13 November 2014 Cleaning

I jog around the park I still have arthritis in my left knee, but I manage to get round the park. A Very busy cleaning kitchen and office for the Blinds man tomorrow.

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


Oriel Malet – obituary

Oriel Malet was an aristocrat who wrote 12 novels and corresponded with Daphne du Maurier

Oriel Malet


5:59PM GMT 12 Nov 2014


Oriel Malet, who has died aged 91, was a British aristocrat and gifted novelist who embraced the bohemian life in France.

Born Auriel Rosemary Malet Vaughan on January 20 1923, she was the youngest child of the 7th Earl of Lisburne and his wife, the Chilean beauty Regina de Bittencourt. Her early years were spent at the family home, Crosswood (Trascoed), in Cardiganshire, where she received most of her education from a French governess, “Mingo” Kaiser, who instilled in her an abiding love of all things French.

Auriel Vaughan (or Oriel Malet, as she styled herself) wrote from an early age, completing her first novel, Trust in the Springtime, when she was only 16. It was published when she was 20, and three years later her second book, My Bird Sings, won the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize for young novelists . With her £50 prize money she bought a motorcycle.

By this time Oriel was already living in Paris, initially at the Villa Racine in rue Racine. She became close friends with the American folk singers Gordon Heath and Lee Payant, who performed nightly at L’Abbaye, a tiny bar illuminated only by candlelight in the rue de Furstemberg, beside the church of Saint-Germain-des-Prés; the audience were instructed to click their fingers rather than applaud so as not to disturb those attending church across the street.

Another close friend was the actress Yvonne Arnaud, who stood as Oriel’s godmother when she converted to Roman Catholicism in the 1940s. In 1961 Oriel Malet would publish a memoir of Arnaud, entitled Marraine.

Oriel Malet was not yet 30 when she wrote Jam Today, an account of her early years in Paris, and she was an occasional contributor to the “Letter From Paris” feature in Tatler. In the mid-1950s she moved into a houseboat on the Seine at Neuilly. It was moored next to the houseboat occupied by Françoise Sagan, author of A Certain Smile and Bonjour Tristesse.

During a flash flood, Oriel fell into the river and would have been swept away but for the quick thinking of Sagan’s butler, who fished her out of the water with a boathook. To avoid further such calamities Oriel Malet went to live with her close friends Toto Barreyre, the historian and critic , and his wife Tototte, who had a flat on the edge of the Bois de Boulogne and a small house near Verneuil in Normandy .

She published several novels during the 1950s, the last of which, The Horses of the Sun, won praise from the critics; but before Putnam’s could reprint it to meet the rising demand there was a national printing strike, and by the time the industrial action was over the moment had passed. Oriel Malet suffered another setback when her accountant absconded with most of her capital. She was forced to earn her living as a translator, and had no time to concentrate on novels.

Oriel Malet had a gift for friendship, and one of her most enduring was with Daphne du Maurier, whom she had met at a cocktail party given by their mutual American publisher, Doubleday, in the early 1950s . For 30 years she and du Maurier wrote to one another weekly, exchanging confidences and discussing their literary projects. Oriel Malet published her correspondence with du Maurier, Letters from Menabilly, in 2000.

In all, she wrote 12 novels, but without fulfilling her early promise. Late in life, she spent several years researching a life of St Thérèse of Lisieux, and a fictional work about Oscar Wilde’s last days; both works, however, remain unpublished.

In 2003 Persephone Books reprinted her account, written in 1946, of the 19th-century Scots child diarist Marjory Fleming, who died in 1811 at the age of eight.

As a young woman Oriel Malet became engaged to an officer in the Welsh Guards, but he was killed in the war. She remained unmarried.

Oriel Malet, born January 20 1923, died October 14 2014


A drilling rig floats tethered to the sea floor offshore from the Falkland Islands A drilling rig floats tethered to the sea floor a little more than 100km (62 miles) offshore from the Falkland Islands. Photograph: Gary Clement/Reuters

We utterly reject Daniel Filmus’s remarks in his interview with Luke Harding (Falklands: Argentina warns drilling could lead to oil disaster, 27 October) and the implication that hydrocarbons activities carried out by the Falkland Islands government are environmentally reckless. The Falkland Islands have a long history of responsible environmental stewardship, and we pride ourselves on protecting and safeguarding our unique environment.

The Falkland Islands government has responsibility for issuing licences and regulating the industry, and extraction offshore is regulated to UK North Sea standards, which are recognised as one of the highest standards of safety regulation anywhere in the world. The government is committed to transparency, and all environmental impact statements submitted are made available for public consultation.

Mr Filmus’s portrayal of the Falkland Islands hydrocarbons industry is skewed, alarmist, and represents yet another example of the Argentine government’s futile efforts to damage the Falklands economy. It is in no way an accurate description of the flourishing industry that is already planning its next round of drilling in 2015, nor the commitments the Falkland Islands government has made to developing an oil and gas industry that is economically and ecologically sustainable.
Roger Edwards
Chair of the legislative assembly of the Falkland Islands

Ed Miliband addresses the CBI's annual conference in London. 'Given that the rightwing media simulta Ed Miliband addresses the CBI’s annual conference in London. ‘Given that the rightwing media simultaneously smear Ed Miliband while not reporting his arguments, how, pray, is Labour expected to have its voice heard?’ asks Stephen Jones. Photograph: Mark Thomas/Rex

It is disappointing that, having led the G2 section with a piece on the press “monstering” Labour leaders (In the line of fire, 11 November), you should then argue (Editorial, 11 November) that Labour should raise its game, not change its leader. Given that the rightwing media simultaneously smear Ed Miliband while not reporting his arguments, how, pray, is Labour expected to have its voice heard?

Monstering the leader and shadow cabinet, ignoring the arguments, and repeating falsehoods such as Labour was responsible for the global recession is part of a concerted strategy and very difficult to counter. Kinnock was unable to do it, Blair did it having sold his soul to Murdoch, and Brown, an honest, decent man, faced an impossible struggle.

What your editorial might have reflected upon is why, given hostile media coverage and a weak recovery stimulated by “help to buy”, Labour is still managing to do so well? If you asked on the doorstep or maybe attended the food bank meeting in Malvern, as I did a few weeks ago, you would realise it is because a large proportion of the population, both waged and unwaged, are suffering.

Given that proposals to cut public expenditure in the next parliament will largely impinge on those least able to bear it, maybe the editors of the national press should raise their game and ask: “Is austerity really necessary?” It hasn’t worked before, is certainly not working in Europe, and the UK had a deficit/GDP ratio far greater than it is at present when it started the NHS, built over a quarter of a million homes a year, and progressively raised the school leaving age. Keynesianism may be a dirty word to some, but to others increasing public expenditure is both a moral and economic imperative.
Stephen Jones
Malvern, Worcestershire

• I have just torn up page 6 of Tuesday’s Guardian (New blow for Miliband as Labour lead shrivels in poll, 11 November) in disgust that a supposedly serious newspaper has chosen to print six deliberately unflattering photographs of the Labour leader addressing the CBI conference. Why? Why is there no report of his speech other than a brief mention in your otherwise negative editorial? Why is there no comment that Mr Miliband’s views on Europe are much more in tune with the CBI’s than the prime minister’s? Alan Johnson is right in saying that this world is obsessed with celebrity and personality. What the voters should demand from politicians is commitment and truth. Mr Miliband can deliver on this.
Judith Brooks
Fleetwood, Lancashire

• I write as Labour’s parliamentary candidate for Orpington, disgusted and demotivated by the suicidal speculation on Ed Miliband’s leadership from my own side. So it was with relief and pleasure that I read Alan Johnson’s excellent piece (I’ve never sought the Labour leadership – and I never will, 11 November).

Besides displaying admirable loyalty, logic and discipline, Alan also focuses on the Tories’ barefaced rewriting of history, blaming Labour for all the nation’s woes, and absolving their friends and paymasters in the world of finance from any responsibility. Meanwhile David Cameron, George Osborne and Theresa May fail dismally to deliver on their promises.

Alan shows no reluctance to rake over the past and so delivers a withering critique of the coalition government and provides a timely warning that returning Cameron to No 10 will amount to business as usual. In contrast, radical and courageous policies are required, such as Gordon Brown’s refusal to join the euro.

I am sure Labour leaders welcome Alan’s loyalty. I think they would do well to copy his willingness to remind people of the past. That dents the Tories’ claim to economic competence and lays the foundation for the development of considered policy alternatives to eternal austerity, which has been tried but manifestly failed. Thankfully, Ed Miliband has shown some signs of responding along these lines, but they need to be fortified.
Nigel de Gruchy
Orpington, Kent

• Alan Johnson makes a fair defence of Ed Miliband’s leadership of the Labour party. However, his lucid account of the current state of politics and policy serves predominantly to put me in mind of the theory ascribed to the Roman dictator Cincinnatus (519-430 BC) which held that power should only be given to those who want it least.
Professor Gwyneth Boswell

• At 84, still a socialist, I despair at the current torpor of the Labour party. After all, it’s been obvious for months, even years, that Ed Miliband has problems that are far more serious than “image”. Yes, he’s intelligent; yes, he has some good and decent policies, though too few; but he thinks and reacts too slowly. His memory lapse during his speech at the Labour party conference is a terrifying glimpse of how he would respond “under fire”.

If he sincerely cares for the future of this country he should resign with dignity, and become “the power behind the throne”, with a more appealing and quick-witted minister to replace him. That would be a true act of magnanimity, and, dare I use an old-fashioned word, “patriotism”.
Barbara Brandenburger

• Recent comments about the policies of the Labour party and the merits (or otherwise) of Ed Miliband overlook one issue: the problem for Labour of confronting the way in which the Conservative party has been allowed to command the language of social – and political – unity through its endless invocation of the mantra of “hard-working families”. This leaves the Labour party with the problem of finding its own location for political cohesion, hugely difficult since the slogan about “hard-working families” has so much social resonance and is so vivid a description of many in the British population.

But while the great majority of us are hard-working (if in various forms of families), we have another shared characteristic: that at some point in our lives we will all (even those who suppose themselves above such assistance) rely on some form of that state support which the Conservative party and Ukip are so set on reducing, if not actually abolishing. This could lead the Labour party to the conclusion that the basis for a viable challenge to a political regime of austerity and the refusal to care for the vulnerable (be they in the UK or perilously afloat on the Mediterranean) lies in the articulation of a political morality of care. Or to put it another way, which perhaps challenges that “hard-working” slogan, however hard you work, you will never be able to afford to pay for all you need, not just for your care, but that of others.
Mary Evans
Patrixbourne, Kent

• Poor Ed Miliband, criticised on all sides. Yes, some of his inner circle may be Oxford-educated (Letters, 8 November), but before Oxford, Lucy Powell went to a comprehensive school in south Manchester, and grew up with ordinary Mancunians like my daughters and their friends.
Susan H Treagus

• I’m tired of cheap jibes at Labour politicians. Lucy Powell represents Manchester Central, a deprived multi-ethnic inner-city constituency. It includes Moss Side, whose Labour councillors are a Pakistani woman who was partly brought up in a children’s home and who endured a forced marriage at the age of 14, a youth worker who devoted his life to homeless young people and those with mental health issues, and a young woman trade unionist who supports low-paid shop workers. (She replaced, on his retirement, a Windrush-era Jamaican who worked on the buses.) Other wards could tell similar stories of councillors and Labour activists rooted in everyday life, and seeing daily the ruinous effects of the coalition’s brutal policies. They (and her constituents) give Lucy, who is an active constituency MP, plenty of feedback and understanding about life as it is lived at the edge.

Those who criticise, quibble and mock from the comfort of academia or the media or less-challenged areas of Britain make us furious. It is time for people to decide which side they are on, or are we to assume that nobody actually cares about the outcome of the next election?
Gabrielle Cox

• The Labour MPs who are sniping at Ed Miliband should be ashamed of themselves and get on with the job for which there were elected. There are too many in the House Commons who forget where they come from and become obsessed with celebrity politics and so-called “leadership” qualities.

The job of leading a political party has to be about coordinating a team and working collectively to bring about changes in the public interest. And there is the example of Clem Attlee whose quiet influence and determination as Labour prime minister was key to introducing the NHS, the welfare state, and greater educational opportunities for all.

There are Labour MPs – and especially young and dynamic female Labour MPs – who can be part of an effective team with Ed Miliband in office which the country deserves.

It is time for those Labour MPs and former Labour ministers who are calling for the departure of Ed Miliband to show responsibility to the Labour party and the country, to call off the dogs and stop behaving like naughty children.
Michael McGowan
Former Labour MEP for Leeds

• All Labour MPs (including Ed Miliband) should learn paragraphs two to six of Alan Johnson’s piece by heart and should be instructed to use them to begin every speech between now and next May. In fact, following the example of the big beasts of politics, they should repeat them every time they are asked a question about anything! Especially on Question Time. It may not too late to contest the coalition’s fairytale about the economy. It is vital for trust in politics that Nick Clegg and Danny Alexander (who promote that fairytale at every opportunity, knowing it to be false) should not be involved in any future coalition, so Labour has to do well enough to govern alone. Alan Johnson has just written part one of the script. Part two is a radical manifesto, which must include (see Polly Toynbee and Aditya Chakrabortty in the same issue) building enough social housing in the inner cities to reduce property prices, prick the buy-to-let bubble, and bring down the housing benefit bill.
Richard Gravil
Tirril, Cumbria

• Your editorial on the leadership of the Labour party rightly states that Miliband needs “to be more proactive and more focused about pushing his key policies”, but ignores the possibility that these “key policies” may be causing the problem in the first place. Your statement that there are “no easy fixes for centre-left parties in modern politics” overlooks an obvious option that Miliband would be well advised to consider – to move further from the centre. When he has done this in the past, as with the energy price freeze pledge, his support in the polls has increased. On the other hand, with policies that merely tinker, and change little, there can be neither vision nor transformation, and the UK after five years of a Miliband government would be pretty similar to what it is now, something the electorate clearly understands.

Joining the other two main party leaders queueing up to pay homage to the CBI, similar to his actions in Scotland in referendum week, will only enhance the view that there is little to choose between them. An £8-an-hour minimum wage by 2020 suggests exactly the same. “Left”-leaning policies, like ending privatisation and making City institutions pay their fair share at last, properly regulating rented property so that tenants do not pay inflated rents to profiteering Rachman-like landlords, and allowing the gradual renationalisation of railways to proceed when franchises become available, would at least indicate voters were not totally being taken for granted.

The adoption of transformational policies which aim to reshape society so that it works for the common good, and not just for the financial sector and the 1%, would actually show Labour, not before time, was “raising its game”.
Bernie Evans

• The massive Twitter response, by 50,000 Labour grassroots members and supporters, backing Ed Miliband’s leadership (…meanwhile tweeters say #webackEd, 10 November) emphasises the parliamentary plotters’ proposed denial of ordinary members’ democratic rights to participate in the party’s constitutional electoral college (to elect another leader). The time available before the general election would make this impossible, and some plotters have already called for a swift election with only one candidate on offer. The undemocratic outcome of such a parliamentary-party-only election, let alone one with a single candidate, would deeply offend and alienate the party’s grassroots members and supporters, who would be disenfranchised. Many would leave the party and/or refuse to work in the coming election.

Lessons must be learned from 2007 when Gordon Brown was crowned leader without a democratic election.This happened because Brown bagged the nominations of all but a handful of MPs. This prevented other candidates being offered, to the party as a whole, because of insufficient nominations from the parliamentary party. Following that debacle the party lost nearly 30,000 members and many remaining activists refused to work in the 2010 election campaign. The enormity of what the anonymous plotters are proposing would probably provoke a greater negative reaction this time.

As for the credibility of north-west MPs who apparently hatched the plot, they demonstrated their contempt for, and lack of democratic accountability to, ordinary party members when only one in nine of them bothered to attend their regional Labour conference a few days before they launched their conspiracy. Local MPs are expected to attend this function to report back to the ordinary members and demonstrate their accountability to them. Their lack of democratic accountability was criticised by a number of party members who addressed the conference.
Gaye Johnston
Chair, Campaign for Labour Party Democracy

Five years ago I stood in the cold and rain to witness the celebrations for the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. Among the speakers was the then prime minister Gordon Brown. Our current prime minister seems to have been absent on Sunday (Jonathan Freedland, 10 November). Was he invited? If not, where were the “Merkel snubs Cameron” headlines? Or did he decline? If so, where were the “Cameron snubs Merkel” headlines? He had plenty of time to get to Berlin after performing his duties at the Cenotaph, so where was he?
Simon Gamble
Poole, Dorset

• The CBI wants the government to raise the threshold at which people pay national insurance to £10,500 and also provide more free childcare and extended maternity pay to help low-income workers (Report, 10 November). Presumably companies will pay their fare share of taxes to prevent an increase in the deficit that this would cause.
Bill Macinnes

• Michele Hanson (G2, 11 November) does not mention the most frustrating thing of all about computer manuals. When it breaks down, where is the manual? In the computer itself, where you cannot get at it because the computer has broken. Oh, I know – print it when you first buy the thing, but who does?
Derek Hyde

• The solution to Michele Hanson’s problem with indecipherable manuals is to go to YouTube, where practically everything ever is demonstrated by someone somewhere – although more often than not an American in an interior so fascinating and distracting that one forgets the reason for watching.
Peter Knipe

• Seen on the back of a biker’s leather jacket at the Ace Café reunion (Letters, 11 November): “If you can read this, the Missus has fallen off.”
David Gerrard
Hove, East Sussex

• On a T-shirt in North Dakota: “North Dakota – just north of South Dakota.”
Arthur Lloyd
Aberdour, Fife

Santander online banking on a 13 ‘As we continue to move to online banking, there will be many new opportunities to get account numbers wrong,’ says David Flint. Photograph: Alamy

You ask what responsibility banks have when a customer’s single-digit error in an account number sends the money to the wrong place (Money, 8 November). It’s considerable, because of faults in the banks’ own processes. In most cases the person requesting the money transfer provides the intended recipient’s name as well as account number. This could act as a check, but banks seem not to make it. In systems analysis class, I was taught to use check digits to protect account numbers. Credit card companies do this and they protect completely against single digit errors, so the banks are not following best practice. As we continue to move to online banking, there will be many new opportunities to get account numbers wrong. These could be greatly reduced by re-engineered processes that required less copying of critical data.
David Flint
Visiting fellow, Cass Business School

Garden of Remembrance, Princes Street Gardens, Edinburgh Crosses in the Garden of Remembrance, Princes Street Gardens, Edinburgh, on 11 November 2014. Photograph: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

John Bird’s assertion (Letters, 11 November) that “no one alive now can personally remember a single one of the millions of young men who were persuaded to kill each other a century ago” is an insult to my generation.

I remember with sadness and horror my great-uncle, who, aged 15, ran away to join the Northumberland Fusiliers and became a runner between the trenches. He survived (with a Military Medal), only to live the life of a itinerant alcoholic, returning every so often to my grandmother’s home. And I remember the unearthly howling every night as he dreamt of things we cannot imagine.

I remember too my grandfather who was shipped out from the western front to fight in the Sinai peninsula. He too survived, having proved adept at handling camels, but wanted nothing more than his job as a beat bobby in Leeds.

I am proud that my granddaughter’s school recently displayed the mementoes of both these men. Personally, I will never forget either of them.
Nova Gresham

• I personally knew my grandfather who at the age of 17 was driving a team of horses at Mons when the gun carriage they were pulling was hit by a German shell, instantly killing his four comrades. The force of the blast threw him clear but he laid injured and unconscious on the battlefield and suffered mustard gas inhalation that blinded him for six months and physically disabled him for the rest of his life, until he died a premature death in 1963.

I also knew my grandmother, who served as a nurse including time in the hospital at Woolwich Arsenal. She defied orders to abandon her post during a Zeppelin raid and organised her patients into firefighting teams to put out the incendiaries. She saved countless lives and was gazetted but had to wait 50 years for her bravery to be officially recognised, because she was a woman working with the British Legion and therefore not considered part of the armed forces.

I salute you, Ernest Trude and Frances Harris. You are my heroes.
Chris Trude

• My maternal grandfather certainly killed Germans. He was a sniper, and he hated it. He was twice wounded and twice sent back. He was lucky to survive, and I remember him well from my childhood. I carry his watch on Remembrance Day. My paternal grandfather also served, and was wounded and taken prisoner, and his brother was killed in a POW camp. I never met my great-uncle but I knew and loved my grandfathers. Both had their lives irremediably changed by serving in the first world war and serving as fire-watchers in the second. I suspect that for many of us, remembrance is not just about the war dead but about all those who served.

We should also remember that this ceremony is not just about the dead of the first world war, who may indeed have passed from living memory, but of the second world war and subsequent wars, for which memories are still very much alive. I find the Remembrance Day services overblown, lacking in rage, and too religious and militaristic. However, I still take the opportunity to reflect on the sacrifices of my forebears.
Catherine Rose
Olney, Buckinghamshire

• At primary school (in the 30s) I remember our teacher telling us about the Great War and suggesting that we bring in a penny to buy a poppy to wear. The next morning, the teacher quietly gave coins to those who had forgotten or were not able to spare the money. The seller, an ex-serviceman, then came in with his tray and talked a little about what the poppies meant. He then said: “If you have a penny you may take a small poppy but if you have sixpence or more you may take one of the poppy sprays in the tray.” I remember being deeply upset by this disparity. I could not understand why just because you were able to give more you should expect to have a more ostentatious spray. Nowadays poppy sellers all have the same simple flower but royals and celebrities still appear with elaborate sprays or precious metal brooches with enamelled poppy flowers. More than 50 years on I find this as distasteful as when I was five. Am I alone in this?
Brenda Banks
Teignmouth, Devon

• Presumably I am just imagining my father, who joined the medical corps in 1914, aged 15, after hearing that wounded men were being left on the battlefield due to a lack of stretcher-bearers. I am only 62, so I can’t be the only one who still remembers.
Cathy Schling

• I remember my dad very well, as a matter of fact. He was at Gallipoli. He didn’t like it.
Barry Hewlett-Davies
Brighton, East Sussex

• The poppies around the Tower of London have touched extraordinary chords of remembrance, art and charitable giving. Is there not opportunity to grasp this concept to mix pleasure with sentiment and alms, in other times and for other purposes? Such artworks could be displayed, dismantled, then dispatched to offer genuine lifelong remembrance mixed with joy to those who grieve.
Mel Wilder
Scarborough, North Yorkshire

• Civilian victims of wars still lack their memorials, though one that could be counted, from 1935, stands in Woodford Green, Essex. A stone bomb on a plinth, it is inscribed with the words: “This monument is raised as a protest against war in the air.” Commissioned by Sylvia Pankhurst, its tone is ironic, as it refers to the 1932 World Disarmament Conference in Geneva that upheld the right to use bombing aeroplanes.

It initially drew attention to the bombing by Italian airmen of Abyssinia, which led on to the second world war. Its renaming as the Anti-Air War Memorial extends its increasing relevance to the high cost paid by civilian victims of the ever-increasing firepower visited on them not just by bombing planes but by increasingly marketed unmanned drones.
Sylvia Ayling
Woodford Green, Essex

• Once again the UK’s Remembrance Sunday commemoration at the Cenotaph gave religion a privileged role (Comment is free,, 6 November), with a Church of England bishop leading a hymn and prayer, accompanied by male clergy and boy choir. A dozen religious denominations were also represented, but no atheists. This disrespects the many war dead and injured, as well as members of the armed forces and other citizens, who reject religion.

The Cenotaph, which dates from 1920, was deliberately designed as a secular state monument bearing no religious symbols in recognition of the wide diversity of the fallen. The same should apply to the annual ceremony. It should be a fully inclusive occasion, not an opportunity for one section of society to impose their particular belief.
RM Atkinson

Nottingham aerial view Nottingham: ‘We will never truly be able to tackle worklessness until we have local control of work-related benefits, employment support programmes and core skills funding,’ says Cllr Nick McDonald. Photograph: Lewis Stickley/PA

Ken Livingstone, George Galloway et al are totally wrong to suggest that the proposed intervention in Tower Hamlets is an attack on local democracy (Letters, 7 November). It is entirely to do with protecting local taxpayers from an abuse of executive power and the systematic breakdown of local democratic checks and balances. The independent inspection of the council by PwC found extensive evidence of poor governance, financial mismanagement and a lack of transparency over the awarding of public grants and disposal of public buildings in Tower Hamlets. This also follows the Electoral Commission’s concerns about the conduct of local elections in the borough.

The residents of Tower Hamlets have a right to expect that their council tax is properly accounted for, providing transparency and audit trails of how their money is spent, and that correct democratic processes are upheld. We do not take intervention actions lightly, but previous interventions – such as in Doncaster in 2010 – have helped tackle dysfunctional governance and restore public confidence in the integrity of councils. Localism requires transparency, probity and robust scrutiny: as Eric Pickles said in parliament last week, “there can be no place for rotten boroughs in 21st-century Britain”.
Tariq Ahmad
Communities minister

• There is much more to be done to tackle worklessness in Nottingham (Report, 7 November). However, a like-for-like comparison with other conurbations is misleading. Nottingham has a large number of students and an unusually tight local authority boundary. Both of these facts skew the figures. In the Greater Nottingham area the figure (excluding student households) is 20.4%. This is much closer to comparable cities (Liverpool (24.6%), Birmingham (22.7%), Newcastle (22.5%), Manchester (20.2%). Unemployment remains too high in Nottingham, but it has fallen by 26% since May 2011, so we are making some progress. However, we will never truly be able to tackle worklessness until we have local control of work-related benefits, employment support programmes and core skills funding. Regional cities account for over a quarter of the nation’s economy, and we have the ability to create jobs, but we are let down by an overcentralised system that needs to change. Therefore, whilst the reality that underlies the statistics is complex, the solution is simple. Government needs to empower all cities to generate jobs by devolving power, and it needs to do so right away.
Cllr Nick McDonald
Cabinet member for jobs and growth, Nottingham city council

• Your correspondent refers to the plans for an elected mayor in Greater Manchester (Letters, 11 November), saying that two years ago Mancunians rejected such a proposal. Oh no, we didn’t! There are nine local authorities in Greater Manchester but only the residents of one of those districts, Manchester, were consulted in that referendum. The remaining 80% have never been asked.
David Hoult


Your pro-motoring editorial (11 November) claims almost nobody uses only train, bus and bike. Speaking as an almost-nobody, no shortage of us can be found in London, Cambridge and Oxford, cities where walking, cycling and public transport play their rightful roles.

Even if motoring could be made as environmentally sound as these modes (it can’t), car-centric planning is a social disaster: it excludes children, the elderly and the disabled, and creates built environments that are both unpleasant and dangerous. Self-driving cars would solve few of these problems.

Holiday traffic makes the A303 an extreme case, and its upgrade may well be justified. Holidays are one thing, but I know almost nobody who regards daily driving as desirable rather than an unfortunate necessity.

You write that rail is often not an option, invoking Beeching. When £15bn is on the table, many things are possible. In Scotland, a 30-mile stretch of the former Waverley route is being rebuilt with a budget of under £300m. At that rate, the £15bn earmarked for roads would rebuild 1,500 miles of double-track railway, 30 per cent of the amount cut by Beeching. A modest but sustained investment would yield a comprehensive rail network within a generation.

Equating road-building with “economic revitalisation” is out of date by at least 40 years. Prioritising the car has been a failed experiment.

Dr Stephen Kell
Grantchester, Cambridgeshire

I have used Eurostar many times and find it excellent. It would be mad to fly. (“Why I’m a Eurostar sceptic”, 12 November.) However, when I get to Paris it’s another story.

The Gare du Nord is a mess, but many busy stations are. But when it comes to going wherever in Paris you are heading for, you enter a world of pain.

Last time I went, in August, arriving there at 9pm, there was a queue of 150 people, and three taxis vaguely coming in. Wait time? Who knows? Two hours? So I took the Métro.

Everywhere steep staircases and very few escalators anywhere. With a suitcase, more pain. Stations like Montparnasse, Châtelet and Invalides a nightmare.

I know Paris very well, lived there for years, love it. But it has fallen way behind London in these respects.

David Halley
Hampton Hill, Middlesex


Your article on Eurostar neglects the true difficulties of the present routing, that is the major termini in Brussels and Paris.

Leaving aside the appalling facilities, both stations are threatening environments where predators lurk ready to prey on vulnerable travellers in a Dickensian manner.

In Brussels, rail stations appear to be no-go areas for police and the problem in Paris extends to Métro links. It is no wonder that passengers prefer the relative security of the airports patrolled by armed guards.

Carole Lewis
Solihull, West Midlands

Where is the ‘better’ world they died for?

One great sadness of Remembrance is recalling how so many millions gave their lives for a better world that has never come to be.

So today, the 85 richest people control as much wealth as the poorest half of the world’s population. In this country, there are around 100 billionaires, while a million go to food banks. Billions are wasted on weapons such as Trident, while millions struggle across the globe for basics, such as water.

In the meantime, people vote for parties committed to the sort of intolerant policies on Europe and immigration that caused so many to go to fight in the world wars. The sad conclusion is that they may have given their tomorrows for our todays but we squander and insult that legacy by the way we behave today.

Paul Donovan
London E11


Left to the market, we’d all be in trouble

No, Paul Sloane (letter, 12 November), you are naïve, not the writer of the editorial you criticise.

I think we all know by now that in conditions of a surplus of labour, employers will screw wages down as far as they can – to starvation levels if they can get away with it.

If we are to have a stable civilised society, we need strong trade unions or statutory minimum wage controls, or possibly both, otherwise the less skilled will be ruthlessly exploited.

Do we learn nothing?

Dudley Dean
Maresfield, East Sussex

The most striking feature of the CBI report, “Better Off Britain”, published to coincide with its annual conference, is the near total absence of any direct action from its members to alleviate the hardship of employees. They expect the vast majority of measures to come from government at the taxpayers’ expense.

Geoff Naylor


Prosperity hinges on a combination of skills

Nicky Morgan’s choice of language in your report was unfortunate (“Want to keep your options open? Then do science, says Education Secretary”, 11 November). The UK has an unrivalled reputation for its arts and humanities teaching and research, and the world comes to us for these subjects, as also for our eminence in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

The arts and humanities fuel the success of our creative industries and provide millions of young people with the training to prosper in today’s knowledge-based economy.

The fastest growth over the past four decades has been in the services sector, and has been dependent on the combined skills that come from the humanities, social science, science, technology and medicine. We walk hand-in-hand with our colleagues across all research disciplines, because it is the combination of all this expertise which guarantees our future success.

The British Academy’s project Prospering Wisely shows how the humanities and social sciences contribute to our economy, our culture and our society.  They help us understand what it is to be human and how societies function and occasionally malfunction – and as such they are an essential part of the eco-structure that supports the UK’s health and prosperity.

Baron Stern of Brentford FRS
President, The British Academy, London SW1

We should champion EU migration

All the evidence shows that EU freedom of movement is a boon, not a curse for the UK. European migrants contribute hugely to the economy, and while 2.2 million EU nationals live in the UK, more than 2 million British citizens reside elsewhere in the EU.

But free movement should mean the right to work, study or retire in another EU country, not the right to move and claim benefits. That is why the European Court ruling this week (“EU migrants can be denied unconditional benefits”, 12 November) is so important, as it clarifies this long-standing principle in EU law. From now on, when there is an issue with benefit tourism, it will be clear that the problem lies with UK law, not with Brussels.

The Coalition Government has already tightened up the rules in the UK, including by ensuring that EU arrivals cannot claim benefits within three months of arrival. Now there is a need to build on this and address outstanding issues, such as child benefit being sent abroad. That way, we can champion the advantages of EU free movement and put any concerns about benefit tourism soundly to bed.

Catherine Bearder
Liberal Democrat MEP for South East England

London attracts the best teachers

While I agree that the ethnic diversity of pupils contributes to the London effect (“Hard-working ethnic minority pupils lifting schools’ results”, 12 November), I think another factor is the calibre of teachers London attracts. It has so much to offer in the way of culture compared with the rest of the country.

Having taught in London for many years and just retired from teaching in the North-west, I found that here a number of teachers went to local schools, trained at local colleges and then returned to teach in local schools, and had not the breadth of experience and sometimes enthusiasm of London teachers.

Mary Ripley
Silverdale, Lancashire

Why not widen EU arrest warrant?

If the European Arrest Warrant is not an early step towards a pan-European justice system, why isn’t the concept extended to all those countries to which and from which we would be prepared to extradite suspects, whether within the EU or not?

Robert Edwards
Hornchurch, Essex

Victoria (and Albert) like to keep it clean

David (front page, 11 November) has always been in his glory in the V&A. Johanna Puisto has simply given him a bath.

PS: Queen Victoria may have been “shocked” by the statue, but do we know what David thought of her?

Malcolm Addison


Removing 65 ‘unsightly’ pylons will cost £500 million. Opinion is split over whether it is money well spent

Sir, Alice Thomson says that we will all profit if National Grid buries cables underground (Opinion, Nov 12). Her argument seems to be based on the opinion that transmission lines and pylons are an artificial intrusion into otherwise unspoilt landscapes. If this is a valid argument, will we be seeing structures such as the Ribblehead viaduct being dismantled?

If the argument is that pylons are ugly whereas viaducts are beautiful, that is truly in the eyes of the beholder — impossible to be quantifiably defended and open to endless discussion. Conversely, the removal of overhead power lines in certain areas has a measurable effect on all of us. Unlike viaducts that serve only those who wish to travel from one point to another, power transmission lines serve us all, and this is reflected in the 22p addition to everybody’s energy bills.

Moreover, when a transmission line is buried the land above it can never be used for anything that might hinder repairs, and so no trees can be allowed to grow there. Will the resulting barren scars not in themselves be seen in the future as artificial blights on the landscape?

David Lindsley, FIET Hon Fellow
Kingston University

Sir, It is welcome news that National Grid is to spend £500 million on removing unsightly pylons from some of our most beautiful countryside (report, Nov 11). It is absurd, however, that at the very time that it announces these improvements, National Grid is consulting on a “preferred route” for a new power line that would string 50-metre-high pylons for 44km through or close to the Lake District National Park?

Surely the first priority should be to put underground all new grid lines that have to cross National Parks or Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Even stranger, National Grid has identified an “offshore south” alternative route in Cumbria that would take its cables across the sea bed and avoid the Lake District National Park altogether. This route would almost certainly be cheaper, too.

Sir Martin Holdgate
President, Friends of the Lake District, Kendal, Cumbria

Sir, I was struck by the contrast between the stark message in your leader (“The State We’re In”, Nov 11) and the news in the same edition that National Grid is planning to spend £7 million per pylon to reduce its visual impact. As you point out in your leader, we need to decide what we can, and cannot, afford. How can spending £500 million of electricity customers’ money on this scheme be justified? These pylons were built after a robust planning process: reversing the outcome is an unnecessary luxury.

To add insult to injury, we are told by Chris Baines, the environmentalist who is apparently to decide where this money is spent, that consultation on his plans would “take for ever and become parochial”. This is a very different approach to that taken by the green lobby when it opposes infrastructure developments.

Alun Ellis
Tallentire, Cumbria

Sir, You report that the burying of cables to remove 65 pylons will cost £500 million, which I can well believe having buried high-voltage cables myself. What I find remarkable is that National Grid can somehow obtain the money and only charge the ordinary consumer 22p a year. Please let us all know how they do it as I need to borrow a large sum of money to start a wealth creating venture and the repayments are eye-watering in comparison.

Mike Travers, FIET
Saline, Fife

Sir, In the Sixties and Seventies the CEGB employed a group of architects and landscape designers to weave pylons and their cables into the natural folds of the countryside, often very successfully. This art seems to have been forgotten. I would far rather that the wind turbines were buried (or drowned), as parts of our landscape and Liverpool Bay are ruined by them.

Giles Velarde
Battle, E Sussex

Is this the definition of irony? Spending £7 million per pylon to remove unsightly overhead cables while subsidising the erection of wind turbines.

Christopher Wheeldon
London SW13

Nicky Morgan is surely wrong to insist that the way forward for pupils is to stop studying arts

Sir, Nicky Morgan is correct to claim that “it takes a pretty confident 16-year-old to have their whole life mapped out ahead of them” (“Stop studying arts if you want a good job, minister says”, Nov 11), but surely she is wrong to insist that the way forward is to stop studying arts. As a teacher of mathematics I would say the real problem is narrowing choice at 16 towards either science, arts or humanities. A properly rounded programme (such as the International Baccalaureate or a suitable combination of varied A levels) is the only way to guarantee the open career options Ms Morgan supports.

A leading designer who visited my school last term told the pupils that she believed her most important qualification was in foreign languages.

Paul Mitchell

Headmaster, Cobham Hall, Kent

Victor Matfield is not the only veteran rugby player to have enduring power. What about Paul O’Connell?

Sir, Owen Slot (Nov 11) writes an insightful article on the enduring powers of certain rugby veterans, such as Victor Matfield, Richie McCaw and Bakkies Botha. I admire all three but wonder why he did not mention Paul O’Connell: 35 years old, 90-odd caps for Ireland (and a winning ratio), seven caps for the Lions including the captaincy, and a 5-3 winning record in head-to-heads with Matfield, including last Saturday.

Perhaps the answer lies in Mr Slot’s last paragraph. Could it be that for all the criticism it receives, and its relatively limited resources, Irish rugby has it right?

Maurice Byrne

London SW10

David Blunkett is right about the farming radio soap: The Archers has lost its way

Sir, How I agree with David Blunkett about the new editorship of The Archers (Nov 11). Everything is sad and bad and thoroughly depressing, and all my friends who are regular listeners feel the same. We have followed the characters over the years and now some of them have become ridiculously unreal.

Bridget Ryle

Winsford, Somerset

Sir, While I wholeheartedly agree with Mr Blunkett, he seems to have missed Mike Tucker’s point. It was not Mike who wanted to leave the village but Vicky. She persuaded Mike, saying that there would be better opportunities for their daughter, Bethany. In real life, many families who have farmed for generations on the same land have been faced with similar problems of compulsory road or house-building. They have fought their cases, and those who have lost have stayed and diversified to save their livelihoods and farms for the next generation.

David Archer should show he is British and built of sterner stuff and carry the farm forward for Pip . . . not fly the white flag and run.

Laura Shuttleworth

Cherington, Glos

Sir, Lay people tend to attribute knowledge to doctors which they often do not have. Mr Heenan’s assumption (letter, Nov 10) that we will make the diagnosis correctly and go on to predict the time of death accurately is a case in point.
Professor Peter Davies
Liverpool Heart and Chest Hospital


The Let Britain Fly campaign calls on political leaders to make clear manifesto commitments stipulating that they will reach a quick decision on airports expansion

A Virgin Atlantic Airways Boeing 747 Jumbo Jet comes into land at London Gatwick airport

Most of London’s airports will be full by the middle of the next decade Photo: Alamy

12:00AM GMT 13 Nov 2014


SIR – The Airports Commission has launched its public consultation on airports expansion, following its recommendation that the South East needs one new runway by 2030.

The need for action could not be clearer. Heathrow has been full for a decade, Gatwick will be full by 2020, and most of London’s airports will be full by the middle of the next decade. Inactivity is costing our economy billions in lost trade and investment.

The business community wants expansion because our international connectivity is vital to attracting new business and it underpins our competitiveness. We trade 20 times more with countries with which we have a direct air link and, by value, 40 per cent of exports go by air.

The Let Britain Fly campaign is calling on British political leaders to make clear manifesto commitments stipulating that they will reach a quick decision on airports expansion and agree to be guided by the Commission’s final recommendation.

Sir George Iacobescu
Chairman and Chief Executive, Canary Wharf Group
Michael Spencer
Martin Gilbert
Chief Executive, Aberdeen Asset Management
Samir Brikho
Chief Executive, AMEC
Mike Turner CBE
Chairman, Babcock International Group
Robert Elliott
Chairman and Senior Partner, Linklaters
John Allan CBE
Chairman, Barratts Development
Chris Grigg
Chief Executive, British Land
Martin Gilbert
Chief Executive, Aberdeen Asset Management
Nicola Shaw
Chief Executive Officer, HS2
Richard Fursland
CEO, BritishAmerican Business
Samir Brikho
Chief Executive, AMEC
Ian Reeves CBE
Senior Partner, Synaps Partners
Richard Dickinson
Chief Executive, West End Company
Ufi Ibrahim
Chief Executive, British Hospitality Association
John Burns
Chief Executive, Derwent London
Richards Solomons
Chief Executive Officer, InterContinental Hotels Group
Michael Spencer
Angus Knowles-Cutler
London Senior Partner, Deloitte
Colin Stanbridge
Chief Executive, London Chamber of Commerce and Industry
Professor Michael Arthur
President and Provost, UCL
Mark Boleat
Chairman of Policy and Resources Committee, City of London Corporation
Simon Walker
Director General, Institute of Directors
Baroness Jo Valentine
Chief Executive, London First
Surinder Arora
CEO, Arora Holdings
John Allan CBE
Chairman, Barratts Developments
Ian Durant
Chairman, Capital & Counties Properties
Chris Grigg
Chief Executive, British Land
Martin Gilbert
Chief Executive, Aberdeen Asset Management
Rebecca Kane
General Manager, The O2
James Rook
Managing Director, Nimlok
Basil Scarsell
Chief Executive Officer, UK Power Networks
Nicholas Cheffings
Chair, Hogan Lovells International
Mark Reynolds
Chief Executive, Mace Group
Bill Moore CBE
Chief Executive, The Portman Estate
John Stewart
Chairman, Legal and General Group
Gordon Clark
Country Manager, Global Blue
James Rowntree
Managing Director – Transportation (Europe), CH2MHILL
Andrew Murphy
Retail Director, John Lewis Partnership
David Tonkin
Chief Executive Officer, Atkins Global
David Sleath
Chief Executive, SEGRO
Francis Salway
Iain Anderson
Director and Chief Corporate Counsel, Cicero Group
Harold Paisner
Senior Partner, Berwin Leighton Paisner
Sir Win Bischoff
Hugh Seaborn, Chief Executive, Cadogan
John Rhodes
Director, Quod
John Lehal
Managing Director, Insight Public Affairs
Bob Rothenberg
Senior Partner, Blick Rothenberg
Robert M Noel
Chief Executive, Land Securities Group
Inderneel Singh
Group Corporate Development Manager, Edwardian Group London
George Kessler CBE
Group Deputy Chairman, Kesslers International
Kevin Murphy
Chairman, ExCeL London
Michael Ward
Managing Director, Harrods
Sue Brown
Senior Managing Director, FTI Consulting
Mark Lancaster
Chief Executive Officer, SDL
Tim Hancock
Managing Director, Terence O’Rourke
Michael Hirst OBE
Chairman, Business Visits and Events Partnership

The collapsing Tory vote; an inspired tribute at the Tower of London; terror attacks in Nigeria; Britain’s longest viaduct

David Cameron listens to an aide during the Lord Mayor's banquet at the Guildhall

David Cameron listens to an aide during the Lord Mayor’s banquet at the Guildhall Photo: Reuters

7:00AM GMT 12 Nov 2014


SIR – Just two weeks ago, during Prime Minister’s Questions, Ed Miliband asked David Cameron to explain why he was delaying a vote on the European Arrest Warrant (EAW). Mr Cameron answered: “We are going to have a vote. We are going to have it before the Rochester by-election. His questions have just collapsed.”

The chicanery used by the Government to deny MPs the promised vote wasn’t clever. Ukip will certainly benefit from this spectacular own goal.

The only thing collapsing will be the Tory vote.

Nigel Draper
Takeley, Essex

SIR – First there was the sleight-of-hand accounting employed with regard to the £1.7 billion levy from the EU, which David Cameron must have known would be halved by the rebate due on it. Then came Monday’s debacle in Parliament.

Mr Cameron promised a debate on the adoption of the EAW, but it turned out to be a debate on all 35 justice measures being opted back into, with the EAW not even mentioned in the motion.

We are often told by governments that they have “learnt lessons”. It seems that the Prime Minister and his Government have not learnt that these kind of tactics will not endear them to the electorate.

Daniel Bratchell

SIR – The Speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow, criticised the Government’s handling of the EAW matter, saying that failure to hold a vote on the issue had increased voters’ contempt for the parliamentary system.

In fact, among many voters, the repeated failure of Mr Bercow to observe the time-honoured convention of the Speaker’s neutrality is exactly the sort of thing that aggravates the public.

Bob Timmis
Warrington, Cheshire

SIR – The EAW is good news for victims and bad news for those dodging accountability.

John Barstow
Fittleworth, West Sussex

SIR – Adopting the EAW would place every British subject at the mercy of foreign courts and legal systems very different to our own. Without the safeguard of an extradition treaty, foreign judges would have the power to order the arrest of any British person without substantial evidence of a crime having been committed.

Derek Bennett
Walsall, Staffordshire

SIR – Can our legislature not come up with an emergency statute which dovetails into the EAW to achieve what is needed, without further EU integration, and with further permanent legislation outside the EAW that particularly suits British interests?

Quentin Skinner
Lower Zeals, Wiltshire

Poppies at the Tower of London speak to us all

SIR – Paul Cummins’s inspired tribute at the Tower of London has brought us all together irrespective of colour, class or creed: something that no single individual has managed to do since, perhaps, the Rev David Railton and his similarly inspired idea of the Unknown Soldier.

I would like to think that this country might honour Paul Cummins in the New Year Honours with a knighthood.

Geoffrey Aldridge
Wingrave, Buckinghamshire

SIR – The image of the poppies in the Tower of London’s moat is very poignant.

My grandfather was in the 3rd Battalion Grenadier Guards from 1908-11. During that period he was often posted to the Tower, where he used to play football in the moat with his fellow soldiers.

As a reservist, he was called up at the outbreak of war and posted to the 1st Battalion Grenadier Guards, with whom he landed at Zeebrugge in early October 1914. He took part in the famous Christmas Day football matches, but spoke very little of this for many years. It was, of course, a treasonable offence to fraternise with the enemy.

Later, he was seriously wounded at the 2nd Battle of Ypres in April 1915, and never returned to the Front. He was one of the lucky ones.

J R Martin
Colchester, Essex

SIR – The poppy installation at the Tower is wonderful. My own poppy will be placed on my father’s grave in a small churchyard north of Glasgow.

Born in 1921, he was a soldier in the Second World War, and died last year. He was well known locally for poppy collections and collected his last can just before his death.

Every purchased poppy has a story.

Marlyn Watt
Alicante, Spain

Nigerian school attack

SIR – In the early Sixties I worked in Northern Nigeria as an education officer, teaching at the Provincial Girls’ School in Bauchi. There were 100 girls in the school, who came from all parts of the province. Many continued their education at a secondary school in Kano and, generally, the education of girls was encouraged.

The school was visited by Sir Ahmadu Bello, the premier of the Northern Nigeria region while I was teaching there, and he appeared to be very pleased with the education the girls were receiving. He recommended that the head teacher of the school, Margaret Shier, should be awarded an MBE for her work over more than eight years to promote the education of girls in the region.

I am so sad that, 50 years later, so much damage is being done to the education of both girls and boys in this part of Nigeria. Girls have been targeted in previous attacks and the horrific killing of so many boys at a school in Potiskum on Monday, in a suspected Boko Haram suicide bombing, is such a backward step.

Rosemary Pardey
Cuckfield, West Sussex

A fond farewell

SIR – At a time when we hear so many stories about the poor treatment of vulnerable patients, it was refreshing to read the report about Sheila Marsh, who was granted a visit from her favourite horse in the grounds of the hospital where she died a few hours later.

Well done Wigan Royal Infirmary for this outstanding example of listening to the requests of end-of-life patients, and showing what can be done to allow them to die peacefully and with dignity.

Margaret Senior
Uppingham, Rutland

Absorbing languages

SIR – Catherine Ford believes children as young as three should start acquiring other languages in order to reap the benefits of bilingualism.

Research published over several decades suggests that older children generally progress faster in second languages than younger children; language acquisition is possible at any age; and those who begin as adults can achieve very high levels of proficiency in second languages.

One of the world’s greatest polyglots, Kató Lomb, who mastered 17 languages, started acquiring other languages in her twenties. When I met her 20 years ago in Budapest, she was working on number 18 at age 86.

Stephen Krashen
Professor Emeritus, University of Southern California
Los Angeles, California

Talk of the town

SIR – The company I worked for transferred me to their Haverfordwest branch. Colleagues later told me that this posting was known as “Haveagoodrest”.

Gordon Doughty
Hook, Pembrokeshire

SIR – Reflecting the current woes of the local football team, there are children growing up in Blackpool who genuinely believe that their home town is called “Blackpool-Nil”.

Bill Honeywell
Clitheroe, Lancashire

SIR – Us’ns on the Isle of Woight calls that gurt lump close to us’ns “North Island”.

Bill Miller
St Lawrence, Isle of Wight

Stay-at-home mothers

SIR – I hardly think that Karren Brady, newly appointed Baroness Brady of Knightsbridge, is a role model for mothers who elect not to return to work, given that she spent only five months at home with her daughter.

When I had my son I gave up a fairly lucrative career as a lawyer to take care of his needs, and I enjoyed every minute of it.

It is my belief that many of the moral and practical shortcomings of children today can be laid at the door of parents who put their careers before the needs of their children. Women are continually being “nudged” by this government to return to work against their better judgment.

Eileen Godfrey

SIR – I thought stay-at-home mothers stayed at home – at least until their youngest child was at school. Five months sounds more like maternity leave.

M E van Rees
Lindale, Cumbria

Backing soundtrack

SIR – You refer to a scene in Casablanca in which “Dooley Wilson plays the film’s signature song As Time Goes By” (report, November 10).

Dooley Wilson was a drummer and could not play the piano. The music for that and other scenes was provided by Elliot Carpenter, who sat at a second piano on the set, out of sight of the camera. Wilson was thus able to observe and copy his arm and hand movements.

John Carter
Bromley, Kent

Let there be light

SIR – In the northern hemisphere, on any day after the spring equinox and before the autumn equinox, it is possible for the sun to shine through the left-hand windows when looking towards the altar in a church with the altar in the east (Letters, November 6).

Martin Mears
East Ord, Northumberland

Bottoms on seats

SIR – Does the cinema that has had to replace its Victorian-sized seats so as to accommodate modern audiences’ bigger bottoms (report, November 10) still sell popcorn, ice cream, cola and chocolates?

Anne Jappie
Cheltenham, Gloucestershire

View from the longest railway viaduct in Britain

SIR – Thank you for the beautiful picture of the steam train crossing the Harringworth Viaduct (report, November 10). It is not, however, the longest masonry viaduct in Britain.

The London and Greenwich railway – at around 3.75 miles long and entirely on a viaduct – is longer. The Harringworth Viaduct is the longest across a valley.

Keith Ferris
Maidstone, Kent

SIR – I wonder at what point the longest masonry viaduct across a beautiful Rutland valley became regarded as “magnificent”.

There are lessons for those involved in the construction of HS2 to build with the style and quality of our Victorian forefathers, ensuring that the construction projects of today will be viewed as magnificent additions in the future.

J S Hirst
Huddersfield, West Yorkshire

Irish Times:

Sir, – Thank you to the authors of the Garda Inspectorate report (“Garda chief denies crime figures massaged”, Front Page, November 12th). This is the first time that our fears for the policing of Ireland have been clearly enunciated and confirmed by experts who have set out clear steps to correct the situation.

Generally, such reports are carefully prepared, read by a few interested parties, and carefully shelved, never to see the light of another day.

We can all remember the announcement that the penalty points scandal was over. It would never be allowed to happen again. Except, of course, that it did.

This report needs to be read by everybody. The state of An Garda Síochána is truly appalling. The overhaul cannot be carried out from within. The appointment of a new commissioner should be the result of a global search. He or she needs to have a towering reputation and a zeal for reform.

We need to take a firm approach to the implementation of the recommendations of the inspectorate.

The working members of An Garda Síochána must have a voice in the reform required. We appreciate their goodwill and their desire to serve the public. Above all, we must listen to them. – Yours, etc,



Co Dublin.

Sir, – One of the failings of our systems for recording crime highlighted in the Garda Inspectorate report is the failure to reflect accurately levels of racism and hate crime, an issue which the Immigrant Council of Ireland has worked on for over a decade. The report notes that “during inspection visits the inspectorate asked gardaí of all ranks about investigating racist and homophobic crimes and not one garda reported that they had ever recorded such a crime or investigated an offence”.

Last year we produced figures that show that the levels of racism reported to the PSNI were 700 per cent higher than those recorded by An Garda Síochána.

The gap is so wide that, even allowing for different legal definitions and laws, clearly something is wrong.

Failure to record an accurate picture of levels of racism not only inadvertently sends a message to victims that if they come forward their complaints will not be taken seriously, but also prevents an evidence-based approach to future policy and laws.

It is worth noting that through our own reporting systems, the Immigrant Council of Ireland recorded an 85 per cent increase in cases last year, while year-to-date figures for 2014 show a further increase of 55 per cent.

We are committed to continuing our work with partners across a range of sectors, including the Garda, to ensure the delivery of a robust reporting system which offers support and justice to victims and laws which are fit for purpose. – Yours, etc,


Chief Executive,

Immigrant Council

of Ireland,

Andrew Street,

Dublin 2.

A chara, – After paying for water charges since coming to London three years ago from Donegal, I think it is fair to pay for the service. If it’s not paid for, then there is nothing to invest in improving the service. I agree that a lot of the water services in Ireland are substandard and the infrastructure less than appropriate, but if someone doesn’t pay for it, it will never be improved.

That said, I really can’t get my head around the nonsense of the charges – one person is this charge, three children are another, etc. At what point is a child “chargeable”? If a child goes away to university and is home at the weekend, are they charged for the two days at home? What about families where one spouse is away in Canada half the time – do they have to register for the few precious weeks they spend at home with their children? What about people who spend days looking after their sick or elderly relatives on a regular basis? Are they charged at their own home or the home of the person they look after?

My husband and I pay around £25 a month for water. But we have the advantage in the UK of there being choice in the supplier. Yes, some homes are metered and others are not and they work it out, but this situation of how many people live at a property is insane! We should learn from others, and not create a system from nothing, a system that is virtually impossible to understand and to keep track of. – Is mise,



Sir, – The suggestion that water services could be the subject of a constitutional referendum is outlandish (“Alan Kelly refuses to rule out vote on Irish Water ownership”, November 5th).

The Minister for the Environment ought to acquaint himself with the unhappy experience of Germany after it embarked on such a venture. When its postwar constitution was drafted in 1948, a provision was included that explicitly placed all of the country’s motorways in state ownership, a clause which survives to this day. The unforeseen consequence of this became clear decades later when the German Constitutional Court ruled that any attempts by the German federal government to develop the motorways through public-private partnerships were unconstitutional and that only publicly funded development was permissible.

The Government has already held six referendums since it came to office and has pledged further votes on same-sex marriage, the voting age, and the age of presidential candidates, all of which are Labour Party vanity projects of no relevance to those seeking employment or struggling to pay the bills. So why on earth should we add another potentially dangerous referendum into this mix?

The management of our water services should be left in the hands of the Oireachtas and future governments that will ultimately be accountable to the people for any decisions they make. – Yours, etc,


Clontarf, Dublin 3.

A chara, – Your main editorial of November 11th (“Cultural vandalism”) hits several nails on the head. You write, “The €4 million fund allocated to the 2016 commemorations would be better spent safeguarding the heritage that previous generations did so much to gather and build into collections of vital importance to understanding the past”.

Over the past year or so, you have published several letters from your readers making the same general point. Is there anyone listening out there? Please remind me, why exactly do we have a Minister for the Arts? – Is mise,



Baile Átha Cliath 6.

Sir, – In your editorial, you refer to the record of the Government in areas of arts and heritage, the economic arguments for investment in the arts and the need for more voices to be heard from the arts community.

A new way of thinking is needed to allow our cultural sectors to develop and flourish involving collaboration between the arts community, private sector business and government. A strong lobbying voice for the economic and commercial interests of people in these sectors is required.

It is for these reasons that the Chamber of Arts, Heritage and Culture was established in 2013 to address a deficit which we identified in the support available for creative people who wished to commercialise their ideas. We started a conversation at our inaugural forum in Dublin Castle in January 2014 on how our cultural resources could be harnessed to make them key economic drivers; this led to the launch of our strategic plan in June.

Quite apart from the economic arguments, arts, heritage and culture should be supported in themselves for their intrinsic value and as they are essential to who we are as a people. However, the economic arguments based on our research are absolutely compelling.

These sectors are the largest contributors to GDP in a number of EU countries, government subsidies are a tiny part of the income generated by these sectors and the type of employment created in them is exactly the type of long-term, diversified and sustainable jobs that are needed for the development of a knowledge economy.

We call on Government to examine the clear and compelling economic data and ensure that these sectors are supported in the same way that other key economic sectors are supported.

Our cultural resources are our greatest resource as a people but they can also be our greatest economic resource and as we approach the centenary of 1916 we have an unparalleled opportunity not just to safeguard and develop our rich tradition in arts, heritage and culture but to also harness these unique resources to drive our economic renewal. – Yours, etc,




Chief Executive,

Chamber of Arts,

Heritage and Culture

(Ireland) Limited,

21 Castle Street,

Dalkey, Co Dublin.

Sir, – Kathryn Holmquist’s piece deserves further attention (“Does prostitution demean, degrade and dehumanise the buyers of sex?”, November 12th). For in turning the spotlight on those who buy sex, Ms Holmquist has looked at a crucial cohort, which all of your letter writers have managed to ignore skilfully, thus far.

If we are to have a full and frank examination of the prostitution issue, surely we need to focus on the men (and some women) who feel entitled to buy sex from women (and some men). This sense of entitlement is surely critical to an honest analysis of this multibillion euro worldwide industry, which would be non-existent without the demand it enjoys? – Yours, etc,


Dublin 15.

Sir , – Whether you agree or disagree with prostitution, everyone has to be concerned with the very high risk of violence to those engaged – mainly female – in the prostitution trade. But not alone is there the risk of violence, but also the risk of disease and ill health.

I have no doubt but that the suggestion of having licensed brothels will give rise to moral outrage and anger but at least the issue should be discussed. – Yours, etc,


Blackrock, Co Louth.

Sir, –In the current debates about prostitution and the law, surely consideration should be given to viewing both the actions of seller and buyer as unlawful and even more importantly, unethical. We should speak loudly and clearly against enshrining in law the perspective of the human body as a mere commodity for sale. Such perspectives are an abuse of common humanity and demeaning of the whole human family. – Yours, etc,


Dublin 16.

Sir, – Michael Austin counts himself among those who believe same-sex marriage to be “biologically impossible” (November 12th). In all my years of scientific and medical training, nowhere have I come across the biological process of marriage. There is a social construct of marriage and a religious construct of marriage, both of which are engaged with during traditional “church” marriages. Both these constructs involve the ideal of two individuals who love one another and are willing to commit publicly to one another. It should only be the religious version of marriage that is allowed to exclude same-sex couples, based on that religion’s particular beliefs system. The state should remain blind to the gender make up of any loving couple brave enough to seek permanent union. – Yours, etc,



Dublin 18.

A chara, – If we vote next year to extend the meaning of “marriage” to cover same-sex relationships, how, in fairness can we refuse to include bisexual relationships? – Is mise,




Sir, – As a self-employed person, I need a tax-clearance certificate each year. For some bizarre reason, the state agency I work for stops payments to me several weeks before the previous year’s tax-clearance certificate runs out.

Although my accounts were submitted well within the deadline of October 31st (tax paid and my current account debited within hours), I still have not received a tax-clearance certificate, which means all payments to me are blocked.

I have not been paid since September 19th and have no idea when I will be. Tax clearance should issue automatically so that self-employed people are not left without income for many weeks. This can put us out of business.

I really dread this time of year, every year, because state agencies make things so unnecessarily difficult and complicated.

Our public servants have no consideration whatsoever for struggling self-employed people. – Yours, etc,



Dublin 7.

Sir, – We must congratulate Javier Garrigues, the Spanish ambassador, for his letter (November 12th) summarising the Spanish government’s myopic view of the Catalan question. This view is certainly very useful when the objective is to garner votes for Spanish nationalist parties.

Unfortunately, as much of the recent international press coverage has shown, it is very hard to sell inside any modern democracy, especially so shortly after the exemplary Scottish referendum. What Mr Garrigues fails to see is that we are facing a political problem of massive proportions that needs to be solved with a large amount of political courage and not through the courts of law.

Negotiation by using a highly politicised constitutional court whose president was a member of the ruling PP party is not only fruitless but has been a great help to the pro-independence movement, which has grown spectacularly over the last few years. An outdated, unchanged constitution drafted under the watchful eye of the 1978 military cannot be used to stop the legitimate demands of a sizeable portion of the Catalan population.

So far the replies from Madrid to any negotiation attempts coming out of Catalonia are reminiscent of a different conflict on this island and could be simply summed up as “Madrid says no”. – Yours, etc,





Catalan Council

of Ireland,

Navan Road, Dublin 7.

Sir, – While it is fascinating to hear of the involvement of Irish scientists in designing a probe to land on a tiny comet 500 million kilometres from Earth (“Scientists ready for mission to land probe on comet”, November 12th), I wonder why we on Arranmore cannot receive fibre-optic broadband. We are only 4.8 km from mainland Ireland. – Yours, etc,


Arranmore Island,

Co Donegal.

Sir, – Throwing a washing machine at a rock – isn’t that going a bit far? – Yours, etc,



Dublin 16.

A chara, – Bernard Neary (November 12th) wonders if RTÉ would be allowed to create a series chronicling how our country was ruined by affluent ne’er-do-wells. I suggest he watches Charlie when it screens. – Is mise,




Sir, – For many years Irish audiences were entertained on a Sunday night by The Riordans, Bracken and Glenroe, dramas centred on the lives of people living in rural Ireland. These are now replaced by a new drama series Love/Hate, a drama depicting life in Dublin’s criminal underworld. It has gripped the nation. Old Ireland appears to be dead and gone. Are our values, respect and decency heading for the grave with it? – Yours, etc,



Co Longford.

Sir, – While the Central Bank is to be commended for imposing the maximum possible fine on Ulster Bank for its technology-related snafu, the paltry penalty shows that our politicians must now update the legislation to give it real teeth. A fine of €3.5 million per day would, I am sure, encourage a speedier resolution should this entirely avoidable problem recur. – Yours, etc,



Co Louth.

Sir, – Perhaps Frank Byrne (November 11th) cuts to the heart of the matter when he says “nine customers waited patiently” and “without complaint” as an oblivious mother ahead of them indulged her toddler to play at scanning items at the “express” checkout! – Yours, etc,


Naas, Co Kildare.

Sir, – If we recalled the maxim that “Nobody loves your children as much as you do”, we would have no trouble. – Yours,


Dublin 13.

Irish Independent:

If a Martian was tuning in to the Irish Water discussion, she/he would hear:

1. A public sector group of politicians sets up a utility at the behest of a European group of public sector central bankers;

2. The details are designed by public sector civil servants;

3. These are then implemented by ex-public sector and semi-state executives and managers – and it is such a good example of the workings of the public sector that we need a referendum to ensure that it stays in the public sector!

The privatisation issue is complex and best approached pragmatically, but in the two privatisations I was involved in:

1. We did not “pass on” waste to our customers by locking in restrictive practices and overmanning for 15 years – rather, we removed waste (including lots of senior positions to create the space for internal promotion of talent and commitment);

2. We immediately removed promotion by seniority and extra pay for just being there and instead promoted talent at all levels (often supported by union reps once we established trust);

3. We explicitly changed the culture of entitlement and perks to one of service to the customer and community.

Irish Water was an opportunity to demonstrate what a group of committed and talented Irish people could do in building a world-class utility from the bottom up.

Our so-called leaders did the precise opposite. Tragic.

Frank Devine

Kenilworth, Warwickshire, UK

Mum’s letter struck a chord

Donna Hartnett’s letter (Irish Independent, November 11) was heart-wrenching. She is speaking for thousands of young families.

One issue I would like to take up with journalists is a term that maddens me – “ordinary people”. Which of us are not the “ordinary people”? What makes people non-ordinary? How do I become non-ordinary? Essay please on this – is the term only found in Ireland?

Great paper- keep up the good work.

Imelda Walsh

Address with Editor

There are few things that will turn me to tears but the letter penned by Donna Hartnett was it for me this time.

Reading her letter, I felt she had hidden cameras in my house, as she encapsulated how I feel day in, day out.

Her interview with you (Irish Independent, November 12), where she says, “Ordinary working people are in a prison of bills, debts and taxes. People who never took a gamble on the property or stock markets,” had me nodding continually as I read each word.

When she spoke of her child being sick and her first thought was about work and her job, I felt a huge pain in my heart. I’ve been there, done that, and bought that T-shirt. My mother (a saint in my eyes) has brought my daughter at least three times to her GP in the last two years, because I work full-time and it’s impossible to take a day off at short notice, and unfair to my employer.

My thoughts of the future are encapsulated in the words of another Irish person: “When I was young I thought that money was the most important thing in life; now that I am old, I know that it is” (Oscar Wilde).

Fiona Purcell

Drogheda, Co Louth

A priest protests

It is time for us all to unite in peaceful, but firm, protest against the water charges.

We should do this as an act of social justice, and as a belated statement of solidarity with the thousands of Irishmen and women who simply cannot take anymore. We should protest against the charges in themselves, but also at the persistent lack of good communication, which has, in turn, led to unnecessary fear.

Our water system needs to be repaired and properly maintained. However, I believe every citizen in this country is entitled to a basic amount of water, to wash, to cook, to launder. This calculated average amount of water should be free. After this, and only then, should charges be introduced.

Here are some ways I would like to suggest for effective peaceful protest:

1. Wherever a member of the government parties is speaking, select a member of the audience to throw a shoe up beside or past them.

2. Wherever a member of the government parties is speaking, arrange for the audience to stand and turn their backs on them.

3. Present public representatives, who do not clearly oppose water charges, with your written resolve not to vote for them at the next election.

4. Arrange for public ceremonial burning of the water packs.

We could call it the shoe, back, no vote and burn protest.

Fr Joe McDonald

St Matthew’s, Ballyfermot, Dublin 10

No love for ‘Love/Hate’

For many years, Irish audiences were entertained on a Sunday night by ‘The Riordans’, ‘Bracken’ and ‘Glenroe’, dramas centred on the lives of people living in rural Ireland.

These are now replaced by a new drama series ‘Love/Hate’, a show depicting life in Dublin’s criminal underworld. It has gripped the nation. Old Ireland appears to be dead and gone – are our values, respect and decency heading for the grave with it?

Thomas Dennigan

Newtowncashel, Co Longford

GAA’s capital gains

I would like to make a few comments on Eugene McGee’s article (Irish Independent, November 10).

With the population that Dublin has, and the very many more clubs and players, if they have the proper organisation and commitment then they are bound to have more players of the required calibre than, say, smaller counties like Carlow or Longford.

This has become very obvious over the past 10 years. If Offaly were to beat Longford and play Dublin in O’Connor Park, why would Dublin get 15,000 tickets (rather than 10,000) out of 20,000? Why are clubs in Dublin not based on parishes, as in other parts of the country? And why do some other clubs draw from several parishes and consequently have a huge population of players, compared to some tiny parishes down the country?

Name and Address with Editor

Long live the letters page

I wish to welcome back Mr Declan Doyle to your letters page after a pretty long absence (Irish Independent, November 11). Of all your contributors, and I have contributed a few letters myself in the past, his submissions were well balanced and insightful, and just like Mr Downey said last week, I hope the Irish Independent is not dropping the letters page on a Monday. As he said, it is the first page I read. Others read the sports or business first and that’s fine. Me, I just like to see what people are thinking.

We hear far too much from politicians, celebrities and every other media-junkie. The letters page lets ordinary people talk back. In truth, it should be mandatory for the political class to read the letters page. I look forward to continuing to read Messrs Doyle, Downey, O’Sullivan, Doran, Fitzgerald et al in the future.

Also, I am delighted Ian O’Doherty is now in the mainstream op-ed section. There is far too much consensus among opinion formers and a contrarian and part-time satirist is always welcome.

Frank Buckley

Tullamore, Co Offaly

Let’s get some perspective

The CSO tell us that the average household spends €26 per week on alcohol. There have been over 5 million trips abroad by Irish people so far this year. There have been 95,000 cars sold this year to date, with an average cost per car of €20,000.

The people who holiday abroad, spend huge amounts on alcohol and buy new cars – are these the same people who now say they cannot afford the water charges?

Eunan McNeill

Letterkenny, Co Donegal

Irish Independent

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