Another visit

24May2014 AnotherVisit

I go all the way around the park listening to the Men from the Ministry: Our heroes face a terrible fate the have to care for the Crown jewels Priceless

I go and visit Mary in hospital

Scrabbletoday, I win one game, perhaps Mary will win tomorrow


Mark Fitzgeorge-Parker was a louche writer and jailbird who became Ukip’s press officer and helped Nigel Farage write his memoirs

Mark Fitzgeorge-Parker, author, journalist and Ukip's first press officer

Mark Fitzgeorge-Parker, author, journalist and Ukip’s first press officer Photo: EXPRESS & ECHO

5:34PM BST 23 May 2014

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Mark Fitzgeorge-Parker, who has died aged 59, rounded off a conventional public school and Cambridge education with a spell in jail (an experience which provided him with the basis for a marmalade-dropping novel), and later became the first ever press officer of Ukip, about which he wrote an absorbing early history, entitled Cranks and Gadflies (2005), under his pen-name Mark Daniel.

Though he could be charming and was clearly highly intelligent, Fitzgeorge-Parker was a louche, somewhat rackety character who confessed to “questionable morals”. He also appeared to struggle to distinguish truth from fiction, and at one point was even sued by his own father. A tendency to self-aggrandisement and an addiction to the adrenalin rush of living life on the edge led him, in his Cambridge days, to seek unorthodox means of funding a “sybaritic” lifestyle by stealing rare books from college libraries and issuing duff cheques. As a result he spent some time at Her Majesty’s pleasure.

Later in life Fitzgeorge-Parker popped up at the side of the Ukip leader Nigel Farage, whom he helped to compose an admiring autobiography.

Fighting Bull painted an admiring picture of the Ukip leader

His history of Ukip, however, was less admiring. In it, “Mark Daniel” appeared to relish the bitter internecine rows and scandals which beset the new party almost from its inception, gleefully relating (among other things) how two defiant Ukips ran simultaneously out of two separate offices; how the party was infiltrated by the BNP activist Mark Deavin; and how Ukip’s Scottish organiser wrote to the newspapers declaring that the Holocaust was grossly exaggerated. Meanwhile, he described the party membership as being comprised of “idiots, paranoiacs and conspiracy theorists… freelance artists… traders, whores and vagabonds”.

In his introduction to the book, “Daniel” declared that he had “never been a party member”. Therefore, as Alexander Waugh observed in a review in The Daily Telegraph, “It might easily be assumed from this that he is a disaffected party apparatchik whose sole purpose is to discredit Ukip in such a way that nobody ever votes for it again.” But, added Waugh, “a couple of seconds of Google espionage reveals that Mark Daniel is in fact a nom de plume for Mark Fitzgeorge-Parker – who stood as a Ukip candidate in Exeter at this year’s [2005] General Election, ending in sixth place with 3.37 per cent of the vote.”

Cranks and Gadflies presented a far from flattering portrait of Ukip

Nigel Farage observed that Fitzgeorge-Parker was “a libertine, as opposed to a libertarian, and had a free range lifestyle, which not all would approve of”. Whatever dubious activities Farage was referring to, the remark might also serve as an epitaph for Fitzgeorge-Parker’s whole life.

Mark Daniel Fitzgeorge-Parker was born in Oxford. In a profile on the website he claimed to have been born on July 27 1959, though other evidence would suggest that 1954 was a more likely date. His father, Tim Fitzgeorge-Parker, had enjoyed a brief career as a racing trainer at Lambourn before becoming a prolific author and chief racing correspondent of the Daily Mail. Mark was his son by his first marriage, to Pauline Whinney, and by all accounts his relationship with his father (Mark once described himself as a “fourth-generation alcoholic”) was a difficult one. “I suppose I’ve always been very bolshy,” Mark admitted in an interview. “Growing up in racing and in the country was a factor. I resisted very bitterly being told things were not good for me, or I was prohibited because someone else thought I should not do it.”

Mark was educated at Ampleforth, and went up to read English at Peterhouse, Cambridge, before finding himself in the less salubrious confines of HM prison Ashwell. The experience, he said, “brought me down with a bump. But I got on well with the villains, less well with the bent solicitors, people whose morals, like mine, were questionable.”

After his release, Fitzgeorge-Parker published his first pseudonymous book, Conviction (1980), with the support of Nick Robinson, the kindly publisher to whom he dedicated the book, but with whom he later fell out.

The novel, described by a Financial Times reviewer as a “foul-mouthed thriller”, features a young man called Sebastian (“a parody of upper-class conceit”, according to The Daily Telegraph) who gets himself sent to jail deliberately in order to investigate the death of a friend who was murdered trying to escape. The cover blurb explained that its author had had first-hand experience of the “horrors which compel successive governments to hide the truth” and claimed that “every detail of day-to-day prison life” (including attempted homosexual rape, casual brutality by the “screws” and other scenes too disgusting to mention in a family newspaper) had been “derived” from the author’s first-hand experience. If it had been intended as a fearless exposé of the prison system, however, critics felt the novel’s crusading impetus got somewhat lost in the Bulldog Drummond-style narrative.

As Mark Daniel, Fitzgeorge-Parker went on to publish many more books, including “novelisations” inspired by films or television series such as Ghostbusters and Count Duckula, and thrillers set in the racing world. In 1992 the former top jockey Bobby Beasley won “substantial libel damages” in the High Court after being linked with a character in Daniel’s novel Under Orders (1989) who takes bribes to throw races. According to Alexander Waugh, in a parallel action Fitzgeorge-Parker was taken to court by his own father for breach of copyright.

Fitzgeorge-Parker spent much of his life on the move, claiming to have worked as a volunteer in restaurant kitchens in France (to hone his credentials as a “gastronome”) and as an interpreter and private tutor to the son of a cabinet minister in Italy before moving to Ireland for 10 years and finally back to England. He settled, first, in Exeter, where he became a columnist for The Western Morning News.

By the time he launched himself into politics as Ukip’s press officer in 2000, Fitzgeorge-Parker, who at one time consumed a bottle and a half of whisky per day, claimed to have overcome his addiction. Nigel Farage described him as “a very central figure” in Ukip – “very well known and very well liked”.

After standing unsuccessfully on the Ukip ticket in Exeter, in 2011 Fitzgeorge-Parker moved to Cheltenham, where last year he stood unsuccessfully for election to Gloucestershire County Council; he was standing this year as an independent for a seat on Cheltenham council. He was doing so under his pen-name Mark Daniel, which, according to Ukip’s Cheltenham constituency chairman, Christina Simmonds, was the result of an “administrative oversight”.

Mark Fitzgeorge-Parker was married, but divorced, and had a son and a daughter.

Mark Fitzgeorge-Parker, born July 27 1954, died May 3 2014


It is with great delight that we read your report on Sir Nicholas Winton’s 105th birthday (Modest ‘British Schindler’ honoured by Czechs, 21 May). Both of us had the privilege to meet him in June 2013, at the residence of the Swedish ambassador in London. On behalf of the International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation, we presented the Wallenberg Centennial Medal to former prime minister Gordon Brown for his services to educating young people about the Holocaust and its rescuers.

One of our most distinguished invitees was Sir Nicholas Winton. Before the ceremony, we sat and talked with him for an hour in the residence library. His wit and alertness, coupled with an exquisite sense of humour, left us speechless. One of us said to him “Sir Nicholas, you saved the lives of more than 600 children!”, to which he retorted with a mischievous smile: “669 to be precise.” When we asked him how he went about his audacious plan to save the children, he just downplayed his feat, saying that “he had the opportunity to help”. Sir Nicholas preferred to focus on the current situation and how to make things better. “We live in a topsy-turvy world … I’m very worried about the future … we haven’t learned the lessons from the past,” he said.

We met a man larger than life. A man we admire and to whom we owe our eternal gratitude. Last week, the board of the Wallenberg Foundation decided to launch an international literary contest aimed at high-schools students who would write essays about Sir Nicholas’s legacy. Sir Nicky is such a natural role-model and we want to convey his story to younger generations. We wish this remarkable man many more years of good health and good deeds.
Eduardo Eurnekian Chairman
Baruch Tenembaum Founder
International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation, New York

John Kerry has rightly condemned the coup in Thailand (Report, 23 May) – in stark contrast to the American acceptance of the coup in Egypt, and support of the military takeover there. Both were ousting democratically elected governments in response to large public protests. What’s the difference? Only that the Egyptian coup was against an Islamist government, hated or feared by the US, while in Thailand the Americans do not have any vested interest. Will they ever learn that they cannot choose those democracies they like and those they do not like?
Michael Ellman

• You refer always to “actors”, whether they are women or men. This would be impressive if your coverage of Cannes did not daily underline the great pictorial distinction you routinely draw between what many of your readers still call actresses and actors.
W Stephen Gilbert
Corsham, Wiltshire

• “Careers in jeopardy, public money wasted and endless bickering. All because Andrew Mitchell did not have the good manners to comply with a perfectly acceptable request …” – Janet Jobber (Letters, 23 May). Or because a policeman did not have the good manners to treat a man on a bike as he would the driver of a car.
AJ Tulett
Maesteg, Mid Glamorgan

• Thanks to Bob Stanley (G2, 23 May) for setting the record straight on Bill Haley. I can remember little kids in Primary 2 in Mombasa playing air guitar to See You Later, Alligator some time before the Hound Dog appeared on the scene.
Alasdair Drysdale
Jedburgh, Roxburghshire 

• Your praise of the DC3 Dakota (16 May) omits its most outstanding achievement: flying everything from medicines to coal into the blockaded city of Berlin during the 1948-49 airlift.
Dave Young

• If the French have built 2,000 trains that are too wide for the platform, couldn’t we do a swap with them (Report, 22 May)? Every time I get on a train in the UK I’m warned to beware of the gap.
David Gerrard

In a life of second-hand bookselling, I met many people who were forced to disband their libraries. The cricket buff who had to go upstairs while I loaded the car with desirable biographies; the 99-year-old whom I tried to comfort by saying “people will be so grateful to you for giving them a chance to buy your books”, as tears poured down his cheeks; ministers who came along snatching back books they suddenly realised they simply must find room for in their tiny retirement flats.

Linda Grant regrets murdering so many of her books (‘I have killed my books’, Review, 17 May). Really? Then why is she putting a stake through the heart of books by colluding with electronic publication. Look at the small print below the article: her full apologia only seems to be available on Amazon Kindle.
Margaret Squires
St Andrews, Fife

Results in the local elections leave me feeling as depressed as I expected, with Ukip making significant gains, mainly in deprived areas of the country (Labour reels from Ukip poll ‘mayhem’, 23 May). On the BBC news, Ukip’s advance enabled interviewees on the street to say “England for the English. Shut the doors”, and “Well, as for immigrants… I’d better not say more about them”. When asked what the main parties need to do to deal with this political shift, media pundits are saying that they need to be more like Ukip.

Gary Kempston Illustration by Gary Kempston

Where is the alternative voice to this racist, little England party, which is being embraced by the hardest hit in our society, who feel so disenfranchised by the main political parties? Where is the voice of the Labour party and why is it not supporting, loud and clear, the agenda Polly Toynbee has been advocating in your newspaper for so long? Where is the political anger about rising inequality in this country? Who is articulating the benefits of membership of the EU and the importance of our role in making it a force for good? Who is defending public services and utilities against the ravages of mass privatisation? Who is prepared to ignore short-term political and economic gain and say clearly that, unless addressing climate change becomes our number-one priority, the very future of our planet is in question?

We live in depressing times, with no political vision or leadership to capture the imagination. In this climate, Ukip and their like flourish.
Mike Worthington
Hexham, Northumberland

• On Thursday evening at the polling station there were no fewer than eight mad-frothing-at-the-mouth, little-England parties. It was like a two-legged thesaurus of how many different ways to say we hate foreigners, the EU, and we’re scared. Even the polling officers could barely keep straight faces at all this madness. Yet one of these groupings, the kind we used to laugh at, Ukip, has made electoral gains.

I voted Green. And I will keep voting Green until Labour unites with it to form a progressive “green” coalition. I voted Green because I believe Labour will get nowhere much with progressives and the disillusioned until it seriously and openly takes on the Green agenda. That “going green” is the only project that offers hope and progress for our society and the world. The only system that offers real jobs and hope as we build a new infrastructure for a better kind of society. Caroline Lucas risked arrest for her principles and I admire that. That strength of purpose matters.

A sustainable, renewable world is our only hope. Forget Ukip – it’s a symptom of despair, not an answer. Ed Balls fiddling with taxes is a boring and unimaginative anti-answer. Fighting climate change and saving ourselves and the creatures and plants of the world is the only progressive answer. The only possible answer. You can only reply to madness with sanity.
Olivia Byard
Witney, Oxfordshire

• Why can’t politicians learn from history? If they want to win the next general election, they should learn from Ted Heath’s big mistake. He called an election on the basis that the people should decide whether an elected government or the miners should run the country. He had to win on that basis, but in the last week he backed off and the rest is history. The only politician to learn from this was Margaret Thatcher; she set out her policies based on what she believed in and defended them through thick and thin. Likewise, Ukip has done well in these elections because everyone knows what they stand for.

The problem for the three main parties is that they either don’t stand for anything or if they do you cannot be sure they mean it. The worst offenders are the Lib Dems, who will say anything they don’t mean to get votes (tuition fees) and the Tories, who are being blown about in Ukip’s wind. Labour, on the other hand, has some great policies that will appeal to the majority (keeping energy costs down, fair rents and tackling zero-hours contracts), but it backs off immediately they are attacked. They need to come out fighting and make it clear they will stick to their guns. To win a general election is a simple matter: set out your policies, defend them to the death and stick to them.
Malcolm Howard
Banstead, Surrey

• Ukip has explained it dismal electoral performance in the capital on the grounds that London is “media-savvy” and “well-educated”. This says volumes about what Ukip really thinks about their voters. I think there’s a stronger explanation why London proved resistant to Ukip’s racist propaganda. London’s glory is its diversity – 7 million people, 14 faiths and 300 languages – it’s the most multicultural city in the world. In London, the abstract “migrant” and “Romanian”, which Ukip tried to demonise and scapegoat have names and faces. They are neighbours and workmates, lovers and friends.

London’s diversity, not its “media savvy” or the education of its citizens, inoculated it from Ukip’s racist populism. London’s rejection of the politics of hate gives hope for the future everywhere.
Sasha Simic

• On Friday morning I was exposed to MPs from the alleged major political parties saying that Ukip gains are a “protest” vote. How patronising is that? It assumes that voters do not have independent opinions nor actually think about who they are voting for. They just do not grasp what they are saying about themselves when they adopt these avoidance strategies. I voted for a “marginal” party for the first time and here are some reasons why: Conservatives cutting student nurse recruitment, while lying that they haven’t but paying huge bonuses to senior managers at the same time; Labour refusing to state their position on EU membership nor providing credible opposition; as for the Liberal Democrats and their actions, there are too many u-turns and compromises to mention (tuition fees being possibly the first notable one) while they demonstrate utter self-delusion as to their actual importance.

Like many people I simply do not trust younger career politicians: talking to journalists with big, wide eyes, trying desperately to convince us of their integrity no longer works now we all know how corrupt many of them are. After the expenses scandal they no longer have the same status, nor do they deserve to: hypocrisy is not an endearing human trait. Their behaviour during PMQs says it all really – braying, name calling, not listening, avoiding answering questions. Such professionalism.
R Kimble

• Polly Toynbee asks “Why didn’t people vote for at least modest reform in the alternative vote referendum three years ago?” (The British electoral system is corrupt – let’s change it, 23 May). She gives the answer: “Mainly this was a case of voters wreaking revenge on what was a Lib Dem project.”

She didn’t go on to ask why Labour failed to promote this reform, nor did she ask why voters wanted vengeance so badly, despite thinking that first-past-the-post is unfair. Perhaps she didn’t ask because it is she who stokes the flames of anti-coalition hatred so vigorously, just as David Blunkett poured so much venomous bile on the possibility of a Labour-Lib Dem coalition back in 2010.

Had they been less consumed by enmity, we might by now have had four years of progressive government – and a less corrupt system of voting.
Peter Davis

• The national image of our political parties has become dominated by professional public relations people who insist that how they say the parties should present themselves is what will them win more support. If this were true, wouldn’t our political parties be more popular now than ever? As Suzanne Moore tells us (Never mind the threat of Ukip, the electorate has been consumed with anger and alienated for years, G2, 22 May), it is the opposite. The PR people are just a bunch of snake oil salesmen with the most successful product they promote being themselves.

In the case of the Liberal Democrats, the PR people have insisted that the path to success is to banish all traces of the old “beards and sandals” local activist image, and to go on and on about being “in government”. Every fall in the Liberal Democrat vote is then taken by them as a mark of their success because it is “expected at this point in the electoral cycle for a governing party”.

The way the people voted in 2010, and the distortions of the electoral system the people backed by two-to-one in 2011, forced the Liberal Democrats to agree to a coalition which, with just one-sixth of its MPs, was bound to be dominated by the other party. The Liberal Democrats are not, then, “in government” in the conventional sense of the term, meaning in complete control of government policy. Their influence goes no more than to be able to swing the balance to the more liberal side of the Conservative party on issues where there is an even split in the Tories. We have a Tory government, and the four-year insistence of the PR people and the Lib Dem leadership that we must keep using words which imply it is a Lib Dem government is electoral suicide.

Every time Nick Clegg, and party president Tim Farron, who has been a great enthusiast for this line, use those words “in government” of the Liberal Democrats, they are telling Lib Dem voters, most of whom voted for the party because it was the local opposition to the Tories, that a Lib Dem government and a Tory government are the same thing. If the Liberal Democrats are to recover, all these people at the top must be got rid of and replaced by those who know how to win votes, even if they do sport beards and wear sandals.
Matthew Huntbach

Cruel aspersions cast by music critics on the physical appearance of an opera singer are contemptible, like any other cruelty (Disgust in opera world at ‘sexist’ criticisms of soprano star, 21 May). But some singers who have denounced the critics overstate their case, claiming for example that opera’s magic “is not about lights, it is not about costumes, it’s not about sets, it’s not even about sex or stature … It is all about the human voice … opera is all about the voice” (open letter by Alice Coote).

If that were so, there would be no point in training opera singers to act as well as sing, or in mounting productions in which not only the music and singing but also the acting, sets, costumes, lighting, and the audience’s ability to identify the performers with the characters they play, all contribute to the impact of the event. If those other ingredients really counted for nothing, an audio CD or a concert performance would be just as satisfying as a staged production, which they obviously are not.

All these ingredients are legitimate subjects of comment and criticism by music critics, provided that they express themselves in civil language not calculated to leave lasting scars on the object of their remarks. If the (fictitious) one-legged Dudley Moore had been successful in his famous audition for the part of Tarzan, his physical unsuitability for that part would surely have been a legitimate subject of comment, regardless of the film’s merits.
Brian Barder

• Irish soprano Tara Erraught certainly seems to have been the victim of cruel and thoughtless comment by critics. It may or may not have been “sexist”; certainly I have heard and read criticisms of the appearances of male singers too.

There is an underlying truth that the modern opera singer has to deal with. In the past it was acceptable for overweight, middle-aged (or even elderly) tenor and soprano to “stand and deliver” front-stage in the guise of young lovers. Recently this has become less acceptable and more theatrical credibility has been demanded. Far and away the most beautifully sung Don Giovanni I ever heard was Tito Gobbi at the Royal Opera House many years ago. Gobbi was also a very fine actor with both voice and body, but I am confident that “sexism” would prevent him being cast in the role today since Don Giovanni is now expected to get his shirt off at some point.
Peter Dawson
Chesham Bois, Buckinghamshire

• Guy Dammann (The art of the opera critic, 23 May) is right to defend the critic’s prerogative to criticise a production. Surely someone like a producer, agent or even the singer herself could have stood up to the director’s perverse reading of the part? The composer’s and librettist’s intentions couldn’t be clearer.
Simon Surtees

Farley Mowat

Farley Mowat had a mission to reveal both the virtues and cruelties of his fellow beings. Photograph: Vince Talotta/Toronto Star

The books of Farley Mowat were translated into 52 languages, with sales in excess of 17m copies. However, the writer would have dismissed these figures as secondary to his lifelong mission to reveal both the virtues and the cruelties of his fellow beings. Without intending to be, his first novel, People of the Deer, is the best ethnography yet to have been written about the Caribou Inuit people, whose plight today is no less troubled and troubling than when Mowat first encountered them more than six decades ago.

For all his best endeavours on so many environmental and humane fronts, the world that Mowat cherished is now being scarred and degraded with a corporatist aggression and resource kleptomania that are ripping deep into the terrain and peoples he sought to protect. “O Canada!” means different things to different people. It meant something very special to Farley Mowat.

It would be too much of an exaggeration to claim “It was the Guardian that lost it”, but your article analysing the “weirdness of Ed Miliband” in the G2 a short time ago (The making of Milibrand, 3 April) would have definitely not helped the Labour cause. Be careful for what you wish for.
Frank Lowry
Higher Bebington, Wirral

• The headline of James Ball’s article (Comment, 22 May) read “Ukip is a bubble that will soon burst – and Farage knows it”. He might be less confident if he lived here. Prior to 2001 we had a Labour MP and Labour-controlled district council. The downgrading of our local hospital spawned a new party, Independent Health Concern which, like Ukip, is a single-issue party, albeit a benign one. It is still with us today. Labour struggles to make an impact even after all this time.
Chris Jones
Bewdley, Worcestershire

• Those who say that we effectively live in a one-party state will not be surprised at the success of Ukip as the “protest” party. The establishment must be delighted that millions of people have had their genuine dissatisfaction with a country, ruled for 40 years by the three main parties, with the same Thatcherite, free-market, pro-privatisation policies, channelled through a party, financed by rich donors, that espouses exactly the same neoliberal principles.
Colin Burke

• All the waffle about racism and homophobia, which Ukip is happy to nudge along as it gets them media coverage, and some misguided, disillusioned people in the country who are happy to jump on the bandwagon. But really this is a smokescreen for Ukip’s backers’ intentions. They have no interest in governing, they want power; power through privatisation – own them, control them is their mantra.
David Arrowsmith

• Since some journalists are doing their best to conflate Ukip and the BNP, and since a young UK man has just killed himself because he couldn’t find a job, it seems an appropriate time to ask the supporters of the EU: do you support unrestricted EU immigration into the UK for the rest of time?
John Davison

• By Noon, just now we are already herring that out country has been U-kippered. Hope there are no smoking guns.
Colin Leakey

• On TV today, David Cameron said “We don’t do pacts”. What has he been leading for the last four years, then?
Dudley Turner
Westerham, Kent

• In view of the rise of Ukip in the local elections in England and Northern Ireland, perhaps we should now stop threatening the Scots with isolation and financial ruin, should they vote for independence in the coming referendum and start begging them to stay and save us from the prospect of permanent government by a Tory party that will move hard right, as it attempts to attract disenchanted voters back from Mr Farage’s anti-immigration, anti- Europe, anti-NHS, rag-tag army.
Martin Plaster

• I suggest that Labour gains in local government seats compared with 2010 are not as comparable as psephologists make out (Report, 23 May). Local government has in the last four years been deliberately emasculated by the Tory-led coalition (by unprecedented cuts in grants and capping local tax). Hence the public receives less services and staff lose jobs. This has been deliberately rigged by Eric Pickles, George Osborne and co, reducing the effects in Tory areas. In addition, the policies of the bedroom tax, cuts in housing benefits etc – far more common in Labour areas – make it hard for canvassers to raise Labour turnout.
Bob Holland
Cononley, North Yorkshire

• Now that England has its own popular far-right party, has it become truly European?
Danny Dorling

• So, democracy is alive and kicking, but will 2015 now see a coupon election (Three Conservative MPs call for agreement with Nigel Farage’s party, 23 May), almost 100 years after the last?
Lucy Grant

• I do understand that it’s the politics of protest, but I do find it sad and rather shaming that so many people chose to vote Ukip. Do they not recall the brown shirts of the 30s? It would do to remember if you mix yellow and purple (Ukip’s colours), you get brown…
Rob Parrish
Starcross, Devon

• We won’t be hearing any more nonsense from Blairites about triangulation, focus groups and how Labour voters can be ignored because they have nowhere to go, will we?
Christopher Clayton
Waverton, Cheshire

• You think this is a story. Wait and see what they do to the country.
Roger Woodhouse
Sutton Coldfield, West Midlands 

• Credit where credit’s due. It was the media wot won it for Ukip. Hats off to you all for giving Nigel Farage the platform from which to spread his xenophobic bile so successfully.
Mike Garnier

• While I note from your front page that Ukip “mayhem” has caused electoral problems for Labour, you might reflect that the more you follow the BBC in “bigging up” Nigel Farage and co, the more the readership of the Guardian is likely to decline. Such lose-lose scenarios are best avoided.
Keith Flett

• I was under the illusion that, prior to an election, all parties had to be equally represented in the media. As an expat visiting the UK, I failed to see or hear any interviews with the other major parties and I could have been excused for thinking that Ukip was the only party standing and Farage the only candidate. Does this mean that the rules on elections have changed since I was last in this country?
Sue Leigh
Melbourne, Australia


Is Ukip a bubble, a protest vote, or are voters telling the establishment that they want to be listened to?

We have policies thrust upon us, including the EU, but not limited to that, such as the Iraq/Afghan war, the privatisation of our utilities, the selling off of our social housing, the dismemberment of our NHS, and attempts to impose ID cards.

The common feature is that policy has been separated from the democratic process. This is even truer as fewer of us belong to political parties, and the party conferences are stage managed to deliver policy downwards to the rank and file not upwards to the leadership.

If this message is ignored we will see more of Ukip, and the traditional parties will continue to throw platitudes on the fire of democratic despair, rather than addressing the problem, thus reinforcing the Ukip effect.

Lee Dalton

Weymouth, Dorset

Although I am an opponent of the EU, I am glad that Ukip did not take control of any councils. There are still too many nutcases in the party and we could have been faced with plans to reintroduce the 11-plus and the cane alongside a bid for independence for one of the shire counties.

I hope Ukip will now get rid of the nutters and get us out of the EU. But I suspect that we will only get out when we have a           government that realises that we cannot stay in. This is most likely to happen when the EU introduces a measure as unpopular as the poll tax.

Robert Edwards

Hornchurch, Essex

At a time of economic uncertainty in the early 1930s, the German right negotiated with, and shared power with, a populist rabble-rouser and his party, in the belief that it could be tamed and controlled. They were wrong, as Europe and the World discovered to their cost. We face a similar problem in the UK today, and siren voices in the Conservative Party are even talking of electoral deals with Ukip.

The threat that Ukip poses to our liberal society needs to be exposed. Farage’s aim is to dismantle the project that has fostered peace and harmony in Europe for sixty years. He must not be allowed to succeed. It is past time that major party leaders took Ukip seriously (as only Clegg has so far), rather than ignoring it in the belief that if they continue with business as usual it will just fade away. They think that Farage is eccentric and a bit of a joke. That is what the German intelligentsia thought about Hitler.

Nigel Scott

London N22

Jamie Merrill (23 May) claims that 38,000 people were disenfranchised on Thursday because seven council wards were uncontested. I would guess it’s much higher, because I was unable to cast my vote for my party, as my ballot paper only had two parties on it. As it doesn’t cost anything to stand as a councillor, I might next time stand myself so I can vote.

Kartar Uppal

West Bromwich, West Midlands

The English local election result poses a dilemma for pro-European Scottish voters. Vote Yes and face Scotland having to reapply to join the EU. Vote No and risk remaining in a UK which votes to leave Europe. And which appears to have lurched towards the far right. This decision doesn’t get easier as the months go by.

Anne Hay


Diva defeats  sexist snipers

At Glyndebourne on Wednesday night, unprejudiced by any of the five reviews referred to by Jessica Duchen (“No fat ladies” 22 May), because I had not yet read any of them, I absolutely failed to recognise the target of the writers’ nasty and cruelly personal sniping.

Tara Erraught was excellently cast in a great production and sang and acted in it beautifully. This was an Octavian rather different from the pantomime Prince Charming norm, but then the whole production gave a great deal more than the traditionally offered bitter-sweet love story coated with Viennese froth and spiced with comic subplot; and the wonderful music was superbly sung and played.

The applause at the final curtain, especially warm for Tara Erraught, was the best physical response there could have been to the infamous five, short of application of the sharp end of the silver rose to their Top Gear backsides, Octavian’s highly satisfactory punishment of Baron Ochs’ sexist ghastliness.

William Shepherd

Lower Heyford, Oxfordshire

Der Rosenkavalier is set in Vienna, where being well upholstered is considered more attractive than being svelte. Paris may be the culinary capital of the world, but Vienna remains the calorie capital.

Dr John Doherty


Myth of eternal economic growth

Your caution against regarding volume of production as the supreme measure of wellbeing (editorial, 19 May) is the mildest possible, yet even that is heresy to mainstream economics.

As early as the 1960s some voices were raised against the idea of economic growth for ever, but the proponents of the mainstream postwar wisdom answered robustly. There would be ever greater health and life expectancy, there would be more and better public services, new jobs would be created to replace outdated ones, and we could take part of our greater wealth in the form of shorter working hours and more leisure.

The better health has happened (though it is arguable whether increased general production is the cause), but the rest has proved hopelessly wrong. Public services that were once affordable are for some reason no longer so. There has been some growth in new types of work, but not enough to replace the ones cast aside, and unemployment has soared from a once-unacceptable half a million to at least five times that (more, if the method of measurement was still the same). Those in work are working longer hours, not shorter, and are subject to pressures and insecurity that would previously have been considered intolerable.

Doesn’t all this suggest that something is wrong with the doctrine (no, ideology) of eternal economic growth?

Roger Schafir

London N21

Carers show what hard work means

The juxtaposition of “Diary of a home care worker” and Ian Birrell’s article on the workload of MPs (19 May) was a clever editorial move – and I hope that every MP has read both.

I have no doubt that a few MPs do work hard and, perhaps, over and above what is expected of them. But not one of them will have experienced the horrendous workload of the home carer who has to work under such conditions for low pay and no expenses, and whose job satisfaction is undermined by despair, worry and loss of family life.

I wonder how many MPs would like to take on the job of a home carer for a month so that they could experience the realities of life outside Westminster?

I challenge those MPs who advocate privatisation of care – at home or in hospital – to volunteer to accompany the writer of the diary for a month. Perhaps the first volunteer could be Iain Duncan Smith? Those who dared do this might begin to understand that favourite phrase of all MPs, “hard-working”.

Gillian Munrow

Hyde Heath, Buckinghamshire

Thank you for publishing “Diary of a home care worker”. Carers have been a lifeline for my husband (and thus for me) for three and a half years and I have never ceased to be amazed at what they do, with good humour and compassion.

The problem is, of course, that this Coalition Government has cut councils’ funding to the bone, forcing them to allocate less time for individual care and to seek lower and lower tenders.

In turn, the agencies are forced to submit ever-lower tenders. I have often been reminded of a Houseman poem: “Their shoulders held the sky suspended, They stood, and earth’s foundations stay. What God abandoned, these defended. And saved the sum of things for [very little] pay.”

B J Cairns

London N22

Have we losed our irregular verbs?

The sentence “Others weaved baskets” (letter, 22 May) is an example of our changing language.

How many people remember “dove” as the past tense of “dive”? In American English it’s still correct. “Holp” was once the past tense of “help”. “Thrived” is replacing “throve”. One day there will be no irregular verbs left. Some people see this as a great loss to the language, while most don’t care. One thing is certain, the trend is unstoppable.

Jean Elliott

Upminster, Essex

Long histories  of hatred

Ian Dickens (letter 19 May) may wish to recall an American news interviewer in the early 1970s thrusting her microphone into the face of a Belfast taxi driver and asking for his views on “the religious struggle taking place in Northern Ireland”.

“It’s not a religious struggle,” he replied, “It’s them focking Protestants!”

Mike Cordery

Garrucha, Almería, Spain


Sir, Peer review does not begin and end with the publication of a paper, as Cameron Rose (letter, May 21) appears to suggest. Reaction to the published paper is at least as important as the reaction of the reviewers, and will determine whether the science in the paper stands up or not.

Mr Rose may not have had the opportunity to read the reviewers’ reports on Professor Bengtsson’s paper. They identify mistakes both of calculation and of analysis. Essentially they say that where the paper is correct it is insignificant, because it says nothing new; and where it is significant it is incorrect, because of the errors they identify — and not only is it incorrect, it “open[s] the door for oversimplified claims of ‘errors’ and worse from the climate sceptics media side”.

Robin Levett

Beckenham, Kent

Sir, You reported (May 16) an accusation that a research paper submitted to Environmental Research Letters ( ERL ) was rejected because it took the position that the human impact on the climate system has been overestimated. This was based on a comment that this paper would be “harmful” to the discussion of climate change.

Like most respected journals, ERL rejects over half of all submitted manuscripts; we reject about 65-70 per cent. In response to your report, we took the exceptional step of obtaining permission from the peer-reviewers to release their reviews of the paper. The reviews show that the paper was rejected because it contained significant errors and that its overall originality, accuracy, and contribution were rated very low.

The reviewers also suggested that the authors look at their work again, reformulate it and, if they were able to, resubmit it. This clearly shows that the reviewers were not trying to “suppress” the research.

Daniel Kammen

Editor-in-Chief, Environmental Research Letters, University of California, Berkeley

Sir, Stephanie Flanders’ BBC documentary on polio gave a balanced view of the research which led to successful vaccines but it also showed the dark side of research. I am now retired from active research but as an independent, mainly hands-on medical research scientist of many years I have seen plagiarism in abundance, exploitation of juniors, arrogance and unwillingness to co-operate in achieving a common goal. The worst are the “gurus” who stake claims to particular fields and regard themselves as oracles above questioning. Unfortunately, it is the guru who attracts funding and easier access to publication while those ploughing lonely but potentially fertile furrows, struggle.

The peer reviewer, often such a guru, of projects or publications is not beyond criticism when he/she uses anonymity to be less than objective — in fact there are so many obstacles, it is wonderful that the modest researcher persists. Ms Flanders’s descriptions of Flexner, Sabin and Salk showed the extreme egotism of the guru phenomenon to perfection, I have seen it replicated many times in my long career.

Dr Robert J Leeming


Sir, The best description of peer review that I know is that is it the process whereby one group of scientists does its best to prevent another group from publishing.
I think that explains it precisely.

Professor Tony Waldron


Kate Royal (the Marschallin) and Tara Erraught (Octavian) in Der Rosenkavalier amx

Published at 12:01AM, May 24 2014

Opera lovers are divided about whether the performer’s voice is enough nowadays

Sir, Well done to Richard Morrison for saying sorry. He may not have been alone in his views on the singer Tara Erraught in Glyndebourne’s Der Rosenkavalier (“The fat lady isn’t singing any more: why size matters at the opera”, May 22), but I have not seen a clearer explanation of why the words used were chosen. Perhaps it just shows how hard it is to capture the essence of an artistic event in the limited number of words allotted to the critic.

George Kingston

London WC2

Sir, At the Bayerische Staatsoper Tara Erraught has often sung “boys” (most recently Sesto in La clemenza di Tito ), and I have been excited to see the start of what will no doubt be a dazzling career. She is probably delighted to sing at Glyndebourne and would have done and worn whatever was asked of her because as yet she has no power. On the other hand I cannot imagine my two favourite Marschallins of the past five years (Anja Harteros and Anna Schwanewilms) agreeing to appear naked. Rightly, they have the power to say no. Kate Royal is also at the beginning of her career and willingly complied, and didn’t the critics drool?

How singers look is important to a degree, but there is also directorial responsibility in terms of sympathetic direction and costuming. It is Richard Jones whom Richard Morrison should be targeting for a crass production which exhibits no faith in the opera itself, rather than a singer who, I imagine, was hurt by what he said.

David T Evans


Sir, Richard Morrison has apologised, and it should be noted that he did give the performance a very generous four stars.

Sadly the production did no favours to any of the performers, with the exception of the leading lady, Kate Royal. Modern designers and producers throughout opera and ballet all try to reinvent the wheel. Of course we cannot stand still, but to destroy the composer’s original romantic and comic plot with farce and stupidity is arrogant in the extreme; it is a shame that so many opera houses do this.

Rachael Swift

Keymer, W Sussex

Sir, We found Tara Erraught’s Octavian was simply unbelievable. She/he didn’t look the part in the view of both male and female members of our party. We didn’t blame her, but rather the casting director, who had chosen her, and the costume designer.

Peter Morris

Goudhurst, Kent

Sir, Your review of Tara Erraught’s performance shocked me. The purpose of a review is to comment on the artist’s performance, not their looks. Erraught has a beautiful voice and it takes great courage to sing in front of a large audience, so criticising her appearance is cruel and may affect her self-esteem.

Sarah Dooley

London SE16

Sir, In the 1950s I saw Faust at the Sadler’s Wells Theatre. Marguerite was a rather large and busty lady — fine until the final act when she, dressed in heavy brocade, started to climb up to heaven on a very rickety ladder — this rather spoiled that wonderful trio with Faust and Mephistopheles singing away below with expressions of acute anxiety on their faces.

Fifty years later we saw Faust at Sydney Opera House; Marguerite in this production was a tiny figure in a simple white shift, who stood at the front of the stage and sang this aria with such power and beauty that some of the audience were visibly moved. So, yes, there is a difference — in any visual production appearance matters and can alter an audience’s appreciation.

Jeanne Luget

Sir, It is perhaps surprising that Richard Morrison, after his criticisms of Glyndebourne’s Rosenkavalier , should have felt able to accord it four stars.

One cannot help wondering if he would have given it the same acclaim, had Arsenal failed to win the FA Cup final.

Nigel Parker

Wormley, Surrey

An vicar explains how he went from being English by birth and schooling to become a fluent Welsh speaker

Sir, As an Englishman, I take issue with Ray Kingdon’s negative view of Welsh-medium education (letter, May 22). I was born and brought up in Manchester. I moved to Wales in the 1980s, and was Welsh learner of the year at the Cwm Rhymni Eisteddfod in 1990. Much of my work is done through the medium of Welsh.

Our son finishes his sixth-form studies this week, having been educated from his earliest years through the medium of Welsh. Like me, he is fluent in English and Welsh.

Neither of us think of Welsh as a “restrictive language”. We agree that the Welsh language has expanded our horizons, and immeasurably enriched our learning. My immersion in Welsh culture to the point at which I can call myself a Welshman has opened my mind to people of all cultures, as well as refreshing my understanding of my own English culture.

the Rev Dr John Gillibrand

Llangeler, Carmarthenshire

If you plan to donate your body to medical science you have to make sure you don’t die of a disease

Sir, Ann Thorpe’s plan to donate her body (letter, May 22) is good but only if she dies from old age or an accident. If she dies from a disease, the hospital will not want her.

I found this out the hard way. As executor for a dear friend, I phoned the hospital to ask that they collected the newly deceased. I was told they didn’t want her. There was then chaos as no other plans had been made.

E Mercer Banks

Hexham, Northumberland

It is 500 years since Henry VIII signed the decree which put Trinity House in charge of navigation

Sir, Your front-page photograph (May 21) of lightning over the Trinity House lighthouse at St Catherine’s Point on May 20 was more than a good photo — it was a unique celebration of 500 years of the service Trinity House has given to mariners around our shores; for it was on May 20, 1514, that Henry VIII signed a decree directing Trinity House “to regulate pilotage navigation of shipping in our streams”.

Trinity House has been doing that ever since, and St Catherine’s is one of the many hundreds of seamarks we have around our coast marking our shipping lanes and keeping our mariners safe. As an acknowledged world leader in the safety of navigation it is fitting that its 500th anniversary should be so recognised.

Jeremy de Halpert

Petersfield, Hants


Charity collector knocks at door. What to say if you don’t want to contribute. How to respond to a polite refusal. Tricky

Sirs, Collecting house-to-house for Christian Aid in a well-to-do area recently, my request was met with “no thank you, we’re all right.” I bit back the retort that others were not all right, and that was why I was collecting, but what should I have said?

Dr Tony Harker



Once more unto the beach: dinghy sailing at Scolt Head, an island off the north Norfolk coast  Photo: GETTY IMAGES

6:58AM BST 23 May 2014

Comments69 Comments

SIR – Every time a picture is required to accompany a piece about the weather, it is nearly always Brighton beach.

It’s a rubbish beach. Uncomfortable to sit on, impossible to make sand pies with, or build sand castles. I would imagine that the “bucket and spade” shop went bust years ago. There are hundreds of beautiful sandy beaches throughout Britain.

Peter Howells
Mellor, Lancashire

SIR – Whether we’re “barbecued” or “washed out” this coming bank holiday, the obligatory Bournemouth, Brighton or Blackpool will be used to illustrate it.

The Daily Telegraph is less geographically challenged. Last year you pictured glorious Birling Gap at the spring holiday. After suffering traumatic winters, I hope Dawlish or Aberystwyth feature this year.

Peter Saunders
Salisbury, Wiltshire

SIR – How many people thought Theresa May’s address to the Police Federation showed her as a future leader of the Tory Party, with more gravitas, forcefulness and strength of purpose than David Cameron?

Graham Bond
Matching Green, Essex

SIR – Theresa May has already proved she can get things done where others have failed. By kicking out Abu Hamza and putting her foot down over the extradition of Gary McKinnon, Mrs May has proved that her kitten heels have an inner core of tempered steel. She has now put the boot into the Police Federation and closed the public purse on its funding.

Where others have stumbled as home secretary, Mrs May has earned a reputation as the most successful incumbent in that post in living memory. If the men in suits have sufficient courage, they will consider Mrs May as the next Conservative leader. She could carry on making history by earning the Tories their first convincing majority for nearly three decades.

Anthony Rodriguez
Staines–upon–Thames, Middlesex

SIR – I do not have a high opinion of Theresa May because of her treatment of the police, which was one of the reasons I recently retired from the Metropolitan Police after 32 years’ service. However, she is correct in taking a strong line towards the Police Federation. In the absence of trade union membership, police officers deserve the best possible protection and support in doing an increasingly hazardous job in a litigious environment, under an unforgiving discipline code and with poor senior leadership.

The Police Federation continues to take at least £22 a month off its members, and £320,000 a year off the Government, while it allegedly has large, undisclosed sums of money hidden away. Yet it still fails to provide a decent service. Mrs May is correct: the self-serving Police Federation must change.

Clifford Baxter
Wareham, Dorset

Coining it

SIR – Red wine was apparently one of the best investments of the 20th century. Some wines, we are told, enjoyed annualised real returns of 4.1 per cent between 1900 and 2012.

In the mid Sixties, I began sorting my loose change and saved all my six penny pieces, shillings and half crowns dated prior to 1947, because I discovered that these coins contained 50 per cent silver.

Today, an old sixpence is worth more than £2.50 and a shilling more than £5. I saved some £40 of these 50 per cent silver coins, and my loose change is now worth £4,000.

Charles Holcombe
Brighton, East Sussex

Cocky neighbours

SIR – Marysia Pudlo-Debef is not alone in having to put up with the nuisance of rogue peacocks.

My village has two and we are being driven to distraction by their raucous calls day and night. They roam the village causing a nuisance in gardens and local allotments. I have contacted the environmental department at my local council, but they are unable to help.

Elvina Parker
Overton, Hampshire

SIR – The village plagued by three rogue peacocks should place a peahen in an enclosure. Once inside, the four birds can be donated or sold to a stately home.

Gail Lees
St Helier, Jersey

GP charges

SIR – It is disappointing to see Dr Clare Gerada and others still believing that the NHS can survive based on an idea from 1948. The demand for health care continues to rise exponentially and can only be controlled by the introduction of access charges to both primary and secondary care, as happens in nearly every other Western country.

There should also be a charge on prescriptions for all patients to stop the massive waste caused by the apparently free medicines. A refund system could be devised to assist the less well-off. In this way we can continue to provide quality care at an affordable level.

Dr Robert Cullen
Romney Marsh, Kent

Discussing dementia

SIR – As you reported (Fear of dementia stops sufferers seeking help”) 54 per cent of people affected by dementia wait six months before seeking professional help.

Relatives of mine have lived with dementia and, given that it is Dementia Awareness Week, I want to encourage people to discuss their concerns at the first sign. This is an important step towards better understanding of the disease and therefore helping themselves.

Talking to Alzheimer’s Society has helped me both to alleviate the stigma of dementia and to understand how to respond. One phone call opens doors to a wealth of information and support; burying your head in the sand is not the best solution. If it is dementia, the sooner you know what you’re dealing with, the sooner you feel in control again.

Alice Eve
London E1

A bridge too far

SIR – On Monday, in the café at my local Waitrose, I collected The Daily Telegraph from the paper rack to read the bridge column with my coffee. Imagine my horror when I found that it had been carefully cut out. The same thing occurred on Tuesday.

Who could do such an thing? Bridge club players are bound by rules of etiquette where bad behaviour at the table can result in being docked points. They would not consider such a deed; nor would those of us who shop regularly at Waitrose and certainly not readers of this newspaper.

Brian Lupton
Chairman, Stoke Climsland Bridge Club
Stoke Climsland, Cornwall

Joint effort to make young people more active

SIR – With children in Britain “failing” in rankings measuring levels of exercise, two issues demand immediate action.

First, we need to stop young people falling off an activity cliff as they approach their teenage years. At present, levels of physical activity more than halve between the ages of nine and 15.

Secondly, we need to address the fact that teenage girls are particularly inactive. Four in 10 16-year-old girls never undertake any vigorous physical activity.

We will only succeed in bringing about a change in behaviour if private, public, charitable, educational and sporting worlds come together and utilise their resources and expertise. It is imperative that organisations and experts collaborate to deliver bold initiatives that can transform attitudes and behaviour.

We’re taking steps to solve the problem by working with young people directly: in schools and in communities, in the classroom, the PE lesson, the sports hall and the health club. Collectively we will break down the barriers that stop young people being active.

We hope our work inspires more organisations and individuals to bring their expertise to the fore and play their part in getting Britain’s young people active.

Barbara Keeley MP
Co-chair of All-Party Parliamentary Group on Women’s Sport and Fitness
Matt Merrick
Managing director, Virgin Active UK
Sally Hancock
Women’s Sport and Fitness Foundation
Tom Ravenscroft
Managing director, Enabling Enterprise
Baroness Sue Campbell
Youth Sport Trust
Professor Anthony Ryan
Pro-vice-chancellor, chairman of University Sports Board, Sheffield University

SIR – I am tentatively pro-Europe and I believe I have an above-average knowledge of the European Union, but I still felt confused as to how I should vote, if at all, in the European elections.

Most people seemed to regard this ballot as little more than a preliminary referendum on British membership of the EU, boiling it down to whether or not they would back Ukip.

How can the British people be expected to weigh up their electoral options in a country where so much attention is allotted to one particular (rather frivolous) party?

There was a BBC television documentary in which Nick Robinson offered a layman’s guide to the budget and how taxpayer money is spent. We need a similar televised explanation of how the European polity works and what it does. Demagogues like Nigel Farage thrive on this failure to educate the public on the issues.

How many people are even aware that the European Parliament – the only democratically elected component of the EU – merely has the power to revise laws, not to propose them? Most people cannot even name their MEP, let alone assess what he or she has accomplished in Brussels since 2009. As it stands, the European parliamentary elections seem to be a classic example of a culture that values opinions over facts.

Max Wonnacott
Orpington, Kent

SIR – Being a good citizen, I trotted off yesterday morning to register my votes in the elections for my local council and the European Parliament. I was able to place my cross against the candidates of my choice in the local election.

For the European Parliament, however, I could only vote for a party. Seven seats were being contested, but I was not able to select the individual candidates that I wanted to vote for, as they represented several different parties. Voting for parties may be preferred by those in the Westminster hothouse and supported even more enthusiastically by Brussels, as it helps keep the troublesome independent candidates out of the way. But the removal of the voter’s right to support the candidate who best expresses that voter’s opinions is a negation of democracy as it has been traditionally understood in Britain.

George Boston
Tamworth, Staffordshire

SIR – I have no doubt that Nigel Farage is a very capable man, but in the event of his party gaining real power, who will be his home secretary, foreign secretary and chancellor? Nigel Farage?

Joseph Bennington
Stocksfield, Northumberland

SIR – A simple question for all those politicians and industry figures who say we should stay in the EU regardless: would you invest in a company whose accounts have not been audited for over 18 years?

J G Myatt
Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire

Irish Times:

Sir, – Ah, what you’d miss about Alan Shatter – the ability to do the “right” and “honourable” thing while still managing to upset the establishment and go his own way. – Yours, etc,




Co Kildare.

Sir, – How very generous Alan Shatter is with our money! – Yours, etc,


Newtown Road,


Co Kildare.

Sir, – Will Mr Shatter waive the tax refund he would be due after his recent donation of public funds to the registered charity of his friend? – Yours, etc,


St Kevin’s Road,


Dublin 8.

Sir, – Another example of the lack of judgment and understanding by Enda Kenny, Eamonn Gilmore, Joan Burton, et al. They all lined up to tell us they were confident Mr Shatter would do the “honourable thing” and refuse the money. But once again they were wrong – he took it. Whether Mr Shatter  plans to give it to his family, his dog or his friend’s charity is irrelevant. He is taking taxpayers’ money under a discredited scheme he himself expressed opposition to and voted to discontinue. – Yours, etc,


Bailey Green,


Co Dublin.

Sir, – Mr Shatter has shown in recent weeks that, yes, he is fallible, and has made mistakes, for which, unlike said individuals in the banking “industry”, he has paid the price; anyway the man who never made mistakes never made anything. Mr Shatter has been an outstanding public representative and legislator, and it is entirely good news that he remains a TD to continue this good work. – Yours, etc,



Arklow, Co Wicklow.

Sir, – No one doubts that the Jack and Jill foundation does wonderful things but let’s not forget that the reason a charity like that exists in the first place is because politicians have never made the effort to provide a proper nationwide health system capable of meeting the needs of the Irish people.

The other point, which is possibly more serious, is the administrative incompetence within the Department of the Taoiseach that weeks after the President signed a Bill into law, the enacting paperwork had not been completed. You would think that part of the paperwork for signing a Bill into law would include the paperwork to legally enact it and that immediately after the President did his part, that the documents would be couriered back to the relevant Minister to sign within the hour and that all those documents must be signed on the same day.

It raises the question of how many other Bills have been signed by the President but never enacted by the relevant Minister?

If the Taoiseach and his staff are so incompetent they can’t even keep track of when Bills must be signed into law, what hope is there about the really important things, or isn’t giving legal effect to legislation pretty much as important as it gets in terms of proper governance? – Yours, etc,


Canary Wharf,


A chara, – If I asked my employer to pay the annual voluntary subscription to my son’s school, the Revenue Commissioners would deem this to be a benefit-in-kind and tax me at my marginal rate. Mr Shatter has instructed his employer to make a charitable donation on his behalf. I hope Mr Shatter has factored an additional tax bill into his household budget. – Is mise,



Dún Laoghaire,

Co Dublin.

Sir, – While the €70,000 severance money will be warmly welcomed and used very well by the Jack and Jill Foundation, is this not just another example of how our politicians feel so entitled to spend taxpayers’ money? – Yours, etc,



Portmarnock, Co Dublin.

Sir, – Not alone is the whole affair tawdry, it also reinforces the idea that many sick children should continue to have their needs met through charity rather than as a basic human right. – Yours, etc,


Westfield Road,

Dublin 6W.

Sir, – Mr Shatter was a creative, hardworking minister for justice, one of the best we ever had. Can we have him back, but with adult supervision? – Yours, etc,



Kingslea, Grange,

Douglas, Cork.

Sir, – I note the irony that our Minister for the Environment is once again throwing out much heat but very little light (March 23rd). His statistics on commencement notices do not take account of those validated – surely the only proper and correct criteria for such a comparison.

The statistics prepared by his own department in this respect are those quoted by Frank McDonald. The Minister is entitled to his own opinions, but not his own facts and the actual facts speak far more loudly than his rhetoric. – Yours, etc,


Carew Kelly Architects,

21/22 Grafton Street,

Dublin 2.

Sir, – Notwithstanding the interest and participation of the public in your “Letters to the Editor”, is it my imagination or is there now a concept of government via Letters to the Editor? Why did Minister for the Environment Phil Hogan not clearly state that which he now communicates in his letter to you (May 23rd) when the amended building control regulations came into effect on March 1st?

As a chartered civil engineer, I can tell you that for the month of March I advertised my availability to act as a certifying engineer with respect to these new amended regulations. I had two inquiries; no work, just two inquiries.

This amendment has increased the cost of construction of an average rural home by approximately €8,500 over prior costs. This is principally as a result of the new compulsory inspection and certification regime and the implications for professional indemnity insurance. – Yours, etc,



Co Clare.

Sir, – Eamonn McCann laments the fact that these days the Devil hardly ever gets a look in and that even church leaders are coy when talking about him (“Why do we rarely give the Devil his due?”, Opinion & Analysis, May 22nd).

The reason of course is that to all intents and purposes the Devil is practically redundant.

When the Devil summons his chief operating officers to a meeting and instructs them to institute devilry and mayhem here on Earth, the invariable reply is that they have been too slow off the mark and that the major (and minor) world religions have cornered the market in warfare, murder, torture, sexual violence and general repression in God’s name, leaving the poor old Devil to wonder at his role and place in society.

For as long as we have organised sectarian and bigoted and intolerant religions flourishing on Earth, the Devil will have time on his hands. – Yours, etc,


Newtown Road,


Co Kildare.

A chara, – Eamonn McCann wonders why folk rarely “give the devil his due”. Let us consider why that might be – for those who believe in him he is the “father of lies”, incapable of any good because he is the antithesis of it, a monster who seeks the damnation of all humanity, and is therefore to be abhorred; for those who do not, he is imaginary and irrelevant. In either case, he has nothing “due” to him. The devil, if you’ll pardon the expression, is in the detail on this one, Mr McCann! – Is mise,



Co Kilkenny.

Sir, – “Has there ever been a suggestion of soldiers being told before going over the top not to worry, you have the Devil on your side? No”. I’m afraid Eamon is not quite right. What about the Connaught Rangers (“The Devil’s Own”)? – Yours, etc,


Elton Court,


Co Kildare.

Sir, – All Dubliners should have had a chance yesterday to vote not just in the local and European elections, but in a plebiscite to decide whether or not the Government should bring forward legislation to create an office of a directly elected mayor for Dublin.

The reason they are not doing so is because a small number of councillors in Fingal decided to block it. They were in a tiny objecting minority. Across the whole of Dublin, 92 out of 111 councillors and as many as 78 per cent of Dubliners favoured the idea.

The Let Dublin Vote campaign is a grassroots, citizens’ campaign to secure a Government commitment to hold a plebiscite on the issue of a directly elected mayor among the citizens of Dublin. Over the past few weeks have been connecting with business, the trade union movement, civil society groups and the arts culture sector.

Just because the plebiscite was shelved yesterday, does not mean it is off the agenda. – Yours, etc,


Let Dublin Vote,

c/o 80 Frances Street,

Sir, – While the fast-track approval of much-needed new homes in Dublin is to be welcomed, the planners have missed an opportunity by once again opting for a low-density layout (“An Bord Pleanála approves fast-track planning for Dublin docklands”, Home News, May 23rd). While 2,600 may sound like a large number of homes, over 55 acres the density works out at only 47 units per acre. It’s as if planners are still hamstrung by Bertie Ahern’s maxim that “we don’t need skyscrapers” when people are crying out for new homes.

Why are we afraid of another Ballymun, when across the globe tall buildings provide some of the most prestigious, desirable homes? Let’s also remember that an increase in supply at the high and mid-sections of the marketplace reduces pressure on rents across the board, at a time when so-called gentrification is pushing working class people out of traditional areas. – Yours, etc,


Long Meadows


Conyngham Road,

Sir, – Dr Ryan of the Irish College of General Practitioners (May 20th) has pointed out that doctors and nurses in practice handle 98 per cent of the Irish population’s illnesses. They do so every day without unasked for advice from visiting professors from abroad speaking of leadership development and management practice (“Harvard professor to get €50,000 for six-hour HSE class”, Home News, May 3rd).

They just get on with it.

Medical and nursing professionals understand how to work and give service to sick people. HSE and Department of Health managers, however well intentioned, do not.

On the same day an editorial in the Times of London commented on the effect of introducing a private health company, run by clinicians, to reverse the appalling mismanagement by the NHS bureaucracy of the Hinchingbrooke hospital in Cambridgeshire. This was the first time that the independent sector had been brought in to manage an NHS hospital.

Within two years the hospital ranked first out of 46 trusts in the midlands and East Anglia for A&E waiting times and patient care and satisfaction, and is now the top-ranking hospital for patient care in England. The annual deficit of £10 million was reduced to £3.5 million.

This has been done through a shift in managerial responsibility from bureaucrats to clinicians.

Should that be surprising? Nurses and doctors ran our health service, efficiently and cleanly for many years before bureaucrats took over.

Could we just get back to it ? – Yours, etc,


Emeritus Professor

of Medicine UCD,

Sir, – The real question should really be should Nato now join us? In the last 60 years our Defence Forces and Garda Síochána have served in trouble spots all over the world with the UN, EU and alongside Nato. They have helped bring a bit of security and normality to the lives on thousands of beleaguered people and have done so with a minimum loss of life and certainly without “collateral damage”. They have done so with skill, patience and courage in often imperfect, thankless under-resourced missions in places the rest of the world has forgotten.

What our tiny Army achieves outside Nato is of infinitely more value to the security of the world and the lives of ordinary people than what an understrength, under equipped brigade could achieve within it. – Yours, etc,



Dublin 8.

Sir, – The campaign poster is an important form of visual communication. They are there to familiarise the candidates with the electorate.

But the beautifully designed and creatively enhanced photographs I’ve seen tend to emphasise image at the expense of content. The posters come across as aggressive since they are posted en masse on lamp-posts in competition with others. Also, the political messages attached to the faces are invariably trite, humourless and condescending.

Where are the witty slogans of yesteryear, such as that classic poster of Oliver J Flanagan, in Laois-Offaly, saying “Here Comes Oliver” on the front and “There Goes Oliver” on the back? – Yours, etc,


Mount Argus Court,

Harold’s Cross,

Dublin 6W.

Sir, – I see Ryanair has decided to cease using “Reveille” as their flights land (“End of an era – Ryanair to cut on-time trumpet jingle”, May 21st). Perhaps they should consider using any, some or all of the following bugle calls instead, to keep us entertained: “Go Forward”, “To the Left”, “To the Right”, “About”, “Rally on the Chief”, “Trot”, “Gallop”, “Rise Up”, “Lay Down”, “Commence Firing”, “Cease Firing”, “Disperse”. How about “Boots and Saddles” while waiting in line? – Yours, etc,


San Pawl Il-Bahar,


Sir, – Further to Lucy Kellaway’s article (“Having a tattoo of your employer’s logo is just creepy”, May 19th), before having tattoos applied, the modern executive might be mindful of the tried and tested and scientifically proven epidermal pigmentation cerebral (EPC) constant, which states that the area of body skin covered by tattoos is inversely proportional to the grey matter. – Yours, etc,


Orwell Park View,

Templeogue, Dublin 6W.

Sir, – What a brilliant photograph (Front Page, May 17th) of Mícheál Ó Muircheartaigh on the summit of Carrauntoohill with the Sam Maguire Cup. He’s 83 years young! – Yours, etc,


Stamer Street,

Dublin 8.

Sir, – You know it’s election time when the road-sweeping truck appears the day before polling. – Yours, etc,


Glendale Park,

Dublin 12.

Irish Independent:

Published 24 May 2014 02:30 AM

In his blind defence of the austerity policies of the Government, Anthony Leavy (Letters, May 22) ignores some glaring facts.

Also in this section

Letters: Too many broken ‘promises’ as homeless crisis worsens

Letters: A slice of common sense is required on sugar in yoghurts

Letters: Government repeating same old property mistakes

His somewhat worrying claim that those who oppose such austerity measures blame “foreigners” for bankrupting the country is completely absurd. Without doubt, the policies pursued by the Government and supported by the Opposition during the boom played a major part in our economic implosion.

However, as has been acknowledged by Phillipe Legrain, EU Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso‘s former adviser, the treatment of Ireland by the EU was “outrageous” and amounted to “bullying”.

The Irish people have been saddled with billions of euro of debt as a result. This does not amount to “blaming foreigners” as Mr Leavy puts it, it is just a fact.

It is also absurd to claim that those who oppose the austerity policies believe that “shaking down” the super-rich and multi-nationals will fix everything. As has been well reported, the effective tax paid by some large multinational corporations is laughable.

Our tax rate has been the subject of justifiable criticism in both the US and UK government circles. An increase in that tax rate to a fair level will not solve all our problems, but it would mitigate to some degree the burden being borne by the Irish people. This does not amount to a “shakedown” by any means.

Likewise, we saw recently that the richest 300 people in the country increased their wealth by €6.7bn this year, at a time of increasing homelessness and desperation.

Despite Mr Leavy’s contention, nobody is suggesting that taxing these people to a greater degree would solve all our problems, but it would go someway toward making our society even slightly fairer.



Ireland’s Great War dead

In my article in last Saturday’s supplement on Ireland and the Great War, the number of the Irish war dead was, by mistake, changed from the original and correct figure that I gave of 30,000 to that of 49,000.

However, the mistake arose from a genuine misunderstanding, which merits clarification. The higher figure of 49,435 war dead was long accepted because it is the one inscribed on the Irish National War Memorial at Islandbridge.

It was derived from the list of the individual war dead compiled by the war memorial committee after the war, and which is contained in Ireland’s Memorial Records. These have been digitised by Eneclann and can now be consulted online.

The committee’s definition of what it was to be Irish included Irishmen who were born or lived abroad, many of whom did not fight in Irish regiments. It also included some who, while not Irish, did serve with Irish units. The higher figure thus reflects the importance of Irish emigration, especially to Britain, and also the mingling of Irishmen with others in a multi-national British imperial army.

Research by historians puts the figure of the Irish dead who were born in Ireland in the region of 30,000 to 35,000. This is corroborated by the 31,000 entries in Ireland’s Memorial Records that give Ireland as the place of birth.

Since around 145,000 Irishmen volunteered directly from the 32 counties, and over 60,000 more were long-term volunteer professional soldiers in the army (or reservists) before 1914, this means that the military contribution of the island of Ireland was 200,000 to 210,000 men, with a death rate of 15 to 16pc.



Shatter donated my money

So, according to Enda, nobody could object to Alan Shatter giving his severance package of €70,000 to the Jack and Jill Foundation – well I do.

True, the foundation does wonderful work for sick children. I have given donations to them in the past as have many others. Maybe not €70,000 but what we gave was our money!

What Shatter gave was taxpayers’ money. His “entitlement” to it rested on a technicality. The abolition of severance packages had been passed by the Oireachtas but had not been signed into law because, according to Leo Varadkar, nobody thought that any minister was going to resign so there was no rush to sign.

Why didn’t Shatter give €70,000 of his own money to the foundation? Incidentally it is claimed that this “donation” is worth €50,000 to the charity. Does this mean that the State takes 41pc in tax?



Minister revealed his arrogance

Alan Shatter did not donate €70,000 to the Jack and Jill foundation. In truth, this was a transfer of taxpayers’ funds to this very worthy organisation, made thanks to a technicality on behalf of Mr Shatter. His action masks the fact that ex-minister Shatter, professing that this type of payment to ex-ministers should not occur, used his entitlement to claim ownership and do with it, in his usually arrogant manner, as he decided fit.

By choosing the Jack and Jill Foundation he did highlight the funding problems that this organisation is experiencing. It would have been far better if, when he was a minister, he and his colleagues used their influence to ensure that the most vulnerable of our society did not bear the brunt of austerity.

Typically, he chose to issue a pre-announced press statement on the steps of the Dail which one can only assume he thought was self-serving but, in fact, to use an expression coined by ex-commissioner Callinan, was simply “disgusting”.



Taxpayers bear the cost

We the taxpayers are now making a donation to the Jack and Jill Foundation via Alan Shatter.



Rein in anti-democratic power

Defenders of “austerity” fail to explain why increased taxes and charges go hand-in-hand with the downgrading and decimation of health and education services – surely the opposite should be the case?

The traditional model of wealth distribution through taxation to fund public services and welfare, creating the political and economic stability we have known since World War II, is no more. Our hard-earned cash, in the guise of water charges, property tax, USC etc, is now channelled directly into the coffers of the banks and multinational corporations that caused the catastrophic financial crash in the first place.

Financial deregulation has allowed private global finance to insidiously commandeer politics and public life in a way that is unique in our lifetime. The first item on the agenda for our newly elected politicians has to be the reining in of the anti-democratic power of the banks and corporations.



No wise men here, just wafflers

So, the people have spoken, but will the politicians listen? The late Jimi Hendrix said, “knowledge speaks, but wisdom listens”. We have heard much speaking (mostly waffle) recently, but precious little wisdom.

It will probably be next Christmas before we hear ‘Wise Men’ mentioned.



Irish Independent

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