Still quiet

Quiet day 13th May 2013

I trot round the park today and listen to the Navy lark. I Oh dear, oh dear
Leslie is up fro promotion to lieutenant what a hope! He fantasies about being a sort of Leslie Nelson Priceless.
Rain at last, a fine excuse for not doing anything in the garden. So I loaf around reading Doctor Who, back sore.
The Fosdyke saga. We travel forward in time to past the first world war, all the characters are much older except Irenie! Kenneth has a moor and he falls in love with Soames daughter. Montague’s and Capulet
Mary wins at Scrabble today, just and gets just over 400, I might get my revenge tomorrow, I hope.


Professor Geza Vermes
Professor Geza Vermes, who has died aged 88, was from 1965 to 1991 first Reader, then Professor, of Jewish Studies at Oxford and the foremost world authority on the Dead Sea Scrolls — early manuscripts of some Old Testament scriptures, the first of which were discovered accidentally in 1947 by a young Arab shepherd in a cave near the Dead Sea.

Professor Geza Vermes Photo: PETER JAY
6:11PM BST 12 May 2013
Vermes led a long and sometimes bitter battle with the Israeli archaeological authorities to secure publication of all the manuscripts and fragments, copies of which were eventually lodged in the Oxford Centre for Hebrew and Jewish Studies in 1992. His own The Dead Sea Scrolls in English, first published in 1962, had four editions, the latest in 1997, and sold 300,000 copies. He was the first to identify the Scrolls as belonging to the middle of the 2nd century BC.
That Vermes was able to achieve anything in this area and in other important fields of Jewish history and religion owed everything to the fact that during the darkest days of the Second World War he was, in his native Hungary, a Roman Catholic priest and, although of Jewish family background, just managed to escape deportation to a German death camp. Both his parents, who had converted to Catholicism in the 1930s, were less fortunate: he never saw them again after their arrest in 1944.
Vermes remained a priest until 1957, when marriage required his resignation and, having also renounced Catholicism, he returned to his roots and became a non-practising Jew. Eventually, however, he became a member of the Liberal Jewish Synagogue in London and a member of the academic committee of Leo Baeck College, though he declared himself to be uninterested in “organised religion of any description”.
Geza Vermes was born at Mako, southern Hungary, on June 22 1924. When he was four the family moved to Gyula, where his father was the owner and editor of the town’s weekly newspaper until it was closed down by anti-Jewish laws in 1938. Geza was sent to a Roman Catholic school where in 1942 he obtained top marks in every subject and qualified easily for university entry. He decided, however, that because of his Jewish origins he would never secure a university place, so he opted instead for the Catholic priesthood.
He was in the second year of a theological seminary when the Germans invaded Hungary and rounded up all Jews and those of Jewish origin.
Although not yet ordained, he was carrying out the functions of a deacon under the certification of the local bishop, enabling him to escape arrest. The remainder of the war was spent in hiding, protected by the Salesian and Dominican Orders in Budapest.
Although refused admission to the Dominican Order because of his Jewish background, Vermes was accepted by the Fathers of Sion — a community dedicated to prayer for the Jews. By this time he had recognised his calling to be a scholar and was at the community’s house in Louvain, Belgium, from 1946 to 1952 before moving to its central house in Paris, where he remained until 1957.
Having decided to specialise in Old Testament studies, he became particularly interested in the discovery of what became known as the Dead Sea Scrolls, and from 1950 he began translating and interpreting the new texts. He took a doctorate, with the highest honours, in their historic framework at the Institut Orientaliste in Louvain. The doctorate was published as Manuscripts from the Judaean Desert (1953).
Following his move to Paris, Vermes became assistant editor of Cahiers — a journal devoted to the furthering of Catholic-Jewish relations — and began campaigning for an end to anti-Semitism in the Church. This was influential in the reconciling statements of Vatican II. Although still a young priest, he was becoming widely recognised as a scholar of distinction, and it was after attending an international conference in Oxford in 1954 that he went to stay with a friend at Ottery St Mary in Devon.
There he made the acquaintance of an Exeter University professor and his wife Pam . Vermes and Pam fell in love, and her marriage broke down soon afterwards. After much soul-searching, she and Vermes married in 1958 — a union that brought great happiness and fulfilment to both until Pam’s death in 1993.
On leaving the priesthood, Vermes secured an appointment as a lecturer in Divinity at King’s College, Newcastle upon Tyne — then part of Durham University . The teaching duties were light, and over the next eight years he devoted a good deal of time to research and writing. Besides work on the Dead Sea Scrolls, he became interested in the ways in which the Old Testament was interpreted at different points in Jewish history and how this affected the New Testament — discussed in his Scripture and Tradition (1961).
In 1961 he responded to an advertisement for a Reader in Jewish Studies at Oxford, and such was his reputation that he was appointed without interview. He also became a Fellow of the newly-founded Wolfson College .
A major undertaking was the co-editing of a revised edition of The History of the Jewish People in the Age of Jesus Christ — a classic three-volume 19th-century work by a German scholar. This occupied him, on and off, for several years and encouraged him to embark on a trilogy devoted to the Jewish background of the life and work of Jesus — Jesus the Jew (1973), Jesus and the World of Judaism (1983) and The Religion of Jesus the Jew (1996).
These portrayed Jesus as a typical 1st-century Jewish holy man — a preacher, healer and exorcist — who was executed because it was feared that his words and deeds might lead to insurrection: “He died on the cross for having done the wrong thing (causing a commotion) in the wrong place (the Temple) at the wrong time (just before the Passover). Here lies the real tragedy of Jesus the Jew.”
The trilogy was followed in 2000 by The Changing Faces of Jesus, a survey of the various representations of Jesus in the New Testament; and, in 2003, a companion volume, The Authentic Gospel of Jesus .
Although Vermes did not share the Christian belief in the divinity of Jesus, he acknowledged him to be “second to none” among the Jewish teachers and prophets, and the trilogy was found illuminating by many Christian scholars.
Notwithstanding his high reputation worldwide and his popularity in Oxford, Vermes — a distinguished-looking, bearded figure — always craved further recognition, and this came almost at the end of his academic career when he was elected to the British Academy in 1985 and awarded an Oxford DLitt in 1989 — in the same year he was appointed to the chair of Jewish Studies.
In 1998 he published an autobiography, Providential Accidents, and he continued to write and lecture until he was well into his eighties. In 2012 he published Christian Beginnings from Nazareth to Nicaea AD30–325.
He married secondly, in 1996, Margaret Unarska, a Polish scientist, who survives him with a stepson and two stepdaughters.
Professor Geza Vermes, born June 22 1924, died May 8 2013


While full details of the government’s proposals to reduce reoffending are still awaited (Editorial, 10 May), it’s noteworthy that pilots of payment by results in Staffordshire & West Midlands and Wales were terminated and a freedom of information request for disclosure of any evaluation of them refused. When I challenged ministers to explain these extraordinary decisions in Thursday’s debate on the Queen’s speech, I received no reply. Not much hope of evidence-based legislation there, then.
Jeremy Beecham
Shadow justice spokesman, House of Lords
• Today I received my annual bible from the Child Poverty Action Group – the Welfare Benefits and Tax Credits Handbook for 2013-14. In this year of a simpler system of benefits, as promised by Iain Duncan Smith (Report, 10 May), I was perplexed to find that the guide had grown to 1,789 pages.
Tom Lamb
New Alyth, Perthshire
• When studying Chaucer at Falkirk High School around 1956, it struck me that he used double and triple negatives as needed to make iambic pentameter lines scan (Letters, May 10). I wrote a Chaucer parody for the school magazine, which had, I think, a convincing quadruple negative: “The world ne could na find ne girl na better.” Don’t tell me it is a record, just that it sounds Chaucerian.
Edgar Anderson
Rickmansworth, Hertfordshire
• Has there ever been a shot that did not ring out (Letters, 11 May)?
Richard Lawson
Winscombe, Somerset

The Guardian, like other media, is regularly burdened by stories of men’s abuse of women and children, but last Wednesday was an especially heavy day. The front page and an inside spread presented breaking news of the abduction, sequestration and rape of Amanda Berry and two other women in Cleveland, Ohio. A further page was filled by the trial of Mark Bridger in the case of the disappeared five-year-old April Jones and of Stuart Hazell for the alleged murder of his step-granddaughter. There was also a report on the arrest of yet another TV personality for suspected child abuse.
The editorials that day dealt with EU membership and press regulation. Important matters, yes. But what more would it take to prompt an editorial on the profound, extensive and costly problem of male sexual violence? It is not irremediable. Gendered behaviour is culturally shaped. It could be addressed by many social measures, if only policy-makers willed it. Meanwhile, it cries out for a responsible editorial assessment.
Cynthia Cockburn and Ann Oakley
• Kira Cochrane says she would love to see more men getting involved in the conversation on male aggression and acts of violence (Men must speak up too, 9 May). I am happy to contribute by declaring that I abhor all violent and aggressive acts perpetrated by men who use their strength and power to subjugate others, usually women and children. I like to think that, if I became aware of any such behaviour, I would report it immediately and would doggedly pursue my role in securing the perpetrator’s criminal conviction.
Where I disagree, however, is that, like most of the British public, I think that there should be anonymity for anyone accused of rape and violent crimes until a conviction is secured. The presumption of innocence is integral to British justice, and reputations and lives can be ruined by false accusations. Indeed, the temptation to invent stories about public figures will be particularly tempting to those simply seeking attention. I find myself watching with growing unease as public figures are being arrested and named without, as yet, having been convicted of any crime. Stuart Hall turned out to be guilty, but others may well prove not to be. The police and courts are, thankfully, now taking rape and child abuse seriously and this in itself should be reassuring enough for victims to come forward. We should not subject anyone who has an accusation made against them to trial by public opinion.
Tim Matthews
Luton, Bedfordshire
• I share Kira Cochrane’s appalled reaction to the cases she outlined, as well as her marking of the seeming absence of men from the conversations around these issues. I think this absence is caused, at least in part, by the fact that many people read gender issues as women’s issues. In my work I teach a course called Performing Masculinities, which has, as a core theme, the concept of gendered violence. The first task of the module, which I think is also the first task of getting men into the conversation, is a recognition of the role that cultures play in producing gendered violence: it is not simply a question of aberrant behaviour. Revealing the hegemonic gendered structures at play is the first step in getting men to speak out and, as Cochrane implies, to take a public stand.
Dr Wallace McDowell
School of Theatre and Performance Studies, University of Warwick
• Here we go again. Men bad, women good. Of course most men are upset by reports of the abuse and murder of young girls and boys by other men; the insinuation by Kira Cochrane that they don’t care as much as women because they don’t take to Twitter as often to express the obvious is ridiculous. As for Diane Andrewes (Letters, same day), I thought that the complicity of women in “honour” killings, genital mutilation, turning a blind eye to abuse and the supply of false alibis, to name but a few of that sex’s imperfect actions, might have laid to rest the black-and-white ideas of the 1970s. And if she wants to see more women in power, she should persuade more of them to be actively involved.
Jefrey G Pirie
Totnes, Devon
• What a fantastic article by Kira Cochrane – I felt as if she had been reading my mind. I too wonder why all the good men in the world do not come out and say something about the abuse and violence that so many women suffer at the hands of men. As a grandmother with three beautiful granddaughters, it makes me feel sad and angry. I have felt overwhelmed watching the horrific stories on the news this past week.
If the media, politicians and famous people spoke out and started to challenge the behaviour of some men, it might be a better and safer world for my granddaughters to grow up in.
Joan Procter
Worthing, West Sussex
• If Kira Cochrane agrees with Joseph Harker that focusing on race doesn’t help us to get to the bottom of cases of child abuse, in what way does focusing on men instead do any better, especially when she graciously concedes: “Most men clearly abhor male violence”? Far from wanting men to join in a conversation, she seems more concerned with insisting they condemn what she condemns, on her terms. Most men do not need feminist prompting or permission to display empathy for the victims of violence, or revulsion at the perpetrators – regardless of the gender of either.
Derrick Cameron
• Richard Horton says (Letters, 9 May) that police and social workers turned a blind eye to the grooming of girls by predominantly Pakistani men for fear of being accused of racism. If those men had been stealing as many cars as the number of young women they abused, or had been involved in as many incidents of shoplifting as the number of young women, I suspect the police would have pursued them and prosecuted them without any fear of racism. It was precisely because of the lack of respect for the victims that there was so little interest shown in pursuing the perpetrators.
Aileen Nurse

This week, a high-level UN panel, including David Cameron, will discuss its report on development priorities for 2015 and beyond. The recommendations will inform what replaces the millennium development goals (MDGs). The MDGs galvanised development efforts and helped guide development priorities but, with less than 1,000 days to go before the 2015 deadline, it’s clear not all of them will be achieved.
The absence of transparency, accountability and participation as explicit aims within the current goals is in part to blame. We must learn from the past and ensure transparency and accountability are at the heart of the new agenda. The new goals should be measurable, so that policymakers and citizens can track progress and monitor service delivery. Better access to information will reduce corruption, improve decision-making and allocation of resources, empower citizens and support good governance, all prerequisites for successful poverty reduction.
More than 200,000 people placed an “honest and responsive government” among their top three priorities in a recent UN survey. The panel has already highlighted the need to “invest in stable and accountable institutions, fight corruption, [and] ensure the rule of law” and called for a “data revolution”. We look forward to seeing these sentiments reflected in their final report, and adopted by governments and institutions around the world.
Judith Randel Development Initiatives, Gavin Hayman Global Witness, Fredrick Galtung Integrity Action, Warren Krafchik International Budget Partnership, Washington DC, Jamie Drummond ONE, David Hall-Matthews Publish What You Fund, Marinke van Riet Publish What You Pay, Matthew Frost Tearfund, Robert Barrington Transparency International UK


The EU has never made any bones about its being a slow one-way escalator towards becoming a federal state; the treaties say so; key European  officials say so; national political leaders in other European states say so.
The reason for the rise of Ukip is that our political class will not acknowledge this incontrovertible fact, but persist in trying to kid us about it. This is one of the main reasons why our trust in that class has all but collapsed. Nigel Farage tells the truth; the others lie.
We are a grown-up people; we have a long history – we deserve leaders who are honest on issues as big as this and make the argument for the position they believe in, and then let us decide if we want to become part of a federal Europe or remain an independent state.
Until they get that message, the Ukip vote will only grow, and yet more time will be lost before we fully join Europe or start afresh outside it.
R S Foster, Sheffield
I am unsurprised that Philip Hammond is supporting the idea of a referendum on Britain’s membership of the European Union before 2015 (report, 6 May). The Conservative right appears to believe that Ukip’s strong showing in the recent local elections is directly attributable to the Coalition’s failure to oppose the pet hates of their kind: same-sex marriage, benefit claimants and the EU.
Speaking as a moderate (and left-wing) eurosceptic, it is apparent to me that it is public dissatisfaction with the Coalition’s policies on immigration and the economy that is costing them votes. Following a pattern all too familiar in recent times, the Conservatives are dividing on a matter which irritates a lot of people, but is very low down on their list of political priorities.
After all, if we eurosceptics considered withdrawal from the EU to be more important than, say, sound policies on taxation and public spending, Nigel Farage would have walked into Downing Street years ago.
If the Conservatives want any hope of winning the 2015 election (which is blissfully unlikely) they must follow Labour’s lead and work with ordinary voters to draw up policies on issues that matter to them, such as the cost of living, lack of housing and the scourge of unemployment.
Jack H G Darrant, London SW2
The reaction in the rest of Europe, should Britain withdraw from the EU, seems to me to be very relevant and important. Most countries in Europe already have their own versions of our Ukip, and these vary in unpleasantness, from the mildly so, to the very nasty indeed. The only thing they have in common, and which distinguishes them from Ukip, is some degree of anti-Semitism.
British departure from the EU would only strengthen these parties and might even set in motion events leading to the collapse of the whole European enterprise. This would surely be an unmitigated disaster and would probably lead to the resurrection of customs barriers, border “incidents” and everybody blaming others for their own problems.  Do our Ukip supporters and Eurosceptics really believe that this would not concern us also? If they do, they are making the same mistake as Chamberlain and Halifax.
Peter Giles, Whitchurch, Shropshire
In Gove’s eyes, my pupil is a failure
A 16-year-old pupil at my comprehensive school in the West Midlands has just gained an apprenticeship at Jaguar Land Rover in Solihull. The girl in question is delighted, as are her parents, since competition is fierce for these posts. However, according to the Education Secretary Michael Gove, the girl is a failure: she has done well in English, maths and science but she has not taken a GCSE in either a foreign language or Latin. She therefore does not qualify for Mr Gove’s “English Baccalaureate” measure of GCSE exams. The brutal truth is that this girl will count against my school in this summer’s national league tables.
Just exactly what standards in education does Mr Gove believe he is raising when a girl with a bright future ahead of her in engineering is deemed to be a failure?
Ben Warren, Headteacher, Summerhill School, Dudley, West Midlands
Mr Gove is accused by some of asking too much of our young by including Shakespeare on his list of those with whom they should be acquainted, on the grounds that his plays will prove too demanding and even irrelevant for them.
Some years ago, I visited a rural school in Malawi, where an English class of 60 boys aged around 14 were discussing Macbeth. There was one copy and indeed one chair for every two pupils. This in no way detracted from the passion with which they approached the play. The first question was, “Did Macbeth have any redeeming features?” Hands went up everywhere. Strong, contrary feelings were expressed and supportive evidence offered. The play had touched nerves. The level of involvement and animation, in a continent unknown to Shakespeare, almost 400 years after his death, among youngsters whose first language was not always English, should give encouragement to those who feel we ask too little of young people’s intellectual potential in this country today.
Christopher Martin, Kington Langley, Wiltshire
Unconscious bigotry
The idea that someone is homophobic (or anti-Semitic or racist or misogynist) rather than sometimes exhibits such behaviour, is based on the misconception that people are consciously aware of, in control of, and consistent in, their actions.
Niall Ferguson (“One of my best friends …” 9 May) seems unaware that prejudice is almost always subconscious, rather than deliberate. Having a gay friend does not stop you making homophobic comments, just as having a black, Asian or white friend does not stop you making decisions based on racism.
Few people would admit to discriminating against people based on their surname, but almost all organisations use alphabetical order when dealing with people. (One comedian, Dave Mahoney, changed his name to Dave Allen because his agent always started with the As.)
Instead of loudly protesting his innocence, Mr Ferguson would do better to ask his friends to tell him when he is behaving in a prejudiced or bigoted way, then, perhaps he might appreciate the saying “true knowledge is to know oneself”.
Peter Slessenger, Reading
You report (11 May) that the Royal College of GPs recognises that “carers neglect their own health and are at greater risk of depression”.
Some years ago I was the sole carer for three members of the family, including my elderly, infirm parents. Eventually I had to give up my secure employment because the caring had become a 24/7 job. I was never eligible for a carers’ allowance. Years of constant fatigue and stress can cause one to lose one’s identity and “me” ceases to exist. One can become a hopeless drudge.
I did not realise when I had a mental breakdown. Although my relatives and I have never fallen foul of the law I, for no reason, twice shoplifted and had to appear before a local court. I was treated as a criminal – which I suppose I was – but bound over at the time. I consulted a psychiatrist privately and when he asked why I had shoplifted I replied that I did not know. I told him that I could not understand why I had not collapsed after all my years as a carer. He told me that shoplifting was my way of collapsing.
Eventually, after my parents died (at my home) my son and I were at long last able to take a holiday. We spent two weeks in Disneyworld, Florida. That was the best therapy we could have had. As my son said to me afterwards, “Mum, you were able to come out of your shell!”
Barbara MacArthur, Cardiff
As a recently retired social worker, I was struck by the conflict between articles in The Independent on two consecutive days (7 & 8 May) concerning social care budgets. Under a new Care Bill, councils will be instructed to step up efforts  to publicise the help available to carers.
How does this square with the subsequent statement that a further £800m squeeze on adult social-care budgets will be implemented over the next year, thereby placing increasingly unrealistic pressures on social services departments from the  general public?
Georgina Ford, Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk
Give these loyal Afghans a home
Of course the loyal Afghan interpreters should be offered refuge in Britain (report, 3 May). As immigrants they should be welcomed for their services to the Crown. What is more, they already speak English.
Chris Harding, Parkstone, Dorset
Bishops shy away from ‘politics’
I have always been puzzled as to why bishops should still have any right to seats in the House of Lords (Letters, 11 May). I would be happy if they all became genuinely political and truly vociferous over issues such as war, poverty, injustice and child abuse. As it is, when challenged to speak out on such things all too often the excuse is “we must not be seen to be too political”. 
Lesley Docksey, Buckland Newton, Dorset
Farage’s origins
Carole Lewis (letter, 11 May) mentions Cameron, Osborne and Clegg as being descended from relatively recent immigrants from Europe and that if their policies had been in place from the 19th century, they would not be here now. Sadly, she forgot to add Nigel Farage to that list.
Frances Newman, Brill, Buckinghamshire
Fergie’s future
There has been much said about Sir Alex Ferguson. I believe that Her Majesty and the Duke of Edinburgh both admire his wit and achievements. So would I be impertinent  to suggest, that this Scotsman,  who will go down in history, should be created a member of the Order of the Thistle?
Terry Duncan, Bridlington, East Yorkshire
Jim O’Neill is right (“Sir Alex Ferguson has conquered football. Next the world of finance?” 10 May). Sir Alex played a major part in helping to transfer football from the sports pages to the business pages and in helping to enrich two American billionaires. Maybe next he can persuade a Russian oligarch to take an interest in cricket?
John Naylor, Sunningdale, Ascot
Voters’ dilemma
Now that it is so well established that politicians do not keep their promises and parties do not fulfil their manifesto pledges how do we, as responsible citizens, choose which party to vote for?
Dennis Leachman, Reading


If we left the EU we might no longer have free access to the Single Market, but other countries would not want to exclude us automatically
Sir, There is a basic weakness in Mr Portillo’s contention (Opinion, May 9). He would have us leave the EU because we have a different vision.
But we also have to trade. We have to produce goods and services to satisfy our own needs and to offset what we import. Membership of the EU gives us free and equal access to the Single Market which absorbs nearly half of our exports. For that access we need to pay the fee which gives us the right to participate in the formulation of policy.
If we left the EU we would no longer have free access to the Single Market. We would be faced with tariff barriers and non-tariff barriers which could be many and various and seriously impede trade flows.
We could negotiate a special deal to retain access to the Single Market but it would inevitably have a cost, so we could end up having to pay for continued free access to the Single Market without any possibility of influencing policy. Is this what Mr Portillo wants?
Lord Ezra
House of Lords
Sir, Alistair Darling (opinion, May 10) argues that UK trade with the EU would be reduced by our withdrawal.
No EU company trades with the UK out regard for our continuing membership, but rather, on a case by case basis, because a UK company offers the optimal terms. Modern corporate management is very focused and is unlikely to squander an opportunity merely because of an altered political relationship with Europe.
Stephen Gibbs-Sier
Sir, The economic case for leaving the EU is greater than Lord Lawson (Opinion, May 8) and Michael Portillo suggest. We would not lose any of our trading rights with EU countries, because they sell more to us than we sell to them, and they would not wish to be excluded from the UK market by excluding us from the EU market. Apart from other economic gains, we would regain the £8 billion the UK pays to Brussels every year. That would do more to reduce the deficit than the present deficit reduction plans.
Stephen Vizinczey
London SW5
Sir, Daniel Finkelstein (Opinion, May 8) should appreciate that views regarded as right-wing some years ago now reflect the views of a majority and should more accurately be described as centrist. The political centre ground on both immigration and Europe has shifted.
Most people want strict controls on migrants to our country — after all, no one has provided a convincing explanation why, since 1999, over 250,000 net migrants (mostly non-EU) should have been allowed to settle in the UK every year. This was four times the figure of the previous two decades.
On Europe most people are “eurosceptic”. They have serious doubts about the EU and want radically to reshape our relationship so that it is based primarily on the single market without interference in other policy areas.
Before the European elections in May 2014 we will need to see that tough border controls are in place and immigration has been returned to pre-Labour levels; that the powers we shall bring back from Brussels are substantive and identified; and there is a firm guarantee of a referendum. Most critical of all, of course, the economy will need to be tangibly on the upturn.
Geoffrey Van Orden MEP

Why has the government not set up a judicial inquiry into the institutional failures that let paedophiles target vulnerable victims?
Sir, Your columnist Carol Sarler rightly warns of opportunists jumping on the post-Savile bandwagon (“I met Savile for an hour: I could claim £27,000”, May 10). But the evidence shows that Savile was a predatory abuser protected by his celebrity status. (Declaration of interest: I was a tabloid editor legally thwarted from exposing Savile in 1994 when two genuine victims lost their nerve).
The common feature of these celebrity and church scandals — most recently “Archbishop in ‘cover-up’ over abuse scandal”, May 10 — the Rochdale grooming case, the still-emerging North Wales children’s home debacle, the failings of the BBC, the police, hospital, care and prison authorities and others is that of incompetence and/or cover-up.
So why has the government not set up an overarching Leveson-style judicial inquiry into the institutional failures that let paedophiles target vulnerable victims. Ironically, Ed Miliband (so persistent in pressing the case for Leveson) was the only leader to initially call for a judge-led public inquiry in the wake of the Savile revelations, but he has now fallen deafeningly silent on the issue.
Surely, if the misdeeds of a relatively small section of the press warranted Leveson, the far more serious story of large-scale child sex abuse also warrants an overarching judicial inquiry with power of subpoena.
Instead we have an unsatisfactory potpourri of internal institutional inquiries, being held in private and with limited powers to force past or present staff and executives to appear or take evidence under oath.
It is no recipe for devising a coherent and effective strategy for preventing such tragic scandals being repeated.
Paul Connew
Former editor, Sunday Mirror
St Albans

The possibility of different interpretations is a major source of revenue for lawyers, so the legal profession is anti-comma
Sir, Lawyers are the first to argue that the absence of commas leads to improved clarity — my will includes none at all — but Pippa Kelly (letter May 11) shows how their presence can often pinpoint one meaning to the exclusion of others. Lawyers work in an adversarial system, where the possibility of different interpretations is a major source of revenue, so I’m not surprised the legal profession is anti-comma. In my judgment, however, the pertinent comma has no case to answer.
Chris Whitby
Peckleton, Leics
Sir, Pippa Kelly could have gone one further with an inclusion of the late-lamented Oxford comma, and “found inspiration from cooking, her family, and her dog”.
Gabrielle Holmwood

Secretary of State for War, the post held by Profumo between 1960 and 1963, was responsible for the Army and no longer in the Cabinet
Sir, In articles (May 1 and 3) on the Christine Keeler / Profumo scandal you referred to John Profumo as a Cabinet minister. In fact he was never a member of the Cabinet. The post of Secretary of State for War (usually referred to at that time as Secretary for War), which Profumo held from July 1960 until his resignation on 5 June 1963, carried responsibility for only one branch of the armed services, viz. the Army, and had ceased to be a cabinet post in 1946. The post was abolished altogether in 1964 when the Ministry of Defence as we know it today was created.
John Waterman
Maidstone, Kent

It is illogical to release those with only months to live from unbearable pain, yet force those with years to live to bear it for longer
Sir, Lord Falconer’s esoteric position (May 11) that only the terminally ill with months to live and only those who can self-administer should be eligible for voluntary euthanasia lacks any rational argument.
If you agree with euthanasia because of individual freedom or compassion it is illogical to release those with only months to live from unbearable pain, yet force those with years to live to bear it for longer.
It is also illogical to refuse voluntary euthanasia for those with the inability to self-administer as it is probable that their quality of life is even less than that of other people.
In a liberal society individual freedom should be norm unless any consequential reasons exist to oppose it. The sooner the debate moves from ethereal deontological positions and addresses the consequentialist objections to voluntary euthanasia the better.
David Clark
Andover, Hants

The possibility of different interpretations is a major source of revenue for lawyers, so the legal profession is anti-comma
Sir, Lawyers are the first to argue that the absence of commas leads to improved clarity — my will includes none at all — but Pippa Kelly (letter May 11) shows how their presence can often pinpoint one meaning to the exclusion of others. Lawyers work in an adversarial system, where the possibility of different interpretations is a major source of revenue, so I’m not surprised the legal profession is anti-comma. In my judgment, however, the pertinent comma has no case to answer.
Chris Whitby
Peckleton, Leics
Sir, Pippa Kelly could have gone one further with an inclusion of the late-lamented Oxford comma, and “found inspiration from cooking, her family, and her dog”.
Gabrielle Holmwood


SIR – Your article “Didn’t we win the First World War?” (report, May 5) questioned the Government’s plans for the centenary.
Having spent months liaising with various departments and agencies, we are equally concerned by the lack of willingness to engage or their ability to make a decision.
Remember WW1 is involving charities, companies, communities and individuals to mark the occasion in ways that are reflective and celebratory and that will offer mass participation.
Last year the same consortium created the “Jubilee Hour”; the largest volunteering event since the Second World War, with over two million participants.
We are now mobilising an equally enthusiastic volunteer army. But they are in stark contrast to the ambivalence, lack of understanding and vested interests shown by those supposedly leading the national agenda.

SIR – Janet Daley writes about the political urge to occupy the centre ground (Opinion, May 5).
This reminds me of the “ice-cream van” theory, whereby two ice-cream vans on a beach have to position themselves next to each other at the midpoint of the beach in order to deny as much territory as possible to the competition.
At the time it seemed to me that there was a danger of holidaymakers deciding that it was not worth the trek to the van for an ice cream. Now another van has set up closer to us.
Peter Gregory
Wotton-under-Edge, Gloucestershire
SIR – In your editorial last week (May 5) you said that “David Cameron is right to continue to try to reach out to centrist voters” but I am confused as to which centrist voters he is reaching out to. If something over half the electorate seeks a referendum on Europe and supports traditional marriage and controlled immigration, it follows that something over half of “centrist voters” also share these views.
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However one interprets the election results, many of those who voted Ukip must be “centrist”.
Clearly, they don’t feel they are part of the centre to which Mr Cameron is reaching out. Therein lies the problem.
R P Gullett
Bledlow, Buckinghamshire
SIR – Bruce Anderson’s comment about Ukip being a “ragbag of rum coves” (Opinion, May 5) echoed the political establishment’s patronising complacency in reacting to Ukip’s polling a quarter of the votes cast in local elections.
Never mind that its share of the vote far outstripped the Lib Dems and ran close to that of Conservative and Labour. The political classes regard the Ukip vote as a tantrum and predict that voters will soon return to the normality of the humdrum political consensus at Westminster, in alliance with the governing Brussels bureaucrats.
Metropolitan mainstream politicians appear out of touch with the concerns of ordinary people. Nigel Farage’s connection to popular opinion and his leadership of Ukip are preferable to the grey uniformity and plain unlikeability of the other parties.
David Saunders
Sidmouth, Devon
SIR – Over the last six months several of your editorials have urged David Cameron to “stop talking about it and start doing it”, or words to that effect.
You must know by now that David Cameron is a talker, not a doer, and a completely and utterly naive one too.
Perhaps a qualification for a prospective MPs is that they should have held a successful job in the real world before entering politics.
Graham Brown
SIR – David Cameron’s offer of an EU referendum is meaningless: it is predicated upon there having been a negotiation for the EU to abandon the basis on which it was formed, and already largely exists: that of ever-closer union towards a single European state.
He has further made clear that, whatever the outcome, he would not contemplate withdrawal.
Bertie Maddocks
Aughton, Lancashire
SIR – William Hague’s article advocating more of the same in Conservative policy (Commentary, May 5) calls to mind the schoolboy trick of putting your hands over your ears and shouting “la la la – I can’t hear you”.
He demonstrates the same behaviour as when the English talk to foreigners (here read electors): don’t bother trying to understand them, just keep saying the same thing, but louder.
Martin Vince
Gosport, Hamsphire
SIR – Senior Conservative and Labour MPs may mock Ukip as being “one-policy clowns”, but that policy of leaving the EU could just be the most important and sensible policy in the last 40 years of British politics.
John Batty
Middle Assendon, Oxfordshire
Scottish midges are invading England
SIR – I was very interested to read of Barry Hawkes’ problems with midges (Letters, May 5). I live in a neighbouring county and three weeks ago we too started to be plagued by midges.
That weekend it became impossible to remain in the garden despite our being keen gardeners. Since then I have either not gone outside or have wrapped up from top to toe (which was not practical in last weekend’s hot weather!)
I have canvassed other gardening friends locally but no-one else seemed to be bothered by any. However, I am very concerned that the notorious Scottish midges have begun their march south. Help!
Sue Matts
SIR – Since none of the various chironomid or nemocerous insects known loosely as midges has an air speed of more than about 5mph. They are troublesome only in more-or-less windless conditions and are outpaced by the most lesiurely cyclist.
However, I can offer Mr Hawkes little comfort if Buckinghamshire has been invaded by the dreaded Highland strain, of which Para Handy tells us, “They’ll bite their way through corrugated iron roofs to get at ye.”
Robin Dow
Stocksbridge, South Yorkshire
SIR – I suggest Barry Hawkes moves to North Yorkshire. The wind and cold will see off his midges in no time.
Peter Warburton
Skipton, North Yorkshire
SIR – Barry Hawkes can get certain relief from his midges by using Avon SkinSoSoft cream, carried by Special Forces in their kitbags.
Alan Crumpler
Leominster, Herefordshire
Fishy literature
SIR – Allan Massie bats on a sticky wicket when he states that, “Cricket inspires more good writing than, arguably, any other sport,” (Opinion, May 5).
That accolade belongs to angling. Angling literature has greater history, beginning with Wynkyn de Worde’s Treatyse of Fishing with an Angle (1496) and including Izaak Walton’s classic Compleat Angler (1676, and still in print). Arthur Ransome may be better known for his fiction, but his Rod and Line and Mainly about Fishing are great works.
More recently, A Man May Fish (1960) by T C Kingsmill Moore, and I Know a Good Place (1989) and Castaway (2005) by Clive Gammon are sporting literature of the highest quality.
Dr Malcolm Greenhalgh
Lowton, Lancashire
Foreign criminals are put above law-abiders
SIR – I read with interest your report “The foreign rioters we cannot deport because of their right to family life” (May 5).
Do not the law-abiding citizens of Britain have a right to a peaceful existence? Whose rights are more important in English law? Or is it European law which is favouring the law-breaker against the law-abider?
Foreign criminals surely have no rights except to life and food. If they took a peaceful path through life then the question of rights would not be pertinent. We must protect the peaceful law-abider from them and return common sense to the law.
John K Corner
Victoria, Australia
SIR – If convicted criminals are so concerned about their “right to a family life”, why does their family not accompany them back to their country?
Sheila Johnson
Tuckenhay, Devon
SIR – It seems Theresa May expects her Home Office lawyers to frame new, cast-iron laws that will enable the Government to rid the country of foreign criminals.
Is she confident that these lawyers are of a different ilk to the “Big Four” accountants who have been accused of creating tax laws of increasing complexity and then charging their clients even higher fees to circumvent them?
The Legal Aid gravy train is a tempting honey pot for Human Rights lawyers.
J R Ball
Hale, Cheshire
SIR – I refer to Phil Harris’s letter (May 5) which appeared under the heading “Judges are to blame for human rights farce”. The criticism is, I believe, wrong, because the appeal court in the Hesham Mohammed Ali case was simply upholding the law in its current form.
Mr Harris should bear in mind the comment of a former Master of the Rolls and Lord Chief Justice, Lord Bingham, who once said, “The ultimate treason for any judge is to uphold as lawful that which is unlawful.”
Robert Cook
Isleworth, Middlesex
Low-tax Britain
SIR – The headline “Firms rush to relocate in low-tax UK” (Business, May 5) vindicates George Osborne’s 5 per cent top rate reduction, designed as an indication that Britain is open for business.
No Labour Party speech is complete without referring to tax cuts for millionaires, but I do not remember any protest when Gordon Brown reduced the top rate of capital gains tax to 18 per cent for exactly the same reason.
He inherited a fair system that taxed real gains at the same rate as income tax, but abolished indexation and reduced the tax to 18 per cent, one consequence of which was to encourage the conversion of income to capital gains.
Successive governments have relied on the City of London to provide jobs and revenue for the Exchequer and it is quite hypocritical for Labour to blame Osborne, but not Gordon Brown.
Lord Digby
Minterne, Dorset
Booker on the Beeb
SIR – The BBC is often accused of being biased, so if it really wants to demonstrate its impartiality it should invite Christopher Booker on to Question Time. To make the debate really interesting it could also invite onto the panel Ed Davey, Secretary of State for Energy, Ken Clarke, former Justice Secretary and Emma Reynolds, Shadow Minister for Europe. This would cover three of Mr Booker’s favourite topics.
No doubt the MPs would decline as they would have to face facts rather than uttering the fanciful messages and half-truths that usually emanate from politicians.
John Whaley
Tilehurst, Berkshire
Riding handicap
SIR – Regarding the letter from Mrs Sylvia Loch (May 5) as to some of the things which can make a horse reluctant to work, the British Equine Veterinary Association and others have pointed out that, in these days of increasing waistlines, many horses nowadays are being asked to carry riders who are too heavy for them – the problem being compounded when the horse itself is overweight as well!
Brian Checkland
Brikenhead, Wirral
A moveable holiday
SIR – If we had a bank holiday in October, one would not only remember Trafalgar but also Agincourt on the 25th of the month and El Alamein on the 23rd, the latter, as Churchill said, “the end of the beginning” and the start of the long road that culminated in the defeat of the Germans in May 1945.
But why should we move an existing holiday to October? Why not have an extra day? Our continental cousins all have more holidays than we do – Germany has 16, France 13, Belgium 12, Italy and Spain 11 each. The English only have 8.
John Wilkins
Ware, Hertfordshire
SIR – My parents celebrated Trafalgar Day every year and drank a toast to Lord Nelson.
When I moved away, my mother never failed to telephone me on October 21. I would support moving one of the bank holidays to commemorate Trafalgar.
Patricia Armes
Broadwindsor, Dorset
Marital harmony
SIR – Feminism cannot be said to have succeeded until women do 50 per cent of the trips to the recycling centre on a Sunday.
Andrew Cahill
Droitwich Spa, Worcestershire

Irish Times:
Sir, – As a GP working daily with vulnerable families, I am bemused by the level of public debate about abortion and the protection of mothers and children. This is in stark contrast with the indifference shown to the many children whose basic needs are being neglected on a daily basis by the health service, the Government, and also by the rest of society, which ignores the many signs of such neglect and is not bothered to challenge our politicians about it.
One such sign is the most recent Hiqa report into social work services in North West Dublin (Home News, February 22nd). Its introduction observing that there were more children in foster care in this area than any other in the State, went a long way to explaining the deficiencies outlined in the rest of the report. Overwhelming workload and lack of resources (ie trained professionals) contribute hugely to these deficiencies.
Areas of deprivation have much higher needs of critical services for child welfare but generally have the same provision as other areas. This is known as the inverse care law, where those most in need of services are least likely to get them.
Blunt, universally applied austerity policies such as the HSE recruitment embargo are having much more serious effects in these areas, which were understaffed to begin with.
When I meet a vulnerable family in crisis today, it is impossible to provide an adequate response for either parents or child. There are many such crises, from stressed or addicted parents to very young mothers with young children who are homeless, and cannot navigate the now byzantine obstacles in the system recently highlighted by Fr Peter McVerry (Letters, May 2nd). The funding for the local therapy service for parents has been cut and waiting time is now four months; family therapy and child psychiatry, six months. The social work service, exempt from the embargo to a degree, has improved far enough to provide an emergency service (deciding if a child needs to be taken into care that day) but cannot then follow up or monitor most of those referrals because it is so overwhelmed, until an entirely predictable emergency arises again. All of the professionals in these services, as well as GPs and public health nurses, are working to the limit of their capacity and often beyond. It is no coincidence that north Dublin has the lowest ratio of GPs to patients in the country.
The mantra of across-the-board cuts has to be challenged, and the suggestion that such issues can be “managed” without adequate resources, exposed for the emperor with no clothes that it is. Real management would entail making cuts where least harm will be done, and protecting those who are already suffering enormously – or taking money from other departments.
As I finish a day of work that involves multiple calls and letters frantically trying to get services for yet another family in crisis, I leave my surgery to pass the new bridge being built across the N3. Who decided that drivers waiting in traffic are much more important than precious little people waiting for help that could impact on their whole lives – the troika or the Government?
Where was the public outcry, and where were all the conscience-stricken politicians, when the report on the deaths of children in State care was published? If a fraction of the passion and energy that has gone into the abortion debate could be focused on the born children of this country whose lives are being blighted by our indifference and neglect, I might find it easier to believe that the people of this country really do value human life. – Yours, etc,
Main Street,
Mulhuddart, Dublin 15.

A chara, – To suggest the performance and parliamentary output of Irish MEPs has decreased from 2011 to 2012 is misleading, and relies on simplistic surface statistics (European Movement Ireland report & table, Judith Crosbie, News Agenda, May 7th).
First, exceptional personal circumstances have disproportionately affected the average Irish vote attendance statistics for 2012.
Second, to criticise the decrease in parliamentary questions misses the point entirely. Each parliamentary question submitted to the Commission by MEPs costs somewhere between €600 and €1,400 per question. This is due to the high translation costs involved in publishing the question and the answer in each of the 22 official EU languages.
This is a huge extra cost on top of the normal costs of research, administration, etc. To put a global figure on it, the cost of answering questions from all MEPs in a five-year period ranges from €36 million to €85 million. If anything, MEPs should be praised if they strive to be judicious in their use of taxpayers’ money for this very expensive parliamentary tool. In many cases, arranging a meeting with the appropriate Commission officials, or simply picking up the phone to call them, will lead to a speedier – and much more cost-effective – solution, and this is what I and many other MEPs try to do.
Furthermore, a parliamentary question only has value if it leads to a clear course of action based on the Commission’s answer. In other words, it is the quality rather than the quantity of questions that should be measured by analysts.
Finally, there is a black hole in the analysis of MEPs’ work in that the article neglects to assess the most important work done by MEPs: their legislative work. This involves the drafting, amending and shadowing of the opinions and reports which in many cases form part of the EU laws which govern so many aspects of citizens’ lives. This is the core of our work, where we as legislators influence European legislation.
I look forward to the day when the essential work done by MEPs on behalf of Irish citizens is assessed and measured with tools commensurate with its importance and relevance. – Is mise,
European Parliament,

Sir, – Having paid my Local Property Tax online on Thursday, I was, for the first time, made aware of the existence of a Non Principal Private Residence tax and subsequently, my apparent debt of €3,240 in fees and late charges backdating to its 2009 introduction. The council tells me it advertised nationally – an advertisement that did not have scope in Zambia. I received my Local Property Tax form by (forwarded) post and was therefore aware and able to pay it on time. I was not afforded this luxury with NPPR. This is an issue that will likely affect many emigrants who have otherwise been tax compliant. How are we to know? – Yours, etc,
Kabulonga Hill,
Lusaka, Zambi

Sir, – To clarify my letter (May 10th), while there are approximately 600 eligible organ recipients, the number of living donor related kidney transplants is roughly 80 patients, who are fully worked up and ready for transplant. They currently have to wait up to four years. This issue is being addressed by the transplant service in Ireland, which ranks favourably compared to other countries.
Furthermore, aspergillus is now no longer a major problem in the hospital. However, the current situation regarding waiting lists is clearly less than satisfactory. – Yours, etc,
Medical Registrar,
Beaumont Hospital,
Dublin 9.

Sir, – In Ireland the sovereign right of a working judge to comment from his or her bench without fear of reprisal is a very important check upon the powerful (not to be confused with formal judicial review); Judge Patrick Durcan’s exercise of this right with regard to the deficient treatment of a recently-dead homeless man is entirely proper and within such a boundary (Home News, May 9th). In this case the judge also deserves praise. – Yours, etc,
Claremont Road,
Howth, Dublin 13.

Irish Independent:

Madam – As I sat in a doctor’s waiting room last week, my increasing two-hour wait was symmetrical to my building frustrations. It was ticking towards 11.30 when a loud, elderly woman hobbled through the door. She spoke to the secretary for a moment before entering the silent waiting room. She started talking then – to herself or to someone else, we did not know at that point – but loud for a waiting room in any case. She had disturbed the peace.
I held my gaze fixed on the carpet as she babbled, firstly about her sore back and then a sick friend. I lifted my head after a bit and everybody was smiling, nodding and saying ‘yeah’ in appreciation. This lady spoke about growing up in the Liberties and near to where Gay Byrne went to school. A man smiled and spoke to her for a moment about the tall buildings there and the low rent. She then passed around a bag of sweets and everybody took one. “Kindness is all it takes. And it costs nothing,” she said from nowhere. “That’s it,” replied an elderly man opposite me. The nurse then came and called her.
She left and, with some sense of enlightenment and irony, we all felt lifted by this old lady just going about her day in the simplest of ways.
Niall O’Sullivan,
Tallaght, Dublin 24
Madam – I refer to your article headed ‘Cardinal keeps excommunication threat hanging over abortion TDs’ written by Brian McDonald, (Sunday Independent, May 5, 2013).
I have to say I was enraged, to say the least, by Cardinal Brady’s veiled threat of excommunication to some of our excellent TDs. This is, after all, a man of the cloth who blatantly refused to resign (despite growing demands for his resignation at the time) from his position after it came to light that he was part of the 1975 investigation into allegations that Father Brendan Smyth, one of the country’s most dangerous paedophiles, had attacked at least five children. It emerged that a then 14-year-old victim of Smyth warned Brady, in secret interviews, that it was likely the late priest was abusing five other named children. But the Cardinal blamed superiors for failing to stop the evil priest abusing over the next 20 years.
To be honest I am fed up with the Catholic Church using fear as a way to control people, especially its so-called flock.
I have to say if I was a TD today mandated by the people of Ireland and under threat of excommunication from the Catholic Church, I would be delighted.
Derry-Ann Morgan,
Swords, Co Dublin
Irish Independent

Madam – The amnesty and apology for Irish army deserters who fought the Nazis is welcome, if long overdue. These men deserve more than forgiveness.
They deserve the heartfelt thanks of every person on this island, for the regime they fought against was one of the vilest and most oppressive in human history.
It is a stain on this country’s honour that men who risked their lives in a struggle to defend us all from a new Dark Age of genocidal savagery should return to our shores, not as the heroes they were, but to be shunned, misunderstood, ostracised, or barred from employment. Yes, we were neutral during the Second World War, and yes, it was an offence to desert from the army and the penalties for that offence were enshrined in law.
But it wasn’t just those who technically acted in breach of army regulations who received the cold shoulder. There was no proverbial welcome on the mat either for many thousands of others who opted to enlist, quite legally, in the armed forces of the “old enemy” to fight a far more pernicious one.
Given the nature of the enemy they faced, and the appalling inevitable consequences of a Nazi triumph, it is all the more baffling that it has taken almost 70 years to lift the unjust and unwarranted stigma from those honourable Irishmen.
John Fitzgerald,
Callan, Co Kilkenny
Irish Independent

Madam – Last year at Listowel Writers’ Week I had the privilege of hearing the opening address being given by our President, Michael D Higgins. Once that man said his first word, everyone was captivated by his address. He spoke on what the arts mean to the culture of a nation. It is, he said, the very expression of their soul, the essence of their being, the thing that for good or bad makes us what we are. He was, he said, proud to be Irish, and proud to be the President of the Irish nation.
He enthralled us with his humour, his vast knowledge of culture and the arts. The way that he spoke made it clear that he did not wish to be misunderstood by using high-faluting phrases or words. He spoke without pause for an hour-and-a-half, and at the end of his speech he received a standing ovation from everyone who heard it.
The next time I heard him speak was when he addressed the Olympic athletes on their return. Once more the eloquence of his words captivated all who heard them.
In his latest speech he has addressed the European Council of Ministers. He left no doubt about what he thought of the way the financial giants of Europe were treating the people of Ireland.
I must admit that I was amazed that he was allowed to make such a speech. After all, up to now the post of President has been seen as merely a rubber stamp to confirm the wishes of the government in power.
The Government will think long and hard before letting him address another meeting like this. Should it wish to see his speech before it is given and perhaps want to make changes, I am sure he would tell them just where to go.
So Bravo Mr President, you are a breath of fresh air in the stagnant and rotten corridors of politics. I hope to hear much more from you in the future.
Michael O’Meara,
Killarney, Co Kerry
Irish Independent


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