3 November 2014 Jill

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 clear the leaves from the drive. Jill comes to call.

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


Hermione Hobhouse – obituary

Hermione Hobhouse was an architectural historian and biographer of Thomas Cubitt who chronicled the destruction of much-loved London landmarks

Hermione Hobhouse at the Albert Memorial

Hermione Hobhouse at the Albert Memorial

6:00PM GMT 02 Nov 2014


Hermione Hobhouse, who has died aged 80, was an architectural historian and conservationist who was noted for an acclaimed biography of Thomas Cubitt, the leading master builder in London in the early 19th century and the architect of Osborne House on the Isle of Wight.

She also wrote a pioneering study of the destruction wreaked by modern architects and bureaucrats on London’s architectural heritage and, as general editor of the Survey of London, shifted the focus of the century-old project from the smarter boroughs of central London to their less prosperous eastern neighbours.

Her Lost London, published in 1972, was a heart-rending pictorial survey of architectural violence against the city, from the loss of Sir John Soane’s original Bank of England to the destruction, in 1961, of the Euston Arch, built in 1837.

As the first mainline terminus in any capital city, Euston and its arch had, if nothing else, Hermione Hobhouse argued, historical significance. Yet such considerations cut no ice with the British Transport Commission, the London County Council or the Macmillan government who were determined to demolish the arch as part of a modernisation programme, and refused to spend the £180,000 it would have cost to save it. In 1994 the historian Dan Cruickshank discovered much of the arch had been dumped in the River Lea .

The arch’s imminent demolition had sparked a protest in which Woodrow Wyatt, John Betjeman and Nikolaus Pevsner were prominent , and which generated a wider movement to preserve much-loved landmarks. Hermione Hobhouse’s book, and she herself in the capacity of secretary of the Victorian Society from 1976 to 1982, did much to inform and stimulate the campaign.

In a review of her book in The Spectator, Benny Green wrote that in some pages he had seemed to hear “the sibilance of banknotes changing hands, the squelch of palms being greased, the tiny patter of shares being transferred”, as well as “the dull thump of bureaucrats jumping to conclusions”.

For 11 years, from 1983 to 1994, Hermione Hobhouse was general editor of the multi-volume Survey of London, which had been founded in 1894 by Charles Robert Ashbee, an architect and social thinker who wanted to record and preserve London’s ancient monuments. There she completed the volume on southern Kensington begun under her predecessor Francis Sheppard, but set out to move away from its emphasis on the orderly great estates of the West End to look at more humble areas of the capital.

The first volume published under her aegis was a study of County Hall, reviving the Survey’s occasional monograph series. However the bigger challenge was Poplar, then being comprehensively redeveloped under the London Docklands Development Corporation.

The research and writing of the two volumes on Poplar, issued in 1994, were a challenge because the area was changing dramatically. The Survey was forced to broaden its remit to include modern buildings and infrastructure, but the new approach clearly chimed with popular demand; since the Survey volumes were put online, Poplar has received more hits than any other area of London.

This fresh thinking would bear fruit in another project, on Clerkenwell, finally published in two volumes in 2008 long after Hermione Hobhouse’s retirement, under Philip Temple’s editorship.

Hermione Hobhouse (right) at the Prince Albert Exhibition at the RCA in 1983, with the Prince and Princess of Wales

Mary Hermione Hobhouse (always known as Hermione) was born on February 2 1934 at Hadspen House, Castle Cary, Somerset, the daughter of Arthur (later Sir Arthur) Lawrence Hobhouse, a local Liberal politician who is best remembered as the architect of Britain’s system of National Parks.

She was educated at Cheltenham Ladies’ College and at Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford, where she read Modern History.

After graduation she worked for eight years as a television researcher and writer , before leaving to devote herself to writing and teaching.

Her first book, Thomas Cubitt: Master Builder (1971) set the achievements of the famous speculative builder in the context of urban, business and social history, and the history of technology. But she lightened up the narrative with fascinating reflections on Cubitt’s personality from diaries and plays as well as from The Builder magazine and official records. The book won her the Hitchcock Medal of the Society of Architectural Historians.

Thomas Cubitt by an unknown artist (1835)

From 1973 to 1978 Hermione Hobhouse was tutor in Architectural History at the Architectural Association School and she lectured extensively on town planning and urban history, Victorian architecture, and on Prince Albert, publishing Prince Albert: his life and work in 1983 and The Crystal Palace and the Great Exhibition — Art, Science and Productive Industry: the history of the Royal Commission for the Great Exhibition of 1851 in 2002.

For many years she was a member of the 1851 Commission and, through that, a trustee of the Albert Hall. She was also a member of the Council of the National Trust and a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of London.

Hermione Hobhouse had an incisive intellect and a strength of personality that occasionally led her into confrontation, but she had an infinite capacity for sociability with a wide circle of friends.

Her other books include History of Regent Street (1975) and London Survey’d: the work of the Survey of London 1894-1994 (1994). She also contributed to architectural journals.

She was appointed MBE in 1981.

In 1958 she married the architect Henry Graham. Though the marriage was later dissolved they remained friends. She is survived by her son and daughter.

Hermione Hobhouse, born February 2 1934, died October 17 2014


Poppies at the Tower of London: Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red, 30 October 2014. Poppies at the Tower of London: Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red, 30 October 2014. Photograph: Nick Harvey/Rex Features

I believe that Jonathan Jones’ critique of Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red installation at the Tower (1 November) does a disservice to the many people who have been moved by the poppies, and the important consequences of expressing those feelings, in passing on a shared memory. My great-uncle Frank died in 1917, serving in the Royal Flying Corps. No one in the family ever spoke of him and there is no one left to ask. After some research, I learned that he drowned when the Aragon was torpedoed outside Alexandria harbour. When I heard that a roll of honour was being read each evening at the Tower I submitted his name.

One summer evening, I stood in a large crowd overlooking the poppies. Most were in family groups, talking softly about those whose memory they had come to celebrate. Older people were explaining to young children the circumstances in which their far-distant relatives had died. As the sun went down, a yeoman warder read the names. There were few officers: Frank was the only air mechanic in that evening’s list. A bugler played the Last Post and the crowd dispersed quietly.

The people attending those ceremonies and flocking to look at the poppies may not share Mr Jones’s deep understanding of history but they certainly know the horror of war, through their own family histories. Indeed, Mr Jones uses his own family’s experiences to illustrate his argument. Children who have been taken to see the poppies will remember the family stories they are told there. This seems to me to be a valuable endeavour.
Laura F Spira

• Jonathan Jones says a true work of art about the first world war “would need to be as obscene as cancer”. In 2014, surely a true work of art about war, in any place, at any time, would capture the miserable nature of men so incapable of resolving their differences that they slaughtered each other in their millions in order to win. Win what exactly? To be top dog for a while? Isn’t it time we grew up?

Art seems to be forgetting its job, to tell the story of the time we live in, and to truthfully show us ourselves and our nature within that time, including contemporarily reviewing the past. Artists now, as never before perhaps, need to be emotionally mature in their perceptions to be able to accurately depict this in whatever medium they choose with any depth. And critics need to be equally perceptive about what artists are endeavouring to express in order to usher their work into the public consciousness. A cool mind, please, JJ, it’s an important job you do. This war of words over the difference between what is an artwork and a memorial is in fact a war of words over art itself. Discuss.
Judy Liebert

• Congratulations to Jonathan Jones for his robust defence of his earlier critique (The Tower of London poppies are fake, trite and inward-looking – a Ukip-style memorial, theguardian.com, 28 October) of the poppy memorial. The Daily Mail, which criticises him, was a cheerleader (along with the Times and Telegraph) for Britain entering the first world war, as shown in the excellent new book by Douglas Newton, The Darkest Days (Review, 20 September). These newspapers, aided by politicians such as Churchill, spewed out anti-German and militaristic rhetoric in the days leading up to the outbreak of the war, hence undercutting the chances of a peaceful resolution to the crisis. The last thing we need is more memorials which encourage poignancy; we need memorials to remind us that, as Newton argues, the only uplifting element in the story of that war is in the struggle to avert it.
Professor Jim Tomlinson
University of Glasgow

• Anyone looking at the 888,246 poppies cannot but be moved that so many lives were lost. Many, like me, will be reinforced in the belief that war can only ever signify failure. This is not to deny the reality. But if huge numbers are moved to ask why, then the ceramic poppies are far more than the art installation Jones sees.
Peter Young
Banchory, Aberdeenshire

• There are many truths about the Great War and Jonathan Jones is correct in saying that the display of poppies around the Tower of London is not a balanced summary . Pretty though it may be, the poppy installation does communicate one truth, that unfathomable numbers of beautiful beings were lost in that tragedy. Somehow these ceramic poppies do this more effectively than any array of pale gravestones or lists of names have done.

In contrast, Jones cites work by Otto Dix and Wilfred Own that gives us hazy glimpses of a different and uglier reality, that war involves horrors that we in our safe suburban lives can barely imagine. But had these works succeeded in communicating and connecting with people in the way the Tower’s massed poppies have done maybe we would be less inclined to think of war as an acceptable evil.
Richard Evans

• Jonathan Jones’s arguments, his passion and his opinions deserve respect. So too do the opinions of others. Like many people, I do find poignancy and relevance in the field of poppies at the Tower of London. Flowers symbolise loss and also regeneration: they too wither and die and are replaced by new growths. Graphic art and harsh words may depict horrors in a more forthright manner – and yet are still only representations of actual events. What is essential in any art work is its capacity to move the human heart; for me, the red poppy symbolises the blood of the lives lost and its beauty enhances rather than diminishes that awareness.

The collective loss of millions of men is not represented in the moat; only those from these shores. Perhaps we need, from time to time, to consider those losses within our immediate family of nations, just as at times of individual grief families sometimes close their own doors. Not a deliberate act of exclusion, therefore, rather an opportunity to consider those who fought for us and provided us with the opportunity to remember them now, in this way, in this country.

The brutality of war, the barbed wire and the bones – these must not be forgotten. Neither must hope be forgotten, for is it not hope – for an end to war, for a future without war, for a more reasonable way of solving differences – that motivated these men as they fought?

Bones and bloodshed, poetry and poppies. Respecting Jonathan Jones’ opinion is what matters most of all.
June Lowe

• The way the poppies spill from the battlements into the moat will remind many of William Blake’s poem London: “And the hapless soldier’s sigh / Runs in blood down palace walls.” You don’t even need to know Blake to see the blood.
Paul Stephenson

• Many of Jonathan Jones’s comments might apply to Wilfred Owen’s cultivated, generally “tasteful”, Keatsian verse. Owen rhymes. He uses metre. Imagery. There aren’t many who don’t: but Jones might have chosen a more skeletal poet such as Richard Aldington or Wilfrid Gibson – one who didn’t have the popular emotional uplift that he calls sentimental. One of the finest trench poets, Edmund Blunden, who endured more than most, surviving the Somme and Passchendaele, captured the war in poetry and prose that is a veritable torrent of ceramic poppies. He understood the power of artifice, of beauty indeed, as well as he understood the bones and mud of the battlefield. Not every war requiem has to be atonal.
John Greening
St Neots, Cambridgeshire

• Ernst Jünger is not “all pure horror”: in Storm of Steel there’s also camaraderie, heroism, excitement, even exhilaration. More substantially, the catastrophist notion that the war “smashed the modern world off the rails and started a cycle of murderous extremism” overlooks what “the modern world” had been doing in colonial contexts for decades before 1914: the murderous battle of Omdurman (1898) prefigured the Somme, but the victims, being proto-Islamic extremists, get overlooked. Likewise the Herero genocide of 1904-07 anticipated atrocities in Europe and Asia. It might be better to say that, post-1914, murderous extremism came home to roost.
Alan Knight
Emeritus professor of history, Oxford University

Why should the poppies at the Tower of London be viewed, and then judged, as an artwork that somehow fails to tell the truth? They are not there to communicate the horrors and bestiality of war, in the way that Otto Dix’s skull does. Why should they? They are a memorial – a commemoration of the hundreds of thousands of (predominantly) men of these islands who died during the First World War. The poppies bring their deaths to our minds and help us to commit their sacrifice to memory.

Do we condemn Laurence Binyon’s For the Fallen because it is not Wilfred Owen’s Dulce et Decorum Est? I hope not.
Philip de Ste Croix
Clayton, West Sussex

• Arguably the most worrying outcome of the ceramic poppy installation at the Tower of London is that the taboo on challenging the tainted symbolism of the red poppy is now being enforced even more obsessively than in previous years. This supposed work of art manages to be both overbearing – swamping our sensibilities with a single non-negotiable image; and fragile – composed as it is of brittle and delicate material. In both respects it might be said to reflect the attitude of those who over the course of 2014 have hijacked the debate about the first world war and prevented the nation from having a proper reasoned discussion about the true nature of that terrible conflict.

Historical soul-searching is not something we Brits are good at. Sometimes in life we make bad decisions. When this happens we can either admit it, put our hands up and reverse the decision; or we can exacerbate the situation by doing more of the same. In doing the latter we necessarily construct a kind of edifice of self-delusion and false belief, and this edifice can become so important to our psyche that its collapse is synonymous with the collapse of the psyche, and must therefore be prevented at all costs. Our society is morally rigorous – we are judged harshly on the smallest misdemeanour – yet Somehow the edifice of delusion which we have created around the first world war manages to explain away 888,246 grisly deaths and the criminally insane decisions which brought them about, as some sort of sad political necessity. No-one has ever called us to account as the Germans were called to account, and so the delusions persist. We rename what is essentially murder as sacrifice, implying that there was a moment, somewhere, when each of these young men was actually able to make an informed and heroic choice whether they wished to live or die.

Similarly, most of the revisionist arguments seeking to justify this slaughter are centred around “the greater good” and the implication that Germany would have otherwise conquered and enslaved us all. Like all such arguments, this is one of those reverse-logic postulations which starts from the necessity to prove something and then manipulates the facts to fit, even to the extent of placing so many thousands of horrific deaths in the balance with a highly doubtful selection of what-ifs and letting the what-ifs win.

So perhaps the sea of poppies is not about the war of 1914-18, but about a very different conflict, which is still raging in 2014. I mean, of course, the conflict between those who want us to believe that everything is all right (even if some bad things happen) – that everything that was done in the last 100 years turned out okay in the end, and will continue to do so; and those who know in their hearts and minds that things are not okay – that the events of the past decade, whether about banking, climate change, poverty or war, are signals to us that we need to do things differently. Perhaps a dried-up castle moat full of enormously expensive fake flowers is a very potent symbol after all – just not the one the artist intended.
Nick Moseley
Chesham, Buckinghamshire

Two judgments given in October will impact on all council-tax payers, magistrates courts, local authorities and governmental consultations of the public. On 29 October the supreme court decided that the London borough of Haringey’s 2012 council-tax consultation was unlawful. On 10 December 2012 I had written to the leader of Haringey council: “I am shocked that no alternative to hitting the fragile incomes of the poorest residents of Haringey [with council tax] … was included in the recent consultation.” Declaring that consultation unlawful, Justice Lord Wilson wrote: “The protest of the Rev Nicolson in his letter … was well directed.”

Alternatives to the council’s preferred options must now be put to the public in a future consultation. In all fairness there must be an alternative to local government taxation of benefits that are being shredded by central government (Cameron accused of getting sums wrong on cuts, 31 October).

On 7 October the high court gave me leave for judicial review of the £125 costs for a summons sought by Haringey council from 28,882 late or non-paying households in 2013-14. The costs are imposed by Tottenham magistrates against benefit incomes on top of inevitable arrears.

I have deliberately allowed my council tax to become a civil debt. I was duly summoned to court, which allowed me the opportunity to ask the magistrates how they arrived at that £125. Haringey council has now withdrawn a summons against me, “as a matter of prudence during this period of on going litigation” and waived the £125.

The council has not replied to my letter inviting them to cease issuing all summons until it has reviewed the rationality and legality of that £125 it asks the magistrates to impose. Maybe all magistrates and councils in England and Wales should take notice.
Rev Paul Nicolson
Taxpayers Against Poverty

Excellent schools should be one of the main priorities for any society and successful economy. Much like businesses, schools need strong strategic management, sound financial practice, policies which are fit for purpose and rigorous human resources structures to be the best they can be. Across the country many schools already meet exacting standards, but in order to be outstanding every school should benefit from a skilled team of governors which can provide the necessary challenge and support. This is an area where the world of business can help education. Governing bodies have three core responsibilities, all of which can be strengthened by the contribution of skilled professionals. Be it project management experience to help with overseeing strategic direction; financial management training to ensure every penny is well spent; or data analysis skills to monitor school performance; business professionals can draw on their expertise from outside of an educational setting.

That is why we are supporting the launch today of a campaign to encourage skilled professionals from across the country to become school governors. A strong and confident business invests to secure its future competitiveness and we will be asking our own employees to consider if they can bring the vision, energy and rigour of our operations to support, guide and challenge the management of our schools. We believe that all members of society share a responsibility to support our schools, and business has both the capacity and capability to make a significant contribution. We therefore call on all businesses to support staff who are interested in becoming a school governor and we encourage all working professionals to offer their skills at a time when raising standards in an increasingly competitive global market has never been more important.
Anne Heal Managing director, Volunteering, BT
Ian Duffy Community development manager, BP Plc
Debbie Bullock Community investment manager, Aviva UK
Julie Stanbridge Head of student recruitment, EY
Marianne Fallon Partner, head of corporate affairs, KPMG
Colin Grassie Chief executive officer, Deutsche Bank UK
Gaenor Bagley UK head of people, PwC
Mark Anderson Managing director, Pearson UK
Mark Boleat Policy chairman, City of London Corporation
Paul Morrison Head of HP networking – Schools, Hewlett Packard
Janet Scott Interim chief executive, SGOSS – Governors for Schools

This is November; this remarkable weather is not right (Next profits wilt in summer without end, 30 October). When is the penny going to drop that something is going seriously wrong with the climate?
Howard Pilott
Lewes, East Sussex

• To lose one chair of an inquiry may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose both looks like carelessness (Fiona Woolf resigns as chair of government’s child abuse inquiry, 31 October).
Rhona Stainthorp
Crowthorne, Berkshire

• If Kim Kardashian wants to succeed in copyrighting her buttocks (Does Kim Kardashian have her eye on your bottom?, Lost in showbiz, G2, 31 October) she would be wise to employ a crack team of lawyers.
Jolanda Howell
St Albans, Hertfordshire

The European Union flag flies alongside those of member states at the European parliament in Strasbourg. The European Union flag flies alongside those of member states at the European parliament in Strasbourg. Photograph: Frederick Florin/Getty

Will Hutton makes some telling points about the cross-border tasks that Europe needs to tackle co-operatively – climate change, air traffic control, overfishing, etc (“This crude assault on Europe strikes at the very heart of Enlightenment values”, Comment). But his obsession with the need for open borders blinds him to the real threat to a progressive future for Europe, which is the rising insecurity of its population. This is the inevitable consequence of ever more open markets, a global obsession with international competitiveness and the ability of big business to use the threat of relocation to cow governments into lowering taxes and allowing real wages and conditions to deteriorate for the majority. We need a debate about replacing the neoliberal Treaty of Rome with a progressive “Treaty of Home”. At its core, this would allow governments to take back control of their economies by grouping together, rejecting international competitiveness and maintaining their borders to allow local economies to flourish. This regained ability to overcome economic insecurity might even tempt today’s resentful electorate back to being genuinely pro-European.

Colin Hines

East Twickenham

Cameron mute on tax dodgers

David Cameron goes red in the face and thumps the lectern protesting about the EU’s £1.7bn bill (“Cameron fury over budget risks alienating European partners”, News). But where is his fury about the money denied the Treasury by legal tax avoiders such as Amazon, Topshop, Vodafone etc, estimated at about £35bn in total? Your leader (“Don’t be evil, tech giants. Pay your taxes”) describes clearly the slimy manipulations these and many other companies and individuals make. By refusing to contribute to the very society that provides their obscene profits, these unethical companies display a greed that acts, through its magnitude, as a key driver of unnecessary public service cuts leading to ever-increasing levels of inequality, poverty and exclusion. Cameron doesn’t care, and this is an open goal for Labour – will they take it?

Max Fishel


In praise of UK hospices

Ed Cumming’s article (“Should we do anything we can to keep people alive? This surgeon says no”, In Focus) disjointedly combined the stories of the difficult deaths of two British women with the views of an American surgeon (with a book to promote). He apparently advocates “improved hospices, of a sort that have begun to crop up in America… [which] concentrate on quality of life, with pets, music and other activities for residents”. An American surgeon might not know that the British hospice movement has been flourishing for 50 years, providing all of this combined with expert pain and symptom control, compassionate care and clinical research. But a British writer should have found this out and it would have been useful to readers to hear this.

Rosemary Cook


Yet more rich consumers

In January last year, the Royal Society published a paper called Can a collapse of global civilisation be avoided?. The message was that civilisation is under threat from the burdens of consumption and population growth. Now your article “High-fliers have more babies, according to study”, (News) tells us wealthy, high-powered women are having large families, up to nine, because they can afford to employ cleaners and nannies. So now we have the biggest consumers producing lots of little big consumers, increasing both population and consumption in one go. And all that an economist can find to say is that it’s “good news for growth”. Oh, joy!

Roger Plenty


Problems of Portsmouth

I have lived my whole life in Portsmouth and worked here for most of it. I love it but I recognise many of the problems identified by Mark Townsend (“The Pompey jihadis”, News). Portsmouth is a city whose history and economy has been built on warfare. It is, I suppose in the DNA. Think of Portsmouth and you think perhaps of the country’s most topsy-turvy football club but probably you think of centuries of naval history. Other English cities can be recalled and imagined through their representations in popular culture or art. But Portsmouth? Almost nothing. Alasdair Gray once wrote: “If a city hasn’t been used by an artist, not even the inhabitants live there imaginatively.” Portsmouth may be in the leafy, privileged south but it is not a part of it. Perhaps at last you see that you ignore us at your peril.

Dr Dave Allen


You don’t need money to get fit

Last week, Barbara Ellen condescendingly asserted that poor people can’t attain or maintain physical fitness because doing so is a prohibitively “expensive and complicated business” (“Poverty, not gluttony, is the cause of obesity”).

A quick look at the world outside of the middle-class professional bubble suggests otherwise. Human beings have always kept in shape in a variety of ways without need for personal trainers, private gym membership, DVDs or flash clothing. What’s more, they still do: are we expected to believe that, for example, the many world-beating athletes from rural Ethiopia and Kenya are either from affluent backgrounds or are unfit? Try exercising the grey matter, Ms Ellen.

Sean Cordell

Whalley Range, Manchester


There are no doubt many lessons to be learnt from the failure of the Government thus far to find an acceptable chairperson for the new committee on abuse. However, one question a lot of people will want to have answered is: how were the individuals recommended for this job chosen?

It very much looks as though our upper-class, Old Etonian masters just look down their Christmas card lists and stick a pin in. No way to run a country, or indeed a committee on a very sensitive topic.

Andrew McLuskey

Staines, Surrey


To misquote Lady Bracknell: “To lose one head of an inquiry,  Mr Cameron, may be regarded as a misfortune.  To lose both looks  like carelessness.”

Having failed to get Baroness Butler-Sloss accepted as the head  of the child-abuse  inquiry, because her late brother was Attorney General during a key  period the inquiry will investigate, the Home Office should have  ensured her replacement had no connection  with anyone associated  with allegations about  the mishandling of child-abuse reports.

Fiona Woolf denies that she is “a member of the Establishment”. For the Lord Mayor of London to make such a remark is laughable and shows just how out of touch she is  with ordinary people.  There is no problem  with the head of the  inquiry being a member  of the Establishment, indeed it is unlikely that many people with the necessary qualifications  or experience would not  be a member of the Establishment. There is  a problem with any member of the Establishment who has any personal links to any of the main “players” in  this whole sorry saga.

Julius Marstrand



With your extensive coverage of Fiona Woolf’s resignation (1 November), I spotted the story of the senior Family Court judge Sir James Munby laying into the Government about cuts in legal aid to support families challenging proceedings to remove  their children.

With his experience  of the family courts, and demonstrating that he  is someone happy to  cock a snook at the  Department of Justice,  he looks like just the  man for the job.

Paul Jenkins

Abbotskerswell, Devon


I wonder if Fiona Woolf realises that there are members of the UK society other than the Establishment and hermits. There are a great many who are neither,  and who are quite intelligent enough, to chair the inquiry independently.

David Moulson

Scunthorpe,  North Lincolnshire


The mess of Thatcher’s council-house sell-off

Ever since 1979, when Margaret Thatcher introduced the “right to buy”, it was as plain as a pikestaff what a massive societal mess it would end in. And now we are reaping the whirlwind (“The great council house sell-off scandal”, 1 November).

The poor have nowhere to live, while some of those who bought their council properties on the cheap are now letting them out at high rents to the same councils they bought them from.

A case of rampant capitalism taking advantage of a situation caused by the political ambitions of all political parties. And who cares? Certainly not those who profit from this, nor, it seems, anybody else.

Ray J Howes

Weymouth, Dorset


November sun is all wrong

This is November this remarkable weather is not right. When is the penny going to drop that something is going seriously wrong?

Howard Pilott

Lewes, East Sussex


The warmest Halloween on record? Now that is scary!

Sierra Hutton-Wilson

Evercreech, Somerset


Let’s not go back to the Middle Ages

I agree with Jean Calder (letter, 1 November) that abuse of girls and women is rooted in contempt, due to large-scale immigration from cultures whose attitudes to women are even worse than our own.

As a mental-health nurse in Walsall a few years ago, I was shocked that in a middle-class British Asian family I visited, the men (born and educated in Britain) would not talk to me during the three years I visited their female relative. One day, I took a male student nurse with me and amazingly the men wanted to speak to him.

Also, my then teenage daughter was harassed by young men in Bradford who told her to “go home and cover your legs” when she was dressed conservatively in a knee-length skirt. She did report this to police, who took it seriously.

It’s bad enough that there is evidence that women are not receiving equal pay in this country (despite the Equal Pay Act 1970) but as Jean Calder says, if local authorities and police do not take this seriously we will all be back in the Middle Ages and the contributions women make in our society will be lost.

Linda Dickins

Wimborne, Dorset 


Any move towards UKIP is a concern

Michael Forster (letter, 30 October) says he has always voted Liberal but now supports Ukip because, thanks to them, the political agenda is at last being set by the voting public.

There’s some truth in this, but in a way that is a cause for concern, rather than rejoicing: if they’re selling political crack cocaine and it’s popular, we’d better stock it, too.

Our system elects MPs to Parliament as representatives, not delegates; that is, as proactively wise counsellors, rather than reactively obedient servants. It is a tricky circle to square, between paternalism on the one hand, and mob rule on the other. For too long, the balance has been tilted too much towards the former; hence the regrettable rise of Ukip, sending the balance lurching towards the latter.

If MPs were merely delegates, abolishing hanging would have been considered a hanging offence, and still would be today. For more accountable governance, what we need is not Ukip, but to make our Parliament more truly representative – which means breaking the hegemony of the public-school elite.

We need reform of the electoral system so that not just the outcome of elections but the choice of candidates for each party is done by public vote, not private cabal. The Conservative Party did this in 2009 at Totnes, and the public voted out the sitting member, choosing instead a woman (shock horror) who went on to win the election and seems since to have proved an excellent MP.

If Mr Forster wants a more progressive democracy, he really should stick to his former allegiance.

Bob Gilmurray

Ely, Cambridgeshire


Peer-to-peer lending is here to stay

Far from being a “craze” (James Moore, 30 October), peer-to-peer lending has become a fundamental part of Britain’s wider financial landscape and is here to stay. It will be a $1 trillion global industry by 2025,  and is already worth £1bn in Britain.

At Funding Circle we fully appreciate the responsibilities this bestows on us. As a founding member of the Peer-to-Peer Finance Association, we actively sought FCA regulation and continue to look for ways to set and improve industry standards.

James Moore was right to point out that peer-to-peer lending carries risk. It is not a bank or savings account, and should never be treated as such. We continue to be transparent about that, and are entirely committed to protecting and educating our customers. As part of this we publish details of every single loan originated on the marketplace, and show past performance of our loan book.

Samir Desai

CEO, Funding Circle

London EC4


When ‘scary’ is not a term of admiration

Guy Keleny finds fault in the sentence: “‘He’s so capable, it’s scary,’ says [Jessica] Chastain admiringly of [Christopher] Nolan.” (Errors & Omissions, 1 November.)

“The reader doesn’t need to be told that Chastain’s words are an expression of admiration, so just cut out ‘admiringly’,” he says.

Not so. “Scary” is not a natural expression of admiration, and without knowing the tone in which the words were spoken, the reader might suppose the actress is implying the director is intimidating or difficult to work with. The writer sets the record straight, explaining that Chastain is speaking in complimentary terms. What’s wrong with that?

John Hudson

Stroud, Gloucestershire


Branson’s space tourism is a waste

Richard Branson would serve humanity better if he were to focus his resources on a worthwhile project, perhaps the Ebola crisis, rather than developing space tourism. Firing his rockets into orbit serves only to pollute further the atmosphere and enable a few people with more money than sense to give themselves a quick thrill. What a waste it all is.

Steven Williams

Dartmouth, Devon


Most of us keep our clothes on, Janet

Janet Street-Porter in her column (1 November) claims: “Using our phones we take pictures of ourselves with nothing on all the time.” If that is how she spends her spare time so be it, but I can assure her that I have never been tempted to do the same, and I suspect that I am in a large majority.

Andrew Lee-Hart

Wallasey, Merseyside


Sir, The Home Office minister Norman Baker presented the latest review of effective policy across the world as though it was a “seminal” report (“Drug laws don’t work, ministers admit”, Oct 30). It is not. The charity the Police Foundation previously did a detailed and robust assessment of UK policy and evidence from elsewhere. Regrettably, the debate was not taken forward and the lessons from what is working are often set aside.

For the past 15 years, there has been a welcome trend (with the exception of legal highs) in the consumption of drugs (from Class A to Class C), and a switch away from criminalisation into treatment.

This is not about “decriminalising” dangerous drugs. It is about a common sense approach which ensures that where treatment is sought, it is available. A decade ago policy was adjusted to ensure that those apprehended by the police as users (as opposed to dealers) would be offered treatment as an alternative to imprisonment. This has worked.

Perhaps if people did not take rigid positions so quickly, it might still be possible to debate these matters more rationally.

Rt Hon David Blunkett MP
House of Commons

Sir, You contend (leading article, Oct 31) that UK policies on drugs are working and cite a substantial decrease in cannabis use over the past decade. The reality is that since the UN Conventions and the 1971 Misuse of Drugs Act enshrined prohibition as the policy orthodoxy, drug use in Britain has soared. Abuse of prescription drugs has become a serious problem. Some 280 new psychoactive substances (NPS) have been recorded by the European Monitoring Centre.

The costs of prohibition are prodigious in public spending, policing, corruption, social exclusion, violence and suffering. As a member of the Home Affairs Select Committee, David Cameron said, “Politicians attempt to appeal to the lowest common denominator by posturing with tough policies and calling for crackdown after crackdown. Drugs policy has been failing for decades.” Legalisation, strict regulation, honest provision of information, education and sustained help for addicts would mitigate the harms caused by drugs.

Lord Howarth of Newport
House of Lords

Sir, Laws prohibiting drug use have created a raft of criminality which does far more harm to society than the drugs themselves. Take hard drugs out of the hands of gangsters and put them back into the hands of pharmacists and doctors. In so doing, we will be helping addicts who will be properly supplied and monitored in their drug-taking and, as a result, will stop committing crimes to feed their habit. At the same time, we will be putting out of business the murderous thugs who run the illicit industry. Finally, we might put a modest tax on popular drugs to fund drug rehabilitation clinics.

Stephen Porter
London NW6

Sir, There is talk of “evidence” from Portugal that drug use there had not increased after recent liberalisation.

Portugal is a country of ten million people. Britain has a much larger, richer population. Of course Portugal is a less interesting market for drug dealers. Politicians abuse the word “evidence” too much.

Peter Demetriadi
Diss, Norfolk

Sir, I doubt Hugo Rifkind (Ssh . . . lots of top people believe in drug reform”, Nov 1) is aware of the true dangers of cannabis.

Eighty per cent of the cannabis smoked in the UK is skunk with an average THC (the psychoactive ingredient) content of 16.2 per cent. THC persists in the cells of the brain for weeks. This affects the chemical messaging system. Vital connections are not made in the learning and memory processes. Few children using cannabis achieve their full potential. They are more likely to suffer from mental illness, move on to other drugs or become addicted. US rehab experts have told us that teenage cannabis dependence is the most challenging addiction to treat.

Mary Brett
Chairman of Cannabis Skunk Sense, Amersham, Bucks

Sir, I struggled not to laugh when I read that cannabis offenders “will be given advice by officers” (“Tougher penalties to replace cautions”, Nov 1) . Where will this “advice” be recorded? If someone is caught several times in possession by different officers, how are they linked? This is decriminalisation in all but name.

Nigel Price
Lisvane, Cardiff

Sir, It is sad to read of Radio 3’s decline (“‘Populist’ Radio 3 has worst ratings for 15 years”, Oct 30). As a music teacher, I extolled the virtues of a station which could break down prejudice, open ears and stimulate minds. My children drove to primary school alongside Radio 3 explorations of Haydn’s string quartets and Mozart symphonies.

Latterly, attempts to turn presenters into personalities, cringeworthy phone interviews with listeners, the monotonous incantation “live on Radio 3”, and constant trailers of what awaits, combine to form a severe test of allegiance in this household.

Production of a fresh statement of Radio 3’s mission and vision should be the first task for the newly appointed controller.

Robert Gower
Egleton, Rutland

Sir, Churchill was 23 in 1897 (“We shall not fight”, letter, Nov 1). How many 23-year olds have ever been listened to; let alone taken seriously?

Judy Macdonald
Newport Pagnell, Bucks

Sir, Lynn Hale (letter, Nov 1) would have enjoyed enjoyed a Van Morrison concert I attended in Glasgow two years ago. Van was about 12 songs into his set when he spoke for the first time, uttering “two, three, four” then launching into Jackie Wilson Said.
Danny Friel

Sir, The Dubliners were once playing at the Albert Hall and at the end of the concert a voice from the gods requested Carrickfergus. (“Play Up, there’s nothing wrong with giving people what they want”, leader, Oct 30). There was a long silence then Ronnie Drew looked up and in his wonderfully gravelly voice said ‘You’ll get what you’re ****ing well given’. Jeffrey Box
Shalford, Surrey

Sir, As you say, science-fiction writers have a record for prescience (“Future shock”, leader, Oct 31). After some years of research, I wrote three linked novels about a planet called Helliconia. The system has a small sun, much like our Sol, but all this is ruled by a much larger sun, known sometimes by the planetary inhabitants as Freyr.

Some astronomers regarded this as an impossibility. However, in 2011 Nasa’s telescopes discovered precisely a Helliconian system in space, containing two suns. This system is now known as Kepler 16B — not, alas, as Helliconia.

I should add that I undertook two years’ research before embarking on the writing of this trilogy.

Brian W Aldiss

Sir, Ben Macintyre is wrong to link the cases of Alan Turing and Helen Duncan, the woman prosecuted under the Witchcraft Act of 1735 (“Churchill was right. Let’s pardon the witch”, Opinion, Oct 31). Prosecuting Turing for being homosexual was clearly wrong. The act referred to under which Duncan was prosecuted was designed to expose false witches. No one can doubt that Duncan was such a thing; nor, more importantly, that she also conned money from vulnerable, frightened and bereaved people at a time of war. Fraud might have been a more appropriate charge, but why should such a person be pardoned?

Robin Bowman
Woodbridge, Suffolk


Readers discuss how to put an end to nuisance phone calls

Let me just put you on hold: the number’s up for infuriating cold-callers

“All calls to this number are recorded for security purposes.” Photo: Alamy

6:57AM GMT 02 Nov 2014


Sir – I receive very few unsolicited phone calls these days.

This may be due to the fact that in the past I always advised the caller before they got started: “All calls to this number are recorded for security purposes.”

Eileen M Hughes
Wimborne, Dorset

SIR – I always answer withheld numbers with “Hello Tim”.

If it is Tim, he will reply; if it isn’t, the cold caller gets very confused.

Ros Mackay
Porthallow, Cornwall

Breaking rank

SIR – Penelope Wilton’s character in Downton Abbey is in fact Mrs Crawley, not Lady Isobel.

Maggie Smith’s character, the dowager countess, is privately horrified to think that a commoner such as Mrs Crawley might, through marriage to Lord Merton, rise to the ranks of the aristocracy. Personally, I hope Isobel marries Dr Clarkson and some time ago I wrote to Julian Fellowes asking if he could make it happen.

Rachel Mason
Seaton, Devon

Spiffing Pippin

SIR – George Wilkie might like to support those English apple growers who sell directly to the customer.

At the moment I am able to choose between Mabbott’s Pearmain, Jupiter, Sunset, Ard Cairn Russet, Gascoyne’s Scarlet, Chivers Delight and Allington Pippin – all supplied by a grower in Essex from whom I have ordered apples for many years.

All are small apples, which the grower says will keep for longer than large ones.

I look forward to enjoying other varieties in my December box.

G M Wootten
Darlington, Co Durham

West Country yorker

SIR – Robert Parker struggles to think of any West Country accents on national radio and television news.

John Arlott, thou shouldst be living at this hour, to do for our news services what you once did for cricket. Some people listened to you even though they couldn’t tell a googly from a yorker.

Kevin Heneghan
St Helens, Lancashire

Take it outside

SIR – Surely people using mobile phones on aircraft should be dealt with in the same way as smokers have been in public spaces: they should be made to sit outside.

Charlie Bloom
Bursledon, Hampshire

We entered Afghanistan to protect the British people

The former Commander of British Forces in Afghanistan responds to General Lord Dannatt

Inspection: a British trainer watches carefully as Afghan soldiers parade at their training camp in Kabul

Inspection: a British trainer watches carefully as Afghan soldiers parade at their training camp in Kabul Photo: EPA

6:58AM GMT 02 Nov 2014


SIR – General Lord Dannatt (“We are giving the Afghan people a chance at a better life”) says that we deployed British forces to Afghanistan to help the Afghans “get a life after two decades of bloody civil war”. That was not our purpose and would not have been a legitimate reason to send British forces to fight and die.

There was only one reason for this intervention alongside our American allies. Following 9/11, the world’s worst terrorist atrocity, in which more British citizens died than in any previous attack, the objective was to throw out or destroy al-Qaeda and to prevent the country from again becoming a base that international jihadists could use to attack the West.

The lack of clarity by generals and politicians on this singular objective was conditioned largely by a politically correct denial of the true purpose of military action in Afghanistan. It is summed up in the words of John Reid, defence secretary at the time of the British deployment to Helmand in 2006: “We would be perfectly happy to leave in three years and without firing one shot because our job is to protect the reconstruction.”

Lord Dannatt concludes that the 13-year campaign has been worth it. I agree with him, but not because I believe, as he does, that we have given the Afghan people the chance to lead a better life. Though at great cost in British, American and Afghan blood, we have achieved our objective in Afghanistan by killing and capturing large numbers of jihadists, many of whom would eventually have turned their attention to the West. As the previous director general of MI5, Jonathan Evans, made clear, British military action in Helmand has helped safeguard civilians at home.

Whether Afghanistan continues to resist international jihadists depends on the extent of continued Nato support to Afghanistan’s forces, which are not up to the job on their own.

Colonel Richard Kemp
Former Commander of British Forces in Afghanistan
London W1

Falling support for the Scottish Labout party could be disastrous for the UK

Election: the SNP hope to capitalise on falling Labour support in Scotland

Election: the SNP hope to capitalise on falling Labour support in Scotland

6:59AM GMT 02 Nov 2014


SIR – The present disarray in the Scottish Labour Party could have a disastrous effect on the future of the United Kingdom.

Within 24 hours of Alex Salmond saying he accepted the people’s verdict in the Scottish referendum, he was saying that there were other ways that independence could be achieved, for example by a simple majority vote in the Scottish Parliament.

The SNP is now reported to be in discussion with other pro-independence parties about the possibility of supporting one another in the 2015 general election campaign and potentially the 2016 election for the Scottish Parliament.

A weakened Scottish Labour Party would greatly enhance the SNP’s chance of success in 2016 and allow them to return to their independence agenda.

Ken Shuttleworth
St Albans, Hertfordshire

Misplaced Maggie’s

SIR – The argument about whether or not a Maggie’s Trust building should be built alongside the Great Hall of St Bartholomew’s Hospital is more serious than a war of architectural styles.

Its proposed location, at the east end of James Gibbs’s Georgian masterpiece, would restrict the Great Hall from complying with essential, legal requirements such as fire escape routes and lifts that can carry wheelchair-users. This would affect the hall’s ability to contribute to NHS income.

Moreover, Maggie’s is not a medical treatment centre. It offers counselling, which is already provided within the Barts oncology unit by the Macmillan Cancer Centre.

Maggie’s is the wrong building in the wrong place.

Peter Schmitt
Archives Committee, Barts Health NHS Trust
London SW4

Heated controversy on power supply

SIR – Combined heat and power (CHP) is not quite the panacea that Christopher Booker and Owen Paterson, the former environment secretary, imagine.

To apply CHP retrospectively in urban settings would involve huge costs and disruption, requiring large insulated water pipes in each street and special heat exchangers in all properties.

The electrical and heating loads on systems vary with the seasons, resulting in temporary below-optimum operation and reliance on auxiliary non-CHP heating and power. The steam emitted by cooling towers is at too low a temperature for useful heating, while raising the final temperature in the turbines results in a loss of power output.

Installing CHP in new developments and large cohesive sites such as hospitals and factories should be encouraged, but retrospectively applying it to the country as a whole would be a bad idea.

Ian Berry
Enfield, Middlesex

HS2 and beyond

SIR – The decision to make Euston station the terminus at the London end of HS2 is flawed as it would require international passengers to haul their luggage between Euston and St Pancras, London’s international hub.

Duncan Rayner
Sunningdale, Berkshire

Something’s rotten

SIR – Dr Clare Jackson calls for a tax on sugar to help fund treatment required for dental decay.

A receipt from a recent supermarket shop tells me that not only was there no VAT charged on sugar, but toothpaste, mouthwash and a toothbrush were all taxed.

Liz Lucy
Aylton, Herefordshire

War graves

SIR – As a survivor of HMS Prince of Wales I read your account of the desecration of this ship and the HMS Repulse, which are war graves, with complete revulsion.

Is nothing sacred any more?

George Pulford
Kidlington, Oxfordshire

Expat entitlement

SIR – David Cavalier, an expat, complains about not being entitled to treatment through the NHS despite having “paid all NHS contributions for over 30 years”.

Entitlement to NHS treatment depends upon residency in Britain. There is a common misconception that the NHS is funded through National Insurance Contributions; it is in fact funded through general taxation levied on the resident population. NICs fund an individual’s state pension and, if or when required, sick pay and unemployment benefit.

If Mr Cavalier wants NHS care he should return to this country on a permanent basis.

Howard Reynolds
Liphook, Hampshire

Brussels should not punish Britain for economic success outside the eurozone


Britain has been handed a bill for £1.7 bllion pounds from Brussels Photo: Rex Features

7:00AM GMT 02 Nov 2014


SIR – When the possibility of Britain adopting the euro was being considered, there were plenty of people here and in Europe who were more than happy to suggest that our failure to embrace the new currency would lead to Britain’s irreversible downfall.

Now that we are moving ahead of the other EU members, the same people are demanding that we help subsidise the countries that did embrace the euro.

If the EU is desperately in need of money, perhaps it should try getting its balance sheet in order. If a private company had allowed its accounts to get into such a state, the entire board of directors might expect to be fired, or arrested, or both.

Peter Davey
Bournemouth, Dorset

SIR – The wholly unjust, yet legally permissible, demand that Britain pays an additional £1.7 billion to Brussels has not only provided Eurosceptics with yet another justification for EU withdrawal, but has unfortunately allowed the likes of Nigel Farage once again to demand that Britain enter into agreements modelled on Switzerland’s relationship with the EU.

What advocates of this idea fail to mention is that Switzerland and indeed the other members of the European Free Trade Association have signed several bilateral agreements with the EU, compelling them to comply with many basic principles of the union – including the freedom of movement of people.

Other areas covered by the agreements include agriculture, technical trade barriers, public procurement, security and asylum protocol and cooperation in the pursuit of fraud.

Bharat Jashanmal
Fairford, Gloucestershire

SIR – The latest demand for additional payments from Britain is based on EU assessments of growth, which Brussels now advises includes black economy services such as drug dealing and prostitution.

Since these industries are unlikely to provide any records of income, or pay any tax, it is impossible to calculate their contribution to the British economy.

Keith Tyalor
Peterchurch, Herefordshire

SIR – Christopher Booker states that 59 per cent of voters are now in favour of Britain remaining in the EU, according to the latest YouGov poll. As a regular participant in YouGov polls I treat all surveys with caution, for it is usually impossible to give a conditional response, resulting in forced answers.

The EU is a fully political union; the EEC was a free-trade customs union of sovereign nations. A more honest pre-referendum survey would likely reveal: “59 per cent would vote to stay in an EEC customs union.”

That is what Britain voted for in 1975.

Barry M Jones
Rye, East Sussex

SIR – If Philip Johnston is so worried about the misuse of public funds I suggest he turns his attention to an institution in Britain which has the support of David Cameron and spends 0.7 per cent of our gross national income: the Department for International Development (Dfid).

He would find that a sum very similar to that which the EU is demanding has been paid to the World Bank by Dfid for the last two years. Only America pays more.

Gordon Bridger
Guildford, Surrey

SIR – We have done much to help other EU countries by providing millions of their unemployed with jobs.

In return, they could simply deduct the amount of unemployment benefits saved to their economies from the total of Britain’s additional budget bill.

I suspect the revised amount would be at least cost-neutral, and would probably necessitate a rebate in our favour, which, in the spirit of goodwill, we could offer to forgo to help the failing economies of the eurozone.

Ted Shorter
Tonbridge, Kent

Irish Times:

Sir, – The whole idea of a national utility for provision of water is spurious and ill-conceived. I know this, for certain. I live on Clare Island. Electricity, TV and radio signals, telephone networks are all “sent to us” from afar.

Our water supply, on the other hand, comes from the sky, lands on the island, flows off the slopes of Croaghmore, is filtered through tanks, and flows through pipes to every household on the island. The source is local, the maintenance local (my good friend Michael Bob), possible problems are local, and all solutions, by definition, must be local.

Quite contrary to a national, even European sharing of electrical power, water will always be “local”. Or course there must be national policies, guidelines, sharing of costs for providing water, but there is absolutely nothing to be gained through the creation of a “national” utility to this end.

Only Dublin (the Pale) has a need of water provision “from afar”. Let there be county or provincial utilities providing water.

It is absolutely certain that provision of water on Clare Island has nothing to gain from Irish Water. The risk is that the vital local knowledge, needed for maintaining the service, will be sacrificed on the altar of a “national utility”. – Yours, etc,


Clare Island,

Co Mayo.

Sir, – Irish Water pays bonuses to their employees even if they have a “needs improvement” rating on their performance review. You might ask what is so unusual about paying bonuses in a company. Don’t all companies do this and isn’t this the way to stimulate performance in a company? And from what we have seen of Irish Water so far, does not its performance definitely merit improvement?

Paying bonuses to employees for their performance is counterproductive and doesn’t do anything to increase the performance of employees; the opposite is true.

Repeated research by highly regarded institutes over the last 30 years has proven without doubt that paying bonuses for performance doesn’t work and is counterproductive. Keep in mind the banking crisis; the collapse of a complete sector which paid itself the highest bonuses. If bonuses worked, the banking sector should be thriving!

Any self-respecting HR practitioner knows this and would be very careful regarding implementing a bonus culture in a new company. That is the surprising thing about Irish Water; as it is a new company it has all the opportunities to establish a new culture and implement policies which would help it perform, yet Irish Water immediately returned to the failed old bonus culture. It tells me that top management is not focussed on creating a new efficient organisation based on new proven scientific methods but are very focussed on keeping things as they are. This is not very convincing for the executive of a newly formed company assigned with such an important task.

Dan Pink in his book Drive, the Surprising Truth about What Motivates Us reviews the new motivational theories developed over the last 30 years. He concludes that when it comes to motivation there is a gap between what science knows and what business does. Our current business operating system – which is built around external, carrot-and–stick motivators (performance bonuses) – doesn’t work.

Science has shown us that the new motivational approach which works has three essential elements: autonomy, the desire to direct our own lives; mastery, the urge to get better and better at something that matters; and purpose, the yearning to do what we do in the service of something larger than ourselves.

Up to the end of the last century motivation and bonuses were built around external rewards (performance bonuses) and punishments. That worked fine for routine 20th-century tasks.

But in the 21st-century this old system is proving to be incompatible with how we organise what we do, how we think about what we do, and how we do what we do. When the carrot-and-stick approach is used for more complicated management roles, strange things begin to happen. Traditional “if-then” rewards can give us less than what we want. They can extinguish intrinsic motivation, diminish performance, crush creativity and crowd out good behaviour. They can also give us more of what we don’t want; they encourage unethical behaviour, create addictions and foster short-term thinking. And that is exactly what is happening at Irish Water at the moment.

The carrot-and-stick approach isn’t all bad. It can be effective for rule-based routine tasks, because there is little intrinsic motivation to undermine and not much creativity to crush. However, this doesn’t apply when you are setting up a new organisation. Then creativity, ethical behaviour and performance are very much in demand.

Modern motivational theory centres on three important elements for employees of a company: autonomy, mastery and purpose.

This is what Irish Water should have been focusing on instead of a quick performance bonus culture that is counterproductive. – Yours, etc,


Campbell International

Human Resource


Cloncoul House,


Co Clare.

A chara, – Fintan O’Toole’s recent article “Never mind the evidence, feel the ‘truthiness’ of what Gerry Adams says” (Opinion & Analysis, October 28th) appears to confirm the existence of a media bubble that repeatedly targets Gerry Adams and the political progress of the Sinn Féin party.

That same media bubble also contains invited guests and unsurprisingly all are political opponents of Sinn Féin, each encouraging each other with words of support while demonising Gerry Adams.

As we saw at the weekend a very large percentage of one particular newspaper contained articles critical of Gerry Adams and of Sinn Féin. Other newspapers constantly contain similar articles, if less in number, with little thought for fairness. Radio and television commentaries are similarly one-sided in nature.

While this bitter circle continues, with each member feeding off itself in a frenzy, opponents of Sinn Féin, not for the first time, have moulded themselves into judge and jury on Adams and on any selected members of Sinn Féin they see fit to target for verbal judgment. At the same time we must accept the timing of all of this as a mere coincidence, appearing just after an opinion poll showed Sinn Féin to be the joint-largest party in the State.

That only journalists outside of Ireland have questioned the treatment being meted out to Gerry Adams also tells a story. The gated community of journalism in Ireland has little time for fairness when it comes to Sinn Féin. The foot soldiers of Section 31 have now progressed through the ranks and their anti-Adams mentality continues unabated from on high and is so natural that they cannot even see a hint of their bias from within.

Perhaps in the light of recent events it is now time that we review our use of a judicial courts system. It would appear to be a dreadful waste of money. Why not set up a council of journalists and politicians who can pass down verdicts on a person’s innocence or guilt? There should be no evidence required, with a simple majority opinion damning a person. In the current “lynch mob” atmosphere spawned by Irish journalists and certain politicians, it would appear to be the next natural move.

Not for the first time the self-righteousness of Irish journalists and political opponents of Sinn Féin has gone unchallenged. The vitriolic attacks on Adams and his party have continue unabated. No evidence, no proof, no need – just a nod, a wink and that “we know” mentality.

And these are the people who lecture Adams and Sinn Féin about justice. – Is mise,


Dublin 14.

A chara, – On the anniversary of Savita Halappanavar’s death, we, the undersigned, are calling on the trade union movement to work to repeal the 8th Amendment to the Constitution. With women comprising half the workforce in Northern Ireland and nearly half in the South, the 8th Amendment is an affront to gender equality.

In 1983, the Irish Congress of Trade Unions already opposed Article 40.3.3, stating that “the rigidity and inflexibility of constitutional directives on social and moral issues is inappropriate in a democracy”. Since then, over 150,000 women and girls have had to travel abroad for abortions and 12 more go daily to the UK for a medical procedure they should be able to access in their own country. Men in Ireland face no such restrictions to any medical care they may need.

For over 30 years, Article 40.3.3 has given rise to tragedy and discrimination. From Miss X in 1992 to Savita Halappanavar in 2012 and, more recently, the State’s treatment of Ms Y, shocking situations for individuals have arisen through a constitutional provision that equates a woman’s life with that of a foetus.

In austerity Ireland, the €1,500 needed for an abortion abroad is beyond the reach of many women, particularly migrant women and those on low pay. Recent legislation means that obtaining abortion pills from the internet or helping someone to get an abortion may result in up to 14 years in jail. Trade unionists who are healthcare workers say they routinely have to tell women they cannot give them, or refer them for, abortion services because there is not enough of a risk to their lives.

Yet, opinion polls consistently show a radical shift in Irish attitudes to abortion. Securing repeal of the 8th Amendment is the duty of all trade unions to protect the lives and health of women and girls in Ireland. – Yours, etc,



Akidwa, African

Women’s Network;




Unite and ICTU Youth



Dublin Council

of Trade Unions TBC;

Cllr EILIS RYAN (Ind),


Trade Union Campaign

to Repeal the 8th


Sir, – Proposals for new laws on hate crime are misguided (“Calls for reform of hate crime laws after anti-Roma protests”, October 28th).

Criminalising motivation, as it has been described, will have no effect apart from, perhaps, allowing the proponents of this legislation to feel good about themselves. How can it be proved that a criminal who displayed evidence of prejudice when committing a crime was actually offending because of the same prejudice?

Also, such legislation would aim to create hierarchies of victims, thus offending against the principle of “equality before the law”, one of the basic principles of liberalism. – Yours, etc,


Kilmainham, Dublin 8.

Sir, – It is surely unfair of the chief executive of Barnardos, Fergus Finlay, to be so critical of Ireland on the issue of child poverty during 2008to 2012 (October 29th).

For much of that period, Ireland was the fifth most indebted country in the world – not just the OECD. It should be remembered that we had gone from boom to bust virtually overnight.

Those who did manage to hold onto their jobs had their salaries cut back to the bone. The Government had little choice but to cut back on virtually all social welfare payments. Many parents had to cut back on essentials simply to keep a roof over the heads of their children. Unlike other OECD countries, almost every family in our country of just 4½ million people were saddled with repaying crippling loans which were necessary to rescue the banks. Yet unlike other OECD countries, we are well into a recovery phase that bodes well for our future – including that of our children.

We may have failed to make the grade in Unicef’s critical assessment of our treatment of children on this occasion but, short of a miracle, our options were limited. The collection and distribution of freely given donations is much less problematic. – Yours, etc,



Sir, – It is surely unfair of the chief executive of Barnardos, Fergus Finlay, to be so critical of Ireland on the issue of child poverty during 2008to 2012 (October 29th).

For much of that period, Ireland was the fifth most indebted country in the world – not just the OECD. It should be remembered that we had gone from boom to bust virtually overnight.

Those who did manage to hold onto their jobs had their salaries cut back to the bone. The Government had little choice but to cut back on virtually all social welfare payments. Many parents had to cut back on essentials simply to keep a roof over the heads of their children. Unlike other OECD countries, almost every family in our country of just 4½ million people were saddled with repaying crippling loans which were necessary to rescue the banks. Yet unlike other OECD countries, we are well into a recovery phase that bodes well for our future – including that of our children.

We may have failed to make the grade in Unicef’s critical assessment of our treatment of children on this occasion but, short of a miracle, our options were limited. The collection and distribution of freely given donations is much less problematic. – Yours, etc,



Dublin 5.

Sir, – On Townsend Street in Dublin last week at 7.30 am, mid-way between Pearse Street Garda station and the “Man Up” campaign awning hanging from Liberty Hall, I witnessed a violent assault on a drug-addled young woman by a man in a similar condition.

After the screaming and threats, I helped her back to her feet. Both were clutching the small white bottles of methadone that anyone familiar with the early-morning Dublin city centre will have spotted discarded, traded or being consumed on the Georgian streets we’re so proud to promote to tourists.

In the coming months I will be changing work address, after working in Dublin 1 and 2 since 2005.

Frankly I am relieved; the city has become more dangerous, dirty and cluttered in the past decade.

A mood of casual menace broods over parts of the city centre. The State and city authorities responsible for the myriad policy deficits affecting the city should be ashamed of the disgraceful state of the capital’s streets.

The city often feels like it has no potent public authority or government. – Yours, etc,


Dublin 7.

Sir, – Maeve Halpin (October 29th) links the number of Irish millionaires with unaffordable rents in Dublin, and ultimately with homelessness of working people. I have the greatest sympathy with anyone who falls into homelessness, but are landlords the source of all evil in this country? Perhaps Ms Halpin should try to buy a property in Dublin and then rent it at a rate that would allow her pay interest and capital on the related loan? What rent would she charge or indeed what could she afford to charge?

Ms Halpin has gone for the simplistic option of focusing on recent rental increases in the Dublin market. However, is she aware rents dropped massively a few years back and they are still below previous levels? Since then loan interest rates with our “pillar banks” have shot up, while international rates have dropped, and a property tax has been introduced. How about looking at all the social and affordable housing that was forgone by our city councils in preference for cash payments from developers? How clever was that?

Homelessness in Dublin is a big problem, but blaming landlords on the one hand and then all of us on the other hand (“we have failed in our collective civic responsibility to our fellow citizens”) is a bit too simplistic an analysis to solve anything. – Yours, etc,



Dublin 16.

A chara, – Diarmaid Ferriter writes in your supplement “Too Much to Hope” (October 22nd) that, “The first government of the Free State commissioned a temporary cenotaph in front of Leinster House, the site of Parliament, in 1923, but Fianna Fáil removed it in 1932”. Prof Ferriter appears to imply that this cenotaph was in some way connected to commemoration of soldiers of the first World War. It decidedly was not. It was erected to commemorate Arthur Griffith and Michael Collins, with the name of Kevin O’Higgins added later. As it was a wooden structure, it deteriorated over time. In the late 1930s, Fine Gael agreed with Fianna Fáil to have it removed on condition that a permanent structure would replace it. Mr de Valera prevaricated. It was left to John A Costello to have the present structure erected in 1950. The full story of both cenotaphs can be read in my book, John A Costello – Compromise Taoiseach. – Yours, etc,


Sandymount, Dublin 4.

Sir, – I would ask why negative letters on the marathon need to be included in the letters page in the first place – surely this is not the ideal place for reading these? Moving such letters to the sports page or the nether regions of the web would surely be viable? It would also mean that the vast majority of the population who have absolutely no interest in reading such letters would not have to endure such niche opinions, and could get on with enjoying their letters page in their own Irish Times. On the other hand, perhaps we all could go the extra mile and show a little bit of tolerance. – Yours, etc,



Dublin 14.

Irish Independent:

Madam – The protests directed specifically at the Roma community in Waterford were deeply disturbing. Rough justice at the hands of a mob is never reliable, as the handling of Mairia Cahill’s horrific ordeal by a paramilitary so-called “court” has demonstrated so frighteningly.

But it is the racist nature of the recent anti-Roma protests that I find most sickening and shameful. What must it be like to sit in your house while a large gathering of people stand outside chanting and howling slurs on the ethnic group to which you belong? It’s amazing how so many of us can be so admiring of Anne Frank, writing her famous diary in that shadowy attic in wartime Amsterdam, or Rosa Parks defying the racist laws of 1950s Montgomery by sitting in a seat reserved for white people… and then, maybe next day or even an hour or a minute later we indulge our prejudices against one or other of the various ethnic groups with whom we share this island.

Let’s shun racism. It’s always the case that the “cure” is far worse than the disease.

John Fitzgerald, Kilkenny

Church and SF abuse not alike

Madam – There are at least three major different characteristics between child abuse involving the Catholic Church and that arising from Sinn Fein/IRA’s practise of kneecapping and punishment beating of children.

Because of the systemic methods applied to the latter it is clear that it was authorised by the leadership. This is hardly likely in the case of the  Church; Many concerned people came forward to speak out and complain about  the Church – no parent of a victim of IRA/Sinn Fein punishment has spoken out. The reason for this is obvious.

If the Mairia Cahill outrage involved the Catholic Church, the water charge controversy would not be the lead story on RTE news.

GT Pierse,


Co Dublin


Game is up for  Adams and SF

Madam – Well, the game is over Gerry. You can stop your well-modulated denials and asinine belief that if you say it enough we are all going to believe you.

Not now.

Enda Kenny can stop wasting his energy on trying to persuade a mendacious man to acknowledg his membership of the IRA.

Mairia Cahill’s challenge to Gerry Adams may well herald the demise of the man with selective amnesia. To those members of the Irish electorate who have indulged in a suicidal electoral flirtation with Sinn Fein in the past, I have to ask the following:  do you really want to be ruled by such a man and his cowardly cohorts? Do you really want to vote for a group of cultists who can’t debate, dissent or discuss the basic issues of the day? Do they want to vote for women like Mary Lou Mc Donald who doesn’t have the political savvy to realise that her ‘stand by your man’ ideology is making the women of Ireland heave into their morning coffees?

Mairie Cahill deserves our unequivocal love and support. She has stepped onto the stage of dirty  politics, risked her life, lost her home and community for the moral simplicity of the truth. She deserves to be protected and shielded from the crossfire of a dying military dynasty as it tries to discredit, intimidate and manipulate her story from which she has never deviated.

She deserves our admiration and collective anger as she battles to honour and vindicate the appalling abuse, violence and horror of the rape of her innocent sixteen year old self and the subsequent reign of terror that was visited upon her by the IRA.

Shame on those women TDs from all parties who failed to offer comment on her story or bleated that they didn’t know enough. Big thanks to Eilis O’Hanlon for her stalwart articles in recent issues of the Sunday Independent.

Mona Daly,



SF should change – like the Church

Madam – Much has been made of comparing Sinn Fein and the Catholic Church in terms of both organisations putting their interests before that of protecting children.

But there is a difference in that, unlike Sinn Fein,the Church has learned painful lessons, it has paid compensation, put robust child protection procedures in place and has opened its records to audit. Even Pope Benedict resigned, perhaps realising that there might be someone more able to take on a leadership role without the baggage of past scandals. Surely it is time for  Sinn Fein to put it’s house in order too.

Frank Browne,

Templeogue, Dublin 16

Praise for Mairia’s courage

Madam – Just to let you know, I sent the following text to Eoghan Harris after reading his article in your paper (“Mairia Cahill shows the Nelson touch to Sinn Fein” Sunday 26 October), which was just one of the many excellent articles with regard to the dreadful Mairia Cahill abuse case in the last few Sundays:

“A wonderful brave lady, Mairia, her courage puts the rest of us to shame – I know I speak for all the really good people of this country.”

Brian McDevitt,

Glenties, Co Donegal


Six reasons not to vote SF

Madam – There are six reasons for not voting Sinn Fein in the next general election: Mairia Cahill, Eamon Collins, Robert McCartney, Joe Rafferty, Jerry McCabe, Jean McConville.

Fiat justitia ruat caelum (‘Let justice be done though the heavens fall’).

Stephen J Costello

Ranelagh, Dublin 6


There are reasons to be fearful

Madam – When we are young, we are easily influenced, and those from the “Old IRA” background, were brainwashed more than most when Gerry Adams and his pals came on the scene. I used to argue with my father when I suggested the Provos were the same as the men of ‘his day,’ but he always said with regret in his answers, that if I meant murder and slaughter made them the same, then I was right.

It is when we mature and live a fairly long life, that we begin to see the truth of the misplaced “romance” when “taking to the gun” is dangled like a carrot in front of impressionable young eyes. Then the “lads” make sure the youthful naive enthusiasm soon turns to fear — of them.

Thankfully, most young men and women in this politically peaceful republic were not infected by the nationalist poison of “armed struggle”, which has put too many in their graves in Northern Ireland, while the search for the disappeared continues in this jurisdiction.

For Gerry and his cohorts, the dream of political success on the back of the “war” they wallowed in for so long, is turning sour. This can be seen  as some form of natural justice the universe inflicts to let humans know we get away with nothing bad we do in life, as they now reap the resultant nightmare.

If Sinn Fein gets to form a government, all it will mean to decent people is that we will have every reason to fear them even more.

The treatment of Ms Cahill by the heads of  Sinn Fein/IRA shows they are without shame, caring only to save their own skins.

Over the decades I am spending more and more time in England, a place and people I have come to love, and it has become my own sadness to realise the Irish do/did great evil under the guise of so called revolutionary politics, than ever did England and the English.

The Irish myth of the 800 years of oppression is meaningless in the context of “freedom” when we learn the English peasant suffered in the same way as the Irish.

In my kitchen I have two large picture frames. One is a certificate my father owned which gives testimony to his involvement in the War of Independence, complete with his medal.

The other is of an old sailor friend from Bantry, who served on the HMS Sheffield, a battle cruiser which saw much action and was hit by a shell fired by the DKM Bismarck. His frame has a poppy on each lower corner.

Over the years my father’s words and mature sentiments set me to thinking deeply about Ireland and the big “armed resistance” lie we perpetrated as a nation.

My dad’s thoughts on such things as the IRA and freedom were never as black and white as the breed of Shinners today who are at war with the world, like troubled youngsters who have got into so much trouble over the years they don’t know right from wrong, anymore. My dad’s certificate carries the words, at variance with reality concerning so-called republicanism: “Truth on our lips/Purity in our hearts/Strength in our arms.”

The time has come for me now, to take this down. I know he wouldn’t mind. The other one stays on the wall.

Robert Sullivan,

Bantry, Co Cork

Ebola death chance here slim

Madam – Recently at the Mater Hospital we saw streets being cordoned off  as they held a dry run in case the Ebola virus reaches Ireland.

But the risk of death in Ireland on our roads is far more probable than is death from a virus originating from West Africa.

Why would we quarantine one person because of our fear of death by a virus and allow a person who drinks, drives and speeds, who may have a record of such reckless behaviour, to carry on without an effective sanction?

Susan Gray,   

PARC Road Safety Group, Donegal


Greed at core of bonuses    

Madam – Why would already well-paid people also require a bonus (or a “performance enhancing increment”) or whatever they’re calling it today?

Human beings are naturally creative and will achieve satisfaction and fulfilment when doing any job to the best of their ability. Research has shown that employees in any supportive and encouraging environment will actually perform better than if the reward is a bonus. When the focus becomes the bonus rather than the work, the quality of the work suffers.

Not only that, but emphasis on bonuses can result in a focus on short-term goals to the ultimate detriment of the organisation – witness the recent bank debacles.

In spite of those factors, leaders may well be tempted to foster a bonus culture since they are the very ones who stand to benefit most. Should disaster follow such a policy, well, maybe the taxpayer will pick up the tab?

There can then be but one answer to the question I pose above: greed.

William J Silke,



Government is in full retreat

Madam – The news that Brendan Howlin & Co are going to gut the Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest Act 2009 and start the procedure to increase the Public Service Pay Bill once again proves beyond a shadow of doubt that this government is in full retreat from the financial policies that have brought this country back from bankruptcy.

At a time when growth is tenuous and government expenditure still outstrips public income, the government is leaving the path of financial rectitude and taking the path of Charlie McCreevy. Labour can foresee a large number of its TDs joining the dole queues after the next election and it’s trying to shore up its support among some of its strongest supporters – the public service unions.

It should be noted that the government will also have to make some meaningful concessions to the protesters against Irish Water. All in all it is clear what direction the government is taking – it is rapidly advancing to the rear as fast as it can to avoid electoral annihilation.

We are back to the old ways – welcome back Fianna Fail. They haven’t gone away, you know.

Liam Cooke,

Coolock, Dublin 17     

Sunday Independent


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