Childbirth, Prince Harry and others

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How to avoid a 'lonely and frightening' experience of childbirth

How to avoid a 'lonely and frightening' experience of childbirth

Sir: We are expecting our second child any day so I read your article on the lack of support in labour with particular interest ("Childbirth 'lonely and frightening' for thousands of women", 13 January).

For our first child, we booked a home birth and despite having to go into hospital for rehydration, this was definitely the best choice. Our wonderful community midwife, who had done all our antenatal checks at home, came with us and without her unflagging professional and sympathetic support during several hours of chemically augmented labour, we would not have avoided an instrumental delivery or possibly even a Caesarean.

Our experience contrasted sharply with many women I have spoken to who were booked for hospital and desperate to get the baby born before the midwife they had just begun to feel secure with went off shift, or who were left to labour alone strapped to a monitor.

This time we have been lucky enough to be cared for during pregnancy by the same midwife as before. She is very likely to be there when our second child arrives and has a lovely relationship with our older daughter, whose birth she attended.

It seems the only way to get much needed support under the NHS is to book for a home birth, regardless of whether you intend to go into hospital. I am heartened to hear of the new direct entry midwifery training scheme which is starting this year. I fervently hope it will encourage more people such as our midwife to become genuinely independent professionals in the specialism.


Prince Harry and that Nazi costume

Sir: Some will say we should overlook Prince Harry's behaviour because most young men tend to act irresponsibly. But Prince Harry is no ordinary young man. He ranks high in our Royal Family, and critics of their privileged lifestyle are told they should respect and support them for the onerous duties demanded of them.

We are also told that the immediate heirs to the throne are trained from birth for the heavy responsibilities they will face and that is why public money is expended on their upbringing and on their advisers. In the case of Prince Harry, one is bound to ask if it was money well spent. We should not let Prince Harry hide behind a statement drafted by Clarence House. Let him face the music - if he joins the Army he might face much more than that - and make a public apology. This will do much to restore the standing of the Royal Family.

Gillingham, Kent

Sir: Every week in synagogues up and down the country Jewish communities stand and recite a prayer for members of the Royal Family. Following the disgusting behaviour of Prince Harry, I would advocate dispensing with this century-old tradition. However, as a community we are too loyal to the country to give up this practice, and so we will no doubt continue to offer up the prayer.

The Royal Family clearly has no understanding of the Jewish community. Members are all very keen to pander to Muslim and other newer, ethnic traditions, but for far too long have at best ignored the Jewish community, who have contributed so much to this country. So in the interest of harmony, I suggest that Prince Charles takes both his sons, along with a full press corps, to Yad Vashem (the Holocaust museum) in Jerusalem. And when they return they can attend a number of the many Holocaust Memorial Day commemorations on January 27, in the full glare of the media.

New Barnet, Hertfordshire

Sir: I did some pretty stupid things when I was a student, but they didn't become topics of national debate.

The media frenzy over Prince Harry's behaviour fills me with horror. We have imposed a Faustian bargain on the Windsor family: fame and wealth, and in return an incessant public scrutiny that makes it impossible for them to develop as normal human beings. The monarchy must go: not because it is undemocratic, but because it is cruel to those who grow up in the Royal Family and are denied the opportunity to live their lives with the privacy and self-determination the rest of us take for granted.

In the meantime, it would be refreshing to see The Independent return to the minimal level of royal coverage that made its early years as a newspaper so refreshingly sane.


Sir: Why all the fuss about Harry's misdemeanours when the real problem lies elsewhere? If we had an elected head of state rather than Harry's grandmother, who owes her position to a succession of genetic and social accidents - including the abdication of her Nazi-sympathising uncle - there wouldn't be a problem.

Billericay, Essex

Sir: I find troubling the selective historical memory shown in your coverage of the case of Prince Harry and the Nazi uniform. I could find no mention of the role of the Prince's great-grandmother, Princess Alice of Greece (mother of the Duke of Edinburgh), whose country was invaded by the Nazis and who is named at Yad Vashem as Righteous Among the Nations because of her efforts to save Jews.

Popular commentators seem obsessed with the visit of the Duke of Windsor to Hitler's Germany yet it was King George VI and Queen Elizabeth who did a great job in rallying the country against the Nazi menace.

Prince Harry is a young man who made a foolish mistake. He apologised. Let us be mature enough to accept it and not turn this into an unjustified anti-royalist witch hunt.

New York

Sir: I find it difficult to recall the enormous list of well-known people who have portrayed themselves as Nazis for their and others' amusement, but here are a few for starters: Mel Brooks, the cast of Monty Python, Vivian Stanshall, Keith Moon, a good proportion of the cast of ' Allo ' Allo. Why on earth should Prince Harry be pilloried for letting his hair down at a private party? He has apologised: that is enough.

Milton Keynes

Murder in Iraq

Sir: The brutal torture and murder of Hadi Salih, who impressed all with his basic decency and dignity after decades of oppression and exile when he briefed MPs last year, is rightly damned by Johann Hari (Opinion, 7 January). It is also a watershed moment when progressives who have shown a "sneaking regard" for the so-called resistance should shed such lethal illusions.

What worries Labour Friends of Iraq is that Hadi's murder is part of a strategy to eliminate the leadership of the emerging Iraqi labour movement. Nozad Ismail, the president of the Iraqi Federation of Trade Unions in Kirkuk, has twice escaped the assassins and receives daily threats. We have launched an urgent global appeal but the "resistance" doesn't have a postbox and doesn't listen to rational argument. One way of overcoming this form of fascism is to mobilise decent people to say "they shall not pass".

(North East Derbyshire, Lab)
Joint President, Labour Friends of Iraq
House of Commons

Sir: Johann Hari falsifies the position of the Stop the War Coalition in relation to the recent brutal murder of Hadi Salih. We condemn this killing and its perpetrators, whoever they are. The Coalition has never adopted a resolution or issued a statement as outlined by Mr Hari, and we have repeatedly denounced the murder of civilians. Also, we did our best to ensure that the Iraqi trade union speaker invited to the European Social Forum was able to be heard, and publicly criticised those who disrupted his meeting.

We differ from Hari in two respects. Firstly, we condemn all civilian deaths in Iraq, including those tens of thousands which are the responsibility of the occupying forces he supports. And we recognise the right of Iraqis to resist that unlawful occupation, which is at the root of violence in Iraq and is the consequence of the war which Hari promoted. It is time those like him faced up to their own responsibility for the situation in Iraq, rather than smearing the millions who marched for peace with the Stop the War Coalition.

Chair, Stop the War Coalition
London WC1

Green shoots of hope

Sir: I would like to send thanks from Send a Cow to all the Independent readers who contributed so generously to the "Green Shoots" Christmas Appeal. We are absolutely delighted to learn that we are to receive nearly £100,000.

This will enable us to continue the work that was so vividly described in the course of the appeal: providing livestock, help and advice for young families in Uganda and Rwanda who are orphaned by Aids or the Rwandan genocide, and providing water conservation and soil restoration in Lesotho and Ethiopia. It will also help us to continue similar work in Kenya, Tanzania and Zambia. And, of course, the effect will multiply indefinitely, as each livestock recipient passes on their animal's first female livestock to another poor family, who will do the same in their turn.

Send a Cow has helped thousands of African families to find lasting solutions to the chronic poverty that has held them trapped for so long. Now Independent readers have enabled us to help several hundred more. I can probably find no better way of thanking your readers than to pass on the words of an elderly Rwandan woman who had just received a cow: "The people in the UK did something thinking it is small - but it is going to multiply very wide. "

Chief Executive, Send a Cow

Telephone crime

Sir: Why is BT acting as debt collector for criminals? During one quarterly billing period in 2004, £220 of mystery calls were charged to my British Telecom account. Queries of BT elicited that the calls were probably the result of a virus on my computer and I was referred to the Independent Committee for the Supervision of Standards of Telephone Information Services.

A visit to their website indicated that all of the numbers were under investigation. BT is insisting that I pay for these bogus calls and has resorted to barring my outgoing calls to enforce payment.

Some years ago, bogus entries appeared on my Visa card account. The card issuer brought them to my attention before I had received the relative statement and a fraud was nipped in the bud. Why did BT allow a fraud to accumulate even though the entries were completely out of character for my account and even though it is aware these scams are taking place?

The technology is in place to take the action taken by Visa and yet BT is continuing to allow criminals to set up prime-rate lines, allowing good customers unknowingly to run up debts, paying funds to criminals without investigation and using "strong-arm" tactics to obtain reimbursement. Have any other readers suffered this fate?


Regime change

Sir: The Orwellian nightmare continues: Bush/Blair get away with overthrowing the ruler of an oil-rich country and replacing him with an exiled opposition leader, in return for lucrative oil contracts but Mark Thatcher is arrested for committing a similar offence.


Advice for Bush

Sir: For the four British citizens due to be released from Guantanamo, and for all those suffering American incarceration, President George W Bush may like to ponder the following: "Freedom from cruelty and inhuman treatment is a natural right. It is not a grace to be given or withheld at will by those temporarily in a position to assert force over a defenceless people." - Franklin D Roosevelt, to Congress, 20 June, 1941.

Harwich, Essex

Voting intentions

Sir: As a socialist, Eileen Noakes (letter, 13 January) has concluded that her only option given Tony Blair's stewardship of the Labour Party is to vote Liberal Democrat. Living in Totnes (Tory MP with 44.5 per cent of the vote, Lib Dems in second place) I hope she would already have concluded that that was the most effective use of her vote. She can rest assured that were she to help elect a Liberal Democrat MP she would be bringing closer the introduction of an electoral system that would allow her views to be represented in Parliament.


Emergencies only

Sir: So children are advised to use mobiles only in an emergency. Such futile advice! What children (some as young as eight) are going to take a blind bit of notice? The temptation to prattle into their electronic toys will always be far too great. And who provided them? Parents with more money than concern for their children's safety.

Keighley, West Yorkshire