Letters: Why 'having it all' is a myth

Myth of 'having it all' flies in the face of instinct
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The Independent Online

Contrary to Arabella Weir ("Have it all? If only men would let us", 17 November), I welcomed Jill Berry's truthful comment that women can't "have it all", and would add, "not at the same time, anyway".

If you spend more of your waking hours at work than with your children then your relationship with them will be adversely affected, simply because you cannot be building a relationship with them if you are not there. That should not be a controversial statement; it is just obvious. I take Arabella's point that parenting is a father's responsibility too, and he certainly has an important role to play; but breastfeeding can only be done by Mum, and I know feminists will hate this, but, at least in the formative years, the care is best done most of the time by the mother. To argue differently is to argue with hormones and natural instincts.

Of course, the women with a voice, the journalists, the celebrities, the politicians' wives, are all working women and unlikely to agree with Ms Berry, though hopefully the "having it all" myth will soon be trashed.

Angela Elliott

Welton le Marsh, Lincolnshire

Arabella Weir demands that men should share more of the responsibility for bringing up children. I have been teaching careers, PSHE and general studies in schools for over 20 years, and every discussion I have ever chaired on topics such as the glass ceiling has ended with the same conclusion: the girls want to bring up their children themselves, and do not want their husbands to take this role. This is virtually unanimous and non-negotiable, and the only area for dispute is the number of years that they want to spend with their children before resuming their careers.

I can't help feeling that one of the reasons for this striking unanimity is that they are influenced by the comments about men that they hear daily from their mothers. Society has a long way to go, plainly, before we reach an "equal" division of labour, but people like Arabella should stop cudgelling men when members of her own gender are certainly part of the problem.

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End the politicking over the climate

So, now we know: President Obama cannot weave his magic and guarantee support at home. This means that China and India will procrastinate and any chance of a timely treaty on carbon emissions will be lost ("The President's lonely dilemma", 16 November).

The challenge of Copenhagen is to confound the sceptics, but talks so far have failed and there is a growing consensus that a legally binding and meaningful deal in Copenhagen is now impossible. Meantime, governments around the world continue with their disastrous contortions as they try to square consumer-driven growth with the need to follow the science and cut emissions.

The time for politicking is over. The time for change is now. Craven politicians must set aside diplomatic niceties and national interest. Without a binding agreement of substance, citizens around the world will have every right to wonder how a planet of 9 billion people in 2050 will have enough water to drink and enough food to eat.

Nick Reeves

Executive Director, Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management

London WC1

I sympathise with the remarks of Sonja Karl on electric cars (letter, 16 November) but there are glimpses of what is possible with BYD's E6 vehicle, made in China and due in Europe next year. This five-seater is said to have a range of 200 miles and take a fast charge in 10 minutes for about 80 miles.

But until there is a concerted effort by governments to provide the infrastructure and legislative framework to encourage use of such vehicles, it is going to be an uphill struggle to get public acceptance. But eventually it will have to happen.

Roger Hobson

Woodbridge, Suffolk

Another apology for the past

The Prime Minster's plan to "make amends" for the actions of previous British governments ("After 50 years, the 'lost innocents' shipped from home win apology", 14 November) raises the question, where will the apology end?

When is he going to apologise for the invasion of the Suez Canal, colonisation in Africa and elsewhere, support for the apartheid regime in South Africa, the invasion and occupation of Iraq, the current war in Afghanistan and for our policy and role in the partition of Palestine in 1948?

I am a survivor of Idi Amin's coup, which was supported by the Conservative government of Edward Heath. I am also the survivor of General Museveni's regime, which Labour has supported since 1997. Do I and other Ugandans, as well as the Congolese whose country was invaded and pillaged by Uganda, deserve an apology too?

Why can't the Prime Minister leave the past to students of history and occupy himself with solving the present British foreign-policy contradictions, such as our repeated failure to push for a two-state solution in the Middle East. Instead of making meaningless apologies for the past, the Prime Minister should sponsor a resolution in the UN Security Council supporting a unilateral declaration of independence for a Palestinian state .

We are the only country which is a member of several influential regional and international organisations including the UN Security Council, EU, Nato, the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe and the Commonwealth. We are a major shareholder in both the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund . All these are powerful levers which the UK could use to deliver an independent Palestinian state.

Sam Akaki

Independent democratic Institutions for Poverty Reduction in Uganda

London W3

Gordon Brown favours "apologising" for acts with which he was not associated. Before he gets round to apologising for the inadequate government response to the Black Death, perhaps he should turn his attention to the invasion of Iraq, where he does share responsibility.

Guy Cheeseman

London SE3

Why does it fall to a government minister to apologise on behalf of the nation for past wrongs. Such ceremonial is surely the prerogative and responsibility of the Head of State in whose name all governments act.

John Toland


Afghanistan: do we stay or go?

The only sensible course for Gordon Brown is to declare an end to the futile British involvement in Afghanistan. The situation is clearly hopeless, public opinion is hugely in favour of such an act, and the cost in lives and resources is intolerable. Tragically, many have already died, but their deaths cannot be used as an argument for sustaining further futile losses.

The Prime Minister has long supported British action in both Iraq and Afghanistan, but it would widely be seen as a brave act of principle, not weakness, if he were now to say that enough is enough. I believe such an action would enjoy massive support. It would also leave David Cameron with the difficult choice of following suit, and appearing opportunistic, or continuing to support the war against the wishes of the majority.

Anthony G Bridgewater

West Wittering, West Sussex

Do those who cannot understand why our troops are fighting in Afghanistan imagine that if we leave al-Qa'ida will simply melt away, return to their homes and make ships in glass bottles?

Our boys are there because that is the front line with al-Qa'ida, who would rejoice to see the infidel depart. Then the terrorist training grounds would begin again. That is why our boys are there. Be proud of them. Support them.

Henry Page

Newhaven, East Sussex

Bruce Anderson makes a reasonable, if unconvincing, case for remaining with the "mission"in Afghanistan (16 November) but his statement that "It is a part of a wider civilising mission" belongs firmly in the 19th century, in an age of imperialism, racism, colonialism and social-Darwinism.

Wade Mansell

Professor of International Law, Kent Law School, Canterbury

Company money for universities

Johann Hari's article "Peter Mandelson's assault on science" (17 November) caricatures my policy and is inaccurate on several counts. He fails to point out that the Government is investing record amounts into research, with funding topping £6bn in 2010/11, more than doubling over the past 12 years. It is also wrong to claim that drug companies are the largest funders of university research. In 2007/8 public funding of university research outspent industry funding by four times to one.

Johann Hari suggests that a greater focus on the economic relevance of our science base can only benefit corporate interests. This is clearly wrong. It is right that the research base engages with the people who seek to apply their work across the wider economy – it is productive for both sides. This could mean a green technology entrepreneur working with their local university to develop concepts, or aircraft manufacturers working with universities to develop new materials and designs which will reduce fuel consumption.

But to insist on this does not in any way detract from our insistence on the importance of fundamental, curiosity-driven research. It is the combination the two that promotes long-term economic growth and the wider social benefits this brings.

This investment in science and research is key to our future economic success. It provides the highly skilled people and innovative ideas which will be central to our future growth as a nation. British science is rated among the best in the world. Our productivity in research is the highest in the G8. Our continued investment will ensure it stays that way.

Lord Mandelson

Department for Business, Innovation and Skills

London SW1

Essays marked by computer

Further to your report on a computerised marking system for English literature papers (12 November), I eagerly wait for the day a programmer devises some software that creates essays that always get an A with this computerised marking system.

Kartar Uppal

West Bromwich, West Midlands

You report that Churchill's war speeches would fail the GCSE. So much for "dumbing down" - or did that start earlier than previously thought?

Chris Barton



Finding space

Christopher Maume (Tales of the City, 17 November) should get out more. Cities, particularly London, have always been crowded. Perhaps parts of the South-east have too many people. But it's not only northern vastnesses that are sparsely populated. I was in Wiltshire and Hampshire at the weekend, and there was hardly anybody there.

Martin Smith


No easy death

Gillian Brown paints a grim picture of the pain and cost of death from liver failure (letter, 17 November). But I would like to know two things. First, what is the probability that someone who drinks a bottle of wine a day will die of liver failure? Second, what measures can be recommended to me so that I can be confident of dying both pleasantly and economically?

James Pearson

Saltdean, East Sussex

Neglected county

We in Norfolk have had enough of being stereotyped as "turnip Taliban" by the Conservative Party. Your reporter has added insult to injury by locating Swaffham near Bury St Edmunds ("Cameron candidate avoids deselection", 17 November). Swaffham in Norfolk is 30 miles from Bury St Edmunds, which is in Suffolk. Norwich and Kings Lynn are nearer; at least they are in the same county.

Roger Davy


What's in a name?

Your correspondents have commented on misspelt names. I was not surprised when some years ago on the way to the Tube after an evening class with a group of mature students training for the non-stipendiary ministry, one asked me if I would mind them calling me Diane. However his response when I replied: "Of course not, but my name is Denise," did surprise me. He exclaimed: "Oh no, we've been offering up prayers every week for Diane at our weekend eucharist."

Denise Newton (aka Diane and/or Dennis Newman)


Lunar surprise

The discovery of water on the Moon was of great interest ("Nasa discovers 'buckets' of water on the moon", 14 November). The discovery of buckets there even more so.

The Rev Peter Mott

Keighley, West Yorkshire