Supporters of a new royal yacht miss the point of royal symbolism. The display of riches as a means of showing others how rich and powerful your country is, depends on something being very expensive, yet simultaneously useless for its purpose. Thus a crown is useless as a hat, a throne useless as a seat and the Irish state coach limited to specially surfaced roads even in the heyday of the horse and carriage.
To have a privately funded yacht that has facilities for nautical training and for the disabled does not impress other governments. Would it not be much better to spend the money on some of the worthy charities to which the Queen is patron?
Michael Gove has suggested to the Prime Minister that the Queen should have a new yacht to celebrate her diamond anniversary this year. He claims that under the current economic climate it will help to cheer up the people of Great Britain.
What planet does this man live on? When many of us are struggling to pay mortgages, fuel bills and rising food prices, in the face of pay freezes, benefit cuts and redundancy, does he really believe that seeing the Queen on a brand new multi-million pound yacht is going to "cheer us up"? How on earth did he become a high-ranking minister?
The Health Secretary should have a word in the ear of Michael Gove. Doesn't he know we do not spend money on old people? Old people languish on trolleys in corridors of hospitals and dehydrate in dark, neglected corners of care homes. They do not sail around on luxury yachts.
Church struggles with sexuality
There are few things that make me gladder to be an atheist than watching the Church of England tie itself in knots over the sexuality of its clergy; again.
The treatment of Jeffrey John by the leadership of the church has been nothing short of disgraceful. If he meets all the criteria to be made a bishop, and by all accounts he does, then denying him a deserved promotion on the grounds of his sexuality is an example of the sort of raw prejudice that would, rightly, be considered unacceptable in any other organisation.
Although I am not a believer, I recognise that Christianity, and other faiths, add much that is of value to people's lives. They foster a sense of community that is all too often missing in our atomised modern world and, for believers; their rituals are a source of comfort and continuity. At least that is true when the people in charge have the sense to recognise that the Britain of 2012 is a more colourful, imaginative and tolerant place than the glumly deferential 1950s-style country too many of them think they are still preaching to.
Rowan Williams has shown himself to be a man of formidable intellect and progressive in his views with a welcome courage when it comes to articulating them publicly. He must demonstrate courage when it comes to dragging the church he leads into the modern age.
Undoubtedly Christians, respecting the Word of God, are bound to share this peculiar "thing" that God has against homosexuals.
According to Leviticus, God has also got a "thing" about menstruating women, being of the opinion that they are "unclean" and therefore subject to all sorts of prohibitions and restrictions.
But this Law of God is harder to enforce, because there are more women than homosexuals in the world, and even the church has had to admit that, since the Old Testament was written, they have become less submissive and not so easily bullied. The church is slow to realise that the status of homosexuals has evolved too.
A number of Conservatives are claiming that gay marriage will weaken or fracture the institution of marriage. What can they mean by this? Will heterosexual couples start divorcing as soon as gay couples start getting married? Or will heterosexual couples just drift apart due to this weakened state of marriage? It is meaningless nonsense.
Boris acts on air pollution
Air quality is not expected to impact on the smooth and successful running of London's Olympic and Paralympic Games ("Polluted air 'puts Olympic athletes at risk'", 6 January). London regularly hosts world-class sporting events, such as its annual marathon, which attract top sportsmen and women and at which records are broken.
Olympic and Paralympic Games are of course hosted in large cities and in common with other urban centres, London does experience variable levels of pollution. The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, has taken unprecedented steps to deliver cleaner air during 2012 and beyond, which include banning the most polluting black cabs, tightening the Low Emission Zone standards to include 150,000 additional vehicles, and introducing cleaner hybrid and hydrogen buses to the capital's fleet. This comes in addition to innovative measures such as dust suppressant technology, a no-idling campaign, use of green infrastructure, record cycling investment and encouraging the uptake of electric vehicles.
Mayor of London's Environment Director, City Hall, London SE1
Museum's ties with West Bank
I would join the call for the Natural History Museum to break its ties with an Israeli commercial firm based in the illegally occupied West Bank, if the call also went out from your distinguished correspondents (Letter, 17 Jan) that the museum break its ties with the Chinese, illegally occupying Tibet, and with the Americans, illegally detaining folk at Guantanamo, but they don't, so I won't.
Donald Macintyre's report from Jerusalem that the EU is giving up hope for a viable Palestinian state (12 January) is as extraordinary as it is appalling. The EU lists Israel actions: demolitions ; prohibitive planning for the Palestinians, but uninhibited for Jewish illegal settlements; the apartheid separation barrier; restricted travel except for the settlers; denial of access to water and other natural resources. This reads like the pogrom it is.
But what is worse is the mooted EU response, which consists of "calling on Israel to halt demolitions and building of settlements". Wow, I bet that makes Netanyahu plead for mercy!
Israel's main market is the EU, where Israel has special access, denied to her neighbours, with the associate status agreement. This agreement is supposed to be dependent upon a country's respect for human rights. The EU has suspended agreements where a country can be seen to be in breach. So I urge every one to write to their MEPs and demand the EU take such a course of action, before it is impossible for Palestine to exist.
Help yourself to a drink
Years ago, I worked part-time in a wine merchant's shop ("The celebrity chef and the mystery of middle-class shoplifting", 10 January). A wealthy businessman, who lived locally, was one of our best customers and had a hefty monthly account. He was frequently in the shop on Saturday mornings for extra items in addition to his weekly delivery and he was always served by the manager personally.
He would wait until the shop was clear of other customers and start his order with an item he knew was kept in the store at the rear, which meant that the manager had to leave him alone. I would be in the office behind the shop with a two-way mirror. I had to make note of what he was putting in his bag. Bottles of sherry were among his favourites.
After he had completed his purchases and left, the manager noted what had been stolen and added it to his monthly bill, which was large enough for the stolen items not to be obvious.
The customer had the satisfaction of believing that he had put one across us and we had the satisfaction of knowing that he had paid for everything he had taken.
Householders will cash in on HS2
I do not understand all the fuss about Cheryl Gillan MP selling her house shortly before it is blighted by the announcement of the route for HS2. If the railway proceeds she would have received compensation for the impact the new development has on her house. The sums involved would be more than the reduction in the house price, because the system is rather generous to home owners. She is I fear losing money in proceeding to sell and would be well advised to hold on to the house – unless of course she actually wants to move to another property.
Keep the long summer holiday
Beside the effects on children, teachers and parents, there is another important consideration when changing summer holiday dates (Simon Read, 6 January).
Any manager in a company or public department which has to provide a service every working day has to juggle the holiday allocations of those staff members with children or teacher spouses to give them their fair share of time off during the school summer holiday. This is difficult enough with a six-week window. How much worse it would be with only four weeks.
Michael A Isserlis
Has anyone thought about teachers? My husband, a secondary-school teacher, is simply completely exhausted come the end of July, just from the sheer volume of work, as well as standing in front of pupils. After a week's recovery and three weeks planning and executing a family holiday, he has two weeks left. Much of that time is spent planning for the next term.
Before he became a teacher, my husband worked in the oil industry. It never involved the volume of work and lows of exhaustion that come with teaching in a state school.
Return of the Welsh dragon
I do not disagree with Professor Hayes (letter, 14 January) when he says that removal of the St Andrew's cross from the UK flag after Scottish independence would be an opportunity to add the Welsh dragon. However, we should first restore the Red Dragon to the Royal Arms, from which it was deposed by the Scottish Unicorn in 1603. Under the restored Royal Arms of the Tudors and a second Queen Elizabeth, a restored Anglo-Welsh Union might be better inspired to regain the status and prosperity it attained under the first Queen Elizabeth.
Tunbridge Wells, Kent
Under present arrangements, Scottish-domiciled students attend universities in Scotland free of charge. In accordance with EU law, the similar right is accorded to students from other EU member states, but students from England, Wales and Northern Ireland must pay. Should the SNP achieve independence, will it be obliged to offer free tuition at Scottish universities to students from England?
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