Michael Williams: Readers' editor

'White, middle-class child does well' is not a news story

The other day I met Nicola Brewer, the charismatic former Foreign Office mandarin who heads up the new Commission for Equality and Human Rights, and it's clear that she has one of the toughest jobs in Britain. Sex equality, as we head towards 2008, is in a pretty bad way, but the picture on racial disadvantage is little short of disastrous.

In its final report before the new commission took over, the Commission for Racial Equality said: "Thirty years after the Race Relations Act, and despite its status as the fifth largest economy in the world, Britain is still a place of inequality, exclusion and isolation for black people. An ethnic minority British baby born today is still more likely to go on to receive poor quality education, be paid less, live in sub-standard housing, be in poor health and be discriminated against in other ways than his or her white contemporaries."

Which is why I have absolutely no sympathy for the views of reader Geoff Hayman of Lytham St Annes in Lancashire, who complains about the way we highlighted the achievements of Britain's brightest and best young black people in last week's 'IoS'. In a letter headed "Racism", he writes: "If your front page had read: 'Young, gifted and white', you would probably have received many complaints that, by ignoring black people in your list, it was an insult to them."

I'm sorry, Mr Hayman, but this is disingenuous and prejudiced tosh. The achievements of young white people in Britain are news to nobody. But it is both refreshing and highly newsworthy to reveal such a wealth of black talent. Particularly because it comes against a background of entrenched disadvantage. "Young, white middle-class person does well in Britain, shock". The hole in your argument, Mr Hayman, is that no intelligent newspaper would run such a list as the one you suggest – because it simply ain't news.

Last week, I took a pop at pedants who fuss too much about the apostrophe. But in the same issue of 'The IoS', we were guilty of a particularly embarrassing howler, as reader Geoff Brett points out: "Your piece on the apostrophe coincided with a wonderful example which I'm sure Lynne Truss would treasure. In the article on teenage drinking ('The rehab generation'), Professor Ian Gilmore is quoted as saying: 'We know girls' bodies are more sensitive to the effects of alcohol than boys [sic].' Of course, some people would disagree!"

Corrections and clarifications

t In last week's article, "Will the man jailed for Jill Dando's murder be freed?", we stated that it was the Criminal Cases Review Commission that had interviewed Mr Keeley in November 2001. The CCRC was not involved until November 2002, and so was not responsible for any failure to pass on information to Mr George's legal team for his first appeal.

t Last Sunday's Diary wrongly reported that Matthew D'Ancona, the editor of 'The Spectator', had hosted a lunch for John Standing at which he had fawned over one of Mr Standing's guests, the actress Billie Piper. Mr D'Ancona has pointed out that Billie Piper did not attend the lunch, he has never met her and has certainly not fawned over her.

Email: readerseditor@independent.co.uk

Message Board: Stockwell killing: were the police to blame?

Coverage of the de Menezes trial whipped up a storm among bloggers, the vast majority critical of the police and Ian Blair. Join our debates at www.independent.co.uk/IoSblogs

Tom Edgar

Some years ago in central London police shot a professional photographer in a cab because they thought he looked like a known criminal; they were never charged. Why would anybody think the Menezes affair would be different?

Peter Martin

All I ask is that truth be told, and where someone is not up to the job they do not get rewarded for that fact by being allowed to stay on to repeat their errors.


The shooting was not an accident. A trial for manslaughter, the sacking of the police commander and the resignation of the Commissioner are the least of the measures required.

D Quixote

At one time we had big coppers with flat feet. Now we have wimps like Ian Blair that inspire no confidence.

John Walter

Excusing what happened to de Menezes, on the grounds that the police must have the right to shoot terrorists, sounds similar to the argument used to defend the shooting of escapees on the East German border.


Accidents and errors happen and unfortunately this young man was in the wrong place at the wrong time. To condemn or put a charge on these officers who so bravely defended London would shame the British people.


[Surely] a suicide bomber would have blown himself up as soon as he saw – or heard – the police coming, and well before they knew who he was.

Tony Collings

With so many falling foul of the shoot-to-kill policy it makes me wonder whether it's a case of "dead men don't sue" where a survivor would.

To have your say on this or any other issue visit www.independent.co.uk/IoSblogs