Letters: Chief Whip's clash with police


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The Independent Online

If I had called police officers "f***ing plebs" who should "learn their place" I would expect to be arrested. In not (yet) arresting Andrew Mitchell, do the police illustrate they indeed "know their place"?

Graham Shimell


It seems that Andrew Mitchell MP, educated at Rugby School, exemplifies the "Flashman" tradition, not that of its great reformer Dr Thomas Arnold.

Robert Sutherland Smith

London N2

Not sure there will be complete comprehension about all this in number 10 (or 11). Baiting uniformed oiks was an essential ritual in the Bullingdon. Ask Dave.

Martin Callaghan

London W5

Pity that more government ministers do not cycle: remember all that whimsical rhetoric from Mr Cameron on how ministerial cars would almost be a thing of the past under his regime? At least Andrew Mitchell was – almost alone – trying to keep a government promise.

Dai Woosnam


However badly Andrew Mitchell might have behaved towards police officers, there is a fundamental problem with pursuing any complaint against him. This grievance was broken by The Sun.

How seriously can any allegation against Mitchell be treated when it has been disclosed via the contaminated relationship between the police and News International, which suggests business as usual is going on between the police and the Murdoch press?

Gavin Lewis


Last year I met Andrew Mitchell at his constituency offices. During our discussion, I made observations about the Government's handling of public sector pensions which he clearly didn't want to hear: as I spoke, he pointedly looked out of the window.

In the light of the reported comments Mr Mitchell made to a police officer in Downing Street, I now see that I got off lightly.

Stephen Roberts

Sutton Coldfield, West Midlands

Why we Lib Dems worry about Clegg

Nick Clegg's description (22 September) of party members who are unhappy with him, in which I include myself, as having "lost their nerve" shows just the poor leadership skills that worry us. A good leader should listen to critics and try to bring them back on board, not dismiss them.

Most of us accept the Coalition, but see no end to Clegg's tactical and presentational mistakes, which have made a difficult situation worse. The biggest was to overplay the influence of a party with one-sixth of the Coalition's MPs, leading to cries of "betrayal" as the policies of the other five-sixths inevitably dominate.

The second biggest was to choose too many advisers from the tiny faction within the party who see "liberalism" as the economics of the Conservative Party combined with only those aspects of social liberalism which are not in conflict with that, and who therefore see the Coalition as one formed on ideological grounds rather than forced on us by the way the people voted and the distortions of the electoral system.

Matthew Huntbach

London SE9

If Nick Clegg thinks that it is appropriate to apologise for the detail of the student fees fiasco, he has misunderstood his own contribution to wider events.

He is responsible for enabling a minority Conservative government to tear up the post-war settlements on education and health, without allowing the electorate any say, and replacing it with a market free-for-all.

If the Lib Dems had any sense of history (or decency) they would use this conference to remove him and precipitate a general election where the issues could be properly debated and voted on by the electorate before they are irreversible. Yes, the Lib Dems would probably be annihilated, but could start to rebuild from a position of some moral strength.

Sadly they are more likely to hang on to the end, when it will be too late to stop the changes and they will go down in history as the party who wrecked the welfare state.

Alec Tice


Now that Nick Clegg has led the way by apologising for his broken promise on tuition fees, we can presumably look forward to Ed Miliband saying sorry for Labour introducing those fees in the first place.

Then, of course, the Conference season will, I assume, come to a dramatic finale with Dave Cameron seeking our forgiveness for promising us no top-down reorganisation of the NHS and then doing precisely that.

Geoff S Harris


You don't apologise for breaking a promise by apologising for having made it in the first place.

David J A Clines


Gay doctors stereotyped

We write on behalf of lesbian, gay and bisexual doctors in response to your report (21 September) about homophobia in the medical profession. We have lodged a formal complaint with the Royal College of General Practitioners following Dr Coales's offensive advice to "camp" doctors that we believe has no place in the modern medical profession. Her comments stereotype gay men and demonstrate ignorance of the vibrant and diverse gay community.

We are, coincidentally, both GPs and significantly involved with the RCGP as our professional organisation and have found no evidence of homophobia. We were, for example, invited to run a session at last year's RCGP Annual Conference about providing high-quality care to lesbian, gay and bisexual patients. We have, however, recommended that the RCGP start monitoring examinations in terms of sexual orientation to prove that there is no bias or discrimination.

We are astonished that Dr Coales did not raise her concerns regarding potential homophobia when she had the ability to do so and instead suggested individual doctors should have to change to "fit in".

Dr Rafik Taibjee

Dr Stuart Sutton

Co-Chairs, Gay and Lesbian Association of Doctors and Dentists, London SE16

Babies born on campaign

The birth of a baby to a serving soldier at Camp Bastion is definitely one for the archives. As our own archive can confirm, it is not the first time that an army child has been born in an "operational theatre", albeit to partners of British soldiers.

During the Peninsular War's retreat to Corunna, 1808–9, for example, it was reported by Sergeant Anthony Hamilton, of the 43rd Foot, that pregnant camp-followers "were taken in labour on the road, and amidst the storms of sleet and snow gave birth to infants". Many of these mothers and babies died on the spot, so, two centuries on, it is pleasing to read that the surprise baby and his soldier-mother are stable, and of the speedy arrival of a specialist medical team.


Founder, The Army Children Archive, London W4

The significance of Mohamed

Selina O'Grady underplays Mohamed's significance by saying that he was "important only as the mouthpiece of the text [Koran] itself which comes from God" (22 September). His life (sira) and traditions (sunnah) are also important as they underpin sharia law.

The Koran, as the word of God, exists as a miracle on earth for Muslims. Jesus, as the son of God, no longer exists as a miracle on earth for Christians. Is it any surprise that Muslims are deeply offended when their faith is ridiculed?

Kartar Uppal

West Bromwich, West Midlands

The video at the centre of the violent demonstrations across the Muslim world, is undoubtedly "reprehensible" in the words of Hillary Clinton, but it pales into insignificance against the abuses that the US and its allies have perpetrated in the Middle East, particularly in Iraq and Afghanistan. It is that which has made the West so despised by Muslims that the slightest provocation leads to violence.

Julius Marstrand


The DNA of the Yorkist kings

DNA from a lock of Edward IV's hair might possibly identify the skeleton recently exhumed in Leicester as that of his brother, Richard III (letter, 22 September).

But failure to match does not necessarily disprove that the bones of a man suffering from curvature of the spine, violently killed and buried in the most prestigious area of the church, was not Richard III. It might instead prove the truth of his apparently outrageous assertion, made under his mother's roof during his ruthless and bloody usurpation, that Edward IV was illegitimate.

Peter Forster

London N4

Crime checks at the village panto

A village near me puts on a pantomime in the village hall, from time to time. This time they have decided that no children can take part, as everybody involved in the show would have to get a CRB check.

Apart from the complexity of making sure that everybody has had the check, the charge would wipe out any money they make to give to a local charity. The village children will have to sit in the audience. Is this really the intention of the Government when they brought in this legislation, or is it time for a rethink?

David Foster

Whatfield, Suffolk

Still at school

When the school-leaving age goes up to 18 in 2015 we shall have the anomaly of young people who from the age of 16 can legally have consensual sex, leave home, get married, have a family and also join a trade union or the armed forces, but cannot leave school. Presumably though all this exam-taking will mean that they have to complete the academic year, so at least 18-year-olds won't be expected to die for their country.

Gillian Spencer



After an Olympics and Paralympics, where the UK's female participants shone, we appear to have gone back quickly to old behaviours. In Friday's edition there were over 35 pictures of sportspeople in your sports pages, with the gender split being male 35, female 0. Were women not taking part in sport on Thursday?

John Hay