Letters: Deal will corrode press freedom


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These letters are published in the Thursday 21st March issue of The Independent

As people become increasingly disillusioned with our politicians and the flaws in our democracy, it is a free and open press that stands between Britain and the tyranny imposed by a political class governed by the markets and naive populism.

The Royal Charter deal that enjoys cross-party consensus has no relevance to the illegal conduct of journalists, and only serves to censor newspapers. It is for the police to enforce the law, not quangos, a point Leveson fails to address with any conviction.

It may seem an exaggeration to some that the British press will no longer be able to function to the same high standard that its people have taken for granted over the past three centuries, but just look at the rich and defiant history of our journalists who have fought to keep our democracy flourishing, from the expenses scandal to the exposure of the corruption surrounding the Hillsborough disaster. The proposals in the Royal Charter deal will corrode this principle.

Andrew Lovatt, Market Drayton, Shropshire


From the reaction of some newspapers, you would think nothing had changed. Indeed, nothing would have changed and we would have accepted the assurances of the Murdoch press that hacking was the action of one “rogue reporter”, until the hacking of Millie Dowler’s phone blew the lid off the scandal. 

The same newspapers had their free press, whose cause they are trumpeting, but they blew it. Things have changed. We have got it. Still, some papers have not got it.

William Robert Haines, Shrewsbury


I realise that The Independent believes the Royal Charter proposals are a regrettable necessity in view of the behaviour of some sections of the press, but surely you must have concerns, as I do, about the hasty manner of the introduction of the Royal Charter.

Chris Bryant MP, a regular contributor to your paper, stated early in the debate that it was wrong for MPs to be debating a document which they had not seen; the Speaker’s answer seemed unsatisfactory. The talks which led to the agreement of the proposals included Hacked Off, but not newspapers themselves. The inclusion of the internet does not seem to have been thought through. And finally, an Act of Parliament establishing a regulator would at least have been more thoroughly debated and scrutinised than the Royal Charter.

John Dakin, Toddington, Bedfordshire


After struggling over the adjective  “indefatigable” in praising the efforts of those who secured a deal on Leveson, will Ed Miliband consider elocution lessons from George Galloway, who managed so effortlessly to enunciate the longer noun “indefatigability” in his silkily smooth paean of praise to a tyrant and mass murderer of Muslims called Saddam Hussein?

Hugh Hetherington, Sandwich, Kent


Educated for failure and social unrest

I was glad that academics are getting uppity about Michael Gove’s conveyor-belt curriculum (letter, 20 March).

Who could disagree, when you write in your leader that the goal is a better education for more children?  However, things might improve if the Education Secretary, the academics, the teachers and the nation agreed what a good education is.

Mr Gove appears to think that a good education is all about the acquisition of facts and the passing of competitive examinations. How does it profit the nation when the majority of pupils, by the criteria of the system, fail?

Would we not be better turning out well-informed, inquisitive school leavers, full of confidence, with a can-do attitude and committed to lifelong learning? They would soon make good any shortcomings in what they wanted or needed to know.

Mr Gove’s conveyor belt transports the nation to disillusionment, economic failure and social unrest.

David McKaigue, Wirrall


I note that Michael Gove wants all nine-year-olds to know their 12 times table. Can anyone explain why the 12 times table is necessary at all? Who uses it?

It seems to be a vestige from the time of pre-decimal coinage, when 12 pence equalled one shilling. Then very useful, today it serves no purpose at all.

Gavin P Vinson, London N10


Don’t just take the points

One of the tragic aspects of the Huhne case is that back in the day when that original speeding offence was committed, many constabularies did not send out to the defendant the photographs from the speed camera. Couples hardly ever really knew who was actually driving anyway, unless they took steps to find out.

Regularly I amazed clients in those days by telling them to go and check the photographs from the speed camera. They had to visit the police headquarters to do this in many areas. They found this intimidating and were often reluctant to go, but it was essential. We then successfully ran the “we don’t know who was driving” defence because the photos nearly always did not show the driver.

Many times I have found couples were frequently wrong about which one of them was driving the car. They just assumed they knew, when in fact their memories had played a trick on them. Sometimes it transpired that it was not even their car but someone using false number plates on a vehicle which was stolen; known as a “ringer”. This is more common than you might think.

People frequently think they can remember events when they are wrong. I urge people not to conclude from the Huhne case you should just accept the points in speed camera cases as a matter of routine.

Nigel F Boddy, Solicitor, Darlington


Get out on to the NHS wards

I was employed in the NHS from 1970 to 1987, initially as a National Management Trainee, followed by senior management posts in the North-west and latterly as chief executive of a group of London postgraduate teaching hospitals. I don’t understand how the quality of care has dropped so low in some instances. Do the managers actually get out on to the wards and other patient areas or are they safely tucked away in their offices?

In all my NHS posts I frequently visited the wards and other patient areas, sometimes on my own, sometimes with a senior nurse. In all my posts volunteer members of the managing authority regularly visited the wards and other patient areas. And we always talked and listened to the patients and the staff. 

Of course, things were not always perfect and things did go wrong, but regular visits gave one an awareness of what was going on in patient areas and kept everyone on their toes. The benefits of such visits never seem to be mentioned nowadays.

Peter Zimmermann, Duffield, Derbyshire


Matthew Norman (18 March) has every right to treat David Lammy as a figure of fun. Unfortunately, figures of fun can end up wielding real power with disastrous consequences. In my view a considerable part of the responsibility for the mismanagement of the transition in England from Community Health Councils to Patient and Public Involvement Forums 10 years ago lay with the junior health minister at the time, one David Lammy. The consequences of this are still being felt in Mid-Staffordshire and elsewhere.

Donald ROY, London SW15


Hairless slaves of fashion

Louisa Saunders (“A woman’s right to hair down there”, 19 March) broaches a topic with wider ramifications than she had space to cover.

From a professional perspective, I can confirm that pubic hair is an increasingly endangered species, among women of all ages, more than men. A number of women have mentioned that they felt obliged to depilate before attending for examination. Why?

My interpretation is that this impulse to synthesise appearance and behaviour is symptomatic of a wider departure from reality that afflicts our whole civilisation to an increasing degree. Women seem peculiarly vulnerable to exploitation, though men are not far behind. Whereas many appear helpless in their willing subjugation to modish, arbitrary, often ruinously expensive and sometimes damaging trends in appearance and behaviour, choice still exists. We could, as a society together, choose to be ourselves and not the creatures of the caprice and avarice of others.

Dr Steve Ford, Haydon Bridge, Northumberland


Suez: who was the aggressor?

Anne Keleny (Obituaries, 20 March) claims that the late Richard Worsley faced “Egyptian insurgents” who had “seized” the Suez canal in 1956. This is quite inaccurate; the late general was engaged in combat with the regular armed forces of the Egyptian state. Britain and France, it should be remembered, had initiated an unprovoked attack on Egypt which had quite lawfully nationalised the Suez canal that ran through its own territory. The Egyptian forces were acting in self-defence.

John Strawson, Reader in Law, University of East London


Rugby losers

Just to recap, last Saturday England’s dreams of a rugby Grand Slam were shattered at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff when they were trounced 30-3 by Wales. Why then, over the past two days (19, 20 March), has The Independent devoted five and a half pages to the England team with very little mention of the Wales team?

Mike Stroud, Swansea

Ominous guest

As if things weren’t bad enough for the Roman Catholic Church, they give Robert Mugabe a front row seat for the Pope’s inauguration. I know the church is big on repentance, but he clearly isn’t showing much sign of it.

Simon Prentis, Cheltenham, Gloucestershire


Shop of horrors

I have some comfort for  T H C Noon (Letter, 19 March). The missing Mid-Devonian apostrophes migrated south last year and were living in Plymouth, adorning a coffee shop’s blackboard advertising “Cake’s” and “Gateaux’s”.

Adrian Lee, Horrabridge, Devon, Unfair exchange


The annual rise in my father-in-law’s pension is exactly matched – to the penny –  by the rise in his council tax bill. With what does he pay the increases in the cost of food, electricity and gas?

Chris Stevens, Windsor


Closing down?

For Sale: Semi-detached Mediterranean Island. Potential to develop gas reserves. Would suit major power wishing to relocate naval base from Syria.

Barry Rose, Brockham, Surrey