Funeral

funeral 18th April 2013

I trot round the park today and listen to the Navy lark. I Oh dear, oh dear
Pertwee Commander Murray and Leslie have been sent on an initiative test they have to escape from a prison camp. They manage to get out and wander lost over the fields as Leslie can’t navigate andend up in a workman’s hut. Oh dear they have gone round in a circle and broken back into the prison camp Priceless.
A bit better but oh so tired sold a book Yorkshire Water are digging up the street and abandoned their hole. Thatcher funeral saw Joan and took her sample in to the doc.
Upstairs Downstairs: The governess is left in charge.
I wins at Scrabble today and get just under 400, Mary might get her revenge tomorrow, I hope.

Obituary:

Molly Lefebure
Molly Lefebure, who has died aged 93, was secretary to Professor Keith Simpson, the Home Office forensic pathologist at the centre of several celebrated murder cases on the wartime Home Front.

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Molly Lefebure 
5:45PM BST 17 Apr 2013
She later became a prolific writer, novelist, children’s author, biographer, and a scholar of the Lakeland poets William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge.
Molly Lefebure had been working as a junior newspaper reporter in east London during the Blitz when Dr Simpson, as he then was, buttonholed her in Walthamstow cemetery and offered her a job as his secretary. On her first day she saw eight post-mortem examinations — “far too interesting to make me feel ill” — and attended two inquests.
In the nearly five years that she worked for Simpson, she undertook, as she later recalled, “a non-stop round of post-mortems, investigating murders, suicides, manslaughters, infanticides, accidents, criminal abortions …”. In addition there were those multitudinous cases that her friend, the Southwark mortuary keeper, Harry West, called “straight ’uns”.
To West and his fellow mortuary attendants, who might have struggled with the name Lefebure, she became “Miss Molly”; to detectives at Scotland Yard she was “Molly of the Morgue”; to Keith Simpson she was invariably just “Miss L”.
As his secretary, Molly Lefebure would draw up a tiny table in the public mortuary and type up post-mortem reports at the pathologist’s dictation as he worked at the porcelain dissecting table. In coroners’ courts and during criminal proceedings in which Simpson gave expert evidence, she would take shorthand notes.
She accompanied him to hospitals, prisons and scenes of crime, always carrying a notebook and small buff envelopes into which she slipped hairs, fibres, buttons, cigarette butts and other detritus found on or near bodies, and on which a full-scale capital murder trial at the Old Bailey might subsequently turn.
Nor was her wartime work entirely free from enemy threat. Simpson recalled ducking with her on to a marble mortuary floor, beneath a slab bearing a dead body, as a V-1 flying bomb exploded in a laundry next door.
Molly Lefebure’s “case of a lifetime”, as she called it, on which she worked with Simpson, was that of Harry Dobkin, a wartime firewatcher, who murdered his estranged wife, Rachel, and buried her under a stone slab on the site of a bombed-out chapel. She was only identified 18 months later from an incomplete skeleton with “a few withered tissues adhering”.
Sitting on a high stool at the mortuary bench, under which Mrs Dobkin’s remains lay wrapped in a dust sheet, Molly Lefebure typed up Simpson’s notes. The case became a modern classic of forensic detection, and he subsequently performed the post-mortem on the bull-necked Dobkin — Miss L again taking notes — in the mortuary at Wandsworth prison after he had been hanged.
In 1942 another of Simpson’s celebrated cases began when, with Molly Lefebure, he drove to Hankley Common, a former beauty spot near Godalming that had been commandeered by the Army as a training ground, and where the remains of a young woman, badly decomposed, had been found buried in the heather. She was later identified as the pregnant girlfriend of August Sangret, a French-Canadian soldier of American Indian descent from a nearby Canadian Army camp, who had built a primitive “wigwam” of birchwood where the pair had lived rough. Sangret had stabbed her before killing her with a single blow to the back of the head.
Sangret’s trial made legal history, being the first at which a murder victim’s skull was exhibited in evidence. When Simpson lifted it out of a cardboard box, judge and jury craned their necks to see, only Sangret himself remaining impassive. After his appointment with the hangman at Wandsworth, Molly Lefebure noted his muscular bronze body on the mortuary slab, “almost good enough for one of Fenimore Cooper’s novels”.
It was at Wandsworth, too, that she encountered the young Albert Pierrepoint, the newly-appointed public executioner, who appeared at one judicial post-mortem asking to “take a look at my handiwork”. Chatty and cheerful, he assured her that his ancient craft was more of an art than a science, and persuaded Simpson to explain the pathology of hanging before beaming farewell and hurrying home.
Such insights into gallows procedure, as well as attendance at as many as eight post-mortems a day (between 7,000 and 8,000 in the course of the war), fortified Molly Lefebure with the necessary stomach for the job. “You can eat anywhere,” she would often observe, “once you’ve eaten a ham sandwich in a mortuary.”
Molly Lefebure was born in Hackney on October 6 1919 into a family descended from prominent arms manufacturers in 18th-century Paris. Her father, Charles Lefebure, was a senior civil servant who worked with Sir William Beveridge on the establishment of the NHS, applying some of the revolutionary ideas of Robespierre, the Parisian Lefebures having professed Jacobin sympathies. Some of Molly’s forebears had been men of letters; and one, Pierre Lefebure, having helped to set up the Institut Francais, became a professor of languages at the newly formed London University.
Her maternal grandmother arranged for her to spend summers on a remote farm on Exmoor, where Molly learned to hunt. Blooded aged eight with the Devon and Somerset Staghounds, she subsequently wrote on hunting for both The Field and Country Life and was a member of the Blencathra Hunt in the Lake District for more than 50 years.
She attended the North London Collegiate, then learned French in Paris and shorthand and typing at St Godric’s Secretarial College, Hampstead. After studying journalism at King’s College, London, she became a junior reporter, working 14-hour days, seven days a week, covering events from Boy Scout meetings to the Blitz for a weekly newspaper group in east London.
Her encounter with Dr Keith Simpson, Home Office pathologist and head of the Department of Forensic Medicine at Guy’s Hospital, came in 1941. When he first offered her a job, she shrank from the “horror of secretarial work”, but quickly changed her mind, becoming the first woman employed at Southwark mortuary, which stood on the site of the old Marshalsea prison.
From time to time Molly Lefebure resisted attempts to call her up for military service, arguing that she was doing more useful work as Simpson’s secretary. What she termed her “stay-at-home” experience of the war — the Blitz, scores of air raid casualties (including victims of the Bethnal Green underground shelter disaster), and post-mortems on spies hanged at Wandsworth — furnished her with a comprehensive and vivid picture of wartime life.
“You could spend 100 years in London’s mortuaries,” she wrote, “and never be bored.” Once, in the morgue at Hammersmith, she drew up short at the sight of an enormous hairy man stretched out on the post-mortem table, clasping a posy of snowdrops to his “huge Neanderthal” chest. “Former British fascist,” explained the mortuary keeper. “Used to be a PT instructor in the Hitler Youth Movement in Germany. Looks the type, doesn’t he?” The snowdrops had been added at the special request of a relative.
Molly Lefebure left her job with Simpson in November 1945 to marry John Gerrish, whom she had met at King’s College before the war. Her successor as Simpson’s secretary, Jean Scott-Dunn, became the pathologist’s second wife in 1956.
After her marriage Molly Lefebure lived at Kingston upon Thames, where she worked as a group therapist and youth club counsellor. In Cumbria, where she and her husband bought a second home in 1957, she became a friend of the writer Alfred Wainwright, with whom she often walked the fells and who illustrated two of her children’s books. With Richard Wordsworth, she helped to found and organise the annual Wordsworth summer conference at Grasmere, taking responsibility for its tradition of fell-walking and cultural excursions.
A new ITV drama, Murder On The Homefront, a two-part crime thriller based on her recently republished 1954 memoir Evidence For The Crown, is due to be broadcast next month; Molly Lefebure is played by Tamzin Merchant.
Among her 20 or so other books was a 1974 biography of Coleridge, subtitled The Bondage of Opium, and a study of his wife, The Bondage of Love (1986), which won Molly Lefebure the Lakeland Book of the Year award. Her study of the Coleridge children, The Private Lives of the Ancient Mariner, is with her publisher, as is her last book, about the Lake District, The Vision and the Echo. She also wrote several novels, as well as (under the name Mary Blandy, an 18th-century forebear who was convicted of poisoning her father) two studies of drug addiction.
She was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in 2010.
Molly Lefebure’s husband died last November. Their two sons survive her.
Molly Lefebure, born October 6 1919, died February 27 2013

Guardian:

Many Lib Dems coming from SDP origins (like me) would agree with Seumas Milne that it’s time to bury Thatcherism (17 April), but we would have pursued it into possible solutions. We despair of the Thatcher legacy, but have no hope of Miliband shifting from her neoliberal ideology. If Blair et al felt it was right, Miliband clearly feels entrapped by it.
I grew up in the post-Attlee days of the 50s-to-70s in which many of the historic inequalities of income and wealth were being resolved and opportunities for people of all classes abounded. Opportunities to work and increase our living standards, but also to contribute to public service. Thatcher reversed all that. No one disputes that trade unionism, or its leaders at least, had gone beyond the pale by the late 70s, but politicians at the time had the opportunity to deal with the improper power problem by other means, such as the very successful German industrial democracy model. Our earliest Social Democratic party discussions had this very much in mind, as also the bolstering of local democracy, but unfortunately we delayed too late. It was not until the early 80s that the Gang of Four, Roy Jenkins, David Owen, Shirley Williams and Bill Rodgers, emerged with alternative solutions.
But Thatcher had already stormed in with police tactics and legislative changes that demolished the voice of ordinary working people, giving power back to the old elite and the new yuppies. So how do we meet the challenge of today? Bury Thatcherism, certainly. Those like me would say social democracy is the route back to fairness and justice. The old SDP leaders and activists are past doing much, but surely there is a younger set of social democrats out there?
David Stapleton
Tavistock, Devon

I was British ambassador to Syria from 1976 to 1979. I intensely disliked the Ba’ath party and most of the ministers who formed the government then. So I have no bias towards the Ba’ath and the president who took over from his father. The trouble is that most of the reporting from Syria comes from sources stationed among the insurgents, who include, for example, the Jabhat al-Nusra, which has just declared its loyalty to al-Qaida, and extremist Sunnis opposed to the Alawites, the president’s sect, and have anti-democratic and anti-western views. They don’t enjoy support from minorities like the Christians and the Ismailis.
At last the Guardian has a man in Damascus and can report the regime’s version. Ian Black (15 April) is sensibly cautious. His account of the bombing which damaged the central bank clearly suggests that the bomb came from the insurgents; and more frankly he says that another bomb, killing 80 people, exploded near a Ba’ath headquarters and was blamed on Jabhat al-Nusra. Why our government can help the French to fight al-Qaida in Mali and simultaneously send assistance to its supporters in Syria is difficult to understand. We should be neutral and keep far away from the Syrian struggle.
James Craig
Standlake, Oxfordshire
• Much of your reporting on Syria could have been written by GW Bush: the same old rebels are good, the Syrian government is bad recipe. The Syrian reality seems a little simpler. Syria is crawling with foreign jihadists and it would be exceedingly naive to assume that the special forces of the countries supplying the weapons are not there also – France, the US, UK, various Arab despots?
Meanwhile, most Syrians in Syria want the killing to stop so they can live their lives without fear. They wanted a negotiated settlement from the Kofi Annan plan, but this was flagrantly obstructed and torpedoed by the west. For Syria read Libya.
Khalid Mahmood-Chohan
Watford, Hertfordshire

Your editorial comments (13 April) were well made. There are a number of areas that urgently need to be addressed. First, how is it that none of these banking issues appear to have been identified by the auditors, in their “going concern” assessments. Is it reasonable to expect regulators to know more about what is going on inside an organisation than an auditor? Regulators can help protect consumer interests through pricing regulation but, if they are really involved with detailed internal process assessment, what are the auditors doing? Perhaps the auditing function should also have a formal responsibility to customers, as well as to shareholders.
Second, there is scope for a major investigation into how banks actually add value to society. In essence, the sectors’ profits and bonuses are ultimately paid for by their customers.
Third, there is a need to investigate the extent to which “selling” is, almost by definition, unprofessional. The concept of being professional should mean that the interests of the customer/client come first. Where the seller operates within an incentive structure that benefits both the seller and others in their organisation, the net result will almost inevitably be defined as mis-selling.
The horrific consequences that have arisen in such areas as PPI etc, probably also apply to much of the pay-day loan industry, as well as a significant part of international lending. A major inquiry into the nature and future of the finance sector is long overdue, but there are also many important questions urgently in need of further research.
Emeritus professor Bruce Lloyd
South Bank University
• It is obvious many of the top executives of the failed banks had no actual financial expertise; they are like someone pretending to be a doctor, or a fake architect whose buildings collapse, guilty of misrepresentation. The regulator may be surprised no bank bosses have faced charges – we all are.
Tony Cheney
Ipswich, Suffolk
• As a research and advocacy group that has for years called attention to the murky world of tax havens, we welcome your report (Leaks reveal secrets of the rich who hide cash offshore, 4 April). But you should also have dispelled the myth advocated by some proponents that tax havens promote greater tax efficiency through competition; the evidence in economic literature is scanty at best. What is clear is that this benefit has not been enough to prevent tax havens from going bankrupt.
In September 2009, the Cayman Islands, one of the largest, faced bankruptcy and was unable to pay its government employees. Britain, which oversees the territory, was forced to bail out the Cayman authorities. Recently, Cyprus went belly up and had to be rescued by the EU, ECB, and IMF.
Investors need to realise that the lack of prudential regulations and oversight allows tax havens to pass on the cost-savings to them as higher returns. But with higher returns come higher risks. They implicitly accepted those risks when they invested in tax havens. In the event the financial risks pile up – as they inevitably must – and the house of cards comes crashing down, investors should not expect taxpayers to foot the bill.
Dev Kar
Lead economist, Global Financial Integrity, Washington DC

Over recent months there has been an international media campaign sowing seeds of doubt in the Venezuelan National Electoral Council (CNE). Evidence released by the Venezuelan government includes an email sent from Armando Briquet, of Capriles’s campaign team, to Guillermo Salas, of Esdata, which reports on Venezuela’s electoral process, stating “we need everything set out in Washington for checking over by the [Capriles campaign] (Report, 17 April). It’s necessary that all documentation is presented if we decide to take the road of not recognising the results”. Nicolas Maduro won Sunday’s elections by 1.8%, 262,000 votes. Capriles only won the governorship of Miranda in December last year by 40,000 votes, and both sides accepted the results and the transparency of the Venezuelan National Electoral Council. Chávez lost the constitutional reform referendum in 2007 by a narrower margin, 1.4%, and accepted the result. With a turnout of just under 79%, the results mean 40% of the Venezuelan electorate voted for Maduro, more than Thatcher in 1979 (33%), Blair in 1997 (31%), Cameron in 2010 (23%), Obama in 2008 (30%) and Attlee in 1945 (36%). The calls of election fraud are part of a premeditated plan to destabilise the country.
Sam McGill
Editor, http://www.vivavenezuela.co.uk

Ken Livingstone’s refreshing evidence-based proposals for solving our economic problems (Throw out these myths, 12 April) put Tony Blair’s label-loaded left-, right-, middle-ground fixations firmly in the shade (Report, 16 April). The problem Blair has in his “lurching to the left” hang ups is that the historical evidence and virtually all informed current analysis (bar Cameron and Osborne’s) point to the state having to intervene. There was no protest from Blair when Gordon Brown lurched extremely left to bail out the banks.
Blair correctly calls on us to seek “answers” with open minds. Why therefore does he prejudge left-leaning measures when the heart of the problem lies in extreme rightwing-induced deregulated globalised markets unleashed upon the world with the blessings of Reagan and Thatcher in the mid 80s? If we cannot follow the correct road because it points left, we may well end up with nothing left.
Nigel de Gruchy
Orpington, Kent
• What angered me in Tony Blair’s recent swipe at Ed Miliband was his assertion that “Labour should be very robust in knocking down the notion that it ‘created’ the crisis”, arguing that the cyclically adjusted current budget balance in 2007-2008 was under 1% of GDP and that over Labour’s 13 years the debt-to-GDB ratio was better than the Conservatives’ record from 1979-1997. Although conceding that “a tightening around 2005 would have been more prudent”, this, he rightly asserts, would have paled into insignificance when set against “the financial tsunami that occurred globally”.
But when has Blair’s voice been heard in defence of his own record? Or Gordon Brown’s? As the opinion polls persistently show, the Tories have successfully established in voters’ minds that the “mess” is entirely the result of Labour’s economic incompetence. “Not fit to be trusted with the economy” will be central to Tory electoral strategy in 2015. Rather than adding to the scare-mongering about “Red Ed”, Blair should be at the forefront in defending Labour’s record, by challenging the now embedded Tory lies and distortions.
Dr Brian Anderson
London
• What is shameful about Labour’s joining the attack on benefits is not that they meekly follow the proto-Tory Liam Byrne. It is that the party goes along with an insulting and manufactured view of the British citizen being touted by the media and market researchers – finally exposed by the rigorous YouGov-Cambridge survey (Big-state Britain? UK voters’ sympathy for the poor, 15 April).
Nothing in the history of British attitude surveys gives authenticity to the recent finding of NatCen that more than 60% of the electorate support such savage cuts on the poor. Even under Thatcher, survey after survey found continuing support for social protection and public sectors. NatCen asked biased questions with prejudicial vocabulary. In such a highly charged atmosphere of sustained misinformation from the DWP, this is almost designed to come up with the answer the media so lasciviously seeks.
At last a respectable survey outfit has returned us to a respectful and humane reality that British people are more than ready to reverse the savagery of benefit cuts. Will a Labour party, still obsessively triangulating , know what to do with these findings? Not if they leave it to briefings from Byrne.
Saville Kushner University of Auckland, Barry Kushner Liverpool Labour councillor
• Ed Miliband’s focus is society, more equality, fairness, justice and accountability – things we should all want. Thatcher and Blair produced two decades of bland politics, representing themselves rather than their people. Miliband is right to want change, to forge real politics so people have an honest choice. Blair should stick to what he’s good at: earning millions on the US lecture circuit and building his property portfolio.
Derek Marks
Dundee
• Blair warns Labour not to return to its leftwing past. But I recall the Blair who admired leftwing John Smith, the trade unionist John Prescott, the Jack Straw who was a radical student leader. Once in power they abandoned their socialist principles and ended up pursuing money and status. Labour needs genuine leftwing leaders who’ll pursue greater equality and oppose neoliberalism.
Bob Holman
Glasgow
I am pleased to see that your focus is on all forms of labour. I have become quite critical of much anti-trafficking work. Too often organisations and media focus exclusively on the sex trade, which is horrific and inexcusable, yet only a part of the overall problem.
I work in Vietnam with Blue Dragon Children’s Foundation. We have so far rescued 178 children and youth from garment factories, brothels, and forced marriage. We conduct these rescues ourselves, in conjunction with police where possible.
Michael Brosowski
Founder and CEO, Blue Dragon Children’s Foundation and a 2011 ‘CNN Hero’, Hanoi
Forced labour and trafficking
The International Organisation for Migration mission in Ukraine, highly appreciates your new series on modern-day slavery. Ukrainians are the biggest group among all victims of trafficking assisted by IOM, and estimates that since the year 2000 over 120,000 of Ukrainian women, men and children suffered from trafficking.
Currently we are dealing mainly with trafficking for labour exploitation and the majority of victims assisted by IOM Ukraine are men (56% in 2012 in comparison to 14% in 2004).
Varvara Zhlukternko

Independent:

Who could fail to be affected by the picture of Martin Richard on your front page today (17 April)?
The bombing that caused his death may be the work of a lunatic, and in that case we need not ask the question why, as on the lips of the President of the United States of America. The answer is close to imponderable.
It may be that it is the work of a terrorist body, and in that case the answer is self-evident: who can look at the face of that innocent child and not see the faces of other innocents killed by American weaponry in places like Pakistan and Afghanistan?
We should all be free to enjoy a day of celebration and life-affirming ritual without such terrible shadows as those that visited the Boston Marathon. I hope the people of places such as Pakistan will one day be free to celebrate communal events, such as weddings, without the spectre of collateral damage from drone attacks. Such things swiftly turn the minds of men towards revenge.
Charles Court, Perth
 
According to a report on page 30 of Tuesday’s Independent 36 people were killed in car bomb attacks in Iraq. According to the front and several inside pages of both Tuesday’s and Wednesday’s editions, three people were killed in bomb attacks in Boston, which apparently also shook Britain. Really?
While we persist in making it clear that events, and by implication people, in the West in general and in America in particular, are more important than they are elsewhere, we strengthen the hand of rebels in places like Iraq and Afghanistan and undermine our already ill-fated efforts to bring peace and stability to those benighted countries.
Ian Richards, Birmingham
 
Can Tories ever win without Thatcher?
I noted the smugness and glee of a large number of Margaret Thatcher opponents on her departure as Leader of the Conservative Party and as Prime Minister (Archives, 13 April).
Two years later John Major scraped into government with a majority of 21 (down from 102 under Mrs Thatcher). The party then lost heavily in the following three elections, under no fewer than three leaders, all very capable politicians but unable to win elections before David Cameron came along.
Despite sound evidence that Labour practically bankrupted the country, Cameron failed to secure a working majority. To compound matters, the party now has a less than even chance of winning the next election in 2015 against an increasingly able Ed Miliband.
This will make it 25 years and counting for the Conservative Party to be without genuine power since the event that cheered up so many anti-Thatcher Tories. Talk about poetic justice.
Kevin Newman, Hitchin, Hertfordshire
 
The question is asked: “Did Thatcher change Britain?” Maybe she did and maybe she didn’t. But she changed me.
I lived through the Cold War and the Falklands War and the riots of the early 1980s and the Great Miners’ Strike. I spent a year on the dole and I saw mass unemployment and mass poverty.
I lived through a time where a tiny minority became hugely wealthy and taunted the poor with their wealth. I saw the Young Conservatives screaming for the death of Nelson Mandela and watched the Tory faithful bellowing for “four more years” for Thatcher. I was transformed.
She convinced me that Marxism was true. She showed me there was a class war and that she was fighting for her class with vigour while the leaders of my class – in the TUC and Labour Party – were lacklustre and cowardly. I joined the SWP to fight for socialism. I have never looked back. 
I was in Trafalgar Square during the poll tax riot. I was one of millions who broke Thatcher’s “flagship” and broke Thatcher politically. Now she’s dead. I want the system she worshipped to follow her into the grave.
Sasha Simic, London N16
 
Contrary to popular belief, Margaret Thatcher was not the first female prime minister nor the first female politician to be dubbed “the Iron Lady”. Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir was the original “Iron Lady”. Nor was Thatcher the first prominent female British politician to rise to government from an “ordinary” background. 
The formerly demure, softly spoken, Lincolnshire-born Thatcher surely borrowed much from Barbara Castle’s strident (and genuine) northern accent. She also imitated Castle’s sharp-suited handbagging style and even copied her “power hair”. Although poles apart politically, Thatcher owed her fellow Oxford alumna Castle a huge debt as a pioneering female politician. 
Had Labour not failed to modernise and tame the unions in the 1960s, Barbara Castle, not Margaret Thatcher, would have become Britain’s first female prime minister.
Anthony Rodriguez, Staines, Middlesex
 
I wonder what exactly made some so jubilant about the death of a former prime minister.
It was as a politician that Mrs Thatcher affected us – whether positively or negatively – so the appropriate time to celebrate her demise would have been when she lost that political power over us.
I find it impossible to understand how her actual death can have any beneficial effect on anyone, and I doubt whether anyone celebrating it is more satisfied than on the previous day. What have they gained?
Robert Dow
Tranent, East Lothian
 
To quote her: “Rejoice! Rejoice! Rejoice!” That is what I and many did as the woman who destroyed many communities was buried.
Pravin Vaja, London NW1
 
Tony Blair has declared that we should “show respect” for Mrs Thatcher, even if we strongly disagreed with her – but AC Grayling (9 April) is surely right to insist that the millions who personally suffered under the brutal impact of her policies have every right to express their feelings.
Mr Blair neither shared nor, evidently, comprehends this bitter experience. Indeed, given his wholesale adoption of Mrs Thatcher’s policies into New Labour, he scarcely knows what it’s like to disagree with her either.
Andrew Clifton, Bradford on Avon
 
Benedict Le Vay is right to say our quality of life is much better than in the 1970s, thanks  to Margaret Thatcher (letter, 17 April), with the exception of “being able to go to a good local school instead of being ordered to go to a failing sink school by council prodnoses”. 
The comprehensive experiment survived Thatcher and Major, and we still have a system where LEAs decide who goes to which school. Micheal Gove is attempting to rectify this, and anyone in the happy situation Mr Le Vay describes today probably has him to thank.
It remains to be seen if he can make the predicament of parents forced to send their children to schools they know are failing them a thing of the past.
Rupert Fast, Esher, Surrey
 
When Winston Churchill died in 1965, my primary school classmates and I were asked to produce scrapbooks of his life and of his funeral from newspaper and magazine cuttings. I’ve still got mine. I wonder how many schools will ask their pupils to do the same for Margaret Thatcher.
David Keeley, Hornchurch, Essex
 
In times of severe austerity and with a faltering NHS, it is reassuring to know one can choose to end one’s days in a first-class London hotel.
Philip Wilson, Barnet,  Hertfordshire
 
It would appear that I am not alone in deploring, in equal measure, the distasteful use of a pop tune and the grandiose scale of a funeral. May we all now rest in peace.
Francis Woodley, Okehampton,  Devon
 
Strasbourg shuttle
It’s not bed bugs which concern me (Diary, 16 April ); it’s people who continue to spread the idea that the European Parliament has the power to “give up its expensive and time-wasting practice of meeting sometimes in Brussels and  sometimes in Strasbourg”. The decision to meet for 12 sessions a year in Strasbourg was part of the Maastricht Treaty agreed by member state governments and signed up to by John Major.
Unfortunately, MEPs have no powers to alter this, though many of us will continue to campaign to do so.
Glenis Willmott, Leader of the European Parliamentary Labour Party, Nottingham
 
Energy giants avoid taxation
It is not acceptable that yet another firm has avoided paying tax in the UK (“Npower’s three years of zero corporation tax”, 17 April). How can it be that the poorest people in the UK are struggling to put food on the table and heat their homes while a company with reported profits of as much as £766m has contributed no tax?
The Government needs to make sure big corporations are not able to avoid paying tax because of “simple accounting rules”. If everyone in the UK contributed their fair share of tax then the Government could use the revenues to reverse some of the cuts they have made to services that the most vulnerable rely upon.
Chris Johnes, Director of UK Poverty, Oxfam, Oxford
 
The old slogan of Hector the Inspector that “tax doesn’t need to be taxing” will come as news to the six energy giants being grilled by MPs about low tax bills.
There is no suggestion that they have acted illegally, but they stand accused of using “tricks” to avoid paying their “fair share” of tax. Who decides what is “fair”? The current name-and-shame approach seems to be a modern version of the ducking chair, where the accused is ducked until they accept guilt, or drown (a sure sign of guilt). 
Some people see the new General Anti-Avoidance Rule (GAAR) as the way to clarify how morality and law interact.  Let us hope the GAAR Advisory Committee has at least one member called Solomon.
Andrew Watters, Partner, Thomas Eggar LLP, London EC4
 
Cloudy outlook
We often see the Arts Council commission silly things for loads of money, but has there been any stranger than Column to be sited in Merseyside? In this case the artist, Anthony McCall, has been defeated by “regulatory and technical challenges” in attempting to erect his “cloud sculpture column”. Hmm. I wonder how the locals might have reacted to extra cloud on Merseyside. Any chance of a sun column?
Martin Murray, London SW2
 
Koreans in peril
In all the wailing and gnashing of teeth about students put at risk by John Sweeney’s jaunt to North Korea, no one seems to remember the people really put in danger – the party’s guides. They will certainly suffer censure, and probably far worse, for failing to spot the team of reporters.
Dr D G C Jones, Llanwrtyd Wells, Powy

Times:

Memories of Churchill’s funeral, together with questions about the cost of Baroness Thatcher’s send-off
Sir, As a young Buckingham Palace footman in 1965 I stood beside a groom on the back of the carriage that took Lady Churchill and her two daughters from Westminster to St Paul’s in the last great prime ministerial funeral procession. It was the coldest and greyest day I have ever known. Before setting out from the Royal Mews I sought the advice of an old carriage hand as to how best to keep warm. “Brown paper, old boy,” was his surprising suggestion. Once suitably wrapped we set off, and I must say that thanks to him my shivers were kept to a minimum.
Of course I do not know whether my passengers were trussed up like parcels, but they certainly endured a very cold journey. The only heating in our horse-drawn vehicle was provided by a number of stone and rubber hotwater bottles. Once we arrived at the cathedral and the family had disembarked I found the van, thoughtfully provided by the Palace, and its large catering tea urn full of hot water. At the conclusion of the service Lady Churchill seemed pleased to be able to warm her feet and hands again.
Guy Hunting
London SW2
Sir, On the morning of the funeral I was part of a large crowd gathered in Fleet Street. We have no ministry for the production of crowds; this was a collective result brought about by numerous individual decisions.
How appropriate.
Roger Sainsbury
London N10
Sir, On my way to watch Lady Thatcher’s funeral I overheard a man asking a police officer: “Where should I go from here do you reckon?”. To which the officer replied, without batting an eyelid: “That depends on where you wish to go, sir. Did you want St Paul’s, the procession, or the protest?”.
That, surely, is what it means to live in a free country.
Martine Boogaerts
London NW4
Sir, According to our Prime Minister the cost of the funeral is justified as a show to the rest of the world.
Funerals are for family and friends and the cost should be borne by them, especially if they are multi-millionaires. I had to take out a loan to pay for the burial of a dear one.
P. Charles
Newcastle-under-Lyme, Staffs
Sir, Would it be possible to clarify the real cost of the funeral? Estimates are quoted of £8 million to £10 million, but it is likely that these include costs that would have been incurred even if nothing special were happening. For example, the servicemen and police have to be paid anyway. Only the extra, exceptional expenses should be counted.
Rodney Seeley
Beckenham, Kent
Sir, Baroness Thatcher’s funeral service was a celebration of the fullness of life she enjoyed and of the moral and above all spiritual foundation for her personal and political efforts. What tremendous readings and hymns. It was a shame that so many dignitaries and politicians attending the service did not display her joy and confidence in these things but at times seemed bored and uninterested.
If only our present leaders had Baroness Thatcher’s deep foundation of faith. It would help the nation to address the problems of today’s society.
J. Longstaff
Woodford Green, Essex

Why should the law draw a distinction between a company said to be a bully and a wealthy individual who has the same ability?
Sir, Labour’s proposal to prevent companies bringing defamation proceedings, unless they can show actual financial loss, is entirely misconceived. Businesses operate, in part, with a view to building up goodwill. Goodwill equates to a company’s reputation, as well as its value. It is right, as it is with individuals, that they should be able to take steps to protect their goodwill and not only when they can show that actual financial loss has been suffered as the result of a defamatory publication, something that is near to impossible to achieve. There is no proper basis for treating an individual and company differently: the law presumes that both have a good reputation unless shown otherwise.
Why should the law draw a distinction between a company said to be a bully and a wealthy individual who has the same ability to bully? If the Labour amendment has logic, then bullying individual claimants should also suffer the same fate as proposed by Labour in respect of companies.
As with the arguments in support of stopping “libel tourism”, the argument in support of Labour’s proposals is, in my experience, greatly exaggerated. If it is a problem at all, it is not a significant one and certainly not one that should disallow the vast majority of companies from legitimately protecting their reputations.
Julian Pike
Head of Reputation Management, Farrer & Co, London WC2

There are other, equally dangerous, considerations when calling for the EU arms embargo of Syria to be dropped
Sir, I agree strongly with General Sir Michael Rose (letter, Apr 16) that the correct lesson to learn from Bosnia with regards to Syria is that arming any of the warring parties increases the intensity of conflict. But there is another consideration which I hope the Government will have taken into account in calling for the EU arms embargo to be dropped. If the effect of providing lethal weapons to the Syrian rebels were eventually to topple the existing regime in Damascus, any successor government would almost certainly be dominated by the most effective element of the Free Syrian Army, namely Jabhat al-Nusra, an extreme Islamist movement which is now openly declared to be in alliance with al-Qaeda. Is this an effective way of ensuring that Syria’s chemical weapons are “kept secure”?
Lord Wright of Richmond
House of Lords

A move away from equal opportunity policies to equal outcome policies would be a dangerous and unproductive step
Sir, Lucinda Moule may be right when she says that equal pay by gender may result in equal representation by gender on boards (letter, Apr 15). However, the purpose of boards in the commercial world is not to provide equal representation but to be effective commercially. Further, she may (or may not) be right when she says that equal representation by gender on boards will be to the benefit of the companies concerned, but she should remember her own sentiments about the motivation of individuals. Both men and women need to be motivated, and having an equal representation policy won’t do this. To move away from equal opportunity policies to equal outcome policies is a dangerous step to take, as has been well explained previously in The Times (for example by Ruth Lea, “Women make different choices. That’s not bias”, Jan 7).
Paul Dare
London SW13
Sir, There is clear evidence to demonstrate that a critical mass of women on boards improves financial performance. It is a debate that businesses across the UK must address with urgency before the unhelpful blunt instrument of quotas is wielded.
However, the definition of diversity must go beyond gender — and beyond ethnicity (something which is much less frequently discussed) — to encompass inter-generational cohesion, international experience and working culture. If boards are to govern risk and avoid corporate failure, they need to be curious, ask the difficult questions and challenge information that is being presented to them. Diversity of outlook and skill-sets is one of the crucial elements of ensuring that this happens.
Gillian Lees
Head of Corporate Governance, Chartered Institute of Management Accountants

Gramsci did not place culture above economics. He carefully distinguished between ‘organic’ and ‘traditional’ intellectuals
Sir, Tim Montgomerie (Opinion, Apr 15) is no doubt correct to state that the Right needs a social agenda. However, his account of Gramsci was incorrect. Gramsci as a Marxist did not place culture above economics. He carefully distinguished between “organic intellectuals” trained by the party and “traditional intellectuals” which communist movements never trusted. His theories were exploited after his death by the Italian Communist Party to soften its image, but they hardly met with “extraordinary” success, even in Italy. On the contrary, in accepting Italy’s membership of Nato and the EEC and promising to adhere to free elections, it was the PCI that submitted to the hegemony of Western capitalist culture. Western capitalism, on the other hand, was untouched by any Marxist cultural assault. Gramsci may have appealed to the same kind of intellectual who believed in the “humanism” of Marx’s 1844 manuscripts but the idea that these people exercised cultural dominance over the mass media or played a significant political role is wrong.
Professor Alan Sked
London School of Economics

There are many reasons for delays in court cases involving children, including a lack of court time and the adversarial process
Sir, So the new President of the Family Division is urging judges to use less expert evidence in order to reduce delays in decision-making for children in care (report, Apr 15). I have been doing court work for more than 30 years and have seen thousands of children, and in my experience it is very rare to see delays caused by expert evidence.
The usual reasons for delay include the lack of clinical judgment, not intervening soon enough when the evidence is clear, and jumping to erroneous conclusions about issues of risk. A further cause of delay is the lack of court time, the pressure the courts are under to process cases, and the nature of the adversarial process, where so many different parties want to have their say.
Expert evidence in the great majority of cases reduces delay by bringing clarity to the decision making. Targeting experts as the cause of delay seems to offer a simple solution to what is in fact a far more complex situation, while the more obvious causes are not being effectively tackled.
Dr Roger Kennedy
Child psychiatrist, London W1

Telegraph:
SIR – Top marks to Lord Hall, the BBC’s new director-general, for going ahead with the Panorama documentary on North Korea (report, April 16).
It’s important that the public see, so far as possible, the extent of the collective lunacy that this state represents, and how it shapes our foreign policies accordingly. The programme will help to reinforce the BBC’s reputation around the world, sadly tarnished in recent times.
The London School of Economics’ outburst makes me wonder what their agenda is in seeing their students go there.
Mark Barry-Jackson
Reigate, Surrey
SIR – Did the BBC’s editorial team pay attention to the probable fate of the North Koreans who arranged and escorted them on their visit?
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17 Apr 2013
We learnt nothing that the world did not know already. I look forward to a Panorama dedicated to a debate on the moral and ethical grounds for such programmes that put others at high risk.
M J C Walters
Beetley, Norfolk
SIR – What exactly would be missed if the LSE’s students were unable to take further trips to North Korea? The programme showed a country that is so sterile to visitors that the costs must far outweigh the advantages of going there.
Richard King-Evans
Hambye, Normandy, France
Children’s advertising
SIR – The call to ban advertising aimed at young children (Letters, April 11) demands a reworking of a very old-fashioned debate.
Children have a much broader set of influences now than in previous generations. The increase in internet usage, product placement in children’s films, increased influence of siblings, peers (virtual and real) and so on makes parental intervention in the forming of their child’s opinions much more challenging.
Today’s typical family home is not overly focused on the television; but parents and children are often observed to be on their smartphones, mobile game consoles, tablets or laptops, indicating a more invasive permeation of marketing communications than ever before.
Tighter legislation and controls are called for, but it is hard to envisage how this might be done effectively. What is certain is that we need a much more nuanced debate on the subject.
Professor Shona Bettany
Westminster Business School
Dr Ben Kerrane
Manchester Business School
EU wealth tax
SIR – I was appalled to read that new wealth taxes would pay for the EU bail-outs (report, April 15). Most EU governments have over-spent and over-borrowed. Instead of cutting expenditure they are expecting the better-off to pay for their profligacy and fiscal mismanagement.
The Prime Minister must stand up against this legalised theft and its contagion. The so-called wealthy in these countries should not be paying for their governments’ overspending.
Chris Lenton
Marlow, Buckinghamshire
Buried treasure
SIR – What a splendid idea to bury your valuables in the garden (Letters, April 15).
Unfortunately, as you got older, would you remember where they were buried?
Robert Guttridge
Sheffield, South Yorkshire
Patient eligibility
SIR – On the issue of “health tourism”, Dr Vivienne Nathanson says that “to check patients’ eligibility for care would create an administrative nightmare” for the NHS (Letters, April 8). We should not allow the NHS to be abused, she claims; but try to do something to prevent that happening and we will resist at every turn. This has the same DNA as Labour’s policy on welfare: the country cannot afford the ever-growing bill for benefits, but try to do something about it, and the party will oppose it relentlessly.
Bruce Cain
Birkenhead, Wirral
SIR – When my wife was struck by an infection while on holiday in Istanbul, the hospital refused to take her to the emergency wing until I had paid up front. Presentation of an insurance certificate cut no ice – it was pay or no treatment.
So why can’t our GPs and hospitals do the same to our foreigners, at least for non-emergency cases?
Jeremy Montagu
Oxford
Fairweather forecasters
SIR – April showers are the lifeblood of the arable farmer. To have them described by forecasters as “high risk” and “to be endured” is pandering to the wants of the urban majority.
David Barclay
Higham, Suffolk
Musical delights of working with Sir Colin Davis
SIR – Sir Colin Davis’s passing leaves a huge hole in our musical life (Obituaries, April 16). I met him as an aspiring orchestral player in the BBC Training Orchestra in 1969.
Having rehearsed for that week’s programme, it was decided that we would play through Bruckner’s Ninth Symphony solely for the experience. I was playing first horn that week and pointed out that we would need eight horns, rather than the four we had, plus Wagner tubas. How was I to know that only the previous week, another horn player had taken Sir Colin to task on a different matter?
I can think of many conductors who would have immediately squashed me, a cheeky young 21-year-old. But Sir Colin’s reply was: “Oh dear, it must be my week for getting told off by the horn section.” Every encounter in the ensuing 40 odd years was both a musical and a human delight.
Chris Larkin
London N20
SIR – Congratulations to Sir Colin Davis for “renouncing heroism and self” (Michael White, Comment, April 16). But I wonder where he will take his place among the likes of Wilhelm Furtwängler, Arturo Toscanini, Herbert von Karajan and Leonard Bernstein, who projected their selves in their work?
I suspect that those who prefer the personality of a creative interpreter to guide them through the classics might put Sir Adrian Boult or Sir John Barbirolli before him, even among British conductors.
Ian France
Penrith, Cumbria
SIR – In the Fifties, we joined with other school choirs to sing Messiah at Guildhall, conducted by Sir Colin Davis.
I have never forgotten what an incredible performance he inspired from us.
Janet Evans
Cheadle Hulme, Cheshire
BBC wastes resources on licence-fee dodgers
SIR – On top of the BBC’s £23 million postage bill for TV licence reminders (report, April 6) there is the cost of some four million follow-up visits by its inquiry officers – the outcome of which is relatively meagre. Of 5.1 million people targeted in 2009-10, only 1.1 million bought a licence.
Considerable effort is wasted in hounding people who do not watch television. Techniques of information technology such as database analysis and search statistics are alien to this wealthy organisation, which seems more devoted to job preservation than efficiency.
Licence-fee dodgers must find its plodding predictability an unalloyed boon.
Michael Woodman
Exeter, Devon

SIR – The choice of hymns for Baroness Thatcher’s funeral cannot fail to raise a smile. Cecil Spring-Rice, the author of I vow to thee my country, was the son of a Liberal MP. Gustav Holst, who wrote the music to the poem, was a lifelong socialist. His great friend, the composer Ralph Vaughan Williams, was also a socialist despite his privileged background, and both men refused honours and knighthoods.
Vaughan Williams adapted a Sussex folk song he had collected from a farm worker in Horsham to words rewritten from John Bunyan by Rev Percy Dearmer – He who would valiant be. Dearmer, an energetic vicar in Primrose Hill, was passionate about socialism. He and Vaughan Williams were editors of the fine hymn book The English Hymnal which appeared in 1906. Both men were denounced from the pulpit of Canterbury Cathedral by the conservative archbishop of the day for, among other things, using folk tunes.
Little is known about William P Rowlands, a much respected Welsh church musician who composed the tune for Love divine, all loves excelling. As for Charles Wesley, who wrote the words – he was a social reformer way before his time.
Philip Spratley
Deeping St James, Lincolnshire
SIR – As the writer who created the “Labour Isn’t Working” poster for the Conservative Party in 1978, I have always been grateful, as was Baroness Thatcher, to Denis Healey for publicising it so widely.
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17 Apr 2013
Lord Healey, then Chancellor of the Exchequer, roundly attacked the poster in the House of Commons, thus ensuring it featured on the news bulletins and front pages for several days afterwards.
Lord Thorneycroft, party treasurer at the time, even suggested it won Lady Thatcher the 1979 election. I certainly wouldn’t go that far, especially as I haven’t yet received my invitation to St Paul’s.
Andrew Rutherford
London SE21
SIR – I have good news for Michael Hogan (Letters, April 16), who wants to watch the funeral without the usual inane babble of television personalities. Channel 301 on Freeview is broadcasting it without commentary.
John Brandon
Tonbridge, Kent
SIR – Yesterday, I received an email from my MP: “No 10 has made it clear that the costs of Baroness Thatcher’s funeral will not be discussed until after it has been held.” This attitude would not prevail in other taxpayer-funded areas.
I would rather have this generous approach to spending our money applied to people who really need it, rather than to celebrating a highly controversial leader.
Dr Bob Banks
Grindleford, Derbyshire
SIR – Mark Biddiss complains about the “vile abuse” that he has suffered on Twitter (report, April 16), over his campaign to promote a song mocking the death of Baroness Thatcher. At least he is alive to complain about the comments; it is much more offensive to insult the dead.
Alan Newton
Ryton, Co Durham
SIR – Many famous Americans are remembered through statuary in London. Why cannot Margaret Thatcher be similarly honoured in Washington?
Ian Mackley
Andover, Hampshire
SIR – Margaret Thatcher was proof of the words that G K Chesterton put into the mouth of Father Brown: “A lot of men could go on saying for days that something ought to be done, or might as well be done. But if you convey to a woman that something ought to be done, there is always a dreadful danger that she will suddenly do it.”
Lt Cdr Kevin Stagg RN (retd)
Waterlooville, Hampshire

Irish Times:

Sir, – It would strike me as quite unusual that a senior member of the judiciary would speak out in public regarding his concern on the diminution of the independence of judiciary (Front page, April 15th). I have to think that a senior member of the judiciary would not take such a step unless he or she had fairly well grounded concerns that a diminution of the independence of the judiciary was not a good thing for democracy.
Minister for Justice Alan Shatter claims that such public comments undermine our international business reputation, but he misses the point that a very senior member of the judiciary raising this issue should enhance our international business reputation.
Mr Shatter argues he has a reform agenda but I would argue the public perception will be that he is over-zealous in his reformation plans at the expense of an independent judiciary. – Yours, etc,
PERCY BOLAND,
Sandymount Avenue,
Ballsbridge,
Dublin 4 .
Sir, – If a Government minister voiced strong public criticism of the judiciary it would be regarded as an outrageous breach of the “separation of powers” and his/her immediate resignation would be demanded. Shall we now see resignations from the senior ranks of the judiciary?
This row does, however, support the case for change in the system of appointment of judges as the current “political patronage” methodology appears to be of questionable reliability. – Yours, etc,
PETER MOLLOY,
Haddington Park,
Glenageary,
Co Dublin.
Sir, – What we are seeing being played out here is a constitutional crisis. It is extremely serious. – Yours, etc,
JOHN B REID,
Knapton Road,
Monkstown, Co Dublin.
Sir, – The row between Minister for Justice Alan Shatter and the judiciary has taken on a life of its own. It seems to me the judges have suddenly discovered a strident voice following the referendum to allow the Government cut judicial pay. The judges speak of separation of powers and their independence, yet they feel they should be consulted on certain new legislation. Is there not a contradiction there ?
There was also an uncalled for reference to “civil servants” in regard to new role for county registrars who are legal people and trained solicitors. They also say they don’t mind taking cuts like every other sector, but let us remember they did not break any speed limits in their rush to take a voluntary cut, hence the need for a referendum which was supported by about 80 per cent of the population. I agree with the judges about an independent board to set their pay, and probably benchmark it with their EU counterparts. – Yours, etc,
BRENDAN CAFFERTY,
Ballina, Co Mayo.

A chara, – When I was staggering through the last few kilometres in the Paris marathon just over a week ago I noticed an American girl near me who had given up running and had decided to walk. She must have trained for months, and the look on her face as she knew she wouldn’t finish it running was clear. I was very close to giving up and walking the rest as well.
Then I saw a French woman jog over to her, take her hand and begin talking to her. The American girl eventually started to run again and they ran hand in hand for at least a kilometre. It would be nice to say that they ran like that until the end, but I lost sight of them soon afterwards and don’t know how they finished.
At 37km in a marathon everything is hurting. Your body is screaming for you to stop and emotions are raw. For the majority of people taking part, at that point training means nothing. It’s your fellow runners who get you over the line. The experienced ones shout encouragement. The crowd bellowing at anyone whose name on the bib they can make out. Those last few kilometres were where I saw some of the most moving, natural expressions of human solidarity I’ve ever witnessed.
So when I read about the bombs in Boston, and the people dead and injured, I reacted strongly. But I know that whoever planted them will fail in whatever they are trying to achieve, and that people will continue to help each other over the line regardless. – Is mise,
DÓNAL MULLIGAN
College of Europe,
Gouden Handstraat,
Bruges,
Belgium.
Sir, – Our recent “spring clean” of Portarlington gives an insight into the issues faced in trying to clean up Ireland. More than 250 volunteers showed up on the day, which allowed us to clean not alone the town but approach roads for miles around.
In general the estates of the town are clean and tidy – indeed most were effectively litter-free before we did our clean-up. Of the 500 sacks of rubbish collected more than 90 per cent compromised illegally dumped goods – mostly sacks of rubbish, but also builders’ waste, tyres, furniture and carpet. So while we appear to be winning the “battle on litter”, we are losing the “war on illegal dumping”.
So what should be done? I think the key to finding an effective solution is to look at the economics of why people dump illegally? Surely it is because they find it cost effective, or indeed profitable (if they do so on a commercial level), while the risks of being caught and typical fines are low. Some possible solutions to change this would be to: 1. Cross-reference the national household register against those who subscribe to a waste collection service. 2. Ensure landlords provide a waste collection service as part of the any rental agreement. 3. Ensure access to recycling centres is free. 4. Compile a list of the “top five” most-dumped items and use this as a basis to implement WEEE-style charges to ensure there are funds to dispose of end-of-life products. 5. Ensure all dumping cases are heard in batches to prevent litter wardens being tied up in court all day. What we need is a clear national strategy on how the scourge of illegal dumping can be resolved once and for all. – Yours, etc,
DAVID MAHER ,
Portarlington Tidy Towns,
Bracklone, Portarlington,
Co Laois.

Sir, – There has been plenty of discussion about the lack of fairness with the new property tax, but it pales in comparison to motor tax.
This system punishes those who cannot afford to buy newer cars. It punishes families with larger cars with larger engines. It punishes those that own a car but seldom use it. It rewards mythical CO2 emission figures that may never be achieved. Minister for Environment Phil Hogan now wants to punish those who cannot predict the future. On top of all that, there is a massive 10-12 per cent surcharge for paying less frequently than annually.
The annual cost for a typical family with two cars can be several times that of the property tax and is a real burden on those who can least afford it. The 7.5 per cent increase on pre-08 cars was not only a grab for cash, but a cynical ploy to force people to replace their cars. It is time for serious reform; it is time to shift from an ownership model to a usage-based one, with a flat affordable annual charge for all. – Yours, etc,
EOIN O’LOUGHLIN,
Knockieran Lower,
Blessington,
Co Wicklow.
Sir, – Dr Michael Loftus (April 13th) makes some very serious allegations about the drinks industry and employs research from the UK to support his argument in an Irish context.
However, Dr Loftus neglects some critical points that have a huge bearing on this very important topic. First, alcohol consumption among young people is falling, as it is among the general population; second, when it comes to marketing alcohol, Ireland is one of the most tightly regulated systems in the world; and third, industry has called for this system to be put on a statutory footing.
The recent Department of Children and Youth Affairs State of the Nation’s Children report shows that the number of young people stating they have never had an alcoholic drink has increased by 35 per cent in the past eight years. Last week’s UNICEF report found the percentage of young people who reported having been drunk on more than two occasions has fallen in Ireland and in a detailed survey of 29 countries, Ireland is at average levels.
The alcohol industry in Ireland does everything in its power to limit the exposure of those under the legal drinking age to alcohol advertising.
Despite the assertions by Dr Loftus that advertising of alcohol is governed by self-regulation only, the industry must adhere to statutory advertising regulations, such as the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland’s Broadcasting Act 2001.
In addition, the industry is signatory to voluntary codes, which strictly control how, where and when its products are advertised. These codes are among the strictest in the world and are monitored by the Advertising Standards Authority of Ireland and the Alcohol Marketing and Communications Monitoring Board, which includes the Department of Health. As a further layer of compliance, the alcohol industry established Central Copy Clearance Ireland (CCCI) in 2003. Under this initiative alcohol companies must submit any alcohol advertisements appearing on any media format for pre-vetting. Unless an advertisement conforms to the above codes and regulations, and subsequently acquires an approval number from CCCI, no Irish media owner will accept the advertisement.
Dr Loftus refers to “alcohol marketers . . . exploiting the opportunities presented by social media”. This demonstrates a lack of awareness on his part of the controls on volume, content and placement of alcohol marketing on websites as well as social media sites that the industry has implemented. In addition, all alcohol advertising and social media pages use “age targeted technology” to ensure their brands are seen only by those over the legal drinking age.
Acknowledging that it has a key part to play in promoting a responsible attitude to drinking, the industry has proposed a four-point plan to Government to address alcohol misuse, including a Government-backed single code of practice for alcohol marketing, promotion, sponsorship, supply and sale of alcohol; the expansion of a multi-stakeholder programme of consumer education and information campaigns to effect attitudinal and behavioural change, delivered through drinkaware.ie and the introduction of Irish unit information and pregnancy advice labels on pre-packaged alcohol products.
The issue of underage drinking needs attention and should be addressed by all parties in an informed and balanced manner as part of a wide stakeholder response to alcohol misuse in this country. Dr Loftus’s sensational language is wholly unnecessary, employed to garner reaction rather than progress an important issue. – Yours, etc,
KATHRYN D’ARCY,
Director, Alcohol Beverage
Federation of Ireland,
St Stephen’s Green,
Dublin 2.

Irish Independent:

• A little boy on the way to hug his loving dad, having left the warmth of his mother’s side for just seconds, is killed on the streets of Boston.
Also in this section
Violence against women is being ignored
Outside chance of a wee drop
On the same day in Baghdad dozens die in a wave of bombings.
The rest of us are benumbed and outraged in equal measure.
The cold fingers of fear not felt since September 11 press down on us again. We struggle in vain to give motive or reason to such atrocities, they are strikes against humanity. They violate the sanctity of family and undermine liberty.
This attack on the innocent in Boston was a cowardly outrage.
History gives us a procession of innocent victims whose pointless deaths defy all rhyme and reason.
It seems to scream that wherever power is understood as the means of imposing one’s will over another, wanton acts of murderous carnage will continue.
The suicide bomber’s rucksack, the nuclear missile, or the latest stealth bomber, are the iconography of death.
So conflicted and confused has our world become that to others they are the symbols of strength, deliverance and freedom.
The only enduring power in the world is love, as Saint Francis said: “Nothing is as gentle as real strength and nothing is as strong as gentleness.” If we do not have love in our hearts, we will not have stability in our world.
If we could contemplate for a minute on what a miracle each life is, and how precious is every breath, then truly we would give peace a chance.
D Wright
Address with editor
Law unto themselves
• Oh dear, when elephants rumble mice get squashed. M’luds are miffed that the Government would set to actually regulate what we the taxpayer shovel towards the be-wigged ones.
Outrage, constitutional conflict . . . what . . . even the direct intervention of Enda Kenny is sought to avert this from spreading from the benches.
We are informed, gravely, that it amounts to an interference in the separation of powers. Maybe the odd TD or man of influence has the ear of the odd judge, both sides would strenuously deny this of course and remove a rather fat wad from your inference down in the Four Gold Mines.
But to suggest that we have some third-world system here where the State tells the judges what to do is a joke and an insult to the common man.
One judge noted he wanted the emoluments kept away “from the political arms of government”. I don’t. That much abused individual , the taxpayer, shells out for all. My reckoning is that judges are appointed “from the political arms of government”, hence it’s fitting that their rather generous wages should also be within the remit of the political entity which appointed them in the first place. Essentially, what we have here is good old-fashioned trade unionism but its conflict is carried out in the back rooms of the elite.
Hopefully the Government will tell those public servants that they live in a modern world and will be treated equally with the common citizen who currently is undergoing a type of flogging.
John Cuffe
Dunboyne, Meath
Compassion deficit
• I notice that Margaret Thatcher continues to attract criticism in your correspondence columns. This is hardly surprising and I have no problem with that. There are so many examples of wickedness in this vale of tears (the bombs at the Boston marathon being but the latest) that it would take more than your newspaper to compile a list of sinners. But if we are a Christian country surely there is no need for us to usurp the function of an all-seeing, just and merciful God.
I have always approved of Chaucer’s refusal explicitly to assign his tragic hero, Troilus, to his final resting place at the end of ‘Troilus and Criseyde’. In that respect I consider it a superior English humility to the arrogance of his Italian master Dante, who assigns sinners, repentant sinners and saints to their appointed destinies in the Inferno, Purgatorio and Paradiso.
Unlike Chaucer, and possibly like Mrs Thatcher, Dante is a conviction politician. In an age of austerity we have learned not to look for compassion in our political leaders. We need to find a new way to govern ourselves as a matter of urgency before we too inflict unbearable pain on a new generation. Of one thing alone I remain confident.
Hatred will never be that way, as we in Ireland since 1968 know only too well to our great cost.
Gerald Morgan
Trinity College, Dublin
• The funeral of Margaret Thatcher, who was to my mind a tyrant, will be held in St Paul’s Cathedral later today.
When Sir Christopher Wren created St Paul’s, which is undoubtedly a work of art, he provided a whispering gallery under the great dome.
One wonders whose voices will drift down in the coming days . . . could they be those of the 323 sailors who manned the General Belgrano cruiser which she sent to a watery grave in the re-capturing of the Malvinas; or perhaps those of the hunger strikers whom she allowed pass away; or maybe, once more, those plaintive cries of the hungry families of the beaten-down coal miners on whom she turned her back.
The Tories, of course, will bedeck her name with praise, but she certainly was no friend of the Republic of Ireland.
James J Heslin
Corboy, Lucan, Co Dublin
• “There go the people; I must follow them, for I am their leader” is an old quote, attributed to ‘a leader of the French revolution’ (I have never found the original source).
It has, for too long, been the guiding principle of most democratic politicians but Margaret Thatcher led from the front.
This is what galls the lefties.
Cal Hyland
Address with editor
Titantic tale of survival
• Sunday, April 14, 2013, was the 101th anniversary of the RMS Titanic sinking on 14 April 1912. A wreath was laid at her last stop near Roches Point to where tenders from Cobh brought and collected passengers and transatlantic mail.
We saw familiar photos again in the newspapers and I am always struck by one taken by Fr Francis Browne, before he left Titanic at Cobh and little did he know how they would become the most famous of world photo collections.
‘Saving the Titanic’ was a well-made 10-minute documentary-drama, made for her 101th anniversary last year, and shown on RTE to great reviews.
It focused on the chief engineer, his engineers, the electricians, the boiler-men and some firemen, who worked to keep the ship’s electrical lighting on for the passengers to see their way to the lifeboats.
The winches for the lifeboats were also electrically operated. He gave them a chance to leave, but nearly all stayed with him.
If the ship had gone into darkness during that last hour and a half, it would have caused more panic. Survivors said the lights went out minutes before she sank. Few of these men survived.
The actors, I thought, did a great job in showing what they went through.
The absolute miracle survivor was the Titanic’s chief baker. He drank a lot of alcohol before being swept into the sea but didn’t make it into a lifeboat.
He was the only one to survive in the freezing seas for hours until his rescue by the Carpathia.
The large amount of alcohol warmed and numbed him from the icy cold.
One of the few times that a man deliberately got drunk and it saved his life!
M Sullivan
College Road, Cork

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