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Saturday 28 January 2012
Letters: Stephen Hester's bonus
Hester has earned his bonus
Oh please! Let's stop the griping over Stephen Hester's bonus.
We're asking the man to rescue billions of pounds of our money that, if mismanaged, could disappear down the toilet. A minute fraction of one thousandth of one per cent of our exposure is a small price to pay for it.
West Wittering, West Sussex
The current wave of hostility toward the payment of bonuses – most recently expressed in Ed Miliband's call for RBS chief Stephen Hester to be denied his bonus – is a worrying sign for the UK economy.
Our latest research into accountancy and finance professionals' expectations for the economy shows 53 per cent believe 2012 will see no deterioration in the UK's economic position. This remarkably positive collective view is a direct result of a strong performance across the industry in 2011. Unless we get more of the same in 2012, we can forget any prospect of a sustained recovery in the UK.
Seeking to deny people doing a good and important job the rewards for their accomplishments, whether they work for a publicly owned company or not, is the most efficient way to drive talent to markets where enjoying the rewards of success is not considered taboo.
Marks Sattin Recruitment
In 2009 the Prime Minister gave a speech on "moral capitalism" in which he said: "Where they work properly, open markets and free enterprise can actually promote morality. Why? Because they create a direct link between contribution and reward; between effort and outcome." The speech is worth remembering in this 2012 season of City bonuses.
For the avoidance of doubt, there is no direct link in capitalism between narrow individual or company interest and benefits that reward the community at large. Adam Smith taught that all community benefits arise only indirectly. The entrepreneur "intends only his own gain, and he is in this, as in many other cases, led by an invisible hand to promote an end which was no part of his intention".
So cunning and detached from countries of origin has the modern financial globalisation system become that the invisible hand has been set on its head; rewards can now be extracted without even indirect benefits accruing.
The Conservative-led government provides amiably benign but meaningless rhetoric about Moral Capitalism or the Big Society, or contemplating parting Fred Goodwin from his knighthood, while notably failing adequately to regulate the financial system and City; a City in which complex financial instruments may yet finish off a broken system, and us with it.
John S Warren
Bishops in the Lords
It's absolutely correct to say that the bishops should have no place in the upper chamber (leading article, 26 January), but until the Lords is significantly reformed they're there and to claim that "they have no political mandate" misses the point – being unelected, none of the 800-odd members of the Lords has a political mandate. Thus the bishops have as much – or as little – right as any other peers to seek to influence the political debate.
A much more pertinent question for you to have asked would have been why it required the bishops to submit the amendment on a benefits cap that defeated the Coalition on Monday. I'm old enough to recall when defending the poor was seen as the job of the Labour Party.
The existence of bishops in the upper chamber is undemocratic and indeed sectarian. It grants power and privilege to one religious sect while discriminating against all others, and those who profess no religious belief.
Their presence is a throwback to the days when a combination of myth and superstition was force-fed to people as fact, although the present Coalition Government seems to desire a return to such dark times, not least though its education policies.
If we must have a second chamber, it should be populated by those whose experience is informed by evidence, not by belief in the supernatural.
Methven, Perth & Kinross
If the issue of how to treat the poor is "absolutely not a spiritual debate" then presumably your leader writer will also seek to ban the singing of the Magnificat: "He has put down the mighty from their seat and the rich he has sent empty away."
Alternatives to Microsoft
Your correspondents (letters, 23 January) are right about the need for information literacy and a wider skills base. They do not mention the huge sums paid to Microsoft by the British taxpayer.
In nearly every case, Microsoft products could be easily replaced with free, open-source software of equivalent functionality. I use LibreOffice, an open-source office suite that is free, produced internationally and increasingly used by local government in Europe. It produces excellent documents, spreadsheets and presentations – and Microsoft-compatible files.
Microsoft has apparently said that the NHS pays £64m a year for software that is worth £270m. If the competing product costs nothing, it becomes arguable whether Microsoft products are worth £270m, £64m ... or nothing. These sums would be better-spent on developing in-house skills locally.
And the cost to British business in the middle of a recession? It seems that we are stuck in a mindset where "nobody ever lost their job for choosing Microsoft". Well, it used to be IBM. Standards can change. With money short, we should consider the alternatives seriously.
Dr Philip Timms
Consultant Psychiatrist, South London & Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust, London SE5
Israel's appetite for more land
Most of my Jewish friends and acquaintances are liberal Jews who are as keen to see a just and honourable resolution to the Israel/Palestine problem as I am. So it comes as rather a shock to read the uncompromisingly Zionist views of Jonathan Hoffman and Geoffrey Alderman (letters, 19 January).
The majority of visitors to the Holy Land will return home oblivious to what life on the West Bank is really like for Palestinians. They will be fascinated by the various quarters of the Old City of Jerusalem and intrigued to see ultra-Orthodox Jews and traditionally dressed Muslim girls co-existing on the same ancient streets, and may well conclude that all is more or less well. Even those who visit Bethlehem will pass smoothly through the obscene Wall in a tourist bus, delayed for just a few moments as armed soldiers conduct a cursory inspection.
They will not realise that for a Palestinian living in Bethlehem and working in Jerusalem this 20-minute trip has become a three- or even four-hour odyssey. Travellers are corralled for hours on end and herded one by one through a turnstile by armed soldiers. Getting further into the West Bank you realise that all the high ground has been requisitioned by the Israelis. Scores of hilltops boast settlements, often approached by a spanking new road from which Arabs are banned.
Israeli policy has for many years been to delay and obstruct, while all the while building, building, building. Jonathan Hoffman tells us that Israeli presence is lawful until there is a final settlement with the Palestinians – by which time this extraordinary theft of land, carried out under the noses of the international community, will be complete.
Richard Cohen (letter, 19 January) mistakenly compares Israel's illegality in the West Bank with China's in Tibet. Israel's existence arises from the UN Partition of 1947, which allowed for a Jewish state and an Arab one. The international community remains intimately responsible for what happens, and the legitimacy of the one state must be contingent on allowing the existence of the other. It is Israel's relentless appetite for the land awarded to the putative Arab state which now lies at the heart of this conflict.
Not just my museum
Thank you for the generous double-page spread about the new Design Museum in the Commonwealth Institute (25 January), but I am somewhat embarrassed by the headline, which described it as my Design Museum, which it certainly isn't.
As the founder, I am obviously excited at its expansion in this wonderful site and thrilled about what we can achieve in the future, but we are a charity run by its trustees.
The site belongs to Chelsfield and the Ilchester estate, who have been generous in giving the Design Museum a very long lease at a peppercorn rent, so it certainly is not my Design Museum. I, along with many trusts and foundations, have contributed financially to make the move to Kensington possible, greatly aided by the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, who have shown real enthusiasm for the project.
Sir Terence Conran
It's our United Kingdom too
Brian Connor, writing from Edinburgh, claims that "ordinary folk in Worthing, going about their daily lives, will not be affected one iota by Scotland becoming a sovereign state again" (letter, 22 January). I am sorry but he is wrong.
Unless there is a fair division of the national debt and of the assets and liabilities, people in the remainder of the UK will certainly be affected. There will also be impacts on the value of sterling if Scotland takes the oil revenues and keeps the currency. We need a referendum in the remainder of the UK to make sure that we all agree on the terms negotiated for any split.
Victims of drone strikes
According to my information, based on spending the last four years in Pakistan near the Afghan border, Pakistani Taliban chief Hakimullah Mehsud has now been killed three times by US drones (report, 16 January). The point of such announcements has little to do with whether or not the Taliban chief is alive or dead; it is to convince the general public that US drones kill enemies rather than civilians. They kill on average 50 civilians inside Pakistan's borders for every alleged militant.
David L Gosling
(Former Principal, Edwardes College, Peshawar) Cambridge
Charles Hendry says smart meters will help keep energy bills down and will ensure that "we keep the lights on" (letter, 27 January). Isn't the purpose of smart meters to show us that we don't need to keep the lights on, and should, in fact, be turning them off more often? I suggest that Mr Hendry is not best placed as Energy Minister; he seems to be missing the point.
Solihull, West Midlands
What was that?
Lucky John Walsh (Notebook, 26 January) to be surrounded, evidently, by speakers he can already understand, since he assumes elocution is only about sounding posh. Me, I despair daily before the slurred and breakneck gabble of anyone under, say, 30. Elocution, like the effort of legible handwriting, is the courtesy of keeping one's spoken words fresh and clear to listeners, whatever one's dialect or class.
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