Washing the Drive

19 May2014 Washing the Drive

I go all the way around the park listening to the Men from the Ministry: Our heroes face a terrible fate the have to clear their entertainment expenses Priceless

Wash the drive high pressure breaks

No Scrabbletoday, we watch the Pirates of Penzance


Derek Knee – obituary

Derek Knee was an intelligence officer who interpreted for Field Marshal Montgomery at the German surrender

Derek Knee at the Imperial War Museum in 2005

Derek Knee at the Imperial War Museum in 2005 Photo: Brian Smith

7:27PM BST 18 May 2014

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Derek Knee, who has died aged 91, acted as interpreter for Field Marshal Montgomery at the German surrender in May 1945.

On the night of April 30, Knee heard on the German radio the news that Hitler had committed suicide and Grand Admiral Karl Dönitz had been named as his successor. Knee was an Intelligence Officer at the Main HQ of General Sir Miles Dempsey, the commander of British Second Army.

Derek Knee interpreting for Field-Marshal Montgomery at the German surrender

On the evening of May 2, Knee was told that Dönitz was seeking an armistice and that a German delegation wished to come through the Allied lines. A German-speaking officer was wanted and Knee was ordered to report to General Dempsey’s Tactical HQ. The next morning, he moved to Field Marshal Montgomery’s 21st Army Group Tactical HQ on Lüneburg Heath to which the German delegation was taken by car.

Montgomery’s orders were that they be lined up under the flagpole and kept waiting. They stood around, Knee said afterwards “like a group of vacuum cleaner salesmen”. The Field Marshal eventually came out of his caravan and said very sharply: “What do these people want?” They had brought with them a letter of introduction from Field Marshal Wilhelm Keitel and the letter, which contained nothing of substance, was passed to Knee for translation.

Knee recalled that Montgomery responded by saying: “The only matter that I am concerned with is that all the German forces facing me surrender unconditionally. If you don’t want to do that, you can go home.” Montgomery went on to say that if this was not accepted, he would be delighted to go on fighting.

The German officers claimed that they did not have the authority to agree to these terms. They were given a good lunch accompanied by wine and brandy.

Then, with Knee acting as interpreter and with the aid of maps, Montgomery impressed upon the officers the hopelessness of the German position and told them to return the next day with the necessary authorisation.

By May 4, the story had gone around the world. At Lüneburg Heath a carpeted tent had filled with war correspondents. Montgomery, sitting at the head of the table, read out the instrument of surrender. Each of the delegates – Admiral Hans-Georg von Friedeburg, General Eberhard Kinzel, Rear Admiral Gerhard Wagner and Colonel Fritz Poleck — was ordered to sign in turn.

Derek John Knee was born at Cheltenham on October 22 1922 and educated at Cheltenham Grammar School where his father was the headmaster. He went up to Christ’s College, Cambridge, to read Modern Languages but came down after a year to join the Army.

After officer training, Knee was commissioned into the Dorset Regiment. His knowledge of German had been noted and he was sent on a course to learn about the interrogation of PoWs. He then joined a censorship unit in London where his job was to monitor the letters of soldiers who were to take part in the Normandy landings and report on their morale.

After D-Day, Knee served at General Staff (Intelligence) at 2nd Army Headquarters at Creullet. His speciality, which remained unchanged throughout the campaign, was to report on the German order of battle. This involved identifying the units which were opposing the Allied forces and estimating their strength.

Derek Knee interpreting at Lüneburg Heath

Every night, when members of the Special Liaison Unit arrived to confer with his senior officers, Knee had to leave the room. Sometimes, their discussions led to changes in strategy which he and his colleagues believed could only be accounted for by the presence of a spy at German High Command. It was many years later when he realised that the job of the unit was the dissemination of “Ultra” code-breaking intelligence — acquired at Bletchley Park — to Allied field commanders.

Among a number of dreadful events that he witnessed was the bombing of Caen. Another was the carnage wrought by fighter-bombers in the Falaise Gap.

On May 7, the German instrument of surrender of all German forces fighting on the eastern and western fronts was signed at Reims. The Allies were, however, worried that Dönitz was carrying on a government at Flensburg and Knee was one of the force that went there to take him, and his ministers, into custody.

Knee drove Dönitz to the Admiral’s house and waited while he packed a bag. The Admiral emerged “looking like Michelin Man”. Fearing that he was going to a POW camp for an indefinite time, he had taken the precaution of putting on all his underclothing.

Knee then escorted Dönitz to the airport where he was flown to Luxembourg and held at the Palace Hotel at Mondorf-les-Bains. The hotel had been turned into a high-security area with watch towers manned by guards with machine guns, and a 15ft electrified fence.

It was used as a processing station and interrogation centre for the most prominent surviving Nazis before their trial at Nuremberg. Security was so tight that military policemen on guard used to say that to get inside required “a pass signed by God – then somebody had to verify the signature”.

On his return to Lüneburg, Knee saw the body of Heinrich Himmler who, having been taken there for identification, had committed suicide.

At the end of the war, he was demobilised in the rank of captain and returned to Cambridge to read Economics. He went to Copenhagen in 1947 and became assistant general secretary at the International Association of Department Stores. He subsequently worked for the same organisation in Geneva from 1951 to 1956 and then in Paris until 1980.

Knee retired to Barry, South Wales, in the early 1980s. His interests included retail research at Templeton College, Oxford, and music — with the Cardiff Gramophone Society.

Derek Knee married, in 1947, Margaret Carpenter. She predeceased him and he is survived by their two sons.

Derek Knee, born October 22 1922, died March 18 2014


We need to look closer to home (Scandal of Chile’s baby-snatching priests, 16 May). Thousands of young unmarried girls in the UK were in a similar position in the 1950s to 70s. I like many others was coerced into giving up my baby in the 1965 by the Catholic church. My only crime was that I was not married. We were never told that we were entitled to free nursery places and that there was help out there to enable us to care for our babies. We were demoralised, browbeaten and humiliated by the church and made to carry out hard physical labour, such as scrubbing floors on our hands and knees until just before our babies were born.

We had pressure put on us by being told our babies would be shunned and called names at school and that they would hate us for keeping them and not giving them a father. We were tricked into allowing our babies to be taken out of the nursery for so-called doctor’s examinations or to be checked over by the matron , only to have our babies given to adopters who were told that we didn’t want our babies. We were left distraught and crying and just told to get on with it as we no longer had a child.

We were told that we were sinners, whores, bad girls and many more awful things were said to us. It was constant humiliation all day and they wore us down with their nastiness and we had nowhere to turn for help or support, as they made sure that they isolated us as much as possible. The ultimate argument was that we were under 21 years of age and so had to do as we were told. It is not just Chile and Ireland that treated unmarried mothers in this barbaric way and we have never had an apology from the Catholic church.
Rosaleen Dixon
Prenton, Wirral

The British Library has put this manuscript of Charlotte Brontë’s earliest known story on its website. Photograph: Brontë Parsonage Museum/British Library

I do not know Ian McEwan other than through a love of his fiction. Nor, given the scant treatment you give to the story, do I know the details of the £1.2m sale, presumably by the author, of his literary archive (Report, 16 May). However, reported on the day that the British Library made its Discovering Literature digital archive freely available to all, I do find it deeply disappointing that this most British of novelists should surrender his work to a university in Texas.
Kerry Jones

•  What I find shocking (Fear turns to anger in Nigeria, Guardian Weekly, May 9-15) is not that it took weeks for local mothers’ outcry to become an international scandal, but that most of the media has ignored Guardian Weekly’s reports of Nigerian army collusion in the Boko Haram abductions, and widespread infiltration of the military by Boko Haram’s supporters.
Linda Agerbak   
Arlington, Massachusetts, USA

•  I’ve had a bellyful of Nigel Farage being headline news all the time. Time to stop giving this minor politician such acreage of publicity. Let’s hear about what the Greens are up to, Left Unity, Tusc and others. Pretty please?
Victoria Trow

• There are many issues over the uber-top-secret intelligence base the US is building at RAF Croughton (Comment, 23 January), not least, how to pronounce the name of the place? If it’s Cruggton, Crofton, Cruffton, Crorton, Crowton or some such, can we expect a spelling change so as not to confuse American intelligence?
John Smith

Richard Walden, chairman of the Independent Schools Association, claims state schools fail to provide pupils with a moral compass because of a relentless focus on exam results and league tables (Report, 15 May). Russell Hobby, general secretary of the National Association of Headteachers, retorts that there is no evidence for this failure; indeed, those who led us into the financial crash were typically not state-schooled. I suggest that we consult the evidence. The Jubilee Centre for Character and Virtues is conducting the most extensive research ever undertaken into moral virtues and values among schoolchildren in the UK. Initial findings indicate that year 10 children seem to be scoring lower on some traditional virtues, such as honesty and courage, than we would ideally want to see. Results so far, however, indicate no systematic differences between state-funded and independent schools. A list of the schools that seem to perform best in our surveys includes representatives of both school types, so does a list of the lowest performing schools.

While an exclusive focus on exam results is, no doubt, detrimental to character development, quarrels about different school types are just a distraction. More important is the acknowledgment that all schools need to foreground this aspect of learning to develop flourishing individuals and a flourishing society. Recent comments made by politicians may indicate this acknowledgement has already been made at Westminster. Unfortunately, many politicians seem to understand character merely in terms of so-called soft skills, such as resilience and self-confidence, which are, in essence, amoral and only instrumentally valuable. Teachers should join academics in trying to persuade politicians and policymakers that the sort of character most worthy of development in all schools is moral character, and that such character is an intrinsic part of any well-rounded life.
Kristján Kristjánsson
Professor of character education and virtue ethics, Jubilee Centre for Character and Virtues, University of Birmingham

• We support Richard Walden’s suggestion that government must do more to encourage social and moral development in its state schools, although many are exemplary and surpass many private ones. The national curriculum subject of citizenship exists already as a mechanism for this. Indeed, we have challenged Mr Gove and his ministers repeatedly to broadcast their support for the citizenship curriculum, yet they remain silent. The Department for Education’s comment – “We are also giving all schools more freedom to offer extra-curricular activities that will build character. These include sports matches, debating competitions, cadet training and inspirational careers talks from outside visitors” – indicates they can’t even commend its own curriculum when offered the chance, preferring to talk in terms that only Biggles might recognise.
Andy Thornton
Chief executive, Citizenship Foundation

• While the headteacher of a small private preparatory school in the Shropshire countryside is entitled to his view, the opinion he presents is flawed on also every level. My 35 years experience of state schools informs me that state schools are continually engaging with their students on the issues that support a fair and just society. What Mr Walden fails to mention is that most parents who send their children to private schools such as his do not do so for their children to develop a sense of community, but to give them an advantage denied to over 90% of our population. I challenge his belief that the privileged young people he praises so highly are especially rounded, socially aware or caring. They are certainly confident, but with no intention of rushing out of their ivory towers and lush lawns to help society.

The students who attended fee-paying schools do not populate the caring services, do not readily sacrifice the privilege their wealthy parents bestow on them by working in the public sector. If you want to find Mr Walden’s paragons of virtue you will find them where the most money is to be made. The nearest any of these young people will be to the community is where you find the best opportunities for personal advancement and/or enrichment. Just look at the people who are drawn to the Westminister gravy train.
Lee Porter
Bridport, Dorset

• While state schools are obliged to provide citizenship education, not all do, and even fewer appear to do so with qualified and dedicated staff. Pressure of league tabulated performance is not the reason many schools neglect the subject, as some of our most successful schools make excellent provision. Mr Walden implies parents are partly to blame. And it might be that some parents hold ethical positions which Mr Walden does not like, or that some parents abrogate their parenting responsibilities by sending their children to private schools, hoping things will work out. Among our political, social and economic leaders we see few examples of moral leadership.

Mr Walden does not offer a scrap of evidence of moral decay among the young in state education. While teachers’ heavy workloads, and the tyrannical conduct of many Ofsted inspections and politicians involved in education undoubtedly cause problems for teachers which might filter through to pupils, the changes I see in the conduct of young people are changes for the better.
Ralph Leighton
Author, Teaching Citizenship Education: A Radical Approach

Simon Jenkins (Miliband must give up his love of state intervention, 14 May) has an uncharacteristically stereotyped view of the relationship between state and markets. He altogether omits the central fact that the epic financial crash of 2008-09 has made the hitherto prevailing ideology of freewheeling capitalism – governments get out of the way and leave it all to the markets – untenable. In the quarter-century of managed capitalism 1948-73, UK income growth per capita grew at 2.4% a year. Britain broadly paid its way in the world in traded goods, unemployment averaged 2% and there were no banking crashes to speak of.

Under Thatcher’s deregulated capitalism 1980-2007, income growth was just 1.7%, competitiveness sharply worsened till today Britain is trading goods at a £110bn deficit a year, unemployment is still nearly 7%, and it ended with the most catastrophic financial-economic crash for a century. Who wants to stick with such a failed model?

It’s not as though wholesale privatisation and deregulation have worked well. “Light” regulation has led to Libor-rigging, money-laundering, tax avoidance on an industrial scale, a deeply unbalanced economy that has hollowed out Britain’s industrial base and an almost daily cascade of corporate scandals. Nor have the new semi-monopolistic private oligarchs distinguished themselves. G4S, Serco, A4E and Atos have all been disgraced: squeezing out profit, not serving the public interest, has been the general model. And several major private sectors of the economy – notably energy, housing, rail, pensions, as well as banking – have manifestly failed badly.

The issue is not state or markets. It is finding a better way to enable both to play complementary roles in optimising market development with the wider national interest, a model that all the most successful economies have followed since the second world war. And Ed Miliband‘s reforms do take the first tentative steps needed in that direction.
Michael Meacher MP
Lab, Oldham West and Royton


I suggest that any voters who are seduced by the political wiseacres’ reassurances that the EU elections don’t matter and don’t affect our daily lives should remind themselves of Nigel Farage’s remark near the end of the second debate with Nick Clegg: “I don’t just want us to come out of the EU, I want all the countries to come out.”

This would mean the collapse of the Union and a return to the Europe of the inter-war years – nations trying desperately to survive and to negotiate non-aggression or  mutual help treaties to try to avoid being swallowed up by powerful neighbours. Then a minority of European countries were democracies whereas now all 28 EU members are and it’s a condition of entry for aspiring new members.

The elections do matter to every one of us and the best candidates to send to Brussels are those who will work tirelessly for the successful evolution of the Union, in which they wholeheartedly believe.

Geoff S Harris


Nigel Farage and his disciples tell you that the UK is the sixth-strongest economy in the world. But they do not mention how strong we would be outside the European Union. I suggest our ranking would fall hugely.

On Thursday, if you are absolutely fed up with the sound of Mr Farage and his followers, then do go out and vote. Ideally for the Liberal Democrats.

It is Ukip who are still fighting a war within Europe. The rest of us have moved on. Next year it will be 70 years since the end of the Second World War. Europe together has got stronger and will continue to do so, even without us. But, the UK  will not, as a single nation; especially if we also lose Scotland.

Richard Grant

Ringwood, Hampshire

At a poorly attended public meeting called by Farage’s party in Bridport, I caught some of the magical intellectual quality of debate characteristic of Ukip when confronting a well-informed heckler.

The organisers instantly began an angry shouting response, greatly assisted by a forbidding matronly supporter who grunted, turned and spat out that comfortable old rural greeting, “Peasant”. Ah, the spirit of Olde Englande is alive and kicking in rural Dorset! I doff my cap in quiet despair.

Andy Summers

Burton Bradstock, Dorset

Mark Steel’s thrill at Ukip’s immigration over-estimates is entirely specious and misplaced (16 May). Immigration from new EU members is now running at the size of a mid-size British town every year.

The immigrants claim entry-level jobs that would – should – be done by our own workers, they consume housing, education, health-care resources, without any upfront payment, and impose remorseless social change and dislocation on British communities already exhausted by change and bullied into silence by such cultural fascists as Mr Steel.

David Burns

Leamington Spa, Warwickshire

I am nearing 70. Gays do not make me feel uncomfortable and never have. Nigel Farage, on the other hand, does make me feel very uncomfortable and I find him “distasteful if not viscerally repugnant” (report, 12 May). So, we just about cancel each other out.

Sandra Semple


Terrorists who kill for a religion

Yasmin Qureshi (letter, 17 May) complains that Boko Haram is always referred to by the media as an Islamist terrorist group, whereas the IRA was never referred to as a Catholic, or the Tamil Tigers as a Hindu terrorist group.

Surely this is because Boko Haram (and other al-Qa’ida-inspired groups) commit their crimes in the name of, and to advance the cause of, their religion. The IRA and the Tamils committed their crimes for nationalist political ends, to which their religion was irrelevant. I don’t remember anyone from the IRA claiming that Protestantism was evil, or that Catholicism was the only true faith.

When crimes are committed for primarily religious ends, the religion of the criminals is relevant and should be reported.

Ian Dickins

Wimborne, Dorset

Privatisation  marches on

Linda Kaucher (letter, 8 May) raises the issue of privatisation of the public sector in her discussion of the Pfizer bid for AstraZeneca. In one government agency, the Land Registry, this process has recently culminated in the proposal that it should cease to be a government department and be established as a service-delivery company. The proposal includes options for moving assets to the private sector where there is “no longer a strong policy reason for continued public ownership”.

Registration of any property confers title on the registered proprietors – and this record and thus title is held within the Registry offices – paper title deeds are no longer “necessary”. Thus, this change affects all house-owners, property owners and potential house-owners. It is proposed to create a private company to deliver the operational side of the Registry, with only a small central office retained.

Land Registry staff would become employees of a private, commercially run (profit-making?) company, which could one day be taken over or bought by any other commercially run company. The public-service role of the staff would disappear and their responsibilities would be to the company – not the Government. The change has not been widely advertised, the recent public consultation on it was relatively short and most people are not aware of it and the possible consequences.

One can envisage a situation as has arisen with our power providers whereby the registered title to all properties and land would be in the hands of an overseas company.

Hilary Mobbs


Inspectors call on independent schools

Readers might be forgiven for thinking that Michael Gove’s idea of the state inspectorate in England inspecting English independent schools is a new one; but this already happens in Wales, carried out by Estyn (the Office of Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Education and Training in Wales).

We believe independent schools have nothing to fear from such an arrangement and we found the inspectors fair and open in their assessments (we were rated excellent in all areas). Indeed, the process provides a useful link between state and independent sectors, and members of senior leadership teams in independent schools – including our own director of studies – are often Estyn inspectors.

Independent schools do vary in quality (hence the service that the Independent Schools’ Inspectorate provides) but is public money really going to be spent in England on inspecting independent schools? At least when an independent school is inspected by ISI the school has to pay for it themselves.

David Lawson

Director of Music

Monmouth School

Formidable writer in the library

When I was working in Morningside library in the late 1960s, in the Edinburgh area where Mary Stewart (obituary, 17 May) lived, the writer was an occasional visitor.

She was necessarily heavily disguised in headscarf and dark glasses; Stewart would have been mobbed if her readers had spotted their favourite novelist. Multiple copies of her latest book were ordered to meet the demand.

When she began researching her Merlin series, she chanced on me for help in locating some books. As I guided her to the appropriate shelves, she commanded: “Do not tell anyone what I am writing! Anyone!”

“Did you think when you had your first book published,” I asked, “that your books would be such a success?”

“Of course” the modest scribbler snorted crossly, “I would not have written anything if I had not known I would be a success!”

Geoffrey Elborn

London N1

Bob Crow’s  socialism

I was pleased to see the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) mentioned for the first time in The Independent (“Could the new Bob Crow bring RMT in from the cold?”, 3 May) but disappointed that Andy McSmith got his facts wrong about its foundation. For the record TUSC was co-founded in 2010 by Bob Crow, who sat on its national steering committee first in a personal capacity and then, after an RMT conference decision in 2012, as an official representative of the union.

Clive Heemskerk

Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition London E1

Rehabilitation without books?

Lord Chancellor Chris Grayling has a “strong commitment to rehabilitation” (report, 16 May). How does this square with his vindictive and stupid policy of banning books for prisoners?

Bernard McGinley

St Leonards-on-Sea,  East Sussex


Sir, Your leader (“Wanted: an Energy Policy”, May 13) is a good summary of the dire situation politicians of all stripes have allowed to develop. Any government will find it embarrassing to back down from the obligations on emissions and renewable energy set by the Committee on Climate Change; however, there must be many in Westminster who now realise the futility of current policy.

Meanwhile, the government encourages renewable energy by providing the public subsidy which makes it seem economic. The German situation should be a warning. It subsidises very large numbers of wind and solar energy installations, which either swamp the grid or provide almost no electricity, depending on the weather, and therefore need a high level of conventional backup.

The reaction to the Fukushima accident hastened the closure of Germany’s nuclear reactors which provided reliable, affordable, low-carbon energy. These are being replaced by stations burning brown coal, one of the dirtiest energy sources imaginable, and German consumers pay some of the highest energy prices in the EU.

At least the Germans are building new power stations. If next winter is a cold one, the 2015 UK election could well be won by the party with a realistic energy policy that will keep the lights on.

Martin Livermore


Sir, It is untrue that investment in electricity has halted — there has been significant investment in the UK’s renewable energy capacity in the last few years. Renewables now account for around 15 per cent of our electricity.

Second, power cuts in 2015-16 are not “virtually inevitable”. While capacity margins are falling, blackouts would be a worst-case scenario. Short-term measures are being put in place by the National Grid to avoid this, though they are far from ideal. Even if shale gas is developed in the UK, it is unlikely to have a large impact on our energy supplies or prices for many years, and we will have to limit use of gas to tackle climate change.

Professor Jim Watson

UK Energy Research Centre

Sir, The complexities of the energy industry lead the sane to believe in fairies that will deliver us from high prices, a war somewhere, climate change, acid rain, etc: nuclear fusion, the Severn Barrage, low energy light bulbs, hydrogen, and now shale gas. Shale gas is important, but it cannot solve all our energy problems. It will be not very green and quite expensive. Energy policy has real problems. It is like real life — boring, complicated, requiring difficult choices, never-quite-finished, and expensive.

Dr Robert Gross

Centre for Energy Policy and Technology, ICL

Sir, The government has attracted £45 billion of investment in UK energy since 2010. We have planned a nuclear power station and doubled the electricity from renewables. We plan to maximise North Sea oil and gas, and we’re supporting domestic shale gas. This year we hold the first capacity auction, which will incentivise investment in gas-fired power stations.

The UK is rated the fourth most energy secure nation on earth by the US Chamber of Commerce, and Ernst and Young has assessed us as one of the five most attractive locations for investment in renewables. We have set a clear path for investment and generation that will keep the lights on, reduce reliance on imports and increase supplies of secure energy — a very substantial energy policy indeed.

Edward Davey, MP

Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change

Sir, You emphasise fracking but do not mention nuclear power, which is secure, predictable and not subject to fluctuations in fuel price, as gas is. Nuclear can provide long-term security of supply with very low carbon emissions. It could play a dominant role in saving the world from the increasing reliance on fossil fuels.

Emeritus Professor Ian Fells

Newcastle upon Tyne

Despite the progress that has been made in the last year, we still have a long way to go

Sir, A year has passed since the untimely death of The Times’ Foreign Editor, Richard Beeston, renowned as one of the most courageous journalists of his generation.

His brave and spirited character was never more evident than during his long battle with prostate cancer, as I came to find while treating him for the disease.

Over the past year there has been a marked increase in awareness of prostate cancer thanks in part to The Times — which should be applauded for its remarkable coverage of the disease during last year’s Christmas Appeal for Prostate Cancer UK. The charity went on to launch Men United, a new campaign fronted by comedian Bill Bailey, which has engaged over 173,000 people in the cause.

Research has also seen significant developments with the introduction of the UK’s first Centres of Excellence for prostate cancer research, thanks to money raised through the Movember initiative. These centres will endeavour to develop new treatments for advanced prostate cancer as well as finding better diagnostic tests.

However, many battles are still being fought. Men with prostate cancer have been given a rollercoaster ride by NICE which has dealt, or threatened, a series of restrictions and rejections over the use of life-extending drugs, on the basis of absurd, subjective evaluations of efficacy and cost.

Prostate cancer still receives far less in research funding compared with other common cancers, and there is a wide variation in the standard of care men receive across the country. For the 10,000 men, like Richard, who die from the disease every year, this simply isn’t good enough.

It is clear that despite the progress that has been made in the last year; we still have a long way to go. We now need to harness the momentum that has been developed behind prostate cancer and use it to drive forward change for men fighting the disease.

Professor Jonathan Waxman

Flow Foundation Professor of Oncology at Imperial College
& president of Prostate Cancer UK

There are, in Aaronovitch’s phrase, heavy-handed authorities only too willing to pounce

Sir, David Aaronovitch is right to speak out against the extraordinary ruling of the European Court of Justice (Opinion 15 May) on erasing embarrassing internet material. What is to stop this ruling being extended to the destruction of archives, including newspapers, stretching back decades, just to avoid embarrassment for some complainant? What is the difference in principle between information on the internet and traditional archives and their indexes? As we well know nowadays there are, in Aaronovitch’s phrase, heavy-handed authorities only too willing to pounce.

Richard Samways

Portland, Dorset

The UK benefits directly from £1.2 billion annually in European research funding

Sir, Britain’s universities are national assets which contribute £73 billion to the economy and they drive innovation and growth. The UK’s membership of the European Union is central to that success and to universities’ positive impact on the economy and society.

The UK benefits directly from £1.2 billion annually in European research funding and is the largest beneficiary of EU research funds to universities. This supports UK-based research and transnational research projects which pool knowledge to solve social and economic challenges in a way that no country acting alone could do.

EU programmes facilitate the mobility of researchers, staff and students, providing opportunities for young people and contributing to the excellence of our research base. EU structural funds invest in British skills and infrastructure to deliver local economic growth and support university-business collaboration.

Without an influential voice in the development of EU policy, the UK would lose its ability to influence policy affecting research and higher education.

As university leaders, we are committed to ensuring that these benefits of EU membership to the British people and to our universities are properly understood, and that our voices are heard in the debate about EU reform.

Professor Sir Christopher Snowden, President of Universities UK and Vice-Chancellor and Chief Executive, University of Surrey

And members of the Universities UK board:

Professor Colin Riordan, Vice-Chancellor, Cardiff University (Chair, Higher Education Wales)

Professor Pete Downes OBE, Principal and Vice-Chancellor, University of Dundee (Convenor, Universities Scotland)

Professor Sir Eric Thomas, Vice-Chancellor, University of Bristol

Professor David Eastwood, Vice-Chancellor, University of Birmingham

Professor Simon Gaskell, Principal, Queen Mary, University of London

Professor Janet Beer, Vice-Chancellor, Oxford Brookes University

Sir David Bell, Vice-Chancellor, University of Reading

Professor Julian Crampton, Vice-Chancellor, University of Brighton

Professor Dame Julia Goodfellow DBE, Vice-Chancellor, University of Kent

Professor Graham Henderson CBE, Vice-Chancellor and Chief Executive, Teesside University

Professor David Latchman CBE, Master, Birkbeck, University of London

Professor Anton Muscatelli, Principal and Vice-Chancellor, University of Glasgow

Professor Mary Stuart, Vice-Chancellor, University of Lincoln

Professor Chris Brink, Vice-Chancellor, Newcastle University

Professor Sir Ian Diamond, Principal and Vice-Chancellor, University of Aberdeen

Professor Dame Julia King DBE, Vice-Chancellor, Aston University

Professor Paul O’Prey, Vice-Chancellor, University of Roehampton

Professor Steve West, Vice-Chancellor and Chief Executive, University of the West of England, Bristol

Surely football chants are based on familiar, memorable tunes which are easy to sing

Sir, I am sorry to see Richard Morrison’s endorsement of the idea that Elgar “wrote” the “first football chant” (May 16).

Elgar’s setting of the phrase “He banged the leather for goal”, to which he refers, is in the style of a very short mock-heroic operatic recitative with awkward intervals which make it entirely unsuitable for mass singing.

Surely football chants are based on familiar, memorable tunes which are easy to sing. As for Elgar’s “beloved Wolves”, I think he went to see them play on just two or possibly three occasions, and was, perfectly understandably, more interested in his young and attractive lady companion than in the game itself.

Kevin Allen

Alverstoke, Hants


A picnic on the old station bench at Adlestrop, Glos, where Edward Thomas’s poem is etched onto a plaque Photo: Christopher Jones

6:58AM BST 18 May 2014

Comments42 Comments

SIR – I felt sad to learn from your article on Adlestrop that the station had been demolished.

It was in 1969, after I had read the poem to my three young children, that my husband suggested going on an adventure to try and find Adlestrop. The next day, picnic packed, we set off for the drive from Sussex to Gloucestershire.

The station was just as Edward Thomas had described it. There were the same wild flowers, with many of them growing between the abandoned railway tracks.

My son found the poem on a plaque fixed to a wall. It was a glorious day and while I stood gazing with delight at the profusion of meadowsweet and willowherb, a blackbird sang.

A truly memorable day.

Pamela M Martin
Worthing, West Sussex

SIR – William Langley’s report on Adlestrop is a long-overdue salute to Edward Thomas’s poem.

When I first read it at a young age, I asked “Where’s the rest of it? What’s it supposed to be about?” Now, I see it as an echoing time-warp back to an era of steam trains drawing up at placid country stations on still summer afternoons where the only sound is birdsong. And passengers glancing out at an unfamiliar station name, knowing they’ll never alight there, but wondering briefly what this place deep in the English countryside is like.

There’s no need for another verse; Thomas left us an exquisite miniature of a day gone by.

M G Sherlock
Colwyn Bay, Denbighshire

SIR – You recently reported on the question of political abuse of Interpol, leading to the wrongful arrest of recognised refugees and exiled activists. You quote Interpol’s Secretary-General as saying that problematic cases are just “small complaints within a big picture”.

While this suggests that cases with unjustified human impact should simply be accepted as collateral damage, it also shows Interpol’s continued insistence on measuring its usefulness as a crime-fighting tool by “big picture” numbers.

Interpol has proudly stated that in 2012, 9,000 people were arrested on its alerts. But how many of these did courts subsequently refuse to extradite, meaning the alerts led only to wasted court time? Interpol’s website omits these awkward details and the figures are not publicly available.

Far from calling for the whole system to be “shut down”, as the Secretary-General suggests, our report recommended that Interpol enhance its role in the fight against the global scourge of serious and organised crime by ensuring fewer resources are spent on needless arrests and detentions.

Jago Russell
Fair Trials International
London EC4

BBC’s new Lowe

SIR – The treatment of David Lowe, the BBC broadcaster, is nothing short of outrageous. The scale of the over-reaction and the draconian way in which he has been treated is simply jaw-dropping.

When will we, as a nation, have the sense and confidence to stand up for what we know is equitable and correct, viewing such occurrences as this with a sense of proportion, tolerance and understanding?

John and Debra Lockwood
Downderry, Cornwall

Jail sentence farce

SIR – Theodore Dalrymple’s point cuts both ways. Relaxing sentences because the accused “suck up” to the judge is just as farcical as extending their punishment because they lack remorse. By this judicial bargaining our liberty to speak freely is subordinated to public sentiment.

And as Dr Dalyrymple rightly argues, it decimates justice.

David S Ross
London E14

Teenage cancer hero

SIR – All those who are to be honoured in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list in June will now have been notified of their awards. I hope that one name above all others will appear, the late Stephen Sutton.

He should be given the highest posthumous award for his courage tackling the bowel cancer that claimed his life.

Like Lisa Potts’s bravery in a totally different context, for which she was awarded the George Medal, Stephen thought only of others and what he could do in his shortened lifetime to help young men and women grapple with the consequences of having cancer.

John Lidstone
Sutton Scotney, Hampshire

Songbird survival

SIR – You report that songbirds are facing extinction.

Can something be done to prevent cat owners from allowing their animals to wander at will over to other people’s gardens and kill wild birds and their fledglings?

Some of us try to encourage wild birds by feeding them – only to see them destroyed before our eyes.

H W Bishop
Ballaugh, Isle of Man

Legal red tape

SIR – Dr Roger Litton (Letters, May 11) sets out the horrors of the new Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA), which replaced the old Enduring Power of Attorney (EPA) a few years ago.

Under the old regime, when my mother had to move into a nursing home in 1997, I was able to buy an EPA form for a few pence from a law stationer, help her fill in the four pages, and get her signature witnessed by one of the nursing home staff.

I was then able to set about selling her home to pay the nursing home fees without any more delay or formalities. Registration of the EPA would have been needed only if she had been incapable of taking decisions.

Can you believe that the Law Commission recommended their new LPA as an improvement?

Norman Baker
Tonbridge, Kent

Love is blind and deaf

SIR – The case of Adriana Ford-Thompson, willing to maintain her belief in her husband, despite his conviction on multiple charges of rape and sexual assault (News Review, May 11) should come as no surprise.

After all, it is quite common in other areas; I have come across any number of “useful idiots” who are prepared to claim that some bloodthirsty tyrant or other is a harmless, peace-loving democrat, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

It would appear that love really is blind and, indeed, deaf.

Peter Davey
Bournemouth, Dorset

SIR – While I accept that David Cameron’s stance on Europe is the best that is on offer from any leader of the major parties (and the best from a Conservative leader since Iain Duncan Smith), there are still two questions that he needs to answer before he can be sure of my vote in 2015.

First, if a trading agreement similar to that enjoyed by Norway and Switzerland is so inferior to the relationship we have with the EU, then why aren’t those two countries clamouring to be full members?

Secondly, if he fails to achieve the seven changes that he wants in the EU, will he campaign for an “Out” vote in the 2017 referendum?

Alan Cox
Belper, Derbyshire

SIR – Any dispassionate observer would say, as we approach the European elections, that there is a great deal in our present situation and prospects from which to draw not only comfort but inspiration. It is solidly enshrined in the “Plan for Britain’s Success”, set out in the Prime Minister’s seminal speech at the London Gateway on June 10 last year, and appropriately brought up to date in his article.

Yet, such is the mood of perverse despondency among people whom one would normally think of as responsible and constructive, that the Prime Minister evidently thought it necessary to add a call to the readership to sit up and think, and to get out and vote.

Sir Peter Marshall
London W8

SIR – David Cameron says, in reference to the European Union, that “the key areas we are negotiating on” are, inter alia, “getting more control over justice and home affairs”.

Is this really the same Prime Minister whose intention it is to make 35 EU police and criminal justice measures, including the iniquitous European Arrest Warrant, “subject to the full jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice and the enforcement powers of the European Commission”?

The fact that he is under no obligation to take these measures and that no treaty clauses would be broken if he declined to do so, makes a mockery of the euroscepticism he implies.

Christopher Gill
Bridgnorth, Shropshire

SIR – David Cameron talks a great deal about reducing immigration. He cannot do anything about the influx of people from the EU.

However, it is time he resolved the chaos in the asylum system, which has been out of control since Tony Blair’s time. A good start would be making it less difficult to deport foreign criminals.

Hugh Jones
Cardiff, Glamorgan

SIR – The light is belatedly dawning on David Cameron, but that weasel word “renegotiate” trips too glibly from his lips.

Such a word is not in the EU dictionary. If he can say “Out” and mean it, he will garner a massive number of votes.

Meanwhile, we are faced with the most awful dilemma. Which is worse: to let Labour back again, or to remain in the EU?

The Tories are having a bad enough time as it is, trying to contain our ballooning deficit. Labour will bankrupt the country. Yet we must leave the EU, and only Ukip supports this.

What is one to do?

Michael Plumbe
Hastings, East Sussex

SIR – I fear Richard Grant is being a little optimistic in saying the problems of the eurozone have bottomed out. A common currency covering a range of disparate economies can only succeed by having centralised economic and political control.

This is the objective that José Manuel Barroso, the President of the EU Commission, has consistently espoused: an “ever closer union”. Whether people in the eurozone understand the need to surrender much of their independence remains to be seen, but there could well be a lot of economic and civil turbulence on the way.

Terry Lloyd
Darley Abbey, Derbyshire

Irish Times:

Sir, – The time has come for Ireland to join Nato. Membership of Nato would represent another step in the modernisation of Ireland, a step away from old fears and outdated ways of thinking. Participation would reflect a more sophisticated conception of Ireland’s place in the global community. Ireland cannot expect to reap rewards from partnerships with democratic nations, whether economic or political, if it does not play its part. With Ireland’s economy struggling, participation in Nato would bring renewed credibility to the country as a valued partner.

Russia’s aggression in Ukraine highlights Nato’s vital importance to the free, modern, democratic nations of Europe. However, Nato’s mission is much more elemental than the short-term goal of stopping Russian power plays. Like the European Union, Nato ultimately seeks to create a zone of perpetual peace in Europe. The EU’s economy is the largest in the world when viewed collectively. With Europe united together in collective defence under the aegis of Nato and aided by the vast strength of the United States, Nato becomes an unassailable citadel. This strength creates a safe haven for democracy, economic growth, individual liberty and cultural expression.

This is the most important mission of our time, the creation of a lasting peace and the perpetual preservation of the liberties we hold most dear.

Ireland can no longer watch the world from the sidelines. Faced with deadly non-state extremism and powerful, corrupt regimes that do not share the values most treasured in the West, the world is no longer safe for democracy. We have a moral obligation not to let our planet slip back into the horrific wars and great power intrigues of the 20th century. – Yours, etc,



Columbia Pike,

Arlington, Virginia.

Sir, – The actions of EU foreign ministers are only fuelling the crisis in Ukraine.

Both the EU and the US quickly legitimised the government of dubious legality in Kiev whose first declarations included a diktat to restrict the rights of Russian-speaking ethnic groups (now thankfully rescinded) and an application to join Nato. The cabinet includes six extreme ultra-nationalists, including defence secretary Andriy Parubiy, a founding member of the far-right Svoboda party. Is it any wonder ethnic Russians might be worried?

Rather than attempt to calm tensions, EU foreign ministers have barely disguised their favouritism in gleefully acting as the tools of US and Nato foreign policy in Europe in its continued military encirclement of Russia, a policy that is only playing into the hands of Mr Putin and his own extreme nationalist acolytes.

Instead of echoing the rampant militarism of the US, EU and Nato, the Irish Government should call for a genuine demilitarisation and de-escalation of the situation and a facilitation of serious peace talks that recognise the legitimate fears and concerns of all ethnic groups within Ukraine with the aim of the development of a non-aligned, nuclear-free country.

Minister for Foreign Affairs Eamon Gilmore and Minister of State for European Affairs Paschal Donohue could start by requesting their EU fellow ministers to call on Nato to cancel its planned military exercise, Repent Trident, in Ukraine this July and to declare that they will not ask the Ukrainian government to join Nato. The last thing the people of Ukraine need is for US, British and other troops to be romping around their territory stirring up further ethnic tensions. – Yours, etc,


Irish Anti-War


PO Box 9260,

Dublin 1.

Sir, – I agree with Eoin Daly (“Treatment of non-Catholics urgent human rights issue”, Education, May 13th) that the treatment of non-Catholic parents and children is an urgent human rights issue.

I and my children have direct experience of what I believe is discrimination against us as non-Catholics.

Our children were “lucky” as non-Catholics to get a place in our local school, as it is a Catholic ethos school. We were told that had there been any pressure on numbers applying to the school, our first child would have not received a place there. This is despite the fact that we live in a rural area and the nearest alternative non-Catholic school was a further seven miles away.

We would have been subjected to unwarranted longer commutes and simple things like a school bus would not have been a possibility. We were further told that under no circumstances could our children be excluded from religion class as there was no facility for that.

This meant that for the eight years of primary school, our children received a religious education that was in direct conflict with our family’s beliefs.

The focus on divestment is all very well but will in no way help non-Catholic families in rural areas who will not have access to alternative schools for the most part.

I also think it’s a terrible pity that religious and non-religious as a rule cannot be educated together.

We should have more communication between groups and this should start from a young age. I believe that in Educate Together schools parents who wish their children to have religious sacraments can do so but are prepared outside school time. Could this not be a model for all State schools, with some hours set aside for religious preparation but still letting children in general be educated together?

I believe that the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Education and the Department of Education have failed our non-Catholic children by not addressing this issue in a comprehensive manner. – Yours, etc,



Co Wicklow.

Sir, – In response to Mark Byrne (May 8th), I would like to say that as one of two working parents with one child in primary school education, I feel privileged that my children have the benefit of free education in this country, in a school system where they are safe and well cared for, and fortunate that we have the right to democratically elect our public representatives.

Having had more than three months’ notice that elections would be held on May 23rd , we were able to make alternative arrangements for childcare (expensive though that is) on this day. Elections don’t exactly happen every month (or even every year for that matter), so I fail to see what the big issue is. Also, is Mr Byrne too old to remember the joy of a day off school? – Yours, etc,



Douglas Road,


Sir, – On Friday, the people of Ireland will have the opportunity to elect 11 Irish members of the European Parliament.

The choices we make on May 23rd will have a relevance for international issues such as climate change, trade, taxation and energy, and will therefore have a direct influence not just on us, but also on the rest of Europe and on the global community.

In Ireland and around the world, people have long fought for the right to have a say in the way their country is being run. And still today, millions of people do not have a say in the policies that affect them.

In most cases this is not because they do not have a vote, but because they have no influence on the centres of decision making.

For millions of poor people in Europe and beyond, decisions made (or not made, as the case may be) in European capitals about finance, trade, climate and agriculture can be the difference between prosperity or dismay.

One of the great challenges of the 21st century is to reduce the alienation and marginalisation experienced by billions of people, and to acknowledge that our decisions on what may seem local issues have global repercussions.

On Friday, we can use our voice and our vote, to choose a better future for ourselves, but also for all those without a say. – Yours, etc,




Sir, – Kevin O’Sullivan (May 13th) laments the loss of the “big houses” – and presumably the corresponding redistribution of land during the Irish “adjustment”. The feudal system did, indeed, provide secure employment for the serfs! The proportion of the £14,000 bill for a one-night stay in the Shard hotel that will “trickle down to the cleaning staff, manufacturers, food suppliers, etc” is insignificant. The actual cost of the stay would be a small fraction of that sum. Most of it becomes profit for the wealthy owners of the Shard. The wealth of the super-rich is protected in tax havens; ultimately, this has a negative effect on the local economy. – Yours, etc,


Primrose Lodge,



Co Wexford.

Sir, – The first order of business for any well-run commercial undertaking is that money should trickle absolutely nowhere except into the pockets of the owners. Paying anybody for anything is a drain on profit and no business person will pay one farthing more than they can get away with. – Yours, etc,


Harmonstown Road,


Dublin 5.

Sir, – Rather than inviting a representative of the House of Hohenzollern, as Felix Larkin suggests (May 13th), would it not make more sense to invite the president of Germany to represent Ireland’s “gallant allies in Europe”, in the words of the 1916 Proclamation?

And also President Barack Obama, to represent Ireland’s “exiled children in America”? – Yours, etc,


St Helens,

Merseyside, England.

Sir, – This is just another letter, from just another worried daughter, about just another sick man, on just another hospital trolley, for just another 48 hours. But Friday is not just another day. I have just another vote. Sadly, it won’t be going to this Government. On healthcare, they are just another disappointment. – Yours, etc,


Windy Gap,

Meelick, Co Clare.

Irish Ind0 Comments

Former president of the European Central Bank Jean-Claude Trichet

Published 19 May 2014 02:30 AM

* How does one decide who to vote for in the upcoming European elections? Should one vote at all? Sure aren’t they all the same?

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Democracy valued

No, they are not. There is no one answer but we can look to the history of our candidates in Europe to assess those who are looking to get re-elected.

How do we do this? It is very much up to the individual. Does one vote along party lines? Yes, that is an option and a very real one, if for no other reason than no matter how good or how bad the political party structures are within this State, they have done some good for many and will be rewarded as such from those who benefit from the current political set-up. This is an indication of our traditions and is a part of who we are.

But politics should be more than traditional faith. Politics should be about identifying and solving problems. Our politicians continuously speak of the economy – so what is the main problem with our economy and how have our MEPs dealt with it in Europe?

To my mind, the main cause of our problems is the European/troika-led campaign of austerity. Tighten our belts as it were and yes, in fairness, the excesses had to be pared back. But who benefits? Do people with terminal illnesses getting their medical card removed need their belts tightened? I don’t think so. I definitely don’t think so when the maths behind austerity have been proven to be totally incorrect.

This mathematical fact has been pointed out to the architects of austerity: the ECB, the IMF and the EU. They have not listened, why would they? The ECB is making a fortune in interest payments from us. The ECB in particular had a somewhat ‘private’ interference in our government’s decision-making process through Jean-Claude Trichet‘s letter.

I don’t like this personally, so I’m looking to see how the European Parliament has helped us to assess whether the current MEPs will deserve my vote or whether I vote at all.

As modern democratic politics is and has been for some time more about information than economics, I decided to have a little root on the interweb to confirm my admitted cynicism. I got a little shock: the European Parliament has actually tried to help Ireland – it held a vote to force the ECB to publish the Trichet letter. They have, I have to say, proved that they have our back.

And how did our current ‘Irish’ MEPs vote on this issue? I could tell you that the results of that particular test of ‘Irishness’ was not what I expected from some ‘Irish’ people in Europe.

Who did what and how each MEP voted is a matter of fact. I could list the votes as published for each Irish MEP . . . but then I would be stopping you – yes, you – from finding out for yourself, and to do that would be an insult to your intelligence and mine, would it not?





* Is it melodramatic to suggest that Friday, May 23, is a ‘Day of Destiny’ for us, the Plain People of Ireland?

Suddenly the hills are alive with the sound of commentators diagnosing the loss of direction (and leadership) in the Government. The forthcoming local and European elections will not affect the composition (or survival) of the present Government directly – or immediately. But they will have a profound (if rude) effect on its strategic thinking (if any) – and upon the menu available to us at the next general election.

It has never been more important for us to use our vote strategically and tactically to determine our future. Citizenship has its duties as well as its rights. It is we, the people, in the absence of clear political leadership, who must write the greater ‘shopping list’ with those ‘grubby little stubs of pencils’ on May 23.

Maurice O’Connell




* Straight from the mouth of a real big, bad wolf of Wall Street: describing how he descended into a life of debauchery and fraud, Jordan Belfort added: “You don’t lose your moral compass overnight. You take tiny steps where you become desensitised.”

Where does that leave those politicians and others who have managed to take one step further into depravity?

We know where it led the rest of us – up that well-known creek without a paddle.





* I dreamed it was Monday, May 27, and the slaughter of FG, Labour and FF candidates in the local and EU elections had brought the immediate resignations of Kenny, Gilmore and Martin. Incoming Taoiseach Bruton and Tanaiste Burton gave a media address in which they promised open, accountable government as a result of the ballot in which there was almost a 90pc turnout.

Taoiseach Bruton mused: “It would appear the only votes not cast on the previous Friday were those of the young Irelanders compelled to emigrate by the inane political decisions of the past 20 years.”

Alas, I awoke to reality.





* As a customer of Aer Lingus, I would like you to raise the matter of the threatened strike of cabin crew at Aer Lingus on Friday, May 30.

Surely roster arrangements can be put in place that meet the needs of both the airline and its staff? I understand that the pilots operate ‘five days on’ followed by three rest days. This type of patterned roster is worked by cabin crews in other airlines including Aer Lingus Regional crews, and even Ryanair has something similar. The European Aviation Safety Agency, in its EU-OPS Flight Time Limitation rules, makes no distinction between pilots and cabin crews in terms of schedules worked – so why does Aer Lingus? What is good for the gander should also be afforded to the geese!





* In the comments section on Friday, May 16, David Quinn bemoaned the rise of secularism in RTE over the past few decades.

To highlight this appalling trend, Quinn borrowed a quote from Helena Sheehan, who claims that some RTE staff “put up a formidable fight to secularise and liberalise programme output”. Quite a statement, according to Mr Quinn.

I wonder if anyone has pointed out to him that secularism is, by its very definition, the lack of religious bias. Mr Quinn is perfectly within his rights to complain about the collapse of the overwhelming conservative bias in Irish public life, but he should at least have the decency to be upfront about it.





* The 2014 World Cup in Brazil will be the 10th consecutive World Cup that RTE commentator George Hamilton will have covered. Surely this is an achievement that UEFA should acknowledge – and that the Irish population, led by its senior newspaper, should ensure happens?

I, as a Scotsman, tune in to RTE to watch games regularly purely because I feel that George Hamilton makes an average game of football enjoyable. I suspect this applies to many others.





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