Jewish paintings

Jewish Paintings 24th April 2013

I trot round the park today and listen to the Navy lark. I Oh dear, oh dear
Troutbridge is taking Sir Willowby Tod-Hunter Brown and wife off to Lacosta. Due to a mix up Pertwee is suspected of mutiny! But its only a competition he has entered and all is well in the end. Priceless.
We go out and go to an exhbition of Jewish paintings at the University not too bad but a long walk back to the car.
Upstairs Downstairs: Georgiana goes into the films and Frederick leaves
I win at Scrabble today and get just under 400, Mary might get her revenge tomorrow, I hope.


Jocasta Innes
Jocasta Innes, who has died aged 78, was the author of some 60 books in which she set out to prove that it is possible to live elegantly on a shoestring.

Jocasta Innes in her home in Spitalfields Photo: GRAHAM JEPSON/WRITERPICTURES
6:04PM BST 23 Apr 2013
In the 1980s she launched a minor revolution in DIY with her book Paint Magic (1981), which had the yuppie generation, with varying degrees of skill, stippling, sponging, stencilling, scumbling, rag-rolling and distressing every conceivable surface of their homes, using techniques which, until then, had been the protected province of high-end interior decorators.
“It is not mandatory to be a millionaire with teams of specialist painters at your command to enjoy such painted spectaculars,” Jocasta Innes explained. “An adventurous deployment of painted effects and finishes is the cheapest, most effective solution to decorating problems given that the ideal solution is usually too expensive to carry out.”
The book sold more than a million copies around the world. She went on to produce many more in a similar vein and opened Paint Magic shops selling her paints and materials, first in Richmond and later in West Sussex, San Francisco, Singapore and Belfast. Jocasta Innes was once described as having done for home decoration what Delia Smith did for cooking, which might have been true had Innes not also produced several popular cookery books.
Her Pauper’s Cookbook, first published in 1970, aimed to help the indigent produce “good home food at Joe’s Café prices”. As befitted the times, the book was divided into sections labelled, uncompromisingly, “Padding”, “Fast Work”, “Dieting on the Cheap” and “Fancy Work”. Her approach was one of down-to earth unflappability and a willingness to improvise.
As well as recipes for curried onion soup (ingredients: lentils, turnips and curry powder), kedgeree and minestrone, Jocasta Innes gave her pauper useful advice on managing the weekly food budget, comparing prices in shops and choosing cheaper cuts such as brains and oxtails. “Don’t be cowardly about trying something new, old or unprepossessing-looking,” she wrote. In an updated version of the book published in 2009, she recalled that in the 1970s it sometimes seemed that an entire student generation was living on her onion, bacon and potato hotpot.
Lithe and bohemian, with a taste for brightly coloured clothes offset by bangles and beads, Jocasta Innes claimed to have made and tried everything she described in her books. Yet she had not always been a domestic goddess. “I was a slut until I had a first baby,” she once admitted. “Before that I was a kind of party girl.”
Jocasta Innes was born on May 21 1934 in Nanking, China, where her father was an executive with Shell Oil. She described her mother, who came from a once-wealthy Irish-Argentine family, as “an action woman” who would do almost anything rather than housework. As a result Jocasta grew up, by her own account, in blissful ignorance of the domestic arts.
As her father moved with his job, Jocasta and her three siblings were shuttled from Asia to Australia, to Africa and America. In 1949 she was sent to board at Bedford High School, from where she won an exhibition to Girton College, Cambridge, to read Modern Languages.
Though she had a somewhat meagre allowance of £5 a week, it hardly mattered as there was no shortage of admirers offering to take her out. Mark Boxer, the cartoonist, would rave about her as one of the Cambridge beauties of his undergraduate days.
After graduation Jocasta landed a job as a journalist on the Evening Standard’s Londoner’s Diary and soon married Richard Goodwin, the film director, with whom she had a daughter, the television producer and writer Daisy Goodwin. She also had a son by the New Age writer John Michell, whom her husband adopted and who, as Jason Goodwin, became a writer and historian. In a troubling memoir of her childhood, Daisy Goodwin revealed her mother as being a very different woman from that implied by her books.
When Daisy was five her mother left her father for Joe Potts, a struggling Newcastle novelist six years her junior, whom she later married: “Always a trend-spotter, my mother had found a man who summed up the late Sixties: young, working-class, dirty, rude and sexy. She found him irresistible and promptly left her marriage and two small children — I was five and my brother three — to live with him in a bedsit in Dorset.”
Richard Goodwin was given custody of the children and later remarried. Daisy recalled how her mother “used to laugh when I turned up at her house wearing the frumpy kilt and tan Clarks sandals that my stepmother thought were ‘suitable’.” Christmas Days were mostly spent on the road between Newcastle and Dorset, where “my brother and I would scuff up our new Christmas jumpers from my father and his wife so that my mum wouldn’t make fun of them”. While her father and stepmother set great store on her doing well at school, “my mother could never remember what subjects I was taking”. It was only when she had a child herself, Daisy Goodwin wrote, that she “realised exactly” what her mother had done — “which was to put her own happiness before her child’s”.
The Pauper’s Cookbook was born during the period when Jocasta Innes and Potts (with whom she had two more daughters) were living in bohemian penury in Swanage on £20 a week. “I wanted to know how to cook, how to clean,” Jocasta Innes recalled. “I never thought of it as drudgery or a lowering activity; I rather enjoyed it.” The book sold well, and in 1976 she followed up with The Pauper’s Homemaking Book, which applied the same approach to interior decoration. Another cookery book, Country Kitchen, was published in 1979.
Paint Magic led to a television series for Channel 4, and in 1983 Jocasta Innes became the home editor of Cosmopolitan magazine. She went on to publish many more books with such titles as The Thrifty Decorator; Scandinavian Painted Décor; and Painted Furniture, and created a business to sell her decorating kits and paints, which later folded.
One of her last books, Home Time: The Ultimate Manual for Dust and Stress-free Living, published in 2002, was billed as a manual for the post-feminist daughters of bra-burning mothers who had been too busy marching for equal pay to teach them how to wield a duster or sort the wash. Children, Jocasta Innes proclaimed, should be made to do housework from an early age: “It’s like the Jesuits, just get them cleaning by the time they’re seven and they’ll be doing it for life!”
After her marriage to Joe Potts broke up, in the early 1980s Jocasta Innes moved to Spitalfields, where she renovated a derelict brewer’s house and began a new relationship with her next-door-neighbour, the modernist architect Sir Richard MacCormac.
He and her children survive her.
Jocasta Innes, born May 21 1934, died April 20 2013


Now that I learn that the pressure cooker bombs used in Boston are “weapons of mass destruction” (Death penalty threat for Boston bombing suspect, 23 April), three questions occur to me. Are these what Saddam Hussein had? Was Hans Blix looking for the right things? Was Tony Blair right after all?
Cyril Cooper
•  ”Give the people what they want and they’ll turn out for it” is most often credited to Red Skelton, but George Jessel, Howard Dietz and Bert Lahr have their advocates. The line may originate from an untraceable source well before Harry Cohn’s funeral. But it cannot be added to the legend of Groucho Marx, to whom far too many of the witticisms of others are already attached (Letters, 22 April).
W Stephen Gilbert
Corsham, Wiltshire
•  Not content just to lengthen the school day and shorten school holidays, Michael Gove now proposes a “tech bacc” which 50% of pupils will take and will be equivalent to A-levels but – here’s the clever bit – will not actually be a qualification (Report, 22 April). Meanwhile, what on Earth is Stephen Twigg doing?
David Prothero
Harpenden, Hertfordshire
•  Frogspawn that appeared in our pond in February, before the freeze, has now hatched into rather puny tadpoles. No bloated corpses (Letters, 22 April), but adult frogs being taken by a carrion crow several times a day until we intervened.
Julie Baker 
•  When I was nursing in a children’s hospital, I did a survey on what sort of things children liked to do. One said she liked to go to Granny’s. I asked what sort of things she did there. “Take things back to Marks & Spencer’s,” she replied. Enough said (Dear M&S, a few tips…, 20 April)!
Maureen Swanwick
Harpenden, Hertfordshire
• Could someone tell me how Obama’s decision to update US nuclear weapons in Europe (Report, 22 April) helps any possible peace process in North Korea or Iran? The hypocrisy of the man is staggering. What on Earth does he tell his children?
Lindis Percy
Joint co-ordinator, Campaign for the Accountability of American Bases

Much has been made of the £10m cost of Margaret Thatcher’s funeral. As a long-serving prime minister, it was an appropriate mark of respect and successive governments were right to set aside the money to fund it. However, I find it difficult to understand how the same governments can fail to find similar resources to enable the poorest in our society to bid even a modest farewell to their loved ones.
Funeral poverty is a major challenge facing an increasing number of people. The average cost of a funeral is over £3,000 and as living costs rise and budgets are squeezed, costs of funerals are increasing too. Yet the government’s social fund funeral payment, designed to help the poorest in society, has been capped at £700 plus disbursements since 2004. Over 35,000 people were successful in receiving this assistance in 2012 – but 31,000 were rejected. Even those who are successful end up with an average shortfall of around £1,300 against the full cost of the funeral.
If £10m were put into the fund today, an extra 14,285 people would receive the £700 funeral payment, or the payment could be increased to £985 – the first cost-of-living rise in the payment for almost 10 years. This would help people at a time of distress and significantly ease the burden on local authorities, which have to meet the basic costs if no one else will, and on funeral directors, which are often forced to meet any shortfall. Ministers need to accept that their scheme is no longer fit for purpose and we will continue to lobby the Department for Work and Pensions on our members’ behalf and on behalf of bereaved families.
Alan Slater
Chief executive officer, National Association of Funeral Directors

Your report on the Proms (April 19) was somewhat niggardly. Music critics are offered free tickets to concerts and operas almost every week, so can enjoy the widest range of music. Your remark that “there are few events unmissable enough to make anyone rethink their holiday plans” seems out of touch with the lives of ordinary people, working outside the realm of music-making, who have to pay for their tickets. For them, the Proms makes available a uniquely valuable opportunity to catch up. You also ask why Michael Tippett’s music is featured in BBC concerts this year, including a Prom devoted to his opera, The Midsummer Marriage. The answer is quite simple. Tippett’s music achieved international recognition only after he reached the age of 60. It is now part of the standard repertory. For the many young people who attend the Proms, this may well be their first chance to become acquainted with Tippett’s music, of which his first opera is an outstanding example.
Meirion Bowen

On 5 March the secretary of state for health published his call to action on reducing premature mortality. This correctly identified tobacco use as the biggest single behavioural risk factor for premature death and included a commitment to decide whether to introduce standardised packaging, as recommended by health organisations he consulted, including signatories to this letter (Report, 17 April). But with the Queen’s speech only two weeks away, we have yet to hear of any such decision. The arguments in favour of standardised packaging are compelling and we have yet to see any credible evidence from the tobacco industry against legislation. This has clearly been recognised by public health minister Anna Soubry MP, who made clear her support for standardised packaging of tobacco products on the Today programme last Friday.
Tobacco, unlike other causes of disease, has a global and powerful industry promoting its interests. JTI Gallaher, maker of Camel, is spending over £2m on its campaign against standard packs, running ads that have been ruled misleading by advertising watchdog the Advertising Standards Authority. With over 200,000 young people taking up smoking every year and 100,000 people dying as a result of their habit, we urgently need assurances from Jeremy Hunt that he will listen to health experts and stand firm against this industry pressure. It will take a lot of explanation if this crucial public health measure is not included in the Queen’s speech on 8 May.
Professor Lindsey Davies President, Faculty of Public Health, Dr Janet Atherton President, Association of Directors of Public Health, Dr Vivienne Nathanson Director of professional activities, BMA, Dr Clare Gerada Chair of council, Royal College of General Practitioners, Professor John Britton Director, UKCTCS, Simon Gillespie Chief executive, British Heart Foundation, Leon Livermore Chief executive, Trading Standards Institute, Penny Woods Chief executive, British Lung Foundation, Francine Bates Chief executive, Lullaby Trust, Professor John Moxham Chair, Ash

Letters (22 April) invoking the bogey of “union power” to justify Thatcherite scorched-earth policies, derive from highly selective social memories, largely created by tendentious histories and media depictions. Academic research has shown there was no monolithic union power that inflicted the “winter of discontent” on a victimised British population. The industrial actions were largely initiated by local and rank-and-file unionists, frustrated with pay restraint policies that had reduced real wages by 13% between 1975 and 1978. The TUC and other much-maligned union “barons” tried to restrain grassroots actions.
The (separate) tanker and delivery drivers’ strikes may have been perceived as besieging a reader’s community in Stoke, but impacts were actually patchy and temporary. West Midlands TGWU regional officials kept deliveries there going for much of the strike. The official stoppage lasted just three weeks and affected only around 20% of the haulage industry, with negligible national impacts on foodstuffs and daily necessities. The image of callous local authority gravediggers’ strikes came from unofficial actions occurring only in Liverpool and Tameside for just two weeks. (Gravediggers in the free-enterprise heaven of 1990s Chicago went on strike for six weeks.)
As former Fleet Street editor Derek Jameson later recalled of press coverage of the “crisis”, “we pulled every dirty trick in the book; we made it look like it was general, universal and eternal, when it was in reality scattered, here and there, and no great problem”.
Dr Bryn Jones
University of Bath
• The power of unions to strike is publicly very visible and can be described and analysed relatively easily. However, it is a limited power, temporarily constraining the behaviour of the owners and managers of capital – and sometimes inconveniencing the public.
By contrast, highly paid executives will decide behind closed doors to make a new product, change the way of delivering a service, open or close a factory or office, locate their activities in a different country, use suppliers with highly dubious labour practices and so on. These decisions will have possibly permanent repercussions for workers and consumers. These may lead to cheaper goods in the UK, but on the back of exploited overseas workers, or job intensification and de-skilling.
Sometimes, unions attempt, at the margins, to call this huge corporate power to account and try to ameliorate its worst consequences. Too many pundits and politicians lazily invoke the myth of overweening union power, which has achieved the status of an unassailable truth. Unions never wielded excessive power when compared to the power of employers.
Michael Somerton
• Apparently Boris Johnson thinks (Diary, 23 April) “the idea that a strike can be called by a majority of those who vote, rather than a majority of all those balloted, is farcical”. OK then, lets not have laws and policy made by parliament when a majority of the electorate has not voted for the government. The union members Mr Johnson presumes are against action must take responsibility for choosing not to vote.
Martin Cooper
Bromley, Kent

Liberal Democrats made possible the passage of the Health and Social Care Act 2012. When the “competition” regulations to implement Section 75 of the Act (An engine for destruction, 23 April) appeared in February, their leaders in the Lords were taken aback by the wording and, as on previous occasions, sought reassurance from the same Earl Howe who had advised private healthcare companies of the “huge opportunities” coming their way on the very day the bill passed third reading in the Commons.
It appears they have been reassured yet again and will vote against the Labour motion to annul the marginally revised regulations today. Liberal Democrat peers with any conscience must oppose these regulations, which provide a legally enforceable basis for opening up the NHS to competition, contrary to ministers’ stated objectives of allowing commissioners to decide if and when it should be used. Further, any peers with commercial interests who could stand to gain from the legislation should disbar themselves from voting against annulment. Not only the future of the NHS but the integrity of parliament is at stake.
Dr Anthony Isaacs
• Peter Carter, chief executive of the Royal College of Nursing, writes (Stop bashing the NHS, 22 April) that “I have no doubt that the health secretary wants to do well by our health service and the patients who use it. Yet, although his motives are good, I believe they are unintentionally misdirected.”
This may well have been true of past governments’ secretaries of state, but surely not the present ones. While the Conservatives were in opposition the office of the then shadow secretary, Andrew Lansley, was funded by the wife of John Nash, the chairman of Care UK. Once in government, Mr Lansley drove through the Health And Social Care Act to privatise the system. Then Jeremy Hunt took over. He found there is wriggle room in the system to hold up privatisation. The answer was simple: use regulations under the act to insist. This was driven back, so very similar regulations were presented and are before parliament now.
These are not the actions of people who support the NHS. They are the work of people who intend to turn the NHS into a kitemark for private profiteers.
It is time that friends of the NHS like Mr Carter woke up to the real plans of this government. We can only thwart them if we are wide awake, not dreaming of a past, more benevolent age.
Geoff Barr
• Your article (23 April) on government plans to require all trainee nurses to spend a year washing and cleaning misses a key point. Follow the money. The proposals will mean a steady supply of 18- to 21-year-old prospective nurses who can be employed at low rates to staff hospital wards and care homes. This will enable employers to “drive down costs” and encourage “labour flexibility” by replacing existing health and care workers on low salaries with trainees paid even less.
Peter North
Brinton, Norfolk
• The government considers blood plasma supplier Plasma Resources UK “ripe for sale” to the private sector (Report, 23 April) and regulations under Section 75 of the Health and Social Care Act threaten to force widespread privatisation of NHS services and treatment. What are the implications for blood and organ donors? As a registered organ donor I would be horrified if it were the case that parts of my body could end up being involved in some chain of transactions to generate profit for some commercial firm. Similarly, would British blood donors be happy to find that their free donations could be a source of commercial profits in privatised NHS services?
Tom Voûte
• Your letters page (22 April) offers a timely reminder that the coalition’s unmandated NHS sell-off regulations are being discussed in the House of Lords this Wednesday. All those who believe our NHS should be run for public need rather than private profit are encouraged to assemble opposite the House of Lords from 12 noon to lobby all peers. Voting for the status quo is not always the right thing to do. On this occasion, however, it is surely morally obligatory.
Francis Prideaux

Margaret Thatcher’s legacy
Your editorial is correct: Margaret Thatcher’s legacy is a very mixed one with some positives, but with a very dark side as well (12 April).
In 1982 I was teaching modern history to senior secondary students in Adelaide. Just as we were reaching our course conclusion that, post-Vietnam, old-style aggressive European imperialism was largely a thing of the past and for the most part civilised values had been restored in the world, Thatcher embarked upon another colonial war in the Falklands, reviving memories of the brutal excesses of our imperialist past. It was a reminder that the might-is-right approach to international affairs was very much alive and kicking after all, notwithstanding the lessons of yesteryear.
From an educational standpoint her decade or so of rule reminded us that beneath the liberal atmosphere that had been developing in Britain in the 19th and 20th centuries lurked the potential, never very far beneath the surface, for the Orwellian dark side of the collective British psyche to come to the fore.
Terry Hewton
Adelaide, South Australia
• In all the many assessments of the personality and political life of Margaret Thatcher, no one has drawn the historical analogy to the English ruler who was her pattern, Elizabeth Tudor. Forget that they look rather alike: the key is they both had non-patrician, commoner – as in commonsense – genes (on the maternal line in Elizabeth’s case). Both were highly educated, highly committed political professionals. And both had a mix of admirers and haters – Elizabeth lived in fear of her life from Catholic terrorists. The Stuart successors to Elizabeth were also a poor lot by comparison. History will show that both women had a similar, very English determination and style. The whole world took note.
Colin Lendon
Canberra, Australia
• It now remains for the powers-that-be to rescue, as best they can, the sceptred isle from the great damage done to its body politic and society in the Thatcher years.
What the Human Development Report does not show is where the worldwide growing middle class spends its money. Nor does it speak to the focus of worldwide education programmes (World is making very clear progress, 5 April).
A growing population living longer and spending more will have devastating consequences if the raping of the world’s resources continues unabated to feed an insatiable global consumer society.
Democracy in its many forms may flourish, and the market economy may swell the ranks of the middle classes, but we are ignoring Karl Polanyi’s reminder that land is finite, there is only one world and what we have is all there is. We would be well advised to adjust our education curriculums to pay greater attention to that reality, for if we do not learn to adapt to the reality of a finite world, the generations of the next century will suffer the consequences.
André Carrel
Terrace, British Columbia, Canada
• Steve Bell has excelled himself in offensiveness with his cartoon of Margaret Thatcher (12 April). Does he have no respect for the dead? It’s time for Guardian Weekly to ring the changes with your cartoonist.
Mike Payne
High Wycombe, UK
More balance needed on GM
Regarding the article about Mark Lynas: where is the science to back up Lynas’s retraction of his opposition to GM crops (Betrayal, truth and the GM contradiction, 12 April)? What about Monsanto’s alleged domination of the seed supplies? What about the termination technology, meaning farmers cannot save seed to replant next year? What about unjustified prosecutions by biotech firms of small farmers for unintended infringements? What about the effects on health of altered food and the reduction in choice? Why no mention of the experiments proving that small-scale organic sustainable farming is more productive and better for the environment than any large-scale agriculture?
The article was all about Lynas’s feelings of guilt but had no hard facts to reinforce his change of attitude. Please, Guardian, we expect a harder and more balanced approach to a vital subject.
Carol Binnie
Ockham, UK
• The interview with Mark Lynas was not interesting because of its refutation of the anti-GM arguments but because of the description of his experience of “widespread denial”, resistance to criticism and hypocrisy about being open-minded and tolerant within campaigning and protest groups.
Perhaps this is most obvious at the extreme end of politics, where the refusal to engage in debate with the other side, the failure to listen to other voices and, of course, the feeling of relative powerlessness lead to entrenchment of positions and the inevitable lashing out with both angry words and actions.
But this syndrome of “I am right” is everywhere and has been for some time. In some public-sector organisations there is an acceptable view of the world and a politically correct way of speaking, and if you vary from it you feel the glare of disapproval. In the corporate world, particularly where there are strong charismatic leaders, “groupthink” prevails and perfectly sensible people start making illogical decisions – take Enron, for example.
In politics to challenge the idea of growth, and financing it from debt, is certainly swimming against the tide. Consequently we struggle to explore alternative approaches because to do so is to invite invective and accusations of going back to the old way of doing things.
Lynas is not immune. His insistence that the only way of deciding on issues such as GMOs or nuclear power is to prove matters one way or another by means of science brings problems. Are we to eliminate emotions and value judgment? For example, if a company controls the distribution of a variety of seeds and uses its dominant position in a market against the interests of farmers, and consequently people generally, can we not criticise that? And if we suspect that a GM approach undermines sustainable agriculture and changes the chemical balance within the environment, then surely it is fair to raise questions.
But we must do so by questioning and listening, by challenging and being open to being wrong, not by shouting and fighting. I recognise that sometimes the questioning and challenging has to be sustained and robust where bastions of power exert undue influence or stubbornly refuse to listen, but disagreeing in this way is surely more likely to lead to a common good.
Nick Coates
Bath, UK
Make better food choices
Suzanne Moore’s essay, Food is the ultimate class signifier (5 April), appears naive. It also misses the real factors that influence our food purchases. She suggests that giving cash instead of food stamps affords poor people freedom of choice.
Next time she finds herself in a checkout line she might take a moment to observe the contents of her fellow shoppers’ carts. Though these individuals may be of a very diverse socio-economic mix, most of their food purchases will probably contain approximately 75% processed foods.
How often does one see a bag of dried beans or legumes in the cart? These foods are nutritious, low in fat, versatile and delicious.
To state, as Moore does, that “protein and fresh vegetables are beyond a food-stamp budget” is perhaps assuming that the protein source is animal and the vegetables are out of season and imported. No one is immune to the seductive lure of the advertising industry; its main aim is to entice with its packaging and convenience. The food choices are there and for everyone, even if some of them require a bit of effort and a small degree of common sense in their preparation.
So whether it be cash or food stamps, I recall the adage: “Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day. Teach a man to fish and he’ll eat for ever,” as partial solution.
Annie Thompson
Hobart, Tasmania, Australia
Iran impasse is predictable
Little wonder that the negotiations over Iran’s nuclear ambitions make little progress (US hints at Iran nuclear negotiations deadline, 12 April). For the six world powers in dialogue include none of Iran’s Middle Eastern neighbours that are most directly affected.
A nuclear arms-free region, which I suppose is what the world wants to see, would require the agreement of its only nuclear power, Israel, to decommission and renounce reliably its nuclear weapons, and also of ambitious Arab states like Saudi Arabia and the UAE to confirm their accession to the non-proliferation treaty, and of the US not to introduce nuclear-armed submarines. Of the six world powers in dialogue, two can give Iran little cause for confidence – the US and the UK, who conspired to overthrow the democratically elected Mossadegh in 1953.
Ren Kempthorne
Nelson, New Zealand
Let’s change our beliefs
I felt grateful for Andrew Brown’s article about the clash between Muslim and atheist fundamentalists (Atheists need Alpha course of their own, 5 April). He shines a light into a dark corner.
Fundamentalists are always trying to defend traditions that maintain the existing power structure, which they believe is the natural order of things. But the test of beliefs is not whether they are true but whether or not they work for you.
Fundamentalists think in black and white (George Bush: “If you’re not with us you’re against us!”). They take the written word literally as opposed to symbolically. They are always right because if they are not right they are wrong and they can’t identify with being wrong. This is a manifestation of imbalance: extreme left-brain thinking. As our education system is almost all left-brain training, I am not surprised we have this problem.
In this light Richard Dawkins is just as much a fundamentalist as any religious fanatic, even though he is more scientific. He points to the specks in their eyes, blind to the plank in his own. Do the beliefs supported by science really work for us? That we live in a dead, mechanical universe in ecosystems devoid of consciousness? In pagan, pre-Roman Britain it was taboo to cut a live oak. The moors, which I, in my youth, assumed were natural, were oak forests. Each tree had a spirit: a fairy. Once all the trees were gone the people were dis-spirited, our culture impoverished. Our impoverished consciousness sees nature as a mine of resources or as a dump and is busy clear-cutting the last of the world’s forests.
Can we stop pointing out the dysfunctions of Muslims’ beliefs and examine our own? It is hard to change others but it is possible to change our own beliefs.
Edward Butterworth
Victoria, British Columbia, Canada
Preserve the Olympic ideal
I agree with Paul Cartledge when he said: “An end to Olympic wrestling would be a brutal break with ancient games” (Sports blog, 22 February). It was Plutarch who said that wrestling was the most “artistic” event of the games. It’s also been said that, for some years now, the true spirit of the Olympic games has been about technological competition among nations, and not the pursuit of medals by individuals. Further, it has become impossible for many smaller nations to host the games, given the current up to $15bn costs as reported in these pages.
The first of the modern Olympic games, on the recommendation of Baron Pierre de Coubertin, were in Athens in 1896, and had only nine sports, all for individuals; but the 1904 games in St Louis had team sports, including football, lacrosse and rowing eights.
The time has come to return to the original Greek ideal, and to drop all team sports from the games. There already exist other venues for team sports. This smaller version would make it easier for smaller countries to host, would reduce competition among the largest nations and would emphasise the Olympic ideal, which is the pursuit of individual excellence.
Dan A Morrison
Ottawa, Canada
Let’s cut carbon emissions
Annie March’s letter pointing out that we are driving ourselves to extinction is as perceptive as usual (Reply, 5 April). It is only through legislation that governments have stopped cigarette smokers polluting public spaces; the same approach must be taken with car drivers.
I live in a university town and the streets are filled with student cars. I question whether it is necessary or desirable for 17- to 21-year-olds to drive. Raising the driving age to 21 would not only reduce the number of cars but also save many lives since the accident rate is eight times higher among this age group. It would also help to establish walking, cycling and public transport use.
I am guilty of choosing to drive to Manchester not because I dislike trains but because they are more expensive. The return journey costs me $53 in diesel, but $166 by rail. Governments must make public transport cheaper and fund this by increasing fuel tax on private cars. Unless governments make a sincere commitment to reducing carbon emissions, our planet is doomed.
Angela Smith
Norwich, UK
• According to Pascal Quignard in Le Sexe et l’Effroi, a sense of sin in sexual matters stemmed from the puritanism of Augustus and was exploited by Christian parties (12 April). So what you say may be true only up to 18BC, and like us, Caligula just took delight in being bad.
Paul Donovan
Salisbury, UK


Thanks to Amol Rajan (19 April) for adding his voice to those of us that have been advocating the decriminalisation of drugs for, in my case, 30 years, having lost four young patients in five years in our small market town to heroin overdose, as they could not, and to this day could not, obtain their drugs legally.
Those four would be alive today if they had been allowed to receive their daily injections from a nurse in my surgery and had received the advice and care that should be open to all within the NHS. It’s an outrage that people are still dying on our streets from drug overdose and residing in custody to no benefit to anyone.
When will we wake up to the tragedy of illegal drug use? Excuse me while I go back to my glass of wine.
Dr Nick Maurice, Marlborough, Wiltshire
The Independent Drugs Commission has proposed drug consumption rooms in Brighton and Hove. These are settings where addicts can consume illegal drugs under some level of medical supervision without fear of prosecution.
Prior to developing such a centre the UK Government would need to provide Brighton and Hove Council with some form of exemption from the Misuse of Drugs Act, which makes it illegal to possess certain drugs and to allow premises to be used for their consumption. However, the effect of such an exemption could go well beyond the confines of the drug consumption room itself. A drug user arrested for possession of heroin anywhere within Brighton and Hove could simply claim that they were en route to the consumption room and that they too should be covered by the exemption extended to the consumption room.
Exempting the drug consumption room from the terms of the Misuse of Drugs Act could deliver a massive headache for the police and the courts, resolving how it is that the possession of heroin in Brighton can be legal in one street but illegal in another.
Neil McKeganey, Director, Centre for Drug Misuse Research, Glasgow
MMR: there  is no real controversy
I too like the fact that The Independent is unafraid to report on both sides of an argument, even if one side is controversial (Letter from the Editor, 20 April). However when that supposed balanced reporting is in fact just showing false balance, it starts being irresponsible. This is the case with MMR.
There is no genuine balance on this subject. On one hand we have the global medical and scientific community (including bodies such as the World Health Organisation), backed up by large numbers of well-performed, peer-reviewed studies, which overwhelmingly declare that the MMR vaccine is safe and the best vaccine to use against the triple scourges of measles, mumps and rubella.
On the other side lie a small number of anti-vaccination extremists, who reject the scientific consensus, and who have decided, based on little more than anecdotes, that vaccinations are more harmful than the terrible diseases they prevent, and who have deified a discredited researcher who made false claims about the MMR vaccine that were not supported even by his own published papers.
Reporting both views suggest there is some form of controversy about MMR when there is none. It fuels unnecessary doubts, which reduce vaccination rates and put all of us at risk.
Sometimes the most courageous thing a newspaper can do is take a stand on an issue and proclaim that MMR is safe, and saves lives.
Jo Selwood, Oxford
No one would dispute that the causes of autism are unknown and that there is no cure. I would argue, then, that any free citizen has the right to choose the single measles vaccine for their child. The inoculations for rubella and mumps can follow. 
I am aware that this decision may discomfort the shareholders of Glaxosmithkline and, in the States, the Merck Corporation. Until the MMR vaccine becomes as generically manufactured as aspirin, I shall remain a sceptic in the face of its universal promotion.
P A Reid, Sparsholt, Oxfordshire
Pandas bred to gawp at
If we really thought giant pandas were worth saving we’d stop stealing their habitat (“Even the love tunnel couldn’t get Tian Tian in the mood”, 22 April). These animals’ natural environment is being lost very fast and they will never be given it back. Instead we want to see these poor creatures, so we artificially inseminate them and lock them in zoos for people to view.
There have been more than 300 giant pandas now mass produced in China (most by AI). Mothers used as breeding machines; cubs taken from them at birth – causing great stress to mother and cub.  Cubs then grown up without many natural instincts passed down from the mother. Over 47 zoos have now rented (at huge sums) Giant Pandas from the Chinese. 
I have a suspicion that these zoo “conservationists” would rather these animals stayed rare as that is how you get loads of dosh from people who wish to gawp at pandas.
Sara Starkey, Tonbridge, Kent
Someone needs that bedroom
It is not often that I find myself in agreement with George Osborne, but I believe that many critics of the Government’s changes to welfare are ill-informed, particularly when the criticisms are applied to the “bedroom tax”.
It is not a tax and I have been waiting in vain for someone to point out that the objective of the provisions regarding under-occupation of social housing is to ameliorate the sorry plight of the many thousands of families who are in accommodation which is sub-standard or severely overcrowded or, often, both.
Social housing is a national resource which needs to be used in the most efficient way to house the greatest possible number of families in adequate housing. Every piece of legislation which involves change gives rise to winners and losers, but the  media concentrates on the plight of the loser.
John Charman, Birchington, Kent
Music for Dutch royal ceremony
Monarchy is about tradition and how history has shaped us. Popular music and culture, especially representing our new ethnic diversity, is quite rightly widely promoted and enjoyed; but royal religious ceremonies offer rare opportunities for the wider community to be drawn into a very small corner of the classical music repertoire.
The Proms, the National Theatre, the RSC and others do a great job, and there are of pockets of excellence away from London’s artistic predominance; but compared with Germany, for example, serious music and theatre have a very narrow support base in the country at large, in the face of the constant British media obsession with popular culture. 
Establishing a better balance between popular culture and the higher arts is one of the big issues with which Tony Hall and the BBC are going to have to grapple (no government will, for sure), and we could do without populist leaders in The Independent (22 April).
Gavin Turner, Gunton, Norfolk
Good deeds, with or without God
It may be that some religious people are motivated to do “good deeds”, as David Hooley claims (letter, 20 April), by “the need to obey the commands of a god or at least to avoid its displeasure”. But to impute such motives to all people of faith would be no more than wishful thinking on his part. 
While we are all influenced by all sorts of considerations, I would think that for most religious people most of the time the dominant reason for loving their neighbour is simply that it is a natural impulse – the same “fellow-feeling” which Mr Hooley claims for the non-religious.
But doing good deeds can be costly in all sorts of ways, and on occasion we would all prefer not to bother. For religious people, that impulse is to be resisted; not, as Mr Hooley surmises, because we feel our obedience to God’s commands is enforced in some way, but because we want to respond to the generosity and love of God by extending the same values to others, trusting that by imitating him we will draw nearer to him.
Surely we can celebrate the good deeds done by those who do not regard themselves as religious without impugning the motives of those who do.
Adrian West, London N21
State boarding school row
It was with a certain incredulity that I read of the forced resignation of Chichester Councillor John Cherry for his “unacceptable” opposition to a free state boarding school in Sussex for children from inner London (report 22 April).
Some 30 years ago I was chaplain to such a school, which had an outstanding staff, excellent facilities and reasonable success rates. It was closed down on the basis that it was unjustifiable to move children so far from home at a prohibitive cost when it would be more effective to care for them in their home surroundings. So what’s changed?
Dominic Kirkham, Manchester
Migrant ‘slaves’
Justice for one migrant domestic worker, but only after many years and interventions on her behalf (“Raped beaten and enslaved”, 20 April). Unfortunately, for many of the other migrant domestic workers we support at Kalayaan this is unlikely: in April 2012 the Government changed the visa for migrant domestic workers, tying them to their employers.
Cases such as this demonstrate clearly the abuse which can result from workers being unable to leave and the importance of reinstating this most basic protection.
Kate Roberts, Community Advocate, Kalayaan, London W11
‘Rabble’ replies
Ian Poole remembers the Liverpool public in the 1980s as a “howling rabble” (letter, 20 April). As one who attended several open municipal meetings in the mid-80s as a non-howling member of what I thought was the electorate, I wonder how one is to know when the public has turned into the many-headed beast so charmingly described as a “rabble”? Does the mutation occur when too many of them are working-class and left-wing, and don’t know their place?
Peter McKenna, Liverpool
Illegal war
Neither of your two correspondents (20, 22 April) appears to have read Tom Bingham’s The Rule of Law, which demolishes the case for the legality of the Iraq war.
William Robert Haines, Shrewsbury
Funeral expenses
Reality check. Number of council houses that had to be sold to pay for Thatcher’s funeral: 1,000.

Last night, on Facebook, I watched the messages as someone attempted suicide online as a result of this government’s demonisation of the disabled and withdrawal of the meagre benefits they need to survive. He had given up the struggle.
Fortunately, the rest of the group rallied round and were able to intervene. This morning I have learned that he’s in hospital, but not out of danger. If not for the compassion and concern of strangers, he would be dead by now.
While the world recoils at the horror of the Boston bombings, a much greater horror is taking place in the UK as thousands of genuinely disabled people die, quietly and unnoticed, one at a time in their own homes or in hospitals. Their conditions worsen under the stress of fighting for the benefits they were guaranteed but are now denied and their illness overcomes them. Many have committed suicide.
What kind of society have we become, where we turn our collective backs on those most in need of help? Where we believe the fable that those on benefits are all worthless scroungers? It’s not just the Government – it’s also this society that supports the Government’s misinformation and turns on the helpless, believing that compassion applies only to their own family and friends.
Wake up, Britain. We are exterminating the disabled, not through gas chambers and execution squads, but through despair and desperation. Each life is snuffed out in quiet corners across the country, unknown and unregarded, but each is an individual with friends and family, just like you.
Tony Johnson, Scarborough, North Yorkshire
Rules could damage NHS health care
Today (24 April) the House of Lords will debate controversial rules that detail how aspects of patient choice and competition will operate under the Health and Social Care Act in England. It is our strong belief that these regulations need to be urgently withdrawn and replaced with a much clearer set of regulations.
The ambiguous nature of the section 75 regulations has caused widespread uncertainty across the NHS and among patients. In their current form, the rules do not reflect government assurances that healthcare commissioners will not be forced to open tenders for health service contracts to competition.
Mandatory competition risks fragmenting services and damaging the delivery of high-quality, integrated health care to patients. These regulations could also leave commissioners in the position of facing costly, unnecessary tendering processes and possible legal challenges from unsuccessful bidders.
These regulations need to be withdrawn and replaced with clear wording that makes it clear commissioners have the freedom to act in the best interests of their patients.
Dr Mark Porter , Chair of Council, British Medical Association,  London WC1
David Cameron claims that his NHS reforms were about giving more control to local doctors and communities. That will be a surprise to GPs who under Section 75 are being forced to open up every part of local health services to private companies, whether or not its what they, the patient, or the local community want.
Section 75 shows that ministers are breaking the promises made in both Houses of Parliament last year, that doctors wouldn’t be forced to privatise everything.
This isn’t just back-door privatisation of the NHS, this is full-on. David Cameron treats the intelligence of the electorate with utter contempt. Margaret Thatcher wouldn’t have muttered about local doctors and communities; she at least had the balls to call a spade a spade.
Julie Partridge, London SE15
Why bankers dumped shares
Ben Chu’s article (19 April) about the share options granted by Barclays highlights the fact that the recipients (including Rich Ricci) all “dumped” their shares immediately on receipt.
This is hardly surprising, since income tax is liable based on the price of the shares at the time of vesting as opposed to when they are sold later. Thus, if the executives retain their allotment of shares and the share price subsequently drops, the lucky recipients will be paying tax on a loss.
Ben Chu did not point this out, even though it is a serious flaw in the tax system and encourages every recipient of share options to sell them immediately on vesting, unless they are prepared to take a potentially very expensive gamble. I’m sure prudent bankers would not do that.
David Bracey, Chesham Bois, Buckinghamshire
New danger of police corruption
The story about the police and crime commissioner and his failure to check an exorbitant expense (“PCC in limo expenses row  ‘sorry’ ” and leading article, 20 April ) rang a doomey bell for me.
When the elections for PCCs took place, I went to my allotted polling station and despite (or perhaps because of ) the fact that I am a former Metropolitan Police superintendent, have worked in an American police department as a staff psychologist and for a number of years taught criminal justice studies at a UK university, I am proud to say I deliberately spoiled my ballot paper by writing across it in large letters, “THIS IS A RECIPE FOR CORRUPTION”. 
I was aware that normal practice is that spoiled papers are shown to candidates or their agents. It was  my small protest, but this action (and prognostication) is, it seems, already proving valid.
The importation of American ideas into the British criminal justice system is rarely a good idea. The slippery slope from small immoral acts to what criminal justice studies calls “heavy end corruption” is well known.
Ian K McKenzie, Exmouth, Devon
Terror, but not mass destruction
While it was a horrific crime and one can only feel deep sadness for those who suffered death and injury during the Boston Marathon bombing, the US risks making itself look ridiculous by charging the surviving suspect with using “weapons of mass destruction”.
The bomb, a pressure-cooker filled with nails and ball-bearings, did inflict horrible injury. It was a weapon of terror but not of mass destruction. As a westerner, I have no axe to grind against the USA, but my first thought was that the US should first look in its own back yard for weapons of mass destruction, drones and depleted uranium ammunition being two which immediately jump to mind.
With this charge against the bomber there will be many thousands of Muslims who will have drawn the same conclusion and who will now be pondering the rank hypocrisy of the USA. That cannot be good for security.
Alan Mitcham, Cologne, Germany
Is it not a bit ridiculous for Boston doctors to engage, so conscientiously, in efforts to save the life of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev that he may be fit enough to climb the scaffold?
Godfrey H Holmes, Chesterfield, Derbyshire
I don’t care what the armed cops of Boston wear; let them look like Star Wars cops (letter, 22 April).
They may have locked down the city, but they kept their citizens safe and captured the mindless idiot who maimed 170 people and killed three. My English daughter and two grandsons live in Boston. They were kept safe.
Well done, I say, to the Star Wars cops. The state has to be heavy-handed when  killers are on the loose.
Linda Dickins, Wimborne, Dorset    
Swipe from the sofa
Matt Butler’s “View from the Sofa” (22 April), with its cheap dig at myself and the “gaggle of BBC news staff” who were running in the London Marathon, and its strange suggestion of “nepotism”, seemed out of kilter with Sunday’s amazing event.
If he had listened carefully, he would have heard me say that all injury niggles and training worries were, obviously, put aside. Like tens of thousands of participants, we were all running for someone – I’ve raised £10,000 for Macmillan, who looked after my Mum – and we were all running with Boston in mind too.
It’s easy to have a swipe from the sofa; far harder to train for months to run 26.2 miles, to help others.
Sian Williams, London N8
Hand of God and teeth of Suarez
An otherwise excellent full page devoted to the fallout from Suarez’s latest indiscretion (22 April) was let down by the first entry in the “Suarez’s shame” list.
While biting and racism have no place in football, the offence of “handball” has always been a punishable event of many, if not most, matches. Suarez was not the first and won’t be the last to prevent a goal this way on the line. It’s not exactly in keeping with the Corinthian spirit, but I know most of my fellow England supporters would have cheered had Gary Lineker done the same.
Mark Ryde, Poringland Norfolk
Dogs that bite people should always be destroyed. Luis Suarez should never be allowed to play football again. He’s a breed Britain can well do without.
We have more than enough dangerous people on our streets; we don’t need them in sport, especially one played by half the nation’s youngsters.
Allan Ramsay, Manchester
I suggest that the Professional Footballers’ Association is unwise to urge that the supremely gifted Luis Suarez go on an anger management course. I fear that he will drink the blood of any tutor.
Dai Woosnam, Grimsby
MPs trying to bully Google
Exactly what is the problem Margaret Hodge and the Public Accounts Committee are complaining about? Google complies with the law on taxation in all respects and has no obligation, moral or otherwise, to pay additional corporation tax.
The PAC seem to believe that it is preferable to try to intimidate companies and individuals into paying donations to the Government rather than to address the real issues around tax evasion and avoidance.
Peter Coghlan, Broadstone, Dorset
Leveson lawyers
James Cusick (23 April) is right to question the Daily Mail accusation that an affair between two Leveson barristers should cause doubts about the inquiry’s integrity. Couldn’t this equally be seen as parts of the press, once again, getting up to their old tricks and abusing what powers they have for their own purposes?
Bob Morgan, Thatcham, West Berkshire


Perhaps there should be a one-year course on ‘the basics’ for all healthcare workers, from assistants to doctors
Sir, I agree with the Royal College of Nursing that the proposed one year as a healthcare assistant leading to nurse training will do little to make nurses more compassionate (report, Apr 22). It is the culture of the hospital that sets the standards of care.
I commenced my hospital career 62 years ago by becoming a ward orderly for six months before taking nurse training leading to State Registration. I was taught as an orderly what to do but not the “why” and the “purpose” of my actions. The seemingly simple task of bed-bathing a patient, for example, is a complex task. Questions one asks oneself include: is the patient weaker than the day before, colour of the skin, verbal and non-verbal signs from the patient, how the patient is breathing, abdominal or chest and so on. I once diagnosed hypostatic pneumonia in an elderly patient. No raised temperature or increased respiration, just that this man could not lift himself up from the bed like he could the day before. Bad practice is easily picked up by “sitting next to Nelly” which future nurse education would have to eradicate.
I would propose a one-year course for all healthcare workers. How many patients today realise that their main nursing care is given by people with little or no training whatsoever? The care assistant would receive proper ward supervision and instruction from clinical teachers and have short periods of teaching on why they were undertaking certain procedures and the purpose of the work. An examination covering the practical and theoretic aspects of basic nursing would be applied at the end of the year, success in which would lead to a licence to practise. This scheme should be overseen and licensed by the Nursing and Midwifery Council.
Dr Anthony J. Carr
Sir, Surely this proposal will resonate with the teachings of Florence Nightingale, the lady with the lamp, who strongly advocated that the nurse should spend time giving hands-on care to patients. She also said that the nurse does not “graduate” but continues to learn throughout his or her career.
I hope the RCN will soon drop its opposition to the proposal.
Dr M. S. Ali
Emeritus Consultant Physician, Queen Elizabeth Hospital, London SE18
Sir, Jeremy Hunt appears to have misunderstood the nursing standards scandal (report, Apr 23). He is placing the blame for low standards on the Royal College of Nursing, but it is the Nursing and Midwifery Council that holds the register for nurses and midwives, regulates standards, and places the care, dignity and rights of patients at the centre of professional practice. The NMC also regulates and sets standards for training student nurses.
Making student nurses work for a year as healthcare assistants before commencing training is a waste of time, as they already feed and wash patients in their training. Many experienced nurses have already been made redundant and posts left unfilled, or replaced with healthcare assistants.
Until we have safe staffing levels to allow nurses to do their work properly and to supervise students, the situation will not change.
Brenda J. Clarke, RGN
Registered Nurse Teacher, Melton Mowbray, Leics
Sir, The idea that student nurses should spend some of their time as care assistants may or may not be a good one. If it is, it must also be a good idea for medical students to do so as well. After all, medicine is a caring profession too.
Dr Jeremy Ludford
Salisbury, Wilts

More research is needed into an antidote to save Britain’s ash woodlands or they may be lost to the nation completely
Sir, Since the 1970s, with the importation of Dutch elm disease, and then in 1992, when ash dieback (Chalara fraxinea) was identified in Poland, successive British governments, aided and abetted by the European Union, have carelessly allowed all manner of noxious imports into Britain.
Following the horrific effects of Dutch elm disease, thousands of hectares of woods are now being destroyed by phytophthora. To compound this devastation, 142,000 hectares of the nation’s ash woodland (our own most numerous deciduous forest species) could now be virtually annihilated by Chalara fraxinea, an elimination unprecedented since the last Ice Age.
Some companies working in the private sector believe an effective and practical antidote can be developed to save the ash which, otherwise, on the experience of Denmark, will mostly be dead by 2023. If the ash cannot be saved, clearing the resulting havoc of dead and dying ash, and consequential windblow of other species, will be a horrendous task. The countryside will be ravaged for a generation.
On behalf of all those who love our ash woods and hedgerows, we urge this Government, which is bearing the savage burden of past governments’ negligence, to embrace research into an antidote to save the nation’s ash woodlands.
The Earl of Annandale and Hartfell; The Viscount Ashbrook; Sir Nicholas Bacon Bt; Mr Lawrence Banks; Mr Miles Barne; Mr Michael Barstow; The Earl Bathurst; Mr John Berkeley; The Viscount Bledisloe; Lord Bolton; Mr Ian Bond; The Hon Evelyn Boscawen; Mr Nicholas Bostock; Sir Simon Bowes Lyon; Mr Richard Bradford; Mr Andrew Bronwin; Mr Roland Brown; Mr David Brotherton; Sir John Buchanan-Jardine Bt; Mr Lindsay Bury; The Hon Rupert Carington; Mr John Cave; Mrs Rose Clay; Sir Kenneth Carlisle; Lord Cavendish of Furness; Lord Clinton; Lord Clitheroe; Mr Edward Clive; Mr Richard Compton; Mr Thomas Cook; Mr Paul Cooper; The Earl of Cork and Orrery; Mr George Courtauld; The Countess of Cranbrook; Mr Aidan Cuthbert; Mr John Dalton; Miss Anne Davis FRCS; Mr Charles Dent; Lord Derwent; The Viscount Downe; The Marquess of Downshire; Mrs Maldwin Drummond; The Hon David Dugdale; The Hon Jake Duncombe; Mr Rupert Eley; Sir Henry Elwes; Mr Mark Evans; Mr Simon Fairbank; Lord Fairhaven; Sir Michael Farquhar Bt; Colonel Iain Ferguson; Mr James Fife; Mr Charles Forbes Adam; Lady Forester; Mr Anthony Fuller; Mr Roger Gabb; Mr Philip Godsal; Mr Peter Greenwood; Mr Carol Gurney; The Earl of Halifax; Mr Stephen Habershon; Mr Stephen Hopkins; Lord Hotham; Mr Denzil How; The Hon Simon Howard; Gillian Lady Howard de Walden; Sir Peter Hutchison Bt; Lord Iliffe; Mr James Ingall; Sir Thomas Ingilby Bt; Mr Michael Jardine Paterson; Mr John Jenyns; Mr Hugh Johnson; Lord Kenyon; Mrs Arabella Killander; Lady King; Mr Roy Lancaster; Mr David Langridge; The Marquess of Lansdowne; Mr Christopher Legard; Mr Andrew Leslie; Auriol, Marchioness of Linlithgow; Mr George Llewellyn; Lord Edward Manners; Mr Michael McLaren QC; Mr Charles S McVeigh III; The Earl of Mexborough; Lord Middleton; Prof Sir Anthony Milnes Coates Bt; Mr Stewart Minton Beddoes; Mr William Montgomery; Mr David Morrison; Mr Robin Murray Philipson; Mr Justin Mumford; Major General Murray Naylor; The Marquess of Normanby; Mr Christopher Palmer-Tompkinson; The Hon Richard Pleydell- Bouverie; Mr Mark Preston; Mr and Mrs Oliver Rena; Lady Renton of Mount Harry; Mr Alastair Robinson; The Earl of Romney; The Hon James Savile; Mr and Mrs Charles Scott; Sir James Scott Bt; Mr Robert Scott; Mr Julian Sheffield; The Duke of Somerset; The Hon Michael Spring-Rice; Mr Kenelm Storey; Sir Richard Storey Bt; Mr Andrew Sutcliffe QC; Sir Tatton Sykes Bt; Mr Graham Taylor; Mr Luke Thompson-Coon; Mrs Harriet Tupper; Mr Audley Twiston-Davies; Lord Vestey; Mr Edward Wake; Sir Humphry Wakefield Bt; Mr Timothy Whiteley; Mr Charles Williams; Major Tom Wills; Mr George Winn Darley; Sir William Worsley Bt; Mr Nicholas Wrigley; Mr Charles Wyvill; Colonel Edward York

It has been agreed that legislation is required to help the police to use communications to catch the most serious criminals
Sir, Communications information — the who, when, where of a communication but not the content — is vital to help catch paedophiles, terrorists and other serious criminals (“Cameron is told to stop snooping on web users”, Apr 22). It is used by law enforcement agencies within a strict framework of safeguards.
As smart phones and the internet change the way we communicate, the police are increasingly unable to obtain evidence that was previously available. Capability is being eroded.
The parliamentary committees that scrutinised the draft Communications Data Bill agreed that legislation was required. We accept the substance of the recommendations and are revising our proposals to ensure that they provide collective security while safeguarding personal freedoms. This legislation will not damage the UK’s technology sector — the Government compensates service providers for costs incurred due to legislation.
Doing nothing is not an option.
James Brokenshire
Security Minister

It makes no sense to commit a proportion of GDP to aid while in effect colluding with corruption on a huge scale
Sir, By taking the drugs trade out of the hands of organised crime (Opinion, Apr 19, and letters, Apr 22) we would also help to alleviate the awful suffering of people in the producer and transit countries in Latin America and West Africa. It’s confused, to say the least, to commit 0.7 per cent of GDP to aid while effectively colluding with corruption and violence on a huge scale in those countries so as to gratify consumers in Western countries.
Moreover, if those who govern us have the imagination and courage to admit the failure of the “war on drugs” and face down tabloid pressures they may do something to revive public faith in politics.
Lord Howarth of Newport
House of Lords

It would be more sensible for readers to avoid reviews and social media concerning programmes they haven’t seen yet
Sir, Andrew Billen opens his review of ITV’s Broadchurch with the words “in deference to time-shifters, I have been instructed not to say exactly how the final episode of the best British TV thriller for years played out” (Apr 23).
He’s unable, then, to discuss the central element of the series. Where will this end? Are your theatre reviewers issued similar warnings when writing about, say, Macbeth, in deference to those who might have tickets a week later? Should you have avoided telling us the result of Manchester United’s championship match because some poor fan was saving the game to watch later? Will Michael Atherton have to censor his thoughts of the third day of a Test match so as not to upset spectators who may be planning to arrive on day four?
Time-shifters have to tough it out. They have to avoid reading reviews, all social media and any conversations with strangers on trains.
The rest of us can then enjoy what we pay for: your opinions.
David Wason
Whaley Bridge, Derbyshire


SIR – It was a surprise to read that the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh had been awarded funds to make it less “middle-class” (report, Saturday 20).
Having been closely associated with the garden for decades, I can vouch that there have been many less-well-off visitors coming in over the years, some almost daily, to enjoy the peace and tranquillity.
From visitor surveys, we know that a great percentage come in to relax rather than do serious botanical studies.
One lady, who had been to a funeral, was moved to write and leave a note attached to a tree to say how much solace the garden had given her.
W A Tait

SIR – Your leading article (April 22) is correct in suggesting that George Osborne, the Chancellor, should maintain his austerity policy to deal with the deficit.
The widely accepted definition of the term recession as “two or more consecutive quarters of negative growth” may have been correct 100 years ago but it is now misleadingly as economic matters have moved from being primarily local to global. The revised definition needs the phrase “without permanent recovery within five years” added.
During the Tony Blair/Gordon Brown years, Labour devastated Britain’s finances, and this must never be allowed to happen again. George Osborne was left with an extremely difficult problem to rectify, with only five years in power in which to do so.
Athol A Forsyth
SIR – The worst banking crash in British history has been laid at the door of bankers by politicians and the public. The evidence, however, suggests that Parliament, the White House and Congress are responsible.
Related Articles
Botanic gardens offer peace and solace to all
23 Apr 2013
Had cautious mortgage lending not been laid aside after two centuries by political acts there would have been no crash. Parliament enacted the Building Societies Act in 1986 to allow societies to demutualise, become banks and begin competitive mortgage lending beyond the traditional limits of 75 per cent of property mortgaged and three times the borrower’s salary. Across the Atlantic, mortgage lending become national and competitive under express commands to lend sub-prime by Presidents George Bush Senior, Bill Clinton and George Bush Junior.
Politicians assure us that regulations are in place to ensure that the crash will not recur. However, unless limits are imposed on mortgage lending by the Government, competition will continue to be fierce, and the recent banking crash may well be repeated.
Malcolm Hill
London W8
SIR – The International Monetary Fund is peddling the notion that we should slow down the austerity programme’s pace. Perhaps it is terrified that our solution will work, and the rabble that is the eurozone will plunge into bankruptcy.
So stick with it, Mr Osborne, I don’t want to spend my final years in penury.
Colin Cummings
Yelverton, Northamptonshire
SIR – In a speech to launch the Conservative campaign for the local elections, David Cameron assured us that the Conservatives will “defend taxpayers’ hard-earned money”.
Does this defence include the current policy of quantitative easing that is steadily devaluing every hard-earned pound?
I was reminded of Harold Wilson’s “pound-in-your-pocket” speech when he was Labour prime minister, which contained equally empty rhetoric.
Terry Lloyd
Above the shop
SIR – There is one easy step to increase available housing and help small businesses boost their income, which will in turn help to stop the demise of the high street (Leading article, April 20).
Most small business owners no longer want to live over their shops. Walk down any high street and you will see dusty windows and unused accommodation.
If the owners were incentivised, perhaps by tax breaks or cheap loans, to make small secure entrances off their shop front doors to the upper floors, there could be hundreds of extra homes in every town.
Selling or renting these would then provide more income for small businesses. We know it works – our small family business has done just this with a building several hundred years old.
Pennie Orger
Stroud, Gloucestershire
SIR – Apart from free parking, local councils should seriously consider giving small businesses a six- or 12-month holiday from business rates to help them become established.
Kate Chick
Rustington, West Sussex
SIR – An immediate improvement to the appearance of the high street would be to discard standard corporate shop fronts and replace them with shop fronts in keeping with the traditional high street.
E W Collins
Lymington, Hampshire
Princely watercolours
SIR – While Mark Hudson (Commentary, April 19) is far from flattering about the Prince of Wales’s watercolour paintings, it should be pointed out that the man paints for pleasure in his spare time. The results are, to many people’s eyes, pleasant.
Because of who he is, they sell well and he gives the money to charity. What’s to dislike?
Nicholas Wightwick
Rossett, Wrexham
Peter Simple’s world
SIR – I enjoyed Harry Mount’s tribute to Michael Wharton, creator of the Peter Simple column (“The man who foresaw the way of the world”, Comment, April 20). But there was no mention of Alderman Jabez Foodbotham “the 25-stone, crag-jawed, iron-watch-chained, grim-booted perpetual chairman of the Bradford City Tramways and Fine Arts Committee”.
It was hoped a statue of him would be erected on Ilkley Moor, but sadly this never came to pass.
Ray Pearce
Castle Bromwich, Warwickshire
On the rack
SIR – I wage a constant battle in trying to explain to both restaurant proprietors and breakfast or afternoon tea consumers that a toast rack is not intended to be (merely) a decorative ornament, but has an important practical application: it prevents toast going soggy.
There is a restaurant where I go for breakfast that, although not yet persuaded to obtain a proper supply for all their customers, did, at least, have the good grace to acquire one for me alone – and woe betide anyone else who tries to use it.
John Fingleton
London W1
Immunising children
SIR – Dr Michael Barrie (Letters, April 22), like many of his profession, fails to understand the real parental anxieties that vaccination of children causes.
In the realm of academic journals, the tragic number of children who have reacted badly to vaccinations is a numerical statistic. But in the real world, most parents have heard of at least one episode of a bad reaction to vaccination and so cling to any measure that helps avoid side effects.
This issue was well known 50 years ago when our son had an immediate fit and paralysis requiring hospital admission following a whooping cough vaccination. He had an earlier reaction to a combined vaccine, which caused our GP to advise a single vaccination next time round.
More research is required to develop a test that could detect those few likely to react badly to vaccination. If such were available, Dr Barrie might find he had the 100 per cent parental backing he seeks.
A E Hanwell
Bookseller’s triumph
SIR – While travelling, my son read several Walter Scott novels on his Kindle, and made copious notes on it (Letters, March 29). This week, prior to writing a 2,500-word essay for the start of term, he found the screen had shattered, precluding reading anything at all.
He was able to transfer his notes to his computer – then quickly went to the university bookshop to buy some paperback classic volumes, which perhaps he should have done in the first place.
Virginia Coates
Overton, Hampshire
Pest controllers
SIR – Margaret Barnard (Letters, April 22) suggests investing in ducks to reduce garden slugs. We have just lost, for the third time in five years, all our ducks and chickens to a fox who kills for the sake of it. We will stick to slug pellets from now on.
Ian Rennardson
Hildenborough, Kent
SIR – I have six pure white Call Ducks. They are half the size of regular ducks and are hugely sociable. However, gardening is a hazard – they have to be lifted out of planting holes. They have been laying beautiful blue eggs, which make delicious sponges. All that plus slug defence.
Felicity Thomson
Symington, Ayrshire
Longer school days instil a stronger work ethic
SIR – Margot James (Comment, April 22) draws attention to a striking difference between independent and state schools: time spent learning. The outcome for independent school pupils, who work an hour and 45 minutes longer in class per day, is better examination results and access to superior employment.
The advantage of an education in the private sector is not simply higher educational achievement but also the acquisition of a stronger work ethic, which remains an asset for life. Michael Gove, the Education Secretary, should defy the teachers’ unions that oppose a longer school day. They are denying their pupils the right not only to better qualifications but also to greater social mobility.
Ron Forrest
Lower Milton, Somerset
SIR – I am concerned that Michael Gove, in his drive to increase standards in our schools, is seeing children merely as manufacturing objects rather than as young humans needing nurture to become well-rounded adults.
Our grandchildren come out of school tired. To learn, pupils need active, fresh minds. It is not the length of the school day that is important but the quality of experience the children have during it.
Phil Baker
Highworth, Wiltshire
SIR – Mick Richards (Letters, April 20) thinks teachers should be made to work a “normal 37-hour week”.
My future daughter-in-law is a primary school teacher. She arrives at school at 7.30am every weekday and remains long after the children have gone home. Most of her evenings and Sundays are taken up with marking or planning.
If you add up those hours, they amount to considerably more than 37.
Jenny Jenner
Northbourne, Kent

Irish Times

Sir, – So we now have the truth of the matter. Our current legal system in Ireland has operated a flawed system in relation to a pregnant woman’s birth difficulties for far too long.
At present in Ireland, for a woman undergoing the deep trauma of a miscarriage that is leading to the inevitable death of her baby, legally there can be no help from the medical profession to ease her suffering, unless she herself is at death’s door. In actual terms the law is saying: “Too bad about your continuing pain, your own acute anxiety and the coming loss of your baby, we can’t help you; not unless or until you are actually dying can we then try to behave as medical healers who have taken the Hippocratic oath to help save lives and minimise suffering – so stick with it, it will soon be all over”.
To refuse to help the suffering woman whose baby is not viable is morally indefensible and the law as stands is appallingly unjust.
I am sure there are many Irish women who have survived this inhumane waiting treatment while undergoing the acute sadness of a miscarriage, but under our present system there could well be more such casualties.
I speak as a mother of four, plus, sadly, one necessary intervention over 30 years ago, carried out at that time with efficiency and kindness. Please let us Irish women try to ensure that new legal guidelines include the words “the health and welfare of the mother” as well as the word “life”. –Is mise,
Moyola Park,
Newcastle, Galway.
Sir, – Like most doctors, I read about the inquest into the death of Savita Halappanaver with shame and incredulity. According to Kitty Holland (Home News, April 20th), Mrs Halappanavar was given paracetamol to reduce her temperature on Wednesday, October 24th.
I spent most of my professional life looking after patients with leukaemia in St James’s hospital. Almost all patients had a raised temperature at some time during their illness. I never prescribed paracetamol to lower a temperature but always looked for and treated the cause of the raised temperature which was usually sepsis. There never was and never is an indication to give paracetamol to an adult to lower a temperature. The only indication for giving drugs such as paracetamol is in children under the age of two years as they may develop “fits” with a high temperature irrespective of its cause. Judging by media reports today it seems as if our spineless politicians wish to pass legislation which would do nothing to prevent a repeat of recent events.
Incidentally is “system failure” a new expression for a cock-up? – Yours, etc,
Prof Emeritus of
Haematology & Academic
St James’s Hospital &
Trinity College Dublin,
Dublin 2.
Sir, – Praveen Halappanaver is right (Front page, April 20th). It is barbaric – truly barbaric. A foetus that was incapable of surviving was left to die inside its mother’s body. It was left there until the mother’s life was at risk. Only when it looked like she was going to die could it be removed legally. So, Savita Halappanavar died.

Sir, – Brian Coulter (April 17th) wonders why Met Éireann does not issue weather warnings for the entirety of Ulster, rather than the counties of Cavan, Monaghan and Donegal.
Weather warnings are a serious business, and are designed to prompt citizens to take actions that will protect themselves and their property from anticipated hazards. Clarity and absence of confusion in the warnings message are paramount. For that reason the World Meteorological Organisation (the UN agency that co-ordinates the world’s weather services) promotes the “Single Official Voice” policy. This policy (respected by Met Éireann) dictates that only one organisation should issue weather warnings for any given territory, and that this organisation should be the relevant National Meteorological Service (NMS). Responsibility for weather warnings for the six counties of Northern Ireland lies with the UK Met Office.
Recognising that travel across national borders is routine for European citizens, the NMSs across Europe have established the Meteoalarm service. This collects weather warnings from across the continent and presents them on one website ( using colour and symbol to remove dependence on language. Met Éireann has recently aligned our national warnings service fully with Meteoalarm, using the yellow/orange/red categorisation to present weather warnings with greater clarity and impact. – Yours, etc,
Head of Forecasting,
Met Éireann,
Glasnevin Hill,

Sir, – My late husband Sam Stephenson rescued Ballynoe House in Carlow and put considerable effort into restoring the house which he loved. It is the reason it stands as a fine house today. I was amazed to read Michael Parsons’s comments referring to Sam’s time at the house (Residential Property, April 18th). To refer to the installation of a swimming pool in the walled garden, which Sam restored, as “most unexpected and jaw-dropping” and the modernist pavilion with sauna and changing room as “shocking and unexpected” is surely sensationalist journalism.
I have visited the garden and the said pool and pavilion sit very comfortably in it and make a lovely use of the space. As somebody who loves old houses and deplores the desecration of them, I would be the first to shout if Ballynoe had had the soul ripped out of it. It did not. I have witnessed houses that have had the soul ripped out of them, particularly in more recent Celtic tiger times. Ballynoe is not one of them. To ask why did Sam bother to install a pool when there was the river bordering the house is just having a go. – Yours, etc,
Co Kildare.

Sir, – I agree with Breda O’Brien’s contention that opposing gay marriage is not necessarily bigoted (Opinion, April 20th). The columnist makes a deft argument to justify her opposition to granting the right to marry to same-sex couples.
The argument is, however, based on an entirely unfounded assumption and therefore draws conclusions that are specious. The indicators for parents who effectively promote the healthy development of their children and protect their fundamental rights include showing the child unconditional love, protecting the child from harm, ensuring the child’s access to a good education and providing a stable family environment. Both intuitively and based on sound empirical research, the gender of the parent or parents is not an indicator that carries any weight in relation to a child’s wellbeing. The American Academy of Pediatrics published a technical report just last month, based on over 30 years of data and research, which confirmed that what is relevant for children is the parental competence – and not the gender or sexual orientation – of those who take care of them.
Marriage indeed provides the most stable environment for bringing up children, regardless of whether it is contracted between two people of the same sex or opposite sexes. A steadily increasing number of countries, from France to Uruguay, have recognised this and granted the right to marry to same-sex couples, thus contributing to a safe and healthy family life for countless children in their jurisdictions. It is time for Ireland to join them. – Yours, etc,
Vienna, Austria.
Sir, – I was heartened to read, having recently entered into one, that Breda O’Brien (Opinion, April 20th) has no difficulty with civil unions, “although it does not chime with [her] personal beliefs”. Less encouraging though for us fledgling homemakers is her attitude to gay adoption; to be tolerated in circumstances “when the only alternative is to spend life in a loveless orphanage.”
Like Ms O’Brien, I too “was not going to write about gay marriage . . . but I have changed my mind, because not to do so would be completely lacking in courage, and to bow to a consensus that is proud of lacking in respect for the arguments [and difference] of others”. However, it needs to be said that her argument that “thoughtful conservatives are not bigoted, or intellectually inferior, or vile” equally applies to liberals – sometimes though, even the most thoughtful (Fintan O’ Toole, Opinion, April 16th) simply run out of patience. – Yours, etc,
Goldsmith Street, Dublin 7.

Sir, – Now is the time for the Government or Dublin City Council to step in and fund the Dublin Marathon this year. The event organisers should invite runners from Boston to participate in the event for free as a gesture of solidarity with those hurt and grieving and to express revulsion at such a disgusting attack. The event should be dedicated to peace and tolerance.
A meaningful act of solidarity with the Boston diaspora and to the American people as a whole should not need any such occasion as The Gathering to happen. All it takes is the sincerity of those who really wish to empathise and comfort to bring it to life with more than words. – Yours, etc,
Half Moon Bay,
California, US.

Irish Independent

• Like Joan of Arc of old, Joan Burton has emerged in shimmering armour on a gleaming charger to carry the light out of the darkness, announcing that the end of austerity is nigh.
Also in this section
Martin is all politics and no governance
Will Letters to Editor survive?
Thatcher quoted incorrectly
The Labour minister has declared that Ireland has “reached its limits of austerity” and that ordinary people are “shouldering too much of the burden”.
At last, Ireland has reached an epiphany, our own age of enlightenment has dawned.
Not that we should necessarily discard the sack cloth and ashes, or hairshirts, immediately. No, not quite yet. But deliverance is at hand and the Government intends to make a major concession to middle-income taxpayers in this year’s Budget as part of a strategy to demonstrate the era of impenetrable bleakness is drawing to a close.
It will be replaced with a new paradigm of mild flagellation and alternative adversity measures.
We can expect a significant package to recognise the sacrifices that middle-class taxpayers have endured over the past five years, through a combination of higher taxes and pay cuts.
A senior Fine Gael minister has been quoted as saying: “We have come to the point now where working people are beginning to suffer from (austerity) fatigue.”
Needless to say, this minister did not wish to be named but added that: “We need to make a strong gesture to recognise their efforts and to encourage them to spend in the economy again. That, in turn, will stimulate growth.”
So it’s all over folks. Bring out your brightest colours. The Sean Bhan Bocht’s ship has come in, and our economic fetters rent in twain. It’s party time. Joan says so.
M J Gillbride
Aughrim, Co Wicklow
Sing our own praises
• When President Michael D Higgins addressed the European Parliament recently, he expressed recurring concern that the founding values of the EU are being threatened and disregarded. He reasserted the sentiment of Jacques Delors, who opined that Europe needs a secular soul – a deficit that Mr Delors attributed inter alia to a lack of interest by national governments.
The President also cited the “singular example” of three obscure European dissident thinkers as being a seminal influence on the intellectual heritage of Europe.
He offered no insight as to how Ireland, or Irish genius, contributes to the vitality of contemporary Europe or whether Ireland has been the author of any initiative whatsoever that could be deemed mission-critical to the vision of the founders of the EU, a catalyst to the formation of its soul, or its humanity.
Ireland applied to become a member of the EEC in July 1961 at a time when the nation was on skid row from an economic perspective and could not claim the degree of sophistication, prosperity and worldliness that we now take for granted.
The 50th anniversary of the iconic, address of US President John F Kennedy to Dail Eireann will be celebrated at the end of June. On that occasion, JFK proclaimed: “This has never been a rich or powerful country, and yet, since earliest times, its influence on the world has been rich and powerful”.
Would it not have been appropriate, on the 40th anniversary of Ireland’s membership of the EU, for our president to describe the influence of Ireland on the evolution of the EU, or must the citizens of Ireland rely exclusively on the remarks of articulate foreign leaders for such validation?
Myles Duffy
Glenageary, Co Dublin
Rights of the unborn
• In the weekend discussions regarding who should decide on whether or not an abortion should be permitted in the event of a threat of suicide, it was noticeable that there was no indication as to who should be there on behalf of the baby.
Article 40.3.3. of the Constitution means, in effect, that every time the life of an unborn comes under threat, there is a constitutional imperative on the part of the State to defend and vindicate that life.
The Health Minister, and indeed, the Justice Minister, must, therefore, ensure that if legislation is being drafted as is suggested, it must include a provision that at least one senior counsel should be involved to represent the baby, and also the State that is constitutionally bound to protect it. Otherwise the State will stand accused, not only of failing to carry out the constitutional imperative, but also could be sued for its failure to do so.
All the recent discussion has been in relation to the protection of mothers, but it must be remembered that the primary purpose of the inclusion of Article 40.3.3. was to protect the unborn.
If it is now being suggested that we must legislate to fulfil a constitutional requirement in relation to expectant mothers, it it similarly imperative that we legislate for the constitutional protection of the unborn.
Frank Murphy
Strandhill Road, Sligo
Outstanding chief
• It was touching to hear Leinster coach Joe Schmidt speak so openly about his son Luke’s epilepsy.
One can understand his strident comments in relation to the head injury suffered by David Kearney after what looked like a very ugly challenge by Paul O’Connell.
Schmidt has been an outstanding chief at Leinster, commanding respect, and applying himself resolutely to the rigours of his role.
P B Dalton
Blackrock Co Dublin.
A nation on the rack
• I recently returned home to Dublin after a number of years abroad where I now live. I have come back to a very different Ireland.
I went down to my local village for a pint at the weekend. There were very few people out, but I did notice that the nearby off-licence was very busy.
I do not mind paying extra for the heat and ambiance that a well run pub offers, but the essential quality is cheerfulness and friendliness.
Alas, there were so few out and about that the pub, which I always remembered as being thronged and alive with the energy of people intent on a good time, seemed empty and a little cold.
Down the street the restaurants were kept going, but I was told that the bulk of the business was of the ‘early-bird’ type. True enough, by 8.30pm the village seemed solitary and even lonely.
I know people are struggling to make ends meet; I know, too, that the sacrifices demanded at the austerity altar would make even Abraham blanch.
I had listened earlier in the day to the Master of the High Court, Edmund Honohan, suggest that our Government, which now controls the banks, would be well advised to put a freeze on mortgages for a couple of years to give a turbo-charge to our spluttering nigh-on moribund economy.
I know there will be a screeching chorus in opposition to this eminently sensible suggestion.
But there has been a deafening silence when it comes to solutions. My country has become a torture chamber with all the crucifying instruments of austerity. The whole nation is on the rack.
Unless we get proactive on stimulus or pro-growth as opposed to slash-and-burn policies, there will be no one left to turn out the few remaining lights.
J J Oliver
Cambridge, Mas, USA
Invite for a quick bite
• I believe it is normal for premier soccer teams to go for a few pints together after a game. However, following the “distasteful” ending to the match at Anfield, it was rumoured that the Chelsea full-back line invited Luis Suarez out for a quick bite!
Sean Kelly
Tramore, Waterford

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