Dry Run

11 February 2014 Dry Run
I go all the way around the park listening to the Navy Lark. Our heroes are in trouble, again. Mrs Murray is away and Lt Murray is being ‘looked after’ by Captain ane  Mrs Povey Priceless.
Tip Mary loses her banks card in the cash point, Hospt Dry dun for new chemotherapy, Dietician, CoOp,
Scrabble today Mary wins,   and gets  well over  400, Perhaps I will win tomorrow.

Obituary:
Stuart Hall, who has died aged 82, came to Britain from his native Jamaica in 1951 and established himself as a leading cultural theorist and as a hero of the intellectual Left.
A trenchant critic of Thatcherism (a term he coined), Hall had a huge impact on the reconfiguration of Left-wing thinking that underpinned the rise of New Labour, while his contributions to the theory of “multiculturalism” entered the political mainstream.
Hall arrived in Britain from Jamaica on a Rhodes Scholarship to Merton College, Oxford, soon after the first wave of Windrush migrants from the Caribbean. He was thus able to witness the reaction of the motherland to its colonial subjects turning up on her doorstep, and the prejudice he encountered inspired him to become involved in politics.
After abandoning a PhD on Henry James in 1958, Hall became the founding editor of the New Left Review, which did much to open a debate about immigration and the politics of identity. He went on, with Raymond Williams and Richard Hoggart, to establish the first Cultural Studies programme at a British university in Birmingham in 1964. In 1979 he moved to the Open University as a Professor of Sociology and for nearly two decades his early morning broadcasts on BBC2 became compulsory viewing for any self-respecting socialist intellectual.
Hall first coined the word “Thatcherism” in a prescient article in Marxism Today in January 1979, four months before Margaret Thatcher herself entered Downing Street. The Conservative leader had been patronised by many on the Left as little more than a shrill housewife. Hall was one of the first to acknowledge that Britain was entering a new era of politics.
He characterised the phenomenon of Thatcherism as something more significant and more insidious than the personal style of one politician. He later described Mrs Thatcher as Hegel’s “historical individual”, a person whose politics and contradictions “instance or concretise in one life or career much wider forces that are in play”.
To Hall, Thatcherism’s popularity originated in errors on the Left. Socialists, he argued, had failed to recognise the disillusionment of many working class people with the bureaucratic state, while British trade unions, although industrially strong, had not offered any alternative vision. Thatcherism had “redefined contours of public thinking” by grasping that the way to people’s hearts was not just through Westminster but through other spaces in their lives that they did not even consider to be “political” – areas like morality and culture.
Hall called for the Left to fight the cultural battle against Thatcherism by an engagement with new social movements such as multiculturalism, environmentalism and gay rights – thinking that became integral to the “New Labour” project as it developed in the mid-1990s.
To Hall, cultural identities were not fixed, but fluid – “subject to the continuous ‘play’ of history, culture and power”. In investigating how people with different backgrounds, languages and religious beliefs can live together without retreating into warring tribes, he became a leading critic of the sort of cultural absolutism epitomised by Norman Tebbit’s “cricket test”. “Britain is not homogenous,” Hall declared. “It was never a society without conflict. The English fought tooth and nail over everything we know of as English political virtues – rule of law, free speech, the franchise. The very notion of Great Britain’s “greatness” is bound up with empire. Euro-scepticism and Little Englander nationalism could hardly survive if people understood whose sugar flowed through English blood and rotted English teeth.”
In Hall’s view the critical question was: “How much do we retain and how much do we give up of our cultural identity in order to be ourselves?” The concept of Britishness, he argued, needed to become more, not less, inclusive, recognising that the idea of multi-ethnic, mono-cultural society was a “contradiction in terms”.

In an interview in 2011 Hall felt that progress had occurred (“Just think of the visibility of black people in the media, in sport, in popular culture”); but he claimed that people still asked him why he did not go back to where he came from. The high point of multiculturalism, he said, had been reached before the attacks of 9/11, when “differences were everywhere, hybridity was everywhere, and no one had completely retreated into tribal enclaves”. The growth of Islamic fundamentalism which had precipitated this retreat he blamed on the failure of the West to engage with “a whole gradient of Islam that has been open to dialogue for many years… We know nothing about it. We stereotype it. We never had the tough argument that leads to better integration.”
Yet Hall lived to see and arguably had a major impact on the dramatic improvements in race-relations and a growing consensus around the idea of cultural inclusivity that Britain has seen over the last three decades. As he himself reflected, failed revolutions are often the most successful in the long run: “Remember 1968, when everyone said that nothing changed, that nobody won state power. It’s true. The students didn’t win. But since then life has been profoundly transformed. Ideas of communitarianism, ideas of the collective, of feminism, of being gay, were all transformed by the impact of a revolution that did not succeed… So I don’t believe in judging the historical significance of events in terms of our usually faulty judgment of where they may end up.”
Stuart McPhail Hall was born on February 3 1932 in Kingston, Jamaica, into a middle class family which subscribed to what he called “the colonial romance”. His father, Herman, was the first non-white person to hold a senior position – chief accountant – with United Fruit in Jamaica. Both his parents had non-African components in their ancestry, though as he recalled: “I was always the blackest member of my family and I knew it from the moment I was born.”
Growing up in what he called the “pigmentocracy” of the colonial West Indies had a profound effect on Hall’s childhood and outlook. His mother forbade him from inviting black school friends home, even though to white eyes he was black himself. When his sister fell in love with a black medical student, their mother barred her from seeing him. As a result she suffered a mental breakdown.
Hall was educated at Jamaica College, Kingston, but it was at Oxford that he became politically active. In 1957 he began editing the Universities & Left Review which, in 1960, merged with The Reasoner to form New Left Review, with Hall as its founding editor. He also became active in CND, speaking at its rallies and becoming a familiar face on television at a time when the majority of people on news, current affairs and arts programmes were white.
By this time Hall was teaching film and television at Chelsea College in London, but a decisive turn in his career came in 1964, when Richard Hoggart set up the Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies at Birmingham. Earlier the same year Hall had co-written The Popular Arts with Paddy Whannel. As a direct result, Richard Hoggart invited Hall to join his new centre, initially as a research fellow. He became its director in 1968 and over the next decade played a leading role in the development of a worldwide movement of cultural studies.
In 1979 Hall left Birmingham to become Professor of Sociology at the Open University, where he worked for 18 years. After his retirement in 1997 he devoted his energies to establishing Rivington Place, an £8 million “global art space” in Hoxton, East London, where artists from ethnic minorities can explore issues of identity. In 2005 Hall was made a fellow of the British Academy.
Although Hall harboured great hopes for New Labour, he was deeply disappointed by the reality. From 1997 to 2000 he served as a member of a Commission on the Future of Multi-Ethnic Britain, established by the Runnymede Trust, whose claim that the term “Britishness” has racist connotations and that race-relations could be improved by “rethinking” it to include the experience of all Britain’s ethnic groups, was brusquely rejected by Labour’s Home Secretary Jack Straw following negative media comment.
Hall was inclined to lay most of the blame at the door of Tony Blair who, as Labour leader, had pitched his tent on “terrain defined by Thatcherism”. In the run-up to the 1997 general election, Hall and Martin Jacques had penned an exasperated article, “Tony Blair: the greatest Tory since Margaret Thatcher?” expressing their frustration that even though the Tories were “divided, exhausted and demoralised,” it was still “their arguments, their philosophy, their priorities, that are defining the agenda on which new Labour thinks and speaks”.
In 1964 Hall married Catherine Barrett, a Yorkshirewoman whom he met on an Aldermaston march and who became a historian of post-colonialism. She survives him with their son and daughter.
Stuart Hall, born February 3 1932, died February 10 2014

Guardian:

The Swiss referendum approving immigration quotas should serve as a warning of the perils of such plebiscites (Report, 10 February). Signatory states to the single European market, whether EU members or not, cannot pick and choose between what they like and what they wish to reject. The Berne government and Swiss businesses will fear potential retaliation in the form of sanctions, fines or reduced access to the market, as well as potential loss of skilled labour and other benefits that a populist campaign in favour of quotas has chosen to ignore.
Simon Sweeney
York Management School
• Why are market forces not working and encouraging people to leave London (Letters, 10 February)? Moving north would allow a better value property to be bought and a great lifestyle to be enjoyed. Other Europeans are moving for a better life, why don’t south-easterners?
Carl Bendelow
Appleby, Cumbria
• It seems Hugh Muir is having difficulty identifying Hoyles (Sketch, 7 February). It’s easy to tell the difference. As we say up north, “Doug Hoyle” is what we did yesterday in the garden, whereas “Lindsay Hoyle”, as well as being the deputy speaker, reminds us to prepare our cricket bats for the new season.
Leslie Beaumont
Croston, Lancashire
• Chris Huhne (Comment, 10 February) is as imperialist as those he derides if he believes English is “our” language. More people in India speak English (“their” way) than the combined mother-tongue English populations of the UK, US and Antipodes, and China is fast catching up.
Professor Jennifer Jenkins
Southampton
• Thanks for pointing out that on hearing the phrase “hardworking people” we don’t need to listen to/read any more (Unthinkable, 8 February). Two other markers: “Look,” said in a patronising tone, suggests that what follows will be largely untruthful. “So …” informs us that the speaker has no idea what the question meant and from now on is winging it.
Angela Barton
Bishop’s Stortford, Hertfordshire
• I am sure I’ve seen some of these egg letters before (6 February). Could they have been poached?
Peter Lambert
Ely, Cambridgeshire

In 2013 the Ministry of Defence indicated that the armed services’ role was possibly moving away from the views of the electorate. The severe flooding creates a perfect role for a natural disaster defence operation. Be it power lines, water defences, forest and heath fires, a fully trained and co-ordinated response using the abilities of the forces and their equipment is increasingly necessary to restore services, roads, railways etc and to provide immediate transport to residents.
John Loader
Leyburn, North Yorkshire
• With all this catastrophic flooding in Somerset, I’ve lost track of other news. Is the government still planning to proceed with its plans for the £17bn nuclear power plant at nearby Hinkley Point?
Alan Davis
St Austell, Cornwall
• Since the sea has now become our enemy, I suggest we nuke it. Teach the elements a lesson. Vaporise a few cubic miles of ocean out west where all this weather’s coming from. This is at least as sensible a suggestion as any I have heard for putting Trident to practical use – and morally superior to others that would incinerate millions of people in a blinding flash.
Richard Bradshaw
Yarm, North Yorkshire
• Battleships or sea walls?
David Hayes
Bristol
• Why is this government always seeking to blame someone else for every failure on their watch? The previous Labour government and the EU are perennial targets and the Environment Agency is just the latest in a long list. The “not me, gov” government.
Derek Haselden
Ross-on-Wye
• As seas rise and south-east England sinks, has the Environment Agency considered dredging the North Sea?
Richard Lewis
Middlesbrough
• The government is pushing all-out for fracking, which will make climate change far worse, offering local authorities millions of pounds in business rates incentives. And then it cuts the Environment Agency’s budget, and tries to blame it for the flooding.
Dr Bob Banks
Grindleford, Derbyshire
• Taking my cue from your excellent Weatherwatch, I discovered that one of David Cameron’s previous environment secretaries, Caroline Spelman, in February 2012 thought “Drought may be the new norm” and that GM drought-resistant crops were part of the solution.
John Cook
Bookham, Surrey
• I would like to draw the attention of the RSPB and others keen to provide enormous wetland spaces for birds to the plight of the thousands of land mammals and insects which are destroyed during these floods. What happens to the hares and foxes and voles and the millions of beetles?
Stephanie Groves
Wells, Somerset
• Flooding in the Thames Valley. Solid Tory territory. Bet that gets things done.
Tim Feest
Godalming, Surrey

Five University of Birmingham students were suspended following a national demonstration on campus on Wednesday 29 January (Online report, 30 January). An email from Dr Chris Twine, director of student services, was sent around the College of Social Sciences stating that the five students “have been suspended from study and barred from University premises with immediate effect” and are “not to be allowed access to any teaching or learning activities”.
These suspensions follow a national meeting and demonstration at the university, which culminated in an occupation of the Aston Webb’s Great Hall. When the students attempted to peacefully leave the hall, they were kettled by police officers and university security. The five were held for more than four hours, before being released, one by one, to be questioned by the police at 6pm that evening. Along with eight other protesters they were held for more than 27 hours in Birmingham police stations.
The legality of the arrests is in question – a previous high court ruling has deemed arrest to obtain details as unlawful – and yet the 13 students were arrested for not handing over their full details at the behest of the police officers kettling them.
These suspensions are at odds with freedom of speech and the right to protest, setting a threatening precedent for how dissent is dealt with on campuses across the country. These actions follow recent suspensions at Sussex University, which have directly targeted those who use their democratic right to speak up and demonstrate for the betterment of education. We believe that the suspensions at the University of Birmingham are further evidence of the contempt for freedom of expression, both political and academic, in the contemporary university. It is becoming more apparent that those who manage our education have very little interest in serving those students and lecturers without whom education would not be possible. We condemn these suspensions in the strongest terms and call for the immediate reinstatement of the students affected.
Noam Chomsky Professor of linguistics, MIT
Clare Short secretary of state for international development, 1997-2003; MP for Birmingham Ladywood, 1983-2010
David Graeber Professor of anthropology, London School of Economics
Natalie Bennett Leader, Green party
Ken Loach Film director, Hon D.Litt, Birmingham
Kate Hudson Acting national secretary, Left Unity
John McDonnell Labour MP, Hayes & Harlington
Steve Turner Assistant general secretary, Unite the Union
Will Duckworth Deputy leader, Green party of England and Wales
Mary Pearson President, Birmingham Trades Union Council
Andrew Burgin Secretary, Coalition of Resistance
Dick Gaughan Musician
Michael Chessum President ULU
Daniel Lemberger Cooper Vice president ULU
Andrew McGettigan Writer
Dr Mark Erickson Reader in sociology, University of Brighton
Sheila Cullen Analyst programmer, University of Brighton
Luke Martell Professor of political sociology, University of Sussex
Gurminder K. Bhambra Senior sociologist, University of Warwick
Dr William McEvoy Lecturer in drama and English, University of Sussex
Dr Sara Bragg Education research fellow , University of Brighton
Dr Lisa Smyth School of sociology, social policy & social work, Queen’s University Belfast
Cahal McLaughlin Professor of film studies, Queen’s University Belfast
Dr Véronique Altglas School of sociology, social policy & social work, Queen’s University Belfast
Dr Barbara Karatsioli Institute for the study of conflict transformation and social justice, Queen’s University Belfast
Dr Brian Kelly School of history and anthropology, Queen’s University Belfast
Dr Martin Dowling School of creative arts, Queen’s University Belfast
Professor MJ Larkin Chair of microbial biochemistry, Queen’s University Belfast
Kyran Joughin Lecturer in film and critical practice, UAL, UCU secretary
Clare Solomon President, ULU 2010-11
Dr Neil Faulkner FSA research fellow, University of Bristol
Professor Nadje al-Ali President, Soas UCU, Soas, University of London
Lindsey German Convenor, Stop the War Coalition
Feyzi Ismail Teaching fellow, Soas
Dr Paolo Novak Lecturer in development studies, Soas
Daniel Katz Professor of English and comparative literary studies, University of Warwick
Pablo Mukherjee Reader, English and comparative literary studies, University of Warwick
Thomas Docherty Professor of English and of comparative literature, University of Warwick
John Fletcher Senior lecturer, English and comparative literature, University of Warwick
Nick Lawrence Associate professor of English and of comparative literature, University of Warwick

Eric Pickles graciously apologises for his government’s failure to dredge rivers in the Somerset Levels, while blaming the Environment Agency for giving him the wrong advice (Report, 10 February). Clearly, evidence-based scientific thinking is bound to be less reliable than the quick fix that will persuade voters that the government is doing something useful. How about stopping the backbiting and addressing the real issue, which is climate change? Or admitting that the Stern report was right eight years ago when it pointed out that the benefits of strong, early action considerably outweigh the costs? We have seen no strong action on climate change, and this government seems hellbent on ignoring scientific advice and reducing the Environment Agency’s capabilities. Presumably we are supposed to feel we are in safe hands since Mr Cameron has taken charge of the situation, along with the well-known environmental expert Mr Pickles.
Lynda Newbery
Bristol
•  We have lost sight of the fact that flood plains are not dry land that is sometimes unfortunately flooded but the distal parts of the river bed that are there to carry the water naturally when runoff is high (Flooding crisis grows as the rain keeps coming, 10 February). Our mistake was ever to allow any development, farming or otherwise, that removed that essential ecosystem service.
Many flood plains, including the former Somerset Levels, were series of shallow lakes that became interconnected in winter. Archaeological sites in the levels near Glastonbury and Meare contain lake villages, equipped with houses on raised platforms and docks for boats. But the villages of the lakes of Avalon were soon abandoned. Drainage of flood plains leads to oxidation of their underlying peats and shrinking of their silts. This deepens the natural basins and intensifies the problems already created.
Eric Pickles has displayed an appalling ignorance. It is time that all secretaries of state were appointed with proper professional qualifications for the job. My sympathies are entirely with Chris Smith and the Environment Agency.
Brian Moss
Emeritus professor, School of environmental sciences, University of Liverpool
•  The Environment Agency has been attacked for suggesting prioritisation had taken place in allocating limited capital budgets for flood risk management. Of course it had. Saving lives was the priority; protecting high-value and densely populated urban areas was funded in preference to sparsely populated, and lower-consequence, rural areas.
The poor standards of protection from flooding in England and Wales are a direct result of severely restricted capital budgets over many years. Projects have been funded only when their benefits have exceeded four or five times their costs. As a result numerous effective projects have never been implemented. Now, David Cameron and Eric Pickles have pointed fingers at the Environment Agency, claiming that the government should have ignored the EA’s expert opinion to the effect that dredging the rivers Parrett and Tone in Somerset was not cost-effective.
The British engineering industry is just as capable of managing the risk from flooding as the Dutch. Effective, economically justified and environmentally acceptable plans, which would be sustainable in the long term, exist for all river and coasts. The proposals that have been developed are based on working with nature where possible, and protecting major assets when this can be justified. However, the Defra website shows the pitiful size of the budgets provided for this work – about 10% of the sum spent per head in the Netherlands. This source also shows the huge cut in the capital budget implemented by the coalition between 2010-11 (£360m per annum) and 2011-12 (£261m per annum). These cuts may have been temporarily reversed but the damage has been done. Politicians must not be allowed to put the blame on government agencies for which they are responsible and which were implementing their instructions and prioritising projects in accordance with Treasury rules.
Greg Haigh
(Chartered engineer), Dorking, Surrey
•  The collapse of a railway embankment that is so poorly designed it is surprising it has not been breached more often (most stately homes have thicker garden walls); some wave-battered seafront properties; two panels of our fence blown down – hardly a national crisis. The febrile atmosphere appears to have been caused by a month-long campaign by Somerset farmers (Somerset evacuation gathers pace …, 7 February) to use the winter floods as an argument to support public money being used to convert their marshy pastures into good arable land, preferably, in their view, by moving the water as fast as possible in the direction of the nearest town. They need to be reminded that Vermuyden, the Dutch engineer who drained fens in Yorkshire and East Anglia, and tried to drain the Somerset Levels in the 17th century, was then forced by a lawsuit to construct a major new channel for the River Don to correct flooding that his drainage works caused to existing settlements.
We need measured consideration of what should be done for the flooded properties scattered across southern England, only a small number of which are in the levels; Network Rail to reconstruct the Dawlish line to a suitable standard for a sea wall, including laying the track on concrete not ballast, with an adequate supporting structure; and a sensible approach to flood plains and their catchments, which should not include trying to pretend that they are not flood plains.
John Hall
Bristol
• With respect, it is not a “natural disaster” (Editorial, 8 February) when we construct railways too close to the sea without adequate protection and remove alternative routes; when we build houses on flood-prone land; when planners refuse to allow buildings on “stilts”; or when, for a quarter of a century, we have denied or ignored climate change (the first IPCC Report was 1990). The hazard may be “natural” but the disaster results from our own refusal to respond to the realities, or to the forecast, of risk by continuing to create our own vulnerability.
James Lewis
Marshfield, South Gloucestershire
•  All of the affected areas in Berkshire and Somerset voted Tory or LibDem at the last election. They actively voted for cuts in public spending, and are now seeing the effects. Public spending doesn’t just mean giving handouts to a feckless underclass – it supports many services you only appreciate when they’re gone.
Tony Jones

Independent:

David Cameron wants us English to send a message to our Scottish friends. OK, mine is: you’re lucky; you have a choice about living in a neo-liberal dystopia run by a corrupt elite with a moribund political system, and if I were you I’d get the hell out.
Nick Wray
Derby

I find Pauline Taylor’s idealism quite endearing (letter, 8 February). So she wants to escape the consequences and frustration of Westminster politics. Don’t we all! I can’t help wondering, if independence does take place, whether Scots would become any less frustrated with the antics of their own politicians.
Michael Gilbert
Marlow, Buckinghamshire
Pauline Taylor provides a selection of some of the most catastrophic decisions of UK governments over the past 25 years or so, but omits such egregious political policies as the “service economy” dogma of the 1980s, neglect of our manufacturing industries, the poll tax, privatisation of most of our vital infrastructure (much of which now belongs to foreign companies), deregulation of financial markets and banking, the destruction of the NHS and much more.
As someone who lived and worked in Scotland for 10 years and now has grandchildren living there, I have a great affection for the country and would be deeply sorry if the decision were taken to leave the UK. However, I fully understand Ms Taylor’s reasoning and only wish there was a way that the rest of the UK could achieve the high quality of governance that many of us long for and all of us so badly need.
Ian Quayle
Fownhope, Herefordshire
Pauline Taylor paints a strange picture of Scottish independence. She seems to assume that the government of her newly independent country will always remain exceptionalist, centre-left liberal, and thus free from the kind of folly perpetuated by successive UK governments, many of whom had numerous Scots playing prominent roles.
Why? Is she assuming Scotland will not be a democracy? Who knows what government independent Scots will elect 10, 20, 50 years down the line?
Michael O’Hare
Northwood, Middlesex

Concentrating can be fun
If Tristram Hunt wants schools to teach children attentiveness (“Children ‘need lessons in how to concentrate’ ”, 10 February), one easy and fun way to do it would be to introduce chess lessons to the curriculum.
I coach chess in a primary school every week – one of more than 280 inner-city schools reached by the pioneering charity Chess in Schools and Communities. Not only does playing chess clearly help children to concentrate in a quiet environment, but it also improves the ability to think critically, solve problems, and manage emotions.
It also provides potential for positive role modelling. Mr Hunt only has to ask his colleagues Rachel Reeves and the Eagle twins, all former chess prodigies.
Sandy Ruxton
Oxford
I started to read the interview with Tristram Hunt and his assertion that children need to be taught to concentrate. However, I was distracted by the telly and couldn’t be bothered to finish it.
Mark Thomas
Histon, Cambridgeshire

It helps a lot to have rich parents
Nicholas Bevington (letter, 7 February) has understated the advantages of an independent education.
It all starts with the advantage of affluent parents, able to ensure that before formal education starts the child has the best start possible. At school the child will have the chance to mix with the “right” kind of children, maybe make the “right” contacts, maybe be coached to ensure he or she goes to the “right” university.
After leaving, the young person will have established the contacts to make a good start in a job, or maybe an unpaid internship with the people who can ensure that he or she moves rapidly up the ladder. And they may meet the “right” partner to ensure that this privilege gets passed on to any children.
The picture in the same issue of The Independent of the Government front bench amply shows the advantage of an independent education.
Forgive me if I sound bitter, but a lifetime teaching children from often deprived backgrounds taught me that some children have barriers to overcome that children from independent schools could never contemplate.
Brian Dalton
Sheffield
I see Michael Gove’s latest plan to improve educational standards is to make all schools “as good as the independent schools”. He hopes people visiting schools will not be able to tell whether they are in a state school or an independent school.
Apart from doubting the wisdom of this, in that employers continue to tell us that the skills they need are in communication, team-working and problem solving and not in learning and regurgitating facts, I have an easy measure to suggest. Any visitor would only need to count the number of pupils in a classroom in relation to the qualified teachers present to know exactly the kind of school they are in.
Celia Jordan
Warrington

Crow’s mistake: he’s too good at his job
The personal attacks on Bob Crow just go to prove how effective he is as a trade unionist. He really stands up for RMT members and gets results.
It’s amusing to hear commentators and politicians bleating about their belief in trade unionism and their objections to Crow. These hypocrites are merely underlining how they will stand up for trade unionism just so long as it is ineffective. More union leaders like Bob Crow would mean a more equal and just society all round.
Also, why don’t those papers that go taking pictures of Crow on holiday send their paparazzi out in search of the various City bankers sunning it up on our taxes (their bonuses) in distant parts?
Paul Donovan
London E11

Ukip ‘nutters’ start  to look dangerous
Peter Hain’s warning to Labour about the influence of Ukip is a wake-up call that the party ignores at its peril. The Tea Party in the US arose out of disaffection with the political class. It too was seen as a bunch of “nutters” at the fringe until it became clear that it was a growing influence in national politics which couldn’t be stopped.
The result is Tea Party dominance of the Republican Party in Congress, which deeply damages national governance. Ukip is not the Tea Party but it is a political movement from a similar root and with a similar level of appeal.
Paula Jones
London SW20
Peter Hain fears that Ukip will hurt Labour as much as the Conservatives. This is only to be expected given that an informal incomes policy of importing cheap labour with the aim of depressing unskilled pay has been operative for some time and was most in evidence under Blair and Brown. Curtail immigration and the market will automatically raise unskilled wages. It’s that simple.
Not being able to control migrants from within an ever-expanding EU is tantamoumt to importing cheap labour.
Yugo Kovach
Winterborne Houghton, Dorset

Shifting the blame for the floods
Experts agree that climate change is almost certainly the cause of the current flooding. The Government, meanwhile, is pushing all-out for fracking, which will make climate change far worse.
And then it cuts the  Environment Agency’s budget, and then tries to blame it for the flooding. Extraordinary!
Dr Bob Banks
Grindleford, Derbyshire

Giraffe condemned for his genes
I am very distressed and saddened by the execution of a healthy 18-month-old giraffe, just because his genes were too similar to other giraffes in a breeding programme.
The actions of Copenhagen Zoo are perverse especially in the light of at least two wildlife parks that were willing to have him and a wealthy benefactor who would pay for him. From a young age I never liked the concept of zoos and only tolerated them because of breeding programmes to conserve endangered species. Zoos must now change to restore faith in their usefulness.
Susan Rowberry
Saxmundham, Suffolk

Not bad for an undesirable type
For Yasmin Alibhai-Brown to write (10 February) that the Tory activist she met was “genial and open-minded for a landed gent from the shires” is the moral equivalent of suggesting that such and such a person was “quite intelligent and non-violent for a black boy from Brixton”. But you wouldn’t print the latter, would you?
D J Taylor

Times:

‘What is needed is a coherent restructuring of our air assets and putting them into new commands to meet modern-day needs’
Sir, Professor Overy (Opinion, Feb 8) looks at history in the Second World War, 70 years ago, to defend retention of a separate Air Force, but does not examine future requirements for air support, especially in view of current economic trends. Manned combat aircraft have a limited life; we are saddled with Euro Fighter; fine for the Cold War, but of limited use in today’s operations. The Army operates 60 Apache helicopters, as it was obvious that the RAF could not provide close support to ground troops. Search and Rescue goes to the Coastguard shortly. Bombers are long gone, with strategic strike from ballistic and cruse missiles provided by the RN. The new mobile airfields are our two carriers. Battlefield transport helicopters could be transferred to the service they support, the Army, as should the manpower cover of that semi-infantry guard force, the RAF Regiment. Transport should be contracted out, as many other logistic functions have already been. Air defence of the UK should be an RN responsibility, as it was prior to 1918. Future unmanned aircraft would be operated by the user service; the Army for instance already uses Royal Artillery drones.
We now operate in partnerships/ alliances and the need for us to maintain aircraft of every type has moved on. We must rationalise and save on costly infrastructure.
P. K. Robinson, Lt-Col (Ret’d)
Norwich
Sir, Professor Overy is somewhat dismissive of the Royal Navy (and Army). The Fleet Air Arm (FAA) since 1945 has been in involved in a wide range of military/political scenarios likely to be met during the next few decades — including Suez, the Borneo/Malaysian confrontations, East African Mutiny, Iraq (1961) and the Falklands and Afghanistan.
What is needed now is a coherent restructuring of our air assets and putting them into new commands to meet modern-day needs of the UK. Why not consider a maritime strike command whereby all the F35s and Apaches come under Navy control and so justify the expense and use of the two new aircraft carriers? This command would deal with overseas operations. Secondly, reorganise the RAF into just three commands: UK air defence command (Typhoons), air logistics command (tanking & transport) and future warfare command (drones, etc).
Keith Abnett
(FAA 1961-1985), Poole, Dorset
Sir, It is a pity that ancient inter-service battles are still being played out on your letters page. A pity because there is so much of greater importance on which the Armed Services should unite.
The shortage of naval surface combatants, the shortage of combat aircraft — land and sea based — and concern over army manpower are just a few of the matters which deserve the attention of all.
To put it at its simplest, gaining control of the seas, control of the land, and the control of air and space are respectively best vested in those whose training and career has been focused on these demanding environments. Employing to maximum advantage the many facets of air power from deep penetration of enemy airspace to the gathering of intelligence from specialised air platforms is simply not core business for the Royal Navy nor the Army.
As a wise and long serving politician once said to us: “You are all at your best when you work together.” This has been proved time and time again and it is disappointing that a few intent on airing prejudices from the past are still given space to do so,
Air Chief Marshal Sir Michael Graydon
Air Chief Marshal Sir Peter Squire
London SW1
Sir, Counter to Professor Overy’s view, it may be pointed out that the United States Air Force was not formed until 1947. The US conducted all wartime air operations with the undisputed effectiveness of naval aviation and the Army Air Corps.
The only operational task that cannot be carried out readily by naval or army air elements is transport command — the solution is to employ civil aviation just as the Royal Navy is given excellent support by the Royal Fleet Auxiliary.
The inescapable truth is that a separate air service is neither an imperative nor desirable and its demise would save much money.
Alan Hensher
Captain RN ret’d, Liphook, Hants
Sir, Professor Overy makes a powerful case for the retention of the RAF independent of the Army and Navy. This underlines what a foolish decision it was to privatise the Air Sea Rescue service, thereby weakening the vital helicopter arm of our forces.
Sir, Professor Overy (Opinion, Feb 8) looks at history in the Second World War, 70 years ago, to defend retention of a separate Air Force, but does not examine future requirements for air support, especially in view of current economic trends. Manned combat aircraft have a limited life; we are saddled with Euro Fighter; fine for the Cold War, but of limited use in today’s operations. The Army operates 60 Apache helicopters, as it was obvious that the RAF could not provide close support to ground troops. Search and Rescue goes to the Coastguard shortly. Bombers are long gone, with strategic strike from ballistic and cruse missiles provided by the RN. The new mobile airfields are our two carriers. Battlefield transport helicopters could be transferred to the service they support, the Army, as should the manpower cover of that semi-infantry guard force, the RAF Regiment. Transport should be contracted out, as many other logistic functions have already been. Air defence of the UK should be an RN responsibility, as it was prior to 1918. Future unmanned aircraft would be operated by the user service; the Army for instance already uses Royal Artillery drones.
We now operate in partnerships/ alliances and the need for us to maintain aircraft of every type has moved on. We must rationalise and save on costly infrastructure.
P. K. Robinson, Lt-Col (Ret’d)
Norwich
Sir, Professor Overy is somewhat dismissive of the Royal Navy (and Army). The Fleet Air Arm (FAA) since 1945 has been in involved in a wide range of military/political scenarios likely to be met during the next few decades — including Suez, the Borneo/Malaysian confrontations, East African Mutiny, Iraq (1961) and the Falklands and Afghanistan.
What is needed now is a coherent restructuring of our air assets and putting them into new commands to meet modern-day needs of the UK. Why not consider a maritime strike command whereby all the F35s and Apaches come under Navy control and so justify the expense and use of the two new aircraft carriers? This command would deal with overseas operations. Secondly, reorganise the RAF into just three commands: UK air defence command (Typhoons), air logistics command (tanking & transport) and future warfare command (drones, etc).
Keith Abnett
(FAA 1961-1985), Poole, Dorset
Sir, It is a pity that ancient inter-service battles are still being played out on your letters page. A pity because there is so much of greater importance on which the Armed Services should unite.
The shortage of naval surface combatants, the shortage of combat aircraft — land and sea based — and concern over army manpower are just a few of the matters which deserve the attention of all.
To put it at its simplest, gaining control of the seas, control of the land, and the control of air and space are respectively best vested in those whose training and career has been focused on these demanding environments. Employing to maximum advantage the many facets of air power from deep penetration of enemy airspace to the gathering of intelligence from specialised air platforms is simply not core business for the Royal Navy nor the Army.
As a wise and long serving politician once said to us: “You are all at your best when you work together.” This has been proved time and time again and it is disappointing that a few intent on airing prejudices from the past are still given space to do so,
Air Chief Marshal Sir Michael Graydon
Air Chief Marshal Sir Peter Squire
London SW1
Sir, Counter to Professor Overy’s view, it may be pointed out that the United States Air Force was not formed until 1947. The US conducted all wartime air operations with the undisputed effectiveness of naval aviation and the Army Air Corps.
The only operational task that cannot be carried out readily by naval or army air elements is transport command — the solution is to employ civil aviation just as the Royal Navy is given excellent support by the Royal Fleet Auxiliary.
The inescapable truth is that a separate air service is neither an imperative nor desirable and its demise would save much money.
Alan Hensher
Captain RN ret’d, Liphook, Hants
Sir, Professor Overy makes a powerful case for the retention of the RAF independent of the Army and Navy. This underlines what a foolish decision it was to privatise the Air Sea Rescue service, thereby weakening the vital helicopter arm of our forces.

Sir, The letters about the railway along the South Devon coast (Feb 8) all came from addresses outside the county. There are many theories about alternative routes, all of which seem to ignore both the costs of their construction and the economics of running a railway. To divert the line from South Devon would cut off the populations of Teignbridge, South Hams and Torbay with passenger numbers in 2011/12 of nearly four and half million, which is a third of those using the rail system west of Exeter. It would be a strange business that undertakes an expensive capital scheme which would result in the loss of a third of its customers.
What is needed is a modern retaining wall with a wave return profile. This could be constructed immediately in front of the existing thin masonry wall without disrupting services during its construction.
Edward Chorlton
Teignmouth, Devon
Sir, When a historic and beautiful building is damaged, it is rebuilt just as it was; so it should be with the Dawlish line. I make the Exeter to Plymouth journey once a month and the pleasure — indeed excitement — of the ride is undiminished. Most passengers try to sit on the left-hand side for the best view, putting down their papers to gaze out of the window as the Exe Estuary with its variety of wading birds comes into view. From Dawlish to the outskirts of Teignmouth the sea is immediately below you; on rough high-tide days it sprays the train windows.
This line is not just for transport, it is part of the soul of Devon. I have faith in our engineers to make the line safe without diminishing the pleasure it gives to people.
hilary bradt
Seaton, Devon

Engineering and technology have the worst gender diversity of all disciplines with just 17.2 per cent of female academics
Sir, The House of Commons’ Science and Technology Committee Report on Women in Scientific Careers published last week highlights the gulf between senior female professors and their male counterparts.
Figures from Engineering UK show that engineering and technology has the worst gender diversity of all disciplines with just 17.2 per cent of female academics — a shocking figure.
It is important to support women throughout academic life and both employers and institutions can play a key role in this. Confidence and recognition are also key motivators for women, which is why the IET highlights the achievements of women in engineering through its various awards, events and workshops to develop skills. Much more needs to be done to reverse this huge gender disparity.
Michelle Richmond
Institution of Engineering and Technology, London WC2

Natural England firmly believes that ‘conservation sites can be managed alongside necessary water level management measures’
Sir, Alice Thomson’s claim (Feb 5) that Natural England believes the Somerset Levels should be managed solely for wildlife misrepresents our view. We firmly believe that conservation sites can be managed alongside necessary water level management measures. We have never objected to dredging proposals and have backed an extensive investment programme to ensure people, productive farm businesses and wildlife can continue to benefit from this unique landscape.
Resolving the flooding problems is a matter of the utmost priority. We are committed to working with our partners to ensure that dredging and other flood alleviation work is carried out rapidly and in such a way that protects and supports the people that live and work there.
Andrew Sells
Chairman, Natural England

Mr Gove’s new history curriculum means that there is no onus on schools to teach the history of the First World War at all
Sir, Mary Beard asks (Feb 8) “Why do we want an education minister (Michael Gove) telling us what to teach about the First World War?”
In fact, Michael Gove’s new national curriculum for history makes it entirely optional whether schools teach anything about the First World War. Professor Beard might be cheered, however, to know that he has made it a requirement that schools teach about Ancient Greece.
Chris Mcgovern
Campaign for Real Education

Telegraph:

SIR – Christopher Howse’s defence of military pageantry is timely. The work that charities such as Help for Heroes have done in bringing our Armed Forces back into the heart of our society contrasts starkly with the efforts of successive governments to make them invisible, by disbanding local regiments and selling off historic city-centre barracks for short-term profit, for example.
The pomp and circumstance of military tradition binds new generations of servicemen and women to the legacy they inherit from those who came before, building another bridge between them and the public they serve. Our Armed Forces should be visible in our everyday lives, not merely distant figures we see on the news or for whom we shake tins in pity.
Career politicians seem determined to demonstrate that they know the price of everything and the value of nothing.
Victor Launert
Matlock, Derbyshire

SIR – David Langfield questions why, if all the people of Europe want to stay in the EU, Ukip thinks it is right to wish Britain to leave.
It is by no means Ukip alone. There is a growing opposition to the EU across Europe, with the elections in May expected to return the most eurosceptic parliament yet.
Electorates, it seems, feel they have been railroaded into their present relationship with the EU by politicians failing to put the interests of their country first and showing weakness in the face of this centralised power.
Many must surely look to Norway and Switzerland, which have safeguarded their democracy and sovereignty and prospered outside the EU while still enjoying influence with Brussels.
It is unworkable to integrate 28 different countries with such incompatible backgrounds, sacrificing their sense of national identity and Europe’s wonderful diversity for the sake of a one-size-fits-all “utopia”. This is clumsily administered by unelected bureaucrats who have been exposed (by the EU itself) as being involved in fraud and corrupt dealings estimated to exceed £100 billion a year.
Related Articles
Dr Beeching’s closures don’t look so sensible now
09 Feb 2014
More competition won’t improve the NHS
09 Feb 2014
It will be the people who will undoubtedly bring about change.
David Rammell
Everton, Hampshire
SIR – David Langfield confuses the ruled with rulers. While politicians may well be content to live in what amounts to a bureaucratic dictatorship, the people certainly are not.
On one of the rare occasions when they were permitted to give an opinion – on the Lisbon Treaty – the Irish, French and Dutch all said no, but under what passes for democracy in the EU, they were very quickly either ignored or told to vote again and this time to give the answer their masters demanded.
Ukip is not wrong: it, and many similar groups throughout Europe, is merely giving a voice to those many despairing people who long once again to live in a democratic, sovereign nation.
E G Barrows
Wittersham, Kent
SIR – The people of the great nations of Europe are not wrong in wishing to remain in the EU and keep the euro. But for the majority of nation states that are net receivers of EU funding, it is in their own interests to do so.
Since they comprise the majority group, they can outvote the minority of net givers whenever it is in their interests to do so. Of the net givers, France benefits hugely from the Common Agricultural Policy, while economically powerful Germany now dominates the EU.
Britain, by contrast, has never sought to control Europe, but to trade with it; since trade unites while politics divides. Thank goodness that Ukip and some Tory MPs appreciate this essential truth.
Harry W Barstow
Box, Wiltshire
SIR – The EU has brought us loss of democracy, loss of sovereignty, loss of border control, over-regulation, destruction of industry, and the requirement to pay large sums to an organisation that cannot balance its books.
Andy Bebbington
Stone, Staffordshire
SIR – For many of us, self-determination is the mark of a free nation: democracy is more deeply embedded in Britain than many countries elsewhere. We need a referendum.
Geoffrey J Samuel
Twickenham, Middlesex
SIR – It is not for other nations of Europe, or any of our political parties, to determine the fate of our own truly great nation; it is for the people to decide.
Ukip wants us out but it is the people who will choose, when politicians dare to trust them.
Grahame Wiggin
Cannock, Staffordshire
SIR – No one knows what the people of the great nations of Europe think about the EU. All we know is what the ruling parties they elected think.
Wouldn’t it be interesting to find out by having an EU-wide referendum?
Mick Andrews
Doncaster, West Yorkshire

SIR – Commercial fires are extremely costly. Every year, warehouse fires alone cause a direct financial loss of £230 million to British businesses, the loss of £190 million in GDP, 1,000 British job losses, and £32 million lost in tax receipts to the Exchequer.
These losses are wholly avoidable. Fire sprinklers are cost-beneficial to install and they prevent large fires, safeguarding fire crews, workers, businesses, property, the economy and the environment.
We call on the Government to promote more actively the installation of sprinklers in industrial and commercial premises, and review current guidance to bring fire safety policy in line with competitor economies.
These actions would make British businesses more resilient and competitive, and help ensure that avoidable fires do not hinder continuing economic recovery.
Members of Parliament
Andrew Stephenson (Pendle)
Annette Brooke (Mid Dorset and North Poole)
Bob Stewart (Beckenham)
Chris Evans (Islwyn)
Clive Betts (Sheffield SE)
David Amess (Southend West)
Graeme Morrice (Livingston)
Henry Bellingham (NW Norfolk)
Ian Lavery (Wansbeck)
Jim Fitzpatrick (Poplar and Limehouse)
Joan Wally (Stoke-on-Trent North)
Mark Durkan (Foyle)
Mary Glindon (North Tyneside)
Paul Maynard (Blackpool North and Cleveleys)
Peter Aldous (Waveney)
Philip Hollobone (Kettering)
Roger Williams (Brecon and Radnorshire)
Ronnie Campbell (Blyth Valley)
Rosie Cooper (West Lancashire)
Simon Wright (Norwich
Sir Alan Beith (Berwich upon Tweed)
Sir Peter Bottomley
Steve Rotheram (Liverpool Walton)
Peers
Lord Brookman
Lord Davies of Coity
Lord Harrison
Lord Howie of Troon
Lord Palmer of Childs Hill
Councillors
Cllr Andre Gonzalez De Savage
Cabinet Member for Strategic Infrastructure, Economic Growth and Public Protection, Northamptonshire County Council
Cllr Anthony Hedley
Chairman, Essex Fire Authority
Cllr Barbara Murray
Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority
Cllr Colin Spence
Cabinet member Suffolk County Council
Cllr Dave Hanratty
Chairman, Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority
Cllr Denise Roberts
Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority
Cllr Helyn Clack
Cabinet member, Surrey county Council
Cllr Jean Stapleton
Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority
Cllr Jimmy Mahon
Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority
Cllr John Edwards
Chairman, West Midlands Fire Authority
Cllr John Kelly
Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority
Cllr Lesley Rennie
Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority
Cllr Leslie Byrom
Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority
Cllr Linda Maloney
Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority
Cllr Pat Maloney
Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority
Cllr Rebecca Knox
Chairman, Dorset Fire Authority
Cllr Robbie Ayres
Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority
Cllr Sharon Sullivan
Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority
Cllr Steve Niblock
Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority
Cllr Ted Grannell
Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority
Cllr Violet Bebb
Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority
State of the Union
SIR – David Cameron my be right in saying that the issue of independence for Scotland is a matter for those living there.
The matter of sharing the pound, however, is very much an issue for all of us in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Jonathan Hawkins
London SW20
SIR – The Prime Minister’s call for exiled Scots to email, text and tweet their kin back home, to persuade them not to jump, is an intriguing one. He relies heavily on alliteration to make his point. Those communicating between “Belfast and Bute” could possibly convey their views by semaphore. I wonder, however, if the air waves between Morningside and Milton Keynes, or Acton and Auchtermuchty, will be buzzing with impassioned debate?
James L Shearer
Edinburgh
Ring malfunction
SIR – My husband is Russian. I am English (though a fluent Russian speaker). Unable to decide where to watch the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympic Games, we had two televisions on at full blast, one on a Russian channel and one on BBC2. I was flitting between the two, trying to decide which was most enjoyable.
The snowflake malfunction happened on my television, but all was wonderful on the Russian version, with five rings burning bright.
Is Potemkin alive and well?
Fenella Ignatiev
London SW7
Sisterhood of the gown
SIR – My three sisters and I all wore the same wedding dress.
Rather than buy a new dress, I chose to have a new set of hunting clothes. Another sister opted for a smart overcoat. She had to be sewn in to the dress on the day as the zip bust, so a new one had to be put in for our final sister, which was not a major expense.
Clementine Calver
Fifield, Oxfordshire
SIR – My mother married in 1941. Material was in short supply, so she wore her wedding dress as a nightdress for many years. Whenever she came into the bedroom, my father never failed to hum Here Comes the Bride. It drove her mad.
Kay Patience
Danbury, Essex
A real deterrent
SIR – We do not believe that the Royal United Services Institute (Rusi) has, as an organisation, endorsed the idea that continuous at-sea deterrence can safely be abandoned by our Trident nuclear force. The views expressed in the Rusi analyst Hugh Chalmers’ convoluted paper are clearly labelled as “entirely the author’s own” and should not be ascribed to the institute as a whole.
His conclusion that “even an inactive fleet of submarines can help to deter actors from seriously threatening the UK” is based on a fallacy. Though admitting that such a fleet “would be vulnerable to a no-notice [enemy] strike”, Mr Chalmers asserts that “such an attack seems highly unlikely without prior indication or provocation”.
If we were known to have a part-time deterrent posture, any rational enemy would have maximum incentive to strike without warning, precisely to prevent the reconstitution of our power to retaliate. History abounds with cases of aggression which took the victim wholly by surprise. It also teaches us that some aggressors may take enormous risks if, but only if, they think they may avoid the consequences.
It is the certainty of retaliation, as much as the magnitude of retaliation, which lies at the heart of deterrence. An uncertain deterrent may ward off some attackers, but it would be an open invitation to others that the risks are now worth taking.
Julian Lewis MP (Con)
Bernard Jenkin MP (Con)
London SW1
Privacy in the palace
SIR – From the way Rev Arun Arora, director of communications of the Church Commissioners, writes about the decision to evict the Bishop of Wells from his palace, one assumes he is familiar with the accommodation.
This being the case, it is surprising that he did not mention that: the bishop’s apartment is largely self-contained and has a private garden; members of the public are not allowed to walk near the bishop’s wing; the palace and grounds are seldom open to the public of an evening.
Richard Hanks
Wells, Somerset
SIR – Perhaps the best use of the Bishop’s Palace may be to open it up to fee-payers. Who would not want the experience of waking up on a spring morning and looking out at the cathedral and its perfect reflection in the ponds below?
Ginny Hudson
Swanmore, Hampshire
Scattering light to identify a fake or a fortune
SIR – Tom Rowley explores the emotive issue of what to do with established art forgeries.
The supposed Chagall painting (with no provenance) that he refers to was easily identified (in the presence of both the owners and the presenters of the BBC’s Fake or Fortune) to be a forgery in my laboratory, at University College London on July 23 last year, by a light-scattering technique known as Raman microscopy. This involves irradiating each pigment on a painting with a laser beam of specific wavelength (colour) and low power, and then collecting separately the light scattered by each pigment. This leads to the rapid identification of most of the pigments present. As synthetic pigments have known first dates of manufacture, this allows you to date the painting.
We developed the technique in the late Eighties. Sothebys knew of this work by 1992. The Chagall painting could have been studied over 20 years ago with the same conclusion.
I am disappointed that neither of the presenters of Fake or Fortune made this clear. The conclusion that the painting is a forgery is based on our spectroscopic results, which revealed that at least two of the key pigments present had not been synthesised until the late Thirties, putting the earliest date for the painting at 1938, long after the supposed date of 1909-10.
This result unequivocally demonstrates that the painting is not what it purports to be. It was this information, given to the Chagall Committee, that gave them no option but to confirm the forgery.
How can we encourage art historians to read science journals and so know about significant developments in science as applied to the arts?
Professor Robin J H Clark
Ramsay Professor Emeritus
Chemistry Department, UCL

SIR – Eric Pickles, the Communities Secretary, now says the Government got it wrong with regard to dredging the Somerset waterways.
Instead of trying to blame his advisers, he should ask why it went wrong. The answer is because of the highly centralised bureaucracy that controls our country. Decision-making and responsibility need to be decentralised. Instead of a minister deciding whether or not to dredge, it should be local people.
Barrie Skelcher
Leiston, Suffolk
SIR – The pictures of the damaged railway at Dawlish reminded me of the image of the damage to a road during the Tohoku earthquake in March, 2011.
What will be interesting to compare will be the image of a fully repaired Japanese road six days after the earthquake struck and whatever transpires at Dawlish.
Graeme W McNaught
Athens
SIR – There is no need to bring in the Dutch, as we have the necessary expertise in Britain.
What we lack is the Dutch political will to alter the priorities for constructing flood protection schemes. The Dutch government has a specific funding stream for flood defence, and its engineers are generally required to design flood defences to a much higher specification than in Britain.
Dominic Reeve
Professor of Coastal Engineering
Swansea University
SIR – Dutch engineers would probably help, but I wonder if Cobra has considered calling on our own engineers. As one, I cannot understand the logic of pumping huge quantities of water into rivers that are already overflowing.
Surely the rivers need to be made deeper or wider before the excess water can begin to flow away; flood water may continue to increase and will remain for months unless dredging is done now.
Mike Haywood
Woodmancote, Gloucestershire
SIR – The Isle of Man operates a volunteer Civil Defence Corps which can be deployed to assist the civilian population in such matters as search and rescue and flood response. It also operates equipment, such as portable generators and four-wheel drive vehicles.
Perhaps the Prime Minister should consider reinstating our own Civil Defence Corps, which was stood down in 1968.
David Sanders
Ferring, West Sussex
SIR – I can well believe your headline “Flood defences delayed for birds”. At a recent Environment Agency lecture, we were told that culling of mink is suspended during the breeding season to assuage the feelings of animal lovers.
Lt-Cdr Stephen Smith (retd)
Wokingham, Berkshire

Irish Times:

Sir, – Breda O’Brien (Opinion, February 8th) seems to think that a Yes vote in the forthcoming referendum on marriage equality will be an endorsement of those who seek to stifle the expression of dissenting views on the issue. I can assure her that it will be nothing of the sort. The only outcome of a Yes vote will be that same-sex couples will finally be afforded the same rights that other couples currently enjoy in society. Nothing more, nothing less. – Yours, etc,
ADAM LONG,
Ballina-Killaloe,
Co Tipperary.
Sir, – We must feel pity for any of our public representatives who decide to put forward arguments in defence of marriage, as currently defined by the Constitution, during the forthcoming debate about same-sex marriage. The amount of abuse and bullying they are likely to receive will be enough to silence them as soon as they voice their views – so most likely they will not voice them, which is exactly what the proponents of gay marriage want. They don’t want a debate: they know what they want and seem to have little respect for other people’s views.
Should we not find it unfair and extremely damaging if politicians were to be called anti-Semitic because they expressed their views about Palestinians having a right to protect their land, not agreeing with Israeli settlements being built in Gaza? They do not dislike Jews at all, but understand the politics and social rights of citizens in the Middle East differently from pro-Israelis. The same applies in the current debate about same-sex marriage in Ireland. – Yours, etc,
LUISON LASSALA,
Richmond Avenue South,
Milltown, Dublin 6.
A chara, – May I respectfully suggest that if someone is upset by being called homophobic, they refrain from espousing homophobic views. Problem solved. – Is mise,
EMILY NEENAN,
George’s Quay, Dublin 2.
Sir, – I have been reading with absolute fascination the excellent debate in your letters columns re homophobia and gay marriage and the parallel controversy encompassing your esteemed columnist John Waters and the artist Panti Bliss.
I wonder how many of your contributors are aware that it is exactly 120 years since the Marquess of Queensberry called on Oscar Wilde at 16 Tite Street, London in 1894 and accused him of having an affair with his son Douglas. It was subsequently on February 18th,1895, that the marquess left his calling card at Wilde’s club, the Albemarle inscribed “For Oscar Wilde, posing somdomite”. Oscar, greatly embarrassed and much against the advice of his friends and his lawyers then rashly initiated the private prosecution for libel against the Marquess of Queensberry which proved so fatal to himself but made him an immortal hero to the gay community. Maybe the late Seamus Heaney was more than prescient when he said that “hope and history rhyme ”. – Yours, etc,
MICHAEL O’FLANAGAN,
Emmet Road,
Kilmainham, Dublin 8.
A chara, – Like Breda O’Brien, I too think that not everybody should be allowed to marry. As a Cork woman I think that Dubliners should not be afforded this right. They are different to us, their relationships are not of the same worth as ours and can sometimes be sinful. Please understand that this does not mean that I have anything against Dubliners or that I am racist. I love people from Dublin, some of them are my best friends. I merely want the superior nature of Corkonians to be protected and recognised by the Irish State. Ideally I would have a quarter page of a national newspaper to espouse my views, but I don’t. Hence the need for a letter. – Is mise,
KAY CHALMERS,
Well Road, Douglas, Cork.
Sir, – Breda O’Brien (Opinion, February 8th) just doesn’t get it. It isn’t about her. The nobility and purity of one’s intentions are irrelevant. It is not that opposition to marriage equality makes one homophobic, it is that homosexual people experience opposition to marriage equality as homophobia. It’s not about straight commentators’ intentions, it is about gay people’s real lives. – Yours, etc,

ALLAN DEERING,
Ashurst College Road,
Kilkenny.
Sir, – What Breda O’Brien (Opinion, February 8th) and most commentators on both sides of the argument fail to acknowledge in this debate in the failure in our vocabulary. If someone were to shout a racist remark in the street, it would not necessarily mean they are a xenophobe. Xenophobia is the fear, dislike or hatred of people from other nations or races. An act of discrimination towards people from other nations or of other races is termed racist. A clear failure of our lexicon is that we don’t differentiate. Homophobia in our society means the fear, dislike and hatred of homosexuals, but it is also colloquially used to describe the manifestations and actions seen in society, which range from subtle to extreme discrimination.
It would be better to use the appropriate term sexualism, the discrimination of some based on sexuality. That way we might be able to differentiate between the homophobia of some and the sexualist behaviour of others. Some groups are hiding behind this blurred line, because their actions are indeed sexualist, but they do not believe they are inherently homophobic. It appears they are throwing off genuine arguments and instead are using homophobia-gate as a defence of discrimination based on sexuality. I challenge us to move on and call those who are sexualist sexualists, but do not forget that our country still suffers from homophobia, in public and private. – Yours, etc,
AMY WORRALL,
New Square, Trinity College
Dublin, Dublin 2.
Sir, – Sean Mullan (February 8th) rightly points out that people “are prisoners of the systems and structures of their times”. Their thinking process is affected by the culture in which they grown up.
Brendan Ryan (February 8th) provided us with details of the naming and shaming vilifications that have, for too long, been part of our national debate and which TV licence payers are now been asked to accept as “robust exchanges”.
What is worth noting in all of this is how the supposedly liberal commentators are locked into the naming and shaming game used by the Catholic Church and are quick to lambast those who disagree with charges of ignorance, hypocrisy or homophobia. The approach is simple: make people feel guilty and browbeat them into giving in.
Should we allow ourselves to be dominated or held prisoners by those who now shout the loudest and attempt to layer on the guilty if we fail to worship at their altar or the altar of equality? Surely the time has come to rid ourselves of such nefarious tactics and name-calling.
Are we not free to believe that the fitting together of the two equal, opposite, physically, biologically and emotionally compatible pieces of the marriage jigsaw is very different from trying to fit two pieces together that have the same shape and psychology? Is it discrimination or discernment to think that results would be different?
Can a pluralistic society not accept and value these differences or do we have to stay locked up in the same old game? – Yours, etc,
SEAMUS O’CALLAGHAN,
Bullock Park, Carlow.
Sir, – Many commentators seem not to appreciate the power of complacency. I refer in particular to Chris Connolly’s article (pub. February 7th), arguing that, by Panti Bliss’s logic, not supporting polygamy is equivalent towards being prejudiced towards those who wish to partake in same. He asks if we accept the label of “anti-polygamy bigot”. I do, unreservedly.
We live in a society which denies polygamy. I am taking no action to change this, nor do I intend to. Therefore, I am aiding in the oppression of this concept. Likewise, if you live in Ireland – a country which denies marriage equality, and hence legally discriminates against its citizens based on sexual orientation – and you feel that the status quo is perfectly acceptable, you are abetting a homophobic system. You are, whether you want to admit it or not, homophobic. In the words of Edmund Burke, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” Beware the power of complacency. – Yours, etc,
BARRY NEENAN,
Tullow Road, Carlow.
Sir, – Sadly, the whole debate about same-sex “marriage” is laced with hypocrisy. Fundamentally, we must ask what does “marriage” mean and why does a State give its imprimatur, and special concessions, to a private arrangement between two citizens? Historically, with religious input, it is an effort at social engineering based on the belief that the nuclear family is the ideal societal unit.
If as a society we no longer accept this to be true, then the referendum should be about removing “marriage” as an arrangement with special status from the Constitution and for the State to treat every individual equally. – Yours, etc,
CHARLES O’CONNELL,
The Mill, Phibsboro,
Dublin 7.
Sir, – Was the hilarious juxtaposition on Page 16 of Saturday’s paper (February 8th) intentional? Breda O’Brien’s article tilting at the windmills of equality while mounting a woolly defence of her beliefs found itself underneath a delightful cartoon criticising Vladimir Putin’s homophobia and next to Donald Clarke’s article claiming Panti-gate proves oratory is still alive. Was this a sly joke on the part of editors or an example of schizophrenic editorial policy? – Yours, etc,
DARRAGH ROCHE,
Lenihan Avenue,
Prospect,
Limerick.
Sir, – “Are you now, or have you ever been, in favour of retaining the traditional meaning of marriage? Well, you now know that the most likely explanation for that mistaken view is homophobia”, writes Breda O’Brien (Opinion, February 8th).
I have rarely heard the case for marriage equality put more succinctly. But Breda O’Brien is wrong to think of homophobia as a mindset that one can be “accused” of.
One is not accused of arachnophobia, for example.
It is an illness which needs treatment and those suffering from it should be treated with compassion, understanding and sympathy.
So too with homophobia. It can and has been treated successfully. However, while a person is in the grip of a phobia it is important that they be challenged if they are going about trying to instil their phobia in others, especially impressionable young children. Children should not be made afraid of spiders. Nor should they be made fear same-sex relationships.
What makes the sufferer of homophobia so dangerous around children is that they often call on God to justify their phobia, implying that God too suffers from homophobia. This can have a devastating effect on children, even adults.
Ms O’Brien adds: “By any reasonable person’s standards, to describe someone as homophobic is to take their good name”.
But surely this is impossible. A good name can never be damaged because one suffers from a mental or emotional disorder.
One is simply ill and in need of help, and what is more, everybody around them knows it, except of course those suffering from the same disorder. What all sufferers of phobias should know is that help is out there. They should not be embarrassed to ask for it. – Yours, etc,
DECLAN KELLY,
Whitechurch Road,
Rathfarnham,
Dublin 14.
Sir, – I would like to suggest that Breda O’Brien (Opinion, February 8th) direct her friends who feel their jobs have been threatened by their daring to express reservations about marriage equality to the Employment Equality Acts 1998-2011. Their positions are protected therein.
Unfortunately, the positions of gay or lesbian teachers are not protected under these Acts, by virtue of Section 37, against the reform of which Ms. O’Brien’s Iona Institute consistently argues. – Yours, etc,
BERNIE LINNANE
McBRIDE,
Dromahair,
Co Leitrim.
Sir, – The Government will be taking an interest in the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission’s offices (Home News, February 10th), and in due time there will be a report to the Dáil and the citizenry will follow the story with interest.
Does this mean that we will be those who watch the watchers who watch the watchers who watch the watchers? Interesting that such a scenario should be one of the marks of this 30th anniversary of 1984. Watch this space. – Yours, etc,
CHARLIE TALBOT,
Moanbane Park,
Kilcullen,
Co Kildare.

Sir, – Stephen Collins (“Clear progress made on jobs but effort must be kept up,” Opinion, February 8th) stated, “pay rates in Ireland are still high even by European standards”. This is not true. According to the EU Commission’s Eurostat (2011), hourly Irish labour costs in the business economy – essentially, the private sector – are 14 per cent below the average of other EU15 (the first 15 EU member countries). When compared to our peer group, other small open economies such as Austria, Belgium and Finland, Irish labour costs are 30 per cent below average. This is confirmed by the national accounts of EU15 countries which shows that Irish hourly employee compensation is similarly well below average.
The fact is that Irish workers in the business economy are low-paid compared to most other EU15 countries. If there is to be a debate overpay, let’s at least have one grounded in fact. After years of stagnating wages it is clear that Irish workers need a pay increase. If there is to be a recovery in the economy that everyone shares in, then that recovery will have to be wage-led. – Yours, etc,
JIMMY KELLY,
Regional Secretary,
Unite the Union,
Merrion Square,

A chara, – In reply to Robert Gunning, TG4 has a mission (and a statutory and regulatory duty) to make its content accessible to the widest possible audience. Thousands of viewers to our TV output and to the TG4 Player, worldwide, are not yet fluent in Irish. For them, subtitles in English are best way to ensure this additional wider access. By choosing to write his letter to your newspaper in English, Mr Gunning clearly gets this point.
TG4 has also always provided subtitles in Irish for some of our output. This is a service to our core audience and also to those wishing to improve their Irish. In addition, subtitles are a vital access point to TG4 for those with hearing difficulties. These members of the audience have an entitlement to access our award-winning content. All public service TV broadcasters do this and it is a regulatory requirement.
Our subtitles are part of our public service and are resourced from our public funding. In the case of acquired foreign material, English subtitles are usually already created and come supplied with the series, as with Borgen.
Tá rún againn breis fotheideal fós i nGaeilge a sholáthar freisin. – Is mise,
PÁDHRAIC Ó CIARDHA
Leascheannasaí TG4,
Sráid Fhearchair,

Sir, – Some Western commentators undoubtedly criticise Israel more than they would do, for example, Iran or Zimbabwe. This seeming inconsistency is trumpeted as “anti-Semitism” from the usual quarters. In reality, it derives from the obvious fact that current Israeli tactics find many apologists (and cash backers) in the West. By contrast, there is a Western consensus about the ethically-unsalvageable nature of for example Mugabe or Assad. Simply, in relation to countries such as Zimbabwe or Syria, there’s no one to disagree with and no-one to convince.
Further, given the horrors visited on Jewish people in the past, some Western commentators may expect better from Israel in the present; and such commentators also perceive that the Israelis to some extent care about Western, or at least US, opinion. By contrast, the likes of Assad and Mugabe are viewed as unhinged thugs who are impervious to entreaty. – Yours, etc,
SEÁN Mac CANN,
Trillick, CoTyrone.

A chara, – The ball’s in the back of the net. Where, exactly, is the front of the net? – Is mise,
SEÁN O KIERSEY,
Kill Abbey,
Deansgrange,
Co Dublin.
Sir, – “We have to do more with less”. – Yours, etc,
MARY WALSH,
Weirview Drive,
Stillorgan,
Co Dublin.
Sir, – “The waiting time to see a doctor is seven hours and 39 minutes” as told to a 78-year-old woman on a trolley in the A & E department, Mid Western Regional Hospital last Thursday night. – Yours, etc,
KEVIN McDONNELL,
Berrings, Co Cork.
Sir, – “Totally unacceptable” is becoming totally unacceptable. – Yours, etc,
HENRY van RAAT,
Allihies, Beara, Co Cork.

Irish Independent:
Michael Noonan allowed a spark of hope to escape from the Government when he hinted over the weekend that tax breaks may finally be possible.
Also in this section
Quinn’s Christianity thesis not the whole story
Lonely maybe, not gay
Vatican must now put children’s welfare first
It is well past the time to dispense with the cant. Mr Noonan, if you and your Government are to have the faintest hope of re-election then tax breaks are mandatory. But looking beyond the normal expediency of protecting your own seats, it is time to do away with the fiction that your economic policies have the interest of ordinary people at their heart.
We have so far seen all the banks that financed the bonfire of the vanities repaid in full. The bill for the financial pyrotechnics was handed to the blameless taxpayer, who always knew the danger of playing with matches.
We have also seen multinationals being given massive tax concessions, even as our brightest and youngest must leave the country because there is no work for them.
But the real truth is that there are two economies. We have the export economy and the real, internal, economy.
Here, people are still afraid to buy or spend as they are scared about where the next pay cheque may come from. There is no prospect of growth unless some stimulus is introduced, and the German Central Bank has put paid to any thought of a rebate for our taking a hit for team Europe.
So Mr Noonan, I put it to you with all due respect: introduce significant and meaningful tax cuts for the working people of Ireland or else turn off the lights, and don’t bang the door on the way out.
M O’BRIEN
SANDYCOVE, CO DUBLIN
GAY MARRIAGE ROW
* We must feel pity for any of our public representatives who decide to put forward arguments in defence of marriage, as currently defined by the Constitution, during the forthcoming debate about same-sex marriage.
The amount of abuse and bullying they are likely to receive will be enough to silence them as soon as they voice their views – so most likely they will not voice them.
Should we not find it unfair and extremely damaging if politicians were to be called anti-Semitic because they expressed their views about Palestinians having a right to protect their land, not agreeing with Israeli settlements being built in Gaza?
They do not dislike Jews at all, but understand the politics and social rights of citizens in the Middle East differently from pro-Israelis. The same applies in the current debate about same-sex marriage in Ireland.
LUISON LASSALA
MILLTOWN, DUBLIN 6
FORGET POLL, MAKE IT LAW
* I support Rory O’Neill’s contention that it is no longer reasonable to debate the question of whether the Irish State should treat gay people differently. The referendum should be abandoned and the legislation tabled tomorrow.
Further debate lends an illusion of respectability to the arguments of those who believe gay people should not be afforded equal rights. I don’t think that their disgust at my relationships, however they rationalise it, is a comparable position to my own and my desire to be treated equally in society.
My partner and I formed a civil union which several members of my family in Ireland did not attend.
I was later told they had always disapproved of my homosexuality for moral and, latently, religious reasons.
Any right-thinking person would regard such behaviour as regrettable but there is only one difference between their disgust and that of the homophobe.. One exists in private, and the other in public.
Enda Kenny could table gay marriage legislation tomorrow. It would pass with flying, rainbow colours. If some mean-spirited sort wished to challenge its constitutionality then let them.
Name and address
WITH EDITOR
SCHOOL’S OUT FOR RELIGION
* I refer to David Quinn’s article (Irish Independent, February 7) on Ruairi Quinn’s “Hostility towards faith schools”.
Speaking as a young parent, I believe Ruairi Quinn has the right idea. His view largely represents the view of today’s young parents. I want my children to learn good sex education including other sexual orientations, sexual health, spirituality without religion and evolution, rather than conflicting information and creationist stories.
Religious time should be on personal time. We need to pull Ireland into this century.
LAURA MCKAY
DUBLIN
HUGE COST OF WORK INJURY
* It is heartening to see signs of growth in the Irish economy and the positive assessment of the future by our country’s CFOs (Irish Independent, February 5).
But this progress is being achieved despite a ball and chain that continues to drag on Ireland’s economic recovery.
The economy is losing €3.2bn and one million working days a year because of workplace injury and ill health – that’s the cost of failings by business in the area of health and safety.
If the Government is searching for stimulus to boost this recovery, it would do well to focus on the incredible benefits of good health and safety management to businesses.
We would like to see the Government show businesses how managing health and safety can dramatically cut costs, and encourage improvements in health and safety through strong leadership .
Our new campaign, Lif€ Savings, is supported by a number of Irish businesses who are already showing that good health and safety management saves lives and money.
MICHELLE PEATE-MORGAN
CHAIR, INSTITUTION OF OCCUPATIONAL SAFETY AND HEALTH (IOSH), IRELAND BRANCH
ANTHEMS ROW SOLUTION
Following numerous comments from writers about our anthem, is it not time for some sanity on this?
I suggest that the governing body of international rugby come out and say that only anthems from each nation should be sung at each match.
This would include the performance of the haka.
PHILIP CHAMBERS
NAAS, CO KILDARE
GIRAFFE DEATH SO WRONG
* I found the item in your paper (Irish Independent, February 10) reporting on the killing of a young giraffe in a Copenhagen zoo and then it being fed to a pride of lions (and all of this in front of young children in the name of science) to be very unsettling.
In the name of science?
Really? How far up our own backsides can our species go?
If they really want to teach school children about the anatomy of a giraffe or the feeding habits of lions, Dr David Attenborough and other great scientists have done sterling work and most of it is on film.
This was just an example of humanity displaying and indulging in its own self-importance.
If there is one good thing to come out of this winter it is that we have been awarded some humility by nature which has shown us once again that this planet does not belong to us.
And though we may not realise it sometimes, we are not its most important species.
DARREN WILLIAMS
BLACKGLEN ROAD, DUBLIN 18
SWISS VOTE CONTROVERSY
Why aren’t the Swiss being told to vote again? Do they live in a democracy?
DR JOHN DOHERTY
CNOC ON STOLLAIRE,
GAOTH DOBBHAIR, CO DONEGAL.
Irish Independent

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: