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Thursday 2 February 2012
Letters: Now bankers face a wave of sympathy
Had the Forfeiture Committee acted to annul Mr Goodwin's knighthood in 2009 when the full extent of the collapse of RBS became apparent, it might have had much general support. But in making this decision three years after the event, the Government has generated a wave of sympathy for bankers of which the British Bankers' Association could never have dreamt.
How many of those who clamoured for Stephen Hester to be denied his bonus would be happy if their contractually agreed salary was changed by "popular" opinion? Anyone whose actions or rewards are deemed unpopular is vilified until they crack. Thankfully we have had no lynchings.
We should be wary of government by poplar opinion. Mob rule is not such a long step away. Could we please have a move to decisions based on a more calm deliberation of the facts?
Dr Susan Hand
Perhaps we should reinvent the Athenian process of ostracism. Every year just one unpopular public figure would be stripped of his or her honours and be required to leave the country for 10 years. I'm sure an online version would be perfectly feasible.
You are quite right to point out the inconsistency of revoking Fred Goodwin's knighthood while continuing to reward so many of the other fools, knaves and charlatans who dominate our economic and political life (leading article, 1 February). But you are wrong to suggest that Britain is no longer a welcoming place for big businesses.
Outside the USA, Britain offers the most extreme financial rewards in the world for corporate executives, a government that refuses to impose any constraints on them, and a workforce cowed by decades of downsizing, outsourcing and now mass unemployment. British CEOs are paid far more than their European or Japanese equivalents, yet show little evidence of performing significantly better.
Far from being "anti-business and anti-wealth", Britain seems almost unique in the civilised world for its desire to whore itself to the bloated subsidy junkies of the corporate sector, a semi-feudal financial-services narco-state in craven thrall to the City. So if these people want to abandon Britain for more "business-friendly" countries, then for the good of the nation we should let them go.
The furore surrounding the withdrawal of Goodwin's knighthood highlights a problem endemic to our honours system. If we confer honours on those who are still pursuing the activity for which they are being recognised, we always run the risk that later we will regret the award. If a sportsman, for instance, is recognised for his services to his sport, what do we do when he is later shown to have taken drugs or engaged in racist abuse on the field of play?
The solution is to award honours only when the person has retired. We would then be making a decision on the basis of a complete career. It would be hard on those, such as actors and musicians, who tend to work into their seventies or eighties, but that would be a small price to pay.
The mandarins seem to have devised an argument to prevent the Goodwin case being cited as a precedent. Government spokespersons were saying that Fred Goodwin is unique because of the "scale of the damage" he caused.
This is, of course, arguable. What, for example, of Alan Greenspan, high-priest of light-touch regulation, and hero of Gordon Brown, who was awarded an honorary KBE in 2002?
North Tamerton, Cornwall
What really needs to change is the accountability of bankers. While we do not want to kill off the golden goose, the casino bankers need to be held personally accountable or they will do the same thing again, and next time there may be no possibility of a bailout.
I have heard many say that bankers are being paid too much, but no one in any authority saying how much is enough. Perhaps it would be too close to home for too many.
I frankly don't care a jot whether Fred Goodwin has been stripped of a meaningless "knighthood". I want him to be stripped of his pension. Now that would mean something!
The Fred Goodwin saga has all the makings of a best-selling potboiler. Should suit that successful author, Lord Archer.
Join the team and find happiness
Terence Blacker (31 January) suggests that we need to slow down and that contentment will only be found "in the books you read, the films you see, the exhibitions and debates you attend".
All these are solitary activities. In a study carried out by the New Economics Foundation it was found that there is a direct relationship between a strong sense of wellbeing in schools and the number of team activities that take place. Maybe Terence Blacker should have suggested "the team sports you play, the book and gardening clubs you belong to, the choirs, bands and orchestras in which you sing and play".
Why I called in the police
I refer to the article "Police raid on whistleblower's home was 'total abuse of power' " (31 January). All members of my staff, past and present, have a legal duty to keep confidential any material they recover in the course of an investigation. In the case of your source, Alex Owens, it was clearly appropriate for the police, and not the Information Commissioner's Office, to investigate the prima facie criminal breach of Section 59 of the Data Protection Act.
I referred the matter to Cheshire Police on 19 September following your front page story of 14 September 2011. This had nothing to do with Mr Owens' subsequent appearance before the Leveson inquiry, and how the police conducted their investigation was up to them.
Demeaning way to make money
What were the women who bullied Clare Short when she attempted to ban Page 3 thinking about ("I didn't get rid of Page 3 – can Leveson?", 26 January)? Do they want their daughters to live in a society where their bodies are used to sell, sell, sell and they are valued only for how they look?
What would the early feminists who struggled for those women's rights to an education, to the vote and the freedom to make the most of their opportunities think of those who misuse that freedom to abuse and bully an MP who was trying to change for the better the way in which women are viewed?
It is lazy and demeaning to take your clothes off for money – so much harder to pass exams and work to improve yourself at whatever level you are able. Who is envious of some poor blank-eyed soul, witlessly thrusting her enhanced breasts towards the male gaze on Page 3?
Women must treat themselves with respect and not take cheap short-cuts to wealth if we are to create a society in which our daughters can be respected for what they think and for what they do. Then we shall be back on the road to true equality.
St Neot, Cornwall
Intelligence lost in translation
Your report "Russian billionaire leads a bookshop revolution" (28 January) suggests that the new Russian bookshop-within-a-bookshop, Slova, might become a useful source of intelligence for MI5, with "a casual encounter between browsers of Vladimir Nabokov's Lolita" perhaps being used as cover for a meeting between spies.
It's well known that there have been instances of bungled British intelligence operations in the past, but surely even the intelligence service that brought us the Moscow spy rock would have the common sense to station their spies in the Russian language section of the shop, rather than the English part, where Lolita and Nabokov's other English language works will be.
Of course, their efforts might be pointless anyway, if all the Russian agents are busy elsewhere, trying to pick up Polish intelligence by hanging around the shelves of Joseph Conrad.
The right kind of BBC elitism
Christina Patterson's magnificent defence of intellectual elitism (1 February) should be emailed not only to all teachers and university lecturers and officials at the Education Department but also to the selection board charged with choosing the BBC's next director general.
The Corporation must rediscover the self-confidence to broadcast high-minded television programmes. It will be able to afford them if it dumps some of its tawdrier shows and drops some of its executive swagger. It could start by paying the next DG a sensible salary rather than the present grotesque £650,000.
Mass-market elitism is not an oxymoron. It is the whole point of the BBC licence fee, being essentially meritocratic and offering cultural discovery to all our citizens. The BBC could demonstrate that immediately by axing BBC Three and spending some of that feeble-minded channel's annual budget of £85m on, say, the World Service or on a return for Play for Today on BBC1.
How Caple, Herefordshire
In British politics, the tail usually ends up wagging the dog. It is not rational to proclaim the right of a small group of people who don't live in the UK or pay its taxes to embroil us in costly and largely pointless military conflict. It would make more sense to sell the freehold of the Falkland Islands to Argentina for a large sum provided that the existing tenants are granted a 99-year lease at a peppercorn rent.
On 31 January you published a letter on the treatment of gay men in football, suggesting that Fifa "twin" with "another international organisation with a similar antediluvian record on attitudes to sexuality". I wonder whether you would have published it if the author had suggested the Muslim faith as a "natural fit" instead of the Catholic Church?
The correspondence on airflow over aircraft wings takes me back to wartime Air Training Corps classes when we learned about aerofoil lift. Leonardo Da Vinci also had something to say on the matter.
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After five years of completely flaccid leadership, I'm glad something 'pumps up' David Cameron
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