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Prince Rupert zu Loewenstein – obituary
Prince Rupert zu Loewenstein was a Bavarian aristocrat and banker who disliked rock and roll but made The Rolling Stones very rich
Prince Rupert zu Loewenstein with Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones Photo: REX
5:41PM BST 21 May 2014
Prince Rupert zu Loewenstein, who has died aged 80, was the Bavarian aristocrat who for decades managed the financial affairs of The Rolling Stones.
Loewenstein was a key member of the Stones’ entourage for almost 40 years. The subfusc banker’s suits and high Roman Catholic connections which made him such an incongruous figure amid a backstage ambience of sex, drugs and rock and roll were in some ways deceptive: he had a lively sense of humour, and he observed his clients’ antics with a worldly twinkle in his eye. “He’s a bit of a showman, a bit extraordinary,” one City colleague said of him. “He always lived life at a very high rate.”
Prince Rupert zu Loewenstein with Mick Jagger (JAMES YEATS-BROWN/MUSIDOR BV)
It was as managing director of Leopold Joseph & Co, a small London merchant bank, that he was first introduced to Mick Jagger by a mutual friend, the art dealer Christopher Gibbs, in 1968 — though Loewenstein claimed at the time never to have heard of the band. Jagger — no slouch in financial matters himself — was increasingly angry at the handling of the Stones’ affairs by Allen Klein, the aggressive New Jersey accountant who had been the group’s manager since 1965 and whose terms included a 50 per cent slice of their recording royalties. “Half the money I’ve made has been stolen,” Jagger later told an interviewer — and his first question to Loewenstein was whether the skills of Leopold Joseph could extricate them from their contract with Klein.
“I discussed taking on the group with my partners but they were very much against any involvement, saying it would be bad for the image of the firm,” the prince recalled. “It was very hard to win them over, but I finally prevailed.”
Loewenstein later wrote that he and Jagger “clicked on a personal level. I certainly felt that [he] was a sensible, honest person. And I was equally certain that I represented a chance for him to find a way out of a difficult situation. I was intrigued. So far as the Stones’ music was concerned, however, I was not in tune with them, far from it. Rock and pop music was not something in which I was interested … After the first two or three business meetings with Mick, I realised there was something exceptional in his make-up, that his personality was able to convert his trade as itinerant performer into something far more intriguing.”
Prince Rupert zu Loewenstein with Keith Richards (KEN REGAN/CAMERA 5)
From then on, Loewenstein was a particularly close personal adviser to Jagger, who developed a liking for rubbing shoulders with high society. Shortly after they met, Jagger helped to plan a White Ball at the Loewensteins’ home in Holland Park, which kept neighbours awake until a quarter to six in the morning. When one rang the police to complain, she was told: “We can’t do anything about it, Princess Margaret’s there.”
Loewenstein realised that a great deal more money could be made for the band from touring: “After reviewing a few of the basic documents, I realised [the money] would have gone to Klein and therefore they would have depended on what he gave them, as opposed to what the record company or the publishing company did. They were completely in his hands. What had also become apparent to me was that the band would have to abandon their UK residence. If they did not do this, they could be paying between 83 and 98 per cent of their profits in British income tax and surtax. I selected the South of France as a suitable location for them.”
By 1972 Loewenstein had managed to reach a satisfactory contract with Allen Klein (although litigation continued for a further 18 years), allowing the Stones to record with a company of their choice. He then set himself to find a new recording contract for them to replace the existing one with Decca; during their European tour of 1970 he conducted what amounted to a trade fair on their behalf from a series of hotel bedrooms.
The prince’s services extended not only to managing their money, negotiating their contracts and accompanying them on tour: he once described himself as “a combination of bank manager, psychiatrist and nanny”, while the tabloids christened him “Rupie the Groupie”. In 1978 he was called upon to provide an affidavit to a Toronto court as to the extent of Keith Richards’s casual spending — $350,000 in the previous year — as evidence that the guitarist was wealthy enough not to commit crimes in order to feed his heroin habit.
It was the prince who was most influential in persuading Jagger to go on touring through the 1980s and ’90s, as relations among the group members cooled and the wear and tear of advancing age took its toll. The prince also stood as godfather to James, Jagger’s son by Jerry Hall, in 1985 (the actress Anjelica Huston was godmother).
When Jagger and Hall parted, Loewenstein masterminded the financial settlement that followed — and remarked in a rare interview that “when families split up you have to make it absolutely clear whose side you are on at once”. It was due in large part to his wisdom that Jagger’s fortune is today estimated at more than £200 million.
Prince Rupert zu Loewenstein with the Duchess of York (REX)
Rupert Louis Ferdinand Frederick Constantine Lofredo Leopold Herbert Maximilian Hubert John Henry zu Loewenstein-Wertheim-Freudenberg was born at Palma, Majorca, on August 24 1933.
His father, Prince Leopold, a native of Salzburg, traced descent through the royal house of Wittelsbach from the Elector Palatine Friedrich I (1425-76), whose son Ludwig — by a mistress, Clara Tott, whom the Elector married to legitimise the child — became Count of Loewenstein, near Heilbronn in what is now Baden-Wurtemberg, in 1488. Rupert’s mother was a daughter of the Count of Treuberg, and the family’s connections could be traced throughout the Almanack de Gotha. Non-noble forebears included the Frankfurt financier Mayer Amschel Rothschild, founder of the famous banking dynasty.
The young Rupert was brought to England in 1940 and sent to Beaumont, the Roman Catholic public school. Later he read History at Magdalen College, Oxford — where he emerged as one of the glitterati of his generation — and began his City career as a trainee with the stockbrokers Bache & Co. He and a group of friends swiftly decided that the best way to make serious money would be to own their own merchant bank.
Together with, among others, Jonathan Guinness (now Lord Moyne), the exotic French Baron Alexis de Redé, and Anthony Berry ( son of the Sunday Times proprietor Lord Kemsley and later a Conservative MP who was killed by the 1984 Brighton bomb), he arranged to buy Leopold Joseph & Co from its founding family for £600,000.
The bank had been set up in 1919 by a German-Jewish immigrant who first came to London as a reporter for the Frankfurter Zeitung; three Joseph brothers remained in the business, which had been operating on a very modest scale.
Under Loewenstein’s leadership, it rapidly made a new name for itself in lucrative corporate finance work and investment advice for very wealthy private clients. His success with the Rolling Stones’ account brought him a number of other showbusiness clients, including Pink Floyd and (before his conversion to Islam) Cat Stevens.
In 1981 the prince left Leopold Joseph to set up his own business, Rupert Loewenstein Ltd, based in St James’s. He took his best clients with him, and once explained why he enjoyed working for people who had only recently made their fortunes. New money, he said, was “much more interesting than old. People with old money are nearly always having to be adjusted downwards.”
Loewenstein’s own money, both old and new, enabled him to live in grand style in later years in a former grace-and-favour mansion, Petersham Lodge — not far from the Jagger ménage on Richmond Hill — which he bought in 1987 for around £2 million.
But in parallel with a life of money and parties, there was also a spiritual side to him. He petitioned for the preservation of the Tridentine Mass — writing to The Daily Telegraph in 1975 about its numinous beauty — and held high office in ancient Catholic orders of chivalry: he was Grand Inquisitor of the Constantinian Military Order of St George and president of the British association of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta.
Loewenstein’s association with The Rolling Stones ended amicably in 2007 — although his publication six years later of a memoir, A Prince Among Stones, was said to have upset Jagger.
In the book, the prince wrote of his relationship with the band: “All the time I worked with the Stones I never changed my habits, my clothes or my attitudes. I was never tempted by the rock ’n’ roll lifestyle. Although I enjoyed a good vintage wine, I was never a heavy drinker, nor a drug-taker. I always aimed to maintain a strict discipline backstage, for security reasons, and tried to see that the band and the entourage did not get drunk or disorderly.
“To many outsiders it must seem extraordinary that I was never a fan of the Stones’ music, or indeed of rock ’n’ roll in general. Yet I feel that precisely because I was not a fan, desperate to hang out in the studio and share in the secret alchemy of their creative processes (something I never did since I couldn’t take the noise levels), I was able to view the band and what they produced calmly, dispassionately, maybe even clinically – though never without affection.”
Prince Rupert zu Loewenstein with his wife Josephine hosting The White Ball
Prince Rupert married, in 1957 at the London Oratory, Josephine Lowry-Corry, a barrister’s daughter who had trained as a ballet dancer at Sadler’s Wells until she grew too tall, then retrained as an opera singer. The honeymoon included a visit to the Wagner festival at Bayreuth.
The Loewensteins had two sons, Princes Rudolf and Konrad, both of whom became priests, and a daughter, Princess Maria-Theodora (Dora), who married an Italian count, Manfredi della Gherardesca, and became a director of her father’s business.
Prince Rupert zu Loewenstein, born August 24 1933, died May 20 2014
A Bahraini anti-government protester. Photograph: Hasan Jamali/AP
Isa Haider al-Aali, 19, has had a traumatic year. He was arrested three times in 2013 for attending peaceful demonstrations for democracy in Bahrain. He was detained for months, tortured and threatened with having his genitalia cut off. He arrived in Britain on a valid passport and visa on 14 February and applied for asylum. He was put on the “fast track detention” and has been detained at Harmondsworth removal centre for over three months. Isa’s asylum application was rejected on 11 March. He did not see a lawyer from 14 February to 6 March and only met him a day before his first interview. Isa was not told what the asylum procedures were so how could he mount his defence? He was never told he must get his papers translated. In fact, the Home Office only had his papers translated after they’d rejected his application. It is clear that due process has not taken place. Isa’s appeal was refused on 22 April.
If Isa is forced back to Bahrain on BA flight GF002 on 22 May from Heathrow he will go to Jaw prison, a terrible, overcrowded prison with little food or clean water and constant abuse. He refused to be an informer and has been threatened with death. If this doesn’t count as a basis for asylum, I don’t know what does! Government papers are already crowing that he’s a terrorist and will get harsh treatment. He’s a young man, just like your son, so please act. Please contact your MP and the Home Office to demand a judicial review.
A breakfast of bacon, egg, sausage and fries was a regular feature of Sir David Nicholson’s past diet. Photograph: Scott Barbour/Getty Images
It’s really good news that Sir David Nicholson is successfully tackling his type 2 diabetes through diet and exercise (I lost control of my health. And I was chief executive of the NHS, 17 May). But it was not “ironic'” at all that he developed the condition while head of the NHS, it was inevitable, for several reasons:
• The NHS is in reality a National Medical Service – it fixes us when things go wrong rather than trying to keep us healthy to start with.
• A minuscule part of the £95bn NHS budget is devoted to encouraging us to do the healthy things that Nicholson has now been prompted to do. It’s a drop in the ocean compared with the massive advertising spend of the junk food industry.
• NHS dietary advice – to base meals on starchy foods – is a major culprit in the diabetes epidemic.
• The long hours and sedentary lifestyle demanded of people at all levels of the NHS put them at risk of diabetes. And there is no need for Nicholson’s GP to be so fatalistic. There is plenty of evidence that diabetes can not only be well managed, but reversed – it’s a lifestyle disease and can be cured with lifestyle changes.
Loren Grant (ex-NHS manager)
• The Improving Access to Psychological Therapies NHS service in Swindon and Wiltshire has been running a programme for two years, copying the work done in Newcastle, on reversal of type 2 diabetes. It is depressing that neither David Nicholson nor his GP appears to have been aware of the developments taking place in such a vital field.
The programme involves following a strict calorie-controlled diet (800 calories a day) for two months. This crash diet has been demonstrated to reverse the diabetes in some cases, and this reversal can be maintained with a healthy lifestyle. The programme in Swindon gives a considerable amount of psychological support to help motivate and maintain the strict diet.
Dr Liz Howells
Clinical director, Lift Psychology
• So David Nicholson felt that his frequent daily hotel breakfast of bacon, egg, sausage, tomato and fries, and his regular Friday-night drinking of eight pints of beer, was considered to be acceptable. He now has diabetes. As a nation we are constantly being reminded of the importance of a healthy diet and regular exercise. We, the hoi polloi, are also being told that failure to heed this advice can lead to avoidable ill-health and consequently the necessity of medical treatment which is a drain on our NHS resources. Bearing this in mind, was David Nicholson really the right choice to hold the privileged position of being the head of the NHS?
• David Nicholson didn’t use any of the preventive services he is recommending the NHS invest in. He waited until he had symptoms before going to the doctor, took fright on account of his family history, refused treatment, and then altered his own lifestyle. Judging by this it would be better to invest in school health education, particularly given the epidemic in childhood obesity, but responsibility for this has been devolved to hard-pressed local councils and free schools are being allowed to opt out of serving healthy lunches to pupils (Top doctor slams schools policy for fuelling epidemic of child obesity, 26 April).
Dr Richard Turner
Harrogate, North Yorkshire
• David Nicholson’s public confession of the shortcomings in his taking care of his own health while running the NHS uses a diagnostic rarely encountered in physical health care: the unconscious. Referring to his father and grandfather’s deaths in their 60s Nicholson asserts: “Unconsciously I wasn’t looking after my health because I thought that’s what would happen [to me].” Carl Jung once wrote that “we believe we are the masters of our own house but we deceive ourselves”, and he spent much of his life exploring and documenting how unconscious forces motivate our behaviours and so-called choices of action.
Nicholson’s confrontation with a diagnosis of type 2 diabetes also reflects the claim of the late Jungian analyst James Hillman that physical symptoms can be seen as a way the psyche uses to impact on the often heavily defended ego. Confronted with the symptoms and the urgency of the situation, Nicholson describes the lifestyle changes he has made. However, he slips back into his own role by giving us the very alarming stats on the prevalence of diabetes and says “it’s something we can and should do more to prevent”. If his own confession is anything to go by, then prevention might need to start with a recognition of the place of the unconscious in physical health care as well as mental health care.
• It is incredible that David Nichloson did not realise that the problems he lists are some of the classic and well-known symptoms of diabetes. This man knows the burden that diabetes is putting on the NHS yet is possibly contributing to that strain himself.
Hotel meals and station snacks are no excuse: the sort of hotels David Nicholson has used will serve fresh fruit, yoghurt, grilled tomatoes etc for breakfast, and all station cafes now offer fruit, salads and low-fat sandwiches. Fries, muffins and crisps are not obligatory, they are “a lifestyle choice”. This phrase is much used by the present government when denouncing those who supposedly “choose” unemployment and a life on meagre benefits, yet diabetes is often the consequence of an unhealthy lifestyle, which is also frequently a deliberate choice.
Many people have an unhealthy diet through ignorance, poverty or emotional problems but David Nicholson does not suffer from any of these, so I feel angry that someone who has been paid a very high salary from taxpayers’ money has so disregarded what his own common sense and NHS knowledge should have told him.
I wish David Nicholson well in his new more healthy lifestyle and hope that his article will be a salutary warning to many others. However, I still resent the fact that my contribution to his salary enabled him to indulge in the beer and chips for so long.
• Like David Nicholson, I too was told by my GP several years ago that I had type 2 diabetes “for life”. Two years ago (and a few thousand Metformin tablets later), my son, not medically trained, convinced me to try a raw food diet for 30 days. Nervously, I did so. My blood sugar levels dropped to normal and they have not returned to their pre-diet level. I still eat the occasional piece of cake, chocolate or pudding, and a few cooked meals, but my system can clearly handle that. There are around 4,000 patients registered as diabetic in the Selby area alone – that’s a lot of tablets. I’d hate to think that it might be in the interest of pharmaceutical companies to have that mantra continue: “You’ve got it for life.”
Selby, North Yorkshire
• I am delighted to read that David Nicholson has become a convert to the idea that self-management courses can help people live with long-term conditions. What a shame that after being successfully piloted over 10 years ago and run from within the NHS the expert patients programme went from being nationally available to a programme delivered by a private company in just a few areas. Perhaps he will now add his weight to the argument that self-management should once again be available to everyone and delivered within the NHS.
Barnsley, South Yorkshire
Rio Ferdinand tweets the expression “choc ice” and is fined £45,000. So the football authorities are comfortable sticking their noses into the black community to tell us that the terms we’ve historically used for complicity with racism – “Oreo, coconut, Uncle Tom, house slave” etc – are unacceptable. But disciplining the sexism of Richard Scudamore is beyond them (Why I blew the whistle, 21 May). It’s hard to tell who they hold in greater contempt: women or black Britons?
• Ian Jack’s background to John Greenleaf Whittier’s hymn Dear Lord and Father of Mankind (17 May) leads nicely this week to Whittier’s poem The Poor Voter on Election Day, when today “A king of men am I. / To-day alike are great and small, / The nameless and the known; / My palace is the people’s hall, / The ballot-box my throne!”
Rev Cllr Steve Parish
• When I began my teaching career in east London, a young skinhead at the back of my class informed me he was not going to be taught French by a “fucking poof” (Letters, 21 May). I went over to him and whispered “if you say that again, I will come and sit on your knee”. I never had another homophobic squeak out of him. Sadly, I don’t suppose I would dare try that today.
Stoke Rivers, Devon
• The correspondence about Croughton (Letters, 21 May) puts me in mind of the hilarious routine in the film The Goose Steps Out where Will Hay, charged with teaching would-be Nazi spies the intricacies of the pronunciation of English place names, leads them a merry dance with Worcester, Towcester, Gloucester and Leicester.
• Perhaps someone should let Yaya Touré know that out here in the real world, if it’s your birthday, you buy the cakes (Sport, 21 May).
• I don’t know about sunbeams from cucumbers (Letters, 21 May), but I believe it’s possible to get wind from beans.
India’s new prime minister Narendra Modi addresses the media after meeting the Indian president Pranab Mukherjee. Photograph: Money Sharma/EPA
It is not the “voice” of India that is heard in the victory of Narendra Modi‘s BJP (Editorial, 19 May). Rather the victory resounds to a transformation in how Indian politics is being made. The relentless onslaught of the slick “Brand NaMo” media campaign, bankrolled by much of corporate India, was unprecedented. The grassroots efforts of the 45,000 nationwide branches of the RSS, the militantly Hindu cultural nationalist parent organisation of the BJP, enthused by one of their own, also helped convert a groundswell of dissatisfaction with the inept and listless governing Congress party. Finally, the vagaries of the first-past-the-post system aided Modi – his overall parliamentary majority was delivered by merely 31% of the popular vote (Congress won 34% in going down to its first crushing defeat in the post-Emergency election of 1977).
In a magazine article published a week before counting, Sonia Gandhi, the Congress party president, quoted an anonymous warning to himself and his followers written by Jawaharlal Nehru a decade before becoming India’s first prime minister: “Is it not possible that Jawaharlal might fancy himself as Caesar? Therein lies danger for Jawaharlal and for India. We want no Caesars.” They are words that India’s new prime minister will do well to heed as he keeps his tryst with destiny.
Dr James Chiriyankandath
Institute of Commonwealth Studies, University of London
• To claim, as Jayati Ghosh does (A bullying sort of win, 17 May), that Modi’s election victory is largely due to “a massively funded and aggressive media campaign” is not only disingenuous; it also places a big question mark on the intelligence and maturity of Indian voters – the same voters who rejected the BJP’s massively funded “India shining” media campaign in 2004, and voted for the Congress. If Mr Modi, as Professor Ghosh claims, is guilty of instigating pogroms against Muslims in 2002, why did Muslims choose to support his party? In Uttar Pradesh, his party won all the 21 seats where the Muslim population is more than 10%; in Rajasthan, his party scored 30% of Muslim votes; in Delhi’s Chandni Chowk constituency, where Muslims constitute a majority, his party defeated a senior Congress leader.
Modi’s victory is a revolt against India’s democratic capitalism, which failed to create sustainable growth beyond 5%. India, however, needs at least 10% growth per year for its growing working population, which only Modi’s authoritarian capitalism can offer. This is the real cause of Congress’s crushing defeat.
Randhir Singh Bains
Gants Hill, Essex
• Jayati Ghosh suggests that the electorate was somehow misled into voting Narendra Modi to power. In fact, many voters had felt betrayed by the ruling Congress party. The real surprise of the election was not Modi, who won, but his rival, Rahul Gandhi, who lost. That a mild-mannered charismatic leader with a deep concern for the poor can be rejected so totally by the poor of India is unbelievable, until we realise that, for many, his leadership symbolised the feudal and undemocratic way state affairs were run by the Gandhi family and its friends.
London School of Economics
• The world’s largest democracy has just concluded a massive election. A population of 1.2 billion with a huge diversity of faiths, languages, ideologies and cultures successfully concluded this amazing feat. There was hardly any violence or vote-rigging and some places recorded a turnout of over 80%. India is a role model to the rest of the world where there is no freedom or democracy. A word of praise from the Guardian would not be out of place. What we had instead was an outpouring of hatred for India and the Hindu majority of the country by Pankaj Mishra (The new face of India, Review, 17 May).
Persecuted Jewish people, Zoroastrians, Baha’is and Tibetan Buddhists have found a safe home in India. Beginning with nothing in 1947 after 200 years of colonial rule, India has slowly but surely forged together a nation which has become a world economic power. The people of India have voted for change, and no amount of crocodile tears from India’s detractors is going to change that. Indeed world leaders have rushed to congratulate the new leadership. It is a shame that the Guardian has failed to acknowledge the democracy of India and allowed an article to be published which did not have an iota of balance.
• It is a pity that neither your editorial nor your report (Modi begins to put government together, 19 May) sought to inform your readers that, while the BJP and its allies won handsomely, they managed only two out of 42 seats in West Bengal, two out of 17 in Telengana, two out of 39 in Tamil Nadu, one out of 21 in Odisha and none of the 20 seats available in Kerala. This makes it a total of seven out of 139 seats in the south and east of the country. Additionally, the BJP and allies did not win any seats in Manipur and Tripura. The real challenge for Mr Modi and the BJP could be to ensure that they do not alienate the southern and eastern states, especially as these states have considerable powers in the federal republic.
• A party has secured a clear majority on the back of a 31% of the share of vote. The non-Congress Janata Dal secured more seats in 1977 amid voter revulsion against Indira Gandhi‘s autocratic rule. Congress won back a parliamentary majority under Rajiv Gandhi in 1984. Then, as now, majorities in parliament have been secured on the back of small pluralities of votes when campaigns have focused on a single issue. Governments thus elected found it difficult to manage the tension of intra-party coalition of interests.
Modi campaigned on a platform of good governance and economic development. Yet almost a third of his party members in parliament, keeping with the tradition established long ago by Indira Gandhi, have long-standing criminal charges pending against them, admittedly not all for corruption but for murder and intimidation. Nothing new there. The foot soldiers from the Hindu Taliban brigade who maintained discipline by not derailing the Modi rhetoric of toilets (read jobs) not temples on the campaign trail will now demand temples if not pogroms. Corporate donors will demand a hefty reward, having financed his campaign. This is Indian politics as usual.
• I was shocked to read your cringing editorial about Narendra Modi, a bigoted, rightwing leader who makes Nigel Farage look statesmanlike and Nick Griffin almost cuddly. Please do not fawn on Modi unless you’re prepared to do the same for the latter two.
Birkbeck, University of London
‘The three leaders of the main political parties … struggle to compete with [Nigel Farage’s] apparent “man of the people” persona because he generally gives straight answers’. Photograph: Paul Faith/PA
Nigel Farage continues to insist that we should be worried if Romanians move in next door (Farage remarks branded racist by three senior Labour figures, 20 May), while YouGov finds that 51% of Ukip voters think immigrants and their families (including those born here) should be encouraged to leave Britain. This merely confirms what was already obvious, yet apparently needs to be spelled out: Ukip is a party that spreads and feeds off racism and xenophobia.
For many years the rightwing tabloids have waged a campaign of hysteria about asylum and immigration, while both main political parties have either contributed or pandered to an increasingly fact-free discourse based on the prejudiced assumption that foreigners are a burden on society. The emboldening of Ukip’s bigoted populism is just one of the entirely predictable consequences of this trend.
The class represented by Ukip’s millionaire backers and personified by its leader – a public-school-educated former City trader and professional politician – has a vested interest in diverting social and economic anxieties away from the rich and powerful and towards our friends and neighbours. If the elite-fuelled resurgence of racism and xenophobia is not confronted now, the consequences will become uglier still.
David Wearing Soas, Daniel Trilling Author, Bloody Nasty People: the Rise of Britain’s Far Right, Owen Jones Author, Chavs: the Demonization of the Working Class, Alana Lentin & Gavan Titley Authors, The Crises of Multiculturalism: Racism in a Neoliberal Age, Rachel Shabi Author, Not the Enemy: Israel’s Jews from Arab Lands, Priyamvada Gopal, Yasmin Alibhai Brown, Kate Pickett & Richard Wilkinson Authors, The Spirit Level, Laurie Penny Contributing Editor, New Statesman, Zoe Williams, Reni Eddo-Lodge, Lola Okolosie, Ian Dunt Editor, Politics.co.uk, Malachi McIntosh University of Cambridge, Richard Bramwell University of Cambridge, Joseph Jackson University of Warwick, Dibyesh Anand University of Westminster, Nina Power Senior lecturer, University of Roehampton, Paul Bernal Lecturer, UEA law school, Samira Shackle, Caroline Criado-Perez, Richard Seymour, Alex von Tunzelmann, Ben White, Rhian E Jones, Mike Marqusee, Ellie Mae O’Hagan, Alice Bell, Dawn Foster, Juliet Jacques, Caroline Allen Green party, Rupert Read Green party, Jessica Wheeler University of Cambridge, James Stafford University of Cambridge, Kit Toda UCL, James Arnold King’s College London, Ana FitzSimons University of East Anglia, Simon Lewis University of Leeds, Chris Roberts University of Roehampton, Peter Kemp University of Roehampton, Mandy Turner Peace studies department, Bradford University, Yara Hawari University of Exeter, Craig Gent Centre for social and political thought, University of Sussex, Helen Hibberd Hackney Migrant Centre, Sanaa Qureshi, Joel Sharples, Tom Perez & Jordan Howes Football Beyond Borders, Miriyam Asfar University of Westminster, Peter Ely Kingston University, Ben Little Middlesex University, Reem Abou-El-Fadl Durham University, Edward Rooksby Ruskin College, Luke Cooper Richmond University, David Sanin University of York, Zoe Alexandra Holman University of Melbourne, Anindya Bhattacharyya rs21.org.uk, John Brissenden Branch chair, Bournemouth University UCU, Olly Huitson openDemocracy, Tom Mills New Left Project, George Woods Chair, GMB London North West, Tim Holmes Public Interest Research Centre, Graham Martin York People’s Assembly, Anna Strickland Director, Missing Link Productions, Almir Koldzic & Dr Aine O’Brien Co-directors at Counterpoints Arts, Joana Ramiro NUJ, Ammie El-Atar Birkbeck College, Astrid Heidemann Simonsen Soas, Laleh Khalili, Nadia Kamil, Tony Whelan, Celia Jane Kelly UCU (retired), Sanaa Alimia, Janey Stephenson, Dorian Lynskey, Sam Ambreen, Jane Samuels, Jon Squires, Eli Davies, Greg Lovell, Tom Stevenson, Sanaa Qureshi, Coromoto Power Febres, Steven Maclean, Akanksha Mehta, Sarah Nesbitt, Jacqueline Davies, Michael Walton, Farwa Sial, Steven Macallister, Jamie Macallister, Eira Roche, Nadia Chan, Adam Ali, Sarah Alice Cruickshank, James Brown, Anna Hedge, Mark Arnold, Natalia Sanchez Bell, Andrea D’Cruz, James Norris, Maria Rodriguez, Andrea Low, Martin Zaltz Austwick, Rosa Sullivan, Anna Lau, Emma O’Prey, Shian Holt, Alison Brumfitt, Jim Thompson, Jason Bergen, Louise Norris, Gabriel Carlyle, Anita Hurrell, Alison East, Ekta Sareen, Saamah Abdallah, Niki Seth-Smith, Sarah Barker, Colin R. Moore, Will Segal, Jo Holoway, David Cullen, Chris Williams, Alice Martin, Stuart Harris
• The sheer offensiveness of his comments aside, Nigel Farage digs himself into an ever bigger hole over migration from Romania. His claim that UK authorities cannot do anything about Romanian criminal gangs is simply untrue. States can expel any citizen of another EU state on public policy grounds (article 27(1), directive 2004/38). The case law is also quite clear. Membership of an organised criminal gang comfortably constitutes such a ground. Furthermore, member states can also ask for the police records of anybody entering their territory any time within the first three months of arrival to check if they belong to such a gang.
In fact, leaving the EU might well result in the United Kingdom being more vulnerable to such gangs. Gangs from outside the European Union do, indeed, operate in the United Kingdom. Without information from other national authorities or EU agencies such as Europol, it is harder to know, for example, their members and who, therefore, it is safe to admit onto British territory.
Professor Damian Chalmers
London School of Economics and Political Science
• Last year in a post office in Arad, Romania, a Romanian not only offered to help us, in excellent English, to buy stamps but then entertained us with coffee and cakes in his home, welcoming us to his fascinating and beautiful country. He was happy, he told us, to reciprocate the hospitality he had received when working in the UK. I just wanted to mention it.
• When large sections of the media view politics as entertainment, it is hardly surprising that the big personalities like Nigel Farage will get attention while parties like the Greens with their more reasonable spokespeople are sidelined (Support for the Greens is surging – haven’t you heard?, 21 May). I don’t know whether Farage is simply a self-promoting showman or something more sinister, but when it comes to the three leaders of the main political parties they struggle to compete with his apparent “man of the people” persona because he generally gives straight answers and, however ridiculous, inaccurate and objectionable his statements, they come across as spontaneous and sincere. The fact that he is not afraid to put his foot in it on occasion is part of his appeal. I frequently find myself squirming with embarrassment when Clegg, Cameron and Miliband and the rest of the Westminster clones tie themselves up in knots avoiding straight answers and put all their energy into ramming home the target number of soundbites set by their spin doctors for that day’s interview. The current popularity of Ukip should be a wake-up call for the rest. It has a lot to do with presentation not just policies.
• You report (Ukip’s manifesto: immigration, Europe and that’s it … for now, 21 May) Nigel Farage saying that he took a rush hour train from Charing Cross, through London Bridge, New Cross and Hither Green “the other night” and “It was not until we got past Grove Park that I could hear English being audibly spoken in the carriage”.
Perhaps he’d found himself among a group of students on a school exchange. I have travelled that line, at rush hour and all other times, for 15 years. His description of it is unrecognisable.
Reading Ben Lynfield’s article “Rachel Corrie’s family launch final bid to secure ‘justice’ from Israel” (20 May) following their 11-year struggle for accountability into her death, I recall our own fight for justice for our 21-year-old photo-journalist son, Tom – shot by an Israel Defense Forces (IDF) sniper while rescuing Palestinian children just three weeks after Rachel was crushed by an IDF bulldozer.
Tom had been drawn to the Gaza Strip after hearing about Rachel’s death. He was motivated by the need to know the truth behind it, just as passionately as Rachel had been motivated to speak out about the human rights of Palestinians.
In Rafah, Tom lived in the same house as Rachel and worked beside the same internationals and Palestinians who had been with Rachel when she was killed – only for them to bear witness to a second tragedy: Tom’s shooting.
In our pursuit of justice we encountered Israel’s investigation process: a shoddy field report, lack of accountability, obfuscation, fabrication, unwillingness to meet, a lack of reciprocity, and a sense that the pyramids of power within both the Israeli government and the IDF appeared wilfully to turn a blind eye to rules of engagement. We were forced to gather our own witness statements at a time when we needed the support of the British police who were prevented from entering Gaza.
In the US, there has been powerful political resistance towards the Corries’ campaign, but also fragments of support that gradually coalesced. In the UK, Tony Blair never publicly condemned Tom’s shooting, and it was only with the support of human rights lawyers, Palestinian, Israeli and British parliamentarians, diplomats, the media, writers, and Israeli and Palestinian friends, that our quest for justice felt remotely negotiable.
Finally, in 2005, a military trial in Israel brought the IDF sniper to account and he was given an eight-year sentence. Yet this partial justice failed to expose the policy-makers who had paved the way for the driver who killed Rachel and the sniper who shot Tom to behave with such callous disregard for human life.
We were left thinking, what must it be like for Palestinian families to secure justice when they lose a son or daughter?
I recently spoke to Cindy Corrie on Skype at an event in memory of Tom. It’s impossible to describe that moment where words are unnecessary, so deep was the understanding of each other’s loss. But there is a more enduring, personal feeling as I read Cindy and Craig’s words. Cindy said that their protracted search for justice may not have been Rachel’s wish, owing to the toll on the family.
Neither Rachel nor Tom would have wanted their families to experience the suffering their deaths have wrought. But both would have understood that their families’ search has been founded on an intense belief in the centrality of justice in a decent, democratic society.
All my thoughts are with the Corries. I wish them all the luck in the world and pray that Israel’s justice system proves both compassionate and fair.
Putin and Hitler a fair comparison
Prince Charles’s reported remark that Russia’s President Putin is “doing some of the same things that Hitler was doing” seems to be a fair comparison.
Andrei Borisovich Zubov is a Russian historian and political scientist, doctor of history, and a former professor of the Moscow State Institute of International Relations.
On the day Russian lawmakers voted to give President Putin permission to send troops into Ukraine, Zubov said: “We must not behave the way Germans once behaved, based on the promises of Goebbels and Hitler.”
The Institute of International Relations, a diplomatic school with ties to the foreign ministry, where Zubov has worked since 2001, said that it had dismissed him for criticising Russia’s foreign policy.
Professor Zubov bravely justified his opinion by saying: “I am afraid, but there are situations in which you have to act, regardless of your own fear.”
I invite academic institutions to nominate Professor Zubov for the Nobel Peace Prize, thereby giving him international recognition for his brave stance for democracy. The honour would also give him a status that may protect him from possible reprisals.
Clarence House said it would not comment on Prince Charles’ private conversations, but comparing President Putin to Hitler while on duty is not a private matter.
We are used to the Prince sounding off about domestic issues, but diplomatic issues are different. His mother has had to meet, at the request of her Government, some pretty loathsome people, but on no occasion has she said anything quite so foolish as her son.
The need to understand Russia remains essential, and we can do without blunders from our heir to the throne.
Dr John Cameron
St Andrews, Fife
This Hitler whom Prince Charles compares Putin to – is it the same Hitler that Charles’ great-uncle Edward and grandmother Elizabeth were so very keen on in the 1930s?
Outlaw all extra charges on tickets
I have recently bought tickets for a couple of concerts in the forthcoming Prom season at the Royal Albert Hall. On top of the advertised ticket price, the hall not only had the effrontery to charge an extra 2 per cent of the total value as a “booking fee” but also added a further fee of £1.50 per ticket.
If I buy goods in a shop, I expect to pay the price of the product; I would rightly be annoyed if the shop added an extra charge of its own, and I would probably shop elsewhere. If venues need to charge extra for administration, they should have the honesty to raise their ticket prices to cover this, rather than trick us into thinking that the price of the ticket is less than it really is.
They are already required by law to declare such extras in advance of selling the tickets; it is high time that these “administration” or “transaction” charges were outlawed altogether.
We live in a multi-racial society – get over it
Although I believe that, on balance, the scale of immigration over the past 60 years has been bad for Britain, I won’t vote for Ukip – because Nigel Farage is essentially trying to sell us a false bill of goods.
The people coming from eastern Europe are, for the most part, useful additions to our population, but I suspect that, for Ukip voters, they represent the last straw. A Ukip vote is essentially an anti-immigration rather than an anti-European Union vote. However, we are a multiracial society, for better or worse, and we have to get used to it.
The ardent advocacy of Nick Clegg et al for our membership of the EU conveniently ignores the fact that the EU is the culmination of a long history that is quite foreign to Britain.
It is no accident that the original signatories of the Treaty of Rome represented countries that had been part of the Carolingian Empire over a millennium before. The EU was an attempt to overcome, once and for all, the great Franco-German divide which had been the central issue in the politics, diplomacy and warfare of western European history, with increasingly devastating consequences. It was always about more than trade.
But it is not our history. Other than to intervene should one side in this great divide appear to become overly dominant, our interest has, for centuries, been elsewhere, as a globally orientated, trading nation. Nigel Farage is right to point this out, yet – like him – this heritage has been traduced by recent politicians looking for some easy post-imperial gambit. All of which is why I will vote for Ukip.
Thank god for the NHS
At 4.20pm I thrust pine needles into left eye while gardening; 5.30pm seen by GP and forwarded to regional centre of excellence for further assessment; 45-minute journey by car. At 6.40pm seen by senior ophthalmologist and a colleague. Examined, treated and sent home.
By 8pm I had finished supper and was thanking God for the NHS. The private sector hasn’t a hope of equalling or exceeding such performance, so why are all three major parties so intent on privatising any part of the NHS, let alone all of it?
Haydon Bridge, Northumberland
Something lost over time?
“Others weaved baskets” (“A History of the First World War in 100 Moments,” 8 May) – not a mistake that would have been made a century ago.
Published at 12:01AM, May 22 2014
London needs a bigger airport but Londoners don’t need any more noise or pollution
Sir, The riposte to Akbar al-Baker, of Qatar, by Daniel Moylan (letter, May 20) was mild by any standard. I lived under the flight path for over 20 years, in Horton, Berkshire, so close that the shadows of aircraft taking off and landing at Heathrow would fall across the house. Those who don’t live close to the flight path of an airport cannot understand that you “never get used to the noise”, though you can tolerate it to some degree.
It is galling to hear a leading person from Qatar lecturing the UK on the “excesses of individual freedom” and for “making a fuss” — in Qatar any anti-government speech or writing is enough to have you thrown out of the country.
Hayling Island, Hants
Sir, Daniel Moylan rightly draws attention to the one million or so people who would be subjected to unsafe noise levels if a third runway goes ahead at Heathrow. Few seem to realise that a third runway, some half a mile north (and slightly west) of the existing runways would bring incoming aircraft over the heart of Central London half a mile further north of the existing flight path for the northern runway. Most of the City, West End, Belgravia, Chelsea, Kensington, Hammersmith and Chiswick will be right under the flight path. Pollution as well as noise will spread right over the centre of our capital city. Can any economic or operational argument justify this attack on Londoners’ quality of life?
Sir, Mr al-Baker says “If you live under the flight path, I assure you, over a period of time you will not even hear the aircraft passing over your house.” I lived in Datchet for 12 years and I can assure Mr al-Baker (who has clearly never lived in a place such as Datchet) that you always hear the planes flying over your house and you do not get used to it. You do not appreciate how bad it is until you actually live there for a time. It is the non-continuous nature of the noise. Maybe in winter the noise is reduced when you are indoors but the problem is mainly the summer months. Windows are open and the noise of the planes is very disruptive when trying to have a conversation or listen to what is being said on the TV. Early morning planes wake you up and being in the garden is a very loud experience. I moved away as soon as I could.
Sir, Apropos “Boris attacks untold misery of Heathrow open 24/7” (May 20) I was explaining that Gulf airlines are so successful because our airports are open 24 hours a day. Europe’s growth is being impeded because airports are closed between 11pm and 5.30am, a critical period for east-west transfers.
If Heathrow or Gatwick do not expand, London will be overtaken by other airports which are open longer and expanding. The Mayor advocates a new airport to the east of London, but it is Heathrow that has helped London remain a magnet for air travellers.
It is the gateway to Europe and the logical plan is for a third runway to be allowed to enable British carriers and airports to grow as strongly as airlines like Qatar Airways have done in the Gulf.
Britain’s national interest is the same as mine — expansion of the best infrastructure already in place. That is Heathrow.
Sir, Christian Heinrich says hiring private tutors is “insane” (May 19), but in South Wales the independent tutoring business appears to be booming, especially for children at Welsh-medium schools. Mathematics and science tutors are sought because kids in Welsh-medium schools are being taught solely in this restrictive language. Compare this with the thousands of foreign students opting to learn mathematics and science via the medium of English in order to establish a sound foundation for higher education or employment in science and technology.
Even in English-speaking schools here, Welsh has core subject status and is mandatory at all stages. So Key Stage 4 students in Wales have reduced options at GCSE level. Compare this with students in England who can opt to study a second foreign language.
In Wales neither schools nor the system can be trusted. If a child is to reach the levels of competency in English, mathematics and the sciences achieved everywhere else in the UK, some form of tutoring is necessary.
Sir, Clearly Manchester City’s Yaya Touré does not watch Coronation Street (sport, May 21). He would know that in that area, those whose birthday it is, get the cakes in.
Sir, I hope that I am not the only householder who becomes increasingly irritated by the constant headlines regarding the “house price bubble”. Here in North Wales the extreme price rises of the southeast of England are as distant as the condominium prices of Malibu or villa prices in the south of France.
So when the Governor of the Bank of England begins to hint at an overheating economy and probable increases in interest rates this is equally irrelevant and divorced from the reality of property prices in our area. Why should we be penalised with increased rates as a consequence of the excesses of the southeast?
Perhaps devolution not only to Scotland but also to Wales and perhaps even some regions of England is the natural consequence of this continued inequality?
Sir, I read Alice Thomson’s remarks about death (“Do not go squeamish into that good night”, May 14) with interest. As a 79-year-old, it seemed prudent to sort out my end-of-life plans so when I downsized last year I rewrote my will. It now includes all the documents confirming that I want my body to be donated to my local teaching hospital after my death. (We’ll have a bodyless requiem in my church as I’ll need prayers for the next life.)
This is altruistic and economical; my poor old body may be useful for organ donation and even if not, the body is worked on by medical students for a year plus. After that the hospital cremates it and sends the ashes to the family.
It is easy to arrange this with one’s nearest teaching hospital and I highly recommend it. My family totally approves, too. The economic benefit is the £7,000 cost of undertaking that my offspring will save so that more of my modest estate will go to them, to charity and, I hope, a jolly good party to see me off.
Newport, Isle of Wight
An Englishman’s home: Bamburgh Castle spans nine acres along the rocky coastline Photo: Alamy
6:58AM BST 21 May 2014
Has Laura Thompson never visited the coastal villages of Alnmouth or Warkworth? Or the lovely towns of Hexham and Morpeth? Has she seen the great castles of Bamburgh, Alnwick and Dunstanburgh?
If she had visited, “bleak” would have been the last word to use, long after the word magnificent.
Deputy Mayor of Alnwick
SIR – Abu Hamza has been tried and will be sentenced in a jurisdiction where a life sentence is just that, free from the interference of the European Court of Human Rights.
Anyone complaining that we in Britain should have proceeded against him earlier, should thank America for doing something that we no longer have the capacity to do.
SIR – How is it that Abu Hamza resist extradition to America for so long, plead not guilty and now consider appealing, when businessmen and bankers can be extradited at the drop of a hat and forced to plead guilty to crimes they probably didn’t commit because they can’t afford to defend themselves there?
SIR – How did it take so little time for America to go through the process of arresting, trying and imprisoning Abu Hamza, while British governments spent years worrying about his human rights?
SIR – While attempting to learn German at night school a few years ago, I too remarked to our lecturer that the British were lazy at learning foreign languages. Her reply was that we weren’t, and our problem was having no exposure to other languages.
She grew up in the Sixties in Germany, and was constantly bombarded with English: all the best films and music were either American or English, and the films were subtitled rather than dubbed. She also said that English was a very easy language to learn.
Dinas Powys, Glamorgan
SIR – Richard Scudamore, the Premier League chief executive, has apologised appropriately for his sexist behaviour.
David Cameron says that a government minister would have been sacked for committing such a breach. It was only six weeks ago that Mr Cameron was grimly hanging on to Maria Miller MP after her arguably more serious offence and graceless apology in the Commons.
SIR – My husband, who was president of the Royal College of Surgeons, claimed that a patient would only ask a question if he or she was able to manage the answer. A patient will, in all probability, ask if he is dying only if he actually wants to know. The information should not be volunteered unasked.
Lady Susan Smith
Marlow Common, Buckinghamshire
SIR – Allan Massie (“Do Londoners even know the rest of us exist?”) claims that it wasn’t always the case that London “trumped the provinces”.
On the contrary; while at university in London in the mid-Sixties, we used to joke that north of Hyde Park was Scotland; west of Kensington was Wales; south of the Thames was Spain and east of Piccadilly Circus was France.
SIR – Meriam Yehya Ibrahim, the Sudanese doctor, is 27 years old and eight months pregnant, yet she faces a punishment of death preceded by 100 lashes. Her alleged crimes are apostasy, or the abandonment of religion, and adultery following her conversion to Christianity and subsequent marriage to a Christian man. Both sentences represent monstrous acts against a woman exercising the right to marry the man she loves.
Amnesty International has rightly stated that Dr Ibrahim is a prisoner of conscience, while progressive Muslim scholars have stated that her sentence is inhumane and an archaic reading of Islamic law. The British Medical Association has written to David Cameron and William Hague, calling on them to take up this issue urgently.
The Sudanese judgment is in violation of international human rights and moral norms, and the Government should use all avenues available to it to put pressure on the Sudanese authorities to overturn this grotesque sentence.
Dr Mark Porter
Chairman, British Medical Association Council
Angels of Woolwich
SIR – Now that the legal process has come to an end, what excuse can there be for not awarding some honour to the women who placed their lives at risk by confronting Fusilier Lee Rigby’s attackers and tending to him as he lay dying?
Their bravery was outstanding.
Hamstall Ridware, Staffordshire
SIR – There is nothing new about the 5:2 diet – Ethiopians have been practising it for centuries. They take their Christianity very seriously and both Wednesdays and Fridays are fast days.
At restaurants or hotels on those days you will be offered a fasting menu with a limited choice of extra-small meals.
Andrew J Rixon
SIR – I am tired of pretentious menus. I would like to ban the words coulis, trio, medley and froth.
Pulled and deconstructed can go too.
Billingshurst, West Sussex
Britain’s role in the search for the missing sailors
SIR – I am dismayed to note that, after the probable locating of the missing British yacht Cheeki Rafiki by the MV Maersk Kure in the mid-Atlantic, the captain of the large container ship did not order his vessel to heave-to while a smaller boat was lowered to examine the hull of the upturned yacht.
It is not unknown for the crew of an upturned yacht to seek shelter inside the hull while they await rescue. When Tony Bullimore’s yacht Exide Challenge capsized in the Southern Ocean during the 1996 Vendee Globe round-the-world yacht race, he was rescued after five days, in a joint operation by the Royal Australian Air Force and the Royal Australian Navy.
I urge the British Government and the Royal Yachting Association to place pressure on the US Coast Guard not to abandon the search for the missing yacht.
At the same time, the master of the Maersk Kure should be reminded of his obligations under international law, the International Convention on Maritime Search and Rescue and the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea.
James A Cowan
SIR – On June 18 1968, I flew nearly 13 hours in a Shackleton maritime patrol aircraft in the search for the French yachtsman Jean de Kat. This was just one of an extended series of flights to locate this lone sailor who, like the four British yachtsmen today, had been forced to abandon his vessel and take to a liferaft in the middle of the Atlantic. Several sorties later, de Kat was spotted by a lookout in another Shackleton and was rescued.
Today, as a result of the Government’s flawed decision to cancel the Nimrod MRA4, the RAF can no longer participate in long-range search-and-rescue missions and, as a result, the lives of British sailors in this latest incident are largely in the hands of a reluctant American Coast Guard.
Market Drayton, Shropshire
SIR – Charles Lewis should not be surprised to discover that the party responsible for trying to mislead Ukip voters on the European election ballot form is led by a deselected Ukip MEP. “An Independence from Europe” is just one of five splinter parties that have been formed by former Ukip MEPs since 2005.
Hardly a day goes by without a Ukip candidate making an offensive remark, but there is also internal animosity within the party’s ranks that has resulted in five of its 13 MEPs having left the party since 2009, and nine leadership changes in 20 years.
Much has been made of the risk that Ukip will hand Ed Miliband the next election on a plate. Of growing concern is the possibility that a large contingent of Ukip MEPs will make the British case for a reformed European Union harder to achieve, in particular if Nigel Farage, the leader of Ukip, is viewed as the authentic voice of British euro-scepticism.
SIR – I looked at Ukip’s European election manifesto on its website to find out about the party’s policies on Europe.
The only relevant sentences were: “We don’t go there to make the EU better, more powerful, and help it to pass more laws. We go there to find out what it’s up to, and let you know.” We do not need MEPs to do that. We need MEPs who ensure, while we are still in Europe, that the laws passed are in our best interests.
SIR – Instead of making comments about Romanian immigrants committing crimes in Britain, Nigel Farage should be introducing legislation in the European Parliament that reflects Ukip’s concerns.
A simple start would be to introduce a travel ban. We can implement this for football hooligans, so why not for other convicted criminals? Every person convicted of a criminal offence in Europe and sentenced to imprisonment, suspended or otherwise, should additionally be given a travel ban between EU countries, for the same length as their sentence, to start on release.
Instead of just shouting about things he doesn’t like, Mr Farage should actively try to rectify the situation.
SIR – By exhorting us not to vote Ukip in the European elections on the grounds that only the Conservatives can offer a “realistic prospect of change”, Boris Johnson is missing the point.
The so-called European Parliament is a sickening travesty of democracy, and those of us who will be voting Ukip in its election are doing so to send the strongest possible message to the Conservatives and to Labour that we want out. We don’t want pointless negotiations or any more debate. We want a referendum now.
Dr Peter Greenhalgh
Sir, – As an “undecided voter”, I have been reluctant to place a number beside the names of Independent candidates at election times. I listened to the reasonable arguments that stability was required to get this country back on its feet. I have been reading about the Garda whistleblowers in The Irish Times recently and it occurs to me that if we had no Independent TDs in the Dáil, the honourable gentlemen Maurice McCabe and John Wilson would be pariahs in their communities, rather than heroes. Independent TDs have done those men and this country a great service. So, this Friday, I am going to set aside my thoughts about “stability” and opt for honour and integrity instead. – Yours, etc,
Grange Park Road,
Sir, – Reading recent letters on this page, one could be forgiven for thinking that voters view the colour of cable ties and low-hanging posters as the most important political issues of our time.
Why are local issues, like county plans, council budgets and local amenities, not discussed at election time? How many voters know how much their council spent last year? Why don’t voters know which services are provided and controlled by our local councils and which services are outside the remit of our local representatives? If these issues are not debated at election time, then how is the voter to make an informed decision?
We live in a democracy and we are expected to vote. However, whose responsibility is it to ensure that voters aren’t kept in the dark? Is it time to appoint an electoral commission, to take charge of the proper running of elections? – Yours, etc,
Sir, – I would estimate that 82 per cent of people are sick to death of having to read opinion polls every other week. Please stop producing polls so often. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – I am 83 years old and this is the first time in all the years I have had a vote that I could not care less about who gets elected to either the local councils or the European Parliament.
This indifference has been brought on by a recent letter from the HSE requesting income details from me and my wife to check if we continue to qualify for the medical card. The HSE want details of our small private pensions, our old-age pension and any income from savings and investments. I have no problem with that and I am resigned to the fact that we will lose our medical card. However, what galls me is the mean-spirited way the HSE has gone about calculating eligibility. It is based on one’s gross income and no allowance is made for the fact that the State has already dipped into our income and deducted income tax, the PRSI levy and the universal social charge. In the event that one might be naive enough to assume eligibility would be calculated on one’s net income, the HSE use a heavy black typeface in its correspondence to highlight that it is one’s gross income on which they want details. To rub it in we now have the property tax to contend with, and to add to our misery the water tax will be an addition in the near future. And to cap it all we are hit with a 41 per cent Dirt tax on the miserly interest on our savings. It means that our gross income is stripped down to its bare bones by the Government but it is on the gross sum our eligibility will be calculated.
I fully appreciate that there are many far less well-off than I am who are struggling to keep afloat .
A Fine Gael voter all my adult life, as were my parents before me since the formation of the State, I regret to say that the party comes across as being out of touch with the concerns of those on low incomes or none. The party is heading for a kick up the arse by the very same people that ditched Fianna Fáil at the last election. I could well be the leader of the pack! – Yours, etc,
BRENDAN M REDMOND,
Terenure, Dublin 6w.
Sir, – Ruadhán Mac Cormaic’s article states that voting in the Republic’s general elections is restricted to Irish citizens (“Parties criticised for not reaching out to migrant groups”, Home News, May 20th). Not so. Irish-resident British citizens are also enfranchised. This migrant group is of the order of 2.5 per cent of the population. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – Here’s hoping that before people vote in the European elections, they will have read Fintan O’Toole (“Elections a chance to claim back sense of national dignity”, Opinion & Analysis, May 20th). – Yours, etc,
Templeogue, Dublin 16.
Sir, – According to an Irish Times/Ipsos MRBI opinion poll (Home News, May 20th), 59 per cent of Sinn Féin voters believe Gerry Adams was in the IRA. So why do a majority of Sinn Féin voters demonise the police for believing the same? – Yours, etc,
Killester, Dublin 5.
Sir, – Noirín Clancy, Claire McGing and Fiona Buckley of the “50 50 Group” are correct to conclude that the rise in the number of female candidates in the local elections from 17 per cent in 2009 to just 22 per cent this year is disappointing considering the sharp focus which has been given to this issue in recent years (“Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil have lowest percentage of female local election candidates”, Home News, May 16th). However, the reasons they give for the lack of progress are based on generalisations rather than actual evidence.
They point the finger of blame squarely at the political parties, stating that “conservative party cultures” and “traditional stereotyping as regards women’s and men’s roles” lead to a situation where women are “less likely to be seen . . . as potential candidates”. Unfortunately, this theory fails to explain why the proportion of Independent candidates who are women is even lower than that of any of the political parties. According to Dr Adrian Kavanagh, the source cited in their article, just 16 per cent of Independent candidates are female, which is even less than the figure for Fianna Fáil, which stands at a very poor 17 per cent .
Clearly, cultures within the political parties cannot be to blame since Independent candidates face none of the internal selection processes or constraints that party members face in running for election. And yet the fact remains that women were far more likely to run in the local elections as a member of a political party than as an Independent.
With this 16 per cent figure in mind, is it not fair to conclude that the problem here is not that political parties are less likely to see women as potential candidates, but that women themselves hold this view?
The fact is that women remain far more reluctant than men to express an interest in running for election due to a range of reasons including the workload, family commitments, and the implications for their careers in other sectors. These issues cannot be blamed on political parties as the authors of the article attempt to do, and they will not be solved by any amount of legislation imposing gender quotas or financial penalties which blackmail political parties into running more women candidates, measures which the authors outline at length with barely concealed glee in their article.
The poor rate of participation of women in electoral politics will only improve when these underlying barriers to entering politics are addressed. Making bogeymen of the political parties and calling for further quick-fix solutions only serve to illustrate the myopia of many of the organisations which campaign on this issue. – Yours, etc,
Clontarf, Dublin 3.
Sir, – Twice in the past week I have notified the Labour Party of collapsing posters. Surely this cannot be an evil omen? – Yours, etc,
Sir, – A notable feature of the campaign has been the candidates’ emphasis on their desire to “go to Europe”, their demonstration of previous experience of “working in Europe” or of bringing certain values and ideals “to Europe”. Might I remind candidates that we are already in Europe and part of the European Union. There is no “us” and “them” and I would suggest that our aspiring parliamentarians should bear this in mind in advancing their arguments. – Yours, etc,
Rathdowney, Co Laois.
Sir, – How can a country which takes a medical card from a 97-year-old man with dementia and then threatens to do the same for his vulnerable wife with advanced Parkinson’s disease say it cherishes all its people equally?
Despite multiple medical and social care problems and the need for round-the-clock private carers, the HSE refuses to listen to families and GPs. The constant supervision and care my parents need means they pay for two live-in carers, as well as two relief carers, from their pensions. The carers’ salaries takes up more than my parents’ combined pensions and they receive no State support. It is a disgrace that two elderly people who have worked all their lives, paid their taxes and now pay for their own care are having what little state support they receive stopped.
Does the State want all vulnerable elderly to go into nursing homes? As Catherine Rose, chief executive of Age and Opportunity, stated in her interview in last Monday’s edition, “the care of older people is barbaric in this country”.
If my parents can no longer afford to pay for their care as a result of losing their medical cards they may end up in nursing homes, which would be worse for them. And, I expect, more expensive for the State in the longer term. – Yours, etc,
Sir,– Fintan O’Toole refers to the way in which Minister for Finance Michael Noonan abased himself before Donald Trump last week (“Elections a chance to claim back sense of national dignity”, Opinion & Analysis, May 20th). He writes that “the Government’s ‘toughness’ on the little people is in inverse proportion to its weakness before the big ones”. Can I add to the examples Mr O’Toole provides the approach the Minister has shown in the sale of IBRC mortgages? I am one of 35,000 people whose mortgages have been sold on to Shoreline Residential Limited, “an indirect affiliate” of Texas-based Lone Star. The legally binding protections available to other mortgage holders do not apply. How can any responsible politician put the requirements of vulture capital funds before the interests of the citizens? The deal will be finalised in mid-June. I, for one, will vote for anyone who will unravel this deal. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – The letter by Jim Roche of the Irish Anti-War Movement (May 19th) is long on indignation but unhappily short on facts.
The proposal, not “a diktat”, by the democratically elected national parliament to rescind legislation from August 2012 concerning additional rights for speakers of Russian and a range of other minority languages was vetoed by the interim president, Oleksandr Turchynov, almost immediately and not at a distance of some months, as Mr Roche appears to think. There was no “application to join Nato” by the interim administration.
The interim cabinet contains four, not six, members of the far-right Svoboda party. Andriy Parubiy is not “defence secretary” (a position which does not exist within the Ukrainian government), but rather an elected MP and the current secretary of the RBNO, an advisory body to the president on matters of state security and defence. An independent MP, Col General Mykhailo Koval, is the current Ukrainian minister of defence.
Nato policy does not call for the “continued military encirclement of Russia” – an odd thought given Russia’s vast size and the location of Nato members. But instead, it reiterates Nato’s “full support for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine within its internationally recognised borders”. That sovereignty and integrity has been merrily trampled over by the current Russian government, a fact by which Mr Roche seems unmoved.
Mr Roche’s comment concerning “the rampant militarism of the US, EU and Nato” suggests he is unaware that the UK and the US have made it clear they will not intervene militarily within Ukraine, despite both countries being guarantor signatories of the 1994 Budapest Memorandum, which guaranteed Ukraine’s territorial integrity in return for it giving up its nuclear arsenal. – Yours, etc,
Westland Square, Dublin 2.
Sir, – Having your employer’s logo tattooed on your skin can be perceived as “weird” and “creepy”, according to Lucy Kellaway (Business Life, May 19th). Far from it. It would be creepy if you did the tattoo work yourself, sitting at your desk, perhaps. Ms Kellaway has lost the context of why such tattoos exist. Her term “wearable CV” seems reasonable in the tech industry, except that those tattoos are more for show to other employees in the industry than to prospective employers.
I have two tattoos of past and present tech industry employers, and seen many more such tattoos in Silicon Valley. Such tattoos are a tribute to modern human capital management motivation techniques and to successful transmission of corporate culture. Employees are now so inspired by their employers that they literally let them under their skin, but there’s a marketing angle too, and also one of individualism. Being fired from a tech job and still bearing a corporate logo tattoo must also surely be a badge of honour in an industry that values rebellion. The message is “I escaped”.
In the tech industry, where age is a major diversity issue, the question of “How is that tattoo going to look on you when you’re 75?” is interesting. Unlike real consumer software, a lifetime maintenance model must be anticipated with your wearable CV. Anyone still sporting a Microsoft Windows 95 tattoo must feel particularly unsupported in the community by now, for example. – Yours, etc,
ULTAN Ó BROIN,
San Carlos, California.
Sir, – Barbara Scully’s charming memoir does not add up (“Inviting the British back to the GPO”, News Review, May 17th). First, Gen Cuthbert Lucas was captured by the IRA in June 1920, not June 1922 as stated in her article. Second, she describes some rough handling by the Cork No 2 Brigade and then quotes Lucas’s famous remark, after he was allowed to escape, about being treated as a gentleman by gentlemen. His whereabouts during the intervening period, when he was ferried across the Shannon, is not even mentioned. Without invoking the competitive mind of Munster hurling, Lucas was treated as a gentleman in Clare and not in Cork. He was handed over to Commandant Michael Brennan of the East Clare Brigade. Brennan arranged a channel of communication between Lucas and his wife, who was ill in Britain. Furthermore, Lucas was held as a guest of the nation in safe houses, including the Bunratty home of my cousin, Ernest Corbett, who played bridge with the general into the early hours while sharing a daily bottle of whiskey with him. This article illustrates the problem of using history to promote a political agenda. – Yours, etc,
BRENDAN Ó CATHAOIR,
First published: Thu, May 22, 2014, 01:01
Sir, – Patrick Logue’s “ Irishman’s Diary” of May 19th on why printed newspapers are hard to beat reminded of a time long past when, as a young student nurse in the Royal City of Dublin Hospital on night duty we were expected to cut a newspaper, probably The Irish Times, into small squares and thread a piece of string through and leave it in the casualty department toilets. Try that with an iPad!
In the early 1970s when I started working in the field of homelessness, some newspapers ended up as ground sheets for people sleeping rough, or as fuel for fires to keep warm.
We are living in a different time, but the newspaper has a crucial role to play in informing people of all ages, encouraging active citizenship and social engagement, while giving employment and, dare I say, pleasure.
Long live newspapers. – Yours, etc,
Director & Co-Founder,
Sir, – A Kindle does not make for good kindling. – Yours, etc,
Published 22 May 2014 02:30 AM
I felt compelled to write after reading “healthy yoghurts have more sugar than chocolate bars” on Monday. Parents are already bombarded with nutrition misinformation from the media.
Also in this section
While I agree that some yoghurts contain excessive amounts of sugar, that does not equate the nutritional value of all yoghurts to that of chocolate. An avocado contains far more fat and calories than a Dairy Milk bar, does that mean we should be avoiding them?
Furthermore, a slice of water melon contains three-and-a-half teaspoons of sugar – should they also be banned from children’s lunch boxes?
Yoghurts are a source of protein and calcium, which is particularly important to children whose skeletons are still developing. The National Children’s Food Survey (IUNA 2005) found that 30pc of Irish children aren’t getting enough calcium in their diets. The children of Ireland will not thank you for that image of the Flake bar beside the yoghurt when their bones are looking like Swiss cheese at the ripe old age of 30.
Finally, all yoghurt contains at least one teaspoon of lactose per 100g. Lactose is a naturally occurring sugar in cow and breast milk. It is not associated with dental caries or obesity. This means that in the example of the Glenisk yoghurt that contains two-and-a-half teaspoons of sugar, given that one of those is lactose, it contains only one-and-a-half teaspoons of sugar, most of which probably comes from the fruit added to it. So put that yoghurt back in your child’s lunch box but, as always, look at labels and pick the ones that are comparatively lower in sugar and fat.
SENIOR PAEDIATRIC DIETITIAN, BSC HUMAN NUTRITION AND DIETETICS MINDI, TEMPLE STREET CHILDREN’S HOSPITAL, DUBLIN 1
O’Connell Street is a tacky mess
Are there any plans to meet with fast food outlet representatives and other businesses on O’Connell Street to discuss adapting their shops fronts in keeping with what would be expected of a main street of a European capital city?
The city council and councillors have continually allowed these premises and others to have shop fronts which are tacky and a letdown to our capital’s main thoroughfare.
The 2016 commemorations will be beamed worldwide. Do we want to portray O’Connell Street as one full of fast food outlets or gambling casinos, etc? Furthermore, will the vacant site across from the lovely Gresham Hotel be developed before then? Are there any plans to deal with these issues? We have a Lord Mayor’s office, TDs for the area and seven north inner city councillors, all of whom seem to have fallen asleep on the job in relation to O’Connell Street. Planting trees, repaving and sticking up the Spire doesn’t fulfil their duty to the main street of a city that pays them generous salaries.
The great and the good will be falling over themselves to be in O’Connell Street for this event, as will most Dublin councillors. Foreign dignitaries will be present; what impressions will they take home? One would hope that in 2016 they will have a street worthy of the sacrifice made by the men and women in 1916 and not a grubby thoroughfare full of tacky shops and undeveloped sites.
RATOATH, CO MEATH
The anti-austerity bandwagon is in full throat throughout the country.
Its basic message blames foreigners for bankrupting this country. It also proclaims that if we shake down a few ‘super rich’ and the odd multinational, who were unwise enough to set up here, there will be no need for austerity. Neither proclamation is true.
SHIELMARTIN DRIVE, SUTTON, DUBLIN 13
At least we atheists keep trying
In response to A Rogers (‘The beliefs of atheists’, Letters, May 20) . . . universe, space, galaxies, solar systems, stars, nutrition stars, planets and life, etc, etc did not happen by accident, it just happened . . . yes I agree that we atheists don’t know it all and never will, but at least we keep trying to understand . . . I don’t believe (I stress that I) that Himself clicked his almighty fingers, gave us Adam – less a couple of ribs, Eve and all of the above . . . good riddance to the giant insects, dinosaurs, giant mammals, etc.
CHRISTCHURCH, NEW ZEALAND
One of old guard is still standing
There has been considerable debate suggesting that Micheal Martin is making considerable efforts to distance Fianna Fail from the old guard of the 1997-2011 administrations, with particular reference to the party’s moves to reverse Mary Hanafin’s nomination for the local elections.
I had a look at the cabinet that Bertie Ahern proposed to Dail Eireann for approval on June 26, 1997. Of the 15 people in that cabinet (which did not contain Ms Hanafin), five were still sitting around the cabinet table in January 2011, just weeks before that year’s general election. Four of the five did not stand in that election, the fifth was a certain Micheal Martin.
In seeking to identify elements of the Fianna Fail “old guard” that alienates the electorate, perhaps Mr Martin need not look any further than the nearest mirror.
KILCARN COURT, NAVAN, CO MEATH
Let’s redress gender imbalance
It is not surprising that a recent poll commissioned on behalf of Women For Election found that an overwhelming majority (69pc) of the public want more female councillors.
Our electorate is not stupid. Voters know that a more equitable representation of society on our local authorities will enable them to better reflect the communities they serve.
Yet as we move towards tomorrow’s vote, just 17pc of council seats across Ireland are filled by women. Explanations often involve “time pressures”, “family responsibilities” and “gender bias”. These contain elements of truth, but I believe that it is not within one side’s gift to solve this problem.
Women must be willing to overcome their apparent reluctance to serve and start putting themselves forward for selection. Only by doing so, in significant numbers, will we be in a position to demonstrate our contribution to political process.
As a candidate for Fine Gael in the Stillorgan ward of Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council I hope to play a part in redressing this imbalance. Studies suggest that I should bring to political life attributes such as compassion, empathy, honesty, inclusiveness, and an ability to compromise and get things done. I hope this is true, and indeed that I can offer more as well.
Mostly, however, I’d like to be elected on the merits of my own candidacy and not because I fulfil a quota. The ratio of female councillors should have improved by Saturday and hopefully it will motivate others. Ultimately it is only women who can change our representation in politics.
MOUNT MERRION, CO DUBLIN
FG slow on severance pledge
I was flabbergasted to hear that former Justice Minister Alan Shatter was entitled to €70,000 severance pay, while he sits as a TD. Whether he decides to waive this payment is a matter for his conscience. However, I take umbrage with Fine Gael whose 2011 manifesto included a commitment to abolish severance pay to ministers. This begs the question, why has it taken the Government three years to draft and sign a 14-page Act?
PAUGHANSTOWN, DUNLEER, CO LOUTH