No jog around the park I still have arthritis in my left knee
Scrabbletoday, I win the game, and gets under 400 perhaps Marywill win tomorrow
Sir Eldon Griffiths – obituary
Sir Eldon Griffiths was a Tory MP who served as Sports Minister under Heath and spoke up for the police at Westminster
Sir Eldon Griffiths in 1984 Photo: REX
6:42PM BST 03 Jun 2014
Sir Eldon Griffiths, who has died aged 89, was a high-profile journalist and polemicist who entered the Commons in 1964, seemingly with glittering prizes within his reach; in the event, he only became Minister for Sport under Edward Heath, and although a Right-winger, he was not on Margaret Thatcher’s wavelength, and spent the rest of his 28 years as MP for Bury St Edmunds on the back benches.
At home on both sides of the Atlantic, Griffiths was a successful journalist with Time-Life; the supplier to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer of its last studio lion; he was Sir Alec Douglas-Home’s speech writer; and a habitué of the American lecture circuit who moved to California while still in the Commons.
Rangy, articulate, but dour, Griffiths was a political loner, and not over-popular on the Tory benches. Live on television, he embarrassingly mistook his colleague Jerry Hayes, almost a neighbour as MP for Harlow, for a socialist.
In 1987 he managed both to alienate Sir Jeffrey Sterling, chairman of P&O, and cause a parliamentary row. Griffiths was piloting through a Bill to extend Felixstowe Docks, and suggested P&O hold a reception for MPs when it was debated. He then spoke at the 1922 Committee about P&O “pouring champagne down MPs’ gullets”; there was uproar in the House, and a furious Sterling cancelled the reception.
Griffiths was pro-hanging, robust on defence, a hawk on Vietnam, opposed to sanctions against South Africa and Rhodesia and anti-Stansted Airport; but pro-Europe, whales and nuclear power. In 1966 he abstained on a censure motion on Roy Jenkins over the escape of George Blake from Wormwood Scrubs, out of respect for Jenkins’s performance in the House.
That was one of his first actions as parliamentary consultant to the Police Federation, a role he fulfilled until 1988 except when he was serving as Sports Minister. He dealt with seven Home Secretaries, including his Federation predecessor James Callaghan, rating Willie Whitelaw the best; Whitelaw returned the compliment by asking Griffiths to draft a Bill outlawing replica guns.
Many of Griffiths’s interventions reflected his roots as a policeman’s son: the time it took officers to get their expenses, the low calibre of some chief constables, the lack of rights for officers facing disciplinary hearings, and the requirement for them to “hang around public lavatories to catch men soliciting each other”. But he was never, as one Labour MP claimed, a “copper’s nark”.
Above all, he believed officers needed protection. A Bill he promoted in 1970 to make 30 years the minimum sentence for murdering a policeman on duty was defeated by just seven votes. After the Conservatives’ 1979 victory he tabled a Bill to bring back hanging — then, on its defeat, appealed for the execution of a killer in Jersey to be halted.
Eldon Griffiths at the Conservative Party Conference in Blackpool, 1972
Griffiths urged the return of internment in Ulster, earning himself a place on an IRA hit list. He supported picket line officers at Grunwick and during the miners’ strike, and opposed the creation of a disciplinary offence of racial prejudice. He demanded an inquiry into why the suspected killers of WPC Yvonne Fletcher were allowed to return to Libya and, while consistently championing better police pay, urged them not to confront the government over it. He did, however, demand the resignation of the Labour Home Secretary Merlyn Rees for losing the confidence of the service.
He had his own experiences of the police and of crime. Griffiths’s wife narrowly escaped an IRA attack on the Carlton Club; in 1983 a traffic patrol woke him on the hard shoulder of the M11; and three years later his car was stolen and used in an armed robbery at Walthamstow.
Griffiths was an active Minister for Sport, a post he held for four years despite complaining that he could not live on the salary. He compensated the Cricket Council for half the losses caused by cancellation of the 1970 Springbok tour, and after the 1971 Ibrox disaster he piloted through the licensing of major stadiums. Later, with Sir Hugh Fraser, he founded the Special Olympics (UK) for the mentally handicapped.
Inheriting the chair of the Sports Council, Griffiths persuaded Sir Roger Bannister to take over and gave the Council executive powers. He tried to broker a deal when the Association of Tennis Professionals boycotted Wimbledon in 1973, and presided over the birth of Sunday football to save floodlighting in that winter’s coal emergency; a boom in attendances made it permanent.
Griffiths owed his appointment to his robust support for sporting links with South Africa. Convinced that sanctions would not end apartheid, he walked out of a service in Bury St Edmunds’ abbey ruins when Dr Trevor Huddleston attacked arms sales to South Africa.
He set two principles as Sports Minister: “Government should reduce its interference in the day-to-day management of British sport and, internationally, British sportsmen should be free to play with anyone they chose.” Yet he later denounced British participation in the Moscow Olympics after the invasion of Afghanistan.
Sir Eldon Griffiths in Newport Beach, California, in 2009
It was Griffiths who moved the successful resolution on EC membership at the 1969 party conference. He chaired the Conservative Group for Europe because of the EC’s strategic importance, having earlier proposed an Anglo-French nuclear deterrent.
Eldon Wylie Griffiths was born at Wigan on May 25 1925, the son of a Welsh police sergeant. After Ashton Grammar School he saw war service with the RAF, then took a double First in History at Emmanuel College, Cambridge.
His love for the United States was kindled during a year at Yale. There he played American football, but was cautioned for heel-tapping, a technique learned playing rugby. Henry Luce, the veteran proprietor of Time and Life, had ordered the recruitment of some graduates, and Griffiths was hired. Over a period of six years he worked in Denver, Los Angeles and Seattle before joining the foreign desk in New York.
While in LA, he struck his deal with MGM. A lion-tamer called up to fight in Korea needed a home for his four-year-old lion Fagin, and Griffiths took him, writing a screenplay about his travels with the lion which paid for his first house. In those days MGM kept a resident lion so that visitors could be shown its trademark, and Fagin filled a fortunate vacancy. He was not replaced.
In 1956 Griffiths moved to Newsweek as foreign editor, and soon afterwards endured an unnerving appearance before Lord Chief Justice Goddard after the magazine carried a grossly contemptuous report — of which Griffiths had no pre-knowledge — of the Dr John Bodkin Adams murder trial. Goddard exonerated Griffiths, and Newsweek escaped with a £50 fine. On a happier note, he captained an American cricket team against the Lords Taverners.
He became chief European correspondent of the Washington Post in 1961, but after two years took a pay cut to join Conservative Central Office as speech writer to Sir Alec Douglas-Home, the new Prime Minister. Griffiths combined the job with pig farming in Sussex, prolific journalism and searching for a seat — eventually being chosen to defend Bury St Edmunds in a May 1964 by-election. With a general election looming, Griffiths raised Tory morale by holding the seat, but Labour returned to power that October.
After a maiden speech on the transatlantic relationship, Griffiths rebelled over a Budget proposal to deny tax relief to compensated victims of Nazi persecution. His support for the Vietnam War stung the Labour government and even the White House, which denied his claim that President Johnson resented Wilson’s “peace trophy hunting”. Nearer home, he championed legalised commercial radio as Labour moved to ban the offshore “pirates”. In 1968 he was voted on to the 1922 Committee executive.
Prior to the 1970 campaign, Griffiths coined the slogan: “Mr Wilson seems better than he is. Mr Heath is better than he seems.” Heath took this as a compliment, and made him Parliamentary Secretary for Housing and Local Government — soon in a new Department of the Environment — under Peter Walker, with duties wider than sport.
Griffiths prepared the 1973 reorganisation creating regional water authorities; was energetic over air pollution and toxic waste; and announced the choice of Maplin Airport on the Thames Estuary, taking the Maplin Development Bill through its early stages as opposition grew. He also launched the first experiment with cameras to detect bad driving on motorways.
On the Conservatives’ defeat in 1974 he became Shadow Industry Minister, attacking Tony Benn’s plans for intervention and nationalisation. He pilloried Benn over the collapse of Court Line, referring his conduct to the Ombudsman and accusing the government of not accepting the verdict that Benn was guilty of misrepresentation.
Mrs Thatcher made Griffiths her first European spokesman, overseeing the party’s lukewarm contribution to the 1975 referendum campaign, but he quit within a year.
During the Thatcher years Griffiths rebelled against petrol tax rises in Sir Geoffrey Howe’s 1981 Budget; applauded the recapture of the Falklands; tried to defuse the row over abolition of unions at GCHQ by suggesting a parallel to the Police Federation; supported UK citizenship rights for the Hong Kong Chinese; and accused bishops of “dodging” the issue of homosexual clergy.
Griffiths chaired the British-Iranian and Anglo-Polish parliamentary groups and the Friends of Gibraltar Heritage. But his great enthusiasm after America was for India: a director of one of Swraj Paul’s engineering firms, he set up Indira Gandhi’s 1978 visit to Britain.
He lost heavily in the stock market crash of 1987. When, six years later, his first wife sued her solicitors for negligence over their divorce settlement, it transpired that since leaving the Commons he had been paying her 5p a year.
He moved to California in 1990, commuting until the 1992 election and seeing off an attempt from the wealthy Thatcher confidant David Hart, an inconvenient constituent, to succeed him.
Griffiths became chairman of the “non-political” World Affairs Councils of America, and president of its branch in Orange County, of which he was an honorary citizen. He was also Regents’ Professor at the University of California, Irvine, and director of the Centre for International Business at Chapman University.
He was knighted in 1985.
Sir Eldon Griffiths had a son and a daughter with his first wife, Sigrid. In 1985 he married Betty Stannard, who predeceased him. Last year, he married Susan Donnell.
Sir Eldon Griffiths, born May 25 1925, died June 3 2014
‘The flow of taxpayers’ money into the bank accounts of private health companies is certainly going to achieve an increased flow of money to the wealthy,’ says Rik Evans. Photograph: YAY Media AS/Alamy
We, as leaders of NHS organisations and organisations providing NHS care across England, believe that the NHS is at the most challenged time of its existence. Rising demands mean that the cost of providing the health service rises every year by about 4% above inflation. At the same time, the services we commission and run are not designed to cope with the care needs of the 21st century – especially the large number of people with multiple long-term conditions and an increasingly elderly population.
As local organisations, we are urgently planning the transformation of how we care for people to ensure we continue to deliver a service that meets people’s needs and improves the public’s health. Our plans start to address the challenges that are well set out in the 2015 Challenge Declaration, published by the NHS Confederation on 6 May, in association with medical royal colleges, local government and patient organisations. But more will need to be done if we are to be successful.
With a year to go to the general election, it is vital that the political parties recognise the scale of the challenge we are addressing – and that their manifestos must address. At the 2010 general election not one of the political parties mentioned the financial challenge facing the NHS in its manifesto. In 2015, the parties must address the full range of challenges facing the NHS or take responsibility for it becoming unsustainable in the form people want it.
We call on each of the party leaders to publicly recognise the challenges facing health as spelt out in the NHS Confederation’s 2015 Challenge Declaration – and to ensure their manifestos are written to support how we will address them.
Rob Webster Chief executive, NHS Confederation, Ron Kerr Chief executive, Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust, Peter Homa Chief executive, Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust, Prof Tricia Hart Chief executive, South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, Dr Matthew Patrick Chief executive, South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust, Stuart Bain Chief executive, East Kent Hospitals University NHS Foundation Trust, Jonathan Michael Chief executive, Oxford University Hospitals NHS Trust, Tim Goodson Chief officer, Dorset Clinical Commissioning Group, Christopher Baker Chair, Aintree University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, Marie Gabriel Chairperson, East London NHS Foundation Trust, Dr Avi Bhatia Clinical chair, NHS Erewash CCG, Stephen Swords Chairman, Hounslow & Richmond Community Healthcare NHS Trust, David Edwards Chairman, Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Foundation Trust, Michael Luger Chair, Airedale Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, Dr Nick Marsden Chair, Salisbury NHS Foundation Trust, Prem Singh Chairman, Derbyshire Community Health Services Trust, David Griffiths Chairman, Kent Community Health NHS Trust, Ken Jarrold Chair, North Staffordshire Combined Healthcare NHS Trust, Stuart Welling Chairman, East Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust, Stephen Wragg Chairman, Barnsley NHS Foundation Trust, Chris Wood Chair, Burton Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, Gary Page Chair, Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust, Robert Dolan Chief executive, East London NHS FT, David Wright Chairman, James Paget University Hospital FT, David Jenkins Chair, Aneurin Bevan University Health Board, Ruth FitzJohn Chair, 2gether NHS Foundation Trust, Stephen Ladyman Chairman, Somerset Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, Harry Turner Chairman, Worcestershire Acute NNS Trust, Jane Fenwick Chair, Humber NHS FT, Hugh Morgan Williams Chairman, NTW NHS Health Trust, Jo Manley Director of operations, Hounslow Richmond Community NHS Trust, Dr Christina Walters Programme director, Community Indicators Programme, David Law Chief executive, Hertfordshire Community NHS Trust, Julia Clarke Chief executive, Bristol Community Health CIC, Matthew Winn Chief executive, Cambridgeshire Community Services NHS Trust, Simon Perks Accountable officer, NHS Ashford CCG & Canterbury and Coastal CCG, Stephen Conroy CEO, Bedford Hospital, Stephen Firn Chief executive, Oxleas NHS Foundation Trust, Katrina Percy Chief executive officer, Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust, Mark Hindle Chief executive, Calderstones Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, Christine Briggs Director of operations, NHS South Tyneside CCG, John Wilderspin Managing director, Central Southern CSU, Alison Lee Chief executive officer, NHS West Cheshire Clinical Commissioning Group, Andrew Cash Chief executive, Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, Christine Bain Chief executive, Rotherham Doncaster & South Humber NHS FT, Sarah-Jane Marsh Chief executive officer, Birmingham Children’s Hospital, Tracy Allen Chief executive, Derbyshire Community Health Services NHS Trust, Chris Dowse Chief officer, NHS North Kirklees CCG, Stuart Poynor CEO, SSOTP, Dominic Wright Chief officer, Guildford & Waverley CCG, Steven Michael Chief executive, South West Yorkshire Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, Dr Mark Newbold Chief executive, Heart of England NHS Foundation Trust, Andrew Donald Chief officer, Stafford and Surrounds and Cannock Chase Clinical Commissioning Groups, John Matthews Clinical chair, NHS North Tyneside CCG, Lisa Rodrigues Chief executive, Sussex Partnership NHSFT, Jonathon Fagge Chief executive officer, NHS Norwich CCG, Steve Trenchard CEO, Derbyshire Healthcare Foundation NHS Trust, Louise Patten Accountable officer, Aylesbury Vale CCG, Jane Tomkinson CEO, Liverpool Heart and Chest Hospital FT, Allan Kitt Chief officer, South West Lincolnshire Clinical Commissioning Group, Darren Grayson Chief executive, East Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust, Katherine Sheerin Chief officer, NHS Liverpool CCG, Edward Colgan Chief executive, Somerset Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, David Stout Managing director, NHS Central Eastern Commissioning Support Unit, Andrew Bennett Chief officer, Lancashire North CCG, John Brewin Interim chief executive, Lincolnshire Partnership Foundation Trust, Andrew Foster Chief executive, Wrightington, Wigan & Leigh NHS Foundation Trust, Richard Paterson Associate chief executive, Royal Brompton and Harefield NHS Foundation Trust, Glen Burley Chief executive, South Warwickshire NHS FT, Joe Sheehan Managing director, Medical Services Ltd, Robert Flack Chief executive, Locala
• I am grateful to Ian Birrell (The NHS must evolve – or face a painful death, 2 June) for helping to keep the debate about privatisation of the NHS alive. Last Thursday I resigned from my position as vice-chairman and non-executive director of the Royal Cornwall Hospital Trust over the decision by the board to privatise hotel services – catering, cleaning, portering, security and reception. I had been a board member for almost seven years and a member of NHS boards in Cornwall for more than 25 years.
My opposition to this decision is based on pragmatism. A number of years ago I sat on the small committee which determined the out-of-hours contract for Cornwall. I was the only member of that committee who didn’t support the granting of the contract to Serco. I had researched Serco’s governance procedures and found them wanting. Unfortunately for patients in Cornwall it wasn’t long before the committee’s decision became a costly mistake.
A cursory trawl reveals a long list of employment tribunals and strikes by low-paid workers in these outsourcing companies. The only way these companies can reap large profits for shareholders and pay ludicrous salaries to senior executives is by reducing the terms and conditions of employment of the workers they inherit from the NHS.
At least Birrell is being consistent with his previous article (Salute the super-rich, 13 May). The continued flow of taxpayers’ money into the bank accounts of private health companies is certainly going to achieve an increased flow of money to the wealthy.
• While I am sure there are wasteful practices in the NHS, managers and clinicians would have more time to deal with these if the service was not being regularly reorganised and subject to cuts which make planning difficult. We are a wealthy country, as Cameron reminded us in Gloucestershire, and since 2009 have slipped down the OECD list of expenditure on the NHS.
Much money could be saved by getting rid of the market, where huge sums are going to accountants and lawyers because CCGs think they are forced to put services out to tender under the Health and Social Care Act 2012. This was supposed to have reduced bureaucracy and put clinicians in charge but this has not happened nor has the health secretary stopped managing the NHS while being relieved of the legal responsibility to “secure and provide a comprehensive health service”. The private company that runs Hinchingbrooke hospital has a good PR machine but it has not managed to achieve the savings it proposed when it made its bid, and this was a well-run hospital destabilised by the private unit built in their grounds.
The NHS has handed back to the Treasury more than £3bn in the last two years. This money could be used to assist the hospitals whose finances are insufficient for their workload or have high PFI costs. We can afford our NHS, despite our ageing population, as long as politicians stop trying to restructure it and the wasteful competition enshrined in the 2012 act is eliminated by repealing this pernicious piece of legislation. More money needs to go to the GP services, which have acted as efficient gatekeepers that allowed the NHS – despite being underfunded for decades – to be rated by independent sources as one of the most cost-effective health services in the world.
President, Keep Our NHS Public
• Ian Birrell is surely right in pointing out that the debate around the huge challenges faced by the NHS largely revolves around cheap politics. But then his article reproduces two of the main delusions at the centre of that debate: that the NHS is excessively expensive, and that privatisation would reduce costs. Even a cursory comparison with the health systems in other industrialised countries suggests that the NHS is underfunded, but relatively efficient. In comparison with systems that systematically pay doctors more for treating people more, the NHS tends to undertreat patients. Funding it though taxation costs much less than paying out-of-pocket or via insurance and costs have spiralled out of control in countries such as the US or Switzerland that have let the market rule and the insurance companies cash in. Considering the fact that most of us consider our health to be rather more important than most of the other things that make up the economy, we should remain sceptical of pundits who think privatising is the answer, without even understanding what the real problems are.
• I welcome Ian Birrell’s plea for an open and honest debate. But there are some questions he does not refer to. There are successful publicly run hospitals in the NHS; what are their characteristics? Is the psychology of profit-making to be accepted as the only motivation? Can we not identify and cultivate the qualities of good leadership and management in the public service? Rethinking the funding basis is obviously essential. Procurement traditions and other habits can surely be shaken up within a public service. Is all the world a market?
Newcastle upon Tyne
• Ian Birrell says that £100bn is “roughly the current cost of the health service”. Roughly the current cost of corporate and elite tax avoidance and scams is £120bn. Now what could we do with the excess £20bn?
Your editorial about Egypt‘s election (Full circle, 30 May) does your readers a disservice in its wilful disregard of critical facts. Contrary to the assertion that the election was “flawed”, election monitors, including a mission from the European Union, concluded otherwise. The EU, summing up the consensus view, declared that “the election took place in a democratic, free and honest atmosphere.”
The claim that the Egyptian people failed to show up to vote is simply not true. Twenty-five million Egyptians stood in line to pick their next president, undeterred by soaring temperatures or the threat of terrorism and despite the fact that balloting coincided with a religious fast. This level of voter turnout was robust by any global standard.
Contradicting any suggestion of voter apathy, this election capped an unprecedented level of political engagement for the Egyptian people, who have now taken part in seven nationwide polls since the 25 January revolution – a record of participation that shows just how far Egypt has travelled since 2011.
Far from coming full circle, Egyptians are resolutely following a roadmap to their future. They are on a path that they have chosen, that reflects their political reawakening and where their vote counts. They have crossed the democratic rubicon and there is no turning back.
Spokesman for the presidency of the Arab republic of Egypt
‘Increasingly Ofsted appears to be used as Michael Gove’s enforcement,’ says Robin Richmond. Photograph: Oli Scarff/Getty Images
Several major Ofsted reports are due to be published about the so-called “Trojan Horse” schools in Birmingham which are alleged to be at the centre of a plot to “Islamise” schools (Six schools criticised in Trojan Horse inquiry, 2 June).
The reports will be a landmark in British educational history and the history of Britain as a multi-ethnic and multi-religious society, for better or for worse.
First-hand accounts of the Ofsted inspections that have emerged are disturbing. They suggest that inspectors were poorly prepared and had an agenda that calls into question Ofsted’s claim to be objective and professional in its appraisal of standards in schools serving predominantly Muslim pupils.
Numerous sensationalised leaks have reinforced the perception of a pre-set agenda. It is beyond belief that schools which were judged less than a year ago to be “outstanding” are now widely reported as “inadequate”, despite having the same curriculum, the same students, the same leadership team and the same governing body. In at least one instance, these conflicting judgments were made by the same lead inspector. This has damaged not only the reputation of the schools but the integrity of the inspections process.
This is uncharted territory, with Ofsted seemingly being guided by an ideology at odds with the traditional British values which schools are meant to espouse, particularly fairness, justice and respect for others. We, the undersigned, believe that such an approach compromises not only Ofsted’s impartiality but also the British education system itself.
Tim Brighouse, Robin Richardson Former director of the Runnymede Trust, Salma Yaqoob, Tom Wylie Former HMI, Ibrahim Hewitt Education consultant, S Sayyid University of Leeds, Arzu Merali Islamic Human Rights Commission, Sameena Choudry Equitable Education, Baljeet Singh Gill Ruskin College, Massoud Shadjareh Islamic Human Rights Commission, Farooq Murad Muslim Council of Britain, Arshad Ali Institute of Education, University of London, Maurice Irfan Coles, Abdoolkarim Vakil King’s College London, Gill Cressey Muslim Youthwork Foundation, Steph Green Ruskin College, Mustafa Draper, Abbas Shah, Tasawar Bashir, MG Khan Ruskin College
• Surely Ofsted is losing all credibility (Leak reveals inspectors’ U-turn on ‘Trojan Horse’ school, 31 May). Increasingly it appears to be used as Michael Gove’s enforcement. This is not the first time Ofsted judgments have been rejigged, as many schools forced into academy status against the will of communities and parents can attest. In this process Ofsted’s framework for the inspection of schools is revealed as flawed. Judgments of good and inadequate schools are unreliably based on test and examination results. Until Park View it was unacceptable to judge a school as inadequate, or for that matter to judge the quality of teaching as poor, if the examination and test results were good.
Further, the inspection of Park View must again throw some doubt on the competence of inspectors. In 2012 it was revealed that some inspectors had no experience of working with children and were not qualified teachers. Ofsted’s methods are not the objective process that has been assumed and are clearly subject to manipulation.
Dr Robin Richmond
Ken Loach misunderstands the role of the critic (‘Sack the critics’ – Loach attacks preconceptions about working-class characters, 31 May). It is not to take political stands or support sides in social arguments, but simply to assess the art. They do this from a profound knowledge of their specialist art forms that allows them not only to review works of art but to write more widely on the subject, as was cogently demonstrated in the very same edition by your theatre critic, Michael Billington, and your visual art critic, Jonathan Jones.
Mr Loach may feel hurt when critics appear not to have appreciated the political point he wants to make, but that is not their task and he would feel a lot more hurt, I am sure, if critics with their objective understanding were replaced, as he suggests, by people with opinions only and no appreciation of the art form.
President, The Critics’ Circle
• I am outraged at the treatment of Ken Loach at the hands of Picturehouse Cinemas. Bath’s Little Theatre, owned by the chain, usually hosts a benefit screening of Mr Loach’s films to raise money for his beloved football club, Bath City. But Picturehouse refused to allow such a screening for Mr Loach’s latest feature, Jimmy’s Hall, apparently because he recently lent his support to staff at Picturehouse’s Ritzy Cinema in Brixton in their demand that their employer pay the London living wage.
Since Cineworld acquired the group Picturehouse have moved away from the open independent spirit that characterised the grouping of established independent cinemas, to a tedious multiplex monoculture. Mainstream Hollywood productions now dominate programming. World cinema has been reduced. These changes have been profitable; Picturehouse made a pre-tax profit of just under £1.6m, up from £531,000 the previous year according to their 2012 accounts; operating profit up by 25%. The staff at the Ritzy are asking for an increase that amounts to 21% to take their pay to a mere £8.80 per hour – clearly affordable given the increase in profit. It would be nice if Picturehouse reversed its policy; Bath would like to celebrate its most famous cinematic son. It would also be wonderful if staff at the Ritzy were also to get what they deserve – a living wage.
Jonathan Bate put the row over the removal of Of Mice and Men from the syllabus into perspective. Photograph: Redmond Durrell /Alamy
The row about Of Mice and Men being removed from the GCSE syllabus (Letters, 26 May) was put into perspective by Jonathan Bate on the Guardian books blog (30 May), where he took the blame. Good for him. But that still leaves us with the mystery: “Who put Roman numerals into the statutory mathematics curriculum?” It certainly was not the subject advisory panel, on which I sat, because we know that they do not help to develop “secondary readiness” in mathematics, nor do they help international comparisons. Would the person who did so please own up so we can have a public debate about why they are now a legal requirement instead of an interesting option?
Professor Anne Watson
University of Oxford
• On 29 May you reported the US secretary of state, John Kerry, advising Edward Snowden to “man up“. Later, I was visiting the Matisse cut-out show at Tate Modern, where I read of the extraordinary courage displayed by the artist’s daughter, Marguerite, who was tortured by the Gestapo for her part in the resistance. Why does Kerry regard bravery as a manly quality?
• Economists do reach conclusions (Letters, 31 May). It’s just that their conclusions are usually heavily qualified with the caveat ceteris paribus – so and so obtains other things being equal. But as some wag once pointed out, in the real world, ceteris very rarely remains paribus.
• For those of us fortunate enough to have been born in and still live in London, we are happy to regard London as a foreign country and have long done so (Letters, 3 June). The spirit of Passport to Pimlico lives on in the Londoners’ consciousness. Proud to be different.
• If Spain becomes a republic (Report, 3 May), could one say that “the reign in Spain is going down the drain”?
Great Haseley, Oxfordshire
• In the photo of Rickie Lambert (Sport, 3 June) there is a sign saying “Players Entrance”. Is this a statement or a command?
The analysis of Thai politics in your leader (Waiting for democracy, 30 May) is, as far as it goes, spot on. But it does not go far enough. While noting the incomplete democratic revolution of 1932 and the place of the royal court in the “old” establishment democratically overthrown by Thaksin Shinawatra, it underplays the decades-long campaign by the king, Bhumibol Adulyadej, to recoup power for the monarchy.
Paul M Handley (in The King Never Smiles: A Biography of Thailand’s Bhumibol Adulyadej) observed: “[r]ather than accepting his position as simply a benign cultural object like the modern Japanese or British monarchs, Bhumibol made himself a full-fledged, dominant political actor”.
Reviewing Handley’s book for the New York Review of Books, Ian Buruma commented: “Bhumibol has never had much time for elected politicians, whom he tends to denigrate as selfish, venal and divisive. Tough military men and loyal bureaucrats are more congenial to his vision of unity, order and harmony under the wise, selfless, and virtuous monarch”.
Buruma is too kind. A revanchist monarchy is the central impediment to democracy in Thailand. It is probably too much to expect a religious people like the Thais to accept Denis Diderot’s advice that “Men will never be free until the last king is strangled with the entrails of the last priest.” But there will be no democracy in Thailand until the monarchy is abolished.
The alienation of children
Alex Renton’s indictment of prep and public boarding school (23 May) will have rung bells for a lot of old inmates. And (unlike your Guardian Weekly headline, The abusers could still be teaching) he’s wise not to make too much of the physical cruelty and sexual abuse entailed. What does more damage is the routine alienation of young children from family and community, and the systematic substitution of formal hierarchy, models and discipline for the intimate interaction of home life.
For working-class families, to have a child taken into care has been a proof of failure; for certain middle-class families, it’s still proof of success, and a prudent investment in future success – however partial – as emotion and energy are diverted to competitive performance.
I blame the middle-class parents. If not my own, then theirs who brought them up unable or unwilling to care for us, or trust any common humanity beyond their class. I can’t say I suffered much at school, but by the end of each school holiday I felt the cold and darkness creeping in. When the school train pulled away, the tears may have been in my parents’ eyes, not mine.
Not every painful separation is avoidable. We all know about cutting the cord. But who asks what happens at the other end of the cord, inside the baby? Could that be where a lot of later emotion comes home to roost, as subsequent partings and losses flit back to the old grand central station, onetime source of everything?
Schools of economists
I enjoyed Aditya Chakrabortty’s article on the state of university economics departments (16 May). I am encouraged to hear that current students are demanding that they be taught rather than indoctrinated. Perhaps the problem is that these economics schools are being considered in the wrong light.
As any liberal arts professor might suggest, let’s start by “unpacking” the institution’s title: while a “school of economics” is clearly economic for the university, the “school” part has obviously been read in the wrong context. Instead of being a place of learning and open debate, please think of these institutions instead as large groups of cold-blooded vertebrates moving in unison to find food and protect themselves from perceived threats.
This type of “school” is better used for studying the biology of complex human systems or as economics case studies themselves – how they are used by universities to collect revenue or “food” from students, alumni and corporate partners, and how their policies move according to shifting currents rather than better understanding.
Only rarely should these “schools” be thought of as a part of a university’s attempts to be a source of enlightenment.
• Aditya Chakraborrty’s statement that “mainstream economists are liberal in theory but can be [sic] authoritarian in practice”, just misses the crux of the issue: namely, the impact of peer review. That practice may well be beneficial in physics or chemistry but, in other disciplines, it is the weapon by which a senior tenured faculty ensures that young aspirants cannot rock the academic boat – even where the ship is run by fools!
Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada
The death of the novel
Yet another dire prediction that books, especially novels, are doomed (23 May). And yet another reference to Marshall McLuhan, who apparently predicted the advent of the books’ nemesis, the internet, as the inevitable result of the broadcast technology that existed in his time.
In any case, Will Self laments the possible loss of his livelihood as a novelist, and predicts that students expecting to follow in his footsteps will be swallowed whole into the swamp of unread theses, coming up for air only to teach others like themselves who will face the same fate. Such, as Self says, is the inevitable follow-up to “a self-perpetuating and self-financing literary set-aside scheme to accommodate writers who can no longer make a living from their work”.
Self ignores the fact that there are vast numbers of non-writers who still buy novels, and who consider it one of life’s greatest pleasures to lounge comfortably with a good hardcover book. I have no idea whether the invention of the telephone was considered the work of the devil, but it made us more conversant. By the same token, books in any form are living messages from writers to whom we can still respond.
Westmount, Quebec, Canada
The horrors of coal
While I agree with Simon Jenkins (23 May) that coal power must go, I think he could do with having a better look at the energy sector. Oil, gas and nuclear all receive (very) large subsidy, and add to the problem of climate change. The renewable issue is mostly with their intermittent nature.
The solution is clearly development of distributed-energy storage, which would enable us to avoid the use of coal as the back-up power source. I find the idea of using neighbourhood-scale hydrogen power very compelling – the hydrogen can be produced by renewable energy and then used to fill the gaps from the renewable supply.
The answer to the climate problem is going to need new ideas to fix it – relying on slightly different mixes of old ones is sure to fail.
• I largely agree with Simon Jenkins’s prescription to focus more on gas and nuclear power to reduce coal use. Yet, in discounting solar and wind power, he missed the big picture. While it is true that coal dependency is rising in Germany and electricity is costly due to high use of solar and wind power, the investment made in creating a market for these technologies has brought down costs dramatically over the past 10 years – with an eight-fold reduction for solar. The rest of the world benefits. Solar and wind power need to be part of the global solution to climate change.
• It shouldn’t surprise your writer that since the US has interfered with elected governments in Egypt and Ukraine, the Iranians think they may be next (23 May). They remember that their elected prime minister, Mohammad Mossadegh, was overthrown in 1953 in a coup that the US bragged about. In the 1980s, the US contributed money, weapons and intelligence toward invading Iraq during a war that cost hundreds of thousands of casualties. Why wouldn’t they be cautious?
• Many Canadians would agree with Saeed Kamali Dehghan on Why Canada is so wrong about Iran (23 May) – but again, please, it’s the Stephen Harper government, not “Canada”.
Courtenay, British Columbia, Canada
The recent election of Syriza in Greece (Report, 26 May) offers a vibrant glimmer of hope for the future of social and economic democracy in Europe. At the same time, however, the rise of rightwing nationalism, stoking racist and antisemitic sentiments, threatens the ideals of a plural and democratic Europe. Media accounts that misrepresent the importance of the growing electoral support for Syriza as the rise of leftwing “extremism” must be countered in the strongest of terms. There is no contemporary symmetry between the so-called “extremism” of left and right.
The efforts to dismiss the emphatic call for economic justice in both Greece and Spain (Podemos gathered 8%) as “populist”, “anti-European” or “scepticism” misreads their political reach and importance. These radical left victories cannot be compared with the rise of the Front National in France, Ukip in England, the strengthening of antisemitic parties in both Greece and Hungary as well as anti-immigrant populism in Belgium and Denmark.
The rise of the “Eurosceptic” right wing, with its clearly racist platforms, is a direct result of austerity policies. The rise of the left, on the other hand, offers a critique and alternative to social and economic inequalities spawned by austerity policies. To prevent violence and despair spreading further, the European Union needs new alliances across national borders and a radical rearrangement of its institutions to achieve greater democracy and economic equality. A major public debate should be launched to discuss the future of the EU, the role of solidarity and social justice, and the contemporary meaning of the “idea of Europe”.
The success of a democratic public debate, however, depends upon truth and transparency in the media representation of political movements and their claims. We demand vigilant attention to the difference between political objections to austerity that seek greater inequality and those that seek greater equality. Only then can we see more clearly how the future of democracy is at stake.
Judith Butler, Etienne Balibar, Costas Douzinas, Wendy Brown, Slavoj Zizek, Chantal Mouffe, Toni Negri, Joanna Bourke, Sandro Mezzadra, Drucilla Cornell, Engin Isin, Bruce Robbins, Simon Critchley, Jacqueline Rose, Eleni Varika, Micael Lowy, Jean-Luc Nancy, Jodi Dean
The editorial “Wards of Wisdom” (31 May) failed to contain any words of wisdom from either the writer or Simon Stevens. Cottage hospitals are mentioned without any definition of what they are or were. Well, I remember what they were like back in the 20th century, and we were glad to see them closed and replaced by district general hospitals (DGH).
They were used as a dumping ground for elderly and some not so elderly frail individuals. There was no hospital doctor cover or responsibility, and a GP would visit once a week. Most management was left to the overworked nursing staff, who did their best.
Occasionally patients would find their way over to the DGH, where any number of conditions would come to light that, once correctly diagnosed, could be treated. These cottage hospitals were closed down because they did not work.
The good old mistreated and abused NHS was built on the GPs and local district general hospitals. I fear the DGHs may be emasculated into “new cottage hospitals” under the misleading slogan “bringing your care closer to home.”
I do not like the way the leader writer and Simon Stevens are categorising people on the basis of age. Apparently according to them these people (implicitly older people) “need something different from the highly specialised, technically sophisticated treatment required for stroke victims. They need careful monitoring by vigilant staff who can spot things when they go wrong and intervene before a problem develops into a crisis. This care should largely be delivered at home and might be co-ordinated by a local hospital in a seamless service.”
This is contradictory rubbish. How can you be carefully monitored at home by vigilant staff when living alone or with a frail partner in poor-quality rented accommodation, with an inadequate number of community nurses and GPs working their socks off already? It implies that second-rate care is the fate of our ageing population unless you can afford private care.
Kenneth G Taylor MD FRCP , Consultant Physician, Birmingham
Before Labour commits itself to a big rise in NHS spending, it would do well to examine the record of the spending and performance of the service over the past ten years.
NHS net expenditure increased by 84 per cent from £57bn in 2002/03 to £105bn in 2012/13. Over the same period the number of beds available in NHS hospitals fell by 26 per cent from 183,826 to 136,487, to reach the present crisis level of 2.6 beds per thousand of population compared with an EU average of 5.3, France 6.0 and Germany 8.0.
Bed occupancy rates between 2002 and 2013 averaged 85 per cent, leading to severe overcrowding, increased risk of infection between patients, and premature discharges due to shortage of beds. Moreover, the Mid-Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust public inquiry and the increasing number of reports of avoidable hospital deaths and cruelty by staff to patients indicate that the quality of care is deteriorating.
It is now nearly 40 years since the publication of my Theory of Bureaucratic Displacement, exemplified by the NHS. The theory indicated that: “In a bureaucratic system increased expenditure will be matched by fall in production.” Milton Friedman found that this applied to the US public school system and referred to it as “Gammon’s Law”.
The law has never been refuted, its statistical predictions have been fulfilled with precision, and its social implications have been amply demonstrated. It is time for us to take it into account before circumstances force us to do so.
Dr Max Gammon, London SE16
Boomers’ luck is not our fault
I normally enjoy Grace Dent’s column, but treating all baby boomers as one homogeneous lump, as she does on 3 June, is sloppy. None of us expected this huge rise in house prices, which pays for nothing unless we sell and downsize, nor are we necessarily happy about it, because of the damage it does to our children’s prospects.
What we did do is to work hard, pay significantly higher taxes and save for our pensions, which are, quite rightly, taxable.
The jibe that we all voted Ukip is statistically risible – the vast majority must have voted for other parties and many are quite happy to live in a culturally diverse society
One area where Grace Dent and I do agree is that we were lucky – hardly our fault – and we have absolutely no right to whinge now.
Graham Hudson, London SW19
Too few men fight for women’s rights
Yasmin Alibhai-Brown is right to ask the question “Where are all the men?” when it comes to campaigning for women’s rights (2 June).
Unfortunately, women have largely been on our own as far as protest is concerned, and while there have always been some supportive men, more often than not the male contribution to the female cause is one of intimidation and putdowns. It is therefore extremely optimistic to think that the current protest in India is likely to be any different.
Ultimately, the world is still defined in male terms and is a world in which women’s issues are something of an inconvenience.
After all, when a man needs to be able to organise his arms deal or sporting fix with some gentleman almost anywhere in the world, dear me, just how awkward it would be to bring up the topic of female rights, particularly when they can be so handily swept under the carpet of “culture” or religion.
Clare Moore, Rustington, West Sussex
Yasmin Alibhai-Brown’s contention that all men are indifferent to violence against women is nothing short of ridiculous. Of course the vast majority of us deplore acts of violence – whether against women, or children, or other men; but unlike Ms Alibhai-Brown, we do not put them in different categories.
A woman in India and a teenage boy in Peckham are equally deserving of our protection; the question is whether the brutalised minority who threaten them can be reasoned with.
Anthony Gardner, London NW10
A greeting from Yorkshire
If other parts of England are struggling with the demise of the traditional forms of greeting, including “How do you do?” and a kiss on the cheek (Rosie Millard, 2 June), may I suggest the entire nation adopts the time-honoured Yorkshire method?
With experience, the simple phrase “Eh up” can be employed to convey a wide range of emotions and can easily be adapted to meetings with everyone from complete strangers to next of kin.
Even in the mouth of a novice it can be used as a friendly but not over-friendly ice-breaker and avoids the angst associated with handshakes and kissing.
Bryan Jones, Knaresborough, North Yorkshire
Sparrows return to Dulwich
Some years ago The Independent ran stories on the decline of the sparrow population in the UK. I don’t remember the cause of this decline ever being established.
Here in East Dulwich in south London the sparrow population appears to be on the rise over the past couple of years. Although nowhere near previous levels it is heartening to hear them chirping in the hedges in the parks and streets. I wonder if any of your readers have noticed a similar increase in other parts of the UK.
Charlie Smith, London SE22
Harmony on the football field
Roy Hodgson has promised that his players will sing the national anthem loud and proud this summer, but thinks “we’re great until the second verse comes along because we don’t really know that”. The answer must be to draft in the help of Gareth Malone. A true team-building exercise. Imagine what singing in four-part harmony would do for on-field co-ordination.
Patrick Walsh, Eastbourne
John Moore claims that men’s sport is “superior in terms of skill, strength, power and entertainment to women’s” (letter, 2 June).
I watched the women’s FA Cup Final at the weekend, and what a pleasure it was. No cheating, diving or play-acting. No pushing or shirt-pulling at set-pieces. No whingeing or berating of officials. And no spitting. Men’s football could learn much from the women’s game, if the authorities had the courage.
Keith O’Neill, Shrewsbury
Still a prince in waiting
Given how long he has been waiting, it does seem harsh that when a vacancy appears for a European monarch Prince Charles is apparently passed over without even an interview for the job.
Keith Flett, London N17
Published at 12:01AM, June 4 2014
Opponents of fracking need proper assurances that it will be carefully regulated
Sir, I agree with Sir Paul McCartney and the others who signed the letter on fracking (June 2) that we need to talk about fracking, and any debate should take account of all the facts as presented in the recent studies in the UK by eminent institutions and individuals including the Royal Society and Royal Academy of Engineering, Public Health England, the Chartered Institute of Water and Environmental Management and Professor David Mackay and Dr Tim Stone. All conclude that in a properly regulated industry the risks from fracking are small. We are happy to discuss the merits of shale gas development with anyone who comes to it with an open mind. On this basis, Sir Paul, hopefully “We can work it out”.
UK Onshore Oil & Gas
Sir, The joint report on fracking by the Royal Academy of Engineering and the Royal Society (available online) was published in June 2012. Its primary conclusion was that fracking can be carried out safely. Our standard of living depends on secure, affordable energy supplies — if coal is no longer acceptable, we can rely only on nuclear power and fracked gas to meet our needs.
Sir Donald Miller
Sir, If energy bills swallowed the same percentage of Sir Paul’s income as they do of mine he might see things differently.
Embsay, N Yorks
Sir, I congratulate Sir Harold Kroto on assembling a galaxy of successful stars opposed to fracking, but I wonder if any of them can provide evidence of a single, proven instance of fracking causing water, soil or livestock contamination during the half century since the technique was first employed.
I assume all of them realise that while their success enables them to ignore the high cost of gas in the UK, to deny fracking would be to ignore the huge reduction in the price of gas that fracking has given to ordinary people, commerce and industry in the US. To ignore the benefits of fracking, sensibly regulated, would deny us the enhanced commercial and industrial competitiveness we need and the arising growth of new employment opportunities. We have immense wealth under our land — which must be realised to benefit us all.
Sir Kenneth Warren
Sir, The letter from Sir Harold Kroto, a distinguished carbon chemist, and 150 assorted others is a paradigm of the English disease: the urge to do nothing, run out of fuel and wonder why it happened, is all too common.
It is not true that fracking is banned in US states; only Mora County, a low-income community in New Mexico, and a few US cities have banned fracking within city limits; California has just rejected a proposed moratorium. North Dakota, the home of fracking, is the second biggest oil-producing state, and the combination of fracking and horizontal drilling is changing the economy of the US, where gas costs a third of what it does in Europe.
In North Dakota over 2,000 farmers are now millionaires, and if the owners of the land above the gas in this country received royalties of one-eighth of the value of the gas, as they do in the US, fracking in the UK would be viewed very differently.
Sir, Your report on the Archbishop of Canterbury’s visit to Pakistan (May 31) did not mention the historic role of Christian institutions in public life.
When I arrived in Pakistan in 2006 General Musharraf was president, and 12 of 17 of his closest associates had been educated in Christian colleges — Musharraf at Forman Christian College, Lahore, with which he retains strong links.
Further, these Christian institutions should build on their considerable educational resources to look outwards and carry forward the visions of those who established them — visions often articulated in terms of service to the whole of society, Muslims, Christians and others.
The university college in Peshawar where I served as principal for four years was partially nationalised in 1973/74, and its governing body restructured to represent the college, the church, Peshawar university and the provincial government. This has worked well but of late tensions have developed between the church and the rest of the board. And this, I believe, is the crux of the problems in many churches in Pakistan: just when they need to reach out collaboratively and offer service, they withdraw and squabble among themselves.
In one of his addresses in Lahore the Archbishop stated that the churches in Pakistan are under siege; be this as it may, I believe that they display a siege mentality which their current leaders seem unable to overcome.
The Rev Dr David L Gosling
(former principal of Edwardes College, Peshawar)
Sir, Of course we should not dodge a fight, particularly on Europe and Scotland (“Get up, stand up, don’t give up the fight”, June 3), but the problem with the Scottish referendum is an imbalance between the two outcomes, one of which will settle the matter at least for the foreseeable future, and the other which will not. It is a fair bet that, within an hour of defeat, Alex Salmond will proclaim “The fight for independence continues!” But would you bet on Alistair Darling, in the aftermath of a Yes vote, calling for a reunification campaign?
It is 20 years since 1,000 children buried time capsules pledging to work for a saner, safer world
Sir, June 5 is World Environment Day, the 20th anniversary of the planting of eco time capsules in Britain (Botanical Gardens at Kew and at Ness) and abroad. Their ethos is the saying: “We have not inherited the Earth from our grandparents, we have borrowed it from our grandchildren”.
The capsules contain environmentally relevant items, good and bad, and address our grandchildren two generations later in 2044. We apologised because we anticipated serious damage to their “loan” of this extraordinary, beautiful and bountiful planet which is our only home (ecotimecapsule.com).
We believed then and still believe that solutions exist. The commemorative event on Thursday is in association with the charity Population Matters, which campaigns not only to reduce all our environmental (and carbon) footprints but also the “number of feet” (ie, of humans doing the footprinting): through education and fully accessible, voluntary family planning. Thus children in rich as well as poor settings should arrive by choice rather than chance.
We and the thousand children who in 1994 produced their letters, poems and pictures for the time capsules made a continuing pledge to create “a saner, safer and sustainable world”, such that our grandchildren in 2044 would question our need to apologise.
Professor John Guillebaud
Sir Crispin Tickell
Sir, My recollections of D-Day (Normandy Landings, May 31) are of helping to save over 30 wounded soldiers who arrived back, soaking wet and covered in sand. Four doctors had certified that they were certain to die of gas gangrene, but our team under Lady Florey had cleared a ward the day before D-Day, knowing we would be given enough patients to try out our first large experimental batch of penicillin. Every soldier survived, even though it was very painful for them, and it took a long time.
Sir Ernest Florey, working in another hospital got the second batch of penicillin. Every patient had a different dose, as we were still experimenting, but we knew to give it for longer than the first recipients, who were not given it for long enough, so died.
Encore: ‘Spectators Applauding at the Theatre’, engraved by Benard and Frey, 1837 Photo: Bridgeman Art Library
6:58AM BST 03 Jun 2014
SIR – Michael Henderson’s piece on the invasion of the standing ovation from America brought to mind my visit to see Dame Angela Lansbury in Blithe Spirit last week.
Although Dame Angela was deserving of the standing ovation at the end of the play, it was forced on the majority of those in the stalls by the first row, who started it off, since those behind could not see otherwise.
Perhaps theatre managements ought to apply the rule once seen in many music halls: “No standing or whistling allowed”.
Newton Abbot, Devon
SIR – I make no apology for being one of those who stood to applaud Dame Angela in Blithe Spirit. I suggest, however, that those few who got to their feet at the end of the Spice Girls musical, Viva Forever, should never be allowed to step inside a theatre again.
SIR – We don’t need more “cottage hospitals” as Simon Stevens, the new chief executive of the NHS, suggests. The word cottage implies a bungaloid, possibly thatched, old building.
We need modern community hospitals, with multiple facilities: such as thriving consultant out-patient clinics, in-patient beds for any chronic patients, and in-beds for acute illness that can be treated by GPs. There should be as many ancillary facilities as possible, including X-ray, physiotherapy, occupational therapy, dental surgery and podiatry, with good parking.
If the NHS boss wants to see a prime example, he should visit Buckingham.
Dr C R Brown
SIR – Cottage or “community” hospitals are not in danger of being closed (Letters, June 2), but larger district general hospitals are. These until recently offered A&E services and most consultant-led specialties, including maternity and children’s services. One by one these services are being moved to very big, usually teaching hospitals in cities to which travelling is difficult and where car-parking is next to impossible. We are told that only such big centres offer safe treatment, with doctors seeing and doing more procedures regularly than those “out in the sticks”.
This threatens services to everyone, particularly the elderly and children. Services are remote and lack connection with local GPs, who cannot get to know specialists far from their practices.
Chairman, East Cheshire NHS Trust 1990-2000
SIR – Dr Andrew Bamji(Letters, June 2) writes that “’care closer to home’ has been a mantra for many years, but no evidence has ever been produced that shows it is clinically or financially advantageous’’. I agree that proof of its advantages might be hard to find – nearly as hard as finding the advantages of the many layers of highly paid managerial posts created in the NHS.
But it’s difficult to put a value on such things as first-rate palliative and terminal care, post-operative rehabilitation and recuperation, and occupational therapy and physiotherapy departments that don’t need a 20-mile journey to a major hospital.
Here, there is also a minor injuries unit, which must take some pressure off A&E departments at other hospitals.
SIR – If Simon Stevens wants hospitals to treat people locally, he should reverse the decision to transfer A&E and maternity services from St Helier and Epsom hospitals to the monolithic St George’s, Tooting, as proposed by the Better Services Better Value quango. Better still, he should put that quango on the rarely used bonfire and transfer its funds to patient services.
Sir, – The only surprise about the European Commission’s warning to the Government regarding the agreed €2 billion in spending cuts for 2015 was the restrained tone of its delivery (“Brussels puts further pressure on Coalition over policies”, Front Page, June 3rd).
The troika had hardly left our shores when those who were left in charge of the instruction manual reverted to type.
Most of the talk centred on rising employment figures, more jobs in the pipeline and confidence in our ability to ride out the storm. The Minister for Finance even welcomed the return of rising house prices as further evidence of business as usual.
But the feel-good factor diverted our attention from the primary goal of debt reduction.
Anti-EU rhetoric and the recent scramble for council seats seem to have adversely affected the judgment of those whose job it is to play by the rules (ie, the government of the day). Like it or lump it, we accepted the terms of the bailout and we must honour that agreement. – Yours, etc,
Killester, Dublin 5.
Sir, – Economically, it is difficult to justify continuing to take fiscal policy instruction from Brussels. Ethically, it is impossible. Persisting with this callous EU experiment will merely confirm our bankruptcy is no longer just financial but has become moral. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – It seems inappropriate for the European Commission to issue advice and guidance to each of the member states as to how to manage their individual economies in the hiatus between the election of Members of the new European Parliament and the first meeting of the new parliament.
What the elections demonstrate is not a rejection of Europe as an entity (except in the case of a small minority), rather a willingness of Europeans to share the development of their peoples and its economies in a collaborative fashion. This desire should be a clear message to the European Commission to step back and listen to the people to whom it is ultimately responsible. – Yours, etc,
Glenageary, Co Dublin.
Sir, – In a recent article on suicide (“Number of deaths by suicide fell overall last year”, Home News, May 31st), it was concluded that deaths by suicide had fallen by more than 6 per cent when comparing the CSO suicide mortality figures for 2013 to the figures published in 2012.
The article did not clarify that this conclusion was based on comparing the preliminary suicide figures for 2013 to the preliminary figures for 2012. Research conducted by the National Suicide Research Foundation has shown that the preliminary suicide figures published by the CSO are consistently lower than the final suicide figures. The discrepancy between the preliminary and final suicide figures varies from +6 per cent to +20 per cent. This means that, in principle, the final 2013 suicide figures may turn out to be even higher than the final suicide figures for 2012.
For example, in 2008, the preliminary suicide figures were 424 and indicated a significant reduction, whereas the final suicide mortality figures included 82 additional suicide cases (final number, 506), thus turning 2008 into a year with one of the most significant increases. We would recommend caution in interpreting the preliminary suicide figures, and suggest reviewing whether there are any benefits in publishing preliminary suicide mortality figures. It was for this reason that several years ago, the National Suicide Research Foundation developed the Suicide Support and Information System (SSIS), representing a real-time database or register of suicide deaths.
With funding from the National Office for Suicide Prevention, the SSIS was implemented in close collaboration with coroners in Cork city and county between September 2008 and March 2011, covering all consecutive deaths by suicide. Information on factors associated with the death and the deceased were obtained in an appropriately sensitive and confidential manner from sources including coroners, the family, and healthcare professionals who had been in contact with the deceased.
In this regard, the SSIS obtains information on cases of suicide at least two years earlier than the CSO and provides in-depth information on patterns and risk factors of suicide that is vital and more timely information for suicide prevention initiatives.
Further steps are being undertaken to implement this system in other regions in the country. – Yours, etc,
Prof ELLA ARENSMAN
Sir, – I wish to expand upon Marie Coleman’s points (May 30th) about the Labour Party’s decision not to contest the 1918 general election. Dr Coleman’s points about the party’s performances in the 1920 local and 1922 general elections illustrate that the 1918 decision had little effect on its resilience.
The 1918 abstention has for too long been used as a ready explanation for Labour’s inability to move beyond its position as the “half” party in a “2½” party system. The party’s failure to provide credible opposition in the Free State parliament during the 1920s might go further in explaining its traditional weaknesses.
The party, under Tom Johnson, failed to capitalise on the Boundary Commission debacle in 1925, it refused to tarnish its image of respectability by supporting the non-payment of land annuities, and it actively sought the accession of Fianna Fáil into the political mainstream.
When de Valera’s party eventually entered the Dáil, it did so with a programme that borrowed heavily from Labour, but which had no hang-ups about presenting a respectable image. When a Fianna Fáil minority government was established in 1932, it was with Labour’s support under William Norton. Report from the party’s annual conferences in the early 1930s read like Pat Rabbitte’s “81 per cent of the blame” rhetoric of late.
Johnson’s fear of the effects of default, and Labour’s failures in the 1920s and early 1930s, are much more illuminating in the study of the party’s development than a decision made in 1918, which most agree was a pragmatic move in the context of the times. – Yours, etc,
Dr ADRIAN GRANT,
University of Ulster,
Sir, – Every so often, it seems that we Irish Americans need to be reminded of how impotent we have allegedly become. This time, the messenger is Colm Quinn (“Why Irish America should not expect special treatment on immigration”, Opinion & Analysis, June 2nd). It’s his “realist” view that immigration reform will not happen any time soon and that the Irish Government is wasting its time advocating for the 50,000 undocumented Irish on visits to Washington.
Mr Quinn is profoundly mistaken on two levels.
First, despite being based in Washington, he clearly misapprehends the current political climate there. While his disdainful characterisation of a hyper-partisan Congress is accurate, he neglects to mention the reality that the Republican Party is divided on immigration. Its leadership recognises that the party is headed for electoral oblivion unless it quickly alters the perception that it is anti-immigrant.
Irish and Irish American political leaders can play a unique role in getting the US hard right to see that the “illegal immigrants” they sadly rail against are not just Mexicans. The Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform, working in concert with other immigrant groups, has spent the past several years making this case. Their efforts were crucial to winning over one prominent Irish-American Republican congressman, Paul Ryan, to the pro-reform side.
Second, at a moral level, it is incumbent upon Ireland’s political leaders to use their unparalleled access to the White House and Capitol Hill to advocate for the undocumented Irish living and working in the shadows of the US. These men and women may live there, but their families and friends are here, and worry constantly about their precarious situations.
The Irish undocumented did not cease to be Irish when they left and deserve the ongoing assistance of the country of their birth.
Mr Quinn is right that the Government should push for the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, but he is wrong to assume that immigration reform cannot happen and to assert that the Irish Government should not do its utmost at every opportunity for the undocumented. And as countless Irish Americans would surely remind him, we’re far from a spent force. – Yours, etc,
School of Law,
Sir, – About 88 per cent of people in Poland are Catholic, but religious education is optional in schools. Parents decide whether children should attend religion classes or ethics classes. I have spoken to numerous Poles who were amazed when I told them that the religious institutions control nearly all of the primary schools in Ireland.
I hear it said that parents do not have to send their children to religious-controlled schools, but the reality is that many parents do not have a choice. I know of several couples who have no religious beliefs and yet have their children baptised just so they may be admitted to the local primary school and for no other reason. – Yours, etc,
Rathfarnham, Dublin 16.
Sir, – We can learn a lot from the experience of others, particularly Britain and Northern Ireland. Britain has advanced much further down the secular educational route than us, yet statistics continuously confirm the academic superiority of faith schools. In Northern Ireland, Catholic schools continue to outperform academically all other school types. Besides, despite a lot of loose talk to the contrary, if the most recent Irish census is to be believed, we still live in a surprisingly unicultural society, with 92 per cent of people identifying themselves as Christian. It would seem to be an extraordinary unnecessary gamble to attempt to dismantle the current educational model to placate a tiny minority of dissenters. – Yours, etc,
Navan, Co Meath.
Sir, – If parents wish for their children to be given religious instruction surely this could be done on a Sunday, after Mass, as is the case in many other countries? Why does the world’s richest, largest and most powerful church need to dip its hands into the pockets of the taxpayer?
I recall only one science lesson in primary school – one half hour where we played with magnets. However we spent hour after hour memorising prayers, catechisms, hymns, preparing for communion and confirmation. All at the expense of every taxpayer – regardless of their faith or lack of it – and in a school that was legally entitled to discriminate against teachers for their sexuality, religion, marital status and so on.
Some republic this is! – Yours, etc,
Pairc a’ Chrosaire,
A chara, – We are told that a senior Fine Gael source (“Kenny faces pressure to shake up Fine Gael’s senior ranks”, Front Page, June 2nd) feels that a major reshuffle of the Cabinet, and in particular a move for the Minister for Health, would demonstrate that the lessons of the election drubbing have been learned. Yet this would be a demonstration, if it were needed, that no lesson had been learned. A major change in the treatment of the most vulnerable in our society and an end to unfair stealth taxes would show that a lesson had been learned. – Is mise,
CORMAC Ó BRAONÁIN,
Baile Átha Cliath 16.
A chara, – I note that Tony Blair has shared his reflections on leadership qualities with your London Editor Mark Hennessy(“EU must meet concerns of its citizens, warns Blair”, June 3rd).
In describing the baser political path one might embark on, Mr Blair says, “When you start to ride that tiger what happens is that it takes you in directions that you can’t control. Then you end up in a big mess”.
I assume he is referring to his jaunt with George W Bush? – Is mise,
Sir, – It is most curious that Sean Ó Riain (“How to avoid the mistakes of the Celtic Tiger”, Business, May 29th), should, in his quest to remake Irish society, seek to enhance markedly the power of the State which so actively encouraged the misguided investment in property development which has resulted in our present financial penury.
His oblique reference to the narrowness of our tax base obscures the fact that enabling his desired level of public spending and investment would necessitate the levying of far higher taxes on those on low to average incomes. Furthermore, it is worth asking why the European social model which he holds in such high esteem would have encouraged the investment of so much private European capital in Ireland as opposed to in their own economies.
Although Mr Ó Riain notes that public-sector employment has shrunk since 2008, he declines to mention that the far more precipitous declines in our GDP and private workforce have made the public sector account for a far larger proportion of our economy than it did in 2008. Has this realignment of wealth in our society made the readers of The Irish Times feel any more materially or socially fulfilled than they were in 2008? – Yours, etc,
Sir, – I read with interest the letter from the Irish Property Owners’ Association (June 2nd). One word that stuck out is “courage” used in the context of investing. Investing in property is not about “courage”; it is about risk, reward and return on capital. Too many amateur landlords ignored the latter.
As for the State, it should have the courage to instruct the banks to foreclose faster on defaulting rented property – to tackle those who bought at levels that will never lead to a return on capital. Returning these properties to the market would lead to lower prices.
There is nothing to be gained by continuing to subsidise accidental landlords – the “buy to regret” sector. – Yours, etc,
Isle of Dogs, London.
Sir, – One gets weary at the persistence of the many people like John Bellew (May 26th) who continue to attribute Irish neutrality during the second World War solely to Eamon de Valera.
The simple fact is that all parties in Dáil Éireann unanimously voted for neutrality at the outbreak of the war.
Fourteen other European countries were neutral and only Ireland, Sweden, Switzerland, Spain and Portugal succeeded in maintaining their neutrality throughout the war.
The others had theirs violated.
It is now also well known that Ireland secretly engaged in pro-Allied activities throughout the war while successfully maintaining a facade of absolute neutrality. – Yours, etc,
A chara, – Whatever about “something very valuable” being lost (June 2nd) following the decision to abolish town councils, as a local historian, might I ask the county councils to ensure that the valuable historical records of abolished authorities are not lost? – Is mise,
Gleann na Smól,
An Charraig Dhubh,
Sir, – I wish the date of the Leaving Certificate could be moved to December. We could do with some good weather around Christmas. – Yours, etc,
Bray, Co Wicklow.
Sir, – Further to David Griffin’s bemusement at the Weather Watch prediction “A wet evening with the odd spot of rain”, perhaps it was raining between the showers. – Yours, etc,
It has been interesting seeing last week’s election results. Despite almost 400,000 people unemployed, not to mention the large numbers forced to leave Ireland to seek work, it is the several hundred local councillors and the small number of MEPs who lost their jobs who have finally forced government action on a number of critical issues.
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It has also been worrying that two further jobs – leader and deputy leader of a certain political party – have taken up such a huge amount of media time and energy.
We have been told that the medical card issue will now be solved by an ‘expert group’, yet to be appointed. This is a change of terminology from the phrase often used some years ago when the health system was being reorganised and we were led to believe it would give us ‘centres of excellence’, until it transpired that phrase was no longer fit for purpose – a bit like some of the actual centres.
Earlier in the year, when the Aer Lingus workers’ pension scheme was identified as a major issue, we were also told an ‘expert group’ had been appointed, but it appears there has been limited progress on that front to date – and based on the action taken last Friday, that agenda may now have to be broadened.
I wonder, do those jobs for ‘experts’ pay much and how can people apply?
Two other much-abused terms should also probably now come under scrutiny: the words ‘ombudsman’ and ‘regulator’, widely used but, without appropriate resources or direction, hampered in carrying out any significant functions, if maybe useful in ticking government boxes?
And when it comes to taking money, rather than using one of three words (tax, charge or levy), perhaps for Budget 2015 stick to the tried and trusted one ‘tax’ – it’s much clearer and we all know that it means cash going in only one direction.
ROCKSHIRE ROAD, WATERFORD
TOO MANY RULES FOR A GAA REF
The GAA is making the referees’ job impossible. I would not ref a match now for love nor money.
The rules need to be simplified, not multiplied. The black card is the last nail in the coffin. Worse still, every new regulation inexorably demands another, and so on ad infinitum.
Why not just make holding a foul, as in the old days, and let the referee be the judge? Why is the ref’s job so clear-cut in rugby and so complicated in Gaelic? But, of course, I am talking through my hat, and the pundits, as always, are right.
ADDRESS WITH EDITOR
IF WE WANT HELP, OLLI, WE’LL ASK
The EU seems to have become quite vociferous on what is good for Ireland’s financial health. One can only assume that this is as a result of the Fiscal Compact treaty that was half-passed in Ireland recently. The reason I say half-passed is of course that the Irish have developed a tradition for having two referendums on European treaties.
As Angela and Enda know well, the Irish are merely waiting for Francois Hollande to re-negotiate the treaty as promised in his election manifesto. If he has any problem, then perhaps Enda could suspend the workings of the treaty until such time as we get around to having the second referendum: 2020, perhaps, or maybe some other point in the future . . . ultimately we’ll decide, I suppose!
Anyway, it’s nice to see Olli Rehn and others rabbitting on about what is good for Ireland when we haven’t even decided yet whether that is any of his business or not.
ATHENRY, CO GALWAY
THEORIES ON SECTARIAN KILLINGS
Brian Walker’s theory that between April 26-29, 1922, 10 Protestant men in west Cork were killed in retaliation for sectarian attacks on Catholics in Northern Ireland is plausible (Irish Independent, May 31).
Some 229 people were killed there between February and May 1922. The violence began with the expulsion of 6,000 from Belfast shipyards in July 1920. Protestant trade unionists were also victims. One, James Baird, later observed that every Roman Catholic was excluded, “whether ex-service man who had proved his loyalty to England during the Great War, or Sinn Feiner”. By November, “almost 10,000” were affected.
Thousands of Catholics were also driven from their homes. An April 1922 agreement between Michael Collins and James Craig to give restitution to expelled workers collapsed near month’s end. Northern Protestant church leaders’ support for the shipyard expulsions was also reported that month.
However, there is a problem with Walker’s notion of North-South sectarian reciprocity. Southern Protestant congregations were, at the time, denying sectarian tensions, while denouncing attacks on Catholics in the North. The day it reported the west Cork killings, the ‘Southern Star’ reported Protestants in Schull condemning “acts of violence committed against our Roman Catholic fellow countrymen”. The British Empire journal ‘Round Table’ noted in June 1922: “Southern Ireland boasts with justice that it has been remarkably free from the sectarian hatreds that have come to characterise Belfast.”
Why, then, did the killings take place? Some research indicates an IRA perception that the victims had collaborated with British forces. Walker dismisses one possible contributing factor, the simultaneous killing in nearby Macroom of three British Intelligence officers. The British denied their officers’ intelligence function and the IRA denied arresting and killing them. It is possible this led to acquiescence in a purely sectarian narrative for the simultaneous civilian killings.
This is speculative, but makes more sense than Walker’s theory of retaliatory sectarian attacks. My view is explained in more detail in ‘Field Day Review’ 2014.
FACULTY HEAD, JOURNALISM AND MEDIA,
GRIFFITH COLLEGE, DUBLIN 8
A VERY INTERESTING COMBINATION
I was amazed by Alex White’s decision to use the Rosie Hackett Bridge to announce he will run for leadership of the Labour Party. If ever there was an incongruous juxtaposition of two names, surely this was it. One is a barrister from a middle-class background, while the other was a working-class activist from a Dublin tenement.
DUNLEER, CO LOUTH
GOODBYE TO TIES THAT BIND
The posters have been removed from their elevated positions on lampposts and other points of visibility. Now, would those who put themselves forward as candidates mind removing the plastic ties which kept the posters in place? Some of those have been in place not only from these but the 2011 and 2009 elections. And they look unsightly.
SEAMAS O CNAMHSAI
MEN LEFT OUT OF MINI MARATHON
Another Women’s Mini Marathon today, and I am delighted for all the participants and beneficiaries of a fantastic effort.
I would just like to point out that if this effort had been called the ‘Men’s Mini Marathon’, it would never have been allowed to flourish.
In fact, I am sure that if there had ever been a ‘Men’s Mini Marathon’, every entrant would have been accused of being sexist.
RATHFARNHAM, DUBLIN 14