Is it any wonder that armed forces recruitment is falling?

With reference to the article about recruitment to the UK’s armed forces (Britain’s armed forces being ‘hollowed out’ as recruitment stalls, Government-commissioned study finds), I would like to share my son’s experiences in trying to join the Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force.

George sat the entrance exams for the Royal Navy, passing well enough to be recruited as a trainee chef. Then came the medical. He was declared fit, but when asked to wink, he could not wink with his left eye and so was banned from ever joining the Navy.

He next attempted to join the Royal Air Force, again passing the exams and this time the medical. There was no requirement to wink. But at this point he was rejected because for some years he had been living in Cyprus, which the Royal Navy did not mind but the Royal Air Force did. The reason he was living in Cyprus was because I, his mother, and his father live there.  We are not retired expats – my husband is the serving Anglican Bishop of the Diocese of Cyprus and the Gulf, and our residence is in Nicosia.

I should like to make two further points. The first is that Cyprus is a Republic within the Commonwealth and the EU. The second is that the UK has two armed forces’ bases in Cyprus. But my son was rejected to serve because he lived outside the UK, albeit with his family who themselves are serving the Anglican Church.

Is it surprising that with the current criteria of selection there is a shortage of serving personnel in the UK’s Navy and Air Force?

Julia Lewis

Jeremy Hunt has time on his hands, so he should answer our questions

As your columnist Ellen Manning points out, Jeremy Hunt seems to have plenty of spare time to have a pointless and pitiful ongoing Twitter spat with Stephen Hawking. Can I invite him instead to read Ellen’s column in the Independent (Who would want to be a GP when the job is little more than delivering bad news?) and make a detailed reply to it, not the usual Ministry statement to the effect that everything in the NHS is better than it ever was, because we are spending more money than the last Labour lot ever did.

His detailed reply to Ellen’s column would make fascinating reading, so come on Minister – you obviously have time, so let’s be hearing from you.

David Curran

There is still time for Theresa May to make another U-turn

I trust that Theresa May and the few adults in her Brexit team will take seriously the observation by Martin Selmayr, chief of staff to the European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, that it is still “legally” possible for the UK to reverse its decision to leave the EU.

A fearsomely intelligent lawyer and diplomat, Selmayr comes from a distinguished Bavarian family which has produced generations of high-ranking administrators and army officers. He is a graduate of both the University of Geneva and King College London with a PhD in law.

He has repeatedly warned that there were few economic positives to Britain leaving the EU and the impact would range from “pretty bad to very, very bad”. While the only people who can reverse it are the British, he said the EU should be careful not to slam shut any doors.

Rev Dr John Cameron
St Andrews

We need to re-think the naming of hurricanes

Thinking about Josie Cox’s article on naming hurricanes, why do we have to upset ordinary people by associating their names with violent weather? If natural phenomena must be personalised, why cannot these disastrous storms be named after some of the many murderous figures (female and male) who litter our history?

Peter Morgan

Homophobia will never be academically acceptable

I’m an elected city councillor in Oxford, my city council’s Executive Board Member for Community Safety, and an LGBTQ person and I am responding to the news that the Vice Chancellor of Oxford University said students “did not have a right not to be offended” when professors expressed views against homosexuality.

Students should confront uncomfortable and difficult subjects as part of their education. It’s right that students and their tutors should hold different views about classical texts, ending poverty, or any other appropriate subject for debate. Homophobia is not one side of a balanced debate.

It’s simply not acceptable for students to face prejudiced tutors who will propagate hateful views and pass off discrimination as debate. The University has a responsibility to provide a supportive environment for all students. I have to disagree with you: it is your job to stop homophobic views in your University.

As I understand your recent remarks, you are proposing debates – conducted in the academic settings provided by the University – which centre on whether or not students are equal human beings on the basis of their sexual orientation. That’s wrong. You could replace the word homophobia in your comments with racism, sexism, Islamophobia, Anti-Semitism, and any other closed-minded prejudice. Is it also your intention to tell young black or Asian, Jewish or Muslim students that they should, to quote your words, “engage” with “smart” professors who “express views against them?”

The assumption that a homophobe, racist or sexist will go on discriminating because they haven’t been debated properly is misguided.

Students need encouragement to report inappropriate comments, especially if they fear adverse repercussions for their academic studies and the possibility of tutors withholding references. They don’t need a Vice-Chancellor saying prejudice would be acceptable in an academic environment.

Cllr Tom Hayes

The third Forth bridge is a wonder to behold

It’s wonderful that for once, under the SNP, a bridge has been constructed to join communities, rather than walls built to divide us. 

Martin Redfern 

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