When I was a child I wanted to be an astronaut. Heavily influenced by watching far too much Star Trek, I dreamed of travelling into space and visiting far-off worlds.
Well, I ended up becoming a politician, but the point is that while the circumstances of my birth, my family and my experiences growing up have shaped the person I am today, my career is one that I have chosen myself.
The son or daughter of William and Kate will have no such choice. Their destiny has been determined even before they are born. Will the child dream of becoming an actor, a doctor, a chef or a musician? Who knows? But whatever their dreams may be their path in life will be steered firmly in one direction – to become the King or Queen of this country.
Whatever talents the child may possess, they will know that their future is one of waving, hand-shaking, expressing no opinions on matters of controversy (unless they take after their grandfather) and wearing diamond-encrusted headgear.
I have nothing but good wishes for William and Kate, but it is my sincere hope that the monarchy is abolished long before their child is due to ascend the throne. It is time for us to liberate the people from unelected royalty, and unelected royalty from a career they cannot opt out of.
Labour London Assembly Member, London SE1
Three cheers for Grace Dent, and many thanks to The Independent for making today’s issue (5 December) a sycophancy-free zone. I am sure your readers will be anxious to know that I too get morning sickness, mainly when I am bombarded by media drivel about the Royals and Z-list celebs. Does this make me worthy of endless media coverage? Possibly not.
The most stressful part of my suffering is the way that the morning “news” programmes wheel out “experts” on the latest ailment to terrify the nation. I am waiting for a Royal to have gallstone complications, and then I too can offer my experiences to the BBC, and perhaps show viewers my impressive scar.
Upper Rissington, Gloucestershire
The outrage over the succession to the throne is not the discrimination against women. It is the discrimination against commoners.
Bridlington, East Yorkshire
Cameron bullies the press to accept Leveson
I read the report (5 December) about your meeting with other editors and the Prime Minister, and was appalled to read that the Prime Minister had warned that “unless the Leveson proposals were accepted in entirety he would introduce a press law”.
I hold what seems to be a minority view, that there should be no regulation of the press; I was pleased to see this view expressed by Guy Keleny in an online article on Independent Voices; John Rentoul also articulated his view, in The Independent on Sunday, that the Leveson Inquiry had been a mistake.
Now it looks likely that there will be some kind of regulation; however, I am very concerned about the bullying of the press by the Government; this is, surely, not consistent with freedom of expression.
I gather that journalists’ protection of their sources will be made more difficult; that off-the-record briefings by police will be banned; and that whistleblowers will have to go to their managers, rather than the press.
Parliament and leading politicians are not allowing themselves time to digest the report, but are leaping to conclusions far too quickly. I believe that this is a bad time for democracy and free speech.
Most of the media describes Leveson’s proposal as “statutory regulation of the Press”? It is no such thing.
The new body, being set up by the Press, will regulate its members, and by accepting its terms individual newspapers can enjoy a range of improved protection. The statutory body, sitting behind (as proposed by Leveson), only rules on whether the new body’s rules are fit for purpose and are being properly adhered to. The statutory element does not interact with what the Press publishes unless the new regulatory body is failing in its duty. Without this safeguard there is nothing to stop the new body sliding back into being PCC Mark 2.
To hear the clamour one would think that Leveson is proposing to put a judge in every newsroom. Perhaps the clamour is a clue that the interests in the media don’t want a strong regulator and plan to let the new body sink back into ineffectiveness when all the fuss dies down.
Colin Bower (letter, 1 December) is quite right when he says that “all the recent misdemeanours [not a word I would have used] of the press are covered by law,” but he is wrong when he says that had the police taken action “the current upheaval would not have been necessary”.
Leveson confirmed what many thought: that there were reporters, editors and proprietors who were not only willing to break the law, or employ others to do so, but who also saw nothing wrong in this.
A free press must also be an ethical press, and if large parts of the press lack any sense of ethics, then simple self-regulation is a non-starter.
Scarborough, North Yorkshire
How to make big firms pay tax
There is public outrage at recent revelations that multinational companies pay virtually no corporation tax. This is not a matter of “a few bad apples”. Clear legislation is required.
First, there should be an annual public report prepared by HMRC, on every company trading in the UK with revenues of £10m or more, detailing turnover, revenue, profits and tax paid to the Exchequer.
Second, a new and progressive tax should be levied on corporations, based on revenue. The justification for such a tax is clear. Corporations benefit from our infrastructure – roads, education, health etc – and should pay a contribution towards that. We could even call it the corporate community charge. Corporation tax paid on profits would be offset against this charge.
Finally, a cultural rethink and a revolution in company law are needed. Central to any such new legislation should be the principle that the fiduciary duty of directors and executives to shareholders only becomes active once the corporation’s socio-economic duties to the wider society in which it is embedded are met. The parameters of such duties should be spelled out clearly in legislative form after a wide-ranging public consultation.
I see that serial entrepreneur Luke Johnson has waded into the Starbucks debate, claiming it has been unfairly singled out for criticism about its tax affairs.
The comments attributed to him betray an attitude among many business owners that other taxes generated through the activities of the business should militate against reasonable taxes being levied on profits.
Johnson says that Starbucks pay huge amounts of property rates and National Insurance. So do all businesses, Luke. As for his claim that Starbucks pays huge amounts of VAT, this is just plain wrong. Starbucks, like every other business, collects VAT on behalf of HMRC. If every citizen in paid employment followed the logic of Johnson’s argument, we would offset any claim for income tax against the council tax we pay on our homes, or the VAT we pay on the goods and services we buy.
Spelling blights education
The rules governing pronunciation in English are more complex than, say, German or Spanish. Most of us learn to overcome these obstacles when we learn to read at primary school, but some do not. The education of this latter group is blighted by the twin evils of complex pronunciation rules and non-phonetic spelling in the language in which subject material is written (letters, 3 December).
Part of the solution to the problem of illiteracy could be spelling reform. A useful start would be abolition of the apostrophe (if it’s undetectable in spoken language, why include it in written language?) and substitution of the six sounds of the “ough” letter group with phonetic alternatives.
The patient knows best
Christina Patterson is right (“John Lewis teaches empathy. Can’t the NHS?”, 5 December). When discussing with the consultant the reversal of a colostomy, following bowel cancer operations, I took her through a note I had prepared of the options and pros and cons. She said she wished her registrars thought like that, and could she have a copy?
Why didn’t they think like that and why had they not been trained to do so? It is the sensible approach for them, the patient and the NHS. Efficiency and compassion.
Saffron Walden, Essex
Israel in the time of Jesus
Julian Charles does not recognise in his letter (1 December) that Palestine at the time of Yeshua (whom we know as “Jesus”) was very much a multi-ethnic/multi-cultural state and many Jews were already living in a diaspora. As a Jew, I am totally opposed to “Israelis” claiming the whole area. They should be confined to the area granted them in 1948.
Why is it a “worrying” pattern of falling sperm counts? Surely with the relentless rise in the world population and the increasing food shortages brought on by climate change this should be seen as good news? Nature’s way perhaps?
Congratulations to the creator of that fine little cartoon on the Letters page (3 December). I have long wondered whether the ghastly Secretary of State for Education (and future Tory leader) would be a nicer person if his name rhymed with “love”, or even “move”. Sadly I doubt it.
Portree, Isle of Skye
If Deborah Ross (4 December) had written that a female partner should be punched on the head, and any other available parts of her body, would you have published it? Why is it acceptable to write about her desire for a man to be physically chastised?