Letters: Press feeds a depraved appetite

These letters appear in the Tuesday 28th October edition of the Independent

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Yasmin Alibhai-Brown (28 October) is mistaken: the public doesn’t truly want press regulation. The stark truth is that the public lapped up all the sensationalist nonsense and shock-horror headlines that they were fed for years.

No, what the public wants is to be absolved of the guilt they feel, that every sin committed by the gutter press was committed in their name, that the immoral and invasive digging only happened because the journalists involved understood the insatiable, lascivious appetite of their market.

Scandal sells newspapers merely because of the voracious, voyeuristic desires of the gossip-addicted public. Privacy invasion is the new pornography, and our society’s level of dependence on this puerile addiction is evidenced by the seemingly unstoppable rise of soap operas and “reality” television.

If we are now willing to surrender the freedom of investigative journalism merely in order to stave off our own psycho-masturbatory predilections, then the tragic irony is that our efforts to appear less sleazy will have been in vain, for we will truly have revealed ourselves to be wankers.

Julian Self, Milton Keynes


Grant Shapps is the most recent politician to question the impartiality of the BBC. He has climbed aboard the bandwagon which the right-wing section of the media has been promoting since Adam was a boy.

Our press is predominately right-wing. It is almost inevitable then that reporting from a different perspective should be interpreted as having a leftish feel, when all it is, is the reporting of the same story without the right-wing slant.

Mr Shapps’ real concern is that he cannot influence the political agenda at the BBC. Lest we forget, the BBC is independent. Is that what really  bugs them?

Robert Stewart, Wilmslow, Cheshire


New regulation needed for  care homes

The lack of care, dignity and respect that was provided to the elderly living at the Orchid View care home in Copthorne is totally unacceptable.

The Health and Care Professions Council believes that the existing regulatory regime in England, which relies primarily on the Care Quality Commission’s system of inspection of care homes, does not deliver the required level of personal accountability among those caring for the most vulnerable in our society.

As a statutory regulator of 315,000 individual health, psychological and social work professionals from 16 professions, we believe that statutory regulation should be introduced for care home managers and care workers.

Backed by enforceable training standards and a code of conduct, performance and ethics, such regulation would bring proper accountability to this vital part of the health and care system.

The regulators working with other key organisations and individuals are well placed to facilitate this change, to raise standards and to prevent those who are unsuitable to work in the care sector from moving from one employer to another with impunity.

The Care Bill is currently before Parliament and the Law Commission’s work in this area is due to be published in the spring. Both aim to simplify and streamline the legislative regime for the regulation of health and social care professionals. This is the moment to reform regulation in this critical area.

Anna Van der Gaag, Chair, Marc Seale, Chief Executive, Health and Care Professions Council,  London SE11


Your correspondents (Letters, 22 October) are correct to recognise, in Jeremy Hunt’s plea for families to care for their elderly, part of the Government’s general policy of promoting “the Big Society”. This is particularly evident in Hunt’s use of the phrase “the social contract” to refer to the obligations of the young towards the old.

For several hundred years, since the time of Thomas Hobbes, the expression “the social contract” has usually referred to the relation between the government and the governed. We give up some of our freedoms and agree to obey laws, in exchange for the protection provided by the government.

In the new world proposed by Cameron and Hunt, the Government will provide no such protection, and the only social contracts will be between individuals or private charities.

This leaves it unclear what justification remains (apart from the threat of force) for our obedience to law. For the poor in this new society, life will revert to being, in Hobbes’ famous phrase, “nasty, brutish and short”.

Peter Benson, London NW2


NHS patients from abroad

Your article “Revealed: the truth about health tourism”, 25 October) is very misleading. It is wrong to conflate the separate issues of people who come from abroad and pay for private treatment in NHS hospitals with the cost to our NHS of providing free NHS treatment to overseas visitors. 

Our world-leading NHS hospitals have a long history of being entitled to generate income from foreign private patients. This income is then reinvested back into our NHS to look after local patients.

But in line with the approach adopted by many other countries when overseas visitors use their health services, it is only fair that in England, we also seek a fair contribution from students and other visitors from overseas when they wish to use our NHS. Hard-working people will not understand why some groups continue to be opposed to this.

That is why the Government has set out plans to better recover healthcare costs from overseas visitors; for example by introducing a surcharge for temporary visitors such as students and establishing a central cost recovery unit.

Dr Dan Poulter, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Health, London SW1


Climate denial  is not a ‘view’

In his letter about the presentation of climate science in the media (22 October), John Wiseman refers to people who have “views” on climate “orthodoxy”. Neither of these words relates to scientific issues.

Recently, Associated Press contacted scientists about the level of certainty of the current climate science paradigm. The president of the US National Academy of Sciences, Ralph Cicerone, and more than a dozen other scientists said the 95 per cent certainty regarding climate change is most similar to the confidence scientists have in the decades’ worth of evidence that cigarettes are deadly.

The letters editor of the Los Angeles Times, Paul Thornton, has taken the decision not to publish letters from “climate science deniers”.  He says: “Simply put, I do my best to keep errors of fact off the letters page. Saying ‘There’s no sign humans have caused climate change’ is not stating an opinion, it’s asserting a factual inaccuracy.”

Peter Whitehead, Willenhall,  West Midlands, Crisis looms in teacher supply


Dr Mary Bousted and her distinguished colleagues (Letter, 21 October) call on the Government to take steps to resolve the impending crisis in teacher supply.

In the 1980s, such was the dire state of recruitment, a group representing independent and maintained secondary heads drew a graph showing the last day upon which a class in this country would be taught mathematics or physics by a qualified teacher.

Fortunately, that date receded in the early 1990s with the recession, which prompted many excellent young people to take teacher qualifications, some of whom are still teaching successfully today.

I imagine that neither Dr Bousted nor the Government envisage such a drastic move now, though the urgency of rectifying the current position cannot be over-emphasised. In one respect, however, nothing has changed. Only by enhancing teacher status can numbers of applicants to the profession be increased, and this requires a radically new approach to teacher salaries.

Christopher Martin, London W2


Storm hits a  bit of Britain

Your headline read “Britain in lockdown as worst storm in a decade blows in” (28 October). It should have read “Southern part of Britain in lockdown...”.  Every sympathy must go to people affected by the storm but reporting by the media would indicate that the whole country stopped working, when it didn’t.

Sue Thomas, Bowness on Windermere, Cumbria


Having just experienced widespread disruption due to a hurricane is surely a large pointer to indicate that now is not the time to cut green taxes, when climate change is the greatest threat to the world.

Valerie Crews, Beckenham, Kent


Still going  to the dogs

Like Francis Kirkham (letter, 23 October), William Langland (born circa 1332) was also exercised about falling standards.

“What is more, even Grammar, the basis of all education, baffles the brains of the younger generation today. For if you take note, there is not a single modern schoolboy who can compose verses or write a decent letter. I doubt too whether one in a hundred can read a Latin author, or decipher a word of a foreign language. – And no wonder, for at every level of our educational system you’ll find Humbug in charge, and his colleague Flattery tagging along behind him.” (Piers the Ploughman xv, translated by JF Goodman, 1959: Penguin Classics).

Plus ça change!

Jenny Willan, Uffculme, Devon


The lesson from Grangemouth

Own Jones’s rant (28 October) follows the usual theme, all unions are wonderful and all bosses are bad. The question must be asked: why do not the Scottish unions buy the Grangemouth refinery and chemical plant and show Britain how it should be run.

If they put their money where their mouths are, they would soon find that government taxation of power is destroying business in Britain. Two aluminium smelters have already been forced to close.

T C Bell, Penrith. Cumbria


Avoiding blame

Further to John Hade’s letter (28 October), it should be understood that there are no such things as companies; just people hiding.

Neville Skelding, Solihull, West Midlands