The moment I heard David Cameron offer Maria Miller his warm support, I suspected her ministerial career was doomed. There is a long history of prime ministers giving colleagues the kiss of death by publicly supporting them when they are in trouble.
Andy Coulson was a victim of this. There were several examples under Blair. Peter Mandelson and David Blunkett were ministers whom he stood by as they fell from grace.
Prime ministers and their advisers just don’t get the fact that the public expect very high standards of their representatives in Parliament.
John Boaler, Calne, Wiltshire
David Cameron backing Maria Miller because she was doing a good job shows (yet again) his bad judgement. All of his ministers caught out in wrongdoing have been given his full support.
It isn’t just the system that spared Miller that is in need of reform, but the whole of Westminster. The stink of corruption is wafting across the country where national assets such as the Post Office and the NHS are being looted by Tory party friends.
Julie Partridge, London, SE15
Before we fall for the story that Maria Miller has at last done the decent thing, let us note that she has resigned, she says, because her presence has become a “distraction from the vital work of the Government”. So she still lacks the recognition of having behaved badly – just as she failed to realised that to utter the words “I apologise” is not thereby to apologise. Voters take note.
Peter Cave, London W1
I know it’s difficult for us Northerners to appreciate the complexities of living down south, but according to my route planner, the time it takes to get from the train station nearest to Maria Miller’s home in Basingstoke to Westminster is 58 minutes, while the journey from her second home in Wimbledon takes 36 minutes.
A promising career lost, and great expense for the taxpayer, all for the sake of 22 minutes. And she could have done the Independent crossword to fill the time.
Colin Burke, Manchester
When MPs, caught with their hand in the expenses till, are pursued by the media, they regularly bleat “Witch-hunt!” When will they be taken to task for using this inappropriate metaphor? Surely, there were no witches.
Art Tanner, Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk
Would Glasgow defy referendum vote?
I would like to draw attention to the possibility of a break-up of Scotland if the referendum results in our leaving the UK.
If there is a small majority for independence in September, I wonder whether Glasgow and the west of Scotland will accept that decision? Perhaps people in the west will want to follow Northern Ireland in staying in the UK. It was recently reported that in a poll of 2,589 Glasgow University students 62 per cent voted no, and 38 per cent voted yes to the referendum question. The pro-independence website Wings over Scotland states that “Glasgow is the heart of Unionist darkness in Scotland”.
Given the rivalry between Glasgow and Edinburgh, it is perhaps inevitable that many Glaswegians see independence as an airy-fairy notion that favours hoity-toity Edinburgh more than down-to-earth, businesslike Glasgow. Independence has already been shown to be potentially bad for business in many ways: for example, shipbuilding could be threatened.
The proximity of the south-west to Northern Ireland means that Unionism resonates much more with people there than those in the east. It is therefore possible that south-west Scotland will fight for the right to remain in the United Kingdom. What will then become of an independent Scotland when an area containing half its population opts to stay in the UK?
If the referendum produces only a narrow majority one way or the other, those on the losing side may have feelings of resentment for years to come.
Alistair J Sinclair, Glasgow
Lord Robertson, the former Secretary General of Nato, has warned that Scottish independence would threaten world stability.
I’m certain that in Kiev, Kharkiv and Donetsk they talk of nothing else than the “cataclysmic” “geo-political” consequences (to use Robertson’s words) of a “yes” vote in Scotland.
Sasha Simic , London N16
‘The train don’t stop here any more’
As quaint as they might be, request stops (“Stop the train, I want to get off”, 9 April) can also be a hazard for the unwary traveller.
Many years ago, one Saturday night, I was travelling back from Bath to Bradford-on-Avon after a few tinctures with an old friend. As a regular commuter on that line, I knew that the next stop after Bath was Bradford.
I may have closed my eyes momentarily, but then the train slowed down and a young lad in the compartment got up in readiness to get off. “Next stop after Bath” I said to myself, and alighted from the train when it stopped.
As the train pulled away I failed to see the lights of the town I expected, and making my way along the platform saw the sign “Avoncliff”. I stumbled in the darkness across the viaduct and groped my way to the Cross Guns public house.
It was like a scene from a gothic novel as I pushed open the door. The few locals huddled over their pints all went silent and looked up at the windswept stranger who entered the bar. I thought an explanation was due: “I’ve just got off the train.”
The landlord looked at me in an old fashioned way. “The train don’t stop at Avoncliff,” he said. The locals joined in: “The train ain’t stopped ’ere for years.”
It had that night. I found out later that it was a request stop.
John E Orton, Bristol
BBC ‘balance’ on climate change
The letter from the BBC Trust member Alison Hastings typifies the complacent approach to climate change adopted by the BBC (8 April).
On the last three occasions that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has produced a major report, BBC News has interviewed Bob Carter, a retired geologist from Australia who belongs to the Non-IPCC, Bjorn Lomborg, a well-known sceptic, Nigel Lawson, who chairs the Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF), and Richard Tol, an economist affiliated to GWPF.
It is true that Richard Tol contributed to the latest IPCC report, but his submission was the only academic study out of 20 claiming that climate change might be beneficial and was rejected by the IPCC as unduly complacent.
There is not a single reputable scientific journal in the world that disputes the reality of climate change, nor of man’s contribution to it. Yet the BBC seems utterly incapable of moving beyond the science to the much more urgent question of what needs to be done. It is high time that the BBC ditched its obsession with political balance and started reporting the facts.
Dr Robin Russell-Jones, Stoke Poges, Buckinghamshire
Free schools: my revolutionary plan
Why do papers blather on about free schools? Anyone would think they were Westiminster’s way of sidestepping the fact that state schools have been mismanaged.
I think the concept is so fantastically marvellous that I am going to set up a free hospital. I will start with maternity (on the basis that I have had three babies).
I will apply for government funding which they can siphon off from my local health authority. In anticipation of the success of this project I am already converting my leaky garden shed into a birthing pool.
Amanda Baker, Morpeth, Northumberland
No compensation for prisoners
Jim Jepps (letter, 9 April) expresses the sort of liberal viewpoint that is leading to the disintegration of civilised society. Of course it is not “just fine” for one convicted criminal to be “shanked” in prison by another convicted criminal. However, the alleged victim should not be awarded compensation; the perpetrators should be severely punished in a way which would necessitate legislation.
Those tasked with the day-to-day running of the prison service ought not to be held responsible for the actions of the criminals they are detaining.
David Mitchell, Edinburgh
Pickles at prayer
Archie Bland’s suggestion (8 April) that Eric Pickles should don a sandwich board the next time he wants to intervene in an argument about religion and secularism raises an important question. With the pickles in the sandwich will we have cheese or ham, or possibly both?
Peter Clark, Hartford