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Wednesday 23 September 2009
Letters: Cheating in sport
Cheating in sport calls for a sporting response
Will James Lawton ("Dishonour is no longer just a problem – it's a disease", 17 September) please cheer up, or at least change his job title to chief grump writer? Cheating has existed for as long as there have been prizes to compete for but, as he suggests, the high-profile acts over the last few months have been particularly disgraceful. Those culpable must be punished when caught.
But it must be proportionate. This is not just about comparing Formula One with rugby, as putting lives at risk is different from putting a joke-shop capsule in a rugby player's sock. Often we see cheating going unpunished, but this is not a reason to penalise the cheat that is caught for the ten that are not. Fans of sport will all have swallowed the bitter taste of an unjust defeat but all that does is sweeten the taste of victory when it comes.
The real point thought is that there are far more things great about sport than wrong with it. For one thing, it teaches you how to take a hit and come back stronger by doing what you do best, not lowering yourself to the level of cheats. The answer to these problems in sport must therefore be measured and not reactionary. It must be just, not vengeful and most of all it must be sporting.
The party that backs civil rights
Yesterday I attended a packed lunchtime meeting on rights of free speech for scientists threatened by the law of libel. In the evening I was educated by a presentation on privacy under the Human Rights Act.
Between these there was a general meeting that affirmed its commitment to human rights, in the same way that it has since at least the Second World War.
Of course, John Kampfner would not recognise any of this activity, as, remarkably, he has written an entire article (21 September) on liberal values in British politics without once mentioning the Liberal Democrats, currently at Conference.
To address the rights culture in our politics without mentioning the only party rock-solid on civil liberties is not defending those liberties. It is grandstanding. If Mr Kampfner wants to advance liberal values by placing the telescope over his blind eye when he surveys the political scene then we, and others, have good reason to doubt either his abilities or his commitment to working for a more liberal Britain.
Cuts loom at the National Archives
It is not just history in schools which is suffering (letter, 18 September). Access to our nation's historical legacy is about to be cut. At an open meeting on 24 September The National Archives (TNA) at Kew will announce changes to its services in order to make voluntary savings of £4.2m over the next three years. It is almost certain that Monday opening at Kew will be abolished from January 2010, thus causing problems to the many researchers from home and abroad who need to access original documents.
A group of historians, academics, researchers, archive sector professionals and regular users of archives who are concerned about the challenges facing archives in the UK have been campaigning against the Monday closing and specialist staff cuts in particular. There has been much support for their campaign on the Action 4 Archives website, where alternative money-saving proposals can be found.
As the economic gloom deepens it is inevitable that cuts will be needed across many government departments. Sadly the present cuts at TNA seem to be necessary as a result of a top-heavy, over-paid management structure. Financial management seems to be called into question.
A recent advert for a new financial director, the fourth such appointment this year, states "The Finance team is still very much in transition, having got the basics of finance operations right, but still developing (and at an early stage of developing) the analysis and management accounting support that the business needs. To support the challenges detailed above, the Finance team needs to raise its game quickly." TNA needs to set its house in order and not penalise its users.
Europe will always muddle through
Adrian Hamilton's criticisms of the EU (17 September) would have more weight if they took account of political reality. The only true means of overcoming the "democratic deficit" would be to ensure that the European Commission is directly elected. But there is not the slightest possibility of governments agreeing to a measure that would hugely enhance the authority of the EU executive to the detriment of themselves.
Stripped to its essentials the EU is simply a mechanism that enables 27 governments to work together on matters of common concern. I welcome the checks and balances its structure incorporates, the general commitment to liberal values, and the limited element of direct democracy, but the reality is that instead of forging ahead with clear strategy and purpose the EU is bound to move forward by muddle and compromise offset, just occasionally, by unity and leadership.
Chris Davies MEP
Liberal Democrat, North West
Stockport, Greater manchester
Migration figures, not prejudice
Mark Steel's column on 9 September, "The Poles might be leaving but the prejudice remains" claimed that most of the apocalyptic warnings of an Eastern European take-over could be traced back to the organisation Migrationwatch. On the contrary, we have been saying for over a year now that we expect East European migration to come back into balance in a few years' time.
He further asserted that we have declared that the UK population is still destined to rise to an unsustainable 80 million in the next 40 years. In fact, we always stick closely to the principal population projection prepared by the Office for National Statistics. That gives a UK population of 78.6 million in 2056.
Finally he attributes our view to "millions coming from Africa". He is putting a gloss on a paper we produced on world trends which was based firmly on the UN medium projection of the world population (2008).
None of this could be described as "prejudiced", which is an unjustified slur.
Sir Andrew Green
Chairman, Migrationwatch UK
A new Winter of Discontent
So we bailed out the banks at public expense and the bankers got their millions in bonuses. Now that we have to pay for them, "they" want to cut the wages of the public sector and the other little people. Remember the Winter of Discontent? Watch it happen again if we try that. The Brits know what is fair and this is not it.
Why does no politician ever consider running costs when talking about economies? If a couple of deputy heads are dismissed, it will make not an iota of difference to the school's utility bills. If a few quangos or departments were merged into one office, there would be massive savings on the myriad costs of providing work-space and equipment. Even with some ex-employees on the dole, there would be a net gain.
Since all parties seem to agree that public expenditure cuts of around 10 per cent will be needed, the slogan of the next government should be "Decimation, decimation, decimation!" And while we are about it, we could save a lot of political argument by adopting the Roman method of decimation, which would be to draw up a random list of items of expenditure, and axe every tenth one.
George MacDonald Ross
The minefield of immigration law
How appropriate that the Senior Law Officer has been caught out by a breach of immigration law. Never in the history of UK immigration law have there been so many continuing changes, as those enacted by the Government since 1997. Even full-time immigration practitioners find it difficult giving guidance, so frequent and wide-ranging are the changes.
The lesson to our legislators is this: the rule of law requires certainty and stability, otherwise we are all at risk of falling foul of it.
Andrew M Rosemarine
Salford, Greater manchester
After hearing various retorts from government following the faux pas of Baroness Scotland, I am bemused about how qualifications can be applied to breaking the law, especially when you are the Attorney General. What exactly is the difference between an "administrative error", an "oversight", a "technical breach" and simply breaking the law ?
Friendly reception for the Vikings
Contrary to your report of 21 September the Hebrides were not anti-Viking.
Most of the place names and many of the surnames in the Western Isles are Norse. Around 50 per cent of the Gaelic words used in daily conversations in these islands are borrowed from Old Norse. The MacLeods of Lewis (Liotr in Norse) were the Viking navigators of the Minches, indicated on their clan shield as a burning bush. In 1263 at the Battle of Largs the islanders fought for the King of Norway against the Scots.
Donald J MacLeod
Mystery man in the pub
Susie Rushton (Urban Notebook, 18 September) will never know the story of the gent she had removed from the pub.
He could have been just back from Afghanistan, wanting to be around people but not with them; he could have just had a bereavement and the reason he never answered his phone was not just showing politeness; he may only have wanted a kind word and a chat.
Susie and her paranoid, effete, intolerant company should be ashamed for getting a staff member to do their dirty deed for them. Maybe he was just hanging around to see what kind of person reserves a seat in a pub. I know I would probably do the same.
Too good for this job
When I was watching President Obama's marathon effort on US TV defending his policies, it occurred to me why he might fail as President. He is a compromiser in a world where no compromise is possible. The Middle East, Iran, and health care are not amenable to compromise. He is absolutely the right man for this job, intelligent, thoughtful, reasonable and fair-minded; but there is no one like that on the other side.
J H Faulkner
I am already bored by the Liberal Democrat conference at Bournemouth dominating the airwaves at the expense of real news. No doubt most people will share similar sentiments over the next fortnight during the Labour and Conservative conferences. There is a simple solution: hold all three conferences in the same week. This would give a real opportunity to compare the leaders and policies of the main parties and would be less wearying for the electorate. It would have the added benefit of shortening the summer Parliamentary recess by at least 14 days!
Graham Stringer MP
(Manchester Blackley, Lab)
Thanks for the entertaining extract from Matthew Stewart's book The Management Myth, and his explanation of the whale chart (17 September). I shall be getting hold of a copy of Mr Stewart's book to see if there is any mention of that other device so beloved of these consultants, the workshop. After a session of role-playing, the punters leave with little more than a sense of well-being and a shiny new certificate.
Can someone please tell me how jailing Helen Goddard, a talented and popular teacher, for 15 months for her affair with a girl pupil who led her on, could be justified? Her career has been destroyed and she has had to suffer heavy-handed police intrusion into her private life, whose details have become public property for a prurient media. What possible justification could there be for this brutal destruction of her life, the life of her young lover, the reputation of the school and, moreover, the reputation of the law for proportionate justice?
When I'm not wanted
Ceri Thomas, programme editor of Radio 4's Today, says the aspiration is not to let the audience get older than the present average of around 50 (Media, 21 September). Well, I'm 65, so I apologise profusely. I'll switch off now and I promise I'll never tune in again!
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