Girlish behaviour

Jackie Ashley ("It's not funny or clever to spit at the girls", 29 October) suggests that Hilary Armstrong's behaviour as chief whip is no different to that of her predecessors John Silkin and Bob Mellish.

During the Second World War in the Pacific, Silkin, then a naval officer, looked into the eyes of a kamikaze pilot heading straight for his ship. Then the plane hit. Silkin lived; the body of the sailor who had been standing talking next to him was severed. Having served as his special adviser, I can assure Jackie Ashley that, unlike Hilary Armstrong, John Silkin would never have said war was not a matter of conscience.

As for Bob Mellish, I first worked closely with him in 1965. When provoked, his language could be that of the London docker, but pulling "fingernails out slowly and painfully" was not in his line.

Ann Carlton
Burry Port, Carmarthenshire

Reading Jackie Ashley's piece, I found myself nodding in agreement. Then I read: "No female was in charge of the Dome, or the Railtrack saga . . ." Perhaps not, but one Jennifer Page looms large, at the Dome (she was moved on), as a director of Railtrack - and let's not forget Equitable Life, of which Ms Page was also a director.

The received wisdom is that, before investing in a company, check if Jennie Page is on the board. If she is, don't bother.

David Elam

This article first appeared in the 05 November 2001 issue of the New Statesman, The rise and rise of President Blair