7 June 2013 Hair

Off around the park listening to the Navy Lark, oh dear oh dear. Captain Povey’s rank of Captain has not been substantiated. Eve the Pertwee tribe can’t get it done. Desperate he asks the admiral but its been done already Heather distracted with Leslie chasing Amanda the new Wren forgot to pass the news on to him
Another quiet day awfully tired get my hair done and see Joan and do some shopping.
We watch The Pallaisers Old flame is sniffing around, but Dull but Worthy Hubby;s sidekick intervenes in time
Mary wins at scrabble but gets under 400 perhaps I can have my revenge tomorrow.


Tom Sharpe
Tom Sharpe, the comic novelist, who has died aged 85, combined a rich, ribald imagination and farcical plotting to portray a view of late 20th-century Britain that could swing from scorn to nostalgia.

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Tom Sharpe Photo: MARTIN POPE
5:36PM BST 06 Jun 2013
He reliably created situations that were visual and unforgettable. In Sharpe’s books, inflatable women paralyse a city; ostriches force-fed with gelignite hover over Natal; and bull-terriers high on LSD roam Croydon. As the handgun was a crucial motif to Raymond Chandler, and the billet doux to Barbara Cartland, so whole Sharpe narratives could depend on condoms: in Porterhouse Blue, an earnest Cambridge postgraduate makes love to his plump bedder while the college tower swells portentously with methane-filled prophylactics.
Sharpe was an admirer of PG Wodehouse and Evelyn Waugh. He inherited the latter’s instinct for angry satire: strident women, corrupt policemen, progressive academics, publishers, misuse of the English language, dogs and Americans were among the butts of his ire. He eschewed the gentle ironies of the English comic novel in favour of shameless vulgarity, and so won a wide readership.
But those who met him were often surprised to discover a donnish, well-spoken man who was keen on roses and collected antique typewriters.
Thomas Ridley Sharpe was born on March 30 1928 in Holloway, north London, and brought up in Croydon. His father, the Rev George Coverdale Sharpe, was a Unitarian minister whose world view was broad by ecclesiastical standards: he was an ardent admirer of Adolf Hitler and a friend of William Joyce, “Lord Haw-Haw”. The family was frequently required to move house at short notice to flee the threat of internment. The young Tom Sharpe assimilated these views, and took them to school with him.
Forty years later his recollections of this period made for a disturbing edition of Dr Anthony Clare’s In the Psychiatrist’s Chair on Radio 4: “It seems completely mad to me now,” Sharpe said. “I wore a German belt. But my father never lived to see the death camps. He died in 1944 with all his Platonic ideals intact. I was the one who lived to see the film of Buchenwald and Belsen. It was appalling.”
He went to Lancing, where the vast chapel had a strange effect on him. Forever afterwards Sharpe felt unease in church, or in any other situation where there was a crowd standing in silence. At such moments he would be subject to panic, dizziness and an irrational fear (never realised) that he might begin screaming obscenities. He went on to Pembroke College, Cambridge, where he studied Archaeology and Anthropology. His final long essay, however, argued “violently” against social anthropology as a science, and he graduated with a Third.
After National Service in the Marines, in 1951 Sharpe left for South Africa, where he did social work for the non-European affairs department and taught in Natal. By 1957 he was established as a professional photographer with his own studio in Pietermaritzburg. Sharpe, who was appalled by the apartheid system, was deported in 1961, following the staging of his play The South African. On his return to England, he accepted a post as a lecturer in History at the Cambridge College of Arts and Technology.
In 1971, aged 43, he left the college to become a full-time novelist. His curriculum vitae provided him with his first targets. Riotous Assembly (1971) and Indecent Exposure (1973) attacked the policy of racial segregation. South Africa, Sharpe recalled, “was easy to write about because it was a mad society. I was living out there and I knew. It was just mind-blowing to any fair-minded person. By God there was a lot of venom in those books. When I got back to England I was able to reinvent South Africa in my own mind and write about the country in a screwball way.” He depicted policemen going through an intimate form of aversion therapy to prevent them from finding black women attractive; the books were banned in South Africa.
His third novel, Porterhouse Blue (1975), was an anarchic sexual farce set in a Cambridge college; the title referred to the type of disabling stroke, brought about by overindulgence, to which its fellows were prone. Porterhouse was guarded by Skullion, an irascible porter, memorably played by David Jason in the 1987 television adaptation. (Skullion was thought by some to have been modelled on Albert Jaggard, head porter at Corpus Christi.)
Sharpe summoned up his past as a lecturer to create the character Wilt, a polytechnic lecturer in Liberal Studies, whose daytime occupation — teaching bored butchers and fitters on day release courses — offered limited scope for furthering his real interests, which included extramarital intercourse and planning the acceleration of his wife’s demise. The author afflicted Wilt with increasingly random disasters throughout five books: Wilt (1976), The Wilt Alternative (1979), Wilt on High (1984) and Wilt in Nowhere (2004). The last of the series, The Wilt Inheritance, was published in 2010.
He believed that his books could be divided into two categories: those written with a conscious effort, and those where inspiration arrived apparently unbidden. “I feel that Wilt and Riotous Assembly were the ones which really ran away,” he said. “I really can’t claim that I wrote them. You hang on to the tail of it when it’s running.” In the early stages of his career, Sharpe seemed to be able to produce bestsellers at will: Riotous Assembly took him three weeks to write. Tom Rosenthal, of Secker, said: “We are hoping for a Sharpe a year till the crack of doom.”
Gradually, however, there were signs that his apparently boundless creativity was abating. For all its ingenious plotting, The Throwback (1978) developed a lurid strain that delighted some fans while alienating others. “If getting a taxidermist to stuff your grandfather and blowing up a neighbour’s house by pumping gas up his lavatory pan are your taste in jokes, then Mr Sharpe is your man,” remarked The Sunday Telegraph. “If not, not.”
Before settling in southern Spain in 1995, Sharpe lived at Great Shelford, near Cambridge, where he cared for his garden. In 1987 he donated £25,000 to help launch an appeal for research funds by the Cambridge Trust for Science and Technology; he was an active participant in PEN, the international congress dedicated to defending writers and freedom of expression, and frequently travelled to the many countries in which his work was appreciated. On one occasion he had a heart attack live on Spanish television, and would offer to show visitors the tape.
For the decade until 1995 he published nothing, in spite of his daily efforts in his garden shed, and explained that Britain was “too serious to be funny”. But then he produced Grantchester Grind, a sequel to Porterhouse Blue. The feat was all the more amazing since, in the earlier novel, he had killed the Master, paralysed the porter and destroyed most of the college.
He followed this with The Midden (1996), a characteristic romp around a country house, and the fourth Wilt novel. The two books have similar plots, but in The Midden the police are corrupt, and in Wilt in Nowhere helpful. There, Sharpe saved his mockery for the NHS.
That book showed some indications that he could master his rage and settle for a more resigned, even tragic attitude towards the world. He had Flint, a policeman often pitted against Wilt, reflect of a recent calamity: “Tripping on the gravel and then being trampled over by a herd of maddened lunatics had given him fresh insight into Wilt’s inconsequential view of life. Things just happened to people for no good reason and, while Flint had previously believed that every effect had to have had a rational cause, he now realised that the purely accidental was the norm. In short, nothing made sense. The world was as mad as the inmates of the hospital he had just left.”
The Gropes (2009), his first departure from the Wilt series in over a decade, came after a long period of enforced inactivity due to ill health. Indeed, the book was dedicated to “the doctors who saved my life in 2006”. In the final years of his life he had also been working on an autobiography.
He was awarded the 13th Grand Prix de l’Humour Noir Xavier Forneret in 1986 and the inaugural BBK La Risa de Bilbao Prize in 2010.
Tom Sharpe married, in 1969, Nancy Anne Looper, with whom he had two daughters.
Tom Sharpe, born March 30 1928, died June 6 2013


I believe the vote in the House of Lords on same-sex marriage was one of the most momentous in the long story of the struggle for equality (Report, 5 June). The opponents mustered all their forces in the forum that they saw as the most sympathetic to their views and were defeated by an even wider margin than in the House of Commons. No longer can they maintain that they have been denied the opportunity to advance their arguments, nor that they have only been defeated by devious political manoeuvering.
Pressure should now be on the Church of England, and particularly the House of Bishops, to act quickly on the statement in Archbishop Welby’s speech that it is time for some genuine atonement for the hurt done to gay people over so many years. In particular it must start to speak out more clearly against the active persecution of LGBT communities in other parts of the world, often aided and abetted by churches belonging to the Anglican communion. If instead the church here prefers to spend its time trying to concoct objections to gay marriage, it will simply be seen to be allying itself to the most hopelessly reactionary and outdated attitudes the have been decisively rejected by majority opinion in the country.
Nicholas Billingham
• Opposing same-sex marriage is an attempt to deny a large part of society equal legal rights to a key social institution. In this respect, Nicholas Holtam is absolutely right to equate such opposition to apartheid. In legal terms, it is hard to see how failing to make same-sex marriage legal is not discriminatory, and the reforms currently proposed by government are needed to ensure the UK removes entrenched discrimination from its legal and social system.
Just as apartheid is now seen universally as anachronistic and repellent, those opposing same-sex marriage will one day be considered Luddites. Governments must not shy away from attacking discriminatory practices in every part of society.
Regardless of sexuality, people should be able to choose whether or not they marry. Until this is backed up by legislation, the discriminatory practices of religious institutions will continue to contradict Britain’s aspirations to openness and inclusivity.
Jonathan West
Head of family and matrimonial law at Prolegal, London
• Liberal Jews believe that all people were created in the image of God. Life has many challenges and love is the one warm harbour we can all hope to be anchored in. As a rabbi I am delighted with the peers’ vote yesterday on equal marriage and am looking forward to celebrating the first fully Jewish and fully legal same-sex marriage under a Liberal Jewish marriage canopy.
Rabbi Aaron Goldstein
Liberal Judaism
• Is the Ann Widdecombe who denies being authoritarian and says the state has no business regulating what people do in their bedrooms (Strictly speaking, G2, 6 June) related to the Ann Widdecombe who in 1994 voted against a reduction in the gay age of consent, thereby fighting for the right to throw 20-year-old men into prison for consensual sex in the privacy of their own bedrooms?
Tony Bird

Britain’s 14 overseas territories are very small and often relatively isolated places, with a combined population of only around 260,000, equivalent to that of Southend-on-Sea (Cameron calls in the tax havens, 5 June). Tourism and financial services are typically the two principal – and often the only – sources of income. These jurisdictions, unlike the rich, diversified economies of G8 countries, face the economic necessity of offering a low tax environment in order to attract business.
Equally significant is that fact that UK offshore financial centres, such as Jersey and Guernsey, provide an important though largely invisible boost to London’s financial services industry. Most of the offshore assets in these centres are managed by firms in London. Ironically, unlike mostly overtaxed and inefficient G8 countries, these offshore jurisdictions are typically better regulated and extremely efficient, because they have to attract business. Moreover, contrary to inaccurate populist media coverage, only a small proportion of the assets held in these islands are from illegal tax evasion. The majority results from real, legitimate, tax-compliant business.
Finally, most of the G8 countries have not themselves adopted the same levels of transparency they are demanding of these so-called tax havens. There can be no question that transparency is a good thing. However, David Cameron has a unique opportunity to demonstrate leadership by ensuring that fellow G8 members practice what they preach.
James Anderson
Geneva, Switzerland
• The precise constitutional relationship between the UK and the overseas territories may be a matter of dispute, but what is indisputable is that the UK is guaranteeing the banks in these tax havens. Jersey et al rely on the security of the very country whose tax take they are reducing. All Cameron has to do to is withdraw this support and no one will risk using banks based there.
Philip Cunningham

Simon Jenkins is right that in order for money to start circulating in an economy starved of liquidity, it’s the people that should receive the cash from the government, not the banks (Balls is as mesmerised by the bankers as Osborne, 5 June). But it’s not about a massive one-off handout, it’s about long-term measures such as better wages and pensions. Government should pump money into schools, hospitals and housing. Strong regulation and big government is needed to claw back the money owed by big business. In other words, good old-fashioned socialism. But of course, being an establishment figure, he won’t dare use that word. He tries to exonerate Thatcher, but it was her wholesale privatisation and deregulation of the city that got us into this mess in the first place.
Andy Hall
• Simon Jenkins’s lucid exposé of Ed Balls’s adherence to austerity economics also serves to remind us of the corporate capture of our democracy. Ever since the introduction of universal suffrage the ultra-rich and their corporations have spent billions on propaganda, seeking to impose their interests on public policy. The aim has always been to undermine democracy by ensuring mainstream political parties surrender to corporate interests. Balls’s capitulation to Tory economic philosophy seems to finalise this. Now that voting has been rendered pointless, it seems to me our focus must be on changing the economic and political system.
Enrico Tortolano
Kingston upon Thames, Surrey
• Simon Jenkins is right to criticise Ed Balls for his speech on Monday; but it is the Labour leadership who should come under scrutiny. Heeding the polls, and made timid by Tory taunts, they seem to have decided that any effort to put the Keynesian case to the British public will be doomed to failure.
But Simon hasn’t got his doctor analogy quite right. A more correct comparison can be made by likening the austerity policies now strangling the European economies to a medieval quack bleeding a patient with a fever. The result in both cases may be terminal.
Brian Fullaway
Winchester, Hampshire
• Simon Jenkins calls for quantitative easing to be extended to citizens rather than corporations. I suggest a little tweaking: issue a series of time-limited vouchers rather than money, to avoid hoarding and stimulate circulation, and stipulate that they can only be spent on UK-manufactured goods to guarantee employment. Given enough cash, I’d spend mine on a Moulton bicycle, a decent suit and a stack of records from Britain’s excellent indie labels.
Dr Aidan Byrne
• Polly Toynbee writes that “[the] Labour party needs a grander vision for re-ordering a deeply disordered status quo” (No big idea. But Labour’s iron man could do the trick, 4 June). If you want to rescue the damsel, first you have the slay the dragon. Britain has to accept that financial services don’t generate wealth, they redistribute wealth. On the pretension that we are all going to be wealthy tomorrow, we are encouraged to spend everything today. Financial services work by the creation of a debt no one wants to repay. Pensions were sold on the understanding that contributors would receive a pension they could live on. The dream lasted until contributors needed to spend their pensions.
Banks work by transferring wealth from the existing creative force to the upcoming creative force. But since the 70s banks have been transferring wealth from Britain to developing economies. The only source of wealth is creativity and saving. We have to start making more stuff and wasting less of everything. Balls needs to find a phrase that expresses this necessity. He also has to find the words to persuade the electorate that Britain has a future we all need to work for. The alternative is a plethora of single-issue politicians who argue that doing something different constitutes progress.
Martin London
Henllan, Denbighshire
• Ed Balls’s much-trailed announcement that he would cap the winter fuel allowance made me wince with embarrassment. Is this going to rally the faithful? Is it going to hurt the rich? Not a chance. The best thing Ed Miliband can do is get rid of Ed Balls. He is tainted with the last disastrous Labour administration that faithfully followed Thatcher’s market-driven philosophy.
If the Labour party wants to appeal to the grassroots, it needs to give us some policies that we can feel proud to support. Slapping the rich across the face with a wet fish does nothing for me.
Dr Mark Wilcox
Holmfirth, West Yorkshire
• The rise of Ukip is related to the austerity that working-class people are suffering (Report, 31 May). It is no good blaming racism and xenophobia on the morals of white working-class people who have been ignored by the mainstream political parties and let down in terms of education, health, housing and so on. Under Tony Blair’s leadership, the working class was abandoned by Labour, and Ukip are exploiting that. Labour must use its policy review process to include policies in its next manifesto that will win back its core working-class support. Labour nationally should emulate what the party has done in Islington in London, with a fairness agenda that tackles inequality by paying workers the living wage and generally looking after the interests of the least well-off. That is why Labour is on the rise electorally in Islington. Labour should try it nationally.
Gary Heather
• Instead of wasting time aping the government, why doesn’t Labour simply rebrand as “New Tory”?
Simon Platman

In publicising his forthcoming book on Winston Churchill (The maverick, charismatic Tory – Boris Johnson, 5 June), Boris Johnson states that his hero provides “the resounding human rebuttal to all Marxist historians who think history is the story of vast and impersonal economic forces”. In his 18th Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte, Karl Marx wrote: “Men make their own history, but they do not make it as they please; they do not make it under self-selected circumstances, but under circumstances existing already, given and transmitted from the past.” I would have thought that this fits Churchill perfectly.
David Hardiman
University of Warwick
• Even more vexing than Susan Loppert’s standing ovation (Letters, 5 June) is the obligation to happy-clap along with a musical accompaniment to the curtain call, thereby distributing equal applause to each cast member – since when was theatre supposed to be democratic? – and, the while, remarking that quite a small proportion of the public can manage to clap on the beat.
W Stephen Gilbert
Corsham, Wiltshire
• Not sure about other readers, but Archicebus achilles looks a bit swivel-eyed to me. Maybe we haven’t all evolved (Report, 6 June).
David Reed
• Do we just mock the lack of spaces in those endless German compounds (So long, say the Germans as biggest word becomes history, 4 June)? English seems no different when it offers instructions such as this from a Range Rover manual: Release the floor console stowage compartment lid hinge pin RH sleeve clips.
Andreas Klatt
Shipston-on-Stour, Warwickshire
• Who better to investigate whether the British Lions have started biting the opposition than a citing officer called Freek Burger (Report, Sport, 6 June)?
Alan Woodley
• Do prisoners do anything other than languish in jail (Letters, 6 June)?
Fr Julian Dunn
Great Haseley, Oxfordshire

While it was good to see John Dugdale’s discussion of the Barbara Pym centenary (The week in books, 1 June ), it did give an impression of the writer as cosy and middlebrow, ending as it did with reference to a “Barbara Pym tea-bag rest”. Like Jane Austen, Pym sometimes needs rescuing from her fans. As critics have shown, Pym’s gifts include dispassionate irony, absurd humour, the depiction of London as a place of endless eccentricity, and a humanistic concern for the lives of the lonely. It has been suggested that she be compared to Evelyn Waugh and Anthony Powell, who are far more appropriate than Miss Marple. At our Barbara Pym centenary conference at the University of Central Lancashire next month, international speakers will give papers on Pym’s depiction of homosexuality, the cultural climate of the 1970s, and on textual links with TS Eliot, Philip Larkin, modernism and realism. There is far more to Barbara Pym than stories about jumble sales and clergymen.
Dr Nick Turner
University of Central Lancashire

Contrary to your article “Plan to make the UK’s electricity supply green is defeated in the Commons” (5 June), the Energy Bill will make the UK’s electricity supply green.
Clean energy investors should take huge confidence from the overwhelming majority of MPs – 396 in favour, eight against – who voted on Tuesday to complete the Commons passage of the Energy Bill. Cross-party consensus behind our reforms to the electricity market is strong.
The Bill will provide the certainty investors need. Long-term contracts for low-carbon will enable renewables, nuclear and carbon capture and storage to compete against conventional power stations, and they will be backed by our tripling in support for clean energy by 2020.
There are clearly differing views on setting a 2030 decarbonisation target for the power sector. There is logic to legislating now to enable us to set a target range in 2016, once we’ve decided the economy-wide emission reductions that will have to be achieved by 2030, so I am pleased that the House chose to support that position.
In any case, we’re already bound by law to cut emissions across the whole UK economy by 50 per cent by 2025, and the Energy Bill will bring about substantial decarbonisation of the power sector as part of that.
Crucially, it will also help us keep the lights on and people’s bills down.
Edward Davey, Secretary of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change, London SW1
Although a proposal to decarbonise the UK’s power sector was narrowly defeated in the House of Commons, this crucial issue is far from over.
Many of the UK’s top businesses are calling for a target for cleaning up our energy system, because it would give them the confidence to invest in Britain’s huge renewable energy resources, creating thousands of new jobs and business opportunities.  It would also wean the nation off increasingly costly fossil fuels and ensure the UK played a leading role in tackling climate change.
The House of Lords is due to discuss the Energy Bill later this month. Peers must put the interests of households, the economy and environment first and vote for clean energy.
Andy Atkins, Executive Director, Friends of the Earth, London N1
The direction of current government energy policy is quite clear. The Energy Bill going through Parliament has been stripped of obligations to meet hard carbon-emission targets, wind farms will soon be almost impossible in rural areas, wasting wind resources and losing income to enterprising farmers, and a harsh EU solar trade control on cheaper Chinese solar energy equipment also has the effect of shoving up renewable prices.
This will all have the desirable political effect (from the point of view of mending Cameron’s fences with the disaffected red faces on his back benches) of annoying Liberal Democrats and Greens. But it also (further) rigs the accounting rules of energy policy in favour of shale gas and nuclear energy.
Should we wonder, in the light of The Independent’s excellent attempts to expose the range of corporate lobbying, what negotiations behind the scenes were involved? But at least this fiasco reminds one how far from neutral, and how highly politicised, are all the accounting rules around energy policy, claimed energy reserves and energy prices.
Dr Chris Farrands, Nottingham
Battles rage over the middle lane
Driving while using a phone, tailgating and not wearing a seatbelt are all habits which pose a clear risk to other road users and should be punished effectively. Driving in the middle lane of a motorway, however, not only poses no danger to others, but is something we should all do as standard (“Highway safety drive – or just the latest ministerial car crash?”, 6 June).
The safest place for drivers who are moving steadily at moderate speed, near the speed limit, is the middle lane. Your vehicle is not in the way of cars that want to pass you, who can use the right lane, and not in the way of vehicles entering and exiting the motorway, who need the left lane. Vehicles merging on to the motorway from slip roads need large gaps to come up to motorway speed safely, and should be left in possession of the left lane as much as possible. This would also greatly reduce danger for anyone forced to stop on the verge with car trouble.
Left lane for coming on and off, centre lane for cruising, and right lane for passing. Surely that is perfectly simple, clear and safe?
Ellen Purton, Twickenham, Middlesex
If the police are to begin issuing tickets to so-called “middle lane hoggers”, how will such a category be defined? Where there is a lot of traffic in the nearside lane moving at 60mph and less, I frequently drive at 70mph in the middle lane. It seems to incur the displeasure of many motorists, who flash their lights behind me.
But my attitude is that if they must insist on breaking the law, then there is a perfectly good outside lane which they can use for the purpose. Many of those who complain ad nauseam about middle-lane users, in reality have an expectation of there being not one but two lanes in which they have an entitlement to exceed the speed limit.
Chris Sexton, Crowthorne, Berkshire
One of the more dangerous situations caused by motorway middle-lane hogging is where one heavy lorry tries to overtake a second at a very low speed differential. Sometimes this takes several miles, during which time all faster traffic is limited to the single outside lane.
This causes very long queues of traffic to build up in the outside lane, often travelling too close together. That means that slightly slower light-weight traffic either has to travel at the slow speed of the heavy lorries or attempt to push into the already busy outside lane in order to make progress. These lane changing manoeuvres can easily be misjudged, leading to the potential for accidents.
Frank Shackleton, Rochdale, Lancashire
 Middle-lane hogs are indeed a nuisance, but a far greater menace are slow-lane snoozers – drivers of lorries in the slow lane who are oblivious to what is happening around them, and who stubbornly refuse to slow down to allow overtaking lorries to pass quickly.
The result? Long tail-backs in the fast lane of dual carriageways. The wise solution here is not to encourage the overtaking lorry to drive faster, but for the lorry being overtaken to slow down, just a little bit – or be fined.
Dennis Sherwood, Exton, Rutland
Reducing the risk of rape
In the recent correspondence about rape there seems to be a gender divide, which I’d like to redress.
The men don’t appear to me to be suggesting that rape is other than a heinous crime; they merely point out that women can take steps to reduce their risk. I agree.
Anyone is entitled to dress as they please. But if someone deliberately sets out to become incapably drunk (as some do) they are increasing the likelihood that ill will befall them, either criminally or accidentally. Whether they are raped, robbed or hit by a bus, they will be understandably shocked. But they are not entitled to be surprised.
There may be satisfaction to be derived from merely apportioning blame, but it is more constructive to consider how potential victims can make themselves safer. Saying that young women do not owe themselves a duty of care is demeaning to them and  increases the chance of their coming to harm.
Susan Alexander, Frampton Cotterell, South Gloucestershire
Mystery spending on free schools
If, as is expected, the education budget is cut by £1bn in the next spending review, then one would think that the level of spending on free schools and academies would be of particular interest to parents and the public.
Not so, according to the DfE, as Mr Gove’s department has consistently refused to divulge the spending in these areas, citing that the “balance of public interest falls in favour of the maintenance of an exemption in relation to the information relating to this particular request”.
I first asked for this information in February. One wonders why the full financial implications of these policies have still to be revealed.
Simon G Gosden, Rayleigh, Essex
Government by celebrities
If you’re the new social mobility tsar, James Caan, picked by the Government to promote opportunities for less affluent young people, don’t go on the record telling parents not to help their kids with jobs after giving your daughters top roles in your investment company and on the board of your foundation (report, 5 June).
I don’t know who has the least amount of common sense: Caan for such double standards or Nick Clegg for appointing someone without researching the facts. Isn’t it time for the Government to reduce its reliance on self-promoting celebrities?
Daniel Todaro, Newbury, Berkshire
Fair warning
Reading Steve Richards’ report on the Labour Party’s policy contortions on public expenditure (6 June), I could not help concluding that the Labour leadership is getting its betrayal in first. Again. So much for the rhetoric about “savage” Coalition cuts. At least voters will know where the party stands on polling day. Next time, we will be prepared for disappointment with a Labour government from day one.
Paul Wilder, London SE11
Secret shame
David Ridge states that he has never seen anyone buy a “lads’ mag” in his daily visits to his newsagents (Letters, 6 June). That is because buyers smuggle such unedifying publications to the counter inside other journals. Similarly, in post-Hillsborough Liverpool, the ashamed few who still purchase The Sun newspaper do so by hiding their copy of Mr Murdoch’s masterpiece inside Naked Over 40s or the like.
Colin Burke, Manchester
Not for eating
It is irresponsible of Mark Hix (1 June), to suggest catching freshwater crayfish from a local river or stream, when the native white clawed crayfish is an endangered species, and it is illegal to catch or handle them without a licence from Natural England.
Steve Bartlett, Addlestone, Surrey
Get a new slogan
Advice to Tory PR office: two mantras have lost their impact and should be downgraded to hackneyed. They are “The mess we inherited” and “Hard-working people”.


The problems of retaining care for the local populace, ‘grossly overcrowded’ hospitals, and reconfiguring care for the community
Sir, I am a hospital governor of a trust that wishes to merge with another to save money and make the service more efficient. I understand the costs of the application are more than £6 million and rising due in part to the application having to be considered by the Competition Commission. If your headline is to be believed (“Hospitals must close to save NHS, say chiefs”, June 5) it might be cheaper to close one hospital altogether rather than attempt to improve the system. That would save the Competition Commission a job, at the price of reducing care for the local populace.
Brian V. Newman
Sir, Hundreds of thousands of NHS patients are waiting up to a year or more for hospital appointments and admissions, the treatment of emergency cases is being dangerously and sometimes fatally delayed due to lack of hospital beds, wards are so grossly overcrowded that some patients have been dying of neglect, starvation and dehydration, infectious cases have been unable to be isolated and hospital infections are rife. To close more hospitals to save the NHS amounts to killing the patient to preserve the disease.
Dr Max Gammon
London SE16
Sir, Alice Thomson is right to point out the futility of blaming A&E waiting times on GPs (“How to fix your A&E emergency, Mr Hunt”, June 5). However, to argue that closing hospitals and A&Es will lead to the collapse of the NHS is not only incorrect, it is the worst possible conclusion to draw from the difficulties facing emergency care providers.
The only way the NHS is likely to be made sustainable is through significant, clinically-led reconfiguration of hospital-based care. This requires courageous leadership and difficult decisions that are often opposed by local people. The assertion that no more A&E departments should close in response to the pressure on services will only further undermine this vital work, which seeks to strengthen community-based care and improve the NHS offering away from the emergency room.
Sam Burrows
London SW1
Sir, First, one of the problems causing A&E blockages is the lack of beds in hospitals. Premature hospital closure would merely exacerbate the problem. For the plan to work, new facilities need to be built in the community and healthcare and social care budgets aligned. This would require initial infrastructure funding, although not via Private Finance Initiative schemes, as these are the cause of the current problems, tying up revenue schemes which prevent short-term reconfigurations of healthcare provision. In the present financial austerity such infrastructure funding seems unlikely to happen.
Second, while separate units can provide hip replacements, orthopaedic surgeons are needed in A&E to tend to trauma patients and therefore need to be multi-skilled rather than one-trick ponies.
Unfortunately, with an ageing population and a subsequent rise in chronic conditions, together with increasing healthcare expectations, more money needs to be spent on healthcare provision. The proposed approach of cutting one service (hospitals) to provide another is a failing strategy.
Tim Thomas
Langstone, Hants

The BBC Trust sought further information and took action as early as the summer of 2012 on the problematic Digital Media Initiative
Sir, You report that the BBC Trust was told in May 2012 that there were problems with the recently abandoned Digital Media Initiative and failed to act on this warning. This is not correct (“Whistleblower told Patten BBC digital project was doomed”, June 5).
The warning letter, along with other sources of information, prompted the Trust to seek further information from the BBC Executive through the summer of 2012. By the autumn the Trust had requested a new business case based on a fundamental review and agreed that in the meantime spending in most areas should be temporarily halted. On the basis of this review, we agreed to the BBC Executive’s proposal last month that a permanent halt should be called to the DMI project. The Trust is extremely concerned about the way the project was managed and reported to us, and we have commissioned an external review by PwC into what went wrong, the results of which will be published.
Anthony Fry
BBC Trustee, London W1

It will be a few years yet before we can say for certain whether internet dating has truly led to ‘longer, happier’ marriages
Sir, You suggest (Times2, June 6) that internet dating has led to “longer, happier” marriages. Since internet dating began not much more than a decade ago how can you know this?
My own marriage is now 45 years old, and I am far from unique. Surely you cannot make such a statement until another century has elapsed and the duration of my generation’s marriages and the duration of “internet” marriages can be compared.
Peter Wallwork
Eccleston, Lancs

An Austrian named Baron Eugen von Ransonnet-Villez made sketches under water in the Red Sea and Ceylon as early as 1867
Sir, Your correspondent is correct that Robert Gibbings made drawings under water (letter, June 4), but he was not the first. Baron Eugen von Ransonnet-Villez, an Austrian, made sketches under water of corals in the Red Sea, and also in Ceylon where he had a diving bell made. These sketches were published as coloured lithographs in a fine quarto volume entitled “Sketches of the inhabitants, animal life and vegetation in the lowlands and high mountains of Ceylon, as well as of the submarine scenery near the coast, taken in a diving bell” (Vienna, 1867).
Nigel Phillips
Chilbolton, Hants

Vodafone invests significant amounts of money both in spectrum and in the creation of its network, and holds its performance up for scrutiny
Sir, I must take issue with your report “Vodafone drops to back of the queue as Londoners wait for better signal” (June 4). The article relies on research by RootMetrics, a company new to the UK market and which does not share its full methodology. While its algorithm remains a mystery to all who read its reports, what is crystal clear is that like is not compared with like.
For instance, different phones were used to test different operators, and 2G/3G services for some operators were compared directly with the 4G service of another. Also, while your headline referred to “Londoners”, the RootMetrics research, as your article made clear, relates to a wider area including Saffron Walden and Tunbridge Wells.
Vodafone invests significant amounts of money both in spectrum and in the creation of our network, and gladly holds its performance up for transparent and rigorous scrutiny. That’s why our performance is tested, alongside that of many of the world’s other largest mobile networks, by P3.
This independent, respected German company published its most recent findings barely a month ago. Those findings contradict many of those you have taken from RootMetrics.
Guy Laurence
CEO, Vodafone UK

SIR – Perhaps the residents of Breadsall, Derbyshire (“Villagers spitting feathers over mischievous peacock”, report, June 4) could have a word with Kevin and tell him about Henny-Penny, who turned up last year and is a lonely peahen.
She roosts in a tree, has breakfast and tea with our hens, loves spaghetti and white bread and spends hours looking at herself in the windows.
Camilla Borradaile
Blandford Forum, Dorset
SIR – The good folk of Breadsall are being rather sensitive towards the presence of Kevin the peacock.
Up here, we have an ostentation of peacocks in the park who saunter around the town, looking in shop windows, inspecting gardens and even crossing a busy main road. It’s an impressive sight to see a large articulated truck giving way to this most beautiful of birds.

SIR – Philip Johnston’s article on Wimbledon Magistrates’ Court (Comment, June 5) awakened sad memories of my own experience, over five years ago, when I’d considered applying to be a magistrate.
One of the requirements before confirming my offer was for me to spend two full days in court, observing proceedings from the public gallery. Those two days convinced me that the system was an organisational near-disaster with less than half of the cases scheduled to be heard starting.
There were missing papers, missing witnesses, missing legal representatives and, in two cases, missing accused. At the end, I asked the clerk whether the two days I’d observed were representative: she gave a weary assent. I did not proceed with my candidacy.
It seemed that some simple parts of the process were not being carried out properly, and there was an absence of sanctions against those who failed.
Those who volunteer as magistrates, and continue to sit despite the chaos around them, fully deserve our admiration. They give their time for free.
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The mischievous antics of sociable peacocks
06 Jun 2013
Michael Nidd
Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire
SIR – I recall attending Wimbledon Magistrates Court in 1972 as a witness.
One morning, I was walking along, when I heard an almighty bang behind me. I looked around, and saw a motorcyclist lying in the road, and a small car travelling in the opposite direction. I noted the registration number of the car, and advised the police, to whom I gave a statement.
Some days later, I was asked to attend the court, where the police prosecuted the driver of the car. I was called as a witness, and duly gave my evidence, which was not questioned. The accused was fined, had to pay court costs, and was given a five-year disqualification.
It was all over in 20 minutes.
Valentine Ramsey
Sherborne, Dorset
SIR – The latest move by the Government to reduce legal aid costs, although admirable, is unlikely to succeed if the record of the Ministry of Justice is anything to go by. In early 2012, the ministry contracted out the provision of court interpreters to Applied Language Services, which were soon bought out by Capita.
Those in the ministry ignored the advice given by a variety of professional bodies. Subsequently, the contract was subject to two House of Commons select committee investigations. The chairman of one of the committees found that: “The Ministry of Justice’s handling of the outsourcing of court interpreting services has been nothing short of shambolic.”
Since the contract started, countless trials have had to be adjourned due to interpreters failing to attend. Despite protestations from judges, magistrates, barristers and court staff, the ministry continues with the contract.
Nigel D Moore
Devauden, Monmouthshire
Bad motorway driving
SIR – I applaud proposals by Stephen Hammond, the transport minister, to introduce on-the-spot fines for motorists who “hog” the middle lane, tailgate drivers and commit other potentially dangerous offences (report, June 6).
But how will these new rules be enforced? I see an increasing number of drivers blatantly using mobile phones and escaping detection. So how will the police, with depleting resources and personnel, be able to implement these new laws?
Colin Brown
Kenley, Surrey
SIR – How will these regulations apply to the M25, and other four-lane motorways, where the middle-lane drivers are so confused that they are liberally split between lanes two and three?
Jackie Grey
Goodworth Clatford, Hampshire
SIR – Will these proposed rules discourage lorry drivers from hogging the middle lane? We have all been part of a long traffic queue behind two heavy vehicles going neck-and-neck for miles as one tries to overtake the other.
Roy Corlett
Southport, Lancashire
SIR – Along with many other careful, experienced drivers, I habitually drive in the centre lanes of motorways at exactly 70mph. Any one who considers themselves inconvenienced by this habit can only want to drive above the legal speed limit and should stick to the outside lane where everyone seems to have the same aim.
David Whitaker
Chawton, Hampshire
Unlocking potential
SIR – The suggestion by James Caan, the social mobility tsar, that
well-connected parents should defy their natural instincts by not helping their children to get a job until they are “seriously struggling” (report, June 4) is unrealistic and unhelpful.
We recently took a survey of several thousand current state-educated
sixth-formers to ask them what they felt was the biggest hurdle to getting into the leading professions; 89 per cent cited a lack of contacts. This sense of hopelessness results in young people not bothering to apply for the top jobs, which is a great pity for them and the economy alike.
Our organisation has been introducing state school students to leading firms such as Ernst & Young, Slaughter and May, and UBS at face-to-face events for the past eight years. Many of our students have gone on to win training contracts, internships and graduate roles.
Rather than persuading a firm to take on a student because they are from a poorer background, we let the students’ merits speak for themselves. All they need is the right forum.
Sibyl Zao-Sanders
Managing Director, Pure Potential
London N1
Uplifting service
SIR – Hannah Betts’s feature (June 5) about the demise of room service reminded me of when I used to stay at Claridge’s in the Nineties.
On one occasion, my wife and I returned to the hotel on a Saturday afternoon laden with shopping bags, only to find that there was a problem with the lift, which meant we had to walk up a couple of floors.
Shortly after returning to our suite, the management delivered champagne and canapes to apologise for the inconvenience. Now that really was room service.
Vincent Shanahan
Northwood, Middlesex
Health tourists
SIR – Peter Kellner’s excellent piece on people’s misconceptions about migrants and migration (, June 4) rings very true for our work in Britain.
Reports appear almost daily of “health tourists” coming to Britain to take advantage of the NHS. But at the London clinic we run for migrants and other vulnerable people we find that the opposite is happening: people who are fully entitled to health care are not getting it, often due to the misconceptions of GPs and other medical staff. Moreover, less than 2 per cent of our service users left their country for personal health reasons, and almost half have no understanding or knowledge of the system in Britain and their right to care.
Leigh Daynes
Executive Director, Médecins du Monde
London E14
SIR – I totally agree with the Speaker of the House of Commons that Eastern European immigrants often have a better attitude to work than indigenous British workers (report, June 5).
We also have too many people on this crowded island. If we could exchange idle British workers for more industrious immigrants that might solve the problem.
Would the Speaker and his wife volunteer to start the ball rolling?
Robin Wrigley
Verwood, Dorset
Winter fuel perk
SIR – Derek Faulkner (Letters, June 4) asks why the winter fuel allowance, which Ed Balls, the shadow chancellor, believes should be abolished, starts at 60 and not 65. The reason is quite simple – the people who drafted the legislation were civil servants and they retire at 60. Obviously, they didn’t want to miss out for five years.
Max Goldwater
Meeth, Devon
SIR – Was Ed Balls auditioning for the part of Inspector Clouseau when he said that there was no evidence that the last Labour government was profligate?
Bill Giles
Newhaven, East Sussex
Vegetative state
SIR – I was intrigued to read (report, June 4) that vegetarians apparently live longer.
Whether this is true, or life just seems longer, is difficult to say.
Robert Mizen
Holt, Wiltshire
Inspiring the next generation of young royalists
SIR – Following a long family tradition of attending royal events, I took my three-year-old daughter, Florence, to London on Tuesday for the coronation service.
We thought it would be the perfect day to visit the Tower of London to see the crown jewels. Where St Edward’s Crown should have been, there was a small label declaring that it was “in use” (report, June 4). A slight understatement, but so very British.
Jocasta Fearn
Haywards Heath, West Sussex
SIR – St Edward’s Crown has not crowned every monarch since Charles II. In fact since Charles, only James II, William III, George V, George VI and the current Queen have been crowned with it.
Niall Garvie
Bromley, Kent
SIR – What struck me most about the coronation service was to see the unbroken continuity of monarchy sitting together.
The Queen, the Prince of Wales, the Duke of Cambridge and his unborn child together with Prince Harry. How fortunate we are.
Richard King-Evans
Hambye, Manche, France
SIR – I vividly recall, as a six-year-old, asking my father if we could go to London to watch the Queen’s coronation. He replied that he would take me next time. I fell for it.
Happily, the Queen has kept me waiting for 60 years to witness the next one – and long may she keep doing so.
Peter Higgins
West Wickham, Kent

Irish Times:

Sir, – Successive governments have completely ignored the constitutional requirement of Article 28, 4, 1° that “The Government shall be responsible to Dáil Éireann”. Instead they have dictated policy to the Dáil through an anti-democratic whip system.
Enda Kenny’s demand that Government parties support Seanad abolition without any reform of the dysfunctional Dáil/Government relationship is yet another outrageous contempt for democracy and the Constitution. – Yours, etc,
Hillcourt Road,
Co Dublin.
Sir, – The Seanad is the only private club in town where members are paid a salary and expenses. In addition there is unrestricted access to all the political movers and shakers. Is it any wonder many members are in uproar at its possible demise? – Yours, etc,
Co Clare.
Sir, – I listened with interest to Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney and Senator Katherine Zappone debate the proposal to abolish the Seanad (on RTE’s Morning Ireland programme, June 6th). The Minister pointed, as supporting examples, to a number of upstanding, successful countries that have a single parliamentary chamber. What the Minister did not do was point out that some of the world’s most oppressive and dangerous regimes also belong to this dubious club. – Yours, etc,
Vevay Road,
Sir, – What on earth does the Senate do for the average bloke on the street, for the man on the top of the Clapham omnibus? Nothing. There is no “average bloke”, there is no “Clapham omnibus”. These have been replaced by the “worker” and the “Luas”.
So let the Senate go the way of cobble stones and tram rails, let it fade into the past like Molly Malone. In the future somone may ask “Did it ever exist at all, at all”. – Yours, etc,
Ballydubh Upper,
Co Waterford.
Sir, – The Taoiseach woke up one morning and proclaimed that he would abolish the Seanad to the complete surprise of his of everyone, including his party colleagues. He and Eamon Gilmore have no mandate whatsoever to proceed with this as they will find out in the referendum.
The Dáil is in far more urgent need of reform that the Seanad. So too is our entire system of local government. Abolition of the Seanad will not save the claimed €20 million a year – as a cost of €10 million was indicated by Oireachtas officials last year. Even €20 million would be a trivial amount if it helps prevent the erosion of democracy.
The Taoiseach has stated “Ireland had too many politicians for its size”, so let him cut the number of costly and numerous TDs and speed up rationalisation of local government.
Instead of abolition, give the Seanad a real role in the political process, as has been proposed by some Seanad members; introduce a list-based electoral system based on vocational, regional, emigrant and Northern Ireland constituencies to elect all members; and ban the use of the whip so that the senators can operate with complete independence. – Yours, etc,
Ardmeen Park,
Co Dublin.
Sir, – At this time when the Government parties are refusing a free vote on a major medical and moral issue, it would seem wholly inappropriate to be also proposing the abolition of the Seanad, a forum for mature democratic debate. – Yours, etc,
Strandhill Road,
A chara, – Presumably, as the Taoiseach believes that we have too many politicians in Ireland, he will not move to fill the vacant Seanad seat left by Dr Martin McAleese and he will ask all those Senators who support his move to do away with the second chamber to resign their seats.
Surely none of them would want to be members of a club in which they do not believe nor wish to reform?
Yes, the current Seanad is past its sell-by date, but the need for appropriate checks and balances on government power has never been stronger. Building a better house of democracy requires planning and structural examination, not simply taking a bulldozer to an outdated wing of the building. – Is mise,
Fianna Fáil,
Co Wexford
Sir, – The Taoiseach says An Seanad did nothing to challenge the excess of the Celtic tiger. And in the same period what did Fine Gael do? Perhaps An Taoiseach could let us know. We might then consider the case for abolishing Fine Gael. – Yours, etc,
Devon Park,
Sir, – So our upper house is to be swept away in a flurry of no less than 40 amendments to our Constitution. It’s a wonder that such major surgery, conceived as it was on the back of an envelope, did not warrant consideration by our much heralded Constitutional Convention. Perhaps it is much too busy considering such pressing human rights issues as same sex marriage, the lowering of the voting age or the reduction of the presidential term.
One wonders how much thought has been put into this proposal and whether it is a coincidence that it’s called the Thirty Second Amendment to the Constitution Bill. – Yours, etc,
Butterfield Park,
Dublin 14.

Sir, – Irishwoman Samantha Power, President Obama’s new nominee as UN ambassador, faces a daunting challenge in her new role if and when confirmed by the US Senate (World News, June 6th).
Ms Power wrote her Pulitzer prize-winning book A Problem from Hell (2003) about the American response to genocide and mass atrocities because she says, “The United States decisions to act or not to act have had a greater impact on the victims’ fortunes than those of any other major power”. The then Senator Obama was so impressed with her book that he asked her to come and work for him, in 2005.
President Obama, since declaring in August 2011 that Syrian President Assad should go, has done virtually nothing to support the Syrian opposition in that regard .The Free Syrian Army is lightly armed in contrast to a regime which has an ongoing supply of scud missiles,“barrel bombs” dropped from helicopters which cause maximum death and destruction on the civilian population, and a huge arsenal of Russian-supplied armaments (unaffected by the EU arms embargo).
Both Human Rights Watch and the UN Commission of Inquiry have stated again in recent days that government forces have committed crimes against humanity and widespread and systemic human rights violations. Both organisations condemn atrocities on both sides, but acknowledge that the extent of violations perpetrated by government forces is much larger than those on the opposition side.
Defending the decision to establish a no-fly zone to prevent atrocities in Libya, Ms Power stated that failure to do so would have been “extremely chilling, deadly and indeed a stain on our collective conscience.”(University of Columbia March 2011, New York Times). It remains to be seen how Ms Power, if confirmed as UN ambassador, will address the shameful inaction of the US and international community on Syria. – Yours, etc,

Sir, – Yet again, after a day’s beautiful sunshine, I am returning from an early morning swim in the Forty Foot with my blood boiling.
We have to be one of the filthiest nations in the world.
The beautiful cove in Sandycove, Co Dublin, was like a war zone, filled with sanitary waste of all types, beer cans and endless bottles, crisp bags and odd socks. Worst of all, beside each of the bins was a pile of dirty nappies, abandoned there by people who presumably felt they did the right thing by leaving them beside a bin.
There are two wonderful men from the local county council who are down there every morning and do an incredible job, but such was the state of the place that some of the regulars started to clean up before they arrived as nobody should have been expected to have to tackle such a mammoth and soul-destroying task on their own.
What ever happened to the concept of bringing home your rubbish from the beach? I am sick of people saying there aren’t enough bins. There will never be enough bins for all the filth on a hot day at the beach.
What also disgusts me is the teenagers who come down to drink at the Forty Foot and throw glass bottles on the rocks. Do they have any idea of the type of cut someone could get from broken glass?
Finally, to the woman who allowed her dog to poo right at the entrance to the Forty Foot and then continued her walk . . . shame on you.
Let’s try to have some pride in this beautiful country of ours and let’s try to stop behaving like animals. – Yours, etc,

A chara, – I hope Enda Kenny’s abolishing doesn’t stop at the Seanad.
There are other things that “modern Ireland” does not need that are from “a political system originally designed for 19th-century Britain”. Constitutional protection for TDs going to and from the Dáil springs to mind. – Is mise,
Carrickmines Green,
Sir, – The term “neo-liberalism” has been extensively bandied about in Tom Dunne’s recent review of Lynch et al’s New Managerialism in Education, and also in letters to the Editor on the same subject from Shaun McCann and Patricia Palmer (June 6th).
Neo-liberalism has become a popular slogan of those on the left, and whatever it generally means to those who use it so freely, it is surely misapplied when it comes to higher education. If we have to identify an “ism” that is the curse of higher education, then managerialism fits the bill much better. There is nothing liberal about what is being done to universities: they are increasingly dictated to by the State and its agencies, notably the Higher Education Authority and Science Foundation Ireland. The voices of academics seem to count for very little.
Of course universities, which rely on taxpayers’ money, have to be accountable. But university autonomy and academic freedom are core (old-fashioned) liberal values which are under threat, not only from the State and its agencies but also from within, as non-academic “managers” gain increasing power and influence.
There is a world of difference between well-managed business corporations and the strangling bureaucracy which passes for management in much of the Irish public sector.
Neo-liberalism? Give me a break! – Yours, etc,

Sir, – Eamon de Valera (May 29th) is disingenuous in how he presents the “facts” of the “bonds” sold in the US from 1919. In fact “bonds” were not sold, but bond-certificates, after the several lawyers in the Irish-American political organisation, The Friends of Irish Freedom (FOIF) eventually managed to convince an obstinate Eamon de Valera that it would be illegal to sell bonds in the US for a country which did not then exist, the Irish Republic.
The present Eamon de Valera has wilfully ignored the sad saga of the bond-certs drive from 1919 and has chosen to begin his vindication of his grandfather’s actions in the US from the later date of 1933. Quoting in full a letter written by the late Eamon to prove these “facts” is indefensible.
To understand the unedifying battle which Eamon de Valera waged against the Irish Free State, the FOIF and anyone who would thwart his intention to secure the monies raised in the bond-cert drive to further the programme of his Fianna Fáil party and for the establishment of a newspaper which would reflect the views of that party, read, Money for Ireland by Francis M Carroll (2002). – Yours, etc,

Irish Independent:

* Watching ‘Prime Time’ on Tuesday filled me with a sense of revulsion: it was, in my view, an attempt to drum up inter-generational tensions.
Also in this section
Best of luck to all Leaving Cert pupils
The enemy within
You can’t legislate for suicidal thoughts
* Watching ‘Prime Time’ on Tuesday filled me with a sense of revulsion: it was, in my view, an attempt to drum up inter-generational tensions.
In my opinion it could be seen as an attempt to construct and supplant the idea that the older generation had escaped the clutches of the recession to the disadvantage of the under-45 age group.
Perhaps money could be rerouted from the older generation to support the young!
No proper emphasis was put on the fact that those living off the state pension had experienced cuts to fuel and telephone allowance and the loss of the Christmas bonus. A fee must also now be paid for prescriptions.
So whilst the core pension payment may remain unchanged, pensioners have experienced real cuts just like everybody else.
Bear in mind also that the older generation have already experienced savage cuts in the 1980s. They have paid their dues.
Age or ageing is the one thing that we all have in common. Try as we might we cannot escape the inevitable.
As a younger generation we must resist disingenuous attempts to create a “balanced economy” – to take from the old to give to the young.
We need to have confidence that when we reach retirement ourselves that we enjoy the same protections. The answer to improving the economic lot of the younger generation is to provide a stimulus to the economy, to incentivise companies to hire young people and to force banks to improve access to credit facilities.
All Irish people – young and old – deserve better.
Killian Brennan
Malahide Road, Dublin 17
* Just in case there is anybody left who does not understand the brass neck of the banks, I had an average of about €1,800 in my little savings account for 2012.
I have just received a statement awarding me 14 cent in interest, less 4c tax.
Using fractional reserve banking, which they all do, my average amount can be lent out as €18,000 at about 8pc, which equals €1,440. That means that, using my money, the bank makes approximately 10,000 times as much interest as they give me.
And then they ask us to help them out when they can’t even do that properly. And our Government just grins and opens our wallets.
Dick Barton
Tinahely, Co Wicklow
* I watched another pointless ‘Prime Time’ programme on the economic situation. It dealt with the different effects the crisis is having on different generations. There was nothing incorrect or untrue said but it was another example of endless waffling in a morass of misunderstanding without ever getting close to the core of the problem.
The whole tenor of debate centred on ‘recession’ and the need for growth to lift everything out of stagnation and stunted consumption. No one asked if growth is possible any more in this world of plenty and if this is a recession at all or the beginning of a new era where everything can be available in abundance except work and where very new economic approaches are needed to cope with changed economic conditions.
It is as if such a concept was too terrible to contemplate never mind discuss publicly. Yet the evidence of such is all around in a technological world that far surpasses the wildest musings of science fiction writers of just a few decades ago.
Growth will never be the same again – neither will employment and small business.
Padraic Neary
Tubbercurry, Co Sligo
* In the most recent opinion poll, published last weekend, opposition to legislating for the X case has risen to 26pc.
To all those journalists who have been doing their best to present opponents of this legislation as Neanderthals, it is nice to be able to say you cannot fool all of the people all of the time.
Jim Stack
Lismore, Co Waterford
* I wrote to you last December 19 in relation to the proposed legislation on terminations, expressing my belief that our position on that matter would “define the type of society we cherish”.
I suggested that common sense would dictate that on such a fundamental decision the citizens should demand a referendum. They should have the courage to make the decision themselves rather than renege on their responsibility and leave it to the politicians.
The debate has moved on since then. There is no doubt but that the vast majority of the population supports the possibility of termination where there is a significant physical threat to the life of the mother. It is equally clear that this is not the position where the threat arises from the risk of suicide. It is also true that citizens are now much better informed on the question of suicidality than at the time of previous referenda and that this question was not adequately argued before the Supreme Court.
The Taoiseach has insisted that the Government is obliged by the European Court to legislate for the X case. This is true but fundamentally the court’s direction to us was not on the specifics of the case itself. It was rather that Ireland had to give certainty to its position through legislation.
In democratically defining our society it is we, the citizens, who must make the basic choices.
Given the above, the citizens should demand a referendum on the question of suicidality. It is our duty to make this decision ourselves.
As your paper, rightly, constantly reminds us: we are defined by the choices we make.
John F Jordan
Killiney, Co Dublin
* I question the relevance of continuing to force our children to learn religion in schools. Surely now is the time to introduce something more relevant which might improve our society or economy.
What have they learnt after so many years of enduring this subject?
To value the supernatural above evidence or reason?
To divide humanity into groups of us ‘the righteous’ and them? Such divisions have been the cause of tensions the world over; just take Israel or Northern Ireland.
Perhaps they argue that religion teaches us morals? Are they the morals that allow us to murder or rape today and beg forgiveness from our celestial dictator tomorrow? Or the morals that allow us to discriminate against homosexuals or women? Or perhaps the morals that say AIDS is bad but not quite as bad as condoms.
Maybe it’s the morals of a group that protect child rapists? Such morals we can very well do without.
Perhaps they claim that they teach us to respect other religions? Why should we respect other religions? What have they done to deserve our respect? If a religion teaches discrimination against women why should we respect it? People are free to believe in the tooth fairy if they so wish but do not force my children to learn about your tooth fairy and do not draw up legislation based on your supernatural beliefs.
So let us teach our children the value of free thinking and questioning above ancient dogma and censorship. Teach them the values of a society that separates church and state and the dangers of a group that claims to know ‘God’s will’ and would enslave us through holy decrees.
Cinthia Cruz
Irish Independent

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