Sir David must stand down
Sir: Reading the reports of Sir David Nicholson’s evidence before the House of Commons Health Committee on 5 March 2013 (Leading article, 9 March), it seems to me inconceivable that he could remain in his post.
We are informed by the Prime Minister that in the current circumstances the NHS is unable to do without him. But nobody is indispensable and in any case, to judge by Sir David’s recent performance, he is incompetent, a hopeless leader, has a very poor memory and is more interested in saving his skin than in the wellbeing of NHS patients. While he remains in his post, the anger of the relatives of those people who died in appalling conditions at Stafford NHS Trust will only increase, along with that of others like myself; the morale of NHS staff will continue to deteriorate; and confidence in the NHS as a whole will erode further. This travesty must not be allowed to continue.
Sir: Occasionally the Speccie really hits the jackpot: ‘Jeremy Hunt could have responded to the Mid Staffs crisis, but instead both he and David Cameron have chosen to stand by Sir David Nicholson, chief executive at Doncaster Royal Infirmary’. Never in the field of human endeavour have three people made such fools of themselves.
Sir: With regard to Gerald Warner’s article (‘Grow up, girls’, 9 March), I was present at the final at Glasgow University Union on Saturday and saw two fantastic debaters from Edinburgh and Cambridge who debated superbly despite any heckling.
Heckling based on gender, race or sexuality has no place in any debate. Such heckling is an insult to the GUU’s proud debating history. It takes no skill to shout offence at someone else.
Mr Warner’s views bear no relation to the GUU in which I debate, where there are many skilled and confident female debaters who have regularly destroyed many of my arguments. As I am sure you know, debating brings many great benefits to students, and it is a shame that there are not more female debaters. Sadly, Mr Warner’s attitude will no doubt put off more of them.
Glasgow University Union Parliamentary Club Champion, 2010-11
Sir: You wouldn’t expect a God-believing, liturgy-loving Catholic priest to side with Matthew Parris (9 March), but he was a bundle of tolerant wisdom on the subject of Cardinal Keith O’Brien. Not only are we dealing with a fallible human being who is tempted in various ways, along with the rest of us, but we also need to practise the Gospel of mercy. He has fallen from high and has given up public office, but he now needs consideration as a Christian man.
What the details are of his misconduct are not yet clear and I am not interested in speculation, but he must have had an inner struggle for many years, trying to hold together opposing aspects of himself. Parris was very good at understanding all of this rather than going for him as an ‘enemy’.
Much of the former Cardinal’s language about gay marriage was joltingly intemperate and many of us felt uneasy with the tone even if we agreed with the principles. We need to speak kindly. However, Parris is bang on when he moans about the vapid niceness of much contemporary church-speak.
We need to hear honesty, clarity and conviction, rather than a lot of hand-wringing. There is also a long tradition of those on opposing sides having a grudging respect for each other’s dedication and purpose. Thus Richard and Saladin could confer, first world war aces would salute each other, and Kipling spoke of ‘When two strong men meet’. Amen to that.
Fr Kevin O’Donnell
Peacehaven, East Sussex
Sir: I have no problem with Matthew Parris’s view on the former cardinal, but his condemnation of church music does make me wonder whether he is deaf.
Sir: Martin Vander Weyer’s account of Royal Mail (Any other business, 23 February) is very much at odds with the positive transformation the company is undergoing. Royal Mail has the highest service specification of any major European country. In most categories, our delivery exceeds the required standard. There has been a very significant turnaround in our financial performance. Just a few years ago we were loss-making; now we are profitable.
Stamp price increases last year were necessary to sustain the one-price-goes-anywhere, six-days-a-week Universal Service in Britain. Ofcom, our regulator, publicly acknowledged the point. This year we’ve frozen stamp prices and in five of the six weight steps for First Class and Second Class mail, the cost of UK stamps is below the EU average.
Royal Mail, London EC4
War of words
Sir: I have just listened to the debate between Peter Hitchens and Damian Thompson on your ‘View from 22’ podcast (spectator.co.uk/podcast). Strong stuff! I have to say that it seems to me that these arguments about whether drug addiction is a sickness or not (Thompson says it isn’t), or whether there is no such thing as addiction and it is just another way of describing a weak will (Hitchens’s view of things) are about semantics. As Russell Brand writes in his article (9 March), some people can use drugs and alcohol without harming themselves or others much. Others cannot. In the end, sick or addicted or not, they can probably only help themselves.
Subscribe to The Spectator today for a quality of argument not found in any other publication. Get more Spectator for less – just £12 for 12 issues.