Letters: A lifetime of service to the nation


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The Independent Online

Media coverage of the Diamond Jubilee reveals how the monarchy is sustained by propaganda and emotion rather than reason.

Deference exaggerates the Queen's "service"; we hear how this is "faithfully carried out, with incredible stamina and remarkable enthusiasm and devotion" and we are told of her "value to the nation", without evidence or measure to make the case.

My grandfather provided a service that was faithfully carried out as he mined coal for the British economy. He showed stamina and remarkable enthusiasm by entering a dangerous, claustrophobic, dust-filled environment, day after day. Even in the aftermath of roof falls and dragging co-workers' limp and bloodied bodies from the coalface, he returned to do his duty.

After 50 years his "superiors" symbolised his accomplishments with a carriage clock and the knowledge that his family and friends were the "enemy within". The Thatcher government proceeded to destroy his hard-earned heritage .

For decades, my grandfather and millions like him have created the wealth that supported the monarchy and establishment. It would have been more appropriate, and cheaper, to present the lady with a carriage clock forged from all the symbols of British industry and dedicate the Jubilee to the labour done by the nation's unseen workers. We might have been spared some cringeworthy writing while gaining some history lessons.

Tony Bennett

Ashington, Northumberland

If, as Jon Hawksley suggests (letter, 31 May), the life of a member of the Royal Family is so bad, then there is a solution: abdication. Just walk way, enter the real world, get a job commensurate with your talents. Buy your own house, from wealth you earned. Pay for your own meals, and choose your company. Rid yourself of lackeys, fawners, sycophants, valets, maids and butlers. Have the world treat you for yourself, not your title.

That Edward VIII is the only monarch to have abdicated suggests that the life of "duty" described by Mr Hawksley is not the awful drudgery he would have us believe it is.

Barry Richards


Come on, Independent, this is no time for being a bad loser. Instead of showing generosity of spirit in celebrating the lifetime of service to our country carried out by the Queen, it is churlish to spoil it with a gratuitous dig at Prince Charles, who, in his own way, has done the same. ("The public just can't warm to Prince Charles being in charge", 1 June)

The truth is that the republicans can't accept the fact that the public shows no inclination of warming to their views.

A M S Hutton-Wilson

Evercreech, Somerset

OK, I admit it: I am perplexed. What exactly is it that the Queen does so marvellously? I hear tributes flowing in yet I am lost.

Yes, she's a symbol, and yes, like some museum exhibit, she and her gilded cages are good for tourism; but what does she do that is so great? Waving? Tapping people on their shoulders with a sword? Fifty-six years an Englishman and still none the wiser...

Howard Pilott


There is one irrefutable argument against a Republic of the British Isles. President Blair.

David Wheeler

Dalston, Cumbria

We doctors deserve our good pensions

Throughout the 1980s and 1990s I worked thousands of hours of overtime, paid at an absolute pittance, to keep the NHS show on the road, safe in the knowledge that there would be a good pension at the end of my career.

Your leading article on "The shameful self-interest of doctors" (31 May) is fatuous. It is more appropriate to compare hospital consultants with QCs than with ward clerks. But we didn't choose to go into public service – successive governments ensured that the NHS was the only show in town. It's the repeated moving of the goalposts and the hubristic intransigence of Lansley that has really got us militant for the first time since I started medical school.

I've lost count of the number of people whose sight I have personally saved. I get paid around £30 for each NHS cataract operation I perform and £15 to see each NHS patient in clinic. The reason I have a reasonable income is because I get through a lot of work. I'm an absolute bargain for society and for the NHS and I don't deserve to have my pension contributions hiked up by this or any other administocracy.

Shame on you, Independent, for swallowing the government spin.

Teifi James

Consultant Ophthalmic Surgeon

Halifax, West Yorkshire

Why should I object to being operated on by a 67-year-old surgeon (letter, 1 June)? We know that there are cruel variations in health and ageing between social groups, but the professional classes can largely treat the late sixties as middle age.

Katie Gent

London SW13

How selection went wrong

Much interesting soul-searching in your Letters page about grammar schools and selection. I completely understand that, as a former grammar school boy and comprehensive school teacher.

The main problem with the old system was that the secondary moderns were woefully funded, and the selection criteria were inadequate and too early. An appropriately guided choice at age 13 or 14 into academic or genuine vocational education, with freedom of movement between the two, would greatly benefit the country and its young people.

Dr David Moulson

Scunthorpe, Lincolnshire

Does Mary Ann Sieghart (Opinion, 21 May) not know how children gain entry into grammar schools these days? Unfortunately it's not by being the most able in primary school, with excellent maths and literacy skills – but through immense amounts of extra coaching.

The tutoring business is huge in all regions which still have selective schools. Parents often pay thousands to coach their offspring into passing multiple choice "intelligence tests". Children of all abilities can practice these verbal and non-verbal reasoning tests until they are almost perfect, yet be distinctly average (or even below) in all academic areas of the curriculum.

The result is that a fair proportion of children who attend grammar schools need to continue long hours of after-school tuition throughout their time there in order to keep up. Poor bright children meanwhile have almost no chance of winning a place. In the 1930s, 40s and 50s able children from poor families did succeed in gaining grammar school places - that is very rarely the case today.

Celia Osbourne

New Malden, Surrey

Flat tax helps only the rich

Mary Dejevsky wants a flat tax, which she calls "fair" on the basis it seems that by her calculation some in the squeezed middle could benefit by over £3,000 a year (Opinion, 25 May). What she doesn't mention is how much the rich would benefit, those receiving, six- and seven-figure annual rewards.

Now the rich caused the present global financial crisis by their greed, hubris and stupidity. While everyone else is having to retrench, reduce their expectations and forgo salary increases, those same plutocrats continue to pay themselves more and more. Now, after the most massive guilt transplant in history, we are being asked by Dejevsky, the Taxpayers' Alliance and the Institute of Directors to reward these parasites with a tax giveaway to match.

This will all be paid for by "shrinking the state" of course. The rich rarely need the state in their daily lives. They can pay for their own privileged education, health needs and, if necessary, security. As they don't use it they resent paying for it. However for the poorest right up through the squeezed middle the state, for all its imperfections, is the bedrock of a civilised society. Somehow I don't think even £3,000 a year is going to compensate for rapidly deteriorating health and education facilities and cutbacks to council services.

Steve Edwards

Wivelsfield Green, East Sussex

An odd kind of 'apartheid state'

In view of the fuss, I decided to see the play (and the protesters) for myself. It was confusing. Outside, pro-Palestinian protesters waved placards condemning Israeli "apartheid". Inside, Bassanio (played by an Arab) wooed Portia (played by a Jew). Under South African apartheid a racially mixed national theatre would have been unthinkable.

Under apartheid, positions of power were reserved for whites. In Israel, an Arab judge sent the Jewish former President to prison for rape. Not good to have a rapist as President; but very good that no person (Jew or Arab) is above the law.

Israel is not perfect, but it is not an apartheid state and is a more tolerant and free society than many whose representatives have performed at the Globe without harassment. Maybe the Israelis should feel honoured at being held to a higher standard. To my mind, this double standard reeks of anti-semitism – which is ironic, considering the content of the play.

Ian Fagelson

London EC2

In brief...

Now Cameron makes excuses

David Cameron played a blinder over the expenses scandal, accepting no excuses from his MPs for their behaviour. It looked very impressive: if he was elected Prime Minister, it seemed that at least we would get the smack of honest government.

Three years later, the same Mr Cameron has played every trick in the book to keep Jeremy Hunt in place after he was caught red-handed with Fred Michel's emails. Apparently the Tory leader's stance over expenses was as much of a stunt as his husky trip in the Arctic.

Tom Lines


Immoral quotas

Your leading article of 30 May demands gender quotas in the UK's top 100 companies. Appointment based on gender, race, or religion rather than merit is morally wrong, puts incompetents into office, and is demeaning to those promoted on such criteria. It is probably also illegal. Protocol 12 of the European Convention on Human Rights states; "No one shall be discriminated against by any public authority on any ground such as sex, race...or religion".

Paul Rowlandson


No escape

The perfect antidote to work pressure – a week's holiday in beautiful and remote north Northumberland. A stroll down to Embleton beach, where at the end of quiet lane there is an emergency phone in a yellow box, which rings as I approach. So, curious, I pick up the handset, to hear: "Hello! From our records we note that you may have been mis-sold PPI insurance...."

Ed Sharkey

Barton under Needwood, Staffordshire

Vowel soup

I don't know about Globish (letter, 31 May), but Native Spoken English has already degenerated into a dialect which might be termed Glo'ish. The letter "t" is rapidly being followed into oral extinction by other consonants, producing a flat flow of merged vowels.

Donald Brown

Weston-super-Mare, Somerset

A cut above

In response to Colin Edwards (Letters, 31 May), one must assume your lawnmower judging panel weeded out inferior models and that the top 10 mowers earned their stripes.

Alan Bunting

Harpenden, Hertfordshire