As an army officer, I'm offended by Michael Fallon's resignation comments

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Thursday 02 November 2017 17:20 GMT
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Michael Fallon has resigned as Defence Secretary amid the sexual harrassment scandal, admitting that in the past his actions fell ‘below the high standards’ of the armed forces
Michael Fallon has resigned as Defence Secretary amid the sexual harrassment scandal, admitting that in the past his actions fell ‘below the high standards’ of the armed forces (EPA)

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Louise Thomas

Louise Thomas

Editor

I am a serving late-entry army officer of 31 years total service.

I undergo compulsory drug testing regularly as part of being a uniformed member of the armed forces.

In the light of Sir Michael Fallon’s statement about not achieving the high standards of the armed forces, is it not time to start applying compulsory drug and alcohol testing to civil servants, defence contractors and politicians?

Name and address supplied

Why won’t Michael Fallon admit he’s done wrong?

While not surprising, it is disappointing that yet again someone in a position of power and influence seems unable to admit to ever doing anything wrong. Preferring instead to only admit to “falling below the expected standards of the armed forces”. A particularly unfortunate phrase given the recent example of those standards as revealed by the actions of captain and crew of HMS Vigilant.

It beggars belief that a further excuse for inappropriate behaviour was that “things were different a decade ago”. Not in the world us mere mortals inhabit it wasn’t.

It seems unlikely that this particular indiscretion has prompted the resignation of Michael Fallon, so maybe if any other reason comes to light he will be man enough to admit to actually doing wrong.

G Forward
Stirling

Sexual assault was never acceptable

I was interested to read Michael Fallon’s resignation statement in which he apparently claimed that “behaviour which was acceptable a decade ago no longer is”. I can reassure him that it wasn’t acceptable a decade ago either.

Kathryn Robertson
Buckinghamshire

Michael Fallon still doesn’t get it. Groping people was not acceptable 10 years ago. The difference is that such behaviour is now more likely to come to light.

Jack Liebeskind
Cheltenham

No, it was not acceptable 10 or 15 years ago to sexually harass people. You just got away with it more easily back then and thank goodness you can’t always now.

Irene Collins
Address supplied

Michael Fallon still doesn’t get it. He argues that actions deemed sexual assault were tolerable and acceptable in the past. They weren’t.

David Wallis
Cirencester

The Cabinet is unqualified

I note that, in keeping with all Tory MPs, Gavin Williamson has no qualifications to do his job as Defence Secretary. And they claim to set an example to the rest of us?

Dr R Kimble
Kirkstall

Abuses of power have been brushed under the carpet for too long

The aftershocks following the earthquake that was the Harvey Weinstein allegations have reached Westminster. For too long the culture of shame and secrecy involved in sexual abuse has permitted predatory people, usually male, to exploit the powerless, be they subordinates or those wishing to progress in their careers.

There seems to be a pattern to this practice in certain professions such as entertainment and politics whereby there is considerable competition to be successful and the price of failure is obscurity. This has allowed some unscrupulous seniors to indulge in behaviour towards juniors which would not be tolerated in other professions.

This has nothing to do with so-called morality where the behaviour of consenting adults, provided it doesn’t hurt others, is the business of those concerned, but everything to do with a form of bullying by the powerful of the powerless. Whether a few resignations will be effective in curbing this behaviour remains to be seen but one thing is sure; now that the genie is out of the bottle, victims will be less inhibited in complaining about unacceptable behaviour and those complained to will be less inclined to sweep it under the carpet.

Patrick Cleary
Honiton

It’s good to see anorexia get the coverage it deserves

Louis Theroux’s Talking to Anorexia is a truly excellent exploration of anorexia.

I have suffered from this affliction since I was 14 years old. In two weeks time I will be 64. Every single minute of these 50 years has been lived in the grip of this monster.

It has deprived me of a career, job opportunities, relationships, friends, in fact most things that one would hope to have in a “normal” lifetime.

It has been just me and “it”. It has been more powerful than anything else; from time to time morphing into bulimia.

A lifetime of excessive exercising, purging and solitude... hoping that one day it will just disappear, or perhaps I will just disappear.

It is a horrible place to live, resulting in osteoporosis, always feeling cold with Raynauds and waking every morning with another day to live through with all this food stuff going on.

I hope BBC will repeat this programme. It is the best examination of the subject that I have seen.

Pauline Dyrbusz
Address supplied

It’s obvious why the UK is less productive than other countries

There has been discussion recently about the chronic low productivity in the UK compared to Germany and some other countries. As someone, now retired, who has spent their career in small manufacturing companies in Britain and worked closely with others in Germany and the USA, I have some points to make about why this country has low productivity.

Many companies pay the lowest possible wages that they can get away with. This leads to rapid staff turnover. People leave as soon as they see a better deal. Every time someone leaves, management time is used up in seeking replacements, interviewing and – in those companies that bother to do it – training. The new person inevitably has lower output to begin with and by the time they are up to speed, they see better money and go.

Many companies, especially some of the large ones, think it is clever to pay invoices very late. This results in smaller companies, who may in fact be trading profitably, being constantly short of cash. In extreme cases they may have to factor their invoices to banks, which means that the bank takes their profit.

No director who is struggling to pay next month’s wages will consider investing in new technology. In Germany because of the skonto system (discount for prompt payment), most invoices are paid within five days. This results in most companies having cash in the bank; good for the companies but not so good for the banks.

There is a widespread attitude amongst UK directors and company boards to favour dividends over investment. In Germany and the US investment has a high priority.

Every time you phone somebody and hear that they will look into it and phone you back, you know that you will probably never hear from them again. This leads to time being wasted and duplication. In Germany most people do not promise things unless they have the resources to actually carry the task out.

Overtime is the drug of choice for most of UK industry. But it becomes habit forming and people cannot afford to live without the regular injection of overtime. That gives a direct financial incentive to make the work take longer. Also overtime hours have lower output and more mistakes because people are tired.

In the company that I ran, we banned overtime except for genuine emergencies and paid a flat salary and an end-of-year profit bonus to everyone – not just the management. People often worked late to get important jobs finished and the company was and still is very successful.

Most of these attitudes are deep-seated and will take a long time to change. Nevertheless there are things that a proactive government could do if it is willing to stand up to the many voices that want to preserve the status quo. I am not holding my breath.

Dr Michael J Holmes
Lewes

As a Catalonian, I know to leave Spain would be undemocratic

I have just read the article by Kim Sengupta, entitled “Here in Catalonia, people no longer feel like they live in a democracy”.

As a long-term, and integrated, resident of Catalonia, I agree completely – but it is not due entirely to the reasons given in the article.

Those who favour “independence at any cost” do indeed see the Spanish government’s imposition of Article 155 as a destruction of democracy, and the more extreme talk of “a return to the Franco years”.

But the reality is that the referendum, although theoretically a free vote, was equally undemocratic. It was illegal under the Spanish constitution (as the Spanish government has endlessly pointed out) and Catalonia was bound by that constitution, since 80 per cent had voted in favour of it in 1978. Not only that, but the independence referendum was not compliant with Catalonia’s constitution (the Estatut).

The Catalan constitution required a two-thirds majority to call the referendum and that was not achieved or, in reality, achievable – so the goalposts were moved.

During the very brief run-up to the referendum, the media ran with the battle cries of the more extreme separatists and, partly due to their unwillingness to break the law, the balancing view of those who were unwilling to take part in an illegal act, or who favoured Catalonia remaining within Spain, went largely unvoiced.

Current polls show that 78 per cent of Catalans would favour a legitimate and legal referendum, and I count myself in that number – but for that to happen, Spain would need to amend its constitution and that would be heavily resisted outside of the autonomous regions.

Whatever happens in Catalonia in the near future, the chances of finding a truly democratic solution are highly improbable and the chances of finding a solution that will heal the wounds that have been caused in Catalan society within less than a generation is simply an impossibility.

Democracy is not dead, but it does have a poor prognosis for a full recovery.

Duncan Amos
Catalonia, Spain

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