IoS letters, emails & online postings (22 April 2012)


While we should welcome the vast public support shown for public libraries, it is quite wrong to suggest that the public library service, as we know and need it, will survive as a result of localism or the cant of the Big Society ("Keep on borrowing...", 15 April).

Localism inevitably leads to a postcode lottery, which means there will be unequal access to high-quality library and information services. There is also the real danger of tyranny by a local majority whereby a policy – stock selection, say – may be based on local prejudice rather than professional judgement. In America, challenges to books in libraries are commonplace, and challenged titles include Brave New World and Catcher in the Rye. Such events are rare in the UK, partly because of local and central control.

We face the prospect of a public library service based on geographical chance and localism, and a population whose life chances will be diminished by reduced services and several hundred library closures.

Bob Usherwood

University of Sheffield

The independent mayoral candidate Siobhan Benita is a sound alternative to the name-calling and lies of the front-runners' campaigns ("NHS backlash fuels independent bid for London Mayor", 15 April). While I imagine that those who don't live in London are tired of the campaign, it will have ramifications throughout national politics. A defeat of both of the inadequate candidates that represent the main parties would send Westminster the message that they have to do better.

Jack H G Darrant

London SW2

Your leading article concludes, "if it were not for the presence of Liberal Democrats, would this Government not be much worse?" ("Finished? Clegg's future revisited", 15 April). If it were not for the presence of Lib Dems, this Government would not exist. I, for one, would rather the Lib Dems had not brought this monster into existence. Then they wouldn't have to try to ameliorate its actions.

Neil Stretton

Temple Sowerby, Cumbria

The Deputy Prime Minister tells us of his "obsession" with starting preschool at the age of two. ("Clegg promises more nursery places for poorer children", 15 April). But personal obsession is no basis for a national policy. Research at Quebec University found that universal childcare at the earliest ages was "ineffectual in improving child outcomes", adversely affecting the health, development and behaviour of many. Identifying children who might benefit from early childcare is difficult. But what is certain is that 65,000 state nannies supporting 65,000 working mums will help the Treasury. That is an equally poor basis for a social policy. The basis for a good family policy would be for government to recognise the primacy of parents in the upbringing of their children.

Tristram C Llewellyn Jones

Isle of Man

Commercial horse racing, which caused horses to suffer and die in the Grand National, is not a sport ("Two horses die...", 15 April). Two-thirds of the 15,000 foals bred for racing each year do not make the grade, and many are killed. Every year, 375 horses are raced to death; a horse's heartbeat increases 10-fold in a race, causing heart attacks, and most horses suffer stress-related lung haemorrhages. Almost all suffer ulcerated stomachs. A real sport involves consenting humans, not abusing and whipping defenceless animals to win a race to line greedy pockets.

Emma Richards

Brighton, East Sussex

Like Janet Street-Porter, I am a keen walker and agree that stiles are a traditional feature of our landscape ("Heaven is a seven-stile walk", 15 April). But anyone with an atom of compassion for those less fortunate could not but applaud any measures that would make possible access to beautiful countryside currently out of reach. My husband, once a keen cyclist and walker, is severely affected by MS and relies on a mobility scooter. So three cheers for the Dartmoor National Park Authority if they have plans to replace stiles with gaps or gates.

Christine Keable

Witney, Oxfordshire

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