Letters: Give women a sporting chance

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The Independent Online

Like many other men I celebrated hugely when the likes of Kelly Holmes and Rebecca Adlington won Olympic gold medals and would never underestimate their achievements. However, I think that much of Joan Smith's criticism of the all-male shortlist for Sports Personality of the Year is unfounded (1 December).

The fact is that male sport is, due to relative physical strength and ability, better supported than female sport. If there was really a "level playing field" and a match was arranged, the top men would beat the top women every time in almost any sport.

This has not been a classic year for British sportswomen, but hopefully more will come to the fore in the 2012 Olympics and we will see plenty of recognition of female talent in next year's awards ceremonies.

As for Joan Smith's complaint that among many other publications, Zoo and Nuts magazines were consulted by the BBC, I agree that these magazines are read exclusively by sad misogynistic men. They are, however, magazines with sports pages, unlike Vogue, Joan's suggestion as a source of sporting opinion. If there was a high-circulation women's sports magazine, I would suggest that they too should be consulted.

Tim Matthews

Luton, Bedfordshire

I was interested to read Joan Smith's criticism of the lack of any female nominations for the BBC Sports Personality of the Year award in a newspaper which rarely reports on any female sport. Reading the sports pages of The Independent you could be forgiven for thinking there were no women, never mind any who actually participated in sport.

Sarah Smith


Try looking through your very own (or any other paper's) sports pages on any day and the female representatives are normally spectators in a crowd. In fact on occasions you would find not a single woman pictured.

Why stop there? Look at the panellists on Any Questions? and most other TV and radio programmes such as comedy panel shows, where there might be just one woman, if any. It's hard to believe that we are marginally over half of the population.

Mary Evans

Heathfield, East Sussex

As in previous years, Nuts was honoured to contribute a shortlist for the BBC Sports Personality of the Year. The magazine carries on average 14 pages of sports-related content each week; sport is incredibly important to our readers and is therefore a subject that we take very seriously.

As in previous years, we put forward a list of the 10 sports stars who we felt had excelled that year – and were of interest to our demographic. We considered at length which sports personalities to include and built our list irrespective of gender or indeed race; it was purely a list of the sports stars whose success we felt had impacted most upon the lives of our readers.

Obviously our shortlist was dominated by sports our readers love – so football, cricket, golf and boxing feature heavily. With 2012 due to be dominated by an Olympics in Britain, I imagine our list next year will look very different.

Dominic Smith

Editor, Nuts, London SE1

How to control public-sector pay

The Chancellor's plans to restrict and adapt public-sector pay are a missed opportunity. The main announcement – that pay awards will be restricted to an average of 1 per cent over the next two years – may seem a simple and sensible way to save money, but that is an illusion.

First, money can be saved in other ways – there is still plenty of scope for scaling down public-sector organisations and improving their efficiency.

Second, capping pay is ineffective. It constrains decisions about the recruitment and retention of talent, yet doesn't actually prevent pay from rising, as it has continued to do during the so-called "pay freeze"' of the past two years.

The Chancellor also doesn't address the real problem with public-sector pay, which is not that people earn too much, but that pay systems are inflexible and hard to control. In the NHS, for example, earnings in the past year have risen by 2.4 per cent in spite of the freeze, mainly as a result of automatic incremental progression. The Chancellor should want reform, not simply control.

It would be more consistent with the Government's philosophy of devolution and localism to handle pay differently. There was a glimmer of this in the reference to making public-sector pay more responsive to local markets, but this is not enough.

The Government should consider controlling spending by limiting financial allocations, not interfering with pay. Flexible, local decisions are vital for service quality and effectiveness. If an agency wants to have fewer, better paid people, let it – as long as the overall cost is kept down.

An incentive scheme for public-sector organisations that are willing to undertake pay reform is another feasible solution. They could be given extra money if they improve the system to make it more flexible and controllable.

We need a strategy, not just tactics.

Peter Smith

Director, Hay Group, London SW1

Public-sector workers need to think laterally. By no longer decorating their homes with expensive Osborne & Little wallpaper and paints they could quickly reduce the value of the Chancellor's own pension pot.

Neil Cooke

London E9

Plan B looks no better than Plan A

Mr Osborne's plan A has put the invalid on a starvation diet – not what any experienced nurse would do. His plan B looks like setting the invalid to work in the garden – not what the doctor ordered.

The trouble is that as a millionaire, he has never had to think about the daily lives of millions of people who depend on the state – for health care; for education; for subsidised housing; for protection; for conservation; even for hope, in some cases.

Millionaires have more than they need and can buy what they want. The rest pay taxes to the state to provide at least a minimum of what we need. Different worlds. A mistake to have a millionaire managing the economy.

Zoe Young

London W2

Ben Chu and Oliver Wright's article "The rich get richer and the poor get poorer" (1 December) draws on the Institute for Fiscal Studies report which reiterates what has been known to this Coalition Government and previous administrations. Since the 1980s the income gap has grown and continues to grow.

Shame on George Osborne, and the Prime Minster and Deputy Prime Minister for presiding over an administration that continues to pander to the 1 per cent of our community. The Chancellor's Autumn Statement has disregarded the needs of the 99 per cent.

It appears that the Government is afraid to challenge the social conditioning which apparently has convinced them and the general population that the mega-rich are essential to wealth creation. Well, they are, but only to their own wealth. Many of them do not pay taxes in this country, or for that matter manage to avoid it almost altogether, as they or their spouses are resident in tax havens across the world. At least Warren Buffett has had the decency to admit it is morally wrong that he is paying less tax than his cleaner.

Large inequalities damage the social fabric and everyone benefits from living in a more equal society.

Dr Christina Kadir


Osborne's Autumn Statement, in making its lengthy, labyrinthine and ultimately downward adjustments to the pay of public-sector workers, makes scant mention of the bonuses, tax havens and pay increases among his banker friends. Their sleeves must be positively steaming with laughter.

R A Soar

London N1

So it has come to this: the Lib Dem portion of this heinous Coalition has presided over the most concerted attack on the public sector and less privileged since the Thatcherite days. Clegg, Alexander and Cable have misled their party in supporting draconian cuts, and have been quiet on the Tory attack on the Environment, apart from some intervention by Chris Huhne. A sad end to a once proud political party.

Leigh Cadogan


BBC's hidden documentaries

Your obituary of Ken Russell (29 November) mentioned his 1962 documentary on Elgar for the BBC Monitor programme, which did indeed constitute a breakthrough in his career. This elegiac film used actors, despite, as you say, BBC opposition, although absolutely no dialogue was permitted!

A DVD of this film was long available and can still be obtained second-hand, which brings me to ask why a much more recent documentary, John Bridcut's fascinating and insightful Elgar, the Man Behind the Mask, first broadcast over a year ago on BBC 4, shows no sign of being made available on DVD.

The BBC seems to have a strange policy with its major documentaries: while some appear instantaneously in DVD form, others languish indefinitely in the archives.

The Bridcut film contains a homage to the Ken Russell film in the form of a brief cameo of a boy (the young Elgar) on horseback.

John Whitton


Part-time education

I agree with Steve Ford (letter, 30 November) that "education needs to be full-time, like work". I am constantly amazed to see secondary school children wandering the streets of my area of north London at 3pm and sometimes earlier, often in groups, clearly having been released by the school. Why? In my day, school ended at 3.45 or 4 o'clock. How much can possibly be achieved in what is in effect a five-hour day?

Garry Humphreys

London N13

It's formal, so eat your soup

Perhaps I can add a mild comment on Mr Hill's letter regarding soup (29 November). I agree that soup is a liquid: one cannot chew it. My point is simply that in our society good table manners require us to consume soup as if it is a food. For this purpose a special bowl and spoon are provided. Perhaps we can agree that, in formal meals, soup is eaten; in informal circumstances, if it is served in a cup, we drink it.

Jean Elliott

Upminster, Essex

Malcolm Addison (letter, 29 November) asks whether he should eat or drink an ice-cream cone. Surely the answer is – eat it today, drink it tomorrow.

Tom Lane

Christchurch, Dorset

Divine and human help

Further to your report (19 October) about churches which encourage cancer and HIV sufferers to rely on prayer instead of modern medicine, I would like to clarify the UCKG HelpCentre's position. The UCKG HelpCentre condemns the practice of discouraging sick people from taking life-saving drugs. While we believe that God can heal through the power of faith, the UCKG HelpCentre encourages people who are ill to seek medical advice and to complete all courses of treatment as advised by their doctors.

Paul Hill

Universal Church of the Kingdom of God

London N4

Just like the bad old days

Is the headline for Steve Richards's piece (Opinion, 29 November), "Close your eyes and it seems like the 1970s again", forewarning of power cuts?

Dr Alex May