Letters: Straw's `travellers'

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The Independent Culture
Sir: The furore surrounding the Home Secretary's comments on bogus travelling people indulging in lawlessness ("Straw faces inquiry into gypsy slurs", 20 August) must be one of the most unedifying episodes of recent times.

Having in the past suffered, in every particular described by Mr Straw, the activities of more than 600 travellers, many of the people living in my own locality (a very scenic area) dread a repeat visitation. There is every reason to believe that this experience is far from being an isolated example but is in fact typical of something very widespread indeed. We are invited to believe that the generality of society cannot distinguish between real Romanies, other inoffensive followers of an alternative lifestyle and lawless yahoos cynically intent on creating mayhem.

The hysteria voiced in radio and TV reportage bears no relation to what was actually said by Mr Straw - he was making precisely that distinction. It is precisely the truth explicit in it that has caused the protests.

These spurious accusations of racism are a predictable riposte to increasingly effective police and local authority control of criminal behaviour, offences against public health, criminal damage, threatening behaviour, gross indecency and trespass.

There are real racists out there with a real fascist agenda. To stifle recognition of a serious problem is to play into their hands. If the hatchet job on Jack Straw is allowed to succeed, we are all in trouble.