Meg and Ben

3 October 2013 Meg and Ben

I go all the way around the park round the park listening to the Navy Lark
Our heroes are in trouble they are back from leave and Pertwee is in early what can he have been up to?Priceless.
I get Meg and Ben to put books on Amazon
We watch Dads army v good.
Scrabble today Mary wins and get under 400. perhaps I might win tomorrow.


Kevin Sharpe obituary
Historian best known for his work on the reign of Charles I
Andrew Hadfield
The Guardian,

Kevine Sharpe loved all things American.
The historian Kevin Sharpe, who has died of cancer aged 62, transformed our understanding of the 17th century, in particular the character and culture of the reign of Charles I, and the relationship between the politics of his court and the onset of the civil war. In his most substantial work, The Personal Rule of Charles I (1992), he argued that, far from having been the naive monarch whose arrogance caused the civil war, Charles was a principled and often astute man who was dogged by hostile forces and appalling luck. While politicians argued that expediency was the way to offset crises, Charles believed that absolute principles had to be maintained whatever the cost, including his own life.
The Personal Rule of Charles I was Kevin Sharpe’s most substantial work
The book was widely read and reviewed and generated a great deal of debate. Kevin’s writing was characterised by his lucid, reader-friendly prose; he always believed that proper scholarship need not be obscure and that historians should always make their arguments accessible without compromising their standards.
Kevin was born in Rochester, Kent, where he attended Sir Joseph Williamson’s mathematical school. He had planned to read law at university but was persuaded to change to history by an inspiring teacher, Keith Baker.
Kevin studied as an undergraduate and postgraduate at St Catherine’s College, Oxford, where he was supervised by Hugh Trevor-Roper. His thesis became his first book, Sir Robert Cotton, 1586-1631: History and Politics in Early Modern England (1979), a timely re-evaluation of the life, work and political significance of the antiquary, which established one of the many strands of Kevin’s wide-ranging research interests.
Kevin was a junior research fellow at Oriel College (1974-78) and a lecturer at the University of Southampton. He was awarded a personal chair in 1994 and moved on to appointments at Warwick (2001) and Queen Mary (2005). At the time of his death he was about to return to Southampton, where he had been especially happy and where he had always kept a house.
His second book, Criticism and Compliment: The Politics of Literature in the England of Charles I (1987), was awarded the Royal Historical Society’s Whitfield prize. A rare study of literature by a historian, it addressed the need to establish the wider reputation of the monarch through an analysis of how he was represented beyond official state papers and political correspondence. In studying the poetry of Sir William Davenant, Thomas Carew and Aurelian Townshend, as well as the variety of court masques, Kevin showed how authors simultaneously supported the king through lavish public praise, while also suggesting that he might want to try other courses of action. This has been a staple of literary criticism ever since but was by no means accepted wisdom in the late 1980s. It is not surprising that Kevin’s chairs were held in English as well as history departments.
Criticism and Compliment began Kevin’s lifelong fascination with the power of images, the subject of the trilogy that dominated the last phase of his career. Selling the Tudor Monarchy: Authority and Image in 16th-Century England was published in 2009 and Image Wars: Promoting Kings and Commonwealths in England, 1603-1660, came out the following year. The last volume, covering the 18th-century, will be published posthumously.
Kevin probably held more internationally prestigious fellowships than anyone else working in the humanities. He spent significant periods at Princeton, Yale, Stanford, the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington DC and the Huntington Library in California, and was awarded major grants by the Leverhulme Trust and the Alexander Von Humboldt Foundation. Kevin was especially fond of America, its culture, food and popular music, in particular blues and soul (he argued vociferously that 1968 had marked the end rather than the beginning of an era), and he often wondered out loud how he could fashion a life which brought all his friends together in a pub, a library or on a beach.
He was an instinctively maverick conservative, with little time for what he saw as the tiresome pieties of the left. He was also as naturally egalitarian and would seek out those who he thought valued good conversation and witty banter, many quite different to him in character and belief. He was a resolutely cheerful, generous-spirited man, who, when he did boast, expressed immense pleasure that he had been able to help others obtain their dues.
Kevin is survived by his sister, Carol, and his nieces, Sara and Karen.


In the 1980s, I took some of my students to a history workshop conference in Oxford. We heard lectures from Ralph Miliband, among others (Ralph Miliband didn’t hate Britain, says his biographer – his enemy was injustice, 2 October). He analysed and rejoiced in the great British radical tradition, from the Lollards and Levellers, Thomas Paine, Wilberforce and the anti-slavery movement, Shaftesbury and, yes, the trades unions. He talked also of the remarkable British tolerance and readiness to receive immigrants and refugees, like himself. Of course, he was an immigrant, a socialist and a gifted intellectual – all the things despised by the Daily Mail.
I loathe the Mail and its politics because it expresses everything that is foul about the rightwing in this country. That does not mean I am the less patriotic. Quite the reverse. It is because I love my country that I find the Mail unpatriotic, nasty, intolerant and everything that demeans Britain.
Colin Pickthall
Ulverston, Cumbria
• It must have been tempting for Ed Miliband to have ignored the Mail article, assuming it was so ridiculous it would soon be forgotten. However, this is the mistake John Kerry made in 2004 when the swift boat veterans made fictitious claims about his Vietnam war record. The people who benefited were Dick Cheney and George Bush, who both would probably have chosen to keep their own history of that era secret. Incidently, the Mail’s history of not letting the facts get in the way of a good story goes back many years. During the Boxer rebellion on 16 July 1900, their Shanghai correspondent reported “the death of all foreigners in Peking”. They had been “put to death in the most atrocious manner” except in cases where men had been able to shoot their own wives and children before the Chinese burst in. For two weeks the story was believed and a mass service of mourning was organised for St Paul’s Cathedral. This had to be cancelled when it was found not to have happened (Source: Dreadnought, by Robert K Massie, 1992).
Colin Macarthur
Ramsbottom, Lancashire
• The Mail now obviously draws its editorial line straight from Ukip. In the Ukip cultural policy statement in 2010, “Restoring Britishness”, we were told: “As this first generational wave of Marxist-sympathisers age, a new generation is taking their place. Two senior New Labour ministers, David and Ed Miliband, are the sons of Trotskyite Ralph Miliband, who is buried in the same cemetery as Karl Marx… They represent the next generation of highly placed leftist social engineers, who will carry on the dangerous work the so called ‘generation of 68′ started unless stopped politically.” This was republished on the Ukip website in April 2013. The right judges us by our burial places as well as our written and genetic legacies.
Rev Andrew Davey
• The Mail hates Ralph Miliband because he wanted to create a better world; a more equal and just one, not dominated by the pursuit of profit and the dominance of a small, powerful, rich elite. He was a socialist and proud to be, who drew his inspiration from the struggles of the oppressed and developed a critique of capitalism which was based on a Marxist analysis. His last book, Socialism for a Sceptical Age, published in 1994 (and, by the way, well worth a read), foresaw how private enterprise would come to dominate all sectors of economic life. His answer was the construction of a different society, which would create genuine citizenship and community: yes a socialist society. If that’s evil, then I’m a cabbage.
Jol Miskin
Workers’ Educational Association, Sheffield
• Of all the countries in Europe, it’s only England where being a Marxist could be construed as proof positive that one is an enemy of the nation, as opposed to merely espousing a mainstream political and philosophic position that some support and some oppose. Is it no wonder that, firstly, the Daily Mail’s mental map sees the English Channel as the same width as the Atlantic Ocean and, secondly, that the rest of Europe see this country as politically, intellectually and emotionally isolationist?
Simon Sedgwick-Jell
• The Daily Mail had form long before its appalling support of the fascists during the 1930s (Letters, 2 October). In 1924, it played the red smear card when it published the so-called Zinoviev letter. This purported to be from the Communist International to the Communist Party of Great Britain, calling on British communists to mobilise “sympathetic forces” in the Labour party to support an Anglo-Soviet treaty. The Daily Mail published this just before the 1924 general election, lost by the first Labour government, under the headline Civil War Plot by Socialists’ Masters.
The letter, probably a forgery concocted by dissident White Russians, and leaked to the Conservative party by MI6, had the desired result. Plus ca change indeed.
John Kew
Sawbridgeworth, Hertfordshire
• As someone who was taught by Ralph Miliband and who (like his sons) admired the man while rejecting much of his politics, I thought your reference to Orwell was spot on (Editorial, 2 October). Orwell’s brand of radical patriotism, captured in his description of the country as “a family with the wrong members in control”, would also qualify him in Mail-speak to be someone who “hated Britain”. The real hatred comes from those who peddle this kind of pathetic nonsense.
Professor Tony Wright
• Ed Miliband might wreak vengeance on his Fleet Street tormentors in a manner that would benefit the rest of us by closing the tax loopholes that allow the likes of Viscount Rothermere, owner of the Daily Mail, to live in Wiltshire but pay tax as though he lives in France.
W Stephen Gilbert
Corsham, Wiltshire

The Conservatives’ latest proposals for a marriage tax allowance is even more retrograde than Tanya Gold’s damning critique suggests (A marriage of convenience, Comment, 1 October). It is Mr not Mrs Collins who will benefit. This is because the part-time workers and stay-at-home mothers to whom she refers will transfer part of their unused tax allowance to their partners. There is no guarantee they will see that money themselves. And there are fears that the policy will reduce paid work incentives for a second earner, thereby potentially increasing women’s economic dependence.
Moreover, even Mr Collins’s gains would be reduced should he be claiming universal credit – which will be calculated on net income – and the higher the tax threshold is raised, so the number of workers who earn too little to gain anything at all will increase. Raising child benefit would be a much fairer way of helping low-income families.
Ruth Lister
Labour, House of Lords

Your Lib Dem correspondents are right to draw attention to the false reassurances provided on the competition regulations of the Health and Social Care Act 2012 (Letters, 1 October), which facilitate the transfer of billions of pounds of NHS services to the private sector. However, their remedy, to seek an explanation from the prime minister, is both grossly inadequate and misses the point that these reassurances were also given by the deputy prime minister. It was only with his collusion that not only section 75, but the whole destructive act, became law. It’s time for Lib Dems who cherish our comprehensive NHS to drop the illusion that the coalition can be any part of the solution and start working with other parties and groupings to plan to restore the founding principles of the NHS before we pass the point of no return.
Dr Anthony Isaacs and Dr Edie Friedman
• Lib Dem support for the health bill, led by Shirley Williams, may have been given in good faith, but it was a tragic error, as her party colleagues now see. In contrast, the former health minister David Owen saw through it. He clinically dissected its many errors and dishonesties in a pamphlet entitled Fatally Flawed, which concluded “perhaps the government are deliberately hiding the ends because they know if they did not do so it would make its health policy even more unpopular and incoherent”.
Dr Sebastian Kraemer
Whittington hospital, London
• At the meeting of the board of the Wyre Forest clinical commissioning group on 1 October, in the absence of GP members with a conflict of interest and to the great satisfaction of members of the public present, board members agreed, following a well-structured governance process, to commission without competitive tendering most of the local enhanced services from local GPs, the current providers. If other CCGs were to take the same approach, the coalition government’s potential privatisation of the NHS, made almost inevitable by the current Health and Social Care Act, could be seriously impeded.
Richard Taylor
Co-leader, National Health Action Party

The Tory party stopped being conservative in the 1980s, abandoning its commitment to the three Ps – patriotism, pragmatism and paternalism – which had kept it in power for most of the century before, and became a party of neoliberal free-market radicals, setting the tone for the last 30 years and leading to the inequality and poverty we see today (Seumas Milne, 2 October). At last, the Labour party seems to be waking up to the realisation that we can’t just go back to where we were pre-crash. We need a return to decent values, not the selfish materialism of the market. We need to stop demonising the victims and start systemic reform. Perhaps this is why the Tories are so worried about Miliband – he is more in tune with the emerging times.
Roy Boffy
• Is it not time to recognise that the infliction of pain is the principal motivation of the right in politics (Osborne’s spending plan: seven more years of pain, 1 October)? This government, with its blame culture, seeks any excuse to hurt people. The main one is “these people are bad, and we must punish them” (Note the word “must”: it converts pleasure to duty: this hurts me more than it hurts you, cruel only to be kind etc). Almost everything this coalition has done has been to this end: ever more impositions on the unemployed, no visitors for elderly ladies whose young relatives now cannot stay for the night in the spare room etc.
Tim Gossling
• If you follow the Tories’ logic, then during the good times when unemployment levels are very low, the “scroungers” for some peculiar reason decide to give up the good life on the dole and find a job. But during an economic downturn they en masse decide it’s time to start scrounging again. Even more peculiarly, scroungers prefer to live in the poorest parts of the UK instead of the more prosperous south-east. The reasoning would be hilarious if it wasn’t so hateful.
Paul Morrison
• If the prime minister wants all under-25s to be “learning or earning”, the simplest solution would be to reinstate the Future Jobs Programme. This was probably the most effective youth employment programme I have seen in my 30 years’ experience, as it created real jobs and improved young people’s prospects. However, the government will almost certainly produce another half-baked scheme like the Work Programme, which creams off those who would succeed anyway and neglects the rest.
Don Macdonald
• The left is not against profits that benefit society accruing from the production and distribution of goods that serve the needs of the people. It is against profits made from exploiting workers and using basic human needs to make private profit designed to accumulate wealth for a few selfish individuals – who then use tax loopholes to avoid sharing that wealth. When Cameron asserts the Tories are championing responsible businesses, he seems to be moving towards a long-held socialist ideal. Let us hope his policies will reflect this conversion.
Fred Lowe

I was disappointed to see a letter (2 October) referring to the Tory party’s “normal Rotary Club prejudice”. This is lazy stereotyping and years out of date. Rotary is an international outward-looking global organisation engaged in projects such as the polio eradication and the purchase and supply of prosthetics to war victims and those in the developing world. I’d suggest Guardian readers visit his or her local Rotary Club and prepare themselves for a very pleasant surprise.
Steve Pound MP
(Lab, Ealing) Rotary Club of Greenford
• I fear Michael Berkeley’s proposal for the House of Lords appointments’ commission to select all new peers (Comment, 1 October) will fall at the first hurdle. Within its terms of reference, the commission currently blithely approves the party leaders’ nominations whose sole attribute is the donation of substantial sums of money to the party of the leader nominating them. Until payment for peerages is specifically outlawed, other reforms will be seen as much less significant.
Michael Meadowcroft
• Your roundtable says the value of apprenticeships is being undersold (2 October). They have missed the point. The problem is not one of demand but supply: well-constructed apprenticeship programmes attract 10 times as many applicants as places. Continual hortatory promotional campaigns and labelling any training scheme that moves an apprenticeship will not solve this problem.
Professor Martyn Sloman
Kingston Business School
• Remember when you could walk up to Stonehenge and sit quietly among the stones contemplating the past (Report, 1 October)? No tourist centre, cafe or recreated past to provide the “experience”, just the pure joy of feeling part of our history.
Mabel Taylor
Knutsford, Cheshire
• My favourite pedantic fetish (How to stop worrying and write proper, G2, 1 October), because it is elegantly eccentric and apparently inconsistent, is “first (never firstly), secondly, thirdly … last (or finally)”. According to my headmaster decades ago, the enumerators need to be adverbs, not adjectives – but then he was a classicist…
Tony Haynes


What planet does our environment minister live on?  This week the United Nations published the most comprehensive and conclusive report yet on global warming. It’s happening and we are causing it. 
But our environment minister is not worried. Warm is better than cold, he argues; agriculture will thrive and fewer people will freeze.
Well, at least in this country. Forget about the consequences of rising sea levels, greater unpredictability in weather patterns, and more widespread flooding. Forget about the scientific evidence that wildlife in the UK will not be able to adapt quickly enough to survive. Forget, for that matter, about the rest of the world. 
When Owen Paterson seeks to reassure us by saying “We are very good as a race at adapting” just who or what is the “race” he has in mind?  Did he perhaps mean “species”? Perhaps it is time for someone who can speak the language of science to take over government responsibility for helping to address the biggest problem we as a race, species or life form have ever faced.
René Olivieri, Chair, The Wildlife Trusts, Newark, Nottinghamshire
You report on Environment Secretary Owen Paterson’s dismissive views on the science of climate change, and then you report in his CV that Paterson studied history at university. This is yet another example of an arts graduate meddling in things that he does not understand.
Paterson is no more qualified to comment on science than I am on history, and he should keep his half-baked ideas to himself. It is horrifying to think that this clueless amateur is in charge of a major and critically important area of British science. We should have many more experienced professionals such as scientists, technologists and engineers in government, and it is high time that the cult of the amateur was kept out of public affairs.
Sam Boote, Nottingham
I read your brief profile of Owen Paterson (1 October) and thought: what kind of fool would hire this man as Environment Secretary?
David Ridge, London  N19
We need to move beyond stale debates about climate change. What is irrefutable is that we need to reduce our impact on the planet. The Inter- governmental Panel on Climate Change report outlines a clear roadmap on the key steps we need to take.
Whilst businesses have signed up in increasing numbers to tackle climate change, there is a clear lack of commitment from the UK Government, as illustrated by the Environment Secretary, Owen Paterson.
Green businesses not only work more efficiently and increase productivity but also improve their bottom line. The Government needs to recommit itself to the climate change agenda, sending a clear signal that there is an opportunity for growth and new jobs if we can create a genuine green economy. 
Trewin Restorick, CEO Global Action Plan, London WC2
So sceptic Professor Judith Curry reckons the IPCC “is toast” (“Financial markets ‘our only hope’ to tackle climate change”, 28 September). Isn’t that all the proof needed for global warming?
Bruce Ross-Smith, Oxford
Keep those  profits clean,  Mr Cameron
The Prime Minister says “profit” is not a dirty word. Surely the point about profit is how it is made, and what is done with it thereafter.
Is the profit made honestly and fairly, or is it derived from paying poverty-level wages to employees (who then have to claim top-up welfare benefits to survive) and charging rip-off prices to customers?
Is the profit then shared among the workforce which actually created the wealth through their labour, or does it merely line the already bulging pockets of the bosses and CEOs?
And is the correct amount of corporation tax paid, or are the profits siphoned off into bogus offshore accounts and tax havens?
These are what determine whether or not profits are “dirty”, Mr Cameron.
Professor Pete Dorey, Bath
It’s no surprise Mr Cameron believes “profit” isn’t a dirty word. What does he feel about these words: “immigrant”, “asylum seeker”, “refugee”, “unemployed”, “disabled”, “poor”, “benefit claimant”, “single parent”, “public service”, “NHS” “library”, “public ownership” and “society”?  
Sasha Simic, London N16
The politics  of tobacco
It will come as no surprise to the public health world to find that tobacco companies exhibit at the Labour Party conference (“How Labour’s coffers are primed to go up in smoke”, 23 September). After all, tobacco firms have a legal obligation to their shareholders, and lobbying political parties of all persuasions is one way of fulfilling that obligation.
However, it is disappointing that the Labour Party should be benefiting from tobacco. Unlike other threats to our health, such as alcohol or saturated fat, tobacco is the only product that we can buy legally that, when it is used as intended, can kill half of its customers.
We know that most smokers start when they are children, which is why the Faculty of Public Health wants to see the introduction of standardised packs. When it comes to health policy, the public need to have faith in the independence of politicians who may be making life-or-death decisions on our behalf. That’s why we believe no political party should be benefiting from the profits of tobacco companies.
Professor John Ashton, President, Faculty of Public Health, London NW1
The man who ‘hated Britain’
The Daily Mail has hit an all-time low in accusing a dead man, Ed Miliband’s father, of hating Britain, when all he did was advocate (correctly in my view) that we should not support the USA in bombing Vietnam.
I have written to the chairman of the John Lewis Partnership that I will no longer shop in Waitrose for as long as they promote this awful newspaper through their “my Waitrose” promotion. I hope others of like mind will boycott Waitrose until they get the message.
Malcolm Howard, Banstead, Surrey
Obviously Paul Dacre and Jon Steafel, the editor and deputy editor of the Mail, love the Queen and the Church, as they are so offended by Ralph Miliband’s hatred of those institutions. Yet Miliband served in the Royal Navy to defend them. In what branch of the armed services did those two chancers risk their lives for Queen and country?
Fabian Acker, London SE22
The post-war generation of Marxists worked for a revolution in Great Britain; they did so knowing that other revolutions elsewhere in Europe that they supported did involve the liquidation of “class enemies”, often in large numbers.
They did not necessarily “hate Britain” but some of them certainly hated many of their fellow-countrymen, and there is no reason to doubt their willingness to deal with them in a very brutal way had they succeeded in their political endeavours. The fact that they lost is no good reason not to question the morality underpinning their plans.
R S Foster, Sheffield
Funny how commentators, both young and old, love to mock the “Old Labour” Seventies, which were pretty much like the Sixties. I grew up then and enjoyed free education; there were plentiful job opportunities and housing, and I paid £15 a week for a rent-controlled three-bed flat in Notting Hill with secure tenancy. Utilities took up a small part of my income and train travel was cheap, with uncrowded trains that ran on time.
In its most basic elements, life was good. And many people are starting to remember this. Hence, if it were not for the influence of right-wing media many more people would back renationalisation, which many already favour for the railways. They are starting to realise just how much has been lost since Thatcher and privatisation.
M McIntyre, Hove
Rise up and save Chartist mural
I have been writing about the Chartists for thirty years and, unsurprisingly, deplore the plan to destroy the mural telling the story of the  Newport Rising of 1839 (“Insurrection brewing in Wales over Chartist mural’s destruction”, 2 October). Leaving aside the contribution this mural makes to Newport’s own identity, it has a national significance. 
There are precious few physical reminders of Chartism, a movement which, in the second quarter of the 19th century, conscripted the support of millions of working people. If the Newport mural is destroyed, there will be left only the National Trust’s Chartist cottage in Worcestershire as a physical commemoration of the struggle of ordinary people to have a say in law-making. The Newport mural must be saved.
Stephen Roberts, Visiting Research Fellow, Newman University, Birmingham
Let’s all pay a  living wage
It is disgraceful that the minimum wage, which has just been increased to £6.31, is miles below the recommended minimum living wage of £7.45, which some responsible employers have recognised.
I would be happy to support companies and businesses that are paying the living wage and would have no problems with a small surcharge on the services provided, in the sure knowledge that the employees are being paid a fair rate for the job.
Dennis Grattan, Aberdeen
Keynes is back
It has been clear for at least the past year that George Osborne has been running a Keynesian budget deficit, whilst claiming exactly the opposite. Now, in his speech to the Conservative Party conference, he has indicated that in future he will run a budget surplus in the good times to pay for a deficit in the bad times. Is that Keynesian or is that Keynesian?
David Pollard, Salen,  Isle of Mull
George Osborne must be increasingly envious of events in Washington. For over three years he has tried to shut down the British state and failed. Yet in America they have managed to do it overnight.
Keith Flett, London N17


The attraction of university “status” for technical colleges has led to a dissipation of resources into non-technological subjects
Sir, Clive Bone (letter, Oct 1) may well be correct when he wonders whether we have the wrong sort of university. Despite the acknowledged technological superiority of the German war machine in the Second World War, the issue of appropriate models of higher technological education has bedevilled postwar governments in the UK.
Following the publication of the Percy Report in 1945, colleges of advanced technology were eventually established, only to be elevated to university status, with wider curricula provision, after the Robbins Report of 1963. Their place at the pinnacle of regional provision of technological education was taken by the polytechnics, which were praised for their ability to provide a wide variety of levels of technological education. The attraction of university “status” proved too powerful for their ambitious staffs, however, and they too were elevated.
This development has continued in more recent years in the establishment of the newest universities, with a consequent dissipation of resources into non-technological subjects.
With the replacement of the traditional pyramid model of human labour by a diamond shape, there is a pressing need for institutions of technological education to concentrate their provision in a range of technologist and technician specialities to fill the apparent current lack of skilled personnel.
Ken Dixon
Sir, The answer to Mr Bone’s question is that we have too many “universities” covering the wrong sort of subjects, and not enough technical colleges teaching the sort of skills the country actually needs.
Paul Milner
Sheringham, Norfolk
Sir, Do we have too many of the wrong sort of universities in the UK? The answer is probably yes, although it is a moot point as to what type of establishment should carry the title of “university”. Those UK universities that rank highly in the world according to the assessment criteria used (Good University Guide, Sept 28) are undoubtedly of great value to all aspects of our society and bring tremendous prestige.
However, we do need other establishments, whether university by name or not, that educate at different levels and in different ways to meet the many divergent strands on which our society is based and to give the UK a competitive edge in the world. Such establishments — which now are nearly all designated as “universities” — are of no less importance than those which we regard as elite. In this context it appears that although the original birth of the polytechnics was intended to meet this challenge, on the whole it has not succeeded.
Both before and since the metamorphosis into universities,
we have taken our eye off the ball. The success story in Germany may well be the reverse of this sequence of events.
Dr Tony Lawrence
Little Neston, Wirral

The only time that a catamaran will, inevitably, rest equally on both hulls is when it is becalmed
Sir, The minister who compared the party’s campaign to an America’s Cup catamaran (Rachel Sylvester, Opinion, Oct 1) should take more care with his metaphors (“This is an election in which the Conservatives need two hulls ….. you have to put equal weight on both. If we were to become becalmed on the tougher end that would be a problem”). The only time that a catamaran will, inevitably, rest equally on both hulls is when it is becalmed — except, possibly, when the wind is from dead astern. Cue further metaphors . . .
Grahame Solway
Gosport, Hants

If a theatre production has been broadcast on the BBC within the past 60 years can it really be classed as “long lost”?
Sir, The stage adaptation by John Gielgud and Terence Rattigan of A Tale of Two Cities (review, Oct 1) is certainly of interest to lovers of theatre. It is hardly “long-lost”, however. In 1953 (nearly 20 years after its stage production was shelved), it was broadcast by the BBC with Eric Portman as Sydney Carton. The cast also included Deryck Guyler as Defarge, and David Kossoff.
Roger Sansom
Hainault, Essex

The Prime Minister would do well to remember that capitalism can also benefit businesses that serve nefarious purposes, as well as the public
Sir, David Cameron is correct when he says “Profit is not a dirty word” (report, Oct 2). Capitalism correctly defined and understood is the voluntary exchange of value for value for mutual profit. However, there is a fundamental moral and economic difference between a business that earns its place in a genuine free market by way of democratic customer choice and a business that exists on the basis of lobbying, pull, subsidies, force or government favours. Mr Cameron would do well to remember the difference.
D.S.A Murray
Dorking, Surrey

Sir, As heartwarming as it is to read that profit is not a dirty word, it would be just as encouraging to hear the Prime Minister say that public service is equally honourable.
Lionel Bailey
Shanklin, Isle of Wight

The problem of having no proper access to broadband is not confined to isolated and rural areas – parts of our cities are in the same boat
S ir, It is not only “rural and isolated” areas that have no broadband (letter, Oct 1). There are many parts of central London that also suffer the burden — and uncompetitiveness — of poor speeds. Before we bankrupt the country with a new railway to connect Willesden with Tipton, can we have a competitive broadband service in Greek Street, Soho?
Julian Calderara
London W1

SIR – It seems to me that a redefinition of what services we expect from GPs is overdue (report, October 1). Based on my own experience and that of friends and family, we are expected to consult our doctor with colds, bruises and other minor ailments which we are confident that a good practice nurse would be capable of dealing with. If the nurse’s initial examination suggested that a more senior opinion is required, she could refer us to the GP. The conclusion, therefore, is that it is practice nurses, and not doctors, that we are short of.
John Ashworth
Helensburgh, Dunbartonshire
SIR – The local GP’s practice in a nearby village is next door to a veterinary practice. If you drive past the two buildings at 8pm you will invariably see the vets still working hard while the GP’s surgery has long since been locked up for the night.
Vets choose their calling because of their love for their patients – the animals. I wish the same could be said for those who treat humans.
Related Articles
The Government’s Help to Buy scheme could put long-term burdens on buyers and taxpayers alike
02 Oct 2013
Malcolm Allsop
Cringleford, Norfolk
SIR – If you have an appointment with the doctor at 8pm, and you are told you need a particular medication immediately, where will you find a pharmacy open locally?
Moreover, staff on reception will have to be found and paid.
Miriam Webber
Cheltenham, Gloucestershire
SIR – It seems crazy that I have a young, modern GP in a modern practice and yet I cannot email him.
On certain occasions it would save time and money for both of us.
John Alborough
Eye, Suffolk
High alcohol prices will not deter binge drinkers
SIR – Minimum unit pricing (MUP) is not the solution to tackling alcohol abuse in Britain (Letters, September 30). Pushing up the price of alcohol would unfairly penalise the responsible majority of drinkers and hit the poorest hardest, while doing nothing to tackle the root causes of alcohol misuse.
There is no evidence to support the case for MUP – the oft-cited model that has been used in Canada came out of prohibition and is more akin to a system of state-run off-licences. Meanwhile, the July 2013 revised version of The Sheffield Report predicted that the policy would lead to just a 1.6 per cent drop in consumption over a year – a modest figure considering that alcohol consumption fell by 3.3 per cent in 2012 without the policy.
No one denies that alcohol misuse is a problem, but it is locally targeted interventions such as the successful Community Alcohol Partnerships that have been proven to tackle alcohol-related harm in communities throughout Britain. The industry also remains committed to further voluntary action as part of the Responsibility Deal, which will see 80 per cent of labels containing information on unit content, NHS guidelines and a pregnancy warning, and the removal of one billion units of alcohol from the UK market.
It is this partnership working, not MUP, that is the key to tackling the minority that consume alcohol irresponsibly.
Miles Beale
Chief executive, Wine & Spirit Trade Association
London SE1
Barristers’ fees
SIR – Chris Grayling, the Justice Secretary, has pushed through cuts to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), the courts and the criminal legal aid budgets. The CPS is now near breaking point, and centralisation means that the link between the lawyer and the victim is lost.
Staff cuts have led to evidence being lost in the system. Cuts to advocacy fees mean that the best barristers are increasingly unwilling to conduct the most challenging prosecutions. Loyal, dedicated and honest court staff face redundancy, and decent high-street solicitors have been threatened with the decimation of their businesses.
Given this background, perhaps little sympathy is due to criminal barristers facing further cuts of up to 30 per cent to their fees. If, however, the brightest and best leave the criminal bar, who will be left to stand up for a decent criminal justice system? Victims of crime and victims of miscarriages of justice deserve better.
British criminal barristers have a reputation as among the best in the world. What exactly does Mr Grayling want to replace us with?
Owen Edwards
Wales and Chester Representative, Criminal Bar Association
Vanishing parakeets
SIR – My husband and I have become accustomed to seeing three or four parakeets in or over our garden. About three weeks ago, we were treated to the sight of a flock of about 50 flying around our house; we were amused by their antics as they tried to settle on the telegraph wires. This happened on two successive mornings at around 9am.
Since then we have not seen a single parakeet. Where have they all gone?
Pam Ledger
Coulsdon, Surrey
Parable from Gibraltar
SIR – The Spanish government has carried out an irrational campaign against Gibraltar (Letters, October 1). The Spaniards have, in all but name, declared war on The Rock, hurling every type of calumny against our jurisdiction and way of life.
From Gibraltar’s perspective, while we give employment to Spaniards, we have to live in close proximity to a refining operation run by a Spanish multinational oil and gas company which affects us daily.
The analogy we would use is different to Clive Tyrell’s: imagine a Rolls-Royce passing by, and a Gibraltarian saying: “I’ll work hard to get one of those,” whereas his neighbour, a Spaniard, says: “You shouldn’t be allowed to have one”.
Joseph F Garcia
Sleeping pilots
SIR – It used to be common practice, on long-haul passenger flights, for the captain and co-pilot to take alternate rest breaks in a seat at the front of the passenger cabin (“Pilots dozed off together in cockpit”, report, October 1). An individual left at the controls is likely to be more aware of his responsibility, as he knows no one else can take command if he nods off. I assume this was abandoned on security grounds, but I see no reason why it should have been.
Major David Carter
Kingston upon Thames, Surrey
Erudite plurals
SIR – Many years ago: “Graffiti is vandalism!” appeared in spray-paint on the wall of a Cambridge college (Letters, October 1). Underneath, a more learned soul had scribed: “And are plural.”
Michael Bacon
Farnham, Surrey
Sleeping pilots
SIR – It used to be common practice, on long-haul passenger flights, for the captain and co-pilot to take alternate rest breaks in a seat at the front of the passenger cabin (“Pilots dozed off together in cockpit”, report, October 1). An individual left at the controls is likely to be more aware of his responsibility, as he knows no one else can take command if he nods off. I assume this was abandoned on security grounds, but I see no reason why it should have been.
Major David Carter
Kingston upon Thames, Surrey
Erudite plurals
SIR – Many years ago: “Graffiti is vandalism!” appeared in spray-paint on the wall of a Cambridge college (Letters, October 1). Underneath, a more learned soul had scribed: “And are plural.”
Michael Bacon
Farnham, Surrey

SIR – I wonder whether the Government has properly assessed the long-term risks associated with its so-called Help to Buy scheme. History shows that artificial boosting of the housing market, while popular in the short term, can cause long-term difficulties once the scheme is discontinued. The abolition of joint mortgage interest relief at source in 1988 (a scheme designed to make home ownership more affordable in a high-interest-rate environment) led to a spike in house prices as buyers scrambled to pool their allowances before the perk was taken away. The post-abolition slump left many of those buyers in long-term negative equity.
A sustainable recovery in the housing market should be achievable in a low-interest-rate environment without short-termist (and dare one say “populist”) schemes which encourage the assumption of high levels of personal debt and the underwriting of that personal debt by the already overburdened taxpayer.
Iain Thomas
Tunbridge Wells, Kent
SIR – David Cameron rightly laughed at the idea that there is a house-price bubble outside London and the South East.
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So why does he not restrict the Help to Buy scheme to postcodes outside the South East? Given the growing gap in prices between that region and the rest of the country, any rise in interest rates set by the Bank of England can only distort the economy further.
Rodney Atkinson
Stocksfield, Northumberland
SIR – The Government should explain more clearly to prospective purchasers how Help to Buy will work. Taxpayers’ money is not being made available to purchase a property – it will be paid to the lender to make up a shortfall on payment of the original deposit should the borrower default.
Therefore, borrowers will be on the hook for the loan as normal. They could lose their property if they default, and any temptation to stretch themselves because of the existence of this scheme should be resisted, because interest rates will rise.
Richard Larner
Bournemouth, Dorset
SIR – Help to Buy should be limited to first-time buyers and should certainly be disallowed for any person aiming to buy to let, or already owning a property. It should also be limited to Britons, although this is likely to cause a furore from the human rights brigade. The money would be better spent on much-needed social housing.
Freddie Pilditch
Wraysbury, Buckinghamshire
SIR – The best way of helping people to buy is to scrap stamp duty and put more money in people’s pockets for a deposit.
Roger Gentry
Sutton at Hone, Kent
SIR – Was there ever any question that both Lloyds and RBS would “enthusiastically support” the Help to Buy scheme, with the Government sitting respectively on 35 and 80 per cent of their shares? Who knows what schemes they may have to support under future, less business-friendly governments? The corrupt hand-shaking of state-influenced regional banks and local politicians played a major role in Spain’s economic tragedy.
Ian McVeigh
London N1
SIR – The recent back-of-an-envelope proposal from David Cameron regarding Marriage Tax Allowance supports neither marriage nor the family. Couples with one higher-rate taxpayer —who are not necessarily “filthy rich”, as Rachel Reeves, the shadow chief secretary to the Treasury, points out — will not be eligible, while couples who have no intention of child-rearing within a married environment will be rewarded. Who is this intended to benefit? Perhaps angry Tory backbenchers and swivel-eyed loons?
Alexander Mortimer
Darlington, Co Durham
SIR – My wife and I have a dilemma, given that the Conservative Party conference motto is: “Hardworking People”. We both balance demanding, full-time jobs with family life, but find that we have carelessly, it seems, worked rather too hard to continue to receive child benefit, or indeed the proposed married couple’s tax break. Clearly, we need to learn to slow down, or indeed chillax, a little.
Simon Millar
Poole, Dorset
SIR – At what point do hard-working people become non-hard-working people, and lose Mr Cameron’s support?
George Noon
Preston, Lancashire

Irish Times:

Sir, – The liberty of the people to have access to the Supreme Court is of monumental importance. I was preparing to vote Yes in regard to the court of appeal referendum; as the thought that the judicial appeals process might be speeded-up is attractive. However, the more I have learnt regarding the small print – forensically explored by Prof Diarmuid Rossa Phelan SC (Opinion, September 30th) – attached to this Court of Appeal proposal, the more I am left with no choice but to vote No.
Taking power away from the ordinary person to automatically access the Supreme Court (from the High Court or court of appeal), for the purposes of challenging the constitutionality of a law for example, and putting that power into the hands of Supreme Court judges who may decide to hear appeals if they are satisfied that it is “in the interests of justice” or “of general public importance” (which would be a subjective call on the part of the individual judges) that such appeals are even heard by the court, would radically change the relationship between the citizen and his Constitution.
The second part of this referendum proposal, which would allow minority judgments of the Supreme Court to be published, is also questionable in its wisdom; as the divisive nature of such a practice, while promising transparency on the surface, could turn Supreme Court judges into overtly political figures (as happens in the United States), rather than strict interpreters of the Constitution. This, in addition to the first part of the proposal, may have the effect of giving disproportionate power and untouchability to the Supreme Court in Ireland. – Yours, etc,
Knapton Road,
Monkstown, Co Dublin.
Sir, –   I accept there has been a significant increase in complex cases coming before the courts, as put forward by the Minister for Justice, Alan Shatter (September 23rd). But there has also been a correspondingly even greater increase in the number of straightforward cases that are made complex. 
For example, should an action concerning the application of the provisions of the Local Government (Planning and Development) Act 1963 to an advertising hoarding on a gable end of a building take two days in the High Court?  And should a libel case take five days before a High Court judge and jury? And is a Circuit Court judge not competent enough to hear such cases, with unlimited jurisdiction and without a jury? 
Broader reforms in the way we do business in the courts, including letting the Circuit Court have unlimited jurisdiction in certain areas of litigation, with an appeal to the High Court, and consideration of a per-case instead of a per-day payment basis for legal fees, would considerably reduce not only the cost of doing business, but also the time taken up in court during the hearing. 
Cheaper alternatives to the proposed court of appeal should have been at least considered and debated before burdening the taxpayer with further public expenditure. – Yours, etc,
Croaghpatrick Road,
Cabra,  Dublin 7.
Sir, – It was with incredulity that I read the final sentences in Fintan O’Toole’s article (“Say No to Coalition’s reform charade”, Opinion, October 1st). He states he will be “putting an X beside the No box and writing the single word ‘Reform’ neatly on the bottom of the paper”. Any returning officer properly carrying out the instructions on spoiled votes will, of course, deem this to be a spoiled vote (and will not be influenced by whether the additional writing is written neatly or otherwise!).
It is irresponsible to suggest such self-indulgent nonsense should be engaged in by referendum voters. The only proper way to vote in a referendum is to make the, sometimes difficult, choice and place a single X on the ballot paper. – Yours, etc,
Laurel Lodge, Dublin 15.
Sir, – I am appalled at the suggestion by Breda O’Brien (Opinion, September 28th) and Fintan O’Toole (Opinion, October 1st) that we should spoil our votes in the referendum to abolish the Seanad by writing ‘Reform’ on the ballot paper. There is no mechanism for recording such votes other than ‘Spoiled’.
I believe the margin in this referendum is likely to be slim. I also believe that the silent core of Fine Gael and Labour supporters have a strong attachment to and belief in strong democratic checks and balances and will not wish to see them diluted in any way.
Although the Seanad may have performed below its potential, to abandon it now, when the country is effectively dictated to by a gang of four and dissent is whipped into obsequious obedience or expulsion, would be to remove one of the few remaining levels of challenge to centralised authority. The No vote of every supporter of democracy will be needed to retain the Seanad. Spoiling any vote will lessen the chance of success.
As for Fine Gael’s vapid argument that the many reports calling for reform of the Seanad have not been implemented, a paraphrase of GK Chesterson is apposite – reform of the Seanad has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and not tried. – Yours, etc,
Acorn Road, Dublin 16.
Sir, – I read with some alarm and dismay the reports of the threat to the operation of a democratically elected government by members of the Seanad if the people of Ireland decide, as is their right, to vote to abolish the Seanad.
Are these Senators acting in accordance with democratic principles? Are they warning us, the electorate, that if we vote against their wishes we will suffer the consequences of a government so disrupted in its work that there will be an election before it is due?
Whatever doubts I might have had about the wisdom of abolishing the Seanad have now vanished as the true temper of these democrats in the Seanad has revealed itself. – Yours, etc,
Fethard, Co Tipperary.
Sir, – Surely the people will not vote to abolish a house which has been home to both the ineffable Donie Cassidy and the effable Ivor Callely. – Yours, etc,
Crosstown, Wexford.
Sir, – On re-reading old newspaper articles covering Seanad Éireann’s debates, it obliged me to question the wisdom of the current drive to abolish Ireland’s senate.
To cut it down in size and consider sensible re-modelling amendments to its functioning could be a wise decision to improve the quality of Irish political experience; to excise it as a single gesture to such improvement could well be a cause for regret, as afterwards it might be too late to make redress.
Few Irish citizens would regret Senate membership being reduced, yet those who are thoughtful about the Senate’s potential should demand it be more wisely processed. Its structure and purpose must be re-determined so it may enhance the overall political experience.
“Democracy” was described by Herodotus as “Taking the people into partnership”. It is therefore essential that a revamped Senate should have opportunity to select a cadre of persons known for their wisdom, knowledge, working and relevant living experience who would be responsible as “experts” drawn from significant fields of endeavour. Such experts would be selected by a joint group of Senators (equal representatives from each political party). These experts would then form a team of participating non-voting senators to give the debates extra relevant perspectives and information on the topics under open discussion and debate. The remainder of the House would have, as elected senators, voting rights as at present.
Finally, may I thank those citizens who have highlighted the role of the Senate in welcoming Northern contributions to the Senate debates in recent years. – Yours, etc,
Hopefield Avenue,
Portrush, Co Antrim.
A chara, – The “retentionists” for Seanad Éireann are being somewhat disingenuous. The vocational panels of the Seanad are a cod, as at the time of election, they are elected along party affiliations, without any consideration of expertise – this is a direct result of the electorate being councillors and Oireachtas members.

University senators are also being economical with the truth, as graduates of NUI do not have an automatic vote, they have to apply to NUI to be included on the register. As many are abroad, or not aware of the structure, it reduces the active voting constituency. This is in the interest of sitting university senators.
The incentive for retaining a second chamber, notwithstanding any future reform, will also operate as a very useful platform from which individuals and others may build/rebuild their brands.
The role of journalists to interrogate existing Senators – apart from the Quinns, Crowns, Zappones – as to their daily work, their key achievements and contributions, is awaited. – Is mise,
Thomas Davis Street,
Dublin 8.
Sir, – Encouraged to vote No by people such as Fintan O’Toole, Patricia McKenna, Shane Ross, John Waters and Richard Boyd Barrett leaves one with an inevitable and overwhelming responsibility.
I’m voting Yes. – Yours, etc,
Loreto Grange, Bray,
Co Wicklow.
Sir, – Just one good decision a year pays for the retention of a reformed Senate many times over. Make your own list of all the short-sighted expedients that haunt us still: Closure of the railways; fishing concessions, property tax instead of land value taxation, etc. – Yours, etc,
Balkill Park,
Howth, Dublin 13.
Sir, – The Dáil estimates that for 2013, an expenditure of €109 million has been made to fund the Oireachtas, of which, the Government asserts €20 million is allocated to the cost of the Seanad. Thus, a simple analysis of the costs reveals that each of our 60 Senators cost the State €333,333 per annum while each of our 166 TDs costs €536,145 per annum.
Yet how the Government arrived at this €20 million estimate is unclear. For instance, Kieran Coughlan, Clerk of the Dáil gave evidence stating the cost of the Seanad is €9 million, which calls into question the €20 million figure that is bandied about by those in power.
If we analyse the costs using this lower estimate, it reveals that each Senator costs the State €150,000 per annum whereas each TD costs us €602,409. Given that TDs quite obviously cost the State a great deal more, surely the thriftier option would be to retain the Seanad and reduce the number of TDs by 60? Depending on whether the Seanad costs €20 million or €9 million, a reduction in the number of TDs by 60 would save the State either €32.168 million or €36.145 million and we would still achieve the objective of fewer politicians. – Yours, etc,
Greystones, Co Wicklow &
Linden Court Grove Avenue,
Blackrock, Co Dublin.
Sir, – Democratically, government ought to be government with the consent of the governed, not government by a passing popular majority. There will always, in every society, be those among “the governed” whose voice is not loud enough to be head in the universal clamour; and it behoves every modern civilised society to provide a forum for these minorities.
Historically, in presenting a draft Treaty for consideration by the Irish delegation, a letter from David Lloyd George to Arthur Griffith, dated December 1st, 1921, states:
“As we understand that you have agreed with representatives of the Southern Unionists to provide safeguards for the representation of minorities, especially in the Second chamber, not less effective than those afforded by the Government of Ireland Act, 1920 . . . these matters have not been dealt with in the draft.”
The Government of Ireland Act, 1920, was given effect by the establishment of the Stormont parliament; the “understanding” as to what might happen in the South was given effect by the creation of Seanad Éireann and the provision that three of its members should be elected by the University of Dublin (Trinity College). History can judge which of these arrangements proved to be the “less effective”.
Constitutionally, aside from the university panels, Article 18.7 of the Constitution provides that members of Seanad Éireann should be elected from “persons having knowledge and practical experience” of, among other things, national language and culture, literature, art, education, agriculture, fisheries, labour, industry and commerce including banking, finance, accountancy, engineering and architecture, public administration and social services including voluntary social activities.
The idea of a parliamentary chamber representing this broad range of human and social activity was in 1937 – and sadly still is – visionary, if not revolutionary.
Politically, the fact that the vocational panels were never opened up to the universal vote of farmers, trade unionists, entrepreneurs, charities, etc, is not a reflection on that visionary ideal, but rather a reflection on the narrow self-interest of members of Dáil Éireann.
The robust debate generated by this referendum campaign has provided an opportunity to correct this democratic deficit in legislation, rather than to copperfasten it in ignorance. – Yours, etc,
Fianna Fáil Ard Comhairle,
Dublin Bay South,
Newgrove Avenue,
Dublin 4.
Sir, – An interesting letter (October 1st), informed us that a group of people agree that the Seanad must not be abolished.
This group is made up of individuals who agree on very few other things (as they tell us) but on this one thing they are in unison. Who are they? Senators and TDs, of course. They say a No vote goes beyond politics. It does; it stretches as far as more money in their pockets at the expense of the “guy in the street”. Hopefully the rest of us will vote Yes. – Yours, etc,
Cootehill, Co Cavan.
Sir, – The Government is using an axe rather than a scalpel in dealing with the changes to the Constitution that would be necessary if the Seanad referendum were passed.
I refer in particular to the killing-off of Article 27. Currently this article provides that a majority of members of the Seanad and not less than one-third of the members of the Dáil may by a petition addressed to the president request him to decline to sign a Bill on the grounds that the Bill is of such national importance that the will of the people thereon ought to be ascertained. The president may agree to or refuse the request. If he agrees, the issue is then put to the people either by way of a referendum or by a resolution of Dáil Éireann passed after the dissolution and reassembly of the Dáil.
The Government’s approach to these provisions is to bin the lot of them. If the Seanad goes, so too do the views of a one-third dissenting Dáil minority. Then there is the loss of potential power on the part of the president. Finally and most importantly, there is the loss of the possibility of dealing with issues of great national importance via a referendum or via an election following the dissolution of the Dáil.
As the preceding paragraphs indicate, Article 27 involves a complex set of procedures and is likely to be used only in the case of major issues facing Irish society. This is all the more reason that they should be not disposed of in such a peremptory fashion. Voters should read Article 27 before they vote. – Yours, etc,
Emeritus Professor,
School of Politics,
UCD, Dublin 4.
Sir, – An alarming threat to the very notion of democracy in Ireland is contained in the news that a majority may vote for the abolition of the Seanad. The keystone of a democracy rests on the basis of checks and balances on the exercise of political power. But it seems our people have a very short memory. Recently, under the guise of “Protection of Life” during pregnancy, our Taoiseach engineered the legitimisation of the deliberate destruction of the life of the unborn in specific circumstances with no time limit whatever. This, despite the absence of medical or psychological evidence in favour of the killing. And so Ireland is unique among developed nations in having no time limit to the procedure.
The destruction of any human life is a serious moral issue, but for Enda Kenny et al, party loyalty trumps individual conscience. And so Lucinda Creighton and her companions were expelled from the party while other members with a conscience chose to keep their heads below the parapet, ignore their conscience or suffer the same fate. What does the forgoing say about democracy, freedom, and the will of the people?
Conclusion: we desperately need a reformed, representative second body. Otherwise, if the Seanad is abolished, the march toward dictatorship and totalitarianism will be accelerated by another piece of Trojan horse legislation suitably entitled “Protection of Freedom, Democracy and the Will of the People”. – Yours, etc,
Ballinasloe, Co Galway.
Sir, – The Seanad suffers criticism on the grounds it represents “elitism”. Could it be we may suffer in this country from a lack of this supposedly sinister quality? The Fianna Fáil-led government of the middle of the last decade was so free from its malign embrace there was not even one member of the cabinet who could have been considered economically literate. The results were altogether not encouraging.
Perhaps it might be better to keep the Seanad, reform it and give elitism its due. – Yours, etc,
Homefarm Park, Dublin 9.
Sir, – If we keep our dear Seanad, can I propose a simple and just reform? Considering the Seanad has been elected by a “top” 1 per cent elite of the population for 93 years since its inception, could the next 93 years be elected by the “bottom” 1 per cent of non-elite. Representatives from areas of deprivation, homeless people, Travellers, migrant groups, etc, could be a new electorate.
As well as being even-handed and fair, it would serve to enable those most disenfranchised and disempowered by our political system to have a real say in the country of which they are citizens. – Yours, etc,
Mountjoy Street, Dublin 7.

Irish Independent:

* I had to smile, albeit a bit wryly, at Finance Minister Michael Noonan’s ‘lifestyle choice’ description of emigration. Many of my generation can remember the awful pain of involuntary economic eviction from their beloved families, friends, homes and country. It was a lifestyle choice then as well but the choice was usually somewhat more limited, as in “shift that shovel, Paddy, or go home and starve”.
Also in this section
We need a TV debate on Seanad referendum
Charges of a not so light brigade
Parasite devours host
The cramped, overcrowded mail boats also used to carry groups of young girls. Though some seemed quite happy, others seemed merely resigned to their lot.
Amongst the latter, I have no doubt, were those destined for the badly paid drudgery of domestic service.
But even now, I can still remember one particularly miserable trip in the early 1950s, when there was even more seasickness than usual.
However, one girl suddenly started to sing. Her voice was strong and quite soon she had the undivided attention of almost everyone.
Years later, I tried to recapture some of the mixed emotions her song aroused in us all.
I hope this little poem will show that though most of us did not have third-level qualifications, we were still capable of feeling deeply the economically enforced pain and loss of our beloved families and friends.
Fast forward to Mr Noonan and the same levels of misery may be somewhat mollified by academic excellence, but the pain of enforced separation from home and loved ones is just as keen as ever.
‘The Cattle Boat To Britain’
A beautiful orchid, an emigrant pearl
Sang her plaintive song today
That ancient, lonely, Irish lament
For her home, now far away
And every crystal, shimmering note
Pulsing from her angel throat
Had hard-bitten McAlpine fusiliers
Struggling to stifle ‘unmanly’ tears
And when Holyhead finally hove in sight
On that wet and miserable winter’s night
There was hardly a soul on board that boat
Without aching heart and lump in throat.
George MacDonald
Gorey. Co Wexford
* As did everybody in this country, I found Peggy Mangan’s death very sad and tragic. Despite the magnificent care given to her by her family, it highlights an ever-growing problem in our country – Alzheimer’s.
As a GP, I can tell you that there is no magic tablet or cure at present out there for this awful disease and all we can do is to stall it somewhat.
Twenty-four-hour care is all but impossible to provide and a nursing home is usually the last port of call. I must congratulate the HSE staff who deal with these fragile elderly people, including our district nurses, social workers and, above all, our home helps. This dedicated band of people provides a superb seven-day service on a very meagre budget, giving patients the independence and dignity to remain at home as long as possible, which is so much more important than any treatment that we doctors can provide.
Aidan Hampson GP
Artane, Dublin 5
* The conclusion that Leo Varadkar comes up with regarding ‘brain-drain’ emigrants leaving our shores is laughable – he suggests they are paying too much tax.
Of course, it wouldn’t be that they have lost all faith in the political system here that sees former presidents, taoisigh, ministers and TDs creaming their taxes in enormous pensions.
No, I believe these are certainly the brainier of the Irish people, who have decided enough is enough. At least by leaving the country, they will no longer be contributing to the immoral subsidising of pensions that sometimes represent a wage that most people dream about.
These emigrants can also see that the current government is just a continuation of what is rotten in our system.
As citizens in some of their newfound countries, they might find a better sense of fair play. At least they may feel that they are not contributing to a pensions bonanza for future politicians.
Frank Cummins,
Clondalkin, Dublin 22
* One of the images in our new passport is that of the Aviva Stadium.
While it is a magnificent venue of which, as an Irishman, I feel proud, I cannot believe that a corporate name has been enshrined in our sovereign identification. This is wrong.
Tadhg Casey
Patrick’s Place, Cork
* We are being asked to vote to abolish the Seanad. Abolition would save €20m per year, we are told.
We are also being asked to vote for the introduction of a Court of Appeal.
I don’t believe we know how much it will cost to add another layer of judiciary, but I don’t think it will come cheap.
Did our Government think to cut judges’ salaries?
Perhaps that might give some real savings.
This country cannot afford any more legal costs and something tells me the taxpayer will pick up the tab.
Theresa O’Farrell
Santry, Dublin 9
* I suspect that had Charles Haughey tried to have a constitutional amendment to abolish the Seanad passed, it would have been rejected out of hand by the electorate.
Many people are prepared to give Enda Kenny the benefit of the doubt that the current proposal is not a power grab.
They may be right, which I doubt, but Enda Kenny will not be in power forever.
What will happen if, at some future time, another Charles Haughey makes it to the Taoiseach’s office and all of the constitutional checks on a single party, whip-driven government have been removed?
My appeal to the Irish electorate is: “Wake up and vote No!”
Norman Walsh
Malahide, Co Dublin
* The abolition of the Seanad might be a good idea after all. If the US followed our lead in doing away with its upper house, they wouldn’t have all this trouble now about shutting down.
The dark suspicion, however, is that the objection to ‘Obamacare’ is really about objection to the taking of unborn human life, ie abortion. Only for the upper house then, it would be all plain sailing.
As regards the proposal here on the Appeal Court, justice may be blind, but the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Mrs Susan Denham, isn’t. According to her recent interview on RTE, she is firmly on the Government’s side.
Donal O’Driscoll
Blackrock, Co Dublin
* The referendum guide is striking in that the four gentlemen who appear on its front page are dressed casually – suits and ties, are clearly out of fashion. This must be very encouraging to those TDs who continue to show total disrespect for the Dail dress code.
Tony Moriarty
Harold’s Cross, Dublin 6w
* I was very sad to read the very last installment of ‘Diary of a Demented Mum’ in your ‘Health & Living’ section today.
This hilarious column has kept me sane over the last few years – you see, I too have a “wolverine”.
The portrayal of life with a teenage girl was so close to home that I really thought the writer had been spying on us.
I wish the ‘Demented Mum’ the best in this new phase of her life and thank her for keeping me sane!
C Skerritt
Co Dublin
Irish Independent


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