30 May2014 Settled

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 naval vessel Priceless

Mary’s home and settled

Scrabbletoday, I win one game, and get over 400 perhaps Mary will win tomorrow


Charles Swithinbank – obituary

Charles Swithinbank was a glaciologist who worked in both polar regions, with scientists from Britain, the US and the Soviet Union

Charles Swithinbank, glaciologist and polar specialist

Charles Swithinbank: glaciologist and polar specialist Photo: MARTIN HARTLEY/EYEVINE

6:29PM BST 29 May 2014


Charles Swithinbank, who has died aged 87, was a glaciologist and polar specialist whose experience of the Arctic and Antarctic was unsurpassed in its variety.

Having started his remarkable career as a member of an international expedition to the Antarctic, Swithinbank went on to serve successively on Canadian, American, Soviet, British and Chilean expeditions in the polar regions.

He had only just graduated when he sailed south as assistant glaciologist on the Norwegian-British-Swedish Antarctic Expedition of 1949-52. This expedition, under the leadership of the Norwegian John Giaever, established a base called Maudheim in the Norwegian territory of Dronning Maud Land, in the sector of Antarctica to the south of Africa. For land travel the expedition used both the traditional dog teams and over-snow tracked vehicles , and the scientists brought a new level of expertise to research into the Antarctic ice cover, carrying out deep drilling and seismic measurement of ice thickness.

A photograph taken by Swithinbank of the British Antarctic Survey’s research ship Bransfield steering between icebergs

Swithinbank was particularly concerned with measuring the snow nourishment and rate of movement of the (floating) ice shelf on which Maudheim was situated. He was also involved in the ice drilling programme, which was so successful that in the second year, as Giaever records in his book The White Desert (1954), he was able to lay on the expedition leader’s plate an ice core formed of snow that had fallen in about the year 1800. Never one to miss a chance to improve his knowledge, Swithinbank also became fluent in Norwegian during his two years at Maudheim.

He and the other three British members of the expedition received the Polar Medal with Antarctic clasp .

Charles Winthrop Molesworth Swithinbank was born in Pegu, Burma, on November 17 1926, the son of Bernard Swithinbank of the Indian Civil Service, and educated at Bryanston. He then served for two years with the Royal Navy, in which he was commissioned as a sub-lieutenant .

ln 1946 he went up to Pembroke College, Oxford, where he read Geography and rowed in the University trial eights, narrowly missing his Blue. He also took part in Oxford University expeditions to Iceland in 1947 and, the following year, to Gambia . In 1952 he returned to Oxford to write up his Antarctic results for a DPhil, which he was awarded in 1955.

His early Antarctic experience left Swithinbank with a passion for glaciology, and in 1955 he became a research fellow at the Scott Polar Research Institute in Cambridge, to study the distribution of sea ice as it affects shipping in the Canadian Arctic. This research, which was funded by the Canadian government, involved familiarisation with sea ice conditions on a cruise aboard the icebreaker Labrador in the Baffin Island region, and then a careful scrutiny of ships’ logs and other records held mainly in eastern North America. Although the ice atlas that he published was little used operationally, being soon overtaken by regular ice reconnaissance flights and later by satellite imagery, it remained a valuable record of sea ice variations as these may be affected by climate change.

In 1959 Swithinbank moved from Cambridge to take up an appointment as a research associate and lecturer at Michigan University. While based there he spent three summers in the Antarctic with American parties engaged in investigations into the Ross Ice Shelf, and the glaciers that feed it, in New Zealand’s Ross Dependency.

A photograph taken by Swithinbank of Russian scientists sunbathing at Novolazarevskaya station

He then saw the possibility of returning to Dronning Maud Land as the US representative at the Soviet Union’s ice shelf station Novolazarevskaya, newly established under the Antarctic Treaty. However, he found that for this post he needed American citizenship which, because he had been born in Burma, he could not easily acquire. He therefore returned to Britain to take up a further research appointment at the Scott Polar Research lnstitute, and proceeded to the Antarctic as British representative at the Soviet station; during two summers and a winter he continued his ice shelf studies and also became fluent in Russian.

Swithinbank remained at the Scott Polar Research Institute until 1976; from 1971 he was employed as chief glaciologist, and from 1974 as head of the Earth Sciences Division of the British Antarctic Survey. During this period, in addition to a return visit to the Antarctic with the Americans in the summer of 1967-68, he took part as sea ice specialist in the transit of Canada’s Northwest Passage by the supertanker Manhattan in 1969, and in the return passage to the North Pole by the nuclear submarine Dreadnought in 1971.

In 1976 Swithinbank moved to the British Antarctic Survey’s new headquarters in Cambridge. Every other season he spent several months in the Antarctic, principally engaged in directing radio echo-sounding flights by Twin Otter aircraft to measure the thickness of ice cover over the Antarctic Peninsula and within the British Antarctic Territory. For optimum results, many of these flights were conducted at extremely low altitude — 30ft or less. Swithinbank (himself a qualified pilot and an excellent navigator) flew mainly with the great polar airman Giles Kershaw, with whom he developed a fine rapport. He and Kershaw discovered extensive areas of level snow-free ice in the Patriot Hills .

Within weeks of his retirement from the British Antarctic Survey in late 1986, Swithinbank joined Kershaw and a Canadian-based commercial airline in a series of test flights, with support from the Chilean Air Force, flying from the Chilean station Marsh in the South Shetland Islands. The mission was successful in finding natural runways suitable for the landing of aircraft of any size on wheels. In the 1987-88 season, flights were inaugurated for mountaineers, skiers and other tourists, and thereafter became an established feature of the Antarctic calendar.

Swithinbank continued to travel widely, with a particular interest in the application of remote-sensing techniques, especially satellite imagery, to glaciological problems. He published a lengthy report on Antarctic ice cover for the United States Geological Survey, and lectured widely at international meetings and at universities in America and elsewhere. He was also an accomplished lecturer on tourist cruises to the Canadian Arctic and to the Antarctic.

He was the author of An Alien in Antarctica, Reflections upon Forty Years of Exploration and Research on the Frozen Continent (1997); Forty Years on Ice, A lifetime of Exploration and Research in the Polar Regions (1998); Foothold on Antarctica, The First International Expedition (1949-1952) (1999); and Vodka on Ice, A Year with the Russians in Antarctica (2002);

Swithinbank’s awards included the Patron’s Medal of the Royal Geographical Society and the Vega Medal of the Royal Swedish Geographical Society. He is commemorated by six place names in various sectors of the Antarctic.

He married, in 1960, Mary Fellows (née Stewart), with whom he had a son and a daughter.

Charles Swithinbank, born November 17 1926, died May 27 2014


Civilians leaving the besieged city of Homs in February. ‘The world has stood aghast as Syrians clamour for an end to their suffering.’ Photograph: Afp/AFP/Getty Images

For more than three years our organisations have worked to provide aid to Syrians in desperate need against a backdrop of failed international political leadership to end the crisis. More than 6.5 million are internally displaced and half the population (about 10 million) are in need of humanitarian assistance. Together we deliver vital assistance to millions of people whose lives have been shattered by this conflict. Syrian groups have reached many millions more. Humanitarian workers continue to deliver in extraordinary and often dangerous circumstances – this is the job, to serve those in need. It is a job that is getting more treacherous and difficult by the day.

More than 90 days ago the UN security council unanimously adopted a resolution to relieve suffering in Syria by requiring that humanitarian assistance be provided through the most direct routes possible. It is clear that the resolution has failed to achieve this objective: its demands have been ignored by the warring parties and people continue to be deliberately denied access to life-saving aid. The humanitarian situation is deteriorating, violence is escalating and diplomatic efforts to bring about a negotiated solution have failed. With stakes this high, new ideas and determined leadership are needed; the status quo is unacceptable.

The international community must work to ensure Syrians can get enough aid wherever they are, be that through sustainable cross-border or cross-line delivery. Efforts should focus on securing local ceasefires – through meaningful negotiations, not siege tactics and starvation strategies – so that aid can be delivered, economies restarted and dialogue to find a longer-term solution to the crisis renewed. It is not our job to tell politicians how to meet these goals but it is our role to highlight their failure to do so when it is so tragically and lethally costly. The world has stood aghast as Syrians clamour for an end to their suffering. History will be generous to those who answer their call and unforgiving to those who turn away.
Leigh Daynes CEO, Doctors of the World UK
Guido Dost director, Johanniter International Assistance
Jan Egeland secretary general, Norwegian Refugee Council
Rev John L McCullough president and CEO, Church World Service
Justin Forsyth chief executive, Save the Children
David Miliband president and CEO, International Rescue Committee
Manuel Patrouillard executive director, Handicap International Federation
Sven Seifert executive director of the board, Arche noVa
Henrik Stubkjaer general secretary, DanChurchAid
Liv Tørres secretary general, Norwegian People’s Aid
Marie-Pierre Caley CEO, Acted
Neal Keny-Guyer CEO, Mercy Corps

How can we counter the strength of xenophobia and white supremacy in the country (Racism on the rise in Britain, 28 May) while the BBC joyfully broadcasts the last night of the Proms? When this great festival ends with rousing choruses drawn from all the major resident ethnic groups we might be making some progress. For many years now I’ve switched off before the painful celebrations start.
Malcolm Jordan
Chippenham, Wiltshire

• So you’ve won an election and you don’t like criticism (Letters, 27 May). It’s called freedom of the press. Get over it.
Spencer Sibson

• If there’s anything that exemplifies the current parlous state of the Scottish game, it’s your photographs of Alex Salmond’s shockingly inept attempts to kick and head a football (28 May).
Paul Dennehy

• I object to your news headline (Peat bog the size of England found in Congo, 28 May). Since when has England been a unit of measurement? Surely it should read “Peat bog six times the size of Wales found in Congo”?
Stephen Hughes
Bangor, Gwynedd

• Whatever side the driver’s seat might be on (Letters, 29 May), French trains, just like their British counterparts, nevertheless drive on the left. One wonders, however, if the contribution of Marine Le Pen’s newly invigorated Front National to the European parliament might involve a sudden swing to the right – which, paradoxically, would then put our closest neighbour’s locomotives on the correct track for navigating German railways. Let it never be said that the EU has brought uniformity to everything.
Paul Tattam
Teignmouth, Devon

• Contrary to Stuart Heritage’s assertion (The LOL awards 2014, G2, 28 May), burying beetles are good parents. They bury a dead mouse or bird then feed themselves and their larvae with the decaying carcass. The larvae also make a noise in order to be fed.
Rosemary Jones
Taunton, Somerset

Last weekend was a stark and symbolic reminder of what is at stake for social cohesion in this grand and visionary project of the European Union. On the eve of European and Belgian elections, a gunman opened fire in the Jewish Museum of Brussels, killing four people (Report, 25 May). It is probably the worst incident of antisemitic hate crime in Belgium since the second world war. The EU was born in the aftermath of the Holocaust to sustain peaceful relations in a continent which had been twice torn apart by war in the first half of the 20th century. There was a general shock in the self-realisation of how much antisemitic complicity enabled Hitler to enact his genocidal mission against the Jewish people, with Roma, homosexuals and disabled people also victims in his crusade. Remorse was translated into a sense of political and public responsibility.

Yet the European parliament elections saw 77 new MEPs from xenophobic parties, up 50% from five years ago. It seems that the foundation of Europe is undergoing an earthquake, with this weekend’s antisemitic attacks providing the exclamation mark. What is most depressing, however, is that it is not a total surprise in the EU capital, given the many recent indicators of a hostile climate for Jews in Belgium. On 4 May, a gathering of 500 antisemitic politicians and public figures (including the infamous French comedian Dieudonné) took place in Brussels, called the First European Conference of Dissidence.

As Pope Francis sent his condolences from his first official visit to the Holy Land, calling for peace between Israel and Palestine (Report, 26 May), the Israeli flag was displayed along with memorial flowers at the Jewish Museum in Brussels for the two Israeli citizens killed in Saturday’s attack. It is good to hear the Belgian politicians’ outrage. Hopefully, they will finally hear the alarm this time.
Robin Sclafani
Director, CEJI-A Jewish Contribution to an Inclusive Europe

• The pope’s visit to Israel may be viewed through the lens of Middle East politics, but it should also be viewed through the prism of hundreds of years of ups and downs in Catholic-Jewish relations. This is reflected by two anniversaries which we are due to mark next year. 800 years ago, in 1215, Pope Innocent III convened the Fourth Lateran Council, which declared that Jews living in Christian countries should wear a yellow badge on their clothing. This was consistent with the prevailing anti-Semitism of the era. On a brighter note, in 1965, the publication of Nostra Aetate, as part of the Second Vatican Council, paved the way for a new and positive framework for Jewish-Catholic relations. When we mark its 50th anniversary, we can reflect on the advances which have been made in Catholic-Jewish relations over the broad span of history.
Zaki Cooper
Trustee, Council of Christians and Jews

• How inspiring  to read of Pope Francis’s visit to Palestine and his stirring words at the separation wall. With his clear support for a sovereign Palestinian state and the rights of the oppressed Palestinian people, he has offered real spiritual and moral leadership. What a contrast to the pusillanimous approach of western political leaders with their timid genuflections to the Zionist cause. I am not a Catholic, but by his actions and example, Pope Francis is certainly demonstrating the power of Christian leadership in our overly cynical modern world.
Michael Gwilliam
Norton-on-Derwent, North Yorkshire

Churchill called depression his Black Dog, and in difficult environments this serious illness can spiral down into disability and early death. I am glad that all our work in the 1990s Defeat Depression campaign to train GPs to recognise and treat depressed patients still bears fruit (Use of antidepressants exploded after financial crisis, study finds, 28 May) and it is no surprise that more pills are prescribed in Blackpool than in Brent. Three very common experiences when depressed are helplessness (including feeling trapped in a dead end job with a bullying boss); worthlessness (including feeling on society’s scrapheap); and hopelessness (feeling stuck in a neighbourhood for “losers”). The coalition’s policies on austerity (ie more suffering is good for the poor), patricians and plebians (eg what Etonian needs to know the price of milk?) and housing (renting is for riff-raff) have made many people feel helpless, worthless and hopeless for a long time. Do we look behind these statistics about pills and explode the depressing policies of despair?
Professor Woody Caan
Editor, Journal of Public Mental Health, Cambridge

ris Pitarakis/PA

So Mark Carney believes there is a growing sense that the “basic social contract at the heart of capitalism is breaking down amid rising inequality” (Capitalism is doomed if ethics vanish, says Carney, 28 May). If ever there was a comment that displayed just how out of touch those in power are this is it. For decades, billions have struggled with the daily reality that capitalism’s primary raison d’etre is to create ever-increasing wealth for the already wealthy at the expense of the vast majority in society.

We all know the so-called trickle-down effect was always a myth. And, critically, nothing will ever change because of the very nature of the system itself. It both encourages and incites greed and exploitation. It cannot be any other way, especially with global resources getting less and less. In fact, the greed will just get worse from now on, marginalising more and more. At least Carney has either woken up to this reality or at least dared to speak about it. He deserves credit for that. Even if it is primarily out of concern for the survival of the system itself.
Peter Strother
Grantown-on-Spey, Inverness-shire

• It was good the Guardian provided an effective rejoinder to the rightwing attempts of the weekend press to undermine Thomas Piketty’s findings on unsustainable inequalities in our societies (Paul Mason, 27 May). It’s now equally important to see the connection between this and the apparently more benign “inclusive capitalism” conference at the Guildhall.

The rather late confessions of Mark Carney and IMF chief Christine Lagarde that the financial markets remain massively imperfect and the banks are still doing their utmost to frustrate necessary change – are part of an orchestrated attempt to cauterise the deeper wounds of the 2008 meltdown, acknowledge some unavoidable evidence of error, but meanwhile steer us towards more gentle palliatives than the systemic, radical change required.

They are by no means innocent of blame themselves in the sense that it was through their roles, occupied by their predecessors, that much of the laissez-faire regulatory climate – bequeathing us the Libor fixes, the pernicious bonus regimes and other aspects of a decadent culture – took firm hold. It is too late for a few cosmetic, voluntary gestures to do the trick.
Ralph Windle
Witney, Oxfordshire

• Good to see Mark Carney recognises that “prosperity requires not just investment in economic capital, but investment in social capital”. Now he’s only to got to add in concern for natural capital and he will have covered the “triple bottom line” that many of us want to measure national wellbeing and progress by. These things do seem to take time, and much rediscovery, to get accepted. It seems an age since Robert Kennedy was speaking so eloquently about life being more than GDP – in 1968 – and that even then “too much and too long, we seem to have surrendered community excellence and community values in the mere accumulation of material things”.

But didn’t I see that the Office for National Statistics now publishes measures of national wellbeing? Perhaps we should give that more attention, rather than just headlining the GDP figures?
Paul Allin
Visiting professor, Department of mathematics, Imperial College London

• Paul Mason may be right to defend Thomas Piketty, but he perpetuates a false understanding of work and rent. Some paid work is socially useless or even destructive, while some unpaid work is essential to our lives. For many people, their job is little better than a prison, with the result that some seek to make a living by other means. What counts is the nature of the work, and the new economics has been trying to build on this insight for decades now.
Phil Booth

• Mark Carney is being disingenuous talking about capitalism. Proper capitalism is a system requiring savers whose savings entrepreneurs put to use creating wealth and rewarding savers with interest. In this country we have had nothing approaching capitalism for at least two generations. There’s risk involved, you see, and the City hates risk. And George Osborne hates interest rates that threaten his pre-election bubbles. Instead we have a gigantic financial Ponzi scheme powered by quantitative easing.
John Smith
Beighton, South Yorkshire

• It is encouraging that the Bank of England and the IMF have at last caught up with Ed Miliband in calling for a more ethical capitalism, and a reduction in inequality. Perhaps they would now like to join the Labour party, and help us make the changes happen.
Chris Johnson
Chair, Witney constituency Labour party

• So much of the domestic wealth-generating industry has gone due to privatisation and after being targeted by asset-stripping by often foreign and even state-owned companies. So the tax take from UK employees and corporations will continue to plummet. Even worse, the wholesale outsourcing of public services is reducing wages still further and the profits are then going to the wealthy few and to tax havens. Governments of all colours seem to be committed to giving a diminishing tax take from the many into the pockets of the rich few. It is the economics of insanity. It is taking a deindustrialised UK back to a pre-Victorian economy. And it is entirely the creation of UK politicians of all hues – and absolutely not the fault of the EU.
Robert Straughton
Ulverston, Cumbria

• Here are some sentences from a speech about the nature of present day capitalism given by a leading member of the establishment:

• “Inclusive capitalism is fundamentally about delivering a basic social contract comprised of relative equality of outcomes; equality of opportunity; and fairness across generations.”

• “For markets to sustain their legitimacy, they need to be not only effective but also fair. Nowhere is that need more acute than in financial markets; finance has to be trusted.”

• “Capitalism loses its sense of moderation when the belief in the power of the market enters the realm of faith.”

• “Many supposedly rugged markets were revealed to be cosseted…”

• “We simply cannot take the capitalist system, which produces such plenty and so many solutions, for granted.”

• “…by returning to true markets, we can make capitalism more inclusive.”

• “Consideration should be given to developing principles of fair markets, codes of conduct for specific markets, and even regulatory obligations within this framework.”

• “When bankers become detached from end-users, their only reward becomes money.”

Had Ed Miliband uttered these words, he would have been condemned by many in the City and the majority of the Conservative Party, as having been anti-business, anti-City, or even Marxist. Yet these are the words of Mark Carney, Governor of the Bank of England and a former investment banker.

Ed Miliband’s speech on “responsible capitalism” in January 2012 was much-derided. It seems that Ed may have found an ally in the governor.
John Slinger
Rugby, Warwickshire

• Allow people like me to print money and you can imagine the chaos. So why are banks – private institutions that are repeatedly fined for their criminal activities – allowed to create 97% of the money we use? If you have difficulty in believing they are allowed to do this, read the Bank of England Quarterly Bulletin 2014 Q1, where it is set out with absolute clarity. Politicians won’t touch the banks and justice can’t reach them, they are too-big-to-fail and too-big-to-jail. Bodies with such power and executives with such incentives to enrich themselves need more than ethics to be restrained: look here chaps, please behave responsibly! Banks should not be allowed to create money; a money-creation committee, independent of government, could issue as much as is necessary to avoid deflation but limited to an amount that will not cause inflation.
James Bruges

• Re Paul Mason: the simple income-capital distinction ignores what I have called “positional rents”. These include the astonishing high incomes of CEOs, senior public-sector managers, vice-chancellors and, of course, the layers immediately below them. Since these growing “economic rents” derive mainly from position, the disincentive effects of taxing them may be vanishingly small.
Professor David Collard
Pen-y-cae-mawr, Usk


If the leaders of the main parties really think they can attribute their losses in the recent elections to a simplistic “anti-EU protest vote” then they are deluding themselves.

The discontent is much deeper. The electorate are tired of being taken for mugs by smug career politicians; tired of endlessly tightening their belts so that those same leaders and their cronies can have ever-larger rewards; tired of the public services for which they have paid being cut while money is diverted from the public purse to line the pockets of private contractors and “consultants”.

There is a total lack of confidence in the current system. If they want to turn the tide and retain their seats they need to listen to the ordinary people of this country, and show by their actions that they have done so in ways that are credible and tangible, with a genuine redistribution of wealth to the ordinary people who create it.

Mike Margetts, Kilsby, Northamptonshire

The recent gains in the local and European elections and the media coverage of Ukip and its leader have been rather over the top. The party has no control of any council, no majority on any grouping, nor even one solitary Member of Parliament.

The support has been branded an earthquake but is in realty a protest vote against the establishment. The protest votes the Liberal Democrats used to bag went to Ukip instead.

Like them or not, the three main political parties have more to offer than a one-man band who has marketed his “two pints of lager and a packet of crisps” brand well but has no real policies or solutions to the economic realities of a vibrant and multicultural 21st-century British society.

Paul Raybould, Torquay

Roger Chapman of Keighley, West Yorkshire (letter, 29 May), argues that London is already a foreign country and that is why there is a low level of Ukip support there.

While there are some London boroughs with a high proportion of immigrants, in many others the numbers are very low. So, if London is a foreign country then so is Yorkshire, based solely on Bradford. No, the real reason support for Ukip is low in London is that many high-skilled jobs there would be lost if we adopted isolationist policies.

Malcolm Howard, Banstead, Surrey

Never mind Plato (“The triumph of the ignorant?”, 29 May), let’s not forget the immortal words of the Mykonos Professor of Wind-Surfing (alias Rory Bremner): “demos” means people; “crass” means  stupid.

Penelope Murray, Sibford Gower, Oxfordshire


Antibiotic danger ignored for years

You quote Public Health England and the World Health Organisation both voicing great concern about the resistance of many bacteria to life-saving antibiotics (editorial, 24 May). Why has it taken so long for the powers that be to raise the alarm?

Thirty-five years ago I was telling my students of this danger. Bacterial conjugation, whereby bacteria can pass on mutations to other bacteria was well known at the time and it was obvious that a single organism could confer antibiotic resistance to an entire population in a short time.

I used to illustrate the danger by quoting a hospital doctor who boasted that he kept the bacterial count in his wards down by regularly spraying with antibiotic!

I find it incomprehensible that the unnecessary prescription of these uniquely efficacious drugs was not banned, both medically and agriculturally, as soon as it was known that antibiotic resistance was becoming prevalent.

Patrick Cleary, Honiton, Devon

The invention of fanzines

Alex Lawson says in his article on fanzines (22 May) that they emerged in the Seventies. This misses out some 40 years of their history.

Fanzines appear to have been first produced by science fiction fans in the Thirties. The first professional science fiction magazine started in 1926 and fans discovered each other through the letters columns of these publications. Soon they were swapping their own amateur magazines.

The term “fanzine” seems to have been coined in 1940 – the earliest citation in the Oxford English Dictionary is from 1949 – to distinguish the fannish publications from the professional ones, called “prozines”. Authors such as Arthur C Clarke and Ray Bradbury first appeared in fanzines.

Loncon 3, the World Science Fiction convention, is being held in London this summer. One of the many awards to be given out is one for best fanzine, an award first given in 1955.

Paul Dormer, Guildford

The myth of cavalry charging tanks

Robert Fisk’s otherwise penetrating article (24 May) on British perfidy in the Middle East during the First World War repeats, in a casual comparison, one of the most enduring and inaccurate myths of the following world conflict. Polish cavalry never charged German tanks in the autumn campaign of 1939.

Polish cavalry did charge and overrun dispersed German infantry positions on several occasions, but never launched frontal attacks against German panzers.

To say that they did falls in with the misreporting of Italian journalists misled by their minders; with generals such as Heinz Guderian who wanted to laud Wehrmacht prowess; with the power of cleverly cut newsreels; with Nazi and later Soviet propaganda that wanted to show the Poles as militarily backward and nationally primitive; and lastly with the idea that brave soldiers are necessarily stupid.

It was a brief aside, but it does reveal the persistence, because it is believed by a highly reputable journalist, of an outright historical untruth.

 It also raises the question: if Poles never charged German panzers then did Arab horsemen ever charge French tanks?

Dr Philip Brindle, Bedford

In popular culture, girls will be girls

Rosie Millard and the BBC are fighting a losing battle against the use of “girl” for an 18-plus female in popular culture (“BBC is right to ban this lazy language”, 28 May).

It’s not patronising; it’s a simple matter of the rhythm and force of language.

“Girl” is a syllable shorter than “woman” and two syllables shorter than “young woman”. So it has greater impact, not least in newspaper headlines and book titles.

Try making the substitution in, for example, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo or the Spice Girls. Across the gender divide, there is no such problem with man/boy/lad. Even so, Jersey Boys and Boys from the Blackstuff come across more strongly than if “men” had been used

David Crawford, Bickley, Kent

Parking won’t save the high street

The assertion that the British high street will die unless town councils re-examine “punitive” parking policies (editorial, 26 May) is based on a false assumption.

British town centres were neither intended to, nor are they able to, accommodate enough parked cars to change their financial fortunes. A reduction in parking charges would only increase demand for a commodity whose supply has always been the limiting factor.

Instead, councils should ensure adequate accessibility to the town centres for pedestrians, bus users and cyclists. The retail park, far out at the edge of a settlement, is designed for the automobile.

Compete? Why even try? Town centres are for people, not vehicles, and councils should embrace this difference.

Jack Bramhill, Southsea


Prince’s musical afternoons

Aside from his financial acumen, Prince Rupert zu Loewenstein (obituary, 23 May) was an elegant and generous soul, who – with his wife, Josephine, herself a fine pianist – hosted, for many years, Chopin Society matinee concerts in their beautiful Richmond home.

I shall always treasure the many happy memories of being allowed to play selections of my own Miniatures for the piano, whilst other members played well-known pieces by Chopin and Liszt, before savouring high tea with our gracious hosts in their magnificent gardens.

Gavin Littaur, London NW4

The way to build a railway

News item from the latest issue of the Railway Magazine: “Chinese national railway company China Railway Corporation has announced plans to spend $116bn on 48 new railway lines, totalling up to 7000 km of new track. The construction will be undertaken over the next three to five years, and will be partly funded by private investment.”

Why not offer them the construction of HS2 – after all its only a small branch line. It could be up and running by Christmas 2016!

John Deards, Warminster, Dorset


Funding is falling, patients are getting older and iller, GPs are feeling the strain

Sir, I have been a GP in Devon for 22 years. The first 20 years were very rewarding, but the last two have been different (Alice Thomson, “These overpaid doctors must stop whingeing”, May 28). I work from 7.30am to 6.30pm without a break. The consultation rate has increased from 3-4 contacts a year to 6-7. Our population is getting older and more frail, further adding to workload. Increasingly our time is taken up by paperwork. The work transfer from secondary to primary care has been huge in the past few years.

Yes, GPs are well rewarded but we are also at point of collapse. We are asking for more money to pay for more doctors so we can offer a safer and better service to our patients.

Dr Elizabeth Brown

Teignmouth, Devon

Sir, Alice Thomson is correct that I see patients for about 24 hours per week but I spend at least that long again on filing, visiting patients at home and running a business (my surgery). We are being paid less and less for doing more and more work.

It should be pointed out that people need to take more responsibility for their own health. A&E departments are full of people who’ve drunk too much. Obesity is causing ever greater problems.

Dr J Hobman

Roundhay, Leeds

Sir, The workload has risen beyond recognition during my years as a GP. My practice’s funding is being cut by one third, yet I will still have to give the same level of care to the same number of patients (12,500).

All the Royal College of General Practitioners asks is that primary care is funded sufficiently so that there are enough GPs to see the patients, to ensure the recruitment crisis stops, that GPs don’t retire on grounds of ill health due to burn out.

Dr Michele Wall


Sir, If general practice really is such an easy ride for overpaid GPs, why are older doctors retiring early in droves and why are young doctors shunning it in favour of working in hospitals or going abroad?

The numbers of young doctors choosing to become GPs went down 15 per cent last year. To quote Dr Chaand Nagpaul from his recent conference speech, “these doctors are not shunning the discipline of general practice, but the intolerable pressures that GPs are subject to, together with relentless attacks that devalue what we do, and which has butchered the joy and ability of GPs to properly care for our patients”.

Virginia C Patania

& Dr Naomi Beer

London E1

Sir, We should be sceptical of the RCGP’s demands for more money. British GPs are paid 3.4 times
the average wage in the UK, compared to 3 times in Canada, 2.7 times in Denmark and 1.7 times in Australia.

The National Audit Office found that between 2002 and 2006, GP partners enjoyed an astonishing 58 per cent pay increase despite working seven fewer hours a week than they did a decade earlier. Having such highly paid GPs means we can afford fewer of them.

In England we have 6.8 GPs per 10,000 persons compared to 20.2 per 10,000 persons in Australia.

It’s no wonder that it takes
people so long to get an appointment, a situation which is only exacerbated by the lack of GPs working at weekends and in the evenings.

Alex Wild

A former Tory MP remembers his days among the bureaucrats of Brussels and their dark tricks

Sir, I have seen these ritual promises of reform by EU leaders before. I
was the House of Commons representative on the Convention on the Future of Europe, set up in 2002 after some negative referendum results.

The convention was instructed to break down bureaucracy, concentrate on essentials, and create an EU “closer to its citizens”. This was all ignored and instead the convention approved a 200-page European Constitution, which was then rejected by the French and Dutch electorates, but enacted just the same as the Treaty of Lisbon (without the promised referendum in the UK).

The EU will never reform itself. The best hope is for a Conservative government to repatriate almost all powers and seek a trade-only relationship.

To achieve this, David Cameron must be prepared to leave the EU, and not be drawn into a protracted and complex negotiation with a muddled outcome.

David Heathcoat-Amory

London W14

It is not surprising that men behind bars make poor fathers – we need new rules for temporary release

Sir, The report from Barnardo’s (“Two thirds of convicts’ sons face a life of crime”, May27) is depressing. Fathers, often scattered to prisons far from their home, may see their sons only infrequently, and in prison visiting rooms. Such limited interaction cannot amount to proper fathering.

“Temporary release” from prison has had bad publicity recently, but the “failure to comply” rates for such releases are minuscule — some 281 failures out of 431,178 (in 2010-11). If we are serious about holding families together, fathers, subject to risk assessment, should be able to rejoin their families under temporary release arrangements. Norway allows this after one third of the sentence. I believe we should adopt the same policy and we should apply it, with more emphasis, to imprisoned mothers as well.

Howard Thomas

Chief Probation Officer North Wales 1985-96

Mold, Flintshire

So-called ‘honour’ killings in Pakistan show that the country is not ready to join the modern world

Sir, You highlight the persistence of the abhorrent practice of stoning to death in several Islamic countries (report , May 28; leader, May 29).

It beggars belief that 83 per cent of Pakistanis support stoning to death for adultery, and similar acts are carried out in several African and Middle East countries.

Apart from honour killings, several instances of judicial and paralegal executions for blasphemy have also occurred in Pakistan in recent years.

The hegemony of the church over the state ended in medieval Europe with the enlightenment. Unless the offending Islamic countries shed their culturally regressive practices, they are not be fit for the modern world.

Sam Banik

London N10

Life sometimes imitates fiction, expecially when fiction is political satire and life is Nigel Farage

Sir, Recent photographs of a party leader enjoying refreshment recalled an episode of In the Red, a 1998 BBC mini-series based on the 1989 black comedy of the same name by Mark Tavener.

One character was the leader of the fictitious Reform Party, Geoffrey Crichton-Potter, whose sole policy was to ensure that he was well fed and watered. Played beautifully by Richard Griffiths, C-P was essentially hollow, but his remarkable ability to deliver rousing speeches made him an effective conduit for public anger with authority.

Jim Whyman

Stogumber, Somerset


‘I arrest you in the name of the law!’: cover of Manufrance, a mail-order catalogue, c1920  Photo: Universal History Archive/Getty Images

6:58AM BST 29 May 2014

Comments61 Comments

SIR – Bill Oddie and Chris Packham, the Springwatch presenters, say that children ought to be allowed to get up to mischief in the countryside by starting fires and scrumping (report, May 20). But scrumping is theft, and lighting fires is dangerous.

I am a small fruit farmer, and can lose thousands of pounds worth of produce to scrumping, particularly in the summer holidays. If I am under contract to provide produce and cannot due to theft, I will be financially penalised for not fulfilling my contract: a double whammy, so to speak.

In the summer, the countryside is like a tinderbox and unsupervised fires spread. Over many years, I have seen farmers lose crops, barns and, on one occasion, a house to out-of-control fires.

Billy Auger
Hopton Wafers, Shropshire

SIR – Guidance issued by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence advocating state-funded slimming courses for obese people is naive, misguided and simply incredible.

Something given free is invariably undervalued. This is why the NHS struggles day-to-day with almost seven million outpatient appointments missed each year, costing an average of £108 for every one missed. Another 12 million GP appointments are missed each year.

For obese people to attain a normal weight requires a major change in lifestyle. It is for the obese themselves to make that decision – or accept the consequences. Not the state.

Paul Harrison
Terling, Essex

SIR – A friend tried dieting but gave up after two weeks. Without self-motivation it cannot be achieved, free or not.

Colin Laverick
London WC2

Lost town centres

SIR – Town centres have become the almost exclusive preserve of banks, estate agents, pawn shops, betting shops, pound shops and empty boarded-up premises. They have become a meeting place for feral youths who congregate in groups that intimidate legitimate shoppers.

Market Street in Leicester was once lined with prosperous independent retailers. Since it was “pedestrianised”, shoppers cannot park close to the particular shop they wish to visit, sounding the death knell for these businesses.

Those of us who are disabled and cannot walk far are gradually being squeezed out of our city centres completely, forced to shop online from home or at out-of-town malls where the parking is free.

Retailers were not consulted about whether they wanted this expensive new paving for the yobs to litter with their

fast-food wrappers and chewing gum. When will town planners open a dialogue with the people affected by their schemes?

John Yates
Glenfield, Leicestershire

PE colleges

SIR – As someone who trained as a PE teacher 45 years ago at one of the then

PE-specialist teacher training colleges, I have been conscious of the inadequate way teachers who want to specialise in PE are taught today.

A high-quality PE teacher in a primary school can ensure that youngsters learn the skills to enable them to participate in a variety of sports and, most of all, enjoy sport later in life. Abolishing the specialist PE colleges was short-sighted. Thank goodness some type of genuine specialism seems to be returning.

Kate Hoey MP (Lab)
London SW1

Loo with a view

SIR – Even with the liveliest of imaginations, Trevor Allanson’s bathroom tiles (Letters, May 27) can only occupy so many sittings. He needs a bookshelf.

Victor Launert
Matlock, Derbyshire

SIR – The most august seat in our house offers close inspection of the ghosts of a previous keyhole, lock and hinges from when the panelled door faced in the opposite direction. For the long-sighted, there are views through a crack in one of the panels to the hectic outside world.

Julian Warren
Ipswich, Suffolk

Dementia care

SIR – Sir Ian Botham has been associated with many acts of goodness over his lifetime but somehow the real hero in his interview about his father’s crippling progression through Alzheimer’s disease was his late mother.

He describes how Mrs Botham continued to visit her husband even in his final stages of the illness when he recognised no one, and when others were advising her not to visit. Such acts of selfless love and duty are the signs of true heroism.

Dr Jane Fleming
Waterford, Munster, Ireland

SIR – I was so sorry to read that Sir Ian found it too difficult to visit his father in the later stages of dementia. I know how horrendous this disease is, having watched my husband suffer from Parkinson’s and dementia for more than a decade.

However, I am so grateful to my children, grandchildren and good friends who continued to visit and give support through the most difficult of circumstances. I valued their support more than words can express, and would encourage people to continue visiting whenever possible.

Gillian Gilbert
Bath, Somerset

Road safety on foot

SIR – I think it is time for road users in London to get together and debate what should be done to improve safety; not just for cyclists and other road users, but for pedestrians too.

Despite wearing the most colourful and reflective gear available and having a flashing light, I am still amazed that people do not see me. In the past five months I have had three collisions, resulting in a bruised spine and cracked ribs. My last crash saw me thrown over the bonnet of a car. The driver had crossed in front of me, over the well-marked cycle lane I was in, seemingly intent on getting into the side road beyond.

I have lost count of the times I have had near misses, both from vehicles and from pedestrians stepping off the pavement.

The situation is not improving.

Martyn Clark
Erith, Kent

Off the menu

SIR – I have been trying to ban the word “medley” for years (Letters, May 24); it is my unwanted third name.

Roger J (M) Lee
Sale, Cheshire

A wartime rose that should be grown in Britain

SIR – The current wave of war nostalgia prompted me to rewatch the American film Mrs Miniver, which Winston Churchill said “did more for the Allies than a flotilla of battleships”. In the story, the local station master breeds a red rose, names it after his heroine (played by Greer Garson), and scoops top prize at the local flower show. In real life, a red hybrid tea cultivar named “Mrs Miniver”, inspired by Jan Struther’s original book, was introduced in France in 1940, and in America in 1944.

I wanted to grow this rose. Finding it unavailable in Britain and America, I turned to the Sherlock Holmes of the rose world, Becky Hook of La Roseraie du Désert, a specialist nursery in south-west France. Becky traced it to the Europa-Rosarium, an important rose collection in Sangerhausen, 60 miles west of Leipzig, only to find it was lost in the hard winter of 2012. According to the Rosarium’s director, the last example of this symbolic rose is in a private garden in north Germany.

A British grower should bring the Mrs Miniver rose to Britain.

Orlando Murrin
Exeter, Devon

SIR – When Nick Clegg reneged on his agreement to equalise the size of constituencies, did he realise the potential consequence of his actions?

If, as seems possible, Labour wins a majority at the next election, the Lib Dems will be irrelevant again. If boundary changes had been made, it would have denied Labour 20 to 30 seats. This might well have been enough for the Tories to win, but with no overall majority; meaning that Mr Clegg might have kept his job.

Martin P Gooderson
Orpington, Kent

SIR – How ridiculous for Liberal Democrat party members to think of ousting Nick Clegg as leader of the party. He is the most charismatic leader they have had for a long time. The Lib Dems have had more power and influence in the past four years than they have had for a long time – why throw it all away?

Julie Bravery
Longwick, Buckinghamshire

SIR – Nick Clegg’s constituency, Sheffield Hallam, used to be the last bastion of the Conservative Party in the city. I imagine it fell to the Lib Dems because of the ever-expanding campus of Sheffield University within its boundary.

In the local elections, the Lib Dems lost the student areas of Crookes and Broomhill to Labour. I suspect a similar swing could happen in the constituency next year. Nick Clegg can’t spend the next 12 months campaigning to keep his seat.

Michael Finley
Eastbourne, East Sussex

SIR – Your leading article on the European parliamentary election suggests that the Liberal Democrats did badly because they were pro-European.

I have always voted Lib Dem and am pro-European, but I voted Labour this time as a protest against Lib Dem support for a profoundly Right-wing Coalition.

Robert Waters
Halstead, Essex

SIR – It was no surprise to me when Nick Clegg sold out his party’s policy on tuition fees in 2010. Fifteen newly elected Lib Dem MSPs did the same thing at Holyrood in 1999 when they did a deal with Labour. That set a trend that has lasted 15 years ending in Sunday’s disaster.

The Lib Dem party conference is supposed to make the policy. The failure is Mr Clegg’s personally, as he will not stand up for the policies his members vote for at their conference.

Nigel F Boddy
Darlington, Co Durham

SIR – At least Nick Clegg had the courage of his convictions and was prepared to debate Britain’s membership of the EU with Nigel Farage. Neither David Cameron nor Ed Miliband are prepared to do that; they prefer to keep the issue under wraps and not to expose their vulnerable positions to the British public.

Les Smith
Woking, Surrey

Irish Times:

Sir, – Fintan O’Toole’s characterisation of the Labour Party’s abstention from the 1918 general election as a tragic mistake and a missed opportunity represents an outdated view that has been disputed by more recent historical analysis (“Labour Party’s long road from tragedy to farce”, Opinion & Analysis, May 27th).

The principal reason for Labour’s decision to withdraw was that it had difficulty securing candidates to run in its interest. Many who were associated with the Labour Party or trade union movement were already committed to Sinn Féin, in particular Constance Markievicz and Joseph McGrath, later to serve as ministers for Labour in the first Dáil.

The decision also took into account Labour’s fear of alienating support in Ulster if it was seen to be too closely associated with Sinn Féin’s plans to abstain from Westminster and establish an alternative constituent assembly in Ireland. Labour was prepared to join Sinn Féin in the former plan but undecided about the latter. The consensus among historians and political scientists is that Labour took the only realistic option available to it in 1918.

The notion that Labour was irreparably damaged by its 1918 abstention does not stand up to a scrutiny of subsequent local and national election results. It won the second-highest number of seats (394) after Sinn Féin (550) in the January 1920 local elections for urban district councils.

Admittedly it did not perform as well in the following June’s elections for county and rural district councils, but this was not surprising as these areas were less likely to support Labour.

The circumstances of the War of Independence and the extent of intimidation of Labour voters and candidates by Sinn Féin were also significant factors.

However, the strongest evidence of the Labour Party’s resilience is to be found in the 1922 general election, in which 17 of its 18 candidates were elected. – Yours, etc,


School of History

and Anthropology,

Queen’s University


A chara, – In reply to Eileen Gamble’s article on coming out in the staffroom (Education, May 27th), the Rev Patrick G Burke (May 29th) says, as if both situations were comparable, “It is interesting that alleging discrimination in one area should be used to justify discrimination in another.” Is he wilfully missing something?

Under the current denominational system of education, many teachers have to pretend they believe not only in God but in church teaching, and at best non-conforming pupils are facilitated elsewhere during religious instruction.

Under a system with one patron – the Department of Education – where religion would be respected, taught as culture but not instructed as belief during school hours, and not arising as a question when enrolling pupils or employing teachers, no one would have to pretend or deny anything.

School would be a reflection of a society where there is a widespread and shifting spectrum of practice and belief.

While the idea of retaining some national schools under church patronage might work in towns, it discriminates against the country where one school caters for a wide area.

Though it might seem to favour the secular view, a clean break between church and state in education would benefit both sides as religion would be freely and more consciously chosen.

Until the current understanding of the “right to educate children in a manner that accords with their religious beliefs” is interpreted to refer only to parent-funded private schools, after-school religious doctrine or Sunday school, the discrimination looks like it is all on one side. – Is mise,


An Pháirc Thiar,


Co Chill Mhantáin.

Sir, – The problem for Stephen Marken (May 28th) is that to satisfy his wish to teach in an atheist environment he would deny the majority their wish to have their children educated in a religious environment.

In Britain, which is further down the post-Christian route than we are, many people elect to have their children educated in a faith school because, although they do not share the faith, they recognise that having a faith ethos has a strongly beneficial effect on the quality of the education. – Yours, etc,


Dublin Road,


A chara, – Sinn Féin’s young MEPs will effectively need to go against their party headquarters if they are to have any meaningful impact in the European Parliament. The party’s incoherence when it comes to EU policy is damning.

Party representatives argue that their EU policies are drafted on a “case-by-case basis”. That’s all well and good, if the party policy arising from a given case does not contradict that of another case.

In reality, Sinn Féin’s manifesto aims to “reduce the power of the Commission, ending its power of initiative”, while calling for a raft of policies – climate change action, promotion of LGTB rights, banking regulation, to name but a few – which only a strong European Commission could have any realistic hope of implementing at a pan-European level.

Being “Euro-critical” only works if a party’s critical policy strands are cohesive and coherent. This type of double-speak is neither. Sinn Féin’s rookie MEPs are in for a rude awakening. – Is mise,



An Muileann,

Oileán Chliara,

Co Mhaigh Eo.

Sir, – Presumably Labour will wish to elect a leader who might actually be a TD following the next election! – Yours, etc,


Marley Avenue,

Marley Grange,

Dublin 16.

Sir, – Tony Heffernan in his article on Labour’s revival tells us that under Dick Spring’s leadership it won a record number of seats in the 1992 general election (“Incoming leader will be vital to Labour’s revival”, Opinion & Analysis, May 27th). He fails to mention that was a direct result of Mr Spring’s promise not to go into coalition with Fianna Fáil, so Fine Gael voters gave his party their second preferences in large numbers. Mr Spring then proceeded after the election to renege on his pre election promise and went into coalition with Fianna Fáil, which resulted in Labour being mauled at the next election. Some of us still remember that betrayal. – Yours, etc,



Co Meath.

Sir, – I wonder how many people reading this are old enough to remember your former columnist Donal Foley and his satirical column “Man Bites Dog”? The title derived from the fact that a dog biting a man is not news while a man biting a dog would be. Your front-page headline yesterday  brought this immediately to mind, so spectacularly was it in the “dog bites man” category: “Burton signals support for Coalition”. I’m on the edge of my seat waiting for you to tell me the pope’s religion. – Yours, etc,


Evergreen Road,


Sir, – A major milestone has been achieved in the campaign for animal protection with the election to the European Parliament of a candidate standing for Holland’s Party for the Animals (PvdD). Seven animal protection parties from around Europe had come together to promote a change in our overall attitude to animals, whether domestic, wild, laboratory-raised, or farm livestock, and to seek Euro-parliamentary representation.

Among the alliance’s objectives is the abolition of so-called cultural and traditional practices that cause immense suffering to animals, such as bull fighting, hare coursing and fox hunting.

I hope the presence of a strong voice for animals in the Euro-parliament will hasten the end of these latter “sports” in particular, in addition to improving the lot of all animals in Europe and, ultimately, countries that trade with the EU. – Yours, etc,


Lower Coyne Street,

Callan, Co Kilkenny.

Sir, – After months of aggressive advertising in the guise of posters for upcoming “public meetings” (neatly sidestepping the rules on not putting up election posters too early), followed by actual election posters, vast in number, I am now subjected to the final insult from my newly elected local Fine Gael councillor. Instead of having the decency to take down immediately his multiple election posters, he has had them plastered with “Thank You” stickers and his grinning face still stares down at me daily. It might be a bit much to hope that our newly elected councillors might ban these eyesores altogether. We can only live in hope. – Yours, etc,


Temple Square,


Dublin 6.

Sir, – The findings that one in five young women and one in four young men are overweight or obese are of great concern (“Irish rank high among most overweight in Europe”, May 29th) and the fact that we have not reached the levels of our neighbours is of little consolation.

Our population needs to consume fewer calories and move more. A radical rethink is necessary and education-based strategies might include an afternoon for physical education in all schools, a ban on high-calorie drinks at school, and the mandatory teaching of basic cookery skills all the way through secondary level.

Councils and local authorities need to ensure the provision of adequate and accessible spaces and facilities where citizens can exercise. A tax break for gym membership may incentivise some young adults – the “bike to work” scheme has been regarded as a success in increasing cycling participation. The displaying of the calorific contents of food in some outlets is a positive – but this needs to be universal and more easily understood.

Left unchecked, obesity will lead to an increased disease burden in decades to come from diabetes and cardiovascular disease, with significant costs for the individual and society.

I would urge our Government to act. – Yours, etc,


Clane Road,


As he so often does, Mr Obama relied in his West Point speech on an army of helpless strawmen to make his argument for limiting the use of American power around the world. Contrary to his argument, however, few of the ever-growing number of critics of his foreign policy believe, as Mr Obama claimed, that “every problem has a military solution”, or “think military intervention is the only way for America to avoid looking weak”, or favour “invading every country that harbours terrorist networks”. This is sophistry in its purest form.

Unfortunately, we have too often witnessed what happens when the US declines to get involved in crises around the world. Genocide, barbaric attacks on the most helpless, growth of deadly terrorist networks, and wanton disregard of sovereign, territorial and human rights become the order of the day.

We should not expect many, if any, calls for intervention in world crises, no matter how compelling, during the remainder of Mr Obama’s term.

A muddled foreign policy has now given way to a politically expedient “Obama doctrine”.

It will be interesting to see if Hillary Clinton and many of the potential Republican presidential nominees divorce themselves from that doctrine in the months ahead. – Yours, etc,


Burford Drive,



Sir, – The Primary Online Database will help primary schools run more efficiently and provide the Department of Education with valuable statistical data. However, collecting too much information about children unnecessarily exposes them to risk.

Teachers certainly need to know which children will be making their First Communion. But it is harder to make the case for a centralised government database containing the ethnicity and religion of every child in the country.

The use of each child’s PPS number as the primary key compounds the risk, since this number will follow the child for a lifetime.

The labels we attach now to children may stay with them their whole lives. The value to the State of such data must be carefully weighed against the potential costs to the State’s most precious resource. – Yours, etc,


Lecturer in Computing,

Cork Institute

Sir, – I was a trifle bemused when reading your business section on the exploits of former American stockbroker Jordan Belfort (“‘Wolf of Wall Street’ on the prowl in Dublin”, Business, May 28th).

How naive of me to have thought that the infamous Gordon Gekko-type “greed is good” doctrine had been rightfully dispensed with. Was this kind of activity, after all, not a contributing factor that led to the global financial meltdown of 2008, from which we are all still painfully trying to recover? Here is one of those financial “wizards” who has been convicted of fraud, sentenced to jail, and ordered to repay $110 million to the investors he fleeced. And, not only has this kind of bustle been glamorised by Martin Scorsese in his latest film, but now we had the “Wolf” himself lecturing some 2,500 good business people here in the RDS on “entrepreneurship”. What’s next? The Bernie Madoff Business School? Plus ça change

Yours, etc,


Front Strand,

Sir, – Jennifer O’Connell writes that “children’s future happiness does not depend on whether their first babygro was made in a cottage in Tahiti using cotton spun from freshly harvested angels’ wings or came from Tesco’s value range” (“Babies don’t care how much you spend on them”, May 28th).

Our children’s future happiness is greatly dependant upon whether parents choose to think ethically about the goods they buy.

Our consumption choices now will create the economies of the future. And it is our ethical actions now that will inform both the actions of our children and the world that they inherit. – Yours, etc,


Synge Street,

Dublin 8.

Sir, – Focusing on the moral rights and wrongs of neutrality ignores what deserves to be the big issue – economics.

Subjected to a crippling Churchillian supply squeeze, the economic viability of Irish neutrality was only assured by bad tempered Irish-British barter deals, most notably the withholding of Guinness supplies to the UK in return for much-needed agricultural goods.

Irish neutrality may have been too highly principled, but it certainly wasn’t greedy. Due to geography and lack of natural resources, Ireland could not – and did not – reap the handsome economic benefits of neutrality like the other European neutrals (Spain, Switzerland, Sweden and Portugal) that all traded with Nazi Germany. – Yours, etc,


Liverpool Hope


Sir, – The goodwill created by Queen Elizabeth’s successful visit in 2011 will not necessarily be enhanced by over-eager repetition by her relatives, whatever the occasion.

Where will this all end? Will Puck Fair be inaugurated by the Duke of York? Will Princess Michael of Kent throw in the ball at this year’s All-Ireland hurling final?

We have enough to discuss and debate about the nature of the centenary commemoration of 1916 without adding what I believe to be an extraneous element. – Yours, etc,


Silchester Road,

Glenageary, Co Dublin.

Sir, – Might I suggest to John Bruton (“Ireland faces 10 more years of austerity budgets, says Bruton”, Home News, May 28th) that the biggest mistake you can make in politics is to preach financial probity to the masses, broken by years of austerity, while you are in receipt of a State pension of €138,000 for the rest of your life? – Yours, etc,


Dublin Road,


Co Louth.

Irish Independent:


Joan Burton

Letters to the Editor – Published 30 May 2014 02:30 AM

* Over 30 years ago a certain British prime minister, on assuming office, made it her priority to claim back a large amount of money for the British exchequer that she claimed Britain was owed by the then EEC.

Also in this section

EU institutions’ blatant disregard for democracy

Letters: Labour now has a chance to share a new vision

The poorest continue to suffer in our uneven society

At first, her demands were ignored – that was until she started going over to Brussels and creating a scene every time she sat at the table facing the Eurocrats.

She would hector, harangue, and handbag them into the wee small hours of the morning as they struggled to stay awake.

Finally, one morning the Eurocrats had had enough of her hectoring and threw in the towel and gave her back “her money” as she used call it.

Now, if the Labour Party should elect Joan Burton as its leader, I suggest that it should issue her with an armour-plated handbag and dispatch her to euroland right away and unleash her upon the bankers and eurocrats and allow her harangue and hector them until their ears hurt.

Maybe, just maybe, they might for once put up their hands and admit that Ireland has been severely mistreated and wronged on the bank debt issue and admit that it’s past time that this injustice was put right, because the Noonan/Gilmore ‘Mr Nice Guy act’ has had nil effect in relation to this critical issue.



We’ve fallen out of love with EU

* There has been a seismic shift against the EU in its current form. The naysayers warned against the creep of a German-dominated political upper class governance of nations which has arrived, peaked and is now in terminal decline.

Those who still follow the light from Angela’s smile are in that place where no political career should be – Unpopular Street, the street that leads to political oblivion.

The Labour Party is finished. And the Fine Gael party? How shall I put this? Fine Gael has a very simple view of how to keep its electorate onside. Blame Fianna Fail.

It seems that Enda has forgotten that he and his party, under his whipped leadership also voted for the bank guarantee; the people haven’t. So when Enda blames Fianna Fail he is also blaming himself.



Animals get a voice in Europe

* A major milestone has been achieved in the campaign for animal protection with the election to the European Parliament of a candidate standing for Holland’s Party for the Animals (PvdD). Seven animal protection parties from around Europe had come together to promote a change in our overall attitude to animals, whether domestic, wild, laboratory-raised or farm livestock, and to seek representation in the European Parliament.

Among the alliance’s objectives is the abolition of so-called cultural and traditional practices that cause immense suffering to animals, such as bull fighting, hare coursing, and fox hunting. Hopefully the presence of a strong voice for animals in the EU Parliament will hasten the end of these latter ‘sports’.

For too long bulls have been tortured by men in garish costumes who stab them with razor-sharp lances and plunge swords into them. Anyone who objects is told that this is a cherished ancient custom.

And here in Ireland the capture and terrorising of hares for coursing, for human entertainment, has also had the banner of “tradition” wrapped around it.

Fox hunting too has latched on to the fig leaf of “culture”, a label that softens its gory image despite the fact that it involves setting twenty or thirty hounds after one wild dog, all for an afternoon’s human recreation.

The rising strength of the animal protection lobby in Europe is heartening, but the election of a Party for the Animals candidate will surely signal a new phase in the campaign to end blood sports in the EU.



The fightback is only starting

* This week in the Irish Independent, the economist Jim Power said that he was concerned for the economy of the EU and of Ireland in response to the rise of the Left and Right in the recent EU elections and the popularity of Sinn Fein in our local elections. Mr Power may know his economics, but he seems to be a bit rusty on his history.

Anybody with a modicum of common sense could have foretold of the disenfranchisement of the squeezed middle in society when their government tries to screw them for every penny to mend the mistakes of those whose only allegiance is to the greedy dollar.

The Irish people may not be marchers, but are not stupid either. The whole of Europe could fall into dangerous political upheaval, as written about by George Orwell and witnessed by those who lived between 1933 and 1945. The powers that be should be aware that if you kick a dog often enough he will turn on you.



Europe must respect diversity

* This week Michael Noonan announced ‘new fiscal rules in Europe’ which must be obeyed!! Timing!!!!!! We already have Irish people financially crucified because EUROPE SAYS SO!! We have Irish human issues being decided BECAUSE EUROPE SAYS SO!! We have Irish people looking in at their bogs unable to cut a sod of turf BECAUSE EUROPE SAYS SO!

We have thousands of hectares of Irish land hijacked to protect a hen harrier bird BECAUSE EUROPE SAYS SO! We have etc… etc… etc… BECAUSE EUROPE SAYS SO – and this is just Ireland!

The UK has spoken – what has Europe been saying to them? France has spoken – what has Europe been saying to them? We have treasured national cultures across Europe being trodden on, ignored and offended.

Mr Europe, tread warily! Respect our diversity and our cultures, which have been thousands of years in the making, or your members will dismember you!!!!

People have spoken through the ballot box on a grand scale!!!



Gilmore displayed his calass

* Two very different human characteristics in their manner of departure: Alan with arrogance, Eamon with dignity.



High stakes for Labour Party

* Labour happily going for a Burton?



In for a rude awakening

* Having listened to all the debates during the past few weeks, it strikes me that the winners of this election are confident of offering a political haven without accountability.

Confidence tends to be the feeling one has before knowing the facts.



Ming is finally growing up

* As I watched Luck ‘Ming’ Flanagan celebrating his victory in the EU elections, wearing a well-tailored suit, I thought I was suffering from an hallucination.

Had the mushrooms I’d just eaten been of the magic variety? Hopefully when ‘Ming’ Flanagan attends the European parliament he will resist the adolescent desire for attention and dress with due respect for that institution.



Irish Independent


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