Tag Archives: Real

The real saboteurs are the Tory Brexiters destroying the NHS | Owen Jones

Who are the real saboteurs? Is it those who want Brexit to be properly scrutinised by parliament to prevent a disastrous deal which could wreck the economy and shred social provision? Those were, after all, the saboteurs who needed crushing according to the Daily Mail when Theresa May called her calamitous snap election. Or are the real saboteurs those who – through bigotry, twisted ideological zealotry and outright stupidity – are damaging the fabric of the public services we all depend on?

Britain’s National Health Service is propped up by 12,000 doctors from the European Economic Area. Without them, our most treasured national institution – which brings us into the world, mends us when we are sick or injured, cares for us in our final moments – would collapse. So it should be of some concern to us, to put it mildly, that nearly half of them are considering leaving the country, and a fifth have already made actual plans to do so.

What a twisted irony. The leave campaigners made a calculated decision to win the EU referendum with a toxic mixture of lies and bigotry. One of the most striking falsehoods was an extra £350m a week for the NHS after we left: instead it’s being emptied out of desperately needed doctors.

And can you blame them for wanting to leave? We’ve now had years of vitriolic scapegoating of immigrants to deflect responsibility from the banks, the tax-dodgers, the unaccountable corporations, the poverty-paying employers, the rip-off landlords, the neoliberal politicians, and all the other vested interests who have unleashed misery and insecurity upon this country. The positive contribution of immigrants was all but banished from public discussion. The campaign reached a crescendo during the referendum, with immigrants variously portrayed as potential criminals, rapists, murderers and terrorists, validating every bigot in Britain and resulting in a surge in hate crimes on the streets. I wonder why European doctors don’t feel particularly welcome right now?

This is about the worst possible time to haemorrhage doctors. The NHS is enduring the longest squeeze in its funding as a proportion of GDP since its foundation; it’s being fragmented by marketisation and privatisation; it’s under growing pressure because of decimated social care budgets while citizens continue to live longer. Plunging morale – because of privatisation, staff shortages and cuts – is affecting all doctors, regardless of where they’re born: a recent study suggested two-thirds are considering leaving. The consequence? We’re having to look abroad for more doctors. This is a recurring irony of Conservative rule. After the first five years of the coalition government, drastic cuts to nurse training places led the NHS to look for one in four nurses abroad.

How have we allowed the bigots and xenophobes of our unhinged tabloid press and political elite to inflict so much damage? Rather than making our live-saving foreign doctors feel unwelcome, surely we should be focusing on how we can tax the booming wealthy individuals and big businesses so we can invest more in our NHS? It should be abundantly clear who the real saboteurs are. They have already inflicted incalculable damage to our social fabric, our public services, our economy, and our international standing. The question is: how do we prevent them from inflicting even more damage?

Owen Jones is a Guardian columnist

The real saboteurs are the Tory Brexiters destroying the NHS | Owen Jones

Who are the real saboteurs? Is it those who want Brexit to be properly scrutinised by parliament to prevent a disastrous deal which could wreck the economy and shred social provision? Those were, after all, the saboteurs who needed crushing according to the Daily Mail when Theresa May called her calamitous snap election. Or are the real saboteurs those who – through bigotry, twisted ideological zealotry and outright stupidity – are damaging the fabric of the public services we all depend on?

Britain’s National Health Service is propped up by 12,000 doctors from the European Economic Area. Without them, our most treasured national institution – which brings us into the world, mends us when we are sick or injured, cares for us in our final moments – would collapse. So it should be of some concern to us, to put it mildly, that nearly half of them are considering leaving the country, and a fifth have already made actual plans to do so.

What a twisted irony. The leave campaigners made a calculated decision to win the EU referendum with a toxic mixture of lies and bigotry. One of the most striking falsehoods was an extra £350m a week for the NHS after we left: instead it’s being emptied out of desperately needed doctors.

And can you blame them for wanting to leave? We’ve now had years of vitriolic scapegoating of immigrants to deflect responsibility from the banks, the tax-dodgers, the unaccountable corporations, the poverty-paying employers, the rip-off landlords, the neoliberal politicians, and all the other vested interests who have unleashed misery and insecurity upon this country. The positive contribution of immigrants was all but banished from public discussion. The campaign reached a crescendo during the referendum, with immigrants variously portrayed as potential criminals, rapists, murderers and terrorists, validating every bigot in Britain and resulting in a surge in hate crimes on the streets. I wonder why European doctors don’t feel particularly welcome right now?

This is about the worst possible time to haemorrhage doctors. The NHS is enduring the longest squeeze in its funding as a proportion of GDP since its foundation; it’s being fragmented by marketisation and privatisation; it’s under growing pressure because of decimated social care budgets while citizens continue to live longer. Plunging morale – because of privatisation, staff shortages and cuts – is affecting all doctors, regardless of where they’re born: a recent study suggested two-thirds are considering leaving. The consequence? We’re having to look abroad for more doctors. This is a recurring irony of Conservative rule. After the first five years of the coalition government, drastic cuts to nurse training places led the NHS to look for one in four nurses abroad.

How have we allowed the bigots and xenophobes of our unhinged tabloid press and political elite to inflict so much damage? Rather than making our live-saving foreign doctors feel unwelcome, surely we should be focusing on how we can tax the booming wealthy individuals and big businesses so we can invest more in our NHS? It should be abundantly clear who the real saboteurs are. They have already inflicted incalculable damage to our social fabric, our public services, our economy, and our international standing. The question is: how do we prevent them from inflicting even more damage?

Owen Jones is a Guardian columnist

The real saboteurs are the Brexiters destroying the NHS | Owen Jones

Who are the real saboteurs? Is it those who want Brexit to be properly scrutinised by parliament to prevent a disastrous deal which could wreck the economy and shred social provision? Those were, after all, the saboteurs who needed crushing according to the Daily Mail when Theresa May called her calamitous snap election. Or are the real saboteurs those who – through bigotry, twisted ideological zealotry and outright stupidity – are damaging the fabric of the public services we all depend on?

Britain’s National Health Service is propped up by 12,000 doctors from the European Economic Area. Without them, our most treasured national institution – which brings us into the world, mends us when we are sick or injured, cares for us in our final moments – would collapse. So it should be of some concern to us, to put it mildly, that nearly half of them are considering leaving the country, and a fifth have already made actual plans to do so.

What a twisted irony. The leave campaigners made a calculated decision to win the EU referendum with a toxic mixture of lies and bigotry. One of the most striking falsehoods was an extra £350m a week for the NHS after we left: instead it’s being emptied out of desperately needed doctors.

And can you blame them for wanting to leave? We’ve now had years of vitriolic scapegoating of immigrants to deflect responsibility from the banks, the tax-dodgers, the unaccountable corporations, the poverty-paying employers, the rip-off landlords, the neoliberal politicians, and all the other vested interests who have unleashed misery and insecurity upon this country. The positive contribution of immigrants was all but banished from public discussion. The campaign reached a crescendo during the referendum, with immigrants variously portrayed as potential criminals, rapists, murderers and terrorists, validating every bigot in Britain and resulting in a surge in hate crimes on the streets. I wonder why European doctors don’t feel particularly welcome right now?

This is about the worst possible time to haemorrhage doctors. The NHS is enduring the longest squeeze in its funding as a proportion of GDP since its foundation; it’s being fragmented by marketisation and privatisation; it’s under growing pressure because of decimated social care budgets while citizens continue to live longer. Plunging morale – because of privatisation, staff shortages and cuts – is affecting all doctors, regardless of where they’re born: a recent study suggested two-thirds are considering leaving. The consequence? We’re having to look abroad for more doctors. This is a recurring irony of Conservative rule. After the first five years of the coalition government, drastic cuts to nurse training places led the NHS to look for one in four nurses abroad.

How have we allowed the bigots and xenophobes of our unhinged tabloid press and political elite to inflict so much damage? Rather than making our live-saving foreign doctors feel unwelcome, surely we should be focusing on how we can tax the booming wealthy individuals and big businesses so we can invest more in our NHS? It should be abundantly clear who the real saboteurs are. They have already inflicted incalculable damage to our social fabric, our public services, our economy, and our international standing. The question is: how do we prevent them from inflicting even more damage?

Owen Jones is a Guardian columnist

Princess Diana’s very real role in fighting the stigma of Aids | Letters

I’d like to take issue with the statements about Aids in Hilary Mantel’s otherwise wonderful Princess Diana essay (The princess myth, Review, 26 August). It is not right to say that in 1987 only the ignorant or bigoted thought that casual contact would infect them – or perhaps it’s more true to say that the ignorant and bigoted made up the majority of the population.

In 1987 the US banned HIV-infected immigrants and travellers. 1987 was the year President Reagan first mentioned the disease in public, and the beginning of the UK’s “Don’t Die in Ignorance” campaign. It was also the year that the activist group Act Up was founded, meaning the very beginning of concerted public information. There wasn’t just ignorance about transmission, but widespread uncertainty in the medical community itself. As the New York Times reported in February 1987 in an article entitled Facts, theory and myth on the spread of Aids, “Experts say there is no danger in a peck on the cheek of an infected person but they recommend against any exchange of saliva and deep kissing with an infected person.” Stigma played a huge part in the ongoing nightmare of an Aids diagnosis, and whatever else one may think of Princess Diana, her gesture in touching a person with Aids did occur in a climate of widespread and unnecessary ignorance and prejudice that she did her best to dispel.
Olivia Laing
Cambridge

Ms Mantel dismisses in a one-liner Diana’s impact on the Aids “epidemic” of 1987 referring to “legend”. As best friend and executor of Ivan Cohen, I wish to put into context the very real threat perceived and not restricted to the “bigoted and ignorant”. Ivan was the only person in the special wing of the Middlesex Hospital willing to be photographed with the princess and only on condition that he was photographed from behind. The stigma associated with Aids is difficult for an outsider to gauge in retrospect and Ivan certainly saw it as such. She was indeed instrumental in highlighting the incongruous attitude.
Philip Chklar
Lewes, East Sussex

In 2013 Hilary Mantel wrote a piece for the London Review of Books entitled Royal Bodies, in which she took an erudite and articulate swipe at Kate Middleton and Princess Diana among others. She also referred to a theory, not her own, that attempted to attribute Henry VIII’s terminal decline to the McLeod syndrome, and his wives’ recurrent failed pregnancies to Kell blood group incompatibility causing haemolytic disease of the fetus and newborn.

I wrote to LRB to point out that the theory was based on several false premises and was untenable. Hilary Mantel graciously replied to acknowledge my contribution and to explain that she had raised the matter merely as an interesting idea that encourages us to think more kindly about Henry and his unfortunate wives. She finished her response with a touching personal aside and her observation that “a bit of posthumous sympathy doesn’t go amiss”. The public response to Diana’s tragic death may have been excessive, but it was in part driven by the perception that a vulnerable young woman with psychiatric problems had not been given the support she needed. What’s Hilary Mantel’s problem with royal women?
Dr Gerald Smith
London

Hilary Mantel both elevates and skewers the princess myth in her brilliant exposition on Diana, the people’s princess. The comparison with Marie Antoinette is apt: “Diana’s experience as daughter of a landed family did not prepare her for Buckingham Palace, any more than Schönbrunn prepared the teenage Marie Antoinette for Versailles.”

In 1770, the marriage of the Hapsburg princess, Maria Antonia, to Louis Auguste, heir to the French throne, was arranged for political reasons. Marie Antoinette, as she would thenceforth be known, was introduced to her prospective husband, for the first time, two days before the wedding. She was 14. He was 15 and shy. It is not surprising that their bedding ritual at Versailles was observed to be unsuccessful. The non-consummation of the marriage for the next seven years frustrated all interested parties. A couple of teenagers were responsible for the great union of France and Austria that their marriage symbolised. It had to work. This was politics.

The ex-King Louis XVI was taken to his execution in a carriage. Marie Antoinette was put in an open cart for the hour-long trip to the guillotine in Place de la Révolution on 16 October 1793. Aged 37, in a white dress, hair shorn, hands tied behind her back and on a leash, she could hear the crowd screaming “Autri-chienne!” (Austrian-bitch).
Alison Hackett
Dun Laoghaire, Co Dublin, Ireland

Referring to Lady Diana’s boyfriends as “non-white” (Diana was society’s warning, 31 August) is the fallacy that Plato drew attention to, of dividing all the people in the world into the Hellenic race and the rest, alias barbarians, as is shown if we describe Prince Charles’s second wife as “non-black”.
Vivian Cook
Colchester

Twenty years ago this week a woman died whose charitable work was legion and whose care for others was universally known. Has anyone recognised in writing or broadcasting the memory of Saint Teresa of Calcutta? Thought not.
Edward Thomas
Eastbourne

In reviewing Diana: Seven Days, Tim Dowling says (G2, 28 August) the outpouring of public grief caught those in charge on the hop. Maybe, but one amazing aspect of that amazing week was the speed with which those in charge made and sometimes changed the arrangements for the funeral. The princess died on a Sunday morning. By Monday it had been decided to invite representatives of the charities with which she had been involved to walk behind her coffin to the abbey. On the Tuesday I was chosen as one of the London Lighthouse representatives. We were told the procession would start from St James’s Palace. Then we heard that we would be walking the longer distance from Kensington Palace. Then it was decided that the coffin would start from Kensington Palace but that we, with Earl Spencer and the royals, would tag on behind the coffin when it reached St James’s Palace.

After I had carefully chosen my shirt, tie, socks etc, I got a registered letter from the lord chamberlain saying: “There is on this occasion no formality in what you should wear,” and that I should, if possible, wear a T-shirt with the London Lighthouse logo. These had to be specially made. We were supposed to get them on the Friday but, in the event, I didn’t get mine until the Saturday, the day of the funeral. Luckily it fitted. That was a day I’ll never forget: the heavy silence, broken only by the sound of the horses’ hooves, the tolling of the abbey’s tenor bell and sobbing from the crowds.
Chris Birch
London

Join the debate – email guardian.letters@theguardian.com

Read more Guardian letters – click here to visit gu.com/letters

Princess Diana’s very real role in fighting the stigma of Aids | Letters

I’d like to take issue with the statements about Aids in Hilary Mantel’s otherwise wonderful Princess Diana essay (The princess myth, Review, 26 August). It is not right to say that in 1987 only the ignorant or bigoted thought that casual contact would infect them – or perhaps it’s more true to say that the ignorant and bigoted made up the majority of the population.

In 1987 the US banned HIV-infected immigrants and travellers. 1987 was the year President Reagan first mentioned the disease in public, and the beginning of the UK’s “Don’t Die in Ignorance” campaign. It was also the year that the activist group Act Up was founded, meaning the very beginning of concerted public information. There wasn’t just ignorance about transmission, but widespread uncertainty in the medical community itself. As the New York Times reported in February 1987 in an article entitled Facts, theory and myth on the spread of Aids, “Experts say there is no danger in a peck on the cheek of an infected person but they recommend against any exchange of saliva and deep kissing with an infected person.” Stigma played a huge part in the ongoing nightmare of an Aids diagnosis, and whatever else one may think of Princess Diana, her gesture in touching a person with Aids did occur in a climate of widespread and unnecessary ignorance and prejudice that she did her best to dispel.
Olivia Laing
Cambridge

Ms Mantel dismisses in a one-liner Diana’s impact on the Aids “epidemic” of 1987 referring to “legend”. As best friend and executor of Ivan Cohen, I wish to put into context the very real threat perceived and not restricted to the “bigoted and ignorant”. Ivan was the only person in the special wing of the Middlesex Hospital willing to be photographed with the princess and only on condition that he was photographed from behind. The stigma associated with Aids is difficult for an outsider to gauge in retrospect and Ivan certainly saw it as such. She was indeed instrumental in highlighting the incongruous attitude.
Philip Chklar
Lewes, East Sussex

In 2013 Hilary Mantel wrote a piece for the London Review of Books entitled Royal Bodies, in which she took an erudite and articulate swipe at Kate Middleton and Princess Diana among others. She also referred to a theory, not her own, that attempted to attribute Henry VIII’s terminal decline to the McLeod syndrome, and his wives’ recurrent failed pregnancies to Kell blood group incompatibility causing haemolytic disease of the fetus and newborn.

I wrote to LRB to point out that the theory was based on several false premises and was untenable. Hilary Mantel graciously replied to acknowledge my contribution and to explain that she had raised the matter merely as an interesting idea that encourages us to think more kindly about Henry and his unfortunate wives. She finished her response with a touching personal aside and her observation that “a bit of posthumous sympathy doesn’t go amiss”. The public response to Diana’s tragic death may have been excessive, but it was in part driven by the perception that a vulnerable young woman with psychiatric problems had not been given the support she needed. What’s Hilary Mantel’s problem with royal women?
Dr Gerald Smith
London

Hilary Mantel both elevates and skewers the princess myth in her brilliant exposition on Diana, the people’s princess. The comparison with Marie Antoinette is apt: “Diana’s experience as daughter of a landed family did not prepare her for Buckingham Palace, any more than Schönbrunn prepared the teenage Marie Antoinette for Versailles.”

In 1770, the marriage of the Hapsburg princess, Maria Antonia, to Louis Auguste, heir to the French throne, was arranged for political reasons. Marie Antoinette, as she would thenceforth be known, was introduced to her prospective husband, for the first time, two days before the wedding. She was 14. He was 15 and shy. It is not surprising that their bedding ritual at Versailles was observed to be unsuccessful. The non-consummation of the marriage for the next seven years frustrated all interested parties. A couple of teenagers were responsible for the great union of France and Austria that their marriage symbolised. It had to work. This was politics.

The ex-King Louis XVI was taken to his execution in a carriage. Marie Antoinette was put in an open cart for the hour-long trip to the guillotine in Place de la Révolution on 16 October 1793. Aged 37, in a white dress, hair shorn, hands tied behind her back and on a leash, she could hear the crowd screaming “Autri-chienne!” (Austrian-bitch).
Alison Hackett
Dun Laoghaire, Co Dublin, Ireland

Referring to Lady Diana’s boyfriends as “non-white” (Diana was society’s warning, 31 August) is the fallacy that Plato drew attention to, of dividing all the people in the world into the Hellenic race and the rest, alias barbarians, as is shown if we describe Prince Charles’s second wife as “non-black”.
Vivian Cook
Colchester

Twenty years ago this week a woman died whose charitable work was legion and whose care for others was universally known. Has anyone recognised in writing or broadcasting the memory of Saint Teresa of Calcutta? Thought not.
Edward Thomas
Eastbourne

In reviewing Diana: Seven Days, Tim Dowling says (G2, 28 August) the outpouring of public grief caught those in charge on the hop. Maybe, but one amazing aspect of that amazing week was the speed with which those in charge made and sometimes changed the arrangements for the funeral. The princess died on a Sunday morning. By Monday it had been decided to invite representatives of the charities with which she had been involved to walk behind her coffin to the abbey. On the Tuesday I was chosen as one of the London Lighthouse representatives. We were told the procession would start from St James’s Palace. Then we heard that we would be walking the longer distance from Kensington Palace. Then it was decided that the coffin would start from Kensington Palace but that we, with Earl Spencer and the royals, would tag on behind the coffin when it reached St James’s Palace.

After I had carefully chosen my shirt, tie, socks etc, I got a registered letter from the lord chamberlain saying: “There is on this occasion no formality in what you should wear,” and that I should, if possible, wear a T-shirt with the London Lighthouse logo. These had to be specially made. We were supposed to get them on the Friday but, in the event, I didn’t get mine until the Saturday, the day of the funeral. Luckily it fitted. That was a day I’ll never forget: the heavy silence, broken only by the sound of the horses’ hooves, the tolling of the abbey’s tenor bell and sobbing from the crowds.
Chris Birch
London

Join the debate – email guardian.letters@theguardian.com

Read more Guardian letters – click here to visit gu.com/letters

Princess Diana’s very real role in fighting the stigma of Aids | Letters

I’d like to take issue with the statements about Aids in Hilary Mantel’s otherwise wonderful Princess Diana essay (The princess myth, Review, 26 August). It is not right to say that in 1987 only the ignorant or bigoted thought that casual contact would infect them – or perhaps it’s more true to say that the ignorant and bigoted made up the majority of the population.

In 1987 the US banned HIV-infected immigrants and travellers. 1987 was the year President Reagan first mentioned the disease in public, and the beginning of the UK’s “Don’t Die in Ignorance” campaign. It was also the year that the activist group Act Up was founded, meaning the very beginning of concerted public information. There wasn’t just ignorance about transmission, but widespread uncertainty in the medical community itself. As the New York Times reported in February 1987 in an article entitled Facts, theory and myth on the spread of Aids, “Experts say there is no danger in a peck on the cheek of an infected person but they recommend against any exchange of saliva and deep kissing with an infected person.” Stigma played a huge part in the ongoing nightmare of an Aids diagnosis, and whatever else one may think of Princess Diana, her gesture in touching a person with Aids did occur in a climate of widespread and unnecessary ignorance and prejudice that she did her best to dispel.
Olivia Laing
Cambridge

Ms Mantel dismisses in a one-liner Diana’s impact on the Aids “epidemic” of 1987 referring to “legend”. As best friend and executor of Ivan Cohen, I wish to put into context the very real threat perceived and not restricted to the “bigoted and ignorant”. Ivan was the only person in the special wing of the Middlesex Hospital willing to be photographed with the princess and only on condition that he was photographed from behind. The stigma associated with Aids is difficult for an outsider to gauge in retrospect and Ivan certainly saw it as such. She was indeed instrumental in highlighting the incongruous attitude.
Philip Chklar
Lewes, East Sussex

In 2013 Hilary Mantel wrote a piece for the London Review of Books entitled Royal Bodies, in which she took an erudite and articulate swipe at Kate Middleton and Princess Diana among others. She also referred to a theory, not her own, that attempted to attribute Henry VIII’s terminal decline to the McLeod syndrome, and his wives’ recurrent failed pregnancies to Kell blood group incompatibility causing haemolytic disease of the fetus and newborn.

I wrote to LRB to point out that the theory was based on several false premises and was untenable. Hilary Mantel graciously replied to acknowledge my contribution and to explain that she had raised the matter merely as an interesting idea that encourages us to think more kindly about Henry and his unfortunate wives. She finished her response with a touching personal aside and her observation that “a bit of posthumous sympathy doesn’t go amiss”. The public response to Diana’s tragic death may have been excessive, but it was in part driven by the perception that a vulnerable young woman with psychiatric problems had not been given the support she needed. What’s Hilary Mantel’s problem with royal women?
Dr Gerald Smith
London

Hilary Mantel both elevates and skewers the princess myth in her brilliant exposition on Diana, the people’s princess. The comparison with Marie Antoinette is apt: “Diana’s experience as daughter of a landed family did not prepare her for Buckingham Palace, any more than Schönbrunn prepared the teenage Marie Antoinette for Versailles.”

In 1770, the marriage of the Hapsburg princess, Maria Antonia, to Louis Auguste, heir to the French throne, was arranged for political reasons. Marie Antoinette, as she would thenceforth be known, was introduced to her prospective husband, for the first time, two days before the wedding. She was 14. He was 15 and shy. It is not surprising that their bedding ritual at Versailles was observed to be unsuccessful. The non-consummation of the marriage for the next seven years frustrated all interested parties. A couple of teenagers were responsible for the great union of France and Austria that their marriage symbolised. It had to work. This was politics.

The ex-King Louis XVI was taken to his execution in a carriage. Marie Antoinette was put in an open cart for the hour-long trip to the guillotine in Place de la Révolution on 16 October 1793. Aged 37, in a white dress, hair shorn, hands tied behind her back and on a leash, she could hear the crowd screaming “Autri-chienne!” (Austrian-bitch).
Alison Hackett
Dun Laoghaire, Co Dublin, Ireland

Referring to Lady Diana’s boyfriends as “non-white” (Diana was society’s warning, 31 August) is the fallacy that Plato drew attention to, of dividing all the people in the world into the Hellenic race and the rest, alias barbarians, as is shown if we describe Prince Charles’s second wife as “non-black”.
Vivian Cook
Colchester

Twenty years ago this week a woman died whose charitable work was legion and whose care for others was universally known. Has anyone recognised in writing or broadcasting the memory of Saint Teresa of Calcutta? Thought not.
Edward Thomas
Eastbourne

In reviewing Diana: Seven Days, Tim Dowling says (G2, 28 August) the outpouring of public grief caught those in charge on the hop. Maybe, but one amazing aspect of that amazing week was the speed with which those in charge made and sometimes changed the arrangements for the funeral. The princess died on a Sunday morning. By Monday it had been decided to invite representatives of the charities with which she had been involved to walk behind her coffin to the abbey. On the Tuesday I was chosen as one of the London Lighthouse representatives. We were told the procession would start from St James’s Palace. Then we heard that we would be walking the longer distance from Kensington Palace. Then it was decided that the coffin would start from Kensington Palace but that we, with Earl Spencer and the royals, would tag on behind the coffin when it reached St James’s Palace.

After I had carefully chosen my shirt, tie, socks etc, I got a registered letter from the lord chamberlain saying: “There is on this occasion no formality in what you should wear,” and that I should, if possible, wear a T-shirt with the London Lighthouse logo. These had to be specially made. We were supposed to get them on the Friday but, in the event, I didn’t get mine until the Saturday, the day of the funeral. Luckily it fitted. That was a day I’ll never forget: the heavy silence, broken only by the sound of the horses’ hooves, the tolling of the abbey’s tenor bell and sobbing from the crowds.
Chris Birch
London

Join the debate – email guardian.letters@theguardian.com

Read more Guardian letters – click here to visit gu.com/letters

Princess Diana’s very real role in fighting the stigma of Aids | Letters

I’d like to take issue with the statements about Aids in Hilary Mantel’s otherwise wonderful Princess Diana essay (The princess myth, Review, 26 August). It is not right to say that in 1987 only the ignorant or bigoted thought that casual contact would infect them – or perhaps it’s more true to say that the ignorant and bigoted made up the majority of the population.

In 1987 the US banned HIV-infected immigrants and travellers. 1987 was the year President Reagan first mentioned the disease in public, and the beginning of the UK’s “Don’t Die in Ignorance” campaign. It was also the year that the activist group Act Up was founded, meaning the very beginning of concerted public information. There wasn’t just ignorance about transmission, but widespread uncertainty in the medical community itself. As the New York Times reported in February 1987 in an article entitled Facts, theory and myth on the spread of Aids, “Experts say there is no danger in a peck on the cheek of an infected person but they recommend against any exchange of saliva and deep kissing with an infected person.” Stigma played a huge part in the ongoing nightmare of an Aids diagnosis, and whatever else one may think of Princess Diana, her gesture in touching a person with Aids did occur in a climate of widespread and unnecessary ignorance and prejudice that she did her best to dispel.
Olivia Laing
Cambridge

Ms Mantel dismisses in a one-liner Diana’s impact on the Aids “epidemic” of 1987 referring to “legend”. As best friend and executor of Ivan Cohen, I wish to put into context the very real threat perceived and not restricted to the “bigoted and ignorant”. Ivan was the only person in the special wing of the Middlesex Hospital willing to be photographed with the princess and only on condition that he was photographed from behind. The stigma associated with Aids is difficult for an outsider to gauge in retrospect and Ivan certainly saw it as such. She was indeed instrumental in highlighting the incongruous attitude.
Philip Chklar
Lewes, East Sussex

In 2013 Hilary Mantel wrote a piece for the London Review of Books entitled Royal Bodies, in which she took an erudite and articulate swipe at Kate Middleton and Princess Diana among others. She also referred to a theory, not her own, that attempted to attribute Henry VIII’s terminal decline to the McLeod syndrome, and his wives’ recurrent failed pregnancies to Kell blood group incompatibility causing haemolytic disease of the fetus and newborn.

I wrote to LRB to point out that the theory was based on several false premises and was untenable. Hilary Mantel graciously replied to acknowledge my contribution and to explain that she had raised the matter merely as an interesting idea that encourages us to think more kindly about Henry and his unfortunate wives. She finished her response with a touching personal aside and her observation that “a bit of posthumous sympathy doesn’t go amiss”. The public response to Diana’s tragic death may have been excessive, but it was in part driven by the perception that a vulnerable young woman with psychiatric problems had not been given the support she needed. What’s Hilary Mantel’s problem with royal women?
Dr Gerald Smith
London

Hilary Mantel both elevates and skewers the princess myth in her brilliant exposition on Diana, the people’s princess. The comparison with Marie Antoinette is apt: “Diana’s experience as daughter of a landed family did not prepare her for Buckingham Palace, any more than Schönbrunn prepared the teenage Marie Antoinette for Versailles.”

In 1770, the marriage of the Hapsburg princess, Maria Antonia, to Louis Auguste, heir to the French throne, was arranged for political reasons. Marie Antoinette, as she would thenceforth be known, was introduced to her prospective husband, for the first time, two days before the wedding. She was 14. He was 15 and shy. It is not surprising that their bedding ritual at Versailles was observed to be unsuccessful. The non-consummation of the marriage for the next seven years frustrated all interested parties. A couple of teenagers were responsible for the great union of France and Austria that their marriage symbolised. It had to work. This was politics.

The ex-King Louis XVI was taken to his execution in a carriage. Marie Antoinette was put in an open cart for the hour-long trip to the guillotine in Place de la Révolution on 16 October 1793. Aged 37, in a white dress, hair shorn, hands tied behind her back and on a leash, she could hear the crowd screaming “Autri-chienne!” (Austrian-bitch).
Alison Hackett
Dun Laoghaire, Co Dublin, Ireland

Referring to Lady Diana’s boyfriends as “non-white” (Diana was society’s warning, 31 August) is the fallacy that Plato drew attention to, of dividing all the people in the world into the Hellenic race and the rest, alias barbarians, as is shown if we describe Prince Charles’s second wife as “non-black”.
Vivian Cook
Colchester

Twenty years ago this week a woman died whose charitable work was legion and whose care for others was universally known. Has anyone recognised in writing or broadcasting the memory of Saint Teresa of Calcutta? Thought not.
Edward Thomas
Eastbourne

In reviewing Diana: Seven Days, Tim Dowling says (G2, 28 August) the outpouring of public grief caught those in charge on the hop. Maybe, but one amazing aspect of that amazing week was the speed with which those in charge made and sometimes changed the arrangements for the funeral. The princess died on a Sunday morning. By Monday it had been decided to invite representatives of the charities with which she had been involved to walk behind her coffin to the abbey. On the Tuesday I was chosen as one of the London Lighthouse representatives. We were told the procession would start from St James’s Palace. Then we heard that we would be walking the longer distance from Kensington Palace. Then it was decided that the coffin would start from Kensington Palace but that we, with Earl Spencer and the royals, would tag on behind the coffin when it reached St James’s Palace.

After I had carefully chosen my shirt, tie, socks etc, I got a registered letter from the lord chamberlain saying: “There is on this occasion no formality in what you should wear,” and that I should, if possible, wear a T-shirt with the London Lighthouse logo. These had to be specially made. We were supposed to get them on the Friday but, in the event, I didn’t get mine until the Saturday, the day of the funeral. Luckily it fitted. That was a day I’ll never forget: the heavy silence, broken only by the sound of the horses’ hooves, the tolling of the abbey’s tenor bell and sobbing from the crowds.
Chris Birch
London

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Don’t blame addicts for America’s opioid crisis. Here are the real culprits | Chris McGreal

Of all the people Donald Trump could blame for the opioid epidemic, he chose the victims. After his own commission on the opioid crisis issued an interim report this week, Trump said young people should be told drugs are “No good, really bad for you in every way.”

The president’s exhortation to follow Nancy Reagan’s miserably inadequate advice and Just Say No to drugs is far from useful. The then first lady made not a jot of difference to the crack epidemic in the 1980s. But Trump’s characterisation of the source of the opioid crisis was more disturbing. “The best way to prevent drug addiction and overdose is to prevent people from abusing drugs in the first place,” he said.

That is straight out of the opioid manufacturers’ playbook. Facing a raft of lawsuits and a threat to their profits, pharmaceutical companies are pushing the line that the epidemic stems not from the wholesale prescribing of powerful painkillers – essentially heroin in pill form – but their misuse by some of those who then become addicted.


The amount of opioids prescribed in the US was enough for every American to be medicated 24/7 for three weeks”

In court filings, drug companies are smearing the estimated two million people hooked on their products as criminals to blame for their own addiction. Some of those in its grip break the law by buying drugs on the black market or switch to heroin. But too often that addiction began by following the advice of a doctor who, in turn, was following the drug manufacturers instructions.

Trump made no mention of this or reining in the mass prescribing underpinning the epidemic. Instead he played to the abuse narrative when he painted the crisis as a law and order issue, and criticised Barack Obama for scaling back drug prosecutions and lowering sentences.

But as the president’s own commission noted, this is not an epidemic caused by those caught in its grasp. “We have an enormous problem that is often not beginning on street corners; it is starting in doctor’s offices and hospitals in every state in our nation,” it said.

heroin


‘This is an almost uniquely American crisis.’ Photograph: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Opioids killed more than 33,000 Americans in 2015 and the toll was almost certainly higher last year. About half of deaths involved prescription painkillers. Most of those who overdose on heroin or a synthetic opiate, such as fentanyl, first become hooked on legal pills.

This is an almost uniquely American crisis driven in good part by particular American issues from the influence of drug companies over medical policy to a “pill for every ill” culture. Trump’s commission, which called the opioid epidemic “unparalleled”, said the grim reality is that “the amount of opioids prescribed in the US was enough for every American to be medicated around the clock for three weeks”.

The US consumes more than 80% of the global opioid pill production even though it has less than 5% of the world’s population. Over the past 20 years, one federal institution after another lined up behind the drug manufacturers’ false claims of an epidemic of untreated pain in the US. They seem not to have asked why no other country was apparently suffering from such an epidemic or plying opioids to its patients at every opportunity.

With the pharmaceutical lobby’s money keeping Congress on its side, regulations were rewritten to permit physicians to prescribe as many pills as they wanted without censure. Indeed, doctors sometimes found themselves hauled before ethics boards for not supplying enough.


It’s an epidemic because we have a business model for it. Follow the money

Unlike most other countries, the US health system is run as an industry not a service. That gives considerable power to drug manufacturers, medical providers and health insurance companies to influence policy and practices.

Too often, their bottom line is profits not health. Opioid pills are far cheaper and easier than providing other forms of treatment for pain, like physical therapy or psychiatry. As Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia told the Guardian last year: “It’s an epidemic because we have a business model for it. Follow the money. Look at the amount of pills they shipped in to certain parts of our state. It was a business model.”

But the system also gives a lot of power to patients. People coughing up large amounts of money in insurance premiums and co-pays expect results. They are, after all, more customer than patient. Doctors complain of patients who arrive expecting a pill to resolve medical conditions without taking responsibility for their own health by eating better or exercising more.

In particular, the idea has taken hold, pushed by the pharmaceutical industry, that there is a right to be pain free. Other countries pursue strategies to reduce and manage pain, not raise expectations that it can simply be made to disappear. In all of this, regulators became facilitators. The Food and Drug Administration approved one opioid pill after another.


The Food and Drug Administration approved one opioid pill after another.

As late as 2013, by which time the scale of the epidemic was clear, the FDA permitted a powerful opiate, Zohydro, onto the market over the near unanimous objection of its own review committee. It was clear from the hearing that doctors understood the dangers, but the agency appeared to have put commercial considerations first.

US states long ago woke up to the crisis as morgues filled, social services struggled to cope with children orphaned or taken into care, and the epidemic took an economic toll. Police chiefs and local politicians said it was a social crisis not a law and order problem.

Some state legislatures began to curb mass prescribing. All the while they looked to Washington for leadership. They did not get much from Obama or Congress, although legislation approving $ 1bn on addiction treatment did pass last year. Instead, it was up to pockets of sanity to push back.

Last year, the then director of the Centers for Disease Control, Tom Frieden, made his mark with guidelines urging doctors not to prescribe opioids as a first step for chronic or routine pain, although even that got political pushback in Congress where the power of the pharmaceutical lobby is not greatly diminished.

There are also signs of a shift in the FDA after it pressured a manufacturer into withdrawing an opioid drug, Opana, that should never have been on sale in the first place. It was initially withdrawn in the 1970s, but the FDA permitted it back on to the market in 2006 after the rules for testing drugs were changed. At the time, many accused the pharmaceutical companies of paying to have them rewritten.

Trump’s opioid commission offered hope that the epidemic would finally get the attention it needs. It made a series of sensible if limited recommendations: more mental health treatment people with a substance abuse disorder and more effective forms of rehab.

Trump finally got around to saying that the epidemic is a national emergency on Thursday after he was criticised for ignoring his own commission’s recommendation to do so. But he reinforced the idea that the victims are to blame with an offhand reference to LSD.

Real leadership is still absent – and that won’t displease the pharmaceutical companies at all.

Don’t blame addicts for America’s opioid crisis. Here are the real culprits | Chris McGreal

Of all the people Donald Trump could blame for the opioid epidemic, he chose the victims. After his own commission on the opioid crisis issued an interim report this week, Trump said young people should be told drugs are “No good, really bad for you in every way.”

The president’s exhortation to follow Nancy Reagan’s miserably inadequate advice and Just Say No to drugs is far from useful. The then first lady made not a jot of difference to the crack epidemic in the 1980s. But Trump’s characterisation of the source of the opioid crisis was more disturbing. “The best way to prevent drug addiction and overdose is to prevent people from abusing drugs in the first place,” he said.

That is straight out of the opioid manufacturers’ playbook. Facing a raft of lawsuits and a threat to their profits, pharmaceutical companies are pushing the line that the epidemic stems not from the wholesale prescribing of powerful painkillers – essentially heroin in pill form – but their misuse by some of those who then become addicted.


The amount of opioids prescribed in the US was enough for every American to be medicated 24/7 for three weeks”

In court filings, drug companies are smearing the estimated two million people hooked on their products as criminals to blame for their own addiction. Some of those in its grip break the law by buying drugs on the black market or switch to heroin. But too often that addiction began by following the advice of a doctor who, in turn, was following the drug manufacturers instructions.

Trump made no mention of this or reining in the mass prescribing underpinning the epidemic. Instead he played to the abuse narrative when he painted the crisis as a law and order issue, and criticised Barack Obama for scaling back drug prosecutions and lowering sentences.

But as the president’s own commission noted, this is not an epidemic caused by those caught in its grasp. “We have an enormous problem that is often not beginning on street corners; it is starting in doctor’s offices and hospitals in every state in our nation,” it said.

heroin


‘This is an almost uniquely American crisis.’ Photograph: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Opioids killed more than 33,000 Americans in 2015 and the toll was almost certainly higher last year. About half of deaths involved prescription painkillers. Most of those who overdose on heroin or a synthetic opiate, such as fentanyl, first become hooked on legal pills.

This is an almost uniquely American crisis driven in good part by particular American issues from the influence of drug companies over medical policy to a “pill for every ill” culture. Trump’s commission, which called the opioid epidemic “unparalleled”, said the grim reality is that “the amount of opioids prescribed in the US was enough for every American to be medicated around the clock for three weeks”.

The US consumes more than 80% of the global opioid pill production even though it has less than 5% of the world’s population. Over the past 20 years, one federal institution after another lined up behind the drug manufacturers’ false claims of an epidemic of untreated pain in the US. They seem not to have asked why no other country was apparently suffering from such an epidemic or plying opioids to its patients at every opportunity.

With the pharmaceutical lobby’s money keeping Congress on its side, regulations were rewritten to permit physicians to prescribe as many pills as they wanted without censure. Indeed, doctors sometimes found themselves hauled before ethics boards for not supplying enough.


It’s an epidemic because we have a business model for it. Follow the money

Unlike most other countries, the US health system is run as an industry not a service. That gives considerable power to drug manufacturers, medical providers and health insurance companies to influence policy and practices.

Too often, their bottom line is profits not health. Opioid pills are far cheaper and easier than providing other forms of treatment for pain, like physical therapy or psychiatry. As Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia told the Guardian last year: “It’s an epidemic because we have a business model for it. Follow the money. Look at the amount of pills they shipped in to certain parts of our state. It was a business model.”

But the system also gives a lot of power to patients. People coughing up large amounts of money in insurance premiums and co-pays expect results. They are, after all, more customer than patient. Doctors complain of patients who arrive expecting a pill to resolve medical conditions without taking responsibility for their own health by eating better or exercising more.

In particular, the idea has taken hold, pushed by the pharmaceutical industry, that there is a right to be pain free. Other countries pursue strategies to reduce and manage pain, not raise expectations that it can simply be made to disappear. In all of this, regulators became facilitators. The Food and Drug Administration approved one opioid pill after another.


The Food and Drug Administration approved one opioid pill after another.

As late as 2013, by which time the scale of the epidemic was clear, the FDA permitted a powerful opiate, Zohydro, onto the market over the near unanimous objection of its own review committee. It was clear from the hearing that doctors understood the dangers, but the agency appeared to have put commercial considerations first.

US states long ago woke up to the crisis as morgues filled, social services struggled to cope with children orphaned or taken into care, and the epidemic took an economic toll. Police chiefs and local politicians said it was a social crisis not a law and order problem.

Some state legislatures began to curb mass prescribing. All the while they looked to Washington for leadership. They did not get much from Obama or Congress, although legislation approving $ 1bn on addiction treatment did pass last year. Instead, it was up to pockets of sanity to push back.

Last year, the then director of the Centers for Disease Control, Tom Frieden, made his mark with guidelines urging doctors not to prescribe opioids as a first step for chronic or routine pain, although even that got political pushback in Congress where the power of the pharmaceutical lobby is not greatly diminished.

There are also signs of a shift in the FDA after it pressured a manufacturer into withdrawing an opioid drug, Opana, that should never have been on sale in the first place. It was initially withdrawn in the 1970s, but the FDA permitted it back on to the market in 2006 after the rules for testing drugs were changed. At the time, many accused the pharmaceutical companies of paying to have them rewritten.

Trump’s opioid commission offered hope that the epidemic would finally get the attention it needs. It made a series of sensible if limited recommendations: more mental health treatment people with a substance abuse disorder and more effective forms of rehab.

Trump finally got around to saying that the epidemic is a national emergency on Thursday after he was criticised for ignoring his own commission’s recommendation to do so. But he reinforced the idea that the victims are to blame with an offhand reference to LSD.

Real leadership is still absent – and that won’t displease the pharmaceutical companies at all.

Don’t blame addicts for America’s opioid crisis. Here are the real culprits | Chris McGreal

Of all the people Donald Trump could blame for the opioid epidemic, he chose the victims. After his own commission on the opioid crisis issued an interim report this week, Trump said young people should be told drugs are “No good, really bad for you in every way.”

The president’s exhortation to follow Nancy Reagan’s miserably inadequate advice and Just Say No to drugs is far from useful. The then first lady made not a jot of difference to the crack epidemic in the 1980s. But Trump’s characterisation of the source of the opioid crisis was more disturbing. “The best way to prevent drug addiction and overdose is to prevent people from abusing drugs in the first place,” he said.

That is straight out of the opioid manufacturers’ playbook. Facing a raft of lawsuits and a threat to their profits, pharmaceutical companies are pushing the line that the epidemic stems not from the wholesale prescribing of powerful painkillers – essentially heroin in pill form – but their misuse by some of those who then become addicted.


The amount of opioids prescribed in the US was enough for every American to be medicated 24/7 for three weeks”

In court filings, drug companies are smearing the estimated two million people hooked on their products as criminals to blame for their own addiction. Some of those in its grip break the law by buying drugs on the black market or switch to heroin. But too often that addiction began by following the advice of a doctor who, in turn, was following the drug manufacturers instructions.

Trump made no mention of this or reining in the mass prescribing underpinning the epidemic. Instead he played to the abuse narrative when he painted the crisis as a law and order issue, and criticised Barack Obama for scaling back drug prosecutions and lowering sentences.

But as the president’s own commission noted, this is not an epidemic caused by those caught in its grasp. “We have an enormous problem that is often not beginning on street corners; it is starting in doctor’s offices and hospitals in every state in our nation,” it said.

heroin


‘This is an almost uniquely American crisis.’ Photograph: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Opioids killed more than 33,000 Americans in 2015 and the toll was almost certainly higher last year. About half of deaths involved prescription painkillers. Most of those who overdose on heroin or a synthetic opiate, such as fentanyl, first become hooked on legal pills.

This is an almost uniquely American crisis driven in good part by particular American issues from the influence of drug companies over medical policy to a “pill for every ill” culture. Trump’s commission, which called the opioid epidemic “unparalleled”, said the grim reality is that “the amount of opioids prescribed in the US was enough for every American to be medicated around the clock for three weeks”.

The US consumes more than 80% of the global opioid pill production even though it has less than 5% of the world’s population. Over the past 20 years, one federal institution after another lined up behind the drug manufacturers’ false claims of an epidemic of untreated pain in the US. They seem not to have asked why no other country was apparently suffering from such an epidemic or plying opioids to its patients at every opportunity.

With the pharmaceutical lobby’s money keeping Congress on its side, regulations were rewritten to permit physicians to prescribe as many pills as they wanted without censure. Indeed, doctors sometimes found themselves hauled before ethics boards for not supplying enough.


It’s an epidemic because we have a business model for it. Follow the money

Unlike most other countries, the US health system is run as an industry not a service. That gives considerable power to drug manufacturers, medical providers and health insurance companies to influence policy and practices.

Too often, their bottom line is profits not health. Opioid pills are far cheaper and easier than providing other forms of treatment for pain, like physical therapy or psychiatry. As Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia told the Guardian last year: “It’s an epidemic because we have a business model for it. Follow the money. Look at the amount of pills they shipped in to certain parts of our state. It was a business model.”

But the system also gives a lot of power to patients. People coughing up large amounts of money in insurance premiums and co-pays expect results. They are, after all, more customer than patient. Doctors complain of patients who arrive expecting a pill to resolve medical conditions without taking responsibility for their own health by eating better or exercising more.

In particular, the idea has taken hold, pushed by the pharmaceutical industry, that there is a right to be pain free. Other countries pursue strategies to reduce and manage pain, not raise expectations that it can simply be made to disappear. In all of this, regulators became facilitators. The Food and Drug Administration approved one opioid pill after another.


The Food and Drug Administration approved one opioid pill after another.

As late as 2013, by which time the scale of the epidemic was clear, the FDA permitted a powerful opiate, Zohydro, onto the market over the near unanimous objection of its own review committee. It was clear from the hearing that doctors understood the dangers, but the agency appeared to have put commercial considerations first.

US states long ago woke up to the crisis as morgues filled, social services struggled to cope with children orphaned or taken into care, and the epidemic took an economic toll. Police chiefs and local politicians said it was a social crisis not a law and order problem.

Some state legislatures began to curb mass prescribing. All the while they looked to Washington for leadership. They did not get much from Obama or Congress, although legislation approving $ 1bn on addiction treatment did pass last year. Instead, it was up to pockets of sanity to push back.

Last year, the then director of the Centers for Disease Control, Tom Frieden, made his mark with guidelines urging doctors not to prescribe opioids as a first step for chronic or routine pain, although even that got political pushback in Congress where the power of the pharmaceutical lobby is not greatly diminished.

There are also signs of a shift in the FDA after it pressured a manufacturer into withdrawing an opioid drug, Opana, that should never have been on sale in the first place. It was initially withdrawn in the 1970s, but the FDA permitted it back on to the market in 2006 after the rules for testing drugs were changed. At the time, many accused the pharmaceutical companies of paying to have them rewritten.

Trump’s opioid commission offered hope that the epidemic would finally get the attention it needs. It made a series of sensible if limited recommendations: more mental health treatment people with a substance abuse disorder and more effective forms of rehab.

Trump finally got around to saying that the epidemic is a national emergency on Thursday after he was criticised for ignoring his own commission’s recommendation to do so. But he reinforced the idea that the victims are to blame with an offhand reference to LSD.

Real leadership is still absent – and that won’t displease the pharmaceutical companies at all.