Letters: MPs have no right to damn Murdoch


It is ill-informed for the Commons Media Committee to say that Rupert Murdoch is "not a fit and proper person to run a business". This man has built up the third-biggest media group in the world over 60 years. He has started, saved and grown thousands of major businesses across the globe, put The Times and The Sunday Times back on the streets of the UK and saved hundreds of jobs. He feeds over 54,000 families every day worldwide.

His son, James, however, should have known. He should have been bothered to read the email "for Neville" that he was told about. Had he investigated, he would have been more properly informed on the subject he was there to manage as a highly paid chairman. He should, for the good of the company, either leave or be removed.

I had the pleasure to work with Rupert Murdoch during my career in Australia and London and I found that if he said he didn't know, he didn't and always, in the main, told the truth. He had no reason not to.

What businesses have the Media Committee and other politicians ever started, managed, run or saved?

Keith S Bales

Bibra Lake, Western Australia

Martin Hickman reports that Max Mosley is bankrolling opposition to Rupert Murdoch's empire ("Mosley: I'll bankroll MPs who have the guts to take on Murdoch", 28 April)

This initiative recalls Harold Nicolson's 1932 novel Public Faces, which concluded by predicting that among "many valuable achievements" of Sir Oswald Mosley's [Max Mosley's father] government, in 10 years' time, would be to eliminate a politically harmful "syndicate of popular newspapers".

Jason Robertson

Sheringham, Norfolk

Girls will embrace sport, with the right teaching

While I have every sympathy with what was clearly an unhappy time for Harriet Walker at her secondary school, how sad that her opinion (2 May) is rooted in outdated personal experience.

As a headteacher of a secondary school in Middlesbrough, I am blessed with a truly marvellous PE team. Our participation rates for both genders approach 100 per cent, and we have legions of girls embracing all that is great about sport and fitness.

Any school worth its sporting salt in 2012 embraces the multifarious aspects of PE, sport, health and fitness with vigour and imagination. The survey to which Harriet refers is based on the views of 1,500 students; since my school alone has over 1,500 students, the size and scope of the "research" has to be challenged.

Finally, this also runs absolutely counter to recent Ofsted reports/surveys on PE and sport in schools: and they will have a much more representative statistical sample of course.

Debbie Clinton

Headteacher, Nunthorpe School, Middlesbrough

The portrait of Harriet Walker above her column must be the one out of the attic; she must be older than my 58 years judging by her experience of PE teachers.

I remember vividly the briefing we received before our first cross-country run, aged 11, when it was stressed that our performance would only be measured relative to our ability and that the objective was to improve one's own speed over time through training. The non-team-sport options that Harriet advocates were offered by the time we got to age 15 and were co-ordinated across several schools in the area, so my experience was not down to one exceptional, enlightened school.

Professional sport is one of our few growth industries at present. Even though for the majority, sports are just hobbies, that is no reason not to teach them. They are skills best learnt at an early age in the same way as playing a musical instrument, speaking an additional language or even reading a book.

Peter English

Ruthin, Denbighshire

Bring on the technocrats

Andreas Whittam Smith ("Forget what sounds clever just run the country", 26 April) has put his finger on a hugely important point. Our incompetent government politicians create omnishambles for a very simple reason – they are doing the wrong job.

The present lot is a good example – they have spent a decade working for a marketing organisation called the Tory party, writing advertising copy and slogans and as presenters of these ads. Most of them have had an excellent training in the latter through the public-school debating societies and the Oxford and Cambridge Unions, where inventing anecdotes about Cornish pasties on the fly can help win a debate.

Now that their advertising campaign has succeeded, they have moved to completely different jobs, running one of the world's largest economies, and they don't know where to start – except to apply their sales slogans. This is akin to a company transferring their entire marketing department to running engineering and production.

We desperately need to separate the executive from the legislature, partly to get competent people in government and partly to allow Parliament to do its job of calling the government to account – this cannot be done when so many MPs are junior ministers on the government payroll.

I would suggest that we need to change the present convention, to say that all ministers, including the Prime Minister, cannot be members of Parliament. They would, hopefully, be "technocrats" with relevant knowledge and experience in their respective posts.

Unfortunately, the people that should make this change, which is far more vital than changing the House of Lords, are the very politicians who benefit from the present setup. Any suggestions?

John Day

Port Solent, Hampshire

Different to the best English usage

I am surprised at the vilification of "different to" by readers of the Errors & Omissions column (28 April), as though it were a recent alien intruder. Born in the English Midlands in 1938, I have said and written "different to" all my life and have always understood that "different from" is wrong (although "to differ from" or "differently than" are acceptable).

So Guy Keleny's assertion that " 'different to' may seem odd now to speakers of standard British English, but I suspect that it is taking over" is baffling. To me "different from" is the innovation taking over. The same can be said for "immune from", which should be "immune to".

Use of prepositions generally is becoming erratic. People say "bored of" instead of "bored with", "by foot" instead of "on foot", "waiting on" instead of "waiting for". Reports are written "into" subjects, not "on" them.

William Spilsbury

London W6

"Different" has been used with "to" as well as from since the 16th century, and appears in this form in great writers such as Fielding, Thackeray, and Conrad; Dickens used both.

Use with "than" is found over the same period when a clause follows because from is not a conjunction, and this pattern has been retained in America. Those who seek advice from Fowler's Modern English Usage (1926) might agree with him that "objections to different to... are mere pedantries".

Robert Allen


Sara Neill's sentence "Governments do subsidise artists differently from cabinet makers or jewellery manufacturers" (letters, 1 May) may well be shorter than Don Thompson's original using "differently than" (Errors & Omissions, 28 April), but it lacks precision in its meaning. The original clearly points out a difference between the way governments subsidise artists and the way governments subsidise cabinet makers or jewellery manufacturers. Sara Neill's version could equally be about a difference between the way governments subsidise artists and the way cabinet makers or jewellery manufacturers subsidise artists.

Pelham Barton


Would those who are happy with the statement "A is different to B" also be happy with the statement "A is equal from B"?

Denis Layton

Clows Top, Worcestershire

Lib Dems blamed for doing right

How sad that Nick Clegg and the Lib Dems seem to be getting all the blame for the mess we are in at the moment, with Lib Dem supporters suggesting that they helped bring in another right-wing Conservative government by voting Lib Dem at the last election.

What were Nick Clegg and his party supposed to do? Were they to refuse to co-operate with the Tories and throw their lot in with Labour, and almost certainly not survive the first major Commons vote? That would have meant another general election, just what we needed in the present economic climate. And almost certainly the Tories would have achieved a majority government, which would have introduced even more "Thatcherite" policies.

Nick Clegg was always going to be damned if he did and damned if he didn't.

Barry Lofty

Thatcham, Berkshire

Wettest drought on record

You couldn't make it up. At the same time as the country is covered in drought orders, there are rivers bursting their banks, flood alerts for nearly every county in England and people being drowned in their cars. The water companies sound like a child who has been caught out and has to tell even more desperate and fantastical stories to justify it all.

To the water companies: end this charade, your credibility is being eroded rapidly. Please just cancel the hosepipe bans and admit you jumped the gun.

Paul Ives

Sanderstead, Surrey

Hopeless task for Hodgson

If Roy Hodgson's first task as England's new football manager is to heal the rift between Terry and Ferdinand, and that means that he plans to include them in his squad of 23 players, then we may as well all go home now. England will not have a hope in hell of achieving anything. Bring in new talent or else!

Mike Connor

Bexhill on Sea, East Sussex

"Cry, Harry not for England!"

Chris Burrell

Welwyn Garden City, Hertfordshire

Too slim to die

The solicitor for the family of Sareena Ali, who died after an emergency caesarean, says: "You don't expect an intelligent and glamorous young woman, slim as a reed, to die" (report, 30 April). Personally I don't expect any woman to die in childbirth, even if she is plain, plump, dowdy and stupid.

Betty Cairns

London N22


It took Blair and Brown 13 years of unfathomable largesse and incomprehensible fiscal abandon to bankrupt our economy. Why does Graham Jarvis (Letters, 1 May) expect that the Conservatives can fix it in less that two years? Please tell Mr Jarvis I am extremely disappointed in him.

Neville Seabridge



For a telling example of impenetrable posh-speak (letter, 1 May) go to Dickens's Bleak House and Sir Leicester Dedlock's "debilitated cousin" at his place in Lincolnshire.

Estelle Foulkes

Grimsby, Lincolnshire