Letters: Queen’s Theatre, leaked recording, bus travel during Covid, the ASK Italian building and more

PUBLISHED: 08:00 01 August 2020

Lesley Dunn enjoying Queen's Theatre online sing-a-long by Andrew Linham during lockdown.

Lesley Dunn enjoying Queen's Theatre online sing-a-long by Andrew Linham during lockdown.


Letters sent in from Recorder readers this week

Theatre is keeping us entertained

Mrs Lesley Dunn, Mallard Close, Cranham, writes:

My husband John and I have been shielding since March 13 and one of the main things that have kept us going have been The Queen’s Theatre’s on-line events, three mornings a week.

Tuesdays we have been keeping fit with armchair keep fit supported by Sundeep Saini, writing our own “tiny plays” with Jules Lipton on a Wednesday and our Thursdays have been hilarious during our sing-along with Andrew Linham.

I have got to say these have all been fantastic for our morale and Andrew’s sing-along has had us singing at the top of our voices, incorporating gadgets and outfits from around the house.

I have enclosed photos with John playing the saxophone umbrella and me singing along in my Marigolds.

Another source of strength for us has been Chesney Hawkes’ bi-weekly Live and Unfiltered events where he has been playing live music in a show online from his home with famous guests and charity paticipation. He involves nominated heroes such as NHS and key workers, including nurses from Queen’s Hospital, to give them a platform to tell their stories from the front line. It is incredible. He has brought music to people’s homes with excellent quality and tremendous sound.

I can’t thank the Queen’s Theatre and Chesney Hawkes enough for keeping our spirits up during these times.

Leaked recording does not cover all the boundary meeting

Cllr Damian White, leader, Havering Council, writes:

I am writing in response to the coverage of a covert leaked recording of the Conservative Group made available to the media by a former Conservative councillor.

I understand that some may feel that the portrayal of this shows that an independent process was not adhered to. I am sorry if this impression has been given, but it is completely untrue and without foundation.

This meeting was part of a wider discussion on boundary proposals which has not been captured. The document presented as verbatim minutes of our group meeting is not accepted as a transcript of the meeting by the Conservative Group.

Sections of conversation are missing and the unverified transcript does not cover the whole of the meeting, nor does it capture some of the subtleties of the meeting.

It is also important that some comments and statements made within private discussion might have been phrased in a different way, for effect in the group.

If it was known that the discussions were to be made public, comments would have been phrased in a more considered manner, giving a more accurate reflection of how the proposals were drafted.

I wish to make clear, those who are calling into question the character and standing of the chief executive and officers are wrong to do so.

They have, to my certain knowledge, behaved thoroughly professionally throughout this process and completely impartially. Nothing untoward has taken place or any undue influence exerted over the chief executive or any officers, all of whom have behaved impeccably.

As is entirely normal, the Conservative Group discussed proposals in the consultation and how to respond and agree our own approach.

I have done no more than to keep my group informed of discussions and ideas being put forward, which is my duty as leader of the group.

Officers presented a series of options to councillors and which each group looked at and made their views known. It was then scrutinised by the cross party Governance Committee, where a series of amendments to the officers’ options were proposed and agreed on a cross party basis.

The agreed recommendation was then submitted to a meeting of full council, where a further debate took place, which included another amended option to one of the officer’s.

The final agreed council’s submission to the local government boundary commission had significant differences to the options presented to councillors by officers. This submission enjoyed cross party support, which was highlighted during the debate just before it was agreed.

This submission then fed into the independent process governed by the Boundary Commission who will make recommendations and run a second public consultation on these recommendations.

Any decisions on ward boundaries are not made by me, any political party or group, or indeed officers and to suggest otherwise is giving the public a totally false impression.

Everyone is entitled to make a submission to the Local Government Boundary Commission through the consultation and this is encouraged.

It is unfortunate that individuals are seeking to gain political advantage rather than focusing on the work we are doing as a council to support residents during this difficult time.

Councillors should let people decide

Mr W Ramsay, Stephen Avenue, Rainham, writes:

We have been presented with evidence in the Recorder, including letters last week from opposition Residents’ councillors, suggesting bad practice among the Conservatives to do with the ward boundaries review.

It served to remind me that last year I presented evidence (letters November 29) suggesting this within a particular RA grouping to do with an important proposal made at one of its meetings, which it was not seen fit even to minute let alone take forward in any way.

The meeting was chaired by Cllr Nunn, who was among last week’s writers, and the proposal was to the effect that it should be residents’ wishes that decide what RA councillors do instead of what is deemed to be in their interests.

Having that object would align them with the IRG, among whose councillors are the two other writers referred to, Cllrs Williamson and Durant, and also with at least one of their own councillors, Cllr Mugglestone, as evidenced in my letter last year.

As regards why the proposal met the fate it did, one possibility that suggests itself is that it is fairly common in local politics for disaffected Conservatives to join the Independents, as with Cllr Perry, but also, as related in the June edition of the HRA magazine, Cllr Morgon, who is a leader among them.

It is a background that does not, one would think, lend itself to a sympathy with consultative democracy. I doubt there are any disaffected Conservatives among the IRG.

If the idea of the Residents’ opposition is to see off the Conservatives, the Conservative notion of political representation, deciding things on people’s behalf, should be seen off as well.

Council leader should resign

Thomas Clarke, Liberal Democrat GLA candidate, Havering and Redbridge, writes:

The leaked audio recording of leader of the council, Damian White, claiming to have arranged “politically advantageous” boundary changes to the wards of the borough that was leaked has shown the type of person that we have in charge of Havering.

Mr White should resign from his post as leader of the council.

Please keep bus windows open

A Romford resident, full name and address supplied, writes:

Can you please start an appeal to all operators of public transport during the pandemic? We have been told that the virus is less easily transmitted in well ventilated areas, yet windows remain closed on buses and possibly other forms of public transport.

I’ve written to TfL twice about this and it’s in the news at the moment about how many bus drivers have died.

I ask your readers, if they know a bus driver, are one themselves or operate other forms of public transport, to please ensure all windows are open for the entire time the vehicle they drive is being used by the public.

This is particularly important because so many passengers are not wearing face coverings, don’t wear them properly or don’t put them on prior to boarding.

The Department for Transport says, “Our operator guidance makes it clear that organisations should follow guidance on increased ventilation and air flow to limit Covid-19 transmission.

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“This includes recommendations to ensure that a fresh air supply is consistently flowing through vehicles, carriages, transport hubs and office buildings.”

We all need to do everything we can to help each other through these difficult times - opening windows in the vehicles we drive is something we can all do for the good of everyone, including ourselves.

What was the ASK Italian building?

M A Chisholm, Australia, writes:

I lived in Wingletye Lane from the age of nine to 14 and after many moves I wound up in Australia where I have been for nearly 60 years.

My father and grandfather were both West Ham supporters, as am I and one of my sons. It’s a bit like an infection – once it gets in the blood it cannot be cured even though the way the team plays you would think it would be easy to kick the habit.

Following the article on their latest escape from relegation I saw a picture in your bulletin of a building described as ASK Italian.

I left Hornchurch in 1954 but I’m sure I know the building but am unable to remember what it was. At eighty the memory is a bit doubtful.

Would someone please enlighten me?

Injustice needs to be addressed

Neil Robinson, Upminster, full address supplied, writes:

P M Butler (Recorder July 24) and Terence Matthews (Recorder July 17) point out that cultures throughout history have been involved in slavery, which I do not dispute.

I cannot accept, however, that this somehow excuses or mitigates Britain’s participation; nor can I accept that the history of slavery detracts logically from the main points made in my letter (Recorder July 10): that the exploitation of the ancestors of BAME people has contributed substantially to the UK’s wealth; that BAME people still experience disadvantage and discrimination; that this injustice needs to be acknowledged and addressed.

It’s worth noting that after slavery was abolished in Britain in the 1830s, slave owners were paid compensation which was then widely invested in the nation’s institutions and infrastructure.

Mr Matthews makes a lot of my definition of racism. I cannot claim it is original or exhaustive; it wasn’t meant to be. Dictionary definitions are useful authoritative tools, but they’re not the last word on words (sorry for the bad pun) and they’re not intended as such.

Definitions that go beyond what you’ll find in dictionaries are often used to express theories or propositions.

Etymological research indicates that the word ‘racism’ arose in the early 20th century and has its origins in European colonialism.

It was later connected with various forms of genocide.

However, applying such relatively modern concepts of racism to other cultures, particularly the slave-owning civilisations of antiquity, is fraught with intellectual difficulty.

The Greek and Roman classical world, for instance, had its own ideas of race and ethnicity that were very different from our own, and drawing direct parallels should be approached with extreme caution, if at all.

Masks promote fear of Covid

Cllr David Durant writes:

Ian Pirie promotes the virtues of mandatory mask wearing, but respiratory viruses are microscopic in size and we are surrounded by billions upon billions of them.

This means masks offer no protection and are little more than a placebo, but very counter-productive as they perpetuate the fear porn being promoted by advocates of the criminal lockdown that is costing lives, livelihoods and wrecking the economy (July 24)!

This measure will further damage small shops and drive shoppers online and kill the high street - and if imposed in pubs will increase the number of problem drinkers!

However this latest ministerial whim is easily circumvented by shops and shoppers and all those opposed to yet another inhumane imposition by our Conservative in name only government!

This is because, shops have no duty to enforce mask wearing.

And if they tried to enforce it shoppers can simply declare themselves exempt for confidential medical reasons, such as masks make them ill.

This means there should be a presumption that a non-mask wearer is exempt and if a shopper is asked to wear a mask and/or still refused entry then this becomes discriminatory towards people with a disability and invites legal action.

And the police won’t want to get involved in this minefield as they have better things to do.

BBC licence charge unacceptable

Andrew Rosindell, MP for Romford writes:

In response to the letter written by Eamonn Mahon, ‘Over 75s betrayed on TV licence’.

I completely agree and understand Mr Mahon’s frustration and disappointment that the BBC has decided that pensioners will no longer receive a free TV licence.

It is utterly unacceptable that the BBC decides to punish the elderly with this new requirement, while continuing to pay many of its presenters huge sums of money.

It is important to note that this was the BBC’s decision and not the government’s, after Parliament legislated to give the BBC the full responsibility for their finances from 2020. I hope that the government will also go further and stop criminalizing people for not paying the licence fee.

This is an archaic and ridiculous law to have in a free society. I do not believe that people should be threatened with jail time for refusing to pay for a television broadcaster.

Also, in response to Michael J Frost’s letter, ‘Government must keep Beefeaters’ – I was saddened and shocked to learn that The Tower of London is to reduce the number of the iconic and much loved Queen’s Yeoman Warders.

The Yeoman Warders are a part of our national history and culture which we must preserve. I understand that Covid-19 has put pressures on every industry, but particularly tourism and charities, and that savings need to be made.

However, I believe that we should never compromise on our traditions and history and the Yeoman Warders are living history which need to be cherished.

I know how hard some charities like the Historic Royal Palaces have been hit, as they are entirely self-funded by visitors.

I am glad that they have been able to take advantage of a range of government support measures, and I hope that the government will look into further financial assistance, as well as opening up these fantastic institutions to more visitors so that their income can return to normal. We must do everything we can to save this fantastic part of London’s history.

Time to reward care workers

Vic Rayner, executive director, National Care Forum, writes:

It is unacceptable for the government to sidestep the issue of social care workers pay with the announcement of a public sector pay rise that won’t include them.

Care workers are here to care and have been a stalwart of the Covid-19 front line.

Twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week our professional care home staff have continued to provide care under the most challenging of circumstance. They – like their amazing colleagues in health – have done this with compassion, providing a lifeline for the most vulnerable across all our communities.

This has never been a low skilled job, and should never again be consigned as a low paid role. We need the government to act now to ensure that each and every care worker is recognised and rewarded for their extraordinary work.

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