13 August 2013 Joan
I go all the way around the park round the park listening to the Navy Lark It turns out that due to some error af navigation, they were married at sea, Captain and Mrs Povey have not been married for the last 15 years, the have a fling but get back together again, Priceless
We are both tired but I take Joan to hospital for a checkiup
We watch Yes Prime Minister quite good
Scrabble today I win but I get under 400. perhaps Mary might win tomorrow.
David McLetchie, who has died aged 61, was the first leader of the Scottish Conservatives in the devolved Parliament at Holyrood, doing much to ensure the party’s survival north of the Border after its eradication by New Labour in the 1997 general election.
David McLetchie Photo: GETTY IMAGES
4:25PM BST 12 Aug 2013
Forced to resign over his expenses in 2005, McLetchie returned two years later as chief whip, and was latterly party spokesman on constitutional affairs as the SNP government prepared for a 2014 independence referendum. McLetchie was convinced that, despite the bravado of the First Minister, Alex Salmond, mass support for a breakaway was “simply not there”.
Despite leading a party despised by many Scots as a continuing agent of Thatcherism, McLetchie gained respect both within his sometimes fractious ranks and beyond for his effectiveness as a political operator. During his brief exile on the back benches he staged successful campaigns on free personal care and road pricing.
David William McLetchie was born in Edinburgh on August 6 1952 . From Leith Academy he won a scholarship to George Heriot’s School, then read Law at Edinburgh University — he was the first of his family to receive a higher education.
His family was interested less in politics than in church and the Boys’ Brigade; but when David was 10 his school staged a mock election, and he was the Tory candidate. He went on to be active in student politics.
Admitted a solicitor in 1976, he joined the Edinburgh firm of Tods Murray and specialised in trusts, estates and tax. He was a partner from 1980 to 2005.
McLetchie fought his first election in 1979, losing to Robin Cook in Edinburgh Central. He held many posts in the Scottish party organisation, and in 1994 was elected its president.
If leading the party at Holyrood would be termed “the job from Hell”, being its president at this time was little easier. Feuding between Thatcherites (personified by Michael Forsyth) and moderates was out in the open, and only with John Major’s appointment of Forsyth as Secretary of State in 1995, and Ian Lang’s sideways move to the DTI, was a truce imposed.
McLetchie supported Forsyth, but was loyal to Major, weighing in during John Redwood’s 1995 leadership challenge to report that all but one of the Scottish constituency associations were behind the prime minister.
After the Conservatives lost their last Scottish seats in 1997 and the voters registered a subsequent resounding “Yes” to devolution, he saw the need for the party to embrace the new reality, also working with William Hague to modernise the national party structure.
In 1998 McLetchie defeated the populist Phil Gallie for the leadership of the Scottish party. He declared that the Conservatives were patriots who put Scotland first, and that they would have no truck with consensus in the new Parliament.
The campaign the following spring brought criticism of McLetchie from within the party, and the result brought little improvement in Tory fortunes. The Conservatives again failed to win a single constituency, but did secure 18 seats out of 129 — more than the polls had predicted — through the regional list system, McLetchie topping the poll in the Lothians.
Despite being a third party outnumbered by the SNP, McLetchie’s Tories did much to hold the Labour/Lib Dem coalition — led in turn by Donald Dewar, Henry McLeish and Jack McConnell — to account.
McLetchie’s astute and energetic leadership, coupled with media disillusion at what the Labour-led Scottish Executive had delivered, paid off for him in the 2003 elections. While the Conservatives did not win more seats, Labour lost much ground, and McLetchie himself captured Edinburgh Pentlands from the Labour high-flyer Iain Gray, who had beaten him four years before.
Tory fortunes were showing signs of revival when, in October 2005, he was forced to stand down as leader. It was revealed that McLetchie had been reimbursed £11,500 for taxi fares, more than any other MSP. More seriously, much of the travel — mainly between his law office and Holyrood — had been on party, rather than parliamentary, business. He announced his resignation “with a heavy heart”, and was succeeded by Annabel Goldie.
McLetchie was rehabilitated after the 2007 election, when he doubled his majority at Pentlands. Brought back as chief whip and business manager, his role during four years of an SNP minority administration was crucial — not least when other opposition parties threw out the SNP’s budget, then realised they might be forced to fight an election.
At the 2011 election, when the SNP trounced Labour to gain a majority, McLetchie lost Pentlands to the Nationalist Gordon MacDonald, but again topped the Lothian regional list. He became spokesman on justice and constitutional affairs, asking searching questions about Salmond’s independence plans in this capacity and as a member of the Holyrood committee scrutinising Westminster’s preparations for the referendum.
He was appointed CBE in June this year.
David McLetchie married first, in 1977, Barbara Baillie. She died in 1995, and in 1998 he married Sheila Foster, who survives him with the son of his first marriage.
David McLetchie, born August 6 1952, died August 12 2013
According to UK Polling Report, based on its average opinion poll lead, Labour is on course for an 84-seat majority at the next election (Where is Labour?, G2, 12 August). That is a strong position to be in just three years after one of the worst defeats in its history. While I agree the party needs to sharpen up its message and outline some clear and voter-appealing policies, most of all it needs an injection of self-confidence.
• It was at around this time in the last electoral cycle that your columnists began collectively to talk down Labour’s chances of winning the 2010 general election, a process that culminated in your notorious editorial abandonment of Labour. I see history is repeating itself. Is there some corporate reason for your campaign to help the Tories?
W Stephen Gilbert
• Richard Dawkins’ comment “All the world’s Muslims have fewer Nobel prizes than Trinity College Cambridge. They did great things in the middle ages though” (Row erupts over Dawkins’ Muslims tweet, 9 August) could be read as a complaint about unequal global distribution of scientific and financial resources, and regret that Islamic culture no longer has the pre-eminence it deserves. But that would probably be taking it out of context.
• How refreshing to see a large company like Odeon Cinemas not using zero-hours contracts (Curzon and Everyman cinema staff on zero-hours contracts, 10 August). They use four-hour contracts instead. Same lack of certainty, same lack of sick pay etc. So much better for their workers.
Name and address supplied
• “Don’t stock share brochure, union tells sub-postmasters” (12 August). Don’t tell Sid.
• Reading the papers today (RTPT), I cannot believe (ICB) how many acronyms (HMA) I am expected to remember (IAETR).
Bognor Regis, West Sussex
This summer will be remembered for Labour’s final betrayal of the working-class people it was founded to represent. Not content with signing up to Conservative austerity measures that are dragging Britain’s most vulnerable people deeper into poverty, Ed Miliband has turned his back on the union members who supported his leadership bid.
Austerity has not fixed the economy, while the poor pay the social cost. Labour has failed to make the argument that it was not welfare spending that wrecked the British economy, but a crisis of unfettered capitalism. Miliband cannot even promise to reverse the brutally unfair bedroom tax, which has already claimed its first life with Stephanie Bottrill (Comment, 31 May).
We urgently need a new party of the left. Labour will not provide the opposition to coalition policies that the situation demands. We need to provide a genuine alternative to the austerity policies which the three main parties support. A party that is socialist, environmentalist, feminist and opposed to all forms of discrimination.
Since we launched our appeal in March to discuss founding such a party, more than 9,000 people have signed up and more than 100 local groups have been established across the country. As Left Unity moves towards its founding conference on 30 November at the Royal National hotel in London, we call on all those who are sick of austerity and war, who want to defend the NHS and our public services, and want to see a fairer Britain, to join us.
Gilbert Achcar, Jean Alain Roussel, Alan Gibbons, Zita Holbourne, Kate Hudson, Roger Lloyd Pack, Ken Loach, China Miéville, Michael Rosen
Your coverage of the potential electoral significance of the black and minority ethnic vote raises an issue that has emerged periodically for at least 40 years (front page report, page 7 report, Comment, all 12 August). Granted that the BME vote has increased as a percentage of the total electorate and also that BME residential patterns have diffused, the crux of the matter is certainly not the naive arithmetic of the BME vote being larger than any majority to be overturned.
From the standpoint of Labour seeking to win a Conservative marginal, all the following factors are relevant if the BME vote is to be specifically important: a significantly large local BME vote to begin with; a significantly greater swing to Labour among existing BME voters than in the rest of the local electorate; and those BME voters moving into a constituency’s electorate (first-time voters and in-migrants) being significantly more pro-Labour than those moving out. The number of Conservative marginals where these factors occur together will be significantly fewer than those where the BME vote is greater than the Conservative majority. Add in other considerations – the young have lower turnout levels, as traditionally do Afro-Caribbean (though not Asian) voters; Afro-Caribbean voters have lower registration levels; deceased BME voters are more likely to have been pro-Labour than young BME ones; and the potential for the effect of any disproportionately greater pro-Labour swing is very limited for a group already strongly pro-Labour – and one fears that the subject has been overhyped.
Dr Christopher Husbands
Battle, East Sussex
• There may well be many “seats where black and Asian voters could decide the outcome” in the 2015 general election. However, you can’t infer this from the fact that in 168 seats “the ethnic minority vote is bigger than the majority of the sitting MP”, unless you assume none of those ethnic minority voters cast a ballot in the last election.
I have spent some time thinking about comments made by Godfrey Bloom last week (Bongo is not racist, 9 August). I have recently returned from a two-year voluntary work placement in Bongo-Bongo Land. I chose to leave a well-paid teaching post, as I felt I had so far been very lucky to have been born and brought up in the UK, where I have always had very good (and free!) education, health service etc. The attitude of some people against giving aid frustrates me.
Upon arrival in Bongo-Bongo Land, I was warmly greeted by the people in the community I was about to join. I lived in a small town about two hours from the capital city. One thing that struck me about the country was the extreme poverty that existed all around me. There were a few locals who had wealth, but nothing on the scale of a developed nation such as the UK. People lived in poorly constructed homes, which sometimes got washed away or began to disintegrate in the rainy seasons, which came twice each year.
People often only had one or two sets of clothes – these were kept clean but were usually threadbare. Many children wore their uniform regardless of which day of the week it was, as it was the only set of clothes they had. When I first arrived, most homes in the district did not have electricity or running water (this has begun to change with the assistance of foreign NGOs).
People had little, but what they had, they shared. The one thing they had plenty of was kindness and generosity. They had time for others. People always stopped to chat on the street and share news and exchange kind words. If we were gathered in a group, food and drink (usually basic, such as rice and beans and tea) would be shared. I was never allowed to make a contribution as it was perceived that my time being given was more than enough in exchange. As I was told: “We are friends – I will help you because you help me.”
On occasions I held workshops for some of the teachers I worked with. Some would have to walk for hours to get there. Even if they could afford to buy a meal in the middle of the day, there was often nowhere selling one in such remote locations. So sometimes I would request that the NGO I worked for would provide enough money to cover the cost of a bottle of Fanta (20p) and a cake (10p) for each participant. This meant they had the energy to get home and they remained awake for the workshop. Because people in the UK are worried about the money being spent, we had to stop providing this snack during the day-long workshop. When I attended workshops in the UK, they were usually held in a nice hotel (eg Hilton or Marriott) and lunch would be a large affair, and there would be tea, coffee and biscuits at several points throughout the day. But 30p per attendee is too much to be spending in Bongo-Bongo Land.
It makes me sad how wrong and ignorant people are. I saw no one in my district walking around in fancy sunglasses or driving a fancy car, unless they were from an NGO. People were immensely grateful for what they had. They were not grabbing, but delighted that someone wanted to help them. And they wanted to help themselves, so they would walk miles to attend a workshop. There were places I visited where children had never seen a television or a tarmac road. In one village, I was the first white person they had seen. On another occasion, in a science lesson, a child was shocked to learn that the inside of my body functioned the same way as hers and we had to suffer the same monthly “affliction”. She thought white people were above such things.
We stole enough from other countries in the past. We are where we are by grace of birth. We could almost as easily have been born into a family in Bongo-Bongo Land. Maybe if we had, we would all be a little more grateful for the luxuries we take for granted and a little more generous to those in need of our help. Which, after all, is very little.
Improvements in our cycling infrastructure should not just be confined to eight cities but must extend to linking villages etc (Cameron to announce £77m boost for cycling, 12 August).
Cycling is the most popular leisure activity in many European countries; it develops a tremendous amount of tourist business; and greatly improves the health and attitude of a nation. Unfortunately, however, it will be light years before Britain can reach anything like the standards of Germany, the Netherlands, Denmark and Switzerland.
I have cycled many long-distance routes on the continent, including fairly recently from Ashford (Kent) to Berlin (A to B); during that journey by far the most difficult and dangerous section I experienced was getting from Ashford to Harwich.
Germany has a wonderful and extensive network of traffic-free farm roads, which add greatly to the country’s range of cycling facilities.
Two stories illustrate central dynamics of our time – the climate of fear generated around migration and the rise in house prices (‘Go home’ campaign denounced by human rights groups, Buy-to-let fuels property boom, both 9 August).
The house price rise, especially in London, is caused partly by the international movement of money as the wealthy seek to capitalise on speculative investment. At the same time those with access to money can borrow more and invest in buy-to-let properties, to profit from those who must rent. So this system works to move capital to where it will make more and to divide those who have it from those who don’t. Wealth accumulates in fewer hands and and its movement produces rapid, uneven developments.
Writ large, that is the story of our world, and the free flow of capital is followed inevitably by the flow of labour, as people move from areas of forced decline to wherever there is a prospect of work. Employers benefit from cheaper labour but the migrants are blamed for displacing unskilled workers and competing for scarce resources in housing and health.
To reverse these processes requires economic planning and wealth taxes to put accumulated private capital back towards social use; in the UK the £4.5 trillion owned by the top 10% could pay off the national debt four times or finance re-skilling, infrastructure, green technology and much else. It also requires politicians and media to stop blaming the migrants, refugees and other victims of the system, and to look instead at how to rebuild our world so it is more use to all who have to live in it.
Professor Greg Philo
Glasgow University Media Group
• As Larry Elliott rightly says, the proliferation of zero-hours contracts represents an increase in the “reserve army of labour” in an attempt to reverse a long-term decline in profitability (Why stop at zero hours? Why not revive child labour, 5 August). But neither this nor the other responses he mentions, such as financialisation, can ultimately overcome the tendency for profit rates to fall.
This is an inherent feature of capitalist competition, resulting not from pressure on prices but from each capitalist’s attempt to raise their individual profit rate by investing in more capital-intensive production processes. The overall capital, relative to total profit, goes up, and the profit rate goes down.
Although such things as attacks on wages can offset the basic tendency, sooner or later it results in crises such as the one in progress since 2008. Since the cause is too much capital, the only cure (within capitalism) is destruction of capital through bankruptcy of less-profitable enterprises. Palliatives such as increasing workers’ purchasing power can help the system limp along for a while but only at the cost of preparing a bigger and worse crisis.
Economics department, Kingston University
• John Harris appears to suggest that Labour’s problems in 2007/08 were caused by a global financial crash (Where is Labour going wrong?, G2, 12 August). They weren’t. They were caused by a Labour party pursuing Thatcherite policies. A failure to rein in the wild west financial sector inherited from Nigel Lawson or to reform the idiocy of right-to-buy, deregulated rents and our national obsession with bricks and mortar. These were the selfsame policies that gave us boom and bust in 1990. Which countries went down? Britain, America, Iceland, Ireland, Spain, Greece. Which countries survived better? The western and north European states that pursue a more social democratic style of capitalism. This was not a crisis of global capitalism; it was a crisis of Friedmanite Anglo-Saxon capitalism, and it beggars belief that after three decades of this unworkable, malign ideology, the left are not shouting their opposition from the rooftops.
• Labour’s ambivalent attitude to foreign workers highlights the dilemma facing the party (Report, 12 August). Why are employers “unscrupulous” because they recruit the workers best able to fulfil the required roles? That is what all employers do, and are entitled to do under European legislation. If there is a problem with EU law, Labour should tackle that deficiency directly, instead of carping about “localised” side effects. Perhaps the Labour party hierarchy could steal a march on its rivals by proposing a system of controlled EU immigration, a proposal that would resonate strongly with the electorate.
Dr Mark Ellis
The country has the opportunity to exploit a cleaner source of fuel and there are many differing views on how best to go about this
Sir, Serious critics of proposals to extract onshore oil and gas (“Cameron’s pitch for fracking”, Aug 12) should visit the Wytch Farm site in Dorset to see how successfully such projects can be integrated into sensitive local environments.
Sited in Poole Harbour, in one of the UK’s most protected ecological habitats, the scheme has seen oil successfully drawn from Europe’s biggest onshore oil field for decades. All that is visible is the top of a small drilling rig, with all the workings screened by trees. The process is managed with the utmost sensitivity and visitors to this major tourism centre would not realise it was there.
Perhaps protesters should turn their attention to the ranks of giant wind turbines soon to blight some of Britain’s best-loved coastal views. This new generation of wind plants, many as tall as London skyscrapers, will bring mass industrialisation to our maritime environments, with no possibility of visual screening and a range of disadvantages that far outweigh any environmental benefit.
Sir, I cannot believe the impact that the recent fracking exploration has caused in West Sussex. Having lived in the mining area of Yorkshire, I am familiar with the effects that the coal industry had on the landscape. At their peak the mines covered large areas of farmland with unsightly spoil heaps in order to produce coal for the nation. Now that the mines have gone and the spoil heaps have been landscaped it is difficult to imagine that the mines ever existed.
This country now has the opportunity to exploit a much cleaner source of fuel with nothing like the impact of the coal industry. As a pensioner I would hope that this would curb the recent increases in energy bills which have almost doubled in the past two years.
I hope that the villagers of Balcombe will call off the protests and let us all enjoy the benefits of cheaper energy.
Sir, We feel we have a target marked on our quiet homes and farms. The villages and rural communities of the Fylde and West Lancashire have some of the best farming land in the country and their unspoilt coastal salt marshes are vital for local rare tidal birds and visiting birds from the Arctic and Northern Europe.
Into this beautiful landscape — not desolate — the Government wants to direct heavy lorries and industrial activities whose impact on fragile salt marshes and water courses hasn’t been researched.
It might be thought that the words from protesters are from a nimby minority and that people should open their arms and welcome the opportunities for cheap energy. However, the view from the people who live in the “desolate” areas is that this is a beautiful and important landscape where people live lives in an area they love for its quiet beauty. Once broken this can’t be put back together.
The recommendations set out by the Berwick report provide a clear way forward for the NHS, and the various bodies are already working towards it
Sir, Can I add my voice to those who have welcomed Professor Berwick’s report? As was suggested by Dr Peter Honey (“Good management”, letter, Aug 8), his report adds weight to the findings of previous reports including those of Camilla Cavendish, Sir Bruce Keogh and my inquiry. Although they each had different remits they all point in the same direction.
We require recognition and support for the priceless work done by the NHS workforce through prioritising patients and their safety rather than the system; empowerment of those who care for patients to be heard; provision of exemplary leadership; and openness, transparency and candour in the information offered to patients and the public. All this needs to be supported by clear lines of responsibility and accountability aided by proportionate regulation. The recommendations set out by the public inquiry, supplemented now by the Cavendish and Berwick reports, provide a clear way forward.
Might I take this opportunity to correct a point of detail in your report on the Berwick review (Aug 7)? The public inquiry report did not recommend that staff who did not “own up to mistakes should be prosecuted”. It was proposed that individual professionally qualified staff should be under a statutory duty of candour to report incidents where patients had suffered serious harm to their employers. Separately it was recommended that anyone who obstructed the performance of that duty by another should be liable to prosecution.
It is now six months since the Mid-Staffordshire inquiry report was published. Since then I have met the leaders of many NHS organisations and have been impressed by the enthusiasm with which so many are already embracing and implementing the necessary culture change. It is now clear what needs to be done. Effective leaders are now free to do it.
Robert Francis, QC
Chairman, Mid-Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust Public Inquiry
Raymond Postgate originally founded the Good Food Guide in order to transfer advice on commercial eating places into the hands of consumers
Sir, Both Raymond Postgate and John Spedan Lewis would, I am sure, have been content, with but mild reservations, at Waitrose’s purchase of Postgate’s Good Food Guide (letter, Aug 9), since Postgate’s youthful communism had long become irrelevant.
Within two years of the Communist Party’s foundation Postgate had left it, with much publicity, in protest at its dictatorial centralism, thus provoking the lifelong enmity of communists. Some three decades later he founded the Guide to transfer advice on the quality of commercial eating places from vested interests (advertisers, travel companies, caterers themselves) into the hands of consumers, who sent in all recommendations and criticisms. He rejected advertising and ensured that inspectors were unpaid and anonymous.
It was a democratic enterprise which in time transformed this nation’s diet.
Lewes, E Sussex
While much correspondence has been received on occasions where EU law has proved onerous, there is at least one success story to report
Sir, The generalisation that our businesses are impeded by EU-related legislation (letter, Aug 10) is challenged not only by the success of German industry which works to the same standards, but also — rather cheeringly — by a great British success: the Scotch Whisky Association this year reported that its industry now has 10,000 direct employees with exports of more than £2 billion to the EU. It says: “Harmonisation of the regulatory framework is extremely welcome since it means there is one set of rules instead of 27 sets of national laws that would otherwise apply”.
Untrammelled by national differences of bottle sizes, measurements and labelling, more Scotch is sold in one month in France than Cognac in a year.
The Peak District should follow the lead of those in charge of the New Forest and ensure that bracken is controlled and purple heather encouraged
Sir, I was impressed while visiting the New Forest that local efforts have been effective in controlling toxic bracken and that new growth of purple heather is supporting bees, birds and mammals.
Sadly, our area in the Peak District National Park appears to be losing this critical battle. The area was once noted for its outstanding miles of purple heather moorland, but my bees can no longer reach the surviving patches as bracken dominates. Bumblebees, birds and other wildlife also suffer.
Medibee Honey, Derbyshire
SIR – There are some 25 million households in England and Wales, each using about 300 litres of water a day. If we assume that the 65 per cent of those without meters could, optimistically, use 20 per cent less than current usage, it would save the nation about a billion litres a day.
Moreover, given a conservative cost increase per household of, say, £100 a year (higher-usage households being the main contributors, since lower users have already changed to meters), the water companies would reap an additional £1.5 billion a year. This would end up in the shareholders’ pockets.
To put the above in context: water companies currently waste over three billion litres a day through leakage – three times the expected savings by metering.
If the water companies’ motive is to conserve supplies, why don’t they spend some of their existing reserves to tackle this problem?
A F R Haworth
Porthcawl, Mid Glamorgan
Boldly going where no opera has gone before
12 Aug 2013
SIR – Mandatory metering of domestic water supplies is self-evidently right. Gas and electricity bills are based on usage and there is no reason why water – a finite resource of which we are scandalously wasteful – should be any different.
SIR – Privatised water companies do not build more reservoirs, because they have a vested interest in allowing water shortages to develop.
This allows them to increase the price, to pay inflated salaries and bonuses to their executives, and to reward shareholders with profit.
This country is blessed with a plentiful supply of rain, which falls freely from the sky. All that is required is the political will to collect, store and distribute this most vital commodity more efficiently. Why are we not building more reservoirs ?
SIR – As population and industry expand, there will be a greater need for fresh water. As an island we are surrounded by water. The use of some of the gas from fracking to power desalination would make more sense than covering large areas of productive land with more reservoirs.
A C Kidman
Fletching, East Sussex
SIR – Water meters are already being introduced by stealth in London. When I applied for planning consent to build a conservatory, Thames Water made use of a law that allowed it to install a meter.
I was offered the option of paying on my existing basis. But, if I sell, the new owner will be forced to have water by meter.
Perhaps universal metering will put usage on a “level playing field” democratically, but I suspect that the playing field will be at a higher level than currently.
Orange, green and blue
SIR – The recent violence in Belfast, around disputed parades, illustrates how shamefully the Labour Party has abandoned people in Northern Ireland, by refusing to field candidates here.
Ed Miliband’s party prefers to support the SDLP, which is committed to a united Ireland, rather than offer voters a centre‑Left platform that emphasises the benefits of the United Kingdom.
In contrast, the Conservative Party is committed to building a genuinely shared future in Northern Ireland and playing a full role in transforming politics here for the better, through the local NI Conservatives.
David Cameron has stressed his personal dedication to supporting politics that move beyond traditional Orange and Green divisions.
Co-chairman, NI Conservatives
Borrowing to fund aid
SIR – Now that the spotlight has fallen on Britain’s foreign aid budget (Letters, August 9), it would be timely to remind ourselves that the Government is not giving away money it has collected from us taxpayers; it is actually giving away money that it is having to borrow in order to give away.
We taxpayers will of course be paying this debt off, with interest, for years to come. And so, probably, will our children.
SIR – David Burns (Letters, August 10), in correcting Noel Slaney (Letters, August 9), falls into error himself in stating that most Marshall aid was in the form of loans to Britain.
Under the Marshall Plan, Britain received only $385 million as repayable loans; the vast majority, $2.9 billion, was in the form of non-repayable grants. The proportion of loans to grants was approximately 15 to 85 per cent.
In addition to these sums, Britain also received repayable direct loans from the United States amounting to $4.6 billion, but these formed no part of Marshall aid. It is these loans that we were repaying until a few years ago.
SIR – I think that Oprah Winfrey should consider her decision to spend the equivalent of the average annual British salary on a handbag (telegraph.co.uk).
R J Smith
SIR – As a black man I, too, have my Oprah Winfrey moments. In Liverpool, at a museum function, I was asked: “What time does the display open to the public.” Off the top of my head, I said: “Six o’clock, madam.”
I do, however, regret, on being asked in a first-class train carriage to bring someone two coffees, saying: “Is it because I am black?”
Andrew Edwards JP
Really getting real
SIR – If Sandy Pratt (Letters, August 10), who wants the BBC to compete for revenue in the “real world”, had only told us what he thought the real world was, instead of assuming that we all know, then we would have the chance to explain to him what the real real world was.
Professor Henry Mayr-Harting
SIR – Since 2008, the Alzheimer’s Society (of which I was formerly Winchester branch chairman) has been rebranded, abolished its network of 236 local branches run by committees of volunteers, and has substituted a centralised management system, run from a South Bank office in London.
The resultant statistics, drawn from the society’s annual accounts, speak for themselves. The number of managers paid more than £60,000 doubled between 2008 and 2012. Employee numbers increased by 45 per cent in this period, but employment costs rose by 66 per cent. The current chief executive has a salary of more than £120,000 (the society does not publish the exact figure).
To an increasing extent, this charity, like others, has become a management-run organisation, increasingly focused on winning contracts from central and local government, with volunteers limited to doing only what the management, rather than local people, consider useful.
It is difficult to see what is “voluntary” about the charities defended by Sir Stephen Bubb, the chief executive of the Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations (Comment, August 10), despite his organisation’s title.
Dr Alan Fowler
SIR – Is it time to ask why so many activities should be charitable in the first place and enjoy income-tax exemption?
Every time a donation is made to them, someone else (who may not like the cause) is subsidising it. One person’s tax break is another’s tax hike, owing to the erosion of the tax base.
It is time this anomaly was addressed.
SIR – The extracts from John Lloyd’s book Afterliff (Weekend, August 10) made me smile, but people of a certain age will remember that new definitions of this kind for place names were originally made by Paul Jennings in the Fifties.
He explained Rickmansworth as a legal term for an ancient nominal rent paid to the lord of the manor for hay. It is always paired in legal documents with Stevenage, an ancient nominal rent paid to the lord of the manor for stones.
Another gem, still used in this family 50 years later, is Wembley – “suffering from a vague malaise”, as in: “I feel a bit Wembley this morning.”
Ringmer, East Sussex
After purchase, store in a warm atomic sub
SIR – When I served on nuclear submarines in the Nineties, the bulk of the eggs would be stored in the sonar electrical compartment, in relatively warm ambient temperatures, and would remain perfectly edible throughout the long voyage.
The only precaution taken would be to turn the boxes over every few days to prevent the yolks settling.
SIR – For optimum quality, eggs need to be kept at a constant temperature below 20C. So a traditional cool larder is perfect.
However, in modern kitchens the only place to keep food cool and avoid temperature fluctuations is the fridge, hence the advice on egg packs.
Eggs do not need to be refrigerated by retailers, as the typical retail environment is temperature-controlled. Ambient storage avoids the large temperature fluctuation that would arise if eggs went from chilled storage to the car boot after purchase.
British Egg Information Service
SIR – What is being taken out of, or worse still, put into commercially produced consumables to make it necessary to keep them in the refrigerator once they have been exposed to the air?
It is understandable for fresh produce, but preserves? I have home-made jams that are over 10 years old.
Cheltenham Spa, Gloucestershire
SIR – While doing a defrost, I noticed that my fridge manual instructs that “potatoes, onions and garlic, if not packed, must not be kept in the refrigerator”. Why?
I do put them in the fridge, because, lamentably, I have no larder.
St Albans, Hertfordshire
SIR – The refrigerator is ideal for the storage of fishing maggots, as it prevents premature pupation. However, the two main requirements for such storage are a well-labelled container and an understanding spouse.
SIR – I read with horror Hugo Shirley’s article on the staging of Beethoven’s Fidelio “on a spaceship” (Arts, August 7).
When booking an opera seat many months in advance, is there any way one can avoid booking inadvertently an avant-garde production?
I really, really do not wish to pay to see, say, La Bohème set in a Fifties supermarket and Mimi’s tiny hand frozen through handling too many chickens from the freezer.
Sir, – Hurray to John Waters (Opinion, August 9th)! As usual he has hit the nail on the head. In sum, one can say the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act is a travesty. Nobody has an obligation to obey a “law” which is a travesty. Indeed the opposite is the case. Opposition to it is essential to ensure society does not drift downward into a totalitarian state. – Yours, etc,
PATRICK J PYNE,
Sir, – Andrew Doyle says that if the Mater hospital decides not to perform procedures under the new abortion legislation then it should immediately explain how it proposes to fund itself, suggesting that he believes that all State funding should be withdrawn (August 9th).
To follow this line of logic, perhaps Mr Doyle could then explain how, if the hospital were to close, he would propose to treat the 50,000 admissions to A & E and the thousands of elective, non-elective and day-care admissions which present at the Mater annually?
The debate on the legislation may be over, but the reaction to Fr Kevin Doran’s comments show that the ridiculous hyperbole of pro-choice activists is set to continue. – Yours, etc,
Clontarf, Dublin 3.
Sir, – In stating that the Protection of Life During Pregnancy legislation “Had no context in any urgent public need and was not canvassed before the electorate” (Opinion, August 9th), John Waters is either implausibly disingenuous or misinformed.
The need for abortion legislation emerged the day the Supreme Court ruled on the X case more than 20 years ago. It was canvassed before the electorate in two separate referendums and the duty to legislate was confirmed by a ruling of the European Court of Human Rights in December 2010.
The “urgent public need” became unfortunately all too apparent at the death of Savita Halappanavar.
The divide of “pro-life” and “pro-choice” cannot, as John Waters points out, simply be equated to “Catholic” and “non-Catholic”.
However, the Catholic position on abortion must be viewed within the context of the Catholic Church’s anxiousness to control women and their bodies. The Catholic ethos has resulted in a consistent and manifest pattern of measures to subjugate women that range from the ridiculous (contraception should be illegal) to the brutal (symphysiotomies). Thus it becomes clear that the Catholic position on abortion, contrary to John Waters’s assertion, is very much the “statement of an ideological tenet”. – Yours, etc,
St Luke’s Gate,
The Coombe, Dublin 8.
Sir, – Mary Olivia Sheehan (August 10th) criticises the ethos of the Mater hospital board and questions what would happen if a pregnant woman presented with an ectopic pregnancy such that her life was in danger. Then the ethos of the hospital, informed by Catholic Church teaching, would kick in and the woman’s life would be saved even if it meant the consequent death of the baby.
It seems Ms Sheehan has more in common with Fr Kevin Doran and the ethos of the hospital than she realises. – Yours, etc,
Iona Villas, Dublin 9.
A chara, – Finally some balance in an Irish Times opinion piece. Stephen Collins (“Vilifying State institutions well shy of informed debate”, August 10th) should be required reading for all those other commentators who see nothing but conspiracy, failure and venality in our political system.
Dissenting voices are essential, but the unremitting negativity of many, including a number of your regular contributors, is corrosive and destructive. One would love to live in their nirvana of absolute blessedness on this planet. We are only human, however, and it is possible that a destructive cycle of protest has been avoided because the great majority of Irish people has a more nuanced view of life as lived in this country. – Is mise,
Sir, – I feel Dr Anthony O’Halloran (Opinion, August 10th) should broaden his thoughts on TDs’ constituency activities and in order to help I am setting out two instances that I personally encountered in quite recent times.
The first was a chance meeting with a newly elected deputy queuing to sympathise with a colleague of mine outside a funeral home at about 7.30pm on a wet and cold autumn night. He informed my friend and I that this was his fifth funeral on the day and from his questions on the family of the deceased it was obvious he had no knowledge of them. I wonder how this instance, would rank in importance of constituency work.
The second was an introduction, on the phone, to an opposition spokesman on justice by a local TD. My issue was the late delivery of a Garda notice, which could not then be dealt with directly. My appeal on the grounds that the notice was late was dismissed. I had asked the Garda Ombudsman to look into the matter. It was not within his remit, but he informed me that my case was one of numerous similar ones that had been brought to him. Because of what I regarded as an injustice in the system, I asked the opposition spokesman on justice to see if the system could be rectified. After some discussion he told me that he didn’t have a great interest in the situation as I was not a constituent of his.
In view of the above encounters I find it difficult to agree totally with Dr O’Halloran that constituency work is vital to our democracy. I believe that, like drink, moderation should be exercised. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – In Angling Notes (August 5th) it was claimed that Iceland has set “large” and “unsustainable” mackerel fishing quotas and has “refused to engage in meaningful negotiations” to prevent overfishing. This is not true. This year, Iceland lowered its mackerel catch again by 15 per cent to 123,182 tons, in alignment with scientific recommendations from the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES). While the EU and Norway also reduced their quotas, they have again claimed 90 per cent of the recommended catch level of 542,000 tons. This is a vastly oversized portion, particularly when up to 30 per cent of the entire mackerel population are in Iceland’s waters. It does not add up.
Since 2010, Iceland has repeatedly offered concrete proposals that would have solved the dispute. These efforts were rejected. Furthermore, Iceland has issued five public requests in 2013 alone to reconvene the coastal states for urgent talks. We are pleased that all parties have accepted our recent call to resume negotiations. We are confident that dialogue and diplomacy are the means to a solution in this dispute, not the illegal and counterproductive sanctions that some are threatening. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – Imagine the international reaction and condemnation if some group marched down Fifth Avenue to commemorate the perpetrators of the 9/11 atrocity. The republican Castlederg march is no different. Sinn Féin’s support for this obnoxious march must surely bring into question that party’s bona fides to serve as politicians North and South (Home News, August 12th). – Yours, etc,
Sir, – The Israeli embassy (August 9th) wasn’t long in responding to Frank MacDonald’s article (Opinion, August 3rd) on the current attempt at resolving the impasse in Palestine.
However, there is not one mention or comment on the ongoing eviction of Palestinians from their land, the construction of illegal settlements and acquisition of vital natural resources, namely water, in the West Bank. Does the Israeli embassy not feel that these activities, currently ongoing, have any bearing on the talks? With regard to the political doublespeak referenced, this is something which can be equally levelled at the current Israeli prime minister, especially in his dealings with some of his more controversial past and present coalition partners and their desire for a “Greater Israel”. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – It is good to see that the subject of gay health issues, particularly depression and the question of suicide, have been highlighted (Kitty Holland, Irish Lives, August 3rd).
That four out five gay men have contemplated suicide is a horrorendus statistic. Some 10 years ago, as part of an as yet uncompleted work, I interviewed 76 gay men, aged from 18 years to 80 years, 35 per cent contemplated suicide, 21 per cent attempted suicide, 44 per cent neither contemplated nor attempted suicide. Slightly more than half of the respondents reported that their feelings of depression led them to either contemplate or attempt suicide.
For many reasons gay men/women are often “invisible” in our society. However, a lack of visibility in medical education can lead to inappropriate health care. Studies show that attitudes translate into behaviour. I believe that a substantial increase in the quality of heath care is possible as a result of increased awareness and understanding, not only among health professionals but in families, workplaces, society at large, and indeed in that very church of God’s people whom I serve as priest. And yes, congratulations to Robbie Obara. – Yours, etc,
(Fr) ANTHONY J BUTLER,
Sir, – Daniel R Collins (August 5th) suggests that serious dog-related injuries, are “not uncommon” and shares his hunch that “many” public spaces are intimidating for children and those afraid of “often dangerous” animals.
In fact, despite frenzied media reporting, dog attacks are rare. As a proportion of the population, attacks in 2012 stood, nationally, at 0.007 per cent. His own council, Dún Laoghaire and Rathdown (DLR), records an average of 42 attacks per annum between 2009 and 2012, although– astonishingly – there is no standardised definition of “attack”, which can therefore generously encompass an over-exuberant dog jumping up on someone, as well as more serious bites. Dr Collins laments the lack of safety on beaches, yet there hasn’t been a single report of injury to anyone on any DLR Co Council beach over the past three years. The long-term solution to the peaceful co-existence of dogs and humans in public spaces lies squarely in education and legislation, not the kind of inductive reasoning which suggests that to eradicate dog waste, and relatively rare dog attacks, we should simply eradicate dogs. – Yours, etc,
LIZ NELIGAN ,
A chara, – The opening of the Fleadh Cheoil Na hÉireann on Sunday was a sight to behold. Not alone have the people of Derry welcomed this massive event to the northwest, but the whole of Ulster are rejoicing in the musical feel good factor. TG4’s Síle Ní Bhraonáin, and traditional Irish music legend, Gino Lupari were the hosts. The first band onto the massive stage was northwest super group Sontas. An infusion of contemporary styles and exciting arrangements, plus the lead singer’s gift of the gab, had the crowd jumping and clapping when the sun was out. And when the heavens opened it was the first time I witnessed a sea of multicoloured umbrellas jumping up and down. Their rendition of Hard Times Come Again No More was haunting.
When Micheal D Higgins, Uachtarán na hÉireann, came on stage along with a line-up of other religious and political dignitaries, they received a rousing reception. The interdenominational blessings of the currachs that came up the river Foyle by the various church ministers was refreshing. Martin McGuinness took an open-armed approach where he welcomed the coming together of the various traditions. Yesterday the Orange order walked those walls, he said, pointing up to where the gun cannons poked out, there was no trouble. Today we’re bringing traditions together through music and culture.
Micheal D followed with an inspiring poem-speech-sermon address in Gaelic agus Bearla. If Mr McGuinness had been elected president, there was no way on earth that he could have hoped to come anywhere near Micheal D’s artistic and very vocal contributions. I felt there was a huge attempt to empathetically reach across the political and religious divide by each of the speakers. If this reaching out is to be reciprocated in a meaningful way, then there could be no plausible excuse for the fact that not one unionist politician had the time to grace the stage with their presence. (I’m assuming that invites went out because there would be uproar if they hadn’t). They couldn’t all be off on their holidays at the same time.
Is there a fear that their traditional thinking (or votes) may be weakened by integrating into the highly “dangerous” melting pot of Irish traditional music and dance that’s practised all over the world by different ethnicities faiths and colours which shows that there should be no boundaries and are no boundaries to learning and integrating for the common good. – Is mise,
Sir, – Kevin McCarthy (August 12th) appears to ignore the relevance of population density to public transport planning. It is true that there are half a million people living in Co Cork, but there are almost 1.3 million people living in Co Dublin, in an area that is approximately one eighth of the size. In other words, Co Dublin is 20 times more densely populated than Co Cork.
There are two main reasons why population density is important. First, the greater the population density, the greater the traffic congestion, and hence the greater the need for public transport. Second, the lower the population density, the less economically viable it becomes to provide effective public transport.
Mr McCarthy is also rather deluded if he believes the citizens of Cork are subsidising the cost of public services in Dublin. The per capita cost of providing public services in Dublin is lower than anywhere else in Ireland, as a result of the efficiencies that are possible in a small, densely populated area.
Additionally, almost 40 per cent of Ireland’s population live within commuting distance of Dublin, and the proportion of the national tax take that comes from the greater Dublin area is almost certainly a lot more than 40 per cent (due to higher salaries a greater proportion of businesses compared to the rest of the country). – Yours, etc,
* Every man, wherever he goes, is encompassed by a cloud of comforting convictions, which move with him like flies on a summer day, wrote Bertrand Russell.
Also in this section
Censure the deserving
Our right to day in court
Proud to be Irish – despite Kenny
I don’t have too many convictions, perhaps I am too lazy to carry them about with me, but I suspect it is more that, like most Irish people, those that I once had have been stripped away.
As a young man, I truly believed that love would and could conquer all. Alright, I still do believe this, but my faith has been taxed severely by experience.
But in the words of the bard: “For aught that I could ever read, could ever hear by tale or history, the course of true love never did run smooth.”
I still feel love can conquer all – providing one is prepared to be conquered first.
My reflections were prompted by the swift shift in the seasons and anticipation of what autumn and winter may have in store. Hasn’t it been written that “September tries its best to have us forget summer”? If it has, it has also been noted that “there shall be eternal summer in the grateful heart”.
The grateful heart – that is something of a rarity in these difficult days in which we strive for more.
To be appreciative of what we have is a blessing, it shields us from futile pangs of loss.
You think of the seeds that lie beneath the ground, they have stored up light and sustenance to take them through the season, they are content to merely be, and they will flower in due course.
They do not beseech to be more beautiful, better or richer.
One notices the evening light has become slightly impatient with our company, and is apt to steal away a little earlier, the temperature, too, is cooling off.
Summer, “the song that sings itself” is almost over.
But let us not despair, for like Albert Camus we may also learn that: “In the depth of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer.”
DAVITT WAS TRUE HERO
* In an article in last Saturday’s edition of your paper, Felix M Larkin contended that Daniel O’Connell and Charles Stuart Parnell were the “two greatest Irishmen of the 19th. Century”. While it is easy to understand and agree with this supposition, I write to object for one simple and personally held view: Michael Davitt was, in my opinion, the standout success of that era.
I would, of course, agree that O’Connell and Parnell were men of outstanding inspiration and will offer the following nugget from The Liberator: “There is an utter ignorance of, and indifference to, our sufferings and privations . . . What care they for us, provided we be submissive, pay the taxes, furnish recruits for the army and navy and bless the masters who either despise or oppress or combine both? The apathy that exists respecting Ireland is worse than the national antipathy they bear us.”
These were the words of Daniel O’Connell in 1839. Given the growing influence of the European Union in Irish people’s lives, have we merely been fooled into trading one oppressor for another?
I do not know, but I would dearly love to have the opinions on same from all three of those long since departed heroes mentioned above.
Athenry, Co Galway
SILLY SEASON TAKES OFF
* The bizarre talk about an FG/FF coalition serves perhaps to distract from the reality that the economy is shrinking because people cannot pay for goods and services; people are afraid of Budget 2014 and are saving to pay taxes; people have no jobs to go to and cannot pay mortgages; and people are leaving the country to find work.
The minister with responsibility for jobs is now spending his time explaining why the only House of the Oireachtas where debate actually happens should be closed down. I have watched the so-called Dail debates online and to say that what I saw was a farce may be the understatement of the year.
So, the silly season actually started when the Government found it had a huge majority, and nothing sensible or encouraging regarding reform or political reconciliation has happened or is likely to happen during the life of this Government.
Lucan, Co Dublin
LOOKING AT OUR DEBT
* The term “debt forgiveness” for the people is starting to appear again in the public discourse. There is very little legitimate debt in our world. This is the kind of debt where actual money is loaned to you.
Your bank does not lend you money, theirs or others. They extend you digitally created credit, ie they create “money” out of thin air. They then charge you interest on this sleight of hand, interest that does not exist anywhere in society. So from the get-go, you are on the back foot.
As sure as the sun rises every day and the rain falls in Ireland,we are heading to a reset of the monetary system – not just here, but worldwide. The notion of debt of this type will go the way of the dodo. It is absolutely inevitable.
So the forgiveness required is not them of you. It is more a question of your ability to forgive yourself for being so passive, so trusting and so willing to give away your power – like we have done for generations.
* In order to reform the Dail, a complete revolution of the political mindset must occur. Outdated methods of governance must be thrown away. A people-orientated system of fairness and equality must be the driving ethos – not money, power and self-interest.
As it presently sits, external forces govern us beyond our reach. Politi-cians are under the thumb of banks and the EU power-brokers. Irish people must lose the “ah sure what can you do?” mentality and realise they must change. Waiting for politi-cians to change is a futile exercise.
Each one of us must have a revolution of the mind to effect change. We do not need a Senate to play out ‘Hamlet’ or other Shakespearean tragedies at the taxpayers’ expense. We already have that every day in the Dail. It is we who must first change!
Ennis, Co Clare
LAND OF FEW WELCOMES
* Since arriving in Galway as a tourist, I have spent thousands between car hire, accommodation, food, clothes, gifts and travel.
Yesterday morning, I went to a customary haunt in Eyre Square for a pot of tea where the two female bar staff totally ignored me. I sat for around 20 minutes waiting as they fell over backwards to serve the men at the tables.
I went to the bar and was told it would be brought over. I waited another 10 minutes and then begged for the tea. I asked if I needed to be a man to be served, the staff laughed and began to play up to the men.
All in all, an attempt was being made to humiliate me.
I have often found this subservient attitude to men amongst Irish women in public bars and shops and here it was in all its glory.
Earlier in the week, two teenage girls had spent the whole of the journey on the train from Athenry to Galway taking the mickey out of the accents of an an Asian family. It amounted to racism and again I challenged the behaviour to no avail.
Ireland is going backwards not forwards and after 40 years of coming here I will never come back. A country I once cared for, and from where my parents originated, can float off into the sea as far as I’m concerned.