16 December 2013 Leaves
I go all the way around the park listening to the Navy Lark. Our heroes are in trouble, again. They are to host the admiral at a party aboard Trutbridge and Pertwee has substituted Humm Gromit wine for rum.  Priceless.
Potter around feeling under the weather did Xmas cards swept up leaves 12 bags.
Scrabble today I win battery runs our,  but both of us under 400, Perhaps Mary will win tomorrow.


Peter O’Toole, the Irish-born actor who has died aged 81, was one of the most charismatic, unpredictable, eccentric and individualistic players of his generation.
Hailed both as a classicist and as an exponent of post-war realism in the new British drama, he seemed destined for greatness on the stage until David Lean’s Lawrence of Arabia (1962) turned him into a film star.
It was one of the most spectacular screen breakthroughs of the post-war years. Though his screen debut was in Kidnapped (1960), he had till Lawrence made little impression. Although Lawrence was presented as an heroic figure, Robert Bolt’s screenplay did not avoid the more debatable aspects of his life, including his sexuality. There is a revealing moment when he first dons Arab clothes and performs a little dance almost as if he were a woman in disguise. Moviegoers twigged instantly that this would be no ordinary portrayal.
O’Toole was as famous in his private life for hell-raising exploits, alcoholic benders and independence of artistic judgement, as for his wildly variable performances on stage and screen. The traditional distinction between the actor and the role soon became something of a blur.
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Tall, lean, blue-eyed, watchful, whimsical — and, by middle age, so emaciated that his friends feared for his health — O’Toole seemed regularly to veer close to self destruction. A self-confessed lover of sleaze, he once said: “I can’t stand light; I hate weather; my idea of heaven is moving from one smoke-filled room to another.”
When Laurence Olivier chose him in 1973 to inaugurate the National Theatre at the Old Vic in the title role of Hamlet, it was because O’Toole seemed like Britain’s next great actor. But the status of an Olivier, a Redgrave or a Gielgud always eluded him — or perhaps he it.
Though he became a greatly popular player, he did not stay with Olivier’s new National Theatre Company and went on to divide his career between stage and screen. The success of Lawrence of Arabia led to a flood of screen offers in meaty parts that contemporary actors envied. These included two aspects of King Henry II, first in Becket (1964), based on Jean Anouilh’s account of his troubled relations with Thomas à Becket, and secondly in The Lion in Winter (1968), James Goldman’s play about the ageing king’s dispute with his wife, Eleanor of Aquitaine. Though Katharine Hepburn won an Oscar as Eleanor, the conflict was even-handed and the two performers were equally riveting.
His acting ranged from the sublime to the ridiculous. It could be subtle, reserved, sensitive and deeply affecting. It could also be loud, self-regarding, mannered and imitative of the worst of the 19th-century barnstormers.
Among the more ridiculous was the Macbeth he played at the Old Vic in 1980. It was an attempt to restore the fortunes of that playhouse after the National Theatre had left it in 1976. Contradicting the advice he had given as Hamlet to the players at the same theatre under Olivier’s direction 17 years earlier, he sawed the air with his hands, tore passions to tatters, and ranted until the audience laughed in his face.
Undismayed, he joined in, especially when he heard one night, as he descended the staircase after dispatching Duncan, the siren of an ambulance passing the theatre. “I was dripping with blood. The ambulance howled as it went up the Waterloo Road. I got the giggles. So did the audience. It was bloody marvellous.”
Nonetheless, the production, disowned by fellow members of the Old Vic board, broke records in London and in the provinces. “I just wanted a crack at Macbeth on the principle of getting the worst over first. In the history of the British theatre, only three actors have pulled it off: Macready, Garrick, and Wolfit — and now me. I enjoyed every second.”
Among his more sublime performances was that of the dazed and lonely protagonist journalist in Keith Waterhouse’s Jeffrey Bernard Is Unwell (Apollo, 1989; revived 1999), reminiscing, ruminating, urinating, swaying, and stranded overnight in a London pub with a plastic carrier bag of liquor.

O’Toole, himself an experienced alcoholic, long since reformed, brought so much authenticity, poise and painful sincerity to the performance that many play-goers could not believe he was acting.
He loved the excitement and uncertainty of the theatre. “If I hadn’t become an actor I probably would have become a criminal,” he said once. “I’m a very physical actor. I use everything — toes, teeth, ears, everything. I don’t simply mean physical in the sense of movement and vigour. I find myself remembering the shape of a scene by how I’m standing, what I’m doing.”
Having achieved immediate recognition as TE Lawrence, the desert adventurer opposite Omar Sharif, he observed: “Stardom is insidious. It creeps up through the toes. You don’t realise what’s happening until it reaches your nut. That’s when it becomes dangerous.”
His scores of screen roles at this time included Joseph Conrad’s Lord Jim (1965), an angel in John Huston’s The Bible (1966), and a musical remake of Goodbye, Mr Chips (1969) opposite Petula Clark. Though he was Oscar-nominated for that role, the film as a whole was an embarrassment, and he should have taken note that Rex Harrison and Richard Burton had turned it down before him.
In 1972 he appeared in another musical, Man of La Mancha, opposite Sophia Loren, in which he played Don Quixote. These two films were temporary diversions he was wise not to repeat. Fortunately, in the same year (1972) he gave one of his best performances in the lead role in Peter Medak’s The Ruling Class, as a berserk British baronet who imagines himself to be Jesus Christ one minute and Jack the Ripper the next.
Peter O’Toole on screen
The son of an Irish bookmaker, Seamus Peter O’Toole was born at Connemara, Co Galway, on August 2 1932. The family moved to England when O’Toole was a boy. The young Peter left school at 14, and moved with his parents to Yorkshire.
He worked variously as a copy boy and reporter on the Yorkshire Evening News, as a jazz band drummer, and as a vacuum cleaner salesman. He first acted professionally at the Civic Theatre, Leeds, in 1949.
After National Service as a signalman in the Royal Navy, he saw Michael Redgrave’s King Lear at Stratford-upon-Avon in 1953; it was this that resolved him to attend the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. He hitch-hiked to London and won an audition and a scholarship.
He joined the Bristol Old Vic, where between 1955 and 1958 he acted 73 parts, notably Jimmy Porter in Look Back in Anger (1957), John Tanner in Man and Superman, the title part in Hamlet and Peter Shirley in Shaw’s Major Barbara, in which he made his first London appearance (Old Vic, 1956).
His first West End part came in another Bristol transfer, this time as Uncle Gustave in the Swiss musical comedy Oh, My Papa! (Garrick, 1957).
It was, however, as the cynical Cockney Pete Bamforth, who befriended a Japanese captive in Willis Hall’s wartime jungle drama The Long and the Short and the Tall (Royal Court, 1959, and New, now Albery), that O’Toole first won wide critical acclaim.
Of that performance Kenneth Tynan wrote: “To convey violence beneath banter, and a soured embarrassed goodness beneath both, is not the simplest task for a young player, yet Mr O’Toole achieved it without sweating a drop.”
At Stratford-upon-Avon in The Merchant of Venice his dashing young Shylock, a nouveau riche mercantile adventurer with social pretensions, was much admired, as were his playful Petruchio (opposite the 52-year-old Peggy Ashcroft) in The Taming of the Shrew and his powerful and thrilling Thersites in Troilus and Cressida.
Back in the West End in the title part of Brecht’s Baal (Phoenix, 1963) his acting soared above the play so impressively that one of Brecht’s biographers, Martin Esslin, dubbed O’Toole “the greatest potential force among all English-speaking actors”.
After the disappointment of his acceptable but uninspiring Hamlet at the launch of the National Theatre Company, he played one of his favourite types of character, the self-destructive hero, in David Mercer’s Ride a Cock Horse (Piccadilly, 1965), agonising over relationships with three women.
The following year, back in Ireland, he played Capt Boyle in O’Casey’s Juno and the Paycock at the Gaiety Theatre, Dublin, and three years after that he was back in Dublin again as John Tanner in Shaw’s Man and Superman, one of his favourite parts which he had played at Bristol 11 years earlier and which he played yet again in the West End (Haymarket, 1982).
At Dublin’s Abbey in 1969 his scarecrow Vladimir in Beckett’s Waiting for Godot came in what The Daily Telegraph at the time called “the Chaplin tradition: baggy trousers, battered bowler, clownish, absentmindedly surveying the audience as if it were infinity”. He later acted the part at Nottingham Playhouse.
Returning to his training ground, the Bristol Old Vic, in 1973, he took the title role in Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya, “shuffling, weary, pale and unprofiteering… one of the best things O’Toole ever did”, according to one critic. He also played King Magnus — “indolent, elegant, condescending” — in Shaw’s The Apple Cart, a role which he repeated in the West End (Haymarket, 1986).
When he led, in 1978, a tour of North America as Uncle Vanya, he also added Coward’s Present Laughter to his repertoire. As the flamboyant matinée idol, Garry Essendine, O’Toole used his own mannered and sometimes irritating self-indulgence with authority.
Following the fiasco of his Macbeth for Prospect Productions at the ailing Old Vic two years later, his mercurial Professor Higgins in Shaw’s Pygmalion (Shaftesbury, 1984) was warmly approved for its zest, rhythm, tonal variety, and tender eccentricity. It was seen on Broadway three years later.
In 1991 his ideas about the older Jimmy Porter in Osborne’s new play Déjà Vu clashed with the author’s at rehearsal and the Liverpool production was cancelled.
One of his better screen performances in the 1970s came in Clive Donner’s thriller for television Rogue Male (1976). O’Toole was engaging and, when it mattered, moving, as the resourceful but desperate hero, a British sportsman and would-be assassin of Hitler who, ruthlessly hunted down by Nazis, is forced to live like an animal.
The following year he acted in the dubious Roman epic Caligula, described by Variety magazine as “an anthology of sexual aberrations in which incest is the only face-saving relationship”.
In the uncommercial but intriguing film The Stuntman (1980), he was entirely at home as an impatient and overbearing director on a crazed film project which seemed to make sense only to him. O’Toole, who was again Oscar-nominated, later admitted that he had based his performance on the martinet David Lean, who had directed him in Lawrence of Arabia.
Less impressive were his outings in such schlock as Powerplay (1978), Strumpet City (1980), Supergirl (1984) and Buried Alive (1984).
His performance in Neil Jordan’s big budget Hollywood comedy High Spirits (1988), about a family who move into a haunted house, was nothing if not ebullient; he extracted more humour than the rest of the cast from a weak script in what became one of the turkeys of the year.
It is fitting that his swansong was on the West End stage, which he loved and dominated like no other. Keith Waterhouse’s Our Song provided him with another Bernard-like character — or at least that was how he played the hard-drinking advertising man infatuated with a younger woman.
Even those critics who professed to a sense of déjà vu were not inclined to complain about it, but rather revelled in another chance to see O’Toole running the entire gamut of his physical and vocal range. “The exhilarating theatrical swagger of his performance is matched by a real depth of emotion,” said the Telegraph. The play was a sell-out success.
The year 1992 also saw the publication of the first volume of his autobiography, Loitering With Intent. Besides committing to record his own account of a life rich in myth and hyperbole, O’Toole revealed a genuine writing talent whose promise is sadly cut short.
Having been denied as best actor Oscar many times, in 2003 O’Toole received a special honorary award, effectively for his lifetime’s work. He joked about this when, in 2006, he received yet another best-actor nomination, playing a 70-year-old roué in Venus, who romances his best friend’s grand-niece. The lifetime’s recognition, he quipped, had been premature because there was life in the old dog yet.
Peter O’Toole married, in 1960 (dissolved 1979), the actress Sian Phillips, with whom he had two daughters. He married secondly, in 1983, Karen Brown, with whom he had a son. The second marriage also ended in divorce.
Peter O’Toole, born August 2 1932, died December 14 2013


Seumas Milne (Comment, 12 December) is right that Nelson Mandela’s leading role in launching the armed struggle in South Africa tends to be played down, but wrong in his assessment. Milne repeats what the ANC/Communist leadership said at the time: that the murder by the police of 69 protesters at Sharpeville in 1960 was a sign that peaceful protest was no longer possible. However, it was also a sign that the mass democratic movement – which built up a head of steam in the 1950s and comprised a plurality of local community bodies, trade unions, women’s organisations, even peasant revolts, as well as rival national movements – was seriously impacting on the apartheid regime. Their voices were politically marginalised but prescient. The turn to armed struggle proved disastrous. The bombing campaigns were ineffective and those involved were quickly rounded up. Sabotage, secrecy and vanguardism took over from the mass democratic movement, which did not recover until the rise of black consciousness and then the new unions in mid-1970s.
Mandela doubtless reflected on these issues during his years in prison, not to disavow armed struggle but to re-orient the movement toward a negotiated “elite” settlement. He understood that it was no longer enough to recycle cold war homilies about armed struggle and western imperialism.
Robert Fine
Emeritus professor of sociology, University of Warwick
•  In the appraisal of Mandela’s life the Liberal movement has been airbrushed out of South African history. Liberals carried the torch in the struggle to free the black population in SA while the ANC was seeking help from the Soviets of the kind that had the Russians sending snowploughs to Kenya.
In contrast, Peter Brown, the chair of the Liberal party, acted first and theorised afterwards. He turned his (wealthy) farm into a non-racial co-op. He volunteered in the local township and sponsored a private school that accepted black pupils in defiance of the apartheid ban. After 1994 liberals like him joined municipal governments and even the ANC to effect local changes. What did the ANC achieve that was comparable? The Transkei, which for example needs dams to save its precious water, has seen little or no development. Wages there are not enough to survive. It is pointless seeking “new paradigms” and “vertical structure” when not a single plough or cow is new.
Eric Harber
Deputy chair, Cape Liberal party, until being made stateless in the 60s
•  Except for flag-waving – a rhetoric whose vulgarity they seem unwilling to recognise – people of the right tend to be reluctant to allow loftiness and nobility to human actions. So Simon Jenkins (11 December) proposes to bring Mandela down to our level. Reconciliation was, says Jenkins, merely pragmatic – for the sake of winning in the end. Yet by relinquishing the presidency, Mandela set a constitutional rule for the future.
I’d suggest that he saw that the black majority would prevail in the war that he could unleash, but only at great cost of black blood. And worse, the new state would be raised upon the foundation of a genocide. It was his choice, not De Klerk’s.
James Lawson
•  Simon Jenkins says that what he remembers Mandela possessing to the full was “not saintliness, it was a hardened sense of irony”. Irony, yes; but irony is a fundamental characteristic of a Christian perspective on human existence, so part of saintliness, not opposed to it. Hence the great tradition of ironists from Jesus through Jonathan Swift and Sydney Smith to people such as Richard Ingrams and Ian Hislop.
Richard Harries
House of Lords
•  Mandela helped defeat apartheid but did not bring economic transformation for the mass of people living in poverty. In terms of the media and political lexicon it is interesting to compare the attitude to his death to that of Hugo Chavez, who did bring economic transformation to Venezuela. While Mandela is viewed as saint, Chavez remains a sinner – which says much about the capitalist values that underpin many Mandela tributes.
Paul Donovan
• Nelson Mandela reformed the internal politics of a regional African state. How will the world view the death of Mikhail Gorbachev, a man who effectively (albeit perhaps unwittingly) singlehandedly ended the cold war, dismantled the Soviet Union and brought freedom to Eastern Europe and Soviet Cental Asia?
Robert Smith
Bishops Castle, Shropshire
•  Mandela preached reconciliation for South Africans while the Palestinian leadership preaches incitement and hatred towards Israel. Calling Israel an “apartheid state” is an insult to the millions of black South Africans who suffered under that system. South Africa can be grateful that a man of Mandela’s stature came to lead its people to a better future (Palestinians draw parallels with Mandela’s anti-apartheid struggle, 12 December). Sadly, there has never been a “Palestinian Mandela”, only leaders of the calibre of Yasser Arafat and Hamas, no wonder the Palestinians find themselves in their current predicament.
Simon Plosker
Managing editor, HonestReporting
•  Though headlined “The Future of South African Literature”, Stuart Kelly’s piece (Saturday Review, 13 December) focuses almost entirely on authors whose careers are drawing to a close and whose overriding preoccupation in their writing was the workings of apartheid and of resistance to it. In the years that have followed the demise of apartheid, South African literature has continued to address apartheid and the oppressions that have survived it, but from fresh perspectives. More especially, there is a real sense that younger writers have been liberated to address any aspect of experience in their immensely complex society that they wish. Some of this has created considerable controversy: notably, Jason Staggie’s horrific off-campus novel, Risk, and Thando Mgqolozana’s A Man Who Is Not a Man, a searingly powerful novel that tackles the persistence of cultural practices such as ritual circumcision.
Chris Dunton
National University of Lesotho

Martin Kettle’s story of “civic benevolence” (Comment, December 12) was not the only example of the benefits of a good local education authority. Richard Hoggart tells how , not least because of the difficult circumstances for learning and homework in the tiny houses of Hunslet, he failed his 11-plus, but his headteacher went personally to see the same Mr Taylor, the Leeds chief education officer, to urge Hoggart’s claims for a scholarship. He was duly admitted to Cockburn high school, with the eventual outcome we all benefited from.
Michael Meadowcroft
• You report (13 December) that the execution of the dear leader’s Uncle Jang is just the latest in a series of changes in key personnel. An excellent new euphemism. It certainly makes me grateful to have been allowed just to retire.
Tim Bell
• The thought occurs that the enterprising Kim Jong-un, having eliminated/restructured/murdered his uncle, rather resembles Richard III in reverse.
Edward Pearce
• Re number spotting (In praise of… Ron Gordon, 12 December): I’m surprised you missed 5 August this year. Unique as it is the only date in the Fibonacci sequence.
Dr Mike Rushton
Little Budworth, Cheshire
• Mid-December in north London. In the garden, I’m still picking raspberries. In the park, parakeets are mobbing a heron (Country diary, 11 December). Climate change, or nature evolving?
Dave Young

In recent years I have become increasingly despondent and alarmed at developments in Hungary, the latest of which were outlined by András Schiff (A shrine to our Nazi past, 12 December). From 1991 to 2000 I lived and worked in Hungary, teaching film and media studies at most of the major Hungarian universities. On returning to the UK, I organised and/or participated in many events celebrating and promoting the film culture of Hungary. I also wrote a number of articles and one book on the topic of Hungarian film (with another to be published soon).
In November 2009 the Hungarian government of the day awarded me the Pro Cultura Hungarica medal for my services to Hungarian culture and the arts. The presentation of this award, at the Hungarian Cultural Centre in London, in the presence of a government representative, the Hungarian ambassador and the Hungarian representative for Unesco remains a vivid and proud memory. However, in protest at the increasingly reactionary and retrograde developments in Hungary, in particular the policies of the present government led by Viktor Orbán, I am returning my medal. I urge other recipients of this award, in the UK and elsewhere, to consider doing likewise.
John Cunningham
Adlington, Lancashire
• Jonathan Steele is wrong when he claims: “Ukraine’s protests are not about a yearning for European values and that “they can deal with both Russia and the EU” (Comment, 13 December): Ukrainians face a strategic, historic choice – joining a customs union together with the backward-looking, chronically corrupt Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan and their dictatorial leaders, or securing closer ties with the EU democracies.
The hundreds of thousands who have been demonstrating in Kiev demand their country takes the latter course. They do not trust President Yanukovych, during whose presidential term, according to Transparency International, Ukraine has become the most corrupt and mismanaged country in Europe. These smart young demonstrators are well aware that only a western vector provides hope that essential reforms can take place, without which the country’s chronic problems cannot be solved. They are intent on constructing a completely new social contract, no less.
Leo Ivanytsky

Sir, F. W. de Klerk protests too much when he says Margaret Thatcher helped to abolish apartheid by rejecting sanctions (Comment, Dec 13). I worked in South Africa with independent black trade unions in the 1980s and was briefly detained. It was scarring to be in Soweto and Alexandra townships and see apartheid in operation. What changed was the realisation that the South African economy needed African workers to produce and serve and, more importantly, to become consumers. Employers were forced to recognise trade unions especially in German and Swedish companies which operated there. Trade union leaders of the quality of Cyril Ramaphosa emerged and intelligent white South Africans realised it was game over. The main sanctions player was the US which banned the sale of Krugerrands and sent an African-American diplomat, Edward Pickering, to be Ambassador in South Africa. The US embassy became home to opposition leaders in South Africa. I do not recall anyone thinking the British government was playing any important role, one way or another, in the end of apartheid. It was the people of South Africa, including many white South Africans, who came to realise apartheid had to go. F. W. de Klerk was in post when it happened but it was going to happen anyway, and Mrs Thatcher played no major part.
Denis Macshane
London SW1
Sir, Jenni Russell’s opinion piece (Dec 12) was absolutely correct and very welcome. As someone who lived and worked in South Africa towards the end of apartheid, it is far from true that its end was inevitable.
The apartheid state apparatus at that time was well able to brutally hold power, and world pressure was irritating rather than terminal to a country that is nearly self-sufficient in natural resources. My (South African) wife was active in the anti-apartheid movement and there was great surprise and celebration at the unilateral actions F. W. de Klerk took after his election, that led to the dismantling of the regime and the election of the first democratic government. The Nobel Prize was awarded jointly for good reason; the unilateral relinquishing of power by de Klerk, and the gracious and wise accession to it as a path to peace by Nelson Mandela.
John Lister
Ashby de la Zouch, Leics
Sir, Libby Purves (Dec 9) makes the mistake that some of my liberal friends made. On my return from working as a physiotherapist in Cape Town and then in Zululand (1969 to 1972), I found many people unwilling to listen to my experiences as they were convinced no white person could live in South Africa and claim to be anti-apartheid. Among my best friends in the country was the family of Bram Fischer, a lawyer jailed for life after he helped to defend Nelson Mandela in the Rivonia treason trials. He died in prison, his wife died in very suspicious circumstances, a daughter had to flee the country and another daughter continues working there, with her doctor husband, for the poor and underprivileged.
Unlike Libby Purves, I knew many indigenous “White Activists” who risked their lives to oppose apartheid and even among the Afrikaner farmers I knew there was a benevolence to the rule of their workers.
Nita Wendover

Over the past 25 years copyright laws developed for a print-based world have become outdated; we need to follow the lead of Japan and the US
Sir, Good copyright law is a bedrock of a strong knowledge economy, but the UK is in danger of falling behind its competitors because current copyright laws prevent it from competing on a world-class level.
Over the past 25 years copyright laws that were developed for a print-based world have become outdated. As a result UK research and innovation lag behind that of leading industrial nations, such as Japan and the US, where the legal framework is more flexible.
Despite the millions spent every year on e-publications by universities, schools and the NHS, we do not have clarity under copyright law for how we can make use of what we have bought. As laws for users have not been updated since 1988 new computer-based research such as data and text mining cannot be fully utilised by our scientists, irreplaceable archival and museum material is threatened, students cannot make copies of sound and film recordings, and not all disabled people are allowed to copy in-copyright material into the formats they need.
The Government is on the brink of introducing new laws which will be fundamental to ensuring that the UK can compete globally. We urge this forward thinking approach to avoid a breakdown of respect for our copyright laws because they no longer reflect the use of digital technology in everyone’s lives.
John Dolan, Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals; Dr Jeremy Farrar, Wellcome Trust; Aled Gruffydd Jones, National Library of Wales; Roly Keating, British Library; Naomi Korn, Libraries and Archives Copyright Alliance; Sandy Nairne, National Portrait Gallery; Dr David Prosser, Research Libraries UK; Dr Gordon Rintoul, National Museums Scotland; Ann Rossiter, Society of College, National and University Libraries; Professor Rick Rylance, Research Councils UK (RCUK); Matthew Tanner, Association of Independent Museums; Martin Taylor, Archives and Records Association (UK & Ireland); Martyn Wade, National Library of Scotland

The British did legislate about this matter, but discrimination against homosexuals was already deeply rooted in Indian society
Sir, The criminalisation of homosexuality is heinous. However, blaming British colonial rule is, at best, ludicrous (report, Dec 12; letter, Dec 14). The British did legislate about this matter, but discrimination against homosexuals was already deeply rooted in Indian society, and in fact still is. The “past colonial rule” excuse has had its day. It is time for India to take responsibility for both its successes and its failures.
Maria Chicco
London WC1

Either the situation is not as bad as Professor Steve Field makes out, or the CQC is failing to protect patients
Sir, Failing GPs or Failing CQC? Given that this year’s Care Quality Commission Inspections were mainly targeted at “high risk” GP practices, what are we to make of the fact that less than one per cent of the practices inspected were subject to enforcement action? We found that of the 860 inspection reports released as at December 11, 2013, only seven practices were sufficiently “dangerous” to require intervention.
Either the situation is not as bad as Professor Steve Field, CQC Chief Inspector, makes out, or the CQC is failing to protect patients.
Jonathan Patrick, Scott Welpton, Greg Jackson
Esupplies, Oxford

Hinkley Point is a great deal for the British nuclear industry, for the economy, and for the taxpayer
Sir, My claims about British companies winning most of the work to build Hinkley Point do not contradict the Government report into the benefits of improving the UK’s nuclear supply chain (“Davey’s words fall on stoney ground at Hinkley Point”, Dec 9).
EDF has estimated that the majority of the contracts — up to 57 per cent — could go to the UK workforce. The report commissioned by the Government set out a range of possible estimates, and noted that the actual value captured by the UK supply chain could differ from that range.
Hinkley Point is a great deal for the British nuclear industry, for the economy, and for the taxpayer.
Edward Davey, MP
Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change


SIR – David Quantick describes Sarah Millican as the “the stand-up equivalent of a cup of tea and an Eccles cake”, and Jo Brand as “a woolly national TV treasure”.
Is he talking about the same Sarah Millican and Jo Brand who I have heard using foul language, including the “F word”, on their television shows?
Graham Lench
Talke, Staffordshire

SIR – Looking at the photographs of storm wreckage along the east coast and up the Thames, it seems that the proposed HS2 money would be better spent on flood defences to prevent the catastrophic flooding of London in the future.
Save London rather than a few minutes’ journey time.
Kate Foster
Malvern, Worcestershire
SIR – We have under-invested in our transport infrastructure since 1945 and we continue to paper over the cracks with platitudes and politicising.
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If we are to grow as a country, we must accept that spending money on high-speed rail, new airports, roads and motorways is inevitable. This should have an equal billing alongside the NHS, the Armed Forces and education in terms of funding every year.
Simon Martin
Sidcup, Kent
SIR – If Mark Rushton looked at a road map, he might see that there are about 17 junctions on the M40 between Uxbridge and the M42. Each junction links to a series of major or minor roads providing a vast number of routes to most places between Birmingham and London. With no intermediate stops, HS2 will have little or no benefit to anyone living between London and Birmingham.
Geoffrey Barrell
Witney, Oxfordshire
SIR – It was sad to see Kent, the Garden of England, “attacked” during the construction of HS1, but the majority of residents in Ashford now consider it to have been a success.
We can now get to London in 37 minutes and can travel at high speed to the continent in the other direction.
Tony Newport
Ashford, Kent
Climate scientists
SIR – Brian Hoskins and his colleagues make two points in their letter (December 8) about the recent private meeting between six climate scientist fellows of the Royal Society nominated by the President of the Royal Society, and myself, assisted by a group organised by the Global Warming Policy Foundation, which I chair.
The first is that “the meeting was not secret.” I leave it to your readers to judge how true that is. Suffice to say that, given the considerable public interest in the matters being discussed, I proposed that responsible members of the press should be invited to the meeting. The Royal Society Fellows refused to take part on that basis, stating that the meeting had to be entirely private and unreported. I reluctantly conceded to their terms.
Their second point is that the inadequate discussion we had on climate change policy was inevitable, given that “this is a distinct issue, requiring expert input from a much broader range of specialisms than was present at the meeting”. The team on my side of the table did, in fact, encompass a broader range of specialisms. But I welcome Sir Brian’s concession that climate scientists, whose work is of the first importance in informing policy-makers, are not competent to advise on what climate policy should be adopted. That is an important breakthrough.
Lord Lawson of Blaby
Chairman, The Global Warning Policy Foundation
London E14
Genome map dangers
SIR – Jeremy Hunt’s “genome map” for every newborn baby “could be used to help doctors suggest lifestyle changes and treatments enabling patients to stay healthy” (report, December 8). However, it is more likely to frighten parents, while children will grow up in fear of something bad happening to them.
The greatest predictor of longevity continues to be wealth, and unless Mr Hunt can guarantee each child a hefty income, mortality risks will continue to depend largely on social class. Mapping the genome brings with it the risk of eugenics. The “genetically unfit” will be marked out as expensive burdens and there will be pressure not to reproduce “irresponsibly”. This will lead to a less compassionate society.
Ann Farmer
Woodford Green, Essex
Harnessing the tides
SIR – Peter Snowdon’s argument that tidal power is unreliable due to tides peaking at different times every day rather misses the point.
Tidal energy is available not only from water moving up and down, but sideways as well. As this is a constant feature of tidal waters, the movement can be harnessed to create electricity at all times.
David Gray
Corfe Mullen, Dorset
SIR – It is suggested that the estuarine barrage at St Malo “has been working successfully for many years with little environmental effect”, and there are ideal locations down our west coast.
I well recall an international tidal energy conference in 1994 when the speaker from EDF (developer of the St Malo scheme) explained that it “had destroyed the local ecology”. Actual and proposed schemes in Canada’s Bay of Fundy have been abandoned for this reason.
Prof Michael Jefferson
Melchbourne, Bedfordshire
EU diplomacy
SIR – Your report on the EU’s diplomatic service did not mention two key matters: it started to recruit and deploy staff well before the Lisbon Treaty was adopted – which says everything about the Euro elite’s attitude towards democratic accountability – and the personal tax breaks given to staff and their families, which warrants further exposure.
Charles Pugh
London SW10
SIR – Yugo Kovach asks if the EU’s taxpayers will consent to bailing out Ukraine. We all know that they won’t be asked.
A C Allen
Sedgeford, Shropshire
SIR – Nick Clegg’s take on democracy is breathtaking. His ambition to be permanent Deputy Prime Minister in a minority Conservative or Labour government beggars belief. Hardly Liberal and certainly not Democratic.
Alec Ellis
Let’s hear it for cochlear implants
SIR – We were pleased to read about Matt and Emma Denton and their son Charlie, who became profoundly deaf at the age of two and then had bilateral cochlear implants, enabling him to live in the hearing world and play the violin.
But for parents who may be facing cochlear implantation for their child, it is important to correct the misconception that the operation “carried serious risks, not least facial paralysis and meningitis”. Every surgical operation carries a nominal risk which is carefully assessed, before preceding. The possibility of facial paralysis has been eliminated by constant monitoring during the operation by nerve sensors. While there were a very few cases of meningitis infection after the operation a decade ago, inoculation against this rare possibility is now administered weeks before the procedure.
The article also stated that implantation would “get rid of any residual hearing”. Charlie was profoundly deaf and thus residual hearing, if any, would be no use to him. Yet for others who have some useful residual hearing in one or both ears, modern implanted electrodes can and do retain such residual hearing at specific frequencies.
The cochlear implant is the world’s most successful prosthesis and has brought over a quarter of a million users worldwide into the hearing world. The technology continues to advance rapidly.
Nigel Williams
Chairman National Cochlear Implant Users Association
Amersham, Buckinghamshire
BBC network
SIR – As BBC licence-fee payers, are we allowed to know how many of their programmes are now created by outside companies on an old-boys network basis and, how many of the trailers we have to endure are part of advertising agreed with these contracts?
After all, we were once told that the licence fee guaranteed programmes being free from adverts.
Brian Christley
Abergele, Denbighshire
Zero sum game
SIR – Malcolm Scard may be interested to know that the number zero was first invented in the year 628 by a Hindu mathematician called Brahmagupta.
Therefore, when the Anno Domini calendar was devised in the 6th century by Dionysius Exiguus, the concept of zero didn’t even exist.
Maurice Hardy-Bishop
Jedburgh, Roxburghshire

SIR – Politicians have served our Armed Forces shamefully of late. Tony Blair committed British forces to war in Iraq on a dishonest basis, which cost a huge amount in blood and resources and achieved nothing.
John Reid, the then Defence Secretary, committed British forces to another major war in Afghanistan claiming that there might be no weapons fired in anger. This war has also proved extremely costly and futile.
As if facing a determined, even fanatical, foe in difficult circumstances were not enough to ask of our men, the establishment (at the behest of the legal profession) has deliberately named Marine A publicly, thereby condemning his wife and family to an extended and very real threat of terrorist murder while depriving Marine A of any chance of defending them. The effect of this piece of backstabbing on future recruitment can be readily foreseen. One can only assume that British politicians and now lawyers deliberately wish to destroy the Armed Forces.
David Cooke
Woking, Surrey
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SIR – Henceforth, all British servicemen and women sent to foreign battlefields by our perfidious politicians must be escorted by lawyers numbering brigade strength at the very least.
Perhaps human rights lawyers would care to volunteer.
Hugh Jones
SIR – Judge Advocate General Jeff Blackett enjoyed a successful naval career and was fortunate to avoid anything approaching the horror of the Afghan war. He should have been seconded for a week to patrol with an Army battalion in Afghanistan to experience the unrelieved tensions and butchery that routinely beset our brave soldiers in Helmand province; only after such experience should he have considered and pronounced sentence on Sergeant Blackman.
Barry Bond
Leigh on Sea, Essex
SIR – What Sgt Blackman did was kill an enemy combatant whom he had been trying to kill, and whom it was his job to kill. But because the victim was wounded rather than killed outright, Sgt Blackman was then required suddenly to put his brain in reverse and try to save the life of the man he had just been trying to kill.
If Sgt Blackman had shot and killed the victim in the field he would have been just doing his job. But because it took one extra bullet, he is jailed for life as a murderer.
Hugo Miller
Horsham, West Sussex
SIR – It is now up to the justice system, if it has any credibility left, to ensure that members of Sgt Blackman’s family are given new identities to protect their human rights. Judges fall over themselves to grant human rights willy-nilly to terrorists, rapists and criminals. If we can do it for the murderers of a toddler, then surely we can for the family of a hero.
Ron Giddens
Caterham, Surrey
SIR – With regard to the inordinately heavy sentence given to Sgt Alexander Blackman, would Judge Advocate General Jeff Blackett like also to publish the names of the remaining Appeal Court Judges who “understand operational service because they too have had experience of it”?
Exactly what experience have they had, and in which decade?
E Andrea Parker
Baildon, West Yorkshire
SIR – Sgt Blackman’s life has effectively been ruined, and rather than being a recipient of justice, he has been made a victim of retribution.
His treatment does not take into account the extreme psychological pressure which those on active service in war are put under. The sentence reflects badly on a supposedly civilised society with an enlightened sense of justice, and does not correspond to the Christian principle of redemption. The disgrace will remain long after the sentence ends.
David Bamford
Lanercost, Cumberland

Irish Times:

Sir, – The proposed merger between Bord na Móna and Coillte “would be a serious mistake” wrote Dr Niall O’Carroll, former chief inspector of the Irish Forest Service (June 24th). We strongly endorse this view.
A successful merger needs to involve organisations with similar aims and philosophies. Coillte and Bord na Móna have fundamentally contrasting objectives. Coillte manages a renewable resource, providing a wide range of wood and non-wood products, and services while Bord na Móna exploits peat – a finite resource – for heat and power. The rationale and character of the two entities could hardly be more divergent. It is difficult to argue with the view expressed by Éamon Ó Cuív TD that the companies are “as different as chalk and cheese”.
Sustainable forest management is a multi-purpose land use with wide-ranging benefits including carbon storage, recreation and wood production. Wood is a highly versatile and environmentally benign product, which can be used and reused, in many different processes.
As a scarce material nationally, it is important that Coillte’s forests continue to be utilised to achieve the highest added value, supporting downstream wood industries and employment.
This is a view shared by the Irish Timber Council, which represents Irish sawmillers. They, along with Coillte and other stakeholders contribute to a successful, export-oriented wood-processing industry with an annual value of €2.2 billion. They believe a Bord na Móna influenced forestry company would result in a rebalancing of wood supply towards a low-priced energy product to fuel power plants. This could damage Coillte and Irish timber processors who need continuity of log supply to ensure a viable forest industry.
We would argue that Coillte should be allowed to continue its role as an autonomous, clearly focused organisation, optimising the multiple values of its forests in the national interest. – Yours, etc,
JOYCE, Emeritus Professor

Sir, – The Minister for Education (Education, December 10th) rightly praises schools for Ireland’s improved Pisa scores despite the severe cutbacks experienced due to economic recession.
However, the Minister pays only scant regard to Ireland’s continued poor performance in relation to the fewer numbers achieving at the higher levels in maths and science.
While the Minister admits to being worried about this situation, he doesn’t propose any solution, preferring to focus on “the slow long-term task of improving schools.” In his article the Minister compares us favourably to Finland while failing to point out that in Finland more than 15 per cent of students are performing at or above level 5 on the Pisa tests in mathematics compared to Ireland at 10.7 per cent. We are also well behind our counterparts in Germany and Poland at this level, and slightly behind the United Kingdom.
Given that most of the jobs in the technology sector require a high level of mathematical proficiency and that it is seemingly the objective of the Government to push the so- called smart economy, it seems reasonable to ask what structure the Government might put in place for our bright students to be able to achieve at a level appropriate to their abilities? – Yours, etc,
Centre for Talented Youth
Dublin City University,

Sir, –   Eamon Gilmore says it may be possible to reduce income tax as the economy improves.
I think any extra money generated should be used to improve public services, particularly the health service. If someone on a modest wage were to get a few euro a week extra to spend, what good is it to him if he depends on the public health service and becomes ill but has to wait maybe 18 months to see a consultant?  – Yours, etc,
Glendown Grove,
Dublin 6W.

Sir, – Your story (Alison Healy, Home News, December 9th) on the threat to the future of Irish Seed Savers Association (ISSA) is frightening in its implications. Since its inception, ISSA provides a valuable service, at a miniscule cost, to the future sustainability of Irish agriculture and horticulture.
The funding cuts from the Department of Agriculture that now threaten its very existence are short-sighted in the extreme. We hear endless exhortations from Government that the future of Irish food production is in quality, environmental sustainability, etc. The work that this modest organisation is doing in those fields surely means its funding should be enhanced rather than cut. One day last year, when I visited ISSA in Scarriff, a farmer from the Midlands was collecting 250 native Irish apple trees for commercial apple production. These had been propagated and nurtured by ISSA.
If the Government cannot see the wisdom of maintaining funding to ISSA then the big commercial growers and importers such as Keelings, Fyffes, Donnellys, etc should jump at the opportunity to support an operation that can contribute so much to their business in the long term. And think of the PR value they could gain from associating with such a noble project. – Yours, etc,
Castle Street,

Sir, – Damian Loscher has the audacity to use a statistical term to claim “a gain of four points in this latest poll is significant” in his article about your latest poll (Opinion, December 12th).
A 4 point gain is not statistically significant when your polls have a confidence level of 95 per cent and a sampling error variation of plus or minus 3 per cent. The true interpretation of the results, for Fine Gael is “no change”. – Yours, etc,
Kelly Square,
Vienna, Virginia, US.
Damian Loscher, managing director of Ipsos MRBI responds: “The increase in support for Fine Gael is significant, in many ways. The reader is correct to highlight the potential when commenting on political polls for ‘significant’ to be strictly interpreted as statistically significant and the point is noted for future polls.”

Sir, – Pádraig Ó hUiginn (December 12th) suggests the Army collect people sleeping rough and bring them to a facility for sheltered accommodation.
It is understandable and justifiable that there is widespread concern and disappointment regarding the prevalence of homelessness in Dublin, however it is equally important that we must stay the course and implement current Government policy which is to eliminate long-term homelessness and the need to sleep rough.
This will only be achieved if we can achieve better preventative approaches to homelessness and most critically, provide housing with support. Both statutory and voluntary services in the Dublin Homeless Consultative Forum are united in their support for this objective and also accept that where homelessness cannot be achieved, we must provide sufficient emergency capacity with support so as to avoid the need to sleep rough.
We need to avoid any retrograde step that steers us off course from a “housing with care and support” approach to resolve homelessness, that is, taking a housing-led approach.
In 2012, 879 people moved away from homelessness into independent living with support as required and we envisage the same level of movement out of homelessness for 2013.
It is very important to consider the following in terms of the level of service provided for those rough sleeping in the Dublin region:
1. A dedicated outreach team engages with those rough sleeping across the Dublin region on a daily basis to try to ensure they are accessing emergency accommodation and they are linked in with homeless services to ensure they get the health, accommodation and care supports they need.
2. The Dublin local authorities have increased temporary accommodation capacity to meet the step-up in demand that is being experienced. There are approximately 1,500 beds provided on a nightly basis. Plans are in place to increase emergency accommodation in the immediate period.
3. A freephone 1800 707 707 is available for those who are rough sleeping to contact for access to emergency accommodation on a daily basis.
4. The annual Cold Weather Initiative is in place since November 1st, and will run until the end of March. It provides an emergency humanitarian response to the needs of those who may be sleeping rough during cold weather.
5. The Housing First Demonstration Project is accommodating a number of people in tenancies in the Dublin region. These people have extensive rough sleeping and homeless histories and have significant support needs.
Homelessness will not be resolved unless there is a significant step-up in access to affordable and quality housing and increased provision of support to assist people in maintaining their own home. It is crucially important that financial resources are maintained in 2014, to ensure that the sector can continue to work to reduce the need to sleep rough and address homelessness through housing with support. – Yours, etc,
Dublin Region Homeless
Wood Quay, Dublin 8,

Sir, – We wish to respond to Domhnall Ó Catháin’s comments (December 5th ) that Ireland should adopt a similar practice to that of Michigan.
On November 12th, the Minister for Health launched the State Claims Agency and HSE national policy and guideline on open disclosure. This means those who suffer harm will receive a timely acknowledgment, apology, explanation and a commitment to try and prevent a recurrence. There is a standard on open disclosure within Hiqa Safer Better Healthcare and an accredited training programme for all health and social care professionals to support them in doing this. This approach aims to promote healing for all, particularly the service user/patient and those caring for them. – Yours, etc,
ANN DUFFY, (Lead in open
disclosure at
the State Claims Agency)

Sir, – I was very disappointed with your recent review of Marco Pierre White’s new Dublin 4 eatery (Magazine, November 23rd). I had dined at that restaurant on two occasions in the two weeks before your report appeared, and in my opinion it was an excellent restaurant, with excellent service and great value. – Yours, etc,
Tullamore, Co

Sir, – Might I suggest that as there were three people in the controversial photo (Robin Harte, December 12th & Life, December 11th) it might more appropriately be described as a groupie? – Yours, etc,
Ennis, Co Clare.

Irish Independent:
* On December 1 every year, there would be another trimming added to the rosary.
Also in this section
Giving ideas to ‘her indoors’
Letters: Mandela saw the ties that bind us
Letters: Enda was right to look worried this time last year
We waited, my three sisters and I, to see if mother would forget, but no: as we knelt on the cement kitchen floor, and when all the other trimmings were said, she would begin: “Hail and blessed be the hour and the moment in which the Son of God was born of the most pure Virgin Mary at midnight in the stable in Bethlehem in piercing cold. At that same hour, vouchsafe, O my God, to hear my prayers and grant my petitions. Amen.”
We loved that little prayer, which became known as the “Hail and Blessed” novena. If any one of us had occasion to stay away from home overnight in the 24 days preceding Christmas, we were immediately asked on our return if we had remember to say our “Hail and Blesseds”.
We lived on a farm in the west of Ireland and had a house exactly like that of the local schoolmaster, who lived just down the road, with one exception, though.
His house had crimson holland blinds on his front five windows, while ours had the ordinary (to us) cream-coloured ones.
Every Christmas Eve, my chore as the youngest of the family was to put a lighted candle in every window to greet the Holy Family or any other traveller.
Mother would come to inspect the lighted candles and pull down the blinds, after which my sisters and I donned warm coats and scarves to go to the bottom of the driveway to admire the windows, then proceed down the road to see the Master’s house with its lights shining through the crimson blinds.
We were always a little bit envious on seeing those glowing lights, and on our return voiced our opinion that the Holy Family would surely choose the Master’s house in which to rest.
We did not always have midnight Mass, but we sat up until midnight to see if our ‘petitions’ had been granted, in the form of the small but useful gifts our parents had given us. We were glad to get a good book, a pair of hornpipe shoes, a jigsaw puzzle, a mouth organ.
We were united, we were happy, we drank cocoa and ate treacle and raisin bread and went to bed in the unspoken assurance that ours was a warm and contented world. Every year we asked mother (dear dad was not interested in these girlish frivolities) what her petitions had been, and the answer was always the same: health, a contented home, the gift of laughter, and the grace to accept with fortitude any troubles that came her way.
My mother died quietly in her sleep at the age of 102 years and seven months.
As for the little Hail and Blessed novena, sometimes over the years I remembered to say it; sometimes I have started it and forgotten to finish it; most times I have just forgotten.
Perhaps this year in this vast and beautiful land, so far removed from the rain and the wind and the gentle green fields of the land of my birth, I’ll put a candle in the window and remember.
(This piece was written by Kay van der Sandt (nee Doherty) who grew up in Co Roscommon, but lived in South Africa until she died a few years ago.)
Jill Collins
South Mall Cork
* Regarding top-ups, the decent, generous Irish people deserve better from all these institutions. It seems management, in most cases, is well aware of where funds end up, yet persists in this practice. The wise Cicero, 2,100 years ago, said: “Any man can make mistakes but only an idiot persists in his error.” So, who are the fools here, us givers or the takers?
Sean Kelly
Newtown Hill, Tramore, Waterford
* It is sometimes said, within Ireland, that we do not have the players to really compete with the best in the world. Last Sunday week proved that Irish rugby players have the natural ability to best any rugby nation, including the formidable New Zealanders, and under a coach of Joe Schmidt’s calibre (and drive) their development in terms of skill and self-confidence will be exciting.
However, the key reason why we failed to take the victory that we should have executed against the All Blacks is a big lesson that we can learn from New Zealand rugby: mental toughness. It was a telling statistic, from an Irish point of view, that we failed to build on our impressive first-half scores in the all-important second half of the match.
A clearly sympathetic (insofar as an All Black coach can be) Steve Hansen sought to inform the Irish of our most consequential weakness: “They (the Irish) don’t believe that they are as tough as they are.”
It is clear that the New Zealanders have a higher opinion of the threat that we can pose on the rugby pitch than we Irish do, and they prepare accordingly. Mr Hansen also sought to inform us that Ireland’s players were guilty of not backing themselves at crucial times during the match.
All Black rugby puts a special emphasis on developing the skills associated with mental strength, and these acquired skills have seen the All Blacks escape from some very sticky situations, as well as helping them to maintain their consistency.
It would be profitable for Irish rugby to learn from how the All Blacks develop and employ the acquired skills of mental strength.
Finally, it is important to point out that it will only be by playing the All Blacks, regularly, will we eventually beat them. We must find the will to arrange Tests against the All Blacks on a more frequent, predictable basis.
John B Reid
Monkstown, Co Dublin
* Warm greetings from the North Pole! Santa would like to remind all the boys and girls to post their Christmas letters to him as soon as possible.
All the elves are busy in the workshop making and packing toys and gifts. Mrs Claus is checking lists of names on her computer and planning the route for Santa’s journey on Christmas Eve!
Santa loves reading the letters from children in Ireland, particularly when they have taken the time to write the letter themselves. All they need do is:
* Put their letter in an envelope.
* Write their own name and address (in very clear writing) on the top left-hand corner of the front of the envelope.
* Stick a 60c stamp on the top right-hand corner.
* Post it in a green post box to: Santa Claus, The North Pole.
Once again this year, many helpers in An Post are helping Santa to reply to as many letters as possible before Christmas. I hope you have a very magical Christmas!
Chief Elf
C/o Santa Claus, The North Pole
* I thought it astonishing that, in this day and age, one European country can still threaten another, insidiously or otherwise, as did happen when Ukraine abandoned signing the EU integration pact. There is little doubt that Russia’s control over Ukraine’s gas supply had a major influence on President Yanukovich’s decision.
But my memory was short. I thought back to autumn 2010; had we not also been threatened, that time by a European institution, when the ECB insisted upon us paying unsecured bondholders?
John Bellew
Dunleer, Co Louth
* Little Richard is 81 tomorrow. Good golly, will he ever grow up?
Tom Gilsenan
Beaumont, D9
Irish Independent


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