Letters: Morality and politics

Our chance to bring morality back into politics
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In condemning the shameful behaviour of the MPs Byers, Hewitt and Hoon, it is vital we make the connection between their corruption and the grotesque rewards achieved by the fat cats of finance and industry.

The ghastly scandal of MPs' lobbying is a direct reflection of the culture of avarice and envy. MPs are by no means alone in being seduced by it; it was almost inevitable that they would be among the first to fall, given their need to rub shoulders with tycoons. The pay accorded to senior managers by the publicly-funded BBC is another consequence of it.

What to do? A general election is at hand: for once the moment is ours and we should not fail it. Our votes should go decisively to the party which pledges to bring wholesale reform to the political system and to reinstate a fairer system of remuneration for all the country's citizens. Making money make money should not be the primary basis for reward: the wellbeing of communities depends on many more skills than gambling.

Above all we should aim to restore to our political leadership a sense of moral principle and responsibility, which in recent decades it has patently lost.

Patricia Graham

Tonbridge, Kent

Do you think if I ask very nicely and offer enough money, that nice Stephen Byers might drive me to Edinburgh this weekend? My flight's been cancelled.

Kim Thonger

Olney, Buckinghamshire

Where next for a smoking ban?

Full marks to David Hockney for his contribution to your item on the proposed ban on smoking in cars (24 March). If smoking is so bad, why not just ban it completely? But of course whoever introduced the ban would never get re-elected.

I am a lifelong non-smoker. I can't see how a blanket ban on smoking in cars would protect children; if it is their parents they are travelling with, they will presumably be affected by the smoke at home.

And as for not smoking in parks, this is just nonsense. How can smoke in a park be more dangerous for children than that inhaled walking down a street or from the smokers banished to the doorsteps of pubs? Are we to ban smoking in our streets as well?

Chris Else

Maidenhead, Berkshire

Now doctors want a ban on smoking in cars to protect children. Jeremy Laurance (Analysis, 24 March) says surveys suggest that most people would agree. The same people, perhaps, who said they would go to pubs more when the smoking ban was introduced.

But look what has happened to the pub trade. It shows that the number of people supporting the ban is questionable, but the statistics are still a licence for the Government and their white-coated advisers to interfere ever more in our lives.

Who knows which other risky recreational activities will be policed out of existence in the future.

Adrian Durrant

Eastbourn, East Sussex

Religion and the abuse of power

I take issue with your correspondents (letters, 20 March) who felt that Johann Hari's article of 19 March was a "rant" which had gone too far. He was not implying that all followers of religious faiths demand special treatment, but was noting that many do, sometimes with extreme force. The problem he addressed was the impact of this demand on public attitudes and policy in a secular society, where too often it's deemed unacceptable or unwise to challenge a religious belief.

As for the Catholic Church, the mistreatment of children is hardly news when the vicious abuse of power and moral authority by priests, monks and nuns has been known for decades. The difference is that now it's exposed to scrutiny. The British children sent to Catholic orphanages in Australia and the "Magdalens" of Ireland were but the tip of an iceberg which I'm sure appalls most Catholics.

These profound breaches of human rights must be judged according to the mores and laws that apply to us all. Hari is right to insist that "belief" has no part in protecting people from the consequences of their crimes.

Paula Jones

London SW20

I always find the Johann Hari column interesting and challenging. I accept the fact that he has a strong antipathy to religion and in particular to the Roman Catholic Church. Some of his comments hurt but they are often fair.

His latest about "religious support for evil" contains some unwarranted assertions and factual inaccuracies. The Vatican document Crimen Sollicitationis of 1962 deals not with paedophilia, but with cases of priests using the confessional to solicit sexual favours, and outlines in tedious detail the procedure for dealing with such cases. It does not "order bishops to... move the offending priest on to another parish". That is one of several options offered when an accusation is being investigated, in the same way that a person accused of a crime can be released on bail while further investigations take place.

Mr Hari makes some assertions about the Vatican knowing of "priests raping children" and simply swearing everybody to secrecy. That is quite incorrect. He also refers to "a strict secret order", issued in 2001. If it is so secret, how come I was able to download it from the Vatican website several years ago? In the procedure promulgated by the Catholic Church in this country and in practice for several years, it is a requirement to involve the police from the beginning.

Heaven knows that the truth is bad enough: sexual abuse of children by priests and members of religious orders, the disregard by many Church authorities of the damage done to victims, the incompetence, the fear of publicity, the resultant continuing of abuse. There is no excuse. But please do not portray it as any worse than it is.

The Rev Bernard O'Connor OSA

London W6

I have just read Johann Hari's excellent but disturbing article about the evil behaviour of so-called religious people.

The following comment by the Dalai Lama provides a useful corrective to both Islamic axe-wielders, and those guilty of covering up paedophilia in the Roman Catholic Church: "The whole purpose of religion is to facilitate love and compassion, patience, tolerance, humility, forgiveness."

Sue Norton


Excellent article by Johann Hari. If the Pope proceeds with a visit to the UK he should be arrested and prosecuted.

Andrew Anderson

Ampthill, Bedfordshire

The apology offered by Pope Benedict to the victims of industrial-scale rape and torture by his employees in Ireland is arrogant, self-serving and conceited. It is no apology at all.

He offers no solutions as to how children will be protected from paedophile priests in future. He does not offer up a compensation scheme for past victims. He even has the temerity to blame "secularism" and not his church's insistence that grown men deny their basic sexual urges.

If the Pope were head of a secular organisation it would have been shut down and bankrupted years ago. That such a man will be getting a state-funded visit to Britain in September is an outrage.

Alan Hinnrichs


Why does no one blame God for the present crisis in the Catholic Church? If the priesthood is a vocation, he seems to have called up the wrong people.

Doug Meredith


BBC's message for Darling

As a former Treasury economist who has worked on previous Budgets, I know how late in the day changes can get made to the Chancellor's speech. I am also very keen to follow the events live on television.

So I consulted your TV listings pages to find out the time of the Budget speech. I noticed that, on BBC1, the preceding programmes were entitled To Buy or Not to Buy, Cash in the Attic and Bargain Hunt. Following the speech, BBC2 is offering us Flog It! and Pointless. Does the timing of the Budget speech reflect these options?

Dr Andrew Meads

Reigate, Surrey

Did Israelis clone my passport?

On my way to Palestine in 2007, the immigration officials at Tel Aviv airport took my passport and disappeared with it in a back office for going on half an hour, until I started making noises which attracted the attention of one of the security people, and eventually my passport was returned to me.

At the time I was under the impression that my digitalised and chip-imbedded UK passport could not be tempered with, and I did not think much of the incident. After reading your report "Clone wars" (24 March), I am not so sure and cannot help but wonder how many clones the Israelis made of my passport during that half hour, and what use they would be putting them to. Verily, Allah knows best.

M A Qavi

London SE3

Over the past few days, many commentators, for example, your own Kim Sengupta (24 March) and others on Radio 4, ITN and Channel 4 have described Israel as being an ally of the UK. In an interview, Sir Menzies Campbell also used this term.

Pardon my ignorance, but I had understood that such an alliance had only existed for a few shameful weeks in 1956. Perhaps one of your readers could provide enlightenment as to when and how such an alliance has come into being, and what benefits the UK derives from it.

Roger Davis


Turn junk mail into real junk

A number of suggestions have been put forward as the best way of dealing with junk mail, but none capitalises on the postage-paid envelope which often comes with this type of mail. May I, therefore, suggest that the following is the best method.

Remove all personal details from any junk mail. Put the advertising material from the insurance company in the envelope from the double glazing people. Put the double glazing company material in the envelope from the credit card company. Repeat this process until the day's junk mail is all enveloped up. Post the envelopes next time you pass a post-box.

The above method gives revenue to the Post Office, costs the originators of the junk mail the often first-class postage on the envelope and costs the recipient company chaos and confusion as staff process what is now junk mail to them.

If everyone did this, junk mail would soon end.

Gordon Whitehead

Copt Hewick, North Yorkshire


Tories' best friend

Either Bob Crow, in wanting to take the RMT union into a national dispute and cause major disruption for the railway network over Easter, just before a general election, is a member of the Conservative Party, or he is a selfish egoist. In either case he will be the best ammunition the Tories have.

Gavin Robinson

London SW17

Vote for me

Voters who are abroad and cannot get ballot papers sent to them in time (letter, 24 March) should apply for a proxy vote. This enables them to nominate someone to vote in the normal way on their behalf. Allocation forms can be downloaded from www.aboutmyvote.co.uk. I can vouch for this system; at the last European election I voted on behalf of my brother, who was working in America at the time.

The Rev R L Sturch

Milton Keynes

Jews who survived

Janine Joubert Kempton (letter, 24 March) may well be correct that "out of a total of roughly 300,000 registered French Jews, 80 per cent survived [the Nazi occupation], thanks to anonymous French men and women", but this is not the reason why "France is the European country which has the highest percentage of Jews in the population". Most Jews in France today originate from the former French territories in North Africa and migrated, fearing discrimination in what would be Arab majority countries, after the latter were granted independence in the 1960s.

Martin D Stern

Salford, Greater Manchester

Neglected county

Living in the new South Downs national park, I was keen to see what your reporter would have to say about this beautiful area (Traveller, 20 March). Did she not realise that a huge section of the new park is in Hampshire? The whole article gave the impression that the only part worth visiting is in Sussex – she might as well have written "Here be dragons" on the western part of the map.

Marilyn Timney

Liss, Hampshire

Give it a Miss

Much as I enjoyed John Walsh's loving panegyric to the "divine" Grace Kelly (23 March), I think he has been guilty of a sad anachronism. I don't think she was ever referred to as Ms Kelly. That term was not in common use in the 1950s, when I first saw High Society. The lovely lady went from Miss Kelly to Princess Grace.

Don Shearwood

Chadwell Heath, Essex