The decision by Messrs Miliband and Clegg to resolutely avoid any mention of Europe in their conference speeches is an indication of how few votes are to be won by speaking out in favour of it. By neglecting to do so, however, they ensure that the only voices heard on the issue of Europe are those anti-EU sentiments espoused by Ukip and the radical eurosceptic wing of the Conservative Party.
If Labour and the Liberal Democrats continue to prioritise electoral success at the expense of giving the EU the defence it badly needs, it creates a vicious circle of the increasing disdain of the public for the EU and the increasing reluctance of the politicians to defend it.
That the EU yesterday won the Nobel Peace Prize should serve as a helpful reminder to the citizens of Europe’s most awkward member that the EU has succeeded in bringing peace and prosperity to Europe over the past six decades. It is unfortunate that it seems that the only British politician to have anything to say about this is Nigel Farage.
The EU, collectively one of the world’s major manufacturers and traders in arms, has been given the Nobel Peace Prize. Has the world gone mad?
Nobel’s will stated that the Peace Prize should be awarded to “the person who has done the most or the best work for brotherhood between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses”.
The EU is not a person. Europe has done nothing to get rid of its standing armies. And when did the EU ever promote international peace conferences aimed at the total abolition of militarism, arms trading and the scourge of war?
Yet again the Nobel Peace Prize has been awarded to a totally unjustified recipient. We would do far better to celebrate the recent (shared) winning of the Right Livelihood Award by the Campaign Against the Arms Trade (report, 27, September). Now there is a set of people who qualify under the terms of Nobel’s will.
Buckland Newton, Dorset
The awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to the European Union has, of course, been met with some cynicism. But six decades ago when the European Coal and Steel Community, the precursor of the EU, was founded, the continent had been destroyed by the Second World War, with 50 million dead, a war that came only two decades after the ending of the First World War.
The EU ensures that states co-operate peacefully, instead of through bloodshed, and the creation of the single market and the free movement of goods, capital, services and people has made us richer than we would have been without it – difficult to remember though this may be as we endure the deepest recession in the EU’s history.
The EU is far from perfect, but it represents the most successful experiment in international co-operation in human history, a project that saw peace replace war; something it does no harm to be reminded of.
Could the decision to grant this years $1.2m Nobel Peace Prize to the EU be because it is in greatest need of the cash? The real question is whether the EU will spend its prize money on bailing out Greece or bailing out Spain.
Savile case shows difficulties Leveson faces
The Savile affair throws into stark relief the various interests that Lord Leveson needs to balance in his final recommendations – the public interest, what the public finds interesting, the self-interest of media organisations, and the interests of individuals in maintaining their rights to privacy.
Of course the media must be allowed to take risks in the public interest. What is needed is a regulator with teeth to whom the media can make the case that the public interest trumps all others in relation to a problematic story or investigation.
In the absence of enlightened regulation, the public will remain convinced that the self-interest of a powerful and largely unregulated media will continue its unhealthy influence on many aspects of our lives. And convinced that the media will continue to run for cover (sometimes inappropriately invoking the public interest) when its own behaviour is in the spotlight.
From witnesses’ and victims’ consistent accounts, Jimmy Savile appears to have been an out-of–control predator. That pattern means an abuser is far more likely to be spotted than a scheming one who plans and grooms at length or in secret. It defies belief that the present estimate of 25-30 victims over 40 years is accurate. Just one victim a week would mean 520 per decade.
It defies belief that where patients and nurses witnessed assaults and knew Savile’s reputation, hospital managers entrusted with the care of vulnerable people – especially at Broadmoor and Stoke Mandeville – would not also have known and heard. It defies belief that nobody raised a concern with them over decades, or that senior managers could not anyway have investigated their worries themselves.
It defies belief that NHS trusts bleat now about how shocked they are. How could they be shocked given the recent revelations, and the exceptional freedom to roam those hospitals which Savile had?
The BBC can at least appeal to “the pop culture of the time”. Hospitals have no such recourse. If allegations widen against places of sanctuary where physically and mentally vulnerable patients literally could not escape a predator, and if it emerges that financial considerations from fundraising overrode all protective ones, that will be a far bigger scandal than the BBC’s one.
University of Edinburgh
Adrian Marlowe in his letter (13 October) refers to Jimmy Savile’s “possible peccadilloes” – presumably a reference to allegations that he raped or sexually assaulted girls as young as 13 including a girl lying in a hospital bed having suffered brain damage. The definition of peccadillo is a “a petty sin or trifling fault”. Marlowe may be right to say we are overreacting to some degree in this matter – but surely wrong to suggest Savile’s alleged behaviour was just a peccadillo. Bob Morgan
Thatcham, West Berkshire
How academics are muzzled
It is not just defamation that is being used to bully academics (report, 12 October) but also confidentiality. A company threatened me and my university claiming material was confidential. My university – the Open University – caved in and agreed to prohibit publication. But my union – the National Union of Journalists – provided legal support and we successfully saw off the bullies. Which leads to the unusual result that some of my research on land grabs in Mozambique can be published anywhere in the world, including on a World Bank website – but not at the Open University.
Visiting senior research fellow, Open University, London WC1
Imprisoned for being crass?
Wandering around Manchester with a T-shirt saying “one less pig; perfect justice” and “Killacopforfun.com” four hours after two policewomen were shot dead is hardly likely to endear you to the locals, but since when did being crass become illegal? (Report, 12 October.) Perhaps the guilty party loathes the police, and thinks they’re a bunch of arrogant, lying, hypocritical racists. Should he not be allowed to express his opinion, however ill-informed, unreasonable and provocative it might be?
Instead of reacting like sheriffs in a Hunter Thompson story, wouldn’t it have been better – and more English – to ask the gentleman to take the T-shirt off before somebody punched him on the nose over it? Now he’ll have to spend four months in prison at considerable expense to the taxpayer for hooliganism. Oh, sorry, that’s Putin’s Russia. I meant a public order offence.
Monogamy tests all couples
When I read Dermot O’Callaghan, quoted in your 10 October edition, saying “gay men should not be allowed to wed as they can’t be monogamous” I felt I could hear the hollow laughter of thousands of married women (and men) echoing round the country.
As we live longer lives and enjoy potentially longer marriages, there cannot be a married couple in this country that hasn’t discussed the challenges and rewards of monogamy and found their own way to deal with this.
It’s time we stopped the desperate search to find ways in which gay and heterosexual people are somehow “different”.
Newcastle upon Tyne
Scotland’s scattered voters
While London has become a constituency in French elections, and voters all over Europe who work in the UK can vote in their own national elections, Scotland’s greatest export, its intelligentsia, is denied any influence in Salmond’s plebiscite. Surely all those whose birth certificates are held in Edinburgh rather than London should be eligible to register a vote for Scotland’s future? But maybe it’s not the intelligentsia Salmond wants to vote.
Port Appin, Argyll
It almost defies belief that in discussions about airport expansion it is pointed out – without a hint of irony – that fewer additional residents’ deaths would result from siting at the Thames Estuary than at Heathrow (“Heathrow third runway would ‘triple pollution deaths’”, 13 October). Collateral damage in the interest of commercial expansion is now as acceptable as that in all the wars we choose to fight for much the same reasons.
Peter Forster (Letters, 13 October) says that a woman takes a man’s name when she marries, “unless she digs in her heels”. My wife said that she intended to keep her name because she’d had it for a while and had become rather attached to it. I said that I didn’t care (and I don’t). No heels. No digging.