11 October 2014 Secom

I jog around the park I still have arthritis in my left knee, but I manage to get round the park. A busy day Coop, Post Office, Newsagent. I ring Secom perhaps we may get a reduction.

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


Paul Sidey – obituary

Paul Sidey was a publisher from a more convivial era whose authors included Ruth Rendell and Angela Carter

Paul Sidey

6:18PM BST 10 Oct 2014


Paul Sidey, who has died aged 71, was for 30 years a successful and popular editor with Hutchinson ; his authors included Ruth Rendell, Charles Handy, Angela Carter, John Lahr and Willie Donaldson, as well as actors such as Richard Attenborough, Anthony Sher and Anna Massey.

Sidey belonged to a convivial era of publishing, a world akin to that of advertising as portrayed in the television series Mad Men. The publishing houses were still independent; editors could spot and nurture individual talent; and sustained friendships were formed between commissioning editors, their authors and agents. From the long boozy lunches and evening launch parties, a great number of good books emerged. Sidey, a dapper, stylish man, was described by Willie Donaldson as looking like an old-time actor or even a retired soloist from the Ballet Rambert.

By the time he retired in 2011, however, publishing had changed. Sidey did not much like the conglomerates, which lacked the buccaneering quality and warmheartedness that had been a feature of his earlier career. He was commended by work colleagues for “reconnecting us to sanity after bouts of excessive bureaucratic pomposity or management-speak”.

Paul Anthony Sidey was born in Lincolnshire on July 21 1943, the son of Anthony Sidey, who served in the RAF and later worked for Barclays Bank before, on retiring, becoming a picture dealer. Paul’s sister, Jane, was for a time the third wife of the film composer John Barry.

After Dulwich College, Paul read English at Selwyn College, Cambridge. He then spent a year at the London Film School before launching Horoscope Films with a friend, as a writer, producer and director. He made one short film (with Al Mancini and Juliet Harmer), a story revolving around a Victorian hero defrosted from a block of ice who found himself fighting an old adversary, the Face, in 1960s London. It was not a success, and Sidey ended up living with his parents in Dulwich Village and trying to subsist on national assistance of four pounds one shilling a week.

In 1970 he secured a £1,200-a-year post as editorial programme controller at Penguin Books, in a laid-back office near Heathrow’s Runway No 1. There Sidey learnt two lessons that he would never forget: keep in with the production department, and never hurry back from lunch. Soon he was appointed an editor in Penguin’s editorial office in Bloomsbury, where, somewhat disconsolately, he started off working on books about geography, the environment, sociology and accountancy.

He was happier when he was asked to revive the Penguin Crime List in 1974, with Julian Symons as adviser. This gave him the chance to reissue Agatha Christie, Margery Allingham and Ngaio Marsh; bring back the neglected, like Ross Macdonald’s wife Margaret Millar, and the forgotten, like John Franklin Bardin; and to publish the new – PD James, Peter Lovesey, Jacqueline Wilson and Antonia Fraser (her first crime novel, Quiet as a Nun). Moving into general fiction, his greatest coup was to acquire Angela Carter’s The Bloody Chamber in paperback.

Sidey’s first hardcover editorial job was John Lahr’s biography of Joe Orton, Prick Up Your Ears. Other authors who came his way included Graham Swift (whose first novel, The Sweetshop Owner, he edited) and John Mortimer, as well as François Truffaut and Charlton Heston.

In 1980 Sidey was made redundant, but three days later he joined Hutchinson, remaining there until he retired. He found himself with a mixed bag of authors, editing Evelyn Anthony, Clare Rayner, Margaret Yorke, Christopher Matthew and Peter Benchley. He published Carrie Fisher’s first novel, Surrender the Pink, and For the Record by Donald Regan, the former US Secretary of the Treasury, which exposed the Reagans’ reliance on an astrologer during the President’s period of office.

At the launch party for The Picnic Papers (compiled by Susanna Johnston and Lady Anne Tennant), Princess Margaret, one of the contributors, told him: “You have exploited me.” He could only reply: “Thank you very much. It has been a pleasure.” In 1997 he was asked to edit a book by Diana, Princess of Wales (ghosted by Martin Bashir), tentatively entitled In Faith and Hope. The Princess died before they could meet to discuss the project.

Sidey’s most enduring publishing relationship was with Ruth Rendell. He worked on all her books after 1983 and continued as her editor in retirement. He discovered Carol O’Connell, author of a series of highly original crime novels, and published the journalistic collections of Richard Littlejohn . Sidey also loved the stage and cinema, and enjoyed working on the memoirs of Antony Sher, Richard Attenborough, John Mills, Ken Russell, Arthur Smith, Alan Alda, Roger Corman, Mickey Rooney, Shelley Winters, George Burns and Peter Falk.

Working with Anna Massey on her memoirs, he said that he knew more about her than any living soul; and he respected the considerable mutual trust that this involved. A less easy collaboration was with the actor Nicol Williamson on an autobiographical novel which involved getting a typist to transcribe handwritten notes and long editorial sessions. At the end of one, Williamson told Sidey: “No one will buy this book. Everybody hates me.” This proved a correct assessment.

Sidey also published many books by the prolific Hollywood biographer Donald Spoto. One of his last books was Behind Closed Doors by Hugo Vickers, exposing the machinations of the Duchess of Windsor’s lawyer, Maître Blum.

Paul Sidey wrote two collections of poems for children, My Brother is an Alien and The Dinosaur Diner. In retirement he wrote four novels, unpublished at the time of his death.

He married, in 1984, Marianne Velmans, herself a successful publisher. They had a son and a daughter, and the family supported him through his long and courageous battle with cancer.

Paul Sidey, born July 21 1943, died September 17 2014


Gary Kempston Illustration by Gary Kempston

So, no great surprise about the result from Clacton (Ukip’s electoral breakthrough, 10 October). What has surprised me, however, has been the ease with which Messrs Carswell and Farage have been allowed to put the whole episode down as a matter of honour. There is no honour in resigning from a party a few months from a general election, and resigning also as MP specifically so as to trigger a byelection as the only way to usurp the long-standing Ukip member and properly selected candidate from his status.

Honourable? No. Jumping on the bandwagon and maximising media attention? Yes. If this is indeed “honourable”, then I’ll… well, I’ll just carry on being totally bemused by how far Ukip has managed to push the concept of honour down the pecking order of desirable traits among politicians.
John Westbrook

• David Cameron says “go to bed with Nigel Farage and wake up with Ed Miliband” (, 10 October). Nigel Farage says “vote Conservative and you’ll end up with Labour” (, 10 October). They may be right. It is a wholly possible, perverse and predictable consequence of the first-past-the-post voting system. But hang on. Wasn’t Cameron the one party leader who urged us all to vote no to the alternative vote in the 2011 referendum? If he’s now hoist with his own petard, let us enjoy the spectacle.
Martin Linton
Chair, Make Votes Count

• Cameron has repeatedly claimed a vote for Ukip is a vote for Labour. The results in the byelections make clear that a vote for Ukip is a vote for Ukip.
John Boaler
Calne, Wiltshire

• Your report questions the delivery of political promises. The emergence of Ukip as a viable political force is the result of a declining labour market. Working people need employment that enables their families to afford to live in this country. The political establishment instead trades aggression directed at sectors of society that they already know will not vote for them. We seem to have no politicians big enough to address the issue of a viable future for working people.
Martin London
Henllan, Denbighshire

• On Friday’s Today programme, Grant Shapps, Tory party chairman, made the strategy for the next election fairly clear when responding to the byelection results, by mentioning Ed Miliband 12 times in a short interview – once even referring to the Ed Miliband party. Perhaps the Labour party could counter this by regularly predicting the almost certain return to the cabinet of Michael Gove in the event of a Conservative government. At least until the start of the following election campaign.
Alan Pearson

• Now that Ukip has one MP, I assume that the media platform given to its ideas will be scaled down so as to be comparable to that given to the Green party’s. Or am I being naive?
Michael Ayton

• Is it any surprise Ukip have just won a byelection? They have consistently had huge press coverage despite, until now, having no MP, yet the Green party, which has had an MP since the last general election (not elected at a byelection) gets very little. Your feature (Conference party roundup, 10 October) proves my point. When will you redress the balance?
Liz Bebington
Croydon, Surrey

• “Harwich for the continent, Frinton for the incontinent,” the old A12 sign grafitto used to read. Now perhaps should be added: “And Clacton for the malcontent.”
Fr Alec Mitchell

• In his interesting article on minority governments (Opinion, 9 October), Martin Kettle argues that the Fixed Term Parliaments Act would prevent a minority government from obtaining an early dissolution. Not so. The prime minister of such a government could put a motion before the Commons calling for a general election. The main opposition party could hardly refuse to support it, or it would be displaying lack of confidence in its ability to win the ensuing general election. There would then be the two-thirds majority needed for an early dissolution.

But if the opposition did vote against the motion, the PM could resign, and unless the opposition leader could form a viable government, which he would not have been able to do in 1974, the last general election to produce a minority government, there would have to be a dissolution. If the Fixed Term Parliaments Act was able to prevent an early dissolution, it would be harmful. Instead it is merely pointless. The sooner it is repealed the better.
Vernon Bogdanor

Wormwood Scrubs prison, west London. Photograph: Graham Turner for the Guardian Wormwood Scrubs prison, west London. Photograph: Graham Turner for the Guardian

The independent monitoring board report on HMP Wormwood Scrubs is the latest in a series of stark, critical independent monitoring board and HM inspectorate of prisons reports that reveal a prison service buckling under the strain of unprecedented staff and budget cuts (Wormwood Scrubs cuts led to ‘chaos and dysfunction’, 8 October). If, as Eric Allison reports (Grayling’s prisons plan? Shoot the messenger, 8 October), justice ministers are considering making changes, they would be better advised to listen to a well-respected, independent chief inspector, read the information submitted by IMBs and act to put things right rather than ignore a growing crisis in our jails.
Juliet Lyon
Director, Prison Reform Trust

• The substance of Alan Travis’s report on the deteriorating state of the prison service would find few dissenters among officers or prisoners, but it is worth pointing out that the designation “official watchdog” does the independent monitoring boards no favours. Every prison and immigration removal centre has an IMB to monitor standards and procedures. Recruitment to them is a struggle. The IMBs are crucial to the prison system and any opportunity to raise their profile should be taken.
Professor Simon Miller
Ashburton, Devon

• Surely the answer to George Monbiot’s problem with the penalty clause in the contract for the privatisation of the probation service (Our bullying corporations are the new enemy within, 8 October) is to declare it unconstitutional (a government cannot bind a future government to a particular action) and an unfair contract – therefore rendering it invalid and unenforceable. Simple.
Jane Sullivan
Beckenham, Kent

Glasgow University. Photograph: G Richardson/Robert Harding World Imagery/Corbis Glasgow University. Photograph: G Richardson/Robert Harding World Imagery/Corbis

We write as senior academics at the University of Glasgow who actively research the decarbonisation of energy to deplore the decision of our university court to divest from fossil fuels (Report, 9 October). The court’s position is vacuous posturing, since alternatives to fossil fuels are not yet available at scale for heat and transport, or for electricity production on demand. Indeed, our university has just committed itself to a new gas-fired campus heating system, not least because the only current renewable alternative (biomass) had a far poorer environmental profile. The skills and facilities of the hydrocarbons sector – many of whom are our alumni – are indispensable to the development of carbon capture and storage (CCS), without which the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change considers there is no chance of the world achieving emissions reduction targets. CCS also offers the only sizeable prospect for actively stripping greenhouse gases from the atmosphere.

Moreover, most food consumed in Europe today relies on nitrogen produced from hydrocarbons and they are also the raw materials for the vast array of plastics our society demands – many of which can lock up fossil carbon for centuries. Again, no alternatives yet exist at scale. To pretend otherwise is intellectually dishonest.

We trust that those academic colleagues who voted for this gesture have had the moral consistency to turn off the heating in their offices (entirely fossil-fuelled) and to switch off their computers and room lights for the 34.5% of the working day that fossil fuels provide electricity in Scotland.
Professor Paul Younger Rankine chair of engineering and professor of energy engineering
Professor Colin McInnes James Watt chair and professor of engineering science
Professor Fin Stuart Professor of isotope geosciences
Professor Rob Ellam Director, Scottish Universities Environmental Research Centre
Professor Adrian Boyce Professor of applied geology
University of Glasgow



Sir, Events in Kobani and Iraq demonstrate that Isis may be degraded by attacks from the air, but not destroyed. Already there is the inevitable evidence of collateral damage to civilians, who recognise with frustration the limited nature of the support given to them.

If Isis is to be destroyed, the military must be provided with the sources and material to disable its command-and-control sources, as well as its visible assets. This will require ground troops including special forces, and also high quality intelligence and other logistical support. Parliament should be asked without delay to provide fresh objectives and to remove the inhibitions currently preventing a successful military campaign.

The military effort must be seen to support all the people of Iraq, and their new, brave and conciliatory government. They want our help, and we should provide what is necessary rather than the merely politically expedient.

Iraq sits in a crucial place geographically. At the conclusion of the current and regrettably necessary hostilities, she should be able to take a comfortable place alongside her neighbours. This should be supported by the twin pillars of mutual and balanced benefits shared with those neighbours, including Iran and Turkey, and the recognition by her neighbours of Iraq’s sovereignty, free from outside interference.
Lord Carlile of Berriew
House of Lords

Sir, Your leading article “Saving Kobani” (Oct 9) claimed that “so far Turkey has sent only a lorry load of medical supplies to the besieged Kurds of Kobani and has otherwise confined itself to the role of spectator”. This claim disregards Turkey’s £2.5 billion of humanitarian aid and ignores the threat posed by terrorist groups.

Legal and humanitarian reasons mean that our borders must stay open. We already host more than 1.5 million refugees (a number larger than the population of some EU countries) and help many more in Iraq. In the space of a week, we received 200,000 people from Kobani.

Despite the risks, we continue to maintain an open door, regardless of refugees’ ethnicity. Aid is also being sent into Kobani and we have retaliated to Isis attacks on our territory.

Turkey has handled the issue of Ayn Al Arab/Kobani with sensitivity but the greater conflict cannot be viewed purely through developments in Kobani. A few months ago, we highlighted Isis’s advance towards the Turkoman villages of Tel Abyad and Çobanbey on our border, but this was ignored by the wider world.

Isis has been able to dig in because of air support provided by the Damascus regime, and so it is vital that a no-fly zone is put in place to enforce a safe haven. This strategy should also guard against regime elements or various terrorist structures replacing Isis in areas from which it is eliminated.

We should not be selective while reflecting upon and managing public opinion. It is important to give the complete picture. Above all, however, Turkey is not “confining itself to the role of spectator”.
Abdurrahman Bilgiç
Ambassador, Turkish Embassy, London

Sir, Turkey’s reluctance to help the Kurds fighting Isis is disappointing but predictable. There is sympathy for Isis in some sections of its population and government, and Turkey has a long record of oppressing its own minorities. This matter does, however, call into question Turkey’s suitability as a Nato ally and may mean an end to its hope of joining the EU.
Andrew Brown
Allestree, Derby

Sir, Given that the US and UK have ruled out sending in ground troops, it is odd that western commentators demand that Turkey becomes the first and only country to do just that. Given the tragic history of relations between Turks and Kurds, it is all the more important that the world acts collectively to protect them and others. If the West was serious about its objective of “degrading and defeating” Isis, it would devise a suitable military strategy. At present, it appears to wish to outsource to others what it is unwilling to do itself. Meanwhile, civilians pay the price.
John Slinger
Rugby, Warks

Sir, Following David Cameron’s indiscretion that the Queen “purred” over the result of the Scottish referendum, I am still waiting to read of the prime minister’s subsequent meeting with Her Majesty. Did she hiss, growl or spit?
Tony Killeen


Sir, May I express my disquiet at the piece in Times2 (Oct 9) which mentioned “#feelingnuts” — about young men holding their crotches for charity — and hereby apply for the post as the replacement to the late lamented Mary Whitehouse? That youth indulges in vulgarity does not make it acceptable to civilised society.
Helena Fielder
Southsea, Hants

Sir, The Speaker’s spin doctor has had to resign (News, Oct 9) because she may have jeopardised the impartiality of the Speaker by giving a speech at the Lib Dem conference. It is ironic that John Bercow uses a spin doctor to maintain his impartiality.
Jeffrey Box
Shalford, Surrey

Sir, The French MP Julien Aubert — who addressed Sandrine Mazetier as madame chairman instead of madame chairwoman and was fined €1,400 (“Le sexist jibe”, Oct 8) — may be heartened to know that he will find some solace across La Manche. Debrett’s informs us that in our second chamber, the lord speaker in the House of Lords should be addressed as lord speaker even if female.
AF Kellner
London W1

Sir, Your report (“Delay retirement if you want to avoid disaster in old age”, Oct 8) suggests that we all need to work for longer to avoid poverty, while also stating that many people stop working in their late 50s or early 60s because of poor health or redundancy. How are these people to live if not by using savings, and where are the jobs for the over-60s? The population in general may be living longer but there is no evidence that it is healthier, and many have to rely on benefits at an age when, had they been born five years earlier, they would have been enjoying a pension. For every Mary Berry, David Dimbleby and Nicholas Parsons who is able to continue working, there will be many builders, nurses, dustmen and others less able to continue to work — but they will have to do so because low wages have meant little opportunity to save.

No politician seems prepared to admit that age benefits have been too generous, and not means-tested, for much too long, meaning that those born after 1955 will have to make up the shortfall as well as trying to save enough for themselves to afford to eventually retire. It seems unfair that those who made it to pension age by 2010 are enjoying a state-subsidised retirement, the like of which will never be experienced by future generations.
Rosalind Taylor
Ashbourne, Derbyshire

Photo: ALAMY

6:58AM BST 10 Oct 2014


SIR – Last week I was the victim of an incorrect tax assessment, which after one telephone call was corrected. I say one call, but the bulk of the 40 minutes was spent listening to music or answering a voice mechanism that directed me to the wrong person.

So I actually had to make two calls. (A tip here is that when speaking to the machine you have to say “self-assessment”, even though there is no prompt for this, otherwise you are directed to a person who does not have access to your completed form.)

It transpired that a machine had “read” my completed self-assessment form, and, because I had written information outside the boxes as well as in the boxes, only part of the information was used to calculate my tax.

If HM Revenue & Customs had access to my bank account, as is proposed, I would have been spending my time trying to retrieve my own money wrongly appropriated by the tax authorities, and also spending large amounts of my own money and time listening to music on the telephone to HMRC.

Mike Stones
Lichfield, Staffordshire

SIR – I received from HMRC a calculation that indicated income tax due for 2013-14 of £331,562.75. My wife was a little worried.

I telephoned the relevant tax office and a polite lady asked me to hold on while she looked into it. After a few minutes, she returned to the phone, apologised for the mistake and said the correct amount was £4.60.

Michael Elton
Winchester, Hampshire

A lighter stocking

SIR – May I ask anyone kind enough to think of buying me a Christmas present not to give me Kevin Pietersen’s book? I have read quite enough “I was brilliant, but they were all rubbish, so they hate me” books.

Nigel Drury
Stow-on-the-Wold, Gloucestershire

Nappies for horses

SIR – The report about cow nappies made me wonder: why can’t horse nappies be introduced? In our village, roads are often fouled by horse dung. Riders need to clean up after their animals as dog owners do, or be heavily fined.

Heather Moore
Marlborough, Wiltshire

World-class: dancers of the English National Ballet rehearse at St Paul’s Cathedral in London  Photo: Alamy

6:59AM BST 10 Oct 2014


SIR – For more than 60 years, English National Ballet has toured Britain, taking great ballet to as wide an audience as possible. For many people outside London, we provide their introduction to the art form.

We foster home-grown talent in our school and in the company, while also being immensely proud to host great dancers of international reputation, such as Alina Cojocaru, Carlos Acosta and Tamara Rojo, who have dedicated most of their careers to creating the best ballet in this country.

From Manchester to Milton Keynes, audiences show their delight in seeing great dancers whatever their nationality.

Caroline Thomson
Executive Director, ENB
London SW7

SIR – To suggest that the ENB does not nurture home-grown talent is nonsense when James Forbat and Laurretta Summerscales are dancing principal roles in Swan Lake this year. Miss Summerscales joined ENB from the ENB school in 2009.

It would be nice to have more British dancers in all UK companies. However, I can’t see how Tamara Rojo can produce world-class dancers if there are insufficient Britons of the required standard. That is probably why she is spending so much time backing the BBC’s Young Dancer competition.

The money that taxpayers put into the arts in Britain generates a huge return: people travel from abroad to buy tickets for world-class performances, bringing in lots of money from related tourism.

As Tamara Rojo said, bringing world-class ballet to the provinces runs at a loss; performing in London to world audiences is profitable. Would John Dunkin prefer the provinces to be denied access to the arts available to him from his London address?

David Brinkman
Poole, Dorset

Not everything you might have heard about Ebola is true.  Photo: REUTERS

7:00AM BST 10 Oct 2014


SIR – In 1962, the last smallpox outbreak in Britain started at Bradford Children’s Hospital. A number of children, staff and patients died. I nursed the little girl who had recently arrived from Pakistan and who died from smallpox (undiagnosed until post mortem examination).

It was Christmas and contact between child patients was unusually high because they were carried round the wards to look at Christmas trees and decorations.

Everyone in the hospital was immediately quarantined: nobody came in or went out. It was terrible to see the parents assembled for evening visiting (there was no unrestricted visiting then) but unable to see their own children.

Over a number of weeks, nobody in the hospital was allowed to leave. A ward was set aside in which those who had contracted smallpox were nursed. Supplies were left in boxes at the end of the drive.

There was no spread of smallpox into the community. One parent was admitted to St Luke’s Hospital and died there, and a hospital cook died at the Bradford fever hospital. Our patients with smallpox were transferred there and we remained in quarantine until the prescribed period following the last patient contact had expired.

The outbreak was controlled initially by quarantine, then by tracing contacts and vaccinating 285,000 people.

Is it not possible to flag up those coming to Britain from areas badly affected by Ebola, even if they have come indirectly, and then to quarantine them for the duration of the incubation period? This is a heavy price for them to bear, but surely small in comparison to the potential price for us all. There was a vaccination available for smallpox; there isn’t one for Ebola.

Janet Reed
Mirfield, West Yorkshire

SIR – I recently flew from London via South Africa to Walvis Bay in Namibia. On disembarking, all passengers had to complete a form stating which countries they had visited. This was verified by checking passports. Before passengers entered the terminal, staff in protective clothing took everyone’s temperature.

On Thursday I flew via South Africa into London Heathrow. There was no sign of any health check on passengers. And we call Namibia a Third World country.

Lucy Lester
Wing, Buckinghamshire

SIR – Keith Vaz was right to call for immediate screening for Ebola, but this should be done in the affected West African countries. Waiting until possibly symptomless carriers arrive at British airports would be to take action far too late.

The British Government and others should fund quarantine centres close to the airports of infected countries. Troops that have been sent recently should ensure that all who board planes heading for this country can prove they have been free from infection for two weeks.

This would restore public confidence and prevent sad situations like that of the nine-year-old boy from Sierra Leone, banned from a school in Stockport.

Andrew Campbell

SIR – If I want to bring a dog into the country from outside Europe, it has to go into quarantine lest I import a disease. Up to now, if i had come home from Sierra Leone, I could pretty much walk straight in.

Kevin Wright
Harlow, Essex

SIR – We struggle to maintain a basic level of hygiene in British hospitals. The density of population in Sierra Leone is 32 persons per square mile. In the United Kingdom it is 106 persons per square mile. An Ebola outbreak would be catastrophic in Britain.

We should stop travel to and from any infected country, and should certainly not be sending 700 military personnel to one.

Andrew Green
Northwich, Cheshire

UK Independence Party (UKIP) candidate Douglas Carswell arrives at the Clacton-on-Sea by-election count Photo: Getty Images

11:29AM BST 10 Oct 2014


SIR – With a general election only seven months away, David Cameron has good cause to be worried following the by-election results in Clacton and in Heywood and Middleton.

There has been plenty of time to conduct a referendum on European Union membership in the course of this Parliament, which would have neutralised the UK Independence Party threat when it was perceived as a one-policy party. Instead, Mr Cameron continually has kicked the issue into long grass with “cast iron” promises of jam tomorrow.

Ukip now has the support of a significant and growing proportion of the electorate right across the political spectrum. The 2015 general election was Mr Cameron’s to lose and he has only himself to blame.

Max Ingram
Cénac-et-Saint-Julien, Dordogne, France

SIR – A by-election lost and the Conservatives predictably roll out the same old line that a vote for Ukip puts Labour nearer power.

They don’t see that a vote for Ukip is a vote for common sense, plain speaking, and a clear plan regarding Europe and immigration. If the Tories gave the country those things, the Party might have a chance of staying in power.

William Statt
Snarestone, Leicestershire

SIR – Surely these by-election results will persuade Mr Cameron to enter an electoral pact with Ukip, leading to a coalition.

Richard Duncan
Guildford, Surrey

SIR – As Fraser Nelson (Comment, October 10) says, the election will be decided by floating voters in marginal constituencies. That is part of the cause of continuing anger at the voting system and the dominance of the two large parties.

Like me, many voters live in “safe” constituencies, Conservative or Labour, and their votes are effectively nullified. This might have been acceptable when 90 per cent voted for one or other of the big two, but things are fragmented now and many seats are won with 30 or 40 per cent of the vote. This leaves 60 per cent unrepresented. A run-off between the two front-runners would ensure that someone was elected with more than 50 per cent.

Nicholas Wightwick
Rossett, Denbighshire

SIR – I grew up in a Britain of manners in debate, recognised round the world.

Now Mr Cameron wants a special deal for Britain, and if the 27 other EU members don’t agree, he threatens to leave. We apparently also want a special deal on a human rights accord that all of Europe has signed, apart from Belarus. And if we don’t get that, we’ll leave that too.

This petulance comes from the same well of prejudice that cheered on Nigel Farage’s abuse of Herman Van Rompuy as having “all the charisma of a damp rag and the appearance of a low-grade bank clerk”.

Boorishness has crept in almost unnoticed.

Derek Hammersley
Chairman, European Movement in Scotland

SIR – Last month you published my letter berating Ed Miliband for forgetting to mention the economy in his conference speech.

I now wonder if also forgetting to mention immigration will prove to be his more costly mistake.

Dominic Regan
Little Coxwell, Oxfordshire

SIR – At Heywood and Middleton the Labour majority was 617, reduced from over 6,000. The Conservative candidate received 3,496 votes. It is clear that a vote for the Conservatives let Labour win.

Reg Amos
Chesham, Buckinghamshire

SIR – In the television coverage of the Heywood by-election one could see the vote-counters continually licking their fingers as they flicked through the ballots. Perhaps the WHO could opine?

Emma Soundy
Moreton-in-Marsh, Gloucestershire


Irish Times:

Sir, – Further to Derek Byrne’s “Marriage is not a good fit for gay people’s lifestyles” (October 9th, Opinion & Analysis), I celebrate difference as what makes Irish life and culture so rich and interesting, but to assume that all lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people are part of, or want to be part of, a subculture, denies the reality of many people’s actual lives, hopes and dreams. LGBT people are not a homogenous group. We are all different – different classes, different income brackets, different levels of ability; some are religious; some are members of political parties and from across the political spectrum. We are part of every community in Ireland.

We are many things – sisters, fathers, girlfriends, lovers, doctors, singers, carers, sports fans, farmers – any numbers of combinations of identities. Of course our sexuality marks us out as different in one way to the majority of people, but so can many things about people.

However, for many of us, our lives are just the same as everyone else’s, just as ordinary (with its ups and its downs) and just as wonderful. Many of us are part of communities based on geography, family ties or common interests, where our sexuality is just one important part of who we are. It’s important because it’s about the people we love and our own families (as defined by us).

The movement for marriage equality has given visibility to many LGBT people who just want to be able to live our lives and grow old with our loved ones equally protected and respected in the country we choose to live in. It’s not about forcing people to get married. It’s about choice. – Yours, etc,


Dalkey, Co Dublin.

Sir, – Derek Byrne ought to be commended for his article questioning the rush towards the introduction of same-sex marriage. No doubt he will be subjected to vilification for doing so, in line with the regrettable pattern that has characterised the debate on this issue to date.

He raises a valid question as to why organisations which campaign for same-sex marriage, which pride themselves on celebrating diversity and difference, are advocating a situation whereby same-sex couples would abandon this diversity and conform to a set of legal norms which currently apply only to heterosexual relationships.

There is a clear parallel between this debate and an argument which has raged within the feminist movement since the 1960s. Radical feminists such as the American lawyer Catherine MacKinnon have criticised much of that movement for having a vision of equality which encouraged the incremental acceptance by women of male norms, effectively leading to a “metamorphosis” of women into men and disregarding the distinctive characteristics of women in the process. She famously denounced the feminist movement as offering women “a piece of the pie as currently and poisonously baked”.

The parallel between this point of view and the debate on same-sex marriage is clear. The introduction of same-sex marriage would graft the legal treatment of heterosexual relationships onto same-sex relationships, and would bring about a similar “metamorphosis”. The rights to marry, adopt, and have beneficial taxation status would all be replicated directly from one type of relationship, and imposed on another type of relationship. How can this be in any way in accordance with the notion of the diversity of same-sex relationships? If anything it amounts to the subjugation of this diversity.

Since its inception, the foundation stone of marriage has been the difference between the genders. It is an inherently gender-based institution, because relationships and unions between couples of the same sex and couples of the opposite sex are inherently different.

So why the rush to amend our Constitution to bring about a legal fantasy which pretends that they are not? – Yours, etc,


Clontarf, Dublin 3.

A chara, – As burnt-out 1970s gay rights activists, my spouse and I have never abandoned our commitment to sexual liberation.

Unlike Derek Byrne, we see our marriage as a demonstration that institutions can evolve to reflect societal changes.

Many straight and gay Irish couples see marriage as an equal partnership where the two people who love each other decide together the values and behaviours that will sustain themselves.

Vive la différence!” is indeed what Irish people endorse regardless of sexual orientation. That is why the referendum on marriage equality will succeed. – Is mise,


Toronto, Canada.

Sir, – While many try to justify the notion of same-sex marriage on the basis of equality, we should bear in mind that the state of California last July passed a Bill removing all mention of husband and wife from its marriage laws. To make everyone feel more equal, everyone will be called “spouse”. Is that what we want? – Yours, etc,



Sir, – Derek Byrne writes, “I know of many same-sex couples who have been joined in civil partnership and I can say with certainty only one of these is grounded in monogamy”.

Mr Byrne sees this as a reason not to vote for marriage equality in the upcoming referendum. He implies same-sex couples are simply not capable of sexual fidelity.

I don’t know what circles Mr Byrne moves in, but my experience has been the opposite. I know numerous gay couples, both male and female, living in monogamous relationships. Many met in pubs, nightclubs or online, even in gay saunas, but when they decided to commit to each other they stopped doing “the scene”, just like most heterosexual couples do. To continue on the “scene” after entering a relationship is asking for trouble – for any relationship, gay or straight.

Mr Byrne acknowledges that he knows of only one same-sex relationship that is grounded in monogamy. My guess is that this couple are not to be found cruising bars and nightclubs.

Mr Byrne might consider voting Yes to marriage equality for the sake of this couple alone. They deserve it. – Yours, etc,


Rathfarnham, Dublin 14.

Sir, – Noise pollution is destroying so many of our places of entertainment. It is part of the myth of this country that we are supposed to be wonderful talkers, and many people come to Ireland expecting to find pubs full of lively conversation. Instead they find most of our pubs are now full of people staring blankly ahead because they are not able to make themselves heard by their companions sitting a few feet from them.

I recently spent a Saturday night in Cashel where a large part of the evening was devoted to an unsuccessful search for a pub where music was not being pumped out at a level which might make one’s ears bleed; it certainly would not be permitted on a factory floor.

Cashel is not unique in this but rather absolutely typical of our towns.

This pollution reached new heights for me in September when I attended the All-Ireland football and hurling finals. While waiting for the games to begin we were subjected at intervals to very loud and very irritating R&B music, which was repeated during half time. At the end of the games, within seconds of the final whistle blowing, the county songs of the winners were played through the public address system at a very high volume.

It would seem that the people now running the GAA have no grasp of the power of tradition, think that everyone in Croke Park on those days is terrified of silence, and that the supporters of the winning teams in each game are so emotionally illiterate as to be incapable of celebrating their team’s victory without external assistance.

It would seem that the entertainment and hospitality industry throughout this country believes that people are incapable of entertaining themselves or of creating an enjoyable atmosphere in a pub or restaurant elsewhere without having their elbows very forcibly nudged.

It is long past time that we started to fight against this condescension and started insisting upon our right to have a drink or a meal without having to bellow at the person we are trying to speak to.

From now on we should make a practice of demanding from staff that they turn down music that is offensively loud. – Yours, etc,



Co Down.

Sir, – In considering the reasonableness or otherwise of RTÉ’s decision to cease broadcasting RTÉ Radio 1 on longwave, consideration must be given to the foundation legislation for our so-called national broadcaster. Section 114 of the 2009 Broadcasting Act establishes the first object of RTÉ as being “to establish, maintain and operate a national . . . service which shall have the character of a public service, be a free-to-air service and be made available . . . to the whole community on the island of Ireland”.

The same legislation obligates RTÉ to publish a public service statement, the second principle of which states “RTÉ will provide for and be responsive to the interests, needs and concerns of the whole community on the island of Ireland”. It is absolutely clear that RTÉ’s responsibilities are not limited to the boundaries of the State. As a citizen of a northern county, I have had to deal with the reduction in service in 2008 when medium-wave services were terminated.

At the time, much was made of the continued availability of longwave services as a mitigating factor. Now many northern citizens face a further removal of service provision. RTÉ’s advice on how to stay tuned claims “98 per cent of Radio 1 listeners are not affected”. Is that 98 per cent of listeners within the State or 98 per cent of the listeners which RTÉ has a legal obligation to? Of course, potential solutions exist. There is an entire FM , DAB and MW broadcasting infrastructure in Northern Ireland. RTÉ Radio 1 could be provided on MW in the North to ensure full service provision for all citizens. These options should be considered before the removal of the longwave service. – Yours, etc,


Lisburn, Co Antrim.

Sir, – Further to recent correspondence (October 8th) and Frank McNally’s “Irishman’s Diary” (October 9th), the problem with Dublin’s present motto “Obedientia civium urbis felicitatis” (The obedience of the citizens produces a happy city) is not that it lacks inclusiveness but that many citizens choose to ignore its message. As I saw during a recent visit, pedestrians don’t wait for the little green man or they cross where there is no zebra marking; cyclists use footpaths; motorcyclists dispense with silencers; car drivers exceed speed limits and/or blast whole neighbourhoods with amplified “music”, etc, etc.

We deserve something like: “Negligentia civium urbis ignominia” ( The uncaring attitude of citizens is a disgrace to a city). – Yours, etc,




Sir, – How about “Amor /Odio”? – Yours, etc,



Co Wicklow.

Sir, – “What are you looking at?” – Yours, etc,


Dublin 8.

Sir, – Joan Burton has expressed wonderment that those protesting against the installation of water meters have access to “extremely expensive mobile phones” (Home News, October 10th). Her amazement probably stems from the fact that they wouldn’t have an allowance of €750 every 18 months to provide them, as she and her colleagues do. – Yours, etc,



Co Dublin.

Sir, – The Tánaiste’s outburst proves beyond doubt that Labour under Joan Burton will be absolutely no different to Labour under Eamon Gilmore. The Coalition thinks that the great mass of Irish people are simply not poor enough.

Whatever their other cosmetic differences in policy, Labour and Fine Gael are united in one thing. They both clearly believe money does not suit the Irish psyche and we (but not they) would do well to have less of it. They been doing their best to rectify this disgraceful situation over the last few years. Paddy must still have a few bob stuffed away under the mattress that surely could be winkled out. Water charges might be just the ticket. – Yours etc,



Co Cork.

Sir, – The story about a leaking water pipe being left for eight months while public bodies squabble over the ownership and responsibility for repair of the pipe beggars belief (“Broken water pipe left unfixed as ownership questioned”, October 10th).

Irish Water, we are told on its website, is responsible for providing and developing water services in Ireland. The website goes on to say that water is one of our most valuable resources.

This vignette is a stark example of much that is wrong with public service in Ireland. The reluctance of individuals and bodies corporately to take responsibility for putting things right creates the sort of mess that has been left in Dún Laoghaire for the past eight months.

Is it beyond the wit of someone in Irish Water to ramble down the pier with a stopcock tap under his or her arm to turn off the water? –Yours, etc,


Cabinteely, Dublin 18.

Sir, – Gerard Wrixon (October 8th) quite rightly brings attention to the scarcity of solar energy collectors in Ireland.

Many people seem to think Ireland is too far north to gain from solar power. Not true! A year ago, I installed a 4kw panel on my roof, expecting to generate 3,000 kwh electricity a year.

It has outperformed that forecast by 22 per cent. In the process, it saved the country almost two tonnes of carbon emissions.

It also powers an electric car, so less petrol pollution.

If it was supposed to do nothing but heat water, I could have received a grant towards the cost. It does heat the water, but also does so much more, therefore by some strange perverse logic, no grant is available! I have not used any gas for inefficient water heating from May to October, making another saving of carbon.

Much of the surplus energy goes into the grid for other consumers, yet I am still required to pay the public service obligation (PSO) levy to subsidise the ESB.

To add to the insult, my supplier now increases the standing charge in summer months because I am not buying any electricity from them.

Congratulations are due to Tipperary. County Council for the foresight to install on its premises the largest solar array yet in Ireland. I’m sure it will find, as I do, this is the best investment it could make. Other counties and government offices, please take note.

Ireland is struggling to meet our target reduction of carbon emissions and will face heavy EU fines for failure. Surely it would pay well to support many thousands of small productive installations like mine rather than forfeit the money to pay these fines.

So, Minister for the Environment Alan Kelly, you know what to do. – Yours, etc,



Co Dublin.

A chara, – Miriam Lord (“Enda’s galley slaves send him in well armed on the Sinn Féin budget”, October 9th) has revealed the “curious questions” that go through her head when the Taoiseach answers questions from me in the Dáil on the Government’s austerity policies – whether I have a well, whether I rent in Louth, and why I remain in good form. Still waters do indeed run deep. – Is mise,


Teach Laighean,

Baile Átha Cliath 2.

Irish Independent:

Are we not in the position that supply and demand economics are starting to effect property prices? Have we now learnt from the recent boom/bust era and the aftermath for the Irish economy and its citizens? Good practice after the crash in the 1980s in UK and in Canada (a country that was not touched by the latest global crash) is still not being recommended by the Irish Central Bank.

Regardless of what techniques underwriters use, a good rule of thumb was 2.5 times the principle earner’s income plus one time the secondary applicant to a maximum of 75pc loan to value of property.

This loan-to-value rate was only increased where an indemnity bond insured the extra risk to the financial institution.

I was a mortgage underwriter in the late 1990s, when the ‘Three Cs’ (Collateral, Capacity to repay and Character) of credit scoring were thrown away, along with good common sense, as lending criteria was put into the hands of the marketing department personnel rather than hands of the underwriters .

Should the financial service industry be allowed to refuel the property market or should sensible lending criteria reflecting best practice derived from previous boom/bust scenarios be implemented by the regulator/Government?

Remember, we all bought houses in the 1970s and 1980s as first-time buyers and struggled with deposits and repayments.

Helen McMahon

Portrane, Co Dublin

Irish Water set to run and run

Irish Water has issued some helpful suggestions to its customers on how to reduce domestic water usage. However, here are a number of useful tips it somehow appears to have missed:

Always try your best to take your showers or baths with at least one other person, such as a partner or a friend (a very, very trusted friend) but never with complete strangers, no matter what assurances they may give you. Also, any neighbour calling to the door and offering, out of the blue, to share a bath with you should be very carefully vetted before you agree to take the plunge and sponge with them.

Washing up the dishes after meals is a major water waster. From now on serve and eat your meals only on biodegradable bin liner bags – opened up and spread out on the floor – and voila, mes amis – when the meal is finished les scraps can be very easily gathered and binned.

And, whatever you do, never use cutlery. If it was good enough for our prehistoric caveman ancestors to eat with their fingers it should be good enough for us too. Just be sure that you wear thin disposable latex gloves, thus obviating the use of any water for cleaning the hands after eating.

Toileting (a): Your number one priority is actually your number two. The days of the free-wheeling loose use of the toilet bowl have to be put behind us. From now on we need to start “thinking outside of the bowl” – or what looologists these days prefer to call “thinking outside of the bowel”. By far the best way to avoid flushing in your residence is to schedule most number twos for loos located outside of the home, at say, for example, your place of work, local library, pub, shopping centre, or in the Garda or Fire Station should a real emergency arise.

Toileting (b): Number One. There is no good reason why in decent weather most people could not just as easily “go” in their back gardens.

Finally, regarding children who continually fail to turn off the taps: Parents should seriously consider putting these thoughtless creatures up for auction on eBay. For parents who may bizarrely have some qualms about going the eBay route, a useful alternative for them would be to train a few Rottweilers or Pit Bulls to stand guard over the taps.

Ivor Shorts

Rathfarnham, Dublin

So Our Lord did a one-off and turned water into wine at a wedding! But sure haven’t we got our very own quango which has just miraculously turned water into a never-ending stream of bonus-buttressed super salaries and gold-plated pensions!

And so, another plush carriage, complete with bonus buffet and packed with all the usual mod cons, has been added to the non-stop State gravy train. I sometimes wonder what particular form the inevitable and unavoidable final showdown will take in our own case.

George MacDonald

Gorey, Co Wexford

What could be worse than FG?

John Waters’ article on Enda Kenny (October 8) may just be the best description of our Dear Leader I have read.

I guess the thing is Enda sees himself as “one of us” – and given the reception he gets at events such as the National Ploughing Championships it is a pretence that the masses are happy to go along with.

This means he has nothing at all to do with “that crowd up in Dublin” who are responsible for all those nasty extra taxes to keep bailing out our busted property speculators and their banks.

Perhaps the Irish subconsciously fear that if we were to openly rebel against “our” leaders then the dastardly Brits might return to rule over us.

And Heaven help us, but absolutely nothing could possibly be worse than that.

Gerry Kelly

Rathgar, Dublin 6

Crusades of the Middle Ages

In relation to Concetto La Malfa’s comment that we may be tempted to think “Isil are getting their sweet revenge after what the Crusaders did in their Islamic countries” (Irish Independent Letters, October 6) an important point must be made. Whatever we may think of them now, the Crusades from 1095 AD were a response to centuries of militaristic Islamic expansion.

An oft-forgotten fact is the Syrian church in the 5th century AD was by far the largest of the Christian regions in the world at the time – larger than both the Latin western or more Greek-leaning Orthodox churches.

It stretched all the way from what is now Syria across to Persia (modern day Iran) and even reached as far as China.

All of it was swept away under Islamic invasions from the late 7th century onwards. With Islamic armies pouring into Asia Minor (Turkey) and Constantinople next in sights, the Christian Emperor of Byzantium appealed to the western Church and world for help to repel the invaders.

With all due respect to our brothers in monotheism, Islam did not arrive in the Holy Land peacefully all those centuries ago. As they saw it, the Crusaders were not invading ‘Islamic countries’ but formerly Christian and Jewish ones that had been subdued by the sword.

Despite their flaws and ultimate failure, they were hardly an unexpected or unreasonable response for Christendom at the time, whatever their place in today’s world.

Nick Folley

Carrigaline, Co Cork

Keane still in play

Rather than reading Roy Keane’s book – The Second Half – this Christmas I think that I will wait until he publishes extra time or replay in order to get the full story.

John Finegan

Bailieborough, Co Cavan

Irish Independent


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