Who is Michael Gove to perceive extremism? He is himself an extremist, a disciple of Bush and Blair, an ardent believer in the worldwide existential threat to western civilisation, whose fifth columnists are in our midst plotting against us.
Notice the charge against the schools involved: not that they have been teaching the jihadist view of the world, but they have been “failing to protect” pupils from exposure to any views which might lead them to further views which might perhaps cause sympathy with opinions which need to be proscribed. The extremist requires the teaching of his own views, and failure to do so (or even insufficient ardour in doing so) is further proof to him of the omnipresent threat which he fights against.
In his madcap crusade to create “free schools” and academies and to destroy local education authorities, which he regarded as part of the “Blob”, Michael Gove has failed to provide any monitoring or accountability procedures.
Given the appalling problems identified at the Al-Madinah school in Derby and the numerous accounts of financial mismanagement in a host of academy chains and academies, he has failed to act decisively.
The programme has carried on at a giddy pace, and now it appears has gone completely off the rails. The education of children in some schools has been taken over by radical elements, and the “revolution” which he promised has been subverted by others with a quite different agenda.
Mr Gove chooses, like many fanatics, to blame everyone else. Now is the time for him to stand up and be counted, stop faith school groups creating free schools, and bring all academies back into a structure that can oversee them, like local authorities. He may thus salvage something from this disastrous monster that he has created.
Simon G Gosden
There was a time – the 10 centuries preceding the past half-century – when immigration was low enough for newcomers to be absorbed, and they expected to be absorbed into the culture in which they had chosen to settle.
Along came multiculturalism. Then the idea of a host nation’s culture taking precedence began to unravel. All minority cultures were to be regarded equally, regardless of the lack of equality practised in some of them.
There was bound to be a clash sooner or later. One of the results of the multicultural approach is now being played out in Birmingham and Whitehall.
Eastbourne, East Sussex
When the “Popish Plot” was exposed as phoney in 1685 its author, Titus Oates, was flogged at the cart’s tail through the streets of London. Now it’s the Islamic “Trojan Horse Plot” that is creaking at the seams. Better get the newspaper down the trousers, Mr Gove.
What cottage hospitals could do
Kenneth Taylor (letter, 4 June) was almost certainly a hospital doctor and certainly not a GP working in a GP-led cottage hospital as I was for 25 years back in the 20th century. He should not make generalisations based on his own limited experience.
In that hospital we, the GPs, were delivering 250 babies per year in the maternity unit and had the best safety figures in the region.
My partner, a GP surgeon, was doing two lists per week in our small operating theatre.
After morning surgery we went on a rota system from the GP surgery to the hospital minor injuries unit to deal with casualties and undertake minor surgery.
We had visiting consultants in all specialities from the district general hospital every week coming 12 miles to do outpatient sessions in psychiatry to gynaecology to dermatology and undertake ward rounds on the medical, surgical and geriatric wards.
We had a thriving physiotherapy department, X-ray facilities and a day hospital.
It is now a shadow of its former self, purely for economic reasons.
Ask anyone what they want from the NHS and they will say, the best possible treatment as local to where I live as possible.
Dr Nick Maurice
I understand what Kenneth Taylor writes about the downside of cottage hospitals. But I wonder whether a physician, even an obviously caring one like him, realises that his familiar working environment is a frighteningly alien and impersonal place to a vulnerable old person.
Any old person who does not wish to go “gentle into that good night” would welcome Dr Taylor’s concern. But many of us would readily swap access to the latest technological equipment for a shorter life with palliative care in the more homely atmosphere of a cottage hospital.
Friends that I visited, 40-odd years ago, in a Suffolk cottage hospital seemed to me to be cared for, virus-free and relatively happy. It is what I would wish for myself.
Seaford, East Sussex
Cautious welcome for carrier bag charge
Most campaigners against plastic waste will give a cautious welcome to the 5p charge on plastic bags announced in the Queen’s Speech. The welcome would be much warmer if the Government had been brave enough to be consistent and include all single-use bags and all retailers, large or small. As it stands, the charge will confuse shops and shoppers, and still allow significant amounts of waste and litter to pollute our environment.
Those who care about our environment will also greet the “food poisoning threat” from reusing bags with some scepticism. Most food, even from small retailers, comes so well wrapped that cross-contamination seems highly unlikely, and those of us who regularly use cloth bags don’t, in any case, “store” fresh meat and vegetables in them, as the researchers seem to think we do.
We store fresh produce in our fridges and cupboards, where contamination is also possible if proper precautions are not taken. We also wash our cloth bags occasionally and most of us have so far survived the dangers of reusable bags rather well.
Kingston upon Thames, Surrey
The announcement of a 5p charge on plastic carrier bags in the Queen’s Speech comes as welcome news for England’s canals and rivers.
Plastic bags are an unsightly blight on the nation’s waterways, blocking weirs, getting tangled in boat propellers and trapping wildlife. Even with the help of many volunteers, the Canal & River Trust still spends over £770,000 a year removing litter from the 2,000 miles of historic waterways in our care, money we have to divert from vital maintenance.
What would make a real difference is if the money raised for the charge were recycled back to those environmental charities, like ourselves, that are at the front line of tackling litter.
Chief executive, The Canal & River Trust
A penal tax on expensive homes
There remains a strand of political thought that the solution to every problem is to increase taxes on someone else. You assert, with no evidence, that the present system of council tax means that the bills of the super-rich are “subsidised” by those in the lower bands (editorial, 4 June).
The truth is that most of local government expenditure is financed by grants from central government.
These funds are derived, inter alia, from income tax, and the highest earners are the larger income tax payers by a long, long way. Council tax is intended to be a payment for council services and was never intended to be a penal tax on expensive homes, whose occupants may not be wealthy.
Mix-up in the Great War trenches
It was nice to have John Lichfield share his thoughts on the Somme offensive (“Massacre of the innocents”, 28 May) but could I point out that the illustration captioned “going over the top during the Battle of the Somme” in fact shows members of the 9th Cameronians (Scottish Rifles) carrying out a trench raid near Arras on 27 March 1917?
Professor Jim Sharpe
Department of History
University of York
Fewer children produce less art
I have just read Zoë Pilger’s article about the RA summer exhibition (3 June) and see there is a work entitled “In 2013 14% Less Children Chose Art at GCSE ...”. Let us hope that these 14 per cent fewer children were busy learning English grammar so that they will not commit the same mistake.