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Thursday 11 October 2012
Letters: Abortion - women must decide
Dominic Lawson is right; men can express views on abortion (Voices, 9 October). The trouble is that they have no idea what an unwanted pregnancy feels like, and when these men are so wealthy that they could with ease support the child or pay somebody else to look after said child, the unwanted pregnancy isn't a great problem.
Contrast that with a pregnant girl, not in a stable relationship, for whom single parenthood looms, or the already frazzled mother who feels another baby might lead to a nervous breakdown, or a mother who feels she could not cope with the needs of a seriously disabled child and her other children will suffer if she continues with the pregnancy.
The Tories are already discussing stopping the benefits of single parents who continue to procreate as well as stopping the benefits of disabled people. Their answer would probably be "Don't get pregnant," but that is disingenuous – no contraception is 100 per cent effective and, though they may find it hard to believe, some people have sex for pleasure.
Hats off to Caitlin Moran and Yasmin Alibhai-Brown for talking so candidly about their own terminations. It is a legal operation and no one should be ashamed about it. But these new debates are castigating them as "baby murderers", as my Catholic friend would have it. I am a married mother of four, I have a special-needs child and I declined all the tests to detect abnormalities. I am nevertheless strongly in favour of a woman's right to choose.
Dominic Lawson implies that we have abortion on demand. Unfortunately, this is not the case. The vast majority of abortions take place at 12 weeks or under, but all require two doctors to authorise them. This delays the carrying out of the procedure and ensures that the woman does not have control of the situation.
The debate should be about extending women's rights by leaving it to them to decide on abortions under 12 or 13 weeks, not about further restrictions on the tiny minority of late (after 20 weeks) abortions.
Osborne's latest bright idea
George Osborne's proposal that employees "trade in" some employment rights in return for shares in their company serves only to confirm my suspicion of the unworldliness of the modern political wonk.
I imagine this proposal is intended to pander to the government presumption (thankfully contested by the heroic Vince) that making employees easier to hire and fire would enable small and medium-size businesses to expand without the pesky burden of good management practices.
If I was a business owner with, say, 10 employees, looking to expand, what is the proposition here? I'm not a listed company, so do I give the new hire some share certificate he can't sell? Or perhaps the employment contract gives him/her a share of the company in perpetuity.
I'm not sure any entrepreneur will relish the prospect of a number of former employees who "didn't work out" holding a increasing share of the company. Or perhaps when they leave he should buy back the share, hopefully for less than a redundancy payment.
Well done George. That's certainly helped.
With his proposal that workers should trade their hard-won rights for what amounts to little more than a handful of magic beans and his vow to strip away yet further the tawdry welfare benefits that we still offer to the very poorest, George Osborne seems to have revealed himself as a villain of pantomime proportions.
Since we are already turning the disabled out onto the streets and abolishing free health care, presumably the next set of economic reforms will involve bringing back workhouses and the reintroduction of slavery.
Particularly chilling were his words: "Let the message from this conference be clear: we will finish the job we have started." Let us hope that history does not judge us too harshly for the terrible wrongs which we are allowing in the name of protecting banks and the free market.
With the poor harvest this summer isn't it time that the PM revived human sacrifice to appease the gods? I'd nominate George Osborne as the sacrificial lamb, but no doubt some welfare claimants would be found for public execution.
What Savile says about celebrity
Among the stock phrases repeated incessantly by the media, two of the most pernicious must be "national treasure" and "role model".
Perhaps with the forcing into the open of the Savile affair people might be encouraged to a little reflection before directing their esteem, pride and love on to a variety of haunted, driven, self-obsessed politicians, aristocrats, comics, ready wits and brash aggressives. How many such "celebrities" are still regarded in the same false light which a brief while ago flooded upon Savile?
One way we can do more to protect our young from sexual abuse is to imitate what the Scandinavian countries did in the Sixties. They asked parents to come into the schools to take part in the sex education lessons which were compulsory for all pupils.
Once both parties had got over their embarrassment they found that the parents had a lot to give. After a while, paedophilic predators became wary of abusing children as they became aware that most children would go and tell their parents if they were approached. Figures for sexual abuse dropped.
You're destroying our Rothko
There is something revealing in the reactions to the recent vandalism of part of Rothko's Seagram Murals at Tate Modern. There is an undeniable strain of satisfaction among some commenters that the defaced object is the work of a charlatan artist, that abstract painting in itself is a fraud and that condemnation of the vandalism is the reflex of a pretentious elite. These commenters are derisive of the prices the most admired abstract art attains.
One might ask how they would feel if the vandal had burnt down a building owned by the nation, worth £30-40m. (Considering the complex paint composition and application of a Rothko, it will be impossible to properly restore.)
It is true that art "is worth only what someone is prepared to pay for it" but if the art market appraises Rothko paintings as extremely valuable then that is their worth. If an abstract sceptic inherited a Rothko painting valued at millions, that person would surely accept the auction price.
A painting owned by the nation is our collective property. Art sceptics should at least consider the injury to our property even if they cannot acknowledge the assault on our culture.
The power of pushy parents
Anthony Blane (letter, 9 October) states: "Despite the failings of the grammar school/secondary modern system at least there was access to grammar school at age 11 for most able pupils, even those with totally indifferent parents". An experiment now taking place in Skipton may show this to be erroneous.
The town has three secondary schools: a selective grammar school for boys, a selective high school for girls, and a non-selective mixed community secondary school. Percentages of pupils receiving free school meals are 1.4, 1.8 and 8.7 respectively. Social selection is reinforced by tutoring from Year 5, or earlier, for those who choose to pay for it, and by an appeals system for the articulate and tenacious.
The high school for girls is now an academy. From this year, parents have to opt in for the selection test which is taken at the school on a Saturday morning. The grammar school for boys continues to use the county selection test, taken at the boy's primary school and requiring parents to opt out if they wish. It will be interesting to see if the requirement for girls to opt in for the test disadvantages girls whose parents "couldn't give a damn about their offspring's educational future".
Skipton, North Yorkshire
Sordid antics of football
I wonder how many other people are fed up, like me, with the pages of print and media hours devoted to the sordid antics in the world of football, the far from beautiful game. It's time to reduce drastically the attention given to it and to highlight more the better behaviour shown in many other sports where players display infinitely more maturity and are better role models for our children.
An example was the Rugby League Grand Final on Saturday, which showed how commitment, fitness, discipline and sportsmanship could provide a spectacular sporting event.
Tom Carr (letter, 10 October) protests about the conduct of professional footballers compared with teachers. The overwhelming majority of footballers are well behaved; it would be unfair to judge them on a few media-sensationalised cases. He might further like to reflect that while footballers may have an effect on some children's behaviour, they do not have the same duty of care that teachers do.
France has bad trains too
Correspondents are falling into the trap of believing that because French railways run super high-speed trains the rest of their network is better than ours too.
If you try and use ordinary French trains throughout the country you will find dreadful service, trains running at strange hours, bus substitution, station closures and an appalling attitude from staff. Try and catch the next train from Lyon to Vichy, and see how long that takes. The sooner SNCF is privatised, the better.
St Nicolas-des-Biefs, France
A pleb protests
You report that backbenchers, complaining about Chief Whip Andrew Mitchell, are concerned that the word "pleb" is "entering common parlance". This is the last straw: everybody knows "pleb" is exclusively for public-sector workers who get in the way of their political masters, and not just for any old person. The Coalition has frozen pay and made redundancies across the public sector. Please do not take our insults as well.
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Local government shake-up: British cities seek to raise own taxes and go it alone
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