Michael Williams: Readers' editor

Like it or not, our Pink List is life-enhancing
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The Independent Online

"You may think you're all cool and liberal," writes reader Jon Esdaile, from Hastings. (Yup, we always love a compliment!) But he goes on: "The reality of your Pink List, published last week, is that you display the same "nudge-nudge, wink-wink view of gay people as has existed since time immemorial. In this sense, [your paper's] attitude to gays is not so different from that of the Neanderthals in the Sunday gutter press. So what that Evan Davis, Nicholas Hytner and Phyllida Lloyd happen to be gay. The fact that they do their job brilliantly has nothing to do with their sexuality. If society were as laid back as you seem to think, you wouldn't need to publish a list like this."

Hmm. No better person to answer than our own columnist Johann Hari, who features at No 39 on the list. "Of course, we'd all like sexuality to be completely irrelevant – and race and gender, too," Hari tells me. "But, in the real world, homophobia exists and – to a thankfully diminishing degree – every gay person who succeeds has to defy it. Until the day – hopefully soon – that your sexuality is as irrelevant as your hair colour, it's worth marking these small victories. If the list was outing people, Mr Esdaile would have a point. But everybody on the list is relaxed and happy about their sexuality. The only problem is that there are still people out there who aren't relaxed about us. Ask any public gay figure to show you the torrents of bizarre homophobic hate mail they receive and you'll see what I mean."

This must be the answer, too, to readers such as Peter Roberts from Sutton Coldfield, who complain the list is dominated by "media folk and luvvies". "Why no headteachers, scientists, dons, clerics, and so few sportspeople?" Mr Roberts asks. "Maybe you should have called it the fluffy and lightweight list of a few gay men from TV?" But this misses the point. It's not that gay people don't exist in other spheres – it's just that many are unwilling to put their heads above the parapet in an often unsympathetic work environment. What gay bishop – and there are several – would want to admit his sexuality in the vicious atmosphere surrounding next month's Lambeth conference?

But we've moved a long way since the 'The Independent on Sunday' started the Pink List eight years ago. Now it features a judge, a squadron leader and a senior naval officer. Then, you could hear the anxious intake of breath at the other end of the phone as individuals were asked if they'd like to be on it. This time round, only three refused to take part. I think most of us would prefer it if there were no need for such a list at all. But for the time being, far from being "Neanderthal" or prurient, the Pink List seems to me to be a life-enhancing celebration of what gay people achieve in an often hostile world.

Message Board: Are solar cars the future for personal travel?

Inventor Sir James Dyson is working on a new generation of fast green cars powered by the sun, but not everyone is convinced:

Brian Morris

The problem with battery cars is they need to be light. When you have an accident the battery acid can cause horrific burns, and the car doesn't have any crumple zones so you end up dead.

Alfred

There are plenty of fast electric cars. They need only one thing to reach the level of conventional cars: a high-energy-density battery. We need to get production away from China so quality can come up.

Phil de Buquet

Somebody has to start designing cars for the future, so why not Mr Dyson? Lots of people have the vision of the civil servants who said there was no future in an aircraft engine designed by a Mr Whittle.

jackmanx

F1 engines are electronically limited to 18,000 revolutions per minute. Without rule-imposed restrictions, it could turn even faster. Electric motors can be slower or much quicker depending on the design.

RogerA

If most petrol/diesel vehicles are replaced by electric ones where will the Government recoup the loss of fuel duty revenues? Who knows? Will electric cars reduce the cost of motoring? I doubt it.

Joe

Is there enough sunlight to power a solar powered car? Shouldn't there be more focus on mass transportation systems?

Simon Killane

It is crazy to say that electric cars are "pollution free". What about the energy cost to make and replace them? Please Mr Dyson, just put all that money in offshore wind farms.

David Diggins

We haven't forgotten the 800 people in Wiltshire that Dyson made redundant six years ago. Production transferred to Malaysia.

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