November 2014 Bangs

I jog around the park I still have arthritis in my left knee, but I manage to get round the park. A busy day post office Co-Op still some residual bangs from Fireworks night, poor terrified Kitten.

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


Sir Sydney Chapman was a moderate Conservative MP who caught the public imagination with his campaign to ‘Plant a Tree in ’73’

Sydney Chapman

Sydney Chapman Photo: PA

5:30PM GMT 06 Nov 2014


Sir Sydney Chapman, who has died aged 78, was a respected Conservative MP who over 30 years in the Commons — representing Birmingham Handsworth and later Chipping Barnet — reckoned to be its only resident architect and town planner.

Chapman opposed over-development in the outer suburbs and the choice of Stansted as London’s third airport. But he made his mark inspiring a campaign to “Plant a Tree in ’73”.

He proposed a National Tree Planting Year to the environment secretary, Peter Walker, in the Commons in July 1971. Walker gave his support and the campaign, headed by Lord Sandford, was launched at the start of 1973.

It succeeded beyond all expectations . The Forestry Commission donated 160,000 saplings; civic leaders and schoolchildren planted them with gusto. The Royal Mail issued a 9p commemorative stamp.

“Plant a Tree in ’73” led to colleagues nicknaming Chapman, who also chaired the all-party animal welfare committee, “the doggies’ delight”.

Amiable if sometimes baffled-looking, Chapman had been too much a Heath supporter to be on Margaret Thatcher’s list when she formed her government in 1979; he had also been out of the Commons for six years. But he shifted to the centre , and in 1988 she made him a whip, a job in which he served for seven years, earning promotion from John Major.

Sydney Brookes Chapman was born at Macclesfield on October 17 1935, the son of an architect . Educated at Rugby and Manchester University, he gained diplomas in Architecture in 1958 and Town Planning in 1961.

Chapman rose fast in the Young Conservatives, serving as national YC chairman in 1964 — the year he fought his first seat, Stalybridge & Hyde. When the ultra-liberal Sir Edward Boyle retired as MP for Handsworth at the 1970 election, Chapman held the seat with a 1,812 majority. When Edward Heath called a snap election in February 1974 , a national swing to Labour and boundary changes cost Chapman his seat, Labour’s John Lee taking it by 1,623 votes.

Out of Parliament, he became information director of the British Property Federation.

Shortlisted for six seats without being selected, Chapman looked set to sit out the 1979 election until, at the last minute, Chipping Barnet chose him to succeed the former chancellor Reggie Maudling, who had died. He doubled Maudling’s majority .

Returning to Westminster, he became PPS to the transport secretary Norman Fowler, moving with him in 1981 to the DHSS. Chapman rebelled twice, against the choice of Stansted and charges for NHS eye tests, and helped defeat a government Bill to liberalise the Sunday trading laws. He also led an all-party campaign to save Britain’s commons .

When, in December 1988, Edwina Currie’s enforced resignation over her comments about eggs and salmonella necessitated a reshuffle, he was appointed a whip. In July 1990 Mrs Thatcher promoted him to Lord Commissioner of the Treasury.

After the 1992 election, John Major promoted Chapman further, to Vice-Chamberlain of the Royal Household. To him fell the delicate task of reporting to the Queen proceedings in the House on the day Major announced that the Prince and Princess of Wales were separating. “Your Majesty,” he wrote, “sadly but inevitably, today’s events in the House of Commons were dominated by the prime minister’s statement …”

Chapman delivered numerous wafer-thin victories for Major during the debates over the Maastricht Treaty. In May 1993 he announced a 317-317 tie on one amendment, obliging the Speaker to cast his vote for the status quo.

He left the government with a knighthood in July 1995, and despite adverse boundary changes was the only Tory MP in his part of north London to survive — by 1,035 votes — the 1997 Labour landslide .

He hung on despite refusing to campaign to save the A&E department at Edgware Hospital. “I appreciate it is difficult to persuade anyone living near a hospital that services will be improved by closing an A&E department,” he told protesters, “but I sincerely believe this to be the case.”

In opposition Chapman chaired the accommodation & works select committee. He also served in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. He left the Commons in 2005, Theresa Villiers inheriting his seat.

Chapman was president of the Arboricultural Association, the Faculty of Building, the London Green Belt Council and the Barnet Society; vice-president of RIBA in 1974-75; and a vice-chairman of the Council of Christians and Jews.

Sydney Chapman married Claire McNab in 1976 (dissolved 1987). In 2005 he married his second wife, Tessa, who survives him with two sons and a daughter from his first marriage.

Sydney Chapman, born October 17 1935, died October 9 2014


'Daybreak' TV Programme, London, Britain - 06 Jan 2014 Griff Rhys Jones. Missing you already? Photograph: Ken McKay/Rex

While I do not have much sympathy for Griff Rhys Jones who claims he would be “hit hard” by the proposed mansion tax, perhaps it would be fairer if this was a graduated tax on all houses, not just mansions worth over £2m (Report, 4 November). Then all householders would contribute, in proportion to the value of their property. We once had such a tax. It was called domestic rates and was the nearest thing we had to a wealth tax. It was cheap to collect and difficult to evade, which is one reason why the well-heeled hated it and the Thatcher government scrapped it, introducing the flat-rate poll tax instead.

This we know now was a disaster. The replacement council tax is still with us, but is only progressive at the lower end, so that those with “mansions” pay no more than the owners of modest family houses in parts of London. Instead of a mansion tax, bring back the rates – linked this time to capital values, rather than notional rental values. Thus all would contribute according to the value of their homes, the only wealth that most of us have. There could still be rate rebates, as there were in the past, for those who could not afford to pay. It would restore a major source of revenue to the control of local councils and improve their independence from central government and their accountability to voters.
Robert Leach
Silsden, West Yorkshire

• Andy Wightman (The mansion tax is the soft option, 5 November) gives a skewed analysis. Griff Rhys Jones is not representative of those who would fall under a property tax: many who are asset-rich, due to the appreciation of property values, but cash-poor will be forced to sell up. Nor can millionaires appropriate the entire increase in the value of properties when buying or selling – a 7% stamp duty is applicable to properties over £2m at purchase.

Regardless, annual taxes on assets are arbitrary. Those with super yachts or an impressive art collection will escape a property tax. Nor will those with millions in shares be forced to pay an annual sum for the privilege of holding them. Rather than the super-rich, property owners in London will mainly be hit. Wightman concedes that the mansion tax is badly designed. Instead, he espouses proposals to raise council tax bands so that they are proportional to the value of the property. He assumes that council tax should not be proportionate to the council services one receives.

The assertion that lower property prices would mean more resources would be invested in the productive economy belies economic logic. Griff Rhys Jones might not be the only person to leave. A depression in property prices would also lead to a fall in stamp duty paid to the Exchequer and would dampen consumer spending. There is no rationale to the notion of a property tax save punishing the rich through the backdoor.
Christopher Rowe
Richmond, Surrey

• As, according to Andy Wightman, the £4.5m increase in Griff Rhys Jones’ London property’s price is down to rising land values and not the latter’s own efforts, the alternative to the present “lax fiscal regime” is a land value tax. While taxing the full £7m-plus of land value might be retrospective and tax some value uplift a current owner did not benefit from, the same reservations could not be made if a datum line were set and land price increases taxed from then on only, accompanied by a marked increase in the money supply. Such a dual track approach has been suggested before, most recently by Martin Wolf of the Financial Times, who has proposed a from-here-on LVT, with the state taking over the creation of new money.
DBC Reed

• Bernard Wright (Letters, 5 November) makes a good point when he suggests that imposing a mansion tax might kill two birds with one stone by increasing tax revenue and lowering net immigration, but I fear he may be disappointed if history is anything to go by. Does anyone remember Paul Daniels and Frank Bruno saying they would leave over the proposal to raise tax to a level they didn’t agree with. I note that they are still here. Are there any other celebrities still here who made similar threats/promises?
Gareth Pritchard
Daventry, Northamptonshire

• Might I humbly suggest Mr Rhys Jones sets his sights nearer to home? He can find an equivalent mansion in Wales for a couple of million – or here in the Marches for a quarter of London prices. There’d be a welcome in the valleys, I’m sure.
Jonathan Nicholas

• Oxfam is entirely right to seek a wealth tax on the super rich who receive daily more than they can ever spend (Report, 30 October). However, as well as a 1.5% tax on billionaires, we need an urgent and substantial windfall tax to reduce their wealth to a safe level. Most of the world’s great faiths comment on the serious dangers to the rich of excessive wealth. It needs to be taken from the super-rich as soon as possible so that the hungry may be fed and the homeless housed. Otherwise they face eternal punishment, with little hope for their immortal souls.
Rev David Haslam
Methodist Tax Justice Network

• Yesterday I received my annual tax statement telling me how my tax was being used (Editorial, 4 November). As a lecturer in statistics, I was saddened by this latest example of statistics abuse from an increasingly desperate government. First, the breakdown does not make clear that most of the welfare budget goes to pensioners, and sick and disabled people, and that just 3% went towards unemployment benefit. Or that much larger amounts went to in- work benefits supporting children and families, who have been the victim of long-term wage stagnation: that 54% of those in work now live in poverty is the true legacy of this government.

I let my children know how proud I am that we contribute our tax to help people less fortunate than ourselves, or less able to work. Despite years of trying, this government has not succeeded in convincing everyone that they are being cheated of their taxes. Rather, I feel cheated of my taxes when George Osborne uses £5m of our money to soften people up for further benefit cuts.
Dr Carl Walker
National Health Action Party

• The chancellor’s misleading letter to taxpayers is only the start. Last week, Conservative MP Jesse Norman wrote in the FT calling for everyone using NHS services to receive a statement every year, showing which services they had received and how much they cost. He wants to change how people use the NHS, “to make people think twice before they make wasteful demands on the country’s health service”.
Dr Alex May

• We at South Tyneside Retirees Association believe it is a disgrace for Griff Rhys Jones, long passed his best, to be forced to pay mansion tax. We are having a cake sale on Saturday to raise funds for him. Others may like to follow our lead. Time to stand up and be counted?
Ralph Thompson
South Shields, Tyne and Wear

1978’s ‘Carnival Against the Nazis’ in London organised jointly by the Anti-Nazi League and Rock Against Racism. Some years later, the mantra that ‘black is a political colour’ was coined. Photograph: PA

I enjoyed Aditya Chakrabortty’s thoughtful historical overview of the use of the word black (I’m Bengali and I’m black – in the same way that my parents were, 31 October). It reminded me how in the 1980s there was a mantra that “black is a political colour”, which encompassed “blacks” from Africa or the Caribbean along with “Asians”, whether from the subcontinent, Africa or the West Indies, plus Irish people who had also long experienced widespread discrimination.

Although the slogan usefully facilitated the creation of alliances against the common enemy of racism, it always struck me as a negative approach, emphasising oppositional politics along ethnic lines, rather than appealing to the positives of wider solidarity in demanding civil rights and social justice for people of all classes. While it is surely right, as Aditya says, to reaffirm notions of a shared black identity in order to reactivate the head-on struggle against racism, I hope that will be part of  a much wider realignment of politics on the progressive left.
Giles Oakley

Mayor of Tower Hamlets Lutfur Rahman Mayor of Tower Hamlets Lutfur Rahman. ‘The administration is vilified because it stands up against the government’s failing policies,’ writes Ken Livingstone and six others. Photograph Graeme Robertson

We deplore the proposal of the secretary of state Eric Pickles to “take over” the democratically elected council in Tower Hamlets (Report, 5 November). The inspection he ordered found no evidence of fraud or corruption, contrary to the Tory allegations made against the local administration. A takeover would be a flagrant violation of the democratic will of the population who re-elected a popular and well-regarded local mayor just a few months ago. A key reason Lutfur Rahman was endorsed again by local voters in east London is because he opposes the government’s efforts to force austerity policies on the council. He also shows how an administration can be managed with meagre resources so that key services are protected.

The administration in Tower Hamlets is vilified because it stands up against the government’s failing policies. It is a concerted effort to smear the local politician who has demonstrated that this stance is popular at the ballot box. That is why a string of wild and unfounded allegations has been made against the mayor and a series of investigations, including by the police, called for by the Tories. Scotland Yard has already this year cleared the council of any wrongdoing. The latest allegations from the Tories are simply more of the same. The imposition of unelected officials to overrule an elected mayor should send a chill down the spine of every democrat. It is not necessary to agree with every strand of policy adopted by Lutfur Rahman to see that this a blatant attack on local democracy. The mayor of Tower Hamlets, who has committed no legal or criminal offence, should be accountable to local voters, not to the will of a Tory secretary of state. We call on all those who support local democracy to oppose this manoeuvre.
Ken Livingstone Former mayor of London, Christine Shawcroft Labour party National Executive Committee, Kate Hudson National secretary, Left Unity, Billy Hayes General secretary, CWU, George Galloway MP, Malia Bouattia NUS Black Students’ officer, Steve Turner Assistant general secretary, Unite

• The Manchester area was regarded as a successful example of cooperation between local authorities (George Osborne overcomes obstacles to pull off Manchester devolution deal,, 3 November). Nevertheless, Osborne has insisted that it will only receive future funding if he can impose rule by a single directly elected mayor. Almost simultaneously, Eric Pickles has denounced the directly elected mayor of Tower Hamlets as a “medieval monarch” and taken control of the borough. Is this a vision of the future of Manchester, or is the imposition of formal central control irrelevant since Osborne has presumably insisted on a directly elected mayor to act as a single point of contact for instructions from the Treasury?
John Hall

Comet 67P Comet 67P. But could we find out the origins of life a lot closer to home? Photograph: Reuters

Sending the Rosetta spacecraft 310m miles to approach and possibly land on comet 67P (On a mission to discover the origins of life, 3 November) is an impressive feat of engineering but unlikely to shed light on the origin of life. In 1969 the Murchison meteorite landed in Australia and contained amino acids and other organics necessary for life as we know it. The building blocks of life – amino acids/proteins, nucleic acids/RNA, carbohydrates and lipids – have been shown to form “naturally” from simple reactions of chemicals present in the early Earth. However, demonstrating how these came together to form a primitive cell capable of self-sustaining metabolism and replication remains a challenge. It is more likely to be achieved by scientists in labs on Earth than on a comet millions of miles away.
Professor Michael Page 
Holmfirth, West Yorkshire


Andreas Whittam Smith (“A new kind of politics is emerging from some surprising sources”, 6 November) was “astonished” by Theresa May’s proposals for the child sex abuse inquiry. He is full of praise for her plans to involve survivors in the whole process.

Incredibly, Whittam Smith makes no mention of the debacle that May has been embroiled in prior to her apparent epiphany in Parliament on Monday.

Her attempts to appoint a head of the inquiry have increased the level of distrust among survivors to a point where many  have lost hope in ever receiving justice for the crimes committed against them.

May has twice chosen a prominent Establishment figure to head the inquiry with little or no experience in the field of child abuse.

In both cases, incompetent vetting of the candidates missed compromising social connections which have subsequently led to the candidates having to step down. Not once, but twice. May shows either incredible ineptitude or arrogance, or a combination of both.

I suspect that if she were not a realistic contender to be the next leader of the Conservative Party, the UK press would be baying for her blood over this farce.

May’s stated plan is now to include survivors in every part of the inquiry process. This probably has more to do with assuaging the mounting distrust that she herself has created among the survivors than “a new way of doing politics”.

Jamie Register
Walthamstow, London

Your correspondents seem to have missed the main point about selecting someone to chair a public inquiry. As can be seen by the treatment of the recent report on decriminalising drugs, governments do not like independent reports or enquires. They are often forced to commission reports and set up inquiries but prefer someone in charge who can be guaranteed to add verisimilitude to the unconvincing narrative favoured by the politicians.

As correspondents have commented, there is no shortage of qualified and independent people who could chair the child abuse inquiry. The Government’s difficulty is finding the right one who will appear independent but still deliver the right result.

CC Elshaw
Headley Down, Hampshire

The suggestion that the Home Secretary should look abroad for the chair of the sex abuse inquiry underlines the depressingly laughable assumption that only the kind of people  who know Lord Brittan and such are capable of the job. Most members of my University of the Third Age class could do it.

Professor Chris Barton

Pat on the back – I’m now baker’s man

My mind has finally been made up about voting at the next election. Rather than abstaining (my original intention) I will be voting Lib Dem for the simple reason that, despite broken promises, it remains the only party with remotely reasonable policies on drugs, the EU, immigration, prison reform and many other matters.

Thank you, Norman Baker, for making the Tory anti-science, anti-common-sense views so clear.

Jim Bowman
South Harrow, Middlesex

Norman Baker’s resignation from the Home Office over the Conservatives’ failure to pursue “rational evidence-based policy” may well have left him feeling like a “cuckoo in the nest”. Clearly, he cannot be described as one of the Darling Buddies of May.

Jeremy Redman
London SE6

As WB Yeats almost said in The Second Coming: “Things fall apart; the centre-right cannot hold.”

Pete Dorey

Republicans don’t live in the real world

Your editorial about the US midterm elections, “Another shellacking”  (6 November), makes some reasonable points, but in dealing with the irrational I feel you are straining too hard to be optimistic.

As a novelist, I could hardly think of a better scenario for a topical political thriller than “World’s top scientists deliver a final warning of climate change catastrophe just as the party of stupid sweeps to power in America”. However, in the multiverse of fantasy and fiction nobody is ever really hurt. Reality is, of course, entirely different, which makes Tuesday’s midterm election results in the US such a disaster.

How can a highly intelligent individual such as President Obama reach any positive compromises with people who believe in “NHS death panels” and who reject any action on climate change which might knock a few dollars off the gargantuan profits of their fossil fuel paymasters?

So, with the sooty little hands of brain-dead Republicans now firmly grasping both hot air brakes of US politics, the chance of any meaningful global deal on carbon reduction looks impossible for at least two years. So much for democracy!

Steve Edwards
Wivelsfield Green,  East Sussex

Teachers should try being assistants first

I taught in state secondary schools, and, in common with every teacher, sometimes struggled to keep classes working in a calm atmosphere (letters,  5 November).

If there was a pupil in the class with a statement of special needs, he or she would often be accompanied by a learning support assistant (LSA). This made such a welcome difference. She keep the pupil with the lesson. Also, having another adult in the room was a restraining influence on the rest of the class, who knew that any denial of wrongdoing would not stand up.

Learning support assistants are a key part of the school staff. I believe that all aspiring teachers should, after some training, spend at least a term as LSAs. They would better understand some pupils – and teachers – difficulties and, importantly, gain an impression of the total curriculum.

Susan Chesters

Does anyone know a thing about The EU?

Let’s get a few things straight, before the EU debate becomes laughable.

The overwhelming majority of British people have not the slightest clue as to what the European Commission is or does, how it relates to the European Council and the European Parliament, the distinction between supranational institutions and inter-governmental institutions, what a free-trade area is, or what an import duty is. Almost nobody in the UK can name their MEP, or explain how EU rules are made and applied.

Before the UK takes the catastrophic step of withdrawing from the EU, it would be good to hear some bright people make the case for non-withdrawal.

Andrew Crawley
Belize City

So, the EU wants more money from Britain? Surely Messrs Cameron and Osborne knew the rules of the EU? It’s a lot like taxes really. The better you do, the more you pay. Maybe Britain should have declared some of its improved GDP to be based in the Cayman Islands.

John Booth
Barnton, Cheshire

Old drugs could help MS sufferers

Your leader “Save lives – and money: why are ministers refusing to make these drugs available?”, (6 November) is right to say that the current barriers stopping the repurposing of off-patent drugs are incomprehensible.

There are more than 100,000 people with multiple sclerosis in the UK, most of whom have progressive MS – in which symptoms get worse and people gradually become more disabled. Much to the distress and frustration of those who live with this debilitating condition, there are currently no treatments to slow or stop this progression.

Simvastatin, a drug licensed to lower cholesterol, has shown promise in recent phase 2 trials to become the first drug that could treat progressive MS. Further, larger-scale trials are needed to prove it works, but if these trials are successful, it would be cruel in the extreme to say to people with progressive MS that this drug is out of reach because there is no mechanism to get it licensed for MS.

We urge MPs to support the Off-patent Drugs Bill when it gets its second reading in the House of Commons today. There is no logical reason not to.

Michelle Mitchell
Chief executive, MS Society, London NW2


The multimedia Messenger service

This morning, Royal Mail delivered a package to my door. I took it from the postman, who then entered something into a small hand-held device. A couple of minutes later, I received a text message and an email advising me that my parcel had been delivered.

Does this not demonstrate the benefits of privatisation? The old, state-run Royal Mail never provided this essential service.

Brian Sheridan
Croydon, Surrey


Sir, David Aaronovitch’s article “Immigration — it’s all about prejudice, not jobs”, (Nov 6) is disturbing. This is by no means the first time that he has suggested that the concerns of nearly 75 per cent of the public are driven by prejudice. It seems that anyone who wishes to preserve the nature of the society in which they grew up, and for which many of their fathers and forefathers gave their lives, is to be sneered at as a bigot.

The fact is that current levels of immigration are already having a massive impact on our society and, if allowed to continue, will add 12 million to our population in just 20 years. That is why our cross-party group on balanced migration wishes to see the scale of immigration reduced. These serious issues must be calmly debated. Frank Field MP and Sir
Nicholas Soames MP

House of Commons

Sir, David Aaronovitch claims that all discussion on immigration is based on prejudice. I am convinced that his view, which is not new, has been responsible for closing down debate and hence also sensible policy development on immigration.
John S Burton
Cheltenham, Glos

Sir, Many people regard this country as home just as they do their house. The place suits us even though much needs improving; guests are welcome as may be the lessons and insights they can offer, and those in trouble will be sheltered until they no longer need it. Acknowledging the validity of this analogy might temper the migration debate and prevent Ukip, or something nastier, from becoming a release valve for those who feel politicians have kicked down their front doors and told them who to accommodate.
James Shillady
London SW15

Sir, Mr Aaronovitch misses the point. The UK’s population is projected to increase to 67.2 million by 2020. Cost-benefit analysis of the contribution by migrants pales into insignificance when compared with the real issue: population pressure.
Clive Chafer
Newquay, Devon

Sir, Here in Sussex there is the prospect of a new market town near Henfield, while Haywards Heath and Brighton are under pressure to extend on to greenfield sites. Roads, railways, water supply, schools and health facilities are at full stretch. How does increasing the population help with this?
Murray Park

Sir, David Aaronovitch is right: I doubt there will be any less zero-hours contracts or extra benefits for people if there were a cut back in immigration. The subject is Ukip’s “emperor’s new clothes” and politicians are falling over themselves to say how fine they are. Even Labour thinks they’re not too shabby. It would be hilarious if it wasn’t so unpleasant. Jerry Stuart London SE1

Sir, David Aaronovitch quoted only the figure from the University College London report which supported his argument. That report also says that immigration from outside the EU imposed an enormous financial burden.
Rear Admiral Conrad Jenkin West Meon, Hants

Sir, If we leave the EU our ex-partners would have no interest in helping us. The police in Calais would be sent home and those who wished to travel to the UK encouraged to do so. Also, opening up immigration from the Commonwealth is not going to provide a stream of professionals from Australia, New Zealand, and Canada. Instead it will attract those who are already struggling in less-developed countries.
David Rees
Twyford, Berks

Sir, I am grateful that Nigel Farage was not around when my grandfather, a refugee from persecution, unskilled and penniless, came to a tolerant Britain to build a new life. If he had not had that opportunity, this firm would never have had the chance to pay back the kindness that was done to my family by this country so many years ago. Douglas Blausten Cyril Leonard, chartered surveyors and property consultants

Sir, It’s hard to think of a better example of the dependency mentality that crushes entrepreneurial spirit than the letter (Nov 5) imploring public funds to train lorry drivers. Chaps, get a grip!
John Brehcist
Byfield, Northants

Sir, Were Hannah Betts in Pitlochry (letter, Nov 5), or indeed in much of Scotland for most of the year, she would be wearing, as well as underclothes, a base layer, a polo shirt, a fleece, an anorak, longjohns, trousers, heavy socks and boots, and possibly overtrousers, gloves and a woolly hat. She would be safe from unwanted male attention. Hilary Brown Gairloch, Highland

Sir, Paul Withrington (letter, Nov 5) is right about the American tendency to make intrusive remarks. I’m a grandfather in my 70s. At breakfast with my wife at a Long Island hotel, a middle-aged American at the next table leant over and said: “May I just say that your shirt matches your eyes perfectly?” I was speechless, but the silence was filled by my wife’s giggling. Actually, I thought she went on rather longer than was necessary.
Barry Smith
Shaftesbury, Dorset

Sir, Were Hannah Betts in Pitlochry (letter, Nov 5), or indeed in much of Scotland for most of the year, she would be wearing, as well as underclothes, a base layer, a polo shirt, a fleece, an anorak, longjohns, trousers, heavy socks and boots, and possibly overtrousers, gloves and a woolly hat. She would be safe from unwanted male attention. Hilary Brown Gairloch, Highland

Sir, Rugby is being unfairly attacked for its physical game play (“Broken jaws 2, fractured cheekbones 1”, Nov 4). It isn’t a case of thugs running around intending to maim each other. Injuries do occur but they are part of the game. I have played rugby for many years and so has my brother, and although we have both experienced injuries we have never felt that any were done maliciously. Rugby is an excellent way to get rid of one’s aggression by legal means. James Gaskell St Albans, Herts

Sir, I hated rugby but had to play it at public school. A broken collarbone after a “big hit” tackle led to the school doctor certifying me as “Off Games” for the rest of term.

Dr Georges Ware


One reader’s ladybirds offer their predictions for upcoming winter weather

Weathering the storm: scarlet spotted beetles preparing to overwinter on a thistle head

Weathering the storm: scarlet spotted beetles preparing to overwinter on a thistle head Photo: Alamy

6:58AM GMT 05 Nov 2014


SIR – In November 2012, one corner of my bedroom window became a hibernation nest for ladybirds. The winter of that year was very cold.

Last year no ladybirds hibernated by the window and we had a very mild winter.

This November there are already 20 ladybirds hibernating. Have the ladybirds developed a multi-million-pound computer that predicts a cold winter?

Margaret Higgs
Shillingstone, Dorset

SIR – The University College, London, study on immigration was well researched (report, November 5), but it understates the true cost of immigration. Due to the limitations of data, it was not possible to measure marginal costs (or benefits) but only average costs. Marginal costs will be higher than average costs when there are bottlenecks in the supply of resources consumed.

Estimating the cost of immigration should allow for these higher values, given that, during most of the period, there were: shortages of properties for rent, especially in London; the NHS running close to capacity; and pressures on school places.

The true cost is the difference between the total costs for these resources (with immigration) and what these total costs would have been (without immigration). Hence, one cannot draw firm conclusions from the study, even for European Economic Area immigrants.

Professor Gerry Dickinson
Cass Business School
London EC1

SIR – The balance sheet for EU migration is far more complex than simply adding up contributions and benefits. Equally important is each immigrant’s contribution towards maintaining our low-wage, and low-productivity, economy, where too many employees hardly earn enough to pay tax.

The Government has recently admitted that its receipts from income tax are well short of what they should be. National GDP may have risen, but GDP per head of population lags well behind.

David Gadbury
East Grinstead, West Sussex

SIR – If the EU wants standardisation across its domain, like standard VAT rates, surely it should standardise benefits, too? If the money they would get here is the reason all these illegal immigrants are in Calais, fighting to get here, that would solve the problem.

Steve Cattell
Hougham, Lincolnshire

SIR – Why does our Prime Minister pick fights he cannot win?

José Manuel Barroso, the outgoing European Commission president pre-empted the recent comments of the German chancellor (“Merkel puts the brakes on PM’s plan to curb EU migration”, November 3) and made it clear that there could be no interference with the principle of Freedom of Movement for EU nationals.

At the same time, Mr Barroso made some emollient comments about the need to address the problem of welfare tourism.

I have no objection to hard-working EU nationals coming to work in Britain, but I do object strongly to having to subsidise the work-shy ones who flock to our shores in considerable numbers.

Surely David Cameron would do better to take up this issue rather than attack head-on the principle of freedom of movement?

Alan Quinton
Eastbourne, East Sussex

Penalised veterans

SIR – I am a proud veteran of the Second World War. I worked all my life in Britain, paying contributions to the National Insurance Fund in the expectation that I would receive my full pension in retirement. In fact, I worked past retirement age and, aged 76, moved to Canada so that I could live near my family.

I am now 90, and my pension has been frozen for 13 years.

David Cameron regularly talks of the debt owed to veterans who did not hesitate to enlist when His Majesty’s Government called on them to keep Britain safe and, after the war, helped Britain to prosper. It is disingenuous to praise our service and sacrifice while repeatedly penalising us financially, particularly as we near the end of our lives.

Anne Puckridge
Campaigner, the International Consortium of British Pensioners
Calgary, Alberta, Canada

Divine lighting

SIR – Chris Green (Letters, November 4) is puzzled that the church in ITV’s Grantchester seems to have an altar at the west end, judging by the way the sunlight enters through windows on the left.

Years ago a number of us from Canterbury Choral Society were brought in to augment the choir during a BBC recording of Songs of Praise in a local church.

Because it was recorded in February for broadcast at Easter, large banks of floodlights were placed outside the nave to simulate spring sunshine coming in through the windows.

Dr Robin Hendy
Canterbury, Kent

SIR – In the fictional world of Grantchester, the church isn’t facing the wrong direction as Chris Green suggests; it is the adjacent 1950s solar panel farm reflecting the sun through the opposite windows.

Brian Christley
Abergele, Denbighshire


SIR – Margaret Higgs’s observation about the increased number of hibernating ladybirds is not a weather-related phenomenon. The hibernators leave a scent behind and the following year others are guided to the same spot.

This led to vast numbers of ladybirds hibernating in our bedroom – until I repainted it.

Martin Moyes
Holt, Wiltshire

European Arrest Warrant

SIR – Parliament will soon face a crucial vote on the Government’s proposal to opt into certain EU measures. A key concern is the European Arrest Warrant (EAW).

Without the EAW, other EU members may be unable speedily to extradite suspects such as Hussain Osman or Jeremy Forrest to Britain – both in jail after use of the EAW. The Association of Chief Police Officers says we cannot afford to lose it.

Britain also risks becoming a safe haven for fugitives from justice – a handful of them British citizens, but the vast majority foreign nationals wanted for crimes elsewhere in Europe.

At home, recent statutory changes should help prevent extradition to long pre-trial detention overseas, and curb EAW use for trivial offences. Overseas, Britain can only lead reform of Europe’s criminal justice co-operation by being part of the system.

There is no credible alternative to the EAW. Other EU members will be reluctant to adopt new laws if we reject a system that works. Resort to international law on extradition would be slow and ineffective.

A vote to opt in will be a vote for security and for fair and effective criminal justice.

Lord Phillips of Worth Matravers
Lord Carlile of Berriew QC

Sir Henry Brooke
Sir David Edward QC
Sir Anthony Hooper
Sir Francis Jacobs QC
Sir David Latham
Sir Konrad Schiemann

Andrew Caplen
President, Law Society of England & Wales
Alistair Morris
President, Law Society of Scotland
Evanna Fruithof
Consultant to The Bar Council
Jonathan Cooper
Doughty Street Chambers
Richard Clayton QC
4-5 Gray’s Inn Square
Tom de la Mare QC
Blackstone Chambers
Helen Malcolm QC
Three Raymond Buildings
Professor Philippe Sands QC
Matrix Chambers
Lord Blair of Boughton QPM
Lord Harris of Haringey
Baroness Ludfor
Former Member of the European Parliament
Lord Roper
Charles Clarke
Andrea Coomber

Director of JUSTICE
Charles Grant
Director of the Centre for European Reform
William F Hughes
Former SOCA Director General
Michael Kennedy
Former President of Eurojust, former COO at CPS
Peter Neyroud
Former Chief Constable
Professor John Spencer QC
Cambridge University
Professor Estella Baker
De Montfort University
Professor Patrick J Birkinshaw
Hull University
Professor Paul Craig
Oxford University
Professor Brice Dickson
Queen’s University Belfast
Professor Piet Eeckhout
University College London
Professor Angus Johnston
Oxford University
Professor Valsamis Mitsilegas
Queen Mary University of London
Professor Steve Peers
University of Essex
Nicola Padfield
Cambridge University
Dr Cian Murphy
King’s College London
Dr Veronika Fikfak
Cambridge University
Dr Alicia Hinarejos
Cambridge University
Dr Rebecca Williams
Oxford University
Hugo Brady
London School of Economics

Changing the climate

SIR – Of course the Climate Change Act is good for British business (Letters, November 3). Anything that means that more money is spent is good for business. But that does not mean that it is good for the country. In his book Notes from a Big Country, Bill Bryson points out that any kind of economic activity, good or bad, adds to the gross domestic product. He cites over-fishing, deforestation and the operation of highly polluting industries as valuable contributors to GDP.

What Pat Ward and the other signatories to the November 3 letter fail to realise is that, in order to comply with the Act and reduce our carbon emissions by 80 per cent by 2050, nearly all British industry and most of our transport system will have to shut down. Is that good for business?

Professor John Dearden
Helsby, Cheshire

Clear instructions. . .

SIR – I was puzzled by yesterday’s front page report, which asserts that “children have no escape from cyberbullying…”

Why don’t they turn their devices off?

Keith Day
Portstewart, County Derry

. . . mixed message

SIR – Another misinterpreted message during the First World War (Letters, October 27) is recounted by Robert Graves in his autobiography Goodbye to All That. A slight error in the Morse code from the War Office led to a battalion being sent to Cork instead of York. It was decided later that Cork would do just as well, so the battalion stayed there for the remainder of the war.

Diana Crook
Seaford, East Sussex

Unseasonal fashion

SIR – Snowdrops, roses and geraniums are all flowering in my garden, alongside holly with berries. I finally feel I understand the fashion concept of the sheepskin gilet.

Claire McCombie
Ufford, Suffolk

An inspector offers to hold Ambridge inquiry

Brookfield Farm, but not as we know it: harvest time at Brookfield, Prince Edward Island

SIR – I am gratified by your concern for the future of Tom Archer (Leading article, November 3), but a bigger worry is the future of Brookfield Farm. Apparently the “council” has decided that the new road will divide the farm land.

If the farm is sold, the money would have to be split between other members of the family, which raises the question whether there will be enough to buy a viable holding in Northumberland.

Then there will be objections to the line order for the route of the road, the side roads order and the compulsory purchase order. A public inquiry is inevitable. Experience with the A303 suggests that this can take years, and that at the end nothing happens.

Ruth and David Archer should postpone any decision about moving until all the orders have been made and confirmed.

Having held the Newbury Bypass inquiry 26 years ago, I would be happy to conduct the public inquiry for the Archers.

Michael Davies
Chard, Somerset

Cold war of the sexes over pay and pensions

SIR – The Equalities Minister and her shadow have both been responding to headlines about the widening gender pay gap. Gloria De Piero, for Labour, promised Telegraph readers that her party would force companies to publish their pay gap (report, November 4). Meanwhile, the Conservatives’ Nicky Morgan pointed Woman’s Hour listeners towards the “Think, Act, Report” framework “to help companies think about gender equality in their workforces”.

I am sure these two women want to change things, but I suspect that change won’t come until the issue grabs headlines beyond women’s pages and women’s programmes, and has the commitment of the two men leading our main political parties.

Dr Carole Easton
Chief Executive, Young Women’s Trust
London N1

SIR – What is clear is the discriminatorily favourable state pension payment made to women. Based on legislation introduced by the Coalition Government in 2011, a woman born on the same day as me has been in receipt of the state pension since last year, while I must wait until 2017 before receiving my first payment, leaving me some £17,000 out of pocket.

As the Government has also failed to address equality in life expectancy, about another £25,000 will be paid out additionally to a woman.

This act of primary discrimination against men in my age group by the Coalition reneges on Harold Macmillan’s commitment of 1959 (yes, 1959) when he signed the European Convention on Human Rights promising equality on the grounds of sex.

Roger Beever
Corsham, Hampshire

Britain’s top legal figures warn that MPs must opt in to the European Arrest Warrant as there is ‘no credible alternative’.

Tory MPs are expected to vote against Britain remaining in the European Arrest Warrant Photo: ALAMY

9:40AM GMT 06 Nov 2014


SIR – Parliament will soon face a crucial vote on the Government’s proposal to opt into certain EU measures. A key concern is the European Arrest Warrant (EAW).

Without the EAW, other EU members may be unable speedily to extradite suspects such as Hussain Osman or Jeremy Forrest to Britain – both in jail after use of the EAW. The Association of Chief Police Officers says we cannot afford to lose it.

Britain also risks becoming a safe haven for fugitives from justice – a handful of them British citizens, but the vast majority foreign nationals wanted for crimes elsewhere in Europe.

At home, recent statutory changes should help prevent extradition to long pre-trial detention overseas, and curb EAW use for trivial offences. Overseas, Britain can only lead reform of Europe’s criminal justice co-operation by being part of the system.

There is no credible alternative to the EAW. Other EU members will be reluctant to adopt new laws if we reject a system that works. Resort to international law on extradition would be slow and ineffective.

A vote to opt in will be a vote for security and for fair and effective criminal justice.

Lord Phillips of Worth Matravers
Lord Carlile of Berriew QC

Sir Henry Brooke
Sir David Edward QC
Sir Anthony Hooper
Sir Francis Jacobs QC
Sir David Latham
Sir Konrad Schiemann

Andrew Caplen
President, Law Society of England & Wales
Alistair Morris
President, Law Society of Scotland
Evanna Fruithof
Consultant to The Bar Council
Jonathan Cooper
Doughty Street Chambers
Richard Clayton QC
4-5 Gray’s Inn Square
Tom de la Mare QC
Blackstone Chambers
Helen Malcolm QC
Three Raymond Buildings
Professor Philippe Sands QC
Matrix Chambers
Lord Blair of Boughton QPM
Lord Harris of Haringey
Baroness Ludfor
Former Member of the European Parliament
Lord Roper
Charles Clarke
Andrea Coomber

Director of JUSTICE
Charles Grant
Director of the Centre for European Reform
William F Hughes
Former SOCA Director General
Michael Kennedy
Former President of Eurojust, former COO at CPS
Peter Neyroud
Former Chief Constable
Professor John Spencer QC
Cambridge University
Professor Estella Baker
De Montfort University
Professor Patrick J Birkinshaw
Hull University
Professor Paul Craig
Oxford University
Professor Brice Dickson
Queen’s University Belfast
Professor Piet Eeckhout
University College London
Professor Angus Johnston
Oxford University
Professor Valsamis Mitsilegas
Queen Mary University of London
Professor Steve Peers
University of Essex
Nicola Padfield
Cambridge University
Dr Cian Murphy
King’s College London
Dr Veronika Fikfak
Cambridge University
Dr Alicia Hinarejos
Cambridge University
Dr Rebecca Williams
Oxford University
Hugo Brady
London School of Economics

Irish Times:

Sir, – Do we detect a glimpse of clear water between the Taoiseach and the Tánaiste? – Yours, etc,


Ballydehob, Co Cork.

A chara, – Socialist Party: we won’t pay. Fine Gael: we will pay. Sinn Féin: we might pay. Fianna Fáil: we will pay but not now. Labour Party: we will make up a number and pay that. – Is mise,


Dublin 24.

Sir, – I predict a return to the parish pumps, which would be a great benefit to candidates in elections as they would be guaranteed an audience without having to go house to house. Privatisation? No thanks. – Yours, etc,



Co Louth.

Sir, – I can understand how people in Ireland are upset at the prospect of employees of a public utility receiving bonuses. At the same time they should realise that Ireland is the only country in the OECD where the end user does not pay directly for water services.

In New York state, where my wife and I live, we pay the equivalent of €300 annually for water and sewage taxes. This is comparable to the €278 which a two-adult household using 87,000 litres per year would pay under the proposed new water service charge system. There are additional reductions for lower-income families.

Since joining the EU, Ireland has made considerable progress in upgrading the infrastructure for water and wastewater treatment and distribution. However, there is still a need for additional modernisation of the system. In March 2007 there was an outbreak of the parasitic disease cryptosporidiosis in Galway which was traced to the public water supply. This is a very insidious intestinal infection which in the city of Milwaukee in 1993 was responsible for illness in approximately 400,000 people and it is believed that it may have caused around 100 deaths of people with suppressed immune systems. There is also a major problem of leakage in parts of the Irish water distribution system which could account for up to 41 per cent loss from the point of distribution to the point of use.

In the world we all live in today, there is no such thing as a free lunch. – Yours, etc,


New York.

Sir, – If the stated aim is conservation of an expensive and finite resource, the solution is simple. Grant every citizen a very generous water allowance and make the profligate pay for the balance they use. When an average consumption model for Irish households can be determined the allowances may, over time, be amended. A capped charge is inequitable. Where is the reward in being environmentally responsible if there is no penalty for waste? – Yours, etc,


Kilcoole, Co Wicklow.

Sir , – If the Government continues to reduce the amount people have to pay for their water and continues to extend out the period when a flat charge will apply, there is every likelihood that there will be insufficient money accrued to pay the staff at Irish Water their bonuses, never mind funding the required improvements to the infrastructure and fixing of the leaks. This is a very worrying development and I respectfully suggest that consultants be engaged to examine the problem. – Yours, etc,


Celbridge, Co Kildare.

Sir, – How is it possible for this Government to be so wilfully heedless? The objections to water charges are threefold: the likelihood of water as a public resource being privatised in the future; the lack of transparency regarding charges, including repair costs; and the bonus culture of entitlement evidenced by Irish Water. Last year the Government foostered, fumbled and obfuscated on the issue of property tax and learned nothing from the experience.

It is unlikely that those who protest so vigorously over this issue will be palmed off with cheap promises of temporary lower charges, which are no sooner uttered by Government than they are disputed from those same sources. Nor with the “I’m worth it” culture. Nor with empty assurances that privatisation is prohibited by legislation since the electorate is all too aware of just how quickly new legislation can be railroaded through the Dáil when it suits.

The pent-up anger people feel from being the whipping boy of the recent economic crisis is now being brought to bear on this one issue and our political leaders would do well to pay heed. The “do as you’re told while we do as we like” politics exhibited time and again by this Government may well be its undoing. – Yours, etc,



Sir, – If politicians don’t pay their water charges, how are they going to wash their hands of this mess they got us into? – Yours, etc,



Co Mayo.

Sir, – The late great writer and columnist John Healy used to characterise Irish political leadership as being of the “here goes the mob; I am their leader, therefore I must follow” kind. Joan Burton is continuing in a long tradition. – Yours, etc,


Ennis, Co Clare.

A chara, – Does the Government have any idea of the misery it is causing with all this uncertainty over what people are going to have to pay for water, particularly among the elderly?

Simple compassion demands that this stops now. Our elected leaders need to do their jobs and tell us at once what our water charges are going to be; or, if that is as difficult as their actions make it out to be, draw a line under the thing and say that the whole issue of paying for water is being set to one side until it is in a position to do so with clarity and authority. The current farce whereby we’re told different amounts by different sources day after day is cruel and unnecessary and must end. – Is mise,



Co Kilkenny.

Sir, – Eoghan Murphy is to be commended for breaking the code of omertà among Fine Gael TDs regarding the dearth of political reform since the party came to power (“Fine Gael promised political reform, but the Government hasn’t delivered”, Opinion & Analysis, November 5th). The Government swept into power with a mandate for real political reform. The referendum on abolition of the white elephant that is the Seanad was a farce, and in any event the abolition of the Seanad would have amounted to little more than the removal of the wing mirrors on a car which has serious engine trouble.

In practice, the Dáil has very little power because it is answerable to the executive (it’s supposed to be the other way around); the guillotining of Bills; and strict enforcement of the whip system. What’s worse is that the executive is largely controlled by an elite inner circle of Enda Kenny, Joan Burton, Michael Noonan and Brendan Howlin ( the Economic Management Council).

The Dáil is supposed to be a legislature and is supposed to hold the executive to account. In reality it is a bloated rubber-stamp chamber, under the thumb of an all-powerful executive. It needs to be reformed as a matter of urgency. – Yours, etc,



Dublin 16.

Sir, – As someone who has long been a critic of the over-rigid party whip system, I found Eoghan Murphy’s piece to be compelling and a welcome breath of fresh air.

In his response to Mr Murphy’s article, Andrew Greaney (November 6th) notes that the whip “is not totalitarian: adhering to it is a choice” and that Mr Murphy can “jettison” his party membership if he ever feels that the position taken on any particular issue by his party leadership is at odds with his own.

Yet is it not patently ridiculous that voting against one’s party leadership on just one issue means that one is expelled from that party? What other non-military organisation operates on this basis?

But the present whip system still denies independence of thought and judgment and subjugates conviction to the need for blind obedience to the dictates of party elders. We have every right to expect the exercise of independent thinking and conviction from those we place our sacred trust in at the ballot box. And they shouldn’t be automatically expelled from their political party for doing so.

As the rise of Independents from across the political spectrum would at least in part suggest, the Irish people are awake more than they ever have been before to the pernicious effect of the whip system on Irish democracy. Those party politicians who bemoan the rise of Independents would do well to examine their own internal operations. Such an examination would reveal a gross imbalance of power between the party’s leadership and its individual elected officials. The whip system is the clearest manifestation of this power imbalance. – Yours, etc,


School of Law,

NUI Galway.

Sir, – Your newspaper’s revelations regarding the European Central Bank letter of November 19th, 2010, confirm the worst suspicions of many (“ECB threat to cut off banking funds revealed”, Front Page, November 6th). As a small, peripheral state, we carry no weight in the EU, despite political claims. If the EU says jump, our political leaders do so. No matter what suffering must be imposed on the people, the “political elite” will not let the EU project be derailed.

Perhaps we can look on the ECB letter as a wake-up call? – Yours, etc,



Co Dublin.

Sir, – Before the hysteria starts, it needs to be pointed out that the tone or content of the European Central Bank letter, while meeting the usual Irish default need to blame someone else, isn’t the point.

The point is that Brian Lenihan and the Cowen government gave in to the threat. When people argue that they had no choice, that myth needs to be nipped in the bud.

Just as the claim that the Kenny government had no choice either is a myth.

If the Irish taxpayer had only been required to fund the loss of tax revenue and increasing welfare costs, and not the banking debt too, then the recession would not have been so severe, the Irish pension system would not have been gutted, fewer people’s lives would have been ruined, fewer would been forced to emigrate and the brief window of opportunity to reform the country might not have been squandered.

The sad reality for Ireland is that, when it came down to it, Brian Lenihan put the needs of his party above the needs of his country and he put the wants of the establishment above the needs of the Irish people.

The ECB was perfectly entitled to make whatever demands it wanted but the Irish government was not obliged to accept them.

So before we rush off with our pitchforks to attack the ECB, the political class and members of the government, both past and present, need a reality check. – Yours, etc,


Canary Wharf,


Sir, – The tone of the ECB letter that was sent to Brian Lenihan is hardly surprising. What is surprising is the ECB going beyond its mandate of monetary policy to interfere in the fiscal policy of a sovereign nation. This is evident in the letter: “The request [for a bailout] shall include the commitment to undertake decisive actions in the areas of fiscal consolidation, structural reforms and financial sector restructuring”. It went further with an insistence that the Irish government raid its own National Pensions Reserve Fund (NPRF): “The plan for the restructuring of the Irish financial sector shall include . . . existing cash reserves (NPRF) of the Irish government”. This fund was wisely set up to alleviate the inevitable pensions crisis that is coming down the line. At the ECB’s insistence, we have robbed Peter to pay Paul. – Yours, etc,



Co Louth.

Sir, – “With kind regards”? – Yours, etc,



Dublin 7.

Sir, – The Minister for Health intends to provide doctors with the “option” of charging a “nominal co-payment” – supposedly “as a way of discouraging inappropriate attendances” (“Under-6s and over-70s using free GP care may face ‘nominal fee’”, November 4th). Does he really think that I attend my doctor for social purposes? Is it really such a pleasure to sit in a waiting room with people, trying to avoid eye contact, or coughing and spluttering! There are, I am sure, people who visit their doctor because it is their only social contact; does the Minister now wish to tax their isolation?

Neither am I comforted by the report that the “co-payment” would be set at €5. There can be little doubt but that the €5 “co-payment” will increase until the medical card is of little or no real value.

Why is the Minister allowing this “optional” fee, if the money is not going to the HSE? Do the doctors need an increase in their income? Perhaps they do, but when did medical card holders (and those approaching the qualifying age) last get an increase in pay? The Minister should be asked to “come clean” and admit this is yet another tax, in addition to property tax and water charges, both of which must be paid from the same diminishing income of the old and infirm. – Yours, etc,


Celbridge, Co Kildare.

Sir, – We have learned that hundreds of companies, including many Irish ones, have been avoiding tax via a loophole in Luxembourg (“Glanbia’s €1bn Luxembourg move to cut its Irish tax bill”, Front Page, November 6th). This scheme was operated when the present president of the European Commission was prime minister of Luxembourg. If all this tax was paid in Ireland then perhaps we would not need the penal tax regime we now have. As usual the “little people” pay their taxes here and the large companies don’t. – Yours, etc,


Dublin 8.

Sir, – One of the great strengths of Frank McNally’s column is its wide variety of subject and tone. He can be brilliantly funny but also deal sensitively with serious subjects. An example of the latter is his column on the wearing of the poppy (“An Irishman’s Diary”, November 6th), which should be the last word on this annual controversy. – Yours, etc,



Sir, – Jacinta McLoughlin (November 4th) asks should there not be a health warning attached to the Dublin marathon? I would like to point her in the direction of the comprehensive guide on the marathon website under “Medical Advice”, where the advice given is “If you don’t feel up to it, don’t do it”. I know from personal experience that some runners may simply do their best in order not to let themselves, their families or their chosen charity down. – Yours, etc,



Sir, – The emergency departments may well have seen extra casualties in the aftermath of the Dublin marathon, but that rather misses the point. I would suggest that a far more mundane reason why our hospitals are overburdened is a result of too many of us avoiding exercise and neglecting our health in the first place. – Yours, etc,


Dún Laoghaire,

Co Dublin.

Sir, – Perhaps letters regarding the marathon have now run their course? – Yours, etc,



Sir, – I have the solution to all our nation’s troubles. All we need to do is have the people who write letters to The Irish Times run the country. They appear to know absolutely everything about how our little state should be organised. What’s more, we won’t need offices or cars or ancillary staff or advisers as they already know it all without having to leave the comfort of their own sofa. No elections would be needed as these people don’t need to be answerable to anyone for their decisions, except of course to the other experts who write to The Irish Times. – Yours, etc,



Co Dublin.

Sir, – Surely if Dublin City Council is concerned about noise disturbing people in the city centre (and elsewhere) it should tackle the issue of rattling manhole covers that blight people’s working and domestic lives.

There appears to be absolutely no system in place to ensure a speedy repair, no matter how loud these covers become and, of course, no consequences for the utilities that own them.

Meanwhile readers might wish to know that Irish Water has taken over responsibility for the manhole covers that were previously the responsibility of Dublin City Council! – Yours, etc,



Irish Independent:

There has long been a lack of acuity in this country, especially of the financial kind in the conduct of public affairs. Look at the legacy of Charles Haughey and the shambolic, embarrassing way Bertie Ahern managed his affairs and you’ll appreciate why it will be a long time before we are seen in the same light as Switzerland as models of punctiliousness.

That said, when financial disaster struck, it was the ‘little people’ who were called upon, not the captains of commerce or generals in government.

It was the poor bloody infantry – the PAYE sector – that was forced into the breach.

Thus, the taxpayer got it between the eyes. Bankers, vulture capitalists and every other three-card-trick loan arranger happy to feed the insatiable lust for more amongst the gilded power-brokers and deal-makers who sent us hurtling over a cliff, have managed to walk away from the ensuing carnage.

The collateral damage was felt by the entire workforce of Ireland. And now we know why.

There was a bully at the door demanding a pound of flesh, and bone marrow to boot. He was based in Frankfurt and his name was Jean-Claude Trichet.

The ECB threatened our finance minister that if he did not put the ordinary Joe and Josephine Soap of Ireland on the rack of austerity, the ECB would abandon us.

The banks and the euro were at stake and Paddy must step up. Or else. A set of demands was made. This was not prudent financial advice, this was a cold-bloded ultimatum to the Irish people.

Central banks do not have powers to order sovereign states around like children, and to dip their hands into the wallets of independent nations.

Yet as the Trichet letter reveals, the ECB made Brian Lenihan – and by extension the Irish people – an offer they couldn’t refuse.

They stuck a gun to all our heads. So, Taoiseach Enda Kenny, and Tanaiste Joan Burton, now that you have evidence of this threat against our people, what are you going to do about it?

Will you continue to bludgeon us with more hardship, water charges, universal social charges, pension levies, etc, or will you finally stand up for the people you represent?

It is time to tell the Frankfurt chiefs to get their boots off our necks.

To borrow the words of a former Irish Triple Crown champion: Where is your f***ing pride?

Ed Toal

Galway city

IMF praise lost in translation

“The way the Irish have played this is very clever, they have got everyone to pull together.” So said Ms Christine Lagarde, the head of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in an interview with the ‘Financial Times’ on September 13, 2014.

According to the report, she warmly praised Enda Kenny and the Irish Government for the “clever” way they have implemented tough cuts and taxes, while keeping the public onside, also saying that she was very impressed with how Irish politicians have managed to implement reforms, while maintaining social cohesion.

I suspect something was lost in translation and what she really meant was that the Irish politicians were too “clever by half” and that everyone was indeed pulling together – but diametrically opposed to the Government.

Maybe, being French and just like her protege Michael Noonan, she would regard unprecedented mass demonstrations as mere minor political irritations of no great consequence?

John Leahy

Wilton Road, Cork

Latin America shows us the way

While John Waters (Irish Independent, November 5, 2014) paints a clear picture of the Hobson’s choice we are faced with in politics, hopefully our options are not as bleak as he suggests.

We can look to the example of Latin America, which, with its mix of left-leaning leaders, is the only region in the world where inequality has decreased in the last decade.

This subcontinent has been at the mercy of the IMF and ‘free trade’ polices since the 1970s. Politicians there are now battling to prise their countries from the exploitative grip of the multinational corporations and the international finance sector.

With nationalisation of natural resources, progressive taxation policies, increased spending on health and education and increases in the minimum wage, these countries have begun re-distributing wealth in what has historically been the most unequal part of the globe.

Brave and principled politicians are needed to face down the disproportionate power of global private finance that has resulted in the indiscriminate looting of domestic economies and impoverishment of citizens through austerity, erosion of labour rights and regressive taxation. Latin America shows us that it is possible.

Maeve Halpin

Ranelagh, Dublin 6

Coalition holed below waterline

It would appear the Government is holed below the waterline.

Ted O’Keeffe

Ranelagh, Dublin 6

If politicians don’t pay their water charges, how are they going to wash their hands of this mess they have got us into?

Kevin Devitte

Westport, Co Mayo

You published my letter illustrating that there was no shortage of raw water (Irish Independent, November 5, 2014). The only question was that of harvesting, treatment and distribution. This being so, metering serves no purpose.

This would suggest a fixed charge for water. But this would not have regard to ability to pay. What about taking the charge out of general government income? The Government may have a problem with this, as it insists that there must be a specific water charge to fund a national water authority. There is also its desire to keep the financing of the authority off balance sheet.

The best solution might therefore be to express the charge as a function of the property tax and to collect it with that tax on behalf of the authority. If the Government were to adopt that system, explain it with a certain humility and admit they got it wrong, they might even bring most of the people with them.

Above all, they must get it right this time or forget the whole idea.

John F Jordan

Killiney, Co Dublin

Endless war

In my time I have known survivors, and many victims, of all the wars of the 20th century.

I find it unutterably sad that young men and women still think that there is something noble in fighting, and dying, for one’s country.

Why can intelligent people still not see through the poisonous fog stirred up by the old Latin poet, who from his safe nest, coined the immortal motto, “Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori”. Bulls***! War actually condones murder and suicide. And for what? Never, since the dawn of history, has war done anything except make a bad situation infinitely worse.

And we think we are civilised! We think this is democracy! The only way to stop war is by controlling the tools of war. At once, vested interests raise their ugly heads. We fill young people’s heads with the fog of fame, and we weep salt tears when they come back in bags, And all for what? For more war.

Sean McElgunn

Address with Editor

Clean thoughts?

From the snippet I heard did a woman on Sean O’Rourke’s radio show on October 5 say that the sight of a man hoovering “raises desire in a woman’s brain”? Mind you, I may not be totally accurate in my recall – I was busily hoovering at the time.

Tom Gilsenan

Beaumont, Dublin 9

Irish Independent

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