Letters: Parenting

Parents stripped of rights to bring up their own children
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The Independent Online

It seems that parents are no longer responsible for the upbringing of their children (letters, 30 September).

The Government wants them, at the earliest opportunity, to hand all child-rearing responsibility to the authorities. Enclosed with each child benefit award is a leaflet about childcare; nurseries can accept babies from the age of six weeks; our school starting age is the lowest in Europe, and our working hours are the longest.

House prices are such that two average incomes are needed to buy even a modest property. Where does that leave our children? On top of this, if you do decide to take responsibility and look after your own children, you are seen as an anachronism; there are no stop-at-home mums on CBeebies, though every other walk of life is represented.

Worse, if you take responsibility to home-school your children rather than send them to state school for a tick-box education, a government review is giving local authority inspectors the right to enter your home and interview your child.

I am part of a home education group, and we have been told by the council that all the adults will need a CRB check, though no one is in loco parentis because the parents of all the children are present.

The nonsense of trying to make life risk-free, and dictating to us how we should live, is eroding family and community life. A man hardly dare smile at a child in a park for fear he will be branded a pervert. A friend who teaches childcare to students asked if they would stop an unknown child from walking in to the road; not one of them said they would, in case of an assault allegation. This is from people who will one day be looking after children.

Angela Elliott

Spilsby, Lincolnshire

Stick with this reliable leader

Many of your correspondents have been taken in by the media campaign against Gordon Brown. Here we have a leader who is pulling us out of the worst world recession since the 1930s, whose policy has been adopted by every government in the western world and beyond and who has earned great respect outside Britain, especially in Europe. Of course, there is pain for some and things have not been as bad as this for a long time; indeed, not since we last had a Conservative government.

The criticisms made of the Labour government all seem to date back to a period before Gordon Brown was in charge. In any case, they ignore the huge improvements since 1997. Go to your local school: its buildings have been improved and it has more teachers than it did. Go to your local hospital: its building has been improved or even rebuilt and it has more nurses and doctors. We have the minimum wage, protecting the most vulnerable workers. School examination results have vastly improved. Waiting lists for operations have been reduced dramatically.

As for changing leader now, that would be a disaster for Labour and the country. The process of change would destabilise the Government and deflect attention from the task in hand. Do people seriously put charisma above experience and sound policies?

David Bell

Ware, Hertfordshire

The Labour Party should reflect that radical parties in British politics have not lasted more than about a century. The Whigs lasted from 1679 to 1841, the Liberal Party from 1841 to 1917 as a major political force, and the Labour Party was founded in 1900. Each came in with a particular reform agenda and faded away when that had run its course.

Labour's agenda had three elements: socialism, trade union representation, and centralised administrative reform. Socialism, in the sense of denial of the market, is virtually defunct. The trade unions are now regarded politically as a special interest group. Centralised administrative reform has achieved valuable results, but has now reached the end of its useful life.

Society cannot be reformed further by centralised direction, and we are now in the age of localism and empowering people. Labour is probably finished. Radical politicians should now be thinking of the causes round which a post-Labour radical party should be formed.

Anthony Pick

Newbury, Berkshire

Surely the divorce of the Murdoch papers from the Labour Party is a cause for celebration. It is as though an erring relative, well-intentioned but inclined to making bad choices, had returned to ordinary life after time spent cooped up with a particularly grim cult, run by a sinister Mr Big.

Welcome back to real life; we hope you will never again be encouraged into fraudulent rubbish like the Iraq war. There's no more need for deferential self-censored articles by ministers in a stable of ideological newspapers. Enjoy the fresh air of free thought again.

Christopher Walker

London W14

Bruce Anderson discusses the possible effects on voters of The Sun's decision to support the Tories (Comment, 1 October). He argues that people can be divided into two groups: those whose views are strong enough to be unaffected by the media and those who are not interested enough in politics to take any notice.

There's at least one more group that I can think of: those who will now support Labour because The Sun has swung behind the Conservatives.

Keith O'Neill

Shrewsbury, Shropshire

What next for Sarah Brown?

At the Labour conference, the Prime Minister played superbly his King-Midas-in-reverse role, while Sarah Brown's star continued in the ascendant. The attacks on her by right-wing commentators indicate she is now a force to be reckoned with, who resonates well with the British public.

Unlike her husband, Mrs Brown appears pleasant, open, engaging, approachable and friendly. While loading the removal van next May, what will be going through her mind as her career plan? Many in the Labour Party must surely be salivating at the thought of harnessing Sarah's attributes in rescuing the party from a decade or more in the political wilderness.

Mike Abbott

London W4

Apart from the sight of Peter Mandelson being feted by people who previously hated his guts but suddenly see him as their only hope of staying aboard the parliamentary gravy train, the most disturbing image of the week must be Sarah Brown extolling the virtues of her husband.

"I love him: why can't you?" was the message. But why? Do doctors bring their wives to the surgery to assure the patients they're in good hands? Or do judges' wives give a little homily before the trial, trumpeting their husbands' fairness and compassion?

Sarah Brown is an attractive, intelligent woman who once had a career but whose role now is almost entirely ornamental: kissing G20 wags, escorting them to fashion shows and holding Gordon's hand, metaphorically and literally.

She's found a new career, as a professional wife who knows her limitations and her place. What a great role model for our daughters and granddaughters.

Betsy Everett

Askrigg, North Yorkshire

Wagner muffled in a tuxedo

In Edward Seckerson's generous review of the Royal Opera House's new production of Tristan und Isolde (1 October), he claims members of the audience who booed "clearly couldn't make a connection between what they saw and what they heard and felt". No wonder they couldn't: Christof Loy severed that connection.

The sets and direction were so dissociated from the music and lyrics that Wagner wrote, that anyone's "theatrical sensibilities" would be offended.

When the lovers meet for their night together and ask, "Is this your hand?" and, "Is this your mouth?" they are fumbling in the dark for one another. What we see are two people who seem to be allergic to one another under a bright spotlight, rather than under the cloak of night.

And they are inside the same pointless room used for the invisible ship from Act 1, where Isolde mentions a sailor and in comes a man in a tuxedo.

Fortunately, Nina Stemme sang brilliantly despite wearing the same black dress for three acts.

Joyce Glasser

London NW3

Obama's dilemma over Afghanistan

The Afghan war has lost its moral dimension with the firing of Peter Galbraith and the acceptance of Karzai stealing the election (report, 1 October).

President Obama is reviewing the situation in Afghan-istan. Among the things he should consider is that the Soviets in their 10-year war had four advantages the US and Nato lack. They operated without the scrutiny of the world media, they could ignore domestic and world opinion, they were not subject to voters and they had an unlimited supply of conscripts. Yet they still lost, leaving an estimated million dead Afghans and the chaos of today.

If the President fails to make the right decision, that will make him a one-term president and mean the demise of Nato.

George D Lewis

Brackley, Northamptonshire

The Queen Mother delusions dashed

Most of the responses to Johann Hari's column about the biography of the Queen Mother (25 September) are feeble examples of middle-class teeth-gnashing about Hari's audacity in speaking ill of the dead, and daring to criticise the royals. The Independent should be applauded for publishing an article which would almost certainly have been declined by every other newspaper.

Most people have only the vaguest notion of the sort of person the Queen Mother was: they know she undertook (stage-managed) walks around Second World War bomb-sites; lived for a very long time; and smiled sweetly. On these threads hang her reputation as a national treasure and one of the few royals with anything resembling "the common touch". Hari's iconoclastic article provides a vital counterbalance to such delusional sentimentality.

Ian Roberts


I have generally respected, often admired, Hari's contributions. It is a disappointment to find such deficiencies of rationality and imagination in his review of the Shawcross biography of the Queen Mother. He clearly has no notion of what it was like culturally and socially to be born into a privileged family in the 1890s.

Whenever I challenge British republicans to suggest who would make an acceptable head of state, there is always a silence. The alternatives are likely to be either a self-promoting politician (President Blair) or a populist icon (President Beckham and his consort Posh). What kind of standard would either set?

John Field

Alnwick, Northumberland


A pig of a fight

Not only is there an arm-oured carrier called the Warthog (letters, 1 October), there is a ground-attack aircraft, the A-10 Thunderbolt, called the Warthog. So the Taliban not only have to deal with pigs on the ground, but flying pigs as well.

David McNickle

St Albans, Hertfordshire

Life is suite

Caroline Roux's article "Suite Memories" in Independent Life (30 September), assumes we all dislike coloured bathroom suites the way she does. I'm old enough to have lived with white suites throughout my childhood and early adult life. Boring. Coloured suites provided an enjoyable change. We had not only the ubiquitous avocado in one house but both a pink and a pale blue in another. We enjoyed the fashion for three decades while boring old white was returning. Now we've downsized while everything is still white, when Caroline says colours are returning. Oh bother, we've missed them.

Tony Black


No chance

R Ingram (letters, 29 September) asks, "Could we shame the Government into supplying armour for our troops by raising a public subscription for it?" If the example of hospice provision is the guide, I fear the answer is no. Across the country, since their inception many years ago, such important facilities for the terminally ill have remained largely dependent on local charitable fund-raising.

Dr Robert Heys

Ripponden, West Yorkshire

Good and confused

Charles Hinkley (letter, 1 October) asks about accommodating regional variations in speech. I remember a business meeting with two younger colleagues where one of them, from south London, described a solution as "well good". The other, from Newcastle, then turned to me conspiratorially and said her colleague had meant "dead good". For fear of confusing them both, I hesitated to point out that "very good" might have been more traditional, and generally understood by us all.

Roger Harvey


Chequered past

Lewis Hamilton was right (letter, 30 September). The Divine Bookmaker is clearly bent on reversing the losses that He had previously sustained while so many celestial punters were backing Jenson Button as their favourite.

Michael Biddiss

Alton, Hampshire