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Letters to the editor: 19-01-2017

How can I speak to you Harriet Harman?

You wrote in December regarding Ms Harman’s 35 years in her Peckham and Camberwell seat, ‘We salute Harriet for this achievement – the borough should be proud to boast a politician who has served her community for over three decades.’ And it is a marvellous achievement. But how, as a constituent, does one ever reach her?

She has no surgeries, no phone number, a gatekeeper with an answer machine who, if one manages to get a call back from her is in no way pro-active.  And, from recent experience, every message is replied to with a note that ‘Harriet aims to respond to all casework enquires within 10 working days and urgent enquiries as soon as possible.’  It makes for slow progress if, indeed, one makes any at all.

All I want is some help in nailing the increased audibility (and visibility) of planes over SE5 0PQ coming in to Heathrow.

In 30 years of living in the same street the skies have not been such restless mayhem as they now are.

It began in July/August last year.  Whining planes start at 4am and continue until 11pm, sometimes so close they seem to be coming into the house, and on a near-daily basis.  And the Heathrow Community Department insists that ‘nothing has changed’.

It is disgraceful disinformation. You will see from the messages below that I wrote to you on the same subject last October.

This morning at 8.50 a large plane, not City-bound, its wingtips in readiness for the descent, flew over John Ruskin Street at approximately the same height as a surveillance helicopter.  Another plane was flying at a similar height over the Kennington gasworks at 9.15am.  What is going on?

Can you help, either with a way of reaching Ms Harman or writing a piece which might encourage those of us in this part of London who feel strongly to gather together and make our voice known. I do hope so.

Bridget Bell, Camberwell


Freedom of the press is worth fighting for

I am appalled by the government’s threat to the freedom of the press with the proposed implementation of Section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act, which could force newspapers to pay libel costs even if they win a defamation case.

The freedom of the press is a precious principle that, regardless of our political affiliation, we should all fight to keep. The principle has been fought over for many years in this country from the time of the invention of the printing press to the present day.

The press has a duty to inform and help form public opinion, which means they will always be a target for the politicians and some sections of society, such as the rich and powerful, who will try to shackle them through various laws.

The press does not always behave properly, but is that a reason to bring in government control and censorship?

A free and independent press is a cause worth fighting for to protect and maintain freedom of expression.

It is one of the tenets of a healthy, vibrant democracy which we all value and to dilute it and bring in government controls over the press, will erode those very values we all hold dear.

Remember, costs in High Court legal actions routinely run into hundreds of thousands of pounds, sometime millions.

This legislation gives anyone who wants to silence journalists a free ticket. Local newspapers will face being bankrupt.

Reg  O’Donoghue, Walworth


Sort out the signal 

I have have been campaigning for some time now for mobile phone companies to eradicate the infuriating gaps in their signal reach across London.

Many of us have experienced that sinking feeling when conducting a key transaction or trying to get an important message to our loved ones only to lose the mobile signal.

It simply should not happen here in London – the greatest city in the world and a global capital for trade, finance, fashion and culture.

That is why I welcome an initiative led  by a group of MPs to hold the service providers truly accountable for their failings, not just in London but across the country.

They say customers who are not getting an adequate standard of coverage should to be able to terminate their mobile agreements without penalty. “Just like that”, as Tommy Cooper would have said.

Now that is tough talking – but it may be the only way to get the mobile phone companies to pull their finger out and fix those gaps in their service.

Syed Kamall, MEP for London


Help talking books

Reading is such an important part of my life, I can’t imagine not being able to pick up a new book or read an old favourite.

Thanks to RNIB’s (Royal National Institute of Blind People) Talking Books service, sight loss doesn’t have to mean losing access to the world of books.

The Talking Books service has revolutionised reading for people with sight loss since it launched in 1935 to help soldiers who had been blinded in the First World War, and it continues to provide more than one million audio books every year, free of charge.That’s why I’m supporting RNIB’s ‘Sponsor a Talking Book’ fundraising drive which aims to raise £1m to produce hundreds of new accessible books and give thousands more blind and partially sighted people the gift of reading.

It’s really easy to make a difference. Simply create a JustGiving page, select your fundraising total – £2,500 for an adult book and £1,500 for a children’s book – and as you carry out activities, watch your total rise! Once you’ve hit your target you can even add a personal dedication to your chosen book.  I’m a big believer in the power of a good story. Join me in supporting RNIB and help change lives for the better.

For more information or to sponsor a Talking Book, simply visit

Lord Julian Fellowes, RNIB Vice President


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