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Saturday 17 November 2012
Letters: McAlpine squanders sympathy
Am I the only one who feels deeply uncomfortable about Lord McAlpine's compensation campaign?
While hundreds of victims of child sex abuse are forced to wait patiently for long-overdue justice, he is able to agree a deal to take a reported £180,000 of BBC licence-payers' money within weeks of a TV programme that didn't even name him.
Apparently, this already wealthy man does not intend stopping there. We are told he will also go after every individual deemed to have passed on libellous information about him on Twitter, whatever their circumstances may be, and will even sue Sally Bercow for tweeting that he is "trending" in a statement that does not refer to paedophilia.
I appreciate that it must have been dreadful for him to find himself wrongly accused of such terrible crimes, but, once the mistake was identified, action was taken swiftly to restore his reputation. Sadly, for me, he is now squandering, by the heavy-handedness of his actions, any sympathy his situation engendered.
Still, an affluent Tory profiting while ordinary people lose out and the public sector takes a hit is hardly anything unusual. If this is truly about principle, I hope he plans to give the money to good causes.
BBC's old enemies scent blood
Manda Scott (letter, 13 November) points out how the real story of child abuse has been masked by the very convenient BBC row. It cannot be denied that there were two bad lapses in editorial judgement at Newsnight. But to find this has suddenly turned into discussions over the future of Newsnight and the very existence of the BBC seems to be taking it beyond the extreme. There are clearly several individuals and organisations all too ready to settle old scores.
I have spent my working life in regional news. I have been saddened deeply by the way the light that needs to be shone brightly on the workings of the local council, businesses, societies and "pillars" of the community has dimmed inexorably with the demise of paid-for weekly and evening papers and the skeleton-staffing of many others.
It is clear to see what has been lost locally. Do we really want the likes of Newsnight, Panorama and Radio 4's Today programme to go the same way – leaving us with just a Fox on the box?
We all understand why the Murdoch press and other media are lining up to undermine the BBC, but for politicians, including inept select committee members, to join in is sickening.
There is every reason to believe that George Entwistle would have made a very good Director General and might well have put in place the changes necessary to avoid any repetition of the Newsnight fiasco. He inherited a management structure that let him down and would probably have done the same for anyone in his position. Even though he's done nothing wrong, he has done the honourable thing (alien to politicians these days) and accepted responsibility for the failure of those under him.
Not content with hounding a decent man out of office and ruining his career, politicians are now calling for his agreed severance pay to be halved. This on behalf of the licence payers, if you please. His pay should be doubled, not halved, as some small compensation for having his life turned upside down.
Dominic Lawson (13 November) suggests the BBC scraps its "low-brow pandering" and concentrates on high-quality journalism. No disagreement there, except that the majority of people are not interested in high-quality journalism, and might baulk at the idea of paying £145.50 a year just to keep the chattering classes informed.
The lottery-ticket-buying, BBC 1-watching, Radios 1- and 2-listening public subsidise middle-class culture. Best keep it to ourselves, eh?
Schools in need of discipline
Richard Garner (News, 16 November) reports that Buckingham University has recently shown that nearly 30 per cent of trainee teachers last year had not taken up teaching posts six months later, and that 52 per cent of teachers under the age of 60 are not within the classroom.
For Alan Smithers, one of the authors, to argue that the Government's Teaching Agency should withdraw funding for places from teacher training providers who perform poorly in supplying recruits to the profession is wholly inappropriate. The biggest problem facing trainee teachers, and most teachers, is the poor behaviour that teachers experience day in, day out. As a teacher, the depressing statistics do not surprise me.
West Bromwich, West Midlands
I read several letters arguing that private schools should be abolished, but they would abolish themselves through lack of demand if we got our grammar schools back.
Bright children from all walks of life, rich or poor, black or white, should be allowed to study in peace, without having their lessons destroyed by some of the low life found in comprehensive schools, especially as it can take years to expel such louts.
Those paying for private education are paying for discipline, not superior teaching nor superior A-levels. It is a sad fact that children in state education today get a far worse deal than we got 50 years ago.
Prosperity and peace for Gaza
As long as the Gaza Strip remains under indefinite siege, violent clashes between Israel and the incarcerated population are inevitable. This indefinite siege is immoral and criminal, since it is collective punishment. It is also stupid, since it resolves nothing, adds to mutual bitterness and renders the conflict more intractable.
Hamas, whether we like it or not, shows no sign of weakening. The West should negotiate a deal with Hamas for international monitors, and then tell Israel it must lift the siege and allow Gaza free access by sea and air, as well as open land access with Egypt. It is only when Gaza prospers that those Palestinians wanting to hit Israeli targets will no longer be tolerated.
Dangerous ways to raise money
The Government is giving serious consideration to charging to cross the Thames via the Blackwall Tunnel in east London, in order to create some spurious "ring-fencing" of funds towards the cost of a new Thames crossing further downstream. Drivers would then be forced to either pay up or drive further into London seeking a free crossing route. The Dartford crossing was fully paid up years ago but that toll is to be increased to £2.50.
Thus, the milch-cow motorist would be asked to pay twice yet again to use longstanding infrastructure – once through normal fiscal channels and now with these tolls.
This government spouts about "fairness". It is politically and ethically fair that new projects be paid for either through taxation or through the marketplace with the issuing of gilts. The electorate can then make judgements on such decisions via the ballot box.
Deviation from these traditional methods also occurred with the building of new hospitals some years ago using Private Finance Initiative (PFI), originally under the Tories but also continued under Labour. Those hospitals are now crippled with the paying back of the PFI debt for decades to come.
Once governments begin to go "off-piste" by identifying certain projects as being the financial liability of specific sections of the population then trouble will surely ensue.
Etchingham, East Sussex
Holland Park to Roxy Music
In your feature on Holland Park School (15 November) you write that Bryan Ferry taught at the school in the 70s. Bryan did teach pottery at a girls' school in south London in 1970, but the Roxy Music member who taught at Holland Park was me.
I spent a chaotic but very happy time as a supply teacher in the music department in 1971-72, where among other things I persuaded the school to buy an EMS suitcase synthesiser. I still encounter ex-pupils, a few of whom remember my time there with enjoyment.
I left suddenly in February 1972 to go straight into the studio to record the first Roxy Music album.
Moral decay of public life
Andreas Whittam Smith asks the question (15 November) why there has been a decay in the standards of behaviour of many institutions.
To me as a septuagenarian the answer is obvious. Many of the present politicians and leaders of business were young during the Thatcher/Reagan era, when there was no such thing as society and greed was god. They were encouraged to set aside conscience to achieve success. Amoral behaviour in working life easily leads to immorality in private life, in the subsequent search for the happiness not brought by that success.
Romney's big delusion
So Mitt Romney believes he lost the US presidential election because of Obama's "gifts" to minorities. He and other delusional Republicans need to look in the mirror, specifically at their economic platform.
Romney said he would cut the deficit while cutting taxes across the board and increasing defence spending; this from a candidate whose main selling point was economic competence! American voters simply rejected Romney's madhouse economics.
Martyn P Jackson
How to fix Starbucks
The Starbucks issue is simply resolved. Accept their accounts, and put them into administration. Sequester their assets, and send in the bailiffs. They are clearly bankrupt. If they complain, require them then to explain their own accounts.
The root problem is unassertive democracy. It behoves all of us to be more assertive democrats, for everyone's sake. Boycott Starbucks, for instance – and tell them in writing. Do it.
Is it not amazing that the seven new leaders of China have not a grey hair between them, though their average age is over 60?
Simon G Gosden
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