Letters: Theresa May erred not once but twice on inquiry

These letters appear in the November 7 edition of The Independent

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Andreas Whittam Smith (“A new kind of politics is emerging from some surprising sources”, 6 November) was “astonished” by Theresa May’s proposals for the child sex abuse inquiry. He is full of praise for her plans to involve survivors in the whole process.

Incredibly, Whittam Smith makes no mention of the debacle that May has been embroiled in prior to her apparent epiphany in Parliament on Monday.

Her attempts to appoint a head of the inquiry have increased the level of distrust among survivors to a point where many  have lost hope in ever receiving justice for the crimes committed against them.

May has twice chosen a prominent Establishment figure to head the inquiry with little or no experience in the field of child abuse.

In both cases, incompetent vetting of the candidates missed compromising social connections which have subsequently led to the candidates having to step down. Not once, but twice. May shows either incredible ineptitude or arrogance, or a combination of both.

I suspect that if she were not a realistic contender to be the next leader of the Conservative Party, the UK press would be baying for her blood over this farce.

May’s stated plan is now to include survivors in every part of the inquiry process. This probably has more to do with assuaging the mounting distrust that she herself has created among the survivors than “a new way of doing politics”.

Jamie Register
Walthamstow, London


Your correspondents seem to have missed the main point about selecting someone to chair a public inquiry. As can be seen by the treatment of the recent report on decriminalising drugs, governments do not like independent reports or enquires. They are often forced to commission reports and set up inquiries but prefer someone in charge who can be guaranteed to add verisimilitude to the unconvincing narrative favoured by the politicians.

As correspondents have commented, there is no shortage of qualified and independent people who could chair the child abuse inquiry. The Government’s difficulty is finding the right one who will appear independent but still deliver the right result.

CC Elshaw
Headley Down, Hampshire


The suggestion that the Home Secretary should look abroad for the chair of the sex abuse inquiry underlines the depressingly laughable assumption that only the kind of people  who know Lord Brittan and such are capable of the job. Most members of my University of the Third Age class could do it.

Professor Chris Barton


Pat on the back – I’m now baker’s man

My mind has finally been made up about voting at the next election. Rather than abstaining (my original intention) I will be voting Lib Dem for the simple reason that, despite broken promises, it remains the only party with remotely reasonable policies on drugs, the EU, immigration, prison reform and many other matters. 

Thank you, Norman Baker, for making the Tory anti-science, anti-common-sense views so clear.

Jim Bowman
South Harrow, Middlesex


Norman Baker’s resignation from the Home Office over the Conservatives’ failure to pursue “rational evidence-based policy” may well have left him feeling like a “cuckoo in the nest”. Clearly, he cannot be described as one of the Darling Buddies of May.

Jeremy Redman
London SE6


As WB Yeats almost said in The Second Coming: “Things fall apart; the centre-right cannot hold.”

Pete Dorey


Republicans don’t live in the real world

Your editorial about the US midterm elections, “Another shellacking”  (6 November), makes some reasonable points, but in dealing with the irrational I feel you are straining too hard to be optimistic.

As a novelist, I could hardly think of a better scenario for a topical political thriller than “World’s top scientists deliver a final warning of climate change catastrophe just as the party of stupid sweeps to power in America”. However, in the multiverse of fantasy and fiction nobody is ever really hurt. Reality is, of course, entirely different, which makes Tuesday’s midterm election results in the US such a disaster.

How can a highly intelligent individual such as President Obama reach any positive compromises with people who believe in “NHS death panels” and who reject any action on climate change which might knock a few dollars off the gargantuan profits of their fossil fuel paymasters?

So, with the sooty little hands of brain-dead Republicans now firmly grasping both hot air brakes of US politics, the chance of any meaningful global deal on carbon reduction looks impossible for at least two years. So much for democracy!

Steve Edwards
Wivelsfield Green,  East Sussex


Teachers should try being assistants first

I taught in state secondary schools, and, in common with every teacher, sometimes struggled to keep classes working in a calm atmosphere (letters,  5 November).

If there was a pupil in the class with a statement of special needs, he or she would often be accompanied by a learning support assistant (LSA). This made such a welcome difference. She keep the pupil with the lesson. Also, having another adult in the room was a restraining influence on the rest of the class, who knew that any denial of wrongdoing would not stand up.

Learning support assistants are a key part of the school staff. I believe that all aspiring teachers should, after some training, spend at least a term as LSAs. They would better understand some pupils – and teachers – difficulties and, importantly, gain an impression of the total curriculum. 

Susan Chesters


Does anyone know a thing about The EU?

Let’s get a few things straight, before the EU debate becomes laughable.

The overwhelming majority of British people have not the slightest clue as to what the European Commission is or does, how it relates to the European Council and the European Parliament, the distinction between supranational institutions and inter-governmental institutions, what a free-trade area is, or what an import duty is. Almost nobody in the UK can name their MEP, or explain how EU rules are made and applied.

Before the UK takes the catastrophic step of withdrawing from the EU, it would be good to hear some bright people make the case for non-withdrawal.

Andrew Crawley
Belize City


So, the EU wants more money from Britain? Surely Messrs Cameron and Osborne knew the rules of the EU? It’s a lot like taxes really. The better you do, the more you pay. Maybe Britain should have declared some of its improved GDP to be based in the Cayman Islands.

John Booth
Barnton, Cheshire

Old drugs could help MS sufferers

Your leader “Save lives – and money: why are ministers refusing to make these drugs available?”, (6 November) is right to say that the current barriers stopping the repurposing of off-patent drugs are incomprehensible.

There are more than 100,000 people with multiple sclerosis in the UK, most of whom have progressive MS – in which symptoms get worse and people gradually become more disabled. Much to the distress and frustration of those who live with this debilitating condition, there are currently no treatments to slow or stop this progression.

Simvastatin, a drug licensed to lower cholesterol, has shown promise in recent phase 2 trials to become the first drug that could treat progressive MS. Further, larger-scale trials are needed to prove it works, but if these trials are successful, it would be cruel in the extreme to say to people with progressive MS that this drug is out of reach because there is no mechanism to get it licensed for MS.

We urge MPs to support the Off-patent Drugs Bill when it gets its second reading in the House of Commons today. There is no logical reason not to.

Michelle Mitchell
Chief executive, MS Society, London NW2


The multimedia Messenger service

This morning, Royal Mail delivered a package to my door. I took it from the postman, who then entered something into a small hand-held device. A couple of minutes later, I received a text message and an email advising me that my parcel had been delivered.

Does this not demonstrate the benefits of privatisation? The old, state-run Royal Mail never provided this essential service.

Brian Sheridan
Croydon, Surrey