Letters: Jackson's child victims

At last, somebody thinks of Jackson's child victims

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At last, a sensible article on the death of Michael Jackson, devoid of the hagiography favoured by other writers ("Bad, and very dangerous", 4 July). Over the past week I have been concerned about the effect that such articles would have had on those young men who were victims of abuse by the "troubled" singer. As John Niven notes, these children are unlikely to have lied about their experiences at Jackson's hands, and yet the world's media seemed set on ignoring what they went through. To me, this compounds the crime committed against them.

No doubt we should be sad that a man was so troubled that he treated himself with such a lack of care to the extent that it affected his health. No doubt we should enjoy the music that he created (whether he was a genius or not I leave to others to decide). But we must remember that for every scandal associated with Jackson's relationship with a young boy, there was a victim; and that these victims continue to live with the experience of what happened to them. Let us not ignore their suffering.

Joanne Pearman

Broadstairs, Kent

To one who has become increasingly frustrated in the last week at the tripe written about Michael Jackson, John Niven's article was like a breath of fresh air. Give that man a medal.

It is perhaps not surprising that so many writers, broadcasters, MPs and general public choose to airbrush history. After all, we live in a world that talks a good game when it comes to protection and advocating against sexual violence, but in reality cares little about victims and survivors of sexual abuse.

Many services for adult male and female survivors of child sexual abuse survive off meagre short-term grants and the commitment of volunteers. Britain's very successful Child Exploitation and Online Protection (CEOP) Centre, is faced with a potentially uncertain future, partly due to funding concerns. Time to get a reality check.

Niven's article should be compulsory reading for all, a quite brilliant and timely piece.

Alastair Hilton

Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Teachers to be sorted out, again

Ed Balls's announcement of teacher licence revocation ("Teachers face the sack in five-year licence plan", 1 July) is puzzling since it seems to suggest that the sweeping powers that headteachers already have at their disposal for getting rid of staff – from nods towards gardening leave to hints of incapacity referrals and veiled threats of dismissal – are still woefully insufficient.

As a headteacher told me one month after New Labour took office in 1997: "David Blunkett has already made it abundantly clear that the one thing he will not tolerate is underperforming teachers."

John McHale

London E12

It is proposed to impose yet another stratum of checking of teachers performance. I work in a school but not as a teacher. The school is considered "good" and is in much demand.

Almost every day I see behaviour from some pupils that is arrogant, unruly, and generally disruptive to the efficient running of a place of learning. These children act the way they do because their parents have given them no guidance or model as to how to fit in. Good parenting is what needs checking.

Robert Smith

Merstham, Surrey

Excellent idea to assess teachers and get rid of those who don't pass muster. No doubt the plan will be watered down by appeals, repeated redrawing of what is expected and finally a general trend to increasing pass rates. But why haven't we heard of a similar scheme for MPs and bank directors, with those who fail not getting undeserved huge payoffs and pensions?

Clive Tiney


Burqa critics play the BNP tune

I teach English to adult Muslim women in Tower Hamlets in the East End of London, in women-only community classes. These classes exist because there is a need to cater for extremely socially excluded women. The lowest-level classes in this kind of community education tend to have the oldest, illest women and the greatest percentage of domestic abuse victims. Many are painfully shy and crippled by lack of self-esteem.

I wish I could introduce them to P A Mackay (30 June), who says that "the sight of a woman in a burqa simply gives me the creeps" and that "an individual should at all times show their face or be judged a criminal or an outcast"; to Penny Joseph (1 July), who says, "I would strongly defend the right of anyone to wear whatever they want," and then goes on, "What I cannot defend is the right of anyone, man or woman, to cover their face in public," and to Margaret Mann (1 July), who says, "It is not for nothing that terrorists, in their videos, only show the mouth and eyes."

The BNP has lately seized on the Muslim veil as a potent symbol of race hate. Sadly, your correspondents above seem to be falling into line with them. Still worse, I am devastated to report that my college has just announced savage cuts to the kind of teaching I do, in part because of the political climate. Perhaps this is the last year I will teach these dear women who have become my friends.

Perdita Patterson

Amersham, Buckinghamshire

Don't blame the Government

Roger Chapman (Letter, 4 July) blames this incompetent government for overestimating the profitability of the East Coast Main Line, rather than poor innocent National Express who, presumably, had no option but to take these estimates on trust.

And he blames the Government for the depth of the recession, rather than our huge and incompetent banks. Perhaps the poor innocent British public that gave all of its savings to those private businesses, no questions asked, was also forced to do so by the Government.

It is strange that at a time when the country appears to be swinging far to the right of centre, there is not a corresponding swing towards the idea that individuals might be responsible for their own stupid, greedy actions.

David Woods


Britain needs a strong India

George D Lewis complains (letter, 2 July) that India, which receives £825m in aid from Britain, can afford an aircraft carrier, while our own carrier programme is in jeopardy. He suggests we move the sum concerned from the aid budget to the defence budget. This strikes me as parochial thinking at its most unenlightened.

The large, stable, and economically burgeoning democracy which is modern India, occupying as she does a geostrategic position between China and Pakistan (both nuclear-armed), would seem to me to be the most obvious example in today's world of a country whose friendship and armed forces we should be doing everything in our power to cultivate and support.

Chris Sexton

Crowthorne, Berkshire

Soft target for Ulster tensions

I agree with both Dimitrina Petrova and Sasha Simic (letters, 26 June) that the attacks on Roma in Belfast were disgusting. It is a terrible reflection on Northern Ireland that people are leaving here and returning to an intolerant society that they tried to escape from.

There is still an undercurrent of tension in Northern Ireland even when so-called peace has been established. Immigrants are seen as soft targets. Also, they have become the modern-day media's folk-devils.

These Roma were familiar faces on Belfast streets. They sold newspapers during the day and flowers to clubbers at night. It would be nice to have them back some time. I wish them well for the future.

Will Foster


The 'lofty medics' fight for patients

Your science journalist Steve Connor is angry that we are holding a small public meeting in a pub to discuss the problem that science journalists are often lazy and inaccurate ("Lofty medics should stick to their day job", 30 June). He gets the date wrong, claiming the meeting has already happened (it has not). He says we are three medics (only one of us is). He then invokes some stereotypes about arrogant doctors, which we hope are becoming outdated.

All three of us believe passionately in empowering patients with good-quality information, so they can make their own decisions about their health. People often rely on the media for this kind of information. Sadly, in the field of science and medicine, on subjects as diverse as MMR, sexual health and cancer prevention, the public have been repeatedly misled by journalists. We now believe this poses a serious threat to public health.

Vaughan Bell

Petra Boynton

Ben Goldacre

Nuffield College, Oxford

Doing well out of the recession

Much is rightly said about the unreality of bankers' remuneration, but it comes as no surprise that administrators made large sums from the demise of Woolworths ("Advisers to Woolies netted at least £14m", 3 July).

Earlier this year the hotel group for which my daughter worked went into administration. While she lost her month's salary, she found out that the administrators charged between £285 and £485 an hour for their services ("Dad, you should have seen the big cars they turned up in to tell us that we wouldn't be paid."). When will Mr Darling tell these fat cats to "get real" about their fee structure?



The business of being an MP

Sally Muggeridge complains that only one in seven MPs has 10 or more years' experience in private-sector management or financial services (letter, 3 July).

I would be interested to know what proportion of MPs are scientifically literate or familiar with basic statistical method – skills at least as important as creative accountancy and fooling the revenue. The proportion is even more lamentable, I suspect. While agreeing that Parliament should contain a broad spread of talents, can we also agree that career politicians and sophist lawyers are due for a cut in representation?

Steven Ford

Haydon Bridge, Northumberland

Bill Cash vindicated

You gave extensive coverage to Bill Cash's parliamentary allowances. Your readers will be interested to know that last week, at a large extraordinary general meeting of his Stone Constituency Conservative Association, in a secret ballot on a vote of confidence on his being the candidate for the next general election, Bill Cash received over 90 per cent of the votes, followed by a standing ovation.

Major John Prendergast

Chairman, Stone Constituency Conservative Association, Stone, Staffordshire


David Woods (letter, 1 July) writes: "I'm not sure at what point a winner of medals became known as a medallist." A person becomes a "medallist" when they win a medal at an educational establishment, or for a competition within a sport or at the Olympic Games for example. However, in the military or within the civil honours system, a person does not win but is awarded a medal for a campaign or for gallantry or distinguished service, as there is no competition involved.

Michael W Cook

Soulbury, Buckinghamshire

Operatic benefits

You report (25 June) a Royal Opera House spokesperson asserting that its plan for an outpost in Manchester will bring "great benefit, artistically and economically, to Manchester". Would this be the same Royal Opera House whose new season brochure, just arrived, informs me that it is holding the price of its most expensive seats at £210? One wonders to whom the artistic benefit of its Manchester operation will be directed. It certainly knows nothing of the economic situation of the ordinary opera-lover, in Manchester or anywhere else.

Michael Dempsey

London E1

Swift return

Further to your correspondent's assertion (letter, 2 July) that swifts are staying in France because of the wonky buildings; I am pleased to confirm that south Norfolk is clearly in need of serious repair, as each evening over the last few weeks my wife and I have taken great pleasure in watching the swifts hunt high above our house and swoop screeching across our garden, as they have done for each of the nine years that we have lived here. I am pleased that we live in such a dilapidated part of the country.

Howard Robbins

Diss, Norfolk

Scottish again

Now that Andy Murray's Wimbledon hopes are at an end for this year, can we English revert to calling him "Scottish" rather than "British"?

Andy Frost

Callington, Cornwall

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