Support for stop and search
Sir: Mary Wakefield is rightly exasperated by fatuous comments over police use of stop and search (‘Stop posturing over stop and search’, 29 June).
Perhaps this year there will be 200 murders of children by other children. Swamping areas with police is obviously a visible response to the problem, but gangs know there is a reluctance to stop and search and this is part of the reason for their arrogant attitude. Stop and search is street policing in the raw. It often leads to arrest, and it can be a messy, frustrating, confrontational business, even when done with tact and patience.
As a Met PC for 31 years — Lewisham, then Islington — I went through hundreds of pockets. Nearly all the searches were resented: who wants to be frisked? There was a grudging acceptance that I had a reason to search, but no self-respecting youth is going to let plod ruin his Friday night without putting on a bit of a show. This street theatre can be intimidating to younger officers, and unless there is strong support from above many simply choose to ignore what is happening right in front of them for fear of making a mistake.
Robust, proactive street policing is now less popular with politicians and senior officers because of fears of sparking riots, and the results have rolled down to street level. It will take years to reverse this trend.
Sir: Melanie McDonagh is certainly correct to side with Cranmer over Pope Francis on the issue of rewriting the Lord’s Prayer (‘Lead astray’, 22 June), but she may be interested to know that the Anglican Communion was guilty of this offence well before the Catholic Church. In a wholesale rejection of Cranmer, the Anglican Church of Canada introduced the Book of Alternative Services in 1985 which included a version of the Lord’s Prayer that replaced ‘Lead us not into temptation’ with ‘Save us from the time of trial’.
Skills for success
Sir: Toby Young says that standards in state schools must be raised. He is right, but when devising a method of how this should be done we need to examine what public schools have — aside from additional funding — that state schools do not. There are two aspects of a private education that help to explain why 40 per cent of the top 5,000 jobs are occupied by public school alumni. First, there is a concerted effort in the independent sector to inculcate a presentation of self that exudes confidence and ambition. Importance is placed on encouraging pupils to formulate opinions and articulate them. In an interview, these traits often prove to be the shibboleth between state and privately educated candidates. Second, co-curricular activities are, in many public schools, given parity with academic work, providing opportunities to practise leadership, time management, discipline and teamwork.
But the advantage that public school alumni have, by possessing these aforementioned ‘soft skills’, needn’t exist. PSHCE is mandatory for state school pupils and could be used to develop the traits exhibited by their privately educated counterparts. The standard of sport at grammar schools is often of a higher quality than at neighbouring private schools, and if subsidies were provided, comprehensives could also compete.
State schools are improving in this country, but only by measure of academic attainment. Representation of former state school pupils in the most powerful occupations will continue to be inauspicious if the government fails to recognise that grades do not always determine success.
Sir: Laurie Graham is quite right that there is a lot of rubbish on the television (‘Outside the box’, 22 June). However, for elderly people who live alone it is often a real lifeline. I am a widow, and although I have many friends and am reasonably active during the day, the evenings can be long and lonely. Jeremy Vine, Bradley Walsh and David Attenborough are the friends who entertain me and bring companionship into my sitting room at night. I do know when it is time to turn off, but I go to bed feeling a lot less lonely.
Sir: Martin Vander Weyer wants financiers to learn from their own and others’ past mistakes (Any other business, 29 June). But there’s a real paucity of independently researched and well-documented records of past retail financial industry errors. When I became head of the Financial Ombudsman Service in 2000, the service was dealing with what we hoped was the tail end of complaints about pension mis-selling following the 1992 review. I asked the service’s experts which was the best book to read giving an overview of the pensions mis-selling affair; how it arose, who were the principal architects, why it had taken so long and so on. They said there wasn’t one. As far as I know there still isn’t. Is it surprising that regulators are again worried about consumers being misadvised to transfer out of defined benefit schemes into personal pensions? We’ve been here before.
Walter Merricks CBE
Sir: I couldn’t agree more with James Delingpole’s assertion about just how dangerous ‘smart’ motorways are (29 June). As a former writer on a vehicle recovery magazine, not one operator I spoke to said they thought these motorways were a good idea, adding that they endanger the lives both of vehicle occupants and of those sent out to recover vehicles.