22 October 2013 Wine
I go all the way around the park round the park listening to the Navy Lark
Our heroes are in trouble The Comfort fund is to be audited. Its overflowing with cash so they throw a party for Heather’s birthday Priceless
Sort the books so tired do the next batch of wine
We watch Hancock its not too bad
Scrabble today Mary wins get under 400 though perhaps I’ll win tomorrow.
Jovanka Broz was Marshal Tito’s wife and found riches at his side only to be plunged into poverty after his death
Jovanka Broz with her husband Josip Broz Tito Photo: AFP
6:43PM BST 21 Oct 2013
Jovanka Broz, who has died aged 88, was a beautiful peasant girl who captured the heart of Marshal Josip Broz Tito. At his side for 25 years she enjoyed a life of luxury, but her communist fairy tale evaporated in old age, plunging her back into poverty.
The couple married in 1952, seven years after Tito, who famously led the Partisan resistance to the Nazis in the Second World War, became Yugoslav premier; aged 60, he was 32 years her senior. Her preeminent position in the Marshal’s affections was later to be the cause of great intrigue.
Jovanka Broz at a Communist Party congress in Zagreb in 1952
Jovanka Budisavljevic was born in Croatia to Serb peasants on December 7 1924, one of five children. With the outbreak of war her family fled the Nazi-installed puppet government, and two years later Jovanka joined the communist underground. A striking nurse who was also a fine marksman, she quickly caught the eye of Tito, a notorious philanderer who was then married to his second wife, Herta Haas.
Their relationship deepened after war’s end, when Tito sought to establish his communist rule over the ethnically divided provinces of Yugoslavia. Jovanka Budisavljevic found a place in his secretariat in Belgrade, nursing him through illness and, some onlookers noted, shielding him from “loneliness”. Then as later, however, there were myriad competing factions clamouring for his favour, and it seems unlikely that she secured her unique place in power without streaks of ambition and ruthlessness.
The couple’s marriage was only confirmed during a visit by Anthony Eden, then British Foreign Secretary, when invitations to a reception were issued by President and Mrs Josip Broz Tito. For her it was the beginning of a life of privilege, as she and Tito enjoyed lavish “gifts from the People” that included a string of residences throughout the country. Even as Yugoslavs wallowed in postwar austerity, Jovanka Broz dressed in furs and jewels and revelled in the glittering receptions in which she was called upon to play hostess. Thanks to the non-aligned course that her husband steered, her guest list included a spectrum of global figures – from the Queen to Fidel Castro – unrivalled elsewhere.
She accompanied Tito on trips around the world, and sailed with him aboard the official yacht to their summer residence on the island of Brijuni. On land they travelled in the luxurious Blue Train. The couple’s wagon had two bedrooms, one for Tito and one for Jovanka, separated by a sky-blue bathroom. Next along was a coach with a built-in cinema.
But she also carved out a role beyond that of society hostess, prompting Tito with notes and messages, and nudging him to keep him alert. Jovanka Broz always claimed that this was part of her service to him, another aspect of a devotion that saw her soothe his sciatica and steer him away, when possible, from the cigars and whisky. Others suspected that she harboured political ambitions herself.
While her marriage to Tito remained strong, she was insulated from such damaging rumours. But by the 1970s, with Tito an old man, the couple had drifted apart. Jovanka Broz again became just one of a number of factions competing for Tito’s attention and, potentially, power, after his death.
Later in life
In 1977, three years before Tito died, she was unceremoniously sidelined. “They accused me of wanting to take power, even though I never had such ambitions,” she told Serb journalists in 1996. The truth, she claimed, was that she knew too much about the scheming aides and generals who hovered around the ailing leader. “I was the only person capable of warning him and protecting him.”
She claimed that two men in particular, the Slovene Stane Dolanc and the Serb General Nikola Ljubicic, were battling for the presidency as Tito neared death. It was a foretaste of the inter-ethnic warring that would tear Yugoslavia apart in the 1990s.
In a rare interview, she later regretted not having spoken out about the intensifying rivalries. “We would no doubt have avoided the tragedy the country has lived through,” she said.
But her critics claimed that she herself was trying to push a pro-Serb agenda on her husband. “I was there when my grandfather kicked her out,” said Joska Broz, Tito’s grandson. “He was furious with her because she had meddled in politics, rather than remaining an obedient and loving wife.”
Though they never formally divorced, Jovanka Broz’s days as a grande dame of European politics were over. She appeared alongside Tito’s sons (from a previous marriage) at his funeral, but her fall from grace thereafter was rapid. She was turfed out of Tito’s residence and stripped of her belongings. When she sued to reclaim some of the trappings of her former lifestyle, a law was passed declaring all the couple’s valuables state property.
The government residence where she was parked became increasingly dilapidated. Without a passport, she lived as a recluse, apparently under house arrest. During the bitter Balkan wars of the 1990s she was more or less forgotten, living in conditions of increasing squalor. The roof was holed, the heating did not work, the windows were broken. Only her sister came to visit. “This lady used to have such high standards and now everything around her is rotting, even her wallpaper,” her maid of 20 years, Ljubica Bauk, told reporters.
The lot of Jovanka Broz improved slightly in recent years, as more sympathetic governments granted her first a pension then a passport. But it was a far cry from the glamour of her married life.
In death, however, her fortunes may change. According to a Serbian government minister she is likely to be reconciled with her late husband post mortem by being buried close to him at his mausoleum.
Jovanka Broz, born December 7 1924, died October 20 2013
Why do the pronouncements from the security services (Report, 17 October) remind me so much of The Hunting of the Snark? “There was also a Beaver, that paced on the deck, Or would sit making lace in the bow: And had often (the Bellman said) saved them from wreck, Though none of the sailors knew how.”
• Chris Huhne says the “intelligence and security committee has at last announced an inquiry” into the collaboration between the NSA and GCHQ (Comment, 21 October). In fact, we published a statement on the matter on 17 July. Perhaps Mr Huhne was otherwise preoccupied.
George Howarth MP
Member of the ISC
• Martin Kettle’s article on the virtues of football manager Roy Hodgson (Comment, 17 October) overlooks the fact that he played professional football in South Africa during the apartheid era, in breach of the ban on sporting contacts argued for by the ANC. On appointment to the England job, Hodgson said he had no regrets.
• While others recall nostalgic malapropisms (Letters, passim), only days ago BBC 5 Live decried the leak of Hodgson’s half-time team talk as breaking the sanctimony of the dressing room.
• The 2011 census shows that 5.5% of England’s population was black or mixed race. England’s squad of 24 players for the Poland match contained nine black or mixed race players, 37.5%. Could Heather Rabbatts explain what the FA is doing wrong (Report, 19 October)?
Wootton Bassett, Wiltshire
• Alex Salmond may genuinely wish that the English football team win the World Cup next year. The prospect of another 48 years of 1966-style gloating might result in a landslide “yes” to independence.
• Is it just me or is Paul McCartney looking increasingly like Ken Dodd these days (Sir Paul’s pop-up gig, 19 October)?
Confirmation of Chinese involvement in UK nuclear power generation raises many vital questions (Report, 21 October).
Will Chinese companies be subcontracted to construct the Hinkley Point C power station? If they are, there is a worrying safety precedent from the construction of China’s first nuclear generating station, at Daya Bay, near Hong Kong, 20 years ago. On EDF’s watch – the French company was responsible for the design and project management – the Chinese company used only 50% of the necessary reinforcement rods in the concrete base under the nuclear reactor. And would such construction companies be allowed to use manual workers from China?
What will the China General Nuclear Power Group (CGNPG) actually be doing at Hinkley Point? It is heavily involved in joint ventures with Areva (yet another state-owned company), the firm building the reactor. Will some of its construction be subcontracted to the Chinese group? Should we be worried by the fact that CGNPG website has no link to its policies on “social responsibility”?
And do the government and its supporters realise that China has a Leninist state where the party envelops all state institutions, including its business corporations? Is it comfortable, therefore, that British taxpayers will now be subsidising the Chinese Communist party?
Professor Jeffrey Henderson
Director, Centre for East Asian Studies, University of Bristol
• You are wrong to say “a decision on which community would … host a deep high-level waste repository is as far away as ever after plans for the north-west were scotched by Cumbria county council” (Britain enlists Chinese help to revive an outdated technology, 21 October). New nuclear enthusiast Ed Davey has finessed that democratic rejection.
The invitation to host the waste repository is due to go out again next year but this time the decision is proposed to be at district council level, so Cumbria county council will not be in a position to say no. The government is perfectly aware the only community likely to invite the waste repository is Copeland, near Sellafield, regardless of the shattered geology but incredibly beautiful landscape of the Lake District. So the future of nuclear power in the UK is based upon an enormous commitment to the French and Chinese governments, while the health and safety of generations unborn and the huge potential damage done to Cumbria’s non-nuclear industries for the foreseeable future, is in the hands of a few – largely Labour – councillors at Whitehaven.
Note the much vaunted policy of community “voluntarism”, said to be steering the nuclear waste decision, is only used where the answer is nearly sure to accord with government expediency. Not in the case of the HS2 route, for example.
Swarthmoor (SW Cumbria) Quakers
• As negotiations over Hinkley Point C demonstrate, the backdrop of energy markets cannot be ignored. The focus of today’s gas debates constantly veers between eye-watering price increases and (perhaps wishful thinking over) future shale-gas-induced abundance. The truth is that efforts to create a low-carbon economy raise multidimensional problems. These include the twin demands of legally mandated emissions reductions and investment certainty. In pricing subsidies, a degree of crystal ball gazing is unavoidable if nuclear is to have a significant role in finding solutions, especially in view of the costs of construction and decommissioning. But whatever deal is cut, our political leaders will have to satisfy civil society that nuclear risk can be managed acceptably – and before this can happen problems of long-term storage remain to be resolved.
Professor Mark Stallworthy
• On the day the chancellor announced China’s entry into the UK nuclear power market, the Environment Agency was considering where 1,400 job cuts should fall – another small but significant lack of joined-up thinking in government. The agency’s effective regulation of the nuclear industry does not just rely on its nuclear specialists but also on ecologists, flood engineers, contaminated land and groundwater land experts, and others whose jobs are at risk. Further cuts will inevitably affect the agency’s ability to regulate the design, construction and operation of new nuclear power stations.
• Following months of negotiations behind closed doors, we have a deal that represents terrible value for money for billpayers. Given that EDF is only expected to meet a “share” of the costs of dealing with the toxic waste its reactors would create – and there is a cap on the amount it would have to pay – it’s clear that the public will also pick up the bill for clean-up costs in future. Earlier this year, I joined other MPs in writing to the National Audit Office calling for a review of the negotiations between the government and EDF. Now that the details of the agreement are out in the open, I have written to the NAO requesting that it investigate.
Caroline Lucas MP
Green, Brighton Pavilion
• The answers to Britain’s energy crisis do not simply lie in price freezes and nuclear energy. Across the country, people are setting up social enterprises and co-operatives to generate and supply their energy. Prices are kept at a rate that is best for their customers, not shareholders, and frequently profits are reinvested into green or renewable energy technologies.
These overlooked energy markets must be supported if living standards in the UK are to be improved and energy poverty is to be rolled back.
Chief executive, Social Enterprise UK
• The government’s contracts experts must have a lot of experience negotiating with those cleverclogs from commerce and industry. Just think of the watertight IT contracts for the NHS, PPI contracts for schools and hospitals, rail franchises and dealings with G4S.
After following the developments between Unite and Ineos (Grangemouth oil refinery shuts as owners refuse to back down, 16 October), I am affronted to learn that Ineos appears to have paid hardly any tax in the UK since 2008 (Glasgow Herald, 21 October). Ineos has been making savings of £100m a year since moving its office from the UK to Switzerland in 2010. The multinational also now operates in five known tax havens. Why are we selling off our key industries to foreign companies who are exploiting this position to reinvest profits back home? This is the free-market ideology gone mad and once again the British taxpayer will be footing the bill.
• Grangemouth is half owned by Petro China, part of the Chinese state petroleum company. Is this what George Osborne meant by Chinese investment on his recent trade tour?
Polly Toynbee (If charities are gagged, 18 October) claims charities “going about their normal business” would be prevented from doing so by the transparency bill. This is untrue. Charities that campaign on policy issues, like Make Poverty History, or those that promote green or health issues, will be able to continue do so, in exactly the same way as they did in the run-up to the 2005 and 2010 elections. Only campaigns which can “reasonably be regarded as intended to promote or procure the electoral success” of parties or candidates, to use the language in the legislation that has been in place for 13 years and which is not being changed, would be required to register with the Electoral Commission, if they intended spending more than £5,000 in England, or £2,000 in Wales, NI or Scotland, on electioneering and be subject to spending caps.
I am surprised that Ms Toynbee does not support the intention of this Bill. If we were to see, as in other countries, unaccountable millions being spent by a third party in support of one party or another, I’m sure Ms Toynbee would be among the first to castigate us for failing to foresee the problem and do something about it. Anyone with an interest in making our political system as transparent and accountable as possible should support us in this modest and sensible reform.
Tom Brake MP
Deputy leader of the House of Commons
• Polly Toynbee usefully reminds us of the wide range of bodies threatened with gagging under the lobbying bill. The Trussell Trust did well to publish its report on food banks this week, since it will not be able to do so in a year’s time, if the bill becomes law; and churches (most of which are charities) will have to restrict their activities to utterly uncontroversial pronouncements from next May onwards, not being permitted to comment on poverty or unsocial behaviour for fear of being judged political in the pre-election period. We must hope (and pray) that the Lords will do the right thing on Tuesday.
Jeremy Hunt would like to reinvigorate the social contract between generations and encourage families to take in their elderly relatives when they can no longer support themselves (Report, 18 October). As a daughter and mother who works full-time and will be expected to until I am 67, I support my elderly parents while they live in their own home. I also provide childcare for my daughter – to enable her to continue working – caring for my grandchildren in school breaks. There is plenty of my life I would like reinvigorated.
Policy-wise this is the left hand not knowing what the right hand is doing. The government has: extended the retirement age; brought in the bedroom tax which will leave many without a spare room; broken up generational family networks by allowing councils to move homeless families to other towns and cities; through economic and social policies they have forced many young people in their 20s and 30s back into the family home (filling any spare rooms); crushed wages, leaving most families requiring two wage earners to survive (who is going to be the in-house carer?); and cut the expenditure on social care, so families caring for elderly relatives lack the support services required. It’s not the generational contract that requires reinvigoration; it is the political social contract that is so out of touch with the life experiences of the British people.
• There are over 1 million grandparents in the UK who are denied contact with their grandchildren due to family breakdown. This can be due to separation or divorce, drug or alcohol issues, bereavement or family feud, leaving grandparents feeling isolated and alone, not knowing where to turn. We run a support group based in Bristol which offers support and advice. We are an independent group with no membership fees. We are looking for grandparents who are in this heartbreaking situation to set up groups of their own. All that is needed is a listening ear and an understanding of what a devastating issue this is. It has been six and a half years since I have had any contact with my granddaughter and setting up BGSG has turned a negative into a positive. Please get in touch if you feel you could set up a group; we will give you all the help and support to get it off the ground.
• A major factor in the repeated failure of care homes to look after their residents well is their separation from the local community. We suggest the Care Quality Commission alone will be unable to correct this scandal. Every home is in a parish. Every parish with a care home should seek three lay volunteers to visit each home every month or two, reporting to the parish council annually and as needed. There is a growing number of people who have retired with the life experience, wisdom and compassion to take this up with a will. An induction would cover what to look for, how to proceed and who else to involve or report to if necessary. This would be to the advantage of residents and their families and offer invaluable support to the staff and organisation running the home. The engagement of responsible, lay “neighbours”, untrammelled by needless protocols, could be the key to preventing suffering and disasters.
Dr Chris Burns-Cox
• Any experienced elderly care nurse will tell you: where there’s a will, there’s a relative.
My elderly mother lives 150 miles away and refuses to move nearer to me so I can see her more often. I drive round the motorways from Dorset to Essex nearly every time she is in hospital: three times this year. I speak to her on the phone every other day. I organise her care over the phone; she has help with shopping and personal care. I helped her fill in the forms for attendance allowance so she has enough money to go to church in a taxi, to her church club on Tuesdays, and to the hairdressers.
We try and see her as often as we can, at least every two to three months, but we also have six grandchildren who live all over the country. I have three voluntary jobs too. Oh, and I have osteoarthritis myself.
Sounds like just another government plot to shift the burden of care further on to “hardworking families” by making them feel guilty. Good job I don’t do guilt.
Linda Dickins, Wimborne, Dorset
Jeremy Hunt bemoans our attitude to the elderly and the problems of loneliness. A worthy statement, but altruism from the Nasty Party? I don’t buy it. Far more likely is that this is the start for a further withering of welfare and care provision, leading to the expectation that the family will care for their elderly relatives when they are bed-ridden and incontinent.
The elderly do not want to be a burden on their families, who have their own lives to lead. I would not want to be a burden either – visits from the family, yes, but not the provision of daily bodily needs.
My pension will pay for care or a care home if that is my future, and I don’t begrudge part of the tax paid on that pension helping provide the safety net for those not so well provided for.
Alan Pearson, Great Ayton, North Yorkshire
Horrors of the slave trade are no secret
Yasmin Alibhai-Brown is right to remind us of Britain’s involvement in the slave trade (21 October). It is indeed a shameful part of our history, but to describe it as “hidden” is a nonsense.
Fifty years ago I was taught at school about the lucrative but disgusting “triangular trade” which took cheap manufactured goods to West Africa, bartered them for slaves, and transported the slaves to the New World, where they were sold and the ships re-loaded with sugar, molasses, tobacco, cotton and so on. We were taught that Liverpool was heavily involved in this diabolical trade, but I admit that the part played by Bristol only became clear, to me at any rate, some years later.
I also remember reading Charles Kingsley’s Westward Ho!, written in 1855; in it the disgraceful trade indulged in by Sir John Hawkins was much criticised. There is ample evidence that Sir Francis Drake took a dim view of his cousin’s disgusting behaviour, and took no part in it.
Nobody chooses food banks
Dennis Wang (letters, 19 October) writes to question why food bank users are returning food which has to be heated. He seems to have a vision of people walking into a supermarket-like space and just helping themselves. He clearly has little knowledge of how food banks operate.
People have to be referred by being given a voucher by an official (such as a health visitor, doctor or children’s centre worker) who has found that they are in need.
Boxes pre-packed with an approved list of groceries (such as baked beans, tinned fish, soup, pasta) by volunteers are handed to users, so there is no choice of food. But once volunteers are informed that someone cannot heat food, they will be able to exchange foods for equivalents which don’t need heating. Unopened food returned to the food bank will be given to someone else in need.
Without food banks, thousands of people for whom the safety net has failed would not be able to feed themselves. Volunteers at distribution points report that users are embarrassed to have to seek this help, and that they are extremely grateful for the help they receive.
Welfare cuts mean that many parents are going without meals in order to feed their children, so it is not surprising that they are turning to food banks. However, it is only a crisis service, and most food banks can only assist people a total of three to five times in the course of a year.
Elizabeth York, Northampton
The quality of teacher education
It was concerns about the impact of government policy on the quality of teaching and teacher education, similar to those expressed by Mary Bousted and others (letter, 21 October), that led to the establishment earlier this year of our inquiry into Research and Teacher Education. This initiative is being run jointly by the British Educational Research Association and the Royal Society for the Arts.
We have been commissioning reviews of existing evidence and gathering submissions from a wide range of stakeholders. Our interim report will be published shortly and we will then be seeking views again from our broadly based reference group and from our advisers (who include Lord Puttnam and the former Senior Chief Inspector of Education in Scotland, Graham Donaldson) before publishing our final report early next year. (More details of the inquiry can be found at bera.ac.uk)
Early indications from the inquiry are that the quality of education provided in our schools is closely related to the research activity that underpins and informs good-quality teacher education. This includes research that is undertaken by teachers themselves.
Ian Menter, President, British Educational Research Association; Professor of Teacher Education, University of Oxford
We recognise the legitimate concerns of people from across the education sector about the Government’s teacher education reforms.
The university sector has worked constructively to maintain and improve the quality of teacher education and to ensure the success of policies such as School Direct. Nevertheless the pace of reform and the rapid roll-out of an unproven system is imposing significant stress on existing school-university partnerships and potentially threatening teacher supply. Ministers need to take a more measured and balanced approach.
James Noble-Rogers, Executive Director, Universities Council for the Education of Teachers, London WC1
I wholeheartedly agree with the signatories to the letter (21 October) arguing that universities must remain key in the education of trainee teachers. But I would go further: as a teacher, it is vital that my professional development is informed by educational research and that I acquire the skills to be an educational researcher.
These things are important because I daily deal with students whose learning needs are not well understood. Universities are ideal places to develop teachers because they have educational researchers working with cognitive scientists to find solutions.
Kartar Uppal, West Bromwich, West Midlands
Mitchell deserves his punishment
There has been a great deal said about “Andew Mitchell’s ordeal”. I have no sympathy for anyone, in the police or not, who distorts the truth, and they must accept the consequences of their actions. However, Mr Mitchell’s “ordeal” was brought about by his own arrogant and stupid behaviour in demanding that he be allowed to ride his bicycle through the main gate at Downing Street when there was a perfectly adequate side gate.
Mr Mitchell’s response to being refused access was to swear at the officer. He has apologised for his behaviour, but his attitude on this occasion was well below that we should expect from a politician. Anyone else would have been arrested or cautioned at a police station for the same behaviour.
There should certainly be the most rigorous examination of police behaviour, and any misdemeanour dealt with appropriately. So should Mr Mitchell now accept that he has overall responsibility for the incident, and having lost his position should accept it with good grace. Arrogance and bad manners should not be rewarded with reinstatement to government.
Gillian Munrow, Amersham, Buckinghamshire
The wrong kind of electricity
It will be interesting, in the fullness of time, to compare the true cost to the taxpayer of a kilowatt-hour of electricity from the new Hinkley nuclear power station to the cost per kilowatt-hour of the solar power subsidy that is paid to owners of some domestic installations.
That subsidy (which lasts 25 years, not the full nuclear 40) was, you may recall, regarded as so grossly and unnecessarily and unfairly inflated that the Government, ever mindful of the public purse, decided to implement a still continuing series of cuts to it. To ministers, this far-sighted measure seemed so obvious and crucial to the economy that, I seem to remember, it took recourse to the courts to stop them from stampeding to implement it even before their own consultation period had expired.
Perhaps the electricity produced by environmentally low-cost home installations isn’t as good as that from Franco-Chinese nuclear reactors. I doubt it will prove more expensive, even with the full subsidy. Additionally, of course, after the payback period (typically around 10 years) and a little maintenance, any domestic-solar electricity is effectively free. And we don’t want to encourage that sort of thing, do we?
Barry Coveney, Axminster, Devon
Maths, science and climate
That two plus two equals four is not a scientific statement at all, as Dr Robin Russell-Jones appears to believe, in his letter about the BBC and climate change (17 October). It is a formal truth telling us something about how numerical language is used; it has no empirical content and thus says nothing about the world.
Scientific statements by the IPCC or anyone else have no comparable logical status and shouldn’t claim any. When views at odds with climate change orthodoxy are interestingly more prevalent, the BBC, as a newsgathering organisation, is right to air them.
John Wiseman, Salisbury
I have been awaiting Morrissey’s autobiography with bated breath. He was the charismatic leader of the funniest comedy-pop band of the 1980s and with time their songs have become even more hilarious. I can’t listen to the Smiths now without laughing out loud. I really am looking forward to a rib-cracking read!
Neil Shoesmith, Eaglescliffe, Stockton
Nuclear power is neither cheap, nor sustainable, nor a quick fix for energy shortages. We still haven’t found a satisfactory way of dealing with its waste products, and it will take a decade and billions of pounds (billions which will be diverted from investment in greener, more sustainable sources of energy such as solar, marine and wind power) before it provides us with energy.
And now it seems that we can’t even build new nuclear power stations without Chinese investment (doubtless involving manufacture in China), so that much of the profit and many of the jobs that come with any infrastructure project will vanish abroad. Are we mad?
Kingston upon Thames
Last week we heard the Chancellor announce at least two bold new initiatives to embrace investment from China. The first was to participate in an £800m investment in Manchester Airport, the second to begin taking control of the remnants of the British nuclear power industry.
Where were the British banks in all this?
In recent years a river of money has been poured into the British banking sector, to prop them up in their failures and to encourage investment in the UK economy. This is hundreds of thousands of millions of pounds, easily ample to salvage the British nuclear power industry (we were the first country in the world to build a civil nuclear reactor, if anyone remembers that), invest in property development, the aviation industry and much more. Yet there doesn’t appear to be anything available for industry or the economy.
What happened to all that money, underwritten by tax-payers, here to stimulate economic recovery?
Who needs weapons, who needs war when dominion can be achieved by economic clout and a seat on the board?
When Britain no longer owns its energy supply, and its sovereignty over its communications infrastructure has dissipated, we may regret the Chancellor’s handshake.
Hatch Beauchamp, Somerset
Oh despair. Michael Gove promotes me to the Marxist enemies-of-progress club for striking, and I find myself rubbing shoulders with George Osborne, praising the virtues of Communist China.
Badger cull masks error over TB
It’s not an “English thing about badgers” (letter, 19 October). It’s about the continuing attempt to shift attention from human error.
I refer to the post-2001 restocking of areas ravaged by foot-and-mouth disease, with cattle that hadn’t been tested for bovine TB, a schoolboy howler that brought to an end half a century of disease containment.
Talk of badgers attacking hedgehogs and having “no natural enemies” also distracts from the fact that the disease was originally eradicated from this country, with the exception of certain “hot spots” in the South-west, using cattle controls alone, in the 1960s. The idea that killing badgers might be a remedy didn’t arise until a TB-infected badger was found in Gloucestershire in 1971.
For those who lobbied for the recent “cull”, its harvest of dead badgers was surely an unmissable opportunity to demonstrate once and for all to the public (who have reportedly paid nearly £1bn for the attempted re-containment of bovine TB) that these badgers really are riddled with TB and that their slaughter, although unpleasant, is absolutely necessary. That this opportunity wasn’t taken sends an equally clear message.
We might have more confidence in the Government’s culls of badgers if there was any proof that they have been conducted scientifically; that, for instance, the badgers killed have been tested for TB. The impression is that Owen Paterson is clueless and is putting on a grisly show for farmers.
You can’t trust those in power
Two apparently unconnected stories have highlighted the importance of accountability and of scepticism of the activities of those in power (Steve Richards, Peter Popham, 18 October).
The integrity of those who are able to impugn our honesty or lock us up, should be beyond question. Unfortunately, the kind of people who are drawn to this role are not always morally the best qualified to exercise it.
It is a personal tragedy for Andrew Mitchell that it seems he was victimised in the “Plebgate” affair by employees of the state who failed to keep to the exacting standards required.
Meanwhile in Italy, a similar fate befell Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito, who were falsely incarcerated for four years for the murder of Meredith Kercher, and continue to be harried.
The online comments posted below Peter Pophams’s article are instructive. They reveal that many people continue to blindly trust corrupt officials and are prepared to defend them to the end.
That is why we need a free press and campaigning organisations; not only to uncover corruption but to save us from ourselves.
Advisory Board Member, Injustice Anywhere, London N22
David Usborne in his report from America (“Obama tells Congress: there are no winners here”, 18 October), speaks about fears that “extremists in both parties will dig in”.
He should have given more details, as I was totally unaware that there was a Khmer Rouge faction among Democrats intent on setting the US back to year zero as an ultra-zealous Maoist state. Certainly any Democrats would have to be at least as fanatical as that to balance the extremism of the Tea Party, with its psychotic fantasies of a country swept clean of government, science and any vestigial concern for the environment.
Wivelsfield Green, East Sussex
Clegg sees the light at last
Congratulations to Nick Clegg for finally reaching a blindingly obvious conclusion, namely that if qualified teachers have to train for up to three years to be able to teach in state schools, unqualified teachers in free schools are not likely to reach the same standard.
That all state schools have to follow the same national curriculum but that it is not necessary for academy or free schools, is again obviously ridiculous. How can a national curriculum designed so that the achievement of pupils in different schools can be compared be optional?
So well done Nick, at last!
Scene of the brief encounter
Can it possibly be that Howard Jacobson (Voices, 19 October) does not know where the “Milford Station” scenes in Brief Encounter were shot?
He should visit Carnforth Station as soon as possible, warm himself by the fire in an old-fashioned waiting room, consume some excellent cakes and scones, and browse the display of Brief Encounter memorabilia in the adjacent room.
So the Government is suggesting the reintroduction of third-class rail fares. Presumably these will be for passengers who already cannot find a seat on our many overcrowded trains.
Standards of education are being threatened by a serious and growing shortage of school places and an emerging crisis in recruitment to teacher training.
Parents should be seriously concerned not only that their child gets a school place but also whether they will be taught by a well-trained, qualified teacher.
Latest figures indicate that there are serious shortfalls in the recruitment of teacher trainees. Ten out of thirteen secondary subjects have failed to meet their training allocations this year, in addition to a shortfall in primary places. The coalition government’s ‘School Direct’ policy, where responsibility for training teachers is transferred to schools, has only added to this crisis.
At the same time university departments of education are considering whether to remain providers of initial teacher training in a context where their training numbers are being slashed. Bath University has already threatened to axe its teacher training provision; others, with drastic cuts to their allocation of places this year, are likely to follow.
This will damage a teaching profession which is sustained by the research-informed contribution of universities. University-led initial teacher education works in partnership with schools. All trainees already spend over half their course time in schools, learning from and engaging with a diversity of practice. Transferring responsibility to individual schools constructs a narrow apprenticeship model of teacher education: it undermines any coherent approach to teacher supply and de-professionalises teaching.
The Secretary of State for Education should take full responsibility for the emerging crisis in school places and teacher supply. We call upon him to safeguard standards of education for children and young people by securing universities’ central role in the development of well-trained and highly-qualified teachers.
Dr Mary Bousted, General Secretary ATL
Christine Blower, General Secretary NUT
Sally Hunt, General Secretary UCU
Chris Keates, General Secretary NASUWT
Prof Tim Brighouse, Former Chief Education Officer & Schools Commissioner for London
Prof Ian Craig, Executive Director and Registrar, The College of Teachers
Sir Peter Newsam, Director Emeritus, Institute of Education, University of London
Prof Sally Tomlinson, Emeritus Professor, Goldsmiths College, London and Senior Research Fellow at the Department of Education, University of Oxford.
And over 200 more…
Helen Aberdeen , University of Bristol
Prof John Adams, University of Hertfordshire
Jeff Adams, Professor of Education, Faculty of Education, University of Chester
Patrick Ainley, Professor of Training and Education, University of Greenwich School of Education and Health
Amelia Albert, University of East London
David Aldridge, Senior Lecturer in Philosophy of Education, Oxford Brookes University
Stephen Allen, London South Bank University
Gill Anderson, Institute of Education, University of London
Jim Anderson, Goldsmiths, University of London
Prof Dennis Atkinson, Goldsmiths, University of London
Pura Ariza, Senior Lecturer in Education Faculty of Education Manchester Metropolitan University
Jennifer Bain, Goldsmiths, University of London
Patrick Barmby, University of Durham
Jonathan Barnes, Senior Lecturer, Primary Education Canterbury Christ Church University
Chris Beesley, Subject Leader. PGCE Secondary Mathematics, Institute of Education, University of Reading
Suzi Bewell, CA Leader PGCE MFL Department of Education, University of York
Dave Bilton, University of Reading
Helen Bilton, Associate Professor in Education Institute of Education, University of Reading
John Blanchard, Education consultant
Nalini Boodhoo Head of School of Education and Lifelong Learning University of East Anglia
Verna Brandford, Institute of Education, University of London
Jacek Brant, Institute of Education, University of London
Dave Brockington, Education Consultant
Prof Margaret Brown Emeritus Professor of Mathematics Education, King’s College London
Sarah Bucknill, University of Roehampton
Theo Bryer, Institute of Education, University of London
Lesley Burgess, Senior Lecturer, Institute of Education , University of London
Deirdre Burrell, Lecturer, Institute of Education, University of Reading
John Butlin, Senior Lecturer in Education, Birmingham City University
Marian Carty, Goldsmiths, University of London
Erica Cattle, University of East London
Prof Clyde Chitty, Institute of Education, University of London, Goldsmiths College, University of London
Colin Christie, Institute of Education, University of London
John Clarke, University of East London
Graham Clayton, Formerly Senior Solicitor, National Union of Teachers
Tony Clements, School of Education, Durham University
Mandy Cockayne, Director, PGCE Primary, Institute of Education, University of Reading
Frank Coffield, Emeritus Professor of Education, Institute of Education London University
Simon Coffey , Lecturer in Modern Languages Education, King’s College London
Jane Coles, Institute of Education, University of London
Rowena Collins, Birmingham City University, Chair UCET CPD Committee
Caroline Conlon, Institute of Education, University of London
Anne Convery, School of Education, University of Nottingham
Clare Copeland, Course Director, PGCE Primary & Early Years, London South Bank University
Valerie Coultas, Senior Lecturer English in Education, School of Education, Kingston University
Jane Courtney, London South Bank University
Kevin Courtney, Deputy General Secretary, NUT
Richard Cowley Lecturer in Mathematics Education, Institute of Education, University of London
Sue Cox, Senior Lecturer, University East Anglia
Caroline Crolla, Head of Initial Teacher Training, Institute of Education University of Reading,
Gerry Czerniawski Reader in Education, Research Degrees Leader. The Cass School of Education and Communities, The University of East London
Prof Jeanine Treffers-Daller, Professor of Second Language Education, Director of the Centre for Literacy and Multilingualism, Institute of Education, University of Reading
Maire Daley, Advanced Lecturer in Teacher Education, The City of Liverpool College
Beatrice Davies, Senior Lecturer in Education, Oxford Brookes University
Jan Derry, Institute of Education, University of London.
Fotini Diamantidaki, Institute of Education, University of London
Professor Justin Dillon, Professor of Science and Environmental education, Head, Science and Technology Education Group (STEG) Department of Education and Professional Studies King’s College London
Sue Dixon, Goldsmiths, University of London
Miranda Dodd , School of Education, University of Southampton
Gail Edwards, Lecturer in Education, Newcastle University
Jess Edwards, Charter for Primary Education
Ruth Edwards, Senior Teaching Fellow, Education School, University of Southampton
Prof John Elliott, University of East Anglia
Keith Faulkner, University of Sheffield
Judith Flynn Senior Lecturer, English and English as an Additional language (EAL) and Bilingualism, Manchester Metropolitan University
Anton Franks, University of Nottingham
Hugh Gallagher, University of Strathclyde
David Galloway, Emeritus Professor, University of Durham
Caro Garrett, Chair, Association of Tutors in Science Education
Tony Gelsthorpe, formerly Principal, Thomas Estley Community College, Leicestershire; IT-INSET Co-ordinator, School of Education, University of Leicester; now school governor
Prof Rosalyn George, Goldsmiths, University of London
Prof Sharon Gewirtz, King’s College London
Prof Ron Glatter, Emeritus Professor of Educational Administration and Management, The Open University
Amy Godoy-Pressland , University of East Anglia
Prof Andy Goodwyn, Head of The institute of Education, University of Reading
Tracey Goodyere, AST, Senior Lecturer Design and Technology PGCE, Birmingham City University
Anna Lise Gordon, Programme Director, National Teaching Fellow, School of Education, Theology and Leadership, St Mary’s University College
John Gordon UEA Secondary PGCE(M) Senior Lecturer, English Education, School of Education and Lifelong Learning University of East Anglia
Vicky Grammatikopoulou, Goldsmiths, University of London
Maggie Gravelle, Principal Lecturer (retired) University of Greenwich
Andrew Green Secondary English, School of Sport and Education, Brunel University
Kate Green, Director of Initial Teacher Education, Southampton Education School,
University of Southampton
Stephen Griffin Senior Lecturer Education and Professional Studies Newman University
Alison Griffiths, Goldsmiths, University of London
Andrew Happle, PGCE Primary, Institute of Education , University of Reading
John Hardcastle, Lecturer, Institute of Education, University of London
Katrina Harrell, Senior Lecturer in Secondary English, Canterbury Christ Church University
Richard Harris, Lecturer in History Education|Secondary History Tutor: Director MA programmes Institute of Education, University of Reading
Richard Harris, Chair Southampton Schools Forum
Linda Harris, University of Strathclyde
Prof Richard Hatcher, Birmingham City University
Derek Haylock, Education writer and consultant Senior Fellow, University of East Anglia
Ruth Heilbronn, Institute of Education, University of London
Peter Hick, Principal Lecturer, Inclusive Education Manchester Metropolitan University
Dave Hill, Research Professor in Education Anglia Ruskin University
Gill Hopper, Lecturer in Art & Design in Education, Course leader BAEd Art , Institute of Education , University of Reading
Janet Hoskyns, Professor Emerita, formerly Head of School of Education, Birmingham City University
Philippa Hunt, University of Roehampton
Prof Merryn Hutchings – Emeritus Professor, Institute for Policy Studies in Education London Metropolitan UniversityChristine Ivory PGCE Early Years Programme Coordinator, Faculty of Education, Community and Leisure Liverpool John Moores University
Tamsyn Imison, formerly Headteacher, Hampstead School
Melanie Jay, PGCE Secondary Course Leader Art and Design, University of Reading
Margaret Jones Information for School and College Governors
Lee Jerome, Lecturer in Education, Queen’s University Belfast
Sally Johnson, STEM Education Centre London, Institute of Education, University of London
Hanneke Jones, School of Education, Communication and Language Sciences Newcastle University
Prof Ken Jones, Goldsmiths, University of London
Paul Howard-Jones, Reader in Neuroscience and Education, University of Bristol
Lynne Kay, Lecturer in Education, University of East Anglia
Clare Kelly, Goldsmiths, University of London
Prof Andy Kempe, University of Reading –
Sir, The outlook for our energy market seems to be getting bleaker (report, Oct 21). Allowing a state-owned company, albeit French or Chinese, to set energy prices 35 years into the future is not a hallmark for a well-functioning free market. There is every chance that the UK’s householders will lose out to foreign investors and even to French taxpayers.
The answers to Britain’s energy crisis do not simply lie in price freezes and nuclear energy. Our leaders are missing a trick by ignoring the huge potential in growing the community energy sector. Across the country, people are setting up social enterprises and co-operatives — businesses driven by a social or environmental mission — to generate and supply their own energy. Prices are kept at a rate that is best for their customers, not wealthy shareholders, and frequently profits are reinvested into green or renewable energy technologies. These overlooked advances in energy markets must be supported if living standards in the UK are to be improved and energy poverty is to be rolled back.
Social Enterprise UK
Sir, Criticism of the price guarantee announced for nuclear electricity fails to recognise the real scandal: the disproportionately large subsidies being agreed for off-shore wind farms. Accepting that the issue of climate change requires us to phase out the use of fossil fuels for generating electricity, this cannot be achieved without some extra costs. But £92.5 per megawatt hour of power for reliable power from Hinkley Point will be much better value for money than guaranteed prices of up to £150 per megawatt hour of power for wind power, a supply subject to the vagaries of the weather. On energy security grounds as well as cost, off-shore wind projects are a poor investment for the country.
Sir, It was interesting to read in The Times yesterday that the experts predict that the new French-funded power station at Hinkley Point will add about £8 a year to the average bill, and that the new power station is likely to generate 7 per cent of Britain’s energy.
If that is the case why don’t we get the French to build 14 new stations. Pro rata we would then pay about £112 a year extra, could have all the power we want — and could ditch all the wind turbines.
W. M. A. sheard
Leyburn, N Yorks
Sir, The Department of Energy and Climate Change urgently needs to get a sense of proportion. What we do in this country — closing down our cheap coal-fired power stations and replacing them with incredibly expensive windmills and nuclear power stations — has a negligible impact on worldwide production of carbon dioxide. The annual growth in China’s coal consumption is almost three times our total annual usage.
Sir, Rather than spending £50 billion on a unproven HS2 project that divides the country, why not spend this huge pot of money on securing our energy needs for the future, ie, build approximately three new nuclear power stations wholly belonging to the UK, and keeping foreign hands off our energy supply?
Although strides have been made in tackling some world problems, there are many more that still pose a serious risk and are being left unchecked
Sir, Bjorn Lomborg (Opinion, Oct 19) is right that there has been some progress in tackling many of the world’s biggest problems, but he ignores some of the most serious risks. For instance, Dr Lomborg, who runs a US-based NGO, fails to mention the rising number of victims of the tobacco industry. According to the World Health Organisation, smoking causes more than half a trillion dollars of economic damage and kills about six million people each year, and could result in up to one billion deaths this century.
Dr Lomborg also draws on an incomplete analysis of the impacts of climate change contained in his new book, which concludes that there have been net benefits from greenhouse gas emissions so far primarily by making a very optimistic assumption about the “fertilisation effect”on crops of elevated carbon dioxide levels. But Dr Lomborg neglects to point out that the author of the analysis admits that this assumption is “in contrast to the empirical literature”.
Similarly, Dr Lomborg’s claim that the direct heat-related effects of global warming on human health results in a net benefit is at odds with expert opinion. The Health Protection Agency warned last year that global warming by the 2050s could reduce cold-related deaths in the UK by about 1,000 while increasing heat-related deaths by more than 7,000.
Policy and Communications Director, Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment
Sir, Bjorn Lomborg predicts improvements in what he calls biodiversity, eccentrically defined as biomes’ recreational, economic and aesthetic values. The true meaning of biodiversity is, of course, the variety of plant and animal life, which is indisputably dwindling. Indeed, many ecologists believe that human overuse of our planet’s resources is causing a new mass extinction.
Sir, None of the ten points Dr Lomborg lists makes any mention of rapid population growth and the problems that brings. And what if China had not had a one child policy?
Skirlaugh, East Riding
Perhaps a way to cap the number of peers in the House of Lords would be to introduce a system of ‘Lords Emeritus’ either at a certain age or after a period of service
Sir, One approach to maintaining an appropriate number of active members of the House of Lords (report, Oct 17, letter, Oct 19) would be to emulate the academic world and name those reaching a stage at which they were no longer active “Lords Emeritus”. There are many potential ways of determining who might be eligible for emeritus status. One would be by age, say 75 or 80. A better approach might be to make any peer emeritus after a fixed period of service — say ten years.
Such an approach could contain the total number of members of the House of Lords and enable the membership to be refreshed, reflecting changes in society.
It would not prevent emeritus peers being invited to contribute to specific select committees where they had some especially valuable expertise.
Professor Sir John S. Marsh
Sir, The House of Lords today is widely, though not unanimously, regarded as being oversupplied with members. The Victorians had the opposite problem. In The English Constitution (1867) Walter Bagehot complained that “in the ordinary transaction of business there are perhaps ten peers in the House, possibly only six; three is the quorum” out of a total of 429. Both Gladstone and the Tory leader, Lord Salisbury, favoured the creation of life peers to swell the numbers and get the work done properly, but unimaginative colleagues blocked them. To secure some improvement in attendance, the right to vote by proxy was removed. Perhaps its reintroduction should now be considered.
House of Lords
Sometimes there are benefits to staying a loyal customer – even if they may not be of the order to make one a millionaire
Sir, This morning I received a letter from one of our largest building societies informing me that the interest rate on my loyalty saver account had been increased from 1.6 per cent to 1.7 per cent because I had banked with them for 15 years.
The membership of the Ooty club is in fact much more mixed than previous correspondence would have led us to believe
Sir, I fear Mr Penn (letter, Oct 19) is out of date concerning the exclusivity of the Y chromosome in the Ooty Club. As a regular guest of my mother-in-law, a longstanding member, with no connections to the army, I can assure you that I have personally witnessed an exuberance of female members. I am advised that should Messrs Hearn or Advani wish to visit, they should contact the club. Moreover, the snooker table is in excellent shape.
Dr Anil Mehta
SIR – As an experienced goat farmer at Forde Grange Goat Dairy in Somerset, I believe that the shortage of goats’ milk should be no surprise. It is the result of last year’s extreme weather, and market failure caused by a small number of powerful buyers.
Our fodder crops failed, goats and cows produced up to 10 per cent less milk, dairy farmers’ costs increased hugely, while the price that we received for our milk did not. Consequently, a number of farmers have decided that there are less arduous ways to make a living.
Supermarkets supply very cheap goods, and insist on a 40 per cent margin; it amazes farmers that bottled water can cost more than our milk.
Forde Abbey, Somerset
SIR – Fraser Nelson’s article left out a few pertinent facts. One is that not all elderly people are well off. Many are struggling along on one of the lowest state pensions in the civilised world. Perhaps bus passes and free television licences would be unnecessary were the state pension to be anything near adequate.
Secondly, depriving elderly people of their assets is also depriving their children and grandchildren of them. In the absence of a late-life spending, these assets would naturally be passed down to the latter.
Thirdly, if we want to relieve students of the burden of university fees, we should try to collect some of the tax revenue that large companies have avoided paying, and direct this towards university education.
Two groups of victims are being pitched against each other. The young, needing education, and the old, needing care, are unproductive, and therefore being condemned. The problem is not that
we are in danger of living in a gerontocracy: it is that we are already living in a plutocracy.
Farmers are not paid a fair price for goats’ milk
21 Oct 2013
R A Holden
SIR – The comments made by Alan Milburn, the Coalition’s adviser on social mobility, about pensioners paying higher taxes and suffering benefit cuts to help the young (report, October 17) are infuriating.
Mr Milburn chooses to ignore the fact that the vast majority of pensioners have already endured austerity from 1939 through to the Fifties, albeit as children and young adults. We went to work aged 15, and paid taxes and national insurance for the next 50 years, with a small pension following at the end of that.
We learnt to be frugal as there was not much choice, and we ensured that we put money away for the future.
SIR – Although I have had my state retirement date deferred twice by the Government, I feel that it is about time wealthier pensioners gave up some of the benefits afforded them.
The Christmas bonus and bus passes should only be paid to non-tax-paying pensioners, and higher taxpayers should not get the fuel allowance. Prescription charges should become exempt in line with the current state pension age, rather than at 60. None of these measures will cause hardship, but may help with the balance of payments.
SIR – Mr Nelson says that the young are paying a high price for supporting the elderly. I believe the reverse is happening:by the banks providing cheap mortgages for the young, the old are suffering ludicrous interest rates on their savings.
Veterans’ mental health
SIR – Your report of a leaked Ministry of Defence memo revealing fears about mental health as a reason for a downturn in recruiting confirms our concerns about the unending focus on military post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). What parent, employer, landlord or partner would welcome association with veterans or service personnel linked to a condition portrayed as leaving them violent, unstable, dysfunctional and without recourse to help?
However, the number of veterans and military personnel suffering from PTSD is small; it is not a condition caused only by military service, and it is curable. In addition to NHS resources, there are more than 300 charities dedicated to helping veterans suffering from mental health issues allegedly related to military service.
Military service is good for the vast majority, and very few soldiers are diagnosed with mental health issues that require their medical discharge. Politicians seem, through their activities, to have done “our boys” no service; indeed quite the opposite, branding robust and capable individuals with the stigma of actual or latent mental disorder.
Wg Cdr Dr Hugh Milroy (retd)
CEO, Veterans Aid
Lt Col Ian P Palmer (retd)
Tri-Service Professor of Military Psychiatry, 1999–2003
Maj Gen Alan Hawley (retd)
Director-General, Army Medical Services 2005–2009
SIR – Ian Coates describes the problem of not being able to use the telephone after he had his voice box removed; but Mr Coates doesn’t have to live without a phone.
Textphones, in combination with a landline and associated computer software, will give him back the use of his phone, but he does need the Hearing Carry Over facility. This will enable him to type his end of the conversation, while hearing the other person: his typed words will be relayed as speech by a specially trained operator working with Text Direct.
I had a textphone for 20 years before being given my first cochlear implant, and am now learning to use phones again in the conventional way.
Chilly in church
SIR – The Bishop of Dorchester may be right to say that church buildings should become community hubs, but the cost of making many lofty church interiors user-friendly would not be financially viable for a great number of village churches. Heating is a major challenge – both pensioner and mother/toddler groups would need the building to be well heated.
Also, my village already has a number of community meeting places, namely: the village hall, youth club, scout hut, council room and church hall. So any opening up of the church would be in competition with these established venues, some of which already struggle to survive.
Good, but not great
SIR – I think that it is very sad that Ben Stephenson, the controller of BBC drama commissioning, considers that Call the Midwife and Parade’s End are great drama. Watchable, yes; great drama, definitely not.
SIR – George Osborne, the Chancellor, asks where all our ambition has gone. Ambition and drive are destroyed by taxes and the state, because they curb entrepreneurship and encourage indolence. There is nothing like lower taxes to spur on ambition.
A T Brookes
SIR – If Mr Osborne wants the British people to show more grit and ambition, I suggest the Government should desist from gagging our freedom of expression, reject health and safety meddling, regulate our borders and give us an EU referendum.
SIR – Our children are told they cannot play tag in the playground, play conkers or take part in competitive sports. How can children be ambitious, when ambition is being drained out of them?
Horsley Woodhouse, Derbyshire
Oxford interview terror
SIR – I was interested to see that candidates to Oxford and Cambridge are facing more challenging questions in their interviews.
My own interview at Brasenose was relatively straightforward. More terrifying was the three-hour written essay. The questions were: 1 The English countryside is a palimpsest. Discuss; 2 Programme music is inferior music. Discuss; 3 Red Indians.
Options one and two were out of the question, as I had no idea what a palimpsest was, nor any clue about programme music. I was thus left with option three, and spent the rest of the afternoon writing about the rise of Communism in the Indian state of Kerala.
The terror caused by that test made the horrors of a Latin exam the following day pale into insignificance, but, in my case, at least proved that long-term memory can be stimulated and reinforced by fright.
Markham, Ontario, Canada
Road safety record
SIR – In New Zealand in the Fifties, I obtained my driving licence at 15. Now at nearly 71, I have never made an insurance claim nor had one made against me, which Honest John thinks might be a record.
Captain John Maioha Stewart (retd)
Breisach, Baden–Württemberg, Germany
Three classes of rail travel should be welcomed
SIR – I am not sure that the proposed third-class rail travel will be turning the clock back 60 years. Eurostar already operates three classes of travel: Business Premium, Standard Premier and Standard. Standard Premier being first class without all the frills, and, of course, the cost.
Proposals put forward by East Coach Main Line will probably follow that of Eurostar: same luxury coach, but without all the extras.
SIR – There should not be an alarmist response to the idea that third-class travel might be reintroduced to the railways; the current standard class is actually third class, renamed as second in the Fifties, and later called standard class.
The Midland Railway abolished second class in 1875 as a marketing masterstroke. It did this by reducing first class fares to those of second class, withdrawing or upgrading its third class coaches to the standard of the former second class, and rebranding the second class coaches as third. Other railway firms followed suit.
Haworth, West Yorkshire
SIR – My wife and I have just returned from holiday in Europe by rail: Italy to London via Nice and Paris, all on a standard class ticket. A superb and comfortable journey. Our final leg was Kings Cross to Newark-on-Trent in third class (sorry, first class). The worst train journey of the holiday.
The whole system needs improving, rather than standards being downgraded.
SIR – Third class travel is back. So what do they call the one where you travel to and from work squashed in like a sardine?
A chara, – Tim Callan is correct in his assertion that examples may not be representative (Business This Week, October18th). The primary reason the particular example he has given is unrepresentative is that it directly compares the cuts suffered by older people with those endured by the young unemployed and other cohorts.
There is an inherent danger in comparing and contrasting older people’s benefits with those given to other generations. Pensioners, by and large, have no further capacity to earn and their social transfers are provided to provide them with an adequate standard of living for the rest of their lives. All going well, our children and grandchildren will work again and will reap the benefits of Ireland’s eventual recovery.
Until that day, comparing the cuts suffered by pensioners with hardships endured by those of other generations serves only to create a sense of intergenerational strife. Budget 2014 was not ageist, nor was it unfairly directed on pensioners alone. Instead, it was a scathing attack on the marginalised. The old, the young, and the sick must rally together after these latest savage cuts, lest we all hang separately. – Is mise,
Information & Networking
Active Retirement Ireland,
Mary’s Abbey, Dublin 7.
A chara, – Why is the Government again discouraging people from paying for health insurance by increasing the cost? This makes no sense, particularly when Fine Gael had promised a gradual move to health insurance for all. Car insurance is compulsory, why not health insurance? – Is mise,
An Charaig Dhubh,
Sir, – Being an accomplice after the fact is tantamount to committing the crime. Every time government ministers, individually or collectively, refuse to take positive action against those who abused their positions for personal or corporate gain, they are de facto accomplices.
According to Roosevelt, “to befoul the unholy alliance between corrupt business and corrupt politics is the first task of the statesmanship of the day”. We need to see this in action if any such corruption exists.
How many times have we heard the Government say it cannot cut the farcical salary of a banker or official? How many time has it said that it has no legal authority to move against a developer or corporate body? Too many times to discuss.
Instead, the Fine Gael/Labour Government, in typical “bully boy” fashion, has imposed fearful hardship on the elderly and the chronically ill, under Budget 2014. While the Government may fear retribution at the ballot box, it obviously cannot, from its position of strength, empathise with the despair of the vulnerable.
Safely wrapped in the protection of power, hubris and large salaries, this Government repeatedly takes from the weakest and defenceless.
Power corrupts and power protects. Sadly it protects the wrong people. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – Perhaps some politician could explain why my wife and I should have our medical card eligibility cap reduced by 25 per cent from €1,200 to €900 per week when a single person “only” has a reduction of 16.67 per cent, ie from €600 to €500 per week.
Surely this in contradiction of our Constitution, which guarantees the position of the family? – Yours, etc,
Lake Road, Cobh,
Sir, – When the present austerity era began, I wrote that the Coalition partners needed to identify the various groups of “vulnerable people” in order to protect them. Well the Government certainly took the advice of identifying the “vulnerable people”, however instead of protecting them it learned how to target them. We now have a path laid out on dismantling the support for both “vulnerable people” and the people who care for them.
The measure of a society is how we treat and support our most vulnerable people. The question for the Coalition partners, following the Budget, is how would they feel if what they have done was done personally to them?
We should treat people as we would expect to be treated ourselves. If the present Coalition partners cannot identify with this basic principle, then we will continue on this path with the predictable results of leaving the “vulnerable people” and the people who care for them to pay the price for the mistakes of the past. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – Pensioners pay all charges and taxes like everyone else in the State – but usually have smaller and often just fixed incomes to cover things such as property, water, bin and other charges so that the relative impact on them can often be much higher.
For years we were told to save and make provision for old age – many of us tried to do so and made plans based on our payments into the PRSI contributory pension scheme, payments into work pension schemes, payments for private health insurance and also tried to put some savings away for the future when we would have smaller incomes and (perhaps then) a lack of access to credit facilities for any large household maintenance issues.
We now find that “pension promises” and our retirement plans are being both reneged on and dipped into by employers and government !
This despicable Budget affects a lot of vulnerable people, but pensioners are being attacked multiple times in many different parts of it, eg, in relation to telephone allowance, pension levy on already distressed private workplace pensions, tax relief on health insurance on basic plans , over-70s medical cards, discretionary medical cards, medical card prescription charges, the removal of bereavement grant, Dirt increases – and more is to come in the detailed Bills and the €600 million health review.
In the UK and US employers are made accountable for promises of workplace pensions and protection schemes are also in place. In Ireland the opposite is the case, this Government introduced just one solitary wealth tax – a levy on the capital in already distressed private pensions funds which results in annual and permanent reductions for pensioners.
Labour is in Government and holds the Social Protection portfolio – it needs to now start demonstrating that it is not more right wing than George Bush.
I look forward to the senior citizens parliament protest meeting today in Molesworth Street, Dublin. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – For some time now there has been an established link between overfishing and jellyfish blooms (“Jellyfish bloom kills thousands of farmed salmon off Co Mayo”, Lorna Siggins, October 21st).
More than 10 years ago the internationally renowned fisheries biologist Daniel Pauly predicted that we would “soon be eating plankton soup and jellyfish burgers” as a result of overfishing large, predatory fish.
When the fish – such as cod and other carnivorous fish – that eat jellyfish are removed, jellyfish flourish. The jellyfish then feed on juvenile fish and fish eggs.
According to the Marine Institute, three out of the four cod fisheries around Ireland are overfished or data deficient, while across all fisheries less than half of the stocks are sustainably exploited or too little is known to be sure.
Notwithstanding the fact that other factors such as pollution and climate change may also be at play, it is important we face up to this problem. It not only has huge implications for the health of our seas but also casts further doubt over the viability of proposals for large-scale fish farming at sea. Yours, etc,
Irish Wildlife Trust
Sir, – One of the more troubling aspects of the comments of Church of Ireland Archbishop of Dublin Michael Jackson, in his address to the diocesan synod last week regarding sectarianism, was his tacit redefinition of the term sectarian to mean anyone who isn’t “all-tolerant, all-liberal, all-inclusive”. Surely one can be tolerant, inclusive and conservative, without being sectarian? If not, then a large portion of the Anglican Communion, according to the new Dublin definition at least, are sectarians. I’ll happily remain “sectarian” then so! – Yours, etc,
Upper Rathmines Road,
Sir, – For the length of my 44 years in the active ministry of the Church of Ireland it was always impressed upon me that one should never say or do anything in criticism of one’s successor, certainly not publicly and preferably not at all.
It therefore disappoints me that not one, but two, former archbishops have seen fit to come out in such strong terms in their reaction to the words of Archbishop Jackson at the Dublin and Glendalough Diocesan Synod.
I do not know what it was that led Archbishop Jackson to say what he did, but I am certain that it was borne out of his experience in this diocese. He is a wise and perceptive man, and I can only assume that his words were not lightly said. – Yours, etc,
(Revd) CECIL MILLS,
Monkstown, Co Dublin.
Sir, – The Editorial (“Departing doctors”, October 16th) represents a sea change in your newspaper’s coverage of the medical professional, for the first time noting the current and future risk to the delivery of safe, effective and cutting-edge health care in this country from poor morale.
Senior consultants and young doctors who have recently gone to other countries note the differences in the numbers of other medical, nursing and allied health professional staff delivering care; the vastly superior working environment; the much better terms and conditions; the improved morale and the facilities and equipment at their disposal. Most particularly, they note the absence of the relentlessly negative coverage in your newspaper, among others, on medical matters. This is not the norm in other countries where individual hospitals, the health-care system generally and the media in particular value the medical profession and acknowledge the excellence of the majority of the care provided.
The most sobering statistic is not that three consultants a month are exiting the system; that experienced and senior consultants are opting increasingly for early retirement due to the challenges experienced in the daily delivery of care in our creaking hospitals; that consultant posts cannot be filled – but that half of last year’s interns did not renew their Medical Council registration.
The Department of Health and the HSE clearly have a significant role to play in addressing this crisis but your newspaper should consider its part in the disintegration of morale in the health service. – Yours, etc,
Prof EDMOND SMYTH,
Sir, – I came home from boarding school at Easter 1956, a 14-year-old on fire with the desire to construct my own guitar (cheap Spanish-style guitars in the shops were a thing of the future). With the help of my father, an accomplished amateur carpenter, we set to, but were confounded by the musical principles of the spacing of the frets.
So my father consulted our next-door-neighbour, the young Charles Meredith, already a musical polymath, and he introduced us to the harmonic formula of “the Rule of 18” (or more precisely the Rule of 17.835), whereby the luthier calculates the fretwork of a stringed instrument. We raced ahead and the finished guitar was ready for me to bring back to school for the summer term. I still have that guitar and think fondly of Charles whenever I play it. – Yours, etc,
JOHN CLEMENT RYAN,
Booterstown, Co Dublin.
Sir, – Your article on animal testing in Irish labs (Life Science, October 17th) referred to our product, Botox (botulinum toxin type A).
Botox is a trade mark and is not a generic word. It applies specifically to Allergan’s proprietary prescription-only medicine. Botox is approved for a number of uses, including some severe neurological conditions, where there are few effective alternatives.
Allergan has a validated and approved cell-based potency assay that is in widespread commercial use. It uses this cell-based test on all of the company’s botulinum toxin type A product sold within the European Union and North America, which has significantly reduced our need to conduct animal tests. In addition, we continue to work with health authorities from around the world to validate the cell-based test with the intention to replace the animal test wherever we can.
The cell-based test is specific to Allergan’s botulinum toxin type A products. However, we have published the test methodology in order to allow other manufacturers and researchers to develop their own specific assays. In these ways, Allergan continues to demonstrate our deep commitment to reducing, refining and replacing animal testing wherever possible. – Yours, etc,
Director, Corporate Affairs
& Public Relations
Sir, – Pots and kettles are called to mind when Gerry Adams (October 19th) accuses the hierarchy of the Catholic church of setting out “to silence victims and deny them justice”. – Yours, etc,
Dr JOHN DOHERTY,
A chara, – We are living in strange days indeed. Eamonn McCann compares the Roman Catholic Church to the republican movement (Opinion, October 17th). Is there an outcry? Only from Gerry Adams who thinks the comparison unjust to his friends (Letters, October 19th). – Is mise,
Revd Fr PATRICK G
Sir, – An appropriate way to mark the end of the bailout would be to initiate an open and honest national debate about our future as a nation. The debate should include as many elements of the wider civic society as possible and not be left to the usual political arenas which have proven unsuccessful at safeguarding our political and economic sovereignty. The Irish Times is in a privileged position to initiate such a debate. – Yours, etc,
Kilmacud, Co Dublin.
Sir, – Perhaps the US government could save us all some time and publish a short list of those countries it has not spied upon (Breaking News, October 21st). – Yours, etc,
Sir, – Your photograph (Dáil & Seanad Report, October 18th) shows red balloons being released, with a caption starting “Problem raised”. As what goes up, comes down, where did those depicted think the balloons on long red strings were going?
From our latest Coastwatch survey, balloons are a common part of the marine litter load swept up on our shores The Dáil is within sniffing distance of the shore. So the 48 red bits of plastic on strings are likely to have come down in the sea. There they drift like jellyfish in the water. Several species of marine animals including endangered turtles are known to ingest and sometimes suffocate on balloons. Further problems are entanglement and the disintegration into micro plastic which can enter our food chain.
So could dear happy-faced balloon-releasing TDs and readers help tackle our growing addiction to flying plastic? – Yours, etc,
KARIN DUBSKY ,
* The moment of truth has arrived for this Government – particularly for Labour.
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During the Celtic Tiger glory years, medical cards were flung around like snuff at a wake, many to persons and families who exceeded the official eligibility criteria. From the viewpoint of accounting and administrative rectitude, these cards should be reviewed and withdrawn.
However, there is a massive political problem. Some of these people have grown older, suffering all “the heartache, and the thousand natural shocks, that flesh is heir to”. Others have seen their relatives become dependent on the card. Some, considerate of the body politic, have shuffled off the statistics and relieved their relatives with the aid of the bereavement grant, now to disappear.
The case would be open and shut were it not for the fact that significant numbers of the “comfortable” have not experienced the suffering of the recession. They will not even notice the extra 50 cent on wine.
In the early stages of the Famine in the 1840s, the prime minister, Lord John Russell, said it was not the role of government to feed the people. Correct, according to the ideas of the time. Over the years, successive governments modified this stance, goaded somewhat by the steady disappearance, through hunger, disease and emigration of three million of Her Britannic Majesty’s Irish subjects.
Healthcare is one of the areas in which the difference between the well-off and the not so well-off is most marked.
When Labour signed on for this Coalition, it did so largely because the balance of opinion suggested it was its duty to do so, in a national emergency. But from the start it was made clear (on the symbolic issue of a third rate of tax for those on more than €100,000 incomes) that this Government would shield the “comfortable”.
There is no simple answer to the problem of the medical cards. Nevertheless, Labour must insist that the review be paused, pending an objective examination and the formulation of a demonstrably politically equitable solution.
Tralee, Co Kerry
* I am a 24-year-old independent adult living in Dublin. I am currently employed, but will be let go at the end of next month. I have a degree behind me and an uncertain future ahead.
I left my home in Tipperary a few years ago in search of further education, further prospects and independence, as did the majority of my peers, most of whom have now emigrated.
I have had numerous minimum-wage jobs that I am over-qualified for, many of which I have struggled to survive on as they were zero-hour contracts – employers taking advantage of desperate young people in search of work.
In your paper, Eamon Gilmore was quoted saying that a big reason for cutting social welfare for under-25s is that many of the parents of the Dublin South West region do not want their children sitting in front of flat screen TVs seven days a week. Isn’t it well for them?
I do not have a TV, never mind a flat screen one, because I cannot afford a TV licence. I do not go to the doctor when I am sick, because I cannot afford it. I am struggling to survive in a country that clearly doesn’t want us here as independent adults, unlike the dependent darlings living with their mammies and daddies in the Dublin South West region that Mr Gilmore is referring to. The decision to cut social welfare to €100 is forcing me and many of my peers either abroad or into a state of human regression.
I will continue to struggle in a country that is creating one black hole after another for us, the result of which will force us to take the road more widely travelled these days, abroad.
YOUNG CHASED ABROAD
* I was appalled on hearing the Tanaiste’s remarks about not wanting our young people “to be permanently in front of flat screen TVs”.
It reminded me of Maggie Thatcher’s ploy in the 1980s of blaming the unemployed for being unemployed. It is a clever ploy that detracts attention from the unemployment crisis.
Saying our young people should be in training rather than on the dole while simultaneously ratcheting up college fees is ironic.
Being in my 20s and fortunate enough to work full-time and save for my post-graduate study, I can safely say our generation is keen to get going. However, this Government is ensuring that the only way most of us can get going is via the airport.
Maynooth, Co Kildare
* I congratulate the Government on its decision to reduce the threshold for medical card entitlement to those who are over 70.
However, I feel the Government has an obligation to protect the rights of a single pensioner who lives alone and who has the same financial commitments as married/cohabiting couples; but if their gross income exceeds €26,000 – €500 a week or €70.15 a day (this equates to the minimum hourly rate for an eight-hour working day) – they are not entitled to a medical card. Surely the Government should compensate the single person who lives alone by increasing the threshold requirement for a GP-only card by 20pc?
Leopardstown Road, Dublin
EQUALITY UNDER ATTACK
* How much longer can we put up with continued attacks on equality in Ireland? We have witnessed the closure or merging of bodies that were set up with the sole aim of giving equality within the State at least a chance of growing.
Yet the Labour Party has stood by while the following has happened: the Women’s Health Council was closed in 2009; the Crisis Pregnancy Agency was merged with the HSE; Gender Equality Desk, Department of Education, closed; Higher Education Equality Unit, UCC, closed and merged into HEA; National Women’s Council of Ireland, with 158 member organisations, has seen budget cuts of 53pc since 2008; Rape Crisis Network Ireland had core health authority funding removed in 2011; National Consultative Committee on Racism and Interculturalism closed since 2009 and not re-opened by Labour; Equality for Women Measure, co-funded by EU Operational Programme Budget, partly transferred out of this area and now under the Department of Enterprise.
A nation should be judged on the level of equality in its society, yet this Government has clearly set out to attack equality. Enough is enough.
* In your recent Budget coverage, your correspondent mentioned an interview with some politicians. A Fine Gael minister is quoted as saying that “Joan has f***ed him over and Howlin has f***ed him over”. Later in the article there is a quote from another TD saying “Ya know Reilly got a bum deal”, and the expression “screwed over” was attributed to yet another deputy. Could this be true?
These are some of the people we elected to represent us. We expect politicians to be articulate and have a reasonable vocabulary – they should not be using language more appropriate to a pulp fiction novel.
If these politicians spent more time doing what they are paid to do (whatever that is) and less time watching ‘Love/Hate’, we might occasionally see intelligent debate.
Celbridge, Co Kildare