Letters: Justine Thornton is woman who stands for decency


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Thanks to Andy McSmith for the informative and well-written profile of Justine Thornton. I feel proud of Justine, who stands for “the principle of decency in public life”. I would have expected nothing less from the child who grew up with my children.

She lived next door; her parents, like us, were professionals; we were comparatively well-off, but all our money was earned. We believed passionately in state education, and our children went to the local primary and secondary schools.

They all worked hard and followed their parents’ example of using their qualifications and skills in public service: no ivory tower for any of them.

Clearly, Justine, as an environmental lawyer, uses her skills in order to help “people less well positioned to defend themselves”. She supports her husband, Ed Miliband, in his desire to do the same in his professional life. In her BBC interview she came across not only as intelligent and articulate but also as sensible and committed. A friend has commented that “she is genuinely interested in discussing what is the right thing to do”. If only everyone in public life was like that.

As for this puerile nonsense about houses and kitchens, she will certainly find it “exasperatingly silly”, as do I and, I’m sure, all right-minded people. There are more important things to discuss.

Christina Jones

Retford, Nottinghamshire

Cocaine use in country areas

The news surrounding the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs report (“Cocaine use spreads from the rich to the suburbs and pensioners”, 13 March) highlights a trend of powdered cocaine use becoming more widespread nationally.

The expansion of use outside urban areas reflects a gradual increase in availability and accessibility in more rural areas. As a result of this increased geographical dispersion, the number of people accessing CRI (Crime Reduction Initiatives) services in more rural areas has more than doubled over the past five years.

Although it is welcome news that overall cocaine usage in the UK has decreased, it is very concerning that it is so readily available.

We must also be conscious of the fact that it is only a very small decrease, highlighting the clear requirement to continue to engage and support cocaine users in treatment and further educate the public about  its dangers.

Dr Adam Huxley

Consultant Clinical Forensic Psychologist

CRI, Hertfordshire Drug and Alcohol Recovery Services, Hertford

Hitting a child solves nothing

Janet Street-Porter (14 March) can’t blame lack of corporal punishment for parents who can’t control their children.

Smacking a child only signifies someone who has lost all control and is reacting without thinking.

I agree that treating teenagers as equals causes problems, but that doesn’t mean whacking them with a hairbrush solves anything. Is not hitting children with objects a form of physical abuse?

Gain the trust of your child and correct them with effective words. My parents were perfectly able to discipline my brothers and me with firm warnings, clear and consistent rules, and (above all) rewarding good behaviour.

Hitting youngsters is hardly a model of good behaviour and is more likely to create an aversion and fear towards you than respect. There’s nothing that can’t be corrected in a non-violent way and perhaps parents who believe otherwise should not be raising children in the first place.

Emilie Lamplough

Trowbridge, Wiltshire

I regard good sex education as an entitlement, so the news that personal, social, health and economic education (PSHE) is to be made compulsory is good news. But some people are never satisfied: for example, Janet Street-Porter who, as far as I know, has never had children, pontificates about the failings of parents, and demands that parents be made to spend time at school studying PSHE in the evenings.

She states that parents talking through issues with their children has been a disaster, but provides no evidence for this assertion. What a cheek!

John Dakin

Toddington, Bedfordshire

Councils are not fighting litter

You quote MP Clive Betts, chair of the Communities and Local Government Committee, as saying that councils are “fighting a losing battle” against the problem of litter (“What a load of rubbish! Government accused of failing to halt tide of litter”, 14 March).

My impression is that councils aren’t fighting very hard at all, particularly when it comes to the A roads on their patch. These are more often than not blighted by strips of plastic sheeting that must come either from passing lorries or from farms.

The chances are that they weren’t put there deliberately or carelessly. But they are certainly left as bizarre decoration that makes the experience of driving along a road such as the A1 particularly depressing.

The litter report says that “England is a litter-ridden country compared to most of Europe, North America and Japan”. But we must not conclude from this that the English are by nature more prone to littering than the citizens of other countries.

When I travel abroad, I am struck by the effort that goes into removing litter. It is this effort that counts. The problem in England is that litter is not a high enough priority on national and local government agendas.

David Head

Navenby, Lincolnshire

Tory plans ignore spirit of Red Nose Day

At a time when the British public have given massive support to Red Nose Day’s efforts to raise money for the young, weak and sick, the Conservative Party is announcing plans to eliminate the deficit and reduce taxes that will involve a dismantling of public services, drastically reducing the financial support for the medically and physically unable, the very people for whom the public have just demonstrated their  support.

The Conservatives claim that a Labour government would signal chaos. I would rather have compassionate chaos than tax relief for the rich and clinical deprivation for the rest.

A B Crews

Beckenham, London

The perfect job for Farage

Martyn P Jackson’s suggestion (letter, 14 March) that Al Murray could replace Jeremy Clarkson on Top Gear is a good one.

Here’s another – how about Nigel Farage? He and Clarkson are surely “two cheeks of the same bum”. And, with any luck, Nigel could be looking for a new career direction in a couple of months or so.

Neil Bevan

Leamington Spa

A piece of blessed irony?

Watching the Afghanistan commemoration service, I wondered whether the organisers were being ironic or mischievous when they asked David Cameron to read The Beatitudes.

Jill O’Kelly

Horringer, Suffolk 

Learning to care for ourselves could save NHS

We need to keep the NHS. It is one of the few truly egalitarian organisations left in this country.

People do not fall sick by choice, and for some of those who are deeply and chronically ill, the cost of their treatment may be more than they would  ever have earned in a lifetime.

If we keep it, we have two options: one is to raise by taxation the funds needed to run a world-class service, one which will compare with the often more expensive systems in countries such as Germany and the US; the other is to make fewer demands on it as patients and save money in that way. 

Perhaps a combination of these two options is what is needed. How can we, as individuals, save the NHS money? Surely “a stitch in time saves nine” and we should sometimes go to see our GPs earlier rather than later. At other times, we should not go at all.

There are attempts being made to educate us: for example, the valuable advertisements showing the first signs of strokes, exhorting us to take immediate action, and others saying that the common cold is generally better self-treated.

Perhaps this education should be extended, with children at school learning more about medical matters. They already learn a lot about the naming of body parts. Why not some facts about illness which will make them better patients in the future?

We also need to keep Accident and Emergency departments for true emergencies.

We could all be taught how to wash, disinfect and dress minor wounds. It should become a moral obligation not to abuse our NHS.

But we also need to raise money. Why not raise it from general income tax? Does the very vocal opposition to this come from those on higher incomes who will pay so much more?

Mary Leedham-Green

Woodford Green,  London