More garden

More Garden 7th May 2013

I trot round the park today and listen to the Navy lark. I Oh dear, oh dear
Troutbridge is sent off to be sunk in an exercise. Purely by accident Leslie finds the right spot and grounds them. But they are saved by the Batawanland boat accidentally crashing in to them Priceless.
A warm day so tired mow the lawn and put horse manure in the plant tubs.
We Watch Forsyke Sage fifth episode Soames rapes his wife the rehabilitation of James continues
Mary wins at Scrabble today, just and gets just under 400, I might get my revenge tomorrow, I hope.

Obituary:

Giulio Andreotti
Giulio Andreotti, the former Italian premier who has died aged 94, was for more than 40 years the godfather of Christian Democracy in Italy’s first post-war republic, until even the “Old Fox” — as he was widely known — was tainted by the corruption scandals that removed from office virtually the entire political class.

Giulio Andreotti Photo: AFP/Getty
3:00PM BST 06 May 2013
A man of ascetic tastes and sphinxlike demeanour, but known also for his astringent remarks and sardonic sense of humour, Andreotti was a consummate politician, a masterly survivor in the chaotic and treacherous world of Italian politics. “Aside from the Punic Wars, for which I was too young, I have been blamed for everything else,” he said.
He entered Parliament in 1947, immediately became a cabinet under-secretary and was then rarely out of a cabinet post until 1992. He served as prime minister seven times between 1972 and 1992, and held the foreign minister’s portfolio through six successive governments from 1983 to 1989.
An instinctive anti-Communist, the lodestars of his political firmament were the Vatican and the North Atlantic alliance with the United States. But Andreotti was above all a pragmatist, and when forced in 1976 to reach an accommodation with the Communist Party in order to maintain a minority government, he did not flinch. The prospect of relinquishing his hold on the levers of power was sufficiently alarming: “Power weighs too heavily only upon those who do not have it,” was one of his most oft-quoted aphorisms.
He was a devout Catholic who attended a daily mass at six in the morning throughout his life, and was on close terms with six successive pontiffs, earning him the sobriquet “Julius VI” and even “Julius the God” among his followers. As a young man he was once a chief altar-boy at Segni, near Rome, and went on to study Canon Law, completing a thesis on “The Personality of the Criminal in Church Law”.
For his austere and somewhat pious nature, Andreotti’s detractors dubbed him “the sacristan” and referred to him as “Jesuitical”. The Socialist leader Bettino Craxi once damned him as “Beelzebub”, but Andreotti was unruffled and in due course the insult rebounded when Craxi was forced to flee into exile in Tunisia to avoid prosecution for corruption.
Andreotti himself survived several setbacks. In 1990 his position was damaged by his admission, after years of denial, that a clandestine network of anti-Communist paramilitaries, known as operation Gladio, had been set up in 1958 to combat the threat of Communist subversion and invasion and had never been disbanded.
The suspicion, allayed at the time by denials from Andreotti of its very existence, was that members of Gladio had been involved in the “Strategy of Tension”, the violent campaign of destabilisation orchestrated by the far-Right in the 1970s and early 1980s. Andreotti’s escape from this tight corner did indeed owe much to his Jesuitical skills.
Rumours of shady dealings were almost an occupational hazard for so enduring a figure in Italian political life, but Andreotti was assumed to be “untouchable”, even by the Milan magistrates whose “Clean Hands” investigations into corruption brought down Craxi and so many others.
When asked once about his relations with the crooked financier Michele Sindona, who was poisoned in prison (possibly by his own hand), and the fraudulent head of Banco Ambrosiano, Roberto Calvi, who was found hanged beneath Blackfriars Bridge, Andreotti smiled enigmatically: “I must say that I met Mother Teresa much more often then I met Sindona or Calvi.”
But as the scope of the corruption investigations grew and prosecutors were able to draw increasingly on the evidence of pentiti, former Mafia members turned state witnesses, evidence came to light of Andreotti’s association with Salvatore “Toto” Riina, the supposed “boss of bosses” of Sicily’s Cosa Nostra.
In 1993 Andreotti’s senatorial immunity was lifted — a measure for which he, with characteristic insouciance, voted — so that he could be examined by magistrates and answer charges. According to the evidence of Tommaso Buscetta and Balduccio di Maggio, Andreotti had been seen meeting Riina in 1987 and greeting him with a kiss; he was the Mafia’s top political contact, it was said, the man the Cosa Nostra knew as “Zio (uncle) Giulio”.
Andreotti was unfazed. In July 1994 he was watching Italy play Nigeria in the World Cup when a friend telephoned to give him the news of the decision by Palermo magistrates to indict him. “Don’t you think it might be better,” he replied, “if we were to finish watching the game?”
Before his trial opened in September the following year, prosecutors said they would prove that Andreotti was not “a man of the government, but a boss of the Cosa Nostra”. Andreotti vigorously denied the charges, and pointed to a anti-Mafia crackdown that he had initiated in the early 1990s. Certainly a turning point in his relations with the Mafia seems to have come in 1980, when the mob angered Andreotti by murdering Piersanti Mattarella, the reformist president of the Sicilian regional government. On October 23 1999, Andreotti walked free from the courtroom in Palermo, cleared of being the Mafia’s protector in Rome. “Obviously I’m delighted,” he said after hearing the verdict.
He had another reason to celebrate as, just a month earlier, in September 1999, he had also been cleared of ordering the murder of an investigative journalist, Mino Pecorelli. Pecorelli, from the magazine Osservatorio Politico, was killed on March 20 1979, shot (in a Mafia trademark for those accused of talking too much) through the mouth.
It was alleged that Pecorelli, who was noted for his contacts, was on the point of publishing information which potentially could have ruined Andreotti’s career, and in 1993 Buscetta testified that Pecorelli had been murdered as a favour to the politician. As Andreotti’s not guilty verdict came through, the then opposition leader, Silvio Berlusconi, rejoiced: “Hallelujah! I have always thought it was ridiculous that a man as intelligent and brilliant as Giulio Andreotti could risk a life and a career like his with such nonsensical and absurd behaviour.”
The prosecution appealed, however, and in 2002, Andreotti was convicted and sentenced to 24 years in jail for Pecorelli’s murder. It was a ruling that electrified the country. Finally, it appeared, the high-flying, untouchable Andreotti had been brought low. But even his political adversaries backed him to make a comeback, and his allies in the Catholic Church were not shy of drawing comparisons with the life of Christ. “Without a doubt, at the end there will be a resurrection,” said Cardinal Fiorenzo Angelini.
So it proved. The following year Andreotti was cleared by Italy’s Supreme Court of involvement in Pecorelli’s killing. His final acquittal on all Mafia-related charges came in 2004, when he was 85. But the court did not positively declare him innocent. Instead the judgment noted that Andreotti had shown “real, solid and friendly openness towards mafiosi” before 1980, when he had “friendly and even direct ties” with the Mafia boss Stefano Bontade, but could not be prosecuted for such links due to the statute of limitations.
In 1980, the court said, Andreotti had met Bontade in a vain bid to save Mattarella’s life. When his pleas for clemency were ignored, Andreotti put himself and his family at risk to launch his anti-Mafia crackdown. If links persisted between Andreotti and the Cosa Nostra after 1980, the court suggested, there was insufficient evidence to convict.
The ruling brought to an end more than a decade of investigations and trials that had tarnished an entire political system. For the courtroom sagas were widely perceived as trials of the Christian Democrat-dominated machine that had run Italy since the Second World War. No one represented that machine more than Andreotti, a politician once described by an editor of Il Giornale as “a complete man of power… without hope of paradise or fear of hell”.
The son of a schoolteacher who died when he was a year old, Giulio Andreotti was born on January 14 1919 in Rome’s Via dei Prefetti, a stone’s throw from the Parliament building. He was brought up by his mother but was also deeply influenced by his aunt, a strict Roman Catholic. From her he learnt, so he recalled, “never to over-dramatise things, everything sorts itself out in time, keep a certain distance from things in life, not many things are really important”.
He was educated locally and, though he did not shine at school, took a part-time job in a tax office which enabled him to attend Rome University. He soon became a leading figure in the Catholic student movement, and became its national president after his friend Aldo Moro was forced to quit the post to do his military service.
Andreotti graduated in 1940 with a law degree and, excused combat duties after a physical examination, served for a spell as a medical orderly. From 1942 to 1945 he was president of the Italian Catholic University Federation and edited its weekly magazine, Azione Fucina.
In 1942 he first encountered the founding father of Christian Democracy, Alcide de Gasperi, who became Andreotti’s personal mentor. De Gasperi was working as a librarian in the Vatican (which had granted him asylum from Mussolini’s death squads), when young Giulio came to research an article on the history of the papal navy.
“Don’t you have anything better to do?” snapped de Gasperi. Andreotti nevertheless impressed the irascible Christian Democrat with his intelligence and he was given a job on the Catholic newspaper, Il Popolo, then published clandestinely. Familiarity with the ways of the Holy See was useful to the outlawed de Gasperi, and Andreotti soon became his trusted lieutenant.
It was said that Andreotti was employed on occasion to stand behind a curtain to minute secretly what passed between de Gasperi and political rivals he met. Exercising the utmost discretion in all political dealings proved to be the most valuable lesson passed on by de Gasperi to his young protégé.
In 1944, at the age of 25, Andreotti was elected to the newly formed Christian Democratic Party’s national council. Two years later he became a member of the constituent assembly which drafted Italy’s new constitution, and in 1947 he was elected to the Chamber of Deputies in the new Parliament.
In May that year de Gasperi, then prime minister, appointed Andreotti his Cabinet undersecretary. Andreotti proved a discreet servant to his political master, an astute judge of the mood of the House and an effective behind-the-scenes operator. It was Andreotti’s air of competence and his care to mollify potential opponents, rather than any great personal charisma, that took him to the top of his party and the government.
In 1954, the year of de Gasperi’s death, Andreotti won his first Cabinet post, as minister for the interior in the Fanfani administration. Though Andreotti’s ardent anti-Communism placed him firmly on the Right of his Party, at a time when a more progressive wing of the Christian Democrats was in the ascendant, his career gained an inexorable momentum. The next year he became minister of finance and in 1958 he headed the Treasury. From 1959 to 1960 and again from 1960 to 1966 he was minister of defence.
After a two-year stint as minister of industry and commerce, he left the Cabinet to lead the Christian Democrats in the House of Deputies. It was in this role that Andreotti conducted the campaign against the Bill, sponsored by the Socialists and the Liberals, to legalise divorce in Italy. At the time it was estimated that some five million Italian men and women were “marriage outlaws”, either unmarried but cohabiting or married but separated.
The Christian Democrats commanded only 265 of the 630-seat lower House, and desperate measures were called for; it was even reported that Andreotti was prepared to do a deal with his arch-enemy, the Communists (PCI), if it was willing to withdraw its support for the Bill.
In the end his efforts proved a rearguard action, and the Bill was finally passed in 1970. But the campaign did no harm to Andreotti’s reputation for enjoying the closest relations with the Vatican of any contemporary politician, and his record showed conspicuous loyalty to the Papacy.
As finance minister, for example, he had been censured in 1958 for turning a blind eye to “Vatican nepotism” — the practice of granting tax exemption to relatives of the Pope. And six years later Andreotti was forthright in his defence, in an article for the magazine Concretezza, which he founded and edited, of Pope Pius XII against charges of failing to do enough to protect Italian Jews from Nazi persecution.
In July 1970, after the collapse of Prime Minister Mariano Rumor’s centre-Left coalition, President Giuseppe Saragat invited Andreotti to try to form a government. He accepted the challenge with reservations and, after a fortnight of negotiations with potential coalition partners who ranged from his own Christian Democrats to the Socialists, renounced the task.
He returned to his role as parliamentary leader until February 1972, when he was called by the new President Giovanni Leone to try once again to form a governing coalition. His first term as prime minister lasted only nine days, though, before the new government was brought down by a vote of confidence. A general election was scheduled for May, though Andreotti continued as a caretaker prime minister.
Amid mounting public concern about the escalation of both Right-wing and Left-wing terrorist activity, Giangiacomo Feltrinelli, the Maoist millionaire who had in 1957 been the first to publish an edition of Boris Pasternak’s Dr Zhivago in the West, was found dead near Milan. He had apparently been killed by his own explosive charge while attempting to sabotage an electricity pylon.
Andreotti promised to maintain law and order and, though the election result left the composition of Parliament little changed, he was able to form a working coalition which did not include the Socialists. The new government was immediately beset by strikes, high unemployment and inflation; nor could its premier rely on the loyalty of his own party — some Left-wing Christian Democrats rebelled and joined the opposition to vote for higher pensions.
Andreotti, both by instinct and necessity, took a pragmatic approach to government. He controlled prices of essential food stuffs, and reached an accommodation with organised labour. Later in 1972 he even paid an official visit to the Soviet Union, the first by an Italian premier for more than a decade. He also took an active role in the October meeting of the European Community heads of government, calling for the establishment of a Regional Development Fund, a measure which was to prove extremely valuable to Italy’s impoverished south.
By June 1973, though, the strains of holding the coalition together in the face of a worsening economic climate proved too great and Andreotti offered his resignation. The last straw was the Republican Party’s withdrawal of support over the licencing of a private cable television station.
Andreotti then chaired the Chamber of Deputies Foreign Affairs Committee, before rejoining the Cabinet in March 1974 as defence minister once more. Later that year he was appointed minister for the budget and economic planning and busied himself with public works projects in southern Italy. Two years later, following the collapse of Aldo Moro’s administration and amid growing economic and political chaos, he left the post to become prime minister once again.
President Leone was compelled to call an early election in the hope of resolving at least the political crisis. With the lira plunging, a mounting budget deficit and inflation running at 20 per cent, the Christian Democrats were losing ground to the Communists, who had made spectacular gains in regional and municipal elections.
In the general election the Communists came second with 227 seats to the Christian Democrats’ 263, in what was to prove the high-water mark of the PCI’s influence. Andreotti was called upon to form a government in extraordinarily difficult circumstances: on the one hand, relations with the United States and Nato which Andreotti had cultivated so assiduously were threatened by the prospect of Communists in the Cabinet; on the other hand, the country might prove ungovernable if they were excluded.
Andreotti, typically, crafted a deal that eventually worked in his favour. This he did by coming to terms with the Communists and ruling with a minority Christian Democrat government. The bargain he reached with the veteran Communist leader Pietro Ingrao gave the PCI full consultation rights and a commanding position in Parliament, in return for the party’s abstention from key votes on the government’s programme.
The PCI, desperate to come in from the cold of more than three decades of exclusion from government, thought that it at last had its hands on the levers of power. But, in what came to be known as the “Historic Compromise”, the Communists gradually lost credibility in the eyes of the electorate and their own grassroots members, as its deputies were forced to sit on their hands in order to preserve their position while Andreotti pushed through a tough austerity programme.
It was a supremely Machiavellian manoeuvre on the part of Andreotti: he had succeeded in implicating his political opponents in an unpopular but necessary policy, which effectively split the Left and put the PCI under the most severe internal pressure. By the end of 1976 Andreotti was so confident of having tamed the PCI that he made a three-day visit to the United States to meet with President Gerald Ford and President-elect Jimmy Carter, seeking their financial aid and a generous loan from the IMF.
The “Historic Compromise” lasted for a further two years until the PCI — pressed by its own militants — stepped up its campaign for formal inclusion in government. The move caused alarm in Washington, and Andreotti stood firm, earning the explicit support of the Vatican’s paper Osservatore della Domenica. In January 1978 Andreotti resigned as prime minister, but with the president’s blessing continued as caretaker.
He immediately reopened talks with the Communists to resolve the political crisis which was taking place against a frightening escalation of both Fascist and ultra-Leftist terrorist activity. By February, in the wake of the kidnapping and murder of Aldo Moro, the PCI’s general secretary Enrico Berlinguer was persuaded to drop his demand for Cabinet posts, and the status quo ante was temporarily restored.
Andreotti continued to show considerable tactical adroitness in handling his fragile command over the Communist-dominated Parliament, and despite opposition from that quarter successfully argued that Italy should join the European Monetary System. Yet this triumph was short-lived, for in January 1979 the Communists once again withdrew their support for the government and Andreotti, who had by now exhausted all options, was forced to advise President Sandro Pertini that he could no longer govern. But the president had no choice either but to ask Andreotti to continue as prime minister, which he did for a further six months of “phoney” government.
Andreotti returned to sit in the House of Deputies until his appointment in 1983 as foreign minister in a government headed by Craxi. The next year Andreotti faced the first major setback of his career when, in swift succession, he found himself tainted first by corruption and then by association.
With little hard evidence against him, Andreotti was acquitted of the former charge by his parliamentary peers, who decided that he had not received a bribe or had an interest in the appointment of a corrupt chief of the fiscal police. Then, after Craxi had spoken up on his behalf, Andreotti also escaped a vote of censure for his rumoured links with both the bankrupt financier Michele Sindona and the head of the P2 masonic lodge, Licio Gelli. Noting the outcomes, a colleague remarked sardonically: “Nothing ever happens to Andreotti.”
He retained his position as foreign minister and in 1987 was briefly involved once again in an attempt to form a government. Two years later, after another of Italy’s endemic political crises, he finally succeeded in constructing a working coalition and became prime minister, aged 70, of his country’s 49th post-war government. In 1990, with Andreotti at the helm, Italy took over the presidency of the European Community for a six-month term.
Having been named a senator for life, he resigned at the end of the parliamentary term and was considered an obvious candidate to succeed Francesco Cossiga as President of the Republic. But the Mafia derailed such plans. First, following the assassinations in Sicily of politicians and judges (notably Giovanni Falcone) closely linked to Andreotti, it was decided that a less partisan figure was required to preside over the country. Then came the confessions of the pentiti and the trials that would dominate the next decade of Andreotti’s life.
In 2006, aged 87, he stood for the presidency of the Senate, but was narrowly beaten. Two years later he was the subject of the widely-acclaimed film, Il Divo, a mesmerising account of the inner world of an inscrutable man who had survived when so many of his colleagues and rivals had met their physical and political ends. Andreotti walked out of a screening of the film.
Giulio Andreotti married, in 1945, Livia Danese, with whom he had four children.
Giulio Andreotti, born January 14 1919, died May 6 2013

Guardian

One facet of Naomi Klein’s article (Comment, 3 May) is that it would appear global conglomerates lower their tax liability by “giving” to charities. Those charities, instead of using the cash for their stated aims, then reinvest in those same organisations, thereby returning the cash from whence it came. This cannot be consistent with the principles of charitable giving but goes a long way to explaining the growing links between business and the charitable sector. Basically, charities are used as a massive global tax-dodge.
Kit Jackson
London
• Israel is playing a dangerous game which could widen the Syrian conflict (Report, 6 May). Are peace and dialogue no longer on the table? The west and the Arabs, having backed the rebels, should also have some control over them. If they can bypass the condition that Assad must go before talks can take place, then many lives will be saved.
TP Charles
Newcastle, Staffordshire
• In his column on journalistic cliches (Open door, 6 May), the readers’ editor says that “ambulances always race to the scene”. As an old tabloid hack, may I point put that it is fire engines that “race to the scene”. Ambulances “make a mercy dash”. (And police cars “swoop”, usually with “sirens blaring”.)
James Cox
Twickenham, Middlesex
• Re the debate on bad grammar (Letters, 6 May): is the double negative compulsory in foreign pop songs as it appears to be in English? Or indeed the triple negative, as exemplified in America’s 1972 hit A Horse With No Name, with the timeless lyric “for there ain’t no one for to give me no pain”.
Simon McIntyre
Sevenoaks, Kent
• Spaghetti is not the pasta to have alla carbonara (Letters, 6 May). Penne is much more appropriate – that’s how it’s served in Rome.
Peter Jackson
London
• Has anyone found a pub that reduced the price of beer by a penny following the last budget (Letters, 4 May)?
Dr Richard Turner
Harrogate, North Yorkshire

The answers to the questions posed by John Holford at the end of his letter (Eton’s right turn, 1 May) are not perhaps those that he might suspect. He confuses the “public service”, to which Jesse Norman referred, with “public life”, and the list he provides of old Etonians with anti-Conservative views includes writers, philosophers, scientists, journalists as well as politicians.
A quick poll of current writers, artists, actors, journalists who have been educated here would reveal a similar left-leaning preference. The Orwell Society still flourishes at Eton; the background of the boys and the teachers is more diverse than it was in the time of any of the names he mentions; rigorous questioning and debate lie at the heart of our teaching.
Our politicians may (still) be essentially conservative, but those who enter public life in other spheres head off in much more unexpected directions.
Charles Milne
Tutor for admissions, Eton College

Ed Mayo is right (Mutual dislike, 4 May). In talking of mutuals, the government must take care not to confuse joint ventures with mutual ownership. It is more than semantics, because to be a proper mutual, the customers or employees must be able to exercise control through majority ownership. A joint venture like the nudge unit is not a bad thing, but let’s call it what it is – otherwise those against this privatisation will be able to accuse the government of mutual-wash.
Peter Hunt
Chief executive, Mutuo
• It is slightly dispiriting when a respected organisation such as Co-ops UK, by raising the privatisation spectre, provides ammunition to the opponents of innovative ways of providing public services, such as public service mutuals. Mutuals can take many forms, from 100% employee ownership to joint models where employees share minority ownership with equity share-holders and with users or taxpayers (as in the nudge unit case). We should be encouraging the development of ways to release untapped energy and talent in the public sector, not quibbling about definitions.
Julian Le Grand
Chair, Mutuals Taskforce
• Ed Mayo misses the significance of member-controlled enterprises in social services. In evidence to the Welsh government’s co-operative and mutual commission we say it’s essential that the enterprise has a membership comprising service users, informal carers, the workers or service providers and supportive community interests. This can ensure that a balance between high-quality services and affordable costs is achieved. If such enterprises are to become prevalent, it’s essential investment is made in providing education, training and development for those involved. It would be foolhardy to suppose that sustainable delivery models can be introduced quickly or on a cost-neutral basis.
David Smith
Newport Social Care Co-operative

The media are hyperventilating about Ukip, including the Guardian, with its hype about the party’s performance in the South Shields byelection (Labour holds off Ukip surge, 3 May). The BBC, in particular, seems insistent on telling us that Labour did very badly. Rubbish. Labour’s target was to win 200 more council seats, it won nearly 300. It won both mayoral elections and did well in numerous marginal constituencies which they will be looking to gain in 2015. It did considerably better than the pre-election opinion poll of council areas being fought suggested.
Forget about World at One interviews and the views of the incestuous Westminster village – Ed Miliband should continue with his “pallet strategy”, getting out of London, meeting ordinary voters and addressing the frustration and alienation that led to some people voting for Ukip (and considerably more people not voting at all). And be bold!
John Bourn
Gateshead
• Jonathan Freedland (Comment, 4 May) suggests that much of the Ukip vote is the result of “a nostalgic desire to … turn the clock back to a gentler past”. Well, I yearn for the days when there was no privatisation of the NHS, when genuine comprehensive education was an ideal, when welfare was not a dirty word and when the very wealthy did not receive tax cuts. So if Labour sticks to its old core beliefs, I’ll have no problem voting for that “imagined gentler past”. And while commentators whip themselves into a frenzy because one in four voters chose Ukip, over 90% of the electorate did not support them. The other parties should be as concerned about the low voting figures as the showing of a fourth party.
Dr Chris Morris
Kidderminster, Worcestershire
• The fact that a political party can freely admit to a strategy of acquiring off-the-shelf policies, propose an economic strategy where the sums do not add up and, in the weeks leading up to voting, suffer a series of what for its competitors would be omnishambolic gaffes, yet still gain 25% of the vote indicates that a significant proportion of voters has simply had enough of professional politics and politicians. I for one will thank Nigel Farage and his troupe of “clowns” if their success forces a political reboot, with less focus on spin and media polish and a greater emphasis on real engagement with voters.
Neil Macehiter
Cambridge
• Analysis of Ukip’s success in has overlooked the simple clarity of purpose and direction that the party’s very name encapsulates and conveys. This clearly appeals to the “Ronseal” generation, wanting politicians to label their tins clearly and then to do exactly what it says on them.
Liberal Democrats appear to write one thing and do the opposite (university fees), the Tories don’t mean what they say (“all in it together”) and Labour’s tins are currently label-free. The message for all main parties is that the electorate like to know in simple terms what they are voting for. This suggests that Ed Miliband might do well to label his tins sooner rather than later, and in a way that communicates a left-leaning clarity of purpose, direction and political intent for the country, party and voters alike. 
Mick Beeby
Bristol

Why did so many people vote for Ukip? In my case it was simple. On the morning of the election your splash headline (“Clegg: Ukip is dragging PM to the right”, 4 May) and the deputy PM’s assertion that “the struggle on the right of British politics caused by Ukip’s surge was pulling David Cameron away from the centre ground and making day-to-day progress in the coalition government more difficult” was all the persuasion I needed to pile on the pressure. Thank you, Nick, for giving me the nudge.
Peter Franklin
North Weald, Essex
•  Ukip can offer a wakeup call but no solutions to our political malaise. We need serious politicians who do not talk like robots. We need campaigning representatives grounded in political philosophy. We need a diversity of people in public office who are rooted in local communities and not beholden to corporate finance. If you are intelligent, committed and capable of running a car boot sale, your country needs you!
Cllr Geoff Reid
Bradford
•  So Ukip are going to cause David Cameron to swing (lurch?) to the right? This should ensure the Conservatives do not win the 2015 election. Thank you, Ukip! They will then ditch Cameron and elect a neo-Thatcherite leader. This should ensure that they never win again. Thank you even more, Ukip! Job done.
Keith Potter
Gunnislake, Cornwall
•  You report that Ukip, even where its candidate did not win, split the Conservative vote, thereby “keeping out hundreds more Tory candidates” (Ukip on the march, 4 May). This can only happen with a first past the post electoral system. Could the fates be punishing David Cameron for his failure to vote yes in the AV referendum?
Geoffrey Renshaw
Department of economics, University of Warwick
•  Should I be pleased that my town has returned two Labour councillors, helping the majority of one on Nottinghamshire county council, or worried that Labour has lost more than 1,000 votes since district council elections on the same boundaries in a year?
Michael Storey
Retford, Nottinghamshire
•  In 10 northern counties, from Northumbria and Cumbria to as far south as Leicestershire, Staffordshire and Shropshire, Ukip’s net result was –3 (Elections 2013, 4 May). In some cases that eliminated a very small Ukip council membership. Ukip’s appeal may be limited in ways not yet analysed.
Professor Ian McNay
London
•  In all the coverage on 4 May I did not see any mention of what is the blindingly obvious – that the elections were very largely in the shire counties. To infer a national trend without any results from metropolitan areas is nonsense.
John Launder
Winchester, Hampshire
•  Support for Ukip will subside to vanishing point as and when the economy recovers from the recession. The proper policy response to Ukip is not to attempt to outbid its reactionary programme but to pursue investment-led growth strategies to restore stability and confidence in the economy. Get rid of the fear that underpins, and is exploited by, Ukip, and Ukip will go away.
Roy Boffy
Walsall, West Midlands
•  The main parties have no one but themselves to blame for the success of an openly stupid party: they have been in a three-party coalition for years to keep house prices stupidly high while wondering why there is no growth and the rising generation cannot afford houses.
DBC Reed
Northampton
• ”New party full of new people,” claims Robin Hunter-Clarke of Ukip (Report, 4 May). Looks like yet another bunch of mainly white middle-aged men led by a public schoolboy to me.
Margaret Pedler
London
• Nigel Farage’s message and its tone seemed somehow familiar, but I could not place it until eventually a distant echo materialised: the voice of Nunquam (Robert Blatchford) and his 19th-century classic, Merrie England. Henceforth I will think of Ukip as the Merrie Englanders.
Lionel Burman
West Kirby, Wirral
• Surely Ukip is a misnomer for a party waving the flag of St George?
Lesley Roberts
Bressay, Shetland
•  It is obvious that the Tories are now all singing along to the old XTC song “We’re only making plans for Nigel. We only want what’s best for him” (Death is tobacco companies’ business, 5 May).
Eddie Dougall
Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk
• Whatever the result, Ukip will not “trigger a political earthquake” in next year’s European elections (Report, 6 May). I doubt many in the UK take the European parliament seriously, rather regarding it and Ukip as two bodies that richly deserve each other. Farage’s real challenge is to position himself as something more than a saloon bar know-all.
Henry Malt
Bythorn, Cambridgeshire
•  If Nigel Farage wants Britain out of Europe, why does he not resign his MEP seat? Or are the benefits of staying in (huge salary/expenses) just too attractive?
Colin Lovelace
Anglet, France
•  A full-page photo of Nigel Farage on page 6 (4 May) and a short-of-half-page photo on page 9 of Ed Miliband shouting: has the Guardian changed colour?
Valerie Farnell
London

Independent
While new statistics on pay inequality between men and women in financial services highlight a serious problem, the focus on basic pay rather than bonuses downplays the true scale of the problem (“Women in financial services ‘earning 20 per cent less than men’ ”, 2 May).
Bonuses in the City are not, as they are for the rest of us, a small extra sum to help with the Christmas shopping. Rather they often make up the majority of an individual’s annual pay. The last in-depth research on pay in financial services which included bonuses was the Equality and Human Rights Commision  inquiry in 2010, demonstrating that women’s bonuses were up to 60 per cent lower than those of men in comparable jobs.
Serious gender inequality exists in the City, and a lack of transparency is one major obstacle to tackling it. When female City employees come to me, they have normally experienced more overt forms of discrimination. More often than not we only discover they have been paid less than their male counterparts when we obtain access to pay information during the course of litigation. While disclosure of this information is often contested, when it does come to light, the pay disparity is often a six or even seven figure sum. Women simply do not have an adequate means of finding out what their male peers are paid, and since these cases invariably settle confidentially, the facts are never made public.
Equally important is changing the culture within the City. It’s a competitive and sometimes aggressive environment, and many women do not consider it safe to rock the boat by questioning pay decisions.
Gender inequality in the City must end, but the Government must do more to make companies more transparent on pay, and must take bonuses into account.
Samantha Mangwana, Principal Lawyer, (Partner), Employment, Slater & Gordon (UK) LLP, London WC2
Europe has to work together  on migration
Unsustainable immigration is not only a British problem.Destabilising immigration is a European problem; indeed it is a global problem.
Ukip’s demands that we should leave the EU will not solve the problem. Our fellow Europeans in Spain and Italy are suffering tidal waves of illegal economic immigrants and asylum seekers from North Africa. Greece, Cyprus, Turkey and the Balkan nations have refugees pouring into their countries from a war-stricken Middle East.
It is only our membership of the EU that has defended the UK from additional waves of immigrants from Pakistan, Bangladesh and other Commonwealth nations. These are desperate people who are trying to escape from the conflicts, poverty and catastrophic environmental changes in their homelands.
Britain needs to remain inside the EU and work with our fellow member countries to find solutions to the conditions that create destabilising migrations within and into the EU. Ukip and their kind target people to vilify and establishments to blame. Real politicians co-operate with their neighbours to find solutions to shared problems.
Martin Deighton, Woodbridge, Suffolk
Ukip’s appeal to more than disaffected Tories is easily explained. It was Labour that imported cheap labour with the aim of driving down unskilled wages.
The mainstream parties won’t acknowledge that a living wage and mass immigration are mutually exclusive. Either curtail immigration, in which case the market will automatically raise the minimum wage, or let business decide how many to let in.
Curtailing unskilled immigration from outside the EU will not be sufficient to achieve a living wage. It will also require curtailing immigration from within an ever-expanding EU. But an end to importing cheap labour has a cost. There will be a transfer of purchasing power from the “haves” to the “have-nots” as menial jobs that cannot be outsourced overseas become more costly. This is a small price to pay for anyone concerned about national cohesiveness.
Yugo Kovach, Winterborne Houghton, Dorset
Ukip’s policy on immigration appeals to people who have a primitive instinct which produces a dislike, a fear, of strangers, of those who have different beliefs or a different language, or who look different from themselves.
It is the instinct which caused the persecution of the Native Americans, of the aborigines of Australia, and of the Jews across the world for centuries, among other atrocities. It is the instinct which accounts for animals attacking members of their own species which appear different through deformity or whatever reason.
Ukip may have loosened the cork in the bottle holding the genie. We all too easily forget that human beings are animals.
Bill Fletcher, Cirencester, Gloucestershire
Safe factories for Bangladesh
In his 2 May article on the terrible building collapse in Bangladesh, Andrew Buncombe writes: “EU officials have said they are considering action including changes to Bangladesh’s duty-free and quota-free access to the giant EU market to persuade officials to adopt a more responsible management of the nation’s garment industry.”
Punitive actions such as that may or may not get the desired result, but they will certainly hurt many families dependent on a wage-earner in the garment industry. Instead, I would like to see the UK and the EU make it very clear to the government of Bangladesh that such a penalty is quite possible if they do not accept an outside audit of the government agencies in Bangladesh that are involved in workplace safety – because clearly those agencies are inept or corrupt, or both.  
The UK could select representatives from our own government agencies involved in workplace safety, since they obviously know how to do their job, given their excellent track record. Such a mission would be of tremendous benefit to the people of Bangladesh, and it would be another positive foreign policy accomplishment for the UK, and at little cost.
Christian Haerle, London E11
Comprehensive schools do work
Where do people like James Paton from Billericay (letter, 25 April) get their ideas about our education system? Certainly not from any consideration of the facts.
To put Mr Paton’s mind at rest, the UK’s education system is 2nd out of the 50 most developed countries in the world for the percentage of school students who progress to university (see The Learning Curve database commissioned from the Economist Intelligence Unit by the Financial Times).
As in South Korea, which just beats us, and all those countries which come even close to our performance, this is largely achieved in comprehensive schools, rather than in selective ones, such as grammar schools.
The even better news for Mr Paton is that, once at university, even at the very best of them, more than 20 per cent of state-educated students achieve first-class degrees, against only 18 per cent of those who have enjoyed all the advantages of the private sector (see studies completed by Bristol University and among Russell group and 1994 Group universities).
I hope these facts help to dispel Mr Paton’s belief that “state comprehensives are failing their brightest pupils” or that there is any need to return to “academic streaming”. Comprehensive schools here, and in the rest of the world, are out-performing the old selective systems hands-down.
Chris Dunne, Headteacher, London E14
The point about those fritillaries
Poor old Michael McCarthy must be wishing he had never written about those damned fritillaries.
The whole point of those ancient hay meadows that he wrote about is not just that they support wild fritillaries, but that they are the last vestiges of a rich and varied flora in an otherwise urban and agricultural desert. They support a wide variety of plants, which in turn are host to an equally varied fauna  which has remained unspoilt  for hundreds if not thousands  of years. 
A few fritillaries in the odd garden, as reported by your correspondents in response to McCarthy’s article, are of little consequence by comparison.
Terence Hollingworth, Blagnac, France
Rise of the ‘No to everything’ party
The county council elections proved to be a shambles, with about 25 per cent of the electorate showing themselves to be just as irresponsible as “the Clowns” themselves; more by luck than judgement the Clowns did not get control of any county, so we were spared farce of a county controlled by people with no programme other than to say no to everything.
We can only hope that when the European elections arrive the electorate will a bit more grown up, but I am not holding my breath.
D Sawtell, Tydd St Giles, Cambridgeshire
Nigel Farage seems to have political parties in a spin but there has been no serious examination of his policies, like the abandonment of the minimum wage, denial of climate change, and the end of trade unions. All we ever see is him holding a pint and ranting at his opponents. We get the politicians we deserve, so maybe we had Farage coming.
Steven Calrow, Liverpool
The Ukip vote on Thursday is a reminder that people disgruntled about the austere world we live in don’t always turn to the left. Above all however it is a vote from the saloon bar. Given that pubs are under serious threat, if Farage could focus his attention on saving them from closure he might do something useful at last.
Keith Flett, London N17
Our British bureaucracy
So, yes, let’s privatise parts of the Civil Service. What a cracking idea some 12-year-old MBA in Whitehall has come up with! However, let’s hope there will be real safeguards to ensure that the companies that take them over are British and remain British, unable to be taken over by some foreign company.
Otherwise, as with many of our utilities, Whitehall departments will be run by French, Chinese, Indian or North Korean companies. That really will give Ukip something to shout about.
Christopher R Bratt, Arnside, Cumbria
Foreign wine
The decision by the EU to ban the sale of the Croatian wine Prosek, on the ground that Prosek sounds too like Prosecco, put me in mind of the slack-jawed dimwits we call football pundits, who find nothing more amusing than their own determined inability to pronounce the names of foreign players.
Andrew Henderson, London SE26

Times

Are we prepared to ruin a person’s reputation by naming them in public based on an anonymous person’s evidence?
Sir, When suspects are charged they should be named because the court process has effectively begun, and there is a paramount public interest in it being open to scrutiny (“Publicity over arrest put Hall in the dock”, report, May 3). Before charge the public interest argument is much weaker. Some suspects attend voluntarily for questioning. They are not generally named. Whether to arrest or invite attendance at the station is in the discretion of the police. We cannot be sure that they always exercise it correctly, and there seems no good reason why naming suspects should depend on whether or not they have been arrested. Moreover, many of them are never charged, but the publication of their names adds to the damage to reputations and careers while they wait — perhaps for months — on police bail.
Publishing names can result in valuable fresh information, and in the interval between charge and trial the court can be asked to delay proceedings so that further investigations can take place. As that may not always give enough time, a framework could be put in place — whether voluntary or statutory — stating that a suspect is not to be named until charge but giving the police the right to ask for permission to do so from someone independent of them — perhaps the Director of Public Prosecutions or his nominees.
To allow every arrest to trigger the naming of the suspect on the vague ground that we should all know about everyone whom the police lock up gives insufficient weight to the principle that they are still presumed to be innocent and should, save for cogent reasons, have normal expectations of privacy.
And why do we all need to know? Some commentators suggest that it is because arrest may put suspects into a limbo in which their rights are ignored, and from which publicity will rescue them. This argument is contrived and does not reflect reality.
Michael Mott
Circuit Judge 1985-2006
Redditch, Worcs
Sir, As a law student it was hard to understand Blackstone’s ratio that “It is better that ten guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer.” It took time to understand that this is at the heart of the rule of law and is the intellectual basis of the presumption of innocence.
Over recent years we have abandoned this fundamental concept in order to increase the conviction rate in sex cases. Thus we are prepared to ruin a person’s reputation by naming (and thereby shaming) them in public based on an anonymous person’s evidence in the hope of finding supporting evidence.
No ethical justification is given for it and the only rationalisation is that it works (although in view of the low overall conviction rates many would question this).
How long before we go to the next step and say “guilty until proved innocent”? That will really succeed in increasing conviction rates.
Richard Engel
London N6

‘The current proposals remove client choice, replace local services with mega-suppliers and treat advice as an impersonal commodity’
Sir, As academics engaged in criminal justice research, we are concerned about the potentially devastating and irreversible consequences for access to justice if the Government’s plans to cut criminal legal aid and introduce a system of tendering based on price alone are introduced.
The lawyer-client relationship is at the heart of effective legal representation, but the current proposals remove client choice, replace local services with mega-suppliers and treat advice as an impersonal commodity. Trust is especially important for the large number of vulnerable accused: lawyers who know their clients can pre-empt difficult issues, provide (sometimes unpalatable) advice which is more likely to be accepted, and help the courts run more effectively and efficiently.
Underpinned by independent research and evaluation, considerable resources have been devoted to measures that have enhanced the quality of legal advice and representation. All of this is now under threat and a small number of “suppliers” will receive a guaranteed share of the work however well or badly they represent their clients. With bids at least 17.5 per cent lower than existing average costs, the quality of legal representation will decline. Suppliers will have a strong financial imperative to do as little work as possible, and to persuade clients to plead guilty irrespective of the merits of their case.
The Minister of Justice has allowed only eight weeks of consultation on the proposals, with no intention to pilot the new contracts nor evaluate their effectiveness. The long-term effects will be devastating and the damage extremely hard to put right. Defendants, the police and the courts — and ultimately taxpayers — will pay the price.
Professor Jacqueline Hodgson, Emeritus Professor Lee Bridges, University of Warwick; Professor Ed Cape, University of the West of England; Professor Ian Dennis, Professor Richard Moorhead, UCL; Professor Nicola Lacey University of Oxford; Professor Tim Newburn, Emeritus Professor Michael ZanDer, Qc, LSE; Professor Andrew Sanders, University of Birmingham

It is perhaps the case that voters are turning to UKIP simply because they do not want to vote for any of the main parties
Sir, As a woman I am well aware that suffragettes died to give me the opportunity to vote. It seems ungrateful not to take it, so I have voted in almost every election for over 40 years. But last Thursday I did something that I have never done. I voted for a candidate most of whose policies I do not like, and whom I did not want to win. But what could I do? All the other candidates belonged to parties whose leaders want to dismantle the traditional view of marriage. And I am passionately concerned that this would be a very retrograde step. It saddens me that this year I could not, in all conscience, vote for a candidate whose policies I believe in. And I rather think that I am not the only voter in this position.
Dr Rosemary Pepper
Canterbury, Kent
Sir, Andrew Selkirk appears to think that UKIP stands for “small government” (letter, May 6). This is nonsense. UKIP advocates massive increases in state spending on defence, the police, prisons and replacing student loans with student grants. At the same time, it wants tax cuts which, as The Times has pointed out, would create a £120 billion deficit in the public finances, resulting in the bankruptcy to which Mr Selkirk perversely thinks UKIP is the answer.
David Woodhead
Leatherhead, Surrey
Sir, Rather than synchronising the dates of council and general elections (letter, May 6), Ronald Forrest could abandon his party platform at council elections and stand on his own merits as an Independent. That way, he could be sure of being judged on his abilities.
Cllr Ernie Clark
Independent Group, Wiltshire Council

While many words have been used to describe Christine Keeler, perhaps ‘hetera’ should not be one of them
Sir, Ben Macintyre (Opinion, May 3) says that Wikipedia describes Christine Keeler “rather sweetly” as a “hetera” or courtesan. My Liddell & Scott says that the word translates as “one of two; the other one (female).”
Presumably these classicists mean to say “hetaira”, translated as “concubine” but also as “companion, helper, friend”.
Walter Aylen, QC
London SW2

Women were involved in the First World War too, and this reader is collecting works of female poets from far and wide
Sir, I agree that the Indian soldiers who fought in the First World War (letters, May 1 & 4) — and indeed the remainder of the Empire Troops — will not be forgotten. Nor will the women who were involved in the conflict. I am organising a series of exhibitions of the work of women poets during the Great War and wish to include poems from all countries involved. I seek Magyar, Czech, Ukrainian, Slova, Croat, Bosnian, Serb, Italian, African and Thai women poets. I have so far only found one from India — Nalinibala Devi — and would welcome suggestions for other First World War female poets from the various regions of India and also African territories, etc.
Lucy London
Blackpool

Telegraph
SIR – As health professionals who engage daily with the consequences of smoking, we were dismayed to learn that David Cameron has abandoned plans to include “plain packs” legislation in the Queen’s Speech.
Restrictions on advertising and sponsorship mean that the cigarette packet has become the key marketing tool for the tobacco industry to attract and retain customers.
In Britain, about 200,000 children aged 11-15 start smoking every year. There is compelling evidence that children’s perceptions of cigarettes are influenced by branding, and that branding detracts from the impact of health warnings on packs.
The statement, attributed to a Whitehall source, describing plain packaging as “nothing to do with the Government’s key purpose” is extraordinary. The health of the people is surely the highest purpose of government, so it is chilling to hear that the Coalition does not consider the prevention of ill health and premature mortality to be part of its role.
MPs, including ministers, have enjoyed hospitality paid for by Japan Tobacco International at the Chelsea Flower Show and Glyndebourne.
Related Articles
If the popularity of Ukip persists, Britain may see Nigel Farage as deputy PM in a coalition
06 May 2013
We urge the Government to act decisively and introduce plain packs legislation without further delay, for the sake of smokers who need every assistance to quit and to protect a further generation from becoming addicted.
Dr Nicholas Hopkinson
Senior lecturer and consultant chest physician
National Heart and Lung Institute, Imperial College, London
Dr Colin Wallis
Consultant respiratory paediatrician, President, British Paediatric Respiratory Society
Professor Andrew Bush
Professor of Paediatric Respirology, London
Professor John R Ashton
President elect Faculty of Public Health
Professor Hugh Montgomery
Intensive care consultant, London
Professor Trisha Greenhalgh
Professor of Primary Care, London
Professor Gabriel Scally
Professor of Public Health and Planning, University of West of England
Professor John Moxham
Professor of Respiratory Medicine, London
Professor Michael Polkey
Consultant chest physician, London
Dr Matthew Hind
Consultant chest physician, London
Dr Mark Dayer
Consultant cardiologist, Taunton
Professor Steve Durham
Consultant chest physician, London
Dr David Nicholl
Consultant neurologist, Birmingham
Dr Elin Roddy
Consultant chest physician, Shropshire
Professor Fan Chung
Consultant chest physician, London
Professor Athol Wells
Consultant chest physician, London
Dr Myra Stern
Consultant chest physician, London
Dr Jack Barker
Consultant chest physician, London
Dr Andrew Cummin
Respiratory physician, London
Dr Peter M B English
Public health physician, Surrey
Professor Stephen Spiro
Consultant chest physician, London
Dr Philip Ind
Consultant chest physician, London
Professor Allyson Pollock
Professor of Public Health Research and Policy
Professor Robert West
Professor of Health Psychology, London
Dr William Oldfield
Consultant chest physician, London
Dr Andrew Jones
Consultant critical care and respiratory medicine, London
Dr Nicholas Hart
Consultant chest physician, London
Dr Mark Griffiths
Intensive care consultant, London
Dr Ronan Astin
Respiratory physician, London
Professor Wisia Wedzicha
Professor of respiratory medicine, London
Dr Biswajit Chakrabarti
Consultant chest physician, Liverpool
Professor Ian Pavord
Consultant chest physician, Leicester
Dr Mark Elliott
Consultant respiratory physician, Leeds
Dr David Treacher
Intensive care consultant, London
Dr Joerg Steier
Consultant chest physician, London
Dr Robina Coker
Consultant chest physician, London
Dr John Hurst
Senior lecturer in respiratory medicine, London
Dr Mark Jackson
Consultant chest physician, Brighton
Dr Steve Turner
Consultant respiratory paediatrician, Aberdeen
Dr Patrick White
Senior lecturer respiratory medicine, London
Dr Anne Collett
Consultant chest physician, London
Dr Stephen C Bourke
Consultant chest physician, North Tyneside
Dr Suveer Singh
Consultant in respiratory and intensive care medicine, London
Dr Andrea Collins
Consultant chest physician, Liverpool
Professor Peter Barnes FRS
Professor of Respiratory Medicine, London
Professor David Hansell
Consultant radiologist, London
Professor Derek Bell
Professor of Acute Medicine, London
Professor Anita Simonds
Professor of Respiratory and Sleep Medicine, London
Dr Catherine Cosgrove
Consultant in infectious diseases and general medicine, London
Dr Robert Stone
Consultant respiratory physician, Somerset
Dr Ben Goldacre
Research fellow epidemiology, London
Dr Kate Brignall
Consultant chest physician, Medway
Dr William Man
Consultant chest physician, Harefield
Dr Andrew Leonard
Consultant in acute and respiratory medicine, East Sussex
Dr Amit Patel
Consultant chest physician, London
Dr Liju Ahmed
Consultant chest physician, London
Professor Peter Burney
Professor of Respiratory Epidemiology and Public Health, London
Dr Iain Crossingham
Consultant physician and intensivist, Blackburn Lancashire
Dr Sam Janes
Consultant chest physician, London
Dr Michael Loebinger
Consultant chest physician, London
Dr Simon Fearby
Consultant chest physician, Northumbria Healthcare
Dr Karnan Satkunam
Consultant chest physician, London
Dr Irem Patel
Consultant respiratory physician, integrated care, London
Dr Margaret McCartney
General practitioner, Glasgow
David Cooper
Consultant chest physician, North Tyneside
Professor John Britton CBE
Consultant physician, Nottingham
Dr Natalie Silvey
Physician
Dr Richard Horton
Editor, The Lancet
Dr Jennifer Mindell
Consultant public health physician, London
Dr Lisa Davies
Consultant chest physician, Aintree
Dr Bryan Yates
Consultant in respiratory medicine and critical care, North Shields
Dr David L Cohen
Consultant stroke physician, London
Professor Martin McKee CBE
Professor of European Public Health, London
Professor Dave Singh
Professor of Clinical Pharmacology and Respiratory Medicine, Manchester
Dr Caroline Everett
Consultant chest physician, York
Dr David Hodgson
Respiratory physician, Nottingham
Dr Claire Taylor
Consultant chest physician, Harrogate
Dr John Watson
Consultant chest physician, Leeds
Dr John White
Consultant chest physician,York
Dr David Baldwin
Consultant chest physician, Nottingham
Dr Graham Smith
Consultant respiratory physician, Wakefield
Dr Michael Farquhar
Consultant in paediatric sleep medicine, London
Dr Andrew Fall
Specialty coctor in respiratory paediatrics, Edinburgh
Dr Huw Thomas
Consultant respiratory paediatrician, Bristol
Dr Chris Upton
Consultant respiratory paediatrician, Norwich
Dr Godfrey Nyamugunduru
Consultant chest physician, Durham
Dr Jonathan Fluxman
General practitioner, London
Dr Fiona Hampton
Consultant paediatrician, Middlesbrough
Dr Hannah Buckley
Consultant paediatrician, Portsmouth
Professor Graham Roberts
Professor of paediatric allergy and respiratory medicine, Southampton
Dr Calum Semple
Senior lecturer in child health and consultant in paediatric respiratory medicine, Liverpool
Dr Steve Cunningham
Consultant and honorary reader in paediatric respiratory medicine, Edinburgh
Dr Richard Chavasse
Consultant respiratory paediatrician, London
Dr Jonathan Garside
Consultant paediatrician, Huddersfield
Dr Christopher Edwards
Respiratory physician
Professor John Henderson
Professor of Paediatric Respiratory Medicine, Bristol
Dr Anne Thomson
Consultant in paediatric respiratory medicine, Oxford
Dr Tom Hilliard
Consultant respiratory paediatrician, Bristol
Dr Rachel Tennant
Consultant respiratory and acute physician, London
Dr Clive Peedell
Consultant clinical oncologist, North Yorkshire
Professor Alan Smyth
Professor of child health, University of Nottingham
Dr Atul Gupta
Consultant in paediatric respiratory, London
Dr Wanda Kozlowska
Consultant in paediatric respiratory medicine, London
Dr Carol Sullivan
Consultant in neonatal and respiratory paediatrics, Swansea
Dr Christopher Edwards
Paediatric respiratory physician, Edinburgh
Dr Paul Seddon
Consultant respiratory paediatrician, Brighton
Dr Angshu Bhowmik
Consultant chest physician, London
Dr Charlotte Bolton
Consultant chest physician, Nottingham
Dr Natasha Arnold
Consultant in intermediate care, London
Dr Anne Devenny
Consultant in paediatric respiratory medicine, Glasgow
Dr SC Langton Hewer
Consultant respiratory paediatrician, Bristol
Dr Tuck-Kay Loke
Consultant chest physician, London
Dr Claire Shovlin
Senior lecturer in respiratory medicine, London
Dr James Wilkinson
Consultant chest physician, East Sussex
Dr Will Carroll
Consultant paediatrician, Derbyshire
Dr Justin Pepperell
Consultant chest physician, Taunton
Dr Caroline Jolley
Respiratory physician, London
Dr Bobby Mann
Consultant chest physician, London
Dr Joanna Szram
Consultant chest physician, London
Dr Annabel Nickol
Consultant chest physician, Oxford
Professor Michael D Shields
Professor of Child Health, Belfast
Dr Matt Wise
Intensive care consultant, Cardiff
Dr Francois Abel
Consultant respiratory paediatrician, London
Professor Ashley Woodcock
Professor of respiratory medicine
Dr Louise Fleming
Consultant respiratory paediatrician, London
Dr Sarah Denniston
Paediatric consultant, London
Dr Katharine Pike
Respiratory paediatrician, Southampton.
Dr Claire Hogg
Consultant respiratory paediatrician, London
Dr Malcolm Brodlie
Academic clinical lecturer in paediatric respiratory medicine, Newcastle
Dr Veronica Varney
Consultant chest physician, Surrey
Dr Robert Primhak
Consultant respiratory paediatrician, Sheffield
Dr Woolf Walker
Consultant respiratory paediatrician, Southampton
Dr Sarah Brown
Paediatric respiratory SpR, London
Professor Warren Lenney
Professor of respiratory child health, Stoke on Trent
Dr Gisli Jenkins
Consultant chest physician, Nottingham
Dr Don Urquhart
Consultant respiratory paediatrician, Edinburgh
Dr Jonathan Wyllie
Consultant neonatologist, Middlesbrough
Professor Robert Stockley
Professor of Respiratory Medicine, Birmingham
Dr Ann Ward
Consultant chest physician, Newcastle upon Tyne.
Dr Ian Forrest
Consultant chest physician, Newcastle Upon Tyne
Dr Chris Meadows
Consultant in intensive care, anaesthesia and ECMO, London
Professor John Simpson
Professor of Respiratory Medicine, Newcastle
Professor Graham Bothamley
Professor of Respiratory Medicine, London
Dr Maria Atkinson
Consultant paediatrician, London
Dr Ben Creagh-Brown
Consultant chest physician, Surrey
Dr Matthew Thomas
Clinical lecturer in paediatric respiratory medicine, Newcastle
Dr Alex Wilkinson
Chest physician, Bedford
Dr Zudin Puthucheary
Intensive care consultant, London
Dr Caroline Beardsmore
Paediatric respiratory physiologist, Leicester
Moira Gibbons
Paediatric asthma nurse specialist, Rotherham
Christine Doyle
Consultant nurse in asthma and allergy, Liverpool
Sue Frost
Specialist nurse in respiratory medicine, Birmingham
Sadie Clayton
Consultant nurse respiratory, North Staffs
Dr Duncan Powrie
Consultant chest physician, Southend
Dr Jim Lordan
Consultant respiratory and lung transplant physician, Newcastle

SIR – Our first-past-the-post system has, in the past, meant that the two main parties and the smaller Liberal Democrats sliced up the cake between them, and usually one party managed an overall majority.
The dramatic entry of Ukip means that the cake will have to be split four ways now (assuming the Lib Dems don’t become extinct). The shares look to be evenly divided among the biggest three, if Ukip maintains its popularity, which can only mean that Britain faces a long future of coalition governments.
My hunch is that Nigel Farage will become deputy prime minister in 2015.
Roger Brown
Dunholme, Lincolnshire
SIR – Lady Thatcher faced opposition in her determination to reclaim the Falkland Islands. By doing this she safeguarded her second term in office and created her own unique legacy.
This is David Cameron’s moment to bring forward his promised referendum, and, by doing so, divide the opposition and propel the Conservatives to a second term.
James Rolls
Petworth, West Sussex
SIR – The Government knows what powers we want repatriated from the EU, so why not put our demands to Brussels now and put its response to the electorate in a referendum – we accept or we leave.
To “promise” a referendum after the election is laughable. Mr Cameron will be neither Prime Minister nor leader of the Conservative Party if he doesn’t act now.
Lt Col Charles F J Teague (retd)
Stokenham, Devon
SIR – Charles Moore (Comment, May 4), says, regarding the UK’s adherence to the then EEC, that “people have increasingly come to believe they were lied to”.
They were lied to. I took part in the Commons debates and the referendum of 1975, and, along with others opposed to membership, explained time and again that this was only a step towards a United States of Europe where sovereignty was not “shared”, in the weasel word of that time, but “transferred”.
Nothing has changed. People continue to be duped or lied to over a renegotiation that is likely, as in 1975, to be designed to leave the Brussels project untouched.
Jim Sillars
Edinburgh
SIR – David Davis (Commentary, May 4) betrays a disappointing chippiness with his criticisms of the public-school clique at the heart of government.
The public had no problem engaging with Boris Johnson (Eton) or with Nigel Farage (Dulwich), let alone Tony Blair, the Fettes boy who so devastatingly humbled the pre-Cameron Tory party.
John Rees
London W14
SIR –David Davis is right. A political leader of conviction doesn’t ask the people where they want to go; he tells them where he wants to take them and then asks whether they want to go there. David Cameron needs to bin the focus groups.
Patrick M B Nixon
St Neots, Huntingdonshire
SIR – Ukip succeeded because it said to the voters: “Whatever it is that you’re against, we’re against it too.” How many of its new councillors will survive the next election?
Simon Gazeley
Bath, Somerset
SIR – We once contended with the Loony Left. Now the Raving Right confronts us. I’m not sure which I find more alarming.
Richard A Cook
Southampton
SIR – May I propose a farage to mean a distant prospect that appears credible, but evaporates as the election grows nearer?
Ian McKenzie
Lincoln
High street vs internet
SIR – This time last year I drove five miles to our nearest large town, paid to park my car, and spent an hour visiting various stationery shops, only to find that not one had the specific accounts book I needed.
One ordered it for me, and a week later I had to drive another 10 miles to get it.
Yesterday, I went online and ordered an identical book. Its price, including postage, was £8 less than I paid last year. It took me no more than five minutes to order.
If our high streets want to compete with the internet (“Reinventing the high street”, Weekend May 4), they will have to find some way of providing the same service and the same saving of our time and money.
Brian Christley
Abergele, Conwy
SIR – A distinction has to be made between retail shops in the high street and non-retail premises such as banks, estate agents and fast food outlets that are more resilient but pay similar rents and rates. If we want the high street to retain a good mix of retail and non-retail, there has to be a restructuring of costs.
As things stand, many small, individual shopkeepers have absolutely no chance of running a viable business.
Peter Walton
Buckingham
SIR – Retailers need to market strengths that the internet cannot compete with, such as product knowledge and demonstrations.
I wanted a larger television and visited five local retailers. However, when I asked to see a model I was interested in connected to an aerial on normal BBC and ITV broadcasts instead of demo-discs, none would oblige. Two even said that it would be illegal as they did not have a television licence.
Harry Leeming
Morecambe, Lancashire
Doctor, you’ve got mail
SIR – Some of us are lucky. In addition to being able to email my doctor (Letters, May 4), the surgery has a 24-hour automated telephone appointment facility.
Freda Poole
Reading, Berkshire
Best friends forever
SIR – I have had a best friend for 68 years (report, May 2); we met aged 12 at boarding school. I have many other friends, but she is my soul mate. Long may best friends flourish.
Judith Radcliffe
Winchester, Hampshire
Och-iPlayer
SIR – Murray Brazier (Letters, May 3) asks what will happen to the weather forecast if Scotland becomes independent.
I wonder too whether BBC iPlayer and BBC direct transmissions will become unavailable in Scotland (as is the case when one is abroad).
Jeffrey Sultoon
London SW1
Urban roads are too dangerous for new cyclists
SIR – Where will children cycle once the stabilisers come off (Letters, May 4)?
In London suburbia, designated cycle tracks are virtually non-existent, and on the main roads the cycle paths seem to be only about 2ft wide, interspersed with sunken drain covers and largely ignored by speedy motorists.
The ever increasing traffic density on our streets and roads constitutes a death trap for young learner cyclists, and indeed less experienced cyclists of all ages.
Eddie Gould
Orpington, Kent
SIR – I would ask David Costigan (Letters, May 4) to ride a bike along a road for a short while.
I am sure close proximity to traffic would encourage him to seek refuge on the pavement.
Laurie Agnus
Poole, Dorset
SIR – Over the past five years I have been regularly cycling into town to do my shopping, thus reducing my carbon footprint considerably.
Both the road I live on and the main road are far too dangerous for cycling, and I therefore cycle on the pavement. On the rare occasions when I meet a pedestrian, I either stop cycling, or if the pavement is wide enough, I cycle past very slowly. Not once have I been berated for doing so.
Rachel Smith
Barnet, Hertfordshire
SIR – Richard Dugdale (Letters, May 3) urges drivers to recognise that cyclists are part of the traffic.
This I will do, on the condition that all cyclists pay as much in road tax and insurance as I do for my car.
John Morris
Purley, Surrey

SIR – We are losing traditional May Day games and pursuits (report, May 2). Here in Essex a few pagans like myself celebrate this day, even if in the West Country there are maypoles, Morris dancers and general merrymaking. Dancing around a maypole is intricate but great fun.
If we aren’t careful we will lose all these wonderful traditions.
Marysia Pudlo-Debef
Colchester, Essex
SIR – Morris dancing declining in popularity? I don’t think so.
Morris sides which only admit men may be declining, but mixed sides such as our own Flagcrackers of Craven are thriving. Why? Because they are able to recruit entire families, and partners don’t have to be Morris widows or left to make the sandwiches.

Irish Times

Sir, – Dr Peadar O’Grady (May 3rd) has regrettably resorted to misinformed stereotyping in his response to Breda O’Brien’s column (Opinion, April 27th). He states the study she cites in respect of the mental health effects of abortion was published in a “relatively obscure” journal. I doubt if the international journal of the Royal Australian and New Zealand Colleges of Psychiatry could be regarded as obscure. It is indexed in all the major data bases including the Citation Index.
He also states the study was not peer reviewed. But all of the scientific papers which appear in the above-mentioned journal are rigorously peer reviewed prior to publication.
The study in question is by Prof David Fergusson. Dr. O’Grady rightly say that Fergusson believes abortion should be made available on social grounds. This is because Fergusson is philosophically in favour of abortion. This is a separate issue from what the evidence in his study says about the mental health effects of abortion which is the issue being debated here in Ireland.
On this point Fergusson says “There is suggestive evidence that abortion may be associated with small to moderate increases in risks of some mental health problems . . .To date, there is no direct evidence showing that women having abortion are at lower risk of mental health problems than equivalent groups of women coming to term with unwanted or unplanned pregnancy. However, it is our view that the growing evidence suggesting that abortion does not have therapeutic benefits cannot be ignored indefinitely, and it is unacceptable for clinicians to authorise large numbers of abortions on grounds for which there is, currently, no scientific evidence.”
Two other studies were mentioned by Dr O’Grady, one published in 2008 and the other in 2011. The first from the American Psychological Association was not of the same calibre as Fergusson’s since it was a narrative review without any statistical analysis of the data. The second, from the Royal College of Psychiatrists in London, found no evidence of benefit to a woman’s health from abortion but did indicate that some women were at risk of mental health problems, most especially those with prior mental health problems. This is important since mental health problems are common in women of childbearing age and women considering abortion should not be misinformed about this. The study says, “The most reliable predictor of post-abortion mental health problems is having a history of mental health problems prior to the abortion.” Moreover it recommends the following: “If a woman has a negative attitude towards abortion, shows a negative emotional reaction to the abortion or is experiencing stressful life events, health and social care professionals should consider offering support, and where necessary treatment, because they are more likely than other women who have an abortion to develop mental health problems”.
Accusations that people such as Ms O’Brien rely on the “faith-based dogma of fundamentalists” have no place in the sort of respectful discourse we are being urged to have on this issue. – Yours, etc,
PATRICIA CASEY, FRCPI,
FRCPsych, MD,
Professor of Psychiatry,
University College Dublin,

Sir,  – Regarding the photograph displayed above Harry McGee’s article on Fianna Fáil’s Ardfheis (Alan Betson, Opinion, April 29th): I can think of a number of sites on which Fianna Fáil might usefully plant the party’s flag. Iwo Jima, however, is definitely not such a location.
  I will leave it to professional historians to comment on the ironies that abound in Fianna Fáil’s choice of posters designed to motivate the party faithful over the weekend of the ardfheis. Effectively, the party appropriated two classic wartime images; the famous Lord Kitchener recruiting poster from the first World War (your country needs you) and the iconic photograph from the second World War showing US marines raising the stars and stripes on Iwo Jima.  
It is the appropriation of the latter that rankles. American soldiers paid dearly in life and limb to capture that island during the war in the Pacific. To suggest, either consciously or subconsciously, that party members rebuilding Fianna Fáil after the electoral disaster of 2011 are displaying the same level of courage as that exhibited by Allied soldiers during the second World War is deeply offensive.
  In case Fianna Fáil has forgotten, the Allies were involved in a profound struggle against dictatorship during the second World War. The near implosion of Fianna Fáil in 2011 was a direct consequence of the arrogance and incompetence displayed by that party during the period of 14 years it spent in power following the 1997 general election. Any suggestion that the reconstruction exercise now faced by that party is the moral equivalent of the Allied campaign during the second World War is nothing short of delusional. – Yours, etc,
PAUL GULLY,
St Lawrence’s Road,
Clontarf,
Sir, – Your former editor Conor Brady wrote a most interesting piece about “The Laois man who was elected pope” (An Irishman’s Diary, March 11th). I am delighted that he has unearthed and substantiated this story. I have known of it for some considerable time because it was part of family lore. I was also supplied with a body of information – reprints from learned journals etc. by the late Frank Meehan who was very much involved like myself with the Fitzpatrick Clan Society. St Benedict was indeed born in what was then Ossory (now Laois). He was a descendant of the founder of the MacGillaPhadraig/Fitzpatrick family the first King of Ossory, Aengus Osriagh, from whom the region took its name.
It is both a global and a wonderfully local story. I well recall in the early 1950s visiting my great aunt who lived in Clonenagh House (Cluan Ena – The Meadow of St Enda) named after Benedict’s great friend St Enda who was a fellow pupil at the monastic university of Cluan Ena and who was also the friend who accompanied him to Rome. I remember scrambling around the remains of the seven churches and investigating with curiosity the holy tree that survived there until recently. I understand that Benedict, having first accepted the papacy and chosen the name Pupeus, became violently home sick and returned to the monastery on the Aran Islands where he is still revered as St Benedict of Aran.
For a long time I found it difficult to get much external confirmation of this story, but I was recently delighted and entertained to see that it has made its way onto the GAA website where the story is conveniently altered to suggest that St Benedict returned to Ireland not motivated by homesickness but because of a pressing engagement to play a hurley match. In any case, in the light of the recent history of the papacy I find it entertaining that I might have even the vaguest kinship with a pope called Benedict, and I would be more than happy to join a campaign to have him reinstated in the Catholic Directory. – Yours, etc,
Senator DAVID NORRIS,
Kildare Street,
Dublin 2.

Sir, – While Ireland’s economic sovereignty remains suspended, the new Liffey bridge should be called the Temporary Suspension Bridge.
A permanent name may not be needed for some time. – Yours, etc,
Dr JOHN DOHERTY,
Cnoc an Stollaire,
Gaoth Dobhair,
Co Donegal.

Sir, – Now that we are again in the season of confirmation in the Catholic Church, I see the trend, which started some years ago, of not having a bishop conducting the ceremony, is continuing.
At a time when interest in religion is declining and young people are turning away from the Catholic Church, it beggars belief that the church is allowing this practice to continue.
Traditionally the only time a child would even see a bishop was on confirmation day. The presence of a bishop at the ceremony always made it special for the children involved. This is now being taken away in an increasing number of cases where the bishop is replaced by a parish priest. This does nothing to help children to develop an interest in the Catholic Church. We hear the usual reason trotted out that there are not enough bishops or that they are too busy with other duties. Bishops seem to have time to attend all sorts of events around the country.
What could be more important that a child’s confirmation ceremony? Parents of children who are due to be confirmed should insist on a bishop being present and not accept the excuses which are given. – Yours, etc,
TERRY DOYLE,

Irish Independent

President Higgins has probably overstepped the mark in commenting on the establishment handling of this dreadful economic crisis. His comments are desperately needed, however, to challenge the fiasco of understanding and remedial action to what is quickly becoming a major threat to the stability and cohesion of the whole European ideal.
• President Higgins has probably overstepped the mark in commenting on the establishment handling of this dreadful economic crisis. His comments are desperately needed, however, to challenge the fiasco of understanding and remedial action to what is quickly becoming a major threat to the stability and cohesion of the whole European ideal.
The latest reduction of interest rates to a historical low indicates the desperation of the establishment to stem the failure of all policies to extricate us from this unprecedented mess.
There is an utterly absurd consensus that this crisis is entirely financial. It is no such thing. It is the fallout from a misguided and counterproductive attempt to manage an utterly changed economic situation precipitated by the astonishing advance of technological capability. Two great pillars of economic activity have been transformed.
The ability to produce everything the world requires in abundance renders growth almost impossible. The ability to increase production to such levels while reducing the requirement for human labour makes mass unemployment inevitable.
Unless there is realisation of the new economic reality, there will be no redress.
Mr Higgins will have performed a most valuable service, not only to Ireland but to the world in general if his remarks broaden the debate to include the technological implications on economics in the 21st Century.
Padraic Neary
Tubbercurry, Co Sligo
Irish Independent

I note with envy the decision of the Bank of England to place the iconic and pride-inducing image of Winston Churchill on their new high-circulation £5 banknotes from 2016. These new notes compare very favourably with the extremely bland and functional “new” €5 notes launched recently by the ECB.
It is such a shame that we in Ireland cannot place the face of one of Ireland’s great statesmen, such as Eamon de Valera, Michael Collins or W T Cosgrave, on the high-circulation banknotes that we use. Nor even the face of one of our great visionaries such as Padraig Pearse.
If it were possible for us to do this, I believe it would help to lift our national self-esteem and confidence.

President Higgins has probably overstepped the mark in commenting on the establishment handling of this dreadful economic crisis. His comments are desperately needed, however, to challenge the fiasco of understanding and remedial action to what is quickly becoming a major threat to the stability and cohesion of the whole European ideal.
• President Higgins has probably overstepped the mark in commenting on the establishment handling of this dreadful economic crisis. His comments are desperately needed, however, to challenge the fiasco of understanding and remedial action to what is quickly becoming a major threat to the stability and cohesion of the whole European ideal.
The latest reduction of interest rates to a historical low indicates the desperation of the establishment to stem the failure of all policies to extricate us from this unprecedented mess.
There is an utterly absurd consensus that this crisis is entirely financial. It is no such thing. It is the fallout from a misguided and counterproductive attempt to manage an utterly changed economic situation precipitated by the astonishing advance of technological capability. Two great pillars of economic activity have been transformed.
The ability to produce everything the world requires in abundance renders growth almost impossible. The ability to increase production to such levels while reducing the requirement for human labour makes mass unemployment inevitable.
Unless there is realisation of the new economic reality, there will be no redress.
Mr Higgins will have performed a most valuable service, not only to Ireland but to the world in general if his remarks broaden the debate to include the technological implications on economics in the 21st Century.
Padraic Neary
Tubbercurry, Co Sligo
Irish Independent

Madam – I witnessed this morning what has been an unusual sight for some years now: a young mother, wheeling her baby, in a buggy, along the footpath – and she was talking to the child.
Yes, she was actually talking to the infant, and smiling at him. And the baby, was replying, in its baby talk.
The mother had a lovely sunny smile. And both mother and baby were a picture of contentment and happiness.
For some years now, when I saw a mother with a pram or buggy, she was always yapping, on a mobile, never talking with the baby/child.
And I used to wonder what effect it was having on the children, listening to their mammy yapping away to an invisible source, or to themselves. And ignoring them, the baby.
So I thought it was a lovely sight, a healthy sight, a welcome sight, to see, this young mother communicating with her child, in preference to yapping on a mobile. And the baby communicating back, in its baby talk. A more normal, more human, healthier way.
Margaret Walshe,
Dublin 15
Irish Independent

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