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Letters: Tabloid BBC and the Cliff Richard raid

These letters appear in the August 19 edition of The Independent
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Last week, a letter came telling me it was time to renew my TV licence. On the same day, the BBC was acting alongside South Yorkshire police to discredit Cliff Richard. He hadn’t been charged with anything, but the BBC put the label of “sex offender” on him before he’d even had a chance to respond to the allegations. I threw my renewal letter into the bin.

Your article by Geoffrey Robertson (16 August) highlighted the police’s wrongdoing in this case. But it should have gone further. There is something sinister happening at the BBC. I’m not sure if its reporters are members of the National Union of Journalists, but they certainly don’t abide by its code of conduct, which clearly states that a journalist “does nothing to intrude into anybody’s private life, grief or distress unless justified by overriding consideration of public interest”.

Did the public need to know an unproven allegation had been made? I think not. In behaving in this way the BBC has been acting like a tabloid newspaper.

Caolan Byrne
London SE10


Thirty-five years ago, I met, and exchanged a few words with, a well-known, now famous, actor in a lavatory during the interval of the gala opening of a refurbished theatre. Nothing happened; we just exchanged a few words: “Hello, good show isn’t it?” – “Yes, isn’t it?” If I googled that actor today, I should get only references to his work and, perhaps, his own website.

But what if I took it into my head to tell the police that this actor had propositioned or molested me in that lavatory? There were no witnesses; we were the only ones there. Would the police now be kicking in his door, while being recorded by the BBC? Would this action now be on every news website?

Then, in the absence of any evidence whatsoever, if I googled that actor tomorrow, I would get multiple references to allegations of “sex abuse”. Even if some of these references were about unfair reporting, the inference would be clear: “No smoke without fire.”

I do not want proven paedophiles to escape punishment. But I do not want innocent people to be found guilty by rumour or malicious suggestion.

S Garrett
East Lydford, Somerset


American ideas about the NHS

I am mystified by the American doctor Jen Gunter’s rather condescending assessment of how favourable her view of the NHS was after her son received emergency treatment (16 August). Was she expecting a third-world experience in an impoverished country?

The UK is a rich country, and the NHS is a highly developed and complex organisation. We pay comparatively very little for our health care in the UK and we get an awful lot for our money.

The NHS is still regarded by many as the envy of the world, despite its difficulties.

I teach nursing at the University of Birmingham, and our students have elective clinical placements in countries all over the world, including the US. The one message which I constantly hear from them following their experiences overseas is “I will never complain about the NHS ever again.”

Mark Hughes
College of medical and Dental Sciences
University of Birmingham


At first glance, the figures provided about Vanguard (“NHS faces huge bill over private provider’s botched eye operations, 15 August) suggest that many millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money has been actively encouraged to haemorrhage out of the NHS as superfluous management earnings, investor returns and profits.

And the services provided have caused harm.

Had the money been used to fund NHS treatment directly, more people would have been treated sooner and the harms would not have arisen. The mania for profit-driven private-sector involvement in the NHS defies reason.

Steve Ford
Haydon Bridge, Northumberland


A chance missed to cripple the jihadists

Your editorial of 18 August is only partially correct in the interpretation of last year’s vote on Syria, and you omit a vital point.

The Government rightly wished to keep open the possibility of military action against Assad, who had just, once again, gassed his own people, correctly calculating the usual short-lived expressions of anger from the media and the world.

But the impact of a strike would also have assisted the moderate opposition, those who had bravely taken to the streets against him originally and endorsed principles for a democratic, pluralist Syria, and who were increasingly finding themselves also fighting a nascent extremist and largely foreign force. There was a chance, a year ago, to take some action which might have cut off IS at its knees in Syria.

I fully accept that we cannot know what would have happened subsequently if action, rejected by the US and on which the UK Parliament never voted, had been taken, and the consequent removal of chemical weapons is no small gain. But we can be quite certain of what has happened by not doing so. Assad continued to collude with the Islamic extremists to pursue a narrative too readily swallowed elsewhere that his “opposition” were all the same, simply extremist terrorists not worth the support of  the world.

Moderates have been steadily weakened and demoralised. A dreadful bombing and killing campaign, with conventional weapons apparently given the green light, has been continued even more forcibly against the Syrian people whilst the world turned the other way. This has all derailed any negotiations for a conclusion which Assad might have feared, and IS has become ever stronger, emerging into the force we see now in Syria and Iraq.

A year’s delay in dealing with IS has come at more of a cost than just tying western foreign policy in elaborate knots; there is no comfort that the casualties are not on our own doorstep.

Alistair Burt MP
North East Bedfordshire
Minister for the Middle East, 2010-2013


Gay people bullied in name of Christianity

Imagine. A perfectly decent, gifted and well-balanced teenager being made to feel she “lived in shame … degraded and very humiliated” (Vicky Beeching: The Big Read 14 August) This is emotional abuse on a par with the severest bullying.

Yet, since it is done in the name of Christianity, no one is held culpable in law for such a gross and offensive misuse of power, as well as the cruel distortion of Christian theology and love at  its core.

This aggressive and deliberate homophobia can be life-threatening, as in her case, through the accumulated effect of extreme denial, guilt, loneliness, stress and deep trauma. There is a war being waged against young gay and lesbian people and the perpetrators walk free every time.

Trying to destroy the self-esteem and integrity of any person, simply on the grounds they are lesbian or gay, should be a criminal offence.

Since this odious practice is endemic in churches and other faith-based groups they need to feel the full weight of society’s total disapproval, not only by it being made illegal to offer so-called “ex-gay” or “reparative therapies” or exorcisms, but by also having to function without benefit of charitable status.

Anything less and the message is: “It’s OK to bludgeon into submission anyone if we don’t like their sexual orientation.”

The Rev Richard Kirker
London E1


Reading that Vicky Beeching had come out as gay was a liberating experience for me. As a young, gay Christian so far in the closet it’s a wonder I haven’t found Narnia, Beeching has given me hope.

For the first time ever, coming out to my family and friends actually seems like a possibility. Her coming out is, quite frankly, an answer to prayer.

Name and address supplied


Fleecing the ‘southern toffs’

Perhaps it is not surprising that so many country pubs are closing down. I visited one in the shadow of Lancashire’s Pendle Hill at the weekend and was shocked to find that while I’d been charged £3.30 for a pint of ale, the cheery, straw-chewing villager standing next to me at the bar only had to pay £2.90.

On enquiring about the discrepancy, I was informed there was a special “locals’ rate” but “wealthy Southern toffs” like me must pay more because we could afford it.

Charles Garth
Ampthill, Bedfordshire


Rude Roman language

Natalie Haynes’s review “Portrait of a chameleon emperor” (Radar, 16 August) quoted Horace referring to his friend Caesar Augustus as a “perfect penis”.

Surely a better translation would be “complete prick”?

Elizabeth Roberts
Moffat, Dumfries and Galloway