You ask why nobody stopped Jimmy Savile (12 October). The answer is very simple: women, no matter how young, were considered to be sexualised and responsible for whatever happened, while men were sexually irresponsible. Women were blamed for rape.
If the woman happened to be a child she was still described by newspapers in salacious terms: “village blonde”, about a raped 11-year-old, sticks in my memory.
There was a very nasty attitude towards women at the BBC when I was there in the 1970s. Those who exploited it were totally aware of what they were doing, and those men who didn’t like it said so privately but wouldn’t risk doing so otherwise. Women knew that to speak out would result in their short-term contracts not being renewed.
It’s good that the damage done by Savile is being recognised and taken seriously, but he is just a rather visible symbol of the times, and it’s important that we don’t scapegoat him and let others escape censure.
Andreas Whittam Smith (4 October) has no business handing out lectures on Jimmy Savile when he had plenty of opportunity to investigate the allegations when he was editor of The Independent.
Savile’s “interest” in young girls was well known on Fleet Street and the music business for nearly 50 years. When I was organising the Rag Ball at university 40 years ago, I was warned by a senior music biz figure not to book Savile as host because of his “bad habits”. Fortunately we got John Peel, who was impeccably behaved.
There are other living media people who have similar illegal tastes. Britain’s repressive libel laws prevent me from naming any of them, although the “red tops” do have the resources to fight any attempts to silence them.
Since the revelations about Jimmy Savile many women will have had memories flooding back to similar assaults that they have hidden for years.
Mine happened in 1964 just after my 16th birthday. My dentist was practising hypnotherapy to relax his patients before treatment. He sexually assaulted me while pretending he was doing hypnosis.
I worked for a large engineering company; this was an inhouse dentist. I told my parents. My story was only believed because my father was manager at another division of this company. It later came to light that other girls who worked in the factory had been sexually assaulted but no one believed them.
No action was taken other than a word. Today the police would be involved.
I do not think today’s generation understand how difficult it was for young girls in the 1960s, especially in the workplace. I have fought all my life for equality for women and fortunately my daughter has now reaped the benefits in her occupation.
Jimmy Savile cannot possibly be the only high-profile person in entertainment to have been an abuser. It’s obvious that those who achieve celebrity consider themselves immune from the codes of life that the rest of society generally abides by. The BBC may have turned a blind eye, but how many organisations in showbusiness are guiltless?
This is an industry that encourages bad and extreme behaviour, and where the line between the unacceptable and the acceptable is blurred.
Cost-cutting and the rail franchise fiasco
When I worked at the Transport Department (DfT), spending was A Bad Thing and investing was A Good Thing ("Did cuts cause West Coast rail fiasco?", 15 October). The running costs budget, which was mostly wages, counted as spending, and was the target of cuts. Project budgets, including any consultants employed on the project, counted as investment and were less constrained.
On the principle that you don't buy a dog and bark yourself, where consultants were employed the DfT's own resources were thinned out. So DfT didn't have the wherewithal to keep a grip on the consultants.
This is the key problem of outsourcing. If you've got enough expertise to manage the contractor properly you've probably got enough to do the job yourself. If you save on in-house expertise you are at the mercy of the contractor.
In making savings in business, the trick is to cut activities rather than simply cut jobs. That way all non-essential activities get chopped and with them the non-essential jobs.
However, that implies that those at the top have some understanding of what actually happens in the company or department.
Aside from all this hoo-hah about whether the railways should be refranchised or renationalised, we should spare a thought for all those railwaymen and women, drivers, guards, signal staff, and (especially) those who sell tickets, who continue to run the railway day-in, day-out while the political and management situation changes over their heads.
What happens on change of franchise is now fairly well understood: on the stroke of midnight, the recorded announcements are updated, then in the morning, a train is rolled out in a spanking new livery, and the staff are issued with new uniforms over the next week or so.
Then things carry on as they did before, which is to say, pretty much as they did under British Rail, British Railways before that, the four main companies prior to 1948 and the 100 or so pioneering companies before 1921. That is, with the exception of restaurant cars.
As for Transport Ministers, Yes Minister summed it up years ago: "Transport Muggins!"
A future stifled by conglomerates
David Cameron is out of his depth and 40 years out of date; the time for Britain's "aspiring generation" has finished. Big government didn't crowd it out; big business smothered it.
After bad industrial relations and lack of investment exported our manufacturing industry and deprived the working class of its purpose in life, supermarkets and international multiples suffocated our independent shops more effectively than Napoleon could have dreamt of.
Now independent small professional offices are disappearing as their small business clients are replaced by franchises. Next to go will be GPs, as the health services is taken over by recognised providers, who will eradicate independent doctors. The future for Britain is the zero-hours contract with a conglomerate.
The tiny Tories who applauded Cameron at their conference were applauding their own destruction.
War obsession will get worse
You report that, at a cost of £50m, we are to have "a huge programme of commemorations" to mark the centenary of the start of the First World War. Some would say that it would be preferable to mark the end of that war.
In recent years there has been a plethora of new war memorials erected. We are now encouraged to observe Armistice Day as well as Remembrance Sunday. Looking back seems obsessive. A mature society should be able to acknowledge with gratitude the sacrifices made, but should not feel it necessary to make a growing public display as the wars become a more distant memory.
How disgraceful of David Cameron to announce spending £50m to commemorate the start of the 1914-1918 war. Who celebrates the start of war and all its horrors? For 94 years we have had Remembrance Day on 11 November to mark the end of the bloodshed. How cynical to use the millions of dead in a ploy to thwart the Scottish referendum, by celebrating "Britishness" a few weeks before people in Scotland go to the polls.
Free speech in danger
I found the report concerning the jailing of Barry Thew (“Man jailed for wearing an anti-police T-shirt”, 12 October) somewhat disturbing. However unsavoury and morally repugnant these comments were (and they were) they were only that – comments. We now have a judiciary, political establishment and sections of the media deciding what the citizens of this country can and cannot say and write.
Violations can result in loss of liberty. How does this differ from many of the supposedly undemocratic regimes around the world the West has criticised on human rights grounds?
Price of drugs
The primary raison d’être of any capitalist company is to maximise profits. Thus there can be no surprise that a drug company wishes to rebrand an MS drug at many times the current cost (13 October). There are many decent capitalists, but their ultimate motivation is greed before the needs of people, society, wildlife and the environment.
Skelmanthorpe, West Yorkshire
Dr Peter Saundby’s splendid letter (13 October) didn’t include another point worth making. The law on abortion affects poor women only. Rich women have obliging doctors; they also have the ability to travel to where the law is more accommodating. Laws restricting abortion rights affect those without these means; it is poor women who would return to the world of Vera Drake.
If people are serious about allowing 16-year-olds to vote, then they must seriously consider lowering the minimum age for an MP from 18 to 16. The House of Commons will then have to open a school to teach 16-year-olds A levels, given that from 2013 they can’t leave school.
West Bromwich, West Midlands
Pleb and proud
I am proud to be a plebeian – considering what the patricians get up to.