Winston Churchill, the NHS, hunting and others

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Churchill fully understood the horrors of Nazi dictatorship

Churchill fully understood the horrors of Nazi dictatorship

Sir: I strongly protest against Professor John Charmley's article "Churchill the villain" (29 January). Any article with such a banner is likely to summon fury and sadness in anyone with even mild patriotic leanings or a sense of history.

The Churchill Charmley paints is a fool whose racism and ambitions of empire were akin to Hitler's. Charmley even suggests that his greatest achievement, the resistance to Nazism, was fuelled by a dislike of Germans rather than any understanding of fascism.

Perhaps the professor would care to read page 96 of The Gathering Storm, where Churchill refers to the Night of the Long Knives as the actions of "a dictatorship based upon terror and reeking with blood" and says that he had been "deeply affected by the episode". Again, in a speech of 16 October 1938 he said, "A state of society where men cannot speak their minds, where children denounce their parents to the police, [such] a state of society cannot long endure if it is brought in continual contact with the healthy outside world".

Churchill knew exactly what fascism was. He understood it more than any of his contemporaries.

LEON HUGHES
Caerphilly

Sir: The recent attention of the media to Auschwitz in particular and the Holocaust in general has been deeply moving to those of us who survived.

Your article "The shadow of Auschwitz" (27 January) refers to the death camps in eastern Poland and states that they were dismantled at the end of 1943. This is not the case with Majdanek, which was the last death camp to be created by the Nazis and which, when taken by the Russians, remained intact.

Majdanek is in Lublin and has been preserved by the Polish authorities with great dignity. The wooden barracks are there, the gas chambers and the crematoria are there and even the stone slab for medical experiments is still there adjoining the commandant's quarters. The area of land upon which the camp was erected remained three-quarters unbuilt pending the expansion of the extermination programme. This can all be seen today very clearly in all its horror.

I survived the Holocaust and came to England in 1949 from Poland and share with all those who have escaped tyranny the privilege of living in a free and democratic society.

HANNAH LEWIS
London N6

NHS fails people with learning disabilities

Sir: People with learning disabilities and mental health problems figure among the poorest groups in society, die younger than other Britons and have to surmount greater hurdles to gain primary care services, sometimes as basic as registering with a GP ("NHS 'bias' against mentally ill linked to high death rate", 24 January)

Research finds that preventable mortality for people with learning disabilities is four times that of the population at large; that a diagnosis of schizophrenia shortens life by an average of 10 years, and that there is a less than 20 per cent take-up of cervical cancer screening among women with learning disabilities.

Evidence detailing the root causes of unequal health outcomes is indeed complex but when research shows that many deaths of disabled people are preventable, it is correct to inquire whether at a systems level we are failing to take the positive action needed to close this stark gap. The worrying disparities in health outcomes between people with learning disabilities and mental health problems and non-disabled people raise a serious point of concern that all healthcare practitioners and policy-makers should make an urgent priority. Without this the Government's commitment to reduce inequalities in health outcomes runs the real risk that socially excluded groups could be left out. The Disability Rights Commission's announcement of an 18-month investigation into primary healthcare services provided to disabled people is therefore as timely as it is welcome.

The Government's laudable ambitions to reduce health inequalities and create a momentum for individual responsibility must take into account the experiences of disabled people.

Professor CAROL M BLACK
President, Royal College of Physicians

NIALL DICKSON
Chief Executive, King's Fund

Dame GILL MORGAN
Chief Executive, NHS Confederation

MAYUR LAKHANI
Chairman, Royal College of General Practitioners

Dr BEVERLY MALONE
General Secretary, Royal College of Nursing

Baroness MURPHY OF ALDGATE
Chairman, North East London Strategic Health Authority

Baroness NEUBERGER

SHEILA HOLLINS
Professor of Psychiatry of Learning Disability, St George's Hospital Medical School

CHRIS PHILLIPSON
President, British Society of Gerontolology,

Dr MIKE SHOOTER
President, Royal College of Psychiatrists
London WCI

Sir: I am so glad that an inquiry is going to be done on NHS "bias" against people with learning disabilities. I do not think that on the most part the bias is purposely done, but is due to staff ignorance and lack of training.

I took my seven-year-old autistic daughter for a scan last week. When the pads were placed on to my daughter, she said it hurt. I explained that autistic people can have heightened senses such as pain, especially when anxious. The person doing the test said, "Yes but it isn't really hurting."

When my daughter was not co-operating, I said to the technician that they would have to speak more clearly so that my daughter would understand what was being said. The technician said that she thought that my daughter just did not want to do what we wanted her to do and pretty much implied that my daughter was being awkward. It ended up that she was being asked to do two things at one time, and I think she was struggling to do that.

People with learning disabilities are entitled to the same treatment as everybody else and because they cannot always say what they need, somebody needs to make sure that they are getting what they need.

SAMANTHA HARLEY-PESCE
Spalding, Linconshire

Traditions of the hunt

Sir: Meredith Stranges from Ontario wishes to visit a "Merrie Olde Englande" theme park to pursue the love of ripping wild animals apart (letter, 1 February). I live in rural Devon and the hunt sickens me. Meredith Stranges is right about one thing though, it is a class issue; the issue being that when other animal torments such as bear- baiting and dog-fighting were made illegal, the gentry didn't feel the need to rid themselves of their own favourite form of animal torture.

Are there any other parts of British history Meredith Stranges would like to resurrect? Perhaps sending children down mines or hanging witches? Maybe we could transport those found flouting the ban to the colonies where they can join Meredith and shout "Tally-ho" as they club seal pups to death in that fine old Canadian tradition?

NICK WARDMAN
Whimple, Devon

Sir: Meredith Stranges comes to Britain to hunt and bask in our historic splendour, reprimanding the British for failing to preserve our traditions, good or bad. I have no strong opinion of fox hunting and would consider myself a casual supporter of the right to hunt. I am however a strong opponent of patronising foreigners telling us to preserve our country in amber so that they can appreciate our quaint customs and depth of history.

Britain is a vibrant modern nation, and it is that modern Britain, alongside the ancient, that inspires my patriotism.

GERAINT HARRIES
Nottingham

Sir: Like your correspondent Meredith Stranges, I spent last Saturday enjoying the English countryside at its finest.

There were birds singing, kestrels hovering, snowdrops and the first few primroses showing. I, too, was warmly greeted by those on horseback and on foot. However, unlike your correspondent, I enjoyed all this without requiring the pursuit and death of any animal.

The idea that the ban on hunting will interfere with enjoyment of the countryside is nonsense.

JANE KAY
Bristol

Sir: Twaddle such as "the ban [on hunting] is a smack in the face to the people who built the country, fought and died for it" presumably recycles comments by huntsmen who arrogantly regard themselves and their imagined aristocratic forebears as the real British nation.

In reality, the freedom for which British people have "fought and died" includes the right of the 76 per cent who want a ban on hunting to achieve one by parliamentary democracy. The recent attempt by the self-appointed "Countryside Alliance" to overturn the 1949 Parliament Act, rejected by the High Court, would have resulted in the repeated votes of democratically elected MPs in the House of Commons being set aside at the behest of unelected landowning aristocrats and political appointees in the House of Lords. This is the 18th-century mindset of the hunting lobby, accurately represented by Meredith Stranges' letter.

CHRISTOPHER CLAYTON
Waverton, Cheshire

Balanced history

Sir: Yasmin Alibhai-Brown's "Better to ban history than teach supremacy" (Opinion, 31 January) depressingly demonstrates how impossible it is to have a balanced view.

It is perfectly understandable given her own family history, yet I have Indian friends who don't share her bitterness, and recently met a Sudanese dissident who harked back longingly to a time when his country was more fairly ruled - by the British rather than his own near-genocidal government.

Ms Alibhai Brown's claim that "it has become offensive to remind people of the atrocities and inequalities of the British Empire" is untrue. Over the past decade or two most writers have bent over backwards to do exactly that. Good history teaching should surely portray both sides, but will that ever happen?

JENNY BALFOUR PAUL
Crediton, Devon

Sir: In school, I learned that Owain Glyndwr, although failing in his attempt to regain Welsh independence, nevertheless saved us from absorption into a region of England. However, when I taught in England, I was told he was a rebel against the crown and a traitor. Had he been caught, he'd have been hanged, drawn and quartered but there are statues to him in Wales.

ADRIEN JONES
President, Owain Glyndwr Society
Llandeilo, Carmarthenshire

Urban jungle

Sir: I was interested to read Michael McCarthy's article on the urban fox (28 January), but must dispute Dr Baker's comment that foxes carrying off cats is simply an urban myth. Not so. A friend of mine from London intervened when she saw a fox cross her path with a cat in its mouth. Luckily, the fox dropped it.

On another occasion a further acquaintance, also from north London, found a group of foxes savaging her own cat, who was so badly injured that it had to be destroyed. I am sure foxes leave large and healthy cats alone, but can certainly kill sick, elderly or small cats. Foxes are beautiful, and enterprising, I deplore fox hunting, but am under no illusion as to what a fox is capable of, urban or country-bred.

LINDA JENNINGS
Bradford on Avon, Wiltshire.

Weak words

Sir: Colin Cooper (letter, 1 February) is correct in pointing out the misuse of the term "strong language" in the warnings before television programmes. It is not strong language: it is weak language, language that serves no purpose and carries no information (except lack of vocabulary on the part of the writer or character.)

Similarly with the warnings against "adult themes" before films and plays. What is meant is "puerile themes". If the play were dealing with adult themes it would be about filling in tax returns or attending PTA meetings. What might be the wording of a new caveat that would cover these situations, but would be more honest and informative?

DOUGAL DIXON
Wareham, Dorset

Feminine forms

Sir: Perhaps Malcolm Clark, who defends the use of the word "actress" (Letters, 31 January), could explain the difference between the basic functions of a waiter and those of a waitress?

HARVEY COLE
Winchester

Illegal drinking

Sir: John Murphy implies in his letter (31 January) that the public in France do not get drunk in bars as it is an offence to be drunk in public, and to serve someone who is drunk. The same laws do exist in England and Wales, but the public - and a surprising number of licensees - appear to be unaware or dismissive of the law. Maybe we should be displaying the relevant Acts in bars here.

ALARIC ROSE
Oxford

Royal distraction

Sir: Whatever it says on your passport you are a subject (letter, 28 January). You have no inalienable rights, just those the Government chooses to let you have from time to time. The present government's actions over the House of Lords and the Lord Chancellor have shown the value of our unwritten constitution. Now house arrest without appeal by ministerial fiat is being introduced. Let's have a sensible debate on the constitution which does not depend the behaviour, good or bad, of individual members of the Royal Family

JOHN HENDERSON
Beech, Hampshire

Forbidden fruit

Sir: Today, on my 20-minute drive to work in Southampton, I saw three drivers eating apples.

STEVE McDONNELL
Winchester

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