Letters: Remarkable President Zelensky restores faith in the power of leadership

Volodymyr Zelensky addresses parliamentarians in Westminster Hall - WPA Pool
Volodymyr Zelensky addresses parliamentarians in Westminster Hall - WPA Pool

SIR – Until yesterday afternoon I was in total despair that we have no world leaders with any real gravitas.

My faith has now been restored, having listened to President Volodymyr Zelensky in Westminster Hall. What a remarkable individual.

Simon Morpuss
Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire

SIR – Amid so much terrible news from around the world, how reassuring to hear an address that lifts the heart.

President Zelensky’s speech was truly magnificent. May Ukraine get all the kit it needs to defeat the evil Russian regime.

John Taylor
Purley, Surrey

SIR – I am a supporter of the British Government’s military aid to Ukraine and the provision of suitable heavy weapons to ensure that Vladimir Putin is defeated.

However, the Prime Minister’s announcement that Britain will now begin to train Ukrainian fighter-jet pilots raises more questions than it answers. The RAF is already failing to train enough pilots to meet Britain’s own defence needs, and training could only be offered to Ukrainian pilots at the expense of RAF trainees.

If the plan is to convert qualified Ukrainian pilots on Nato fast-jet aircraft, Nato will need to decide, and decide very quickly, which aircraft and weapon systems are suitable for the Ukrainian theatre of operations.

Typically it takes about 75 flying hours and several months of ground-school and simulator training to convert a fully qualified pilot to a new fast-jet aircraft type. If the Russian spring offensive is to be defeated, time is of the essence, especially when some Nato nations will take a very different position from Britain on any commitment to provide air-power support to Ukraine.

Add to that the huge logistic and complex engineering support tail required to deliver offensive air operations by modern fast-jet aircraft, and the offer of “training fighter pilots” sounds like political posturing. This is not what Ukraine needs in the short term.

Far better to provide additional Challenger 2 and Leopard 1 or 2 tanks quickly, which, when complemented by ground-based anti-aircraft artillery, will blunt a Russian spring offensive and cause unacceptable casualties to a brutal Russian dictator and his people.

Gp Capt Alan Ferguson RAF (retd)
Hadleigh, Suffolk

SIR – I was encouraged to read that Anne Hidalgo, the mayor of Paris, thinks that Russian athletes should not compete at next year’s Paris Olympics, under whatever flag, if Putin is continuing to wage war on Ukraine (Sport, February 8).

This stance should be repeated elsewhere in the sporting world. We should accept the fact that Putin is, in effect, waging war against all democratic nations, and take action that recognises that.

Barry Gibbs
Wimborne, Dorset

God’s gender

SIR – The Church of England will soon have few members if it continues to use precious time and influence on matters set by God and, fortunately, not under its control (“God could go gender-neutral if bishops cast out Our Father”, report, February 8).

Bishops are in a superb position to extol God’s word to a people much in need of hearing it, but instead feel they know better, and wish to change it. The Lord’s Prayer was given by Jesus himself. Why would we change it?

Enid Frost
Adderbury, Oxfordshire

SIR – Over 30 years ago our son, then a chorister at Canterbury Cathedral, reported that during practice a fellow chorister had asked their much-loved organist, Allan Wicks, what he thought about God. Back came the reply: “God’s a woman and she loves jazz; now shall we get on?”

Canon Patrick Sales
Dallington, East Sussex

SIR – Now that moves are afoot to make God gender-neutral, can we assume the Devil will be similarly classified?

Judith Barnes
St Ives, Cambridgeshire

Mental health as ‘extra’

SIR – I am a qualified counsellor for children and adolescents, and have offered to give free sessions to children struggling with their mental health at a local school, which has no provision.

All I have asked is that it contributes £160 a term towards my clinical supervision costs (a requirement for therapists). The school says it would love to take up the offer but “our budget is extremely tight and we have nothing for extras”. Given what Catherine Roche, chief executive of Place2Be, and her colleagues said of the crisis in child mental health (Letters, February 8), I am astonished that this is considered an extra.

This provision should be at the heart of the education system. It would also relieve pressure on the NHS and contribute positively to the economy.

Sarah Weldon
Kings Langley, Hertfordshire

No mere trifle

SIR – Xanthe Clay’s description of a trifle (Comment, February 8) is spot on: a gloriously boozy, squelchy confection. No jelly in sight, unlike the one conjured up for the late Queen’s platinum celebrations.

Debbie Kenyon
Farnsfield, Nottinghamshire

NHS manager college

SIR – The NHS is one of the largest employers in Europe, run by largely poor-quality managers from top to bottom (Letters, February 8).

When I was still working, most of us had no difficulty in accepting being managed by good-quality managers, thus freeing us for clinical practice, but sadly there were none.

For many years at regional and national level, through the medical royal colleges and labyrinthine committees of the NHS, I lobbied for the Government to establish a staff college for the NHS in order to provide high-quality medical managers.

Surely now is the time for this. There are plenty of experienced former NHS staff who, aided by the expertise of successful captains of industry and the military, could make this succeed.

Charles Mitchell FRCP
Ebberston, North Yorkshire

SIR – Like many public institutions, the NHS suffers from a surfeit of managers. It’s the result of the British fixation with training managers instead of leaders. Leaders take decisions; managers take meetings.

Mik Shaw
Goring-by-Sea, West Sussex

Lords marching on

SIR – Once again the House of Lords has shown it is not fit for purpose (“Lords rejects ban on slow march protesters”, report, February 8).

To allow slow marches and road blocking by protest groups such as Just Stop Oil only goes to show how out of touch the Lords are with the general, ordinary, hard-working public.

As long as these members can get to the House of Lords, collect a handsome fee (sometimes for doing nothing), and then enjoy a highly subsidised meal, all is well with their world. Unfortunately the general public have to get to work to get paid, and to schools and hospitals. The Lords’ objection to the Public Order Bill amendment is an insult to people who are struggling to pay bills. They should hang their heads in shame, but they won’t. Their time in this unelected body is surely up.

Sandra Mitchell
London W13

Truss’s demise

SIR – Nick Dixon (Letters, February 7) says he leads a pension fund and blames Liz Truss’s economic policies for the downfall, rather than the “Left-wing economic establishment”.

Unless he eschewed the practice of liability-driven investments, at the mini-Budget the industry at large faced margin calls on these derivatives, having to sell stocks and bonds when for the first time in 14 years gilts could be purchased at over 4 per cent, to match their obligations. This was due in no small part to the US Federal Reserve raising its rate, which was widely forecasted.

Lord Fisher of Kilverstone
Thetford, Norfolk

High and lowly

SIR – One reason why some may find the hymn All Things Bright and Beautiful offensive (Letters, February 8) is the oft-omitted verse:

The rich man in his castle,
The poor man at his gate;
God made them high and lowly
And ordered their estate.

To some, it implies that God decides where you sit on the social strata and you can’t change it. To others it means that God treats all equally. As someone who identifies more closely with the bloke at the gate, it really doesn’t bother me.

Philip Smith
Old Basing, Hampshire

What has happened to all the colourful cars?

Shades of grey: Skoda turned 18 scrap cars into the art installation ‘CitiHenge’ - alamy
Shades of grey: Skoda turned 18 scrap cars into the art installation ‘CitiHenge’ - alamy

SIR – Has anyone noticed the preponderance of grey vehicles on our roads? From off-white, via cloud silver, up to near black, the paint of choice seems to have become resolutely grey. Is this an indicator of the nation’s despondent mood?

Even in the three-day weeks of the 1970s our cars were more colourful. Is it time for Britons to buck up and choose brighter shades? Anything to help lift us out of the gloom.

Michael Gough Cooper
West Chiltington, West Sussex

Diverse RAF role models for a new generation

SIR – Air Chief Marshal Sir Mike Wigston spent an uncomfortable hour in front of the House of Commons defence select committee last week (report, February 3). Gender and discrimination were at the fore.

Last year it came to light that the RAF had been fast-tracking females and individuals from under-represented ethnic groups on to initial training courses, ahead of their white male peers. While this may very well prove to be discriminatory, it was not, as some have reported, brought about by a change to selection criteria or the standards required. The sequencing of course allocation took place after selection not before, so the claim that this has meant a drop in standards or capability of the RAF is simply untrue.

The RAF’s intention was to improve diversity in order to make the service more attractive to under-represented groups. The Ministry of Defence sets annual diversity targets, which it has failed to meet year on year; many may disagree with this target approach, but it is MoD policy. So why can’t the military attract talent from across the widest possible pool?

I have been very lucky to witness the incredible organisation that is the Air Cadets, which is full of brilliant young men and women. It is truly diverse and representative of any region where it sits, with all ethnic groups well represented and probably close to half of its members being female. Although the Air Cadets is not a direct recruiting tool for the RAF, an extremely high number of those serving were once cadets. So why does the RAF have so much difficulty translating the laudable diversity of the cadets into the Armed Forces? One critical reason is the lack of role models. As the saying goes, you can only be what you can see.

Regrettably, I served with only a few women or individuals from diverse ethnic backgrounds because we recruited even fewer in my day than we do now. They were every bit as good as anyone else and I was proud to have them as my wingmen, and happy to be theirs. Those individuals who were fast-tracked last year have every right to be in the service. They passed the same tests and probably had to overcome that little bit more to get there. I wish them well and hope that they are the inspiration for the next generation that will stand on their shoulders.

Air Marshal Greg Bagwell (retd)
President, Air and Space Power Association
London NW1

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