IoS letters, emails & online postings (17 April 2011)

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There is another AV: approval voting ("Here we go again, voting tactically...", 3 April). It is far simpler than the system which in most countries is called instant run-off voting but which here has been dubbed the alternative vote. True, this AV solves the dilemma that if you vote for the candidate you really want, you weaken another who has a chance of winning, and vice versa. But few know that their vote will not ultimately count at all if none of their choices include the winner or runner-up (so that it is not really true that the winner will always have been voted for by more than 50 per cent). Furthermore, few understand what difference it will make if they rank candidate A as 1 and B as 2 or the other way around. The answer is: none. Whether you give first ranking to the one you really want or the one who has a greater following, your vote will end up with the latter. So why not just put ticks against the names of all those you could approve? That is approval voting. There is no redistributing and recounting, and it clearly reports the real distribution of the voters' wishes.

Guy Ottewell

Lyme Regis, Dorset

Nick Clegg's comments about "not being a punchbag" and being moved to tears by music were taken from a long interview to suggest he is too soft for politics ("Hero to zero: The dizzy rise and dramatic fall of Nick Clegg", 10 April). But why should we prefer to have callous men and women rather than sensitive beings in charge? He is also accused of hypocrisy for attacking nepotism, when he benefited from parental influence. But poachers turned gamekeeper are valuable. Such media focus on an individual risks putting off worthy men and women from political involvement. We are in danger of paying a very high price for the freedom of the press.

Michael Meadowcroft

Leeds, West Yorkshire

Janet Street-Porter is right to say that the best support for alcohol-dependent patients is group support and intensive psychosocial interventions ("Addicts need a hand, not a handset", 10 April). This is precisely what patients get from the Community Alcohol Team (CAT) in Bolton, whose services she criticised. However, our team cannot counsel every patient, every day. Most patients struggle at some point between appointments. This project is designed to provide a link between the client and the service during these difficult times. The system does indeed depend on clients being honest. However, it is not the case that "most addicts routinely lie", especially not if they are in the post-detox phase of their treatment. In any case, all patients agree to be breathalysed when they attend appointments. We predict this scheme will allow us to keep supporting patients when previously they have been on their own.

Philip Ramsell

Health improvement specialist

Department of Public Health, NHS Bolton

Sarah Sands refers to "Tory MPs even more Neanderthal than David Willetts", and recently you reported senior Northern Ireland politicians calling the men of violence "Neanderthals". This is an unwarranted slur based on a beetle-browed, stooping stereotypical image. We have no reason to believe that Neanderthals were any more or less violent than their Homo sapiens cousins. Homo sapiens has practised cannibalism and violence inconceivable to Neanderthals. Neanderthal extinction may even have been caused, in part, by our greater aggression.

The last Neanderthals, our closest evolutionary relatives, probably lived around 26,000 years ago, a twinkling in evolutionary time. Bones found at Neanderthal, Germany, in 1856 led to the species being named after the place. We now know that some bones found earlier in Gibraltar were in fact those of "Neanderthals". Had this been known at the time we might, instead, be speaking dismissively of Gibraltarians.

Joe Cocker

Leominster, Herefordshire

Bob Dylan has a history of allowing his songs to speak for him, and his set list in Beijing had to be approved by the Chinese authorities in advance ("How many times can a man turn his head ?", 10 April). The censors and Joan Smith, who takes him to task for failing to respond to the treatment of Ai Weiwei, both missed the force of the song "Gonna Change My Way of Thinking", with which Dylan launched both his Beijing and Shanghai concerts: " So much oppression/ Can't keep track of it no more... Stripes on your back and on your hands/ Swords piercing your side/ Blood and water flowing through the land..."

Dylan may, after all, have had the first and last word.

Graham Bog

Forest Row, East Sussex

Richard Branson's expedition to the Mariana Trench ("Dive, dive, dive", i on Sunday, 10 April) is doomed to failure unless someone tells him that, rather than searching off Puerto Rico in the Caribbean, as you would have it, he would have better luck looking in the Western Pacific.

Alan Williams


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