Letters: Will the press be muzzled by fear?

These letters will appear in the print edition of The Independent on March 22, 2013

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Your headline “Hold the front page!” (19 March) was wonderfully eye-catching, but I hope it does not prove prophetic of a fear-ridden press in the wake of the stitched-up agreement following the Leveson inquiry. 

We know the responsible press can usually be relied upon to set standards of good governance, but there is a danger even for them of getting embroiled in very expensive penalties for investigative journalism. This is an industry that cannot afford large fines and compensation bills so shying away from delicate, but often vital, stories could tragically become the norm.

It’s all very well for the tabloids to be gung-ho in the face of politicians as it is largely their irresponsible behaviour that has brought this legislation into being. Now we all have to live with it, especially the readership who demand a free press that is worthy of the name.

Andrew K White

Lynton, North Derbyshire

In your leading article “Rights and wrongs of a Royal Charter” (21 March), you point out what you describe as “critical flaws” in the new press control regime and state that the new system is worthless if the majority of publications refuse to participate. These are both totally valid points.

It was therefore immensely disappointing to see that the The Independent was the first newspaper to meekly kowtow to the politicians over an attack on press freedom that has received adverse reaction from around the world, and which has caused dismay to journalists of numerous countries, fearing their governments, too, may now follow this dismal lead and seek to further muzzle their media.

Colin Colebrook


I admire The Independent’s balanced stand on this issue. The plain fact is that self-regulation does not work – whether it be press, police or banking. The press had their chance and (some sections) blew it big time. Add to this allegations of too-close links with the police, and something had to be done.

I do not like the idea of the whole industry paying for the sins of a few, but neither do I like paying extra for goods in shops to cover pilfering costs, or being searched when boarding a plane as though I am a bomb suspect, or any of the other prices we have to pay for living in a modern civilised world.

Steve Barnes

Orpington, Kent

enny off beer  is no cause for celebration

The cutting of beer duty and the scrapping of the beer-duty escalator is a step backwards by the Government and not in the best interest of thousands of Britons who have alcohol addictions.

We agree that there are many responsible drinkers in the UK but we do need to tackle our binge-drinking culture, and this latest announcement is just another disappointment following the disintegration of the plans for a minimum price for alcohol.

Yasmin Batliwala

Chair, Westminster Drug Project, London W1


The Chancellor must think that we are stupid. Unfortunately, it seems we absolutely are. Your headline reads: “A boon for beer drinkers as the penny finally drops.” So we all fell for it then?

I like a pint of beer or two. So if I consume 10 pints per week (my 21-unit limit) then I have saved a total of 10p. So across the year, I can save a massive £5.20. Enough for another 1.5 pints “for free”. But this will somehow rescue the brewing industry and we drinkers should all feel grateful for the Chancellors largesse?

This gets a headline among all the other disastrous economic news (not to mention a single Barclays banker trousering a £17.6m shares bonus on the same day). Spin over substance triumphs again.

I think I need a stiff drink.

Alex Taylor

London W5

When I was a young blade, sadly a long time ago, various Chancellors would stick a penny or two on a pint or a packet of fags. This was pretty much what they did, as far as we plebs went. It did mean quite a lot to us and for that alone we judged them and the state of the economy.

Did the George Osborne think that a penny would be at all relevant today; even if it is 2.4 times what it was? A pint now can cost £2 to £4 so a penny ain’t going to buy us any more. Think on George.

Ron Parker


The scrapping of the beer-duty escalator in the Budget hardly compensates for many of its other measures but carries an important lesson. It will save jobs and pubs, often the hub of community life, but as important is how it was achieved.

Campaigning and organising by the Campaign for Real Ale, including petitioning, a demonstration at Parliament, rallies and lobbying of MPs, put the matter on the agenda of the Chancellor and made him act. If it works for beer, it may work for other things too.

Keith Flett

London N17


Roots of Islam’s iconoclasts

Yasmin Alibhai-Brown (“A distasteful deference to Wahhabi tyrants”, 18 March) draws attention to the shockingly incomprehensible officially sanctioned iconoclasm of Islamic world heritage treasures in Mecca and Medina; which has also been happening as far afield as Timbuktu.

There is a tribal dimension in this. In Saudi Arabia there are two dominant clans. In addition to the Royal family of Saud, there is the Al ash-Sheikh dynasty, descended genealogically and doctrinally from the 18th-century exegete Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab, who control religion. The present Grand Mufti is an Al ash-Sheikh, known for his iconoclastic threats, particularly against Christian monuments.

Wahhab was a member of the great Banu Tamim tribe, which can boast descent from scholars, poets, and at least one companion of the Prophet. Wahhab himself was a disciple of Ahmad ibn-Hanbal, who lived during the 9th-century golden age of the Abbasid Caliphate in Baghdad; to which the West, sunk at that time in superstitious ignorance, owes a great debt.

However ibn-Hanbal himself was an apocalyptic fanatic. The Caliph had the imam flogged. It may be that it was the Caliph rather than ibn-Hanbal who eventually relented on this punishment for stupidity; but that leniency gained ibn-Hanbal followers. As the cult grew over the centuries, a great blackout fell on the Arab enlightenment.

The aim now seems to be to destroy all traces of a history which contradicts the precepts of ibn-Hanbal and his followers. It needs to be pointed out that this is unattainable. The Hanbali obscurantists would have to destroy all our libraries and museums as well as their own. We have not sold them enough weapons to do that. Not yet.

David Hamilton



Cameron dare not take on the banks

Barclays’ boss is making David Cameron look weak and ineffectual by awarding himself and a his cronies millions of pounds in bonuses. He couldn’t even spend the interest and is doing no good at all for us. They won’t loan to businesses and they won’t create jobs to help us out of a hole that was of the banking world’s making.

Cameron looks to be running scared of the banks because he won’t stand up to them.

Victor T S  Gower

Salisbury, Wiltshire


Saved, by a comma

While I appreciate the current concerns regarding the possible dismissal of the apostrophe, is it really as important as the comma, which has actually saved lives? Viz: “Let’s eat Grandma”; “Let’s eat, Grandma”.

Simon Nicol

Chipping Norton, Oxfordshire


The importance of the apostrophe is well illustrated by its unfortunate abandonment from the signboards of the Young’s (with an apostrophe) pub in London’s Bishopsgate formerly known as Dirty Dick’s.

Richard Hanson-James

Caversham, Berkshire

Dozens of  reasons

Gavin Vinson (letter, 21 March) queries the need to know the 12 times table as pre-decimal coinage is no longer used. It’s simple: dozens of items are packaged in 12s.

Chris Harding

Parkstone, Dorset


Gavin Vinson asserts that the 12 times table is “useless” in this modern age: but Michael Gove knows that, for him, it is helpful in order to calculate the total number of bottles of champagne in eight cases of a dozen each. Bottoms up!!

Kevin Donnelly

St Ives, Cambridgeshire


Tax support  for childcare

The proposed tax support for working mothers is an insult to those mothers, like my wife, who sacrificed work and the associated income to stay at home to care for our children to give them security and strengthen the family unit.

Why should single-earner families such as ours contribute to families who have two incomes so they can pay someone else to look after their children? This is another reason for traditional Tory voters not to trust David Cameron any more. 

J Longstaff

Woodford Green, Essex


Pagan Easter

The meaning of Easter has been discussed recently, but I didn’t notice any mention of Easter, the mother goddess who, having been impregnated by the serpent representing evil, laid an egg: the Easter egg, which hatched out to produce the Earth, the product of good and evil.

Hope we all enjoy our chocolate. 

Vivienne Cox

London W4


Ian Kirkman writes (letters, 19 March) that if he takes £1,000 from under his mattress and deposits it in his bank account, the money still belongs to him. This is a very common belief, but it is entirely untrue. When money is deposited in a bank account, it becomes the property of the bank, absolutely.

High street banks are private commercial concerns that are in business to make a profit by using depositors’ money. In fact, if his bank didn’t put Mr Kirkman’s money to use, it would be unable to provide the banking services that he probably expects, such as access to an ATM and regular bank statements. In return for his money, the bank issues Mr Kirkman with an IOU for £1,000 in the form of a bank statement.

While banks are profitable the difference between the two is academic. The IOUs can be exchanged for cash if and when customers wish to do so. But whenever banks get into trouble, the difference becomes very clear. People in the queues at Northern Rock branches in 2008 understood the difference very well indeed; as do Cypriots this week.

David Williams