14 September 2014 Quiet
I jog around the park I still have arthritis in my left knee, but I manage to get round the park. A sunny but cool day.
Mary’s back much better today, breakfast wt down duck for tea and her back pain is still there.
Sir Donald Sinden, the actor, who has died aged 90, was variously described as “orotund and declamatory”, “magnificently resonant” and “a complete ham”; his talents, admittedly, owed little to method acting, but made him one of the best and most recognisable comedy actors on the circuit.
In a career which spanned 50 years of film and theatre Sinden, to his lasting irritation, became best-known for his work in television, a medium he deplored. But his establishment English demeanour provided perfect casting for comedies exploiting cultural or class differences.
He became a household name when he starred with Elaine Stritch in the LWT sitcom Two’s Company (1975-79), in which he played the feisty American grande dame’s inept English butler. He later repeated his success in the Thames Television sitcom Never the Twain (1981-91), in which he played an upper-crust antique dealer forced into business with a downmarket rival (played by Windsor Davies).
His success on television meant that Sinden’s other achievements, in the film and theatre world, were often overlooked.
During the 1950s, he immersed himself in cinema work, appearing in more than 20 films, including The Cruel Sea (1953), in which he shared top-billing with Jack Hawkins, and Mogambo (1954), a huge safari epic in which Sinden received fourth billing after Clark Gable, Ava Gardner and Grace Kelly, as Kelly’s cuckolded gorilla-hunting husband.
When the British film industry stalled in the 1960s, Sinden’s film career stalled with it. By the end of that decade, however, he had secured a place for himself at the Royal Shakespeare Company, where he gave critically acclaimed performances in leading roles including as the Duke of York in The Wars of the Roses (1963), opposite Peggy Ashcroft as Queen Margaret; Lord Foppington in The Relapse (1967); and as King Lear (for which he won the 1977 Evening Standard Award for Best Actor). In 1979 he played the title role in Othello, directed by Ronald Eyre, becoming the last “blacked-up” white actor to play the role for the RSC.
Sir Donald Sinden has died at his home aged 90
It was, perhaps, the role of Malvolio in Twelfth Night that showed Sinden at his best; yet it is the one that — paradoxically, given that the role is often regarded as a comedy part — he found most difficult to play. When he reread the play in preparation for the RSC production in 1969, he telephoned the director John Barton. “I’m afraid you may have to recast Malvolio,” he said, “I find him tragic.” Barton agreed, and in his exploration of the role, Sinden exposed a whole range of moods, from offended dignity to ebullience and madness. Of Malvolio’s final humiliation, Sinden later wrote: “There is no fight left in Malvolio… the degradation is too great… there is but one thing left for Malvolio — suicide.”
The theatre was always Sinden’s true home, and in the 1980s his passionate interest in its history led to the establishment of the Theatre Museum in Covent Garden. Another great passion was English church architecture, his encyclopedic knowledge of which led to both a television series, The English Country Church, in 1988, and a book on the subject. “My grandfather was an architect,” Sinden explained, “and it was he who told me always to look up. That’s where all the best things are in churches.”
By the 1980s Sinden was firmly established as a television celebrity, a position consolidated by the regular appearances of a Sinden puppet on ITV’s satirical Spitting Image. The puppet represented Sinden as a grotesque parody of “the actor’s actor” posturing theatrically and endlessly pleading for a knighthood.
Sinden was not amused by the caricature. “When have I ever suggested I wanted a knighthood?” he asked. “I don’t watch the programme because I don’t find it in the least funny.” He would accept a well-deserved knighthood in 1997.
Donald Sinden was born in Plymouth on October 9 1923. He suffered constantly from asthma as a child and as a result missed most of his schooling. “I not only did not pass an examination,” he recalled, “I never took one.” At 16 he became an apprentice joiner to a Hove firm which manufactured revolving doors. “I earned 6s 6d a week,” he said, “and enjoyed it enormously.”
Sinden claimed that he had no aspirations towards acting until he was 18. “My cousin Frank was called up for the RAF,” he remembered. “He asked me if I’d do his part in an amateur production at Brighton Little Theatre.” Donald was talent-spotted by Charles Smith, who organised the Mobile Entertainments Southern Area company (known as MESA), a local version of the wartime entertainments service Ensa. “Of course I thought he wanted me because I was miraculous,” Sinden remembered, “but I know now it was because it was wartime and he couldn’t get anyone else.”
Rejected by the Navy because of his poor health, Sinden joined Charles Smith’s company in 1941. “I stayed an actor because I was awfully interested in girls,” Sinden explained. “Actresses were a lot better looking than joiners.” After four years with MESA he spent six months in Leicester with a repertory company and two terms at the Webber Douglas School of Dramatic Art.
Donald Sinden joined the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre at Stratford-on-Avon for the 1946-47 season. In October 1947 he made his West End debut as Aumerle in Richard II, and in 1948 joined the Bristol Old Vic. He left Bristol to appear as Arthur Townsend in The Heiress, an adaptation of Henry James’s Washington Square. Sinden had nine lines and appeared in all 644 performances of the show.
Donald Sinden in 1953 (REX)
In 1952 he was noticed by the film director Charles Frend while playing the Brazilian Manuel Del Vega in Red Letter Day. “Charles Frend spotted me,” Sinden remembered. “He said he’d always wanted to meet a blue-eyed Brazilian.”
The following year Sinden joined the Rank Organisation and was offered the part of Lieutenant Lockhart in The Cruel Sea, for which he had to spend an uncomfortable 12 weeks filming at sea.
He recalled his time in Africa filming Mogambo as the least enjoyable of his career, largely because of its director, John Ford, whom Sinden described as “the most dislikable man I ever met”. He was particularly irritated by Ford’s peremptory direction techniques: “On one occasion he had Clark Gable backing towards a cliff. Ford kept shouting ‘Further back!’ and Gable just disappeared over the edge. We found him stuck in a tree 15ft below.”
After playing Tony Benskin, a womanising medical student in Doctor in the House (1954), Sinden began to find himself being typecast in comic roles. He played Benskin and characters like him for the next eight years.
When the British film industry began to falter in the early Sixties, Sinden’s film career ended. “It was a bad time for me,” he said. “I was 40, married with two children and no work at all.” His first attempts at a return to the theatre were unsuccessful. He was turned down after Peter Hall had made him audition for the RSC. Sinden later described Hall as a “pipsqueak”.
However, after their initial differences Sinden joined the company and appeared in The Wars of the Roses, an epic amalgam of the relevant Shakespeare history plays, put together by Hall and John Barton, which lasted more than 10 hours and won ecstatic reviews.
Sinden went on to make a name for himself as a comedian and farceur. He appeared as Robert Danvers in There’s a Girl in My Soup at the Aldwych in 1966, and won Best Actor awards for his appearances in the Ray Cooney farces Not Now, Darling (1967), Two into One (1984) and Out of Order (1990). In 1976 he was nominated for a Best Actor Tony Award for his performance on Broadway as Arthur Wicksteed in Alan Bennett’s Habeas Corpus.
Donald Sinden and his wife Diana in 1956
In 1989 Sinden was offered the opportunity to play his long-time hero Oscar Wilde, whose work had always fascinated him, in John Gay’s one-man show Diversions and Delights. In 1942, at a poetry club reading, Sinden had met Lord Alfred Douglas and had been one of the few mourners at his funeral. Thirty years later, when Wilde’s London home was being demolished, Sinden bought the fireplace for his own house in Hampstead.
Sinden continued to perform well into his eighties. From 2001 to 2007 he played Sir Joseph Channing in BBC Television’s legal drama Judge John Deed (starring Martin Shaw and Jenny Seagrove), and he recently appeared in the Gideon Fell mysteries on Radio 4.
Donald Sinden published two volumes of autobiography, A Touch of the Memoirs (1982) and Laughter in the Second Act (1985).
He was appointed CBE in 1979.
In 1948 Sinden married the actress Diana Mahony, who died in 2004. They had two sons, of whom the elder, the actor Jeremy Sinden, died in 1996. His surviving son is the film director and theatre producer Marc Sinden.
Sir Donald Sinden, born October 9 1923, died September 11 2014
Your trenchant editorial calling for prison reform was timely. Unfortunately, the secretary of state for justice refused to acknowledge the problem or the solution when questioned in Parliament two days later. Contrary to the evidence, ministers claim that overcrowding and violence are not a problem; apparently deaths in prison fluctuate regardless, and they seem to think prisoners are getting education. I don’t know if they being deliberately disingenuous or are being poorly advised.
Some 23,000 men are forced to share cells the size of a small bathroom with an open toilet and no ventilation. They are locked up sometimes for 22 hours a day, for weeks on end – no wonder the young men come out fighting. The death rate has increased and so far this year 50 men, women and teenagers have taken their own lives.
HM chief inspector of prisons and public watchdogs relate a miserable story of cockroaches, filth, inertia and violence.
Ironically, financial austerity presented an opportunity to create a thoughtful dialogue with the public about reducing the unnecessary use of prison and investing in what was a very successful and cost-effective probation service. Instead, in the past couple of years ministers have overseen an explosion in overcrowding and a prison crisis while dismantling probation.
This is not civilised. This is not helping people to turn their lives round so they can lead a good and useful life. This is not helping victims. This creates more crime and mayhem when people are dumped back on the streets. This is expensive for the taxpayer.
Chief executive, the Howard League for Penal Reform
The prison population in this country is high because a lot of people commit crimes that cause them to end up being rightly imprisoned. The claim that “10,000 women a year go to prison … eight out of 10 have committed a non-violent offence. They shouldn’t be in jail” is utopian. If you actually investigated the individual cases, it would become obvious that custody was wholly justified.
As for your faith in community sentences, it is completely misplaced. Most of the 10,000 women you mention will have been given community sentences as an alternative to custody but either failed to complete them or offended while on them. What are the courts supposed to do then? Send them a strongly worded letter?
The justice system bends over backwards to avoid sending people to prison. Adult restorative disposals, fixed-penalty tickets, cautions, conditional cautions, fines, discharges, conditional discharges, community orders, drug treatment orders, suspended sentences – all are designed as an alternative to custody.
PC 3000 Trevor Williams
Neighbourhood south team Slough police station
There can rarely be a more apposite leader than that you publish condemning our present prison system as a stain on our society. Above all, we must heed the finding in his annual report of Nick Harding, the chief inspector: “The quantity and quality of purposeful activity in which prisoners are engaged have plummeted, the worst outcome in six years.”
It is specifically to tackle this that Prisons Learning TV has been set up in the last two years, with an initial small lottery grant, its aim being to deliver a multi-platform TV channel to prisoners in-cell across the country providing educational programmes that support re-settlement, reduce re-offending, improve employability and increase literacy, numeracy and life-skills.
Yet whilst more than £3 billion is spent annually on prisons, our completely ground-breaking initiative, which is intended to do what government should be doing, receives no state funding; a pittance of this sum would enable us to start to transform the rehabilitative role of our prisons.
Terry Waite CBE, Benedict Birnberg and Antonio Ferrara
Chair, deputy chair and CEO, Prisons Video Trust
If, as we hope, Scotland votes no, then five million Scots will be shaping their own taxes, schools and housing benefit. And what’s good enough for Scotland should be good enough for England too. Our local areas need the same freedoms to tackle the big issues for residents, from schools and jobs to welfare and housing.
Establishing an English Parliament would not represent true devolution. Instead, we need locally elected councils driving local economies through devolved taxation, with greater control over council tax and business rates.
We need local areas freed from government-imposed restrictions on house building. And we need funding for regeneration, skills and jobs devolved to local areas where decisions can be based on what businesses and young people actually need. Crucially, this must be underpinned by a fairer funding system for all of the UK.
We urge government to set out a timetable for devolution across England, with a pledge for immediate new powers for areas ready for them now. Without, it millions in England risk becoming second-class citizens.
Cllr Gary Porter, leader of the LGA
Cllr Jim McMahon, leader of the LGA Labour group
Cllr Gerald Vernon-Jackson, leader of the LGA Liberal Democrat group
Local Government Association
Atheists not good on ethics
While Nick Cohen (“It’s not atheists who are endangering lives“, Comment) correctly challenges over-liberal uses of “militant” in “militant atheists”, he misconstrues the basis of reactionary anti-atheism. What makes contemporary atheism more than a neutral bystander is its surprising willingness to put obviously praiseworthy anti-irrationality in the service of less obviously praiseworthy non-rational ideologies, as, for example, when Sam Harris claims: “Some propositions are so dangerous that it may even be ethical to kill people for believing them.”
Unfortunately, the new atheists’ refusal to engage with ethical literature, religious or not, except by deriding or ignoring it makes them too vulnerable to accusations of blind-eyed fundamentalism. Morality for Harris et al often boils down to a vague utilitarianism – the greatest “good” for the greatest number – eg, Harris’s horrifically antiseptic argument for torture in the Middle East. Indeed, new atheism is uncannily, yet conveniently, congruent with the ideological basis of western interventionism; Christopher Hitchens’s support for Iraq is common knowledge, Cohen’s less so.
The union’s course is run
Has it occurred to Will Hutton (“We have 10 days to find a settlement to save the union“, Comment) that the union of Scotland and England has come to the end of its natural lifetime? Its purpose in 1707 was to “lock England’s back door” against France. Around 1750 the British empire took off. This gave England and Scotland a common purpose – fortune and glory. The flags came down on the British empire in the 1960s. Independence emerged in Scotland as a political force.
Perhaps Mr Hutton suffered a rush of blood to the head which initiated his vision of “atavistic forces of nationalism and ethnicity” causing the “death of liberal enlightenment”. Can he explain why Scottish nationalism is so dangerous? What about American, French, Irish, Norwegian (etc) and, dare I mention it, British nationalism? They are fine, are they?
Will Hutton is right to say that the UK should now become a federal state, but with six members; not four. These being England, north of the Wash, “Saxland”, south of the Wash, the federal territory of London, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. The reason is that the federation would be inherently unstable with one member (England as currently defined) having 84% of the population.
Terry’s view is far too sunny
Terry Wogan (“This much I know“, Magazine) cannot make up his mind about climate change. Apparently he would like to see a consensus of opinion on the issue. Suppose there was a jury and 199 said guilty and one said I’m not sure, what would the verdict be? That’s how science works. This much he clearly doesn’t know. While he is wondering, most of us are getting on with adapting our behaviour and preparing the world for the change in climate.
Don’t give hate so much space
I have just finished reading “The British extremist who backs the caliphate“, News. Why, why do you give so much publicity – two pages with photographs – to Anjem Choudary? Everybody is entitled to have beliefs, but he does not deserve more than a few lines in a corner.
As a Welsh woman, proud of my nationality and protective of the Welsh language and culture, I can sympathise with Scots thinking of voting Yes. We Welsh have also been led for years by Conservative governments that we didn’t vote for. However, like many of my compatriots, I am staunchly Labour and don’t feel that I could vote for any other party, and that includes Plaid Cymru. For me, nationalism and socialism are uneasy bedfellows, and bring to mind the dark shadow of one A Hitler.
The other worry I have about nationalism is illustrated by the scenario being played out in Eastern Europe – tribal fragmentation, based on the principle that one set of beliefs is superior to another’s. Nationalism has a feeling of “I’m alright, Jack” about it, “and sod the rest of you”. Socialism is to do with social justice, the strong helping the weak in society.
I hope with all my heart that Scotland will vote No – breaking up the Union will only add to the fragmentation and uncertainty we are seeing all over the world. We need to celebrate what we have in common, and respect each other’s differences.
Why do large parts of the British media keep talking about the possible break-up of “Britain” when they mean the United Kingdom? Britain is a geographical term meaning the island of Britain, comprising England, Scotland and Wales. Also, Rory Stewart MP (News, 7 September), reportedly spoke of: “A third of the land mass of the United Kingdom being removed for the first time in 400 years.” Isn’t Mr Stewart aware that 26 out of 32 counties in Ireland left the United Kingdom in the 1920s?
Douglas, Isle of Man
Last week’s headline “Scotland: the independence crisis” should have read, “Scotland: the independence opportunity”. The Scots have a chance to shake off the suffocating Westminster malaise, and strike out on a different course, away from a failed state.
Go for it Scotland. Open up those new opportunities.
The real challenge facing Scotland will be to repair the damage done by this referendum in splitting a nation, and how it can be drawn together again in trusting unity, encouraged by some unique political honesty.
Dennis Forbes Grattan
Scotland is enjoying the greatest period of prosperity for many years, so why put it at risk for a leap into the dark? Remember: if Scots go independent they will no longer have any say in English politics, English finance, English membership of the EU; they will no longer be able to use pound sterling; they will face new border controls between England and Scotland, etc. It will be a very unstable situation for Scotland and what is left of the United Kingdom: England, Wales and Northern Island, still standing together but, overall, we will all be much weaker. Please, please, please, canny Scots, vote no and stay strong together.
Aston Clinton, Buckinghamshire
Scotland, like the rest of us, wishes to be released from the shackles of that cesspit of incompetence, egotism, arrogance, near criminality and greed, which is London. The solution is to keep the kingdom “united” but to shift the seat of government to Edinburgh for 25 years, then on to Belfast and then Cardiff, similarly. Birmingham or Manchester might be next. London could be included when it has learnt how to behave.
T J Montagnon
Despite two million people marching against the war in Iraq, Westminster MPs still voted to illegally attack the country. This shows that Westminster does not reflect the views of its voters. Only by voting Yes can Scotland be truly free of undemocratic Westminster. It can also look forward to governing itself.
A note about last week’s newspaper
Joan Smith’s comment piece last Sunday about Ashya King caused upset to his extended family. Ms Smith did not mean to suggest in any way that Ashya is not very seriously ill, but she does believe the King family were unwise to remove their son from the care of the NHS against the advice of doctors in Southampton. I regret that the piece has generated anger, and sought to present the case as responsibly as possible. The principle of freedom of expression is an important one, and Joan was entitled to voice an opinion on this difficult and much-discussed case. We wish the King family well over the coming weeks, during Ashya’s treatment in Prague.
Those who favour a ‘no’ vote in Thursday’s referendum say that a greater stress should be placed on the shared history of Scotland and the rest of Britain
Scotland’s ties to Britain should make us celebrate, not separate
I AM fed up with hearing Alex Salmond promise voters that separation will solve all Scotland’s ills, with no mention of who will pay the bills (“Yes leads in Scots poll shock” and “A yes vote will usher in a ‘banana republic of tax rises and turmoil’”, News, and “Only 11 days to save the Union”, Editorial, last week).
I’m sick too of him attributing every problem to the Tories and Westminster and the English, when his party has had control over much of Scotland’s affairs. But I also think Alistair Darling’s indisputable economic arguments for a “no” vote urgently need much more positive presentation.
Sure, paint the vivid picture of employers flitting south in the event of a “yes” vote. But simultaneously shout about the emotional high we all gain from Scotland being a leading nation within the UK. Heaven knows there’s a lot to be proud of. Why else are immigrants bypassing countless countries to queue at Calais? Why else are British institutions globally admired?
Scotland and its diaspora are intimately woven into the fabric of Britain, and we have only a few days left to convince the undecided that this is a cause for celebration and retention.
Graeme Crawford, Edinburgh
I was born and bred in Scotland and am a director of a South African-Australian company that has just had to abandon plans to invest in a £50m project expected to have created 100 jobs in rural Scotland. Sadly the possibility of a “yes” vote persuaded our board not to invest. Our business cannot handle uncertainty, and two governments negotiating terms over a two-year period would raise too much risk for us, particularly over whether or not Scotland would continue using the pound.
We will now invest in a more stable environment. Naturally we are disappointed that the Scottish government hasn’t understood what businesses such as ours need.
David Fuller, Brisbane, Australia
I have remained neutral on whether or not the Scots should support independence but am concerned that if the ballot is close, nearly half of those voting will not get their wish: that could cause harm to the social cohesion of a great country. I am also concerned that Westminster politicians could promise all sorts of inducements to encourage the Scots to vote to remain in the Union that could be at the expense of the rest of the UK.
If there is a narrow majority in favour of independence, then our negotiators must put the interests of England, Wales and Northern Ireland first, including the rejection of a currency union. Independence must mean exactly that.
Norman Porter, Crawley, West Sussex
PILING OFF THE POUNDS
It appears that Salmond will do or say anything to facilitate Scottish separation. However, he still demands that Scotland has the pound, which is run by the Bank of England. How on earth does he expect to run the Scottish economy when he will have to toe the English fiscal line?
To protect the pound, the Bank of England will have to place its considerable foot on the neck of Scotland, which may end up being independent by name but will face a hard time raising cash to survive, let alone grow.
Keith Skinkis Loftus, Manchester
LEADERS AT A LOSS
David Cameron spends his time threatening Russia and fighting terrorists in Iraq while occasionally pontificating about the stability of the UK, seemingly unaware that the political entity he leads is potentially about to partly disintegrate. The fight to maintain the UK has been largely left to politicians who — incredibly — have been unable to link convincingly Scottish patriotism with the concept of the Union. Scots who died defending Britain are hardly mentioned at all in this context.
The MPs in Westminster we have voted for and entrusted our country to — whatever their political persuasion — must make an extraordinary effort to maintain the UK they represent.
Dr Marek Dominiczak, Glasgow
NO WAY FORWARD
Voting “yes” means voting “no” to a British passport, British armed forces protection, the pound, Clydeside shipbuilding for British vessels and holidays in Europe without an expensive Schengen visa.
It really is a very big decision for those lucky enough to vote, and I hope they all — especially the 16-year-olds — use it responsibly and are not swayed by sentiment.
Jane O’Nions, Sevenoaks, Kent
It is claimed the switherers — or waverers — are likely to climb on the bandwagon for a “yes” vote for fear of reprisals by a threatening minority of nationalists. Neither opinion polls nor the vote itself could be affected by such fears: the ballot is secret for that very reason.
This pretence by the media that the threatening conduct is all from the nationalist side is embarrassing. Many will have heard all about the Labour MP Jim Murphy having an egg thrown at him but are unlikely to know that two “yes” supporters were beaten up by a crowd of “no” supporters.
David Clinton Jr, Hamilton, South Lanarkshire
The problem the “no” campaign has is its inability to answer the obvious question: if Scotland is better together, then why isn’t it better together now? A far more effective tactic for it would be to admit that Scotland has been exploited.
David Telford, Fairlie, North Ayrshire
Being a Scot born and raised within sight of the Culloden battlefield, I believe a “yes” vote would be another socialist disaster.
Through no fault of my own, but because of trade union actions, I lost three jobs. I watched in horror as the largely communist-inspired unions destroyed the shipbuilding, steel, coal and motor industries. A “yes” vote may generate initial celebrations, but when the sober truth and the cost is revealed, the party will be truly over.
Maurice Horsburgh, Palm Beach, Australia
BOTTOM OF THE PILE
While I hope there is a “no” vote, what bribes are our politicians offering the Scots for that vote? Many people in the neglected industrial areas in the rest of the UK and particularly in England will be wondering when it is our turn.
David Booth, Macclesfield, Cheshire
TIME STANDS STILL
Should the vote be “yes”, will Scotland establish its own time zone, thereby absolving the rest of the UK of the necessity to change the clocks twice a year?
John Farmborough, Rickinghall, Suffolk
HEAD MUST ROLL
If Scotland votes “yes”, Cameron and Ed Miliband are morally bound to resign on September 19. The former for recklessly risking the break-up of the UK, and the latter for failing to rally Labour’s faithful north of the border. A “yes” vote would be the result of Westminster’s arrogance, neglect and ineptitude, ruthlessly exploited by Salmond.
Dominic Shelmerdine, London SW3
HEARTS AND MINDS
The heart dictates tribal loyalties; the mind better understands economics.
Peter Lack, London N10
SALUTING KISSINGER’S SHUTTLE DIPLOMACY
AS THE biographer of Henry Kissinger (Kissinger’s Year: 1973), may I congratulate Toby Harnden on his insightful article (“We’ve made ourselves bystanders in the Middle East”, Focus, last week)? At the height of the Cold War, Kissinger scored on détente through the relationship he established with the bearish Russian leader Leonid Brezhnev. Now nobody in the West knows Vladimir Putin as well as Kissinger, and he is right to apportion blame to America and Nato for events in Ukraine.
We should have pursued a policy of collaboration, not confrontation — of détente, in fact. Successive regimes in Washington have shown far too little sensitivity towards the imperatives of Russia’s history. It is late but not too late. And we urgently need Russian support over the crisis in the Middle East.
One of your correspondents last week took Kissinger to task for his being soft on Israel. I remember well his remarking to me while I was researching my biography that as the first Jewish-American secretary of state he had many critics to deal with. But the two most severe were from Israel itself and the Jewish lobby inside Washington. Yet it is surely to his great credit that he was able, through his famous shuttle diplomacy, to lay the basis of the peace — whatever its imperfections — that has existed between Israel, Egypt and Syria these past four decades.
Sir Alistair Horne, Henley-on-Thames, Oxfordshire
Leaky EU borders behind tide of migrants to UK
THE comment by Natacha Bouchart, the mayor of Calais, that Britain is somehow responsible for the number of illegal immigrants attempting to get to the ferry terminal are almost laughable (“We’re not to blame for the siege of Calais”, Editorial, last week).
As UK/EU citizens we are subject to tedious passport and customs checks, albeit for “security purposes”, which we understand, but thousands are entering the EU every year seemingly without problems. It appears the external border checks on mainland Europe are as secure as a sieve.
You addressed very clearly the failures of the signatories to the Schengen agreement to control their borders. The police alone cannot be held responsible for restricting the trafficking gangs — the EU countries have to take effective action.
However, action by the EU would probably be as effective as a chocolate fireguard. The Eurocrats have more important issues to address such as banning high-powered vacuum cleaners. That’s cynical, perhaps, but it is an indication of why many people in Britain look at the EU with degrees of doubt.
Neil Davey, Ivybridge, Devon
CLOSING THE FLOODGATES
In your article “Calais police warn migrant dam is about to burst” (News, last week) you quoted the former home secretary Michael Howard as observing: “The principle that every EU member state has subscribed to is that refugees should apply for asylum in the first safe country they reach.”
Putting to one side the probability that many trying to board ferries are illegal immigrants, not genuine refugees, is it not the case that if France were to give asylum to those who qualified for it, they would then be free to relocate anywhere else in the EU — for example, here? And if so, wouldn’t that merely delay the inevitable?
And is it not the case that the only hope Britain has of avoiding being the destination of choice for the increasing army of people flooding into Europe from across the planet is to leave the EU and finally secure our borders?
David Milburn, Dereham, Norfolk
Those at Calais have already travelled across Europe through several countries without stopping in any of them. Is this because, unlike most other European nations, we do not have identity cards, so once the migrants are here, it’s much easier to stay undetected?
I know some people have privacy concerns, but they’ve probably got at least one store card that holds personal information. An ID card could have embedded in it our national insurance and NHS numbers, which would show entitlement to benefits.
Jean Phillips, Cheltenham
Corrections and clarifications
The photograph of the Queen on the front page of the first edition last week was wrongly captioned as “The Queen and Prince Philip attend the Braemar Gathering yesterday”. This was corrected to the Queen and Prince Charles in subsequent editions. We apologise for the error.
The headline “Don’t write a will, all you’re likely to leave behind is confusion” in the Money section last week should have read: “If you don’t write a will, all you are likely to leave behind is confusion”.
The article “The state may threaten but a parent knows when a child is sick” (Comment, last week) stated that an emergency protection order makes a child a ward of court. This is incorrect and we apologise for the error.
In Phil Daniels’s review of the Jaguar E-type Lightweight in Driving last week, the scooter in the picture from Quadrophenia was wrongly captioned as a Lambretta. It was a Vespa.
Complaints about inaccuracies in all sections of The Sunday Times, including online, should be addressed to firstname.lastname@example.org 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.
Amanda Barrie, actress, 79; Ben Cohen, rugby player, 36; Morten Harket, singer, 55; Walter Koenig, actor, 78; Andrew Lincoln, actor, 41; Bernard MacLaverty, novelist, 72; Steven Naismith, footballer, 28; Sam Neill, actor, 67; Renzo Piano, architect, 77; Martin Tyler, football commentator, 69; Ray Wilkins, footballer, 58
1741 George Handel completes Messiah oratorio; 1752 Britain adopts Gregorian calendar, and, for one year only, September 14 comes straight after September 2; 1852 Duke of Wellington dies; 1901 US president William McKinley dies eight days after being shot; 1982 Princess Grace of Monaco dies; 1983 singer Amy Winehouse born.
Photo: Vibe Images / Alamy
6:57AM BST 13 Sep 2014
SIR – As I sewed the last few name-tapes on my daughter’s sports kit, I was unnerved to read Annabel Venning’s article “Colditz for kids, or dorms of delight?”. She says boarding school is outsourced parenting, which feels “wrong”, and finishes by noting that at least her children will have their mum and dad while attending day school. Does this imply that boarding school parents are no longer mums and dads?
The decision to board a child is one that we have not taken lightly; it is not an easy decision emotionally or, at around £10,000 per term, financially. It can be a huge sacrifice and is, undoubtedly, a great privilege. Most parents love their children and want them to thrive in an environment where they feel safe and secure. This is not always attainable in overcrowded, academically competitive city day schools.
Some children yearn for open spaces, education beyond books and a sense of their best being enough.
SIR – What kind of society are we living in where recovery is judged by the increase in a minority of its members who are able to buy a luxury car?
SIR – I write as chairman of Pilkington’s Lancastrian Pottery Society to express my concern over the possible sale of the Wedgwood Museum collection (Letters, September 15).
The virtual founder of the Pilkington’s Tile and Pottery Company was William Burton, who trained with Wedgwood. In retirement he wrote a biography of Josiah Wedgwood that is still studied today.
The collection is a wonder and I cannot believe that it will not be saved.
Babes and sucklings
SIR – If prayer and contemplation are part of a church service, noisy children hinder these. Children should be welcomed at family services and not others. I urge church leaders of all denominations not to alienate those who seek peace and wish to hear the sermon.
Dr Jane Donati
SIR – The Rt Rev Kieran Conry’s advice reminded me of the time at Mass when a young mother stood up and began to make a hasty exit with her squalling infant.
The priest turned to reassure her: “Don’t worry, my dear, he isn’t bothering me.” “No, Father,” she replied, “you are bothering him.”
SIR – The side of a well-known brand of spread claims that it has been “Lovingly made with naturally light buttermilk”.
Do factory machines have emotions now (Letters, September 12)?
SIR – Whenever I see a Co-op lorry emblazoned with “The Co-operative: good with food”, I feel tempted to add “…but not so good with money”.
John Robert Dalton
Middle Woodford, Wiltshire
A Trident submarine makes its way out of Faslane naval base in Scotland Photo: Getty Images
6:59AM BST 13 Sep 2014
The SNP defence plans are unachievable within their planned funding and timescale. Comparisons with Norway and Denmark ignore the fact that both built their defence and security arrangements over decades, under the Nato umbrella and during a time of bigger Cold War spending. It would take decades for an independent Scotland to build up a substitute for the training, administrative and procurement infrastructure presently situated in England.
Nor do we believe that anything like the 20,000 personnel envisaged will be attracted by the career opportunities offered by the Scottish Armed Forces. Rather, the best may leave altogether, seeing the split as an act of destruction and leadership failure. This could lead to the loss of premier-league capability for ever.
Faslane as a Scottish Armed Forces HQ cannot offer the 8,200 jobs the UK Ministry of Defence presently plans, to say nothing of the many other businesses dependent on their custom. Scotstoun and Govan expect to build 13 new frigates for the Royal Navy. Such orders are placed in the UK only by use of the European Union-allowed derogation from single-market rules for national security. The UK might not be able to place this order in an independent Scotland. Scottish Navy orders would be no substitute, nor are exports likely to close the gap.
In summary, we advise that Scottish separation will entail many lost jobs and leave Scotland very poorly defended in an increasingly dangerous world, especially as the SNP’s policy on nuclear weapons could render it ineligible for Nato membership.
Finally, we have all served worldwide with Scots shipmates. UK Armed Forces are known globally and a force for good. Splitting the Union would do them immense damage. Defence and maritime security are vital to the elemental decision facing the Scots, affecting 65 million people and their descendants for ever.
Admiral Sir Mark Stanhope
First Sea Lord 2009-2013
Admiral Sir Jonathon Band
First Sea Lord 2006-2009
Admiral Lord West
First Sea Lord 2002-2005
Admiral Lord Boyce
First Sea Lord 1998-2001
Admiral Sir Jock Slater
First Sea Lord 1995-1998
Vice Admiral John McAnally
National President, The Royal Naval Association
‘Vote Yes and get rid of the Tories’: posters in Govan, which relies on Royal Navy contracts (Getty Images)
SIR – Often overlooked as a consequence of a Yes vote in Scotland is the country’s political culture: Scottish politicians are overwhelmingly socialists.
Short-to-medium-term consequences, for an independent Scotland, of the implementation of socialism would be economically catastrophic. Unlike the United Kingdom as a whole, it will have no Conservative government to pick up the pieces after the socialists crash the economy – only greater ruin as they compound problems by more of the same.
As a Scotsman, I pray that enough of my countrymen have the sense to prevent that nightmare becoming reality.
SIR – While the UK regards Scottish independence as a divorce, perhaps the Scots regard it as leaving the family home. But not to worry – they can always rely on the Bank of Mum and Dad.
SIR – Alex Salmond tells us that an independent Scotland would prosper. What does he estimate its net contribution to the EU budget would be; how many votes would it have in the Council of Ministers; and how does he expect this combination to benefit Scotland?
SIR – Often when one contacts HM Revenue & Customs or other government departments it is at an office in Scotland.
It is odd that the No campaign has made little mention of the thousands of UK government jobs that will inevitably migrate south after a Yes vote, with very serious effect on the Scottish economy.
Gerrards Cross, Buckinghamshire
SIR – Mr Salmon tells voters that no country with oil reserves has ever failed. How about Venezuela?
SIR – Now that it has become apparent that about half of all Scottish people have little economic sense, would it be possible to stop using those reassuringly prudent Scottish accents in advertisements for financial products?
Lincoln’s Inn, London WC2
SIR – If the people of Scotland vote Yes and head off into the sunset, what happens when it all goes horribly wrong? Do we then take them back, pay off their debts, cut up their passports and pretend the whole thing never happened?
Heather M Tanner
Earl Soham, Suffolk
SIR – Will Scotland qualify for foreign aid?
SIR – Under 18s are prohibited from buying cigarettes, alcohol and violent films and video games as well as getting married or serving in the Armed Forces without the permission of their parents.
But next week, for the first time, 16- and 17-year-olds will be able to vote in the United Kingdom – to decide on its future.
No wonder Mr Salmond looks so pleased with himself; once again he has made his political opponents look like fools. Some of us are beginning to wonder if they are.
Rev Francis Coveney
SIR – To amend the constitution of the United States requires assent by two thirds of Congress and three quarters of the states. On the question of dissolving the United Kingdom, 92 per cent of the people have no vote and, of those that do, assent by only 50 per cent plus one is needed.
Leeds, West Yorkshire
SIR – When the No vote is won, church bells should ring out across the country.
SIR – As the Home Counties-based owner of McKenzie Island in the Inner Hebrides, do I declare my own independence, or start applying for my passport now?
Gustard Wood, Hertfordshire
SIR – If Scotland votes Yes, will “Cape Wrath to Rattray Head including Orkney” no longer be included in the inshore waters forecast that the rest of us hear?
C H Maginniss
East Dereham, Norfolk
SIR – If the Yes vote wins, does it mean we will be spared waking up to James Naughtie every morning in England?
East Preston, West Sussex
SIR – The thing that bothers me if there is a Yes vote is: will President Putin invade to protect the few Russian-speaking Scots?
Madam — National Suicide Day reminds us of the great distress of a suicide for both victim and those who loved and cherished him or her.
When I was a young man seventy years ago, one morning I was walking past a house and the man of the house came running distressed and in agony. He told me that his wife was lying on the floor of the scullery. Her throat was cut and the gas was on full.
I went in, turned off the gas, and examined her to see was she alive. Sadly she was dead. So I phoned the police who did everything in their power to help him and were very kind and professional.
I went with him to the parish priest to make arrangements for the funeral. Sadly he said the church condemns suicide and your wife cannot be buried in a Catholic cemetery and have a Catholic service.
I was with the poor man at the time. They had no family. He was on his own they were private people. I had a great friend a Protestant minister., with whom I differed a lot on politics and religion but that did not interfere with out friendship. Any time a Protestant friend of mine died, I went to the service in the Protestant church, which, at the time was forbidden by the Catholic Church. Friendship to me was more important than politics or religious bigotry. When a person dies you pray for them in any church.
The minister said he would get in touch with the priest and if the Catholic Church did not provide the respect for the dead he would do it and arrange for her burial. There is no such thing as a lost soul. God is too merciful for that to happen.
Soon afterwards, the priest got in touch with the grieving widower and told him he would do the Mass and service and his wife could be buried in the catholic cemetery.
At present there is a lot of change some for the better. People now get cremated and their ashes scattered in the place they want. I look back on those years and think how every church was on the one road to the eternal happiness but went against the teaching of God and His Holy Mother and Father by killing each other over what church they belonged to. More people were killed over religion than for any other cause.
Artane, Dublin 5
Madam — It was heartening to read that the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) were “decisive” in guiding Ireland’s mission in the Golan Heights away from imminent death or capture by Islamist extremists (Jim Cusack and John Drennan article, Sunday Independent, September 7). It was far from the only recent rescue by the IDF.
As the Gaza conflict raged, it set up a border field hospital for wounded Gazan civilians. Warned by Hamas against seeking treatment there, few took advantage of it. A similar source of succour was set up in the Golan Heights for suffering Syrian civilians and Free Syrian rebel forces.
Perhaps such acts as those will open not a few eyes as to the true nature of the IDF and Israel, generally. Though threatened throughout its existence by forces similar to the ones that threatened that Irish contingent, Israel has managed to build a thriving liberal society.
Nonetheless, calumny upon baseless calumny continues to be reflexively directed at Israel. Reality, though, suggests that it should be a nation greatly to be emulated, not denigrated.
Richard D. Wilkins ,
Syracuse, New York
Writers ‘are wrong’ about Israel/Gaza
Madam — I am so disappointed in your becoming a cheerleader for the murderous, land grabbing Israelis. I am not anti-Jewish or anti-Zionist, but I am against the destruction of a people. As far as religion goes I don’t give a rattlin’ damn what wall people wail against. The people of Gaza are living in a virtual concentration camp. The indifference of you and some of your columnists to the plight of these poor people is appalling. You are on the wrong side on this one.
Islam is unfair to women
Madam — International lawyer, Dr John Reynolds’s, (Letters, September 7) insistence that Eoghan Harris is wrong and that Gaza is still under Israeli occupation would be welcome news to the oppressed women of Gaza if only it were true. Because the last time these women were free was when the Israelis did in fact govern Gaza. As children they were free to attend school and when they grew up they were free to teach school.
Then Hamas took charge of their future and introduced Sharia Law. Anyone following the latest flare up between Hamas and Israel cannot have failed to notice the absence of female doctors and nurses at the hospitals and sites in Gaza where men, women and children were killed and injured.
This is Sharia Law in operation where women are not allowed to be anything other than vessels for carrying babies. But try as I might I cannot find any reference to these wretched women in the missives of Dr John Reynolds. Perhaps I missed it.
No Sharia law in our schools
Madam — Having read Carol Hunt’s article ( Sunday Independent, September 7) and previously read the views of Dr. Ali Selim on our education system and how his community would like to see changes, might I say that we in Ireland treasure our system whilst at the same time accepting that it may from time to time require reform.
However, there is one reform which we will not tolerate or accept and that is the degrading of our female students. The fact that Sharia Law and the Muslin way of life still promotes favouritism towards male dominance might explain what is happening in the Islamic world today.
Dr Salim, you are now residing in the West in a democracy . The Islamic community are entitled to open their own schools but they must abide by our state system and this promotes the same opportunities for our male and female students.