Letters

New Statesman (1996), December 10, 2001 | Go to article overview

Letters


letter of the week

NICK COHEN ("Who needs 12 when one will do?", 3 December) rightly criticises the Auld report's agenda of shifting the balance towards judges and away from juries -- which in England have a far better track record of recognising the essential nature of justice. Cohen could have gone on to mention that the introduction of these proposals has been eased by the quiet removal, by this government, of one particular traditional pillar of democratic sensitivity from English administration of justice.

For many centuries, the attorney general was an elected member of parliament, who, by dirtying his (it always was "his") hands at the hustings, had something of the democratic process in his bones; he often went on to become Lord Chancellor. Now almost all of Labour's legal luminaries are unelected peers. Last month, our very recently ennobled, and thereafter rapidly promoted, current attorney general, Peter Goldsmith QC, justified these new arrangements by saying that his deputy, Harriet Harman, the solicitor general, is still an MP. When she was legal officer of the National Council for Civil Liberties, Harman had strong views on the importance of trial by jury. She cannot be comfortable with Auld. Indeed, she could better ensure that these proposals are properly debated in the House of Commons by resigning and attacking them from the back bench -- in the interests of her Peckham constituents who are now even more likely to be the victims of future miscarriages of justice.

CHRIS PRICE

London SE21

On your bike

YOUR ASSERTION that "if Britain's health is worse than that of other European countries, it is mainly because we haven't paid enough for it" (Leader, 3 December) needs to be challenged. Are you seriously suggesting that the health of a nation is directly related to the amount spent on treating its illnesses? We can do much more to enhance our health and well-being without recourse to medicine. Getting out of our cars and on to our feet or bicycles -- for the 50 per cent of car journeys that are under two miles -- might be a place to start. That would begin to deal with traffic congestion outside school gates, accidents involving children, our lack of physical activity and, in the long run, the prescriptions we need. In Odense, Denmark, 60 per cent of children cycle to school; in the UK, the average is 2 per cent.

DAVID BROWNING

Rothbury, Northumberland

Journalistic liberties

I MUCH admired John Pilger's journalism about Vietnam, East Timor, the Aboriginal people and other minorities. But when he seeks to equate the west's leaders with Saddam Hussein (26 November), I would like to hear which journalists living in Iraq are allowed to criticise Saddam Hussein or equate him with George Bush.

BEN WHITAKER

London NW3

Turned off by TV news

IN HIS article on the TV news agenda, John Lloyd warns industry people against thinking that politics has moved to the streets ("It's cool to say you missed Panorama", 3 December). He has got it the wrong way round. If politics is on the streets, it is because the corporate media do not allow it to happen anywhere else. There are vast areas of opinion that, though occasionally made the object of reporting, are rarely permitted to enter the debate on equal terms.

As chair of INK, the trade association for the UK's alternative press, I get a reaction of scepticism bordering on disbelief from media professionals when they hear that our estimated combined readership is two million. The corporate system is so used to the news being brought, presented and often even written for it by monied interests that its taste for investigation is atrophying and it has lost touch with a significant proportion of the public. A pernicious centrist ideology dominates the mainstream media; adherents quote opinion poll results which apparently show that most people's views are the same as those of the inhabitants of the Westminster bubble. …

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