Letters: No threat to good journalism

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The Independent Online

Not all elements of the press have been implicated by the horrors exposed in the Leveson inquiry, but then, not all the banks behaved in the reckless manner which almost destroyed the financial system. The press cannot be trusted to keep its own house in order, any more than the banks did, and must be treated similarly. The proposals set out by Lord Leveson are fair and reasonable and should not impact on good journalism.

However, there is one issue which Lord Leveson has not addressed. That is why and how the press was able to get itself into the position in which it could undermine democratic institutions.

Overwhelmingly, that was due to political cowardice. Craven politicians who could see no further than the next election attempted to ingratiate themselves with people and organisations which were interested only in their own power and position.

There is no oversight that can change the behaviour of the politicians, but the temptation to behave in this way can be removed by making sure that nobody ever again attains the level of control of the press in this country achieved by the Murdoch family.

John Dowling

Newcastle upon Tyne

A significant portion of the press has demonstrated for decades that they expect to use their rights without responsibility, and often without morals or common decency. The press have demonstrated that they do not have the capacity, let alone intent, to reform. There has been no meaningful insight into this failure by the press body as a whole, including those on the more responsible end of the spectrum, until it has now been forced by repugnant and long-suppressed revelations.

The prized principle of a free press needs to be protected from their unprincipled excesses. I simply cannot understand David Cameron's position, coming from the leader of a political party which so often admirably champions the principle that rights should be inextricably linked with responsibility, a link which is commonly underpinned by law and statute.

This principle must now, finally, be upheld by the press as well.

Dr Richard Stanley

Shillington, Bedfordshire

It seems there is still one Prime Minister left willing to take a call from Murdoch.

Peter Fonth

Keighley, West Yorkshire

Cherry-picking from the Leveson report will not do. Either it is implemented in full or rejected in full, as only the Liberal Democrats have recognised so far, as well as some of the press's victims.

Not only must the changes have the backing of law, but also they must be easy for anyone to access. Nothing has changed since an Irish judge remarked: "In England, justice is open to all, like the Ritz Hotel."(James Matthew 1830-1908.)

William Robert Haines


So the Government is not prepared to regulate the Press, when they regulate virtually every other aspect of our lives. A case of honour among thieves?

Mike Timms

Iver, Buckinghamshire

Ukip can strut about, but can't stop the clock

Hubris is such fun. Ukip polls a total of 8,038 votes across three constituencies on a dark November day and Nigel Farage announces that it is now the third force in British politics – in a nation of 63 million.

He isn't of course the first politician to transform a tiny acorn into a mighty oak, and he won't be the last. The media is always happy to encourage party leaders to strut about in this fashion.

I hope that before long the British people see through Ukip's isolationist posturing and recognise that the UK's future is not to be found in trying to turn the clock back to some imagined age when there were no pesky foreigners on English soil, when the Continent was two days' sail from Blighty, and when fields were measured in furlongs and wheat in bushels.

The world has changed. In the 19th century they couldn't burrow backward to the 18th century to avoid the industrial revolution; they had to move forwards, and so do we.

Our climate is changing (ultimately, it really doesn't matter who is responsible) and the world's population keeps growing while our planet's resources are finite and limited. We can either hide in a corner clinging to our possessions and muttering "Mine, mine" or we can work with our neighbours to try to adapt, and ensure a viable, sustainable future for us all.

Christian Vassie

Wheldrake, York

Despite my hostility too most of the policies of the current Coalition Government I cast my vote for the Liberal Democrat candidate in the Middlesbrough by-election, because I did not want to see Ukip occupy the ground that used to be occupied by the Lib Dems .

The UK Independence Party could be called the anti-European Conservative party. The party believes that the devastating cuts in public expenditure do not go far enough. In Labour strongholds such Middlesbrough and Rotherham there are many people with right-wing opinions who would not dream of voting Conservative.

Ukip is a right-wing party for which conservative-minded people in Labour strongholds can vote without the stigma of voting Tory or for the British National Party .

Peter J Brown


That Yasmin Alibhai-Brown could "never vote Tory" surely makes her attitude to David Cameron somewhat academic (Voices, 3 December). His concern must surely be with getting the votes of people who "could vote Tory" – millions of whom hold the opinions she sneers at, many of whom have defected to Ukip and other parties or simply stopped voting. I write as one of them –a Conservative turned Ukipper.

Mark Taha

London SE26

Aids: Thatcher saved my life

The anti-Thatcher comment in Patrick Strudwick's article for World Aids Day (1 December) is so wrong. The Thatcher government, for all its failings, recognised the need to bring the dangers of HIV home to people in this country. You may complain about the apocalyptic approach, but as a young gay man at the time it made me change my approach to sex and probably saved my life.

What is indefensible is that since Norman Fowler's advertising campaign, every government has ignored this issue. If you wish to campaign, then confront the Blair/Brown silence on this issue.

Why is it that young gay men, especially where they are selling themselves in London, have no awareness of this issue? Because everyone assumes that this is now just a chronic medical condition, manageable by a cocktail of pills?

Why the silence? A life on drugs is wrong in so many ways. We must do more.

Robin J Bulow

London EC4

Bad sex and bad prose

Contrary to the impression given by Rowan Somerville (Radar, 1 December), Literary Review does not disapprove of sex in novels or novels about sex. The Bad Sex in Fiction Award draws attention to unsuccessful writing about sex in the hope, usually forlorn, that it might improve next time around.

Mr Somerville accuses us of bullying; but anyone who writes a novel offers himself up to critique, and criticism comes in a variety of forms. If it makes him flinch, I advise him to take up another profession.

Mr Somerville won the award for the following sentence: "Like a lepidopterist mounting a tough-skinned insect with a too blunt pin he screwed himself into her." Like Mr Somerville, I know that Nabokov was a lepidopterist. I also know that lepidopterists study moths and butterflies in particular, not insects as a class; that they don't mount themselves on to their specimens; and that while you can screw someone, screwing yourself into them requires drastic genital surgery.

The Bad Sex Award pays as much attention to sentences as sex. Given Mr Somerville's endorsement of E L James, it's clear he's not too worried about these either.

Jonathan Beckman

Literary Review

London W1

Suicides on the railway

Before reading your feature by Owen Jones (3 December) I had just finished studying an article on railway suicides in Britain as part of research on rail travel. A graphic catalogue of circumstances that we can all recognise, including poverty, bereavement, domestic violence and depression, illustrated the increasing problem.

This article was published in the Year Round Journal in 1874. The biggest tragedy today is that our society, despite advancements in business, management and technology, still provides a Dickensian underclass reality for so many, with the same characters taking the roles of Victorian authority. Thank goodness that one development since then, the Samaritans, exist today.

Karen Strang


Mystery cards

David Foster's letter (3 December) reminded me how often, as a probate lawyer, I am faced with Christmas cards from old friends of the recently departed, asking after their health. I would gladly let them know, if the card had an address on the envelope. This simple expedient would have saved my sister the embarrassment of receiving a card each year from a much-loved primary school teacher, and failing to reciprocate because she had mislaid the teacher's address when moving house.

Meg Andrews

Castleford, West Yorkshire


The great advantage of the surprisingly excellent appointment of the Canadian Mr Carney as Governor of the Bank of England is that unlike most of the establishment-tainted British candidates he had nothing to do with: shadowing the deutschmark; joining the European Exchange Rate mechanism; urging UK membership of the euro; pursuing low interest rates when a property bubble was in full sway; and blaming the Banks for using excess money rather than the Government for printing it.

Rodney Atkinson

Stocksfield, Northumberland

US empire

My grandmother, Anne Holt, a citizen of the Kingdom of Hawaii, was four when her country was seized by the United States. They added other countries to their empire (letters; 1, 3 December) later.


Middleton Stoney, Oxfordshire