than 10 other people.

Aosdána is far from perfect in structure or achievement. In its original conception it tried to address the problems encountered by those who were willing to devote themselves to the uncertain and, all too often, impoverishing pursuits of artistic creation. The hard lives of some household names fuelled that original ideal. In its imperfect way Aosdána has tried to balance the need to honour those who have chosen this challenging path with the utterly realistic recognition of how hard that often is for those who must also balance the demands of a domestic life.

As chairman of the Arts Council (1993-98) part of my responsibility involved firsthand scrutiny of the levels of income needed to qualify for a cnuas. By no standards could most of the applicants be said to be consistently earning close to the average industrial wage. Very few artists achieve consistent financial solvency over a long working lifetime.

Aosdána is not to be financially evaluated on the scale of certain publicly financed charities whose leader’s salary alone would exhaust the annual cost of the whole of Aosdána in six or seven years. The very diversity of its membership ensures that it cannot be very good at defending itself. But, however flawed it may be as a self-selecting body, it shares those flaws with similar self-selecting structures in analogous bodies.

In the justifiable hunt for greater accountability, Aosdána presents an unsatisfyingly easy target, especially when its costs and its purposes are coldly assessed together for what they are. Yours, etc,


Lr Ormond Quay,

Dublin 1

Sir, – Regarding Rosita Boland’s report on Aosdana’s general assembly I think you should cut that organisation a little slack. Surely it is one of the few publicly funded bodies that has not reported systemic failures causing the death, injury or impoverishment of citizens. Yours, etc,




Sir, – There is now no doubt that in the past we got the kind of regulation that our governments and increasingly powerful business lobbyists wanted. The Government appointed the regulator and, no doubt, outlined the job specifications, which seem to have been roughly: “A regulator is just a civil servant, he never gets high-falutin’ notions and doesn’t get in the way of big business. ”

Despite the appalling consequences of our lack of effective regulation and legislation in the past, John Bruton, the former taoiseach of a Fine Gael-led coalition, in his capacity as chairman of the IFSC, told the European Insurance Forum Conference in May 2013 that we needed to put a rein on financial regulation. Some banks, he claimed, had handed back their licences because of oppressive regulation, regulation which was risk-averse. ome weeks later an American businessman, interviewed on an RTÉ radio news programme, candidly stated that one of the factors that attracted US investors to Ireland was our “low regulatory hurdles”.

Matthew Elderfield, while acknowledging the greatly improved staffing levels in the regulator’s office, has severely criticised the present government’s failure to implement recommendations he made before his departure from his position as financial regulator. No doubt, as soon as the Dáil committee of inquiry has completed its work we will be promised effective legislation and a robust regulatory regime. However, powerful forces will be working openly and behind the scenes to dilute or hinder these measures. Yours, etc,


Countess Grove,


Co Kerry

Sir, – The old English verse quoted by GK Chesterton and related to us by Steve McGarry (Letters, May 2nd) might easily be attributed to John Clare as described by Brian Maye (An Irishman’s Diary, also May 2nd). Another of Chesterton’s observations was that there “are two ways to get enough. One is to accumulate more and more, the other is to desire less.” That statement would equally apply to corporations and the state, and not just the people. Perhaps we should be guided by poets and philosophers instead of economists. Yours, etc,


Glendale Park,

Dublin 12

A chara, – Regarding the parliamentary banking inquiry: we already know that the bankers broke the law, cheered on, it seems, by state agencies; the country went broke as a result; and no one is going to jail for it. Will an inquiry tell us much more? And even if it does, what does it matter without more stringent laws and stricter enforcement? Is mise,



Co Kilkenny

Sir, – While I normally disagree almost 100 per cent with the policies of Minister for Education Ruairí Quinn, I am fully behind his proposal that candidates for primary teaching should have studied and passed higher level mathematics at Leaving Certificate. Would we have had the same degree of protest and controversy if the same proposal had been made with regard to English and Irish? I think not. Secondary teachers can afford to be specialists, but a primary teacher must be an all-rounder and I think parents would expect their children to be taught by primary teachers with the best qualifications in all areas of study.

I don’t know if the regulation still exists that a primary teacher must be able to sing, as it did when I was younger, but there was no controversy there; a primary teacher unable to sing could hardly be expected to instill in a child the vital lifelong love and appreciation of music. I believe the situation with mathematics is comparable. As for the ludicrous suggestion that it was the “boys with honours maths” that caused the crash, I would suggest the exact opposite. The crash was due largely to criminal greed, but also to the non-application of sound mathematical principles to economics. Yours, etc,


Emeritus Professor

of Mathematics,

University College,


Sir, – Mike Cormack (Letters, May 1st) misses my point about the time I – a school principal – spend putting out the bins. I believe that it is a disgrace to expect schools to operate without sufficient funds to pay utilities and to run without caretakers or full-time school secretaries. I also hold that it is an appalling waste of my salary to have my time spent caretaking and cleaning.

Indeed, I am concerned to have quality teaching in our DEIS school and so I make time for important appraisal of teaching and learning. I am proud to report that, as with the majority of DEIS schools, literacy and numeracy standards are rising, attendance is improving and parents are increasingly confident in their involvement.

We practise what we preach, however, and such labels as “successful”, “less successful” and “unsuccessful” teachers or pupils are not within our ethos. Appraisal is a multilateral process and pupils’ success is measurable not only by standardised testing but in their engagement, articulacy, life skills and behaviour. In individual appraisals with teachers in recent years unfortunately, recurrent labels for teachers are “stressed” and “more stressed”. None however, are without stress. Yours, etc,


River View,

Old Bawn,

Dublin 24

Sir, – The Minister’s failure to understand the effect of abolishing the ex-quota guidance provision on the pupil teacher ratio and teaching hours in schools shows an appalling lack of understanding of or a wilful disregard for very basic maths. Everyone else in the country understands that schools now have reduced teacher time and reduced guidance and counselling. Yours, etc,


Sutton Park,

Dublin 13

Sir, – The arrest of Gerry Adams undoubtedly marks a very significant moment in Ireland’s history, but it has consequences far wider than Irish history alone.

The PSNI’s successful legal battle in the US to gain access to the Boston College tapes sets an extraordinary precedent. Although the IRA interviews were given under a strict agreement of confidence, not to be released until the interviewees were dead, the information contained within them has now been handed over to police and the police have acted on that information.

In the conflict over our desire to see guilty parties prosecuted for a brutal murder and our duty to preserve the historical record, which is more important? The US courts have decided that justice takes priority over history. But that means that our ability to gain such information in the future has been massively compromised, since no soldier, veteran or freedom fighter can ever give evidence to academics now without fear of being discovered.

In law it is sometimes said that it is better for many guilty men to go free than for one innocent man to be wrongly imprisoned. Would it have been better to let these guilty people go free so that the historical record can be preserved in the future? Yours, etc,


Newtown Hill,


Co Waterford.

Sir, – I am organising a roll call of writers and artists who will refuse to have weaponised naval systems named after them.

James Joyce and Samuel Beckett, being dead, probably had no voice in the decision by Mr Alan Shatter to paint their names on two new naval vessels. But we, the living, have no such excuse.Yours, etc,


Waterfall House,


Sir, – Always accepting that memories can become unreliable I am puzzled by Mark Hennessy’s article (May 1st) about the replacement of the horses of the Blues & Royals regiment slaughtered in Hyde Park in 1982 by the IRA . My memory is that at that moment I was CEO of Goffs and that working in close conjunction with my good friend Brig Andrew Parker Bowles, the board of Goffs, Frank O’Reilly and the RDS we created a fund that allowed us to replace the horses with the help of Wexford breeders. At no stage can I remember the British embassy expressing any concerns to us. Yours, etc,



Co Kildare

Sir, – In opposition to the recent Sinn Féin motion in the Northern Assembly proposing the introduction of same sex marriage in the North the Church of Ireland has reaffirmed its position that marriage is “the permanent and lifelong union of one man with one woman”. How can this position be reconciled with the practice of marrying divorced persons in church whilst the previous spouse is still living? Yours, etc,


Blarney Street,

Sir, – The Irish Catholic bishops canvassed the Northern Ireland Assembly to reject the Sinn Féin motion to legalise marriage equality in the North, thus bringing the situation into line with that obtaining in England and Wales.

Almost to a man the Unionist MLAs rejected the proposal and the motion was defeated. Cross-community co-operation, an unintended “benefit” of the Good Friday agreement?   Yours, etc,


Putland Villas,

Vevay Road


Sir, – I find it considerably less “absurd” than Boaz Modal (Letters, April 30th) for Palestinians to claim the right to return to the country where they, or their parents, were born, a right they currently lack.

People who consider themselves Jewish, on the other hand, can get Israeli citizenship even though they have no recent link with the country. Their claim seems to be based on the Bible, at best a semi-historical document which, in my view, should not be used to determine international borders or citizenship rights. Yours, etc,


Old Finglas Road,


Dublin 11

Irish Independent:

Published 03 May 2014 02:30 AM

* I have been following with interest the recent debate on the Bible and belief in your Letters columns.

Also in this section

World War I stories still have the power to astonish

Breaking the old rules in a quest for new politics

Country needs to grow up and eliminate political nepotism

I would be grateful if you would oblige me by letting me make a few observations. I find it interesting that the Bible that is held by so many to be an obscure, ancient and outmoded book, can still raise enough feeling in people that do not believe in it, that they feel they have to denounce it with such vigour.

One contributor seemed to lay the blame for wars and oppression on this book, that is held by most believers to be a book of peace, comfort, and love. I would suggest, on consideration, that all those events would be found to be caused by human greed, power- play and manipulation. A book is just a book, and cannot rouse by itself anger and fear – only dictators, despots and power-hungry institutions can build enough momentum by playing on people’s fears and beliefs to cause war and persecution.

Another contributor raised the question of how a loving God could allow a child to be infected by a worm that bored into his eye and left him blind. This is an interesting perspective. When I saw this same interview with David Attenborough, it too gave me reason to reflect and question why. I reasoned that following this train of thought God should remove all dangers from the planet. On a broader perspective, then, one has to ask why would a loving God leave any ill to befall us. The danger in that thought is that if you go that far, then you have to wonder why a loving God does not immediately destroy any murderer – Hitler, Saddam Hussein. This new God then becomes a vengeful God; people on Earth would then be living in fear of any misdemeanour.

If you remember the expulsion from the garden of Eden, God gave man a paradise to live in; man, in Adam and Eve, chose to eat the figurative apple of knowledge. This led God to not destroy them but give them a world full of “thistles and brambles” to live in. We are then told that we all have to die, but if we believe and follow a code of behaviour that in essence is not offensive, and which most would argue is essentially moral and progressive, we will then progress to a paradise existence. If you don’t, you will have had your wish, to live the life you please, and eventually cease to exist.

On your last contributor’s letter, neither scientists or theologians can absolutely prove their case for the origins of life; both theories have holes in them – therefore can I argue that we are presented with having to have a degree of blind faith in either perspective?

This, then, is the nub of my argument. God does love everyone on Earth – non-believers, believers, homosexuals, prostitutes, murderers, thieves, everyone. He loves them enough to give everyone a chance to live their lives on their terms. He has the power to destroy us and the entire world if he so wishes. However, he gives us, more than anything else, choice.

Name and address with editor


* If we apply the criterion of the prevailing culture of the time to the non-jailing of the two Anglo Irish executives, then Judge Nolan’s decision was really not a surprise. But just because events reflect the culture of a particular time does not make them right.

There’s a lovely saying from an old classic court-case movie called ‘The Winslow Boy’ in which Robert Donat, as the solicitor acting for the boy, who has been accused of stealing in school, says: “Let right be done.”

Was right done here? I don’t think so.

Brian McDevitt

Glenties, Co Donegal


* One of my best friends is an atheist and I believe the world is too beautiful not to have a god or higher power. Regardless of our beliefs, we are still best friends, who never debate or fight about religion or beliefs. That’s not to say we never did. We both look back and laugh at how much time and breath we wasted. Life is too short, my friends.

Ollie Boyle

Rush, Co Dublin


* It is a pity that Paul O’Sullivan (April 30) is under the impression that all teachers are on “full pay” and have “guaranteed jobs and pensions for life”. The reality is that an ever-increasing number of Irish teachers are employed on a casual part-time basis with no job security or pension rights, some even living on less than the minimum wage.

Studies by the OECD show that Ireland has one of the highest levels of non-permanent teachers in Europe and that the percentage of our part-time teachers is almost double the European average.

Younger teachers are in an exceptionally difficult position. OECD figures show that the majority of secondary teachers under 30 are on non-permanent contracts of a year or less. They are being offered insecure employment rather than a career.

We now have an army of nomadic teachers who wait by the phone in the hope of scraping together a few hours of employment. The sustained and repeated cuts to our education system over the last six years are driving these teachers out of the workforce and most likely out of the country.

Newly qualified teachers enter the profession after an unpaid training period of five years (soon to be six at second level). It takes many more years to secure some level of permanency and even then this is often on reduced hours that leaves them earning less than the average industrial wage.

The implications for teaching – and learning – are obvious.

Kevin P McCarthy

Killarney, Co Kerry


* Frances Fitzgerald introduced the Children First Bill in the Dail on Wednesday, April 30. A close reading of the Bill makes it clear that its implementation will impose reporting demands on any and all situations where children could even remotely be at risk. As such, it will reach out into all aspects of society, especially the family home, where most abuse occurs.

There are very few bodies whose core ethos is confidentiality to callers and were they to breach that, would betray themselves and those they seek to help. The main pressure to comply with the new legislation appears to be the threat of financial measures, ie they will lose their state funding. Already the Catholic Church has turned its face against complying and has demonstrated that it is unthinkable to comply in regard to the sacrament of penance.

Anthony J Jordan

Gilford Road, Dublin 4


* In relation to the ongoing debate on God, the universe etc, I recently heard the story of a man who brought his three-year-old son on a country walk. There wasn’t a soul (if atheists will pardon the liberty) in sight and in the middle of nowhere, they came upon a pile of rocks which formed a perfect rock tower. Given his age, the young boy had no concept of design, geometry etc, but his first reaction was to ask “who made that ?” The young boy, from his relatively limited interaction with the natural world, knew that stones just don’t stack themselves in such form. The tower had to be the work of a being with intelligence, will and purpose.

Many say we can’t prove the existence of God. But this is to understand the word ‘prove’ in a misleading way. When we observe patterns, design, even beauty in the natural order, it is quite reasonable to understand that there must be an intelligence that underlies it all.

Denying the existence of God therefore becomes as absurd as suggesting that the rock tower in the woods came into existence by itself, or through some series of random events. A child can understand this, but not, apparently, your average village atheist. Sad, really.

Eric Conway

Navan, Co Meath

Irish Independent


May 2, 2014

2 May2014Hair

I go all the way around the park listening to the Men from the Ministry: Our heroes face a terrible fate an efficiency expert and a baby Priceless

Mary both of us very tired my feet very sorehair done Sharland

Scrabbletoday, Mary getsnearly350Perhaps Iwill win tomorrow.


Doris Pilkington Garimara – obituary

Doris Pilkington Garimara was an Aboriginal author whose story of Australia’s ‘Stolen Generation’ inspired a film starring Kenneth Branagh

Doris Pilkington Garimara with Everlyn Sampi who played the character of her mother Molly in the film Rabbit Proof Fence

Doris Pilkington Garimara with Everlyn Sampi who played the character of her mother Molly in the film Rabbit Proof Fence Photo: REX/TOM KIDD

5:35PM BST 01 May 2014


Doris Pilkington Garimara, who has died aged 76, was an author whose account of her mother and aunt’s forced removal from their Aboriginal family and their subsequent 1,200-mile trek home was among the most powerful testimonies to Australia’s Stolen Generation; translated into 11 languages, Follow the Rabbit-Proof Fence (1996) inspired Phillip Noyce’s award-winning film Rabbit-Proof Fence (2002), starring Everlyn Sampi and Kenneth Branagh.

In the six decades after the Australian government passed the 1905 Aborigines Act, ostensibly drawn up “for the better protection and care of the Aboriginal inhabitants of Western Australia”, some 100,000 children were removed from their families and tribal lands under state policies of assimilation.

Most were sent to special-purpose institutions to train as domestic servants for middle-class households; children of mixed-race heritage were often placed with non-indigenous families, where it was hoped that a process of “racial outbreeding” would absorb them into the white community.

Directing the policy was AO Neville, designated Western Australia’s Chief Protector of Aborigines, from 1914 to 1940, and later Commissioner of Native Affairs. Portrayed in the film by Kenneth Branagh, Neville brought zeal and organisational power to his solution for the “Aboriginal problem”. According to Western Australian law, he was authorised to seize native Australians under the age of 21 and place them in the care of the state. At the time, the grief of the Aboriginal family over such a loss was regarded as scarcely more than animal instinct.

Because the aim was to prevent the birth of further children to the native tribes, girls tended to be a more urgent priority for removal than boys. Doris Pilkington Garimara’s mother, Molly, was therefore around 14 years old when, in 1931, she, her younger sister Daisy and 10-year-old cousin Gracie were taken from their settlement in the remote Pilbara community of Jigalong and transported to the Moore River Native Settlement 80 miles north of Perth.

Left to right, Daisy, Gracie and Molly, as depicted in Rabbit-Proof Fence by Tianna Sansbury, Laura Monaghan and Evelyn Sampi (FILM STILLS)

The girls escaped the next day and began the walk home, navigating the last 800 kilometres by the rabbit-proof fence that stretched north along the Australian desert. They slept in burrows and scavenged for birds’ eggs and lizards to supplement their meagre diet of wild bananas and potatoes. Though Gracie was recaptured en route and sent back to Moore River, Molly and Daisy pressed on, returning to Jigalong after a nine-week journey.

To evade the authorities the family moved further out into the desert, and official attempts to reclaim Molly were abandoned when she turned 16. By the mid-1930s she was married to a stockman, Toby Kelly, and working for the owners of Balfour Downs cattle station in the East Pilbara, where her first daughter was born prematurely. Molly cut the umbilical cord herself with a butcher’s knife and named the baby Nugi Garimara. At her employers’ insistence, however, the child was known as Doris. Since the birth was unregistered, the Department of Native Affairs later assigned her the birth date of July 1 1937.

When Doris was about three, Molly suffered an attack of appendicitis, and the new Commissioner for Native Affairs, FI Bray, saw an opportunity to act. Molly, Doris and Doris’s infant sister Annabelle were to board a train for a hospital in Perth. All three were then committed to Moore River, with Doris in the kindergarten section, separated from her mother and sister by a steel interlock fence.

Yet in 1941 Molly escaped a second time, tracing the now-familiar route of the rabbit-proof fence. Unable to take both her children, she left Doris in the care of Gracie, now a long-standing Moore River inmate.

Transferred to the Roelands Mission Farm near Bunbury at the age of 12, Doris grew up imbibing the philosophy of its Anglican missionaries. “We were told that our culture was evil and those that practised it were devil worshippers,” she wrote. “The blacker your skin was, the worse individual you were.”

Too young at the time of her removal to retain clear memories of Pilbara, she relied largely on accounts from Gracie for an idea of her origins. Aged 18 she became the first person from the mission to qualify for Royal Perth Hospital’s nursing aide training program, before settling at Geraldton with her husband, Gerry Pilkington, and their young children.

Another still from Rabbit-Proof Fence (FILM STILLS)

As a man of one-eighth Aboriginal descent (or “octoroon”), Gerry was exempt from the restrictions imposed by the 1936 Native Administration Act, and his family regarded his choice of wife with hostility. The marriage suffered under the pressure and Gerry turned increasingly to alcohol; meanwhile, Doris yearned to reestablish contact with her mother, but a subsequent reunion at an outback camp in 1962 proved fraught. “It was a godforsaken place,” she recalled. “I was shocked by the poverty and the brutality of the culture.”

In 1981 Doris Pilkington Garimara left her husband and travelled back to Perth to complete her education, studying journalism at Curtin University. Still eager to reclaim her heritage, she moved to Jigalong two years later. It was there, for the first time, that the truth of her mother’s experiences began to emerge, through conversation with her aunt Daisy.

Having verified the facts using official records, Doris began to translate the notes from their evening storytelling sessions into a narrative, and to coax further information from her mother. Meanwhile, she tried her hand at fiction.

Her first novella was Caprice: A Stockman’s Daughter, published in 1991 after it won the 1990 David Unaipon National Award for aspiring Aboriginal writers. Centring around one woman’s attempt to trace her family’s Aboriginal roots, its themes of prescribed identity and the oppression of the Christian value system over the indigenous people were given further emphasis in Follow the Rabbit-Proof Fence, five years later.

The sequel, Under the Wintamarra Tree (2002), described Doris Pilkington Garimara’s experiences at Moore River and subsequently at the Roelands Mission Farm. Her final book was Home to Mother (2006), an adapted version of her bestselling 1996 novel aimed at younger readers.

Molly Kelly died in 2004, aged about 86. Three weeks before her own death, Doris Pilkington Garimara travelled with relatives to the Pilbara region, so that she could say goodbye to the land of her birth.

She is survived by four children, 31 grandchildren and 80 great-grandchildren. Two other daughters predeceased her.

Doris Pilkington Garimara, born July 1 1937, died April 10 2014


Chris Huhne describes Thomas Piketty’s figures as “breathtaking” (Comment, 28 April), but in reality evidence of the devastating social and economic consequences of inequality has been growing for years. What we now need is for those within the corridors of power to take the issue of inequality much more seriously. As such the Equality Trust is calling on all political parties to adopt our inequality test – an explicit commitment in their manifestos that the net impact of their policies will be to reduce the gap between the richest and the rest. Inequality is an issue of increasing concern to the electorate; it must become an increasing concern to politicians too.
Sean Baine
Chair, Equality Trust

• Chris Huhne might be right in claiming “The tide is at last turning against low tax for the rich”, but he should recall the lessons from Labour’s efforts in the mid to late 1970s to tax the rich “until the pips squeaked”. Income tax rose to 98p in the pound but the percentage of income paid in tax by the richest fell, according to research published by David Piachaud of the LSE. At the time, the TUC complained of the steepest rise in taxation in peacetime. The steep rise in taxation hit those on middle incomes hardest, especially those unable to benefit from tax avoidance schemes and similar devices; it was a great boost to the untaxable company car benefit enjoyed by many in the private sector.

Any return to a more progressive tax system should be designed to eliminate as far as possible opportunities for evasion and it should be graduated so that the burden rises gradually throughout the income scale and not as at present where people on far from the highest incomes are hit by top tax rates. It does not mean grandstanding on dramatic tax proposals that are easily avoided by those with the necessary skills or access to such skills.

The problem of rising inequality and declining social mobility is not simply one of weak redistribution via the fiscal system, it also reflects the rising inequality of pre-tax/benefit income; the pre-tax distribution of income derives from matters of social mores, the wage bargaining system, corporate governance of executive pay, the distribution of skills of all kinds and of educational opportunities, the opportunities for offshore investment and income location, and so on. When the Heath government contemplated introducing VAT, a crucial criterion was that it should not be regressive (I did the official analysis that demonstrated it would not be, with zero rating of essentials): how times have changed! They are all amenable only to slow amelioration but there is little evidence that any major political party is prepared to address them, rhetoric apart, in practical terms any time soon.
Malcolm Levitt

• Ha-Joon Chang is surely right that economics involves ethical assumptions (Economics is too big a deal to leave to the experts, 1 May). But economic ideas are also profoundly psychological expressions of differing beliefs about what constitutes human nature. Hence the fundamental political questions also imply asking what the economic psyche is like. Are people ruthless and self-interested? Or are they cooperative and collaborative? Or are they – and here the psychotherapist contributes – capable of being both of these?

What has happened in the human nature wars that characterise economic dispute is that theorists and politicians line up behind one or the other of the two main psychological models on offer. Before economic ambivalence is dismissed as unpropitious from the point of view of moves towards greater equality and social justice, we should note that the more benevolent version of human nature really does exist, can be demonstrated empirically and experienced psychologically in life. This is the version that seems at this particular moment of political time in the west to be demanding greater recognition. In particular – and one repeatedly hears this from clients in therapy – the phenomenon of inherited wealth is once again being challenged and dissected from an emotional standpoint.

It seems that the huge discrepancies in both wealth and income that we are experiencing these days are damaging to everyone, including the very well off – another insight stemming from what is heard in the consulting room.
Professor Andrew Samuels
University of Essex

• Reading the account of Thomas Piketty’s work (Not read it yet?, G2, 29 April) encourages me to draw attention to “donkeynomics”, as the basis of the coalition government’s financial strategy. Donkeynomics involves beating a significant section of the population harder and harder with a big stick, despite the fact that many of those beaten are incapable of running, others already running as hard as they can and, in any case, have no place to run to. At the other end are the tiny minority who have vast numbers of additional carrots given them despite the fact that their basic carrot allowance is more than enough for them to be running at maximum speed already.
Ed Miller
Oakham, Rutland

• Chris Huhne’s assertion that progressive economics is winning the argument may possibly be true in intellectual academic circles but is so not the case among the populous as a whole. Progressive economics is not winning any arguments in the real world. Ask any Barclays shareholder or almost any CEO in the UK. Greed and the pursuit of more money for its own sake is what is driving Britain today and that philosophy seeps down throughout the population, whether rich or poor. It’s been the doctrine that has ruled this country since 1979 and shows no sign of shifting.
Alan Dazely
Horsham, West Sussex

• Equality is not the “natural” state of man; inequality is the persistent state of man. The current crisis of capitalism does not arise from inequality; it arises from a political and corporate failure to allow capitalism to function as its proponents argue that it should function. Simply stated, failing enterprises must be allowed to die, so that capital can be directed to entrepreneurs who can make the best use if it. The oversized banks should have been allowed to go bust, to clear space for more effective entrepreneurs. The banks were not allowed to go bust, because everyone had an interest in maintaining the status quo. Consequently, the rich continue to grow rich, the poor remain poor and the middle gets squeezed more tightly. Things don’t change, because no one has yet identified a sustainable form of equality.
Martin London
Henllan, Denbighshire

We condemn the explicitly racist comments by Ukip member Andre Lampitt, a symptom of a wider issue regarding racism and Ukip which is being challenged by a cross-party campaign (G2, 30 April). Although Ukip has suspended Lampitt pending a full disciplinary process, it has chosen not to describe these comments as racist and instead calls such views “repellent”. This follows the election adverts produced by Ukip attacking immigrants. For centuries, lies have been spread about immigrants taking the jobs of established British communities, from Jewish people in the 19th century, Irish people in the early 20th century, Africans, Bangladeshi, Indian and Pakistani communities in the post-war era through to Polish, Romanian, Bulgarian and east European migrants in the past decade.

This is a cynical attempt to score points prior to the European elections by wrongly blaming immigrants for the cost-of-living crisis for the majority of the population, instead of blaming those responsible for the economy and the welfare of British people. This is whipping up racism and is the sort of climate that breeds hatred and violent racist attacks on Britain’s streets. In the run-up to the European elections we say yes to diversity, decent jobs, housing and living standards for all and no to racism, hatred, Islamophobia, antisemitism and scapegoating immigrants.
Diane Abbott MP, Dave Prentis General secretary, Unison, Mohammad Taj President, TUC, Sabby Dhalu and Weyman Bennett Joint secretaries, Unite Against Fascism, Ava Vidal Comedian

• Nigel Farage likes to present the public facade of a man of the people, full of bonhomie, but behind this image that’s fooled and hooked the sheep who follow him and his cronies, is a megalomaniac who is a hypocrite. He wants to take us out of Europe while he’s earning a fortune on the European gravy train. He’s like a snake oil salesman, only he’s not selling me anything. I’m not Loony enough to believe a word he says. Anyone who believes the words of a dangerous Loony extremist and votes Ukip is a bigger Loony than I am.
Lord Toby Jug
Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire
Twitter: @LordTobyJug

The moving tributes to Ann Maguire (Caring inspiring – and a cornerstone of the school, 30 April) illustrate the massive contribution a classroom teacher can make to a school and its community. In an age where young teachers understandably seek rapid promotion from the chalkface, it’s worth remembering that a unique contribution can still be made by someone like Ann Maguire, who taught in the same school for 40 years.
Stan Labovitch
Windsor, Berkshire

• Sorry, David Bogle, (Letters, 30 April) but ae in dialect Scots isn’t the same as yes. We have aye for that. Ae functions as a question stuck at the end of a sentence to either elicit agreement or to establish if the listener has understood what’s just been said. Ye ken whit ah mean, ae? Canadians also use ae a lot, as do Maine residents. No idea why, the Scottish diaspora perhaps?
Alistair Richardson

• In response to David Bogle’s question “How will the village of Ae be voting on 18 September?” may I suggest in the words of Burns: “Ae fond kiss, and then we sever.”
Gordon Peters

• Never mind how the Scottish village of Ae will be voting, how will Moscow be voting?
Myra Gartshore

• Richard Dawkins (Letters, 1 May) should have criticised Andy Coulson, not your sub-editors, for being ignorant of the difference between may and might. The career journalist and former editor of the News of the World said of his behaviour before being employed in Downing Street: “It may well have meant I didn’t get the job.”
Dr John Doherty
Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire

• It’s been said that a gentleman uses a butter knife even when dining alone (Letters, 29 April).
John Cranston

Most young people would have read the news that the economy was approaching pre-crash levels of growth with a sense of bewilderment (Report, 30 April). For many, times are hard, money is tight and former social norms – such as home ownership or starting a family – seem far off. The chancellor talked up the new growth figures as vindication of his policies. While rising GDP shouldn’t be belittled, in reality the fruits of growth are enjoyed by a narrow, baby-boomer-dominated sector of society. For the rest, particularly those on zero-hours contracts (Report, 1 May), sufficient work is scarce and the cost of living too high. This isn’t a true recovery. More radical measures are needed to solve the issues threatening the long-term health of the UK. Build more homes to lower prices (and rent), thus reducing personal debt of the young. Add engineering, IT and management disciplines to school curriculums and higher education, to equip young Brits with the necessary skills for tomorrow’s labour market. And give businesses financial incentives, such as corporation tax breaks, for hiring under-25s and taking on apprentices.
George Baggaley
Director, @NextGenParty

• The misuse of zero-hours contracts is a scandal the Labour party should address but government action can only be part of the answer as unscrupulous employers and desperate workers will collude to subvert regulation. A big question is why exploited workers feel so desperate and isolated that they do not take an obvious step to improving their conditions, which would be to join a union. If everyone did that it would change the balance of power between employers and employees. Moreover, stronger unions are key to ensuring that regulation is not flouted. No doubt the legal restrictions on unions are only a part of the reason for low membership, but any party serious about improving conditions for low-paid workers should consider alongside regulation, changes to trade union law that could encourage workers to help themselves through collective action.
Margaret Dickinson

• The news that 1.4 million people are exploited in zero-hour contracts is sobering news. Sadly, promises these workers had of help from Miliband-Labour have been broken. Miliband announced last September that a future Labour government would enforce full contractual protection and regularised hours for those employed for 12 straight weeks. After consulting with Norman Pickavance in April, Miliband extended the qualifying period to a full year. Once again, when faced with a choice of listening to the people they’re paid to represent or pandering to the corporate lobby, the Labour leadership does the latter.
Gavin Lewis

• Suzanne Moore is spot on in her analysis of the government and its Help to Work scheme for the unemployed: ministers are shameless and this scheme is nothing more than punishment for people who, for the most part, have no control over their situation. Being 60 years of age, I’ve experienced some obnoxious governments proudly implementing damaging policies in my time but this lot strike me as the most callous of the lot. To borrow a line from The Outlaw Josey Wales, they think they can get away with pissing down your back and telling you it’s raining.
Tony Clarke

Zoe Williams’s article (Is misused neuroscience defining early years and child protection policy?, 27 April ) brought much disappointment and dismay. The author misrepresents the current state of knowledge of how experience impacts the developing brain. First, it depended heavily on popular press accounts of brain development rather than the scientific literature. Second, contrary to the author’s assertion, there is abundant research from both animals and humans that many aspects of postnatal brain development are heavily dependent on experience, and in many cases, these experiences must occur during a critical period in order for normal development to occur.

For example, infants born with cataracts or who are born deaf must be treated within the first 1-2 years of life if they are ever to develop normal vision or hearing. Moreover, normal language development depends on exposure to language during the first years of life.

Finally, my colleagues and I have clearly shown that infants experiencing profound neglect in the first months of life show dramatic changes in their brain development. Only infants removed from such neglect and placed into families within the first two years of life appear to show adequate recovery. You do a disservice to your readers by presenting such a glib perspective on how experience impacts brain development.
Professor Charles A Nelson III
Professor of pediatrics and neuroscience, Harvard Medical School

The Woolf report was not a landmark penal reform (The rise of the jumbo jail, 30 April). It was a liberal report that raised some issues in the wake of the Strangeways disturbance. However, the report was undermined on the day it was published when the then home secretary announced a raft of policies that were intended to strengthen the system of discipline and control inside, rather than recognise the brutal conditions and violence that led to the disturbance.

Nearly 25 years after Strangeways, it is no surprise that the present government, and its Labour predecessor, is following a path that, despite the emphasis on the so-called rehabilitation revolution, is likely to intensify the desperate circumstances in many prisons faced by prisoners and staff trying to do a good job. Woolf failed to deal with a range of issues at the time, and it is that failure, as well as the naive but politically expedient policies pursued by successive home secretaries, that has led to the current dire situation. It is a situation that requires a radical transformation in the use of prisons in this country in order to avoid the possibility of further disturbances in the future.
Professor Joe Sim
School of humanities and social science, Liverpool John Moores University

• I was interested to read Billy Bragg’s sensitive and insightful comments, along with his colleagues (Letters, 29 April). I have worked as a mental health professional for many years and practise as a psychotherapist. I recall working with a young man who attempted to hang himself with a metal guitar string. We set on a plan whereby he would teach me to play the guitar. I was never competent – even as a young man. However, it did allow us to bond through my incompetency and I believe we both benefited – perhaps because of my failure to learn a skill which came easily to him.

In recent years, I have worked with people who have experienced hardship because of life events and government policies. While low motivation is a barrier to change and well-being, I have found those with music backgrounds benefit significantly from a renewed sense of meaning and purpose permitted by an absorption in creative discussions about their chosen interest.

We need to have something other than contesting with life’s difficulties to feel alive, well and productive. This may be achieved through art, poetry and music, in fact, whatever allows a person to feel purpose and a sense of personal value. I hope this contributes to the debate and thank Bragg and others once again.
Dr Alun Charles Jones
Visiting professor in psychotherapy, Chester University

• So Chris Grayling aims to cut the cost of prisons, ignoring the adverse reports of the G4S prison (Report, 30 April). There is a way of reducing the cost of prison and reducing reoffending rates: stop short-term sentences. Many prisoners have no education, little home life, and no job. They come and go to prison through swinging doors. Prison staff cannot provide education in short-term situations. Individuals leave prison no more likely to succeed than they were. Community service teaches them something and gives them an opportunity to avoid another prison term.
Eric Depper
Stakeford, Northumberland

• The justice secretary, Chris Grayling, describes the ban on books being sent to prisoners as a vital security measure (Former political prisoners fight book ban, 23 April). The apartheid government, an extremely security-conscious regime, allowed me (and others) to receive books while serving a term in the 1960s for opposition to its policies. As a result I obtained a degree by correspondence, which led to my being allowed to study for a second degree at St Catherine’s College, Oxford – a step on the way to a happy and useful career as a university lecturer in Liverpool.

Apart from that, the worlds created by Jane Austen, George Eliot, Elizabeth Gaskell, Charles Dickens, DH Lawrence, Henry James and many others made five years endurable. I know others benefitted too. Some books were refused us by security, but that was rare. Is the coalition aiming to make the UK prison system more reactionary than apartheid’s or contemporary Russia’s? Or is it that Grayling fears prison monitors will be unable to spot a hacksaw, syringe or cannabis leaf slipped into a copy of a innocent-seeming novel?
David Evans
Wallasey, Wirral


I think I’ve finally rumbled Ukip’s cunning plan. I’ve been puzzled by all those seemingly stupid and bigoted pronouncements we’ve been hearing from Ukip activists. Surely anyone with any common sense would keep quiet about such views.

But now the strategy seems obvious. These so-called “renegades” are picking up votes from the BNP, and from those for whom the overt racism of that party was unappealing but who are happy to have someone who promises to curb the flow of alien invaders who are driving down wages and stealing their jobs.

At the same time, Nigel Farage works overtime to cultivate the beer-tippling, fag-smoking man-of-the-people image while also taking care to retain his no-nonsense, anti-regulation, anti-EU city-slicker credentials that appeal to the ultra-Conservative, Thatcherite fringe among Tory voters. It’s a winning combination.

And there was me thinking that these Ukippers were just a load of mean-spirited bigots pining for the days when Britain was a proud nation not afraid to stand alone and take on all comers. How wrong can you be?

Francis Kirkham, Crediton, Devon

Every second day brings fresh evidence of the racist ugliness at the heart of Ukip. Yet, confronted with the outrage over the remarks of William Henwood, Andre Lampitt and others, Nigel Farage briskly dismisses “a few bad apples” and “Walter Mittys” before bleating about establishment-led witchhunts, with not an apology to be heard to the many offended by the rancid, simple-minded opinions of his associates.

How is such inquisition so unacceptable? As a warrior righteously fighting the cynicism of the political classes, surely Mr Farage will agree it’s only proper to hold up to scrutiny all who aspire to public office. In the case of Ukip, such examination is doubly important, since the party’s vetting procedures clearly can’t distinguish outspoken, arguably misguided yet essentially decent individuals from the objectionable bigots who appear more and more to comprise the party’s rump.

It is worrying that national support for the party is rising, despite – or, even more depressingly, because of – the obnoxious views of so many of its advocates.

Richard Butterworth, St Day, Cornwall

The claim repeatedly made by Ukip that most of our laws are made by the EU treats legislation such as the Financial Services Act or the Same-Sex Marriage Act as equivalent to a regulation on the sale of cabbages. If legislation is assessed in this way, why not throw in every local authority bylaw?

The significance of laws does not depend on the quantity of words used, but on what the words say. To pretend otherwise is nonsense.

John Eekelaar, Oxford

The  attempt to brand Ukip as racist has not decreased support for the party. The probable reason for this is that most people who agree with Ukip know that they are not themselves racist and therefore see through the smears.

Robert Edwards, Hornchurch, Essex

Don’t blame churches for ‘archaic’ blight

I read with dismay your article (26 April) on chancel repair liability (CRL). This was variously described as “parishes enforcing archaic laws”, “an evil and unfair liability” and “a blight on housing”.

CRL is a side-effect of Henry VIII asset-stripping the monasteries. The monasteries had previously had responsibility for ensuring that certain church chancels were kept wind- and water-tight. The King cannily ensured that those who received the stolen monastic land also took on the CRL.

Almost 500 years on, some of those lands are still in the hands of the original families. CRL has been a known fact of life for generations. However where fields have been subdivided, and houses built, then the CRL passes on to the new owners. Purchasers’ solicitors are supposed to be able to identify such liabilities. If a purchaser does not trust the solicitor to get it right, it is possible to purchase insurance against an unsuspected liability being discovered.

CRL is not new; nothing has changed since Henry VIII’s day. The only new factor is that parishes have been required to register CRL or lose it when the land is next sold.

In law, CRL is a charity asset. A church council which fails to register CRL has in effect given this asset away. In the worst case, church council members could be held personally liable for the loss which the church has suffered.

If you want to blame someone for the present situation, then I would suggest a list that includes a rapacious monarch, incompetent solicitors, and a government which wants national heritage preserved but is unwilling to pay for it. But don’t blame church councils; they are doing an outstanding job in the teeth of unjustified vituperation.

The Venerable Paddy Benson, Archdeacon of Hereford

Gove’s botched  free-school crusade

The dismissal by Elizabeth Truss, the schools minister, of your article about the scandal of free-school places (letter, 29 April) smacks of desperation, as it seems to rely on the assertion that free schools are “wildly popular” with parents.

They aren’t wildly popular with Ofsted though. The failure rate of new free schools is running at three times the national average. In addition, some 79 per cent of state schools are rated good or outstanding by Ofsted, yet only 68 per cent of free schools reach that standard.

Free schools are a very expensive ideological experiment introduced by the Secretary of State, Michael Gove, based on the Swedish model. It is obvious that the Swedish model is failing badly and children’s education is being put at risk both in Sweden and in the UK.

I fear that the writing is on the wall for this botched crusade and after the May elections Mr Gove will be moved on. He will leave behind a disjointed and largely unaccountable system.

Simon G Gosden, Rayleigh,  Essex

Elizabeth Truss’s abuse of statistics is a cause for regret, at the least.

She says: “24,000 are attending free schools”. This from a school population of over 6 million represents less than 0.4 per cent. She then states that the DfE is devoting 28 per cent of the department’s capital expenditure to the schools educating 99.6 per cent of children and 8 per cent to schools educating  less than 0.4 per cent. Extraordinarily, she states that as if it was a positive.

From my experience of working in the Department for Education, I would assume that the figures have not come from its professional statisticians, or, if they have, Elizabeth Truss has been very selective in the statistics provided to her that she has chosen to use.

It is more likely that her “special advisers” have provided the figures and obvious slant – if this is the case then she needs to get rid of them if she wants to do her job properly.

Roy Hicks, Bristol

Was this ever a truly Christian country?

So now, according to Lord (Rowan) Williams, this is a post-Christian country. But there is still that attempt to lead us back to Christianity, as we are told that we are still affected by the legacy of Christian influence.

Any study of our history makes it hard to claim that this was ever a truly Christian country. It may, for some time, have been a church-attending country, in the days when one  man owned one or more villages, and the peasants had to go to church or risk losing their cottages and livelihood. Even in my lifetime I knew someone who was forced to make this choice.

The Industrial Revolution began the decline of this system, but it was a very long time dying. The result is what we see today. As science and technology progress, the country can only move further away from religion.

Whether that is good or bad will long be debated.

Bill Fletcher, Cirencester,  Gloucestershire

Heritage  industry

Helen Clutton (letter, 29 April) asks what is the “Cornish way of life”.

Some years ago, a regular pub customer of mine was bemoaning the dire economic state of his home county, and he firmly believed that the Cornish should revert to their traditional industry, for which they were well known.

When I asked what it was he replied: “Smuggling.”

Pete Henderson, Worthing,  West Sussex

Three generations, one wedding dress

Reading your fashion article on bridal dresses (28 April) I was once more amazed at what women will pay for a one-day outfit.

My mother was married in 1945 in a dress costing £9 and 10 shillings. I wore it for my wedding in 1988 and my niece looked very fashionably retro in it for hers in 2009.

Mary Evans, Reading


Sir, Last week my husband was at a packed barber’s in Gainsborough, a small town which has lost its main industries and is surrounded by farmland. Whichever party is in government, none seems to know what it is like to live in this sort of community. All the other men in the barber’s were planning to vote Ukip for precisely the reasons which Tim Montgomerie outlined (“Ukip voters aren’t racists. They’re in despair”, May 1).

The Rev Pam Rose

Willingham by Stow, Lincs

Sir, So far we have had two leaflets about the European election candidates in the Eastern Region — both from Ukip. No wonder they are winning support.

Kay Bagon

Radlett, Herts

Sir, Some are surprised that Ukip’s support keeps up despite racist remarks by party members. Perhaps this is because there are many people to whom such thoughts sometimes, if only in their less considered moments, occur and they are mildly amused rather than repelled when they are told that someone has expressed them.

David Pitts

East Molesey, Surrey

Sir, Tim Montgomerie overlooks the fact that there are racist elements within Ukip along with a large number of misfits climbing onto a media-sponsored bandwagon. Would they be more or less honest than existing MPs or is their selection process foolproof? We may not understand globalisation but it is an unstoppable fact with or without our influence. Likewise, the western migration of peoples will continue regardless of borders. Ukip has nothing to offer, and to send MEPs who don’t vote or participate in debates is surely stupid.

Mr K Wollaston

Bramley, Surrey

Sir, It seems illogical to me that Ukip, a political party which detests the EU, is so eager to join the European Parliament.

Richard A McLellan

Lochgilphead, Argyll

Sir, It is most amusing to hear politicians from the main parties tying themselves in knots when trying to answer the question “is Ukip racist?” This is why politicians are so distrusted — they cannot give straight answers to straight questions. Mr Farage, on the other hand, has little difficulty in doing so, hence his popularity with ordinary people. He speaks like we do.

Alec Gallagher

Potton, Beds

Sir, It is ironic that Ukip sees Patrick Mercer’s resignation over cash for questions as an electoral gift, when its own deputy chairman, Neil Hamilton, left both the Commons and the Conservative Party for the same reason.

Duncan Heenan

Sir, I will vote Ukip because Nigel Farage says it as he sees it, and what he says rings true with ordinary people. The press judges everything by the current PC, health and safety, human rights liberal standards that make me and the majority of people who are turning to Ukip despair.

If you want to dissuade us from voting Ukip stop twisting the facts to make headlines, stop putting the human rights of others before ours, and return the EU to a trading relationship.

Aidan Pickering

Penwortham, Lancs

While the drugs’ effects are debatable in mild cases, they are more effective as severity increases

Sir, Depression can be a debilitating and lethal illness. Medication is a vital part of the treatment of the severest cases. Successful treatment with antidepressants definitely does not do “more harm than good” as you report (Apr 30).

We do not dispute that these drugs are of potentially less value for mild depression, but their effectiveness is maintained as the severity of the depression increases. Is that true of psychological treatment or exercise?

Depression is serious: 6,500 people commit suicide each year in the UK. Many of them are never offered antidepressants, and the blanket condemnation of antidepressants by Professor Peter Gøtzsche and colleagues will increase that proportion.

Professor David Nutt

Neuropsychopharmacology Unit, ICL

Professor Stephen Lawrie

Division of Psychiatry, Edinburgh

Professor Sir Simon Wessely

Royal College of Psychiatrists

Dr Seena Fazel

Legislation for intellectual property rights must adapt itself to the challenges of the digital era

Sir, In its lobbying on behalf of the creative industries, the Alliance for Intellectual Property (letter, Apr 28) neglects two considerations.

Intellectual property rights are a form of monopoly, and in assessing their appropriate extent government must balance the need to secure a fair return for creativity, innovation and risk-taking against the desirability that the largest number of people should enjoy the fruits of that creativity as soon and as cheaply as possible.

The benefits to creativity and the economy from a restrictive approach to IP may be outweighed by the benefits of enabling new ideas to be relatively freely disseminated.

Second, in the digital age it may no longer be sensible even to try to sustain the historic enforcement of intellectual property rights. Existing legal and policing systems cannot cope with a world of file-sharing, 3D printing and the Internet of Things, in which replication is easy at low or zero marginal cost.

It is time to consider a different system for rewarding innovation. Perhaps governments, on behalf of consumers, rather than consumers themselves, should pay royalties to innovators. Intellectual property rights are a necessary evil which should be kept to a minimum.

Lord Howarth of Newport

House of Lords

Our coins and notes are increasingly expensive and inefficient in the era of the debit card

Sir, Surely it is time to phase out notes rather than coppers (“Cash was king, but debit cards rule now”, Apr 30). Apart from the need for loose change what is the point of cash now we are so used to plastic?

Apart from the cost of producing the notes there is the need to guard and insure them. The black economy would be almost destroyed, saving a fortune in lost income tax and VAT. Mugging would be reduced, saving police and court time and costs as well as making the streets safer.

Dr Gerald Michael

London NW7

Sir, The 18 billion 1p and 2p coins account for 62 per cent of all coins in circulation. They weigh 97,000 tons, equivalent to an aircraft carrier. The high commercial and environmental costs of manufacturing, bagging and continuously transporting them easily outweigh their total face value of just £245m. The time has come to remove all copper coinage from circulation, which has become a burden to private and public purses alike.

Bob Duffield

Cheltenham, Glos

Sir, With a purse full of coins I tried to pay my usual £4 at Totteridge and Whetstone station NCP car park, before noticing the charge had gone up to £4.10. Signs on the machine said it would not accept 10p, 5p, 2p or 1p coins, so it is almost impossible to pay the correct amount using cash. A sneaky new way to get people to pay by card?

Linda Zeff

London N20

He is the pope everyone forgets – perhaps it is time to remember his courageous leadership during the great war

Sir, With the papacy and the First World War in the news, perhaps it is time to remember Pope Benedict XV. Elected in 1914, he died in 1922. In his Apostolic Exhortation of July 1915 he urges the leaders of the nations to stop the horrible slaughter of the war. The French called him the German Pope and the Germans called him the French Pope. The British bishops disowned him. Would that today’s Muslims had a leader this brave.

Richard Seebohm


The Devon youth who got into fisticuffs with the future Kaiser in 1878 received a handsome payoff

Sir, You report that Alfie Price was given 30 shillings by the future Kaiser’s attendants in 1878 (“Devon boy starts WW1”, Apr 30).

Yes, that sum would be expressed as £1.50 in our decimal system, but its value in 1900 would be nearer £160. Not bad for two weeks as a beach attendant. My first pay, in 1961, was
£7 a week.

Warwick Faville

Badingham, Suffolk


SIR – I was interested to read Rupert Christiansen’s remarks regarding the possible effect of the Ukrainian situation on the UK-Russia Year of Culture exchange programme.

In my 50 years of experience in dealing under Anglo-Soviet, and now Anglo-Russian cultural agreements, there has never been any cancellation by either side of any major cultural event, even during the worst period of the Cold War. One exception was the visit of the Red Army Ensemble to the Royal Albert Hall in 1968, during the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia. But even then, the visit by the Russian State Orchestra went ahead.

The public is disinterested in the nationalities of great artists; it is only concerned with the artists’ performances. At least both governments realise this.

Victor Hochhauser
London NW3

SIR – So Nigel Farage, the leader of Ukip, declines to stand for Patrick Mercer’s seat. Of course, there is the danger that he might have won and then he would have had to take politics seriously.

Charles Holden
Lymington, Hampshire

SIR – There may be many Conservatives who are disappointed that Nigel Farage will not stand in the Newark by-election, although I was left undecided as to whether I would have voted for him.

However, he has attracted a lot of support because he has the guts to speak out on certain matters of Government policy that are troubling the electorate, such as immigration and the European Union’s interference in many aspects of our day-to-day life. By doing this, he highlights the ineffectiveness of the Coalition.

I hope David Cameron takes note.

David Hartridge
Groby, Leicestershire

SIR – Despite his misdemeanour, may I congratulate Patrick Mercer for the dignified manner of his departure from the Commons. What a contrast with some of his colleagues, such as Maria Miller.

Sqd Ldr G A Walsh (retd)
South Rauceby, Lincolnshire

On the money

SIR – I read that the 0.8 per cent rise in GDP is disappointing.

On the contrary, I find it very encouraging. It is the ability of the financial forecasters that I find disappointing.

Norman Freedman
Northwood, Middlesex

Stonehenge solution

SIR – The answer to the Stonehenge dilemma is obvious. Build the tunnel, put the eastbound traffic in it, and use the whole surface road for the westbound: double the capacity, and you still have the view one way.

Cynthia Harrod-Eagles
Northwood, Middlesex

Penicillin’s creator

SIR – I was delighted that Tom Chivers gave the credit for developing penicillin to Howard Florey and Ernst Chain, and not to Alexander Fleming.

I was lucky enough to work in Prof Chain’s office at the Biochemistry Department, Imperial College, in the mid-to-late Sixties. It was during this time that he was knighted in recognition of the part he played in the research of penicillin. He had also, of course, won the Nobel Prize with Florey and Fleming, and this meant a huge amount to him as it was more personal and unexpected.

What a fascinating and clever man. It was a huge privilege to work for him (typing up his lectures and making his endless travel arrangements) and for his lovely wife, Dr Anne Beloff-Chain.

Lorna McGuire
Kirkton, Aberdeenshire

Square leg meal

SIR – I have recently bought a new pair of cricket whites. The trousers have a label attached which reads: “Mould prevention germ proofing. Do not eat”.

I have endured some pretty indifferent teas over many years of provincial cricket, but even I would draw the line at eating my own trousers.

Julian Todd
Frinton-on-Sea, Essex

Thriving churches

SIR – I agree with Lord Kenyon about returning churches to their former place at the centre of rural communities. But this is equally true of those in towns and cities.

I am the incumbent of one of the most historic churches in Britain: St John the Baptist, Chester. On May 10 and 11 we are holding the annual Living History Fayre and on June 28 the Minstrels Court, which includes a ceremony dating back to 1203, when I will once again license the Cheshire Minstrels to ply their trade without being arrested as rogues and vagabonds. And all this is taking place alongside weekly recitals and four major orchestral concerts by our own orchestra.

On June 21, like Lord Kenyon, I will make a PowerPoint presentation about the importance of St John’s in the history of England and Wales. We would do more if he had the funds and the volunteers.

Rev David Chesters

Digging for the Allies

SIR – I was interested to read your “Britain at war” for April 25 1944 – “US and Canada better fed than Britain”.

During the war, the Ontario government formed the Farm Service Force for high school students to work over the summer. Camps were set up in southern Ontario from Toronto south-west through the Niagara peninsula. Our school exams were at the end of June, but if you worked on a farm for the whole summer and had the recommendation of your teacher you could pass your year without taking your exams.

We started by picking asparagus in April and ended with apples in September. We worked 8am till 5pm six days a week for 27 and a half cents an hour. I didn’t know the results of our hoeing, weeding and picking before now. I was therefore delighted to see that the Combined Food Board emphasised the “importance of the increased shipments from Canada and the US compared with pre-war”.

Ann Brown
Orpington, Kent

Charcoal compost

SIR – Christopher Lucy wants to use the residue of “small powdery charcoal pieces” from his barbecue. May I suggest he incorporates them into potting compost, especially when it is used for house plants. They absorb the toxic salts that build up in the compost.

Paul Harrison
Terling, Essex

Technology and fair tax for entrepreneurs

SIR – The environment for setting up, running and selling businesses in Britain has never been better.

Technology is having a huge impact in disrupting traditional businesses and providing a wealth of opportunity for the agile, entrepreneurially minded business to run rings around larger competitors.

There are plenty of attractive tax initiatives for businesses and entrepreneurs, and red tape is insignificant compared with other developed countries.

Guy Mucklow

SIR – I suspect that the apparent rise in self-employment has a lot to do with people taking commission-only sales jobs, for which they have to register as self-employed. The person turning up on your doorstep to sell home improvements is being paid nothing, let alone the minimum wage. They incur all the expenses, from petrol to paperclips, while the company they represent takes no risk.

Not only is this unfair, it is also responsible for dubious practices used to gain business on the doorstep.

J J Hawkins

SIR – A business run by an entrepreneur incurs many taxes, not just income tax and capital gains tax. Firstly, the entrepreneur has risked his or her own money to start the business. Further to that, should the business grow to a size where it has a £10 million turnover and £5 million wage bill, it will have contributed £2 million in VAT and at least £1 million in PAYE and NI. That is before any further tax is paid on the profits.

Entrepreneurs are wealth creators, not just for themselves but for the Treasury and employees. To receive a small reduction on the personal tax burden is not an unreasonable request.

Andrew Holgate
Woodley, Cheshire

SIR – You report that the 15-year-old boy accused of killing the teacher Ann Maguire was a fan of the video game Dark Souls 2. It’s tempting to believe this explains everything, but we must avoid making snap judgments when it comes to murder.

Video games such as Dark Souls 2 are now played so widely among young men that it is statistically very likely that any young male killer will have a connection with violent video games.

Asking if he plays a violent video game is like asking if he wears clothes. The connection is statistically meaningless.

Iwan Price-Evans
London SW1

SIR – The key issue here is how many times we miss the red flags. We don’t need metal detectors or increased powers to search pupils. We need to increase understanding and use the knowledge that we have to prevent such tragedies occurring before teenagers reach their tipping point.

Dr Rosemary Taylor
Green Hammerton, North Yorkshire

SIR – The revelation that the boy who allegedly stabbed to death his teacher had struggled to come to terms with the break-up of his parents’ marriage raises the issue of whether there can be a link between broken homes and juvenile crime. The Government should pass legislation to encourage the creation of more stable families as a practical way of reducing juvenile crime, which often leads to adult crime.

When I was a serving Metropolitan Police inspector during the Eighties, one of my responsibilities was to mete out official cautions to juvenile delinquents whose crimes did not merit a court appearance.

These cautions took place in the police station charge room in the presence of a parent or guardian. Almost invariably, these pathetic youngsters were from one-parent families, and it was usually the tearful mother who turned up to stand alongside her child.

I suggested to my superiors that statistics be recorded on whether or not juvenile criminals came from broken homes so that a database could be compiled for use by sociologists. The idea was rejected on the grounds of political correctness.

John Kenny
Acle, Norfolk

SIR – Every time there is a death in tragic circumstances, countless bunches of flowers are propped up against a fence only to die and leave a mess for someone to clear up.

Would it not make more sense if the thousands of pounds spent on flowers were donated to the bereaved families?

Neville Landau
London SW19

Irish Times:

Sir, – It is difficult to argue with the logic employed by Judge Martin in reaching his conclusion regarding the non-appropriateness of a custodial sentence for the Anglo Irish bankers Whelan and McAteer.

However the age-old debate about justice not just being done but being seen to be done continues. I recall, not so long ago, a man getting six years for a garlic-for-apples scam. This was reduced to two years on appeal. I believe the public would perceive the Whelan and McAteer convictions to be more serious than the garlic-for-apples case and they will therefore see a serious sentencing imbalance.

Justice not being seen to be done inevitably leads the public to believe there are different standards in sentencing. Whether this is true or not will be the subject of continuing debate until the perception is dealt with head on. Yours, etc,




Co Louth

Sir, – The people blame the banks, the banks blame the regulators and the regulators blame the Government. I am not suggesting that the Government should blame the people to complete this circle of culpability, but behind closed doors they might well do. We must all accept some responsibility for what happened in Ireland in the 1990s. Everyone, from taxi drivers to judges, bought into the bubble and gambled on rising property values. Most people bet and most people lost. We should stop looking for scapegoats and move on. Yours, etc,


Longford Terrace,


Co Dublin

Sir, – If we apply the criterion of the prevailing culture of the time to the non-jailing of the two Anglo-Irish executives, as suggested by Jane Kinsella (Letters, May 1st) then Judge Nolan’s decision was really not a surprise.

But just because events reflect the culture of a particular time that does not make them right. There’s a lovely saying from an old classic court case movie called The Winslow Boy, in which Robert Donat, as the solicitor acting for the boy, who has been accused of stealing in school, says “Let right be done.” Was right done here? I don’t think so. Yours, etc,




Co Donegal

Sir, I’ve no doubt that Gearóid Ó Loingsigh (Letters, May 1st) didn’t get away with misdemeanours during his youth on the grounds that “he made me do it” or “I didn’t know it was his”. Nor of course would he have deserved to as it is likely that he would have been aware of his wrongdoing. He would not have been advised on the matter by his parents or led into sin by an infirm aunt gently reassuring him on the matter.

Mr Ó Loingsigh also looks forward to Judge Nolan absolving “petty criminals” on the grounds that their motives were not based on greed. Such a notion entirely misses the point of the judgement, which was that the accused not only understood that their actions were entirely legal but also had at least tacit approval from the regulatory authorities. There is no doubt that the Anglo debacle is a less than glorious period in our history but Judge Nolan in his judgment demonstrated the wisdom of Solomon in this politically charged spectacle. Yours, etc,


Loreto Grange,


Co Wicklow

Sir, Regarding the outcry at the lack of a prison sentence for the Anglo-Irish bank duo, I think it would be wrongheaded to see this country as perverse, preposterous and dysfunctional. Rather we need to look at what we excel at and capitalise on it. We offer blue chip premium impunity, and with the right marketing, Ireland could be a world class white collar crime haven.

We could attract Russian oligarchs, African despots, a swathe of the European business class and a raft of top drawer international bankers. Within a short timespan, Ireland could overtake New York and London as a major financial centre. In addition to impunity we can offer top drawer golf courses, first rate country clubs and seven star hotels and restaurants.

Getting the right tone is key; obviously we are not, in any way, shape or form, condoning or accepting blue collar criminals. They will be dealt with in the usual manner: crisply, expeditiously and harshly. Let’s all put our shoulders to the wheel and make this happen. Yours, etc,


Drumcondra Park,

Dublin 3

Sir, – An old English verse quoted by GK Chesterton would seem to fit the bill: “The law locks up the man or woman / Who steals the goose from off the common / But leaves the greater villain loose / Who steals the common from the goose.” Yours, etc,


Fremont Drive,



Sir, – If legal precedents are anything to go by, then Judge Nolan has set a very unhealthy precedent at the trial of the former Anglo Irish bankers. A pair of defendants were found guilty by a court of law, yet they receive no punishment of note. An arm of the state was severely negligent in its supervisory role and yet all of those culpable are either still in plum jobs or are retired on large pensions. It would be easy to infer from Judge Nolan’s decision that in the case of a crime that involves too many people, to the extent that to punish those in involved would damage the State, the best outcome is to let sleeping dogs lie. Yours, etc,


Sandyford View,

Blackglen Road,

Dublin 18

A Chara – It would appear that in Ireland only the most naive and unambitious of thieves gets sent to prision. So, a word of advice to the petty criminal: aim higher, dream bigger and walk tall! Is mise,


Cashel Road,


Dublin 1

Sir, – It is politically extraordinary and certainly disgraceful that the ambassador of Israel to ireland, Boaz Modai (Letters, April 30th), refers to the government of a neighbouring state as “the squalidly corrupt Palestinian Authority”.

This language clearly reflects the political situation now that Israel has decided to withdraw from the so-called peace talks. Everyone knew that those talks never had any chance of success after Binyamin Netanyahu said at their outset that he agreed with the concept of a two-state arrangement, but only one where the Palestinian state had no controls over its borders, no military, no air space or foreign relations, and where no Palestinian would be allowed to return to the property he once owned.

It is indeed difficult to understand why the Israelis are so arrogant and treat the Palestinians as dirt, keep moving into their territory contrary to international law, and taking over their property which Mr Netanyahu readily admits they once owned.

The Jewish race has made enormous contributions to cultural, scientific and artistic activities in the world since time immemorial despite terrible persecutions, but in Israel, their record of human rights persecution of the Palestinians is simply appalling.

It is a great pity that the Israeli government did not listen to the world-renowned Jewish violinist, Yehudi Menuhin when, on being awarded the Wolf Prize some years ago by the Israeli government, he said in his acceptance speech in the Knesset: “The wasteful governing by fear by this government, by its contempt for the basic needs of life, the steady asphyxiation of a dependent people, should be the very last means to be adopted by those who know only too well the awful significance, the unforgivable suffering of such an existence. It is unworthy of my great people, the Jews, who have striven to abide by a code of moral rectitude for some 500 years.” Yours, etc,



The Friends of Bethlehem

University in Ireland,

Mount Eden Road,

Dublin 4

Sir, – You have simply got to hand it to Mr Boaz Modai for his sheer brass neck. The right of return of Palestinians to their lands, with which they have direct, family and recent ownership connections, is “absurd”; while the immigration of Jewish people from the remotest corners of the world into Israel and the occupied territories is not only acceptable but actively encouraged.

And where are all these new Jewish immigrants to be accommodated? Why, on the occupied lands from which Palestinians have been removed of course. You may call Mr Netanyahu many things, but stupid isn’t one of them – he could give lessons to Cromwell himself on the subject of land occupation.

Mr Modai refers to certain Arabs within the Israeli state. During our centuries of occupation by our now friendly neighbour, we had in Ireland a category of people known as “Castle Catholics”. Perhaps Mr Modai could ask one of his Irish acquaintances to explain the meaning of the term. Yours, etc,


Dove Cottage,



Co. Kilkenny

Sir, – Due to a lack of context Simon Carswell’s report on the breakdown of the Middle East peace talks (“Israeli talks deadline expires with no deal”, April 30th) misses an important point.

In the penultimate paragraph he asserts: “The latest talks stalled after Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu suspended negotiations last week following the pact agreed between the Palestine Liberation Organisation and Hamas, the Islamic militant group with which Israel refuses to negotiate.”

While most of what he says is factually accurate, Mr Carswell omits making any reference to the reason behind Israel’s decision to withdraw from the talks – the Hamas Covenant [aka Hamas Charter] which explicitly calls for the destruction of Israel. Yours, etc,


Hillcourt Park,


Co Dublin


Sir, – Recent reports from the Fine Gael parliamentary party have TDs announcing that the Minister for Health is now looking at the option of a third tier within universal health care to cover those who would traditionally have received discretionary cards.

I believe the Minister when he says he wants to see an end to a two-tier health care system. I just didn’t realise this would be achieved by adding another layer to an increasingly complex system. Top-down planning without the involvement of family doctors is not going to benefit anyone (certainly not the patients).

If the Minister would engage with family doctors, as happens in the UK, we have the solutions to many of the problems UHI is encountering. We share many of the same aspirations as the Minister, namely that healthcare should be on the basis of medical need rather than ability to pay. Personally I find it immensely saddening that the Minister and his department don’t see the wisdom of involving us in their planning.

The list of reasons not to sign the flawed draft under-six contract grows by the day, the latest being that medical insurance companies have expressed concerns that certain clauses within the document are not insurable against. I have not met a single doctor who intends to sign this document and worry about the patients who will automatically be removed from my list when this legislation is enacted.

Unless there is a silent cohort of my colleagues who intend to sign it, they may have to travel far to access medical treatment or indeed may have to present to A and E. They will certainly lose their ability to chose their doctor. All of this could be addressed if the Minister would engage properly with primary care. Yours, etc,


Baile Atha Luimnigh,

An Uaimh,

Co na Mhí

Sir, – Now that An Post has issued a stamp to commemorate Brendan Behan is it not time to remember another Irish literary personage, Francis Ledwidge, through the issue of a stamp or perhaps in some other way?

The timing for such a commemoration would now be very apt. This was a man who brought together in his life and in his writings all the strands of the celebrations and commemorations of events of 100 years ago that we are now marking.

His life and work encompasses the fiirst World War, the place of an ordinary Irishman in the British army, nationalism (he was a member of the Irish Volunteers), his trade unionism, his patriotism, his work with the Gaelic League and his love of the environment. In these diverse activities he was associated with all shades of political opinion in Ireland.

His support for Irish independence and his horror at the execution of the leaders of the 1916 rebellion can be seen in his poems “The Blackbirds “ (an allegorical elegy for the poets of 1916) and “Lament for Thomas McDonagh”.

The Garden of Rememberance at Islandbridge carries lines from the English poet Rupert Brooke . Would it not be fitting that lines from our own war poet could also be carried there?

In his poem “In Memoriam Francis Ledwidge” another great Irish poet, Seamus Heaney, covered some of the elements of the emotions and characteristics of Ledwidge in the lines “In you, our dead enigma, all the strains / Criss-cross in useless equilibrium”. The poem concludes: “You were not keyed or pitched like those true-blue ones / Though all of you consort now underground.”

Francis Ledwidge was killed in action in 1917 aged 30. Yours, etc,


Knockmaroon Hill,


Dublin 20

Sir, – I presume that too much exposure to American news agency copy accounts for the following headline atrocity on yesterday’s (May 1st) Science page: “Each of us likely has a Neanderthal ancestor”. Or perhaps the headline writer has never come across the word “probably”. A likely story. Yours, etc,


Vernon Park,

Dublin 3

Sir, – The changes to laws concerning mobile phones and driving are welcome, but lives have been saved thanks to mobile phones being in cars that happened upon accidents. I recently witnessed a truck driver reading a book he had on his steering wheel. Perhaps the law could be extended. Yours, etc,


Pococke Lower,


IriJuly 28 will be the 100th anniversary of the start of World War I in 1914. It’s through the stories of individuals that we can see the war’s impact.

Also in this section

Breaking the old rules in a quest for new politics

Country needs to grow up and eliminate political nepotism

Finding hope when troubled by doubts

One recent article I read was on John Joseph Kennedy from Dingle, Co Kerry, who became a priest around 1905 after studying at All Hallows College in Dublin. By 1908 he was working in Australian parishes with great sounding names like Wangaratta and Yarrawonga. In December 1915, at the age of 32, he enlisted as chaplain with the Australian army.

His unit went to Egypt for training and was sent to its first battle at Frommells in northern France in 1916. Some 2,000 men in his division were killed, and there were 5,300 casualties. Fr Kennedy’s sight and hearing were damaged from heavy cannon blasts as he sought to rescue wounded men who had gone over the top. For his bravery he received the Distinguished Order Medal.

I have read of how the young Irish priest had to walk over corpses trodden down in a sea of blood 5hand mud and that the thunder of the machine gun fire barely drowned out the anguished cries of the wounded all around him. An Australian soldier with him said he was a legend in how he raised the morale of the men.

He returned to Australia after the war where he wrote and staged a play, ‘Advance Australia’, which did not delight those who saw Australia as being part of the British empire.

He supported Ireland’s War of Independence. He became Rector of Myrtleford and stayed in Australia until ill-health saw him return to Ireland.

In 1929 he accepted a diocesan position in Georgia in the US and stayed there until his death in 1957 aged around 74.

Around 200,000 Irish men from North and South enlisted, with about 60,000 killed and many others wounded.

It was a war that everyone hoped by its end in November 1918 would never reoccur in Europe in any way.

A new book entitled ‘Blackpool to the Front’ by Mike Cronin (€11.99, Collins Press) looks at how the war affected the Cork suburb of Blackpool from where over 300 men enlisted.




Judge Martin Nolan had some very critical things to say about the regulator and the regulator’s office. The judge seemed to think that the regulator was to blame for not warning off the Anglo Irish directors from loaning money to buy Anglo Irish shares. Yet no action is contemplated against the then regulator, Patrick Neary, whose known performance during this activity was so inadequate.

Any doubter of that statement should play back Mr Neary’s television statement in which he said the Irish banks’ financial situation was solid some three weeks before Anglo Irish collapsed. Mr Neary received a pay-off of €630,000 and is receiving a pension of around €120,000 per year.

Should we allow Mr Neary to keep his pay-off money and large pension after the collapse of the country’s financial stability?

I hope the proposed banking inquiry will look at bringing in laws to ensure people in future are not rewarded for performing so poorly.

Certainly, pension law should be reviewed to ensure this happens. I also suggest testimonies given on the basis of faulty memories should only be accepted on medical certification. If these two points were enshrined in law maybe the country might get something worthwhile from the billions burned in this fiasco.




It must be election time again.

Every unsuspecting lamppost and pole in the country seems to receive the unsolicited attention of sitting, incoming and outgoing MEPs and local councillors as they engage in the quinquennial pole/poll dancing competitions.

It seems that the primary objective of the dancing festival is to grab voters’ attention with well airbrushed performances and portraits in the hope of gaining precious first-preference votes in the local and European elections every five years.

Surely the need for such an activity of poster poll dancing has seen its day in the blogging, Facebook and Twitter age.

Maybe it would be all the more interesting and environmentally friendly if election candidates blogged, tweeted and twittered, recited and maybe occasionally sang their best lines for the right to receive the number one spot on our ballot papers.




I wish to respond to your report on April 28 last entitled ‘White defends free under-six GP care as sick lose medical cards’.

Your correspondent, Eilis O’Regan, begins by stating that I had “defended (my) decision to allow medical cards be taken from young people with Down syndrome while giving free GP care to the children of doctors”.

Neither I nor the HSE nor anyone else has ever made a decision to allow medical cards to be taken from any specific patient group or category.

A decision to centralise applications for medical cards was taken in 2009 and put in place across the whole system in July, 2011. In accordance with the legislation, decisions on eligibility to a medical card (including those awarded on a discretionary basis) are based on the overall financial situation of the applicant and not on whether he or she has a particular illness or medical condition.

The medical card scheme has been means-tested ever since the 1970 Health Act. The medical condition of an individual applicant is taken into account by the HSE only insofar as the condition has an impact on their financial means.

The means test applies to all applicants with or without a medical condition. The consequence of this is that only some children with a condition such as Down syndrome are entitled to a medical card, ie, those whose means are below the income limits set out in the HSE’s income guidelines.

I want to change this. My goal is to ensure that no child should have to pay a fee in order to see a doctor.

The Government intends to replace the means-based system with a universal system whereby everyone has access to their GP without fees at the point of use.

For as long as we have the current flawed system in place there will always be deserving people, including children, who find themselves outside the income guidelines.

With regard to medical cards awarded on a discretionary basis, it is true that some people have had their cards removed because they are above the income limits.

It would be much better if no one ever lost their card. Until such time as we can implement the new system, we have to apply the existing law, under which almost two million people qualify.




Paddy O’Brien (Letters, April 30) writes with the typical self-assuredness of the atheist when he declares that ‘God only exists in our minds’. Where is the “scintilla of evidence”, which he accuses believers of not having, to support his viewpoint?

He then goes on to compare humans and animals as being the same. Actually, humans do differ in one important way – our ability to think rationally.

There is plenty of evidence to support the existence of God; just no proof.

If Mr O’Brien would like to research this evidence, offered by some of the greatest scientists, philosophers and theologians, then he should consult the works of John Blanchard, John Polkinghorne, Alistair McGrath, John Collins, Keith Ward, Anthony Flew and many others.


Irish Independen

sh Independent:

Sore feet

May 1, 2014

1 May2014Sore feet

I go all the way around the park listening to the Men from the Ministry: Our heroes face a terrible fate helping the farmer Priceless

Mary both of us very tred my feet very sore

Scrabbletoday, Mary getsnearly350Perhaps Iwill win tomorrow.


William Ash – obituary

William Ash was a Texan ‘hobo’ turned Spitfire pilot who became celebrated for his numerous failed attempts to escape from Stalag Luft III

William Ash being greeted by Canadian Prime Minister, Mackenzie King, on his return from a dog fight in 1941

William Ash being greeted by Canadian Prime Minister, Mackenzie King, on his return from a dog fight in 1941  Photo: BANTOM PRESS

6:15PM BST 30 Apr 2014


William Ash, who has died aged 96, was the real-life “cooler king” of Stalag Luft III, said to be one of several sources for the character Virgil Hilts, played by Steve McQueen in the film The Great Escape; his escape attempts became celebrated – over the wire, through it with cutters, through the gates in disguise as a Russian slave-labourer, and, especially, via tunnels. If he never succeeded, it was not for want of trying.

Ash crammed several lifetimes of adventure into his 96 years. Even in Stalag Luft III he stood out. While most of his fellow-officer inmates in 1942 were from well-to-do British backgrounds, Ash was a former Texan hobo who had swapped his place in a Depression-era cattle car for the cockpit of a Spitfire.

Stalag Luft III

William Franklin Ash was born on November 30 1917 in pre-oil-boom Dallas, Texas, where he remembered, as a boy, the townsfolk gathering in wonder to stare at the city’s first traffic light. His father, a spectacularly unsuccessful salesman of ladies’ hats, was, as Ash recalled, “forever having his automobile, on which his livelihood depended, carted off by the repo-men, like a cavalryman having his horse shot from under him during a rout”.

Almost from when he could walk, Bill contributed to the family finances by doing odd jobs or selling magazine subscriptions door-to-door . Later his work ranged from shelf-stacker to cub reporter for the Dallas Morning News, where he remembered staring at the bodies of Bonnie and Clyde in their bullet-riddled getaway car.

Gradually he managed to save enough money to put himself through school and through college at the University of Texas (Austin). An exceptional student, he graduated with top marks in Liberal Arts, despite doing multiple jobs .

But as he emerged from university into the Depression, jobs were scarce. He found employment as a lift operator at a bank, where he bumped into a former professor who, horrified, asked if the bank realised he was an honours graduate. “Yes,” Ash replied, “but they’ve agreed to overlook it.”

Ash soon took to the road, joining hundreds of thousands of other men riding the rails from town to town looking for work. The experience of sharing what little he had with others in hobo shanties on the edge of nondescript towns all over the Midwest was one that sharpened his sympathy for the underdog as well as making him handy with his fists.

By the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939 Ash’s travels had taken him to Detroit, where he became involved in a punch-up with some early supporters of the American Nazi movement. As the United States was still neutral, he walked over the bridge to Canada and enlisted in the Royal Canadian Air Force — a move which would cost him his US citizenship. “I tried to explain that I was not so much for King George as against Hitler,” he recalled, “but they didn’t seem to care much at the time.”

After training as a pilot in Canada, Ash arrived in Britain in a troopship in 1941 and saw action in No 411 Squadron, flying Spitfires over occupied France as well as defending shipping over the Channel. He also flew escort on the ill-fated bombing attack on Scharnhorst as she sailed up the English Channel in broad daylight.

During his time as a Spitfire pilot, Ash, who gained the uninspired but persistent wartime nickname of “Tex”, featured in publicity drives aimed at encouraging the united States to enter the war and more Americans to go to Canada as volunteers in the meantime. Once, returning from a sortie, he found a portly gentleman in a suit being helped on to the wing of his Spitfire. Flashbulbs popped, and he later discovered his visitor was McKenzie King, Canada’s wartime Prime Minister.

Ash’s luck ran out while he was returning from bomber escort duty over the Pas de Calais in the spring of 1942. With his plane shot full of holes and his gun button jammed, he could do nothing but turn into his attackers to minimise his profile as half a dozen Focke Wulf 190s took it in leisurely turns to try blowing him out of the sky. He recalled continuing to press his gun button and shouting “Bang! Bang!” — to no avail. Forced to crash-land near the small village of Vielle Eglise, he was helped to escape by a Frenchwoman who had been widowed earlier in the war.

With the help of the Resistance he made his way to Paris, where he was holed up for several months . But, instead of hiding , he sauntered out into the streets as an American tourist , visiting art galleries and even the local swimming baths. The Gestapo soon arrested him and took him to the notorious Fresnes Prison, where he was beaten and tortured. Shortly before he was due to be executed, however, he was “rescued” by a Luftwaffe officer who was fearful of reprisals against downed German pilots in Britain if Ash were shot as a spy.

William Ash in 1942 still sporting the bruises from the Gestapo

Arriving in Stalag Luft III, Ash became firm friends with the Battle of Britain veteran Paddy Barthropp, with whom he made several escape attempts. During the first of these, they hid in a shower drain in the hope that they could escape after lying low for a few days under the shower huts, fortified with a supply of “The Mixture” – a high-energy mix of chocolate, dried fruit and oats donated by the prisoners from their Red Cross parcels . When they were discovered they decided the best they could do was to stop The Mixture falling into enemy hands. They were eventually hauled out with chocolate-covered faces and given two weeks to digest, locked up in solitary confinement in “the cooler” .

Though Ash was usually swiftly recaptured, his numerous escape attempts won him the admiration of his fellow prisoners, and it was as a tunneller that he found his true vocation. On one occasion, after he had been sent to a camp for recidivist escapees in Poland, he and a Canadian pilot led an escape bid involving the digging of a tunnel extending several hundred yards from under a stinking latrine to beyond the camp perimeter. They managed to break out, leading the way for 30 other prisoners, but all were eventually recaptured and Ash was returned to Stalag Luft III.

On another occasion Ash staged a daring climb in broad daylight over two barbed-wire fences between machine-gun towers to reach a neighbouring compound where a group of prisoners were being shipped off to a new camp in Lithuania, which Ash thought might offer better prospects for escape.

When he got there, he helped to dig another long tunnel and this time made it all the way to the Baltic coast. There he found a boat, but was too weak from hunger and exhaustion to drag it down the beach alone . He spotted some civilians digging a cabbage patch nearby and tried to enlist their help — only to discover that they were off-duty German soldiers . He swiftly found himself back in Stalag Luft III.

Ash was still in the cooler when his comrades made the great tunnel bid that became known as “The Great Escape”, but he was released in time to hear that many of his closest fellow would-be escapees had been shot on capture on the direct orders of Hitler.

Bill Ash, top right with book under his arm, and fellow PoWs – Bill Stapleton, top left, and Paddy Barthropp, front left, in 1942

He finally escaped in the dying days of the war in Europe in 1945 when, after a long forced march in the snow, he walked through a battlefield to freedom.

Back in Britain Ash was appointed MBE, awarded British citizenship and went up to Balliol College, Oxford, on a veteran’s scholarship, to read PPE. He then joined the BBC, working alongside a young Tony Benn, who became a lifelong friend. Sent to India as the Corporation’s main representative on the subcontinent, he was influenced by Nehru’s brand of socialism, and by the time he returned to Britain in the late 1950s his politics had solidified into a hard-boiled Marxism. He became involved in Left-wing “street politics”, including the post-war anti-fascist movement, but his late-blooming revolutionary tendencies eventually proved too much for the BBC, which fired him — though he managed to cling on to freelance employment in the Radio drama department as a script reader .

Beginning in the 1960s, Ash wrote a series of novels, including Choice of Arms and Ride a Paper Tiger. Politics, however, remained his chief interest. Finding him too quirky and individualistic, the Communist Party rejected his application for membership, and he co-founded the Communist Party of Britain (Marxist-Leninist). He also brought his academic background to bear on the subject, publishing a study entitled Marxist Morality .

In later life Ash served for several years as chairman of the Writers’ Guild of Great Britain and helped to encourage young writers through his work as a script reader for BBC Radio and later as literary manager at the Soho Poly theatre. His book How to Write Radio Drama remained the best on the subject for more than 20 years.

In 2005 Ash’s wartime memoir Under the Wire (written with Brendan Foley) became a bestseller and enabled him to enjoy, at the age of nearly 90, some late-found celebrity.

Bill Ash’s first marriage, to Patricia Rambault, was dissolved. He is survived by his second wife, Ranjana, and by the son and daughter of his first marriage.

William Ash, born November 30 1917, died April 26 2014


I hope I am not alone in joining Michele Hanson’s protest (A certain age, 29 April). I also boycott the self-service tills in supermarkets and the newly installed cash machine in our local post office. The tube strike may be a temporary inconvenience but who wants to be in need of assistance or information underground with only a machine to turn to? We need people to help and serve us, not machines, and these businesses need us paying customers. If all the jobs are gone, who will pay for goods and services? Machines don’t have disposable income; nor can they be relied on when power cuts strike.
Susan Cooper
Sheerness, Kent

• Good. At last a fightback for the BBC (What will happen in 2016?, 26 April). Ian Jack could have put even more emphasis on just how much BBC repeats contribute to the output (and revenue) of the whole of Freeview: it can shoulder long-term investment and helps to seed new formats; it provides a pool of talent and training for the UK industry as a whole; that industry would be swept away if the BBC was not there to protect and provide. Forget ideology: only a fool would destroy the goose that lays the golden eggs.
Ginnie Cumming

•  It’s shocking that, since the first refuges opened and developed great services for women and children fleeing domestic violence, many have been taken over by corporate organisations and have lost their feminist values (Saved by a phone call, 29 April). They are now largely homeless hostels for women and children, suffocated by policies and procedures that have eroded the humanity described by Jenny Smith in the article. With cuts to women’s domestic violence services and refuges across the country closing, we are moving backwards.
Janet Thomas
Canterbury, Kent

• ”Tape may have cost me No 10 job, says Coulson.” But it didn’t (Andy Coulson admits No 10 job doubts, 29 April). Please teach your sub-editors the difference between “may” and “might”.
Richard Dawkins

• As readers continue their search for What (Letters, 28 April), they might like to visit Mundesley (Norfolk), Tewkesbury (Gloucestershire), Wednesbury (West Midlands), Thursby (Cumbria), Fridaythorpe (East Yorkshire), Satterthwaite (Cumbria) and Sunbury (Surrey).
Tim Roberts

Ukip’s posters for the European elections have been criticised as xenophobic, but many find them convincing. Photograph: Oli Scarff/Getty Images

Ukip has made immigration the main issue of its European election campaign (The problem isn’t racism – it’s the oligarchs of Brussels, Simon Jenkins, 30 April). The trap for pro-Europeans is thinking that hostility to immigration comes and goes with every economic boom and bust. Immigration does not go far enough to explain Ukip’s rise. Nigel Farage’s success would not be possible without the elephant in the room that is the European Union itself.

Ukip arguments about the EU permitting uncontrolled immigration taking jobs, damaging public services and driving down wages are flawed and dangerous. But they are also understandable, impassioned and above all convincing. They answer, in a negative way, the very simple question: what does the EU do for us? Europhiles need to answer this for a public that has lost trust in the EU. Not with obscure figures on potential investment or jobs which can be argued over. It needs to be an argument of pure politics. What does membership of the EU say about Britain? This requires a serious re-evaluation of the mission and role of the EU, as well as into its institutions and powers. A bloated and undemocratic commission forcing the democratically elected government of a country into a period of crippling austerity which it did not vote for, in order to preserve an unworkable currency union, cannot really complain that its people do not feel connected to it. It is time for those who believe in it to demand a better Europe.
Councillor Sean Woodcock
Leader of the Labour group on Cherwell district council

• The Guardian’s suprise that Ukip is successful shows the gulf between the Westminster village and the rest of the country. Discontent over the austerity-dominated politics of a well-heeled political elite and the real life of ordinary people has been obvious, but is not a factor in political calculations as the debates in the Commons demonstrate. No better illustration could be found than Monday’s vote on HS2. The three main parties were united in a cosy consensus, and appear completely unaware that this is a project that has no popular support at all.

But perhaps they do. The lack of anything as elementary as a planning inquiry, plus the suppression of the most recent internal government report into the project, indicates politicians have no intention of letting the public in on the act. It is a gift to Ukip. Here in Staffordshire, while the Labour-dominated council in Stoke-on-Trent embraces the project in a desperate attempt to find a miracle cure for its economic problems, the anti lobby gains support across the political spectrum. However, it is only Ukip that is translating this into votes. Across austerity-dominated Europe, the gap between the political elite and the population is growing. But only in Westminster do the politicians plan to spend huge amounts of taxpayers’ money on a vanity project that will only benefit the wealthy.
Trevor Fisher

• As if the rise of Ukip is not bad enough, a former Labour home secretary advises caution in challenging the racism on which its vision of Britain is built (Cross-party campaign to brand Ukip as racist, 29 April). Compromising on key issues because of electoral considerations is precisely why Farage’s motley crew has risen as far and as fast as it has done. Take them on, spell it out, and don’t just hope that something will turn up. The major parties have shown that they are ready to work together to defeat the SNP’s drive for independence, and they should now sink their differences in a popular front against the poisonous policies which Farage and Ukip promote – immediately.
Les Bright
Exeter, Devon

• If it is racist it must be called racist. The Ukip leaflet delivered to my house was racist (not to mention sexist – the Ukip list here is all male). I have friends living in France (both “British” and “French”), in Bulgaria (“British” and “Bulgarian”), as well as Spain (“British”) and Italy (“Italian”). I have friends in Wales (“Welsh” and “English”) and Scotland (“Scottish”). I have no friends or acquaintances living or originating in the West Midlands, Yorkshire or Cornwall. Why should I be more involved in political issues in those English regions than the places where my connections are? Do you need to know my ethnicity to answer the question?

The EU is a reality and an amazing achievement. We are part of it and we must protect it and develop it. Nationalism is an invention of people who want a fight. Localism is no better. Those of us who don’t want more fighting must oppose nationalism as rigorously as we oppose racism. Promoting governance that is not nationalistic is more difficult than promoting “they are not the same as us” messages. Opinion formers like Mr Jenkins need to work harder at the task.
David Sands
Royston, Hertfordshire

• Ukip is against immigration, not immigrants, which may explains why the biggest supporters of Ukip’s immigration policy are immigrants themselves. A survey on immigration by the Searchlight Educational Trust (Report, 26 February 2011) showed that a majority of Asian and black Britons want all immigration to the UK to be stopped permanently. In addition, 60% of Asian and black Britons agree with the statement that “immigration into Britain has been a bad thing for the country”; and that multiculturalism has done more harm than good to social cohesion.

Since opposing immigration and multiculturalism do not necessarily add up to racism – if they did, immigrants would not be opposing them – how can Ukip be called a racist party?
 Randhir Singh Bains
Gants Hill, Essex

• Has the Migration Matters Trust considered that its campaign may produce the opposite effect from that intended? From the casual everyday antisemitism that’s so common, through Islamophobia to the anti-Europeanism expressed not only by Ukip but by many in all classes and the abhorrent views of the BNP and other groups hostile to people of colour, Britain is a profoundly racist nation. Stigmatising Ukip may well drive many to support it as reflecting their own views and the perceived need to “defend Britons and the British way of life”.
Robert Shearer
Winsham, Somerset

• Don’t the main parties realise:  accusing Ukip of racism is counterproductive? They thrive on the anti-immigration platform. Much better to attack them on the negative effects of withdrawal from the EU, which the Treasury calculates as worth between £1,100 and £3,000 a year to each household in the UK.
D Craig

• Your campaign against Ukip has been so successful up to this point, can we have a campaign against voting Green?
Charles Harris
Green party candidate, Frognal and Fitzjohns ward, Camden

• Those who urge caution with regard to a cross-party campaign to brand Ukip as racist are correct. If Ukip does achieve anything like a 30% vote later this month, by no means all of these people can possibly be racists. Many will have come to the conclusion that none of the three main parties are listening to their concerns on a whole range of issues. Moreover, by what they have done and what they have failed to do, the three parties have completely lost the respect and trust of the electorate and thereby forfeited their votes. I have somewhat reluctantly come to the same general conclusion, but instead of Ukip will look in the other direction, and will therefore hope for a Green candidate to vote for on 22 May. I hope many others will do the same. If, by what they will surely be told by voters during the campaign, by a low turnout and by the outcome of this election, the three main parties still don’t get the true scale of this disenchantment, they have only themselves to blame. Negatively and aggressively chasing after Ukip is lazily missing the point. It will not provide any new positive reasons for voting for any of the main parties.
John Chilton
Goring on Thames, Oxfordshire

• The increasing gap in political cultures between Scotland and England is further evidenced by the latest research on voting intentions for the European parliamentary elections and attitudes to the European Union. South of the border, Ukip is challenging Labour for first place in the European parliament elections on 22 May. In Scotland, the Ukip vote is a third of that in England with it unlikely the elections will deliver any MEPs for Mr Farage’s party north of the border. Some 48% of those surveyed in Scotland would vote to remain in the EU if a referendum was held, compared with 32% who said they would vote to leave. In England , 40% of people say they would vote to leave the EU if a referendum was held, compared with 37% who would vote to stay in.

The results also indicate how national identity plays a key role in voters’ views about the EU, with Ukip support in England strongest among those who identified themselves as being “English” rather than “British”. It is also made clear from the research that “Scottish” identifiers back entirely different parties from “English” identifiers. Such a result clearly highlights the growing political differences between Scotland and England, two nations moving in very different political directions. The independence referendum will determine which road we in Scotland want to follow, to plough our own furrow or remain shackled to a political system whose values we no longer share.
Alex Orr

• The only thing that Guardian criticism of Ukip is likely to do is to persuade a few more people to vote for it on 22 May. Better to look on Farage and co as a challenge for the left. He has built a rightwing populist political presence based on reactionary politics feeding on discontent with how things currently are. Can the left manage to develop a progressive populist appeal to counter this? Support for the Greens and the Trade Union and Socialist Coalition suggests the potential is there. That potential needs to be turned into votes and support on the housing estates and in the workplaces.
Keith Flett

• The victorious democratic allies created three organisations out of the ashes of the second world war to protect our sovereignty (Nato), our personal freedom (The Council of Europe), and to regenerate our economies (what is now the EU). It is tragic that these pillars of our prosperity, security and freedom are now threatened by a new alliance of the far right across Europe; whom millions died to defeat 60 years ago.
Eric Goodyer

• Deep anxiety is being expressed by our political establishment and media over the rise and rise of Ukip. Simon Jenkins is the latest attempt to explain this phenomena. But could the problem be elsewhere? Western geostrategy , backed by the US in Europe, is a large expansion of the EU. Since the fall of the Soviet Union we can see this process clearly, with the farrago around Ukraine. Geostrategy is outside of democratic control; it involves the encirclement of Russia, and the effort to bring all the old eastern European and central Asian territories of the Soviet Union under western political and economic tutelage. The ongoing struggle with Ukraine illustrates western international strategic goals.

The fall out of these global strategies are now clear to see; the rise of right-led political parties across Europe, to re-establish domestic national political purity will continue, as long as the present foreign policy is followed.
Roger van Zwanenberg

• Dumb shots. Especially Labour. Have they forgotten the big mouth, bigger gaffe and unerring stupid superiority vis-a-vis “bigot” in 2010?
J McCarthy

• Good question (No MPs, only one policy. So why has Farage got them rattled?, 26 April). Could it be something to do with the massive amounts of front-page coverage he’s getting from papers like the Guardian?
Jonathan Clatworthy

It’s essential the government uses all available measures to block this American attempt to buy AstraZeneca (MPs to call for investigation into Pfizer’s proposed takeover of AstraZeneca, 29 April). AZ is a strategic company in a strategic sector for the British economy, accounting for 2.3% of UK exports, £2.8bn in R&D, and 7,000 jobs. Pfizer has a bad record in putting short-term business profits before long-term research effort, even though drugs R&D should be what the pharmaceutical industry is all about. It not only notoriously closed its UK research facility at Sandwich in Kent with the loss of 2,400 jobs, but also bought the US drug company Wyeth and cut 19,000 jobs.

It seems to me that Pfizer’s takeover of AstraZeneca has less to do with promoting UK national interests, than with buying a foreign company in order to lower its US tax liabilities on profits earned abroad.

Clearly, Vince Cable is minded to intervene if he has the powers to do so. He does have those powers under the Enterprise Act, which gives him the right to act in the public interest if national security is threatened. It is a plausible argument that the swallowing up of AstraZeneca by a foreign predator for tax reasons is a serious threat to the British economy and to the future of this country, though under EU rules the commission would have to be convinced of this. That shows there is an urgent need to modify the UK legislation to make clear beyond doubt that, where a strategic company or sector is under threat from an unwelcome foreign takeover, the British government has unequivocal powers to prevent it in the national interest. The skill will lie in drafting a general rule that lets through foreign takeovers that do work for the British public interest while excluding others that do not.

The neoliberal rule “Just leave it to the markets to decide” must be abandoned. Under this rubric Britain has already sacrificed far too many of its strategic assets to foreign takeovers – BAA, Pilkington’s, electronic company Smith’s, O2, Rover, P&O, London airports and Cadbury’s, as well as parts of the UK’s electricity, water and steel industries. AstraZeneca is a step too far.
Michael Meacher MP
Lab, Oldham West and Royton

• Just a few months ago AstraZeneca sold its world-class research facility at Alderley Park for peanuts to move to a site in Cambridge that was already considered too small. So what an amazing coincidence that Pfizer, the very same company that is planning to take AZ over, already has two sites of its own there! Maybe it has enough room for the few scientists they want?

In retrospect, this is not just a case of the government standing idly by while all the good jobs head south; it’s standing idly by while another British company disappears into the pocket of a foreign multinational run by accountants who want to avoid paying their tax.
P Sherwood
Congleton, Cheshire

• Further to Peter Hetherington’s excellent article (Making industry’s wastelands workable, 30 April), I looked again at the government’s October 2013 revision of the national infrastructure plan. In section 4.5 of the plan, it announced the establishment of a local growth plan, for local enterprise partnerships to support their local economies, with at least £2 bn a year being made available from 2015 and the LGF allocations being concluded in “growth deals” with all 39 LEPs by July 2014.

As this target date is now only two months away, may we please see a published list of all 39 growth deals? This may give some reassurance about the government’s intention to tackle the problems faced by areas outside London and the south-east.
Robert Oak
Shrewsbury, Shropshire

On May Day 2014, we student union officers and student activists are calling for the release of imprisoned Iranian trade unionist Shahrokh Zamani. On 23 April, Zamani ended a 47-day hunger strike after officials at Gohardasht prison agreed to transfer him to a wing reserved for political prisoners. A member of the Iranian painters’ union jailed for attempting to build independent workers’ organisations, he has also taken action in solidarity with groups including students and oppressed religious minorities. We call for the release of Shahrokh Zamani and all labour movement, student movement and political prisoners in Iran.
Shreya Paudel National Union of Students international students officer-elect
Dom Anderson NUS vice-president society & citizenship
Daniel Stevens NUS international students officer
Piers Telemacque NUS VP society & citizenship-elect, Bradford College SU President
Joe Vinson NUS Vice-president, further education
Hannah Paterson NUS disabled students officer
Sky Yarlett NUS LGBT officer (open place)
Finn McGoldrick NUS LGBT officer (women’s place)
Gordon Maloney NUS Scotland president
Steph Lloyd NUS Wales president
Megan Dunn NUS vice-president higher education-elect
Kelley Temple NUS women’s officer
Shelly Asquith SUArts president and NUS London chair
Omar Raii UCL union external affairs Officer
Rachel O’Brien University of Birmingham Guild of Students
Deborah Hermanns University of Birmingham Guild of Students
Chantel Le Carpentier University of Essex SU president-elect and NUS NEC
Tom Flynn University of Bristol Union VP education and NUS NEC
James Potter Essex University SU VP education
Grace Skelton Manchester SU general secretary
Jamie Green Royal Holloway SU VP communication and campaigns
Kelly Rogers NUS trustee board-elect
Edd Bauer NUS trustee board
Beth Redmond National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts
Tom Rutland Oxford University SU president
Roshni Joshi Ruskin College SU
Robert Eagleton Cardinal Newman College SU
Hamish Yewdall Northumbria SU councillor
Elliot Folan Union of UEA Students
Michael Chessum University of London Union president
Daniel Cooper University of London Union vice-president and NUS NEC-elect
Hattie Craig Birmingham University VP education
Becca Anderson Gateshead College SU president
Kirsty Haigh Edinburgh University Students’ Association VP services
Emma Barnes NUS part-time students representative
Josh Rowlands NUS mature students representative
Jawanza Ipyana NUS NEC disabled students member
Rosie Huzzard NUS NEC
James McAsh NUS NEC
Charles Barry NUS NEC
Peter Smallwood NUS NEC
Rhiannon Durrans NUS NEC
Jessica Goldstone NUS NEC
Chris Clements NUS NEC
Amy Smith NUS NEC-elect
Robert Foster NUS NEC Scotland representative
Afreen Saulat Bath University SU
Chris Pagett Bath University SU
Freya Martin Sheffield Hallam SU
Emma Booth Kent University Labour students chair
Miguel Costa Matos Warwick SU
Roza Salih Vice-president diversity & advocacy, Strathclyde Students’ Association and NUS trustee board-elect
Alannah Ainslie Aberdeen University Students Association
James Elliott NUS NEC disabled students member-elect
Xavier Cohen Environment & ethics officer, Oxford University Student Union
Christopher Rawlinson Harris Manchester College JCR President, University of Oxford
Vonnie Sandlan NUS SEC and NUS NEC-elect
Hannah Webb UCLU external affairs and campaigns officer, NCAFC NC
Helena Mika JCR Secretary, Harris Manchester College, University of Oxford
Abdi-aziz Suleiman NUS NEC-elect
Dario Celaschi President, Stanmore College Students’ Union and NEC-elect
Clifford Fleming Manchester SU campaigns and citizenship officer, NUC NEC-elect and co-chair of Young Greens
Zarah Sultana NUS black students’ committee and NUS NEC-elect
Andy Forse Milton Keynes College SU
Kelly Teeboon Liverpool Students’ Union womens’ campaign officer

We represent organisations and individuals involved on a daily basis in the provision of residential care for older people (Report, 28 April). We are horrified at the revelations in the BBC Panorama programme of the abusive behaviour shown by staff at the Old Deanery towards the older residents in their charge. There is never any excuse for abuse or poor practice and it is a wake-up call for all those involved in delivering care, from commissioners to regulators to providers, to work together to ensure services are of a consistently high quality.

However, this should not be used as a reason to condemn the whole of the care sector. The vast majority of residential care providers provide good, if not excellent care. This is borne out by sector reports, including those of the Alzheimer’s Society, as well as by the findings of the Care Quality Commission. The CQC itself is putting into place a robust inspection process that will focus on the quality of care provided, and that will be evidenced in the good leadership so clearly lacking in the Old Deanery.

The Panorama programme will cause understandable anxiety to the relatives of people who are receiving care and support, and to others considering care options for their families. And there will be many private and not-for-profit care providers who do provide high-quality services who will be concerned because they will be unfairly grouped in the public mind as not meeting high-quality standards.

Our organisations collectively represent thousands of members across the country who are private and independent care providers and who consistently deliver excellent residential care. There are many others out there that do the same. The difference they make to the lives of vulnerable older people should be acknowledged. We are committed to championing the excellent care they provide and to use this as a driver so that excellence becomes the default standard in social care.
Professor Martin Green Chief executive, Care England, Des Kelly Executive director, National Care Forum, Sheila Scott Chief executive, National Care Association, Debbie Sorkin Chief executive, National Skills Academy for Social Care


I think I’ve finally rumbled Ukip’s cunning plan. I’ve been puzzled by all those seemingly stupid and bigoted pronouncements we’ve been hearing from Ukip activists. Surely anyone with any common sense would keep quiet about such views.

But now the strategy seems obvious. These so-called “renegades” are picking up votes from the BNP, and from those for whom the overt racism of that party was unappealing but who are happy to have someone who promises to curb the flow of alien invaders who are driving down wages and stealing their jobs.

At the same time, Nigel Farage works overtime to cultivate the beer-tippling, fag-smoking man-of-the-people image while also taking care to retain his no-nonsense, anti-regulation, anti-EU city-slicker credentials that appeal to the ultra-Conservative, Thatcherite fringe among Tory voters. It’s a winning combination.

And there was me thinking that these Ukippers were just a load of mean-spirited bigots pining for the days when Britain was a proud nation not afraid to stand alone and take on all comers. How wrong can you be?

Francis Kirkham, Crediton, Devon

Every second day brings fresh evidence of the racist ugliness at the heart of Ukip. Yet, confronted with the outrage over the remarks of William Henwood, Andre Lampitt and others, Nigel Farage briskly dismisses “a few bad apples” and “Walter Mittys” before bleating about establishment-led witchhunts, with not an apology to be heard to the many offended by the rancid, simple-minded opinions of his associates.

How is such inquisition so unacceptable? As a warrior righteously fighting the cynicism of the political classes, surely Mr Farage will agree it’s only proper to hold up to scrutiny all who aspire to public office. In the case of Ukip, such examination is doubly important, since the party’s vetting procedures clearly can’t distinguish outspoken, arguably misguided yet essentially decent individuals from the objectionable bigots who appear more and more to comprise the party’s rump.

It is worrying that national support for the party is rising, despite – or, even more depressingly, because of – the obnoxious views of so many of its advocates.

Richard Butterworth, St Day, Cornwall

The claim repeatedly made by Ukip that most of our laws are made by the EU treats legislation such as the Financial Services Act or the Same-Sex Marriage Act as equivalent to a regulation on the sale of cabbages. If legislation is assessed in this way, why not throw in every local authority bylaw?

The significance of laws does not depend on the quantity of words used, but on what the words say. To pretend otherwise is nonsense.

John Eekelaar, Oxford

The  attempt to brand Ukip as racist has not decreased support for the party. The probable reason for this is that most people who agree with Ukip know that they are not themselves racist and therefore see through the smears.

Robert Edwards, Hornchurch, Essex

Don’t blame churches for ‘archaic’ blight

I read with dismay your article (26 April) on chancel repair liability (CRL). This was variously described as “parishes enforcing archaic laws”, “an evil and unfair liability” and “a blight on housing”.

CRL is a side-effect of Henry VIII asset-stripping the monasteries. The monasteries had previously had responsibility for ensuring that certain church chancels were kept wind- and water-tight. The King cannily ensured that those who received the stolen monastic land also took on the CRL.

Almost 500 years on, some of those lands are still in the hands of the original families. CRL has been a known fact of life for generations. However where fields have been subdivided, and houses built, then the CRL passes on to the new owners. Purchasers’ solicitors are supposed to be able to identify such liabilities. If a purchaser does not trust the solicitor to get it right, it is possible to purchase insurance against an unsuspected liability being discovered.

CRL is not new; nothing has changed since Henry VIII’s day. The only new factor is that parishes have been required to register CRL or lose it when the land is next sold.

In law, CRL is a charity asset. A church council which fails to register CRL has in effect given this asset away. In the worst case, church council members could be held personally liable for the loss which the church has suffered.

If you want to blame someone for the present situation, then I would suggest a list that includes a rapacious monarch, incompetent solicitors, and a government which wants national heritage preserved but is unwilling to pay for it. But don’t blame church councils; they are doing an outstanding job in the teeth of unjustified vituperation.

The Venerable Paddy Benson, Archdeacon of Hereford

Gove’s botched  free-school crusade

The dismissal by Elizabeth Truss, the schools minister, of your article about the scandal of free-school places (letter, 29 April) smacks of desperation, as it seems to rely on the assertion that free schools are “wildly popular” with parents.

They aren’t wildly popular with Ofsted though. The failure rate of new free schools is running at three times the national average. In addition, some 79 per cent of state schools are rated good or outstanding by Ofsted, yet only 68 per cent of free schools reach that standard.

Free schools are a very expensive ideological experiment introduced by the Secretary of State, Michael Gove, based on the Swedish model. It is obvious that the Swedish model is failing badly and children’s education is being put at risk both in Sweden and in the UK.

I fear that the writing is on the wall for this botched crusade and after the May elections Mr Gove will be moved on. He will leave behind a disjointed and largely unaccountable system.

Simon G Gosden, Rayleigh,  Essex

Elizabeth Truss’s abuse of statistics is a cause for regret, at the least.

She says: “24,000 are attending free schools”. This from a school population of over 6 million represents less than 0.4 per cent. She then states that the DfE is devoting 28 per cent of the department’s capital expenditure to the schools educating 99.6 per cent of children and 8 per cent to schools educating  less than 0.4 per cent. Extraordinarily, she states that as if it was a positive.

From my experience of working in the Department for Education, I would assume that the figures have not come from its professional statisticians, or, if they have, Elizabeth Truss has been very selective in the statistics provided to her that she has chosen to use.

It is more likely that her “special advisers” have provided the figures and obvious slant – if this is the case then she needs to get rid of them if she wants to do her job properly.

Roy Hicks, Bristol

Was this ever a truly Christian country?

So now, according to Lord (Rowan) Williams, this is a post-Christian country. But there is still that attempt to lead us back to Christianity, as we are told that we are still affected by the legacy of Christian influence.

Any study of our history makes it hard to claim that this was ever a truly Christian country. It may, for some time, have been a church-attending country, in the days when one  man owned one or more villages, and the peasants had to go to church or risk losing their cottages and livelihood. Even in my lifetime I knew someone who was forced to make this choice.

The Industrial Revolution began the decline of this system, but it was a very long time dying. The result is what we see today. As science and technology progress, the country can only move further away from religion.

Whether that is good or bad will long be debated.

Bill Fletcher, Cirencester,  Gloucestershire

Heritage  industry

Helen Clutton (letter, 29 April) asks what is the “Cornish way of life”.

Some years ago, a regular pub customer of mine was bemoaning the dire economic state of his home county, and he firmly believed that the Cornish should revert to their traditional industry, for which they were well known.

When I asked what it was he replied: “Smuggling.”

Pete Henderson, Worthing,  West Sussex

Three generations, one wedding dress

Reading your fashion article on bridal dresses (28 April) I was once more amazed at what women will pay for a one-day outfit.

My mother was married in 1945 in a dress costing £9 and 10 shillings. I wore it for my wedding in 1988 and my niece looked very fashionably retro in it for hers in 2009.

Mary Evans, Reading


Che gelido vino: opera goers picnic on the lawns at Glyndebourne in Sussex Getty Images

Last updated at 5:37PM, April 30 2014

Opinion is divided on whether one should bother to dress up to go to the opera

Sir, Apropos your letters on opera audience dress codes (Apr 26 & 29), may I add that as a septuagenarian who sees in an average year over 40 opera performances in Munich, Berlin, Vienna and Dresden, from the most expensive seats, my attire of short-sleeved black tennis shirt, jeans and boots topped by a linen jacket removed once seated, has never raised an eyebrow of disapproval.

In every venue audiences are invariably friendly and, like me, dressed for comfort. Opera needs enthusiastic informed audiences however dressed, and not serried ranks of black ties.

David T Evans

Sir, Years ago our family was lucky enough to have tickets to a first night at the Royal Opera House. This was a posh do.

My father was hard pressed to get there on time, having to rush home from work to the farmhouse in Northamptonshire where he lived, change into his glad rags and drive quickly down the M1 to London. He made it in time, looking flushed but chic in evening dress. And wellies.

Penny Panman
East Horsley, Surrey

Sir, Oh dear, opera snobbery raises its ugly head again. Wearing black tie is not the only, or the best, way for an audience to show its appreciation of the performers. Joining the company’s friends helps to pay for more works and performances. I am sure most artists do not care what the audience is wearing, as long as there is enough work to pay their mortgage.

As for WNO being some kind of oiks’ alternative, I would rather hear Bryn Terfel singing Hans Sachs with a dedicated, enthusiastic company in its beautiful modern opera house than sit through a dreary overpriced performance in a stuffy theatre with an equally stuffy audience.

Jennifer Latham
Wedmore, Somerset

Sir, I am curious to know how your correspondent (letter, Apr 26) shows appreciation to opera performers by wearing his black tie in the dark, as the house lights will be down when audience and performer are connected. I appreciate the performers by paying for my seat and turning up; I do this at ROH, ENO and WNO on a regular basis, but feel no need to dress up, and have never met a performer who felt applauded by the audience’s apparel.

I go to the opera because I love it, not in order to be seen there. The latter way of thinking only fuels the dangerous myth that opera is elitist.

Ken Millar

Sir, Some years ago I had a similar experience to Charlotte Farris (letter, Apr 29) who was mistaken for a gardener at Glyndebourne.

I was in my clapped-out old car on the way to Glyndebourne to see a production of Carmen with one of Peter Hall’s earlier wives in the lead role. Being young and not much given to forward planning, I decided to stop near Lewes at a pick-your-own place for strawberries to augment my picnic supper.

The sales assistant was chatting to me while taking my money. Noticing my black tie attire — with dinner jacket trousers now muddied at the knees — the assistant asked where I was going. When I said Glyndebourne she immediately asked me what instrument I played. It took me a bemused second or two to catch up with her assumption that I was in the orchestra.

Dr Antony Roberts
St Cross South Elmham, Norfolk

The spirit of Ann Maguire’s effort and contribution must not be forgotten. Her skills deserve credence and respect

Sir, All teachers will have been disturbed by Ann Maguire’s death
and the manner of it (“Boy, 15, stabs teacher to death in classroom”,
Apr 29).

Teacher management, Ofsted and government may tell those threatened and psychologically overtaxed like the schoolmaster-author of “The truth about knives in class” (Times2, Apr 30) and like many others embattled and sorely tried in the same situation that support is always at hand, but the truth is: a teacher is always on his/her own in the classroom.

Long experience tells me that fashionable, so-called supportive panaceas are irrelevant. Ways of doing a demanding, very important job have to be found. The power of a teacher’s autonomous skills deserve credence and respect. The spirit of Ann Maguire’s effort and contribution must not be forgotten.

David Day

Ackworth, W Yorks

The way to stop the slaughter of migratory birds on the island is simply to take your holidays elsewhere

Sir, Many will be grateful to Chris Packham for highlighting the plight of migratory birds in Malta (Apr 28). Perhaps we could help to end the slaughter by all choosing, as I have done, not to go to Malta for holidays.

Bob Macdougall

Kippen, Stirlingshire

We should resist any move by religious radicals to relegate our daughters to “the back of the class”

Sir, Janice Turner (Apr 26) hit the nail on the head. As a nation which has striven to give equal chances to women we should resist any move by religious radicals to relegate our daughters to “the back of the class”. Let’s stop bending over backwards to appease their intolerance.

Joan Marshall

No trunk older than 200 years? The mayor of London cannot distinguish between the wood and the trees, it seems

Sir, Boris Johnson says there is no tree in this country older than 200 years. Perhaps his father, a trustee of Plantlife International, could tell him that this is b******s.

Simon Grey

Grizebeck, Cumbria

Sir, In suggesting that there is no such thing as ancient woodland because there’s no tree in this country more than 200 years old, Boris Johnson shows that he cannot distinguish between the wood and the trees.

Aliena Flores

London SW15

Did the RMT plan to affect every London student’s results at GCSE, AS or A level next week by calling a strike?

Sir, Did the RMT plan to sabotage every London student’s results at GCSE, AS or A level next week by calling a strike as the exams start, or is it just incompetent, failing to realise the importance of these dates?

Lynne Magnus

London NW3


SIR – You report that red deer in the Czech Republic are not straying into Germanyin spite of theborder fence having been removed 25 years ago.

This is not a new phenomenon. Herdwick sheep in Cumbria have been hefted on the hill for centuries; the ewes and their offspring do not stray from the area where they were born. If they are moved, they tend to find their way home.

Neil Stuart
Keswick, Cumbria

SIR – Chris Grayling, the Lord Chancellor, has heralded new cuts to prevent “legal aid abusers” tarnishing the justice system. Specific restrictions were said to be justified to restrict judicial reviews “instigated by pressure groups, designed to force the Government to change its mind over properly taken decisions by democratically elected politicians”.

Today, in a critical report, the cross-party Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights (JCHR), of which I am a member, rejects the Government’s case. We reject, as being without foundation, the premise that judicial review is abused by pressure groups, and we express concern about the role of the Lord Chancellor. Judicial review sees people seek redress for unlawful Government action. Proposals which may limit access should be treated with caution.

Parliament, not the Government, must determine whether these changes are justified. The emerging cross-party consensus suggests that the Government needs to go back to the drawing board lest it cause lasting constitutional harm.

Baroness Kennedy of The Shaws QC
Chairman, JUSTICE
London EC4

Rugby fan segregation

SIR – I am registered as a volunteer for the Rugby World Cup. The idea that rugby fans need to be, or should be, separated for any reason is anathema to the culture and ideology of the sport.

We are not football fans, and never will be. If this goes ahead, I will look at whether I want to be a volunteer – segregation of fans is not what rugby is about.

Dr Sheila Child
Wisbech, Cambridgeshire

SIR – Half the fun of watching rugby is the banter between fans. I remember going to Twickenham to see England play France. When the French side scored a try, a Frenchman seated behind me grabbed my hat, threw it in the air, caught it, and then put it back on my head. We all laughed.

Peggy Alldis
Hildenborough, Kent

To be in England

SIR – Daphne MacOwan doubts Nick Clegg’s love for England. I can assure her that he, like me, has a deep love for England. Perhaps one demonstration of this is that we choose to live in England.

Mike Thornton MP (Lib Dem)
London SW1

Good South African life

SIR – Edward Dale’s sad letter is not a true view of the whole of South Africa. I lived there for many years after Nelson Mandela’s victory, and have seen the country make enormous strides forward. Of course there are problems, as there are in Britain and in America.

I am flying to South Africa today to help my son and wife settle into a new home – they love living in the modern state. The Queen is right to congratulate the country on 20 years of democracy.

Simon Field
Binsted, Hampshire

BBQ remnants

SIR – I enjoy barbecued food, and often cook this way instead of using an oven. Unfortunately, I am left with a sack of small powdery charcoal pieces that stifle the barbecue. Is there a use for them?

Christopher Lucy
Margate, Kent

Justified HS2 fears

SIR – Boris Johnson believes that those opposed to the HS2 rail project are worried only about its impact on property values.

While there will be young people who wish to upgrade their homes, many have no intention of moving. In fact, reduced property values may lower my council taxes and inheritance tax, which will be beneficial to my children.

I assume that Mr Johnson’s new attitude means he is now happy for the expansion of Heathrow to proceed, as his Nimby accusations can apply equally to his and his constituents’ arguments against this far more important investment in our economic future.

HS2 is fatally flawed: it cannot deliver the predicted economic resurgence in the Midlands and North of England.

Bill Price
Great Missenden, Buckinghamshire

Care home choices

SIR – I agree with Sheila and John Murray that recent events bring into sharp focus the intense challenges disabled people and their families face. For disabled people, just getting support to get up, dressed and out of the house can be a battle. Things need to change.

Disabled people are campaigning against old-fashioned services that only provide support if you hand over your right to decide where, and with whom, you live. Some of our care homes are set up that way, so we’re proposing to close them.

Even those with the most complex of needs can make choices about their life. But we know change is difficult. We’re speaking to families so that they can have their say. If we go ahead, we’ll support families to work with local bodies to find alternatives that are right for them.

Richard Hawkes
CEO, Scope
London N7

Archers off target

SIR – Not so long ago, listeners to the Archers were confronted with the tragic death of Nigel Pargetter, having fallen from the roof of his house. Many found that very distressing, especially coming around Christmas, and complaints were made.

Now, when we expected the wedding of the year, Tom jilts Kirsty at the altar – or, more specifically, in the vestry.

Why cannot the scriptwriters provide the listeners with a few happy events?

John Ewington
Blechingley, Surrey

A tunnel past Stonehenge is urgently needed

SIR – Sarah Robinson decries sinking the A303 road into a tunnel “as it will deny travellers a view of Stonehenge”.

For the people who live in this area and endure the year-round misery that this road brings, the last thing we care about is the travellers’ view. This is the only A road into the South West and, for much of the year, it is gridlocked over the single-lane section from Amesbury until the next dual-section 15 miles later, with the Stonehenge stretch nearly stationary for most of the year. The road is intolerable for the hundreds of thousands who use it to go on holiday to the West Country each year.

The single-lane section also has one of the highest fatal accident rates in the country. The situation is a national disgrace, and yet another review by the Department of Transport is worthless without Treasury funding.

When HS2 threatened to upset local Tory constituencies north of London, extra billions were quickly found to sink large stretches of the rail line underground.

We have a local joke that the only way to get this problem solved is to buy George Osborne, the Chancellor, a holiday home in south-west Wiltshire, requiring him to travel there on the A303. If this issue were not so serious, I could almost smile.

Cllr Christopher Devine
Salisbury, Wiltshire

SIR – The rat runs that are becoming infamous make living near Stonehenge more and more difficult. We, and many locals, fully support the tunnel proposal and hope that it won’t be too long before it becomes a reality.

Josie Douglas-Withers
Amesbury, Wiltshire

SIR – I agree with Philip Johnston on Stonehenge: views from the A303 should be conserved.

When tunnelling was last on the agenda, I visited Carnac and learnt of a similar threat of exclusion. There, Breton citizens occupied the visitors’ centre, bound it in rope and fishing nets, and frightened off the fonctionnaires.

Our visit to this amazing site was improved as a result.

Ben Stephenson
Abingdon, Oxfordshire

SIR – Nima Sanandaji is right to say that Britain needs more innovative entrepreneurs. But his advice that government’s only role in this is to cut taxes and “do as little as possible” is not borne out by the evidence.

The hotbed of entrepreneurship in America is in high-tax, liberal California, not the small-government states of the South. California’s businesses have benefited from public research, large government contracts and supportive planning and labour rules. The technology revolution in Israel, whose entrepreneurs Mr Sanandaji praises, owes much to military funding of technology, the excellent technical training many Israelis receive in the army, and government schemes such as Yozma, that kick-started the country’s venture capital industry.

Even in Europe, government need not be the enemy of growth. Mr Sanandaji is unimpressed by the EU’s Lisbon Strategy to boost innovation. But the EU countries that have done well out of innovation, with high research and development rates and fast economic growth, include Sweden, Finland and Germany, whose governments work closely with businesses on research and development, not countries such as Spain, Greece and Italy, whose Governments do not.

Of course, bad government can stifle enterprise and hold back growth, but to assume all government is bad misunderstands how innovation happens.

Stian Westlake
Executive Director of Research, Nesta
London EC1

SIR – Anyone put off by a top tax rate of 45p or capital gains tax of just 28 per cent is not an entrepreneur, just a selfish profiteer.

Enjoying the privilege of living in a civilised society has its costs. None of us likes paying taxes, or the way all governments waste our contributions, but business is about far more than the bottom line or lining one’s own pockets.

Geoffrey Williams

SIR – I was once invited to support a project to develop “entrepreneurship” in local schools, which was being run by the local, well-known business school.

I was told to report to a particular school, where desks were arranged to form a large boardroom table. When the pupils arrived, they were to be allocated to various posts such as chairman, finance director, human resources director and so forth.

I concluded from this that either I, or the business school in question, did not understand the concept of entrepreneur. I did not proceed further with the project.

J R Ball
Hale, Cheshire

SIR – “Entrepreneurialism is difficult to quantify,” says Nima Sanandaji. The simplest test to qualify for this title is to have risked your own money or assets to back your own innovation.

Most others are called managers.

Alan Anning
Crowthorne, Berkshire

Irish Times:

Sir, – For at least five years the public, egged on by politicians, has been baying for the blood of the bankers on the understanding that they were the cause of all the ills that befell our economy.

Hopefully, Judge Nolan’s decision to highlight the role of the regulator in an illegal share support operation will be the start of a new focus on those truly responsible – the Government.

While there may have been some elements of criminality – yet to be fully uncovered – in the actions of bankers, the main reason behind their reckless lending was sheer stupidity. They decided, with the herd mentality that has always been a characteristic of that profession, that there would not be a downturn in the property market. This view was shared by thousands of borrowers and by a political caste which did not want to call an end to the party.

It is the regulator’s job to stand back from the crowd and consider the possible downside of actions taken by bankers, and to rein them in accordingly. Not only, as has been found in this case, did the regulator allow and encourage the Anglo Irish directors to give loans to support their share price, he also – and more damagingly – allowed the banks to build up massive exposure to a single sector of the economy and to relax lending rules to the extent that the smallest shock would inevitably lead to immense bad debts.

It is the Government which is ultimately responsible for failing to ensure that their regulator was competent. But not only did it fail to do so, it also ran the economy in a manner which fostered the banks’ ability to indulge in a lending splurge. Both those in charge at the time of the crash and the new political incumbents have attempted to exonerate themselves by blaming the bankers, and in the process have virtually encouraged reckless borrowers to renege on the debts they took on – at the expense of the taxpayers.

I would award the politicians a gold star for the success of their campaign to divert responsibility from where it really lies. Hopefully the Nolan judgement will mark the beginning of the end of this brainwashing. Yours, etc,


Limetree Avnue,


Co Dublin

Sir, – Surely those who contributed to the financial destruction of the country from their positions in public jobs should not be rewarded for their incompetence. The state pension is all that they should receive, but I will not hold my breath for that measure to be implemented. Yours, etc,


Priory Grove,


Co Dublin

Sir, – I agree with Judge Nolan’s decision not to jail the former directors of the failed Anglo Irish Bank. Our cultural environment at the time of the events contributed to behaviour that perhaps at a different time and in a different place would not have occurred. So what next? Certainly the premises of the regulator’s office should have a dressing down and operate out of some obvious inferior building and thus serve as a constant reminder not only of the financial crash and its impact. We might incorporate a new motto into its letterhead: (Invisible) money makes you mindless. Remember 2007. Yours, etc,


Rochestown Avenue,

Dún Laoghaire,

Co Dublin

Sir, – So, it was a case of “the big boys made me do it”? Or if not the big boys, then perhaps the inadequate boys? The pronouncement by Judge Martin Nolan that one arm of the State could not punish an offence that was encouraged by another State body, namely the financial regulator’s office, disregards the well understood legal principle of “joint enterprise”.

It seems that the much loved loopholes enjoyed by the people who got us into this mess continue to be enjoyed when the State acts to try to hold some to account. Meanwhile, back in the non-loophole world, poor people are threatened with jail with no possibility of excuse if they don’t pay property tax, TV licences or water tax. This is no republic. Yours, etc,




Sir, – Re the non-jailing of the two Anglo-Irish executives, can we take it that ignorance of the law will now be regarded as a mitigating factor in white collar crimes? It certainly doesn’t seem to apply in other areas of our legal system. Yours, etc,


Harbour View,

Wicklow Town

Sir, – So it’s clear. The function of very costly corporate lawyers is to give advice which if found to be wrong will ensure you don’t go to jail for your part in bankrupting a country. No wonder we were, and probably still are, regarded as the “Wild West” of finance. Some times you just can’t help but feel ashamed to be Irish. Yours, etc,


Dunluce Road,


Dublin 3

Sir, – The inaction and/or incompetence of a state agency and its servants is now an excuse for a non-custodial sentence. I look forward to future judgements in relation to memb ers of marginalised communities where surely it can be argued that the State has failed to provide adequate health, education and recreational amenities. Yours, etc,



Co Leitrim

Sir, – When I was a child I never got away with something on the grounds that “he made me do it”, nor with saying “I didn’t know it was his”. When we played football next to a neighbour’s window, the fact that I didn’t kick the fateful shot didn’t absolve me of my collective responsibility. Common sense arguments with a child. However, in the adult world all of this is turned on its head. I am looking forward to Judge Nolan absolving petty criminals on the grounds that their motive wasn’t greed or avarice but feeding their child. But no: one law for the rich and another for the rest of us. Yours, etc,




Sir, – Perhaps the current pause in the farcical Middle East peace talks will finally mean a dose of reality can be brought into the discussions.

There can never be a two-state solution, not because both people can’t live in peace, although the Arabs seem to have more difficulty with the concept of peace than Israelis do, which is probably because of their jealousy at the success of the Israeli state over the last 60-plus years.

The real reason is because the two-state solution has never been credible but no one has had the honesty to point this out. A Palestinian state can never be self-sufficient or sustainable, even if its political class wasn’t corrupt on a scale that would make their African counterparts blush, because the very notion of what would form that state makes it impossible. No state split in two parts the way the proposed Palestinian state would be can be a success.

However, the elephant in the room that no one seems to want to recognise is that the solution is quite easy. Gaza should become part of Egypt and the West Bank should become part of Jordan, the countries which annexed these areas in 1948 anyway, without any objection from Palestinians then. There is no difference between a Palestinian and a Jordanian: they are both from the same tribe. Then full citizenship should be offered to Palestinians in Egypt and Jordan with a set window of opportunity for anyone who wants to move between Gaza and the West Bank before their citizenship is fixed.

The nonsensical right of return policy for Arabs should end because if Arabs can make such a claim, then it stands to reason that all the Jewish people who have been expelled and had their property seized in Arab countries should also have a right of return and receive compensation for their losses. Jerusalem should then be formally split into two, with half in Israel and half in Jordan.

Both sides will have to suck it up and accept compromises on where that line is drawn, with Arabs losing the chip on their shoulder and dealing with the anti-Semitism that is endemic within their culture and Israelis also giving up a few sacred cows, especially among the settler community. They should also forget this voodoo rubbish that God intended them to live in a certain place.

The international community can stump up the costs involved in moving people and businesses where required and providing grants for new communities. The agreement, which should require an explicit recognition of Israel and the right of her people to live in peace, should be ratified in each country by referendum and formally supported by the UN, EU and the Arab League.

Then western aid, which currently disappears into a black hole of Palestinian corruption and never makes it to the people it is intended to help, together with billions from the oil-rich Arab countries, can be used to provide the physical infrastructure and civil society structures each community will need to bed in these changes.

Solving the Middle East crisis doesn’t need a messiah. It just needs a bit of truth-telling to both sides and someone with the guts to admit that the two-state solution was never credible. It’s time to stop wasting everyone’s time and focus on the solution that is realistic and can work. Yours, etc,


Canary Wharf,


Sir, – Boaz Modai (Letters, April 30th) feels that the notion of a “right of return” to lands from which Palestinians were forced to flee in 1948 is “absurd”. Obviously this does not apply to the Jewish diaspora, who continue to return each year to their historical homeland, with which many have only the most tenuous of connections. The fact that Mr Modai is writing in his professional capacity as ambassador of Israel indicates that this is an official position.

I think Mr Modai’s letter tells us more about Israeli attitudes to Palestinian aspirations than his diatribe does about Mr Abbas’s attitude to Israel. Yours , etc,


Linden Avenue,



Sir, – Anne McCluskey (Letters, April 29th) presents a list of practical difficulties associated with teaching young children but fails to mention the one hurdle we have all experienced in many subjects, namely poor quality of teaching. Ms McCluskey is so busy, as she says, putting out bins and unblocking toilets she probably has no time to do her annual staff appraisals. In every profession there are the successful, the less successful and the unsuccessful, and it is this last group which requires the closest monitoring, and if necessary advice and counselling about a career change. Yours, etc,


Ardagh Close,


Co Dublin

Sir, – Higher level or ordinary level leaving certificate maths for prospective primary teachers is not the question. The question is how one adult can choreograph meaningful learning experiences for 30-plus children whose problems may include ADHD, dyslexia, autism and general learning difficulties (this is not an exaggeration) as well as handling the usual mixed range of abilities. Excellent new approaches to numeracy have been developed, approaches which would enable any teacher to be an effective maths teacher and which would break the tyranny of bad textbooks, but quality teaching and learning in maths can only become the norm if teachers have smaller classes and children with special needs have more support. Yours, etc,


Ardmore Park,


Sir, – Ruairí Quinn’s comment that honours maths should be required for primary teachers was on a par with Sheila Nunan’s assertion that it was boys doing honours maths that caused the crash – both seem fairly nonsensical. Yours, etc,


Forest Road,


Co Dublin

Sir, – Once again (report, April 30th) Aosdána circles its wagons and complains about “hostile scrutiny” from the media. This is an organisation that seems to do little except perpetuate cliques and argue shrilly for support from the taxpayer.

It’s good to see one of its number (James Hanley) suggest that there could be better communication about what it actually does. It has certainly, for example, helped many fine artists create full-time rather than dissipate their energies elsewhere.

But how many? Aosdána is often referred to as an Irish equivalent of the Académie Française. It has 40 members from a population of 65 million while Aosdána has 248 members from a population of six million. Yours, etc.


Saval Park Crescent

Dalkey ,

Co Dublin

Sir, – Is there any reason not to believe that the number of distinguished individuals capable of accounting for important output, prestige and making a credible difference to the stature of the arts in Ireland is closer to 25 than 250 persons? Should Mr Deenihan be spending taxpayers’ money more strategically? Yours, etc,


Bellevue Avenue,


Co Dublin

Sir, – In response to Robin Heather’s question about the use of mobile phones while driving (Letters, April 29th) the answer is that it is never safe to use a mobile phone when driving, whether hands-free or otherwise. Repeated studies have shown that holding a telephone conversation while driving is seriously detrimental to concentration. To justify endangering every other road user with the excuse that you have a business to run is simply not acceptable. Yours, etc,


Knocknacarra Park,


Sir, – One of the features of modern professional football is the frequency with which inane comments are touted as though they were pearls of supreme wisdom. Thus when Vincent Browne, who really should know better, quotes Jamie Carragher as saying “If you assemble a squad of players with talent and the right attitude and character, you’ll win more football matches than you lose” you can almost hear football fans up and down the country nodding sagely and commenting “That’s a good point and well made.” Yet it is surely akin to an athletics writer saying “If you are faster than the other competitors you will win more races than you lose.” In this environment Mary Hannigan stands out like a shining beacon in a sea of clichéd mediocrity. Yours, etc,


Seafield Crescent,


Co Dublin

Sir, – Perhaps Conar Dunne (Letters, April 30th.) would be kind enough to let me know where on YouTube he found the concerts from the National Concert Hall in Dublin. I have been unable to find them.

In the meantime he might like to think about this simple comparison. At €9.40 for 20 the cost of a single cigarette is 47 cent. The daily cost of a TV licence is just under 44 cent, for which we get the service of three TV stations (not two as he states), plus the RTÉ radio stations, for which no charge is made. The value of the stations he “doesn’t want” is the same value one attaches to having our own newspapers, which compared to newspapers elsewhere are inordinately expensive. Their “value” is that they reflect us and our own values and concerns, warts and all. Mr Dunne might also consider that the “wonderful concerts” at the NCH to which he refers are given predominantly by the two orchestras and other performing groups (including the RTÉ Philharmonic Choir, the members of which are unpaid), which are funded and managed by RTÉ, from the 44 cent a day that it costs the licence fee payer. Surely all this is worth more than the cost of a cigarette? Yours, etc,



Merrion Road,

Dublin 4

Sir, – John K Rogers (Letters, April 30th) suggests that the number of non-nationals in European rugby club sides should be kept to three or four players. Sad to say, this is not going to happen. At least 10 of the Toulon team that beat Munster were non-French. With professionalisation the game has changed irrevocably and there is no going back. C’est la vie ! Yours, etc,


Beggars Bush Court,

Dublin 4

Irish Independent:

Published 01 May 2014 02:30 AM

* The response of Labour spokespersons to the unorthodox bombshell from Phil Prendergast has not been ‘pathetic’ but ‘bathetic’ – ie, bordering on farce.

Also in this section

Country needs to grow up and eliminate political nepotism

Finding hope when troubled by doubts

Letters: A republic for the people

Unquestionably, Ms Prendergast has broken a key clause in the ‘omerta’ or ‘bushido’ of Irish political parties. It goes back to the days in the 1920s, when deviating from party discipline could, quite literally, be a matter of life and death.

However, we live in very different times. We are still in a life-and-death battle for the survival of this nation – for whatever flexibility in determining our way of life is possible in the 21st Century.

Curiously, despite innumerable lectures from ministers as to how little we, the peasantry and the proletariat, understand the ‘gravity’ of the situation, this Government, its Taoiseach and Tanaiste, have never tried seriously to spell it out and to include us – as mature adults – completely in the struggle.

Grotesquely, the only Taoiseach ever to attempt that was CJ Haughey! Of all people! Even my political soul-guide, Garret FitzGerald, was too busy after he got his seal of office in 1982 to make that politically crucial gesture of inclusion.

If, in the distant past, Irish voters lost the run of themselves and voted emotionally rather than rationally, we have learnt a great deal very rapidly.

But too many of our 20th-Century vintage politicians have learnt nothing.

The polls (and one must always study several polls and the ‘trend’ rather than once-off peaks and troughs) indicate not only that Labour support has slid inexorably towards single figures but that support or tolerance for all three-and-a-third ‘main’ parties could be only barely 51pc.

There is profound disillusion and lack of confidence in our politics. One factor in this is that those parties have not treated us as adults with whom the facts must be shared fully.

The wonderful banquet at Windsor Castle reminded me of nothing so much as Versailles before the 1789 revolution. Of the last paragraph in George Orwell‘s ‘Animal Farm’, in which the animals, (meaning ‘the people’), look through the triple-glazed windows and cannot tell the difference between their old and new masters.

Phil Prendergast and Nessa Childers have broken the old canonical rules but they have pointed the way to a possible new politics – and thus deserve our votes.

Maurice O’Connell, Tralee, Co Kerry



* I’d like to ask a question about Paddy O’Brien’s God-slamming letter (April 30).

Mr O’Brien writes: “Of all the millions of species of life that exist on Earth, man in his present form is a very recent arrival and we represent less than 10pc of all life on this planet; insects represent about 80pc of life here.

“Man has everything in common with animals – he reproduces in the same manner; he must eat, drink and breathe to stay alive; he has the same internal organs as an animal. All life is related, and all living things on Earth, from microbes to elephants and everything in between, will die, decompose and turn to dust.”

Does Paddy’s flanking this simple, widely acknowledged fact with the first line of ‘The Little Book of Atheist Platitudes’, that “Man invented God”, prove that God does not exist?

Or, rather, does it point to some intrinsic order and consistency in nature that is entirely, fundamentally at odds with the commonly held atheist affirmation that the universe, our lives, and everything in them are entirely random, chance events, devoid of meaning and substance?

It seems to me that, far from disproving the existence of something bigger than himself running the show, Mr O’Brien just worked out for himself Aquinas’ ex contingentia proof of the existence of a deity: that of the ordered line through nature which we call God.

Killian Foley-Walsh, Kilkenny City



* The ongoing debate on God in your letters page, for which I thank you, and enjoy, reminds me of an incident in the life of Ballyshannon poet William Allingham.

Circa 1800s, a Ballyshannon newspaper was in danger of closing, and Allingham and a friend began a campaign of writing letters on controversial matters.

The response and counter-responses proved so interesting to readers that the newspaper survived.

Declan Foley, Adelaide, Australia



* With another full month of political promises/waffle/baby-kissing/ posing/backtracking on new taxes and false smiles before the public decides who gets to the new councils and who will board the Brussels gravy train, the fighting and arguing has hit new lows among the parties.

Usually it’s the “know-alls” in each party tearing into the opposition. Now we have the spectacle of the party faithful arguing among themselves and gunning for their own leaders. In the words of S Jerzy Lec: “The only fool bigger than the person who knows it all, is the person who argues with the fool.”

Can’t argue with that.

Sean Kelly, Tramore, Waterford



* A simple if seemingly radical change to our electoral system would ensure equal male/female representation in the Dail.

If constituency boundaries were redrawn and an even number of seats allocated to each constituency, then half of the seats in each constituency could be designated ‘Male’ and half ‘Female’.

At election time, voters would complete two ballot papers – one for the male candidates and one for the female candidates. This would ensure equal representation in the Dail.

Fred Meaney, Dalkey, Co Dublin



* In response to the letter (April 30) regarding nepotism in Irish politics, one would have to acknowledge the importance of the voters in electing TDs. It is fair to say that family ties play a part in Irish politics but Irish politics is not alone in that sphere.

Ireland is synonymous with family businesses being passed down generation to generation without question. People aren’t handed seats in Dail Eireann, but merely given the platform to obtain one. It’s the voter who decides and you get who you vote for.

Ronan Herlihy, Nenagh, Co Tipperary


* Eamon Delaney’s article (Irish Independent, April 29), ‘Elitist Aosdana corners market in art of living off the State’, demands an urgent and reforming response from the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht.

Aosdana is a society with no obligation towards public accountability or transparency. It has no public mandate, other than the distribution of tax-free stipends.

This year, €2.6m of taxpayers’ money is being paid to 157 artists, comprising 60pc of Aosdana membership. Many are unknown to the public and many others are past their creative prime. Stipends are to ‘honour’ past accomplishments, not to stimulate new output.

Should the State also provide life-long tax-free stipends to reward the past glory of other pillars of society, from fields such as science, the humanities and social sciences?

Should Mr Deenihan be spending taxpayers’ money and public debt more strategically?

Myles Duff6y, Glenageary, Co Dublin

Irish Independent


April 30, 2014


I go all the way around the park listening to the Men from the Ministry: Our heroes face a terrible fate helping the fiber board Priceless

Mary Jill comes to vist and the Benefits lady

Scrabbletoday, Mary getsnearly400, 395, Perhaps Iwill win tomorrow.


Gailene Stock – obituary

Gailene Stock was a controversial director of the Royal Ballet School who won her dancers jobs but not always plaudits

Gailene Stock

Gailene Stock Photo: PETER PAYNE

6:45PM BST 29 Apr 2014


Gailene Stock, who has died aged 68, was an Australian whose internationalist approach as Director of the Royal Ballet School caused controversy but won jobs for many of her students.

Her decision to produce “more employable dancers” came at a perceived cost to aesthetic standards in English ballet, and was also held by some to favour overseas dance students more than British-born children. Yet when she was recruited, in 1999, rescue was required: the graduate employment rate was under 50 per cent, and pupils were not prominent among recruits to the Royal Ballet and other top British companies.

With around 1,300 applicants each year for fewer than 30 places, Gailene Stock took a robustly pragmatic approach, introducing more public performance, overseas exchanges and competition – all to ready students for the tough reality of life as a dancer. Yet while she managed to double the employment rate to almost 100 per cent, it was by producing more all-purpose graduates, employable in a variety of international companies, rather than an elite streamed to serve the Royal Ballet.

Inevitably critics said that the “English style”, which had been for decades rated one of the marvels of world classical dance, was being overlooked. On the school’s 2003 exchange to New York, one senior ballet writer lamented the “abominable weaknesses” of Royal Ballet School students, while another noted a “total lack of imagination and expressiveness”.

And while students became more generally employable, it remained true that only a handful of graduates were accepted by the Royal Ballet and Birmingham Royal Ballet. The supply of British-born stars dried up, with only Darcey Bussell becoming a household name.

In 2008 the Royal Ballet’s own director, Monica Mason, told a committee of MPs that the Royal Ballet School was producing very few native graduates “with the required level of artistic excellence or aesthetics” to join the Royal Ballet. This was taken as an implicit criticism of the Stock approach, as was Birmingham Royal Ballet’s endorsement of Elmhurst School, Birmingham, as its own feeder institution.

Gailene Stock, however, countered that the original purpose of the Royal Ballet School as a feeder to the Royal Ballet itself – made explicit when both were granted royal status in 1956 – was no longer relevant. As a native of a country whose comparatively small population was by then producing a disproportionately large number of high-achieving dancers, she found the idea of working to an “English” artistic brief out of date.

She held that the Royal Ballet School had a valid function as a sought-after finishing school for brilliant young foreign talents who went on to become Covent Garden stars, such as Alina Cojocaru, Sergei Polunin and the Australians Steven McRae and Leanne Benjamin. In her view, teenagers leaving the Royal Ballet School with contracts to Vienna, Hong Kong, Berlin, San Francisco or Tokyo should be just as proud as if they were heading to Covent Garden.

It remains a controversial argument, particularly with funders and with parents of British children; but Gailene Stock’s vigour in strengthening the school’s financial base and raising its international profile was acknowledged by many outside Britain.

Gailene Patricia Stock was born in Melbourne on January 28 1946, the daughter of Roy and Sylvia Stock. She showed extraordinary determination as a child. Aged eight she contracted polio and was bedridden in a full-body metal frame for two years; though told that she would probably never walk again, she was back at her dancing classes four years later.

She then suffered a serious car accident which put her in a coma for three days, only weeks before a Royal Academy of Dancing exam. Once again she pulled herself back and was commended by the examiners, who on their return two years later gave her a special scholarship to London’s Royal Ballet School.

At the time the Australian Ballet company was in its infancy, but it offered the 16-year-old Gailene a job just as she was due to go to London. She declined, taking up the Royal Ballet School bursary, but nine months later decided to explore Europe, dancing with companies in France and Italy before returning to her native ballet company in 1965. She spent seven years there, rising to principal dancer under director Robert Helpmann.

Gailene Stock danced for three years in Canada as principal ballerina with the National Ballet of Canada and the Royal Winnipeg Ballet. She was pursued to North America by an Australian colleague, Gary Norman, whom she married. The pair returned to Australian Ballet and resumed their dancing careers. After having their daughter in 1978 she moved into teaching and management.

Following six years as director of the National Ballet School, Victoria, and further administration jobs, Gailene Stock was director of the Australian Ballet School from 1990 to 1998. She linked the school closely with the Australian Ballet, run by her family friend Ross Stretton. Later, when Stretton was appointed the Royal Ballet’s director a year after Stock’s own move to the Royal Ballet School, they became an Australian double-act in London.

While Stretton’s appointment was terminated after only a year, Gailene Stock was hailed in London for her outsider’s eye on ballet education. She made it a condition of her appointment that her husband should come with her to teach the boys at the Royal Ballet School, exploiting the interest that followed the film Billy Elliot.

She spearheaded splendid refurbishments of the school’s junior and senior sections, achieving a much-praised move of the Royal Ballet School’s senior section from dowdy Chiswick premises to an award-winning conversion next to the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden, and upgrading the younger section’s accommodation in White Lodge, Richmond Park.

Gailene Stock was appointed to the Order of Australia in 1997. Her CBE in the 2013 Birthday Honours was taken to her hospital bed, where she was being treated for cancer.

She is survived by her husband and their daughter.

Gailene Stock, born January 28 1946, died April 29 2014


Neuroscience under the microscope … Photograph: Blend Images/Rex

Zoe Williams’ article suggesting that the neuroscience about the importance of the first three years doesn’t stand up to scrutiny (Written on the brain, 26 April) is as flawed as the arguments of the small group of proponents on whose writings it is based. What this group of critics have in common is a highly rhetorical use of the evidence to oppose state intervention to support early parenting.

This is a particularly unhelpful development for two reasons. First, these critics are misrepresenting the evidence to sabotage the work of academics (eg Rebecca Brown and Harriet Ward’s Decision-Making Within a Child’s Timeframe) whose rigorous and appropriate use of the neuroscientific evidence will ensure that the 45% of child protection cases who are under four years are protected in a more timely manner than has been the case to date. These changes were urgently needed, and they simply confirm what the wider evidence tells us about the developmental impact of seriously suboptimal parenting.

Second, the evidence about the sensitivity of the brain during the first three years to early environmental input is now beyond dispute, making this the period sine qua non, in terms of investing limited resources to optimise outcomes, particularly for the disadvantaged children exposed to multiple risks.

The time has come for the neuroscientists to start challenging this misrepresentation of their work.
Dr Jane Barlow Professor of public health in the early years, University of Warwick; president, Association of Infant Mental Health
Dr Sue Gerhardt Author of Why Love Matters: How Affection Shapes a Baby’s Brain.

•  The subheading on Zoe Williams’ article asks: “does the science [on which much early-years policy is based] stand up to scrutiny? She doesn’t answer the question, and for good reason. Her article does much to build up straw infants that she has little difficulty in knocking down. Of course she is right to be critical of the overblown claims.

The report I submitted to the prime minister, The Foundation Years: Preventing Poor Children Becoming Poor Adults, showed that by their first day at school, children showed hugely significant differences in abilities, and that these differences in abilities, which are not closed by 13 years at school – if anything they become a little wider – are class-based.

Clearly what happens during the foundation or early years is crucial, and the report showed how they generally determined life chances. So by all means let’s critically look at what is written by the overzealous, but let’s also answer the basic question. The fundamental importance of the early or foundation years is backed up by science.

The founders of the Labour party sought ways of ensuring greater equality of outcomes. The foundation years debate focuses on what seems to be the most promising way of achieving that noble ambition. And that investment in the foundation years, pound for pound, gives greater returns to the taxpayer than any other interventions later in life, however necessary they may be.
Frank Field MP
Labour, Birkenhead

•  Zoe Williams is rightly critical of the scary image of the shrivelled brain reproduced from the cover of MP Graham Allen’s report to the government on the importance of the first three years of a child’s life, for it makes a travesty of what neuroscience can and cannot say about early child development. The image derives from a short unrefereed report at a US neuroscience meeting, without information as to its provenance other than that it is from a three year old abused child. That children’s brains and their synaptic connections develop rapidly in early years is well established. That young children benefit from a stable, loving and secure environment is, as John Simmonds says (Letters, 28 April), common sense. But there really is no good evidence that these two statements are related. That is indeed a bridge too far.
Steven Rose
Emeritus professor of neuroscience, The Open University

• I agree with Sylvia Triandafylla (Letters, 28 April) that evidence clearly shows that poverty is a fundamental factor in family stress leading to child abuse and neglect, but not with her conclusion that the answer is that children of poor families should be swiftly adopted. Why not reduce family poverty and support parents to manage better? Health inequalities are tackled by attempts to equalise social determinants, why not inequalities in child welfare? To advocate the transfer of children from poorer families to richer ones as a solution to social inequalities is contrary to human rights and social justice.
Paul Bywaters
Professor of social work, Coventry University

• Zoe Williams reminds us that, with the arrival of the new 26-week rule around adoption, the UK leads the world in placing adoption in the forefront of its child protection policy. We all hope that this is only done in the last resort when parents who are not “good enough” have been offered the support necessary to effect change. The time restrictions, however, mean this is not the case, as does the reduction in services to the groups who have their children taken away: those with a learning disability or mental health issues, victims of domestic abuse, and substance abusers. As adoptions soar over 4,000 per year, as an adopted person of the 1960s, I wonder whether we will look back on this with the same regret as my era and ask how we thought it right to legally break up so many families.
John Dudley
Halifax, West Yorkshire

•  The question “Did anyone try to help my mum?” from a child who was removed from her care is perhaps the most poignant line in Zoe Williams’ article about neuroscience and child protection. While the breakthroughs in neuroscience are stimulating valuable discussion and debate, what we do with this information is vital, and the conclusion is clearly that prevention is better than cure.

Just as young brains have a critical time span to learn things, professionals have a limited time to help struggling families before they slip into crisis. Early intervention is the key to supporting families who are often facing multiple and complex problems, but the systems of support in this country remain stacked in favour of crisis management, with high thresholds preventing families from getting the help they need before problems escalate. The resulting social and economic cost, £9bn a year, of failing to help demands a radically different approach nationally and locally.
Anne Longfield
Chief executive, 4Children

• What an interesting set of articles and viewpoints on neuroscience (Letters, 28 April). Sylvia Triandafylla states that “placing children for adoption … [is] currently the best way we have of interrupting this cycle of inter-generational deprivation”. Of course this is sometimes absolutely necessary, but it is also incredibly expensive, traumatising and disruptive. Ensuring that all new parents have as much support as possible to become nurturing parents, and that that support is ongoing throughout their children’s lives is surely a better way for many families? Family learning enables adults and children to develop a range of skills together, and enables adults to pull themselves out of the poverty, which Ms Triandafylla sees as having “a clear statistical link [with] poor parenting”.
Carol Taylor
Director, research and development, National Institute of Adult Continuing Education

•  Zoe Williams is absolutely right to urge caution when drawing conclusions about the effects of a child’s early environment from the newly emerging neuroscience of extreme populations, and when extrapolating directly from animal research to humans. She is also right that the effects of some interventions to support parents have not been as large as policymakers had hoped. However, this does not mean that brain science will not advance to shed more light on development, or that animal studies cannot be illuminating. Nor does it mean that the early environment is not important in human development.

Indeed, a vast body of longitudinal research on large populations of children growing up in a variety of conditions has shown consistent predictions from early experience to later development.

These developmental pathways are, however, complex and are affected by the continuing care a child receives, child temperamental characteristics, and the background stresses that can challenge parents. And, in spite of the fact that parenting interventions are no panacea for the plethora of problems facing many parents, there is also good evidence that well-designed support targeting specific difficulties in parenting, alongside delivery of wider support, can be of considerable benefit to parents and their children.

The important thing is to carry on conducting good research into these processes – through neuroscience, comparative studies and, not least, the psychological studies of parent-child relationships and child development – so that interventions can be properly evidence-based, and so that, as a wider society, we can create the best conditions for parents to help their children flourish.
Lynne Murray
Research professor in developmental psychology, University of Reading, and author of The Social Baby (2000) and The Psychology of Babies (June 2014)

• It is unfortunate that Zoe Williams focused so strongly on the ways in which the neurobiological research on early childhood development has been misunderstood and misinterpreted. This increasingly robust body of research complements an already extensive literature that shows that abuse and neglect may have long-term adverse consequences across children’s physical, cognitive, social, emotional and behavioural development.

The neurobiological evidence simply adds an additional strand to what is already known from other fields of inquiry, and helps us understand more about important issues such as, for instance, why children who have been extensively neglected in their early years may find it difficult to concentrate or to control their emotions, and why some of those who are placed for adoption do not establish secure attachments with even the most loving families. The neurobiological research does not show that the consequences of abuse and neglect are inevitable or irreversible, but it does help us understand why those children who are subjected to more extended periods of maltreatment in their early years are more likely to experience compromised development.

The key question is how such research findings should be used. They can inform how scarce resources might best be used to help very vulnerable parents to safeguard their children from harm and promote their development; they can also inform debates concerning appropriate timeframes for decisions concerning adoption where parents are not able to ensure that children are adequately safeguarded.

There is also a danger that research of this nature can be used crudely to support an increasingly ugly political discourse that denigrates such parents because the majority are poor and vulnerable. However, attempting to discredit the research itself, as is done in this article, mirrors the cynical use of research findings for ideological purposes and is of no benefit to the families concerned or the professionals who have child protection responsibilities.
Professor Harriet Ward
Centre for Child and Family Research, Loughborough University

•  Infant wellbeing and mental health develops through the ordinary devoted parenting of children. Though there might be important periods of optimum growth potential, all is not irreparable. Neuroscience also appears to show that new pathways can continue to be created.

This less remarked upon feature is the enduring plasticity to the brain that can be supported through nurture, and indeed that endangered aspect of policy of childhood, play. This has to be given an equal prominence.

This is all the more important as many looked-after children encounter the profound effects of trauma, abuse or neglect after their first three years. It is clear that those that could benefit from early intervention and those in fostering, or even more so children’s homes, mostly are different cohorts.

According to government statistics most young people arrive in children’s homes after their 14th birthday. These settings could yet be the facilitating and reparative environment that meets the neuroscience-rediscovered understanding that there are new opportunities for developmental growth at adolescence.

It could be, but not until English policy recovers a positive view of residential options, rejoining the rest of the world. Rehabilitating residential options for young people is a vital aspect of our recovery of our understanding of adolescence.

Just before Easter the government published a discussion document on adolescence as part of its innovation programme. The opportunity to re-engage with adolescence is warmly welcomed.

Perhaps recovering and renewing old ways can be the best and new ways?
Jonathan Stanley
CEO, Independent Children’s Homes Association

•  ”It is never too early to intervene and it is never too late to begin.” This, rather than a misunderstood idea of the brain’s development being “solidified” by the age of three, is one of the main contributions from neuroscience. Alongside notions of critical (and sensitive) periods for brain development is an equal one of plasticity. This should be a reason for optimism in intervening in the lives of neglected and abused children. Brain development can be understood as the learning of how to regulate attention, behaviour and emotions. These abilities are fundamental to success in school, with peers and later in relationships. Anyone who has been a parent will know that these abilities are not present at birth.

Neuroscience reinforces our understanding that development of these key functions takes place in the context of responsive relationships with carers. A persistent lack leads to neglect and chronic stress, and possibilities of overproduction of cortisol and similar stress-related hormones. These can damage the developing brain through mechanisms such as inhibiting the myelination of neural connections or synapses. This can be thought of as similar to the plastic sheathing of electrical wire ensuring effectiveness and endurance. Persistent use becomes like a pathway through a field, regular use making it easier to access the interconnected parts of the brain involved in managing our attention, behaviour and emotions.

Reinforcing the idea that relationships matter should be a cause for celebrating the contribution of neuroscience in changing the lives of neglected infants and children.
Brian Flinders
Maidstone, Kent

The book of Kells. Photograph: Johansen Krause

You report that police may now investigate whether there was a cover-up concerning the sex abuse allegations against Cyril Smith (Report, 29 April). In 1979, when the Rochdale Alternative Press and Private Eye reported the allegations in considerable detail, I was a reporter on the Observer. I phoned Cyril Smith to put the allegations to him directly – but when he heard what I was asking about, he put down the phone without uttering a word. The key question is whether anyone from the police, Rochdale council or the Liberal party also asked him about the allegations at that time – and if not, why not.
Robin Lustig

• My 15-year-old son, who is quite sensitive and young for his age in many ways, is sitting his National 5 English exams tomorrow (Report, 29 April). He has been studying a fairly depressing collection of Norman MacCaig poetry, including one called Memorial, whose first line is: “Everywhere she dies. Everywhere I go she dies.” And for drama, they’ve studied the film Psycho. Maybe some thought could be given to the wellbeing of our youth, who are already under stress from exams and the changes of adolescence. At the moment my son’s favourite books are Just William, and Jennings. Surely there is room for choice, and some fun, in English.
Name and address supplied

• Here’s a modest proposal to help alleviate the awful “perfection anxiety” and “panicked ennui” of the super-rich that Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett refers to (Tedium of the super-rich, 26 April). Train the unemployed to make beautiful illuminated manuscripts (I’m thinking Book of Kells) that are unique and personalised tax demands. The super-rich can buy these artworks from HM Revenue and CustomsHMRC, but only if they pay the correct amount of tax. Everyone wins.
Roger Allam

• The Proms “offered more than 27 hours of Wagner last year” (Letters, 29 April)? And what was the name of that piece?
Geoff Lunn
Horsham, Surrey

• I read somewhere that a gentleman is someone who can play the bagpipes, but doesn’t (Letters, 29 April) .
Geraldine Blake
Worthing, West Sussex

• How will the Scottish village of Ae be voting on 18 September, I wonder (Letters, 29 April)?
David Bogle
Bakewell, Derbyshire

Thank you for David Adam’s piece on OCD (Comment, 29 April). I recently told someone: “I have OCD. I’m on medication and everything.” It struck me as odd that I felt the need to point out the fact I am on medication. I wasn’t looking for sympathy or trying to get attention. I was trying to differentiate myself from those who say, “Oh, I am so OCD about that!” When I mention I am on medication or that my disorder was diagnosed by a psychologist and a psychiatrist, it is my attempt to highlight the disorder for the serious condition it is. Most people respond with “Oh, yeah! I have all my books in alphabetical order and I hate it so much when someone messes it up”, or similar. I guess it is an attempt to find common ground, but to me it feels like responding to “I have cancer” with “Oh! I had a terrible flu the other week.” I Just want people to take the disorder seriously. With comments such as Stephen Fry‘s, I fear this won’t happen soon.
Samantha Mawdsley
(Twitter: @SAMawdsley)

I am unsure what point James Mumford’s rather sniffy article about Rev is trying to make (Rev: so good it’s dangerous, 28 April). The series does not portray Adam Smallbone as a buffoon (the point actor Tom Hollander made in an interview on TV on Sunday) but as a sincere man of faith battling in the modern world. Yes, some episodes are exaggerated, but it is supposed to be a comedy which makes serious points. Nevertheless, Monday’s episode (which ended season three) was one of the most moving depictions of the Easter story I have seen. If encountering an angel or whatever is not spiritual, I do not know what is. I am a practising Anglican and the series certainly speaks to me and reaffirms one’s faith in Christianity and its continuing relevance in the modern world.
David Taylor-Gooby

• I wonder if, in his concern for authenticity, James Mumford remembers the show’s Christmas episode, when, having behaved outrageously and being intoxicated, Adam is called to the bedside of a dying parishioner? Suddenly sobered he goes to the old woman’s bedside and gently administers the last rites: a serious moment of (religious) truth?
Rev Geoffrey Bamford
Holmbridge, West Yorkshire

• Does James Mumford seriously think that a crippled woman being healed by prayer and running down the aisle would more closely reflect the “insider” experience of the Church of England than a small, wavering congregation and a vicar who has lapses of faith? Does he really believe that no “insider” would concur with Rev Adam Smallbone’s assertion that God will bless a committed gay marriage even though the Church of England will not? And did he somehow miss the fact that Jesus appeared in person and spoke to Smallbone in his deepest moment of crisis in last week’s episode? From reading the reports of dissent and recrimination among Anglican church bodies, it seems that “pillorying the characters who support the church’s [official] position” is in the spirit of an insider’s viewpoint. Mumford represents a narrow, doctrinaire and humourless wing of the church that is driving away those who, like Smallbone, combine faith with a fallible humanity.
Gayle Wade
Bury St Edmunds

• James Mumford claims that “Rev’s operating assumption is that faith is individual. The Rev Smallbone’s prayer monologues are purely personal. Faith is not something held in common.” Clearly he had not seen the series finale: a communal alleluia to put the icing on the cake of a brilliant series.
Rev Gary O’Neill
Frodsham, Cheshire

• James Mumford says that: “Rev goes nowhere near the supernatural.” However, God turned up in the penultimate episode, wearing a shellsuit, looking somewhat wasted and dishing out crap advice in a Northern Irish accent.(He was played by Liam Neeson.) But he then gave Rev the inspiration he needed. Supernatural enough for television, surely?
DBC Reed
Thorplands, Northamptonshire

• Glad to see the Americans are telling us what to watch. May I ask what UK inner-city parish has Jason Mumford served in?
Pat Martin

Exactly a year ago, the UK carried out its first drone strike from RAF Waddington in Lincolnshire. Like the more than 450 other remote weapon launches carried out by UK drones, no details about the strike or the resulting casualties have ever been made public. As British troops pack to leave Afghanistan at the end of 2014, information leaks suggest that the UK’s armed Reaper drones will not be brought back to the UK, but rather be deployed for a counter-insurgency/counter-terrorism role in Africa and the Middle East.

Despite calls for greater transparency from many civil society groups, MPs, the defence select committee and the UN human rights council, all the Ministry of Defence will say is that “no decision has yet been taken”. The use of armed drones to carry out remote strikes with no risk to the operators raises serious legal and ethical concerns. The MoD has so far refused to release empirical data about the use of such systems on the grounds of operational security. Before any further deployment of the UK’s Reaper drones is contemplated, the MoD must release more information about the impact of its drone strikes in Afghanistan to enable proper public scrutiny and inform the wider debate about growing use of armed drones.
Chris Cole
Director, Drone Wars UK

• It’s disappointing that your article (Huge cost of military failures: £35bn bill for operations since cold war, 24 April) says only that this money could have been spent on a new aircraft carriers or more soldiers. We would do well to remember Eisenhower (no pacifist) when he said: “Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and not clothed.” He also identified what drives this appalling and inhumane waste – collusion between governments and arms manufacturers. Until we break that link, governments will continue to view “security” problems through the lens of military involvement and will continue to cause death and destruction in the name of peace and security. Imagine if we’d spent that £35bn on something else.
Mark Walford

I read your report on the IPCC’s conclusions and it is clear that the world is facing a serious climate crisis (‘Go green to save the planet’, 18 April). But we, the public, seem to be happy for our governments to pacify us with token gestures.

One policy option that seems to be glaringly absent from the debate is the path of taxation and regulation. So why are these policies not part of the fight against climate change? Why not ban the advertising of flippant air travel and overpowered cars? Why not put a hefty tax on aviation fuel and on petrol? Why not limit the size and power of private cars and commercial trucks? Or even better, tax and subsidise us out of our cars on to bicycles and public transport. Why not use taxation to increase the price of electricity and gas? And restrict imports that carry a large carbon, chemical, pollution or exploitation footprint? It’s not rocket science and, indeed, such tax-and-regulate policies have, in health matters, been shown to dramatically cut levels of smoking.

Of course, we the public would howl with indignation at having our convenience, our self-pampering and our “goodies” taken away, but if we abandon car-dependent suburban living, switch to more localised production and live more modestly, we would actually find more satisfaction in our lives.

And I am sure that it would not be completely hair-shirt living because, as fossil-fuel based consumption were “prised” away from us, human ingenuity would kick in and many conveniences would live on in a modified form.

It is a clear decision: either cut the pampering or fry the planet. Unfortunately, we seem to have chosen the second option.
Alan Mitcham
Cologne, Germany

• Your leader and associated articles describes an express train overloaded with fossil fuels, racing towards irreversible collision with the biosphere.

Nothing was said about thinking outside the box. Anhydrous ammonia, which can be safely stored in cylinders, can be used to drive transport vehicles. It was employed to power rail cars in New Orleans in 1879 and buses in Brussels in 1943, when diesel was appropriated for military purposes. Its use is currently being exploited for ammonia-diesel hybrid, and eventually pure ammonia-driven turbines and private cars in Canada and the US. Traditionally synthesised using energy from combustion of the powerful greenhouse gas methane, ammonia can now be manufactured using non-polluting, endlessly renewable energy from our offshore nuclear fusion reactor, the sun.

The International Monetary Fund advocates a radical transformation of the global energy system over coming decades. If miners and other industrialists can be persuaded to leave fossil fuels in the ground, preserve the photosynthesising carbon sinks of old growth forests and jump aboard the sidelined train, it could become mainline.
Bryan Furnass
Canberra, Australia

• It is with relief that I finally read positive news about climate change. The report warns that decisions and changes need to be made now. What’s our part in all of this?

I suggest our part is to take a moment and contact our federal politicians. Tell them we want an end to fossil-fuel subsidies. We want our tax dollars back.

And we want the big polluters to pay for dumping carbon into our air, for free. After all, we would charge them for polluting our drinking water or our back yard.

And we want the money the big carbon-polluting companies pay to be given back fairly to all of us in an annual payment, or through lower taxes or more clean energy. It’s called a carbon tax. The big polluters pay the carbon tax and we reap the rewards.

Politicians want to hear from us. They want to hear what we want them to do. So tell them. It only takes a moment.
Maureen Milledge
Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

Putin may just be smarter

Putin is smarter than our leaders in the west (28 March). Take Syria. The west seems to have learned nothing in the last 12 years. We may not have liked the old dictators in the Middle East, Saddam, Gaddafi and Mubarak, but at least they maintained secular states in which religious conflict was contained and some sort of order was maintained.

And do we really like what has replaced them through our efforts? It is not our beloved democracy, but mayhem and chaos and breeding grounds for Muslim extremism, only redeemed in Egypt by a replacement dictator.

In Syria, Putin rightly saw that the so-called revolution would be overtaken by al-Qaida and its associates, and he backed Assad. What has the west gained by backing the rebels? Only mayhem and chaos and a breeding ground for Muslim extremism. We delude ourselves if we think that a western-style democracy can be established in these societies as they are today. Putin is under no such illusion, and perhaps his way is actually more humanitarian in terms of human suffering.

As for Ukraine: the west foolishly backed a popular revolution in Kiev that overthrew an elected president, then ratted on an agreement to which it was a party to find a way forward by negotiation. Putin understood that Ukraine was a dangerously divided country with ethnic and linguistic fractures that could easily tear it apart. Of course he wants to maintain Russian influence there. The west wants to maintain its influence. But the west’s foolish provocation of the eastern Ukrainians has only pushed them further into the arms of Putin.

I may not like Putin personally, but we would do better to listen to him than demonise him. He may just be smarter than we are.
Martin Down
Witney, UK

Capitalism is in trouble

The excess of the income of capital, compared with that of wages, may seem outrageous (Capitalism is in trouble, 18 April). But you can be both among the greatest world’s capitalists and philanthropists. For instance Bill Gates and Warren Buffett: the latter is supposed to have handed 85% of his fortune to the charity of the former, the two still peaking at the highest positions on Forbes list. No doubt those geniuses and their likes will eventually save the world … or is there an error?
Marc Jachym
Les Ulis, France

• Will Hutton is right: “The huge gap between rich and poor threatens to destroy us”. Yes, it certainly does, but clinging to the capitalist myth that infinite growth in a finite system is possible will destroy us. Logic has a way of imposing itself on reality.
Molly M Radke
Hansville, Washington, US

Stop running down the US

I am British, a naturalised citizen of the US, a former resident of Canada and now resident in Europe. I have experienced both capitalist and socialist societies, commencing with the Soviet Union in 1979.

A few years ago, a journal, Rage, with which I was associated, conducted a survey of opinions of the US and its policies expressed by citizens of the US and by foreign citizens. The result very convincingly showed that those inside the US expressed pride and confidence while those outside expressed what can best be described as jealousy. Since that survey, letters to the Guardian Weekly have confirmed these findings over and over again. Jennifer Coopersmith’s letter (Reply, 11 April) is a case in point.

She decries the American Dream with no other objective than to express jealousy. Europe, for example, suppresses initiative and entrepreneurialism with regulations and taxes, and I have first-hand knowledge how the best around the world move to the US for a chance. Australia and Canada join Europe in preferring regularised government and compliant citizens over people who are willing to follow their dreams and move on.

We need to stop running down the US: its citizens are perfectly capable of looking after themselves. Instead, we need to cure the drag with which erstwhile British colonies and Europe encumber their citizens.
John Graham
Hoogstraten, Belgium

We must value the psyche

Thank you for your feature on Daniel Kahneman’s book, Thinking, Fast and Slow (21 March). Of the five intellectuals quoted only one, the woman, Salley Vickers, mentions the psyche. Like Cinderella in the kitchen ashes, the psyche has been waiting for her missing half. The male intellectual mind has been turning its back on its natural partner, the psyche, with its attendant emotions and feelings and trying to explain how the world works and what we humans are with only half a tool kit.

Wisdom that the Asian world is and has been familiar with for millennia is very slowly seeping into western male intellectual consciousness. Thinkers in our past knew about it – Emerson and Whitman, for example – and Carl Jung delved deep into the psyche and understood its value and the value of intuition and feelings.

The psyche, by the way, is not located in the mind; it pervades the body and can be felt in the chest area when one is happy, or in love with life; “mental” problems are really dysfunctions of emotions and feelings. Think “emotional health”, not “mental” health.
Mary MacMakin
Kabul, Afghanistan

• Steven Pinker said that Daniel Kahneman made a powerful and important discovery that “human reason left to its own devices is apt to engage in a number of fallacies and systematic errors”. Far from being a new discovery, this is one of the oldest themes in philosophy, going back to Plato’s Allegory of the Cave and the Bhagavad-Gita’s statement that all living things are born into illusion.
Stephen Porsche
Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada


• As experts fear Thierry Jamin’s expedition to Peru would bring disease to the indigenous Nanti people, as happened in Australia and New Zealand, why don’t they send in a drone to scan the top of the “strange square mountain”? (18 April).
Edward Black
Church Point, NSW, Australia


During the next five months Uefa will select 13 host cities for its Euro 2020 football competition. We appeal to Uefa to exclude Jerusalem from this list of hosts.

Israel flouts the UN position that Jerusalem should be an open city for all, making it impossible for most Palestinians to visit the holy sites there, or to visit relatives. The Israeli state supports the confiscation of Palestinian land and homes in East Jerusalem for the use of illegal settlers.

In February this year, Amnesty International published a report entitled Trigger Happy which documents the treatment of Palestinians by the Israeli occupation forces. The report describes this treatment as “unnecessary, arbitrary and brutal”.

Just one example of this was seen earlier this year when Israeli soldiers shot repeatedly at the legs and feet of two talented teenage Palestinian footballers at a checkpoint, maiming them for life.

Israel continues to perpetrate its devastating military occupation of the Palestinian territories, flouts international law, totally disregards UN resolutions, and imprisons hundreds of Palestinians, including children, without charge.

It would be a mockery of Fifa’s Mission and Statutes if Jerusalem were awarded the status of hosting  games in this tournament.

Leaders of international football must respond to the pleas from suffering Palestinians to sanction Israel in the community of nations.

John Austin

Victoria Brittain

Rodney Bickerstaffe

Breyten Breytenbach

Caryl Churchill

William Dalrymple

The Rev Garth Hewitt

Dr Ghada Karmi

Bruce Kent

Paul Laverty

Mike Leigh

Ken Loach

Miriam Margolyes

Mairead Maguire

Kika Markham

Professor Nur Masalha

Karma Nabulsi

Professor Steven Rose

Professor Hilary Rose

Salman Abu Sitta

Ahdaf Souief

Baroness Jenny Tonge

Archbishop Desmond Tutu

Alice Walker

Roger Waters

Orthodox economic model has failed

As an economics graduate (from 1970), I am at one with the students at Manchester University who are challenging the paradigm that has dominated the teaching of the subject over the past 30 years (“Manchester students man the barricades”, 26 April).

The teaching of the subject today appears to be have been captured by “quants” and purveyors of free-market dogma. (Even The Independent’s Hamish McRae recently referred to investment in equities and property as “real” investment in contrast to investment in government which was supposedly “unreal”.)

I am reminded of some words of wisdom of the great Paul Samuelson, the first economics Nobel laureate. When asked what his advice to economics undergraduates would be he replied: “Read history.” That is where all the important economic data lies.

Too heavy an emphasis on arcane theoretical models based on faith in “efficient markets”, where the only requirement for academic success is mathematical prowess, has distorted the discipline and allowed it to be subverted by “right-wing think-tanks” serving the interests of the corporate and financial sector.

The result: the failed paradigm that caused the great crash of 1929 has returned with a vengeance to cause the great crash of 2007-8, and the only response from academia appears to be to rebuild the paradigm and not make the same mistakes next time.

It is not necessary to be a Marxist radical to say that economics has failed to serve the interests of any but the richest and most powerful. It is time for change, and among the correctives should be a compulsory unit on economic history for all economics undergraduates.

Chris Forse, Snitterfield,  Warwickshire

Are the “Manchester students manning the barricades to overthrow economic orthodoxy” going so far as to question “growth”?

Orthodox economics seems to require an ever increasing population, with an infinite supply of environmental resources, to pay for an ever longer-living number of the elderly. At some point a new economic philosophy will be needed.

R J Buchanan, London SE18


How can we sign on every day?

Your front-page headline of 28 April – “Jobless must sign on every day” – has me perplexed.

I am long-term unemployed and am familiar with the problems my local JobCentre has just dealing with me once a fortnight. You are never seen on time and getting access to the “job points” to look for vacancies on the website can be difficult. Getting access to a phone to ring up about a job can incur a long wait. What will it be like if 10 times as many are forced to visit at the same time? They may have to move the JobCentre to Gateshead International Stadium to accommodate us all.

Derek Holmes, Gateshead,  Tyne and Wear

How are the jobless expected to report to their nearest JobCentre each day or undertake voluntary work when many rural bus services run only once or twice per week or not at all, following severe cuts? Those services that still operate often allow only a fixed time at their destination; missing the return bus could entail a very long walk, as I doubt that JobCentres will be reimbursing taxi fares.

Many of the unemployed in rural areas formerly worked as bus drivers or in low-paid public-sector jobs which have been axed.

Dr John Disney, Nottingham  Business School

The Coalition knows nothing of life in the northern towns and cities of England. Here unemployment has lasted since the decline of traditional heavy industry a generation ago, while many away from London just haven’t got the rail services that make commuting a possibility.

So rather than being helped back to work, all those on the dole face is more attendance at JobCentres (which will surely mean more civil servants to deal with them), and yet more compulsory voluntary work that offers no extra payments.

At least Scotland has the chance to cut away from the capital’s dominance. Perhaps we in the North should have the option to join them at some future date?

Tim Mickleburgh, Grimsby,  Lincolnshire


A-level scientists must get into the lab

Charles Tracy, of the Institute of Physics, (letter, 24 April) suggests that students could get top grades in future science A-levels without doing practical work. That is not so. Students can get top grades now with very little lab experience. They will need to do more, and to do the practical work most valued by higher education, to win top grades in future.

Students will be required to do a minimum of 12 pieces of practical work, for which they will receive a separate grade, and exam papers will include questions on the knowledge and skills obtained in the lab – on the student’s ability to take a question or a conundrum, to design an experiment to solve it, and to interpret the results.

Many science teachers are thumping the air with delight at the chance to truly teach experimentation, and to see students develop valuable skills rather than simply jump through predictable assessment hoops.

As I said recently, we will monitor new and reformed qualifications to make sure that any necessary adjustments are made, but I am confident that these changes will benefit students, as many science teachers recognise.

Amanda Spielman, Chair, Ofqual. Coventry

Cornwall takes its rightful place

With Cornwall at last, and not before time, recognised as the UK’s fifth home nation, surely we can now have our team in the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow this summer. The British Olympics team had a few Cornish gold medal winners, including Helen Glover.

We Cornish loved the UK Olympic Games and supporting our British team, but at the Glasgow games only a Cornish team will do, or perhaps if necessary “England with Kernow” as a transitionary team to 2018.

Tim James, Penzance

“Don’t Cornish people go to Tesco, walk the dog, watch Take Me Out and play on XBox like the rest of us?” asks Helen Clutton (letter, 29 April). No longer owning a dog, I shudder at the idea that the rest of the things your correspondent sees as normal are normal.

Eddie Dougall, Walsham le Willows, Suffolk

I don’t go to Tesco, haven’t got a dog, have never heard of Take Me Out, and wouldn’t know an XBox if I fell over one. Does that make me Cornish?

Michael Hart, Osmington, Dorset


One reason for falling crime figures is better policing – and more diligent measurement

Sir, Your leader on what you describe as the “astonishing” fall in crime last year (Apr 25) postulates a number of reasons why this might have happened, including longer sentences, less binge drinking and better anti-crime technology.

The one factor you do not mention is more effective policing. It is this omission that I find “astonishing”, particularly as you mention that similar falls in crime have occurred in the United States, where it is generally recognised that it is policing and, in particular, police leadership, which is the most important factor in making communities safe.

Lord Wasserman

House of Lords

Sir, On the basis of her perception of contradictory trends in violence according to police records and the Crime Survey for England and Wales, Melanie Phillips (opinion, Apr 28) comes to the conclusion that pretty much all scientific endeavour is flawed. She tells us that ideology, vested interests and methodological weakness are to blame.

Twenty years ago my colleagues and I reacted entirely differently to these contradictory trends. Rather than abandoning hope that there are answers we decided to measure violence across the country using an entirely different source of information: data collected in a scientific sample of accident and emergency departments.

Year after year, 2013 included, this method, which has been subject to repeated peer review, has demonstrated downward trends which are almost identical to trends identified in the crime survey.

We also decided to compare A&E data with police records, an exercise which has been repeated in several other European countries. Only a third to a half of violence which puts people in A&E was represented in police records. In a further study, funded by the Economic and Social Research Council, we discovered that the main reason for this was that many of those injured in violence do not report offences; often because of fear of reprisals, because they didn’t know who the assailants were and because they didn’t want their own conduct scrutinised too closely. These are some of the reasons police records are not a reliable violence measure.

The conclusion is clear though: whatever the reasons, violence is on the way down.​

Professor Jonathan Shepherd

Cardiff University

Sir, As police and academics attempt, mostly unsuccessfully, to identify reasons for rising/falling crime rates I am reminded of my first night shift as a young constable in 1981. It was an extremely wet night. We were briefed by our sergeant, who informed us that there would be little or no crime in Hammersmith as “PC Rain was on duty”.

Sure enough, the local criminals stayed at home in the dry, and we had a quiet night.

Peter Beyer

(retired detective)

Belgrade, Serbia

The remake of the BBC’s Civilisation series for the digital era should be presented by a woman

Sir, The BBC has announced that it is to remake Civilisation for the digital age, and a presenter for this “jewel in its crown” is soon to be chosen.

Kenneth Clark’s series is revered but it had little to say about women. That is why we feel so strongly about campaigning for a female historian to be at the televisual helm this time.

The BBC’s first director-general, Lord Reith, said the corporation’s purpose was to “educate, inform and entertain”. Many women meet these criteria and should be in the frame to speak for civilisation: Mary Beard, Lisa Jardine, Amanda Vickery, Marina Warner, Bettany Hughes, Frances Stonor Saunders, AS Byatt and Hermione Lee, to name but a few.

A female presenter would ensure that the series is not just about History but also Herstory. It’s imperative that women also have a voice in the story of our world.

Kathy Lette, Helena Kennedy

Bianca Jagger, Jemima Khan,

Maureen Lipman, Sandi Toksvig,

Susie Orbach, Kate Mosse,

Shami Chakrabarti, Joanna Trollope, June Sarpong, Jo Brand, Jeanette Winterson,

Tracy Chevalier, Ronni Ancona

Marina Lewycka, Caitlin Moran,

Daisy Goodwin, Polly Samson,

Carmen Callil, Lorraine Candy,

Jo Elvin, Kate Pakenham, Salley Vickers, Barbara Taylor, Lisa Appignanesi, Joanne Harris,

Stella Duffy, Esther Freud,

Miriam Margolyes, Sheila Hancock, Lisa Meyer, Haydn Gwynne, Ali Smith, Rosie Boycott, Mariana Katzarova

Stella Creasy, Natasha Walter

Camila Batmanghelidjh,

Frances Crook, Patricia Hodge,

Caroline Michel, Catherine Mayer, Fay Ripley, Jemma Read

Erica Wagner, Kay Burley,

Pamela Connolly, Meera Syal

The plight of the kidnapped schoolgirls in Nigeria is a reminder not to give in to women-hating extremists

Sir, Janice Turner did well to highlight the plight of the kidnapped Nigerian schoolgirls (“They’ve declared a world war against women”, Apr 26). The thought of their plight weighed heavily with me over Easter as did a sense of impotence over what I can personally do about this and what if anything we are doing as a nation.

Like Ms Turner I am sickened by the stance taken by Islamic extremists against the education of girls and women. We must not allow misplaced and misinformed political correctness to cause us to give any quarter to such views in the UK.

Jayne Holland


Ukip is winning support but it is not defending British interests in the European Parliament

Sir, Do Ukip’s supporters know of their MEPs’ absenteeism in the European Parliament?

The cry for democracy falls flat when the politician neglects his/her responsibilities to participate, advocate and negotiate in the EP’s process. I worked in Brussels in
2009-12 and observed with disbelief how the Ukip MEPs were rarely present for EP committee meetings. With so much emphasis in their campaign on democracy, they didn’t care to use their voice or vote in committee decisions, but instead focused on shouting at commission representatives in various plenary sessions. How would their wealthy backer Paul Sykes react to that?

EP committees play an important and influential role in the ordinary legislative procedure. In the area of fisheries policy, Nigel Farage wasn’t present in the PECH committee when I was following the fisheries policy dossiers in 2012 in Brussels, despite the high level of interest in the UK press, the huge reform at hand, and the large role the EU plays in determining the future of Europe’s fisheries.

Annick Cable

London N5

Sir, Nigel Farage and Ukip say they want an “honest conversation” about immigration. If they are looking for an honest debate about this or any other subject they could start by being honest themselves.

For example, one of the Ukip posters asks “Who really runs this country” and states that “75% of our laws are now made in Brussels”. But anyone who has read the 2010 House of Commons library report How much legislation comes from Europe will be aware that Ukip’s 75 per cent figure is, to put it mildly, a vast exaggeration.

The report, based upon a careful study of more than a decade of legislation, estimated the proportion of our national laws implementing EU laws at between 6.8 per cent and 50 per cent, depending upon how loosely one defines the term “law”.

If political advertising were not exempt from Advertising Standards Authority rules, the ASA would have a strong case for at least demanding the withdrawal of the poster on the ground that it gives false information.

Francis Kirkham

Crediton, Devon

Sir, John McTernan (“Don’t lose heart. There are ways of defeating Ukip”, Apr 28) doesn’t get it: Libby Purves (“This kingdom feels less united than ever”, Apr 28) does. We are voting Ukip because we are fed up with being second-class citizens in our own country. London seems to be the only place that matters to our political class.

Mrs L Hughes

Newton Abbot, Devon

Sir, Instead of asking what is to be done about Ukip, John McTernan should ask why it is so appealing. Had he done so he might have found some answers that made sense. “Holding Farage to account” is a waste of time, because he stands for what people want.

What they do want can easily be found by looking at the comments in a range of newpapers online — a free opinion poll every day.

Dr Alastair Lack

Coombe Bissett, Wilts

Cultural animosity seems to intensify in direct proportion to propinquity – so, Scotland beware

Sir, While sympathetic to Ben Macintyre’s view (Apr 25) that we should love the Scots despite their desire to leave the Union (I have a half-Scots wife), I fear he may be fighting a strong natural tendency.

I was in a bar in Andalusia a couple of years ago, watching Barcelona being thrashed by a German team. I expected some signs of distress but there were none.When I remarked on this to a local, I was told “Oh we don’t mind. We hate the Catalans” — a view which does indeed prevail widely in Spain.

People don’t like it when others want to leave their club.

Professor Jonathan Brown

Milford on Sea, Hants


Failing democracy: the impoverished township of Diepsloot on the outskirts of Johannesburg  Photo: AFP/Getty Images

6:58AM BST 29 Apr 2014

Comments72 Comments

SIR – The Queen has congratulated South Africa on 20 years of democracy. But as an Englishman who has lived here for 30 years, I have seen the destruction of the country’s infrastructure since 1994, when Nelson Mandela took over.

There is now very little overseas investment. The mining house BHP Billiton has sold up and the platinum mines near Rustenberg have been at a standstill due to strikes for the past three months.

With disinvestment on this scale, millions of jobs have been lost, and today beggars in rags at traffic lights are the norm. Sewage flows through the gutters, and Escherichia coli is present in the water supply systems, due to pumping and filtration stations breaking down. Crime is sweeping the country.

We are coming up to yet another National Voting Day on May 7, when the African National Congress will yet again win power due to corruption at the polls.

As a surgeon, I have done what I can for the poor South Africans. All of my friends and colleagues have either emigrated or been murdered. We have decided to move to Australia. I am saddened to leave such a once-beautiful country, and I see no hope for it.

SIR – Boris Johnson’s suggestions on reform of the electoral system for MEPs omits reference to two issues. The European Parliament cannot initiate legislation – only the Commission or the Council of Ministers can, and their legislative initiatives are usually rubber stamped by the parliament. So the ability of British MEPs to promote or protect British interests is minimal.

Furthermore, however they are elected or appointed, British MEPs will always be in a minority. In sovereign countries with a democratic system, the minority party accepts the rule of the majority because it always has a chance to become the majority at the next election. This can never be the case in the European Parliament. Of course, this is true for MEPs from all EU member states, and is a main reason why Euro elections elicit so little interest.

Stanislas Yassukovich
Oppède, Vaucluse, France

SIR – I cannot see that the electorate would willingly trust MPs to choose their MEPs for them, as Boris Johnson suggests. Surely a better, cheaper and more democratic idea would be, as Britain is now largely ruled by Europe and most of our laws are made there, to choose the 73 MEPs as at present and from them choose half a dozen or so MPs to carry on the dwindling workload of Parliament in Westminster?

Adrian Freer
Oadby, Leicestershire

Lament for the makers

SIR – George Osborne announces that £200 million will be spent on a new polar survey ship, but does not say where it will be made. The BAE shipyard at Portsmouth is threatened with closure, and this order would sustain skilled jobs.

Whatever happened to the “march of the makers” promised by Mr Osborne in 2011? Since his statement, we’ve put in orders to Germany for trains, Korea for naval tankers and Philadelphia for police cars and RAF helicopters. Do we want a British manufacturing industry or are we happy to continue the downward spiral to zero hours, low skill and low wages?

Alan Quinn
Prestwich, Lancashire

Anti-English Clegg

SIR – Nick Clegg wants us to be governed by people whose native language isn’t English, and now he doesn’t want our English Queen to be head of the Church of England. Perhaps he just doesn’t like being English?

Daphne MacOwan
Ballajora, Isle of Man

Out of Gluck

SIR – Ivan Hewett celebrates the increasing profile of non-standard Western classical music at the Proms. But he fails to mention the continuing marginalisation of music written before 1800. At last year’s festival, not a note of Haydn was heard, and this year will be the same. Not much Handel will be played, either.

This year marks the 300th anniversaries of the births of Christoph Gluck and C P E Bach. The former is represented only by a brief extract from Orfeo, his best-known work; the latter features only in a concert at Cadogan Hall and, briefly, in a matinée concert. There is hardly any music written before 1700 in the programme; admirers of, say, Palestrina, Monteverdi, Corelli and Purcell will be disappointed this year. How can this be justified?

C D C Armstrong

Helping entrepreneurs

SIR – The Coalition could do more to cut taxes and red tape, but I doubt that this would be sufficient to improve dramatically the number of globally successful entrepreneurs.

To do so requires action on four fronts. First, Britain needs to provide working capital to those thinking of setting up or expanding their business. Secondly, on immigration policy, we need to be more welcoming to the talent that entrepreneurs need to develop their businesses. Thirdly, we need to be less risk-averse, and recognise that most successful entrepreneurs will fail before they succeed.

Finally, we need to encourage our entrepreneurs to think big. Data show that only 1 per cent of small businesses in Britain have high-growth potential, compared with 3 per cent in America.

Prof Stephen Caddick
Vice Provost, Enterprise
University College London

Irish heritage

SIR – Dr John Doherty’s notion that James Joyce was somehow less Irish for having a British passport (Letters, April 25) – the only one available for the first 40 years of his life – is almost as fanciful as his idea that Flann O’Brien, a native Irish speaker, was one whit less Irish for being born in what later became Northern Ireland.

Angela Polsen-Emy
Dublin, Ireland

Over and out

SIR – In 1949 I played in the St George’s School, Harpenden, under-12 cricket team against Hardenwick School. A boy from my school opened the bowling, and I followed at the other end. He took all 10 wickets, conceding no runs, while I was hit for 10.

The boy went on to teach at Radley College and took an active part in cricket but as a wicketkeeper. He kept his achievement secret, but later, on being asked why he had given up bowling, he said: “Once you have taken all 10 wickets for no runs there is nothing more to achieve in the bowler’s world.”

Richard Stevens

SIR – I have a cricket ball given to my great-grandfather, Arthur Weller, dated July 1880. He played in a match between Horsham and Cuckfield, Sussex. The inscription reads: “Balls 9, Runs 0, Wickets 7.”

Carole Fox
Brighton, East Sussex

Good ways to revive underused village churches

SIR – I wholly endorse Sir Barney White-Spunner’s call to reinvigorate churches as the centre of local communities. The Government is not going to help, though a token gesture, such as the alleviation of VAT, would be welcomed to relieve some of the massive maintenance costs of these historic buildings.

In February, in our parish church in Hanmer, Clwyd, I gave a PowerPoint presentation about a recent trip to Tibet – the first time that anything like this had been done. There were refreshments afterwards, and up to 70 people enjoyed a new social experience in the church. Now we are looking for other ways to maximise the use of this wonderful building.

Lord Kenyon
Whitchurch, Shropshire

SIR – The naves of our parish churches were always sacred spaces, as the surviving consecration crosses on their walls show. The chancel housed the parish priest’s altar and the nave the parish’s altar. It was never an all-purpose space. Even marriages had to take place in the porch.

Nor are pews a relatively recent invention: it is likely that every nave was equipped with pews by the Elizabethan period. The earliest surviving pews date from the early 15th century, and they may have replaced an assemblage of stools and benches.

There is a discussion to be had about how best to keep our churches alive, but let us not rewrite history in the process.

David J Critchley

SIR – Patrick McLoughlin, the Transport Secretary, compares HS2 protesters to the self-interested Victorian landowners who opposed the railways. The protesters I have met have not been relentless Luddites, but farmers and small business people facing ruin, concerned taxpayers, infuriated commuters whose lines are starved of investment, and those who distrust “legacy” policies.

Diarmaid Kelly
London W11

SIR – Neil Jones suggests that we could soon be a Third World country if we don’t embrace HS2. I wonder how far away from the proposed tracks Mr Jones lives and whether he would tolerate years of upheaval in his area just to get to Birmingham a few minutes earlier.

Major construction projects rarely come in at the budgeted figure or on time. I can think of many better uses for the money.

David Horchover
Pinner, Middlesex

SIR – The present plans for HS2 at its London end are unpopular and unrealistically expensive. We don’t need a four-mile tunnel to Euston. Nor do we need to build more long platforms for high-speed trains when we already have them at St Pancras, City Thameslink and Waterloo.

We should reuse our vacant routes, sites and buildings before squandering huge amounts of money on an ill-thought-out project, which will cause disruption, inconvenience and unnecessary cost

to thousands of passengers for many


Paul Stancliffe
Thame, Oxfordshire

SIR – By opposing HS2, Andrea Leadsom MP is acting against the interests not only of the nation (Letters, April 28) but also of her own constituents. South Northamptonshire depends for its rail services on railheads outside its boundaries, such as Milton Keynes and Rugby. At both of these stations, local and London commuter services are severely limited by the number of non-stop long-distance trains on the line. Once these trains transfer to HS2, local services can be improved.

Surely it is the job of MPs to gain benefits for their constituents.

William Barter
Towcester, Northamptonshire

SIR – HS2 is yesterday’s technology, not tomorrow’s. We should instead be building a privately funded “intelligent” road for driverless cars along the HS2 route. This would be a much more affordable means of travel than HS2, which would only be an option for the richest.

Brian Edmonds
Farnham, Surrey

SIR – By the time HS2 is built, those able to afford it will all be video-conferencing instead of wasting time travelling.

Tony Pay
Bridge of Cally, Perthshire

Irish Times:

Sir, – Regarding your editorial on the Hamas-Fatah unity agreement (April 28th), there are various points you make that I would disagree with but one in particular stands out.

You say that the Israeli government’s demand that Israel be recognised by the Palestinians as the Jewish state is “a wrecking condition” insisted upon by Mr Netanyahu, and that if this was accepted by the Palestinians it would mean them acknowledging second-class status for Israel’s Arab minority. This presupposes that Mahmoud Abbas’s determination not to recognise Israel as the Jewish state is because of some concern he has about Israeli Arabs.

As Israelis, we don’t need Mr Abbas to lecture us on the rights of our Arab citizens. In Israel, Arab citizens, who are about a quarter of the population, are fully equal in law to Jewish citizens. Arabic is Israel’s official second language. Israeli Arabs serve in the army and police, the judiciary and civil service, and they are fully part of the political system of the state. They have free speech, free press – all the attributes of a civilised democracy. They are certainly freer than any Arabs who live in the other countries of the Middle East. They are certainly better off than Arabs in the squalidly corrupt Palestinian Authority.

One should ask not why Mr Netanyahu insists on Palestinian recognition of Israel as the Jewish state but why President Abbas opposes it so much. The real reason Mr Abbas and his acolytes do not recognise Israel as the Jewish state is because that would mean the end of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and they are not ready for that, at least not yet.

Their “recognition” of Israel, therefore, is to be only temporary and tactical, so as to create an interim Palestinian state, after which further demands will be placed on Israel, including the absurd “right of return” which, it is hoped, will swamp Israel with millions of so-called refugees from around the world who can claim some Palestinian heritage. This is why Mr Abbas will not recognise Israel as the Jewish state – because he wants the Palestinian state to replace Israel, not to live in peace with it.

We have long had our suspicions about Mr Abbas’s genuine commitment to a two-state solution for Israelis and Palestinians. Alas, his decision last week to form a unity government with the terrorist organisation Hamas – which has not changed its absolutist position on Israel – gives credence to such pessimism. Yours, etc,


Ambassador of Israel,

Pembroke Road,


Dublin 4

Sir, – Dr Sean Alexander Smith may have satisfied himself that he is sane, but I am not satisfied that he is civilised. Surely it is not necessary for religious believers to have recourse to their respective traditions to decide whether the state has the right to kill its citizens? Here we need only look to our recent history. A number of Irish people were wrongly convicted of capital crimes in the 1980s in England. Will Dr Smith argue that these people should have been hanged? Christians may believe in resurrection, but can they resurrect a hanged man so that he can appeal his sentence?

Guilt or innocence is not the issue however, but the question of certainty. Is any justice system infallible? There is a strange contradiction it seems to me in the attitudes of the demented tricorne-hat-wearing reactionaries of the United States who decry what they call “big government” while at the same time advocating the death penalty. Excessive interference by government in the lives of its citizens has surely no more perfect manifestation than that it should be able to kill them as a normal part of its business.

None of the Christian scriptures cited in the previous letters on this subject mentioned that Jesus himself was asked to be judge in one capital case where guilt was, apparently, certain. His judgement? “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.” [John 8:7] Is this not enough? What more do you want? Any further argument would seem to be pharisaical casuistry. Yours, etc,


Hazel Villas,


Co Dublin

Sir, – As an agnostic, I approach the death penalty debate with a different perspective from that of most of your contributors. To my mind the arguments of all those theists, whatever their religious persuasion, who claim to respect the “sanctity” of human life and yet approve of judicial murder, are both perplexing and abhorrent, and I assess them accordingly. As a wise man is reputed to have said long ago: “Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves … By their fruits ye shall know them.” Yours, etc,


Charleville Road,

Dublin 6

Sir, – Harry McGee (April 28th) is quite correct to propose one single constituency for Ireland in the European elections. Not only are the countries and places he mentioned one big constituency, even states like Spain are. Spain of course uses a closed list system, where you vote for a party not a person.

This should be applied also to Dáil elections. One single list per party and you vote for that list. Nothing would stop independents standing as single person lists if they wanted. This would help focus debates on politics and not the personality, as so often happens now. Yours, etc,




Sir, – With reference to Harry McGee’s article , it seems to me that the elephant in the room is the Electoral Act 1997. What is wrong with having a two-seat constituency?  The population of the Irish Republic is, according to the 2011 Census, 4,588,000. Eleven MEPs represents a seat ratio of one MEP to 417,000 people. Using four constituencies while observing local authority and county boundaries, the following would be a better outcome: Dublin three seats (population 1,273,000, ratio 424,000); rest of Leinster three seats (population 1,231,000, ratio 410,000); Munster three seats (population 1,246,000, ratio 415,000); Connacht/Ulster two seats, (population 838,000, ratio 419,000). Why let the tail wag the dog? Yours, etc,


Temple Mills,


Co Kildare

Sir, – If Brian Hayes TD wishes to run for the European Parliament then surely he first needs to clear up his commitment to his Dáil constituents. If he no longer wishes to represent them, ought he not to resign his seat? Yours, etc,


Dollymount Park,

Dublin 3

Sir, – As a member of the Labour Party for more than 50 years, I have experienced more than enough of our party’s ups and downs in polls and elections, indeed more downs than ups. It seems to me that the Irish electorate wants Laboury-type policies yet continues to vote for our conservative parties, Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and now, it seems, Sinn Féin. The Labour Party has been in government from time to time over the years, but never as the majority party.

Labour usually receives most of the blame for those periods in government, and little of the credit. Sometimes indeed it might have been “cuter” to have stayed out, especially after the last election when years of profligacy and mismanagement (from parties supported by the Irish electorate with its votes) left our country almost as an outcast among democracies.

At the time many experts suggested we would need at least 10 years before coming out of “banana republic” status. Recent reports suggest we are well ahead of that in returning to some sort of reasonable health. Obviously, most people have been hurt during this recovery process, and some more than others.

Regarding the call by our MEP Phil Prendergast for Eamon Gilmore to resign as party leader, if Ms Prendergast sees the leadership as being a problem, she is entitled to say so. But it’s hard to see a change as solving any problem. I suggest that even if all Labour Party elected representatives were to resign their positions it would not improve things one bit; indeed it would certainly make them worse. What is required instead is for each voter to take much greater care in deciding who, or which party, deserves their vote, with their own and our country’s future welfare in mind. Yours, etc,



Dublin 9

Sir, – As to Phil Prendergast and her advice to Eamon Gilmore, a story comes to mind. As a Limerick team was going from rugby bar to rugby bar in celebration of winning a very handsome plaque, the voice of a friend of mine was heard to say: “I’d keep the noise down until ye’ve won something ye can drink out of.” Yours, etc,



Co Limerick

Sir, – In response to Clare Bourke (April 29th) on the apparent “value” of the licence fee, perhaps someone should point her toward YouTube. It provides, free of charge, wonderful concerts from the National Concert Hall and elsewhere. There is no need for the bloated national station.

The public broadcasting model is outdated and is yet another tax: the worst value for money, €160 a year for two overhyped stations – and we have no choice but to pay. I fail to see the value in being forced to pay for a poor service you don’t want. I believe RTÉ should go down the road of all the other stealth taxes: those who use pay. I guarantee if you made the paying of this tax optional RTÉ would quickly see how little value it really has in the open market. Let the people choose. Yours, etc,


Glen Grove,

Swords ,

Co Dublin

Sir, – Paul Gillespie’s World View column (“Climate change is key to modern ethics”, April 26th) is a further encouraging sign that debate on climate change is being seen in the greater context of global economic orthodoxy.

The statistics Dr Gillespie presents outlining how the richest 10 per cent account for 60 per cent of the world’s consumption align well with Thomas Pikettys recent thesis ( Capital in the Twenty-First Century ) regarding the growth of inequality.

The global economy is set up to facilitate an accumulation of wealth among a minority. This group drives accelerated growth in consumption in the economy to enhance its own standing amongits peers, as to stand still in an anathema.

However, in doing so, it consigns the remainder of the planet to increased indebtedness to feed this unnecessary consumption and also deplete the finite resources of the planet.

Climate change is but one manifestation, albeit a most serious one, of the malignancy of the current economic orthodoxy.

Inequality, injustice, rampant poverty and, increasingly, the subversion of democracy through legalised political corruption, can also be seen as symptoms.

However, whereas these latter ailments mainly affect only those impoverished by the system, climate change is not so selective and as a result the idea of a change in economic approach may yet gain some mileage. Yours, etc,


Linden Avenue,



Sir, – As the Government plans to roll out subsidised high-speed broadband countrywide, what measures will be put in place to protect children against the tsunami of pornography that will follow in its wake?

In the UK the biggest viewers of pornography are children of 11 to 17 years; this is causing significant mental health problems, while internet pornography is also now a leading facilitator of child abuse.

The increasing availability of out-of-home Wi-Fi connections has made it nearly impossible for parents to protect their children from disturbing material. The Government is paying for the high-speed roll-out; the Government issues the telecoms with their internet licences; therefore it is up to the Government to make sure the telecoms behave responsibly. Yours, etc,


Erne Terrace,

Dublin 2

Sir, – In your issue of April 26th two articles appear under the respective headlines “State approves €500m for broadband” and “Homeless crisis ‘bloody awful and getting worse’”.

As a country it appears to be quite obvious where the priorities lie in regard to the welfare of citizens. God help the lady living in the car and so many other unfortunates. Surely the feeding and housing of all people, including the necessary financial support, must receive absolute precedence over all other requirements. Yours, etc,


Merville Road,


Co Dublin

Sir, – Your front page top headline (April 26th) reads “State approves €500 for broadband”. Further down the page the headline reads “Homeless crisis ‘bloody awful and getting worse’”. We are told there are 952 long-term vacant council houses and flats in need of renovation and that €15 million has just been allocated for that purpose and, further, that Waterford Hospital has no funds to replace 300 torn and dirty matresses.

Has nobody in government got any sense of priorities? What is wrong with this country and the people who are supposed to be running it? Yours, etc,



Co Louth

Sir, – Derek MacHugh is correct to be worried about European and six nations rugby. Vanity teams backed by endless funds can only damage the game for everyone. While players are entitled to be well paid for their undoubted talents and efforts, some balance is required between players, owners and supporters. One way to stem the tide of last-gasp mercenaries and poached players would be to limit the number of non-nationally-qualified players to three or four per team. In this way the power of money might be limited. Yours, etc,



Co Westmeath

Sir, – As a cyclist, I welcome reports that the cycle network is to be increased over the coming years. Extrapolating from the practices on the current network, it is likely that many of the new routes will be shared with footpaths.

Given that pedestrians often pay as much attention to shared cycle lanes as many cyclists do to red lights, perhaps we should dispense with 2,840km worth of red tarmac, white lines and road markings, and accept that they are just free-for-alls. It might even come in under budget! Yours, etc,


Granville Road,

Dún Laoghaire,

Co Dublin

Sir, – Olivia Kelly (April 19th) might have mentioned the importance of the Bike-to-Work scheme in popularising cycling in Dublin and in other parts of the country. Yours, etc,


Leopardstown Abbey,

Dublin 18

Sir, – The Church of Ireland (report, April 29th) in its official response to Sinn Féin’s motion in the Stormont Assembly in favour of same sex marriage has affirmed “that marriage is in its purpose a union permanent and life-long … of one man with one woman, to the exclusion of all others on either side …The Church of Ireland recognises … no other understanding of marriage.”

Just over a year ago an electoral college of the same church elected to the see of Meath a cleric in that diocese who had remarried after his first marriage ended in divorce. His election was subsequently ratified by the House of Bishops. He was obliged to withdraw from the position days before his consecration was due to take place when (as newspapers reported widely at the time) disclosures were made regarding his conduct as rector of a parish in Northern Ireland.

The Church of Ireland  believes that it is appropriate for a divorced and remarried man to be a candidate for the office of bishop; other divorced and remarried men still act as clergy in the church. The remarriage in church of divorcees is no longer uncommon. In that case why does the church continue to affirm its commitment in principle to a theology of marriage which it cannot be bothered to honour in practice? Yours, etc,


Ulidia House,

Belfast BT125JN

Irish Independent:


Published 30 April 2014 02:30 AM

* According to Ian O’Doherty (Irish Independent, April 28), Gabrielle McFadden’s claim to a Dail seat is based on ‘a promise’ she made to succeed her late sister, Nicky McFadden TD, shortly before she died.

Also in this section

Finding hope when troubled by doubts

Letters: A republic for the people

Democracy will suffer

It would seem that a Dail seat is to be regarded as a family heirloom; a chattel that can be bequeathed with less formality than a legacy in a will, which is at least signed and witnessed; and that Ms McFadden is counting on the mystical inertia of a distracted electorate to fulfil her ambition.

There are 24 TDs in the Dail who are connected to family dynasties and 13 of these directly succeeded a close relative in winning a seat, reflecting a strong culture of nepotism embedded in the Oireachtas.

The familial nature of this culture is further aggravated when TDs employ relatives as drivers, assistants and advisers in sinecures funded by taxpayers. It is from these foundations that parish pump favouritism and chicanery flourishes.

How can Ireland ever evolve as a transparent and ethical meritocracy when nepotism drives our political system? Would the public good, for example, be enhanced if county managers, senior public servants and heads of state organisations were allowed to slither their close relatives into privileged positions in order to succeed them?

It is time for Ireland to grow up politically and for the electorate to think more carefully about the severe limitations of these family dynasties. No new thinking will ever emerge from a system that only looks defensible to people who are related to each other and whose span of accountability and vicariousness does not transcend their own tribe.




* On President Higgins’s recent state visit to Britain, I think it would have been appropriate if Runnymede near Windsor had been part of the itinerary.

It is the place where the Magna Carta was agreed and signed in 1215. It is the embryo from which our modern democracies and human rights grew. The principles of liberty came from Runnymede. The US Supreme Court has ruled that its democracy and Bill of Rights have their foundation in the Magna Carta.

Next year will be the 800th anniversary and all the great democratic leaders will be there including President Obama and, I hope, we will be well represented too.




* Regarding ‘Quinn should teach these wolves a lesson’ (Irish Independent, April 27), first, all three unions did not treat Education Minister Ruairi Quinn with disdain. The TUI listened respectfully.

Also, that “They earn more than €60,000 a year on average, take three months’ paid holiday, have protected pensions, and jobs for life”, is simply not true. I do not know one teacher who earns €60,000 a year.

The teachers I know are taking extra jobs in order to supplement their incomes. Also, I know several teachers who have gone from school to school because of the ‘casualisation’ of teaching. It is virtually impossible to get a permanent role in today’s climate.

The main reason teachers are up in arms over Mr Quinn’s new plans is because they care about the future of education and don’t want to see a new curriculum rushed in without adequate planning.




* God exists in the minds of people only, because no human has ever produced a scintilla of proof that a god or gods exist or ever did exist. We now know that the Earth is billions of years old, and science has proved that life forms started about four billion years ago.

Of all the millions of species of life that exist on Earth man in his present form is a very recent arrival and we represent less than 10pc of all life on this planet; insects represent about 80pc of life here.

Man has everything in common with animals – he reproduces in the same manner; he must eat, drink and breathe to stay alive; he has the same internal organs as an animal. All life is related, and all living things on Earth, from microbes to elephants and everything in between, will die, decompose and turn to dust.

Man has invented and worshipped gods from the dawn of time. It is amazing that so many people choose to live in total ignorance of the workings of nature and of the world around them even when it is beamed into their living rooms and explained to them in great detail by some of the greatest naturalists and scientists of our time, such as David Attenborough and others.




* What’s wrong with Labour? Where has its vote gone? . . . Frankfurt?

Eamon Gilmore is under pressure from a colleague who represents nigh on half of the country geographically at European level, which doesn’t really look good for a man who represents the people of a Dail constituency at a national level.

The party is certainly under political pressure. Is it because the Government can’t hide behind the troika any more? Is it because the traditional union vote has collapsed following a High Court decision to prevent a mandated strike from taking place while a ‘Labour man’ sits in the office of Tanaiste? Is it, to put it very simply, as my child might say, people don’t like Mr Gilmore any more?

The way Ireland works is very simple. Politicians put their faces up on poles, seep into the conscience of the nation and get elected. The unfortunate side-effect of this is that the Irish have become used to putting faces with policies.




* Every cloud has a silver lining . . . the introduction of water charges may have deodorant manufacturers rubbing their hands in glee . . . or indeed raising their arms.




* An Post published its results for 2013 on April 24. The annual report says the State Savings Schemes, amounting to €18bn, continue to attract large inflows of cash. It also states that these schemes account for 16pc of personal savings.

What the report does not say is that it operates under the umbrella of a ‘state subsidy’. For example:

* With these schemes, there is no DIRT deducted. This is a subsidy of 41pc per annum on gains.

* There is no investment levy applied on entry to the schemes. The levy for insurance-wrapped non-state savings is 1pc on entry and for any new investments added.

* It distorts the market for bank deposits and credit union savings as these are subject to 41pc DIRT.

Why is there not a level playing field and why should some savings be tax free while others are not?




* As a private sector worker without any pension, no guaranteed employment and less than two weeks’ holiday a year, I would like to welcome back the 27,000 teachers after their two-week Easter holiday on full pay, guaranteed jobs and pensions for life.

From the antics at your annual ‘Whingefests’ (conferences), it would appear many of you feel underpaid, overworked and not appreciated.

Guess what? None of the 70pc workforce I belong to in the private sector feel your pain, and any stress you’re feeling will be softened by the fact that it will be no time at all until the two-month fully paid summer holidays kick in.



Irish Independent

Out and about

April 29, 2014

29April2014Bout and about

I go all the way around the park listening to the Men from the Ministry: Our heroes face a terrible fate helping the farmers Priceless

Mary Post two books do some shopping

Scrabbletoday, Mary gets350, Perhaps Iwill win tomorrow.


Professor Noel Gale – obituary

Professor Noel Gale was a physicist whose work on isotope fingerprinting gave archaeologists insight into long-lost trading routes

Professor Noel Gale

Professor Noel Gale

7:36PM BST 28 Apr 2014


Professor Noel Gale, the physicist who has died aged 82, applied the techniques of isotope fingerprinting to determine the origin of metals found at archaeological sites in the Aegean, shedding new light on the development of the ancient world.

In the decades before Gale became involved in the 1970s, chemists had been trying to help archaeologists identify the sources of ore from which Bronze Age peoples extracted metals they used to make tools and ornaments. The chemical compositions of artefacts were compared with those of likely ore deposits, but to little avail because not only are ore deposits far from uniform chemically, but the smelting process often changes their composition. In 1964 one reviewer concluded that “a solution to the problem of the sources of supply for ancient copper and bronze objects in the Mediterranean lands cannot be hoped for through the medium of the laboratory”.

Gale, a physicist at Oxford University, became involved in archaeological research in 1975 when he was invited to collaborate with a group at the Max Planck Institute, in Heidelberg, on studies of the provenance of the silver used to make ancient Greek coins . The researchers hoped to exploit a well-known geophysical fact that metals such as lead – a trace element in many metal artefacts – have a recognisable pattern in their isotopic composition (isotopes are variable forms of an element). For instance, lead from one deposit may have a lot of the lead-207 isotope, while another may be richer in lead-208, and so on. Crucially these proportions are not changed when the ore is smelted, so when the isotopic composition of lead from a metal goblet, say, is examined, it can be matched with the lead-isotope composition of the parent ore deposit.

Working first in the Department of Geology at Oxford, and later at Oxford’s Isotrace Laboratory, which he co-founded with his then wife and collaborator, Zofia Stos-Gale, Gale was instrumental in laying the foundations of modern lead isotope provenance methodology and compiled a large database of analytical results.

Encouraged by the archaeologist Professor Colin Renfrew, in the early 1980s the Gales set about fingerprinting potential sources of Aegean Bronze Age metals. They then analysed the isotopic composition of lead in about 100 lead and silver artefacts from the area and found that many originated from ore in mines at Laurion on mainland Greece. The discovery came as a major surprise to archaeologists who knew of the importance of the Laurion mines to classical Athens, but did not believe that the source had been extensively used 1,000 years earlier. The lead isotope analysis also supported the idea that trade was going on between the Aegean people and Dynastic Egypt between 2,000 and 1,300 BC.

In the late 1980s Gale led a five-year research project, funded by the British Academy and the Leverhulme Trust, using one of the world’s most advanced mass spectrometers to establish the complex trading routes in copper, on which the cultures of the eastern Mediterranean and Aegean relied.

This work not only revealed that trading patterns were more complicated than first thought, but also posed tantalising questions about relationships between the Bronze Age states of the Mediterranean and countries in the Middle East. A key part of the research involved the analysis of so-called Oxhide ingots – 66lb copper ingots that were used widely in the region from 1,500 BC to 1,000 BC . Lead isotope analysis of ingots at the Minoan palace of Hagia Triadha found that the metal could not have originated in the Aegean region, but probably came from further east – possibly Iran, Syria, Turkey or Afghanistan, where copper was already in use. The finding has led some archaeologists to conclude that the Minoans, who were great seafarers, made contact with the peoples of the Middle East, from where they returned having learnt the uses of copper, a development which may have helped them to become a regional power.

Noel Harold Gale was born on Christmas Eve 1931 in Valletta, Malta, where his father was serving as a seaman in the Royal Navy. He was educated at Brockenhurst Grammar School, Hampshire, and at Imperial College, London, where he took a degree in Physics. He went on to take a PhD at St Bartholomew’s Hospital on the medical applications of nuclear physics. He would take a further degree, in Pure Physics, at Manchester University.

Gale spent several years at the Harwell Laboratory of the Atomic Energy Research Establishment before joining the Department of Geology at Oxford University in the early 1960s. He was fellow of Nuffield College from 1987 to 1999 and an emeritus fellow from 1999 to this year.

Professor Noel Gale is survived by his former wife, Zofia Stos-Gale, by his third wife, Daphne, and by three sons.

Professor Noel Gale, born December 24 1931, died February 3 2014


As good, enlightened, Guardian-reading parents in the 80s, we had a policy of non-gender-specific toys for our two children (Load of old pony, G2, 23 April). This backfired when we caught our son (aged four) biting a piece of toast into the shape of a handgun, and later building a sword from Duplo bricks. Our daughter, having kicked a ball with me from when she could first walk, came home from her first day at nursery and exclaimed loudly that: “Girls don’t play football!” Good luck to today’s parents of young children.
Patrick Russell

• In our family a gentleman was someone who always put the seat back after use (Who are these new rules about being a gentleman actually for?, 26 April). I think it was originally a WC public notice on the train and became family lore. Empirical research suggests there are very few men who still observe this injunction.
Lesley Kant

•  At a crossroads east of Lincoln in the 50s a road sign indicating “to Old Bolingbroke and Mavis Enderby” had been augmented with the words “the gift of a son”; the modern signsimply invites the traveller to visit English Heritage’s Bolingbroke Castle – birthplace in 1367 of the future King Henry IV (Letters, 28 April).
Mike Rowe
Offham, Kent

• Despite Southampton winning two-nil against Everton, your match report (Sport, 28 April) managed to avoid mentioning one home team player, yet still gave man of the match to Nathan Clyne, in a footnote. This must be a record.
Ken Emery

• Quite amused at William Henwood’s call to Lenny Henry to go live in a black country (Ukip likely to come out ahead in Europe poll, 28 April). As Henry is from Dudley in the Black Country, where else can he go?
Guru Singh
Shepshed, Leicestershire

• I once had a boss (‘Get it done, people’, G2, 28 April) who spotted me reading the Guardian. He told me that had he known I was a Guardian reader, he would not have appointed me.
Ron Jeffries
Aldborough Hatch, Essex

Residents of the besieged Palestinian camp of Yarmouk, in Damascus, Syria, queueing to receive food supplies in January; UN secretary general Ban Ki-Moon had urged the Syrian government to authorise more humanitarian staff to work inside the country. Photograph: UNRWA/AP.

More than three years into the Syrian conflict, 9.3 million people are in urgent need of humanitarian assistance; 3.5 million are in so called “hard to reach” areas. The UN and other humanitarian agencies have long argued that many hundreds of thousands can only be reached effectively from neighbouring countries such as Turkey and Jordan. But the Syrian government continues to refuse consent for “cross-border” operations of this kind despite a clear UN security council demand that it do so. Blatant disregard for the most basic rules of international humanitarian law by the Syrian government and elements of the opposition is causing millions to suffer. But this appalling situation has been compounded by what we deem to be an overly cautious interpretation of international humanitarian law, which has held UN agencies back from delivering humanitarian aid across borders for fear that some member states will find them unlawful.

As a coalition of leading international lawyers and legal experts, we judge that there is no legal barrier to the UN directly undertaking cross-border humanitarian operations and supporting NGOs to undertake them as well. We argue that cross-border operations by the UN would meet three primary conditions for legality.

First, the United Nations clearly meets the first condition for legitimate humanitarian action, which requires it respect the principles of humanity, neutrality, impartiality, and non-discrimination in delivering aid.

Second, in many of these areas various opposition groups, not the Syrian government, are in control of the territory. In such cases, the consent of those parties in effective control of the area through which relief will pass is all that is required by law to deliver aid.

Third, under international humanitarian law parties can withhold consent only for valid legal reasons, not for arbitrary reasons. For example, parties might temporarily refuse consent for reasons of “military necessity” where imminent military operations will take place on the proposed route for aid. They cannot, however, lawfully withhold consent to weaken the resistance of the enemy, cause starvation of civilians, or deny medical assistance. Where consent is withheld for these arbitrary reasons, the relief operation is lawful without consent.

The UN has been explicit that the Syrian government has arbitrarily denied consent for a wide range of legitimate humanitarian relief operations. According to the top UN official for humanitarian affairs, Valerie Amos, the “continued withholding of consent to cross-border and cross-line relief operations … is arbitrary and unjustified.”

The stakes for correcting this overly cautious legal interpretation are high – hundreds of thousands of lives hang in the balance. Humanitarian organisations will surely face enormous risk in carrying out cross-border relief operations and may decline to do so. These are not easy calculations to make. But in the case of Syria, UN agencies and other impartial aid agencies that are willing and able to undertake cross-border actions can lawfully deliver life-saving food, water, and medical assistance to desperate women, children and men inside Syria. We urge the UN to apply international humanitarian law so that it enables, rather than prevents, life-saving assistance reaching those in need.
Professor Payam Akhavan Professor of international law, McGill University, Montreal, Canada
Professor Mashood A Baderin Director, Centre of Islamic and Middle Eastern Law, SOAS, University of London
Geoffrey Bindman QC Founder, Bindmans LLP
Professor Laurence Boisson de Chazournes Professor of international law, University of Geneva, Switzerland
Professor Michael Bothe Professor emeritus of public law, Johann Wolfgang Goethe-Universität Frankfurt
Nicolas Bratza Former president of the European court of human rights
Toby Cadman Barrister, 9 Bedford Row International
Professor Stephen Chan Professor of world politics, SOAS, University of London
Dr Hans Corell Under-secretary-general for legal affairs and the legal counsel of the United Nations, 1994-2004; CSCE war crimes rapporteur in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Croatia; former judge of appeal and chief legal adviser of the Swedish ministry of justice and ministry for foreign affairs
Professor Irwin Cotler Emeritus professor of Law, McGill University; member of the Canadian parliament; former minister of justice & attorney general of Canada
Dr Emily Crawford Lecturer, Sydney law school, University of Sydney
John Dowd QC Former New South Wales attorney general
Professor John Dugard Professor emeritus, universities of Leiden and Witwatersrand; former member of UN International Law Commission
Professor Pierre-Marie Dupuy Professor emeritus, University of Paris (Panthéon-Assas), Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, Genèva
Professor Max du Plessis Professor of law, University of KwaZulu-Natal
Elizabeth Evatt Former member of UN human rights committee
Professor Jared Genser Adjunct professor of law, Georgetown University; co-editor, UN Security Council in the Age of Human Rights (Cambridge University Press, 2014)
Richard Goldstone Former chief prosecutor of the UN international criminal tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda; former justice, constitutional court of South Africa; chairperson of the Commission of Inquiry regarding Public Violence and Intimidation (Goldstone Commission)
Professor Jan Klabbers Academy professor (Martti Ahtisaari chair), University of Helsinki
Professor Pierre Klein Professor of international law, Université libre de Bruxelles, Belgium
Anthony Lester QC Blackstone Chambers
Tawanda Mutasah International law scholar, New York University
Aryeh Neier Distinguished visiting professor at Paris School of International Affairs, Sciences Po; president emeritus of the Open Society Foundations
Professor Alain Pellet Professor, Université Paris-Ouest, Nanterre-La Défense; former chairperson, International Law Commission, United Nations; member, Institut de Droit international
Professor Javaid Rehman Professor of Islamic and international law, Brunel University, London
Professor Nigel Rodley Chairperson, University of Exeter Human Rights Centre
Professor Leila Nadya Sadat Professor of law and director of the Whitney R Harris World Law Institute, Washington University school of law; special adviser on crimes against humanity to the ICC prosecutor
Professor Philippe Sands QC University College London
Frances Webber Garden Court Chambers
Professor William A Schabas Professor of international law, Middlesex University
Phil Shiner Principal, Public Interest Lawyers
Professor Willem van Genugten Professor of international law, Tilburg University, the Netherlands
Professor Guglielmo Verdirame King’s College London
Professor Mark V Vlasic Senior fellow & adjunct professor of law, Georgetown University; former legal officer, office of the prosecutor, UN international criminal tribunal for the former Yugoslavia
Dr Hakeem Yusuf Senior lecturer & director of LLM Programmes in human rights, school of law, University of Strathclyde

In 1895, Henry Wood founded the Proms to make classical music accessible to a variety of people with the option of cheaper tickets and a large window of opportunity in which to attend. Why then do the Proms now include concerts that have nothing to do with classical music (Report, 25 April)? In the early days of the Proms the idea of musical variety was a Wagner night on Mondays and a Beethoven night on Fridays. Now it seems to be a Shostakovich evening on a Wednesday and then a Pet Shop Boys late-night party. Can you imagine a Bach night at Glastonbury? Why do we need popular music to bring us into classical music when you can see Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis conducted by John Eliot Gardiner or Bach’s St Matthew’s Passion by Simon Rattle? The classical music world has brilliant inspirational people from the younger generation of Dudamel, Benedetti and Grosvenor to more experienced people like Barenboim, Rattle and Gergiev. These artists are all in high demand but Proms are supposed to be there to make it easier to see these sorts of people perform. It is tragic that no one takes the traditional approach any more to introducing people to classical music with things like Britten’s Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra or Beethoven’s Fifth.
Gabriel Osborne

•  Your article on this year’s Proms fails to mention how little music written before 1800 is to be performed. No Haydn will be heard this year, just as last year; there is little Handel and not much of any composers of the 18th century other than Mozart and JS Bach. In their anniversary year, Gluck and CPE Bach (both born in 1714) appear only briefly.

Music written before 1700 is still worse represented; a little Lully apart, there is hardly any on offer. Why are the Proms programmers so averse to early music?
CDC Armstrong

• Last year the Proms offered more than 27 hours of Wagner; this year, nine minutes. Sic transit gloria ambulationis?
Mark Knight
Ightham, Kent

• In line with National Theatre policy (Letters, 21 April), will the War Horse Prom feature only recorded music?
Chris Burn
Ongar, Essex

In a statement issued by Roche and cited in your article (Nice rejects new breast cancer drug as too expensive, 23 April), Professor Paul Ellis attempts to justify the £90,000-per-patient cost of the cancer drug Kadcyla, insisting that it provides patients with valuable extra time with their loved ones – “time that you cannot put a price on”. I agree that you can’t put a price tag on a terminally ill person’s remaining months. But with Kadcyla’s £90,000 price tag, hasn’t Roche done just that?

New drugs can lessen patients’ side effects and prolong their lives. Indeed, considering the toxic regimens that doctors still have to use to treat diseases like cancer and tuberculosis, it’s clear that we need new treatment options. But what use is innovation if people can’t access these new drugs because they are too expensive? This has been a recognised problem in low- and middle-income countries for some time. But increasingly people in countries like the UK are finding they or their health systems can’t afford these prices either.

We’re told that if we don’t allow companies to charge huge sums for medicines, then they can’t fund the research and development (R&D) needed to create more new drugs. But retail prices don’t reflect the cost of production – in fact, the cost of producing a drug will be just a tiny fraction of what it goes for on the market. Retail prices are set according to the maximum amount a market will bear in the absence of price-lowering competition.

Why do we continue to accept a system where, with no transparency on the cost of R&D, companies are allowed to sell new drugs under monopoly conditions and set their own pricing, effectively holding governments and patients to ransom? Ultimately, we need to find a way to pay for the development of new medicines that doesn’t put all the bargaining chips in pharma companies’ hands. It’s possible, but to get there we need our governments to look at alternative business models that reward the development of new drugs without conferring monopolies.

The system is broken and we need to fix it, urgently. Time is passing and, clearly, it comes at a price.
Katy Athersuch
Access campaign, Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF)

A worrying omission from the headline figures in the Crime Survey for England and Wales (Fall in murder and violent crime, but increase in rape, survey finds, 25 April) are those relating to religious and race hate incidents. This category is absent from the survey report and enquirers to the Office for National Statistics (ONS) are instead pointed in the direction of the Home Office, whose “overview” of hate crime wraps up together religious, race hate, homophobic and disability hatred and comes to the conclusion that there has been a steady fall over the past five years.

Contrast this with the Metropolitan police crime statistics, which show a slight but continuing upward trend in religious and race hate crime in the capital but with Islamophobic incidents rocketing by 65% in the year to March 2014.

At a time when Ukip’s vile posters are degrading streets throughout the country, certain tabloid newspapers are stepping up their vitriolic and frequently inaccurate attacks on migrants, and public discourse on the subject of immigration is poisoned by politicians of most parties trying to “out-tough” one another on the subject, is it not time that the authorities paused from patting themselves on the back over the fall in crime and gave more attention to this worrying specific increase and its causes?
Phillip Cooper
Hammersmith and Fulham Refugee Forum

•  While the reduction in crime is clearly welcome, it is regrettable that the ONS data is not organised in such a way as to extract percentage changes for both domestic violence and hate crime, since these are incorporated into the more generic crime headings. For the victims of such crimes, their daily experiences of oppression, name-calling, personal violence and attack dominate their lives. Any reduction in overall crime offers no solace at all to them, and until these are recognised as discrete and heinous acts, nothing substantial will be done about them.
Andy Stelman
(Retired assistant chief probation officer), Bishops Castle, Shropshire

• The class-refracted conflicts that John Harris recalls (Britain’s bootboys may be gone, but are we really more at peace?, 25 April) have given way to new patterns of crime reflected in Cardiff University’s latest violence and society research (Report, 23 April). This must surely have some connection to the class realignment if not transformation John alludes to, especially as they are common across “post-industrial” societies.

Indeed, the division of knowledge and labour between the traditionally manual working class and the non-manual middle class has been eroded by the applications of new technology in successive work reorganisations. As a result, the polarising postwar pyramid has gone pear-shaped, with a new middle-working/working-middle class intermediate between the upper or ruling class and a section of the formerly unskilled working class relegated to underclass status. The consolidation of this new Americanised class structure may have been marked in England by the 2011 riots that John also recalls but everyone else has forgotten.
Patrick Ainley
University of Greenwich

•  John Harris’s piece was most perceptive, but I feel he and other commentators have missed a key factor in the decline in violent crime: ecstasy. From the late 80s to mid-90s an entire generation who would have been brawling in pub car parks was getting off its face on E at raves, and instead of scrapping were hugging complete strangers and telling them they loved them. This largely broke the intergenerational transmission of the macho street brawl culture and closed or changed the nature of the places that used to provide the arenas for it; it has never recovered.
Ian Simmons
Monkseaton, Tyne & Wear

•  How interesting that as crime falls, everyone seems reluctant to give any credit to a range of positive, evidence-based policies introduced post-1997, which were designed to create a fairer society and a better future for young people. National drug and alcohol strategies, a brilliant youth justice system, the well-targeted Connexions services for young people, education maintenance allowances to encourage young people to stay in education, the teenage pregnancy strategy, a great “New Deal” for young jobseekers, and many other initiatives were all designed to look holistically at disadvantaged young people and help them become useful pro-social citizens. The Labour party is particularly guilty of not realising how good they were in government, and not making the obvious case for retaining these well-researched, cost-efficient policies.
Sheila Hutchins
Tregony, Cornwall

As musicians, we are concerned to hear that the use of steel-strung guitars is being prohibited in prisons. We believe music has an important role to play in engaging prisoners in the process of rehabilitation. However, this ability will be seriously undermined if inmates are unable to practise between group sessions.

As most guitars owned or used by inmates in our prisons are steel-strung acoustics, this ruling will mean that these instruments are kept under lock and key until time for a supervised session, if the prison in question has provision for musical tuition.

The stipulation that only nylon strings can be used will not alleviate this situation. There are several practical reasons why nylon strings are not suitable for a steel-strung acoustic guitar, not least the differing methods by which nylon and steel strings are attached to the instrument.

We understand that there must be security protocols when steel-strung guitars are used in prisons, but, until this ruling, access has been at the discretion of staff.

There has been a worrying rise in the number of self-inflicted deaths in the period since this ruling was introduced. Since October 2013, when only one death was reported, there have been a total of 50 self-inflicted deaths, over double the figure for the same period last year.

We would like to know whether the recent changes to the treatment of prisoners – which includes restrictions on books and steel-strung guitars – could be at the root of this steep increase in fatalities.

We urge the minister for justice, Chris Grayling, to urgently look into the causes of the rise in self-inflicted deaths in prison since the introduction of the recent prison service instruction and to explain why steel-strung guitars have been singled out for exclusion.
Billy Bragg Jail Guitar Doors, Johnny Marr, Speech Debelle, Dave Gilmour, Richard Hawley, Scroobius Pip, Guy Garvey, Ed O’Brien, Philip Selway, Seasick Steve, The Farm, Sam Duckworth

Ilham Tohti

Ilham Tohti speaks during an interview at his home in Beijing, China, before his arrest. He has been charged with the serious offence of separatism. Photograph: Andy Wong/AP

As writers and artists, we join PEN American Center today in protesting the arrest of our colleague, Uighur writer and scholar Ilham Tohti, who is being charged with separatism for the peaceful expression of his views on human rights. Mr Tohti, winner of the 2014 PEN/Barbara Goldsmith Freedom to Write Award, has been working peacefully to build bridges between Han Chinese and the Uighur people through his writing. His fate, now in the hands of the Chinese government, has profound implications for China‘s future. We urge President Xi Jinping to respect Mr Tohti’s right to free expression by releasing him and dropping all charges against him immediately.

On 15 January 2014 authorities in Beijing arrested Mr Tohti at his home in front of his two young sons, who were forced to watch as dozens of officers raided their home. He was then effectively disappeared for over a month. Only on February 25 2014, did his wife, Guzaili Nu’er, receive formal notification that Mr Tohti was being held in a detention center thousands of miles away in Urumqi, Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region (XUAR), and was being charged with separatism, a particularly serious offence. He has been refused access to his lawyer. We understand that he could face life imprisonment or even the death penalty if convicted on this baseless charge. We are particularly concerned that authorities are using Mr Tohti’s website, Uighur Online, as a pretence for his persecution. Mr Tohti founded Uighur Online with the express purpose of promoting understanding between Uighurs and Han Chinese, and he has never advocated violence or promoted a political agenda. Instead, his website has served as a critically important counterpoint to the aggressive measures that Xi Jinping’s administration has imposed against the Uighur people in the name of stability. Without dialogue, there can be no stability.

Human rights are of concern to all peoples regardless of frontiers, and freedom of expression is a fundamental human right recognised both under international law, and by the Chinese Constitution. Ilham Tohti has done nothing more than exercise the rights guaranteed to him by his country’s own laws.
Indeed, respecting and protecting human rights is not a detriment to any state, but rather a sign of its strength. The Chinese government has stated that creating a harmonious and stable society is its goal. To do so, the country must allow writers, artists, intellectuals, and all its citizens to speak their minds freely and interact with each other and with the world through whatever platform they choose.

Releasing Ilham Tohti and other writers imprisoned for exercising their right to free expression, including Liu Xiaobo and Liu Xia, would show the world that China is a strong world power that accepts dissent as a crucial part of a healthy society. We know the Chinese people are ready to take this step. We hope their government is as well.
André Aciman
Edward Albee
Anthony Appiah
Ken Auletta
Paul Auster
Carl Bernstein
Judy Blundell
Giannina Braschi
Robert Caro
Roz Chast
Ron Chernow
Sergio de la Pava
Don DeLillo
EL Doctorow
Jennifer Egan
Deborah Eisenberg
Neil Gaiman
Peter Godwin
Barbara Goldsmith
Adam Gopnik
Philip Gourevitch
Beth Gutcheon
Molly Haskell
Aleksandar Hemon
Siri Hustvedt
Nicole Krauss
Chang-Rae Lee
Ariel Levy
Valeria Luiselli
Larissa MacFarquhar
Kate Manning
Kati Marton
Tess O’Dwyer
Francine Prose
Victoria Redel
David Remnick
Salman Rushdie
James Salter
Simon Schama
Stacy Schiff
Larry Siems
Andrew Solomon
Deborah Solomon
Judith Thurman
Lily Tuck
John Waters
Jacob Weisberg
Beau Willimon
Brenda Wineapple
Meg Wolitzer


It is not true that any free schools are “empty” (“Scandal of the empty free schools”, 24 April). Less than three years after the first opened, 24,000 pupils are attending free schools and most are proving wildly popular with parents.

For this September, free schools are attracting an average of almost three applications per place. It is not unusual for a school to have spare places; only 20 per cent of state schools are entirely full.

The story was deeply wrong to claim that the figures are based on “new research”. In fact they are taken from a National Audit Office report in December last year. That report made clear that free schools fill more places the longer they are open and that seven in 10 free school places are in areas with a shortage.

The story also misinformed your readers by suggesting that free schools have diverted money from areas facing a shortage. The DfE is spending three times as much on addressing the shortage of places across the school system as we are investing in free schools – 28 per cent of the department’s capital budget compared to 8 per cent. Our investment has already led to the creation of 260,000 places where they are needed, with many thousands more in the pipeline.

Elizabeth Truss, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education and Childcare, Department for Education, London SW1

Richard Garner is right to highlight “the scandal of the empty free schools” and the cost in terms of much-needed places elsewhere.

Free schools, rather than addressing the need for more parental choice, are often disruptive to local provision and in some cases are little more than vanity projects for interest groups. Ministers have failed to address the lack of suitable premises in catchments where places are needed, the main justification for the programme at inception. Few of those now established will be sustainable as standalone schools and many will merge with academy chains in the absence of local authority support.

While free schools once offered hope for change, ministers and civil servants have become bogged down in the mire of ideology that pervades our education system.

Neil Roskilly, Chief Executive, The Independent Schools Association, Saffron Walden, Essex

Michael Gove’s enthusiasm for free schools seems to have stemmed from what he heard about the Swedish experience. But perhaps he heard selectively.

Stockholm University monitored the experience of introducing such schools in Sweden, and initially reported that the arrival of such a school in an area had a beneficial effect.

Its 2009 report, however, showed that by that time the uplift was no longer apparent.

Swedes are currently greatly concerned to see a decline in their overall educational achievement standards, in contrast to the highly-regarded standards of the past. Numbers of people feel that there is a connection between the lower standards and the growth of the free school movement.

There has also been trouble with bankruptcies in free-school groups, resulting in sudden demands for the state education authorities to pick up the pieces and find room for sometimes large numbers of abandoned pupils.

During a visit earlier this month, I noted the results of a survey showing the extent to which school teachers were properly trained.

In the Stockholm area, the 19 worst schools were all free schools. Seven of those had fewer than 50 per cent of trained teachers, and in one free school little more than a quarter of the teachers were trained.

I hope Mr Gove is tracking all this, and wonder why, other than dogma, he doesn’t take a leaf out of the very successful Finnish book.

John Tippler, Spalding, Lincolnshire

Helping small firms to get bigger

Chris Blackhurst’s column of 23 April makes a timely intervention on the issue of how we finance small companies and help them become large ones. Unfortunately he is wrong to point the finger at private equity and venture capital, which are in fact, a significant part of the solution.

He says that all that’s talked about among venture capitalists is the importance of an “exit”. It is only a shame that he didn’t speak to more BVCA members. They are long-term investors of typically 10 years or more in small, high-risk high-growth companies. What they talk about is the importance of raising enough capital to be able to support these companies, so they don’t have to make an early exit to a US trade buyer and instead can receive many more funding rounds till they are finally ready to list.

What we need to focus on is how we can encourage more institutional investors to commit capital to the venture funds investing in UK SMEs. This is how we can help small companies become large ones. Giving businesses a tax-free savings account might help but it won’t solve the problem Mr Blackhurst has identified.

Tim Hames, Director General, British Private Equity and Venture Capital Association (BVCA), London WC2

A world of minorities

So the Cornish are now an official minority, whatever that might mean in practice. Where does that leave the Cockneys, the Men of Kent, the Brummies, the Scousers, and the Geordies? Before we know where we are we shall be having referendums for every part of the country, as we can all delve into history and make a case for our individual claim to a specific identity.

Roll on the day when we all learn to live together and realise that we are all human beings.

Bill Fletcher, Cirencester, Gloucestershire

I don’t wish to be difficult, but what exactly is the “Cornish way of life” which everyone seems so anxious to protect, through the granting of minority status to Cornwall? Don’t Cornish people go to Tesco, walk the dog, watch Take Me Out and play on Xbox like the rest of us?

Are they doing something secretly Cornish that those of us up the road in Dorset, for example, can barely imagine?

Helen Clutton, Dorchester, Dorset

A doctor writes, in Latin

Howard Jacobson (26 April) refers to a friend who presented to his doctor terrified by the presence of white spots on his scrotum and was disappointed that the GP could not produce a diagnosis.

So would I, as a retired GP, have been. The great secret of medicine is that all you have to do is translate the symptoms into either Greek or Latin and the patient immediately goes away satisfied. Thus, the patient complaining of severe pain in the rectum has got proctalgia, the patient with a left sided headache has migraine (hemicrania) and if you have got white spots on your scrotum you have got  acne alba scrotorum. It’s as simple as that.

Dr Nick Maurice, Marlborough, Wiltshire

Blair’s rejection of democracy

It is little surprise that Tony Blair is still incapable of accepting that he has done more to foster Islamic extremism than any other British politician.

However, his support for the Egyptian military in his Bloomberg speech is staggering. They overthrew a freely elected democratic government. What would Blair have thought if the British Army had rebelled against his illegal invasion of Iraq and removed him as Prime Minister, then imprisoning him and murdering his supporters?

Peter Berman, Wiveliscombe, Somerset

Educated for unemployment

Much is being made of the Ukip claim that immigrants are taking low-paid jobs. No one seems to focus on the biggest problem: our education system.

The policy of increasing the number of students going on to university has led to a focus on exam grades and league tables. University study has never been the correct road for all, but we seem to have forgotten about encouraging less academic students to take other paths. We now have a lost generation of young people feeling failures because no one has made enough of their importance in the workplace. Other European countries and beyond have not made this mistake; hence the immigrants queueing up to work in this country.

Valerie Morgan, Leigh on Sea, Essex

Don’t give in to classroom trolls

Martin Murray (letter, 22 April) suggests that teachers should refrain from using social media in order to avoid abuse and harassment from their pupils. So the victims should change their behaviour and lifestyles in order to escape the irresponsibility and nastiness of bullies and delinquents? What signal does that send to the pupils involved?

For goodness sake, get a grip. Punish the pupils (or their couldn’t care-less-what-my-kids-are-doing parents) who are using social media to denigrate and insult their teachers.

Pete Dorey, Bath


Rex Features

Published at 12:01AM, April 29 2014

Readers take exception to some generalisations about the cultural hstory of Europe

Sir, Despite the erudite arguments of AC Grayling (Opinion, Apr 26), Britain is for many people a Christian country because their moral beliefs are derived from the teachings they learnt at home, in church or chapel and in school as they were growing up. Many of us may not believe in the tenets of religion but our moral compass is “Christian” because the picture of Jesus we were given remains such an admirable example in life. Christianity has given us tyrants and bigots but it has also given us Tyndale, Cranmer, the Wesleys, Wilberforce, Shaftesbury, Booth who by their sacrifice and heroism put our country on the moral high ground. We are still a Christian country because Christianity’s moral principle set the standards to aim for in our private and public life.

WC Clarke


Sir, Like AC Grayling, I wondered what Cameron meant. Surely not the “values” of the evangelicals in the US or Uganda, for example, so perhaps he meant “British values” but it fell to political correctness. Sadly, even “British” is tarnished and parochial. Consider Japan now, where people are helpful, generous, diligent, stoic, curious; they clean the streets spontaneously and they drive on the left. This should be Cameron’s goal.

John R Tippetts


Sir, AC Grayling misrepresents the historical relationship between Christianity and science, backed by misleading references to Bruno and Galileo. Of course much done in the name of Christianity in the past has been wrong and inconsistent with the New Testament, but Seneca’s pupil Nero and the stoic Emperor Marcus Aurelius were hardly paragons of humanitarian virtues either. The history of atheistic regimes in revolutionary France, Stalinist Russia, and elsewhere, does not inspire confidence. In our society today groups like the British Humanist Association and the National Secular Society have media coverage out of proportion to their numbers in the country. The NSS has maybe 10,000 members, while there are 950,000 in the Church of England and 150,000 Baptists.

Paul Marston

Preston, Lancashire

Sir, Christianity owes an intellectual debt to Stoicism, but it does not follow that Christian values are Greek and Roman secular values. It is unthinkable that a society with purely Greco-Roman values would have abolished slavery and celebrated equality before the law, or placed great emphasis on being a “tolerant, generous, kindly nation” (Grayling). Plato and Aristotle would have been horrified.

Jonathan Fowles

Leyland, Lancs

Sir, A C Grayling seems to have misunderstood Christianity, for not once does he mention grace or love. It would not have become the world’s biggest religion on the back of tolerating God and your neighbour. Tolerance seems to me to be passive; love, in Christian terms, is active and all embracing.

Anyone who knows something of the Christian faith acknowledges the bloody past, but such comment is in itself a selective view of history. There is a case to be made that without the Church art, literature, medicine, education and science wouldn’t look as they do today.

The Rev Chris Goble

Ilmington, Warks

Intellectual property legislation in the age of the internet can become a brake on innovation

Sir, The evidence for the need for the Medical Innovation Bill is compelling. Around 18,000 doctors and patients replied to the Department of Health consultation supporting the Bill, many confirming that they have experienced the deterrent effect that an increasingly risk-averse culture is having on responsible medical innovation.

The objections in Mr Poole’s letter (Apr 24) relate to details of the Bill that were not in Lord Saatchi’s original text and will not be in the text that he intends to introduce early in the new session. The Bill team will soon publish a new draft which meets concerns expressed by legal and medical professionals.

Doctors must be given the freedom to innovate responsibly, with the confidence that the law will protect them if their decision is made with the support of a responsible body of medical opinion.

They must not be forced to wait until their decision is tested in expensive and traumatic litigation or disciplinary proceedings. Nobody wants that, except perhaps a small group of lawyers who make their living from the existing litigation-focused system.

The Bill will be an opportunity for all those who are concerned that the legal system is not properly serving patients with rare diseases, whose hope rests entirely on innovation.

Patients want to know that every responsible avenue is being explored in order to help them, and that doing nothing is no longer the easy and safe answer.

Good doctors must be given the protection and encouragement of the law to innovate; and bad doctors must be deterred from innovating without support of their colleagues.

The Bill achieves both aims, and is to be welcomed by lawyers, doctors and patients.

Daniel Greenberg

Parliamentary Counsel to the Medical Innovation Bill team

Heating oil is cheaper than it was a year ago – so why are other forms of energy, like gas, still so expensive?

Sir, I have just re-ordered a new supply of heating oil at a cost of £278.25 for 500 litres. One year ago, in March 2013, the same quantity cost me £350.12. That shows a reduction in comparable prices of 20 per cent. How come the gas and electricity suppliers cannot also reflect fluctuating world prices in their charges?

kevin hart

Pluckley, Kent

Links to the West Country need urgent investment, so not much support for HS2 on the slow road to Land’s End

Sir, The 5,000,000 citizens who live southwest of Bristol are served by a railway which has had no new capital investment in trains or track since 1986, and none is planned for the next decade. In 2023 stock and infrastructure will be 50 years old, with no renewal in sight. Even East Anglian electric services are due for an upgrade before then. Rail spending in southwest: £47 per head; ditto in London and southeast: £294.

Improving the region’s trunk road, the A303, much of it still single lane, has been under discussion for half a century, with work on the ground still apparently a decade away.

The same trend is obvious over all aspects of government spending, from education (Devon 147th of 153 LEAs in amount per head granted by government), health, and even the Arts Council, whose policies have placed theatres in Taunton and Exeter in dire financial straits, so that there is now no regular live commercial performance centre between Bristol and Plymouth.

The regions have a right to be grumpy, and those who live in the rest of the country (east of Bridgwater) will not be surprised if support for HS2 is muted hereabouts.

Richard Giles

Lympstone, Devon

Women are managing to establish a realistic career/family balance, but only in some professions

Sir,I am heartened by Dr Cornish’s call (letter, Apr 26) for a more flexible approach to working hours in the City. Talented young women are to be encouraged to pursue their careers but in some professions they still have to choose between starting a family or continuing their career. As a headmistress I tell young women leaving school that they really can pursue a career in any field and that a healthy balance of work and family time is expected and encouraged.

Samantha Price

Headmistress, Benenden School, Kent

Sir, Fiona Cornish recognises the important role of women in the modern medical workforce, and mentions that four of the medical royal colleges will soon have women presidents. I take up my post as president of the Royal College of Ophthalmologists next month, so soon there will be five.

Professor Caroline MacEwen

President Elect, Royal College of Ophthalmologists

A reader says that a new TV series from Germany hepled her to come to an understanding of her parents’ generation

Sir, I disagree completely with Andrew Billen’s review of the German series Generation War — which is called, more appropriately, in German “Our fathers, our mothers” (Apr 28).

I have seen the whole series and it created extensive interested among my generation whose mothers and fathers are still alive. I give the TV series five stars (not just two) for its courageous depiction and self-effacing portrayal of a German generation which is still with us but never provided any answers for us.

My mother an active and youthful 89-year-old living in a Westphalian spa town is the most selfish and at times ruthless individual I know. It became one of the reasons why I escaped, aged 17, to become an au pair in Hull in the 1970s where I found care and compassion in Britain.

Generation War has explained to me in a critical fashion why that generation who lived and survived the Second World War are how they are. I now understand that mindset and psychology of my father and mother: survival through selfishness and bloodymindedness.

Ursula Smartt

Godalming, Surrey


SIR – I spent years driving my children from Winchester to school in Truro. We loved looking out at the wonderful sight of the magnificent stones of Stonehenge as they appeared on the skyline.

I have visited Stonehenge many times, showing foreign visitors around. Not once has any of them mentioned the traffic. It is far too windy to hear the cars, and one is concentrating on the commentary on the hand-held devices given to all visitors.

The road should be widened, but it should not be sent underground; we should still be allowed to enjoy the glimpse of this mysterious monument.

Sarah Robinson
Itchen Abbas, Hampshire

SIR – Surely we should be bringing the data to the people, not the people to the data. For a fraction of the cost of HS2, digital communications could be vastly improved nationwide.

S M Swaffield
West Lutton, North Yorkshire

SIR – As a constituent of Andrea Leadsom, I am dismayed to read of her opposition to HS2. Does she want us to go further down the road to becoming a second-class country? If we had had such opposition to other infrastructure projects over the last 150 years, we would now be a Third World country with no roads, railways, canals, motorways or airports. Please don’t stand in the way of progress, Mrs Leadsom. I voted for you as a progressive MP to help lead our country forward.

Neil Jones
Towcester, Northamptonshire

Caring for the disabled

SIR – Like the Jones family’s son Robert, our child has agenesis of the corpus callosum. Louise does not speak, though she understands some of what you say to her. She cannot feed herself, is doubly incontinent, uses a wheelchair, and has lost the sight in one eye. She is totally dependent on others to survive and lived at home until she was 18.

Richard Hawkes, the chief executive of the disability charity Scope, whom you quote in your article, says he is championing the cause of disabled people. But he also is proposing to close 11 care homes in Britain, including the Douglas Arter Centre in Salisbury, where our daughter has lived for the past 20 years. We are told it is out-of-date, inaccessible and does not meet Scope’s mission statement.

We were told Louise had a place for life, but now are faced with a battle either to try and save DAC or find another home for Louise that we will all be happy with.

We can understand the sentiment of your headline: “I wished all four of us were dead”. Even the so-called caring elements of society like Scope are abandoning us.

Sheila and John Murray
Winchester, Hampshire

Who’s driving?

SIR – Madeleine Hindley has got the wrong end of the stick in the matter of Mrs Warner driving to parties. The evidence suggests that she has to wait to drive her husband from them. The same system exists in our marriage: my husband drives to events and I drive home from them. He calls it “sharing the driving”.

Ruth Bennett
Farnborough, Hampshire

SIR – The long goodbye has ever been so. Rev James Beresford, in his book The Miseries of Human Life, published in 1806, noted: “After a flat evening visit – long after you have been tortured with violent longings to be gone – endeavouring, at last, to catch the eye of your tattling wife and interchange the mysterious signal; yet, though you have pointed her like a partridge for an hour, she will not rise.”

Liz Tidey
Newdigate, Surrey

Fishy precedent

SIR – Now that the RSPCA has successfully prosecuted a man for swallowing a live goldfish, should we assume that its undercover investigators will be patrolling certain restaurants, ready to pounce on any diner daring enough to order oysters from the menu?

Liz Pace
Crowborough, East Sussex

MS treatment for all

SIR – New treatments for multiple sclerosis will be licensed and go before Nice for approval this year. Millions of pounds have been invested and numerous trials conducted, but it will all be for nothing if Britain continues to be among the worst in Europe when it comes to prescribing treatment to those who actually need it.

The MS Society’s research shows that six out of 10 people potentially eligible for disease-modifying treatments across Britain are not taking them. Some are told they’re not ill enough yet, or that the treatments are simply “not available”; in many cases, people are not communicated with at all. These are licensed medicines that can reduce the frequency and severity of MS attacks and, in some cases, may slow the progression of disability.

We urge the Government to ensure that people have timely and regular access to an MS health care specialist, whatever their situation, and wherever they live.

Max Beesley, Actor
Lethal Bizzle, Musician
Justine Caine, Actress
Ricky Champ, Actor
Laura Checkley, Actress
Noel Clarke, Actor and screen writer
Camille Coduri, Actress
Simon Donald, Viz co-creator and comedian
Sir Ranulph Fiennes, Explorer
Christopher Fulford, Actor
Blake Harrison, Actor
Kerry Howard, Actress
Beccy Huxtable, Radio producer and presenter
Lorraine Kelly, broadcaster and journalist
Louisa Lytton, Actress
John Michie, Actor
Scott Mills, Broadcaster
Billie Piper, Actress
Adrian Scarborough, Actor
Sarah Solemani, Actress
David Tennant, Actor
Russell Tovey, Actor
Joe Wilkinson, Actor and comedian
Richard Wilson, Actor
Janis Winehouse, mother of singer Amy Winehouse
Gok Wan, Fashion consultant and broadcaster

Trading down

SIR – On a recent visit to London, it struck me how stuck in the past we are with our trading laws. On Oxford Street I noticed all shops were open on Good Friday. Two days later on Easter Sunday, only stores below a stipulated floor-size could trade.

We are trying to pull out of a recession. Shouldn’t we be encouraging more trade? Personally, I do not want to be told by our government when I can or cannot shop; I prefer the market to dictate this to me.

Martin Stroud
Cottingham, East Yorkshire

Boris for the win

SIR – As Boris is the Tories’ greatest asset, why find him a safe seat? If they want to win the next election, they should put him up against Miliband, Balls or Clegg.

Brian Christley
Abergele, Denbighshire

What’s in a name?

SIR – Context is all. My mother was delighted when her Scottish blacksmith addressed her as“Mistress”.

Hugh Hetherington
Salisbury, Wiltshire

Honouring D-Day sacrifice at Pegasus bridge

SIR – While Lt Den Brotheridge was killed on Pegasus bridge, poor L/Cpl Fred Greenhalgh had already drowned when the glider he was in crashed beside the bridge. He had been forgotten to history as he had been buried with the wrong date of death. Only when I researched this for the 50th anniversary did I spot the error and the date was subsequently changed on his headstone in La Délivrande cemetery to June 6. He was the first British casualty in Normandy on D-Day.

Winston Ramsey
Old Harlow, Essex

SIR – The D-Day landings were the largest amphibious landing the world has seen and were crucial to the Allied victory in Europe. This 70th anniversary is the final one which the Normandy Veterans’ Association will mark officially.

It is the top priority for me to ensure the Ministry of Defence does everything within its power to best represent the wishes of our veterans to our international partners and to ensure all commemorative events are a success. This will include the lending of manpower from all three services to provide logistic and ceremonial support in order that the maximum number of those who wish to recognise this great sacrifice in France this June can do so.

The MoD is also working in partnership with the Royal British Legion, Normandy Veterans’ Association, regimental associations, the French authorities and others to register details of all veterans wishing to travel to Normandy and those accompanying them. This effort is in order to ensure that passes are available to enable all veterans attending to get where they need to.

I would urge any veteran who would like assistance regarding accreditation or travel to contact the Ministry of Defence on 0207 218 1431 or consult the dedicated webpage at

Lord Astor of Hever
Parliamentary Under Secretary of State
Ministry of Defence
London SW1

SIR – It is remarkable that the CBI finds it “too political” to campaign for retaining the successful Union with Scotland, which has lasted for 300 years, but is enthusiastic in campaigning for the dysfunctional European Union, in which we have been floundering for 40 years.

J P Seymour
Maidenhead, Berkshire

SIR – If the CBI “mistakenly” supported the No campaign, are we now to believe that it actually supports the Yes campaign? Hardly impartial – or helpful.

Felicity Thomson
Symington, Ayrshire

SIR – A bit of diplomacy would do wonders for our Union (Comment, April 26).

Using the term “English” when “British” is appropriate is hardly likely to win hearts. The term “British” is often used in Northern Ireland when the term “UK” is appropriate. We are, after all, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

Going back to basics on this will only win more Irish hearts to our union of British and Northern Irish peoples.

John Barstow
Fittleworth, West Sussex

SIR – Not enough thought has been given to the small details which will complicate life in the event of a Yes vote.

For all those living in Scotland, their British passports will become invalid overnight, with all the implications for those wishing to travel and those already overseas. Scots living south of the border will have to decide whether to remain British and renounce their Scottish inheritance or remain Scottish.

A European Union spokesman has declared that an independent Scotland would be outside the EU and have to apply to join. If so, all those who elect to be “Scots” working in Britain, and those who move when companies start to move south, will become overnight immigrant workers, and have a non-EU-member status, with all its implications and controls.

Brian Wallis
Middle Barton, Oxfordshire

SIR – If Scotland votes for independence, it could mean England losing out on its upgrading to AAA rating and seeing its debt rise by 9.5 per cent of GDP. As an Englishman, I have no say in this matter.

John Allen
Irthlingborough, Northamptonshire

SIR – If Scotland votes for independence, what will happen to the Stone of Scone?

Gerald Milne

Windsor, Berkshire

SIR – If Scotland were to vote Yes in this year’s referendum and become independent, may we expect Westminster to apply to Brussels for a quota to be imposed on the free movement of Scottish football managers to the home of football?

John Hewitson
Puttenham, Surrey

Irish Times:

Sir, – “Correlation is not causation” was the first important principle of good research we learned in college. Thus, to associate the taking of ordinary level maths at leaving certificate with poor outcomes in primary school is not just offensive, it’s ridiculous.

The grasp of maths concepts is incremental, closely linked with language proficiency and cognitive development based on the use of concrete materials and problem-solving. There are many factors correlated to difficulties in maths; developmental delay, language difficulties, inadequate access to concrete materials and, oops, high pupil teacher ratio.

Higher level maths are no use to the teacher trying to support 30 pupils with varying needs and learning styles who has to borrow counting blocks from the next classroom, unless of course, he’s a big strong man. Then he’ll be fine and the pupils will be brainboxes I’m sure.

I am of the generation where I had to choose between higher level Irish and maths and I chose Irish. However, as a school principal I am committed to the full implementation of the numeracy strategy and would love to lead my staff and pupils towards the highest standards in maths. I intend to do just that, after I’ve dragged the bins out, unblocked the toilet, figured out who’ll repair the window for what I can give after I’ve retained VAT and RCT, explained the bewildering resource application process to the non-English-speaking parent of a junior infant with special educational needs, sold raffle tickets to replace the bulb in the projector etc.

Minister, just let us do our jobs. You’d be surprised what we could do if we were allowed and if the pupils had the resources they need and are entitled to. Yours, etc,


River View,

Old Bawn,

Dublin 24

Sir, – I read with some interest David Robert Grimes’s piece (Weekend Review, April 26th) in support of Mr Quinn’s assertion that primary teachers be required to have honours mathematics. In September I will need a teacher for a class of 30 junior infants presenting with a myriad of challenges and difficulties. I hope I can find a teacher who can adequately respond to the needs of this diverse group and, most importantly now, has an A in honours mathematics. Le Meas,



St Kilian’s NS,


Co Cavan

Sir, – If Ruairí Quinn chooses to “reform” by megaphone, what response can he expect? Yours, etc,



Co Roscommon.

Sir, – I spent this past weekend with a good friend who is English. During our conversation, he innocently referred to the Irish as British and said that while he thought England should allow Scotland independence, he didn’t think it would be a good idea considering the troubles it (independence) had caused in Ireland. In a separate conversation with an English colleague in my London office, he referred to the Irish as Anglo-Saxon.

English people are generally good and well-meaning. However, there is a distinct lack of understanding of the Irish experience. Joining the Commonwealth would only serve to blur the history between Ireland and Great Britain without having any economic reasoning to support it.

The UK Independence Party (Ukip) is enthused at the idea of reviving the Commonwealth. A spokesman for the party recently told me that almost all the Commonwealth countries “have stronger cultural, legal and linguistic ties to the UK than any continental country”. This is profoundly untrue given that the majority of Commonwealth countries are non-white and non-English-speaking. It is a mere clutch at an imperialist past, an attitude for which Russia is currently being heavily criticised.

When I mentioned Ukip’s aims to a fellow journalist in London, British-Indian and Catholic with strong positive feelings towards Britain, he retorted that it was a useless institution. There is no argument for joining the Commonwealth except to ease the discomfort of an Irish elite who wish to revel in the past glory of their British counterparts. Yours, etc,


Woodford New Road,

London E17 3PT

Sir, – Geoffrey Roberts (Letters, April 28th) grafts hard to dismiss any reluctance, fears and suspicions felt by those who would baulk at Ireland’s re-entry to the Commonwealth. Yet he offers not one valid, viable or valuable benefit that such a move might produce. He proffers “democracy, peace, human rights, sustainable development and the rule of law ” as being qualities to which Ireland and the Commonwealth aspire and resonate. Aren’t we already integrated to the EU, on foot those very same tenets?

As a republic we should spurn any such notion of reigniting our colonial past, and plough on with European countries, along with all other nations, dedicated to “democracy, peace, human rights, sustainable development and the rule of law ”. Up the republic of conscientious objectors, where hope and history can rhyme without galling our gast or palling our past. Yours, etc,


Chapel Street ,


Co Waterford

Sir, – The very idea of rejoining the Commonwealth fills me with revulsion. Do Messrs Roberts and Walsh (Letters, April 28th) not realise that most of the member countries of the Commonwealth of Nations criminalise sexual acts between consenting adults of the same sex?

In Uganda, a member of the Commonwealth, vicious anti-gay witch-hunts and violent acts are carried out with the support of the Ugandan parliament. Please, no more talk of the Commonwealth. Yours, etc,


Shandon Crescent,


Dublin 7

Sir, – Harry McGee’s criticism (Opinion & Analysis, April 28th) of the “ludicrous rationale” of European Parliament constituencies that go from the Dublin suburbs to the islands of Kerry and Donegal is right.

I am not sure, however, if his solution of having one single-seat constituency for the whole country is much better. The ballot paper would be miles long and every “celebrity” in the country would be on it. The obvious solution is to have a five-seat urban constituency for Dublin and adjoining commuter belt counties and two three-seat rural constituencies in the rest of the country. This would be much more coherent than the present arrangement. Yours, etc,


Shielmartin Drive,


Dublin 13

Sir, – Never in my wildest dreams did I expect to look at an election poster of Donegal man Pat the Cope Gallagher, EU candidate for downtown Leixlip, Co Kildare, on our main street. I am only nine miles from O’Connell Bridge. Could we not have had a larger metropolitan constituency to cover all within commuting distance of the metropole? I would even put up with a fringe MEP as the price! Yours, etc,


Dublin Road Street,


Sir, – Over the next few weeks while people are out canvassing for my vote in the upcoming local and European elections, this is what I would like to know about them.

What have you done? Give me your CV. Please don’t tell me what you are going to do. You don’t know what you are going to do. You know what you would like to do but – as we know – that doesn’t always work out.

No, tell me if you have ever started your own business. Have you worked in the private sector, and for how long? Have you ever lost your job because the business had to close? I want to know that you have experienced all the vagaries of life that will allow you to make fully informed choices for the rest of us who have perhaps lost our jobs, who have started our own businesses, who are working in the private sector.

We have too many career politicians making vital decisions about how we live and they are just not getting it right. This has to change and the only way we can do that is to amend the job spec and start asking the right questions.

The next general election in 2016 is also racing towards us and this time we really need to be ready to make an informed choice. Yours, etc,


Palmerston Park,


Dublin 6

Sir, – My friend and colleague Dr Michael Foley makes a very good point (Opinion, April 25th) about the gaping internet-shaped hole in the fractured landscape of Irish journalism regulation. However, he goes beyond the available evidence when he says the existing system of scrutinising the press, an industry-funded complaints process based on a press ombudsman and a press council, has had a “good first six years” and has been “a success”.

It would take more than a few words of British praise for “the Irish model” to support the contention that the system is working in a meaningful way. Have member publications seen an improvement in their journalism since 2008? Has public trust in them increased? Or how about a more realistic question: are users of the service and other interested parties happy with it?

This last question was addressed in a piece of research commissioned in 2011 by the Office of the Press Ombudsman and the Press Council. But I know about this study only because, as a journalism lecturer, I was one of the people interviewed for it: the results were not published.

To seek such evidence is not to question the integrity of the retiring press ombudsman, Prof John Horgan, nor of the various members of the council. But from its tightly limited remit to the adversarial process it engenders, from the low proportion of upheld complaints to the even lower percentage of successful appeals, the system raises obvious issues that can only be answered by a thorough review.

As a recent (partly successful) complainant myself, I have been contacted by people who are dissatisfied by their dealings with the Office of the Press Ombudsman. Like the positive notes sounded by Dr Foley, such anecdotes can be deemed representative only if they are supported by proper research.

Any system of would-be regulation should be at least as transparent and accountable as the industry it seeks to regulate. Neither Irish journalism nor the Press Council has any grounds for complacency. Yours, etc,


School of Media,

Dublin Institute

of Technology,

Dublin 2

Sir, – Perhaps, instead of penalising new-to-the-market but older purchasers of private health insurance to compensate for the lack of younger people entering the market, Mr Reilly should remove the €399 levy/tax the Government has placed on all private health insurance premiums.

Excessive cost is one of the reasons why the private health insurance industry is failing to attract younger members whose earnings have fallen substantially over the recent years.

Also, for an older person not to get private health insurance it is hard not to think of a better reason than the knowledge that you are to be penalised for no other reason than that you are an older person.

I had thought that discrimination on age grounds was forbidden under the law. Yours, etc,


Ashfield Royal,

Oak Road,


Co Carlow

Sir, – I fail to understand the comment of Dr Alan Ahearne (Opinion & Analysis, April 26th) to the effect that “double-digit growth in the Dublin house prices is less of a problem today than at the height of the bubble because prices are much lower”. This is the type of logic that got us into the mess we were in during the Celtic Tiger period. If the 15 per cent house price increase experienced last year was to continue for a further four years, prices would be back to the levels that they were at the height of the bubble. Something needs to be done immediately to stop this madness, but is the Government too concerned with the election fever to do anything about it? I fear it is. Yours, etc,



Co Carlow

Sir, – I think April 27th will go down in the annals of rugby as the day the game all of us knew, played, lived, loved and watched changed forever. We saw one of the icons of European rugby marginally outperformed by a team of foreign mercenaries assembled at enormous cost at the whim of one wealthy individual.

He and his associates in French rugby and his counterparts in English rugby seem to think this is the way forward. It is not. It signals the death of rugby as we know it and heralds a future when ageing southern hemisphere and Pacific Island musclebound giants will dominate and destroy European rugby, and perhaps worse, encourage young Irish and other players to try and emulate the most likely unhealthy physical specimens that this version of the game demands.

I can’t think of an appropriate protest that all could participate in without further damaging our sport but I am sure there are those out there with the anger and the vision that can suggest a way forward. I for one will choose to play golf, do the garden, or my wife’s bidding rather than watch this travesty. Yours, etc,


Westminster Lawns,

Dublin 18

Sir, – Listening at the weekend to the playback of the tribute to Seamus Heaney from the National Concert Hall I appreciate my television licence fee. I felt I was there listening to the most beautiful poets and musicians pay their respects. Public service broadcasting of such a wonderful evening in Dublin, available the length and breadth of Ireland. In grateful appreciation, Yours, etc,


Foyle Road,


Dublin 3

Sir, – I was delighted to read (Sports Saturday, April 26th) that physical education is still considered to be “central to developing academic excellence”. I would love to know more about plans for physical education in primary schools, where I believe the foundation for second level PE must be built. Would it be too much to envisage a specialist PE teacher in primary schools after all these years? Yours, etc,



Co Mayo

Sir, – Mark Twain was not the only literary figure who failed to see any sense to sport. Kipling referred to “the flannelled fools at the wickets or the muddied oafs at the goals”. George Orwell claimed that sport was bound up with “hatred, jealousy and total disregard for all rules”. TS Eliot felt sorry for anyone whose only monument was “the asphalt road and a thousand lost golf balls”. Yours, etc,



Co. Wicklow

Irish Independent:

Philip O’Neill Edith Road, Oxford – Published 29 April 2014 02:30 AM

* Rob Sadlier’s letter (April 24) rightly shows that my recent contribution to your pages appears to have dodged the implications for belief in God of the world’s suffering.

Also in this section

Letters: A republic for the people

Democracy will suffer

Tribal idols dismantled

The extermination of six million Jews, the death of an innocent child as a result of reckless drunken driving, and the loss of hundreds of young people in the South Korean disaster at sea are all events that challenge our faith to the core. The heartfelt cry of those caught up in these experiences is often, “where was God?” To tell the bereaved that it was the will of God is meaningless and offensive.

In the face of these challenging realities, all we can say to the question, “how did God allow it?” is, “I don’t know” or “there is no God”.

This is where hope comes in. Hope is not the desire for things to turn out well but the belief that, whatever the outcome, it will make sense.

A lack of hope, particularly in the face of human suffering, is unbearable. The most I can say is not, “what is God doing?” but “what are we doing?”

Nobody can prove the existence of God or the non-existence of a deity.

What I can do is say why I believe in some kind of reality at the heart of my experience of life. People with similar experiences may come to different conclusions.

The philosopher Thomas Aquinas is often attributed with the provision of five proofs for the existence of God. He provided five ways to consider the question of God, not five proofs.

Even science no longer deals with proven certainty but with various levels of probability.

The most I can do is provide reasons why I believe. What I believe is another matter. The ‘why’ question and the ‘what’ question are regularly confused.

Borrowing from mathematics, I see God as the X to be determined – the unknown at the heart of things. When troubled by doubts, my default position is that, more than likely, there is a God.

Philip O’Neill

Edith Road, Oxford


* Declan Foley (Letters, April 26) tries to answer those who ponder if there were a God at all, in the midst of tragedy. He claims that enormous damage was done to many non-European nations by conquerors in the name of earthly and heavenly regents. I beg to differ.

It is true that non-European nations are passing through states of bloodletting, sectarian, ethnic, social and religious adversities. However, this should not blind us to the salient fact that such attitudes were/are alien to the noble mores upon which religious scriptures were built.

Past and recent horrors have demonstrated that Europe itself was/is not immune from religious and ethnic strifes and crises. The mass slaughter of six million Jews, the oppression and genocide of Armenians during the Ottoman conquest of the Balkans, the genocide of Muslims in Bosnia, entrench negative stereotypes about divine religions, but who said that religious doctrines indoctrinate their adherents to dehumanise, demoralise, despise and loathe each other and others?

Does Christianity allow child sexual abuse in places of worship, and the following cover-up? Does Christianity endorse the ethnic cleansing of indigenous aboriginals in Australia?

Doesn’t Islam safeguard the freedom to worship without coercion and the inviolable rights of the disenfranchised; and promote tolerance and the sacredness of human life?

Does Judaism promote the Judaisation of the holy land, the annexation of Arab and Muslim territories and the ethnic cleansing of indigenous Palestinians?

The conflicts we witness are not religious-based. They are fuelled by greed and power. The world at large is going through a critical juncture.

This is the time to reject extremism and isolationism. This is the time to heal divides, promote benevolence and pluralism and reach out to others immersed in anguish and despair.

Dr Munjed Farid Al Qutob

London NW2


* I recently saw a quote from Bob Hope, which may be of interest to those of us of a certain vintage: “I was still chasing women in my seventies . . . but only downhill.”

Tom Gilsenan

Beaumont, D9


* Ten years ago, on April 21, 2004, I was proud to be present with 100 international observers at the release of whistleblower Mordechai Vanunu in Ashkelon, Israel. In this prison he had served 18 years, 11 of these in solitary confinement.

I witnessed at first hand the extreme hostility he faced as he emerged from the prison gates. We, his supporters, were pelted with eggs, water bombs and urine bombs.

Since his release, he has been confined to Israel, forced to live in an area the size of Munster where he is hated by the population.

Vanunu is a truth-teller who told the world about Israel’s stockpile of nuclear weapons.

As I recall his sacrifice, I am reminded of other brave whistleblowers who have suffered similarly within their own communities for telling the truth, not least the two brave gardai John Wilson and Maurice McCabe.

All whistleblowers are honourable people. They deserve to be cherished by any nation that values decency and integrity.

Justin Morahan

Rathfarnham, Dublin 16


* Now that city clampers have been set the target of 60,000 cars in 2014, motorists can expect to fork out more money for the City Council. What’s more interesting is that they will get €2,000 bonus if they achieve that.

So, not only – save for really blatant parking offences – has clamping become an easy and sneaky way of extracting money from motorists’ pockets, clampers are now further motivated to make a bigger kill.

Concetto La Malfa

Dublin 4


* Adlai Stevenson, the great American diplomat and orator, once said that a hypocrite is someone that cuts down a giant redwood tree, then jumps on the stump and makes a speech about conservation.

In the political arena, we have our version of the tree cutter. Every year, at the taxpayers’ expense, our Taoiseach and ministers traverse the globe celebrating St Patrick’s Day and St Patrick. However, a substantial number of these ladies and gents, if they had their way, would remove St Patrick and what he preached.

For instance, Ruairi Quinn’s attempts at removing religion from schools; Eamon Gilmore withdrawing the Vatican diplomat; Mr Kenny playing with his mobile phone in the Pope’s presence, and so forth.

Now, lest it be thought I was discriminating against the anti-Christians, I would suggest a ‘jolly boys’ and girls’ outing’ be arranged.

North Korea springs to mind because there they will see a religious free state and be taught a few tricks to how it’s achieved, and where everybody will be equal – that’s equally miserable and hungry.

I started with a quote so I will end with another, this time from Khrushchev: “Politicians will tell you that they will build a bridge were there’s no river.” Remember this when you are looking at your ballot paper.

Michael O’Callaghan

Whites Cross, Cork

Irish Independent

Busy day

April 28, 2014

28April2014Busy day

I go all the way around the park listening to the Men from the Ministry: Our heroes face a terrible fate a defense job Priceless

Mary homesort out books

Scrabbletoday, I got 400, Perhaps Marywill win tomorrow.


Colonel Miloslav Bitton – obituary

Colonel Miloslav Bitton was a Czech fighter pilot who ran escape lines out of his homeland and fought with the Desert Rats

Miloslav Bitton

Miloslav Bitton

7:56PM BST 27 Apr 2014

Comments5 Comments

Colonel Miloslav Bitton, who has died aged 94, ran escape lines out of Czechoslovakia in the Second World War before serving with the Desert Rats in the Eighth Army and then as an RAF fighter pilot in bombing raids over Germany.

In 1939 Bitton had just begun his second year at the Commercial Academy in Bratislava when the Germans completed their occupation of Czechoslovakia. They were dealing harshly with men in the Army and Air Force, many of whom had gone into hiding. As Bitton spoke Hungarian, he was asked by several bank managers if he would help them organise an escape route, taking small groups by train and on foot to within a quarter of a mile of the Hungarian border.

Sometimes the escapees suffered from exhaustion and frostbitten feet as they made their winter crossing. Bitton’s mother, however, made white capes to hide the men from the border guards.

After security was tightened, escaping Czechs started to be caught and so Bitton had to cross the border with them, help buy them railway tickets and teach them a few words of Hungarian. The penalties for aiding escapees were severe. Slovak nationalists and zealous policemen were the main hazards and Bitton’s clandestine work placed him in increasing danger.

On one occasion, a man burst in on Bitton and one of the bankers. He was a pilot. “Quick,” he cried. “You have got to save me. The police are after me.” He gave the right password and so Bitton exchanged his overcoat for the man’s blue coat and helped him get away.

Bitton was warned that he could be arrested by the police at any moment and so, in February 1940, he crossed the border into Hungary under the cover of a blizzard. He had to bribe a farmer to provide a horse-drawn sledge to take him within walking distance of a railway station. Although his train was searched twice he arrived safely in Budapest. In the city he made his way to a “safe house” only to learn that his contact had been arrested by the secret police and the place was under surveillance.

Bitton set up a new escape route in Budapest. This time onwards to Yugoslavia. He would take between 10 to14 Czechs at a time, pretending that he was in charge of a group of sportsmen. He held their tickets and did all the talking to the conductor on the train to Nagykanizsa, in south-west Hungary. There he handed them over to another guide who arranged for them to be ferried across the River Drava to Yugoslavia.

About 100 Czechs were imprisoned in the Citadel of Budapest and rumours circulated that they would be handed over to the Gestapo. There were plans for a mass breakout in which Bitton’s role was to arrange for lorries and taxis to enable them to get away. The secret police had, however, found one of the safe-houses and roughed up the owner who subsequently betrayed Bitton’s hiding place. He was arrested. On the way to the interrogation centre, he tried to bribe the driver of the police car with his watch, a ploy which failed.

On arrival he was put in an iron cage measuring about 10ft by 12ft – along with 40 or so other detainees. When he was interrogated, he denied any knowledge of Hungarian, claiming that he wanted to get to Yugoslavia and then Paris. He was beaten so severely that he passed out twice.

After being transferred to a civilian jail, in April he was released and expelled to eastern Slovakia. He made his way back to Budapest, however, and used his own escape route to reach the River Drava. He and his companions hid in bushes on the river bank watching the guards’ patrol boat plying up and down, its searchlight sweeping over them. They waited for nightfall and, choosing their moment carefully, piled into their boat and crossed into Yugoslavia by moonlight.

Miloslav Kratochvil was born on October 14 1919 in the village of Alexandrovka, a Czech settlement in Ukraine, about 100 miles north-west of Odessa. His mother and father were farmers; Miloslav was the youngest of their six children.

In 1926 the family moved to Czechoslovakia, where his parents continued to manage farms. Young Miloslav bred rabbits to help make ends meet and his parents kept five dogs to deter burglars. When he was aged 14, his parents could not afford to keep him in school and he took up an apprenticeship in the grocery trade in nearby Bratislava.

After his escape to Yugoslavia in 1940, he acted as a liaison officer between the Czechoslovak military mission and the Yugoslav civil and military authorities. His job was to interrogate escapees and furnish them with travel documents for their onward journey.

In June, supplied with documents from the French Consulate, he travelled to Syria and then to a camp near Acre, Palestine. After a move to a transit camp at Gedera, west of Jerusalem, he and his companions were issued with uniforms and arms by the British.

By December, when they were in Jericho, their small force numbered about 400. There were, he wrote afterwards “hot and dusty winds by day, freezing temperatures at night, scorpions and tarantulas everywhere, insects and malaria – we had to cope with everything.”

In May 1941 they were ready for frontline duty and moved, as the Czechoslovak Infantry Battalion, to the Western Desert. Active service took Bitton to Egypt and then to Libya where he took part in the defence of Tobruk.

In 1942, requests came for more airmen to join the existing Czech squadrons in England and in October he boarded a ship bound for England. On New Year’s Day 1943 he joined the RAF Voluntary Reserve. Basic training in England was followed by advanced flying in Canada.

Miloslav Bitton during the war

He won his wings in March 1944 and in January 1945 was posted to No 310 Squadron. His first assignment was to help provide fighter cover for 150 Lancaster bombers during a raid on Dortmund. He married, in April 1945, Joan Bitton, whom he met at a dance in Manchester (he took her maiden name in 1953).

A few days before the end of the war, his Spitfire lost power over Sussex and crashed. The aircraft turned over, pinning him to the ground, and caught fire. He was pulled out by farmers in the nick of time. By the time he was classified as fit again that September the war was over.

He rejoined his squadron in Prague and continued his flying career in the Czechoslovak Air Force but after the communists took power, he once again decided to escape. His wife and son were able to leave the country legally but Bitton had to dodge the border guards to cross into the American Zone in Germany.

He and his small group crossed at night but when one of them tripped on the railway line they came under heavy automatic fire. One of them was killed; four others were captured but Bitton reached safety. After a frustrating wait for a visa in a displaced persons’ camp, in June 1948 he was back in England.

He and his wife made their home in south Manchester. Faced with starting a new life again, he found employment with a bakery and catering company where he worked for 13 years and rose to become senior manager. In the 1960s he opened a restaurant in Altrincham, Cheshire, which proved a success.

In his spare time he enjoyed gardening and carpentry but his real passion was meeting his Czech comrades and reminiscing about their home country and old times. After the “Velvet Revolution” conditions changed and, in the summer of 1991, for the first time in 43 years he was able to return to Czechoslovakia and visit his family and friends. Together with other former Czech RAF airmen, in May 1995 he was publicly rehabilitated, and received an honorary promotion to colonel.

Bitton’s services in the Czech underground were recognised by the award of the War Cross and the Military Medal for Merit. He published Narrow Escapes (2013) an account of his wartime adventures.

His wife and one son predeceased him and he is survived by their other son.

Miloslav Bitton, born October 14 1919, died February 25 2014


Ernerst Thesiger, left, with Colin Clive in the horror film The Bride of Frankenstein

Ernerst Thesiger, left, with Colin Clive in The Bride of Frankenstein (1935). Twenty years earlier, Thesiger had served in the army in the first world war. Photo: Ronald Grant Archive Photograph: Ronald Grant Archive

The remark “Oh, my dear! The noise! And the people!” (Letters, 25 April) is usually attributed to my great-uncle Ernest. Camp he certainly was. He enlisted as a private in September 1914, aged 35. “I thought a kilt would suit me, so I applied at the London Scottish headquarters, but my Scottish accent, assumed for the occasion, was apparently not convincing.” So he fell back on the Queen Victoria Rifles, was wounded on New Year’s Day 1915, and later (when not on the stage) taught needlework to soldiers in hospital.
John Thesiger
Laleham, Surrey

• I will feel more like responding to a nudge when I hear that Coca-Cola is asking to be nudged, or the tobacco industry, the alcohol industry, the banks and all those organisations curiously missing from Cass Sunstein’s article (We should be nudging people, not shoving, 25 April). Nudge theory has all the superficial attractiveness and intellectual fragility of trickle-down economics. How many lives would have been lost if we were merely nudged into wearing seat belts?
Simon Barley
Bradwell, Derbyshire

• Re your article (Fall in murder and violent crime, but increase in rape, survey finds, 25 April): what is rape, if not a violent crime?
Pamela Wagstaff
Woodbridge, Suffolk

• William Cobbett called London the Great Wen, a wen being a lump of fat on the head. What’s left, then (Letters, 26 April).
Helen Mitcham
Tunbridge Wells, Kent


The contribution of neuroscience to our understanding of human development is in its early stages (Written on the brain, Zoe Williams, 26 April). Its current contribution is heavily linked to existing frameworks developed and articulated over the last 75 years. The first is that family life and parenting from day one are crucial and the qualities associated with that are well understood. It has driven the UK’s childcare policy to stop caring for children in institutions – something that still happens in many other countries. The second is that we are social beings and the relationships we make are key to sustaining us in addressing life’s challenges. Family life is at the centre of these. Thirdly, human beings are extraordinarily adaptable and our survival has depended on that – it is unhelpful for any theory to appear to trap individuals in their early experiences alone.

The article raises questions about the contribution that neuroscience makes to children who become the responsibility of the state due to abuse and neglect. The challenge of using what we know through research and evidence to ensure this highly vulnerable group are afforded the same opportunities for their development as any other children couldn’t be more pressing. Neuroscience can make – and is making – its contribution, but society now has generations of expertise and experience in what counts. We all must ensure that this continues to drive and is resourced in current policy and practice.
John Simmonds
Director of policy, research and development, British Association for Adoption and Fostering

•  Zoe Williams raises interesting points in her attempt to cast doubts on current neuroscience which seems to show that the neural connections in brains of infants are enhanced if the babies are nurtured by a parent figure who is attuned to their needs, and conversely, in the absence of such nurturing care, babies will lack empathy, will develop more slowly and may be more likely to become part of the criminal population.

My own view, from more than 50 years working with children and families, is that neuroscience is now giving credibility to observation and research over the years, from the experiment with baby monkeys which showed that they thrived better when in contact with a “nurturing” soft mother than with a harsh mother, through John Bowlby’s observations of babies in nurseries to day-to-day examples of the animated responses of babies who are in securely attached and attuned environments. From these observations, it seems that all very young mammals thrive if they can attach in their early years, to a nurturing and attuned adult.

Neuroscience seems to be confirming that this is so, and that this is necessary for the babies to reach their full potential. The damage caused by neglect in the early years is not irrevocable – therapeutic reparenting can enable the adult to learn to overcome their emotional and social difficulties. And, yes, helping the parents of neglected children should always be the first port of call.
Pat Brandwood
Alderholt, Dorset

•  Most reputable neuroscientists would agree that research linking early experiences to specific brain developments is still itself in its infancy, and cannot be used as diagnostic of individual cases. It is an unfortunate consequence of family proceedings taking place in closed courts that journalists cannot attend them to know what actually goes on there. However, after three decades’ involvement in child protection law, my accumulated experience tells me that early lack of good-enough parenting can and does leave a lasting mark on a child’s later development, whether or not this is currently evidenceable by neuroscientific research.

Furthermore there undoubtedly is, sadly, a clear statistical link between poor parenting and poverty, probably for two reasons. One is that being a good parent is easier when you have more resources to back you up: there is considerable objective evidence that seriously harmful physical abuse, emotional abuse and neglect of children is more prevalent in families for whom life is harder. (Interestingly and in contrast, sexual abuse rates are remarkably constant across all social classes.) Secondly, and maybe more importantly, there are a small number of adults in this country who are not very good at anything – not at parenting, not at adult friendships or relationships, not at holding down a job nor paying their rent reliably. Inevitably, wherever these people started on the socioeconomic spectrum they then drift to the bottom, and become the stereotyped single parents struggling to cope in poor circumstances. Again, in my professional experience, I have not met many whose lack of interpersonal skills of all types cannot be attributed to a lack of adequate parenting when they themselves were very young.

So placing children for adoption instead, as early as is feasible, may be harsh, but it’s currently the best way we have of interrupting this cycle of inter-generational deprivation.
Sylvia Triandafylla
Diptford, Devon

Steve Bloomfield’s article (Broadcast views, 25 April) is hardly a balanced view of the Russia Today channel. I have not noticed any “conspiracy theories”, still less the “antisemitism” ascribed to presenters, actually being aired.

RT is certainly not without fault but it is different: and it is this difference that is so important but, above all, so refreshing. If you are tired of the suffocating trivia, celebrity worship and deference to the super rich that takes up so much of mainstream news – and you wish to see a new and diverse range of reporters, presenting radically different views to those that are usually broadcast – then tune into RT.

The “impartiality” advised by Ofcom may distort the facts of contemporary conflict and much else; aggressors treated the same as victims, superstition given the same emphasis as science etc.

RT performs a valuable service by frequently broadcasting a trenchant critique of contemporary capitalism. The truly shocking facts of corporate greed and theft, together with the lacerating satire offered by Max Keiser in the Keiser Report, should be essential viewing these days.

This of course presents an amusing contradiction, considering the gangster capitalism that thrives in Russia today.
Peter Betts

• Steve Bloomfield deftly elides Rory Suchet’s apparent suggestion that an argument exists, into Suchet’s own “views”, and thence into RT’s. A neat job in innuendo-based propaganda – which kind of illustrates just the sort of thing RT tends to go on about.
Peter McKenna

In 1988, Alan Bennett, Craig Raine, Christopher Hope, Timothy Mo, Sue Townsend and I were treated to lunch at the Georgian State restaurant in Moscow by the Great Britain-USSR society. The food was eatable and there was plenty of wine and beer. The waiters were friendly. Since we had no commitments that evening, some of us decided to return to this haven of civilisation.

Those same waiters who had been courteous a few hours earlier were now surly and off-handed. The most inviting lunchtime dishes were no longer available and our requests for wine and beer were greeted with disdain.

We were on the point of leaving when the main door of the restaurant was swept open by the poet Yevgeny Yevtushenko, the laureate whose lyrics had touched the hearts of a succession of tyrants, with his wife, elegantly encased in an outfit designed and made for her by a Paris couturier. He noticed that Sue was smoking, glared at her and boomed the one word, “Cigarette”. Sue smiled at him. “You could say please.” The stupefied poet managed to say “Please”.

“That’s better,” said Sue. “It’s quite easy to be polite, isn’t it?” She then had a brainwave. “If you can persuade the waiters to bring us some bottles of wine and beer, I will give you the entire packet.” After some shouting in the kitchen, the drinks duly appeared.

Such were Sue’s moral values. She believed in good manners and kindness, and she loved a good joke.


You are to be applauded for highlighting the failure of the United States to keep the Middle East peace process on the road (“Yet another betrayal of the Palestinians”, 26 April).

In practice, there has been no realistic peace process since the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in 1995. The Israeli government complains that it has had no partner for peace, yet Mahmoud Abbas has always been a willing partner. The recent agreements between Fatah and Hamas are merely being used by Israel as an excuse to stall the process still further.

Israel has never been willing to accept the idea of an independent Palestinian state as an equal partner. The most it was prepared to concede was a client state cut into non-contiguous zones by vast swathes of Israeli settlements on the West Bank.

It is also unrealistic to expect any Palestinian negotiator to recognise Israel as a Jewish state. This is to deny full rights of citizenship to that significant minority of Israel’s population, mainly Palestinian Arabs, who are either Muslim or Christian.

In a recent speech, Peter Hain said that many significant players, such as John Kerry and William Hague, believe that time is rapidly running out for a two-state solution, and that we need to consider various models of a common-state solution as the only realistic way forward.

Speaking at a meeting in Liverpool recently, the Palestinian envoy to the UK, Professor Manuel Hassassian, looked back to medieval Andalucia as a golden age when Jews, Muslims and Christians lived together in harmony in a vibrant and intellectually productive culture, and suggested that this could be a model for a future state.

Although, as he pointed out, this is not the policy of the PLO or the Palestinian Authority, it is a solution that should be seriously considered.

I have visited both Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories, and found, underneath the conflict, a vast fund of goodwill on both sides, which could be exploited to achieve it.

The West should stop pursuing the chimera of a two-state solution as if it were the only show in town, and seriously consider the option of a common state.

David W Forster, Liverpool

Benjamin Netanyahu announces a halt to the peace process in response to unity between Hamas and Fatah. How will we notice the difference?

There are no serious peace talks and never were; the Israelis continue to take more Palestinian land; Abbas isn’t strong enough to agree a deal that involves major concessions to Israel, which any final settlement is bound to include.

However, a unified Hamas-Fatah government might just be able to sell such a solution to the Palestinian people.

Netanyahu loves to say of the Palestinians that “they never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity”. Now the opportunity of a lifetime is staring him in the face: a Palestinian government with enough authority to deliver a solution. The question is: is he strong enough to seize it or is he going to do the usual politician thing and settle for the comfortable option of doing nothing while blaming others?

John Sears, Brentford, London

The front page of The Independent is where I expect to receive news, not opinions. Robert Fisk’s report of the cessation of the talks between Israel and the Palestinians was a biased summary.

One gets the impression from his article that if only Mr Fisk were in charge of running US foreign policy, then he could have made peace within a few days. For some reason, he is being ignored by policy-makers.

Please try to save the front page for objective news reporting.

Dr Stephen Malnick, Rehovot, Israel

Welcome step towards low-carbon energy

We at the Institution of Engineering and Technology welcome the announcement by the Department of Energy  and Climate Change of  private-sector investment  in eight major new renewable energy projects and hope that it will be the first of many.

If the policy is to supply 15 per cent of total energy from renewables by 2020, this is a welcome step in that direction. At present, renewables supply about 4 per cent of total UK energy use, and around another 2 per cent is already approved or under construction.

These latest contracts will add a further 1 per cent. Bearing in mind that to complete the final design, build and commissioning of a sizeable project takes three or four years, the renewable capacity that will be in service by 2020 will have to be given the go-ahead within the next two years or so – we need an announcement like this every couple of months for the next two years.

A diverse range of low-carbon energy projects needs to be accompanied by energy demand reduction and development of the underpinning electricity network infrastructure to create a fully functioning low-carbon energy system for the 2020s.

Professor Roger Kemp, Institution of Engineering and Technology, London WC2

Myopic and political intransigence are driving a scheme (“‘Breathtaking spending spree’ used to boost Green Deal”, 26 April) that is fundamentally flawed in every aspect.

If any of our politicians spent time reading the professional architectural and construction-industry press, they would have long ago abandoned such a deal. It doesn’t and never has stacked up, even if loans were at 0 per cent interest rates. I pity the 2,100 homes that have already been duped into the scheme.

We urgently need significantly to improve the energy efficiency of our homes, but not with this Green Deal.

Peter Gibson, Great Rollright, Oxfordshire

New Turkish visas are user-friendly

The article by Simon Calder “Turkish delights get tangled in red tape” (5 April) admirably portrayed the joy of the holiday season in Turkey, albeit with some misleading information regarding Turkey’s visa procedures.

The new system is neither expensive nor complicated. Most importantly, the e-visa system does not require the applicants to go through tiresome and time-consuming face-to-face visa interviews. The concerns that some holidaymakers would not be allowed on board their planes to Turkey because they did not know about changing visa procedures are misplaced. The visa-on-arrival practice will continue until we are certain that everybody is “on board”.

The three-minutes average time for obtaining an e-visa is not merely a claim but a fact of statistics generated from more than 1.3 million e-visa applications. Moreover, e-visa fee is cheaper than visa-on-arrival.

The article correctly pointed out that for “nationality” travellers from Britain must select “United Kingdom” rather than “British”. To correct this, the term “nationality” has been replaced with “country/region”. Family and group e-visa applications have already been introduced.

Since its launch in April 2013, more than a million people have obtained their visas through the e-visa system. Almost a quarter of the applicants are from the United Kingdom. We invite our British friends to try the e-visa system out for themselves and visit Turkey.

Unal Cevikoz , Ambassador, Turkish Embassy, London SW1

The subtext is: these actors lack training

Howard Jacobson (26 April) will have noticed that subtitles on foreign-language TV series actually make one pay attention to the dialogue. That may be one reason we find the plots more absorbing.

But the muttering and lack of clarity (realism?) which is so infuriating on much TV drama stems from a school of acting that relies on microphone technology to get round actors’ lack of stage training and experience. Stage acting requires good voice projection. TV does as well, but our TV-addicted producers and directors haven’t worked that out yet.

Martin Hughes, Winchester

Howard Jacobson’s suggestion that the BBC should attach subtitles to all its programmes and do away with sound altogether could perhaps be extended further by also doing away with the pictures.

The display of words alone could start a whole new trend, but a name for this innovation is obviously needed. Er, perhaps “books”?

Malcolm Marsters, New Malden, London

British version of Christianity

Is Britain a Christian country? Only if Christian is a synonym for a capitalist, military, industrial complex with lots of pomp.

Lee Dalton, Weymouth, Dorset

How to put the heat on a cold caller

A friend has a method with cold callers (letters, 26 April) which I’ve not had the chutzpah to try out myself.

He lets them talk on and on and then says, breathing heavily: “I say, your voice  is so sexy. What have you got on?”

Peter Forster, London N4


The prime minister’s pledge to halt public aid for wind farms is a good start, but it does not go far enough

Sir, The prime minister’s pledge to halt public aid for wind farms (Apr 24) will be welcomed in mid Wales, where very tall and expensive turbines blight the landscape.

Many windfarms are planned and built against the wishes of local government by absentee landlords (including the Crown Estate) and developers, who ignore the damage they cause. They get huge subsidies for which we all pay in our energy bills while their huge profits result in little (if any) tax to the Treasury; some are controlled from tax havens. The turbines are made abroad, and such projects produce very little local employment. The community fund is rightly perceived by residents as bribery.

Of course the UK needs renewable energy; most people support offshore wind, tidal, solar and hydro power, but politicians in London need to understand the very strong local views against onshore wind farms in their backyard. Mr Cameron now “gets it”, but will he go further and, as in Scandanavia, compensate those whose homes will be blighted for years to come?

Si r David Lewis

Pumsaint, Carmarthenshire

Sir, In his criticism of Conservative plans to stop subsidising wind energy, Peter Franklin (Thunderer, Apr 25) omits to mention that Britain’s economic recovery, and its ability to lift households out of fuel poverty, are reliant on generating electricity from the cheapest and most abundant fuels available.

The Department of Energy & Climate Change’s figures show that between December 2013 and February 2014 coal shouldered 41 per cent of UK electricity supply, ahead of gas and atomic generation. Coal is cheap, abundant and readily available from many domestic and global suppliers. Britain must exploit this and extend the lives of its coal-fired power stations so that they can run past 2020. This will allow the UK to avoid an energy crisis and provide a bridge to coal with carbon capture and storage in the next decade.

Tony Lodge

Centre for Policy Studies

Sir, Having called time on wind farm subsidies, the government could also attend to the nuisance of solar roof panels. These receive a subsidy seven times the level for turbines while contributing one third of 1 per cent of the UK’s energy needs.

The burden on the consumer could be cut by bringing the subsidy for both kinds of energy to the same level, as measured by the benefit in reducing CO2 emissions. According to government figures, solar panels are now paid for at £560 per tonne of CO2. If this were a just payment, the average UK citizen with the nine-tonne per year emission footprint ought to be paying £5,040 for the privilege.

Dr E L Rutherford

Wirksworth, Derby

Sir, The Energy Secretary wants more wind turbines (Apr 23), but first we should develop a viable means of largescale energy storage. Without it, every megawatt of wind and solar generating capacity has to be matched by an equal amount of conventional generating capacity, for when there is no wind or sun. Such duplication is an enormous waste of effort and a needless cost to every taxpayer.

Intense research and development into energy storage now will ensure that the right amount of wind and solar generation can be built and fully utilised in future.

Rob Tooze

Darlington, Co Durham

The Medical Innovation Bill which seeks to promote medical innovation is well-intentioned but flawed

Sir, We oppose the Medical Innovation Bill (aka the Saatchi Bill) which seeks to promote medical innovation by dispensing with current clinical negligence law in relation to decisions to provide treatment. The Bill is well-intentioned but flawed.

As the Medical Defence Union has said, there is no need for this Bill. Clinical negligence law does not impede responsible innovation; it requires only that treatment should be supported by a responsible body of medical opinion, even if the majority of doctors would not support it.

The proposed legislation is not well targeted. The Bill does not define “medical innovation”. It would remove liability for negligent treatment even if it were outdated or spurious. The Bill says nothing about the regulation or funding of innovative treatment.

The Bill does not adequately protect patients, in particular vulnerable ones whose conditions might lead them to seek obscure or untried treatments. While, as now, the patient’s consent would be needed, the Bill does not require treatments to be approved by governing bodies, ethics committees or any other doctors, only that the decision-maker has considered certain matters and has acted in an open and accountable manner.

Proponents of the Bill have claimed that it will “change medical history” and lead to a cure for cancer. Those claims are misleading and prey on the hopes of those with cancer. This Bill should not become law, and the government should look at other ways of promoting medical innovation.

Nigel Poole QC, Kings Chambers, Manchester

Suzanne White, Partner on behalf of Leigh Day Solicitors

Professor Michael Baum, Emeritus Professor of Surgery, UCL

Peter Walsh, CEO Action against Medical Accidents

Matthew Stockwell, President, Association of Personal Injury Lawyers

Stephen Webber, Chairman of the Society of Clinical Injury Lawyers

Catherine Collins, Chair of England Board, The British Dietetic Association

Keith Isaacson, Chairman, HealthWatch

Alan Henness, Director, The Nightingale Collaboration

Laura Thomason, Good Thinking Society

Margaret McCartney, GP, author and broadcaster

Professor John McLachlan, Professor of Medical Education, Durham University

Professor Richard Ashcroft, Professor of Bioethics, QMUH

Professor David Curtis, Honorary Professor of Psychiatry

Kate Rohde, Partner, Kingsley Napley LLP

Edwina Rawson, Partner, Field Fisher Waterhouse LLP

Dr Simon Taylor QC

Amanda Yip QC

William Waldron QC

“The UK’s creative sector contributes more than £250 billion a year to the economy but is being harmed by illegal copying”

Sir, Although the Prime Minister and Chancellor rightly promote the value of Britain’s exports (Apr 17), it is worrying that this value is being undermined by our companies and industries losing hundreds of millions each year from intellectual property (IP) infringement. The UK’s creative sector, including the design industry and branded goods, contributes more than £250 billion a year to the economy but is being harmed by illegal copying, counterfeiting and the weakening of IP rights.

Individual creators, small start-ups and multinationals can only prosper with a stable and effective legal framework, and the government can do much more to protect intellectual property. In its IP manifesto, published today, the Alliance for Intellectual Property spells out what actions the government should take to give our businesses and creators the conditions they need to innovate and stay competitive in global markets.

Richard Mollet, Publishers Association

Andrew McCarthy, British Brands Group

Jo Dipple, UK Music

Richard Scudamore, the Premier League

Dids MacDonald, Anti-Copying in Design

Lavinia Carey, British Video Association

Geoff Taylor, Chief Executive, BPI

Jo Twist, Chief Executive, UK Interactive Entertainment

Nick Fowler, Managing Director, Academic and Government Institutions, Elsevier

Chris Marcich, President & Managing Director EMEA, Motion Picture Association

Chrissie Florczyk, Director General, Anti-Counterfeiting Group

Martin Inkster, Managing Director, UK and Ireland, Philip Morris International

David Thew, David Thew & Company Ltd

Thomas Parrott, Managing Director, Beachbody UK

Owen Atkinson, Chief Executive, Authors’ Licensing and Collecting Society

Maureen Duffy, Honorary President, Authors’ Licensing and Collecting Society

Phil Clapp, Chief Executive, Cinema Exhibitors Association

Kieron Sharp, Director General, Federation Against Copyright Theft

Helen Nicholson, Chief Executive, Educational Recording Agency

Kevin Fitzgerald, Chief Executive, Copyright Licensing Agency

Audrey McCulloch, Chief Executive, Association of Learned and Professional Society Publishers

Gilane Tawadros, Chief Executive, Design and Artists Collecting Society

Mark Batey, Chief Executive, Film Distributors’ Association

“The offices of rector and chancellor may have been clarified by the Rev Graeme Muckart but only partially”

Sir, The “offices of rector and chancellor” may have been clarified by the Rev Graeme Muckart (letter, Apr 24), but only partially. I attended Edinburgh University, where the rector chaired the university court, not the senate, and I understand the same arrangement applies at Glasgow. A youthful Gordon Brown was a student rector in the 1970s and took exception to the university holding shares in South African companies while he chaired the court.

The senate, or Senatus Academicus, is, not surprisingly, concerned with academic matters where the principal (vice-chancellor) presides, though most undergraduates, even postgraduates, are probably unaware of the distinction.

David McA McKirdy

Mansfield Woodhouse, Notts

The phrase “back to square one” originates from the board games of the 1920s and 1930s rather than from the Radio Times football field grid

Sir, The phrase “back to square one” (On this Day, Apr 23) originated from the board games of the 1920 and 1930s, not the football field grid in the Radio Times. These games were played on a board rather like a chess board. The squares were numbered, starting usually from the bottom left corner, across and up the board to the top right finish.

Many squares contained instructions which you had to act on when you landed there: for example, “Miss your next turn”. One, usually near the finish, was “Go back to square one” — ie, start again.

The football commentators’ grid was, of course, simply to help you to visualise which area of the field the play was in. The grid number was spoken by a different voice.

Colin Maude

Threshfield, N Yorks


SIR – In your report about the Prime Minister’s Challenge Fund (April 13), Norman Lamb, the health minister, describes wanting to discuss four personal health concerns in a single appointment with his GP.

A full-time NHS GP typically has 2,000 patients. To meet their needs, most GPs offer appointments at 10-minute intervals. It would be unsafe to attempt to address three or four different health issues in a single appointment.

The share of the NHS budget spent on general practice has fallen from over 12 per cent four years ago to 8 per cent, while workload has soared. Many GPs routinely work 10-12 hours a day, every hour of which requires constant, focused attention.

There is a widespread recruitment and retention crisis and the Prime Minister’s Challenge Fund will do nothing to remedy this. Sadly, it is our patients who suffer.

While Mr Lamb may wish to try an email consultation, he should first consider whether this is the best way to deal with what is likely to be a complex matter.

He should also consider whether he would like to be dealt with by a doctor who may already have been working for 12 hours that day.

Dr John Cosgrove
Midlands Medical Partnership, Birmingham

Dr Prit Buttar
The Abingdon Surgery, Abingdon

Dr Chidozie Adiele
Bridgegate Surgery, Retford

Dr Deboshree Basu-Choudhuri
Nuffield House Surgery, Harlow

Dr Dana Beale
Meadowell Centre, Watford

Dr Natasha Beardmore
Moorcroft Medical Centre, Hanley, Stoke on Trent

Dr Catherine Black
The Laurels Medical Practice, Tottenham

Dr Rachel Blackman
Hartley Corner Surgery, Blackwater

Dr Andrew Blease
The Cedars Surgery, Walmer, Deal

Dr Claire Bonner
Poplar Grove Practice, Meadow Way, Aylesbury

Dr James Booth
Melbourne House Surgery, Chelmsford

Dr Russell Brown
Manor Park Surgery, High Street, Polegate

Dr Martin Brunet
Binscombe Medical Centre, Godalming

Dr Catherine Cargill
Blackwater Medical Centre, Princes Road, Maldon

Dr Ajali Chandra

Dr Vivian Chen
Hornchurch Healthcare, Hornchurch

Dr Naylea Choudry
Darwen Health Centre, West Darwen

Dr Alessandra Dale
Stanley Corner Medical Centre, Wembley

Dr Isobel Davies
Abbey Surgery, Tavistock

Dr Stephanie deGiorgio
The Cedars Surgery, Walmer, Deal

Dr Claire de Mortimer-Griffin

Dr Simran Dehal
Kingfisher Practice, Hounslow

Dr Helen Drew
Barton House Group Practice, Hackney

Dr Paul Evans
Tyne and Wear

Dr Mark Folman
The Fountain Medical Centre, Newark

Dr David Fox

Highglades Medical Centre, St Leonard’s on sea

Dr Hussain Gandhi
Wellspring Surgery, St Anns, Nottingham

Dr Kamini Gautam
West London

Dr Sandeep Geeranavar
Langton Medical Group, Lichfield

Dr Siobhan Gill
Brooklane Surgery, Southampton

Dr Karen Goodfellow
Lister GP Walk-In Centre, Southwark

Dr Pauline Grant
St Clements Practice, Winchester

Dr Sally Harrison
Emmersons Green, Bristol

Dr Maria Henson

Dr Bob Hodges
Barnwood Medical Practice, Gloucester

Dr Sukhdip Jhaj
Silsden Group Practice, Silsden

Dr Rajiv Kalia
The Spires Practice, Lichfield

Dr Sameer Khurjekar
Chichele Road Surgery, London

Dr Bastiaan Kole

Dr Alison Lawton
Parkview Medical Centre, Long Eaton, Nottingham

Dr Ruth Marchant
Manorbrook Medical Centre, Kidbrooke

Dr Adrian Midgley
ISCA Medical Practice, Exeter

Dr Kim Morgan

Dr Aditya Narkar

Dr Ayo Onasanya
Oak Tree Medical Centre, Ilford

Dr Kamal Patel
Langley Medical Practice, Surbiton

Dr Arup Paul
Globe Town Surgery, London

Dr Veronica Priestley
Grove Medical Centre, Egham

Dr Neetha Purushotham
Gillian House Surgery, Palmers Green, London

Dr Nadiya Rizvi
East London

Dr Leah Robinson
Bilsthorpe Surgery, Bilsthorpe

Dr Stewart Rutherford
Morrab Surgery, Penzance

Dr Vishal Sagar
Hampton Medical Centre, Hampton

Dr Lynette Saunders
Newbury Street Medical Practice, Wantage

Dr Christopher Schoeb
Ingleton Avenue Surgery, Welling

Dr Shameer Shah
Stanhope Surgery, Waltham Cross

Dr Shama Shaid
Hemel Hempstead

Dr Michelle Sinclair
Richmond Surgery, Fleet

Dr Satish Singh
Staithe Surgery, Stalham

Dr Julie Stanton
Yorkshire Medical Chambers

Dr Siobhan Stapleton
Mansell Road Practice, Greenford

Dr Dax Tennant
Downlands Medical Centre, Polegate

Dr Ida Tuck
Churchill Medical Centre, Kingston upon Thames

Dr Nicola Waldman
Merton Medical Practice, London

Dr Deborah Webb
The Old School Surgery, Stoney Stanton

Dr Ross Wentworth
The Poplars Medical Centre, Swinton, Manchester

Dr George Winder
Oakwood Lane Medical Practice, Leeds

Dr Dilanee Wirasinghe
Cassidy Medical Practice, Fulham

Dr Sally Wood
Station Drive Surgery, Ludlow

Dr Alan Woodall
Machynlleth Medical Practice

Dr Justin Woolley
Kew Medical Practice

Dr Sarah Worboys
James Wigg Practice, Kentish Town

Dr Saher Zakai
Boney Hay Surgery, Staffordshire, Burntwood

SIR – For over 60 years, each generation of Britons has enjoyed increasing wealth and rising income. Yet we have failed to save – in fact, each generation has saved less and borrowed and spent more. Those of us retiring now and in the next few years will be the last to enjoy financial security during our lifetimes unless action is taken.

Only a third of British families save regularly and a further third have no money left at the end of the month to save at all. The situation is most acute for those aged 35 or younger, as they are hit by rising housing costs, higher debts and less generous pensions than their parents. They may live longer and be healthier, but is their old age to be dogged by financial hardship?

Today sees the publication of a review that we, as 22 leading companies from across the financial services sector, have commissioned to highlight the savings crisis facing Britain.

We have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to change people’s attitudes to saving and develop long-term policies to avert this crisis. We want to work with political parties, regulators and consumer groups to develop an effective savings and investment policy.

The Chancellor in the recent Budget gave people greater control over their savings at retirement and the Government has established auto-enrolment, a laudable initiative which came about with cross-party support. It has introduced millions of people to long-term saving but more has to be done.

We recognise that the financial services industry has to do better – being more transparent in the way we communicate, eradicating unnecessary complexity and listening to our customers so we can help them enjoy financial security.

We urgently need to address the savings imbalance if we are to deliver sustainable long-term growth, stability and prosperity.

Tony Stenning
Managing Director, BlackRock

Gary Shaugnessy
Chief Executive, Zurich Life UK

Robert Angus
Head of Investments and Protection, Nationwide

Hugh Chater
Director of Investing and Protection, Natwest

Ed Dymott
Head of Business Development and Strategy, Fidelity

Andrew Formica
CEO, Henderson Global Investors

Campbell Fleming
CEO, Threadneedle Investments

David Barral
UK & Ireland Life & Pensions CEO, Aviva

John Pollock
CEO, Legal & General

David Brown
Strategy Director, AXA Wealth

Paul Feeney
CEO, Old Mutual Wealth

Wilson Leech
EMEA CEO, Northern Trust

Richard Freeman
CEO, Intrinsic

Ken Davy
Chairman, Simply Biz

Robert Hudson
Managing Director, Charles Stanley Direct

John Salmon
Head of Financial Services, Pinsent Masons

Tony Solway
Chairman, TISA

Jasper Berens
Managing Director & Head of UK Retail, JP Morgan Asset Management

Michael Cole-Fontayn
Chairman of EMEA, Bank of New York Mellon

Andy Bickers
Savings Director, Lloyds Banking Group

Attorney fees

SIR – The Office of the Public Guardian (OPG) fee for registering lasting power of attorney (LPA) is £110. There are two types of LPA, one covering property and financial affairs and another for health and welfare. To register both types costs £220. People who are on means-tested benefits or a low income may qualify for a reduction or may not have to pay fees at all.

It is likely that the £700 fee quoted included consultation with a legal adviser. Some people prefer to take advice if their estate or family affairs are particularly complex, however this is not mandatory. The forms, guidance and online application have been designed to make people more confident of making an LPA themselves.

If someone loses mental capacity and there is no LPA in place, a deputy has to be appointed through the Court of Protection. This can be a time-consuming process and the fees are far higher than registering the LPA with OPG. For this reason, we encourage people to plan ahead and choose the person or people best placed to make decisions on their behalf should they not be able to do so.

Alan Eccles
Public Guardian
London SW1

EU costs vs. benefits

SIR – Where is the cost/benefit analysis that allows the President of the CBI to claim that “For the UK in particular, the benefits of our membership for citizens and businesses have significantly outweighed the costs”?

Successive governments have steadfastly refused to carry out such an elementary exercise and the only authoritative study remains that by the respected economist Prof Tim Congdon, who concludes that the EU is costing the UK the equivalent of over 10 per cent of GDP per annum (£165 billion in 2013).

If Sir Mike Rake wants to win this argument he will have to do better than worn-out platitudes.

Christopher Gill
Bridgnorth, Shropshire

Driving me crazy

SIR – Having travelled by car around various parts of Britain recently I wondered whether some local authorities know that the Second World War is over?

Signposts taken down during the war to confuse the Germans can now be restored. It is easy to go round in circles trying to get anywhere in this country.

Ron Kirby
Dorchester, Dorset

Voices of discontent

SIR – The recent problems involving the quality of sound on the BBC’s Jamaica Inn reminds me of seeing James Mason in Measure for Measure at the Stratford Festival, Ontario in 1954. The Festival started in 1953 and the plays were performed in a huge canvas tent.

The mellifluous tones of Mason’s voice disappeared as he struggled to project enough. He admitted in an interview that “Having made movies for so many years with a microphone just inches from my head, I have lost the ability to project to the back of the theatre.”

When the festival launched with Alec Guinness as Richard III, the flaps of the tent were said to shudder with the power of his voice when he said, “Now is the winter of our discontent”.

Perhaps one reason for the inaudability of our modern television actors is their lack of experience in live theatre.

Colin Bower
Sherwood, Nottinghamshire

Electrifying idea

SIR – There was an important omission from the list of pioneering achievements in Brighton.

Along the sea front runs the world’s oldest operating electric railway, the forerunner of electrified lines across the globe, opened in 1883 thanks to the inventive genius of Magnus Volk.

Nicholas Owen
Reigate, Surrey

As bad as it gets

SIR – What annoys me is people saying “Can I get?” when ordering something in a shop, pub or restaurant.

I’d love to be able to answer “No, but I’ll bring one for you!”

Allan Dockerty
Eccleston, Lancashire

SIR – Every generation has its own expressions, many of which break the rules of grammar and usage.

Conversational English has never rigidly followed the rules and never will. As long as we understand what is being said, what is the problem?

Andrew Bebbington
Cheadle Hulme, Cheshire

Les’s jeux sont faits

SIR – My memory of Skindles Hotel is of when it had a casino. As we approached it one evening to go there for a meal, the big sign on the roof was all lit up except for the “D”.

“SKIN LES” it proclaimed. I didn’t go anywhere near it.

Les Sharp
Hersham, Surrey

SIR – In a recent advertisement in your newspaper, I noted the English National Ballet is to be performing Romeo & Juliet but was bemused to note that all of the principal dancers are foreign: Carlos Acosta (Cuba), Tamara Rojo (Spain), Vadim Muntagirov (Russia), Daria Klimentová (Czech), Friedemann Vogel (Romania) and Alina Cojocaru (Romania).

The ENB’s website shows that only 13 of the 70 dancers are English, which suggests that the company prefers buying in foreign talent to nurturing home-grown dancers.

Amazingly, the ENB is funded by the National Lottery and Arts Council England, who seem to be able to find money to act as an international ballet employment agency at a time when this country is suffering huge cuts in welfare funding, high unemployment and has a massive annual debt.

John Dunkin
London W11

SIR – As a previous governor (1993-99) and senior teacher at Park View School, I fully endorse the reporting by Andrew Gilligan into the alleged Islamist plot in the six Birmingham state schools.

So far, reports on the loss of good staff at Park View School have been restricted to the five head teachers that have gone in the last five years or so. In fact, due to the behaviour of the governors, it goes back much further than that.

A good head teacher was forced to resign in 1999 only six months after successfully bringing the school out of special measures. Prior to this, teaching staff voted a motion of “no confidence in the governing body”, which was transmitted to Birmingham local education authority (LEA).

An acting head teacher was brought in by the LEA because of its awareness of the difficulties with the governors at Park View. He described the governors as “doing their own thing and I wash my hands of them” .

The senior management team was disbanded and a new leadership group installed by governors who did not appear to follow the correct procedures for making the appointments. They appointed an assistant head teacher who had been a head of department for less than a year.

One senior teacher resigned immediately after 23 years of service and I was dismissed in 2003 when I tried to raise the problems with prospective colleagues visiting for interview. An officer of Birmingham LEA informed the deputy head that I “had a case, but we don’t want to replace one set of problems in Park View with another”.

Michael White
Burton upon Trent, Staffordshire

SIR – The problems we have with school governance these days is the fault of successive education ministers over many years.

The solution is simple – a state education that is managed by a national (UK-wide) education board of experienced academics with regional boards and inspectorates to ensure that every school in the country is of equally high standard. Incompetent teaching staff and head teachers should be removed, free schools discontinued, and a school curriculum imposed that does not contain any reference to religious education.

Peter J Fitch
Lhanbryde, Morayshire

SIR – It is worth remembering that this Islamic “plot” was exposed by whistleblowers, not by school inspectors. It must be time for a rethink of the system for inspecting schools. Ofsted might trumpet now that it has exposed the fact that only one of 17 schools inspected under the “Trojan horse” project had a clean bill of health, but where was it while the plot was being implemented?

Once this fiasco is resolved, steps must be take to ensure that nothing like it can ever happen again.

Mick Ferrie
Mawnan Smith, Cornwall

SIR – Islamicising education involves denigrating other faiths, particularly Christianity. I object to my Christian faith being disrespected in this way. If Islam were to suffer the same treatment, imagine the uproar.

I’m sure that most Muslims do not countenance the misguided behaviour of the militant few, and nor does the British public in general. Instead of remaining silent, we need to be more vocal. As Edmund Burke said, “All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience to remain silent.”

Sheila Pereira
Newcastle Emlyn, Carmarthenshire

SIR – How many schools in the United Kingdom – in cities such as Leicester, Manchester, London, Leeds and Bradford – may be suffering under the same oppressive control, with girls and boys being segregated and girls forced to the back of the class?

John Yates

SIR – Perhaps the Government and local authorities will now take seriously the incursion of Islamist extremists into British society.

J B Harvey
Charlmead, West Sussex

As an alliance of organisations concerned with improving energy efficiency through the refurbishment of Britain’s homes, we are writing to express our grave concern regarding proposed changes to energy efficiency legislation and to ask that you reconsider the dramatically reduced target for solid wall insulation (SWI).

The eight million British households currently living in energy-leaking solid wall homes, including half of our most hard-pressed “fuel poor” families, have been badly served by successive Governments. Through their energy bills they have paid £2.7bn into “energy efficiency obligations” over the last decade and have received very little in return.

The proposals set out in your Government’s “Future of the Energy Company Obligation (ECO)” consultation, which closed earlier this month, will perpetuate this unfair situation for the foreseeable future.

A more than 75pc reduction in the ambition for SWI under ECO will cripple the growing SWI industry, result in 20,000 job losses, and leave those living in solid wall properties suffering from the highest fuel bills.

At the rate proposed in your consultation, it will take 300 years to get these homes to a decent state of energy efficiency. In the meantime, the lack of SWI means that these eight million properties are emitting 6m tonnes of unnecessary carbon dioxide into the atmosphere each year.

A report published by the Institute for Public Policy Research demonstrates the substantial benefits of SWI to the UK. With the right support framework, for every £1 invested in the installation of SWI, the Exchequer will recover 50pc to 100pc or more in the same year, proving that Government investment in SWI makes economic sense.

The report also demonstrates that the positive impacts through employment, health and social benefits for residents present a compelling case for continued and strengthened investment in SWI rather than cutbacks.

The SWI industry fully understands the economic and political pressures that necessitated a cut in “green levies”.

However, the response of the recognised trade association for SWI, the Insulated Render and Cladding Association (Inca), to your consultation presents very strong evidence that actual savings to the ‘big six’ go far beyond the £35 you have persuaded them to give back to customers, representing a £1bn-2bn windfall to energy suppliers over the next three years.

We therefore urge you to reconsider this dramatically reduced target for SWI. The windfall saving that energy companies have enjoyed means that a doubling of the SWI minimum in ECO to 200,000 installations over the next three years can be achieved without incremental cost to consumers.

Combined with effective targeting of the new Green Deal incentives at solid walled properties, this would go a long way to restore the balance, and demonstrate that this Government cares about the eight million families left stranded in cold, leaky properties by successive Governments in the past.

Yours sincerely,

Insulated Render and Cladding Association (INCA)
The recognised trade association for the external wall insulation (EWI) industry

Centre of Refurbishment Excellence (CoRE)
The not for profit, national centre of excellence for green building retrofit

National Energy Foundation
The independent charity dedicated to improving the use of energy in buildings

Sustainable Homes
The leading training and advisory consultancy operating in the field of sustainable housing

Irish Times:

Sir , – Based on the assumption that “Christians believe that the Bible is literally the word of their god”, Hugo Pierce quotes from the Old Testament various endorsements of capital punishment for various crimes (Letters, April 25th). Some Christians do indeed still follow this tradition and continue to believe that God wills that human life be taken – “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth”.

However, for Christians who believe that God does indeed reveal Himself/ Herself and the ways for the proper respect of human life in society this revelation is a progressive one, where God gradually reveals in history a better way of living.

Jesus of Nazareth, eventhough he came from the Jewish tradition of the Torah quoted by Hugo Pierce, revealed through his life, words and actions that this ancient practice of a life for a life was not the will of God.

Even though eminent Christians still refuse to acknowledge this revolutionary teaching of Jesus that the reign of God has no place for violence, capital or otherwise, against the human person regardless of race, colour, gender, sexual orientation – or indeed of any crime committed by any human person – that doesn’t mean that they represent all Christians. Yours, etc,


The Moorings ,

Malahide ,

Co Dublin

A chara, – Hugh Pierce (Letters, April 25th) does not have an accurate understanding of Christians and the Bible when he writes: “Christians believe that the Bible is literally the word of their god.” The Bible for Christians bears testimony to the developing understanding that people have had over many centuries about their relationship with God.

Consider the specific example of how we respond to evil done to us. In the case of Cain in Genesis 1:15, sevenfold vengeance is seen as the deterrent. In Genesis 1:24, seventy-sevenfold vengeance is what Lamech threatens. The vicious cycle of vengeance was quickly spiralling out of control. So we have a principle to limit this in Exodus 21:24: “Eye for eye, tooth for tooth.”

This principle is still applied in places today. For Christians it is long since superseded by the sayings of Jesus in Matthew 5:38-48: the radical teaching of “Love your enemies.”

In Matthew 18:21-22, Peter has a problem with such teaching, and asks: “How often must I forgive one who wrongs me? As often as seven times?” “Seven” here is not a numerical value, but shorthand for “always”. Jesus responds in dramatic fashion, echoing Lamech in Genesis and totally reversing the standard for his disciples: “Not seven times, but seventy-seven times.”

Christians have often failed disastrously in living up to this, but it is still the gold standard, in relation to the death penalty and so much else. This is where we stand. Is mise,


Blackthorn Court,


Dublin 16

Sir, – It now seems a proponent of the death penalty in Ireland can expect about as warm a response as a minister of education at an ASTI conference. I remain unmoved, but lest your readers think that I am a bloodthirsty barbarian, I shall make no further appeals to Antonin Scalia to support my argument.

Let me resort to a more celestial power. The catechism of the Catholic Church, (paragraph 2266), after acknowledging the state’s “right and duty to inflict penalties commensurate with the gravity of the crime”, declares “the traditional teaching of the Church does not exclude, presupposing full ascertainment of the identity and responsibility of the offender, recourse to the death penalty …”

So far so good, except that the catechism then presents some important qualifiers and ends by quoting John Paul II’s disapproving counsels on capital punishment. However, the clear absence of a bright-line teaching on this issue is telling in a document not otherwise known for fudge (compare this language with the infamous and absolutely clear text on homosexual acts, paragraph 2357).

As a historian of the church, I venture that this ambiguity is unavoidable given 1) the clear support for the death penalty in Scripture, both Old and New Testaments; 2) the church’s millennial record of support for the idea that the state was God’s earthly “sword”, and its lengthy application of this principle in the Papal States and elsewhere; and 3) the continuing fair-minded disagreement among theologians on this question.

Despite what other letterwriters would have us believe, the incompatibility of Christianity and the death penalty has nowhere been conclusively established.

I am satisfied that I am not mad. Yours, etc,



Aiken Village,


Dublin 18

Sir, – Tom Cooper (Letters, April 26th) is worried that if Ireland joined the Commonwealth it would lead to the “re-Britishing” of the country. Such concerns are not borne out by the experience of the 50-odd member-states of the Commonwealth, a majority of them republics, who maintain their distinct national identifies alongside membership of an organisation that hasn’t been called “British” since 1949.

The Commonwealth is an association of free, democratic and sovereign states. Indeed, in the 1920s and 1930s the Irish Free State played a crucial role in the transformation of the Commonwealth from a form of the British empire into an independent organisation. By agreement of the member states the queen is head of the Commonwealth, but only as the symbol of a free association of independent countries.

Members of the Commonwealth share a common heritage and history, including an Irish diaspora of some 20 million people. The values of the Commonwealth are the same as those of the Irish state – democracy, peace, human rights, sustainable development and the rule of law.

Of course, the Commonwealth is not some ideal organisation: it has problems of its own, not least the failure of some states to live up to the obligations of membership. But its aspirations are as admirable as its practical activities. As a member Ireland could make a significant contribution to the further realisation of the Commonwealth’s values and ideas.

A decision to join would be commensurate with those developments in British-Irish relations that seem to cause Mr Cooper so much anxiety: the reciprocal state visits of Queen Elizabeth and President Higgins and the invitation to members of the British royal family to attend the 100th anniversary commemoration of 1916.

Ireland’s membership of the Commonwealth would also build more bridges to the unionist community in Northern Ireland, where it would be seen as a significant gesture of reconciliation.

To paraphrase Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the only thing to fear about the prospect of Ireland joining the Commonwealth is fear itself. Yours, etc,



School of History,

University College Cork

Sir, – The call by a Conservative MP, Michael Fabricant, for Ireland to join the Commonwealth following the successful state visit to the UK of President Michael D Higgins is most welcome. Fine Gael’s Brian Hayes deserves the support of all Irish people who cherish the values of reconciliation, conflict resolution and peaceful cooperation.

The Commonwealth includes many republics as members. Ireland would not once again become a white Commonwealth dominion but remain a republic. In contrast to EU membership, membership of the Commonwealth would not affect Irish sovereignty, which constitutionally is a matter for the Irish people alone. A referendum would not be required.

Ireland is of course very “British” already, probably more so than most Commonwealth states other than the UK itself. This is due to to geography, economics, shared history over hundreds of years, movement of population in both directions, close family ties, the English language, and media penetration.

Have India, Pakistan, Nigeria, Ghana, and South Africa been “re-Britished”? Are Canada, New Zealand and Australia more “British” than they were in 1949?  Commonwealth membership is a distinct issue from Anglo-Irish co-operation, but Ireland has closer political links and a more healthy relationship with the UK than ever before in her history due to Anglo-Irish rapprochement and the unprecedented co-operation necessitated by Republican terrorism over the last few decades.

Ireland’s presence in the Commonwealth would reassure many other nations with not dissimilar histories in what is a free association of states, many with substantial populations of Irish origin, all devoted to conflict resolution, peace, reconciliation, mutual co-operation and mutual support. Yours, etc,


Kew Green,



Sir, – Elements of the political class seem to believe the Commonwealth is some sort of effective international forum; it is not . Last year, despite herculean efforts by William Hague, it could not even agree on the decriminalisation of homosexuality. Commonwealth membership made sense when we had dominion status and were able to secure the “freedom to achieve freedom” under the Statute of Westminster 1931 . It is an absurd conservative relic in the 21st century. Yours, etc,


Henry Street,


Sir, – “I regard Ireland’s sovereignty as sacrosanct,” says Tom Cooper (Letters, April 26th).Tell that to the troika! Yours, etc,


Beacon Hill,


Sir – Kitty Holland (“Homeless crisis in need of urgent action”, April 26th) highlights the new homelessness of families with children.

Solutions include the most obvious, making more homes available by renovating vacant properties and building more houses. While voluntary housing agencies also suggest increased rent allowances and the introduction of rent controls, these may have unintended consequences in terms of additional rent increases or reduced supply of rental accommodation.

But there also needs to be creative thinking in terms of resolving this latest crisis. Many local authorities have a significant stock of three- and two-bedroom units, but one-bedroom units are like gold dust. The result is that families who separate, as in the case of Sabrina McMahon, can leave one partner alone in a family home and another homeless with children.

I am part of a national housing strategy group and am aware that councils are considering the concept of “room rate liveable rooms”, where larger houses are divided up into bedsit type units and single people can have tenancies within a divided house.

While this may be below the expectations of many, it is nevertheless a practical way to make the best use in the interim of existing council accommodation, and is already a model that is in place in other jurisdictions. Yours, etc,


Ballyroan Park,


Dublin 16

Mon, Apr 28, 2014, 01:45

First published: Mon, Apr 28, 2014, 01:45

Sir, – Alan Ahearne (“More homes in right places needed”, April 26th) is one of those people of whom it can be truly said he kept his head while all around were losing theirs.

His succinct remarks on media-driven comment during the boom/bust of recent years should be burned into the minds of all aspiring journalists, editors, economists and commentators: “ … some of the drop in house prices nationwide of more than 50 per cent from peak to trough may have been in response to the excessive pessimism about the country’s economic future that became a feature of the national debate during the height of the crisis. For a while it seemed that commentators were tripping over themselves to produce the gloomiest predictions. Indeed, economic commentary has generally been pro-cyclical over the past decade, exacerbating both the boom and the bust.”

His warnings about what might go wrong and what should now be done are equally succinct and wise: “The biggest concern is that today’s heady gains in house prices in some places become embedded in expectations of future prices.”

Therefore, “ramp up supply in the right places” (ie cities) and use the financial policy tools available to “ensure that prices in, say 2020, will not be too far above today’s levels”.

As simple as it is brilliant. Let’s hope he is listened to this time! Yours, etc,


St Peter’s Terrace,


Dublin 13

Sir, – President Higgins and Olivia O’Leary, among others, informed one and all that the word ceiliuradh has a many-layered depth of meaning, encompassing memory of what is best in our traditions of artistic endeavour and capacity to enjoy ourselves, etc. Dinneen’s dictionary conveys something different. In order, he refers to an act of bidding farewell, to chirping and birdsong, to solemnisation and the celebration of Mass. Treating of the verbal noun and verb, he introduces the rather contradictory notions of greeting and bidding farewell, and of reneging at cards.

Much of this seems to have little to do with the glorious rumpus in the Albert Hall. It does appear that in the sense of “celebration” the word ceiliuradh signifies solemnisation, eg of the Eucharist, rather than of nine minutes of The Auld Thriangle . Perhaps the Gaelic scholars among your readers would care to comment. Just as the word leithreas, meaning a convenient abbreviation in writing, has mistakenly been taken to signify a “convenience” in the sense of a (public) lavatory, might it not be that in the modern era we are running away with ourselves in attributing to reneging at cards the sense of rí rá agus ruaile buaile that the word ceiliuradh possibly never had? Yours, etc,


Silcheater Road,


Co Dublin

Sir, – I agree with your questioning of Mr Quinn’s proposals for assessment in the new Junior Certificate (“Turbulence on teachers front”, April 25th). His proposals are the educational version of the deregulation of the financial services industry. Look where that led us. Will Ministers and their advisers ever learn? Not if they refuse to listen to reasonable arguments as he does. Yours, etc,




Co Cork

Sir, – It has been surprising to read letters published that appear to advocate indiscipline in our schools in response to the scenes at this week’s ASTI conference. A question of collective guilt or collective punishment? I’m pretty sure they would not accept this for their own children. Yours, etc,


Turvey Walk,


Co. Dublin

Sir, – Breda O’Brien gives us an unusual perspective on sainthood (Opinion & Analysis. April 26th). John Paul ll “was a man of prayer”, who “achieved greatness not through personal ambition or ability but through being able to let go and be guided by a power greater than himself”, she says.

But what is “a man of prayer”? , and what does it mean to “let go” and be “guided by a power greater than himself”? Benedict XVl is also considered to be a man of prayer, yet both of these men allowed appalling sexual abuse to continue under their prayerful watch. It would seem that prayer is not always enough to make a man do the right thing. Certainly with these two men it wasn’t. Prayer often renders a man pious only.

Could it be that Ms O’Brien, and the Vatican, have mistaken piety for saintliness?

Yours, etc,


9 Whitechurch Rd,

Dublin 14

Sir, – Ian O’Riordan (April 26th) claimed that “there is simply no counter argument” to making “PE a core examinable subject in the Leaving Certificate”.  I disagree, partly because I am one of those who at school was picked last, if at all, for teams . The prospect of having to pass a PE exam would have filled me with dread.

Mr O’Riordan began with a quote from Mark Twain.  Here is another: “Golf is a good walk spoiled.“  Exercise is undeniably beneficial, but is sport the best way to obtain it?  Many sports, such as rugby, involve the risk of serious injury to participants.  Others have been tainted by doping scandals. Soccer may entertain vast numbers. but did that justify spending vast sums on the World Cup in South Africa, where millions don’t have clean drinking water?

Roger Bannister’s achievements were indeed amazing. But please spare a thought for those of us whose memories of sport at school were of being forced to stand on the sidelines of a muddy pitch in the rain. Yours, etc,


St James’s Walk,

Irish Independent:

With reference to Diarmaid Ferriter’s recent article (Irish Independent, April 17), a republic is ‘res publica’ – the thing of the people. The people are sacred and the state only a thing.

Also in this section

Democracy will suffer

Tribal idols dismantled

DJs are pawns in a corporate game

A republic is an open society where you are free to be different and its measure is the degree of diversity retained. The 1916 leaders were nationalist quasi-republicans. Irish nationalism was a mutation of race and religion leading to compulsory conformity.

John A Costello declared the Pope king of Ireland in 1948. Without a vote of his cabinet or the people, he declared a republic in Canada in 1949.

A republic can be judged by the human rights enjoyed. After 1922, the human rights of women suffered. They were denied access to contraceptives and divorce. Their right to work in the civil service and to serve on juries was restricted. The old-age pension was reduced for women. The Land Commission was active in compulsorily acquiring the land of single women.

Thomas Jefferson rejoiced over the economic success of Jews in the US, demonstrating the quality of liberty delivered by the American constitution.

We got independence in 1922 but people who were outside the norm lost their liberty.

Padraig Pearse wrote in ‘The Murder Machine’ of “…the ideal of those who shaped the Gaelic polity nearly two thousand years ago. It is not that the old Irish had a good education system: they had the best and noblest that has ever been known among men”.

Pearse wanted to bring us back from a creative scientific society in a time machine to a tribal Gaelic world where, in the words of Thomas Hobbes, life was short, brutal and bloody.

Kate Casey, Barrington Street, Limerick


One thing that stood out to me during the teachers’ much-publicised internal disagreements was the fact that the teachers who were not happy with the treatment of Ruairi Quinn during his visit seemed to be of a more mature age group, and quite happy with their lot, coming to pension age, and that they definitely don’t want the boat rocked.

Perhaps they should take a leaf out of the dissenters’ book and try to do something positive for the young teachers who have to deal with the changes being forced upon them.

While they are at it, they might give a thought to the future teachers who will bear the brunt of the financial cutbacks. It is as simple as that; try and think of others.

Matt Dunne, Swords, Co Dublin



The Irish Medical Organisation deserves to be congratulated for its stance regarding the prescription charge. Delegates drew attention at their conference to the appalling situation where people on social welfare or small incomes cannot afford to pay for all medications and are opting to take only some of their medication.

Each item on their prescription costs €2.50 and even with the monthly upper limit set at €25, it is just too much for many people. Our Government seems to be unaware of or blind to the plight of people who are medical card holders and simply find this charge too much. It is a tax on illness, which is, I believe, discriminatory and downright unfair.

Surely it is wrong to target people who are struggling with life-changing or life-threatening diseases or simply trying to recover from an illness using prescribed medication.

Declan Moriarty, Clancy Road, Finglas, D11



The blind spot in Rod Saidleir’s denial (Letters, April 24) of the existence of a merciful God because of horrific injuries that nature inflicts on people is that no human being, even if calamitously indisposed in any way, can be denied the opportunity to become a member of our creator’s family. There is only one ultimate deprivation and that is not to gain paradise.

Religious belief, understood as being at the core of a fully meaningful life on earth, has been consistently witnessed to in every part of our world at all times and in all cultures and civilisations.

In our own times, Communism and Nazism, both rooted in anti-religion conceptions, wreaked misery in Europe and further afield.

But Viktor Frankl, founder of Logotherepy, found hope and meaning even while incarcerated in Auschwitz where his mother died and as his wife died in Bergen-Belsen.

In responding to this degradation as a task to be fulfilled, he survived. Thus, meaning can always be found in the search for self-realisation in any human circumstance.

In our own historical experience of suffering, religion gave ultimate meaning to our people in praying the Mass at secret locations.

They risked their lives and homes by hiding the hunted priests and endowed us with much that is finest in our essential Irishness.

Colm O Torna, Garran Ghleann Sceiche, Ard Aidhin, Baile Atha Cliath 5



Liz O’Donnell’s article (Irish Independent, April 25) on the ‘courage’ of the Labour Party in implementing austerity at the expense of its own popularity reminds me of the ‘courage’ of the Light Brigade, the British cavalry formation during the Crimean War who, impervious to the outcome, charged a line of Russian heavy artillery and were duly slaughtered.

The Labour Party has systematically destroyed its own power base, the public service, low earners, the poor.

It has broken almost every election promise and wedded itself so closely to the senior party in Government that some have taken to calling the Labour Party ‘Fine Gael lite.’

Perhaps in the upcoming EU and local election, we shall see history repeated and witness the charge of the lite brigade.

John Hanamy, Ranelagh, Dublin 6


Philip O’Neill stated (Letters, April 22) that religious questions are not amenable to scientific investigation or verification, then asked ‘does that make them meaningless?’ To which he answers, of course not. I’m afraid he, as the physicist Wolfgang Pauli once said, is not even wrong.

Plainly, the assertion that religious questions are not amenable to scientific investigation or verification is incorrect. Did God create the universe? This, I presume, would qualify as a religious question. If so, then it is as open to investigation and verification as any other question about the origin of the universe.

Further, if Mr O’Neill thinks that questions, the answers of which are unverifiable, aren’t meaningless, then what constitutes meaning? We could all attest to be able to sprout wings and fly, but if it’s not verifiable then it is most certainly a meaningless claim.

Later in his letter, he says: “God has its provenance in intelligent reflection and imagination.” Again, a mere assertion. There are myriad gods, with myriad origins; it’s certainly nice that his originated from intelligent reflection and imagination, but it again is meaningless.

Mr O’Neill goes on to state: “It (concept of God) arises from the capacity not just to go where the evidence leads us but to be open to possibilities that are at the edge of what is knowable.” But what could be more meaningless that this? By definition, if it is at the edge of what’s knowable, then it is devoid of any supernatural claim, it is being investigated and potentially verified; if it is not, then how can we expect to know something that is, by Mr O’Neill’s own say so, unknowable?

A much safer bet than to expect to be able to experience and know what is “at the edge of knowable”, is to follow the evidence and take our knowledge from the conclusions, rather than to set up a potential unknowable and try to shape the evidence or experience toward it.

Brian Murphy, British Columbia, Canada

Irish Independent

Quiet day

April 27, 2014

27 April 2014 Quiet day
I go all the way around the park listening to the Men from the Ministry: Our heroes face a terrible fate new furniture Priceless
Mary home fsettling in
Scrabble today, Mary nearly got 400, Perhaps I will win tomorrow.



Mark Shand – obituary
Mark Shand was an adventurer and travel writer who found his true mission in the conservation of the Asian elephant

Mark Shand: ‘I’ve always loved animals’
2:30PM BST 24 Apr 2014
Mark Shand, who has died aged 62, was the brother of the Duchess of Cornwall and a noted conservationist.
An adventurer in the best sense of the word, Shand never tied himself to anything so tedious as a full-time job. Among his earliest heroes was the 19th-century explorer Sir Richard Burton, and his exploits included riding on horseback through the Andes, journeying to Tibet and being shipwrecked in the western Pacific during a hurricane. His first book, Skulduggery (1987), told of an expedition to an uncharted territory in the Indonesian archipelago, Irian Jaya, which was said to be seething with cannibals.
All this might have degenerated into a life of exotic dilettantism. But while travelling in India in 1988, Shand come across an emaciated captive female elephant being used for begging purposes by her owners: “My mouth went dry,” he later wrote of the moment when he first saw her. “I knew then that I had to have her.” He bought the animal, named her Tara and rode her 750 miles from Konarak on the Bay of Bengal to the Sonepur Mela, the ancient elephant trading fair at Patna on the Ganges. Travels on My Elephant (1992), his account of the journey, was a bestseller and won him the Travel Writer of the Year Award.
Shand followed this with Queen of the Elephants (1995), the story of his 300-mile trek across East Bengal and Assam on the back of an elephant with Parbato Barua, India’s only female elephant trainer. The book won the 1996 Thomas Cook Travel Book Award and the Prix Litteraire d’Amis, and formed the basis for a BBC documentary.

Related Articles
Major Bruce Shand
12 Jun 2006
Mark Shand: adventurer, conservationist and Duchess of Cornwall’s little brother
24 Apr 2014
Michael Jacobs
17 Jan 2014
Norman Lewis
23 Jul 2003
Eric Newby
23 Oct 2006
Mark Shand with his elder sister, the Duchess of Cornwall (REX)
By now Shand was passionate about the long-term welfare of the Asian elephant. He had a cause. In 2002 he gave up his “day job” (selling Cartier jewellery) and founded Elephant Family, devoted to the animal’s survival. “There are only 50,000 of them,” Shand said, “compared with half a million African ones. Yet bigger, uglier African elephants grab all the attention.” Every day, he pointed out, an elephant kills a human being and a human being kills an elephant. He added: “It is our fault, because we humans have driven them away from their natural habitat. To cut the risk of human-elephant conflict and casualties, we are securing habitat all over Asia and purchasing corridors of land for elephants and helping local people relocate.” The charity has so far invested more than £6 million in a range of such projects.
Shand was not only well-placed to be a fundraiser (having contacts in the Royal family, the aristocracy and the merely very rich), he was also good at it. In 2010 he organised an exhibition of 250 60-inch-tall fibreglass elephants to stand on plinths across London; they were mysteriously removed overnight later in the summer — a visual metaphor for extinction. Each animal was decorated by a celebrity or an artist, and each was later auctioned off.
In 2013 he accompanied the Prince of Wales on part of his visit to India, “to highlight the work of Elephant Family, and show him what remains of Asia’s incredible wildlife”, later declaring: “There has never been such an unprecedented threat to world wildlife. The illegal wildlife trade is now worth an estimated £6 billion a year, and it’s growing.”
Born on June 28 1951, Mark Roland Shand was the son of Major Bruce Shand, who won an MC and Bar as a cavalry officer with the 12th Lancers, and his wife Rosalind (née Cubitt), daughter of the 3rd Lord Ashcombe . Mark and his elder sister Camilla (now the Duchess of Cornwall) and younger sister Annabel (the interior designer Annabel Elliot) were brought up in a country house at Plumpton, East Sussex.
Mark loved animals from childhood, later recalling: “When I was about eight years old my mother would go to Harrods every two weeks to do her shopping and while she was buying boring things I’d sneak off to the pet department. In those days they had lions and tigers and there was a lot of squeaking and growling going on. To me it was the most exotic place in the world.”

Mark Shand (EPA)
His education at Milton Abbey ended abruptly when he was expelled at the age of 16 — allegedly for smoking dope. Major Shand told his son: “Don’t —- around London, Mark — do something.” So the young man went East: “I did the hippie trail and lived in Bali for a while.”
Having worked as a porter at Sotheby’s, Shand started a business with the Earl of Westmoreland’s son, Harry Fane, selling Cartier jewellery. He was soon being touted as one of the most eligible bachelors of the Seventies, and he was linked in the gossip columns to President John Kennedy’s daughter Caroline, to Bianca Jagger, Princess Lee Radziwill, and to the model Marie Helvin.
He later described his youth as “misspent”, adding: “I don’t have many regrets. I’ve got lots of tattoos, though, a serpent on my forearm, which I got when I was working in the packing room of Sotheby’s, the crab on my shoulder in Texas, and a tiger I found after I woke up with a bunch of Algerian soldiers. On my foot I’ve got some markings which were made by Dyaks in Borneo while I was fairly intoxicated on anything that was remotely available.”
Many women found him mesmerising, one gushing: “He is an Adonis. He’s the nearest thing to a real-life Indiana Jones. He’s always turning up at parties, deep brown, just back from India and telling extraordinary stories.” The novelist Jilly Cooper once said: “I sat next to him at a dinner party, and I was trembling with excitement.”

Mark Shand with his wife Clio and their daughter Ayesha (GETTY)
In 1990 Shand married the actress Clio Goldsmith, niece of the billionaire entrepreneur Sir James Goldsmith. They had a daughter, Ayesha.
For relaxation, Shand enjoyed watching television series such as The Killing and Game of Thrones. He also liked browsing in antique markets. He once had a pet mongoose which escaped in a restaurant and helped itself to a fellow diner’s plate of spaghetti; he also had a myna bird “who spoke in an Irish accent” and a Staffordshire bull terrier called Satan, “who I looked after for a friend while he was ‘a guest of Her Majesty’”.
His favourite books were Brazilian Adventure by Peter Fleming; Eric Newby’s A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush; and Rodney Stone by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
Mark Shand, whose marriage was dissolved, died from a head injury after a fall in New York, where he had been supporting a charity auction at Sotheby’s in aid of Elephant Family and underprivileged children.
Mark Shand, born June 28 1951, died April 23 2014


There are already enough planning permissions for a large increase in the rate of housebuilding, but the major firms all maximise their profits by building only limited numbers of houses, mainly in preferred locations (“Ten steps to release the pressure in Britain’s housing superbubble”, Business). Indeed, when Ed Miliband last year pledged a Labour government to ensure that by 2020 an annual 200,000 new homes would be built (well short of the agreed need for 250,000), the industry bosses exploded that this was far in excess of their capacity.
The real problem is the cost of land and its increase in value when planning permission is granted. Ten acres of farmland worth £8,000 an acre can multiply 80 times with a stroke of the planner’s pen. This is lunatic; having created this value, the community then stuffs it into the pockets of builders and developers (often the same people) apart from painfully extracting a few symbolic goodies in the shape of such things as a new surgery; a road improvement; a sports or community facility.
Politicians are terrified of the effect on existing house prices of a new building programme large enough to deal with existing and future demand. The objectives must be to ensure that more houses are built without fancy schemes to finance their purchase being necessary; and that a high proportion of the increased land values generated returns to the community that creates them.
Harvey Cole
Former leader, Hampshire county council
It is not good enough for the property adviser to dismiss increased housebuilding and “garden cities” as solutions to the “housing superbubble”, saying it would take too long and they are not big enough. What happened to forward planning? At the 50th anniversary of the creation of the last wave of new towns, has not the time come to re-examine a mechanism that through an integrated infrastructure, despite all its faults in implementation, provided a civilised environment for thousands of families? This mechanism still exists in the Commission for New Towns, retained to administer new town assets and which combined with the Urban Regeneration Agency to create English Partnerships in 1999.
But it will not happen in the current mania for buzzwords and the “quick fix”. So our hard-won expertise will continue to migrate to those countries that plan for the future and mock our beggarly housing, low in volume and built down to a price instead of up to a standard.
David Jackson
More homes on the scale needed require a planned infrastructure and planning is something that “the market” does not do, other than for its own profitable purposes.  Kevin Albertson’s letter ticks all the right boxes, but I am not holding my breath, waiting for these essential ideas to be implemented.
I live in a village of just over 11,000 people in beautiful countryside. Over the next few years, we are faced with developers building more than 1,000 houses on the green fields here. There are no plans that I know of to deal with the increased traffic flow through the village centre or through the narrow village streets along the A281 on the way to Guildford, or to build additional classrooms or to enlarge the excellent village health centre that opened only last year
Like many other towns and villages, we are being encouraged to engage in developing a neighbourhood plan, but this will not be able to control the number of new houses, only advise on where they should be built; anyway, it will take at least two years to complete.  As the new houses will be built by then, it is all a bit of a sad joke, paying lip service to the government’s idea of localism.
There are some areas where perhaps a “small state” is needed, but there are others where the state must become involved in planning and delivery.  The current need for housing is one of those areas.
David Weaver
Having 30 years’ experience in working with foster carers and the children in their care, I was moved by John Mulholland’s article “The kids are all right” (Magazine) about how a group of young people who have been in care have literally found a platform for their “voice”. I am full of admiration for their resilience and courage, even though we, as a society, have failed to understand properly their needs and ensure these are met.
Foster carers, who have the major responsibility for enabling these kids to build stable relationships, are undervalued. We must ensure foster carers have the knowledge and skills they need. Dr Robert Epstein’s invaluable research on parenting competencies leads the way in showing us what foster carers need. By identifying the top three competencies as love and affection, stress management and relationships, his research findings highlight some of the issues raised in the damming report Couldn’t Care Less (Centre for Social Justice 2008). Let’s treat foster carers like the professionals they are by paying and training them accordingly.
Margaret Hueting
Fostering Relationships Partnership
Hail the probation service
Jonathan Aitken is to be commended for helping to turn around the life of one fellow inmate in Belmarsh prison on release (“Jonathan Aitken calls for prison ‘mentors’ to tackle reoffending”, News). Volunteers have always played a role in probation work, but volunteers are not a cheap fix to solve reoffending. Without proper training and professional support, the risks multiply and support becomes personalised, often leading to inappropriate relationships or failure, or perhaps a relationship tinged with the self-gratification of those who seek to advertise their good works as part of their own redemptive narrative. We still have a successful public system – the probation service – that uses mentors wisely and trains them well, though Chris Grayling’s plans to privatise the service and to enrich corporations of dubious repute through using cheap and ill-trained or untrained mentors threaten this.
Joanna Hughes
Campaigning committee
National Association of Probation Officers
Christians thrive in Israel
Your piece “West Bank pilgrims find the Easter path to the Via Dolorosa an ever harder road”(News) on access to Jerusalem’s holy sites at Easter places the blame on the declining Christian population in Jerusalem’s Old City, “from 30,000 in 1944 to 11,000 today”, while failing to state that the Christian population had declined to roughly 14,000 by 1948. Since 1967, when Israel regained control of the Old City, the size of the Christian population has remained stable. This is a time when throughout the Middle East hundreds of thousands of Christians are fleeing, their churches destroyed and their way of life endangered as never before. It is important to state that only in Israel does the Christian population continue to grow and flourish.
Yiftah Curiel
Embassy of Israel
Compassion in our society
Having some connection with the food bank movement, I can refute the criticisms of them made by Tories (“Food bank charity quotes PM to rebuff Tory critics”, News). Applicants for food are assessed as being in need. It should be added that some hungry citizens do not approach food banks. Last week, I was with a penniless woman who was too ashamed to go. Others live too far away.
Further individuals often help the needy outside of agencies. Parents and grandparents support family members whose income is not sufficient for essentials. I can think of those suffering from the wretched bedroom tax, whose benefits are delayed, who are in debt. They have been helped by friends from their own pockets.
Official figures underestimate the extent and hardship of poverty. These actions cannot counter the harshness so beloved by the government. But they do demonstrate that many citizens desire a more compassionate society.
Bob Holman
Don’t blame Eurosceptics
In relation to the article “Eurosceptics go on the offensive in new row over war centenary”, (News), it is the government that induced the delay over the Europe for Citizens programme. As respects both First and Second World War commemorations, all of which I strongly support, I shall be going to Normandy where my father was killed and won the Military Cross, at Maltot near Caen in July 1944.
I and other committee members deemed that, because we thought the Europe for Citizens programme was of such legal or political importance, within our standing orders we would recommend that the matter be debated, and which, once we have so ordered, has to take place before the government ministers can authorise the proposals. We urged an earlier debate. It is regrettable that the proposals themselves mixed up the question of archives and commemorations that were uncontentious.
Bill Cash, MP for Stone
House of Commons,
London SW1


Possessions no substitute for a full-time mother
WHAT is the point of a woman working long hours and having to forfeit nearly 75% of her earnings to pay for childcare (“Slave mothers wield a love that smothers”, News Review, last week)? The first 10 years of a child’s life are crucial, as is the support of the mother. I was the product of working parents, something I resent to this day.
Computers, iPhones and bicycles are no substitute for coming home to an empty house, or not having parental support at the school play, sports day or class outing. Yes, I had plenty of free time, and I learnt to be streetwise, to recognise the dangers and to be self-assured, but when I got married and had two children I never worked.
I did voluntary work but was always home to give my children tea and listen to their problems. They were very happy with second-hand bikes, and we had one TV and no computers. Both say they wouldn’t swap me for them.
Women should not be made to feel less competent just because they don’t work.
Sue Sussman, London NW11
Mother load
I can identify with the points Eleanor Mills raised. I was one of those “slave mothers” and missed out on quality moments with my children as I was hellbent on making sure they had everything lined up to keep them busy.
And, yes, I was that parent at the school gate with the healthy snacks and change of clothes ready for them to go on to the next activity. I was a child of the 1970s, with “make sure you are back for your tea” as the only rule, but for my own children I took a totally different route, wanting to provide everything for them, to protect and smother them.
Gail Sheppard, Canterbury
Right to choose
I had my first child at 40, and as my job as a school teacher started with breakfast club at 7.30am and usually ended at 8pm, I reasonably thought that fitting a newborn baby into this schedule would be difficult so I gave up work.
A second child followed shortly afterwards, and over the years (my children are in their late teens) I worked part-time and full-time for a short period and am now at home. So what’s wrong with that? It’s about allowing women choice, not dictating how they should live.
Susan Comer-Jones, Taunton, Somerset
Maternity benefits
We have had enough of being told how to parent our offspring. I am at home with my three children (and expecting a fourth) and relish their development. I have degrees, but being a mum is my career right now. Victoria Beckham has not much in common with regular mothers, and holding her up as an example of how to master the art of motherhood while being a successful businesswoman is neither here nor there.
And why are women so focused on what other women are doing? Can we not simply be true to ourselves and get on with it?
Caroline Olivier, Kilcock, Co Kildare

Everybody deserves to have a compassionate death
THANK YOU, Camilla Cavendish, for the cogent and sensitive article on assisted dying (“He asks for Beethoven and eternal rest; we show a pet more compassion”, Comment, last week). My godmother, Elisabeth Rivers- Bulkeley, a distinguished and fiercely independent woman who was one of the first female members of the London stock exchange, travelled to Dignitas in Switzerland several years ago after her diagnosis of terminal cancer.
According to the account of the friend who accompanied her, the experience was bleak, the process furtive and the surroundings unsavoury. If we are supposed to live in a civilised society, why can we not grant the freedom to Sir Chris Woodhead to end his days at home as he wishes, surrounded by loved ones, with Beethoven and bordeaux — or perhaps, in the case of my late godmother, with Mozart and champagne?
Jessica Pulay, London W11
A means to an end
Death with Dignitas is not with a bearded social worker but with a kindly and competent assistant to ensure that the lethal liquid is taken without mishap. Friends and relatives are encouraged to be present, and Beethoven or any other choice of music is often played. If bordeaux is the chosen tipple it must be swallowed quickly before sleep supervenes in three or four minutes.
Lord Falconer’s Assisted Dying Bill would not have helped Tony Nicklinson; nor will it help Woodhead, as applicants must be within six months of death. The late Margo MacDonald’s Assisted Suicide (Scotland) Bill initially proposed that not only those who are terminally ill but also those “permanently physically incapacitated to such an extent as not to be able to live independently and find life intolerable” would have the right to die.
As a sufferer in the final but probably several-years-long stages of multiple sclerosis said to me: “I wish I had terminal cancer. Then at least I’d know I would die.”
Dr Elizabeth Wilson, Glasgow
Home and away
I accompanied my friend Ann to Dignitas in February. Her assisted suicide was dignified, compassionate, gentle and very moving — not a social worker in sight, or a beard.
The tragedy was that Ann, who was in the final stages of supranuclear palsy, should never have had to travel abroad to bring her suffering to an end. She too wanted to die in her own home. There is much to be learnt from Dignitas. Solidarity and support for a change in the law is what we need.
Carol Taylor OBE, Matlock, Derbyshire

EU must not show weakness in negotiations with Putin
WITHOUT gas revenues, Vladimir Putin’s power base and Russia would quickly disintegrate (“Let me put it in black and white: Putin is no grandmaster”, Comment, last week). As late as the winter of 1999 and early 2000 people were stealing potatoes to survive, and the then economic minister in Novosibirsk told me his No 1 priority was to make sure people did not starve.
As Dominic Lawson states, Putin is not a strategist and acts on impulse — very much a Russian characteristic. Our weakness is that the EU is incapable of negotiating an internal position, never mind presenting a coherent case to the outside world, which provides Putin with opportunities for his (mis)adventures.
I worked for a long time in Moscow for the EC, and there is one feature of working with the Russians that I tell everyone who has to negotiate with them: you must, so to speak, slam your gun down on the table when you sit opposite them.
We must form a cogent policy or face the consequence that they will interpret inaction as weakness or a lack of interest. Putin’s current line is economically and politically suicidal. At the same time, we do not want a weak or disunited Russia.
Keith Little, Prescot, Merseyside

Disagreements on Ted Hughes biography
THE estate of Ted Hughes takes issue with some of the claims in the article on Professor Jonathan Bate and his proposed biography of the former poet laureate (“Hughes widow lays cloak over the poet’s life”, News, March 30). The decision to withdraw support for the book, and permission to quote from unpublished, copyright material from the poet’s archive (now on view in the British Library), was not made — as Professor Bate suggests — out of concern that he might unearth “revelations about [the poet’s] private life” in the archive.
There is no “secret being guarded” there, as Bate speculates. And the poet’s widow, Carol Hughes, strongly rejects his suggestion that she “unnecessarily reneged” on the agreement to write what he originally proposed as a literary life of the poet, focusing on the work rather than a traditional biography. The estate had told Bate that it would not support or allow use of copyright material in any “authorised” biography since Ted Hughes had made clear he did not want one.
Regrettably, Bate ignored repeated concerns expressed by the estate and the publisher that he might be straying from his own remit, and resisted repeated requests to see more of his work in progress, as previously agreed. The Ted Hughes estate believes it is important to put these points on the public record.
Damon Parker (Harcus Sinclair), Solicitor to the Ted Hughes Estate

Caution on cancer tests
I support your campaign to beat cancer, but when discussing early diagnosis we must be careful to differentiate between screening tests and those used to investigate patients presenting with symptoms (“Young die as NHS rules deny them cancer tests”, News, April 13). In Britain screening for cervical cancer is restricted to those aged over 25. Medical literature demonstrates that routinely performing smear tests on women younger than this does little to reduce rates of invasive cancer or mortality, but does increase the number of false positive results obtained — along with all the attendant harms (such as worry and stress, further invasive investigations and unpleasant treatments).
Conversely, a young woman presenting to her doctor with symptoms that are suggestive of cervical cancer should, of course, be offered appropriate and timely investigation, regardless of her age.
Dr Liam Scott, Cheltenham
Extreme prejudice
What evidence does William Shawcross, chairman of the Charity Commission, have for his assertion that “Islamist extremism” is a growing problem for UK charities (“‘Deadliest threat’ to charities is extremism”, News, last week)? A recent survey of Muslim aid agencies by us found that 88% had regulations in place to prevent the financing of terrorism and had adopted measures to protect against terrorist abuse. Shawcross says Islamist extremism is not the most widespread abuse that charities face, so why not focus on what he believes the most prevalent problem to be?
Dr Hany El-Banna OBE, Chairman, Muslim Charities Forum, London W5
Religious conviction
David Cameron is right to state that England is a predominantly Christian country (“In praise of mild faith”, Focus, last week). Though many are not churchgoers, we have a shared sense of morality derived from Christian values. It is right that we stand up and argue the case for the majority of people in this country rather than suffer the perpetual pleas for special treatment for minorities.
Bernie Green, Birmingham
Just the ticket
I smiled at Roland White’s report on the hunt for the hedge fund commuter who dodged almost £43,000 of rail fares (“Now at platform 1, the suspicion express”, News Review, last week). I was a British Rail area manager in the 1980s and had a superb travelling ticket inspector. He reported stories of “City types” who had many tricks, but luckily his knowledge usually led to prosecution. One commuter would use up to eight different stations to start his journeys, hoping to shake off the inspector, but he caught him and he was prosecuted. The culprit lived in an expensive home and his wife was a magistrate but this did not deter him from getting a thrill by trying to cheat the system. It is other travellers who have to pay for the revenue shortfall.
Alex Green, Templecombe, Somerset

Corrections and clarifications
A report (“Palace outgun Cardiff”, Sport, April 6) on the match between Cardiff City football club and Crystal Palace referred to speculation that Iain Moody, Palace’s sporting director and formerly head of recruitment at Cardiff, had been refused entry to the Cardiff directors’ box by the club’s owner, Vincent Tan. We now understand, and accept, that Mr Moody did not even request entry to the Cardiff directors’ box — he was not banned by Mr Tan. We are happy to clarify the position. In the article “Private detective trailed police whistleblower” (News, April 6) a picture caption wrongly stated that Sergeant Peter Brett had died “in the line of duty”. In fact he died in 2011 after he had retired. We are happy to make this clear.

Darcey Bussell, ballerina, 45; Jenna-Louise Coleman, actress, 28; Tess Daly, TV presenter, 45; Russell T Davies, screenwriter, 51; Sheena Easton, singer, 55; Michael Fish, weatherman, 70; Sally Hawkins, actress, 38; Mica Paris, singer, 45; Neil Pearson, actor, 55; Ann Peebles, singer, 67; Sir Nicholas Serota, director of the Tate, 68

1828 the Zoological Gardens open in Regent’s Park, London; 1908 opening ceremony of the first London Olympics; 1984 siege of the Libyan embassy in London ends; 1992 Betty Boothroyd becomes the first woman to be elected Speaker of the Commons; 1994 first general election in South Africa in which citizens of all races can vote



SIR – It is through Sir George Young’s attention to detail, and his regular presence at constituency activities, that the Tories have been able to call north-west Hampshire a safe seat.
I fear that, should Boris Johnson be nominated to fight the seat on Sir George’s retirement, there would be an erosion of confidence in the electorate and a reduction in Tory votes.
E A Sclater
Ibthorpe, Hampshire
SIR – As a resident of north-west Hampshire for more than 40 years, I am insulted that David Cameron feels that he can send his man, Boris Johnson, here from London to represent our constituency. But then, isn’t that what happened with Sir George Young?
As a contributor to Harrogate Agenda, which aims to improve our system of democracy, I agreed with members who mooted a minimum residence requirement for any parliamentary candidate of 10 years.
Our system has changed from bottom-up to top-down, causing people to lose faith in the democratic process and hold the political class in contempt.
Stuart Noyes
Andover, Hampshire
Ukraine tactics
SIR – The Russian government has said that “Kiev is using its army against its own people”.
They should know, as that’s exactly what Russians have done in Chechnya for years.
Lt-Col Richard King-Evans
Hambye, Normandy, France
SIR – Are we sure that the Kiev government and its American allies would be sorry to lose Ukraine’s eastern provinces to Russia?
With the pro-Russian east out of any elections, the current pro-EU government in Kiev can guarantee victory in future votes. And who could then blame a pared-down Ukraine for seeking immediate membership of Nato to protect itself from the aggressor next door?
Colin Burke
Limits of right to roam
SIR – The 82nd anniversary of the Kinder Scout mass trespass has been offered as a reason for placing more demands on landowners, but this does not acknowledge the limitations of the “right to roam”. The Act specifically excludes cultivated land, which may not be clear to the general public, many of whom, through ignorance, treat farmed land as their back garden.
Our neighbouring estate keeps its footpaths well maintained and spends considerable sums of money to protect walkers from the unpredictable temper of Continental breeds of cattle. Yet many people and their dogs wander at will, disturbing the wildlife that this responsible landowner is aiming to protect.
Penny Roberts
Moreton-in-Marsh, Gloucestershire
Properly addressed
SIR – Perhaps the reason that people are reluctant to use the word “madam” is because of its unfortunate connotations. One of our postmen used to call me “my lady”, which I much preferred.
Dr Heather Williams
Prestatyn, Denbighshire
SIR – I enjoy visiting my local florist, who often says: “Hello, handsome” when I enter her shop, but I suspect her greeting is directed at my dog rather than at me.
Ian Burton
Boxmoor, Hertfordshire
Cornish devolution
SIR – How long will it be before Cornwall demands a devolved parliament, followed by a referendum on the creation of a separate sovereign state? Should David Cameron order military manoeuvres in the west of Devon to protect English-speaking peoples in Cornwall?
George Noon
Fulwood, Lancashire
SIR – Now that the Cornish have joined the Welsh, Scots and Irish in achieving “national minority status”, surely the English cannot be far behind.
David Bainbridge
Ketford, Gloucestershire
A long goodbye
SIR – I can sympathise with Robert Warner, who has difficulty getting his wife away from parties. I had the same problem with my husband, the only difference being that, when I finally got him out of the door, he would suddenly remember that he hadn’t said goodbye to our hosts and had to go back again.
It is telling that Mr Warner refers to his wife “switching off the engine” and “putting away her driving glasses”. Is his wife required to drive to parties so that he can drink as much as he likes?
Madeleine Hindley
Naunton, Gloucestershire
SIR – I’m afraid I have to counter Mr Warner’s thoughts on slow getaways, lest anyone thinks it is a female trait. In our household, it is my husband whom I find difficult to winkle out of a party. If it wasn’t for my chivvying him along, we would always be the last to leave.
Incidentally, our daughter is about to tie the knot with Mr Warner’s son. I wonder which gene will prevail.
Pamela Orsborn
Crondall, Surrey

SIR – Rear-Admiral John Trewby suggests that onshore wind farms are cheaper than offshore. That is because developers refuse to pay compensation to house-owners for the loss of value when turbines 425ft high are constructed nearby.
A draft report from the London School of Economics shows evidence that properties within 1.2 miles of wind farms lose an average of 11 per cent in value. If this is factored in, together with the erratic wind speeds, I think he will find that onshore is not so cheap to build or run.
T A Parkhouse
Norbury, Staffordshire
SIR – Rear-Admiral Trewby mentions a Royal Academy of Engineering report comparing offshore and onshore wind power, but it seems to offer only well-known comparisons – for example, that offshore wind farms suffer more corrosion (only too clear from operating offshore oil and gas platforms, as I have done).
It would have been more valuable to have the Academy’s take on climate change – which alone has encouraged the building of all such structures, with the parallel need for heavy subsidies that land up in electricity users’ annual bills.
Dr Harold Hughes
Kingston upon Thames, Surrey
SIR – With the suggestion that no more onshore wind farms will be approved if the Conservatives win the next election, perhaps more attention will be applied to harnessing energy from river flows. The Queen has successfully installed two Archimedean screws in the river Thames near Windsor.
River currents are available all the time, unlike wind and solar energy, and the greatest flow is in winter, when there is most demand for heat and light. Furthermore, connections to towns and existing power lines are shorter than those to hilltop and offshore wind turbines. Despite the advantages, hydro power seems to have been overlooked.
R L Sunley
Twyford, Berkshire
The bureaucratic bar to laying flowers on D-Day
SIR – It isn’t only the actual D-Day veterans who will be facing difficulties in Normandy this June.
A strong party of those of us who served in the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry in the Fifties, together with our wives and families, will be at Pegasus and Horsa bridges to honour the memory of our predecessors, led by Major John Howard, who captured the two bridges in a daring, glider-borne coup de main in the first minutes of June 6 1944.
We will remember Lt Den Brotheridge, killed as he led his platoon over Pegasus bridge, who is buried in the village churchyard at Ranville. His daughter Margaret will want to lay flowers on her father’s grave on the 70th anniversary of his sacrifice, but may be prevented from doing so by French bureaucracy, as she was 10 years ago. Then, as now, the presence of the Prince of Wales caused heightened security.
Those of us who also want to travel to the villages of Escoville and Hérouvillette, where men of our regiment are buried, may be denied that opportunity, and may have to confine our activities to the area around the museum and the landing zone.
June 6 2014 may prove to be not “The Longest Day”, but the most frustrating for the heirs of the heroes of D-Day.
Roy Bailey
Great Shefford, Berkshire
Established tradition: the Queen at the Maundy service at Blackburn cathedral last week  Photo: Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty
7:00AM BST 26 Apr 2014
SIR – After failing with the Alternative Vote and reform of the House of Lords, Nick Clegg’s call to disestablish the Church of England will be welcome news for those who support the status quo.
Malcolm Watson
Welford, Berkshire
SIR – Why does Mr Clegg think he speaks for people such as me? The Queen has been a guiding symbol of the Church of England through the reigns of weak archbishops and, by her example, has encouraged ordinary believers to carry on through thick and thin. Take away this anchor and I’m ready to throw in the towel.
Valerie Kemp
SIR – How dare Mr Clegg suggest that the Queen step down as the head of the Church of England. She has excelled in her dual role. At the Coronation, she promised to fulfil her duties regarding the Church.
How cruel to suggest disestablishment when the Queen has no chance to reply.
Elizabeth Rhys Jones
Guisborough, North Yorkshire
SIR – If the C of E is misguided enough to want the Queen to step down as its constitutional head, it should make the request, not the Deputy Prime Minister.
Robert Riding
London SW19
SIR – Seemingly forgetting his oath as a privy counsellor in his fifth-form debating society attack on 500 years of constitutional settlement is par for Mr Clegg’s course.
Loving England much, but Europe more, he demonstrates the truth of Elizabeth I’s dictum: “Who hath two strings to one bow may shoot strong but never straight.”
Robert Stephenson
Henley-on-Thames, Oxfordshire
SIR – When Mr Clegg was sworn of the Privy Council, did he take the oath or affirm?
J C Craig
Bodmin, Cornwall
SIR – As an agnostic, may I suggest we treat atheism as a religion, as it seems to be imbued with the cardinal marker of all religions – absolute certainty.
Roger Spriggs
Hythe, Hampshire
SIR – I am grateful to David Cameron for rejecting Nick Clegg’s call. His embracing of antidisestablishmentarianism has allowed me to achieve my long-held ambition to use this word in context.
Dr S V Steinberg
Prestwich, Lancashire
Irish Times:
Irish Independent:
Madam – Dan O’Brien (Sunday Independent, April 13, 2014), gives thoughtful consideration to the value to small states of multilateralism in general and the Commonwealth in particular.
Also in this section
Democracy will suffer
Tribal idols dismantled
DJs are pawns in a corporate game
However, there is ample evidence to counter his assertion that the Commonwealth is “not a hugely important organisation for any of the 53 countries in it”.
As he himself acknowledges, smaller, more vulnerable states have more to gain from being in to ‘clubs’ where all members are bound by the same rules.
For that reason, and many others, membership of the Commonwealth is central to those of our 31 members with populations of less than 1.5 million, the internationally agreed definition for a ‘small state’. A quarter of the members of the G20 also belong to the Commonwealth.
This offers opportunities for interface, and direct and crucial global advocacy facilitated by the Commonwealth plays a vital role in ensuring that due consideration is given to the concerns of developing and vulnerable nations when decisions are made that can have very significant impact on their trade, environment, social and economic stability, sustainability and resilience, and addressing serious capacity shortages.
Kamalesh Sharma,
Commonwealth Secretary-General,
Marlborough House, London
Madam – Congratulations to Dan O’Brien on his piece ‘Economics is now a science almost devoid of agreement’, (Sunday Independent, April 20, 2014). His account of the interaction between Mario Draghi and Christine Lagarde, and the contributions from George Osborne, Larry Summers and Robert Gordon very aptly illustrate his view of the multiplicity of variables in current economic debate.
Perhaps it is worth recalling the advice of John Maynard Keynes that in trying to forecast the market, one would be better off looking into the entrails of dead sheep, as the ancient Romans did. Indeed, “entrail-gazing” has come to be accepted as an appropriate definition of economic theorising by many commentators.
I have one quibble with Mr O’Brien’s ruminations. He refers to economics as a science – a frequently expressed view by, of course, economists. Let us see. At the end of 2007, 50 highly paid American economists and analysts predicted their country would not “sink into a recession” the following year. In fact, they predicted that 2008 would be a solid but unspectacular year. Not one of them foretold the crash. That was economics.
Three hundred years earlier, Edmond Halley used the mathematics of his friend Isaac Newton to predict that the comet that now bears his name would appear in 1758, which it did. In our own lifetime, we were confident it would appear again in 1987 (it did), and we know it will appear again in 2061. That is science.
So why could a 16th Century amateur correctly predict events 350 years in the future, but a slew of computer-aided experts couldn’t manage to guess one year ahead? Quite simply because one prediction is based on science, the other comes from entrail-gazing guesswork and shows how misleading it is to couple the words economics and science.
Mike O’Shea,
Killarney, Co Kerry
Madam – Declan Lynch, in his TV review (Sunday Independent, April 20, 2014), questioned the ‘Irishness’ of several well-known people including Katie Taylor. He made the point that Katie’s father is English. Which is true, and no doubt he is also a proud one. Katie has an Irish mother and was born and raised in Ireland. More tellingly, she was Ireland’s flag bearer at the 2012 London Olympics. I hope I included enough facts to put any ‘uncertainty’ to bed. In this country we have a tendency to categorise people as either being rabid nationalistic or one who recoils at any hint of nationalism. I suspect Declan Lynch would place himself in the latter category. I find it sad that in this day and age we still cannot celebrate our compatriots without being pigeon-holed as fervently nationalistic.
John Bellew,
Dunleer, Co Louth
Madam – Many years ago, I was ordered out of a lane in Temple Bar for busking. Dear me, how things have changed. I read with great interest Donal Lynch’s item, ‘City’s grimy heart is flooded by a sea of tourists and boozers’ (Sunday Independent, April 20, 2014). Regrettably, it reminded me of Galway city’s soi-disant ‘Latin Quarter,’ a new historical construction, in which boozing, general mayhem, and dreadfully fashionless ‘hen’ parties at weekends are the main attractions.
That said, I noticed that Donal incorrectly quotes Charles Haughey as describing Temple Bar as ‘Ireland’s West Bank.’ Before we fall over ourselves laughing, I ought to say that this description is more correctly ascribed to that most knowledgeable of political men, Bertie Ahern, and not Charlie. Bertie meant ‘Left Bank,’ of course. But Donal may have been having a laugh and besides, the place resembles the West Bank more than the Left Bank on some nights.
There was a time when the Temple Bar area was inhabited by penniless art students, musicians, trad-heads like myself making a bob or two and at least a sense of cultural energy. The artistic ‘edginess’ is long gone. Somebody somewhere decided to tart the place up and, as always, culture went out the window.
Fred Johnston,
Madam – Eoghan Harris made a glowing reference to me in last week’s column for which I am grateful. However, he concludes with a direct quote from me stating that, “I think the answer to the question whether the struggle for independence was worth it is a resounding No.”
As those reading the essay will see, I was referring to the struggle for independence from the perspective of my parents’ generation, the urban working poor in the decades after the formation of the Irish Free State. The more general point I make is that, “It is only by turning the spotlight on those who failed to benefit from the new dispensation that we can identify and rectify at least some of the shortcomings of the Irish revolution”.
I wholly agree with him on the dangerously seductive power of elitist militarism in the nationalist narrative and the way various forms of mass action and other forms of passive resistance to British rule have been virtually ignored by many mainstream historians. However I would not include Diarmaid Ferriter in their ranks. He is one of the best historians we have. This is not to say that I agree with everything he says, any more than I do with everything Eoghan Harris says, but I do welcome and value the independence and intellectual courage of both men in the debate on our past – and future for that matter.
Padraig Yeates,
Portmarnock, Co Dublin
Madam – As ever, and to his great credit, Eoghan Harris tried heroically to shed some reason and reality, based on the facts, on Irish issues, and latterly on the intricate questions of whether the Rising was necessary and whether royalty should attend. (Sunday Independent, April 20, 2014)
It occurs to one that ‘necessary’ may be interpreted in two distinct senses.
Firstly, was the Rising necessary in the sense that a break with Britain would be followed by a flourishing and prosperous Ireland? In hindsight we know to our cost that this was not the case.
Secondly, was it necessary in the sense that Ireland could not otherwise have achieved anything from a modicum of self-government to complete independence? Here again the answer must be a resounding no. One goes along with Mr Harris’s views regarding ‘civil disobedience’ etc but, with respect, he omitted to emphasise, in my view sufficiently, the one crucial factor, namely democracy. By 1918 Britain had almost achieved universal suffrage which she ultimately gained in 1928. In short it was simply a matter of playing for time.
As to whether royalty should be invited, it would seem on the face of it to give succour to those who support the Rising. One has to admit to a perception of infra dig on the part of Her Majesty during some of her Irish visit.
On the other hand, if one may indulge in a little ‘soothsaying’, it could auger a brighter future when Ireland will fulfil her obligations in the prosperity and governance of these islands, the corollorary being an acknowledgement of her debt to Britain.
Perhaps there is a point to Oscar Wilde’s remark: “The one duty we owe to history is to rewrite it.”
William Barrett,
Bletchingley, Surrey, UK
Sunday Independent


Settling down

April 26, 2014

26April2014Settling down

I go all the way around the park listening to the Men from the Ministry: Our heroes face a terrible fate invisible planePriceless

Mary home first full day

Scrabbletoday, Mary nearly got 400, Perhaps Iwill win tomorrow.


Tom Margerison – obituary

Tom Margerison was a broadcaster and journalist who helped launch New Scientist and LWT, but fell out with Rupert Murdoch

Tom Margerison

6:02PM BST 23 Apr 2014

Comments3 Comments

Tom Margerison, who has died aged 90, was a broadcaster, journalist and author who did much to stimulate an intelligent popular interest in science.

Margerison had a particular gift for interpreting complex scientific data in a manner to which the layman could relate, and in the mid-1950s was part of the team which launched the journal New Scientist, a pioneer in its field. At that time Margerison was working for Butterworth Press, where he and Percy Cudlipp conceived the idea of producing the country’s first weekly magazine aimed at providing “an intensive effort to stimulate nationwide interest in scientific and technological development”. New Scientist, launched in 1956, tried in particular to “capture the imagination of young people”. Margerison was the journal’s first Scientific Editor.

By the 1960s Margerison was among Britain’s best-known science journalists, working for both The Sunday Times and the BBC. At the forefront of reporting on the space race between the Soviet Union and the United States, he was particularly knowledgeable about Soviet technology. He was the first television reporter to make a film (for the BBC’s Panorama) about Novosibirsk, Russia’s third largest city (where much of the Red Army’s ammunition was produced), and also fronted a major television documentary on life in Siberia.

Margerison impressed his Russian hosts by walking around in his lightweight Marks & Spencer’s suit in temperatures of minus 40 degrees. He took part in a swimming competition beneath the ice and learned to drink the Russians under the table .

He became close to the world’s first man in space, Yuri Gagarin, accompanying the cosmonaut on a visit to Buckingham Palace — Margerison was much embarrassed when Gagarin peered at the salad provided and told the Queen through his interpreter that, in Russia, this was what was fed to rabbits.

Such was the extent of Margerison’s contacts in the Soviet Union that the British Intelligence services attempted to recruit him. He declined.

Thomas Alan Margerison was born in Finchley, north London, on November 13 1923, the son of a tax inspector whose peripatetic career meant that his son attended Huntingdon Grammar School, Hymers College in Hull, and King’s School at Macclesfield before going up to Sheffield University, where he took a PhD in Physics.

At Sheffield, Margerison also took an active interest in the arts, appearing in and directing a number of productions; and for a time after graduating he wrote film scripts before joining Butterworth Press in 1951.

A natural broadcaster, he first appeared on television, for Rediffusion, in 1956 and later regularly reported on science, medicine and technology for the BBC’s Tonight programme .

In 1961 Margerison was appointed science editor of The Sunday Times, for which he covered not only space travel and nuclear energy, but also traffic development and motorways, satellites and communication, the first Concorde, medicines, drugs and drug testing, and climate and weather. He predicted the likelihood of fire in the Mont Blanc Tunnel (it happened in 1999, with the loss of 39 lives), and the vulnerability of bow-doors in cross-Channel ferries, as demonstrated when the Herald of Free Enterprise capsized in 1987, killing 188 passengers and crew.

Margerison was made deputy editor of the newly launched Sunday Times Colour Magazine in 1962, and two years later became managing editor of Thomson Technical Developments, during which time he was responsible for introducing the first computerisation of newspapers, in Reading and Hemel Hempstead.

Firmly believing that television should educate as well as entertain, and that the BBC was not achieving this aim, in the late 1960s Margerison joined Clive Irving and David Frost in a bid for the franchise which became London Weekend Television (LWT). But after he had replaced Michael Peacock as chief executive of LWT, there was an unhappy period following his approach to Rupert Murdoch to boost the station’s failing finances . The two men fell out, and in 1971 Margerison lost his job. He said later, however: “There is no question of personal animosity between Rupert Murdoch and myself. It is just one of those things. ”

During his time at LWT, Margerison was involved in the development of colour television, and it was under him that the first programmes were transmitted in colour, culminating in Frost on Friday. Subsequently, he became director of the Nuclear Electricity Information Group, where he sought to persuade the unions to be less resistant to nuclear power.

Tom Margerison’s marriage to Pamela Tilbrook, who died in 2009, broke down in the 1970s, and he is survived by his partner of more than 30 years, Marjorie Wallace, founder and chief executive of the mental health charity SANE. They collaborated on The Superpoison, a book telling the story of the 1976 Dioxin disaster in Italy. Marjorie Wallace cared for Margerison throughout the 15 years in which he suffered from Parkinson’s Disease.

He is also survived by two sons of his marriage, by his daughter with Marjorie Wallace and by three stepchildren.

Tom Margerison, born November 13 1923, died February 25 2014


The all-party parliamentary group that recommended the criminalisation of sex workers’ clients, which is cited as backing for Caroline Spelman‘s views (Outlaw buying sex, says former Tory minister, 22 April), is a partisan group whose original remit was to “tackle demand for the sex trade”. Its moralistic stance is confirmed by its choice of secretariat – the Christian charity Care. When the cross-party group reported in early March, it did not release evidence to show how many of the 413 respondents supported the main recommendation. Considering that more than half thought that prostitution was a legitimate form of work, it is unlikely this was a majority. It should now cough up the figures.

Ms Spelman glosses over sex workers’ concerns about how criminalisation of clients would undermine safety. sex worker from the Rose Alliance, Sweden, where the law was changed in 1999, spoke recently to a 200-strong parliamentary meeting about the increase in stigma and danger: “We are still criminalised if we work together in premises, we risk eviction by landlords, condemnation by social workers and even losing custody of our kids because we are seen as ‘bad girls’ unwilling to change. This law should be abolished, not exported to other countries.”

Tackling the appalling 6.7% conviction rate for reported rape would be a more effective way of addressing high levels of violence against sex workers. New Zealand decriminalised in 2003 with verifiable improvements in sex workers’ safety. Contrary to claims by Joan Smith and others, this is very different to Germany’s state-run legalised prostitution and deserves serious examination.
Niki Adams
English Collective of Prostitutes

• If you offer things for sale, you are obviously seeking purchasers; so if Caroline Spelman and others had their way, the bizarre outcome would be sex workers doing nothing illegal in enticing would-be purchasers to act illegally. Further, presumably payments being outlawed would not be restricted solely to cash; so any two people on a romantic date had better ensure they pay for their own food and drink, to avoid any misunderstandings.

ome sex workers are oppressed, suffer appalling conditions and would much prefer different occupations. Those features, of course, have applied to many other jobs. The solution has been legislation to improve standards of health, safety and benefits etc, not to make heavy manual work, tedious factory work and street cleaning, for example, all illegal.
Peter Cave

• So supply-side economics is finally coming to the sex trade. Given its utter failure everywhere else, Caroline Spelman indeed can perhaps hope that it will knock the sex trade on the head.
David Redshaw
Gravesend, Kent

I welcome Frank Field MP chairing an all-party parliamentary inquiry into hunger and food poverty (Letters, 26 April). He has kindly asked me to give evidence. Before I do so, I ask him also to call for the abolition of subsidies to MPs for their food and alcohol in the Commons. As a long-standing party member, I ask all Labour MPs not to claim food and drink on their expenses. They are highly paid and can pay for these out of their own pockets. In short, public money should be used not to feast the privileged but to ensure that every citizen has access to sufficient food.
Bob Holman

• Defra is exacerbating Kew Gardens’ financial plight with a cut of £1.5m (Future less rosy for Kew as £1.5m funding cut threatens world-class botanic research, 25 April). Yet it spent £10m on the failed and scientifically discredited badger cull, because that is a fetish for the NFU, the trade union to which Conservatives can never say no.
Christopher Clayton
Waverton, Cheshire

• Six different writers were employed to write about the dismissal of the Manchester United manager (Letters, 25 April), but only one could be spared to cover the seven county championship matches in progress on Wednesday this week.
John Winn

• I enjoy reading Sam Wollaston, but he should know that verbs are conjugated, not declined (Last night’s TV, 24 April). Nouns are declined, as are invitations occasionally.
Howard Symons
Yeovil, Somerset

• On the subject of finding Márquez, Melville and Joyce “turgid” and “unreadable” (Letters, passim), are Marion Quillan and David Wheatley by any chance teenagers?
Gerard Kennedy

• Now he’s found Hoo and Ware (Letters, 25 April), I urge Tom Frost to visit Howe (Norfolk) and Wye (Kent). I continue to search for Watt and Wen.
Ellie Sedgwick
Halesworth, Suffolk

Polly Toynbee says the continuing levels of bonuses paid to bankers and others can’t go on (£5m for a banker: disgusting. So is £71 for the unemployed, 25 April). But it will, of course, go on unless there is direct state intervention. Attempting to limit bonuses and salaries is tackling the problem from the wrong end. Since the fat cats will not voluntarily leap off the gravy train and they all sit on each others’ remuneration committees, it will be necessary to claw the money back through the tax system. A tax on organisations, equal to the size of their bonus pot, might make them think twice. This could be accompanied by more progressive increases in income tax for individuals, starting with a 50% rate for those on £150,000 and an extra 5% for every £100,000 above that, rising to a maximum of 90%. This would give someone with a gross income of £1m a net income of about £330,000 and even the chief executive of Barclays, with his £5.1m package, would have a net income of about £750,000, not exactly leaving him destitute. If banks chose to increase bonuses to compensate, this would increase the tax on the bonus pot, providing more income for the exchequer.

But which party would have the guts? Not Labour, judging by its puny announcement about how it would tackle zero hours contracts. Not the Lib Dems, judging by Vince Cable‘s risible letter asking for restraint. Perhaps our tired political system has run its course, with the main parties hopelessly in hock to big corporations, and we need to create a new bottom-up system driven by fairness and equality, possibly based around revamped trade unions and the Greens. Just a thought.
Alan Healey
Milson, Shropshire

• Your article (Shareholders scorn Barclays over bonuses, 25 April) demonstrates exactly how helpless shareholders are in controlling soaring executive bonuses. Their organisation is too fragmented to allow them to counter boardroom excess with any certainty. What is required, of course, is the presence of informed and independent employee representatives on the boards of UK companies who will exercise a moderating influence. Evidence from Germany reveals that employee board-level representation is significantly related to lower levels of executive pay. We require a system that refocuses incentives away from the short-term obsession with share price towards the long-term interests of a wider range of corporate stakeholders, including workers.

One way forward would be to link the issue with moves towards increasing the number of female directors on the boards of UK companies. f trade unions in the UK had the right to elect their own board-level representatives – and if they prioritised women trade unionists to this end – then we would promote greater corporate accountability and gender equality in the boardroom at one fell swoop.
Michael Gold
Professor of comparative employment relations, Royal Holloway University of London

• The claim by the chair of Barclays’ remuneration committee that they have to pay the rate for the job is simply a means of guaranteeing a perpetual upward ratchet on pay at the top, not justified by performance, value-added, productivity or anything other than a self-referential rationale. All this nonsense, so rightly pilloried by Polly Toynbee, is only made possible by the state underwriting the banks. That promise, beyond depositor guarantees, should be withdrawn alongside the introduction of a legally enforceable ratio between top and median pay which would create a ratchet down at the top and up at the bottom, to general benefit.
Roy Boffy
Walsall, West Midlands

• Today’s Guardian reports “Shareholders scorn Barclays over bonuses”, “AstraZeneca shareholders revolt over pay”, “Bosses shocked by recruitment firm pay rebels” and Polly Toynbee’s article “£5 for a banker: disgusting. So is £71 for the unemployed”. Vince Cable resorts to appealing to shareholders’ and top executives’ morality to curb their obscene greed as they continue to dip their sticky fingers into corporate tills. This crocodile-tears pantomime of helpless hand-wringing could be cured at a stroke by this or any government imposing the 60% to 98% surtax and supertax rates applied in the 1950s and 60s to successfully boost the post-war economy; to be introduced, this week, with no new legislation required.
Noel Hodson

• After 50 years I’ve finally taken the first faltering step towards ditching my Barclays accounts. The relationship has survived numerous crises and scandals over the years, mainly due to my inertia but also backed by the belief that they knew what they were doing as a bank. B ut when they think a 30% fall in profits merits a 10% increase in bonuses then the horrible truth finally dawns. Barclays really is a piggy bank!
Owen McLaughliny
Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire

• The chair of Barclays’ remuneration committee tells shareholders that “only the most discerning will appreciate” the need to pay increased bonuses after a year in which profits have fallen by 32%. Am I the only person who is reminded of the tailors who told an emperor that only intelligent people would be able to appreciate the fine cut of his suit?
Simon Cherry
Claygate, Surrey

Letters motherhood

“They muck you up, your little ones,” writes Kate Rohde-Bogan. Ayelet Waldman, pictured with her family, wrote about motherhood as an Olympic sport.

Kira Cochrane’s interview with Ayelet Waldman about her views on motherhood (Motherhood as an Olympic sport, 19 April) reminded me of my daughter Kate’s poem, written with acknowledgements to Philip Larkin.

This be the reverse
by Kate Rohde-Bogan

They muck you up, your little ones.

They do not mean to but they do.

The hurt and heartbreak they will feel

Should swing about to fall on you.

But they must have it in their turn –

Parental love can’t stop the pain.

Life throws you what you need to learn.

Safe childhood only keeps you sane.

So over-love your children now.

Show them everything you know.

Teach them tenderness and how to

Stand again when it lands a blow.

I look forward to reading Family each week – thank you.
Jenifer Rohde


As one of the anti-competitive left mentioned in your editorial of 22 April, I’d like to stand up for Xenophanes.

Competition against others is often meaningless; if you win, it could be because they are having a bad day; or you could creditably surpass yourself and come last in a brilliant field. Differences in sporting performance may be minuscule, but the glory goes to a single victor. Recall the devastation of some Olympic silver medallists who scored only a fraction of a point less than the winner.

High achievers will still make scientific breakthroughs and execute works of art because they are determined to do as well as they possibly can. They compete against their own previous best. Our young people should be encouraged to do what they do because it’s worth doing, not because they might secure plaudits for what may be a pointless exercise.

Determination to come out on top has given us: the demeaning bear garden of Prime Minister’s Question Time; footballers who are paid more in a week than others are in 10 years; and an economic system that increasingly rewards the rich and powerful at the expense of the poor.

Susan Alexander, Frampton Cotterell, South Gloucestershire

The writer of your editorial clearly hasn’t read Margaret Heffernan’s recent book A Bigger Prize – why competition isn’t everything. She makes a convincing case that on the whole competition undermines rather than motivates school pupils. The few winners may come out well, but the rest, believing they will not reach the top, are likely to make less effort in their studies.

Sure, it is good if we strive to do better than we did last time, but it is not necessary to set one pupil against another, or one school against another, to achieve good results. We may have gained in art and science as a result of competition over the years, but let us not discount the profound ill effects that unbridled competition brings. On the whole, co-operation is a more grown-up, intelligent and humane way of living.

John Gamlin, East Bergholt, Suffolk

The sport of baiting cold callers

I was initially delighted to read of Sean O’Grady’s approach to cold calling (“Don’t hang up on a cold caller”, 24 April) but this soon turned to disappointment when I realised that my personal best of six minutes 20 seconds keeping one of these pests on the line is as nothing compared with his 43 minutes. Respect!

I urge Independent readers not already engaged in this sport to take it up. And if you’re stuck for conversation, ask your cold caller who their client is, what the data will be used for and whether they are conducting their “research” in accordance with the Market Research Code of Conduct. They should then provide a free phone number to enable you to check their status.

Beryl Wall, London W4

Sean O’Grady tells us what a hoot he has wasting the time of cold callers. As a former cold caller, allow me to tell you some truths.

No one wants to do it; we do it because we have to. It is an awful job enduring abuse all day. Treating us badly does nothing to hurt the businesses that employ us, it just hurts us. I always let down cold callers quickly and with courtesy.

Sean Nee, Edinburgh

TV drama with Authentic mumbling

Instead of being criticised, the director of the BBC’s Jamaica Inn and the actor playing Joss Merlyn should be praised for an authentic characterisation. They have obviously referred back to Daphne du Maurier’s book, where Aunt Patience attempts to reassure Mary Yellan: “Your Uncle must be humoured, you know; he has his ways, and strangers don’t understand him at first.”

John E Orton, Bristol

Amid the brickbats thrown at the BBC for mumbling in the recent TV Jamaica Inn, let’s give Auntie a huge bouquet for the wonderful Radio 3 performance of Antony and Cleopatra on 20 April. Kenneth Branagh, Alex Kingston and the rest of the cast gave full measure to every spell-binding word of Shakespeare’s poetry. Words do matter, but only the steam radio seems to know it.

Jane Jakeman, Oxford

Reasons for a drop in crime

Your editorial of 24 April suggests that the downward trend in violent crime may be due to alcohol having become more expensive relative to earnings. But an even more important influence may be closed-circuit television cameras.

You can now hardly do anything or go anywhere without being recorded, and anyone contemplating a crime knows this. No one really likes snooping cameras, but they may be helping to keep us safe.

Richard Bass, Leigh, Surrey

Union’s democratic decision-making

To claim, as Mark Leftly does, that Mark Serwotka “seized control” of the Public and Commercial Services union is just absurd (Westminster Outlook, 18 April).

The truth is that in 2000 Mark won a democratic election of the union’s membership and Barry Reamsbottom, whose name was not on the ballot paper, tried to cling on to his former position, vacating it only when ordered to do so by a High Court judge after we had been forced to initiate a legal challenge.

The possibility of a merger has been suggested precisely because, thankfully, we are now a union that aims to build the most effective possible trade union fightback against damaging cuts and privatisation. Decisions on merger will be made by our members after a full, open and democratic process.

Janice Godrich, National President, Public and Commercial Services Union, London SW11

The raunchy side of solar energy

The photograph above a short article on the first page of last week’s Your Money section caught my eye. The article was about a scheme to invest in solar energy for schools. The photograph showed a group of young women dressed in mini skirts and stockings with the caption: “The sun could shine on St Trinian’s under a solar panel scheme for schools.” This looks like  a cheap way of “spicing up” the Your Money section.

Patricia Bartley, York

Patron saint of Anatolia?

Amid all the gentle humour surrounding the origins of England’s national saint, can we at least stop referring to St George as a “Turk” (letter, 25 April). This is an anachronism on a par with calling an ancient Briton an Englishman, or an Aztec an American.

The influx of Turks into Anatolia, and its subsequent definition as Turkey, occurs largely from the 11th century onwards. Polyglot Greek, Palestinian, Levantine – the one thing St George is definitely not, by over 500 years, is a Turk.

Christopher Dawes, London W11


Sir, The City would do well to follow the shift of culture we are seeing in medicine towards both men and women working less than full time (“Fathers with City jobs are shunning paternity leave”, Apr 23).

Diminishing numbers of men or women can take five days a week of full-on clinical work seeing patients for 12 hours a day. More and more doctors are burning out and leaving the profession early, in the same way that City workers retire in their fifties, often for health reasons.

Men should be encouraged to take leave under the new parental leave arrangements and reap the benefits of forming strong relationships with their children as well as understanding what their wives do.

Employers will realise that there is no difference between men and women in terms of potential leave for childbearing as they could well split the parental leave equally. This will help to prevent the misconception that women are seen as less desirable to employ.

Young women with university degrees are less and less inclined to play the “supporting, non-working wife” role, which is needed if jobs in the City continue to demand such long hours that participation in family life is impossible.

Medicine is well on the way to busting the myth that we are individually indispensable and must therefore be present at work for 60 plus hours a week. Doctors who work less than full time can still reach the top of their careers. Dame Fiona Caldicott revealed that her most satisfying achievement was that she was the first president of the Royal College of Psychiatrists to have trained on a less than full-time basis, while bringing up children.

Both men and women benefit from having a balance between work and family. We need to remove the stigma attached to fathers who wish to participate in their children’s lives and benefit from the new parental leave arrangements.

Let us celebrate a remarkable group of new women presidents: Jane Dacre, president-elect of the Royal College of Physicians, Clare Marx, soon to be the first woman president of the Royal College of Surgeons and Suzy Lishman, president-elect of the Royal College of Pathologists. They will join Maureen Baker, chair of the Royal College of GPs.

Dr Fiona Cornish

Medical Women’s Federation


The postwar generation has done very well – perhaps it should not be so quick to resent inheritance tax?

Sir, I agreed with much of Tim Montgomerie’s column “Man Utd and Britain share a problem — debt” (Apr 24) today until he said “Voters hate any kind of inheritance tax.”

Do they really? If so, it follows that we prefer to pay (more) tax while we are alive. After all, if a tax is abolished it must almost certainly be replaced by another. As a postwar baby I have enjoyed the benefits of the welfare state and expanding economies more than the next generation will, and I have generated assets far greater than my parents ever had. Others of my generation are in the same position and will be able to pass on significant sums. Do we need to be able to pass on such riches, tax free, to the next generation?

The law entitles us to pass on £325,000 before incurring an inheritance tax liability, and it seems likely that this figure will increase. Anything beyond that is taxed at 40 per cent. Even with inflation taken into account it seems to me that this is a generous amount to pass on, even to share between siblings.

Esmond A Hitchcock

London NW2

Severing the constitutional link between church and state may not change the things that matter

Sir, Calling for disestablishment (“Coalition split on the role of the church”, Apr 25) shows ignorance of the role of the church. If the deputy prime minister thinks that there is benefit in severing the constitutional links, these only amount to the appointment of bishops (now a matter for the church), church legislation and bishops in the House of Lords (mired in the wider review of Lords reform). None of these church/state connections is what the mission of the Church of England is about.

Despite falling congregations, the church has a presence in amost every town and village and is available to all, of faith or no faith, at times of significance in their lives. None of this would change if it ceased to be the church by law established.

Anthony W Archer

(Former member, Crown Nominations Commission)

Little Gaddesden, Berks

Published at 12:01AM, April 26 2014

For 30 years Pakistan’s legal system has connived in the persecution of Ahmadiyya Muslims

Sir, Thirty years ago today Pakistan amended its penal code to target Ahmadiyya Muslims and made it a criminal offence, punishable by three years imprisonment, for an Ahmadi to call himself a Muslim.

It is deplorable that 30 years on, this legacy of General Zia remains and the law is still used to justify the persecution of Ahmadis: millions are harassed, tens of thousands forced to flee the country and hundreds murdered in cold blood.

Together with blasphemy laws that prescribe the death penalty, with no requirement of evidence bar a reported allegation, these laws have emboldened extremists to harass and kill Christian, Ahmadi, Shia and other citizens simply on grounds of faith.

As officers of the All Party Parliamentary Group for International Freedom of Religion or Belief we are seeking to highlight this issue, and welcome the House of Commons debate on the subject that will be led by Naomi Long, MP, on May 1.

As a true friend of Pakistan, David Cameron will, we are sure, do likewise when he welcomes Pakistan’s Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif, to the UK in the coming days.

Thirty years of persecution is enough.

Baroness Berridge


Lord Singh of Wimbledon

Lord Alton of Liverpool

Baroness Cox

All Party Parliamentary Group for International Freedom of Religion or Belief

Greater London is seeing an annual 9 per cent increase in children with physical and learning difficulties

Sir, The tragic case of the family with three children with a severe genetic condition (“Mother charged with killing her three disabled children”, Apr 25) raises the general issue of the 9 per cent annual increase in Greater London in the number of children requiring admission to special schools for children with severe physical and learning disabilities. This is a huge, increasing burden, emotional and financial on the families and the state.

In our family’s case, advances in science and pre-implantation screening enabled a younger, normal sibling to be born for a brother with a life-threatening, disabling genetic disease. With consanguineous marriages there should be pre-marital screening, as is the case where disease is known to be endemic, eg, Tay Sachs disease in the Jewish population.

Glenda Baum

(Chartered physiotherapist and

ex-chair of a school for children with severe learning disabilities)

London SW15


SIR – Lord Dannatt, the former chief of the general staff, complains that the UK Independence Party’s depiction on a poster of the Union flag on fire is “disrespectful and inappropriate”.

He does not mention the many other inappropriate uses of our national flag, on everything from women’s underwear and umbrellas to sofa cushions and doormats. These are hardly appropriate uses, considering the brave soldiers who have given their lives to protect the flag.

Terence Edgar

Wallasey, Wirral

SIR – How might a resident of Looe, St Ives or even Lanhydrock have a distinctive culture that is different from mine? Surely we read the same newspapers, watch the same television and most importantly, speak the same recognisable form of English?

To be really distinct, the Cornish language needs to be your first language, and this ancient language is now spoken by a very few enthusiasts. I would encourage those Cornish people who crave distinction to learn their language first.

Rev Dr Anthony Peabody
Burghfield Common, Berkshire

SIR – Could you possibly publish a comprehensive list of all national minority areas in the United Kingdom so that I can remember where not to visit in future for fear of offending someone?

Ron Mason
East Grinstead, West Sussex

Teachers under attack

SIR – There is indeed a “wearisome predictability” in the annual round of teachers’ union conferences, but this is not adequately described as “playing politics”.

It began with politicians playing teachers when the Education Reform Act became law in 1988. The National Curriculum, coupled with the later introduction of Sats, took much professional autonomy away from teachers and gave the country the impression that political control was the way to run a successful education system.

The many subsequent “adjustments” to both the National Curriculum and the examination system since then, by politicians of all parties, have removed any sense that teachers have constructive ideas on how to run a school.

Teachers meanwhile are overwhelmed with paperwork in attempting to prove to politicians that they are doing the right thing. Ofsted is simply a government enforcer, where once the inspection of schools was of the greatest support to teachers.

The Education Reform Act provided for governing bodies rather than local education authorities to manage schools. Anybody with the available time could apply. The ensuing mixture of well-meaning, supportive parents overwhelmed with government paperwork and people of independent means with a sociopolitical agenda has meant death to the autonomy that served our schools so well for decades.

As we are seeing in Birmingham, this can have a sometimes dangerous effect.

I strongly dislike the posturing of the annual teachers’ conferences. But I despair at the way teaching has been altered by political domination. Teaching is increasingly carried out by people who have first of all to defend themselves from political interference. It is not surprising that they look to political means to redress the balance.

Mik Shaw
Goring-by-Sea, West Sussex

How’s it grab you?

SIR – Could the BBC stop using the unpleasant phrase “up for grabs” in its news bulletins?

David Langfield
Pyrford, Surrey

Happier onions

SIR – Why it is that when peeling an onion nowadays I am no longer reduced to tears? Is it anything to do with GM farming or an EU directive?

Keith Edwards
Grantham, Lincolnshire

Going to fight in Syria

SIR – If the Government is opposed to Syria’s President Assad, why are Britons wanting to fight in Syria considered terrorists?

John Lovibond
Bunbury, Cheshire

SIR – Why are those who left Britain to fight against Franco in the Thirties hailed as heroes, but those who leave to fight against Assad are hunted as terrorists?

Colin Whitfield
Stockton-on-Tees, Co Durham

SIR – The Metropolitan Police plan to persuade mothers and wives of would-be jihadists to report on their loved ones is laudable. But I fear that loyalty to their menfolk means it will have limited results.

William Hollingsworth

Irish crème de la crème

SIR – You added “and Irish” to your list of “20 best British novels of all time”. Was this on the basis of the chosen novelists’ nationalities?

James Joyce rejected Irish nationality on several occasions. Living in Paris in 1930, he wrote to his son Giorgio: “I had to renew my passport. The clerk told me he had orders to send people like me to the Irish delegation. But I insisted instead, and got a British one.”

A decade later, the Joyces were offered Irish passports, which would have enabled them to leave Nazi-occupied France more easily if needed. Again the offer was declined, and Joyce clung doggedly to his British passport, despite the increased risk.

Flann O’Brien’s hometown of Strabane is in the United Kingdom, and Dublin-born Iris Murdoch moved to London when only a few weeks old. On your list, only John Banville is unequivocally Irish.

Dr John Doherty
Gaoth Dobhair, County Donegal, Ireland

Painting by numbers

SIR – Michael Hanlon quotes Max Tegmark, the cosmologist, as saying that because we use mathematics to describe the world, the world is just mathematical. This makes as much sense as saying that, because a painter can depict the world, the world is just a blob of paint.

If “the philosopher-kings of the 21st century are unafraid to speculate on the wildest shores of physics”, it is because they know they cannot be proved wrong.

Norman Baker
Tonbridge, Kent

What happened in ‘Jamaica Inn’? Read the book

SIR – Those who could not hear the BBC adaptation of Jamaica Inn should read the book. Daphne Du Maurier’s original is quite different and infinitely better.

Robert Walford
Upavon, Wiltshire

SIR – Many television dramas now feature dim lighting and unclear diction, which is overlaid with “dramatic” music. The problem is compounded by the fact that modern large-screen televisions have only small speakers, tucked away (out of sight and earshot) on the back of the sets.

Judy Wienholdt
Over Peover, Cheshire

SIR – The opening scene showed a field that had been partly ploughed by a large, modern, six- or eight-furrow plough. There were two women working the field, one of whom was pushing a 1930s wheeled hoe along a furrow eight inches deep, the second dropping seeds into the furrow behind the first. All total nonsense.

Bob Lomas
Horsham, West Sussex

SIR – Clearly audible in the second part of Jamaica Inn were the Rev Francis Davey and his congregation singing The King of Love my Shepherd Is.

How advanced the parish of Altarnun must have been in 1820: the writer of the verses, Sir Henry Baker, was not born until the following year, and the Rev John Bacchus Dykes, composer of the tune, two years later in 1823.

Rev I G Brooks

SIR – It is clear that Jamaica Inn was the product of W1A.

Christopher Pratt
Dorking, Surrey

SIR – Actually, I thoroughly enjoyed Jamaica Inn. It was gripping. The mental torment and reality of smuggling were powerfully portrayed, as were the relationships between the characters. I couldn’t wait for each part to be broadcast. Shame it has had so much bad press. And, yes, I heard it the same way as everyone.

Katie Williams
Torpoint, Cornwall

SIR – David Cameron is to be commended for pointing out that Britain’s religious tradition is Christian.

It is not Islamic, Buddhist, Hindu, Jewish or any other tradition. And being Christian, it is one of the most religiously tolerant countries in the world – thank God.

Indeed the very term unchristian is commonly used to mean “uncharitable”, which is a reflection of Christ’s teaching.

As a Jew I am pleased to be a citizen living safely in this country, where a church spire is a fundamental architectural feature. And long may this be so.

Professor C B Brown
Bradfield, South Yorkshire

Related Articles

SIR – Allison Pearson’s concern at the Vicar of Aldeburgh not being invited to conduct an assembly in his community primary school reminds us of the tendency of head teachers over many years to marginalise Christianity.

The law requiring that daily collective worship must be “wholly or mainly of a broadly Christian character” is often ignored by schools, governors, local authorities and also Ofsted.

Canon Roger Knight
Burton Latimer, Northamptonshire

SIR – I agree with Dominic Grieve that it is common for someone to remain “a believer” yet not go to church.

I’ve lost count of the number of people who do not attend church even for major Christian festivals, but who have come to me to request a Christian burial or baptism for their families, even when an alternative secular ceremony is available.

When talking to them, I am often surprised at how deeply rooted is their Christian belief, even though they would never express this in their daily lives.

What I don’t understand is why people who say they have no belief get so worked up over something that, to them, doesn’t exist.

Rev Margaret Hadfield
Lutterworth, Leicestershire

SIR – It seems ironic that David Cameron advocates being “more evangelical” about expanding the role of faith-based organisation, while Muslims are demonised for using their faith as a driving force to participate in British society.

Omer El-Hamdoon

President, Muslim Association of Britain

Wembley, Middlesex

SIR – Today’s Christian Britain is reminiscent of the Islamic rule of Spain, a golden era when diversity, harmonious coexistence, freedom from coercion and social dialogue flourished. Similarly, one cannot miss the myriad mosques, churches, synagogues and temples all over modern Britain.

Watching events in Ukraine, Syria, the Central African Republic and many other places should make us grateful that we live in an inclusive, participatory, diverse and tolerant society.

Dr Munjed Farid Al Qutob
London NW2

Irish Times:

Sir, – The call by a Conservative MP, Michael Fabricant, for Ireland to rejoin the British Commonwealth following the successful state visit to the UK of President Michael D Higgins comes as no surprise. However, the response by Fine Gael TD Brian Hayes, who said “such a proposal should be considered”, does.

The Irish State formally left the British Commonwealth in 1949.  At that time, this policy was seen as a natural further step in the direction of a fully sovereign State. Today, 65 years later, there are Irish political figures, and not just Brian Hayes, who are calling for the restoration of the Commonwealth link.

However, despite their machinations, there is no significant degree of support among the population for re-entry. Rejoining the Commonwealth would have the effect of gradually “re-Britishing” the Irish State and would amount to a rejection of the separatist aspect of Irish nationalism.

Because the British monarch has always been head of the Commonwealth, this would mean that symbolically speaking, the monarch would occupy a higher position politically than that of our own democratically elected head of state. We could find ourselves being embarrassed in the course of future royal visits, or state ceremonial occasions involving representatives of “Her Majesty”.

A “British dimension” would be restored to our political life. In terms of international affairs, we would once again become a white Commonwealth dominion. Much of Europe would interpret our move as a “return to the fold” and a rejection of our policies of separation from Great Britain.

Alongside the armies of Commonwealth nations, the Irish Defence Forces would be expected to participate in Armistice Day ceremonies and to ensure that army personnel wear the poppy.  The re-Britishing of the 26 counties would restore attitudes of subservience and servility among sections of our political and social elite. Britain would continue the practice of handing out “hongs” to selected Irish citizens in the form of knighthoods and other titles of “nobility”.

The import of Brian Hayes’s statement must be clarified by Taoiseach Enda Kenny. I regard Ireland’s sovereignty as sacrosanct, probably because we had such a long and hard battle to secure it.

Irish separation from the embrace of the British polity and the existence of a Republic are non-negotiable basic principles. Ironically, it was a Fine Gael taoiseach, John A Costello, who in 1949 ended the last formal British link over most of Ireland.

It is imperative that we ensure that some in modern Fine Gael don’t try to undo that achievement. Yours, etc,


Templeville Road,

Dublin 6W

Sir, – Hugh Pierce (Letters, April 25th) stated: “Throughout the modern era Christians of all denominations have been enthusiastic practitioners, proponents and facilitators of the death penalty.” Yet Amnesty International provides figures for 2013 which show the US as the only country in the Christian Americas that performed state executions.

In the EU, not practising capital punishment is a prerequisite for membership. Those few European countries outside the EU which still have capital punishment on their statute books performed no executions last year.

According to Amnesty there were 22 countries worldwide that carried out state executions in 2013. Of those only the US and South Sudan could be said to have Christianity as the religion of a sizeable proportion of their populations. It seems to me that in the modern era “Christian” countries are increasingly following the teachings of Jesus in the New Testament. Yours, etc,



Co Louth

Sir, – Further to the letters discussing Christianity and judicial execution, the catechism of the Catholic Church states (para 2267) that the “teaching of the Church does not exclude recourse to the death penalty, if this is the only possible way of effectively defending human lives against the unjust aggressor”. Yours, etc,


Cnoc an Stollaire,

Gaoth Dobhair

Sir, – Your letters page will surely flourish for as long as we read, alternately, that “throughout the modern era Christians of all denominations have been enthusiastic practitioners, proponents and facilitators of the death penalty” (Hugh Pierce); that Christ Himself “blessed murderers, calling for their forgiveness and asked His followers to do the same” (Geoff Scargill); that “one can be a perfectly authentic Christian and support capital punishment” (Sean Alexander Smith); that Christ’s three most recent representatives on Earth “reaffirmed the Holy See’s support for the abolition of the death penalty as part of the Church’s defence of the dignity of human life” (Ian d’Alton) – and all this against a backdrop of Christ’s own Father having definitively decreed that “whomsoever takes a life shall surely be put to death” (Hugh Pierce).

All I know, sir, is that, along with the aforementioned chroniclers, you have me all of a doodah. Yours, etc,


Station Road,


Dublin 13

Sir, – I wish to support general secretary Pat King’s condemnation of a minority group at the ASTI convention who barracked, heckled and abused Mr Quinn throughout his speech. The teacher who used the megaphone and his main supporter who addressed the media are founding members of the self-styled “ASTI Fightback Group”. This small group of disaffected ASTI members (comprising seven or eight activists) do not have the right to use the acronym ASTI in their rather melodramatic title; the group is not a recognised or legal structure within the union and does not have a mandate from its 18,000 members.

My colleagues and I do not pay our union subscription to have crucial business and procedures at annual convention derailed by a small, very vocal group who hog the microphone throughout convention debate yet whose raison d’être at conference is simply to wait for the Minister to arrive and disrupt proceedings. By harnessing the complete attention of the media and the general public for their own political agenda, the thuggish behaviour of these people has deflected attention from the crucial issues and real concerns surrounding Junior Cycle reform and assessment and other important educational matters.

This group has done great damage to students, teachers and the union. I am appalled at this outcome, which has, in effect, swung the pendulum in Mr Quinn’s favour. I am reminded of the lines from Yeats: “The best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity.” Yours , etc,



Co Kildare

Sir, – Amid charges that teachers who interrupted and heckled Ruairí Quinn were guilty of disgracing the profession and harming students, teachers and the profession, I feel I should respond as one who, very reluctantly, engaged in such heckling. I did this because of deep frustration that we have a Minister of Education who has refused to listen to those very people who know best when it comes to educational reform and the negative effects of the new Junior Cert.

None of us likes resorting to this kind of behaviour but I thought it appropriate that the Minister experience the deep anger that teachers throughout the country are feeling. The “fightback” group, who do have considerable support, are a response by some ordinary and concerned ASTI members that the leadership of the union is not sufficiently defending the pay and conditions of teachers, especially the most vulnerable young and non-permanent members.

I do hope that people who got upset at this expression of anger display the same upset at policies that have devastated families and communities throughout this country. Yours, etc,


Beauvale Park,

Dubliin 5

Sir, – I have been involved in GP training for the last 36 years and this is the first time we have failed to recruit sufficient suitable candidates. Young graduate doctors are leaving, voting with their feet. We cannot afford for them to go as we have too few GPs as it is and a lot of older colleagues ready to retire. It is a time for meaningful dialogue not diktat. Yours, etc.



Dublin 8

Sir, – How nice it was to see that our Polish friends chose, fittingly, to thank us in our national language (“Poland thanks Ireland of the welcomes”, April 24th).

It shows that the more recent arrivals to our nation don’t necessarily share the cultural inferiority complex that an influential minority among us harbour regarding anything too Irish and above all, the most Irish thing of all, our language. It was therefore somewhat ironic that the need was felt to specify in the same article that Polish, with 120,000 Poles living here, is the second most widely spoken language in the State.

While I am sure the reporter was only reconveying information she picked up elsewhere it is important to recognise the ideological basis of such a claim in the language context of Ireland. Ideological because claims about the death of the Irish language began to be made in the sixteenth century when it was the most widely spoken language in the country and are a tool to justify curtailing speakers’ rights, and untrue because Census 2011, which tells us that there are 119,526 people who speak Polish in the State, also tells us that there are 187,827 people here who speak Irish every day or every week.

This figure probably represents the core of fluent speakers from the 1,777,437 people who reported that they spoke Irish. Unfortunately, due to the dire economic straits we are in, the next census will probably show a decrease in the number of Polish speakers in the State. However, given that the trend in all recent censuses is for increasing numbers of Irish speakers there are likely to be even more of them by the time of the next census. It remains to be seen if the media will then feel compelled to seek different rationales for ignoring Irish. Yours, etc,


Bóthar Choill na


Cluain Dolcáin,

BÁC 22

Sir, – Reading Hilary Fannin’s column (April 25th) about the perception of women becoming invisible after the age of 50 I remembered a photograph of an elderly woman which I saw in the Kathmandu Post in Nepal. She was dressed in festive garments and crowds gathered to pay homage to her because she had attained the auspicious age of 77 years 7 months and 7 days and was now being revered as a god. She belonged to the Newar tribe in the Kathmandu Valley. Perhaps we women should follow the Newari tradition and instead of becoming invisible after 50 aim to become gods once we reach the auspicious age of 77. Yours, etc,


Woodlawn Park,


Dublin 14

Sir, – It is surprising to see a headline stating that Nama is set to give €5 million for project on Dublin’s Moore Street. This would mean that the agency is about to give millions to the developer of a commercial mall, so that a limited number of those houses where James Connolly, PH Pearse, Joseph Plunkett, Thomas Clarke and Sean MacDiarmada spent their last hours of freedom, can be “developed” into what is described as “a monument project”.

Are we thus abandoning the republic of equals Connolly, Pearse, Ceannt, MacDonagh, O’Rahilly and our Citizen Army, Irish Volunteers and Cumann na mBan fought for, and allowing this historic site to remain in private hands?

May I ask the Dáil to instead mandate compulsory purchase of the properties where the GPO garrison spent the last days of the Rising, and from which they walked out to surrender and prison – or for the leaders death – for an Irish republic. Yours, etc,


Harold’s Cross,

Dublin 6

Sir, – The story featured on the front page of your newspaper (April 25th) showing a mother and three children forced to sleep and live in a car represents an appalling injustice. It was ironic to read on the same day the supplement celebrating 10 years of the Ombudsman for Children.

We are getting ready to celebrate the centenary of the declaration of the Irish Republic and yet families are being forced out of accommodation in circumstances akin to the evictions of over 150 years ago. Those three children will be seven, five and three when the 2016 celebrations occur. It is up to all of as a society to make sure that they are properly housed immediately. Government bodies need to give themselves a shake-up. Yours, etc,


Manor Street,

Dublin 7

Irish Independent:

* As one who believes in a higher power, having experienced many spiritual occurrences in my 64 years, I too often ponder on the questions posed by Rob Sadlier in his interesting ‘epistle’ (Letters, April 24).

Also in this section

Definition of insanity: voting same way, expecting change

Letters: God works in mysterious ways

Letters: To go far on climate change, we have to go together

And I have no intention of trying to change any person’s belief or disbelief, bearing in mind we have free will. I study philosophy in attempts to reconcile similar questions of my own.

Rob’s question, why a loving god allows human suffering without intervention, was discussed by early Jewish, Christian and Islamic philosophers, many of whom believed that God does not see the particular/ individual; rather, He/She/They see the overall or general.

In my considered opinion, the Irish RC church, in its past teachings, presented a God more akin to a Fairy Godmother, where life was black and white, with no grey, let alone reality.

Earthly life is so varied, yet also similar, but it is man’s greed destroying the gifts given to us by Gaia that can lead to “a parasitic worm boring through the eye of a boy sitting on the bank of a river in west Africa“.

The Greek bible says “God is an enigma”, therefore are we not also individual enigmas? We have talents and gifts for the good of mankind and nature.

Alas, in Ireland today we see a Government totally bereft of humanity, or accountability to its people, while a great number of its members proclaim their Catholicism. Do they imagine God only sees them in church on Sunday?

Eastern people’s lives have been based on philosophy of love for oneself and their fellow humans.

The enormous damage done to many non-European nations by conquerors in the name of earthly and heavenly regents has led to the cult of the individual, and this should be of greater concern to humans than a trinity in the ether watching over us, supposedly waiting to toss the soul into an eternal fire.

I am of the firm opinion that there is an element of woman in God. For any who may be interested, there is a website “History of Philosophy without any gaps” from Kings College London, where you can access a weekly lecture on philosophy from its earliest known days:

Declan Foley, Berwick, Australia


* Nearly all recognised religions have two stories. The first is that there is a kind, loving God and the second is that there is an evil entity. We are meant to do what God asks us and reject the evil entity.

Nearly all religions also have a communal “praying” ceremony and if you like a bit of music and a bit of bread and wine, then there is one religion that will throw most of that in for you if you place an anonymous amount of money into a not-so-anonymous envelope.

Meanwhile, apparently, God will look down and extend eternal life to you for having religiously attended these ceremonies.

If I was to look for evidence of the existence of God, I would look to Florence Nightingale, not Adolf Hitler. The atheist argument is that there is no God because Hitler existed. I find it next to impossible to understand how the religious orders of the world have not advanced the counter argument along the lines: “Ah, no, what you are doing there Mr Atheist is presenting evidence of Satan as proof that God doesn’t exist. We have told you about Satan and how you are meant to reject him, so well done on recognising the evil that he can spread throughout our species.”

Dermot Ryan, Attymon, Athenry, Co Galway


* Election posters. What a load of botox. Never have I seen so many Irish men and women looking so well and blemish-free. Many of those in my own area I know personally. What have they done? Can ‘Operation Transformation’ have had such a health-inducing impact on so many?

We need more of this. Problems faced by the HSE will be ended with such a healthy-looking population. In recent years, there have been many calls for politicians to clean up their act. It would seem that the local and EU election candidates have done just that . . . at least on the face of it!

Philip Byrne, Co Wicklow


* We have really hit the floor with a mother and her three tiny children sleeping in a car (Irish Independent, April 25).

What has happened to Ireland?

Where I live in Dun Laoghaire, all along the main street there are three-storey premises going back to the Georgian era, which in better days had shops on the ground floor. Sadly far too many of them are now vacant.

Any one of these buildings could house several families.

Rather than rezone and rebuild, even as the wind whistles through the ghost estates, why can we not convert and adapt or free up the thousands of potential dwellings we already have?

Have we as a society, economy, government, come to a place whereby we have actually become indifferent to the plight of a mother and three little children reduced to living in a small car?

God help them.

God help us.

D Fullam, Dun Laoghaire, Co Dublin


* I agree with Mark Keane (Irish Independent, April 25) with regard to election posters being an eyesore and contributing to the litter problem.

But even more serious is the added danger they bring to the motorist, as your eye is inevitably attracted towards the various posters, which could cause a serious accident.

We should be the first, just like with the smoking ban, and make a complete ban on election posters.

If it was to prevent one serious accident on our roads, then surely there can be no argument.

Brian McDevitt, Ardconnaill, Glenties, Co Donegal


* The National Competitive Council (NCC) has warned that Ireland has largely failed in recent years to regain the virtuous position it once held briefly in the 1990s. The NCC further warns that today, 2014, our national competitive position is now disimproving again.

The vocal minority in trade unions are all seeking pay rises now at the first mention of the word recovery, a recovery that is elusive to most. The indigenous retail industry is on its knees, with no meaningful or sustained signs of any growth.

If not me, we should heed the NCC. It explains that pay rises now will further erode our weakened competitiveness, prolong long-term unemployment, and discourage any incentives to create employment.

Self-interested trade union bosses seem only concerned with their members and show little interest in the unemployed. Ireland’s troubled economy is a long, long way from the luxury of awarding pay rises.

Brian Cooper, Old Youghal Road, Cork


* I can remember a time when teachers were considered role models for kids, when bankers were considered to be pillars of the community, when priests were looked on for moral guidance, and when gardai could be trusted without reproach.

I must be getting old.

RA Blackburn, Abbey Hill, Naul, Co Dublin


* Pope Francis is now eligible to become a saint. He just performed two miracles by making Pope John XXIII and Pope John Paul II saints.

Kevin Devitte, Mill Street, Westport, Co Mayo

Irish Independent

Wendy and Susan

April 20, 2014

20April2014Wendy and Susan

I go all the way around the park listening to the Men from the Ministry: Our heroes face a terrible fate getting rid of London’s pigeonsPriceless

Mary in hospital brief visit she Wendy ans Susan join us

Scrabbletoday, I win band get over 400 Perhaps Iwill again win tomorrow.


Paolo Filo Della Torre, who has died aged 80, was one of the foremost foreign correspondents in London and a noted figure on the London social scene.

He was known for an aristocratic lightness of touch, and had a reputation as a bon vivant who bubbled with good humour and enjoyed flirting, champagne, parties, fine food and high society. This encouraged some observers not take him too seriously. In reality, his charm and good nature concealed a journalist with access to the most senior figures in power in both London and Rome.

His journalistic career began in 1966, after a stint at the Italian embassy as its economics expert. Initially taken on as a correspondent of Il Sole-24 Ore (Italy’s equivalent of the Financial Times), he moved, in 1976, to La Repubblica, for which he covered every British political and economic crisis for more than 20 years; he also interviewed every Prime Minister from Harold Wilson to Tony Blair. When he posed for photographs after his interview with Mrs Thatcher, she asked him to do up two shirt buttons which had been undone during their conversation.

Filo della Torre was a fixture at receptions in the Italian ambassador’s magnificent residence at No 4 Grosvenor Square and at the Italian Institute near Hyde Park Corner. In the Italian expatriate community, his dominant position was cemented by his friendship with Prince Nicolo Pignatelli, best friend of the Fiat chief Gianni Agnelli.

He much enjoyed London society, Buckingham Palace Garden Parties, and racing at Cheltenham and Ascot – the last of which he would travel to in his battered MG sports car (with the heater always on, as he did not know how to switch it off). In 2011 he was given the Freedom of the City of London.

His London club was the Garrick, where he was a friend of Kingsley Amis and George Weidenfeld; in Rome he was a member of the Circolo Della Caccia, as well as co-founding, with Roberto Guerrini, the Italian Business Club, a venue for visiting Italian politicians to address their compatriots in London.

His triumphant social swansong was to be one of the very few journalists (and almost the only member of the foreign press) to be invited to the wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge at Westminster Abbey. This was because he was consort to the Lord Mayor of Westminster, Judith Warner, his companion for decades. He took the opportunity to observe on Italian national radio: “They asked me [to the royal wedding] because the English, unlike the Italians, know how to do things. They are gents, not like the sweaty types from southern Italy.”

Count Paolo Filo della Torra di Santa Susanna was born in Rome on November 5 1933. He was related to the Princes Pallavicini and Ruspigliosi, and the Marchesi Curtopassi and Targiani .

It is said that at the age of five he showed precocious courage by correcting Mussolini, who was visiting a friend’s house and addressing everyone with the familiar “voi” — Paolo suggested that the dictator should use the more formal “lei” (in later life he would refer to Mussolini as a “little provincial”). He was educated at the S Gabriele school in Rome; at the University of Rome he read Politics.

In 1956 he moved to the Italian embassy in London, and was appalled by the extent of the damage that the city had sustained in the war . Apart from his work for Il Sole-24 Ore and La Repubblica, he contributed to many British publications, including the Economist, The Guardian and the Financial Times. He was the author of four books, one on Eurocommunism (co-authored with Edward Mortimer and Jonathan Story); two on Thatcher’s Britain; and one on the Queen — he was a passionate admirer of the Royal family, as indeed he was of everything British.

Paolo Filo Della Torre, born November 5 1933, died March 9 2014


Hip hip hooray for Sarah Crown and Mumsnet for their new campaign to get rid of Bounty reps from our maternity wards (“He’s lovely! Just give me a few details – then we can flog you stuff for years“, Viewpoint). I’ve been campaigning on this issue for years in my own area since the birth of my baby, when I first encountered the astonishing Bounty Pack.

Stuffed full of what I assumed was nonsense, I found my child benefit form, some interesting information about local breastfeeding groups and other NHS leaflets about how to keep my baby alive.

I could hardly believe that Bounty was entrusted to deliver this vital information to parents and the fact that it came with heavy advertising from Pampers and Sudocrem seemed incongruous at best.

Did I have to clad my baby’s bum in Pampers and stinky zinc cream to claim my child benefit? Did I have to read all the endless bits of paper to make sure I wasn’t missing some instructions on how to avoid cot death?

In 2014, we want our healthcare delivered by midwives and doctors rather than underpaid Bounty reps. Let’s politely ask them to leave and let new mums get on with recovering from childbirth, learning the mysterious art of breastfeeding and having some toast and tea. Get the midwife to hand over the child benefit form. After all, far fewer of us are entitled to it these days.

Jessica Ormerod

National Health Action party candidate for the European elections May 2014

London SE6

Your article was an unfair attack by Mumsnet on our company. We are direct commercial competitors and often work with the same brands.

Almost a year ago, Mumsnet began a “Bounty Mutiny” campaign, which attempts to stop our Bounty Ladies from seeing new mums. We listened to the concerns they raised and changed the way we did business, launching an independent advisory board and introducing uniforms for Bounty Ladies to distinguish them from hospital staff and How Did We Do? feedback cards.

Without us, many of the most vulnerable new mums would miss out on the vital public health information that is no longer distributed in hard copy by the NHS.

They also wouldn’t receive the free products and money-off coupons we provide, which help new families save money at a time when demands of their family budget will be most severe.

Similarly, although available online, child benefit forms still need to be printed out and posted and, despite living in a digital age, the fact is that not every young family – and especially those that need child benefit the most – will have access to a computer at home, let alone a printer. It is parents such as these who not only need child benefit most, but who also rely on it being found in Bounty Packs.

Clare Goodrham, general manager


I was glad to see Sarah Crown drawing attention to the way in which Bounty reps prey on women on maternity wards.

Only hours after giving birth, six months ago, I was harassed repeatedly by a rude and irritable Bounty rep while still bedbound and enjoying a few quiet and emotional moments with my new baby and my husband.

On reflection, I feel angered by how inappropriate the rep was and how these people are able to take advantage of women in such a vulnerable situation: I was too tired to argue with her when she asked me yet again for my email address because Pampers needed it.

I am sure that many women fail to recognise at first that Bounty is not an arm of the NHS doling out good advice and freebies, but in fact a data marketing company that has bought its right to roam our maternity wards.

Sarah Hughes


Thomas Piketty (New Review) and Will Hutton (“Capitalism simply isn’t working and here are the reasons why“, Comment) argue capitalism isn’t working. It has long been known, as Winston Churchill put it in 1945: “The inherent vice of capitalism is the unequal sharing of blessings.”

In the efficient creation of wealth, capitalism works; in the efficient distribution of wealth, capitalism has not worked – which is exactly what we would have expected. However, it is not just in consideration of inequality where we must look beyond capitalism; in exercising the restraint required to limit environmental degradation, capitalism cannot work.

The application of simple economic principles shows that public goods, such as the environment or social justice, cannot be provided by the market. Such consideration highlights the need for states and businesses to adopt a triple bottom line: economic sustainability, social sustainability and ecological sustainability. Capitalism will, no doubt, play a part in this – the oversight of neoliberal discourse is in the suggestion no other part need be played.

Kevin Albertson

Manchester Metropolitan University

To lead to the conclusion that “capitalism isn’t working” for the ordinary masses by solely pointing to growing wealth inequality is naive. The ownership of private property, which allows individuals to take risks on their own accord by seeking to make a profit, has drastically led to higher material living standards for most ordinary people.

We have seen a huge growth in the number of individuals owning fridges, washing machines, dishwashers, cars, televisions, computers, mobile phones and many other goods and services.

These goods and services that capitalists have created could not have been supplied by anything other than freely participating individuals in a market economy.

James Paton



Don’t run away with that idea

So marathon running is benefiting from all the modern, hi-tech gee-whizzery, radical advances in training, nutrition, physiology, medicine, GPS, heart-rate monitors, oxygen chambers and every wonderful new aid you can imagine? Let’s look at the facts (“How to run the hi-tech way: meet the 21st-century marathon man“, News).

You mention the world best was 2:58:50 in 1896. Well, it only advanced to 2:55:18 by 1908. In 1964 (about 50 years later and about 50 years ago – so, let’s say a rough midpoint), it had advanced to 2:12:12, by the brilliant Abebe Bikila. It’s now 2:03:23. An advance of more than 43 minutes in the first half, less than nine minutes in the second. Or, to put it another way, under 7% improvement in 50 years despite all the supposed revolutions in science, technology and global mass participation. A rather pathetic advert for the “benefits of new scientific and technological approaches” that you mention, isn’t it?

Just to rub it in, more than 30 of the 50 best British men’s times were set over 25 years ago. I blame computers.

Jan Wiczkowski



Women working at the colliery

I well remember watching open-mouthed a very old film at the Astley Green colliery museum of three women unloading pitprops (lengths of tree trunk fully a foot taller than them) from wagons. One would lever them upright and the other two would “bounce” them on to the stack alongside. In the time I have taken to describe the operation two or three props would have been stacked (“Wives didn’t work in the ‘good old days’? Not true“, Comment).

David Jackson



Prose both political and poetic

Nick Cohen’s piece headed “Hard Times 2014: food banks and property booms” (Comment) is rightly hard-hitting about 21st-century poverty. Just a coda, though: food banks, certainly round here, aren’t just run by Anglicans. In Stowmarket, those contributing comprise most of the local churches, Citizens Advice, the town council, supermarkets and schools, in a real collaborative effort.

In your magazine, there was a beautifully written article by Dan Pearson on spring blossom, observed at a time of great personal stress. It reminded me of Dennis Potter, nearing death, speaking of the “blossomiest blossom” – his sense of its beauty heightened by what he knew was coming. Thank you for both pieces, though for very different reasons.

Jill Mortiboys

Stowmarket, Suffolk

Townsend’s humanity lives on

It was good to see you reprint Sue Townsend’s article “Bottles for the bus fare” from 1989.

For 20 years, I used this article as a college lecturer to counter the prejudice that everyone on benefits must be a scrounger. It never failed to quieten the most boisterous classes and always led to genuine debate that sprang, I’m sure, from the sheer humanity of the author.

Geoff Lambertsen

Prescot, Mersyside


Jane Merrick (“It’s two decades since ‘education, education, education’, but still Britain’s primary school admissions are a farce”, 17 April) made two contradictory points.

She argues that parents need to be provided with more choice, while also criticising the Government for setting up free schools in areas with a surplus of places. She can’t have it both ways. While there is a clear need to address the shortage of places, this does not by itself increase choice. It is only by creating new schools and new school places across the country that we can provide a genuine choice for parents. We are confronting both of these challenges.

We have made an additional £5bn of funding available in this parliament alone to councils to create new school places – double the amount spent by the previous government over the same period – leading to the creation of 260,000 new school places by May 2013, with many more in the pipeline.

We are also allowing good schools to expand without the restrictions and bureaucracy they faced in the past. Nearly 80 per cent of new primary places created are in good or outstanding schools and, thanks to our reforms, the number of children in failing secondary schools has already fallen by a quarter of a million since 2010.

We have opened more than 170 free schools for 80,000 pupils, and the vast majority are in areas facing a shortage of school places or are in deprived communities. They are proving hugely popular with parents – attracting almost three applications for every available place – and offer good value for money.

We are building schools at a fraction of the cost of the former government’s Building Schools for the Future programme.

Ensuring enough school places for the growing population is one of our top priorities. Most councils are on track towards creating enough places, with 212,000 new primary places created between May 2010 and May 2013. There are no easy solutions, but this Government has made great strides in driving up the number and quality  of places.

David Laws, Minister of State for Schools, London SW1

Jane Merrick aims at the wrong targets when she says parents haven’t truly been given “choice” over which schools their children can attend. If all schools were capable of educating our children to a high standard, there would be no need to have any notion, however spurious, of “choice”.

That our schools are not in a position to do this is down to the failure of successive governments which, instead of being accountable for this negligence, promote a specious concept of parental choice as a smokescreen to hide behind.

As Merrick correctly points out, no such choice exists, yet parents are led to believe it is they, rather than the Government, who have failed their children.

Michael O’Hare, Northwood, London

Church has a role  to play in state

The arguments Mary Dejevsky deploys to urge a separation between Church and State fail to convince (“If Cameron is invoking God to make his party appear less nasty, then he really hasn’t a prayer”,  17 April).

She mentions the diplomatic minefields such as a PM converting to Catholicism, but we have managed to navigate these and other instances with aplomb over hundreds of years. Then she cites the diversity of the population, but many non-Christian faith groups support the current set-up. They reason that religion in the UK is protected through an established church, with the Church of England providing a buffer for this.

And in relation to the spats between the Archbishops of Canterbury and governments, these are a sign of a healthy democracy. Faith leaders should have a voice in the public debate, just as much as other civil society leaders, though they must be sensitive to the fact that this brings no automatic entitlement to shape laws.

Zaki Cooper, Trustee, Council of Christians and Jews, London NW4

Excerpts from The Gospel According to David Cameron for Easter:

“Consider the lilies of the field. They do not labour or spin. Typical of the something-for-nothing culture we are determined to end.”

“And he welcomed the moneylenders into the Temple – and gave them all huge bonuses.”

“It is easier for Eric Pickles to go through the eye of a needle than for Starbucks, Google and Amazon to pay corporation tax.”

“And he said unto the leper: ‘Atos says you’re fit to work. We’re taking you off disability benefits.’”

“There are many mansions in my heavenly father’s house, but if you’re on benefits, in council accommodation and have a spare room, we’ll hit you with the bedroom tax.”

“Love thy neighbour as thyself – unless they’re a Bulgarian or Romanian immigrant.”

Sasha Simic, London N16

What is it that David Cameron does or refrains from doing because of his Christian faith? Without being clear about that, surely his profession of faith is meaningless? “Faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead” (James 2:17).

Mark Walford, London N12

Whatever happened  to progress?

I’ve just finished re-reading a book that was given to me by my mother on my 16th birthday. It was published in 1914 and tells a story of poverty wages, starvation, charities providing essentials, short-time contracts, zero hours, corrupt businesses that own politicians and vice-versa, and an apathetic population who mistakenly vote for their own drudgery.

They only want “plenty of work” and are encouraged to live a vicarious existence, marvelling at the antics of the rich and famous. We haven’t advanced much in 100 years have we? The book? The Ragged-Trousered Philanthropists by Robert Tressell.

Martin Carty, Aldridge, Walsall

Music can thrill without being painful

Chris Maume (“It isn’t a proper rock gig if you don’t leave with your ears ringing”, 17 April) may be being deliberately provocative, but to believe that rock music has to be painfully loud is stupid.

Perhaps groups play so loudly in order to drown out the moronic shouting and whistling which seems to accompany every gig I hear on the radio.

Does Chris ever go to a classical music concert? Part of the appeal is the contrast between the whisper-quiet passages and the fortissimo of almost a hundred musicians playing flat out. They do not need to be amplified. The loud music is thrilling, but not painful.

When Maume needs hearing aids several years before he should because of exposing his ears to excessive volume, I suppose he will expect me to pay for them out of my taxes.

Seriously, we are storing up huge costs for the NHS because of this insane liking for loud live music, and the use of portable music players on public transport with their monotonous percussion noises leaking from the earphones.

I like certain kinds of rock music but I refuse to go to excessively loud gigs. And to suggest that one wears earplugs is adding one stupid idea to another.

Peter Grove, Salisbury, Wiltshire

Days of the celibate priest are numbered

Your report “Catholic bishops call for priests to be able to marry” (18 April) on the possibility of change relating to the discipline of celibacy for Roman Catholic priests is timely.

The recently reported remarks of Pope Francis, suggesting that local diocesan bishops must take responsibility for the solution of local problems, has opened the door to discussion in a new way.

For too long, the whole matter of celibacy for those ordained in the Roman Catholic communion has been a closed book. The Church, through the example of Francis, is experiencing a re-examination of its mission.

This one aspect of Church discipline (for that is all it is) is now being questioned. The answering of a call to ministry need not be associated with an altogether separate calling to the celibate life. The time has come to revoke a discipline that has become a hindrance to vocation.

Chris McDonnell , Secretary, Movement for Married Clergy UK, Little Haywood, Staffordshire

There’s nothing funny about ‘comedic’

I do not agree with Guy Keleny’s dismissal of the word “comedic” (Errors and Omissions, 12 April). If the word “comic” were used in the sentence he examined, it could be taken to mean that the sensibility is comic, in the sense of being funny, rather than relating to comedy.

Most people would probably not be confused for long by “distinctive visual and comic sensibility”. However, I think “comedic” works well and removes any ambiguity even if it is a neologism. I like “tragedic” for similar reasons and would like to start a campaign for its adoption.

Alan Knight, Helston, Cornwall


Muslim community vilified unjustly for school ‘Islamism’

WE ARE concerned, after  your article “Gove in war on Islamic takeover of state schools” (News, last week) and editorial “Keep Islamism out of the classroom”, that the Muslim community is being unfairly victimised.

Religious communities are encouraged to be more involved in local schools — including, for example, setting up faith-based academies — yet this idea is now being demonised. The perception of a “witch-hunt” is supported by David Hughes, a Christian and a trustee and governor at Birmingham’s Park View School, which was referred to in your news story, for more than 15 years.

Where there are serious allegations, they must be investigated, but smearing the entire community cannot be ethical. Baroness Warsi’s statement “Islamophobia has passed the dinner-table test” is proving all too true.
Farooq Murad, Muslim Council of Britain

Slow learners
It is disturbing that it has taken the Department for Education (DfE) so long to realise there are issues in schools serving largely Muslim areas. It is also surprising the DfE apparently failed to evaluate properly proposals to convert many of the schools to academies or to establish free schools and then to monitor them effectively.

Birmingham city council must also take responsibility for its processes in appointing and training governors and in responding to complaints.

There two key underlying policy issues. One is the clear message from Michael Gove that academies and free schools are better than schools controlled by local authorities because they give communities power to do what they want.

The second is that the state funding of religious schools needs to be addressed. It allows voluntary aided (VA) schools to promote religious practices, and arguably some of the schools now being inspected would not have some of their activities (such as not celebrating Christmas) criticised if they were Muslim VA schools, just as a VA Church of England school would not be condemned for not celebrating Eid. Radicalisation must be stopped, but this is not the same as religious conservatism.

If all state schools were secular, radicalisation would be unable to hide behind the veil of religion.
John Gaskin, York

Neutral ground
We are a multicultural society with a diverse population and a wide range of religious and secular beliefs. What people teach children at home cannot be controlled, but what is taught in state schools has to be religiously neutral.
Paul Kustow, by email

Degrees of separation
We still have not learnt from Northern Ireland, where religious division has been fed by separate schools. If parents want their children to have a religious education, let them attend Sunday school or a madrasah. Mainstream schooling should teach skills for life, and if religion is spoken of at all, it should be as a concept, not as a specific ideology. Continue on this route in Britain and in years to come Northern Ireland’s problems will be as nothing in comparison.
Alan Brook, Launceston, Cornwall

Radical autism therapy top of the class

THANK YOU for running a story about how applied behaviour analysis (ABA) can help children with autism (“Tough love”, Magazine, last week). My son has benefited tremendously from the therapy. Initially diagnosed with moderate to severe autism, he is now attending a mainstream school and is one of the top pupils in his class.

When he was three we couldn’t even take him to the playground as he had severe social phobia and would cry, scream and run the other way if he saw other children. Sadly, when you get an autism diagnosis from the NHS you are given no advice or hope and are told to “mourn” your child because autism is a lifelong disability.
Khalida Rizi, London N21

Not so ‘tough’
Congratulations on publishing a potentially life-changing article for many parents of children with autism. Interventions devised by ABA professionals are designed to teach skills but also to address challenging behaviour.

ABA is the application of the natural science of behaviour analysis, is evidence-based and uses scientific findings in an individualised manner. The outcomes are so effective that it is funded through health insurance in most states in America and is increasingly acknowledged globally as an effective intervention.

Autism education is one of hundreds of applications of the science and the emphasis is on the ability to analyse, understand and work with the motivation of such children, rather than “tough love”.
Neil Martin, European Association for Behaviour Analysis; Professor Mickey Keenan, University of Ulster; Professor Karola Dillenburger and  Lyn McKerr (parent of young adult with autism), Queen’s University, Belfast; Nichola Booth, Behaviour Analyst; Jacqueline Schenk, Erasmus University, Rotterdam; Lise Roll-Pettersson, Stockholm University; Giovambattista Presti, Kore University of Enna; Professor Paolo Moderato, IULM University, Milan

Private funding
We have had to fund this therapy privately, which has put a financial strain on our family, but the gains our son has made in a short space of time have been astounding. It is ridiculous that the NHS will not offer this to our child.
Nicola and Chris Evans, Swansea

Wasted time
Caroline Scott reports on the dysfunctional state provision for children with autism. My son languished for two crucial early years in a special school for autism where they could not teach him to speak. Within a month of starting ABA he began using functional language. The NHS should not waste resources on therapies that do not work.
June Goh, by email

Ill treatment
ABA as a therapy for severely autistic children is abuse, at least partly. While it may produce measureable “results”, it ignores the fact that autistic people have an interior life. Some of the conditioning methods in ABA are considered unethical in training dogs.

One alarming example was to “noise-barrage” some autistic children until they stop showing a negative response to noise, a therapy comparable to dressing a child with sensitive skin in a hair shirt and telling them it will only be taken off when they stop scratching. Speaking as an adult on the autism spectrum, I feel we should have the right to live for ourselves so long as it is safe.
Arwen Bird, London N4

Leaps and bouds
My son has been receiving 15 hours of ABA a week for a year and is doing amazingly well. Without it he would probably still be wandering the house, banging cupboards. Instead he has learnt his alphabet and numbers, can spell and do puzzles and is starting to talk.
Natalie McClay, Pontefract, West Yorkshire

No case for persecution of the CPS

AS A victim-support volunteer in the London courts I found the criticism of the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) in the profile of the former deputy Speaker Nigel Evans (“Mr Fumble wins show of hands in court”, last week) beggared belief. It is thanks to the strenuous efforts of the police and the CPS that many more victims of sexual offences, including child sex abuse, have in recent years come forward to tell their stories, and many successful prosecutions have ensued. It is also not unusual for witnesses to change their testimony during a trial, a point not mentioned in much of the media coverage.

Well done to Evans on his acquittal, but the politicians now calling for the CPS to be held to account might first reflect on what should be their priority — an inquiry into Westminster’s culture of heavy drinking and promiscuity.
Crawford Chalmers, Weybridge, Surrey

Identity parade
The solution to the problems surrounding rape cases is simple: the CPS and the police should not name or identify the accused until after a conviction is achieved, but the present system of anonymity for the victim should be preserved so they continue to come forward.
Rowell Wilkinson, London E10

Off the record
Until recently I was under the impression that if asked by the police to give a statement on some matter I was compelled to do so. However, one is under no such obligation. If the men who appeared in the witness box at Evans’s trial had refused to give a statement, the police would not have been able to bring a case against him and much public money and embarrassment on the part of the CPS would have been saved.
George McCoy, Stone, Staffordshire


Syrian tragedy
The murder of a faithful priest renowned for his care and compassion for all, regardless of their creed, is symptomatic of the tragedy that is Syria (“Killing of priest was ‘rebel punishment’”, World News, last week). But far sadder still and to our great shame is the fact that the West did not listen to the vast majority of Syrians who, across the religious and tribal divides, knew that Bashar al-Assad was the only one who could prevent the nightmare of civil war. Indeed, as Father Francis Van der Lugt wrote in 2012: “Most Syrians do not support the opposition. Therefore you cannot say that this is a popular uprising.” From its outset the insurrection was yet another example of the West’s arrogant political adventurism and meddling either directly or indirectly in countries and cultures our governments simply despise.
Reverend RC Paget, Brenchley, Kent

Diesel damage report
In your article “Diesel blamed for deaths” (News, April 6) you highlighted the fact that nearly a third of UK cars are now diesel-powered, a figure dwarfed by the proportion of our diesel-engine vans (95%). I am disturbed that so many drivers run their engines while stationary: this is illegal but the law is widely ignored. Now we know diesel pollution is responsible for irreversible health damage, we must enforce the law more rigorously.
Mohammad Royapoor, Newcastle upon Tyne

Emission statement
Apparently newer, greener diesel engines used in buses and elsewhere have an additional and more insidious problem. Because they are more efficient and operate at higher pressures, the particles that they emit are smaller than those from conventional diesel units. These particles are harder if not impossible to filter out of emissions and pass more easily from the lungs to the rest of the body. The irony is that these so-called greener engines are more dangerous than the older ones.
John Bornholt, by email

Computer says no
While I appreciate that an online GP consultation, according to government thinking, would be no problem for many “silver surfers” (“See your GP any time — on Skype”, News, last week), what about the rest of the ageing population who cannot afford a computer or an iPad? Or those who find technology complicated and frustrating and, like me, have no one to offer assistance when things go wrong and are therefore forced to pay for an engineer to come out?
Molly Drinnan, Richmond, London

Age concern
What is clear is that, to be  more accountable, general practice has to shed some of  its burdens and distractions. The transfer of public health  to local authorities could be accompanied by shifting  some screening and services such as immunisation to pharmacies or other agencies. My particular interest is the frail elderly, for whom the model of diagnosis/ treatment/prevention is wanting. I feel it is remarkable that people survive the  system as often as they do.
Professor Clive Bowman, Falmouth, Cornwall

Trust me, I’m a nurse
Why do we insist on thinking care and medical advice can come only from doctors? My local practice clearly doesn’t think so, since the agenda for a recent patient open day allocated 15 minutes for a talk on what a doctor does and 30 minutes for what a nurse practitioner does.
Catherine Inwood, Wallingford, Oxfordshire

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)


Felix Baumgartner, first skydiver to go faster than the speed of sound, 45; Sebastian Faulks, author, 61; Sir John Eliot Gardiner, conductor, 71; Jessica Lange, actress, 65; Nicholas Lyndhurst, actor, 53; Ryan O’Neal, actor, 73; Leslie Phillips, actor, 90; Ken Scott, record producer, 67; Andy Serkis, actor, 50; George Takei, actor, 77


1889 birth of Adolf Hitler; 1968 Enoch Powell makes his “Rivers of Blood” speech; 1992 death of Benny Hill, comedian; 1999 Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold kill 13 people before committing suicide at Columbine High School, Colorado; 2010 Deepwater Horizon drilling rig explodes in the Gulf of Mexico, killing 11


SIR – Peter Reynolds (Letters, April 18) wrote that “cannabis is slightly less addictive and harmful than coffee”. What utter nonsense.

Cannabis creates and exaggerates anxieties and psychoses, especially in the formative brains of young people. To deal with this inner turmoil the person turns to more cannabis.

The result is a slippery slide to addiction and perhaps to more physically damaging drugs such as ketamine. This is what happened to my daughter, for whom we had to provide drug rehabilitation in South Africa, because the services offered in this country essentially do not prevent the addict from having access to drug dealers. I think her life and ours would have been happier had she spent her teenage years drinking too much espresso.

My other daughter lives in Singapore, where drugs are not part of the social scene. They have the death penalty for drug-dealing in Singapore.

We in Britain need the same zero-tolerance for this corrosive part of modern society.

Dr David Cottam
Dormansland, Surrey

Ace sky-pilot

SIR – David Cameron has started to speak a little about his personal faith, but by his own admission is not as devout as William Gladstone, four times prime minister in the 19th century (It shouldn’t be a surprise that David Cameron has got religion, Fraser Nelson, Comment, April 17).

Gladstone’s rivals regarded some of his politics as sanctimonious, with one commenting: “I don’t mind it when he has the ace of clubs up his sleeve; but I wish he wouldn’t pretend that the Almighty put it there.”

That the current Government is sensibly trying to facilitate a role for faith in politics is a good thing. It should not be ignored, nor should it exert a veto over any issues; after all, we do not live in a theocracy, but a mature democracy that can accommodate religious and secular voices.

Zaki Cooper
Trustee, Council of Christians and Jews
London NW4

College closure threat

SIR – The bishops have received a report from an external review body that recommends closure of St Michael’s College Llandaff, the theological college of the Church in Wales.

They have asked for comments and have made no decision to close the college, but have appointed Dr Mark Clavier to be the acting principal when I retire on June 30.

The college has received a huge number of letters of support from past and present students, saying how much they have loved training at the college, and stressing its importance to maintaining the identity of Anglicanism in Wales.

St Michael’s College will be putting forward alternative proposals to the bishops’ meeting on June 17. It very much hopes that these are accepted by the bishops.

Canon Dr Peter Sedgwick
St Michael’s College, Llandaff

A bigger blow

SIR – For my 66th birthday cake my wife ordered online, from a well-known store’s home-delivery service, two cake candles in the shape of a “6”, with a little prong at the bottom and the wick at the top.

These were unavailable, so they substituted two in the shape of a “9”.

Malcolm Welford
Driffield, East Yorkshire

Syrian war crimes

SIR – Peter Oborne (Comment, April 17) suggested that some accounts of the Syrian government’s dreadful atrocities “have been exaggerated”. But evidence of the Assad regime’s systematic torture and starvation to death of more than 11,000 Syrian men, women and children was presented to the Security Council on Tuesday.

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights declared on April 8 that human-rights violations by Syrian government forces “far outweigh” those by armed opposition groups. A separate UN commission of inquiry concluded in February that “government forces and pro-government militia have committed crimes against humanity and war crimes, including massacres”.

The UN commission’s report also distinguished between kinds of opposition to Assad’s regime. It pointed out that as well as jihadist groups there are “Syrian moderate nationalists… calling for the formation of a democratic and pluralistic state”. The Free Syrian Army is the latter, and is the only force fighting the most vicious jihadists, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isis).

As for elections, which Mr Oborne claims Assad would win if they were free and fair, there is no such thing as an independent MP in Assad’s Syria, nor can there be a “free and fair election” when two thirds of the population are refugees, starving, maimed, ill and in no condition to vote.

Rime Allaf
Presidential Adviser
National Coalition of Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces

Sunk ferry’s black box

SIR – Everywhere I hear people give opinions on what caused the sinking of the South Korean ferry, in a manner they would not if an airliner crashed at Heathrow. The ferry carried a voyage data recorder, a ship’s black box. Let the experts do their job.

Captain Peter J Newton
Chellaston, Derbyshire

Revanchist Rutland

SIR – Was Thursday’s earthquake in Rutland a sign of the county having achieved Geological Capability, harnessing continental drift in support of its autonomous and expansionist aims?

Charles Leigh-Dugmore
Naphill, Buckinghamshire

Like a vulture circling a dinner party

SIR – Among dinner-party disasters (Letters, April 18), I was once the hostess of a small gathering when the two women guests, who had never met before, almost immediately started a very heated stand-up argument (about knitting, strangely) which lasted all evening.

One of the men then remembered something he had forgotten to do, promised he’d be back shortly, and slunk off to his car.

He then proceeded slowly to circle the roads of the village, every so often fairly visibly passing our house and checking which cars were still there. Only when the coast was clear did he reappear to collect his wife.

Fortunately, the food was pretty awful, too.

Liz Wheeldon
Seaton, Devon

SIR – A dinner party is certainly not like having a meal with friends. The form, or strategy, is: eat before, have one glass of wine, play with the food served, drink water and keep your wits about you.

Perhaps not enjoyable, but one survives to be invited again.

James Gibson
Quorn, Leicestershire

SIR – I was greatly taken with the ingenuity displayed by Shirley Copps’s dinner guest (Letters April 17), who praised her tablecloth when nothing else came to mind.

My sister-in-law, in all other regards an admirable lady, failed miserably to learn to the play the violin as a child. Her family, having endured lengthy and discordant practice sessions, wondered what on earth the tutor might say in the end-of-term report.

The answer was a masterpiece of laconic tact: “She holds the bow well.”

This is now the standard family phrase to bring faint praise to clear disaster.

Jolyon McCarthy
West End, Kent

SIR – One of the problems with the alien Spanish bluebell is that it breeds with the poor old English bluebell, forming hybrids.

A survey by the Natural History Museum over the past eight years has shown that most bluebells in urban areas have now been affected in this way.

In the countryside, though, there are still plenty of native bluebell woods left, with the lovely deep-blue flowers, nodding in the breeze.

Now that the railway at Dawlish has been mended, I’ll be heading down to see one that I know. But I won’t tell you exactly where it is.

Frances Johnson
London SW5

SIR – During the 1997 general election, I was an agent for the Referendum Party. The Referendum Party did not win a single seat, but the Labour Party swept to power with a majority of more than 160 seats over all the other parties combined.

The number of seats that passed from the Conservatives to Labour (by fewer votes than were cast for the Referendum Party in each seat) was more than 80. The result was a three-term Labour government, with disastrous financial and social results.

Had the Referendum Party not been in the frame, Labour’s overall majority would have been just over 40, easily overturnable in two parliaments, if not one.

If the Conservative Party is still as stupid now as it was in 1997, it deserves to be out of power again for 13 years. It would be better for someone to tell David Cameron to pick up the phone and ring Nigel Farage now.

Peter Weston-Davies
Chairman, Newark Branch, Ukip
Newark, Nottinghamshire

Related Articles

SIR – A lot of people seem to be confusing David Cameron’s failure to implement the policies the Tories had in their manifesto with weakness.

It cannot be emphasised enough that they did not win the election.

All the reasons that have been given for voting for Ukip instead (Letters, April 14) stem from the Conservatives being in a coalition with the Liberal Democrats, who prevent them from dealing in the way that they would like to with immigration, the EU and so on.

Vivien Coombs
Hungerford, Berkshire

SIR – Ukip’s policy positions are so contradictory and philosophically incoherent that in many respects the party is closer to Labour than the Tories.

The party’s unfunded tax-cut commitments, totalling £120 billion, would alone more than double the annual deficit. While sharing Ed Miliband’s antipathy to military action against despotic foreign regimes, Ukip simultaneously proposes a 40 per cent increase in defence spending, adding still further to the national debt.

Like Labour, Ukip vociferously opposed post-office privatisation. This was completely at odds with its claim to support the free market.

Then, although Nigel Farage talks tough on border controls, when challenged on the specifics, he claims not to be against immigration.

We know that Ukip is anti-EU, anti-wind power and against green-belt development, but we are yet to be told which trading arrangement it favours if we leave the EU, or where the party proposes to build the new nuclear power stations and the hundreds of thousands of new homes that are so desperately needed.

Conservatives who are fed up with the Coalition Government should remember that Ukip is neither consistent nor conservative.

Philip Duly
Haslemere, Surrey

Irish Times:

Irish Independent:

30 AM

Madam – Last week, while Frank Flannery, former CEO of the Rehab group, complained that his “basic human rights” were being infringed (Sunday Independent, April 13, 2014), 5,000 people in Ireland were at risk of homelessness; 396,000 people were unemployed, wondering if they would ever again get the opportunity to exercise their constitutional right to earn a livelihood; and 16,000 Irish homeowners were in danger of losing their homes to the banks. Many more thousands would have been unable to adequately heat their homes or pay basic utility bills.

Also in this section

Harris, give the Taoiseach a break

Easter reminder

Slavery and human rights

What about the fundamental rights of these citizens?

Sadly, they do not have the money, the power, the influence or possibly even the energy to engage a legal team to represent them in matters that Frank Flannery calls “natural and constitutional justice”.

Charities are under the spotlight, and there can be little doubt that there are some excellent charities in this country. The work and research they engage in and the information they provide forms part of the fabric of our society. Without their dedicated staff, many people would be unable to live independent, active and fulfilling lives.

However, during boom times many charities created senior, highly paid positions – possibly where no real need existed.

Then, when public funding was reduced, the post-holders had watertight contracts. Their salaries had to be paid no matter what. Cuts would be found elsewhere. Sadly, the service user and staff of the charities were the losers as these inflated salaries came before the greater good of the organisation and indeed of society.

Despite the unfairness and obvious injustice of all this, charities still frequently focus on promoting a strong moral ethos. In its mission statement for example, Rehab is committed to “promoting equality” and “fighting disadvantage”.

Many other charities cite their obligation to justice, equity, compassion and service. But, these are action words – there is no point in just saying them. They have to be exercised. Unfortunately, there has been very little justice or compassion in the way many senior charity personnel have conducted their business during these times of unprecedented economic crisis.

Caroline Collins,
Ennis, Co Clare


Letters: Waters‘ thoughts truly offensive

Madam – I see John Waters says in his interview with Niamh Horan: “I’ve been put on trial over my beliefs,”(Sunday Independent, April 13, 2014) and that he is afraid to go into Dublin city centre at night. As well as alienating the gay community and the majority of people in this country who believe same-sex couples have the right to marry, he now seems intent on alienating people who suffer from depression; “I don’t believe in depression. There’s no such thing. It’s an invention. It’s bullshit, it’s a cop out.”

Mr Waters was very quick to defend himself in his claim he was recently defamed on RTE. Yet he shows scant regard for the feelings of people who suffer from depression by dismissing it in such a vulgar fashion.

I suggest he pays a visit to a psychiatric hospital or attends the depression support group Aware. Then he might gain some insight into what it’s like for people who endure such suffering and see how offensive his comments are.

Then again maybe that’s not such a good idea.

Thomas Roddy,


Losing pals over insulting views

Madam – The interview with John Waters was disgusting.

He speaks about how he was demonised over his comments on ‘Pantigate’ and that he has no friends in the media now.

Well, I can assure Mr Waters he will have fewer friends after his comments about depression.

He says there is no such thing as depression. But for those who have gone through depression, and the families who supported them, and the medical profession and counsellors who have helped, his comments were insulting.

Maureen Sneyd,
Bishopstown, Cork


Depression is a real condition

Madam – Aware disagrees with the comments about depression as reported in the Sunday Independent article (April 13, 2014). Depression is a very real condition and there are hundreds of thousands of people in this country who can testify to that reality.

Depression generally impacts a person’s thoughts, feelings, behaviour, and can affect their ability to fully live and enjoy their life. It can also impact on their sense of self-worth and even cause them to question their value in the world.

We ask everyone who is involving themselves in a conversation about depression to please remember this. Personal opinions must not distract us from the thousands of individuals across the country who are facing their own difficult moments.

We remind anyone who is impacted by depression that Aware provides a range of services which can make a real difference in their life. Reaching out for help might feel too hard, but it is worth it.

Dr Claire Hayes,
Clinical Director,
Aware, Dublin 2

Writer is Irish version of Havel

Madam – Is John Waters an Irish version of former playwright, author and president Vaclav Havel? Vaclav Havel opposed the status quo of communism in the former Czechoslovakia and remained resilient while others were terrorised into silence by state and media.

Being isolated for his stance on same-sex marriage and adoption by those of his own profession, it is disturbing that every statement the journalist makes has a tendency to be blown out of proportion.

Marion Murphy,
Sallins, Co Kildare


Reality check on mental health

Madam – Last Sunday John Waters is quoted in your well-read paper as stating that there is no such thing as depression. According to the bold John it is a cop-out and bullshit.

Well, John, try telling that to the thousands who have a family member who suffers from what you say is just bullshit. Better still, try telling that to anyone who has been left to rear children after their spouse has taken their own life.

Coroners have stated that some of these people, who died by suicide, could see no way out from their depressed situation due to their serious financial position. But John Waters says there is no such thing as depression. God help us, but we are still rearing them.

Ray O’Leary,


Keep up good work, John

Madam – Please permit me to comment on John Waters.

1. Mr Waters asks: “What is the great crime in taking money off the state broadcaster?” No crime, Mr Waters. However, you did not take the money from the state broadcaster, you took it from the Irish taxpayer.

2. Mr Waters continues with a comment on his position on gay marriage and adoption: “This is about free speech. It is about the rights of people to speak about what is important without being demonised.”

Yes, you have the right, perhaps even the obligation, to express yourself publicly, Mr Waters, but so also does the listener/reader have the right to demonise your views if that is his/her perception.

3. I agree with Mr Waters that those people who shout and do not want to engage in conversations are “cowards” filled with hatred: they are dangerous to democratic principles, but they have the right to be cowards and dangerous if one truly values free speech.

Mr Waters, I do not agree with your stance on gay marriage and gay adoption but I respect you and admire you for your public utterances. Please keep up the good work.

Vincent J Lavery,
Irish Free Speech Movement,
Dalkey, Co Dublin


Pity for author quickly vanished

Madam – I am not a big fan of John Waters, regardless of his views on gay marriage. Reading his interview in the Sunday Independent (April 13, 2014), I had a brief spell of pity for him, especially since he was being verbally abused by members of the public on the street.

Then, he reminds us of his ignorance. He says: “I don’t believe in depression. There’s no such thing. It’s an invention, it’s bullshit.” I couldn’t believe it. Any pity for him disappeared. I was so angry I could almost go and find him on the street to shout abuse at him. Just one more to add to the mob.

Barry Pringle,


DJs aren’t the whipping boys

Madam – I got a huge reaction to an article I wrote for the Sunday Independent last week under the provocative heading: “It’s time to whip disc jockeys into shape.”

I understand that the headline drew many people in who might otherwise not have read the piece. Unfortunately I fear it also gave the impression that my gripe was with radio presenters. One DJ I met asked me if I had my whip with me – I think he was joking.

But just to avoid every DJ in the country being out for my blood – blood on my tracks.

Can I just clarify that it’s not DJs I have a grievance with – but their bosses, who want to turn them into robots.

Let’s hope the piece I wrote turns out to be the start of a proper debate about that. Remember, We Live On Air.

Johnny Duhan,


Slavery and human rights

Madam – I take issue with Stephen Tallon (Letters, Sunday Independent, April 13, 2014), who said Britain‘s involvement in the First World War was motivated by human rights.

According to his description of events, Britain was “defending human rights against the dictatorial regimes of Kaiser Germany, Sultanate Turkey and the Austrian-Hungarian Empire”.

How does he reconcile that with the fact that the majority of British citizens did not have the right to vote, and the fact that Glaswegian women were threatened with eviction from tenements they lived in by a greedy landlord class while their husbands, brothers and sons were away fighting in Belgium and France? There was also Britain’s maintenance of concentration camps in South Africa after the Boer War and the shameful massacre of Indian citizens at Amritsar in 1919, which was not very becoming of the human rights he proclaimed Britain was defending, as well as the part it played in the punitive settlement imposed on Germany by the Versailles Treaty which facilitated Hitler’s rise to power.

Mr Tallon also bemoans how Britain “could no longer afford a global role as all their gold was gone and they had massive debts”. Well, of course they had, they learned a hard lesson that fighting a war as an empire has an unsustainable price.

The Left has been wrong about many of the arguments of the last 100 years but should be commended for calling the war what it was – or as its figurehead Lenin aptly described the pretext of the conflict: “One slave owner, Germany, is fighting another slave owner, England, for a fairer distribution of the slaves.”

Robert Byrne,
Dublin 13


Towards a united Ireland

Madam – The State visit to the UK has shown the friendship between our two countries. This could provide a platform to discuss the merits of a united Ireland. Aside from economic benefits, Orange Day could become an all-island celebration to mark the contributions of unionists to Irish culture and society, while the Easter Rising could be commemorated to show thankfulness that never again will a minority be divided from the majority.

Patrick Bamming,
Dublin 1

Sunday Independent


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 29 other followers