Letter from the editor

Share
Alert! BSE in bones shock ... and what do the good people of Britain do? They pour out to the butchers and stock up on ribs, T-bone steaks, and so on. Why is this so pleasing? Partly, perhaps, because of the two- fingers-to-officialdom that it represents. Week by week, we get more and more information on possible health threats - on yesterday's front page, for example, we reported on gelatine. It is the job of government to tell us, and help us find our way through the maze of conflicting scientific evidence. Free and objective information, uncluttered by commercial interests, is a new human right.

But it isn't the role of government then to force us to change our behaviour. That kind of thinking is statist impertinence. In the case of beef, anyone who cares to buy a newspaper knows almost as much about the likely risks as any expert. Most of us are able to come to a personal decision about whether the enjoyment of certain steaks is outweighed by the anxiety about the horrible death coming if you get CJD. So why the bans? Presumably because ministers think that otherwise they, and not the consumer, might be held responsible for any deaths. But again, why? We don't ban cigarettes, motor-scooters or Japanese whisky.

Mind you, where I think the Government could help is with risk-assessment education. Most of us find it exceptionally hard to separate our vivid apprehension of a particular fate - being attacked by sharks, or dying of lung cancer - from the mathematical likelihood of it happening. Were we properly conscious of risks and odds, it would have more effect on our behaviour than any health education programme. On the other hand, it would also mean that far fewer of us would play the National Lottery.

Do newspapers matter? We have had two small victories to chalk on the fuselage this week, I think.

First, the decision of Lord Chadlington to resign as chairman of the Royal Opera House, an honourable and personal one, was only taken after the Department of Culture had absorbed the views of this, and several other newspapers, and decided that his position was difficult to sustain.

Second, the small change of heart on the subject of museum charges would certainly not have happened had we, and others (notably the London Evening Standard) not banged on angrily about it, publishing letters from artists and so on. But that issue, in particular, is not fully resolved. A national campaign to preserve and extend free gallery and museum access is urgently required.

Apologies corner. It was a ghastly mistake, made worse by the fact that it has happened once before. In an early edition of yesterday's paper, Thursday's letters were repeated. The mistake was spotted quickly and corrected, but that doesn't make it better for those of you who got the early edition. Last time round, someone rather charmingly wrote in pointing it out, and concluding: ``If you are short of material, please feel free to use this letter more than once.''

It's no joking matter, though. I owe you an explanation. The explanation is that the person editing the letters gave them the wrong computer catchline. They were then pulled on to the page, at which point our entire computer system crashed. Panic. By the time we looked at paper copies of the pages hurriedly sent to the print sites, it was too late. We have a system to stop it happening but two people messed up. They are very sorry. So am I.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Volunteer Trustee opportunities now available at The Society for Experimental Biology

Unpaid Voluntary Position : Reach Volunteering: Volunteer your expertise as Tr...

Early Years Educator

£68 - £73 per day + Competitive rates of pay based on experience: Randstad Edu...

Nursery Nurse

£69 - £73 per day + Competitive London rates of pay: Randstad Education Group:...

Primary KS1 NQTs required in Lambeth

£117 - £157 per day + Competitive London rates: Randstad Education Group: * Pr...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Residents of the Gravesham constituency are 10 times closer to what Peter Hain scorns as the “Westminster elite” than are those of Linlithgow and East Falkirk  

Will no one stop the march of localism?

Jonathan Meades
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam