Still sawing

15 September 2013 Still Sawing

I go all the way around the park round the park listening to the Navy Lark
Our heroes are in trouble Leslie proposes to Heather, eventually after forgetting what he was going to ask her twine. Priceless.
Mr S turns up and we finish sawimg up the oak tree so sad
We watch Dads army v good.
Scrabble today Mary wins and gets just under 400. perhaps I might win tomorrow.

Obituary:

Joan Regan
Joan Regan , who has died aged 85, was a leading light of the 1950s variety performance circuit whose popular singing style drew on the sunny delivery of her American contemporaries and belied her Essex roots and personal dramas.

Joan Regan Photo: ALAMY
2:12PM BST 13 Sep 2013
During the difficult post-war years, Joan Regan’s uplifting vocal approach had a comforting echo of Vera Lynn’s croon although, with her blonde hair and broad smile her looks mirrored the matinee glamour of the actress Anna Neagle, one of a number of stars she would later impersonate on stage. Success swiftly followed her signing to Decca Records in 1953 when her debut single, Ricochet, found her backed by the Squadronaires, the RAF orchestra. It reached No 8 in the charts and set her on a path that would result in four albums, her own television programme and international touring engagements.
Her first live performance ended prematurely when the curtain came down on her head, knocking her out. She was, however, to become a regular at the London Palladium during the late 1950s and early 1960s, appearing alongside such artists as Max Bygraves, Cliff Richard and Billy Dainty.
In 1946, when she was 18, Joan Regan had married Dick Howell, with whom she had two sons. The marriage was dissolved in 1951, and six years later she married the Palladium’s Box Office Manager, Harry Claff.
One of her frequent collaborators during her early performing years was the pianist Russ Conway. The pair became close friends. Conway declared that “three women taught me about stagecraft: Joan Regan, Gracie Fields and Dorothy Squires.” It proved to be an ideal professional partnership. “Somehow, he and I completely gelled musically,” she explained in 2004. “He took my music away and then we came back and rehearsed. And it was fantastic. It all seemed like different music.”
The variety life was indeed varied for Joan Regan. She entertained Christmas audiences in pantomime with Frankie Vaughan, shared star billing with Beryl Reid, Tommy Cooper and Morecambe and Wise and, in 1955, was called to perform before the Queen for a Royal Command Performance.
Her onstage smile, however, often hid serious distress. Her marriage to Claff ended when her husband was jailed for fraud, a crisis which led to her suffering a nervous breakdown. And in 1984 a brain haemorrhage left her temporarily paralysed and speechless. Miming to her favourite numbers aided her therapy.
Joan Regan was born on January 19 1928, at Romford, Essex. She was talent spotted by the impresario Bernard Delfont, brother of Lew and Leslie Grade, who helped her get signed by Decca (where she recorded two albums, The Girl Next Door and Just Joan). The label shaped her trademark renditions of stateside standards by Doris Day and Teresa Brewer. She later moved to EMI and then to Pye Records.
She sang on the hit television music show 6.5 Special leading to her own programme, Be My Guest. This ran for four series and attempted to expand her act, and her audience, by combining songs with impressions of stars like Gracie Fields and Judy Garland.
Further television work took her to America and across Europe, where she often sang alongside home-grown stars such as Maurice Chevalier, Eddie Fisher, Perry Como and Johnnie Ray.
After her convalescence from neurosurgery in the 1980s, she was encouraged back onto the stage by her old friend Russ Conway. Her late career on the nostalgia tours of Britain’s regional theatres drew fans that had remained with her for over four decades.
These concerts saw her expand her setlist to include numbers by many of her old friends. In particular, her vocal similarity to Vera Lynn allowed her to step into the shoes of the “Forces sweetheart” for celebratory medleys on anniversaries of V-E Day with the support of the Glenn Miller Orchestra. She performed many of her concerts towards the end of her career in aid of various charities.
Joan Regan remarried in 1968, to Martin Cowan, a doctor, and moved to Florida. The couple later returned to Britain and settled in Kent. Her husband predeceased her, and she is survived by her two sons and by a daughter of her second marriage.
Joan Regan, born January 19 1928, died September 12 2013

Guardian:

I compliment you on your editorial (“A powerless workforce weakens us all”). I am a Norwegian economist who has lived and worked in London for 27 years. Strong and responsible unions are in my view one of the reasons that the Norwegian economy is doing well. The same can be said for Sweden and Denmark.
The unions in Scandinavia have given priority to employment for all, decent working conditions and a fair distribution of income. A drive to strengthen unions and increase union membership in the UK would in my opinion inevitably result in a stronger and fairer UK economy. Strong unions are bound to be responsible. Thank you for raising the subject in your editorial. Maybe the Observer and the Guardian could launch a campaign with a series of articles to get more people to join unions and engage with the broader issues of full employment and a fair deal for all, rather than local disputes on individual pay?
I sometimes have the impression that many people in the UK are not well informed about the benefits of good and strong trade unions.
Lars Patterson
London SE27
More people would join unions and the Labour party if they offered a clearer approach to equality in earnings and wealth. Redress requires redistribution: living wage, guaranteed minimum income, progressive taxation of income and property. And a cap on top incomes.
It also requires “predistribution”: democratic reallocation of rewards and benefits within the bodies that employ us and produce our goods and services.
Unions could play a more constructive part in industry if all employees were legally entitled to a voice in corporate remuneration and policymaking. Companies should have to state just what, apart from profit, they are in business for. And be held accountable. Company reports should feature their current pay ratios: top, median and bottom. The Labour party could work in and out of government, across society, to narrow the gaps that separate and hold us back, open new paths and combine efforts in a more satisfying and sustainable social economy. Nobody labours for labour’s sake, but most of us like a good party.
Greg Wilkinson
Swansea
Andrew Rawnsley (“Ed Miliband can’t retreat from his battle with the union bosses”, Comment) seems to believe that what can turn things around for Ed Miliband is “an issue on which he can be unquestionably brave and undeniably principled and clearly willing to do the right thing”.
Might this issue be the economy, NHS reforms, the universal credit debacle, youth unemployment, education, the bedroom tax or the EU referendum?
No. What Rawnsley seems to think will transform the dire poll ratings for Miliband is an arcane row with the unions over party funding less than two years before a general election.
It is this kind of political village logic that will sadly result in a highly likely defeat for Labour and another miserable five years of coalition government.
Paul Morrison
Derry
N Ireland
Andrew Rawnsley states that the trade unions’ block vote, at Labour party conferences, will have to be abolished as a result of Ed Miliband’s reforms. Historically, the union block vote has been more of a benefit than a hindrance to the party leadership when pushing controversial measures through the conference. General secretaries have cut backroom deals for concessions in exchange for their support in votes that the leadership may otherwise have lost. The unions have voted for measures that restricted the rights of constituency parties and have cast their block vote for proposals that are against their own stated policies. There will be mixed feelings if the union block vote is abolished. It has often allowed the leadership to save face. In future, the stage management of the conference will be much more difficult.
Ian Pope
Southend-on-Sea

My mother, bearing the same surname as Nick Cohen, fled Russia with her family at the end of the 19th century, aged two. She and her family found safe haven in Britain rather than continental Europe, so none of my forebears was lost to Hitler’s gas chambers.
I am, nevertheless, disgusted that Mr Cohen should publicly upbraid Ed Miliband for being against supporting another US show of “shock and awe” in Syria, with heaven knows how many collateral civilian casualties, be they of one side or the other (“Don’t look to Ed Miliband for moral leadership,” Comment). As a wiser man than either of them once said: “Blessed are the peacemakers.”
Graham Weiner
London N10
Let’s hear it for engineers
I fully support what James Dyson says about encouraging “young engineers” into a career of engineering (Letters). He doesn’t touch, though, on the problem of low status and remuneration attached to that profession, mainly because there is no clear idea in the mind of the public as to what an “engineer” is, since anyone can so call themselves without any recognised qualification; very different from lawyers, doctors and architects. Most other countries have “engineer” as a protected title, requiring approved academic qualifications for membership.
Michael Tong
Kingsbridge
Devon
End of my tether with Teather
I read with great interest Sarah Teather’s resignation interview (“Top Lib Dem Sarah Teather to step down in despair at Nick Clegg’s policies”, News). But for those of us she will still be representing in parliament until 2015, it left more questions than answers. Did her near-certainty of defeat in 2015 have any influence on her decision? If she is so dismayed by her party’s increasing illiberalism, why do her brave rebellions against the party whip include voting against equal marriage but not legal aid cuts? And if she can’t bring herself to run as a Lib Dem in 2015, how can she continue to represent us as one for two years and deny us the chance to give our verdict on the education minister who tripled tuition fees and abolished the EMA?
Matt Kelcher
Brent
London NW10
Catholics must speak out
I am certain countless Catholics would join me in my expression of solidarity with Fr Lawson and his flock, and in deep disappointment at his treatment (“Whistleblower Catholic priest sacked from diocese after sex revelations to Observer”, News). Dismissal and silencing would indicate that some sections of the church are still in the Dark Ages. Until and unless we clear abuse from the church, we have no credibility as a prophetic voice championing the causes of the poor and vulnerable in society and the world.
John McLorinan
Weston-super-Mare
But what about the workers?
Whatever genius may lie behind the buildings attributed to Zaha Hadid – and many of the preening, self-absorbed prima donnas who fly from capital to capital with their ready-made architectural vision-speak quotes and sketches for celebrity-struck journalists and documentary-makers to feed upon – it is mostly that of the engineers, glass manufacturers and the technicians and window-cleaners who turn them into more or less viable structures and maintain them (“Queen of the curve”, New Review).
Rowan Moore makes not a single mention of any of them. One senses in his article a total disregard for those who really must get the sums right, the loads supported and the glass strong enough for these megastar architects to be able to earn a single penny.
Richard Wilson
Oxford
The truth will out… again
According to Victoria Coren (“God swapped for gobbledygook”, Comment), “Be true to yourself” is an empty new phrase that does not mean anything. “This above all, to thine own self be true, and it must follow as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man.” Advice from Polonius to Laertes (Hamlet).
Noel Hannon
London SW8
Pills for perpetuity
Deep in the Magazine (Lust list), you celebrate some age-defying capsules. Surely, as a service to humanity, their existence should have been on the front page? Although rather expensive at £120, perhaps some government initiative could make them more widely affordable?
Brian Smith
Berlin
Why didn’t Google Google?
The odd thing is that Google didn’t do any KitKat research (“Why Google’s obsession with sweets leaves a sour taste in the mouth”, New Review). It could have linked the name with the famous London coffee house of the 18th century, a place where clever people came together to share important news and have a bit of fun at the same time. Talk about missing a trick.
John Starbuck
Huddersfield

Independent:

George Osborne wastes no time in taking credit for the signs of an upturn in the economy. His talk of the sacrifices made by the British public is disingenuous.
Rather than being invited to join in the necessary measures to reduce the deficit, whole swathes of the country were sacrificed on the altars of the City, whose high priests had caused the damage to be visited on the populace as a whole, and who benefited disproportionately from the largesse designed to protect us all from the consequences.
It was inevitable that the UK economy would eventually start to pick up, when the companies sitting on vast piles of capital tired of their caution. There was a gentler, more humane way of arriving at this point, but the Chancellor now presides over a country where the rich are even richer, the worthy are being punished for their thrift, and the poor of all ages live in desolate wastelands of hopelessness, exploitation and unused talent, having endured quite unnecessary personal tragedies.
Well done, George.
Ssierra Hutton-Wilson
Evercreech, Somerset

Jane Merrick asks, “Is three too soon to start learning how to write?” (8 September). Children begin to learn to write from the moment they start to make marks with pens, paint, in sand, or in their food. And there are many activities parents and nurseries can provide to give children the resources they need to eventually learn to write. But in her independent report on early years education in 2011, Dame Clare Tickell separated communication and language from literacy, seeing these as a prime area of development before the more specific areas such as reading and writing.
Listening, understanding and speaking skills are more important for young children. And the appropriate physical skills and hand-eye coordination that help them form letters correctly.
Hilary Percival
Gosport, Hampshire

Cillian Murphy “still considers himself Irish, despite having lived in London for over a decade” (Arts & Books, 8 Sept- ember). That is because he is Irish, and that has not changed just because he now lives in the UK. My parents-in-law lived, worked and paid taxes in the UK for more than 50 years, but never considered themselves anything  but Irish. Ireland has been an independent country since 1922.
Rachel Gallagher
Gravesend, Kent

Before Margaret Thatcher, local authorities set local business rates, so they could deter big supermarkets from opening in the high street and encourage farm shops, craftspeople, and so on. But Thatcher believed market forces should be the only thing to decide the fate of our high streets. Furthermore, the charity rate relief is unnecessarily complicated. Couple the Government’s effectively paying 80 per cent of charities’ business rates with its power to set business rates, and boarded up high streets full of charity shops are explained.
Local authorities should set business rates, and charities receive a simple grant, to use as they think fit.
Henrietta Cubitt
Cambridge

I was appalled by the sympathetic advice given by Liz Barclay to a reader worried about the cost of car insurance for her student son at university (Business, 8 September). For heaven’s sake, tell the boy to sell the car and get around on his own two feet!
Jane Jakeman
Oxford

What have you done to your arts section? If your late lamented lady armchair critic were still rating things, I reckon she would have kicked over her chair in disgust!
Jenny Roberts
Swansea
Editor’s note: Changes to the arts coverage have caused consternation to several readers. The changes are in part due to un- avoidable economic constraints, but the paper remains committed to the arts. In the new, 20-page Arts & Books pull-out and in the main news section, there is still authoritative and entertaining coverage. Today, for instance,  we have everything from the Parisian craze for the Pre-Raphaelites, on the World pages, to the Royal Court’s new star playwright, in Arts & Books.

Times:

Pain relief takes priority over fear of addiction
WHEN you are in severe pain, and you find a drug that eases it, the potential for addiction is not your priority (“Deaths soar as Britain turns into nation of prescription drug addicts”, News, and “A nation of pill poppers”, Focus, last week). Having tried many over-the- counter painkillers that failed, I took tramadol to maintain some normality in my life.
I understand the concerns over such drugs and their addictive properties. Almost five years on I am still taking tramadol but I have never been tempted to take an overdose.
Patients with severe and chronic pain need more support from healthcare professionals, which is time- consuming and costly. Often when GPs prescribe these drugs it is sadly because there are not the resources available for them to try other means.
We need to address the whole issue of dealing with chronic pain, not just the over- prescribing of tramadol and other such drugs.
Margaret Stubbs, Nurse Prescriber, Godalming, Surrey
Heart of the matter
I’ve been taking tramadol for about eight years after nerve damage during open-heart surgery. I’ve tried coming off it, but the pain means I can’t sleep or sit comfortably, so I try to keep to the lowest dose and vary it with paracetamol.
My GP sent me to the pain clinic, where I had treatment with safety engineered needles, which didn’t work. Tramadol is still better than being dead from heart disease.
Tony Sutton, Kingswinford, West Midlands
Self-help, not self-pity
I have bipolar disorder and I doubt I would be alive today without the drug therapy I receive. I most certainly would not be still married or have a successful business, or be a productive member of my community. However, I have always taken a proactive approach to my illness.
Too many people turn to self-pity, even with a serious psychiatric complaint. I am infuriated when I hear fellow patients blaming their doctor for not making them better.
Alexander Nixon, Haswell, Co Durham
Lake District rant does not hold water
I’LL rise to Jeremy Clarkson’s bait to point out that in addition to selling sweets, Keswick is established as the adventure capital of Britain by leading outdoor companies, an obvious clue as to what is really going on here (“Launch the jet skis — and drive vegans from the humdrum Lakes”, News Review, last week).
And the ramblers he arrogantly dismisses can be seen putting their hands in their pockets not to keep warm but to contribute to the local economy. Oh, and the views remain world-beating, as ever.
John Stakes, Keswick, Cumbria
Only the lonely
Sorry, Jeremy, the Lake District should be a place where the lonely can go to be by themselves. The young and interesting can go somewhere else. I bet more people enjoy wandering through the daffodils than blasting across Coniston Water. I do agree about world heritage sites, though — some are pointless.
Janet Brindley, Hexham, Northumberland
The madding crowd
I am aware of the benefits gained by local businesses in holiday resorts. They do not need Clarkson’s high-rolling friends, or speed freaks on their lakes or in coastal waters.
John Best, Waterlooville, Hampshire

Shooting down myths of post-traumatic stress
INCREASING numbers of civilians tell us and other retired army colleagues, “You must have seen dreadful things,” or, “This or that must have been traumatic for you.” The many worthy causes and studies that try to help a minority of serving and former military personnel who suffer mental disorders seem to have led to an urban myth that we are all damaged by our service and that illnesses such as post-traumatic stress disorder lurk unseen within each of us.
Disproportionate media interest and the utterances of the many service and former-service charities may be reinforcing this myth and creating a culture of dependency. We also wonder if this is a factor in the falling numbers of recruits. What parent would actively encourage their child to join an organisation “known” to damage your mental health?
The overwhelming majority of former service personnel are fine — indeed, for many, military service was a real high point in their lives. They walk past your readers every day just getting on with their lives, having gone through a successful transition to civilian life.
Major-General Alan Hawley (Retired), Director-General Army Medical Services (2005-9)
Lieutenant-Colonel Ian Palmer (Retired), Tri-Service Professor of Military Psychiatry (1999-2003)

Fast-track drug trials
MORE than 3.5m people in the UK suffer from rare or life- threatening illnesses. Because of the lengthy and over- complex drug-approval process, many of them are receiving little or no effective treatment.
We have campaigned for a year to have easier and faster access to drugs and trials, and Lord Saatchi’s Medical Innovation Bill, proposing that doctors are allowed more flexibility in prescribing new drugs, took us a step closer to our goal.
Clinical trials could be significantly modified to benefit those facing life-threatening conditions. Drug companies could make trial data publicly available to give us faster analysis, and patients and their families could, under medical guidance, waive their right to take legal action — removing the fear of litigation among doctors and drug developers.
While the government addressed some of these issues with the life sciences strategy (December 2011), they have since been on the back burner.
Les Halpin, Empower: Access to Medicine
Sir Peter Lachmann, Professor Emeritus of Immunology, Cambridge
Professor Richard Barker, Centre for the Advancement of Sustainable Medical Innovation
For flip’s sake
IN A humorous editorial (“Flipper fails on porpoise”, last week) it was suggested I stated that dolphins are dimmer than chickens and capable of gang rape. I did not. Dolphins do not engage in rape — a myth based on a misunderstanding of dolphin socio-sexual behaviour — and are not dimmer than chickens. In my book on dolphin cognition, which was the focus of the article “Jack the Flipper kills smart dolphin myth” (News, last week), I conclude that there is good reason to believe that dolphins are intelligent. But I also point out that many other species that we often think of as unintelligent sometimes produce unexpectedly intelligent behaviour as well. Animal cognition is a lot murkier and harder to interpret than most people realise, especially when trying to make cross-species comparisons.
Justin Gregg, Research Associate, Dolphin Communication Project

Points
Off licence
Another week, another BBC scandal, but the news “Ministers to axe failing BBC Trust” (last week) is surely the wrong course of action. Why not abolish or substantially reduce the licence fee and make the BBC earn its income? This will get rid of the easy-come-easy-go attitude, make the corporation live in the real world and let the consumer choose where their money should go.
Chris Watson, London E14

Thin red line
I read your editorial about the desperate Syrian situation (“Obama can no longer lead from behind”, Editorial, and “War weary”, Focus, last week) and am unable to comprehend why in international law a line was not crossed by 100,000 people being killed, whereas it was by 1,400 deaths from gas.
Martin Coath, Sevenoaks, Kent

Polls apart
So Alan Sked, who originally formed UKIP, is calling for a boycott of next year’s European election (“Founder splinters from ‘racist’ UKIP”, News, last week). Given the turnout in recent Euro polls, how will we tell if he has been successful?
Nick Bibby, Chesham, Buckinghamshire

Tattoo much
Rosie Kinchen claims people who get tattoos are “a different breed” (“The bottom line is rebellion”, News Review, September 1). So why do 90% of people at my local swimming pool have them? Today’s true tattoo rebellion is the simple act of remaining tattoo-free.
Michael Barrows, Birmingham

Sexual revolution
It was good to read an article, by a woman, suggesting the correct direction in sex education for males (Eleanor Mills, News Review, last week). The government should think about using books, films, the internet and the media to teach men how to make love — and ban pornography.
James Roberts, Prestatyn, Denbighshire

In the black book
Regarding Hugh Pearman’s article on the Birmingham library (“The huge new library in Birmingham, Europe’s biggest, is a proud mix of public forum, tribute to literature and grand gesture” Culture, September 1), how about a thought for those who have less enlightened councils? My local authority, Lewisham, scrapped its mobile library service and turned five out of 12 local libraries over to community use. The result has been such a catastrophic drop in book stocks and book issues that the council now refuses to allow access to the statistics.
Gina Raggett, London SE3

Corrections and clarifications
Complaints about inaccuracies in all sections of The Sunday Times, including online, should be addressed to editor@sunday-times.co.uk or The Editor, The Sunday Times, 3 Thomas More Square, London E98 1ST. In addition, the Press Complaints Commission (complaints@pcc.org.uk or 020 7831 0022) examines formal complaints about the editorial content of UK newspapers and magazines (and their websites)

Birthdays
Jimmy Carr, comedian, 41; Sophie Dahl, model, 36; Tom Hardy, actor, 36; Prince Harry, 29; Tommy Lee Jones, actor, 67; Jessye Norman, soprano, 68; Oliver Stone, film director, 67; Graham Taylor, former England football manager, 69; Amanda Wakeley, fashion designer, 51

Anniversaries
1831 Charles Darwin arrives in the Galapagos Islands on board HMS Beagle; 1890 birth of Agatha Christie; 1940 RAF declares victory in the Battle of Britain; 1978 Muhammad Ali defeats Leon Spinks to become the first three-time world heavyweight boxing champion

Telegraph:

SIR – The Bank of England’s plan to introduce plastic money doesn’t just mark the end of paper notes, it signals the end for cash in general (report, September 11).
Not only has the Bank of England recognised paper money is no longer fit for purpose, Transport for London has gone a step further and said it has entered a public consultation to stop taking cash on buses, while reports show cash payments have dropped by 20 per cent in 10 years. Cash also costs the economy 1.5 per cent of our annual GDP. Put simply, cash is inconvenient, it’s insecure, and it’s costly. The Bank of England should spare us the move to plastic and focus instead on online and digital forms of payment that suit the way we shop, work and live.
Simon Black
Chief executive, Sage Pay
Newcastle upon Tyne, Co Durham
SIR – Plastic banknotes would destroy tradition, ruin the feel of money and create a monopoly-style system. Saving from this scheme would only be £10 million per year and this does not take into account the cost of upgrading the printing machines.
Glorious nostalgia should not be eradicated simply for environmentalist practicality.

Kieran Bailey
Bristol
SIR – We used plastic notes while living in Singapore. What a pleasure it was to retrieve whole and reusable dollars from my husband’s trouser pockets after they had been, inadvertently, in the washing machine.
On a finders-keepers basis, I built up quite useful lunch fund.
Laurie Widgery
Liverton, Devon
SIR – We are writing as MPs representing different views about abortion but united in concern regarding the recent decision of the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) not to prosecute GPs alleged to have authorised illegal gender-selection abortions (report, September 6). We are supporting the call by the Health Secretary for this matter to be investigated.
The decision by the CPS could lead to the conclusion that gender-specific abortion is merely a matter of professional misconduct rather than illegal. This is clearly unconstitutional as it is for Parliament to legislate to change the law, and it has occurred without recourse to Parliament. Safeguards in the 1967 Abortion Act need to be properly applied and enforced. Doctors are not above the law and the General Medical Council cannot be a substitute for the courts.
Discrimination on the grounds of sex should not be ignored. The decision of the CPS is a step back in the fight for gender equality. Gender-selective abortion has affected the gender balance in many parts of the world and harms women by reinforcing misogynist attitudes.
We look forward to the Attorney General providing clarity on this issue.
David Burrowes MP
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SIR – The aim of punishing Assad with air strikes was to dissuade him from any further use of chemical weapons, not to take sides in the civil war. The process of putting those weapons under international control pending their destruction may indeed be a long and difficult road. But if there are no more chemical attacks in the meantime, then the long-term objective will have been achieved.
Had Parliament given David Cameron approval in principle for a strike, President Obama would not have put his decision to a vote, and a joint US/UK/French operation may well have been launched over the weekend, with no guarantee as to the final outcome. So at least as far as chemical weapons are concerned, we are where we want to be, and Parliament should take credit for that.
Roger Smith
Shefford, Bedfordshire
SIR – Vladimir Putin insists that the Syrian chemical attack did not come from the government forces. By inference then, it must have come from opposition fighters.
Assad is said to be ready to surrender his chemical weapon stock, but how about the opposition’s chemical arsenal?
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SIR – Would now not be a good time for this insignificant little island to lead the way and give up its own chemical weapons, challenging Putin to do the same?
Dave James
Tavistock, Devon
SIR – Do the West’s politicians really believe that Assad will hand over all of his chemical weapons to an international force without holding back and hiding significant stocks?
Presumably these are the same politicians who believed that the IRA would decommission all of its weapons.
Nick Farmer
Leicester
SIR – Article 2(4) of the United Nations Charter provides: “All members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations.”
Is it not time we accepted that if, as Syria has done, a nation so conducts its affairs that it drives more than a million of its own people as refugees into adjoining states, that is as much an infringement of Article 2(4) as would be the case had it advanced more than a million of its armed forces over their boundaries?
David Green
Castle Morris, Pembrokeshire
SIR – As Harry S Truman wrote: “There is nothing more foolish than to think that war can be stopped by war. You don’t ‘prevent’ anything by war except peace.”
Peter D Harvey
Perth, Western Australia
Delayed education
SIR – I am stunned by the arrogance of Michael Gove’s spokesman, who dismissed the expert view that formal education should be delayed until children are older as “misguided” (report, September 12).
There is ample evidence that artistic and creative play enhances children’s social skills, develops their manual dexterity and helps them master the skills needed for problem solving. The latter in particular is vitally important for children. Formal learning of the kind now demanded by Ofsted gives you a bank of information. Problem-solving skills enable you to use that information to its best advantage.
Why should Mr Gove think he knows better than people who have studied the subject for years and had professional experience in education?
Pat Stannard
London E17
Speak more clearly
SIR – As a court interpreter it is vital for me to be accurate. The loss of thee and thou from the language is a hindrance to this.
A typical situation, when I am interpreting an examination by a barrister in court, is one where two or three offenders had been acting “jointly and severally”. During examination, when one of them is being asked to describe, step by step, what happened, the barrister will at several points ask: “And what did you do next?” It is never clear whether this means you, the individual burglar, or you, the group of burglars. I have to interrupt the flow to ask the barrister which he means.
Reclaiming thee and thou for the English language would bring clarity to a corner of the language which lacks it.
Wojciech Gaworzewski
London SW19
Managerial power
SIR – What a splendid idea it is to set up an Olympic-style body of qualified people to manage our nuclear power stations (report, September 6). We could call it the Central Electricity Generating Board.
John Howard
Malton, North Yorkshire
Another Red Ed
SIR – Ed Miliband seems obsessed with linking himself to leading 19th-century Tories (report, September 11). Last year he compared himself with Disraeli, whose “one nation” philosophy he claims to share. But Disraeli referred only to two nations – the rich and the poor – destined, in his view, to remain divided for ever, as Douglas Hurd and Edward Young show in their brilliant new biography.
Now Mr Miliband claims to have discovered another “Red Ed” – Edward Stanley, 14th Earl of Derby, who led the Tories for more than 20 years, longer than anyone else. According to Mr Miliband, Stanley showed his love of the Left by legalising trade unions in 1867. In fact that happened over 40 years earlier in 1824 under Lord Liverpool, a figure long caricatured by the Left as a reactionary. Stanley, a haughty grandee with vast estates in Lancashire, had no more than a mild interest in social reform, passing a Master and Servant Act in 1867, which improved the legal position of workers who were sacked.
Lord Lexden
Official Conservative Party Historian
London SW1
Knitted poppies
SIR – There is an alternative to scattering poppy seeds across the countryside (Letters, September 13); it is known as yarn bombing. We all remember those charming knitted figures of Olympic athletes that decorated railings last year, so why not knit our own memorial?
During both World Wars, knitting comforts for the Armed Services was a way of showing our love and support. It is fitting that for the anniversary of the outbreak of the First World War we show our gratitude in the same caring way.
The Royal British Legion sells patterns for knitted and crocheted poppies and others can be found on the internet. Farmers need have no fears about poppies contaminating crops, and shoppers will delight in seeing a host of knitted poppies decorating village and town centres.
Sheila Williams
Sunningdale, Berkshire
Going, going, scone
SIR – Years ago, when I was teaching a cookery class, a pupil said to me: “I likes making dough, Miss. It cleans your hands lovely!” (Letters, September 12). I withheld this remark until members of staff had eaten all the scones offered by the girls.
Catherine Foster
Portsmouth, Hampshire
Britain would not be the same without the BBC
SIR – Nobody can be other than totally dismayed at the gross behaviour of the top executives at the BBC, but we must not forget the major contribution that the BBC makes to the cultural life of this country, which no commercial undertaking would be able to emulate, even with a massive hike in subscriptions and advertising.
Think also of the support given to the various BBC orchestras, the provision of the many local radio stations, the access to a whole library of past programmes etc., and all for a daily fee of less than four pence. Allison Pearson (Comment, September 12) said it all: “I have no desire to live in a Britain without the BBC”.
Allan Davison
Ramsbury, Wiltshire
SIR – On seeing BBC executives up in front of parliamentary beaks, the laissez-faire attitude to public money in both places came to mind, followed by the phrase: “the lunatics in charge of the asylum”.
Alan Mooge
Enfield, Middlesex

Irish Times:

Sir, – There are three limbs to our elected democratic governance system, all more or less unchanged in over 70 years. 1. The presidency. 2. Seanad Éireann. 3. Dáil Éireann. They are three interactive parts fulfilling different roles and with different levels of power.
It is wrong to judge one element as defective, expensive and unnecessary without assessing the remaining elements.
Abolishing the Seanad will save less than reforms, reduction in numbers and allied costs made to the Dáil.
(The Seanad does need reform but, more comprehensively, so does the Dáil. Changing the Seanad electorate is the most needed change.)
Seek better roads to be followed by both Houses of the Oireachtas before simply abolishing one without any examination of the bicameral system.
It is frightening to see one of the elective elements of our democracy being abolished with little or no public discussion for or against the proposal. We deserve to be asked: “Reform” or “Abolish”. Not being so asked suggests a No vote. – Yours, etc,
SEÁN STEWART,
Lower Salthill,
Galway.
Sir, – The Constitution is a contract between the State and its citizens. Like any contract, there are provisions which relate to events we hope will never happen. Many of these relate to governments over-stepping their power. These provisions will only prove to be useful when we need them. It may not have happened in our short-lived Republic, and indeed we might imagine it never will. Yet our founders saw good reason for such protections when setting up our Constitution. The Seanad, as a check on the government of the day, is one such protection.
We are being told by the current Government that we don’t need this protection ostensibly so as to save money. It’s a paltry amount in terms of what our Government spends, and from which they have not even yet made public the costs of actually holding the referendum.
When we will have need for these provisions in the Constitution, we will not be given the chance to put them back in. Abuse of power is made all the easier when a government can reduce the judiciary’s pay or if they no longer have an upper house as a check on their power.
The current Government is tinkering away with our Constitution at an alarming rate. A referendum to abolish the Seanad rather than giving us the option of reform is not just short-sighted, but a dereliction of duty. At worst, it is an underhand removal of some of the core protections inherent in our Constitution. – Yours, etc,
FRANCIS COLL,
Dodderbank,
Milltown, Dublin 14.
Sir, – Barry Walsh (September 12th) lists 14 present and past distinguished senators. He uses their names to justify the retention of the Seanad and states, “What strikes you immediately is the sheer impact which they collectively had on our society and our politics”.
Without relisting all the names, one has to agree that indeed, they were people of some achievement. Nevertheless, on closer scrutiny, one immediately sees that nearly all these people made their contribution to the country throughout their lives, in their chosen fields of activity, and long before their elevation to the Seanad. Their appointments to the Seanad were, primarily, in recognition of their undoubted contribution. But the real benefits to our society resulted from their lifelong work and not, as Mr Walsh suggests, from their membership of the Seanad. Like the House of Lords, there is something of the Elysian Fields about our Senate. – Yours, etc,
LIAM MURRAY,
Kelston,
Foxrock,
Dublin 18.

Irish Independent:

* Michael Brennan reports in the Irish Independent (September 12) that President Michael D Higgins has delivered “a pre-Budget warning” to the Coalition.
Also in this section
Looking forward to the miracles of St Martin
Personal insolvency is only for the pros
Decision to keep school is correct
This must be the first presidential pre-Budget warning to a government, delivered in public, in the 75-year history of this distinguished constitutional office.
Mr Higgins is apparently anxious to foster a deeper level of economic understanding and debate about economic choices among the general public, so as to “not run the risk of losing legitimacy”.
His own contribution to this debate is essentially a partisan political perspective, differing little in character from that of myriad lobbyists, exclusively focused on the particular vested interests they represent and cast in the context of what they deem to be “fairness”.
The oath that the Constitution prescribed the President to swear on entering office includes “a solemn and sincere promise” to “dedicate his abilities to the service and welfare of the people of Ireland” – all the people of Ireland.
This essentially means that the President remains above politics and strictly outside the political discourse.
It is, therefore, extremely difficult to see how Mr Higgins can enter a partisan dialogue in public about “preferential treatment” in the weeks preceding next month’s Budget without intruding on the mandate of the houses of the Oireachtas, even if the members of the houses are not as effective in their advocacy of economic policy choices, or as aligned in their views, as the President might desire them to be; the President’s concept of legitimacy of economic choice is compromised as a consequence.
If Mr Higgins persists in pushing the mandate of his office “to the limit”, he will run the risk of being accused of failing to act as the guardian of the Constitution, which is his unique, primary and fundamental obligation.
That verdict would seriously jeopardise the legitimacy of the Presidency.
Myles Duffy
Glenageary, Co Dublin
PRESIDENT OVERPAID
* I really am getting tired of President Michael D Higgins commenting on economic matters.
Given the absolute basket case that the Irish economy is, the very most he should be paid is €100,000 a year.
When the President’s pay and perks reflect the actual underlying wealth of the country, then and only then should he comment on the economy.
Niall Johnston
Co Clare
PAPAL BUNKUM
* Pope Francis has pontificated that “sin, even for a non-believer, is when one goes against one’s conscience” (Irish Independent, September 12), claiming his god will “forgive” us as long as we behave morally and live according to our consciences.
Why do the religious insist on trying to impose their own internal rules, beliefs – and fictional concepts – on to others? I’m an atheist with regard to all gods invented by humans. So Francis can evangelise about his god, and what he assumes it thinks about those who hold a non-belief in it. But it has as much relevance to me as Odin, Zeus and Quetzalcoatl.
The concept of “sin” is a religious one, and irrelevant to non-believers. Going against one’s conscience can be better explained by philosophy, psychology, evolution and neuroscience through the esteemed work of AC Grayling, Sam Harris, Dan Dennett and Steven Pinker than theological bunkum such as “sin”.
Perhaps Francis could also read ‘Moral Minds: How Nature Designed Our Universal Sense of Right and Wrong’ by evolutionary biologist Marc Hauser before lecturing us further on issues beyond his scope.
Gary J Byrne
IFSC, Dublin
TAX ON WATER A JOKE
* I am livid with the Government, having read that Environment Minister Phil Hogan (Irish Independent, September 13) is now telling us we will pay tax on water bills. This is more than a step too far, and any TD who votes for the Budget deserves what he/she gets in the next election – and the sooner the better.
Caitriona McClean
Lucan, Co Dublin
KEEPING DAIL IN REIN
* I find it hard to believe that the Government will actually bring in the reforms it has just announced amid a flurry of media attention.
Would these new committees be the same as that set up for the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill – a committee of medical experts who gave their professional opinion, years of expertise and advice, much of which was totally ignored by the Government? The bill was brought in regardless of what those working in the area felt. It is amazing how politicians thought they had more medical knowledge than the doctors and gynaecologists involved.
The Government has had the opportunity to bring about real reform to the Dail, but has failed to do so. The salaries remain over-inflated and expenses and pensions are still too high.
I feel this is just the Government paying lip-service to the idea of Dail reform. Whether or not one believes in the Senate, there has to be some form of control over the actions of the Dail. I hope the majority of us have enough sense to read between the lines and demand proper reform.
C Magnone
Address with Editor
BE SEEN AND BE SAFE
* As light begins to fade earlier, we need to be aware of how difficult it is for drivers to distinguish cyclists from our dark surroundings.
At dusk, it is a struggle for drivers to spot us. We need to make sure we are visible to drivers at all times for everyone’s safety.
Walkers should also ensure they have high-visibility jackets and torches. Cyclists need lights on both the front and rear of their bicycles to stay safe as we head into darker winter evenings.
Sarah Cregan
Limerick
SUCH ARROGANCE
* When I read the papers these days, the phrase that comes to mind is: “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?”
The arrogance of Personal Insolvency Practitioner Jim Stafford leaves me breathless, and the back-pedalling leaves me unimpressed.
Are we approaching the day when the privileged people that the rest of us have to bow the knee to will be putting pictures of their beautiful houses on their CVs? Will we be asking the surgeon on the operating table: “Are you sure you have a ‘suitable’ house?”
That is a joke, but it’s also a joke that anyone with a “tither of wit” would base an important decision on the type of house anyone has.
Disappointed Fine Gael supporter
Address with Editor
SHUT YOUR TRAPP
* I nearly fell over laughing at Eamon Dunphy campaigning for Martin O’Neill to be the next Republic of Ireland soccer team manager. If my memory serves me correctly, Mr Dunphy launched a similar campaign to have poor old Trapattoni appointed to the same position.
When Trap got the job and began managing the squad according to his own strictures by imposing the discipline necessary for a successful team effort, Eamon was among the first to start calling for his head.
This nonsense has gone on long enough. If Eamon wants to pick the team, he should apply for the job himself.
Eugene Cassidy
Ballyconnell, Co Cavan
Irish Independent

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