Monday's Letters: Why the words of Sir Humphrey still resonate

From: Martin Hickes, Leeds. WHATEVER the outcome or historical influence of the navel-gazing rumination that is the Iraq inquiry, lovers of the English language can have had no more a happy hunting ground than watching or listening to the linguistic sparring of all sides.

In a process which has stated itself to be both forensic and lucid by nature, those involved on all sides have used the words "porous", "fire-break", "stabilisation', "failed-state situations", and other semantic delights.

However the situation might be resolved, I doubt anyone who might have appeared to date, including Tony Blair (Yorkshire Post, January 30), has demonstrated the verbal panache of Sir Humphrey Appleby, whose pithy reflections from the very last episode of the much missed Yes Prime Minister, seem to still have acute resonance:

"Sir Humphrey: 'Unfortunately, although the answer was indeed clear, simple, and straightforward, there is some difficulty in justifiably assigning to it the fourth of the epithets you applied to the statement, inasmuch as the precise correlation between the information you communicated and the facts, insofar as they can be determined and demonstrated, is such as to cause epistemological problems,

of sufficient magnitude as

to lay upon the logical and semantic resources of the English language a heavier burden than they can reasonably be expected to


Hacker: 'Epistemological — what are you talking about?'

Sir Humphrey: 'You told a lie.'

Hacker: 'A lie?'

Sir Humphrey: 'A lie.'

Hacker: 'What do you mean, a lie?'

Sir Humphrey: 'I mean you…lied. Yes, I know this is a difficult concept to get across to a politician. You…ah yes, you did not tell the truth.'"

(From Yes Prime Minister, The Tangled Web).

Sir Antony Jay and Jonathan Lynn, where are you when we need you?

From: Don Burslam, Elm Road, Dewsbury Moor, Dewsbury, West Yorkshire.

WE now see in retrospect what a disaster the Blair years turn out to be. His only achievement which appeared to have stood the test of time, Northern Ireland, has now degenerated into paralysis at Stormont.

The disaster of Iraq and the collapse of a puffed-up economy will define history's verdict on Mr Blair's premiership. It seems that with all the spin he finally convinced himself that he could walk on water but perhaps if he had not treated Parliament and his Cabinet with contempt, he might have avoided or been talked out of some of his worst errors. What a sad commentary on the strength of our democracy that he was able for so long to spurn all the checks and balances of democratic government and act as a virtual president. Let us hope we never see a repetition of such an ill-starred experience.

Priorities for policing and community

From: Coun Roy Miller, Cabinet Spokesperson for Customer and Neighbourhood Services, Town Hall, Barnsley.

I WRITE with reference to your article "Review criticises police meetings" (Yorkshire Post, January 26). I was surprised to see that the

article implied Barnsley were failing to consult and engage with residents at a neighbourhood level regarding their crime and safety priorities.

The article referred to a review conducted by South Yorkshire Police of the so-called PACT process. May I point out that the review informing your article presents a partial picture of well established engagement arrangements developed over some years in Barnsley and pre-dating the forcewide adoption of PACT.

Indeed, the arrangements in place in Barnsley have been acknowledged nationally as providing very real and clear opportunities for local

residents to influence policing priorities at a neighbourhood level.

In a nutshell, the police and council in Barnsley have facilitated the development of 36 Crime and Safety Groups across the borough organised by local residents and routinely attended by officers from our local Safer Neighbourhood Teams.

Attendance can range from four or five interested residents to over 40 but on average every month more than 360 residents across the borough attend Crime and Safety Groups and help to inform and influence local service prioritisation. The numbers of residents engaged on an ongoing basis is therefore higher than elsewhere in the region.

In Barnsley, we continue to acknowledge that crime and safety remains the most significant local concern for residents. We will continually work towards improved arrangements for the general public to access influence and shape how we respond to their local issues of concern and work towards reducing any confusion that exists in achieving this.

The bounds of decency

From: June Wolfe, Sutherland Road, Lightcliffe, Halifax.

MANY years ago, my sister-in-law and a friend sneaked into the cinema against their parents' wishes to see The Outlaw. This film was considered very daring at the time because of the size of Jane Russell's bosom.

Fast forward some 60 years and what have we now? Horrific films showing pornography, violence and sadism obviously on sale and seen in certain homes the length and breadth of the country.

Yes, the two young boys from Doncaster did evil, depraved things, but from being very small the above type of film was the norm to them, and probably to their parents before them. Surely something can be done to prevent these vile films from being available, particularly to vulnerable members of society.

Where do they come from?

Why is there not some form of censorship as there used to be at the cinema?

The bounds of decency have been stretched too far, with many appalling consequences.

From: Alan Ogden, Gomersal, West Yorkshire.

IT certainly hasn't taken long for the hand-wringing liberal do-gooding brigade to come out of the woodwork, at the sentencing of the two brothers in the Edlington torture case (Yorkshire Post, January 23).

Over the last couple of days, there have been views expressed, espousing those liberal attitudes in a modern, caring, liberal society, which is disgusted at the vindictive and vengeful public outcry following this sentencing.

What planet are these people on?

Forgiving everyone, punishing no-one, forever apologising, dodging any personal responsibility, happy-clappy all is well in the world, yet totally out of touch with the vast majority of the people of this country, who are heartily sick of this feeble attitude.

Leave our wildlife alone

From: Marjorie Crofts, Crigglestone, Wakefield, West Yorkshire.

ALAN Marsden (Yorkshire Post, January 26) asks for a less cruel way of controlling foxes than hunting with hounds and goes on to say the fox has a quick clean death, if it doesn't escape.

Is Mr Marsden at the front of the pack of hounds to verify that?

I ask, why control foxes at all? They breed only once a year, with quite a small litter, and a lot of foxes are barren. Rabbits breed constantly, with large litters.

Foxes prey on rabbits, helping reduce numbers, and clear our roads and countryside of road kill and naturally deceased animals.

If poultry keepers constructed poultry houses with wire underground the fox would not be a problem, and more importantly, fastened the poultry up at night which used to be the practice in my young days.

Live and let live I say, and leave our lovely wildlife alone.

Politicians don't know what a proper job is

From: RC Curry, Adel Grange Close, Leeds.

WHAT is all this glib talk by Gordon Brown and politicians about "creating jobs"? He and too many others seem to have no idea what defines a real productive job; perhaps because a lot of them lack that experience.

Putting young people on training schemes for a period may be a worthwhile activity, but it does not create jobs, as far too many learn when the courses finish.

Creating meaningless posts in the public sector and associated consultancies is another fallacy, as they are only indulging in useless bureaucracy producing irritating regulations, and are a burden on the taxpayers. Jobsworths on flexitime abound in cushy offices.

Real jobs are created by encouraging manufacturing and productive occupations in this country, such as have been demonstrated by some companies on recent television programmes. Good luck to them.

They are a lesson to all the others who have shut factories here and turned to "sweated labour" overseas, together

with the others who have sold off the family silver to foreign interests and taken the cash and run.

Governmental strangulation of any form of enterprise has created this state of affairs, and to permit our so-called public services and banks to be at the mercy of other countries is a disgrace. Minimum wages, laudable on the face of it, have encouraged the exit of jobs overseas and Ministers did nothing to stop that. Their attitude to rural affairs has been appalling, yet now they say we must turn to and grow more of our own produce.

Hypocrisy is the only word which fits the bill.

We must export to survive

From: Len Fincham, Warrels Road, Bramley, Leeds.

SO, we are supposed to be at the beginning of the end of the catastrophic recession (Yorkshire Post, January 27).

What is desperately needed, however, are exports to make us competitive with the EU to start with and take the pound back above the euro and then the rest of the world.

We would be able then to say we have succeeded in breaking the credit crunch. Gone are the days when even a Labour government gave tax incentives to companies bent on exporting. They will not be allowed to do that again under present EU rules but we are at a survival or die situation and it needs direct action.

It makes the forthcoming election even more tantalising.

Language at the cutting edge

From: P Graham Smith, Rhodesia Avenue, Halifax.

I TOO heard many times the word "fernackerpan" and actually used it in my youth (Yorkshire Post Country Week, January 23), all without knowing what it meant, other than being a rather derogatory term, but "snickersnee" was outside my experience until I heard The Mikado, in which Gilbert has Ko-Ko draw his sword ... his "snickersnee". Is it possible that your reader Mrs Stainton's grandma was not Dutch, but Japanese?

An age-old dilemma

From: Max Nottingham,

St Faith's Street, Lincoln.

BRAINY writer Martin Amis has been thinking about we older people. He has suggested that we should have euthanasia booths placed on street corners. Furthermore, we should be given a medal and a stiff drink as we do the deed.

Clever Martin is having his bit of fun. But with most of us living longer, it is a subject which needs to be discussed openly. Old-age death need no longer be a taboo subject.

Palestine toll

From: Geoffrey F. Bryant, Queen Street, Barton-on-Humber.

WHILE Israel's "mercy mission" to Haiti might be in some way commendable (Yorkshire Post, January 28), wouldn't most people in the world be even more impressed by a real Israeli effort to "alleviate suffering" among the thousands of Palestinians dispossessed of their homes, land, livelihoods and – all too often – lives in 1948 and subsequently?