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Spectator letters: Camila Batmanghelidjh defends Kids Company

Plus: the Guardian’s forbidden phrases; who will repair a driverless car; and the use of ‘it’

21 February 2015

9:00 AM

21 February 2015

9:00 AM

In defence of Kids Company

Sir: Your piece ‘The problem with Kids Company’ (14 February) bears an important message: charities need to be transparent and accountable. That’s why Kids Company was independently audited twice last year alone, and our financial structures and functioning put to the test. We also have auditors working alongside us, verifying our outputs and outcomes in relation to our government grant.

All such audits have been positive. Several pieces of independent research were carried out capturing our clinical work and our staff wellbeing — two of these found our staff satisfaction and productivity to be above 90 per cent. Some 600 staff, almost 10,000 volunteers and 500 clinical students worked at Kids Company last year.

It wouldn’t be surprising if in stressful circumstances working with troubled children and a lack of money there were a handful of disgruntled individuals with things to say to journalists. I can take all this on my fat chin, so charmingly depicted by your artist! However it is another matter as to whether Kids Company’s dedicated staff, volunteers, over 77,000 generous donors and the children we help deserve to be treated in such way.
Camila Batmanghelidjh
Kids Company, London SE5

Objectionable measures

Sir: Rod Liddle sets the bar formidably high in his amusing reading of the Guardian’s linguistic idiocies (14 February), but that’s no reason not to try to clear it. Years ago I used the phrase ‘gentlemen’s measures’ in a column for the paper — an archaic term, perhaps, but not an offensive one. Yet it was unacceptable to a section editor, who told me it was demeaning to women. It went in as ‘large drinks’! However, if you refer, as one of the paper’s many well-bred lady columnists did, to ‘little icky Christianity’, nobody seems offended at all.
Michael Henderson
London W13

Who Ed owes

Sir: Peter Oborne declares that ‘if Ed Miliband does become Prime Minister, he will have done so without owing anything to anybody’ (‘In praise of Ed Miliband’, 14 February). I disagree. He owes virtually everything to the trade union leaders who secured the Labour leadership for him, and that is profoundly dangerous for this country. He has done nothing to confront them with the cold reality that the UK has to live within its means. If he is elected, those same trade union leaders will expect a ‘Syriza/Podemos’ policy of economic delusion and fantasy. Surely a leader’s first responsibility is to warn and educate those around him of the true facts of life? Miliband fails that test abysmally.
John Jenkins

We don’t buy it

Sir: The Tories’ proposing a previously failed idea to extend the right to buy to housing associations and, more nonsensically, to give away homes to tenants who have been in work for a year is preposterous (Politics, 14 February). What about the housing associations that have collectively borrowed £60 billion to build homes — borrowing which depends on having an income to repay it? How would these homes be replaced? The idea is simply bonkers.

We have a housing crisis because we have not built nearly enough of the right homes in the right places for a generation. Housing associations are geared towards ending the housing crisis by building more, but the right to buy is a stumbling block. For housing associations that already have the preserved right to buy, the discounts of up to £102,500 make the government commitment to replace every home one for one a hollow joke.

Opposing the right to buy is not opposing aspiration. Over the last decade, housing associations have sold 82,000 shared ownership properties and continue to develop new homes to meet the aspirations of as many people as possible to have a decent, affordable home.
David Orr, chief executive of the National Housing Federation,
London WC1

Wellington’s wins

Sir: In his review of David Crane’s Went the Day Well? Witnessing Waterloo (7 February), Nigel Jones is unfair to Wellington. Unlike Napoleon, he never tried to conquer the world, nor did he see himself as a reincarnation of Alexander the Great. However, from Talavera to Toulouse, he sustained a five-year 100 per cent record against some of Napoleon’s finest marshals. A superb organiser and a defensive general by temperament, he understood the value of opportunistic offence, as in his brilliant improvisation at Salamanca which smashed Marmont’s army and enabled the liberation of Madrid. The march from northern Portugal to Vitoria and his decisive victory there was one of the finest campaigns of the entire war. Of course Blucher’s late presence at Waterloo was crucial, but Napoleon knew that he was taking on two armies, expected to win, and failed.
Peter Foster
Almaty, Kazakhstan

Some children and ‘it’

Sir: If a gender-neutral pronoun is needed (Rod Liddle, 7 February), why not follow the lead of E. Nesbit and use ‘it’ as she did, for instance when writing of a group of children: ‘Everyone got its legs kicked or its feet trodden on … but no-one seemed to mind’.
Sophie Kinsella
London SW1

Hands-off repairs

Sir: Alexander Chancellor applauds the imminent arrival of the driverless car (Long life, 14 February). But what happens when one of these wonders of the modern world breaks down in the centre lane of the motorway? Will the RAC send a driverless patrol car to shunt the hapless vehicle onto the hard shoulder where it will be expected to repair itself?
Nicholas Barrett
Hove, East Sussex

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