1 October r 2014 Sharland

I jog around the park I still have arthritis in my left knee, but I manage to get round the park. A busy day Sharlandcomes to call Meg and Ben off to S Korea.

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


Karl Miller was a magazine editor and academic who did much to shape the literary tastes of his generation

Karl Miller, British literary editor, critic, writer and founder of The London Review of Books, photographed at home in North London, July 1, 2011.

Karl Miller, British literary editor, critic, writer and founder of The London Review of Books, photographed at home in North London, July 1, 2011.  Photo: Adrian Lourie

5:51PM BST 30 Sep 2014


Karl Miller, who has died aged 83, was a brilliant magazine editor who revitalised the Listener, co‑founded the London Review of Books and for many years occupied the Lord Northcliffe Chair of Modern English Literature at University College London.

Like many of the best editors, he was not an easy or a natural writer. “I always wanted to be an editor,” he wrote in Rebecca’s Vest, the first of his two volumes of memoirs; and as a young man he made his mark as the literary editor of both The Spectator and the New Statesman. “I have done what I wanted to do, though I would have liked to be more a writer of books than I have succeeded in being,” he continued.

His books were few and brief, and – like those of Cyril Connolly, another busy reviewer and editor – they often consisted of recycled pieces loosely stitched together. Though daunting when first encountered – he seemed the quintessence of the dour, laconic Scot – he was regarded by those who knew him well as witty and warm-hearted, always anxious to encourage young writers and helping them to do their best .

Karl Fergus Connor Miller was born at Straiton, Midlothian, on August 2 1931. His parents had split up before he was born: his father was an ineffectual would-be artist, with whom Miller enjoyed a sporadic and often embattled relationship; his mother was an ardent socialist, and Karl himself remained loyal to the faith.

He was brought up by his maternal grandmother on the outskirts of Edinburgh. The Connor family deeply disapproved of his father’s bohemian ways, and Miller’s sense of being torn between the Millers and the Connors prompted his lifelong fascination with doubles, doppelgangers and the holding of contradictory views. He was never “conscious of bearing my parents any ill will for not being around”, but “an orphan self took hold: vulnerable and fierce, bereaved and aggrieved”.

“He who is kept out tries both to stay out and to get in,” he wrote, and the sense of being both an outsider and an insider was to remain with him.

At Edinburgh’s Old Royal High School, Karl was an unabashed “swot”, and the English master, Hector MacIver, encouraged his literary ambitions. MacIver was a friend of Dylan Thomas and Louis MacNeice, and he introduced his pupil to the poet Norman MacCaig; in later life Miller devoted much of his time to advancing the claims of Scottish writers, and he came to regret that he had not expended more energy on beating the drum on MacCaig’s behalf.

“A hard-working scholarship boy”, Miller left school as “a dux, a valedictory orator, a poet”, resolved “in a Scottish way, to get on”. He did his National Service with the Royal Engineers, but spent most of his time broadcasting on the British Forces Network in Germany.

In 1951 Miller took up a place at Downing College, Cambridge, under the aegis of F R Leavis. They might have seemed natural soul mates, but in a further manifestation of contradictory behaviour Miller was bowled over by the stylish ex-public schoolboys with whom Cambridge abounded, and – to Leavis’s horror, no doubt – he quickly abandoned textual analysis for student journalism.

He was elected as an Apostle, and edited Granta, working closely with Nick Tomalin and Mark Boxer, the flamboyant epitome of “metropolitan” corruption, and publishing early work by Ted Hughes and Thom Gunn; his friends included Eric Hobsbawm and Neal Ascherson. Despite the time devoted to Granta, he took a first. He spent some months in Harvard, researching Scottish literature; he also met and married Jane Collet, whose sister married his Cambridge contemporary Jonathan Miller.

Dark Horses was the second volume of Karl Miller’s memoirs

After spells at the Treasury and as a BBC producer, working on Tonight and Monitor, Miller found his true métier when, in 1958, he succeeded Robert Kee as literary editor of The Spectator, then owned by Ian Gilmour and edited by Brian Inglis; his colleagues included Katharine Whitehorn, Bernard Levin and Alan Brien. In 1961 he moved to the New Statesman, then edited by John Freeman. He published reviews by, among others, Frank Kermode and Christopher Ricks, as well as the early poems of Seamus Heaney. He had a soft spot for Eng Lit academics, and when the new editor, Paul Johnson, refused to print a review by William Empson on the ground that it was “incomprehensible”, he resigned on the spot. Johnson handed him a compensatory cheque for £3,000 – a huge sum in those days – but he tore it into shreds.

Miller was appointed editor of the Listener in 1967. Under his predecessor, the historian Maurice Ashley, it had been a tedious BBC publication, dutifully reprinting Third Programme talks and little else. Miller revolutionised it, making it the liveliest of weekly magazines. He retained his liking for impenetrable Eng Lit dons, but he offset them with Mark Boxer’s cultish comic strip, the Stringalongs, based on the doings of an ultra-trendy literary couple in Camden Town. He employed Clive James as the television critic and John Carey as the radio critic; among the authors who wrote for the paper were Dan Jacobson, V S Naipaul, Conor Cruise O’Brien, Ian Hamilton and Brigid Brophy.

In 1974 he was again at a loose end, and Noel Annan, a fellow-Apostle and the Provost of UCL, suggested that he should replace Frank Kermode as the Northcliffe Professor, despite the fact that he had no post-graduate degree and had yet to write his first book, a study of the Scottish judge and writer Henry Cockburn, for which he won the James Tait Black Prize. Miller made the UCL English department into one of the liveliest in the country, encouraging the likes of Dan Jacobson and Stephen Spender to work with his students.

Miller co-founded the London Review of Books in 1979 with Mary-Kay Wilmers and Susannah Clapp to plug the gap left by the TLS, which was hors de combat for a year thanks to a printers’ strike. It soon declared its independence from the parental New York Review of Books, and its long, ruminative essays suited Miller perfectly both as an editor and as an essayist. He edited the journal from 1979 to 1989, and co-edited it until 1992, when he fell out with its proprietor, Mary-Kay Wilmers. That same year he also resigned from UCL.

Miller’s books include Cockburn’s Millennium, Doubles, The Electric Shepherd (a study of his fellow-Scot James Hogg, the author of Confessions of a Justified Sinner, whose work he included in the UCL syllabus) and two volumes of memoirs, Rebecca’s Vest and Dark Horses. He was a passionate and ferocious soccer player, usually in Battersea Park. “I have never been very keen on other people,” he once wrote; but although he claimed that he lost half his friends when he stopped being an editor, his antipathy was not reciprocated. Every now and then he would visit a chapel in the East End and “give thanks with all the religion that is left in me that I haven’t spent my life as a freelance journalist working for papers where no one minds about literature”. He minded more than most, and did much to shape the literary tastes of his generation.

Karl Miller is survived by his wife, his two sons and his daughter.

Karl Miller, born August 2 1931, died September 24 2014


GP Dr Zara Aziz in Bristol. GP Dr Zara Aziz at work in Bristol. Photograph: Adrian Sherratt

David Cameron has vowed that everyone in England will have access to GP services seven days a week by 2020 (Report, 30 September). Under the coalition we have seen funding for GPs down by £943m, increasing workloads, dwindling budgets, a GP recruitment crisis and 50 million patients predicted to be “turned away” from surgeries next year because of government underfunding. There are now 66.5 family doctors per 100,000 people in the UK, down from 70 in 2009, and almost half of GPs say average waiting time for appointments exceeds two weeks due to unprecedented workloads.

It might also be worth remembering David Cameron’s speech to the Royal College of Pathologists on 2 November 2009, where he said that there would be no more tiresome, meddlesome, top-down restructures of the NHS. We then saw the biggest unwanted and unnecessary reorganisation in its history.

It appears that his election strategy is to (a) systematically break promises on the NHS, (b) create a GP crisis, then (c) make more promises about GP care. I believe that the coalition will find out in May 2015 that they underestimate the intelligence of the electorate.
Dr Carl Walker
National Health Action party

The effective way to open GP surgeries seven days a week would be to increase the number of GPs by 30%, with an equivalent increase in practice nurses, receptionists, secretaries and other ancillary workers, plus seven-day access to laboratory and x-ray facilities. All of this would cost a fortune and while I think that it is what should happen, it won’t.

Alternatively GPs could work flexibly over seven days, thus reducing their availability Monday to Friday, making it even more difficult to get an appointment on those days and gaining nothing.

Another possibility is that surgeries could provide a skeleton service for emergencies only at weekend. Most of the time they would be sat around doing nothing unless GPs work together in out-of-hours collaboratives, which is what happens already.
Dr John Russell (retired GP)

I am confused. Was I watching the Conservative party conference or Mock the Week? Apparently someone who looked like Mr Cameron thinks he can recruit, train and employ 5,000 new GPs at a cost of £400m, or £80,000 per GP. Nice joke, Andy Parsons, and a wonderful impersonation.
Harry Galbraith
Peel, Isle of Man

One key factor involved in the increased GP waiting times since 2012 – and the increased use of 999 and emergency departments over the same period (Waiting times are a national disgrace, says GPs’ leader, 27 September) – is the change from NHS Direct to 111 services for the provision of patient information and advice.

NHS Direct closed 60%-plus of calls within its own services, mostly with self-care advice and a time frame in which to see a doctor if symptoms did not improve. Despite the occasional well-publicised error or omission – and its safety record was better than that of either GPs or A&E departments – this was an extremely safe and popular service that empowered patients to take responsibility for their own care, while informing them how best to seek help if things worsened or did not improve.

The 111 services expect to close only about 9% of their calls to home management by patients. The services are largely staffed by non-clinicians using a safe but high-triaging form of computer assessment, with varying levels of clinical support. This has resulted, from the start, and it is hard to see how this could not have been foreseen, in hugely increased numbers of referrals to GPs, A&E and 999 services.

The change has resulted in unnecessary pressure on the NHS, thereby opening it up to calls for further privatisation – ignoring the fact that the institution of many scattered, disparate and poorly overseen 111 services in place of the national and coordinated NHSDirect rather suggests what will happen to the larger NHS once privatisation and its break-up into separate units is thoroughly under way.
Name and address supplied

You say one in four patients has to wait more than a week for an appointment; that should be “one in four patients who get an appointment have to wait for more than a week”. At our surgery if no appointment is available on the day, we have to either ring again the next day or try for a slot later in the week that is not reserved for on-the-day appointments.

Neither my wife nor I have had a GP appointment for seven years because on each occasion we have tried there have been no available appointments. Hence when we have needed advice or treatment we have had to go the walk-in centre or A&E and subsequent hospital treatment.
Peter Simpson
Ormskirk, Lancashire

This month I was in the Tarragona region of Spain and needed to see a doctor. I produced my European Health Insurance Card and was given an appointment for two hours later the same day. Straightforward, excellent facilities, no charge, polite and speedy. Spain may have its problems but it seems to have its priorities right.
Alan Gilvear
Basingstoke, Hampshire

roasted coffee beans Accountancy: 50% bean-counting, 50% guesswork? Photograph: doc-stock / Alamy/Alamy

Your correspondents who criticise India for having a space programme (Letters, 26 September) when many of its people live in poverty should remember that Britain has a space programme and yet our people are eating from food banks. America has a space programme and its citizens are dying prematurely because they can’t afford health insurance. For India to abandon higher education and the scientific research which is an inherent part of it would be a profoundly regressive step in its societal progress.
Peter Ostrowski
Wickford, Essex 

• Well done to Aditya Chakrabortty for challenging the practices of the big four accountants (Comment, 30 September). It’s about time we realised that accountancy is 50% low-grade arithmetic and 50% guesswork. They may use terms like “evaluation”, “judgment”, “forecast” and “assessment”, but it boils down to guesswork. The banks found themselves undercapitalised because they overestimated the value of assets – they guessed wrongly – and the rest of us are still paying the price.
Richard Lewis
Cowbridge, South Glamorgan

• What makes me proud of Britain is that we have organisations such as Liberty and its director is someone like Shami Chakrabarti (Interview, G2, 29 September). What makes me ashamed of Britain is that we so badly need organisations such as Liberty as our political leaders keep on trying to remove or diminish our liberties and rights.
John Spottiswoode

• Actor marries lawyer. A rare enough event to warrant the front page on Saturday, the centre spread on Monday and a further three-quarters of page 9 on Tuesday? I don’t think so!
Martin Schwarz

• I was surprised to see “Stalin” translated into German as “Margaret Thatcher” (Useful phrases, 26 September). There’s nowt so strange as volk.
Roger Kay
Guildford, Surrey

• Is an “ill-tempered woman” necessarily an “old bag” (17 down, Quick crossword No 13,850, 29 September)?
Marion Worth
Newport, Gwent

Writer and musician Mike Zwerin poses with his bass trumpet Mike Zwerin (1930-2010), trombonist and chronicler of jazz under the Nazis. Photograph: Alastair Miller/Bloomberg News

A wonderfully readable account of the Nazis and jazz (Propaganda Swing, Reviews, 30 September) is given in Mike Zwerin’s book Swing Under the Nazis – Jazz as a Metaphor for Freedom. Zwerin (Obituary, 18 April 2010), a trombonist who played with Miles Davis, travelled postwar Europe collecting stories from old men who had played or been involved in jazz under the Nazis. Inside concentration camps and out; not only musicians, but people like an ex-SS man who sympathised with and helped anti-Nazi musicians. And he describes the disbelief when an American jeep entered a village with the words BOOGIE WOOGIE printed on the side. For an understanding of this subject there is no better reference.
Bob Lamb

Palestinian protest against Israeli land seizure Palestinian protest against planned land seizure by Israeli settlers in the village of Wadi Foukin, near Bethlehem, 26 September 2014. Photograph: Sipa USA/Rex Features

Benedict Birnberg (Letters, 29 September) questions my assertion that the US administration’s hands are tied by Congress on the recognition of Palestine. I’m sure his constitutional arguments are correct. President Truman did not wait for Congress before recognising Israel in 1948 – though he waited a few hours and was pipped at the post by Stalin. What I had in mind was the political constraints. US public and congressional opinion is slowly coming to realise that it is not sensible to look at the Palestine problem exclusively through the eyes of the Israeli prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu. But recognition of Palestine by President Obama now would come as a shock, and shocks are usually to be avoided in international relations. British public and parliamentary opinion is more balanced and we are in a position to take a lead.

In my article (27 September), the suggestion that we should recognise the Palestine state was in the context of the problem of the so-called Islamic State (Isis). But the Palestine problem is a separate one, to be considered on its merits. Some regard it as central to our relationship with the Arab world; President Sisi of Egypt, for example, told the UN general assembly last week that it remains a top priority for Egypt. Birnberg refers to one strong reason for recognising Palestine now: the concordat between Fatah and Hamas, which offers the possibility of a government speaking for all Palestine and speaking the language of peace. There is another reason: the appeal by President Abbas of Palestine to the general assembly for a firm timetable now to end the occupation, which has lasted 47 years. Forty-seven years ago we and the world signed up to security council resolution 242, which opens by emphasising “the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war” and goes on to say that the UN charter principles require Israeli withdrawal. In the words of the psalmist, “How long, O Lord?”
Oliver Miles

• Mr Birnberg’s demand for a Palestinian state is surprising because the Palestinians do not need to seek the UN’s or the world’s support for such a state. They can have a state tomorrow. All they need to do is to declare genuine peace with Israel and they will have independence and a state. But this they are unwilling to do. Indeed, they were offered a state  n 1937 (Peel commission “two-states” solution) and in 1947 (UN partition plan) and in 1967 (when Israel captured the territories – after a third war for survival and, incidentally, long before there was an occupation or settlements – and offered to return them in exchange for peace) and in 2000 at Camp David, but they always rejected the offers. Why? Because the Palestinians are not seeking a state alongside Israel but one in place of Israel. If the price of statehood is peace with Israel, they will not accept it. All the conflagrations and wars in the region must be understood in this context. The Palestinians’ latest tactic is to seek sympathy and support for a state, while reserving for themselves the right to belligerence and aggression against the tiny Jewish state. It is an unacceptable stance which, I suspect, has not been fully understood by many. The Palestinians have a right to a state and independence (as Israel gladly acknowledges), but only provided they are willing to live in genuine peace with their neighbour.
Joshua Rowe

Protest against Exhibit B at the Barbican Protest that led to the Barbican’s cancellation of Exhibit B. Photograph: Thabo Jaiyesimi/Corbis

There is a link worth noticing between Tim Bell’s reaction to Hilary Mantel’s story The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher (My critics can’t run away from history, says Mantel, 23 September) and the Barbican’s cancellation of the exhibition Exhibit B (Show with black actors in chains is shut down, 24 September).

An art work, literary or visual, is an act of the imagination aiming to stimulate an imaginative response in the reader or viewer. Here, however, a short story is treated as a real incitement to murder (that the supposed victim is already dead is irrelevant), and an exhibition is treated as though it simply replicated historical events. It is the same mistake in each case.

As a psychoanalyst I try to help people distinguish between the play of their imagination and the constraints of objective reality. This frees their imaginative capacities, and lets them relate better to the world around them. But you don’t have to be an analyst to see that the reaction in these two cases shows the same failure to distinguish between historical facts on the one hand, and an imaginative response to them on the other. This is a kind of concrete thinking that leads dangerously towards censorship and social control.
Michael Parsons

Ukip placard backing Mark Reckless Ukip placard produced the day after Tory MP Mark Reckless announced his defection to the party. Photograph: Matthew Lloyd/Getty Images

I have always voted and still remember the pride I felt when I did so for the first time so many years ago now. My dad was a factory worker and my mum a cleaner, and they voted Labour; so I voted Labour – and I did so in every national and local election until 2010, when Gordon Brown lost my vote. In the past I’ve been a member of the party and active for a brief period in my local ward. Now, however, and after much reflection, I don’t feel Labour represents me any longer and I won’t be voting for them again for the foreseeable future. I believe that the metropolitan types who now run Labour hold white working-class people like me in contempt – and that feeling is now returned with interest. However Mark Reckless is regarded by his party since his defection to Ukip (Rochester dispatch, 30 September), he has been a good local MP. If I can’t bring myself to vote Labour any more – and hell would freeze over before I’d vote Tory – I’m going to lend Ukip my vote in the forthcoming Rochester & Strood byelection and I hope they win.
Ralph Jones
Rochester, Kent

• Vote Ukip, get Labour; vote for the Tories and get hypocrites. The alternative vote system would have allowed right-of-centre voters to put Conservative and Ukip as their first and second choices (or second and first) without giving Labour a look-in. Yet the same Tory ministers who insisted it wasn’t worth changing an inadequate system to prevent vote splitting are now saying that to achieve the same effect we should vote for a party we are dissatisfied with. Drastic action would indeed be needed to secure a Tory majority in 2015. The only plausible objection to AV was the increased risk of a hung parliament. But with the prospect of a second consecutive hung parliament under the existing system, how much weight can we place on that? Unless the Lib Dems and Labour are looking to outdo the Conservatives in the hypocrisy stakes and reveal that their interest in reform was simply for short-term party advantage, they should join the Tories in putting a revised form of AV through parliament in time for the next general election.
John Riseley
Harrogate, North Yorkshire

Member of Parliament Michael Meacher del Michael Meacher, above, has spelled out what is wrong with the UK economy. ‘But why couldn’t Ed Miliband have said it?’ Photograph: Edmond Terakopian/Getty Images

Michael Meacher’s letter (30 September) spells out what is wrong with our economic policies and why they cannot work. Why are politicians of all parties resistant to facts preferring their belief in the false neoliberal doctrines? Back in 2010, Professor Victoria Chick and Ann Pettifor demonstrated from a century of economic data that “cutting spending increases rather than cuts the level of public debt as a share of GDP. As public expenditure increases, public debt falls and vice-versa”. A nation is not a household, as Mrs Thatcher believed. The information is still available in The Economic Consequences of Mr Osborne, on the Policy Research in Macroeconomics website. I recommend it to our policymakers.
Michael McLoughlin
Wallington, Surrey

• Michael Meacher was correct in pointing out that during a recession tax revenues fall, thus increasing the deficit. It does not end there. In 1966, as a first-year student, I was taught by Maurice Peston (Robert’s dad) two of the basic tenets of Keynesian economics: that during a recession governments should spend more in order to increase aggregate demand; and that this is reinforced by increasing the incomes of the less well-off because they spend a bigger proportion than the better-off of what they earn. George Osborne should think twice before claiming ”As every first-year knows …”
Professor Graham Hall
Penarth, Glamorgan

• When the owners of capital extract an increasing rate of profit from wages and salaries because of weak unions or lax income regulations, who then will buy back all the output? How long will it take economists to realise that this situation is a normal process of the unregulated market economy?
Jack Mitchell

• Thank you, Michael Meacher – but why couldn’t Ed Miliband have said it?
Rod White
Uley, Gloucestershire


Michael McCarthy (Nature Studies, 30 September) perpetuates the notion that population growth is uncontrollable and threatens the future of the planet.

There is little point in telling poor families in sub-Saharan Africa or Latin America to limit their family size. Children are an economic investment, potential workers in the agricultural sector. They are also an insurance: they will care for their parents when they get older. When so many die before their fifth birthday, the pressure to have large families is imperative.

In the developed world, the enormous population growth during the 19th century, after the Industrial Revolution, was slowed only at the end of the century by better public health, higher living standards in urban areas and increasing literacy and education. Families became aware that fewer of their children would die and the growing cost of bringing up each child was also a disincentive to large family size.

One of the solutions therefore to the problem of the world’s population growth is the economic and educational development of what has become known as the Third World, not the censorious stances adopted by those who have achieved population stability and a measure of wealth and comfort to which so many in poverty throughout the globe increasingly aspire.

Derek Watts



Michael McCarthy is right: population growth is indeed the truth that dare not speak its name. But read the papers, listen to radio and TV: what do we hear repeated constantly every day, as we groan inwardly, even by Michael’s colleagues in The Independent?

Those running the show are constantly arguing for growth. We are told we must do our utmost to squander finite resources to obtain ever more useless things which we don’t really need. If the population didn’t grow, we could not continue to do this and the system would break down. It relies upon producing ever more houses, ever more cars, ever more roads for an increasing population.

This is why, in conjunction with the growth mantra, we periodically hear cries of panic that births to a population of 64 million crammed into a tiny island are not at replacement rate.

The solution lies not in controlling the population, which is something which we see occurs naturally anyway in First-Wworld societies, but in scrapping growth economics. It has had its day.

There was never a more urgent need for equilibrium economics, finding ways to use less, not more. People can live a contented and fulfilling life without worshipping possessions, wealth and celebrity. The real enemy is growth, not population.

Terence Hollingworth

Blagnac, France


Tories launch an austerity election

Rather than squeezing the poor until the pips squeak, there is a much easier, fairer and more efficient way to plug the £25bn hole in Britain’s finances: eliminate the need for working tax credits by raising the minimum wage to a sensible living wage.

According to the latest figures this alone would save the Treasury £30bn, and place the burden for closing the deficit gap on the shoulders of those who can and should bear it – the businesses who currently employ people at wages so low that the Government is forced to top them up.

Tax credits are nothing more, nothing less, than a subsidy for business paid for by the taxpayer, and if the sponsors of the Conservative Party won’t let them abolish this iniquitous form of wealth redistribution, the Lib Dems or Labour should jump on the opportunity.

The elimination of tax credits would have a further benefit to the Treasury in the form of increased receipts from income tax. What’s not to like?

Simon Prentis


The Conservative Party’s decision to introduce a £23,000-a-year household benefit cap after the 2015 election would seem to reiterate a one-size-fits-all approach when what is required is one that is more nuanced, tailored to geographical location and individual circumstances.

Incentivising back to work those who have made living on benefits a lifestyle choice is laudable, but this policy ignores sections of society such as those suffering with long-term sickness, unable to work, much as they might want to. After one benefit cap and the bedroom tax, why should these people and their families be further penalised?

Richard Steel

Shipston-on-Stour, Warwickshire


The Chancellor wants those with £1m pension pots, already lucky recipients of tax relief, to be able to pass them to lucky others free of tax. Can one respect such a Chancellor who at the same time intends to reduce in real terms the benefits of those who, through no fault of their own, have to rely on those benefits to live?

Those on benefits are often hard-working and in need of the benefits to make up their wages – or unemployed or disabled in need of benefits just to get by. I doubt if “need” applies to many of those recipients of the tax-free pension pots. I wonder what that shows about the Government’s grasp of fairness and fellow-feeling.

Peter Cave

London W1

Ukip and certainly more defections by MPs; the imminent split of the political right in the UK; ever more severe austerity measures affecting the poor disproportionately; a panicked Prime Minister scurrying to Scotland; and an electorate disenchanted with an outdated political system. Is the Conservative Party actively planning its defeat in May next year?

Michael Johnson



George Osborne plans to cut benefit for five million low-paid working households but leave the rich untouched. He has launched Two-Nation Conservatism.

Chris Rose

Wells, Norfolk


Not enough time to mark exams properly

As an A-level examiner, and sometime principal examiner, of over 25 years, I would like to make a couple of observations about the inadequacies apparent among current practitioners (Richard Garner, 29 September).

The most important is the constricted time examiners have to do their job. Recently, exam boards have managed to extend the examining period by a day or two, but this has to be balanced against the demands of the school environment in which most examiners work.

When I started, the Inner London Education Authority allowed for something called “examiners’ leave”, but nowadays even the winding-down period towards the end of the summer term in which most examiners worked has all but gone.

This might not sound too important but, even with my experience, I can only manage to mark three to four scripts an hour, and that means, in order to keep to very strict deadlines, marking for five hours a day at least. Fortunately, I have for many years been in a position to make time for this but I do wonder how most teachers can manage, on top of a typical school workload, without normal human fatigue affecting their judgement – or without their having to speed-read candidates’ work that requires sentence-by-sentence attention.

These problems have been compounded by online marking and, even more, by online moderation. These are supposed to save time and cost, but, with increasingly complex marking schemes, seem to leave many examiners feeling less secure about their marking, despite the support of a new professional institute.

It is also concerning that there does seem to be some turnover among new examiners. They find that combining their day job with marking puts them under pressure, and many do not persist long enough to acquire the experience sufficient to be “adequate”.

I would ask for anonymity as my exam board every year sends out emails warning ominously against contacting the press.

Name and address supplied


New low in Australian refugee policy

Not only “inappropriate, immoral and likely illegal” but also indefensible. (“Australia offers new home to its would-be migrants in Cambodia”, 27 September). As an Australian privileged to travel the world freely, I felt compelled to respond to the new low in Australian refugee policy detailed in the article by Kathy Marks. I would hate to leave the UK without your readers knowing there are many Australians profoundly disturbed by the trend of the Australian government to deny the human rights of those seeking asylum in our country.

Sharon Laura

Newtown, NSW, Australia

Adding to the English mix

Edward Thomas (letter, 30 September), as an Englander, you are the product of a melting pot of other people’s cultures. If you were a true Englander you would welcome new flavours and give the pot a really good stir. Anything else just isn’t cricket.

David Rose

Sutton Coldfield, West Midlands


Sir, I believe that the current crisis over the lack of availability of GP appointments is easily remedied: pay GPs a proportion of their income on a per-consultation basis, at least at weekends “Cameron tells GPs to work at weekends”, Sept 30). The more work undertaken, the greater the practice income. Should remuneration be adequate, demand and supply may match, just like any other business.

This is how Australia makes it work. Efficient and productive GPs earn more, and many British GPs and specialists are emigrating for precisely this reason. We, meanwhile, plug the gaps with doctors trained in second and third-world countries, who would be in Australia if they met the entry requirements. Britain’s problem is compounded as there may be a reluctance for GPs to work much harder or longer because at above £100,000 a year our tax rates are punitive; and with the ever-rising costs of medical indemnity it is not worth undertaking what is effectively overtime for perhaps £15 per hour net. Most of us would rather have the time off. Show me the money and I’ll work anytime, anyplace, anywhere.
Dr Alexander Barber
Camberley, Surrey

Sir, The Conservatives’ plan is intended to enable patients to find it easier to see a GP. Doctors, however, will instead interpret it to mean an occasional longer day on a rota basis, offering the same number of appointments as now. Patients will be no better off, and may just find themselves as frustrated as they do today. What is needed is a contractual appointment rate — perhaps the number of standardised (ten-minute) GP appointments per 1,000 registered patients per week, together with publication of each individual surgery’s performance.
Dr Stephen Humphreys
Welwyn, Herts

Sir, The funding for seven-days-a-week GPs will be paid from existing budgets. At my surgery we have started to politely refuse requests to take on new unfunded projects such as this initiative. We are ensuring that we do not burn out and can continue to cope with the ever-increasing workload. It would be much better for David Cameron to sort out the duplication of out-of-hours care, the 111 phone number, and minor injuries units to create a streamlined weekend service.
Dr Stephen Brown
Beaconsfield, Bucks

Sir, Mr Cameron’s proposal would require more than a doubling of GPs’ workload. It implies an increase in annual GP salary costs of £3 billion a year — excluding additional support staff costs. I believe that many doctors will simply press the early retirement button. Is it really necessary to be able to take someone’s blood pressure on a Sunday?
Martin Hamer
Burbage, Wilts

Sir, Yet again GPs are being used as a political football. One issue to be considered is the incompatibility of increased opening and the viability of small practices. Are patients prepared to see the end of their “local” practice as the price for increased GP access? As a recently retired rural GP, I believe that most patients here would find larger (but more distant) providers of GP services too high a price to pay.
Dr John Harris-Hall
Knapton, Norfolk

Sir, I should imagine that those GPs working evening shifts will be the single, older and childless. Some GPs have families too, and might not be keen to sacrifice seeing their own family in order to facilitate others seeing theirs.
Dr Larry Amure
Over, Cambs

Sir, The proposal to provide 24-hour care by GPs is not new. My contract 20 years ago demanded that I provide care for my patients 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Time off was organised with colleagues to cover each others’ practices. In my case I was on call one in four nights and one in every four weekends. One never felt overworked unless there might be an epidemic. I even had time to play golf and with loci assistance take holidays. However I do not know how Mr Cameron’s plans will
work given the great shortage of doctors. Will he ask we retired GPs back?
Dr Michael Bott
Kirkella, E Riding

Sir, Making money from foreigners has its place (“Fees will soar as schools spend more to attract foreign pupils”, Sept 30). However, Richard Harman’s dismissal of affordability as “a political and economic problem” is a disgrace. What is the purpose of our schools — with their charity status — if not to educate the youth of our country, even at the expense of fewer shinynew gymnasiums and sports centres? If these schools feel any responsibility to their country, they should revert to their proper mission of training our future leaders, not those of our competitors.
Sir Brian Crowe
London SW1

Sir, You report that headmasters at the HMC conference in Gwent
have said that fee rises will continue to outpace inflation. Do the headmistresses agree or were they too busy serving tea to be able to take part in discussions?
Alex Munro
Eastleigh, Hants

Sir, Your report “Privilege is toxic, private head teachers told”, Sept 30) quotes Baroness Morgan of Huyton as saying that private schools “have to be seen as part of the wider educational community” to avoid being viewed as complicit in the exclusion of the poor and now the middle class. It’s simple: how about just being part of the wider educational community? Doing, not just striving to be seen doing.
Deborah Rubli
Chichester, W Sussex

Sir, I was surprised to read the assertion by Alistair Carmichael MP (“Arctic explorer is finally forgiven for telling truth”, Sept 27) that John Rae was the “only Victorian explorer not to have been knighted”. If ever anyone deserved that honour, but who also never received it, it was Haversham Godwin-Austen (1834-1923). He not only first fixed the position and height of K2, but made many first ascents and held the world high-altitude summiting record (6,250m) for some years.
Catherine Moorehead
Guildford, Surrey

Sir, Paddy Ashdown’s piece (“We must embrace Putin to beat the Islamic State”, Sept 30) has prompted me to write. Some years ago President Putin invited Western politicians to support him in trying to stem the flood of, as Mr Cameron has called them, “murderous psychopaths hiding under the skirts of Islam” from sweeping across Europe. Our politicians rebuffed him. We are now reaping the result of that arrogance.
John C Dorrell

Sir, I have no difficulty with George Osborne’s welfare caps (“Working poor face more pain”, Sept 30): it is time that welfare was restored to its original principles of being a safety net in times of trouble and not a universal entitlement. However, Mr Osborne should have announced in the same speech an intention to remove from people like me benefits such as winter fuel, free travel and free TV licences. Suggesting that we donate these payments to charity is wrong: we do not collect and redistribute taxation in order to redirect it to charities, no matter how worthy the causes.
David Peddy
London W9

Sir, Susan Hill (Thunderer, Sept 27) repeats the canard about the Brontës using aliases “in order to be published”. Charlotte Brontë — in her foreword to her sister’s novel Wuthering Heights — explains that she and her sisters were trying to avoid the prejudicial comments of critics. Publishers had for many years been happy to publish female writers under their own names, for example, Jane Austen, Ann Radcliffe and Maria Edgeworth.
Andrew Dickens
Bexhill-on-Sea, E Sussex


David Cameron is driven from the house of Commons following the vote on air strikes Photo: Justin Tallis/AFP

6:57AM BST 30 Sep 2014


SIR – It is a cliché that, every now and again, Parliament is said to have been “at its best”. If the quality of many of last Friday’s speeches, and the general mood of the House, are the criteria, then Parliament was indeed at its best.

But it was also a very sad occasion. Under discussion was a huge area of the Middle East where borders have largely disappeared and where tens of millions of people are jostling for influence and survival.

The sense of powerlessness in the face of such chaos was palpable in the Chamber. And yet it was the common will to drop a few bombs and launch a few missiles.

It was indeed a pathetic spasm of a once great imperial power now in its final death throes.

Professor Sir Bryan Thwaites
Fishbourne, Isle of Wight

SIR – T E Lawrence (of Arabia), upon his return to England, advised the British to leave the Arabs to their own dark and bloody future. Wise words then, as they remain today.

J A Whitmore

SIR – The brutal strategy adopted by Isil has rightly been characterised as evil and barbaric.

An inevitable consequence of the bombing campaign in response is that innocent civilians will be killed, possibly in large numbers. Many people in the Arab world are likely to regard this also as evil and barbaric.

Robert Ryder
Colwinston, Glamorgan

SIR – Isil is chiefly a threat to its Arab neighbours and as the West’s involvement in the area seems to lead to the spreading of the terrorist threat and not its reduction, why does the West not leave the Arab states to fight it?

It makes no sense to bomb Iraq when the Isil centre of operations is Syria, so there is certain to be UK mission creep. Saudi Arabia has 700 war planes, so why doesn’t it take on the role of bombing Isil and put its own boots on the ground?

Valerie Crews
Beckenham, Kent

Anglo-Scots walk

SIR – This morning my wife and I will walk in tandem to the High Street. We shall walk “at the same pace”, but since she is only going as far as the post office and I need to visit the bank, she will reach her destination before me – the post office being closer to our home than the bank.

Journeying in tandem and at the same pace to different destinations does not mean that both journeys will necessarily be completed in the same time.

Peter Sykes
Bramhall, Cheshire

Queue or scrum

SIR – The ability to queue peacefully in Guernsey (Letters, September 29) shows how different life must be there from that in London.

Bernard Kerrison
London SW4

The perfect curtsy

SIR – It is easy to execute the perfect curtsy (Letters, September 29), following three simple rules.

Don’t lean forward, don’t stick your bottom out and position the feet “left behind right, tucked out of sight”.

Always works, regardless of skirt length.

Sandra Hawke
Andover, Hampshire

The pyjama game

SIR – What surprised me, upon reading that Brooks Newmark, the former minister for civil society, sent someone from a tabloid newspaper pretending to be a woman a picture exposing himself while wearing a pair of paisley pyjamas, was that there existed a minister for civil society.

Tim Coles
Carlton, Bedfordshire

SIR – Mr Newmark was a twit on Twitter. The tabloid that contrived this trap is beneath contempt. This whole mucky affair is a very sad reflection of our society.

Malcolm Allen
Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire

SIR – In 52 years of marriage I have not strayed. My wife, an ex-county level lacrosse player, still has her wooden stick and threatens to use it should I twitch.

Kevin Crawley
Kemsing, Kent

Life savers

SIR – Jill Channing (Letters, September 29) is correct. Twenty years ago, when I collapsed in a London street due to cardiac arrest, the paramedics who responded spent half an hour working on the pavement to secure a heart rhythm before rushing me to a casualty facility. That is why I’m still here.

Mark Wendruff
Stanmore, Middlesex

Tidying wreaths away

SIR – Victor Launert (Letters, September 29) asks whether there should be a period after which Remembrance wreaths are removed. I would say: immediately before Advent.

H S Blagg
Car Colston, Nottinghamshire

Why a tie?

SIR – Why must Evan Davis wear a tie on Newsnight (Letters, September 27)?

Dr Michael Barrie
Kingston upon Thames, Surrey

What he always wanted

SIR – I recently heard some expert refer to a “set of behaviours”. Can anyone tell me where I might purchase one as an anniversary gift for my husband?

Mary Ross
Warrington, Cheshire

A tale of magnanimity to defeated Germans

SIR – Peter le Feuvre (Letters, September 25) shares the bewilderment of Neil MacGregor, the director of the British Museum, at hostility to Germans among the British. Some Britons did respond with magnanimity to the plight of German civilians after the Second World War.

In 1946 Maj Gen Jack Collins was stationed in Düsseldorf with the Royal Berkshire Regiment. He saw the starving people there and appealed to mayors of Berkshire towns. Phoebe Cusden, a 60-year-old Quaker, was Mayor of Reading. She made a public appeal. By March 1947, half a ton of food, 150 individual parcels and 12 sacks of clothing were collected.

A Reading Düsseldorf Association was formed and six German children visited Reading. Later on, Reading children visited Düsseldorf. Musicians and sports teams followed, as did more food and clothing.

Phoebe Cusden was awarded a medal by Düsseldorf in 1977 in thanks for her response to its people in their desperation.

Ian R Lowry
Reading, Berkshire

‘The conscious present is an awareness of the past’: Eliot painted by Gerald Kelly, 1962 (

SIR – In his article about Anthony Burgess (Review, September 27), Irvine Welsh writes: “Generally speaking the embracement of a reductive conservative political philosophy seldom heralds an era of flowering for an artist.”

Do the Lefties never notice that it was the conservatives who did the really original work in the English literature of the 20th century? They don’t come much more conservative than Ezra Pound, and his slogan was “Make it new.”

There is a good reason for conservatives actually being the avant garde. For conservatives are traditionalists, and it is only those who understand tradition who can develop the tradition.

Has Irvine Welsh not read T S Eliot’s “Tradition and the individual talent”, an essay which discusses precisely this truth?

Rev Dr Peter Mullen
Eastbourne, East Sussex

David Cameron has insisted that only a Tory government could deliver an EU referendum Photo: REX FEATURES

7:00AM BST 30 Sep 2014


SIR – Is it the position of the Conservative Party that membership of the European Union on the present terms is incompatible with Britain’s interests, and that therefore it has promised a referendum to see if acceptable terms can be obtained?

Or is it that the present terms are indeed acceptable, but that a referendum has been conceded to see if even better terms could be obtained?

The distinction is crucial, because if it is the second, it would explain why former members of the Conservative Party who have joined Ukip see no point in rejoining the party, even though a referendum has been promised. After all, what confidence could they have in the ability of a future Conservative government to achieve meaningful reform if the status quo is acceptable in any event?

Patrick Nicholls
Hemyock, Devon

SIR – David Cameron suggests he will campaign for Britain to leave the EU unless he can secure power to limit immigration from within the EU.

He must know that the free movement of peoples within the EU is one of its core principles, going all the way back to the creation of the European Community. It is one of the four freedoms (of movement of goods, services, capital and people) that underpin the single market. Without that there is no European Union.

Mr Cameron must know that this principle is non-negotiable. So why the pretence? He should start campaigning to leave now.

Paul Hainsworth
Esher, Surrey

SIR – Grant Shapps’s intemperate address to the Conservative Party conference displayed poor judgment. Mark Reckless and Douglas Carswell are accused of betraying the Conservative Party hierarchy, when many alienated Conservative supporters fear that the party hierarchy has betrayed its principles. Mr Shapps missed an opportunity to reassure them.

William Kelley
St John’s College, Oxford

SIR – Mr Cameron appears to have a short memory. Having been elected an MEP for Ukip in 2008, David Campbell Bannerman defected to the Conservative Party in 2011.

He, like Mark Reckless, was elected on the back of supporters “who stuffed envelopes, who walked streets, who knocked on doors, who worked their guts out”. The difference is that, despite being elected on a party ticket, Mr Campbell Bannerman chose not to do the honourable thing and resign his seat.

Christopher Pratt
Earl Soham, Suffolk

SIR – We are told by Mr Cameron that he is going to do this, that and another. Would it be impertinent to ask: when?

John A Jones

Irish Times:

A chara, – Hours before Irish Water begins charging for our use of water, and harvesting PPS numbers from people in what looks a shabby operation, I read that “Minister hires Irish Water director as his personal driver” (Front Page, September 30th).

Political reform, promised and promised again, is a joke. – Is mise,



Dublin 6.

Sir, – Fintan O’Toole (“Does appointment of McNulty to board of Imma meet seven principles of public office?”, Opinion & Analysis, September 30th) has very ably deconstructed the McNulty senatorial saga and I am glad that he has made reference to the seven principles of public life set out by the UK Committee on Standards in Public Life.

Interestingly, these seven principles are enshrined in article 1.5 of the ministerial code of the Northern Ireland Executive. This means that in six counties of the island of Ireland at least, one can expect Ministers to act in accordance with standards in public life that most of us would see as the very minimum we can expect from our public servants.

The Taoiseach has “taken responsibility for this having evolved to what people might imagine it is”. This ridiculous and self-serving non-apology is an insult to Irish voters. I do not doubt John McNulty’s integrity, but the manner of his appointment to the Imma board was simply disgraceful as a matter of fact and not as a matter of my “imagining”.

It is interesting now that Irish people living in the six counties, in which power was so abused in recent memory, can expect from their public officials, as a matter of law, a greater standard of accountability and ethical standards than their compatriots living across the Border. – Yours, etc,



Sir, – The use of prefabs to respond to Dublin’s housing crisis (“Containing homeless crisis”, Editorial, September 29th) is a damning indictment of successive ministers who faithfully promised to end homelessness within the next two years.

While your editorial acknowledges the use of prefabs is “far from ideal”, it then goes on to defend it as the best of the bad options available.

Whether in schools, hospitals or housing asylum seekers, the prefab far too easily moves from a stop-gap measure to becoming a permanent grim reality, which falls far short of the “long-term, stable housing” promised by the Government last year.

Dublin City Council needs to set out clearly the maximum stay for any family or individual being asked to move into a prefab, and to guarantee that the commitment to provide the much-promised “stable housing” by 2016 will be met.

Your editorial is correct in highlighting the importance of the forthcoming housing strategy as well as Budget 2015. Both are opportunities for real political leadership to deliver policies which are people-focused and not just further book-balancing exercises imposing even more hardship.

At Focus Ireland, we remain in the frontline of this crisis, with 40 more families becoming homeless during the past month.

We want the Government to revisit our request to invest €500 million to help deliver 3,000 homes that would also create up to 3,200 much-needed jobs.

I would encourage Ministers to act now – and make sure no-one is left marking 100-years since the Rising with only a prefab to call home. – Yours, etc,



Life President,

Focus Ireland,

High Street,

Dublin 8.

Sir, – I have a nasty feeling that if we put into practice all the advice being given for water conservation then we won’t use enough for Irish Water to receive sufficient money to run the service. Then either the price per litre will rise , or the allowance will be cut. Remember the introduction of extra electricity charges for “low usage”? – Yours, etc,





Sir, – In relation to water charges, the regulator has stated that during the transition period homes without a water meter will pay an annual rate of €176 for a single occupant household or €278 for a couple.

Unless you count filling a swimming pool, there are very few water requirements where economies of scale are gained in water consumption by more than one person. We all have one body to drink, wash and flush waste for. Are two people expected to consume less than one?

Some single households will never receive water meters due to site layout. Are they to continue paying a single supplement on water consumption for life?

Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin has said the system for charging for water is fair and equitable. Nine-month capping arrangements are a small concession. Access to water is a human right for all, householder or not.

Give every person an individual water allowance and scrap the household allowance. – Yours, etc,



Co Dublin.

Sir, – I received an invitation to enter into a contract with Irish Water yesterday and noticed that it was addressed to me using my military rank. The only correspondence I ever receive using this rank is from the Revenue Commissioners. Your readers will be able to work the rest out for themselves. – Yours, etc,



Dublin 14.

Sir, – The observations of returning migrants are often tiresome, however a recent visit to Dublin was my first in the company of an infant and contrasted with our adopted home of New York. First, while those travelling with small children on the No 1 subway train via the Bronx and Harlem can expect seats to be offered to them by commuters of all genders and ages at any time of day or night, such courtesies are less forthcoming when taking the No 7 bus or the Dart through the more leafy and genteel neighbourhoods of Dublin 4.

Second, upon arriving at one’s destination little special consideration is needed when selecting a cafe, bar or restaurant in New York if an infant is a member of one’s party. Almost every establishment will gladly park a stroller and provide a simple high chair at the table. In Dublin, however, multiple inquiries are needed before one can find a location that will facilitate such a request, and one that does so with a smile is even rarer.

Finally, in contrast, a word of thanks to the staff at Croke Park who more than matched their counterparts at Yankee Stadium.The days of a nod and wink and children from six months to 16 years climbing the turnstile are gone but we were glad of the assistance provided in getting one little Gael from the ground to the top of the Cusack Stand. His own county of New York may have lost but he joined in his mother’s celebrations of the Rebelettes’ amazing comeback. – Yours, etc,



New York.

Sir, – I greatly enjoyed Aoife McLysaght’s rightful championing of Mary Claire King’s search for the holy grail in breast cancer genetics with her seminal work on the location of the first breast cancer susceptibility gene BRCA1 (“Here’s to the geneticist who helped map the first breast cancer gene”, September 25th). Breast cancer genetics also has a strong Irish connection, with the subsequent location of a second breast cancer gene (BRCA2) due in no small part to the work of Prof Peter Daly and Dr Ross McManus at St James’s Hospital. A key component of this work was a large extended Irish family with inherited breast cancer and their willingness to participate in this pioneering research.

This generosity of spirit of patients to allow their samples and associated clinical information to be used in research highlights their unsung role as key partners in research efforts to understand diseases such as cancer and design new treatments. In many cases, the participation of patients in these research studies will not have any direct impact on their own disease but will contribute to the development of new diagnostics or therapies for future generations, once more emphasising their altruistic gift which is vital to our continuing research effort. On behalf of the research community, I salute these unsung heroes. – Yours, etc,


Kilmainham, Dublin 8.

Sir, – With reference to the letter from Clive Williams (September 30th), he begins by saying, “If Ireland is to become a smoke-free society”.

The answer to that is, of course, that the electorate never voted for this and it is something that is highly unlikely to happen also as long as adults freely choose to light up.

Mr Williams bemoans the sight of smokers standing outside their places of employment and is implying that a ban on this would stop them from doing it. But those people do not wish to be there and they never voted for the law that forced them into the street in the first place.

There is neither medical nor scientific justification for any ban on smoking outdoors. Instead, these calls come from smug moral high-grounders who would like to impose their version of morality on all of us.

Mind you, in these austere days as the taxes pile up, isn’t it nice to see that there is somebody with nothing else to worry about than the sight of people relaxing outdoors. – Yours, etc,



A chara, – In response to Desmond FitzGerald’s letter on the 1916 Rising (September 29th), I think a couple of points are worth mentioning.

The Ulster Volunteers were highly armed and motivated. Although we will never know what might have happened had home rule been implemented, it was likely some bloodshed would have occurred. It was evident that at many levels there was resistance to the idea of Irish home rule. The “Curragh Incident”, for example, demonstrated that, if so ordered, the British army in Ireland would not “enforce” home rule against Ulster.

It is perhaps wishful thinking too to presume that the Irish Home Rule Bill would be enacted as promised. Throughout the British Empire, colonies had been made promises of self-government only to see these promises later evaporate and Ireland was no exception. Britain in general did not let her colonies go without a fight.

A strain of Ulster unionism has always been implacably opposed to any sort of political arrangement that involves Dublin. The Sunningdale Agreement in 1974 primarily collapsed due to opposition from Ulster unionists and many were opposed to the subsequent Anglo-Irish Agreement.

Indeed a section of unionism is opposed to the current power-sharing agreement.

The ultimate resulting Catholic-centric nature of the emerging Irish State has as much to do with the players that refused to get involved in as those who did. The problem Ulster Unionists faced and still face is that they would become a minority in a united Ireland, a future that perhaps one day needs to be addressed by all of us on this island.

A case could be made that had home rule been implemented in Ireland, conscription for the British army might well have followed, resulting in thousands upon thousands more Irishmen needlessly dying on the battlefields in France.

When Irish men and women did rise up in 1916, the rebellion was crushed and the leaders executed after being dealt with in kangaroo courts. It is plausible to suggest the treatment meted out to the rebels so angered Irish people that this led directly to the War of Independence.

I think it is grossly unfair to blame the subsequent economic problems of the Irish State upon Irish men and women who heroically and tragically laid down their lives for an Irish Republic that they believed in. The fact that it was subsequently economically mismanaged is not their fault; it is down to our own inept generation of bankers, senior civil servants and politicians. – Is mise,


Sandyford, Dublin 18.

Sir, – Rev Dr D Vincent Twomey’s assertion (September 29th) that Einstein “believed in one way or another in a reality beyond the natural world that empirical science explores” is at once hazy and dubious. It cannot be reasonably argued that Einstein was any kind of theist, if this is what Dr Twomey is rather cryptically implying. If anything, he was a deist (one who believes in a god who does not act to influence events, and whose existence has no connection with religions, religious buildings, or religious books, etc). This is clear from many statements made by him. For example: “I do not believe in a personal god and I have never denied this but have expressed it clearly”; and “I believe in Spinoza’s god who reveals himself in the orderly harmony of what exists, not in a god who concerns himself with fates and actions of human beings”.

As for Dr Twomey’s reference to “the new atheist church in Ireland”, this amounts to a particularly egregious case of religiomorphism – the attribution of characteristics of religion to a decidedly non-religious position. Atheists do not believe in supernatural deities. They do not pray. They do not have holy books, holy doctrines, sacred idols, popes or imams, creeds, codes of conduct, rituals, nor do they abide by a parallel legal system.

Not only does it not walk like a duck or quack like a duck, it doesn’t even have feathers. – Yours, etc,



Dublin 16.

Sir, – I am sure a professor emeritus of theology would accept that the onus of providing evidence for the existence of something other than the empirical realm rests with those who claim that such things exist. I have no doubt that if such evidence were to emerge, the “rationalists of the modern scientific mentality” would sit up and take notice.

In the meantime, those who chose to believe in such entities must rely on faith. – Yours, etc,



Co Galway.

A chara, – We need to be very clear that the Children and Family Relationships Bill is a massive step for children’s rights and protection, contrary to Breda O’Brien’s assertions (“Revised children and family proposals fail to tackle tangled web of family life”, Opinion & Analysis, September 27th).

This is a long-needed attempt to modernise family law and reflect the rich diversity of family relationships that exist in Ireland today. Far from ensnaring children, this legislation, if appropriately enacted and resourced, will provide legal certainty to many children living in foster families, step-parent families, same-sex families and all those who live with members of their extended families. The legislation pays careful attention to the lived reality of children’s lives and attempts to provide for legal relationships hitherto ignored which placed children in precarious and uncertain situations.

One Family welcomes this Bill and we encourage all those who wish to provide for the equal protection of all children and the families they live in to support it. – Is mise,


One Family,

Lower Pembroke Street,

Dublin 2.

Sir, – The pension levy, brought in as an emergency measure, then extended and increased, is nothing less than robbery from the funds intended to ensure the continuity of guaranteed payments to those on defined benefit pensions. I have written to the Minister for Finance, who happens to be my constituency TD, and the Minister for Social Protection on this matter, without response. I happen to be a pensioner of a former state company whose fund is in severe deficit and whose members now face a substantial cut due on January 1st next.

Despite this, the “negative” fund is being levied most unfairly and unjustly. I continue to pay taxes to fund the pensions of state employees which, although recently cut, continue to benefit from increases due to the increments which accrue to them. My pension has had no increase since 2007 and now faces this drastic cut. The manifest unfairness of this is obvious. Whatever happened to the “grey power” marches which occurred over the medical card issue? Success at that time was achieved through political pressure. There is no obvious attempt at this time to show the outrage of pensioners over this robbery of private pension funds. It is time to make a stand before the budget! – Yours, etc,



Irish Independent:

Let us hope that the Vatican will overturn the ban on women priests – and sooner rather than later. I hope the forthcoming synod of bishops will consider the church as a family, and recognize that our patriarchal family structure is becoming an obstacle to evangelisation as we enter the transition to a post-patriarchal society. Hierarchy is not the problem, and the church must remain apostolic; patriarchy is the problem, and the exclusively male hierarchy is becoming stale as a symbol of the Christ-Church mystery.

In this regard, St John Paul II’s Theology of the Body (TOB) may provide a solid basis for solving the most pressing issues of human sexuality – both in families and in the Church as the family of God – including the ordination of women to the priesthood in the Catholic and Orthodox churches.

The TOB endorses neither radical patriarchy nor radical feminism and provides a vision of marriage – and gender relations in general – that can be summarized as unity in diversity, equality in mutuality, individuality in community.

Doctrinally, nothing essential (dogmatic) would have to change in order to ordain women to the priesthood and the episcopate. The TOB confirms that there is one (embodied) human nature, shows that men and women equally share in human personhood, and makes clear that the human body, male and female, is what makes our Lord Jesus Christ visible as an incarnate divine person.

What is needed is “simply” to clarify our sacramental theology to separate patriarchal ideology from revealed truth. With all due respect and sensitivity for those who are heavily invested in the patriarchal order of things, this is a clarification that is possible and urgently needed in the church of the 21st century.Jesus never identified himself as a patriarch. The Holy Family was a not a patriarchy. The Trinity is not a patriarchy. The spousal, sacramental love of Christ for the church is not intrinsically patriarchal (as the TOB interpretation of Ephesians 5 abundantly shows), and Jesus Christ is head of the church because he is a divine person and our Redeemer, not because he is a human male.

The exclusively-male priesthood is a choice, not a dogma. The church does have the authority (the power of the keys) to ordain women as soon as Peter decides it would be for the glory of God and the good of souls. The patriarchal age is passing, but the deposit of faith is inexhaustible.

Let us pray that all the Christian churches can discern the difference between patriarchal ideology and revealed truth, and act accordingly.

Luis T Gutierrez

Address with editor

All-Ireland winners Kilkenny

“We must treasure and celebrate excellence of this kind since it comes rarely in any lifetime” .

Gerald Morgan’s statement about Kilkenny hurling (Letters, September 29) seems a tad OTT.

Of course, no sane person could not but ‘flabber-their-gast’ at the Cats’ sublime (and one reckons forever unbeatable) record of Cody-wins and Shefflin medals. Their aggressive tenacity and superb skill is undoubted. Any attempt, however, to question aspects of their play is met with the inevitable “simply jealous”‘ riposte.

But – despite their phenomenal record, classy skills and relentless commitment – are their tactics always sporting? Arm-holding, hand-pulling, chopping on the forearm, swift nudges, fouling body-checks, jersey pulls are all ‘outside-the-rules’ aspects which they have perfected – and rarely get nobbled for.

The problem with any such insinuation is that it will be deemed in very bad taste and labelled as ‘sour-grapes’ commentary. It seems all is camouflaged in the welter of success. But is the ‘gamesmanship’ a good exemplar for either community or society?

Given that the GAA is in every community, is it not behoven to absolutely identify and erase such negative influence on young people, so that it can contribute to vibrant competitive betterment?

Thus, the headline of “flawless teams like Kilkenny”, engages the word “flawless” rather recklessly. Perhaps “flawed, but impressive” might be more apt?!

Patrick J Cosgrove

Lismore, Co.Waterford

The Kilkenny captain’s acceptance speech when receiving the Liam McCarthy Cup last Saturday evening was absolutely brilliant.

I think that it was entirely fitting – after two epic battles against a gallant Tipperary team – that Lester Ryan should join that elite band of All-Ireland winning captains who delivered their speeches entirely as gaeilge – Sean Og O hAilpin, Joe Connolly and Dara O Cinneide are others who spring to mind.

The two games were fantastic exhibitions of all that is good and wholesome about hurling. Then, just when it seemed that it couldn’t get any better, the winning captain delivered a truly rousing oration in our native tongue to render 2014 all the more memorable and special.

Eugene Cassidy

Co Cavan

Labour and water charges

Fergus Finlay’s letter (Independent, 30/9) calls for a socially-responsible budget while reminding us that “one in 10 children in Ireland” are living in low-income households and “without access to basic necessities… “

On the day following the publication of Mr Finlay’s letter, the party of which he has been a devoted member will oversee the introduction of charges for a vital “basic necessity” – water. This will see the households in which those same deprived children live have access to water greatly curtailed for want of ability-to-pay.

As such families struggle with the new water tax their disposable incomes will be spread wafer-thin, ensuring that other “necessities” will have to be rationed even further.

The question is, why will Mr Finlay not resign from the party that is so recklessly imposing such additional hardships on those that he well knows are already in dire circumstances?

Jim O’Sullivan

Rathedmond, Co Sligo

Regarding the one true church

On reading your articles concerning matters in the religious arena I have noted you are falling into the bad habit of referring to the Roman Catholic faith as “the church”. “The church” in its original form consisted of those who adhered to the teachings of the Apostles.

The widespread problems of one organisation ruled from Rome is not representative of the true church, despite their claim to do so. It is concerning that your paper appears so often to agree with their position.

Pastor Paul R Carley

Celbridge, Co Kildare

A very localised heatwave

Are the powers-that-be at Bus Eireann bent on cultivating bizarre and unpredictable micro-climates on board their buses?

This summer, at the height of a heatwave, I regularly used their 109 service, and on several occasions was compelled to wear a coat, the air-conditioning having, apparently, run amok.

Today, as the country moved into its cool autumnal season, the summer’s Arctic blast was replaced by a tropic heat.

The vehicle’s radiators had gone rogue, overpowering the hitherto remorseless air-conditioning – the passengers in the upper saloon, many of whom would have spent upwards of two-and-a-half hours being broiled alive, were offered no respite whatsoever.

I don’t wish to further advance a culture of complaint: Bus Eireann has significantly improved its services (at least on the 109 route) in recent years, and deserves a measure of praise.

Owen O’Reilly

Virginia, Co Cavan

Irish Independent


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