Letters: Stand-off at the cathedral

One expects better of The Independent than reaching for silly tabloid headlines about the Bishop of London's chauffeur (27 October).

Most people, including most Christians, agree with the protesters that some of the rewards in the City and in banking in particular are obscene. Most C of E clergy are on very modest salaries and retire on paltry pensions, and even the senior bishops have total remuneration packages (including for a few the use of a chauffeur) which many managers in the commercial world would consider risibly inadequate.

St Paul's is lucky to have considerable tourist income to maintain that wonderful building, its pastoral work, its excellent professional choir and the stage management of great state occasions. This is what is being compromised by the thoughtlessness of the well-meaning protesters.

Gavin Turner

Gunton, Norfolk

The suggestion that my contribution at St Vedast's church marked "a new low in relations between the Occupy London movement and St Paul's" is without foundation ("Discord at St Paul's over protest camp", 24 October). I am a representative of neither but have sympathy with both. I did not disrupt the service. I did request an opportunity to put an alternative impression of the situation, and the Vicar, Dr Alan McCormack, much to his credit, gave me an opportunity to do so.

I was encouraged that the cathedral allowed the protesters to set up their camp, but I believe there are questions to be answered regarding both the decision to close the cathedral and the lack of positive theological and pastoral support it is providing to the protesters, or indeed the watching public.

I spent Sunday afternoon talking to protesters. They were concerned to ensure the least possible disruption so that the cathedral could be reopened. At their democratic assembly they allowed anyone, including those who opposed the camp, to contribute, and met hostile comments with remarkable goodwill. I had more questions addressed to me about Jesus than I have had from many a church gathering.

This is no disruptive mob but a group of people who have the courage of their convictions. They deserve to be heard.

The Rev Dennis Nadin

Harlow, Essex

It's always easy to choose a passage of scripture and direct it against a church establishment, but your correspondents Keith Barlow and Andrew Sturgess (letters, 25 October) aren't being fair to St Paul's.

It is up to the protesters to let the cathedral get on with its business. Would you want a council-tax protester trespassing on your lawn day and night? Of course not. The rights and wrongs of capitalism have nothing to do with it.

Don Manley


Germany rescues the euro – or is it China?

So we now have a new coinage. The euro now becomes the Merkel.

At the height of our own attempts to colonise the planet we used to think the pound sterling circulating around the globe as an essential of empire. So who are we to complain that Europe has now fallen under the might of Mrs Merkel's financial dominance?

Good luck to the Germans and we wish them well. Been there, worn the T-shirt. Pity they are being propped up by Brazil, Russia, India and, especially China though.

Robert Jolly

Holme-next-the-Sea, Norfolk

The Eurozone at present is akin to the Hotel California; once you're in, you can't leave. Europe hasn't faced a more difficult situation in the past 50 years. The leadership required to get out of the crisis is lacking. The prospect of the so-called PIGS countries leaving the Eurozone is high-risk and costly. An exit by stronger members would lead to a revaluation and a loss of competitive strength. If Germany were to return to a strong mark, it would be far less competitive on a global scale.

It's not in anyone's interest to break up the euro. If Germany leaves the euro, the value of its currency would rise dramatically and it would lose its southern European export markets. If Greece leaves the euro, the new drachma would devalue so much that the country would go into a deep recession.

The solution for countries such as Greece and Spain is an internal devaluation, as we have seen with the Baltic states. This means making the domestic economies take the pain of retraction, including cutting inefficient government spending. This would require strong leadership, but our politicians are showing no signs of offering to cut their salaries.

Professor Salvatore Cantale

Professor Arturo Bris

IMD Business School, Lausanne, Switzerland

During a highly sophisticated survey, around the dinner table last evening, we were able to name only two products of Greece – feta cheese and olive oil. With Greek debt now approaching €45bn and some considerable exposure to UK banks, we will be preparing every week a feta cheese salad with a drizzling of olive oil as our small contribution to assist the banks.

Assistance with Italy's debt of close to €2,000bn will be more difficult. I will approach my local bank manager for a loan to buy a Ferrari.

Tom Lane

Christchurch, Dorset

Your front-page headline on Thursday was "Eurozone still living on borrowed time". Surely this should have read "Eurozone still living on borrowed money"?

John McKinley


Schools that would work

George Nicholls (letter, 25 October) recalls his experiences of pupils and parents traumatised by failing the 11-plus; he fails to mention the ongoing trauma of bright pupils forced into attending schools where the prevailing ethos is against academic achievement. He goes on to challenge those who support grammar schools to come up with a solution to teaching those who are "rejected".

The reason why many pupils are disruptive in school is that they are being forced to follow an academic curriculum that they struggle to engage with, rather than pursuing more practically oriented courses. Dedicated vocational secondary schools with a revised and updated vocational baccalaureate examination would enable these pupils' best interests to be served. All pupils are then taught in an environment that best matches their aptitudes and interests.

The final requirement of this system would be mobility – the one thing lacking from the old selective system. The best independent schools already operate such a system – screening out those whose interests are not best served by attending that type of school, and offering entry points at 11, 13, 14 and 16 to catch the "late developers". This ensures that all pupils attend the school best suited to them and are not unhappy in a competitive academic environment in which they are struggling or, alternatively, denied entry to it by failing to attain it at 11.

This is manifestly not the case with the current "one size fits all, tend towards the median/ mediocre" comprehensive system we currently endure.

Steve Travis


Private firms in policing roles

Your article "Alarm at private police operating beyond the law" (24 October) suggests that police officers are working for police forces as private contractors. This is not the case – all police officers are employed by a police authority and all are subject to oversight by the Independent Police Complaints Commission.

Some police forces use private-sector organisations to assist in the delivery of support functions. This allows chief constables to use their workforce more effectively and only use police officers in roles which need their powers and expertise.

While there may be scope to look at the IPCC's statutory powers over civilian staff employed by private-sector providers, in areas such as custody, it would be misleading to suggest that these individuals are not accountable. The care of detainees is ultimately the responsibility of chief constables, and all chiefs are subject to scrutiny from the IPCC, HM Inspector of Constabulary, their police authority and Parliament.

Chief Constable Peter Fahy

Lead, Workforce Development, Association of Chief Police Officers, London SW1

The agencies of the state permitted by society to use force against citizens, such as police, prisons and immigration control, should be subject to effective democratic control by the citizenry. There are many questions about the effectiveness of the likes of the Independent Police Complaints Commission but the use of profit-driven private firms to exert force on behalf of the state crucially compromises even that feeble accountability. This development runs parallel with the use of "contractors" and other mercenary forces in warfare.

Keith Vaz and the Home Affairs Select Committee have spotted an alarming development.

Mary Pimm

Nik Wood

London E9

Gaddafi's death on the news

Gregor Tassie (letter, 22 October) is right to be disgusted by the front-page pictures of the death of Muammar Gaddafi.

What has caused these phenomena? In one sense, they reflect the same relentless infomania that connects the media websites that provide us with every last salacious detail of a murder trial, the unsolicited flat-screen TV that displays rolling news in my university library coffee-bar and the people who avert their eyes from some electronic gadget only when they're about to bump into you on the pavement.

The BBC's hapless newsroom chief Mary Hockaday gives this away in writing that "The images of [Gaddafi's] dead body were an important part of telling the story to confirm reports of his death", as if nothing could or should trump the imperative to provide "news", not even the traditional instinctual feeling that even the vilest criminals deserve dignity and privacy in death. For too many journalists, it appears, the cart of internet and cellphone-camera technology is pulling the horse of human awareness.

Michael Ayton


There is a difference between the deaths of Ceausescu and Gaddafi (letter, 26 October). Ceausescu received a trial, no matter how rudimentary.

I would still like to know why it was possible for a British policewoman to be shot dead on a London street, and how only one Libyan was charged over the Lockerbie disaster. Had Gaddafi been put on trial we would at least have had the opportunity to question him.

Christopher Miles


Violent women

Having read the article "Women may get right to know if a boyfriend has history of violence" (26 October) I was worried that men would not get the same service. My fears were soon confirmed when in the same edition I read about a woman who was in court for biting off a man's testicles.

Andrew Bulman

Woking, Surrey

Dog's origins

You describe the Sealyham terrier as "a traditional English dog" ("Sealyhams on the brink of extinction", 27 October). Later in the story you write: "Sealyhams were originally bred on a Pembrokeshire estate in the mid-1800s." In view of this, would it not be more accurate to describe it as a traditional Welsh dog?

Richard Laver

London W8