The Football Association may well be a bunch of inept fools who have failed several times to capitalise on this country's football potential, but they are in no way responsible for Paul Gascoigne's decline into alcoholism, and they should not be responsible for funding his treatment. (Janet Street-Porter, 24 September).
Gascoigne's problem may well be that he can't live without football, but his excessive drinking began along time ago, when he was at his peak. His England manager, Graham Taylor, criticised Gascoigne's "refuelling". The mainly laddish football media at the time celebrated his drunken antics and his "celebrity" nights out on the razz. Gascoigne's lifestyle was not that of an amateur-level athlete, never mind one of our so-called "world-class" footballers. A very wealthy young man was destroying himself in front of the nation and it was all self-inflicted. Since then the decline has been both horrible and, unfortunately, very public.
The FA have commendably tried to help Gascoigne in gaining his coaching badges, but it is not their fault that this has not come about. Gascoigne has had a huge number of chances to turn his life around, as well as having the funds to do so – unlike many other people who have succumbed to this illness. Janet Street-Porter is correct in saying that Gascoigne should receive treatment in a place where he's not known, but if anyone apart from himself should pay for this, it should be the Professional Footballers' Association, and only after a proper assessment of Gascoigne's chances of recovery has been made. But it should not be the FA. Young promising footballers of the future should not have their funding starved in order to bail out a burnt-out symbol of what is palpably wrong with English football.
Harassing mothers to go out to work
Deborah Orr rightly points out that the call for payment for caring work is as relevant today as it was in the 1970s ("Why does the Government think we're a nation of bad parents?", 24 September) and yes, the Wages for Housework Campaign is still very much alive and in 2000 launched the Global Women's Strike, whose principle is "Invest in caring, not killing".
Thirty years on it's clear that waged work has not been the path to liberation for most women. Mothers do a double day of low-paid jobs on top of the unpaid caring job in what time and energy remains. We and children need space away from each other, but not by putting their well-being and our relationships with them last. Fathers, working the longest hours in Europe, are hardly able to know, let alone care for, their children. Why don't fathers' rights groups campaign about that?
We don't have children for other people to raise. Yet the Government, advised by investment bankers, advocates more of the same: harassing mothers off benefits and into workplaces with pay inequity, enabled by longer hours of childcare for ever-younger children.
From November mothers whose youngest child reaches 12 years will be forced off income support and on to jobseeker's allowance. Are mothers "workless" when we're penniless? What makes bankers' greedy work more important than bearing and raising the human race? Valuing mothers' work and paying for it values human life over the market. The present crisis tells us what happens when a society values the market over all of us.
Deborah Orr takes issue with Daycare Trust's statement that in the long term, quality childcare can help create a more stable and harmonious society. We believe this first because affordable, accessible childcare helps tackle child poverty by enabling parents to work, and second because research shows that quality childcare has huge benefits in the development of children, especially children from low-income families.
We have never argued that all parents must use formal childcare, but we passionately share the Government's view that parents must have a choice. Not all families will choose a formal childcare setting such as a nursery or childminder, but parents must have the option of taking up quality, affordable childcare where they need it.
Deborah Orr refers fav-ourably to the recent Centre for Social Justice report Next Generation. While this report contains a thoughtful and detailed analysis, its recommendation of direct payments for mothers who stay at home to care for their children tilts the agenda too far.
Alison Garnham and Emma Knights
Joint Chief Executives, Daycare Trust, London SE1
The answer to Deborah Orr's question "Why does the Government think we're a nation of bad parents?" is supplied in the same edition, by the news report headed "Primary schools 'should focus on pupils' lifestyles' ". The parents represented in some 60 seminars set up to review the primary school curriculum are seemingly happy, nay, proactive, in the absolution of their responsibility for the personal development of their offspring by passing it on to primary school teachers.
Train home after the theatre
Julia Gasper's urges the Royal Shakespeare Company to persuade Chiltern Railways to operate later services from Stratford-upon-Avon to London, to facilitate same-day trips to performances. Her letter was somewhat depressing, in the sense that all too often one rediscovers issues that were once apparently solved only to re-emerge many years later.
Some 20 years ago, long before there was a direct rail link between Stratford-upon-Avon and London, there was an innovative service operated by a local tour company called something like the Shakespeare Express. Passengers took a train from Euston to Coventry and then a dedicated coach to Stratford. The schedule was expressly designed to enable people to travel to the RSC from the capital and return that same evening. It worked.
Now that we have long endured the nonsense of "competition" in the rail sector, it struck me that there is a genuine opportunity for Virgin Rail to win market share from another operator, with or without reference to the RSC. Simply resurrect this service (easy to do since rail companies do nothing else but charter coaches at weekends anyway). The service would also be considerably quicker than the existing direct route.
For the benefit of the RSC spokesperson who dismissed the complaint, the overall "experience" of patrons does not end with the curtain call – it concludes with what time one reaches home.
Don't just weigh the luggage
Recently I took my daughter to Exeter airport to catch a plane to Portugal. She was worried that she might be surcharged for her luggage being overweight. When I saw the size of some of her fellow travellers in the check-in queue I was prepared to become very angry if she had been surcharged.
My daughter might have weighed at most 9 stone or 60 kilos, while many in the queue were probably about 20 stone or 130 kilos, so that, even with her luggage, she would have weighed in at far less than the body-weight of these people.
What is the sense of airlines charging all people the same price for their tickets and collecting baggage overweight surcharges without making allowances for the weight of the people owning the luggage? Why do they not price tickets on the basis of the total weight of the passenger and luggage?
Their present pricing structures amount to a subsidy to the obese by the healthy. The change in policy I am suggesting would be a great incentive towards healthy eating and a help to the National Health Service in tackling the growing obesity problem. It would also reflect the true cost of carrying people by air.
Lessons from the banking crisis
There is much that is sad about the current American election campaign, and Johann Hari's article "A crisis that could make the US election a cleaner contest" (19 September) sets forth many of the reasons why we need here a more informed and rational debate.
The problem is that much of the US media has been poor in reporting the substance and in its analysis of policy positions. As Hari has noted, the economic crisis may help citizens to focus on real issues.
One of the issues which is of great interest not only for Americans but also Europeans is how to come to grips with the energy/environmental crisis that in the long run is far more important for mankind than the financial crisis. In fact, solving the energy/ environmental crisis can be a way of getting our economies back to work in a productive way rather than spending billions on propping up much of the banking system which has caused the mess we see today.
While action needs to be taken to deal with the immediate financial debacle, the way forward is to mobilise that sector to help finance not shaky derivatives or impenetrable bundles of securities, but the necessary transition to a new energy and climate-change global project. In this the UK government has been a positive force, and we hope here that an Obama administration will help lead such an effort.
Harry C Blaney III
Senior Fellow, Center for International Policy
Richard Ingrams (Opinion, 20 September) and Gunter Straub (letter, 23 September) suggest that the current economic mayhem has been caused by the "greedy bankers" lending irresponsibly and the politicians encouraging the resulting short-lived booms with deregulation – and rightly so. But we risk missing the more fundamental culprit, the interest-based economy itself. The promise of interest necessarily encourages the flow of capital through unproductive channels such as the subprime mortgage market.
Thus last week's epic collapses draw attention to alternative economic models such as the Islamic system, where interest doesn't play a role. The flow of capital is instead encouraged by a specialised tax which only checks idle capital, encouraging private enterprise to invest productively, the tax revenue being used for welfare.
Bankers will always get around regulation, so just trying to regulate more strictly is like treating the symptoms instead of the disease.
Beginning of love
If sexual intercourse began in 1963, love songs, according to your "Culture of Love" magazine (23 September) began in 1952 and only jazz and pop musicians have written any. What did Mozart, Schubert, Richard Strauss or Wagner write?
Lewes, East Sussex
Gordon Brown's conference speech scared me. He used the first person singular (I, me, my, mine) almost 150 times, craving applause for selflessly living for others and leading "his" people to the promised land. Who does he think he is, Moses or the Messiah ? Such delusions are very dangerous in any politician, but especially in one who has yet to contest any election outside Kirkcaldy.
Laws of laundry
Peter Day asks physicists why, in washing machines, "the sheet and pillowcases almost invariably [my italics] end up inside the duvet cover". What he should be asking is why they sometimes do not. Once a physical law has been established, as is indubitably the case with washing machines and duvet covers, it is the variations from that law that may lead to further breakthroughs in science. If this research could be reconciled with the Single Sock Conundrum, we may end up with that Holy Grail, a Unified Theory of Washing Machines.
Living with fears
It was disappointing that you aligned yourself with Jacqui Smith's scary New Labour utopianism – "I want to see every child living their lives free from fear" ("Sarah's Law allows mothers to make sex checks", 15 September). If, as you say, "parents should have a right to any information that can help them directly protect their children", then we should be told about local drug dealers, muggers, perhaps even those with TB. The belief that it is possible to eliminate danger and fear from our lives is leading us towards a dystopia of mass surveillance and suspicion.
Image of stability
Amid financial meltdown and political ferment, how strangely reassuring it is that Her Majesty still has an official Painter and Limner in Scotland, that her 77th birthday was noted in your Gazette and that she rejoices in the name and title Dame Elizabeth Blackadder.
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