Art, Bush and others

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Art 'saved for the nation' must be where the nation can see it

Sir: I am not optimistic that the plans mentioned by Simon Tait for making works of art saved from export "accessible to the whole nation" will produce any improvement ("It's going nowhere", 11 November).

One very good reason for concentrating art saved for the nation in London museums and galleries, unless it has a special connection with a particular region, is that the capital is easily accessible from most parts of the country.

One of the arguments in favour of the move of the Royal Armouries from the Tower of London to Leeds put forward locally was the familiar "Why should they have everything down south?" one. This, of course, ignores the interests of people living in the East and West. Anyone visiting the Armouries for the day from London who is unable to take advantage of concessionary fares is unlikely to have much change from £100, so I can't imagine what anyone travelling from Cornwall would have to pay.

The proposal to send works saved for the nation on tour is not as simple as it sounds. Any moving around of ancient, and probably fragile, paintings and antiques puts them at risk. Apart from possible accidental damage, changes of environment may affect them adversely, and there is, of course, always the security problem attached to objects of great value. Comparatively few local museums can provide either the special environmental conditions or the security that might be required, having been starved of funds by successive administrations for many years.

Ashtead, Surrey

Our right to protest against Bush visit

Sir: I am horrified that the Metropolitan Police will not be allowing protests in Whitehall and Parliament Square ("US wants exclusion zone for Bush", 12 November). How can they uphold our democratic rights with one hand whilst taking them away with the other? What is the point of protesting against the arrival of Bush if he can't see the protests?

If it is thought that this will make London safer, then the mentality of a lot of the people who will be protesting has not been understood. We are already frustrated at this government that ignores the will of the public time and time again. If the police take away our right to free protest then the Met are just going to increase the frustration of many protesters and leave with them with no alternative but direct action.

Was there any real trouble at the march in September 2002? No. Was there any real trouble at the march in February 2003? No. We are peaceful protesters but the Met is not leaving us with an effective yet peaceful way of getting our message across.

London SE24

Sir: It is reported that Bush's team propose, in order to ensure that he is not confronted by legal protest and is not photographed with peaceful protesters, that British police should subvert the rights of assembly and protest of British citizens. A simpler way to ensure this would be for George W Bush to remain in America.

Kettering, Northamptonshire

Sir: If President Bush is being escorted by US Sea King and Black Hawk helicopters, how and in what circumstances would the helicopters engage on supposedly British sovereign soil. They are hardly being brought here as part of a Texas airshow. Will the Prime Minister be taking a few helicopters to Washington on his next visit? Can the 200 American Secret Servicemen arrest and shoot at British protesters? Can they fire back against hostile foreign forces?

London SW17

Sir: Peter Chivall expresses resentment towards the forthcoming state visit of President Bush (letter, 11 November). The invitation was extended well before any significant anti-US sentiment existed.

There has been no erosion of our independence since we have been dependent on the US for our security since 1942. The trade loss to the UK on knitwear, steel and bananas are insignificant compared to our export gains. The existence of a Nuclear Missile Defence Programme acts as a deterrent and protects the UK.

It is extremely unlikely that Blair would "plot" with Bush. The war against Iraq was legal according to UK and US law, and not "decreed illegal" by any other institution. And it is also extremely unlikely that the spooks would have read his letter before me.

Eastleigh, Devon

Sir: The issue for many is not whether the invasion was a good thing or not - it will be years before we know that - it is that Blair deceived us and dragged us into a war for what looks increasingly like reasons of personal ideology. His arrogance since then has only deepened the resentment many Britons feel. Blair deserves whatever embarrassment awaits when Bush arrives.

London SE10

Sir: A word of appreciation for our Prime Minister for getting the UK, or more specifically London, to number one position in the world ranking of likely terrorist targets. A just reward for his dogged determination in following his leader to their nemesis in Iraq. Sure I believed him when he said that invading Iraq would not significantly increase the risk of terrorist attacks on the UK. Like I believe everything else he says in that faux-earnest thespian tone. Thank God he's got some proper opposition at last.

Broadstone, Shropshire

Sir: If it means a lot to Americans to see their president cheered on the streets of London, may I suggest that next time they send Hillary Clinton?

Crowthorne, Berkshire

Cost of the pound

Sir: The Bank of England has raised interest rates to curb the growth in consumer spending. No doubt euro-sceptic commentators will again welcome our ability to take independent action. So a reminder of the cost of such "independence" is also in order.

In the decade before the eurozone came into existence, UK industrial production rose at virtually the same rate as that in the euro countries. However, over the subsequent five years, their production has grown by almost 10 per cent, whereas ours has actually declined.

A particularly serious feature of this poor relative performance is that UK manufacturing investment has at the same time fallen steadily. Over the past 12 months it has been a third lower than five years ago, verging on a collapse worse than any since the 1960s.

The situation is partly confused by the shift in investment to the Far East and the new EU member states in Eastern Europe. But why, with relatively buoyant home demand, has our industry done much worse than that in the eurozone? The main reason is not hard to find: that the high level of sterling has put much of our industry at a disadvantage against European competitors.

For industry to prosper in the global market, it requires a wide home base, that is the 500 million people of the enlarged EU. Yet we are now undermining its position by retaining the hurdle of an uncertain and fluctuating exchange rate at its entrance.

Surbiton, Surrey

Sir: Governments are not the only people who take decisions vital for the future of our country. If the directors of British export industry accept your political editor's judgement that a vote on the euro is unlikely before 2006 at the earliest ("Victory for Brown as referendum shelved", 6 November), who can blame them if they see this as the tipping point and decide to make all new investment in the eurozone, where cost and income will be in the same currency?

That would be disastrous for our balance of trade, already deep in the red, and for our skilled employment. But directors will reckon that, if a referendum is not on the legislative programme, few are going to listen to the case for the euro. While the Government seems uncertain, the case against, wrong-headed but plausible, will not only harden opinion, it could even take a much more self-confident Tory party to electoral victory. Inward investment has already dropped dramatically. Outward investment is likely to soar - and send the best of our industrial talent with it.


Safe gun sports

Sir: It is with dismay that I read "Executive war games fuel illegal guns market" (10 November). I am an active participant of "airsoft skirmishing" and take great offence at being linked to a rise in gun crime.

Participants of this sport are very careful to abide by all current legislation. Throughout the whole sport safety is the most important factor. I take issue with the statement that "executive-style war games, such as paintballing, is providing criminals with a ready supply of guns that are being converted into lethal weapons". Paintball markers or guns are of a design that does not make it possible to fire a real bullet, and the same is true of airsoft - airsoft guns are mostly low-grade plastic, with internals that wouldn't look out of place in a radio-controlled car!

There are issues with some types of air cartridge and blank firing guns, but they are not what we use in our sport. Linking law-abiding people like me with "gangsters" is deeply insulting.

Sandhurst, Berkshire

God save our ...  

Sir: In the (perhaps unlikely) event that the suggestions concerning Prince Charles are true, and if he eventually becomes King, presumably there will be no need to change the lyrics of the National Anthem?

Alford, Lincolnshire

French leave

Sir: In your article highlighting the inaccuracies contained in the BBC's drama on Charles II ("BBC defends playing fast and loose with the life and loves of the Merry Monarch" 12 November), I feel it only fair to point out the inaccuracies in the article. Charles II was in the United Provinces (currently the Netherlands) on 30 January 1649, the time of his father's execution, not in Paris as reported. Nor had he been living with his mother all the time.

School of History
University College Dublin

Hidden homeless

Sir: Maxime Frith's article "The hidden homeless" (4 November) paints a depressing picture. The statistics do not reveal the terrible sadness people suffer by the loss of their homes, their children, their possessions, their self-esteem, their dignity. They feel that they are non-persons to whom no human rights are applicable and so they have to endure incessant mental anguish. I know all of this as I have a homeless person living in my house at the present.


Use your loaf

Sir: When Bertha Paatsch presented her bread slicer in 1910 ("Mothers of invention", 11 November), of what did they say it was the greatest invention since?

Guildford, Surrey