Bush's cynical campaign, Female doctors and others

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Bush is heading the most cynical campaign in US history

Bush is heading the most cynical campaign in US history

Sir: Although I agree with Bruce Anderson that Senator John Kerry has a tendency to flip-flop (Opinion, 2 August), I think Mr Anderson suffers from some ideological blindness.

In the 2000 election campaign, President Bush refused to support a constitutional amendment prohibiting gay marriage; now he not only supports the amendment but is its primary cheerleader. Shortly after 9/11, Bush said he wanted Osama bin Laden "dead or alive"; in later months, as his focus turned from Afghanistan to Iraq, he stated that Osama bin Laden's capture was not important. In the 2000 campaign President Bush promised that "no child would be left behind'" and proposed a programme of pre-school support for poor families; now this programme founders because of his administration's failure to fully fund it from its inception.

All of these cover the President's biggest flip-flop of all - that he was going to be the president who brought together a sharply polarised nation. Yet his carefully chosen campaign team are mounting what will turn out to be the dirtiest, most cynical campaign in American history. So much for "compassionate conservatism".

London NW7

Sir: I suspect Bruce Anderson will enjoy goading anti-Bush readers with his Opinion piece on John Kerry. That doesn't mean he should go unchallenged. He should be well aware that the blood-price for "peace" is being paid largely by the people of Iraq. Moreover, the losses suffered by Americans, Iraqis and everyone else have not diminished the threat of terrorism, given the instability generated in Afghanistan and Iraq by utterly short-sighted US (and UK) policies.

Meanwhile, other parts of the world that need help from international institutions go wanting, because the resources and unity that these institutions require have been undermined by those same policies.

If Bush wins again, this bad situation can only get worse; with Kerry there is at least hope for something better.

London NW1

Women will not lead medicine into decline

Sir: I was incensed by Professor Carol Black's comments about female doctors lacking the political ability to cope as senior doctors (report, 2 August; letters, 3 August). She seems to think that only female doctors want a civilised life and I firmly believe she is wrong. Nobody really wants to work long hours. If she thinks that childcare is a problem holding women back then she should focus her efforts on changing work practices rather than denigrating women's abilities.

It is pompous and arrogant to assume that female doctors no longer need to make sacrifices. She should try forging a successful career as a doctor while being a single mother with two children at primary school. I have no doubt that the Government does not listen to women doctors, but it does not listen to the male ones either, and it has gone out of its way to belittle and deprofessionalise doctors. But all this happened while medicine is still largely run by middle-aged men in badly fitting suits.

The BMA lost its bite many years ago and the Royal Colleges are run by cronies so focused on their impending gongs that they do not stand up and fight for their colleagues. To assume that women cannot have an effective political voice is simply wrong; women are less constrained by convention and can wield a highly effective blow when needed.

London SW11

Sir: Professor Carol Black bemoans the fact that a female-dominated profession will lead it into a decline in prestige and a fall in doctor's pay. Yet, instead of trying to address the root of such a potential problem by changing attitudes and ensuring the enforcement of equal pay, she suggests only that we punish women doctors for their success by introducing a 50 per cent male quota despite the fact that most distinctions go to female medical students.

Moreover, the fact that she uses the phrase "woman" as synonymous with "mother" to justify her claim that the profession will soon face a crisis at the top ignores the fact that around one in 5 women are currently childless for various reasons, and single fathers with primary custody of children are on the increase in proportion to single mothers with primary custody.

I am a student at Oxford University and neither I nor any of my close female friends intend to have children; I think we will make excellent doctors, lawyers, economists, etc, and will not tolerate being punished for our success through unequal pay, reactionary male quotas or stereotypes of women as the "natural" primary carers of children.

Keble College, Oxford University

Sir: Professor Carol Black, President of the Royal College of Physicians is wrong when she fears that her profession will lose its status if there are too many women. Does this also apply to politics where we have one of the lowest number of women MPs and Cabinet ministers in Europe, to universities where only 10 per cent of professors are women, or newspaper editors?

The problem with women's advancement in surgery is that consultants prefer to promote "one of the boys" rather than look more widely at women's different experience. The Royal Society, wanting Government money in 2003, suddenly discovered six women worthy of membership, whose achievements reached back to the 1950s.

We need open recruitment and development for senior positions in business and the professions, and newspapers could report on women's achievements, without focusing on gender and family responsibilities. Women bring different attributes and strengths to boards, university councils and Royal societies. They should be welcomed.

Richmond, Surrey

Sir: The slipping of clinicians in the social pecking order is primarily due to the meteoric rise in income and influence of those working in the financial sector. MBA became a more valuable qualification than MB.

Scions of English haute bourgeoisie go now to city and media jobs. Medical schools filled the gap with clever girls and ambitious children (often female) of Asian immigrants. Furthermore, the doctor's shine in academia was eclipsed by molecular biologists, bioengineers and wizards of bio- informatics. These revolutionised medicine and made money.

Orpington, Kent

Sir: We congratulate Professor Carol Black on her brutal honesty in proudly disclosing that influence, status and power are the priorities of the medical establishment. It is this attitude that has bedevilled the relationship between patients and doctors for decades.

In so far as women may show a more empathetic and less authoritarian approach to those in their care, we welcome the feminisation of medicine. Black's diatribe shows just how far we are from the Government's goal of a patient-centred service. The "downgrading of medicine's professional status" perceived as a serious threat by Black may be welcomed by patients used to feeling helpless in the face of the powerful medical hierarchy.

Co-director, Patient Concern
London SW5

Sir: It is obvious at Westminster that our major professions are all suffering similar difficulties. Professor Carol Black has made the mistake of considering one profession in isolation. The reduction in the influence of the medical profession is no more than we see in other professions such as the academic and the legal.

Professor Black has drawn attention to two difficulties. One is the determination of the Government to fix the standards in all professions, whether it knows anything about them or not. The other is that both sexes will now need to find time for childcare. This is common not merely to all professions but to all work.

None of Professor Black's difficulties are peculiar to the medical profession, and therefore they cannot be explained by any explanation peculiar to that profession.

Liberal Democrat
House of Lords

Sir: Professor Black worries where we are to find the leaders of British medicine in 20 years time, with the increase in women in the profession.

Of similar but more immediate importance, may I ask where are we to find the doctors to work out-of-hours after 1 October this year, when most GPs will be opting out of this work. There is only so much that those of us who still accept the long-hours culture so decried by Dr Gill can do (Letters, 3 August). In this area it is patently not enough.

Hambledon, Hampshire

Shetland seabirds

Sir: My husband and I were recently lured on holiday to the Shetland Islands by the colourful brochures produced by the islands' tourism office depicting towering cliffs covered with nesting seabirds ("Disaster at sea: global warming hits UK birds, 30 July; see also letters, 3 August).

We toured the islands, walking along majestic cliffs and lonely beaches, but seabirds, both flying and nesting were not exactly ubiquitous. On a visit to the tiny island of Mousa, famed for its teeming seabird population, our guide could only show us a cliff face with two nesting kittiwakes. Whether global warming or overfishing of sandeels is the cause, the result is the same. These wonderful creatures are dying out.

Haddington, East Lothian

Driving nostalgia

Sir: Thank you to Stephen Bayley for the point of view and the nostalgia ("Beauty replaced by brand management", 27 July); it is why I haven't had the slightest yen for a "sports car" (a misnomer today) since my 1967 TR4A. Actually two of them. I bought the first in Coventry and drove it across Europe, but my wife wanted to sell it when we returned to New York. Years later, when we were divorced, I bought another, the same model, which I drove until it was stolen from a Manhattan street.

I shared the dream of the functionally tasteful car on the open road. It would be harder to share it today, but in the right places, say, the New England countryside, I think it is possible. But in urban areas or on freeways, I agree it has no place. It seems to me though that differences in consumer taste are what led to the demise of these cars; as with virtually everything, taste is moulded by advertising, rather than dictating car design. Or maybe I'm just nostalgic. It certainly was nice to drive a car with road feel rather than brute useless horsepower, in which one could actually find the carburettor and spark plugs, and which had not a single computer.

New York

Monroe's wardrobe

Sir: In Susannah Frankel's article "A wardrobe fit for a Queen" (Review, 29 July), she describes the dress worn by Marilyn Monroe as silver satin, but it was in fact gold silk lame. That dress, and the red velvet dress worn by her to the opening of A View from the Bridge, was made by a small theatrical costumers and dress makers, Madame de Rachelle's of Greek Street, London.

My sister, Kay Haslam, was the cutter for de Rachelle's and cut and fitted both of these dresses, as well as the frequent alterations to the fit of the white dresses Monroe wore during filming of The Prince and the Showgirl. Interestingly a copy of the dress was reproduced for the National Theatre production of Arthur Miller's After the Fall in 1990.

Kew Gardens,

Re-issuing records

Sir: Further to the letters regarding the 50 years copyright law (30 July), the record companies obviously have no intention of re-issuing most of the material that would be covered by an extension of the rule. So why do they want to keep it in the vaults and so deny others an opportunity of making it available to the public?

The small labels that specialise in issuing CDs of, say, jazz from 50 and more years ago hardly make vast profits from it. And they help to keep the music alive.

Cheadle, Cheshire

Electronic ringtones

Sir: One of the main functional defects of many modern telephones is that the ringtone is not only electronic, but inaudible beyond about ten metres. Unfortunately in "Ten Best Home Telephones" (29 July) Fiona McAuslan covered all aspects of physical design, but said nothing about whether the phones were of any use to anybody living in something bigger than a one-room dwelling. Bring back the bell.


Arthurian armpits

Sir: Your review of the recently released King Arthur (30 July) was accompanied inevitably by a rather fetching picture of Keira Knightley as Guinevere. Her straining arms, poised as they were to release her arrow, got me wondering just how ladies in those far-off times managed to get such super-smooth armpits. A bit of magic by Merlin perhaps?

Saltford, Bath

Statue of Liberty

Sir: Now that the Statue of Liberty has reopened perhaps it is time to remind Americans that it was donated by lily-livered, cheese- eating surrender monkeys.

Carrick-on-Shannon, Co Leitrim.

Playing away

Sir: I haven't seen Sven's job description, but I would expect it to include a clause that could be paraphrased as "showing our footballers how to score in Portugal".

Hoddesdon, Hertfordshire