Letters: Newspapers feed the greed for fame

Christina Patterson made a lot of sense in her piece on the Leveson inquiry ("It's our obsession with celebrity that's on trial", 23 November) but she spoiled it with a rant about, "When people rush out to buy newspapers that plaster the secrets of people's sex lives...."

Please do not try to pin any of your guilt on me, nor on people who pass you information "as a fast track to a fast buck". If newspapers did not provide the money, that would not happen.

I do not buy a newspaper to read about celebrities or their behaviour and I suspect that most readers of The Independent do not either. Actually, where is the evidence that anyone does?

Could it be that journalists think they know what we want to read but are wrong? Could that be the reason why The Independent took two pages recently to describe how some celebrities are alleged to have told their lovers that their relationship was at an end and another two pages to report on some more, and what they say makes them cry?

I am indifferent to Jeffrey Archer and his reaction to washing up advertisements. Am I really so unusual? So whose obsession is the title referring to? Not mine.

John Doylend

Bungay, Suffolk

We should not accept the justification for the press harassment of celebrities that those who have courted publicity must not then complain of press intrusion. This is no more acceptable than the once widely held belief that sexually active women had somehow forfeited their right to complain of rape.

Celebrities are entitled to the same protection from harassment and intrusion as any other citizens.

Julian Gardiner

Borehamwood, Hertfordshire

The whole thinking of the press who regard other human beings as a product to be exploited has to change.

The obsession with getting an exclusive story is ridiculous. What does it matter? No story stays exclusive for longer than a few hours anyway.

Keith Wells


Boost will keep house prices up

Indeed "Lower house prices are just what the country needs" as Mary Ann Sieghart proposes (21 November). Sadly, that will not be the outcome of the Government adding £400m to the demand side of the housing equation by underwriting mortgages, which will tend to push house prices up, not down.

Boosting demand will encourage private buyers to acquire houses which the market is disinclined to offer by itself. This is a short-term measure which should boost production, but it is likely to create a mini-boom, to be followed by a mini-bust when the scheme ends.

Measures to increase supply of land are irrelevant: private builders are already sitting on vast numbers of planning permissions and land allocations (where permission would readily be granted).

The Government's figures show 1.5 million plots available on previously used brownfield sites alone. Giving builders more land will simply allow even choosier cherry-picking than is already available to them.

Richard Bate

Shipbourne, Kent

If a free market depends on supply and demand then what on earth is the Government thinking when it suggests propping up the lending market by underwriting loans that the banks are unwilling to take a chance on?

If the market was left alone, house prices would naturally fall, surely the most desirable way of sorting out the affordability situation. This tampering with the market only favours the banks, lending institutions, and those who already have a stake in the existing housing stock. This scheme will favour the "fat cats", not the first-time buyers.

Jeremy Blythe

Burrington, Somerset

Michael Collins ("All huddled together under one roof", 22 November) has a particular take on council housing which may ring true for south London, but is not recognisable in other parts of the UK.

I worked for Sheffield housing department in the late 1980s and early 1990s as head of their homelessness service, and since then as an academic have researched housing policy and practice.

Council housing used to be "for all", and this was by no means a local aberration peculiar to Sheffield. When the right to buy was introduced in 1980, 45 per cent of the housing stock in Sheffield was owned by the local authority and was occupied by working- and middle-class households alike.

Since 1980, much council housing has been sold, and not replaced, because of financial restrictions imposed on local government.

The latest figures show 18 per cent of Sheffield housing is now owned by the local authority and 7 per cent by housing associations, meaning that a larger proportion is now rented to those in greatest need. The effect is that many social housing estates, once mixed communities, are now welfare ghettos.

The Coalition's housing strategy compounds the problem by proposing further encouragement to council tenants to buy. The Government acknowledges that there are 4.5 million people on the waiting-lists for social rented housing.

After the last remnants of local authority housing have been sold off, where will those who cannot afford to buy nor to rent privately be expected to live?

Sarah Blandy

Reader in Property Law,

University of Leeds

Any job unsafe in the line of fire

So, the Coalition want it to be easier to hire and fire people ("Cameron's war on employment rights", 23 November). This is a deceptive piece of spin.

What they mean is simply making it easy to fire people. We are given a long list of measures that not only make it easier to fire workers, but to do so with impunity, however arbitrary the decision. That is why big business wants these legal changes; and that is why this government will give them what they want.

This has nothing to do with improving the economy, let alone to do with reducing unemployment. It has everything to do with businesses being empowered and workers being disempowered.

Dr Tom Greaves

Dr Rupert Read

The School of Philosophy, University of East Anglia, Norwich

Changing employment laws to allow firms to dismiss staff without good reasons under "compensated no-fault dismissal" could represent a step backwards for both businesses and workers experiencing stress and mental health problems.

One in six workers experiences stress, depression and anxiety at any one time, some of which is directly caused by their jobs. Under the new proposals, rather than addressing stressful workplaces with toxic cultures and investigating how staff can be better supported, there would be nothing to stop employers from simply dismissing staff.

The recession has decreased staff numbers, increased workloads and put more strain on our workforce, and it's vital that businesses encourage supportive cultures and protect staff wellbeing, rather than being given new ways to let people go.

Stress and mental health issues are costly to businesses when managed badly, but research has shown that costs can be slashed by a third by improved ways of handling employee wellbeing. As well as protecting workers, "red tape" can also protect businesses and save money.

Vicki Nash

Head of Policy and Campaigns, Mind, London E17

Who cares about care for elderly?

We need to recognise that the treatment of older people by home-care workers emerges clearly from reports by the Patients Association, the Care Quality Commission and the Health Ombudsman (letters, 24 November). No doubt there is good practice out there, but often the way we treat older people in care settings is abysmal.

In 1998, the then health secretary, Frank Dobson, commissioned a report which showed older people experienced discrimination and neglect in hospital. In 2001, his successor published a national service framework for older people designed to root out ageism and ensure they were treated with respect.

In 2006 came yet another national campaign by government called Dignity in Care. But nothing fundamental is changing. There will be a furious round of box-ticking and breast-beating until the fuss dies down and things go back to "normal". We must not allow this.

Gary Kitchen

Southport, Lancashire

Bailing out the bond gamblers

Peter Catlow (letter, 18 November) implies that Greece and Italy have only their own financial imprudence to blame for the bond markets imposing new leaders on their countries. But the bond markets exhibited their own financial imprudence by buying bonds in those countries, because they offered higher yields, although higher yields denote higher risks.

Having lost their shirts by betting on long-odds outsiders, they expect the ordinary Greeks and Italians to reimburse them.

John Naylor

Sunningdale, Berkshire

Heathrow best route for HS2

A study of a decent road map would demonstrate that shadow transport secretary Maria Eagle is right to advocate the Heathrow route as the best option for the high-speed rail (HS2) scheme (report, 21 November).

Ninety-four per cent of this route – from the London periphery to the M42 around Birmingham – is tunnelled or in transport corridors, most of which are motorways. Of the Coalition route, 78 per cent lies outside transport corridors.

If the Heathrow spur is included, the cost of each route is similar, although the Coalition one is three minutes faster.

Marilyn Fletcher

Great Missenden, Buckinghamshire

Welsh, and proud of being British

Graham Evans is wrong (letters, 18 November). Like most of my fellow Welshmen, I am proud to sing my British National Anthem when it is appropriate. There are probably more who refuse to acknowledge and sing it in England than in Wales.

Patrick Jones

Kilgetty, Pembrokeshire

Tom Jeanes's suggestion of "I vow to thee" as an English national anthem (letter, 19 November) fails on two counts: its words are not widely known and its patriotism is over the top.

Colin V Smith

Rainford, Merseyside

Ford solo success

The feature on the rebirth of Detroit (21 November) was a compelling read and highlighted the important role industry is playing in the city's renaissance. But there was an inaccuracy in saying "the Big Three car companies hit a wall only to be saved by a government bailout". In fact, Ford was the only member of the "Big Three" that did not require government assistance, and, as correctly reported, the company has "grown for 10 consecutive quarters" since.

Tim Holmes

Executive Director, Communications and Public Affairs, Ford of Britain,

Brentwood, Essex

Close call

Francis Maude says the one-day public-sector strike will cost the economy £500m. Can he tell us how much was lost from closing the economy for the Royal Wedding, and how much it will cost next year to shut it even longer, for the Queen's Jubilee?

Trevor Pateman