9 September 2013 Another Quiet day
I go all the way around the park round the park listening to the Navy Lark
Our heroes are in trouble Leslie fancies the lady in the kiosk at the railway station, so he buys half her stock and asks her out, Troutbridge is sent to sea on the night of his sate. But Captain Povey says he will inform the lady. But he tell the wrong one.
Lazy day nothing much done.
We watch Dads army v good.
Scrabble today Mary wins and get under 400. perhaps I might win tomorrow.
Geoffrey Goodman, who has died aged 91, was industrial editor of three Fleet Street dailies – and ultimately the Daily Mirror – during the decades when Britain’s shop floors were in crisis and union leaders wielded as much influence as politicians.
Geoffrey Goodman Photo: Daily Mirror
7:07PM BST 08 Sep 2013
His own influence stemmed not just from the stories he broke, but from the way he came to embody the three-way relationship between his newspaper and the Labour politicians and union barons whose confidence he enjoyed.
A Communist until the early 1950s, Goodman was one of a talented group of radical newspapermen – among them James Cameron, Kingsley Martin, Tom Hopkinson and the cartoonist Vicky – who lunched as the “Fleet Street Forum” to exchange stories their papers would not print. The Forum disbanded after Goodman was warned – apparently by MI5 – that “If you go on with the Forum, you are going to find it very hard to get work.”
Goodman’s sympathies remained with the Left; he was an ardent supporter of Aneurin Bevan, a lifelong friend of Michael Foot and a passionate anti-Marketeer – leaking to Tony Benn prior to the 1975 referendum the role Mirror chiefs planned to take in the “Yes” campaign. Yet over the years he built up friendly contacts across the political spectrum, and came to be regarded as a pillar of the Labour establishment.
When Harold Wilson unexpectedly led Labour back into government in 1974, Goodman took leave of absence from the Mirror to take up a fellowship at Nuffield College, Oxford. He wrote a biography of the Left-wing transport workers’ leader Frank Cousins and moved into government. Refusing a safe seat and a peerage, he joined the Royal Commission on the Press (dissenting with its eventual report), then in 1975 entered the Treasury as head of the government’s counter-inflation publicity unit, encouraging business and the unions to absorb some of the pain as Denis Healey strove to pull inflation back from a high of nearly 30 per cent.
The strategy worked, but Goodman found the experience uncomfortable – not least because of obstruction from Joe Haines, Wilson’s chief spin doctor. He went back to the Mirror as assistant editor, just as Haines joined the paper as its political guru on Wilson’s retirement. For a decade they were a formidable “odd couple”, Haines bluntly articulating the Mirror’s commitment to Labour during a disastrous period for the party, and Goodman more urbane, if just as passionate, in his lubrication of the relationship between Labour, union leaders such as his friend Jack Jones, and the Mirror. He was quite ready to intervene, pressing Foot to go for the leadership when James Callaghan retired in 1980, and the next year urging Benn in vain not to challenge Healey for the deputy leadership.
Goodman’s pre-eminence and integrity were undisputed, and he was renowned for his helpfulness to young colleagues. He did, however, protect his reputation. When late in his career fellow industrial correspondents awarded him their annual “Golden Bollock” for a story that could not have conceivably have been true, Goodman pressed a threat of legal action to the point where they backed down.
Geoffrey George Goodman was born at Stockport on July 2 1922, the son of Michael Goodman and the former Edythe Bowman, both children of Jewish immigrants from Russia. Geoffrey grew up a non-practising Jew – though his heritage mattered to him – and in 1947 he married Margit Freudenbergova, who as a child had escaped from Czechoslovakia on the final Kindertransport.
When his father lost his job in a Manchester factory, the Goodmans moved to London where Geoffrey won a grammar school place, later reading Economics at LSE under Harold Laski. In 1940 he lied about his age to train as a bomber pilot, flying many sorties in Wellingtons, Whitleys and Lancasters; he ended the war a flight lieutenant flying Mosquitos for photo reconnaissance. He felt lucky to have survived, especially as on one of his last missions he was intercepted by one of the Luftwaffe’s first jet fighters.
Goodman had wanted to become a journalist ever since hearing a shopkeeper say before the Abdication that the newspapers were refusing to print the truth “despite most of us knowing exactly what is going on”. Demobilised in 1946, he worked briefly on the Manchester Guardian and the Mirror (being sacked in a purge of Left-wingers at Christmas 1948). He worked with Bevan and Foot at Tribune, and also became a fixture on the News Chronicle. Crucially in 1956, he backed the paper’s editor, Michael Curtis, in opposing the Suez operation, over which the staff were deeply divided. A year later, Goodman sat through a “wake” of a dinner with a tearful Foot after Bevan broke ranks with the Left to insist that Britain must not abandon its nuclear weapons.
Months before the Chronicle closed in 1960, Goodman moved to the Labour-supporting Daily Herald as its industrial editor. He was a key member of the team that in 1964 relaunched the Herald as the Sun, and at the Sun he secured his greatest scoop, breaking the story that the combatants in the Vietnam War were meeting in Paris to search for a peace formula.
Goodman returned to the Mirror in 1969 just before Rupert Murdoch captured the Sun.
The paper then was innovative and progressive, and expected the Labour government to be the same. But its opinionated chairman Cecil King saw Wilson as a busted flush and was machinating for a coalition or even a military junta. Again Goodman alerted Benn.
Goodman had more in common with Hugh Cudlipp, who had been the brains behind the Sun. Rating Cudlipp “the greatest popular journalist of the 20th century”, Goodman worked with him to build trust with Labour and the unions.
He served with distinction under several managements, but came to reckon himself one of the few senior Mirror figures who were still devoted to Labour. When Maxwell bought the paper he was tempted to resign, only staying on when Maxwell – having altered one of his columns on the agony of the miners’ strike – promised he would never do it again. He retired two years later, fulminating against “that maniac on the ninth floor”.
Goodman founded the British Journalism Review in 1989, editing it for 13 years. He produced several books – culminating in From Bevan to Blair (2003) – and numerous columns, drawing on his immense experience. When John Smith died suddenly in 1994, parallels with the impact on Labour of Hugh Gaitskell’s death 31 years before came naturally to him. One of his last columns for the Mirror was headlined “How Ed Miliband can become Prime Minister”.
Goodman was named Descriptive Writer of the Year for 1972, and given the Gerald Barry Award for Journalism for 1984-85. He was appointed CBE in 1998.
He is survived by his wife, and their son and daughter.
Geoffrey Goodman, born July 2 1922, died September 5 2013
How disappointing that in Fiona Maddocks’s piece on Marin Alsop (7 September) there was no mention of the considerable achievements the conductor has already made in this country. She has not just emerged from the stock cupboard into the blinding glare of fame at the Last Night of the Proms. Concertgoers, especially here in the south-west of England had the privilege of hearing the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra reach new heights under her directorship between 2002 and 2008. She also worked extensively with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra and the City of London Sinfonietta, and became known to wider audiences through radio broadcasts. To be Gramophone magazine’s Artist of the Year and receive the Royal Philharmonic Society’s conductor’s award, both in the same year, showed that her talents were far from unknown. The Last Night will have, hopefully, further developed her deserved reputation.
Newton Abbot, Devon
• A few minutes ago we turned on the Proms. My wife gasped as a stunning young man walked on. Upon realising it was the conductor Vasily Petrenko, we wondered how the young women in the orchestra managed to concentrate.
• I am used to hearing sports commentators saying underestimate when they mean overestimate, but to hear Marin Alsop at the Last Night of the Proms opine that “You cannot underestimate the power of music” was disappointing.
King’s Somborne, Hampshire
Small wonder that the Russians stopped listening to our prime minister in the place once known as Leningrad – site of some of the greatest horrors and human loss in resistance until the Soviet Union turned the tide of the second world war – when Cameron tried to tell them that, among other past glories, it was Britain that defeated fascism (Patriotic defence, 7 September).
Swaffham Prior, Cambridgeshire
• “Britain … has invented most of the things worth inventing, including every sport currently played around the world.” Gove at work again. Are they all quite mad?
• What is it about 9/11, asks Martin Smith of Bristol (Letters, 6 September), this being the date of the CIA installation of General Pinochet in Chile and, more recently, the attack on the World Trade towers – and now perhaps the date of US intervention in Syria. 911 is the emergency number to phone in the US. It is therefore the date the US rightwing choose to send out their emergency call by striking their enemies, or generating the fear that will guarantee support for these strikes – the war on terror, for example. They have an audacious sense of humour.
• Maybe squaw-ly showers in the north, when it’s not tepee-ing it down (Letters, 7 September).
High Peak, Derbyshire
HS2 doubters and HS2 promoters should both think bigger (David Cameron urges HS2 doubters to ‘think big’, 6 September). HS2 is too big for the Department for Transport alone.
A wider issue is about development and investment in the people of the north of England and Scotland. This might well garner ready support from half the UK’s people, industry, commerce, banking, the TUC, and not a few MPs.
If policies can be established for the north that require transport strategies to underpin them – fine. If this includes the need for a very fast rail link to the continent – fine. Then we would need to look at a route from the Channel tunnel direct to Doncaster and thence to the north-west and the north-east.
In the meantime let’s get on investing in upgrading existing rail routes and services for the long term – they need it.
• The issue that George Osborne ducks (Report, 2 September) is whether there are more efficient and effective ways to impact on the north-south divide than through billions being spent on one rail line. He also never talks about the EU policy to take the running of all “core” transport routes out of the hands of national governments.
• The nature of short-term political cycles has for too long been a hindrance to delivering the infrastructure we need, when it is needed and at price we can afford. An independent national infrastructure commission tasked with identifying the best options for meeting the priorities approved by parliament – at arm’s length from government – is a concept ICE championed in its recent State of the Nation: Transport report and we believe it could help to ensure projects stand above political faultlines. We therefore hope Sir John Armitt’s proposals (Report, 5 September 2013) are adopted by the main parties. It is important to note however, that a commission is not a “magic bullet” – a web of other organisations, rules and established practices affect how our infrastructure is developed, and this means that further reforms will be needed.
Director general, Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE)
• The debate about HS2 is getting sillier, collapsing into a conflict between two sets of unsupportable assertions, thanks to a common inability to understand that the transport system is a comprehensive entity not a bundle of semi-autonomous modes. No one makes an entire journey from one place to another by train, plane, bus, or even by car, without using other crucial parts of the system – the stations, terminals, car parking, etc.
Government and the transport planners are doomed to get things wrong by insisting upon proposing, planning and assessing projects that improve bits of the transport system in isolation. The question is: “Given £200bn (or whatever), what basket of investments is most likely to best improvement the performance of the national transport system?”
The answer could conceivably be HS2. but that remains to be seen. What is absolutely sure is that we must stop groping around improving bits and pieces with little idea of the changes in overall system performance.
Author of Planning Sustainable Transport
• It’s the 1860s not the 1960s that offer the best historical parallels for the HS2 debacle (Letters, 23 August, 27 August). Desiring a grand metropolitan presence, the Midland railway added the extravagance of St Pancras to its new route bringing coal to London. An independent line to Scotland followed, thanks to the Settle-Carlisle railway, an endeavour so expensive that parliament had to force the Midland to complete it.
Faced with excess capacity and keen competition from quicker trunk lines, the Midland improved its expresses, cut fares and vigorously marketed its services. Long-distance travel, although never cheap, became more affordable. But the Midland’s shareholders would have got a better return sticking with coal. Nor were national interests best served. Today’s railways would offer far better regional connections if the state had stuck with the system-wide planning it had tentatively started in the 1840s before being crushed by private sector interests. If it is built, HS2 runs a real risk of being as irrelevant to the needs of a truly national railway system as the Midland’s grandiose projects were when first built.
Professor of railway studies, University of York
• To respond to the charges laid at my door by Messrs Shilton and Ledsome (Letters, 27 September), the former thinks HS2 has more in common with the jumbo jet than Concorde, but surely the equivalents in rail transport were the trams and other rapid transit systems that have been created in British cities over the past 30 years, not a 250mph super-railway that can only afford to stop at a few urban hubs?
As for Colin Ledsome’s claims, while it is true that Concorde relied heavily on military developments in supersonic technology made during the 1950s, and used engines with afterburners designed for Vulcan bombers (which accounted for their profligate fuel consumption), there were no plans that I know of to build a military version of the Concorde. In fact it was unattractive to airlines because it was too small and its engines were too thirsty at a time when airlines were moving to fuel-efficient bypass turbofan engines.
Of course it’s clearly better to travel by carbon-zero electric train from London to Birmingham, Manchester or Newcastle than it is to fly over those routes – and to reach our carbon reduction targets, it should be built. But let’s not kid ourselves about its economic benefits or the windfall of jobs which is supposed to ensue from its construction. And if it is built, it should start in the north where it’s needed most, getting people from the north to the Midlands, and back. Like the great Victorian railways, the link to London should be built last.
Nottingham University Business School
It is a good thing that funds and courses are being made available to encourage staff of all disciplines to work in A&E.
However, each discipline within the hospital environment – whether it is working in A&E, or with the elderly, in the operating theatres, with children, or people with psychiatric disorders – depends on whether or not there are staff who have both the vocational calling to that discipline and have the capability to work there.
I work in the operating theatre department of my local district general hospital.
This is also an area that requires a specific mindset. I work alongside some colleagues who perhaps would be better employed in other areas. A few see that they have found themselves in a place that is not appropriate to their talents and move on to extend their experience elsewhere: some in a ward capacity, others working in a community setting, or in the intensive care unit.
Some, however, stay within the area in spite of the fact that their talent may not be appropriate to the discipline.
I have even known staff members find jobs in A&E – but then find that this is not their calling and return to work alongside us in the operating theatres.
The fact that there are staff shortages in all areas could be that there are people who do not have the desire to be there, or the family circumstances to accommodate the shift systems; or in the case of A&E they may not even consider that is the area in which they want to work, vocational calling or not.
The extended availability of money and education is a good thing. But those opportunities can only be positive if there are people willing and capable of making good use of them.
Tessa Bennett, Littlemore, Oxford
Recently, on a bank holiday, I needed medical help and went to an A&E department. It was busy and there seemed to be many people on trolleys with drips etc.
However, in only two hours I had an x-ray, urine test, blood test, abdomen ultrasound scan and enema. All the results were available to the consultant and I was prescribed necessary antibiotics and discharged, and have made a full recovery.
Could anyone expect a better service? It would seem that I was lucky to have gone to a state-run A&E department in Srinagar, India, rather than a UK A&E department.
Steve Horsfield, Hoby, Leicestershire
Lobbying Bill would leave us in the dark
While most recent criticism of the proposed Lobbying Bill has focused on the chilling effect it would have on charity campaigning (“Lobbying Bill to be re-drafted over charity concerns”, 5 September), we are concerned it will not do the job for which it was intended: ensuring that lobbying in the UK is transparent and effectively regulated.
As it stands, the Bill would only cover a small fraction of active lobbyists, leaving the public in the dark about the rest of the UK’s £2bn lobbying industry. It will also not reveal any meaningful information on their activities. A decent lobbyist register would say who is lobbying whom, what they are lobbying for, and how much they are spending.
We urge Government to redraft the Bill so that it provides citizens with a genuine opportunity to scrutinise the activities of lobbyists. Crucially, it should not be restricted to consultant lobbyists, but should include in-house lobbyists, big consultancies who offer a range of services, and other entities that offer lobbying services, such as think tanks.
If the Bill goes ahead as it is, it will be a major blow to the Government’s aspiration to be “the most open and transparent in the world”.
Dr Rufus Pollock
CEO, Open Knowledge Foundation
Executive director, Transparency International UK
CEO, Open Data Institute
Director, Tax Justice Network
and directors of 11 other transparency organisations
We welcome the Government’s acknowledgement that certain parts of the Lobbying Bill require a rethink. However, the Government has yet to recognise that it will not deliver its central aim of increasing transparency of the lobbying industry.
The proposals would only require a minority of professional lobbyists in the UK to register. Only around one in five works for consultancies. The bill must be withdrawn or radically amended. I urge the Government to work with the industry, all parties and the Political and Constitutional Reform Select Committee, to produce a universal statutory register of lobbyists.
Director general, Public Relations Consultants Association, London SW1
The Lobbying Bill presents a threat to legitimate campaigning in the UK. While the Leader of the House, Andrew Lansley, said charities were excluded, he admits there are “uncertainties” in the law, and the Electoral Commission foresees problems and major uncertainty arising from the Bill.
This Bill creates a serious risk to charities and campaigners across the UK. We must act now to ensure that what passes into law is sensible, fair and good for democracy.
Dr Andy Williamson, Esther Foreman, London E9
Railways can go back to the future
Proposals to reopen any of the lines closed by Dr Beeching are always said to be hugely expensive. How is it, then, that private individuals with teams of volunteers have managed in their spare time to re-lay, run and maintain narrow-gauge lines for tourist steam trains?
Diesel locomotives of this gauge are available to buy. They are used the world over in mining operations and steelworks. Narrow-gauge trains are much lighter than conventional trains. They run passengers services all over Sardinia.
Our old Victorian bridges and viaducts are under less pressure from narrow gauge. Could re-laying some Beeching lines using narrow gauge be cheaper and affordable? The track bed is almost always still there, and in some places sleepers also. Ninety-five per cent of the job is already done for us.
Is this a better way of relieving pressure on the rail network than spending the money on HS2?
Nigel F Boddy, Darlington
Opposition to HS2 is based on environmental as well as economic grounds, and the fact that there are cheaper, quicker alternatives.
The increase in passenger usage is slowing, and the proposed alternatives would cope with all reasonably calculated projections.
No, Oliver Wright (Inside Whitehall, 3 September) the West Coast Main Line (WCML) is not “full”. As for the disruption an upgrade of the WCML would cause, it would only be a tiny fraction of what HS2 would lead to.
HS1 is fine for those who travel direct to St Pancras but has given much worse services to everyone else living nearby. HS2 would do the same, as many towns and cities near the line, eg Liverpool and Coventry, would have worse services.
Antony Chapman, Wendover, Buckinghamshire
Modesty better than bare breasts
When you broke the story (4 September) that topless feminist protesters Femen had a “patriarch” running the show, I’m not sure many people were too surprised. The tactics of this group are comically chauvinist. By baring their breasts to “free” oppressed Muslim women, what they’re really telling sexist men is that women should strip if they want to be listened to.
When a Muslim woman chooses to dress modestly and wear a headscarf, she does more for feminism than Inna Shevchenko and her topless, brainless “jihad” ever could – she tells society that she doesn’t want to be judged for her outer beauty. Instead, she wants to be judged for her inner beauty – her character, intellect and abilities. What could be more feminist?
Umar Nasser, Chalfont St Peter, Buckinghamshire
Teather must go
Sarah Teather doesn’t agree with the Government’s necessary stance on immigration and benefits caps. As this parliament has more than 18 months to run, she should resign and allow her successor the privilege of representing Brent Central from which she intends to abdicate.
Dominic Shelmerdine, London W8
Blame leaders – not the UN
Your leading article (“Inaction stations”, 7 September) calls the UN “no more than a fractious talking shop”. And what of the G8, the G20, the European Parliament and, indeed, our own? It’s the people, not the institution, that one should blame.
The UN Security Council gave unanimous support in April 2012 for Kofi Annan’s plan to deploy the 300-strong observer mission in Syria. The war zone was quiet when they arrived but, shamefully, they were only a handful. By 9 May 2012, they numbered only 70. Without its planned nationwide impact, the mission was doomed.
Kofi Annan’s plan failed not through disagreement among the five permanent members but by their failure to show leadership.
Chairman, United Nations Association Westminster Branch
Congratulations to Robert Fisk for the finest and clearest exposition of the Middle East mess: truthful, objective and dispassionate – qualities in short supply among our juvenile leaders.
JEAN DALE, Crawley, West Sussex
President Eisenhower warned: “We must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.”
The US and the West tried “feet on the ground” in Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan. Result: loads of money for the arms manufacturers, lots of misery and refugees. It seems they ignored Eisenhower’s wise advice.
The nations who peddle arms should be the ones to give most to the Syrian refugees. The big three are the US, UK and Russia.
Michael Melville, Northwich, Cheshire
Brought to book
Joan McTigue wrote (Letter, 7 September) about a councillor at Redcar and Cleveland Council “reading a book” during a meeting.
I was that councillor. With a choice between feigning interest in interminable speeches from our Lib Dem opposition or making notes on a book about a Jewish family who had to flee Hitlerism to find a new life here on Teesside, I chose the latter – not least because I have been tasked to review the book for a local newspaper, and because of the similarities with the plight of refugees and asylum seekers in today’s society.
David Walsh, Skelton, Cleveland
There is probably no where else where minority faiths can be practised as freely as here
Sir, The Kremlin official who belittled ‘this little island’ is probably not aware of Britain’s role in world history (Report, Sep 7). The people of this land have enjoyed the fruits of liberty for centuries. Concepts of participatory government, individual rights, rule of law and parliamentary democracy are at the heart of the nation. We have frequently helped to rid the world of tyrants and have influenced countries worldwide to an extraordinary extent. The parliaments, judicial systems, schools and hospitals in about third of the world are based on the British model. The Industrial Revolution started here and our contributions in literature and science are immense. We were one of the first countries to adopt a welfare state and an NHS.
Traditional British tolerance has enabled many people to settle here harmoniously. There is probably no where else where minority faiths can be practised as freely as here. The British have a fascination for other cultures. The voice of Britain deserves to be heard because of the quality of our ideals, heritage and people.
R. P. Fernando
Sir, As someone who has never voted Tory I see nothing wrong with Mr Cameron’s listing of Britain’s achievements in the face of a Russian putdown. He might have added that we need no lessons from a country where journalists are shot dead on the streets and where political opponents and pop singers are banged up in prison. Big is not only not beautiful — it is, Putin put it bluntly, sometimes downright ugly.
Bushey Heath, Herts
Sir, David Cameron is justified in his patriotic paean as a riposte to an unattributed statement from a Russian official that Britain is “a small island that no one listens to”. As a person of South Asian origin I wish to assert that this sceptred isle has excelled all other nations — in science and technology, inventions and innovations and literature and the creative arts. British culture has enriched many countries in faraway corners of the earth.
Sir, From a global-political point of view we are “a small island”. Fortunately, we are in the EU, a confederation of nation states that Vladimir Putin fears and something that can keep him in check.
Sir, The population of Britain since 1988 has increased by some six million whereas that of Russia has declined by some three million. No prize will be given for the correct answer to the question as to where people would prefer to live.
Sir, David Cameron missed a trick in his patriotic paean in response to Dmitry Peskov’s “little island” jibe.
He should have added that one College [Trinity] at one university [Cambridge] has had more Nobel awards  since 1904 than the whole of Russia which can muster just 27.
Sir, I would rather live in a small island to which nobody listens than a large country which nobody likes.
Had the FA shown leadership, as Richard Scudamore has done, we would now be seeing a completely different picture
Sir, Greg Dyke (report, Sept 5) is only saying now what most of us knew and spoke about 20 years ago. The Premier League, according to the original blueprint, was to be an FA Premier League, with a director reporting to the FA’s CEO. It didn’t happen because the FA’s leaders of the day capitulated under pressure from the clubs’ chairmen when the latter realised the size of the likely television deal.
At a seminar 15 years ago I predicted the demise of English talent against the influx of overseas talent. Worse, the FA agreed to hand over the coaching of youngsters through club academies. Parallel to this the FA’s coaching schemes are a shadow of what they were.
Had the FA shown leadership, as Richard Scudamore has done with the Premier League, we would now be seeing a completely different picture.
(Former CEO of the Irish FA and current FIFA Match Commissioner) Berkhamsted, Herts
If chemical weapons have been used in Syria it will not be the first usage of weapons legally prohibited since 1925
Sir, Ben Macintyre (Sept 6) treats us to an interesting consideration of the ethics of using chemical weapons, reminding us that Churchill advocated their use. The core difference between conventional ordnance and chemical weapons is that the latter can never have a legitimate or lawful use in time of war. Whether chemical weapons ought to be legitimised is an entirely separate question.
Sir, Lord Lamont (letter, Sept 5) does well to remind us that if chemical weapons have indeed been used in Syria this will not be the first usage of weapons legally prohibited since 1925. Although not foreseen by legislators then, the following weapons in which there is a chemical element were used during the Second World War and in subsequent conflicts in the Far East: atom bombs, napalm and agent orange.
Lord Hurcomb, when selected to lead the British Transport Commission, would not accept part of his salary
Sir, The report (Sept 6) that the new head of Network Rail will be paid almost £100,000 more than his predecessor prompts me to recall that in 1948, when Lord Hurcomb was selected to lead the British Transport Commission (a very much larger undertaking than Network Rail) he declined to accept almost 20 per cent of his salary, partly because he considered himself overpaid and partly “pour encourager les autres”. It should be pointed out that the salary offered was considerably less than that of his predecessors, the general managers of the four major British railway companies. What a change a couple of generations makes.
W. S. Becket
(British Railways Board 1953-89)
Deiniolen, North Wales
How Handel, hymns and Chris Rea’s Road to Hell album can enhance the speed merchant’s experience
Sir, Nothing can beat listening (and changing gear) to Daytona, from Chris Rea’s Road to Hell album. All about putting your foot down in a Ferrari — “Twelve wild horses in silver chains”— and the ultimate in driving music, even if one is behind the wheel of an ancient VW Golf.
Sir, For the more cultured speed merchant, Handel’s Largo, while white-van man may prefer Simon and Garfunkel’s The 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin’ Groovy).
Sir, Kraftwerk’s Autobahn, as the electro-synth bumping and buzzing is very soothing, albeit with the slight danger of dozing off.
Angmering, W Sussex
Sir, Hymns are best. Ride on, ride on in majesty for modest speeds, Eternal father strong to save above 60mph, Nearer, my God, to thee above 80 and Lord, I’m coming home above 100.
Professor Peter Davies
The murder of one child is horrific but this is not in itself enough evidence that Herod was a bloody tyrant
Sir, With reference to Mr Cutler’s letter (Sept 5), Professor William F. Albright, the dean of US archaeology in the Holy Land, estimates that the population of Bethlehem at the time of Jesus’ birth to be about 300 people. The number of male children, aged 2 or younger, would be about six or seven. Although the murder of one innocent child is horrific, this is hardly sufficient in itself to be treated as evidence that Herod was a bloody tyrant.
However, if one studies his murderous tendencies over his lifetime, during which his victims included friends and family, perhaps this description is just and fitting.
Knowler Hill, W Yorks
SIR – When Parliament voted against military involvement in Syria, for once it spoke for the nation – a nation which is sick of foolish and wasteful interventions in other people’s quarrels which are of no interest to Britain.
Quite why killing a few more Syrians with cruise missiles (which is all that would have been achieved) is a good thing is beyond me. If the choice was between the secular dictatorship of Assad and a pluralistic free democracy then intervention might be justifiable, but this is not the choice available today, nor at any conceivable time in the future.
Unfortunately the likes of David Cameron (and Tony Blair before him) are unable to see this and persist in trailing their moralising nonsense before the rest of us. For once they have come a cropper and they richly deserve it.
SIR – The lost vote in the Commons over Syrian intervention came about due to massive incompetence by the Conservative whips, and an over-reliance on the word of the flip-flopping Ed Milliband. It wasn’t planned; it was a cack-handed accident.
However, it did highlight a serious point. Successive prime ministers have resorted to gunboat diplomacy to distract attention from national issues that they are obviously incapable of solving. The taxpaying public is weary of politicians promenading on the world stage at their expense. They should forget foreign adventures and concentrate on the issues that affect the public on a daily basis, for which they were elected to Parliament.
If politicians followed the innate good sense of the general public on issues such as immigration, welfare and the EU instead of their own pet projects, the country would be in a much better state.
SIR – We should stop making excuses and looking the other way, pretending that the UN is capable of resolving Syria’s agony. The pattern of urgent declarations and no action while Assad slaughters thousands with impunity is shameful. Have child torture, refugee cities and massacres become so familiar that they are acceptable now in order to preserve the Middle East’s “balance of power”?
SIR – Some Tory MPs may have been influenced by personal animus towards Mr Cameron, but many could not support the premature Syria motion before evidence had been collected, analysed and considered by Parliament.
Not enough time had been given and the Government was not open enough with the British people. On such an important issue of national interest and foreign policy, Mr Cameron’s poor judgment backfired spectacularly and raised the possibility that in future the Government will not be able to carry its policies through Parliament.
There must be change at the top for faith to be restored in the Tory Party and its leadership.
SIR – Norman Tebbit’s acerbic remark that David Cameron seems unlikely to win the next election “despite the gift of Miliband” has never seemed so true.
The Prime Minister has to take the pulse of the British people and start addressing what really matters to the weary majority, particularly those wilting under the pressure of paying for the unnecessary excesses.
Gay marriage and Syria may float Cameron’s boat, but never before has a government had so much public support for righting the hideous wrongs of the benefits culture, immigration policy and self-serving banks.
This country is stymied. Businesses are unable to grow through lack of funds and employment laws. People can’t move house if they need to and have to pay extortionate stamp duty. Being on benefits is a lifestyle choice, and people who have been happy to embrace diversity are now seriously worried about the impact of more mass EU immigration.
When will Mr Cameron wake up and start working for the people who elected him?
Clyst St George, Devon
SIR – It wasn’t Cameron who was humiliated by the vote in the Commons, it was Great Britain. Who are the “surrender monkeys” now? I feel ashamed to be British.
East Grinstead, Surrey
SIR – Matthew d’Ancona stated that David Cameron “hoped that the President [Obama] would be able to go to Congress with the approval of the British Parliament in his back pocket” (Opinion, September 1).
But one of the main issues was the unseemly rush to go to war without waiting a few days for the inspectors’ reports. Congress was on vacation and it was obvious that, at the time of the debate in the House of Commons, the President had no intention of asking for or waiting for Congress’s approval – it was only after Mr Cameron’s defeat that Mr Obama surprised everyone by delaying things until Congress returned.
Most of us are rightly suspicious when double-glazing salesmen or conmen try to rush us into decisions. There was no excuse for the indecent – and unjustified – haste at the time of the debate. Lack of forethought and failure to consult others has long been a characteristic of this Government. And they got their just deserts.
SIR – By falsifying reasons for war to present to the British Parliament, the ex-Prime Minister, Tony Blair, is now additionally responsible for that same Parliament turning its backs on the proven suffering of helpless women, men and children.
The main back-turners were from Labour, the party of Mr Blair’s rancid Government. What an appalling moment for British politics.
SIR – With UN observers confirming that sarin was indeed the nerve agent used in Syria, Machiavellian Miliband has now got his proof in spades and David Cameron proved 100 per cent correct in his evaluation.
If the Labour leader has any moral backbone, especially after Assad’s recent use of napalm-like incendiary weapons on children, perhaps he should suggest that another parliamentary debate take place.
B J Colby
SIR – Various points stand out in the Syria crisis. It is completely bogus for David Cameron to claim that a military strike against Syria can be made in response to the use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime, but that it would not mean any participation in the civil war.
The vote in the Commons produced the result that the general public want – no British involvement in the Syrian civil war. On this issue Mr Cameron is right to insist that there will be no second vote in the Commons.
William Hague’s hard line against Iran and Syria has run out of steam. He cut a poor figure in the previous Commons debate on arming the Syrian rebels when not a single MP from any party gave him support, and he now looks a very isolated figure.
SIR – With regard to the current state of Anglo-American relations, it should not be forgotten that President Obama has hardly regarded American relations with Britain as being of much importance – consider his failure to send a representative to Lady Thatcher’s funeral or the State Department’s “even-handed” approach to the Falklands. Perhaps it is a case of not appreciating something until it is gone.
SIR – The European Union pushed for another referendum after Ireland rejected the Lisbon Treaty, and won. Foreign policy hawks want another vote in Parliament on whether we should intervene in Syria, until they get their way.
Will it ever be the case that governing politicians respect the wishes of the people or the legislature?
James A Paton
SIR – Mr Cameron does not deserve praise for letting Parliament decide. He thought he had the vote fixed in advance, but complained bitterly when he lost, talking of sacking ministers who did not toe the line.
SIR – If instead of Matthew d’Ancona’s “grubby carnival of inaction”, the Commons had voted for action, what then? Effective intervention in Syria would require many thousands of troops on the ground for a very long time.
Thanks in no small measure to David Cameron, who has slashed the defence budget, we haven’t got them.
As I understand it, our standing army is the smallest it has been since the 19th century. What are the options? To lob a few Tomahawk missiles in the general direction of Assad’s forces and hope that not too many bystanders are killed in the process?
As we are incapable of making any difference to what is going on, debate is redundant.
SIR – I fail to see the logic of successive prime ministers who have wished to take us on military adventures, while at the same time cutting back our Armed Forces.
First it was cutting back the fat, then it was the administrative tail, and now David Cameron has lopped off the limbs.
At the same time there doesn’t seem to have been much of a reduction in the tea bill at the MoD.
SIR – While I too wanted to see independent clarification by the UN chemical weapons inspectors, the decision by our Parliament left me disillusioned and stunned.
Are we really willing to let tyrants gas their own people in order to maintain their reprehensible grip on power?
What the Government was proposing was not a Libya-style operation, but a short, sharp and limited strike to act as a deterrent against the future use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime and other states immoral enough to contemplate their use.
A dangerous precedent has now been set. You can kill your own people, either conventionally or with gas, and the British people will not stop you.
From now on, it will be the law of the jungle where the dirtiest player with the biggest stick wins.
SIR – I fail to understand why people were even considering calling for David
Cameron’s resignation over the Syria affair. This should have been a free vote but, sadly, it was not. In this country we have MPs of various colours elected under a democratic system who, when they vote, represent the views of their constituents.
The fact that more voted against than voted for was not Mr Cameron’s fault. It simply reflected the will of the people of this country.
SIR – At the G20 summit in St Petersburg, Vladimir Putin’s official spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, has said that Britain is “just a small island…no one pays any attention to them”. That is ironic coming from the representative of a country that is in long-term decline.
Russia is heavily dependent on oil and gas for foreign exchange, and is frightened stiff that its markets will be damaged by fracking in Western countries.
Apart from arms, it has few manufactured goods that other nations are interested in. The main purpose of its ramshackle military is to suppress its own people and threaten smaller countries.
The Russian population is declining rapidly through alcoholism, Aids, abortion and emigration and it is estimated that it will be smaller than Germany’s within a few decades.
It is no surprise that Russia’s businessmen are leaving the country in droves to escape the constant threat of state-sponsored violence and extortion.
SIR – D M Watkins (Letters, September 1) described the Tory and Lib Dem MPs who stood up to the party machines as brave. Brave?
Going to war in Afghanistan and putting one’s life on the line defusing bombs is brave. I hardly think there is any comparison between the two.
Locks Heath, Hampshire
SIR – We still have no clear evidence on who used the chemical weapons in Syria.
While it could well have been Assad’s regime, or rogue generals within it, it could just as easily have been Islamic fundamentalists among the rebels who have no qualms about “martyring” their own people.
If they can blame the Syrian regime and provoke Western involvement, their goal of bringing down Assad and installing an Islamist government will have been brought one step closer.
Sir, – Graham Hickey of the Dublin Civic Trust (Culture, September 5th) believes that because Georgian buildings in the north inner city have not been “gutted” that they “offer a greater opportunity to foster a vibrant residential community”. In fact the opposite is true.
Georgian buildings are typified by being four or five stories high, with no lifts, high ceilings, no damp proof courses or insulation, and limited modern plumbing or wiring. Most such buildings have no dedicated parking to the front, nowhere to put wheelie bins or store rubbish, and often have steep steps to the front door. These features make them very expensive to heat, difficult to get around and not very conducive to modern living, especially for the elderly or those with young families. Additionally in very many cases Georgian terraces have been subject to in-fill developments to the rear that have eliminated rear garden space and vehicle access, and that block light.
Georgian terraces are much less practical than modern apartment buildings which have underground parking, lifts, roof-gardens, communal bins and so on. This is why Georgian houses have commonly been sub-divided into small one bedroom units, attractive only to childless people with no car and limited means. They repel both families and prosperous professionals, instead facilitating a transient, indigent population and thus are the antithesis of housing required for a stable and prosperous community.
Well-meaning heritage enthusiasts must realise that real people cannot live in the past. – Yours, etc,
Phibsboro, Dublin 7.
Sir, – I watched the Oireachtas finance committee inquiry regarding the banks (Business, September 6th). Am I alone in thinking that the interests of the banks are the same as those of the State, ie to recoup every cent owed from mortgage holders? If they don’t the banks will go bankrupt. This is something the Government will not allow. Neither does it want to capitalise the banks again. Therefore, while the politicians may huff and puff, I cannot see they will do anything substantial that will interfere with the work of the banks. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – The proposal from Green Party leader Eamon Ryan on the reinvention of the Seanad (Opinion, September 5th) is extraordinary. He is effectively suggesting two directly elected chambers, one for full-time politicians and another for part-timers! Imagine trying to explain that on the ballot paper. His only other condition is that candidates could not run for both chambers.
Mr Ryan says such a second chamber could “preview” legislation ahead of the Dáil and that it could and “take responsibility” for further initiatives like the recent Constitutional Convention. But his recipe is woolly and dangerous – and shows a fundamental misunderstanding of the role and integrity of our legislature. He also wrongly misapplies the point about “international reviews” of our crash which lamented the groupthink that didn’t question policy. But this State groupthink was at the interface of senior civil servant/ministerial level and not in the faraway Seanad which, for all its faults, was hardly in a position to change national fiscal policy. And it is this crucial interface, incidentally, which we must continue to interrogate and improve in making thorough our systems of governance and implementation of policy. Modernising our legislature, and strengthening the actual parliament, should be a complement to that.
The Green Party leader either wilfully misapplies the point of these “international reviews” of our groupthink, or he misunderstands them. In which case, it brings to mind the cruel quip about the recent history of our Green party: that it was in the Cabinet alright, but not in government! – Yours, etc,
One House 2013,
Sir, – Congratulations are due to the members of Ibal (Irish Business Against Litter) for their tireless efforts to clean up Dublin’s streets – which are now (mostly) clean to European levels (Home News, September 2nd) .
I wonder should the focus now be on the city’s waterways? My daily commute takes me past the Tolka and the Liffey, both of which, at low tide, are as rank as they have ever been. Since it should be obvious by now that the citizenry cannot be dissuaded from throwing traffic cones, tyres and bicycle frames into the rivers, and the effort of cleaning them is costly, disruptive and ultimately futile, Dublin City Council might consider the construction of weirs at Merchants Quay on the Liffey and East Wall on the Tolka. These would be high enough to hold sufficient water upstream to cover the detritus at low tide but low enough to allow the rising tide to cover them. Sluices could be fitted so that they could be occasionally opened to remove any build-up of silt. The cascading effect of the water during the falling tide would offer some visual attraction and the Merchants Quay weir could be stylised in a manner to recall the original Wattle Ford. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – The remembrance ceremony at Mount Argus on August 31st for the deceased members of the RIC and DMP was a most moving event (Home News, September 2nd).
It was uplifting to see in attendance members of the Garda and PSNI and Minister of State Brian Hayes. Great credit is due to all those who had the courage to organise the long overdue occasion and promote it, in that regard your columnist Stephen Collins (Opinion, August 24th) should take a bow. – Yours, etc,
A chara, – Regarding the report on the ecumenical Mass for deceased members of the RIC and DMP, I note the following comment from a retired member of An Garda Síochána, Gerard Lovett, “Sadly, the terrible price paid by these brave men has been largely unacknowledged, and it is our intention to ensure as much as we can that in this upcoming decade of commemorations they will not be airbrushed from history.”
I agree with Mr Lovett that the actions of the colonial police forces during the period in question should in no way be airbrushed from the history books. I would strongly hope their actions are recorded in explicit detail for all to see so that they are never forgotten.
A simple reminder of just what these paramilitary forces represented was illustrated on page 9 of your paper on August 31st, 2013. The main photograph, showing DMP activity during the 1913 Lockout, speaks volumes and clearly demonstrates just how well they served the people. However, the actions of the RIC and DMP during 1913 pales into insignificance when compared with the later period specifically referred to by Mr Lovett (1916-1922).
For these reasons alone, I sincerely hope the State never airbrushes their actions from the history books. While it is clearly time to put the past into perspective and for the modern State to reconcile itself with its origins in violence and bloodshed, to describe indiscriminately the members of these forces as “brave men” is misleading to say the least.
Although there were undoubtedly good and honest individuals within the forces in question, I certainly would not think it appropriate for the State to celebrate without reservation the role and acts of the whole body of the colonial police forces of 19th and early 20th century Ireland as some correspondents seen to suggest. – Is mise,
Rue Théophile Vander Elst,
A chara, – I read with interest Mary Fitzgerald’s feature on the changes in senior foreign affairs postings (Weekend Review, August 31st), but was disconcerted and indeed deeply disappointed to note that only one of the seven ambassadors (albeit to what is one of our most senior postings) is a woman. The only acceptable explanation for such a gender imbalance would be if at the time these individuals entered the Department of Foreign Affairs (in which I served from 1970 to 1975) only one in seven applicants for entry was a woman.
If this imbalance did exist at the relevant time (which I find implausible), and continues today, active steps should be taken to ensure that the situation is corrected. This would mean identifying the possible causes of a lack of women applicants, and possible reasons for any blocks to the most senior ranks, and working towards remedying the situation. Surely this is a prerequisite if we truly seek, to cite ambassador Anne Anderson, “To project a modern, 21st century Ireland”? – Is mise,
Brandling Place South,
Sir, – Fianna Fáil, the hierarchy, the bankers, the property speculators – they all have no difficulty in washing their hands of their responsibilities. Why can the medical professionals not follow suit? – Yours, etc,
Madam – Jody Corcoran says that Ireland needs a new political party. I suggest what we need is a new movement rather than a party within a failed system.
Also in this section
Let’s rise from our knees
Legacy of Lockout lost in hypocrisy
OAP’s work plan
This movement would give power back to communities, make the taxpayer the most important person in the State, and make decisions with future generations in mind rather than merely the next election.
No standard politician wants to give away power, our politicians crave power – but alas have no idea how to use power for the general good. What Ireland needs now is people to leave a legacy for generations to come – like the late Victorians, who gave us free parks, museums, street lighting, safe drinking water and basic education for all.
Top-down hierarchical out-of-touch governance catering to elites, cliques and vested interests has failed Ireland, and is failing all across the Western world. Real change can never come from the top down; it must come from the grassroots. If people want to live in a republic fit for the 21st century, they must stop waiting passively for “change” and actively create a new Ireland themselves.
Rathgar, Dublin 6
Madam – There is no one more sorry than I about what happened. A truly unsolicited statement from Brian Cowen. What is it that happened? And why be sorry?
Also in this section
We must create change
Legacy of Lockout lost in hypocrisy
OAP’s work plan
Just about everyone in the country could utter that statement. Some could probably even do it without empathy. We are all very sorry about what happened. But we didn’t make the decisions that caused ‘what happened’. Or did we, through our democratic voting system? We are where we are, aren’t we? Going forward?!
Nero should, hypothetically, be sorry and held to account for the fumbling he did while Rome burned. Responsible individuals here should be sorry and be held to account in Ireland for the fumbling they did while the bankers did not burn. More importantly the Government should stop fumbling now while people are being burned.
The people of Ireland cannot take more stress and strain from more charges, tolls, excises, levies, tariffs, licence fees, duties and other taxes just to keep them in their roles. It cannot continue – house tax and non-principle private residence tax, water tax, septic tank tax, television licence tax, value added tax, car tax, pay as you earn tax, capital gains tax, pay related insurance tax, deposit interest retention tax, stamp duty tax, bank card and cheque tax, capital acquisitions tax, corporation tax, discretionary trust tax, carbon tax, tobacco tax, alcohol tax, universal social charge …
Maybe some of us would prefer to have some more cavemen and cavewomen living in the country along with the iPadmen rather than the free and easy gombeenmen who wrecked our homeland and our means of living.
The should-be ostracised erstwhile aficionados of the gombeenmen who, with their fumbling in the greasy tills, benefited from the country’s financial rise and massive collapse, are still living off the bodies of the living humans who can’t afford to leave and are too overwhelmed to fight back in this once-upon-a-time land of saints and scholars.
Ireland’s people need to rise from their knees now on the centennial anniversary of the 1913 Lockout. Some of Ireland’s inglorious past may justifiably be dead and gone and with O’Leary in the grave. Lack of autonomy through foreign interference in our democratic nation is as unacceptable to the Irish as is attempted domination by political parties.
Can we be iPadmen or cavewomen by our own individual choice in our own democratic country?
Yes we can!