The propertied and respectable might not be threatened by telephone tapping or sweeping beggars and tramps off King's Cross Station out of the sight of commuters ("Bugged by fine liberals", 26 January). Yet it was once generally believed that those merely suspected of a criminal offence should not have their freedoms violated until sentence was passed by a court of law.

Since the war most people thought, too, that never again could we return to a Britain in which a man's prosperity was so equated with his moral worth that there was no place for compassion. We should not begin to unlearn the lessons learned painfully in the 19th century and into the 1930s. Neither side of our political divide should devote itself exclusively to the interests and aspirations of the middle-class. Crime is a social problem which punitive and authoritarian policies alone will never solve.

It is because I am a natural conservative that I regard the thoughtless populism of Michael Howard as an attack on some of our most cherished beliefs and traditions. The Conservative Party was not meant to diminish our worth as a nation.

Joseph Altham