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Friday 14 January 2011
Letters: Favouritism has a hierarchy
I co-authored the dossier on sexist ageism at the BBC with Selina Scott, and so was unsurprised that Miriam O'Reilly won her ageism claim, and lost her sexism claim (report, 12 January). There will be no new dawn for older women.
First, the award will not deter such conduct, as it will be modest both relative to the wealth of the BBC and to the perceived benefits of ageism. Second, the media world (and BBC in particular) retains the view that pay and appointment are matters within its artistic/business gift rather than decisions within the Equality Act. Third, the justice system still fails to understand the symbiotic nature of sexist ageism.
Judges appear to become confused by the inter-relationship between age and gender discrimination. There could be said to be no sexism as Ms O'Reilly was replaced by a female employee and no ageism because John Craven (the oldest employee) was retained. However, the reality is that there is a hierarchy of favouritism, with younger men at the top and older women at the bottom. Ms O'Reilly was axed for her age because she was a woman.
Until we have punitive deterrent damages, a 21st-century media mind-set and judges who understand prejudice, there will be no change and it remains as advisable today, as it did several generations ago, for a woman not to discuss her age and for a man never to ask it.
Lawrence Davies, Director, Equal Justice solicitors, London WC1
No grandparents on kids' TV
If the BBC were to have an attitude towards ageism you might suppose it would reveal itself in its children's channels, CBeebies and CBBC. Many children, after all, benefit from and enjoy the care of the grandparent generation, in contrast to the tense preoccupations of the parent generation. Surely this will be represented in BBC's choice of presenters. So what do they get?
Well, someone is certainly ticking boxes. CBeebies boasts Caucasian males, tall, short, and medium-sized, with or without wedding rings. It has a black male, a female Asian, a disabled Caucasian female and a female Oriental. But it seems to have no one over the age of about 35. Things have changed, apparently, from the days of Uncle Mac and Annette Mills, or Jean Morton and Brian Cant. With what consequences for the future?
Paul Miller, Southend-on-Sea, Essex
Creative freedoms curtailed
Creative people should be extremely concerned about the BBC losing a recent case on the grounds of ageism. If producers want a young woman to present their programmes they must be free to do so. I am 77. Can I have a job reading the news please?
Mary Essinger, Leicester
Unfair to the ill-favoured?
I'm delighted that Miriam O'Reilly was well compensated by the BBC, but what about all the ugly people who didn't get a look-in in the first place?
Simon Packham, Horsham, West Sussex
Sean O'Grady (13 January) asks whether the outpouring of public anger at the high pay of bankers is justified, pointing out that bankers are not the only highly paid people in society. Private companies are of course at liberty to pay their elite highly; it's their money.
But to suggest that banks should be able to enjoy such a laissez-faire control is to ignore the effect they have on the economy and the taxpayer. If a private firm fails, some people lose their jobs, hopefully to find re-employment elsewhere. But when the largest banks in the country and abroad find they are unable to repay their debts whole countries are obliged to bail them out with billions in taxpayers' money.
The outcome we know: massive cuts in public spending; more tax plucked from everyone's pockets; jobs, businesses, homes lost. And we are supposed to "get over it"?
Isn't it time our government accepted that inherently risky operations by investment banks cannot be allowed to drag the entire country down when they fail?
Break up the banks. Separate the activities that cannot be allowed to fail and subject them to strict regulation, limiting risky practices and the bonus culture that incentivises risks. Those who want to operate a casino culture and pay themselves the earth can go ahead in the knowledge that if they follow the path of greed and incompetence, they will go the way of Barings and Lehmans.
Des Senior, Ware, Hertfordshire
Many years ago when I worked in the confectionery industry, it was common practice to snaffle an item off the production-line and pop it in your mouth. We felt as if we had a right to do so. After all, we were making the stuff, and there was a never-ending supply. From time to time, of course, we overdid it, and paid the consequences.
Bankers process money. That's their job. They see the stuff all day every day. Huge great gobs of it. And – who can blame them? – they want some for themselves. The fact that they dress up their grab as a bonus payment need not blind us to what it is, a form of tribute. "We handle this stuff, so we're going to slip a bit into our overall pockets. And you'll hardly notice."
I have to admit, it's a better racket than nicking After Eight Mints: no matter how much these people take, they never seem to get sick of it.
Alan Wilkinson, Durham
Some of us are perverse enough not to see bankers' bonuses in the same benign light as Sean O'Grady manages to do. We remember that it was the bankers' folly that precipitated the global financial crisis in the first place. We also remember, despite everything the Government says to the contrary, that absolute catastrophe was averted by the prompt actions of Gordon Brown.
And we, the fiscally myopic majority, can find it hard to imagine what Bob Diamond is actually going to do with his money. Perhaps it might silence his critics were he to let slip which charities he is supporting, which writers, artists and musicians he is patronising, and which good causes are benefiting from his extraordinary good fortune.
Michael Rosenthal, Banbury, Oxfordshire
Bob Diamond has no reason to offer apologies, manifest restraint or exhibit shame (12 January). The function of a bank is not to look after the money of poor individuals but to create taxable wealth for government.
Barclays did not receive any state aid as it did not need a bail-out. The billions of taxpayers' money paid to RBS and Lloyds Bank resulted in the EU serving a 60-month winding down order in November 2009 to sell off 921 business items (companies, buildings etc).
The bonuses paid to Barclays employees were much less than any bail-out would have required with weaker administration. Moreover, RBS has just been additionally fined £2.8m for being incompetent.
Stop bashing bankers – almost one-eighth of UK income tax is derived from the banking sector. If they did not pay such taxes then the ordinary man and woman in the street would have to.
Nigel T James, Sheffield
The banks argue that if they do not pay big bonuses, they will lose staff to competitors.
It was right that the big banks should be bailed out in a time of crisis, in the interests of broader economic stability. But the bail-out had the undesired consequence of distorting the competitive landscape, and therefore the efficiency of a market economy, by enabling essentially failed banks to continue to trade.
It is now equally right to restrict bonus payments in those banks so that they at least feel some of the competitive consequences of the catastrophic decisions they made in the past. Losing their best staff to other banks who did not need a bail-out would be a very natural reallocation of resources in a properly competitive market.
Johnny Rizq, London W3
Nurses in the NHS are being expected to endure further cuts on top of the two-year pay-freeze and higher pension contributions that have already been imposed. While millions struggle to pay their bills, they can only watch in disbelief at the outrageous bonuses being paid to bankers.
The £8.5m being awarded to Bob Diamond equates to the salaries of 400 staff nurses. Put another way, a staff nurse on £21,176 would have to work until 2411 to equal his annual bonus package in earnings.
We are all in this together? Pull the other one Mr Osborne.
Richard Quinlan RN, London SW2
Tom Simpson (letter, 13 January) echoes my feelings with his suggestion that there will be plenty of bright youngsters to soon replace the bankers should they carry out their feeble threats to depart these shores. I for one would be glad to see the back of this generation of egocentrics.
He might have added that, as the next generation of young men and women survey the world around them and the future ahead, they might even possess the merest hint of a social conscience.
Philip Brown, Bridekirk, Cumbria
Two days before Bob Diamond appeared before the MPs, Barclays reduced the interest on a savings account from 0.75 per cent to 0.55 per cent. It is clear that banks have no interest in the humble customer, but their tarnished image might be improved if they transferred some of the bonus pot to increase the rate paid on savings accounts.
John Ashton, Richmond, North Yorkshire
Speaking to the Treasury Select Committee, Bob Diamond referred to his childhood and the difficult financial times he lived through – so hard, he had to save up for his own bicycle. Isn't it time he forgot about old financial issues and "moved on"?
Peter Thompson, Tarleton, Lancashire
Bob Diamond says that the time for the bankers to show remorse for their failings needs to be over. He may very well be right. Perhaps he can let us know when he thinks it will start.
Philip Masters, Royston, Hertfordshire
Arizonans love their guns
Tuscon killer Jared Loughner may not be unique among young Arizonans whose impressionable minds are moulded by a lethal combination of gun obsession and politically motivated misinformation and censorship.
Arizonans revere their right to bear arms (albeit mostly for hunting), and as the debate over gun controlin the US hardens, NRA members become all the more willing to flaunt their stuff. My family and I are not far from this: profile photos all over Facebook depict relatives in Arizona taking aim at the camera with handguns.
Arizona is largely rural and many young people lack exposure to information from outside – partly because it is inaccessible, but even more because of the xenophobic mentality of its most vocal residents and media personalities. When I and like-minded undergraduates at Arizona State University created a club to promote learning about diverse, under-represented and minority politics, I was told by the assistant dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Science that there was no need for such learning as her kids already received all the political education they needed from her.
Recall that President Obama's rather benign 2009 speech to schoolchildren was largely banned after Arizona Superintendent Tom Horne seeded the rumour that it "promoted worship-like reverence". This is mainstream political rhetoric in Arizona. Recently, Arizona has banned ethnic studies from its public schools after Tom Horne labelled such classes as "propagandizing and brainwashing".
So for those who argue Sarah Palin's crosshairs do not equate to targeted killings, consider the following. As a Londoner, perhaps crosshairs are best known for finding one's location on an iPhone. But for young Arizonans posing with handguns on Facebook, those crosshairs are seen through a different lens.
Alexandra de Sousa, London E11
The case for eating squirrels
I'm all for eating free-range hopefully organic, "wild game" meat, but in many cases this is not in any way ethical ("Wild things", 6 January).
The brown hare in the UK has declined drastically (particularly in the south) in the past 30 years, although some you see in the butchers may have been imported from France. Woodcock and snipe have decreased alarmingly as breeding birds in the UK in the same time period, though many shot are wintering north European birds.
The price paid for eating grouse is the extermination of birds of prey on grouse moors, such as hen harrier and merlin, the former now having a very tenuous hold in England, with numbers in Scotland significantly lower each year.
Grey squirrels, on the other hand, introduced from North America, are having a profoundly adverse effect on our indigenous wildlife including (indirectly) the red squirrel, and munch their way through the eggs and young of many of our breeding birds. So it seems logical to kill them and eat them – hence killing two birds with one stone.
Peter Brown, Brighton
What Dracula of a chef would, in cold blood, casserole any wild creature – let alone the madcap hare –in its own re-heated blood?
Marion O'Neil (Mountain Hare Correspondent, Hare Preservation Trust), Dunfermline, Fife
No curfews for the innocent
As a man, contrary to Alison McGuigan's assertion (letter, 11 January) I do understand her argument that men should be told to stay indoors after dark if women are under imminent threat of violent crime.
But the reality is that all innocent, free citizens should be allowed to roam any public place at any time they choose. People who have not committed crimes should not be subject to curfew, and the police should refrain from advising any group of people (women or men) to stay indoors.
Only individuals commit crimes, not entire groups, be these groups based on sex, colour, religion, sexual orientation or similar. To say otherwise is one step on the road to Nazism.
Michael O'Hare, Northwood, Middlesex
Pupil power is overrated
I read with interest Richard Garner's report on student-interview panels at Bristol Grammar School (13 January) having been through several of them in trying to gain a promotion.
While hearing the student voice is important in running a successful school, these panels suffer because students lack the experience to probe answers given and rarely do students ask questions which explore pedagogy. Schools need to incorporate teachers on these panels so a more thorough interview occurs.
Kartar Uppal, West Bromwich, West Midlands
John Betjeman on the Circle line
The article by Rob Sharp about the part played by the late Sir John Betjeman in saving St Pancras Station and the Midland Grand Hotel (10 January) certainly shed some interesting light on his role in the preservation of these buildings. However, the photograph which showed him "on one of the platforms of the station he loved" actually shows him on the westbound Circle line platform at Barbican Underground station. Perhaps he was recalling his "Monody on the Death of Aldersgate Street Station", which was Barbican's original name.
Paul Ross, Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire
Edward Woollard and his mother had a typically naive take on British justice so common amongst the law-abiding middle classes ("Sixth-former jailed for hurling fire extinguisher", 12 January). If they'd lived on the fictional Chatsworth Estate or had been members of the Bollinger Club, they would have known to have kept quiet.
Jan Williams, Sandbach, Cheshire
Fuel hike mystery
We have record fuel prices, partly a result of two tax increases within four days. Where are the pickets at the refineries and the slow-moving convoys of trucks? Or does the haulage industry only protest when a Labour government increases taxes?
Brian Rogan, West Wickham, Kent
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