Letters to the editor: A sadly familiar tale of amorality in politics

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The Fox affair needs investigation but not debate. It is a simple and familiar story of amoral politicians and inept administrators.

I used to work for a large food company that sold chicken to supermarkets. It did not occur to me to pretend that my best friend also worked for the company and invite him along to meetings with the supermarkets. This would have been dishonest, and also ludicrous.

Dr Liam Fox seemingly saw fit to pretend that his friend Mr Werritty was an official adviser. At the very least, he allowed Mr Werritty to attend meetings at which Mr Werritty had no role. What were the consequences of Mr Werritty's presence at any of these meetings? Did he influence the outcome of any of them? If so, how?

A man with such a moral code and such poor judgement as Dr Fox has displayed should not be allowed within a hundred miles of an office of state. But he was. Mr Cameron either knew what was going on and sanctioned Dr Fox's behaviour; or he did not, and is not aware of what is going on in his government. The Permanent Secretary in the department and the Cabinet Secretary are likewise culpable. They all need to explain their behaviour.

This is not a story of press hounding, as Tory commentators would have us believe. On this occasion the Press have simply prevented those in power from behaving as they would wish without hindrance.

Mark Ogilvie

Horncastle, Lincolnshire

As the Conservative backbenchers squeal "trial by media", thank goodness we still have a free press. Most people cannot understand why so many politicians still don't get the idea that high office comes with absolute responsibility. Without our press we possibly would never have known of these massive risks with our state security – something we should all remember when likely future legislation will curtail investigative journalism.

Tom Lane

Christchurch, Dorset

I do not expect Sir Gus O'Donnell's investigation is going to shine a light on to how much his own civil servants or indeed the military who worked closely with the former Defence Secretary knew about what was going on. The important question in this farce is, if they knew what was going on, did anyone have the moral courage to challenge Dr Fox's behaviour?

G (Gusty) Levanter

Colonel (Ret'd),

Pershore, Worcestershire

Questions are being asked about Liam Fox and right-wing groups who might have been funding his mysterious friend. At this rate we might start wondering whether David Cameron himself is really the liberal-leaning, seal-hugging decent chap that we keep reading about. Do we have the greenest press in history?

David Woods

Hull, East Yorkshire

So, the person responsible for our train system is now in charge of defence. Steel helmets, lads! (Assuming you have one each.)

D Newman

Harrogate, North Yorkshire

Why nurses fail to care properly for elderly patients

Why do some nurses not give sympathetic care to their elderly patients any more ("Patient care is below legal minimum", 13 October)?

In the 1970s some leaders in the profession had aspirations to have equal status with doctors. This led to training becoming academic. Many potential recruits motivated by the image of a caring profession could no longer qualify for entry to a university course.

Care of the elderly in any setting is hard, often heavy work, so it is not surprising that in a busy ward with emphasis on clinical treatment sympathetic care is a lesser priority. It is very difficult for managers to observe what is really happening on a ward, because behaviour will change the moment they appear.

As a former chief executive of a large health authority I did not experience real ward practice until daily visits to an elderly relative some years after I had retired. Little nursing time was spent at the bedside and at mealtimes the nurses huddled around the desk talking, whilst patients unable to feed themselves returned meals untouched. After a complaint to the hospital's chief nursing officer this changed – at least during my presence.

Two questions arise: should nursing student applicants be tested for their empathy with the elderly, who are by far the largest percentage of hospital patients; and are they receiving the appropriate balance of training at university and when seconded to hospitals for practical experience ?

Gerry Cinderby

New Galloway

The Care Quality Commission report on hospital care of older people is damning and says it is a matter of resources, leadership and attitude.

Nurse attitudes are specifically criticised, but fundamentally poor attitudes towards older people are not widespread. Many older patients in hospital have dementia, combined with very high levels of need, such as incontinence, and requiring assistance with eating and walking. A significant number also have behavioural and psychological problems, such as agitation and aggression, repetitive calling, and wandering. Many do not know where they are, which increases fear of the alien hospital environment.

Severe short-term memory loss means that reassurance and comfort given has no lasting effect. Patients may call out repeatedly and persistently, and responding can appear futile to staff.

Appropriate care for a combination of acute physical illness, confusion, dependency and behavioural problems requires skill, expertise and time. In my experience nurses are frustrated by a lack of specialist training and insufficient staffing to care for patients properly. Most do the best they can, in very difficult circumstances.

The problem is far more complex than a lack of "kindness and compassion". We need a clear strategy equipping staff to care for these patients. It should be a priority, even in a budget-constrained NHS.

Sarah Goldberg RN


Maintain this school safeguard

It is very worrying that the current Education Bill proposes to remove the requirements for Ofsted to inspect how schools contribute to community cohesion and gives the Secretary of State arbitrary new powers to make schools exempt from Ofsted inspection altogether.

At the start of February the Prime Minister gave a speech in Munich about the need to confront extremism and promote a greater sense of citizenship. It therefore seems wholly inconsistent that the Education Bill should seek to remove the above safeguards when at the same time schools are gaining greater freedoms and autonomy, and untested education providers are entering the state system through the Free School programme.

This week the Education Bill reaches the report stage in the Lords. Baroness Flather of Windsor and Maidenhead has tabled an amendment to retain Ofsted's community cohesion duty, and Lord Hunt of Kings Heath another deleting Clause 39, which will ensure continued regular inspections of all state schools. We urge peers to support these amendments.

Schools should be at the centre of local communities and foster mutual understanding, not segregation or an agenda which militates against social cohesion. While bureaucracy is reduced, it is vital that schools should continue to be inspected to ensure that new powers are not abused.

Rabbi Dr Jonathan Romain

Chair of the Accord Coalition

Melian Mansfield

Chair of the Campaign for the Advancement of State Education

Trevor Fisher

Editor, Education Politics

Clyde Chitty

Professor, Goldsmiths College, Editor Forum

Sheila Dore

Chair, Socialist Educational Association

Dr Keith Lichman

Imogen Pennell

Chair of Governors

John Bolt

Bonuses for just doing the job

Donald J MacLeod (letters, 12 October) expresses amazement that in the present economic climate, and amid rising unemployment, Tube drivers have secured a pay deal worth £50,000 per year, plus a £1,800 bonus, for "doing their usual job".

Where have you been for the past few years, Mr MacLeod? Have you complained about the multimillion-pound pay explosion in the City and company boardrooms. And why do you not condemn the annual bonuses which many senior bankers and bosses regularly receive; rather more than the £1,800 bonus for Tube drivers, and often paid, it seems, regardless of their institutions' performance.

I can't work out whether those who are condemning the Tube drivers' pay deal are guilty of the politics of envy, the politics of snobbery or the politics of hypocrisy.

Pete Dorey

Bath, Somerset

In brief...

Letters to Mr Letwin

So our local MP thinks that no harm was done by dumping private correspondence in a public litter bin. He merely says it was "embarrassing". I've noticed in the past that it has not been possible to contact Oliver Letwin directly by email. Several times I would have liked to. Thank goodness I didn't write instead!

But let's not jump to false conclusions. Was he perhaps auditioning as George Smiley in the next John le Carré film and making apparent "dead letter drops"?

Mike Joslin


Say what you like about Oliver Letwin, he's a brave man. On the BBC's Question Time, a tedious question about football was asked. The other politicians on the panel pretended to love the beautiful game. Mr Letwin simply said that he had no interest whatever in football.

What happened? Nothing. The heavens did not fall. The audience did not attempt to lynch Mr Letwin. At the election he retained his seat and became a minister.

Chris Bolger


The end

So; a double-page spread on what "thousands of Christians" believe about the end of the world being nigh (15 October). Then you discover that these "thousands of Christians" are almost exclusively fanatical American fundamentalist evangelicals: a small but noisy minority in world terms. What mainstream Christians worldwide actually believe is, to paraphrase the words of Jesus: "You do not know the day or the hour." So concentrate on something more important.

John Williams

West Wittering, West Sussex

Obscure signs

Will the major overhaul of the road traffic signs include cutting back trees and bushes so we can actually see the signs?

Peter Wotton

Longwick, Buckinghamshire