Rain

7 September 2014 Rain

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 potter around not doing very much at all

Mary’s back not much better today, pork chop for tea and her back pain is still there.

Obituary:

Marjorie Seldon – obituary

Marjorie Seldon was the supportive wife of Arthur Seldon and campaigner for choice in education

Marjorie and Arthur Seldon

Marjorie and Arthur Seldon

6:44PM BST 03 Sep 2014

CommentsComments

Marjorie Seldon, who has died aged 94, was the wife of Arthur Seldon, the co-founder and editorial director of the Institute of Economic Affairs, the free market “think tank” which had a profound impact on the policies of the governments of Margaret Thatcher and later Tony Blair.

Born Audrey Marjorie Willett on October 15 1919, she had a difficult upbringing in the shadow of the First World War. Her father, Wilfred , had been shot in the head at Ypres in December 1914 while tending to one of his men in no-man’s-land, cutting short a promising career as a doctor. His life was saved when his young wife, Eileen, travelled by special permit to the base hospital in France to bring him back to England after the doctors had given up on him — a story retold by Jonathan Smith in his novel Wilfred and Eileen.

The experience of growing up with a melancholic and incapacitated father affected Marjorie profoundly. Wilfred sought solace in communism, driving a wedge between him and his close friend Henry Williamson, author of Tarka the Otter, who moved sharply to the Right.

Worse was to come during the Second World War when Marjorie’s first love lost his life in the sinking, in October 1939, of Royal Oak in Scapa Flow. She married and gave birth to a son, but her husband was killed in Egypt in the last months of the war.

Marjorie threw herself into journalism, and fell in love with a young magazine editor, Arthur Seldon, whom she married in secret so as not to distress his Jewish adoptive mother, who would have disapproved of his marrying outside the faith.

Both Arthur’s real parents had died in the Spanish Flu epidemic of 1919 and he had been brought up by a series of adoptive fathers, mostly living in poverty in the East End. The traumas of his early years left their mark in a lifelong stammer and huge self-doubt. Marjorie made it her mission to bolster his self-confidence and to provide emotional tranquillity at home so that he could throw himself wholly into his work, free of any worries. She even learnt to like, if not to love, his two passions outside market economics — cricket and opera.

In 1955 her husband found his vocation when he joined Ralph Harris (later Lord Harris of High Cross) in founding the Institute of Economic Affairs , where he provided much of the intellectual leadership . Marjorie accompanied him on every journey he ever made, including the annual meetings of the Mont Pelerin Society, an international group of free market economists and thinkers.

The Seldons regarded themselves as free market liberals and in their early years together were prominent supporters of the Liberal Party, but later they became disillusioned by the party’s collectivist direction.

Only when her children had left school in the 1970s did Marjorie begin to pursue her own interests again. These included setting up, in 1975, a pressure group called FEVER (Friends of the Education Voucher in Representative Regions) to press for the introduction of education vouchers, a campaign on which she worked closely with her friend (and later Conservative education minister) Rhodes Boyson. An early convert was Keith Joseph. But when the Conservatives were returned to power under Margaret Thatcher in 1979, she was bitterly disappointed that plans to give all parents a choice of schooling went nowhere. She blamed the civil servants for blocking her ideas.

For 25 years Marjorie Seldon ran the family home at a village near Sevenoaks as a political salon . Margaret Thatcher was an early visitor soon after she was elected Conservative leader in 1975; Friedrich Hayek and Milton Friedman were regular guests. In her latter years she returned to writing, publishing in 1985 an elegant memoir of her early life, Poppies and Roses .

Her husband died in 2005, and she is survived by three sons.

Marjorie Seldon, born October 15 1919, died June 26 2014

Guardian:

Voters could choose one man and one woman.

Voters could choose one man and one woman. Photograph: Demotix/Corbis

“Why all-women shortlists?” asks Catherine Bennett (Comment), and answers herself: “Simple: nothing else works”. An answer that is wrong on two counts. The first is that it wouldn’t work, except in a very piecemeal way. And the second is that there is a straightforward alternative that would definitely work. There is only one way to ensure equal numbers of men and women MPs. It would be for every constituency to return two MPs, one male and one female, both elected by the same mixed electorate.

This would mean a lot of adjustment of constituencies, since no one would want a Commons with twice the number of MPs. It would threaten the careers of a lot of existing MPs. That might be a matter of no significance to most of us but it could make it difficult to get legislation through parliament.  However, if need be, the whole thing could be phased in; as MPs retired their constituency could be combined with a neighbouring constituency and within a generation we’d be there.

But the fact that this way of achieving the claimed objective is never even discussed – the only mainstream politician who has ever advocated it was Tony Benn – is a pretty clear indication that there is no genuine ambition to achieve gender equality in the Commons, not even by those who write columns in newspapers passionately claiming to wish to see it.

Kevin McGrath

Harlow

Catherine Bennett makes an unanswerable case for the use of all-women shortlists in selecting parliamentary candidates. But I think the shortlists used could be improved by a bit of joined-up thinking, taking into account other disparities in the make-up of parliament.

First, as a report last week repeated yet again, people who were sent to fee-paying schools occupy a proportion of the top positions in British society many times greater than their share of the population. Therefore, as they already benefit from vast positive discrimination, no one who attended a fee-paying school in the UK should be on an all-women shortlist.

Second, to ensure that all-women shortlists do not reinforce another form of discrimination, every such shortlist should include at least one credible black woman candidate.

John Wilson

London NW3

I agreed with Catherine Bennett: if it works, it works. So how about some “all state-educated, non-Oxbridge/LSE, non-political researcher/adviser” shortlists from all parties. That would do even more to give us a more representative parliament.

Chris Stevens

Windsor, Berks

Catherine Bennett endorses all-women shortlists (AWSLs) “in the absence”, so she says, “of any other plan”, when she must know that other plans have been proposed to deal with the imbalance in the representation of the sexes in parliament, for example two-member constituencies, which eliminate the effect of unfairness that the AWSL seems to have in a one-member constituency.

This plan has three possible variants, but the basis of it is that you halve the number of constituencies but let each be represented by two MPs, and then:  (option 1) you can specify that one MP will be a woman and the other a man (ie one all-women and one all-men shortlist) and give every voter two votes; or (option 2) you can compile two separate electoral rolls and let women vote for the woman and men for the man. Or (option 3) you don’t specify the sexes of the MPs but have separate electoral rolls and let women vote for one MP and men for the other.

If you already favour the AWSL, surely you would have to see at least one of these options as an improvement on it.

Christopher Eddy

Swindon, Wilts

‘Josh”, who left Ammanford to work as a male escort. Photograph: Will Storr for the Observer

While I commend Mr Storr’s capacity to write with empathy and a clear lack of judgment regarding the case of “Josh” from Ammanford, I was concerned that his portrayal of this young man was one that would appear incongruous in the extreme if it were a young woman (“A real midnight cowboy“, Magazine). The provocative poses would, I submit, appear grotesque and exploitative.

I was captivated by Mr Storr’s writing. It was therefore even more disappointing that he neglected to mention the structural causes that lead to the once thriving town of Ammanford from offering sustainable, well-paid jobs. Perhaps Mr Storr is right and parents should be proud of their children becoming prostitutes (as long as they are successful photogenic prostitutes). I wonder, however, if his own parents would be similarly proud. I also wonder if Mr Storr himself is going to ask “Josh” to consider offering an internship for his own children (if he has any).

As a father of two boys living in the South Wales valleys, I would prefer campaigning for regional development that will bring jobs to the area that do not require our children to prostitute themselves to rich Londoners.

Kevin Munro

Aberdare

Let’s hear it for the north

Reading Robert Yates’s fascinating piece (“Will the north follow Scotland and search for greater power?“) I couldn’t help but think: why has it taken the north so long to catch up?

Tom Johnston, the visionary secretary of state, set up the Scottish Executive Development Department in 1966. Michael Lynch notes that it “implemented planning on a far more rigorous basis than in any of the English regions. The whole of Scotland, except for Edinburgh, was made a ‘development area'”.  The need consequently to more effectively channel funds and to facilitate business development led to the formation of the Scottish Development Agency in 1975 (from 1991, Scottish Enterprise) and the institution of a programme to tackle the loss of Scotland’s heavy industry. Within the very limited political freedoms available to Scottish legislators in the 50 years from 1947, such semi-autonomous agencies fostered a belief in and the products of national, or regional, if you wish it, self-help. I’m pleased the north has decided to take action.

Roger Emmerson

Edinburgh

Movie with a vital message

In the ongoing furore about the recent report concerning child sexual exploitation in Rotherham, could I draw readers’ attention to a campaign that was highlighting this as a national issue more than five years ago. Commissioned by the UK Human Trafficking Centre, and involving consultation with organisations such as Childline, NSPCC and the Family Planning Association, an important, small-budget film was made in Sheffield, in 2008, called My Dangerous Loverboy. It forms part of an educational resources pack, intended to be used to train police, social workers, health professionals and teachers and for use in schools and colleges, to alert children themselves to the risks.

I urge all those caring for children and young people, whether families or professionals, to watch it.

Kate Cowell

Sheffield

Austerity only works one way

Will Hutton is concerned the turmoil in France (as part of the wider euro-zone crisis) might result in France leaving the EU, with subsequent beggar-thy-neighbour economic policies and competitive devaluation (“France is in turmoil as advocates of austerity and investment fight it out“, Comment). However, arguably such policies predate and are a major cause of the crisis. In the supposed golden years of the euro, from 2000 to 2007, German real wages declined by some 9%. This austerity amounted to devaluation, effectively leaving the southern eurozone nations unable to compete. In response, many of these latter have also adopted austerity, increasing pressure on France to abandon her progressive economic policies.

In the context of a competitive international economy, austerity is only a useful policy if other nations refrain from its adoption. Competitiveness is, after all, a relative concept, not an absolute. Although, to each nation considered in isolation austerity makes some sense, for the continent as a whole it spells stagnation (at best).

Kevin Albertson

Manchester Metropolitan University

Do it on TV like they do on TV

Peter Preston has a justifiable go at the arcane set of rules governing the party leaders’ election debates (“If we want better debates, we need a new rule book“, News). Surely Peter, like every real politician and political journalist, is an aficionado of the American TV series The West Wing. If so, he will recall the Democrat and Republican candidates stepping out for their final television debate and the Republican candidate, played by Alan Alda, saying to his opponent, played by Jimmy Smits: “Shall we just forget all the rules and debate the issues?”

There followed an enthralling political debate apparently improvised by the two actors. If a lead can be given by actors in fiction it should be easy to do it with real politicians!

Michael Meadowcroft

Leeds

Snapshot Jane Lamb new Snapshot … Jane Lamb’s father, Elliott, in Crete, 1941. Photograph: PR

Snapshot: Dad’s lucky wartime escape

This is my father, Elliott, in Crete in 1941. He was a despatch rider in the British army and had sent the photograph on a postcard to my grandmother. She had not seen him since he and his brother had set off for a Territorial Army camp in the summer of 1939. He had been sent to France when the second world war broke out and was later evacuated to Crete from Athens, following Germany’s invasion of Greece. He was nearly 21.

My father found himself in the chaos that surrounded the evacuation of Crete. German paratroopers were invading the island and the message went out to all troops to head for the beaches at Souda Bay, a treacherous ride through the mountains. He rode his motorbike until it ran out of fuel and walked the rest of the way.

He joined the thousands of Allied troops (Australians, British, New Zealanders) waiting to be evacuated. Boats came and went and still my father waited. Three days later, still stranded, he fell into conversation with an Australian soldier. He said he was worried he would end up as a prisoner of war if he didn’t get on the next boat.

The call went out for the Australians to board. The Australian soldier suggested that my father go on with him: their uniforms were the same colour. In a split second, my father removed the British insignia from his uniform and went aboard. It turned out to be the last boat off the island.

If he had hesitated, he would have been captured and spent the rest of the war as a prisoner of the Germans. He survived the journey to Alexandria, Egypt, and was picked to join Montgomery’s Intelligence Corps.

I was proud of my father’s daring, and never questioned whether he was right or wrong to do what he did. He did not talk about the war and the only proof we children had that he had served was a pair of “Nazi sunglasses”; a treasure that fascinated us.

He died when I was 23 and I did not have a chance to hear the story from him first-hand.

An uncle (who is now in his 90s but has a razor-sharp memory) told me recently that my account missed out an important detail.

One of the Australians in charge had pulled out a gun and pointed it at my father, saying that he would shoot him if he dared to join the Australian boat.

I would have loved to have heard my father tell his story. I have collected what fragments of the story I can, in honour of his memory.

Jane Lamb

Independent:

The parents of those pupils attending free schools, whether new or relatively new, need to be assured of the quality of education their children receive (“Hundreds set to start the year in new free schools”, 31 August). It is important that free schools be inspected on the same basis as other schools. Ofsted should draw up a common inspection framework which acknowledges the particular aims and purposes of each school, whatever its type, and provides an overall evaluation of how successful the school is in relation to these. Devising and implementing such a framework will not be easy but fairness demands it.

Professor Colin Richards

Spark Bridge, Cumbria

What happens if most of those in the region of Eastern Ukraine prefer to be associated with Moscow rather than Kiev (“Kremlin takes Kiev to the brink of war”, 31 August)? Can someone please explain how any coalition against Russia, based on Ukraine recovering territory in the east of the country, can be feasible when a significant majority of the inhabitants of that region primarily speak Russian and may not wish to be “liberated”? It is high time we ceased to talk about “nations” and “states” and instead worked towards federations and regions that reflect reality and have the potential of a lasting peace.

Michael Meadowcroft

Leeds

Our leaders seem intent on talking themselves into a war. Russia’s President Vladimir Putin is denounced as a cynical and aggressive expansionist. But look at the map of Europe, with 12 new Nato members since the fall of the Soviet Union, and many pushing right up to the Russian borders. General Sir Richard Shirreff (“Nato is at a crossroads”, 31 August) wants money poured into rearmament and restructuring of Nato forces so that they can fight “high-end conventional warfare”. Of course, as any simpleton knows, these days no conventional war in Europe could ever possibly turn nuclear. It is true that Shirreff does admit that “long term, we have to live with Russia”. Unfortunately it seems he believes that in the short term we have to die with them first.

Steve Edwards

Wivelsfield Green, East Sussex

DJ Taylor bemoans the lack of universal stars in this day and age (“Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough?”, 31 August). Could it be due to the fact that the media is much more fragmented, with individual newspapers and television shows no longer having followings of more than 10 million people? On the other hand, we have a culture which follows the dictum that everyone can be famous for 15 minutes. Not, of course, that today’s youngsters would know who said that, despite being aware of the contestants on this year’s Strictly Come Dancing!

Tim Mickleburgh

Grimsby, Lincolnshire

Donald MacLeod complains that Scotland’s disproportionate contribution to Britain’s wars “is never mentioned by war historians” (Letters, 31 August). On the first page of Niall Ferguson’s The Pity of War, 1914-18 (Penguin, 1998) the author comments on Scotland’s heavy casualty rate – exceeded only by Serbia and Turkey – and its commitment to the war effort in general. Maybe this was the only book on the war Mr MacLeod didn’t get round to reading.

Professor Alan Knight

St Antony’s College, Oxford

John Rentoul is spot on about the “anti-politics” politics that Ukip and Douglas Carswell are seeking to promote (“Could Carswell be a Trotskyite in disguise?”, 31 August). Short of making a revolution, the choices that would confront any Ukip-tinged government, in the unlikely event that such a thing might happen, would be different only in degrees from those currently facing David Cameron.

Some of those differences might well be quite significant – which is why as Rentoul notes, Carswell’s talk of it not mattering much who is in No 10 is so cynical – but they would still not be fundamental ones.

Keith Flett

London N17

Times:

A diplomatic avenue is vital to resolving the conflict in eastern Ukraine, which has seen destruction wrought by both sides A diplomatic avenue is vital to resolving the conflict in eastern Ukraine, which has seen destruction wrought by both sides (DMITRY BELIAKOV)

The West’s antagonism of Russia will only hurt Ukraine

I ENJOY Dominic Lawson’s columns but I must take issue with his analysis of the situation in Ukraine and more specifically Vladimir Putin’s credentials as a tactician (“Russian boys are dying, Mr Putin — and it’ll be your downfall”, Comment, last week).

I only had to look at another article in the same section (“What invasion?”, Focus) for evidence that contradicts his assertion that there is growing public dissatisfaction in Russia over the Ukraine conflict. It stated that “the military action has propelled Putin’s approval rating from 61% last November to a near record 84%”.

The West has to change its strategy to one of amelioration or it will be Ukraine that bears the brunt. Its economy will implode. I don’t understand why the West wants to poke the Russian bear. There has been talk about Ukraine joining Nato, and some of the more hysterical reporting on the downed Malaysia Airlines flight practically had Putin firing the missile.

At a time when the Middle East is in flames, with all the associated risks, we should be seeking to move closer to Russia, not alienating it.
Alexis Vatistas, London SE21

DIPLOMATIC MISSION

Western newspapers are being manipulated by Kiev over the events in Ukraine. Russia’s armed forces could take the country in a week if they wanted to, and they will not be deterred by a Nato rapid reaction force of 10,000 men. Why is it unacceptable for Russia to have concerns over the stability and safety of its borders? It’s time to end this foolish medieval jousting and to encourage some diplomacy.
Bill Haymes, Coventry

RULES OF ENGAGEMENT

While discussing the dissidents in eastern Ukraine, we should not forget our own ones in Northern Ireland. Thank God we were not burdened during the Troubles with summits between foreign leaders in distant parts of the world, with little grasp of the complex issues involved, discussing whether to arm the IRA or put “boots on the ground”.
Anne Downer, Shrewsbury

LIMITED OPTIONS

Putin is well aware that Europe is economically, politically and militarily weak. Barack Obama will not get involved. Europe should have known that pushing its influence into Russia’s back yard was likely to end in EU humiliation and Russia being emboldened. As a result, Crimea has gone, eastern Ukraine is likely to go and many have died.

Sanctions hurt both sides but as Russia is in effect a dictatorship, the people will have to put up with any hardship. If Putin is pushed too hard, the gas will be turned off. We need to escape from this EU foolishness — our influence is very limited.
Paul Ashfield, Harrogate

Tory fingers on the self-destruct button

WHAT is the matter with the Tories (“Dangerous game of the Trotskyites of the right”, Editorial, and “Rebel Tories hold Ukip gun to PM’s head over Europe”, News, last week)? Once again they are on a self-destructive course just when they should be celebrating an extraordinary recovery from the financial collapse that followed yet another disastrous socialist administration.

The UK is outperforming America and Germany, even though these countries had an economic boost from fracking, in the US, and cheap Russian gas, in Germany. This makes George Osborne the most successful chancellor since the war. Yet there were constant assertions from Professor David Blanchflower and Ed Balls, the shadow chancellor, among others, that the country would go into a double-dip recession if Osborne continued his policies. How wrong could anyone be?
George Davies, Loughton, Essex

COMPARE AND CONTRAST

Is there something about the air in Clacton that induces political madness? According to opinion polls, the Tory defector Douglas Carswell can expect to win for Ukip with a two-to-one majority in the by-election, in spite of his claims that he does not care who the next prime minister is because he thinks David Cameron and Ed Miliband are pretty much the same. I understood that Ukip’s — and therefore Carswell’s — key objective was to get out of Europe, so how strange to compare one leader who is prepared to offer a referendum on the EU to one who isn’t.

Given that Ukip is unlikely to form a government, or even to join a coalition, after the next general election, it’s hard to understand the motive behind Carswell’s treachery. Britain’s role in Europe will be decided by a referendum, not Nigel Farage’s barroom bragging.
John Azzopardi, Sorède, France

Kissinger ignores legacy of US interventions

HENRY KISSINGER (“The world in flames”, News Review, last week) gives us an instructive analysis of the ideologies currently driving jihadist movements. What he does not mention is that America during most of the last century and this has itself failed to observe the Westphalian principles of non-interference in the affairs of independent states and has often intervened to further its own ends.

It is not fanciful to think that this has contributed to the widespread resentment among young Muslims, which, although not justifying the present fanaticism, partly explains its emergence.

If we believe that democracy represents the way forward, maybe the only way to confront jihadists effectively is to admit our past errors and to promote our own values simply through argument, example and assistance. It will take time, but, as David Cameron says, we are in for a long struggle.
Mike Lynch, Waterbeach, Cambridge

POLICY FAILURE

Kissinger airbrushes the cynical French and British carve-up of the Near East after the traumatic collapse of the Ottoman sultanate. Likewise there is no mention of the US policy of supporting repressive regimes when they serve its purpose and overthrowing them when they cease to do so.
Alasdair Frew-Bell, Manchester

DOUBLE TAKE

Reflecting on the Middle East tinderbox, Kissinger makes no mention of Israel — a good example of US foreign-policy double standards. The Camp David peace protocols agreed on by America with Israel were completely ignored by the latter, and Kissinger assumed the nation’s power could not be challenged. Thus, no real peace ensued with the Palestinians.
Paul Harty Mqabba, Malta

Rotherham care workers not all apathetic

I AGREE with Camilla Cavendish’s article “How to make our children safe” (Focus, last week), apart from one point. Not all Rotherham care workers shrugged as the girls left the residential homes. One is stated as saying he ensured the men saw that he was noting down their car registration numbers. I understand the details were passed to the police but no action was taken. I don’t think that care workers are able to physically restrain the girls.

How many of these girls would have been better off staying with parents with help from the social services? We also need police action in Rotherham to arrest as many of these men as possible to send out a clear message that we will not tolerate this in our country. What is the point of having an age of consent if the police can then pretend they know better? If officers can spend time investigating Cliff Richard, they can reopen these cases.
Lynda Darnall, Aston, South Yorkshire

CASE FOR THE PROSECUTION

As a UK citizen of Pakistani origin and a father of a daughter, I do not understand why we are allowing this awful abuse. The police should investigate and prosecute these heinous acts regardless of race, colour or religion, and the whole community of whatever background should demand action.
Amir Kazmi, London W14

UNDER THE CARPET

Yet again vulnerable children were failed, not only by Denis MacShane, the former Labour MP for Rotherham, but by other elected representatives and agencies, too. It is a cover -up of criminal acts in order that these representatives can stay in power and carry on their comfortable, conscience-free lives. I don’t know how they sleep at night.
Yvonne Swain, Birmingham

ON TARGET

Thank you for distinguishing clearly that the abusers in Rotherham were Pakistani, not simply Asian, which is a very broad term for a huge continent.
Anand Srivastava, Hounslow, London

POLITICIANS IMPEDING MEDICAL ADVANCES

WE HOPE the exciting technology mentioned in your article “Artificial micro-humans may replace animals in lab tests” (News, last week) will become mainstream within three years as predicted. Meanwhile, other human-based technologies are already available that could be improving patient safety here and now. The impediment is not science but political will.

Public pressure to curb animal testing has been resisted for fear this would cost human lives, but a landmark study has revealed that apparent safety in animal tests provides no assurance of human safety. Thus patients are exposed to greater risks than previously realised, both in clinical trials and as consumers of medicines. We urge the government to act now to harness scientific advances that could reduce the toll of adverse drug reactions (ADRs), which kill more than 10,000 in the UK every year.

Across Europe, more people die of ADRs than of breast or prostate cancer — equivalent to the passengers of one jumbo jet every day.

Kathy Archibald, Director, Safer Medicines Trust,; Dr Kelly BéruBé, Director, Lung and 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; Professor Barbara Pierscionek, Associate Dean, Kingston University Faculty of Science, Engineering and Computing; Dr Katya Tsaioun, preclinical drug discovery research, Safer Medicines Trust; Professor Sir Ian Wilmut, Medical Research Council Centre for Regenerative Medicine, Edinburgh University

Points

DIFFICULT DECISIONS

We are pleased that wanted babies are given state-of-the- art care in a few hospitals (“Abortion reform call as record number of babies survive birth at 23 weeks”, News, last week). However, birth survival rates should not be the leading factor. Women make the decision to terminate their pregnancy at later stages for a variety of reasons such as domestic violence or ill health. Many face delays and barriers, including getting two doctors’ signatures — abortion being the only medical procedure that requires this. This is in a climate where one in five GPs declare they are anti-abortion and cuts to NHS services are affecting waiting times.
Kerry Abel, Abortion Rights, London E8

ANOTHER COUNTRY

Why do the imams who have placed a fatwa on Muslims joining Islamic State claim there is a moral duty for British Muslims to support the people of Iraq and Syria (“UK imams put fatwa on jihadists”, News, last week)? Surely what goes on in the Middle East is none of their business.
Dr Michael Paraskos, London SE7

Corrections and clarifications

In the article “Fully loaded” (Magazine, last week) we stated: “More police officers routinely carry weapons in the Metropolitan police service than in any other force in the UK — 2,155 out of a total of 31,000.” The figures related to England and Wales only. We apologise for the error.

Complaints about inaccuracies in all sections of The Sunday Times, including online, should be addressed to complaints@sunday-times.co.uk or Complaints, The Sunday Times, 1 London Bridge Street, London SE1 9GF. In addition, from tomorrow, the Independent Press Standards Organisation (Ipso) will examine formal complaints about the editorial content of UK newspapers and magazines. Click here for full details of how to lodge a complaint.

Birthdays

Marcel Desailly, footballer, 46; Michael Feinstein, singer and pianist, 58; Gloria Gaynor, singer, 65; Angela Gheorghiu, soprano, 49; Peter Gill, stage director and playwright, 75; Chrissie Hynde, singer, 63; Toby Jones, actor, 48; Julie Kavner, voice of Marge Simpson, 64; Sonny Rollins, jazz saxophonist, 84

Anniversaries

1533 birth of Elizabeth I; 1836 birth of Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman, Liberal PM; 1838 Grace Darling helps her father row to the rescue of shipwreck survivors off Northumberland; 1936 birth of singer Buddy Holly; 1940 London Blitz begins; 1978 Bulgarian dissident Georgi Markov is poisoned with an umbrella in London

Telegraph:

PR independence trinkets are displayed by supporters outside the Birnam Highland Games in Perthshire, Scotland Photo: AFP/Getty

6:56AM BST 06 Sep 2014

CommentsComments

SIR – I am amazed that discussions on Scottish independence are so short-sighted, centred on the present state of the NHS, welfare cuts or current defence spending.

Are the Scottish people really deciding the irreversible future of their country on arguments about present Westminster policies? Can they not see beyond the next few years, and realise that prime ministers and governments change? Even President Salmond would not be in power for ever.

Richard Durley
Linton, Cambridgeshire

SIR – Contrary to Alex Salmond’s assertion that the Bank of England was established for the whole of Great Britain, it was actually founded in 1694, when Scotland had a parliament in Edinburgh and the bank’s jurisdiction did not extend north of the border.

Although privately owned until 1946, since 1844 it has been the only organisation licensed to issue bank notes in England and Wales. In 1845 three Scottish banks that already issued notes were licensed to continue doing so, provided that any excess over the notes issued before 1845 were matched by English notes, coins and interest-bearing securities held at the Bank of England.

With a severance of the Union, the Scots will still be able to continue to produce their own notes, without their necessarily being required to maintain the collateral in London. How soon would it be before the market discounted the Scottish notes and the “Scottish pound” began to fall in value?

Guy Sainty
London W1

Jacobean Joan

SIR – Joan Rivers’s advice, No man will ever put his hand up your dress looking for a library card,” has some lineage.

In his Playgoing in Shakespeare’s London, Andrew Gurr relates an anecdote from Peacham’s Compleat Gentleman (1622). A tradesman giving his wife leave to attend a play in the city warned her to have care of her purse. She returned to say she had lost it while sitting among some gallants in a box.

“Quoth her husband, ‘Where did you put it?’

‘Under my petticoat, between that and my smock.’

‘What (quoth he), did you feel nobody’s hand there?’

‘Yes (quoth she), I felt one’s hand there, but I did not think he had come for that.’ ”

Michael Harrison
Knaresborough, North Yorkshire

Sky-high prices

SIR – Having spotted an attractive bird-themed calendar for 2015 in our local newsagents, and thinking I had time on my side until the New Year, I took it to their post office counter and asked how much it would cost to send by sea to New Zealand.

After much shuffling of papers I was told there is no longer a sea-mail postage service to New Zealand and it would have to go by air. The cost of airmailing it was the same as for the calendar, bar a few pence. I put it back on the shelf.

Geraldine Guthrie
Winchester, Hampshire

Shark practice

SIR – “Sharks kill more men than women” (report, September 5). I think statistics will show that women kill more men than sharks.

Nigel Hawkins
Braunton, Devon

Colour of service

SIR – Until fairly recently, police uniforms were dark blue. Now they are black.

Blue is the traditional colour of service. What does black signify?

D A Edwards
Oxford

The Chinese contribution in the First World War

SIR – As we remember those who contributed in the Great War, I hope that due tribute will be paid to the thousands of members of the Chinese Labour Corps, many of whom helped to build the trenches in northern France. At least 2,000 are buried in war cemeteries in France, Belgium and England.

In early 1960 I was involved in the handover of the RAF’s No 3 Maintenance Unit at Milton, near Didcot, to the Army, and part of the real estate included a small Chinese camp and burial ground. The Chinese there were the descendants of members of the Chinese Labour Corps who had been allowed to settle in England after the war, and while my Army colleague was somewhat dismayed at the prospect of taking on responsibility for the camp, the transfer was an all-or-nothing deal.

I have often wondered what became of the Chinese camp and its inhabitants, and have occasionally tried to find it, though without success. I imagine that when the Army moved out and the depot became the Didcot industrial estate, the Chinese camp was bulldozed, but it would be interesting to know if anyone else has any memories of this little piece of history.

Air Cdre D M Waller RAF (rtd)
Arundel, West Sussex

SIR – The first British officer to win a Victoria Cross in the Great War was an Irishman, Lieutenant Maurice Dease, 4th Battalion Royal Fusiliers, posthumously awarded the VC for his gallantry at Nimy Bridge, August 23 1914.

The London Gazette reported: “Though two or three times badly wounded, he continued to control the fire of his machine guns at Mons on 23rd August, until all his men were shot. He died of his wounds.”

He is buried at St Symphorien Military Cemetery, Belgium.

Liam Nolan
Adare, Co Limerick, Ireland

Dusting off museum stores for object lessons

Let children examine artefacts up close for a better understanding of history

A Norman walrus-ivory game counter (c1175) and a salt cellar from 17th-century Benin

A Norman walrus-ivory game counter (c1175) and a salt cellar from 17th-century Benin  Photo: Carisbrooke Castle Museum/ the British Museum

6:59AM BST 06 Sep 2014

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SIR – The Dorman Museum at Middlesbrough used to run an excellent scheme which I used as a history teacher. We could borrow a whole box of artefacts, plus large posters to enhance our lessons (“History to be taught using 100 objects“). Thus, 11- and 12-year-olds could handle Egyptian mummified cats and Roman pottery. These boxes of delights were available for all schools in the area, and I used one box a year. Everything was carefully returned intact.

I hope that some of the objects gathering dust in museum stores will be put into circulation once more.

Christine Weightman
Ascot, Berkshire

Two US F-15C’s (L and R) and a Canadian F-18 (C) take part in a flypast over the Nato 2014 Summit at the Celtic Manor Resort in Newport, South Wales Photo: CARL COURT/AFP/Getty Images

7:00AM BST 06 Sep 2014

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IR – David Cameron’s bellicose rhetoric on the threat posed by Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (Isil) and Islamist terrorists sounds increasingly meaningless. He promises to use everything we have in our armoury to wipe out Islamist terrorists.

This is just another example of Mr Cameron grandstanding and I have little confidence that he will be able to deliver.

Angus McPherson
Findon, West Sussex

SIR – The payment of ransoms to terrorist groups by Germany, Italy, France and Spain, contravening a G8 agreement, is an outrage. These countries have done this in the full knowledge that it is British and American citizens that are being murdered by the very terrorists such payments support.

We do not belong in any form of close political union with these countries.

Dr David Cottam
Dormansland, Surrey

SIR – During the Cold War, territorial expansion of the Soviet Union was prevented only by the presence of strong and committed Nato forces in Europe.

Those forces have now either departed or been severely weakened. Without the military might of the United States (less likely to be committed by President Barack Obama), Nato today is but a paper tiger, a fact that Vladimir Putin will be well aware of. Unless he is faced with robust, well-armed opposition in the east of Ukraine, it is likely that it will go the same way as Crimea.

Gp Capt Michael Clegg (retd)
Market Drayton, Shropshire

SIR – President Putin’s revelation that it is his nuclear forces that make him confident his policy will not lead to war with Nato cuts both ways; similar confidence in the underlying deterrent balance explains relative Western public calm before Russian tanks on the Ukrainian border. This confidence will remain rational only if the Western side of the balance is carefully maintained.

This, combined with a dwindling American focus on Europe, ought to put paid to talk of not modernising British forces or of inferior prescriptions such as a three-boat force or cruise missiles.

To maintain our guard, however, will be expensive, and strain an already depleted military budget. It would be intolerable to add the cost of relocating the Clydeside bases should Scotland vote “Yes”. I hope that, in that event, a robust UK approach to the details of independence would demand a free, long-term British sovereign base status, or another guarantee for the nuclear facilities.

If an independent Scotland proved unwilling to make this contribution to our collective security, our fellow European Union members and Nato allies would surely understand our vetoing any Scottish application to join those organisations.

Professor Sir Laurence Martin
London WC1

Irish Times:

Irish Independent:

Madam – Right now An Taoiseach is donning his ‘worried face’. (This is carried in a briefcase by an advisor who is never further than fifty feet away from him.)

Our Great Caring Leader says we must not put Irish UN troops at risk on the Golan Heights and claims ministers are wondering whether we are facing an Irish version of ‘Dutch Srebenica.’

He is correctly concerned for the safety of our troops. But the broader picture which would be presented by a UN withdrawal is somewhat more complex. Peacekeeping is not a hobby which employs a few of the lads and lassies in exotic locales. It reflects the overall reality of how this planet is managed. This is as relevant to Irish bread and butter issues as the more obvious concerns.

During the summer, we were ice-bucketed with squeals and squeaks demanding that the so-called international community do something about various global threats.

But there is neither the political will nor the executive, economic, financial or military power to do anything significant. And the advocates of ‘might is right’ have nothing but contempt for the genteel, ineffective and largely aspirational international community.

The reality of the 21st century is that whatever we do in this tiny, open Irish national entity is entirely dependent upon external forces and conditions, and that we could be set utterly at naught by even the most minor shock or failure of that old international community.

The ‘heavies’ who prowl our global jungle looking for prey are facing only paper kittens – and they know it too. The UN, the EU and the USA can and will do nothing. The real politics must address the failure of himankind to manage this otherwise doomed planet.

At a time when we must make the quantum leap towards building a genuine international community, all we seem to get from our political elite is ignorance, incomprehension, indifference and silence.

Where are the young Irish men and women who will have to live in this world and work to pass on what they can save to their grandchildren?

Maurice O’Connell, Tralee, Co Kerry

Sunday Independent

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