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Letters on the EU referendum, junior doctors’ strike, and TV nature programmes

Plus: Lord Olivier and homosexuality by his son, and more on the art of breaking wind

23 January 2016

9:00 AM

23 January 2016

9:00 AM

Bureaucratic tyranny

Sir: As James Forsyth points out (‘Scary Monsters’, 16 January), David Cameron and other ‘In’ campaign supporters wish voters to base their decision on the short term, as this enables them to highlight the uncertainty and fear factor. But this vote is about the long term, and in 20 years’ time one thing is certain: the ‘ever-closer union’, and all that it means, will exist. What I don’t understand, and what I hope every interviewer will force him to explain, is why David Cameron believes it will be better for Britain to be increasingly ruled by the bureaucratic tyranny that is the EU.
Robin Grist
Corton, Wiltshire

Doctors of madness

Sir: As a right-leaning junior doctor, I agree that the NHS needs reform (Leading article, 16 January). Most GP practices are in fact private businesses and there is no reason why hospitals could not also be independent ‘for profit’ or ‘not for profit’ organisations with government contracts.

But I strongly believe the strikes are necessary. Official statistics are often fudged. From a local survey, it was clear that most junior doctors work at least 10 per cent more hours than we are contracted to each week, which is not officially recorded. Most of us work more hours than is allowed by the European Working Time Directive. Then most of us go home to spend our ‘free time’ studying for postgraduate exams, preparing lessons for medical students and working on research projects. To suggest we should work even more antisocial hours for less pay than now is madness, and if this version of the new contract is enforced, it will lead to a brain drain from the NHS.
Dr Jake Matthews

Counties count

Sir: It might help Labour to win more votes in the West Country if possible future cabinet ministers (Tristram Hunt’s Diary, 16 January) realise that Crewkerne is in Somerset and not Dorset.
Julian Bunkall
Buckland Newton, Dorset

Natural instincts

Sir: What exactly does James Delingpole wish to see on TV nature programmes? (‘Nature is red in tooth and claw’, 16 January.) Springwatch has shown a male swallow ejecting chicks from its nest, barn owl chicks devouring the smallest, a badger swimming over to nesting avocets and eating all of the youngsters. True, it also has sentimental features, but the show is aimed at all age groups, from children to oldies, and if it simply showed the worst aspects of ‘survival of the fittest’, I and most others would not be able to stomach it.

I know many natural-ists including Chris Packham, and can assure you that all of us know how brutal nature can be. Chris feels strongly that we must protect all species, whether we like them or not. He has written that the humble bee is more important to the environment than the giant panda, yet we devote millions to protecting the latter.

Actually, TV is obsessed with predators, and if anything we see too much. But perhaps we could learn from this, because in many ways we are the same. We are envious, greedy, territorial, tribal, sexual, jealous. We kill for pleasure, with destructive weapons unavailable to animals. And we cage millions of animals so they endure a life not worth living before slaughter. But we are sentient, so we can know right from wrong and, if we wish, use our willpower to override our primeval instincts.
Ian Julian

Setting Larry straight

Sir: Julie Burchill’s piece (‘Brighton’s gone Brideshead’, 16 January) is unforgivable. She writes: ‘Even our most famous peer — Lord Olivier of Brighton — was a bisexual actor married to an insane nymphomaniac, hardly the stuff of Debrett’s.’ My father was not at all homosexual. I corrected this in my autobiography and Philip Ziegler agreed, writing in his excellent biography Olivier that there was no evidence whatsoever that Larry was homosexual. He lived a happy family life in Brighton with his third wife Joan, now Dame Joan, Plowright.

To dismiss Vivien Leigh, his second wife, as an insane nymphomaniac is also wrong. She suffered phases of manic depression. When herself, she was our greatest film star, a leading theatre actress ranging from comedy to great tragedy, and the most life-giving hostess and friend.
Tarquin Olivier
London W8

Cyborg, heal thyself

Sir: Clearly, those who are to be ousted by machines (‘I, robot. You, unemployed’, 16 January) should be training urgently in robot research, repair and maintenance. Or will that be undertaken by robots as well?
Dr Ian Olson

It’s an ill wind…

Sir: The immortal lines ‘Where ere thou be, Let the wind blow free’ are most unfairly attributed by Frank Debenham to the Scots alone (‘The art of belching’, Letters, 16 January). I inherited them from my Midlands father-in-law.

One of the early accomplishments of a new cathedral chorister in the mid-1950s was to learn the art of lower muscular control. When the whisper passed along the ancient stalls in mid-psalm that ‘someone’s let off’, all eyes turned to the most junior boys, since all their seniors would have been assumed long since to have mastered the art. It was helpful training which proved useful in later life.

But it is a very great comfort in retirement that after a lifetime’s sometimes painful control, and after a career dominated by the careful manipulation of the posterior in meetings with the great and the good, I can now relax.

I am grateful in old age to be surrounded by an understanding family, who stand by at not infrequent intervals to sing out: ‘Where ere thou be…’
Bill Proctor
Chislehurst, Kent

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