Joan and Sandy

6 July 2013 Joan and Sandy

Off around the park listening to the Navy Lark, Admiralty give all the Crew of Troutbridge 48 hours leave with the idea of moving her so crew and ship are separated and reassigned. But the crew are broke and opt to stay on Troutbridge. Priceless.
Mary home at last wonderful day, get a bedside cabinet and see Joan and Sand
We watch Amerous Prawn its not bad, magic
Scrabble Mary wins but gest under 400 I might get my revenge tomorrow.


Norman MacKenzie
Norman MacKenzie, who has died aged 91, was Professor of Education at Sussex University, though in an earlier incarnation, as assistant editor of the New Statesman, he had appeared on a notorious blacklist prepared by George Orwell of 38 “crypto-communists and fellow-travellers… who should not be trusted as propagandists”.

Norman MacKenzie 
5:58PM BST 05 Jul 2013
MacKenzie had joined the journal as assistant editor in 1943 after being discharged from the RAF on health grounds, having been recommended to the editor, Kingsley Martin, by Harold Laski, his former tutor at the LSE. He worked on the magazine for nearly 20 years before becoming an academic.
It is not hard to understand why Orwell might have included MacKenzie on his list — which he prepared in 1949 for a clandestine anti-communist propaganda unit in the Foreign Office (the list was made public in 2003). MacKenzie had been, first, a member of the Marxist Independent Labour Party, and then of the Communist Party before he joined the Labour Party in 1943. In addition to the New Statesman he sometimes wrote for Telepress, a Soviet-backed news agency. Leonard Woolf had once described him as “the most dangerous man in the New Statesman”.
Yet in fact MacKenzie, like others identified as “fellow-travellers” on Orwell’s list, had been working for MI6. During the war this was hardly surprising. The enemy was fascism, and the policy of a Left-wing magazine like the New Statesman was the same as the government’s: to foment uprisings in the occupied countries and defeat Hitler.
What was more surprising was that he continued to work for MI6 during the Cold War when, for genuine fellow travellers, allegiances were severely tested. As the magazine’s expert on communism during the 1950s, MacKenzie made numerous visits behind the Iron Curtain, somehow maintaining a reputation as a communist sympathiser while continuing to report to the security services. While his reputation as a “fellow-traveller” eased his path, he also was able to make use of MI6 contacts to gain insights that made him one of the best-informed among western analysts of the Soviet system.
In 1955, for example, during a pedalo ride on a lake in Sofia, a Bulgarian contact tipped him off that Nikita Khrushchev had made a series of shocking revelations about the true extent of Stalin’s purges at a secret meeting of the Cominform. This was four months before the Soviet leader’s “Secret Speech”, at the 20th Congress of the Soviet Communist Party in February 1956 which denounced Stalin’s dictatorship. When he returned to Britain, however, MacKenzie found that neither the journal nor the Foreign Office believed the claims. Later, when he read reports of the Secret Speech, MacKenzie recognised passages word for word.
Had they known MacKenzie’s true sympathies, the Soviet authorities would have done everything possible to keep him out. As a student communist at the LSE (it seems possible he was asked to join the party by the security services), he had become concerned by efforts by Soviet intelligence to recruit students to work as agents or informants in the armed and public services.
As he explained later, it was in order to investigate such activities that he allowed himself to be courted by officials from the communist bloc. In the 1950s, for example, he was one of the first journalists to detect a communist caucus in the Electrical Trades Union which fixed ETU elections for far-Left candidates. He also used visits to Eastern Europe to make contact with possible defectors and was active in helping dissidents to escape from Hungary during and after the 1956 rising.
This was a high risk strategy, and MacKenzie was lucky to emerge unscathed. On one occasion he was caught photographing the outside of a prison camp near Bucharest and was briefly imprisoned before being moved to a hotel, still under arrest. There, through an open window, he heard music wafting in from a concert hall nearby. Soon afterwards he was handed two tickets by Romanian security police — one was an air ticket to London, the other a ticket to a concert by the violinist David Oistrakh. MacKenzie made it back to London, though there was a nasty moment when the plane seemed to be heading towards Moscow as it left Bucharest.
“I gather you’re doing useful work in the Balkans,” said Kingsley Martin, drily, when he returned to the office.
Norman Ian MacKenzie was born on August 18 1921 in Deptford, London, the son of a credit draper of Scots descent (credit drapers sold clothes on credit, door-to-door). By the time he won a scholarship to Haberdasher’s Aske’s school, Hatcham, MacKenzie had read enough in the public library to become a Marxist, and in 1938 he joined the Independent Labour Party, which had links with the POUM, the anti-Stalinist communist group which was strong in Catalonia during the Spanish Civil War. Orwell, famously, fought for this group and in later life MacKenzie surmised that the writer’s dislike of “the New Statesman crowd” was due to the fact that Kingsley Martin had rejected articles in which Orwell had described the brutal suppression of the POUM by Stalinist hit squads, on the ground that it could undermine the Republican cause. To be fair, Orwell qualified MacKenzie’s name with a question mark (MacKenzie sympathised with Orwell’s views on the Spanish Civil War).
MacKenzie won an open scholarship to read Government at the LSE, where he went up in 1939, became a protégé of Harold Laski’s and joined the Communist Party. The following summer he was one of the first to volunteer for the Home Guard, with the enlistment number 49, and was subsequently recruited into the Auxiliary Units, a top-secret cadre of trained assassins and saboteurs who would have been the Resistance following a German invasion. In 1942 he was called up for military service in the RAF, but was invalided out after four months owing to a stomach ulcer.
After graduating with a First in 1943, MacKenzie joined the New Statesman. In 1951 and 1955 he stood as a Labour candidate for the hopeless seat of Hemel Hempstead, and in 1957 became involved in the formation of CND. Yet he never took an active role, and in later life admitted that on many occasions when he had taken an “advanced position” on a political issue, he had always felt ambivalent and had avoided active involvement. Thus, when shortlisted for the safe Labour seat of Ipswich, he realised that he did not want to be in Parliament. Later he became a founding member of the SDP.
It was in the 1950s that MacKenzie, who had lectured on politics in America, began to think of leaving Fleet Street for an academic career. In 1962 he was invited by Asa Briggs, Dean of the School of Social Sciences at the newly-founded University of Sussex, to join him as a lecturer in Political Sociology.
One of his strangest encounters as a journalist took place shortly before he left the New Statesman when he visited the American embassy in Moscow to interview a young American, one Lee Harvey Oswald, who had defected to the Soviet Union in 1959, but now wanted to defect back to the United States. Oswald cut an unimpressive figure, and MacKenzie was amazed when, the following year, a man he had dismissed as “a nothing” was arrested for the assassination of President John F Kennedy. Two days later Oswald himself was shot dead, and the following day MacKenzie happened to be teaching a Politics class at Williams College, Massachusetts. He mentioned that he had met Oswald in Moscow the previous year; 20 minutes later he received a phone call from the FBI.
During his time at Sussex, MacKenzie became increasingly interested in developing new ways of university teaching, publishing two books on this subject with Unesco. After chairing a working party on the use of television in education, he obtained funding from the Rank Organisation towards the founding in 1966 of a new Centre for Educational Technology, of which he became director. He also played an important role in the foundation of the Open University, becoming a member of its planning committee and council.
MacKenzie was the author of several books on politics, the social sciences and education, and, in collaboration with his first wife, Jeanne, wrote biographies of HG Wells, Charles Dickens and the First Fabians, and edited the diaries of Beatrice Webb. The MacKenzies’ work was recognised by their election as Fellows of the Royal Society of Literature and the award (for The First Fabians) of the society’s Heinemann Prize in 1978. He also collaborated with Antony Brown in a series of historical novels published under the pseudonym Anthony Forrest.
MacKenzie became director of Sussex University’s School of Education in 1972, and Professor of Education in 1977. He retired in 1983.
He remained lucid until the day before he died when, prompted by some conversational reference, he could be heard reciting the Gettysburg Address to fellow hospital patients.
His first wife died in 1986, and in 1988 he married Gillian Ford, Deputy Chief Medical Officer in the Department of Health and subsequently Medical Director of Marie Curie Cancer Care. She survives him with a daughter of his first marriage. Another daughter predeceased him in 1999.
Norman MacKenzie, born August 18 1921, died June 18 2013


Polly Toynbee’s gloomy column on the 65th birthday of the NHS (5 July) was wrong to claim there are no celebrations. There have been a great many. Some, like the “birthday party in the park” at Trafford hospital, the very first NHS hospital, have combined this with political advocacy about its future. Other events have simply thanked the NHS and those who have worked for it. British Future’s polling has found that the NHS remains the public’s number one source of British pride, ahead even of the monarchy, army and Olympic team.
Sunder Katwala
Director, British Future
• I’m heartened to see that Jude Kelly wants to give people a “space to create culture, understand themselves and shape the trajectory of their lives” (All our tribes need space, 5 July), but I was under the impression such a space already exists. It’s a skateboard park on the South Bank, and she seems to want to close it.
Kate Oakley
University of Leeds
• Vandalism is not always mindless (Letters, 4 July). For an illustration of carefully planned vandalism, Oxford University’s new postgraduate student block, that has destroyed the area around Port Meadow and the views of the dreaming spires, is a fine example.
Mike Maguire
• Aditya Chakrabortty may have a point about the suitability of the investment banking background of the new governor of the Bank of England (G2, 2 July). But it’s surely a matter for celebration that both the governor’s deputy and the current leader of the International Monetary Fund are women.
Rosalind Garton
Pitscottie, Fife
• Now Mark Carney has expressed his support for the idea of having the image of a dead woman on bank notes (Report, 4 July), can we expect him to use his influence to get some living women on to the monetary policy committee?
Bob Cant
• Reading the obituary of one of the founders of the British Origami Society (4 July), I was hoping that this will not result in the society folding.
Michael Cunningham

So, John Whale saw Hendrix at the Isle of Wight in 1970 (Ventilator blues, G2, 4 July)? What a Johnny-come-lately. I saw the Rolling Stones close the first half of the bill (Marty Wilde, the Swinging Blue Jeans, topped by the Ronettes) at the Kettering Granada in January 1964. Granted, it wasn’t outdoors.
W Stephen Gilbert
Corsham, Wiltshire
• I remember seeing the Stones about 1964 at the Empress Ballroom in Wigan (Later to become the Wigan Casino, home of Northern Soul). During their performance, Jagger threw his sweaty shirt into the audience. I and another girl caught it. She ended up with one sleeve and I won the rest of it. I stored it carefully in one of my drawers at home, where my mother found it and, seeing it was damaged, tore it up and used it for dusters.
Marie Blundell

Labour’s leaders should reflect on the causes of the current assertiveness of trade unions in promoting parliamentary candidates before listening to David Blunkett (Infighting over influence of unions poses big risk to Labour – Blunkett, 3 July). Clearly the union drive is prompted by the historic and ideological closeness of them to the Labour party and their members’ huge financial contributions to party funds. There is also recognition that the 9% of current Labour MPs who can be described as having a “working-class background” must be increased.  
However, the unions’ experience of the New Labour machine was the manipulation of almost all the parliamentary selections in winnable seats between 1994 and 2010. Research for my upcoming book on New Labour shows that candidates were, in effect, hand-picked. Leadership favourites were given exclusive advance access to local party members. This was frequently as long as two years before a selection. In many cases, “undesirable” candidates were not enabled to have contact with local members until the last week of the process. By this time many postal votes had been cast. Postal votes were freely given without evidence of need (as at Erith and Crayford in April 2009, reported in the Guardian). So, many postal votes were cast by members before they could meet and assess candidates, other than the favourite, at the final hustings interviews. Some candidatures, for example Calder Valley (2009), were won entirely on postal votes.
Far from “welcoming and engaging with a whole range of people” as Blunkett recommends, the unions’ experience of selections under New Labour was that only Blairite disciples were acceptable.
Gaye Johnston
Accrington, Lancashire
• Patrick Wintour says the Labour leader’s battle with Unite is “a fight Miliband cannot afford to lose” (Report, 5 July). On the contrary, this is fight that Labour needs their leader to lose if they are ever to regain their credibility as a party that truly represents ordinary people. Unite is Labour’s biggest single financial backer, yet has had to put up with a never-ending stream of party policies that do them no good, and that in many cases would actually harm their membership. In response, the union not unreasonably acted within party rules and attempted to get an MP selected who would represent their point of view in parliament.
The party’s response has been to hold a dubious investigation that has slurred Unite and banned them from paying party membership fees for their low-paid members. Labour has clearly come a long way from the great champions of working people such as Keir Hardie and Aneurin Bevan. These talented working men might be turned away these days unless they could afford high membership fees. It all seems to be part of labour’s long, sad, slow metamorphosis from a people’s party to a bland, centre-right conservative group more concerned with popularity in middle-class marginal constituencies than in having any genuine beliefs of their own.
Tim Matthews
Luton, Bedfordshire
• Nick Long (Letters, 4 July) issues an oft-repeated recommendation to Unite members to “found a new party for working people”. From memory, such parties have been loudly and confidently launched many times before – the Socialist Alliance, Socialist Labour, Respect and, most recently, the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition. If Unite wishes to add another party into this bundle of leftwing electoral history, I suggest the organisation adds inverted commas around its name.
Liam Pennington
Preston, Lancashire
• In dismissing the call from Dave Quayle of Unite for “a firmly class-based and leftwing general election campaign” by Labour as “suicidal” and condemning Unite’s involvement in the party’s selection process in Falkirk – which he concedes is within the law and the party’s rules – Martin Kettle (Comment, 4 July) proves himself a victim of the same baseless delusion that afflicts the Labour leadership and most of the media, and which is killing the Labour party: that being more leftwing (or leftwing at all) will make them unelectable.
All the evidence suggests the opposite is true. Opinion polls on just about every major issue, be it renationalising the railways, abolishing tuition fees, taxing the rich or nuclear disarmament (with the sole exception of immigration), show that public opinion is firmly to the left of every major party; it has been shifting that way for over a decade while Westminster has shifted ever further right. The responses of 300,000 people on the Vote for Policies website, which asks people to rank six parties’ policies without telling them which party’s manifesto they are from, show that the most popular policies are those of the most leftwing party in the test: the Greens. And despite the media narrative of a Ukip insurgency, in the biggest electoral test since 2010, the London mayoral vote, it was the Greens who were the upset, coming third, ahead of the Lib Dems.
At the time of the mass public-sector strikes, opinion polls showed a majority of the public thought the strikes justified. Unite and other unions are not dinosaurs or an electoral liability; they represent public opinion far better than Labour does. If Labour wants to win the next election it needs to heed their warnings and be more leftwing, not less.
Laurie Marks
Harrow, Middlesex
• The philosopher Fredric Jameson’s once said that for most of us it is easier to imagine the end of the world than the end of capitalism and I’m always surprised how often he’s proved right. Unite raise a challenge to the devastating neoliberal paralysis that has gripped the Labour party since Thatcher and out come the old insults. Coming from the Tories these insults are expected, but to find them in a Guardian column is another depressing example of Jameson’s truth.
Tony Owen

It is not so much the length of the school term that needs changing, rather that the services provided in school buildings should be extended to meet the needs of 21st-century family life (Gove calls time on six-week summer break, 3 July). This would include childcare to cover the normal working day, throughout the year. The current system of providing wraparound care and holiday care is voluntary, patchy and unreliable. We have managed to provide such a model for children up to five in daycare, which includes early education and daycare. Why do we assume that this requirement stops when a child reaches its fifth birthday?
If schools became, say, children and young people’s centres, providing a range of services for children and their families, this would not necessarily mean teachers having to work longer hours, or more weeks a year, but that other services, which in themselves would provide education of a different kind, would be available from other professionals outside the school day and school term.
Janet Galley
Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire
• Parents with children at two or more schools will find that rarely are their children all on holiday at the same time. Teachers with children at a school other than the one at which they teach will have difficulty in arranging time off, and will have to arrange childcare. If the parents of a child at one school, whose end of term moves one week earlier and with a child at another school, whose term moves one week later, will find that their need to arrange childcare is not for six weeks but eight. Limited time in which people can take holidays will result in air fares rocketing, and holiday companies, airlines etc. will encounter huge difficulties in predicting future demand, thus pushing their costs up, therefore resulting in further increases in costs to families. Not one of Gove’s most evidence-based proposals. But then I find it hard to think of one that is.
Ben Hastings
Farnham, Surrey
• How about looking for evidence before deciding how to change school hours? The number of hours a year is fixed, so the issue is how they are spread. Smaller children probably would benefit from smaller chunks, with shorter breaks, whereas older children may well do better with a single session, with brief breaks and a long summer holiday. I don’t have a problem with individual schools setting term dates, but can we give them the information to set them in their children’s best interests?
Michael Peel
• One of the many problems with allowing all schools to choose their own holiday times is the way that Easter wanders about. If Michael Gove wishes to be remembered for something constructive he could press for the implementation of the Easter Act 1928 which fixes Easter Sunday as the day after the second Saturday in April.
John Illingworth

Unemployment is affecting youth everywhere, be it Spain, France, Brazil, Nigeria or the US.
There are too many of us – qualified, multilingual and highly motivated graduates – and too few jobs.
And while all of us are struggling to grasp the elusive “first opportunity that will open the door to a long and prosperous career”, the multinational companies are hiring … unpaid interns. And they are not the only ones. Even NGOs put out work on the backs of unpaid interns.
And why wouldn’t they? We are cheap, free, qualified labourers. We work as long and as hard as the company requires because we want to be hired.
However hiring unpaid interns to do the work of a full-time employee – and sometimes let’s face it, even more for up to eight months surely equates to abuse.
Development issues are not only in developing countries. The right to a paid job, to a minimum wage, must become a priority. Either implement a cap on unpaid internships’ length, or ban them altogether. Paying minimal wage or per hour is still better than not at all. Hold the companies accountable.
Sarah Ceriani



Thomas Jefferson once noted that “a little rebellion is a good thing”, and the Arab Spring shows that revolutions can be both contagious and addictive.
Once a population loses its fear and realises that political change can be effected through mass mobilisation, it is much more likely to take to the streets to “defend the revolution”.
In Egypt, 18 days of protest forced Hosni Mubarak from office in early 2011, and further protests in November forced military leader Mohammed Hussein Tantawi to commit to speeding up the transition to civilian government.
At that time, one Egyptian activist told me: “We now have a weapon and that weapon is called Tahrir Square.” It is a weapon the Egyptian people are clearly not afraid to use.
Stefan Simanowitz, London NW3
So when is England going to have a million people on the street, against a Government going beyond any elected mandate?
When is the army here going to arrest these carpetbaggers at the helm?
I hear ours is a mature democracy (as opposed to Egypt’s), so tell me why did we need poll tax riots to change that one?
Notwithstanding their previous record, the army in Egypt has just done its people credit, and I pray for such  action to go viral, with our  stale kleptocracy as the first  in line.
Howard Pilott, Lewes, East Sussex
It may be the worst thing for a fledgling democracy to oust a leader in between elections,  but your cover photo (4 July) shows why this was a case of exceptional circumstances and why democracy might still recover.
When was the last time you saw protests in a predominantly or totally Muslim country where so may people out on the street were women?
These women saw the writing on the wall, and within a year their freedoms and lifestyles had already been dangerously curtailed.
Due to the government’s betrayal of trust, they didn’t have the luxury of waiting until the next election.
Joyce Glasser, London NW3
A democracy has to have at least two things to function.
The first is that it needs to be elected, according to the rules, by a majority of those voting.
The second is that it has to have the tacit consent of those who did not vote for it.
Morsi’s government clearly did not have the latter, and I suggest that it is therefore legitimate for the military to remove him.
Mrs Thatcher’s Government made the same mistake with the poll tax, with violent results; and in relation to education and the NHS in particular, the present Government could be repeating the error. May we again expect violence?
Dudley Dean, Maresfield, East Sussex
Holiday risks for the gay traveller
I searched in vain for some warning in Ben Ross’s article “Virgin Territory in East Africa” (Independent Traveller, 29 June) that were I and my husband to take his advice and holiday in Kenya  we would be at risk of imprisonment during our stay were we to make love.
The Kenyan Penal Code states that sex acts between men are illegal and carry a maximum penalty of 14 years’ imprisonment, while a kiss would be regarded as an act of gross indecency and make us liable to imprisonment for five years.
Do you not consider that you have a responsibility in your holiday articles to make it quite clear to any gay people thinking of visiting a country what they are letting themselves in for? It is certainly something that we have to think seriously about.
In every other respect The Independent is very aware and positive about the rights of gay people, but when I read the travel section, it is like stepping back 30 years to a time when there was no political awareness whatsoever.
Alan Wright, Worthing, West Sussex
Tickets plea
First Great Western could do well to investigate the technology used to produce the 1,300-year-old Lindisfarne Gospels (“Gospels go up north”, 29 June) as the company is incapable of producing an annual season ticket that is still legible after three months.
And the automatic ticket barriers that blight railway stations struggle to read tickets older than a few months – but this was technology developed after the Norman invasion.
Clive Mowforth, Dursley, Gloucestershire
Mobile phoners
Ivor Yeloff (letter, 4 July) highlights the risks posed by pedestrians with smartphones. I have observed cyclists talking on a mobile while riding along a pavement. If it is illegal to drive while on the phone, surely this should be applied to cyclists too?
Robin White, Oakley, Hampshire
Crazy place
Alan Pearson’s letter (3 July) concerning the down-and-outs and mentally disturbed people he encountered on his road trip to California failed to mention the psychological state of the remaining 2 per cent of the population.
Charles Peacock, Charlbury, Oxfordshire
Snowden makes Watergate look like child’s play
Woodward and Bernstein exposed Nixon for what is still considered an outrageous misuse of power. Compare that with the exposure by Manning and Snowden of not only the United States government but also our own in an eavesdropping exercise so large that every judge in the western world would be signing warrants for the next millennium for it to be legal.
This makes Nixon’s misdeeds look like a child putting a glass against the wall to overhear the conversation in the next room.
It is time to stand up and be counted with the men who have so bravely exposed this outrageous behaviour. If we are not careful, the jihadists will win their war, as we are slowly turned into nations in fear of our own governments.
John Kersley, Harlow, Essex
In “One more step towards a police state” (letter, 4 July) Julius Marstrand opines that “the damage to Britain’s reputation around the world will far outweigh the damage any terrorist has succeeded in doing”.
I assure Mr Marstrand that I would prefer the world’s various global communications agencies to be able to monitor (remotest of chances) my innocuous and legal personal messages to the more realistic possibility that I and my loved ones be slaughtered by a terrorist act, the planning of which had gone undetected should the world’s security agencies relax their electronic surveillance.
Stevie Gowan, Liverpool
No problem with scantily clad men
If Sara Neill did publish a magazine (letter, 5 July) with photographs of naked men on the front cover, I doubt the average male would care one jot.
Already magazines such as Men’s Health often have photographs of scantily clad males on the front, and I have not heard nor read of any protests from men that they are demeaning.
Patrick Cleary, Honiton, Devon
The erect penis is a primary sexual characteristic, and the female equivalent of it is emphatically not a Page 3 girl or lads’ mag pin-up, and is still a censored item (top shelf, sealed packaging).
The proper equivalent of the  pin-up is actually a buff male torso or well-toned gluteus maximus – both there to be admired in many different and readily available magazines for women, men or sports fans, or at any park, pool or beach this weekend.
Perhaps if British women where as relaxed as their northern European counterparts about going topless, the whole business would assume a more sensible perspective.
RS Foster, Sheffield
Checkout staff need a talking to
A supermarket checkout operator refused to serve a customer who was talking on her phone (“Is it rude to pay up while talking on your phone?”, 2 July). Perhaps the same checkout operators could refrain from talking to other customers when they are supposedly serving me.
Sam Boote, Keyworth, Nottingham
Over the decades, when being treated purely as a cash cow by chatting checkout staff, my technique is first to withhold payment until they take notice (it always works), pay, then inform them courteously that their behaviour is not appropriate as their attention should be fully on the customer.
Finally, I ask another member of staff for the manager (this saves holding up the queue of shoppers) and inform them that this is not the level of service you expect from their company. Managers have invariably appreciated the information and apologised.
Unless you draw their attention to sloppy staff behaviour, management can’t improve matters.
Jackie Hawkins, Bedford
Not only are mobile calls discourteous, but so is texting. In a concert recently a young man distracted the audience beside and behind him with his flashes, but he did respond politely to requests, from all sides, to switch the damn thing off. Sitting in the Festival Hall annexe one has a view of the whole audience flickering away high and low. 
Hopefully the artists on stage are too busy to be insulted by this widespread indifference to their performance.
Peter Forster, London N4
The hangover from alcopops
Your feature on the role of the alcohol industry in increasing the allure of candy-flavoured high-strength alcoholic drinks brings business opportunism sharply into focus (Magazine, 29 June).
I came into my job 15 years ago to look after older people with mental health problems. I now find myself picking up the pieces from lives shattered by chronic drinking.
The balance between health and business is still weighted towards the latter. There is already a silent epidemic with alcohol-related harm at the latter end of the lifespan. Let us hope we can save the current generation from chronic ill health from alcohol misuse.
Dr Tony Rao, Chair, Substance Misuse in Older People Working Group, Royal College of Psychiatrists, London SE16


Sir, The “gappers” of my acquaintance may be from affluent backgrounds, but every single one of them has earned the money for their year off (letter, July 3). One, by way of example, worked in a garage, at an after-school club, and in the evening at the local pub, often all on the same day.
This demonstrates that sheer determination, hard work and an understanding that you have to make your own way in the world motivates many young people who do not seek to rely on any perceived privilege.
Jeff Biggs
Melton Mowbray, Leics
Sir, Keeley Cavendish says in her letter to you that most gappers are privately educated and of the affluent classes and that this is undesirable for them and for their host countries. Certainly a perfect societal balance would be ideal but is yet to be attainable.
If I were Edmund Burke I would reply (as recently quoted by you): “Nobody made a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could do only a little.”
Richard Frost
Holmbury St Mary, Surrey
Sir, As a student on a gap year I was suprised by Keeley Cavendish’s remarks on gap-year travel. By all means attack some of the questionable philanthropic work that gap-year students engage in, but attacking it solely because the participants are privately educated or come from affluent backgrounds is class warfare at its very worst.
These are young, open-minded people; not the “posh girls” that Keeley makes them out to be. Society should encourage, rather than dissuade, young people in expanding their horizons which will ultimately prepare them for the globalised world we all inhabit.
Ben Lacaille
Sir, Young people can make an active contribution to fighting poverty, provided they are given a structured and well-planned programme. In the least developed countries, under-25s make up 60 per cent of the population, so not only are they integral to development, but we know they want to be agents of change by working alongside a global community.
International Citizen Service (ICS) enables young volunteers from all walks of life in the UK to team up with volunteers from the developing world and work on projects that are led by the communities where we work. These young volunteers bring their energy and creativity to sustainable projects that strengthen communities.
Ms Cavendish is right to draw attention to the fact that international volunteering opportunities should not be limited to those who can afford to pay, and ICS is committed to building a volunteer cohort representative of the UK’s diversity, and encourages young people from under-represented groups to take up this opportunity.
We know there are good and bad examples of volunteering overseas. It’s unfortunate that examples of young people making a positive contribution to tackling poverty through a well-organised programme are often overlooked.
As leaders from the eurozone are gathering in Germany to discuss high levels of youth unemployment, surely now is the time to stop reinforcing the pessimistic perception that young people have little to offer the world.
Nathalie Gordon
International Citizen Service VSO

Having an extra week off in gloomy late October and freezing February does not compare with the benefits of a long summer vacation
Sir, Dame Sally Coates is on the right track regarding the school year but the sensible solution is surely to have five school terms of eight weeks in duration (“Yes to shorter school holidays, but no to anarchy”, July 3). Holidays would consist of four weeks in the summer, two in the autumn, two at Christmas, two at Easter and two in the late spring/early summer. The dates could be agreed nationally — or even decided by Mr Gove.
The result would be less regression in learning for pupils, less stress for teachers and, crucially, fewer problems for parents.
David H. Williams
Bangor-on-Dee, Wrexham
Sir, Some parents may benefit from having a shorter summer break as advocated by Sarah Vine (July 3), but in this house the children are adamant that they do not want a change.
Having an extra week off in gloomy late October and freezing February does not compare with the benefits of a long summer vacation, a time when many children can have some freedom from the pressures of education. I have found that for my five kids this is the only time they have a chance to be spontaneous for any length of time. At the end of the break they are refreshed and ready for a new school year, but they are also more mature than they were at the end of the summer term.
While childcare is undoubtedly a headache for many, it would still be a problem at any other time of year, apart from those families lucky enough to have two high-earning parents who can afford to travel far enough to reach the sun or snow.
School is there to educate our young not to solve all our childcare issues.
Margaret Snell
Wargrave, Berks
Sir, Sarah Vine’s assertion that re-arranging term dates on a school-by-school basis would somehow break the travel companies’ monopoly is naive. Airlines and travel agents monitor closely the timings of all school breaks, so their prices would merely be amended accordingly throughout the year.
Far better that she follow the advice offered by Dame Sally Coates for a nationally agreed restructuring.
David Gilmore Horley, Surrey

The Archbishop has clearly demonstrated his concern for Palestinian Christians through his commitment to practical support for them
Sir, I was surprised to read (June 28) that the Archbishop of Canterbury ignored the Christian community in Palestine on his visit and failed to show them support.
The Archbishop warmly accepted our invitation to become a Patron of the Friends of the Holy Land, as his predecessor had been. He visited the Episcopal Medical Centre in Ramallah, one of many projects we support in the region. There he met and discussed local issues with one of our representatives from Bethlehem.
The Archbishop has clearly demonstrated his concern for Palestinian Christians through his commitment to this organisation’s practical support for them. We are a non-political charity set up to support Christian communities in the Holy Land where they have lived for 2,000 years.
Peter Rand
Friends of the Holy Land

Norway, whose detached position Nigel Farage would like to emulate, has signed up to 250 EU laws in the environmental field alone
Sir, Nigel Farage’s claim that 90 per cent of Single Market rules are covered by international bodies does not stand up to scrutiny (July 5).
Norway, whose detached position he would like to emulate, has signed up to 250 EU laws in the environmental field alone, most of which are unique to Europe.
Chris Davies, MEP
European Parliament

Free bus passes for secondary school pupils have a negative impact on children’s health — they are an excuse to avoid exercise
Sir, John Ashton cites the “school run” as a disaster in waiting for children’s health, depriving them of much-needed exercise. He should also consider the negative aspect of children’s bus passes in cities.
In my experience in London secondary school children will use their bus passes to travel just two stops thus avoiding any exercise. These short, free journeys should be disallowed in the interest of the children having a healthier future.
Bronwen Osborne

SIR – Freedom and proper democracy cannot survive if ideological organisations with a commitment to their destruction are allowed to use the ballot box to gain their ends (“The army establishes a fragile peace in Egypt”, leading article, July 4).
This is precisely the position of the Muslim Brotherhood. They and others with similar aims should be forbidden to take public office in free democracies. It is not for the Islamists to ask why they should take the ballot box seriously, as Egypt should not have had an Islamist Party to vote for.
Kenneth Hynes
London N7
SIR – Our media commentators, and particularly the BBC, have an unerring ability to call it wrong in Egypt. When Mubarak was overthrown, their reporters were uncritically euphoric, celebrating the dawn of liberal freedoms, when in fact it produced Islamist authoritarianism.
This week they were excessively critical, complaining about the removal of a democratically elected leader.
Related Articles
We need to end the party for Chinese lanterns
05 Jul 2013
We would all like the attempted military coup against Hitler in 1944 to have succeeded. Wouldn’t it have been better if there had been a successful coup against him in 1934, a year after he, too, had been democratically elected?
Michael Grenfell
London NW11
SIR – Egypt has shown that once people have tasted freedom they will not accept the replacement of autocracy with a theocracy. The advocates of Islamism, whether residents of Western democracies or politicians in the Islamic world, particularly Turkey, should take note.
Alan Hindle
Stockport, Cheshire
SIR – It is worth recalling what Lord Salisbury had to contend with as prime minister at the end of the 19th century.
At home, Randolph Churchill (who was suffering from the effects of syphilis) was stirring up political trouble, while in the Sudan the “mad” Mahdi was leading a revolt against the British Empire. Lord Salisbury observed that “Randolph Churchill pretends to be sane but in fact is mad, while the Mahdi pretends to be mad but is actually quite sane.” Who is sane and who is mad in the Middle East ? Only one thing is certain – Nato countries are itching to intervene.
Timothy Stroud
Salisbury, Wiltshire
SIR – Do not recent events in Egypt show that democracy is merely a polite name for mob rule?
Andrew Blake
Marlborough, Wiltshire
SIR – Islamists don’t take the ballot box seriously, and if they could have achieved power by force, they would have.
Roslyn Pine
London N3
Army reserves
SIR – The proposed Territorial Army construct of an Army Reserve is a cheap option akin to providing police community support officers and nursing and teaching assistants, which have done nothing to improve efficiency in their respective professions.
There will not be time to train up reserves in expeditionary warfare. We need properly trained reserves who can be deployed as units or as fully trained specialists aligned to trained units.
The Army field commanders understand that they need a reserve army, not a part-time, lightly trained Army Reserve. The politicians in the MoD need to heed them now and pay for capability that will add to overall efficiency.
Major John Bruce (retd)
Frilsham, Berkshire
SIR – The current ability to recruit, train and retain 30,000 Army reservists is untested. There is no Plan B.
It is simply irresponsible to continue to reduce regular Army numbers until the required number of reservists are recruited, trained and at a state of deployment readiness.
Colonel A R M Smith (retd)
Braceby, Lincolnshire
Hippocratic oath
SIR – Please, can we stop referring to the “Hippocratic oath” (Letters, July 4)? While the principles may remain, the oath as such should be consigned to history, referring as it does to ancient Greek gods and goddesses.
I qualified in medicine in 1971, by which time my university (and I believe most British universities) had long since abandoned this oath. We were enjoined to follow the principles outlined in the Declaration of Geneva (first drafted in 1948 by the World Medical Association), which is a revision of the Hippocratic oath suitable for the modern era. It has since been revised several times.
There is no legal obligation for medical students to swear an oath upon graduating, and the vast majority of oaths or declarations sworn have been heavily modified and modernised. The principles remain, but the oath – as such – does not.
Dr Paul Cartwright (retd)
Sutton-on-the-Hill, Derbyshire
Fit for a prince
SIR – Prince Charles should be praised for his frugality in a time of hardship, not censured for his apparent parsimony (report, July 4).
While the modern trend and demand is for cheap, poorly made, off-the-peg suits, easily and frequently replaced, the Prince belongs to quite a different sartorial tradition. His suits will be tailored, hand-made and of high-quality material. These are designed to last for a lifetime and will do so with careful maintenance and repair.
The Royal family has a long heritage of simple living. As an example to his subjects, George V gave up alcohol during the First World War, an act which his Cabinet were unable or unwilling to emulate.
The Prince of Wales is merely following in this admirable tradition.
Jeremy Goldsmith
Newark-on-Trent, Nottinghamshire
Forbidden whistles
SIR – While doing National Service in the Fifties, I seem to remember being told that whistling was forbidden because that had been the signal to start the mutiny at Invergordon in 1931.
Jeremy Clemens
Chichester, Sussex
Left-wing universities
SIR – The answer to Peter Oborne’s question about why philosophers such as Eric Hobsbawm are remembered over the likes of Michael Oakeshott (“The brave souls who resisted the relentless march of state control”, Comment, July 4) was implied by Kenneth Minogue in 2006 when he stated that “most places calling themselves universities are full of unsophisticated people with opinions about how society and its members ought to conduct themselves”.
As a recent graduate in philosophy, politics and economics from the University of York, I found only a handful of academics who were not progressive liberals or socialists. The politics department taught modules about Marx, green politics and “Labour’s Struggle for Socialism since 1945” while having, to my knowledge, only one module about “The Liberal Tradition” and none exclusively about Conservatism.
Those like me who are conservative and more classically liberal in persuasion had to discover for ourselves the works of Oakeshott, Hayek, Minogue and others.
It is no surprise when universities offer so narrow a curriculum that those who favour freedom seldom have their voices and names heard.
James A Paton
Billericay, Essex
Bats in churches
SIR – Doug Eke (Letters, July 3) is restrained in his response to Julia Hanmer. As an active Christian I believe that churches exist primarily for worship, and that for all Christians, Holy Communion is an integral part of that worship. That includes offering bread and wine to every member of the congregation.
What restaurant or café would be allowed to stay open if there was even a single bat there? Bats are protected by laws which assume that church buildings are museums, and not the venue for an active Christian community.
Bats are God’s creatures, but churches are not a suitable place to keep them.
Revd Edward Tufnell
Shorts supply
SIR – With shorts at Wimbledon getting longer, as demonstrated by Andy Murray, can we expect to see the final played between two gentlemen in white trousers in the near future?
Iain Coghill
Whitley Bay, Northumberland
Mobile phones are no excuse for bad manners
SIR – The Sainsbury’s checkout worker was quite right to refuse to serve a customer who was talking on a mobile phone (report, 2 July). It is disappointing that Sainsbury’s failed to support its employee in expecting a normal level of courtesy.
Talking on a mobile phone in public is an inescapable feature of life today. However, as the Sainsbury’s employee pointed out, this should not jeopardise good manners. Only the other day I was ignored by a woman glued to a mobile phone as I held a door open for her.
Some people are clearly so in thrall to technology that they are incapable of observing the normal decencies of social intercourse which have served us well for centuries.
Victoria Bennett
London SW18
SIR – Powerful consumer technology is enabling time-poor consumers to manage their lives in infinitely flexible ways. Through mobile banking, mobile commerce and 24-hour customer support, consumers are now able to engage in multiple service experiences at the same time.
While it is of course imperative that politeness is promoted between customers and workers, it is also important for service staff to recognise the evolving needs of their customers and to manage their experiences in a consistent way.
Ultimately, organisations need to support employees by giving clear guidance and training on how to handle these situations.
Jo Causon
The Institute of Customer Service
London SE1
SIR – Interrupting someone’s conversation by shouting down the phone “Darling, do hang up and come back to bed” may stop the culprit from such use in the future.
Richard Ashworth
London SW6

SIR – Your report concerning the demise of a Thatcherite property nation (June 29) misses a fundamental and overriding factor. The greatest difficulty for first-time buyers is finding places suited to their needs and financial resources.
Builders have shifted their “product” to meet the requirements of buy-to-let landlords. While interest rates remain derisory, those with investment funds are using housing as a commodity, shutting out those seeking to get on the property ladder. They are pushing up prices, and ensuring that most development is in conurbations where there is a more assured renting market.
It clearly does not suit the Government’s purpose to control this, but the net effect is that a potential property-owning population is being kept out by speculators.
The solution is to peg private rental levels to the public sector equivalent. Without a compliant stream of potential tenants, private landlords might be less inclined towards squeezing their competitors out of the market. And the youngsters would have an opportunity to build up a deposit fund, rather than hand it over as rent.
Nick Hurst
Minchinhampton, Gloucestershire
SIR – Natalie Bennett (Letters, July 4) has clearly never studied the history of cause and effect in the rented housing market. Previous attempts by government to legislate (the Rent Acts of 1957, 1965, and 1974) merely resulted in the supply of housing for rent virtually drying up.
This decline in the rented sector was only reversed by the removal, in the late Eighties, of the very restrictions that the Green Party now supports.
David Hobbs
Loughton, Essex
SIR – Natalie Bennett is right in saying that rent controls are essential if the housing market in London is to be rebalanced. This would reduce the price investors are prepared to pay for a house which would in turn translate into a reduction in the price of housing land.
The Government should scrap its new scheme forthwith and instead lend the money to local authorities to enable them buy land for housing at farmland prices.
The reduced cost will result in much cheaper houses and reduced rents.
Tony Winterton
Manilva, Malaga, Spain
SIR – Renting property rather than owning can be seen as a huge advantage in today’s economic climate. Those who rent are able to move swiftly to take advantage of employment opportunities in any part of the country, thus advancing their career prospects – something which their home-owning counterparts struggle to do.
It’s time we adopted the continental view of renting property as something positive.
Lisa Edwards
Liverpool, Lancashire
Democracy in Egypt
SIR – Egyptians protest and depose a president who after just one year in office was seen as not meeting his election commitments (report, July 4). No wonder British politicians and others express concern and talk of the lack of democracy.
Democracy is not the British model of holding elections every four or five years with those elected then ruling as they see fit. It is the people (not unions, not party leaders and not business interests) electing someone to represent them in governing locally or nationally. And it is also the ability for those who elect a person to be able to remove them any time they cease to represent their electorate.
The Egyptians have got this one right.
John Allison
Maidenhead, Berkshire
SIR – When constituency chairman many years ago, I was told by our MP after a general election: “Yesterday I was the Conservative candidate. Today I am the Member of Parliament for everyone in the constituency.”
The sad truth about democracy in Egypt is that President Morsi never understood that he was president for everyone in Egypt and not just for the Muslim Brotherhood.
David Walters
Corbridge, Northumberland
Stop and search
SIR – Philip Johnston (“We still need stop and search on the streets,” Comment, July 2) clearly represents the views of the law-abiding majority on the controversial review of stop and search. This is a particularly effective means of crime prevention employed by our police exercising their intuitive discretion when identifying suspects.
No mention seems to have been made of the less controversial alternative which empowers officers to stop people and request an account of their movements, frequently accompanied by the use of a wand enabling the detection of offensive weapons without the need for physical contact. Recording the personal details of those subject to these “stop and account” encounters is not required.
The police deserve all possible latitude in their use of crime prevention measures if they are to satisfy public expectations.
Cllr R P L Morris-Jones
Pailton, Warwickshire
Blue plaques
SIR – Why does it cost millions of pounds to decide which house deserves to have a blue plaque (“Three quit blue plaque panel over cuts”, report, July 4)? Surely this an example of a Government scheme that needs handing over to the voluntary sector, who would do the assessing for nothing.
Colin Senneck
Hartley, Kent
SIR – Your correspondents’ critical views on mobile phone use (Letters, July 5) reminded me of a recent family barbecue, when my son’s partner, between bites, lifted her phone, pushed a button and “humphed” as she discarded it.
“No signal?” I inquired. “Oh no,” she replied, “no friends.”
Les Chattell
Gotherington, Gloucestershire
SIR – After reading the Institute of Customer Service’s letter (July 5), I wonder if someone could suggest a suitable reference for the translation of management gobbledygook into plain, everyday English?
Paul Webster
Congleton, Cheshire
High-speed rail
SIR – Jeremy Warner (Business, July 4) makes the claim that officials working on HS2 have “had to engage in something close to deceit to come up with a positive cost/benefit analysis”. This allegation is entirely untrue.
The Department for Transport and HS2 Ltd have been entirely transparent, publishing and updating information as we come to know more about the project. Our methodology is recognised across the industry and conforms to the highest standards. We are due to publish a further update to the economic case later this year.
We have continually said that HS2 is about far more than a cost/benefit ratio – as is the case for any scheme, from a small roundabout upwards. A purely bureaucratic approach to planning would have left us without the M1, M25 or Jubilee Line extension.
The reason we need HS2 is not vanity, but capacity. We have more people taking more train journeys and we can’t just leave them standing on the platform.
The wider benefits of HS2 are complex to quantify, but in order to leave no stone unturned, Lord Deighton has now been tasked with looking at how we squeeze every last benefit out of this investment.
Douglas E Oakervee
Chairman, High Speed Two (HS2)
London SW1
Standard of MPs
SIR – There is no question that the quality of MPs is in decline, as is their level of accountability. Successful organisations in the private sector attract good people through a combination of their reputation, culture and reward, and it should be no different in public life.
I would advocate giving MPs a substantial pay increase that would provide a good living and cover their expenses.
This would remove the abuse of expense claims and over time attract better candidates worthier of our respect.
James Charrington
Stamford, Lincolnshire
Long story short
SIR – Bunny Austin was the first to wear shorts at Wimbledon in the Thirties (Shorts supply, Letters July 4). The first time he came on to Centre Court wearing them under the then fashionable camel hair overcoat, the umpire called him over and said: “Mr Austin, I think that you have forgotten your trousers!”
Christopher Cox
Warnham, Sussex
Wasps are an example of nature’s majesty
SIR – Margaret Scott (Letters, July 3) is absolutely right to leave her wasps’ nest if it does not cause any concern as to her safety. We found an old wasps’ nest in our roof and, when cut in half, it illustrated unimaginable design and engineering. It was finally taken to our daughter’s school for its marvel to be shared.
Maybe that is the purpose of wasps – to demonstrate how incredible Mother
Nature is.
Tony Parrack
London SW20
SIR – There are many types of wasp, both solitary and social, but the common wasp – the plague of picnics – is the best known. And they are not all bad.
During the production of the new brood, wasps are great collectors of insects and insect larvae, which they chew up and feed to their own growing larvae. Some solitary wasps are parasitic on insect prey in which they lay their eggs. Many insect pests are controlled in this manner. The adult wasp also feeds only on nectar or ripe fruit. This means that they are good pollinators and help to indicate to farmers and gardeners alike when their fruit is ripening.
The grubs in their ground-based nests are a source of food for badgers, too.
Laurie Woods
Petersfield, Hampshire
SIR – Dylan Thomas, like Margaret Scott, also questioned the purpose of wasps. In A Child’s Christmas in Wales, published in 1954, a delightful list of “useful presents” included “a little crocheted nosebag from an aunt now, alas, no longer whinnying with us… and books that told me everything about the wasp, except why.”
Of course, the numerous useless presents are all ones a boy would have loved.
Christine Jeffery
East Dean, East Sussex

Irish Times:

Sir, – The news that the Government has received a request by the US government to arrest Edward Snowden, the fugitive intelligence analyst, if he transits through Shannon on his way to Cuba, should not give the man many sleepless nights (Front page, July 5th).
For the past 10 years there has been compelling evidence that many planes, mainly military transports, have stopped at Shannon for refuelling while holding passengers for rendition and the Garda Síochána has done nothing about it. I suppose the US ambassador could follow the advice of the former taoiseach, Bertie Ahern, and present himself at Shannon Garda station when a suspect plane arrives and demand that they search it. – Yours, etc,
Naas, Co Kildare.
Sir, – Does Mr Snowden have a grandparent who was born in Ireland? – Yours, etc,
Shandon Crescent,
Dublin 7.
Sir, – Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.
Reprehensible though the muscle flexing of the United States may be in its attempts to get its hands on Edward Snowden, we might well contemplate what the world might have been like had Nazi Germany or the Soviet Union ever achieved a comparable degree of omnipotence. – Yours, etc,
Kilcolman Court,
Co Dublin.
Sir, – Niall Ginty’s assessment (July 4th) is that we should be thankful that our democratically elected European leaders (and, perhaps, more opaque but nonetheless democratically approved European institutions) with “autocratic ambitions” have an eye kept on them by the United States, our benevolent global policeman.
Contrast that assessment with David Fitzgerald’s critique of the behaviour of “sovereign states” (also July 4th) and, given that as Europeans we have no input into the American democratic process, Mr Ginty’s policeman begins look a lot like a “benevolent” global autocrat. – Yours, etc,
Dalcassian Downs,
Dublin 11.
Sir, – Earlier this week, the plane carrying Venezuelan president Evo Morales was apparently refused permission to over-fly certain European countries, and was diverted to Austria, allegedly in case it had US intelligence leaker Edward Snowden on board.
Surely all President Morales needed to say was that his plane was engaged in “extraordinary rendition”? He would then have had a clear passage through European airspace, and would certainly have escaped any possibility of his aircraft being searched. – Yours, etc,
Co Cork.
A chara, – The arrest warrant for Edward Snowden US authorities handed our Government, on the off-chance his plane stops at Shannon, presents it with quite a dilemma. If it ignores it, who knows what action the US might take? Why it might even refuse to allow their “first family” to drop by on vacation ever again. But if they serve it, then they must deal with Mr Snowden’s asylum request. Which, of course, by current standards should take at least five years to process. Any less, and it will be accused of giving him special treatment just because he’s a US citizen.
All in all, I rather hope he does land at Shannon. – Is mise,
Castlecomer, Co Kilkenny.
Sir, – The Corporate Relations Director of Diageo Ireland is puzzled that pints of Guinness could be associated with Ireland’s boozy image (July 5th).
Has he ever been in a pub?
He further maintains that champagne would not be similarly stigmatised – omitting to mention that the French government prohibits alcohol sponsorship of sport. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – I wish to respond to the claim by the Marine Institute that the effect of sea lice on migrating salmon smolts is negligible (Home News, July 3rd).
This study looked at the returns of hundreds of thousands of salmon smolts over a period of years and from a number of locations in Ireland. Half were treated against the effects of sea lice and the other half not treated. All were tagged so that comparisons could be made.
The result was that 5 per cent of the treated smolts returned as mature adult salmon whereas 4 per cent of the untreated smolts returned as mature adults. The study concluded that this represented a 1 per cent effect by sea lice and was therefore negligible.
Let’s apply this in practice. The Corrib river needs approximately 7,500 mature salmon to maintain conservation levels. If we could treat all of the migrating smolts against sea lice, we would need 150,000 smolts to migrate and 5 per cent to return as mature adults. However, since this is impossible for all sorts of reasons, we would need 187,500 smolts to migrate so that 4 per cent would return and maintain minimum stocks. Finding an extra 37,500 healthy smolts to offset the effects of sea lice is not a negligible outcome.
The study by the Marine Institute to exonerate sea lice from harming migrating salmon should not give comfort to Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney in the question of super salmon farms in Galway Bay.
The Marine Institute also concludes that the apparent recovery of salmon stocks in some rivers proves that sea lice are not a problem! Surely the recovery would be greater if the stocks were only dealing with background levels of sea lice? – Yours, etc,

First published: Sat, Jul 6, 2013, 01:09

Sir, – So the innovative Minister for Education Ruairí Quinn has announced plans for an international architectural design competition for primary schools. This week, Mr Quinn told the Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland that he is looking for architectural designs that anticipate and respond to the changing learning needs of primary school children.
As a principal of a large rural school that from a distance resembles a caravan park, I note this development with some professional interest.
As I eagerly await, as I have been doing for the past two years, a first sod to turn, the Minister now seems to be heading off on an aestheticism over pragmatism tangent.
I also remain somewhat confused as to what Mr Quinn means by “changing” learning needs. Surely, that should read “immediate” learning needs?
At the risk of stating the obvious, the immediate need of every primary school child is an education in a real classroom. A fully-furnished, 80 square metre, rectangular, well-ventilated, well-lit, well-heated room en suite, with Wi-Fi. There should be one of these rooms for each age-appropriate group of no more than 20 children, overseen by a fully qualified teacher and assisted by a person trained in helping children with special education needs. Add to this, ancillary space, offices, staffrooms, meeting rooms, learning support/resource teacher (LSRT) rooms and a large PE hall. Capping all this, with energy efficient solar panels (we are after all a three-flag winning green school) . . . a roof. One roof. Have I won? – Yours, etc,

Sir, – DNA is retained not only unto (Eric Conway, June 3rd) but after death, as most cadavers can silently testify.
A case of fides contra rationem? – Yours, etc,
Glendale Park, Dublin 12.
Sir, – As a member of a family that has been actively involved with the Fine Gael party from its origins, I never thought I would see the day that people would be expelled from the party for being pro-life. It is bitterly disappointing that this has now come to pass.
This would truly be a fortunate country if all of our legislators had the courage and principles of the four honourable Fine Gael TDs who voted against the government’s abortion legislation. I sincerely hope that many of their colleagues will stand up for Fine Gael values and join them at report stage. – Yours, etc,
Fair Street,

Irish Independent:

* Warren Gatland’s remarkable decision to heap insult on injury to Brian O’Driscoll by first dropping him from the British and Irish Lions team and then excluding him from the bench was unworthy of a coach of international standing.
Also in this section
Gatland’s lack of vision is a great shame
Cowen helpless to stop impending disaster
No winners if austerity continues
O’Driscoll is an exemplar of all that is admirable in world-level sport.
His skill, commitment and bloody-minded determination are matched by silken skills and an infallible radar that locks on to the white line.
But Gatland has stuck to his own blinkered view of overwhelming force, even though he has delivered profoundly underwhelming results.
Of course, this is a personal blow to a great player who epitomises the highest standards of professionalism.
Gatland has also done a great disservice to the esprit de corps that the Lions are supposed to embody.
The are supposed to represent more than the sum of the four nations they represent.
However, by selecting 10 Welshmen, with all due respect to the Welsh, he has trampled on this ethos.
Win, lose or draw, Gatland has heaped unnecessary pressure on his team by creating a dark cloud of unnecessary controversy over his selection.
If he felt the player wearing the No 13 was not performing at the top end, he could still have found a place for him among the replacements.
Sport can be cruel, but it does not have to be cheap or crass.
The decision to treat one of the greatest players in the game so shabbily was nothing if not a cheap shot.
RV Toal
Mount Merrion, Co Dublin
* The Irish are not alone in regarding the axing of Brian O’Driscoll as a disastrous move. Gatland and his fellow coaches have not been watching the same games as most of us. They have also demonstrated the blinkered approach that results in predictability on the field which opposing coaches find easiest to counter.
As a Lions supporter, I hope I am proved wrong; but if the inevitable happens, Gatland will be vilified.
Geoff Eley
Dunmow, Essex
* What difference does it make whether President Mohamed Morsi was democratically elected – a term that must be taken lightly – given the flawed nomination process for that election?
The fact of the matter is that his mandate was to provide basic utilities and start rebuilding the economy. Instead, most of his activity has been focused on implementing various legal changes to suit a certain type of extreme Islamist.
It is to the credit of the people of Egypt that they were brave enough to demand that he stop reducing their rights and freedoms, limited as they are in the first place. Were Egyptians supposed to do nothing when their standard of living was even worse than before the election, with constant disruptions to the electricity and water supplies?
This second revolution proves that even in an extremely conservative Middle Eastern country, the people have an expectation of a basic level of competence from their government. Mr Morsi failed to be competent and now he’s gone. Good riddance to him.
It should be a salutary lesson to all governments that people have a limit to how much they will tolerate.
Desmond FitzGerald
Canary Wharf, London
* I hope the motive for the Government’s attempts to identify the source of the Anglo Tapes is so that it may congratulate the person(s) concerned for performing a public service.
Roger A Blackburn
Naul, Co Dublin
* Blatant hypocrisy is being displayed by European countries, especially France, in relation to Edward Snowden. To satisfy public outrage at the US attack against their citizens’ right of privacy, European politicians have asserted that it could hinder trade relations with the US.
However, in private they are still the lapdogs of US imperial power, as shown by their obedient behaviour in refusing Bolivian president Evo Morales’ plane the use of much of European airspace on suspicion that it carried Snowden. Goodness only knows what would have happened if he had actually been on board.
Brendan Butler
Malahide, Co Dublin
* We are living in an age of health cutbacks and centralisation of services which sees some of our sickest and most vulnerable patients having to travel distances for specialised treatment.
The proposed legislation on abortion includes a list of 25 hospitals where this may be performed. We are led to believe that the Government envisages the introduction of abortion on very restrictive grounds and in very limited circumstances. Experience abroad has shown that the introduction of abortion in the case of suicidal ideation has led to widespread and freely available abortion within a short period of time.
It would seem the Government is preparing for this with the provision of resources to such a large number of hospitals for a service they claim will be so rarely used.
Dr Marie Therese McKenna
Letterkenny, Co Donegal
* It is a sad day for Ireland when members of its parliament are being ostracised by their political parties for upholding the constitutional requirement to protect the life of unborn babies. A nation that would tolerate the deliberate destruction of its own young can hardly be regarded as being civilised.
Frank Murphy
Strandhill Road, Sligo
* I’ve watched with interest and sadness the level that the debate on the abortion legislation is sinking to.
Illogical arguments only serve to move the debate backward, not forward. Surely the case for the health of the woman far outweighs the Catholic Church’s issues and/or political gain.
In a republic, politicians should not enforce the religious ethos or beliefs of some citizens on others. Nor should they respond to threats of excommunication from the Catholic Church. I find the church’s interference in political matters to be tyrannical.
Women died in childbirth because they were put in an insidious position by religious mores of the time. And families were simply told that it was God’s will. Please don’t do that again.
Women’s lives matter in any civilised and democratic society.
Ann Brennan
Mooncoin, Co Kilkenny
* “Skin in the game.” “What’s the playbook like?” “The donkey in the room.” “We need the moolah.” What were the smartest guys in Ireland talking about? They were speaking a secret argot used by various groups, including the underworld, to prevent others understanding.
And it worked, because apparently the Regulator, the Department of Finance and the government did not understand. Victor Hugo described argot, in his novel ‘Les Miserables’, as the language of the dark: “What is argot; properly speaking? Argot is the language of misery.”
Greg Butler
Grange Heights, Cork
Irish Independent

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