Letters: Groping is the price of freedom

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The Independent Online

That some men grope women comes as no surprise to women, and it is no more or less prevalent in the BBC, political parties or the newspaper industry than anywhere else (Mary Ann Sieghart, 26 February). The only people who are amazed by it are the majority of men who would never imagine doing such a thing unless specifically invited, encouraged and reciprocated.

I suggest two alternative solutions. Either we shroud women from head to foot in shapeless black garments with only their eyes showing, and then, if anyone molests them, we keep them indoors, seeing no men except for fathers and brothers. Or we trust men and women to dress and move around as they please and exercise self-control when sexual desire strikes them, until they know without doubt that the person to whom they are attracted is receptive.

The first solution imprisons women and insults men, as it assumes they cannot control themselves. The second solution carries the risk that self-control breaks down or self-deception convinces a molester that his advances are acceptable.

I prefer the second solution as I like to think I live in a mature, responsible society in which we respect each other. But, like other women, I have been groped by strangers on the crowded London Tube, on social occasions by people I scarcely know and by men who abuse their authority. I loathe it and defend myself but it is a price I reluctantly pay for my freedom.

Susan Hamlyn

London W5

Isn't it sad that when there are so many varied policy proposals to put before the public and discuss, newspapers choose to use acres of newsprint to speculate on what a relatively little-known political figure did or did not do at some time in the past? The sins he is accused of would many years ago have been countered by a slap in the face, but now merit two inquiries and reference to the police (who of course are looking for something to do!)

Perhaps it will all calm down when the polls close at Eastleigh on Thursday evening and new speculation can be started on whether the objective of a return to good old two-party politics has been brought closer.

Geoff Harris


Final blow to Osborne's credibility

George Osborne made a pledge to do whatever it takes to keep the UK's AAA rating. He has made it absolutely clear that the poor, the weak and the old will pay the price for his failures.

The Con-Dem government have failed to deliver the affordable social housing, they've failed to improve the NHS, they've failed to deliver the infrastructure improvements they promised, they have taken an economy in growth and created a double-dip recession.

Where does the buck stop? We need the right to recall sitting MPs, Chancellors and failing governments.

Duncan Anderson

East Halton, North Lincolnshire

George Osborne can no longer keep papering over the cracks in his economic strategy, and it is time for a new occupant at Number 11. His list of achievements with any meaning for household budgets can be written on a postage stamp. Even in the darkest days of the banking crisis and previous recessions under both Tory and Labour, Britain kept her AAA rating.

If the Tories fail to gain Eastleigh in the wake of the scandal engulfing the Lib Dems, David Cameron will have no choice but to replace Osborne with a new face and tear up Plan A with a new strategy for growth. Theresa May would be ideally placed to take on the Treasury, having survived the Home Office as the longest serving Home Secretary for years where most previous incumbents have failed abysmally.

Mrs May is lacking in the Bullingdon Club bluster of her male colleagues and has the strong advantage of having worked in finance and attended a state school. It is time for a woman to take up residence in Downing Street again.

Anthony Rodriguez

Staines, Middlesex

According to news reports, the UK was downgraded from AAA because of poor growth prospects. George Osborne then said this justified his deficit reduction strategy. That is the strategy which has just killed growth. Does this make sense to anybody but George Osborne?

David Watson


With reference to the downgrade of the UK's credit rating – are these the same ratings agencies which accorded the AAA rating to the Icelandic banks, which turned out to be so misleading for so many investors? If so, how credible are their ratings now?

Mark Morsman

London SE13

Great museums pay their way

Dominic Lawson's attack on public subsidy of national museums (26 February) makes a number of fundamental, erroneous assumptions.

First, the cost of the free admission policy for national museums was indeed circa £45m per annum when introduced in 2001, but the additional circa £315m generated is the estimated value to the wider UK economy in the form of expenditure by foreign tourists in the UK. Only a tiny proportion of this directly benefits the museums themselves. That is, the cost to the Exchequer has a multiplied effect in terms of wider economic benefit.

Second, not all national museums focus on fine arts. Indeed, it is a constant frustration that commentators regard culture as synonymous with the arts, and not the wider interpretation of our Victorian forebears who founded the great national museums which are such an asset to this country. Museums such as the Natural History Museum and the Science Museum play a fundamental role in inspiring young people of both sexes to study science at a time when all stereotypes tell them it is difficult, nerdy and for men only. Our economic recovery depends on strong knowledge-based industries that cannot thrive without new recruits from a diversity of backgrounds.

Third, museums do vary greatly in their ability to attract audiences from lower socio-economic groups. However, free admission to national museums abolishes economic barriers to those who could not otherwise afford to see objects held in trust for them by our great museums and galleries. As total attendance has grown markedly (from 1.6 million to 5.1 million per annum at the Natural History Museum) since the reintroduction of free admission, attendance from those in lower socioeconomic groups has grown significantly in absolute terms, which is to be welcomed.

Dr Michael Dixon

Director, The Natural History Museum, London SW7

Myth of the NHS golden age

I can't let the letter from a doctor trained in 1945, with his image of perfectly run hospitals which have only recently gone to the dogs, pass unchallenged (Letter, 8 February).

In 1952 as a child I had a major operation in a London hospital. The rules were that children in hospital couldn't see their parents except for the two visiting hours on Sundays. This included nursing babies. I hope today's reader will immediately see that this led to some traumatised children. Parents formed the National Association for the Welfare of Children in Hospital, and campaigned against these rules. It took incredibly long, but they were successful, and now conditions for children in hospital are wonderful.

Even as a child I recognised that the nurses didn't like the fact that it was against the rules to show us children any sympathy; they were afraid we would burst into tears, which was very much not allowed. So I had nurses coming up to me and sticking needles into me, no one ever explaining why. But they had to keep a stiff upper lip or they would get into trouble from the doctors.

Henrietta Cubitt


I wonder how many of your readers know the following fact, that I learned from a reliable source last year? Since it's introduction in 1948, there has only been one year when the government in office has not introduced changes in the structure of the NHS. The year was 2007.

I share the shame that the recent report has uncovered about appalling deaths and suffering in a few hospital trusts. However, every government of all shades for the last 65 years sadly must acknowledge that annual changes, except in 2007, have contributed to the present awful situation.

Now, it is "broke" and does need "fixing". I fervently hope that all the report recommendations are adopted. Until they are, public respect for the NHS may never recover.

Dr Michael A Reynolds FRCP FRCPH

Buxton, Derbyshire

Czech example for Scotland

Will Podmore (Letter, 26 February) makes not just a meal but a veritable banquet of the supposed difficulties of an independent Scotland's applications to join the UN and the EU.

This is simply rubbish: the process would actually be very simple – as, for example, when Czechoslovakia split into the Czech and Slovak Republics in the 1990s. People with no decent argument to make always have to resort to this kind of invention.

Richard Carter

London SW15

Bad way to sack politicians

Ostracism ("The ancient Greeks had a great way of ditching politicians", 26 February) was a flawed instrument.

It wasn't used to curb warmongers intent on driving Athens into the disastrous Sicilian expedition; it didn't stop the rise of demagogues like Cleon; and it encouraged perverse decisions, like the citizen who voted to ostracise a prominent politician, Aristides, for no other reason than he was fed up with hearing him described as "the Just".

Jim Hutchinson

London SE16

Great literature

No, Virginia Ironside (Dilemmas 26 February), Don Quixote is not "unreadable". It may not be suitable for a suburban reading group – for one thing it's rather long to read in a week or however long one is given. But it's still a glorious book, and I hope these book clubs don't encourage the sort of anti-literature ethos that came across in Virginia's piece, however humorous her intention.

Ian Craine

London N15

Defining doubt

I was interested in the information provided by Anthony Hallgarten QC (Letter, 23 February) about the directions as to "reasonable doubt" given to juries by judges in the US. However, English judges need not look so far away. Directions in the same tone as those outlined are given in Scotland.

Shirley Foran

Alloway, Ayr

Reward for 'Argo'

Of course Argo won an Oscar ("Zero Dark Thirty pushed out of the picture", 26 February). The film demonises Iran.

David Hargeaves

London SW11