Wine and books

12 November 2013 Books and wine

I go all the way around the park round the park listening to the Navy Lark.
Our heroes are in trouble Leslie has been replaced by a very rude automatic navigation system. Which can’t spell and takes them to all the wrong ports. Priceless.
Quiet day sort books in plastic boxes and do some wine
No Scrabble today Mary not well.


Manfred Rommel
Manfred Rommel, son of the Desert Fox, forged a great friendship with Monty’s son which became a symbol of post-war reconciliation

Dr. Manfred Rommel (left) son of Field Marshal Rommel and Viscount David Montgomery son of ‘Monty’ shake hands after attending a Service of Thanksgiving to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the Battle of El Alamein held at Westminster Abbey in 2002 Photo: Stephen Lock
5:38PM GMT 10 Nov 2013
Manfred Rommel, who has died aged 84, was the only son of the “Desert Fox” Erwin Rommel and a witness to German commander’s last moments; after the war he forged a remarkable friendship with the only son of his father’s celebrated adversary Bernard Montgomery.
Manfred was just 15 when, in July 1944, weeks after D-Day, his father was severely injured after his staff car was strafed by an Allied fighter. Thrown from the vehicle, Erwin Rommel was badly cut and his skull was fractured in three places. Evacuated from the Normandy front, the German Field Marshal was treated in Paris and, once out of danger, taken to his residence at Herrlingen, in southern Germany.

Field Marshal Erwin Rommel pictured with members of his family including his wife Lucie and only son Manfred (far left)
There, over the next few months, he and his teenaged son had an opportunity to discuss the war before, on October 7, Manfred, still three months shy of his 16th birthday, was required to report to an anti-aircraft battery. A week later he was given leave and, on the morning of October 14, had breakfast with his father. The pair then took a walk together, during which Rommel told his son that two generals would be waiting for them on their return to the house.
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According to an Allied debriefing of Manfred on April 27 1945, Rommel was suspicious about the visit. After a 45-minute meeting with the two generals, from which Manfred was barred, Rommel emerged and said farewell to his wife and son. Conspirators in the July 20 1944 plot to assassinate Hitler had implicated him. The Führer was offering his one-time military hero an ultimatum: submit to a kangaroo court and face humiliation and execution, or commit suicide and have his family spared. In the back seat of the car in which he was driven away that day, and flanked by SS officers, Rommel cracked a cyanide pill between his teeth. Not more than 15 minutes later the local hospital called to say that Rommel had suffered a stroke and died.

The Allied debriefing of Manfred Rommel in 1945, in which he describes his father’s last moments
Decades later, in 1979, Manfred Rommel was introduced to the 2nd Viscount Montgomery of Alamein, son of the commander of the Eighth Army (who had died three years previously). The pair found that they had much in common. Not only were they both only children of celebrated military leaders, but they were also almost exact contemporaries.
By then Manfred Rommel was four years into a 21-year term as a highly respected mayor of Stuttgart. The two men struck up an immediate friendship and over the course of the next 30 years maintained a correspondence. “After Rommel was wounded in 1944 Manfred saw a lot of him,” Lord Montgomery noted. “They had long conversations. Manfred must have known what was going to happen. A horrible experience.”
Looking back in 2004 Manfred Rommel remarked simply: “I have in the course of my life, thank God, known happier days.”
Manfred Rommel was born on Christmas Eve 1924 in Stuttgart to Erwin Rommel and his wife Lucie. He was conscripted into the Luftwaffe aged 14 (his father having warned him off volunteering for the Waffen SS) and at the end of the war surrendered to French forces. After his release he completed his schooling before studying Law at Tübingen University.
Respected for being a committed and gifted administrator, rather than instinctive politician, he began to make his mark in the civil service of the state government of Baden-Württemberg in the late 1950s. He was private secretary to Hans Filbinger, later minister of the interior, and in the early 1970s joined the ministry of finance.
He first ran for mayor of Stuttgart in 1974, winning in a run-off. Thereafter his re-elections were usually by a landslide. This was despite the fact that, though nominally representing the Right-wing CDU, Manfred Rommel was notably liberal. His outlook was tested to the full in the course of his first term when Stuttgart became the venue for the denouement of the Red Army Faction crisis that had gripped the country.
Though the terrorists were supposedly secured in a new prison, specially-built in Stuttgart, they managed to commit suicide. Rommel, despite widespread opposition, campaigned for the bodies to be given formal burials, even though he knew that the graves could become the site of pilgrimage by agitators at a time when the country was already on edge.
He was also, throughout his career, avowedly pro-immigration, which he said was vital to the economic well-being of his city. In 1995 he featured in an article in Der Spiegel under the headline: “Foreigners: We Want You”.
Known for his dry wit, Manfred Rommel enjoyed painting and writing poetry. He is survived by his wife Liselotte, whom he married in 1954, and with whom he had one daughter.
Manfred Rommel, born December 24 1928, died November 7 2013


That a “terror suspect” should hide under a burqa and try to escape is no surprise (Terror suspect who fled in burqa was subject to travel ban, 5 November). What ought to be not just a surprise but a scandal is that the system of secret courts, secret evidence, anonymous denunciations and indefinite detention or house arrest, first introduced by a Labour government, should have been allowed to go on so long without public outcry.
Bruce Kent
Vice-president, Pax Christi
•  I am disappointed that the quality of the England rugby league team has fallen so low that they are now reduced to doing battle with a poodle (England v Fifi, Sport, 9 November).
Paul Dennehy
• Maybe the Diana biopic bombed spectacularly (Diana, the rewrite, 9 November) simply because it was a very bad film, crammed full of cringe-making dialogue, rather than a key signifier in an earth-shattering epistemological change.
Teresa Guerreiro
• When I was growing up in London 50 years ago we all knew of the wallabies living in captivity in Clissold Park, not so far from Highgate (Mystery wallaby Jean dies after surgery, 9 November). Maybe Jean was one of their descendants.
Amanda Smith
St Albans, Hertfordshire
• Tesco has Easter bunnies disguised as Christmas bunnies (Letters, 9 November).
Tina Kelly
Thornbury, Gloucestershire

So, maternity units are turning away mothers-to-be because of midwife shortages (Midwife shortage forces maternity units to turn mothers-to-be away, 8 November)? Tell me something I don’t know. As someone who has worked at the coal face in the NHS for over 25 years, this story merely confirms what those of us on the inside know is the biggest single issue facing the NHS and its ability to deliver timely, compassionate and high-quality medical care: lack of staff; namely nurses, but in fact all staff, ranging from porters to physiotherapists, pharmacists and, yes, doctors. There simply aren’t enough. This isn’t rocket science. Ask anyone who works in the system: we face the crisis on a daily basis, particularly in winter. Almost all the recent well-publicised issues to do with the NHS and patient care would be rectified with adequate nursing numbers. Until we address this issue and recognise that nurses are the backbone of the NHS and it’s their number that matters, we might as well all give up.
Dr M Tariq Ali
Consultant in paediatric intensive care, John Radcliffe hospital, Oxford
• Babies born in England are not just put at risk due to a lack of midwives. For the 70,000 smallest and sickest babies born each year needing expert neonatal care, they face the further hurdle of a shortfall of over 1,000 specialist neonatal nurses (Bliss Baby Report 2011). Our doctors and nurses providing neonatal care are among the best in the world. Without enough of them there is no way that each baby can receive the care they so desperately need and deserve.
Andy Cole
Chief executive, Bliss

The absurdity of a “war on terror” tipped our troops into one of our longest conflicts, against a foe which routinely hangs the body parts of captured soldiers from trees.
As a former military chaplain, I am more than a little uneasy with the trial of a marine for shooting “in cold blood” a wounded Taliban combatant on the field of battle. We are so short of troops that these men were endlessly rotated into this idiotic, unwinnable conflict and worn out by battle fatigue – and in the end something was going to give.
The “shock horror” reaction implies such things are completely out of character, but there were many hushed-up cases of British soldiers shooting German prisoners of war in the Second World War.
When taped evidence surfaced in this case, disciplinary action was inevitable, but it is naive to expect men coolly to follow the Geneva rules to the letter in the midst of a “filthy little war”.
Rev Dr John Cameron, St Andrews, Fife
It was inevitable that there would be a quickness to defend and downgrade the crime committed by one of “our boys” (“Ex-general calls for leniency towards Royal Marine who killed Afghan fighter”, 9 November).
As for the attempts to portray this case as a “one-off”, the lie has been given to this by the many incidents of torturing and killing captured enemy from as far back as Kenya.
There is no doubt that our military are under horrendous pressure, but that can’t ever excuse such cruelty, especially in Iraq and Afghanistan, two countries for which we have no justification for having invaded.
When we eventually retreat, we will have left thousands of dead women and children who just happened to be in the way, creating a bitterness in people against Britain and the West that will achieve the opposite result to that carelessly promised before invasion.
Eddie Dougall, Walsham-le-Willows, Suffolk
I appreciate that the killing of a wounded enemy combatant is a disgrace and inexcusable. But if you consider the circumstances: shortly before his death, the deceased had been trying to kill the marines, and he or his close associates were responsible for the death and maiming of many of Marines A’s comrades.
Is a moment’s madness in those circumstances murder? Surely, it was manslaughter at worst.
In a war situation, things are rarely clear. Is the operator of a keyboard and joystick who fires a missile from an unmanned drone mistakenly on to an Afghan wedding party any less guilty?
If you follow the argument that the operator was working under orders, is his commander then charged with the murder of those innocents?
The same reasoning needs to be applied in the sentencing of Marine A. 
Neil Ross, Maryculter, Aberdeenshire
On the day she killed Sally Hodkin in 2011, Nicola Edgington had done the best her ruptured rationality allowed to get help to prevent what she knew  were the consequences of her deteriorating mental state.
Yet the judge still imposed a long minimum sentence and made it clear he thought she was entirely responsible for her actions.
Her appeal drew little coverage, as she has only the support of her lawyers.
What a contrast with the ranks of a former general and the like who have launched into a defence of Marine A even before sentence is pronounced.
It seems that to get constructive and compassionate justice requires a public furore and the backing of the great and good.
Mary Pimm and Nik Wood, London E9
How we can renew faith in democracy
Matthew Norman (6 November) says voting reform is essential if we are to tackle people’s disillusionment with politics. But his suggestion – a “none of the above” option on the ballot paper – will achieve nothing.
Politicians are used to public loathing; giving people another way of expressing disillusionment will satisfy some but do nothing to bring them closer to the representative democracy which is there to serve them.
Closing the gap between people and politics is entirely achievable. Institutional reforms such as an elected Lords and a proportional voting system would mean people’s votes counted for more, and political institutions would reflect their concerns more closely.
Political parties should find new ways to reach out to voters. And we need to foster cultural change, starting young with civic education and a landmark first vote at 16. This would make voting a lifetime habit, creating a generation more willing to meet politics halfway and less likely to project unreasonable demands on a system which is theirs to shape.
Democracy is precious, and we should be proud to participate in it. Perhaps it is time to renew our faith in it by refreshing both the way we do politics, and the way we think about it.
Katie Ghose, Chief Executive, Electoral Reform Society, London SE1
Matthew Norman suggests that we have a workable system, let down by venal and self-interested politicians. My experience of politicians is that they are like any other profession – generally energetic and committed people with a few rotten apples.
I suspect that the system is unworkable because it assumes that the political parties reflect the broad spread of public opinion, but there are now so few card-carrying party members that they actually represent opposite ends of the political spectrum. We should cancel the principle that the leader of the largest party represented gets to be PM, and go for direct election.
Edward Uren, Salisbury
Russell Brand’s criticisms of the system are spot on.
We haven’t moved on a millimetre from Lenin’s observations 97 years ago that this is a “democracy for an insignificant minority, democracy for the rich — that is the democracy of capitalist society” and that elections under capitalism are excercises where “the oppressed are allowed once every few years to decide which particular representatives of the oppressing class shall represent and repress them in Parliament”.
Sasha Simic, London N16
Poppies support people let down by the state
In many ways I agree with Robert Fisk (“Poppycock – or why our remembrance rituals make me see red”, 8 November) and for years I declined to purchase poppies.
But I now do so, in order to support former forces personnel via the Royal British Legion, and I also contribute to other organisations that do the same.
This is because the present and previous equally lousy governments have failed in their grave responsibility to support those returning from conflicts – where they have loyally served their country – with mental health issues, physical disability or complex needs (not to mention the pension issues for former soldiers).
Those working in health and the underfunded social care sector witness growing numbers of ex-forces personnel abandoned to the scrapheap of homelessness and penury by the country they served, and swept under the carpet by well-heeled, self-serving politicians.
Peter Webb, West Byfleet, Surrey
I can’t agree with everything Robert Fisk said, but he explained my own uncomfortable feelings about the annual obligation to wear a poppy.
Funds raised through the Royal British Legion’s poppy appeal are used to provide support to those disadvantaged through war, and I am happy to donate to such causes. But wearing poppies seems to ask us to accept without question all the wars our soldiers ever fight in.
What did the invasion of Iraq solve? Or the Suez invasion? Or the Libyan bombing? None of these places was trying to see British society destroyed, and by getting our armed forces involved, society has felt even less secure because British civilians are targets for terrorists and reprisals.
We must not let politicians with fake flowers pinned to their blazers suppress us by means of myths that all wars are for good and noble causes – and for our safety.
Emilie Lamplough, Trowbridge, Wiltshire
Those most guilty of being annoying
It is reported that new laws to replace Asbos are designed to silence anyone deemed “annoying”. It may be that Christian preachers, buskers and peaceful protesters could be effectively driven off the streets, unless specific provision is made to protect these most welcome individuals. Would it not be better if this legislation were used to silence most of our politicians? After all, most of what they say is far more annoying.
J Longstaff, Woodford Green, Essex
Haven’t we been here before?
Nissan claims that it will pull out of Britain if a referendum votes for British withdrawal from the EU. Isn’t this the same Nissan that said it would pull out  of Britain if we didn’t join the euro?
John Pinkerton, Milton Keynes


‘The BBC appears to have all but abandoned the role Lord Reith intended: an impartial public service broadcaster, educating and enriching the fabric of our society’
Sir, As one whose job was once to proudly defend and publicise the BBC, I too have sadly come to the conclusion that fundamental change is required. The solutions suggested in your leader (Nov 8) to cut the licence fee and cease the BBC’s publishing activities are possibilities, as are Roger Mosey’s ideas (“A smaller BBC would be good for audiences”, Nov 8).
Another is to introduce subscriptions for some BBC broadcasting, instead of their being funded by the licence fee. I have become increasingly sympathetic to the cry from some viewers and listeners that they rarely, if ever, turn to the BBC with so many alternative sources of news and entertainment.
If the licence fee is to be retained, it could be cut to fund only two television channels and four radio stations — at most. I listen to far more output from Classic FM than the elitist BBC Radio Three (one possible candidate for subscriptions). Why should licence-payers fund Radio 5 Live, 6 Music, Radio4 Extra and the Asian Network, instead of voluntary subscribers? Radio 1 is debatable, too, as is BBC local radio when commercial competition is available
BBC Three is certainly a candidate, and BBC Four often does the job originally envisaged for BBC Two; we don’t need both from the licence fee.
Edward Rayner
(Chief Assistant to Head of Publicity, BBC, 1971-77)
Eastbourne, E Sussex
Sir, Roger Mosey rightly questions the size and leftwing bias of the BBC. Competition would be the catalyst for fundamental change at the BBC, which has become a metaphor for arrogance, incompetence, profligacy and worse. Senior executives found wanting are not dismissed but merely moved to more senior positions with seemingly meaningless titles. Those who leave appear do so with extraordinarily generous compensation.
The BBC appears to have all but abandoned the role Lord Reith intended: an impartial public service broadcaster, educating and enriching the fabric of our society. Instead it has become a series of dysfunctional and unaccountable fiefdoms, contemptuous of any criticism of how it spends public money.
John Barker
Prestbury, Cheshire
Sir, Roger Mosey argues for a smaller BBC. Why have one at all? Its only purpose is public service broadcasting, and nowadays that means providing the kind and quality of programme which will not or cannot be provided, without advertising, by the multitude of other channels. The BBC should be replaced with a Public Service Broadcasting Commission charged with funding the required programmes by providers and channels competing for the privilege. The programmes would, of course, be advertisement-free.
David Brancher
Abergavenny Mon
Sir, It is alarming (but not surprising) to read that the BBC has had “an agreed approach to the science of climate change”. Has the basis for this approach, whatever it is, ever been published or debated in public? The concerns about climate change enunciated by Professor Kelly (letter, Nov 7) require open debate. The role of the BBC should be to help this debate forward, not to reach its own conclusions behind the scenes.
David Newland
Ickleton, Cambs

To get a certificate for the use of Queen’s Counsel, the case has to be of exceptional complexity and gravity
Sir, According to reports, the Justice Minister Shailesh Vara claims that QCs will earn a minimum of £306 per day for routine cases. This shows that the Ministry of Justice is ill-informed in its campaign to support its proposed cuts to legal aid.
QCs don’t do routine cases. To get a certificate for the use of Queen’s Counsel, the case has to be of exceptional complexity and gravity. Working five days a week for 48 weeks their gross income would be £73,440. With recent changes in the system reducing what QCs do, many silks are in paid employment for only 40 weeks, some less. That brings gross income down to £61,200. If barristers are unable to work for any other reason, they do not earn a penny.
In addition, from these figures a QC would have to find tax; chambers expenses; pension contributions; sickness insurance; travel costs and hotel expenses. They receive no holiday pay.
If a QC is booked for, say, an eight-week case and the defendant is ill, or decides unexpectedly to plead guilty, then the silk has lost eight weeks’ work. If a re-trial is ordered, there is an automatic deduction of 20 per cent of the fee but travel and expenses remain the same.
The senior Bar is bearing the burden of the most complex cases in circumstances in which there is no job security and where final income equates to that of a senior police officer, without any of the attendant advantages of secure employment, pension provision, security for oneself and family should they fall ill.
Andrew Langdon, QC, Leader of the Western Circuit; Rick Pratt, QC, Leader of the Northern Circuit; Alistair Macdonald, QC, Leader of the North Eastern Circuit; Gregory Bull, QC, Leader of the Wales and Chester Circuit; Mark Wall, QC, Leader of the Midlands Circuit; Sarah Forshaw, QC, Leader of the South Eastern Circuit

Coaching for exams by private schools of tutors is not a new phenomenon — it has been happening for at least 60 years
Sir, Nothing has changed in 60 years. When I passed the 11-plus in 1960 and went to grammar school, I discovered that many of my new classmates had been intensively coached to pass the exam by their private school or private tutors (report, Nov 8). As a “poor pupil”, this was intimidating until I realised that I had passed solely on merit. Indeed, one of our more aspirational neighbours, who ran the corner shop, asked me to coach their daughter in exchange for chocolate biscuits (I did, but sadly she didn’t pass the exam). My parents remained convinced that going to university was an utter waste of time, however, “as I would be getting married and have a family and why did I need a degree”. I did get a degree in the end, but I wonder how many other poor children who passed their 11-plus never got over the barriers placed in their way.
Jean Wickens Guildford, Surrey

There are benefits in terms of time-saving and cost efficiencies in riding a motorbike in preference to using the car
Sir, In support of Mr Kenward’s comments on motorcycle usage reducing urban congestion (letter, Nov 7 ) I would also emphasise the benefits of the ACEM study in terms of personal cost and time savings. Over the past 40 years, working as a surgeon across sites and driving more than 7,000 miles annually, I have saved 1.5 hours a day. This equates to an extra day per week, not to mention the £600 charge for car parking — if you can find a space.
Paul Thomas
Consultant Surgeon, Epsom and St Helier Hospitals

There are many things that should be taken into consideration when dealing with old age, care and dementia, not just sanctity of life
Sir, It was refreshing to read of the enlightened and humane attitude of Mr Justice Jackson in challenging the well-meaning — but false and often cruel — belief that the sanctity of life should be the paramount criterion when dealing with old age, care and dementia (“Woman who hates care home gets right to leave”, Nov 8).
The consideration of the happiness, dignity and quality of life of an individual should be just as important.
Richard WarnockMelton, Suffolk


SIR – You reproduce the familiar photograph of a cheering crowd in Munich greeting the declaration of war in 1914, featuring what appears to be a young Adolf Hitler. The photograph was used by the Nazis to illustrate Hitler’s life-long loyalty to Germany. However, there are serious questions about its authenticity.
Photographs of Hitler taken during the war show him with a large moustache, of the sort that was in fashion at the time. The practice of shaving moustaches down to a “toothbrush” shape seems to have been introduced during the war to allow men to wear gas masks more comfortably; the fashion was unknown before 1914.
If the photograph is correct, then Hitler, almost alone in Europe, wore a toothbrush moustache in 1914, grew a big moustache during the war, and then went back to a toothbrush style after the war, none of which seems very likely. Since he was in Munich in 1914, and his presence in the crowd is entirely in character, while it is possible he was inserted into the photograph by Nazi propagandists, the most likely explanation is that the picture was retouched to make him more immediately recognisable to Germans in the Thirties.
The photograph exists in reproduced form, with Hitler circled, in various museum collections, including that of the Imperial War Museum. The whereabouts of the original are harder to trace. Pending definite confirmation, therefore, the photograph is probably best regarded as allegedly, rather than definitely, showing Hitler’s presence in the crowd.
Dr Sean Lang
Senior Lecturer in History
Anglia Ruskin University

SIR – Let us hope that the European Court of Human Rights does rule in Abdulla Ahmed Ali’s favour. Then the line in the sand will be drawn at last and the long-suffering British public will know where it stands.
If such a ruling does not make the governing classes clamour for Britain’s withdrawal from the European Convention on Human Rights, it is clear that nothing will The only sane option for anyone who cares for our freedoms will be to vote for the one party that has promised unequivocally to release our country from its European shackles.
Philip Ashe
Garforth, West Yorkshire
SIR – The European Court of Human Rights proclaims that the European Convention on Human Rights is a “living instrument”. The Convention’s original draughtsmen tried to ensure that future generations were not exposed to the human rights abuses witnessed in the Second World War.
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Would they consider this “living” convention to have matured in the way they had hoped, given that it now appears to put the rights of criminals and terrorists above those of law-abiding citizens?
Angus McPherson
Findon, West Sussex
SIR – Once again, a Government representative says the Human Rights Act should be abolished. This is something, I believe, that more than 50 per cent of the electorate agree with.
Yet this Government has done absolutely nothing to get anywhere near that objective.
Chris Grayling, the Justice Secretary, says that any attempts to repeal the Act would be blocked by the Liberal Democrats. Promises in a future Conservative manifesto will count for nothing. Mr Grayling should get on with it now, even if it means the break up of the Coalition. If Labour and the Liberal Democrats throw out a proposal to repeal the Act then they will undoubtedly suffer at the next general election. Let the country know which party has the guts to put an end to this farce so that they can be judged on actions rather than words when the time comes.
Stafford Trendall
Overton, Hampshire
SIR – Jenny McCartney mentions Britain’s criminal justice system, in which “any ordinary person accused of a crime can have access to a highly trained advocate”. She might also have mentioned habeas corpus and trial by jury, which ensure that suspects in the British jurisdiction are protected against false accusation, arbitrary arrest and wrongful imprisonment in a way that does not exist elsewhere in the EU.
As the Government seems intent upon placing aspects of our policing and criminal justice system under the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice and the enforcement powers of the European Commission, it looks as though the wrecking ball is swinging in the direction of the very system of law that has protected us against state coercion for so long.
Christopher Gill
Bridgnorth, Shropshire
SIR – Chris Grayling is quoted as saying that “At the heart of the Conservative manifesto in 2015 will be the abolition of the Human Rights Act”. The Act, he says, poses fundamental questions about “who governs Britain” and over Parliament’s sovereignty. He goes on to assert that only a majority Conservative government with Eurosceptics like himself and his colleagues in it could deliver that change.
However, the Lisbon Treaty affords equal status to the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, which in turn makes ECHR case law binding on member states. The Human Rights Act then enshrines that treaty obligation into UK law. Mr Grayling is right that only one government could deliver the change he seeks – but that would have to be a Ukip government, because the UK would first have to exit the EU.
Roger Smith
Meppershall, Bedfordshire
Licence fee lessons from New Zealand
SIR – As Director-General of Television New Zealand in the late Eighties and early Nineties, I had the experience of running a national broadcaster that had its licence fee taken away. Our two main channels were already partially funded by advertising, but a large amount of non-commercial programming (which would struggle to bring in substantial advertising revenue) was paid for by a BBC-like licence fee.
Politicians decided to make these funds available to any broadcaster or independent who had a commissioned programme. At TVNZ we coped with the loss of revenue by massive pruning of our costs, sharing our facilities with other broadcasters and increasing sales of our programmes, all without reducing the amount of output. In general, we accepted it was a bold and attractive move.
However, the newly formed body, NZ On Air, felt that it was also its right to commission commercial programming. Over time, the result was a serious loss of the sort programmes that commercial stations just do not want to make or show.
If we, in Britain, value having serious programming on the main channels, we need to think carefully about bending to the demands of commercial interests, which would love to see the BBC lose its licence fee.
If the BBC wishes to fight off those demands, it needs to stop trying to compete on both of its main channels with the pay channels, to start using informed presenters rather than celebrities to handle history, wildlife and other serious content, to slim down its management massively and to demonstrate that it can be run cost-effectively.
Julian Mounter
St Peter Port, Guernsey
SIR – Scrapping the BBC licence fee would be an absolute disaster for viewers. Are people really prepared to watch programmes interrupted by endless advertisements just to save a few pounds? Speaking to some Americans on holiday, I found that if you offered them advertising-free television for a mere $200 year, they would think that they had won the lottery.
Dennis Milsom
Shrewsbury, Shropshire
SIR – If it is a criminal offence to fail to pay the licence fee then surely it should be a criminal offence for the BBC to waste it on excessive payoffs.
Malcolm Williams
Southsea, Hampshire
SIR – David Woodhead may opine that £145.50 offers value for money, but, as a pensioner, I find it an expensive tax to pay just to own a television receiver.
I rarely, if ever, watch the BBC. I stopped watching when it covered a subject about which I was knowledgeable and I realised how biased its presentation was. It had made up its mind about the “right” answer, and brooked no opposition.
A C Allen
Sedgeford, Shropshire
Electricity prices
SIR – Until the electricity industry was privatised in 1990, the Electricity Act required the chairman and members of the Electricity Council to produce a specified return on capital.
If we had a cold winter, electricity sales went sky-high and the excess profit was clawed back by lowering prices the following year. With the present system, the companies pocket the excess and are not obliged to put any money into building new power stations.
We are now told that we should shop around for cheaper electricity prices to keep warm this winter. Surely we should be able to rely on politicians to legislate for a continuous and economic electricity supply?
Jack Taylor
Marketing director, the Electricity Council (1980-90)
Ipswich, Suffolk
Press regulation
SIR – Your leading article makes me wonder just how many people will turn out to vote in the next general election. Still shocked by the MPs’ expenses scandal, the public is now even more wary of politicians for bringing about the Royal Charter on press regulation, which threatens freedom of speech.
Ron Kirby
Dorchester, Dorset
Ex-military teachers
SIR – Regarding the furore over unqualified teachers in schools, I seem to remember that ex-members of the Forces who were emergency-trained after the Second World War were excellent teachers. They were “grown-up” and had plenty of experience of the world outside the classroom.
Jack Elliot
Macclesfield, Cheshire
Hunting boom
SIR – William Langley states that fox hunting is booming. But it is now actually drag hunting. Large numbers are now taking part because they can enjoy the thrill of the chase without seeing a fox torn to shreds.
Dave Major
Tebay, Cumberland
Great Central Railway idea gathers steam
SIR – Reopening the Great Central Railway as a fast freight line would release extra capacity for passenger traffic on the West Coast, Midland and East Coast lines (which is the main advantage claimed for HS2) and relieve congestion on the motorways. It would also save vast sums of public money.
Three spurs from the Great Central would boost its effectiveness. Adding tracks exclusively for freight alongside the West Coast line from Rugby to Birmingham would open up the West Midlands; the existing, but little-used Midland line that connects Leeds to Carlisle would serve Glasgow; and the existing line from Leeds joining the East Coast line at Northallerton would connect with Newcastle and Edinburgh. To be maximally effective, extra tracks would have to be added to the East and West Coast lines north of their junctions with the Great Central.
To be able to move heavy or perishable goods at high speed from Manchester to Milan or Birmingham to Barcelona would also be an economical alternative to air freight.
David Smith
Clyro, Radnorshire
SIR – I wonder whether George Stephenson and Isambard Kingdom Brunel would have succeeded in their pioneering projects if today’s HS2 critics were let loose on them.
Rev Robert Weissman
London E18
SIR – Will mass long-distance travel be necessary in 20 to 30 years when HS2 is due to be operational? Skype and teleconferencing are already in wide use. Imagine the technology of 2030 or 2040.
Ian Strangeways
Wallingford, Oxfordshire
Unnecessary volume
SIR – My husband and I left at the interval of two performances at a local arts venue because of the over-amplification. On informing the management, we were told that ear plugs were available. The local theatre company, on the other hand, put on musicals with perfect sound levels.
Patricia Round
Falmouth, Cornwall
No more black carrots
SIR – I see that scientists have developed a plastic bag that will delay bread or cheese going mouldy. Perhaps they could next develop a bag that will stop carrots turning black within only a few days of purchase.
John Mills
Winster, Derbyshire

Irish Times:

Sir, – I am delighted that 24-hour water supply has been returned to Dublin consumers. It is clear recent problems have been caused by a shortage of treatment capacity due to past under-investment, not by any shortage of raw water – the reservoirs are full.
Once again we have heard the chorus “Dublin must have Shannon water”. The proposed Shannon extraction scheme will cost around €500 million and take around 10 years to complete, adding half as much again to Dublin water supplies. I suggest that those promoting this scheme have contributed to recent problems by diverting attention from the incremental and focused investment needed to meet Dublin’s real needs for water supplies. I believe engineers and others who have been working on the scheme for years are blinkered to alternatives which can provide Dublin with cheaper, more secure supplies of treated water, that incrementally track actual demand with shorter lead-times. If and when more raw water is needed there are alternatives to the Shannon which have not been properly evaluated, among them: renewing the distribution network to stop leaks – close to 30 per cent in Dublin, as against 7 per cent in Germany; tapping sustainably available groundwater from the Fingal-Meath aquifer; and recycling water, eg by re-circulating water from Islandbridge to Leixlip to maintain statutory flows in the Liffey while allowing greater extraction at Leixlip.
I urge the powers that be in Government, Irish Water and the future Economic Regulator for Water to urgently review how Dublin’s future needs for water may best be met. By challenging the engineers to think afresh we can only improve their solutions.
It is right for me to declare a personal interest in the result. I live on the banks of the Shannon on Lough Derg, and with very many others I am extremely concerned that the current plans for Shannon extraction threaten an ecological catastrophe for the waterway. But I also want to see Dublin successfully compete with other city regions across Europe. Unnecessarily large supplies of expensive water can only damage Dublin’s chances of doing so. – Yours, etc,

Sir, – I bet the 40 personalities in Ryan Tubridy’s book about Irish emigrants who have done well in Britain have one thing in common (Home News, November 7th) – they all went over with enough money to get off to a good start.
The same cannot be said for all Irish emigrants, particularly those who must go soon after leaving school to improve their lifestyle prospects. Joe Foyle (Ocvtober 21st) estimated that about 75 per cent of current school-leavers must do that.
This is why politicians should stop dithering about Mr Foyle’s proposal that those in receipt of the Jobseeker’s Allowance be given €2,500 – that is, six months of the minimum allowance – to help them to get a good start abroad. – Yours, etc,

Sir, – Marie Moynihan (November 6th) states, “It is time for the truth about the Disappeared”, describing the heartbreak of the families who wonder where their loved ones are buried.
When the Sisters of Our Lady of Charity sold some land at their High Park convent in Drumcondra 20 years ago, the developers had to exhume and cremate the remains of 133 women who had been locked away for years in the laundry. An extra 22 bodies unaccounted for were discovered, some with their broken bones still in plaster-casts. The Department of the Environment was reported as saying that it could not identify them because of “insufficient details”. Their unexplained deaths were neither registered nor investigated.
We may never know who they were. There is no way back from cremation. – Yours, etc,
Burgatia, Rosscarbery,

Sir, – Eddie Molloy (Opinion, November 4th) outlines a number of ways to reform the Irish healthcare system. However he fails to mention primary preventive health care.
The Irish health care system focuses on acute disease treatment or early detection of active disease rather than on prevention. Many diseases are self-inflicted – caused by an epidemic of unhealthy habits: such as smoking, alcohol abuse and drug dependency, improper diet, and chronic stress. Yet a tiny proportion of Ireland’s health care budget is spent on prevention.
One statistic states that as much as 50 per cent of illness could be prevented if even existing knowledge were implemented fully. For example, it is acknowledged that smoking and poor diet are responsible for nearly 60 per cent of all cancer deaths. Similarly, many other major disorders, such as heart disease, and diabetes, could be radically reduced if effective primary prevention were instituted.
There needs to be a public policy shift from disease care to primary preventive health care and thus save money in the best possible way – by keeping people healthy. – Yours, etc,
Grove Avenue,
Blackrock, Co Dublin.

Sir, – My son returned to Australia last month.
He had come home two years ago, having taken redundancy after working with Ericsson for 22 years. He arrived with high hopes of starting afresh again in his homeland. He had left in the 1980s, with no prospect of work and now again history has repeated itself.
Nothing has changed. – Yours, etc,
Bellevue Road,
Sir, – Patrick O’Byrne (November 8th) writes, “For some, the red poppy symbol advocates war and for others it advocates remembrance of the war dead. The solution might lie with the white poppy”.
This white poppy business is another piece of that liberal PC claptrap that can’t resist denigrating everything venerable. The red poppy is unambiguously about remembrance of the war dead and there is nothing to suggest that it advocates war.
For the record I am not a poppy wearer. It is a British thing. – Yours, etc,
St Assam’s Avenue,

Sir, – I wish to respond to the letter from Comeraghs Against Pylons (November 4th).
EirGrid develops electricity infrastructure projects as part of its statutory duty of maintaining secure, reliable electricity supplies in all regions. I also feel it is important to place on the record the extensive commitment we have made to public consultation on the project which was referred to in the letter.
The Grid Link project was publicly launched by Minister for Energy and Natural Resources Pat Rabbitte, in April 2012 and received considerable coverage in The Irish Times, as well as other national, regional and local media. Since its launch the project team has undertaken three lengthy consultations of which the current consultation is an extensive 12-week period.
At the outset, the project extended over a very large study area consisting of 12 counties across the south and east. The project has now moved from this broad study area to a number of possible 1km corridor options. This is the first point at which corridors were identified within Waterford and more pointedly Dungarvan. In reflection of this, advertisements were taken out in both the Dungarvan Leader and Dungarvan Observer as part of the preparation for the third round of consultation. With regard to the comprehensiveness of the consultation, EirGrid is fully committed to public consultation and has undertaken extensive activities to raise awareness across Munster and Leinster, This has included more than 120 community/ business briefings and events at agricultural marts, shopping centres, libraries and local agricultural and community shows. In addition, 33 public information open days were held where the EirGrid Project Team were on hand to discuss the project, answer questions and record stakeholder feedback.
With regard to Co Waterford, EirGrid has held 14 events to date, eight of which were held in Dungarvan including the local mart and shopping centre and two open days. EirGrid also placed three rounds of advertising on WLR local radio and in local press since April 2012 and generated numerous reports and interviews on local radio and print media in Co Waterford (including Dungarvan press). Promotion of the project does not rely on advertising alone, but includes mailings to community and sporting groups, schools, libraries and members of the public who have engaged with the team, mailings and briefings to local and national public representatives, radio interviews, newspaper articles, a project website, the use of Twitter, and advertising in local radio and national and local press.
EirGrid has also set up five information offices across the region, in Kildare, Carlow, Tipperary, Wexford and Cork. Based on the intensive and extensive process demonstrated, I believe it is important that this commitment to consultation is recognised.
The current focused period of non-statutory public consultation is the third such period and is seeking feedback on any aspect of the project which has recently identified the 1km wide feasible corridor options.
All information gathered will help inform the identification of the least constrained corridor which will be subject to further consultation in 2014.
Further studies will be undertaken and we expect to lodge a planning application with An Bord Pleanála in 2016 at which stage the Grid Link Project will enter the statutory process including statutory public consultation.
In the meantime we will continue to consult and engage and welcome all feedback from members of the public. – Yours, etc,
Project Manager,
Shelbourne Road,

Sir, – I can’t wait to see Roy Hodgson wearing his Easter Lily next year! – Yours, etc,
Old Cratloe Road,
Sir, – The ECB benchmark rate is now at 0.25 per cent and heading south (Front page, November 8th).
With his new Dirt rate of 41 per cent and the levying of PRSI on deposit interest, the Minister for Finance will soon come to realise that 45 per cent of nothing is nothing.
The mattress may make a comeback. – Yours, etc,
Clontarf Road,

Sir, – So the new driver licence process is to be so secure that applicants must attend in person at the new centres rather than by post as before.
A passport can be used as a proof of identity – ironically a document that is still processed by post. Am I missing something? – Yours, etc,
Bushy Park Road,
Dublin 6.

Irish Independent:

* The Irish people, recognising the Seanad’s balancing function in the legislative process, have wisely chosen to keep it. However, the referendum’s results show that a substantial fraction of the population would have it abolished.
Also in this section
Adams, apologise to West Belfast
Poor effort from Enda
Forgotten hero of My Lai
It seems that, for them, the Seanad is irrelevant because it performs no useful function, or maybe because that performance has not been well communicated. Whatever happened in the past with the Seanad, it is possible for it to become a more modern and relevant institution that can easily be seen as vital to the perennity of Ireland.
Mankind has become a planetary force, able to unfavourably change its climate, acidify and impoverish its oceans, exterminate countless species, and deplete its best forest, fresh water, arable land, and mineral resources. This power has been acquired without a concomitant increase in wisdom.
We have discovered how to live long and healthy lives and how to distribute our unsustainable industrial and financial system throughout the world, creating a host of social problems such as the outsourcing of environmental degradation and quasi-slavery to poor countries, permanent unemployment in the richer countries and the dissolution of traditional social bonds.
Our political institutions are ill-suited to respond to such long-term problems. The system forces politicians to look no further than the next election, their thought constrained by party lines, their public communications reduced to sloganeering and talking points. Election promises are made to be broken.
Powerful companies have their ear more than the common folk. No wonder cynicism is widespread. An enhanced Seanad could help the Government respond to the unprecedented situation without any change to the constitution. The Seanad would lift its eyes from immediate considerations and look far into the future. It would take it upon itself to institute a number of permanent prospective committees to gather in an open process existing and newly generated studies and views on the very real problems facing Ireland over the next 25 to 50 years.
The Seanad would produce a series of annual reports to inform society in general and serve as context for some of its proposed legislative amendments, or even as a source of new legislation.
By including citizens in the political process, the Seanad would be the source of renewed interest and trust from the public.
Alain Miville de Chene
Quebec, Canada
* Martin O’Neill has been officially appointed as the new coach of the Republic of Ireland. Watching the press conference and hearing the questions he was asked by the Irish media, one must conclude that it’s again the same old story.
Questions were asked about the compatibility with his assistant Roy Keane, whether he will pick this or that player, but no sign of a more pertinent question such as, “does he think he has inherited a team open to further improvement that he can work on, or a team that needs to be rebuilt from scratch?”.
It will be interesting to see what O’Neill will be able to do with “magic wand”. His declared intention is to get Ireland to qualify for Euro 2016. Well, Trapattoni achieved just that for Euro 2012, after 10 years of “real” wilderness, but of course this has been conveniently forgotten.
Concetto La Malfa
Dublin 4
* Three cheers for Fine Gael and for Leo Varadkar for the decision to give our original Irish placenames parity with their anglicised equivalent on road signs. Placenames are an invaluable part of our intangible national heritage.
Cluain Meala (meadow of honey) is not the same thing as Clonmel. Cill Bhride (the Church of [St] Brid) is not the same thing as Kilbride (murder your wife?) and we have a vast wealth of Dinnseanchas on how our places got their names, a unique selling point in developing the cultural edge of our vital tourism industry.
It is also heartening to see a research-based ministerial decision that follows best international practice and which rejects the cultural cringe in relation to all things Irish which is far too common in our public discourse. Could we finally be turning the corner?
Daithi M
An Leabharlann Dli, Baile Atha Cliath 7
* For a driver like me coming from the continent, driving in Ireland was a very difficult problem – I’m sure it’s the same problem you have when you try to drive on the continent.
Fortunately drivers here in Ireland are very patient, and accept politely the mistakes I did while driving in your country. This is unfortunately not so usual in Spain, where most of the drivers are very stressed and react aggressively.
I’d like to thank all Irish drivers for being so patient and polite.
Anna Maria Goula
Can Talaia (Barcelona Province), Spain
* Ireland is the laughing stock of the world … the gardai thinking that a 25-year-old woman was a 14-year-old child … should have gone to Specsavers! The €250,000 it cost the taxpayers for this incident could have been used to treat children waiting for lifesaving cancer treatment. We need a vigorous immigration system to stop undesirables from entering the country to exploit our hospitality.
James Kennedy
Tralee, Co Kerry
* Sinead Moriarity’s piece on organising one’s own funeral reminded me of the gravedigger’s comments as he watched a man being buried in his Rolls Royce – “man that’s what I call living”.
Tom Gilsenan
Beaumont, Dublin 9
* The meaning of the words ‘partnership’ and ‘marriage’ must be preserved to avoid confusion. A marriage may be a partnership but a partnership is not necessarily a marriage.
The way those words ‘partnership’ and ‘marriage’ were used on your front page (Irish Independent, November 5) demean the respect due to the meaning of Christian marriage.
Everyone deserves respect in our society. All the great religions of the world have for thousands of years earnestly tried to uphold God’s commandments given for our protection. We are called to friendship with God and with each other and this is the fruit of prayer and right living.
We need to try to understand the depth of God’s love and care for all people before we try to promote a different way of living.
Mary Clenaghan
Letterkenny, Co Donegal
* It might seem complicated to some, but it’s actually really simple. If an Irish person, who happens to be gay, is worth exactly the same as every other Irish person, then all other notions of equality, including the right to marry and the right to raise children in a stable, loving family environment, flow from that one truth.
By the same measure, however, if you think an Irish person, who happens to be gay, is not worth exactly the same as every other Irish person, well then marriage equality is probably the least of your problems.
Donal O’Keeffe
Fermoy, Co Cork
* German World War I generals allegedly described their British counterparts as “donkeys commanding lions”. It seems that the Irish soccer team will now be a case of “lions commanding donkeys”.
James Conroy
Mullingar, Co Westmeath
Irish Independent


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