Sydney Newman

31 August 2014 Sydney Newman

I jog around the park I still have arthritis in my left knee, but I manage to get round the park. A wettish day. I post a box of boos

I bump in to Mary and she has a fall shes a little worse today, trout leg for tea and her back pain is a little better and she manages tea a table.


Klaus Zapf – obituary

Klaus Zapf was a multi-millionaire businessman who idolised Lenin, did his shopping at Aldi and said he lived on £60 a week

Klaus Zapf

Klaus Zapf Photo: DPA

7:15PM BST 29 Aug 2014


Klaus Zapf, who has died of a heart attack aged 62, was a German entrepreneur known as the “King of Movers”. As the founder and co-owner of Zapf Umzuge, one of the largest relocation companies in Europe (with 60,000 customers each year), Zapf built up a multi-million-euro business empire and a personal fortune estimated at £10 million. The rewards of his endeavours, however, held little appeal: “I don’t need money,” he said. “It just makes us unequal.”

Zapf’s thrifty approach informed his domestic situation (he rented a modest flat) and living expenses: he was reported to have lived on approximately £240 a month. His prudence extended to shopping at Aldi and collecting empty bottles on which there was a return deposit. “There are just so many bloody idiots with money around,” he declared. “You don’t need another one.”

His appearance matched his frugal behaviour. He arrived at newspaper interviews and television talk shows wearing track suits, shorts and baseball caps. His ivory-white beard grew so long that it trailed off at an angle like a snow drift. Perhaps his only concession to style was a pair of chunky wraparound black glasses which only made him look like a tramp who had rummaged through the bins at Prada.

This was not, however, a pose or a simple lack of pride in appearance. At the heart of Zapf’s hippyish counter-culture image was a set of Left-wing ideals that had grown out of his studies at university in Berlin during the early 1970s. In later life Zapf’s anti-establishment instincts drove him to become what the German media termed a “professional plaintiff” — a litigious shareholder who repeatedly engages companies in protracted legal proceedings to extract substantial buy-offs. There are reported to be between 10 and 30 such plaintiffs active in Germany. Klaus Zapf sued various corporations, including Altana, Axel Springer, AXA, Intertainment Media and Karmann.

Fighting capitalism from within — armed with investments funded by the success of his own business — was the kind of action of which Zapf’s hero, Vladimir Lenin, would no doubt have approved. Zapf had a giant statue of the Russian revolutionary erected in the courtyard of his company’s headquarters in Berlin.

A sculpture of Lenin in the yard of the moving company Zapf in Berlin

Klaus Emil Heinrich Zapf was born on May 17 1952 at Bad Rappenau in the German state of Baden-Württemberg. In the early 1970s he moved from Eppingen to Berlin in a bid to avoid military service (men resident within its boundaries were exempt) and studied Law at the Free University of Berlin. It was there that he was reported to have become “deeply involved” in Left-wing politics and a follower of Rudi Dutschke, the Marxist sociologist and spokesman for the West German student movement of the 1960s.

During his time as a student Zapf worked in bars and as a labourer. It was while moving furniture that he first thought of setting up his own removals company — he dropped out of university to found Zapf Umzuge in 1975. He never obtained a driving licence, and in the early years he did the loading and unloading while others drove their decrepit old Transit van. “Here the delusions of grandeur are healed every day,” he said of his company.

He set up a central logistics depot in Berlin on the hunch that the country’s capital would move there from Bonn after unification in 1990. It was a shrewd move. Zapf Umzuge now has offices in 14 locations and their blue-and-yellow vans have become ubiquitous in Germany.

Zapf once described the firm as “West Berlin’s best removals collective”, while the signage on his vans boasted “Zapf Removals — Owned by the Employees”. Socialist principles were maintained: employees benefited from a profit-share scheme and customers from working-class districts were offered a reduced rate. However, Zapf clearly appeared uncomfortable with success, describing himself as belonging to the “proletarian elite”.

His later legal actions led to criticism from many commentators in the financial world. A spokesman for SdK (a German association for small shareholders) claimed that so-called “professional plaintiffs” were driven by greed and “a perverse passion for tribunals” rather than by ideology. Zapf was accused of “abusing the law” during one such case (in 2008, against Nanoinvest).

Zapf claimed that he identified with August, the protagonist of a trilogy of novels by the Norwegian author Knut Hamsun: “August is a tireless navigator and braggart,” said Zapf. “He satirised the economic world, which was fine by me.” In an interview earlier this year Zapf said that his “last move will be to the cemetery in Eppingen”.

Zapf, who married three times, died from a heart attack on his third honeymoon. He is survived by his wife, an astrologer, Ingrid Reimold, and a daughter.

Klaus Zapf, born May 17 1952, died August 20 2014


A laboratory rat used in animal testing. Photograph: JG Photography /Alamy

Your excellent article “Could tech end animal-based drugs testing?” (New Review) underlines why new medicines are still tested on animals, namely the courtroom argument: “Would you be happy standing up in a court of law to explain why you hadn’t tested this drug on animals?”

A landmark study published last month shows that apparent safety in animal tests provides no assurance of human safety. Adverse drug reactions (ADRs) kill hundreds of thousands of people every year and hospitalise millions. The belief that “animal tests are the best we have” is revealed as unfounded and dangerous.

New technologies can predict subtle risks that animal tests cannot. Many are already available and could be saving lives. Governments should replace mandatory animal-testing requirements with an obligation to use the most reliably proved methods available. Patients would benefit, health services would save billions, animals would be spared and pharmaceutical companies could develop safer medicines at a fraction of current unsustainable time and costs.

Kathy Archibald director, Safer Medicines Trust, Kingsbridge; Dr Kelly BéruBé director, Lung & Particle Research Group, Cardiff University; Dr Bob Coleman UK science director, Safer Medicines Trust; Professor Michael Coleman School of Life and Health Sciences, Aston University

Professor Chris Foster Emeritus Professor of Pathology, Liverpool University and Medical Director, HCA Pathology Laboratories

Professor Barbara Pierscionek Associate Dean of Research and Enterprise, Kingston University Faculty of Science, Engineering and Computing

Professor Gareth Sanger Blizard Institute, Barts and The London School of Medicine and Dentistry, Queen Mary University of London

Dr Katya Tsaioun US Science Director, Safer Medicines Trust

Professor Sir Ian Wilmut Centre for Regenerative Medicine, University of Edinburgh

A tribute to foreign troops

I forwarded David Olusoga’s article about non-European troops in the First World War (“Foreign fighters tell us a different story from the trenches“, Comment) to my 93-year-old father. I think his response speaks for itself: “Very good article. A similar attitude prevails, not quite as widely, about World War Two. But not with many people like myself who fought alongside Dominion and Colonial troops. I will never forget my days in support of the 5th Indian Brigade, putting tank 75mm gunfire down on German positions as a battalion of Sikhs passed through us to attack the high ground. They smiled and waved.  Some 30 minutes later, as we began to follow them in, their stretcher bearers were returning laden with their dead and seriously wounded. No one like me will ever have anything but a deep feeling of comradeship and equality for these great soldiers. The same feelings reside for ever about New Zealanders, Australians, South, East and West Africans, Rhodesians, Canadians and many from smaller countries too.”

Duncan Toms


Understanding mental illness

I’m delighted that Elizabeth Day (“Why do we talk of the ‘stigma’ of mental illness“, Comment) sees the stigma of mental illness receding. I contributed to Stigma Shout in 2008, a piece of research that found stigma and discrimination widespread amongst employers, friends and family and institutions such as the NHS. Then, nine in 10 people with mental health problems reported its negative impact on their lives.

The report helped launch Time to Change, a campaign led by people with direct experience of the problem. The campaign has had a big impact, with stigma becoming less of a problem for many as a result of so many more people talking about their experiences and so many more people refusing to accept discrimination.

It would be a great shame if we stopped talking and stopped demanding now, just because things have got a little bit better.

Paul Corry


Don’t hide behind the shutter

I enjoyed John Naughton’s fascinating but indulgent article on the history of the Leica camera (“Me and my Leica“, New Review).

But when I looked at his photo of the small, despondent Irish boy in a caravan park in Kerry I was also despondent when I read Naughton’s rationale for taking the picture. Nobody wanted to play football with him but Naughton saw it as a photo-opportunity and his picture as a “metaphor” for the EU austerity regime imposed on Ireland.

Sometimes, life makes demands on you and observing it from behind a camera lens, even if it’s a Leica, is not enough. Naughton should have put down his camera and kicked a football with the boy.

Simon Newton


Go with the flow of the fauna

Efforts to curb invasive species spark battle in the countryside” (News) led me to wonder not merely whether we are countering the threat of invasive species in the right way, but whether we should actually be doing it at all. Throughout the history of life on Earth, new species have been colonising parts of the planet to which they are suited.  That has sometimes involved displacing other species.  This process is perfectly normal and is usually known as natural selection.

The likelihood is that if we insist on preserving native species at the expense of all potential newcomers, we will end up with flora and fauna unsuited to our environment, particularly at this present time of rapid climate change.

The reality is that we should be welcoming or at least accepting the ingress of species better suited to the UK’s changed environment than (current) native species as one of the tools to help us respond to climate change.

Richard Williams

Kingston upon Thames


East Coast trains at York station. Photograph: Christopher Thomond for the Observer

Will Hutton is bang on the money – “Stop fleecing passengers: bring the trains back under public control” (Comment). He will be pleased to know that the Green party has as its policy exactly what he is calling for: renationalising the railways. We favour bringing the railways back into public control by the economical means of simply waiting for the current franchises to lapse and then taking them at that time back into state hands. That way, the surplus that the East Coast Mainline is delivering for taxpayers will be replicated across the network and we won’t have to put up with the penny-pinching profiteering that characterises Britain’s trains at present.

Even at busy times, most train operators in most of Britain’s stations that have ticket barriers will not “open up” those ticket barriers even if some of the ticket gates are malfunctioning and even if they have insufficient staff to man them.

This happens because the company doesn’t seem to care a jot about passengers having to queue pointlessly for the privilege merely of getting on to and off the platforms.

All it cares about is the bottom line; it has evidently calculated (though perhaps wrongly) that the money it saves on cutting staff and not maintaining ticket gates in good working order is more than the money it loses from continually royally pissing off passengers in this way.

Rupert Read

Green party national transport spokesman, Norwich

Will Hutton is wrong to claim that train companies are nothing more than “short-term value extractors”.

He misses the point that under the current public/private partnership in rail, train operator profits have fallen in real terms from £270m in 1997-98 to £250m in 2012-13, which represents an average operating margin now below 3%. Over the same period, money paid by operators to government to reinvest in services has increased fivefold from £390m to £1.96bn. In fact, 97% of the fares people pay go back into the railway to help pay for more and better services as part of one of the biggest periods of sustained rail investment.

In addition, train companies, among them Virgin Trains, pay UK tax on profits. A recent report into rail industry finances prepared by economic consultants Oxera found that the railway and its supply chain pay £3.9bn a year in tax, offsetting nearly all of the £4bn the government provides to support train operations.

Far from being a “costly debacle”, Britain’s unique public/private partnership approach to running the railway has helped create a renaissance in rail travel. Annual passenger journey numbers have doubled over the last 15 years.

Michael Roberts

Director general of the Rail Delivery Group

London EC1A

Will Hutton notes that the right to run privatised monopoly railway services “had to be” temporary, with periodic competition for the renewal of each franchise. But when the other monopoly service, water supply, was privatised there was no such provision. This was never a nationalised service, most of its assets having been the fruit of vigorous local authority enterprise, sometimes when private companies had proved unable to cope with growing demand. Those assets are now the permanent property of companies, many in foreign ownership.

Moreover, there have been proposals for “water shares”, an arrangement under which the companies would also become part “owners” of  our natural resource, the water catchments to which they have hitherto had access  under licences that can be revoked in whole or part. It is difficult to see the purpose of this other than to make effective regulation and future change virtually impossible. When privatisation took place, the previous merger of licensee and regulator  was wisely seen to be inappropriate under private ownership. But this would be a major step in that direction and should not be permitted to happen.

Barry Rydz




More than 100 years ago one of Scotland’s proudest and most principled sons, Keir Hardie, became the Member of Parliament for Merthyr Tydfil, a constituency at the heart of the South Wales valleys’ mining community. He was not Welsh and did not even speak Welsh but he did share a socialist dream that did not stop or begin at national borders.

He went on to change the face of British politics but he also taught us that there is more that unites us than what can ever divide us… that unity is strength and that we are stronger together and weaker apart.

As a proud Brit and Welshman I urge Scotland to keep sending more Scottish working class heroes, like Hardie, to our British Parliament.

Rob Curtis

Barry, South Wales

A question which seems neither to have been asked of nor answered by Alistair Darling and which may influence voting intentions: If Scotland votes for independence, would you stand for the new Scottish parliament or would you find an English, Welsh or Northern Irish seat?

John Hein


In every war in which Britain has participated since 1707, Scotland has made a military contribution greatly above her due and fair share. (DJ Taylor, 24 August). This fact is never mentioned by war historians.

In the First World War at the Battle of Arras 38 Scottish battalions went over the parapets, a larger number then engaged than in the whole British Army at Waterloo. At the Third Battle of Ypres three Scottish Divisions were put in several times and never failed to perform the tasks required of them. In 1917, a South African artilleryman remarked, “We always knew there was something big on when we found the Jocks near us.”

Donald J MacLeod


I have never understood why politicians succumb to requests, such as having cold water poured over them, that make them look ridiculous or, as in sleeping in a box on the South Bank for one night, is patronising to those in need (“Congratulation, Mr President”, 24 August).

In a bygone age, when I worked at Liberal Party HQ, I was occasionally asked to get the then party leader, Jo Grimond, to undertake some such “photo opportunity” and he would always refuse, saying, “Politics is too important for gimmicks.” It still is!

Michael Meadowcroft


May I suggest an answer to Stan Labovitch’s excellent question (Letters, 3 August)? I believe people only protest when they believe they may have some chance of success. Israel is a democracy founded by people from Europe with European values; we expect more from them than from Isis, who are antidemocratic; we believe Israel fundamentally shares our values; that being so, we hope that Israel will listen; that hope seems vain with Isis.

John Dakin

Dunstable, Bedfordshire

Michael Calvin asks, “Will it happen?” in relation to stopping the abuse of people from minorities by authority figures in football (Sport, 24 August). He answers his question with: “Not while intolerable attitudes are tolerated, and silence screams a warning to anyone who yearns for common decency.” Michael, why not have the courage, together with the powers that be at your paper, to name the offenders you refer to? You are as guilty as all the rest.

Steve Brewer

Leeds, West Yorkshire

We are really deep into the silly season when a headline reports that a Lib Dem living in Eastbourne helped Lib Dem candidates standing in, err, Eastbourne (“Lord Rennard campaigned while under investigation”, 24 August). If Chris Rennard had visited my patch in May I would have had pleasure in giving him a bundle of leaflets and I would have left him “alone” on the streets with a volunteer to show him where the letterboxes are in this old town.

Keith Watts

Whitchurch, Hampshire




THE extremist acts we see perpetrated today by Isis, or Islamic State, are the result of two decades of government failure to see the menace of the violent behaviour of certain Muslim groups. The signatories to the letter you published (“We must unite to stop the march of Isis”, Letters, last week) also fail to understand this challenge.

The takeover of schools, the contamination of local democracies and the promotion of an anti-British agenda did not happen overnight.

What is needed to put a brake on this fast-moving juggernaut is a programme of integration for Muslim communities. Imams should take mandatory courses to connect them to British society, and all 1,600 mosques should be brought under some formal central control.
Akbar Dad Khan
Building Bridges UK, Luton


One can only applaud the publication of the letter signed by many representatives of the Muslim community, but what action will follow the fine words? Will the police and the army be flooded with applications from Muslim youths?

Or will local constabularies and the military have to bear the brunt of a problem not of their making?
Ian Snowden
Clitheroe, Lancashire


The West is once again in danger of getting mixed up in a religious war, an intervention for which it will never be thanked. We should do no more than offer humanitarian aid. The problem of Isis should be dealt with by Muslim forces from countries such as Turkey, Iran and Saudi Arabia.

There is also no real reason why the existing borders of Iraq and Syria should remain unchanged. As for the British terrorists, the old sanction of exile should be resurrected for anyone identified as having held arms for or given support to Isis. There is no point in locking these people up or trying to reason with them. They are thugs.

Finally, the media should give less oxygen of publicity and air of glamour to these people. The West ought to be far more concerned about events in eastern Europe.
David Stone
Petersfield, Hampshire


The reported aim of the armed-forces redundancy scheme is to cut the regular army from 100,000 personnel to 82,000 and to expand the Territorial Army to 30,000 part-timers. Surely a strategic rethink is required in view of increasing terrorist threats around the world, including in the Middle East and parts of Africa.

Should we not be expanding our special forces and utilising more of their unconventional approach, experience and flexibility to meet the new challenges? America and France have recognised this and have been extending the operational capabilities of their elite troops for some time.
Peter Macnab
Brussels, Belgium


It hardly seems feasible that the Sunni Muslims can be won over to an inclusive Iraq after all that has happened. The prospect of a unified state being formed is minimal, given the commitment of the Kurds to hold a referendum for seceding from Iraq.

Isis is perhaps right about one thing, and that is that the Sykes-Picot agreement’s ordering of the Middle East almost a century ago has outlived any usefulness.
Dr Chris Lamb


Is it not time to stop using the term “ execution” in reporting on the brutal murder of hostages and others by terrorists? The word refers to the lawful carrying-out of a sentence passed by a court of law. Its misuse lends the terrorists a veneer of legality. They are committing murder and it should be called that.
Robert Faulkner
Alton, Hampshire


Can America try to teach the rest of the world how to live in a civilised manner when it has police shooting apparently innocent civilians who are demonstrating over their unequal lives?
Clive Jacobs
Aldenham, Hertfordshire

Senior army officers are fighting-fit for purpose
I AM an army brigadier in my last few weeks of service. I am one of the many who did not attempt the two fitness tests, but I remain exceptionally fit for my age of 49 (“At ease, general? Top brass dodge army fitness test”, News, last week).

Last weekend I did a five-kilometre run — just over three miles — in 20 minutes and 52 seconds, I recently finished the Edinburgh marathon in 4 hours and 20 minutes and I have completed the Royal Marines endurance course twice in the past year with trainee commandos. Most — but admittedly not all — of those in my peer group are fit and more than able to do the job.

Senior officers often have to fit in their exercise early in the morning before scheduled sessions. My staff booked me in for the test at least three times, and each time some compelling operational priority took me away. However, it is worth remembering that once over the age of 40 we are employed for our intellect, experience and leadership ability rather than our fitness.

Reasonable fitness is required but we are not the ones leading platoon attacks. General Sir Peter Wall is an inspiring leader who has steered the army through significant downsizing with great skill. I seem to recall he was a rugby second row; they were never the quickest across the pitch, but you would not wish to be tackled by him.
Allan Thomson
Andover, Hampshire


In response to the article by Mark Hookham and Sean Rayment (a former colleague), might I politely point out that Wall (another former colleague) attempted and passed pre-parachute selection — known as P Company — one of the toughest military fitness tests around? I did so too at the age of 18. Throughout my 37 years of military service it was a matter of self-discipline that physical fitness would be maintained at all times. This was proven beyond any doubt during the Falklands War in 1982.

I suspect that the majority of those senior officers you quote as not having taken part in the fitness test are of the same ilk — just too busy to complete the test. Now 60, I continue in this vein, running for about an hour every day with my dogs, with 30 press-ups en route and 30 sit-ups as “afters”. That number will rise by one next year on my 61st, and so on.
Colonel David Benest (retired)
Pewsey, Wiltshire


Your article only scratches the surface of the problem. In Afghanistan the lack of fitness among senior British Army ranks was frequently derided by their American opposites. Incidentally, the claim that some exemptions from the personal fitness assessment are granted on medical grounds is moonshine.
Colonel Barry Clayton (retired)
Thornton-Cleveleys, Lancashire


I commend your campaign to improve the earlier diagnosis of cancer (“Hunt pledges cash for hi-tech cancer therapy”, News, last week). However, I am concerned that your emphasis on delays by patients and GPs potentially misses delays by hospitals. My father’s bowel cancer was diagnosed less than two weeks before he died last month. He had been referred promptly by his GP but the surgeon dismissed his symptoms. My father got steadily worse over two months and it proved extremely difficult, despite strenuous efforts by his GP and me, to get a second consultant opinion. It took two emergency admissions before my father was eventually seen by a consultant, who organised the appropriate test the same day. It showed bowel cancer, but by then it was inoperable. He died less than two weeks later.
Catherine Harper, London SE24


The additional £6m for research in advanced radiotherapy is welcome (“A step towards ending the cancer diagnosis lottery”, Editorial, last week) but patients and policy makers should be aware of the limitations of this initiative. The sum compares unfavourably with the recent £160m boost to the cancer drugs fund. Radiotherapy contributes to a cure in a significantly greater proportion of cancer patients than does chemotherapy, so the balance of investment may be wrong. Sustained investment is required both in research and in the implementation of advanced radiotherapy techniques.
Giles Maskell, President, Royal College of Radiologists


So Lord O’Donnell thinks the British government isn’t planning sufficiently for the possibility of Scotland leaving the union after next month’s vote (“Ministers ‘blind on Scotland’”, News, last week). Perhaps it has seen the odds I obtained from the bookmaker. It was 2-11 on a “no” vote. This suggests to me that independence just isn’t going to happen. Does the bookmaking fraternity often get it that wrong, especially in a two-horse race?
Hugh Pearson
Kenilworth, Warwickshire


O’Donnell is right: UK government ministers should remove their heads from the sand and consider the practical implications — not least for defence policy and the nuclear deterrent — of a possible “yes” result. Not to do so seems extraordinarily irresponsible. Hope for the best, but prepare for the worst.
Tony Rossiter
Leyburn, North Yorkshire


Camilla Long castigates football chiefs for writing about “awesome jiggly knockers”and “big-titted broads” yet admires Cecil Beaton’s style in describing Elizabeth Taylor’s “huge, pendulous bosoms” as “hanging and huge, like those of a peasant suckling her young in Peru” (“Here’s my post-match analysis, Malky. Lay off the ‘banter’”, Comment, last week). How are the comments by the “delicate” photographer less offensive than those of “the appalling people who run football”?
Luke Dixon
London W1


Oh, the delicious irony. Harry Cliff, a particle physicist at Cambridge, knows the Big Bang should have wiped out everything yet believes he hasn’t found any evidence that God exists (A Life in the Day, Magazine, last week).
Nick Beecham
Hockley, Essex


Giving a child a musical instrument is the easy part; giving them a musical education is much harder (“Jamie to beat the drum for school music”, News, August 17). We train music-college students to become teachers: imagine Teach First but for music. In my experience young musicians deserve to be paid and trained specifically in how to teach, as their core training at music colleges is not teaching but performing. At London Music Masters we teach hundreds of children with excellent results. Our investment in two Lambeth primary schools has enabled several children to win multiple scholarships to secondary schools and music academies. We are immensely grateful for all the donated instruments but the crucial thing is the quality of the tuition, and that it is provided throughout their primary education and beyond.
Robert Adediran
London Music Masters
London SE11


Your five examples of novels by John le Carré that have been made into films contain a huge omission (“Le Carré on screen”, Magazine, last week). Based on le Carre’s book Call for the Dead, the 1966 film The Deadly Affair starred James Mason, Maximilian Schell and Simone Signoret, plus an excellent supporting cast. This very good production has never received the credit it was due, as illustrated by its unfortunate absence from your list.
Michael Dixon


Charles Clover’s advice that drying clothes on a washing line in the garden is environmentally friendly surely qualifies for Basil Fawlty’s degree in the bleeding obvious (“A washing line gets your clothes and green credentials whiter than white”, Comment, last week). My neighbours and I have never even thought about buying tumble dryers. And the exercise we get from running to fetch the clothes in when it rains keeps us warm too.
Sylvia Crookes
Bainbridge, North Yorkshire

Complaints about inaccuracies in all sections of The Sunday Times, including online, should be addressed to or The Editor, The Sunday Times, 1 London Bridge Street, London SE1 9GF. In addition, the Press Complaints Commission ( or 020 7831 0022) examines formal complaints about the editorial content of UK newspapers and magazines (and their websites)

Martin Bell, journalist and politician, 75; Todd Carty, actor, 51; Roger Dean, illustrator, 70; Richard Gere, actor, 65; Debbie Gibson, singer, 44; Clive Lloyd, cricketer, 70; Van Morrison, musician, 69; Edwin Moses, hurdler, 59; Itzhak Perlman, violinist, 69; Queen Rania of Jordan, 44; Glenn Tilbrook, musician, 57

1888 murder of Mary Ann Nichols, first victim of Jack the Ripper; 1957 Federation of Malaya (now Malaysia) gains independence from the UK; 1968 Garfield Sobers hit six sixes in an over, the first to do so in first-class cricket; 1997 car crashes in Paris tunnel, killing Diana, Princess of Wales, Dodi Fayed and their driver, Henri Paul


Shaun Wright has refused to step down as PCC despite pressure from all political parties Photo: Ross Parry

6:58AM BST 30 Aug 2014


SIR – The Home Secretary is right to condemn social workers, council bosses and police chiefs who failed in their duty to protect the children of Rotherham.

To prevent such blatant neglect of duty ever happening again, those deemed culpable should not just be allowed to resign and effectively get away with it; they should be forcibly sacked and any pension accrued severely reduced.

Only with such draconian measures will those in authority throughout the country be incentivised not to sweep things under the carpet in future.

B J Colby

SIR – This year alone we have had the export of extremism, the Trojan horse affair in education in Birmingham, and now the horrors of Rotherham – all because of a reticence, or even fear, of treading on the sensibilities of ethnic minorities.

This has come about as a direct result of the determination in the last three decades to establish multiculturalism: the notion that all cultures are equal, that there is no such thing as a host-nation culture to which all foreign-comers should be prepared to adapt.

It is now surely obvious, even to the most hardened ideologue of the Left, that the process has been an abject failure.

Edward Thomas
Eastbourne, East Sussex

Out-of-control borders

SIR – I was not surprised to read the headline “UK border controls in chaos”.

I recently came across an encampment of tents and at least 15 young Asian men in a hidden area of Fryent Country Park in Middlesex. They were not pleased to be seen and only one man appeared to understand English.

Suspecting they were illegal immigrants, I contacted the police. I was told to contact Immigration Services, where there was no response on Sunday and, once I got through on Monday, no option to report finding immigrants.

Perhaps if the public was encouraged or even allowed to report illegal immigrants, they would be less keen to come here in the first place.

Dr R E Alexander
London NW9

SIR – We have been hearing about chaos in border control for years. Unlike most countries, Britain does not require passport checks upon departure, so we have no idea how many people who came in on valid tourist visas have overstayed. This is utterly ridiculous.

Ramji Abinashi
Amersham, Buckinghamshire

No avoiding Assad

SIR – The Foreign Secretary is reluctant to join forces with Bashar al-Assad to fight Isil, but in 1942, when Hitler invaded Russia, we made a pact with Stalin. Winston Churchill said he would make a pact with the Devil if Hitler invaded Hell.

Churchill was right then. Philip Hammond is wrong now.

Frank Tomlin
Billericay, Essex

So long, seagulls

SIR – I feel it necessary to point out that gull control methods successfully pioneered by Dumfries and Galloway Council over the last six years have related not to egg pricking, but nest and egg removal.

This method has been closely monitored by an independent expert and representatives of the Scottish government and Scottish Natural Heritage. The removal of several thousand eggs and subsequent disturbance to breeding gulls is now beginning to produce the desired results.

There is a cost to this service and it is reliant on easy access to buildings and the cooperation of property owners, but we believe it is the only non-lethal way of controlling this increasing problem.

Martin G Taylor
Environmental Health Services, Dumfries and Galloway Council

SIR – R J Ardern calls for stricter controls of gulls, but it is humans who are mostly at fault. The 1956 Clean Air Act prevented rubbish-tip operators burning waste, so gulls took advantage of the huge amount of organic material sent to landfill instead.

We can deter seagulls by reducing the amount we throw away, preventing street littering, and making public waste bins and collection arrangements “gull-proof”. Those best placed to do this are landfill companies, local authorities and statutory bodies with a wildlife management remit, but the behaviour of individuals is also important.

All bar one of the British gull species are of amber-listed conservation concern. The herring gull – to many, the sound of our seaside – is a red-listed species and its population is still plummeting. Can we imagine a British coastline devoid of its evocative calls?

Ed Hutchings
Stoke-by-Nayland, Essex

Burn it, don’t waste it

SIR – Burning waste in special incinerators prevents noxious fumes from entering the atmosphere and generates electricity, lessening the amount of fossil fuels that need to be extracted from the ground. The ash left behind is also a valuable commodity, containing elements that can be re-used in industry.

Land is too valuable to use for landfill sites. We should be building more waste incinerators as well as continuing to sell our valuable waste overseas.

Sue Doughty
Twyford, Berkshire

Scottish civil service mantras sound Soviet

SIR – The politicisation of the civil service in Scotland is a worrying trend.

Scottish government ministers’ wearisome and meaningless mantra that independence will make the country “a freer and more just society” is totally at odds with their policy of making government function as “a single institution”, and smacks of the authoritarian regimes which rule some of the former Soviet republics. It’s a grim prospect of what Scotland could be letting itself in for if there isn’t a resounding No vote in the forthcoming referendum.

Peter Myers
Oldmeldrum, Aberdeenshire

SIR – I would like to ask Alex Salmond: 1) Would an independent Scotland divorce itself from any further UK involvement in conflicts in the Middle East, and 2) Could an independent Scotland succeed where the UK has so dismally failed in securing its borders and limiting immigration?

If his answer to these questions was “yes”, and I was a Scot, I would vote for independence, irrespective of economic considerations.

John Cottrell
Addlestone, Surrey

SIR – You state that “the final decision whether or not Scotland leaves the Union is, rightly, left in the hands of the Scottish people” Who are these Scottish people?

I was born and educated in Glasgow and have lived in England for many years. I have always considered myself to be a Scot who is a citizen of the United Kingdom. How is it possible that someone from Outer Mongolia who moved to Scotland in the last few years has a vote, but I don’t?

Derek Leithead
West Byfleet, Surrey

Basic clichés

SIR — The use of “So” to begin the answer to a question is undeniably irritating, but less so than its predecessor, the excruciatingly clichéd “Well, basically”.

T G Jones
Pinner, Middlesex

SIR – Why do people ask, when buying a drink in a pub, “Can I get a pint of…?” The bar staff are there to get your drink for you.

Andy Watson
Cheltenham, Gloucestershire

SIR – I should have thought that for someone emigrating to France to say “See you later” was most appropriate (Letters, August 24).

What on earth does Jane Scott think “Au revoir” means?

Dave Day
Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire

Police station in Rotherham, South Yorkshire Photo: Getty

6:58AM BST 30 Aug 2014


SIR – The men who abused children in Rotherham are criminals, irrespective of their race, culture or creed, and the full force of the justice system needs to deal with them for their heinous crimes.

Child protection should be paramount. No one should ever fail to act for fear of being seen as racist. The Rotherham report says that “almost all” abusers were Asian. This is undeniable and no community should shirk its responsibility to protect children.

However, abuse takes place in every town, city and community. We must not focus solely on one model of exploitation, and miss exploitation if the perpetrators or victims don’t fit one profile of race, gender or geography. In a recent study by Barnardo’s, almost one third in a group of sexually exploited young people supported by the charity since 2008 were male.

We will continue to work with communities and the authorities on behalf of the victims of this terrible crime.

Javed Khan
Chief Executive, Barnardo’s
Ilford, Essex

SIR – When clergy, youth leaders and private individuals commit child abuse, any public organisations to which they belong are hauled into the media spotlight. When the abusers are gangs of Asian men, why does no one question the mosque authorities or other local community leaders?

Dr Allan Chapman

SIR – Everybody is directing a lot of justified anger at officials in Rotherham.

Much of that effort would be better aimed at dealing with those who actually carried out the crimes.

Robert Mason
Witney, Oxfordshire

Assisting physicians

SIR – America has had physician associates (Letters, August 25) for many years now – called physician assistants there – and they have proved to be a valuable asset to doctors, and to be popular with patients.

They do not take on the role of junior doctors, but practise within a very specific area of expertise, and always under the supervision of a specialist consultant. Because of their narrow area of practice, they become extremely skilled. In America, after initial scepticism, they have gained much respect from colleagues and patients.

Audrey Taylor
Former member, Royal College of Physicians Patient and Carer Group
Newcastle upon Tyne

Centenary seeds

SIR – Alison Savage (Letters, August 27) remembered the Great War through sewing, and we by sowing. We planted our paddock at the bottom of the churchyard in Lechlade with poppies to commemorate the centenary of the First World War and hope all who stop take a moment to reflect on those who gave their lives.

Valmai Bunkham
Lechlade, Gloucestershire

All in the family

SIR – My wife regularly takes her 96-year-old father to do his shopping at Sainsbury’s in Christchurch. As she searches for a parking place, she often wonders if their relationship entitles them to park in the nice, wide, “parent and child” slots.

As yet, she has not plucked up the courage to try it out. But, if challenged, it would be hard to argue with the semantics.

Alan Wiseman
Plush, Dorset

Russia in Ukraine

SIR – For those that read European history there must be a certain feeling of déjà vu.

Sadly the reactions of both David Cameron and Barack Obama to Russian aggression in Ukraine make Chamberlain look positively belligerent.

Matt Minshall
King’s Lynn, Norfolk

SIR – “Back down or else, Putin”. Or else what, Mr Cameron?

Jeremy Mallin
Solihull, Warwickshire

British jihadists

SIR – Lance Warrington (Letters, August 28) proposes that British citizens guilty of terrorist offences should be stripped of their citizenship and deported. To which country would they be deported, and why would it feel obliged to accept them?

William Furness
Glastonbury, Somerset

Getting heavy

SIR – When I asked for six European 20g letter stamps from the Post Office counter at our local shop, I was told that they could not be sold in multiples for me to take home, as I “just might slip a bar of chocolate” into the envelope and try to pass it off as a 20g letter.

Apparently every overseas letter now has to be weighed in the Post Office.

Rev Martin Oram
Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire

Airport queue status

SIR – Arriving at Kingsford-Smith airport in Sydney I joined an immigration channel for e-passport citizens from “Australia, UK, New Zealand and the US”.

When I arrive at Heathrow in November will I be greeted by a reciprocal access channel or, as an Australian citizen, will I still be treated as second-class in comparison to EU citizens?

Chris Watson
Lumut, Perak, Malaysia

Dancing in the aisles

SIR – It’s not just gyms that have noisy music (Letters, August 28). I recently went to the Prestwich branch of Tesco to do some contemplative late-night shopping. I couldn’t – it was like a disco with shelving.

Stephen O’Loughlin
Huddersfield, West Yorkshire

A sick invite that sanctions the use of words

SIR – Where have all the invitations gone? I have received only invites in recent years.

John Corbyn

SIR – I still laugh at a letter I received from a high street bank offering me a refund as a goodwill jester.

Margarete Isherwood
Leamington Spa, Warwickshire

SIR – Tim Nixon reminds us that wicked has diametrically opposite meanings (Letters, August 29). In the language of the young, sick is used to indicate delight more often than to denote illness.

Paul Cheater
Litton Cheney, Dorset

SIR – The word dust, when used as a verb, can mean both the application of a powder or its removal. As a noun, it is the powder itself. The context alone reveals the meaning.

William R McQueen
Isle of Bute

SIR – Sanction: to allow and to disallow.

Michael Cattell
Mollington, Cheshire

SIR – I apsolutely agree with the sentiments expressed in letters regarding the over-use of words.

Andrew Blake
Shalbourne, Wiltshire

SIR – Surely, surely.

Simon Hull
Newmarket, Suffolk

What would Robert do? The poet is honoured with a statue in George Square, Glasgow  Photo: John McGovern/Alamy

6:59AM BST 30 Aug 2014


SIR – Much as I enjoyed Matthew Maxwell Scott’s article, I must question his belief that Robert Burns would have supported Alex Salmond.

There is no question that Burns was a proud and fervent Scot. He illustrated that in many of his works, no more so than in a letter to Elizabeth Scott, in which he explains that when weeding in the fields, he spared the thistle, the symbol of Scotland, and that he knew no higher praise than to have been born a Scot.

However, Burns was also an Excise man and, as such, a government employee. He understood the ramifications of attacking the hand that fed him and became a member of the Dumfries Volunteers, an early home-guard unit formed to combat the threat of an invasion by Napoleon’s forces. He wrote a poem about the Volunteers:

O, let us not, like snarling tykes in wrangling be divided; / Till, slap! come in an unco’ loon and wi’ a rung decide it./ Be Britain still to Britain true, amang oursels united; / For never but by British hands maun British wrangs be righted.

George Wilkie
Hemingford Grey, Huntingdonshire

Bob Hoskins, seen here in the 1978 BBC drama Pennies from Heaven, began his career in repertory theatre 

6:59AM BST 30 Aug 2014


SIR – As a secondary modern boy who worked his way up through the theatre ranks to become director of the Council of Regional Theatre and then moved into management at the BBC, I fully endorse what Ben Stephenson, head of BBC drama commissioning, had to say about the acting profession not reflecting the real world.

Back in the days when we had repertory theatres, the true training grounds for the country’s actors, in every major city and town, people from all sectors of society took to the boards. In those days we could all see the eventual effect that television would have on the acting profession: not only a diminishing theatre audience, but a siphoning-off of local talent, thus making the theatre more reliant on those who could afford to have expensive drama training.

It is a sad state of affairs when a majority of our actors come from the so-called “posh” schools as this skews what should be an egalitarian profession appealing to a broad cross-section of the population.

The simple answer is for both television and the cinema to fund scholarships so we do not miss out on the Dora Bryans and the Bob Hoskinses of the future.

Vin Harrop
Billericay, Essex

Former attorney general Dominic Grieve believes Britain has fallen victim to an ‘aggressive form of secularism’ 

7:00AM BST 30 Aug 2014


SIR – Dominic Grieve, the former attorney general, warns that Britain is at risk of being “sanitised” of its faith because an “aggressive form of secularism” is forcing Christians to hide their beliefs. He is right – but who would have predicted that an atheist hegemony would be established under a Conservative-led government anxious to rid itself of the “nasty” label?

As the world stands aghast at the horrific outcomes of Islamic State’s religious cleansing policy in Iraq, do Conservative leaders still think that eliminating Christian influence on British culture will bring untold benefits to the nation? So far it has given us same-sex marriage and the prospect of assisted suicide.

Ann Farmer
Woodford Green, Essex

SIR – Even if it were true that “aggressive secularism” is trying to “push faith out of the public space”, it has not been very successful.

Only a fortnight ago, the Bishop of Leeds’s criticism of the Government’s policy on Iraq made front-page headlines simply because of his clerical status, as did Lord Carey’s suggestion that jihadists should lose their British passports. Britain is the only country which reserves seats in its parliament for Christian clerics.

People in their millions talk about their beliefs and wear crosses in public. The high-profile cases that Grieve refers to concerned jewellery, not crosses – for example where they posed a health and safety risk.

Two employees were indeed sacked for resisting tasks which went against their religious beliefs, but the Supreme Court and Strasbourg both considered this did not interfere with their freedom of religion, which Britain rightly takes so seriously. Their plight is not greater than that of the gay clients against whom they wished to discriminate.

The National Secular Society made it clear during its High Court action that it was happy that prayers before council meetings should remain lawful, which they do.

Keith Porteous Wood
Executive Director, National Secular Society
London WC1

SIR – The sanitisation of Britain’s faith began long ago with religion and hymns being removed from school assemblies and children of other faiths not having to take part.

Singing a religious song will not make someone change their religion, nor will working with someone who wears jewellery that advertises their faith.

I live in Turkey, a secular country which is predominantly Muslim. Despite being brought up a Christian, I often am obliged to respect the religion of my host country. This extends to attending Muslim ceremonies and joining in with its practices.

Britain is not a secular country and therefore has a right to include the Church of England in day-to-day life. People of other religions should embrace this as they do the opportunity to live in their country of choice.

Joanne Grimwood
Ula, Mugla, Turkey

SIR – As a practising Christian I was encouraged to read Dominic Grieve’s comments highlighting the discrimination against Christians, especially in the workplace. I was less encouraged by his comments on Israel – namely, “Killing large numbers of children in UN schools which are supposed to be havens of safety is a very unfortunate event to take place and I think needs an explanation.”

We in the West have a tendency to underestimate the levels of cynicism and cruelty of which Hamas is capable. Not content with hiding its weaponry in schools, mosques and other public buildings and firing rockets from them, they then force their citizens to stay put in these areas, despite clear warnings from the Israeli Defence Force to leave them in advance of their attacks.

Might I ask what alternative course of action Mr Grieve has in mind for Israel, in its legitimate task of defending its own citizens against terror?

Helen Stengel
London E1

SIR – As you report, Douglas Carswell spent sleepless nights making his decision to defect to the UK Independence Party but ultimately decided that David Cameron was not serious about European reform.

It does not matter whether the Prime Minister is serious about reform, as long as he is serious about a referendum. I am prepared to take his word for it that such a referendum will be in the Conservative manifesto. A Conservative government will then negotiate with the EU, and the British people will decide whether any new deal is sufficient to keep Britain in the EU.

All Mr Carswell has achieved is to help Ukip split the Eurosceptic vote next year, thus increasing the chances of a Labour government and no referendum.

Sam Dunning
Guildford, Surrey

SIR – James Kirkup’s analysis of the rise of Ukip hit the nail on the head when he said that it’s about trust, and its absence. Despite being a life-long, Thatcherite Tory, I voted Ukip in the last general election, first because I refuse to vote socialist and, secondly, because I didn’t believe a word Mr Cameron said.

I think my view has been vindicated. I no longer care whether or not a vote for Ukip upsets the apple cart; in my view it is full of rotten apples and the few decent apples such as Michael Gove and Owen Paterson have been thrown into the gutter.

Mr Cameron is his own worst enemy: everybody knows full well that any promised referendum on Europe is going to be a stitch-up. Meaningful changes will require a new treaty and the EU is not going to turn itself inside out just to please us.

Any wavering Tory voters should ask themselves whom Mr Cameron would align himself with, in the event of a hung Parliament: Ukip or the Liberal Democrats?

Jonathan Goodall
Bath, Somerset

SIR – William Hague has said that voting for Ukip in the general election would let in Labour, and that only the Conservatives guarantee a referendum on the EU.

But if Ukip wins enough seats next May, it will almost certainly go into a coalition with the Tories, in order to see off Labour. Then we will definitely get our referendum.

Even if Labour has the most seats, I doubt if they will have a working majority.

Paul Farndon
New Milton, Hampshire

SIR – In 1924 there was a by-election for the safe Conservative seat of Westminster Abbey. Winston Churchill stood as an Independent Constitutionalist against a Conservative candidate. He ran his campaign from 34 committee rooms, each of which was run by a Conservative MP. He reduced the Conservative majority from 13,607 to a mere 43. Could this be a precedent for the Clacton by-election?

John Boast
London N21

Irish Times:

Irish Independent:

Madam – After a brief lull it was only a matter of time before the public/private sector debate began again, especially given the report that public servants may be in line for a reversal of austerity cuts.

However having read with rising ire the various articles in the Sunday Independent (17 August) it strikes me that in a valiant attempt to highlight some of the gross injustices in pay and conditions between the public and private sector, people on both sides are caught in the crossfire, wondering who exactly is in receipt of these lucrative pay packets.

While I appreciate that the provision of statistics in terms of averages is a fairly common practice, unfortunately it is the ‘one size fits all’ ethos which infuriates lower paid workers on both sides of this manufactured public/private sector divide. More importantly it negates the efforts of economists and commentators to provide a true reflection of the glaring inequalities which exist within the public sector itself.

As a lower paid employee of the state I can categorically confirm that following twelve years of service my gross hourly rate is €18.61 for a 37 hour week which is considerably lower than the €20.21 stated for the private sector and even more significantly lower than the €28.23 which is given as the average hourly rate for a public sector worker. When the various deductions are made I have the grand total of €13.61 per hour, or €503.73 per week.

So, while I wholeheartedly commend the many heroic journalistic endeavours which have over the years brought to our attention the full extent of corruption and inequality which regrettably continues to prosper in Irish society, I implore those commentators to please compare like with like and to recognise that there is a palpable divide within the public sector itself.

Indeed the chasm which exists between management, who despite the austerity measures continue to earn extraordinary salaries, and the vast majority of staff is quite profound and certainly deserves further analysis.

Please remember that the public sector is not a homogenous whole, but is comprised of profoundly unequal divisions.

(Name and address with Editor)

No certainty in  abortion debate

Madam — Gene Kerrigan is right when he says ‘abortion is a moral issue’ (Sunday Independent, 24 August).  When he compares it to ‘slavery’, however, I think he is making a mistake.

Slavery is about a conflict of interest between adults. The issue of abortion is not so straightforward since it involves a conflict of interest between an adult and an unborn human being.

Abortion is, therefore, a very difficult moral issue for our legal institutions to deal with. In democratic societies we exercise power by electing representatives to act on our behalf. Given that democratic institutions are human institutions vested interests play political football with the issues that affect them.

Despite its fundamental nature, or perhaps because of its fundamental nature, the abortion issue is not immune to that tendency.

Since I often agree with Gene Kerrigan, I am sorry to have to say that he is playing political football with the abortion issue when he pontificates about moral certainties in which there are no qualms of conscience.

 A Leavy,


Dublin 13

Niamh’s abortion article a big help

Madam – Niamh Horan’s article “Abortion debate requires something more than love” last weekend (Sunday Independent, August 24), was just excellent, written with great compassion and understanding.

Essential reading for the powers that be, and all of us for that matter. Personally, for someone who is completely out of their comfort zone, I found the article to be of immense help in trying to come to terms and understand the many difficulties women have when faced with this awful dilemma.

 Once again, Bravo Niamh!

Brian McDevitt,

Glenties, Co Donegal

Use of the ‘F’ word is not at all nice

Madam – To be honest, we all use that awful ‘F’ word from time to time. Jesus would laugh, as he was human while on earth and knows it’s only in frustration, but it’s not nice when we see it overused and seen as ‘cute or smart’ in the Sindo, even by much-loved writers.

I was late leaving the leaba last Sunday and my mugga nearly choked me, reading Antonia Leslie’s interview with the Rubberbandits. And that was after getting a glance at the  front page — ‘Dawkins says it’s immoral to give birth to a child with Downs’!

God bless Brendan O’Connor for answering that misguided man. Dawkins oozes unease; he should think deeper and may well change, as I see it.

Kathleen Corrigan,


Co Cavan

Rose of Tralee is what people want

Madam – the Rose of Tralee is indeed dreadful. However to understand this, and for an insight into the Irish psyche, one need only turn to the dancing pages of a popular Sunday paper.

There you will see nothing but country music bands appearing at venues all over the country,  all of them pounding out their rather tedious beat, while real dance bands have had to give up.

Just like the Rose of Tralee, this is what the people want. Maybe in about a hundred years things will change.

 Paul Reilly,

Crumlin, D ublin 12

Greater efficiency with new rules

Madam – Nick Webb criticises new EU regulations on vacuum cleaners which will come into effect on  1 September  (Sunday Independent 24 August).

What he fails to point out is that the new rules will save, by 2020, the amount of  electricity produced by more than four power plants or consumed by 5.5 million households.

This will in no way affect the ability to clean one’s home, and aims to bring about increased performance, energy efficiency, reduced dust re-emission and noise levels.

Barbara Nolan,

Head of European Commission Representation in Ireland

Sunday Independent


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