Football, Iraq and others

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Women love football for its own sake, not to impress the men

Women love football for its own sake, not to impress the men

Sir: If Jenny Colgan's piece about female football fans ("You may think you've scored, but you're just letting the side down", 12 June) is supposed to be serious, ironic or, even worse, funny, she fails on all fronts. What comes across is a condescending bitch about women who make their own decisions about everything in their lives including what they choose to enthuse about.

Some women like tennis, some do not - no one gets into a lather about that. I first became interested in football when I was 11. I then married a man who hated football and I have been at least as enthusiastic about the great game as every man I have ever been out with. I am excited and looking forward to the Euro tournament (as I am about Wimbledon). Don't you tell me I'm sad, desperate or should get a life. Football is a small but important part of my life.

And as for the remark concerning footballers' wives not liking football: "Quite right too; it's called having a bit of dignity"! I do not think having zero interest in your husband's work (but loving the rewards) is very dignified. And, Kate Lawler wore an England T-shirt in the Big Brother house. Er, so what? You must think very little of men if you think they can be fooled by a woman pretending to like football. The opposite is true: a lot of men mistrust the motives of women who say they like football. Fakers are soon found out and sent packing.

The men I discuss football with respect my opinion as much as the next man's and that's fine by me and very hard earned. They do not think I am out to seduce them! The suggestion that women do not enjoy the game for the game's sake but have an ulterior motive is as ridiculous as it is archaic.

Knutsford, Cheshire

Vote against Iraq when it matters: in 2005

Sir: Your editorial "Mr Blair should suffer the electoral consequences of his calamitous war" (10 June) advising me to vote to send a message to Mr Blair on Iraq would, had I followed it, had the following consequences.

As a Londoner who broadly supports Ken Livingstone's policies on transport I would have had to vote for a different candidate or abstain. Ken Livingstone of course has been consistent in his opposition to the war in Iraq. If I voted for Mr Livingstone I could then vote for another party than Labour for the London Assembly, but this would simply make Livingstone's job more difficult than it is already.

As far as the European election was concerned I could have voted for a party whose policy on Europe I broadly support (Labour) or one which I did not agree with on Europe, and risk by not voting Labour a profoundly anti-European Tory party succeeding in my constituency. The Tories of course supported the war in Iraq.

How does any of this help the anti-war cause? And will not Tony Blair take the long view and assume that now we have had our protest we will come back into the fold in 2005?

Surely the time to make our vote count for Iraq is when Britain's chief supporter of the murder that has been carried out in our name is himself up for re- election. That is when my vote will follow the feet which marched in protest last year.

London W5

Sir: I have nothing but contempt for the Labour councillors who lost their seats on Thursday and are blaming it on Iraq.

First, had they been providing recognisably first class services to their community they would have been voted for in spite of the Government's unpopularity on Iraq. Secondly, if they stood for election as Labour candidates they openly allied themselves with Labour national policies and have only themselves to blame if those policies lose them votes. They have only cause to complain if they personally have persistently, openly and vociferously dissociated themselves from Tony Blair's war. How many of them, I wonder, denounced the war in their election leaflets?

For the first time in 40 years I did not vote Labour in these local elections and Iraq did not influence my choice. Labour lost my vote because of the appalling state of the health service here in Wales and because of the complacency and shortcomings of our Labour council in Swansea.


Sir: The problem for protest voters or abstainers is registering the reason for their actions. As your leading article shows ("The voters have demonstrated their contempt for the war in Iraq", 12 June), you are - unsuprisingly - convinced that this time around it's The War.

But it would be foolish to ignore the Tory's campaign, based on the Republicans' successful tactics in the US, to induce cynicism among floating voters and the Labour faithful whilst simultaneously urging their own supporters out to vote. Anti-war sentiment is certainly strong among some former Labour Party activists but I encountered far more doorstep refuseniks saying "it's not worth voting, politicians are all the same" than ones mentioning Iraq.

Cheltenham, Gloucestershire

Sir: Twice today I heard Labour ministers saying, in effect, that the electorate is angry because things "went wrong" in Iraq but that if things start going right, Blair will be forgiven.

Those who opposed the war will never forgive Blair, not because "things went wrong" in Iraq but because he led us into an illegal war on a false prospectus, thousands of civilians and conscripts died and are still dying and the world is, as predicted, a more dangerous place.


European justice?

Sir: "Europhobia" (letters, 11 June) is a perjorative and inaccurate term for a sense that the English are fundamentally different from continental Europeans. Nothing illustrates this difference better than the trial of Francisco Montes for the murder of Caroline Dickinson currently underway in France.

During this trial we have seen adult witnesses allowed to submit written statements as evidence, another witness allowed to give evidence to a court from which Montes had been removed, his mother's comments that she was "repulsed" by her son (evidence?) not only allowed to stand, but also widely reported, and, to English eyes and ears most alarming, prosecution lawyers giving televised interviews during the trial.

Whether or not Montes has perpetrated this abhorrent crime, in England he would be presumed innocent until proven otherwise. Indeed in England the whole point of having a judicial system is not to obtain convictions of the guilty, but to prevent convictions of the innocent. In contrast, the inescapable conclusion to be drawn from the Montes trial is that the opposite obtains in France.

Under the new European-wide arrest warrent, any of us, innocent or guilty, could be facing a similar trial without the protection of an assumption of innocence that is the cornerstone of English law. This is not a fear of becoming European, rather a fear of losing something intrinsic to what makes us who we are.


Cancer concern

Sir: Cancer is now the single most frequent cause of male deaths in the UK. Every year 134,000 men are diagnosed with cancer and 80,000 die. Men are at significantly greater risk of developing, and dying from, cancer than women.

During National Men's Health Week, starting today, 10 cancer and other charities are coming together to urge the Government and the NHS to do more to prevent cancer in men.

Men think differently from women about their health and are reluctant to seek help. It is vital therefore that health messages are designed specifically to reach men, that health services are structured so that men can make the best use of them, and that other sources of confidential information are clearly signposted. Our organisations believe that the Department of Health must take the lead by developing policies that take men specifically into account. Primary care trusts should aim to develop male-specific strategies for cancer prevention. "Outreach" health services should be considered, such as health checks in the workplace or at sports venues.

There will soon be a white paper on the future of public health. As part of this we would like to see a commitment to tackling cancer in men as well as other male health problems.

Dr IAN BANKS, President, Men's Health Forum; HILARY WHITTAKER, Chief Executive, Beating Bowel Cancer Charity; DELYTH MORGAN, Chief Executive, Breakthrough Breast Cancer; JOANNE RULE, Chief Executive, CancerBACUP; TONY MORRIS, Chief Executive, Cancer Black Care; DAVID HASLAM, Chair, National Obesity Forum; COLIN OSBORNE, President, Orchid Cancer Appeal; JOHN NEATE, Chief Executive, Prostate Cancer Charity; STEVE CRONE, Chief Executive, QUIT; KAREN SADLER, Managing Director, Word Cancer Research Fund.

Metric myths

Sir: Robin Paice (letter, 10 June) suggests that the Body Mass Index "can be calculated only by dividing your weight in kilograms by the square of your height in metres", and not using "obsolete imperial units".

Much as I agree with his aim for a complete transition to use of the metric system, I am afraid his argument is wholly fallacious. Any pair of units for weight and height can be used, provided the correct scaling factor is also included. For example, if weight is measured in pounds and height in feet, then the conversion factor required is equal to 4.8825. This is within a whisker of 5, so the same numerical result will be obtained by using the very slightly different and hardly more complicated formula, BMI=5*(weight in pounds)/(square of height in feet).

Perhaps the most important feature highlighted by the letter is the regrettably all-too-common omission of units when describing physical measurements. The Body Mass Index is not a dimensionless quantity; the example quoted is actually expressed in units of kg per square metre. As long as the units are quoted, there can be no accidental confusion of numbers from one calculation being inappropriately compared with numbers from another.

Physics Department
Royal Holloway
University of London
Egham, Surrey

Sir: Last year I asked a group of around 30 children on a residential technology holiday for their heights and weights. Every single one of them gave stones, pounds, feet and inches: not one of them, when asked, knew their own metric measurements. These children were all aged 11-14: all would have been taught exclusively in metric at school, as would almost all their parents and a significant number of their grandparents.

Rather than trying even harder to find another excuse for forcing people to use units which they clearly find less convenient, would it not be simpler just to put the Body Mass Index in imperial? It's not impossible at all, despite what your correspondent says (10 June). For an imperial BMI given by weight in pounds divided height in feet, squared, the target range is 4-5. What's so difficult about that?

Old Bridge of Urr,
Dumfries and Galloway

Sir: As everyone under the age of 37 was taught metric in school, and that there are very few parents of young children over this age, I suspect that Mr Paice may be quite surprised to find out that we do understand metric much better than the imperial system.

Perhaps he should stop listening to those noisy over-50s baby boomers who think everything should be done their way or no way at all.


Religious fervour

Sir: One's natural repugnance at the indiscriminate display of the flag of St George (Brian Viner, 9 June) may be mitigated by the recollection that, long before its appropriation by the hooligan element, this was an uniquely ecclesiastical ensign. I choose to take the present frenzy of flag waving as a sign of the imminent resurgence of the Established Church in England. Doubtless there is serious work to be done among the unreformed Portuguese.

Dartington, Devon

Women in prison

Sir: Johann Hari ("David Blunkett's recipe: wrecked lives, wasted money and higher crime", 9 June) is right to draw attention to the rising number of women in prison for non-violent offences. Can he persuade someone to undertake a study to discover what proportion of these women were at the moment of offending subject to benefit sanctions and therefore without visible means of support? The Government does not know the answer to this question: I think it should.

House of Lords

Sir: Johann Hari (9 June) says 40 per cent of women imprisoned last year were sent down for shop-lifting at huge social and financial cost. I suggest decriminalisation of this offence by women, leaving the stores to bring civil proceedings if they think fit.

Marlow, Buckinghamshire

Take no notice

Sir: On the subject of signs and notices, I was driving through Ealing yesterday and saw an advertisement for the date and venue of a Psychic Conference. Wouldn't those interested know?

London SW10

Timely departure

Sir: I'm rather surprised to see Ronald Reagan elevated to this near god-like status. With all their problems in Iraq, I'm wondering if one of the administration's advisers sent round an email saying it was a good time to bury a President.

London SE20