Monday, 23 October 2017

Your letters...

Historic act of self-harm

Sir, — I was bemused by Tim Beechey-Newman’s letter headlined “Clever PM, silly EU” (Standard, April 21).

The fact that Theresa May has called a general election will not trouble the EU leaders in any respect.

They know they have the whip hand and whether Mrs May has a majority of 10 or 100 will not make one iota of difference to their negotiating strategy.

The sad truth is the fate of the negotiations is totally in the hands of the EU and the outcome will ultimately be determined by what charity they may wish to show the UK.

Whether we like it or not, it is the EU which will determine the timescales, the agenda and the outcomes.

The reason Mrs May has been unwilling to discuss her negotiating strategy is quite simply because she doesn’t have one.

In her Article 50 letter to the EU, the poverty of her position was demonstrated by the fact that the only bargaining chip she could point to was linking the UK withdrawing security co-operation to not getting a deal but even this was ditched within 24 hours.

No, this election is solely about Mrs May managing domestically and specifically giving her lots of elbow room to disappoint.

Her crass “Brexit means Brexit” quote can now be decoded as “we will take the least worse deal” as the idea of “no deal” is simply suicidal bluff.

Mrs May needs a bigger parliamentary majority for two reasons. The first is to manage her UK opponents but, thanks to the ineffectual Jeremy Corbyn, it is not Her Majesty’s Opposition she fears. No, it’s about her ability to manage the opposition from within her own party.

The Conservatives are still at war in terms of their position on the EU and she is going to have to manage a spectrum of opinion that stretches from John Redwood at one extreme to Ken Clarke at the other.

Inevitably and for very different reasons, they are all going to be disappointed with the deal.

The second reason for this election is the economy. Yes, the economy has been growing but at much lower rate than forecast and this has been on the back of historically low interest rates and consumers getting deeper and deeper into debt. This is unsustainable.

Faced with the economic reaction to the referendum result, the first thing the new Chancellor did was delay producing a balanced budget until 2022 due to falling growth.

Even by the Chancellor’s own figures, we will be £100billion more in debt in 2020 than was predicted last year.

Thanks to the dramatic decline in sterling to a 30-year low, we now also have the re-emergence of price inflation, which is likely to be double that of the EU by the year’s end.

Moreover, the Office for Budget Responsibility is forecasting income growth for the next five years to be half that predicted in March 2016.

In short, average incomes will be the same in 2021 as in 2008 and all of this even before we know the terms of Brexit, which can only make matters worse.

What we could all do with is a lot less “strong and stable government” theatrics from the Conservatives and a tad more honesty about the size of challenges facing the UK as we undertake this historic act of self-harm by leaving the EU. — Yours faithfully,

Mr J Cassidy

Thames Side, Henley

Heartfelt sentiment

Sir, — In response to John Howell’s comments regarding my letter (Standard, April 28), I see that there is still no apology forthcoming for the remarks made about the Gainsborough estate.

This is rather unsurprising as Mr Howell clearly sees no wrong in insulting a lovely area of town and, by default, its residents too.

I am vice-chairwoman of the Gainsborough Residents’ Association and was prompted to write originally by residents who told me they felt Mr Howell canvassing on the estate that he had so harshly slated was extremely cheeky and felt like a “slap in the face”.

At least a dozen residents approached me on different occasions and I felt I would try to appeal to Mr Howell’s better nature for an apology as people who live here are still deeply insulted by the remarks he made.

Residents of Gainsborough are extremely proud of the area and lots of work goes into the lovely community here.

Whether there is an election today, tomorrow or next year is irrelevant. It would put Mr Howell in good stead for the future to remember that remarks such as the ones he made are not easily forgotten and do stick in the mind of the voting public.

If I were him, I would be less concerned about the “standard of letter” appearing in the local paper and more concerned about the sentiment behind it. — Yours faithfully,

Paula Isaac

Gainsborough Road, Henley

Old hospital just as good

Sir, — At last, the solution to the conundrum that has been exercising me and my friends for months, namely a brand new hospital in Henley without any beds!

Now we can breathe again as our MP has enlightened us ignorant proles (Standard, April 28).

I quote, “...that the hospitalisation, particularly of elderly patients, was dangerous for their health. What we have now is a fantastic model hospital of which we should all be proud.”

Well, that’s that then, we’ve got a large glass box to house highly efficient services that had previously existed in a group of unobtrusive terrapin structures.

Do images of pale pachyderms come to mind? — Yours faithfully,

Kaye Mcarthur

Ancastle Green, Henley

I feel sorry for pupils

Sir, — The closure of Chiltern Edge School in September 2018?

So if this year’s leavers are not replaced and some parents pull their kids off the Titanic before then we will have about 400 pupils sitting on death row for 18 months. Really conducive to a learning atmosphere!

I hardly think this has come as a surprise to Oxfordshire County Council and yet it can’t make a decision before the start of the summer holidays?

From today the council will have had more than five months to relocate pupils to a fresh start in a better school before the next school year starts in September.

This faffing around with consultations (i.e. passing the buck) is utter madness and brings our education system into total disrepute and is an act of managerial cowardice to boot!

Nobody saw this coming and had a Plan B sat on a dusty shelf somewhere? Everyone else down here, away from the expensive ivory towers in Oxford, has seen this coming for years. They need to make a decision now to fix it or ditch it and if they can’t they should fall on their swords or be sacked for negligence.

That alone would add a few million to the school libraries kitty so the pupils can learn to read and enjoy books and the wondrous English language.

Poor kids. Cannon fodder to the holy grail of bean counters. — Yours faithfully,

Dirk Jones

Kennylands Road, Sonning Common

Old butcher’s tall tales

Sir, — We are lifelong friends of retired Hambleden butcher Arthur Wheeler and also know a tale he used to tell about chicken (Standard, April 21). It was late on a Saturday afternoon and a lady came rushing into the shop wanting a chicken for Sunday lunch.

Arthur duly went out to his cold store for the chicken where he had only one left. On bringing it to the lady, she said it was not quite big enough.

Arthur, knowing he only had the one but not wanting to miss out on a sale, took it back to the cold store, plumped it up a bit and brought it back out to the lady.

“Oh, Arthur,” she said, “that will do nicely, but I think I will take them both.”

The end of the tale no one knows but, knowing Arthur as we do, it was a tall tale to tell! — Yours faithfully,

Peter and Rebecca Barker

Cranbrook Drive, Maidenhead

Sir Winston’s Henley link

Sir, — I recently discovered that Winston Churchill was involved in Henley in a way that I had not expected.

He joined the Queen’s Own Oxfordshire Hussars in 1902 and on May 25, 1905 he became major of the Henley squadron. A squadron of light cavalry is composed of about 150 men and four squadrons make up a regiment.

The Henley squadron was based at the White House in Henley market square.

The Churchill family had a long association with the regiment dating back to 1818.

Indeed, such was the regard that Winston had for the regiment that they occupied a special place of honour at his state funeral in 1965.

Wikipedia has details of this association (https://en.
wikipedia.org/wiki/Queen%
27s_Own_Oxfordshire_
Hussars) and it is a most interesting read.

The story regarding the Hussars’ role at his funeral is not only interesting but also amusing.

I should say that I mentioned this subject to Mayor of Henley Julian Brookes and he suggested that I make this information known more generally via your newspaper.

It would be interesting to know if any readers have other stories regarding Winston Churchill and any associations he may have had with Henley. — Yours faithfully,

Anthony Wright

Woodlands Road, Harpsden

Inconsiderate dog owners

Sir, — As a regular walker in this area, I feel I must comment on the disgusting state of the footpaths as left by dog walkers (well, the dogs).

On Friday, myself and a group of walkers walked around the Sonning Common and Peppard area and I was amazed at the amount of black dog poo bags left beside the footpaths and by gates.

One bag in particular had been left in the centre of the side access gate to a large house close to Peppard church. Just right for the house owner to walk out and tread on it. This footpath is well used by people walking to the church from Sonning Common.

On another path coming back from the church to Blounts Court Farm there must have been 30 or 40 piles of fresh dog poo on the track at the side of the field. It was like walking through an obstacle course.

This is more than just one dog being walked by its owner so is this caused by paid dog walkers with many dogs?

Dog owners, please clean up after your dog and take it home rather than leaving it beside the path or hanging in a tree.

I’m still confused why some people hang the bags in the trees or hedges — perhaps someone could explain. — Yours faithfully,

Pete Wickham

Sonning Common

Sad to steal from charity

Sir, — For several years now I have been a sales volunteer at the Sue Ryder hospice in Nettlebed, sorting donations in the week and selling them at sales every three weeks. The goods on my section (children’s clothes) vary in price from 50p upwards, rarely exceeding £5 per item. We have a very loyal base of regular customers who support us and are happy to pay. We look forward to seeing them at each sale.

Unfortunately, of late we have seen an increase in new faces who are stealing from our stall, despite our precautions to avoid this happening.

How sad that people can take from those who are in much greater need, as every penny we take is used to support the hospice.

Maybe these people could address their consciences and, hopefully, think twice before depriving Sue Ryder of much-needed funds. — Yours faithfully,

Sandy Hale

Deanacre, Henley

Young people needing help

Sir, — We would like to correct a point that was made in your article about the meeting between John Howell MP and Hilary Arthur and Becky Saunders of Riverside Counselling Service (Standard, April 21).

The article stated that one in four students at The Henley College suffers from mental health problems.

In fact we understand from the college that one in five students has been identified as needing some additional support.

National figures indicate that one in four adults and one in 10 children and young people suffer from mental health problems, meaning that three in every classroom are affected. — Yours faithfully,

Sheridan Carr

Centre manager, Riverside Counselling Service, Henley

River flow reversed

Sir, — It’s not only Henley Conservatives who appear to make claims that aren’t met in reality.

Did you know that the 80 residents of the care home to be built on the site of the old Jet garage in Reading Road (plus a bit of the pavement outside, I believe) will live “just across the banks of the River Thames, which flows west from London” according to the McCarthy & Stone website?

Who needs an infrastructure levy when you can just tip-toe out of your door and float on a lilo up to Lechlade? — Yours faithfully,

Dick Fletcher

Mill End

l In David Dickie’s letter last week it referred to the Physiolistic site in Greys Road, Henley, when the company has moved to Dry Leas. This was due to an editing error and we apologise to Mr Dickie for any embarrassment caused.

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