Letters: There’s no way back for a PM seen to have flouted his own perverse rules

Anti-Tory protesters hold placards in Parliament Square - Frank Augstein/AFP
Anti-Tory protesters hold placards in Parliament Square - Frank Augstein/AFP

SIR – That a group of people who work together every day under severe stress should want to gather outside their place of work on a warm spring evening to enjoy a glass of wine or two together is nothing to remark on.

The problem is that they did so at Downing Street when the lockdown fanatics and misguided modellers had persuaded the Government to make such gatherings – as well as a host of other perfectly normal activities – criminal offences. The police had been unleashed at their most bullying to enforce these laws with heavy fines.

The Prime Minister needs to accept that the buck stops with him. If he cannot understand the sense of hurt and betrayal that these revelations engender in so many people forced to surrender their most basic liberties for almost two years, then he must resign.

Brian Gedalla
London N3

SIR – At Prime Minister’s Questions, Boris Johnson justified his attendance at the Downing Street gathering by asserting that he’d considered it to be a “work event”. Has there ever been a Prime Minister quite so shameless?

Tim Coles
Carlton, Bedfordshire

SIR – The constant cry from the Prime Minister and his team is to “wait for the outcome of the inquiry”.

They are clearly pure metropolitans, as the rest of us know that the grass is far too short at this time of year to cover anything kicked into it. The anger over the arrogance at the heart of this Government will not subside.

Tim Hadland

SIR – Though I didn’t attend any parties, I certainly didn’t obey the letter of the law during the various lockdowns. Nor, I’m sure, did millions of others.

I detect more than a whiff of hypocrisy in the current witch hunt of the Prime Minister.

David Tomlinson
Diss, Norfolk

SIR – In May 2020, I also attended an outdoor event, with many people from other households, where we remained socially distant and brought our own bottles. It was the 75th Anniversary of VE Day and most people on our road took part.

Unlike the Downing Street event, however, we hadn’t all been working together indoors for the rest of the day.

The thing to which most people object was the ban on people being with loved ones when they were dying. That was a terrible mistake but, I would suggest, a separate issue – though I can understand why those affected link the two.

Tim Potten
Poole, Dorset

SIR – As a former civil servant I have to say that, at any time until the year of my retirement in 1997, had I had an alcoholic drink while working at my desk it is likely that I would have been dismissed on the spot.

D S Sykes
Stockport, Cheshire

Omicron cold comfort

SIR – Mark Stephens (Letters, January 10) suggests that the omicron variant is no worse than a common cold – on a day when there were 18,665 Covid-related patients in hospital, of whom 844 were on ventilators.

Not my idea of a common cold.

Henry Connor FRCP

SIR – It is indeed of concern that junior surgeons are not getting the experience they need due to Covid (report, January 9). It is impossible to learn surgery from books, models or virtual reality. Not only is it necessary to get the basic stages of a procedure into one’s muscle memory, but also to develop exit strategies if unanticipated complications occur or the operation does not go according to plan.

The lack of practice is a problem for experienced surgeons as well. Many years ago, the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons decided that a minimal annual number of 12 hip replacements was essential to maintain competence. Most British hip surgeons would do that many in a week but, in the present situation, this level of expertise cannot be retained.

Furthermore, and for the same reason, there is no point asking people like me to come out of retirement. I would not want to be operated on by someone past his sell-by date.

David Nunn FRCS
Port Isaac, Cornwall

Not so Fanny

SIR – The renaming of characters in children’s books (“Fannies and Dicks”, Leading Article, January 11) is no laughing matter.

All of my 23 published books are on the Amazon website under my name, as I hope my next will be. However, my website – using my name – has been removed from its profile page.

Can Jacqueline Wilson help?

Dick Kirby
Great Whelnetham, Suffolk

Pragmatic pudding

SIR – Years ago, I was running out of time before a dinner party.

In desperation, I grabbed a pack of instant, powdered dessert and whisked it up with a generous dollop of double cream. It was met with acclaim and congratulations on my mastering the intricacies of butterscotch mousse.

I wonder whether Her Majesty would be fooled (“The Great Royal Bake Off seeks perfect pud”, report, January 10).

Jo-Ann Rogers
Alsager, Cheshire

Rocketing energy bills

SIR – In November last year my energy provider (Octopus Energy) told me that my contract for the supply of domestic energy was maturing on December 1, and my tariff would change.

The charges were to increase from £86.99 to £202.17 per month – a rise of 232.41 per cent. The previous monthly charges were relatively accurate, with the balance of my account on November 28 showing a deficit of only £5.05 after a full year.

I contested the increase but was overruled. I therefore hope to find a cheaper supplier in due course.

Alan Egerton
Rothley, Leicestershire

SIR – If you were to read a book in which 67 million people living in a cold climate and suffering a debilitating pandemic were dependent for their heating and lighting upon a few windmills, declining sea gas, overseas supplies from their enemies or otherwise unreliable sources, and wood pellets from abroad, and had voluntarily abandoned their domestic production of coal, run down their nuclear plants and refused to invest in available domestic fuel sources, while also competing with other countries paying more for what global supplies there were and, thus, being priced out of supplies ... you would have a giggle.

But, of course, this is exactly what has happened in Britain as a result of successive governments failing to devise a domestic energy strategy.

The first duty of a government is defence of the realm – not pandering to minority views without thinking through the implications. Carbon dioxide emissions do need to be controlled but you cannot have your voters freezing and possibly dying because of strategic incompetence.

Robert Carlton-Porter
Bath, Somerset

Triumphant rescue

SIR – I owned a Triumph Herald convertible (Letters, January 12) in the 1960s and it was the envy of the villagers, including the local shop owner who was always begging me to take him for a ride in it. “One day, one day, Mr Smith,” I said.

Some months later I visited the shop, only to find his wife in shock and despair because he had cut his hand severely on the bacon slicer. “Get in”, I said to him, indicating my Triumph outside. “I’ll take you for your ride.”

I drove at top speed to the casualty department at the local hospital, while pressuring his wound with one hand.

He never asked me for a ride again.

Joan Gurney
Colchester, Essex

SIR – My first car, in 1965, was a 1958 Ford Anglia 100E. It never seemed to go at more than 55 mph, but had one unnerving characteristic.

The windscreen wipers were powered by vacuum from the engine, which diminished as more power was applied. This meant that the harder the engine worked, the slower the wipers went. Driving uphill, against the wind, in the rain, they tended to stop completely.

Mike Westmorland
Penrith , Cumbria

SIR – When I bought my first car (a 1200 Beetle) the salesman told me it had a heater that would boil an egg.

Soon after, I undertook a long journey from Yorkshire to see David Bowie at the Empire Pool. The car didn’t have a fitted radio so I took a transistor radio, which had a plastic case, and put it in the passenger footwell, close to the heater vent.

Sure enough, after 250 miles with the heater on, the radio had formed a gooey plastic mess on the mat.

Tony Tudor
Southport, Lancashire

The nose knows whether milk is on the turn

Dear dairy: The Springhouse, 1944, by the American artist and illustrator N C Wyeth - Bridgeman Images
Dear dairy: The Springhouse, 1944, by the American artist and illustrator N C Wyeth - Bridgeman Images

SIR – When did we lose the ability to recognise if milk has gone off (Food and Drink, December 10)?

As long as it does not smell or taste sour, and has not separated, it is perfectly safe to use. Anyone with a normal sense of smell can tell instantly if milk is “on the turn”.

It’s time we stopped relying on the nanny state to tell us how to live, and started using our own in-built abilities to recognise freshness.

Sally Gibbons
London SW19

SIR – While my generation of war babies throw nothing usable away, regardless of expiry date, most younger people are more irresponsible.

However, since loss of smell is a common side effect of Covid-19, it may be wise for supermarkets such as Morrisons to keep “use-by” dates on milk, at least until the epidemic settles down.

Alan Ripley
Polstead, Suffolk

SIR – My mother never threw milk away when it had gone off. She waited until it formed a solid mass, put it in a handkerchief, tied the ends and hung it over the sink. It made the creamiest cheese ever.

Robert Ward
Loughborough, Leicestershire

Willing supply teachers put off by paperwork

SIR – I am an experienced and well-qualified teacher who took a career break three years ago. After the call for people to help schools cover the crisis in teacher absences due to Covid, as advised by the government website, I contacted two local supply agencies.

One responded within a day and sent me a wealth of forms to complete. I have an online interview this week and, if successful, I have to apply, and pay £47, for a DBS certificate.

The second took five days to reply. It invited me for an interview, but can offer only one time slot this week, when I am not free. The next available slot is in 10 days. If successful, I will have to pay it £65 for a DBS certificate.

I currently hold a DBS certificate, which was issued less than a year ago. This is not registered on the “update service”, however, and so it is useless. It will take at least 14 days for a new one to be processed.

As teacher absences are apparently beginning to plateau, I wonder how much demand there will be in the month it will take until I am fully “classroom ready”.

I am sure I am not the only willing and capable teacher who is undecided about whether the commitment of my time and money is worthwhile.

Laura Bell
Ide, Devon

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