More gardening

Garden and 8th May 2013

I trot round the park today and listen to the Navy lark. I Oh dear, oh dear
Pertwee gets and alibi with the Vicar and all is well he is cleared now he can deal with Taffy, unmasked as the one who has been undermining him. Priceless.
A warm day so tired do garden compost and horse manure, get some Doc Who books
Mary wins at Scrabble today, just and gets just under 400, I might get my revenge tomorrow, I hope.


Jan Ormerod
Jan Ormerod, who has died aged 66, was an award-winning writer and illustrator of books for very young children; in particular she infused her work with humorous insights derived from front-line duty as a parent.

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The cover of Jan Ormerod’s first book 
6:00PM BST 08 May 2013
Using a variety of techniques, ranging from pen and ink drawings to full-colour paintings set off by richly decorated friezes, Jan Ormerod illustrated some 80 books, among them JM Barrie’s Peter Pan (1987), The Frog Prince (1990) and Penelope Lively’s Two Bears and Joe (1995). But her most successful books were those she wrote and illustrated herself.
Jan Ormerod’s canvas was one of suburban domesticity, and appealed as much to parents as their children. Her world comprised nuclear families, messy living-rooms, and grannies rallying round, with fathers playing a hands-on role in childcare: “Dad’s back with jangling keys, warm gloves, a cold nose, a long, long scarf and apples in a bag,” run the opening lines of Dad’s Back (1985). “Dad’s back with a game, a chase and a tickle.”
Many of her best-loved books aimed to help parents ease the anxieties of young children as they faced potentially traumatic developments such as the arrival of a new baby, a trip on an aeroplane or the first day at school.
Her 101 Things to do with a Baby (1984), for example, catalogued a typical day’s events from the perspective of a sometimes enchanted, sometimes bored and sometimes jealous little girl after the arrival of a baby brother. One illustration featured the older child giving the baby some toys followed by the pictorial warning to watch out for “hair-pulling; nose-grabbing; dribbling; and drooling”.
In When an Elephant Comes to School, Jan Ormerod depicted the first day at school through the eyes of a rather shy elephant. The elephant begins to make new friends, learns to share and discovers how to find the cloakroom. By the time the bell goes at the end of the day he has settled in nicely, thanks to the help of all of his new friends.
The youngest of four daughters, Janette Louise Hendry was born in Bunbury, a port city in Western Australia, on September 23 1946. Inspired by comics and schoolgirl annuals, she loved drawing from an early age.
After studying at art school in Perth, she taught art in secondary schools and became a lecturer at a teacher training college. In 1971 she married Paul Ormerod, a children’s librarian, and it was seeing the pleasure her first daughter Sophie took in the picture books that gave Jan Ormerod the idea of creating one herself.
In 1980 the family moved to London and the following year her first book, Sunshine, a wordless visual sequence with witty, sharply-observed illustrations depicting the morning routine of a little girl, won the Mother Goose Award. Moonlight (1982) was a picture chronicle of the end of the same child’s day.
Among other works, When We Went to the Zoo (1991) describes a family visit to the zoo, where they watch a pelican yawn and an otter under water, and laugh at an orang-utan in a paper bag and a shark in the dark. But when they return home and spy the sparrows in their nest, they discover that the ordinary is what they like best.
Who’s Whose (1998) was a child’s-eye view of the confusing but ultimately effective car pool schedules, shared day-care provision and after-school arrangements of busy working parents – inspired by life in Jan Ormerod’s own neighbourhood of Cambridge, where the family moved in 1987.
Miss Mouse’s Day (2001) chronicles a day in the life of a soft toy and her toddler friend, her bright illustrations capturing the magic of the everyday, and her text conveying the single-minded egocentricity of very young children.
In some of her later books, Jan Ormerod turned for inspiration to her native Australia, evoking the alien beauty of the Outback with its kangaroos, kookaburras and strange landscape forms. Lizzie Nonsense (2004), an account of a day in the life of a little girl living in the Outback in the late 19th century, won the IBBY Honour Award for illustration. Water Witcher (2008) tells the story of a young boy trying out his grandfather’s water-divining skills during a drought.
In 2011 she collaborated with the Aboriginal writer Boori Monty Pryor on Shake a Leg, which won the Australian Prime Minister’s Award for Children’s Fiction.
Jan Ormerod’s marriage ended amicably in 1989 and she later moved from Cambridge to Uppingham in Rutland.
She is survived by her two daughters.
Jan Ormerod, born September 23 1946, died January 23 2013


The news that 250,000 interest-only loans cannot be repaid is not as simple as it appears (Interest-only mortgage warning: 1.3 million homeowners risking retirement dream, 2 May). There is a growing body of evidence that interest-only mortgages were sold to people who would have been quite capable of discharging a repayment mortgage. There is also an emerging pattern that such sales involved people with limited command of English who were unaware of the different types of mortgage.
A further concern is that some people have had mortgage statements that show repayments were supported by an endowment (with a given value), only to be told at the end of the term that the endowment was “not assigned” to the lender so that the funds cannot be claimed.
This is beginning to look less like a case of widespread fecklessness and more like another case of mis-selling on a grand scale.
Chris Johnson
Hood Associates, Bradford

Joseph Harker cogently makes the point that abuse of children is not culture specific (Time to face up to abuse in the white community, 7 May). What he does not address is why we do not listen to children or learn from abuse “scandals” that have happened in the past. We know that vulnerable children exhibit their problems in their behaviour, but the concern about abuse in children’s homes etc does not match our general attitude to troublesome and vulnerable children.
In a society where children hanging around in the street is seen as sign of criminality, and where we prosecute 10-year-olds in formal courts, there is breathtaking hypocrisy shown about these children. We have sympathy for the troubled but punish the troublesome – when are we going to recognise that they are the same children? Perhaps then we can start to do more to prevent the abuse that elicits the shock and horror headlines.
Pam Hibbert
Malvern, Worcestershire
• Joseph Harker makes a valid point about the reporting of sexual abuse, but he has missed the real issue. The perpetrators and their accomplices are mainly men and they have licence to commit sexual abuse because we live in a male-dominated society, where men determine and regulate laws, religion, morals and control all aspects of society.
Until men, themselves, recognise, outlaw and abandon the abuse of those they regard as powerless, it will continue in all its intolerable forms.
Diane Andrewes
Bursledon, Hampshire
• Joseph Harker is being disingenuous. The problem with the grooming of girls by predominantly Pakistani men in northern Britain was that police and social workers turned a blind eye because of the racial angle – they did not want to be accused of racism.
There has been no such reticence in pursuing white males.
Richard Horton
Purley, Surrey
• Congratulations on Joseph Harker’s brilliant article. He expressed my sentiments far better than I ever could, and exposed the stupidity of some people who should have known better when commentating on a recent case of child sex abuse.
Roger Guedalla
• Joseph Harker tries desperately to find an equivalence between the white and Muslim child abusers but his reasoning has many obvious flaws.
The most egregious – and one he chooses to ignore – is that as well as being abusers the Muslims were also racists. All their victims were white and, as one Muslim commentator observed, among some Muslim men white girls are regarded as pieces of meat.
Joseph Harker should better investigate how much this attitude is encouraged by the way the Qur’an and some mullahs seek to denigrate the unbelievers.
Paul Miller
• Well done, Joseph Harker. What a pity this article, or any of its salient details, won’t feature in the Daily Mail.
Jackie Jackson

The problem with No 10’s “nudge unit” personality test for jobseekers is not that it uses the wrong number of questions but that it is being used at all (Personality test for jobseekers is a failure, say its creators, 7 May). The scandal, as you pointed out some days ago, is that the jobless are asked to respond to questions designed to help identify their strengths – but they get exactly the same (uplifting) character description however they answer them (Jobseekers cajoled into taking bogus online survey, 30 April). And this isn’t a question of one bad apple – the whole barrel needs opening up. “Nudge” replaces politics with psychology and makes a virtue of “working with the grain of human nature” (which, for nudgers, means maximising self-interest).
Once the nudge unit is part-privatised, and profit-making and shareholder returns become a priority, the need for results will drive its work yet more powerfully, with ever more focus on the ends and even less scrutiny of the means. The alternative to the anti-politics of “nudge, nudge” is “think, think” – engaging the electorate in a dialogic debate. But, for nudgers, democracy is too costly and time-consuming. This is a dangerous trap – and with her plea for more leadership and less listening Polly Toynbee looks to be falling into it (Comment, 7 May).
Professor Andrew Dobson
Spire, Keele University
• Difficulties with the nudge unit’s jobseekers’ questionnaire? Don’t psychological tests always tell us more about their designers than about the people who fill them in?
Mick Beeby

News that the monarch will not attend the Commonwealth meeting in Sri Lanka for age and/or health-related reasons (Report, 7 May) raises at least two interesting questions. Will Elizabeth Windsor be referred to Atos in order that it can properly assess her ability to undertake work in return for her generous state benefits? If not, will she be receiving statutory sick pay (£86.70 a week) for the period she will not be working?
Daniel Maguire
Newcastle upon Tyne
• Before the debate about pasta alla carbonara goes much further (Letters, 6 May) it is worth considering that any 100 Italians will have 105 different “correct” recipes. In any case, my wife’s version is far better than any other.
Steve Ingamells
Ilford, Essex
•  There is only one recipe for this dish, and it comes from Pasta and Oodles of Noodles by Ursel Norman, published in 1975 – you know, in the days before cooking was invented! We never eat carbonara out because it has things such as cream in it (can’t imagine…)
Derek and Diane Janes
Cockburnspath, Scottish Borders
• Barry Hewlett-Davies (Letters, 8 May) reminded me of the headine which appeared, several years ago, above a Guardian report about an incident at a London football ground: “Queen in brawl at Palace.”
George Kitchin
Penrith, Cumbria 
• Have you noticed that Catholics reported in newspapers, unless lapsed, are always devout?
Janet Barclay
Chelmsford, Essex
• I recall that in the past when beer was increased by 1p per pint in the budget, (Letters, 8 May) pub prices went up by about 5p per pint “to allow for increases in VAT, to maintain margins, etc”. Similar actions in the other direction today might save a few pubs from closing.
Chris Rutherford
Ditchling, East Sussex
• If there is such a shortage of bees (Report, 2 May), how have all the dandelions taking over my lawn been fertilised?
Ian Joyce
Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire

Niall Ferguson apologises. How embarrassing. Forget the homophobia. The renowned historian appears to be unaware of Keynes’s famous grandchildren (Report, 4 May). In an essay written in 1930, entitled Economic Possibilities for our Grandchildren, Keynes marvels at the power of compound interest, and invites the reader to join him in pondering the impossibility of it compounding forever. He imagines the advent of “an age of leisure and abundance” in which his (hypothetical) grandchildren – now well into retirement – will be set free “to return to some of the most sure and certain principles of religion and traditional virtue, that avarice is a vice, that the exaction of usury is a misdemeanour, and the love of money is detestable”. But, writing at the beginning of the Great Depression, Keynes warns: “Beware! The time for this is not yet.”
What unites today’s economists, Keynesian or not, is the conviction that we are still a long way from “yet”. The central challenge being addressed by governments everywhere is how to get economic growth restarted, and then growing faster – without apparent end. If not yet, when?
John Adams
Professor emeritus, University College London
• May I point out that at the inception of the Thatcher era, the Times (then under the editorship of William Rees-Mogg) carried a leading article (Mr Robinson and Mr Blunt, 22 November 1979) which read: “Even in the case of John Maynard Keynes, perhaps the finest product of this [liberal] culture, there may be a parallel between his emotional resentment of the monetary rules which prevented inflation, and particularly the gold standard, and his need to reject the conventional sexual morality of his period. He did not like rules.” (The same article also suggested a relationship between the homosexuality of Mr Blunt and his “hateful and unrepented personal treason to the monarch”.)
I don’t think the Times or its editor ever apologised for this.
Giancarlo de Vivo
Department of economics, University of Naples
• It is gratifying to see the robust opposition to the present coalition government’s austerity policy by such world-leading economists as Nobel-winning Professor Paul Klugman (Klugman calls austerity’s bluff, 7 May). The simple fact is that the fallacy of austerity policies lies in the failure to realise that what may be reasonable on the part of individuals cannot be applied to the whole economic system.
Long before Keynes, this essential point was shown by John M Robertson in The Fallacy of Saving (1892). He demonstrated that the advice to workers to save against unemployment and old-age would have the effect of reducing expenditure all round, decrease demand, and the lowering of wages, more unemployment and make the situation worse than before. This position did not of course obtain much favour with contemporary economic theory.
Francis Westoby
Hitchin, Hertfordshire
• Never mind Krugman, Minsky and Keynes. How about dusting off some of Professor Frederick Soddy’s concepts? Today’s economic chaos shows how blindingly obvious they were then and still are now.
Ian Lowery
Watford, Hertfordshire
• Perhaps it is time to recall JK Galbraith’s comments about the events of 1932 in America, the last year of Hoover’s Republican administration?  
“Gradually interest rates were brought down. The rate at which banks could borrow was 1.5%, hardly a usurious charge. Bonds were bought on a considerable scale and the resultant cash went out to the banks. Soon the banks were flush with lendable funds.
“All that remained was for customers to come to the banks. Now came a terrible discovery. The customers wouldn’t come. Even at the lowest rate they didn’t think they could make money. And the banks wouldn’t lend to those who were so foolish as to believe that they could.”
Isn’t all this eerily familiar? The next year Roosevelt came in and embarked  on unprecedented expansionist work creation, switching resources from banks to people.
David Redshaw
Gravesend, Kent


Matthew Norman was right with his prediction that the Queen’s Speech would not deal with the problem of betting shops and their fixed odds betting machines (“If only the Queen would speak about a business that gambles with lives”, 8 May).
In a recent parliamentary debate, sports minister Hugh Robertson finally admitted what we’ve known all along: that the betting-shop industry is targeting poorer areas. He also admitted that the Government is unwilling to take on the betting industry and the £300m in tax revenue highlighted by Mr Norman is very likely to be a factor in this.
With more than 80 betting shops now operating in Newham, we have reached saturation point and we are concerned that the gambling industry is fully intent on increasing this. Newham residents have told us that they have had enough but we are almost powerless to act. Loopholes in licensing and planning laws are routinely exploited by bookmaking firms and their teams of lawyers. We have urged the Gambling Commission – which by law has to regulate the sector – but it refuses to step in. We face a particularly tough task as the bookmaking lobby is well resourced.
Even the prospect of action in the courts will not deter the industry. Newham is being taken to court on 10 June by Paddy Power for refusing to license its latest premises. The council rejected the application because it did not believe the majority of profits would come from traditional betting. Paddy Power is appealing the decision.
We are calling for councils to be given the power to protect their communities and give them a say over their high streets.
Cllr Ian Corbett, Executive Member for Infrastructure and Environment, Newham Council, London E16
Tories really could build council houses
Why does Owen Jones confine his appeal for an urgent major council-house building initiative to Labour post-2015 (“Bricks not benefits”, 6 May)? In the same issue you report new research on the extent of underemployment – hidden unemployment – which renders even more compelling the case for more government borrowing to finance an adequate response to this desperate socio-economic need (David Blanchflower: Economic Outlook).
It would take up slack in the labour market and at the same time reduce the welfare bill. Moreover, since it would pay for itself and take families out of poverty and dependency – as well as using public funds to create assets that might later be sold to tenants, with all sale proceeds dedicated to replacement – it looks a no-brainer, even for the ideologically embarrassed.
Without breaching the Party Trade Descriptions Act, it might even be sold as updated Thatcher: humanised and sustainable self-interest, and with obvious electoral appeal.
Richard Bryden, Llandudno, Gwynedd
Infrastructure for immigrants
Bill Fletcher is yet another supporter of uncontrolled immigration who refuses to face up to its practical consequences (letter, 7 May).
A few weeks ago, the co-chairmen of the parliamentary Cross Party Group on Balanced Migration, Nicholas Soames and Frank Field, claimed that the UK would need to build the equivalent of nine major British cities over the next 15 years in order to accommodate the projected rise in population from 63 million to 70 million, including five million immigrants and their children.
This is a truly daunting prospect and it baffles me why Mr Fletcher and those who agree with him cannot appreciate the scale of the problem and simply assume that the necessary material and social infrastructure will somehow be in place.
Unless some control is placed on the numbers of people wanting to come to this country, schools, doctors’ surgeries, hospitals and welfare and other public services, already stretched to their limits, will surely be overwhelmed. It’s time for supporters of uncontrolled immigration to lift their heads from the sand and explain how this can be avoided.
D Stewart, London N2
I require some clarification. If, at a football match, I shout “sod off, you Bulgarian so-and-so, and stop scrounging our benefits” (or perhaps stronger language to that effect), am I (a) guilty of racist chanting or (b) stating current government policy? Any guidance gratefully received.
John Morgan, London N4
When celebrities face charges
If someone is not going to re-offend, either because they are incapable or because they are under arrest, publicly divulging their identity is not necessary to safeguard the public. And such revelation goes against the principle that a person is innocent until proved guilty.
The argument that naming them would encourage other victims to come forward appears to carry some weight, but only because in the past abused people were simply not believed when they were brave enough to protest.
The situation is somewhat improved now, but it should not be the case that victims need the corroboration of other victims in order to be heard. Modern science is often able to incriminate a sexual aggressor if the complaint is made soon enough after the offence.
What is required is a climate in which complainants feel able to protest sooner rather than later.
Susan Alexander, Frampton Cotterell, South Gloucestershire
I suppose I could possibly regard myself as an intellectual sports fan, like Chris Bowers. But I do not share his views about Stuart Hall; I am on Stephen Dorril’s side (both Letters, 6 May). I thought I was the only one to find Hall’s self-absorbed pseudish babble in his football reports extremely irritating, but I now realise that Mr Bowers’s admiration for Hall is not universal.
As well as feeling sympathy for Hall’s victims and relief that he has been brought to justice, on a much less important level I can now be comforted that I will not have to listen to his verbal diarrhoea ever again when I tune in to a match report.
Ian Rickard, Stowmarket, Suffolk
From PM to life on a pension
Iain Duncan Smith argues that wealthy pensioners who don’t really need benefits should hand them back.
Many retired prime ministers, as well as receiving a generous pension from the state, being entitled to half their salary index-linked for the rest of their life, earn a considerable income from the lecture circuit, advisory roles and lucrative publishing deals for their memoirs – it is estimated that Blair received £4.6m and Thatcher £3.5m.
Certainly wealthy – and yet they receive a variety of additional state benefits including police protection and often – as in a recent case – subsidised funerals. Furthermore elevation to the peerage can add  an additional “earner” through attendance allowance and expenses.
Unfortunately, they are not alone. Other retired front-bench politicians and Whitehall mandarins are in a similar position.
Come on IDS – persuade them to set an example by paying the going rate for the services they receive in addition to returning their benefit payments.
Dr David Bartlett, lkley, West Yorkshire
Let politicians speak honestly
The success of Ukip in last week’s elections means we have four-party politics, but with an electoral system that poorly reflects the way people vote.
I am not a Ukip voter but I am a member of the Electoral Reform Society ,and if we really believe in democracy Nigel Farage is right when he suggests a change to a more proportional voting system. (He likes the German system!)
More and more MPs and councillors will be elected on 30 per cent of the vote and governments will have majority power with the support of around a third of those who voted.
I wish parties and candidates would stand for what they really believe in and not just what focus groups and polls suggest “Worcester woman”, for example, wants in a marginal constituency. Under a different system candidates could speak with honesty about their principles and have distinct policies. 
Martin Peters, Taunton, Somerset
Archaic rituals at Westminster
How more ridiculous an event can there be than an outline of the Government’s programme to be delivered to a chamber full of members of the upper legislative house, all trussed up in hired regalia, and large numbers of their spouses, bespangled and tiara-ed, while a mere handful of members of the major parliamentary house cram in as best they can at the doorway. Twenty-first century? A government fit for the present technological age?   
Roy Evans, Harpenden, Hertfordshire
Baffled by technology
Cognitive scientists know that experts often lose touch with how ordinary people understand computer interfaces and other control surfaces; Windows 8 has symptoms of a product developed with excessive influence from “tekkies” (report, 8 May).
IT organisations generally, not just Microsoft, need to pay more attention to areas such as usability testing and marketing. Such priorities seem to get lost when technological companies grow so large that users have little choice over their purchases.
Frederic Stansfield, Canterbury, Kent
Mirren’s plea
Why does “national treasure” status allow you to shout, “shut the f**k up” in a public street? (Letters, 8 May) Why is the staff of the Gielgud theatre not able to ask noisy members of the public to be quiet, instead of expecting an actress mid-performance to do it? Is theatreland in meltdown? Do we need an Ofplay?
Ian McKenzie, Lincoln
Help the needy
Rarely have I read such a heartrending letter as that from Samantha Mangwana (7 May) drawing our attention to the hideous injustice done to those women in the City whose bonuses are not as big as the menfolk’s. If she cares to send me her bank details I will make a small donation to her out of my salary as a teacher of children with special needs, to at least, in my own small way, try to make the world a better place.
Nick Wray, Derby
Bank Holiday bliss
Now that we have just experienced most beautiful Bank Holiday weather, can we please have no more “It always rains on Bank Holidays”?
David benson, Birmingham


‘There is a widespread perception of a malfunctioning state run by a flaccid administration that does not trust the electorate’
Sir, While musing on the rise of UKIP Rachel Sylvester warns of the inadvisability of a nostalgia for a bygone era (Opinion, May 7), and I agree. But nostalgia for a political administration that plans ahead and which assumes responsibility for and to the electorate is entirely justified.
The issues of national importance that are unresolved are seen by many as being quite unacceptable. The era when affairs of state could be resolved by procrastination and guile was surely past by the end of the 16th century when issues were simpler, time more plentiful and (some) minds sharper.
Now there is a widespread perception of a malfunctioning state run by a flaccid administration that does not trust the electorate. Small wonder that UKIP has sprung forward and appears to have been warmly received. If Mr Cameron were to sharply prune his to-do list to what is really important for the safety and prosperity of the country he would find that UKIP had mysteriously faded away.
Nick Bland
Eastbourne, E Sussex
Sir, As the founder of the Anti-Federalist League (later UKIP), I welcome Lord Lawson’s belated conversion to the cause of British independence (Opinion, May 7). As he clearly demonstrates, the Prime Minister’s expedient of renegotiating our EU membership terms is a non-starter. Indeed, it is downright embarrassing and pathetic. The Tories will have to be as ruthless with Cameron as they were with Thatcher if they mean to win the next election. If he will not legislate for an immediate in-out referendum on the EU, he must be replaced by someone who will.
Alan Sked
Professor of International History, LSE
Sir, UKIP did so well in the recent local elections largely because all the parties have broken their promises of a referendum on the EU. Throughout 2004 and 2005 Tony Blair promised us a referendum on the EU Constitution. On May 13, 2005, he said, “Even if the French voted no, we would have a referendum. This is a government promise.” Just three weeks later, the French voted no — and Blair broke that promise.
In 2007 David Cameron gave us his “cast-iron guarantee” of a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty — but we had no referendum. Cameron now promises us a referendum — after the next election, when he may well be out of office.
Will Podmore
London E12
Sir, UKIP has picked up some county council seats and become a home for the disillusioned and angry, but we have heard nothing concrete about its policies on, for example, running schools or social services. UKIP’s attendance in the European Parliament is woeful. We also want assurances that they will turn up to council meetings and involve themselves in local decisions. One MEP has just defected to the Conservatives, another was struck off, and one went independent. You wonder how many of those recently elected UKIP councillors will stay the course.
Richard Grant
Burley, Hants
Sir, UKIP cites immigration as a key issue facing Britain. There are few unemployed immigrants. They find employment rather rapidly or start their own business. They see an opportunity and that is why they emigrate. It follows, does it not, that those jobs and business opportunities existed before the immigrant arrived in the UK? Perhaps those who vote UKIP should ask why Britons didn’t exploit those opportunities.
Immigration will always continue. UK companies want immigration. It keeps the UK competitive. And should Mr Farage ever come to power he would be unable to fulfil his electoral promise as he would be answerable to those employers, who pay rather large amounts in tax. It’s simple economics.
Sanjiv Shah
London W1

overall contributions by the wealthy countries went up as part of EU enlargement — that was the fair thing to do and vital to promote prosperity across the Union
Sir, With reference to Nigel Lawson’s article (“I’ll be voting to quit the EU”, Opinion, May 7), I didn’t cut a deal on the EU budget just before leaving office. I did it in 2005.
It was an excellent deal for the UK. It put us, for the first time, on a level with France in terms of our contributions to the EU budget. Under Lady Thatcher the UK’s contribution was still broadly twice France’s. In fact because the UK’s economy was bigger than in 1984 the share of the UK’s wealth contributed as part of the deal decreased.
Of course overall contributions by the wealthy countries went up as part of EU enlargement — that was the fair thing to do and vital to promote prosperity across the Union which was in the interests of all member states. But the UK’s increase (63 per cent) was small in comparison to France’s which went up by 124 per cent; Italy’s which went up by 126 per cent and Spain lost in the region of € 40 billion. In addition we secured major changes in Common Agricultural Policy spending.
So we should base our decisions on the facts not the mythology of the 1984 rebate which occurred in totally different circumstances.
Tony Blair
Sir, Lord Lawson of Blaby refers to “a jealous desire” in the EU to cut the City down to size. I suggest the word “jealous” be replaced by “common sense”. Twenty years ago, when our country was doing quite well, City directors received 50 times the remuneration of their employees. This has now risen to more than 100 times, with our country in financial turmoil. This arithmetical progression is counterproductive. It diverts City directors’ attention from the good of their companies to their bonuses. Sir Mervyn King is right in wondering why the British public hasn’t protested in stronger terms.
Jim Swift
Crawley, W Sussex


At least 11 countries now allow same-sex marriage and several others are seriously considering it
Sir, The urgency of the need for David Cameron’s scrapping of the gay marriage Bill (report, May 6) cannot be overstated. Young people often become involved in homosexual relationships in their early lives when they are still at an emotionally experimental stage and have not yet arrived at heterosexual maturity.
I was in such a relationship, as a student of 2l, with a much older woman whom I admired greatly. After an initially happy period she became possessive and over-demanding.
If gay marriage had been an option then, I would certainly have been swept into it, imprisoned legally in a long-term relationship which was quite wrong for me. As it was, even without the legal binding, it took years for me to fight my way out and to go forward into heterosexual marriage and motherhood.
Irene Truelove
Tunbridge Wells, Kent
Sir, You report that senior Tories are advising David Cameron to stop supporting the gay marriage Bill.
Superficially that advice seems to be going against the international tide — at least 11 countries now allow same-sex marriage and several others are seriously considering it.
I have the impression that other countries have legislated to allow same-sex marriage to enable gay people to obtain the same legal rights as married couples. In Britain, of course, the position is different as gay couples can enter into civil partnerships to obtain the same legal rights as married heterosexual couples.
The relevance of comparison with other countries thus depends on knowing whether by legislating to allow gay marriage those countries are enabling gay couples to obtain legal rights which would otherwise be available only to heterosexual married couples. That information is not easily obtainable. Surely it should be?
Henry Scrope
Shipton by Beningbrough, York

Successful laboratories tend to be most effectively run with a happy collaborative team, essential in almost all science
Sir, Your report (“Firsts shall be last in queue for jobs”, May 7) recorded part of a much longer discussion with school students.
Scientists are best not appointed purely on the basis of whether they had first-class degrees; other human values are important. Successful laboratories tend to be most effectively run with a happy collaborative team, essential in almost all science. Good degrees are important but they are not the only measure of success.
My remarks were intended to explain to aspiring students that science is no harder than any other academic subject. Indeed in some ways it is easier because it follows a logical pattern.
Professor Lord Winston
Imperial College London

Sir, It was not Helen Mirren but Prunella Scales who played the Queen in Alan Bennett’s A Question of Attribution (leading article, May 8).
Roger Braban
Garrick Club, London WC2

SIR – The Royal Mail once had a policy that the only identifiable living people depicted on British stamps were members of the Royal family, or those imminently marrying into it (report, May 4).
However, they broke the rule a few times (such as the 2003 Rugby World Cup) and finally abandoned the policy with the set of stamps of October 2005 commemorating the England Ashes victory. More recently we have had the gold medal stamps from the 2012 Olympics and the Doctor Whos.
Commander John Prime RN (retd)
Old Bedhampton, Hampshire
SIR – The Government reserves to itself all policy matters relating to Britain’s philatelic activities: the design of stamps, first-day covers, franking marks, frequency of issue and the subject matter of commemorative and definitive sets.
On no account must responsibility for such matters be put into the hands of any future private owners. Hence, only the operational activity of the Royal Mail should be privatised and all philatelic activity must be excluded.

SIR – As a loyal Conservative Party member I care about the future of my home continent and worry that the structure of the European project has morphed into something that could easily be taken over by one malevolent person or group. It has taken to itself the sole right of initiative and the power to interfere.
So, like Lord Lawson, I would like to leave the European Union, given the chance, and expect the majority of this country would do the same – Britain being quintessentially and ethically Conservative.
Sue Doughty
Twyford, Berkshire
SIR – With 25 per cent of those who voted last Thursday being in favour of leaving the EU, is it not time to have an independent commission of inquiry into the full consequences to our country of an exit?
Then we could make an informed decision at the next general election.
Related Articles
Who’s Who of the postage stamp hall of fame
08 May 2013
David Norsworthy
Saltash, Cornwall
SIR – Nick Clegg’s party’s general election manifesto promised an in-out referendum on the EU. That was a terminological inexactitude, since he utterly rejects the idea. This kind of deception is part of the explanation for the Ukip surge.
Timothy Bradshaw
SIR – Some of us who fought hopeless battles for the Conservatives in the Seventies (I was a Conservative candidate in both 1974 general elections) had our spirits kept alive by Rear-Admiral Sir Morgan Morgan-Giles (Obituaries, May 6).
He was a war hero, an irrepressible character with incorrect views, and a man who made you feel better about yourself and life in general. He worked tirelessly as MP for Winchester, and was popular on all sides of the House.
Today’s Tory leadership would do well to spare a thought for his life – a triumph of the human spirit – and remember that the human spirit is not elevated by adopting gay marriage legislation in the hope that it will appeal to proletarian instincts.
Timothy Stroud
Salisbury, Wiltshire
SIR – The so-called strong showing by Ukip was against a very dismal turnout: 30 per cent in my area. When I voted, I was the only person there without a walking stick. If the Tories turn anti-Europe, these are going to be tough times for those who are young, educated, pro-business and pro-Europe. Sadly many are emigrating.
Stephanie Webster
Woking, Surrey
SIR – Because she was an MP, Glenda Jackson was able to make her unkind speech about Margaret Thatcher in Parliament.
She was only re-elected by the narrowest of margins, as the Conservative vote was split by Ukip.
Edward Pryce
Plymouth, Devon
Iran’s Baha’i prisoners
SIR – Five years ago this month, seven former leaders of the Baha’i community in Iran were imprisoned for their beliefs. This violated national and international laws as well as shariah norms.
The seven – Mrs Mahvash Sabet, Mr Behrouz Tavakkoli, Mr Vahid Tizfahm, Mrs Fariba Kamalabadi, Mr Jamaloddin Khanjani, Mr Afif Naeimi and Mr Saeid Rezaie – were arrested following coordinated raids on their homes in 2008. The fatuous nature of their alleged crimes, which included “spreading corruption on earth” and collaboration with the “tyrannical Quds-occupying regime” (Israel), is self-evident.
The charges against them were first heard in the media rather than in court, nine months after their detention. An arrest warrant was issued 10 months after they were arrested. To this day, they have not been presented with formal charges or a judgment in writing, in clear violation of the Iranian constitution.
The seven Baha’is were purportedly “tried” in 2010 in proceedings that can be barely described as a “trial”, and were each sentenced to 20 years in prison.
Lawyers brave enough to represent Baha’is – including the Nobel Laureate Shirin Ebadi – have themselves become victims of the Iranian regime and been forced into exile. Others, such as Nasrin Sotoudeh and Abdolfattah Soltani, are now serving prison sentences on similarly spurious allegations.
Iranian authorities often claim to be champions of justice, equality and fairness. It is time for them to honour these principles, release the seven Baha’i leaders and restore the rule of law in Iran.
Sir Desmond de Silva QC
Michael Birnbaum QC
Cherie Booth CBE QC
Kirsty Brimelow QC
Professor John Cooper QC
Edward Fitzgerald QC
Dr Nazila Ghanea
Lord Gifford QC
Lord Lester of Herne Hill QC
Lord Macdonald of River Glaven QC
Michael Mansfield QC
Professor Rachel Murray
Sir Geoffrey Nice QC
Professor Michael O’Flaherty
Professor Javaid Rehman
Geoffrey Robertson QC
Professor Philippe Sands QC
Professor Dan Sarooshi
Jobs for historians
SIR – It is quite false to associate graduate unemployment with study of humanities and social sciences, as Lord Baker does (report, May 2).
Higher Education Statistics Agency figures show that, six months after graduation, 91 per cent of graduates are in employment or further study, with no material differences between subjects studied (as it happens, graduates in history and philosophy appear to have marginally higher rates than those in engineering).
We do need scientists and engineers, but Britain surely needs high-level skills right across the board. An economy that is 75 per cent services needs the flexible skills generated by the study of humanities and social sciences, and students appear to be aware of that in choosing their subjects.
Dr Robin Jackson
Chief Executive and Secretary
The British Academy
London SW1
SIR – Not only were Wagner and Verdi born in 1813 (Letters, May 3) but so was Henry Smart. He was one of ours, but his name does not appear in the Proms programme.
John Brandon
Tonbridge, Kent
Ever-open Facebook
SIR – I joined Facebook to keep up with my grandchildren but found it not to be worth the time. But how to delete my account? It seems that once you are on that is it!
Paul Brazier
Kingswood, Gloucestershire
Afghan interpreters
SIR – The call to offer asylum to Afghan nationals who have worked as interpreters for the British Army (report, May 3) is difficult to accept.
Thousands of the West’s finest young men and women have been killed or maimed and untold billions spent helping the Afghans work towards creating a country with a positive future.
Rather than facilitating the settlement of Afghans and their families in Britain, it would be more fitting to inspire Afghan nationals to return home to build on the sacrifice of so many young men and women from the other side of the world.
Alan Thomas
Ware, Hertfordshire
SIR – I hope readers will share my outrage at the treatment of loyal Afghan interpreters. Their Iraqi counterparts’ request for legitimate asylum was initially spurned in the same way.
If Britain treats with callous disregard those willing to risk their lives to help our troops in their mission, our standing in the world will be even further diminished.
A M S Hutton-Wilson
Evercreech, Somerset
Cannibal explorers
SIR – E C Coleman (Letters, May 4) is dismissive of the “employee of the Hudson’s Bay Company” who reported signs of cannibalism in the remains of the Franklin expedition of 1845.
The employee was a great Arctic explorer, the Orcadian Dr John Rae, who covered prodigious distances in the Canadian Arctic. He was far ahead of his time, using travelling techniques perfected by the native peoples whom he befriended.
His report on the fate of the Franklin expedition showed that cannibalism had occurred under conditions of starvation among the Royal Navy party. This made him the target of vilification and he was never given the honours due to him.
To suggest that Inuit were responsible for attacking the remnants of Franklin’s party goes against everything Rae stated about these peaceable and helpful natives.
Roderick Corner
Penrith, Cumberland
Pipes of peace
SIR – A former rector at our church (Letters, May 7) told me he was taught two things at theological college: 1 Jesus is the Son of God; 2 Never offend the organist.
John Martin
Soberton, Hampshire
Many cyclists are tax-paying motorists too
SIR – John Morris is wrong to assume that cyclists do not pay road tax or have insurance (Letters, May 6).
I pay insurance and road tax for three cars and a motorbike (even though I can only drive one at a time) but I prefer a bike, particularly for commuting.
I have third-party insurance for my bike from membership of the London Cycling Campaign. The Mr Toad types should realise that cycling is increasingly popular and is here to stay.
Tony Parrack
London SW20
SIR – Cyclists who have been pushed off
A-roads to the quieter B-roads now find that motorists such as Malcolm Allen (Letters, May 4) want them off these too. When we ride two abreast we take up no more room than a slow tractor, so those overtaking must be the ones to exercise care.
Secondly, the overtaking distance is half what it would be if we were in single file, so, when there is no oncoming traffic, it will take less time to get past.
Lew Lawton
National Standards Cycling Instructor
Highworth, Wiltshire
SIR – Most cyclists don’t have a clue as to how much room a motorist has to give them on any road. They pedal along totally oblivious to the line of cars waiting to pass.
David Horchover
Eastcote, Middlesex

Irish Times

Sir, – The vast majority of the citizens in the Republic claim to be Christian according to last census, yet the views of the minority self-styled “atheists” hold disproportionate sway in media and politics. The leadership within the Catholic Church has every right, as Eamon Gilmore admits, to express the views of its members, especially when these views concern the right to life of the most vulnerable.
However ethics, as such, is not dependent on any religion, being based rather on a study of human life in society. From time immemorial the first principle of all moral codes is the right to life. Without this all other rights and duties are meaningless. The “pro-choice” lobby should listen to Government ministers saying “We have no choice but to legislate”. What an admission. What an anomaly. Why have they no choice? Of whom are they afraid? Who is forcing the issue?
In my opinion we are all “pro-choice”, but choice is accompanied by responsibility to act morally and with compassion for all the persons affected by our choices.
Allowing abortion because of the mother’s suicidal ideation ignores the right of the unborn child, ignores the rights of the father and is not a remedy for the psychological distress of the mother. Should the Government legislate in this way I have no doubt that the silent majority will manifest its opposition in the next election. – Yours, etc,
Rochestown Avenue,
Dún Laoghaire, Co Dublin.
Sir, – I was very impressed with the Taoiseach’s response to the threat of excommunication: “I have my own way of speaking to my God” (Home News, May 6th). I am and have always been solidly “pro life” and “anti-abortion” except in very rare and unusual circumstances – as in the case of poor Savita Halappanavar. In those rare situations I see abortion not as a “good” but as “the lesser of two evils”.
The current attempt by the Catholic bishops to bully and intimidate our Government and politicians is reprehensible and I greatly admire Enda Kenny and his colleagues for resisting their attempts. On their past record it seems that Cardinal Brady and his episcopal colleagues have more respect for the child in the womb than they do for the child after it is born. As someone who was ostensibly “excommunicated” 15 years ago, I can reassure Mr Kenny and his confreres that there is life after excommunication. I am still alive. No thunderbolt has struck me down; I still speak to God and he/she still speaks to me and I have come to know the freedom of the sons and daughters of God that one does not often experience within institutionalised religion.

Sir – The repaving of Dublin’s Grafton Street, at a cost of €2.5 million, is, as well as being another untimely disruption – for a year and a half! – nothing short of an outrageous waste of money. The same is happening in Kilkenny where the pavements, laid only a few years ago, are being replaced on the main shopping area in the High Street.
These unnecessary “projects” are an insult to the businesses that are trying to survive in the current economic climate. Our councils are supposed to help rather than hinder business and could surely find better use for the very high rates paid each year. If they are flush with money and really want to help, then the better option would surely be to reduce the amounts paid by us hard-pressed ratepayers. – Yours, etc,
High Street,

Sir, – I was all set to tackle Gary O’Hanlon’s Quail Cordon Bleu (Recipe card, May 4th) until I went to the local grocery store to discover that there had been a rush on said quail since the publication of his recipe in your newspaper. Alas, I had to settle for common chicken. It turned out well, roasted with a breadcrumb stuffing that I made from stale bread. I also happened to have a few rashers in the fridge which I draped in a most intricate, pleasing fashion across the breast of said bird. All in all, I am happy to say I delivered a decent meal with regular, old-style cauliflower cheese adding a superior depth of character. For some reason “Burnt Cauliflower” sounds, well a bit burnt to be honest. – Yours, etc,
Boleybeg, Galway.

Sir, – The suspension is killing me.– Yours, etc,
Elm Mount,

Sir, – Last week there was much praise for Aer Lingus for giving its grass cuttings to Irish farmers. Surely there are many grassed areas such as castle gardens, public parks, etc, that could give their cuttings to farmers in every county in the country. Even private houses could put their cuttings in plastic bags that could be put in a place provided by local authorities to be collected by farmers. – Yours, etc,
Greens Hill, Kilkenny.

Irish Independent


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