Letters: Perspectives on phone hacking

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Who authorised the payments?

Glenn Mulcaire was being paid by the News of the World over £100,000 per annum. The financial controllers of the newspaper would no doubt ask the question "Why are we paying these guys who are not staff journalists?". The confirmation to pay them can only have come from the upper management level.

Dave Patchett, Birkenhead, Wirral

Advertisers must take a stand

While some advertisers have been brave enough to withdraw their advertising from the NOTW, others are waiting for the outcome of investigations, or to see what their customers' attitudes are.

How deeply sad that the directors of those companies are unable to make moral judgements on their own cognisance, but instead sit on their hands until they see which way the wind blows. Where is the guts in the leadership of corporate UK?

Tom S Birch, London WC1

Is Sir Humphrey behind the scenes?

You report that in her email to the News International staff Rebekah Brooks wrote: "We were all appalled and shocked when we heard about these allegations yesterday. I have to tell you that I am sickened that these events are alleged to have happened."

If we were to look at this from Sir Humphrey's perspective, an interpretation of this wording could be:

"We were all appalled and shocked when we heard about these allegations yesterday [that yet another item of dirty laundry we had thought was dead and buried has surfaced.] I have to tell you that I am sickened that these events are alleged to have happened [as it was on my watch and I may have been found out.]"

I have no idea what the truth of the matter is, but instead of hiding behind weasel words a simple statement of fact would seem to be appropriate (preferably under oath). But then a simple statement of fact tends to be something that can be used against someone in a court of law, doesn't it?

Tim Graves, Camberley, Surrey

Brooks cannot lead this inquiry

If Rebekah Brooks is the right person to lead News International's investigation into the phone-hacking scandal, then surely Alastair Campbell should have been appointed to chair the Iraq War Inquiry?

Meredydd Morris, Ynys Mon, Gwynedd

Boycott all Murdoch's papers

The success of Rupert Murdoch, Rebekah Brooks, Andy Coulson and others has been built on the success of the Murdoch's newspapers. The success of these newspapers has been built on the sales. The sales have been built on the stories. And now, quite clearly, many of the stories have been built on appalling criminal activities.

Decent people across this country, regardless of politics or newspaper loyalty, should consider boycotting ALL of Murdoch's newspapers until they have been cleansed.

Jill Dobbs, London SE13

Cameron must stand back

As Mr Cameron is known to be close to Rebekah Brooks, and by inference to Rupert Murdoch, he should publicly stand back from all arrangements for a Public Inquiry and give an undertaking not to influence the terms of reference, the membership, or the outcome.

His position is the mirror image of Vince Cable's when it became known how strongly he felt about the Murdoch empire. So the consequences should be similar.

Chris Cheatle, Hauxton, Cambridgeshire

Media studies

The debacle at NOTW will come as no surprise to students of A-level Media Studies, who learn about the gross irresponsibility of large sections of the British press. Small wonder then that this particular A-level should be so denigrated by the media.

Richard Evans, Luton, Bedfordshire

Union basher

Murdoch's union-bashing, rather than a redeeming feature (Letters, 7 July), is another facet of the immorality disclosed by the phone-hacking scandal, and is one of the best reasons why we shouldn't let this rampaging capitalist monster rot the brains of the UK public more than he already has done.

Katherine Perlo, Edinburgh

Too many people for our overburdened planet

Sean O'Grady's "The more people come to the UK, the better it is for us all" (1 July) beggars belief.

Why would we think it better to create energy shortages, resource shortages, lowered quality of life, a housing crisis, lowered standard of living, more air pollution, grid-locked traffic, bio-diversity loss, and a dozen other calamities caused by increasing population pressures?

For many decades there has been a wilful blindness – almost a taboo – in recognising that relentless human-population growth is one of the pre-eminent problems we face. In 1950 world population was barely over 2 billion; in October this year it will hit 7 billion.

In most countries today existing populations are not living environmentally sustainably, yet if current birth rates persist, the United Nations Population Division warned in March 2009, our population will exceed 11bn by 2050.

Governments will be struggling with millions of unemployed and hungry people attracted to violence and extremism.

Most environmental organisations tell us that if only we each reduced our environmental demand, population growth would not be a problem. But our economic system, predicated on growth, is driving us in the opposite direction.

If governments won't talk population, then they are not serious about cutting emissions or managing food and water supplies.

The more crowded we become, the more governments will police our behaviour and restrict our activities. We still have a choice; the world badly needs a grown-up, rational discussion of the population issue.

Brian McGavin, Wilmslow, Cheshire

Sean O'Grady gives a classic example of just what is wrong with economic thought today.

Economists, the high priests of modern political discourse, cannot escape the fantasy world they have created. First he sneers at countries with "lousy demographics", by which he means those with the gently declining populations which optimists hope will contribute to a levelling off of the suicidal level of human numbers by the middle of the century.

He then states that the bigger our future generations are, the better it will be as they will pay more taxes and therefore be better able to service our debts. Under such logic this new generation as it ages will need an even larger one to follow and this in its turn will have greater numbers yet to contend with.

Just how many such exponentially increasing generations can this stubbornly finite, resource-poor and ecologically damaged planet cope with? You do the maths, Sean, you're the economist.

Steve Edwards

Haywards Heath, West SussexEthiopia faces its worst drought for a decade (report, 4 July). The UN now classifies large areas of Somalia, Ethiopia, Djibouti and Kenya as in a crisis or an emergency.

The International Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell is right in saying: "Through no fault of its own, the Horn of Africa is experiencing a severe drought caused by the failed rains".

But according to the World Bank, since 1960 the population of Somalia has grown threefold to 9 million; Ethiopia fourfold to 80 million; and Kenya a massive fivefold to 40 million.

Such increases are clearly unsustainable, especially in the face of the climate change now occurring.

Those major charities that have refused to acknowledge the need to accompany their food-aid programmes with family-planning initiatives have conspired in creating the scale of the tragedies now unfolding in the poorest parts of the world.

These are the fruits of past political reticence to recognise the need to restrain and reverse population growth in both the (poor) developing and the (high-consumption) developed worlds alike.

Alan Stedall, Birmingham

Sean O'Grady's "the more, the better" paean to immigration begs the question why bother with border controls ("Migrants can put the Great back in Britain", 4 July).

Admittedly, O'Grady and his fellow globalists would keep controls, of a sort, as long as the CBI is allowed to continue to dictate a lax immigration policy. Hoovering up expensively trained professionals from poorer countries via a points-based system is nothing to be proud of, nor is the creation of a low-wage economy via an influx of unskilled immigrants.

Mass immigration is less an inevitable feature of modern life and more an addiction.

Yugo Kovach, Winterborne Houghton, Dorset

Sean O'Grady would be well advised to consider the fate of Bernie Madoff, currently languishing in an American jail for defrauding investors, when he tries to convince us that we need more and more people coming into the world to support more and more people requiring pensions as the get older.

Sir David Attenborough, in his speech to the Royal Society of Arts earlier this year, masterfully described such flawed thinking as "an ecological Ponzi scheme".

Katherine Scholfield, Roborough, Devon

Anti-Zionism is anti-Semitism

If Richard Pater (Letters, 6 July) believes that Arab people cannot be anti-Semitic because they are "Semites too", then he is either a pedant or is unaware of the historical context of the word. In defending Raed Salah, he also claims that anti-Zionism is not anti-Semitism but rather a "political" movement. When the narrative of such a political movement mingles so freely with anti-Semitism, Holocaust denial and calls for the destruction of the sovereign state of Israel, then it is certainly tainted by association – and is arguably racist in itself. As the Reverend Martin Luther King said: "When people criticise Zionism, they mean Jews."

Russell Collins, Borehamwood, Hertfordshire

Richard Pater is right to say that accusations of racism should not be used to protect political ideologies.

However, when Raed Salah wrote in the Islamist weekly Saut Al-Haqq Wa-Al-Hurriya that the 4,000 Jews who normally worked in the Twin Towers were all successfully warned to take the day off on 9/11, he clearly crossed the line between political resistance and race hate. To try to pretend otherwise does a disservice to all victims of racism, including the Palestinian people.

Peter McKenna, Liverpool

Missing money at the Ministry

Why are we not surprised that the Ministry of Defence has been exposed as unable to account for equipment to the value of £6.3bn (report, 5 July). Could it be because this is an organisation that cannot design and deploy robots costing a few thousand pounds each to detonate roadside bombs rather than losing the limbs of our young men? An organisation which, at the same time, spends billions of pounds on mega-aircraft carriers which we do not need and cannot afford.

Can we expect those responsible to be charged with culpable and criminal incompetence as would happen with a private company? Somehow I don't think so.

Jim McCluskey, Twickenham, Middlesex

Rather like the Ministry of Justice, the name Ministry of Defence has a pleasing hint of Orwellian doublespeak about it (Letters, 5 July). I wonder whether it could go a step further; perhaps Ministry of Diplomacy?

Robert McSweeney, Peterborough

We need new political parties

The Labour Party's attitude to the recent public-sector strikes effectively disenfranchises another section of society. With the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats in coalition, the only alternative was a "reinvented" Labour Party. But why should we have to rely on the old parties to reinvent themselves, instead of having new parties? Unfortunately, the botched attempt at electoral reform through the referendum on AV took away one small hope of a change in this direction.

There is not enough choice of political parties because the existing ones are protected from competition – as can happen in any market – by barriers to entry that are too high. One way of bringing these down would be full state funding of parties. Then we could begin to re-engage large numbers of people, particularly the young, with the democratic process.

There is too much anxiety about fringe parties. Better that undesirable parties with any significant following get exposed to proper political scrutiny, rather than fester in the shadows. And if substantial numbers really do want to vote BNP, other than as a temporary protest, you can only suppress it for so long anyway. But I doubt they really would have that level of support. And why not encourage some desirable fringe parties, that can give voice to new ideas, fresh ways of thinking?

There would have to be a strict limit on overall campaign spending for state funding to work. It's notable that the US, where political campaigns are finance-led, has the most entrenched two-party system. A more level playing field, with competition and choice, could open up our politics dramatically.

Richard Lawes, Norwich

Prince Charles's finances

The arrogance of Prince Charles's household is amply illustrated by the letter from Paddy Harverson (4 July).

He goes on about the Prince's official duties and public engagements – none of which were the point of Joan Smith's article (30 June) – and then makes the astonishing assertion that he pays for these activities "out of his own pocket, using his private income".

The Duchy was established in 1337 and its creation and continuance is because the holder of the title is heir to the throne and is not thought to be a private person. It may be that legally the income from the Duchy is "private" but Harverson must be the only person, apart from the Prince, to see it that way. It is really rather shocking that this feeble argument is then used to excuse the Prince from the kind of economies the rest of us are facing. A little bit of modesty, in every sense, would be welcome.

Terry Bishop, Deal, Kent

Tenants' rights curtailed

Ministers plan to prevent millions of tenants from complaining directly to the housing ombudsman about their landlord under new rules in the Localism Bill. Social-housing tenants will instead have to go through an MP, councillor or tenant panel before their complaint is heard. This is disempowering for tenants, costly to the public and unnecessarily bureaucratic. Extra red tape could lead to justified complaints being dropped. It will certainly cause delays.

No one should be forced to reveal personal information to politicians. We fear this will discourage complaints on challenging or politically contentious issues.

Shifting power from tenants to politicians is against the spirit of localism. Third parties should only be involved at the discretion of the complainant, not at the insistence of the government.

In a recent ICM poll, 82 per cent preferred to deal directly with the ombudsman or have the choice to involve a third party.

David Orr Chief Executive, National Housing Federation;

Michelle Reid Chief Executive, Tenant Participation Advisory Service; Campbell Robb, Chief Executive, Shelter, London WC1

Cliché corner

Clichés come and go, but "kicking an issue into the long grass" has taken on a life of its own. Today I even heard reference to kicking something "into the medium grass".

Before this goes any further, can anyone identify the sport in which the action occurs?

Lesley Milne, Kirkcudbright, Dumfries and Galloway

In the war on clichés, The Independent could win a small battle by discarding "revealed" as the first word of a headline. What follows is often informative, rarely a revelation.

Mike Phillips, Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire