28 September 2014 Royalty

I jog around the park I still have arthritis in my left knee, but I manage to get round the park. A busy day. Off to pick up some books on royalty.

Mary’s back much better today, breakfast weight down gammon for tea and her back pain is still there but decreasing.


Prince Nicholas Romanov expressed no nostalgia for the days of his imperial ancestors Photo: Associated Press

6:00PM BST 27 Sep 2014


PRINCE NICHOLAS ROMANOV, who has died aged 91, was the great-great-grandson of Nicholas I, Tsar of all the Russias from 1825 to 1855, and the oldest member of Russia’s former imperial family.

The tall, French-born prince shared the name of Russia’s last tsar, Nicholas II, and was recognised by most members of the extended Romanov family as head of the imperial house.

Unlike some of his kinsmen, however, the prince expressed no nostalgia for the days of the tsars. On the contrary, he was an avowed republican, regarded by some of his relations as almost a Leftist, a label that caused him some amusement. “I am not any ‘-ist’,” he told an interviewer, “but I am a lover of history and I have learned from it.”

Possibly as a consequence of his antimonarchist credentials, Prince Nicholas was a key adviser to Russian officials preparing the funeral in 1998 of Tsar Nicholas and his family, who had been murdered by the Bolsheviks along with the tsar’s personal physician and three servants in 1918. Their remains (minus those of the last Tsar’s fourth daughter and his only son, Alexei, which were only discovered in 2007) had been exhumed in 1991.

Tsar Nicholas II, the Tsarina Alexandra and their children, c 1910

It was Prince Nicholas who proposed that the entire group, from the tsar to his footman, be buried together in the St Peter and St Paul Cathedral in St Petersburg, rather than separately to reflect their different social stations in life. He saw the ceremony as a “moment of repentance, understanding and mutual pardon” which might usher in a new Russia “at peace with its past”.

However negotiations about the ceremony brought to the surface splits between the prince and members of the exiled dynasty who consider the post-communist Russian government an extension of the Bolshevik regime and seek a restoration of the monarchy.

Some refused to attend the ceremony, most prominently the prince’s cousin, Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirovna, a rival claimant to the status of head of the family, who announced that she would refuse to attend unless those she insisted on calling Bolsheviks “kneel and repent for their sins”.

Prince Nicholas advised officials on the funeral in July 1998 of Tsar Nicholas II and his family

The split between the two factions dated back to 1992 when Grand Duke Vladimir Kirillovich, the former Romanov pretender, died in Miami. As his only child, the Grand Duchess claimed primacy as the oldest descendant of Tsar Alexander III, her great-grandfather, who ruled from 1881 to 1894. She disputed her cousin’s rival claims on the grounds that he and some of his forebears had flouted the rules of imperial succession by marrying beneath their royal station. Supporters of the prince, however, pointed out that the tsars had excluded women from the succession in the late 18th century.

Maria Vladimirovna’s claims are supported by some monarchist groups, but are disputed by, among others, the Almanac de Gotha on European royal families.

The prince, however, preferred to look to the future. After leading representatives of the Romanovs at the funeral of the last Tsar and his family in July 1998, he urged Russians to look forward, not back: “I have always said that not only were we burying the tsar and those who died with him, but we were also burying the most bloodstained pages of our past. Leave them to scholars. Russians should look forward.”

Nicholas Romanovich Romanov, was born on September 26 1922 at Cap d’Antibes, France, the eldest son of Prince Roman Petrovich and his wife Princess Praskovia Dmitrievna (née Countess Sheremeteva). His great-grandfather, Nicholas Nikolaevich, was a younger son of Emperor Nicholas I.

Prince Nicholas was brought up in a Russian environment, using the Julian calendar, surrounded by Russian staff and educated privately according to the imperial Russian curriculum. He was bilingual in both French and Russian.

In 1936 his family moved to Italy, where during the early years of the war, they found shelter with King Victor Emmanuel III. In 1942 Nicholas was invited by the ruling Fascists to take the throne of Montenegro. He declined. When King Victor Emmanuel fled Rome after an unsuccessful attempt to negotiate peace with the Allies behind Mussolini’s back, Nicholas and his family went into hiding.

After the war ended, in 1946 Prince Nicholas moved to Egypt, where he became involved in the tobacco trade and worked for an insurance company.

Returning to Italy, in 1951 he married the Countess Sveva della Gherardesca. He worked in Rome for the Austin Motor Company until 1954 when, following the death of his brother-in-law, he took over the management of his wife’s estates in Tuscany, where he bred Chianina cattle and produced wine.

In 1979 he founded the Romanov Family Association, which now includes among its members the majority of the male-line descendants of Nicholas I, and of which he was elected president in 1989. Neither Grand Duke Vladimir Kirillovich nor Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirovna joined the organisation.

For most of his life Prince Nicholas was a stateless person who travelled abroad on a letter issued by the King of Greece. He finally became a citizen of Italy in 1988.

He made his first visit to Russia in 1992 and the same year, with other family members, he created the Romanov Family Foundation, a charitable organisation which aims to safeguard Russian cultural and religious traditions and provides help for orphanages and hospitals in Russia.

Prince Nicholas and his wife had three daughters.

Prince Nicholas Romanov, born September 26 1922, died September 15, 2014


Exterior facade of the Scottish parliament building in Holyrood, Edinburgh. Exterior facade of the Scottish parliament building in Holyrood, Edinburgh. Photograph: Iain Masterton / Alamy/Alamy

Andrew Rawnsley correctly supposes that voters in England would have no enthusiasm “for another tier of politicians drawing another bunch of expenses” to manage at provincial level functions now performed by central government or its agencies (“You think that the union is secure for a whole generation? I would not be so sure, Mr Cameron”, In Focus). But he is not correct if he is assuming that more elected politicians would be required.

The royal commission on local government, the last group to look at the matter systematically, proposed in its 1969 report that representatives of the elected local authorities within each province would be appointed by those authorities to carry out, on their behalf, functions that could most effectively be carried out at provincial level.

What would voters have to object to about that? With that in mind, two decisions are now needed. The first is to determine the geographical limits of the eight or nine provincial boundaries required. The second is to begin a gradual process of devolving to provincial level some of the functions central governments, past and present, have most obviously mismanaged.

Greater London would be a good place to start that devolutionary process because the essential elements of a provincial system already exist there. It is evident, to take just one example of many, that putting together a London-wide bid for additional school places and then ensuring that the individual London local authorities, from which this bid derived, have the necessary funds to provide those places would be far better done by people to whom local electors and parents have access.

Sir Peter Newsam

Thornton Dale

N Yorks

Andrew Rawnsley needs only to look back to Scottish local government, before the advent of the Scottish parliament, to find to answer to English devolution. Scotland had very effective regional councils and district councils that superseded the old county and burgh structures.

It was radical but it worked. No additional layers of governance were involved. However, the new regions were based on functional realities, not historic boundaries that had long since lost their meaning. Grasp the thistle, England!

Roger Read



In all the rhetoric about representing peoples’ views, the feature absent from all debate about the constitution, including the Observer leader (“Scotland has spoken. Now all voices in the union must be heard”), is voting systems.

“All voices in the union must be heard”? No chance of that in Westminster and local government elections, or in “English MPs for English laws” with a first-past-the-post voting system. Here in north Herefordshire, for years, this system has excluded the views of anyone who does not vote Tory. No candidate has ever canvassed my vote or needs to. The current MP, Bill Wiggin, has been a shoo-in for years.

No one in Westminster, least of all David Cameron and his Tory ministers, is interested in creating a voting system in which the views of electors across Britain can be fairly represented.

The Scottish parliament and Northern Ireland and Welsh assemblies have systems of proportional representation where all votes count, but the systems were chosen for a different reason: to reduce the possibility of any one party having overall control.

Any English assembly would be similarly elected by some form of proportional representation, and the resulting power sharing would not allow the Tories free rein in England as would “English votes for English laws”.

Little surprise it has been kicked into touch.

Dr Robin C Richmond



Youth Social workers cannot always help vulnerable families without the funds they need. Photograph: Photofusion/Rex

As an experienced social worker, I feel dismayed at the lack of context around your piece headlined “Social Services failure puts 5,000 children back in care each year” (News). I am sure that many children and families do feel unsupported when returning from care but I am equally sure that this is not through deliberate neglect but because local authority children’s social care departments have to make difficult decisions about where to spend the money they have available.

I know from personal experience over many years that the workload of childcare social workers continues to increase in line with increased demands but without corresponding increased resources. The demands of admin and recording, assessments, court reports etc have increased and deadlines have to be met. The need to “get it right” places enormous strain on workers . There is too much to do and not enough time, staff and money for it all to be done to the required standard.

Robert Haigh


Yes or no, we’re all in shreds

I read Kevin McKenna’s piece “How can you console a heartbroken and angry daughter? You can’t” with dismay (News). My daughter is the same age as Kevin’s. Her Scottish heart has been pounding with pride equal to that of Kevin’s daughter Clare’s as she campaigned for a country she fiercely loves and desperately cares about. My daughter was one of the 55% of Scottish voters who was given the wretched word “no” with which to express her passionate hopes.

Perhaps, like Kevin’s daughter Clare, she was influenced a little by her Scottish father’s deep belief in what makes Scotland strong, both as a nation and as an economy. I understand that Mr McKenna and his daughter are in shreds. We all are. Our nationhood, our identities, our love for our country, have been brutally polarised in a process that threatens to embitter us all. Mr McKenna should beat his pen into a ploughshare and consider the fact that, in a democracy, it is not just the most raucous voices that demand to be heard.

Imogen Kerr

via email

How to save the planet

Desmond Tutu does not address the main reason why all the climate change talks have failed to cut greenhouse gas emissions (“We fought apartheid – now climate change is our global enemy”, In Focus). In order to cut emissions, we would have to also cut our standard of living, dramatically reducing energy-intensive activities such as air travel, meat consumption and car use. And we know most people will not vote for that.

Carbon pricing, green taxes, renewable energy, energy conservation and other technological improvements may have slowed the rate of increase in fossil fuel consumption, but they have not reversed it.

They would only solve the problem if they reduced our consumption so much that huge quantities of easily accessible fossil fuel remained in the ground. With a growing world population moving towards western lifestyles, it is clear that is not going to happen. Therefore, if we are serious about preventing extreme climate change, the world’s governments have to remove emissions from the atmosphere by planting billions of trees and by investing in carbon capture and storage and carbon scrubbing. We also need to research and test methods of geo-engineering, meaning artificially cooling the planet.

Richard Mountford



Plug into innovation

Stimulating greater demand among consumers for better designed, more energy-efficient white goods is the best way to incentivise manufacturers to produce them (“Forget smartphones. It’s time for a smart washing machine”, Catherine Bennett, Comment). Our research with the Institute for Public Policy Research demonstrated that switching to energy-efficient white goods could save all the households in the UK up to £2bn a year.

The current dearth of energy-efficient appliances means that consumers now face a double hit from rising energy bills. This is because they have to pay for the extra energy used by their inefficient appliances along with more money to subsidise energy infrastructure construction than would not otherwise be necessary.

The government should introduce tax credits for the purchase of energy-efficient appliances or a scrappage scheme for inefficient ones. The smartphone market proves that greater demand stimulates innovation and competition while benefiting the consumer.

Andy Deacon

Global Action Plan

London WC2

Beyond the realms of pop

Thank you Paul Morley for articulating so well what I felt more than 40 years ago when I realised that “classical” music spoke much more to me than any other form (“Pop belongs to the last century. Classical music is more relevant to the future”, New Review). The misconceptions and hostility I encountered for being “different” were astonishing. I will keep a copy of this piece to shove in the face of the next person who suggests I am narrow-minded for not restricting myself to British and American commercial music produced in the last few decades.

Mark Hebert

St Ives



If the UK allows MPs elected in England to double as English assembly members at Westminster, why should we not give the MPs we elect in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland a similar dual role? Given the preponderance of England’s population, it may be reasonable for English MPs to use the Commons as their Assembly building, while other nations/provinces retain assembly buildings nearer home.

What doesn’t seem reasonable is for poorer outlying populations to have the extra cost and bother of electing an extra tier of assembly members if English constituencies can get by with one. Why should my Swansea or Gower MP not speak for me in both Cardiff and London, if sessions are suitably timed and better use made of the long recess?

What we really lack in our half-cock social democracy is any effective public representation of the economic, social and cultural life that underlies politics. What I’ve missed in my own working life is not so much a say in local or national governments as any voice in the corporate and departmental decisions that govern what we do from day to day and who get’s what for it.

I’m no longer a member of any party or union but have been sent a TUC document called “Workers on Board”, which seems a step in the right direction.

Greg Wilkinson


I agree with Chuka Umunna (Interview, 21 September) that our second parliamentary chamber should be a senate-style, fully elected body. And while we are considering a modern, more democratic constitution we need to explore the advantages to ordinary people, of the United Kingdom becoming a Republic.

A referendum on whether the UK wishes to become a republic would stimulate the political engagement Scotland’s referendum on independence generated, and give us, for the first time in our history, a say in the political structures that govern us.

Dianne Stokes

Wells, Somerset

Now that a clear majority north of the border has comprehensively rejected Scottishness, surely it is time for us to have an established church in North Britain? The Episcopal Church of Scotland would be ideal for this role and it would be only fitting were the Queen to appoint one of their Bishops to sit in the House of Lords alongside their Anglican colleagues.

John Eoin Douglas


Some comfort to Katy Guest (“Some things, only a man can explain, 21 September) with regard to sexual harassment of women. At a football match last Saturday a chant started up among some young male fans on the terrace “Get your tits out for the lads”. However, this was countered by other (male) fans making loud sarcastic comments, such as “Oooh a woman”, and “Have you never seen a woman before?” The chant died, and the group did not return to it. I think that the message is starting to get across to ordinary men that this sort of juvenile behaviour is not to be tolerated in the modern world.

Liz White

Sowerby Bridge, West Yorkshire

Military action in Iraq or Syria is wrong. It will result in innocent people being maimed and killed. This will, in turn, make more people join the extremist movement against the West. Even more people will join up when they see the West doing nothing against Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestine yet happily bombing Arab countries.

Mark Richards

Brighton, East Sussex

I was ill prepared for Jonathan Meades’ column (“Will no one stop the march of localism?”, 21 September), in which he managed to be offensive to just about everyone he could think of, not just the Scots. Your readers of a Bullingdon (or BNP) persuasion will no doubt have found this hilarious, but most others will have found his nasty racist outpourings intolerable and utterly out of place in a supposedly serious and decent newspaper.

Mike Wright

Lancaster, Lancashire


A federal Britain is being suggested by some (Jeff J Mitchell)

People have a right to a voice on English regionalism

THE Balkanisation of England is not a good idea for the reasons outlined by Camilla Cavendish (“Releasing the federalist genie risks conjuring up a UK of little Napoleons”, Comment, last week). She is right that the widely promoted regionalism may be flawed and the public probably have no real wish for it. Are people not entitled to some consultation on this very important issue?
Dr Andrew Goudie
Wirral, Merseyside

Cavendish writes: “What looks good for democracy on paper does not always work in practice.” The public, I think, are wise to all this. I visit family and friendsin Britain frequently and have never known a period of such frightening cynicism, or such contempt for politics and the political classes, and alienation from government and the democratic system. Structural reform is not going to repair it.
Larry Rushton
Maignaut-Tauzia, France

COME THE RESOLUTION The result of the Scottish referendum raised two serious issues. The first is the question of English votes for English laws: this is what in popular parlance is described as democracy. The second one is about devolving tax-raising powers to the Scottish parliament: this will resolve the problem of who is going to pay for all the promises made by Alex Salmond.
Nigel Denton
Littlehampton, West Sussex

MISSING THE PARTY AA Gill writes that there was no sense of joy in Edinburgh after the “no” vote on the basis of visiting a few pubs in the city centre (“That morning-after feeling is all part of being a Scot”, Focus, last week). He was looking in the wrong place. If he had been in the suburbs and the surrounding countryside he would have heard the pop of champagne corks as the “no” voters quietly celebrated in their homes. The sense of joy was palpable among the majority of patriotic Scots who have no truck with the narrow divisive politics of the nationalists and had no wish to follow them into the economic abyss.
Alan Black

In what other context could the clear result of the democratic vote of an entire people be characterised as a failure? What are we supposed to do — go on having referendums until Gill gets the vote he wants? No, it was the right result: our great country is still securely part of another one and we can have more powers. As Alistair Darling said in his generous speech: “The silent have spoken.” Indeed we have, and maybe one day Gill will join us instead of moaning from the sidelines.
Peter M Smith
Linlithgow, West Lothian

After a hotly contested referendum campaign, it was heartening to see that a service of reconciliation was held at St Giles’s Cathedral in Edinburgh last Sunday. The first minister chose not to attend the ceremony, despite his protestations that after the referendum the nation had to come together. Salmond should lead by example, and his absence spoke volumes about his sincerity — or the lack of it.
Lindsey Savage
Cruden Bay, Aberdeenshire

Clearly Gill has been away from Edinburgh too long. Its streets are not cobbled, but some are paved with setts. And what does he mean by the “granite wall of the city”? The capital is not built of granite, except for the setts. Also it is “the New Town”, not New Town.
Steuart Campbell

You published a large picture of Hadrian’s Wall along with a caption saying that “the nations on both sides of Hadrian’s Wall would benefit from a less-centralised state”. (“Loosen up Britannia”, Focus, last week). I was born north of the wall in Northumberland. As the Scots invaded the county repeatedly over several centuries and tried to conquer it, people in Northumberland and northern Cumbria take our English nationality very seriously and are insulted when the old Hadrian’s Wall euphemism is used for the border with Scotland.The structure is nowhere near Scotland, being a long way from the border and almost 90 miles in east Northumberland.
Dr Jim Innes
Darlington, Co Durham

Only boots on ground can crush Isis

I have never believed Isis could be contained — let alone destroyed — without involving our ground troops (“Obama ‘sees need for ground war’ as Kurds flee Isis”, World News, last week). There is a vast difference in the experience and equipment America and Britain can deploy compared with Iraq’s virtual part-timers. This must be done quickly, if need be, with the co-operation of the Syrian government, to discourage recruitment by Isis. The same effort must be put into destroying the propaganda machine that wins gullible youths.
Edward O’Brien
Coaley, Gloucestershire

Isis poses far more of a danger to the Middle East’s Sunni regimes than it does to the West. Let them deal with the threat. Our involvement should be restricted to telling the Saudis to stop playing the destructive sectarian card against “apostate” Shi’ites. This does require the West to swallow its pride and acknowledge that Bashar al-Assad, Hezbollah and Iran are not our enemies.
Yugo Kovach
Winterborne Houghton, Dorset

Tony Blair’s latest thoughts on Isis are that boots on the ground will be required — quite probably ours since he also urges us to support America in whatever it decides to do. Once again he claims that the 2003 invasion of Iraq is not responsible for the situation today. The man is becoming increasingly delusional.
William Wilson,
London SW11

Universities challenged

THE universities highlighted in your article “The £30,000 degrees that don’t net a job” (News, last week) are also leaders in providing opportunities for students from black, Asian and minority-ethnic backgrounds. Rather than question the value of those institutions, it would be more profitable to consider whether some big employers and City firms are ignoring the talent of their graduates by perpetuating the recruitment practices criticised in the Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission’s latest report, Elitist Britain?. This research highlights the outcomes and disadvantages to the economy of employers using unpaid internships and recruiting from a very small number of universities with the most socially exclusive student profiles.Pam Tatlow
Chief Executive, million+

Second best
You write approvingly that 80-90% of graduates from Oxford and Cambridge secure good jobs or go on to further study within six months. I find it surprising, perhaps scandalous, that 10-20% of our brightest young people do not do so after three years at our “best” universities. An efficient use of £30,000?
Dr Martin Price
Dinas Powys, Vale of Glamorgan

No NHS cover-up in Wales
In Camilla Cavendish’s opinion piece “Releasing the federalist genie risks conjuring up a UK of little Napoleons” (Comment, last week), she claims that an offer by Sir Bruce Keogh , medical director of NHS England, to conduct an inquiry in Wales was “flatly rejected”. In reality NHS England stated in February this year that Keogh “has not offered nor has he been asked to take part in an investigation in Wales. That, quite rightly, is an issue for the NHS in Wales.”The NHS in Wales is more open, transparent and is subjected to a higher level of scrutiny than any other health service in Britain. Mortality rates in Wales are published on a quarterly basis and the latest figures demonstrate clear improvement. Wales is leading the UK in the development of a universal case note mortality review system, which looks at the medical records of every patient who has died in hospital. To therefore suggest the Welsh NHS is covering up high death rates is utterly ridiculous and completely without foundation.
Mark Drakeford
Welsh Minister for Health and Social Services

Salmond can’t have it both ways on devo max

I cannot take seriously any opinion expressed by Ferdinand Mount, if he can blame Fred Goodwin for single handedly ‘bringing the British economy to a juddering halt’, while ignoring every other director of every other bank, The Bank of England, Lehman Brothers, Standard and Poor, Gordon Brown, Tony Blair and many more.

Scott Ritchie

I am Welsh,but I have lived in Scotland for nearly 30 years,and I dearly love this country.However I was aw appalled by the way that the YES supporters hijacked the Scottish flag,especially in George Square,Glasgow following the referendum.I have always considered the Saltire to be the symbol of Scotland and all who live here,but now if there is to be true reconciliation,I feel that Scotland needs another flag as to me the Saltire is now a mark of devision.

Charles Ellis

Most commentators seem to have missed a key point about the additional powers to be offered to Scotland following the ‘no’ vote. During the televised interview of Mr Salmond by David Dimbleby which took place a few days before the vote, Mr Salmond clearly stated that what was being offered by David Cameron, Nick Clegg and Ed Milliband was ‘not devo-max, not even devo-plus, and in fact an insult to the intelligence of Scottish voters’. This should therefore be the yardstick by which the new powers to be granted should now be judged. You can’t have it both ways, Mr Salmond…

Chris Rowe
Glenfarg, Perth and Kinross

I am shocked at some of the pathetic comments you printed regarding the SNP and it’s allies which included the Greens ( totally peaceful) during the campaign, in the 21/09/14 letters page. The true nature of the BT campaign was shown on Friday evening in Glasgow by the fascist mob threatening to ‘burn Glasgow to the ground for voting for Independence’. I was in the city for a meal and the square was a celebration of everything that was good about the Yes Campaign, singing and celebrating even though it was a defeat. Early in the evening a mob of over a thousand triumphalists thugs entered with only one point, to attack young women, causing a riot. As stated after you printed an article last week that the No campaign was frightened of the Yes campaign, I ‘e’ mailed you to state my wife’s car was keyed because she had a Yes sticker on her car. I was an undecided, probably No till I noted the hatred and bile from some of the BT campaign. Why do you continue to print spurious comments about the Yes Campaign, are you ‘Feart’ of the future.

Ed Sneider


After a hotly contested campaign in the referendum, it was heartening to see that a service of reconciliation was held at St Giles’s Cathedral in Edinburgh last Sunday.

The first minister chose not to attend, despite his protestations that the nation had to come together. Salmond should lead by example, and his absence spoke volumes about his sincerity — or the lack of it.

Lindsey Savage
Cruden Bay, Aberdeenshire


I have been reading The Sunday Times since I was 12 and I am now hitting 60. My current stand-out contributor is Rod Liddle. His “Let us pray… if you want, up to a point. No pressure” (Comment, last week), referring to Anglican religious doubt was, as ever, clever and funny. Candid, too. Mother Teresa, late in life, spoke of her early doubts regarding her religious calling. As have prominent Anglicans and the Scottish Episcopalian Richard Holloway. Many people do not like Rome’s intransigence on the issues of the day, be it abortion, gay marriage, divorce, and more, but such immovability is a strength in itself as recognised by one billion adherents.

Charlie McGuire
Rothesay, Isle of Bute


Hot topic
I live in the southwest of France and, yes, the summers are more reliable than in Britain but the winters are much colder (“Cash for winter fuel goes to retirees in sun”, News, last week). The temperatures here range from 0C to 14C from December to March. The British government wishes to ban payments for countries with an average temperature higher than the UK but fuel costs here are just as expensive, if not more so, than in Britain. The fuel allowance is part of a pension paid for by my national insurance contributions of 45 years.David SchofieldDuravel, France

fair deal We may be wealthy in terms of our quality of life but we are not so financially. Making the fuel allowance taxable would be fairest to all.
Joan Bunting
Roussillon, France

Warm front
The Department for Work and Pensions said: “Winter fuel payments are intended to encourage older people in Britain to keep themselves warm.” Indeed so. The payments appear in people’s bank accounts not when the end-of-winter fuel bills are due but just before Christmas so that they can be used to keep warm with extra helpings of pudding and port. It means there is just that much less available to spend on the better insulation of homes, fuel-efficient boilers and perhaps even free wool and knitting needles.
Trevor Pateman

Political office
Rather than selling the capacious historic War Office to a developer for short-term gain, would it not make more sense to have it converted to service apartments for the use of MPs (“Old War Office in £300m demob”, News, last week)? This would have the advantage of not selling off the family silver, and help to end the public perception that MPs exploit rules on housing allowances and capital gains.
Lorraine Samuels
Councillor for Oatlands Weybridge, Surrey

On your bike
To plug the increasing NHS costs — not least caused by obesity— Ed Miliband is proposing a mansion tax. To tackle obesity, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence is proposing TV-free days and cycling to school (also, with so many earning less than a living wage, affordable transport is essential and it doesn’t come more affordable than cycling). Wouldn’t a better way of raising revenue be to increase fines for law-breaking drivers? In Denmark and Sweden, road fatalities per 100,000 motor vehicles stand at 5.7 and 5.1 respectively compared with 6.2 in the UK, and they have income-related speeding fines.
Allan Ramsey

Cut price
Hunter Davies was robbed when he paid £50 for his push lawnmower (“Saving energy is a pushover with my hand lawnmower”, Money, last week). I just paid £29.99 for the same mower and got triple Nectar points as well.
Roger Powell
Hadzor, Worcestershire

Heading off trouble
At long last Sir Michael Wilshaw, the chief inspector of schools, has realised what every state school teacher has known for years: that pupil disruption is the biggest single cause of underachievement in the classroom (“Ofsted chief slams lax heads”, News, last week). But the solution is not more boot camps. Head teachers must be given the power to remove serious troublemakers without having to accept another in return, as currently happens in the miscreant merry-go-round.
Stan Labovitch
Windsor, Berkshire

License to view
With reference to the Glass House column (Magazine, September 14), a television licence is needed to watch or record live TV on any device. It is also not the case that in June 2m households told TV Licensing they didn’t need a licence. This figure is the total number of households and businesses that have told us they do not need a licence. The column stated that young people no longer watch live TV, but the Ofcom data quoted actually shows that they still spend two-thirds of their viewing time watching live or recorded TV, which needs to be covered by a licence. Overall, less than 2% of households watch catch-up TV only, so do not need one.
Claire Wotherspoon
TV Licensing

Brigitte Bardot, actress, 80; Hilary Duff, singer, 27; Peter Egan, actor, 68; Mika Hakkinen, two-time Formula One world champion, 46; Sir Jeremy Isaacs, TV producer, 82; Ben E King, singer, 76; Helen Shapiro, singer, 68; Jon Snow, TV news presenter, 67; Naomi Watts, actress, 46; Jodie Williams, sprinter, 21

1066 William of Normandy lands at Pevensey, East Sussex; 1865 Elizabeth Garrett becomes Britain’s first female doctor; 1884 Marks & Spencer founded; 1928 Alexander Fleming discovers penicillin; 1978 John Paul I dies 33 days after becoming Pope; 1994 the ferry Estonia sinks in the Baltic, killing 852


Labour’s proposed mansion tax will have a £2 million threshold Photo: Alamy

6:57AM BST 27 Sep 2014


SIR – Any working-class people who think they will not be affected by the mansion tax need to take a look at inheritance tax.

Many years ago, only truly wealthy people paid. Now, thousands of working-class people are liable simply because they dared to buy a house.

Frank Cherriman
Hove, East Sussex

SIR – Does Ed Miliband intend to carry out a complete revaluation of all residential property in England and Wales in order to identify those houses worth more than

£2 million?

Ian Palmer
West Kirby, Wirral

SIR – Many houses worth more than £2 million are listed as being of architectural or historic interest. In a number of cases, they have been in the same family for many generations.

These owners do not necessarily have high incomes and many are already struggling to meet their statutory obligation to keep the buildings in repair. Bearing in mind that they have to pay VAT on these repairs, a mansion tax could prove to be the death knell for these buildings, which are such an important part of our national heritage.

Peter Britton
Barcheston, Warwickshire

SIR – Fed up with David Cameron’s broken promises, I was starting to turn into a floating voter, but this latest idea of introducing a mansion tax has quickly returned me to the fold.

How long before a mansion tax turns into a wealth tax and the £2 million threshold is reduced to a level that will affect us all? Not long, I would think.

Michael McNeill
Upper Basildon, Berkshire

Poppies row on row

SIR – I, too, have marvelled from afar at the wonderful ceramic poppy cascade in the moat of the Tower of London and would love to visit.

The last poppy will be planted on November 11 this year, which will be very poignant; but thereafter all the poppies will be removed. Surely something so beautiful should be left for another few months to offer more of us the opportunity to see it.

Carol Harrington
Birstwith, North Yorkshire

SIR – In response to Nigel Embry, it is possible to order the poppies from the Tower of London by phone: 0303 7701914. They cost £25 plus postage (£5.95) and will be dispatched between mid November and February.

Josephine Clouston
Market Drayton, Shropshire

DLT prosecution

SIR – Lawyers can claim a pyrrhic victory with the prosecution of Dave Lee Travis, the shamed DJ, for a string of alleged sexually motivated assaults. He was found not guilty on 12 counts in January. This week he was found guilty of assaulting a young woman, but not guilty on a second indecent assault charge and the jury was discharged after it was unable to agree a verdict on a count of sexual assault.

With only a three-month suspended sentence handed out, how can the Crown Prosecution Service and police justify their decision to prosecute under criminal law – or claim this was a prudent use of scarce legal and financial resources?

Paul Harrison
Terling, Essex

India reaches for Mars

SIR – To criticise a poverty-stricken country such as India for sending a probe to Mars is to fail to appreciate what the Indian government clearly realises. A space programme can bootstrap the country’s technology. Aiming for the Moon and Mars will be an inspiration to the rising generation.

Professor David A Rothery
The Open University, Milton Keynes

Newsnight knot

SIR – Evan Davis is to start presenting Newsnight. Please may the BBC insist that he wears a tie?

Michael Cheetham
Hurstpierpoint, West Sussex

Steady graze: the presence of livestock in the uplands helps keep bracken under control  Photo: Alamy

6:59AM BST 27 Sep 2014


SIR – In reply to Beth Wilson’s letter (September 24), bracken is spreading at the rate of 3 per cent annually in Britain. There are a few reasons for this.

In two decades of flawed environmental policy, there has been a massive reduction in grazing livestock in the uplands. Cattle, particularly, and sheep grazing in the hills help to control bracken spread, but there have to be sufficient numbers of stock.

In many hilly areas, spraying with the herbicide Asulam was used. It causes minimal damage to other species, but the European Union banned it two years ago.

Politicians and local authorities have ignored the health risks this spread poses. An overabundance of bracken leads to an increase in ticks, which carry Lyme disease. Ptaquiloside, the cancer-inducing toxin present in bracken, ends up in our drinking water, much of which comes from areas surrounded by bracken.

Suzanne Greenhill
Cheltenham, Gloucestershire

Ground crew prepare a Royal Air Force (RAF) Tornado GR4 fighter bomber for return to the United Kingdom at RAF Akrotiri, Cyprus Photo: 2009 Getty Images

7:00AM BST 27 Sep 2014


SIR – We are to use our ancient but effective Tornadoes in air attacks against an amorphous and highly mobile enemy. Best of luck to the RAF; but surely they would like some support from an aircraft carrier and some Harriers?

It seems strange to decommission an aircraft carrier and, almost the next week, to go to war. I understand they have not started ripping apart HMS Illustrious just yet; and there are several Harriers, I am told, sitting in hangars awaiting disposal.

Would it not be better to scrape some sort of force together from these wasted assets, rather than wait for our new carrier to get its wings, say in 2022?

Lt Commander Nick Bradshaw RN (retd)
Kingsbridge, Devon

SIR – We have a huge aircraft carrier in the Mediterranean (Letters, September 26). It is called Cyprus. But it is a disgrace we do not have a conventional carrier in service.

James B Sinclair
St Helier, Jersey

SIR – I have two comments. The first is that a fanatical ground-based force will never be defeated by air power alone.

Secondly, one has to wonder whether the rise of Isil would ever have been possible had Saddam Hussein remained in power. Unintended consequences, perhaps?

Lt Col John Landau (retd)
Cheltenham, Gloucestershire

SIR – Haven’t we learnt that bombing without adequate ground support produces more enemies than it eliminates?

N H Conrad
Tandridge, Surrey

SIR – Harold Macmillan, Alec Douglas-Hume and Edward Heath all had first-hand experience of being in uniform.

It’s not just Ed Miliband who might benefit from three years’ military service, though the politicians today know there’s no guarantee they’d be commissioned.

Richard Stancomb
Malmesbury, Wiltshire

SIR – The Iraqi government has placed Isil-held oil refineries off limits for coalition air strikes.

I don’t know if they have found the right balance between short-term military objectives and longer-term economic ones. I would guess, however, that what makes sense in Iraq would also do so in Syria.

We are not seeking permission from the Syrian government for attacks there, but surely we should be seeking the same stewardship of the interests of the Syrian people.

John Riseley
Harrogate, North Yorkshire

SIR – After arming the Kurds, do we imagine that they will happily go back to being ruled by the Iraqis, Turks or Iranians?

I believe the outcome will be a new country called Kurdistan. This will cause even more conflict in the area.

Len Foot
Fareham, Hampshire

SIR – We are playing into the hands of these terrorists. They are neither Islamic nor a state – that is part of their trick. As the Prime Minister correctly states, Islam is a peaceful religion.

We should refer to them as terrorists and nothing else.

Henry Brewis
Ipswich, Suffolk

SIR – Allison Pearson writes that it has taken the desperate situation of the hostage Alan Henning to make Muslims speak out against extremists.

I am sure that over the years I have heard and read constant condemnation by horrified Muslims of atrocities committed in the name of Allah.

I suspect that many people have chosen to ignore the views of the vast majority of that faith, leading to racial tension and mistrust.

Gwyneth Mitchell
East Cowes, Isle of Wight

Irish Times:

Irish Independent:

Madam – I refer to Brendan O’Connor’s article “Leo should make a deal with the Irish People” (Sunday Independent, 21 September) regarding the state of our health services in Ireland today.

Why would anyone who has had direct experience of being on a trolley in A&E exposed to a corridor full of similar patients and all passing human traffic, contemplate voting Fine Gael next time?

My very recent experience delivered me no privacy, no dignity, care not to be proud of while on a trolley for 12 hours where I nursed up to 13 years ago.

The distress experienced by me is unimaginable and will be unforgettable.

But the surgical team looking after me were wonderful and through their interventions saved me.

And I also want to praise the excellent nursing care I received on the wards I was on and am very grateful to them all.

They are working so hard it’s so shameful what politics has done to them.

It’s too late for “deals”. It’s radical action that is required.

Could most of those waiting in the waiting areas to be seen have gone to Doc On Call?

Should people be allowed walk in off the street now in these chaotic times to an emergency unit if they have not been in some way deemed to need treatment first?

How do people manage who don’t live near hospitals?

The lack of visits by Enda Kenny to the emergency units in our hospitals is perfectly understandable. It would be bad politics for him to do so.

It would tarnish his Mr Fix-It image and make him liable for the inhumanity which causes suffering to all who have sudden ill-health and have to avail of the services.

Leo Varadker may be a doctor and the Minister for Health but he needs Enda Kenny to show up and own up and make it his problem too. But my guess is that that will never happen.

Dympna Walsh,


Co Louth


Northerners’ blunt truth

Madam – The stereotypical image of the blunt northerner taking the side of the face off us southerners with some close-to-the-bone remark when they feel we are talking off the top of our heads came to mind when I read Eilis O’Hanlon’s article on our attitude to the Scottish referendum (Sunday Independent, 21 September).

She is indeed close-to-the-bone when she tells us that the attitude of too many of us to the Scottish referendum reflected our own obsessions and was ‘the equivalent of UKIP, telling our neighbours what to think and how to vote’.

But she does not leave it at that. She also takes a swipe at not alone the Scottish parliament but ‘every parliament in every other country’ as being ‘stuffed to the rafters’ with ‘time serving, toadying mediocrities’. While being careful not to accuse Eilis O’Hanlon of such, I should gently remind her that too many of the media to which she herself belongs were not behind the door in lecturing the Scots. Too many of the same media also did a fair bit of toadying to said political mediocrities during the boom. During that time they told the rest of us to look the other way when this country was being bankrupt by the decisions of a small number of its most influential, time serving citizens.

Much more of the blunt northern, close-to-the-bone truths needed to be repeated then but was not.

So I congratulate Eilis O’Hanlon now for telling us all some home truths and encourage her to keep it up.

A Leavy

Sutton, Dublin 13


Power of love, not the love of power

Madam – I agree with Michael McDowell (Sunday Independent, 21 September) that Eoin MacNeill  was correct to cancel the 1916 Rising due to the forged Castle Document.

The false report that the Germans had landed  and it was only a matter of holding Dublin until they arrived was a further deception. Next the prospect of success was zero. The British went on to land knock-out punches on three empires, Kaiser Germany, the Austro-Hungary Empire and the Ottoman Empire. The British were supported by their dominions and WW1 was payback time. This important context is not taken into account by Mr McDowell. There was a Commonwealth conference of ‘blood-brothers’ in the 1920s and the Statute of Westminster 1931 was the outcome. Michael McDowell should use his legal expertise to explain the Statute of Westminster as most historians have not grasped it. My own take on it is that henceforth Britain was to be ‘first amongst equals’.

The relationship was changed from the love of power by an empire to the power of love uniting equals in the Commonwealth. The survival of Britain in WW2 proves the power of love as the dominions came to her aid voluntarily.

Stephen Fallon,



History unravels all the time

Madam – Michael McDowell says we cannot unravel history (Sunday Independent, 21 September), but surely history is constantly under review and being re-examined. A spate of books over just the last twelve months has given us a much improved understanding of the causes of World War I.

Mr McDowell criticises John Bruton’s comments regarding Ireland’s independence, yet research shows that this independence was achieved by correct constitutional means.

John Redmond and the Irish Parliamentary party (IPP), which then held the balance of power at Westminster, put the Home Rule Bill on the statute book in early 1914.

At the December 1918 election the electorate dismissed the IPP,  replacing them with Sinn Fein. Westminster proceeded with Home Rule by first splitting Ireland into North and South with the Ireland Act of 1920. In June 1921 the King opened the Belfast parliament with the famous words “…may the Irish people, North and South, under one parliament or two, as these parliaments may themselves decide, work together in common love for Ireland upon the sure foundation of mutual justice and respect.”

Perhaps with these words ringing in their ears, representatives of Sinn Fein, finally travelled to London to resolve the details of Home Rule. When the resultant Treaty was put to the people in June 1922, the electorate made another volte face and dismissed Sinn Fein, 78 per cent voting  for those parties supporting the Treaty.

Will Mr McDowell kindly tell us the difference of substance between the 1914 Home Rule Bill and the 1922 Treaty, and were these differences worth the 513 killings of members of the RIC, 270 members of the armed forces and hundreds of Irish citizens, as well as the bitterness and mythology of violence that still lingers in the psyche of Ireland?

Charles Hazell


Co Tipperary


Lovely chicken nearly caused tears

Madam – Eating a lovely cooked chicken, bought in a shop, tender and nice, but I nearly cried when I saw the little ‘wish-bone’ — so small.

I thought what a short, shut in, life probably not a lot of space to move about, and then death for our enjoyment.

Kathleen Corrigan,


Co Cavan


Alzheimer’s article was timely

Madam – It is timely that the Sunday Independent (21 September) had articles on Alzheimer’s as it is becoming more common in Ireland and in the Western world, and is, for good reason, a feared disease.

 It is not fully known yet what causes the disease, and the scary fact is that younger people in their 40s and 50s are reported in the last few years to be getting early onset Alzheimer’s, which means it is more urgent than ever to find a way of stopping it.

 M Sullivan,



It was so sad when  Twink lost Teddy

Madam – It made sad reading (Sunday Independent, 21 September) that Twink’s little miniature Yorkshire terrier, Teddy Bear, had been stolen. She was devastated and in grief. This also happened to me too about two years ago with my miniature Yorkshire terrier, Toto.

I also had her micro-chipped and she wore a disc, but I never saw her again and it took me many months to get over the grief. She was so tiny and nervous I hated her being away from me because I understood her nervousness and understood her. There are people going around stealing pedigree pets to sell for a few bob.

Terry Healy,


Co Kildare


McDonagh can have his viewpoint

Madam – It was with a heavy heart that I read Emer O’Kelly’s piece “McDonagh makes a scene about Irish films,” (Sunday Independent, 21 September).

The McDonagh brothers are allowed their own identity, and own story — as everyone is.

I relate more to the McDonagh’s than I could ever to someone like O’Kelly, not least because of their actual grasp of the complexity of the human condition.

And The Beauty Queen of Leenane was written by someone who had an acute understanding of that part of the world — Martin McDonagh. He has more of an understanding of the west of Ireland, and its beauty and its ugliness, than O’Kelly. How offensive to claim otherwise.

We hate people exposing ugly truths about ourselves, but that play is shot through with an interesting truth — the dark side of the Irish psyche, which is ever-present. We are lucky in that there is a foil to that darkness, also — which both McDonagh brothers also write about so well.

I am very glad to have them as part of our nation, and was so disappointed that someone like O’Kelly continues to write from such an ignorant point of view.

John Michael McDonagh was expressing his point of view about so many Irish films — he’s entitled to, as an audience member, and as a filmmaker, and writer.

Siobhain Ni Cathain,



All Moore Street is historically vital

Madam – I refer to doubts being raised over the exact location in Moore Street of the surrender of the 1916 Provisional Government of the Irish Republic (“Re-writing history,” Sunday Independent, 21 September).

I am the record holder of all meetings held by the Save 16 Moore Street Committee. You report that our decade-old campaign is ‘to have part of Moore Street turned into a museum’. This is not correct and is misleading.

The campaign from its outset called for the creation of a 1916 historic cultural quarter in honour of those who fought for Irish freedom.

Nor is there a record of the committee ever making a ‘judgement call,’ as contributor John Conway claims, on merely protecting numbers 14 to 17 Moore Street — now the derelict 1916 National Monument. He goes on to state that number 16 ‘may be the wrong building but it’s certainly not the wrong street’.

On this point we can all agree.

James Connolly Heron, Save 16 Moore Street Committee,

Dublin 2.


Come together Irish musicians

Madam – Re Declan Lynch’s article on Johnny Duhan (Sunday Independent, 21 September) and the ever more constricting situation of radio airplay for Irish-based performing musicians: Irish radio, with it’s wall-to-wall US and UK music playlists, is  progressively squeezing Irish-based performing musicians right out of existence.

It is time now for these artists to come together as a matter of urgency and compel Minister Alex White, the national broadcaster and Irish independent radio executives to stop sitting on their hands and pretending they can do nothing.

Victor Caprani,

Co Clare


The danger of sharing our data

Madam – The nation’s serious bank details, telephone numbers, email addresses, home addresses, PPS numbers, and the like, are to become available to the world courtesy of Irish Water

holding our personal data. They say they will keep all of our vital business stuff  ‘private’, except to those they can ‘trust’ and to whom they will allow certain careful leakages, but will we be opened up to a brave new world? (Gene Kerrigan, Sunday Independent, 21 September).

With a little clever snooping by uncle Tom Cobley an’ all, will my potential benefactor, Fernando Omatete, who lost all of his family through a coup d’etat  in the African country of Sawmecomin, be able to put the $65 million dollars he promised me into my Irish account for safekeeping without having to ask me for boring codes and passwords?

Thanks to Irish Water, this could be a winner for so many of us here in this little Eire of the welcomes. How could anyone say we’re wet behind the ears?

Robert Sullivan,

Bantry, Co Cork


Water costs not justified long-term

Madam – When the Water Board was set up in March 2013, it was allocated the sum of €539 million for the installation of meters and the repair or replacement of all damaged piping, and the bringing of the purification plants up to the standard required so as to insure all people in the Republic are assured clean safe water.

The total households in Ireland for the year 2011 was 1,654,208 plus 4,035 communal establishments. If we assume each household and communal establishment pay €5 per week for the supply of water, it comes to roughly €58,450,000 annually. If the pipes, once repaired or replaced, last at least 20 to 30 years; and the updating or replacing of the purification plants comes to fruition at some stage, that will leave just the staffing for plants and repair gangs to be paid for.

In  short,  these charges should not go on forever and certainly not for as long as is being suggested at the moment.

   Don’t stand idly by. Now is the time to have a showdown and to demand to be shown figures for everything that it is said will be happening. Wake up Ireland. Don’t ask. Demand.

Fred Molloy,

Clonsilla, Dublin 15


Our hygiene falls short of standard

Madam – It was with real sorrow that I learned in the Sunday Independent of 21 September that only two thirds of the Irish population feel that the free water allowance from Irish Water is insufficient for their daily needs.

This confirms my suspicions that a third of Irish people do not wash nearly often enough.

Tim O’Sullivan,

Dublin 5


There’s no such thing as free water

Madam – Gene Kerrigan (Sunday Independent, 21 September), raises extremely serious questions about the way any personal details submitted to Irish Water are to be dealt with, and indeed, who may or may not be given access to them in future.

However I would ask Gene and the Anti-Austerity Alliance, et al, what do they mean when they say “water charges are double taxation as I’ve already paid my taxes and I am entitled to expect free water delivered to my home?”

Do they really expect our taxes to pay for the instillation of a water infrastructure throughout the whole country, up and down every boreen in the State? Or do they, as I suspect, only really mean to the large urban areas with large populations?

If you happen to live down one of these boreens you may, whether you pay taxes or not, bore your own well, put a pump on it, pay for the electricity to operate it and service it regularly.

As a rural dwelling tax payer I don’t expect to have this service provided free of charge to me, nor do I expect to have to continue to provide it free to my urban cousins through my taxes.

Joe Lynch,


Co Laois

Sunday Independent


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