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Wednesday 14 September 2011
Letters: Policing London
The newly announced Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, Bernard Hogan-Howe, has made fighting crime his top priority, promising to make the Met a service criminals fear ("Merseyside's 'tough crime fighter' gets a new beat as head of the Met", 13 September). This is to be commended, and is an area in which Hogan-Howe has an impressive track record. However, for the Met Commissioner, reducing crime is merely the day job. To make his five-year term a success, Hogan-Howe will need to make bold and radical changes.
He takes over at a time when morale in the Met is low. The force faces unprecedented cuts, and has been battered by the riots and the phone-hacking scandal. The position of Commissioner itself has become a political football. There are two immediate priorities that Britain's most senior police officer must tackle.
First, confidence in the Met needs to be rebuilt and its effectiveness improved. The new Commissioner must focus on fixing internal problems and developing a long-term strategy to ensure the effectiveness of the force. This will require the immediate establishment of a highly effective top team, with the right people in the right roles, working together for a common purpose.
Secondly, the role of the organisation needs to be re-examined. The scale of the job presents a significant challenge, encompassing unique local and national accountabilities and two bosses in the Home Secretary and London Mayor.
Now is the time for a clear and achievable purpose to be established, allowing the force to focus solely on policing London – a demanding remit in its own right. To achieve this, the newly established National Crime Agency (NCA) could take on more of a role in national issues, including terrorism.
These issues need to be addressed before the new Commissioner can hope to tackle crime and disorder, or develop a strategy to ensure the Olympic Games pass off peacefully at a time of change and significant police funding squeezes.
Head of uniformed services consulting, Hay Group
Perhaps the new Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Bernard Hogan-Howe could give some clear- cut advice to his staff on the subject of police officers becoming freemasons. One of his predecessors, Sir Kenneth Newman, during the 1980s advised serving officers not to become masons because "the police officer's special dilemma is the conflict between his service declaration of impartiality and the sworn obligation to keep the secrets of Freemasonry".
As far as I know none of his successors to date has openly challenged the logic of this statement, but according to national press reports serving officers have continued to join masonic lodges and have even set up some new lodges. Some high-level guidance is surely now needed on this important subject.
(Metropolitan Police Officer, 1965-1995)
Selling arms to despots
This has been the year of the Arab Spring uprisings, with some successful and others brutally suppressed. We now have David Cameron and a group of arms companies hosting an Arms Fair event in London.
Bahrain has been invited; this small Gulf state was one of the countries that so brutally suppressed its own people's desire to attain democracy. Even the hospital workers who treated many of the injured demonstrators were targeted by the brutal security forces.
What a complete fraud we have in this government. Morality is of no value when compared with UK jobs.
The UK government gives massive support to UK arms manufacturers at the taxpayers' expense.
UK Trade and Investment (UKTI), headed by Vincent Cable, is a government department that helps businesses sell their products round the world. In 2008 it opened the Defence and Security Organisation (UKTI DSO). This organisation employs 180 full-time staff whose sole job is to work selling the products of UK arms manufacturers. This huge cost is paid for by us, the citizens; not by the arms manufacturers.
Vincent Cable's department is also charged with promoting the products of the other manufacturers in the UK. All the other manufacturers put together have 142 department staff working on this task; much fewer than the number devoted to arms sales, despite the fact that arms sales amount to a mere 1.5 per cent of British exports. In any other country this would be labelled blatant corruption.
Author of 'The Nuclear Threat'
The answer to Robert Hinde's question as to why the armed forces are being cut while Trident is to be renewed (Letters, 7 September) is simple. As soon as we lose our nuclear capability we will lose our seat on the Security Council. In addition, what Prime Minister, having experienced the frisson of being given the powers and trappings of mass destruction, would ever want to give them up?
Need, not greed, drives oil rush
Jake Backus (letters, 9 Sept) does not say who is "greedy" in looking for Arctic oil.
The investors behind oil companies are not greedy. The pension funds are there to make a few pennies by betting on the oil companies. That isn't greed.
The oil companies are not greedy but essentially lack-lustre individuals with the luck to produce something for $6 and sell for $100 and praise themselves for their business acumen. They are often incompetent and clueless but they are not greedy, and I say that as an active oil man of 40 years.
So it must be the consumers (or their representative governments) who Jake assumes are greedy, that is all of us, including me and Jake himself. However we don't greedily use petrol, or heating oil. These are essentials. Nor can we shun plastics and like products made from crude oil, and we don't greedily hoard washing up bowls or nylon shirts.
Thus "greedy" is inaccurate in judging why the Arctic is a target for drilling. It is simply the perceived need of a global consumer who knows that there is no substitute for what, today, is essential. Of course, it is sensible to use less, so oil will last longer until we find another coal substitute. Without a customer there is no product. We stopped using coal and there are now few river-polluting coal mines, as we turned to oil and gas. Oil companies too will disappear into history.
Until then greedy isn't the word. For today we need the fuel and the plastics, and alarmingly more the plastics than the fuel. Meantime let's just hope our daft oil companies and their regulators pay attention to what they are doing while they point fingers at each other and puff out their chests. That's more to the point than forever bellowing out the word "greed".
East Ruston, Norfolk
Statues of Dickens
Simon O'Hagan set a question in his Saturday quiz (10 September) which relied on a myth for its answer.
Of course, through the efforts of the media, most of your readers might believe that Charles Dickens actually stated in his will that he did not want a statue. But it is not so. And he did not state it anywhere else. His will did make clear to "his friends" that he did not want a "monument, memorial or testimonial" as p art of his funeral (which he hoped would be inexpensive, plain and private), but that did not give licence to people to say that his will forbade (or could have been intended to forbid) anyone raising a statue to him, for ever.
There are already three statues to Dickens. One in Sydney, Australia (where two of his sons were present at the unveiling), one in Philadelphia (which all Dickensians honour when they visit there), and one which pops out at regular intervals from the clock on the "Dickens World" monument at Chatham to address the visitors.
The one to be erected in his birthplace of Portsmouth, on the road where he was born, will be the most important. And, as the head of the Dickens family, Mark Dickens, has written: "He would be delighted to know he is so honoured in his home town."
Professor Tony Pointon
Chairman of the Charles Dickens Statue Fund
University of Portsmouth
Etty and the erotic
Controversy sells art, as it sells newspapers, but to call William Etty "controversial" is stretching it a bit ("Pleasures of the flesh", 5 September). One might as well say the crinoline is controversial. Both are irremediably unfashionable.
There is nothing suspicious about Etty's eroticism. No artist has explained his intentions more clearly or more simply. That his male nudes should be imbued with the same explicit sexuality as his female nudes is to be expected. "Homoeroticism" is something else. The term would seem to imply a representation of latent homosexuality. There is nothing in Etty's character, or in his writings, which would suggest such an intention.
Anyone familiar with my transcriptions of the letters of William Etty will know that there is evidence to suggest that he might have had homosexual relations. However, the evidence for his heterosexuality is far greater.
If, on the other hand, we wish to judge William Etty by the standards of his age, we ought to accept the views of his fellow artists, of the educated gallery-going public, and of course his patrons. The often hilariously absurd criticism of contemporary journalists, many of whom wrote anonymously, adds nothing to our understanding of the artist.
Far wiser to forget the "controversies" of the past altogether, and judge William Etty through 21st-century eyes.
William Dixon Smith
Don't blame the burger
It's very odd that you titled your story about trans-fats in the Saturday Magazine "Dying for a burger" and illustrated it with a giant cheeseburger.
While the humble burger is often maligned as junk food because it is sold in fast-food restaurants, it doesn't usually any hydrogenated vegetable oils – unless they've deep-fried it. There may be small amounts of natural trans-fats in the beef , but these have not been shown to have the same harmful effects as synthetic hydrogenated vegetable oils, which should indeed be banned from sale in the UK.
You might find trans-fats in whatever you choose to accessorise your burger with – store-bought mayonnaise, for example. But if you stick to ketchup or mustard, and put it on a fresh bakery roll, you won't find any of the bad fats the article is about in your burger at all.
Your fast-food meal may be unhealthy, but it's the fries that will kill you. The much-maligned burger should be freed from its association with truly unhealthy deep-fried foods. You should have put a plate of fish and chips in the photo.
Grandmother to reckon with
Clyde Davies refrains from wearing specialised running or cycling kit, so as to offer no "threat" to other road users (letter, 6 September). Such a strategy could be risky for pedestrians. As a tiny silvery-grey grandmother I would regularly be brushed aside by both cyclists and other pedestrians, like the cobweb I was evidently taken to be.
So now I carry a large, lurid, flappy umbrella by my side. This alter ego is given a wide berth, maybe out of respect for its apparent powers of self-propulsion. It works a treat. And if it rains I can raise it.
Tunbridge Wells, Kent
Was this the face?
Christopher Hirst has, it appears, a recollection of Helen Mirren in a "state of nature" as Helen of Troy in a 1965 RSC production of Dr Faustus (12 September).
I also saw an RSC production of Faustus, at roughly the same time, in which Helen's nudity caused a lot of press silliness (which thankfully faded). It starred Eric Porter, superbly directed by Clifford Williams. Helen was played (exquisitely and tastefully), by a certain Maggie Wright I believe. But it was most certainly not Ms Mirren. Dream on, Mr Hirst, dream on,
Apparently the Roald Dahl foundation is asking for half a million pounds to preserve his writing shed. So the next time your readers take their children to a Roald Dahl film, buy one of his books for them or buy Sophie Dahl licensed merchandise they should remember: this family is hard up and needs all the financial help you can give.
A F Litten
We have just got back from the Bromyard Folk Festival and I caught up with your diversions on signage and spelling. One of the food stalls at the Festival offered "Sorted Potatoe Chips", which left me wondering whether the chips were carefully arranged by length, size or colour; whether they were "assorted" and might contain, say, Caras, Desirees and King Edwards; or whether they just had added salt.
Perspectives on taxing the rich
A huge income for nothing very useful
Views like John Kelly's (letter, 12 September) regarding the alleged rights of "high earners" should not go unchallenged.
"High earners" do not necessarily earn (or make) a lot of money because they all work hard, or because they all make important contributions to the economy. This may well be so when it comes to moderately high incomes, but it is very often untrue in the case of ludicrously high incomes.
People like inventors or true entrepreneurs can make significant contributions to the economy, and should be encouraged. On the other hand, people with extremely high incomes more often than not are essentially middlemen, who extract funds from the economy and offer little in return. Opportunistic banking is a good example of this. One way to correct the injustice, is high taxes for extremely high incomes. If such people were to go elsewhere as a result of high taxes, so be it: things would be better for the rest of us.
There are large numbers of people with huge talent, endless capacity for hard work and the willingness to contribute to society at least as much as they benefit from it, who have to make do with modest incomes (if they are lucky). A just taxation policy has to reflect this. If a society has to bend over backwards to satisfy the most selfish of its members, it inevitably becomes less attractive to its more constructive members.
I am not sure whether any quantitative studies of this effect have been carried out, but my feeling is that the net effect of accommodating the very rich is a negative one, not only in the moral sense, but also in hard economic terms.
Dr Nicholas Deliyanakis
People on modest pay work hard too
John Kelly says that the 50 per cent rate of tax punishes people who work very hard for their incomes. This made me cross on two counts; first, if you are paying 50 per cent tax, you have already received between £95,000 and £100,000 take-home pay. Getting less money above that is not that harsh a punishment.
Secondly, to relate this debate to how hard these people work is missing the point completely; many people work hard, even very hard, and do not earn enough to get into the 40 per cent tax bracket.
It is fairer to take tax money from people who work hard and earn large amounts than to take it from people who work hard and earn much, much less.
No amount of effort can justify these salaries
No disrespect to John Kelly, but I think he might just be amazed at how hard some people have to work to earn less than £15,000 per year. Nobody, but nobody can justify an income of over £150,000 simply by his labour. To suggest that income above this obscenely large amount should not be highly taxed because these people have worked hard to earn it is just offensive.
Hull, East Yorkshire
Why is it that the argument that lower tax rates incentivise people to work harder and create more wealth is only ever applied to those on the highest rates?
If you earn enough to worry about having to pay 50p in the pound tax, you earn enough not to have to worry about paying 50p in the pound tax.
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