1 June2014 Knee

No jog around te par k I have arthritis n my left knee

Scrabbletoday, Mary wins the game, and get under 400 perhaps MaryI will win tomorrow


Billie Fleming was a cyclist who in 1938 pedalled nearly 30,000 miles around the British Isles, setting a women’s world record

Billie Fleming on her record-breaking cycle ride in 1938

Billie Fleming on her record-breaking cycle ride in 1938

6:47PM BST 30 May 2014

Comments7 Comments

Billie Fleming, who has died aged 100, set a women’s world record in 1938 for the greatest distance cycled in a single year.

Billie Dovey, as she then was, was a 24-year-old secretary and typist who had become inspired by the ideas of the Women’s League of Health & Beauty, an organisation founded in the 1930s by Mary Bagot Stack as “a league of women who will renew their energy in themselves and for themselves day by day”. A keen cyclist, Billie Dovey decided to put principles into action by embarking on an extensive cycling tour of the British Isles.

The cycle maker Rudge Whitworth agreed to provide her with a bike — a heavy steel machine fitted with a three-speed cycle derailleur gear — and to arrange sponsorship, in return for her agreeing to ride the bike every day of the year and to help promote the company. One of her sponsors, Cadbury, provided her with 5lbs of chocolate every month in return for her appearing in their advertisements.

Billie Fleming

The “Rudge Whitworth Keep Fit Girl”, as she was billed in the press, set out on January 1 1938 from the New Horticultural Halls, Westminster, and rode to Mill Hill, Aylesbury and then back to Mill Hill, a total of 71 miles. After 365 days she had ridden her bike 29,603.4 miles — 35 times the distance from Land’s End to John O’Groats; more than eight times the distance from London to New York; and almost three times the distance from London to Sydney. “I just got on my bike in the morning and kept cycling all day. I rode all over the country,” she recalled. A hard day’s pedalling was often followed by a promotional visit to a Rudge Whitworth cycle dealer, and then sometimes a talk at a village hall or cycling event.

Billie Dovey had no pannier on her bike – just a small saddlebag with a change of clothes and a few tools. She carried no water and relied on local cafés and shops for food. Apart from one puncture, the bike suffered no mechanical problems.

To prove she had travelled the miles she claimed, Billie Dovey had to complete “checking cards” and get them signed by witnesses and posted back to Cycling magazine. She had a cyclometer on her bike and she had to go to the magazine’s offices in London at intervals to prove that it had not been tampered with.

Although her average was 81 miles a day, there were days when she did far more. One morning, in York, she decided to cycle back home to Mill Hill, a distance of 186 miles.

Billie Fleming outside the Rudge dealer in Alresford, Hampshire

In 1942 an Australian woman cyclist set out to take the record from Billie Dovey, but her claim to have cycled 54,402.8 miles in a year was dismissed after the Australian cycling authorities scrutinised her log books. Despite the advent of bikes made with lightweight alloys and fitted with multiple speed gears (a trend Billie thought ridiculous — “three is plenty”) her record is thought to have remained unbroken to this day. “I was young and fit and ready to take on anything,” she recalled.

The eldest of three sisters, she was born Lilian Irene Bartram on April 13 1914 in Camden, north London, just three months before the outbreak of the First World War. Her father was a toolmaker. She attended the Lyulph Stanley Central School, Camden, which she left aged 16 to become a typist.

She developed a passion for cycling when she met a boy at a youth club who rode a bike and took her on to the Barnet bypass in Mill Hill to teach her how to ride.

Billie Fleming posting a checking card

After her record-breaking journey in 1938 she had planned to ride across the United States, but was prevented from doing so by the outbreak of the Second World War, during which she worked in the buying office of an aircraft company. She consoled herself in 1940 by breaking three cycling records riding a tricycle — the 25-mile, 50-mile and 100-mile distances.

Before the war she had married Freddie Dovey, with whom she had a son. The marriage was dissolved, and in 1953 she met her second husband, George Fleming, another keen cyclist who had been the first man to cycle 50 miles in less than two hours. They enjoyed cycling together, and in 1957 rode the entire Pyrenees mountain range from the Atlantic Ocean to the Mediterranean.

George Fleming died in 1997, and for the last seven years of her life Billie Fleming lived in a care home at Abbotsham, Devon, where she continued to watch the Tour de France and other cycling events on television.

She is survived by a stepson.

Billie Fleming, born April 13 1914, died May 12 2014


Fairtrade acknowledges that landless agricultural workers are a most disadvantaged group and therefore a difficult group to reach (“Harsh truths are necessary if Fairtrade is to change the lives of the desperately poor“, News). SOAS’s new report highlights the need for a concerted, systematic and coordinated effort to improve conditions for temporary and casual workers. These most vulnerable of people are being failed by all parties – local and international governments, trade unions, NGOs and companies. Fairtrade is committed to playing its part in addressing the associated challenges ahead.

Fairtrade aims to work with farmers on Fairtrade-certified small farms to ensure that secure and stable incomes meet their needs and those of the workers.  The SOAS report fails to recognise this. If a farm is selling a small fraction of its produce as Fairtrade and the rest on the conventional market, there is very little of the extra money from Fairtrade sales to go towards projects like healthcare and sanitation. Fairtrade works incrementally – it is trade, not aid, after all.

Fairtrade cannot solve all the problems of rural development. Our aim is to reach more people and deepen the impact that Fairtrade can have. To make progress we need to increase the market for Fairtrade products. This is something that we are committed to, in order to achieve greater benefits for farmers and workers in developing countries.

When people reach for a product with the FAIRTRADE mark, they are making a proven difference to the lives of the people who produce them. To have an even greater impact we need more of those customers – and more companies and donors – to back Fairtrade.

Michael Gidney

Chief executive

Fairtrade Foundation

A terrible racist legacy

In the 1950s my school in east London organised a trip for the fifth formers to Austria, to a village, perhaps hamlet might be a better word, called Judenstein (Jews’ stone). The church was dedicated to the “murder” of a Christian child by Jews for his blood (“In quiet sandstone streets, 56 villagers contemplate the meaning of a name“, News.)

The centrepiece was a silver tableau about 3m by 1.5m and several metres high. Its subject was a depiction of the slaying; and the stations of the cross round the church were replaced by the various stages of the capture and killing of the child.

I believe the church itself has since been “cleansed” of the more hideous aspects of this blood libel but the villagers of Judenstein, unlike the villagers of Castrillo Matajudíos, have not shown the slightest inclination to change the name of the village. The irony of this school visit was that 60-70% of the pupils at that school were Jewish.

David Conroy

London SW19

A truly noble Brazilian

David Goldblatt, in his brilliant feature on Brazil (“Brazil’s football party can’t hide the country’s tensions” In Focus) wrote: “It is notable that not a single Nobel prize has been awarded to a Brazilian.” I am sure that others will agree with me that the Nobel prize for literature should have been awarded to Jorge Amado, who died in 2001. He used the Portuguese language with the incisiveness of a satirist and the lyricism of a poet. His output was enormous; his humour irresistible. In 2014, when Brazil is in the news everywhere, maybe we should honour this wonderful writer by encouraging everyone to study his richly imaginative novels,

Penelope Maclachlan

London W7

Think again about Neil Lennon

In offering theories for Neil Lennon’s victimisation, (“A good man Scotland abused and betrayed“, Comment) Kevin McKenna might have benefited from analysing the reporting of death threats towards former Rangers players like Nacho Novo and Fernando Ricksen. Unlike the unfortunate crimes committed against Neil Lennon, these acts were not reported as sectarian, but rather as a potent blend of football rivalry and idiocy. Could it be that Lennon is just an unlikeable figure in a goldfish-bowl environment?

McKenna is correct in stating that Lennon was reviled throughout Scotland. However, fans of clubs like Aberdeen and Dundee United have no time for the baggage that accompanies supporting Rangers or Celtic. It is ridiculous to suggest that a fan of the “great Glasgow alternative”, Partick Thistle, might boo Lennon because he is a Northern Irish Catholic.

James Robertson


Handsome is as handsome does

Of the three critics who were less than polite about the opera singer Tara Erraught’s looks, I noticed that you didn’t print a photo of one of them, Richard Morrison. Does he look so horrendous that you hesitate to scare Observer readers (“Time to bring the curtain down on critics’ sexism“, In Focus)? You printed photos of two of the others, Rupert Christiansen and Quentin Letts. Let me just say that if I were playing the game commuters play when they’ve finished reading their newspapers (to put it politely, wondering which of the passengers sitting opposite are the most attractive), these two gentlemen would come way down the list.

Sue Boulding

Baschurch, Shropshire

Andrew Rawnsley is correct that “Labour’s got big problems and diminishing time to fix them“, (Comment) but it is not just a question of totting up policies and getting the message across.

We are witnessing a return to the politics of the 1930s, with unemployment, inequality and a sense of national insecurity breeding national populism, here as across Europe.

Conventional parties and Eurocrats are seen to look after the political class, bankers, oligarchs and big business. It is easy for populist parties to blame them and to focus on immigration as the issue, which solved, would solve all others. In the 1930s these ills were blamed on Jews; now they are blamed on immigrants. In the 1930s, however, there was a powerful current of anti-fascism, underpinned by communism, socialism and left-liberalism, that stood up to fascism and Nazism in Europe and eventually won through. Since the end of the cold war such visions have evaporated, leaving the field to neo-liberalism.

What the Labour party and the European left in general need is a new vision inspired by a rethinking of socialism. The academic analysis of inequality and the failure of capitalism unhindered and unhinged is out there in the work of Piketty and others. This needs urgently to be translated not only into policies but into a powerful vision that makes sense of world-historical problems and sets fearlessly about fixing them.

Robert Gildea

Professor of Modern History

University of Oxford

Andrew Rawnsley thinks Labour did badly in the recent election and cites senior Labour figures who blame Ed Miliband and consider he is too “Ed-centric”.

Peter Hain MP asserts that the party did pretty well thanks to Ed’s leadership and calls on him to attack “the bloated elites” who run our economy (Only Ed Miliband truly understands that the party system is bust, and how to fix it, News).

I don’t suppose Labour MPs are interested in the views of a member of the party for 52 years, many of which have been spent in deprived areas. I believe that Labour needs to replace the present “bloated elites” who run the party with working-class leaders who will give priority to a radical reduction of inequality and the complete abolition of poverty.

Bob Holman


Confusion reigned throughout Sunday across the Observer‘s coverage of the local elections. First, Labour actually “won” these elections but you would not have known it except for the small print. But the really big story was that the Lib Dems imploded, losing 300 seats to Labour, Greens and Ukip. Where was that analysis?

Second, where was any coverage of the Greens, despite the small but significant increase in their vote? How could you not have even included them in your maps and sidebars? Did they poll more or fewer votes than Ukip? Now that would be a story.

Third, how could Ukip “redraw the political map” when its share of the vote actually decreased from last year? What a load of old media spin it all was.

Virginia Cumming

London N19

The best way forward for Labour is to build an activist base. Crafting a strategy designed to appeal to marginal voters inevitably results in an unconvincing muddle, and will make the party look weak and hapless.

A base of young, committed, technically-savvy activists will carry the party’s message and its cause into communities throughout Britain. It will result in the kind of grassroots politicking that is more concrete and engaging.

Women (especially single women under 35), young people, ethnic minorities, and low and high-end service professions are now Labour’s natural constituency. The party needs to build a strategy that makes of those groups a coalition of voters. Electoral victories are built on expanding strengths, not minimising weaknesses.


post online


I’ve just read your Happy List (25 May) which cheered me up no end. What amazing people. Let’s have more of these inspiring stories about people whose selfless efforts are tackling many of the problems being caused by our elected representatives. What a pity they are not running the country.

Wendy Mustill

via email

By definition, as a member of the Royal family, Charles is at odds with Joan Smith’s political views (“Can Charles get laws changed? They won’t say”, 25 May). Just existing, he is political, without saying anything. He, as the heir to the throne, isn’t in line with her republican views. This means that she will further, or over, politicise anything controversial he is overheard to have said.

I do not think his conversation was “private”; anything he says at a public function he has to accept as public. However, as a man, even a publicly owned man, he has an opinion. If he is influencing laws, as implied, that is different, and should not be happening.

This was an off-the-cuff remark that has no serious impact and was not meant to influence foreign affairs in any manner. By condemning it so severely, Joan Smith is politicizing Charles and the situation more than it demands; she is using the remark to air her own disdain for the monarchy, and the system within which we live. So it would seem, anyway.

Helen Brown


Our elected representatives should show some grit and stop Prince Charles’s meddling and playing at politics. He is damaging our relations with other countries and undermining our democracy. The monarchy is in receipt of a lot of taxpayers’ money and other privileges and Charles’s actions are making a mockery of this institution.

Jenny Bushell

Wimbledon SW19

Hamish McRae (25 May) writes about still having “the intractable problem of long-term unemployment” while elsewhere there are skill shortages. One reason for this is that those jobless are living in northern towns that suffered from the collapse of their traditional heavy industry – such as my home of Grimsby, that lost its deep-sea fishing trade. Meanwhile, the newly available work is predominantly in the South-east. Given the fact that you can a buy a terrace house here for under £60,000, who can afford to move for work, especially as there isn’t the social rented property that used to exist?

Tim Mickleburgh

Grimsby, Lincolnshire

D  J Taylor (“For £9,000 a year, you expect to stay awake”, 25 May) is certainly right that if you are paying £9,000 in university fees a year you should expect competent lecturers. Whether that has much to do with anything that might be defined as education is another matter.

When I did my first degree (in the late 1970s) I spent far more time occupying college premises in protest at various issues than I ever did in lectures. There I learnt organising, public speaking, and media skills that have served me well in later life.

Keith Flett

London N17

D  J Taylor’s article reminds me that when I went up to University College of North Wales, Bangor, in 1960, I was told by a research student, when I grumbled about the teaching: “ You came here to read for a degree not to be taught – a university is not a school.”

Philip Johnson

Clifton, York

I can understand North Korea recruiting soldiers at 16, because it is important that they have impressionable minds to indoctrinate with the regime’s ideology (“UK under fire for recruiting an army of children”, 25 May). But the British Army has no need to indoctrinate or rule by fear, so should raise the age of entry to 18 and show that it can create competent soldiers, who have ideas of their own.

Kartar Uppal

West Bromwich, West Midlands


Tories paid price in Europe for not listening to voters

IT IS very easy to blame the lack of support for the Conservative party on UKIP (“The people have spoken, the bastards”, Editorial, “Tories press PM to call early EU vote”, News, and “Gentlemen, it’s kicking out time”, Focus, last week). The reality is much simpler: Conservative Central Office does not acknowledge the voice formerly expressed through local associations, which feel ignored by the professional politicians in Westminster, most of whom are unaware how irritated people are by the whingeing about pay and expenses.

I certainly do not support UKIP but I comprehend that Nigel Farage communicates effectively with voters. If all the main parties, not just the Conservatives, fail to make radical changes they will wither and be sidelined.
Roger Thomas, former chairman of East Sussex county council

Britain’s got problems

If UKIP is making inroads it is because the main parties have failed to address the problems: growing inequality, financial and corporate greed, tax avoidance by the rich, the privatisation of public assets, a loss of national identity and illegal immigration, which is transforming towns and cities.

Politicians have to look after the people rather than themselves and their oligarch non-domiciled friends.
Peter Fieldman, Madrid, Spain

Roaring trade

The Tory MP David Davis argues a British exit from the EU would “initiate an era of vast new trading opportunities … far beyond our borders” (“Either we vote early on EU exit or we watch Farage crow”, Focus, last week). Fast- growing markets have existed for decades beyond the EU but the UK has a smaller market share than many of our competitors from the EU, notably Germany and France. EU membership should be no impediment to successful trading in the rest of the world. The success of our exporters is not dependent on when or how we vote in an in/out referendum. The solution lies closer to home
Mel Cumming, Letchworth, Hertfordshire

Forward motion

David Cameron has a greater chance of quenching Mount Etna with a watering can than getting the EU to clean up its act or to give away any meaningful concessions. This being the case, the 2017 referendum becomes a nonentity.

The EU will always be a bloated, profligate behemoth with entrenched expansion and endemic duplicity. I sincerely hope the government will take heed of Davis’s advice to bring forward the referendum.
Anthony Baird, Welwyn Garden City, Hertfordshire

Difference of opinion

Our experience of the EU is of an undemocratic, economically and politically incompetent institution with a hidden design to create the United States of Europe. We have been corralled into the present mess. Do we want to be closely associated with a currency union that is unsuited to the diverse cultures and different economic capabilities in the EU? Do we want people in eastern Europe and the Mediterranean to determine how we live?
Paul Ashfield, Harrogate, North Yorkshire

National interests

Despite having waged war with most of the European states, we have more in common with their populace than any other. No, we are not anti-Europe but we are anti a non-elected body whose corruption is legendary and whose ill-judged decisions in every aspect of government, be it justice, health, trade, immigration or foreign policy, are flawed to the point where even the most ardent supporters of federalisation are becoming nationalists. We as Europeans demand a return to decisions by national governments.
Bill Westsmith, Cobham, Surrey

Identity card

Surely we have been Europeans since we first came to these islands. Our history has been a European one, and geographically and economically we are irremovably part of Europe. Do we want to be an insignificant island useful only as an aircraft carrier or drone-launching site for America? Elizabeth Young London W2 PROTEST TOO MUCH I am amazed that people who are trying to enter politics can blame their party leader. Nick Clegg and his team have done a very good job steering through Cameron’s pond. Now we have UKIP holding council seats we will soon see its real colours and next year those who voted for the party will say: “I only did so as a protest. Of course I won’t vote for UKIP again.”
Patrick Rout Keighley, West Yorkshire

American novels have a vital place in British classrooms

WHAT sort of world does the education secretary Michael Gove, a former journalist, want our children to grow up in (“Gove kills the mockingbird with ban on US classic novels”, News, last week)? An isolated one, clearly, even though we are in the age of instant global communications. Being brought up with Just William, Biggles, Adrian Mole and Harry Potter is OK, even essential, but it’s no good without Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer to balance things.

How are children to learn about differences and perspectives, to say nothing of the disparity in character between people who speak another language and live in a foreign land. What about the European writers and those from India and Africa? Then there is the matter of ethnicity — where, for a start, does Gove place Salman Rushdie?
Terry Collcutt, Bletchingley, Surrey

Brought to books

I felt I was making a connection and a difference during the years I spent teaching (in the main) adolescent boys who had been excluded from school. Each session was a test of wills, whether it took place in the local authority unit or in the boy’s home. In the first English lesson I would introduce Of Mice and Men — a text they all loved from the word go, often begging me to ditch the maths or science lesson so as to read the next chapter.

They were at their most articulate when talking about the hopes and dreams of the characters. It often helped them express how powerless they felt.
Sian Steele, Swansea 

Variety performance

This is micro-management in the extreme. I studied Shakespeare, the Brontë sisters and modern American classics at O-level and A-level. The variety was important and certainly the development and use of language, from Chaucer to Arthur Miller, gave a depth of understanding and rigour. The syllabus should include modern texts but I’m not sure they all have to be British to be relevant — after all, do physics students just study the theories of UK scientists?
Eileen Beesley, Northampton

Further reading

We are no longer in an age where you can force children to learn. You must have them onside and a syllabus such as this will not do that. Another dopy Gove move.
Laurel Wood, by email

Fabricated sharia is misleading Muslims

LORD CAREY’S welcome call for Muslims to permit the right of free conversion from Islam will sadly fall on deaf ears (“Carey pleads for life of pregnant Christian”, News, May 18). All the main Islamic organisations such as the new Labour-created and funded Muslim Council of Britain, as well as other ultra- conservative kindred sects such as the Wahabi-Salafi-Deobandi Tabligh Jama’ah, all promote sharia, a manufactured legal corpus that frequently has little or no religious validation within Islam’s transcendent text and contradicts the primary divine scripture.

While the holy Koran enshrines complete freedom of faith and conscience, the later emergence of an unbridled ecclesiastical monopoly in Muslim society negated this fundamental human right. The early clerics peddled the non-Koranic myth that apostasy or free conversion from Islam is punishable by death. This dubious ruling was derived from questionable hadith (reputed sayings of the prophet Muhammad) compiled some 300 years after his death. Nowhere in the Koran is there any prohibition for a believer to desert her or his faith; this ban is only found in suspect hadith and invented medieval opinion that masquerades as unchallenged divine directives.

British Muslims must distinguish between what their sacred book actually states and what the fabricated sharia claims. They need to divorce themselves from the clerics’ toxic perversion of the Koran and to understand that there is no penalty for invented “crimes” such as heresy, apostasy and blasphemy.
Imam Dr Taj Hargey, Director, Muslim Educational Centre of Oxford


Sexist education

India Knight (“Roast men for their private banter and the war on sexism is lost”, Comment, last week) suggests there has been an overreaction to the sexist comments made by Richard Scudamore, the chief executive of the Premier League, and that women should “pick your battles” and “keep men on side”. She also says the right response is to educate people “about the power of words and the harm they can cause”. This is precisely why it is important to highlight the fact that the language many men use to talk about women is sometimes offensive and unacceptable. For too long, women and girls have been asked, “Where’s your sense of humour?” if they don’t laugh at a sexist “joke”, or told sexist banter is “only a bit of fun”.
Lucy Daniells, Conroy St Albans, Hertfordshire

Rabbit hole 

After your article “Caged, beaten: the rabbits for your plate” (News, last week) I shall no longer eat my favourite dish when in Spain. However, the report stating that caged rabbits were seen eating their own faeces was sensationalist. Rabbits are coprophagous and eat their first droppings because they contain a vital source of vitamin B12, which is produced in the intestines but can only be absorbed by the stomach. Hence these first droppings are eaten; the second droppings are not. Rabbits eating their own faeces is perfectly natural.
Tim Kenny Cavendish, Suffolk 

Double take

Rabbits are being bred in appalling conditions in Spain; pigs are reared in Holland and Denmark in a manner unacceptable in the UK; calves are reared in darkness in tiny crates in France; and horses are transported — and killed — in conditions Britain would never tolerate. Double standards are the hallmarks of EU policies.
Richard English, South Petherton, Somerset

Abstract brush-off

In his article about the Kenneth Clark exhibition at Tate Britain, Waldemar Januszczak moans about the subject’s antipathy to abstract art (“He gave us Moore — and more”, Culture, last week). Then he complains that Clark appointed his (non-abstract) friends as war artists in the Second World War. A fat lot of use abstract painters would have been in giving us an idea of the conflict. In defence of Clark I need only think of Paul Nash’s marvellous canvas of the Battle of Britain — aircraft vapour trails in the sky and the black smoke streaming from another plane as it plunges into the sea.
Dr Bevis Hillier, Winchester, Hampshire

First- class male

Please tell me Dr Barbara Reay was joking when she wrote that a man who buys you dinner is exercising his “patriarchal culture of entitlement” and then feels he has the right to sleep with you (“Out of date”, Letters, May 18). She must have had dinner with some very strange men; the majority of them, no matter what the raving feminists say, use it as an opportunity to relax and get to know you. I find it depressing that 40 years of feminism has resulted in declaring war on all men.
Linda Hill, Herne Bay, Kent

On the offensive

By comparison with Camilla Long’s attack on Nicole Kidman’s face (Comment, May 18) the opera critics were positively kind about the body of the Irish mezzo-soprano Tara Erraught. I have been a Sunday Times reader for years, until I became so fed up with the supercilious Long, AA Gill and Jeremy Clarkson that I changed to another Sunday paper. I found I so missed Rod Liddle, Matt Rudd, Roland White and others that I had to come back to the fold.
Jean Rush, Spalding, Lincolnshire

Corrections and clarifications

Complaints about inaccuracies in all sections of The Sunday Times, including online, should be addressed to or The Editor, The Sunday Times, 3 Thomas More Square, London E98 1ST. In addition, the Press Complaints Commission ( or 020 7831 0022) examines formal complaints about the editorial content of UK newspapers and magazines (and their websites)


Brian Cox, actor, 68; Jason Donovan, singer, 46; Lord Foster, architect, 79; Morgan Freeman, actor, 77; Mike Joyce, drummer, 51; Heidi Klum, model, 41; Robert Powell, actor, 70; Jonathan Pryce, actor, 67; Tom Robinson, singer, 64; Gerald Scarfe, cartoonist, 78; Nigel Short, chess player, 49; Ronnie Wood, guitarist, 67


1926 Marilyn Monroe born; 1946 issue of the first TV licences, price £2; 1967 the Beatles release Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band; 1979 Rhodesia formally ends nearly 90 years of white minority rule; 2001 Crown Prince Dipendra of Nepal shoots and kills nine members of his family, including his parents, and then himself


Bretons demonstrate in Nantes on April 19 in favour of reunification  Photo: AFP/GETTY

6:58AM BST 31 May 2014

Comments78 Comments

SIR – France is about to destroy one of Europe’s oldest nations when President François Hollande reveals the new administrative map of France next week.

Events culminated last month with a 10,000-strong peaceful protest of Breton people on the streets of Nantes asking for the reunification of Brittany.

Brittany lost its former capital city and the department of Loire-Atlantique in 1941. The key is Nantes, which has been included in the artificial region of Pays de la Loire.

Breton people have been asked to take part in rallies at the two ends of Brittany, in Brest and Nantes, today in what will be a make-or-break situation for both Brittany and President Hollande.

Dominig Kervegant
Tregarth, Caernarfonshire

SIR – After the exposure of abuse and neglect at Winterbourne View hospital in 2011, the Government assured us that it would use the scandal “as a spur to make things better”. Three years later, nothing has changed, and 3,250 of our brothers, sisters, sons and daughters remain in units where they are often over-medicated, restrained and kept in solitary confinement.

We are devastated at the failure of the NHS, local authorities and the Government to meet their own deadlines for moving people with learning disabilities out of places like Winterbourne View. The number of people going into these places is in fact going up.

We, the families of the victims of abuse at Winterbourne View and people stuck in similar places, and charities, call on the Prime Minister to take personal responsibility and address this failure.

Jan Tregelles
Chief Executive, Mencap
Vivien Cooper
Chief Executive, The Challenging Behaviour Foundation
Dr Margaret Flynn
Author, Winterbourne View Serious Case Review
Steve Sollars
Ann Earley
Wendy Fiander
Claire, Emma and Tom Pullar
David and Jill Jack
Jane Alcock
Catie and Shirley Bennett
Muhammad Hussain
Phill Wills and Sarah Pedley

Helen Cherry
Sue Battin
Sara Ryan

Tobacco’s evil twin

SIR – Alcohol is seductively advertised on television, on hoardings and in the press. It presents a public face of fun, frivolity and no risks. Tobacco, by contrast, is the deadly killer demon hidden out of sight in supermarkets, sometimes in wrappers with awful pictures of cancerous lungs.

How many casualty wards fill with wounded vomiting bloody smokers on a Saturday night? Alcohol is the evil twin of the equally evil tobacco and costs the NHS as much, if not more, in treatment.

John Fisher
University of Reading

Many a slip

SIR – Derek Pringle’s article about the late Yorkshire all-rounder Phil Sharpe and his innovative approach to slip catching brought to mind another cricketer with an amazing record.

John Langridge (right) played for Sussex from 1930 to 1955 (minus five years for the war) and took a total of 784 catches, almost all fielding in the slips, surely a total which will never be surpassed. Additionally, he scored more than 34,000 runs, including 76 centuries. That he was never selected to play for England remains a mystery.

Jeremy O’Byrne
Haywards Heath, West Sussex

Through thick and thin

SIR – You report that “three slices of white bread a day ‘can lead to a thick waist’”. I would add that three medium or thick slices of bread can lead to an even thicker waist. Why is there no thinly sliced bread on supermarket shelves?

John Elliott
Whitworth, Lancashire

Chilcot secrets

SIR – The announcement of the Chilcot inquiry in 2009 raised hopes that the truth would out on our involvement in a war that many believe to have been illegal. After years of dithering there’s still no report – although we now know that key communications between Tony Blair and President George Bush will be kept secret when it is published.

It’s hard now not to expect anything other than a £10 million whitewash when the report finally surfaces.

Neil Bailey
Audenshaw, Lancashire

SIR – The purpose of confidentiality in not revealing all that went on between Mr Blair and Mr Bush should be the protection of intelligence sources.

It appears that the true purpose is to prevent us, the public, using our intelligence to judge how this Machiavellian pair adjusted facts to justify their actions.

That is political expediency and is not in the national interests of either Britain or our cousins across the pond.

Andrew Pierce
Barnstaple, Devon

SIR – The Chilcot report will not be worth the paper it is eventually printed on. It is outrageous that it has been delayed so long and will now be subject to restrictive editing of important information.

Douglas Linington
Ramsey, Huntingdonshire

Wash and Wear

SIR – After becoming a widower I remarried, and I have now enjoyed two silver wedding anniversaries. In all that time I have never seen a wife of mine enter a bath or shower other than naked.

Today, however, all advertisements for baths and showers show a woman dressed in a bathing costume or with a similar covering. Have I been missing something?

Jack Richards
Hitchin, Hertfordshire

Grabbing a platform

SIR – I wonder if other Cambridge residents share my amusement at the chutzpah of our one-time (and much-loved) polytechnic which has secured advertising hoardings at the station that say “Cambridge: home of Anglia Ruskin University”?

Rev Tom Buchanan

SIR – Simon Stevens, the new head of the health service, is right to raise concerns over how the European Working Time Directive has been interpreted. Its impact is being felt across the NHS.

From local hospitals to specialist centres, it is clear that the slavish adherence to these regulations is undermining continuity of care for patients and training in many specialties. We know that smaller hospitals particularly find it impossible to fill staff rotas, which makes delivering many surgical services unsustainable.

A recent independent multiprofessional taskforce report on the implementation of the directive, chaired by myself, found that many doctors work longer hours voluntarily to gain the skills they need and deliver the care they believe their patients require as a result of the directive.

We do not wish to see a return to doctors working ridiculously long hours, but there is a balance to be struck between safe and effective care and excessive fatigue.

Patient safety is paramount; health professionals, the NHS and Government must work together to address the challenges of the directive.

Professor Norman Williams
President, Royal College of Surgeons
London WC2

SIR – How refreshing to read your report on how Simon Stevens sees the future of the NHS, under the headline “NHS chief: we need cottage hospitals”.

He shows a clear understanding of the changing needs of NHS patients, particularly the elderly, of the monster that hospital centralisation has created, and of the best that other nations now offer.

He will face entrenched resistance, but he must not falter.

Stuart Archbold
Leeds, West Yorkshire

SIR – Mr Stevens is right to suggest better use of local community health facilities to treat elderly patients with long-term conditions. The NHS must also reduce the amount it spends on acute hospital care, which currently stands at 51 per cent of the NHS budget. To tackle the causes of overuse of A&E, we need access to out-of-hours GP services and to specialist hospital doctors 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

To fund all this, the NHS must centralise major acute and specialist services (which cannot be provided locally in a safe and sustainable manner). This includes reducing the current over-provision of A&E departments across the country.

Sam Burrows and Kate Woolland
PA Consulting Group
London SW1

SIR – On the same day that Mr Stevens stated that we need cottage hospitals, NHS West Leicestershire Clinical Commissioning Group announced it would close Ashby de la Zouch cottage hospital.

Does the left hand know what the right hand is doing?

Paul Boddington
Ashby de la Zouch, Leicestershire

Irish Times:

Irish Independent:

Published 01 June 2014 02:30 AM

Madam – My glass is certainly half full.

Also in this section

No escape from the Harry Houdini property trap

New leader needs to get some clout in Brussels

EU institutions’ blatant disregard for democracy

Eight weeks ago I made a decision to run in this year’s local elections in Galway City West Ward. Within a week I had my posters and leaflets printed. I had assembled a team of canvassers, which grew to over 30 by the end of the campaign. I ran a short six -week canvass, erecting 100 posters, and canvassed 5,000 houses in that time. I started as a complete unknown in political terms.

Two-hundred-and-seventy people of this ward thought I was the best person to represent them on City Council. By the time I was eliminated on Count 5, I had increased this to 401 votes, which was approximately a third of a quota.

I loved the campaign. I annoyed my friends to come out canvassing with me on sometimes dreadful evenings. I learned so much during this time. I realise I have fantastic friends who shared the highs (mostly) of the campaign and the roller coaster of tallying (highs and lows).

I put myself forward on the issues I believe in. It is truly heartening to realise the support there is for me, from people who voted for me to people who were involved in the campaign. I may not have won a seat on Galway City Council but I have achieved in other ways. It is in no way a defeat.

I wish to congratulate everyone who was elected and commiserate with those unsuccessful this time. I’m confident the new faces on City Council will bring new ideas and a new energy. I wish them the very best of luck.

Tommy Roddy, Independent candidate, West Ward, Galway

Voters’ fury was fully predictable

Madam – I refer to the front-page article ‘Coalition feel the fury of the people at the ballot box’, written by Jody Corcoran, John Drennan and Daniel McConnell (Sunday Independent, May 25, 2014). The term ‘coping class’ is mild to say the least, when it comes to the reality of how it is for thousands of people. To find oneself struggling six years on as a direct result of Fine Gael and Labour’s brutal austerity measures, which were dumped on us devoid of sensitivity or empathy, is unacceptable.

‘A dejected minister, Pat Rabbitte, said: “In Ireland people don’t march down Grafton Street and break windows, but by God they vent their vengeance in the ballot box”.’ This speaks volumes. This statement was made after the Government took a massive election “wallop”. Thousands of people (including myself) took to the streets all over Ireland over the last few years.

Is Mr Rabbitte saying that we were not noticed because we didn’t break windows on Grafton Street? The fact is that Mr Rabbitte and the Government chose to blatantly ignore us and our genuine cry for help in an effort to alleviate unnecessary suffering due to their continuous austerity measures.

Why is it that the Labour Party and Fine Gael appear to be surprised that they suffered such a strong meltdown in the elections? I could predict the recent election outcome along with many of us out here. Sadly the Government is totally disconnected from us.

The answer for Labour and Fine Gael is actually very easy and definitely not rocket science. In an effort to answer the question, let me first point out my own personal circumstances.

I have worked all my life and paid all my taxes. I did not reach out to social welfare when my marriage broke up and left me to rear two children on my own. I worked hard to put a roof over our heads and food on our table. I lost my home that I had worked hard for. I became suicidal and nearly left the planet while trying to pay mortgage, banks, etc, having lost my job. I am now on illness pension and on the local housing list. My children are grown up, and my son had to emigrate due to the recession and my grand-children live in America.

By the time I am nearly 70 I just might get social housing, but in the meantime I have to put up with landlords who are prepared to overcharge for rent – and get away with it.

I reached out to various political parties and councillors for help and support and all the many doors were not just closed to me, at times they were slammed in my stressed, lined, aged face.

Taking into account that I am only one of thousands out here who have experienced all of the above (and it’s only the tip of the iceberg, believe me), I am one of the ‘lucky ones’. There are copious others suffering far worse situations than me.

(Name and address with Editor)

A window has opened

Madam – When I find myself agreeing with Eoghan Harris (Sunday Independent, May 25, 2014), I become very, very frightened. Nevertheless, his call for a pragmatic Social Democratic presence in our politics articulates something for which some of us have been calling for some time. Certainly since the eruption of our current socio-economic crisis. In fact, much further back.

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. His resignation makes possible the reconstruction and remodelling of the Labour Party and its role in Irish politics and society, but also very much more. Just conceivably, a refreshed agenda for the Irish people.

Labour’s prime objective is not to save this Government or to save the party or even to save the seats of individual members. 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.

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 on the planet is changing at an unprecedented pace – and a terrible ugliness, not a beauty, is being constructed by default.

Time is not on Labour’s side. The autumn Budget and an election more likely to be in 2015 than 2016 pressurise decisions which, ideally, would be slow and methodical in the reaching. 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 a truly Irish Republic, which cherished all the children of the nation, it would be more than worth the wait, the sweat and tears.

Maurice O’Connell, Tralee, Co Kerry

WWI halted bill

Madam – A Leavy (Sunday Independent, May 18, 2014), mentions the undemocratic nature of the failure of the 1914 Home Rule bill. I agree with the assertion that the lack of implementation of the bill likely engendered the Rising of 1916. But the British government did not dictatorially decide not to pass the bill. They declared it be postponed indefinitely due to the outbreak of World War I.

A Leavy is correct that militant unionism likely played a part in the reluctance of the government to implement the bill, but we must note that the Welsh Church Act was also delayed. Indeed, the two bills were formally suspended with the passing of the Postponement Act of the same year. So both bills had obtained Royal assent, and were only to be deferred for the duration of the war. This would have been fairly common knowledge at the time, so it is slightly inaccurate to suggest that nationalists felt the bill had been abandoned autocratically, and so decided to act in an undemocratic manner.

Rather, the postponement of the bill likely contributed to a sense of frustration on their part, given the elongated nature of the “Great War”.

P English, Cahir, Co Tipperary

Labour has only itself to blame

Madam – The analysis of the demise of the Labour vote in the local and European elections by your political correspondent, Daniel McConnell (Sunday Independent, May 25, 2014), made very interesting reading. The Labour Party has no one to blame but itself for the collapse of its vote at the polls. Its partnership, if one may call it that, with a right-wing party’s policy of austerity measures was bound to bring this about. The party founded by James Connolly and James Larkin to protect the interests of the working class has surrendered what principles it may have had to the neo-liberal agenda – hence the collapse of its vote in working-class areas.

There is no doubt that the party has overseen harsh cuts which have impacted on the middle classes, but this is also true of the working class. For your political correspondent to state that the party has protected primary welfare payments to poorer people is disingenuous to say the least, as he is continuing to perpetuate the myth propounded by the party.

Ever since the party entered into coalition with Fine Gael, the Minister for Social Protection, Joan Burton, has implemented cuts to Jobseeker’s Benefit, Jobseeker’s Allowance and Invalidity Pension.

Following the last Budget, when a person on the Invalidity Pension reaches 65 they have the payment increased to bring it into line with the State Contributory Pension.

But a person with the required prsi contributions on attaining the retirement age of 65, used to get the State Transition Pension of €230.30, similar to the State Contributory Pension. Now the State Transition Pension has been abolished, and they have to sign on and only receive the Jobseeker’s Benefit of €188 until they reach 66. All of this was implemented by a party founded to protect the working class and poorer sections of this society.

Dr Tadhg Moloney, Limerick

Party must make hard choices

Madam – So finally some of the hitherto obedient Labour classes have said enough is enough and called time on the unfortunate Mr Gilmore. The Irish public should take note that had the seats of these eight Labour TDs not been in danger, Mr Gilmore would probably have been trotting out the same old, “We must listen…” party line on national television. It is a scandalous situation that the people have been ignored, and it has taken the electorate to force an about-turn.

Now that the knives have been resheathed, it is time to consider where Labour went wrong – apart from becoming Enda Kenny‘s personal canine pet, that is. Labour needs to return firmly to its roots, and fight as a lone party for power. If it is true to its policies, the public will vote for it.

This means opposition to the water tax now, before it is too late, and not the dilution of the proposed bill as we have seen previously. It means demanding that those responsible for the collapse of this country are brought to justice.

It means a return to social values – putting the people first, not just paying lip service. We have seen USC and PRSI imposed and raised perpetually, whilst the underlying reason for imposition has been eroded to the point where even those who have long-term illnesses and rely on being able to afford a supply of drugs are being continuously threatened with the loss of their medical cards – or, as this Government so quaintly terms it, ‘reassessed’.

This country needs a real option to vote for. For many years now, a vote for Labour has resulted in more power for the despots in Fine Gael to impose so-called EU law. And whilst those responsible for the mess continue to thrive and the country increasingly resembles the Ireland of 2004 (in particular South Co Dublin), those at the other end of the scale who put their faith in Labour promises have lost their homes, emigrated or joined the record number of suicides. Only a new Labour that returns to its very beginnings can change this. But will Labour take the hard choices or easy street? For the sake of the poorer classes, I hope it is the former.

Brian Parker, Jacob’s Island, Cork

Guru Gerry’s cult is based on lies

Madam – One issue that puzzles political pundits and many voters about Sinn Fein is the fact that once a voter goes over to this party – and this applies both North or South – they tend to stay there. This phenomenon was very apparent during the Troubles after Sinn Fein stood for the first time for election in the North in 1982. At that time the SDLP had comfortably more votes in the North than Sinn Fein had over the whole of Ireland. Then the votes began to flow towards Sinn Fein. Very few came back.

It was clear that some kind of quasi-religious conversion was the reason for the hold Sinn Fein had on the voters.

In the North, it was a clear conversion from the positive compassionate ideology of the SDLP that rejected violence to a much more negative cynical view of the world that advocated using force to change things in a deeply divided society. In short, it was a movement away from traditional Catholic values and the Christian worldview to a Sinn Fein worldview.

For many voters a vote for Sinn Fein continues to be a step over the threshold of cynicism into a world where everybody else is at fault. They did nothing wrong, they say, and they believe they have all the answers.

The persistence of their guru Gerry Adams to live out his delusion that he was not a leader of the IRA is the acceptance of a lie that every Sinn Fein voter agrees with in the knowledge that it can’t be true. There lie the seeds of a dishonesty that underscores their cynicism and brings them to this new religion, founded on lies.

John O‘Connell, Derry

The taxing issue of homelessness

Madam – In Niamh Horan’s interview with Fr Peter McVerry (Sunday Independent, May 25, 2014), Fr McVerry called for legislation that would make it illegal for the State not to provide a roof over a person’s head; he believes politicians need to be embarrassed into action. I couldn’t agree more, but when it comes to funding local authorities to provide the required housing, surely some form of local council tax will be required. But we as an electorate can’t really be serious about addressing homelessness if we are going to vote for anti-austerity parties that promise to remove any such local tax.

Frank Browne, Templeogue, Dublin 16

Readers’ letters share a feature

Madam – All of the major newspapers in this country have something in common when it comes to writing letters to editors: if the issue raised in the letter offers a meaningful, radical, relatively original solution to a national glaring problem, the odds are it will never see the light of day.

Don’t agree? Read the letters page of each of the leading national newspapers for the past and future 180 days and prove me wrong.

Vincent J Lavery, Dalkey, Co Dublin

Dater imperial nonsense

Madam – An editorial footnote to Charles Moore’s article (Sunday Independent, May 11, 2014) could have forewarned readers that the author was the late Margaret Thatcher‘s official biographer and that the content of the piece was the Iron Lady speaking from the grave – out-of-time imperial nonsense.

What’s happening in the Ukraine is not so much a “power-grab” as a “slap-down”– Russia saying to the old enemy “not in my backyard” – over what many perceive as military encroachment by stealth. All reminiscent of the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962 when JFK faced down Nikita Kruschev over the basing of Russian ICBMs on Washington’s doorstep.

It’s tough on the people of the Ukraine. When they needed wise political leadership they got corruption and factionalism at home, exacerbated by seductive voices from Brussels and elsewhere. The fault-lines in the body-politic of the Ukraine have never been a secret. One has to wonder if the curiously named Commission for Enlargement in Brussels wasn’t on an Irish banker’s-style incentive plan: go for the business, never mind the quality of the asset. This commission/directorate may well have reached it’s sell-by date since most of the low-hanging fruit of the enlargement programme is already in the basket; dealing with the complexity of the Ukraine is a political challenge not a bureaucratic one.

All very sad. One misses the reportage of the Skibbereen Eagle!

Michael Gill, Killiney, Co Dublin


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: