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I jog around the park I still have arthritis in my left knee, but I manage toget round the park. Igo and pick up a scanner and then to the bank.

ScrabbleIwin, but gets under 400. perhaps Marywill win tomorrow.

Obituary:

Elsbeth Juda – obituary

Elsbeth Juda was a photographer who captured the drama of Fifties fashions and the twilight of Winston Churchill

Elsbeth Juda in her studio with her Gandolfi plate camera, 1942

Elsbeth Juda in her studio with her Gandolfi plate camera, 1942 Photo: V&A

6:37PM BST 10 Jul 2014

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Elsbeth Juda, who has died aged 102, was a fashion photographer, design consultant, artist and collector. She was also one half of a devoted and glamorous couple who helped lift Britain’s flagging textile industry out of the post-war gloom.

Elsbeth and Hans Juda escaped Nazi Germany — where Hans had been on a wanted list of subversive intellectuals — and moved to Britain where they worked tirelessly on The Ambassador, an influential textile and fashion magazine. The couple forged links between talented young artists, manufacturers and retailers across the globe and were acquainted with almost everyone of influence in British industry and in the art world during the Forties and Fifties — from Kenneth Armitage to Norman Parkinson and from Peter Lanyon to Henry Moore.

As a photographer, Elsbeth Juda excelled at the dramatic fashion shoot, pairing beautiful models in exquisite evening dress with gritty backdrops such as London’s soot-stained rooftops and back-alley fire escapes.

She was also a proficient portraitist, photographing the writer Kenneth Tynan, cartoonist Mark Boxer and an array of artists, including Louis Le Brocquy, Peter Lanyon and Graham Sutherland. When she photographed the latter painting Winston Churchill at Chartwell, for his 80th birthday in 1954, she inadvertently captured an artistic scandal. “Sutherland had miserable sittings,” she recalled. Elsbeth was more successful, later recalling that her photographs were “exactly like the portrait — the hand with the cigar, everything. And Churchill was enchanting, being photographed.”

Sutherland’s portrait, however, enraged the former Prime Minister, who claimed it made him look “half-witted”. The painting hung for three days in the Judas’ studio before being recalled to Churchill’s London home at Hyde Park Gardens. “So we delivered it back. And that’s where she [Lady Churchill] burnt it. He was so distressed, having it in the house, so she took it down, chopped it up and put it in the boiler.” With the painting’s destruction, Elsbeth Juda’s photographs, now in the National Portrait Gallery, are all that remain of the commission.

Barbara Goalen photographed by Elsbeth Juda for The Ambassador in 1952

Elsbeth Ruth Goldstein was born on May 2 1911 into a cultured and influential family in Darmstadt, Germany. Her father, Julius Goldstein, was a Jewish cavalry officer turned philosophy lecturer (at the Technical Institute, Darmstadt) and a committed republican and socialist. As an infant Elsbeth was attended to by Sigmund Freud, who recommended that she be fed by a wet nurse.

The four Goldstein children were exposed to politics from an early age; Elsbeth vividly recalled her father’s homecoming in 1918 and being taken with her brother Wolfgang to the public rallies in the Schlossplatz in Darmstadt that year.

Her father’s close circle included a number of political activists, and he held an open-house each evening for his students to exchange views and debate politics and philosophy. These included, Elsbeth recalled, Carlo Mierendorff and Theodor Haubach, who would later be involved in the unsuccessful attempt to assassinate Hitler in 1944. Her mother Margarete chaired the Darmstadt Women’s War-Work committee and travelled with her husband on lecture tours, taking on speaking engagements long after her husband’s death in 1929.

Goldstein pressed his children to further their studies by giving them extra tasks to complete — drafting a poem, writing a story or learning a piano piece — to be presented to him each evening in his study. He expected Elsbeth to complete her education at Oxford and sent her to England to learn shorthand and typing, skills which he perceived to be essential prerequisites for a successful university education.

But Elsbeth had other ideas. Aged seven she threw a snowball at a fourteen-year-old Hans Peter Juda, who put her over his knee pretending to be angry. She knew from an early age that they would marry. When she went to Paris, to work for a Hungarian stockbroker, Hans remained in Berlin, studying economics, law and music. She responded to his proposal by telegram — “Confirm. Oui.” — and returned to Berlin in 1931. Their married life in Germany was short; following an altercation with a Nazi Brownshirt in 1933 they took two suitcases and Hans’s violin and travelled to London.

Elsbeth became Hans’s translator, and she helped out at International Textiles, the forerunner of The Ambassador, where he set up a London office. One day, between interviewing tailors and garment manufacturers, she assisted the magazine’s art director, László Moholy-Nagy, who saw that she had a “good eye” and introduced her to his ex-wife, Lucia, who had taught photography at the Bauhaus.

Elsbeth became immersed in her new career as a photographic operator. As a married woman she struggled to be accepted, but she found a job as a dark room “boy” in Dean Street and — reinventing herself as “Jay”’ — she learnt to process colour film, making herself indispensable . During the Second World War she found a role on firewatch and spent hours in hospitals photographing injured servicemen for medical textbooks.

Elsbeth Juda photographing Barbara Goalen for a Revillon Freres catalogue in the 1950s

After the war Elsbeth Juda became more closely involved with The Ambassador, assisting with art direction and producing a number of influential fashion and travel photoshoots promoting British culture and industry. She would lug her huge Gandolfi camera, lights and equipment around, climb scaffolding for the perfect shot, and helping to dress the models — including Barbara Goalen, arguably the first “supermodel” whom she greatly admired.

Artist friends were another source of subject matter. Elsbeth and Hans had a weekend cottage next door to John and Myfanwy Piper (although the Judas’ extensive guest list caused some friction between the couples) and they supported many rising young artists by buying early works and commissioning paintings for the magazine’s covers, which they collected. It was therefore natural that Graham Sutherland should turn to Elsbeth for a photographic record of Churchill’s ill-fated sittings at Chartwell.

Her work with the Sadler’s Wells Ballet and the Judas’ involvement with Glyndebourne and the chamber music ensemble The Fires of London brought them many acquaintances in musical spheres. Peter Pears and Benjamin Britten, who they visited at Aldeburgh, became lifelong friends; Peter Maxwell Davies wrote a Fanfare for Elsbeth’s 80th birthday which she treasured.

After the sale of The Ambassador to Thomson Publishing, Elsbeth became a consultant to ICI, charged with inspiring designers to use synthetic fibres, such as Terylene and Crimplene, that were being developed at the time. A design consultancy emerged and was sold on. Later, after Hans’s death in 1975, Elsbeth turned to producing her own artworks, including huge paintings and smaller, semi-autobiographical collages that were exhibited across Europe. In 2008 she was made a senior fellow of the Royal College of Art.

In recent years Elsbeth was delighted with the publication of a book, The Ambassador Magazine: Promoting Post-War British Textiles and Fashion (2012), by the Victoria and Albert Museum (where The Ambassador and Elsbeth Juda archives are housed)

Elsbeth and Hans had no children but adopted many friends as part of their extended family. One such was the actress Maureen Lipman. “Elsbeth is a living affirmation of the staying power of being eternally curious,” said Lipman. Elsbeth Juda, however, was surprised by her longevity. “I always assumed I would die young,” she said in 2012. At the age of 100 she still regularly practised her pilates routine — always with immaculately painted toenails.

Elsbeth Juda, born May 2 1911, died July 5 2014

Guardian:

Having failed to introduce a coherent tier of English regional government on a par with our continental rivals, enhanced local enterprise partnerships will fall drastically short of what is needed to decentralise and rebalance our economy (Labour lays out plans to promote growth via regional powerhouses, 1 July). Without electoral reform for local government, like the introduction of the single transferable vote in Scotland, many of these bodies will be inherently unrepresentative, especially if ruling groups in each constituent council select their own delegations. Promising not to raise taxes to fund this is pie in the sky, especially since much of the City of London’s wealth was built on the back of northern industry and coal mining. Pretending otherwise is how the coalition has been able to build on so many of New Labour‘s own policies.

Just look at how well the German economy is performing with the “burden” of reunification solidarity taxes to improve life in the east: Labour needs to recognise that Britain does not tax and spend enough of its GDP to be truly competitive. Unlike Luxembourg and Switzerland, we can’t depend on a parasitic tax base for goods and services extending beyond our own population. Jon Cruddas MP is right to worry (Comment, 30 June): the shadow cabinet sounds more like a sixth-form debating society then a meaningful opposition.
David Nowell
New Barnet, Hertfordshire

• On Monday, Ed Miliband launched the report of Labour’s innovation taskforce, proposing a new deal between central and local government. A radical shift of power and resources to local communities is essential. Nationally and locally we have to share power rather than hoard it. As cooperative councils we are at the forefront of designing new ways of working with our communities based on cooperative traditions of self-help, responsibility, democracy, equity and solidarity. We need a long-term approach to building resilient, sustainable, productive and engaged communities. Representing communities across the UK, we each face different challenges but we share a commitment to work differently and learn. We urge the Labour party to trust local leaders, share power and work with us to deliver the future our communities want.
Cllr Jim McMahon
Leader of Oldham council and leader of the LGA Labour Group
Cllr Andrew Burns
Leader of the City of Edinburgh council
Cllr Sharon Taylor
Leader of Stevenage borough council and deputy leader of the LGA Labour Group
Cllr Lib Peck
Leader of London borough of Lambeth council
Cllr Tudor Evans
Leader of Plymouth city council
Cllr Simon Greaves
Leader of Bassetlaw district council
Cllr Phil Bale
Leader of the City of Cardiff council
Cllr Tony Newman
Leader of the London borough of Croydon council
Cllr Ron Round
Leader of Knowsley metropolitan borough council
Cllr Mike Stubbs
Leader of Newcastle-under-Lyme borough council
Cllr Nick Forbes
Leader of Newcastle c

rnie Evans. Photograph: Pat Savage/Alamy

Simon Jenkins in his article on Labour’s plans for reviving the regions (Report, 2 July) suggests that ending rate capping is “the litmus test of localism”. Neither he nor your editorial (2 July) on the same subject mention the need also to allow our major cities the right to go to the market and raise money for capital projects, albeit on their own credit rating. Britain is more or less unique among nations in restricting principal tiers of local government from access to capital markets, a right enjoyed, for example, by states and cities in the US. If we genuinely want to see local government as an engine for economic growth, it is essential we give them the leeway to develop innovative routes to finance.
Margaret Sharp
Liberal Democrats, House of Lords

• Simon Jenkins makes a powerful case but understates it. At the end of the second world war, great cities such as Manchester and Birmingham provided their people with gas, electricity, water, sewage, hospitals, schools, colleges and higher education. They did it well. They built libraries, theatres, concert halls and museums – many of them great buildings. Most of these services have been removed; now schools are going. Cities raised, as Jenkins says, their own money and spend it to the advantage of their citizens. If cities cannot be trusted to manage local services, they will not recruit the most able of their citizens as councillors and the decline will continue. Gestures in manifestos will not arrest it.
Michael Sterne
Southampton

• The two main parties really do take us up t’north for mugs. Desperate for votes, both Labour and Tory parties conveniently “see rebooting regional growth as a core objective“, just months away from a general election, and are keen to display sudden generosity, with Andrew Adonis’s scheme pledging “£30bn over a parliament”. Are we expected to believe that these politicians are serious when they say they want to create “regional economic powerhouses” to spread the wealth away from the capital?

Why then do both parties insist that the priority with HS2 is to link London with Birmingham first, something that will only enhance the importance of London as the economic and business centre, especially as taxpayers are forking out billions already for the largest construction project in Europe, Crossrail? Shouldn’t they be stressing the advantages high-speed railways would bring to areas which are not yet productivity hotspots?

Why doesn’t one of the parties, at least, suggest spending money on expanding a major airport in the north, rather than arguing over which London airport should get a third runway? What incentives are there for businesses to move out of London when the largest proportion of government investment is clearly destined for the south-east? Rather than having lorries clogging up the north-south motorways, a high-speed freight line to Folkestone might be a better bet.
Bernie Evans
Liverpool

• Simon Jenkins continues his own old-fashioned narrative which insists that the polar opposite of London must be the north. By what imperative does he decree that the cultural focus shift “north and west”? Whatever happened to the places stranded in between? Our three great cities of the East Midlands – Derby, Leicester and Nottingham – seem scarcely to exist in the media conversation around decentralisation. Perhaps the cultural focus could move “up and to the right a bit” and help these cities acquire more of Salford’s (or Winchester’s) life-giving fizz?
Tony Cooper
Burleigh, Gloucestershire

There is something profoundly disturbing about the conviction on supposed terrorism charges of Yusuf Sarwar and Mohammed Ahmed (Britons flew to Syria to link up with extremist group, 9 July). Admittedly the two young men pleaded guilty to the charge, but no one can know of the pressures that would have been placed on them to try to mitigate their eventual sentence. What did they actually do? They joined one group in Syria of which “we” disapprove, to fight against another group (the government) of which “we” disapprove even more (understandably). Did the two men threaten to commit terrorist outrages against Britain? There seems to be no evidence of that, they are being charged solely with events in Syria not the UK. The prosecution seems to be of a piece with the new security measures that are being undertaken (Report, 9 July) in a hysterical overreaction that even Sir Richard Dearlove, the ex-head of MI6, regards as an overblown response to a largely illusory threat (Report, 8 July). It’s beyond time to regain some perspective on these threats, which Dearlove describes as fundamentally different from the 9/11 and 7/7 attacks, and to stop prosecuting young men for taking part in wars that are wholly outwith our jurisdiction.
Dr Richard Carter
London

• The government claims we need a snooper’s charter (Report, 10 July) to protect us from the Big Bad Terrorist, Rioting Hoodies and Rolf Harrises. Regular policing won’t do, it claims, so universal snooping is the answer. However, the snag with universal snooping is that it produces false positives. Snooping on millions means thousands will be wrongly identified as terrorists etc. Investigating the innocent thousands will drain resources and allow real terrorists to avoid detection. Arresting the innocent will turn more people against the UK and will be a recruiting agent for terrorism, like internment was in Northern Ireland. We must oppose the draconian, counterproductive law.
Barry Tighe
London

People like David Cameron and Tim Loughton championing Elizabeth Butler-Sloss should consider how this looks to the victims (Report, 10 July). The sister of a former attorney general who allegedly played a part in a cover-up by trying to stop an MP publishing a list of paedophiles at Westminster heading up an investigation into child abuse? It screams cover-up. Her denial that she must have been aware of his role is alarming. The same old games are being played by the same old establishment. I believe the games are called “Look how hard I’m trying” and “Yes, but” (Eric Berne, Games People Play, 1964).
Terry Maunder
Leeds

• I agree with your editorial that the conclusions of any inquiry might be viewed by some as affected by her connections. However, it could be argued that being of that older generation will allow a better understanding, particularly given her wealth of experience. And surely a judge has objectivity even if part of the establishment. My late wife, the paediatrician Dr Jane Wynne, was involved in the Cleveland affair; later she was a trustee of the NSPCC. She always felt that the chairing of the Cleveland inquiry by Butler-Sloss was important in saving management of child abuse from meltdown.
Simon Currie
Otley, West Yorkshire

• Why do people writing about past cases of child abuse keep calling them historic or historical? Historic means “specially prominent in history”.Historical means “concerned with the study of history”. These people, however, simply mean past. Let’s not have more confusion than we need on a subject that is confusing enough already.
Mary Midgley
Newcastle on Tyne

In your article on Ikea and the Romanian Securitate (5 July), you state that the Securitate “did the dirty work of Romania‘s dictator Nicolae Ceausescu, torturing and killing thousands of political opponents during his 24 years in power”. Ceausescu is confused here with a previous Romanian leader, Gheorghiu Dej, who did indeed kill and torture thousands in the early 50s. Ceausescu’s “evil monster” reputation was constructed after his death, in part as a smokescreen to allow former communists to rip off the country. While Ceausescu did indeed become a nasty paranoiac, his reign was relatively benign until the 80s when an austerity programme was imposed by the IMF in order to ensure the repayment with interest on loans that private western banks, the World Bank and the IMF had delightedly pushed on Romania in the 70s. The $41,283.28 interest which the Securitate made from Ikea in 1986 seems fairly paltry by comparison and would in any case have been used to repay interest on loans to the west, which preferred privation for ordinary Romanians to burning of bondholders. Sound familiar?
Brendan Culleton
Documentary producer, Akajava Films

We may well deplore the fact that so few union members, as a proportion of the membership, actually vote for strike action and “force” the rest of the non-voting union members into line (PM crackdown on strikes as 1m walk out, 10 July). In the same way, we may deplore the fact that so few voters, as a proportion of those entitled to do so, cast their vote in national and local elections and “force” the rest of us to live with a choice of government that is not our own. This is what we call democracy.
Trevor Rigg
Edinburgh

• Congratulations to the 10 July strikers. They speak for all ordinary people in their fight against the austerity policy of the government which has made the rich richer and the rest of us worse off, whether in the public or private sector.
Jack Mitchell
Cambridge

Mr Richardson’s letter (9 July) on donating your body to research may reinforce the idea that, to ensure that one’s body is put to good use, it is sufficient to put a clause in one’s will. That is not the case. It is necessary to sign up in advance, while one can.
Peter Stray
London

• “From BBC to right hand of pope: Patten to advise Vatican on media strategy” (9 July) – and it was all going so well for Pope Francis…
Alistair Richardson
Stirling

• For an alternative jazz station (Letters, 10 July), try Jazz24.org online – public broadcasting at its best from Seattle, with commercials-free jazz and DJs who know what they’re talking about.
Tim Feest
Godalming, Surrey

• You’ll find the philosophy and politics of the self-image (Letters, 10 July) throughout history fully discussed in James Hall’s excellent book The Self-Portrait: a cultural history, which was published earlier this year.
Henry Malt
Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire

• Steve Bell est un vrai super-star! Je suis presque mort de rire…
Anne Ayres
Huthwaite, Nottinghamshire

In the debate about rail, some commentators (Letters, 9 July) need to take a harder look at the latest, publicly available data. Government support for the railway was £4bn in 2012-13, the same in real terms as in 1994-95, the last year of a publicly run railway. Yet since train operations were fully privatised, journeys have increased annually on average by 4%, almost doubling in 16 years to 1.6bn in 2013/14.

This rise in ridership far outstripped growth in GDP over that period and is in stark contrast to the previous 16 years when the equivalent figure was 0.33%. Phenomenal growth means that government support per journey is now £2.35, 29% lower than in 1997-98 and lower or the same as that for nine of the 12 years leading up to privatisation.

On the back of this growth, train operators over the last 15 years have increased in real terms the money they generate for government from £390m to £1.96bn, which in turn helps to fund investment in improvements in services. Over the same period, profits have gone down from £270m to £250m.

Discounted tickets now account for almost half of all passenger revenue, up from 36%. Network Rail has delivered major improvements, allowing operators to run a third more services. Together, they run Europe’s safest network and achieve the highest passenger satisfaction ratings of any major railway on the continent.

These factors help to explain why rail travel in this country has grown faster than that seen by our European counterparts, almost twice the rate of France and around four times that of Germany.

Like Britain, other European countries have invested heavily in their railways. But none has come close to matching our industry’s success because they do not benefit from the winning combination of private-sector innovation and government investment.
Michael Roberts
Director general, Rail Delivery Group

Independent:

Can we assume that if a future Tory government changes the law to allow a strike to take place only if 50 per cent of union members have voted for it, that they will also ensure that candidates at elections can only take their seats if 50 per cent of the electorate have voted? The Tory party gained just 36 per cent of the national vote at the last general election.

Our civil liberties have been eroded under David Cameron. His government has sought to stop our right to demonstrate, has undermined workers’ rights and is introducing a snoopers’ charter, where every single one of us is to be treated as a potential terrorist. Now they want to silence anyone who disagrees with their policies, by making it impossible to strike. This is borderline dictatorship.

The Tories have shown over the past four years how much they hate the working class. Aside from destroying the welfare state, how many people are aware that when David Cameron talks about reforming Europe, the “red tape” he wants to do away with includes workers’ rights, such as sick leave and maternity pay?

There is something particularly sickening about watching MPs denouncing public sector strikers because they are no longer prepared to accept a 1 per cent pay increase, when the very same MPs have just voted themselves an 11 per cent pay increase.

Julie Partridge

London SE15

 

To an unprecedented backdrop of sleazy cover-ups, the Cameron  gang again displays its  true colours with its  vow to outlaw strike action.

It’s all part of the New Serfdom, with its zero-hour contracts, food banks and unrestrained payday-lender usury. While, as you report, the honest taxpayer is made to underwrite more offshore handouts to spivs who buy their immunity by shovelling it back into Tory Party funds.

For God’s sake, Clegg, the time is now. Break with these unspeakable people, and champion the people who do Britain’s real daily work.

Richard Humble

Exeter

 

Strikes are, sadly, often the only means by which employees can obtain better pay and conditions, or defend existing conditions; appeals to the good nature of employers invariably fall upon deaf ears.

Strong workers’ movements brought an end to Dickensian working conditions and helped to create a more equal society.

It is no surprise that in recent decades inequality has risen in step with repressive anti-union legislation.

Barry Richards

Cardiff

 

The sins of UK Export finance

Your revelations concerning UK Export Finance support for a firm based in a tax haven (“British taxpayers underwrote deals worth £140m by firm based in Cayman Islands”, 7 July) indicate that much more light should be shone on this rogue government department and its use of public funds.

Our inquiries following Freedom of Information requests and research at the National Archives have shown that past underwriting by UK Export Finance has led to military sales to Mubarak in Egypt, Hawk jets to Suharto in Indonesia, and destroyers to the Argentinian junta used to invade the Falklands – dictator debts which are still being paid off by their oppressed peoples.

Under this government, UKEF has also backed coal and oil exports despite the Coalition Agreement pledge to end fossil-fuel subsidies. Now tax avoidance can be added to the list of sins.

Vince Cable, the minister with decision-making power over the department for four years now, has failed to demonstrate his commitment to promoting responsible British business overseas by cleaning up UK Export Finance, despite it being Lib Dem policy. At Jubilee Debt Campaign, our supporters have even offered funds to take him to Norway to learn about that country’s much more progressive approach to export finance – but they have not even received a response to the invitation. Perhaps your letters page can help the minister rediscover his conscience?

Jonathan Stevenson

Jubilee Debt Campaign

London N1

Exposing paedophiles a poor career move

In 1981, shortly after Geoffrey Dickens MP had named Sir Peter Hayman as a paedophile in the House of Commons, a then colleague and I were interviewed through the Crown Agents for a job with the government of Brunei.

Swapping experiences afterwards, we found we had both been asked our views on Sir Peter’s “outing”.

I had replied that I agreed with it, and in response to a follow-up question that “Surely everyone is entitled to keep their private life private?” I had answered that some activities are so heinous that they merit exposure. I was then told that in Brunei such an action would not be possible.

My colleague, being much more interview savvy, had replied that while he disagreed with Sir Peter’s activities, he should not have been named. He got the job.

Tom Russell

South Rauceby, Lincolnshire

Usually Norman Tebbit would defend his party to the death over policy issues but his contribution on Andrew Marr’s show admitting there could have been a cover-up of paedophile crimes made me respect him in a way I would never have thought possible.

There are some situations so toxic, so wicked that mere party politics fade into obscurity. We need the truth, and Tebbit’s position will help that process.

Steven Calrow

Liverpool

Niqab is a badge of women’s oppression

Like Janette Davies (letter, 10 July), I also agree with Mary Dejevsky (4 July). Face-covering is not acceptable in our public places.

The issue of religious belief is too easily misused in the name of tolerance, since belief is not confined to religion but refers to many deeply held convictions which society might or might not condone. Take the man who believes passionately in nudity, and has spent a considerable time in prison for walking naked in public places, rather than confining himself to specially reserved venues for devotees of nudity. His belief isn’t a religion, but it is a conviction which society doesn’t share.

For me, wearing the niqab in a public place presents something beyond the challenge to social norms and security. It is the promulgation of a notion of female inferiority which runs counter to the very essence of our modern law and social organisation. It disturbs me to see women in our society supporting a mindset which underpins misery and suffering for millions of women worldwide.

Paula Jones

London SW20

Winning football, but a bit too German

The German performance on Tuesday night was dazzling, but this is not  how our commentators describe it.

John Walsh (10 July) uses the terms “machine” and “robot”, adding the offensive metaphor of “mustard gas” to explain the German victory. The BBC commentators overused the word “clinical”, commending an “efficient” display. I suggest that, had the seven goals been scored by Brazil, we would be celebrating their genius, attacking verve, pyrotechnic display.

When will we rid ourselves of world war sub-texts to describe a 21st century sporting event?

Kathryn Ross

Cobham, Surrey

Paul Street (letter, 10 July) may be right when he suggests that what he calls niggling in the penalty area has been going on for ever. But is he also happy to use the rather more recent expressions “professional foul” and “winning a penalty”?

Max Double

Amesbury, Wiltshire

Lost files offer hope for freedom

In the face of the “snoopers’ charter”, I hope to be able to draw some comfort from the extensive capacity of government departments for losing documents.

Sooner or later, there will be so much data for them to trawl through that most of us will simply disappear in the flood, and carry on our anonymous, interference-free and enjoyable lives. No government will ever be able to employ enough people to monitor everyone.

John Evans

Pulborough, West Sussex

I presume the reason Foreign Office torture files were water-damaged was that they were being kept in the same room used for waterboarding detainees. Nothing surprises me now, given the depths to which our politicians have sunk.

Mike Joslin

Dorchester

A snake in the heather

Your news item “snake warning after adder bites dog’s face” (5 July) reports that dog owners have been warned “to look out for snakes when walking in woods and grassland areas”.

Those are two habitats where you are unlikely to encounter an adder. They are almost exclusively found on heaths and moorland, although occasionally on woodland rides.

Peter Brown

Brighton

Times:

Sir, You report that £1.2 billion was sheltered in the Liberty tax scheme. This sum is shocking in view of the drastic cuts to public services in recent years. As a family lawyer I have seen firsthand the devastating effect of cuts to the family legal aid budget. The 2013 cuts to the civil legal aid budget amounted to £350 million, not even one third of the money in the Liberty scheme.

Is it not time for all members of society to take responsibility for supporting essential public services, such as the family justice system, which are the bedrock of any civil society?

Edward Cooke
Chichester

Sir, Your report on Liberty from the moral high ground with no justification. The scheme is legal, and no one has done anything wrong. We all seek to maximise our income and savings as long as the method is legal. You should not report this matter as if it were a crime.

Nigel Benson
Edinburgh

Sir, You say that HMRC failed to send letters to people concerned with the Liberty scheme within the legal time limit because it is understaffed. I am not convinced. There are enough staff to send one of my neighbours a tax demand for 30p. One wonders how effectively HMRC is being managed.

John Kendall
Ramsbottom, Lancs

Sir, You say (July 9) that HMRC has spent more than a decade investigating Liberty, and is due to challenge the scheme in court only next March. Instead of getting HMRC to deal with tax disputes promptly, the government plans to allow it to take from taxpayers whatever amount of tax it says is due before the case is heard in court. This is deeply unjust to taxpayers who acted legally. The government would do better to fix the problems of tax complexity and HMRC incompetence.

Richard Tweed
Croydon

Sir, Instead of encouraging top earners to seek sanctuary from high taxes by residing abroad, the UK would be better served by working out a way that the wealthy pay what they, as well as the rest of the UK citizens and journalists, consider to be a fair and reasonable share. That way they would continue to reside in the UK and continue to contribute to the economy.

We do operate extreme double standards by attacking the likes of Gary Barlow, while welcoming and praising the success of UK citizens who choose to live abroad such as Lewis Hamilton and Mo Farah.

Tim Lee
Hertford

Sir, In 1939-79 the top UK rate of income tax was around 90 per cent. Mrs Thatcher reduced it to 60 per cent then 40 per cent; Mr Blair did not increase it, and Mr Brown increased it to 50 per cent. Most experts believe that such high tax rates actually reduce total tax revenues. That is why no Labour politician today wants to follow the French example and increase the top income tax rate to 75 per cent.

To claim that the democratic “clear will of lawmakers” (leader, July 9) should override the decisions of the courts as to what is legal and what is not would be a very dangerous precedent.

Professor Dr Myddelton
London W9

Palliative medicine expert asks what is unbearable suffering and whether it can be defined

Sir, The argument for assisted suicide is based on the false notion that it will reduce the burden of unbearable suffering in terminally ill patients. How do we define unbearable suffering? And why should only terminally ill patients be given this right to die and not the chronically ill, whose suffering is often prolonged for years such as those with chronic pain syndromes. They, unfortunately, are not dying but suffer intolerable pain combined with emotional and psychological problems. Surely they too should be included within the “unbearable suffering” caveat? And what about the physically and mentally disabled patients who have capacity. Shouldn’t they also have the right to die?

Eventually, the door will become open as a free for all for any person who feels their life is not worth living. Ethics is only as good as the moral framework you base those ethics on. Take away the Judaeo-Christian moral framework and you do not end up with good ethics, but anarchic ethics.

Dr Nicholas Herodotou

(Palliative medicine consultant )

St Albans

Privatising child protection services may turn out to be a catastrophic policy mistake

Sir, The necessary and appropriate focus on historical child abuse may be diverting police from tackling current child abuse (“Biggest ever inquiry into child sex abuse”, July 10). It is also allowing current radical government changes to child protection to go ahead without public attention or debate.

The government, by a ministerial change in regulations, is intending to open up child protection services to the market place. This would allow companies like G4S and Serco to go into families and to seek court orders to allow them to remove children.

Forty years on we may, as now, look back and think whatever were we doing.

Dr Ray Jones

Professor of Social Work

Kingston University and St George’s, University of London.

While scientists work to clarify climate change, we can reduce potential risks by international action

Sir, Matt Ridley (“BBC has lost its balance over climate change”, July 7) has reacted to the BBC Trust findings concerning the pairing of Lord Lawson and me on the Today programme. He rightly says that the current summary of climate projections gives a range of outcomes. Some, such as Ridley, despite recognising that “you cannot have certainty about the future”, seem to be sure that climate change will be at the lower end of the range and that this will be “harmless”.

There is a small chance that they are right, but it is more likely that there will be extremely serious outcomes for humanity unless there is a substantial, sustained reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.

The range of potential outcomes will not be reduced or eliminated by “debate” or by columns in The Times. Scientists will continue to work to improve our understanding of the climate and its response to human greenhouse gas emissions.

However, the climate is a complex system and we will never achieve a perfect ability to project its future path. Risks can, however, be significantly reduced by concerted international action over the coming decades to cut emissions. It is high time therefore that we concentrated on the real debate: how society should respond to the large risks posed by climate change.

Professor Sir Brian Hoskins, FRS

Chairman, Grantham Institute for Climate Change, Imperial College London

A veteran voiceover artist contests the suggestion that it is a poorly paid, unsung occupation

Sir, Valentine Low, in a piece about my colleague Helena Breck (July 8), refers to anonymous voiceover artists and says few “have ever made much money from it”.

As an anonymous voiceover for 20 years, can I assure you that is not necessarily the case.

Taff Girdlestone

Sale

Privatising child protection services may turn out to be a catastrophic policy mistake

Sir, The necessary and appropriate focus on historical child abuse may be diverting police from tackling current child abuse (“Biggest ever inquiry into child sex abuse”, July 10). It is also allowing current radical government changes to child protection to go ahead without public attention or debate.

The government, by a ministerial change in regulations, is intending to open up child protection services to the market place. This would allow companies like G4S and Serco to go into families and to seek court orders to allow them to remove children.

Forty years on we may, as now, look back and think whatever were we doing.

Dr Ray Jones

Professor of Social Work

Kingston University and St George’s, University of London.

Telegraph:

SIR – “Would a Constitution save us from the European Arrest Warrant?” asks Philip Johnston. Plenty of countries with written constitutions and powerful constitutional courts, such as France and Germany, fully apply it. They do so because, like Britain, they see how it helps to keep the public safe.

Each year more than 100 suspects are returned to Britain to face justice for serious crimes. In some cases, this is only possible at all because of the Arrest Warrant. The Latvian Ignas Judins was brought back to Britain to face charges of human trafficking and sexual exploitation. Latvia only extradites its own nationals under the European Arrest Warrant; without it, Mr Judins, who was jailed for 20 months, would still be a free man. We owe it to the victims of such terrible crimes to use all available means to bring those responsible to justice.

But Philip Johnston is right that we must protect the traditional rights and liberties of British subjects. That is why this Government has changed the law so that British subjects cannot be extradited for trivial offences or for conduct which took place in Britain but was not criminal here. We have also made changes to make sure people will not be extradited under an Arrest Warrant then left to spend years overseas waiting to be charged or tried.

With the safeguards we have introduced, which come into effect this month, the Arrest Warrant can continue to be an important tool to protect the British people and their freedom.

Karen Bradley MP (Con)
Minister for Modern Slavery and Organised Crime
London SW1

Expanding waistlines

SIR – Hannah Betts’s article on “Size 000” was worrying. But I have noticed the opposite trend occurring. When I first started buying clothes in the Sixties, we bought according to our measurements, a ratio of bust: waist: hips. An average size for a young lady was considered to be about 34in: 24in: 36in (Marilyn Monroe was the icon at 36in: 23in: 36in, Jane Russell a “voluptuous” 38in: 24in: 36in).

Since the arrival of numbered sizes, their scope seems to have steadily increased. Apparently a size 16 is now considered average, which tends to encompass a bust of 40in and hips of 42in. This is an average increase of 6in in all areas. Visual evidence tells me that the same is true for men.

At this rate of expansion, I am glad that I won’t be around to experience rush-hour travel in 100 years’ time.

Sally Gibbons
London SW19

Butterfly exodus

SIR – Last year, when our buddleia bushes were in full bloom, we had hundreds of butterflies on the flowers. This year I have only seen one small tortoiseshell.

Have they all gone down south?

Jennifer Metcalf
Lincoln

Choosy reptiles

SIR – Our friend’s tortoise (Letters, July 8) comes to the back door and knocks on it until it is opened and fruit or vegetables offered. He especially likes apples.

David J Hartshorn
Badby, Northamptonshire

SIR – I had a tortoise, Peter, when I was a child. His movements were restricted to the rose bed because he had a passion for fallen rose petals.

Vivienne Blackett
Norwood Green, Middlesex

Shale gas opportunities

SIR – As entrepreneurs in the hospitality, catering, entertainment and tourism industries, we are excited about the potential indirect economic benefits from onshore energy industry in the North West.

We believe we can play an invaluable role by providing accommodation, entertainment and hospitality for a growing onshore energy industry. This will raise local standards, boost local revenues, and lower local unemployment.

The accommodation and food services sector already provides more than 215,000 jobs across the North West. A recent analysis by PwC shows it is the thriving energy sector that has revamped Aberdeen’s hotels – making them now “second only to London”. We call on party leaders to get behind this unique opportunity.

Claire Smith
Manager, Number One South Beach, Blackpool
Michael Dowling
Director, The Fernroyd
Mick Grewcock
Director, Burbage Holiday Group
Vicki Gale
Director, The Wilton Hotel
Brian Andrews
Director, The New Hampshire Hotel
Ray Lane
Director, The Fisherbeck Hotel
Neil Winkley
General Manager, Aberford Hotel
Diane Waters
General Manager, Arabella Hotel
Alan Yarnell
Director, Beverley Dean
Sandra Bulgin
Director, Bona Vista
Neil Goodier
Director, Bracondale Guest House
Noreen Westhead
Director, Camelot House
Ann O’Donnell
General Manager, Clarron House
Deborah Laws
Director, Crewes Original
Victoria Eastley
Fylde Hotel
Sue Fletcher
Director, Holmside House
Keith Whigham
Director, King Edward Hotel
Chris Coleman
Director, Kings Court
Jane Farbrother
Director, Langroyd Hotel
David Webb
Director, Langtrys
Iqbal Karim
Director, Lynton Apartments
Kauser Karim
Lynton Apartments
Ken Bunce
Director, Moorbank House
Clarence Woodcock
Director, Morrisy House
Andy Berrie
New Sandygate Apartments
Jacqueline Berrie
New Sandygate Apartments
Mark Smith
Director, Number One South Beach
Graham Poole
Director, Raffles Hotel
Christine Daly
Sheron House
Steve Griffin
General Manager, Sussex Hotel
Kalpana Robinson
Director, The Address
Adrian Smirthwaite
General Manager, The Albany Hotel
Pat Francioni
Director, The Alumhurst Hotel
Steve Fazakerley
Director, The Arthington
Graham Read
Director, The Baron
Judith Campbell
Director, The Beauchief
Phillip Martin
Director, The Berkswell
Eddie Battelle
Director, The Berwick
Charles Ruppert
Director, The Headlands Hotel and the Colwyn Hotel
Barry Alcott
General Manager, The Hurstmere
Chris Bowen
Director, The Montclair
Frances Hopkins
Director, The Novello
Roger Gilmore
Director, The Roselea Hotel
Alan Cumpsty
Director, The Verdo Hotel
Janet Jones
Director, Arendale
Philip Brown

Director, The Holmsdale
Ida Brown
The Holmsdale
Mark Tollet
Director, Chester Brooklands B&B
Joseph William Smith
General Manager, Glengarth Guest House
Chris Speke
Director, Sycamore House
Kevin Berkins
Director, Fence Gate

Paying for pensioners

SIR – Might I add to my original letter, which brought forth such a howl of anguish from pensioners?

I am proposing that we combine the NHS with social care. Pensioners would contribute towards the social care element of the new package. Currently social care is offered after a means test, which often involves the sale of the pensioner’s house. This insurance scheme would prevent that, at least for those that have cover.

Those pensioners who do not wish to opt in can continue to rely on the old means-tested assistance.

It is into this fund that the contributions would be paid and not into the general NHS fund which, as your readers point out, they have been paying into for many years.

Frank Field MP (Lab)
London SW1

A sting in the tale

SIR – Recently my granddaughter was stung on her legs by nettles, so I bathed them with a solution of bicarbonate of soda, which successfully soothed the pain and stemmed the tears.

However, I later discovered that what I actually used was cornflour. Perhaps this is a medical breakthrough; on the other hand, it may be of interest to my own doctor regarding the state of my eyesight.

Dinah McIlroy
Lesbury, Northumberland

The cost of digitising the National Archives

SIR – In response to Andrew Campbell’s letter, I can confirm that the National Archives’ collection is free to search online and to view onsite in Kew. However, as the cost of digitising records is considerable, we are required to recover the full cost of the digital download service from our customers.

We will continue to digitise key First World War records throughout the centenary.

Clem Brohier
Acting Chief Executive, The National Archives
Kew, Surrey

SIR – I cannot disagree more strongly with Andrew Campbell about the cost of downloading service records from the National Archives website.

Previously, family history research meant an expensive journey to the Archives by car or by train, in addition to the costs of parking or getting from the railway station to Kew, refreshments during the day and then the journey home.

For little more than the value of a cup of coffee, we can now have the documents delivered to us in the comfort of our home.

Pauline Smith
Petersfield, Hampshire

SIR – While I sympathise to some extent with Mr Campbell’s views, I feel I should point out that the ability to download these archives to my own computer has revolutionised my research work. There is no longer any need to travel to Kew for expensive photocopies, or to hazard a guess as to what might be useful and pay the staff to send the copies. The only odd thing about the pricing is that some documents come in annual chunks, so you have to buy five separate files to cover a military unit’s period for the whole of the First World War, whereas for other units a single file covers the entire war.

This is one of the few instances where a government service has reduced its charges. The documents were £3.36 in the first instance, and Mr Campbell mentions that they are now £3.30.

Martin Stoneham
Sevenoaks, Kent

Hop, skip and a punt: passengers take to the river during the Bumps rowing races, Cambridge  Photo: ALAMY

6:59AM BST 10 Jul 2014

CommentsComments

SIR – If Tim Palmer (Letters, July 8) thinks that Dorset’s public transport is expensive, he should try Cambridge.

During the annual Bumps rowing races, a punt operates to transport passengers across the river to a pub’s beer garden. Travelling just 25 metres for the cost of £1.50 each way per person, I believe it is the most expensive form of public transport anywhere in the world, at £96 per mile. It even beats the Space Shuttle, which cost $100 million for a 10-million-mile journey.

Can anyone top this?

Dr Ian Cowley
Royston, Hertfordshire

rvices of worship that young people can relate to

Christianity is in danger of 'sliding out of cultural memory', the Church of England’s head of education has warned, as he unveiled a new drive to use its network of schools to spread the religion.

The Bishop of Oxford has called for collective worship in schools to be replaced by a period of “spiritual reflection” Photo: INS

7:00AM BST 10 Jul 2014

CommentsComments

SIR – I find it deeply concerning that the Bishop of Oxford feels that a decline in Christianity in Britain warrants the removal of collective worship in schools.

Especially in faith schools, it should encourage the opposite: an increase in community worship, but community worship tailored appropriately to the needs of young people. Priests need to be properly trained to lead services of worship that young people can relate to.

Edd Bartlett
Plymouth, Devon

SIR – Last week the National Governors’ Association started an interesting debate about the place of compulsory collective worship in schools. I’m not suggesting a knee-jerk change in the law in response, but I do think it’s time for a grown-up conversation.

The problem lies with the word “worship”. Worship is, by definition, a voluntary activity, and it seems anachronistic in today’s culture to require people to worship, even if that made sense in the Forties.

There is profound value in having a pause in the school day, to reflect corporately on the beliefs and values that underlie the life of that community.

My suggestion is that we reframe “collective worship” as “spiritual reflection”, drawing mainly on Christian faith and values and those of the other great religious traditions. This would release schools from the guilt that may be associated with flouting the law and give them the opportunity to enrich this very important experience at the heart of the school day.

This does not affect the position of church schools and other schools with a religious character. Church schools will continue to worship God because worship is at the heart of Christian belief and discipleship.

The Rt Rev John Pritchard
Bishop of Oxford

SIR – It is not a month since the “Trojan horse” furore in Birmingham. Why will the National Governors’ Association and the usual suspects from the British Humanists not face the fact that British culture has been formed by a Christian history?

Instead, the governors should press for the reintroduction of assemblies and allow those of other faiths to opt out if they wish.

Andrew Rome
Sharnbrook, Bedfordshire

SIR – The suggestion by the Bishop of Oxford that compulsory acts of worship in school assemblies are more suited to the Forties reminded me of my wartime schooldays in Islington. John Lewis, our Welsh headmaster, always picked hymns appropriate to the news of the day: when HMS Hood was sunk with all hands, we sang For Those in Peril on the Sea. But when the Eighth Army relieved Tobruk, it was a spirited Onward Christian Soldiers.

Bert Morgan
Shenfield, Essex

Irish Times:

A chara, – When one emigrates, one tends to spend quite a bit of time defending Ireland against particular stereotypes. To be honest, I’m not sure I can even do that anymore.

The upholding of a planning decision based on the original agreement between the GAA and local Croke Park residents is not damaging our reputation abroad. The reports I’m reading online of the Taoiseach getting involved, the president of the United States being contacted and, for some bizarre reason that I don’t understand, the Mexican ambassador to Ireland offering assistance, are causing a lot more damage and embarrassment.

I can sympathise with ticket holders who will not get to see an artist they clearly care about a great deal. What I cannot sympathise with is an artist and his fans holding a nation to ransom for the sake of five gigs. What’s more, the behaviour of “the powers that be”, as Garth Brooks likes to refer to them, as well as the media hyping this up beyond belief, has been utterly grotesque. – Is mise,

RÓISÍN O’DONOVAN,

Culammnstrasse,

Zurich, Switzerland.

Sir, – The fiasco over the Garth Brooks concert highlights the insanity of allowing event tickets to be sold “subject to licence”. In order to prevent this happening again, the Government should bring in legislation that would ensure that tickets are not offered for sale until seven days after the granting of a licence. The seven-day delay would allow for any legal challenge to the granting of the licence and challenges would only be entertained if made within that period. In the event of a legal challenge to an event, tickets should not be offered for sale until that challenge was dealt with in the courts.

It should be remembered that tours by major acts are planned well in advance and there is no good reason for the failure of promoters to obtain full licences clear of legal challenges before offering tickets for sale. – Yours, etc,

TIM O’SULLIVAN,

Maywood Avenue,

Dublin 5.

Sir, – The recent events regarding the Croke Park concerts look more and more like an outbreak of the Celtic Tiger disease. It seems that had there been a demand for seven Garth Brooks concerts, such was the toxic scent of a massive windfall for many concerned, that the natural order, the normal rules and regulations governing the number of consecutive concerts and so on would have been cast aside – as indeed they were for the proposed five events. Apart from the artist and his entourage, the GAA stood to reap a huge unexpected harvest, and the hoteliers, publicans and others a similar bounty.

For every occasion of concert excitement within Croke Park there is an opposite reaction outside it among the local residents, who in this case were pushed past reasonable limits of endurance and had to make a stand.

Now, like the housing market and the economy some years ago, all has collapsed and the country is again full of victims. – Yours, etc,

PETER MAKEM,

Armagh Road,

Newry.

Sir, – May I suggest that in the next edition of Irish Monopoly, the “Get out of jail free” card is replaced by a “For the good of the country” card? – Yours, etc,

DAVE ROBBIE,

Seafield Crescent,

Booterstown,

Co Dublin.

Sir, – I can’t locate Big Tom’s Four Country Roads (to Glenamaddy) on iTunes. Surely this is a greater scandal than the Garth Brooks carry-on? Should I contact Ban Ki-moon, Binyamin Netanyahu or the Mexican ambassador for help? – Yours, etc,

KARL MARTIN,

Bayside Walk,

Bayside,

Dublin 13.

Sir, – I never imagined that politicians would descend to the level of jumping on the bandwagon of popular opinion by calling for emergency legislation to allow music concerts at a particular venue. Where were the calls for emergency legislation to reverse cuts in the health service which result in the cancellation of medical procedures, in the absence of which persons might die? Have they no shame? – Yours, etc,

GERARD CLARKE,

Castlebrook,

Dundrum,

Dublin 16.

Sir, – It is hard to believe that this time last year, when Barack Obama visited our nation, everybody in Ireland had one saying on their minds, “Is féidir linn”. It is a sad state of affairs, that although we should be welcoming Garth Brooks to Ireland with open arms, ní feidir linn. Will this be our new motto? – Yours, etc,

MELANIE HUNTER,

Cliff Road,

Greystones, Co Wicklow.

Sir, – Whatever about the merits of the decision of the Dublin City Council to limit the number of shows to three, the logic of Garth Brooks’s decision to opt out of those three shows boggles the mind. He says that telling the 160,000 people who would have attended those extra two gigs would be a nightmare for him. However, he has no problem telling the other 240,000 who would have attended the three shows to get lost. Nice one, Garth. – Yours, etc,

JOE BOYLE,

Edgewood Avenue,

San Francisco, California.

Sir, – Enda Kenny? The Mexican ambassador? Barack Obama? It’s all clearly a conspiracy to put Oliver Callan out of business. – Yours, etc,

FIONNUALA WALSH,

Saint Mary’s Terrace,

Galway.

Sir, – The Taoiseach is close to announcing a Cabinet reshuffle during an important time for this country, yet more people are concerned as to whether he should be getting a country singer to come and play his guitar.

And we wonder why we are where we are. – Yours, etc,

CATHAL O’DONNELL,

Leopardstown Drive,

Blackrock, Co Dublin.

Sir, – All that remains in this drama is the Tommie Gorman interview. – Yours, etc,

FERGAL OLWILL,

Dalcassian Downs,

Glasnevin, Dublin 11.

A chara, – Further to John A Murphy’s “Why we should be wary of Sinn Féin in government” (Opinion & Analysis, July 9th), when will people like Prof Murphy actually accept the work that Gerry Adams has done, at great personal risk, in helping to bring peace to this island? Is it really too much for him to acknowledge?

Prof Murphy is one of many who appear to be unable to accept the peace we have, the ongoing work Mr Adams and others have put into that peace, the role Sinn Féin has played in attaining that peace and Sinn Féin’s current standing in the polls.

This is Ireland in 2014. The Belfast Agreement was signed 16 years ago. It is not a completed work, but it is an ongoing work. It is time for the bitter sniping from the uninvolved on the sidelines to cease. It is time for everybody to roll up their sleeves, get involved and work for peace. Is that really too much to ask? – Is mise,

EF FANNING,

Whitehall Road,

Churchtown,

Dublin 14.

Sir, – Sinn Féin under Gerry Adams did no more than Fianna Fáil under Eamon de Valera in steering the extremes away from violence – surely a consummation to be more devoutly wished than the alternative, ie chaos as the norm for the 25 years from 1969.

Sinn Féin does not hold exclusivity on self-righteousness and sanctimoniousness, as Prof Murphy suggests. Any trawl through the record of Dáil speeches by the current taoiseach would, alas, quickly dispel that misguided idea. But he is correct in his surmise that the rise of Sinn Féin is a backlash against austerity. Its policies, however untested, cannot and will not be worse than those visited upon this hapless country of Éire, Ireland, the Republic, or whatever you wish to call it, by those who do the bidding of Brussels. – Yours, etc,

MAURICE

O’CALLAGHAN,

Ferndale Road,

Rathmichael,

Co Dublin.

Sir, – I must commend John A Murphy for his opinion piece.

In a climate of turning a blind eye to the unpalatable, his analysis and clear exposition of the past performance and current threat to us all posed by Sinn Féin should be compulsory reading for everyone.

His reasoned warning is simple and stark. – Yours, etc,

WILLIAM HANNA

Knock,

Belfast.

Sir, – John A Murphy’s long article covers a lot of old ground. We have heard it all before.

There is a fairly sophisticated and educated electorate out there now and they make their decisions at the ballot box. If that has brought “remarkable success for Sinn Féin in the recent local and European contests”, then so be it. That is democracy in action. Some may not approve the electorate’s choice, but that’s the reality.

Guessing what future government formations may emerge and what agenda will be pursued is pure speculation. Time enough to see that. – Yours, etc,

P O CALLANÁIN,

Clonkeen Drive,

Foxrock,

Dublin 18.

Sir, – Gavin Barrett (“Lessons for UK and EU in fractious Juncker episode”, July 10th, 2014) indicates with reference to the Spitzenkandidaten procedure that the European Commission is “being subjugated to a majoritarian European Parliament”. The inherent concept surrounding the deemed Spitzenkandidat is not based upon a simple majority of MEPs in the European Parliament, but a different approach whereby the candidate nominated by the political grouping winning the most seats is selected. After the elections in May, the largest grouping had 221 MEPs out of a total of 751 MEPs (29 per cent); the next largest grouping has 191 (25 per cent). This is an obviously flawed approach in direct contrast to the typical modus operandi present in national European parliamentary systems.

Furthermore, the total composition of political groupings in the European Parliament is only technically finalised a number of weeks after the election is held. The French politician Marine Le Pen, for example, was involved in efforts to form a new grouping in the parliament in the immediate aftermath of the election result (but failed). Brian Crowley MEP, much to the embarrassment of Fianna Fáil, indicated his allegiance in the parliament for this particular term also in the aftermath of the result.

If a new political grouping were formally declared after the election result that consisted of greater than 29.4 per cent of the total MEPs elected, who is to say who the Spitzenkandidat ought to have been? This may not have been a concern on this occasion, but for future elections with tighter outcomes, it could be relevant.

The central point with respect to this innovation is that this does in effect represent a considerable power grab by the parliament, far beyond its envisaged scope outlined in the EU treaties. It is an illusion to suggest that the citizen is more closely involved in the selection process that would have been the case previously. – Yours, etc,

JOHN KENNEDY,

Knocknashee,

Goatstown, Dublin 14.

Sir, – Simon O’Connor argues (July 7th) that the EU is undemocratic because the names of candidates for the office of commission president are not on the ballot papers of European parliament elections. The names of potential taoisigh don’t appear on the ballot papers in Irish general elections. Does that make Ireland undemocratic? As for his assertion that “people across Europe have repeatedly rejected treaties”, very few member states hold referendums before ratifying treaties. In the past where one or two electorates said no, either the treaty in question was revised through EU-wide renegotiations, or it was resubmitted unchanged to the reluctant voters and they (with a larger turnout) changed their verdict. – Yours, etc,

MICHAEL DRURY,

Avenue Louise,

Brussels, Belgium.

Sir, – Is everyone waiting for someone else to write to The Irish Times about the latest Israeli offensive against the people of Gaza, or has it become too routine to warrant comment?

Allow me, then, to express the view that the indiscriminate aerial bombardment is nothing short of criminal. The rocket attacks on Israel by Hamas are also reprehensible, but it’s ludicrous to equate the deadly Israeli military offensive with the largely ineffective Hamas campaign. – Yours, etc,

DOMINIC CARROLL,

Ardfield,

Co Cork.

Sir, – Reports that the Bord Gáis Energy Theatre is up for grabs for €20 million should be good news (“Bord Gáis theatre for sale at €20 million”, July 9th). The theatre should be bought for the State.

During the boom years there was talk about developing the Abbey Theatre, the home of our National Theatre; there was even chatter about building a national opera house.

Could we not consider this theatre as the ideal new national performance centre? Is there not the space at this site to develop a smaller auditorium for more intimate theatrical performances, creating our own South Bank complex? Or will we allow this chance to slip by, giving a private impresario, or vulture funds looking for a bargain, the chance to snap up the most modern performance space in Ireland? – Yours, etc,

BRENDAN QUINN

Enniscrone,

Sligo.

Sir, – It seems that our political leaders have decided that family doctors will soon be providing “free” care to not alone children under the age of six but also to pensioners over the age of 70 (Front Page, July 10th).

Have we not been here before? What planning into the implications of what is being proposed has taken place? Does the Government intend nationalising the GP service to bring about this change?

Is it fair to say that politicians regard the private industry of general practice as a football to kick around in whatever way they think is politically advantageous?

Meanwhile, my own large group practice is currently operating one doctor short, as we have been unable to attract a qualified candidate to replace a colleague who is on maternity leave. This is a situation being replicated around the country. Does any politician know or appreciate the acute sense of frustration and helplessness that myself and many colleagues feel as our once great service disintegrates in front of us ?

The current model of general practice is broken and is only being held together by the commitment and professionalism of colleagues around the country. This situation cannot and will not continue for very much longer, no matter what any politician says or promises. Unachievable and ill-informed promises merely serve to worsen an increasingly intolerable situation. – Yours, etc,

Dr SHANE CORR,

Group Practice,

Carrickmacross,

Sir, – Further to recent correspondence relating to Fintan O’Toole’s “Trashing the concept of a public service” (Opinion & Analysis, July 8th), it is disingenuous to blame Irish protest groups for the privatisation of our public services.

The neo-liberal ideology which has come increasingly to dominate global sociopolitical and economic affairs since the 1970s is hostile to the very concept of a collective, public sphere. In this cynical system, no human activity has any value if it cannot be counted, measured and traded, bought and sold on the “free” market to generate profit. But the monetarisation of all aspects of human life does not “add value” – it ultimately debases us all. – Yours, etc,

MAEVE HALPIN,

Ranelagh,

Dublin 6.

Sir, – Cllr Brid Smith (July 10th) ignores the fact that for well over 100 years people did in fact pay for local services. The payments were called domestic rates.

Every single idea, suggestion or proposal to raise taxes or charges to pay for public services in this State is opposed by the only “left” in the world that opposes taxation. – Yours, etc,

Cllr DERMOT LACEY,

Beech Hill Drive,

Donnybrook,

Dublin 4.

Sir, – Perhaps it would take the sting out of the oriental pursuits for Fr Padraig O’Baoill (“Yoga putting ‘souls in jeopardy’, Donegal priest warns”, July 9th) if we called them what they really are: yoga, stretching; tai chi, moving very slowly in pyjamas; and Reiki, hand-waving over sick people. – Yours, etc,

PAUL McELLIGOTT,

Carrickbrack Heath,

Sutton,

Sir, – Can I take it that those who object to the Good Friday alcohol ban being “imposed” on them on religious grounds would have no objection if, by the same token, the religious bank holidays of St Patrick’s Day, Easter Monday, Christmas Day and St Stephen’s Day were scrapped? If they don’t want to be forced not to buy alcohol, then I presume they don’t want to be forced to have four days off work? – Yours, etc,

BARRY WALSH,

Brooklawn,

Clontarf,

Dublin 3.

Irish Independent:

In view of the cabinet changes this week, I think we should ask Enda Kenny and the new Education Minister to consider placing on hold the threatened changes to the Junior Cert syllabus and exam system.

The measures being rushed in have not been thought through. It was not for nothing that the former Education Minister got the slow hand clap at the recent meeting with the Teachers’ Union.

Irish education is respected throughout the world. Of course it is not perfect.

The proposed measures have failed elsewhere in the English-speaking world.

‘Rote learning’ ought not to be a dirty word. Children are ready for it and most enjoy the process. But they need the training at the appropriate age. This equips them for life.

It is common knowledge that a change to internal marking would destroy the credibility of the Junior Cert.

Paradoxically (for a change introduced by a member of the Labour Party) it would lead straight back to elitism, as parents and employers will disregard the grades and look instead at the good name, or otherwise, of the school.

In districts where there is competition among schools for a limited number of pupil entrants, it will place intolerable pressure on teachers.

All realise that dropping the final exam will lead to a very great loss of incentive on pupils to do their best. And the value of the Junior Cert in preparing them for the Leaving Cert exam conditions will be lost.

Yes, of course, there is pressure – but it is not the exam that is to blame, it is the fact that many people are competing for fewer successful placings afterwards. The actual method of awarding final grades, and college placements, will make not the slightest difference to the stress on candidates so long as they know that ‘all compete, but not all will succeed’.

The only way to eliminate this stress would be to award college places via a lottery.

I have taught in Australia, England and Ireland, and can vouch for all of these points from personal experience.

MICHEAL O FEARGHAIL

GLANMIRE, CO CORK

 

A FAIR GESTURE

If Garth Brooks eventually gets permission to play to 400,000 people in Dublin, would it not be a fair gesture for Brooks and the promoter and the GAA to donate €400,000 to the St Vincent De Paul and let the less well-off benefit also?

MICHAEL O’CONNOR

MILL ROAD, MIDLETON, CO CORK

 

TAKING A STAND

It is a pity that the Croke Park protesters were not sent to Brazil, then I would not be subjected to wall-to-wall televised soccer.

I am a prisoner in my spare room to avoid the roaring and shouting and expletives directed at the TV.

I cannot go out of the house as the beer-swilling fans will not allow me back until the game is over.

I’ve had enough. I want all games banned. I know hundreds of millions watch the games but I insist on my rights. As a begrudging compromise I would allow half a game be played. If this is not agreed to, I will go to Brazil and get a court injunction.

MICK HANNON

CLONES, CO MONAGHAN

 

IT’S NOT LIKE FOR LIKE, DAVID

David McWilliams “waited hours for two stitches” in Ireland, because doctors here were probably busy seeing a child within 40 minutes with suspected septic arthritis. His medical comparison is akin to that of Ireland’s economic crisis and how a seven-year-old might spend their Holy Communion stash.

DR DAIRE SHANAHAN GDP

PORTLAOISE, CO LAOIS

 

LET JOAN GET ON WITH THE JOB

I found Maurice O’Connell‘s letter (Irish Independent, July 9) very disappointing. I think he completely missed the point of private talks (no leaks) and careful negotiation.

One must accept, however reluctantly, that now is not the time to make strident and public demands. Now is the time to act firmly and quietly in the interests of the people.

Joan Burton has proven that she does this on a daily basis, without fuss or kudos. Her style is clear and unequivocal. She has always demonstrated pragmatism, one of the requirements listed by Mr O’Connell. I fail to understand his very negative assessment.

I believe that no one has lost sight of Labour’s manifesto. Implementation of social responsibility will always come first. But better to do it from within the circle of Government than bleat in futile woe from beyond the pale.

Joan Burton has been Labour leader for all of five days. For heaven’s sake, let her get on with it.

PATRICIA R MOYNIHAN

CASTAHEANY, CO DUBLIN

 

ELECTED MAYOR IS NO SOLUTION

Eamon Delaney (Irish Independent, July 10) argues strongly, on the morning that the Mexican Ambassador is spurred to help restore perspicacity and equilibrium to the decision-making regime of Dublin City Council, that a directly elected mayor would have spared our latest humiliating, self-inflicted controversy.

The most important asset of a city is its reputation and energy; qualities rooted in conviction, earned over centuries – but capable of being undermined beyond repair in minutes by inadequacy and delinquency. The unique character of any thriving city is reflected in the quality of its planning.

The effective administration of a city depends hugely on the calibre of the leadership, vision, capability, judgment, credibility and imagination of city fathers and their integrity.

When one looks at the Irish political enterprise, there is no reason to confidently believe that these qualities are any more abundant among elected persons than they are among those who are appointed, so the pursuit of the elected mayor would be a meaningless charade.

MYLES DUFFY

GLENAGEARY, CO DUBLIN

 

PRIEST TYING HIMSELF UP IN KNOTS

Fr Padraig O Baoill claims that eastern philosophy is “contemptible” and advises his parishioners that participating in yoga and other eastern forms of exercise will be jeopardising their souls.

I presume he has evidence to prove his claim, and I also presume that as a follower of Jesus Christ he is more than aware he is morally bound to be totally honourable (truthful) in all of his dealings with his fellow men.

As a practitioner of yoga, I consider his remarks offensive, but understand his predicament, clearly described by the ninth-century Irish philosopher John Scotus Eriugena: “All things proceed from the good and in the good they must end. The only hell is ignorance.”

In 2014, we should be well aware of the dangers of pontificating inanely from a pulpit, or via a parish newsletter.

DECLAN FOLEY

BERWICK, AUSTRALIA

 

A DOSE OF REALITY

I refer to John Fitzgerald‘s letter (Letters, July 9) advocating that the Department of Agriculture focus its energies on the search for a badger vaccine.

Mr Fitzgerald appears to assume that if a vaccine is developed it will be made available. If the experience of Multiple Sclerosis sufferers is any barometer, I respectfully suggest that he is delusional. A drug has been developed, Fampridine, that does improve the quality of life of a significant percentage of MS sufferers but is not being made available by the Department of Health.

LORCAN O’SHEA

PIERCESTOWN, CO WEXFORD

Irish Independent

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