I go all the way around the park listening to the Men from the Ministry: Our heroes have to sort out a very tricky problem in aviationPriceless
Mary in hospital brief visit Tidy house
No Scrabbletoday, wrong pad Perhaps Marywill win tomorrow.
Richard Hoggart – obituary
Richard Hoggart was a commentator and academic whose Uses of Literacy lamented the impact of mass culture on traditional working-class life
Richard Hoggart Photo: GRANVILLE DAVIES/WRITER PICTURES
2:20PM BST 11 Apr 2014
Richard Hoggart, who has died aged 95, was best known as the author of The Uses of Literacy (1957), a study of working-class culture widely regarded as one of the most influential books of the immediate post-war era, and one which is still quoted and misquoted by commentators anxious to prove the negative effects of mass culture on people’s lives.
In the 1950s it had become fashionable to argue that a newly affluent worker was emerging who was becoming middle-class in lifestyle and political attitudes. Hoggart saw the cultural impact of such developments as almost entirely negative.
Drawing on his own experience as a scholarship boy from a very poor home in Leeds, he described how the old, tightly-knit working-class culture of his boyhood — of stuffy front rooms, allotments, back-to-back housing and charabanc trips — was breaking up in the face of an Americanised mass culture of tabloid newspapers, advertising, jukeboxes and Hollywood. “The hedonistic but passive barbarian who rides in a fifty-horse-power bus for threepence, to see a five-million dollar film for one-and-eightpence, is not simply a social oddity; he is a portent,” Hoggart thundered.
Fifties popular culture, he argued, was “full of corrupt brightness, of improper appeals and moral evasions”, tending towards a view of the world “in which progress is conceived as a seeking of material possessions, equality as a moral levelling and freedom as the ground for endless irresponsible pleasure”.
He particularly disliked “milk bars”, in which he believed he could detect “a sort of spiritual dry-rot amid the odour of boiled milk”. The influence of what he called “the mass publicists” was so all-pervasive that the culture of the people was being destroyed.
Hoggart wrote in the 19th-century tradition of radical idealism, with its strong sense of moral values. He was a tireless enemy of independent broadcasting — and of the public schools, which he saw as perpetuating social privilege.
Yet he was also essentially conservative in his dislike of change; hawkish in foreign affairs; and thoroughly elitist in his disdain for modern mass culture. He believed fervently in the value of great literature : “In a democracy which is highly commercialised you have to give people critical literacy. If you don’t do that, you might as well pack it in.”
He also thoroughly detested the fashion for relativism, which “leads to populism which then leads to levelling and so to reductionism of all kinds, from food to moral judgments”. For Hoggart, those who maintained that the Beatles were as good as Beethoven represented a “loony terminus”.
The Uses of Literacy made Hoggart a highly influential commentator on British culture . He served on government advisory bodies and spent five years working for Unesco. He also founded the Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies at Birmingham University, which established Cultural Studies as an academic discipline.
Richard Hoggart (GRANVILLE DAVIES/WRITER PICTURES)
The son of a regular soldier and sometime house painter, Richard Herbert Hoggart was born on September 24 1918 in Potternewton, part of the Chapeltown district of Leeds. Both his parents died when he was young and he was brought up by two aunts and a grandmother.
In 1930 he failed the equivalent of the 11-plus but won a grammar school place at Cockburn High School after his headmaster insisted that the education authorities reread his scholarship essay. He went on to read English at Leeds University, graduating with a First.
During the Second World War, Hoggart was commissioned in the Royal Artillery, serving in North Africa and then in Italy, where he found his true vocation as Staff Captain (Education) teaching current affairs to soldiers awaiting demob. After the war he became a staff tutor in adult education at Hull University, and in 1951 published his first book, a study of W H Auden.
The Uses of Literacy brought Hoggart lasting fame . In 1959 he became a senior lecturer at the University of Leicester.
The following year he gave evidence for the defence at the Lady Chatterley trial, declaring the book to be “highly virtuous if not puritanical”, a judgment that made him nationally known overnight. In his third volume of autobiography, An Imagined Life, Hoggart described his fellow defence witnesses as “like a stage army of earnest Guardian readers” and himself as “cast as the northern working-class provincial now a university teacher; a sort of muted ‘eeh-bah-gum’ figure fit for a short walk-on part in Sons and Lovers”.
In 1962 he was invited to Birmingham University to take a chair in Modern English Literature. He agreed to come on condition he was allowed to start his own postgraduate course. “I invented it on the spot. It was to be in contemporary cultural studies.”
The Birmingham Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies, which opened in 1964 with the Marxist Stuart Hall as its deputy director, was to develop some of the interests first explored in The Uses of Literacy.“Of course, you know, Hoggart, your people won’t get jobs,” one colleague remarked. “No one will recognise a subject like that.” Hoggart’s insistence that the study of popular culture should be based on a thorough grounding in literary criticism also met opposition from some of the more radical elements at the university. At one meeting a student announced: “We have no time for the Matthew Arnoldian liberal humanist line of Hoggart.”
In 1970 Hoggart accepted the post of assistant director general of Unesco after one of his colleagues suggested that he should “walk the plank in the service of a valuable idea”. He wrote entertainingly about his years at Unesco in his autobiography, describing the frustrations of working in an agency with grand international ideals whose members insist on thinking nationally.
On his return to Britain, Hoggart moved to Farnham, Surrey, and took up a post as Warden of Goldsmith’s College, University of London, where he remained until his retirement in 1984.
In Speaking to Each Other (1977), Hoggart examined how the tone and manner in which people communicate carry assumptions based on social class and religious and political opinions that are often antipathetic to the person addressed. In Landscape with Figures: Farnham, Portrait of an English Town (1994) he claimed that he could differentiate between an Etonian, a Harrovian and a Wykehamist purely on the basis of their “conversational conventions” casually observed at Farnham station.
In The Way We Live Now (1995), Hoggart suggested that modern dilemmas stem from a long slide towards relativism and from the way in which consumerism rather than “authority” increasingly determines the texture of life.
Hoggart was a member of various committees and quangos, including the Pilkington Committee on broadcasting, which in 1961 predicted that the development of commercial television would have dire social consequences.
He served on the Albemarle committee on youth services; chaired an advisory council for adult and continuing education set up by Shirley Williams in 1977; and was vice-chairman of the Arts Council from 1977 to 1981 . He was also chairman of the New Statesman from 1978 to 1981.
After the 1997 general election he was on the committee set up by Education Secretary David Blunkett in preparation for “The Year of Reading”, though he did not have much time for it : “They were all talking about image and targets and impact and all this stuff. One of them said we should ask the Spice Girls to have ‘Reading Is Good For You’ across their bosoms.”
In addition to his many books on literacy and communication, Hoggart wrote a highly acclaimed autobiographical trilogy: A Local Habitation (1988), A Sort of Clowning (1990) and An Imagined Life (1992).
Among his later publications were First and Last Things (1999); Between Two Worlds (2001); Everyday Language and Everyday Life (2003); and Mass Media in a Mass Society: myth and reality (2004).
Richard Hoggart married, in 1942, Mary France; they had a daughter and two sons, of whom the elder — the political commentator Simon Hoggart — died in January.
Richard Hoggart, born September 24 1918, died April 10 2014
Nick Cohen asks why pedestrians are overlooked when our towns and cities are built (“I love to walk, but why is Britain such a dangerous place for walkers?”, First Person). Part of the answer is that governments have predicted ever-increasing traffic volumes that authorities scrabble to meet. To do this, pedestrian crossings are made scarce and slow. And the easier it is to drive quickly from A to B, the more we want to drive and the harder it is for people to cross roads.
The engineers largely responsible for our roads are given no training in holistic design. It is far more about mathematical traffic models and following often antiquated highway design guidelines. It’s perhaps no coincidence that the UK’s best known creative thinker in road design is not an engineer, but an architect, Ben Hamilton-Baillie.
The cost to human life of the conventional approach has been catastrophic. On roads, we see “slaughter that would be shocking, and even unacceptable if it occurred in war” (to quote Martin Gilbert’s Descent into Barbarism). And our laws are too forgiving of those who kill by car.
Strict driver liability law as exists in most of Europe, where the person operating a dangerous vehicle must take responsibility, would make the road environment less hostile. As with buildings, highways schemes could be subject to a planning process based in part on aesthetics and the impact on the street scene.
I live beside a rural B road with a blind bend, no pavement and a 30mph limit that most ignore. Almost opposite the bottom of our drive is the start of a public footpath, so when I walk the dogs we have to proceed a few metres along the roadside. Drivers pull out to avoid us, but some sound their horn, offended that they have had to slow down and make way, forgetting that if walkers, riders and carts hadn’t followed this route for centuries beforehand, the B4060 wouldn’t exist for them to enjoy.
I expect that it will have come as a surprise to the Ramblers and to many of my professional colleagues that “Britain does not have a ‘walkers lobby'”. Formerly the Ramblers’ Association, the organisation will celebrate 80 years of campaigning, not just for countryside walks, on 1 January 2015.
The Institute of Public Rights of Way and Access Management
I have never understood why compulsory speed awareness classes are not a vital part of the driving test. I would also advocate that our schools teach the effects of the laws of momentum and kinetic energy on human flesh and bone. Hit a pedestrian at 35mph and, ceteris paribus, five out of 10 will be killed. At 30mph, two out of 10 will die, not to mention the injuries. I am a driver, but I am gobsmacked when some of my fellow motorists remark that speed limits and enforcement produce even more fatalities and injuries because of driver impatience and frustration.
On that basis, we should get rid of anything that holds up the speeding driver: zebra crossings, speed cameras, traffic humps, traffic lights and tractors. Just imagine the ensuing anarchy and carnage if drivers could pick their own maximum speed with impunity. There are many causes of accidents but it is impact speed that determines the extent of victims’ injuries and whether they live or die. We can all be blasé about speeding until one of our own is hit by a driver who couldn’t pull up in time because of their illegal or inappropriate speed.
The report stage of the immigration bill concluded in the House of Lords last Monday. Many members took part in these vitally important debates, showing the upper chamber at its very best. Furthermore, many hundreds voted in some or all of the five divisions. However, we find it surprising that not one of the Ukip-affiliated peers chose to vote – let alone speak – during the passage of the bill. Lord Stevens of Ludgate seemed to be ill – but where was Lord Pearson of Rannoch? Or, indeed, Lord Willoughby De Broke?
There are no Ukip MPs and, as such, the House of Lords is the party’s key avenue by which to hold the government to account. When one considers the attitude of Ukip’s (would-be) parliamentarians to their roles in Westminster and elsewhere, their silence is deafening.
The Rt Rev the Lord Eames
Baroness Howarth of Breckland
Lord Maclennan of Rogart
Lord Marks of Henley-on-Thames
Lord Jones of Cheltenham
Baroness Williams of Crosby
Give Michael Gove a chance
We should expect some free schools to prosper, while others struggle and even fail as this is a necessary process new schools must go through to find their feet (“Revealed: Gove’s bid to limit fallout from failing free schools“, News). Private businesses and newly created state sector services take time to build trust, reputation and brand. Excellence and reliability are not produced instantly but take time. Gove is trying a fresh approach. Our education system is failing to equip many of our children with the necessary skills for the workplace. It is nonsense to attack reforms that have barely been tried.
There were always going to be risks when setting up free schools outside the quality assurance procedures of local authorities. Such schools have been promoted as “free” to provide their own distinctive education (albeit within constraints set by the national assessment and inspection regimes). However, they are also “free” to fail and, as state-funded schools, should not be given favoured treatment through “private education advisers”.
Professor Colin Richards
Spark Bridge, Cumbria
Odd ethics, Mr Moore
In the Observer Magazine , Charles Moore used the phrase De mortuis nil nisi bonum – don’t speak ill of the dead. Moore was referring to the polemic that followed the death of Margaret Thatcher. How extraordinary, then, that Moore should have launched into print on 5 March 2010 with an article that effectively accused my great-uncle Michael Foot of being a spy for the Russians. Foot had won considerable damages from News International in 1995 after it printed similar allegations. But on 3 March 2010, Michael Foot died. As everyone knows, the dead can’t sue and just two days later, Moore saw fit to publish his courageous article. So it is clearly OK to speak ill of the dead, as long as they aren’t called Margaret Thatcher.
Professor of modern Italian history
True green heroes of Liverpool
Can Lucy Siegle’s Green Crush (Magazine) be serious, featuring Liverpool One? This is a development that has taken over a huge swath of the city centre and turned public streets into private ones. It has forced small, independent shops to close or move. It is a sanitised and soulless temple to the cult of commercialisation. Siegle should have featured Cairns Street market instead, a degenerated but historic area of Liverpool 8 where the few remaining residents grow food and flowers in every space and each month have a market in a great social coming together. Instead, you give game, set and match to the big developers.
Fall-out from Maria Miller case
Sadly, the ramifications of the Maria Miller story are not exhausted by her resignation. Parliamentarians of every party, age and seniority must urgently do whatever can now be done to staunch the toxic effects of this latest fall from grace, which has unleashed a new torrent of public mistrust in us.
The full facts concerning her case, with its confusing judgments, rebuttals and conclusions, need to be made public. She is a public servant claiming public funds and such openness would mitigate the grave doubts presently in the mind of the public as to the rigour and objectivity of the outcome. If Mrs Miller were to be shown to have acted dishonestly the matter should then be passed to the prosecutorial authorities.
I say all this with great reluctance in the real hope that there will be no cause for a referral. But I am more reluctant still to allow the growth of the already widespread public perception that we, the lawmakers, are protected from the full force of the laws we make. Nothing so dangerously and fundamentally undermines our democracy.
Lord Phillips of Sudbury
Deserving or damned?
Barbara Ellen (Comment) says liver transplants should be available to everyone, but the number of people who need a transplant is much higher than the livers donated. Dipsomaniacs who demand new livers to ruin should surely go to the back of the queue?
Dr Richard Turner
Dr John Rack, using synthetic phonics, please try to say synthetic phonics. You can’t. This proves the inadequacy of your system and adds to the belief that dyslexia labels people based on a shaky scientific concept (Letters, 6 April). The best help to a child’s reading ability would be help, love and support from parents. A system that strives to help weaker readers through making illogical deductions based on words which within them have multiple pronunciations is just ridiculous. Their and there. Her and here. Nor and gnaw.
Simple is better, and a system of reading that exists only because of some poorly defined research conducted years ago will not, and should not, be used to destroy children’s ability to read. It is better to teach children that certain words are read in a certain way because our language is full of illogical exceptions. Learning to read is hard work, much like everything else. Phonics downt maek it eezear. Thanx for yor tiem.
Adam Sherwin’s point regarding the male domination of University Challenge, despite female students outnumbering male students across the sector as a whole, is well worth highlighting (“University Challenge final is a starter for men”, 6 April). However, there is another persistent issue that seems equally inappropriate: namely, the prominence of Oxbridge colleges.
The contest is called University Challenge, so it seems absurdly incestuous when one Oxford college is competing against another Oxford college, given that they are both constituents of a single university. And similarly with Cambridge colleges. What justification can there be for this illogical arrangement? Durham is also a collegiate university, but it only fields a single team. Why should Oxford and Cambridge be treated differently to, say, Durham, Aberdeen or Cardiff? Each of these institutions manages to field a single team for the boat race!
Emeritus Professor Richard M S Wilson
The last thing we need is a quota system for female students on University Challenge. It is the responsibility of each university to select its best team and nothing to do with the BBC or politicians. If University Challenge wants to remain the best quiz show on television, it should not kowtow to political correctness.
Labour’s desire to break the white upper-class grip on the Civil Service is to be welcomed, but the roots of this inequality lie in housing, schools, universities and equality of opportunity from an early age (“Labour would fast-track working-class and ethnic minority applicants to top of Civil Service”, 6 April). Labour’s plan will create a coterie of public servants who owe their position to patronage and will further politicise the Civil Service.
What an intolerant rant by Joan Smith in her swipe at Christianity! (“Fed up? Just listen to Fry”, 30 March). Yet for her to be impressed by luvvies espousing the secularist cause seems naive to me. I enjoy Stephen Fry’s performances in shows such as QI but I will not be taking his advice on how to live a happy and fulfilled life. For those greater questions about life and existence, I prefer older and more enduring wisdom than that of luvvies and glitterati and the shallow but fashionable opinions of the fleeting minute.
Dear, oh dear, oh dear. On reading Archie Bland (6 April), who thinks that the demise of Nuts and the rise of more thoughtful reading shows that young men have increased respect for themselves, I could not help recalling the old sea-dog saying: “There are only two types of men, w****** and liars.”
Self-regulation will not keep MPs’ noses out of trough
IS IT any wonder the public is so disenchanted by the main political parties that they are prepared to vote for the likes of UKIP’s Nigel Farage and his bunch of assorted fruitcakes in the European elections (“‘MPs can’t be trusted on expenses’”, News, last week)?
The UK used to be a beacon for honesty and transparency, but now everybody seems to have their noses in the trough. Self-regulation doesn’t work, as we have seen in the past in the financial services and medical professions.
Nick Simms, London N2
MPs should not be in any doubt that independent oversight of their expenses is essential. In view of the endless stories of corruption and self-interest in British politics, the prime minister and the MPs cannot continue to support the notion that they can be trusted to self-regulate, and all the more so when they impose layer upon layer of regulation and bureaucracy on everyone else.
James Anderson, Geneva
As usual, politicians of all parties will be shocked and indignant and make all the right noises over Nero fiddling while the rest of us pay our fair share, but they always have one eye on the revolving door to their future career in the City or the corporate world.
Stan Harper, Kenilworth, Warwickshire
Follow Californian route on diesel curbs
YOU rightly call for a reduction from diesel vehicle emissions, including a wholesale move back to petrol vehicles (“Diesel deadlier than petrol” and
“Diesel fumes harm children’s brains”, News, and “With every desperate breath, children demand we are weaned off diesel”, Comment, last week). Such a move could have significant implications, given the UK’s reliance on diesel vehicles and the amount of greenhouse gas emissions from petrol-powered cars.
An alternative solution — one that could be implemented in a much shorter time frame and with fewer implications — is that Europe adopts California’s diesel emission standards, which are the toughest in the world, measurably more stringent than the standards in Europe and for which a number of European car manufacturers are already developing diesel engines.
Sadly, these very same diesel engines are not currently available in Europe. As emission standards are set in Brussels,
we urge policy makers and regulators to convince European institutions to adopt Californian diesel emission standards.
While car manufacturers are developing solutions to achieve zero vehicle emissions, conventional internal combustion engines are predicted to still account for more than 90% of cars by 2020. Given recent pollution events, change is urgent.
Maeve McLoughlin, Professor Ragnar Lofstedt, King’s Centre for Risk Management, King’s College London
Out of gas
How long will it take the government to have the courage to ensure that no more new diesel vehicles will be made?
Barbara James, Bangor, Gwynedd
Lovelock flying in face of climate science
JAMES LOVELOCK’S Gaia hypothesis has inspired many people to become concerned about the environment. In his book The Revenge of Gaia he writes about catastrophic changes to our climate that will arise from our continuing emissions of carbon dioxide. However, in his interview with Bryan Appleyard (“Gaia’s revenge is on hold”, News Review, last week) he takes a much more sanguine view about climate change. Lovelock’s opinions on this subject sit uncomfortably with modern scientific understanding of the climate system.
It is impossible to assert categorically that the sort of climate changes envisaged in The Revenge of Gaia either will or will not occur. Rather, climate scientists attempt to estimate the risks of different levels of climate change.
For example, based on the latest projections reported by the intergovernmental panel on climate change (IPCC), if we continue to emit 10gigatons or so of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere each year the probability of reaching a 5C warmer world in the next century is estimated to be about 50%.
The latest IPCC report makes clear the calamitous impacts of such a future. It is for society to judge whether the risks of climate change are large enough to take action to reduce them. Lovelock’s current position implies that these risks have now reduced; climate science suggests not.
Tim Palmer, Director of the Oxford Martin Programme on Modelling and Predicting Climate, University of Oxford, Sir Brian Hoskins Director of the Grantham Institute for Climate Change, Imperial College London, Dame Julia Slingo, Chief Scientist, the Met Office
Diagnosing toothless healthcare regulators
YOU reported that the former surgeon David Jackson had his request to be removed from the medical register granted by
the General Medical Council (“‘Dr Danger left to botch for five years’”, News, March 30). In January Janice Harry, former director of nursing at the Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust, “agreed” to be struck off the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) register. Both stories display how feeble healthcare regulators are.
The original NMC tribunal into Harry did not strike her off and it was only after the intervention of the Professional Standards Authority that she finally agreed to be removed from the register. Next we will have the Metropolitan police proudly reporting that felons have agreed to desist from further crimes voluntarily as an alternative to prosecution.
Neil Sinclair, Edinburgh
Most doctors and the public would agree that a serious crime committed by a member of the medical profession and proven in a court of law merits consideration of their removal from the medical register (“Watchdog seeks powers to drive out disgraced medics”, News, March 30).
Your article refers to the Mid Staffordshire scandal as an example of “failure in regulation of the medical professions”. While it is true there were many shortcomings in the medical and nursing professions at Mid Staffordshire NHS trust, senior non-medical management was also culpable. Several doctors were investigated but, as far as I am aware, no senior managers involved were formally investigated or disciplined.
Surely it is reasonable to expect of healthcare managers the same rigorous professional standards of care and accountability. When will we have a General Medical Managers Council?
David Ward, Cardiologist, St George’s Hospital, London SW17
Failing the test on teacher support
THE case of assistant head teacher Andrew Moffat may not be an isolated one (“Gay teacher resigns after parent protest”, News, last week). Recent research by the Teacher Support Network revealed that more than one in 10 staff working in education have been discriminated against by parents.
While education department guidelines recommend schools respect parents’ rights to remove their children from lessons that are not aligned with their beliefs, it is important that school leaders find the middle ground. Staff must be supported to teach openly without fear and the whole school community — including parents — must be willing to engage in discussions that encourage equality. Cases such as Moffat’s demonstrate that there is much work to be done to support teachers.
Julian Stanley, Chief Executive, Teacher Support Network, London N5
Some of my family live in Christchurch, New Zealand, the city devastated by the earthquake in 2011 (“Happy glampers to leave baby George behind”, News, last week). I hope the touring young royals can see how painfully slow the rebuilding process is. So much aid has been sent all around the world but our great friend and ally through two world wars has been left out.
Christine O’Shea, London SE3
Had we restricted ourselves in Afghanistan to hit-and-run operations to knock out terrorist camps and used the £38bn spent on the war to fund social housing the country would be more peaceful (“So much blood, so little glory”, Focus, last week). Donald Stickland, Nottingham
The Afghanistan article is an example of what makes The Sunday Times so special. It also highlighted the dangers faced by the journalists and photographers that we take for granted.
Craig Petterson, Bonhill, West Dumbartonshire
Dylan Thomas’s daughter attended my school, Carmarthen Diocesan High School, for a year and his appearance at the annual fete — long hair and crumpled corduroy jacket — fairly scandalised the other immaculately turned-out parents (including mine) (“Land of my fathers? My fathers can keep it”, Magazine, last week). A few years later our fifth and sixth forms were given a tour of Laugharne, where Thomas had lived, by the church organist. The town was still rather ashamed of the poet — his commercial potential had not yet been recognised — and we were shown an unmarked grave that was “probably” his. My claim to fame is that at the end of the tour our charming guide announced that he was allegedly the original for the character of Organ Morgan in Under Milk Wood.
Louise Izzard, Kidwelly, Carmarthenshire
Sins of the father
My early childhood was punctuated by my father making me feel totally worthless and inadequate (“Fear not, Cinderella, emotional rescue is at hand”, India Knight, Comment, last week). I survived, a shadow flitting across walls and hiding in wardrobes — anything to become invisible to him. Banished to boarding school at 11, I found my friends had loving home lives. I was able to reconstruct my true self, but the damage remains — the scars have never healed.
Name and address withheld
Your article “Chinese ship ‘picks up 11th-hour ping’” (News, last week) reports the possible detection of a “ping” from one of the black box recorders on Malaysian Airlines flight MH370 with a frequency of 37.5kHz per second. However, kHz on its own is a measure of frequency — kilocycles per second — so kHz per second is not a frequency, but a rate of change of frequency, as acceleration is a rate of change of speed.
Dr John Thornton, Macclesfield, Cheshire
Not a natural death
My husband and I — both in our fifties — have discussed the possibility of jumping ship when it all gets too tedious. (“Digital age drove auntie to Dignitas”, News, last week). As a coroner’s officer I wonder if there will be inquests in all such assisted deaths, as they certainly won’t be natural.
Lesley Thompson, Wantage, Oxfordshire
Charles Clover (“Loot for landowners, green fields gone. And they call this localism?”, Comment, March 30) is absolutely right. We have several applications on green fields around our town that the locals want to resist but we are unable to refuse. We have sufficient brownfield sites to develop instead but these are just not attractive to the land speculators. MPs in London seem oblivious to the frustration of local people keen to protect the countryside for the future.
Christine Burt, Corsham, Wiltshire
Corrections and clarifications
The founder of the first school of occupational therapy is Dr Elizabeth Casson, not Carson, as stated in the article “TV’s frontline angels” (News, last week).
Complaints about inaccuracies in all sections of The Sunday Times, including online, should be addressed to email@example.com or The Editor, The Sunday Times, 3 Thomas More Square, London E98 1ST. In addition, the Press Complaints Commission (firstname.lastname@example.org or 020 7831 0022) examines formal complaints about the editorial content of UK newspapers and magazines (and their websites)
Peter Davison, actor, 63; Stanley Donen, director and choreographer, 90; Edward Fox, actor, 77; Al Green, singer, 68; Garry Kasparov, chess player, 51; Davis Love III, golfer, 50; Max Mosley, former president of the FIA, governing body of F1, 74; Ron Perlman, actor, 64; Rudi Völler, footballer, 54; Max Weinberg, 63, drummer
1668 John Dryden becomes poet laureate; 1829 Roman Catholic Relief Act receives royal assent, giving freedom of religion to Catholics; 1964 Sidney Poitier becomes first black man to win best actor Oscar; 1970 “Houston, we’ve had a problem,” says Apollo 13 astronaut Jack Swigert after a liquid oxygen tank bursts
Afghan girls push wheelbarrows filled with drinking water drawn from a channel in Kandahar Photo: AFP/Getty Images
6:58AM BST 12 Apr 2014
SIR – The Arghandab river valley has seen British boots on patrol almost every day since we have been in Afghanistan yet, despite our frequent visits to the area, there is still no running water, no electricity, no tarmac road, no health centre, no school; and when I was there last summer, there was plenty of marijuana growing in the fields. The local people pay the Taliban for security.
A principle of counter-insurgency is winning the hearts and minds of the local people. We can’t win their hearts with security, which is readily available from the Taliban, often at less cost.
The Taliban can’t provide decent health care, though; they are strictly against educating females; they have never put tarmac on roads; they have an unproven record in providing utilities. Their reputation for free and fair elections is abysmal.
The Army has succeeded in mentoring the Afghan National Security Forces, but where were the British teachers mentoring Afghan teachers, or British doctors mentoring Afghan medics? We leave behind a brilliant hospital in Camp Bastion, a model not replicated anywhere in Helmand.
Mike Martin is wrong: the Armed Forces have succeeded in providing security in Afghanistan. What a shame we weren’t more ambitious and long-termist in our approach to the bigger picture, though.
Captain Mike Wilmot
SIR – Ian Carter suggests that because an elderly man is not “capable of exiting a vehicle in an emergency within 30 seconds” he should be banned from driving, lest he “compromise the safety of anyone trying to assist him in escaping from the car”.
This would apply equally if he were a passenger in the same car (or a bus). So clearly he should be kept off the road altogether. Similarly, he should not, according to this logic, be allowed into shops in case he impedes the orderly exit of anyone else in the event of a fire.
Mr Carter may take a different view when he himself finds age making him rather less spry.
SIR – Mr Carter suggests a test for anyone unable to exit a car within 30 seconds. So, testers armed with stop-watches would evaluate the agility of all drivers who are handicapped, overweight, or pregnant?
Labour on immigration
SIR – The last Labour administration, as a matter of deliberate social policy, opened Britain’s doors to mass immigration, with one of the consequences being the driving down of wages at the lower end of the pay scales, which, while benefiting the middle classes in many ways, impoverished the indigenous working class.
Any who pointed this out were labelled bigots. Remember Gordon Brown and a certain Rochdale voter.
Now Yvette Cooper attacks the Government for the problem of which both she and her fellow-Cabinet-member husband were so much the instigators. It is a great shame that the laws she now advocates, to prevent business abusing low-wage employment, were not enacted when she and her party were in power.
Michael R Gordon
Anger in court
SIR – A wise judge rebuked me years ago thus: “Cross-examination is not angry questioning. You are a member of the Bar, not an actor. Behave yourself.”
He was entirely correct. Firm, even forceful, but polite questions are more effective. A great pity that, in the trial of Oscar Pistorius, Gerrie Nel lacks the skill and training to know this; and the judge the authority and experience to enforce it.
Howard Bentham QC
SIR – Why does the BBC deem it necessary to squander licence-payers’ money to parachute Jon Sopel into India to report on that country’s election, when it already has a team of correspondents on the ground who are well-qualified to cover this news?
Orton Waterville, Cambridgeshire
SIR – As long ago as the Seventies, patients admitted into hospital for the first time often asked me what they should take in with them. When I mentioned that some form of nightwear would be required, a good proportion would say: “Better go out and buy some then.” A few even inquired whether the cost would be covered by the NHS.
Dr John Gladstone
Gerrards Cross, Buckinghamshire
False promises by post
SIR – I agree that David Cameron has wasted an extraordinary amount of taxpayers’ moneysending out letters to employers advising them that they are entitled to up to £2,000, via Employment Allowance, when this information has already been sent out by HMRC.
Even more concerning is that he appears to have sent these letters to all employers, including those whom the Government has seen fit to exclude from the scheme, including families who have to employ carers to support a sick or disabled family member, and branches of charities that support local communities and the vulnerable.
The neediest once again appear to have been excluded from government help. Receiving a letter saying they are eligible when they are not adds salt to the wound.
Bomere Heath, Shropshire
SIR – Our parish clerk has received a personalised circular letter from the Prime Minister about a “new tax cut for businesses and charities”. In the letter, Mr Cameron urges the council, as an employer of several staff, to apply for a £2,000 Employment Allowance.
Generous, were it not that the HMRC website specifically states that Britain’s 8,500 parish councils are not eligible.
What a waste of postage.
Sizing up Marilyn
SIR – Whether or not size 16 is obese, Marilyn Monroe was definitely not a 16 in today’s sizing system. She was more likely the equivalent of today’s size 8.
Not just the ticket
SIR – Buying tickets online for National Gallery exhibitions is now a dismaying experience, though necessary for popular shows. Unfortunately, the process has been sublet to Ticketmaster, which charges not just a £1 booking fee (normal these days), but another £1 fee for a second ticket. Before you’ve finished, you must fight off attempts to sell you cancellation insurance, a hotel room and a restaurant table.
It’s disappointing to find such a grasping organisation teamed up with one of our very best cultural institutions.
Dr Tim Hudson
Chichester, West Sussex
Britain can’t get on its bike without cycle routes
SIR – Lord Coe noted that boosting cycle use would produce huge economic benefits. Those come not only from reduced NHS costs and absenteeism, but also from greater alertness and productivity among employees and school pupils alike, not to mention reduced congestion and more reliable journey times.
Last summer, David Cameron declared his wish to launch a “cycling revolution”. Since then, there have been no significant new announcements on cycling, despite huge cross-party backing for a parliamentary report, Get Britain Cycling, which called for annual spending on cycling of at least £10 per person.
The Dutch spend £24 and, unlike us, they have been investing in cycling for over 40 years. Dutch people of all ages and backgrounds cycle regularly for day-to-day journeys, making 27 per cent of trips by bike. In Britain, it is less than 2 per cent.
Next week, CTC, the national cycling charity, for which I am policy director, will launch a Space for Cycling campaign nationally. We will be calling for new cycle routes and seeking the long-term funding needed to deliver this. That would be a true Olympic legacy.
SIR – The police officer who addressed the press on the steps of the court after the acquittal of Nigel Evans revealed the secret of where the Crown Prosecution Service is going so badly off course. He said: “As always with these cases, this prosecution was victim-led.”
We now know there were no victims and no crime committed. Perhaps if the CPS had focused on a “justice-led” process, I would not be writing this letter now.
Bosham, West Sussex
SIR – Interviewed on Radio 4’s Today programme, Alison Saunders, the Director of Public Prosecutions, said: “The police only act if they receive a complaint.”
Clearly this was not the case in the trial of Nigel Evans. The police evidently trawled for “victims” who, when presented as witnesses in court, said that in their view no crime had been committed.
SIR – Nigel Evans left Preston Crown Court a free man, having been found not guilty of sex abuse.
However, the jury’s verdict – and therefore the charter upon which a jury is founded – will be undermined every time Mr Evans is unfairly associated with sexual abuse or the misconduct of those in public office.
In Britain today, most of us welcome greater freedom of information, and it is important that this doctrine is not suspended or excepted to cover up wrongdoing or scandal.
However, it is equally important that protection is afforded, as far as possible, to those who face trial, without jury, in the public domain.
Next year marks the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta. In an age of freedom of information, more needs to be done to protect the identity of those who merely stand accused.
SIR – Nigel Evans has been found not guilty of a number of serious charges.
However, he has admitted to indulging in drunken and unseemly behaviour, which surely could be described as bringing the House of Commons into disrepute.
Is it appropriate that people, including David Cameron, should be welcoming his return in such an enthusiastic manner?
SIR – Predictably, the Establishment rushes to protect a serving MP and criticise the CPS in the case of Nigel Evans. However, it is not difficult to imagine what would have happened if he had not been prosecuted and the allegations, whatever their strength, had then surfaced. The CPS would have been criticised for protecting politicians. The CPS appears to be damned if it does and damned if it doesn’t.
Published 13 April 2014 02:30 AM
Madam – The moment when President Higgins and his wife Sabina paused reflectively before the memorial to Lord Mountbatten was both moving and appropriate. The silent tribute will have struck many people as one of the highlights of the long-awaited and highly successful state visit to our nearest neighbour.
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I am glad too to see that Martin McGuinness travelled for the occasion, but his presence reminded me of an issue I believe needs to be addressed by the Republican movement.
It is the fact that neither the IRA nor Sinn Fein has formally apologised for the two-and-a-half decades of violence inflicted in the name of a United Ireland. Expressions of “regret” and references to “all sides” having suffered in the “conflict” we have heard countless times. But never an apology.
An apology would not bring back the people killed in horrific circumstances by the IRA and other Republican groups. But I suggest it would contribute enormously towards easing the heartache and loss that loved ones of victims have to cope with every day of their lives. It would help bring the balm of closure to countless human beings on this island whose nearest and dearest were snatched from this world by bomb or bullet.
Such closure must remain far off while the people responsible for taking those precious lives refuse to make it clear that what they did was wrong and should never have happened.
In addition to easing the suffering of the bereaved, such an apology from both Sinn Fein and the IRA would, I suggest, make it easier for the Republican movement to pursue its aim of a United Ireland. I can’t get inside the mind of a Northern Unionist but I imagine I’d be somewhat (if only the tiniest bit) more favourable to the concept of a 32-county Republic if the people advocating it were not still pretending that those two-and-a-half decades of bloody violence were anything other than a litany of cruel and senseless murders that achieved nothing, apart from turning people off a United Ireland.
We’ve had a number of significant high-profile apologies in recent times: to survivors of institutional abuse by the Irish Government, to the victims of Blood Sunday by the British government, for example.
Will Sinn Fein and the IRA now have the decency and courage to apologise for the series of murders and maimings euphemistically referred to as the “Armed Struggle”? They take pride in the Peace Process that ended the campaign of violence and terror. Let them now engage in a healing process and say sorry for the nightmare years.
O’Connell deserves credit
Madam – Eoghan Harris (Sunday Independent, April 6, 2014) rightly praises Daniel O’Connell for succeeding in repealing the British law “De Judaismo”, which prescribed a special dress for British Jews. He then neutralises this praise by saying: “But O’Connell’s clean sheet was only because the Jewish community of 200 souls was too small to attract attention.”
However, O’Connell’s record reveals that he was made of sterner stuff than perhaps Eoghan gives him credit for. I believe, had Ireland’s Jewish population been larger, O’Connell would have been more vociferous in his support for them. I base this conviction on his role in the anti-slavery movement in America. O’Connell was one of the most vocal and influential abolitionists in the world at that time. The fact that prominent escaped slave Frederick Douglass came to Ireland to visit him is testament to his pedigree. Although the British government supported abolition, it largely remained silent for fear of falling out with its American cousins. O’Connell had no such qualms and his forthright opinions regularly drew ire from the Southern States. He ignored all warnings that he would lose US support.
In August 1875, celebrations took place to mark the centenary of O’Connell’s birth. Some of the largest gatherings took place in the US, where he was exalted for his role in ending slavery.
Dunleer, Co Louth
Donnelly is star Dail performer
Madam – The article by Stephen Donnelly TD (Sunday Independent, April 6, 2014) in last week’s paper about the selling off of family mortgages should be read by everyone. It is so well written and easy to understand. He is the star performer in the current Dail.
Tuam, Co Galway
Focus on gender misses vital point
Madam – While there is validity in some of what A Leavy says in his letter (Sunday Independent, April 6, 2014), it is clearly impossible to quantify the relative abilities of those men and women who were, or are, passed over for selection as Dail candidates, appointment to office, etc, for various reasons not related to their abilities, so concentrating on the waste of female talent in particular runs the risk of being simplistic.
The percentage of TDs who are female is 15 per cent, but while there is certainly no law of nature that this should remain so, it is equally true that there is no such law that this should be at any other particular level (and the same can be said in relation to men).
A major valid question that arises in relation to all-female quotas is how many female candidates will be chosen primarily for their ability and how many because they have the right connections, or simply to fill the quota. Indeed, this question is the same (except for the last part) as can be asked in relation to male candidates.
Some apparently believe the primary role of female TDs should be to represent the interests of women and see this as a justification for quotas, but this is to ignore the fact that TDs, regardless of their own gender, are elected to represent the interests of all their constituents, and it would make no sense for men in particular to vote for female candidates whose main interest was the advancement of a narrow “women’s issues” agenda.
Besides, it it just as fallacious to imply that male TDs are not capable of adequately representing the interests of women as it would be to suggest that female TDs are incapable of representing the interests of their male constituents.
I believe the introduction of quotas, with its narrow focus on gender, is a simplistic measure which misses the most important point, which is how to ensure that the most able people, irrespective of their gender, or the schools they went to or the clubs they belong to, are selected as candidates (or appointed to office).
This will require changing the political system itself in order to encourage such people to put themselves forward.
Athboy, Co Meath
A shared bond
Madam – In the wake of anti-Semitism directed at Justice Minister Alan Shatter, as described in Carol Hunt’s column (Sunday Independent, April 6, 2014), as a Jew, my intention is not to eliminate it, but to mitigate it. Much of anti-Semitism by pea-brained people today is cloaked in anti-Zionism. Like every nation, the Irish and Jews have saints and scoundrels, but we also share a bond.
While Menachem Begin, leader of the paramilitary Irgun against the British who ruled Palestine and became prime minister of Israel, regarded the Irish War of Independence as a role model, the IRA valued Begin’s book The Revolt as a handbook of guerrilla combat.
The two bestselling novels of the Jewish-American Leon Uris were Exodus, published in 1958, on the creation of the State of Israel, and Trinity, published in 1976, on the Irish fight for freedom. The Irish-American Thomas Cahill wrote How the Irish Saved Civilization in 1995; his next book was The Gifts of the Jews. And last month, Forward, a leading American-Jewish weekly, featured an article, “How the Jews Made America Irish”, on the alliance of prominent Irish and Jews.
Give ordinary people a voice
Madam – Since members of the Oireachtas have easy access to the media to express their opinions, I do not understand why elected officials, such as Shane Ross, Stephen Donnelly, Willie O’Dea, etc, are given preferential treatment in columns and letters to the editor. Surely such space should be given to ordinary citizens.
Vincent J Lavery,
Irish Free Speech Movement, Dalkey, Co Dublin