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Monday 18 July 2011
Letters: Hacking - Brooks payoff is a disgrace
It is disgraceful that having presided over a culture of criminality at News International that Rebekah Brooks walks away with such an obscene amount of money (Report, 16 July).
As the obituaries of the News of the World are written and we read the self-serving and carefully crafted apologies of the Murdochs, one claim must not go unchallenged.
It has been said that Rebekah Brooks protected the public by her prolonged campaign against paedophiles. But we should not accept that the demonisation and persecution in which her newspaper indulged made anyone safer.
The direct consequences for the individuals identified are no doubt a matter of indifference for the paper and many of its readers. But the editorial team should not claim to be innocent of some of the consequences that they would claim to be unintended but which were entirely foreseeable.
These include their encouragement of an atmosphere in which innocent people were attacked and, notoriously, a paediatrician was harassed and terrorised.
There are likely to have been cases in which carefully planned protection strategies were subverted by the paper's campaigns and ex-offenders took flight.
Anyone with experience in child protection will tell you that a paedophile who has disappeared and perhaps changed their name represents a significantly increased danger.
Child protection requires careful planning and rigorous implementation by agencies working together. It also needs adults to be sensible and vigilant in taking responsibility for looking after vulnerable young people. None of this is in any way helped by the rage and self-righteousness that the paper encouraged.
In the years of the Brooks editorship, the paper was posturing on behalf of victims while some of its agents were harassing victims and their families at some of the lowest points in their lives, invading their privacy and snooping on their most vulnerable feelings.
As someone involved in discussions, albeit on the fringes, before the last election about the possibility of a judicial inquiry into phone hacking, I don't see a contradiction between Gordon Brown's and Gus O'Donnell's versions of events.
Gordon wanted to explore such an inquiry and Ministers in the relevant departments tried to help. We experienced, as Alan Johnson has already described, massive push back from officials at the Home Office and the police who said they would resent such interference in their operational independence.
I was aware that the Civil Service "at the highest level" opposed an inquiry, but was not shown the now-published note from Gus O'Donnell. He's right that technically a decision was for the PM, but given the Cabinet Secretary's clearly expressed view that it would be seen as "politically motivated", just cast your minds back to the context then; it would have been suicidal.
We didn't know then what we know now, and for Gordon to have forced an inquiry against the advice of his Cabinet Secretary a few months before an election we were expected to lose would have been seen (wrongly, as it happens) as the last desperate throw of the dice by a weakened PM.
It would have brought a hailstorm of condemnation, and not just from the Murdoch press.
Ben Bradshaw MP
Culture Secretary 2009-10, House of Commons, London SW1
It's interesting to compare the crumbling of the Murdoch empire to the fall of Robert Maxwell's. Both empires aspired to dynasties, but didn't really get into the second generation, making them look like those short-lived families who usurped the throne of Imperial Rome for a generation or two before being cruelly dispatched in a Palace revolution.
In each case, the younger son becomes the heir of the Emperor, but is not cut from the same cloth. Both use excessive recourse to law, legal or illegal, Maxwell by injunctions (often not acted on), the Murdochs and their close relations with the police.
Both try to solve their problems by dumping on their workers, the Murdochs by firing them and Maxwell by stealing their pension funds. Both have financial issues they failed to face. Both denied anything was amiss until the water reached the poop deck of the sinking ship.
SNP must check the differentials
The Queen opened the Scottish Parliament with comments in her speech regarding the coming of age of Holyrood and its establishment concerning more devolution of powers to Scotland.
Alex Salmond, our First Minister, was quick to comment on the potential of separation and what this would bring to the relationship between Scotland and England, in the sure knowledge that a referendum on independence will not take place in the first few years of his new administration. He was somewhat premature and blunt.
Great care must be taken by the majority SNP administration in not creating too many additional differentials between Scotland and England that could cause serious and damaging reaction threatening the Scottish share of the Westminster purse.
I pay my way in the public sector
I agree with much of what Christina Patterson has to say ("I want value for money for my taxes", Comment, 13 July), but I take issue with her statement that "not enough attention is given to the 23 million private-sector workers who pay their [public-sector workers'] salaries and their pensions".
I work in the public sector and I am taxed on my income in exactly the same way as Ms Patterson, and therefore I make exactly the same contribution to the salaries and pensions of public-sector workers as does a private-sector worker earning the same salary as I do.
As a public servant, I find Christina Patterson's list of ill-considered, wholly anecdotal tales of public service inefficiency offensive in the extreme. I note that she feels more work in the public sector could be hived off to private firms in the name of efficiency. It is a recognised truth within many public service institutions that service standards decline with privatisation as profit becomes more important than customer satisfaction.
If Patterson has noticed that public-sector workers she encounters at present seem demotivated and unenthusiastic she should not be too surprised. Maybe she should consider how she would feel if workers in the vital compact Comment section were facing a long pay freeze, drastic cuts to previously agreed terms and conditions of employment, and an ever-present threat of imminent job loss.
Blame society, not teachers
Why is it an automatic assumption that if 11-year-olds from deprived areas are still not making sufficient progress in English and maths it must be the school's fault and that schools could do something about it if only they tried harder (letters, 14 July)?
Schools have been trying to tackle this problem for many years without success. Maybe it's time the Government took a look at the problem from a different perspective. Perhaps it isn't something schools can solve, no matter how much money the government throws at it, or what brilliant schemes they come up with.
Since it mainly seems to be white children who are having this problem, perhaps it could have something to do with the deprived backgrounds they come from. Maybe something could be done to tackle that, instead. If their parents struggle to read and write and can't see the benefits of education, and there's no support from home then there isn't much incentive for children to learn. Schools are fighting a losing battle.
Another possibility is that some children just aren't equipped to reach the goals the government have set. The levels children are expected to achieve were picked at random in the first place and never based on thorough research. There have always been children for whom a high standard in the 3 Rs is impossible.
The normal distribution curve confirms this. Perhaps it's time to acknowledge the truth and actually try to educate these children in areas where they can excel instead of setting them impossible targets.
Don't blame the teachers; blame society.
The trouble with feed-in tariffs
Sorry, Tony and Lorna Verso (letters, 13 July), but if you install photovoltaic panels you won't get 3.1p per unit fed into the grid on top of the energy you generate. What you'll get is what the electricity supplier cartel "deems" you have fed into the grid. This is because they won't install output meters to measure what you have actually fed in.
When we installed our 3kw array in 2005 we were promised an output meter within six months. After years of excuses, prevarication and downright lies we were told that the cost of doing so would be "unfair to existing consumers", a position parroted by their toothless lapdog Ofgem.
Imagine them telling new consumers that they can't have a meter for the same reason and that their bills will be "estimated".
Whaling bribes denied by Japan
I would like to comment on the article "UK leads battle to clean up whaling commission" (2 July). The sub-headline states, "Japan accused of buying the support of members of the IWC with aid and bribery".
In fact, Japanese aid for developing countries reflects Japan's sincere wish to contribute to the peace and development of the international community.
Such aid is not implemented on the grounds of a country's support or non-support for the sustainable use of whales. Current recipients of Japanese aid include IWC members that oppose whaling, and it is simply untrue that aid is extended to ensure support for Japan's position on the IWC.
We believe those countries supporting sustainable use of whale resources sympathise with the fundamental principle on utilisation of marine living resources: when science confirms abundance of a stock, it could be utilised in a sustainable manner under appropriate management measures.
In a large organisation such as the IWC, encompassing countries with a wide variety of economic, historical and cultural backgrounds, there are bound to be substantial differences of opinion. These can best be resolved in a spirit of international mutual respect. This is the basis on which Japan views its role as a responsible member of the IWC.
Economic Minister, Embassy of Japan, London W1
Badger is really a scapegoat
The debate on TB in cattle is focused on the wrong issue ("To kill or not to kill: the new dilemma facing the Government", 9 July). It's not the disease itself which is the problem but the fact that the export rules mean this country is obliged to implement strict controls on TB to be able to export cattle.
Bovine TB stopped being a threat to human health when pasteurisation of milk was introduced in the 1930s, and clinical signs of the disease in cattle nowadays are rare so animal health is not an issue. Meat from cattle which have reacted to TB tests can also still enter the food chain so no problem here either.
The debate should be focused on changing the export rules or, at least, on getting the TB testing narrowed down to only those cattle destined for export. But instead the "powers that be" hold up the badger as the ultimate scapecoat and save themselves a great deal of effort by diverting attention from the real facts of the matter. Market forces rule.
Mrs G E Purser
It's the waythey tell 'em
To be perfectly honest with you, in my humble opinion this cliché business seems to have been going on and on since time immemorial, and has of late been running the risk of becoming boring in the extreme.
I truly feel that now is the time for us collectively to act in unison and wrap it up. There is more to life you know. Don't you read the papers ?
At the end of the day, it is as plain as the nose on your face; we need some new clichés.
Mark my words, make no bones about it, there's not an ounce of life left in that old cliché.
Is it a big ask, going forward, to hit Clichégate into the long grass?
Sky eye on fish
Now that the insanity of fish dumping is to be addressed (report, 13 July), isn't it time for a new approach to protecting fish stocks. Why not have no-fishing zones policed by satellite? In effect we could create national parks of the sea where fish stocks could regenerate.
The road signs puzzling Mr Tallentire (letters, 16 July) are diversion markers; just follow the black squares or whatever to complete your journey.
Dungannon, Co Tyrone
Perspectives on student protest
Honest protest but no violence
Your analysis headlined "A crackdown that could stifle honest protest" (16 July) in response to the sentencing of the student Charlie Gilmour showed a distinct lack of understanding of the problem the sentencing judge is attempting to "crack down" on.
Charlie Gilmour, I am sure, had noble motives, at least initially; the "honest protest" is of course to be upheld and remain part of what has been, and continues to be, student life.
The tuition fee protests were largely made by students with peaceful motives wanting to demonstrate to our politicians that the U-turn made by certain figures in government, who had previously given such heartfelt promises, was not one that would be ignored.
The British public, and in this case young people, still have a strong voice and we should be proud that we are still good at standing up for ourselves and our principles. In a situation where like-minded people become an angry crowd, even the best-intentioned can behave extremely oddly, and unfortunately, some violently.
I can sympathise with Mr Gilmour (I am a student as well, and of the same age). But he acted stupidly and irresponsibly, betraying the rest of us and our ideas. By punishing violent protesters we are certainly not cracking down on the honest protest: rather, we are protecting it so that it does not become about a group of thugs on a drug-fuelled rampage, forgetting the reason why they were annoyed in the first place.
A harsh sentence indeed it should be. There is a lot going on that I am unhappy about, but I don't express my frustrations by throwing myself on to cars with famous people in them, or defacing the Cenotaph.
As a supporter of student protests, I am embarrassed by Charlie Gilmore.
An inadequateprison term
Charlie Gilmour was sentenced to a totally inadequate 16 months for his appalling actions during the student riots in London last December, after he was caught on film desecrating the nation's most high-profile war memorial, then claimed at his trial that he did not realise the significance of the Cenotaph. Quite rightly, the judge dismissed such a ridiculous assertion.
If the over-privileged Gilmour was unaware of the importance of the memorial he desecrated, how on earth did someone that ignorant manage to gain a place studying history at Cambridge? Oops! Silly me! Of course, Mummy and Daddy are rich, aren't they?
With undeserving, antisocial, ill-behaved yobs like Gilmour filling places at university it's no wonder there is a shortage of places for students those who are genuinely interested in furthering their education.
Sentence him to tend war graves
Would it not be more fitting that Charles Gilmour, having desecrated the Cenotaph, should be sent to tend war graves in France for a year rather than be jailed?
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