These letters are published in the Wednesday 13 March edition
Yasmin Alibhai-Brown seems to be conflating two things in her article of 11 March – that “adulterous husbands still get away with it”, and the behaviour of Vicky Pryce.
I really don’t understand how the abysmal behaviour of Chris Huhne can in any way justify the way Ms Pryce behaved. Yes, she was betrayed and deceived, and yes, she had every right to feel angry and vengeful; but to behave in the way she did, knowing that it would all rebound on their entirely innocent children, is difficult to justify.
She may not have realised how bad it would get, but it was just plain wrong of her to take the risk that her children would have to suffer more than they already had from their parents’ break-up.
Paula Saunders, St Albans
On the contrary, Mr Vinehill, (letter, 12 March) anyone with an ounce of humanity in them will recognise that Chris Huhne and Vicky Pryce are human beings like the rest of us, and we all make mistakes.
If the “average layperson in the street” were a little more thoughtful he or she might reflect that the sanctimonious Isabel Oakeshott would never have led Vicky Pryce down this path of self-destruction (Dominic Lawson, 12 March) over a traffic offence committed eight years earlier if her ex-husband had not been a politician.
Yes, they did wrong, but they have been excessively punished. And using this case to further fuel the general public’s hatred of politicians will do no good for our democracy.
Penelope Murray, Sibford Gower, Oxfordshire
A rather frail 60-year-old woman has been jailed for eight months; a woman who had no previous convictions and who did not benefit in any way from the offence committed. In jail she will be an extremely vulnerable person.
The judge’s verdict on her was damning. He strayed from known facts in asserting that she was an entirely willing accomplice. I believe in most European countries a more humane sentence would have been given.
Having lived abroad for many years, I find now that much of the media here seem to equate the independence of the judiciary with freedom from all criticism of judicial decisions.
Neil Robertson, Bristol
Much has been made of the idea that making a false statement about a traffic offence is a very serious criminal offence, because it perverts justice. This was not reflected in the sentence awarded. Eight months is a short prison sentence.
Ever since Lord Bingham was Lord Chief Justice in the last century, judges and magistrates have been instructed by their superiors and prison reformers not to award short prison sentences because they are expensive and completely ineffective.
So long as this form of expensive disposal is available to those who sentence, they will use it. The criminal justice system has been too lazy to provide enough other options that are effective, such as well supervised, rigorous, well-funded service in the community.
It would cost less to employ two probation officers 24 hours a day, seven days a week for each prisoner than it does to imprison one.
Mick Humphreys, Creech St Michael, Somerset
Christopher Huhne told Channel 4 News: “It seems crazy that what is on the face of it a fairly trivial issue of exchanging points with your wife can spin out into this massive, devastating set of consequences.”
While many, probably almost all, motorists have driven over the speed limit from time to time, speeding is not a trivial matter. The speed cameras are not there to raise money for the Government, but to discourage drivers from going too fast.
Most road traffic accidents causing death or serious injury are caused by someone driving at excessive speed and such accidents do indeed cause devastation to the victim (if he or she survives) and to the victim’s family.
John Moses, Richmond Surrey
Thank you so, so much for telling me what Vicky Pryce wore in court: it really added to my understanding of the case (report, 12 March). I was devastated not to be able to find, on repeated readings, any such description of her ex-husband so I fear I am missing something important.
David Gould, Andover, Hampshire
NHS faces privatisation challenge
A new fight over National Health Service privatisation is just beginning, as Jeremy Hunt tries to use new powers to force local GPs to privatise more health services. I’ve been a campaigner for the NHS for several years in an attempt to stop the ongoing privatisation and the erosion of terms and conditions of valued and skilled workers.
Never was I more glad of this public service than last month, when I needed an ambulance to take me to hospital for what turned out to be a rare and unusual procedure. The skills of the consultant, anaesthetists and other doctors were used to the full that day, and I’m eternally grateful.
I was on the intensive and high dependency unit for many days and the care I received was exemplary. Each and every one of the staff involved contributed towards my current state of recovery; that includes the cleaners who were set to do 15 shifts in a row to cover for emergency absences.
Staffing levels are dangerously low, and I was told that there were times when a good shift was one when no one died. The ward staff, including the cleaners, porters, catering assistants, nursing assistants, staff nurses, physios and all are far fewer in number than they were a few years ago. Add to that the fact that many of them have more responsibilities for less money and you’ve got a toxic combination.
Next time you visit your GP, consider whether the service you currently get is likely to improve when a profit-hungry private company gets involved.
Jo Rust, King’s Lynn, Norfolk
Lurching both ways
I have long been a reader of The Independent, admiring its even-handed approach to most issues. However, I am becoming increasingly alarmed by the right-wing drift of some of your editorials.
Your leading article on Justin Welby’s concerns for children (1 March) is probably the most egregious example.
You state that, despite the probability that changes to benefits will hit children disproportionately hard, they should not be “exempt from the necessary retrenchment”, claiming also that “welfare payments have risen strongly” whereas in real terms, as you concede, they have not. Even though many households have been “painfully squeezed” these changes will, by definition, hit the very poorest the hardest.
Furthermore, you claim that benefits are not the only way to tackle poverty. What exactly would you suggest as alternatives? Food banks? The “Big Society”? Work, when there is a shortfall of two million jobs? A caring society does not drive children into poverty. Justin Welby is right. You and Iain Duncan Smith are wrong.
Bill Grimwood, Rickmansworth Hertfordshire
As a long-time reader of The Independent and supportive of its independent and balanced views I have become more and more disillusioned as it seems to have moved towards the philosophy of the Socialist Worker newspaper.
The article by Tom Sutcliffe on the television programme Countryfile: A Royal Appointment (11 March) illustrates my concern. It was a hatchet job worthy of a died-in-the-wool republican, with no real balance on the excellent work of the Prince’s Trust in job creation and training of apprentices.
I have in the past enjoyed Tom Sutcliffe’s articles and wonder if this reflects a change in policy from the top.
Les Graham, Hexham, Northumberland
Go to the top of the class
As usual I enjoyed reading Deborah Ross (If You Ask Me, 7 March) but I notice that she, together with most other commentators, refers to privately-educated people as “the middle class”. If they only account for only a small percentage of the population, what class(es) do the rest of us belong to?
My family and I all went to state schools and, although we have white-collar jobs, winning the lottery would be the only way we could afford to send our children to an independent school. Even then we would probably choose not to. But we wouldn’t describe ourselves as “working class” and “lower middle class” sounds sadly old-fashioned.
Someone should come up with a new name for our group. Perhaps “the major class” would be good as we do make up the vast majority of the population, but I’m hoping Independent readers can come up with better suggestions.
Alan Bellis, Shrewsbury
End the Vatican fashion show
The new Pope will have to be a superman if he is to achieve all that we Catholics would like him to – clean out “the filth” that Pope Benedict XVl spoke about, remove discrimination (for that is what it is) against women, and so on.
But he could immediately signal his intentions for reform if he were to abandon the expensive, ridiculous and exclusive apparel that he and his fellow clerics wear to show that they are different to the rest of humanity. By the end of the conclave we will have had a surfeit of Vatican fashion displays.
Seán Mac Nialluis, Hexham, Northumberland
I note with concern the global plight of horses. After they sneaked into ready meals, Oscar Pistorius’s racehorse is helping to pay for his legal defence. Worse still, another horse wants to race for Barclays boss Rich Ricci under a silly feline name, as if hanging around with bankers wasn’t bad enough.
Ian McKenzie, Lincoln
Now the result of the referendum is known, are we are meant to just rejoice at the news that the Falkland Islands are, officially, as British as Finchley?
Paul Wilder, London SE11