Warm 21th April 2013

I trot round the park today and listen to the Navy lark. I Oh dear, oh dear
Pertwee is in trouble again, Troutbridge has been sent off to investigate a ghost ship and Pertwee isn’t happy. He doesn’t want to be haunted. He has tried the “Twinging Screws” and “his deal old white haired mother being stuck in a very unfortunate place” nut he is still on board with his life jacket on and holding two distress rockets in his hands. Priceless.
I go out and sweep the paths and pick up the leaves the first warm day of the year it can’t last!
Upstairs Downstairs: ruby finds a man and turns him down
I win at Scrabble today and get just under 400, Mary might get her revenge tomorrow, I hope.


Lieutenant Bill Partridge
Lieutenant Bill Partridge, who has died aged 96, won a Military Medal in Normandy in 1944 .

Lt Bill Partridge 
6:31PM BST 18 Apr 2013
Partridge was serving with the 4th Somerset Light Infantry, part of 43rd (Wessex) Division, when it landed at Arromanches on June 20 1944. Casualties were severe: more men were lost in the first five weeks than in the ensuing nine months, and Partridge’s battalion lost three commanding officers in a fortnight.
On July 30 Partridge was ordered to command 17 Platoon for an attack on the village of Briquessard, which had to be taken to facilitate the advance on Mont Pincon .
With 17 Platoon leading, the stoutly defended village was captured — but at great cost in the face of small arms and grenade fire as well as anti-personnel mines. Partridge was recommended for an immediate MM — it had already been decided to commission him in the field, but this had not yet been made official.
Before this battle, Partridge was already seen as a stalwart, having been at Hill 110, seen by some as a “second Verdun”. Ever modest, however, Partridge always maintained that he won his MM because “I was next in the queue”.
William John Partridge was born at his family’s farm at East Luccombe in Somerset on February 8 1916. Because he was a sickly newborn he was quickly baptised, and he would later suffer from TB and require special schooling.
Although unfit for the Army, the absence of any medical documents demonstrating this enabled him to declare himself “A1” and enlist, in September 1939, in 5th (TA) Battalion, Somerset Light Infantry, with which he moved to the Folkestone area for the possible defence of the homeland.
Four weeks after the capture of Briquessard, Partridge (still officially a platoon sergeant) crossed the Seine on the approach to the village of Vernonnet, and was seriously wounded by a burst of fire from the upper-floor window of a terraced house. He was evacuated to England, and it was while recuperating at home that he learnt he had been commissioned in the field — the Battalion Orders had not appeared until the day he was wounded.
Following convalescence, Partridge served as an instructor at the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry Teaching Unit in Norfolk until the end of the war. He then returned to the family farm on Exmoor.
Despite his farming duties and recurring ill health, Partridge was active in village life — in amateur dramatics, the National Farmers’ Union and the Rotary Club. A committed Christian, he helped to establish the annual visit to his church — which continues to this day — of the St Albans Cathedral Choir.
Bill Partridge’s wife, Gwendoline, to whom he was married for 62 years, died in 2006, and he is survived by two sons and two daughters.
Bill Partridge, born February 8 1916, died January 5 2013


You applaud James Crosby’s “conscience” in offering to surrender his knighthood and forgo a sliver of his enormous pension (“Let us applaud HBOS’s Crosby – for having a conscience”, Business).
But the “public catharsis” of which you speak in the wake of the HBOS collapse ought to include much more than a bar on him and his fellow reckless directors being company directors for what they inflicted on their shareholders and, above all, the British taxpayer. They ought to be made answerable in damages, as they could be if the government sued them for the tort of misfeasance or breach of fiduciary duty, to seek to recover what it can of the £20bn we paid to prop up the bank.
Even if the claim failed, there would be considerable publicity for such an action and pressure for legislative change to ensure bankers don’t get off in future. And Crosby might just permit his conscience to stretch to contribute to the reimbursement of those who have lost out, mimicked also by Andy Hornby and Lord Stevenson.
Benedict Birnberg
London SE3
Rights and wrongs of welfare
In the current debate about the contributory principle in welfare, one side seems to say that you should only get out what you put in. What would be the point of that, except to support a totally private system? In his admirable letter (The Big Issue), Michael Somerton highlights his good fortune in not needing unemployment or disability benefit, notwithstanding his contributions. What you take out depends on circumstances, not on what you’ve put in, assuming only that you’ve put something in. I’ve paid out more in car insurance than I’ve ever got back, because I’ve been lucky enough not to damage either a vehicle or, worse, a person seriously. Others have paid in less and got out more. Isn’t this what insurance is supposed to be like, and national insurance no less so?
John Filby
Media role in measles cases
Catherine Bennett appears to blame the medical profession in general and the NHS in particular for not giving her clearer advice on the MMR inoculations (“We’ve seen sense on measles, but we’re not yet rid of quacks”, Comment). This was not the case. In 2000, when Dr Wakefield’s research cast doubt in many people’s minds, the NHS was very clear in its advice. The MMR jabs are perfectly safe and any link with the development of autism is totally spurious.
The reason that Catherine may have had any doubts over the safety of the MMR jabs was probably due to the wide publicity given to Wakefield’s research by newspapers. More than 3,000 articles appeared in the British press around the period, most of which cast doubt on the safety of MMR. The regional and local press in South Wales was especially active on the issue, which is why we have the current outbreak of measles in that area.
Dr Jeremy Swinson
The fallacies of GM crops
The food experts cited in John Vidal’s piece (“Millions face starvation as world warms, say scientists”, News) confirm the conclusions of the International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD) in 2008.
The IAASTD’s recommendations, based on the work of 400 scientists from all over the world, have been largely ignored and the shift towards an agro-ecological approach based on smallholder structures and more localised food systems is still not being seriously considered. The promises of GM crops have long been shown to be empty.
Today, we are producing around 4,600 calories per head a day globally – enough to nourish the nine billion expected to inhabit our planet by 2050. But production and consumption patterns and distribution systems have to change and the food system should no longer be open to speculation and patent rights that enrich the few while almost one billion people are starving.
Instead, we should invest much more money in researching and disseminating knowledge of the much more promising agro-ecological approach to meet the challenges ahead.
Hans R Herren
Laureate of the World Food Prize and co-chair of IAASTD, president of Biovision Foundation, Zurich
Move over, Darwin
One of the key aims of the 2014 national curriculum proposals is for our children to learn historical facts in chronological order. Topics such as “Victorians” will no longer be taught in primary schools and children in key stage 2 will not be taught history beyond the end of the reign of the Stuarts.
Unfortunately, no one appears to have communicated this information to the authors of the primary science curriculum. The science consultation document suggests that children should learn about paleontologists such as Mary Anning (1799-1847) and the work of Charles Darwin (1809-1882).
Perhaps Mr Gove should drop his concerns about issues such as joined-up handwriting and focus on the failings in joined-up thinking within the Department for Education.
Ian Roberts
East Sussex

Michael Portillo’s loyal review of Margaret Thatcher’s premiership is seen through rose-tinted spectacles, whereas Will Hutton’s assessment is formed through spectacles that are opaque. The truth of the former premier’s role must lie somewhere in between. (Portillo – “Britain had to change, Margaret Thatcher had the courage to make it happen”, special supplement; Hutton – “If her revolution had truly saved us, why is Britain in such a mess today?”, Comment).
Clearly, Hutton asks the wrong question; perhaps it should be addressed to those who followed her. The 1970s were horrendous, as I know to my cost as secretary of a Nalgo branch of the electricity supply industry. Without doubt, political leadership was missing and the shopkeeper’s daughter from Grantham came to the rescue.
The statistics on how Britain changed under Margaret Thatcher indicate some positives: interest rates, inflation and strikes down; GDP and growth maintained – and all continued by successor governments. The negatives that have continued to this day are growth in inequality and poverty.
Tom Jackson
Thatcherism didn’t get everything right economically. It created disparities. It didn’t revitalise the domestic economy quite like it seemed to have promised. It didn’t bring back the dying industries or manufacturing to the British Isles as once had been.
Thatcherism was also adopted internationally, creating fierce competition for Britain’s domestic industries. Thus, the jobs that were once British were now being done in cheaper locales. So the failure of Thatcherism domestically is due to its successes abroad and the competition it created for itself in places such as China and India.
David Airth
Your excellent and balanced analysis of Mrs Thatcher’s career rather skated over her equivocal involvement in the Falklands conflict. Not many people remember that preliminary to the Argentinian invasion our government announced the intention to withdraw from the South Atlantic the last remaining Royal Navy ship in the region, HMS Endurance. This gave a signal to the Argentinian government that Britain was no longer interested in retaining a naval presence there; and a signal to the British public that our government was more interested in saving money than in providing protection and reassurance to the Falkland islanders, in the face of increasing Argentinian militancy. On the day following the invasion there was a special session of Parliament to discuss it. My recollection of its live broadcast was that for the first two hours every member who spoke expressed outrage and a demand for a robust response from Britain.
David Hunt
West Wickham, Kent
Given the pages devoted to Margaret Thatcher’s legacy, it was surprising that the impact of North Sea oil and gas revenues was not mentioned. Without this, her economic policies would have required yet another IMF bailout. These revenues peaked at £11bn in 1984-85 or 3.3% of the United Kingdom’s entire GDP and 6.9% of government spending, from which the Conservatives paid for the mass unemployment they had created, trashing vast swaths of British industry rather than investing in modernisation and badly needed infrastructure. Adjusted for inflation during her term of office, in total these revenues amounted to £160bn compared to roughly £20bn for the poll tax.
David Nowell
New Barnet, Herts
While I had no time for Margaret Thatcher, I am very surprised that her one laudable achievement has not been mentioned prominently, or at all – the signing of the agreement with the French government of François Mitterrand, in January 1986, that led to the building of the Channel tunnel.
Dave Massey


I am concerned that your article “As a man, it’s very difficult to say I’ve been beaten up” (14 April), provided a distorted view of domestic violence. Research shows that the vast majority of domestic violence is perpetrated by men against women. The Crime Survey for England and Wales 2011-12, which indicated that more married men than married women reported experiencing partner abuse in the past year, also found that women made up a much higher percentage of victims across all relationship categories… single, cohabiting, separated or divorced.
Women’s violence towards male perpetrators is frequently defensive or retaliatory. The survey found that female victims of homicide were more likely than male victims to have been killed by a partner or ex-partner. All domestic violence is abhorrent, but we must show the whole picture if we are to have any hope of bringing this crime to an end.
Sandra Horley CBE
Chief executive, Refuge
Possibly one in six men (rather than one in three) experience violence from a partner at least once. This tends to be different from violence against women and many male victims are in same-sex relationships. Male victims also experience different challenges in accessing services, as shown by Dave, the man who bravely agreed to be interviewed for your piece. We work with the organisation Respect, which runs a men’s advice line for male victims of domestic violence, and our online database lists services for men.
Domestic violence is characterised by an ongoing pattern of abusive behaviour, and women constitute 89 per cent of all victims who experience four or more incidents. Most such violence is a result of an abuse of power and control, which is rooted in the historical status of women in the family and in society.
Polly Neate
Chief Executive, Women’s Aid
Rose Prince raises important points about our approach to food (“Poverty food is the diet of choice…”, 14 April). Can you imagine how a Cuban would react to British middle-class foodies conned into paying £4 for an “artisanal” loaf of bread, thinking it brings them closer to the simple life?
Miranda Wright
London W12
That much of the council housing sold off by Margaret Thatcher ended up in the hands of private landlords or property companies illustrates a theme of her legacy (i on Sunday, 14 April). As with the sell-off of various national assets, she believed she was creating a nation of shareholders, but individual investors amount to only 11.5 per cent of UK shares now; in the mid-1970s it was 37.5 per cent. She alone is not responsible for the concentration of wealth at the top of society – her successors have supported this process – but the Britain I grew up in the 1960s and 70s was one of the more equal societies in Western Europe. Today it is the most unequal. With the slashing of Legal Aid, even equal representation before the law is at risk.
Alan J Fisher
Finstock, Oxfordshire
The UK’s chief scientist says we should let GM crops grow here; supermarkets abandon a pledge to sell chicken fed a GM-free diet; and this Friday the US food and drug administration’s public consultation over a GM fish ends. The AquAdvantage Salmon is an Atlantic salmon with a growth gene from the Chinook salmon, plus a “switch” from the eel-like ocean pout, to make it grow twice as fast. If the FDA approves the supersalmon, will it be fed GM food? How long before the law of unintended consequences raises its mutated head?
Pippa Driver
London E17
Janet Street-Porter makes a strong case for the manufacturers of pop music being good business men – or is it the other way round (14 April)? I prefer music made and performed by musicians. Since 1997, Chumbawamba, as Boff Whalley implied, did indeed go through a range of varying but interesting musical styles. In 10 or 20 years, Psy and his successors will still attract millions of hits on YouTube by generating instant crazes. But some of us will still be listening to Chumbawamba’s near sublime album The Boy Bands Have Won. I suppose that title does say it all.
Philip Brindle


Iron Lady was capable of the common touch
YOUR balanced leader on Margaret Thatcher’s achievements might also have touched on the polarity of her public and private personae (“The woman who turned the tide”, Editorial, last week). My wife and I accompanied her when she came to Valencia to address a business audience.
Her public image made me wary of the assignment but we were disarmed by her friendliness and her interest in our very ordinary lives. This kindness at the personal level was difficult to reconcile with the lack of compassion she showed, for example, to mining families.
But she cannot be held responsible for the miners’ strike — it was Arthur Scargill who kept them on strike for almost a year without allowing them a vote. Whichever way you look at it, Thatcher was a remarkable woman and the vulgar few who celebrate her death say more about themselves than about her.
Patrick Campbell, Alicante, Spain
Conduct unbecoming
As an American looking in at the so-called death parties going on in Britain, I — along with the rest of the world — am appalled. When a leader of one’s country dies, regardless of your political views, that leader and their family ought to be treated with the dignity and respect afforded to the office they achieved. When Ronald Reagan died, our whole country — Republican and Democrat — mourned a leader. To ignore the feelings of Thatcher’s family is mean-spirited.
Shannon Carpenter, Gilbert, Arizona, USA
Triumph of the will
Street celebrations and the playing of the song Ding Dong! The Witch Is Dead are in grotesquely bad taste (“Nailing the lies about Maggie’s industrial revolution”, Dominic Lawson, last week). But one can imagine the lady herself watching those responses with some satisfaction. They are a testament to the rigour with which she had imposed her will and enforced what she regarded as necessary choices.
There was no place in her Britain for namby-pamby consensus politics. She fought an enemy abroad and, to use her own phrase, within. Whether that approach was right or wrong is another matter, but its essential feature — a nation still divided — surely makes her an inappropriate recipient for a grandiose public funeral.
Raymond Powell, Tetbury, Gloucestershire
Not in the same league
Despite my personal antipathy towards Thatcher, I was sad to hear of her death and sorrowful that her declining years were blighted by dementia. However, I am very unhappy that she was accorded the honour of a ceremonial funeral. I do not consider her to be in the same league as Sir Winston Churchill. My view is that this is a party political stunt by the Conservatives and they should bear the cost, not the taxpayer.
JK Anthony, Cardiff, South Glamorgan
Follow the leader
I am old enough to remember retired miners in the 1960s who didn’t have a good word to say about Churchill, in spite of his war record. This intense dislike, bordering on hatred, was probably down to stories of what Churchill supposedly did, or wrote, in the strikes of 1910 and 1926, and kept alive by folk memory.
But when Churchill died, I do not recall anything other than respectful silence from these old men, and I do not remember journalists writing that he was a divisive figure, though he had polarised opinions in the coalfields.
John Anslow, Preston, Lancashire

Sad picture
We now know that Thatcher’s last moments were spent struggling to understand a child’s picture book (“Look who’s grabbed the baton of conviction politics”, Comment, last week). I hope people are kinder to Adam Boulton when the time comes.
Carol Forshaw, Bolton, Greater Manchester
Fighting spirit
In last week’s commemorative magazine Margaret Thatcher 1925-2013, Sir Bernard Ingham says he still can’t understand why the Iron Lady didn’t battle for survival (“Why didn’t the tigress fight?”). The answer is simple. She was ready to until she followed John Wakeham’s advice and saw her cabinet colleagues one by one, instead of gathering them together so the arguments for and against her fighting could have been thrashed out collectively. She was brought down by her insistence on going it alone.
George Jones, Emeritus Professor of Government, London School of Economics

No saint
If you were trying to compare Thatcher to Joan of Arc with the cover picture of your commemorative supplement last week, you got it wrong. St Joan attempted to represent all the people of France whereas Thatcher certainly did not attempt to represent all of the United Kingdom.
Many in Scotland well remember the havoc her policies caused. Now taxpayers have to foot a bill of £10m for her funeral at a time when many are struggling to make ends meet.
The government’s policies on welfare reform will result in people losing hundreds of pounds each month, yet little or nothing is being done to curb the excesses of bankers and tax dodgers who have largely contributed to the mess this country is in.
Joe MacEachen, Coatbridge, Lanarkshire
Casualties of war
On October 28, 1998 I attended the laying of a wreath by Carlos Menem, then president of Argentina, at the Falklands War memorial in St Paul’s Cathedral. After the ceremony, an Argentine navy captain in uniform came up to me and said, “You were right to sink the Belgrano.”
“I didn’t,” I replied. “Well, you know what I mean,” he said, adding: “We would have done the same. I was the gunnery officer of the Belgrano. My captain objects to being portrayed as the helpless victim of a war crime. We were sailors doing our duty.”
Julian Thompson, Major General, London SW6
Lady luck
Above all else, Thatcher was an extremely lucky politician. First of all, Jim Callaghan postponed an autumn election he probably would have won. Then along came President Leopoldo Galtieri, newly elected and wanting to get his hands on the Falklands. Against American advice, and in spite of the huge risks of sending our forces 3,000 miles to recapture the islands, she steamed ahead and succeeded.
In 1984 along came another helping hand — Scargill could not have played into her hands more readily and completely. With government contingency plans in place, including high coal stocks, transport arrangements and less dependence on coal-fired power stations, he decided to call a strike without a ballot early in the spring of 1984 (the worst possible timing, with a long summer ahead). If we didn’t know differently, it would be almost possible to imagine Scargill was a closet Tory and Maggie’s secret ally.
Without Callaghan, Galtieri and Scargill, Thatcher would not have been the prime minister she became. All this, without even mentioning the windfall of North Sea oil.
Bob Barrow, Guisborough, Cleveland
Sibling dynamics key to understanding anorexia
ANOREXIA presents an enormous challenge (“Fatal cunning of an anorexic beauty”, News, April 7). I was particularly struck that Ilona Burton says her illness was in part attributed to the pressures “of having two successful sisters”, and it is also mentioned that Georgia Willson-Pemberton had an older brother “who reportedly attended a prestigious cookery school with Pippa Middleton”.
It is, I believe, crucial to consider the importance of the sibling dynamic within eating disorder conditions. The most famous case where this was a central factor was in relation to the singer Karen Carpenter of the Carpenters, whose sibling Richard was the revered older brother within the family.
In my recently published book I have a chapter on an anorexic patient highlighting this issue, and I stress that without taking into account the family dynamics, and particularly sibling relations, we are failing in our duty to help so many of these women (predominantly) who continue to struggle to find a solution to psychological and emotional conflicts through their body — sometimes with a fatal conclusion.
Peter Aylward, London SE9
Sting in the tale of bee pesticides
BEES and other wild pollinators are responsible for pollinating more than two-fifths of our food crop species, but in recent years there has been a dramatic collapse in the population of these essential insects. There is growing scientific evidence that a new class of widely used insecticides called neonicotinoids is deadly to bees.
To date, the UK government has refused to act while our bees disappear, and it continues to do so, despite a cross-party group of MPs calling for a ban on the use of neonicotinoids on crops attractive to bees. The MPs concluded that neonicotinoid pesticides are not fundamental to the general economic or agricultural viability of UK farming, and called on the government to do more to support pollinators.
Owen Paterson, the environment secretary, has a chance to stop this tragedy, when European Union member states vote on a proposal to restrict these bee-killing pesticides at the end of the month.
The UK must show leadership, vote in favour of this measure and give bees a chance.
Katharine Hamnett, Fashion designer; Keith Tyrell, Pesticide Action Network; Tony Juniper, Environmental writer; Vivienne Westwood, Fashion designer; Monty Don, Gardeners’ World; Ben Goldsmith, Financier and environmentalist; Philip Treacy, Milliner; Elizabeth Hurley, Model and actress; Peter Melchett, Soil Association; Lily Cole, Model and actress; Liz Earle, Natural beauty entrepreneur; Steve Benbow, Beekeeper; Alexander Armstrong, Comedian; Steve Trent; Kate Hudson; Pat Arrowsmith; Bruce Kent; Francesca Gavin; Roger Lloyd Pack; Alys Fowler; Ben Goldsmith; Robert Montgomery; Melissa Hemsley; Jasmine Hemsley; Andrew Burgin; Savannah Miller
Environmental education for all
CLIMATE change is the biggest challenge we face as a nation (“Attenborough attacks climate lessons reform”, News, and “Nature vital to schools”, Letters, last week). Future generations will need the knowledge and the skills to build innovative solutions to survive future shocks, extreme weather events and resource depletion.
Children will also need the skills to meet the goal of building a world-leading, carbon- neutral economy — and an economy that exploits the economic growth and development opportunities that are available through commercialising the excellent UK research and development base in climate change technologies. But how can future generations of scientists and business leaders begin to tackle these challenges if climate change is removed from the school curriculum for under 14-year-olds?
One of the ways in which the public will know if this government is committed to acting on climate change is whether ministers are prepared to live up to the “greenest government ever” claim and are prepared to put the environment at the heart of our children’s education. If Michael Gove puts a brake on such learning, it will be evident that this commitment is lacking.
Nick Reeves, Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management
Professor William Pope, Institution of Environmental Sciences
Sally Hayns, Chartered Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management
Dr Peter Spillett, Institute of Fisheries Management
Martin Baxter, Institute of Environmental Management and Assessment


SIR – The “eating out” public were first conned by the invention of expensive nouvelle cuisine. That trait has sadly been joined by raw meat. Rare beef can be delicious, but rare pork, lamb, venison, game birds and tuna to name but a few are not only revolting but can harbour disease.
It is high time chefs started producing good, honest, well-cooked food.
Richard Waldron
Woolavington, Somerset
SIR – As I tell dining companions, “God would not have allowed man to discover fire if he intended them to eat raw meat.”
Peter Warby
Enfield, Middlesex
SIR – Fanny Cradock famously declared that there are only three ways of cooking steak – rare, medium and spoiled.
Stephen Ladd
Timsbury, Somerset
SIR – Isn’t it time for Michael Gove, the Education Secretary, to take a leaf out of Baroness Thatcher’s book and take on the teaching unions (report, April 19)?
Of the 438,000 teachers employed by the state, 324,000 are members of the National Union of Teachers. Some 93 per cent of children are state educated. Many are held back from achieving their true potential by a comprehensive education system that has so obviously failed them.
Much-needed reforms that are brought forward by the Government are nearly always viciously opposed by the powerful unions, and most of the time ministers play teacher’s pet and sit in the corner to avoid a dispute.
Mr Gove should use the Government’s cane to put the teaching unions in their place and break their near monopoly over the education system. He must write the final chapter for the union movement that has held back the country for too long.
James A Paton
Billericay, Essex
Related Articles
One man’s rare is another man’s raw
20 Apr 2013
SIR – Since independent schools have shorter terms than state schools, and easily outperform them, it seems doubtful that longer terms would prove to be the answer to Britain’s poor educational performance.
I do not think there can be any improvement until we do away with the insane, knowledge-averse teaching philosophies that have permeated teacher-training colleges since the Sixties.
Anthony Whitehead
SIR – What a terrible example for our children if teachers go on strike. If they wish to strike, then why don’t they strike during their over-long summer holidays?
John Purchase
Wimborne, Dorset
SIR – While supporting his proposals, I do hope that Mr Gove will compensate teachers appropriately for losing their long school holidays and evenings.
He should also consider the extra traffic congestion caused by shorter holidays, and its cost to the economy.
Rabbi Zvi Solomons
Reading, Berkshire
SIR – With the threat of strikes by teachers’ unions, David Cameron and Michael Gove ought to have a joint Ronald Reagan air traffic controllers moment.
Let the teachers go on strike and at the same time issue them with their P45s – they may then reapply for their jobs under a different contract of employment.
Henceforth they would be required to work the normal 37-hour week and have the same annual leave and bank holidays as those endured by the rest of the British workforce. They would be required to perform all reasonable work-related tasks allocated by their superiors – supervising school meal times and play times, for example, and running activities during holidays for children with working parents.
Mick Richards
Llanfair Waterdine, Shropshire
Mrs Thatcher’s heart
SIR – Some of your readers may recall the attack on my vicarage at Ealing in 1986, when one of my twin daughters was raped and I was beaten over the head with my cricket bat.
Next day I received a sympathetic letter from Margaret Thatcher, then prime minister, and, a few days later, an invitation to Downing Street. She could hardly have been more supportive of me and my family.
Before her resignation in 1990, she wrote offering me, on behalf of the Queen, a canonry at St Paul’s, which I held for 10 years up to my retirement. Naturally, I had hoped it might be possible to be present at the cathedral to share in the appreciation of her role as prime minister, and I was delighted to receive an official invitation.
I can only say to people who have attacked Margaret Thatcher that there are those such as myself who have immensely welcomed her kindness to a family who had been quite unknown to her.
Canon Michael Saward
Bromley, Kent
A better Civil Service
SIR – Sir Jeremy Heywood and Sir Bob Kerslake’s article on Margaret Thatcher and the Civil Service (Commentary, April 15) is a valuable reminder of the parallels between the Eighties and today on Civil Service reform. But it is important that current reformers do not oversimplify how changes in the Civil Service were achieved.
The Eighties efficiency scrutinies under Derek Rayner were certainly eye-catching, but their failure to improve Whitehall management sufficiently was itself a major reason behind the 1987 “Next Steps” reforms creating executive agencies.
And then, as now, there were mixed views about the manner of Margaret Thatcher’s approach to the Civil Service.
Her government stood strong in the face of a 21-week Civil Service strike and closed down the Civil Service Department, forcing the departure of the head of the Civil Service in 1981. For many this was a step too far, but for others, including younger civil servants, it was a necessary shake-up.
One valuable lesson for leaders today is that Margaret Thatcher understood that Civil Service reform needed her continued and personal commitment. Civil Service reform was not a sideline to the vision she had for Britain, it was at the heart of how she wanted to achieve it.
Dr Catherine Haddon
Resident historian
Institute for Government
London SW1
Marathon calculation
SIR – Now that the London Marathon is upon us, can we get rid of the estimate of up to a million people spectating?
If you allow 2ft as the width of a person, and if people stand shoulder to shoulder, you get 2,640 to the mile. Multiply that by 26 (the length of the race) and you arrive at 68,640 people.
If people stood seven deep on both sides of the road for the whole route, the total would be 960,960, still short of a million.
On television, pictures show stretches where there is hardly one man and his dog, let alone people seven deep.
Maybe the capacity of Wembley Stadium would be nearer the true number.
John Gebbels
London SW18
St George hijacked
SIR – Can anyone suggest an emblem to wear for St George’s Day now that the red rose is a symbol of the Labour Party?
Amanda Howard
Enfield, Middlesex
Loving smacks
SIR – When will opponents of smacking (report, April 19) understand that smacking and hitting are two totally different things?
The confusion leads to the introduction of references to “violence” and “hypocrisy”, which have nothing to do with the practice of smacking as a controlled form of negative reinforcement, administered as part of a loving and disciplined upbringing.
Hazel Sewell
Preston, Lancashire
SIR – If smacking is “OK if the child feels loved”, are we not in danger of harbouring a nation of masochists (children) and sadists (parents)?
Bruce Denness
Whitwell, Isle of Wight
Measles blame
SIR – The measles outbreak will be blamed on parents not having children vaccinated.
The real culprits are the officials and doctors who refused to let parents have separate vaccinations, despite their real fears about the combined MMR vaccine. I cannot be the only person that heard the mother of an autistic boy on the radio say her son was bright and normal until he had the triple vaccine – although it was probably just a coincidence.
Andrew J Rixon
Implanted Ed
SIR – Ed Miliband has been called “Titanium Ed” (Letters, April 19). Titanium is used in dental implants. If they are allowed to integrate they can be very difficult to get out.
Robert Hensher
London W1
Village barrel-scraping
SIR – Any historical inaccuracies in The Village (Letters, April 19) have surely been trounced by the latest episode, involving the improbable sentencing of the schoolmaster, read out by a military policeman at his school, to be shot for being a conscientious objector.
To my knowledge no such event could have taken place. It is a sensitive subject even today. The impression here is of barrel-scraping to give a lacklustre story-line some edge.
Carole Taylor
Lymington, Hampshire
UN tactics ensured army power in North Korea
SIR – Panorama (Letters, April 19) showed us a belligerent North Korea still controlled by a vast army – the direct result of General MacArthur’s disastrous decision, 63 years ago, to continue the war against the well-reasoned advice of his own staff.
In 1950 I accompanied our commander-in-chief on a mission to Tokyo. While MacArthur was saying to him, “There is no doubt about it, the Chinese will not come in”, his own staff next door were saying to me, “On the Yalu river there are three power stations, all on the Korean side, but two thirds of their power goes to Manchuria. If we go up there the Chinese will be forced to come in, as they can’t afford to have the Americans in control of their power supply.”
If the UN had stopped then, it would not only have avoided two years of war, but the communist government, although still in power, would have been discredited as an aggressor. The army would not have had the power it has wielded ever since.
Lord Digby
Dorchester, Dorset
SIR – In the late Seventies I worked for a travel company that organised trips to many communist countries. Undercover journalists and BBC reporters were often among the groups travelling. On one train trip to the Soviet Union a CIA man kept the copious notes he was always writing strapped to his elastic sock-suspenders.
Not once was there a problem.
Valerie Scriven
London W6

Irish Times:

Irish Independent:

Since the time of Caesar, the value of sport and the spell of the amphitheatre have been celebrated. Athletes could reach up and touch the hem of the gods through their heroics.
I confess that I became as addicted to the opium of professional sport as the next guy. The arrival of cable TV and near-24/7 availability fed my habit and for a while I was on an all-time high.
With all that coverage and attention come advertising and sponsorship and the professional era has made phenomenal demands on players.
Just like in Nero’s day, there is only the quick and the dead.
This week I listened to one of the country’s outstanding coaches decry the lack of further investigation into the incident involving Munster captain Paul O’Connell and the unfortunate David Kearney of Leinster.
O’Connell was found to have no case to answer. But Joel Schmidt was upset, having seen one of his players concussed in what looked like a very ugly incident.
A few months earlier, Brian O’Driscoll was cited and banned for what, in my opinion, looked like a far less serious matter.
The Munster captain may be blameless. It is still worth noticing on a broader level that if one does not adhere to the respect demanded for the safety of opponents, and take responsibility for it, then one is risking the whole ethos of sport.
O’Connell is an admiral ambassador for rugby. Neutral observers of the game will wonder how the pursuit of the ball could become paramount over the protection of a prostrate player.
If the rules of rugby do not make this responsibility abundantly clear, they need to be amended.
I would wish to remind all those who don a rugby shirt that one “plays” sport. Should it transverse the bounds of self-control, it stops being a game.
Someone once said that “pro football is like nuclear warfare. There are no winners, only survivors.”
But would it not be a sad day for sport were its code to be informed by the same conventions as mutually assured destruction?
E Toal
Rathgar, Co Dublin

• I am not a cosmologist, nor a quantum physicist but I was shocked by the letter from Liam Power in the Irish Independent on April 18.
Mr Power wrote that religiously inspired creation myths are more plausible than scientific explanations of how the universe came into being. He makes his argument by listing some occurrences that science has yet to account for.
While it is true that fundamental questions regarding the creation of the universe remain unanswered, it is ridiculous to suggest we all should abandon our quest for knowledge and accept that we are unable to do any better than our desert-dwelling ancestors who asserted that a deity made the universe in six days.
To claim scientific theories are less plausible than creation myths because they do not provide all the answers is an insult to those who devoted their lives to increasing our understanding of the world we live in.
Daragh Mangan
Beaufield, Carrigrue, Co Waterford
What utter moron proposed the compulsory setting aside of 15pc for pensions?
If you force 15pc of people’s wages to go in to an account they can’t touch, you are taking 15pc of their money away. This will cause a brain drain of hard working professionals, who are just about surviving. You will be left with social welfare dependents and hyper-rich people.
Do we pay politicians to come up with ridiculous ideas like this? Can we get our money back from them? Can we at least fire them for


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