Is Howard Jacobson being unsympathetic when he complains of the disruptions caused cyclists and triathletes (20 September)?
Documentary makers have made much of the time and effort such people put into their chosen discipline, surely a sign that these obsessive narcissists have a significant body-image problem. Public money should be dedicated to providing therapy for these unfortunates, rather than supporting mega sporting occasions which only serve to legitimate their delusions and disrupt the lives of ordinary folk.
Moderate exercise is good for one’s health, but figures seem to indicate that the Olympic legacy has been more people in their living rooms watching the telly. If the Government wants to encourage people to be more active, then they need to show that sport is something that ordinary people can do and enjoy rather than a full-time occupation for masochists.
Sean Barker, Bristol
Is there no end to Howard Jacobson’s hatred of anyone who is not driving a car? On Saturday he wrote of “any city where runners and cyclists maraud.” Maraud – I looked it up, and here’s the definition: “To rove or raid in search of plunder”. So, to Howard Jacobson, runners and cyclists – anyone who doesn’t go around inside a ton of steel – is the modern equivalent of an 18th-century highwayman. Please supply evidence.
Jean Elliott, Upminster, Essex
David Hewitt (letter, 23 September) extols the provision of sport in independent schools and talks as if sport is important. It isn’t. Most people have no interest in organised competitive sport, whether in doing it themselves or in watching others do it, and nor should they.
Most of us can keep fit and healthy through leading busy, active lives and enjoying recreations such as walking, cycling and gardening, and we don’t need to make fools of ourselves in playing silly games. Time wasted on school sport would be much better spent on constructive activities such as music and drama, which are much better at teaching the virtues of teamwork and co-operation.
Sam Boote, Nottingham
Private schools save money for the taxpayer
Archie Bland (23 September) complains that private schools receive £100m subsidy because of their charitable status. This figure has been quoted in many articles for a number of years but it isn’t easy to find out where it comes from. Those private schools that are charities do not make profits, so they are not saving corporation tax. They cannot claim gift aid relief on school fees. They cannot claim back the VAT they pay. I would interested to know where this “subsidy” comes from.
If there is such a subsidy though, and removing charitable status reduced the size of the sector by a few per cent, any saving would be swallowed up by the cost of educating those children in the state sector.
The saving to the state sector of educating children privately is several billion pounds a year. Although this is not an argument for charitable status, both sides of the equation need to be considered before stating that private education is “subsidised by taxpayers”.
Julian Gall, Godalming, Surrey
Archie Bland peddles the usual half-humorous half-truths about independent schools.
Independent schools, rather than being subsidised by the taxpayer, in fact save the taxpayer billions in educating half a million children outside the state-funded education system; relieve pressure for new school places that will have to be created to cope with rising demographics; fund out of their own reserves places for tens of thousands of children, aided each year to the tune of hundreds of millions of pounds in free and subsidised places.
It’s easy to mock what you don’t understand. But no serious effort is ever given to suggesting how removing charitable status would represent an improvement in the educational offering of our world-beating schools.
Matthew Burgess, General Secretary, Independent Schools Council, London WC2
Ukip’s secret: seem human
I read that Labour’s policy co-ordinator, Jon Cruddas, describes Nigel Farage as having “that sort of interesting character which means he has a seductive quality with the people”.
His only seductive quality, Mr Cruddas, is that he talks like one of the free-range human beings commonly found in the UK, rather than the professional political automatons so extensively manufactured by the three main parties. This quality is innate to everyone before they get PR training, even our own Leader of the Opposition.
Why not take advantage of this by trying to get Mr Miliband to stop talking in sound-bites and instead to act a little bit more as though he was in the pub debating a topic about which he actually cared? (And give the man some credit; it’s obvious that he does care.)
Forget trying to be Winston Churchill - oratory is not his strong suit. Just get him to talk like a normal bloke and everyone in this country will take him much more seriously.
Kris McDermott, Manchester
A few months ago there was a debate on the letters pages about middle-lane cruisers. Astonishingly, there were quite a few people prepared to write in to defend the practice. Now we are getting letters defending Ukip. It occurs to me that the same characteristic, a complete lack of ability to carry out rational thought, is shared by these two groups.
Is it possible that there is a high correlation between middle-lane cruisers and Ukip supporters? I think some research is called for!
Professor Chris G Guy, School of Systems Engineering, University of Reading
If anyone in Scotland is still undecided about how to vote in the independence referendum, the likelihood of Ukip being the third largest party in the UK (probably mean England as usual) should be enough to send them to the polls swinging their claymores.
Robert Stewart, Wilmslow, Cheshire
Godfrey Bloom is a silly man who shouldn’t be worrying his pretty little head with things he doesn’t understand, like politics. He should leave that to the ladies.
Catherine Petts, Steventon, Oxfordshire
Children’s care needs a strategy
The Education Secretary’s proposed reforms to children’s homes (“Private equity firms are making millions out of failing children’s care homes”, 14 September) are dangerously narrow. All children should have safe, effective care whether in fostering, kinship care or children’s homes. The vast majority of the victims in the Rochdale and Oxfordshire cases were living with their birth families, and these changes will have no impact on the lives of vulnerable children at risk of harm and abuse.
Quality is not a question of whether the provider is a local authority or independent provider. Indeed, independent homes were less likely to be rated inadequate, and cost on average over £14,000 less per child per year, than local authority-run homes. Where homes are inadequate or located in unsafe areas, this must be addressed, and quickly, but the majority of children’s homes provide young people with support that will enable them to live fulfilled adult lives.
Currently, children’s homes are too often used as a last resort for children with very challenging behaviour only when all else has failed. The DfE’s data show that nearly a third of children in children’s homes have been through six or more placements. This is the real scandal, with poor commissioning decisions denying children the stability and security they need.
The DfE recently revealed it had decided against developing a care strategy, instead choosing to implement piecemeal reforms – such as to the adoption system – that do not impact upon the majority of looked-after children.
We urge the Education Secretary to rethink this decision and take a strategic approach to reforming the wider care system in order to best meet the needs of vulnerable children, rather than making piecemeal changes.
Mike Davey, Director of Witherslack, on behalf of the Children’s Services Development Group, London SW1
Villains of an innocent era
Thank you Ian Craine (letter, 23 September) for your evocation of the wonderful Garry Halliday, the DC3 pilot and adventurer who taught Indiana Jones everything he knew.
My favourite scene? Where Traumann, the Voice’s hapless hit-man, offered his apologies for once again allowing our hero to slip through his fingers. “It won’t happen again next time, Voice,” stammered the perma-shaded functionary. “There won’t be a next time, Traumann,” his boss replied, as a silenced gun-barrel wobbled into the bottom corner of the screen – for the Voice, as you might expect, was never seen – and dispatched Traumann to wherever hopeless goons in all great kids’ TV shows go.
Now, who remembers Space Patrol?
Richard Butterworth, St Day, Cornwall
Rash SNP promise
In “promising” long-term pensions for an independent Scotland larger than for the UK, the SNP has gone beyond exaggeration to outright dishonesty.
Scotland has a slightly older population than England, and with less immigration it is aging faster, so our pensions will cost more. Oil, while a long way from running out, is in long-term decline, while with oil reserves worldwide increasing it is likely to drop in price, so that, over decades, we must expect less money from it.
If the economies of both stay the same, it is inevitable a separate Scotland will have less money, per person, for pensions.
Neil Craig, Glasgow
There is a simple and ecologically sound method for ridding a house of flies which was taught to me by my father. For best results live in an old house. Encourage spiders by never killing them or removing their webs. Result: flies gone in a flash, fat happy spiders and a good excuse for those dusty cobwebbed drapes in the corners. No flies and less housework. Perfect!
Jan Cook, South Nutfield, Surrey
Don’t hang up
I am not sure that forcing queuing callers to listen to Simply Red is acceptable in human rights terms, even if it does reduce the abandoned call rate for Lincolnshire County Council.
Nigel Scott, London N22