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Robyn Denny was an Expressionist painter whose cool geometric abstractions captured the mood of the early 1960s

Robyn Denny


5:56PM BST 27 May 2014

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Robyn Denny, who has died aged 83, was one of the first British artists of the post-war years to take his influence from American Abstract Expressionism.

Although he is now less well-known than more “accessible” contemporaries such as Howard Hodgkin, Bridget Riley, Peter Blake or David Hockney, Denny’s huge, hard-edged geometric abstractions, free of natural influences, captured the cool, modernising mood of the late 1950s and early 1960s.

He had his first solo exhibition in London in 1957, and in 1960 helped to organise and take part in the “Situation” exhibition at the RBA Galleries, which marked a significant move away from the more delicate abstract painting of the St Ives school. In the 1960s he had shows in Milan, Stuttgart, Cologne, New York and Zurich, while in London he showed at the Waddington, Tooth and Kasmin galleries. In 1966 he represented Britain at the Venice Biennale, and in 1973 became the youngest artist to be awarded a retrospective by the Tate.

Denny’s Into Light (1964-65) (BRIDGEMANART)

Denny’s early work typically consisted of large, symmetrical canvases on which horizontal and vertical bands in soft, muted colours, framed shapes like overlapping doorways. From the late 1960s he introduced freer, more vibrantly-coloured compositional motifs in which verticals were no longer so dominant. His paintings required a constant process of visual adjustment, with juxtaposed colours producing flicker effects which made the forms, spaces and scales appear unstable. Some critics felt that the subtleties of his colour palette owed more to French traditions, following in the wake of Redon, Seurat and Monet.

His work can be found in museum collections around the world, and he carried out numerous public commissions, including a series of vitreous enamel panels at Embankment underground station. In 1959 he was commissioned by the men’s clothier Austin Reed to design a mural for its Regent Street store which was to be “a trendy evocation of fashionable London” and a response to the growing threat of the youthful styles of nearby Carnaby Street to middle-market menswear.

The Beatles in front of Denny’s mural at Austin Reed, Regent Street, in 1963 (REDFERNS)

The result, Great, Big, Wide, Biggest, a huge typographical collage of advertising jargon in Union Flag red white and blue, helped to turn the colours of the British national symbol into a key part of the visual grammar of “Swinging London”. One of The Beatles’ first London photo shoots in 1963 was in front of the Austin Reed mural.

The world, however, moved on, and although Denny became a much respected elder statesman for abstraction, and his cool geometric lithographs of the 1970s became popular in corporate offices, the thoughtful abstractionism he represented was swamped by the advent of Pop and conceptual art. His name faded from view.

But he refused to change for fashion’s sake, and continued to pursue his own vision with an admirable and single-minded intensity. As his fellow Abstract Expressionist Richard Smith observed in an interview in The Guardian in 2000: “Robyn Denny keeps saying, ‘Our time will come, Dick. Our time will come.’ And he’s been saying this for years and years.”

The third of four brothers, Edward Maurice FitzGerald Denny, always called Robyn, was born at Abinger, Surrey, on October 3 1930, the son of the Rev Sir Henry Lyttelton Lyster Denny, 7th Bt, who was then the local rector and would serve as Chaplain of the Forces during the Second World War. His other brothers would achieve eminence in different fields: Anthony as an architect; Barry as a diplomat; and Richard as a business guru and writer.

The Dennys were descended from Sir Anthony Denny, a confidant of Henry VIII in the king’s later years, when he rejoiced in the title of First Chief Gentleman and Groom of the Stool. Sir Anthony did well out of the Dissolution of the Monasteries, taking over Waltham Abbey. The family continued to prosper under Queen Elizabeth I, who granted them lands in Ireland — where they lived until the early 20th century.

Robyn was educated at Clayesmore School, Dorset, then studied painting at the Académie de la Grande Chaumière in Paris and at St Martin’s School of Art. After two years’ National Service in the Royal Navy (much of which he spent in military prison after declaring himself a conscientious objector) he went on to study at the Royal College of Art.

Generations 1 by Robyn Denny (1978)

There he began to experiment with abstract collages and bold gestural paintings, influenced by American Abstract Expressionism, which were exhibited in London in 1956 and, in 1959, at the hugely influential “Place” exhibition at the ICA. This was an early example of what is now called site-specific installation, featuring large unframed canvases standing directly on the floor and arranged in two parallel zigzags to suggest a maze, which visitors would be obliged to negotiate – thereby becoming “participants” rather than passive spectators. Following his graduation in 1957, Denny won a scholarship to study in Italy.

While making his name as an artist Denny taught part-time at Hammersmith School of Art, at the Slade and at Bath Academy of Art, Corsham — the cutting-edge art school of its time. He also wrote reviews for magazines such as Das Kunstwerk and Art International. Greatly respected as a spokesman for his generation of abstractionists, in 1974 he was invited to give the first William Townsend memorial lecture at the Slade.

Denny’s Sweet Nature 26 (1975) (BRIDGEMANART)

In 1981 Denny moved to Los Angeles, where the urban environment and often smog-hazed natural light inspired him to develop a new aesthetic featuring large monochrome thick-layered acrylic surfaces on which concentrated clusters of coloured scratchings rest on thin horizontals. The art historian David Alan Mellor, who published a study of Denny’s work in 2002, has described these later works as having the ethereal quality of “abstract Turners”. While Denny, like other “Situation” artists of the early 1960s, had been seen as rejecting the St Ives tradition, these later works recaptured some of the lyrical, transparent delicacy of that school.

Denny returned to Britain in the early 1990s when some of his paintings featured in “The Sixties Art Scene in London”, an exhibition held at the Barbican in 1993. The exhibition helped to prompt a modest revival of interest in his work with several solo exhibitions, of which the most recent took place last year at the Laurent Delaye Gallery, Savile Row .

Robyn Denny married first, in 1953, the artist Anna Teasdale (dissolved 1975), with whom he had a son and daughter. He also had a son from a relationship with the art restoration expert Katharine Reid, daughter of the former Tate director Sir Norman Reid. He is survived by his second wife, Marjorie Abéla, whom he married in 1995, and by his children.

Robyn Denny, born October 3 1930, died May 20 2014


I was a member of the Winchester Liberal Democrat campaign team in the runup to the last general election. In spite of a massive marketing effort, the Tories triumphed, so I can imagine how desperate the local party is to succeed this time. Unfortunately strategy still seems to be dominated by marketing rather than political conviction. Changing the brand name, in this case Nick Clegg, doesn’t make the product any more saleable (Clegg taking Lib Dems to wipeout, 27 May). I resigned from the party in 2010 when they went into coalition and was amazed at the speed with which the dissenting activists bought the lie that the party had no choice. They may be on-message, but there is a significant percentage of the electorate who will never forgive them for selling out in exchange for so-called power. They are not convinced by being told ad nauseam that the Lib Dems have saved us from the worst excesses of Tory policy. This is like the plea of an arsonist who sets fire to a house and then expects a medal for rescuing the baby.
Karen Barratt

•  No one who heard Catherine Bearder at the EU hustings in Winchester earlier this month could doubt her intelligence, integrity and commitment to the European project. She is now the one remaining Lib Dem MEP. The fact that Jackie Porter and Martin Tod, some of the principal voices calling for Nick Clegg to stand down, are also Winchester-based may not be unconnected.

Dismay – disgust, even – over the politics of the coalition long pre-date these recent elections. Many longtime Lib Dem voters had to swallow very hard before voting this time, and probably did so only to keep the Tory vote down.

Porter and Tod are undoubtedly right, as is the suggestion that only Vince Cable could take charge without a damaging contest. He could be a care-taker leader until after the next general election, to avoid the blood-letting of a contest, but after that it is essential – as Miliband’s Labour has failed to do with New Labour – to ensure the Orange Book proponents, tainted by coalition, are put back in their box. To this end, the Guardian might finally give in to calls to silence Chris Huhne, who is as culpable as any with regard to the coalition, and thus to the current virtual wipeout.
Judith Martin

•  The Lib Dems stood for election on one overriding pledge, to vote against an increase in student fees. Any internet images search will show who is currently trading on that broken promise. Even the BNP is using it to further its vile causes. When Clegg and his party immediately abandoned that commitment in the moment of power I was disgusted not just because I work in a university and have children who will pay heavily for that bad faith, but also because I thought “why should anyone, ever again, believe in what a party tells one before one casts one’s vote?” Now we have the rise of Ukip, which threatens UK higher education almost as much as it does our immigrant populations, given the former’s dependence on EU funding and international students.

The pundits tell us that that vote’s a result of the electorate’s loss of faith in mainstream political parties. Go figure.
Professor Susan Bruce
Head of the school of humanities, Keele University

•  Lib Dems don’t need a change of leader. We need a change of policies and direction. This starts with a total repudiation of the backdoor Tory war on the poor, waged through austerity and so-called welfare “reform”.

We need to return to traditional policies and approach, pioneered by Lloyd George and Beveridge, Keynes and Jenkins, Gladstone and Grimond.

We don’t need a new manifesto. We have excellent programmes from 2005 and 2010; Nick Clegg advocated these with great skill and eloquence just four years ago. He must do so again as we return to our true principles and beliefs.
Jonathan Hunt
Convener, LibsLeft; chair, Camberwell & Peckham local party

• To understand the Liberal Democrats‘ predicament you need look no further than the opening words of their constitution: “The Liberal Democrats exist to build and safeguard a fair, free and open society, in which we seek to balance the fundamental values of liberty, equality and community, and in which no one shall be enslaved by poverty, ignorance or conformity”. In betraying those principles so comprehensively, the party of Keynes and Beveridge has dug its own grave.
Chris Donnison

• The European Union has a proven record of making people richer and stopping wars. The stark comparison between Poland and neighbouring Ukraine is an example. At the same time, through the coalition, Britain now has accountability within government which has curbed extreme policies and produced economic recovery without social instability. Yet the Liberal Democrats who have achieved this are being roundly trashed and British voters are turning their backs on an institution that has stopped Europeans slaughtering each other and brought wealth and security to hundreds of millions. Democracy is indeed a strange animal.
Humphrey Hawksley

• Lib Dem spokespeople are lining up to say they were proud to have fought the European elections on principle. This is both sanctimonious and misguided. Nick Clegg’s main claim in his first debate with Nigel Farage was that withdrawal from the EU would cost the UK 3 million jobs. This is economic claptrap. It could only be the case if we no longer traded with Europe – and why wouldn’t we? The electorate saw through him. They were reminded of the snake-oil salesman touting the abolition of tuition fees. If Lib Dem MPs want to keep their jobs, they should join the ABC wing of the party – that’s “Anyone But Clegg”!
Vaughan Evans
Liberal Democrat parliamentary candidate, 1992

•  Found your article and graphic showing “How change of leader could affect key seats” very interesting. Apparently if Clegg is leader the Lib Dems will lose Cambridge, Sheffield Hallam, Redcar and Wells. Whereas if Cable is leader the Lib Dems will lose Cambridge, Sheffield Hallam, Redcar and Wells. On the other hand, if Alexander is leader the Lib Dems will lose Cambridge, Sheffield Hallam, Redcar and Wells. Could there be a pattern here? ie the Lib Dems will definitely lose Cambridge, Sheffield Hallam, Redcar and Wells at the next general election.
John Denton

• If it is any consolation, the Lib Dems can now boast of having the highest proportion of female MEPs.
Geoff Wicks

Thank you, Kate Sayer (Letters, 27 May). Does the Guardian really have to print that inane smirking face of Nigel Farage? I am 83 and feel the world is going mad again, as in my childhood. I took quite a lot of pleasure in placing his visage on the floor and placing my not inconsiderate weight firmly on it. A temporary euphoria, but it helped.
Elizabeth Poland

• Those like me who voted for Ukip show deep concern about political issues and despair of the arrogant political class. I have just re-read copies of the Guardian over the last month. For once every national newspaper, including the Guardian, united in one cause – to smear Ukip, its supporters and aims. You were right to be so afraid the people would rise in numbers to reject the lazy stereotypes.
Graham Ball

• I am a gay man of working-class origin with a Nigerian partner and I voted Ukip. Thank you for putting me straight that I’m a swivel-eyed member of the far right (It wasn’t just the far-right’s night in Europe, G2, 27 May).
John Davison

• So you’ve had an election and a party you don’t like has “won”. It’s called democracy. Get over it.
Derek Parkes

• David Cameron has said many times he would like to see changes in the EU. It would be helpful if he would tell us what the changes are he wishes to see.
David Hurry
Hurstpierpoint, West Sussex

• If we have to have a referendum about leaving the EU, could we have a leaflet containing Simon Sweeney’s letter asking “What has the EU ever done for us?” (Letters, 11 January 2013) sent to all households to help them make their decision?
Cherry Weston

• Was the lovely picture of dawn overlooking Hope in the Peaks (In the pink, 27 May) a deliberate attempt to raise the mood? If so, it was appreciated.
Kevin Quinn
Walton on Thames, Surrey

I am writing because there is an outside chance of it being published and therefore read by somebody in the leadership of the Labour party (Split over how to win back alienated voters, 27 May). I am a member of the party but I hesitate to renew my membership. In its frequent email messages it is clear that there is only one thing required of the membership: donations. That and the footslogging at election time. I have become convinced that the party leadership has no interest whatsoever in the thoughts of its members, and I rather suspect that this might be the case with all the major parties.

There is something arrogant and patronising about the modern politician; professional politicians and their apparatchiks have little understanding of how ordinary people live and work but believe that they can still count on our votes. The recent European elections will, I hope, have brought home to bear the result of their arrogance. I believe they are incapable of changing; they possess neither the understanding, the imagination or the forthrightness to breach the gap. Leaders are advised by people who are as out of touch as those they are advising. No doubt they will apologise to the public and carry on regardless.

I have no intention of switching my vote to Ukip but may not wish to be a member of a party that does not wish to listen. A few years ago, the 2015 election was an election waiting to be won outright by the Labour party. That chance may have been squandered, and unless Mr Miliband can come up with some very clear policies on energy, transport and taxation, then I feel he will not win it.
Philip Robinson
Midhurst, West Sussex

• If I’ve understood the electoral rules correctly, a substantial part of the Liberal Democrat voter base has turned towards Labour since the coalition came to power – and this is without the Labour party saying much, if anything, to encourage this trend. This switch largely accounts for Labour’s steady if unspectacular showing in the polls over recent times and its potency in many marginals. Given the rise of Ukip and the now not too unbelievable threat of a Johnson-Farage government after May 2015, would it really kill the Labour party to be more vocal in their courting of Lib Dem voters? Concrete commitments to electoral and House of Lords reform plus progressive property and green taxes should do the trick. I cannot see how anyone serious on the centre-left could object to any of these ideas, and it could have the great bonus prize of consigning Clegg and his Orange-Bookers to their well-deserved fate as footnotes in UK political history.
Bill Kerry

• Larry Elliott is dead right: an economic system that fails to meet the needs of people is heading nowhere but to its own destruction (Voters who refuse to accept the blame, 26 May). The upward surge in wealth to create undreamed-of riches for the top 1% is unsustainable. Capitalism needs a circular flow of wealth and income back into the economy to work, not their salting away in tax havens. The signs of market failure are all around us, in employment, housing and energy most prominently.

Yet the main parties still seem more interested in trying to manage the status quo rather than change it. Ukip’s scapegoating of Eurocrats and immigrants is seductive but irrelevant. Miliband’s “responsible capitalism” gets closest but even here many in his own party appear fearful of too radical an approach to rectifying a failed system and to moving towards a more democratic, fairer and sustainable future.

Turbo-capitalism has had its day. Sustainable solutions need to move beyond the Greens, into the mainstream. Labour needs to grasp this nettle and generate a clear alternative narrative. It has the capacity but has it the will?
Roy Boffy

• After a diet of “this man isn’t fit to be prime minister because he eats a bacon sandwich in an odd fashion” being passed off as serious political commentary, it was a relief to read that Ed Miliband “is seen as a decent person with principles” (Keep calm but do better, 26 May). Just the kind of person I’d like to vote for.
Les Bright
Exeter, Devon

Natalie Bennett, leader of the Green party. Photograph: Sarah Lee

Like many, I’m left wondering how different the depressing outcome of recent elections might have been if Farage hadn’t replaced Katie Price as the most ubiquitous of all media stars. And while Ukip was given top billing right across the media, the Green party was barely mentioned in passing. Only Caroline Lucas made it on to Question Time, once. In our celebrity culture, profile and name recognition define success. If you’re not known, you’re nothing. The Greens must have seemed like losers to those who even registered their candidacy. Yet polls offering a choice of policies (unattributed to parties) show that Green policies are the most popular of all.

But the distortion is not over. Now, post-election, I find myself lumped together with Ukip supporters in a “protest vote” against the big three! Shameful journalistic laziness, or a fundamental ignorance of what Green means to those who ticked that box? Green is more than a conviction. When you believe, as I do, that – without abandoning greedy consumerism, fossil fuels and ecocide – we are heading for climate chaos and devastation, there’s simply no alternative. Not while Miliband and Cameron cling to Business as Usual as if they didn’t know any better, and the BBC keeps its vow of silence every time more Arctic ice crashes to the sea. Green is not a protest vote. It’s a way forward out of this mess we’re in. It’s hope, not hate.
Sue Hampton
Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire

• To win a majority in next year’s election, it is clear that Labour, and Ed Miliband in particular, needs to be bolder and more courageous in order to challenge the way Ukip has tapped into the disenchantment of many voters with the political establishment. To decide not to put up a Labour candidate in Brighton Pavilion against Caroline Lucas would be a huge statement – it would explicitly recognise that she is a superb MP who would be a huge loss to progressive and liberal politics if she was defeated and show that Labour is a party committed to environmental issues. I recognise that many Labour supporters in Brighton would understandably be upset by such a decision but the political advantages could be significant. Locally, if Labour do put up a candidate there is a risk that the Greens and Labour could split the progressive vote and let the Conservative candidate win, and, nationally, by recognising that Labour is a “green” party, potential Green party voters in marginal constituencies would be encouraged to vote Labour to keep the Conservatives out. Most important, it would show that Labour is prepared to think outside the box of conventional party politics which is clearly, rightly or wrongly, alienating many voters.
Paul Cooper

The Jarrow Crusade in 1936. The month-long walk saw hundreds march from north-east England to London to protest against unemployment. Photograph: Keystone/Getty Images

Nineteen million unemployed across Europe (Editorial, 27 May)? What a shocking waste of lives and manpower when so much needs to be done – housing, environment, education, health services, for a start. How can Europe’s governments justify such waste? The strongest criticism of capitalism and privatisation is that companies have no concern for citizens’ wellbeing. Their job is just to maximise profits for the benefit of a privileged few. It is time governments reasserted their authority – stopped countries being run by the unelected heads of unaccountable corporations for their individual profit, and began to organise the countries of Europe for the benefit of all its citizens. Or the 19 million might start voting neo-Nazi in bigger numbers. It has happened.
Tony Cheney
Ipswich, Suffolk

• The real lesson for our political leaders is that if you adopt 1930s policies, you get 1930s politics.
Peter Coss
Malvern, Worcestershire

Horse Logging On The Balmoral Estate

Horse logging on the Balmoral estate. Photograph: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty

George’s Monbiot’s article (I’d vote yes, to rid Scotland of these feudal landowners, 20 May) presents a tired picture of landowners being a problem for rural Scotland rather than one of the drivers in creating an even brighter future. Mr Monbiot mentions the Country Land and Business Association but fails to make clear that they do not represent Scottish landowners – Scottish Land & Estates does.

His lamentable lack of understanding of rural Scotland extends to his thoughts on wildlife and grouse moors. Land managers are increasingly answerable to legislation and codes of practice from Scottish government and Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH). Self-regulation has also been drawn together under Wildlife Estates Scotland (WES) accreditation.

WES was established in 2010 by Scottish Land & Estates and convened a steering group comprising land managers, Cairngorms National Park Authority, RSPB Scotland, SNH and the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust. The project is endorsed at EU level and supported by the minister for environment and the Scottish government.

Mr Monbiot doesn’t appear to be aware that landowners with different management perspectives – both east and west of the Cairngorms massif – are involved in this initiative. Indeed, one he singles out for criticism – Balmoral – has just been independently assessed and exceeded the accreditation standard.

While Mr Monbiot may wish to disregard the positive work of Scottish landowners for his own ideological purposes he should at least make attempts to research his subject properly.
Douglas McAdam
Chief executive, Scottish Land & Estates

• George Monbiot is right to point out the problems of land ownership in Scotland, but probably wrong in suggesting that independence is the way to address them. Significant progress was made in the early years of devolution under the Labour/Liberal Democrat coalition to tackle land ownership. However, since the Scottish National party took over, the momentum has been lost, with the SNP apparently too willing to pay obeisance at the courts of Donald Trump and Rupert Murdoch.

Independence is actually the cause of the problem. At the time of the wars of independence Edward I was already reducing the feudal privileges of the great landowners in England. When the Scottish lords cried “Freedom” it wasn’t freedom for the peasants that they had in mind, but the preservation of their privileges against the constraints that they might be put under. It took a further 690 years to abolish feudalism (at least in name) in Scotland. The devolved parliament already has the potential to improve matters, it is the will that is needed.
Bob Floyd

• It is difficult to understand why a piece on the crucial issue of unequal land-ownership in the Highlands had to be shoehorned into the all-consuming and polarising debate over Scottish independence, rather than being allowed to stand on its own.

There are a great many pressing political issues in Scotland which do not need to and should not be reduced to bit players in a simplistic yes versus no debate – not least because a devolved Scotland already has powers to act. Notably, George Monbiot’s piece singled out the Scottish government and Fergus Ewing – both SNP – for “kiss[ing] the baronial boot” – so it is hard to see how the prescription of independence would necessarily improve anything.

But he also rightly criticised the failings of the UK government when it came to lack of action over taxation and subsidy levels for major landowners. Tellingly, the prime minister’s willingness to bend over backwards for the grouse-shooting lobby was revealed recently by his decision that the police should have to subsidise the costs of shotgun licenses.

So why not just accept that there is action that both the UK and Scottish governments need to take?
Donald Campbell

• It is not necessary to break up Britain to deal with private land-ownership issues in the Highlands and the management of some estates. Power exists under devolution that would be enhanced following a no vote; the previous Labour/Liberal government having delivered the radical Land Reform Act that led to successful community buyouts by crofters in Assynt and islanders on Eigg, among others. I have campaigned since 1997 for a land-use management plan for the Highlands and the restoration of the Caledonian pine forest. There are many areas of the Highlands where forest regeneration has been taking place over the last 25 years. Royal Deeside contains some of the larger Scots Pine forests, saved from the axe by our royal family.

The SNP’s track record on the environment invites scrutiny. The Scots pine is rightly Scotland’s national tree but it did not prevent the SNP convener of my council’s planning committee in Big Tree Country using his casting vote recently, which resulted in the felling of one (a memorial site), probably around 250 years old, to make way for a plastic sports pitch when other solutions were possible. The UK has 15 national parks, of which only two are in Scotland (both created by the previous government). The SNP white paper doesn’t even mention the subject; despite the founding father of national parks being a Scot (John Muir) and a campaign presented to parliament for a National Parks Strategy for Scotland, the SNP have rejected calls to create new ones.

In conclusion, I do not recognise Monbiot’s description of the Highlands and he should check his facts before extolling the virtues of nationalism as a cure for their problems.
Cllr Mike Barnacle
Independent, Kinross-shire ward of Perth & Kinross council

• George Monbiot’s vision of rewilding the uplands of Scotland might also encompass the lowlands described in Damian Carrington’s piece about the Somerset levels (Taming the floods, Dutch-style, 19 May) in this case, by returning the landscape to meres (or possibly broads after the same extraction of peat which shaped the Norfolk landscape). Farmers might profit from the peat extraction and then boat-based tourism.

What might be done in the Fens (where the expensively drained alluvial soil has long since disappeared), by way of connecting the cathedral cities through a network of waterways in what has been called England’s Holy Land, fair makes the head spin.

However, Monbiot should not hope that Scottish land reformers such as Andy Wightman become independent when they are needed in our joint struggle against overvalued land all over Britain (which is worst with urban land).
DBC Reed

Teaching modern history in recent decades, I got used to our classroom assumption that, after its past disunity and conflict, Europe had finally achieved an ideal cooperative unity that was, for all its minor blemishes, a very stable part of the post-second world war status quo. So it is distressing in retirement to observe the current dysfunctional course of events in Europe described in Julian Coman’s excellent cover story (What can save the European Union? 16 May).

At worst, the risk from this European social dislocation is that the union won’t be able to peacefully hold itself together with its ideals intact and that, paradoxically, we will see once again a resort to physical coercion in an effort to maintain its structural integrity.

One of the big questions of our time is whether, in the event of continued neoliberal global pressure on Europe, its social institutions will be able to withstand the strain. Let’s hope the history students of the future won’t be contemplating a parallel between catastrophic economic decline and conflict early in the 21st century with the cataclysmic events of the 1930s and 40s.
Terry Hewton
Adelaide, South Australia

• Discussing the European parliament, Julian Coman asks “what is the point of it?”, since all major decisions are taken by national governments or the commission. The political parties don’t answer the question and apparently don’t care. As the television channels dutifully labelled their campaign messages “Party election broadcast for the European parliament”, the parties (with the sole exception of the Greens) offered no manifesto or policies that they will pursue in Strasbourg, further encouraging cynicism and apathy towards the election.

Ukip and the Lib Dems advocated only leaving or remaining in the EU – action that can be implemented only by the UK parliament, with or without the assistance of a referendum. Both Labour and the Conservatives used their air time and their election leaflets to campaign for Westminster. The SNP excelled in producing a campaign broadcast for the Scottish independence referendum without any mention of the EU, parliament or election.

Until the European parliament gains more authority and (at least in the UK) respect, most voters will continue to believe that the political complexion of their MEPs is irrelevant, and vote (or not) accordingly.
Daniel Bowles
Monamhor Glen, Isle of Arran, UK

The future of energy

Simon Jenkins’s piece on “the horrors of coal” (23 May) raises many contentious issues. His underlying thesis that our global dependency on coal is an economic, environmental, health and social evil is undeniable, especially here in Australia where politicians of all political persuasions – apart from the Greens – are in thrall to the mining magnates.

However, when he uses this argument as the foundation to advocate equally dubious sources of power, including coal-seam gas and nuclear energy, he is proposing that we leap, lemming-like, from the coal-fired frying pan into the carbon-fuelled global inferno. These, his preferred options to coal, are his real “intermittent renewables” not least because of their limited availability and true costs of exploitation.

We must plan to abandon coal and its derivatives at the earliest opportunity, if current global warming forecasts are credible. Yes, there are opportunities to greatly reduce our carbon footprint in terms of overall energy usage, one example being our current dependency on the inefficient, polluting and outdated internal combustion engine.

May I suggest that Jenkins refer to the exhaustive work of Professor Ian Lowe of Griffith University in Australia, whose doctoral research was under the auspices of the UK Atomic Energy Authority, on the topic of true energy sustainability. Lowe has demonstrated that we can, if we choose to make the effort to overcome the powerful vested interests, move to a totally clean renewable energy future within our lifetime.
Noel Bird
Boreen Point, Queensland, Australia

Economic snake oil

In pointing out that university economics departments are in denial, Aditya Chakrabortty (16 May) might also have pointed out that their graduates find their way into the treasury and economic arms of governments (inter alia, also groups that maintain recruitment of those who are willing to respect economic orthodoxy) across the world. Here their economic advice against environmental action – climate change in particular – makes for an intense irony: economics has a pretension toward a scientific basis, but it retains theoretical structures despite contrary evidence; it obstructs action on the findings of truly scientific endeavour, whose prime motivation is the willingness to seek evidence in the real world and to discard any construct for which there are contrary indications.

Doubt and consequent willingness to change are the hallmark of good science – not a reason to defer essential action.
David Blest
Dilston, Tasmania, Australia

• The trick when selling snake oil is not to let the punters check what’s in the bottles. The first law of tertiary religions is that you do not question the high priest. Whether you think of economics as purveying snake oil or as a third-rate religion, the important thing to remember is that any scientific enquiry relies on robust debate.

Anything less is just smoke and mirrors. Which is probably why we are all still suffering from the global financial crisis.
Keith Edwards
Auckland, New Zealand

Wrong kind of development

Your report concerning the former Commonwealth Development Corporation’s funding of development projects offers a rare insight into the reach of western ideology (9 May). The existence of the report presupposes that its contents are newsworthy if not shocking, while the fact that nothing untoward, let alone unconscionable, has been perpetrated is evidenced by the organisation’s transparent defence of its strategy.

The director of the World Development Movement, Nick Dearden, is spot on in criticising the UK government for exporting a “highly ideological form of ‘development’ which helps big business”. But this is not a party political point; the same practices would continue under a Labour government. Rather, it’s a manifestation of the prevailing paradigm in all western so-called democracies that are predicated on the absurd presumption that capitalist profiteering is the only means of furthering development.

Although Jonathan Glennie’s comment questions the current approach, he too begins by affirming the trope that “[t]here is nothing wrong with using public money to support private-sector development”. He concludes by suggesting a change of organisation to replace the CDC since it is losing credibility.

Since we can infer that Glennie and the Guardian correspondent are both as outraged as they presume the public will be upon learning about CDC’s practice, it’s a shame that neither is willing to grapple with the fundamental problem: it’s not the message or the organisation that needs changing, but the underlying ideological paradigm.
Andrew Hallifax
Örebro, Sweden

The high cost of rescue

It is obviously distressing for friends and relatives when disaster strikes, such as the disappearance of the Cheeki Rafiki in the Atlantic Ocean, and it is understandable when they implore the authorities to continue searching after they have made the judgment that there is nothing further to be gained (23 May). Search-and-rescue missions are never cheap, and especially when the search area is far from land, as in this case. Coast guards cannot be expected to continue searching for ever – they all have limited budgets and must balance cost with the likelihood of eventual success.

Perhaps the right thing to do is to put the decision as to how much searching to carry out in the hands of those who might need the service. Surely it is possible for maritime insurance companies to offer a search-and-rescue insurance that would allow coast guards to continue their efforts until the insurance cover runs out. It would then be up to those who engage in such hazardous pastimes to purchase the amount of cover they consider reasonable.
Alan Williams-Key
Madrid, Spain

Currency is based on trust

Besides convenience, at the crux of fiat currency since its advent have been control and taxation. But Dave Birch barely acknowledges those (Cashless society?, 16 May). “Economy based on trust” is more of a pipe dream now than ever before – see, for example, the abuses and manipulations that resulted in the recent financial crises that continue to afflict our societies. Neither the memories nor the reputations of the polity or of most of our financial and political leaders are anything one could bank on.
Jack Aslanian
Oakland, California, US


• Regarding your piece Who will win battle for free speech? (16 May), Timothy Garton Ash’s review of global censorship has not a word about the ownership of mainstream media in the US. This effectively censors “political” news, the slant ranging all the way from “patriot” centre-right to “true patriot” crazy-right. I’m sure that Garton Ash has been in US living rooms. How could he have missed that red, white and blue elephant marching across the news-hour TV screens?
Denis O’Connor
Toronto, Canada

• Your piece about convicts’ nicknames (16 May) omits one of the most notorious: Walter “Angel Face” Probyn, also known as the Hoxton Houdini and the Dimpled Diamond, who escaped from prison no fewer than 16 times during his “career”.
Paul Probyn
London, UK

• Meeri Kim gives us the glamorous life of a scientist – getting whipped by a shrimp! (16 May).
R M Fransson
Denver, Colorado, US


I have lost count of the number of times Nigel Farage and Ukip have been smeared as “racist” and “fascist”.

Such abuse goes some way towards explaining Ukip’s electoral successes, as leftists and liberals have so devalued these terms, through misuse and overuse, that they are now just boo words for them to hurl at anyone daring to challenge their beloved dogmas.

The truth is that many of us just don’t like being ruled over by EU bureaucrats, aren’t in favour of ever more “rights” for vicious criminals, and would quite like to see sensible immigration controls.

Keith Gilmour


Nigel Farage has announced that “the people have spoken”. Does he mean the less than 30 per cent of a turnout of about a third of the voters? This means almost exactly one in ten of the population has spoken. But aren’t they shrill?

As Ukip dreams of a Europe that might have existed some time ago, we might quote Margaret Thatcher and say: “You kip if you want to. The rest of us are awake to Europe’s possibilities.”

Len Hollingsworth

Bexley, Kent

In the tradition of the European Commission, is there any reason why fresh elections should not be called immediately? And again and again until the right results are obtained.

David Roberts

Great Gonerby, Lincolnshire

Voters stall the  EU superstate

The European election victories of Nigel Farage’s Ukip and Marine Le Pen’s Front National should be taken seriously by Angela Merkel, who should now rein in her utopian plans for an increasingly remote and undemocratic European superstate. The Euro-scepticism of millions of voters cannot be ignored if the EU is to retain credibility.

Stan Labovitch


Spring white-out  on the road verges

Michael McCarthy (20 May) attributes the abundance of cow parsley on roadside verges to factors such as agricultural fertilisers and car exhaust. It’s true that the cow parsley is in abundance this spring but then so is the may blossom.

I suggest that Michael McCarthy has a stroll along the Ridgeway National Trail near the Uffington White Horse, but he should take his snow goggles because the effect is of a white-out snow effect – hawthorn bushes so covered with blossom so as to seem laden with snow, and at their feet the cow parsley dazzles in unison.

There are no motor cars on the Ridgeway and no fertiliser, and the verges are not cut, and I did note some red campion, herb robert as well as lots of cleavers and buttercups.

For truly unspoilt lanes it is best to look in areas of our countryside with no arable fields, such as  Exmoor, where the lanes are indeed multi-floral.

Penny Reid

Wantage, Oxfordshire

Charles isn’t  always wrong

With the majority of the press out to get Prince Charles, we can do without The Independent joining in (Andreas Whittam Smith, 22 May).

What Prince Charles said about Putin was irrational, stupid and wrong. The Russians should be told that he occasionally talks without thinking and this view neither represents the UK government, nor the British people.

However, Charles often says sensible things that quietly bring government ministers to their senses. Whenever this happens he hardly gets a mention in the press, which uses the same technique to influence the UK electorate against the EU. Good news, ignore; bad news, big headline. I would not like to see Prince Charles silenced.

Malcolm Howard

Banstead, Surrey

England is short of kings with memorable sobriquets: Alfred the Great, Ethelred the Unready and, our most recent, William the Conquerer, who died in 1087. So let our next king be known, not as Charles III, but as Charles the Meddler.

David Ashton

Shipbourne, Kent

I rather think the comparison between Putin and Hitler has more to do with our limited educational system, with its consistent focus on the late German leader. Any close study of Russian history – and be sure that Mr Putin and his advisers have done this – will show greater parallels with the foreign policies of Catherine the Great.

She moved to the south, especially to the Crimea, on the grounds of persecution of Christian minorities by the Ottoman Empire.

When I mention Mr Putin’s advisers, I do so deliberately. Unlike the leaders he is most closely associated with by Western commentators, Mr Putin knows when to stop and he sees the value of listening to his advisers. This was something that Hitler would never do, that Kaiser Bill was unlikely to do, and that Stalin only did when he fully realised his own shortcomings in modern warfare.

Cole Davis

Elets, Russia

Gove’s exam vandalism

In all the discussions over the effects of Micheal Gove’s experiment with free schools it is easy to overlook another result of his ideological meddling with education.

I know several students now taking their science GCSEs who are being forced to take nine examinations right at the end of their course, when only two years ago those exams were spread out over the whole science course. If anyone asks me why this change, my only response could be because Micheal Gove said so, hardly an answer based on good educational evidence. These students are now being required to learn a vast amount of information so that it can be regurgitated in a very short time on a few days in one year.

Now the idea is to remove the practical course work component in the final grade assessment and base everything on even more knowledge that will be assessed in a final written examination. This only makes a bad assessment model even worse.

The previous assessment model enabled students to demonstrate improvement, and was in fact a similar model to that used in university courses.

This destruction of a sound method of assessing students is, in my mind as a former science teacher, one of the worst examples of educational vandalism by a Secretary of State with an agenda driven only by his own ideology and not by reason or evidence.

Brian Dalton


Gods of the modern world

Robert Fisk (21 May) suggests that Amnesty, the Geneva Conventions and the UN are among the greater gods of modern societies. But surely the greatest, the inescapable, the least tolerant, the most demanding of our obedience, is the Economy.

Susan Alexander

Frampton Cotterell, South Gloucestershire

World English dooms irregular verbs

As Jean Elliott pointed out in her letter (24 May), the language is losing irregular verbs such as “wove”. Regularisation is the inevitably consequence of English morphing in to Ancwe (Ancillary World English) as the global lingua-franca.

Robert Craig


Why rubbish recycling is in a mess

Of course Wales is ahead of the rest in recycling rates (“Totally rubbish”, 27 May) because, as I recall, they largely use the box system rather than wheeled  rubbish bins (I used to work for a glass recycling company).

In the box system you get a series of stackable boxes, one for “papers” (paper, cardboard) and one for “containers” (bottles cans, tins). The collection operative hooks the box on to the side of the collection vehicle and sorts the glass from the aluminium, from the plastics, from the steel, and puts any remainder back on the doorstep to educate the householder about what is not recyclable. The stuff on the truck is of high purity and commands the best prices.

There is only one good use for a 240-litre wheeled rubbish bin and that is for 240 litres of rubbish. The householder can hide any sort of stuff in there. If it’s  being used for recycling, it isn’t seen again till it reaches a sorting station.

Millions have been spent trying to sort out the various materials from this system, with steel being the only real success. The material produced is of very poor purity and low value and usually has to be sorted again before it can be used by the can or plastic user. Glass is so bad that it can only be used for road fill, instead of remaking into bottles, where it used to save large amounts of energy.

As we try to recycle more things – batteries, clothes, spectacles, plastic bags etc – simply add them to the box. The operative will sort them, right there, into the correct compartment on the truck. Do you think we will have extra wheeled bins for each of those?

Councils have been seduced by big waste companies into spending huge amounts of our money, on the basis that the more you spend the better it must be, when what we need is a local not-for-profit recycling group employing local people to do the job sensibly.

Brian Head

Faversham, Kent


Still from the 1992 film of John Steinbeck’s short novel Of Mice and Men (1937)

Last updated at 12:01AM, May 27 2014

It would be a grave mistake to exclude US literature from the English GCSE syllabus

Sir, Any proposal to drop US books from the English GCSE syllabus strikes me, a 14-year-old student in London, as contradicting what Britain is all about (May 26). We are a multicultural society, yet if the reports are not exaggerating, Michael Gove is excluding classics such as Of Mice and Men and To Kill a Mockingbird , because teenagers should “focus on works by British authors”. If US students dropped Shakespeare and Dickens, we would say they were being denied a rounded education.

Sarah Moorhouse

London N10

Sir, I studied To Kill a Mockingbird for English O level. Its characters and plot had a profound effect on us. It gave those who rarely read for pleasure the impetus to enjoy literary fiction, and most of all, as a class, we loved it.

Naomi Samuelson

Elstree, Herts

Sir, “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view. Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it,” wrote Harper Lee. As a teacher of English literature I find it strange that Mr Gove apparently assumes that comments like this are not worthy of study. Let us hope that he has been misreported.

Richard Coleman

Appleton, Cheshire

Sir, It is a brillliant idea for students to study only English writers. We could apply it to other subjects: we could discount Pythagoras, Euclid, the whole of calculus, Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Tchaikovsy, Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael, most of the Impressionists, Ibsen, Strindberg, Sartre, Maupassant, Proust, Goethe — oh, the list is endless. Aristotle said “Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all.” He wasn’t English either.

Hazel Leventhal

Borehamwood, Herts

Sir, Perhaps for those studying French GCSEs we should substitute English translations of texts by Racine, Molière, Zola and Hugo.

Nick Phillips


Sir, As a new teacher I struggled with a class of unruly 13-year-olds until starting to read Of Mice and Men . For the first time they were totally gripped; one pupil “stole” a copy to continue reading it at home.

Sheila Taylor Rathgar

Pevensey Bay, E Sussex

Sir, I found that US classics like To Kill a Mockingbird and Of Mice and Men raise far more relevant and important social problems than Jane Austen’s novels. Racism, sexism and disabilities are themes throughout Of Mice and Men while Austen presents women as objects to be passed from father to husband.

Oh, and good luck, Mr Gove, in getting teenagers to take a character called Fanny Price seriously.

Caroline Groves (aged 16)

Hornchurch, Essex

Sir, Harper Lee said: “Mockingbirds don’t do one thing except . . . sing their hearts out for us. That’s why it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.”

In this case the mockingbird represents international literature. I think it would be a sin to ban a book because it was not written by someone from England. In an increasingly global society we must be able to study and take pleasure in other countries’ masterpieces.

Georgia Perkins

Bournemouth, Dorset


SIR – As the Government prepares for the Queen’s Speech and its final legislative programme before the general election, it is time to fulfil a promise of legislation to establish a new public forest management organisation for England.

The Independent Panel on Forestry, established in 2011 after the public outcry that forced the Government to rethink its plans to sell off the public forest estate, made the recommendation for a new body to secure its future. The Government has already publicly made a commitment to this at the earliest opportunity. That time is now.

The Government must take this opportunity, before it is too late, to move beyond the controversies of the past and keep the promises it has made for our forests. A Bill, once passed, will enable the public forest estate to contribute fully to a bright new future for the environment, people and the economy.

Beccy Speight
Chief Executive, Woodland Trust

Stuart Goodall
Chief Executive, Confederation of Forest Industries

Jonathan Porritt
Co-founder, Our Forests

Benedict Southworth
Chief Executive, Ramblers

Hen Anderson
Co-founder, Save Our Woods

Stephanie Hilborne
Chief Executive, The Wildlife Trusts

Maddy Carroll
Campaigns Director, 38 Degrees

Medical notes disclosed

SIR – Insurance company demands for the whole of patients’ records have been going on for some time. Only occasionally is it appropriate to disclose all information held.

It is used for a variety of inquiries, relating to life insurance and more often private medical health claims. Most patients don’t realise just how much of their records is or could be disclosed.

GPs have been raising concerns about this to the General Medical Council and other relevant bodies since this dubious practice started a few years ago. Sadly they have been ignored.

It is an unacceptable intrusion into the privacy of us all and should be stopped.

Dr Paul Loxton
Virginia Water, Surrey

A crowded bathroom

SIR – We have recently had some tiles laid in our bathroom.

They have a swirly pattern in shades of brown.

While sitting in the bathroom, I have been able to study this pattern closely and have found that it is possible to recognise the following with no trouble at all: a dark man with a beard, the life-size heads of Marilyn Monroe and of my Aunt Lucette, a cocker spaniel, a lion’s face, a horse’s head, a Jack Russell puppy, a map of North America, a cherub sitting on a cloud and a Roman centurion.

I’m pretty sure that I will be able to make additions to this list after a few more sittings.

Trevor Allanson
Cheltenham, Gloucestershire

SIR – Most British businesses as well as the majority of British people want a change in our relationship with the European Union, as recent research shows. The European elections provide further proof of this desire for change.

Politicians will argue about the impact of the result, but one thing is clear: the majority of people who voted chose a party (the Conservatives, Green Party or Ukip) that offered a referendum. They voted for change and a chance to have their say.

Political leaders should recognise the power of that vote and set about explaining how they will deliver EU reform, a better deal for Britain and an in/out referendum.

A referendum is needed to address the gaping hole in the democratic legitimacy of our membership of the EU, but it is also vital in efforts to reform the EU and its sprawling institutions. Without a referendum, it is difficult to take seriously claims of a desire to reform the EU, or to trust the people.

As well as committing themselves to a referendum in their 2015 manifestos, all parties must spell out their vision for a reformed EU and what a sensible deal for the United Kingdom would look like. The Conservatives and the Green Party have begun to sketch their vision for the EU, but other parties have only paid lip-service to reform, without providing any detail. Vague promises will only increase voter apathy and the numbers of protest votes.

We have joined the Advisory Council of Business for Britain, in a personal capacity, because it represents the voice of the large, often silent, majority of Britain’s business community who want fundamental changes to the terms of EU membership, backed up with a referendum.

We urge political leaders in Westminster and Brussels to listen and respond to the message of change that the voters have made clear they want now, not later.

Edward Atkin
Founder, Avent & ARCC Innovations

Patrick Barbour
Former Chairman, Barbour Index & Microgen

Lord Bell
Chairman, BPP Communications

Gordon Black
Chairman, Black Family Investments

Roger Bootle
Founder and Managing Director, Capital Economics

Rosemary Brown
Founder and Chairman, Tomorrow’s Achievers

David Buik
Market Commentator, Panmure Gordon & Co

Lars Seier Christensen
Co-Founder & CEO, Saxo Bank

Damon de Laszlo
Chairman, Harwin Plc

Olivia Dickson
Non Exec Director, Investec

Ben Elliot
Founding Director, Quintessentially

Matthew Ferrey
CEO, Ranworth Capital

Lord Flight
Chairman, Flight & Partners Ltd

Mark Florman
Chairman, Time Partners Ltd

Amy Folkes
Director, Folkes Holdings Ltd

Sir Rocco Forte
Exec Chairman, The Rocco Forte Collection

Dr David Hammond
Chartered Accountant

Graham Hampson
Chairman, Silk Hampson Holdings

Oliver Hemsley
CEO, Numis Securities

Sir Michael Hintze
Chairman, CQS Management Ltd

Alexander Hoare
Board member, Hoare & Co

Tony Howard
Director of Logistics, HATS Group

Luke Johnson
Chairman, Patisserie Valerie

Lord Kalms
President, Dixons Retail Plc

John Kersey
Managing Director, Kersey Hairdressing

Paul Killik
Founder, Killik & Co LLP

Stuart Lamb
Chairman, William Lamb Footwear

Ruth Lea
Economic Adviser, Arbuthnot Banking Group

Michael Liebreich
Founder, Bloomberg New Energy Finance

Rupert Lowe
Former Chairman, Southampton Leisure Holdings

Alastair MacMillan
Founding Director, White House Products Ltd

Julie Meyer
Chairman & CEO, Ariadne Capital

Helena Morrissey
CEO, Newton Investment Management

Charlie Mullins
Founder and Managing Director, Pimlico Plumbers

John Nike
Founder, Nike Land Securities

Richard Patient
Managing Director, Indigo Public Affairs

Michael Petley
CIO, The ECU Group Plc

Simon Stilwell
CEO, Liberum Capital

Rhoddy Swire
Founder, Pantheon Ventures

Lord Vinson
Former Director, British Airport Authorities

David Wall
Director of Business Development, I M Group

Michael Webster
Co-Founder, Gorkana

Lord Wei

James Woolf
CEO, Flow East

Advisory Council, Business for Britain
London SW1

SIR – What next regarding EU regulations (Letters, May 26)? Here is one example of a wasteful requirement affecting small businesses.

The Driver Certificate of Professional Competence requires most commercial drivers to be periodically trained for a period of 35 hours. So an employee will not earn a penny for his employer for a week, and the course must be paid for too.

There is no exam, just “training”. The law is so confusing that nobody, including the Vehicle and Operator Services Agency, can give an answer as to whether or not it applies to certain specific cases.

Of course those in the training industry have an interest in telling us that it does apply. It comes into force in September.

When he became Prime Minister, we expected David Cameron to cut red tape. He has failed abysmally.

Mick Moor
Matlock, Derbyshire

SIR – Margaret Thatcher thought she could reform the EEC/EU. She failed. It has to be said that David Cameron is no Margaret Thatcher. He doesn’t stand an earthly.

Rev Philip Foster
Hemingford Abbots, Huntingdonshire

SIR – Mainstream parties echo Margaret Thatcher’s plaint: “We are not getting our message out.” They are fooling themselves. They are getting their message out, and we are hearing it, and we just don’t like it.

Francis Rutter

SIR – Mr Cameron should realise that we have already had a “virtual referendum” on the EU. The Ukip election results make the views of the people very clear.

Norman Vale

SIR – Whatever they say, I fear the main party leaders’ views are best summarised by Dick Tuck’s remark when he lost the California state senate election in 1966: “The people have spoken – the bastards.”

Max Sawyer
Stamford, Lincolnshire

SIR – When the main parties, shocked by the election results, say they now need to listen to the electorate, may I ask what they were doing previously?

Michael Smitten
Shifnal, Shropshire

SIR – The assertion by Philip Hammond, the Defence Secretary, that “voters who want to give us a kicking will return” is wishful thinking. When will the penny drop for Mr Cameron and his friends? Promises for the future will just not do. I insist on being governed by the British Parliament.

Stephen Carpenter
Wisbech, Cambridgeshire

SIR – As a Jew I was horrified by the rise of the far-Right in the European elections. It sends shivers down my spine.

And yet, I voted for Ukip.

Most of my friends tell me I was stupid and that a vote for Ukip is a vote for racists and those who would kick Jews, Muslims and others out of Britain. I do not accuse Nigel Farage of this, but in the long term they may be right.

I voted Ukip to tell the mainstream parties and technocrats in Europe that I am unhappy that my democratic rights have been removed. It seems to voters that unelected busybodies tell them what to do.

Gareth Kreike
Prestwich, Lancashire

SIR – I was disappointed that yesterday’s Obituary column failed to note the death of the Liberal Democrats.

David S Morehead
Salisbury, Wiltshire

SIR – For us keen supporters of the European project, the elections have been a great disappointment. A narrow nationalism has taken hold (even in my native Scotland).

No one denies the EU needs reform, or that there are problems over immigration. But, in an uncertain world, it surely makes sense to work where we can with other nations, especially those on our doorstep.

Andrew McLuskey
Stanwell, Middlesex

SIR – The EU was set up to prevent a repetition of Germany in the Thirties, but because of the way it has been operated by the elite, for the elite, it has driven voters to the extreme Left or Right.

D H Todd
Ripon, North Yorkshire

SIR – We should be grateful that there is a middle-of-the-road party like Ukip, or as in France, many in Britain might have voted for the extreme Right or the extreme Left.

Paul Brazier
Wotton under Edge, Gloucestershire

SIR – As a member of Ukip’s original national committee, I am one of those described as an “outlaw revolutionary” by Iain Martin.

There was probably a majority of erstwhile Conservatives, but the leader, Professor Alan Sked, had been a senior Liberal. I and others had once supported the Labour Party. We were united by a conviction that the European project spelt the end of our democracy and that Britain must leave. I never doubted the cause was right and that eventually our efforts would succeed. Today, this ambition looks ever more likely to be realised.

Colin Bullen
Tonbridge, Kent

SIR – I have noticed a sudden increase in purple ties worn by politicians other than Ukip’s. George Osborne, the Conservative Chancellor of the Exchequer, and Tim Farron, the president of the Liberal Democrats, are examples.

Does this indicate a natural desire to be seen in the winning colours?

Roger Knight
Burton Latimer, Northamptonshire

Irish Times:

Sir, – So, Democratic Left has finally done in the Labour Party. – Yours, etc,


Rosemount Road,


Dublin 7.

Sir, – For the majority of Irish people the unthinkable has happened, Sinn Féin and a diverse group of Independents controlling the agendas in many local authorities.

Perhaps the time has come for another unthinkable or indeed unmentionable development to take place, a coalition of Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael. – Yours, etc,


Blarney Street,


Sir, – I have read and heard thousands of words analysing the Labour Party’s slump, but not one correspondent has touched on my reason for not supporting it.

I find its consistent anti-Catholic bias to be objectionable, and the tomfoolery with the Holy See Embassy was a national and international embarrassment. I am privileged to know many non-religious people who are a credit to our society, but I find anti-religious bias too negative to support. – Yours, etc,


Melbourn Estate,



Sir, – If the elections results are an indication of the make-up of the next government and are anything to go by, then I look forward, on the basis of the election literature that came through my letter-box and the commitments contained therein, to paying no tax, local or national, and enjoying the best welfare, health, and education services in the history of this State! – Yours, etc,


Old Cratloe Road,


Sir, – I assume that your political journalists believe that democracy is a good form of government. I am therefore puzzled that, in describing some parties or policies, they use the words “populist” and “populism” with a morally negative connotation.

The dictionary meaning of the first word is “seeking to represent the interests of ordinary people”; of the second, “political action which seeks to represent the interests of ordinary people”.

Surely representing the interests of ordinary (as well as extraordinary citizens) is what democracy is about? – Yours, etc,


Sydney Parade Avenue,

Dublin 4.

Sir, – Regarding Pat Rabbitte’s recent remark that even John the Baptist couldn’t have saved the Labour Party, for whom has Eamon Gilmore been preparing the way? The party needs a messiah before the next general election or the word “shellacking” won’t be strong enough to describe the result. – Yours, etc,




Co Kildare.

Sir, – Following one of the most serious and prolonged financial crises and recessions faced by any advanced economy, and at the end of an extremely painful and unpopular austerity programme, the Irish electorate punished the Government, voting for left-wing parties and activists.

There were no anti-immigration parties and no anti-immigration vote block.

Well done Ireland. – Yours, etc,


Bellevue Road,


Co Dublin.

Sir, – I did not vote for Sinn Féin in either the local or European elections. However, I now welcome the fact that it has become more mainstream. I believe Sinn Féin’s economic policies will be put under the microscope and that it will be found out, hopefully in time for the electorate to see sense before the next general election, when votes truly do count. – Yours, etc,


Sion Road,


Co Dublin.

Sir, – The strange metamorphosis of Eamon Gilmore. From terrier to lapdog, from opposition roar to government whimper. – Yours, etc,



Moyne Road,


Dublin 6.

Sir, – I am disappointed that any party leader would find it appropriate to use their taxpayer-funded departmental building (Iveagh House) as a substitute for their party headquarters or a hotel conference room when conducting party business. – Yours, etc,


Oxford Road,


Dublin 6.

Sir, – It seems that former Labour voters have decided that – to borrow a phrase from Ruairí Quinn – “we’re not in that space any more”.

If I were asked for advice, I would suggest that certain senior Labour Ministers try from time to time to sound less lofty. I am still smarting from being described as a “caveman” (sic) by the Minister for Communications simply because I don’t have a television and don’t want one.

A small thing to be irritated by, I know. But why annoy voters when it’s not necessary?– Yours, etc,


Rathgar Avenue,

Dublin 6.

Sir, – Regarding Lynn Boylan, a smile is worth 100,000 votes, – Yours, etc,


Oliver Plunkett Hill,


Co Cork.

A chara, – Contrary to its election message, I don’t think Labour is working. – Is mise,


Carrickmines Green,


Dublin 18.

Sir, – The people have spoken. What have they said? “This is not a recession, it’s a robbery.” – Yours, etc,


Roscommon Road,


Co Roscommon.

Sir, – Eileen Gamble has written an excellent article on her experience of the discrimination that constitutes section 37(1) of the Employment Act 1998 (“A gay teacher on coming out in the staffroom”, Education, May 27th). What is most objectionable is that this ability to be fired at will is fully funded and underwritten by the State in its payment to staff in schools and hospitals.

The section particularly impacts on gay staff. It is, however, much more broadly drafted than that . The “religious ethos” ground could perfectly legally operate much like the old marriage ban in the Civil Service to exclude all married women, to exclude people who are cohabiting or “living in sin”, to single mothers, etc, if a particularly conservative religious interpretation were deployed by the institution in question. Society has moved on from the marriage ban days and it is time that all our citizens working for State-funded institutions enjoy the same employment protection as the rest of us. – Yours, etc,


Newtown House,

Henry Street, Limerick.

Sir, – I read with great pride the article by Eileen Gamble. As a primary school teacher who works in a Catholic school, but is openly atheist, I too have felt the pressures of not fitting in with the ethos of my school.

Ms Gamble rightly refers to the sense of community in a school. It is very difficult to be a member of the community when you simply do not belong to it. On the occasion of a prayer service, it can feel like you are under pressure to bless yourself to make yourself fit in. Of course there is no overt pressure; it is instead the implicit pressure of knowing that you are not included.

The law allows for religious discrimination to take place in our State-funded schools. My wages are paid by the taxpayer. This State-sponsored discrimination is reprehensible and it is beyond me how such an archaic system can still exist in today’s world.

I have been told by fellow teachers that I “should be careful” about admitting to being an atheist. To be told that by one of your peers is worrying when we are supposed to be teaching children about valuing each other and respecting everybody.

I look forward to the day when I no longer have to teach religion for half an hour a day, I look forward to being able to refer to “what Catholics believe” as opposed to “what we believe”, but most of all I look forward to the day when I feel valued for my teaching ability as opposed to my religious beliefs. – Yours, etc,


Glen Easton Drive,


Co Kildare.

Sir, – I am a consultant child and adolescent psychiatrist and have been working in Limerick for the past 15 years.

I am concerned about the denial of the existence of severe and enduring mental illness that is creeping into mental healthcare at all levels.

Denial operates to prevent us acknowledging and tackling mental illness in our communities and prevents decision-makers allocating sufficient resources to enable us all to do so.

Denial operates in many ways. Individual patients are sometimes unable to admit to themselves that they are ill. This causes lack of compliance and leads to the need for coercive treatment.

Denial operates in families, where the stigma of psychiatric illness results in families failing to seek help for their loved ones at an early stage in the course of their illness.

Denial operates in the HSE, where a manager has told me that my patients “need a good kick in the arse”.

Psychiatry is repeatedly under-resourced and yet budgets are under spent.

I continue to see young people daily whose lives are blighted not only by the illnesses they are unfortunate enough to suffer from, but also by the ignorance, stigma and denial they face in their journey to recovery.

Investment in child and adolescent mental health makes economic, social and human sense. Let’s do it.– Yours, etc,


O’Connell Street,


A chara, – I read with interest Dr Kieran Moore’s rather dismissive tone towards his colleagues who are “co-ordinators” or “managers”, questioning whether these staff members contribute to the assessment and treatment of patients, and if their roles are audited, defined and and evidence-based (May 26th).

First, it is rather disingenuous to suggest that a post within a hospital does not have a specific and clearly defined role, approved by human resources and available on the HSE website for inspection. Second, to suggest that an infection prevention and control co-ordinator, a cardiac rehabilitation coordinator, a transplant co-ordinator and falls management coordinator are not evidence-based and do not contribute to patient outcomes is also unfair. In fact, doctors are the largest culprits in poor hand hygiene. Third, adding another layer of bureaucracy with respect to a “Management Council” is just plain pandering to your readership. Yes, more clinical staff are needed in the healthcare system. However, a standardised approach to a particular condition, based on evidence and monitored regularly through audit or managed by experts in their field, is exactly what Irish patients should expect and deserve. – Is mise,


Priory Grove,

Stillorgan, Co Dublin.

Sir, – The announcement that the HSE is to eliminate the mandatory third-level requirement for top managerial posts (Home News, May 26th) is another appalling day for our patients and our health service. – Yours, etc,


Convent Lane,


Sir, – John Bellew ( May 26th) asks for a justification for Ireland remaining neutral during the second World War. Ireland’s justification was the same as that of the United States, Norway, Denmark, Yugoslavia, Greece, Belgium, Luxembourg, Holland, and the Soviet Union; that is, a mix of self-preservation and an ignorance of the true nature of the Nazi threat. The difference between those neutral countries and neutral Ireland is only that they were attacked by the Axis and we were not.

A second reason for neutrality is that Ireland could not defend itself, with a small Army and no air defence – a fact lethally illustrated when a single German aircraft killed 28 people with four bombs during the North Strand bombing on May 31st, 1941.

If Ireland had joined the Allies, the immediate consequence would have been a daylight raid by hundreds of German bombers over a completely defenceless Cork.

As the British were unable to defend their own airspace, how many fighters could they spare for Ireland?

At the very least, Ireland joining the Allies would have meant that Eamon de Valera would have had to give the British complete military control over Ireland for its own defence.

Ireland could have waited until 1944 by which time the German’s offensive capability had been sufficiently degraded, but joining the winning side when the result was decided would have been a craven act.

Finally, the Nazis did kill millions of people, but we cannot condemn Ireland for not declaring war on Germany in 1939 because of a slaughter that was only officially and secretly sanctioned by the Nazis in 1942 at the Wannsee conference, and whose full extent was only discovered in 1945. – Yours, etc,


Woodville Grange,


Co Westmeath.

Sir, – I noticed that the turnout for the European elections in the Dublin constituency was 43 per cent, comparing very poorly to a 55 per cent turnout for both the non-Dublin constituencies. If the electorate in Dublin cannot be bothered to vote, I don’t see why the rest of us should be bothered to endure the expense and white noise of a directly elected major for the city. – Yours, etc,




Co Cork.

Sir, – The website of the Office for the Promotion of Migrant Integration states that one of its functions is to promote the integration of legal immigrants into Irish society. This office forms part of the Department of Justice. At the moment most categories of foreign nationals who wish to become Irish citizens through naturalisation are required to pay an application fee of €175 and a further €950 when the certificate of naturalisation is issued.

It would be difficult to find a greater barrier to integration than that placed in front of intending citizens by these obscene and unjust fees. – Yours, etc,


Killarney Asylum

Seekers Initiative,

New Street,


Sir, – The assertion by Stephen Collins that those who object to a royal presence at our 1916 commemorations are somehow “stuck in the past” might be true for some, but perhaps not all (“Don’t let minority stuck in past take over 1916 events”, Opinion & Analysis, May 24th).

There is the view that, to put it crudely, we’ve already “kissed and made up”. And that any further displays of affection might cast us as a pair of love-struck teenagers, making up after a protracted and painful tiff. “I’m sorry.” “No, really, it was all my fault.” “I love you.” “No, I love you more. “You hang up.” “You hang up first.”

Queen Elizabeth’s visit to Ireland was a resounding success, as was the President’s return visit to Britain. The speeches have been made, the hands have been shaken. A royal presence at a uniquely Irish commemoration might prompt some to call on our respective governments to “get a room!” I’m just not sure how comfortable I am with that image. – Yours, etc,



Dublin 14.

Sir, – I strongly object to the current National Lottery advertising campaign. It is a cynical exercise in trying to normalise what is in fact gambling. What exactly constitutes “play” in the selection of numbers? This phrasing sends a message to young adults that this is a harmless activity and not a potentially addictive habit. – Yours, etc,


The Crescent,


Dublin 3.

Sir, – I am glad to be able to tell you that over the past weekend the pair of resident swans in St Stephen’s Green pulled a rabbit out of the hat, so to speak, and may now be seen carefully chaperoning seven lively little balls of fluff around the lake there.

Still no ducklings or moorhen chicks though. – Yours, etc,


Greenville Place,

Clanbrassil Street, Dublin 8.

Irish Independent:

Published 28 May 2014 02:30 AM

Suddenly, a window of opportunity has opened. Responding to the clear if brutal message sent by the voters to this Government as a whole, but particularly to Labour, Eamon Gilmore has acted with honour and pragmatism.

Also in this section

The poorest continue to suffer in our uneven society

Labour needs a clean slate and a new strategy

Letters to the Editor: Sharing memories of Lourdes

His resignation makes possible the reconstruction and remodelling of the Labour Party.

What the Labour Parliamentary Party addresses now is an extraordinarily difficult and delicate process of management change, requiring a quantum leap in strategic thinking.

Labour’s prime objective is not to ‘save this Government’, not to ‘save the party’, not even to save its individual members’ ‘own’ seats – though, if they fail to save as many of those seats as possible – in the long term – the entire operation would be academic and irrelevant!

The goal must be to save and revive the presence in Irish politics of that distinctive Irish constitutional social democracy for which the Labour Party stood traditionally. An Irish version of a remodelled Scandinavian future to be built by Irish political action.

Mention philosophy, ideology, even ‘vision’ – and the conventional, standard Irish ‘political animal’ becomes uneasy. Yet one of the lessons to be learnt from the elections is that it was not only ‘who will pay the mortgage, provide the basic sustenance, pick up the medical bills’. It was the not knowing ‘where we are’ and ‘where we might be going, if we only knew’, which caused the bitter angst and the visceral need to kick an out-of-date Government.

Whoever Labour chooses as the new party leader must be able to articulate and communicate a vision, a vision for our people in a century where everything is changing at an unprecedented pace.

It may well be that Labour has left it late and that we must settle for a two-election strategy, with some parched and hungry years in the wilderness.

But if the prize were to be what drove our ancestors, a truly Irish Republic, which cherished all the children of the nation, it would be more than worth the wait.





I must agree with your correspondent (‘The right to not vote’, Letters, May 27) that “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”.

The suggestion that “the ballot paper should have a box saying “none of the above” would be more effective if voting were compulsory.

This might be vastly more effective if, should that pseudo-candidate get a larger share of the vote than any of the named ones, the latter would all forfeit their deposits and a new election should take place, which they would be barred from standing in.

Of course, postal voting would have to be available, especially for those who know they will be unable to attend the polling station on the day.

If this were implemented, the electorate’s displeasure would be even clearer than merely “a rule that if 75pc of the electorate do not vote, that no one is elected”.





Fianna Fail and Fine Gael have now become an historicised monolith in one sense. Their historical origins and character – based on the question of political self-determination – ignore the economic foundations of political health or ailment.

Yet, even within its political rationale, Fianna Fail has reneged on its republican credentials, its very originary principle. Whether the cause of a united Ireland is desirable is a matter of personal political conscience, yet in casting itself as desirous of such, FF has cancelled its historical justification for existence.

FG, in its assent or at least acquiescence in a divided island, maintains a certain political credibility. Yet this is even deceptive: it would further effect the evolutionary advent of a united Ireland through advocacy of greater European integration.




I wish to respond to the article ‘Hogan wants review of rural quangos as €11m in funding goes on pay’ (Irish Independent, May 13).

On a general note, it is most curious to hear of the minister’s intention to carry out a review of our rural companies in this manner.

We welcome any opportunity that will enable us to present the facts of the matter in terms of our value for money. We are confident that any independent assessment will verify that our companies do represent best value for the taxpayers’ money.

In fact, the Smith Everett Value for Money Report shows that for every €1 the State spends on a Local Development Company, that company then generates an additional contribution to the Exchequer of just over €2.70. This in effect means Local Development Companies cost the Exchequer nothing.

In relation to the administration and salary references in the article, a few salient points must be made. Firstly, a number of the salaries as laid out by the department’s table were overstated. Despite this, all salary scales and administration caps adhere to the caps that have been set out for these companies by their funder bodies, including the department themselves, as the minister is fully aware. These companies are also regularly audited at national and EU level.

Secondly, the administration costs sanctioned by the department enable these partnership companies to deliver a whole suite of programmes such as the Local and Community Development Programme (LCDP), LEADER, Tus, Rural Social Scheme (RSS), Jobs Clubs, Local Employment Service (LES), CE Schemes, Back to Work Enterprise Allowance (BTWEA) and many more enterprise, training, activation, educational and community supports.

Thirdly, the administration figure quoted has been quoted disingenuously and does not reflect the actuality of the situation as I am setting out, albeit briefly.

While it is important to correct the record, we must always keep our focus on delivering value for money and the range of supports to the communities that need them as we have done so for the past 25 years, and perhaps the minister might like to highlight some of this good work for a change.





The news that Labour leader Eamon Gilmore is to step down is to be greeted with puzzlement given that Fine Gael’s performance was nothing to boast about yet there are no moves plotted against Enda Kenny.

Mr Gilmore said that the Irish people had sent the Government a message via the ballot box and the Labour Party in particular.

The Labour Party needs to return to its roots. It needs to assert itself as a true partner in Government and needs to do so with immediate effect.

This should include wielding clout and providing leadership in areas that are not under their direct control or jurisdiction. For example, the strike by cabin crew in Aer Lingus is looming large this Friday and could result in a loss of €10m to Aer Lingus, not to mention the cost to the tourism sector. The Fine Gael Minister for Transport stands by on the sidelines.

The Labour Party needs to step in and insist on an intervention.



Irish Independent


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