The Archbishop of York has said that the Church of England is one generation away from extinction. His solution was more evangelism, more God. He is completely wrong.
The solution is for the church, as in the past, to move with the times and now drop the outmoded belief in God and a conditional afterlife, but keep the moral and ethical thrust of its founder, as well as of other good people of philosophy and science both earlier and later.
In the UK the C of E still retains the affections of many people. There are still church infrastructure and networks throughout England and Wales, which make the C of E well placed to become again the centre of the communities; but the communities served would be people of all faiths and of none, no longer divisive but inclusive. Fundamentalists of all faiths would be sidelined.
A good many churchgoers including some clergy would, I am sure, breathe a sigh of relief at no longer having to say things they, in reality, don’t believe in.
Chris Beney, Bushey, Hertfordshire
Poor arguments for press regulation
Every time I start thinking that maybe there is something in the arguments for press regulation (or at least the royal charter), I see or hear repellently disingenuous words by its supporters which drive me back to the other side.
Recently we have seen repeated claims that no paper would be forced to join the royal charter, without mention that any paper that didn’t would be made bankruptable by any group of people who chose to, by launching trivial and vexatious lawsuits at their target’s expense; and claims that the royal charter couldn’t be tampered with by politicians because it would require a two-thirds majority in Parliament, without mention that it would only need agreement between the leaders of the two main parties and such a majority would easily be obtained.
When you decide on your attitude to something, it is fair to take into account the honesty of its proponents’ arguments, and the proponents of press regulation are not scoring well at the moment.
Roger Schafir, London N21
Without the support of the press many astonishing successive government failings and public health scandals would never have been exposed. For example, in the case of pesticides, rural residents at risk of adverse health impacts from pesticide spraying have been failed at every turn by the state, parts of the judiciary, even certain NGOs. The only sector that has been prepared to help expose this scandal from the outset is the media, predominantly the print press. As a result the issue has been highlighted to millions of citizens worldwide.
Although there have been, without a doubt, genuine victims of appalling treatment from certain sectors of the press, such as the experiences of the McCanns, the Dowlers, and Christopher Jefferies, what about the many other genuine victims of establishment cover ups, corruption and collusion, who have only had their voices heard because we have a free press? A strong independent media can expose disgraceful injustices and is able to shine the light in places which, no doubt the state, along with many politicians, would prefer to remain in darkness.
Restrictions on the free press would no doubt make battles such as mine that much harder.
Georgina Downs, UK Pesticides Campaign, Runcton, West Sussex
With reference to your recent article on the press regulation charter receiving Privy Council approval, I sympathise with the media because, again thanks to a few bad apples, a similar regime is being proposed to regulate businesses that help clients minimise their tax liabilities.
The proposed framework gives HMRC sufficient powers to determine who is carrying out what it considers to be unfair tax mitigation. It could, in practice, be used to put many firms out of business. We are told that this is not how the legislation will be operated in practice, but as the detail is so vague and the framework so flexible, we do not know that.
In both cases we are being asked to trust that the state will not unfairly abuse the powers at its disposal. The problem is that when it comes to politicians there is no confidence they can be trusted.
Richard Jordan, Partner, Thomas Eggar LLP, London EC2
Stick to the old school languages
A report recently published by the British Council (“Languages for the Future”) recommends that schools in the UK should introduce into the curriculum Arabic, Chinese and Japanese – these languages being perceived to be of greater value in the context of trade than the traditionally taught European languages, in particular French and German.
So far as Arabic is concerned, this is a difficult language to learn by any standard. It is therefore perhaps unsurprising that, during the course of many years spent working in the Middle East, I have only come across a handful of British nationals who spoke Arabic with any degree of fluency, or indeed at all. In every case, these Arabic-speakers were graduates of Oxford, Cambridge or other elite universities and/or trained by the British Army or British diplomatic corps.
More to the point, in my experience Arab businessmen, and indeed Arabs in general, do not these days wish to converse in Arabic with “Westerners” and are inclined to regard efforts to address them in their own language as somewhat patronising.
As to Chinese and Japanese, I cannot speak with any authority concerning these languages. However, I should not imagine that either of them are especially easy to learn.
Given these considerations, perhaps – notwithstanding the pronouncements of the British Council sages – children in UK schools should continue to apply themselves to the study of French, German and Spanish. Whatever commercial value a knowledge of these languages may or may not have nowadays, there is surely a cultural reward to be gained.
The study of more “challenging” tongues, and more remote and exotic cultures, can come later, I would suggest.
Alexander McGeoch, Dubai, UAE
The music as Mahler intended
There is a simple solution to Andreas Whittam Smith’s problem – that listening to the adagio from Mahler’s Fifth Symphony too often had spoilt its enjoyment for him (22 November).
The Fifth Symphony comprises five movements that take the listener through a range of emotions, from the funeral march of the first movement, to the roller-coaster of the second and the beer-cellar exuberance of the third, before the “mystery” (to quote Whittam Smith) of the famous adagio. But even that merely introduces the rondo-finale, with its turbulent climax.
We should listen to symphonies in the way the composer intended – as complete musical journeys, not as extracts to accompany films or adverts. If Mr Whittam Smith listens to all 70 minutes of the Fifth rather than just the 10 minutes of the adagio, then I am sure he’ll be moved all over again by its stunning emotional complexity.
Michael Gold, Twickenham, Middlesex
A Sideways look at cyclists
As a motorist who does not want to have a collision with a cyclist (letters, 22 November), could I ask for better sideways lighting on cycles and riders?
They are often lit up like a Christmas tree front and back, but these lights are not always visible from the side, particularly on unlit or poorly lit roads, leaving both cyclist and motorist vulnerable on junctions.
Penny King, Thurlton, Norwich
For nine years in the 1970s and 1980s I cycled to work and back between Harrow and Marylebone up and down the Edgware Road, clocking up 25,000 miles.
The worst that happened to me was the occasional puncture. One day, after two inches of snow had fallen, I enjoyed passing all the motorists who were stuck in it. It was by far the best and quickest way to get around London, as long as I remained vigilant.
Graeme Jackson, Gloucester
Still just plain Mr flowers
Your detailed account of how Paul Flowers was able to bob and weave his way through indiscretions, incompetence and a lack of relevant experience or qualifications to gain the top job at the Co-operative Bank (23 November) leaves one important question unasked. How on earth did he manage to miss out on a knighthood?
David Head, Navenby, Lincolnshire
To accommodate the various independent movements of some home-nations, could England take the drastic step of leaving the United Kingdom and continue as an autonomous state called “England”? This would allow all other stakeholders to remain in the United Kingdom, saving a lot time and resources. I am confident that England will somehow cope.
Rob Rogers, Falmouth, Cornwall