The Sandhurst scandal

Has the British Army training college forgotten its priorities?

With the centenary of the start of World War I approaching, now was probably not the best time for Sandhurst Military College to rename Mons Hall. The original name honours one of the first British actions of the Great War, while its new title, King Hamad Hall, pays homage to the Bahraini ruler who recently donated £3m to Sandhurst. The decision has drawn complaints from MPs and members of the public.

"There's something deeply ironic in renaming a hall that was in memory of soldiers who died in a tragic battle in the First World War in honour of a king who is routinely committing human rights abuses," said Labour MP Jeremy Corbyn.

King Hamad is certainly a controversial figure. Since the Arab Spring erupted he has struggled to control protests and keep hold of power. His regime's often violent response to protests has led to many deaths. In this context, some negative reaction is understandable.

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Of course, if King Hamad had been really generous he would have given the money anonymously, says Harry Mount in The Daily Telegraph. "But which of us is free of the batsqueak of vanity that often shadows generosity?" King Hamad is hardly the first rich individual to want to donate cash in exchange for some recognition.

"The first British universities were themselves largely the creation of rich men who lent their names to the colleges and libraries they paid for," notes Mount. Oxford's Merton College or Cambridge's Clare College may seem venerable now, but they were actually renamed following donations from wealthy benefactors.

In other parts of the world, wealthy donors have subsidised great works from the likes of Michelangelo and Botticelli. Indeed, as the centuries passed, a steady stream of new donors gave funding and their names to prestigious institutions.

Is this a bad thing? "All these men gave generously to great, high-minded institutions; who would begrudge their nameplates over the college porch?" asks Mount.

Of course, name changes are not always positive. Arsenal Football Club renaming its ground Highbury as the Emirates Stadium smacked of selling the last piece of family silver and trading a historically significant name for a financially significant one. But the fact is, needs must.

"In an ideal world, self promotion would never influence the names of much-loved public institutions. But in the utterly broke world we now live in, it's better to call on the King of Bahrain's bulging bank account than the empty public purse."

Besides, being privately sponsored protects them from the whims of government. As Mount concludes, "People with a personal attachment to these places have no desire to destroy their founding ethos in the way that the remote, dead hand of government does."

Tabloid money "the customer is always right and has a car"

George Osborne must be rueing the day he set up the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR), says Andrew Alexander in the Daily Mail. It was staffed with top economists to help it make accurate economic predictions. Nice idea but it's a pity so far these predictions have been "consistently wrong" and "in the wrong direction".

It originally forecast, for example, that growth last year would reach nearly 3%, but it ended up at 0%. The OBR "provides the lesson that top economists are no wiser in making predictions than the man next to you in the saloon bar."

"How much shame has to be heaped on NHS boss David Nicholson before he resigns?" asks Carole Malone in the Sunday Mirror. Nicholson refuses to take responsibility for the hundreds of people who died on his watch at Stafford and shows no sign of moving from his £270,000-a-year job. There have also been allegations that he ordered whistleblowers on the United Lincolnshire Hospitals Trust to be sacked.

If this is true, Nicholson and his sidekick should also be sacked and then prosecuted. "The people in charge of our once great NHS cannot be allowed to let patients die in order to preserve their fat salaries."

"Britain's town centres are dying," says Jeremy Clarkson in The Sun. "Today, one in nine shops on the high street is boarded up. And there's absolutely no doubt that unless something is done, things are going to get worse." And the reason? Car parks. We go to out-of-town retail parks because they have "about a million handy spaces for cars". People know that a trip to the high street, on the other hand, involves lots of hassle trying to find a space.

Town planners are making this worse by "pedestrianising more streets, building more speed humps, imposing lower speed limits, creating more bus lanes and employing more bloody traffic wardens". If we want to save the high street, that needs to change. "Town planners need to remember that the customer is always right. And the customer has a car."