IoS letters, emails & online postings (30 June 2013)

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The Independent Online

Ian Birrell's analysis of the National Health Service was for the most part deadly accurate and hard-hitting ("Worshipping the NHS costs lives", 23 June). It was a shame therefore, that he called for more of the infection as the only cure.

Those of us who grew up after the war remember what the NHS was like when it lived up to its own ideals. Nurses' primary job was to care, GPs provided all-year-round cover with home visits when required without handing the out-of-hours job to a group of hired carpetbaggers. Mangers were few, meddling little, and the suppurating tumour of the Private Finance Initiative had never been conceived.

It all changed after Thatcher. Birrell is right to castigate the last Labour government. But everything that has gone wrong with the NHS is down to the rush by all major parties over the past two decades to introduce the market, private greed and business models.

To move beyond "sterile debates" and force feed the patient with more privatisation is the equivalent of putting someone with lung cancer on a course of 100 cigarettes a day.

Steve Edwards

Haywards Heath, West Sussex

John Rentoul says that Labour would keep free schools, "which are legally the same as academies... Labour's idea in the first place" (23 June). But schools earmarked for Labour's academy scheme were seen as failing and in need of extra funding, whereas the coalition's version is designed to take schools out of the state system. In essence, this is the privatisation of the state system by stealth.

Eddie Dougall

Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk

John Rentoul asks why vote Labour if it continues to drop policies that differentiate it from the Government. This underlines the democratic deficit, wherein all the main parties agree on most policy issues but do not have the support of many electors for them – fertile ground for new political forces, as in Greece and Italy, as well as for Ukip, continuing to make unpleasant mischief on the right.

Keith Flett

London N17

I'm not surprised that only 10 or so people have taken up the Green Deal launched in January, if my experience is typical ("Government's green deal branded a failure", 23 June). Step one was to get a Green Deal assessment done by an accredited adviser. I got this on 19 February. Despite persistent efforts, I have been unable to get to the next step – namely, to find a Green Deal provider who can give me quotes for insulation for the heat-losing solid walls in my house. I wrote to my MP and after a month got a reply from Energy Secretary Ed Davey who assured me on 19 April that things were moving. Since then, despite emails to and from the Department of Energy and Climate Change, and numerous phone calls, there has been no progress. I can only imagine that the big energy companies are exerting some kind of pressure as the Green Deal is not in their interest. I am now at the point of giving up on the whole thing.

Tim Williamson


Baroness Warsi is right to call for recognition of Empire troops during the First World War centenary commemorations ("Tommies and Tariqs fought side by side", 23 June). I hope this is not used to hide the exploitation of civilians from across the Empire who were paid a pittance to work on the Western Front. They were subject to harsh conditions, Chinese labourers being shot by the British army for protesting against their treatment. We should never forget the inequity of the British relationship with its empire.

Ian McKenzie


You refer in your piece about Ernest Hemingway's unpublished material to "socialite" Donald Ogden Stewart ("Hemingway's last word...", 23 June). Is this the same Donald Ogden Stewart who was one of the highest-paid screenwriters in Hollywood, who had a string of hits and won an Oscar in 1940 for The Philadelphia Story, later remade as High Society? A victim of the McCarthy witch-hunt, he fled to England. I met him in 1965 when he was writing an eventually unused screenplay for a film about Gandhi for my father, Motilal Kothari. It was dated, but he was an outstanding writer.

Raj Kothari

Bridport, Dorset

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