Letters: Miliband and the scandals

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The Independent Online

Is there actually a third Miliband brother running the Labour party that we've never heard about?

The fellow called Ed, now being flagged as the hero of the hour in Westminster, took himself off to Wapping before the hacking storm broke and kissed the feet of Rebekah Brooks. He also asked tenderly after her children, though she does not have any.

It was also reported at the time that the so-called "Ed" Miliband had instructed his backbench MPs not to criticise Mr Murdoch's bid for BSkyB. So many Milibands, so much cosmic amnesia; no wonder we're all getting thoroughly confused.

Peter Dunn

Bridport, Dorset

The idea, expressed by Murdoch in his apologia, that his papers are part of a free press, is laughable. Much of the British press is owned by a few wealthy businessmen, who use their papers to propagate their right-wing politics and their business agenda, to make sure that governments are elected which will enact legislation favourable to their interests.

Democracy is subverted by these papers with their constant advocation of right-wing measures, such as privatisation of national assets, low taxes for the wealthy and less state involvement in protecting the public from the predations of big business.

The press is free of government interference, but governments are not free from press interference. It's time we had a "British Spring" to bring about some changes.

Tony Cheney

Ipswich, Suffolk

Let us hope, now that all the media outlets are concerned, the public and national interest will focus on the real culprits in this matter, the MPs who were cosying up to News International.

They were afraid of possible exposure and loss of support for their parties, to oppose the actions of News International and its tabloid publications, including the former News of the World. With the past questionable standard of legislation passed by many of the MPs involved that has allowed these conditions to flourish and many, including party leaders, who have been involved with the exception of Tom Watson, Chris Bryant, Vince Cable, and the new intake of MPS in 2010 after the general election.

We surely owe a debt to Mr Watson and Mr Bryant. Mr Cable clearly has concerns about Murdoch but was unable to express them after his first public statement and loss of his position in the BskyB affair.

In 2003, this issue was brought to the attention of MPs when Rebekah Brooks appeared before the Culture Media and Sport Select Committee and said police had been paid.

Years later, she "corrected" her admission. But out of the 635 MPs in 2003, only the three referred to and new intake can now claim any credibility in this matter.

Since 2003, any MP has had the protection of the "absolute privilege"of the House of Commons to raise this. How much subsequent harm to the families and people since involved could have been prevented had at least one done so?

Can we have our deserved efficiency and value for money from these elite Westminster club members, who have got away with so much for so long in letting the people down and acting against the public requirements through self-interest and party loyalty?

H E Carless

Hornchurch, Essex

In a week of blackened characters holding on to their positions for as long as possible, the resignation of Sir Paul Stephenson came as a shock.

Although it is too early to know the full details, my impression is that by falling on his own sword, Sir Paul has shown huge integrity by stemming the allegations and allowing the police to continue with their day to day roles.

But this does raise some major questions in the culpability of management figures. Should Sir Paul be accountable for something which he was only distantly related to or is it the role of a leader to be accountable for the actions of his team?

The theme of leaders taking the hit in times of crisis is nothing new; when you look at the case of Sharon Shoesmith and Tony Hayward they are the ones who ultimately paid the price.

I would argue that managers and leaders can thrive and gain support only by demonstrating integrity and inspiring trust from their staff, both of which Sir Paul has done.

But by resigning is he committing a bigger crime of bowing out when he is most needed and leaving his organisation in a state of crisis, when strong management is needed more than ever?

Huw Hilditch-Roberts

Director, Chartered Management Institute, London WC2

The involvement of journalists in politics is reflected in the label, "Fourth Estate", an estate joining three others, variously identified, but often said to be the Lords, Bishops, and Commoners.

Nor is concern over this involvement new. In 1840, Thomas Carlyle wrote, "Burke said there were Three Estates in Parliament; but, in the Reporters' Gallery yonder, there sat a Fourth Estate more important far than they all".

Fifty years later, Oscar Wilde observed, "In old days, men had the rack. Now they have the press. That is an improvement certainly. But still it is very bad, and wrong, and demoralising.

"Somebody – was it Burke? – called journalism the Fourth Estate. That was true at the time, no doubt. But at the present moment, it is the only estate. It has eaten up the other three ... We are dominated by Journalism".

These comments take us back 160 years, oddly enough, to about the time the News of the World was first published.

PA Robinson


You report that Sir Paul Stephenson has resigned believing that "his integrity is intact" yet on the same page you report that he "accepted hospitality worth £12,000".

If it is true, am I the only person to find it unacceptable, and perhaps lacking in integrity, that a public servant should accept hospitality worth £12,000 from anybody whatever the reason for it being offered?

Michael Blake


Israeli general hits at settlers

Hooray for Major-General Avi Mizrahi ("Jewish settlers are terrorising Palestinians", 18 July). Having been on the receiving end of attacks from stone-throwing Yitzhar thugs, their faces wrapped in prayer shawls and backed by private militia, I fully concur.

Israelis are always citing security as a fundamental right. They need to spare a thought for Palestinians living in the shadow of extremist settlements.

Palestinian police have no jurisdiction over settlers who are well-armed and a law unto themselves, and the Israeli army and police are reluctant to protect Palestinians. Politicians need to wake up to the extreme danger of the situation.

Maggie Foyer

London SW15

Allow me to make one small amendment to Catrina Stewart's article about Jewish settler violence against Palestinians (7 July).

She writes that some of the more radical settlers oppose a two-state solution "on the premise that the whole of Israel is bequeathed to them by God". Shouldn't that have been "the whole of Palestine"?

Elizabeth Morley

Trisant, Aberystwyth

The trouble with that Chinook

What caused the Chinook disaster (report, 13 July)? In my opinion, it is undeniable from the evidence that seriously defective flight and engine control software could have flown the helicopter into the ground.

Acceptance test-flying of the Chinook HC-2 at Boscombe Down was stopped for four months because of fatally dangerous uncommanded engine and flight control by the aircraft's software. When? The day before the crash.

Three days before the crash, pilot Flt-Lt Tapper said he felt unprepared to fly the Chinook HC-2: time had passed since his brief HC-1 to HC-2 conversion training: his capacity to react unhesitatingly was compromised.

He was ordered to fly it although in a Chinook squadron at RAF Gütersloh, 40 hours of familiarisation flying on the HC-2 was mandatory before pilots were authorised to fly it operationally.

Chinook ZD576 was the first HC-2 to reach Belfast, two days before the crash. Its introduction was chaotic: instructions for aircrew to deal with malfunctions were flawed; the flight manual was inadequate; pilots had grossly insufficient time to get these details instantly ready to mind before flying, so potential disorientation, distraction and delay in dealing with sudden problems in flight were inevitable.

Standard civil accident investigation logs the hours pilots flew in the previous 90 and 28 days but this is missing from the evidence of all six inquiries. How tired were the two pilots? They had already flown nearly six stressful operational hours that day over the "bandit country" of Ulster.

ÿWas it all a simple but shamefully unjust equation: "Accident plus no evidence of technical malfunction equals pilot error?"

Major Michael Hamilton (Rtd)


Do badgers really cause bovine TB

I agree with Mrs G E Purser about badgers (letters, 18 July); the debate is focused on the wrong issue. The issue is how TB is transmitted to badgers from cows.

I have believed this for years, but have realised that in this country this must be the case because New Zealand has a growing incidence of TB in cattle and they do not have badgers. The farmers there are demanding that the government research why the incidence is on the rise.

I suggest that we do, also. I fear, like Mrs Purser that will not happen; after all, we have managed to kill all larger predators.

Margaret Martindale

Dalton in Furness, Cumbria

Nasty medicine from the chemist

I share Julie Burchill's bewilderment about pharmacies (15 July ). Why does one have to undergo a pharmacology viva before being able to buy simple medicines?

Questions have ranged from the fatuous (at the age of 62, I've been asked whether I've ever taken aspirin before) to the irritatingly intrusive (What am I taking the medicines for?) These "health advisers" seem surprised when I say that if I want a consultation, I'll see my GP and that I can read the data sheets that come in the packets.

Perhaps they worry that I am planning to take an overdose; all I can say is that's likelihood is seriously increased following a visit to the average chemist.

Dr Anthony Ingleton


Helping the blind in South Sudan

As someone working in South Sudan, it's enlightening to read the positive coverage of the country's Independence ("South Sudan celebrates first day as independent nation", 10 July). As the world looks on at the celebrations and to the future of South Sudan, I'm reminded of the challenges that lie ahead.

I have worked in the Upper Nile State of South Sudan for the international NGO, Sightsavers since 2007. What makes it different to other developing countries is the result of the 21-year old civil war. No comprehensive health system, only one ophthalmologist in the whole country and no medical schools to train new healthcare professionals.

On top of this, only a staggering 3.3 per cent of the population has access to clean water, meaning millions are vulnerable to debilitating and blinding diseases. So, although this is a time for celebration, for us, it's the beginning of a journey. One that we hope will help South Sudan build a new country for its citizens that gives them the opportunity to thrive that they deserve.

Margaret Kasiko

Regional Programmes Officer, Sightsavers ECSA Regional Office, Nairobi, Kenya

Peers going to the polls

Everyone knows peers are born or appointed to the House of Lords. But a unique British compromise allows for the election of some peers to Parliament.

This week, the ballot closes for the election of a Lords' Deputy Speaker. The Blair government tried to bring down the curtains on the hereditary peers in 1999. Opponents forced a compromise, leaving 92 hereditaries in place. Twelve years later, further reform is closer but still far off. After the death of an hereditary peer in Parliament, he will be replaced by another. On the death of a Deputy Speaker – a working peer – the whole house is the electorate. Candidates are volunteers from hereditary peers not in parliament.

In the case of a peer from a party or group, the electorate comprises the surviving hereditary peers of that party in the Lords. Eligibility to stand is the same as for Deputy Speakers. In this way, the balance of power in the house established in 1999 is maintained. Anomalous indeed that the hereditaries should themselves represent the democratic component of the Upper House.

I stood in this election because I have the constitutional right to do so. A new generation of disinterested hereditary peers might well bring fresh approaches to the House's inevitable reforms. The House's reputation has taken a beating. It is all hands on deck to explain and to justify the House to a rightly sceptical public.

Lord Kennet

House of Lords, London SW1

Fiery words

To hell with the cliché correspondence. This is what makes my blood boil: call me a pedant, but "algae" is the plural of "alga". Your caption "The green algae is a small part of a 410-sq km bloom ..." (16 July) is not just offensive, it is wrong. I am literally fuming.

David Ridge

London N19

I feel it is important to remind your readers that all things must be allowed to run their course and fulfill their destiny. The only way to know when this has happened is in the fullness of time, and when the fat lady sings.

Mark Devine

Dronfield, Derbyshire

Perspectives on Murdoch's influence

Climate change is rubbished

Dominic Lawson has just produced his second Opinion piece in The Independent to (19 July) try to play down the malign influence of News International and the Murdoch family.

Lawson cannot deny that Murdoch is a driving force behind Euro-scepticism in Britain, with our association with our European neighbours being relentlessly poisoned by these American/Australian interests. But what is much more likely to be seen by historians as the utterly evil influence of Murdoch was his determination to rubbish the science of climate change.

This is at its most extreme when spouted by the foam-flecked Fox News merchants of hate, Rush Limbaugh and Glen Beck.

Yet the same anti-science is also rather more gently promoted in the UK Murdoch press, where even Dominic Lawson himself has been known to push the doctrine of denial in his role as a Sunday Times columnist.

The day when these people are stopped from rubbishing climate science and disastrously misleading the public will be a day worthy of great celebration by all who care about the future of the world.

Aidan Harrison

Rothbury, Northumberland

Our law and the people

Dominic Lawson's statement that, "This country is run by laws, not people" is fuelled either by breathtaking naivete or deliberate disingenuousness; since Mr Lawson is an experienced political journalist from a prominent political family, I assume it is the latter.

Laws have to be interpreted by people. Examples of "interpretation" fuelled by political ideology from recent history are too numerous to outline here. Many laws are deliberately framed in such vague or wide-ranging terms that they are capable of almost any interpretation, eg the Emergency Powers Act, and the law on "conspiracy" and "public order". Others exclude safeguards such as trial by jury (eg the Prevention of Terrorism Act, and the law on repatriation of illegal immigrants.

Even where the law is clear, as on phone and email hacking, they can be ignored or got round by those who have the power to do so, as we are now witnessing.

Jim Cordell


What's that got to do with it?

I enjoyed Dominic Lawson's apologia for Rupert Murdoch and all of Murdoch's works . Dominic writes beautifully.

Tell me please, is this the same Dominic Lawson who writes a regular major column in Murdoch's Sunday Times?

Chris Payne