13 October 2014 Garage Roof
I jog around the park I still have arthritis in my left knee, but I manage to get round the park. A busy day I tidy up the garage roof and cut down isabella rose for Mary.
Mary’s back much better today, breakfast weight down duck for tea and her back pain is still there but decreasing.
Ben Whitaker – obituary
Ben Whitaker was an Old Etonian Labour MP who was a key figure on the ‘trendy’ intellectual Left
Ben Whitaker, pictured when he was Labour MP for Hampstead Photo: Camera Press
6:04PM BST 12 Oct 2014
Ben Whitaker, who has died aged 79, personified the liberal intelligentsia of the 1960s as the first Labour MP for Hampstead, a constituency “full of argumentative idealists like myself”. Chosen by Left-wingers who were unaware that he was a baronet’s son and an Old Etonian, Whitaker scored a symbolic coup in 1966 by unseating the former Conservative home secretary Henry Brooke .
Whitaker, whose constituents included 30 Labour MPs, was a bellwether for the intellectual Left, and The Daily Telegraph’s Peter Simple column mocked him for a trendy and ruinous liberalism.
Throughout his life Whitaker campaigned for more recognition of George Orwell, an idol of his; he secured a blue plaque outside the Hampstead book shop where Orwell wrote Keep the Aspidistra Flying, and lived to see the BBC commission a statue from Martin Jennings.
Benjamin Charles George Whitaker was born on September 15 1934, the third son of Maj-Gen Sir John Whitaker, 2nd Bt, of Babworth Hall, Nottinghamshire. After Eton and National Service with the Coldstream Guards, he read Modern History at New College, Oxford.
Whitaker worked in Sicily for the reforming anti-Mafia campaigner Danilo Dolci, then in 1959 was called to the Bar at Inner Temple. He lectured in Law at London University, and became one of Britain’s first human rights barristers.
Angered by the “framing” of Stephen Ward during the Profumo affair, and by the so-called “rhino whip scandal”, which resulted in the dismissal of the chief constable of Sheffield, in 1964 Whitaker published The Police, in which he criticised the service’s resistance to change. He noted, for example, that 84 US police forces had computers, but Scotland Yard had none.
In 1965 Whitaker went to Rhodesia, his pregnant wife hiding leaflets attacking UDI in her dress. He penetrated one of Ian Smith’s detention camps, then went on the radio condemning “an illegal police state afraid of the truth”. Police raided the studio, and he had to make a swift exit.
He went into the 1966 campaign at Hampstead wishing Brooke a “happy retirement”; his election address mentioned his studies at Oxford and Harvard, but omitted Eton. He won with a majority of 2,253.
Anthony Greenwood, the minister of overseas development, appointed Whitaker his PPS, and when Greenwood moved to Housing and Local Government, Whitaker went with him. He resigned in March 1967 when he rebelled over the Defence Estimates.
Whitaker campaigned for an independent body to investigate complaints against lawyers; for action against those responsible for the Zinoviev letter after proof emerged that it was forged; and for a crackdown on “murky” insurance companies .
He embarrassed ministers by asking whether the visiting Sultan of Lahej had brought a slave with him to Britain, and upset Denis Healey, the defence secretary, by probing the Army’s allocation of a valet to the Duke of Kent.
His chances of office seemed to have gone when he spoke against James Callaghan’s Bill voting down boundary changes that would have favoured the Conservatives. But weeks later Wilson appointed him to the Overseas Development Ministry under Judith Hart. Taking six hours a day to get through his boxes, he enrolled in a speed-reading course.
In June 1970 Whitaker lost his seat to the Conservative Geoffrey Finsberg by 474 votes after a recount. He became director of the Minority Rights Group, for 17 years highlighting communities being destroyed by their governments or multinational companies. An early report exposed the plight of Biharis in Bangladesh (the Whitakers adopted a four-month-old Bihari boy).
Whitaker went on to spend 10 years as UK director of the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, dispensing £2 million a year. The Labour government appointed him to a UN subcommittee on minority rights, and as its vice-chairman he was asked in 1985 to investigate whether Turkey had committed genocide against the Armenians in 1915. He embarrassed the Foreign Office by concluding that it had.
From 1976 he chaired the Defence of Literature and Arts Society . He was appointed CBE in 2000.
Ben Whitaker married, in 1964, Janet Stewart, now Baroness Whitaker of Beeston. She survives him, with their two sons (one adopted), their daughter, and his son from a previous relationship.
Ben Whitaker, born September 15 1934, died June 8 2014
‘Even the Tories’ favourite economist, Adam Smith, denounced the size, nature and privileges associated with corporations, and we should heed what he said’. Photograph: Hulton Archive/Getty Images
The influence and control enjoyed by corporations over the body politic (Our bullying corporations are the new enemy within, 8 October) is an inevitable consequence of the 1844 Joint Stock Companies Act, a piece of legislation effectively marking the birth of modern capitalism. Followed by the Limited Liability Act of 1855, it established that the fiduciary duty of a director is to act in good faith for the benefit of the company as a whole, ie all shareholders. In practice, this means that what is referred to as the shareholder primacy norm obliges companies to maximise their profits without regard to other considerations. So claims by companies that they are driven by values enshrined in concepts of corporate social responsibility or fair trade should be seen for what they are – public relations exercises designed to attract custom that will ultimately enhance their bottom line.
Even the Tories’ favourite economist, Adam Smith, denounced the size, nature and privileges associated with corporations, and we should heed what he said. Nothing less than a dismantling and revision of the legal framework underpinning private enterprise will serve to alleviate the exploitation, abuses and environmental degradation that it brings but, as Mr Monbiot says, the political class and our so-called democracy is part of the problem rather than the solution. And if charities are too frightened or compromised to challenge this iniquitous system, it falls to other popular organisations like trade unions to oppose its worst manifestations such as the proposed Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, a deal that would give the transnational corporations unprecedented power to run the global economy for the further enrichment of their institutional shareholders at our expense.
International officer, GMB
• George Monbiot is depressingly correct, but why is he surprised by the pro-business reassurances of certain charities such as Oxfam? Oxfam has always openly pushed for economically liberal pro-free-trade policies in the countries it is committed to help. Oxfam, as opposed to smaller charities or more politically aware ones such as War on Want, actually is a big “business” paying very large salaries out of public donations to its top management tier.
• I found Aditya Chakrabortty’s critique of “corporate welfare” (Cut benefits? Yes, let’s start with our £85bn corporate welfare handout, 7 October) illuminating; £85bn is a staggering amount of money. However, as with the social benefits arising from social security, so can there be economic benefits from aids to business. For six years I was responsible for an EU scheme of assistance for small and medium-sized businesses that generated additional sales of £24 for every £1 of EU grants. As the business owners signed off on these numbers, I had a 90% confidence factor in them. The issue is to ensure that the scheme provides good-quality outcomes, ie provable sales increases rather than, say, quantity of contacts. For example, too much money is spent on export services to businesses that make no discernible impact on the balance of trade (but export trips to warm climes in winter are very popular). More focused schemes would cut the cost but raise the outcome. We should all regret the award of public money to companies that pay the minimum wage, have zero-hours contracts and don’t pay taxes.
• What Aditya Chakrabortty calls “corporate welfare” is integral to what the US political scientist Philip Bobbitt in 2002 called “the new market-state”, which is characterised by a state-subsidised public sector that is dominant over a semi-privatised state sector. One consequence of this is that, while politicians may promise more “public spending”, eg on the NHS or education, increasing tranches of this go straight into the pockets of private investors, like the egregious Richard Branson and his Virgin Care.
University of Greenwich
• Recent articles by Zoe Williams, Larry Elliott, Aditya Chakrabortty and George Monbiot offer an alternative to the corporate lobby-driven policies all three major parties are peddling. These aren’t “business-friendly” policies. They are “elite-friendly” policies. It isn’t a “free market”, it is “a state-endorsed oligarchy”, as Monbiot puts it, returning to the subject of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership which he so devastating exposed almost a year ago. If Labour cannot see this then what hope do they think they have to claim to speak as the voice of the 99%? Ignore the Lords Levy and Noon and listen instead to some sane advice from the Guardian. Larry Elliott (Talk is cheap, but tackling inequality requires action, 6 October) wrote that policymakers must be “prepared to redistribute resources from rich to poor”, create “an international tax system that prevents revenues being salted away in tax havens”, ensure “that trade agreements are not written by multinational corporations”, strengthen “welfare safety nets and the rights of workers” and recognise “that both the private and the public sectors have a role”. Not a bad manifesto. Stand up to the bullies, Ed. Join the “struggle over what remains of our democracy”. You might just regain some credibility.
Ed Miliband canvassing in the Heywood and Middleton byelection, with Liz McInnes, right. She later won the previously safe Labour seat but Ukip came a close second. Photograph: Christopher Thomond for The Guardian
Anxieties about the need to “come out” against immigration erupt in Labour electoral politics on a regular basis (How main parties became the strangers in Farageland, 11 October). Fears about parties like Ukip aren’t new. Labour’s failing has been its inability or unwillingness to build an internationalist politics. Its current “one nation” attitude does nothing to help people see how lives connect across continents and oceans; the histories and continuities of exploitation between countries; and the contingency of national identifications. If only an accident of birth makes us British, Indian or Nigerian, why should so much political weight be given to these attachments?
People, however, don’t acquire an internationalist perspective simply through being told to. Digging in and adopting a parochial sensibility has causes, some of which Labour could address. Too often the party leadership ends up moulding itself around the socially conservative effects of stressful, precarious lives. They would do better to address some of the contributing factors. A radical programme to tackle economic and social inequalities, along with the relentlessly dismissive ways that people without resources are often treated, might produce a more generous society. It might also produce a more engaged and vibrant politics.
Professor Davina Cooper
Kent Law School, University of Kent
• Nigel Farage’s policy of banning migrants with HIV (Report, 10 October) not only stigmatises 100,000 men and women in Britain living with the virus, it is also dangerously counterproductive.
Around the world there are an estimated 35 million living with HIV. Of these, half have not been diagnosed. That may be because, as we are seeing with the Ebola crisis, some health systems are underfinanced and inadequate. But it is also because there are formidable barriers to testing. For example, gay men are unlikely to volunteer if they risk prosecution, as they do in so many countries where homosexuality is illegal.
Mr Farage now wants to build a massive new barrier in Britain, where already up to a quarter of those living with HIV are undiagnosed. When every sensible worker in the field wants to encourage more testing, he pursues a policy that can only have the opposite effect.
Back in 1986 the Thatcher government rejected such checks. Instead, as health secretary, I was able to mount a public education campaign, which among other things made the point that “you cannot get the Aids virus from normal social contact with someone who is infected”.
Perhaps we should consider how today we can set out the facts and not allow the unscrupulous to play on public fears.
Conservative, House of Lords
Labour MPs are queuing up to lambast Ed Miliband’s strategy of appealing to his “core vote” (report, 11 October), but I see little evidence that he is doing this. I consider myself a core voter – someone who was brought up in a working-class home, and has almost always voted for Labour, save after the Iraq War, and the last election, when, with two children about to start university, I voted Lib Dem, (what a mistake that was!). Where is there any pledge to re-nationalise water, at least, if not gas, electricity and the Post Office? Where is there a commitment to build council houses? What about stopping the free schools policy? These are things I’d vote for.
How terribly sad, Labour just manages to win a by-election in a supposedly safe Labour seat. The next headline outlining future Labour policy is not about the economy, deficit or lifting the poor out of poverty. It is from the shadow education secretary, Tristram Hunt, who, after visiting Singapore on a “fact-finding trip”, imagines that the way to improve teaching is to make teachers take an oath to emphasise the “moral calling and noble profession of teaching”.
How utterly disconnected from the real world that teachers live in, and how insulting to think that thousands of teachers need to take an oath to remind themselves why they are teachers.
I greatly fear that Ukip will do well next year because politicians have allowed the impression to be formed that they have absolutely no idea about the lives of the people they hope to represent. This idea from Tristram Hunt totally encapsulates why this opinion has been formed.
Some advice to Tristram; go into classrooms, teach Year 11 mathematics on Friday afternoon. Don’t just listen or find out about education – go and do it.
Your front-page article on 11 October “Miliband pays the price for Ukip surge” referred to disparaging comments made by senior Labour politicians, including Jack Straw, about the Labour leader. It stated that Straw “referred to Mr Miliband as having “panda eyes and strange lips”.
The article continued on page 6 where Straw’s words were quoted in context, giving the lie to the front page: “Mr Straw said Mr Miliband had leadership qualities and had united his party… I know people say he’s got panda eyes and strange lips. Well, I could make the same remark in different ways about Mr Clegg or Mr Cameron.”
Come on, Independent, this sort of misleading reporting is unworthy of you.
Voters, unable to discern any real difference between Labour and Tory policies, are turning to something new. The shadow cabinet could not possibly countenance a total embargo on NHS privatisation (after all, they are ones who started it), soaking the rich (rather than feeling “relaxed” about them), a substantial hike in a statutory living wage, abandonment of Trident, diverting the money to investment in a green economy and welfare benefit payments, re-nationalisation of the railways and electoral reform. The message to Miliband from Heywood and Middleton should be interpreted as “Go left, young man.”
Chislehurst, Greater London
It should be obvious that Labour’s strategy of adopting Conservative policies but arguing they would do it better is ineffective. Those of us who want a fairer society have nowhere to go.
What we want is for the large US corporations and those on higher incomes to pay their fair share. So, increase the minimum wage to £10 per hour, abolish tax credits, reduce VAT to 15 per cent and introduce a 5 per cent sales tax.
The most important thing, though, is that Labour policies be different to Tory policies; otherwise Ukip is the only viable option.
Palestinian statehood must be recognised
My maternal grandfather, Herbert Bentwich, was one of the earliest English Jews to support Zionism and was one of Theodor Herzl’s colleagues in campaigning for the Balfour Declaration. Six of his 11 children settled in Palestine and so most of my cousins are Israelis. My uncle Norman, his oldest son, was attorney-general in Mandatory Palestine and one of the founders of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem where he was professor of international relations. But Norman (who died in 1971) was critical of the way Israel developed, not least its discriminatory policies towards the Palestinians and would have fully supported the long-overdue moves to recognise the state of Palestine.
What I find unconscionable is the hypocrisy of President Obama who recently told the UN General Assembly that he supported the two-state principle, yet still buckles under the “powerful Israeli lobby” of which our diplomats speak in their letter (10 October) and obdurately denies American recognition of Palestine.
This, despite the fact that the US constitution gives the president exclusive authority to recognise foreign governments – President Truman exercised it when recognising Israel in 1948.
Though it’s been the wait of a lifetime, it will still be a source of pride, both as a citizen and as a Jew, if Parliament recognizes Palestine. But why on earth has Ed Miliband (11 October) made this anything other than a free vote?
Isn’t it obvious that this is one of those issues of conscience with opposing views within each party? The sense of turning a corner will be less if the vote is coerced, and the message to the Middle East weaker because it is less authentic.
Conservative MP Guto Bebb opposes British recognition of Palestinian statehood, asking “How can you recognise a state when the borders of that state have not been agreed?” Given that Israel’s borders remain undefined, I take it that in the interests of consistency he will also be pushing to withdraw British recognition of Israel?
The NHS has kept me on my feet
Congratulations on the excellent coverage of the NHS crisis during the past week. I think you need to be old like me (born in 1936) to really appreciate the value of our NHS. Nye Bevan’s introduction of this service in 1946 was inspirational and although nothing is ever perfect in this life, we have such a lot to thank him for and continue to thank all those now serving in the NHS.
Had I been born today, my shallow pelvis and malformed left foot would have been picked up at birth and treated at much less cost to the NHS than has since been spent on me. I can only thank all those concerned over the years for keeping me walking and I can honestly say that I am walking better now than ever before – all due to the skill of the surgeons at my local Great Western Hospital in Swindon.
Of course there are mistakes, every large institution has them, but I know where I would rather be when I need health care.
The NHS is the most important institution in this country and it is important to every single one of us. So, if it requires more funding the answer to the question “where will the money come from?” is obvious – we must all pay more tax.
The fairest way of raising this tax is from income tax. A penny on the basic rate of 20p in the pound would not hurt anyone who is currently paying tax. After all, I remember when the basic rate was 24p in the pound and if I go back further, even 25p.
Such an increase would raise around £7.5bn which, in addition to the normal annual increase in funding, would make a significant difference to the NHS coffers.
The big question is will any of the parties have the courage to put this in their manifesto? The first party to do so gets my vote.
I don’t know which hospitals June Green visits, (letter, 11 October) but all the ones with which I am familiar already have boxes to put money in, and usually more than the £2 she suggests. They are on metal posts in the car parks.
Malala – a worthy winner of Nobel prize
I can’t think of a more deserving recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize than Pakistani schoolgirl Malala Yousafzai (report, 11 October). The beauty of Malala is her youthful idealism and untainted sincerity.
As a Muslim she offers an enlightened alternative to the fanaticism that so dominates our perception of her co-religionists. As a schoolgirl she reminds us that education is precious and should not be taken for granted. In her Panorama interview she said: “Education is neither eastern nor western, education is education and it’s the right of every human being.” The wisdom of this courageous child gives us all hope.
Sir, Can our non-Ukip politicians not understand that others may have different views to themselves? That immigration is far more important than they believe it is? Voters do not seek to be educated in what their rulers believe is best for them — they want representative democracy.
Sir, It is childish for David Cameron to say little more than “a vote for Ukip will let in Ed Miliband”. The Heywood and Middleton by-election showed that Ukip is the main opposition to Labour in many constituencies in the north. There, it is a vote for the Conservatives that will let in Labour.
Mullinure, Armagh City
Sir, Contrast Nigel Farage’s easy approach to the media with dour Miliband and condescending Cameron. For most voters, his policies are secondary to his persona and politics is in danger of becoming a celebrity-fest. The Ukip bandwagon could become more popular than The X Factor.
Sir, Matthew Parris gives himself away by saying “We know [the voters] are wrong,” when referring to the Clacton by-election (Opinion, Oct 11). A man who thinks that an electorate is wrong when it makes a decision that he does not like cannot have much respect for democracy. Ukip is winning because voters think it tells the truth while other politicians continue to try to be all things to all men and avoid the hard questions.
Mr Parris said politicians “know what to do” and quoted Jean-Claude Juncker: “They just don’t know how to get re-elected when they have done it.” The major parties have shielded the comfortable pensioners, homeowners, landlords and property speculators — in short those more likely to vote — from the effects of the 2008 crash, leaving those on low and middle incomes, mostly living in rented property or unable to buy, to carry the burden. Politicians know what to do: cap rents and reduce the value of property. But that is what not to do to get elected.
The Rev Paul Nicolson
Taxpayers Against Poverty
Sir, Mr Parris says that today’s politicians are the best ever; they are certainly very good at ignoring what voters want.
Lindfield, W Sussex
Sir, I support David Cameron’s dismissal of a Conservative pact with Ukip. I would have been forced to turn to the Lib Dems.
Sir, It is time for David Cameron to stand up to his backbenchers. When he promoted centralist one-nation Toryism I thought that at last Tories were losing “the nasty party” tag, but it is fast returning with tax cuts for the better-off and benefit cuts for the poor.
Sir, Messrs Cameron and Miliband should learn from last week’s polls that Mondeo man no longer lives in working-class constituencies. His place has been taken by minimum-wage man, who is fed up with working hard and being rewarded with a subsistence standard of living.
Sir, We don’t know whether Clacton people voted loyally for Douglas Carswell as their sitting MP or because he is now a member of Ukip. We should not let Farage’s blustering convince us that he is a major figure in British politics.
Sir, Like so many former Lib Dem voters, I shall never believe Nick Clegg again. But Philip Collins (Opinion, Oct 10) takes the biscuit. He tells us that at the tender age of 8 years old he went on a trip from Heywood to Clacton and remembers thinking at the time: “When there are simultaneous by-elections in these constituencies, I’ll get a column out of this.” Even the prophet Isaiah wouldn’t go that far.
Having awoken to see Nigel Farage and Douglas Carswell posing for a selfie (Oct 10), I am mourning the passing of Spitting Image.
Sir, Rob Matthews says he is unable to understand management consultancy (letter, Oct 10). It’s simple: management consultancy is common sense overlaid with gobbledegook. The gobbledegook comes in various layers of opacity. The fee is in direct proportion to the opacity and size of the ensuing report.
Sir, Having been taught about the zeugma, “Mr Pickwick took his hat and his leave”, at Skegness Grammar School in 1960, it has taken me until today to spot one. “Keira Knightley enters the fray as Joan Clarke, with a blue velvet hat and a double first in mathematics”, (review of The Imitation Game, Oct 8). As to whether this is a zeugma type 1, 2, 3, 4, a diazeugma, a hypozeugma, a prozeugma or a mesozeugma, I remain as confused as I was in 1960.
Sir, The Care Quality Commission is in an impossible position (letters, Oct 8). About one fifth of care homes are below standard and should be improved or closed. The CQC knows this but it would take a far braver regulator to act decisively and with the aggression needed. Compare this with Ofsted’s position within the nursery sector. For all its foibles, it’s a good regulator with teeth. It can afford to be tough — only five per cent of nurseries are in the “very bad” category. However, until eldercare is as well funded as childcare, no care home regulator will ever get it right.
My Family Care, London SW6
Britain is currently expected to miss the government’s export target of £1 trillion by 2020 Photo: Bloomberg News
6:56AM BST 12 Oct 2014
SIR – Scott Barnes is right to argue that Britain’s medium-sized businesses need help when looking to export.
A fear of failure is a constant constraint even on reasonably ambitious companies. We need to provide more incentives to businesses looking to trade overseas.
Exploring these options surely amounts to research and product development, and if treated in the same way for tax purposes would mean that there would be less for a potential exporter to lose and, crucially, more to gain.
Similar incentives are offered by our competitors. We are currently expected to miss the government’s export target of £1 trillion by 2020. If we are to come close to hitting it, measures like this would be a great help.
Director of Business, The Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales
SIR – Why shouldn’t we judge a public figure such as Brooks Newmark, the MP for Braintree, by his “legitimate private conduct” in the 21st Century (Letters, October 5)? He has betrayed his wife, his children and his constituents by shattering their expectations of an honourable member of parliament.
If he had been a member of Richard III’s 15th-century parliament he would have been found guilty of moral turpitude. Why should we not have great expectations for today’s salaried MPs, instead of condoning their foolish actions?
Edenthorpe, West Yorkshire
A stunt too far
SIR – Young men from both Britain and Argentina gave their lives during the Falklands War, so the recent Top Gear debacle, which could only have caused distress to those who live with the loss of loved ones, is unacceptable.
We live in a fractured world which needs mending, and I just hope the people of Argentina do not associate such juvenile antics with the people of Britain.
Alone in a crowd
SIR – My daughter was recently waiting for a lift to school, and when it failed to materialise she walked, arriving five minutes late. The school has a new rule which states that any pupils who are late will have to spend lunchtime in “isolation”.
On being asked how it was, she replied: “It was packed.”
A family handout photograph of Alan Henning with an unidentified child. The undated image was taken at a refugee camp on the Turkish-Syrian border
6:57AM BST 12 Oct 2014
SIR – Dr Shameela Islam-Zulfiqar is heavily critical of the Government for failing to secure Alan Henning’s release and says that by joining the US air strikes we “handed Alan and many other Western hostages a death sentence”. This is disingenuous and so far from the truth that it would, in different circumstances, be laughable.
The gang of murderers which is currently violating the freedoms, health and lives of untold numbers of people in Iraq and Syria has no regard for pleas for clemency on any grounds or for any standards of normal human behaviour. The responsibility for Mr Henning’s tragic murder lies squarely on their shoulders.
To blame the British Government for Mr Henning’s death is typical of the rationale of those who try to justify this sort of barbaric behaviour or to explain it away as a response to provocation. It is shameful.
SIR – As an ambassador for the Holocaust Educational Trust, I am deeply concerned that the Government is not doing enough to prevent the growing prejudice against Muslims in Britain, which is increasingly alienating the British Muslim population.
Understanding and dialogue between this community and the rest of the British public are breaking down, particularly among the working class.
Although I too am horrified by the acts of Isil, I am equally horrified by the response on social media, where racism is flourishing, and by the increase in hate crimes against Muslims.
Ironically, this is likely to encourage further radicalisation and extremism among British Muslims.
In its efforts to combat Islamic extremism, the Government is ignoring incitement of hatred against Muslims. More than 28,000 pieces of “terrorist material” have been removed from the internet this year. The same should be done with racist, anti-Muslim material.
Privacy at what cost?
SIR – Your report “US threat to British online privacy” highlights a dilemma.
The concept of privacy is the antithesis of a culture of openness and transparency, and the advocates of one should address the concerns of the proponents of the other. But some of those who would prefer privacy and secrecy might not be too concerned about free speech and other democratic values.
If encryption of data becomes the norm, personal privacy might be enhanced, but personal as well as collective safety and security will be degraded.
SIR – The attack on JP Morgan Chase’s customer information compromised the contact details of over 76 million homes.
The security of data is of critical importance to any business, especially the banks that hold our private contact and banking information. So why do we still see so many reports of security breaches?
As the skills of cyber criminals develop, it is becoming glaringly apparent that a simple password is no longer a strong enough security measure to protect a system, particularly if users are accessing data from their mobile phones and personal devices.
Organisations need to use stronger authentication methods and they must perform risk analysis. Fingerprinting and analysing the behaviour of users can provide more in-depth verification of an individual, without negatively affecting the user experience.
In order to maintain consumer trust it is essential that organisations take action.
Irvine, California, United States
SIR – While I am concerned to hear that Kids Company is running out of money, I do not share your correspondent’s belief that the blame lies with a lack of funding from central government.
It is not the government’s role to fund charities.
Bang out of order
SIR – This year Londoners will be charged to watch the New Year’s Eve firework display over the Thames. This is apparently because the event is too big and the cost of stewarding too much.
What a load of tosh!
If it has grown too popular, by all means ticket the event, by lottery if necessary, but it is totally wrong to charge Londoners to attend an event they have already paid for.
How much does it really cost to issue an e-ticket? As for stewarding, we have a police force which is tasked with keeping public order and this event is held in a public place.
Begging your pardon
SIR – Glenda Cooper makes the excellent point that one of the strengths of Received Pronunciation was “clarity and the grammatical precision that usually accompanied it”.
Grammatical errors are increasingly common among broadcasters, regardless of accent, and odd phrasing hinders comprehension further.
Am I just a grumpy former teacher of speech and drama or do others feel the same?
SIR – I was born in Durham, educated in a boarding school in Wolverhampton, married an RAF officer and have lived in Aden, Germany and several counties in England.
I think my voice is accentless but I sometimes find myself adopting the accent of the person I am talking to. I hope these people do not think I am being rude.
Cake mania: The Great British Bake Off finalists Luis, Nancy and Richard present their “showstopper” cakes Photo: AFP/Getty Images
6:58AM BST 12 Oct 2014
SIR – Dr Linda Blair’s article about the psychological benefits of baking can only be described as misguided in this age of obesity.
It is very worrying to read that programmes like The Great British Bake Off are encouraging people to produce, and subsequently eat, cakes which require large quantities of sugar and butter.
May I suggest that the nation would be much better served by a programme like The Superb Soup Kitchen. The variety of healthy soups which can be produced from the amazing selection of fresh vegetables now available all year round is endless. This would give the cook just as much satisfaction and just as great a feeling of psychological well-being as baking a cake would.
Moffat, Dumfries and Galloway
Nichole Leggett and Carol Mills pose for a selfie with UKIP leader Nigel Farage and Douglas Carswell in Clacton Photo: Nichole Leggett
7:00AM BST 12 Oct 2014
SIR – At the end of the party conference season, having witnessed purringly positive Cameron, negative Clegg, forgetful Miliband and sparky Farage, is it any wonder the electorate has blown a fuse and short-circuited British politics? The Clacton by-election result says it all.
The main political parties need to reconnect with voters who live outside the Westminster bubble, rather than try to dazzle us with elaborate smoke and mirrors. May 2015 is looming.
SIR – “The British public looks with frustration upon the meddling of European institutions”. It’s also another reason why they vote Ukip.
SIR – Following Ukip’s victory in the Clacton by-election, the Tory party must now focus on building support for the forthcoming general election.
Two matters will be vital. First, HS2 should be deferred. This proposal only won Labour’s support because of the certainty that Tory seats would be lost. The funds would be better spent on existing rail services and facilities, including free car parking for commuters.
Secondly, if Better Together is to mean anything to those in Scotland, the Government must ensure Holyrood has dedicated funds and an agreed timetable to fully upgrade the A9 as far as the Dornoch bridge and the A96 between Inverness and Aberdeen. This would provide tangible evidence that together really is better.
SIR – Upon leaving the Conservative Party and joining Ukip, Douglas Carswell said that the people of Britain thought the three main parties were all the same and did not deliver on their promises. He was right.
But he should have added that they are not in fact able to deliver. The larger problems facing the country – the economy, immigration, demands on the NHS, the benefits budget and constitutional matters – are not open to clear solutions, only to the management of one problem after another.
Ukip believes it has clear solutions to these issues. This is a delusion.
SIR – Douglas Carswell and Mark Reckless were right to move to Ukip if they thought that this would give them a better chance of putting their political views into effect.
They were also right to resign from the House of Commons to fight by-elections under their new party colours, but this does risk establishing a convention whereby MPs who change parties or are expelled from them must do the same.
There is a delicate balance of power between party leaderships, MPs, and the people. Such a convention would strengthen the power of the party leaderships over MPs, which is not in the public interest.
J A Smith
SIR – How much does it cost taxpayers to fund by-elections in constituencies that will cast votes as part of the general election only months later?
Prospective Ukip MPs have no qualms about spending taxpayers’ money to fund Nigel Farage’s publicity machine.
Denby Dale, West Yorkshire
SIR – Michael Moszynski is right to suggest the defections to Ukip could threaten Mr Cameron’s promise of an EU referendum, but that might be no bad thing.
A referendum under Mr Cameron could well be worse than not having one at all.
Any promises of reform that would encourage the British people to vote to remain in the EU would more than likely be reneged on, as they have been in the past.
SIR – Mr Cameron was laughing at Ukip; he isn’t laughing now.
Sir, – It was with anticipation that I read my friend Derek Byrne’s piece, which quickly turned to dismay (“Marriage not a good fit for gay people’s lifestyles”, Opinion & Analysis, October 9th). He wrongly assumes that because he doesn’t encounter monogamous gay men in his day-to-day life that they must barely exist, and therefore marriage as it currently stands is not a “good fit for gay people’s lifestyles”.
The truth is far more likely to be that one doesn’t encounter many monogamous gay couples when out and about on the gay scene because, like their heterosexual counterparts, they have outgrown the bars and clubs which cater to singles and prefer to spend the majority of their lives in pursuit of what are, to all intents and purposes, “married” lives.
Yes, we may need to redefine marriage, which is an entirely different discussion, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t many gay people who want to get married today. To say they are somehow betraying their roots is a touch patronising. If Mr Byrne doesn’t want to get married until marriage conforms to his vision, that’s his choice. But when it comes to voting in the referendum, I hope the people will allow the rest of us ours. – Yours, etc,
Crumlin, Dublin 12.
Sir, – I am gay, in a civil partnership, and know many same-sex couples who have been joined in civil partnership. I also know (as much as one can in these matters) that they, as I, live monogamously and have committed to do so for the rest of their lives – not because of a “village mentality” or “Catholic guilt” but on the basis of a desire to live by committing to an exclusive, intimate relationship. I do not appreciate Mr Byrne making assumptions about my “lifestyle” or that of my particular circle of friends by presenting them with “certainty”.
If Mr Byrne wants consultation and space for difference, let him start by not putting people into general categories on the basis of his anecdotal observations. – Yours, etc,
Blackrock, Co Dublin.
Sir, – The recent call by John O’Connor of the Government’s Housing Agency for a reconsideration of the apartment sizes set out in Dublin City Council’s development plan (“Housing Agency calls for smaller apartments in Dublin”, October 4th) opens an interesting debate which could, in my view, be extended to cover a review of all the national standards that affect residential development.
As an architect and one of the consultants on the first government guidelines on residential density in 1999, I support the concept of higher density and more sustainable compact towns and cities. However there are many ways in which higher densities can be achieved without constructing tall buildings. In my view, the model we need to move towards, in the main, is low rise, higher density, except in the centre of towns and cities where the scale of building should be substantially higher.
In Dublin, we cite successful neighbourhoods such as Portobello, Phibsborough, etc, as ideal examples of residential design incorporating low-rise, family-friendly places to live. We need to examine why this is so and how it has been achieved.
The density in these areas is quite high and comparable with many high-rise schemes, but dwelling sizes tend to be smaller, gardens more compact, public open space limited and car parking kept to a minimum but with good access to public transport. The result seems to be vibrant places in which people like to live.
The standards set out in most of our current plans for new development require much greater areas of land to be kept free at ground level to facilitate gardens, open spaces and car parking than is provided in the neighbourhoods mentioned above. This inevitably results in pushing buildings “up in the air” in order to achieve sustainable densities.
In many cases this has often created unsatisfactory ground-level areas of unsightly surface car parking and large but soulless windswept open spaces. Perhaps it is time to re-evaluate these standards and see if they are militating against achieving low-rise, higher-density solutions, particularly for edge of town and suburban locations where residents could live closer to ground level and have access to smaller, but better designed, more usable open spaces. A wider range of smaller dwelling sizes also needs to be looked at, which responds better to our current demographics and depends on access to public transport; car parking requirements, particularly directly outside the front door, need to be restricted.
This might allow us then to have “streets” in the true meaning of the word, as uncluttered places where people can walk, cycle or even play in safety. It is only from there that we can begin to move towards creating neighbourhoods, establishing a sense of place and building communities. – Yours, etc,
Rathgar, Dublin 6.
Sir, – Rev Patrick G Burke (September 27th) kindly invited all of those attending the meeting in Galway celebrating 21 years of the Humanist Association of Ireland to spend some time in local churches, and some may well have done so.
I was brought up as a Christian, I attend church services from time to time and I value many friends who are religious. I am frequently moved by wonderful sacred music and I appreciate thoughtful addresses, notably at funerals, which bind people together and give us all some strength. I sometimes explain humanism as Christianity without God. Most of the people who signed the first Humanist Manifesto (1933) were Unitarian ministers. There is not much distance between the best of humanism and the best of religion, but it is fundamental.
My difficulty is that I was never able to find any reason to believe in the supernatural. On the other hand I had no difficulty in discovering that ethics have a sound basis in human experience. Rev Dr Twomey (September 29th), a distinguished theologian, and a sharp critic of his own church, advocates faith in addition to science (or reason), but faith in what, a God, a soul, life after death, transubstantiation, the virgin birth, the Trinity, resurrection from the dead, faith in the authority of his church? There is not a shred of evidence to believe any of the supernatural claims of any religion, which is why the churches, recognising the eternal hope for certainty and happiness in an uncertain and cruel world, must appeal to “faith”, uncritical acceptance of what one reads in books written thousands of years ago and what one is told by priests.
Humanists have found that they get on well without faith – they rely on what they can see and know from their own and other people’s reliable observations. Yes, humanists believe, in Dr Twomey’s words, that “nothing exists beyond the empirical realm” but that realm includes all the useful and reliable things and ideas that have emerged from people’s inquisitive and creative consideration of the world around them. Mathematics, chess and music, poetry, plays and books of all kinds, symphonies and song, painting and philosophy, family, friendship and fellowship, ordinary conversations, scientific theories from relativity to plate tectonics to evolution by natural selection, all of what Karl Popper called World III, the “world” invented by mankind, and yes, religion, are part of the humanist world. If we did not exist, none of these would exist. All these can be experienced and tested for their value in our efforts to lead contented and good lives. But everything invented by people – people made God, not vice versa – should be tested for its reasonableness and value. God may be a valuable idea to many people but not to humanists, and we do not think it is fair for those who believe in God, to insist that God should intrude into their lives.
Dr O’Leary (October 2nd) suggests we humanists should recognise the “phenomena of truth and falsehood, good and evil”.
Well of course we do recognise these, but in the end, while obeying the laws of democratic society, we decide for ourselves what is true or false, good or evil, doing our best to follow the Golden Rule – do unto others as you would have them do unto you. We do not unthinkingly follow the rules of any religion, and certainly not one which claimed it was heretical to say that the Earth went round the Sun, a church which burned (1600) the Dominican theologian Bruno because among other reasonable suggestions he thought there was life elsewhere in the universe (nearly 2,000 exoplanets have been discovered since 1995), a church which threatened the founder of modern science, Galileo, with execution, a church which still today says it is evil to use contraceptives (1968), a church whose leading bishops continue to claim that humanists are not fully human (Archbishop Murphy, 1968; Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor 2009), a church which assures us that women are lesser creatures than men. This is a church which, as an institution imbued with faith in the supernatural, on so many issues has not been able to distinguish truth and falsity, good and evil.
Please do not misunderstand me. The great majority of religious people have nothing to do with these views, and they have quietly rejected them. Many people find solace in religion and the goodness and decency of the great majority of our citizens has been influenced by their religious beliefs. I respect the many thoughtful contributions of religious people to our efforts to resolve the daunting moral dilemmas we face in the modern world, especially in my own field of genetics.
But fewer and fewer people believe in the place or need for supernatural guidance. They have learned that the supernatural is not reliable and not necessary.
If you have no faith in the supernatural, and if you believe in your own capacity to decide on what is true or false, good or evil, guided by your own experience and the verifiable experience and reasonable ideas of other obviously thoughtful people, you are to all intents and purposes a humanist.
As one good friend, a pillar of our society, said to me 30 years ago – “Sure lots of us are like that but we just don’t say so”. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – Well done to Dr Edward Horgan for his illuminating and insightful letter regarding university league tables (October 7th).
I can easily relate to what he says as I too feel that younger academics are being exploited within the university sector.
This is particularly evident within the field of postgraduate doctoral research. Instead of fostering independent thought, the majority of senior academics advise students to specialise in areas that conveniently overlap with their own research interests.
As a result, many students suffer in silence and are forced to pay lip service to their supervisors so that they can increase their chances of employment and achieve some degree of permanency.
In my opinion, this approach reinforces the powerful position of the university elite and worsens the “employee apartheid” that is becoming increasingly common in third-level institutions.
If there is a willingness to address this problem, then there should be no reason why these seats of learning could not improve their status within the university league tables. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – A recent news report (“Rising museum postponed”, October 7th) refers to a proposed commemorative centre at 14 to 17 Moore Street, “believed to have been used by the leaders of the Rising”. All buildings along the Moore Street terrace were occupied and held by volunteers as the last headquarters of the 1916 Provisional Government of the Irish Republic.
Number 10 Moore Street, the point of entry into the terrace by the GPO garrison and where the leaders spent their last night of freedom, is now being offered up in a proposed deal by Chartered Land supported by City Management. This would secure the planning application for a shopping centre on the last extant 1916 battleground – an area described by our National Museum as “the most important historic site in modern Irish history”.
It is truly remarkable that buildings that were occupied by five of the signatories to our Proclamation before their execution by firing squad are considered fair game. Elected members of the city council should not engage in this charade. It is deeply insulting to the memory of the men and women of 1916. It runs contrary to the recommendations of its own Moore Street Advisory Committee that has called for an independent battlefield survey of this historic area and the preservation of all 1916 buildings. That survey must now be implemented in the public interest, given the belated recognition of the historical importance of number 10 Moore Street – a building set to be demolished and lost forever under what in effect is now an outdated and redundant Chartered Land planning application. – Yours, etc,
Ranelagh, Dublin 6.
Sir, – The negative reaction to the Central Bank’s mortgage proposals reminds me of the observation, “We learn from history that we do not learn from history”.
House buyers will almost invariably bid the maximum amount they can get their hands on – a reduction in credit will therefore reduce the maximum price that will be bid by the typical buyer and therefore reduce prices generally as prices are always set at the margin.
While there is much to be said for assisting young people, this must be done via supply of houses for rent and purchase and by disincentivising landlords from crowding out first-time buyers from the market. More fuel on the fire is not needed, and the Central Bank is to be commended for looking out for the greater good. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – There has been much discussion in your sports pages about head injury and concussion in rugby (“Concussion on the political agenda”, October 3rd). When I played rugby (in the last century), the purpose of the tackle was to halt, not to hurt, the opponent. The introduction of the term and practice of the “hit” implies an intention to hurt or injure.
Rugby is becoming a dreary contest of beefed-up behemoths in crude collisions, with frequent consequential injuries.
American-style helmets serve only to increase the impact on the brain.
Rugby needs somehow to revert to a running, passing game where the speed of the man or ball wins, not physical force. Suggestions? Learn from Rugby Sevens? More running forwards like Sean Cronin? Less forceful tackles? – Yours, etc,
Dún Laoghaire, Co Dublin.
Sir, – Prof John A Murphy is right to state that the parallel drawn by John Bruton between Scotland today and Ireland a century ago is “unhistorical” (September 22nd).
It is, however, much less “unhistorical” to observe that Irish Party leaders such as Redmond and John Dillon were interested in dominion status and that they had first-hand knowledge of political developments in the self-governing parts of the then British Empire; it is also worth noting that one senior colonial politician, Edward Blake, the former Canadian Liberal Party leader and premier of Ontario, was an Irish Party MP from 1892 to 1907. The suggestion that Home Rule as offered in 1914 might have been a stage to greater autonomy, even eventually to dominion status, is hardly implausible or ridiculous. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – Recently, while changing some euro, it struck me how boring our paper currency has become. Other countries, outside the euro belt, have portraits of their national figures – artists, philosophers and the like.
Europe has almost limitless possibilities but has failed to use this resource.
There are figures who, in the past, succeeded in uniting Europe; Julius Caesar springs to mind, although admittedly more recent personalities may be contentious.
Of course, where the world of art is concerned we are spoilt for choice – Johannes Goethe, Émil Zola, Cervantes, our own James Joyce and WB Yeats. And then music – ah music – glorious Mozart, Bach, Bono, Édith Piaf, Richard Tauber – the list is almost too much.
I haven’t even touched on the world of painting and sculpture.
Why has this opportunity been ignored? – Yours, etc,
DAVID J DOWSETT,
Sir, – During the extended 1998-2007 drought in Victoria, water companies convinced customers to be more economical in their use of this precious resource. They then changed their billing practices, raising standing charges and downgrading usage charges.
Water may not be flowing with the same abundance as before but the water companies’ revenue streams are nonetheless in full flood. – Yours, etc,
“Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there, wondering, fearing, doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before.” (Edgar Allan Poe)
In the future, generations who live on this island will look to October 11, 2014 as one of the most special days in modern history. It will be revered as much as the Easter Rising, for on this day something truly ground-breaking occurred. Although we are all probably too close to the day to truly appreciate what happened, the fact is that for the first time in our history as an independent nation, we actually saw through that which has prevented us from truly joining the nations of the earth.
Just as the overpowering light of a full moon dims the far-off stars in the night sky, the traditional parties of Ireland have, since the foundation of the State, obscured in many ways our true past. Their self-professed loud howlings of knowing what is good for our nation have seen wave after wave of emigration of those who have been frozen out to the far reaches of the globe.
Their economic projections and claims that we live in a global economy were severely tested and the bluff was called.
Thousands and thousands marched on Dublin.
Two Independent candidates made a mockery of not only the pollsters but the bookies, who have to a certain degree maintained the myth that the only alternative for our nation’s future could come from two or three groupings of traditional parties that have, in the cold light of day, bowed to the whims of foreigners.
The Dail – a place that has seen a woman groped in full view of the world, that has produced eejits that think of sending crank calls to their fellow parliamentarians about pizza at taxpayers’ expense – is under great change.
When Michael Noonan presents the economic claptrap called the Budget he will be doing so from a position where those he represents are already yesterday’s news. The collapse in the vote of both Labour and Fine Gael is not something that will recover and nor should it, in my opinion. Nor should the few polished performers from other parties be seen as the deliverers of Ireland’s future.
All great crises bring great change. At the end of the crisis true people of character come to the fore.
Congratulations to those who won seats and congratulations to those who marched.
Athenry, Co Galway
Precious thing called love
I read recently that the late lamented Diarmaid O Muirithe, in one of his great contributions to our understanding of words, expressed his fear that the lovely word “precious” would ultimately disappear entirely except for its sacred use, as in “the most precious blood of the Saviour”.
Well, I can assure you Diarmaid, that it will never disappear in our house, as for many years I have been calling my lovely wife “precious”.
A wonderful word, “precious”, for a wonderful wife.
Brian Mc Devitt
Glenties, Co Donegal
Riddle of Childers’ execution
Your synopsis of the ‘Riddle of the Sands’ described the book’s author, Erskine Childers Snr, as “a political revolutionary . . . executed by the British in 1922”.
Was this Childers not executed by the Cumann na nGaedheal government (who were Irish) under anti-concealed weapon legislation, having been found carrying a small, ornamental pistol gifted to him by none other than Michael Collins?
The root of Keano’s pain
Even the most useless psychologist would cut to the nub of Roy Keane’s psychosis in a minute. It’s called “rejection”. Rejection by the man who moulded and made Roy.
Those runs, those rows with opposition hit men. That relentless drive and bossing in the dressing room for Alex came to nought when the legs went.
The sacrifice against Juventus in 1999; the subjugation of the Gunners and all the other noisy neighbours; the scattered feathers of the Liver Bird mattered not a whit to Alex when Roy became surplus to requirements.
Like a prodigal son spurned , Keane rails at the sky. Roy left but Alex continued winning. That’s the real pain for Roy. Look forward to the third book ‘Extra Time’ . . . and more Fergie time.
Imminent threat of Ebola
Ebola is getting out of hand. It is spreading and has already reached Europe.
When the news broke a few days ago that Spanish nurse Teresa Romero had contracted the deadly virus, the reaction in Spain was one of shock and horror: not only at the possible fate of the poor nurse but also at the realisation of the economic consequences on a country that largely relies on tourism to make a living.
Since then, 14 other people in Spain have been admitted for screening.
Make no mistake, Ebola is on its way here. Ireland has become interconnected in a world that has grown smaller and smaller in an unprecedented way.
Screening at airports and ports and securing the border may bring some assurance, but many people passing through such controls would present as asymptomatic. Besides, this strategy still needs to be considered. The Government, via the HSE, needs to roll out an information campaign to inform the population.
Malahide, Dublin 17
Reviewing corporate tax
It is good the Government has accepted that the rules on corporate tax have to be reviewed globally and that it will play its full part in that review. It is also good that it has been made clear that this does not extend to taxation rates themselves.
This last week, Minister of State Simon Harris made it abundantly clear that Ireland does not seek to attract brass plate companies.
Might it not be an idea to take the lead on this point and implement such national measures as we can to prevent these types of companies from registering here.
John F Jordan
Killiney, Co Dublin
Appointing deputy judges
Like anyone who represents a party, or parties, before our courts, I read with concern the comments the President of the High Court made about the shortage of judges.
Perhaps one way to address this matter would be to amend our Constitution to permit the appointment of part-time or deputy judges.
One perceived difficulty with the present system is that once a judge is appointed, if s/he demonstrates a lack of judicial ability, it is very hard to do very much about it, save the ultimate sanction of impeachment.
Appointing a deputy would have the benefit of addressing any shortage in judges, as well as allowing the Judicial Appointments Board to take into account the aptitude and experience of a deputy judge when considering them for full-time appointment in the future.
It might also make the proposed amendment on the issue of blasphemy more relevant to the voters, if another constitutional amendment was proposed along with it.
Johnnie McCoy BL
Law Library, Four Courts, Dublin 7