Letters to the editor: What the Defence Secretary did was just stupid

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I am left bemused at the coverage relating to Dr Fox's behaviour viz a viz his friend Adam. There often appears to be, from the press (and the public), great concern about the potential venality of politicians.

I find that this is usually staggeringly disingenuous. Mostly politicians are well-meaning, if flawed, human beings, much like the rest of us. But what does take my breath away occasionally is the sheer stupidity exhibited by some in high places.

Fox's main fault in this trying episode would appear to be monumental recklessness and idiocy in not realising what trouble he was cooking up for himself by allowing the borders between the inclinations of friendship and the possibilities of access to high office to be so "blurred", as he put it. Is this naivete or simple hubris?

Angela Peyton, Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk

Liam Fox MP is reported as saying that "I accept that ... my frequent contacts with him may have given third parties the misleading impression that Mr Werrity was an official adviser rather than simply a friend".

Am I the only one to believe that the same third parties may also have gained that impression from Mr Werrity handing them a business card bearing the crowned portcullis (since 1967 supposedly used exclusively on House of Commons stationery) and calling himself as "an advisor to the Rt Hon Dr Fox MP"?

Michael Blake, Huddersfield, West Yorkshire

The Liam Fox affair is not an isolated incident but is redolent of the kind of clubby atmosphere, old school tie, friend of a friend, nepotism that infects our political and business circles.

Do people advance solely on merit or ability? In truth, the way to the top is eased by unpaid internships, networking and that old slogan, "It isn't what you know but who you know".

Richard Knights, Liverpool

After the article by Oliver Wright and Kim Sengupta, "Fox's 18 meetings with controversial advisor on trips" and the TV coverage, people could be left with the impression that Dr Liam Fox is a puppet, with Adam Werritty being a puppet-master, and defence business interests lurking in the background as the ultimate puppet-master.

Perhaps that is just a cynical perspective of how corrupted our view has become of politicians after the recent criminal behaviour of some.

David Wragg, Pevensey, East Sussex

It is almost unbelievable that our Defence Minister was foolish and naive enough to allow a defence consultant without security clearance to attend many important and sensitive defence meetings purely on the basis of trust of a friend.

To allow this to happen shows poor ministerial judgement and David Cameron needs to act quickly and decisively in sacking Dr Fox before more information from his friend's consultancy company comes to light and causes even more embarrassment to the Conservative/Liberal Coalition.

Dennis Grattan, Aberdeen

"I made a mistake," says Dr Fox, as though he had gone to Terminal 4 rather than Terminal 5 for his flight. Wasn't it a bit more than that? How about trying, "I acted wrongly". or "I thought I would get away with it"?

The only mistake that Dr Fox made was the ultimate one: he got caught.

Christopher Walker, London W14

One man's dream an Arab nightmare

Andrew Shaw (letters, 5 October) wonders why "the chattering classes" advocate a one-state solution in the Middle east. Like Mr Shaw, they (his chatterers) once favoured a genuine two-state solution. For that, one needs two viable states.

The prospect of two viable states is now zero, since the Quartet has manifestly no intention of requiring Israel to return to the 1949 Armistice Line, or anything remotely like it. Without that, a viable Palestinian state is dead in the water. The choice now seems to be perpetual subjugation of the Palestinian people to Israeli control, or equal rights for all within one state.

Mr Shaw pleads for "the dream [of two states] that must not be forgotten". It does not seem to have occurred to him that, for Palestinians, his dream has been a deepening nightmare since 1947.

David McDowall, Richmond, Surrey

In regard to the article "Israel agrees historic deal with Hamas to free Shalit" (12 October): Sgt Shalit is part of the Israeli army illegally occupying land that is not Israel's, and he was engaged in enforcing that occupation when he was captured.

The 1,000 promised Palestinian prisoners that are to be released represent less than 20 per cent of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails, most whom were captured exercising their rights under international law to self-defence and ending the illegal occupation of their land using "all necessary means at their disposal", including the right to armed resistance (UN Charter Article 51). Israel tried most of these prisoners in military courts that fall far short of recognised standards of international law, then illegally transferred most of them out of the territories it occupies.

The poor conditions and lack of family visiting-rights that these political prisoners endure in Israeli jails are the focus of the current hunger strikes and protests.

Michael Marten, Stirling

There are many who concern themselves with the doctrine of "disproportionate response" as it regards Israel in its responses to Arab and Muslim aggression. We now know what a proportionate response is because of the Shalit deal. One Israeli Jewish prisoner is worth 1,027 Arab Muslims. That is only for a prisoner; not for one Israeli Jewish death.

Chayim Phillips, Jerusalem

We must have local integrity

Many people will agree with Derek Myers, the chair of the Society of Local Authority Chief Executives and Senior Managers (letters, 6 October) when he urges the Government to continue with a national code of conduct and with standards committees for councillors and office-holders in local government.

He can speak with knowledge and authority. The Government is intending to give considerably increased powers to local authorities, thus increasing risk of corruption, not lessening it.

It is true that the present standards regime instituted by the Labour government is too bureaucratic, too complicated and too costly. Abolition of the system as presently envisaged by the Localism Bill is not the answer, but substantial reform is. Let us hope the Coalition Government gets this one right. Confidence in the integrity of politicians is vital in a democracy.

David Ashton, Shipbourne, Kent

Pay heavy tax on immigrant jobs

Large numbers of British graduates are unemployed ("The angry young million", 11 October). Yet Dominic Lawson ("More migrants please, especially the clever ones") calls for more immigration. If Britain is to expose its young people to world competition, they must be prepared not only through higher education but also through professional development.

Managers make short-term savings by importing skilled immigrants instead of training graduates. This actively discriminates against able British people. It also has large cost implications for the nation in relation to education, health and transport provision.

The Government should tax employers heavily to cover the costs of employing overseas workers. Presumably, managers would be prepared to pay for immigrants who are exceptionally able.

Frederic Stansfield, Canterbury, Kent

12-hour days kill family life

So the latest scheme by this incompetent, Tory-led government is to make the unemployed take jobs up to one and a half hours' travel each way, a total of three hours' travel a day, presumably by bus or rail.

The working hours would be 12 a day and travel costs would take a third of earnings. This will force many people to live totally dominated by the workplace and would have an awful effect on their family lives. Not surprising from this horrendous, self-important, millionaire-led government.

Tony Probert, Locking, North Somerset

In brief...

There's an art to coarse prompting

Many years ago, during an under-rehearsed Servant of Two Masters, by Carlo Goldoni at Bradford Playhouse, I watched one characters, stage left, forget his lines. The prompter, hidden in a "prompter's box", whispered the line from stage right. Many in the audience heard the prompt; unfortunately, the actor did not. After an interminable silence the prompter, rather more loudly, repeated the line. The befuddled actor paused, crossed to the box and shouted, "We heard what you said, dear, but who says it".

Helen Z Cronin, Castletownroche, Co Cork

Star answer

In your science article on the history of the telescope (5 October) you describe Edwin Hubble as an astrologist. He was an astronomer. Had he only been a mere astrologist he would never have discovered that the universe contains other galaxies, or that the universe is expanding, or indeed anything else of any scientific significance.

Richard Wood, London E14

Best of both

I've been at an all-boys school for the past five years, since I was 13, and improved in my social skills far more than at co-ed schools during the eight years before that. As long as a school keeps up relations with others through socials, plays, matches etc you're not lacking interaction with the other sex. A bit of distance can give you a better perspective (and keeps distraction to a minimum).

Henry St Leger-Davey, Winchester, Hampshire

High times

I was interested to see the contrast between the Lunchtime on a Skyscraper pictures in The Independent (11 October). There is also a picture in 1961 of workers taking a lunch break on the Co-operative's CIS tower in Manchester. Everyone should stop, wherever they are, for a spot of lunch.

Gareth Dempster, Tavistock, Devon

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