23 August 2013 Hair

I go all the way around the park round the park listening to the Navy Lark
Our heroes are in trouble again with them having to take Captain Povey to sea and he is as bad a navigator as Leslie. Priceless
We are both tired its off to get my hair done amd fix Joan’s washing machine (I hope).
Scrabble today Mary wins and she gets over 400. perhaps I might win tomorrow.

Alex Colville
Alex Colville, who has died aged 92, was a Canadian war artist , then earned an international reputation for penetrating representational work that was often described as “magic realism”.

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Alex Colville’s painting ‘To Prince Edward Island’, featuring his wife Rhoda Photo: COPYRIGHT NATIONAL GALLERY OF CANADA
5:56PM BST 22 Aug 2013
He depicted the ordinary life of small communities in the Atlantic Provinces of Canada in scenes that carry a hint of looming danger — sometimes a moment of high drama or a vignette from a story that could be unravelling nearby. Horse and Train shows animal and engine advancing on each other along a track at twilight. Departure captures the back of a girl in a phone box as she watches a departing ship on the horizon. Best known is To Prince Edward Island, in which his wife Rhoda stares through large binoculars from a ferry, looking into the prying viewer’s eyes.
Woman with a Revolver is of a nude, her head cut off by the top of the picture, clutching a gun to her side on a landing. Meanwhile his finest self-portrait has Colville sitting in front of a handgun; when people speculated that it was about suicide, he replied that the weapon was pointing away from him.
Colville did not use many professional models, preferring to use his young children and more importantly his wife, an ash-blonde whom he painted nude in many positions: doing a headstand on a porch, or bathing in the tub . Rhoda found posing hard work, but admitted she would have been jealous if her husband spent much time with another model; as a result she had to endure the uncomfortable experience of serving tea to a church group at their home in Wolfeville, Nova Scotia, with her charms displayed on the surrounding walls.
David Alexander Colville was born in Toronto on August 24 1920, the son of a Scots steelworker and a milliner. He had his first art lesson at eight, and met his future wife, Rhoda Wright, at Mount Allison University in New Brunswick, where they were both studying Fine Art .
After their marriage Colville joined the Canadian Army. During the next two years he was commissioned but did no painting. He was then posted to England as an official war artist, and was informed on arrival that strict reporting was the province of film and photography — his role was to be a subjective interpreter. “Remember you are no longer an infantry officer,” said Colonel Stacey, the Canadian official historian. “I don’t want you getting killed.”
Following two weeks’ acclimatisation with the Royal Armoured Service Corps, Colville spent six weeks with the Royal Navy doing sketches and watercolours of the landings in the south of France. Transferred next to the Canadian 3rd Infantry Division, he was given a battle-hardened driver to keep him out of trouble, and concentrated on the prelude and aftermath of action, as in a picture showing a dead German paratrooper being passed by a cow in a field.
At Belsen, he sketched dead women neatly laid out in a row and an untidy collection of men’s limbs; but as the numbers of dead multiplied, he felt unable to convey his mounting horror.
His first large canvas was Infantry near Nijmegen, showing a line of exhausted men looming steadily larger as they march along a desolate road with downcast eyes. He gave the leading soldier his father’s face and his own hands.
When the war ended Colville spent two days in the Louvre, concentrating on Manet and ancient Egyptian art, before returning to married life in Canada. He and Rhoda had a daughter and three sons (one of whom died), and he taught at Mount Allison before resigning to paint full time in 1963.
While his eerie, static images appealed to those who disliked abstraction, the metropolitan critics of central Canada were tepid. One dismissed Colville as a footnote in the history of Canadian art while others used that ironic phrase “internationally famous in Canada”.
For his part, Colville showed “zero interest” in the revered Canadian landscape painters known as the School of Seven, refused to condemn cuts in government subsidies for the arts and was a stalwart Conservative voter.
Terence Mullaly of The Daily Telegraph regularly praised his work in London, and there was increasing enthusiasm from German and American collectors, particularly after Colville was invited to show at the Venice Biennale in 1966. Eventually the Canadian National Gallery started to acquire some of his works, and he was appointed a Companion of the Order of Canada.
In his later years Colville depicted some large industrial machinery, and showed he still had the power to shock with his Studio, a nude self-portrait, showing him bow-legged and battered by illness at the age of 80.
Colville’s last picture was painted in 2009, and showed Rhoda, watched by a small dog, clipping her toenails after taking a bath. She died last December.
Alex Colville, born August 24 1920, died July 16 2013


It is true that Che Guevara was “a revolutionary with principles”, but some people have difficulty squaring up to what these principles involved (Letters, 22 August). The pin-up poster for youthful dissent had no problems in supporting the Soviet Union when it sent tanks into eastern Europe to suppress popular uprisings.
Ivor Morgan
• Stefan Collini reinforces the brilliant FR Leavis’s mistake (A tale of two critics, Review, 17 August), critiquing the clumsy messenger rather than addressing his subject. Science is Culture, a rich source of both visual and intellectual beauty. Engagement with it at all levels is creative. Better to celebrate Leavis for his achievements than pick the scabs of old wounds from a misguided battle [with CP Snow].
Tom Grimsey
University of Brighton
• Mr Wells and Dr Yeo (Letters, 21 August) may be relieved to hear that “wack” still had some currency during my Scouse childhood, less than 20 years ago. I’m sure, however, that our expat correspondence would benefit from the input of someone still living on Merseyside.
Richard Thomas
• While celebrating William Morris and the discoveries in his Red House (Editorial, 20 August), let’s not forget Jeremy Deller’s tribute at the Venice biennale – a mural depicting a giant Morris hurling Roman Abramovich’s yacht into the lagoon.
Peter Avery
• So the homes built for the 99% today are half the size of homes built in the 1920s (Report, 21 August). What is the comparative size of houses for the 1%?
David J Hurry
Hurstpierpoint, West Sussex
• Kevin Toolis (A modern Macbeth, 21 August) says Gordon Brown was our greatest failure as prime minister in 200 years. Was he not around in 1956?
Tony Wren
• Cameron would fail the Atos examination of his “phenomenally bad back”, what with the horse-riding, fishing and swimming (Letters, 21 August).
Dean Stroud

I was sorry to see Dr Wendy Piatt, director general of the Russell Group of leading universities, adopting the propaganda term “the modern universities” to refer to the “post-92” (mostly ex-polytechnic) universities (Letters, 20 August). This is a term the latter have understandably coined to give themselves a positive identity compared with the established, top research universities. However, the term does a disservice to the UK university system as a whole – especially misleading for the all-important overseas applicant – by implying that our best universities are antiquated and hostile to change.
As a retired academic who helped build up an ultra-modern school of modern languages at a Russell Group university, I have always been irked by the appellation “modern” for all that are not old-established institutions. Moreover, although in 1992, on egalitarian grounds, I was all for abolishing the old binary divide, I now think the polys should have emulated the first-class German technische hochschulen, specialising in technical subjects at the highest level. At the time, of course, decisions were based on funding issues and the desire to drive down the “unit of resource” to the lowest possible level.
Alan Bance
Emeritus professor of German, University of Southampton
•  The representative of the Russell Group universities claims that they score an 88% student satisfaction score compared with the average of 85% for all universities. I can find no information on the statistical reliability or validity of the National Student Survey. However, if it is similar to other polls carried out by Ipsos Mori, its accuracy would fall in the range of +/–3% and the differences between the Russell Group and the overall average would not be statistically significant. Further, I note that in a table of the top-scoring NSS overall satisfaction scores, Russell Group universities occupy nine of the top 24 places. Surely, as the most elite group they should occupy all 24 places? Perhaps self-selection is not a good measure of excellence?
Name and address supplied
•  The Russell Group has successfully manufactured an identity that is synonymous with “good universities”, and this is constantly reinforced by the government and by newspapers, including the Guardian. In my sixth form college, many students explicitly aspire to a Russell Group university, genuinely thinking that these are the best. But we know that this is not true. There are many excellent universities in the 1994 group, for example, such as Bath, Lancaster, UEA and others – research-based universities with an international reputation and high satisfaction rates. The obsession with the Russell Group is distorting student applications and aspirations, and may have significant unintended consequences.
John Rubinstein
Principal, Woodhouse sixth form college, London
• Further to the letter from Matthew Hotopf (20 August), might I add a small gloss? About 20 years ago I was on the senate of my university when, under routine business, there was a proposal to nominate a particular senior professor to the governors of a local “top independent school”. Tentatively, I asked why we were doing this. After consternation from the vice-chancellor and pro-vice-chancellors, they concluded it was OK because many of them had children at that school. I never understood the logic but decided silence was prudent.
John Ffitch

Thirty years ago, when I was a leftwing Labour councillor on North Yorkshire council, I was heatedly arguing with my Thatcherite Tory “oppo” on an issue relating to social services, when the chair of the county council (an elderly military gent) stood up, banged his gavel and told us that if we did not quieten down he would order us out of the chamber. We were so shocked, we buried our political differences, joined forces and turned on him for being so misogynist. We were outraged that we were being treated as squabbling fishwives, when our male colleagues were not only allowed to bang on the table but would almost come to fisticuffs in what was perceived as good political debate.
Baroness Verma suggests such behaviour might deter women from becoming politically active (Report, 19 August) but I would argue that we women are made of stronger stuff than that, and can rise to the challenge of fighting such sexist and misogynist attitudes.
Shirley Haines-Cooke

We, the undersigned call on the home secretary, Theresa May, to ban the English Defence League’s proposed march in Tower Hamlets on 7 September. The EDL intends to bring a message of hate to our borough. It seeks to exploit the shocking murder of Drummer Lee Rigby for its own destructive ends. Its target is the largest mosque in the country.
On previous protests, the EDL has abused worshippers and threatened to destroy mosques. Its protests invariably result in violence against local communities, property and the police. In light of the recent street disturbances in Birmingham (Report, 21 July) as a result of an EDL visit, we have real fears that the EDL presence will act as a catalyst for further violence, disorder and destruction of property.
We oppose anyone who would wish to incite hatred against others because of their religious belief, ethnic origin or sexual orientation. We will continue to work together to peacefully demonstrate that Tower Hamlets is “no place for hate”. The home secretary must act, and act now, to ensure that the EDL is not able to continue with its tour of hate through the streets of east London.
Lutfur Rahman Mayor of Tower Hamlets, Ken Livingstone former mayor of London, Len McCluskey General secretary, Unite, Keith Vaz MP, Clare Short, Billy Hayes General secretary, Communication Workers Union, Jim Fitzpatrick MP, John Cryer MP, Grahame Morris MP, Jeremy Corbyn MP, Christine Shawcroft Labour party NEC, Maulana Shams-ul Haq Chair, Council of Mosques, Tower Hamlets, Rev Alan Green St John on Bethnal Green, Leon Silver Nelson Street Synagogue, Max Levitas veteran, battle of Cable Street, Sajjad Miah Brick Lane Mosque, George Iacobescu Canary Wharf Group and 23 others. Full list at Rahman Mayor of Tower Hamlets, Ken Livingstone former mayor of London, Len McCluskey General secretary, Unite, Keith Vaz MP, Clare Short, Billy Hayes General secretary, Communication Workers Union, Jim Fitzpatrick MP, John Cryer MP, Grahame Morris MP, Jeremy Corbyn MP, Christine Shawcroft Labour party NEC, Maulana Shams-ul Haq Chair, Council of Mosques, Tower Hamlets, Rev Alan Green St John on Bethnal Green, Leon Silver Nelson Street Synagogue, Max Levitas veteran, battle of Cable Street, Sajjad Miah Brick Lane Mosque, George Iacobescu Canary Wharf Group, Salma Yaqoob, Giles Fraser, Neil Jaminson, Dilowar Khan London Muslim Centre, James Grayson Chair, Tower Hamlets Co-operative party, Jan McHarry London Buddhist Centre, Phil Sedler Chair, Tower Hamlets Federation of Tenants & Residents Associations, Jenny Fisher Tower Hamlets Federation of Tenants & Residents Associations, Jack Gilbert Rainbow Hamlets, Len Aldis Tower Hamlets CND, Guy Harper Tower Hamlets Left Unity, David Rosenberg Jewish Socialist Group, Julia Hunt Stepney Historical Trust, Steve Hart Chair, Unite Against Fascism, Sabby Dhalu Unite Against Fascism, Pasha Khandaker President, Bangladesh Caterers Association, Mukim Ahmed Chair, British Bangladesh Chamber of Commerce, Dr Hasanat M Hussain Voice for Justice World Forum, Ataur Rahman Chair, Greater Sylhet Council, Islam Uddin President, SoyttenSen School for Preforming Arts & Udichi cultural group, Aziz Choudhury Chair, Spitalfield Small Business Association, Dilu Naser General secretary, Sommilito Sanskritik Parishad, Sirajul Basith Choudhury General secretary, Bangledeshi Teachers Association UK

As academics in the United Kingdom who research and teach on modern India, we write to express our surprise and concern at the invitation extended to Narendra Modi, the chief minister of Gujarat, to address parliament.
Made by Barry Gardiner, the Labour MP for Brent North, together with the parliamentary group Labour Friends of India [and its Conservative counterpart], this invitation is unprecedented, with the House of Commons losing dignity in being offered up for the address of a man who is neither a head of state nor of government. In speaking to parliament, Modi, who has never apologised for the massacre of more than 1,000 men, women and children that took place under his watch in 2002, and done little to help its victims, will be joining a select list of special invitees including the pope, the Dalai Lama and Nelson Mandela. This in itself is grotesque.
The invitation seems to be a kind of gamble, to hedge bets on who the next Indian prime minister will be, and in so doing gainsays the Indian electorate responsible for making such a decision. And this is quite apart from the international credibility that it will certainly gain for a man who is without doubt India’s most divisive politician.
Whatever the merits of the allegations against Mori, both in India and abroad, the fact remains that he enjoys a reputation tarnished enough to deny him a visa for the US. The only real consequence of his address to parliament would be for the UK to legitimise him internationally and thus help his cause in the elections. We do not think this is an appropriate role for parliament to play.
It is a separate issue that Mori’s discriminatory style of development and governance could not be further removed from any political vision espoused by the Labour party, to which his host ostensibly belongs.
Shruti Kapila University of Cambridge, Faisal Devji Oxford University, Kriti Kapila King’s India Institute, King’s College, London, Christopher Bayly University of Cambridge, Francesca Orsini SOAS, London, Maria Misra Oxford University, Prashant Kidambi Leicester University, Jacob Copeman Edinburgh University, Somnath Batbayal SOAS, London, Nayanika Mookherjee Durham University, Rochana Bajpai SOAS, London, Katherine Schofield King’s College, London, Sujit Sivasundaram University of Cambridge, Jahnavi Phalkey King’s India Institute, London, Eleanor Newbigin SOAS, London, Sridhar Venkatapuram King’s College, London, Atreyee Sen University of Manchester, Edward Simpson SOAS, London, Sunil M Kumar King’s India Institute, London, Christophe Jaffrelot King’s India Institute, Justin Jones Exeter University

Melissa Kite (Cameron is using class war to get his HS2 plans through, 19 August) asks why David Cameron “wants this railway in the first place” and rightly argues that HS2 is a highly political piece of transport infrastructure. But she’s wrong as to the nature of its politicisation. It’s not so much an act of counterintuitive class warfare – siding with the workers against the toffs – as a prestige product, like Concorde in the 60s, designed to impress our European neighbours and other possible foreign investors.
HS2 has very little to do with Britain’s immediate transport needs and it’s unlikely to act as a countercyclical stimulus in a lacklustre economy. So far as transport is concerned, the worst case scenario is that HS2 will simply make it quicker for people in Birmingham, Leeds and Manchester to commute into London (although it won’t help commuters in Watford); if you want to improve British transport, spend the £40bn electrifying and upgrading the nation’s existing railway track and build new (but normal speed) links between east and west (try getting from Norwich to Liverpool).
HS2 won’t start building before 2017, by which time we hope the economy will be returning to steady growth. And who is going to do the building? The advanced skills and technology associated with high-speed rail will almost certainly have to be provided by French, German, Japanese, Chinese or Canadian companies; the only jobs most Brits are likely to get will involve pick and shovel, or sitting behind the wheel of a JCB.
Concorde was the political prestige project par excellence: it was a total commercial failure, sold only to the captive, state-owned airlines of the two nations which collaborated in its construction. It was never operated without a subsidy by either BA or Air France, and it never led to any further developments in supersonic commercial transport. It probably eased Britain’s path into the Common Market but didn’t help the British aircraft industry (although it did launch French aerospace on the road to Airbus). Fifty years on, the parallels with HS2 are striking: extremely high cost, the limits of which nobody knows until construction is well advanced, absurdly optimistic projections of its commercial benefit – and, of course, very high speed.
Dr Peter Lyth
Nottingham University Business School
• Melissa Kite says that David Cameron is engaging in “class warfare”. So this is his offensive against the “toffs” allied with the “left”! A “massive rail building project was sold to the public on the basis that it would only harm posh people with big houses”. Silly me. I thought the aim of the project was to create a “time envelope” that would bind the country together, produce a creative and constructive synergy that would promote economic development spread more evenly, and help place outlying areas at the heart of Europe. It would also free up congestion on the west coast mainline and other areas of the rail system. But then, I used to lecture in transport at university, so what would I know?
It would appear there will be major disruption for seven years, caused by construction. Well, that’s what happens when you build transport infrastructure – see the London and Birmingham line as depicted in Dombey and Son, HS1, Crossrail, the motorway system…
Barry Worthington
Bury, Greater Manchester
• The current controversy about HS2 has included only a small portion of the likely impact. To travel from Abergavenny to Glasgow at the lowest cost, friends recently chose to fly via Bristol rather than the more direct routes by train or coach, a route that did not minimise carbon dioxide emissions. HS2 is the beginning of a modern, efficient rail network to completely replace domestic air travel and solitary car travel. The end result will be reduced need for concrete strips such as runways and motorway lanes as well as reduced global warming.
I hope in my lifetime for direct high-speed rail travel from Glasgow to Paris at lower costs in cash and total time than current flights require.
Kirk Beach
Abergavenny, Monmouthshire
• As someone living in Warwickshire and about a mile from the proposed line, I am reminded that 0.39% of the UK population travel between Birmingham and London by train. Even if they were all to switch over to HS2, which obviously they won’t, the cost per passenger would be £332,000. I guess the cost of using the system will be subsidised. I wonder who will be expected to pick that up?
Bryan Ferriman
Kenilworth, Warwickshire


‘Many no longer see voting as a duty while being clear about the issues that they think need to be addressed by politicians and the government’
Sir, Anne McElvoy (Opinion, Aug 20) opposes granting the vote to 16-year-olds on the ground that the franchise is “a mark of full maturity and a responsibility not to be given away lightly”.
The same argument was deployed against enfranchising the property-less in the 19th and early 20th centuries; and against enfranchising women. It was also used by those arguing against Indian independence in the 1940s and the independence of the African colonies in the 1960s.
Our constitutional evolution and the evolution of the Commonwealth should surely have taught us that the best way to induce a sense of responsibility among the excluded is to give them responsibility.
Professor Vernon Bogdanor
King’s College London
Sir, As a 15-year-old, I agree entirely with Anne McElvoy. Lowering the voting age to 16 would only decrease the voter turnout percentage as lots of young people are apathetic and woefully ill-informed about our political system. In my experience many do not know who the Prime Minister is or which party he represents — though admittedly even David Cameron occasionally forgets the latter.
William Urukalo
Knaresborough, N Yorks
Sir, I was disappointed by Anne McElvoy’s view of citizenship education. Citizenship education has been a compulsory subject in secondary schools in England since September 2002, after the Crick report on education for citizenship. Concern was expressed at that time about voter apathy and adversarial politics where young people felt that there was little difference between political parties. The report recommended that children should learn social and moral responsibility, become helpfully involved in the life and concerns of their communities and develop political literacy, learning about how to make themselves effective in public life.
Recent research by the National Foundation for Education Research, Citizens in Transition in England: The Longitudinal Cohort at age 19-20, part of the longitudinal study begun in 2002, shows that more than half were interested in the last general election and 59 per cent reported voting for the first time, higher than the estimated 44 per cent turnout among the broader 18-24 age range.
However, many no longer see voting as a duty while being clear about the issues that they think need to be addressed by politicians and the government. Over half believe that no political party can handle these adequately — a timely reminder of the fragile political state of England under the coalition government.
Dr John Lloyd
Former member of the Citizenship Working Party and adviser 1999-03
Stourbridge, Worcs
Sir, People get the right to vote at 18. However, since general elections are up to five years apart, some may have to wait until they are 22, and the average age of newly entitled voters is 20. Therefore, if the minimum age is reduced to 16, the average age of the new voters in a general election would be 18.
Incidentally, back in the 1960s, when the minimum age was notionally 21, the delay between compiling and publishing the electoral register meant the average age of a new general election voter was 24. This was one reason for reducing the minimum age to 18.
Robert Steel

The struggle to overcome challenging material and the sense of accomplishment when a difficult subject is mastered is the ‘real deal’
Sir, Though I agree that teenagers should stick with their A-level choices regardless of GCSE results, I was struck by Ms Gandee’s view (report, Aug 21) that you should “stick with something you enjoy”. The level of enjoyment in subjects is a leading factor in academic choice but this is wrong. The struggle to overcome challenging material, the working hard for a result, the sense of accomplishment when a difficult and “unenjoyable” subject is mastered — that is the real deal. We should stop telling children they should “enjoy” their subject. It is misleading and patronising.
Joseph Reynolds
Wiveliscombe, Somerset
Sir, It is obvious why so few pupils take languages to A level. Students choose subjects that provide the best chance of the high grades requested by universities. The solution is equally simple: universities should give credit for studying the supposedly harder subjects, including languages, by offering lower grades to secure admission.
Christopher Jackson
Mickfield, Suffolk

There are too many uncertainties to be putting all our faith into fracking — more incentives need to be available for cutting fuel use
Sir, The chairman of the Fuel Poverty Advisory Group, Derek Lickorish, whose work on fuel poverty I admire, risks playing into the government’s hands by saying that those who oppose fracking are indifferent to the plight of the poor (“Fracking will cut energy bills, says poverty chief”, Aug 21).
The dash for gas being opposed by protesters at Balcombe — many of whom are also fuel poverty campaigners — would lock Britain into a high-carbon, high-cost future.
There are several steps the government could take to bring down bills — regulating the Big Six to prevent overcharging; providing free insulation for homes that need it; investing far more seriously in energy efficiency — but extracting fossil fuel by a process about which there remain serious concerns is not one of them.
Several industry experts, Deutsche Bank, Chatham House and Ofgem included, predict that shale gas in the UK will not mean lower bills. The International Energy Agency has forecast that natural gas prices will rise by 40 per cent by 2020, even with an influx of cheap shale gas.
Addressing climate change and tackling social inequality are not competing objectives. They are inextricably linked.
Caroline Lucas, MP
House of Commons
Sir, Mr Lickorish cites scenarios for future gas prices by Navigant Consulting, the most optimistic of which suggests prices could fall by a fifth by 2020. The development of UK shale is not instrumental to this, however. The study states that “shale gas is not expected to make a significant impact on the UK’s overall gas production by 2030”, leaving us with a substantial import requirement. As such, the medium-term price of gas will be set by international markets.
The answer for the fuel poor is a locally led programme to improve the energy efficiency of our homes. This would protect consumers from rising prices now and in future, irrespective of who wins the debate on shale.
Reg Platt
Institute for Public Policy Research
Sir, It is far from certain that the UK has enough exploitable reserves of shale gas and oil to significantly affect the international markets that determine UK prices. Any reduction in oil and gas prices would benefit the largest energy users the most, rather than the poorest consumers.
The government should implement the recommendations of the excellent expert report on fuel poverty which it commissioned from Professor John Hills. This identified targeted policies to reduce fuel poverty. Improving the energy efficiency of the homes of those on low incomes is expected to generate the greatest benefit.
It is a sign of the desperation of the promoters of fracking that they are resorting to such dubious claims about its potential impacts.
Bob Ward
Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment, LSE

While health checks may rule out risks for some diseases, others may be discovered that may label the patient for life, whatever the prognosis
Sir, During my recent middle-age health MOT, from which I assume I will live to be 100, I was pleased to hear I was at low risk of heart disease.
However, further tests indicate that I will be on medication for life for another illness. While I am delighted that after a quarter of a century of paying taxes and NI contributions I now receive free prescriptions for life, I am concerned that this diagnosis is not so much for my benefit as for someone’s financial health. Even more galling, I now have a permanent label, one that cannot be rescinded, and will be with me for ever, albeit that the prognosis is for a long and healthy life.
Paul Batterbury
Fledborough, Notts
Sir, Government officials demand that demonstrators against fracking in the Home Counties acknowledge that current evidence shows little or no environmental ill effects. At the same time they insist on doctors carrying out unevidenced health checks on patients over 40.
Dr Brian D. Keighley
Chairman, BMA Scotland

The crossroads west of Stonehenge that gives access to the visitor centre has been surreptitiously renamed, irritating the locals
Sir, It is not only the pronunciation of names that offends (letter, Aug 21). Names themselves can be changed. The crossroads west of Stonehenge, where the A360 meets the old A344, has been known to Wiltshire people and signed by the Highways Agency for decades as Airman’s Cross. Now that it is a roundabout giving access to the new Stonehenge visitor centre it has been surreptitiously renamed Airman’s Corner. I understand why the cross, commemorating two RFC airmen killed in an accident in 1912, should be moved, but roads still cross here, and locals will still call it thus.
Peter Saunders


SIR – What parents would allow girls of 12 or 13 to camp out in Leicester Square overnight?
Lorraine Forbes
Marple, Cheshire
SIR – At first glance, the fans hoping to glimpse the boy-band One Direction made a lovely picture of happy children.
But I returned to it with many questions. Were the hundred of children camping out in central London with their parents or guardians? If not, there must be a child protection issue to be addressed.
Peter Robinson
Sheffield, South Yorkshire
SIR – The reports and pictures about the group One Direction reminded me that, only a few days ago, the Labour Party again said that it wanted to lower the voting age to 16.
Brian Hill
Winnersh, Surrey

SIR – The British public should be wary of those who claim that fracking will keep energy costs down.
Way back in 1971, newspapers declared that “nuclear energy may soon be so cheap that the power can be virtually given away”. I was not convinced. Years later, in 1987, scientists said: “In the case of Sizewell, the benefits are the likelihood of cheaper electricity.” But electricity prices kept pace with inflation between 1971 and 1987 and have outstripped inflation in recent years.
Now I see David Cameron (Comment, August 12) saying that fracking has the “real potential to drive energy bills down”, while yesterday, Derek Lickorish, chairman of the Fuel Poverty Advisory Group, said: “The potential of shale gas to reduce energy bills had been ignored” (report, August 21). We’ve heard it all before.
Tony Rogers
Woodley, Berkshire
Related Articles
One Direction girl fans camping out in London
22 Aug 2013
SIR – I understand that fracking will require “flaring” – the burning off of gases (including methane and sulphur dioxide) round the clock at the well site.
If one’s home is downwind of this and fairly near, will the wearing of an industrial gas mask be advisable when gardening?
Dr Diana Samways
Haslemere, Surrey
SIR – I am not surprised that in dismissing concerns about the environmental damage of fracking, a former PR man like David Cameron uses phrases such as “if properly regulated”.
Drilling companies simply cannot guarantee that their concrete casings will not fracture and leak toxins into the water table: they accept this themselves. The expected failure rate is around 20 per cent from the start, which makes a nonsense of the suggestion of proper regulation.
As for a “transparent planning process”, the process at Balcombe should give us pause: the initial application to the parish council for planning for the drilling site was dressed up as simply providing a car port, which is why the parish passed it with little question.
Howard Pilott
Lewes, East Sussex
SIR – Should fracking prevail, I hope that our politicians don’t fritter away the benefits. This country should establish its own sovereign wealth fund, in the way that Norway and others have, in order to provide long-term benefits for future generations.
While the wealth of our North Sea oil resources was wasted on expansion of the unproductive and socially divisive welfare state, our competitors invested theirs in infrastructure and overseas acquisitions.
Nigel Tipple
Longparish, Hampshire
SIR – A small well head will actually produce energy, whereas a 300ft windmill standing idle is not much use.
Paul Carleton
Lewes, East Sussex
Expat voters
SIR – Sue Cameron is right about the need to register more expats so they can vote (Comment, August 15). However there’s a big gap between the number eligible and the number registered. The challenge is reaching them. That’s why at every election in which they are eligible to vote (the last was in 2011) we run online campaigns and work with consulates and embassies in areas with large numbers of expats.
Getting on radio stations and in expat newspapers is important, but more needs to be done and we’re gearing up now for the European elections next year.
Alex Robertson
Director of Communications
Electoral Commission
London EC1
SIR – As an expat living permanently in France, I believe that I and others like me should be able to vote only where we pay taxes. We pay our taxes to M Hollande, but have no chance of voting in the French general elections.
Moreover, why should our votes influence the political outcome in Britain?
Allen Loates
Villereal, Lot-et-Garonne, France
Nimrod variations
SIR – It has been reported by the aviation press that the RAF is now looking for a new Maritime Patrol Aircraft. Indeed, the European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company flew an Airbus Military C-295 patrol aircraft to the air tattoo at RAF Fairford in July for the RAF to inspect.
In September last year the defence select committee pointed to a capability gap left by the cancellation of Nimrod in the 2010 Strategic Defence and Security Review.
So, just three years after nine brand-new BAE Nimrod MRA4 aircraft were cut up and thrown on the scrap-heap, will the Government admit that it was guilty of the worst defence cock-up since the cancellation of TSR2? Or that it has wasted £4 billion of taxpayers’ money?
In Nimrod we lost an aircraft that could fly for 11 hours, had a range of nearly 7,000 miles, could be refuelled in mid-air, had a very low noise signature (invaluable in hunting submarines), a huge payload capacity and was technically more advanced than anything available.
Alan Quinn
Prestwich, Lancashire
Me old beauty
SIR – Our family had the Archers editor Godfrey Baseley to stay with us at our farm on Wellingore Heath, near Lincoln, in August 1956 when he was looking for genuine farming stories to put into his script (Letters, August 20).
My father took him down to meet Walter Thompson, a real farming character, who farmed in Wellingore Low Fields and had a wonderful fund of farming stories which he told in his Lincolnshire dialect. Could he have been the inspiration for the character Walter Gabriel?
Jane Wallen
Tilston, Cheshire
Uncorking the milk
SIR – I sympathise with Harry Wallop (“Why we all get wrapped up in so much packaging”, Features, August 21). I use a champagne cork-remover to open a carton of milk.
Anne Jappie
Cheltenham, Gloucestershire
SIR – Plastic packaging has not been a problem for me to open since I discovered that wonderful tool – the aviation snip.
Stephen de Gruchy
St Brelade, Jersey
Nigel Kennedy silenced
SIR – Some of us were present at the exhilarating celebration of musical artistry of Nigel Kennedy’s Four Seasons Prom, with the Palestine Strings (Ivan Hewett, We congratulate the BBC for giving young players from the Edward Said Conservatory an all-too-rare opportunity to demonstrate the vitality of Palestinian cultural life, despite all the obstacles they face.
It now appears that the BBC intends to censor tomorrow’s broadcast of the concert, redacting a statement by Kennedy in which he hinted at the harsh conditions under which Palestinian musicians live. He said the Prom performance showed that “given equality and getting rid of apartheid gives a beautiful chance for amazing things to happen”.
The BBC said these words do not “fall within the editorial remit of the Proms as a classical music festival”. Kennedy responded with a statement condemning an “imperial lack of impartiality”. We note the Jewish Chronicle’s report indicating that the BBC has been subjected to pressure from pro-Israel advocates.
As Jewish campaigners for equality, justice and freedom for all in Israel/Palestine, we urge the BBC to acknowledge his comments as an integral part of a performance which was warmly received by an enthusiastic Proms crowd. The BBC owes television viewers the right to see the event uncensored, in its entirety.
George Abendstern
Seymour Alexander
Craig Berman
Linda Clair
Mike Cushman
Nancy Elan
Pia Feig
Deborah Fink
Tony Greenstein
Abe Hayeem
Rosamine Hayeem
Riva Joffe
Leah Levane
Rachel Lever
Dr Les Levidow
Prof Moshé Machover
Beryl Maizels
Miriam Margolyes
Dr Simon Pirani
Renate Prince
Roland Rance
Prof Jonathan Rosenhead
Chair, British Committee for the Universities of Palestine
Leon Rosselson
Dr Joan Safran
Sabby Sagall
Alexei Sayle
Miriam Scharf
Stanley Walinets
Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi
Secretary, Jews for Boycotting Israeli Goods
Devra Wiseman
Naomi Woodspring
Terry Yason
I’m lavvin’ it
SIR – In France some time ago, my better half announced that she wanted to find a loo “and not one of those things that is just a hole in the floor”, which exist to this day. I hit upon the brilliant solution of taking her to the nearest branch of McDonald’s, where the facilities were modern and extremely clean, as they are everywhere. This solution has never failed.
God bless America!
Jeremy M J Havard
London SW3
SIR – It’s all very well suggesting we use lavatories in high street betting shops (Letters, August 20), but these, like the fast-food restaurants, are increasingly adept at spotting non-patrons.
Dr Alex May
HS2 will suck in more jobs for congested London
SIR – The Government claims that the new high-speed rail network will relieve congestion on inter-city rail, road and air routes. Little is said about its effects on congestion in London.
By cutting journey times between London and the North, HS2 will increase the numbers getting jobs in the capital. This will put pressure on London’s public transport, worsen congestion and increase spending on transport infrastructure – all things the Government is trying to avoid.
More than 4,000 people a year in London die prematurely because of poor air quality. Its motorists spend nine working days stuck in traffic.
I’ve seen more and more companies realise the benefits of remote working. Instead of spending £42.6 billion on a new rail network, we’d be better off improving the country’s networking infrastructure.
Gary Rider
President, Polycom
Slough, Berkshire
SIR – Will HS2 be the next TSR2?
John Solly

Irish Times:

Sir, – I can’t pretend not to have been insulted by Seán Byrne’s remarks regarding my Leaving Cert year’s maths skills (“Students exposed by fall in Leaving Cert standards”, Opinion, August, 22nd). Most particularly, I was frustrated by his condescending comment that German students could add up their points “without an iPhone app” unlike their ignorant Irish counterparts.
I would invite Mr Byrne to attempt to add up Leaving Cert points in the following situation: It’s 6am and you’ve been kept awake all night by nightmares of scoring 80 points and needing to repeat. The paper declaring your results is illegible because your hand is shaking uncontrollably. Meanwhile your mother, father and younger siblings are all staring at you, waiting for the announcement that you will or will not get your course. Half of the people around you are screaming several decibels higher than normal because they got enough points for commerce, and your childhood friend is sobbing relentlessly at your side because she just missed out on veterinary medicine. And your granny is on the phone, asking shrilly whether or not the candle she lit for you at Mass last June worked.
In this situation, what we want is to add up our points as fast as possible with no human error involved. I’m terribly sorry to have let the side down. I also doubt an extra several months in school would have helped in this situation, as we don’t do a module called “Basic arithmetic under extreme stress”. – Yours, etc,
Stillorgan Park,
Blackrock, Co Dublin.
Sir, – Seán Byrne (Opinion, August 22nd) hits the nail on the head. When we were doing the Leaving Cert in the mid-1970s, we were expected to compose essay answers out of our own heads to questions in English, Irish and history, as part of homework, five days a week. Unoriginal or half-baked analyses were not acceptable to our teachers.
While this regime was demanding, it was satisfying and even enjoyable. Because we had had to think about it quite hard, the material became easier to remember. Therefore, we could cover the whole syllabus, so there was much less interest in what “must” come up in a given year. We had to do very little rote learning, thank God, and the emphasis was always on quality of thought over quantity of foolscap in any exam.
It seems, looking back, that we were given the necessary skills for college, from first year in secondary school. I can’t remember anyone having difficulty taking notes, unless the lecturer was inordinately fast or soft-spoken. Exams made us nervous of course, but most of us did fine. It helped, too, that we were all taught joined-up writing so we could cover pages at speed, and that many of us had been able to do Latin, which helps to order ideas as well as to make it simple to pick up grammar in any other language.
We took it for granted we had to produce clear, logical and original material in class and in exams. What on earth is the point of any system which does not reward original analysis, but gives credit instead for outstanding regurgitation of someone else’s ideas?
A cynic might reply that such a system makes it easy for our political and economic masters to dominate us, as few of its victims would be able to challenge effectively whatever mediocrity or downright outrage it suited them to impose upon us. I don’t want to believe this, but I do think we must lose no more time if we wish to reverse the downward drift away from critical analysis and original thought towards an unthinking, docile acceptance of others’ ideas in all circumstances. We owe our precious youth no less. – Yours, etc,
Glenina, Ennis, Co Clare.
Sir, – Seán Byrne (Opinion, August 22nd) rightly points out that higher mathematics students should not require an app to calculate their points, and the NCCA should probably show the Earth rotating in the conventional direction. However, in the heat of the moment, we often make silly mistakes.
To pick one example, the article says that the fact that Irish students spend fewer days in school, compared to their international counterparts, is linked to a decline in Leaving Cert performance. This is clearly a non sequitur – the number of days students outside Ireland spend in school is largely irrelevant to past, present and future Leaving Cert performance. The number of days Irish students spend in secondary school per year hasn’t changed significantly since at least the mid-1980s.
Indeed, with the increase in the use of Transition Year, the days that students spend in secondary school may have increased, overall. I’d be happy to write a calculator for Mr Byrne, to help us double- check the numbers. – Yours, etc,
Leinster Street East,
North Strand, Dublin 3.

A chara, – Your Editorial (August 17th) outlining Ireland’s many great outdoor attractions and their enjoyment opportunities, so readily available to Irish people and our visitors alike, was inspiring. Alongside your excellent “Going Coastal” series , you are indeed doing the State some service. The huge success of the Great Western Greenway (Summer Living, August 20th), should inspire many more such initiatives. I hope that Mayo Co Council’s appointment of a walking and cycling officer will be copied by other local authorities. Well done Mayo!
Few countries can rival our beautiful countryside and coastline. While tourism numbers are up this year, I believe there is a huge potential for further growth, particularly in agri-tourism. One can, in effect, “eat scenery”. Of course, tourism is a most competitive industry, now global. Reasonable and responsible public access to our lovely coast and countryside scenic areas must be protected and improved, as in Britain and other countries . – Is mise,

Sir, – There has been an attempt by certain Government backbench TDs, with no previous interest or expertise in this area, to cry “stunt” at Senator Mark Daly’s recall of the Seanad to debate an EU directive in relation to organ donation. The debate has had numerous positive effects: there was a focused national debate on organ donation, the HSE has since promised to appoint more staff dedicated to the area and there has been a timeline given for the progress of the proposed human tissues Bill.
It has been argued that this should have been debated within normal Oireachtas sitting time, however it was political genius to wait to recall the Seanad, for instead of this issue being a minor segment on Oireachtas Report with no onus on the Government to act, there was an open debate that effected change in this area.
While it could be said that for those not (currently) affected by organ donation it is a relatively minor issue, I’m sure that for any person on a waiting list the focus in this area will be welcomed.
In a way this was a stunt, a publicity stunt, and not one for the benefit of Fianna Fáil or Senator Mark Daly or Seanad reform, but for the benefit of all citizens who have been, who are or who will be affected by the issue of organ donation. – Yours, etc,
St Laurence’s Road,
Sir, – What Fintan Hourihan (August 22nd), writes is true, but the elephant in the room is that, in these harsh economic times, many cannot afford adequate dental treatment and there is no mention of a reduction in fees to match the economic realities that face the nation in general. – Yours, etc,

Sir, – Contrary to the impression given in your Editorial (“Naming and shaming banks”, August 22nd), Insurance Ireland (formerly Irish Insurance Federation) fully supports a move allowing the Financial Services Ombudsman (FSO) to name insurers against whom customer complaints have been upheld.
Our concern, which we have communicated constructively to the FSO, is that any new procedure should not give a false picture of the complaint-handling record of financial services firms. By this I mean that the number of complaints upheld should be understood in proportion to the number of customers a particular insurance firm has. The FSO has acknowledged both that our concern is valid and that such an understanding is necessary for this information to have true value. – Yours, etc,
Head of Policy & EU Affairs,

Irish Independent:

* The spurious recall of the Seanad was advocated on the general principle that EU directives should not be simply transposed into national legislation “without prior knowledge”. If the absence of prior knowledge about EU directives is a real and enduring concern, this begs the question what function are our MEPs serving and how effective are they, in practice, in that role?
Also in this section
Victims’ trial trauma favours the offenders
Mystery and intrigue in the royal family
Nurture the spirit as well as the mind
The recall episode clearly illustrates how impotent the closed-shop Seanad is in realpolitik. Only 44 of 60 senators showed up, demonstrating vividly how casually even the membership take the institution. The lead spokesman on the Fianna Fail side, Marc MacSharry, who lobbied for the recall, was sufficiently exercised to go on his foreign holiday and was not even present to claim the Pyrrhic victory that was possible had he bothered to turn up.
Realpolitik is the power that actually shapes, maintains or alters our nation and governs our affairs, just as the law of gravity governs the physical world. The Seanad has been shown as a chamber of empty rhetoric, devoid of gravity, decisiveness and impact, but a theatre of political pantomime whose drawing-room productions make no difference whatsoever to our welfare and wellbeing.
No decisions or insights came out of the debate on Tuesday that could not have been provided in a well-structured parliamentary question submitted at any time.
The compelling grounds for permanently shutting Seanad Eireann have therefore been made most eloquently by its own members.
Myles Duffy
Glenageary, Co Dublin
* “The number of administrators in the HSE earning more than €100,000 has risen in the past year, new figures show.”
I rest my case!
K Nolan
Caldragh, Co Leitrim
* At the risk of being considered moronic by the new Irish intelligentsia, dare I mention the amazing contribution made by Irish priests and nuns to the world at large?
Religion aside, this now dying generation of pioneering Christians spread Ireland’s name across the world in an extraordinary exodus to the remotest areas of the planet.
The rapid descent of the country to a secularist state together with the antagonistic attitude towards Rome has prevented the proper recognition of the unprecedented achievements of these selfless Christians who often met with the most volatile of environments.
These pioneers built schools and churches and brought humanity to countries where deprivation was rife. Basic lifestyles were transformed by education.
Instead of berating Rome from the steps of Leinster House, perhaps our Taoiseach, as a practising Catholic, could ensure that these genuine pioneers get the credit they deserve.
Pat O’Grady
Pinner, Middlesex, UK
* As a 74-year-old man I wish to congratulate you on printing the letter from Ronan Scully on Saturday last. He was so right on everything he wrote about and maybe young people who read it will adopt a different attitude to older people. Did I say that twice before?
Just remember young people, hopefully you will all live to a good age and by then young people may have learned that a lot of things slow down when you get older. Have I said that twice too? Thanks, Ronan.
Cecil Rowley
Sutton, Co Dublin
* So, as far as Hawk-Eye is concerned, “all that sliotars is not goaled”.
Tom Gilsenan
Beaumont, Dublin 9
* Instead of depending on that ‘Quare’ Hawk, perhaps the GAA should try something else – like painting the goalposts black.
Name and address with editor
* I first learned about the glories of killing aged about five. Poppy Day in London with brass bands and flags and speeches about all the English soldiers who had been killed and all the horrid Germans they had hopefully killed first.
Then I learned about how it was okay to kill Indians, Chinese and Africans for the glory of the Empire. We had geography and history lessons and the occasional sermon to make sure we fully appreciated the glory of murder. All the parents seemed happy with it all.
In 20 years in the Netherlands I learned about all the Indonesians and South Americans they had murdered and all the Dutch who had died and the nasty Germans they had killed. More bands and flags.
From many educated people in Ireland, I learned about all the countless millions of native Americans, Australian Aboriginals, Irish, British, Japanese, Iraqis, Afghans, Tutsi, Hutu, Serbs, Croats, Russians, Catholics, Protestants, Jews, Arabs and Poles murdered for the glory of various political groups. More parades with flags and medals on the main news at regular intervals.
So why is anybody surprised when some of our friends in the North want the occasional parade? They also learned about the glory somewhere.
Dick Barton
Tinahely, Co Wicklow
* Former Taoiseach Garret FitzGerald in his ‘Reflections on the Irish State’ (2003) pointed to “deep-seated partitionism in the South”. Witness Ian O’Doherty’s shameful sentiments (August 19) on a “separate” Northern identity and culture etc. So much for Wolfe Tone’s inclusive ideal of “the common name of Irishman”.
Tony Barnwell
Dublin 9
* It would be enlightening to have access to lists of those who have enjoyed the benefits of third-level education grants over generations, to compare them with a database of those refused over the same period – to see the many from lifestyles of plenty who were granted state aid and those of modest means who were refused.
Means-testing systems in this country are, for the most part, ineffective. There has never been a will to make changes in the past because of the political clout of some. How many bright academics and future innovators with an abundance of intellectual talents and ability were turned away? There is no calculating the loss to society of those young people who were the victims of a parish-pump system of grant aid.
Harry Mulhern
* Charlie Weston (August 20) states that a self-employed person declaring income of €15,500 pays almost six times more tax than an employed person on the same income. However, he fails to mention the high level of undeclared and untaxed income that historically has existed in self-employed professions, and is the key reason many people choose to become self-employed in the first place.
Recent Revenue clampdowns have significantly reduced undeclared earnings and negatively affected the net income of many self-employed people who had previously lived comfortably in the ‘grey’ economy.
Increased Revenue detection and enforcement is the real impetus behind lobbying by this group for lower taxes at the present time.
John Thompson
Phibsboro, Dublin 7
Irish Independent

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