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Friday 3 February 2012
Letters: Goodwin got what he deserved
Your editorial position on the de-knighted Fred is absurd (leading article, 1 February). So it sends out a signal that Britain is anti-business and anti-wealth, does it? Do keep a sense of proportion.
The man has lost a piece of decorative flim-flam. Many, many others have lost or are still losing their livelihoods as a direct result of his actions. We taxpayers are subsidising the giant mess that he created. And if you want an unflattering signal about business and wealth creation – or destruction – in Britain, do refer back to the headlines of 19 January 2009, when British banking shares collapsed after RBS announced the biggest corporate losses in British history.
There are no doubt many other contenders worthy of similar "asset" stripping, but Mr Goodwin was a particularly tall and unlovely poppy, and for you to pretend that it is merely "crass, childish and wholly counter-productive" to signal the dissatisfaction of all reasonable citizens is high-handed and, frankly, ludicrous.
East Molesey, Surrey
Your argument against removing Fred Goodwin's knighthood, omitted a crucial factor, namely that it was specifically awarded "for services to banking".
Had it been given for some other unrelated reason, then your contentions would be a good deal stronger. But to allow this honour to stand after all that has passed and taking into account Goodwin's role as a very dominant chief executive in the disastrous chain of events at RBS flies in the face of common sense and fairness.
It is not so much a matter of punishment (although innocent former employees of RBS have faced far greater punishment than him as a direct result of his actions), but more a matter of upholding the basis upon which the honour was granted. On rare occasions later events or knowledge will cause such a revocation, another example being Antony Blunt, who likewise was not convicted of a crime. An honour is not necessarily for life.
You claim that the withdrawal of Fred Goodwin's knighthood sends out the wrong message. The move is described as a "profoundly off-putting signal that Britain is anti-business and anti-wealth". Really? As far as I can see, it actually sends out a message that Britain is anti-incompetence and anti-greed. I doubt it will damage Britain's economic interests one iota.
There is no "honour" in the honours system. It is a purely political reward for being in the right place, at the right time, with the right people. All the smaller awards to charity workers, lollipop ladies, street cleaners etc, are just a sop to the rest of us.
Why should anyone need an award just for doing the job they chose to do? Surely the financial incentive and the personal pleasure of a "job well done" is enough?
It's time it was scrapped – and until that day let's treat it with the contempt it deserves.
Holmfirth, West Yorkshire
Which of Lord Snooty's pals thought up the jolly jape of stripping ex-RBS boss Fred Goodwin of his knighthood? Whoever it was, it was a topping wheeze.
The London chatterati are talking of nothing else. What a relief for Snooty, Cleggie and Ossie as they flounder around trying to save their discredited policies on welfare, NHS reforms, and Cameron's "veto" that wasn't.
Falling population is not a 'threat'
Your feature on the decline of population in Japan (31 January) expresses general woe and disaster. No mention is made of the much more widely anticipated woe and disaster that will ensue from the world's rapidly growing population.
We will have to produce some 50 per cent more food, 45 per cent more energy, and 30 per cent more water by 2030 if the rate of increase continues.
There are now 20 million more people in poverty than in 2000, and we are on the edge of peak oil, at a time when cultivable land is degrading, when most of the accessible aquifers are becoming exhausted, fish stocks are severely depleted, and the climate is changing inexorably. I suggest that Japan's problems are minimal in comparison.
You devote a whole page to the "threat" posed by Japan's falling population. Could you not spare even a few words for the compensating benefits of a declining population? Do you see no advantage in less crowding, more open space, less pressure on wildlife, less need for harmful intensive agriculture?
Yes, the transition from a rising to a diminishing population poses challenges. But is it beyond the wit of humankind to overcome them?
The fact that projected increases in populations in the US and the UK reflect net inward migration is indicative of the desperate situation we face.
It is naive to expect peoples in lands in Africa and Asia that are becoming devastated by over-population and its brothers-in-arms, tribal war and climate change, to sit within the territories of their birth and politely await death through starvation or genocide. Clearly such peoples will try every means available, legal and illegal, to emigrate to the West.
Our species will either rein back and reverse population growth in a considered, controlled and humane way, or nature will do it for us; in the same way it deals with population explosions in all other species; in a nasty, barbaric and cruel way, starting with the poor and the vulnerable. The choice is ours.
Sort of people who like the Olympics
Dominic Lawson (31 January), in denigrating the London Olympic Games, writes: "The sort of people who travel to watch sport tend not to be interested in the theatre or other cultural institutions."
During a long life as one of that sort of people, I look back on a weekend when I saw Nat Lofthouse acclaimed the Lion of Vienna and heard a young Fischer-Dieskau sing Mahler, and felt enriched by both. I have seen Moira Shearer dance and David Gower bat, and would not place one above the other.
If Mr Lawson were to venture towards the back of your newspaper he would find those of a similar sort who actually read books and understand words of more than two syllables. It might help keep cultural snobbery off your Opinion pages.
Your report regarding Locog's recent release of hotel rooms around Games time (31 January) has a misleading headline that misquotes me. It was wrong to imply that I called the hoteliers greedy and suggested they should adjust their pricing structure. I did no such thing and VisitBritain has never – and would not – intervene in any business decisions on pricing.
Locog is delivering on its promise to return any spare hotel rooms to the market for public use and VisitBritain welcomes the release of 20 per cent more rooms. This is good news for those looking to come and experience the Games themselves, or for anyone looking to undertake any other normal visitor activity in London at that time.
We have long acknowledged that there will be some displacement of regular traffic during the Olympics. However, there is ample opportunity to continue to market and promote London to both international and domestic visitors for this summer.
Alternatives to Microsoft
I agree with Dr Philip Timms (letter, 28 January) that the value of computer programmes has no intelligible relationship to their price. Overpriced software is a burden not only on the public sector, as he rightly points out, but on computing generally, and thus on access to information.
The current dominance of one software company will be broken if sufficient users will say in unison to their computer suppliers that they want free and open-source software which conforms to the published standards of compatibility, and that they are not prepared to pay the surcharge for pre-loading each machine they buy with software that they have no intention of using.
Dr Philip Timms rightly complains about the huge sums paid by the NHS to Microsoft when there are excellent, far cheaper alternatives available.
The problem lies with IT staff and managers, and the big consulting firms employed by the NHS. From the highest IT director down to the lowliest help-desk technician, most of these people have spent their working lives acquiring Microsoft skills and qualifications, and working closely with Microsoft.
Switching to non-Microsoft products would threaten their employability, and the consultants' cosy and profitable relationships with the world's largest software company.
Differences over the euro
Your experts (2 February) have much to say about the euro's faults but little about whether they want it in the first place. Are they content for the world to continue to be dominated by the dollar and probably remnimbi in due course, in respect of whose political and economic decisions Europe has no influence at all? I want the euro to succeed; for this to happen Europe must yield some sovereignty – but at least it is to an organisation in which it has some say.
For 10 years Alex Salmond said he wanted to join the euro. He attacked the Bank of England for setting interest rates for the "south of England" – and said Scotland would be better off having rates set by the European Central Bank in Frankfurt. Now he wants to keep the pound but only until we have a referendum on joining the euro. Is it any wonder businesses and families with mortgages are deeply concerned about the nationalists' plans for our currency and interest rates?
Not our islands
Our annexation many years ago of some islands off the coast of Argentina in no way made the Malvinas the legitimate property of the United Kingdom. If our government sends a warship to the Falkland Islands in an attempt to deny Argentina dominion over what is geographically clearly part of it, that vessel's name should be changed from HMS Dauntless to HMS Madness.
Dennis B Stuart
Your report "Scores die as eastern Europe freezes" (1 February) is rather precise. Apparently, 58 people died out of the millions who live in eastern Europe. Some lived in the streets and others would have passed on through old age. Who can be sure that they all succumbed to temperatures which are not unknown in the region?
Cheap but potent
Gerard Gilbert mentions that Dennis Potter "once famously remarked on 'the strange potency of cheap music' " (1 February). Mr Potter was presumably, paraphrasing Noël Coward's line from Private Lives (1930): "Extraordinary how potent cheap music is."
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