I go all the way around the park listening to the Men from the Ministry: Our heroes meet the Martians Priceless

Mary in hospital brief visit get beat at Scrabble

Scrabbletoday, Mary wins Perhaps Iwill win tomorrow.


Dennis Lindley – obituary

Dennis Lindley was the ‘High Priest of Bayesianism’ who saw in statistics a way of dealing with the uncertainties of everyday life

Dennis Lindley

Dennis Lindley

6:54PM BST 10 Apr 2014


Dennis Lindley, who has died aged 90, was a statistician who became a leading advocate of a controversial but increasingly popular approach known as Bayesianism.

The Bayesian school takes its name from Thomas Bayes, an 18th-century Presbyterian minister and mathematician who, in a paper entitled An Essay towards solving a Problem in the Doctrine of Chances, outlined a method to evaluate probability which allowed for adjustments in the light of new evidence.

Bayesian statistical methods start with existing “prior” beliefs, and update these gradually using data to give “posterior” beliefs, according to a standard set of procedures and formulae – in order to provide a basis for inferring probability and making decisions.

Bayesian statistical methods are increasingly (though by no means universally) used, for example, where a policy decision must be made on the basis of a combination of imperfect evidence, or where a problem must be solved on the basis of multiple sources of evidence. Using such data, the Bayesian statistician formulates “probability distributions” to express the uncertainty involved. Bayesian methods have caught on particularly in such fields as market research, in some branches of econometrics and in computer learning and filtering systems, such as those which distinguish between “spam” and “non-spam” emails.

Lindley envisioned the approach as a way of understanding and handling uncertainty in our everyday lives. “There are some things that you know to be true, and others that you know to be false,” he wrote; “yet, despite this extensive knowledge that you have, there remain many things whose truth or falsity is not known to you. We say that you are uncertain about them. You are uncertain, to varying degrees, about everything in the future; much of the past is hidden from you; and there is a lot of the present about which you do not have full information. Uncertainty is everywhere and you cannot escape from it… it is not the uncertainty, but your uncertainty.”

Though Lindley rejected religious metaphors, Bayesianism has often been seen, by its critics, as a quasi-religious movement of which Lindley was sometimes described as the “high priest” in Britain.

In 1967 when he was appointed to the leading chair of statistics at University College London (a one-time bastion of statistical orthodoxy) a colleague commented : “Good Heavens! It’s as though a Jehovah’s Witness has been elected Pope.”

The only child of a builder, Dennis Victor Lindley was born in south London on July 25 1923 and brought up in Surbiton. In an interview in 1994 he recalled that his parents had “little culture” and were “proud of the fact that they had never read a book and they had a low opinion of classical music”. It was only when he went to Tiffin School, Kingston-upon-Thames, that he realised that there “were other things in the world”.

At first Dennis wanted to be an architect and his father made plans for him to leave school and become an apprentice. But war intervened and made it difficult, so he was allowed to stay on and sit for higher level exams. He did so well in mathematics that his teacher managed to persuade his parents that he should try for Cambridge.

During the Blitz Tiffin pupils often had to take refuge in the school shelters. There, since the mathematics teacher could not teach the whole class, he used the time to give his prize pupil individual tuition. Lindley won an exhibition to Trinity College (for which he later gave due credit to Hitler).

He went up to Cambridge in 1941, when the degree course was shortened to two years due to the war. After graduation he joined the Ministry of Supply as a statistician, working on introducing statistical quality control and inspection into arms production.

After the war Lindley spent some time at the National Physical Laboratory before returning to Cambridge for a further year of postgraduate study. From 1948 to 1960 he worked at Cambridge, rising to the position of director of the Statistical Laboratory.

Lindley always worked from first principles – or axioms – and as an undergraduate had been frustrated that the only branch of mathematics in which axiomatic reasoning had been seen as irrelevant was statistics. Students were trained in “frequentist” statistical techniques and methodology, but were not encouraged to examine or test the underlying principles.

On his appointment to an assistant lectureship Lindley decided to try to establish a rigorous axiomatic justification for “frequentism”. It was in the course of this work he began to detect flaws in the classical approach and moved to a Bayesian stance.

In 1960 Lindley was appointed Professor of Statistics at Aberystwyth and seven years later he moved to University College London.

Lindley took early retirement in 1977 and devoted the next 10 years to travelling the world as an “itinerant scholar”.

He published more than 100 significant scholarly articles and several books, including Introduction to Probability and Statistics from a Bayesian Viewpoint (2 volumes, 1965) and Understanding Uncertainty (2006). In 1979 he founded the Valencia International Meetings on Bayesian Statistics, held every four years, and in 2002 was awarded the Royal Statistical Society’s Guy Medal in Gold.

In 1947 he married Joan Armitage, with whom he had a daughter and two sons.

Dennis Lindley, born July 25 1923, died December 15 2013


This Lent we, and thousands of others, made the rise of hunger in the UK the focus of our fasting. It has been a time of sorrowful and deep reflection on a rise we see every day in the numbers visiting food banks in towns and cities across the country.

The Trussell Trust figures, released today, only further illustrate this terrible rise, from 350,000 last year to over 900,000 this year. This figure, shocking as it is, is far from the total number of people going hungry in our country today – from those too ashamed to visit their local food bank to those many families not in crisis but ever more worried about keeping the cupboards full. One in four is cutting portion sizes and half are cutting their household food budgets.

Lent has finally seen the beginning of a real national discussion on what this hunger means, what causes it and how we as a society can begin rising to the challenge of this national crisis.

As we approach Easter the mind turns to the hope of spring, the promise of resurrection and renewal. The hope Easter symbolises this year is a quiet and determined one. The hope that sees more and more people respond to their neighbours’ need, volunteering and supporting their local food bank. The hope that sees politicians from all parties come together with our colleague, the Bishop of Truro, to hear the real stories of UK hunger in a full and independent inquiry.

Hope is not an idle force. Hope drives us to act. It drives us to tackle the growing hunger in our midst. It calls on each of us, and government too, to act to make sure that work pays, that food markets support sustainable and healthy diets, and that the welfare system provides a robust last line of defence against hunger.

The fast is over, the work begins.

We ask that you commit fully to engage with the independent inquiry into the rise of UK hunger, championing its recommendations, and agree to meet representatives of the End Hunger Fast campaign to discuss how we can better work on these urgent issues together.

Yours faithfully,

Barry Morgan, Archbishop of Wales

Andy John, Bangor

Nick Holtam, Salisbury

Alan Wilson, Buckingham

Colin Fletcher, Dorchester

Pete Broadbent, Willesden

John Wraw, Bradwell

Stephen Conway, Ely

Dave Walker, Manchester

Steven Croft, Sheffield

Peter Burrows, Doncaster

Stephen Cottrell, Chelmsford

Andrew Watson, Aston

Gregory Cameron, St Asaph

Martin Warner, Chichester

Jonathan Clark, Croydon

Mark Sowerby, Horsham

Paul Butler, Durham

Christopher Chessun, Southwark

Stephen Patten, Wakefield

Michael Perham, Gloucester

Alan Winton, Thetford

Julian Henderson, Blackburn

Adrian Newman, Stepney

Ian Brackley, Dorking

Chris Edmondson, Bolton

John Holbrook, Brixworth

Alan Smith, St Albans

Trevor Willmott, Canterbury

Peter Hancock, Bath and Wells

Paul Bayes, Hertford

Michael Ipgrave, Woolwich

Paul Williams, Kensington

David Thomson, Huntingdon

Richard Atkinson, Bedford

James Bell, Knaresborough

Richard Inwood, Acting Southwell and Nottingham

Tony Porter, Sherwood

Andrew Proud, Reading

Christopher Coxworth, Coventry

Alastair Redfern, Derby

Geffrey Stafford, Lichfield

Steve Clifford, General Director of the Evangelical Alliance

Clare Wood, General Secretary of Quaker Peace and Social Justice

Ernie Whalley, President of the Baptist Union

Richard Teal, chair of Cumbria Methodist District

Jennifer Hurd, chair of the Wales Methodist Synod

Vernon March, chair of Sheffield Methodist District

Anne Brown, chair of Beds, Essex & Herts Methodist District

Graham Thompson, chair of East Anglia Methodist District

Bruce Thompson, chair of Lincolnshire Methodist District

Stuart Jordan, chair of London Methodist District

Jenny Impey, chair of London Methodist District

David Sinclair, Moderator of Glasgow Presbytery of the Church of Scotland

Richard Church, Moderator of the North West Synod of the United Reformed Church

Roy Lowes, Moderator of the West Midlands Synod of the United Reformed Church

Paul Whittle, Moderator of the Eastern Synod of the United Reformed Church

*Also signed by over 600 other church leaders

Updated , any further signatories will be uploaded to version on the End Hunger Fast website endhungerfast.co.uk

David Laws has noticed the approaching general election (Boost for teachers, 15 April), but his attempt to distance himself from the disastrous education policies of the coalition government is unconvincing. Much more than pre-election posturing is needed. The government should change direction. A responsible government would:

• Champion collaboration between schools based on successful initiatives like the London Challenge, instead of forcing schools to compete against each other.

• Raise training standards for all school staff and provide for continuous professional development, instead of employing more unqualified teachers.

• Commit to the principle that every child is entitled to a good education by ensuring that every school has the same powers, obligations and level of financial support.

• Embrace the principle of inclusion and open all state-funded schools to all students, instead of allowing thousands of English children to be branded 11-plus failures.

• Use highly qualified professionals to set national standards and offer supportive local inspection and advisory services to schools, instead of wasting money on a privatised inspection system.

• Develop a broad and balanced curriculum for all state-funded schools which includes the arts and has space for innovation and creativity.

Rather than the whims and harebrained ideas of Michael Gove and David Laws, we will be campaigning for a fair and inclusive education policy based on evidence, professionalism and a strong sense of responsibility to every child in England.
Melian Mansfield, Chair, Keith Lichman Secretary, Campaign for State Education; John Edmonds Chair, Comprehensive Future; Margaret Jones Director, Information for School and College Governors; Sheila Dore, Chair, Martin Dore General secretary, Socialist Education Association

Congratulations to the Guardian on its Pulitzer prize (Guardian wins Pulitzer prize for surveillance revelations, 15 April). Though it is strange how little prominence BBC News 24 gave to the biggest story in the world. The fact that the BBC and the mainstream corporate media have played ideological favourites on its US coverage shows just how vital was the Guardian’s break from the pack on this issue.
Gavin Lewis

• (Note to the NSA, GCHQ, Google, Apple, Verizon et al: chill, the enclosed content is certified terrorism-free.) Congratulations, and thanks, to you both.
Bill Steen Jr
Pittsburgh, USA

• Congratulations to all at the Guardian on the Pulitzer. Can’t wait for the film. All the President’s Men II? Johnny Depp as Alan Rusbridger?
Bob Hargreaves

• The east coast mainline (Letters, 10 April) shows how a state-run rail company can spur competition. This should be a model for all public utilities: a state-run company in the power, water and banking sectors to encourage competition and provide real cost figures for the running of such utilities to enable fair and reasonable prices to be determined.
Hugh Cooke

• Terry Leahy’s views on the inefficiency of a 50p income tax rate (Report, 11 April) are incoherent. If, as he claims, the yield is lower from a higher rate, then why is that a disincentive for rich people wanting to live and invest in the UK?
John Webb

• The suggestion that that the government buys a house in each constituency so that all MPs have a home (Letters, 10 April) is back to front. All MPs should already be resident in their constituencies. What is needed is a high-rise block of flats next to Westminster where MPs can stay when they are away from home.
John Tollick
Pontefract, West Yorkshire

• Not sure if any WI members have joined the recently opened diving club in Muff, Co Donegal (Letters, 15 April).
John Sissons
Ramsey, Isle of Man

Dr Richard Carter has not read Seymour Hersh’s article very carefully (Doubts about Syrian chemical weapons, Letters, 15 April). He asserts it is “based on extensive interviews with intelligence staff” but its principal claims are based on only two sources: unidentified “former” officials. Nor was there any need to “interview” them since their views have been on the internet for months. Carter states that one of Hersh’s claims is based on “analytical tests conducted by Porton Down”. But we have only Hersh’s word for this – he provides no source and Porton Down has not corroborated it. Carter describes Hersh’s claim of Turkish involvement as being offered “with evidence” – but on Turkish facilitation of the attack Hersh offers no evidence. Several blogs provide dismantling of Hersh’s article. The Guardian has an understanding of the evidential criteria required for investigative journalism. Hersh’s work fails on all and deserves to be ignored.
Brian Slocock

Supporters throw flower petals as Bharatiya Janata party leader Narendra Modi rides in an open jeep on his way to file nomination papers on 9 April 2014 in Vadodra, India. Photograph: Kevin Frayer/Getty Images

Priyamvada Gopal (Modi can’t be shrugged off, 14 April) is indeed right to direct our attention to Narendra Modi and the riots in Gujarat during 2002. The Gujarat riots of 12 years ago were horrible. Yet it is legitimate to ask whether this was the only or even the most horrific episode in recent Indian history, albeit the first one to be recorded on live television. The Delhi massacre of 3,000 Sikhs took place over three days in October 1984 while Rajiv Gandhi was prime minister.

Narasimha Rao, subsequently prime minister, was then the home minister and in charge of the police, who were told not to intervene. No one has been punished for that episode as yet after 30 years. Even prior to that, Sanjay Gandhi, though unelected, unleashed a pogrom of sterilisation on Muslim adults in 1976 as a population control measure to speed up development. This was while Indira Gandhi, his mother, had imposed the Emergency, the sole episode of fascism in India. Muslims resisting sterilisation were fired upon and killed in Delhi. In Muzaffarnagar, Uttar Pradesh, the killings were so many that the event was called mini-Jallianwala Bagh, recalling the worst atrocity under British rule 95 years ago in Amritsar.

Hindu/Muslim riots are a tragic part of Indian history. There have been 13,000 in the last 50 years, most of them under Congress rule. No one has been punished for these riots with the singular exception of Gujarat, where trials have been held and convictions taken place. The judiciary for once has not been prevented from delivering justice. The cases are still going on and may punish more people.

No head of government – prime minister or chief minister – has ever apologised for riots which have taken place under their watch in the 67 years of independent India’s history. Rajiv Gandhi never apologised, not only for the Delhi riots but also when Muslims were killed by police in Bhagalpur, and many other episodes one could list. There were riots in Mumbai in 1993 in which many Muslims were killed, and the Congress government then in power never took the culprits to court though they were named in the Srikrishna commission report it had received. The leader of the Shiv Sena party (which was active in the killings), Bal Thackeray, received a state funeral when he died recently under the watch of a Congress government.

There are no winners and no sinners in this game. Muslims have suffered under the rule of every party in India. At the root of the problem is the birthmark of India as an independent country, the partition of British-ruled India into India and Pakistan. India has to come to terms with the tragedy of partition. It will do so in its own ways. The Indian electors know all that Priyamvada Gopal tells us. Let them decide what they wish for themselves.
Meghnad Desai
Labour, House of Lords

•  ”Those who despair at the likely outcome [of the current Indian elections] can console themselves with the thought that nobody ever wins completely in India” (Editorial, 14 April). Indeed so. Coalition government has been the rule since the 1980s, and at least two governing coalitions have been headed by Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata party. The first authorised India’s 1998 testing of a nuclear device, possibly the most popular political decision since independence, and the second rewrote a lot of India’s history. Mr Modi, if in a position to form the next government, may champion a similar mix of populism and revisionism. With Gujarat’s capital of Ahmedabad now appearing as “Amdavad” on the road signs, Muslims are already being written out of the map in Modi’s home state.

But history can be re-rewritten and maps reversed. Even the bomb – developed by the Nehru/Gandhi dynasty and to which Pakistan immediately replied with its own tests – may have reduced the risk of every border clash turning into another war. Under the BJP the liberalisation of the economy continued, the inter-city motorway system known as the Golden Quadrilateral was launched and better relations with China were established. More surprisingly, the first symbolic gesture in over a decade to mend (or in this case, open) fences with Pakistan was launched when in 1999 the BJP leader boarded the inaugural run of a Delhi-Lahore bus service. His host, then as now, was Nawaz Sharif. Whatever one thinks of Mr Modi, his party’s record in power is not all bad. Cause for further consolation?
John Keay
Dalmally, Argyll

•  Your editorial rightly expresses concern over the rise of Narendra Modi. However, Indian voters, when it comes to economic issues, do not have much of a choice. India needs economic reforms, for most of its economic problems are structural, not cyclic. Every political party in India, however, is left of the centre; hence reforms take place only by stealth.

Modi is openly right of the centre. Even though his own party is confused on economic issues, his state of Gujarat has registered double-digit economic growth for more than a decade. He may not be the liberal reformer India needs but he is decisive, business-friendly, and gets things done. Surely these qualities are of paramount importance in a country where decision-making has been paralysed for the past five years.
Randhir Singh Bains
Gants Hill, Essex

Far more than salt reduction (Fall in salt consumption has helped cut deaths in UK, researchers claim, 15 April), a leading factor in the decline in deaths from heart disease is the reduction in the consumption of hydrogenated fat (transfats) over the past decade. Just a month ago this plastic-like fat was removed from the US’s “generally recognised as safe” list, and the US government has recommended that the food industry phase it out completely. This has happened after a 75% decline in transfat intake over the past decade, but it is still estimated that the decision will prevent 100,000 premature deaths annually from heart disease. The decline in transfat consumption worldwide had nothing to do with the Food Standards Agency or other government bodies – it was due to relentless campaigning by citizens and a response from the food industry.

In 1993 I launched a marketing campaign to support Whole Earth Superspread, the first transfat-free margarine. For the previous two decades people with high blood pressure had been advised to stop consuming butter and switch to margarine. The leading “heart healthy” margarine at the time contained 21% transfats; normal margarines were 30% or more transfats. Dietitians and margarine manufacturers complained to the Advertising Standards Agency, which blocked my advertising. They continued to recommend switching to margarine. This advice underpinned heart disease and stroke levels.

There has never been an apology from the health authorities who encouraged doctors to promote a toxic food ingredient. The attempt in the British Medical Journal to draw some parallel between reduced heart disease and reduced salt intake obfuscates the real cause of reduced deaths, which arose from reduced transfat consumption, reduced cigarette use and better medical treatments. If we are really to understand how to deal with public health problems we have to begin by admitting our mistakes.
Craig Sams
(Founder of Whole Earth Foods), Hastings

There has been only one Guardian mention, briefly and disparagingly (Obituary, 11 April), of Richard Hoggart’s links with Unesco in the outpourings of tribute. But I know how important these were to him from my experience of working closely together in the 1990s to secure Britain’s return to that organisation after the shameful withdrawal by the Thatcher government in 1985.
He saw its work in promoting education, media freedom and culture as an important extension on the global stage of the ideals and values he championed so eloquently at home. When I last spoke to him, some years ago before dementia set in, he was saddened by the failure of Whitehall policymakers to promote Unesco as a major potential force for securing greater international understanding and peace, rather than as one more UN body to promote aid, and to bring economic benefit to the UK.
John Gordon
Former UK ambassador to Unesco

• In 1980 I was involved in making a television programme about Richard Hoggart for an Open University course. The course began by asking students to reflect on their educational autobiography and that was what Richard did, too, in sequences filmed in Leeds and at Goldsmiths College. A Measured Life was broadcast on BBC2 for several years and prompted correspondence from OU students and the wider viewing public.
One letter from a student thanked Richard for the inspiration he had given her in an appointment to a senior post in a London borough. On the day of the interviews she had gone home to prepare for what she anticipated would be a tough encounter with councillors that evening. She watched the TV programme: “It is no exaggeration to say that this was exactly the inspiration I needed. Your account of your life, problems, educational and professional achievements, described in such an interesting, lucid and informative way, was so encouraging and such a model of clarity, that I felt I might be able to do the impossible, defeat the odds, and achieve this post I so much wanted.” She did. Her letter concluded: “Such is the effect we all have on the lives of one another, often unknowingly.”
Peter Barnes
Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire

• It is high time that Richard Hoggart’s achievement was considered more objectively. However, the cloud of eulogy which has always accompanied him, and has grown thicker since his death, unfortunately prevents that. One has only to compare him with Raymond Williams, his more significant contemporary, to see this. Williams came from the radical section of the working class: Hoggart from the “non-political” queen-and-country section. Hoggart was an uncritical supporter of the cold war; believed that it was more important to spend money on Trident than the arts; wouldn’t have been seen dead on an Aldermaston march; always supported the wars in which the UK was engaged; and while conceding that “all occupations are hateful” considered Israel’s occupation of Palestine “one of the more careful and thoroughly thought out”. The establishment knew Hoggart posed no threat to it. That is why he was offered a knighthood and then a seat in the Lords. Hoggart showed he was a man of honour in refusing them. But Williams would never have been offered them.
Malcolm Pittock

Sue Townsend and I were introduced over lunch in a Soho restaurant by the head of drama at Thames Television, Lloyd Shirley, soon after the company acquired the rights to The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13¾ to find out if we two would “hit it off” and could develop this wonderfully entertaining book for television. As luck would have it, the opposite backgrounds of a Hungarian refugee TV director and an English housewife turned writer triggered off a similar sense of humour in the visual interpretation of the story and characters.

During the following few months, I spent three days a week in Leicester, where Sue lived with her family. We worked on her script, and she helped me not just to see the characters but to smell them. We visited locations where she thought I might like to film some of the scenes the way she had visualised them. She was the most helpful writer I have had the privilege of working with.

And when I started casting, it was such a joy to listen to her enthusiasm when I was telling her over the telephone the confirmed names of brilliant actors who were going to play her characters, among them Julie Walters, Beryl Reid, Stephen Moore, Bill Fraser, and of course our Adrian (Gian Sammarco) and Pandora (Lindsey Stagg) – she thought how lucky we were to find them.

This happy association continued through the making of The Growing Pains of Adrian Mole. These two series will always be among my favourite productions.

Fracking is a bad option

I am concerned at your editorial suggesting both nuclear and fracking may be alternatives, though unpalatable ones, to forms of fossil fuel-generated power (4 April). The horrors and costs of nuclear aside, fracking is not a sensible option, as it has been shown that gas generation is more greenhouse-gas intensive than the burning of coal.

A lot of energy is expended by extracting gas by fracking, the wells leak insidious greenhouse gases and tonnes of water, and fracking fluids are required in the extraction process that can leak into the environment and pollute water sources. The transportation of gas involves the burning of even more fossil fuels; this is aside from the actual gas generation process itself.

Fracking and gas generation of electricity represent the burning of fossil fuels at a time when we should be urgently cutting back on their use. We need to invest in sustainable, secure and independent energy supplies and more actively encourage reductions in our use of fossil fuels.
Seona Gunn
Deans Marsh, Victoria, Australia

• I wonder how many readers were disappointed and puzzled by the very obvious playing down by the Guardian Weekly of the latest IPCC report on global warming issues (4 April)? Relegated to just two-thirds of a page and a brief editorial, and was absent from the signpost headlines on page one. The now rather tedious Pistorius court case was deemed more significant and given far more prominent attention.

What is happening to the Guardian Weekly’s editorial priorities when this most important update on the potentially catastrophic threat we are all now facing is given such short shrift?
Robert Norton
Sydney, Australia

• With the effects of climate change already being felt across the globe, the best the Guardian can suggest is nuclear and fracking? Now there really is no hope!
Hilary Cadman
Bellingen, NSW, Australia

China’s threat to Russia

In 2011, I spent a month visiting China to see the world’s most populous nation on the march. I had an interesting discussion with a fluently English-speaking graduate student at Shanghai University. We talked about China’s meteoric rise as an economic superpower.

He was very upbeat and told me that China’s rise has been peaceful. When I asked him what did he think about China’s relations with Russia, which was a communist country before, he told me they are very good and getting better. China is already Russia’s biggest trading partner. Then he told me that despite its one-child policy, China is an overpopulated country and needs land to expand, and Russia should sell its vast and largely underpopulated areas in the far east in the same way it sold Alaska to the US in the 19th century. I told him it seems to be good idea, provided Russia agrees to it. He replied it is inevitable as Russia, with a population of only 140 million, simply doesn’t have the manpower to develop the world’s largest landmass.

The student pointed out that in the 19th century, China was forced to cede vast territories to Russia. China has not forgotten this humiliation. By annexing Crimea, Putin has created a precedent for a powerful China to reclaim its vast far eastern territories (21 March).

The European Union can sit back and let Putin go down in its folly. As Napoleon remarked: “Don’t interrupt the enemy when he is making a false move.”
Mahmood Elahi
Ottawa, Canada

The safety of statins

Medical experts clash over statin safety (28 March) provides a valuable public service, and calls for further discussion. Should anti-cholesterol drugs should be used at all?

If cholesterol is toxic to the walls of blood vessels, why does it attack only arteries? And why does it attack the hardest-working arteries (those in the heart) most of all? Veins are attacked only when they are put in the arterial system. I once did an autopsy on a 50-year-old diabetic woman, two of whose leg veins were moved, one year earlier, to her coronary arterial system. The walls of both veins were markedly increased in thickness, leading to her death.

These findings are consistent with the “wear-and-tear” hypothesis of arterial disease, and unrelated to cholesterol. They have serious implications for the way we live, and should lead to shorter working weeks, especially for manual labourers and all who are stressed by work.

As transplantation of veins into the heart was frequent, there must have been many similar autopsy findings. In 40 years I have seen none. On the other hand, soon after the American nutritionist Ancel Keys alleged in 1953 that dietary cholesterol was producing coronary heart disease, anti-cholesterol drugs, of which the statins are the most recent, appeared.

Promotion of anti-cholesterol drugs has been successful. The use of statins makes big bucks for big companies. Is it surprising that, in capitalist society, the theory that makes money for big companies is accepted, while the theory that could benefit workers is ignored? Is this one of Marx’s “contradictions of capitalism”?
Ken Ranney
Peterborough, Ontario, Canada

Chandler remembered

While reading John Banville’s interesting account of his attempt to carry on the Raymond Chandler tradition (11 April), I was reminded of the day when Chandler appeared to be attempting suicide. I worked for 11 years for Hamish Hamilton at 90 Great Russell Street in Bloomsbury, and one morning about 1957, Jamie Hamilton said he had been woken in the night by Chandler, calling from California. Such a call was most unusual in those days and Hamilton was alarmed because it appeared that Chandler was making a sentimental goodbye.

Hamilton decided to contact the nearest police station to Chandler’s home, explained the situation and suggested they send someone to Chandler’s apartment. A few hours later the message came through that Chandler had been discovered standing in the shower with a gun in his hand. Thanks to this intervention, Chandler survived.

A few months later, he came to London and we gave a party for him in the office. He appeared in a suit of electric blue, a brilliant white shirt and a tie no Englishman would have been seen dead wearing. With him was a woman who appeared to be playing the role of nurse and companion, as he was obviously fragile. He charmed the guests, all of whom were delighted to meet the famous creator of Philip Marlowe, who moved around the room with a glass of whisky in his hand from which he was drinking deeply and which his companion was assiduously refilling.

This worried me. I shared my concern with his companion. She replied,” Not to worry, honey. It’s cold tea and he don’t know the difference.”
Ken Wilder
Bowral, NSW, Australia

A breath of fresh air?

Linda Woodhead, professor of the sociology of religion at Lancaster University, is right (A breath of fresh air, 21 March). This pope so far has done nothing but use cheap gestures.

Has he agreed to opening the Vatican’s books on sexual abuse, so that victims can at last see exposure of the crimes committed against them? What about handing over paedophile priests to the law? What about putting the Vatican’s artworks up for auction and using the money to build houses in the poorest parts of the poorest countries? What about standing up for equal respect for people who differ physically?

It takes my breath away to hear Jon O’Brien, chief executive for Catholics for Choice in the US, say “he has brought about real change”. Driving a Ford Focus? Wearing black boots instead of red shoes? This constitutes “real” change?

The suffering of people everywhere because of the church’s ruling on abortion, gay rights and female priests has not been alleviated one tiny bit by this pope’s trivial exercising of his personal preferences.
Susan Grimsdell
Auckland, New Zealand


• The Italian court’s decision (28 March) to grant “short-term private interests” an injunction against a law to safeguard Venice’s heritage reflects the damage caused by out-of-control corporate interests. The only democratic measure with the capacity to stand up to democracy’s denigration is a constitutional provision that empowers citizens to say “enough already”, as Swiss voters did in February.
André Carrel
Terrace, British Columbia, Canada

• In his 2010 memoir of the Bush years, Tony Blair melodramatically cast himself as a martyr to hoi polloi – shades of St Sebastian – albeit in “armour which the arrows simply bounced off” (4 April). And he visualised himself “float[ing] above the demonic rabble”, ie the demos, those who bravely tried to forestall his martial ambitions. He aimed “to achieve a kind of weightlessness” – and that he did.
R M Fransson
Denver, Colorado, US

• Diane Francis is welcome to return to her native US any time she likes, but not to take Canada with her, as she seems to want to do (28 March).
Bruce Inksetter
Gatineau, Quebec, Canada

• Middle Earth does not meet Middle English (4 April). In translating Beowulf, written as early as the seventh century, Tolkien would have met Anglo-Saxon. Middle English was the language of Chaucer, used a half-millennium later. Alison Flood’s calling Beowulf an 11th-century poem makes it a very late edition.
Kenneth Rower
Newbury, Vermont


Ian Birrell discusses the “dismal offering” of “Mr Clegg’s dwindling band”, and suggests the Liberal Democrats “need to be more than not being somebody else” (14 April). But what?

Such strictures are quite dated. A century ago in The New Machiavelli H G Wells wrote of the Liberals that they can never be “anything but a diversified crowd”, which “has to voice everything that is left out” by Conservatives and Labour. “It is at once the party of the failing and untried… the “Anti” party … a system of hostilities and objections that somehow achieves at times an elusive common soul.”

Liberals have drifted with the tides, from Herbert Spencer’s laissez-faire, through Herbert Asquith’s social welfare, to Herbert Marcuse’s political correctness. Celtic fringes, suburban eccentrics, metrosexual cosmopolitans, they have become a pointless collection of ideological “spotty herberts”. The sooner the Liberal Democrat party is wound up, the better.

David Ashton, Sheringham, Norfolk

Miliband needs to get off the fence

If Ed Miliband would set out Labour policies and defend them, rather than wriggling on the fence, then he would find his personal rating zoom up. This is why Nigel Farage and Alex Salmond are so popular. You may not agree with everything they say, but you know without doubt what their policies are and what they will do if elected.

To win the next election the Labour Party must drop the New Labour concept, as we now all know that this was secret code for “warmongering Conservative”. They should realise that the average Labour voter loathes Tony Blair more than even the Conservatives.

Parachuting Euan Blair into the safe seat of Bootle would be a disaster for Labour, as it would send out the wrong message and would not work anyway. You cannot fool Scousers.

Malcolm Howard, Banstead, Surrey

The Labour leader might command more respect if he were Ed Megaband or Ed Gigaband.

David Ridge, London N19

What an MP learned in court

Nigel Evans now realises the injustice of the Government’s cuts in legal aid. Evans was lucky enough to have £130,000 to pay for high-quality legal representation; presumably he felt the expense was worth it, to improve the chances of acquittal.

So are we really “all equal before the law”? Innocent others, without such wealth, might have ended up being found guilty.

Evans’s change of mind also suggests that parliamentary votes cutting benefits for the poorest, might well have gone the other way had MPs and ministers had direct and vivid experience of poverty and unemployment.

It is easy to judge “objectively” that too much is spent on welfare and legal aid when your own quality of life is unaffected by cuts in such benefits.

Peter Cave, London W1

Having been found not guilty of sexual offences, Nigel Evans MP thinks that the CPS should pay the costs of his defence.

But there seem to have been no substantial issues of fact for the jury to decide; the question was whether Mr Evans’s admitted behaviour amounted to, or fell short of, a criminal offence. This jury found in Mr Evans’s favour; but another jury could well have decided otherwise, in which case Mr Evans would have lost not only his money but also his liberty.

It was because of his own behaviour that he found himself in the dock.

Anthony Bramley-Harker, Watford, Hertfordshire

Practical work in science A-levels

Stephanie Fernandes from the Institution of Engineering and Technology is right when she says that GCSEs and A-levels do not always provide the level of practical experience that employers need (letter, 12 April).

When looking at the science A-levels, we found that the current assessment arrangements do not support the teaching of practical work as they should. That is why we are putting in place new arrangements which place practical skills back at the heart of teaching, where they belong. They will put the focus back on equipping students with the skills they need to progress into education and careers in science and engineering.

The content for the new A-levels, published by the Department for Education, requires students to carry out experimental and investigative activities in a range of contexts, to analyse and interpret data to provide evidence, and to evaluate methodology, evidence and data. They will have to carry out a minimum of 12 experiments over each two-year science course they take.

Some of the practical skills, such as commenting on experimental design and evaluating scientific methods, will then be assessed in the written exams. To get good marks in their A-levels, students will have to show knowledge and understanding of the experiments they have gained through doing them.

The new  A-levels will promote more and better science practical work being carried out, emphasise the vital role of practical skills in teaching and learning the sciences and help students develop the science practical skills that higher education and employers are seeking. We intend to consult on a similar proposition for GCSE sciences in the  near future.

Glenys Stacey, Chief Regulator, Ofqual, Coventry

Allotments in danger

As a former allotment-holder, I was very interested in “The great British rake off” (15 April) but Margaret Willes did not mention the widespread and continuing destruction of allotment sites throughout the country.

I was Secretary of the Parc Beck allotments in Swansea, which were established during the First World War. The site was in the middle of an urban area and was very popular, with a long waiting list, but the allotments were destroyed when the landowner (the local health authority) sold the land for housing development.

Mike Stroud, Swansea

Triumphs of democracy

Millions queue to vote in India; thousands risk assassination to vote in Afghanistan. There must be something in this democracy lark. Why don’t we introduce it here?

Clive Georgeson, Dronfield, Derbyshire

Shale gas gives us time to go green

While one must take note of warnings from the United Nations in respect of global warming, they should not necessarily be interpreted as requiring the immediate cessation of burning fossil fuels, or as having  particular reference to shale oil and shale gas (“Final IPCC report demands green energy drive to avoid catastrophe”, 14 April).

What we do need, and what also was sadly lacking when North Sea oil was discovered, is a plan. In the case of North Sea oil the plan seems to have been to use up the resource and then go back to importing oil and gas.

Shale gas and shale oil offer the country a unique and magnificent opportunity, unlikely to be repeated. Not only will they assist the country towards energy security but also enormously reduce the balance of payments deficit. A plan now would reap huge rewards for the day when even shale gas runs out. A proportion of the profits set aside could be directed, from the outset, towards developing green energy.

Gradually, as shale gas runs down, green energy will be expanding to fill the gap, and there will be a no break. Indeed, we would be less dependent upon fossil fuels over the years as this programme was rolled out.

In this way shale gas can be usefully employed to solve the problems of industry, global warming, and self sufficiency in green energy. Not to mention giving the whole country a kick-start when it is most needed.

Vernon J Yarker, Maldon, Essex

Energy Secretary Ed Davey need not worry about having to persuade other European governments about the need to take Putin’s energy threat seriously (14 April). As it happens, the heads of EU Governments, all of whom met in Brussels last month, unanimously agreed to require the European Commission to report  to them by June on precisely  this topic.

They  asked for  a detailed plan showing how we can minimise the amount of Russian gas Europe need import. Their communiqué states what they believe to be the best, most cost- effective and swiftest way of proceeding. It says unequivocally that, to reduce gas import dependency, “moderating energy demand through enhanced energy efficiency should be the first step; this will also contribute to other energy and climate objectives.”

It is clear where the 28 heads of governments believe the priorities for Europe’s energy security future rationally lie.

Andrew Warren, Director, Association for the Conservation of Energy, London N1


Teachers’ support organisations are hearing increasing reports of teachers under stress

Sir, Terry Haydn (“Misbehaviour in class ‘is far worse than reported’”, Apr 14) is to be applauded for highlighting the growing lack of discipline in schools. Our teacher support line has received a growing number of complaints about pupil behaviour and its damaging effects on teachers’ well-being and students’ learning. We found that nearly 40 per cent of teachers have considered leaving the profession as a result of poor behaviour, with over 60 per cent suffering anxiety and depression for the same reason.

Unless disruptive behaviour is properly managed, our schools will lose promising staff and teaching standards and results will decline.

We must explore the wider causes of this decline in behaviour, which needs to be addressed by the whole school community, including school leaders, parents and policy makers. More specialised training and robust policies that balance the needs of both teachers and students will be essential, but we must also ensure that the causes of negative behaviour are addressed holistically. Teachers should not be made to feel these wider social problems are theirs to deal with alone.

Julian Stanley

Teacher Support Network

London N5

Sir, You conveyed Professor Haydn’s concern that behaviour in schools is far worse than reported by Ofsted. He speaks of schools having, in effect, to contain bad behaviour rather than reject it, and of cultural factors such as unsupportive parents. He also speaks of instilling a culture “that no child has the right to spoil the learning of others.”

It is one thing to instil a culture that acknowledges rights, in this case a right to learning that is not impeded by the poor behaviour of others, it is another matter to insist on such rights. Highly visible signs in other publicly funded institutions such as hospitals warn that abuse of staff will not be tolerated. What moral authority is there for governments to insist, in effect that parents send children to schools where bad behaviour is tolerated?

The responsibility for seeing that their children receive an effective education rests with parents.

When they fail, other parents will keep their children away if they can. Many who can afford fees resort to independent schools which of course would fail if they did not insist on reasonable standards from all their pupils and their parents.

Tony Blair banned the use of parent interviews in allocating places in state-funded schools despite the claim by the governors of his sons’ school that such interviews were their most important task. This ban should be reversed, and places at state-funded schools should be dependent upon a satisfactory interview with a child’s parents.

Peter Inson

(Head, Twyford CofE HS, 1995-98) Colchester, Essex

Sir, You refer to English schools’ low international ranking for pupil behaviour and suggest it is a main reason for some 40 per cent of new teachers leaving the job within their first five years.

The main motivation for teachers is not the salary but job satisfaction. This has been severely diminished by the poor behaviour that you report on and also by the ever-increasing pressure from government and by being generally kicked around and disparaged since the inception of the “great educational debate” in 1976.

David Cooper-Smith

Bletchley, Bucks

The number of animals being used in scientific research is rising worryingly once more

Sir, Since 1979, April 24 has been World Day for Animals in Laboratories, an occasion for thinking about the millions of animals that live and die for science every year. As alumni and associates of Oxford university, we think of the animals used there — over 180,000 of them in 2013.

The UK law on animals in research has, since 1986, aimed at steadily reducing their numbers, with a “final goal” of none at all (the phrase comes from the EU Directive). At first it was successful, but in this century numbers have been briskly rising.

Since the opening of the new animal-research laboratory at Oxford in 2008, there has been an increase in “procedures” there of about 25 per cent. We are dismayed and mystified by this slighting of a law which, it must be remembered, gives research scientists special privileges and immunities as a quid pro quo.

In 2012 Oxford university was one of the signatories to a “Declaration on Openness on Animal Research”. If it means to redeem its promise, there is much that could be done to make this bad situation at least more intelligible. The university website, for instance, provides too little information and is not kept up to date. There are animal-advocacy groups in the university, junior and senior, which should be given official countenance: why is the new laboratory shown to BBC journalists, but not to them?

Oxford needs to remember that a university should be of all institutions the most reluctant to keep secrets, and the most eager to promote knowledge and informed discussion. It shouldn’t have to make a promise of this at all.

Professor Michael Balls, Professor Stephen RL Clark, Professor Martin Henig, Sir David Madden, Dr Desmond Morris, Dr Katherine Morris, Dr Richard Ryder, Dr Matthew Simpson, Professor Peter Singer Oxford

Some wage slaves are beginning to murmur at the technology which keeps us on the treadmill 24 hours a day

Sir, Further to Kevin Maher (Switching off at 6pm isn’t what I would call working”, Apr 14), there is no turning off our computers so that we can avoid being contacted. To do so is just storing up the inevitable deluge when we turn it back on again. And if you have a smart phone, your boss will track you down. Mine always did: on top of a mountain in Switzerland or walking the hills of Scotland, nowhere is safe. I worked seven days a week, 365 days a year without extra pay because of this.

Rather than working 24/7 without pay shouldn’t we think of ourselves as a business. If your company can say that time is money, shouldn’t we? If you want my time you pay for it.

Edward Williams


Sir, Can anyone seriously argue that George Osborne should emulate Greece (“A Greek lesson for Britain’s chancellor”, Apr 11)? The austerity measures imposed on Greece have led to an economy shrinking by 25 per cent; an unemployment rate of 27 per cent; and a youth unemployment rate of nearly 60 per cent. This has encouraged the biggest exodus of Greeks in a century. There is a dangerous rise in nationalistic extremism on the right and populist protectionism on the left.

Cuts have reduced the budget deficit at a huge cost to the economy, and Greece has just done its first borrowing again from the markets, but the debt-to-GDP ratio has increased to an unsustainable 175 per cent. This debt will need to be rescheduled, restructured and largely written off for Greece to have any chance of sustained recovery. If I were the UK’s chancellor I would look elsewhere for inspiration.

Vicky Pryce

(author, Greekonomics: The Euro Crisis and Why Politicians Don’t Get It)

London, SW4

A small but grievous editing error attracted several letters of condolence and reproach, this one among them

Sir, I felt very envious when I read (Apr 14) that the sun “shined” on the marathon. It just shone in my part of London.

Huboob Al Mudhaffer

London SW1


SIR – Four years ago, when we pledged £20 million towards the ArcelorMittal Orbit, we intended it not to end up a relic of the Games, but to come to symbolise tangible improvement in the local area, whose regeneration was part of the Olympic bid.

Yet today many East Londoners will be wondering when they will see the benefits. The area continues to face unemployment, crime, poor education and a lack of dedicated space for people to take part in activities. The talking needs to stop, and the investment and involvement must start.

With this in mind, we’re launching several community initiatives, including educational sponsorships at Birkbeck, University of London’s new Stratford campus and weekly workshops for young people at Theatre Royal Stratford East. The reopening of the Olympic Park was a great start, but we still have a long way to go.

Ian Louden
Head of Brand, ArcelorMittal
London W1

SIR – After a general election that is not based on proportional representation, Ukip will not hold a position of any sort of power, but the votes that have been cast for it are likely to have resulted in a number of marginal seats moving from Conservative to Labour.

It may be that the Tory party is not the Conservative Party of old, but the Labour Party is still the same old Labour Party.

Roger Gentry
Sutton-at-Hone, Kent

SIR – Ian Dodsworth says: “Most people vote for either Ukip or the Liberals because they believe in their policies.” To my knowledge, Ukip has yet to reveal one single policy apart from instant exit from the European Union.

A successful pro-Ukip vote would be a protest vote with perilous consequences for this country.

Doona Turner
Horsham, West Sussex

SIR – I do not agree with the view that to vote Conservative in 2015 would be to vote for another Coalition government.

If a large enough proportion of the electorate, and particularly those in the key marginals, vote Conservative at the next general election, then that party could secure an overall majority; as would have been the case in 2010.

Pamela Westland
Braintree, Essex

Islamist extremism

SIR – No doubt liberals will strongly disagree with Lord Pearson of Rannoch’s letter without answering his basic argument that Islamist extremism is far from being a minority in Islam and the mainstream is doing little about it – and those few who do risk their lives.

Some have considered that better education would cause extremism and fanaticism to fade away, but our university campuses show this has not happened.

Trying to gag people by cries of “Islamophobia” will not make this problem go away. Responding that other religions have had extremists too is no justification.

The key problem is whether the founder of the faith desired followers to be warlike or peaceful. Compare Mohammed’s sayings with Jesus’s.

Colin McGreevy

The sniff test

SIR – I completely agree with David Lear. I don’t use sell-by dates, display-until dates and best-before dates. I use my nose, which is 100 per cent reliable. Anything that doesn’t make it goes in the compost or bio-degrader.

Rod Sanders

Waistcoat etiquette

SIR – Is it not time that the few of us who still wear waistcoats were freed from the convention of leaving the bottom button undone? Apparently the custom dates back to the obesity of George IV, when it was considered a faux pas in court circles to do up a button his portly majesty couldn’t, but I don’t see why this should govern us nowadays.

The undone waistcoat button may look dignified when standing or walking, but once you sit down, the midriff and the bottom end of the tie spill out in a most unflattering and unappealing manner.

Could my fellow waistcoat-wearers agree to button up all the way down?

Sean Lang

Concreting the suburbs

SIR – You report that Nick Clegg wants three new garden cities built between Oxford and Cambridge. Surely it would be better to regenerate existing cities and convert redundant office space into low-cost housing?

We must also halt the concreting-over of what were once the leafy suburbs. Front gardens have been converted to soulless slabs bereft of lawns and flower beds. The younger generation’s obsession with multiple car ownership has made front gardens the preserve of the elderly.

Anthony Rodriguez
Staines-upon-Thames, Middlesex

Cathedral bypass

SIR – The Dean of Ely Cathedral is quite right to champion the Ely southern bypass, which will benefit the town and the cathedral. A possibly more deserving case is Salisbury, which sits astride the A36 Southampton to Bristol trunk road. The bypass here has been on the Department for Transport’s shelf for 10 years or more. Whitehall and Westminster should hang their heads in shame at the continued imposition of traffic on the city’s inhabitants and the cathedral.

John Franklin
Horsley, Surrey

Make your mind up

SIR – My wife and I recently sent out invitations to our daughter’s forthcoming wedding and included a return card and addressed envelope. The card clearly gave the option of “can attend/cannot attend”.

Our problem has not been the lack of replies so much as the significant number of cards returned with neither option selected. Why did they waste the stamp?

Christopher Lucy
Margate, Kent

Slow getaways

SIR – Never mind how long it takes an infirm person to exit a stationary car. By the time my wife has switched the engine and radio off, removed her seat belt, put away her driving glasses, gathered her belongings and opened the door, 30 seconds will have long gone.

It’s the same at parties: although I can thank my hosts, say goodbye to a dozen other folk and be out of the door in two minutes, I know it will be a further 18 before my spouse is close to the threshold.

Robert Warner
West Woodhay, Berkshire

The Navy needs flexibility, not sophistication

SIR – Mark Harland calls for the forward-basing of more major maritime surface units in the Mediterranean as opposed to the deployment of “troops on the ground”.

The Royal Navy has recently spent its money on: six Type 45 destroyers, the most advanced warships we have ever built (over £6.6 billion); seven Astute-class submarines, the most advanced and most powerful submarines ever operated by the Navy (£900 million each); and two Queen Elizabeth-type aircraft carriers, the largest ever built for the Navy (£3.1 billion each).

If the Navy needs more forward platforms it should stop procuring large, expensive, sophisticated ships and acquire smaller, cheaper, more flexible units instead. What cost-effectiveness is there in deploying the most advanced and complex ships in the world against Somali pirates?

Lt Col Paul d’Apice (retd)
Dawlish, Devon

SIR – Our Armed Forces now lack any Long Range Maritime Patrol aircraft and thus, should an aircraft be lost in the North Atlantic, we wouldn’t be able to perform a proper, credible search, unlike the Australians and New Zealanders.

As an island nation dependent on merchant shipping, we also have no aircraft to combat a submarine threat. With Vladimir Putin’s sabre rattling, this threat could reappear. We were nearly starved out of two world wars by the U-boat.

The Royal Navy has been reduced to a few ships and submarines, insufficient to protect the expensive new aircraft carriers or conduct credible anti-submarine operations. Having vandalised the Nimrod fleet, which in any case should have been replaced years ago, the purchase of some Orion P3s, at present doing sterling work in the Indian Ocean, would be a good start.

Wg Cdr R M Trowern RAF (retd)
Longparish, Hampshire

SIR – Politicians traditionally over-promise on the NHS, especially in the run-up to an election. The promise of regular GP visits, longer opening hours and same-day appointments, all funded by the Prime Minister’s £50 million access fund, seems hardly credible when the funding amounts to a mere 87 pence per registered patient per year, and most practices will not receive any of this funding.

There is no spare capacity in general practice. GPs and their teams would somehow cope with care being moved out of hospitals and into surgeries, but the proportion of the NHS budget put into general practice has fallen in the past five years from more than 11 per cent to under 7.5 per cent.

It is time for a realistic offering, and for the Government to put its money where its mouth is.

Dr Peter Swinyard
Chairman, Family Doctor Association
Swindon, Wiltshire

SIR – Your leading article is correct in ascribing the chief reason for the excessive pressure on A&E departments to GPs opting out of weekend and evening on-call duties. This has induced anxiety in many patients, who realise that the day of the personal doctor is over. Couple this with the not-uncommon impression that they are regarded by practice staff as a nuisance, and it is easy to understand how patient’s morale is suffering.

It is not good for the doctors either as they are losing the rewarding positive feedback that results from good doctor–patient relationships. I spent more than 40 enjoyable years as a GP in a practice that thrived because the whole team – doctors, nurses and receptionists – knew that they were there for the benefit of the patients, and this was evident in their attitudes.

The economic difficulties are self-evident, yet in spite of hearing from Jim Gee, a former head of NHS counter-fraud personnel, that fraud and error are costing some £7 billion annually, the NHS security budget has been cut rather than augmented. More understanding of the NHS’s raison d’être, and less incompetent housekeeping, are needed to restore confidence and efficiency in areas that are causing considerable concern.

Dr Neville Davis
Hove, East Sussex

SIR – During a face-to-face appointment, a qualified doctor has the opportunity to observe a patient’s skin, hair, eyes, fingernails, ears and smell. Doctors can gain a lot of information from this meeting. This knowledge would not be available if the appointment was dealt with by email or phone call.

The one-to-one consultation outside of usual opening hours cannot be totally replaced with remote technology. Those surgeries that do not open outside normal working hours need to change so that more patients can be seen in person.

Sue Doughty
Twyford, Berkshire

Irish Times:

Sir, – Please allow me to share the reservations expressed by Prof Diarmaid Ferriter (reported April 14th) about the proposed presence of British royals at the Easter Rising commemorations in 2016, or indeed at any of the subsequent commemorative events. I fail to see how such a presence could be at all appropriate or, if you think about it, anything less than bizarre.

At a history conference on the first World War in UCC last January, I pointed out, in the presence of the British ambassador, that it is not the business of historians to promote “inclusiveness” and reconciliation, essentially political objectives. Where commemorations are concerned, the role of historians is to enlighten students and the interested public about the events in question.

Otherwise, the expert advisory group ( of which I was a member for a brief period) might well reflect whether the Government is genuinely interested in their historical advice or simply requires a respectable academic cover for a political agenda. Yours, etc,


Emeritus Professor

of Irish History,

University College, Cork.

Sir, – Diarmaid Ferriter’s comment – by way of rebuttal to the argument that the 1916 Rising was unnecessary – that there was “no evidence that Britain was prepared to settle its Irish question until it was forced to do it” raises interesting issues, not least what the settlement of the Irish question might be.

The Liberal Party had the opportunity to govern Britain from 1911, though to do so it was forced by its dependence on the votes of the Irish Parliamentary Party to provide for home rule. Implementation of the policy was hindered by unionist opposition in the northeastern portion of Ireland. The precise geographical and temporal extent of that exclusion dominated the politics of these months 100 years ago.

Events intervened. War was declared on Germany. As significant as the 1916 Rising was the parliamentary party’s loss of the balance of power on the formation of a national government in London. The political world of the Irish Parliamentary Party collapsed under the weight of Easter Week. Though the Rising – and particularly the executions – moved public opinion towards republicanism it can, I think, be fairly stated that a Liberal government, relying on Irish votes, and by then already radical on a number of fronts would not have been shy in implementing what would probably have been a mutually acceptable form of home rule (excluding all or a portion of Ulster) to maintain power. Yours, etc,


Conyngham Road

Dublin 8

Sir, – Diarmaid Ferriter is worried that the presence of representatives of the British royal family at 1916 commemorations might give succour to those who believe the insurrection was unnecessary. In indicating his views on whether or not the rising was “necessary” and on the appropriateness or otherwise of potential guests, isn’t Prof Ferriter going beyond his remit as an historian to give us his personal political views?

When he states that there is “no evidence that Britain was prepared to settle its Irish question until it was forced to do it”, he is of course speaking as a historian; unfortunately, his historical opinions are questionable.

Where is the evidence that Asquith’s administration on the eve of the Easter Rising was preparing to abandon home rule? The Government of Ireland Act had been passed in September 1914 against unionist protests. The Act suspending implementation had effect only for the duration of hostilities. The formation of a coalition in 1915 did little to alter matters: the legislative position of September 1914 was unchanged in April 1916 and John Redmond’s Irish Party was still dominant, retaining the confidence of most nationalists before the rising.   It was the Rising, the executions and conscription which killed home rule;  but Prof Ferriter would do well not to confuse the aftermath of Easter 1916 with the period before that date. Yours, etc,


Ulidia House,

Belfast BT125JN

Sir, – Liam Cooke (Letters, April 14th) is dismayed by the cyclists he sees around him, sinning merrily and shouting cheerily.

Clearly he would be happier on a bike himself. He says “Motorists have more to lose than cyclists.” No, sorry, I don’t get that. “Cycling in the cities is a dangerous practice” – statistically, not as dangerous as driving, or being driven. Anecdotally (that is to say, in my experience) cycling in Dublin is a lot safer than it was 50 years ago, when few drivers used their indicators or mirrors and lane discipline was non-existent.

“Cycle lanes are not always available” —nor can they ever be universal. Problems arise where cycle lanes suddenly cease, as they must, whatever the budget.

But as Liam and others join us, surely our ubiquity will give us the best protection, while the remaining drivers fume in dismay at our merriment. Yours, etc,


Marlborough Road,

Dublin 4

Sir, – I must repeat my call for education on the rules of the road. The attitudes expressed by Liam Cooke in response to my letter (April 11th) demonstrate precisely why it is needed. It is hard to know which is more worrying: that Mr Cooke believes motorists can “safely” break red lights or that he thinks a motorist fined for such behaviour has more to lose than a cyclist, who could pay with his life when others fail to obey the law. Yours, etc,


Tudor Road,


Dublin 6

Sir, – Cyclists breaking red lights should at least shout a warning. I would suggest something along the lines of “I’m cycling to save the Earth!” Thus elderly or encumbered pedestrians could take evasive action knowing there’s a strong moral reason why they are being terrorised. Yours, etc,


Meadow Copse,


Dublin 15

Sir, – Were any other readers apart from myself struck by the juxtaposed headlines on page 4 of today’s paper (April 15th)? “Government pushes for leeway on emissions” and “Two decades left to save the world, says Robinson”.

If the agricultural industry has its way and our dairying sector expands when milk quotas are abolished next year, then meeting our obligations in relation to emission targets for 2020 will become an impossibility.

We are an agricultural country and it is a sector that needs to expand but what is required is an incentive to increase tillage and horticulture, fruit and vegetables rather than dairy and livestock. In terms of food security, as well as environment, this would make a lot of sense.

The day will have to come when the quality of our children’s and grandchildren’s future wins out over big bucks. Yours, etc,



Co Waterford

Sir, – So after all the years of telling the world that we need to change our ways to save the planet – by the environmentalists, Greens, hippies , eco-warriors, nature lovers, gardeners etc, Mary Robinson et al decide that it’s now time for us to “decarbonise” and that we only have 20 years to do so. Get a grip people, the truth is that it is already too late, because we will never change our ways and live in harmony with nature as we should and we cannot depend on politicians or corporations to do the right thing. At the end of the day the planet will have the last laugh – and it will be on us. Yours, etc,


Castlefreke ,

Sir, – Paul Gillespie’s column on the writings of Thomas Piketty (“Inequality grows as world’s rich get much richer”, April 12th, 2014) was both timely and incisive.

It seems that “the average income of working-class Americans around 1920 doubled in real terms by 1955 and tripled by 1970. In the four decades since 1970, there has been almost no improvement on average for the lower 90 per cent of American households. By 2007, the top 1 per cent of households had almost five times the real income they had in 1920; the top 0.1 per cent had about six times; the top 0.01 per cent nearly 10 times. Piketty’s research shows similar tendencies in Europe …”

Well surprise, surprise: isn’t that where we live?

Among US economic writers suggesting that these conditions amount to an emerging oligarchy are Simon Johnson, Paul Krugman and Jeffrey Winters, “who all analyse how the rich have captured the political process, making necessary taxation and redistributive reforms virtually impossible in a dysfunctional Washington”.

Substitute “Ireland” for “Washington” and not many among those struggling to cope here would quibble. The gap between rich and poor has increased, lower-end taxpayers have been hammered, private pension funds have been raided, pensioners have had their waivers and allowances slashed while facing a raft of new taxes without any additional income. Well, those low-income folks did all party, didn’t they? So they had it coming.

Fine Gael gave us exactly what it says on their tin but Labour ought to be ashamed. The successors of James Connolly, while looking to their inflated salaries and pension pots, have spent the past three years making Ireland safe again for this kind of capitalism.Yours, etc,


Dollymount Park,


Sir, – The comments made by Phil Hogan in a Seanad debate in relation to the impacts of the new building regulations (“New building regulations will exclude non-professionals”, April 11th) are frankly disrespectful and misleading.

I am an architectural technologist with 30 years’ experience in the UK and Ireland. I qualified from a three-year course at DIT Bolton Street in 1982 and after 10 years in practice as a graduate architectural technologist I applied for chartered membership of the professional representative body in the UK, the Chartered Institute of Architectural Technologists (CIAT) and following an interview by an admission panel was admitted. Subsequently I was admitted as an architectural technologist member of the RIAI in 2007, having met their entry criteria and served as the architectural technologist member on RIAI Council between 2009 and 2011. The RIAI represents approximately 230 architectural technologist members.

When the consultations on building control amendments with the Department of the Environment were being conducted with stakeholders, and in spite of a plea by the RIAI architectural technologist committee to RIAI council to support the inclusion of their members, we were refused the institute’s support. The CIAT, which represents approximately 100 chartered members in the Ireland branch, was excluded from access to the stakeholder representation process by Department of the Environment officials.

To be informed now by Mr Hogan that in spite of being deemed to be qualified and competent by the CIAT and the RIAI I am now a “draftsman” and that “the new building regulations will make it more difficult for unqualified people to pass themselves off as construction professionals” is offensive and potentially catastrophic to the livelihoods of many architectural technologists. Where does this leave us and the many students who are at various stages on three-and four-year full-time courses? Yours, etc



Ballacolla Road,


Co Laois

Sir, – Blaise Pascal thought it sensible to believe in the existence of God, as not to believe carried the risk of one being sent to hell. This is known as Pascal’s Wager. There are some who have used this form of decision-making to suggest that we should take steps to avoid the terrible consequences of global warming even if we are unsure as to whether global warming is inevitable. But we can do better than rely on such a wager: the evidence is all too clear and our former president, Mary Robinson, referred today to the report by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change as a wake-up call.

Unfortunately there have been many such wake-up calls and governments have in the round ignored them. Perhaps Pascal’s Wager in its simplicity needs to be dusted down, after all, and used as means to force action. Yours, etc,


Villiers Road,

Dublin 6

Sir, – Unemployment: Ireland 11.8 per cent; Greece 26.9 per cent. Youth unemployment: Ireland 26 per cent; Greece 58 per cent. Decline in GDP 2009-2014: Ireland 19 per cent; Greece 26 per cent. Riot deaths 2009-2014: Ireland 0; Greece 5. Stick to arts and culture, Fintan. Yours, etc,




Co Dublin

Sir, – In Monday’s “Weather watch” for Dublin, I read that “a fine is expected as it will be dry and bright etc”. Is it only Dubliners who will have to pay for good weather, and who will be responsible for collection of the fine? I think we need to know. Yours, etc,




Co Dublin

LETTERSE Property Section Date: Mon, 14 Apr 2014 23:24:59 +0100

(Sent in by – “aquinn” (ajquinn_at_eircom.net))


I see once again excellent properties on the front of this section priced

at some millions.

I guess less than 1% of your readers would be in a position to purchase such.

I am at a loss as to why you feature these.

Are we on the way to more stupidity encouraged by the media?

aj quinn


fortmary park

Sir, – To anyone reading about the events in Ukraine over the past months a number of things seem clear. Firstly, the overthrow of the elected government by violent protesters in Kiev was a victory for democracy. Secondly, the rejection by Crimea, after a peaceful referendum, of the new, unelected, government was an attack on democracy, while the protests of Russian-speaking Ukrainians in the east of the country against that unelected government are an affront to democracy. It would appear that elections are not as critical a part of democracy as we once believed. Yours, etc,


Seafield Crescent,


Co Dublin

Sir, – In your Health Supplement (April 15th) it was reported that “extending free GP care to under-6s will result in only a modest rise in the workload of the average GP” (77 consultations per doctor per year).

In addition to visits, the draft contract for the under-6s stipulates that GPs must undertake significant additional workload which currently is not covered by a medical card. Under the proposed contract GPs would be required to “periodically monitor and record the growth development of all children under the age of two, and the BMI of those aged between the ages of two and six”.

The recording of growth development is currently undertaken by public health nurses. By age two, four measurements will have been taken and recorded. Based on the last census, if GPs take over these assessments it will result in 850,000 additional visits over the first two years.

Only time will tell what the true figure for additional consultation will be as a result of this contract. If however GPs have to carry out these, non-evidence-based, assessments it will result in over 1.5 million additional visits in the first two years. Yours, etc,



Irish Independent:

Published 16 April 2014 02:30 AM

* Nothing beats spelling it out – especially when the ramifications are all-pervasive, and the potential counter-benefits patently ubiquitous.

Also in this section

Letters: Bible is a collection of metaphors, not a book of evidence

World War I and the tragic historic waste of lives

Supporting our food producers

Philip O’Neil (Letters, April 8) sustains his relentless ‘missive-mission’ with another ‘tonic-tablet’ of weathered wisdom.

Hitting the societal nail squarely on the head with a firm evocation of some key home truths permeating in and around the modern penchant for free-market materialism, he lays it clearly on the line.

“Moral sensitivity does not sit easily with unfettered capitalism; it tends to subvert it.” Ne’er a truer sentiment uttered.

Chalk it down, boom it from the mountain-tops, and have it tattooed on every new-born child in the nation.

In many ways, it’s screamingly obvious. How could addiction to profiteering, usury, entrepreneurial overkill and bottom-line corporatism ever offer a template of empathic decency or ethical morality for an egalitarian society. A ‘greed-is-good’ mentality is the only logical outcome for dedication to the false icons of the filthy lucre.

“We have colluded in allowing economic activity to develop a life of its own, accountable only to itself,” Philip O’Neil adroitly states.

We are left, thus, with a ‘pig-in-a-poke’ fallacy of pseudo-aggrandisement debilitating a nation. By omission and/or commission, we all have allowed this to take root, flourish and fester.

It implicates us all. We seem to tolerate the status-quo as something of an inevitability and demur to the gods of a monstrous global failure, ie free-market libertarianism with its in-built survival-of-the-fittest motto.

The planet has only a finite amount of wealth potential, be that energy, food, water or other precious natural resources. Skewed consumption/comfort quotients coupled with a steady ‘diet’ of famines, wars and pestilence ensure that an uneasy, unstable and grossly unfair ‘balance’ prevails.

However, we seem to persist with a corrupted/distorted democratic dynamic, electing inept folk of questionable ability or generosity of spirit who perpetuate a flawed concept on a sadly under-motivated, uninitiated and/or unsuspecting populace.

Jim Cosgrove Lismore, Co Waterford


* The current mindless rage for killing trees in our public spaces is heartbreaking. No prior gesture towards consultancy is given by the nameless folk who authorise such wanton felling.

Trees that graced the city for decades are being cut – witness the recent destruction in Dun Laoghaire’s Peoples’ Park and last week’s uprooting of the flowering magnolias at the entrance to the National Gallery. In this time of austerity, surely the joy and spirit-lift gained from the free enjoyment of natural beauty should be augmented, not lessened.

Jackie O’Brien, Glasthule, Co Dublin


* In the Royal Gallery at the Palace of Westminster on April 8, President Higgins said, in his address, that independence for Ireland cast its long shadow across our relations with Britain, causing us, in the words of Irish MP Stephen Gwynn, to “look at each other with doubtful eyes”.

Stephen Gwynn, a grandson of William Smith O’Brien, also said in 1926, that 10 years had been added to the waiting period for Irish political unity and that Ireland would wait forever if it remained chained to the ideal of 1916. The waiting seems now to be over. A champion of Home Rule, Gwynn once described it as a post-dated cheque.

Patrick O’Brien, Phisborough, Dublin 7


* An old proverb crushed by modernity . “You can’t get water from a stone” they said, but what they didn’t say was water could get cash from the populace.

If I buy petrol, I don’t expect to pay a standing fixed charge equivalent to a third of the purchase. If I buy a pint, I expect to pay for what I get when I buy it. Naturally, those burdened with income tax, LPT, UHC, unemployed children etc, will carry the latest burden in addition to the daily diet of austerity soup.

Once upon a time, governments purportedly represented their populace. This one of ours represents itself, its pals and its backers, and we pick up the tab. Anyone out there with the balls to turn off the tap on this disgusting shower?

John Cuffe, Meath


* The Last Supper of Jesus and His disciples took place on Passover, a holiday of redemption set in place by God, Jesus, or Yeshua – as He would have been called in His lifetime, who instructed His followers to remember His death (not His resurrection) until He come.

Strangely, the church ignores Passover altogether, as most of the early church fathers were extremely anti-Semitic and deemed the feast as ‘too Jewish.’ Instead, the majority of Yeshua’s followers today commemo-rate the event on ‘Maundy Thursday’, although no specific day of the week is mentioned in any of the Gospels for the Last Supper or the Crucifixion.

A Biblical day, however, according to the Book of Genesis and the calendar that Yeshua Himself would have kept, begins in the evening at sunset, the second daylight portion then follows. A day divided at midnight is the invention of man.

This year, Passover fell on April 14, which in the biblical calendar is Nisan 14, and as it begins at sunset, the second daylight part follows the next morning which allowed for the Last Supper and the Crucifixion to both occur on the same day, according to the Genesis ruling. In the Gentile/Christian calendar, this takes two days to commemorate, ie Maundy Thursday and Good Friday due to the midnight time division.

If Yeshua were to come back today, the natural day for commemorating these events would be on the date of Passover itself, not Maundy Thursday. The symbolism of the slaughter of the Passover lamb, the redemptive qualities of the shed blood. Maybe it’s time the church re-examined the status of Passover, also demonstrating that the hierarchy is no longer anti-Jewish and that the holiday has benefits and significance for both Jews and Christians.

Colin Nevin, Bangor, Co Down


* One of the most invidious acts, regrettably among many others, needlessly perpetrated by this Government on Irish citizens, must be the recent sale of the 13,000 mortgages of Irish Nationwide to two American distressed fund companies. These companies bought the mortgages from the special liquidators KPMG at a huge discount of several billion euro, again courtesy of a lazy and uncaring government and, ultimately, the Irish taxpayer.

The most appalling and callous aspect of this deal was that the owners of these mortgages, Irish people in the main, were not afforded an equal opportunity by their government to buy their own loans to ease their distressed financial state; it is almost certain that many of these unfortunates will lose their homes as a result.

The modus operandi of the new owners will be to relentlessly chase the unfortunate mortgagees for the full amount, pocketing huge profits in the process. There will be little or no sympathy from the Government for the dire personal, familial and societal consequences.

What is also disturbing is the almost complete failure of the media to report on the injustice of the matter. Not a peep as usual from the top brass of the trade unions. God be with the days when the Catholic Church would raise its voice.

John Leahy, Wilton Road, Cork

Irish Independent


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