Passionate defenders of press freedom such as Claire Fox (Voices, 12 October) and Fraser Nelson on Radio 4 this past Friday seem to be unable to differentiate between the legitimate and necessarily tenacious investigative journalism that is required to hold those in high office to account in a democracy, and the prurient and intrusive coverage of the high-profile bereaved, such as the Dowlers, or the lazy vilification of unconventional murder suspects like Christopher Jeffries. It should be possible to have newspapers that understand the difference between these approaches, and that are appropriately discouraged from the latter by providing an adequate and affordable means of redress to members of the public, without compromising the essence of a free press.
By asserting that such a free press automatically encompasses all aspects of modern journalistic practice, both Fox and Nelson not only undermine the very freedom they seek to protect, but also fail to understand that the public’s desire to curb media excess has been brought about by the irresponsible actions of certain newspapers, allied to a clear demonstration that the press cannot be trusted to regulate itself.
What Leveson has proposed is the lightest-touch regulation possible while seeking to accommodate the concerns of the newspaper industry, to the point of offering a solution that is not even obligatory. It is a testament to the arrogance of many within this industry that they continue to reject the proposals, not because they are unworkable, but because they still do not accept that there is a need for tougher regulation. That may be the greatest indictment of all.
Ian Richards, Birmingham
Claire Fox would have us follow John Milton’s arguments in Areopagitica against censorship of the press. But five years later he joined Cromwell’s government – as a censor. If he did not believe his own arguments, why should we?
Peter Mott, Keighley, West Yorkshire
A model English sportsman
I am afraid that, by changing the emphasis from Jack Wilshere’s “being English”, to “feeling English”, Matt Butler (Sports Comment, 10 October) is in danger of compounding an error. He quotes Gareth Southgate, who I think has the best idea. Whether someone is born in England, qualifies by residence, or even by the place of birth of their grandparents, those representing their country should feel proud to do so. Evidence of that pride is the hard work and dedication that many of our athletes exhibit in reaching the pinnacle of their sports. Core values such as decency, fairness, tolerance of difference and pride in helping others are what really matter and the values that we should ask our sportsmen to represent.
Peter Rowberry, Saxmundham Suffolk
Let’s hear it for happy families
Every politician of every party is using that overworked adjective “hardworking”. We hear and read of “hardworking families” ad nauseam. My daughter and her husband are working themselves to death to bring up two children in a tiny, cramped terrace house. Their lives are infinitely harder than those of my parents, a housewife and a jobbing builder, bringing up three children in the 1930s.
I intend to vote for the first political party to adopt the adjectives “happy”, “loving” and “caring” into their sound-bites when referring to families. Such families are the foundation of a decent society – which I believe we no longer have.
Joan M Broadway, Oxford
Nothing wrong with seedy Soho
Joy Lo Dico makes the perfect point in “Hands off our seedy Soho” (11 October) that those living and working around the affected buildings do not want the physical and social changes being forced on them by police and property developers.
A well-regulated red-light area need not be a problem for anyone, provided sex workers have a safe environment. Soho is not an “imperfect” part of London; it is just different.
Dr Chris Burns-Cox, Wotton-under-Edge Gloucestershire
Written Spanish spells trouble
Julien Evans (“Why education is failing”, Letters, 10 October) urges reform of English spelling with the claim that non-phonetic spelling in the English language is a reason for the poor literacy of native English speakers, as evidenced by a recent OECD report that ranked adults in England and Northern Ireland at 14 in a list of 22 developed countries. This claim is somewhat undermined by the fact that Spain ranked 21 on the same list of 22 countries. Spanish is an almost entirely phonetic language.
Dr Andrew Crawley, Belize City, Belize
“Oat cuisine: half of us now start the day with porridge” ran a headline in your Food and Drink section on 11 October. When you read the article you find out that it could have read “Less than half of Britons ever eats porridge, and only a quarter eats it frequently”.
Barbara Phillips , Beeston, Nottinghamshire
Your article on the Kremlin (12 October) contains an interesting bit of Newspeak. I always understood that kings, queens, emperors and suchlike were “crowned” – now I find that Russian tsars were “coronated”. None of my dictionaries gives this, but perhaps they are a bit out of date.
D J Walker, Macclesfield, Cheshire
With reference to Keith Flett’s letter (11 October) about how the badgers are “warrening capitalism”. Surely it’s more a case of game, sett and match?
David R Pollard, Heckmondwike, Yorkshire