A lesson to P&O in ethical leadership

The P&O human resources strategy shows how detrimental it is to treat experienced employees as expendable and to abandon human values even in a financial crisis (“No sea experience needed, says agency ad for P&O crews”, News). As an Isle of Wight resident, during lockdown when our cross-Solent transport services were under extreme financial pressure, I saw the value of collaborative ethical leadership to keep us connected to the mainland and ensure all passengers, especially key workers, had access to their workplaces.

As a member of the Hover Travel User Group, I heard how the company reached out to assist ambulance services to transport patients quickly to the mainland. The crew underwent rigorous training and many seriously ill patients have benefited. The group, drawn from commuters, health charities and support groups, schools and island traders, is consulted about changes to practice. Its advice and suggestions are taken seriously and often implemented. The company knows it doesn’t get it right all the time, but works with customers to alleviate difficulties. Such openness and service to the community ensure that we and the company survived turbulent times. Perhaps there’s a lesson there for P&O.
Yvonne Williams
Ryde, Isle of Wight

Rana Mitter observes that Russia’s elites consider China nekulturny, or uncultured, having never produced a Dostoevsky (“China-Russian relations carry deep memories of mutual respect… and scorn”, Comment). China might do well, in the spirit of “friendship without limits”, to remind its new friends that the author of The Gambler and The Idiot also wrote Crime and Punishment.
Austen Lynch
Garstang, Lancashire

Your article about cycling and walking infrastructure plans (“Get on your bike? Not if some Tory councils have their way…”, News) makes no mention of ill thought-out schemes, introduced without any equality impact assessment. Where I live, planters (glorified packing cases) and benches (who wants to sit in the road?) have been used to obstruct parking places, preventing people with impaired mobility from accessing shops and facilities.
Janet Mearns
London W3

The sun doesn’t always shine, the wind doesn’t always blow, but the tide reliably goes in and out every day. Why was tidal power not mentioned in your piece on the choices we have as sources of energy? It now seems very shortsighted to have abandoned the Severn Estuary scheme. Whatever the cost then, it would be good value now.
Sue Humphries

Nick Cohen’s scathing article deriding those he regards as Russian defenders/apologists/propagandists is most notable for its condemnation of the moral hypocrisy afflicting people who “excoriate the double standards of democracies while excusing or ignoring the crimes of dictatorships” (“Collaboration thrives on everyday vanity and ambition. Just look at RT’s wannabes”, Comment). This presents only one part of a circular debate. To many, those who unflinchingly condemn the actions of the Russian state while ignoring the death, destruction and displacement wreaked by unlawful, western-led invasions or sustained illegal occupations perpetrated by their allies epitomise everything that Cohen decries.
Nick Cusack
Paisley, Renfrewshire

I have worked in or alongside children’s social care for many years and remember when privatisation was first promoted (“Revealed: top 10 children’s care providers made £300m profits”, News). Rather like academies and free schools, the rhetoric was handing over control, whether to experienced childcare workers, parents or teachers; rescuing services from bureaucratic control. Gradually, private equity has taken over and cost-cutting started to maximise profit. One such move was to sell the properties in the urban areas where the children had grown up and replace them with cheaper alternatives, often disused farmhouses and remote cottages, frequently detached from communities. Local authorities placing vulnerable children have to take what is on offer.

When a child needs a placement is when there should be a suitable vacancy but, to maximise profit, facilities need to be full most of the time. This is where the problem arises, which only financial investment can resolve; profit means limiting vacancies, while choice and availability require carrying vacancies in the system. Add the fact that the millions of pounds of profit going to shareholders is all taxpayers’ money, provided to care for vulnerable children, and we have a clear example of why we should not be privatising public services.
Roy Grimwood
Market Drayton, Shropshire

While agreeing with the general argument in Kenan Malik’s insightful article (“As the imperial ties are being cast aside, a royal tour was always going to be a farce”, Comment), his reference to the Chagos Islanders was misleading. In fact, the extension of citizenship to descendants of those shamefully evicted from the Chagos Islands is the result of effective campaigning by Chagossians themselves.

Their campaign resulted in a Lords amendment to the appalling nationality and borders bill that was passed by more than 80 votes, with strong support from all benches including the Conservatives. This, together with the support in the Commons of Henry Smith MP, led to the government concession. The campaigns for the Chagossians’ right to return to their homeland and for citizenship are not and should not be mutually exclusive.
Baroness (Ruth) Lister of Burtersett
House of Lords
London SW1

Thanks to Will Hutton for drawing attention to the catastrophic economic impact of Brexit with the words “the reign of silence on Brexit – and that includes you, Labour party – means the damage goes unnoticed and uncriticised” (“For brazen cynicism, I have seen nothing like Sunak’s plan in 40 years”, Comment). Elsewhere in the paper, reports such as 400 people a week leaving the NHS and the substantial erosion of teachers’ salaries highlight the pressure on public finances and the need to explore every possible option for raising the necessary tax revenues. In this context, any rational government or prospective government should surely re-examine the self-imposed Brexit, an issue that is forecast to have a net cost to public finances of £30bn a year, or, to put it another way, around £570m a week less to spend on the NHS.

The need for a re-examination is reinforced by the polls indicating that people are increasingly starting to realise the cost of Brexit, with three to one now considering it bad for the economy.
David Newens
Great Linford, Milton Keynes

As a huge fan of Thunderbirds and Captain Scarlet, I was sad to read of Gerry Anderson’s difficult childhood (“Why Mother’s Day was no cause to celebrate for creator of Thunderbirds”, News). However, as I had a rather overprotective mum and a father who legged it shortly after I was conceived, the Tracy family, along with Colonel White, Lieutenant Green and the indestructible Captain himself gave me a clear idea of what it is to be a man, albeit a small, plastic one with strings attached.
Ian Grieve
Gordon Bennett, Llangollen canal

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