New Years Eve

1 January 2014 New Years Eve

I go all the way around the park listening to the Navy Lark. Our heroes are in trouble, again. The have been sent off to Batawanaland to pick up an old frigate that the Batawanalanders no longer wish to rent from the Royal Navy, but their new one sinks and the want the old one back. And our heroes have to fly home. Priceless.

Nexus comes and I set it up potter around

Scrabbletoday Mary wins and get justunder 400, Perhaps Iwill win tomorrow.



74, was part of the satire boom of the 1960s, and continued to lampoon the Establishment in the New Labour era.

As Tony Blair’s government, encouraged by a hopeful electorate and a compliant media, took power in 1997, satire seemed a thing of the past. The Sixties spirit of Peter Cook’s Establishment Club had long since faded; the barbs that poured from the latex mouths of Spitting Image’s puppets had fallen silent in 1996. The Conservative Party was on the run. When in 2001 Nigel Wattis, the television director, produced a documentary on Fortune and his longtime comedy partner, John Bird, he noted: “Along with [the impressionist] Rory Bremner, they’re the only real political opposition we have.”

This despite the fact that Fortune put himself “pretty far to the Left” on the political spectrum. Yet just a year into the New Labour administration, Bird and Fortune were working on a comedy special. Years before others put the boot in, the duo had pinpointed the government’s particular weakness: “It’s a combination of the authoritarianism of a Labour Party with a big majority and the fact that they all hate each other’s guts.”

The form of Fortune’s satire with Bird, in a series of spoof interviews called The Long Johns, seemed at first blush to be far from cutting. Rather than tautly shaped gags and one-liners, the two men engaged in apparently rambling sketches in which they took turns to play the Establishment crony – banker, politician, businessman, diplomat, or oil man, always called George Parr – and his increasingly baffled interviewer. The comedy came, as Fortune noted, from getting Parr “either to tell the truth or to defend the indefensible. Like British defence policy. Then you don’t have to make up jokes. You just say it.”

As the minutes of each sketch rolled by, the delightfully pompous interviewee would happily reveal, without blush, the flabbergasting oversights, ignorance or simple criminality behind his trade. With absurdity piled on absurdity, the straight face and enduring, if somewhat quizzical, deference of the interviewer only served to heighten the comedy.

It was a double act, broadcast first on Rory Bremner’s Who Else? programme and then on Bremner, Bird and Fortune (1999 to 2008), that seemed almost effortless. And so indeed it was. Bird and Fortune would meet for a few hours before each broadcast, pick a topic, and then try to make each other laugh. The result was that their performances were neither improvised, nor scripted, but somewhere in between.

Not that they could afford to be laissez-faire with the facts. Each statistic or detail was rigorously researched, and the sketches were run past lawyers before being broadcast. On one occasion, John Bird was playing a BP executive, and Fortune asked him: “So wouldn’t you say that everything you have ever done in your life has been a complete disaster?” When Bird answered: “Yes”, the lawyers objected. So the patter was modified – if only very slightly.

Fortune claimed not to enjoy working too hard to get in character. “We don’t rehearse because I’m far too lazy,” he said. “You know what people are like. If you did rehearse, they’d make you do it for hours.” In Who’s Who, he listed his recreations as “Lounging About”.

It seemed that the pair did not need to work too hard. The send-ups of assorted oleaginous figures was lent particular credence because, as Oxbridge-educated performers, Bird and Fortune always appeared convincing in role. Fortune – tall, eyebrows arched – was particularly credible as the patrician politician or corrupt banker. But in reality such characters could not have been further from his origins.

The son of a commercial traveller for small engineering firms, John Fortune was born John Wood on June 30 1939 in St George, a working-class district of Bristol. There was no bathroom and the lavatory was outside. At Bristol Cathedral Choir School, where the English master, Teddy Martin, introduced him to TS Eliot’s Four Quartets, he abandoned an early ambition to become a laboratory assistant and went up to King’s College, Cambridge, on an open scholarship to read English. There he met Peter Cook, became a founding director of the Footlights, and flirted with Trotskyism before graduating in 1960.

His early stage career began the following year at Cook’s Establishment Club in Soho where he was paid £20 a week (his father was only earning £16). He auditioned Barry Humphries for the Establishment, and worked with the actress Eleanor Bron. But a brief venture in America meant that he and Bird missed out on the televised launch of That Was The Week That Was.

Having settled in Scotland, he made weekly trips to London to appear in Not So Much a Programme, More a Way of Life (1964-65); BBC3 (1965-66); The Late Show; and later The Frost Report.

But it was his connection with Bird, whom he had first met at the Establishment, and Bremner that catapulted him into the mainstream. Initially introduced merely as a foil to Bremner’s impressions, the Bird and Fortune act soon became an essential part of the show. They shared a Bafta in 1997 for their work on Who Else? and were nominated a further four times.

Latterly Fortune appeared in the award-winning Radio 4 sitcom Ed Reardon’s Week, in which he played the head of a literary agency.

He was the author of four books: a satirical novel written with John Wells, A Melon for Ecstasy (1971); Is Your Marriage Really Necessary? (1972, with Eleanor Bron); The Long Johns (1996, with John Bird); and (with John Bird and Rory Bremner) You Are Here (2004).

Apart from lounging about, John Fortune enjoyed music, particularly jazz and Scarlatti. He also loved food and cooking, putting any self-indulgence down to his experience growing up during post-war rationing. In particular he liked to forage for fungi, armed with a guidebook in order to avoid the poisonous varieties, afterwards preparing a mushroom risotto with his spoils.

John Fortune married, in 1962, Susannah Waldo, with whom he had three children. The marriage was dissolved in 1976, and in 1995 he married Emma Burge, a film producer, who survives him with the children of his first marriage.

John Fortune, born June 30 1939, died December 31 2013




I have to congratulate you in publishing the screamingly funny article on Sacha Baron Cohen’s new creation Yevgeny Chichvarkin (When mobile phone tycoon fled Moscow for London, 28 December). How does he do it? His character’s observations on the poor are hilarious. I do hope he makes a film – it will be the comedy of the year.
Philip Clayton

• I was very interested in the Open door about Guardian readers (23 December). As a congenital Tory and rugger aficionado, I enjoy the paper every week, especially on Saturdays – sometimes it is even free with Waitrose shopping. I agree with many of the articles and then I turn to the humour section, better known as “letters and emails”; there is often displayed a worrying amount of bigotry and sanctimonious twaddle. I also checked my score against the survey results and found I fitted about half of the criteria. Clearly, Guardian readers have moved on from my student days with quiche and sandals.
James McGrand
Winchester, Hampshire

•  Illustrating a summer heatwave with a picture of sunbathers crammed on to Brighton beach is something of an enjoyable journalistic cliche. It was a surprise therefore to see the recent storms represented by a picture of a sea-lashed Brighton (Report, 31 December)
Mike Dixon
Eastbourne, East Sussex

• How splendid to see the extended space given to the Country diary this week and the inclusion of photographs. The knowledge displayed by your diarists, and the high quality of their writing, deserves to be recognised by making these changes permanent.
John Hunter
Crewe, Cheshire

• Aren’t the latest comments from Alastair Cook just duck-filled platitudes (Sport, 30 December)?
Claude Scott
Richmond, Surrey

• Some letter to go in here. Could be from Keith Flett or Peter Barnes (Some type to go in here relating to the element opposite …, front page, first edition, 30 December).
Cherry Waters



Your report (28 December) brings welcome attention to a remarkable group of 400 East Anglian parish churches containing pre-Reformation painted rood screens. It was because of their international significance that the Church of England’s church buildings council, in partnership with the Headley Trust and Hamilton Kerr Institute of Cambridge University, set up a project to identify the conservation issues surrounding these screens. The intention is then to undertake further conservation to enable them to remain in the churches where they belong. The C of E’s 16,000 parish churches are among Europe’s finest historic buildings and display an unparalleled array of treasures, rivalling the collections of the world’s great museums and attracting millions of visitors. Yet their care and conservation falls on local parishes, who need support to care for their treasures. The council through its 100 Church Treasures campaign is fundraising to conserve these national treasures (see
Janet Gough
Director, Church of England cathedral and church buildings division

• Whether the Church of England remains established, the future of its buildings remain a challenge. Once the generation of current 60- to 80-year-olds have died, who will be the volunteers to maintain these historic buildings when many local churches are not attracting people aged between 18 to 40? Church buildings at the local level need to have stakeholders from local communities. This means being able to develop church buildings that are multipurpose and open Monday to Friday.
Rev David Woodall
Heywood, Lancashire

Among the many crucial omissions in the letter “Time to end Israel’s Gaza blockade” (28 December), the most striking is any reference to the responsibility of the Hamas terrorist organisation, which has taken Gaza hostage.

There was, it should be recalled, no blockade on Gaza before Hamas launched hundreds of rockets forcing over 1 million Israelis to live within seconds of bomb shelters. Nor would there be any reason for the restrictions imposed by Israel and Egypt on Gaza if Hamas were not working ceaselessly to acquire weaponry to carry out further attacks.

Palestinians too pay the price for Hamas’s brutality and corruption. The electricity shortage in Gaza is a result of Hamas’s refusal to pay the Palestinian Authority standard tax on the fuel it is receiving. As a Palestinian representative in London said recently: “Since Hamas took power in Gaza, there are 1,200 new millionaires who have taken advantage of the tunnel industry and the fuel transfers”. Finally, Gaza is not the same size as Newcastle. Gaza is 360 sq km while Newcastle is less than a third of that size, at 113 sq km.
Yiftah Curiel
Spokesperson, Embassy of Israel


In response to the desperate plight of Syrian refugees (Migration: politics of fear, 31 December) we are writing in support of the Refugee Council’s campaign to urge the government to allow some of them to settle in the UK. We in the Jewish community know only too well the perils of being refugees and the indifference that too often meets their attempt to find sanctuary.

Syrians now make up the largest refugee group in the world. It is estimated there are more than 2.2 million, 1 million of whom are children, deeply traumatised by their experiences. We appreciate that this is not a job for Britain alone, but we must do our fair share, and join other European countries who have already pledged to take in Syrian refugees. This is why we are calling for the government to work with UNHCR and the international community to establish a worldwide resettlement programme. It is the very least we can do.
Dr Edie Friedman Executive director, Jewish Council for Racial Equality, Rabbi Sybil Sheridan Chair, Assembly of Reform Rabbis UK, Rabbi Alexandra Wright, Jeremy Beecham House of Lords, Geoffrey Bindman QC, Professor Marc Saperstein, Professor Stephen Frosh, June Jacobs, Judith Ellenbogen

•  You rightly argue that Britain should open its doors to the Syrian refugees. However, experience shows that refugee flow, once begun, induces its own flow. When Britain decided to allow in Tamil refugees in the 1980s, the flow began with a trickle. Today, Britain’s Tamil population stands at half a million, and growing. Let Syrian refugees come, but let their stay be temporary.
Randhir Singh Bains
Gants Hill, Essex

• The debate on immigration is always presented in the context of benefits, yet the real issue is that England is both the most densely populated country in Europe and the one with the fastest growth in population. Such numbers are not sustainable. Of course house prices rise, the price of land is rising. As our population grows, we need more land for agriculture, not less. It would be wonderful to have a debate on immigration that took account of these issues instead of giving would-be immigrants unsavoury labels in an effort to keep them out. It would be even better if we could discuss population as an issue that could be affected by humane and liberal policies. We need a policy on population. In such a context other countries might well be comfortable with Britain seeking a balanced approach to immigration.
Helen Haran
St Albans, Hertfordshire

• Among other evidence, the latest results of DNA-marker research make it clear that we British are all immigrants, the last ice age having scoured the land of all previous occupants, leaving these isles at the back of beyond to be resettled from abroad, a process that began about 9000BC.
Austen Lynch




This week, at one of the most pressured times of the year, hundreds of thousands of dedicated NHS staff throughout the country will be providing high-quality healthcare to millions of patients – something that often got lost amid last year’s headlines. As we move into 2014 can we, as organisations representing the NHS frontline, call for a new page to be turned as we start a new year? The failures in patient care must be addressed, and part of doing this means, in the words of Professor Don Berwick’s review of patient safety, leaving “fear, blame, recrimination and demoralisation” behind, and going forward with energy and optimism.

Undoubtedly, there are challenges to face in ensuring we have the high-quality service that everyone in the NHS wants to offer, including increasing demand on services and the need to do more with tighter budgets. But we need to reach a more measured view of how the NHS is performing. We must strike the right balance between recognising the extraordinary achievements that NHS staff deliver every day and the need for improvement highlighted by the Francis report. Rather than looking back to the failures of the past, we now need to devote our time and energy to meeting the very real challenges we face to secure a sustainable NHS for the future.
Chris Hopson Chief executive, Foundation Trust Network, Dr Mark Porter Chair of council, BMA, Dr Clifford Mann President, College of Emergency Medicine, Matt Tee COO, NHS Confederation, Phil Gray Chief executive, Chartered Society of Physiotherapy, Dr Maureen Baker Chair, Royal College of General Practitioners, Professor Cathy Warwick Chief executive, Royal College of Midwives, Dr Peter Carter Chief executive and general secretary, Royal College of Nursing, Richard Thompson President, Royal College of Physicians, Professor Sue Bailey President, Royal College of Psychiatrists

• It’s worth contrasting the government’s latest miserly and cruel rationing of NHS services (Tourists and migrants to be charged to use NHS emergency services, 30 December), with Cuba’s approach to health needs – a country with a GDP per capita of 15% of the UK’s. At home, Cuba has provided long-term care for 18,000 victims of the Chernobyl disaster and has provided eye surgery, at no cost, for hundreds of thousands of Latin Americans. A recent study by Professor John M Kirk reported that Cuba has more medical personnel serving abroad than the G8 nations combined. As of April 2012, there were 38,868 Cuban medical professionals working in 66 countries, of whom 15,047 were doctors.

Cuba’s medical internationalism programme rarely gets reported, although it did when the country offered 1,500 medical professionals to the US to support the disaster relief effort after Hurricane Katrina – which George W Bush rejected. When Bevan founded the NHS he said it would be based on the principles that it would meet the needs of everyone, be free at the point of delivery and be based on clinical need, not ability to pay. Comparing that with the mean-spirited utterings of David Cameron and Jeremy Hunt, he sounds like Fidel Castro.
Martin Quinn
Tavistock, Devon

• Your article on charges for antenatal care and childbirth (Report, 28 December) said that the health of migrant women and their children were being put at risk, but failed to give details of the rules or how to contest charges being made by NHS trusts misapplying rules. It seemed that all immigrant women were being charged – though a moment’s thought would have raised questions about EU nationals. On checking, it emerges that asylum seekers and women who have overstayed visas can be charged. However, if they cannot pay, then services are still provided – something that the article did say. So it would be helpful to reduce worry for women with valid visas, refugee status or waiting to hear about asylum claims, if it were made clear that they will not be charged.
Diana Bruce

• The last time NHS staff were ordered to refuse to treat foreign patients without charge was during Thatcher’s leadership. Shortly after, I was called to see a distressed woman who’d brought her sick baby to our hospital’s children’s ward. Before I arrived, an enthusiastic administrator had told her that while she was entitled to treatment as the daughter of a US serviceman stationed in the UK, her baby had no such right. She had already been given the same information at the military hospital, which is why she had come to us. By the time I attended she had left, her baby unexamined and untreated.

I felt deeply ashamed on behalf of my department and my hospital that we had been the expression of our politicians’ parsimony. I’m appalled that my successors may be forced into adopting the same commercial approach to those needing help.
Dr Harvey Marcovitch
Balscote, Oxfordshire




Seumas Milne might have missed the real picture when he writes: “The US has been boosting its military presence in the archipelago of bases in the Gulf, and the Middle East will continue to be crucial to the global energy market” (6 December). It should be clear that the United States is actually withdrawing from the global stage.

Exhausted by two bloody wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, most Americans are suffering from what can be called “terminal combat fatigue syndrome”: the reluctance to shed any more American blood and treasure in distant lands. This explains why the US has refused to intervene militarily in the Syrian civil war.

Opposition to America’s foreign involvement is also coming from ultra-conservative groups. Rallying conservatives opposed to intervention in Syria suggests an organised political movement led by the right-wing Tea Party to oppose any foreign military intervention abroad.

Since its inception in 2009, the Tea Party movement focused on economics, fighting off other issues as distractions from its core mission to drastically reduce public spending. “There has to be money spent when you buy Tomahawk missiles to lob over Damascus,” said David A Dickerson, a leader of the Barren County Patriots in Kentucky. “My feeling is we don’t need to involve ourselves in a civil war halfway around the world when we have the needs we have at home, like bringing spending under control.”

Facing the dual pressures of the combat fatigue and financial crunch, the US is clearly withdrawing from the global scene. The recent deal with Iran offers it an opportunity to reduce its military presence in the region. But if America is reluctant to act as the global policeman, who will?
Mahmood Elahi
Ottawa, Canada

Israel and the bomb

Binyamin Netanyahu knows that nuclear arms are an obstacle to Palestine peace talks (13 December). But what he says about a possible Iranian bomb is just as true of his own. In a two-state future, a still nuclear-armed Israel would perpetuate the long unjust imbalance in that land between Jew and Arab.

If Netanyahu is really “ready for historic compromise that ends the conflict between us once and for all” and not “unwilling to show flexibility”, he should also finally renounce Israel’s own nuclear weapons, even if their president Shimon Peres vows “Over my dead body”. Those peoples, and the world, cannot wait for that eventuality.
Ren Kempthorne
Nelson, New Zealand

Where democracy falls down

Jonathan Freedland’s article on democracy (13 December) is confused at best and incoherent at worst. Democracy may “not solely exist to provide good, functioning governance”, but if it cannot provide some semblance of it, then what is its purpose?

Freedland outlines Indian discontent with the political system and the corruption that is prevalent throughout the state bureaucracy, then goes on to conclude that because “everyone is represented” and issues “get played out” we should take comfort in the fact we have “the right to vote”. Light a fire, hold hands and sing Kumbaya.

If democracies don’t strive for good governance and all that it entails, then no matter how much everyone gets to voice their opinions, discontent grows and elections merely vacillate from one inept party to another that promises change but does very little to change the lot of those who voted.

Maybe the problem is not democracy in India and South Africa, but the size and diversity of these countries. Maybe democracy’s stumbling block is that on such scales it becomes ineffective.
Nicolas Melaisis
Nuriootpa, South Australia

Sceptical of the sceptics

I was raised to be a sceptic, to question both the apparent truths and to question the motives of those who iterate them. I suppose I am a sceptic if I take a different path to those who absorb false science and, at the drop of the hat, reiterate it as if it were fact. They are not even as honest as snake-oil salesmen, who knew exactly what they were about.

Many letters on the Guardian Weekly “Reply” page are written to grind a particular argument, like one writer’s recent plea that citizens should “persuade governments to reprioritise their energy agendas”. This reader is apparently against the use of oil as well as nuclear energy. Meanwhile, another reiterates the exhausted old idea that man’s activities have anything to do with the periodic global warming that we find ourselves entering. Another seems to be against all human activity. It’s a wonder how these correspondents can live with themselves.

It is a shame we have got used to, and value, electric light because your correspondents would have had a field day when alternating current was first suggested.
John Graham
Hoogstraten, Belgium

• It’s interesting to note that most people in government seem to be climate change sceptics, whereas the people they govern are mostly climate change believers. I can think of many words to describe a country where policy is dictated by an ideological ultra-minority. “Democracy” is not among them.
A Elliott
Berlin, Germany

The irony of the deer cull

Patrick Barkham’s admonition of the need to cull the more prolific survivors of Britain’s shattered ecosystems resounds with unintended irony (13 December).

Both the badgers who carry TB from intensive cattle farms, and the red deer whose numbers have ballooned in the absence of their exterminated lupine predators, must now have their numbers managed by the very primate species that has thrown their worlds into chaos. The same goes for the starving Canadian polar bears, whose retreat from their melting ice pack habitat has seen them increasingly deemed an intolerable nuisance to the sparse local humans.

The irony of the “difficult decisions” that Barkham advocates is that they don’t go near the human population explosion that is occasioning them, and that is carrying us inexorably toward the greatest cull since the dinosaurs’ demise.
John Hayward
Weegena, Tasmania, Australia

Gun control starts in the mind

Minimising the amount of gun-related deaths in the United States (Sandy Hook still waits on gun control, 20 December) is not a matter of formulating stricter gun control policies, but a case of changing our mindset on the use of guns. We should all have the right to bear arms, as long as we know how, when and where to use them correctly.

I have many friends who engage in violent video games, where they consciously orchestrate massacres and hold-ups against our usually assumed victimised positions for fun. We must find more effective ways to moralise the mindset of our youth, rather than hand the responsibility to the government to create useless gun control policies. How can we expect events such as the Sandy Hook massacre to become non-existent if we find it humorous to do the same thing on video games?
Nathan Cheng
Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Monbiot on veganism

In response to George Monbiot pondering veganism (6 December), many grasses have a symbiotic relationship with grazing animals and need water, grazing, nutrition (manure) and rest to flourish. Remove animals from the equation and plants lose the pruning and nutrition that they need; eventually they become rank and die. Although humus does come from decaying stems in the short term, in the longer term ungrazed land often reverts to scrub either before or after catastrophic fires.

Monbiot correctly refers to the dangers of soil compaction, which is the result not of grazing, but of overgrazing, where damage to ground cover and a breakdown of soil biological activity prevents the creation of humus, which inhibits the absorption of moisture – for dry matter and humus act like blotting paper. If grazing animals are removed from agriculture, we will be almost totally dependent on manufactured fertilisers to maintain production.

Loss of humus is a social and ecological problem; Afghan farmers grow opium poppies in badly damaged soils that are no longer able to absorb their limited rainfall; plant and animal diseases of all sorts are associated with damaged soil. Droughts and floods both appear more severe when soils cannot absorb moisture, top soil is eventually carried away to pollute the sea, and irrigation becomes essential to try and rehydrate the land. If Monbiot wants to save the world, he really needs to learn to love humus and understand soil.
Philippa Morris
Gravesend, NSW, Australia

• George Monbiot makes a good ethical case for a vegan diet, but I fear the way he describes his own poor experience of actually trying it might put readers off trying it for themselves. In fact a vegan diet can be extremely healthy, as well as varied and delicious. Anyone not eating meat or dairy has to take care to get enough protein and other nutrients; however, this is not difficult nowadays, as there is plenty of information available. The Vegan Society website might be a good place to start.
Rosemary Wrigley
Ambleside, UK


• Less than a month after lambasting the Sri Lankan regime for its abuses of power, David Cameron flew to Beijing to kiss the feet of the Chinese Community party (6 December). China’s human rights record is far worse than that of Sri Lanka, but it has suddenly become the UK prime minister’s best friend. The worship of economic growth outstrips human rights concerns.

The work of all those who risk their lives for the restoration of the rule of law and public accountability in Sri Lanka is severely undermined by the hypocrisy and double standards practised by the UK and US governments when it comes to human rights.
Vinoth Ramachandra
Colombo, Sri Lanka

• I enjoyed Ian Jack’s clear-sighted piece on Nelson Mandela’s canonisation by the media (20 December), but think the effects of such unqualified veneration are deeper and more dangerous than mere alienation. By denying the fullness of Mandela’s humanity, we deny and dishonour ourselves.

At a friend’s funeral recently, I felt so skewed and diminished by a eulogy describing her in saintly terms, which she would have hated, that I immediately started writing my own, including words like harpy and misery-guts.

Our shadow, denied, is projected onto other people, genders, cultures and species with ugly, fundamentalist consequences. Could Nelson Mandela have so transformed evil if he hadn’t first engaged with its roots in himself?
Annie March
Hobart, Tasmania, Australia

• China and South Korea should save a population from maniacs by agreeing to take over and divide North Korea between themselves and giving the population the option to live on one side or the other.
John Dobinson
North Balwyn, Victoria, Australia




It has become evident recently that the problem of anti-Semitism and racism in sport is yet to be eradicated.

It has plagued sporting associations and clubs for decades, and has rightly been met with admirable attempts to curb abuse: organisations such as Kick It Out and the introduction of financial sanctions have incentivised moral conduct on the sporting field, while addressing the notion that it is the role of sport to hold its players and supporters accountable for misplaced opinions.

It should be the role of bodies such as Fifa to address racist or discriminatory actions in order to cleanse their game of all aspects of inhumanity and political inflammation.

Despite numerous attempts by anti-racism organisations to allow sport and other aspects of popular culture to self-regulate, problems persist. Regulation is therefore essential, and this is something agreed upon by sporting associations such as Fifa when they ban players for committing acts such as biting players or fixing matches. If the same penalties are not issued for racist actions, these actions are tolerated and swept under the carpet.

Racist actions in a football match can be perceived by children and young adults such as myself as less significant and less serious than violent acts. But this is wrong, because racism and violence go hand in hand, and discrimination based upon ethnicity fosters future intolerance.

Even if the guilty party is not aware of an act’s significance, they are still guilty because of how widespread the audience involved is. When a Premier League match in West Bromwich is broadcast, it is viewed by an international audience. Children in Uganda worship Premier League football players in the same fashion that British children do, and are equally likely to copy the actions of their sporting role models.

To address the worst problems, the toughest penalties must exist. I am a worried onlooker who wants a cleaner game, one where I can feel free to attend sporting events without the fear of racial abuse, one where I can watch television without the malice of the minority permeating into the consciousness of the rest, one where political messages do not transcend the sacred realm of sporting achievement.

Sporting occasions give players the platform to voice their political opinions, and the sport should not grant publicity to those who abuse it. I propose a lifetime ban for all players and fans who break this boundary, in the hope that the vicious cycle of hatred which has engulfed the sporting world may soon be stopped.

Jack Lewy, Radlett, Hertfordshire


If the furore over Nicolas Anelka’s hand gesture helps nip an anti-Semitic campaign in the bud, it will have been welcome. But it also highlights recent selectivity over racism by the French government and media.

One of the most shameful affairs in French public life in 2013 involved the crudest and most blatantly racist insults aimed at French Justice Minister Christiane Taubira, who is black. Her Socialist ministerial colleagues and the French media ignored the affair (your Paris correspondent, John Lichfield, was a notable exception).

In the autumn, a far-right local election candidate had likened her to a monkey. Right-wing protesters took up the cry, waving bananas at her. Weeks after the original insults and after Mme Taubira had expressed shock at the lack of support for her, the government made some clucking noises; and a dribble of intellectual commentators wrote mealy-mouthed columns claiming this wasn’t really racism but was linked to France’s colonial past.

Being partially against racism is like being partially pregnant. Let’s kick out anti-Semitism, but clamp down equally on all strains of racism and xenophobia. An irony lost on most of the British media was that their condemnation of Anelka coincided with another volley of insults to the Romanians, Bulgarians and Roma – not strictly racist but using the same, base coinage.

Rod Chapman, Sarlat, France


An establishment without honour

The doctor who delivered the royal baby gets a knighthood for doing what thousands of midwives do every day, and Andy Murray gets nothing – it says all you need to know about the clueless British Establishment.

Watch out for the scramble to recover the situation in May as Scots Nats garner votes from the injured indignation.

Vaughan Thomas, Usk, Gwent


A doctor who “oversees” the birth of the third in line to the throne is granted a knighthood. A nurse, who possibly has saved many lives through whistleblowing at the Mid Staffordshire Trust, an OBE.

Bill Luty, Pudsey, West Yorkshire


I see that, once again, I have been overlooked in the New Year Honours. This is after 40 years of monitoring, speaking on and writing about the lethal quacks of the medico-pharma mafia, the planet-killers of the petro-industrial complex, the spivs, half-wits, quarter-wits and quislings who have managed to slither their way into Parliament, and the cowardly, corrupt, incompetent, derelict-of-duty, impossible-to-insult, Establishment-lackey trash-hacks, trying to pass themselves off as journalists.

Where am I going wrong?

Pat Rattigan, Chesterfield, Derbyshire


This Government, which is busy whipping up racist hysteria over Bulgarian and Romanian migrants, has just made Angela Lansbury – a naturalised American citizen since 1951 – a Dame of the British Empire in the New Year Honours. Aneurin Bevan was correct: the Conservatives are “lower than vermin”.

Sasha Simic, London N16


Your 30 December editorial (“Tarnished honours”) and article by Bobby Friedman (“Money talks: from donor to the honours list”) are based on a fundamental error – the honours system and appointments to the House of Lords are two completely different, unrelated processes.

And unlike honours, peerages are working appointments which carry with them the expectation of future service.

The number of peerages awarded in the 2014 New Year Honours is – as in all years – zero.

Richard Tilbrook, Head of Honours and Appointments Secretariat, Cabinet Office,London SW1


Prime Minister out of touch with reality

I am sure that many people are amazed at the sensitivity of David Cameron’s political antennae to the public’s perception of justice.

He uses the Fraud Act 2006 against benefit cheats, but will have to introduce a new law (not saying when) to be able to charge bankers responsible for an increasing range of immoral frauds that have cost all taxpayers (covering the banks’ fines) and so many individuals (through their loss of savings, jobs, homes and even lives through suicide).

He expects taxpayers to cover the costs of green policies, while energy companies are allowed to continue with their integration of wholesale and retail operations (effectively a series of monopolies) and increasing their charges, profits and shareholder dividends.

He aims to stop the immigration of non-EU citizens, but happily opens the UK to Chinese “investment”, apparently unaware of the reputation of the Chinese across Africa and Latin America where, having bought their way in, they bring in their own staff rather than employ local people.

Is it really so difficult to understand why so many people seem to think that our Dave is out of touch with the real world?

Malcolm MacIntyre-Read, Much Wenlock, Shropshire


If our Conservative Party has any chance of surviving the next general election, surely David Cameron should reconsider his position as leader and stand down to allow grassroots MPs to elect a prospective Prime Minister who is more in touch with British people?

Terry Duncan, Bridlington,  East Yorkshire


Political comment? You must be joking

David Blunkett wants satirical TV shows to face tighter regulation because their comedy is politically motivated (“Satire crossing the line into denigration, Blunkett claims”, 27 December).

If only… Shows such as Mock the Week, 10 O’Clock Live and, recently, even Have I Got News For  You may make fun of politicians, but they rarely discuss politics in  a substantive way.

Mock the Week joked about Mr Blunkett’s blindness, but wouldn’t have dreamt of satirising his immigration or crime policies as Home Secretary.

Richard Berry, LSE Public Policy Group, London School of Economics, London WC2


Kalashnikov’s other target

Further to David Boggis’s letter (30 December), Mikhail Kalashnikov did not originally aspire to become the inventor of the AK47. In 2002 he sent me a letter stating that, as a boy, his ambition was to be a poet.

Dominic Shelmerdine, London W8





We need a widescale programme of flood abatement, whereby water is retained in the ground rather than flowing over it to rivers

Sir, The building of more flood defences is no answer (reports Dec 27 & 28; letters, Dec 30). Their effect is short term, as worse and more frequent storms arrive; and, spatially, they tend simply to shunt the floods on to places downstream.

What is needed is an urgent, widescale programme of flood abatement, whereby water is retained in the ground rather than flowing over it to rivers. There are two simple and proven strategies.

One is “buffer strips” alongside watercourses, where there is no grazing. The effect is pretty well immediate. Surface water will be absorbed into these ungrazed strips as into a blotter.

Secondly, afforestation within catchment areas. Woodlands hold huge amounts of water. Beneficial effects may be observed within a decade or two.

How is this to be achieved?

In most of England county councils have the responsibility of “leading” on floods but few powers or funds. Strategies like those above require strong powers of direction and compensation to landowners for the loss of grazing. Yet, typically, no such powers or funds are available.

There have been at least four “one in 100 years” floods since 2000. Time is not our friend in answering this threat.

Peter Phillips

Minsterley, Shropshire

Sir, We are experiencing an increasing frequency of natural disasters. Thousands of people have suffered a miserable Christmas flooded, without power or unable to travel. Thousands more have exhausted themselves working ceaselessly in dreadful conditions to restore infrastructure. The rest of us have looked on in sympathy and impotence. Among us is a sizeable proportion who can fetch and carry, drive vans, fill sandbags, lift furniture upstairs, make barrages, row boats, climb ladders, apply first aid, and do anything else that will help. There is an untapped resource in the ranks of the fit retired, but arriving individually, unannounced, at a disaster is unlikely to contribute anything useful so we look on in guilty inactivity. The country needs a disaster volunteer reserve, a network of willing people that could be summoned at a moment’s notice.

The manpower is there, it just needs recruiting and organising.

David Livingstone

Heydon, Herts

Sir, After the recent heavy rainfall and flooding in several parts of the country — including in my own county of Kent — what are the odds of hosepipe bans and water-use restrictions next summer should we have a dry year? We have been told by water companies that it is expensive to pump water from areas of excess to areas of need, and that we do not have the infrastructure to move large volumes of water around the country. But would a network of water pipes (maybe alongside trunk roads and railway lines) not be a good investment for the future?

Dr Peter Collins

Chatham, Kent

Sir, Urban flooding seems to have become endemic. A practical and cheap solution would be to build a series of dams further upstream to capture the water so that only farms’ fields would get temporarily flooded with fresh water which would not affect the utility of the land or cause erosion.

These dams could be just simple earthworks with temporary sluice gates, but it would also be possible to build more practical constructions which would allow these dammed temporary lakes to produce hydro-electric power which would help pay for their construction.

R. G. Williams

Hove, E Sussex

An edited selection of readers’ letters from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, taken from the Times Archive

Robbery alarm

January 1, 1828

Sir, Upon looking over your Bow-street report in this day’s Times, I perceive a complaint made by a gentleman of a most daring attempt at robbery from his phaeton on the Bayswater-road, and in consequence of that great thoroughfare being so badly lighted. I am induced to trouble you with this, in order to my being informed by one of the correspondents of your widely-circulated journal, why that part of the road from Maida-hill to Kilburn is not watched and lighted as usual, the very respectable inhabitants in the immediate vicinity having to grope their way through mud and dirt ere they can arrive at their dwelling-houses, to say nothing of the facilities given to robberies by this shameful neglect of the commissioners. The enormous rates paid by the inhabitants of Marylebone parish ought surely to protect in some measure their persons and properties. By your insertion of the above, you will greatly oblige.

An Inhabitant and a Sufferer


Lost luggage woe

January 1, 1914

Sir, As many people are coming to the Riviera at this season, may I have space to warn them through your columns of the risk they run of being separated from their luggage for several days on arrival in the South?

When we started from London we registered our baggage on the previous afternoon. The officials at Charing-cross assured us that we should have to clear the Customs at Calais. On our arrival there we were told that it had gone on overnight and must be cleared at the Gare de Lyon, Paris.

In Paris they informed us that it would be cleared at our destination — St. Raphael. But when we reached our journey’s end we learnt that there was no Customs House here and that our things were detained at Marseilles. By dint of telegraphing and writing we eventually got them after some inconvenience and worry.

We were assured in our hotel that the same thing happens every day. What impels me to address you is that a party of 46 people who reached here yesterday had precisely the same experience, and have not been restored to their possessions yet. Another gentleman, living near here, tells us that on one occasion he came for a 10 days’ visit, and was minus his luggage for five days.

Evidently the officials en route will continue to give wrong information until somebody makes it his business to enlighten them.

I am, Sir, your obedient servant,

John Adam Fergusson (Colonel)

St Raphael



Published at 12:01AM, January 1 2014

After the busy Diamond Jubilee year it is not surprising that members of the Royal Family carried out fewer official duties

Sir, I have carried out a survey of the official engagements undertaken by the Royal Family during 2013 as reported in the Court Circular. After the busy Diamond Jubilee year it is not surprising that members of the Royal Family carried out fewer official duties in 2013. The Duke of Edinburgh’s engagements were reduced following surgery and convalescence. Also the Duchess of Cambridge’s work was limited due to her confinement and Princess Alexandra’s ill health affected her engagements. I should emphasise that the table of figures, below, should not be converted into a “league table” of individual royal performance. All engagements differ as to time and content and there is also the time taken in preparation, whether it be a visit, investiture or speech.

Except for Christmas Day and Easter Day, the Queen never has a day off from the official red boxes which pursue her everywhere.

Tim O’Donovan

Datchet, Berks




The ECHR provides that it is unlawful for a public authority to act in a way which is incompatible with a Convention right

Sir, Your report “Ministers to block ‘right to marry’ in EU backlash” (Dec 28) states that the Charter of Fundamental Rights [of the European Union] “enshrines a host of rights not found in other declarations”, one of them being “a proposed ‘right to marry and found a family.’ ”

Not so. Article 9 of the Charter mirrors Article 12 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which provides that “Men and women of marriageable age have the right to marry and found a family, according to the national laws governing the exercise of this right.” Article 12 of the Convention was incorporated into English law by the Human Rights Act 1998, section 6 of which provides that it is unlawful for a public authority to act in a way which is incompatible with a Convention right.

Perhaps the Justice Secretary, Chris Grayling, should read the 1998 Act.

David Lamming

Boxford, Suffolk



Ten minutes with D. B. Close and R. Illingworth would teach Captain Cook more about actual captaincy than a raft of scientifically produced information

Sir, Once back on his farm, the first thing Captain Cook needs to do is to invite messrs D. B. Close and R. Illingworth to dinner.

Ten minutes in the company of the pair would teach him more about actual captaincy than all of the scientifically produced information which has increasingly straitjacketed his decisions.

Closey and Illy were masters in the art of doing the unexpected, often setting outrageous fields in order to sow doubts in the minds of even well set batsmen. Cook, pre-programmed to the point of inertia, hardly ever goes off message.

So, drop him for Sydney and play our B team instead: Boycott, Brearley, Bell, Bumble (capt) Balance, Bairstow, Botham, Bresnan, Broad, Borthwick and Big Freddie. The Aussies would be helpless.

Ian Hoyle

Rotherham, S Yorks





SIR – Whatever happened to university and college scarves? About 50 years ago it was common to see young people during the holidays, especially at Christmas time, wearing their college scarves, more often than not with a duffel coat.

Around 1960, only about 5 per cent of school-leavers went into higher education. Now it’s nearer 45 per cent, and there are at least twice the number of institutions. Yet there seem to be fewer scarves on show now than then. Why?

Geoffrey Wyborn
Walton-on-Thames, Surrey


SIR – Gavin Grant, the chief executive of the RSPCA, argues that the Countryside Alliance is out of touch with public opinion. But public opinion is out of touch with the realities of managing the countryside, both for farming and wildlife. This includes the majority of politicians, who frame the laws and regulations that are so damaging to countryside management.

We have a perfectly good Animal Cruelty Act, yet insist on protecting badgers – an overpopulous, omnivorous species having a devastating impact on wildlife that really is endangered and on our dairy and beef industries. If the countryside is to be managed by public opinion, its future is uncertain indeed.

Jeremy Chamberlayne
Maisemore, Gloucestershire

SIR – The Burns Report contained no evidence that traditional fox-hunting was cruel. In fact, hunting emerged in a better light from an animal welfare perspective than the shooting of foxes, which has increased since the Hunting Act.

It is the RSPCA that is out of touch, wasting its supporters’ money and even more taxpayers’ money in bringing vindictive prosecutions against hunts that are trying to help people continue with their traditional lifestyle within the limits allowed by a flawed Act of Parliament.

David A Rothery
Silverstone, Northamptonshire

SIR – Not everyone who lives in the countryside enjoys killing wildlife, and we resent being portrayed as such by the likes of Sir Barney White-Spunner, the head of the Countryside Alliance.

Marguerite Bowyer
West Huntspill, Somerset

Smacking ban

SIR – Dr Maggie Atkinson, the Children’s Commissioner, has called for a smacking ban. I doubt her suitability to advise on such issues, given that she states that she has “never understood” where one draws the line between physical chastisement and physical abuse.

Wendy Charles-Warner
Bylchau, Denbighshire

Soapy sauce

SIR – Celia Walden describes how she almost made an Angeleno “pass out from revulsion” when she explained to her what bread sauce was.

This American distaste for one of our iconic dishes is not new. In Henry James’s The Portrait of a Lady (1881), Isabel Archer’s aunt, Lydia Touchett, “detested bread-sauce, which, as she said, looked like a poultice and tasted like soap”.

Bernard Richards
Brasenose College, Oxford

Pearly whites

SIR – The surgeon suspended for allegedly engraving his initials on to the liver of a transplant patient reminded me of the account of the American army dentist E J “Jack” Mallory.

In 1946, Mallory was asked to make dentures for General Hideki Tojo, Japanese prime minister from 1941 to 1944 and architect of the attack on the US Pacific Fleet in December 1941.

While awaiting trial for war crimes, Tojo requested dental treatment for his decayed teeth. Determined that he should taste defeat, Mallory, an amateur radio ham, engraved on to the upper denture in Morse code: “Remember Pearl Harbour.”

Brent Molyneux
Winchester, Hampshire

Vetting and the Church

SIR – Your report “’Overzealous’ Church vets 58,000 workers in a year’” poses a multitude of questions.

First, is not Christianity rooted in the forgiveness of sins? Secondly, would the Church preclude someone who had a criminal record, thereby going against its own teaching? Thirdly, where does this obsession with records end?

Robert Duncan Martin
Canterbury, Kent

SIR – As a retired vicar, who occasionally works with children associated with the local church, I have to use vetting procedures to comply with the Government’s Disclosure and Barring Service.

I am also required to attend “safeguarding training”, which points out, for example, that children should not sit on an adult’s lap and that two adults should always be in a room with a child. The diocese employs three people to implement this, which seems unnecessary.

Where, oh where, is the Church of England going?

Rev W D Rees

Freeview failures

SIR – For those of us who have experienced, for the second time this year, the failure of terrestrial Freeview television, the plan to abandon FM radio is flawed.

To say, as the helplines did, that the problems were caused by “atmospheric conditions outside our control” is too facile and complacent an explanation. A technical solution will surely be found if the broadcasters, whose output is lost, push for it and the transmission engineers can be persuaded to put their minds to it.

Let us have some improvement in Freeview services before listeners are put to the expense of switching to digital radio.

Mick Wigfield
Hythe, Hampshire

SIR – Since we installed solar panels on our roof, the DAB radio switches off on the last of the hour pips, and the FM radio won’t work if the sun shines.

Ian Reid
St Asaph, Denbighshire

Signs of Spring

SIR – Not only have we too seen blue tits inspecting our bird box, but we also have a flowering strawberry plant in our garden.

Petra Johnstone
Wokingham, Berkshire

Alan Turing’s pardon sets a precedent for others

SIR – It is good to see common sense prevailing with the posthumous pardoning of Alan Turing. Is it not time that the monstrous stitching up of Admiral Byng by the government and the Navy in 1757 be now “unstitched” by a similar posthumous exoneration?

The Ministry of Defence in 2007 turned down a request from Byng’s descendants for a pardon; surely it is time for this to be reconsidered?

John Bolsover
South Ascot, Berkshire

SIR – The posthumous Royal Pardon for Alan Turing is a generous move by a state comfortable with recognising that, in some cases, contemporary values can be applied retrospectively.

As the 100th anniversary of the start of the First World War approaches, one of the greatest wrongs of the time could be corrected by the universal pardoning of all the soldiers, some too young to serve legally, who were executed for desertion.

Whatever the circumstances, the injustice of the slaughter of so many in terrible conditions requires such forgiveness, even if it may appal those who say we cannot make judgments upon decisions made in a bygone age.

Charles Foster
Chalfont St Peter, Buckinghamshire

SIR – The Colossus, the first stored-program electronic computer, was designed and built by Tommy Flowers at the Post Office Research Labs at Dollis Hill, London, but the invention of the machine has been attributed to Alan Turing at Bletchley Park.

During the Thirties, Flowers had been engaged in telephone exchange development, specifically the replacement of electromechanical relays by electronic switches. He knew that the environment in which the valve switches operated must be controlled and that valve heaters, once switched on, must remain on to achieve the requisite reliability.

Flowers built Colossus using his unique knowledge and it worked first time in December 1943. He is the father of the stored-program computer.

Alun Evans
Swansea, Glamorgan



SIR – Doctors have opposed government proposals to make GPs responsible for checking the status of patients (“Migrants are given free access to our GPs”, report, December 30).

If a GP issues a prescription, is the overseas visitor going to pay the full cost of expensive drugs or just the usual prescription charge? What is to stop GPs registering such patients and issuing NHS numbers that could then be used to access free consultant and hospital treatment?

Why is it so difficult for GPs to monitor whom they treat? The reception staff could help. The allegedly complex charging arrangements are carried out by NHS and private dentists without any problems.

Michael Staples
Seaford, East Sussex

SIR – Any non-resident requiring medical attention for a pre-existing condition should be charged for their treatment. This would normally be covered by insurance.

The airlines should be responsible for ensuring that their passengers are covered before boarding.

Peter Lee
Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire

SIR – Within every group there are individual human beings with individual needs, including that of being treated fairly by their fellow humans when they fall ill.

While the NHS remains a service free at the point of delivery, we should be careful not to allow the mob to decide which people should or should not have treatment for their health problems.

Malcolm France
Skegness, Lincolnshire

SIR – Restricting access to public services on the basis of nationality alone would conflict with at least 200 years of English Common Law. The problem facing us is caused not by immigration per se, but by the non-contributory basis of our welfare system. Its reform would be welcomed by the majority, including the charming and industrious Eastern Europeans who have come here to improve their lot through their labours.

Michael Heaton
Warminster, Wiltshire

SIR – With all the debate over uncontrolled immigration, it is surprising that a major agreement signed by Cecilia Malmström, the EU Home Affairs Commissioner, on December 16 2013 has not received more attention.

This agreement opens the way, within three years, for lifting visa requirements for Turkish citizens travelling to EU countries – even though Turkey, with a population of 76 million, is not yet near to joining the Union.

Jonathan Grant-Nicholas
Brassington, Derbyshire

SIR – New migrants will be allowed to see GPs. I wish them the very best of luck.

G S Deighton
Old Tupton, Derbyshire



Irish Times:




Irish Independent:

2013 was a memorable year in many ways — a great summer, the legacy of young Donal Walsh, the passing of the great Nelson Mandela, the withdrawal of the dreaded troika and the many sporting highlights.

Also in this section

Tribute to a man’s courage and foresight

Haughey did not invent ‘cute hoorism’

Letter of the week: Dole out soup, Enda

The sporting highlight for me — and, I suspect, for many hurling supporters — was the All-Ireland final, or should I say the two finals. I am with Roy Keane when he says that hurling is the best game in the world.

I had been a little concerned in recent years for the future and possible decline of the magnificent silky skills and the high-octane energy of this beautiful game.

The emphasis on defence and the curtailment of skilful forwards was a negative development, which removed the excitement and enjoyment of witnessing classy points and net-bursting goals.

I was looking towards the Kilkennys, Corks and Tipperarys of the premier division to rescue the situation. Then, out of the ether, came the Banner Men. Where did they come from? Where did that amazing skill, speed and first touch come from?

This was pure hurling — pure magic. I didn’t want it to stop — this was nerve-tingling, hair-standing-on-the-back-of-the-neck stuff. My God, I would pay anything, get up in the middle of the night, crawl on my hands and knees to see this.

Of course, Cork also played a huge part in this wonderful spectacle — it takes two to tango.

In case you’re wondering, I am a Tipp man who hopes this Clare team and Davy Fitz will be around for a long time.

‘I gazed and gazed but little thought what wealth to me this game had brought.’




* In the Irish Independent ‘Weekend’ supplement (December 28), Marian Finucane in “Talk Therapy” is interviewed about her involvement in the First Fortnight festival, a two-week festival that challenges mental health prejudice through the creative arts. In the article, societal attitudes to people who experience mental health difficulties are explored, and she states: “It was a steady trickle of changes . . . at both the national and international levels, that finally encouraged people to open up.”

In my local paper in Galway over Christmas I read that the Galway branch of the Samaritans receives almost 100 contacts a day to its centre and that over one-third of calls are from people who are feeling suicidal.

On the face of it this is scary reading, but on reflection it is positive that people who are in this frame of mind do contact an organisation such as the Samaritans.

On this first day of the new year, RTE is showing a documentary on inspirational Kerry teenager Donal Walsh, who lost his battle with cancer last year. Donal spoke about his desire to live and the anger he felt when he heard of someone taking their own life. In a video to be shown to second-level students, he pleaded: “No one’s going to judge you at all because everyone has to open up. It’s something everyone has to do. Why keep it to yourself when people you love and that love you are there to help you? They want to help you, they want to get rid of these feelings that you’re feeling.”

To open up and ask for help is a sign of strength. If we achieve nothing else in 2014 than a marked reduction in the alarming suicide rates in this country, then we as a nation will be richer for it. My hope for 2014 is that this indeed does happen.




* The announcement that Dublin is to have an Independence Trail (Irish Independent, December 30) is most welcome to those still campaigning to save the GPO/Moore Street 1916 battleground — the only extant battleground in 20th-Century British and Irish history.

Under the planning application by Chartered Land, this historic area is to be obliterated to make way for a shopping centre development. Under that proposal, the planned freedom trail would have to be routed through, of all things, a ‘Celtic Tiger’ shopping mall.

The inclusion of this historic area in the proposed Independence Trail is official recognition, at long last, that the campaign to preserve and restore the area and its laneways of history, as An Taoiseach describes them, is now accepted as the way forward.

The Save 16 Moore Street Campaign Committee deserves great credit for its tireless efforts to save this historic area from the wrecking ball.

There is now a golden opportunity for the State to preserve and develop this battlefield site into an historic and cultural quarter for future generations as a 1916 Centenary Project.





* As the new year is upon us, everyone is thinking of what they might give up. I’m wondering why we aren’t thinking about what we will start. A new year, a new hobby — perhaps Guiding?

Since joining the Irish Girl Guides at the age of six, Guiding has become a huge part of my life. Through Guiding, you develop many life skills and make friends for life. As a Senior Branch member (girls age 15+), I get to help with the younger children and I am greatly involved in the community.

Through Guiding, I have had many opportunities that other girls my age would not have. I have camped in all weather conditions and I am a lot more independent due to Guides.

I want to encourage everyone to consider starting for the new year — and I don’t just mean young people like me; adults too can participate in Guiding activities by volunteering to be a leader or a unit helper.




* The newly acquired positive thinking of Jobs and Trade Minister Richard Bruton since becoming an ardent student of the American best-selling jobs bible written by a professor of labour economics, Enrico Moretti, has already sent his adrenaline soaring (Irish Independent, December 24).

‘The New Geography of Jobs’ has set out many controversial and debatable issues on job creation and taxes. Against the odds, it has become a US bestseller. Mr Bruton rightly believes if the Americans think it can be done, why not us?

More sustainable jobs for Ireland are vital and I see a lot of sense in many of Mr Moretti’s theories. He argues that regions — often cities — “reach a tipping-point dynamic” when they have enough of innovative companies and an adequate supply of university graduates available; they will have a magnetic draw on other entrepreneurial outfits of similar or associated technologies.

He highlights San Francisco, a city with such companies as Twitter and Yelp, as one example. Dublin’s so-called Silicon Docks, which still thrives despite all our problems, is another.

Using data on nine million workers in the US metropolitan areas, Professor Moretti concludes each new innovative technology company job creates five additional jobs — lawyers, doctors, consultants, waiters, hairdressers and all the basic services.

Mr Bruton is aware over 200 people a day were leaving our shores, loaded with ‘brainpower’. We will, hopefully, need some of them back, having first catered for the ones at home. I would be dismissive of some Moretti theories, but I say: “Get on with the positive, applicable ones.”

We started the last big boom by attracting the ‘hi-techs’. Take to the air, Mr Bruton, with a super-powered delegation and lure them in. We did it before, why not now?



Irish Independent



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