5 November 2014 Nurse

I jog around the park I still have arthritis in my left knee, but I manage to get round the park. A busy day the District Nurse comes to give Mary her injection

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


Renée Asherson was the actress wife of Robert Donat who played a blushing Princess Katherine to Olivier’s Henry V

Renée Asherson as Princess Katherine in Henry V

Renée Asherson as Princess Katherine in Henry V Photo: ITV/REX

6:21PM GMT 04 Nov 2014


Renee Asherson, the actress, who has died aged 99, was a delicately feminine exponent of the classics, both ancient and modern; yet she never reached the dramatic heights implied by several early triumphs.

With her twinkling eyes, husky voice and petite figure, Renée Asherson brought distinction and charm, if not much steel, to scores of plays and many films and television dramas.

She was perhaps best known as the blushing French Princess Katherine seduced by Laurence Olivier in his film of Henry V (1944). Olivier also directed her on stage in 1949 in the first British production of Tennessee Williams’s A Streetcar Named Desire at the Aldwych, in which Olivier’s wife Vivien Leigh gave one of her best performances as Blanche Dubois and Renée Asherson played the part of Stella Kowalski, wife of the brutish Stanley (Bonar Colleano).

It was said that Renée Asherson had landed the part of Princess Katherine because Olivier feared Vivien Leigh was too big a star and might eclipse his own performance in the title role. If so, Renée Asherson took her revenge in 1990 when she appeared in Sir Norbert Smith: A Life, a hilarious Harry Enfield send-up of a respectful at-home interview with Olivier conducted by Melvyn Bragg, in which she appeared as the senile “Sir Norbert’s” equally dotty wife.

A year after Henry V, Renée Asherson had been a member of the cast of the Terence Rattigan wartime drama The Way to the Stars, in which she gave a fine, stiff-upper-lipped performance as Iris, the young WRAF recruit with whom John Mills falls in love. The same year, on stage, she played a memorable Juliet opposite Basil Langton, eliciting a curious encomium from Kenneth Tynan, who observed: “In a husky alto she breathed all the world-defiance which such self-deceivers delight in. She was tormented and fragile and she dealt in just the right, headstrong way with her unreasoning parents and that sordid nurse. She looked as if she wanted to be someone’s mistress.”

Laurence Olivier as Henry V and Renée Asherson as Princess Katherine in Henry V (REX)

Renée Asherson went on to win glowing reviews in her West End acting partnership with Robert Donat which reached its zenith in the stage and film versions of Walter Greenwood’s The Cure for Love, which led to their marriage in 1953.

Their time together did not last, however, and when Donat died in mid-career in 1958 they were living apart, though reported to be considering a reconciliation. Renée Asherson continued to enjoy a respectable career, yet she did not, ultimately, fulfil her early promise and there were some who wondered whether she would not have gone on to greater things if she and Donat had been able to live and work together for longer.

Dorothy Renée Ascherson (she later dropped the “c” in her surname for stage purposes) was born in London on May 19 1915 and educated at Maltman’s Green school, Gerrards Cross, and at Anjou in France.

After studying for the stage at the Webber Douglas Academy of Dramatic Art, she got her first walk-on part in 1935 in John Gielgud’s revival of Romeo and Juliet at the New Theatre, in which Gielgud alternated the parts of Romeo and Mercutio with Laurence Olivier. After 18 months in Barry Jackson’s Birmingham Repertory Company, she spent a season at Richmond, before achieving a notable success as Catherine Howard in Clifford Bax’s romantic drama The Rose Without a Thorn (Tavistock Little, 1940).

She then joined the Old Vic as Iris in The Tempest, and toured with the theatre as Kate Hardcastle in She Stoops to Conquer, Maria in Twelfth Night, Nerissa in The Merchant of Venice, Blanche in King John, Ann Page in The Merry Wives of Windsor and Desdemona in Othello.

Other parts that came her way in the early 1940s included Puck in Robert Atkins’s production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Westminster, 1942), Henriette Duquesnoy in Ashley Duke’s The Mask of Virtue, Rose in Enid Bagnold’s Lottie Dundass (Vaudeville) and Millie Southern in The Cure for Love (Westminster, 1945), in which she won praise for her portrayal of the sweeter of two women waiting to marry a soldier (Robert Donat) returning from the wars.

In 1947 she played Beatrice to Robert Donat’s Benedick in Much Ado About Nothing (Aldwych), and by the time they had reprised their roles in the film version of The Cure for Love in 1949 they had fallen in love. They subsequently appeared together in John Boulting’s 1951 film The Magic Box.

After playing Daisy Sage in Peter Cotes’s production of Philip Barry’s The Animal Kingdom (Playhouse) she returned to the Old Vic as Bianca in The Taming of the Shrew, and appeared in The Government Inspector and as the Queen in Richard II.

She spent most of the 1950s in the West End — notably as Stella Kowalski in A Streetcar Named Desire, Irina in an all-star revival of Three Sisters (Aldwych), in The Big Knife (Duke of York’s), and in The Waltz of the Toreadors (Criterion).

When Robert Donat died, he left everything to his three children from an earlier marriage and, as a result, Renée Asherson, as she later explained, having “worked only for the love, now had to work for the money”.

She began to appear in thrillers, such as The Unexpected Guest (Duchess), Kill Two Birds (St Martin’s) and Portrait of Murder (Savoy), and returned to provincial rep, in which she continued to enjoy an active career into the 1980s.

Renée Asherson in Once a Jolly Swagman (REX)

Her first major film appearance had been in The Way Ahead, Carol Reed’s stirring flag-waver of 1944. Her other film credits included Once a Jolly Swagman (1948), in which she played the girlfriend of Dirk Bogarde who encounters unexpected competition from Moira Lister, and Theatre of Blood (1973), a Grand Guignol black comedy with Vincent Price playing a hammy, homicidal Shakespearean actor intent on dispatching those who derided his performances; Renée Asherson played the wife of a critic (Michael Hordern) who ignores her Calpurnia-like warnings and meets a bloody end at the hands of the man he has maligned in print.

In her last film role, she put in a chilling performance as an elderly, blind medium in Alejandro Amenábar’s 2001 film The Others, starring Nicole Kidman.

Renée Asherson had an extensive career in television. In 1952, she portrayed Queen Victoria in the BBC drama series Happy and Glorious, and her other work included Domino (1963), Clayhanger (1976), Chain (1980) , Love and Marriage (1983) and Life after Life (1990), as well as the inevitable episodes of Miss Marple, Lovejoy, and Midsomer Murders.

In John Mortimer’s television play Edwin (1984) she was the independent-minded wife of a crusty, retired judge (Sir Alec Guinness) who thinks she might be having an affair with his neighbour. In 1989 she played old Mrs Bartholomew, who winds the clock every day in a BBC adaptation of Philippa Pearce’s children’s classic Tom’s Midnight Garden.

In 1992 she joined Maggie Smith, Michael Hordern, Thora Hird, Cyril Cusack and Maurice Denham for a television adaptation of Memento Mori, Muriel Spark’s comic satire of old age, in which her portrayal of an elderly novelist who is not quite as daft as she pretends to be was a tour de force.

Renee Asherson in Life after Life (ITV)

Renée Asherson did not remarry and had no children.

Renée Asherson, born May 19 1915, died October 30 2014


Investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board stand beside the debris of Virgin Galact Investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board stand beside the debris of Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo in the Mojave desert after it crashed during a test flight. Photograph: Xinhua/Landov/Barcroft Media

The loss of Richard Branson’s SpaceShipTwo (One pilot dead, one seriously injured as Virgin Galactic crashes in Mojave desert, 1 November) should give us pause for thought. Speaking after the crash, Branson’s team likened the entrepreneur to Ferdinand Magellan, the adventurer who opened up the globe to trade in the 16th century. The comparison between Magellan and Branson is compelling, and not only because large numbers of Magellan’s crew died of scurvy and starvation during their voyages.

In the same way that Magellan and other adventurers such as Columbus opened up the globe to trade and profit-making, Branson and other “spacefarers” now hope to open up outer space as a new realm of investment. As James Ormrod and I described in our 2007 book Cosmic Society, Earth no longer has what Rosa Luxemburg called in the early 20th century an “outside” – a non-capitalist realm in which new investments can be profitably made. But Branson and other investors such as Elon Musk have an answer to this problem. They are now making the cosmos into capitalism’s “outside”, a new realm of profitability. There is another advantage to this “outside”, there being no “natives” there to resist.

We now have the bizarre spectacle of economic crises, wars and climate change prevailing down here on Earth, but elites each paying £157,000 for a brief encounter in outer space. Branson’s next project is said to be hotels in space. These will enable movie stars and others to contemplate Earthly apocalypses from a safe distance.

Branson’s adventure is a sad symptom of our times and few tears should be shed if his project is now abandoned.
Peter Dickens
School of applied social science, University of Brighton

• Richard Branson’s statement that “Nasa has lost about 3% of everyone who’s gone into space, and re-entry has been their biggest problem” which he made in a Guardian interview (One giant leap, Weekend, 22 February) and which you quoted last Saturday (History of the project, 1 November), is technically correct although very misleading, as the statistics exclude the seven fatalities in the Challenger disaster, which never got into space, and incidents on the ground such as the Apollo 1 fire.

But his assertion that “For a government-owned company, you can just about get away with losing 3% of your clients. For a private company you can’t really lose anybody” is a quite unjustified slight against public servants that should not go unchallenged. Has he not heard of the Ford Pinto, the Hatfield train crash, or (telling name) the Herald of Free Enterprise? Not a state industry in sight.

There is also an important distinction: Nasa’s astronauts are not paying clients, but employees, paid to do a dangerous job, as yesterday’s tragedy demonstrates.
Tim Lidbetter

• The death of one pilot and serious injury to the second in the crash of Virgin Galactic’s space plane in the Mojave desert highlights how difficult the consideration of the risks involved are when key decisions are made. I am sure that Mr Branson was closely involved in those crucial decisions. Nearer to home, his decision not to continue funding the Northern Rock Foundation, the charitable arm of Northern Rock, acquired by Virgin Money, clearly cannot be described as a tragedy. However, the foundation was the biggest funder charities in the north-east of England, and the loss of millions of pounds a year is having a major impact on the lives of some of the most vulnerable in society.
Philip Latham
Riding Mill, Northumberland

• The global distributions of wealth and income are so severely skewed that it is almost impossible to think correctly about them, and Zoe Williams (Branson’s space tourism exposes our obscene inequality, 2 November) does not do so. She refers to “a few hundred people who can set fire to this kind of money”. Let’s say that someone might be prepared to spend up to a few percent of their net worth on Branson’s £150,000 jaunt. Call it dollars and, according to the global wealth report by Credit Suisse (Report, 15 October), there are comfortably more than one and half a million people in the world with wealth in excess of $10,000,000. Is that outrageous, or not? And why? The very confusing shape of the wealth distribution has enabled the right to muddle a great many minds about who is middle-income and who is wealthy, and how well aligned their interests are; commentators on the left should not play into their hands by compounding the confusion.
Keith Braithwaite
Beckenham, Kent

• If Zoe Williams is regretting the enormous gap between rich and poor I agree with her, but if she is hoping that the rich will change their spending habits I fear she has a long wait ahead. A rich man’s trip to space is the equivalent of a not-so-rich man’s trip to the top of Everest or Mont Blanc or the Shard. None is available to the poor.
Charles Dorin

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un surrounded by officials taking notes North Koreans take notes from the author of To Protect National Heritage Is a Patriotic Undertaking for Adding Brilliance to the History and Traditions of Our Nation. Photograph: Kcna/Reuters

It is great that the government is funding farmers to maintain hedgerows to encourage bees (Leave lawnmowers in the shed, minister says, 4 November) but it was this government that opposed the EU ban on neonicotinoids, and continues to permit extended use of two neonicotinoids, despite the evidence of their devastating impact on bees, birds and mayflies. It seems it’s easier to tell householders to mow less often than challenge the chemical companies.
Dominic Vickers

• I didn’t notice the Comment section was all by black commentators (A day of difference, 31 October), just Guardian writers. Aditya Chakrabortty’s article (I’m Bengali and I’m black – in the way that my parents were) contains many reasons why Black History Month is still relevant and why we need a Migration Month to counter the dehumanising throwback in attitude to migration.
Dr Graham Ullathorne
Chesterfield, Derbyshire

• The North Korean news agency, KCNA, has breathlessly announced the release of supreme leader Kim Jong-un’s book, To Protect National Heritage Is a Patriotic Undertaking for Adding Brilliance to the History and Traditions of Our Nation. Unable to purchase a copy, I wonder if John Crace might give us a digested read of this work?
Brian Smith
Berlin, Germany

• Unless you actually put a figure on top of your 5 November bonfire and call it a guy, what you’re celebrating is the older Celtic Beltane fire festival, I think you’ll find (Letters, 4 November).
Henry Malt
Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire

• Pop star had spider living in ear (Letters, 4 November)? It might not be news, but it brightened my day.
Chris Hughes

• I agree you did not need to run the story about Katie Melua and the spider. After all, the web would have covered it.
Michael Cunningham

'Daybreak' TV Programme, London, Britain - 06 Jan 2014 Griff Rhys Jones told the Telegraph that if Labour introduced a mansion tax then ‘I’d probably live abroad because I could get some massive palace which I could restore’. Photograph: Ken McKay/REX

Griff Rhys Jones claims he will be “hit hard” by a mansion tax and could leave the country if one is introduced (Report, 4 November). On the same page, under the headline “Man who lost job told to work unpaid for same firm”, is the story of John McArthur, who has been sanctioned by the Department for Work and Pensions for declining to work unpaid for the same company which had laid him off. I know where my sympathies lie on this page. Sorry, Griff.
Nigel Moss
Buxton, Derbyshire

• By imposing a mansion tax and increasing the top rate of income tax, an incoming Labour government could achieve two things: more money in the coffers and a decrease in net immigration.
Bernard Wright
Austwick, North Yorkshire

Timothy Spall in Mr Turner Timothy Spall in Mr Turner

I could not agree more with Andrew Wilton on the travesty of film-makers’ lack of understanding of what it takes to make great art (G2, 27 October). Whatever Turner may have appeared as a man to his peers and the general public, any observation of the paintings, watercolours and drawings he made will reward the viewer with an astounding appreciation of his sensitivity, dedication and care of application. He was capable of painting fast, but many of his paintings show applications of carefully laid layers of glazes, each of which might take three days to dry, and into which he has worked various textures and brush strokes. This type of painting can take months to complete. Thus to see Timothy Spall in Mr Turner mindlessly attacking a badly painted oil sketch was a painful experience for those that love and study art, spoiling for me what otherwise was a beautifully shot and constructed film.
Peter Nahum
Leicester Galleries, London

• If the Vatican had not removed the shadows which Michelangelo had painted on to and around his depicted figures (after he had studied the shadows cast by the small clay or wax models he made of his figures) during the so-called restoration of the Sistine Chapel ceiling in the 1980s, it would not have been necessary to install over 7,000 LEDs in an attempt to recover those very three-dimensional effects today (Sistine Chapel goes digital to cap tourist surge, 30 October). It was claimed during the restoration that removing the ceiling’s glue-painted shading was necessary to liberate the brilliant colours originally used to cut through the gloom of a large candlelit space. If that rationale had been correct (and not, as is demonstrable, misguided), why should it now be necessary, only two decades later, to flood the chapel with permanent artificial light? Why does it look, from all photographs of the chapel today, as if the garish “liberated” 1980s colours that were left exposed – for the first time in their history – to the chapel’s notorious airborne pollutants are already fading?
Michael Daley
Director, ArtWatch UK

• So yet again the Arts Council gives an important painting to Oxford’s Ashmolean, where it “would be permanently located” (Constable work settles £1m tax bill, 28 October). This follows a series of presentations to the Ashmolean, including Millais’s portrait of Ruskin in 2013. Once more the English disease of giving to him that hath, particularly in London or the golden triangle.
Daniel McDowell
Ludlow, Shropshire

People pose with laptops in front of projection of Facebook logo in this picture illustration ‘For access to the software of the likes of Apple, Google, Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook, we all did a deal. We ticked a box which gave us their services free, and in return they use our data and make an enormous financial killing from it.’ Photograph: Dado Ruvic/Reuters

By and large, the most popular internet companies like Apple, Google, Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook reside in the US. As such they are protected by the first amendment of the US constitution. For access to their software, we all did a deal. We ticked a box which gave us their services free, and in return they use our data and make an enormous financial killing from it. This cannot be right or fair. But that’s by the by. Robert Hannigan, the new director of GCHQ, must know that they will protect this data for fear of legal action by any of their subscribers (Privacy not an absolute right, says new director of GCHQ, 4 November).

The answer therefore is for the UK to take a lead by creating a world body (much as we did with the World Service and the British Council) for the internet, and for starting the journey to agree some fundamental rules which cover cybercrime, child pornography, terrorism et al. We are rather good at soft power and some of us have argued that’s all we have left in foreign policy.
Derek Wyatt
Founder, parliamentary internet group and Oxford Internet Institute

Theresa May statement Home secretary Theresa May makes a statement in the House of Commons on the inquiry into child sexual abuse. Photograph: PA/PA Wire

Theresa May conveyed a real sense of sincerity in her statement about child abuse on Monday (May apologises to survivors for child abuse inquiry chaos, 4 November). However, as the debate progressed, this became more questionable. She avoided questions on what recourse the inquiry panel would have if the security services refused to release information, and about who had authorised the checking of Fiona Woolf’s draft letters.

My own experience is similar. At the home affairs select committee on 8 July, the permanent secretary at the Home Office could not say whether files adjacent to the 114 missing files (regarding child abuse by Westminster figures) are also missing. That day, I sent Mrs May a freedom of information request asking a similar question and whether her department had asked those who would have handled the files if they knew of their whereabouts. The statutory deadlines of 20 and 40 days elapsed without me receiving the information. I complained to the Information Commissioner’s office. It asked the Home Office to reply to me within 10 days. This was also ignored.

I have tried for four months to obtain very easily found information. Mrs May might say that she did not want to pre-empt the Home Office’s internal Wanless report. But she has only decided to do this in the last few days.
John Oliver
Guildford, Surrey

• To see how it should be done, Theresa May need only look at Australia, whose royal commission into institutional responses to child abuse has been up and running since January 2013. Its members and their clear terms of reference are set out on its website. Progress is fully reported and appears to be properly funded. Surely this is one to follow to avoid the undignified false starts being displayed here?
Donald MacFaul
Newcastle upon Tyne

Palestinian boy in ruined part of Gaza British aid has been used to support medical mission to Gaza in the aftermath of the 2014 conflict between Israel and Hamas. Above, a boy walks through Shejaiya in Gaza City, 19 October 2014. Photograph: Mahmud Hams/Getty Images

Your leader on the effectiveness of foreign aid (1 November) made my blood boil. First, the patronising tone. British aid, it says, should be used to impose sanctions on corruption in poor countries and make them think it’s a bad thing. As if they didn’t know it, and as if the British were so pure. Second, does the Guardian not realise that aid is available only to countries whose governments cut public spending, make the poor pay for education and health, privatise public institutions and enterprises, and welcome foreign private investment and the appropriation by foreigners of their wealth, resources and land? Do you not realise that this benefits only the elite in these countries, and probably corrupts them, and harms the poor? And that if their populations elect governments that introduce socialist policies, or even redistribute wealth and protect the interests of the poor, aid will certainly be cut and probably be stopped? My first proper book (published by Penguin in 1971) was called “Aid as Imperialism”.
Teresa Hayter

• Nobody can condone ill-spent public funds and I support those seeking to use the Independent Commission for Aid Impact’s findings to challenge the Department for International Development into becoming a beacon for anti-corruption internationally (Report, 31 October). However, with Ukip having pledged to cut foreign aid by 85%, those who know the real value of DfID’s work must continue to speak out. I have seen this recently in its support for British surgical missions to Gaza after the July conflict. By helping to mend the broken bones of some of the most severely injured Palestinians, DfID is not only changing the lives of hundreds of people in Gaza but building bridges of solidarity in a region where Britain’s reputation is not what it could be. We must not let such stories of aid-effectiveness be lost to short-term political positioning.
Dr Phyllis Starkey

Tobin_Tax.jpg Global economy in crisis. Illustration: Gary Kempston

A truly global problem

The Eurozone’s weakness is indeed “a world problem” (24 October), but not only in the sense that it is affecting the global economy. It is a reflection of what now surely faces all economies, as a result of both ecological constraints and human limits (including technological innovation on any practicable and positive scale) starting to bite. In that case the important question is no longer where can capital go next for a fat return on investment, but how can we collectively start to manage, as intelligently and gracefully as possible, global and local decline? In some respects Italy might not be a bad place to consider, along with Japan.
Patrick Curry
London, UK

• Christine Lagarde describes Germany and Japan as “struggling” and “lagging behind” on the basis that these countries have very low (or negative) inflation and little growth (17 October). Yet both countries are stable and prosperous, have large economies (fourth and fifth in the world) and high personal per capita income. Both are also experiencing population declines.

Far from “lagging behind”, perhaps the rest of the world should see them as examples of how to successfully move from growth-oriented, resource-stripping 20th century economic models into sustainable 21st-century economies that address the issues of overpopulation and resource depletion.
Adam Childs
Queenstown, New Zealand

Kissinger’s distorted view

The understanding of history was dealt a severe blow by Rana Mitter’s glowing review of Henry Kissinger’s World Order: Reflections on the Character of Nations and the Course of History (24 October). The reviewer seems to suffer amnesia, particularly when assessing the contribution of Kissinger to world history.

Kissinger was not an elected politician; he was the national security adviser to US presidents, first appointed by future disgraced President Richard Nixon. In 1973 he was awarded the Nobel Peace prize, despite the abominable treatment of the people of Vietnam by the United States. His misdeeds also included those against the peoples of Bangladesh, Chile, Cyprus and East Timor.

Is it any wonder the late Christopher Hitchens advocated that Kissinger should be tried for crimes against humanity? Kissinger described Hitchens’s view as “contemptible” but I consider Kissinger’s policies of violence beyond contempt.

Kissinger is still earning considerable amounts through publishing and commanding hefty fees for public appearances by offering his distorted view of history.
Carmelo Bazzano
Melbourne, Australia

• Rana Mitter’s review of Henry Kissinger’s latest book contains a sentence I don’t understand: “Kissinger was a key shaper of a world order that remained stable for a quarter-century or more until our own post-cold war era.” Prolonging the Vietnam war led to a stable world order?
Jeff Savage
Lander, Wyoming, US

Everything is relative

I was much moved by the desperate plight of Eleanor Robertson and those like her (Millennials forced to live in a boomer world, 24 October). Having survived into adulthood only by the skin of her teeth (“it’s a credit to our resilence … that we’ve managed to get this far at all”), now the lack of such basic essentials as a good job and a home of her own makes her angry and unhappy.

To my relief, I found the solution to her problems in the Guardian Weekly itself. Richard Orlando’s letter (Reply, 17 October) includes the quote “life is 10% what happens to us, and 90% how we react to it”, while George Monbiot in the 24 October edition cites the income-happiness paradox: as national incomes rise, happiness does not rise with them. So it seems that happiness is not to be found in a high disposable income, but within ourselves.

Meanwhile, Robertson might care to ponder on those people for whom life really is a “turd sandwich”: Palestinians trapped in Gaza while the IDF bombs them; Africans dying of horrific diseases; people in countries where there is no free health service; people in war zones for whom “living with parents or in shared houses” would be a distant, unattainable dream.
Rory Allen
London, UK

• I want to congratulate George Monbiot on putting his fingers and his mind on the Age of Loneliness. As things were before, when we who are now old were young, everything was done around the kitchen table, the samovar or its equivalent: a bar, a coffee, Sunday lunch, family holidays. Everything is now done alone in front of the computer, the iPad, the iPhone. There is no need for conviviality any more.

I am not suggesting that those occasions were by definition or of necessity fun, but at least they were ways of connecting. Now you connect alone.
Renée Levine
Asheville, North Carolina, US

Tribute to Gough Whitlam

Indeed, our former prime minister, Gough Whitlam, was “a defining political figure of modern Australia”, as your short item reporting his death indicates (24 October). He was a leader of truly noble stature the like of which we have not experienced since. In the early 1970s he was, after years of stultifying conservative rule, able to deliver far-reaching social reform in line with the liberated popular mood of that time.

Our conservative establishment hated this and reacted strongly against it in ways we little understand. The story of this subterranean reaction is important because we have been living with its consequences ever since. It’s a story that awaits the historians of the future.

However, notwithstanding this sinister reaction, there remains a bedrock of durable reform from Whitlam’s prime ministership that can yet serve as a basis for a better Australia.

Given the bipartisan conservatism that dominates our politics, we need a contemporary version of him if we are to secure our path forward as a nation. Fingers crossed that there is another national leader with his breadth of vision and strength of purpose able to lead us out of our current political wilderness towards a Whitlamesque promised land.
Terry Hewton
Adelaide, South Australia


• Sophie Jerram (Reply, 24 October), questioning the relevance of population growth to climate change, says we could breed on happily and work collaboratively as termites do in their billions. Termites “collaborate” so well only because they are genetically programmed to do so, while humans, thankfully, aren’t.

Having evolved away from such strict genetic control of behaviour, we will continue to pull in diverse directions, largely in creative ways, but leaving also inevitable fallout. Since our billions aren’t genetically cloned, a culture of decent living has to be instilled. This surely is much easier with controlled numbers.
Ivor Tittawella
Umeå, Sweden

• According to Joshua Rozenberg (24 October), British lord chief justice Thomas of Cwmgiedd claims that “Jurors should not be expected to understand and interpret complex scientific concepts. Instead, their task should be to decide between opposing scientific views.”

Would somebody please explain to me how on earth a jury is supposed to responsibly perform the latter without at least a broad general understanding of the former?
David Bouvier
Gabriola Island, British Columbia, Canada

• Paul Evans’s prose is beautiful poetry. I am moved to read his pieces aloud as the rhythm and diction resonate on my ears and flow into my soul. Such a delight.

I love The Guardian Weekly for many reasons, but Nature watch is at the top of the list.
Susan E Forster
Elora, Ontario, Canada

• I am writing in reference to the article Germany creaks towards crisis (24 October). I find the idea that cars be banished from the “blue miracle bridge …. as on Venice’s Rialto bridge” bizarre, to say the least, as there are no cars in the historic city centre of Venice.
Christina Cawthra
Venice, Italy

Please send letters to


Your editorial (3 November) on the latest and most sombre report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change cited questions of global competitiveness for carbon-rich nations such as China, Australia and Russia as a central obstacle to achieving the necessary global regime of fossil fuel reduction.

However, one policy which could be adopted unilaterally – already approved by the World Trade Organisation and looking increasingly feasible in the world’s largest economy, the US – would incentivise most other countries, with or without the “agreements” on carbon reduction which have proved so elusive.

I’ve been surprised not to hear more about this policy, termed “carbon fee and dividend” (CF and D), which is rapidly gaining support at high levels in the US. Proposed legislation is for a substantial and escalating fee on fossil fuels as they enter the economy, with the revenue returned entirely as a dividend to citizens – a market-friendly yet automatically redistributive process which stimulates the economy even as it dramatically reduces emissions.

Crucially, the policy mandates equivalent import taxes based on carbon content (termed “border adjustments”). Under this regime, any country interested in trading with the US would be faced with the choice of implementing and collecting a similar tax – or paying the same amount to the US.

In advance of the recent UN climate talks, representatives from Citizens’ Climate Lobby, who are promoting CF and D in the US, were invited by both the World Bank and the IMF economics staff to provide technical briefings on the policy’s potential for propagating strong carbon pricing even in the absence of a binding UN protocol.

Such a measure might yet secure a liveable world for our species.

Judy Hindley
Marlborough, Wiltshire

The cod fishery off the Grand Banks of Newfoundland was central to the European discovery of the Americas by the Vikings and Basques long before Columbus. It was vital to the economy of the east coast of Canada for centuries. The threat of overfishing was well understood. The best science that money can buy and the power of a unitary state with the sole interest of maintaining the fishery was brought to bear on the problem. The fishery collapsed, was shut down and has never recovered. Good luck dealing with climate change.

Sean Nee

While I share the opinions and fears of Howard Pilott and Sierra Hutton-Wilson (letters, 3 November) with regard to global warming, the fact that it is sunny and warm in October and November is indicative of very little. There will always be extreme weather events and records will be broken even in neutral climate conditions. To suggest that a sunny and warm November day is indicative of climate change plays into the hands of climate-change deniers who will gleefully point out it is of very little consequence (and they are right).

It is long-term trends on which we must focus, basing our claims for climate change on facts and evidence, not warm evenings or November sunshine.

Michael O’Hare
Northwood, Middlesex

Forgetting the real meaning of the poppy

P  J Davison rightly decries the recent trend for celebrities to “out-poppy” one another and argues that the remembrance poppy is “a symbol of equality” (letter, 30 October). Since you published this letter, Nigel Farage has appeared on television wearing an enormous poppy that resembles a cross between a corsage and an election rosette.

Yet this is the party leader who has justified recruiting to his European Parliament grouping a Polish MEP from a party whose leader has a track record as a Hitler apologist and Holocaust denier, a move that prompted the Board of Deputies of British Jews to express its grave concern.

In wearing a poppy, the leader of Ukip insults the memory of those who died fighting Nazism. The fact that he chooses to wear the biggest poppy he can get his hands on only magnifies the hypocrisy that his poppy-wearing embodies.

David Head
Navenby, Lincolnshire

On the whole, the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War has been tastefully commemorated in this country, but regrettably the story that has been running in parallel with the commemoration – the UK’s future relationship with the rest of Europe – has been far less edifying.

The whining about the EU, a feature of every Conservative-led government since Ted Heath took us in when he was prime minister, has reached a climax in the past decade.

What they forget is that those who fought in the First World War were promised it would be the war to end all wars. When the fighting stopped, they were betrayed in the 1920s and 30s, leading to the return of world war in 1939. When that finished, visionaries established the UN, Nato, the EU and other bodies which together have fulfilled the “no more world war” promise for the past 70 years.

All these organisations, however, require members to share some of their sovereignty for the common good and they expect every member to play a full, active and committed part in the evolution of their organisations.

Standing on the sidelines, criticising every decision an organisation takes and threatening to leave if you don’t get all your own way is betraying every one of the people whose sacrifice is commemorated by the ceramic poppies at the Tower.

Geoff Harris

Warwick take discipline out of the classroom

Having worked for a large part of my adult life in education, most of it in teacher education, I was interested to read the survey of teachers who felt that they had not been adequately prepared to deal with disruptive behaviour in the classroom (report, 3 November).

To what extent should teachers be required to deal with disruptive pupils? In my view, the role of a teacher is to educate children, not to instil discipline where parents have patently failed.

A friend who is a maths teacher in France was amazed to learn teachers in the UK are required to discipline students. His comment was: “Do you not have people in your schools with that specific role?”

Perhaps this could be  the way to make the vastly overworked teachers in our schools less inclined to leave the profession in droves in the first few years of their teaching career.

David Felton

I read the Sutton Trust report, “What makes great teaching?”, with a mixture of delight and dismay. Delight because it confirmed my view that we at Haileybury (and many other schools I know of) are very much on the right track in our approach. The importance of subject knowledge, skilful questioning and developing pupils’ analytical skills are all confirmed in Robert Coe’s report.

However, I still feel a sense of dismay because the teachers at Haileybury, and all schools around the country, will have to park this excellent advice for now in order to focus on the more pressing issue of public examination reform.

Next week my heads of department will, rather than addressing this report, continue to discuss how we implement the dog’s dinner that is the Government’s  A-level and GCSE reforms.

Government reforms are, allegedly, designed to raise standards. I wonder how much higher those could be if teachers could be left as professionals to focus on implementing the advice of researchers rather than having to act on the whim of politicians (on both sides of the House) who confuse assessment with learning.

Simon Smith
Deputy head (academic)
Haileybury, Hertfordshire


Searching for a judge without connections

With all due respect to Yasmin Alibhai-Brown (3 November), I cannot recall a single inquiry which has lasted 20 years. All that is required is to listen to the victims’ representatives: they want a senior judge to act as chairman, and one who is not part of the London establishment. Is it beyond the wit of the Home Office to find such a person? If it is, Theresa May should resign too.

Laura Kaufman
Horsmonden, Kent


Don’t let work inch into our home lives

It is with dismay I read that 28 per cent of adults have an office in their homes. Our sanctuaries should not be intruded upon by companies seeking to reduce their operating costs by turning our homes into their free storage.

Ian McKenzie

Remembering Bilk over a glass of acker

According to The New Partridge Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English, the word “acker” has been used since 1952 as Cockney rhyming slang for milk, as in Acker Bilk = milk. There can be few greater indications of popular esteem, ranking him alongside Vera Lynn, Alan Whicker, Barney Rubble, Brahms and Liszt, Hank Marvin, Jimmy Riddle, Rosy Lee, Tommy Trinder and Edward Heath.

Patrick Walsh


to victims of historic child sex abuse in the wake of Fiona Woolf’s decision to fall on her sword as chairwoman of the government inquiry. It is still worth noting, however, that it was only probing by backbench MPs and digging by a free press that unearthed the evidence that led to Woolf following her predecessor Lady Butler-Sloss down “Resignation Road”.

As media adviser to some abuse victim groups, I’m well aware that the home secretary’s statement still leaves many survivors far from reassured. To rescue confidence, key steps must be taken.

First, victims must be meaningfully involved in the selection of the new chairperson. They also need to be fully involved in reviewing the inquiry’s structure — including whether it should be a royal commission.

Second, the home affairs select committee should still summon May and her officials to investigate the selection process that led to the Woolf/Butler-Sloss fiascos.

Third, the government must not run scared at the radical idea of appointing an awkward non-establishment figure such as Michael Mansfield QC to take the helm of Britain’s most important public inquiry for many years.
Paul Connew

St Albans, Herts

Sir, Nonsense is coming out of the Westminster village about finding someone to run the child abuse inquiry. If the establishment looked outside its confines it would find, in every part of the UK, people who are perfectly capable of doing the job. The usual establishment suspects from the pool of lawyers and other great-and-good worthies either aren’t up to the task or, in some cases, are too concerned with preserving their relationships and position. The assertion that a suitable person can only be found abroad is ridiculous and is often made when the establishment fails to appoint one of its own number. The subsequent appointment of “someone from abroad” almost always turns into disaster.
Jon Cousens
Ebford, Devon

Sir, I suggest two candidates for the chair of the child abuse inquiry: Baroness (Floella) Benjamin for her empathy for the welfare of the young individual, and the Dutch diplomat Sigrid Kaag, a woman whose work dealing with toxic issues cannot be ignored.
Mark Riley
Sandhurst, Surrey

Sir, While it is essential to hear the voice of victims, it is now clear that interested parties have had a veto over the way an investigation is conducted, despite protests that this is not the case. This is a significant precedent which will lead to problems in the future.
John Bausor
Wokingham, Berks

Sir, It was great to see the students from Boroughmuir High School pictured with “kindness pledges” (Nov 1). One student promises to “walk the dog instead of her parents”. Be warned: parents can suffer from claustrophobia if not walked daily.
Ralph Sutton
Dorking, Surrey

Sir, Who listens to 23-year-olds, Judy Macdonald (letter, Nov 3) asks. Politicians do — just ask the Lib Dems, who have seen their youthful support ebb away after the U-turn on tuition fees.

More than 40 per cent of 18 to 24-year-olds voted in the last election and there may be a greater turnout next May. Party leaders ignore the young at their peril.
Frank Greaney
Formby, Merseyside

Sir, As the younger Pitt was 24 when he became prime minister he must have had sufficient going for him at 23 to be “taken seriously” the following year.
A Pugh-Thomas
West Monkton, Somerset

Sir, Hannah Betts’s concerns in “I’m a whore and a slut. And all in a few metres” (Nov 1), featuring ten hours of walking in New York as a woman, are misplaced. In America, it is polite to make remarks that would be seen as exaggerated or intrusive in the UK. Hence the woman was beingrude not to respond with a smile or wave. She was also wearing a skin tight T-shirt and jeans. It is ludicrous to pretend such things are not likely to attract attention; that is why in past times women had to be chaperoned and to dress modestly. There is an amusing video of ten hours of walking in New York as a man. He suffered too.
Paul F Withrington

Sir, Hannah Betts might attract far less attention and feel much safer if she relocated to Pitlochry.
Kate West
Pitlochry, Perthshire

Sir, It is not unreasonable for Dr Paul Batchelor to assert that bleeding gums, the mild form of gum disease which is seen in the majority of the population and can be self-limiting, do not meet the definition of a public health problem (“Gum disease threat ‘inflated to sell mouthwash’ ”, Nov 1).

However, many dentists would disagree with his suggestion that gum disease is a normal part of ageing. The more severe gum disease, from which about 15-30 per cent of the modern adult population suffers, has many significant consequences, including poor aesthetics, loss of self-esteem, recurring gum infections and ultimately tooth loss.

The progression of bleeding gums to destructive gum disease is caused by a number of factors including smoking, genetic factors, diabetes and possibly poor diet, but is most effectively prevented by the lifelong maintenance of good gum health.
Francis J Hughes
Professor of Periodontology, Kings College London


Wilcot plans to create a portable memorial using nine of the Tower of London poppies

A general view at the Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red evolving art installation at the Tower of London on October 9, 2014 in London, England

Each ceramic poppy represents a British or Commonwealth soldier killed during the First World War Photo: Getty Images

6:56AM GMT 04 Nov 2014


SIR – Our village has purchased nine poppies from the Tower of London. They will be set in oak to remember the nine “old pals” from the Wiltshire Regiment who are named on our village monument.

This will become a portable memorial for the church, village hall and school, reuniting the old pals and bringing them home.

Tim Hollier
Wilcot, Wiltshire

SIR – One of the reasons for the crush around the Tower is the imminent removal of the display on November 11. This must be postponed so that everybody has a chance to witness the spectacle.

Peter Turvey
Guildford, Surrey

SIR – Olive Cooke was mentioned in your report as Britain’s longest-serving poppy seller, I assume for her 76 years of continual service. My mother, Rosemary Powell, was recognised by the British Legion as probably the only person still alive who was selling poppies in 1921.

At six years of age she was helping her mother to sell poppies. We went to a reception at 10 Downing Street in 2011 for the Legion’s 90th anniversary.

My mother is still selling poppies and on November 11 this year will be 52 days off her 100th birthday.

Antony Powell
Bradfield, Berkshire

SIR – By far the greatest human sacrifice on all battlefields from the earliest days of the First World War was made by those serving in the other ranks.

Given that this is the case, it would seem to be appropriate during the Remembrance Sunday ceremony on November 9 to have the first wreaths following the monarch’s wreath laid by representatives drawn from the other ranks of the Royal Navy, the Army and the Royal Air Force.

Angus Macdonald
Troon, Ayrshire

How to get the most out of your Daily Telegraph

Model material: papier mâché butcher’s shop counter sign on show at Compton Verney

Model material: papier mâché butcher’s shop counter sign on show at Compton Verney Photo:

6:57AM GMT 04 Nov 2014


SIR – Used copies of The Daily Telegraph make excellent bedding for Welsh Harlequin ducklings. They are a great surface for laying out the many parts of a euphonium when cleaning it, and make wonderful papier mâché for a model stegosaurus made by my son.

Sally Jaspars

SIR – I remember my father lighting the fire when I was a child.

The Daily Telegraph made an excellent blazer: holding the open newspaper across the front of the fire would help the flames to draw, without the paper itself catching fire.

Angela Lishman
South Shields

Zero final demand

SIR – As my car is a hybrid vehicle, no tax actually has to be paid, but I still have to go online in order to not pay the tax that I don’t owe. There is a range of non-payment options, although apparently I will be charged £2.50 if I decide to not pay by credit card.

So, if I have understood this, I am to not pay for a tax disk that I now won’t get sent.

Rev Alan Fraser

Bath, Somerset

Grantchester sun

SIR – In ITV’s Grantchester, there have been shots in the church looking towards the altar, with strong shafts of sunlight entering through the windows on the left.

This implies that either the altar is at the west end of the church (unusual, to say the least) or that Grantchester is in the southern hemisphere. Am I the only person to have noticed this?

Chris Green
Merstham, Surrey

A woman reads a copy of the Daily Telegraph detailing the MPs’ expenses scandal Photo: AFP/GETTY

6:58AM GMT 04 Nov 2014


SIR – Under the House of Commons “Authorised Records Disposal Practice”, overseen by John Bercow’s committee, records of MPs’ expenses claims are destroyed after three years. A Commons spokesman has said that this is necessary to comply with data protection laws. However, as you identified, under that same set of guidelines, the pay, discipline and sickness records of Commons staff are kept until their 100th birthday.

According to the National Archives records management retention scheduling, “vouchers” (including “claims for payment”) are to be kept for six years – nothing to do with the Data Protection Act. Under the Data Protection Act Principle No 5, “Personal data processed for any purpose or purposes shall not be kept for longer than is necessary for that purpose or those purposes.”

One cannot but smell a rat here.

Keith Appleyard
West Wickham, Kent

SIR – Your report relates to the time before 2010, when Ipsa was created to overhaul the previous discredited expenses system. Since then, we have not shredded any evidence of MPs’ expenses claims and we have published every penny of their expenditure for the past four years. We will continue to do so.

Marcial Boo
Chief Executive Ipsa
London SW1

Uncle Job

SIR – It was good to read your report and leading article on the planned rescue of the former Farmers Arms in Woolfardisworthy by Michael Birch and his wife.

Job Andrew, Michael’s ancestor, was the younger brother of my own great-grandfather, Thomas Andrew. I met Uncle Job, then in his eighties, when he visited our family in the late Fifties – a charming and sharp-witted old gentleman. Job had been apprenticed as an ironmonger, but sold a wide range of domestic and farm supplies in the days before his shop became a public house.

Among stories about him was that he collected silver change in a milk churn, which became so weighed down with half crowns and florins as to be unmovable.

Although I am sure that Uncle Job would have been delighted to know that his former home was to be saved, I fear that, as a staunch Methodist of the old school, he would have rejoiced less about it being a pub. He might have argued that the shop should be the true focus of village life.

Judith Hicks

Wrong kind of tax

SIR – Does the Government’s new-found transparency on our tax affairs extend to allowing filling stations to itemise separately on our receipts the cost of fuel and the amount of tax paid, or is that the wrong sort of information?

Jonathan Goodall
Bath, Somerset

The price of T-shirts

SIR – I do not know which is worse: the employees who make the “This is what a feminist looks like” T-shirt being paid 62 pence an hour or Ed Miliband and others, who say there is a cost of living crisis, paying £45 for a T-shirt.

Robin Darby

There is currently no mechanism in place in Britain to allow drugs to be relicensed for new purposes

Various types of medicine in pill form

Some repurposed medicines could be effective in the treatment of MS Photo: Alamy

6:59AM GMT 04 Nov 2014


SIR – A number of repurposed medicines have shown strong preliminary evidence that they could be effective in the treatment of multiple sclerosis (MS), but Britain lacks a system by which old drugs can be relicensed for new purposes.

Simvastatin is a medicine originally licensed for treating high cholesterol, but in a recent clinical trial it proved effective in slowing brain atrophy in secondary progressive MS by more than 40 per cent. Further evidence is required to confirm these results but, if successful, simvastatin would address a significant need for which there is currently no alternative available.

Simvastatin’s patent expired in 2004 and we believe it would require a licence in order to be made widely available to people with MS on the NHS. The mechanism to achieve this does not exist, even though repurposing is a fast and cost-effective way of providing new treatments.

The Off-patent Drugs Bill, which will have its second reading in the House of Commons on November 7, seeks to address this issue, thus providing access to medicines that could help tens of thousands of people with untreatable MS.

Dr Jeremy Chataway
Consultant Neurologist, National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery, University College Foundation NHS Trust and St Mary’s Hospital

Professor Sue Pavitt
Chair, UK MS Clinical Trials Network Steering Group
Professor in Applied Health & Translational Research, University of Leeds

Roger Bastow
Progressive MS patient

Michelle Mitchell
Chief Executive, MS Society

Professor Siddharthan Chandran
MacDonald Professor of Neurology
Director, Anne Rowling Regenerative Neurology Clinic & Centre for Clinical Brain Sciences, University of Edinburgh

Professor Gavin Giovannoni
Professor of Neurology, Barts and the London School of Medicine and Dentistry

Professor Kenneth Smith
Head of Department of Neuroinflammation, University College London

The decision to stay or go would be in the hands of the British electorate

German chancellor Angela Merkel, left, talks with Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron, right, in Meseberg palace near Berlin.

German chancellor Angela Merkel and British Prime Minister David Cameron Photo: AP

7:00AM GMT 04 Nov 2014


SIR – I am puzzled by the threat issued by Angela Merkel – that, unless our Prime Minister stops his attempts to reform freedom of movement within the EU, she will stop campaigning to keep Britain as a member of the organisation.

I thought the decision to stay or go would be in the hands of the British people, if and when we get a referendum. Mrs Merkel won’t even get a vote in such an event, so why does she place herself in such an elevated position in our political world?

The immigration figures for Britain and Germany are broadly similar and are the highest in the European arena. The difference is that Germany is a much larger country geographically, so the impact of this phenomenon on Britain is significantly greater. Perhaps Mrs Merkel realises that, if we go, Germany will become a bigger magnet and she will then experience the same pressure that has fallen upon us.

Mick Ferrie
Mawnan Smith, Cornwall

SIR – Mrs Merkel, not the European Parliament or Commission, has again put Mr Cameron in his place regarding EU immigration.

It is remarkable to see that Germany, twice crushed in the last century with the loss of millions of lives due to its territorial ambitions, is again, by our consent, the master in Europe.

Raymond Whittle
Marlborough, Wiltshire

SIR – How can I help push Mrs Merkel to “the point of no return”?

Nick Hawksley
Ilminster, Somerset

SIR – Mr Cameron has no need to grovel to avoid paying the EU’s outrageous demands. It needs our net contribution of £12 billion a year far more than Britain needs anything we could obtain in return.

Unlike many EU members, Britain has no overwhelming reason for continued EU membership. We only joined in the first instance because our growth rates were lower than the European norm. Now that the reverse is true, our membership fees are set to skyrocket.

Britain is perfectly capable of running its own affairs and will benefit from doing so. There is no need for Mr Cameron to take any nonsense the EU may throw at us. We are paying the piper. We must call the tune.

David Watt
Brentwood, Essex

SIR – Mr Cameron must not allow pique to lead to Britain’s leaving the EU. We know from history that every empire, from Assyria to the Soviet Union, sooner or later reaches critical mass and disintegrates.

Europe is now near to critical mass. It is our duty, and in our interest, to remain a member and expedite its reversion to an association of friendly states, allied in interests but free of the shackles of a self-seeking and costly bureaucracy.

Dr Ivor Watts
Tiverton, Devon

Irish Times:

Sir, – Do I detect a u-turn in the pipeline? – Yours, etc,



Dublin 6W.

Sir, – So John Tierney admits that he and his organisation have made mistakes. Might this affect the bonuses they will award themselves this year? – Yours, etc,



Co Dublin.

A chara, – Is it now a case of the more they dig the more the water keeps rising? – Is mise,



Co Wicklow.

Sir, – Will a duck now have to pay for what comes off its back? Isn’t it time for the State to quack off? – Yours, etc,



Co Donegal.

A chara, – Despite their belated contrition, Government figures still seem to think that the fault lies with the people – we are confused and uncertain and don’t understand what’s going on. At the next general election, which will come much sooner than the Government thinks, the people will show the Coalition exactly how clear and determined we actually are. – Is mise,



Dublin 12.

Sir, – Over 800,000 households have registered with Irish Water. Is that not a stronger message than 100,000 individuals on the streets? – Yours, etc,



Dublin 6 .

Sir, – Attempts to justify performance bonuses and higher payscales in Irish Water by comparison to the pay structure in other utilities such as Bord Gáis (now Ervia) are entirely unjustified. Irish Water has no claim to the commercial status enjoyed by Bord Gáis and other utilities. Its assets (the current water system) have been sourced by law from the local authorities without compensation, Irish Water staff are paid by the taxpayer and (from 2015) by householders who will have no choice of water service provider. It will even be allowed charge more for less water if its customer base economises. It is an absolute monopoly, both by law and as the sole supplier of an essential service, and is not a commercial entity at all in any meaningful sense, and its staff should therefore be subject to the same terms and conditions as other public servants in non-commercial companies.

Other utility suppliers are in very different and competitive markets. Take Bord Gáis (Ervia) as an example. There are alternative sources of heating, such as electricity and solid fuel, so its customer base has a real choice. Even gas supplies can be sourced from an alternative provider. There’s no plan to have alternative water suppliers. Bord Gáis acquired much of the gas network from many small private gas companies in dire financial straits, culminating in the takeover of the bankrupt Dublin Gas company in 1987. It did not get a working network as a free gift from the state. Even much-criticised CIÉ faces competition from private operators, cars and internal flights. There are no companies comparable to Irish Water against which pay scales can be measured. Its absolute monopoly of an essential service is unique and places it firmly in the sphere of a central government service such as state education or the police force and not in a competitive commercial environment. Its pay structure should reflect this. – Yours, etc,


Greystones, Co Wicklow.

Sir, – Today I received a letter from Irish Water which confirmed that “we have received your Irish Water application form”. I’m sure the same letter has gone out or will go out to all the compliant householders in the State. But we did not apply to Irish Water. We were subjected to a compulsory registration. Apparently Irish Water is as insensitive in the composition of its correspondence as it was in the articles of its foundation. – Yours, etc,



Co Meath.

Sir, – Some claim that the general public will be double-taxed when the charges come in. This is something hundreds of thousands of rural dwellers in Ireland have put up with for years. I am a taxpayer, I have a private well and spend hundreds a year on its upkeep. This well initially cost thousands to install. Unlike Irish Water and the local authorities, my well and the other hundreds of thousands of wells in rural Ireland do not require an army of administration staff, engineers and technicians to look after. These people, especially the elected representatives, calling for the charges to be hoicked on to the general tax system would do well to remember that there are considerably larger numbers of people than the approximately 130,000 that marched last weekend who need to be taken into consideration before spouting populist rhetoric. – Yours, etc,



Co Meath.

Sir, – Could someone please explain why the privatisation of water services would be such a bad thing? Water services were privatised in England and Wales in 1989 and, despite teething problems in the early years, the results for consumers have been entirely positive.

According to the Water Services Regulation Authority, which was established to monitor the privatised service, investment in the water system doubled virtually overnight and water quality has increased consistently every year since 1996. The increased investment has allowed a reduction in leaks which has saved enough water to serve 10 million homes annually, a staggering 20 per cent of the entire demand. While bills for consumers rose in the early years of privatisation, overall between 1989 and 2013 the price of water rose at less than the rate of inflation, meaning that the real cost of water to consumers actually fell during that period.

The scaremongering about privatisation is based a bankrupt ideology that should have been consigned to history along with the Berlin Wall. But it is certainly not based on facts. – Yours, etc,


Dublin 6W.

Sir, – Olivia McEvoy, chairwoman of the National LGBT Federation, argues that a Yes vote in the marriage referendum would send a message of inclusiveness to LGBT Irish citizens (“Civil marriage equality for same-sex couples would shape a new Ireland for young people”, Opinion & Analysis, November 3rd) . The question arises, however, as to whether a constitutional amendment, which recognises same-sex relationships but which uses a new, creative language and not that of marriage, would send a better message to all Irish citizens and even internationally. By not confusing same-sex relationships as marriages, but by using respectful and ground-breaking language in our Constitution to describe them, we could act together in pioneering reform on this issue and do so in a way which is progressive and yet truthful and reconciliatory.

No other country in the world to date has allowed for same-sex marriage by way of a referendum on its constitution, based on a universal vote. Croatia, for instance, last year rejected the concept of “same-sex” marriage pursuant to a constitutional referendum put to a popular vote. Our country, therefore, has a unique opportunity to carve a way forward for all democracies that wish to be fully respectful of same-sex relationships while also ensuring that the truth, beauty and goodness of marriage between one man and one woman is equally cherished.

Seeking to have same-sex relationships treated as a marriage requires many caring and conscientious people, who have no difficulty in recognising same-sex relationships, to give them a definition which they know to be untrue. It is asking them to violate their own consciences or more particularly, three truths at the heart of conscientious reflection upon this issue. We are made. We are made male and female. We are made by a male and female. These are the three fundamental truths upon which marriage, as the union between a male and a female, are based. These truths are of universal application and cannot be changed. No amount of articles, interviews or international funding of the campaign for “same-sex” marriage in this country will ever be able to change these universal and timeless truths, which are self-evident whether one is religious, agnostic or atheistic.

Similarly, no amount of repetition of the “equality” argument will achieve this end either because it is not truthful. Relationships between two people of the one sex and two people of the opposite sex are profoundly different. Truth demands that they be named differently and treated accordingly. Truthful differentiation is never discriminatory. Equality demands that what you have for two, you must have for three or indeed, for more.

Instead, do we have the courage and the magnanimity to be truthful together? Can organisations such as the National LGBT Federation educate all of us with a new name and a vibrant, affirming language to accurately describe same-sex relationships which we can all support being introduced into our Constitution? Can we all work together to bring about a reform which is really innovative, truthful and of international value, based upon the unchanging reality that there are different sexual orientations but that marriage is truthfully for two people of the opposite sex? – Yours, etc,


Stoneyford, Co Kilkenny.

Sir, – Davidn O’Dwyer asks, “Do we really need strict rules on busking?” in reference to draft street performance bye-laws published by Dublin City Council (November 1st).

To Temple Bar’s 2,300 residents, who over the past few years have witnessed the traditional busker being supplanted by a new breed of street performer using full drum kits, amplifiers and in some cases portable generators to dominate areas, the answer is an unequivocal “Yes”.

Busking has been integral to the spirit of the city for decades. It is lamentable that this new generation of performers has created a situation where regulation is required to deal with the excesses of a few.

While stopping short of supporting an outright ban on buskers in the Temple Bar area, Temple Bar Residents welcome movement by Dublin City Council to address this issue. The traditional acoustic busker is a vital part of Dublin’s cultural tapestry.

We would hope any new regulations will help preserve this while at the same time addressing issues of excessive noise and anti-social behaviour.

Davin O’Dwyer mentions Mic Christopher and Glen Hansard as examples of buskers who are now celebrated performers. It’s worth pointing out that they didn’t use amps when busking, relying instead on talent and stagecraft to win their audience. You would wonder how they would fare if they had to compete with the amped-up street performers of today. – Yours, etc,



Temple Bar Residents,

Dublin 2.

Sir, – In considering the private versus public ownership of 1916-1923 artefacts, Prof Diarmaid Ferriter dealt at length with the buyers of these artefacts, and not at all with the sellers (“Unseemly trading in artefacts dishonours history”, Opinion & Analysis, October 26th).

The unpleasant truth is that oftentimes the survival of historical artefacts is dependent on the existence of buyers, yet Prof Ferriter gives no consideration to the collector as preserver, as private archivist, or as (unpaid) historian of these artefacts – in the face of, at best, inaction by Government, or at worst, potential destruction by owners or sellers who couldn’t care less about “this old junk”.

Of course it would be wonderful if State institutions could own an example of every item ever constructed, written, handled or worn by every Irish person who ever participated in any historical event, ever – but until that day arrives, private collectors are often doing the State a service. – Yours, etc,


Dublin 16.

Sir, – I am sure all Irish people who love and live their heritage will fervently hope that when the president of Ethiopia visits Ireland the National Museum will still be open (“President Higgins visits National Museum of Ethiopia”, November 3rd).

This sad story of wanton indifference reflects badly on our Government! – Yours, etc,



Co Tipperary.

Sir, – The observations of the Academy of Engineers quoted in “Renewable energy commitments could cost extra €200m” (November 3rd) are contrary to a recent independent study entitled The Value of Wind Energy to Ireland, carried out by Pöyry and Cambridge Econometrics, which highlighted that using wind energy to meet Ireland’s 2020 targets would support 12,390 jobs, deliver €3.5 billion of additional investment to the Irish economy, significantly contribute to economic growth and provide €552 million in additional cumulative tax revenues to the State without cost to the Irish consumer.

Furthermore, earlier this year the European Commission acknowledged that Ireland is in an almost unique situation where “the benefits for electricity consumers in terms of reduction in wholesale prices outweigh the costs of subsidies”. While also highlighting the fact that Ireland is currently Europe’s fourth most energy-dependent member state, importing 85 per cent of its energy needs each year.

The assertions by the Academy of Engineers came less than a day after the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change published a report emphasising that renewable energy sources including wind will have to grow from 30 per cent of global electricity generation at present to 80 per cent by 2050, and emissions will have to be reduced to zero by the end of the century. At home, wind energy is actively reducing our dependency on expensive foreign energy imports and is contributing significantly to the €1 billion-plus which is retained in the Irish economy as a result of indigenous energy sources. – Yours, etc,


Chief Executive, Irish Wind

Energy Association,

Sycamore House,

Millennium Park,


Naas, Co Kildare.

Sir, – As Aristotle once said, back in the murky depths of time when Wi-Fi didn’t exist, “The roots of education are bitter, but the fruit is sweet”. Can we not take this sage advice? My generation is too often portrayed as social media-mad, ignorant, and not predicted to add any worth to society other than a selfie with a thousand-plus “likes”. However, how are we expected to express thoughts of profundity and chase after the true essence of life if we aren’t offered a taster as how exactly to go about this in secondary school? Exposure to philosophy from first year onwards would promote a freer exploration of thought in society’s upcoming ranks.

Plato defined the process of thinking as “The talking of the soul with itself”; the only thing stopping this is ourselves, or perhaps the State Examinations Commission. – Yours, etc,


Carrickmines, Dublin 18.

Sir, – Patricia O’Riordan ((November 1st) wants to spare schoolchildren “the ramblings of the bearded cranks of yesteryear”, but if she had studied philosophy at school she would not have committed such a blatant ad hominem argument.

The French philosopher Descartes – usually pictured with a moustache and a soul patch under his lower lip but no beard – argued that childhood is where prejudices are born, which only philosophy can overcome. Let me also quote a French philosopher who was no crank but did have a beard. Montaigne in his essay On Education wrote: “Since philosophy is the art which teaches us how to live, and since children need to learn it as much as we do at other ages, why do we not instruct them in it?” Why not, indeed. – Yours, etc,



Sir, – Laura Harmon of the Union of Students in Ireland (USI) co-signed a letter (November 3rd) calling on the trade union movement to lobby for the repeal of the eighth amendment of the Constitution. In the interest of “representing all students” and being “respectful of the differing views within its membership” as required by its own constitution, the USI should make it clear that for many students in Ireland this issue isn’t so black and white. – Yours, etc,



Co Cavan.

Sir, – I see that the anti-poppy brigade is out in force again. For the record, poppies are worn at this time of the year in many parts of the world, including much of Europe, Australia, New Zealand and Canada. The Organisation of National Ex-Servicemen and Women Ireland supports the wearing of a poppy and will be in attendance at remembrance ceremonies this Sunday. I wear a poppy to remember that someone once made the difficult decision to put the moral imperative ahead of personal safety. I wear it to remember individual sacrifice and bravery. – Yours, etc,



Irish Independent:

As an ex-member of An Garda Siochana and the Garda Representative Association (GRA) who proposed a garda authority to the government some 30 years ago, it is hard to accept that any politician might seek to take credit for it now three decades on.

I believe many gardai feel “you are damned if you do and you are damned if you don’t”. Yet who oversees the overseer?

If any member is failing in his duties or is doing anything contrary to what he was sworn to do so he should resign forthwith and face the consequences – whatever this may be. There are discipline and courts to rectify any matter they are in breach of – and plenty of applicants to replace any serving members.

Visiting police to Ireland have been shocked at the manner in which the gardai were treated. They were quick to point out that – despite cutbacks, lack of roadworthy transport and equipment – the gardai were performing magnificently. On one occasion when there were some five murders in one week in Dublin, gardai had the culprits arrested and charged (one example of good police work).

Some years ago Pat Kenny sat in the rear seat of a patrol car over the course of a week to see first-hand what gardai were facing – he said he was shocked at the level of restraint shown by them. How many politicians have done this?

Unless the country supports its garda force and gardai communicate more with the public – and politicians give them back the equipment the force does not have – the luxury of having an unarmed force is going to quickly pass, quite apart from regaining control of the streets of the country.

The gardai should be run by an inspectorate and a garda authority, comprised of an accountant (to ensure the right funds), some people from man management (to show leadership), a barrister (for legal reasons), and a secretary to liaise with the minister, members from GRA and Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors and Garda management.

All promotion within the force would have to be made by the Garda authority.

Pat Lee, Rosscahill, Co Galway

Time for Amhran na bhFiann

I would like to appeal to the decision-takers in the Irish Rugby Football Union to reconsider their refusal to play the Irish national anthem when the Irish team plays abroad. It will be played on Saturday when Ireland take on South Africa in Dublin.

It should also be played when Ireland play that team in South Africa, or when they play teams in Argentina, England or elsewhere. The anthem is of especial importance to those who are denied it – our emigrants, who so enthusiastically support Irish teams abroad.

The argument that in some way denying our emigrants their right to hear their own anthem helps the situation in the North has patently been proved superficial and wrong.

For several decades, not playing the anthem in an attempt by rugby’s old fartonians to woo the northern representation on our international rugby team has proved itself irrelevant to either the course of the Troubles, the peace process or the present stand-off in Stormont.

Gestures like playing one’s country’s national anthem are important, peaceful statements of national pride. This is particularly the case when our national pride has been so battered and de-natured by corruption, at both church and political level. Our international rugby team’s appearances should be accompanied by the playing of our national anthem.

It ought not be too much to hope for as we approach the anniversary of 1916.

Tim Pat Coogan, Glenageary, Co Dublin

Politicians get a move on

Some public transport fares increased this weekend and more increases follow on December 1.

Our politicians get unvouched tax-free ‘travel’ allowances to turn up for work. These range from €9,000 – €34,065 a year for TDs and €5,250 – €29,565 a year for senators. Will our rulers put through a sneaky increase in these rates so they do not take the hit? I suspect not, because the majority of them do not have to use public transport – especially with the free parking they enjoy in the Dail.

John Wolfe, Malahide, Co Dublin

Water charges

When the EU brought in the rule compelling member states to have water charges our Government sought and obtained a derogation. They argued that we had a surplus of water and further conservation would serve no purpose. The Commission saw that this was common sense and we were granted a derogation.

Some 50pc of our processed water is being lost through leakages. All of the experts agree on this. If we are able to struggle by in that situation it is clear that doubling the supply (through fixing the leaks) we will again have a surplus. There is no sense in conserving a commodity for which you have a surplus unless you can sell that surplus.

The only valid question for the Government is how to finance the repair and maintenance of treatment and distribution. A metering and complicated billing system is of no relevance to that question. It only adds to the overhead costs.

John F Jordan, Killiney, Co Dublin

Dear Taoiseach, do you want to be out of office for the next 15 years? If you keep on the way you are going that is exactly what is going to happen. Stand back and think these water charges through. As things stand you are not going to bully the people into paying.

So what should you do?

Put the charges on hold for one year to calm things down.

Right away, start repairing the leaking pipes. Let the people know you are listening to them.

In the meantime borrow the money from Europe to do this work.

You are going to borrow several billions over the 20 years anyway. So, after the year, come to the people and explain how the water charges are going to work. Making sure this time that there are no bonuses for the staff in Irish Water.

I can’t for the life of me understand why you are antagonising your people now, after all we have been through as a nation. When we stood shoulder to shoulder with you and backed you all the way. We took the searing pain, where people had no work, families lost their homes. Businesses went to the wall. Many people were driven to despair.

Aine O’Duinnecha, Co Dublin

Having searched from cover to cover I was flabbergasted to find that there were no letters whatsoever published in Monday’s edition (November 3) of the Irish Independent. Perhaps a first?

I pondered the reason for this omission. Is that all across the country on a wintery Saturday many of your readers were out on the streets protesting against the water charges, thereby leaving them with no time to put pen to paper? Fear not though; I suspect that some of those who braved the weekend’s elements will seek use of your letters page to vent their anger.

John Bellew, Dunleer, Co Louth

“Whine water”? Time for Jesus to return and change that wine back into water?

Tom Gilsenan, Beaumont, Dublin 9

Is it now a case of the more they dig the more the water keeps rising?

John Glennon, Hollywood, Co Wicklow

Irish Independent


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