Letters: You really can make a bowl of porridge for 4p

These letters appear in the 10 December issue of The Independent

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While I deplore the arrogance implied in Baroness Jenkin’s comments about the cooking skills of the poor, Samuel Muston’s estimates about the expense of porridge (9 December) are not fair to the lady.

Traditional Scottish recipes for porridge use water, not milk. Anyone in a hurry to get out in the morning will do as I normally do and put the bowl of porridge oats (3p) and water (free) with a pinch of salt in the microwave for 2 minutes and 40 seconds (0.9p). If you like you could add a teaspoon of brown sugar (0.5p) and a splash of milk (0.3p). Total for sweetened porridge is 4.7p, which is not far off her estimate.

Rob Primhak



I find myself in the extraordinary position of agreeing with an ennobled Tory peer for the first time in my life, as Baroness Jenkin touches on a truth in an insensitive way (“Let them eat porridge!”, 9 December). Few people in this, a country plagued with cookery series, know how to make a simple broth from the chicken bones, or those of other beasts, left over from their meals.

In this respect, most of the population, not just the poor, have been failed by both their schools and their parents. The result is a triumph for a food industry peddling fat and sugar at the expense of the nation’s health.

Lady Jenkin articulated a valid and important point now lost in a mess of false indignation about causing offence in the way something was said.

Much better to have a practical television series showing how to cook cheap cuts and leftovers into wholesome meals instead of turning them into exquisitely arranged and temporarily fashionable tiny portions of food infused with flavours unobtainable and unaffordable to “the poor”.

Vaughan Thomas

Usk, Gwent


Baroness Jenkin makes a good point that deserves support, not sneering at in tabloid headlines. At least one food bank is providing cooking lessons as well as dishing out the ingredients. The invective would be better directed at the fast-food fat face of capitalism.

Chris Noël

Ledbury, Herefordshire


Baroness Jenkin (and George Osborne and IDS) ought to be aware that nobody can cook if they don’t have a cooker and money to pay for the power.

Eleanor Yates



I see from your front page picture of Baroness Jenkin’s kitchen that she has even more helpful tips for us unwashed. What a sensible idea to label one of the fridges “CATERER’S FRIDGE”. I can’t tell you how many caterers we’ve fallen out with for using the wrong one. 

What with porridge for 4p one day and correct fridge labelling the next, she surely deserves a weekly column in your paper.

Patrick Mill

Ryde, Isle of Wight


The kindness of Jeremy Thorpe

I am pleased to read that Jeremy Thorpe has been remembered in The Independent as a humanitarian (obituary, 5 December).

I am one of the members of the family he looked after for nine whole months after I arrived in the UK as a refugee at the age of 12. He welcomed me, my uncle Subhash Patel and my mother with open arms, when we arrived from Honiton Camp in Somerset. We arrived on a Friday evening at his cottage in Cobbaton, Devon, and by Monday morning he had organised for me to go to Park Lane Grammar School, Barnstaple, while my peers were still in camps just drawing or doing jigsaw puzzles. I am eternally grateful to him that within a month of arriving as a refugee I was able to settle down in a school and get on with a “normal” life in the UK.

He did the same for my uncle and my mum. He had organised jobs for them both at a company in Barnstaple, where my mum learnt how to sew collars on shirts manufactured for Marks & Spencers, while my uncle worked in the book-keeping department.

We spent nearly nine months with him at his cottage when we all got to know the caring, kind nature of Jeremy. He used to take us to Liberal Party dinners and we were part of the family when he invited Liberal Party colleagues to the cottage. I am proud that Jeremy attended my wedding as well, with Marion.

I am shocked that almost all the papers are tarnishing Jeremy’s life story with the Norman Scott story rather than reporting on the positive aspect of his character.

Rajna Dattani (née Patel)



Why the country needs HS2

Tom Jeffreys (“Mind the Gap”, 4 December) captures the inevitable pain for some when new infrastructure is built where they live. But let’s remember that it’s a feature of the British way that every effort is made to deal sympathetically with those affected.

As a spokesperson for Midlands industry, I have been persuaded that the reality of a railway line that will be full in a very few years means we must build another one. Countless inquiries into the business case for HS2 have confirmed the decision.

If we were in China or many other countries, the build would be quick. Much as I mourn the lack of pace (it’s growth the UK needs to escape our debt problems and HS2 is a significant enabler of this), two years are being added to the HS2 build timetable solely because of the requirement to conduct stringent environmental impact studies. I have also been impressed by the attention being paid to maximise the financial compensation paid to those most affected.

Unless the UK invests in new infrastructure such as HS2 many more of us will have no choice but to join Tom on the route-march he endured between London and Birmingham. The trains and roads will be full!

Jerry Blackett

Chief Executive, Birmingham Chamber of Commerce


Fallacy of the bobby on the beat

Your editorial on 5 December states that one of the faults of Britain’s police forces is their failure to embrace new technologies.

This is true, but one of the main reasons for this is the public’s deep-seated belief that what matters in policing is the number of uniformed officers on the street rather than the technology these officers have to support them. It is no wonder that, when spending on the police is falling, politicians at both national and local levels feel obliged to “protect the front line” at the expense of scientific and technological support.

As long as the public, encouraged by the media, believe that police “visibility” rather than “capability” is what matters, local forces will continue to spend their money on officers rather than systems and equipment.

It is only when police forces are judged by the safety of the communities they serve rather than the number of officers they put on the streets that technology will become every officer’s best friend (as you urge).

Gordon Wasserman (Lord Wasserman)

House of Lords


Immoral free IVF treatment

At a time of rumoured cuts to the NHS it might interest your readers to know that the government of Quebec, in similarly straitened circumstances, has tabled a bill to abolish free IVF treatment in the province. The cost of the service increased from C$16.4 million in 2010-11, when it was started, to C$80.8m in 2012-13. The premier of Quebec, formerly a distinguished neurosurgeon, is no mere politician with little knowledge of medical provision.

It seems a legitimate question why an overstretched NHS should continue to divert a substantial proportion of its operating budget away from the treatment of the genuinely sick to providing, for free, enhanced prospects of pregnancy. We believe this policy to be profoundly immoral, especially at a time of severe financial pressure. It is all very well to revere the NHS, but one should be careful about what it is one is genuflecting to.

Margaret Morrison

Professor of Philosophy

Colin Howson

Professor Emeritus

Toronto, Canada


A new standard for daftness

Have we just passed “Peak Farage” or even “Peak Ukip” (since Ukip is Farage and without him it would die in weeks)?

With his most recent utterances about the paucity of his MEP salary and expenses, breast-feeding mothers, and immigrants blocking the M4, then surely his total daftness must be apparent to all. His decline must set in soon as people realise what nonsense he represents.

Tim Brook


Do you know what I find really offensive about ostentatiously exposed breasts? Sitting on trains next to newspaper readers who make no attempt to cover up or conceal mammaries spilling off the page. Perhaps Nigel Farage should ask them to go and sit in the corner out of courtesy to the rest of us.

Hilary Cooper