I go all the way around the park listening to the Men from the Ministry: Our heroes face a terrible fate the have deliver a present for the Queen Priceless
I go and visit Mary in hospital, home Tuesday
Scrabbletoday, I win one game, perhaps Mary will win tomorrow
Robert Laumans – obituary
Robert Laumans was a Belgian fighter pilot who became a leading lady in Stalag Luft III’s theatre
5:56PM BST 26 May 2014
Robert Laumans, who has died aged 93, was a Second World War Belgian fighter pilot; after being shot down he was imprisoned in Stalag Luft III, where he established a reputation as a “leading lady” in the camp’s theatre productions.
On June 1 1942 Laumans was flying in support of a bomber force when German fighters attacked his Spitfire formation. In the ensuing dogfight over Ostend his aircraft was badly damaged; he headed for the English Channel but was forced to bail out, spending the next three nights in his dinghy before being picked up by the German air-sea rescue service.
Within a few weeks, Laumans found himself in Stalag Luft III at Sagan, scene of the Great Escape. At the time of the lottery for a position on the escape, he drew a high number and the escape was discovered before his turn arrived.
To pass the time in captivity many activities blossomed in the camp, notably drama. A 350-seat theatre was constructed – used later to store excavated sand from the escape tunnels – and the company produced high quality, fortnightly performances. Laumans became a key member of the company, where his skills as an actor, set designer and artist were put to good use. He played many of the leading lady roles to a full house, which sometimes included members of the Luftwaffe camp staff. The cast often included renowned actors, among them Rupert Davies, Peter Butterworth and John Casson.
The flow of new prisoners meant that the latest West End productions could be staged. One prisoner even arrived in the camp with a London theatre ticket for Arsenic and Old Lace; heavy flak over Germany had obliged him to miss the performance and he saw it instead in Stalag Luft III.
After repatriation in mid-1945, the Theatre Society obtained permission from the RAF to put on a series of variety shows in aid of the Red Cross. They played to packed houses in the West End and on tour around the country. The shows proved very popular with press and public and when Laumans married Rosemary Titmus in August 1945, their wedding photograph was on the front page of the Daily Mail.
Newspaper clipping showing Robert Laumans with his new wife Rosemary in 1945
Robert Laumans, always known as Bobby, was born on December 4 1920 at Tervuren and was a pupil at the Air Force flying school at Wevelgem when war broke out.
As the Germans invaded Belgium the school was evacuated to Caen in France and later moved, via Marseille, to Oujda in Morocco. Laumans managed to escape and finally arrived in England in August 1940 to join the RAF. He was sent to the newly formed Franco-Belgian Flying School at Odiham in Hampshire. After completing his training he joined No 74 Squadron and in April 1942 transferred to the recently formed No 350 (Belgian) Squadron. He flew sweeps and escort sorties, probably shooting down a Focke Wulf 190, before he was himself shot down.
After the war he received a number of promising offers to take up an acting career but chose to join the Belgian national airline, Sabena. He rose to be a chief pilot and flew the Boeing 707 before retiring.
Laumans remembered his days with the RAF with great fondness and was committed to the RAF community around Brussels. A man of great charm, with a wicked sense of humour, he was a long-standing member of the Belgian branch of the RAF Association and remained active until shortly before his death. At his funeral, a serving air marshal represented the RAF.
For his wartime service he received the Belgian Croix de Guerre with Palm and the Croix des Evadés.
Robert Laumans’s wife predeceased him. He is survived by their three daughters.
Robert Laumans, born December 4 1920, died April 21 2014
I’m pleased that CND has got money from a corporation like Unilever (Diary, 23 May), following an outcry over the company’s commercial use of “its iconic logo”. However, despite the symbol’s common association with that organisation, it isn’t CND’s logo. It predates CND, and was created originally for the Direct Action Committee Against Nuclear War (DAC), which was closely connected with Peace News. The symbol was intended to relate to nuclear disarmament in general, not to any one organisation, and neither DAC nor anyone involved tried to restrict who in the disarmament movement could use it.
• Mick Jagger apparently said “Call me old-fashioned, but I don’t think your ex-bank manager should be discussing your financial dealings and personal information in public” (Rupert Loewenstein obituary, 23 May). Call me old-fashioned, but I don’t think Mick, Keith Richards and Charlie Watts should have paid only 1.6% tax on earnings of £81.3m in 2005. Which political leader will cast the first stone?
• Tom Clark (Comment, 26 May) is right to deplore the spread of manual car washes. What he ignores, however, is the essential inadequacy of mechanical car washes, unless used virtually daily, in comparison to the extreme efficiency and attention to detail of the best manual services. He should try the excellent one in Brentford.
• OK, shit happens. But I do wish you wouldn’t rub it in by putting a huge picture of Farage’s triumphant smirk on your front page (26 May). He is so overexposed that we all know only too well what he looks like, and I’m sure most of us would be happy never to see it again.
• I see Petro Poroshenko has won the Ukraine presidency (Report, 26 May). In my view he’ll He will be as much use as a chocolate tycoon.
Stoke on Trent
• The ECB’s managing director, Paul Downton, couldn’t be more wrong to accuse Kevin Pietersen of being disinterested (Sport, 23 May). He’s never shown any sign of that. Uninterested, however: I can believe that.
I would like to correct some of the misunderstandings behind Sophie Heawood’s piece on child maintenance reform (A green light for coercion, Comment, 22 May). The new system is designed to address a situation in which, historically, more than 50% of children who are living in separated families have had no effective financial arrangement in place at all.
With a combination of new incentives, new enforcement powers, new mediation support for parents and radically improved administration linking up child maintenance and tax records, our reforms are set to overturn two decades of failure.
The starting point of the government’s reforms is that the best outcomes for children will come when we can help and support separated parents to work things out between themselves, wherever possible. Large numbers of families currently using the Child Support Agency have told us that with the right help and support they could probably sort things out for themselves, without needing a government agency to take money from one parent and give it to another. With these families no longer on the books, the state can then concentrate its energy on securing maintenance from the minority who refuse to accept financial responsibility for their children.
The old system too often inflamed conflict and hostility rather than diminishing it, and achieved inadequate outcomes for too many children and parents, all at considerable expense to the taxpayer.
We know that children do better when parents work together, even after separation, and the new child maintenance system will support this instead of undermining it.
Steve Webb MP
Minister of state, Department for Work and Pensions
John Harris (England’s identity crisis, G2, 25 May) is right that the real democratic deficit within the UK is now in England. That’s one of the reasons a group of MPs and peers have just set up an all-party parliamentary group on further devolution and decentralisation. Our first big event will be on 16 July, when Peter Hennessey will lead a discussion with speakers from around the country on where we are in each part of the UK. After what we hope will be defeat for the separatists in Scotland, we will look at the way forward in each of the parts of UK. We will look at an English parliament, regional government, city states and all other options for real decentralisation of power in England – and not the unworkable idea of two levels of MPs at Westminster. We will also consider federal, quasi-federal and other options for the whole UK. It’s time there was a holistic examination of our constitution. It could also help us find a way of replacing our current anachronistic second chamber with a body representative of all parts of the UK.
Co-chairman, APPG on devolution
Madeleine Bunting makes some important points (Our children really are facing a mental health crisis, 21 May). One of the most important points is that children and young people are vulnerable. They are subject to many pressures and opportunities. However, it is also important not to jump to simple conclusions about causes of apparent distress. To do so risks premature and possibly inappropriate labels. One of the symptoms of this may be seen in the way that young people’s expression of their difficulties is sometimes medicalised. The practice of educational psychologists working within communities and schools aims to help colleagues disentangle anxieties and find solutions that do not further disadvantage children through separation, labelling or mistreatment. Bunting says we are “raising children who are ill”. By providing an inappropriate environment, anyone’s health may be jeopardised. We need to recognise the complex causes that may generate distress and treat these carefully. Cholera was eradicated that way.
Dr Simon Gibbs
Reader in educational psychology, University of Newcastle
• Thank you for coverage of the troubling rise in demand for children and young people’s mental health services. Madeleine Bunting says young people’s mental health should be the subject of crisis seminars at government level. But it isn’t. And that is because mental illness remains unpopular and many prefer to blame beleaguered staff for failing children than face reality. Referral rates are increasing at around 10% a year to the children and young people’s services my trust provides in Kent, Medway, East Sussex, Brighton and Hove, West Sussex and Hampshire. Similar increases are reported across the country. Demand is outstripping supply and the complexity of three sets of commissioners – local authorities, clinical commissioning groups and NHS England – doesn’t help. Many areas have seen cuts to support and specialist services. This is not work for the faint-hearted, but staff are deeply worried. Most adults with drug or alcohol problems, major mental illnesses and/or in prison have experience of trauma and mental distress in childhood. It doesn’t take a genius to work out that lack of investment in services for children and young people, and in research to help us understand why we are seeing this unprecedented rise in demand, is storing up problems we will live to regret. It isn’t difficult to provide great care. We have excellent models and methods, and because young people are so resilient, we get speedy, life-changing results. What could matter more?
Chief executive, Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust
Prince Charles on his trip to Canada, during which he compared Vladimir Putin to Adolf Hitler Photograph: Paul Chiasson/AP
It is, of course, absurd that in the second decade of the 21st century, the Prince of Wales should again be testing the boundaries of his personal freedom to make political interventions (Prince proves he is a chip off the old block, 22 May). More depressing, however, is the supine reaction of Britain’s party leaders. The roles of the monarch and heir to the throne are largely defined by precedent and constitutional conventions, so an action that is not challenged can ultimately form the basis of a putative right. By failing to express concern over Charles’s recklessly indiscreet comments about Vladimir Putin, in which he compared the Russian president to Adolf Hitler, the UK’s leading elected representatives have offered him implicit constitutional licence to make similar outbursts in the future. These can only serve to undermine the monarchy‘s value as an instrument of British diplomacy. Nick Clegg’s claim that Charles should be “free to express himself” was presumably a clever ruse to hasten the advent of a republic. Otherwise, it was just rather silly.
Professor Philip Murphy
Director, Institute of Commonwealth Studies
• Given events in Ukraine, it’s predictable that the Foreign Office would reject Russian complaints about the heir to the throne’s recent remarks in Canada (Report, 23 May). What is more remarkable is that officials are unable to comment “upon reports of private conversations”. Charles was on an official visit paid for from the public purse. His role was clearly ex officio, and as such open to both media scrutiny and a normative constitutional framework. Either he doesn’t understand his constitutional position (surprising given his advancing years) or he chooses to ignore it. One suspects it’s the latter; and, as always, he wants it both ways.
Stokesley, North Yorkshire
• Shortly before the second world war Adolf Hitler encouraged those in a region (Sudetenland) of a neighbouring country (Czechoslovakia) who spoke his language to demand union with his own country. We do not know how much Mr Putin has encouraged the recent events in Ukraine, but they appear to have something in common with the Sudetenland crisis, and we must wonder where those armaments came from.
So, Prince Charles‘s remarks seem to be, not casual insults, but informed historical observation. Is Charles the only commentator to be aware of the parallels, or are others keeping quiet out of politeness (like Mr Chamberlain’s) to Mr Putin?
• I doubt if President Putin will lose any sleep over the remarks of the Prince of Wales. Russian history has its own examples of royals who hadn’t got a clue what was going on. The real insult is to the Russian people. In 1941, after western Europe had collapsed under Hitler’s onslaught, millions of Axis soldiers invaded the USSR. From that point on, two-thirds of Germany’s military resources were tied down on the eastern front, unavailable to attack Britain. Twenty-six million people from the Soviet Union would give their lives to defeat nazism. To compare the policies of the Russian Federation with those of Nazi Germany is criminal idiocy.
• The Russian media has responded to Prince Charles’s comments with humour (Russian TV mocks royals over Hitler row, 24 May). Our royalty’s German links are well documented. Everyone knows Harry isn’t really a Nazi or a Nazi sympathiser. They know this in Russia too, but have found a playground-esque way of responding In their tabloid media, producing a piece which from a style point of view would be very at home in the Sun. What it shows us that there is still room for non-aggressive dialogue between us and them. As the tensions between Russia and the west rise, keeping this sense alive becomes ever more important.
• Your editorial (22 May) about Prince Charles’ recent “gaffe” takes a swipe at some of the perfectly legitimate things he has championed. He stands for quality neighbourhoods rather than ugly inhuman council towers and you say he “disregards affordable housing”. He stands against the devastation of a wildlife wasteland that is the British countryside and you say he “disregards cheap food”. He stands for an integrated healthcare system that includes aspects of humanity often overlooked by a one-sidedly materialistic approach to modern medicine and you say he “disregards cures that actually work”. Your vehemence and prejudice against Prince Charles has blinded you to the many good things he does. He is a great deal better as an advocate for the issues that matter than many a politician.
Lower Maescoed, Herefordshire
Gregory Peck in the 1962 film version of To Kill a Mockingbird. Photograph: c.Everett Collection/Rex
The news that the OCR exam board is to remove American books from its GCSE syllabus is a sign that narrow nationalism is spreading beyond Ukip (Report, 26 May). While the ministerial guidelines do not actually order US literature to be removed, OCR is quoted as blaming ministerial pressure. Paul Dodd of OCR said Mr Gove “had a particular dislike of Of Mice and Men” . When did ministerial prejudice dictate what our children study?
OCR needs to explain why the tastes of the current secretary of state for education are relevant, particularly as Gove is unlikely to remain minister when the new course starts. Does OCR believe it will then have to change its syllabus at the whim of the new politician in charge? Alternatively OCR could reverse its decision and state clearly that political interference in exams is unacceptable. As things stand, the only text that should be studied across all English syllabuses is that impeccably English, if dangerously modern, text from the 1940s – Orwell’s 1984.
• Mr Gove’s plan makes me feel quite angry. I spent a chunk of my recently completed GCSE English literature course studying Of Mice and Men, and I read To Kill a Mockingbird in my own time last year. These novels teach the value of taking a stand against racial intolerance as they show how discrimination affected lives. Removing these books from the syllabus will widen the gap between young people and access to worldwide literature, and therefore open-mindedness and a recognition of injustice. Of Mice And Men is studied by 90% of students, a statistic Mr Gove deems “disappointing”. However, there is clearly a reason for it. Regardless of whether you like the book or not, Steinbeck uses literary devices (foreshadowing, symbolism) effectively. Students adapt devices they learn about in Of Mice and Men to the analysis of other texts, and potentially include them in their own writing. Mr Gove seems to believe British literature should be taught, but what I don’t understand is why it makes a difference. If the same novel was written by an English man, would it be allowed? The Secretary of Education should be focusing on areas of the education system that are genuinely flawed, rather than altering aspects that simply don’t need changing.
Leah Binns (aged 16)
• Michael Gove‘s insistence on teaching British literature over any American texts proves how narrow-minded he can be. Yet I was saddened by the claim that British children would find the likes of Dickens and Austen “tedious” and are simply not up to the challenge. Of Mice and Men and Arthur Miller‘s The Crucible, which I studied only three years ago, are perfectly decent pieces of work, but they are not the most challenging. The likes of Bleak House, Pride and Prejudice, Great Expectations or Persuasion would certainly be more of a challenge, and I don’t think children would find them tedious were teachers to succeed in actually getting students to read them. Most schools have opted to teach Of Mice and Men because it is short and very simple. Gove is right to point this out; it just isn’t good enough.
• I’ve taught Of Mice and Men to all abilities over several years. It demonstrates, accessibly, narrative styles, and encourages children to understand concepts such as showing versus telling (or mimesis versus diegesis, for those who will head for university later) and the difference between “covert” and “omniscient” narration. It has a plot which shows, and allows the teaching of, the inevitability of a well-crafted tragedy. Reading the last pages of the novel brings some male and female members of any class close to tears. It encourages, if not demands, that readers reflect on social and legal justice, prejudice (racial and sexual), and the treatment of the disadvantaged. So Gove intends to abandon this accessible source of literary and intellectual understanding, emotional response, social awareness and logical reflection, and instead insists on students reading the “whole text” of a 19th-century novel. And he doesn’t even pretend it’s for educational reasons.
The success of Ukip in the European elections is a disaster for British politics. The history of Europe’s last century is littered with the damage caused by parties based on resentment, prejudice and ignorance.
Shallow populist nationalism has left behind a squalid legacy and it should have no place in British political culture in the 21st century. Are we incapable of learning anything from history?
Professor Richard Overy, London NW3
Through the letters page of your paper I would like to ask Mr Farage what colour of shirt I should wear when the call comes to smash Polish shop windows or Indian restaurant frontages. This is important, as I would not want to be mistaken for a real fascist – just a member of Ukip.
John Broughton, Broad Haven, Pembrokeshire
The coverage of the local elections has become ridiculous.
Newspapers claimed that the Labour Party had been “trounced” by Ukip. Labour gained overall control of six councils; the Tories lost 11 and the Lib Dems lost two. Ukip control no councils. In like manner, Labour gained 338 seats, the Tories were down 231, and the Lib Dems were down 307 seats. Yet the press concluded it was the Labour Party who were trounced by Ukip’s “surge”. David Cameron and Nick Clegg could stand to be so trounced!
Julie Partridge, London SE15
Two things filled me with pride in living in London on Friday. The first was the breathtaking view over Trafalgar Square to Whitehall and the Houses of Parliament beyond. The second was that most Londoners, including myself, had avoided falling for the “charms” of Ukip in Thursday’s elections. I hope that Ukip’s spokesperson can see the irony in me being too well educated, as well as living in this country thanks to uncontrolled immigration from Wales.
Richard Jones, Hampton, Middlesex
Criticism of Ukip for the marginally racist, and deeply unpleasant, antics of some of its candidates rather misses the point: the real problem with it is that it is a single-issue, wholly negative party.
Does anyone have a clue what it stands for on, say, the NHS, trade, housing, transport, defence or any other issue on which a normal political party would have clear views? No, the only thing that Ukip bangs on about is the European Union and nothing else.
“Brussels ate my hamster” does not make a platform for a credible party.
Dr Richard Carter, London SW15
May I congratulate those people who voted for Ukip for helping the country towards the “return of powers”.
The “red tape” and “human rights” that the voters will be able to douse with large buckets of cold water, should they succeed in leaving the EU, will include the following: 28 days’ minimum paid annual leave; rights for agency workers, temps, and those in part-time work; current rights to pregnancy and paternal leave; working time directives, including 48-hour weeks and minimum break times. Anti-discrimination law (sex, disability, age, and sexual orientation) may be under critical consideration by our new island government, as may be redundancy legislation.
Only one more election, and we may be able to make our own rules. Perhaps that is the cause of Nigel Farage’s inability to keep a straight face.
I G Christie, King’s Lynn, Norfolk
Call me old-fashioned, but I have always understood that at any election, be it for national politics or for the committee of a local society, the sensible voter chooses the candidate who they believe will do the best job. How bizarre then that we have Ukip gaining a large number of seats in the European Parliament, an organisation which they do not support at all.
Until such time as we may leave the EU, all voters should choose the candidate who they believe will do the best job for Britain, attending meetings, lobbying and arguing our case. We should not vote for a candidate who seeks only to do the best job for their party.
David Dorkings, St Albans, Hertfordshire
It is obvious that, as an urban lounge lizard, Nigel Farage has never seen the effects of a fox in a henhouse; otherwise he would not have used the analogy of a “Ukip fox in the Westminster henhouse”.
What you see is simple wanton destruction and carnage for the sheer blood-lust of killing. There is nothing smart or constructive about it. I do not know many people who would vote for it if they knew the real consequences.
Tom Simpson, Bristol
Given the increasing choice of candidates we are faced with, and some of the bizarre results that it produces (such as right-wingers who have hitherto voted Conservatives voting Ukip and letting in Labour) is it not time to replace the first-past-the-post system with a two-round system like (horrors!) some of our neighbours?
If only, say, the top two or three parties in a given voting area were on the second-round ballot paper, then, unlike an alternative vote system, this would give time for inter-party deals to be done locally and voters to take into account first-round voting patterns in deciding how to vote in the second round.
As (whispered!) the French say, in the first round you vote with your heart and the second with your head.
Venetia Caine, Glastonbury, Somerset
Educational value of a day at the zoo
As the hymn-writer didn’t say, children learn in mysterious ways their wonders to perform (“Writing about ‘My day at the zoo’ can help a child’s literacy, survey finds”, 22 May). A particularly powerful way is first-hand experience and then reflecting on it through talk, writing, art or other media.
But to have memorable experiences requires time away from the constraints of test preparation and second-hand learning; it also often, though not necessarily, involves a degree of expense. Those economically disadvantaged children who attend schools “requiring improvement” can be further educationally disadvantaged if not given first-hand experiences to reflect on in the headlong pursuit of better data to satisfy Ofsted.
Yet inspectors do not have to assess the quality of experience offered by the curriculum except in the most perfunctory way. Perhaps inspectors too need that visit to the zoo.
Professor Colin Richards, Spark Bridge, Cumbria
Overheard in an infants’ school as we boarded a coach bound for the zoo.
Child A: “Don’t you want to go?”
Child B: “No, you always have to write about it afterwards.”
Jean Gallafent, London NW1
UK complicity in torture
Your report that MI5 may have been complicit in the detention and torture of a former UK resident in Egypt is extremely disturbing (“MI5 stands accused of complicity in torture this year”, 20 May).
To date the Government has failed to mount the full inquiry into past allegations of UK complicity in torture promised by David Cameron soon after he came to office in 2010. It’s alarming to think that fresh cases may be piling up even as older ones go uninvestigated.
Are lessons going unlearnt? Is there an ongoing sense of intelligence officials being above the law, and a continuing culture of “untouchability” in the security services?
Our research into the prevalence of torture worldwide has found that abuse is disturbingly ubiquitous – we recorded it in a staggering 141 countries in the world in the last five years alone.
It’s shocking to think the UK may itself have played a part in perpetuating this global scourge.
Tom Davies , Stop Torture campaign manager , Amnesty International UK , London EC2
Female beauty, male blubber
I haven’t seen or heard the singer Tara Erraught perform, and I hope I would never be so ill-mannered as to comment on a woman’s weight in any case. But I think it’s a bit rich for Janet Street-Porter (“Shrill male critics are deaf to soprano’s real beauty”, 24 May) to chide the male music critics she names for doing so, and then, not a hundred words later, to refer to Peter Ustinov and Luciano Pavarotti as “mountains of blubber”.
She calls the critics’ comments “outrageous”, which they are. Aren’t hers? Or doesn’t it count when it’s a woman criticising a man for not conforming to her idea of handsome?
John Spencer-Davis, Harrow, Middlesex
The right to be assertive
Mary Dejevsky (23 May) writes of Theresa May: “Just because a woman stands up and makes her case assertively does not mean she has an ulterior motive.” Quite so. However, replace “woman” with “politician” and the picture changes completely.
William Roberts, Bristol
Ukip’s relative success may be enough to force the other parties to rethink their policies
Sir, It is easy to blame the lack of support for the Conservatives on Ukip. The reality is simpler: Conservative central office blatantly ignores the voices formerly expressed through local associations. I regularly meet such organisations, and all say they feel ignored by the politicians at Westminster, many of whom have no business or work experience. Few politicians realise how irritated people are by their whingeing about pay and expenses.
I certainly do not support Ukip but I realise that Nigel Farage communicates effectively with voters. If the main parties, and not just the Conservatives, do not make radical changes they will be overwhelmed by the knock-on effect of Ukip’s success.
Former chairman, E Sussex CC
Heathfield, E Sussex
Sir, I served as an RN officer for 28 years. My wife and children have Chinese, Indian and Malaysian roots; in addition my nephews are half Japanese and my nieces can add German and Polish blood to this cosmopolitan mix. We all live in England.
When I saw the results of the Euro elections (May 26) I had a frisson of fear that would be familiar to similarly cosmopolitan families who woke up on September 15, 1930 to find that the National Socialists had won 18.25 per cent of the vote in the German federal election. Please be careful what you wish for when you cast a protest vote.
Sutton-on-the-Forest, N Yorks
Sir, The support for Ukip in the Euro elections reflects deep dissatisfaction with the European ideal even though the Ukip vote remains a minority overall. What should the UK’s relationship with Strasbourg and Brussels be? Few want a United States of Europe. We need less centralised government and less expenditure on the European budget. It cannot be right that seven per cent of the world’s population in the EU benefits from 50 per cent of the world’s social spending. But fragmentation is no answer. Where is the vision for the cultural and spiritual values, and the peace dividend, that the European ideal stands for in the world, way beyond economic considerations? Politicians of all parties are failing to express a values basis for the future of Europe that can inspire a sense of common purpose in the European ideal.
Sir, What a brilliant analysis by Melanie Phillips (May 26). UK public reaction, as expressed by the popularity of Ukip, is not directed against immigration per se, as our political leaders seem to think, but is a gut reaction against an apparent loss of sovereignty to a remote and bureaucratic European parliament. It renders our political leaders powerless so that when they play with policy detail they are out of touch with public feeling.
Sir, People chose Ukip because of the terrifyingly powerful members of the European Commission. No EU “citizen” voted for them, no EU “citizen” can vote them out. Worse, two recent UK commissioners, Neil Kinnock and Chris Patten, had been rejected by the British electorate in general elections. This democratic deficit attracts voters to Ukip.
Hinton Ampner, Hants
Sir, In spite of Labour’s relatively poor showing in the local and Euro elections, the Conservatives are very likely to fall short of a majority in the general election next year.
The reason for this failure is the weakness of David Cameron’s policies on immigration, and the EU, which are essentially a single issue. We will never have effective control of the numbers coming in from the EU while we are a member.
Sir, Ukip won just 4.3 per cent of the seats last Thursday, and analysis of the individual results (May 24) did not bear out your predictions that the old mill and pit towns of Yorkshire and Lancashire were seething with anger and would vote Ukip to demonstrate that anger. What happened? Barnsley, Burnley, Blackburn, Bolton, Bury, Kirklees, Calderdale, Preston, Rochdale, St Helens and Wigan returned not one single Ukip candidate between them. Oldham returned two and Bradford one. A very small earthquake, but it did not trouble Mr Richter.
Sir, Matthew Parris is wrong on two counts (May 24). First, the concern over immigration is that within the EU it is uncontrolled and uncontrollable. Our intake of immigrants from anywhere in the world must be according to the resources that we have and are willing to make available for them.
Second, voters are concerned about the loss of all that goes to make up our essential “Britishness” eg, history, culture, constitution, democracy, the rule of law and religion. The problem is not that our politicians don’t understand this, it is that they cannot do anything about it.
Sir, Ukip’s victory reflects a mounting middle and aspiring working-class disillusionment with the establishment and its apparent amoral pursuit of market and personal advantage, and that includes the banks, the CBI, the trade union movement and the media. Nigel Farage, like Lenin, knows full well that you cannot have a revolution, peaceful or otherwise, without an alienated middle section of society. The Establishment’s treatment of the police, teachers, doctors, the NHS and nurses and social workers etc are giving him that in spades.
Professor John Hilbourne
Sir, I doubt if there is a French word for “kippered”; but Ukip has a French precedent, the Poujadist movement in the mid-1950s, which was seen as an agent for the defence of the common man against the political elites.
It rose and fell in five years, but in the meantime launched the career of Jean Marie le Pen and the presidency of Charles de Gaulle. Even a short-lived protest movement can have a lasting legacy. The major parties should beware.
Moulsford on Thames, Oxon
Sir, Turnout for the Euro elections in the UK was 33.8 per cent, slightly down from last time. I can well understand this indifference because today’s politicians and commentators tell us only what they think we want, or ought, to hear. The truth would be refreshing.
Sir, One in 11 of the electorate voted Ukip in the Euro elections — 27.5 per cent on a turnout of 34 per cent. An earthquake ? Barely a landslip.
Sir, Ukip’s success is significant, but the older parties need only to hold their nerve. Come the general election, Labour and Conservatives will be protected by our “first past the post” system, now increasingly not fit for purpose. Liberal Democrats, having lost popularity, have only one option; to address every question in a principled, non-partisan and grown up manner; not squabble over personalities; and to try to be right rather than popular. Which holds true for the Greens as well.
Meanwhile, we need to do something about our electoral system, which for many voters will be a nightmare in the next election. So that voters can vote for whom they really want, we have to introduce some element of proportionality, while retaining our constituency links with MPs and avoiding the undemocratic farce of party lists which we had to subscribe to in the European election.
Sir, I sincerely hope that Ann Thorp’s optimism is not unfounded and that she gets her wish regarding her body donation (letter, May 22).
According to the University of Leicester Medical School, there are 14 reasons why a body may not be accepted. These include accident, inflictions, disease and deformity.
Should I die, body intact and free from all of the above, and a post mortem has been carried out, again, not eligible. Furthermore, if I die over the Christmas/New Year or Easter periods when the Medical School is not open, the alternative funeral arrangements that I need to have in place must occur.
Harborough Magna, Warks
Sir, The Defence Secretary says our lack of a maritime patrol capability is due to the mess left by the previous government (letter, May 26). He doesn’t tell us what his government has done to correct this situation.
Vice-Admiral Sir James Jungius
Sir, Joan Bakewell (May 26) says that the elderly were often left without a purpose in life. I disagree. I’ve not met any elderly who want to lead an army; the contented ones are working as hard as ever giving their services to the community — not mentioned in your quotations from the baroness’ speech, but a vital part of growing old gracefully. There is a vast need for voluntary work, from community and hospital visiting to serving as governors and guides. Loneliness in old age is an avoidable condition, best prevented by taking an interest in the welfare of society, not oneself.
Dr Alastair Lack
Coombe Bissett, Wilts
Sir, “Now what the hell ya s’pose is eating them two guys?” The colloquialism at the end of Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men encapsulates why Mr Gove “dislikes” this text enough to ban it from English literature GCSE (May 26). Just as some characters in the novella don’t understand the situation, Mr Gove fails to understand the significance of the shifts in language communication and, more importantly, the subtle messages and warnings from 1937 that are blaring alarms today. Steinbeck beautifully links immigration, discrimination, (dis)ability and aspirations to chance, Darwinism and survival. Does any other novelist do this?
Forcing students to concentrate on writers whose dense verbiage conveys an antiquated social order squanders the opportunity to link the language of English literature to universal social relevance.
Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s masterpiece: crews tackle the fire at the Glasgow School of Art on Friday Photo: getty images
6:58AM BST 26 May 2014
SIR – My son and his partner were fortunate enough to study at Glasgow School of Art, and we attended their graduation shows in 2011 in the wonderful building seriously damaged in Friday’s fire. I can understand why students wept as “Mackintosh’s treasure” went up in flames. The Hen Run and library, in particular, were exquisite.
The only other building I’ve visited that instilled such a sense of wonder is the Alhambra Palace in Granada.
Students will ensure that the school’s spirit survives to inspire many more (Turner-nominated) artists. This is truly a Scottish, British and internationally renowned building.
SIR – I was sorry to hear of the fire at the Glasgow School of Art but surprised to read that Danny Alexander, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, had promised that the Government would contribute “in the millions, if necessary” to restore a “priceless gem”. I thought that was what insurance was for. If not, can I cancel my policy and ask the Government to pick up the bill if I have a problem?
Stratton St Margaret, Wiltshire
SIR – No other building of such architectural renown and world significance – especially one with so much of its original internal fixtures and fittings made of wood – would allow the ragtag of today’s art students anywhere near the premises, especially when you consider what often passes for art in today’s Fine Art degree shows.
SIR – The expenses scandal brought the public’s trust in politicians to an all-time low. Anxious to address the problem, the mainstream parties all promised to back the introduction of a recall system to allow constituents to hold their MPs to account in between elections. It was a promise that resonated with the public.
We are pleased that the Government has indicated that it intends to bring forward a Recall Bill in the Queen’s Speech, but we strongly believe that the version of recall it currently proposes falls far short of public expectations. For instance, instead of handing recall powers to voters, it will hand that power to a committee of MPs.
In addition, the criteria would be so narrow as to exclude all but the most serious financial offences. Such a system would not only not empower voters, it would expand the gulf between them and their representatives.
If our political leaders are serious about improving the relationship between people and power, we need a genuine system of recall, where voters are able to remove under-performing MPs. There should be no middlemen, no requirement to secure the permission of parliamentary committees.
If enough voters sign a petition, they should earn the right to hold a referendum on whether or not to remove their MP.
If the threshold is set at the right level, decent MPs would have nothing to fear. A genuine recall system would boost accountability, empower voters and help settle the strained relationship between people and their politicians. It’s time for parties to honour their promise in full.
Steve Baker MP (Con)
Guto Bebb MP (Con)
Douglas Carswell MP (Con)
David Davis MP (Con)
Nick de Bois MP (Con)
Nadine Dorries MP (Con)
Jim Fitzpatrick MP (Lab)
Zac Goldsmith MP (Con)
Robert Halfon MP (Con)
Gordon Henderson MP (Con)
Kate Hoey MP (Lab)
Julian Huppert MP (Lib Dem)
Caroline Lucas MP (Green)
Dominic Raab MP (Con)
Mark Reckless MP (Con)
Rory Stewart MP (Con)
SIR – The Defence Secretary blames Britain’s lack of specialist maritime patrol aircraft on the undoubted incompetence of the last government (Letters, May 24). However, we voted for him and his colleagues to address the mess that follows any sustained period of Labour government.
The Cabinet has chosen to put more than £10 billion into a bloated overseas aid budget, a wasteful act of misplaced liberal vanity. At the same time, it is cutting our Armed Forces to a level that seriously undermines our international status.
To govern is to choose. Wrong choice, Mr Hammond.
SIR – When I need a new car, I do not spend millions of pounds on research and build one myself. Instead, I buy one ready-made. Perhaps the Defence Secretary could approach America and buy or lease maritime patrol aircraft on a better deal, I hope, than the last lease.
SIR – Be careful. Pies without sides and bottoms (Letters, May 24)could be cobblers.
GP waiting times
SIR – It is strange that people understand the rules of supply and demand in the world of hospitality but not where general practice is concerned. The reason why your correspondent (Letters, May 24) cannot book a (hopefully) non-urgent appointment for 20 days is that demand is outstripping supply, not that the GP is out on the golf course.
Annual GP consultations have risen from 240 million in 2004 to 340 million in 2013.
Many patients have increasing numbers of complex medical problems and need far longer than the standard 10-minute appointment, and considerable work and follow-up afterwards.
Funding to general practice is not increasing and neither are GP numbers. There are 40,000 GPs with an average list size of 1,700 patients. Eight per cent of the NHS budget goes to general practice and yet 90 per cent of all patient contacts are in general practice. GPs are running to keep up – many reporting days of 12 to 15 hours with an increasing risk of error due to fatigue.
Many GPs are contemplating or taking early retirement. Significant numbers of younger GPs are moving abroad or switching careers. Recruitment is in crisis with a large number of practices failing to recruit replacement doctors. Carry on knocking GPs by all means, but there will be fewer and fewer of them left to care.
Dr Lindsay Sword
Plethora of peacocks
SIR – The village of White Colne should be pleased that it has only three peacocks to contend with. Our village has been plagued with feral peacocks for years now. I once counted 13 on my lawn.
The parish council receives complaints from residents about the nuisance that they cause, including noise, mess and damage to plants.
We have not yet been able to find a solution to this problem. Culling is one idea, but this would not be popular with all residents.
We considered trying to reduce the numbers by finding a bird reserve that would take them.
But this meant that they would have to be caught first, and then we would have to bear the cost of transport. In any event, the reserve closed.
We are still looking for a solution.
North Ferriby, East Yorkshire
SIR – Peacock is quite edible.
Bin best-before labels and trust people to judge
SIR – You report that the European Union is considering scrapping “best before” labels on some foods.
Back when we didn’t have fridges, if one end of your cheese was green, you cut that bit off and ate the rest; if the top of the jam was growing things, you spooned that bit out and ate the rest. Surely most of us have the wit to know when to bin something.
P B Johnson
SIR – Charles Dobson is unsurewhether to eat the out-of-date chocolates he won recently at a Women’s Institute raffle.
He obviously doesn’t know the rules of such raffles. Of course he doesn’t eat the chocolate – he simply donates it to the next raffle, as his predecessors have clearly been doing for the past three years.
SIR – Three cheers for Charles Moore who, once again, has hit the nail so elegantly on the head (“The capital fails to see the heartache and pain beyond”, Comment, May 24). May the collective “head” that forms the views of London take note.
J David Jackson
Normanby, North Yorkshire
SIR – The very worst part of the London elite’s activities is its unstoppable success in selling off the best parts of Britain’s manufacturing industry, often situated in the North, without regard for the tax-paying people working in it.
After all, HS2 has the sole purpose of taking more money to London.
SIR – In his perceptive article on how foreign London has become, Charles Moore mentions that many of the capital’s residents are “not British citizens and therefore cannot vote”.
In fact, all Commonwealth, EU and Irish citizens are permitted to vote in local and European Parliament elections. Commonwealth citizens can vote in British general elections as well, a hangover from the Empire. In London around two million of the 5.5 million electors (36 per cent) are foreigners, a situation without parallel in any other country in the world.
A first step to making London a bit less of a foreign city would be to remove the bias in favour of continued high levels of immigration by restricting voting entitlement to British citizens only, fully accepting that this will only be possible in respect of European Union nationals when Britain leaves that organisation.
Emeritus Professor S F Bush
University of Manchester
SIR – The Coalition should take heart from last week’s low turnout. It suggests that the additional 25 per cent of the electorate which, on past form, will vote in the general election did not feel sufficiently alienated from the main parties to be seduced by Ukip.
SIR – I understand that David Cameron is determined to win back disaffected Tory voters. I presume he won’t be wanting to include those of us he classed as “fruitcakes, loonies and closet racists”.
SIR – I know we are told that business relies on our remaining in the EU. Fine. What I am fed up with is the pathetic rulings to come out of Brussels. I, for one, don’t mind a bent cucumber or burying a poor dead bird in the garden.
Now those working on commission (report, May 23) must be paid while on holiday. What next?
Sir, – Fair play to Eamon Gilmore for resigning with such dignity. Ironically, never have basic Labour policies like building social housing or establishing a needs-based national health service been more relevant. – Yours, etc,
Louisburgh, Co Mayo.
Sir, – As a former member of Labour, the reason I could not bring myself to vote for the party in any form in this election was not, as various spokespeople have claimed, because of what they had to do in government. Any party in government would have had to do the same.
The reason I couldn’t vote for it is because it went into government in the first place.
Instead of using the time in opposition to develop policies for a broad-left, post-bailout government, it took office to implement policies over which it had no control.
The great enemies of Sinn Féin – Gilmore and Rabbitte – have largely ceded the left to that party and, by making a Fianna Fáil-Sinn Féin coalition a real possibility after the next election, ensured the continuation of essentially conservative Irish politics. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – Paddy Power is offering odds of 5/6 of an FG/FF government after the next general election. The bland leading the bland? – Yours, etc,
Sir, – I am delighted with this weekend’s election results. I will now be able to do the household budget for next year, based on the election promises of Sinn Féin and the Independents. I will now not have to budget for the local property tax or water charges. Or are these just promises that cannot be kept but are merely said to get elected? – Yours, etc,
Sir, – Ten years ago I read Lost for Words, by John Humprys, in which he advised the reader to insert the word “not” into politicians’ promises. I have applied this advice several times during the last few weeks. The following is an example: “We will not stop water charges.” – Yours, etc,
Sir, – I thought it ironic that the painted marks placed on the footpath outside my house by Irish Water (presumably for installation of the water meter) were washed away by the rain on the day of the local elections. Is Mother Nature trying to tell us something? – Yours, etc,
Sir, – When asked on radio about Labour’s broken promises, Mr Rabbitte made an all-too-familiar excuse – sure the party can’t really be judged on its manifesto because that’s what Labour would do if it governed alone. So their former voters really thought Labour would sweep into office on its own?
Shortly after the exchange with Mr Rabbitte, Pearse Doherty frankly declared that Sinn Féin would be perfectly capable of coalition, and he cited the party’s role in the North.
Could I suggest that in future, in the public interest, smaller parties produce two manifestos before elections – one on what they would do if they get a majority, and the other the red-line list that they would stick to in any coalition. This is what voters really need to know if smaller parties who go into coalition are to be held to account. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – While the continued rise of Sinn Féin has engendered a huge amount of post-election comment, less discussed has been the fact that the number of elected ex-Progressive Democrats has rocketed upwards yet again.
It is a clear sign of how toxic the party brand had become that so many of its members have found favour with the electorate when shorn of the party name.
It is certain from the stark contrast between the talent available to the party and its distinct lack of success that Breaking the Mould, and those histories of the party yet to be written, will be read for many years to come, not least to discover what not to do. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – Labour’s message is often too technocratic. The party stresses how good it is in government rather than promoting values.
It points to its unique administrative capacity of taking governmental responsibility in good and bad times – to do what is necessary.
True as this may be, this does not set Labour apart from other parties in the minds of the electorate. Labour must become emboldened or become extinct.
To survive, Labour can carve out a modern, values-based identity for itself. The values of community, family, healthy living, work-life balance, tolerance, pluralistic democracy, human rights, decent workplaces and providing people with the freedom to reach their potential need to be central to the values of a Labour Party that can and must rebuild its support base for the good of the country. – Yours, etc,
Beech Hill Drive,
Sir, – If Luke Flanagan encourages a relative to stand in the pending byelection in Roscommon, will he be accused of attempting to found a “Ming Dynasty”? – Yours, etc,
Sir, – Sinn Féin has now shown itself to be a force in Irish politics both north and south of the Border.
It has increased its vote by 8 per cent in the Republic’s local elections and, while still the second-biggest party in the north, has increased its vote there while the DUP has not. The trend is clear. Sinn Féin is the only true 32-county political party and, with the demographic trend in its favour in the north, it appears to be only a matter of time before Sinn Féin is the majority party both north and south of the Border.
If that happens will the country be finally reunited? Or will the forces of reaction hold out for a bit longer against the inevitable?
We really are living in interesting times. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – Enda and Eamon can take comfort in their misery by remembering what the British did to Churchill after he won the war ! History always repeats itself. – Yours, etc,
A chara, – Should May 23rd be known henceforth as Independents’ Day? – Is mise,
Sir, – The recent elections have clearly shown the need for a new party in Irish politics. This new party should resonate with all the electorate, raise national morale and restore Ireland to its former glory. No, I am not referring to the Reform Alliance, nor to a Workers’ Utopian Party.
I am suggesting we badly need an Irish version of the Monster Raving Loony Party. The recent campaigns were almost devoid of humour. There were few light moments, no memorable jokes from candidates, not even a gentle chuckle. One could even be forgiven for thinking that politics had become more serious than football. At least, thank God for Miriam Lord! – Yours, etc,
Sir, – My glass is certainly half full. Seven weeks ago I made a decision to run in this year’s local elections in the Galway City West Ward. Within a week I had my posters and leaflets printed. I had assembled a team of canvassers that grew to over 30 people by the end of the campaign.
I ran a short six-week canvass, erecting 100 posters and canvassing 5,000 houses. I went from being a complete unknown in political terms to a situation where 270 people in this ward thought I was the best person to represent them on the city council.
By the time I was eliminated on the fifth count, I had increased this to 401 votes, which was approximately a third of a quota.
I may not have won a seat on Galway City Council but I have achieved so much in other ways. It is in no way a defeat. I wish to congratulate everyone who was elected and commiserate with those unsuccessful this time. I’m confident the new faces on the city council will bring new ideas and a new energy. I wish them the very best of luck. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – Your Weekend Review suggested 10 ideas for easing Ireland’s housing crisis (“No homes to go to”, May 24th).
My impression of recent housing trends is that investors are playing a significant part in causing the alarming house price rises in some areas, and at the expense of those simply seeking a roof over their own family’s heads. What appears to be needed is some incentive to make bricks and mortar less attractive for investors and, if at all possible, to direct that apparently burdensome cash to sectors of the economy where investment may provide more beneficial results for our society. To that end, we should increase capital gains tax on non-primary residences and set up forums to introduce potential investors to business innovators and start-ups. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – Labour’s proposal to put the onus to provide new social housing on builders will serve to restrict supply to the open market. It will push up prices for first-time buyers and those who need to trade up – ie, the younger generation. It is not just the reviled developers who will pay.
The economics of this are obvious; yet once again, the fortunate older generation still sitting on massive unrealised gains from the property bubble can sell their houses without capital gains tax or remain in situ paying the same local property tax as those struggling with large mortgages. In many cases these houses are larger than the owners’ needs but there is little incentive to trade down.
If Labour is sincere, a building programme for new houses should be funded by those currently befitting from asset price inflation – current house-owners, not would-be buyers. – Yours, etc,
Long Meadows Apartments,
Sir, – Is it now time for the Niall Mellon Trust to recognise our status where housing is concerned? They would save all those airfares to South Africa and we would get basic quality housing in record time. Worth considering? – Yours, etc,
Sir, – The recent news that the HSE is planning on recruiting doctors from eastern Europe to plug the gaps in the health service is a worrying development for many of us working in Irish hospitals (“HSE recruitment plans condemned”, Home News, May 19th).
I wonder will they be treated with the same level of disregard that our skilled colleagues from south Asia were treated when they were recruited in recent years? Perhaps we should consider why Irish-trained doctors are leaving our hospitals before we trawl more countries for their precious resources.
Last week, a colleague of mine was told to find her own replacement for a 24-hour shift by a major Dublin teaching hospital. She had broken her arm.
Doctors are a global commodity. Until the HSE accepts this and treats us appropriately, Ireland and its people will continue to lose out. – Yours, etc,
Dr NIALL FEENEY,
Sir, – Stephen Collins characterises people who disagree with inviting a member of the British royal family to the centenary celebrations of the 1916 Rising as “peevish” and a “coalition of naysayers” (“Don’t let minority stuck in past take over 1916 events”, Opinion & Analysis, May 24th).
It is obvious that Mr Collins ignores the historical context of the Rising in order to advocate his own trendy and populist opinion. The 1916 Rising was a rebellion to rid Ireland of the monarchical ruling ascendancy and to declare an independent republic. By inviting a member of the British royal family to a celebration of this fact is insulting to the leaders of 1916 and a desecration of the Proclamation. I am proud to be “peevish and a “naysayer”. – Yours, etc,
DEREK HENRY CARR,
Dublin 2 .
Sir, – Charles McLaughlin (May 24th) asks whether Mr Shatter will forego a tax refund on his charitable donation. As far as I am aware this tax break was abolished in 2013.
Ciaran Downes (May 24th) appears to be confused regarding benefit-in-kind rules. Mr Shatter’s employers did not make a charitable donation on his behalf. Even if they had done so, no benefit-in-kind would arise, as he would be foregoing the money he was entitled to, and no benefit would accrue. Is it now your policy to print any letters that arrive to your inbox without checking for inaccuracies, in order to pander to the baying mob? – Yours, etc,
Inchicore, Dublin 8.
Sir, – I find it extraordinary that Mr Shatter, having been instrumental in a Government decision to stop severance payments to Ministers, accepted his severance payment. The purpose of the Government decision was to save the State money in difficult financial times. The fact that it will be passed on to a deserving charity is irrelevant.
Equally extraordinary was Mr Shatter’s decision to announce his acceptance of the severance payment and its onward journey to the deserving charity in what can only be described as a fully-fledged press conference. He could easily have made his announcement in a low-key, one-line statement on Thursday morning or earlier. In reality, the whole thing was a publicity stunt and an insult to those who quietly donate their own (as compared to the State’s) hard-earned money. – Yours, etc,
Naas, Co Kildare.
Sir, – Eamonn McCann, whether ironically or not, has resurrected the Devil from the dying embers of Hell (“Why do we rarely give the Devil his due?”, Opinion & Analysis, May 22nd). In today’s society “systems failures” and other such abstractions are replacing the Devil as the cause of evil. It is time we grew up to accept and confront the reality that evil originates within the human person. It is time to stop blaming everything but ourselves for the mess we have made of our society and world. – Yours, etc,
The Moorings ,
Malahide, Co Dublin.
Sir, – In Percy French’s poem The Four Farrellys, the young Farrelly from the west who is about to emigrate asks French to draw him a picture “of the place where he was born” so that when he was away from home, he would “hang it up and look at it, and not feel so forlorn”. When the picture was finished the young man said to the artist, “Well, you’re the Divil, and I can’t say more than that”. The question is why is the Devil the ultimate compliment? – Yours, etc,
Sir, Eamonn McCann’s hands were clearly idle when he wrote that column on the Devil. – Yours, etc,
Clonsilla, Dublin 15.
Sir, – If we’re to believe the media pundits, the success of Sinn Féin and Independent candidates at the polls last week indicates a significant shift away from “politics as usual” in Ireland. Well, as thousands of second-level students brace themselves for the relentless grinding-down of intellect and imagination required to sit the Junior and Leaving Certificate Exams, I would ask, when will we see a similar shift away from “education as usual” in Ireland? – Yours, etc,
Shankill, Co Dublin.
A chara, – We should not forget entrepreneurialism is at the heart of all good business – not just tech start-ups. In defining the word “entrepreneur”, Richard Cantillon said it applied to anyone who bought or made a product at a certain cost to sell at an uncertain price. It included the work of any self-employed people, such as farmers, water-carriers, brewers, hatmakers, chimney sweeps and so forth – a tad less glamorous than today’s media-hyped and government-sponsored entrepreneur!– Is mise,
Blackrock, Co Dublin.
Published 27 May 2014 02:30 AM
* Brother Kevin Crowley’s heartfelt letter (May 24) brings home to the Irish people the shameful reality of the lives of so many of our citizens. We have allowed our sensibilities to be dulled by the comfort of our own lives and colluded in the development of a society that clearly does not work equally to the advantage of all.
Also in this section
What motivates us in all we do is the desire to be a cause in the world, to be a somebody, to have an impact, however minimal.
However, if we build a society where only the rich have a real stake in our way of life and where the creation of wealth is the most prized virtue, we establish an underclass who steadily lose hope of living other than at the margins of society.
More significantly, we create a criminal class who pursue the logic of big business, bankers, politicians and developers of the Celtic Tiger years, settling for a world where access to money is the driving force in their lives, and where the beneficiaries of assured access to abundant wealth become a law unto themselves.
Many young criminals have experienced themselves as outsiders in a society that is driven by the bogus philosophy that if you follow your dream the world will be at your feet.
We owe much to Brother Kevin and to others who share his commitment and dedication, awakening in us a more acute awareness of the world of glaring injustice that we have unwittingly colluded in creating.
The assumption that when we disposed of English rule we would be a free nation does not sit easily with the realities of life in Ireland, where a considerable proportion of our people are far from free, being trapped in an endless cycle of poverty.
Perhaps Padraig Pearse might have said of our time, “Ireland unfree of hunger and poverty should never be at peace”.
EDITH ROAD, OXFORD
HOW QUICKLY WE FORGET
* I remember one day in secondary school, my history teacher explaining how Irish people never forgot. She told us how the Irish never forgot Fine Gael taking away the shilling from the elderly many years ago.
Back then, I didn’t understand the importance of a shilling, but I do now. I couldn’t help but think about this after watching the voting in of our county councillors unfold. Have the Irish people forgotten what Fianna Fail has done to this country? Recent voting would suggest so.
Irish politics has always been hindered by those afraid to vote with heart, unaccepting of voting for candidates outside their political party, not giving thought or reason.
I am delighted to see so many Independent candidates elected to our county councils but dismayed at the number from Fianna Fail.
Many of us would complain about the Fine Gael Government, however, I am not so quick to judge. Just recently returned from my job overseas, I am surprised by the changes. I believe Enda Kenny, although no mathematician, took brave choices. Tough choices were needed but at least we are starting to near the turning point.
Fianna Fail led a country that had it all and it swept it all away in misguided and foolish endeavours.
MOUNTRATH, CO LAOIS
THE RIGHT TO NOT VOTE
* Your editorial last Friday suggesting that voters had some sort of an obligation to vote may have some merit. However, when there are no candidates worthy of a vote and when there are no candidates who can possibly influence the course of government policy, then voting becomes a bit of a joke.
It is like asking us which penguin in the zoo we would like to elect. They all look and sound the same to me.
The right to vote extends also to the right to choose not to vote. The ballot paper should have a box saying “none of the above” and there should be a rule introduced that if 75pc of the electorate do not vote, that no one is elected.
In those circumstances I would be in favour of making it a legal imperative that everyone exercises their vote and that would be truly democratic. And that would be really scary!
NAME WITH EDITOR
RATHFARNHAM, DUBLIN 14
LET’S SEE SINN FEIN’S PLANS NOW
* Now that Sinn Fein‘s day would appear to have finally come “down South” and it will be the largest party on Dublin City Council, let’s see it put its money where its mouth is and govern the largest city in the State in the way it’s been espousing nationally for the past seven years.
Let’s see them magic the money together to keep street lights lit in the capital, when they shrink the property tax as much as they’re able. Let’s see them find the millions required to repair the water network in Dublin when they do away with the water tax.
Let’s see them tax the bejaysus out of the Googles and Facebooks and the institutions of the IFSC, but somehow prevent those companies and the jobs they create from leaving our shores for a less hostile business climate.
Let’s see them make good on their various protests and indignations at the measures the central government has had to introduce to right Fianna Fail’s wrongs, and let’s see them do things in exactly the opposite way to the way they’ve done it in the North.
MERGING THE PARTIES
* Surly what this election is telling us is the political battlefield has changed forever, that it’s the beginning of the end for Civil War politics, and this country is going down the road of a traditional right/left form of governance. FF and FG will form the next government in which they can try and implement their identical policies. In fact, they should go all the way and merge.
SIXMILEBRIDGE, CO CLARE
A POST-LABOUR WORLD
* It appears we are entering a “post-Labour Ireland”. This may be a very relevant remark as one of the greatest problems challenging future economics is a “post-labour world”, with labour meaning human work rather than a political philosophy.
The demise of both types of “labour” is a phenomenon of the 21st Century; labour of the work variety being eliminated by technological automation and Labour of the political nature in decline because of arrogant refusal to recognise what is happening to real labour.
The ability to produce in vast abundance without dependence on human labour is the greatest transformation ever experienced in economic or human history. Yet no government in Europe or the world recognises this monumental change or is making any attempt to adapt to the new and very welcome phenomenon.
TUBBERCURRY, CO SLIGO
ON THE SLOW TRAIN IN EUROPE
* It seems like the rest of Europe has had elections for the European Parliament while Ireland is still counting the votes cast in 2009.
While I would not want the costly fiasco of voting machines to be repeated, there must surely be a faster (and secure) way to collate and summarise paper voting slips?
ABBEY HILL, NAUL, CO DUBLIN
GOING IN ONE DIRECTION
* Who would have thought that teenyboppers at a Croke Park concert, losers in the soccer play-offs and the Labour Party would have so much in common – “One Direction”. But only the kids were on the way up!
NEWTOWN HILL, TRAMORE, CO WATERFORD