16 December 2014 Sharland

I still have arthritis in my left toe but its nearly gone. I go out to the paper sop, the post office, the chemist the tip, 6 bags of leaves gone, Mark and Spencers for Mary’s mussels, and the chemist again, and the Co op. Sharland comes to call.

Mary’s back much better today, breakfast weight up trout for tea and her tummy pain is still there.


Gil Marks was a rabbi and cookery writer whose books explored the scriptural background of matzos, blintzes and latkes

Gil Marks


Gil Marks, who has died aged 62, was a celebrated rabbi-chef; his five books on kosher cuisine, which included the Encyclopedia of Jewish Food (2010), catalogued such delicacies as honey-nut sfratto cookies (beloved of Tuscan Jews), Passover sponge cake, and blintzes and latkes of every description.

“To Jews, food is much more than just a form of nourishment or enjoyment,” wrote Marks. “Food plays a central part in Jewish ceremonies. There are two ways food is represented. First, there are foods that are biblically prescribed for rituals, and second are the Jewish comfort foods. When you eat them it brings back nostalgia and warmth, like matzo ball soup.”

The kosher rules that govern how food is acquired, cooked and eaten create a larderful of challenges for a chef. Pork and shellfish are forbidden, and further restrictions take effect during Passover, when eating and cooking any meat or dairy product is prohibited, as is the use of leavening agents. “It’s almost like a game to see what you can do with these limitations,” said Marks.

A self-confessed “Jewish foodie”, Marks combined the spiritual, historical and sensual in his books, which set out to educate Jewish and Gentile readers alike. “I’m… bringing the rabbi and rebbetzin [wife of a rabbi] in at one time,” he joked. “I can do the sermons and the speeches and the cooking demonstration too.”

Gilbert Stanley Marks was born on May 30 1952 in Charleston, West Virginia. He attended Talmudical Academy in Baltimore before studying Jewish History at Yeshiva University in New York. He remained at the university for a masters degree in social work and was ordained as a rabbi at the affiliated Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary. From 1986 to 1992 he edited Kosher Gourmet magazine, after which he turned to his own writing, publishing his first cookbook, The World of Jewish Cooking: More Than 500 Traditional Recipes from Alsace to Yemen, four years later.

Marks considered that by providing delicious suggestions for Passover he was helping Jews to bond with their forefathers: “Eating these foods is transcending time. You’re eating the same food as ancestors 3,000 years before.”

Marks wrote of the pleasures of the Seder plate, a collection of symbolic foods. These include bitter herbs, which represent the harsh experience of enslavement, and matzos, which allude to the unleavened bread that the Israelites ate on their exile from Egypt. He liked to repeat the well-worn Jewish joke: “They tried to kill us, we won, now let’s eat.” The Seder feast, he said, was “an educational tool for parents to instruct children on the beginning of biblical history”.

Cookery books by Gil Marks

The historical and scriptural context of recipes and culinary traditions informed much of his writing and teaching. For instance, he explained that during Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year) Jewish taste buds search out sugary treats as “a reflection of a hope for a sweet year to come”.

Marks himself had a sweet tooth. Some reviewers, however, claimed that he had stretched the definition of a Jewish pudding too far in his survey The World of Jewish Desserts (2000). “As with many of the recipes included here,” complained one critic, “the Hungarian sugar cookies (klaitcha), Moroccan sweet yeast buns (fackasch), Turkish semolina custard pie (galactoboureko) and Alsatian fruit custard tart (tarte Alsacienne) are not traced by Marks to Jewish culinary tradition.”

In 2010 Marks’s studies culminated in a vast 650-page encyclopedia of Jewish food which included more than 300 recipes, from adafina (a Sephardic Sabbath stew) to melawach (a fried bread favoured by Yemenite Jews). His other books are The World of Jewish Entertaining: Menus and Recipes for the Sabbath, Holidays, and Other Family Celebrations (1998) and Olive Trees and Honey: A Treasury of Vegetarian Recipes from Jewish Communities around the World (2004), which won a James Beard Foundation Award. He had recently completed a history of American cakes.

Although he was a long-standing resident of New York, towards the end of his life Marks moved to Israel, settling near his family in Alon Shvut, a settlement south-west of Jerusalem. He became an Israeli citizen in 2012, the year he was diagnosed with lung cancer. Writing to a friend soon after his diagnosis, Marks joked that he was more concerned with the state of his meringues: “Left them in the oven overnight to dry. Forgot and turned on the oven to start the day’s cooking. Not a pretty sight.”

He continued to write an online column on confectionery and teach cooking classes to local children until shortly before his death.

Gil Marks was unmarried and is survived by his mother, two brothers and two sisters.

Gil Marks, born May 30 1952, died December 5 2014


A worker collects coffee beans in Nicaragua
A worker collects coffee beans in Nicaragua. Photograph: Inti Ocon/AFP/Getty Images

While there’s no doubt corporate power needs to be curbed, Nesrine Malik (Opinion, 10 December) proposes a “single sales factor apportionment” to tax corporations based on where sales are made, not where profits are reported. But sales are where profits are realised, not where they are made. Offshore production of goods and services consumed in the UK will mean the workers producing these goods and services – and creating the profits – will get little benefit from tax receipts in their country compared to the UK. This would apply to developing world commodities, such as coffee and precious metals, largely ending up as consumer goods in the west, where the tax would end up under the single sales factor apportionment.
Ted Watson
Brighton, East Sussex

• As you say (Editorial, 13 December), government does indeed have powers that it shrinks from using in dealing with antisocial firms, and you cite the need to force those vying for public contracts to pay the living wage. One obvious place to begin is with the clinical commissioning groups handing out tens of millions to contracting firms as the NHS is privatised by stealth. Stockport NHS Watch, a voluntary group formed to monitor the awarding of contracts by the Stockport CCG, has been urging the inclusion of an ethical clause in its procurement policy that would require the payment of the living wage. Hiding behind “legal advice”, the content of which has not been disclosed, the CCG has rejected this and, in consequence, a formal complaint was entered last week that it has failed in its statutory duty to consult in good faith with interested parties. It may be too much to hope that the embarrassment of having to defend the indefensible will cause the CCG to have second thoughts. A surer way of forcing progress would be for the Labour party to pledge that its intended repeal of the Health and Social Care Act will include an obligation on all CCGs to apply such a measure in future contracts.
Dr Anthony Carew
Stockport, Cheshire

• You editorial should have added two points. First, once a contract has been agreed between a company and a local council or part of central government, the documents should be made available for viewing by the public. Second, directors of companies should be held personally liable for fines imposed on their company for any acts of malfeasance. That would concentrate their minds.
Richard Dargan
Old Coulsdon, Surrey

Activistsin Belgium protest against TTIP
Activists demonstrate against the planned TTIP free trade agreement in Brussels, Belgium, December 2014. Photograph: Jonas Sch ll/dpa/Corbis

Ian Traynor (Report, 9 December) makes some powerful points for and against the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership being negotiated between Washington and Brussels. There is some difficult negotiating ahead and ultimately a rough ride during the ratification process in the European parliament, since the Lisbon treaty gave the parliament the final say over all trade agreements. The Europeans surely will want some say over the limits of US companies tax avoidance manoeuvres in Europe. Equally, there will be a major stand-off between US and European-style regulation. They will need to be harmonised to bring the full benefits to both sides, but at the moment they are poles apart. Exactly where the compromise ends up matters.

Globally TTIP is one leg of a triangle of deals. There are the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations between the US and 11 Asian Pacific countries, but dominated by Japan-US bilateral trade, and the EU-Japan Free Trade Agreement now in the final phase of negotiations. But if we want to negotiate from a position of strength, we should seal the deal with Japan first, getting Tokyo on board with our high standards of consumer, environmental and safety regulations. The EU-Japan deal would be the world’s biggest trade agreement, with only the TTIP as a potentially bigger deal. With that in the bag, Brussels – and Tokyo – would have powerful leverage over Washington to ensure a TTIP agreement shaped in our interests and reflecting our concerns.
Glyn Ford
Former MEP and member of the international trade committee

• Some 340 cases are known to have gone to arbitration under existing trade and investment agreements with ISDS, a model in which decisions are made by arbitrators who are not accountable to anyone, under a process in which civil society has no right to know who has given evidence, what that evidence was, or what arguments were made, and has no right of appeal. Hence in a dispute between a company and a government, the decision may negate democratic government policy.
Jenny Parsons
Cottingham, East Yorkshire

• Contrary to your report, the investor-state dispute settlement provisions in the proposed TTIP could well give corporations more powers over national sovereignty. The government’s own report on ISDS, by LSE Enterprise, found that the analogous Nafta pact permitted US corporations to mount 34 compensation claims in 15 years against Canada over corporate business exclusion because of state restrictions, such as health and environmental regulations. These claims amounted to $5bn at an average cost and even when unsuccessful, cost $4m to the defending party. Under TTIP the amount of cases and costs would probably be higher because of the greater volume of business between the US and UK. So it is incorrect to dub European fears “not necessarily rational”. They could be, for example, a significant financial deterrent to any “de-privatisation” of the NHS.
Bryn Jones

• You say governments could “force firms vying for public contracts to pay a living wage”. But already, under a treaty between France and Egypt including ISDS, French multinational Veolia is suing the Egyptian government for compensation after it dared to raise the minimum wage. The Guardian has an immense power for good when you throw its full weight into a campaign, as you have done admirably over NSA and GCHQ. But you’ve done little to publicise the TTIP, which is a far greater long-term threat to democracy. Please join the fight against TTIP and ISDS before it’s too late.
John Heawood

luxembourg city centre
‘Companies such as Skype and Disney are among the firms using Luxembourg for tax avoidance.’ Photograph: Graeme Robertson

George Monbiot’s proposals for fighting corporate power (8 December) are spot-on with one exception. The concessions he makes to “commercial confidentiality” would open a loophole that would be exploited to the full. Perhaps there are areas where some kind of confidentiality is justified on commercial grounds, and where the public interest in transparency should be overruled, but I have never understood precisely what these are. Any exceptions should be very much limited, and subject to tight independent scrutiny.
Kevin McGrath
Harlow, Essex

• One problem with the primacy of shareholders is the role of institutional investors. These allocate our money saved in pensions and Isas, yet we have no direct way to hold to account the companies where they invest our money. Institutional investors are supposed to act on our behalf, but they have their own interests and incentives. Savers are shut out of the investment system, unable to influence corporate behaviour as shareholders.
Dr Alex May

• You reveal (Case studies, 10 December) that Skype and Disney are among the firms using Luxembourg for tax avoidance. It is even more disturbing that companies which contract with the UK government, such as Atos, Serco, G4S, and train companies, such as East Midlands Trains also use extensive tax avoidance methods. This not only undermines the tax base, offering George Osborne an excuse for further massive cuts in public expenditure, it also undermines fair competition, weakening the relative position of purely UK-based companies. We need new government procurement rules which ban companies which engage in elaborate tax-avoidance schemes from competing for government contracts. This would probably require agreement at EU level.
David Price

• There have been a lot of stories about the Big Six (energy companies) and the Big Five (banks). Isn’t it about time we learned more about the Big Four: EY, Deloitte, KPMG and PWC and what part the auditors’ advice plays?
Ruth Eversley
Paulton, Somerset

• We now learn that, as well as bankers, senior officials of the Financial Conduct Authority expect annual bonuses (Report, 11 December). Why?
Professor John Bryant

• I’m thoroughly enjoying your expose of the tax avoidance schemes in Luxembourg, however i’m puzzled by the silence on the matter from Labour party, is it because some of these schemes have been designed by KPMG, which, you point out, paid for Ed Balls’s researcher?
Nicholas Whitmore
Newcastle upon Tyne

Occupy protesters in Parliament Square
Protestors from the Occupy group attempt to stop traffic in Parliament Square, November 2014. Photograph: Anthony Devlin/PA

While your Taming corporate power series offered some useful ideas for reining in the power of corporations, it largely failed to confront the fact that our government and politics has become so corrupted by corporate power that such reforms are highly unlikely. What is required, we believe, is to first make reforms to our democracy so that it starts to work for the common good rather than private interests. This requires removing the influence of corporations entirely through reforms in the areas of party funding and lobbying, closing the revolving door between government and corporations, ending the culture of corporate secondment, introducing proportional representation, democratising the City of London Corporation and the removal of the Remembrancer.

Obviously, as supporters of a direct action organisation looking to create a mass movement, we don’t believe politicians will roll over and enact these reforms if simply asked. Thus we assert the need for a mass gathering of people every month in Parliament Square until the general election, simultaneously putting pressure on politicians while creating a space where people can learn about corporate influence and experience true democracy.
Joseph Todd and Phil England
#occupydemocracy activists, London

• Good analysis but wishful thinking by Nesrine Malik (10 December) that what’s required to chop “global fat cats … down to size” is solely “political pressure from voters”. After huge public and NGO pressure against it, Cameron’s Lobbying Act, as George Monbiot said, “restricts the activities of charities and trade unions but imposes no meaningful restraint on corporations”. Similarly the Health and Social Care Act became law in spite of tremendous public and professional outcry against it, voted in by many politicians with interests in healthcare companies. Revolving doors are also thriving illustrated by Deloitte’s (formerly HMRC’s) Dave Hartnett and NHS England’s Simon Stevens (formerly United Health group and Blair’s adviser). The Remembrancer and his lawyers represent City of London interests from their office in the House of Commons. Such formidable powers can be opposed but it will take at the very least a brave campaigning newspaper, together with campaigning email petitioners, to galvanise and organise those voters.
David Murray
Wallington, Surrey

An electronic stock board
‘Too many companies have become increasingly financialised, so that their primary objective is realising a short-term profit.’ Photograph: Stringer Shanghai/REUTERS

Prem Sikka provides a welcome counterblast to the prevailing orthodoxy of the sanctity of shareholder supremacy and corporate power (Break the stranglehold of shareholders, 11 December). In an era where long-term investment in research and development is needed, the current corporate framework actively promotes short-term decision making. In 1991, UK pension funds and insurance companies, traditionally long-term investors, held over 50% of UK shares. Now they hold around 13%. No wonder that, according to the Economist, Britain was 159th out of 173 countries ranked by investment as a share of GDP in 2012 – five places behind Mali.

In a world where hedge funds and other high-frequency traders are responsible for nearly three-quarters of market turnover, shareholders have less and less attachment to the companies they own. It is therefore hardly surprising that all too many companies operate with short-term horizons, and have become increasingly financialised, so that making something or providing a public or private service is secondary to their primary objective of realising a short-term profit.

Until the governance structure of companies is changed, corporate power will always serve the interests of the few on the top floor rather than the many on the ground floor of wider society.
Peter Skyte

• Corporate power and shareholder power are not the same thing. When the shareholders of British Gas wanted to remove Cedric Brown as CEO in the 90s, they turned up en masse at the AGM to vote him out. But their votes were meaningless because the board was able to vote the proxies of all the corporate shareholders. It would be unfair to abolish limited liability, as George Monbiot suggests (8 December), and make small shareholders shoulder the blame for the board’s actions when they have no control over them.

Limited liability has only existed since the middle of the 19th century;; before that, the liability of a company’s owners was unlimited. This may have been the “invisible hand” that Adam Smith talked about, which ensured that otherwise self-interested businessmen behaved in a moral manner.

Getting rid of limited liability would not work anyway, as so many people would want to sell their shares that the stock market would crash. But without the invisible hand of unlimited liability, some external force, like regulation, is necessary.
Dudley Turner
Westerham, Kent

• To strip all companies of limited liability would certainly be a nuclear option which would be difficult to implement, except perhaps,for hedge funds and the like. I would suggest a more modest approach. At present directors have, or believe they have, only one obligation: to maximise shareholder value. This is often interpreted as being in the short term, even if this results in lower long-term growth or even in the destruction of the company through asset stripping.

From 1963 to 1974, I was the chief financial officer of Booker’s agricultural division, employing some 20,000 people. Under Jock Campbell, our ethos was to balance our obligations to our customers, our workers, the countries in which we operated in and, of course, our shareholders.
Ross Randall
Richmond, Surrey

• Oligopolies run contrary to free market economics and to democracy (The giants walk off with our billions. No more something for nothing, Aditya Chakrabortty, 9 December). People and communities are being stripped of their control over the necessities – energy, transport, housing and others – that matter most. Democratisation of markets is essential to put power back in the hands of the people.

Fortunately, a quiet revolution is well underway. Across the country, businesses, consumers and entrepreneurs are creating a new social economy – one where alternatives such as community energy, social investment and co-operative housing groups are rebalancing the economy. The state, with its enormous spending power, is a market-maker. It must use this power to create markets that harness the enormous social and economic advances already happening in communities across the country.
Dan Gregory
Director, Social Economy Alliance
Peter Holbrook
Chief executive, Social Enterprise UK

• The fundamental question we must face when considering the power of corporations is ownership. This is now largely concentrated in the large corporations with mostly undesirable consequences.The question of ownership was recognised in the 19th century by many local authorities that owned local utilities. It was recognised by the 1945 Labour government when it attempted, with varying degrees of success, to transfer private to public capital in the form of the nationalised industries.

Surely the only effective way of taming corporate power is to transfer private ownership of capital into public ownership. How we do this, the form it takes, and how we democratically supervise the institutions created should be the main focus of our attention.
Jack Mitchell

Taming corporate power deals only with symptoms. The deeper problem is the freedom given to individuals to pursue their interests, subject to competition and choice. Though widely accepted and useful for clearing markets where supply and demand are elastic, this selfish rubric is the root of the problem. It is the opposite of the values taught by religions: restraint, concern for others, cooperation and loyalty to the common weal. Democracy gave capital the power to pursue its own interests. Why are people surprised it does not serve theirs? Up to a point, free capital serves peoples’ interests. It travels the globe finding people to make goods and ensures they are well made and reliable too. But it is not required to create a sustainable global economy or to preserve nation states. So why is anyone surprised when it optimises return on its capital? Though often rather short term, this is what it is required to do.
George Talbot
Watford, Hertfordshire



Sir, In his book 1914, Field Marshal Sir John French, commander-in- chief of the British Army in the field at the time, talks about the “Christmas Armistice”. He believed that the idea was first mooted by the Pope but that Allied governments refused to entertain the idea and admitted that when reports of spontaneous and unauthorised truces came to him, he issued immediate orders that they were to cease.

However, he went on to write that he attached the utmost importance to chivalry in war and that had the question of an armistice for a day been submitted (formally) to him he is not sure that he would have dissented from it. He made his name as a dashing young cavalry officer in the Boer war where he had experienced and been part of a similar arrangement on Christmas day with the “most generous and chivalrous foe”.

He finished his musings by saying that, “Soldiers should have no politics”, but, “emulating the knights of old, should honour a brave enemy only second to a comrade and like them rejoice to split a friendly lance today and ride boot to boot in the charge tomorrow”.
Christopher Durnford

St Mawes, Cornwall

Sir, Malcolm Neale (letter, Dec 13) shows a misunderstanding of the nature of the men involved in the early months of the conflict. My grandfather’s battalion included many veterans of previous conflicts. The battalion had been reinforced by special reserve volunteers who knew exactly what they were doing. Many of these volunteers were “over-age” men with families: they did not go blindly into the conflict.

Educationally, while a number of them had only received a modest education, many were artisans and craftsmen before joining the army. The battalion’s officers were generally privately educated and many had been through Sandhurst. A number of the officers had travelled widely before the war and had close connections with different countries and cultures.

To say that these men “didn’t know where they were, nor why” does them an injustice and is a misrepresentation of the character and intelligence of the men of the British Army in 1914. Incidentally, the battalion enjoyed a period of calm from December 20 to December 31, 1914 and Major Hicks, the CO, reported that from Christmas day until the new year they entered into an informal truce with the 133rd Saxon Regiment.
The Rev Damon Rogers

Lowestoft, Suffolk

Sir, Christmas 1914 was only a few months after the war started and many of the men involved will only have been weeks into the experience. Trench warfare, as we now visualise it, did not really start until early 1915 when Sir John French ordered his men to entrench and the Germans did likewise. No records have come to light of the truce being repeated in any following years of the conflict.

Also, it must not be assumed that the “truce” happened all along the battle line. Bill Clarke, a correspondent for the Daily Mail who had managed to smuggle himself into the Flanders battle zone despite a government ban on reporters at the front, reported: “The Germans came down upon the countryside in a fury of hate, their fiercest onslaught of the week they reserved for Christmas day . . . the guns thumped, the machine guns tapped, and the rifles cracked. That was the music of Christmas.”
Martyn Thatcher

Winsford, Cheshire

Sir, We marvel at the truce but from the early 11th century the Peace and Truce of God movements banned fighting on feast days and Sundays. Marc Morris in The Norman Conquest says that this was driven by “a groundswell of popular enthusiasm and indignation, large crowds had gathered in great open-air assemblies to decry the violence”. Clare Moore’s idea (letter, Dec 13) of return football matches, might have started a modern Truce of God, or its secular equivalent and such activity by ordinary soldiers might have spared the following horrors.
Charles Bazlinton
Alresford, Hants

Sir, Clare Moore asks what would have happened if the Christmas match had been followed by games on December 26, 27 and 28. I think it’s pretty obvious. The Germans would have won on penalties.
Oliver Breckon

Ormesby, N Yorks

Sir, The well-meaning article by Matt Ridley on IT catastrophes (Opinion, Dec 15) is off-beam. He lumps together failing IT projects and crashing IT systems in the same category; they are not and require different approaches. He also lauds the “new” Darwinian way of doing things in government IT. This is called using “pilot” schemes for big projects and is as old as the hills. Finally, the system of usable websites whose requirements are dictated by users and professionals from outside IT has been written about for a long time in the IT press.
Terry Critchley
Knutsford, Cheshire

Sir, The main reason why major IT projects overspend and fail is frequently that nobody has defined the objectives that the project should be designed to achieve. The result is that, as the project develops, it has to be altered at great expense and delay. Projects often have to be abandoned because they do not satisfy the real need once it becomes clear. It is essential to understand the real needs for the project and clearly define how those needs can be achieved.
Dr Peter Primrose

Malpas, Cheshire

Sir, While we debate whether the Nobel laureate James Watson deserves our pity (“This racist, sexist genius deserves no pity”, Opinion Dec 13) we should perhaps spare a thought for the 19th-century Swiss scientist Johann Friedrich Miescher, who would no doubt be spinning in his grave to hear Watson hailed as the “joint discoverer of DNA”.

In 1869, Miescher first isolated a complex of DNA and protein before later going on to purify DNA from salmon sperm. In the first half of the 20th century a whole host of scientists made studies of the chemical and physical properties of this material, the most notable of which was the work of a shy, retiring US clinician called Oswald Avery who, nine years before Watson and Crick published their paper in Nature, obtained strong evidence that DNA was the genetic material. Watson and Crick’s subsequent discovery of the double-helical structure of DNA gave a molecular explanation of this process. It was a fine vindication of Sir Isaac Newton’s famous remark that, “If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants”.
Dr Kersten Hall

University of Leeds

Sir, The radar image showing aircraft in a holding pattern over Heathrow on Friday (News, Dec 13) actually depicts aircraft on the ground, including one landing or taking off from the northern runway. There is a holding pattern over Biggin Hill in Kent and another at Lambourne in Essex; much farther away from the airport. Had the planes actually been stacked over the runways, there might have been rather more chaos over the airport than there was at the airport itself.
Julian Bennett

Halstead, Essex

Sir, I endorse Libby Purves’s comments (Opinion, Dec 15) about the “endless war of outrage”. But there is a factor in all her examples (and others not mentioned) which encourages the outrage. People make a public comment, the outrage starts, they swiftly apologise or withdraw the remarks. So either they didn’t really mean what they said, or they lack courage. I’m waiting for someone to say, “Yes, I said that, no I’m not going to apologise, this is my view, you can take it or leave it”.
Algy Cole

Altrincham, Gtr Manchester



Letters: Ukip’s early policy on immigration; Pensioner Bond income; First World War football; heckling from cereal; and Dylan’s big surprise

Enoch Powell on the campaign trail

Enoch Powell on the campaign trail Photo: PA

SIR – Your report on Ukip’s relationship with Enoch Powell brings back happy memories. I was the only Ukip candidate he ever spoke for at a public meeting, at Newbury race course, 1993.

When I wrote a Eurosceptic constitution for Europe for the Bruges Group he called it the best attempt ever made to square the circle of British independence and association with Europe.

We never discussed immigration. Under my leadership, Ukip never interested itself in the issue, which in the mid-1990s was not a topic of public debate. I do not believe he was a racist.

Enoch Powell’s support was over Europe. He backed my stance that we should send no MEPs to Brussels and accept no income from the European Parliament. As soon as I quit the party, and after Enoch’s death, Mr Farage was happy to become an MEP and take over £2 million from the European Parliament in expenses. The clause in the party membership form which laid down boycotting the European Parliament as a principle of the party was removed. It is now a home for dimwitted opportunists.

Were he alive today, Enoch Powell would treat Nigel Farage and Ukip with contempt.

Professor Alan Sked
London School of Economics
London WC2

SIR – A friend of my parents served in the Second World War in north Africa with Enoch Powell. Some 15 years later he sought Powell’s support for the European cause in Kenya, threatened as it appeared to be by African nationalism. Powell politely but firmly refused to take sides.

Shortly afterwards news of illegal killings at the Hola detention camp leaked out, with the attempted cover-up by the Kenya and British governments. Powell castigated the authorities in one of the most eloquent and influential contributions ever heard in the Commons.

Illiberal and racist? I hardly think so.

C J W Minter
London SW6

SIR – Enoch Powell was well past his best both physically and in influence by the 1990s. I would have had deep misgivings about him as prime minister, due to his anti-Americanism and softness on communism – although his prediction that the Soviet Union would break up turned out to be prescient.

However, when Heath sacked Powell in a mockery of justice the Conservative party should have sacked Heath. They have, of course, a record of choosing Balfour over Chamberlain, Chamberlain over Churchill, Major over Redwood, and Cameron over Davis, as well as Heath over Powell.

Mark Taha
London SE26

SIR – You report that Nigel Farage, as a teenager meeting Powell, found that he “dazzled me for once into an awestruck silence”. It’s a great shame that this effect didn’t persist.

Harvey Clegg
Woodbridge, Suffolk

Bail time-bomb

SIR – The proposal to cap the pre-charge bail period at 28 days (Letters, December 2) is well-intentioned but profoundly flawed. Grounds for bail are recorded in writing and open to scrutiny, and if conditions are attached they must be proportionate and not onerous. Any aspect can be challenged by the subject or their legal representative, as the Human Rights Act demands that a suspect must have swift access to justice.

An excessive period on bail can in itself cause a case to fail. The law stipulates that inquiries must be conducted expeditiously, and strict, clear and accountable legal safeguards already exist.

A limit of 28 days’ bail is unfeasibly short. A simple forensic test may take weeks to be completed. On its return, a further interview may be needed, which could require further evidence-gathering.At the conclusion of the investigation, a Crown Prosecution Service decision will usually be required, which can take days, weeks, or in complex cases, months.

My last four years as a police sergeant, until I retired in 2011, were spent in the custody system, managing bail records and procedures. I find it hard to believe that those who call for a 28-day limit have sufficient understanding of the Pandora’s box they seek to open.

Rupert Battersby

Sunny side up

SIR – Thousands of houses and thousands of solar panels await planning permission on agricultural land. Why can’t solar panels be put on the roofs of all new houses, which at least would save some farmland?

Sue Samuelson
Chipping Campden, Gloucestershire

Painless performances

SIR – Some years ago I had a small job of surgery done under local anaesthetic. A few minutes listening to the barcarolle from The Tales of Hoffman while an elderly nurse gently stroked my hand was pure bliss.

George Teasdale
Leeds, West Yorkshire

SIR – When I had some surgery under local anaesthetic, the surgeon asked if I would like some music. I chose Mozart. After half an hour or so, the surgeon announced: “It’s all downhill from now.” I had to ask how his comment should be taken, since the piece being played was Mozart’s Requiem.

Eric Holloway
Banbury, Oxfordshire

Pensioners’ savings

Pensioner Bonds will be issued by the Government through National Savings & Investments

SIR – Interest on the heralded pensioner bonds is paid each year (or after three years, for the higher-yield bond). Most pensioners seek income monthly and can’t wait a year or three. An example of out-of-touch government.

Michael Edwards
Haslemere, Surrey


SIR – A mystery of our age is increasing feminisation of most walks of life – politics, education, the Church, medicine – being accompanied by ever-greater sexualisation.

Are the two related? Or is the latter explained by the boundaries of what sells always being pushed and the opportunities for doing this never having been greater?

Bryan Clark
Ludlow, Shropshire

Trench football

SIR – Michael Worfolk’s letter (December 13) on his father’s diary entry for December 25 1915, when English and German troops played football, mentions “an officer of the Scots Guards” and “court martials”.

Two Scots Guards officers, Iain Colquhoun and my grandfather, Miles Barne, were court-martialled for fraternising with the enemy, though a High Command order forbidding this had, it seems, not been passed on by the sector’s senior officer, Brigadier John Ponsonby.

According to the historian Randall Nicol, Iain Colquhoun was “nonchalant” about the charge, whereas my grandfather was “very low”. Neither blamed the Brigadier, who did his utmost to defend them.

My grandfather was acquitted and, although Iain Colquhoun was convicted, his punishment was struck out by Earl Haig, who ordered that the records be expunged of any reference to the incident.

My grandfather was killed two years later when a bomb was inadvertently dropped on his tent by a British aircraft.

Anthony Barne
Milton Lilbourne, Wiltshire

With this ring…

SIR – Simon Edsor (Letters, December 13) asks when it became fashionable for men to wear wedding rings. My ring has not been removed since my wedding day more than 50 years ago. My father also wore his from his wedding day, before 1940.

Keith Taylor
Hinton Cantiacorum, Herefordshire

SIR – I have been married to my husband for more than 40 years and I do not wear a wedding ring. I do not “belong” to anyone.

Julie Juniper
Bridport, Dorset

Cold comfort

SIR – I read the report about arguments over home thermostat settings with some amusement. My stance is this: would you put your central heating on during a summer’s evening when the ambient temperature was, say, 15C? No. Then why heat your house to 22C in the winter?

If you think it is cold inside, go outside for a few minutes and come back in again. Your viewpoint will no doubt have changed.

Ted Bourn
Waterlooville, Hampshire

Blue Eyes Blues

Bob Dylan (right) is recording an album of songs once sung by Sinatra Photo: Rex Features

SIR –You know that the end is nigh when Bob Dylan records covers of Sinatra standards. Didn’t see that coming.

Liam Power
Bangor Erris, Co Mayo, Ireland

Blame the buzzard

When rabbits run low, buzzards may turn to killing other birds Photo: ALAMY

SIR – The decline in many avian species (Charles Moore, Comment, December 13) – a matter of concern to me, a farmer – is due to the buzzard being “top bird” in most areas of the United Kingdom.

It is not preyed upon. A small number are killed by motor vehicles. On my farm in the past 10 years, I have lost all the snipe, redshank, oystercatchers, woodcock, lapwing and a great many voles.

Their decline is not helped by the decline in rabbit numbers, through myxomatosis. When resident buzzards find their traditional food source is absent, they prey on other bird species, whose populations suffer.

To allow these species to recolonise their habitats, some culling, by shooting, of buzzards is required. It would be a mistake to exterminate them, as their role would then be taken over by sparrowhawks, kestrels and merlins, and the countryside would be no better off.

If only countrymen (in the truest sense of that word) were permitted to control many species of birds and mammals and thus create a desirable balance of nature, the countryside would be a more interesting and ecologically more sustainable environment for all to enjoy.

Angus Jacobsen
Inverbervie, Angus

Impertinent greetings from prospective meals

SIR – It isn’t just Nigel Milliner’s Cornish Blue that is issuing seasonal greetings (Letters, December 12). I’ve noticed that my (Kellogg’s) breakfast cereal box wishes me, in large letters, a “Merry Crunchmas”.

Hugh Stewart-Smith
London E11

SIR – Stephanie Mariam is spending £2,000 on her dogs at Christmas (report, December 11). My poor Nova Scotia tollers will have to make do with a four-mile walk, a swim in the lake, mud up to their elbows, a few squirrels to chase, my left-over sprouts and gravy on their evening meal, then a sleep by the fire. No Santa Claws for them. Lucky they don’t read the paper.

Nairn Lawson
Portbury, Somerset

SIR – The trouble with leaving Christmas preparations to women is that they tend to be too tasteful. Proper enjoyment of Christmas requires the liberal application of festive bling, the more naff the better. Only men and children can cast good taste aside sufficiently for the required effect.

Damien McCrystal
London W14

SIR – My husband once brought home a Christmas tree and, finding it too tall, cut 2ft off the top of it. I retrieved it from the dustbin and stuck it back on with Sellotape. He still does not understand what he did wrong.

Louise Faure
Buntingford, Hertfordshire

Irish Times:

Sir, – On behalf of the Palestinian people, I wish to thank members of Dáil Éireann for their unanimous support last Wednesday for the motion which calls on the Government to “officially recognise the State of Palestine, on the basis of the 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as the capital”. This followed the passing of a similar motion in Seanad Éireann on October 22nd.

A total of 135 states in the world have already recognised Palestine as a state, including nine members of the EU, most recently Sweden. I hope that Ireland will become the 136th in the near future.

For many years, Ireland has been to the fore in seeking justice for the Palestinian people, for which we will be eternally grateful. In February 1980 in the Bahrain Declaration, Ireland was the first European state to declare explicitly that the Palestinian people “had a right to self-determination and to the establishment of an independent state in Palestine”.

Ever since, successive Irish governments have remained committed to the establishment of a viable, sovereign Palestinian state, in the West Bank including East Jerusalem and Gaza, existing alongside and at peace with the state of Israel.

In November 2012, Ireland voted in favour of a resolution in the UN general assembly, which granted Palestine observer rights as a “non-member state” at the UN. The success which Ireland helped to achieve then opens up the possibility of Palestine becoming a member of organisations associated with the UN, including the International Criminal Court.

Our quest for a two-state solution was crowned in November 1988 when the PLO declared the establishment of a Palestinian state in Gaza and the West Bank including East Jerusalem as its capital. With this declaration, the PLO adopted the objective of establishing a Palestinian state on only 22 per cent of our historic homeland, with the Israeli state continuing to exist in the other 78 per cent. This was a compromise of extraordinary generosity on our part, which opened up the way to a two-state solution.

However, rather than work for the two-state solution, Israel dramatically consolidated its control over the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, by accelerating the colonisation process, especially following the Oslo Agreement in 1993.

There were around 135,000 Jewish settlers living in occupied territory in 1993, now the total number is approaching 600,000. And the colonisation process is continuing relentlessly. An obstruction to the creation of a viable Palestinian state that was manageable in 1988 is a major obstacle today – and it continues to grow. The possibility of a viable Palestinian state being established is fast disappearing.

Ireland has been to the fore in demanding that Israel cease this colonisation, which is contrary to international law (since Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention bans an occupying power like Israel from transferring its own civilian population into territory it has taken over by force). However, as everybody knows, Israel has simply ignored all requests to desist, including those made by the UN security council.

In The Irish Times on November 26th, Minister of Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan and his Finnish counterpart, Erkki Tuomioja, wrote: “We have time and time again called on the Israeli authorities to end this settlement policy, which clearly contradicts international law. But commitment is nothing without action. Continuation of this policy must bring a strong response from the international community, including the EU, if our commitment to upholding international law is to be taken seriously.”

If this is an indication that the EU is prepared to supplement words with effective action to halt Israeli colonisation, then it is greatly to be welcomed – and not a moment too soon. – Yours, etc,



of the State of Palestine,


Co Dublin.

Sir, – Prof Nancy Hopkins (December 10th) writes about “unconscious gender bias” at the top in science. I would argue that by far the most notorious example of gender bias in Irish universities is the existence of a number of women’s and gender studies centres, several of which have existed for more than 20 years and which are overwhelmingly staffed by women. According to the US writer Daphne Patai, they are more concerned with political activism than with scholarship and the pursuit of knowledge. They share a common ideology, central to which is the notion that gender is socially constructed and that biology has little or nothing to do with gender; openness to any challenge to this ideology or to criticism appears to be at a minimum. This is all the more extraordinary since science has refuted its central tenet and has shown biology plays an undoubted and perhaps a major role in gender construction.

An example of how the pretensions of gender studies can be exposed occurred in 2012 when the NIKK Nordic Gender Institute was closed. The decision was made after Norwegian state television had broadcast a documentary in which the unscientific character of the NIKK and its research was exposed. The whole enterprise was based on ideology with no basis in evidence. – Yours, etc,


Maynooth, Co Kildare.

Sir, – As a youngster growing up in Dublin, the hero of all the males in my family and school was Jackie Kyle. I used to go to Lansdowne Road, stand for hours in the schoolboy stand and watch him mesmerise the opposition with his jinking runs and he seemed to single handedly orchestrate their defeat. After the match, I would wait for him to come out of the dressing room to get his autograph. He never complained that this was, as he probably knew, the 10th autograph he had signed for me and just simply asked “What’s your name, son?” and signed “To Jimmy, best wishes Jackie Kyle”.

When I played rugby with my brothers I always wanted to be Jackie Kyle playing outhalf for Ireland. They could have the rest of the options to themselves. I often dreamed of scoring a try in the last minute to win the Triple Crown. I was devastated when he retired.

Years later and I was in my forties and working with John O’Shea in Goal. John arranged sports events to raise money for the third world and there was a star-studded group of rugby players helping at various functions. Moss Keane, Ray McLoughlin, Barry John, Gareth Edwards, Gerald Davies, Tom Grace and many others all answered the call. One night I heard that among those helping would be Jackie Kyle. I couldn’t wait to meet him and talk about all the tries he scored and all those moments we shared. I did meet him and he was very gracious and pleasant but he did’t seem to want to talk about rugby. All he wanted to talk about was the great work John O’Shea was doing through sport in Goal. Despite my initial disappointment in this, I began later to realise that by seeing things this way and by his own life’s dedication to the poor in Africa, he was an even bigger hero than I had initially thought. – Yours, etc,


Dún Laoghaire, Co Dublin.

Sir, – The teachings of most churches on same-sex practices and the idea of marriage are well-known. There can be no other position for a committed practitioner of almost any major world faith to take, if they truly accept the precepts of their faith.

I will admit that this position is weakened by the fact that many ignore some of the other teachings of their faiths when it suits and that the holy books of various faiths are reinterpreted for modern society (for example, stoning for adultery is rather frowned upon these days).

Shouldn’t the separation of religion and state, so necessary to a true republic, ensure that an option such as a civil partnership or perhaps civil marriage be available to those who have no problem with it? After all, those whose faith doesn’t allow divorce would not avail of it, even if sanctioned by the civil state, would they? – Yours, etc,



Co Kilkenny.

Sir, – Although the Government and Irish Water displayed unbelievable ineptitude in their handling of the issue, they eventually explained to my satisfaction why there is a need for the creation of a company to manage the system. Having looked at my accounts, noting the recent tax adjustments and the water charges, I calculate that, with my moderate income, I will actually have more money (about €50 for the year) in 2015. This is the first time this has happened since 2009. The current charges will remain stable until after the next general election, at which time we will be able to pass judgment on the Government as against the various Opposition parties which, no doubt, will make a key part of their policies the promise to abolish the water charges while showing us how they intend to pay for the necessary repairs to the water system without raising taxes.

That, I believe, is how our democracy is supposed to function. – Yours, etc,


Booterstown, Co Dublin.

Sir, – The dreadful scenes that unfolded on our television screens last Tuesday night shamed our nation.

Those responsible must be held to account and there must be a thorough investigation into the whole care sector. But the avalanche of hatred directed against Áras Attracta workers on social media, including death threats and cruel taunting, achieves nothing. It is bullying of another sort and will not in any way help the victims of the kind of abuse we witnessed on Tuesday night.

Let justice take its course. Let’s act decisively to protect the most vulnerable in our society.

But lynch mobs and bullies we can do without. – Yours, etc,



Co Kilkenny.

A chara, – The situation where an increasing flow of families and individuals are being made homeless or mired in poverty because of escalating rents is a scandal of shocking proportions.

It brings to mind the campaign in the 19th century for the “Three Fs” – fair rent, fixity of tenure and free sale.

We certainly could do with a campaign around the first two “Fs” today.

Can we challenge the anger and outrage at the social injustices of Ireland today by continuing the protests instigated by the water charges but incorporating a call for fair rent and fixity of tenure also? To shame the Government, which is treating the citizens of Ireland just as callously as a remote government in Westminster did in the 19th century, into taking steps to establish some form of rent control and fixity of tenure? – Is mise,


Dublin 2.

Sir, – Frank McNally writes about Stephen Maturin, one of the two principal characters in Patrick O’Brian’s famous sequence of naval novels (“An Irishman’s Diary”, December 12th).

Maturin, supposedly of mixed Catalan and Irish Catholic ancestry, has the surname of an Irish Protestant family of Huguenot descent – the surname indeed of three Church of Ireland clerics listed in the Dictionary of Irish Biography. Still odder was O’Brian’s choice of the surname Palafox for an 18th-century Irish Protestant character in his little-known novel The Golden Ocean (1956). Palafox was the Aragonese general who defended Saragossa during the Peninsular war – a man with no links with Ireland, still less with Protestantism. – Yours, etc,



Sir, – Some of my most memorable walks have taken place in Britain and France, in areas that feature extensive walking trails. For example, the coastal pathway around Devon and Cornwall stretches for almost 500km.

Notwithstanding the excellent Sheep’s Head Way network in west Cork, the Irish coastline is virtually devoid of designated walkways of any kind. The “keep out” lobby ensures that walking in rural Ireland is all about negativity and hostility, with walkers taking their chances on dangerous roads. Even the annual Croagh Patrick pilgrimage is under threat.

For Fáilte Ireland, it is a truth that dare not speak its name – walkers are not welcome in Ireland.

It is telling that while the Welsh government has proudly rolled out the 1,400km Welsh coastal path, Fáilte Ireland is promoting the Wild Atlantic Way, a 1,000km car drive. – Yours, etc,



Sir, – Now that the ESRI has reiterated and updated its research into the impact of austerity on various social groups (“Unemployed worst affected by budgets, says ESRI report”, December 12th), can we please look forward to hearing less about the squeezed middle, and more about the strangled poor and compressed rich? – Yours, etc,


Portmarnock, Co Dublin.

Snow business Sir, – I am disturbed at your report (December 12th) that the first “genuine” snow of the year has fallen in Donegal.

Does the rest of the country have to put up with artificial substitutes?

In a spirit of inter-county solidarity, I suggest that some of our genuine wind, rain and snow should be diverted to Dublin. – Yours, etc,


Gaoth Dobhair,

Co Donegal.

Political mergers A chara, – With all of the recent Government U-turns, we may already have the “rotating taoiseach” that Paul Delaney (December 13th) wonders about. – Is mise,


Dublin 24.

On the cards

Sir, – Using social media in place of cards to wish friends and family happiness at this time of year? How terribly impersonal!

Checking the letterbox is still such fun to see who has sent a card. It takes time, effort and thought to send a Christmas card.

Long may the tradition continue! – Yours, etc,



Co Dublin.

Wuff justice Sir, – “Good dogs go to heaven, Pope suggests” (Breaking News, December 13th). But what happens to naughty,mischievous pugs that shuffle off this mortal coil in a state of venial sin? Do they go directly to heaven or must they first undergo a period of purification in a place called “Pugatory”? – Yours, etc,



Co Dublin.

Irish Independent:

A boy plays with water from a well in Twic County, South Sudan. Photo: Mark Condren
A boy plays with water from a well in Twic County, South Sudan. Photo: Mark Condren

I read with interest the news from Ireland over the water charges protests. What seems to have been a major concern was how many people were going to turn out to protest.

Let me say, from where I stand the crowds will be very small compared with the crowds around the world who have never – and I say never – had a glass of clean water to drink. Think about it.

I am Irish and what I am going to say next is true.

When you turn on your tap at home any hour of the day or night, what do you get? Clean water. Count your blessings again.

Remember, the next time you do it, think of the number of people who do not have piped water in their houses. There are millions around the world.

At present, I live in Sudan. This is what it is like.

In Malakal, we queue at a clean water source for hours in temperatures of 40C while water trickles from the one tap. There may be a hundred women in the line before me.

Next time you turn on your tap, think about them.

During the rainy season, this water is coloured brown, so we bring it home and boil it. We are happy to do so. Many times, these water sources break down from overuse, so we go to the Nile, whose waters are used for cleaning fish, washing clothes, cars etc.

But this is also the source of drinking water for thousands of people. I drive to the Nile. I know many women who have to walk 40 minutes to reach this water source every morning to bring home 20 litres of water for which they must pay.

To all of us Irish people, I say let us be thankful for what we have. Nothing much in life is free.

Sr Margaret Sheehan

Yambio, Western Equatoria,



Knowing when to say nothing

Articulate men and women expound their opinions with confidence. They question everything but themselves.

Disparate views spewed out in a genuine belief that theirs is the answer.

And the rest of us will listen with respect because we are not articulate.

We would never submit our views to public scrutiny.

Fred Meaney

Dalkey, Co Dublin


From the horse’s mouth

Reading of the pastor in Mississippi who brought a horse in a wedding dress to stand outside a courthouse with him, reminded me of a comment made by Groucho Marx to his much put-upon co-star, Margaret Dumont: “I promise you that as long as I’m married to you I’ll never look at another horse.”

Tom Gilsenan

Beaumont, Dublin 9


Caring for the most vulnerable

It sounds like the line from a song: ‘This must never happen again.’

When all is written regarding the infamous Bungalow 3 at the Aras Attracta care home, along with the many investigations into what happened, it’s a sure thing that those words will be used again and again.

‘This must never happen again.’

To say it shouldn’t have happened in the first place might be too near the mark, because no person – whether young, middle-aged or elderly – who depends on being cared for by any state nursing home or institution should live in fear of those who are paid to look after them.

It’s of little comfort to hear that other units or bungalows at Aras Attracta were well run.

They are all supposed to be well run.

There is an old saying: ‘Honest people must be watched’.

Look back on all of our so-called respectable institutions over the past 60 or 70 years, I’m sure you will agree that the ones we trusted were exposed as having been guilty of gross abuse, both criminal and otherwise.

We must not pretend to be shocked at what we saw.

We have seen much worse in the recent past and, for sure, it will continue as long as people are allowed to have power over the defenceless, especially those that cannot speak up for themselves.

Collective responsibility lies at the door of the health ministers, both past and present.

It is no excuse to say what amount of money is being spent on looking after these people; it is no excuse to say, as health minister, you set up this department and that department and it was their job to see that it did not happen.

It was your job to ensure that it did not happen.

Have we learned?

Do we care?

Maybe for a while – until something else turns up; perhaps more outrageous than what we saw last week.

Fred Molloy

Glenville, Clonsilla, Dublin

I didn’t see the RTE Investigations Unit report on how badly treated people were in one unit of the HSE-run home for those with intellectual disabilities, but I read the reviews. The abuse and taunting reminded me of when a few soldiers in the US army taunted captives in Iraq, more than seven years ago. They were filmed doing it and dismissed from the army. The Government could bring in legislation for CCTV to be put in private and public care homes as a deterrent and for undercover people to be sent in when abuses are reported – as RTE did.

Inspections carried out by HIQA or HSE unannounced will never reveal the abuses like that seen on ‘Prime Time’.

Some have asked for forgiveness for the staff who abused and mocked the people in their care.

It is hard to forgive anyone who may not be sorry for their actions. It appears some of the employees held bitter resentment about the work they were doing and unfortunately took it out on the residents.

Maybe they had little training. Was there no thought of suspending or firing them when complaints were made?

It took RTE to invoke a response. Few will speak up when they see a serious wrong, as they tend to be ignored or pushed out.

There are great community hospitals and nursing homes, but there are badly run ones, including private ones. Some 160 complaints were sent to HIQA this year over homes for people with disabilities.

Some 430 were sent to HIQA over nursing homes.

Some people have never heard of HIQA, until it is explained to them that it is to monitor quality of care for the HSE.

The Ombudsman for the Public Service, Peter Tyndall, said concerns can be sent to him as HSE-run homes for the disabled and the elderly fall under his remit and he will investigate.

That’s good to know.

The Dail’s health committee could put new recommendations to HIQA and HSE as inspections don’t seem to prevent abuse.

Name and address with editor


We have allowed the care of vulnerable people of all ages in a range of environments to become, to a considerable extent, a minimum wage job with all that implies.

Are we entitled to demand high standards from these workers when we offer them poor pay, little or no career development, little security or status and no respect?

It is long past time for us to face the reality that high-quality, dependable care cannot be provided cheaply.

Maeve Kennedy

Rathgar, Dublin 6

Irish Independent


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